Today, You Went Back to the Gym

Your friend Ricky Anderson calls the gym the “hurting place.” He’s not kidding! In the last week, you’ve:

Sprained your back

Sprained your foot (in the locker room. No, you don’t want to talk about it).

And you’ve  come down with the aptly (yet oh-so-understatedly) named “exertional headaches.” For the Star Wars fan, it feels like Alderaan exploding inside your head. Or maybe the Death Star. One of the two.

It hurts.

A lot.

The first time it happens, you’re like Is this an aneurysm? Am I having a stroke? Did Freddie Kruger somehow slip his gloved hand into the dura mater? Inside my skull? All you know is your world is pain. One thousand suns have gone super nova at the base of your skull…

You babble the Pater Noster, crawling into a dark and quiet place. The back of your head all the while hammering a staccato rhythm in time with the beating of your heart. It throbs, it pulses, it pounds.

You do all you can to just breathe. In, and out. In, and out. You’re calmer. You open your eyes.

That’s when you notice the halos. Everything–every bright thing–is ringed with a glowing halo. But the centers of those rings are mushy, indistinct.

Blurry. Yes, blurry. That’s the word you’re looking for. Even with your glasses on, the world is both bright, and blurry.

But you’re not dying. No grey matter has begun leaking from your ears (although you halfway wish some would–it would relieve the pressure). You want nothing but a bottle of Ibuprofen, and some rest (you settle for two pills, and let your wife drive the car).

The headache eventually subsides, leaving you with an aching, stiff neck. You read somewhere that rest is the only cure for exertional headaches.

So you take a day off.

One day off working out, and a day off of your supplements.

Then you’re up bright and early for your cardio… And you did it! No headache. This gives you hope for lifting day. You’re smart about it: you drink your protein shake, washing down two ibuprofen with it. You wait a bit, and then head out to the gym. Instead of pushing yourself, you opt for about seventy-five percent of the level you were at before. You take it nice and slow.

Your reps are slow–up, and down; up, and down. All the while you’re controlling your breathing. A headache threatens to come on. You breathe through it, gently working your neck. The pain subaides, and you continue your workout. You’re very conscious of:

Your form

Your breathing

Your blood pressure

You make it through! Congratulations!

You didn’t let the pain get you down.* Whether you worked out as hard as you wanted, or not–you did it.

You’re a champion in my book.

*Whatever pain, or hard thing, you’re facing friends: stare it down, master it. Push through to the other side. Whether it’s working out, writing, painting, cleaning house:


Master your gym today.

Shiny, Happy (Plastic) People

Admit it. You’ve heard it. You’ve said (or at least thought it). It’s cliché: Jesus came to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

But somewhere along the way, we often get lost, get comfortable. Too comfortable.

In fact, we maintain a tacit dislike of things which make us uncomfortable. If something doesn’t fit into our neat religious categories, we’re apt to do one of about four things:

1) Ignore it, hoping it will go away.

2) Actively shun it, shut it down, drown it out (this is but a manifestation of denial).

3) Label it, trying to make it fit into our “recipe box” of life (like forcing a square peg into a round hole). As of life is supposed to fit into our categories.

4) Crucify, and vilify, it. Actively speak out against whatever it is.

We give lip service to that cliché (“comfort the afflicted… “), but don’t like to made to feel uncomfortable ourselves? Why is that? What did we think? That coming to Jesus would solve all of our problems? That being in the world, but not of it means that somehow we’ve now arrived in Happy Land?

Jesus didn’t view the world that way; in fact, he’s on record saying that those upon whom the Tower of Siloam fell were not worse sinners. Things happen in a fallen world.

And coming to Christ doesn’t make us “in right, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.” Coming to Christ doesn’t mean we get magically delivered from the consequences of living in a fallen world. There is pain, suffering, evil… in short things we can’t understand, or explain.

For instance, a lot of you won’t go see a movie like The Conjuring, because you don’t do “horror.” It makes you too uncomfortable. Yet you’ll watch the evening news every night without batting an eye. And talk about horror! This despite the fact that both deliver the bad news in showing that yes, there is inexplicable evil in the world. Yet only one shows there is indeed a power greater than evil.

