Physical Health

I’ve mentioned it in a couple of other posts but my word for 2020 is “health.” That being the case, in an effort to keep that in front of me and to continue down the path of health in all areas of my life, I will probably be writing about different aspects of health more and more over the course of the year. Today that starts with physical health.

This is probably the easiest one to write about. I know a good bit about physical health. I have a beautiful wife who is a Beachbody coach and has studied health for a while now. I have read my fair share of health and fitness blogs and articles and for a while I kept pretty close tabs on the bodybuilding world. I’m sure I don’t know everything, but I know enough to know what’s good and bad for me and what I should and shouldn’t be doing.

Now, you’ll notice that what I did not say was that I actually DID the things I know how to do. Knowledge does not necessarily lead to action. You can know a lot about a lot of things but if you do nothing with that knowledge then it’s just more useless information wasting away in that beautifully complex brain of yours.

And so it is with me. I have a lot of knowledge, but I haven’t been very good at putting it into practice. I haven’t made “health” a big enough part of my identity to make the actual changes I know I need to make.

Therein lies the key. In order to make real, lasting change, it has to become part of your identity. You can go out and lose 20 pounds … but it won’t stick, because you didn’t change who you are.

So while a portion of this physical health thing is actually in the physical (the actual exercise, the acts of making and eating the right foods at the right times, etc.), there are significant portions that are mental, and even spiritual (down in your soul at the level of your identity). For years I’ve been telling myself that working out and eating right where just too time consuming. I didn’t have the time in my day to make it workout. I couldn’t eat well because it was just too time consuming and too expensive and too … you get the idea.

When it comes down to it, I just didn’t want to. I still don’t really want to. My journey this year will be a much more involved thing then just doing my cardio and eating some celery. It will be that too. But it will involve a trek into my heart to determine the kind of person I want to be. It will take me being honest with myself about where I am and where I want to be. It will take a change from the inside before a change on the outside every sticks.

Now that’s a process that’s worth going through in every area of all of our lives. Will it be hard? Yes. Will it be uncomfortable as you encounter who you really are? Absolutely. Is it going to be worth it? My gut says “yes”.

Here we go…

Sabbatical Learnings

I just got back to work this week after taking the entire month of December off on sabbatical. If you’ll remember I wrote a little about what I was thinking going into sabbatical at the end of November. So this is my debriefing.

I went into sabbatical looking for 3 things: rest, reconnection, and the establishment of some new rhythms. I also knew going in that my theme for 2020 was “health” so I wanted to do what I could to get a head start on that.

I didn’t have any real plans. No big vacation to go on, nothing set up ahead of time … no prior obligations. This was on purpose. I know I’ve written about it a couple of times before but if you go into something like a sabbatical (whose purpose is to rest) and you have a lot of things set up ahead of time, then you’re setting obligations that you have to fulfill later that might not be so restful. Which kind of defeats the purpose of rest, right?

What I Learned

While on sabbatical, leaning into the things that I knew I was looking for, I learned a few things. Here’s what I learned:

Rest is a very individual thing, and it can change for the individual

How someone rests, what is restful to them, and the way they go about resting is an extremely individual thing. It is specific to the individual. No one way of resting is right, and no one rests the same way.

Reading books might be restful for you. For me, I’m learning to enjoy reading, but reading is so “restful” for me that it usually puts me to sleep. Like literally asleep. So I’ve got to plan my reading around times when sleeping or napping is appropriate.

Maybe you find watching your favorite shows on TV restful. I do. My rest tends to land there. Working in your garden could be restful for some, while others will see it as a chore. If it’s a chore, it’s not restful.

When looking at rest, it’s a good bet that if it feels like you “have to” do something then that thing isn’t restful. A “get to” activity, on the other hand, is something worth pursuing.

Another note about rest: Your idea of rest can change, and it’s okay. You don’t always have to rest in the same way. Like I said earlier I tend to find rest in watching my favorite shows on TV. I did that for like the entire first week of my sabbatical though, and it grew old. When I picked up a book, I found a new way to rest. And it was awesome.

