Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sometimes I Hate Jackie Warner

Sometimes I hate Jackie Warner. She’s my personal trainer, and she’s merciless. A few times a week, she leads a 45 minute circuit training resistance workout with light weights.

I hate her because she never lets up. She expects me to follow her lead without excuse. Every time I put in her exercise DVD, the routine is the same; the same exercises, the same sets, the same repetitions. No pauses for fatigue. No time outs for sickness. No excuses.

This morning was one of those occasions I wish she were here in person. I could explain to her that I haven’t exercised in weeks because of a lingering cold. Thus, I was unable to keep up with her this morning. I wimped out of a few reps, in addition to a complete set of abdominal exercises.

I’ve been exercising with Jackie, via DVD, for the last 8 months or so. After months of performing the same routine numerous times each week, I got to the point where I could perform every exercise, every set, and every repetition. However, after taking only two weeks off, I was unable to keep up with her. My muscles had denigrated after neglecting them in only two weeks. Amazing!

I felt like I had a good reason. I’ve been sick. But, alas, my muscles, and probably Jackie would be indifferent to my excuse. The reality is I simply didn’t do the work during those two weeks. My muscles took time off, and became weaker.

I started to think about other areas of health, such as emotional and spiritual health. Is it possible to “take time off” for various reasons and remain emotionally and spiritually healthy?

Is it possible to neglect spiritual disciplines, such as attending worship services, spending time in prayer/meditation, and reading Scriptures and remain strong and spiritually healthy? What about having good excuses, such as job obligations, or childcare issues? The reality is that if we don’t eat spiritual bread, we will become spiritually unhealthy, just as we will be physically unhealthy if we don’t eat well. Excuses don't matter.

The neat thing is that since I’ve put in the work for the last several months, and I’ve only taken two weeks off from exercising, it will only take a couple of days to get back up to where I was before. Now, if I take off a couple of months…well, I wouldn’t want you to tell Jackie if that happened.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So, you wanna fight?

Let it be proclaimed here at the end of the year 2010, that I, David Matthew Lovelett will no longer lounge passively on a beach while getting sand kicked in my face by opponents larger than me, which is virtually everyone. (The reality is that it’s still hard to see me when I turn sideways. Remember, I’m 6’ feet tall, and 165 pounds soaking wet.)

No, I am not talking about going on an extreme workout regimen to build physical muscles. God gave me this slim frame for a reason, and it’s not in the plan to put forth the time, expense, and effort into adding extra girth. I’ll settle for a two-pack, instead of six-pack abs.

I’m chiefly referring to mental strength. Remember, the mind is the battlefield. I believe most achievements in life are won or lost within our thoughts. Abraham Lincoln said “Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.”

Here are battles fought I am determined which can, and shall be won in order to achieve Big Dreams:

Forgiveness vs. Condemnation:

Holding resentment and bitterness towards others, as well as towards myself over mistakes I’ve made, is a battle lost. It is also the one battle that, if lost, will guarantee a loss in a war. I will fight hard to seek forgiveness, and to forgive others whenever offenses have occurred. (God help me on this one!!!) Now, I still have won my battle if I have asked someone to forgive me, and they do not. The other person will have lost his/her battle, but that’s out of my control.

Innocence vs. Guilt:

Without forgiveness, it is impossible to have a “clean conscience”. I find it hard to live peacefully, and without guilt whenever wrongful accusations have been made. It’s not about never making mistakes, or expecting others to never hurt me. That’s unrealistic. I will fight to acknowledge mistakes (mine or others), deal with them appropriately (internally and externally), and keep a proper perspective on them in order to be pure in my heart and mind.

Faith vs. Doubt:

This is a tough one, because it’s impossible to have faith without hope, and hope deferred makes the heart sick. It’s easy to believe in something for a day, a week, maybe even for a month. But, when that something doesn’t come to pass over time, faith turns to doubt. The fact is nothing significant (whether creating an invention, or maintaining a till-death marriage) ever occurs without hope for the end result. Doubt brings, at the very least, slowed momentum. Why waste the time on doubt? What’s the worst that could happen; dreams lost? That brings me to my next battle…

Courage vs. Fear:

Fear is such a cruel taskmaster. “I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid of failure. I’m afraid of embarrassment.” Here’s the deal; in our efforts to achieve Big Dreams, we probably will experience rejection, failure, and embarrassment. That’s just part of the process to test whether we are really determined or not. Achievements are really not achievements without resistance. Resistance is usually in the form or rejection, failure, or ridicule. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the determination to press on despite being afraid. The secret is that we usually survive rejection, failure, and embarrassment. So, if we can survive it, then why be afraid of it? Apply this principle to things like dentist visits, inoculations, criticism, debt collectors, or even the passing of a loved one. Fearing these things should not keep us from going to the dentist, or answering the phone, or falling in love. Do it afraid!!!

