Seek God in Everything

I wanted to share just one thought for this week. Here it is:

Seek God in everything.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the course of my life it is that God is way better at this whole life thing than I am. He knows what’s happened, what’s currently happening, and what’s going to happen. He knows what’s best for me even when (especially when) I don’t.

So often I try to go it on my own. I make the mistake of thinking that I know better than God does. After all, it’s my life, right? That, or I simply don’t think to ask Him what I should be doing and instead rely on my own thoughts or intuition to take me to the next place in my life.

That’s usually when things turn out wrong.

Thinking that we know our way in this life better than the One who created us in the first place is laughable.

Yet we do it all the time, don’t we? I know I do.

This is a lesson I’m still learning.

Maybe think of it this way. If you had a way to know what the best choices for you in life were going to be, wouldn’t you use that way every time? If you had a person in your life that always knew the right thing to do in any situation, wouldn’t you seek them out before you made any decision ever?

I think I would.

And yet I often make the mistake of thinking that I know what’s best for me or I know the right thing to do. I trust myself to make decisions that I shouldn’t be making.

Now, don’t get me wrong, God is no fortune teller. He isn’t just someone you pay to read your palm or tell you the future. He is not a Magic Eight Ball.

Yes, He knows the future and holds it in His hand. The big difference here is that God actually cares for you. He cares about your wellbeing and He wants what’s best for you. No fortune teller or device can ever say that.

God sees way further down the path of your life than you ever could. He also cares way more for you and your future than anyone (including you) ever would. He wants what is best for you and loves you with a love that won’t let go.

So put your future (and your decisions) in the hands of the One who created the universe. Ask Him what’s best for you. Seek Him in all you do. From small to big, in every area of your life, ask Him what you should do and He will direct your path.

Is Jesus a Person or a Transaction?

Sometimes it’s really hard for me to remember that what Jesus wants most from me is me. It’s even harder to remember that what I need most from Jesus is Jesus and not what he can do for me.

For too long I’ve tried to use Jesus as a transaction. “Hey Jesus, will you do (insert thing) for me?”. Make sure our money lasts all month long, let my kids get in this or that show, help me be a better husband or father.

There is nothing wrong with that, by the way. Jesus wants you to turn to Him and ask him to help you in your life.

But Jesus is not a transaction.

I need a relationship with Him way more than I need Him to do things for me. I need to sit with Him and let Him lead me the way He wants to lead me instead of me just spouting off all the things I need or want.

Jesus saved me and that’s enough. If He never did another thing for me then that would still be enough. He’s there for me and wants to help me in my life. But He wants me and my heart way more than anything I can do for Him.

Can I say the same in return?

Next Steps in Fitness

LIIFT4 Tracker My LIIFT4 Tracking Sheet

I started playing tennis when I was in 7th grade. I loved it and I was pretty decent at it. When I hit high school I started managing the girls team in the fall, playing on the boys team in the spring, and teaching lessons to other kids in the summer. For 9 months out of the year I played tennis. I was in shape (pretty skinny actually) and I had fun.

You’d never know it to look at me now. Once I realized I wasn’t going to play in college I gave up that life and started the “eat-whatever-you-want-because-it’s-college” life. I don’t remember what I weighed in high school but the “Freshman 15” was probably more like the “Freshman 30” and it didn’t really stop there. The sedentary life of a college kid who didn’t exercise, only went to class, sat behind a computer, and played video games quickly took hold. And I’ve never looked back much.

Some History

I’ve always wanted to be in shape. As I kid I can remember getting into some old workout books that my dad had somewhere in the house. I’ve always wanted to have muscles. The only thing I didn’t want was to work hard for them. I learned a long time ago that working out is hard and although I wanted to look like the guys with muscles I didn’t want to work as hard as it took to be those guys. So I didn’t.

I remember being in a hotel with Heather and the kids when we were on a trip to Michigan for her brothers wedding. We saw an informercial for the first Beachbody product we’d ever seen … Power 90. I looked at that and said “I want to do that.” Not because I wanted to be healthy but because I wanted to look good. Heather literally laughed out loud and said “I am not buying anything from an infomercial.” But I insisted and I got it as a gift not long after.

