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.

How Quickly We Forget

I’ve been reading the book of Judges lately in my quiet time. There are a lot of great stories in this book. Ehud stabs and kills Eglon, king of Moab and leaves his sword inside the king. There is Deborah and Barak. There is Jael who stabs Sisera, the king of Canaan’s military commander, with a tent peg through his head. And of course, there is Gideon and his 300 men who route the Midianites with some water pots and musical instruments. It’s a great book. You should read it again.

But I’ve noticed a really sad pattern in the life of the Israelites.

Joshua had been leading the Israelites ever since Moses died. It was Joshua who led Israel in their defeat of Jericho. It was Joshua who let them into the “promised land.” And like we all do, Joshua eventually got old and died.

Here’s where it gets sad.

Almost as soon as Joshua dies the people of Israel stop following the Lord. They “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” They decide they don’t need the God who rescued them from the hand of the Egyptians. They figure they don’t need the God who helped them win the land that they are living in.

They immediately forget God. Instead, they turn to other gods. They start to follow the gods of the people that are still living in the land. The ones they haven’t driven out. So God turns them over to their enemies. They lose in battle. They become servants for other kings. They are treated harshly. Things get bad.

When things get bad enough then the people suddenly remember God and cry out to Him. And God, in His mercy, raises up someone to be Israel’s rescuer. He turns the people back to the Lord. They realize how foolish they have been and they again worship God. They fight battles and win back their freedom. They experience peace once again.

Everyone is happy until that rescuer dies. Then the people turn their backs on God again and the cycle starts over again once more.

Over and over this plays out. They turn away, God lets them have their way and they get crushed by their enemies, they cry out to God and turn back to Him, and all is well for a time. But each and every time the rescuer dies the Israelites immediately go back to following other gods. They forgot all about the God who saved and rescued them so many times before.

This pattern makes me sad. As I’m reading it all I can think is “Why would you do this? You know this is going to turn out bad for you, right? You know all the stories and have seen God be faithful so many times and yet you continue to do evil things. Don’t you get it? Can’t you see?”

And then God reminds me … “You’re the same way.”

Dang.

I want to argue but I can’t. He’s right. We do the same thing, don’t we?

When things are going well, we pretty much forget about God. Our job is good. We have food on the table. All our relationships seem like they are working well. Over time though, we slowly work our way toward sin and away from God. We’re greedy. We’re lustful. We’re indulgent. We turn to other things that aren’t God. But we can handle this. This works for us. We don’t really need God. All is well in our world.

As He sees our stories play out He’s probably thinking “Why would you do this? You know this is going to turn out bad for you, right? You know all the stories and have seen Me be faithful so many times and yet you continue to do evil things. Don’t you get it? Can’t you see?”

So we turn away from God. We forget Him in all we do. We start to worship other things in our heart. So God lets us have those other things we so badly desire. Before long, maybe without even realizing it, we end up in bondage to those things.

It’s usually a gradual shift. Every day a little further away from God. Like getting in the water on the beach and looking up half an hour later to realize that you’re a half mile from where you started. One day you just realize that you’ve traveled so far from where you once were with God.

Or maybe it’s sudden. Someone gets sick or loses a job. Things go south really quick. All the stuff you had been holding onto that wasn’t God falls away in a flash and you’re left reeling.

So we turn back to God at those moments don’t we? We pray like we’ve never prayed before.

  • “God, please take away this sickness”
  • “God, give me a job”
  • “Don’t you care about me?”
  • “I promise if you do this one thing I won’t ask you for anything else as long as I live.”

We’ve all been there and we’ve all prayed prayers like that.

So what happens then? Out of His infinite love He sends us a rescuer. Maybe He heals us or gives us back our jobs. He forgives us for our turning away and welcomes us back to Him. In the end we vow to be better for it all. And life is good for a time. We go back to church and read our bibles. We pray more often. It’s not fake … we really mean it all.

Then one day we don’t wake up in time and we skip our quiet time. We don’t pray because we can’t think of anything that we need. We don’t go to church on Sunday because we want to watch the game.

