Category Archives: Success

Another Call for Standing Up

How's that standing desk thing working out for you?

As you may have already realized, I have adapted to a standing desk at my place of employment. Home for the summer now, I find myself doing most of my computer work sitting down. In fact, that sitting is not even at a desk. I’m sitting in a recliner with my feet up. (It makes the convenience of the laptop better, I think.)

Jumping up from their desk chairs to join the standing-is-the-new-smoking bandwagon, researchers in England have recommended that standing for two hours a day at the workplace might be more realistic than convincing people to exercise more regularly.

“The evidence is clearly emerging that a first ‘behavioral’ step could be simply to get people standing and moving more frequently as part of their working day,” the study authors reported online June 1 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

As I read on, however, I noticed something remarkably candid and unusual for a typical piece of health-related journalism. Here’s the tidbit I have in mind:

The researchers acknowledged that the materials they reviewed don’t prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between prolonged sitting and chronic illness.

What’s that? There’s no proof that standing will save you or that sitting will kill you? Then why have we been hearing all of this doom and gloom over the last couple of years? Should I, maybe, see if I can get the people at work to bring my desk and chair back in from wherever they took them?

Honestly, I don’t care whether standing helps to reduce the chance of heart disease or obesity or diabetes or any of those metabolic syndrome bogeymen. I’m pretty sure that standing won’t hurt me, and here’s what I have observed over the past six months.

  • I burn enough extra calories from standing to eat a couple of pieces of fruit. In other words, I earn extra food.
  • Without thinking about it, I give my legs and core a low-intensity but long workout by standing. When your muscles are engaged, they get strengthened.
  • I feel better at the end of the day. My back and neck don’t hurt from bad posture in that chair. Isn’t that the ultimate victory?

There’s not some big spiritual message here. Sometimes the benefits of doing the right thing are mostly found in the flesh. But living better in the flesh ultimately honors God. So maybe there is a spiritual message.

 

Rule #2: Maximize Inner Motivation

torah-scrollRecently, I shared my observations on an article called “Ten Rules Fit People Live By.” Since I was rather critical of the author of that piece, I’ve decided to see if I could do better by examining each of the rules in the light of Biblical teaching. You can check out Rule #1 here. 

The second rule, shared, like all of them, by a personal trainer named Joel Harper, is Maximize Inner Motivation. Here’s how the author explains that.

To do this you need to be absolutely clear about why you want to get fit. “Figure out what’s really important to you,” Harper urges. “Do you want to lower your blood pressure? Fit into a size two? Or do you just want to feel better?” Motivation that lasts can’t come from an outside source—like your doctor or a loved one who wants you to slim down. It has to come from a personal, deep-rooted desire for change.

Rule #2 is a sort of common-place of self-help literature. According to those writers, you can’t get motivation externally. You have to want something yourself in order to achieve it. This theory is related to the widespread lie, “You can do anything if you want it badly enough.”

I have to admit that I somewhat agree with Rule #2. It wasn’t social pressure or Penny or any other outside force that had me at the gym this morning lifting weights or out on the streets in Independence putting in 6 miles. That was all me.

On the other hand, if inner motivation were really the ultimate force in the universe, then why does the military employ butt-kicking drill instructors? Why do we need police to keep people from driving like maniacs? Couldn’t we save a lot of money and effort by just teaching everyone to self-motivate? Those motivational posters aren’t all that expensive!

There are limits to inner motivation. From a spiritual perspective, those limits seem to live in the space between our redeemed souls and our sin-afflicted bodies. Paul understood this limit well as he explains in Romans 7:21-25:

 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

When I ran that 6 miles this morning, my intention was to maintain a 9-minute pace along the way. What I found was that I couldn’t do it. But that’s a lie. What I found was that I didn’t want to do it badly enough to endure the complaints of my heart and lungs. I don’t believe that I actually sinned by falling off of that pace, but the descent into sin, the fall from intention to execution, is similar to what Paul describes here.

I’m at peace with my slightly disappointing run this morning, but there are other places in my life when inner motivation utterly fails, places where I need to imagine Christ watching me, where I need exterior motivation. In 1 Kings 8, during his prayer of dedication for the temple, Solomon prays that people, aware of their sins, will spread “out their hands toward this temple.” He doesn’t urge the people to look inward but to look at the temple, an external, physical symbol of God’s presence and power.

Rule #2 isn’t utter foolishness, but it is a limited thing. For the truly important things in life, exterior motivation is often a necessity.

Rule #1: Shut Out the Noise

torah-scrollLast Saturday, I shared some observations on a fluffy article called “Ten Rules Fit People Live By.” My main point was that these rules were basically platitudes without nearly enough meat on their bones to be terribly helpful. After leveling that criticism, it occurred to me that perhaps I should examine each of the rules in turn, subjecting it to the light of Biblical teaching.