And it ain’t the evening news, folks.

The ironic fact of the matter is that sometimes it’s only through fiction that we can get to the heart of reality. We have to be willing to embrace discomfort if we want to grow. Growth doesn’t happen without pain.

But I’m not just talking about our media choices, rather about stepping outside our comfort zones. About reaching out in love, about doing that sometimes most difficult of all things:

Listening. Before we offer a snap judgment, or jump to an unfounded conclusion. For instance, and this is crazy! Sometimes (most time) people are just sick, and aren’t “harboring uncontested sin” in their lives. Or are not demon possessed (remember, “greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world”).

If we are going to say it (“comfort the afflicted…”), let’s act on it, okay?

The simple fact is that things (and people) don’t fit into our neat little boxes. God’s a person, too (the Person), and can we fit Him into one of our boxes? I don’t knew about you, but I’ve been trying all of my life, and he keeps shattering all of my paradigms…

My point in this rather long, rambling, post is this:

Do you want to be a shiny, plastic person with all the answers, or someone who embraces the uncertainty? It’s not all happy, but it can be holy.

My challenge to you today: do something outside of your zone.

Thanks for reading!

Lessons From Five Year-Old Me

As a small child, I suffered from anemia. So much so that I was
frequently made to toddle across the street to the neighbor’s (a
nurse) house for iron shots. I guess I did not have a problem with
this for two reasons:

1) There was a cookie in it for me; and,
2) Prior to being diagnosed with anemia, there was a trip to the
hospital with my dad…

I remember the sharp tang of antiseptics, the scent of Pine Sol used
to clean the corridors, an endless descent down in an elevator, and a
long walk down a dimly lit hall. I was five, and I was to be getting a
blood test. At the time, I did not know what a “blood test” was
(having never had one). Honestly, I do not recall what I expected.

The stark reality was a cold metal chair under a sun-bright medical in
the middle of a chilly room. I was not, as they say, “down with that.”
I struggled, resisted, fought with every ounce of strength I possessed
to keep from being poked with that sharp, scary, needle.

“Keep him still,” the doctor said to my dad.

“I’m trying,” he replied. In the end, I was too much; I thought I had
won! There would be no needles piercing the delicate flesh of my inner

How wrong I was! My dad found an off-duty police officer (working
security) in the corridor, and invited him to assist with the

I was sunk! Despite my best efforts, two grown men proved to be too
much for me. The needle delicately made its way into my young vein,

I said, “That wasn’t so bad.” All of that fuss, all of that fight, and
it was not so very bad at all. I never feared needles again.

And yet…

How often do we, who should know better, react as I did under threat
of that dreaded needle, when Jesus promises to bring change (and with
it perceived pain)into our lives? We duck, and dodge Him, hoping to
avoid it.

And in the end, only manage to prolong the process, thereby making it
worse. God says that all things work together for the good (not that
the bad things are good–that would be insane) for those that love
Him. The fundamental issue, then, is that, as when I was a boy, we
fail to trust that Father knows best.

We kick, we scream, we fight, when what Father desires is our trust, our surrender. We fight because we are stubborn, willful, creatures–creatures wanting our own way.

And that includes avoiding the pain of growing up. It is past time to face facts: growing is inevitable, and we can either embrace the discomfort, or try to run from it. Either way, it will hurt.

But the path of willing surrender hurts ever so much less. Because it means we are humbling ourselves, surrendering our pride, and no longer
trying to hide.

It means we are partnering with a loving Father Who truly does know best.

The pain, the disappointments, are His appointments–and our opportunities to do that one thing we do not wish to do:

Exercise faith.

Because that means we are not in control.

But that is right where Jesus wants us: broken.

Speak on it: Where do you resist being broken in your life? How is that working out? Is God’s way really so scary?

Who We Hang With Is Who We Are

I play Words With Friends. Everyday. At any given time, I’ll probably have twenty games going.

I like playing with words.

I do.

The challenge of finding the right combination of letters, swooping in, making the big score.

It appeals to me.

