Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I have read back over my goals for 2012 to remind myself of what I intend to do to make 2012 my healthiest year ever. For the most part, as the quarter pole of 2012 nears, I feel I've done an acceptable job. Except for one thing. There was one item on my "mental health" goal list that I'd forgotten all about it. As I read it, it screamed one word to me: "FAILURE!" (Not "good effort" or "nice try" or "needs improvement". Those words would have painted a too-rosy picture of my actual behavior.)

What have I failed at? Let me quote myself: "To take one day off per week and do things I find refreshing on that day." FAILURE!

So, here we go. "Hello. My name is Dave and I'm a workaholic." I exhibit all the classic signs of an addiction to work. I think about work issues almost all the time. I have a hard time ending my work day, even with my self-imposed "no work after 10 pm" rule. I find myself, all too often, being emotionally detached when talking to family and friends because work issues are on my mind. And I can't take a day off. Check that. I won't take a day off. Even when commanded by God to do so. (I had a hard time typing that...)

God hates laziness. Time is short and the stakes are high. When people are unwilling to routinely make sacrifices and put forth their best efforts to become the kind of people God wants them to be and produce the fruit that God wants them to produce it is unloving, irresponsible and self-centered. This is true, and I can preach it all day long. But as for the proverbial ditch on the other side of the road...

God hates workaholism. People are finite and their energies are limited. When people are unwilling to let go of their work and take time to refresh themselves, when they believe that the secret to success is more dependent on their effort than God's blessing, then they are proud, irresponsible and self-centered. I don't like preaching that message. Too convicting.

I'd rather burn out that rust out. God, however, finds both options unacceptable. He would probably say something like, "How about burning brightly for a long time?" (His questions always have a way of opening our hearts and bringing enlightenment all at the same time.) Taking a day off is one way we honor God with our work. It helps us to stay healthy and productive. It helps keep us from worshipping our work and helps us to keep our priorities right. Workaholics like me need to surrender to these realities and live accordingly. Please pray that I will.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Ups and Downs on the Path to Health

I, along with my staff-mates, have committed to making 2012 our healthiest year ever. This encompasses physical health, mental health and spiritual health. Having been on this path for two and a half months, there is one thing that has really crystalized for me. The path to health in every area of personhood looks exactly alike: it is filled with ups and downs that make it impossible to judge progress by looking at single snapshot in time.

Physical health, mental health or spiritual health – it doesn’t matter; the same dynamic is present in them all. Progress and setback. On the wagon, off the wagon. Practice disciplines, miss the disciplines. Good days, bad days. If you look at any one day, or week, or cycle, you can woefully misjudge how you are doing. We get too rosy or too gloomy of a picture.

The only way to accurately assess yourself, to discern how you are actually doing, is over a longer period of time. It’s not so much whether I weigh less than last week, or do a better job at controlling my thoughts and emotions that I did yesterday or whether I have more energy for the things of God today than I did two weeks ago. Because of the up and down nature of life, I can end up thinking I’m doing way better, or way worse, that I actually am doing.

It is better to see that I weigh less this month than last month; or that I controlled my thoughts and emotions much better in a certain situation than I did in a similar situation 3 months ago; or that I am more excited about God and His work than I was last year.

Healthy practices, which lead to healthy outcomes, take time to work their magic. We must respect this reality and persevere in doing them. We cannot allow ourselves to become despondent when we hit the inevitable slump. We can’t grow weary and quit because we haven’t seen the progress we desire. We can’t make sweeping judgments based on slices in time.

I am a “work hard today, see results now” kind of guy. I am inherently impatient and I naturally find myself emotional tied to this day, this week, or this event. I am learning to be more long-term oriented when it comes to my health, and not just my leadership. The Scriptures say that righteous practices will produce healthy results “at the appropriate time”. (Galatians 6:9) The appropriate time is, it appears, never right away. It is down the road. And this requires that we persevere in doing the healthy thing. Our bodies, minds and souls will reap the rewards if we do.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Learn As You Go

I am, by nature, a strategist. I love establishing goals that matter and devising a game plan that holds the promise of accomplishing those goals. (In fact, "Strategic" is one of my top themes in the StrengthsFinders evaluation.) The challenge with my make-up is not falling in love with the strategy nor being married to the goals.

