Sunday, June 30, 2024

Expect the Unexpected

On this day in 1863, George Meade had been in command of the Army of the Potomac for all of 2 days. 

On the day he assumed command, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia began to concentrate near the town of Gettysburg. Meade could do nothing but watch and wait. He knew that Gettysburg was growing in importance but still hoped to fight a defensive battle along a little waterway in northern Maryland called Pipe Creek. 

On June 30 he issued the Pipe Creek Circular. Had things unfolded differently, today the towns of Middleburg and Union Mills might be the ones crammed with visitors and souvenir shops and Gettysburg would be the quiet town people passed on their way to the great battlefield in Maryland. Events, of course, finally controlled the plans of both commanders, and "The Great Battle" took place not in Maryland but in Pennsylvania. But it was close. Some wag has suggested that a historical marker should be erected somewhere along Pipe Creek reading, "On this spot, July 1-3, 1863, nothing happened." 

Today nothing seems predictable in America. Especially politically. But we know that our God still reigns. He still controls the destinies of nations. His plans will come to fruition. As in the nation, so in our lives. God sometimes works in ways we can't anticipate or understand. When he does something different than what you expected, learn to celebrate the unseen hand of God --  and thank him for it. 

My Fat Loss Journey 6 (My Diet)

Before I begin, let me say that today's post is brought to you by the David Alan Black Foundation for raising awareness about the importance of smashing the like button and leaving comments saying "Thanks, Dave, for all of the fitness content over the years. You've totally changed my life and given me tranquility in a world filled with stress and anxiety." 

Oh wait. That was meant for my fitness Youtube channel. 

Oh wait. I don't have a fitness Youtube channel.

Anyways ....

Shortly I'll be writing a fairly lengthy blog post about what I'm eating on a daily basis to lose 28 pounds between now and September. But that's for another day. Today's post is just an "appetizer." (Get it?) Since my total maintenance calories add up to 3,000 calories per day, this means that I need to keep my daily calories under 2,500. So far I'm finding this to be a realistic goal. One day I might consume 2,370 calories, while the next day I might consume 1,970. But I'm actually finding it fairly easy to stay under 2,500 without sacrificing the pure enjoyment of eating. Here's what I had for lunch today at the local Mexican eatery after walking my 5 miles:

My total calories were a mere 736 for this delicious meal (Mexican rice = 199, refried beans = 217, soft taco with ground beef = 220, a few chips with salsa = 100). 

For breakfast, as I do each and every day, I had one Bojangles sausage biscuit (470 calories).

Finally, tonight I'll consume a salad (20 calories) with a light dressing (60 calories per serving) and a can of tuna (100 calories; grand total of 180 calories). 

This adds up to a total caloric intake of 1,386 calories for Sunday, June 30, 2024. And, because each of my meals contains protein, at no point during the day will I feel overly hungry (protein has a very high satiety value). 

As you can see, I'm not a Puritan by any means when it comes to diet. I don't stick religiously to any specific foods or to any specific plan. In fact, if the diet has a name, that's a huge red flag for me. (As I see it, the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole.) So I avoid dietary fads. I mean, it's pretty obvious you're not going to be in the best of shape if all you do is lie on the sofa with a cold beer soda and a bag of potato chips. Interestingly, this isn't the way you approach any other aspect of your life. When I was eating like that, I was doing something I would never have let happen to my job or to my responsibilities. I think you'd agree that such a way of living just doesn't make any sense. 

There are so many people in this world who think they're just too overweight or too weak or too old to get into great shape. Maybe you're one of them. Please remember that a person who is in shape had to start one day just like everyone else. I'm doing what I'm doing because, frankly, I looked in the mirror one day and told myself, " I don't want to look like this any longer." Anyone can do what I and many thousands of others have done. Don't wait until you have a heart attack before you remember that you have a body that requires care and attention. As you'll discover, that's the purpose of my "Fat Loss Journey" series of blog posts -- to help you learn how you can become your own real-life success story. 

More on diet soon. 

Have a wonderful week! 

Saturday, June 29, 2024

The Western States 100 Mile Race

My eyes are riveted to this year's Western States 100 Mile Race out in California. Here's the livestream. 

I will never run a 100 mile race let alone a 50 mile race. 32 miles is about all I can handle. I say it over and over again, but truly one of the greatest gifts that running has given me is the global community of runners, many of whom I've met because of all the races I attend. You can strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and it's never awkward. 

There's a genuine "we're all in this together" feeling among runners. I leave every race in awe of the accomplishment of so many different kinds of people, including runners older than me who are still chasing down their goals. 

Watching the WS 100 reminds me of the greatness of the sport -- the runners' strength and endurance is beyond admiration. Did I forget to mention that racing is fun? Events like the WS 100 make it that way. Just witness the aid stations. As you watch the livestream, you can't help but get caught up in the atmosphere. 

These kinds of racing moments transfer to every other aspect of our lives. They will always be special to me as long as live.

Your Appointment with God

"Those who seek me find me" (Prov. 8:17).

I've found that scheduling a time each morning as if it were an actual appointment is the best way to ensure that I will take some time for God. 

This hour and a half is reserved for him -- for reading, reflection, mental exercise, praying, and thanksgiving. Now that I've gotten into the habit, I can't imagine not doing it. Conversely, if I waited until all of my chores and responsibilities are done before I meet with the Lord, it will never happen. 

Make an appointment with God. If you do, you'll find the time you need to follow through. 

Poikilos and Polka Dots (Is This for Real?)

