20 December 2016

One post in 2016

I probably should just kill this blog: one post in 2015, and one in 2016.  But there's a part of me that just can't let it go.  I like that I have a blog; I don't like that I do nothing with it. 

We'll see where it goes.  I'm not really worried about it.  I just wanted to say I posted something in 2016.

03 February 2015

Here's to a better year

So I only blogged three times last year.  I have no explanation for it other than I don't have a lot of free time, and the time I do have I want to spend doing other things.  Maybe I should kill this blog, put it out of its misery.  When I write, I feel compelled to write, not necessarily inspired to write, and that makes it sometimes feel like a burden more than a joy. 

I need to seriously assess whether I want to continue having a blog or not.  I obviously don't make it a priority.  But what if I did?  Would anyone notice?  Is it worth the time to add my small voice to the ubiquitous chorus of whiny bloggers out there? 

So here's the plan.  I can either take this blog a little more seriously, and seek to write at least once a week, or I can just kill it.  It needs direction - right now I write about whatever I want, so there's no focus and it's random.  It needs thought - a blog can be a great place to test out ideas that might become a lesson, sermon, or book some day. It needs audience - what's the point if no one reads it?  Why put it out there for the world if the whole world just walks on by?  If I'm just writing stuff to get ideas out of my brain, why not just do it in a Word doc that no one ever sees?

Sorry to be so existential and angsty.  I want this year to be better in many areas of my life, and knowing what to do with this blog will help me have a small win in that journey.  Here's to a better year this year.

24 August 2014

Some random thoughts on P90X

I'm well aware that it's beyond time to get in shape.  This year I have hit some fitness milestones that are, shall we say, not the kind of PRs I want to achieve.  Ever since I ran a full marathon in 2011, I have struggled greatly with gaining weight very quickly.  Almost nothing I do is easier than gaining weight (except maybe sleeping and breathing - I'm pretty good at those).  What accompanies weight gain is a decrease in strength.  You'd think, "oh, he must have strong legs, carrying all that extra weight around."  You'd be wrong.  My sedentary job coupled with my sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition combined to puff me up to about 262lbs, an all-time high.  I knew I needed to make a change, and I'm happy to report that I just completed my first step in that direction: P90X.
 That's not me in the photo.

So am I ripped?  Am I, as Tony Horton assures in the videos, in the best shape of my life?  

No, but I don't blame Tony or P90X.  I blame me.  Losing weight has more to do with diet than with anything else, even exercise.  That is where I failed; I didn't drastically change the way I ate.  I didn't even come close to following the nutrition guide.  I did get a little better with many of the food choices I make, and it did help.  I lost 10lbs.  I worked really hard.  I "brought it" every day, and I definitely saw some results.  For example, standard push ups: the first workout, I could only do 15 pushups on my knees.  By the end, I was doing 20 real push ups.  Last night, at the end of my final workout (Core Synergistics), I did 20 push ups (Core Syn has 5 different types of push ups in the workout, so this was my 6th set of push ups).  

So, some random Q&A:
Why P90X?  No real reason.  I have tried some other Beachbody products, and liked them enough.  Also, whether through word of mouth and informercials, I have heard that this was challenging and builds muscle.  Finally, because it was cheap: I found my copy on craigslist for $20.

How hard was it? Depends on how good of shape you're in when you start.  For me, I was tragically out of shape, so I feel that by the end I was finally in good enough to start P90X!  This is probably why many people will do multiple rounds of P90X.  I need to take a break from this program; the thought of doing it all over again for another 90 days is slightly dreadful.  I'm ready for a change.

The workouts are very demanding, usually lasting 45 minutes for the resistance workouts and up to 90 minutes for Yoga X (my least favorite workout of all time).  Here's a sample of the program:

Weeks 1-3
Day 1 - Chest and back (lots of different kinds of push ups and pull ups).
Day 2 - Plyometrics (very difficult for me; I never could do every rep of every exercise).
You do all these exercise for 30 seconds...twice.