Every goal, no matter how noble, and every strategy, regardless of how well thought-out it is, needs to be amended when it collides with real life. It is the ability to know what needs amending, and when to amend, that often separates those who succeed from those who merely try hard to succeed. You have to be optimistic and tenacious, not naive and stubborn. (I think the difference between these comes down to wisdom.)

So what does this have to do with my fitness goals for 2012?

First, I am scheduled to have surgery on April 16. I am having a hip resurfacing procedure done (an alternative to a complete replacement, that promises a full return to all activity.) As I am learning about the rehab process, it is clear that my goal to run a 5K this year is simply not wise, so needs to be abandoned. (It is recommended that a returning to running after this procedure happen after a full year.) A replacement goal is to be the most faithful rehab patient ever and put myself in a position to return to all my previous recreational and athletic pursuits in 2013.

Second, as I practice my spiritual health goals I am feeling the urge to journal. What this means is that I am going to read and pray a little less and add journaling to the time I have allotted for cultivating my spiritual health. After all, the big goal is becoming more healthy spiritually, not merely reading and praying for "X" amount of time.

When goals and strategies need amending, don't look at it like failure. It's not. It's adjusting a plan to the demands of reality, which is what enables success to happen.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How Do You Know If You're Spiritually Healthy?

How do you know if you're spiritually healthy? Good question, isn't it?

Our church staff has been discussing spiritual health. We began by posing an elementary question: "What are the indicators of spiritually healthy person?" What do you look for to assess your fitness in this most critical area of personhood? (And though it is a theologically correct answer, we needed something more specific than "being like Jesus"!)

As I've been pondering this question, I thought I'd share my thoughts. Here's my preliminary list of spiritual health indicators:

1. I have good energy for engaging in Christian service
2. I am optimistic about my life and my endeavors for God
3. I am exhibiting Christ-like qualities in my relationships, and am growing in my ability to express those qualities.
4. I have a strong desire to spend time with God (prayer, Bible reading, meditation, etc.)
5. I am emotionally moved by the things that Jesus cared about.

So, what do you think? I'd love to hear your comments and see the things you would put on this list!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The lifestyle I Want to Live

"You're an ideal candidate for this procedure." The words were comforting, and a little scary, too.

My first recollection of a problem was pain in my right hip during a family vacation in December of 2006. Increasing pain and decreasing mobility, in spite of my many self-diagnoses and rehab efforts, led to a doctor's visit in 2010. That led to an X-ray, which led to an MRI, which led to a real diagnosis: severe osteoarthritis of the right hip. We're talking no cartilage left, bone on bone arthritis. It was due to an abnormality in the way my hip socket formed (not due to an active, runners lifestyle!)

I've lived with it for two years since then. About a year and half ago I talked to a surgeon about it. He wanted to do a full replacement and told me my running days were over. I told him they weren't. He insisted they were, and that's when our relationship ended. You see, I'm not interested in merely getting through the rest of my life pain-free. I'm interested in a certain quality of life, and that quality involves mountain climbing and tennis and golfing with my boys and playing ball with my grandson and, yes, running. Running is therapy for me; it's time to meditate and problem-solve and strategize and dream and listen to podcasts or music and pray and just feel alive and strong.

So I started researching hip replacements and came across a relatively new procedure that resurfaces rather than replaces the hip. It has an excellent track record. Candidates must be under 60, have good bone and muscle health, and engage in an active lifestyle. This procedure promises that you can return to all the activities you enjoyed before surgery - yes, even running. So I found a surgeon in our our area who is certified in this procedure and set up an appointment. Turned out he didn't accept my insurance. I set up another appointment with a certified surgeon in Grand Rapids. He moved. I found another surgeon in Battle Creek. I set up the appointment. That appointment was today.

He looked at my MRI. I was given a pair of really cool hospital shorts to wear so he could take another X-ray. (Pictorial proof is offered of this.) He gathered my history. We talked. And then the words "You are an ideal candidate for this procedure." I was excited at the prospect of being able to return to a fully active lifestyle. And frankly, a little anxious at the thought of surgery. But I was thrilled at the prospect of a return to the kind of life I want to lead; I was hopeful that I could be fully me again.