As you might expect, once I got started with the program I realized that it was hard. It was inconvenient and it clashed with my schedule. It made me sweat … and I don’t really like to sweat much. I did the workouts for like 4 weeks (maybe) and then I put it aside and didn’t finish it. Here was another example in my life where I wanted something so bad and then I let it slide when it got hard.

Heather was the one to pick up the slack and do something with it. There were only 4 workouts in this program, 2 for the first 45 days and 2 for the second 45 days. That’s it. Nothing like it is today. She stuck with it and finished the program and had AMAZING results. She got hooked on fitness. I was still hooked on fast food and sitting on the couch.

That was like 15 years ago. And things have been the same way this whole time. I’d see a program I like every once in a while and I’d give it a go only to quit not too far into it. Once I did get 45 days into P90X (which was a really long time for me) before stopping. That’s progress, right?

Time for Change

Well times have changed. 2020 is my year of health. This is the year I get things right and do the things I need to do to get healthy. I think a couple of things have kind of come together at just the right time to make this year into what it’s become.

Last December I started working out while on sabbatical. I got into a pattern of exercise which has really helped propel my year. I wasn’t doing anything super hard or even necessarily with great consistency … but I was moving my body more and that’s the first step. That pattern was what I needed to really step into this year on the right foot. It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows and I’ve had my share of “This is hard, I don’t want to do this” times. It really was “off again on again” until around the middle of March.

Then COVID hit. I remember thinking that if this virus hits people with bad immune or cardiovascular systems the hardest then I could be in real trouble if I were to get it. And I still might be. I have had sports induced asthma since I was younger and I am not in very good cardiovascular shape. The last thing I need is to be exposed to something that would attack that cardiovascular system, right? So I began thinking that I needed to start exercising in earnest. In particular, I needed to be doing some form of cardio exercise at least semi-regularly to strengthen both my cardiovascular system as well as my heart so I would be able to handle stuff if it hit.

Then I read a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book taught me that the whole reason I haven’t gotten what I’ve wanted and I fail every time is because I am looking for an outward goal instead of an inward change. All I wanted in the past were muscles or to look good. What I’ve learned is that success only comes when what you want becomes who you are.

Outward motivation working inward doesn’t really work. Just wanting a six-pack isn’t enough. That’s external and fades when things get tough. It’s hard to change who you are when you’re motivation for doing something comes from the outside.

It’s much easier to change what your outside looks like when the motivation comes from who you are on the inside. It’s the fire in your belly or the belief in your heart that will drive you to get up and do the hard things every day. When what you want is to become someone different on the inside then the outward changes you really want to see will happen as well.

So I’m slowly becoming someone who is a healthy person. I’m choosing to identify more often than not with someone who does what healthy people do. I’m renewing my mind and heart every day and as a result things are starting to change for me on the outside. I eat better. I workout more often. I watch videos and listen to podcasts that talk about healthy things.

Milestones

That bring us to now.

I’m really proud to say that for the past 15 weeks I have worked out 5 days a week. And …

Yesterday I finished my second workout program in a row!

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about finishing my first program ever, 10 Rounds. Well, yesterday I finished a program called LIIFT4.

Side Note: Don’t ask me why they always put numbers in the titles of their workout programs. It annoys me to no end. Just ask Heather.

Anyway, this program (LIIFT4) was a combo weight lifting, HIIT cardio program. You only have to workout 4 days a week (hence the “4” in the title), but I added a 5th stretching day in there because my goal is to workout 5 days a week. In case you’re interested, some workouts were just lifting (called circuits), some were just cardio (HIIT) and some were a 50/50 combination of both.

If I had to choose a “soulmate workout” it would be weightlifting. “Lift heavy things” could be my mantra. The weightlifting portion of LIIFT4 is what drew me to the program to begin with. What I didn’t love as much was that there is very little rest between sets and it pretty much never stops. Personally, I’d rather there were longer breaks between sets but it definitely kept my heart rate up the whole time. Which I guess at the end of the day means I burn more fat … so that’s a win.

