Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gym Shame and The Basic

I came to a terrible realization about a month ago.  I was getting fat.  Not obese, mind you, but certainly overweight.  Part of it had to do with the fact that I love food.  Not just eating…food in general.  I love cooking, reading about, learning about, and listening to radio programs about food.  Since there is a saying, “never trust a skinny chef,” let’s just say that I was beginning to look mighty trustworthy.  (**note..the picture to the right was taken after 6 weeks on the plan mentioned below)The other contributing factor was that I live a pretty sedentary live.  Almost everything I do, be it for OBC or for Nashville music stuff, involves me sitting in front of a screen.  So besides my pale complexion, my mid-section and hind-quarters were expanding.  About a month ago, I stepped on a scale and realized that I was the heaviest I had ever been.  Something had to change and change fast.  So I joined the newly built rec center behind our house and began looking for diet and workout plans that I could follow.  I decided on the Men’s Health “Belly Off” program. It’s a “body weight only” workout regimen, combined with a daily eating plan.  The first day I tried the workout, I just about threw up.  It was REALLY hard.  The irony is that it’s made up of exercises that look like they would be easy: push-ups, pull-ups, forward lunges, etc...  It’s nothing flashy but it’s shockingly hard.  This, of course, led to an additional problem.  Gym Shame.


 Gym Shame is what I call the emotion you feel when you go to a fitness club and feel like a loser because the amount of weight you’re lifting is less than the person next to you.  I, of course, felt this in a magnified way since I was lifting no weights at all.  It’s one thing to grunt and sweat as you heft impressive looking dumbbells.  It’s quite another to grunt and sweat as you do squats holding an invisible bar.  There are two things that keep me going.  1: The fact that I’ve been seeing results.  I am, in fact, losing weight and gaining strength.  And 2: The Article.  The Article was something I read as I was searching for workout plans.  It said that the strongest, most “ripped”, athletes got that way by mastering the basics first.  They had perfected doing push-ups and lunges before they moved on to other things.  Why?  Because those exercises are still considered some of the best ways to strengthen your entire body and loose weight when combined with a well balanced diet and portion control.  So when my Gym Shame rears it’s head, I remind myself that I’m learning to master the basics and that my belt has had to come in a notch already.


I don’t know about you, but even as I was still in the gym, I could see the spiritual analogy.  We need to master the basics and we haven’t yet.  That “we” is a collective “we” meaning both you and me.  I’m not talking about fasting, prayer and memorizing The Bible (even though those are great things).  I’m talking about something even more basic than any of that: Believing God.  On a very bare-bones level, everything starts here. It’s THE Basic. How can we even trust God for salvation unless we’ve first believed Him when He tells us that we need to be saved in the first place.  Believing God means that we trust that what He says is right.  Regardless.  Even if everyone around us are flexing their churchy muscles, even if our lives aren’t as flashy as we think they ought to be and our Christian “gym shame” starts whispering doubts in our ears.  Remember this:  From Genesis to Revelation, all of the heroes of faith believed God first.  They were good at trusting that what God said was what was best and not what the culture, their friends, or even what the religious establishment told them.  And thousands of years later, we are still talking about them.  They mastered The Basic and the world was never the same.  

Monday, May 5, 2008

Dexters and Danskos

In previous posts I’ve mentioned that I’m a cheapskate.  I like to say I’m thrifty but….well…we all know the truth.  My wife is also incredibly good at stretching a penny.  We aren’t sure if it’s because we’re from the Northeast (where Yankee virtues include things like self-sufficiency, thrift, etc…) or if we just like to get the best bang for our buck.  Either way, nowhere are these character traits more obvious than in our closet.  Just as an example:  I graduated Barnstable High School in 1994.  During senior week, they gave us all t-shirts.  I still have that t-shirt.  Granted, it looks more like a lace doily than a shirt but if I can still use it than, by golly, I will.


  All this came to my attention the other morning when I realized that I couldn’t walk in our “walk-in” closet.  There was stuff everywhere.  A careful analysis of the situation led me to the conclusion that I didn’t have enough hangers.  An even closer analysis led me to the fact that the reason I needed more hangers was because eighty percent of the current ones were being used by clothes I didn’t wear.  Either they were old and holey (not holy), or they were too big (since back in the nineties, the style was baggy pants and oversized flannel…thank you Seattle).  Regardless, most of those clothes hadn’t seen the outside of a closet since we moved to Tennessee six and a half years ago.


The other thing taking up space was shoes.  I have a problem with shoes.  Not an Imelda Marcos problem.  Quite the opposite.  I never buy shoes.  I have bad feet so if I find a pair that doesn’t hurt me, I wear them every day, all day, until, like my t-shirts, they look like lace doilies wrapped around my feet.  Brown or black leather doilies but doilies none-the-less.  So, along with the eighty percent of my clothes that I don’t wear, I have several pairs of shoes that I haven’t worn in years haunting my closet floor.  Those old Dexters (remember those, Children of The Eighties?) and that pair of Danskos that used to feel good but are so worn out they hurt now.  All of these things were making the use of my closet impossible.  So….what is the solution?  After a few trips to Goodwill and a trip to the dump, I can actually see the floor again.  Even better, the new clothes I’ve bought can move from the floor to their proper place of honor on a hanger or a shelf.  These new clothes should be honored.  After all, they actually fit me right, and they make me look good.  And when I look into my closet, it doesn’t look full but what is there I use and there is room for more. 


I don’t know about you, but as I was cleaning all that old stuff out, I thought about how I deal with my spiritual life.  Much like that closet, I have stuff in there that doesn’t suit me anymore.  It was stuff that I picked up when I wasn’t a Christian, stuff from when I was an immature believer, and some of it was flat out sin.  Most of it started as ways of dealing with the world around me and, in the same way clothing and shoes cover our body, much of it was designed to hide the stuff I didn’t want anyone to see.  And some of it, like my Dexters and Danskos, felt great at first or were in style but now are just taking up room.  In The Book of Hebrews, the author urges us to “…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”   What I love about that verse is that it specifically mentions two types of things that we need to cast off.  The first are things that may be good but are a hindrance.  These are the clothes that don’t fit or are past their prime and are just taking up space.  These are habits and mannerisms, needless events and business, and anything else that, on their own, aren’t bad but are holding us back from where The Lord is calling us to go.  The other specific thing that the author of Hebrews mentions is sin.  In the closet analogy, I think of my Dexters and Danskos.  They may have started out feeling good but now they don’t just hinder me, they hurt me.  And since I have such bad feet, it wouldn’t be long before I wasn’t just in pain but actually crippled.  Sin won’t just drag you down.  It’ll stop you cold.  So the author of Hebrews urges us to cast those things aside and to run.  As we run God gives us new strength, new life, and new growth.  So besides being able to run, by throwing off these things we now have room for the newness God offers.  We have a race marked out for us.  Custom made to fit us.  And all that newness deserves a place of honor in the closets of out hearts.  Our lives may not look as busy or blessed or as full as someone else’s but what is there suits us.