I recently watched a sermon on James 1:2 in which the speaker claimed that the Greek word poikilos (usually translated as "various") is the origin of our English expression polka dot. (He pronounced it "pokie dot.") This in my opinion goes right down to the bottom of the barrel. It's as ridiculous as it gets. That right there is honestly a disqualifying statement all on its own. No one should be able to make outlandshiply false statements like that and still be taken seriously as an expositor of the word of God. The speaker, who holds not one but two seminary degrees (masters and doctorate), should have known better. If a fledgling seminary student had made that statement in his preaching class while delivering a practice sermon, his teacher would have immediately corrected him. Frankly, it reminds me of all the gimmicky clickbait fitness videos on social media as well as the books on the market that are full of misinformation that sounds nice but is flat-out wrong. 

The simple fact is that the mass of novice lifters as well as the general masses of church goers are just going to gravitate toward whatever is flashier and more attention-grabbing on the surface when what they are really getting is complete garbage information. My point is that the internet is not necessarily your ally as far as quality of information goes, which means that at the end of the day you're going to have to figure things out for yourself, just as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11 when they examined the Scriptures to see whether the things said by Paul and Silas accorded with God's written word. They didn't do this out of unbelief but from an honest quest for the truth. How much more is this needed in a day like ours when we are inundated with misinformation and straight out falsehoods. I normally don't get worked up so much about things that, upon closer examination, aren't that big a deal. But this IS a fairly big deal, and in my opinion it happens much too often. The solution here is to catch yourself when you fall into the trap of using a Greek word in your sermon before really understanding what that word means. You may indeed be a very busy pastor, but remember that misinterpreting the Greek only exacerbates the problem. Don't waste any more of your precious time by later on regretting the exegetical fallacies you committed. 

Today's Walk

It was a beautiful day for a 5 mile walk at the High Bridge Trail. 

Coincidentally, I happened to walk about 10,000 steps. 

As you know, when it all comes down to it, fat loss is about maintaining a calorie deficit which you achieve by consistently expending more calories than you consume. The great benefit of walking is that it allows you to tip the calories part of the equation but without the eventual side effects that can come from doing higher volumes of more strenuous cardio. For all intents and purposes, you can literally walk as much or as little as you want and still get that extra calorie expenditure but without running into issues with systematic stress, joint and tendon issues, or excessive appetite stimulation that often accompanies activities like running. Just by adding around 5,000 steps to your daily step count, this equals about 2 pounds of fat loss per month, which is not insignificant at all especially when you add it up over the course of several months. Not only can you burn a significant number of calories just through walking alone, walking is something you're already doing to some extent each and every day. 

Just adding some details to my previous videos!

Have a wonderful day! 

Friday, June 28, 2024

My Fat Loss Journey 5 (Progress Is Not Going to Be a Straight Line)

It's never going to be a straight line to your goal. If you can't accept that from the get-go, you might as well not even bother to start because that's what it's going to look like. Rather, look at setbacks as just being nothing more than a form of feedback you can use to adjust your actions moving forward. Had I given up on Greek after dropping my beginning Greek class at Biola after only 3 weeks, I wouldn't be where I am today. Remember: whether it's a fitness goal or an academic goal or anything else, there are 100 percent going to be obstacles along the way. You should expect that right from the start. 

I Love You

Author Stephen Levine onced asked, "If you had only one hour to live and could make only one phone call, who would you call, what would you say, and what are you waiting for?" Dad, when was the last time you told one of your kids, "I love you." Not, "Love ya." But, "I LOVE YOU." Nothing in this world means so much to a person than to be told that. 

There's no good reason to wait. Go ahead, pick up the phone or send a text message:

I love you. 

Arms and Back Day

Care to join me? 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

My Fat Loss Journey 4 (My Plan of Action)

First off, some background information:

1. The number of daily calories needed to maintain my current weight is 3,000. 

2. There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat.

3. One mile of walking burns up roughly 100 calories. 

With that in mind, my fat loss goal is to get from 25 percent body fat down to 15 percent. 

This means going from my current weight of give-or-take 240 pounds down to 212 pounds -- or a loss of a total of 28 pounds.

Now, how do I plan on doing this? In two main ways.

1. My first strategy is to reduce my daily calories by 500. This means that my daily caloric consumption should not exceed 2,500. For this to work, I'm having to keep a careful record of the number of calories I'm eating daily as well as the number of grams of protein I'm consuming. I have a daily planner set aside for just this purpose.

2. Secondly, I have been walking about 5 miles every day at a comfortable pace. For me, this involves about an hour and 15 minutes. 

So how long will it take for me to achieve my target weight of 212? Well, if I've done the math right, no longer than 4 months. In other words, if I lose 500 calories a day through eating less, this translates into 3,500 calories per week. And since one pound of fat weighs about 3,500 calories, we're looking at losing as much as one pound of body fat each week due to diet alone. Furthermore, by walking 5 miles every day, this too translates into 3,500 calories (or one pound of fat) every week. This means that it's possible for me to lose 2 pounds of fat a week. 

Finally, if we divide 28 (the total number of pounds I need to lose) by 2 (the number of pounds I hope to lose every week), this comes out to 14 weeks or 3.5 months. Keep in mind this is not about becoming "shredded" or anything like that but rather about reducing my lower belly fat and becoming fairly "lean" while building my fat loss meal plan around the proper food sources (high quality proteins, minimally refined carbohydrates, and healthy fats.) Furthermore, in addition to 3 strength training sessions at the gym per week, this program includes daily walking (at least 3 miles a day but ideally 5) and maybe an additional cardio session per week of running or cycling. 

To sum up:

Both my calorie intake, my gym sessions, and my cardio workouts matter for fat loss, overall health, and muscle growth. That said, losing belly fat ultimately comes down to creating a consistent calorie deficit. It's the old "Calories in, calories out" maxim. At the end of the day, if you want to lean down successfully, then the ultimate goal should be to create a calorie deficit (about 500 calories below maintenance) in the way that's most enjoyable and sustainable for you. 

