Sunday, November 18, 2018

I Went to Church Today, But Didn't Have To.


I could I have done something different this morning.  But I didn't.  Know why?

I love church and want to go.

I enjoy being there.  I love the atmosphere.  I love the happiness in the voices of all the people, the laughter and joy, the greetings of friends old and new, and the hugs.

You don’t have to beg me to be show up.  Nothing competes for my dedication to the worship hour on Sunday.  I will be there, rain or shine, feeling it or not.  Even when on vacation, I usually look for a house of worship when Sunday comes rolling around.

I met my wife in church.  I was married in church.  I was baptized in church.  I dedicated my babies in church.  And I’ve made life-long friends in church.

Most importantly, I have come to know Jesus Christ in church.

 So what did we do in church today?

1.  We worshiped collectively as the Body of Christ.  Had I stayed home I would have missed my God-given opportunity to worship with fellow believers.    The Christian life was never meant to be solitary. All of the biblical metaphors for a church indicate a plurality, never a singularity: we are a body, a flock, a building, and a holy nation. There are no “lone wolves” in biblical Christianity.

2.  We had a full 80 minutes of uninterrupted time focusing on nothing else than God.  From the call to worship, prayers, songs, scripture reading, message, and benediction, it was 80 minutes of focusing on God.  Had I stayed home to worship on my own, after 10 minutes or so I would have thought of a dozen other things to do.

3.  We were prompted and reminded to prioritize spiritual things that we may not have thought of on our own.  A public assembly on the Lord’s Day has a certain anointing that does not exist elsewhere.  It’s how we “provoke one another unto good works.”

4.  We “remembered” Jesus’ death.  We received communion today and were reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice that made our salvation possible.  Our tendency is to allow the pace of life, the challenges of life, even the routine of our religion to fog up the importance of what Christ did for us on the cross.  And when our memory fades, so does our wonder of Christ.

5.  I witnessed many others who were there for the same reason as myself -  they wanted to be there - and it was very encouraging to me.  There were a lot of people in church today who had every reason to stay home.  A few people were there after working the night shift all night long.  Their attendance was a personal sacrifice and great inconvenience.  But as members in the Body, they knew their part was vital to the whole.  Seeing their dedication and selfless service for the sake of others was inspiring.  

Yea, I was glad I went to church today.

And I plan on being there next Sunday and the Sunday after that.

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go to the house of the LORD (Psalms 122:1)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What I Have Learned from One Year of Lifting Weights


This week marks one year that I have been on a serious workout program.  I began last year - the week before Thanksgiving - and have stayed with it ever since.

Here’s a few things I have learned along the way. 

#1.  Finding my “inner reason” was the key to get going.

Starting when I did was strategic.  I didn't want to gain weight during the holidays... only to start an exercise routine in January, so I figured I would get a jump start on things.  

i.e., There's something called "weight gain creep" which means every year during the holidays many of us add about 5 pounds of body fat and never work it back off.  Decade-after-decade goes by and it really begins  to add up.  One day we look in the mirror and realize we've packed on fifty-to-eighty pounds since high school.

More importantly, I turned 60 last year which got me thinking more and more about the quality of life I wanted to live for my remaining years.  I decided I wanted be as healthy and active as possible in my 60s and beyond.   I don’t want to shrivel up in my senior years, become obese, or die from heart disease.

If I am to continue in the ministry - or whatever the future holds for me - I must be healthy to be productive.  

Besides, I’m an active outdoors-man (I like to fish, go boating, camping, work in my garden, hike trails, ride bikes, go canoeing, etc, etc, ) and I’m not ready to give that up.  Living my remaining years in Miami playing shuffleboard with the old people is not part of the plan.

That was my inner reason – to be healthy and fit in my 60s. 

I realize I will never have my 30-year-old body again, but it doesn’t mean I have to shrivel up either.  I can still be active, have more energy, and keep up with the grand-kids. 

If you’ve been thinking about beginning an exercise program but just can’t get started, find an inner reason.  It makes all the difference.  Do you want to look good?  Be healthy?  Have more energy and confidence?  Regain youthful strength?  Slow down the aging process? Find your own inner reason - whatever it is - and it will motivate you to get started and stay with it for a lifestyle change.

#2.  No one else really cares what I'm doing.  I get it.

It’s exciting to talk about what’s going on in my life, but the truth is most people don’t really care that much. 

I’m good with that. 

Know why?  I’m doing it for me... and that's why I haven't said anything for one year.  

Besides, the more time I spend talking to others about what I’m doing the less time I devote to actually making it happen!  Instead, I free myself up to achieve a lot more when I stop trying to tell everyone.  I simply put my head down and do the work quietly while no one is watching.

By the way, if you find your own inner reason to get started, you'll feel the same way.  An audience will not be needed. 

#3.  My gains have been slower.  A lot slower.

When I was younger I could start working out and within six weeks I would be pumping weight like a boss, and in six months I would pack on several pounds of muscle.

Not now.

Took me a while to figure that out.

At my age, making progress comes a lot slower than in my 30s & 40s.  I mean a lot slower.  My body just doesn’t respond as quickly.  Getting stronger and adding muscle doesn’t come so easy.  And losing body fat seems to take forever.  Fooooor - evvvvver.

Dang!

Understanding this – (no, figuring it out after injuring myself a few times) has helped me tailor a good workout routine and pace myself appropriately.   

I went to the doctor for a checkup to make sure all my vitals on the inside were good.  Then I began an exercise routine, starting out very slow and easy – walking, then progressing to interval jogging, then bike riding, and finally to serious strength training.

Twelve months of lifting weights has improved my strength dramatically.  I'm lifting like a boss again - (that is, like a 61 year old boss 😎).   I have added a few pounds of muscle and lost body fat (especially the visceral belly fat that collects inside the abdominal cavity around the organs and causes all sorts of diseases).  I’m sleeping better at night (most of time). My appetite is under control and my blood pressure is down too.  Plus, many of the aches and pains in my joints that have plagued me for years are now alleviated (I live almost pain free). 

4.  Lifting weights feels good and I really enjoy it.

Physical activity reduces stress by releasing endorphins, which are feel-good hormones. Although (both) cardio and strength training stimulate your body to release endorphins, your body produces more endorphins in a faster period of time when you're weight lifting.

Now that I have plowed through the painful stage of beginner (sore muscles, struggling with self-motivation, etc) and reached the intermediate stage, I really look forward to my workouts.  Instead of being a struggle, they are enjoyable and empowering.  

Finally....

I have chosen something that gives me a little bit of self-improvement each day.  It's a much better option than dissipating myself through over-indulgence, the party life, toxic relationships, over-consumerism, and expensive toys as a vehicle to self-identity.

I just want to be healthy and live a long active life.  I still have places to go, people to meet, and things to do.

PS ...... and fish to catch.