Connections with the people around you is one of the most important things in this world

Reconnecting with the people in my life was probably the best part of my sabbatical. We tend to be so busy as a family that I miss out on opportunities to spend just talking. I got to do that some (because I had time) and it was great.

We also got to spend time with some great friends over the break and that was awesome as well.

I often forget in my day-to-day that it’s time spent with others that makes the most difference in people’s lives. My introversion is kind of extreme and I really cherish down time when I can find it. But in my seeking of down time, I often don’t remember that it’s time spent with others that will bring me the most life. It’s in that time where I will grow the most, have the most fun, and learn more than any other times in my life.

Rhythms

The last thing I really wanted to focus on was starting some new healthy rhythms for my life. We were pushing really hard at work to get a new app out and I had pretty much gotten off the path of any kind of rhythms that weren’t related to getting the app out the door.

That wasn’t good and I wanted to use this sabbatical time to reestablish some good, healthy patterns in my life. Truth be told, I had mixed results here.

First of all, it’s really easy to get off of your already good rhythms because you don’t have anywhere to be. I used to get up in the 5:00 - 6:00am range every day. I wanted to get in my quiet time and get some writing done before I had to be at work. During my sabbatical I threw all that out for staying up late and not setting an alarm. Which, you think would be fine. But I didn’t prepare myself well for getting back into life after the sabbatical by not following the routines I had previously set up. Getting up and going to work this week has been particularly hard. Part of that was due to getting off my routines and the other part of that was that as a church we were starting out the year in early morning prayer … much earlier than I was prepared for. Moral of the story, if you already have some healthy habits don’t give them up just because you have extra time to make them happen later.

The second thing I learned is that rhythms (habits) are best when based in your identity. If all you have is a dream or a “this would be nice to have”, the habit won’t happen. That’s why most New Years resolutions don’t work. You place all this pressure on your to change yourself to a version of yourself that you haven’t bought into. For a change to really take effect, for a habit to really stick, you don’t just need to change your behavior, you first need to change your identity. “I want to lose 20 pounds” is a great goal and maybe you have the willpower to make that happen. But it won’t stick. “I am a healthy person” is an identity that you can start to change your life around.

In Summary

Sabbatical was great and the things that God said I should be looking for definitely came to pass. I found rest, I reconnected with my family, and I’ve started to change my identity and put some healthy rhythms in place in my life.

If you’ve never taken a sabbatical, or even one of the mini ones I talked about here, then I’d highly recommend that you take one. Even a little break will do wonders for you and those around you.

Theme for the Year

It’s been a while now, but I remember years back hearing Jon Eldredge talk about asking God for a theme for the year. At the end of every year he asks God what his theme for the next year is going to be.

At this point yearly themes weren’t all the rage and everyone and their brother weren’t talking about them. It’s a concept that’s everywhere now. Whether they’re called themes or your “one word”, or whatever. Back then though, it was brand new to me.

So every year since I’ve asked God for a theme, and every year I’ve gotten one. And just like my goals and dreams, every year I’ve let the year take me where it wants to go and I’ve completely abandoned my theme. Most years I don’t even remember what my theme was.

This is the year all of that ends.

This is the year that I follow my theme, I pay attention to where it leads me. This is the year where I keep up with what’s going on in my life, where I pay attention to my theme and integrate it into my life. This is the year I don’t slip and mess it all up.

I’m hesitant to say this, because my past attempts at goal setting and resolutions and even themes have been so bad. I so easily let them slip and instead do what’s easy.

But at some point in your life you have to stop doing what is easy and start doing what is right. I’m 46 years old now. I’m way late on starting to do what’s right. No better time than the present.

My Theme

I got my theme for 2020 back in November. This year I didn’t even really ask for it. It was right before I was going to leave on sabbatical. I had been praying about what the sabbatical was supposed to look like for me and asking God what He wanted me to get out of it. He gave me 3 words for my sabbatical. These were “rest”, “reconnection”, and the establishment of new “rhythms.” Along with that, He said that my theme for 2020 was going to be “health.” He sort of threw that in there. Like a bonus.