I believe I'm going to be able to do this -- by the grace of God. But we will see. Time will tell whether or not it works and what kinds of adjustments I will have to make going forward. 

Boldness in Evangelism (Phil. 1:14)

Bible study requires us to look for things that are repeated. As a teacher, I know the power of repetition. It's as if I really want people to catch on to what I'm saying. I'll repeat things over and over again because repetition reinforces the message. 

Have you ever noticed how often Scripture uses repetition? Here's an example I accidentally stumbled upon this morning. I was reading Phil. 1:1-14 when I saw how Paul repeated the word "all." 

That's a lot of emphasis. You get the impression that he wanted his readers (and us) to pay attention to something. Look at how important that little adjective "all" is:

  • all the saints (verse 1)
  • all my remembrance of you (verse 3)
  • every prayer of mine (verse 4)
  • for you all (verse 4)
  • about all of you (verse 7)
  • you are all partakers with me of grace (verse 7)
  • I yearn for you all (verse 8)
  • all discernment (verse 9)
  • the whole imperial guard (verse 13)
  • to all the rest (verse 13)

That's why, when I came to verse 14, I was a bit taken aback to read, not "all," but "most." Writes Paul, "Everyone around here, including all the soldiers over at the barracks, knows that I'm in prison because I am a Christian. And because of my chains, most of the Christians here seem to have lost their fear and have become more and more bold in telling others about Christ." 

Notice that he doesn't say "All of the Christians.' He says "Most of the Christians." The majority, yes, but not ALL. There were exceptions. Some held back. Some remained fearful. Some were still intimidated. 

What's the lesson here? I honestly don't know. Maybe Paul's words are a reminder that the work of evangelism oftentimes requires courage and personal risk. "Why, if I do this, I could be thrown in jail like Paul!" We read later in the same letter that Epaphroditus's ministry to Paul was almost at the expense of his own life. He had hazarded everything in order to fulfill his commission. In our work in Ethiopia, an Ethiopian colleague of mine was murdered in his sleep for serving as one of my translators. James was only 24 when he was killed. He knew the risk and was fully prepared to meet it. Little wonder that Paul tells us to "continue to hold such people in esteem" (2:29). 

When I think of men like Paul, Epaphroditus, and James, I think of such old-fashioned words as guts, fortitude, and strength of character. These men didn't run and hide. They stood. And the Lord stood right beside them.

To which group do you belong? Do I belong? To those who became bold and spoke up? Or to those who remained afraid? 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Listening to Your Intuition

I did it again. I could kick myself. 

This spring I ignored my intuition. "I know I shouldn't do this" my heart said. But my mind said, "Go ahead. They need you." It turned out to be a mistake. 

My wife Becky was famous for her intuition. She often saw danger where I couldn't. Like Ronald Reagan (affable, people-person, a bit naive) needed his Nancy (cynical, perceptive, a people-reader), so I needed my Becky. 

Her intuition wasn't infallible, of course. But it was rarely off. She could see through you like an x-ray. 

Trusting your intuition means listening to that quiet inner voice that knows what you need and what actions should (or shouldn't) be taken. I need to trust it more, not less. If that makes me more cynical about people, so be it. But it can be a powerful source of wisdom and peace. 

Little Round Top Reopens

Good news for you Civil War buffs out there. After two years of work, the Little Round Top rehabilitation project is now complete. 

This piece of ground was one of the keys to the Gettysburg battlefield on July 2, 1863. It didn't have that name back then. People knew it as High Knob, Rock Hill, Granite Spur, Sugar Loaf Hill, or Broad Top Summit. Today Little Round Top is one of the most popular sites on the battlefield. I have biked there and jogged there -- parking is always at a premium. 

At first, the only Federal troops there were a handful of signalmen. Their existence forced Longstreet to reverse course and find another less-exposed approach for his attack that day. The extra time this provided for Meade and his troops turned out to be decisive. It was just another little "detail" of that battle that's easy to overlook but that helped determine the outcome of that day's fighting. I had planned to be at the park this weekend for the 161st anniversary of the battle. But gridlock, mixed with oppressive heat, and I do not agree. I'll go later on in the summer or maybe even in the fall when it's easier to get around and to walk, cycle, or run its 6,000 acres. 

If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to visit the battlefield and book your very own licenced battlefield guide. He or she will be glad to tailor a tour to your specific interests. I stepped on those hallowed grounds for the first time in 1999 and it was so moving that I've been back just about every year since. 

My Fat Loss Journey 3 (Supplements)

I think people put way too much emphasis on supplements. Any fat burning supplements you might use are only going to have a very minor impact on your results -- at best. The overwhelming majority of your progress will be decided by (a) proper nutrition and (b) proper training. In other words, dietary supplements can't make up for poor eating and poor gym habits. 

Now, I DO take supplements, but this doesn't include protein powder or creatine. Daily, I take a probiotic, a packet of multivitamins, and a packet of digestive enzymes. 

That's it. Otherwise, I see most of the supplements on the market out there just another over-hyped, overpriced product to avoid. The vast majority of muscle supplements are simply a waste of your hard earned cash. 

Just my two drachmas. 

Life Is Precious

"Above all else, guard your heart" (Prov. 4:23).

I meet with my cardiologist twice each year. Not that he's concerned about anything in particular. He's not. He simply knows that a 72-year old heart must be carefully monitored. 

Every visit I have with him is a reminder to me of how precious life is. I begin to live each day as if it were my last day on earth. I begin to rid myself of those stressors in my life that cause me endless worry and anxiety. I'm beginning to spend more time telling those closest to me how much I love them.