Day 3 - Shoulders and Arms (lots of curls, presses, and extensions)
Day 4 - Yoga X
Day 5 - Legs and Back (lunges, calf raises, etc.)
Day 6 - Kenpo X (kickboxing, much more fun and a better workout with my Torso Bob)
Day 7 - Rest or X Stretch

What are you going to do next? Insanity (this time I'm borrowing it from a friend for FREE!)

Would you recommend this to others? Yes, if you are looking to build muscle/strength, or if you need the structure and "just show up and do what Tony says" ease.  It worked for me because I didn't know what to do, and I would take too much time on breaks and between sets, thus sabotaging the success of the workouts.  The variety of moves pushed me and made me try new things, difficult things, but things that produced results.

P90X was the first step down a long road to health and fitness.  The best thing I can do for myself is to clean up my diet and keep exercising.  I'm taking two weeks off in between P90X and Insanity to give my body time to rest and recover.  I'll take my final fitness test next Saturday, and I'll post the results here.

19 May 2014


[NOTE: This was found in my Drafts folder from last August.  I'm publishing it now but it refers to the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School)

I've been thinking a lot since last Friday's terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I have also been reading about great acts of heroism and bravery shown by teachers and staff at the school, whereby dozens of children were saved by teachers willing to put themselves in between their precious students and a killer.  As a Christian, it's difficult to wrestle with the questions that inevitably come in the aftermath of tragedy, especially this kind of tragedy, when innocent, defenseless children were cornered and murdered in such a frightening way.  Along with millions of others, I pray for the families of the victims.

With the questions comes finger pointing and politicking.  It's complicated as a Christian to balance practical matters (protecting your family from home invaders, for example) with the teachings of Scripture ("love your enemies" and "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well."*).  It's tragedies like this that make anyone revisit the difficult questions that have haunted countless Christians through the ages.

I am disturbed when people try to offer up simplistic (and often unintentionally hurtful) answers like, "God just wanted those precious children in Heaven sooner than we thought" or "there's a reason for everything."  Sometimes, in this world God created, people make terrible choices and the rest of humanity suffers the consequences.  God didn't cause Sandy Hook just so he could have those children in Heaven; that's a disgusting thought (and theologically stupid: God is omnipresent - those children are already in his presence on earth).

What I have to remember in moments like this is that God has the final word on history.  Scripture is clear that God will punish those who disobey him and those who harm children.  Criticizing God for not "doing something" about Sandy Hook is like criticizing J.K. Rowling for not resolving the Harry Potter series in The Prisoner of Azkaban.  It's not over yet, and God doesn't forget anything.  We shouldn't attach conditions on our belief in or love for God that say "God must resolve every tension, every mystery, every tragedy, immediately, visibly, and obviously before I will believe in/love Him."  Faith waits in frustrated assurance that God will not forget and will deal justly with all.**

* = I did not put "you shall not kill" in this example because that's not a proper translation of Exodus 20:13.  If the commandment was meant to prevent all killing, then God probably shouldn't have commanded the Israelites to kill, as he did on several occasions (Joshua 10:40, for example).  This commandment is against murder, premeditated killing of another human.

** = the truth is, we don't really want God to deal justly with all, at least not me, because that means we all go to Hell.  Thank God that through Jesus, he treats me the opposite of what I deserve!  Thank God his love is not fair!

16 February 2014

Is "bigot" the new "sinner"?

It seems that, at one point in history, you could tell someone that they were doing something wrong and they'd either agree, try to justify their behavior, or would apologize and quit doing it.  It seems that, anymore, you can't tell someone that they're doing something wrong.

For example: if you say that sex outside of marriage is wrong, then prepare to be called a prude, archaic, outdated, judgmental, and so on.  Now if you say that homosexual sex is wrong, then dear Lord are you going to be labeled: homophobe, bigot, intolerant, hateful, Nazi, KKK, and many other awesomely negative things. 

The irony here is that those who disagree with me (when I say that homosexual sex is wrong) are often the ones to escalate the hateful rhetoric.  I'm just saying what the Bible says pretty clearly.  It doesn't mean I hate gays; just because hetero sex outside of marriage is wrong doesn't mean I hate those people either.  They all need Jesus.  This makes me a hateful bigot, so they say. 