So as I headed into my sabbatical, I had a chance to kind of get a head start on what “health” might look like for me in the coming year. I was going to get some rest (which is a healthy thing) but I’d also have some time to sit and pray and think through what other ways God would want me to become healthy.

I’ve since realized that what we’re talking about here is an all-around health that touches every part of my life. So it’s physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, financial, and any other thing you can think of. So you can think of it as 360 degrees of health. My job is to take a look at everything that surrounds me and figure out what “health” looks like in that area of my life, and then work to make it so. Does that make sense?

“Physical” is probably the easiest example. I know that I have a tendency to eat like crap and not exercise at all. I sit for the majority of my day at my job and then sit down at night as well when I watch TV. As a result I am sluggish, do not have much energy, am overweight, and sometimes get out of breath just bending over to tie my shoes or walking up a flight of stairs. What can fix that? Eating the proper foods and moving my body more.

So I took the month of December, while I was on sabbatical, and created a new rhythm of exercise. This is step 1 of many steps to get my body back to physical health. I did at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. It’s becoming a new habit for me. In order for my habit to continue on indefinitely, I need to make it a part of my identity. So I am working this year to make “I am a physically healthy person” a part of who I am, not just something I wish I was.

So physical exercise was step 1. Step 2 is still being decided for this month but it will probably be something to do with how I eat. It could be “I don’t eat after 9pm” or “I don’t drink pop”, or something like that. Something small that builds on “I exercise every day.” You get the idea.

Like I said, this is all-life-encompassing. So I am working on healthy habits for all areas of my life. Having a daily quiet time with God that is a non-negotiable. Paying attention to what I spend and our budget. Determining where we can cut expenses and where we need to increase income. Figuring out how we can do those things. Taking time to learn new things as a way to become more mentally healthy. Just little steps every month to create a more healthy life for me and those around me.

Every day I affect those around me. Whether it’s good or bad is my choice. If I make unhealthy choices it affects them in an unhealthy way. I teach bad habits and choices like they’re okay. So as I become more healthy in all the areas of my life, I will naturally affect those around me in good, healthy ways. What more reason could I need to become healthy?

I’m still working on a great way to keep “health” in the forefront of my mind on a regular basis. Learning how to ask myself “Is that the healthy choice?” for everything. I’m determined to make it happen this year.

What are you determined to do?

2019 Goals in Review

I’m not sure if you do new year resolutions or goals or whatever, but last year I wrote a post (What’s Up for Me in 2019) where I laid out my goals for this year. I had some big ideas in mind about all of the things that I was going to do. I was going to be healthy, I was going to pay off debt, I was going to write this, that, and the other thing (including a book). Of all the things I wrote in that post, this post makes it so that I completed exactly 1 of those things. I said that I would write and publish 1 blog post per week … and I did! I feel great about that!

But I didn’t accomplish any of the other things I set out to do in the beginning of the year. None of them. I am not healthier now than I was then. I did not pay off any of the debt that we have. I didn’t write anything other than the posts for this blog. I accomplished like 10% of what I planned on doing.

I’m really proud of this blog and I’m super stoked that I was able to accomplish what I did. But I am pretty bummed that I didn’t do anything else.

There are lots of reasons that I didn’t finish those goals. But none of them are good. I just didn’t keep my own advice. I didn’t keep my goals in front of me, I didn’t put them on my calendar with a deadline, and I know I didn’t make them a priority. I was lazy and I didn’t try. That’s really what it comes down to.

I just started reading Atomic Habits by James Clear and in the beginning of the book he says that “we do not rise to the level of our goals but we sink to the level of our systems.” He also says that people don’t follow through on their goals because they are not a part of who they are … the goal is not a part of their identity.

Both of these are true for me. I didn’t have a good system in place to make sure that I was able to reach my goals. And I definitely didn’t make my goals a part of my identity. My goals were too large, with no structure, and I didn’t really believe in them. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

I’m hoping to turn that around in 2020. I have a “theme” for my year and I’ll be setting some goals based around that theme and that theme only. They will be small, they will be based around things that I can turn into habits, and they will help turn that theme into part of my identity. We’ll talk about that next week.

