Stick With the Program

randomlychad  —  September 27, 2015 — 4 Comments

I’ve made no secret of the fact that, for a little over the past year, I’ve been working out. It’s truly the first time in my life wherein I’ve committed myself to something and have stuck with it. At first, I floundered around, unsure of what I should be doing. But then I began observing others, watching what they did for their routines. And like Donald Miller says at the beginning of Blue Like Jazz, “sometimes you have to watch someone else love something before you can love it yourself.” I’ve found this to be true; at first, I didn’t like the gym, didn’t like exercising. Probably because:

1) It was work; and,
2) I was unsure of myself.

Then as I said, I began watching others, and doing some online research. And somewhere along the way I began to love it–the working out. The stresses and pressures of life, the minor aches and pains, would fade away during that focused time of exercise. I would leave the gym feeling like I had accomplished something. Never was this more true than when I had finished a routine as I worked around some kind of pain. Make no mistake: pains there will be. In fact, there are primarily four kinds of pain faced in the gym:

1) Pain which can be worked through. This is the kind that comes when pushing through a particularly challenging routine, and you want to hit that last rep.

2) Pain which must be worked around. This when we get hurt and have to modify our activities, doing something until we are well enough to resume our former routines.

3) Pain which just plain lays us out. This is when we’ve simply been hurt too badly to continue any level of activity, and must recuperate.

4) The pain of unmet milestones. This is when we set goals and do not achieve them.

During my time in the gym, I’ve experienced all four of these kinds of pain. I’ve experienced the pain of pushing through a grueling set, the pain of having work around an injury, the pain of not being able to workout because I was in too much pain, and the pain of pressing on despite not having reached a goal. Because make no mistake, whatever course of action we set ourselves to there will be setbacks. I’m not sure what obstacles you face, but rest assured whether they are relational, creative, professional, or even exercise-related, there will be setbacks. You will face some kind of opposition, some kind of pain. For me, the first setback in my fitness goals came in the form of something I’d never heard of before:

Exertional headaches.

In my case, I performed a Valsalva Manoeveur during arm curls. Basically, I held my breath during exersion, which caused a precipitous rise in blood pressure. Essentially, the vessels in the back of my head expanded too rapidly into the surrounding meninges, causing extreme head pain. In other words, I felt like I was having a stroke.

The recommended remedy was rest, but I found I could work through the pain, providing I:

1) Took NSAIDS; and,
2) Backed off on the weight.

So I took it easy for a couple of weeks, and then was back to full strength. You might find you’re facing a challenge, and in order to get through it you’ll have to scale back on one thing to focus on another. This is okay. Setbacks happen. It doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made. Oftentimes, it means just that; that progress is being made, and you’ve uncovered a previously hidden weakness, or that perhaps you are not fully adapted to the place you find yourself in. Give it time. You will find your equilibrium.

I could continue in describing: lower back injuries, and the financial pain of having to visit a medical practitioner to some relief. Upper back injuries, which slowed my progress in achieving a fitness goal.

You can see the title of the piece there, How To Bench Press 300 Pounds In 12 Weeks, right? It hasn’t taken me twelve; rather, it’s been easily twenty-four (if not more). Setbacks, upsets, incidents, accidents, injuries knocked me off track. These kinds of things will happen to you, too. Count on it. But also decide now that, no matter what–no matter what happens, what people say, what the resistance is telling you–you’ll stick with the program. Whether it’s lifting weights, training for a marathon, writing a book, painting a landscape, sculpting, whatever.

Whatever it is: stick with the program. If one story, or book, isn’t working out, does one quit writing? No. One moves on to something else. Do we quit XYZ just because it’s gotten hard? No. We harden our resolve. Because, just like my goal of benching 300 pounds, whatever it is you’re working on, it will take longer, and be harder, than you anticipated.


Stick with the program.

You read it here on Please take the time to share. Thanks!


I self-published my second independent work, Casita 106 at the Red Pinesback in May of this year. I think maybe because it was such a hard, long, slow road for me, I priced it at $2.99. Even though one can read it in an hour (or less), the tale took me six months of work. And then in fear, I sat on it not knowing what, or if, I would do with it. Honestly, the 70% royalty that Amazon offered via its Kindle Desktop Publishing (KDP) certainly appealed. In any case, I’ve changed my mind, and not because I don’t believe the story is worth it (I do), and brought the price down to make it more commensurate with other stories of similar length. Yes, I’ve effectively cut the royalty in half, but I hope to make up for it in sales. Even if you bought a copy before, would you consider gifting a copy to someone you know who might like a story that goes bump in the night?