On the flip side, I don’t like cardio. At all. And if I had to do cardio, I wouldn’t choose HIIT cardio on purpose. I’d run on a treadmill or walk up and down some stairs. Give me that bodybuilding cardio any day. I have no desire to be the kind of athlete that needs this kind of cardio training. I know however that right now (probably more than ever) I want to have a healthy cardiovascular system, right? So I’m doing what I have to do to make that happen. If I’m going to be a healthy person then I have to do my cardio.

As far as results go, I didn’t take measurements or pictures so I’m not sure from an “inches” perspective how much changed. I’ve lost some weight (around 5 pounds). But I think more tangibly, I’m feeling like I’ve gotten stronger, I don’t get as winded when I bend down to tie my shoes, and Heather is starting to check out my muscles. 😉 These are all wins.

My Next Step

So now that I’m finished with LIIFT4 … what’s next?

  • I could go back and do another round of 10 Rounds. I really enjoyed this program so this would be a good choice for me.
  • I could go back and immediately do another round of LIIFT4. Yet another good option. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as 10 Rounds but I can’t argue with the results it’s given me.
  • I could do something I haven’t done yet. Maybe pick up P90X or Body Beast. Body Beast is a good option because it’s meant to be just a weightlifting/bodybuilding style workout program. Which feels like it would be my soulmate Beachbody workout.

Instead, what I’ve decided to do is a combination LIIFT4/10 Rounds hybrid. Why not take the 2 programs that I’ve just completed and stick them together? They both have weightlifting, they both have cardio (albeit in different forms). Why wouldn’t that work?

Beachbody loves to create hybrid calendars for their programs to keep things fresh and so that you continue to come back to them. But so far I haven’t seen this as an option from them. So I decided to create my own.

LIIFT4 is 8 weeks and 10 Rounds is 6 weeks. So I figured I could start with a week of LIIFT4 then do a week of 10 Rounds and then repeat until I’ve gone through the first 6 weeks of LIIFT4 and all 6 weeks of 10 Rounds. Then I would just finish up with the last 2 weeks of LIIFT4.

This whole hybrid “program” would take 14 weeks. Which would be the longest program I’ve ever done. It will take stamina and a stick-to-itiveness that I have yet to have possessed in my fitness life.

But if I am to be a healthy person, then fitness is something that I will be doing for the rest of my days, not something that I just do for a couple weeks and quit. No longer does the number of days or weeks in a program matter. What matters is that I work out at least 5 days a week regardless of the workout program I’m doing. That’s what a healthy person would do. I think that mindset will serve me very well going forward.

The good news is that if I do this hybrid program according to the schedule I have planned, then that leaves me with just enough time at the end of the year to do another round of 10 Rounds on it’s own and finish right as the year ends. That seems like a pretty great way to end the year.

My Writing Process

I’m a sucker for nerdy things. Big surprise there.

It used to be that I knew all the specs on computers and home electronics. I still want the latest tech with the biggest screens and loudest speakers. If only my budget met my dreams huh? 😉

In recent years I’ve come to love just about anything superhero related (as does everyone with an inner 10-year-old self). I think I have the MCU to thank for bringing that part of me back to life.

God made me a nerd and I’m okay with that. Being okay with that … I mean, truly owing it … is a battle that I’ve fought and won and embracing it makes me all the better.

Anyway, I digress.

One of the things that I love to nerd out about is a good process. How people do the things they do that help make them more successful in life and work. I can’t tell you how many “So-and-so’s Morning Routine” or “Do These 5 Things Before Bed to be More Productive the Next Day” articles I’ve read.

As a “on-the-side” writer (meaning so far I’m only doing this because I love it and I want to share my thoughts and hopefully help others … no one is paying me to do this yet), I also love to read about other writers “writing process.” I’m still figuring out this whole writing thing so I’m always interested in any tips, tricks, or interesting bits I think might help me become a better writer.