I do want to take a minute to thank you all for hanging with me this year and reading what I write. I hope that I was able to say something that helped you along on your journey. I’m looking forward to seeing what next year (and the next decade) has in store and continuing all that we’re doing here. See you all in 2020!

Christmas was an Invasion

A little child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and born in a manger.

Little baby Jesus so meek and mild.

So innocent and pure, the tiny little lamb of God.

We’ve made Jesus out to be some cute little painting. Someone who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Some little waif of a man whose greatest goal is world peace. Someone who just wants us all to get along.

We couldn’t be further from the truth.

Revelation chapter 12 tells us of the child’s birth and the war that resulted because of it. First, war in heaven. Then war on the rest of us. You should go read the whole thing, it’s remarkable. But a couple of bits here.

First, verses 7 & 8:

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.

Verse 17:

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

That doesn’t sound like the story we get in a lot of our Christmas carols, does it? That’s war. But remember, Jesus’ goal isn’t world peace, it’s our freedom. Sometimes, to bring freedom, there has to a battle.

In Jesus’ own words, Matthew 10:34:

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Jesus came to fight. To trample Satan and his kingdom and to provide a way out of the bondage that we find ourselves in.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, … “ – Isaiah 61:1

This was Jesus’ mission. He came to this earth and fulfilled it. He overcame the kingdom of darkness and has provided a rescue for us. Satan is defeated, friends. The invasion was a success.

What a night that was, the night Jesus was born.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new glorious morn

Fall on your knees

O hear the angels’ voices

O night divine

“O night divine” indeed.

Adventure Awaits

God has not called us to merely exist.

He has plans for you far beyond you wildest dreams. Plans that He put in place, meant specifically for you, before there even was a “you”.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10

He has hopes and dreams for you. He has a purpose for you. Something way more than bingeing the latest series on Netflix or Disney+ (Although, “Baby Yoda”, right?).

He has an adventure waiting for you. A calling. A mission. Did you know that? Do you know what it is? Something meant to stretch and challenge you. Something made and set aside just for you, on purpose, so that you would grow into the person He wants you to be.

You are meant for more than merely existing. You are meant for fairy tale. That might sound weird, but hang with me. What is a fairy tale if not adventure, drama, and fellowship. You are meant for that. You were made to storm the castle, to tame the savage beast, and to rescue those in need.

But fairy tales are not for the faint of heart, are they? It won’t be easy. Adventures rarely are. If it was easy, could you really call it an “adventure”?

In Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, with regard to his return to Swallow Falls to battle food monsters, Flint Lockwood says “It’s going to be deadly dangerous with a good chance of death.”

That, my friends, is what awaits you in your adventure; your fairy tale. There will be danger and evil. There is an enemy whose sole purpose is to destroy you. But if you don’t take up the mantle, if you shrink back even an inch, the kingdom will fall. You are the only one who can accomplish this mission. Your mission, your adventure, your fairy tale … it’s meant only for you.

You’re Not Alone

Just because your mission is meant for you alone doesn’t mean that you’ll be in this all by yourself. I mean, what good fairy tale only involves one person?

Like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, you will need a fellowship. Others to come along side you on your journey. They will be there to help you on the way. To help you see your blind spots, lay down cover fire for you in the heat of battle, and be a shoulder when things get really tough. You’ll do the same for others on their journeys.

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it.”

There is also a choice. You can choose to not go on the adventure. To say “no” to the mission. You can stay at home where it’s safe and warm and you know what to expect.

But if you do then all is lost. All that is beautiful will burn. The beauty will never be rescued. The dragon, your enemy, will ruin and destroy all.

The choice is up to you.

You’re in your fairy tale right now. Your mission is upon you. What adventure awaits you? It is time to make a decision. Are you going to stay at home, or step up and be the hero?

You are being called. Some large adventure awaits you. Are you listening?