Does anyone else here see the irony, the hypocrisy behind saying, "you can't label people, you label-label, labeled, label label LABEL!"  I call someone a sinner (we are all sinners, by the way).  They call me a bigot.  I believe that "bigot" is the equivalent of "sinner" for the nonreligious. 

How does this advance the discussion?  How does this make them tolerant, open-minded, and accepting of all?  Because it's not tolerant (b/c they don't really want opposing views to exist), it's not open-minded (b/c they're not really interested in hearing the other side), and it's not accepting of all (b/c anyone who disagrees with them is evil, even though there really is no right and wrong, so they say).  This seems to be where decades of debate has led: if a gay person disagrees with me, I can respect that.  If I disagree with a gay person, I'm a hate-filled bigot.  Our society doesn't let you say anything is "wrong" anymore, except for saying that it's wrong to say that something is wrong.

17 December 2013

Why I Suddenly Dislike Promise Keepers

I received a letter the other day from Promise Keepers, an end-of-the-year-gift-appeal letter to be exact.  The envelope in which it came was a zoomed-in section of this photo, taken by a pastor with his iPad at the Cedar Falls PK conference this year (which I attended with several men from my church, and you can see me in the photo below).  The photo was intended to be just a photo of a bunch of guys worshiping Jesus together at this men's rally.  However, after taking a closer look, the photographer noticed that in the center of the stage there appeared to be an angel manifested, right there in the center of the worship band.  PK picked up the photo and has gone berserk with it, using it for all kinds of publicity purposes, including this year-end fundraising letter and the envelope in which it arrived.

Here is the photo (with a terrible Photoshop job done by me to show you where I am in relation to the "angel"):

 The caption to the photo is a quotation from Matthew 1:20 (it's actually a part of Matthew 1:20): ". . . and the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. . .").  It appears again at the top of the letterhead with faux handwriting font pointing to it saying, "This is not a doctored photo!"  The entire appeal letter is focused on this "appearance" of the angel at the Cedar Falls conference, including this section of text:
God uses angels as messengers to convey phenomenal news.  And when God visits, the people feel extremely blessed.  Promise Keepers was blessed to receive a very special message from an angel this year.  We've suspected that angels joined us in worship, but now we have the photo. . . . men worshipped loudly, forcefully, vigorously, and whole-heartedly!  That's when the angel appeared, during the praise and worship as men confessed at the altar.
Here's THE MESSAGE that we believe God was sending through that angel - He is pleased with our depth of spiritual pursuit.  He is pleased with our focus on the Word of God.  He is pleased with the impact of the ministry of Promise Keepers. (all spelling, punctuation, and emphasis original)

The letter is "signed" by PK President and CEO, Raleigh B. Washington, and by Chariman Emeritus/Founder Bill McCartney.  I would hope that, like Mark Driscoll, they themselves did not write this but have a team of marketing people to write it.  At least then they could claim ignorance.

Several things drive me nuts about all this.  (btw, this is serving as a place to organize my thoughts before I write PK a letter of complaint)  One is their taking Matt. 1:20 out of context completely and using it in conjunction with the "angel" photo for fundraising purposes.  That verse describes what happened to Joseph after he learned that Mary was pregnant before they had been together as husband and wife.  Joseph planned to divorce her quietly, but an angel appeared to him in a dream to tell him the truth and to tell him not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife.  It was a one-time, unique appearance for a specific purpose, and it has nothing to do with what happened in CF.  Additionally, PK has never (to my knowledge) played it safe with this image with a statement such as, "while this is probably a well-timed capture of a lens flare + reflection of the stage light on the floor, if it is an angel, then . . . cool!"  From the moment this photo was made public, PK has loudly and carelessly flaunted it as proof of angels at PK conferences and has commented on their facebook page with numerous other Scriptures taken out of context because they have the word "angel" in them (such as Psalm 34:7: "The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.").  They have done nothing to prevent a hyperbolic, superstitious, blind acceptance of an obvious photographic light effect.  Talk about a confirmation bias!