So this week I thought I’d take you on a very brief tour of my writing process, some things I think that make this routine in particular work for me, and how I think it could be a little better. Here we go.

What I Do

It’s funny, in the “funny means ironic” sense, that I don’t usually know what I’m going to write about on any given week before I actually sit down to write it. This blog post is a perfect example of that. I didn’t know before I began what the topic was going to be.

I don’t have an editorial calendar. I don’t even have a list of topics in any sort of order. Which seems weird for me because I’m generally a pretty organized person. I’m the guy that wants to know what’s happening before I make a decision to go do something. I don’t like surprise much. Generally speaking, I don’t like to just “wing” things. So you would think that I would have some sort of something set up to help me in my writing. But I don’t.

My blog posts happen pretty organically. They tend to be the result of a conversation that God and I have while I’m writing. I’ve written before about how my writing time is one of the times when I feel closest to God. I feel like I can hear His voice and He helps me process through things as I write about it. So many posts start out with “I don’t know what to write about today …” and then I just start writing about what I’m thinking about and as the conversation progresses we get to a topic that sticks and that becomes the post.

I also tend to write on the day the post is due. I sit down, knock it all out in one sitting and move on. I don’t usually even go back to old ideas and try to pick them back up again. I have about 40 or 50 documents with half started ideas or just one sentence descriptions of thoughts I had that I hardly ever look back on.

Once I’ve gotten to a point where there is a post written (I use the Ulysses app for my writing), I go back and get rid of most of the conversation that led me to the post. All that stuff is my conversation with God and isn’t meant for publishing anyway. Then I’ll give the post a once-over edit, making sure my grammar and spelling is as close to correct as I can. Then I get it ready for publishing.

My posts aren’t written in a CMS like Wordpress or anything. My blog is built on Gatsby and uses React. So my posts are literally Markdown files in code. So I copy over my post from Ulysses to Visual Studio Code and then run the code so that I can see it in a browser and read over it one more time. Things tend to look and feel different when you read it in context on the screen where it’s going to live. I will edit anything I see that looks funny or needs to change to make sense on screen.

Once that’s done I commit all my changes for the site to Github and Netlify takes over and deploys my site with the new post on it. Once it’s done, the site is live and my new post is ready for you to read!

What Works For Me

There are a couple of things that are really working for me with this current process.

First, and I didn’t mention it before, but I usually end up writing early-ish in the morning when no one else is awake. I’ve learned over time that I write best when it’s quiet and I can think. Reading is the same way. When it’s loud I get distracted. So I shut off all the stuff, get quiet, and write.

The other thing I love is the organic nature of my writing. I love being able to process through how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking about and meeting with God while I write.

I love these parts of my routine. I don’t see them ever changing.

Everything else is up for grabs.

What Could Be Better

I can think of at least a few things that I want to make better over time.

  • I think I could take some of the pressure off of the “what do I write today?” question if I were to create an editorial calendar to work off of. I don’t think it takes away from the “organic” nature of my writing if I already have a topic picked out for the day. I don’t think it means that God and I wouldn’t meet during my writing time or that our conversation would be any less relevant to my life. I think what it does mean is that He and I just got together and planned ahead a little. I do often feel the pressure of “Well today is Friday, I have to come up with something to write about for my blog.” This would definitely take the pressure off when it comes to having to come up with something to write about.
  • I would start writing earlier in the week. Writing on the day that something is due isn’t good in the long run. It means that every post gets less editing time than it should get. This means that every post could be written better, but I’m just not giving it the time it needs to become what it could be. Essentially I’m posting a first draft. And we all know that as writers we’re supposed to write crappy first drafts and make them better over time. I want to do more of that. I want to be more consistent in writing every day, not just on the day I need to post something. If I truly feel more connected to God when I write, why wouldn’t I do it every day? That seems like a no-brainer.
  • I would use a CMS or some mechanism other than Markdown files in a site that I have to actually compile and deploy every week. I think the big things here would be simplicity when it comes to posting and I could post in advance. The simplicity would be that I could potentially only have to just copy over a file and I’d be done. There would be no need for me to have to add a file to a site and then commit it to Github and get it to deploy before my post would be live. It just would be. Also, being able to write a post ahead of time and schedule it to go live when it needs to would be a big help. Then I wouldn’t have to make sure that I was around on a Friday to post. It would just happen when it was supposed to happen without me having to get involved. Any time that I have to get involved outside of actually writing the post is time that I’m a blocker to things getting done … and that won’t fly long term.

