Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Achilles Heel-An Update

Back in August, I posted an entry about my recovery from several years of health issues that stemmed from an initial tear of my right Achilles Tendon.  At the time, I had finally been back on my bike and riding consistently for about two months.  I was feeling good.  I'd lost four or five pounds (I'm unsure of how much I'd really lost because I suspect I had maxed out my digital scales.)

Then, I went canoeing with my wife and daughters.

It was a nice day.  I'd taken a vacation day, it was during the work week, and it was after school had started for the fall, so we nearly had the river to ourselves.  The sun was shining.  It was hot.  Our girls were in one canoe, and Nancy & I were in the other. 

Well, I'm not particularly a skilled canoeist.

About halfway though our journey, we hit a rapids and got sideways.  Where the rapids emptied into the calmer part of the river, it sort of spilled under the calmer water, so when we hit it sideways, the rushing water flipped our boat.  In turning it back over, it filled with water.  In trying to empty a full canoe, I lifted on the side...I lifted wrong.

And, something popped out of place in my lower back.

I couldn't move for almost a week.  The pain was tremendous.  I stopped riding.  I stopped doing much of anything.  Finally, nearly a week later, whatever was pinched popped back into place, but I was still sore for several more days.

That episode interrupted my riding habit and I don't do well when a habit is interrupted.  In essence, while I have ridden occasionally since, that ended my focus on the bike for the year.

But, that wasn't the end. 

A few weeks later, I decided to spend some time focused on my diet.  Specifically, I decided to avoid most starches for at least a solid month and see if it would make any difference.  I cut out breads, potatoes, rice, and cereals.  I replaced those items with more fruits, vegetables, and meat (with a focus on chicken and fish). 

Let me just say that cutting starches is a real wake up.  You just don't know how much of that is in your diet until you decide to exclude it.  Folks, I ate a lot of it!

That little (huge) change made a difference.  I lost another couple of pounds pretty quick and dropped down to 266 pounds.  That was a good start, but the real change came about three weeks ago.

My wife introduced me to a website/app tool that I began using on my smart phone and via my laptop.  It is called My Fitness Pal.  Here's the link:

Through this little tool, I was able to set up a daily allotment of calories, and I am able to track what I eat on a daily basis.  I can either enter calories/foods manually, or I can scan bar codes on food containers with my phone.  As long as I stay under the allotted calorie goal, I lose weight.  I combined my elimination of starches with the use of this website/app, and the results are wonderful.  I've already lost another ten pounds, and am now down to 256. 

That is the lowest in three years!

For over two years, I have been unable to get below about 263 pounds no matter what I did, but those days are behind me.  We're coming up on the holidays, and that will be a challenge, but I'm going to hang with it.  I do take a day off from tracking once in a while to give myself a break and I'll have some bread or rice once in a while, but I'm going to see just how far down this will take me.  I'd love to see 210 lbs again.  I think I can do it as long as I don't get burned out or give up.  (Encouraging words help.)

If you've been stuck, this might be a good way to go.  Cut the starch, increase fruits, vegetables, chicken and fish, and track your calories on My Fitness Pal.

It's worked for far.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Driving Force

The other day, a friend returned an old USB flash drive to me that had fallen out of my computer bag inside his car.  As I looked at it, I realized that I had no idea what was inside.  Eventually, my curiosity got a hold on me, and I opened it up.  Well, it was mostly a bunch of old work files that I'd archived out of an old computer.  But, among the haystack of Word documents and Excel files, I found the following.  It seems that back in 2006, I was contemplating writing a book on Christian motivation.  Now, after re-reading it, I have found myself re-intrigued with the idea.  So, what do you think?  Read the intro below and let me know.  Should I do it?  Should I write this book?  Do you want to see it?
Leave me a comment on the blog, or post your thoughts on the Facebook page, but let me know what you think.
The Driving Force

Why do you do what you do?  What gets your motor running?  What gets the juices flowing?  What is your motivation?  More specifically, what is your motivation as a follower of Christ?  I have seldom noticed this question given much more than cursory coverage, but I think it is an extremely important factor in the longevity of our walk with God.

To begin, let us define our terms.  I consulted the online dictionary of Merriam-Webster:  To motivate means to provide with a motive or to impel.  To impel means to urge or drive forward by the exertion of strong moral pressure.  In boiling it down, it creates the question of what is the moral pressure that impels us to live as a Christian.