Perseverance vs. Rejection

Rejection, especially for individuals (like me) with melancholy temperaments can be debilitating. “If so-and-so doesn’t believe in me, how can I believe in myself?” The most comforting answer to this question I have found is this; because God believes in me. If the Great Creator of the universe created me (see Psalm 139) , and also gave me dreams and desires along with abilities (Psalm 37:4), then why should I be moved by human rejection? Here’s my mantra: My God loves and accepts as I am. My fulfillment and self-worth are not based upon any man’s feelings or thoughts towards me. In other words, I won’t let rejection stop me if I have God-given convictions.

There are many, many other battles to wage, however space doesn’t allow me to list all of them. I will leave you with one last thought though. Our goal is to win wars, and sometimes battles are lost. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain”. If I fail to win any of the battles listed above, I won’t give up. I will engage once again, and eventually win the war, which is to see God’s plan for my life accomplished. (See Philippians 1:6)

So, from this point forward, the battle’s on. Now, who wants to get in the ring with me, including my 165 pound, two-pack abs?

Monday, September 27, 2010

I Never Used Be A Fighter. But, Now...

I have a confession to make; I’m not a fighter. I’ve never really been in a fight, except once when I was around 8 years old. My combatant was pretty tough. She pretty much kicked my butt. Needless to say, I realized pretty early on that God didn’t wire me for physical combat. I’m ok with that. I trust that if there is ever a need for physical confrontation that I will immediately receive the strength, agility and intellect similar to that of a little shepherd boy named David.

Unfortunately, I have not been a fighter in other areas of my life. A couple of weekends ago, I made a decision to no longer be a passive bystander. I’m not going to take life as it comes without fighting for destiny. I have big dreams, but they won’t come to pass without effort, i.e. without a fight. I no longer want to just exist. I want to live a purpose driven life.

What has been my inspiration? One word…September 11, 2001. (Ok, not sure if that’s one word or not, but you get the idea.)

Recently was the 9th year since one of the most tragically memorable dates in American history. My wife and I watched a number of television programs and documentaries detailing this terrible date in history in which 2,982 Americans were tragically killed by enemies of the American Dream.

Why so much hatred for America? In my estimation, it is because of the American Dream.

James Truslow Adams wrote a book, The Epic of America in 1931, and coined the expression The American Dream. Basically, the expression conveys the idea that America is the “land of the free”, and ideally gives each citizen the freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. In other words, in America, you and I have opportunity to utilize the God given gifts and talents we possess in order to be happy, while making a positive impact on our country. (That’s why there are so many immigrants from other countries; they are pursuing the American Dream.) Enemies of America are usually from countries without the liberty and opportunity afforded to American citizens. Women in these countries are not given the same rights as men. Unwanted children are aborted according to state laws and not according to citizen’s choices. Men and woman are limited in the vocations they can pursue. In other words, they do not have freedom of choice. (I’m referring to limitations mandated by government entities, as opposed to social restrictions which do exist in America.)

What’s my point? It is this…I believe that with great power (or liberties) comes great responsibility. (I think some great philosopher came up with that expression. Wasn't it Spiderman's uncle?) I believe every American has the responsibility to pursue the God given American Dream intended for him or her.

Our founding fathers pursued emancipation from a tyrannical European government. President Lincoln pursued freedom for slaves. Martin Luther King Junior fought for the civil rights of all people groups. Carrie Underwood fought her small town fear and insecurity, and drove to St. Louis to become an American Idol. They each had a vision, a dream, and fought to see their dreams realized.