To me, it's all a matter of perspective. My heart -- my literal, physical heart -- is not my own. It's on loan from God. Every one of its beats is precious and extraordinary -- and finite. Each reminds me of his love.

Friend, he loves you too. If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. Hang onto that truth. When you get to be my age, it will be worth its weight in gold. 

Bad Timing?

Timing your daily walks for the hottest months of summer is not advised. 

People Pleasing (Gal. 1:10)

"Am I trying to please people?" (Gal. 1:10).

I am a people pleaser. I say that regretfully. I'm the type of person who will jump in and try to help even without being asked. As a result, I find myself involved in situations I have no business being involved in.

But I'm learning. I'm learning to simplify my life. I'm learning to say no. I'm learning to mind my own business. I'm learning to pray about it first. "Lord, is this the time to help or to leave it alone?" My life is becoming -- ever so gradually -- more and more peaceful. I no longer feel like a ping-pong game where I'm the ball. People's approval (or disapproval) means less to me a result. Step by step, I'm achieving equilibrium in my life again.

Friend, ask yourself, "What's really important?" Make it okay to say no. This will help you align your actions with your goals. And you'll find a whole new meaning to the word balance. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

God's Power over Us (2 Cor. 12:9)

A prayer we parents often pray for our children is, "Lord, please put a hedge of protection around them today." In my morning Bible study, I ran across a verse that seems to resonate with this petition. It's in 2 Cor. 12:9. 

Here Paul uses a word that contains the word for "tent," much like John 1:14 does. 

The idea in John 1:14 is that the Word "pitched his tent" among us, no doubt an allusion to the Old Testament tabernacle in which the Divine Presence of God dwelt, first in the wilderness, and then in the temple. 

And what about 2 Cor. 12:9? Most translations read something like "that the power of Christ may rest upon me" or "that the power of Christ may dwell in me." But there are at least 3 exceptions:

  • The GNT reads "in order to feel the protection of Christ's power over me." 
  • The OJB (Orthodox Christian Bible) has "that the gevurah of Moshiach might be a shelter over me."
  • And the DHH (Dios Habla Hoy) has the rendering "para que repose sobre mí el poder de Cristo." 

This is precisely my prayer each and every morning for my kids and grandkids. I release them into his hands. I envision him erecting a large protective dome above them. He's there to help them in their Christian walk and there to pick them up if they fall. 

Being a Christian in a non-Christian world is a sweaty struggle. There are "many dangers, toils, and snares." I am helpless to ward off the enemy, but God is not.  

The Joy of Being Outdoors

Have you been outdoors today? God has a very high view of creation. It's a place where his love and care are at work. It's the means of our sustenance. It's a witness to his glory. Jesus, the Creator, felt at home in what he had made. He talked about seed and soil, about sparrows and lilies. Yes, I know it's hot today. To Solomon, the sun represented nothing but searing weariness (Eccl. 1:5). But David saw it as a strong man "that runs its course with joy" (Psalm 19:5). 

If we take God's gifts as they come and not try to outwit him, we can snatch a measure of joy from each day. 

My Fat Loss Journey 2 (The Shiny Object Syndrome)

Since I am switching up my daily diet and walking routines, why not switch up my workouts as well? 

I know from previous experience that it's incredibly easy to fall for the shiny object out there in the media. Youtube is filled with different gym techniques and exercise variations. There's nothing so eye-catching as a "standing isolateral paused single arm dumbbell overhead press drop set supersetted with a seated dumbbell front raise with hammer grip." But it's actually more effective for strength training to keep your variety fairly constant while maximizing your progress within those variations. Bruce Lee once said, "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once. I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."

The Shiny Object Syndrome can also occur in other areas of life, including foreign language study. I've known some beginning Greek students who have purchased anywhere from 5-10 different beginning grammars, thinking that the more books they have on their shelves the faster and better their progress will be. If that's what you want to do, that's fine, but the reality is that the great majority of beginning students will find that one or two grammars will be more than enough to get them to their goal. I say two grammars for this reason. Let's say you've just finished a year of beginning Greek using my grammar, Learn to Read New Testament Greek. Before you jump into intermediate Greek in the fall, it might be helpful for you to review your basic knowledge by using a different grammar during the summer, say Merkle and Plummer. While both books cover the same basic information, they present that information in sufficiently different ways that you will feel that your review is both new and interesting.

Again, if you want to buy a bunch of beginning grammars of any language, there's absolutely no problem with that. When I was teaching myself to speak German, I must have purchased 5 or 6 basic grammars, from See It and Say It in German (easy) to Complete German Grammar (hard). I went from using the easier grammars to the more difficult ones until I had mastered the subject. But truth be told, to learn the basics of German grammar, one book will be more than enough.

Likewise, if you want to experiment with, say, a variation or two of biceps curls, have at it as long as you don't change things up too frequently. 

Monday, June 24, 2024

The Way to Peace (Phil. 4:6-7)

Was back in Philippians 4 today in my morning Bible time. 

When I got to verses 6-7, I thought about my wife Becky and what she meant to those of us who knew her. I rehearsed in my mind what her love meant not only to me but to so many others as well. When Becky passed away, not only did her husband lose a wife, her parents lost a child -- the eldest of their six. Mom and I often talk about this. 

Though I had lived in anticipation that God would grant our request for Becky's healing, the answer was no. Looking back, I realize that I'm a better and more God-dependent man because he withheld that request. 