I intend that final question to cover more ground than just orally claiming to be a Christian.  I mean to refer to the life of a Christian to be, as the Apostle John said, walking as Jesus did. 

“Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”[1] 

What motivates you and me to live out our lives walking as followers of Christ?

There can be multiple motivations for the things that we do.  Some are good, positive, and healthy.  Some, on the other hand, are bad, negative, and destructive.  Some, in my personal experience, can have the appearance of being good, but in the end are quietly destructive and sometimes spiritually debilitating.  We will explore together several motivators, and what I have come to call “de-motivators,” and examine them in light of how biblically sound they are, as well as their practicality.  Some of the motivators/demotivators that we will look at include: faith, hope, love, accountability, guilt, and grace.

As a means of introduction, I want to share two personal stories that I believe illustrate the opposite extremes of good motivation and bad demotivation.  Both of these stories involve my father, and have had a lasting impact on me.

My father was a Midwest boy, born in 1912 and raised near Lima, Ohio.  He traveled the west in his twenties, and fought in WWII in his thirties.  After the war, he settled down in Muncie, Indiana; got a job at the local Chevrolet plant; and married my mother.  A few years later, I came along.  By then my dad was 50 years old.  He was a blue collar, no nonsense factory worker that had a son when many men his age were having grandchildren.

One night, when I was somewhere around the age of two or three, I remember lying on my dad’s chest as he was putting me to sleep.  I remember that I loved to do that.  There was something safe about lying on his chest.  I was secure, and loved.  All was right with the world in that moment in my life.

As I laid there, he told me something that I have never forgotten.  It stuck with me all through my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.  It has never left me even as I struggled to build a career, raise my own children, and work through my church relationships.  He said, “Mike, the most important thing you can ever do in your life is to love God.”

That’s it.  It was that simple.  It was not a long, drawn out sermon on the doctrine of salvation.  It was not a directive to obey the church leaders.  No exhortation to avoid sin.  It was just “love God.”  That simple message whispered into a toddler’s ear has kept me going when I wanted to quit.  It has prevented me from giving my life over to the temptations that are everywhere around us.  It has impelled me to get up and get going when I wanted to stop and throw in the towel.  Somehow it stuck in my heart, and I have made it the driving force in my life, and I hope to make it the driving force in the lives of my children.

The second story involves my father’s childhood.  When he was a boy of about twelve, he had begun to attend a local church.  It was a rural, farm community, and he was not in a position to have much that wasn’t considered a necessity.  He was one of nine children, whose father had recently disappeared.  He had a couple brothers and a sister that were older than him, and several siblings that were younger.  They were scraping by, but extras were rare.  However, he must have had a least one set of “Sunday” clothes, and he was enjoying church.

One Sunday, a neighbor boy who was worse off than he was, and a few years younger went to church with him.  However, this boy did not have anything to wear but his usual farm clothes.  After church, the minister and an elder of the church pulled my dad aside and told him, “Don’t bring that boy back until he has decent clothes to wear to church.”

My father, the same man who told me the most important thing I could ever do was to love God, never went back.  And, I don’t mean that he never went back to that particular church.  I mean that he never went back to any church, anywhere.  Even as I grew up and began to attend church, he would not go.  After I went to Bible College and spent some time as a ministry intern, he would not go.  Even up to the time he lived with me prior to his death, he still could not bring himself to go to church.

My father had been demotivated.  He still loved God, but the pain of someone’s ridiculous, unbiblical standard used as a legalistic tool to bring about an appearance that was “acceptable” destroyed his desire to worship with others.  Again, it wasn’t a long dissertation.  It wasn’t a fiery sermon on sin.  It was just a few simple words.  They probably were not even meant to be hurtful.  However, they had a lasting, negative motivational effect on an impressionable young mind.

I hope you will join me in the following chapters as we explore the various ways and means of Christian motivation.  Hopefully, together, we can come to understand the concepts that will truly motivate us for the long-term to be people that are “after God’s own heart.”[2]  Together, we can find the “driving force” that will move us along in an enduring relationship with the Father of us all.     

[1] 1 John 2:6
[2] 1 Samuel 13:14