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.

the start of something new

asd539:

My niece Natalie wrote this very inspiring blog. I think it fits well on my blog site. Enjoy and feel free to comment. This is what I am all about.

Originally posted on mississippisunrise:

I’m starting this blog as a way to keep track of my thoughts. This new venture comes on the heels of my last week going through the Daniel Plan book by Rick Warren. I’ve learned an enormous amount and due to the fear of forgetting these things and slipping back into old habits I wanted a way to catalog all that I’ve learned. I realize now that God is going to teach me so much more (not only about my health) in the years to come and there’s no better time than the present to start this up. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to “market” my blog. Perhaps eventually I will direct others to read some of what I’m posting. I know God intends for me to share some things I’ve learned in an effort to help others. However, for now I’m keeping myself from being too critical…

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“Because You Are My Inspiration”

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ― Maya Angelou

It started out as a normal Saturday, except this Saturday, I was to meet a friend for a long 4-mile walk.  I hadn’t seen her in a few months and so we were going to catch up on things.  She has been my running buddy for the last two years so my plans were for a nice walk.  She then texted me Friday night and told me that she was unable to make it for Saturday, that she had some other things to do; which is not a problem for me because many of my friends live busy lives as I do.  So, I decided to take the walk anyway and spend some time with my awesome dog Buddy.  Buddy is a great running dog, but he needs to learn how to walk, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to do some loose leash training with him.  I parked my car at the Humane Society of Memphis and crossed the street to the path that leads into Shelby Farms Park.  They have been doing some major construction there to improve the grounds, so to get the mileage I was looking for I park there.  About 10 minutes later as we were entering the park Buddy and I see this woman running with one of those running strollers with her baby tucked away inside.  Me, being a personal trainer and someone who has overcome some major weight and health issues said: “You are doing awesome!”, as she passes by me.  I wasn’t sure if she heard or even understood me, we have a melting pot of different nationalities in Memphis.  Three miles later I see the same woman struggling up a hill with that stroller and I was so proud of her determination, so I yelled, “Wooo hoooo, you are so doing awesome!”, very enthusiastically.  Then the humbling experienced happened, she said, “That’s because you are my inspiration, I read that article about you.”  I was in total shock and as she passed by, I was able to get out a thank you.  She was referring to one of the three articles that were written locally about my 242-pound weight loss.  I don’t write this blog to show how great I am, I’m not.  I am nothing special, just someone that was greatly blessed by making one step of faith to rocket me into a positon of inspiration.  I made some of the rightest choices in my life for two straight years to lose all that weight.  When that woman said that to me I wanted to stop and cry, it meant a lot to know that I may have changed one person’s life for the better.  It doesn’t take much to inspire, all you have to do is lean a lot, learn a lot, love a lot to live a lot.

Leaning on God is where it all begins.  Leaning is steps of faith and trust that will find us God’s favor in our lives.  For me leaning was realizing that I did not have enough will power in myself to overcome all that weight.  I needed God’s intervention and I found it with some awesome people he put in my path that got me started.  I consecrated time every day to spend with Him as well.  Leaning made the most important part of my transformation, change on the inside.

The next is learning from God gives us wisdom.  I went to school on what I was dealing with.  I learned about the different causes of congestive heart failure.  I found that my enemy was myself and the poor eating choices I made, and the lack of exercise that I needed every day.  I also learned about God as I spent more time with Him.

Loving God, ourselves, and others is probably the biggest game changer in my life.  God wants us to put Him first in our lives.  Then He wants us to look in the mirror and love the creation that we see before us in a healthy way.  I’m not talking about a selfish love that only focuses on you and what you can get out of life.  I am talking about selfless love that asks what can I do to change my life and the life of others, what is my purpose in this life?  I want to continue to inspiring people to change by being a personal trainer and teaching them healthy way to live.

The last point is living your life to its fullest.  You can’t do that without point number three, loving.  Loving makes us life giving.  When we are life giving we are being like God, which is a good thing.  God always take a tragic situation and turns it around to be something of a blessing.  We have to look for it and expect it.  That’s how we should be in our lives, loving and living as much as we can, because life is short and hard, but we only make it harder if we allow ourselves to take every hardship as a negative experience.  I took my physical heart issue and turned it into a way to live a longer healthier life.  Always look for and expect the awesome to happen, when something bad comes around in your life.

Being an inspiration takes leaning on God, learning wisdom from God, loving like God, and living the abundant life God provides when we take Him into our lives.  I can’t guarantee that you will walk past someone and have them tell you what you did for them, but you will find out one day, that’s that treasure of heaven, all the souls you touched in your life, all the people you inspired.