We Christians believe that the God we serve is sovereign, that he has the absolute right to guide us along a path that is not of our making. Yes, we pursue the path we think we ought to take, only to learn that it's not the best one. That turn in the road is usually totally unexpected. Looking backward, I can say that every major transition in my life came as a total, complete surprise to me. At every step I learned that the antidote to anxiety is found in the linked exercise of prayer and thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6-7). In prayer, the anxiety is brought before God, who is totally competent to deal with it. In thanksgiving, the anxiety is resolved by deliberately accepting the circumstance as something an all-wise and all-loving God has appointed. 

In a time of loss and transition, it's easiest to retreat into a corner, complaining to ourselves. But when we bring the matter to God, he gives us his peace. When Becky passed into the presence of Christ, we her family committed the matter to God. The Lord had given. And the Lord had taken away. We blessed his name for both. 

My Fat Loss Journey 1 (The Value of Walking)

Today was the first of three heavy-duty workouts this week at the gym. 

Somebody give this dude a haircut. 

Then I walked for an hour. Walking is hands down one of the most effective activities you can do to burn off unwanted body fat. By doing the majority of your cardio in the form of walking, you can burn calories without spiking your appetite as with other forms of cardio. This doesn't mean I'm going to stop running or cycling. However, look at this graph comparing walking (on the left) and running (on the right):

Walking uses up far more fat as a percentage of fuel than does running. So the longer you can walk, the more fat you'll be able to utilize and the less carbs. If you have the time to walk (and just casual walking will do), you are going to burn a lot of fat. 

As I said before, my goal in my current fat loss program is get from 25 percent body fat down to 15 percent or lower. According to my calculations, this will take anywhere from 4-6 months depending on how consistent I can be. But is there a takeaway here for you? If you are looking to get rid of unwanted belly fat, you could be looking at as much as 3-5 pounds of extra fat loss each month just by incorporating walking into your day. Quite honestly, it's a very easy habit to acquire, unlike those gimmicky workout programs or diet hacks you see all the time on Youtube. This is a real, legitimate strategy and one of the key things I will be doing during my own fat loss journey. It's not only a very gentle exercise you can perform, it also doesn't produce the same level of fatigue compared to more intense forms of cardio like running. And, unlike running, walking is an activity that most people genuinely enjoy. 

Talk to you again soon. 

Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Road to Excellence

If you're really good at something, there was a moment in your progress where there was no need for another person to tell you to do it. Your motivation now comes completely from within -- intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic

This is the road to excellence. 


My daughter sent me a link to the news report about two American missionaries who were recently killed in Haiti. 

Suffering is a required course in God's curriculum for his children. You can't live for Christ and not have a time of suffering in your life. Bonhoeffer once called suffering the badge of the true Christian. "Suffering means allegiance to the suffering Christ," he wrote. "And it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called to suffer."

I am grieved by the deaths of this young couple. I am rejoicing that they are in the presence of the One they loved and served so faithfully. They are yet two more examples of what it means to belong to Christ. I hope we are teaching this truth to our children and grandchildren. 

Teach Me to Pray!

Christ prayed in the garden and could remain calm and controlled throughout the ordeal of arrest and trial.

The disciples failed to pray and when crunch time came they folded and fled. 

Lord, teach me to pray. 

Two Priorities When Chasing Down Your Goals

What current goal are you trying to accomplish? Regardless of what that might be, your results will always depend on two main things:

1. One BIG decision to go all in.

2. The repetitive actions you need to take on a DAILY basis.

This applies to whatever goal you might be -- paying off your credit card debt, saving for a downpayment on a house, losing body fat, getting married, etc. 

Without a clear vision of where you're headed, what you need to avoid, and why you are doing all this, it's going to be hard to commit to making either of those things happen. As you know, I've already had to apply these two steps to my own health and fitness journey. 

Just some (hopefully!) common sense advice. 

Have a blessed Lord's Day! 

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Occam's Razor Is Now a Verb

Yes, I've made "Occam's Razor" a verb.

If I could talk to my 17-year old self, I would tell him, "Be sure to Occam's Razor your way through life." 

Let's use health and fitness as an example, shall we? The internet will literally inundate you with this program or that program for getting lean, this program or that program for building muscle, and so on and so forth. Who should I listen to? Occam's Razor states that you want to cut out everything that's unnecessary because the simplest way to get to the goal is the best. If you only need need 2 steps you don't have to make it 6 steps. So you always want to ask yourself, "What's the simplest way of getting there?" This will minimize decision fatigue, that is, minimize the amount of choices so that you Occam's Razor your way forward and get the simplest path to your goal. (Paralysis by analysis is a real thing.)

Getting into shape boils down to 4 simple things:

1. Building muscle = weight training.

2. Losing body fat = staying in a caloric deficit.

3. Eating healthy food = avoiding processed foods.

4. Rest and recovery = getting enough sleep.

That's it. My own fitness program basically boils down to 2 things:

1. Working out at the gym 3 days a week.

2. Walking for 30 minutes each day.

As you can see, simplicity is the key. Just forget all the "bro science" junk and eat well and exercise consistently and you will see progress. If you can, find a peaceful and easier way to take the journey. 

Anyway, thanks for reading. 