What is your struggle? Your struggle may not be to change laws, or cultures, or to become a celebrity. It may be to become a husband, wife, or parent. It may be to become a teacher; a musician; an artist. Or, it may be to become President. Whatever it is, it won’t happen for you and me without a fight. In fact, what reward actually exists without a struggle?

I believe America wants, and needs me to fight. Nearly 3,000 died on 9/11/01, and lost their opportunity to pursue the American Dream to the fullest. Enemies of America stole their opportunity to fully pursue the American Dream. I'm going to fight those terrorists by no longer relinquishing my own right to pursue the American Dream, whatever that includes for me.

One disclaimer; God has a plan for every human being, and for most it does not include living in America. My point is that America offers more "opportunity" in terms of social, civil, and general liberties than any other country, and it's our responsibility to utilize our liberties to the fullest.

In my next post, I will explain how I, a 6’1”, 165 pound man plans on becoming a lean, mean fighting machine. (Hey, Abraham Lincoln was 6’4” and 185 pounds, so I think there’s hope for me. Plus, I'm better looking than he was!)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I just need to vent, but then again...

Have you ever heard someone say (or, maybe you've said it) "I just need to vent"? Or, maybe it's been said like this..."I need to get something off my chest".

I have definitely been guilty of "venting", whether I've forewarned the listener or not. The funny thing is I usually never "vented" to anyone who had anything to do with the buildup of heat inside me. Weird how that works.

A "vent" is something that releases a buildup of heat or smoke. Kitchens, clothes dryers, and automobiles all have vents because of the inherent buildup of heat in each. My question is this: do humans have an inherent buildup of heat inside requiring occasional releases of steam? In other words, is there no way to avoid getting heated up, and thus we were designed to "vent" when necessary?

For example, do we have no choice getting angry when a driver cuts in front of us dangerously (or not) when driving in traffic? What about when we get laid off from our jobs unjustly (or justly)? How about when our children completely rebel against us? Is it healthy for us to "vent" each time something does not go according to our plans?

I am not referring to talking to a wise friend or counselor about difficulties beyond our ability to cope with. Everyone experiences situations in which we need help coping.

A definition of the word "vent" that I am talking about is this: to give free play or expression (an emotion, passion, etc.): to vent rage. ( In other words, it is what happens when we get frustrated and need to verbalize our frustrations with the first set of ears that comes along.

I remember a time a number of years ago when members of my church who had a key to the building were scheduled to lock up the building after services. Each person would have to stay until every soul left the building. We were scheduled to do this about once every two months. On one occasion I was scheduled to do this after a mid week service, which wrapped up around 8:30pm. Since I had to get up early for work the next morning, I was anxious to get out of there asap. Well, I walked through the building around 9:15pm and one of the pastors was still conversing with some folks. I said something to the pastor and he said "go ahead and leave. I'll lock up myself."

The buildup of heat inside me needed an immediate vent. I couldn't believe that I waited around for 45 minutes, and then was told I didn't need to lock up. I stormed through the building, venting the whole way. I slammed the front doors, and yelled at one of my best friends, who happened to be one of the pastors. As I said, I was venting.

The problem is, the buildup of heat inside me really had nothing to do with that particular incident. The fact is the pastor in question was actually ministering to someone in need. He wasn't casually conversing. I just had a stinking attitude back then, which meant I didn't like to do anything that inconvenienced me. I was often angry, unhappy, always complaining about this or that. (One thing I complained about was that no one wanted to hang out with me. Ironic, huh?)

The fact is angry people are destructive, emotionally, and sometimes physically. I really don't think I need to argue this point. I think everyone would agree with that statement.

I have learned that I can control the buildup of heat inside me by simply choosing to be joyful, or at least to be at peace most of the time. I try to focus on the positive, blessings in my life in every situation. I am not perfect, but I am pressing on.

In the last 3 months, I became unemployed after 20+ years with the same company, and my father passed away from cancer. As I said, I've not been perfect, but I have worked hard to remain thankful, positive and hopeful, which is the antidote to being anxious, angry, and bitter.

If you're a Christian, like me, you can remain at peace knowing God loves you and is in control. Like Joseph in the Old Testament, what some have meant for evil, God will turn to good. (Genesis 50:20) God has something up His sleeve, and it's good.