 They have embarrassed themselves and Christians in general who also will fight tooth and nail for its "obvious" angelic reality.  Listen, people: I was there.  I had a great line of sight to the entire stage.  There was a moving spotlight behind the keyboardist (under the arrow) that was shining in the direction of the photographer.  You can see similar lights (an orange-ish and a pink-ish one as you move from right to left at that same height) on the stage, some of which are the same color as the "angel"!  (For example, look just above the guy in the orange shirt by the American flag) Why does that fact escape these people?  And why would an angel only appear in one man's camera, when there were undoubtedly hundreds of other photos taken about that same time but from different angles?  If there were an angel (one that, apparently, can only be seen by cameras), why aren't there more photos?

Here is a photo I took during the Lincoln Brewster concert (he used the existing lights and did not set up his own):


 To the right, you can see one of the swivel lights on top of a large box.  That is the light shining in the photog's eyes in the angel pic.  Yes, the lights can change color.  (You could almost argue that the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove in this photo, right behind Lincoln Brewster at center stage!)

I suppose what irks me the most is the combination of the fact that the angel photo is easily explainable as a case of strong lights+perfect timing/angle, and the fact that PK is using this for pure propaganda, now including a shameless "you should give us money because, look, an ANGEL appeared (to one person's iPad) at one of our conferences (not any others), which clearly can mean only one thing: God endorses PK's mission."

Do I believe that PK is a good ministry to men?  Yes.  Do I believe that they should keep doing conferences?  Yes.  Their message is absolutely right: be the man God called you to be - love, cherish, serve your wife and family, be there for them, be sexually pure, be bold for Christ.  But do I believe they should advertise, promote, and fundraise with this photo?  Absolutely not.

It's desperate.

It's ignorant.

It's embarrassing.

It's manipulative.

PK, you can do so much better than that.  I'm really disappointed.

04 November 2013

Abortion and the argument of implantation

I've heard pro-abortionists argue that the embryo is not a person until it implants itself on uterus.  The argument generally goes like this: the process from conception to implantation on the wall of the uterus takes several days.  Beyond that, some 20-50% of embryos miscarry prior to implantation.  Once the embryo does implant, it sends out hormones to “signal” its attachment which also ceases the mother’s menstrual cycle.  Therefore, it is ridiculous to think that every embryo is a person.  Therefore, the embryo is not a person.

In response to this decisive moment being the moment when personhood is achieved, we can say a couple of things.  First, if it were universally agreed upon that personhood begins at implantation, then there would hardly be any abortions except for the spontaneous kind, which are also known as miscarriages.  However, personhood is not dependent on other people (in this case, the mother’s body) being aware of it by the hormone signal it produces.   Most people in the world are not aware that I exist; am I therefore not a person?

Second, the essence of the nature of the embryo is not dependent on how many of its kind survive.  Just because a large number of pre-implantation embryos do not survive does not change what it is in its essence.  Those that do miscarry die natural deaths are not being aborted in the same way as is what’s being debated in our country these days.  By the way, 100% of all people die.

Are you really saying that the potentially millions of frozen embryos are real people, just like you and me, with rights?  If so, why aren't you trying to save them?

Yes, I'm saying that.  It doesn't matter how incredulous you feel about the logic of it; what matters is whether the embryo is a person, and in every way that matters (i.e., the embryo is genetically distinct and alive) it is.  This is why I'm against embryonic stem cell research and am alarmed at the cavalier way fertilization treatments make dozens of embryos without ever intending to implant them all.  A pro-life couple can use IVF if they're willing to eventually implant all the embryos made for them (not necessarily all at once) and at least give them the same chance at development as a naturally-conceived embryo.

And in the way in which I'm capable, I am trying to save them by trying to change people's minds about what embryos are: very small, undeveloped human beings, but human beings nonetheless.

The argument of implantation fails to be valid because it defines one's essence by other people's awareness of its existence, and it arbitrarily assigns personhood to whether most of its kind survive.