So there’s my process. It’s obviously not the best process out there, but it’s mine and it will definitely change over time. The magic isn’t necessarily in the process anyway. The magic is in the writing and meeting with God and hearing what He has to say about a topic as it relates to me. If God helps me figure out what I think about a certain topic then that’s a win. A win I get to share with you.

At the end of the day, my process probably shouldn’t be your process. You have to find what works for you. The process you use for anything in your life is a personal one. It’s individual to you. Chances are that what someone else does won’t work for you. Take what they do, learn from it, try to take bits and pieces you think will work and be okay with throwing the rest of it away. Just because you don’t write in the same way as Hemingway doesn’t mean that you can’t be just as effective an author. Just because your church doesn’t do things that same way as that one giant mega-church doesn’t mean that God won’t bless what you’re doing. You have to be you and do what works for you. Don’t try to be someone else.

Imitation might be the greatest form of flattery, but it’s the quickest way to failure.

Health Year Update

There is always a lot of excitement and motivation when you first begin working toward a new goal. You’ve just had this revelation that this thing is what you need to be focused on so everything points to it and it’s easy to make adjustments in your life for it. There’s always room for the shiny and new in our lives, isn’t there?

Then what happens? Reality sets in. A few weeks in you start to realize that this thing you’re focused on is hard work and it’s going to take up more time than you thought. You start to understand that if you want to pursue this goal that it’s going to mean permanent adjustments to your life, not just temporary ones. The slog of the “long haul” starts to get old and not as much fun anymore.

I read a book earlier this year called Atomic Habits by James Clear. In that book, one of the things he talks about is how a lot of goals fail because we’re trying to outwardly motivate ourselves instead of inwardly changing our identity.

For example, we want to get in shape and eat healthy because we know that if we do so we will look better to other people. Other people will like what our bodies look like and therefore accept us more readily. That kind of motivation is real, but it’s temporary. Sooner, rather than later, we realize that having someone else think we look good isn’t as great a motivator as that cheeseburger tastes. We honestly just don’t care that much to be willing to change our entire lives for it.

On the other hand, if we decide that we want to get in shape and eat healthy because deep down inside we want to actually be a healthy person, then we will do whatever it takes to become a healthy person. We will start looking at the things we do with a “will this make me a healthy person?” lens. When what you’ve set as your goals becomes who you are (your identity), you have a better chance at actually making a change for the long haul.

That’s why diets don’t work long term. They are great for really short periods of time. But how many of us know that they only last for a minute and then it’s right back to what you used to do. The restrictions were too far removed from who you actually are for you to sustain the diet for any length of time.

This Relates to You How?

And so it has been with my goals and dreams for a long time. I wanted all the things in my life to change, to be more healthy, but my motivations for wanting them were intrinsically outward motivated. I wanted to have a better body. I wanted to buy really nice things. I wanted to be seen as the most spiritual guy there is.

As you undoubtably read in my post from the beginning of the year ( 😉 ), this is my “health year.” The year that I take back health in all areas of my life. It all started with working to get a better, healthy identity. Changing who I am, not just what I do became a focal point of my year. Your actions follow your identity so it was important to get clear about what type of person I wanted to be.

I want to be a person who is healthy physically so that I can be around to see all the milestones in my family. To see my kids graduate high school and college. To see them grow up and maybe get married, or just watch their life unfold as they follow God in it. To potentially see grand kids and great grand kids (a long way down the road from now please and thank you). To grow old with Heather. To laugh together when we both are on the floor and we can’t get back up.