If you're not a Christian, you have the opportunity to be at peace knowing God loves you and is in control. I have lived both ways, the first 24 years of my life as a non-Christian, and I can tell you from experience the only way to avoid that buildup of heat is to release it to God before it gets built up. He can handle it. (He must have some awesome vents in Heaven.)

So, who's down with some air-conditioned, vent free living?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Stepped in Poop!

I've been thinking. In this day and age where people groups of all varieties are divided in many ways, there is one aspect in life in which human beings throughout the world are one likes to step in poop.

It's true. Everyone I know hates stepping in poop. And, most people, with the possible exception of farmers/ranchers, go to great lengths to avoid stepping in poop.

Poop is viewed as...well, poop! There's no other description necessary. The only useful purpose I'm aware of for poop is for fertilizing soil, which does not include my backyard. Unfortunately, that's where Gibson, our Silky Terrier, does his "fertilizing".

Yesterday, I was mowing the grass in 100 degree temperatures. I know it was hot, but I had a goal to do some long overdue yard work. I'm in fairly good shape, so I figured I was up for the challenge as long as I stayed hydrated.

My goal was to mow the front, then the back yard, and finish trimming both. I wasn't going to let any obstacles keep me from achieving my goal, including the temperature. This was the day. No more putting it off. I was motivated, and focused.

After finishing the front yard, I proceeded to the back yard. Mowing the yard in rows, I noticed the "fertilizer" left by Gibson before I reached that "row". However, I was pretty hot and tired at this point. I was getting weak, and started focusing on finishing as soon as possible. This caused me to rush a little, and I lost a little focus. I reached the end of one row, made the turn, and firmly planted my right foot in the poop.

I actually laughed out loud when I did it. I knew the poop was there, but stepped in it anyway.

Then I said to myself, "self, what are you gonna learn from this?"

In life, we tend to have goals;
  • find a mate for life
  • seek an education
  • pursue a specific career
  • learn a skill (like playing an instrument)
  • start a family
We start out heading in the right direction. We obtain information, and direction from others. We develop abilities. We get started moving towards the goal. We get focused, and move in a singular direction towards the goal. We see, or hear about pitfalls (or poop). We see them coming. Yet, because we get impatient and hurried, we lose focus of the poop and end up stepping in it anyway.

Stepping in poop could look like sacrificing family for a job, investing too much money before determining ability, or having children without resources to support them.

The neat thing about stepping in poop is we can get refocused, wipe it off, and keep going.

Thanks a lot for the object lesson Gibson!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Stand (or "sit") Corrected!

Well, this is only my fourth blog entry, and I already stand corrected (or, since I'm at my computer, I "sit" corrected). Not a good track record, to be sure. But, hopefully the reason is due to my continued growth and maturation (is that a word?)

In my Julie & Julia & Matt post I indicated my conviction to never promote myself or my efforts. This was a conviction based upon my observations of what happens to people elevated to platforms they are not mature enough to handle. (Britney Spears, Kate Gosselin, Miley Cyrus, for example). I have always valued my faith, my family, and my loved ones more important than any desire to be in any type of limelight position. I have been afraid of what a ton of public attention would do to my ego, and the affect it would have on those around me. Thus, I have worked hard not to "brag on myself" to others for several years now.

This wasn't true around 6 years ago or so, when major insecurities ruled my life. At that time, the only way I would feel good about myself is if others, especially people of influence, would give me attention.

For example, I would crave being mentioned by name in church by a "platform person". Oh, the pastor is talking about people who have active prayer lives. I have an active prayer life. I hope he mentions my name as an example to everyone.

Ok, this is embarrassing. But, I'll continue.

To make a long story short, a number of years ago I developed an unhealthy emotional attachment that caused a lot of pain to myself, and to those closest to me. This attachment fed my insecurities. I did a lot of soul searching and realized the only One who can make me feel good about myself without any guilt is God, the Creator. Knowing His good, loving, approving thoughts towards me has kept me from being controlled by insecurities.

But, I don't want to go back to that place that caused so much pain to the ones I love the most. So, with few exceptions, I have only ascended platforms after receiving unsolicited invitations.