Friday, June 21, 2024

My NEW Fat Loss Journey

Despite working out for a few years now, I'm still trying to lose that last bit of belly fat. So this week I made a pledge to myself. The only person I've shared it with so far is my massage therapist. And that is to reduce my body fat from its current 25 percent down to 15 percent (with abs showing) in the next few months. This means nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. I will be following the 80/20 rule, which states that nutrition is 80 percent of the game, whereas exercise plays a much more supportive role and only factors about 20 percent. If you read my blog regularly you know that I do a bunch of lifting and a whole bunch of cardio, from half marathons (43 of them) to full marathons (20) to ultramarathons (3) to triathlons (13). But despite all the calories I've burned from running I still haven't seen a major change in my percentage of body fat around my belly. For example, I can run a half marathon and burn off 3,000 calories in 2 and a half hours, and then easily get those 3,000 calories back in one sitting by eating a large pizza loaded with toppings. The fact is that no matter how much you exercise, you can't eat whatever you want if you expect to lose body fat. For long-term, sustainable fat loss you need to eat non- or low-processed foods as much as possible as well as build muscle, because by muscle building you can increase your metabolism, and by increasing your metabolism you'll be able to eat while still losing fat. At the same, you have to ensure that you're lifting heavy and eating high amounts of protein. Moreover, as I've come to learn during the past few years of weight training, consistency with both your diet and your training is a lifestyle. It's all about patience and perseverance. Fat loss is a continuous journey and not a destination. Also, to lose body fat you need to be in a caloric deficit (obviously), but you don't want to go so low in calories that you start losing muscle. 

How will I do? I have no idea. I've never done this before. But I do have a plan of action that I hope to implement consistently in the coming weeks and months. I'll also be documenting my fat loss journey through pictures. 

I do know this. There is no such thing in life as trying to do your best. You simply do your best. You do your best every day, all day. You show up every morning ready to lay it all on the line. You show up ready to give whatever you need that day. 

I want to be better than I am, not only for myself but to honor the Lord who made me. I think the only thing worse than never having been an athlete is to have been one and then give it up. I began lifting only a few years ago. It wasn't much of a start, but it was the beginning of what has turned out to be a whole new lifestyle. In the process, I discovered the elusive fountain of youth -- being active. No, I can't undo the damage from the sedentary life I once led. But I certainly can become both more and less than what I was. 

I hope you'll join me on this journey! 

Being Honest about Your Body

Today was my day off from the gym so I got in a walk at the local high school track instead. 

During my walk a question came to mind that I wanted to ask you:

When you look at your body, what do you think/feel? 

How would you answer that?

  • Making progress, but got a long ways to go
  • Disappointed
  • So much potential!
  • You really let yourself go
  • Grateful for being fit and healthy
  • Getting somewhere
  • Six pack on the way!
  • Sigh
  • I will improve, God willing
  • So much potential!
  • So close ... keep going

I think I've said all of these at one time or another. How would you answer that question? 

Doing the RIGHT Thing with Your Life

Actor Donald Sutherland has passed away at the age of 88. 

His son Kiefer posted the news to social media. His tribute to his father included these words:

He loved what he did and did what he loved, and no one could ask for more than that.

There's a big difference between doing a good thing with your life and doing the right thing, the thing you were created to do and to be. If you do happen to find that right thing, you will never work a day in your life. 

One Habit That Keeps You Chubby

To lose body fat, we have to stay in a low to moderate caloric deficit. And for most of us men, the last place we're going to lose body fat is in our tummy. 

Now, one habit that prevents us from losing body fat is liquid calories. Because "eating" and "drinking" are different verbs, somehow we think that drinking doesn't count. But if you don't get a handle on your liquid calories, you're going to end up with a caloric intake that's way higher than you want. Think of having a Starbucks cappuccino that's about 320 calories or a coke that's maybe 150 calories. If you have a refill that's 300 calories. Suddenly you have 620 calories worth of drinks, which, by the way, would require at least 2 hours of running to burn off. I don't recommend that style of training. So do not underestimate liquid calories. Instead of going for the latte go for black coffee. Instead of going for the classic coke go for the sparkling water. 

Now, no one has been more guilty of indulging in liquid calories than me. I love drinking sodas. At the same time, I'm learning to love even more drinking water during the day and with my meals. That alone saves me about 600 calories each and every day. I do allow myself to cheat on occasion. If I'm invited to someone's home for dinner, for example, and they serve me fruit juice, I drink fruit juice. But that's the exception, not the rule. Incidentally, drinking liquid calories does not contribute to satiety, which means that drinking soda will go right into your bloodstream and contribute to obesity and maybe even diabetes down the road. 

Just some thoughts.

Have a fantastic day! 

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Food for Thought

Some generic exercise advice from someone who once thought that walking across the parking lot to my office was cardio.

1. You don't need any special insider information to get in great shape. Just do the basic stuff consistently.

2. Fat isn't "stubborn." It doesn't have the ability to exhibit any personality trait for that matter.

3. When you enter your first 5K race, you'll probably feel like you're not running but chasing. 

4. If people can overcome drug and alcohol addiction, they can probably overcome a lifetime of being a couch potato.

5. You can pretend to be lots of things -- smart or wealthy or knowledgeable -- but you can't pretend to be in shape. 

6. You don't need to weigh yourself to know if you're getting fit. A mirror does the job just fine.

7. Walking is boring. If you want to do it, do it not at the track but in the normal course of your day.

8. Joking. Walking anywhere (including the track) is a great exercise. 

9. "Get fit" plans generally don't last for more than a few weeks.

10. When asking yourself "Will I stick with it?" your first response will likely be "Why should this time be any different from the others?" But as the days turn into months and years, don't be surprised to find yourself becoming an athlete.

11. In the final analysis, exercising will teach you how to live. You will face the challenges of growing older in the same way that you face the challenges of becoming and staying healthy.

To Race Or Not to Race?

Should I or shouldn't I? I probably shouldn't.

I'm talking about this Saturday's big race at the High Bridge Trail. You have two options -- a 32-mile ultra, or a 13-mile half marathon. Two years ago I did the ultra. My report is here in case anyone is interested. This year I was planning on doing the half. However ....