On the drive home, it occurred to me that it is so very easy to be talked into a lesser lifestyle than the one we really want to live. We "settle" when we don't have to, because we are told (sometimes by "experts") that we can't have the life we really want. We're been hurt too bad or we've sinned too much or we have been abused too greatly or we didn't get what we needed or we just got a bad break or whatever. Nay-sayers are everywhere.

Never settle. Keep searching. Keep working. Find people who will be your ally; who will believe in you and the life you want. And then, when you find a path, take it. It will be exhilarating and scary and hopeful all at the same time. But it will lead to you to the life you want. For with God, all things are possible.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mind Control

I'm a little over a month into my work at making 2012 my healthiest year ever in body, mind and spirit, and I've discovered something interesting about myself. I thought working on my physical health would be the hardest thing for me to do and that my efforts at spiritual health would meet the most resistance (from internal and dark spiritual forces.) My mental health is something I pretty much figured was good and would stay that way without much effort. Turns out, it's been my biggest challenge so far.

No, I'm not delusional, nor do I suffer from depression or panic attacks. But the absence of such "mental illnesses" doesn't signal that I'm mentally fit any more than the absence of cancer means I'm physically fit.

Mentally fit people manage their thoughts and emotions appropriately so that they can fulfill life's responsibilities and handle life's challenges successfully and joyfully. I always thought I did a good job of "managing thoughts and emotions". But now that I'm paying closer attention to it, I realize that there are times when I do a poor job of it. Like...
  • when I'm tired
  • when I don't feel like I'm getting much done
  • when I've had an tense or unpleasant interaction with someone
  • when things aren't working out like I want them to
I'm grateful for what closer attention to my "mental fitness" is teaching me. As I practice the disciplines that bring better mental fitness, I trust that I will improve at these critical times. I think it is appropriate to take this issue seriously, especially given these life-giving admonitions we find in Scripture:

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:4,5 NIV)


"Above all else, guard your heart (where your thoughts and emotions come from), for everything you do flows from it." (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

How mentally fit would you say you are?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

You Are Here

No doubt you've seen the big State maps that are found at highway rest stops, or the store layout maps found behind plastic at the local mall. There is usually a red mark or arrow accompanied by the word "You Are Here". The simple logic is that if you want to find out how to get to where you want to go, or how long it might take, you need to know where you are right now. You need bearings and directions.

So today I found the "You Are Here" mark in my physical health. I had a basic health assessment done and I've received the numbers back. (Which, by the way, accomplishes one of my fitness goals for 2012!) In an effort to be transparent, I'll share these numbers with you.

Weight: 180 This is up 15 pounds from my running days and 25 pounds from my marathoning days. (Ouch!)
Body Fat: 21% This is in the average range for men my age and only 1% away from being "Above Average" on the good side.
Pulse Rate: 70 This is in the good range. Not bad since I had 3 cups of coffee before the assesment! I've checked my pulse in the morning before getting out of bed and it's usually between 62 and 65.
Oxygen Uptake: 43 This puts me in the "Excellent" range in aerobic fitness.
Blood Pressure: 127/81 This puts me just above normal (120/80) and into what is considered "pre-hypertensive".
Cholesterol: Total cholesterol 177/HDL 54 This puts me in the "Desireable" range on both counts. My Total to HDL ratio is 3.3, with 4.4 or lower being considered good.

So what do these numbers mean? First, they mean that I can be glad that I'm in decent shape. The numbers say that I've done a reasonably good job of taking care of myself; that the work I've put in over the years has paid off. Second, they say that I need to get to work on a couple of things: lowering by percentage of body fat and my blood pressure (and that I would do well to lower my total cholesterol level a little, too.)

The good news is that there are simple ways to accomplish these things. I need to be more consistent in making healthy food choices. I need to cut my daily caloric intake a little. And I need to maintain my exercise routine. There's my road map.

In about 6 months I'll have these numbers checked again. When I do, I'll let you know how they have changed. Hopefully, they will reflect progress in my areas of need.

Oh, one more thing. Do you know where you are?