This morning, I was reading a letter by Martin Luther (not to be confused with MLK JR) to Pope Leo. If you'll recall, Martin Luther was the founder and CEO of the Protestant Church. The year was 1520 A.D. Martin Luther was openly confronting the Church of Rome regarding how far their teachings strayed from salvation "by grace, through faith" alone. Yet, Martin Luther was very humble, and respectful of the Pope, making sure the Pope knew his battle was against the Church's teachings, and not with the Pope himself. Martin Luther knew he was addressing the most influential Christian leader of his time period. Pretty lofty stuff, which Luther probably felt he was not qualified to do.

Yet, Luther wrote, "I do this, not from any desire to teach (or to correct), but as a duty, from that simple and faithful solicitude which teaches us to be anxious for all that is safe for our neighbours, and does not allow considerations of worthiness or unworthiness to be entertained, being intent only on the dangers or advantage of others".

In other words, Luther felt a conviction of the Lord to address the Catholic Church's abuses of Scripture, and left the results up to the Lord. Luther had to follow his convictions, and trust the Lord would not let him get in over his head. He felt his desires were pure, and so he had to follow his convictions.

So, I stand corrected.

Whew! Now I can tell people about my blog.

Can anyone tell me what the phone number is to take out an ad in the USA Today?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pain is a four letter word!

Ok, everyone who loves pain raise your hand!

What? No hands! I can't believe it. I mean, everyone should have their hands up...right?

Well, I guess I've forgotten that "pain" is a four letter word. In fact, it's bleeped out of many individuals' vocabulary because of it's offensive nature. But, should this be the case?

A loose definition of "pain" is a sense of emotional or physical discomfort that involves a level of suffering. (Now, I understand why you didn't raise your hand at the beginning.)

I think we would all agree that experiencing pain (on many different levels) is a natural part of life. Most over the age of 20 have experienced the pain of losing a loved one, whether a family member or a beloved pet. (My wife, Brenda and I cried much harder when our 16 year old Shih-Tzu passed on compared to the passing of Brenda's grandmother. Hey, 16 years of tail wagging can't be beat.) Who hasn't experienced the breakup of a romantic relationship, or getting fired, or a traffic ticket, or an injury or sickness? All experiences involved levels of emotional or physical pain.

The question is how do we respond to pain?

Good question. The answer probably depends upon whether you or I are actually in pain at the moment. If we are experiencing pain, then our feelings and emotions are screaming pain stinks!!!

However, during rational moments, we would agree that pain can be an effective teacher.

Dad: Son, if you don't clean your room I'm gonna spank your butt!
Son: Go ahead and make my day!
Dad: Ok, you asked for it! Bam!!!
Son: Dad, can I help clean your room after I'm finished with my room?

Everyone experiences pain, whether self-inflicted or otherwise. In either case, pain can teach us lessons about ourselves and life.

Why didn't I want to clean my room? Because I don't want to be told what to do. I want to do what I want to do, and I don't want to do what I don't want to do. I guess I'm a little rebellious. Or, rather maybe I'm a lot rebellious, and rebellion usually leads to pain. So, I'll quit being rebellious.

Pain is not always correlated to personal weakness, and this is where we get hung up sometimes. Someone is unjustly fired from their job. Or, a mate betrays his or her spouse without rationale explanation. This type of unearned pain can still teach us about life, or even about our ability to endure hardship while maintaining integrity and character.

My dad just passed away after fighting cancer for two years. He smoked off and on for the majority of his adult life, but had not smoked for nearly 30 years. I'm sure he thought he had quit in time to avoid lung cancer. Nevertheless, he faced cancer with great integrity and character. I never heard him complain once about his condition. His attitude was "I'm gonna do everything to fight cancer, but if God doesn't heal me, I'm gonna go out with grace and poise". The way he conducted himself the last two years made more of an influence on my life than the previous 40+ years. I know I can face anything without becoming angry, bitter, or resentful because of what my dad's pain taught me.

I believe every life situation falls into one of two categories; 1. God caused it to happen, or 2. God allowed it to happen. However, in either situation, all things are working together for my good.

So, I will not run from pain, or curse it, or deny it. I will accept it, learn from it, and hopefully God will deliver me from it at the right time. Hopefully, my life, and the life of those I love will be better off for it.

That means I can use this four-letter word all I want without risk of getting bleeped!

Pain! Pain! Pain! Pain!

No pain! No gain!

(Ok, sorry to end with a cliche, but I couldn't resist. That will have to be your cross to bear!)