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

Using Fear In a Leap of Faith

Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing.  They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land!  And if the lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us.  It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.  Do not rebel against the lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us!  They have no protection, but the lord is with us!  Don’t be afraid of them!”  Numbers 14:6-9

I’m sitting in a hospital surgical waiting room, waiting on my Dad to come out of surgery.  He fell and broke his ankle during the bitter winter this year.  He is 86 years old and is in great shape for his age.  I come from a family that lives long lives.  I try not to let worry or fear incapacitate me and keep me from God’s best for my life.  We all face giants, mountains, and giant mountains in our lives; you are not on God’s path if it’s smooth sailing all the time.  I wish can say life is easy, but if we think about it, do we really desire easy?  It’s nice to have a break occasionally. Discomfort builds character and sometimes God can amaze us as we realize the capacity of what we are able to do when we overcome giants and mountains.

I have blogged a lot on the subject of courage, but I have not blogged on fear as much.  Fear is the opposite of courage of course, but fear has a way of making courage happen.  Fear is the evil cousin to courage, seven times removed.  If used properly it can propel us into acts of courage that we never knew we had.  It can be a great influence in our lives, or suck the energy out of you.  It all depends on how you respond to fear and your choices.  In numbers Joshua and Caleb were faced with a dilemma, they saw Jericho as something that God could overcome, not something they themselves could overcome.  In most cases, the consensus is not always the right way to go.  Moses sent 12 spy’s out to look at what was to be faced.  10 returned with a scary negative report, Caleb and Joshua came back with a faith filled report.  They were not being just positive; God backed up their positivity.  Fear in control is courage.  I think we focus a lot on how to overcome fear, we don’t focus on how to use fear to bring us to courage.

The consensus of Israel were self-conscious therefore, they were incapacitated in their fear.  They were looking from a human perspective on what could be done, not a God perspective.  Joshua and Caleb were looking from a God-conscious and so they had control over their fear.  The first part of a leap of faith is to realize that God gives us the life.  He gives us the strength to use fear as a source for momentum.  A positive life-giving attitude is the most amazing way to live.  It puts fear in the correct perspective.

The next part of the leap is lift.  God-consciousness gives us the lift we need in the faithful leap.  The momentum we have is lasting to get us over the leap.  Joshua and Caleb were looking back at what God had done for them and how God saved Israel.  How quickly their faith was interrupted by unhealthy fear.  Faith gives us the momentum to maintain the leap.  When we are self-conscious, we have no wind in our sails.  Taking our focus off the source of our momentum will have us sinking like Peter.

God gives us the life.  He gives us the lift.  The last part of God-conscious is love.  Love from God and love back to God.  Gratitude and thanksgiving that overflows into others’ lives.  Unconditional love will get you to the finish line of faith.  I’m sure this is a different way for me to share this awesome truth, but for some reason this type of teaching is sticking with me this year.  Faith is my word for this year, so you will see many faith posts from me.  Right now Dad has been in surgery for two hours, I am not going to allow fear to incapacitate me, I know God has an awesome plan and that He will come through as He always does.

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

Drawing a Line In the Sand

“For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”  ~ Ephesians 4:4-6 SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

As I was driving the interstate last week to meet a fellow blogging friend, I was thinking about how I was going to present this post.  After all, I am not one to present convictions because I am facing 50 pounds that have somehow found their way back on to my body.  One of my new convictions was never go back where I came from as far as my weight; and look at what has happened.  It’s good for me to sit here and be very transparent because there is something very real and freeing about being truly honest.  I am reminded of my own words of wisdom found from the Holy Spirit and that is we all are works in progress and are still living in the flesh.  Not that grace is an excuse to do wrong, but it’s motivation to do right because of what Jesus did for us on the cross to give us that grace.  Therefore, I give myself some grace and realize that I have had a difficult last year and this year is starting tough already.  I know I will overcome this weight, go back to where I was, and stay there.  I am a mere fraction of what I once was and the internal transformation that changed my outside is still there intact.  As we grow closer to God convictions become a part of our lives.  In relationships, we want to be true to one person.  Spiritually we have a desire to keep reading God’s word and pray every day.  Vocationally we want to do the best job we can and are happy where God has placed us.  These are some general ideas for convictions.  The verse shows that God is a god of convictions and we should live by convictions.  The world in general doesn’t live by convictions.  The definition of conviction is a firm belief, no clever argument; no persuasive fact could make a dent in the rightness of your position.  I would say that conviction is the honest courage to live what you believe and support.  Ephesians 4:4-6 shows us the spiritual positions or convictions we should have as part of our lives.

