Traversing the Dark Valley of Loss Part 1

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“The Lord is my shepherd I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23

The above bible passage means a lot to many people, it is highly used in funerals to bring comfort to the living.  It was also my grandmother’s favorite bible passage. This is not a death passage, it’s all about living life to it’s fullest.  I have found myself in a depression, one in which began two years ago and I am now just getting out of.  It has hit me so hard that I have stopped writing and have stopped running.  These are two of my most positive solitude’s.  I have put off writing this blog for weeks, and am finally doing it.  Loss is probably one of the most difficult trials we can go through.  Some people never recover from it.

I lost one of my best friends 12 years ago and his loss was enough to put me deep into a depression that would take years to get me out of.  I was eating myself to death, and I finally got some much needed positivity entering my life and lost 242 pounds to my surprise.  I found running and writing, and continued on these awesome positive paths, until two years ago when I lost two friends a week apart.  One was an incredible man that was one of my greatest cheerleaders in losing my weight and the father of the awesome friend and nurse that helped me lose the weight.  He was one of the greatest prayer warriors I have ever known and has influenced me to take my prayer life to the next level.  The other friend was a complete inspiration to me while I was losing weight.  She had battled cancer for so long and got it to remission, to get it back in the worst form.  Her husband and she were personal trainers who were out of shape and decided to get fit and began helping people with their fitness.  That fact inspired me to get into the business as well.  The loss that has been so hard was my best friend, who even stood up with me during my wedding, died of pneumonia a couple of months ago.  This shook me to my very foundation.  It also made me realize 90 pounds later that I have an issue and it’s called depression.  I want to speak to the idea of walking through the dark valley that is having loved ones lost, they are gone, and we must keep moving.  We cannot allow depression or survivor’s guilt to destroy the right paths God has for us.

There are five different stages to grief; the first is to deny the reality of the situation.  The second stage is anger for the one who died and left us.  The third stage is bargaining, or the if factor; if we were there, if he did this, if he could have done that.  The fourth is depression and sadness where most people have a hard time getting past.  The last stage is acceptance and is where we need to end up, but sadly a lot have a hard time getting to this point.  I’m going to focus on traversing the pain which is what Psalm 23 is all about, continued living in the face of death.  God cannot take this pain away; just like you cannot turn off the love for the person lost, we have to go through it and deal with it and learn from it.

The first part of this passage is the most comforting thing we can realize and that is the Lord is my shepherd I lack nothing.  The roles of the shepherd are to keep the flock together, keep the flock safe, keep the flock on the right paths, and to keep the flock strong.  The only the role of the flock is to respond to the shepherd.  God keeps us together as long as we are receptive to His deity and His great love for us.  It’s a positive response in knowing that God is there doing great things and planning good for us.  The positive in pain is God turns the pain into prosperity if we get past the dark valley.  Let’s be honest, loss breaks us apart and leaves us an emotional mess, but it’s understandable, it’s the cycle of life.  Staying there is the problem, and God if we allow Him, can turn the tables on our grief and get us to the last step of acceptance.

The next thing God does as our shepherd is He keeps us from harm.  Pain seems to be at the onset harm, but it’s not, it’s a learning experience, it’s how we learn to respond to the negatives that will pop up during our lifetime.  God never promised a rose garden and sunny skies all the time.  He said we would have trials and tribulations in this life.  I have older clients that I deal with during the week, they are learning that to keep the digression of muscle loss they have to keep moving and experience the pain that exercise can bring.  The pain they experience the next day or so are little minute muscle tears that heal up and make stronger muscles.  It’s the same thing with emotional pain, we get stronger if we continue in God’s word and trust Him.  The shepherd is going to lead us to the right path that doesn’t cause harm, it may be painful, but we grow.

This leads to the next point and that is to keep into God’s word, do not disconnect from God with your pain.  Stay on His path He has set for you.  If you have a dream, keep on that dream, don’t let this stop you.  Sure, you have to take time to morn, which is so important to cry and grieve over someone you loved.  Don’t just grieve and leave God out of the experience.  Stay on the path, God is guiding us through.

If we allow God to keep us together, keep us from harm because we continue on His path, we will become stronger.  Part of overcoming barriers is to learn from them and to become stronger as we go through them.  I’m not saying if we allow God to do His work in our life that we will not experience the pain of loss, I’m saying we will be stronger as we go through the next one.  As we live longer we will experience loss more and more.  Like I said it’s the cycle of life, but it doesn’t mean we have to stop living.