The first rule, shared by a personal trainer named Joel Harper, is Shut out the noise. Here’s how the author explains that.

By “noise,” Harper means the constant stream of negative thoughts that runs through most people’s minds. That mental static is your biggest obstacle, he says; learning to filter it by focusing on positive thinking is essential to your success.

Why am I hearing Michael Sutherland in Kelly’s Heroes here? “Always with the negative waves, Moriarty!”

So what does the Bible say about negative waves? According to my research, it doesn’t say a great deal about what we need to eliminate. Instead, it says more about what we should think.

Although I am taking the following parable out of context, it seems relevant here. Look at what Jesus says in Luke 11:24-26 about what happens when a demon is cast out:

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

It’s not enough to simply get the bad stuff–demons or “negative waves”–out of our lives. Instead, we need to replace that bad stuff with something good. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Paul, in Philippians 4:6-9, seems to be arguing that we should not just eliminate the negative waves but replace them with positive waves.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Rule #1 is reasonable as far as it goes. If you’re telling yourself something negative–“I can’t lose weight” or “I can’t make it up this hill” or “I’ll never be able to stop eating these cupcakes”–then bad things will probably flow from that thought. But it’s unrealistic to think that you can just magically banish the negative thoughts from your mind. What happens, when you’re trying to cut down on eating, if you say, “I won’t think about food.” You think about nothing but food, right?

So how do you stop thinking about food? You don’t just banish food thought from your consciousness. Instead, you need to replace food thought with something else. You’ve undoubtedly noticed that when you keep busy you don’t seem to get hungry as quickly, right?

Shutting out the noise is a good step, but replacing the noise with a positive, God-focused signal is an even better step.

Get Fit with 10 Easy Rules!

make-disciples-92814-1-638In a post at Health.com, Catherine Benedetto shares the “10 Rules Fit People Live By.” Besides ending that title with a preposition, I find Benedetto’s prescription just a trifle simplistic. Take for example, her second rule: “Maximize Inner Motivation.”

To do this you need to be absolutely clear about why you want to get fit. “Figure out what’s really important to you,” Harper urges. “Do you want to lower your blood pressure? Fit into a size two? Or do you just want to feel better?” Motivation that lasts can’t come from an outside source—like your doctor or a loved one who wants you to slim down. It has to come from a personal, deep-rooted desire for change.

That all sounds reasonable enough, common-sensical enough that you really wonder why it found its way onto the pages of a website. I can imagine someone reading that and saying, “Yeah! That’s so right. I need to get inwardly motivated.” What this article does absolutely nothing about is giving practical advice on how to maximize inner motivation. Pretty much all of the platitudes that make up the other 9 rules for fit people follow that same pattern.

Of course, a fitness blogger isn’t the only person who might be tempted to dispense bland, simplistic advice. Notice that Jesus did not take his followers out to the Mount of Olives and say, “Go and provide generic ideas to all people.” He told them to make disciples. Discipleship, like effective fitness coaching, requires a lot more effort than a 10-rule list. It will be messier, but it will produce results.

 

The Irrelevance of Disability

blind-man-with-caneSometimes I can’t keep myself from indulging in some English professor nerdiness, and today is just such a day. To that noble end, I’d like to inflict on you a poem by the 17th century English poet John Milton. Milton is the guy who took the 49 verses of Genesis 2 and 3, and expanded them to the 10,000 lines of Paradise Lost. You’ll be pleased to know that he’s a good bit more succinct here, sharing a sonnet (14 lines). Give it your best effort here. I’ll translate below.
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Milton had gone blind less than half way through his expected life. That’s bad for anyone, but for a man whose profession required reading and writing, it would seem to have effectively put him out of commission. That’s what the poet is complaining about here. In line 7, he’s uttering a complaint that we might render like this: “You expect me to serve you when you made me blind? What’s up with that?”

But before Milton can get those words out of his mouth, he is reminded that God doesn’t require his puny gifts or his feeble work. God is God, after all, and simply desires obedience and a willingness to take up the yoke of service.

The reason why I share this poem is that all too often Christians look at their disabilities, whether they be physical, mental, or situational disabilities, and say, “You can’t expect me to serve you when I’m like this. What’s up with that?” We lament being too fat or too thin, too young or too old, too sick, too tone deaf, too short, too clumsy, too bald, too hairy, or something I’ve not even imagined. We complain that God gave us dyslexiya, anorexia, or dyspepsia, big hands, small feet, color blindness, or iron poor blood.

All in all, those complaints boil down to us saying one thing: “God didn’t know what He was doing when He made me.” To that, John Milton would say, “Just serve.” If all you can do is stand and wait, then do that. If you can’t even stand, then just wait.

Your disabilities, whether they get you a special parking spot at the grocery or not, do not get you off the hook from serving God.