I want to be a person who is healthy spiritually. I want to have a real relationship with God not just a “let me throw my wish list to a genie in the sky” kind of thing. I want to be the guy that dedicates his life to serving Him in whatever way that looks like. I don’t need to be the most spiritual guy in the room, but I do need to walk with Jesus every day. I want to learn how to live out of His strength, not my own.

I want to be a person who is healthy financially. I want to be able to provide for my family now and make wise decisions to be able to provide for my family in the future. I want to get out of debt so that I can do the things that God calls me to do when He calls me to do them. So I can be more generous. So I can give when causes arise and not worry about what that means for the bottom line.

There are many more areas to each of our lives, but I think you get the idea. I want to be a healthy person, and the first step to that is changing my identity. I’ve worked hard to get to this point, and now my actions are starting to take shape from my identity.

Some Examples

I started out the year doing some exercising but it was sporadic and not combined with a healthy diet. It wasn’t until I got clear on my healthy physical identity that things started to click for me. For the last 13 weeks I’ve exercised consistently 5 days a week and I’ve been eating pretty close to a prescribed plan based on the workouts I’ve been doing. I’m doing the right things and seeing my overall results heading in the right direction. I’ve only lost 10 pounds this year so far (it’s been as low as 14 at one point) but I’m feeling better about who I am and what I’m capable of doing physically. I don’t get as winded as I used to climbing up stairs or bending over to tie my shoes which tells me that I’m headed in the right direction. I’m learning to modify moves during workouts when I need to when before I would have just quit and said that it was too hard for me. A healthy person exercises and eats healthy foods … and that’s starting to take shape for me.

We also are starting to become more healthy financially. Nothing major has happened to get us into better shape quite yet, but we’re starting to see some progress. Our desire to be healthy financially is growing because we want to be financially healthy people. We’re working on some things to lower our monthly expenditures which will hopefully allow us to pay off our debt quicker (since we’ll have more of our budget that can go towards debt reduction. Plus, the sooner we are out of debt the sooner we can do other things that need our financial attention. Heather and I have sat down and created what we think is a solid budget and we’re in our first month of seeing how that goes. Things are starting to feel like we’re headed in the right direction.

So that’s where I am. The needles are starting to move in the right direction. That feels like progress. All the results we’ll see are just lag measures. They’ll happen because we’re putting in the consistent work every day. I believe that if we consistently do the right things because we want to be the right people then the right results will eventually happen.

At the end of the day, changing your identity matters way more than you might think. Once you start becoming a different person, the things that you want to see happen regarding a certain area of your life have a better chance of happening. Remember, your actions follow your identity. There’s a better chance that the things you want to see happen will happen when it starts from inside you.

Start by changing your identity today and there’s a greater chance that your world will start changing tomorrow.

Independence Day

Listed under: Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know

No one signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th.

I know, right? That little fact is blowing my mind right now. Somehow I thought all this time that what we were celebrating was the signing of the Declaration. I believed that we were shooting off fireworks and having backyard barbecues as a way to remember that symbolic moment when we were putting our names to paper saying that we want to be free.

Turns out, not so much. Here’s how it actually went down:

On June 7th, 1776, the Continental Congress met at what would later be known as Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia made a motion that called for the colonies independence from Great Britain. The issue was debated fiercely but a vote on Mr. Lee’s motion was ultimately postponed.

However, at this meeting, Congress did decide to put together a five-man committee to draft a formal document that would ultimately end up declaring our independence.

Side note shocker: Yep … Thomas Jefferson wasn’t the only one that worked on that document. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman also contributed their ideas and voices to what we have today.

A month later, on July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s motion on independence from Great Britain. Two days later, on July 4th, they voted to accept the final draft of what is our Declaration of Independence.

However, no one signed it that night.

Instead, Congress had a formal copy of the draft made up and it wasn’t until August 2nd, 1776, that it was finally signed.

So what we celebrate on July 4th isn’t the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It isn’t when we voted in favor of becoming an independent nation. It isn’t even the end of the Revolutionary War that actually won us our freedom.

Instead, what we celebrate on July 4th is the approval of the document that explains why we want to be free from Great Britain’s rule.

A document that declares our independence.

So … now you know.