If we allow God to be the great shepherd and keep us together, keep us safe from harm, keep us on the right path, and make us stronger because of it, we will lack nothing.

Is there someone you recently lost that you would like to mention in the comments below, I would love to hear about how great they were and still are?

© [David Howard], [David’s Body Temple] 2016

Leaps of Faith vs Steps of Faith

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22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.  Matthew 14:22-36

I’m at a crossroads not a chasm; there are obstacles in the road, no cliffs to leap.  If there is a cliff or a chasm in the road to my future then a bridge needs to be built.  In talking to a godly friend and searching the Bible, I have come to the conclusion that the term “leap of faith” is really impetuousness in disguise.  The best example I can come up with for a leap of faith is the above verses.  This all began with a tweet I shared with a close friend and she gave me her take on it which is much more biblical than the idea I was trying to convey in my positive tweet.  Here is my tweet:  “The path of God begins with small steps and ends with big leaps of faith.  Prayer, patience, timing, and boldness go with those leaps.”  The term “leap of faith” came into being by the Danish philosopher Soren Kieerkegaard.  Not to diminish his work in any way, I don’t completely agree with the term “leap of faith” anymore.  Kieerkegaard’s ideas stem from a religious perspective that can be clouded by human judgement.  I agree that there are leaps of faith and the biblical example above is the best one I can find.  I want to break down this set of verses to show that a leap of faith is not really a good path to take to get to the other side or what turn you need to make in a decision.

Let me start by saying my crossroads is make a major decision of letting go a part time job in order to go full time into my personal training business.  I feel I am limited in doing both and that to be effective in one, I need to let go of one.  My purpose is to help people with their fitness and nutrition that have them sick and in a bad condition.  It’s a no brainer to which job has to go, but when to let go is what the decision is.  Peter is at a crossroads in the above verses, should he get out of the boat or not?  Instead of a leap of faith, we should be calling these steps of faith.  Steps of faith as my tweet above says begins with prayer.  Peter asked Jesus if it was Him; tell him to come out of the boat.  Jesus told him to come.  That is not unlike our prayer today, Lord is this you, is this what you want me to do.  When we have a clear yes, then we need to make a step and not a leap.  Peter without thinking, got out of the boat and headed toward Jesus.  Good job Peter, it looks like you are on the right path and you are doing great.  The first step of faith is prayer, Peter had that right.

The next step of faith is patience.  Peter without thinking got out of the boat, guess what, when he saw the wind on the water, he began to sink.  Not a quality leap by any means, he did not take time to think out what he was doing, he just did it.  When God has a calling in your life I am not saying sit and wait and see what drops, you do have to take action, but guarded action.  You have to have patient steps or you will see the wind and the water, then you will be falling and failing.  That brings us to our next step.

Pace, we have to keep pace with God.  Steps of faith should be paced with God, leaps are the fast track to a watery grave.  When God gives us a green light it’s not always going to happen right away.  Hope is a good example of that; we have the hope of the future.  A leap is hopeless and carelessness in action.  Keeping pace with God might mean building a bridge to get to the other side.  It takes time.  Life is a marathon and if you want to finish the race you have to go your pace, not those in front of you.

The last step of faith is poise.  There is a point in the walking in faith process where we need to have courage and confidence.  Poise is knowing who you are in Christ, and in knowing this, having courage and confidence in your decision.  This only comes with prayer, patience, and pacing.  Peter saw wind, water, and waves and lost his focus on Jesus.  A leap is our own effort to quickly get to where God wants us, which is wrong.  There is joy in the journey always.

Faith steps begin with prayer, patience, pacing, and poise.  Leaps are skipping the steps and making a rash decision that may be based on what God wants you to do, but shows you later when you fail that you should have prayed, been patient, kept the pace, and poise to finish strongly.

Are you at a crossroads, and have you leaped before looking and not built a bridge?