There is one body and Spirit.  We only have one body; we need to take care of it until God’s purpose for our life is over.  The body and Spirit are part of the one, you.  When you accept Christ in your life, the Holy Spirit becomes part of your being.  We don’t want to take our Body Temple and use it in an unworthy manner.  Nor should we not take care of that body.  You will find purpose when you are taking good care of yourself and allow the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct you.

When you take care of your Body Temple, you have a hope for a glorious future.  God’s purpose in your life can be the most exciting adventure you can ever undertake.  It can be rough and tough, but God teaches you to lean on Him and to keep your focus on the hope He has for you.

There is one Lord.  There can be only one Lord and He is Jesus.  A pastor I once knew used to say, “Either Jesus is Lord of all, or He’s not Lord at all.”  Jesus doesn’t want us worshiping other idols in our lives.  Idol worship these days are things that can keep us from being focused on Jesus.  Anything that detracts from Jesus is an idol.  Is Jesus Lord of your life?

There is one faith.  One faith is not religion, but one relationship that counts and will help all relationships that you acquire in your lifetime.  The church should be unified on these spiritual convictions; if it’s not then it’s not God’s church.  Faith is putting our trust in the blood work Jesus did on the cross for us, so that we can have the ultimate relationship and that is with God our father.

There is one baptism.  No, this doesn’t mean you have to be Baptist.  There is only one type of baptism that signifies that you are His; baptism means immersion.  It’s a celebration that is publically made to show whose you are so you can become who you need to become.  When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came upon Him right after He came back up out of the water.  For us baptism of the Holy Spirit can come right away or later on in our Christian walk.  Baptism of the Holy Spirit is when we have a clear direction from God in our lives and changes the whole purpose for our life.

There is one God and father of all.  God is the center most conviction in our spiritual life.  He of course is the head of everything.  Paul says He is over all, in all, and living through all.  I believe the all that he is talking about is all Christians.  Not only is God over all, in all, and living through all, He loves us all.  God’s power comes from His great love.

We start with the basic spiritual convictions that God has set up.  There is one body and spirit, hope and a future, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.  These basics of faith are what can build other convictions in our lives as we grow closer to God.  Convictions say who you are and whose you are, and what you stand for.  They draw a line in the sand that no one can cross.

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

The Four Levels of Gut Check Time

“So be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the lord your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential.  Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.  We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”  ~ Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is a great example of courage.  She was an amazing woman that overcame unmerciful circumstances that would have destroyed a lesser individual.  At the age of seven her mother’s boyfriend molested her and her uncles killed this boyfriend as vengeance for what he did to her.  She was so traumatized by the incident, she became a mute.  Still she became an author, poet, actress, dancer, screenwriter, and most important, a civil rights activist.  Courage to overcome was something she found within herself, not something she was born with.  As she points out in her quote, we are all born with potential, potential to become more than what we seem to be.  The potential she speaks of is potential from our great and awesome God.  As Christians we are called to live a life of courage, to overcome our fears and realize that God is in control if we allow His control in our lives.  We initiate courage when we overcome our fear and use it as fuel to move us forward.  Back in 1972, according to Webster’s, the term “gut check time” was first used and has become a staple in our sports community to express seeing where you are in your courage as a team and an as individual.  There are four levels to a gut check; trust, faith, hope, and love.

The first level to gut check time is trust.  One example for me in gut check time is driving roads that are icy and difficult to drive on.  Here in the mid-south we don’t experience a lot of snow and ice, but when we get it, we are pretty much shut down.  My experience with snow and ice removal comes from living 30 years in Chicago.  One thing I can say about that town is they know how to safely remove snow and ice to make the roads passable within a two-hour turnaround.  Here it seems to be the opposite thought, and the drivers are either too dangerous or too cautious when they drive.  The initial level is trust; I trust my driving ability to get me from point A to point B without losing control of my vehicle or loss of life.  Also as an added bonus as a Christian, I have God who not only will protect me, but will give me strength with the courage to drive the roads safely and to see the unexpected before it becomes too late.  Trust in your abilities and with God can give courage and move you past the fear that can fuel us forward if we channel it correctly.

The next level of gut check time is faith.  Faith of course is an antonym to fear.  When we take our fear and move forward anyway, that is a leap of faith.  One of my favorite courage quotes is from John Wayne, he said, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”  That is faith’s forward focus.  Though we can’t see the outcome we can move forward in faith that God will protect our choices and keep us on His path for our lives.

Faith’s forward focus gives us our next level of gut check time, hope.  There is the hope that the outcome is going to be good.  That our path won’t end in failure, but triumph.  Stumbling and failing may be along the path, but it’s to teach us and to prepare us for the good that will be at the end of the road.  When we place our hope in God, our gut check is going to be very courageous.