You can get it by clicking here. Please take a moment to share this in your social media channels.

Thanks so much!

Part of the Problem

randomlychad  —  September 15, 2015 — 1 Comment

(Zoom in to see the evangelist on the left, and the homeless man on his knees on the right).

You’ve heard the old saw: “If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.” This I think is true. I have a problem. Like a substantial majority of folks, I’m fairly glued to my phone, have binge watched Netflix until all hours, and generally fritter away precious time on Twitter and/or Facebook. I find myself to be highly distractable and unfocused. Beyond that, it’s far easier to glide through life as a spectator, rather than as a participant. Case in point: while my wife was out of town, my son and I took three movies. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but it didn’t even dawn on me that perhaps we should at least attempt to visit her aged grandmother at her nursing home until late in the week (we didn’t make it). Oh, we made time to workout, eat out, video game.

But the week by-and-large was fairly self-absorbed. I even made time to hit the bookstore, buying more books than I’ll read in a month.

But compassion, other-awareness? Rather lacking. My life is so busy with work, working out, obligations, that in my downtimes I don’t think about much beyond me. It’s become an ingrained way of life.

A rut I don’t know how to break out of.

Nowhere was this more true than when I observed a street preacher doing his thing, proclaiming the judgment of God upon a sinful society, right across the street from a homeless man begging his daily bread. What I, and everyone else crossing the street, didn’t see was the street preacher put down his sign (“Back the Bible, or back to the jungle”), and go over to help the homeless man. I noticed that not one person, nary a single soul, took a tract from him. Yet what did I do other than observe? I took the time to take a picture, return to my office, get lunch…

When it dawned on me that I hadn’t done anything for, or been Jesus to, the homeless man, upon finally returning I saw he was being loaded into an ambulance. This was a lesson to me. We can have all the right words, speak the Gospel truth, but if that truth isn’t backed up with corresponding actions it makes our witness of bull effect.

There are similar needs around me everyday, and yet it gets harder and harder to lift up my eyes to see, and to open my heart to care.

I wonder: do you find yourself in the same place today?

Make no mistake: the world is watching. Are we part of the problem, or part of the solution?

  As a teen, I read continously as a means of escaping what I then saw as a quotidian, banal, meaningless, dysfunctional existence. All white plastered stucco on the outside, and while not wanting for food and shelter, my upbringing was nevertheless starved of affection, notice, approval. As a latch key kid, there were really no boundaries, and thus no real sense of security. And without security, there was no feeling, no bedrock, of love to fall back upon. 

So I read to feel something, anything. To know I wasn’t alone. To know that, as bad as I perceived things to be, some folks had it worse. Oftentimes, these folks were the characters at the heart of a Stephen King story. One of my favorites was Pet Sematary. I read that book through three times (something I didn’t normally do) in rapid succession. Due, I think, in part to its sheer visceral appeal, but perhaps unconsciously also to its parallel to my own (limited) life experience up to that time. Consider:

1) The Creeds move was supposed to make their lives better, bring them closer as a family. Likewise, my dad’s promotion, transfer, and my family’s subsequent move west was supposed to do the same. In neither case did that prove to be true. Both families ended up falling apart.

2) In both life, and art, there was a father haunted by demons he couldn’t shake; both, while the specifics are of course different, succumbed to their unholy siren song.

3) While my cat was named Cornelius, and not Church, I lost him in a neighborhood accident. Whether animal, or a vehicle, got him I don’t recall.

4) Much like Judson Crandall in the story, we had a kindly older neighbor named Johnny. Like Louis in the book, my dad spent many a night drinking with him.

These are but a few of the ways in which life imitated art. Though as I said I wasn’t likely tuned into at the time, being an isolated, largely self-involved teen. I just share this as a means of explaining the book’s hold on, and power over, me. It appealed in ways I couldn’t then even begin to understand. Much in the way I couldn’t understand why my dad grew more and more distant. More and more closed off; until he just wasn’t there anymore at all. Like Louis Creed, he had his secrets, and those secrets destroyed a family.