© [David Howard], [David’s Body Temple] 2016

Self-control In an Out-of-Control World

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I just finished eating my breakfast and reading my daily devotionals with my coffee and am once again reminded of the all-important self-control that we all should have in our lives.  The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Galatians in Galatians 5:22:

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Whether you believe in God or not the wisdom in these words is apparent.  Self-control has everything to do with that list of godly attributes.  At the start of a New Year we all have this tendency to make goals and resolutions with changes in mind for our lives.  This year the top 10 New Year’s resolutions and goals are (From staisticsbrain.com):

  1. Lose weight
  2. Get organized
  3. Spend less save more
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest
  5. Stay fit and healthy
  6. Learn something exciting
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others in their dreams
  9. Fall in love
  10. Spend more time with the family

What we need to understand in gaining self-control is it is never taught, caught, or given, but is a choice.  It’s a choice to be made every day and is the key to working out all 10 of the above goals you may have as well as those godly attributes.  Praying for self-control is great, but until you come to terms with your own choices that you make, self-control will be elusive.  I have some thoughts as to what can help us keep self-control in an out of control world.

One of the first tough things we have to face is change.  No one likes change, they hate it, that’s why they wait till the end of the year and say next year is going to be different so I will make these goals and resolutions.  We allow excuse to demotivate the change we need to have in our lives to enrich it.  Changing your choices is the most important thing you can do to have self-control.

The next idea is to have convictions.  Convictions are another way to have self-control, drawing lines in the sand and say I will not cross over this line no matter what happens.  It’s a positive way to be stubborn.  I love people who have convictions because they are easy to respect.  Reading God’s word every day is a sure fire way to get convictions in your life.

A final idea we should have for self-control is contentment.  We should be content with who we are, where we are, and what we want to become.  Contentment is not staying the same, but allowing that change to happen for the better.  It’s being comfortable in your choices.  Unhappiness is the opposite of contentment and is a big danger to not attaining self-control.  Unhappiness motives us in the most negative ways, we are not happy with who we are, where we are, where we are going.  We look at other people’s lives and wish we had them, when in reality those people still have the same issues we have.  Unhappiness makes unhealthy choices.  Contentment makes wise and awesome choices for the life you truly desire.

Having self-control in an out of control world is not easy and takes time to develop with the correct choices we make.  We will succeed in goals and resolutions when we live by allowing change to take place, living by healthy convictions, and being content with those great choices we make.  Don’t let the same old same old rule your life, or unhappiness to force unhealthy choices in the way you live.  What are some new choices you need to make to get you to self-control?

Charlie Mike So You Can Mike Charlie

Becoming a Navy SEAL: Lessons in Survival - Planet Wild

Navy Seals getting “wet and sandy” during training.

I occasionally listen to the Julian Michael’s podcast to get trainer tips from time to time. The show is fun and I learn some heathy things that she talks about on the show. One show in particular she started talking about the concept of Charlie Mike. She was going through a difficult time in recording her new show and came to a point where she didn’t like where it was going, but could do nothing about it. One of her cohosts who is a former Navy Seal gave her some great advice, he told her to Charlie Mike it. Charlie Mike is an acronym for continue mission. The Navy Seals are trained to continue the mission no matter how bad it’s going. This is a lesson we can apply to our own lives when some circumstance we come up against makes our safe simple circumstance we were hoping for get a little complicated. There are several viewpoints to our lives that we can use Charlie Mike to Mike Charlie, which is acronym for mission complete.
The first is our vocational life, what is your life work? We are at the most professional when we use Charlie Mike in our jobs. Just recently, I experienced a setback on a day I fully expected to be short, but it ended up being longer than anticipated. As a second job to help me as I build my business, I run inventories for a large third party inventory company. I was told that I was only to count the pharmacy part of the store, not the floor of the store. When I got there, I was told by the buyer that they were going to buy everything in the shop. I used Charlie Mike in this situation and came through it looking more professional. The test came when I let two auditors go because we were down to the last two areas and we were going to be too much on top of each other to count effectively. I let them leave and then was hit with 7 more boxes of drugs to be counted. Instead of complaining and getting angry, decided to keep on mission and finish the job. It worked; I was less stressed out and ended up with a perfect inventory rating after the job was done. It’s all in our choices.
The next viewpoint is our health life. Sometimes we get to a certain age and think that’s it, I can’t lose those pounds. That was the case with me. I thought that once I got in my forties, I would be stuck with the 449 pounds for the rest of my life. The truth is I was able to Charlie Mike it because that weight was killing me, literally. Fear can be a great motivator toward the courage we need to change. Although I think anyone, who wants to get fit because they want to and not because of the grim reaper is knocking at their door gets my full respect and they are more of an inspiration than what I had to do.
The final viewpoint is the most important and that is spiritual. Charlie Mike applies to our spiritual life as well. I am trying to build a personal trainer business and if there is one thing I am learning in God’s will is it takes time. Prayer and patience are two qualities we need for Charlie Mike to get to Mike Charlie. Prayer to God gets us through those tough times that we can have when life just happens; where circumstances can seem grim. Patience through these times can finally put away all the fears that can crop up as we go through them.
We can Charlie Mike it or continue the mission in these three aspects of our lives, with our vocation, our health life, and our spiritual life. Life is too short to allow anger, and fear to keep us from getting to mission complete or Mike Charlie.