Here's the forecast for race day:

The reason I included Sunday's temps is because the race begins Saturday evening and ends Sunday morning. Two years ago it took me about 8 hours to finish it. This year, heat exhaustion looks like a real possibility. So unless the weather cools off, I'll watch from the sidelines. I know that training and/or running in adverse conditions makes you stronger. It's supposed to make you tougher. But extreme weather isn't anything to joke about. 

Keeping an eye on the forecast .... 

Six Qualities of a Strong Family

Nick Stinnett of the University of Nebraska once published a study called "The Family Strengths Research Project." He evaluated 3,000 families. His findings? There were six main qualities in strong families. Strong families ...

1. Are committed to the family.

2. Spend time together.

3. Have good family communication.

4. Express appreciation to one another.

5. Have a spiritual commitment.

6. Are able to solve problems in a crisis.

I found this very helpful. Friend, you deserve to make your marriage and your family's happiness the best it can be! 

Using Lighter Weights (at Least on Occasion)

As you've probably noticed, I tend to use light weights during my workouts at the gym. Here I am today with 12 pound dumbbells -- a light weight by anyone's estimation. 

Even so, I have definitely seen results. I can focus more on form and the mind-muscle connection. Also, by using lighter weights I can really target the muscle without other muscles jumping in unconsciously to compensate. My first priority, of course, is safety. If you're older, it pays to go light as your body will be more prone to injury and will recover more slowly from any injuries. If you already have this in place, then a reliance on lighter weights should diminish but not be abandoned completely.

Keep building muscle safely, my friend!

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Nice Visit with Mom

Becky's mom -- a very young 93-year old -- flew in from Dallas today to spend time with a few of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Of course we had to have Ethiopian together! A few pix:

Mom, when I grow up, I want to be just like you! 

We love you Grandmomma B!!!!!!!!

Praying for Reapers (Matt. 9:38)

Here's something I noticed in my study of Matthew 9 this morning. 

See especially verse 38. One of the most unusual things about Jesus' teaching on prayer is the lack of any specific instruction to pray for the salvation of the lost. This obviously can't be because he lacked concern for the unregenerate. He insisted that he had come to seek and to save the lost. He wept over the multitudes. He grieved over evil and sin. But when it came to evangelism, he taught that evangelistic prayer is not so much praying for the salvation of individual men and women as praying for God to burden the hearts of his people to see the need of the harvest and allow God to thrust them forth as active reapers. I heartily agree with Lewis Chafer in his book True Evangelism when he says we should have a salvation prayer list of people we're praying that God would save. I have one myself. But it might be more in keeping with Jesus' emphasis to make the burden of our evangelistic prayer praying for the laborers rather than the harvest. 

Have a wonderful day! 

The Waiter Curl

You CAN do waiter curls, my friend!

Hey there. Just back from the gym. 

Today I practiced working on one of my all-time favorite biceps exercises called the waiter curl. Here's what it looks like.

Remember, tension is the language of your muscles. Through tension, this exercise targets the long head of the biceps. It starts with placing your hands and fingers flat against the underside of a dumbbell. Then, as you lift it, allow your wrists to bend back to maximize supination. Biomechanically, this is similar to the rope curl that some people do. Keep in mind that waiter curls can be stressful on the wrists but only if done incorrectly. Be sure to allow natural wrist extension as you raise the dumbbell on each and every rep. Finally, just because you might prefer other biceps exercises doesn't mean that you don't want to perform this one. I have found that some variety is crucial for maximizing growth in the long term. 

Hope this can help you! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Becoming Your Wife's Greatest Cheerleader

One of the reasons I married Becky was because she never discouraged my dreams. I felt free to relax and be myself with her. She cared about her future husband's goals and aspirations.

Husband, be your wife's greatest cheerleader. Maybe she'd like to go back to school or start her own business or run a marathon or write a book. Becky loved to quilt, sew her own clothes, work (she was both an ICU nurse and a successful financial planner), homeschool the kids, and mentor young women from the seminary. 

Her country garden was second to none. She grew and canned all of our own vegetables. The list could go on and on. She needed support and encouragement in all of these areas. What she didn't need was my criticism. If your wife regards you as unsupportive, she'll likely begin to distance herself from you emotionally. Encourage your wife's ideas. That tells her, "You're important to me."

Granting our wives honor is critical not only to our marital health but to our spiritual health. It's easy for us husbands to be excited for our mate when her goal excites us too. But we need to learn to be excited because she is excited, even if the idea doesn't exactly thrill us. 

Are you treating your wife with honor and respect? Give your treatment of her a hard look. Ask her outright, "Do you think I'm showing respect for you and your aspirations?" Respond humbly to her comments. What she says could be not only a revelation but a rejuvenation to your married life. 

Running + Lifting

Today I remembered to take enough water with me during my run at the High Bridge Trail. Despite the heat, I was able to finish my 6 mile run without any issues (round trip from and back to Rice). 

Before running I had a monster workout at the Y. Today I worked my arms and back, finishing with 15 reps of what's called an eccentric pullup (where you lower yourself back down slowly). 

While I strongly believe that you can do too much cardio if you're a lifter, I don't think we need to choose between the two. We can have both. Personally, I'd say use lifting for toning your muscles and running for heart health. Use the two activities any way you deem best. After all, it's your steering wheel. 

Have a beautiful day! 

Monday, June 17, 2024

Today's (Disappointing) Run

Big race this weekend. Since we are in the middle of a heat wave, I decided to get in a training run today. 

I wanted to go at least 6 miles but barely made it to 4 because I didn't take enough water with me. Dedication means not giving up and not giving in. But it doesn't mean taking stupid risks. I can learn something from every run, including this one. Today's lesson? The outcome of giving into your impatience and just plowing forward is nearly always a disaster. Training isn't the moment of truth for most runners. It's chipping away at the steady momentum of improvement. All athletes have good and bad days. Your body won't always give you 100 percent or the weather won't be right or you'll run out of water. When you can accept and integrate this truth into your training program, you'll be well on the way to running for the rest of your life.