Slowly but surely, the pattern starts to repeat itself again. We inevitably find that we’ve gotten back into our old ways. Not because we want to, but because left to our own devices, we naturally shift toward what is easy. Left without a need to fulfill we see no reason to seek God. Without intentional effort, relationships … even our relationship with God … withers and falls stale.

It doesn’t matter who you are either. Rich and poor people alike share this same problem. It doesn’t matter your age, race, gender, or ethnicity. You can be a devout atheist or the pastor of the largest church in the world. We all still have the same problem.

You’d think by now we’d have figured this thing out. Yet we keep running around in circles doing the same thing we’ve been doing since Biblical times. For all our sophistication and know-how, this is one problem we haven’t been able to solve.

I wish I had the answer. I wish I had some magic that would help us all stay the course and continue to follow after the One who loves, guides, cares for, and protects us. I have a feeling the answer lies somewhere with intention. With intentionally seeking out a relationship with God on a daily basis. Some way of keeping Him front and center in our lives. I think it’s more than just reading the Bible and praying though. Reading about Abraham Lincoln doesn’t mean I have a relationship with him. If all I ever did was talk at my wife (prayer often is just us talking at God), we wouldn’t have a great relationship. There’s a give and take, a back and forth.

I think there’s something there. I’ll keep exploring. I hope you will too.

This has been a reminder for me to remember my relationship with the God, the One who flung the stars in space and holds the world in the palm of His hand. He cares about us and wants us to come back to Him. Maybe let this be a reminder for you too.

Lest we forget.

50 Years

When it comes to marriage, do you ever find yourself sitting back and wondering “What was God even thinking?”

I do.

The idea that He would take two such distinctly different people and put them together seems like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it?

Each of us comes from such different backgrounds and upbringings. We come with our own styles of relating or ways of coping with things. We have differing religious beliefs or ways of handling conflict. We’re just so different, right?

One’s a spender and the other a saver. One is always hot and the other is always cold. One likes watching TV in their downtime and the other would never turn the contraption on.

The list could go on. Toothpaste … squeeze from the top or the bottom? Toilet paper … does the loose end go in the front or the back? Do you rise early to catch the sunrise or sleep late because you were up gaming until 3am?

We are just so different. The idea that God would take these two completely opposite individuals and put them together for the rest of their lives seems absurd. It’s like putting a dog and a cat in a small box and asking them to play nice.

But God knows what He’s doing.

There are hard times, sure. Let’s be honest … relationships, in general, are hard. But not everything about marriage is a struggle. There are a great many good things too.

There are long conversations until the wee hours of the morning spent dreaming of the future.

There is time to spend learning about each other. What does he or she like? What makes them come alive? In what situations do they thrive?

There are gifts given from the heart because you actually care about another person.

There are the years that you get to spend just enjoying someone else. There is laughter, love, and joy in abundance.

There is the adventure of being in pursuit of a common goal. No matter what that goal looks like. It could be raising kids, owning a business, or just living life the best way you know how. You get to do it together … and that’s what matters.

There’s freedom to just be yourself around someone else. When you’re with your person you no longer need to carry around the heavy walls that you put up when you’re around other people. You get to just be you.

Again, God knows what He’s doing.

I say all that to say this: Marriage is worth it. It’s beautiful and wonderful and full of life. Yes it’s hard, but the hard is what makes it great.

Today I wanted to take a minute to celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary. Through all of the ups and downs, the joys and the struggles, they’ve made it work. They’ve been through hard things, they’ve figured it out, and they’ve loved each other in the process. There has been a lot of joy and fun too. There has been laughter and love. Their relationship works because they work. I’m so proud of them and I thank God that they continue to make it work every day.

I love you Mom and Dad! Thank you so much for leading the way and showing us how to make marriage last forever. You’re an inspiration to me. I want to love Heather more and better every day because you two have led the way. Thank you.

If it weren’t for our current pandemic we would be celebrating with them at a big party right now. But alas, we are not. So this is my celebration for them. We’ll try an actual celebration again next year for their 50+1!