© [David Howard], [David’s Body Temple], 2011-2015

Our Freedom, Our Flag, Our Patriotism

“The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth.”~Stonewall Jackson

“Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t carry just a piece of cloth to symbolize his belief in racial equality; he carried the American flag.”~Adrian Cronauer

“For me, the definition of a patriot is someone who is willing to constantly question the government; that’s what separates us from other countries”.~George Clooney

Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines a patriot as “A person who loves his country, and zealously supports and defends it and its interests.”  It’s amazing what we as a nation take for granted after over 200 years.  People have no concept of what a patriot is anymore.  The George Clooney quote is the perfect example of someone who has lost touch with what a real patriot is.  It took almost 100 years to free African Americans, and another 100 years after that to allow them to vote.  Our country though not perfect is learning what is important in human rights and racial equality.  Some voices are out there that will tell you different.  I think it’s healthy that we are removing Confederate flags from state and national areas.  I think it’s great we are digging up graves and moving Confederate generals who were KKK members and tearing down their statues.  I draw the line to go so far as to say the Confederate flag was symbol of hate.  General Stonewall Jackson was a true patriot that was defending his way of life just like anyone else would if he or she felt threatened.  He was not happy with slavery and even had a bible study with slaves before the war.  Not all Confederate soldiers became KKK members.  The civil war was not fought over just slavery as revisionist history people would have you believe, it was fought also because of the south being mostly agrarian and the north becoming more industrialized.  They also couldn’t agree on taxes, tariffs, and states’ rights verses federal rights.  Martin Luther King did fight against the government, but he was a patriot while doing it.  He talked about the Declaration of Independence in his great speech on Capitol Hill.  He was pointing out the hypocrisy that our government continued to support.  He died for what he believe, it was not to destroy America from within, but charging it, making it grow for the better.  That’s what a patriot does.  Let’s talk about the vision of the original patriots.

At the time, they needed a symbol of the freedom they sought, so they designed the flag that some say represents hate just as the Confederate flag does.

“The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.”

I found that quote on Flag.org.  The first part of the quote talks about white being the symbol of purity and innocence.  Our country, though we have made some poor decisions with leaders that were weak or wrong in their views, is still a force for good in the world.  WWI and WWII were great examples of wars that we needed to fight to keep our nation free.  There are other wars that in my own opinion that were purely political in nature.

The red stands for hardiness and valor.  Hardiness and valor are raw courage, courage that those patriots back in 1776 showed when they declared independence from England; they bucked the government.  Hardiness and valor is the raw courage a man named Martin Luther King had to point out what was wrong in our society.  Hardiness and valor is the raw courage our service men and women continue to show as they serve their country by going into harm’s way.

The blue signifies chief or leadership.  Yes, our leaders even though they make mistakes like everyone else are patriots.  They give up a lot to become our leaders, they are constantly in the public eye, constantly criticized, and questioned.  It’s a battlefield, look how many presidents have aged in just four years.  We don’t have to agree with them, in fact I am not a fan of any politician, I am a fan of people who want to serve our country in the best possible way, not cater to group; which unfortunately most of our leaders today do, on both sides of the isle.

The last part of the flag is the broad band above the stripes that represent vigilance, perseverance, and justice.  The patriot is vigilant, he or she preservers, and they are just.  These are the qualities that bring about the red; the raw courage.  They are the fuel for courage.  Perseverance keeps you motivated and moving forward.  Vigilance protects, is always observing and keeping a watchful eye.  Justice is doing what is right at the right time.