I play defensively, competitively. But I don’t always win. Because I often play people who are better than me.

And this has been good for my game. Very good–it’s made me a better player.

The same is true of life. If bad company, as the scriptures say, corrupts good character, is not the inverse also true?

What does affiliating with those who are successful in life do for us? Make us want to live better, right? Do better, reach higher.

At least I think so.

This year, I’ve been privileged to engage in some brief correspondences with some authors I admire. Besides getting to interact with some cool people, what is the net effect of this on me?

It makes me want to write better. It’s encouraging to know that these people–pros–struggle with some of the same insecurities. They’re people like you and me, and yet have pressed through the resistance.

Just like playing Words with better players makes me better, so does getting to know other writers make me want to step up my writing game.

But more than that, there’s a drawing near to Christ that elevates us into a higher kind of life. Getting to know him makes me want to please him. He makes me want to be a better man.

The point of this post is simply this:

Who we hang out with often determines in large part who we are–and who we want to be.

Agree, or disagree? The comment section is open, and the floor is yours.

Lessons From My Father/I Need Your Help

So. It’s “Father’s Day.”

At least here in the U.S. of A. anyway.

I would like to write for you a deeply sentimental post about what my dad means to me, but I’m prevented by honesty. Anne Lamott said it well when she said “If people wanted you to write warmly of them, they should have behaved better.”

They should have…

He should have…

You see where I’m going with this. (I’m sorry for telegraphing, but I have something to say, and won’t let myself sleep until it’s written).

My dad was a man who:

When trying to play catch with me as a youngster, threw the ball at me harder and harder, and then derided me for my poor catching skills.

Walked away from me in frustration when, in his estimation, I didn’t learn how to bat quickly enough via the Johnny Bench Batter Up he’d installed in our back yard.

I could go on. Suffice it to say that he was a man who left me, and our family, just as I was entering my teen years. When I needed him most, needed help navigating questions of identity, the changes of puberty, he took a breeze.

True, or not, intended, or not–the message came through loud and clear: you don’t have what it takes, you’re no good to me.

I believed those bullshit lies for most of my life, and subsequently tried to appease him, earn his approval. To the detriment of myself, my wife, and family. But it never came. Like Kimbra sings to Gotye in Somebody That I Used To Know:

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I’d done
But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say…

When I sought merely his acceptance, I didn’t get it. All I wanted was his love, but he didn’t get me. I don’t hate him, but I’m no longer a little boy hanging on his every word. “The cat’s in the cradle, and the silver spoon…”

I’ve moved on, and my dad is just somebody that I used to know.

My Heavenly Father loves me, and sent His Son to die for me.

But that’s not the end of the story. No, I seem to suffer with some of the same inadequacies when it comes to relating to my own now teenaged son. It’s harder than it should be. this goes back generationally:

My dad didn’t equip me, wasn’t equipped by his dad, who in turn wasn’t equipped by his own father (my great grandfather). Divorce is a curse that has plagued my family for decades. Whether there was good reason for it, or not, we have nothing but men who don’t know the first thing about being just that: men.

Which is why I was overjoyed recently to learn that I’d been accepted in the lottery to attend a Wild At Heart boot camp in Colorado this August. If John Eldredge, and his ministry, Ransomed Heart, know how to do anything it’s to equip men. Here’s the rub: it costs $475 to attend.

To some of you, this may seem like a lot of money; to others, not. In any case, Lisa (my wife) and I prayed about, and subsequently decided, to forgo a second income. So she could be home with the kids, provide discipline and stability. All of which is to say that there isn’t $475 in the budget for me to go to the retreat.

Which is why I am appealing to you, my readers. I hate asking in this way, but if each of you have a few dollars to spare I’m sure we can reach the goal.

The catch is that Ransomed Heart wants payment by Friday, June 22nd. Thus, we need to reach the $475 mark by this Thursday, the 21st.

I wouldn’t appeal to you in this way at all if I didn’t feel so strongly that it was something I needed to do.

Thank-you very much for your prayerful consideration!

You can PayPal me at gandalf239 [at] gmail [dot] com

If we don’t meet the goal all donations will be refunded.