One Small Thing: Running a "Marathon"

The sticker is peeling off, and is becoming less true.

In "As Good as It Gets" Melvin Udall (played by Jack Nicholson) explains to his date how much he hates taking pills. Emphasizing the word hate, he tells her that he started taking a prescribed pill only because he wants to become a better man, for her sake.

Well, I hate running. I hate it almost as much as I hate asking for money. Picture Jack Nicholson telling you this in the gruffest of his voices:
"I hate running. Very dangerous thing, running. HATE. I'm using the word hate here about running. Hate."

Get the picture? Or do I need to paraphrase Jack Nicholson lines from:
  • "The Shining" ("I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just going to run..."); or,
  • "A Few Good Men" ("You don't want to run because deep down in places you don't like to talk about at parties..."); or,
  • "Batman" ("Haven't you ever heard of the healing power of running?"); or
  • "The Departed" ("Lot of people had to run for me to be me. You wanna be me?")?

If I hate running so much, why did I make it a goal to run 26.2 miles this month? (Of course, I mean as a total for this month, not an entire marathon at once. Let's not be silly.) And why did I pass that goal, and run 28.9 miles in July? (That's 110.7% effort, by the way.)

Because I need to be a better man, a more healthy man, for the sake of my family.

I am not training to run races, or to prove that I'm some kind of athletic stud. I just want to improve and maintain my health so I can live a full and fun life with my wife and kids, and so that I can carry out the ministry that God has for me. (Edit: I also want to get people to stop pointing out that I'm gaining weight.)

The Benefits of Exercise

We all know that sufficient exercise (along with a good diet) leads to weight loss. And we know that exercise strengthens the most important muscle in your body, your heart. And there are other benefits of exercise.

Exercise has been shown to reduce the effect of stress, by reorganizing brain structure. Active (versus inactive) mice are better able to control their reaction to a stressor.

Good health is not a matter of nature (good genetics) or nurture (how well you take care of yourself). Physical exercise also changes the expression of genes in fat cells. Therefore, exercise doesn't just burn fat; it also controls how (and how much) fat is stored.

Pressing On

Of all the goals that I am working on this year, the ones that I most need to continue with are those dealing with exercise and fitness. My family is my motivation.

And while our bodies may be designed for distance running, I still don't have to like it. I just need to do it.

August Small Thing: New Food Each Week  

For August, my "1 small thing" goal is to try a new food each week. Considering the variety of "soul foods" in Allendale, this shouldn't be too difficult.

How are your goals coming along? Let us know in the comments.


Remembering My Salvation

Growing up, I sorta' believed in God. But I figured if He actually was real, He wasn't involved in this world. Because if He was, surely He would have made Himself known. I needed proof, not just stories.

I saw others claim to believe in Jesus. As a whole, I saw no difference in their lives. Heck, I was living a more moral life than most of them.

But my brother was another story. He believed, and yet he seemed very different, changed. He made different choices; he exhibited more loved toward me.

However, I just thought, "That's good -- for him. I'm glad he changed. He needed to. But I'm getting along OK." If a story helped him do better, so be it. But I needed more than a belief in a fairy tale.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I lived at home -- going to school, working, working out for football, and spending time with the youth group at a church. I wasn't seeking Jesus; I was just looking for something to do.

I'll never forget Bradley K., who had just graduate high school. We weren't close friends, but since we lived in a small town, we knew each other well enough.

And I'll never forget the day he stepped out in faith to engage me where I was. He asked, "What do you think about Jesus?"

What a great question. I said that I wasn't sure He was really, and if He even existed, I don't believe in what the Bible claimed about Him.

This led to a summer-long dialogue between Bradley and I. We talked and read books together. I don't remember everything we said, but I remember that I felt comfortable asking questions and expressing doubts.

After one final late-night talk, I got up early to work out. After my 5 AM workout, I was in the shower thinking about all our conversations and all the books I read.

