Category Archives: Success

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.

The Vanitas Painting and the Bodybuilder

Vanitas PaintingHave you ever wondered why so many artists, especially Dutch artists in the 17th and 18th centuries, painted still lifes of skulls, flowers, and over-ripe fruit. Okay, you probably haven’t wondered that, but the next time you go through an art museum and see one of these paintings by somebody like Pieter Claesz or Adriaen van Utrecht, you’ll notice it.

Those paintings are products of the Vanitas school, focused on the ephemeral temporary nature of life. Think of them as the canvas-based enlargement of 1 Peter 1:24-25 and “all flesh is grass.”

In the painting above, we have various common elements of a Vanitas painting. The skull, obviously, represents death and mortality. The watch in the lower left suggests time passing. The lamp, just extinguished, speaks of the transitory nature of life, while the violin evokes music being played and then fading away. Reflections, bubbles, candles, flowers, and fruit all show up frequently in these works.

What brings this painting to mind, oddly enough, is Arnold Schwarzenegger. The undisputed master of bodybuilders, now 67 years old, no longer has the body that allowed him to play Conan the Barbarian so effectively. I won’t link to a photo of the not-so-svelte Arnold, but you can Google it if you like. Many 67-year-olds should look as good as Arnold, but when you’ve seen Mr. Olympia, the current body is hard to see.

The reality here–and it’s a reality that we don’t always want to face–is that every one of us is a living, breathing Vanitas painting. When Arnold had that Pumping Iron body, we all knew, even if we didn’t admit it, that he would eventually decline. The muscles would atrophy, the body fat would increase, and, somewhere down the road, that body would be placed in the grave. Even Jack Lalanne died eventually.

Does the fact that “all flesh is grass” mean that Arnold Schwarzenegger wasted his time creating that highly sculpted body? Given that he parlayed it into a considerable fortune, a movie career, and two terms as California governor, it doesn’t seem like a waste. (I’m not applauding all of his life choices, just to be clear.) All flowers will fade, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t grow them. All bodies will deteriorate, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the most of them while we are here.

The Vanitas painting conveys two messages. Most obviously, it reminds us of the inevitability of death, but it also conveys the preciousness of what life we have. Live what life God gave you to the best of your ability. It will end.