The top level of courage is love.  When I’m speaking of love, I am talking about the purest love of all and that is unconditional love.  Unconditional takes the selfish out of love.  Talk about gut check, that means I am putting others needs in front of my own needs.  It means I am thinking last about myself and first about others.  Being born as selfish and sinful people, we do have the potential for this type of love.  As Maya Angelou said in her quote, we will be kind, true, merciful, generous, and honest.  The potential for unconditional love gives us those virtues and the guts to move in that direction.

The four levels of gut check time are, first we have trust, we have faith, we have hope, and finally love.  As the bible says love is the greatest of all.  Love is the highest level of courage and takes some major guts to use it unconditionally, but if you do, all of your relationships, from friend to significant other, will all flourish and will have less theatre.  It’s gut check time, and your purpose is in the balance.

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

Climbing the Mountain Part 8: Pushing Through Persecution

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  ~ Matthew 5:10-12

“It is not enough to have a vision, you need a strategy.”  ~ Bishop T.D. JakesPhoto: Mount Everest's peak in morning light

The final be attitude is the most important one, which is being persecuted because of righteousness.  As we climb up the mountain of faith there are going to be obstacles that get in our way.  The Greek meaning of persecute is to pursue with great haste, to apprehend.  The negative connotation is to pursue to kill and destroy with great haste.  I believe the persecution Jesus is referring to here is not only religious persecution, but personal, people, and enemy persecution. There are three tactics to deal with each of these types of attacks.  T.D. Jakes has a ministry that has grown from 100 to 30,000 members and he began this awesome ministry in a small storefront.  I was so inspired this morning in seeing him talk about how he started preaching to an empty church, but was so tenacious with his trust in what God had for his path.  At this moment, I am faced with going from three clients at the beginning of the year, down to one.  The world would say, “David you need to try something different, why are you wasting your time?”  I went through some very difficult doubt this week and learned that the best strategy to deal with doubt is not to look for encouragement from others, which is great, but to find it within myself.  Doubt is a lonely road that will have you shaken internally, but not eternally.  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and nothing anyone does, no obstacle will keep you from His will for your life.  I have the vision; I am formulating a strategy to move to the next level of the mountain of faith, to get to the top of my Everest.

When you stand firm with Christ you are going to face persecutions and you have to formulate a strategy to deal with obstacles when you are climbing your faith Everest.  The Kingdom of Heaven is at the top of the mountain.  Self-doubt is a personal persecution that has to be overcome with any type of success.  The first strategy when faced with this persecution obstacle is to find encouragement within you to get through the obstacle.  The only time we should look down is just to see how far we have gone.  Yesterday you were at this point, today due to growth, you are now set free from yesterday, and so you will be set free today with the seemingly impossible block to your climb.  Courage is fear under control and faith put into practice.  When faced with that hindrance, look to your positive past. Don’t give ground to negative doubt, give ground only to positive thoughts.  Encourage yourself.

The next tactic to get past our deterrent is to get counsel from close friends.  People will tell you that you are a fool for what you are aiming for, close friends are going to tell you that if you dream it, you can achieve it.  Most people when they are climbing a difficult mountain have a team along with them.  Sometimes it takes a team to get past a difficult rock facing.  Your inner circle of friends will always be truthful to you and should be trustworthy to take counsel from; they should be godly.  Answer people persecution with people encouragement.

The final obstacle we face is spiritual opposition or persecution.  The enemy will come at you with negative ideas built within your own self-doubt.  If you allow the enemy a foothold in your life, you will look down and not see your progress, but will see all the other tough things you have had to deal with going up the mountain.  Instead of energy, you will find weariness and want to quit and throw in the towel.  A positive glance back is all we need, if we keep looking down fear will overcome your courage and faith will weaken.  Always look back up the mountain, focus on God’s promises, claim the truths of His word, and know you will overcome this, because He helped you overcome obstacles before.

As a final reminder the tools we need to get up the Everest of our faith begins with your hope rope.  The next tool is your harness of comfort to give you stability as you climb.  Your strong arms and legs will help you overcome gravity.  A determined spirit, a set goal, a dream to achieve will be the first internal tool.  Another internal tool is the very act of climbing and moving up the mountain, mercy moves us into action.  The correct clothing, be clothed in purity to stay strong.  The next internal tool to get up to the top is peace.  The final tool is what we just talked about, using a strategy to move around hindrances to climbing the mountain.  We will have them three ways: personal self-doubt, people, and from the enemy.  We answer them with personal encouragement, people encouragement, and God encouragement.  Equip yourself with these things and attitudes and you will make it to the top of your Everest.

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