I didn't want to believe in Jesus. My life was going fine (or so I thought -- I couldn't imagine the life and hope I was missing). I wasn't even 100% sure that He was real, and that the Bible spoke truth.

But as a scientist, I don't go by 100% certainty. I go where the bulk of the evidence points. And I learned that the bulk of the evidence pointed to Jesus being God, living as a man, dying on a cross, and rising from the dead.

So, at 6 AM (after my 1-hour workout) on July 31, 1995, I prayed something like, "God, if You are real, I ask You to come into my life and change me. I want to believe in and follow You."

It was a big "if," and there were no fireworks. But this small prayer began a new journey of following Jesus.

And it all started with one simple, loving, and humble question from a friend:
"What do you think about Jesus?"

Related Links:
**image courtesy of ba1969 via

Developing Our Kids to Be Leaders

With two of our children nearing adolescence, we know that we are reaching a crucial stage in their lives. In the culture around us, the tendency is to extend adolescence much longer than the historical norm. This is not a healthy path.

We know that developing responsibility and facilitating independence are not learned overnight. With our kids, there have been hundreds of conversations, corrections, and teaching moments -- and there will be hundreds more.

The end goal for our kids is not just their ability to take care of themselves. They must also learn how to be blessings for others. Being a leader means taking burdens on one's own shoulders, in order to provide relief to others.

Parenting is about being a leader, and helping our children be leaders. Therefore, we must be sure to learn from leadership resources, not just parenting books and blogs. And the best leadership blog I have come across is by Michael Hyatt.

More specifically, I have been mulling over the principles he has outlined in The Five Levels of Delegation. The five levels are:
  1. Do exactly what I have asked you to do.
  2. Research the topic and report back.
  3. Research the topic, outline the options, and make a recommendation.
  4. Make a decision and then tell me what you did.
  5. Make whatever decision you think is best.

Delegation is hard for a worrisome control-freak like me, but it is crucial if I want to develop leaders, whether in the workplace or at home. And it's important that I help those under me (children or employees) increase in levels at an appropriate place. Move too slowly and they will develop unhealthy dependence, passivity, and frustration. Move too quickly and they will become discouraged and fearful.

The five levels listed can be seen as the continuum of moving our children from being under authority (through age 5 or 6) all the way to adulthood. Here are some ways that we have helped them develop as leaders and as contributing members to our family:

Of course, we are still learning in this process, so I'd love to hear from you in the comments: What are you doing to instill responsibility in your children?

Related Links: 

**image courtesy of Natalie Kolb via flickr

Parenting in the Lord

There are only two commands to parents in the entire New Testament:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
"Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

In Revolutionary Parenting in the Lord, Jessica Thompson points out that most Christians "have focused on the wrong parts of these verses."

She explains, 
"We have solely focused on what we are to do and forgotten what Jesus is about and what he has done. Without the “of the Lord” at the end of Ephesians 6:4, we would have no good news to give to our children. They would have no motivation for obedience, and we would miss out on sharing the joy of the gospel of Jesus with them."

The phrase "of the Lord" is as revolutionary today as it was in the first century. Many Christian parents do more behavior-modification than heart-focused discipleship. We have taught our kids to be "good," instead of pointing them to who Jesus is and what He has done.

Thompson gives examples of how we can raise our children in the instruction of the Lord, such as when they:
  • lie
  • steal
  • feel alone 
  • troubled by their sin 
  • feel friendless 
  • feel misunderstood

Be sure to read the full article.

Related Links:

The Constant Tides of Change

Does parenting ever feel monotonous to you? Of course it does!

Another diaper change. Another meal cooked. More pushes on the swing. Cleaning up yet another glass of spilled milk (don't cry over it). Getting them out the door for another day of school. Telling them for the 1254th time to say "please."

It feels like these routines will never end, doesn't it?

I was thinking about this earlier this summer when our family was at the beach. I was watching the waves come in and out. Over and over. At first, it looked like the same waves repeatedly washing up on the shore. And they looked no different than the waves I saw two years ago on the same beach, or any of the waves from any beach that I've ever been to.