Family is what I wish to write of today. As a husband and father myself, I’ve seen the devastating effects of my own secret sins wreak havoc on my family. Things, as they do in Pet Sematary, have a way of finding is out. And there is usually hell to pay. Oftentimes in art, as in life, warnings are given; yet we stubbornly, steadfastly choose to trudge right past them into our own (metaphorical) burying grounds. We believe somehow, as Louis Creed does, that it will be different for us–that we’ll, if not totally unscathed, escape the brunt of the consequences. That is basic human nature.

It is this power of temptation to work upon the mind, and heart, its wiles which lies at the heart of the Pet Sematary.

You see after reading it three times, I did not again revisit the Pet Sematary until just recently. Perhaps as a married man and father, knowing the general content of the tale, I was afraid to? This is likely. Perhaps it was because I knew that tales have a way of growing with us as we grow older? Yes, this, too.

So with trepidation and not a little dread, I reread the book. My worst suspicions were confirmed. Rather than diminish, the power of the book had grown. For what man among us, and despite the dire warnings, if he called himself a loving father, would not be tempted to do exactly as Louis Creed does? That is the insidious appeal and power which King has placed at the heart of Pet Sematary. Louis Creed is everyman who, when faced with a devastating loss, turns to the only way he can see out of it. It’s his fault, and by God (or other means) he’s going to fix it.

Only never works out that way, does it? Despite trying over and over again, we never can quite manage to squeeze some good out of something bad.

That, my friends, is the power of temptation, and the sway under which all of us on this side of the grave live.

God help us all, darling.

It’s Not All Good

randomlychad  —  August 24, 2015 — 2 Comments

Photo Credit: “”it’s all good”…best Pete the Cat quote ever”, © 2014 Kate Ter Haar, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

There are only four chapters in the Bible where everything is good: the first two chapter of Genesis, and the last two chapters of Revelation. This is particularly telling, for we inhabit the space in between those four chapters. Where all is not good, all is not as it once was, nor as it will one day be. From our limited, time bound perspective, it seems that we are perpetually in the third act of a four act play. If this were Narnia, this is that time when “it is always winter, but never Christmas.”

This is the in-between. A time supposed to be defined by the declaration of Christ upon the cross: “It is finished.” Yet paradoxically we are also told “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” In short, it’s a time where we are told that God is good; where we see the majesty of mountains, the relentlessness of powerful tides, the sonorous rumblings of thunderstorms, the vast expanse of stars in the night sky, and simultaneously the depths of depravity, evil, loss, privation. There is cancer, famine, pestilence, war, children are abused, Christians lie, people are sold into sexual slavery, babies are ripped living from their mother’s womb, and dissected into their component parts for experimentation and sale.

The world as we see and experience it provides ample prima facie evidence that flies right in the face of the assertion that “God is good.” Despite the beauty we see around us in creation, there is evil. The beauty is marred. Yet how do we know it as evil, lest there is an opposing standard of good? In the words of C.S. Lewis, “If the universe was without meaning we should not know it was without meaning.” Somehow, innately we know that there is good, that things are not right. That some things are objectively right, that others are objectively wrong.

It is why we fight against injustice, hunger, abuse, slavery, racism, abortion. Yet the fight is daunting. It seems that when fire is extinguished, more–hotter and fiercer–spring up in its place. For every Mother Theresa there’s a Pol Pot, a Mao. For every Billy Graham there’s a Joel Osteen. Evil seems overwheming. Because we live in a world at war, in that in-between time. That period in history between Eden and the consolation of all things in Revelation. There is no going back; we can only, as all the heroes of the hall of faith recounted in Hebrews chapter eleven did, press on. Not receiving the promise, yet looking forward to that city with foundations.

Whose Builder and Maker is God.

Press. On.

Like Frodo and Sam on the path to Mt. Doom, or Christ on the way to the cross, there is only one way forwards:

Through the pain.

It seems all we want are happy, pain-free lives–think that because we’re Americans, or denizens of the enlightened West, that we are entitled to such. We forget that we neither live in Eden, nor in Heaven. That there will be pain, hardship, tears, evil. That good plans will sometimes come to naught. That this world is not as God would have it to be.

That we have a responsibility to partner with Him in setting things to rights….

It’s not all good.

But someday it will be.

Lord, haste the day.