The flag is a symbol of honor, which brings out the best in America, not the worst.  It is the symbol of the patriot that wants a country that isn’t divided, but united.  Honor is love and respect, and if we have love and respect for one another then we will have a strong union that the white stripes of purity with the red stripes of courage with the blue union of leadership, and the band of perseverance, vigilance, and justice, can fly proudly for the patriots of this country.

© [David Howard], [David’s Body Temple], 2011-2015

A New Beginning

Like a new spring morning change is a good thing and a thing that makes you grow.  If you have been reading, my blog for some time you know I have hit some redundancy in it.  I love writing on spiritual matters and how God moves in our lives, but I also know that the focus of this blog was to be informative as far as fitness and nutrition.  The description has been changed to reflect this as well as the sub title.  I hope everyone who reads this blog will gain some knowledge on how to take care of his or her Body Temple.   Please comment on this and maybe some ideas that you would like me to cover in this new format.  Thanks for being awesome loyal readers.

© [David Howard], [David’s Body Temple], 2011-2015

Magnificent May: Goodness and Grace

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.  Saving is all his idea, and all his work.  All we do is trust him enough to let him do it.  It’s God’s gift from start to finish!  We don’t play the major role.  If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!  No, we neither make nor save ourselves.  God does both the making and saving.  He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”  Ephesians 2:7-10

Composite of my transformation from 449 lbs to 207 lbs.

Composite of my transformation from 449 lbs to 207 lbs.

I’m sitting here in Einstein Bros drinking coffee and blogging, and reflecting on the goodness and grace of God.  May is a symbolic month for me.  It was May, eight years ago that I started my weight loss journey with my awesome friend Lisa.  She helped me gain my weight loss goals and changed the way I live my life.  In the same month seven years ago, I learned how to run for the first time.  Two years ago, it was the month I received my Personal Training certification.  This year it’s the month I have my first client that my friend and business partner Lisa and I have together.  I have come full circle to this moment in my life.  It’s been a long road and still is a long road to get to where I want to be, but I will take the downs with the ups because my faith and character have been built on these.  May is a rebirth month; spring is in full bloom when May rolls around.  To me the spiritual significance is that May is the fifth month and the number five means God’s grace and goodness.  God has given me a lot of grace and lately a lot of goodness.  The verse that is quoted above is from the Message version of the Bible.  This is a famous salvation verse that is quoted with just verses 8 and 9, but I think 10 is so significant in the fact that we are created to do good works.  Let’s break down this verse in regards to God’s grace and goodness.

The first part of the scripture talks about God having us where He wants us.  Meaning he wants to shower us with grace and goodness.  He always desired to make it a continuous thing and He achieved it through what Jesus did on the cross.  My showering moment was eight years ago when I was dying from heart failure because my heart could not handle the girth that was around it.  Having Lisa, who at the time was my nurse, show me how to eat and begin an exercise program was the beginning of hard work and great blessing.  The choices I made allowed God to do his thing in a most powerful way.  When you make a step toward God, He always comes running.

The next statement that shows goodness and grace is salvation being God’s idea.  God loved us so much that He was willing to do anything to show us that love.  The major small step we make is with total trust and fulfilling faith.  My test of faith and trust to see God’s goodness and grace was learning how to run.  For me that was a major undertaking because when I have run in the past I had asthma to contend with.  So, with running, fear was what kept me from getting started.  Lisa gave me a great running program to begin with and it slowly over a month got me to running a straight 30 minutes.  I had to have total trust in God to begin running, and I am so glad, because now I have a fulfilled faith.

The next statement that we are going to look at is how salvation is a gift.  We cannot earn it through certain good merits; we don’t deserve what we are getting either.  God freely gave it to us when Jesus died on the cross.  The gift does not stop there; when we work on obedience to God, we find favor.  I found favor when I had enough money to take a class on Personal Training and get my certification to share my passion.

The last statement is we are created to do good works; salvation doesn’t depend on our good works.  As we saw in the previous point, it’s a gift.  Jesus is always first savior of our lives, then He becomes Lord of our lives when we start walking on the path He has set for us.  Doing the good works are the making Him the Lord part.  My path is for me to personal train people and help them get on their own path.  I find satisfaction and significance in doing this.

Coming full circle takes a lot of faith and trust and hard work.  We can do it if we know that God wants to shower us with goodness and grace, it takes faith and trust, it’s a gift, and we do good works so that God can do His good work in our lives and continue the favor and goodness and grace.