But then I noticed something. The waves aren't the same. No two waves that crashed ashore were the same that morning. And no wave was exactly like any wave in the history of wave-kind.

The interesting thing about the waves and the tides is that they change the beach, and they are also changed by the beach. The change goes both ways, and nothing is ever the same again. The sandbar that I saw two years ago is still there, but is different in shape and size. It was changed a little bit at a time by the collective force of many similar, but unique, waves.

Likewise, when you do something for your kids one more time, or have to remind and teach of them something yet again, remember that no two moments are alike. Each time you lead them, you are changing them. And each time they change, you are changed as well.

Every moment matters. Every action or word changes them for a lifetime, even if ever so slightly.

As surely as the tides roll in and out, our kids are being changed before our eyes. And before you know it, this season that you're in will "wave" good-bye.

Affectionate Mothering

Have you ever wondered if you are being too hard on your children? Have you ever thought that every time you treat them harshly, you will leave a permanent emotional scar in their lives?

I know I have.

But I'm encouraged by a study of Mexican-American adolescents. The researchers concluded that negative effects of harsh discipline are softened by a loving mother. Contrary to a lot of current thought in our culture, "the use of harsh parental discipline does not automatically result in antisocial behaviour in the child."

In other words, spanking and other "strict" consequences could lead to negative behavior in children, but not so much if the general family environment is that of love. This is especially true when mothers are attentive and nurturing to their children.

Even during play time, mothers of young children can often be directive, correcting behaviors (such as telling the child to put the toy cow through the door of the toy barn, instead of its window). Directive behavior is not as damaging if the mother stays away from a negative and critical tone (see this study from Parenting: Science and Practice).

Want to explore this topic more? Check out these related posts:

Messed Up Families

Is your family perfect? Do you have completely harmonious family get-togethers? Was Leave It to Beaver based on your upbringing?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, do not read God's Mercy in Messed Up Families.

The rest of us, however, can be encouraged by Jon Bloom's words:

"Sin must be seen and powerlessness must be experienced before we really turn to Jesus and embrace his gospel. And offenses must be committed if gracious love is to be demonstrated. . . .

"What may be most needed is for our family to be a crucible of grace, a place where the heat of pressure forces sin to surface providing opportunities for the gospel to be understood and applied. And when this happens the messes become mercies. . . . 

"If your family is not the epitome of harmony, take heart. God specializes in redeeming messes."

Be sure to read the full article from Desiring God.

Happy Independence Day!

I hope you have a safe and relaxing and fun day.

And to add a little more fun, you may enjoy this "Honest Trailer" --

Want to spend an hour of laughing and not doing anything else productive? Check out more videos from Screen Junkies.

Favorite Tweets for June

Furman: The most beautiful campus in the south.

 In the last 5 weeks, we have gone from Allendale to Greenville to Allendale to Fripp Island to Allendale to Greenville to Allendale to Greenville.

Time for a little bit of rest. And time for a few of my favorite tweets from June.

From Others

@BackRowBaptistListening to little kids argue over a toy in the church nursery so I can gain a better understanding of politics.

@MattRogers_While many of my friends are leaving for the SBC in Houston, my wife and I are packing to head to Jamaica for our 10th anniversary. I win.

@eschneebergShout out to Fathers who care for, protect, nurture, train, teach, model right living, love, affirm their children

@PaulTripp:  God sent his Son as the ultimate stand in for us because as sinners there was no way we could help ourselves.

@plonkertons:  A passion for Him creates a compassion for them.

@KatieAHorton:  One day Jesus will return and all moments of terror over giant roaches will be no more. 

From Me

"The lessons you learn best are those you get burned by. Without the scar, there's no evidence or strong memory." Julien Smith (The Flinch)

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." -- William James 

5 kids from are excited to be on their way to camp! 

Even in darkness & chaos, the Spirit of God moves. (Genesis 1:2)