Decision Making in Marriage

One lesson Becky and I learned the hard way was the proper way to make decisions. Then we implemented a practice that worked far beyond our expectations. Never make a final decision on matters that affect both of you unless you both agree on it. Another way of putting this is: Be willing to admit the value of your spouse's counsel. Becky and I relied on this principle in all sorts of situations and it worked. When we disagreed about a decision, our commitment to this principle helped us to verbalize our feelings until we understood each other because we knew we couldn't go anywhere until we were in agreement. 

Just a thought. 

A Grateful Life Is a Happy Life

This morning I've been thinking a lot about gratitude. Gratitude is not only a reflection of a happy life but is one of its causes. Saying "Thank you" makes others feel appreciated and respected, which can only strengthen that relationship. Gratitude is simply a form of love, and we can never get too much love. Remember that the next time you're feeling particularly crabby. Find gratitude even when things feel hard. 

Modeling a Life of Prayer for Our Children

Prayer is capable of producing real and tangible results. Our family witnessed this up close and personal yesterday. Christ's disciples didn't need to be told how important it was to pray. They saw how important it was in the life of their Master. What do your children see? Children will learn the importance of prayer when they actually see the role that prayer plays in the lives of their parents and grandparents. I am persuaded that such a practice would make a significant difference in the lives of Christians today. 

Phil. 4:19

Paul's letter to the Philippians contains many verses that deserve to be memorized. One of them is Phil. 4:19. It's a verse that every believer should commit to memory. I'll let you read it for yourself. 

Have a wonderful day! 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Driving on Oahu

Driving in Hawaii is a trip in and of itself. For example, here's the road that winds around the windward side of Oahu. 

Several things can be noted:

  • Oahu has no toll roads. 
  • Plan extra time for heavy traffic.
  • Locals are used to being let into traffic.
  • Most street names are in Hawaiian.
  • Locals use makai (towards the ocean) and mauka (towards the mountains) when giving directions.
  • The roads aren't in the best of shape.

Remember: If you're in a hurry, driving will be a distinctly unpleasant experience for you.

By the way, the best scenic drive on Oahu is from Honolulu to Kailua through the Pali Tunnels. It's only a 15-minute drive. Be sure to stop at the Pali Lookout.

Hope this helps! 

Happy Aging!

If you're feeling old, here are some ways to feel younger.

Movement (exercise!) in general can get your blood flowing and help keep you young even as you age. While lots of things can work (including workouts), doing some physical labor helps us accomplish tasks and gets us in motion. 

Random list of ideas:

  • Yard work
  • Gardening
  • Walking to the mailbox
  • Raking leaves
  • Sweeping floors
  • Climbing stairs
  • Playing with grandkids 

Happy aging!

Happy, Happy Day

The kids and grandkids just hosted a Father's Day lunch for me consisting of homemade goat barbeque. We were having so much fun I forgot to get pictures. (It didn't happen unless you got photos, right?) Who would have imagined such joys when Becky said "I do" to me 48 years ago? My family is the joy of my heart and the love of my life. Grateful. 

Thankful for Shepherds Who Care

Today I was in Ephesians 4. Here pastors are described by Paul as those "who have a gift for caring for God's people as a shepherd does his sheep, leading and teaching them in the ways of God." The classes I teach, the books I write, the sermons I preach, and the life I try to model to my family and students are all a direct result of the shepherd-teachers who have poured their lives into mine. Every church needs pastors like that. If yours has them, be sure to thank God for them -- and tell them too. 

God Loves You!

Even if you don't live on a farm and have never been to Hawaii, God sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. He loves you!

A Dad's Commitment

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these let those of us who are fathers recommit ourselves this day.

Happy Father's Day! 

Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Patient Farmer (James 5:7-8)

The kids will be baling this field tomorrow. 

Whenever I see a scene like this, I'm reminded of James 5:7-8: "See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the fall and spring rains. You, too, should be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near."

Crops, like hay, require time to mature. The emphasis in James is that we have to be patient for things to develop themselves. You can't hasten the process. You can't control the rains. You can't control the dry weather either. We must wait patiently for the harvest time to come. 

Likewise, becoming an instant Christian makes about as much sense as becoming an instant brain surgeon. Sanctification, like hay or corn or any other crop, doesn't sprout up overnight. If it's healthy, it needs to be watered, nurtured, and fertilized. The Christian life is a process of drawing closer to God and becoming more like Christ. On our part it takes work, risk, dedication, sacrifice, and especially patience. 

God expects instant saints of none of us. 

One Thing I Love About Running

Is that you can do it anywhere. This was today's run.

And this was last week's run 

My point?

  • You can run whenever you want.
  • You can run wherever you are.
  • You can rest whenever you want and wherever you are.

Where should you run? The answer depends on your personality, your likes and dislikes, and convenience. Whatever your dream destination, don't forget that there are so many beautiful places to run in this world. 

Run on, my friend! 

Advice for Beginning Lifters

Hello everyone. Just a thought or two after today's session at the Y. If you've started weight training, congratulations. Remember, 3 times a week at the gym is generally ideal. 

More importantly, you're going to have to figure out what works best for you. It doesn't matter that a specific training strategy is said to be optimal by some study or influencer. 

It if gets you injured, or if you're not progressing, forget it. The most important thing is that you're consistent and that you keep track of your progress. I do this through pictures. 

This way you can more objectively tell what works and what doesn't. 

Consistency and form are key -- listen to your body and you'll make progress steadily! 

Have a wonderful day!