Six Simple Steps

When you’re young, your body can tolerate a lot of abuse, and there will be little evidence of such neglect at the time. A carefree diet of “I can eat whatever I want and still be thin” might make you feel like a statistical outlier, but in reality you’re just speeding up the ticking clock of your physical existence in this life.  

No matter the amount of money, fame, or self-delusion, no one gets a free pass on health. Our bodies are all made up of the same material and therefore have the same requirements.  

So cut down on the excess carbs and refined sugars. Hydrate your body with lots of water. Do cardio for your heart, and build some muscle. And don’t forget to get enough sleep.  

With advanced medical treatments and technology, more people will likely live longer, but by following these six simple steps, you will live not only longer but better.

Overall, your body is a great gift from the Lord. Be a good steward of it.  

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A Little Every Day

One of the best kept secrets in life is that you can accomplish anything if you just do a little every day. 

Consistently wins over speed, skill, and even talent.  

But you need time on your side, so plan ahead, and be prepared to practice patience. Most people can’t see past tomorrow, let alone five years from now. Trust that God has good plans for you, and do your best to be ready for the future, but hold onto those plans with loose hands because we are not ultimately in charge; we submit to the will of our heavenly Father.  

It’s always easier to start something new than to continue in being faithful to something your have already started. 

Don’t let the excitement of new ideas override the commitment of old goals. 

The ordinary person starts many things but finishes only a few. 

Don’t be the ordinary person.  

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The Cost of Commitment

Commitment to anything requires cost. It requires sacrifice. Some people say yes far too often and over commit themselves and then have a difficult time paying the cost and making the required sacrifices. But some don’t ever want to commit to anything because they don’t know if it’s worth the sacrifice. 

If you are a true follower of Christ, you have the Holy Spirit guiding you.  

Meditate on Scripture, and spend time in prayer. Also, seek wise counsel from your church body. 

Rely on God to show you what is worth the cost of your commitments, and don’t sign up for something unless you are willing to sacrifice for it—your time, focus, and finances. 

Pledging to commitments provides you special opportunities that add significant value to life, and those who always run from commitment will miss out on many of those deeper blessings. 

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Drug Roulette

Almost everyone has heard the cliché “Don’t do drugs.” But I’m going to tell you something else.  

Don’t try drugs.  

The curiosity in young people looking for an experimental adventure or a way to escape pain and stress functions as a game of Russian roulette.  

Just trying narcotics one time is equivalent to putting one round in the chamber and spinning it wildly before placing it up to your skull to pull the trigger.  

Trying drugs once doesn’t automatically destroy the lives of everyone who tries them, but it’s not worth the gamble of your life and the lives of innocent others.  

Unlike the horrific game of Russian roulette, drugs might not kill you on the first try but instead slowly lead you down a path of long suffering as demonic spirits take over your mind and trade your ambitious opportunities for a lifestyle of destruction to yourself and to all of those around you—doing the most harm to those who love you the most.  

Despite how you feel, there are people who love you. 

And for sure, God loves you.  

He is closer than the air your breath. 

And his plans for you are greater than any narcotic could ever be.  

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Word Power

We live in a society where people abuse the anonymity of the internet to share the hate and fear that dwells deep within them. The words typed out and thumbed from their keyboards really come from their broken and empty hearts.  

They are weak people using strong words.  

And their gain? Nothing, except a darker world for them to live in.  

What if you made a commitment to only use your words to bring life? 

What if every word that came from your mouth for the rest of your life was used for building people up? 

Healing and reconciliation would happen. 

Your friends would be many. Your legacy would be great.   

You have the opportunity to start this today. You can be the person who walks into an early Monday morning and sincerely says, “Today is a good day.” 

You can be the person who says to the failure, “I still believe in you.” 

Use your words to bring forth life. Have your bright eyes pierce through the downtrodden insecurities of others as your encouraging words illuminate their souls. 

Change your world with your words—every single little word.  

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Fun Days

Contentment comes when our goals and our callings line up. Work hard, but do not neglect good, innocent fun.  

Seek after it.  

The older you become, the easier it will be to quit chasing fun.  

Somedays you may prefer rest over fun, but if you give into rest too often, rest will over take your life.  

Rest begets rest, and fun begets fun.  

There will always be pressure upon you to work more and harder, but life is not just about your work. Your identity is not within what you do or what you will do.  

It is in who you are—child of God.  

And every good father wants his child to enjoy the things he gives him while practicing wisdom and having a thankful heart.  

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Scripture Meditation

When people think about meditation, they often think about yoga or some sort of new age spirituality where people meditate to clear their minds of everything. As Christians we don’t meditate to think about nothing but to think about truth—Jesus. We are called to the practice of daily meditation upon the Word of God.  

It may be challenging to have a daily in-depth Bible study where you look up the original Hebrew and Greek with several commentaries laid out all over your desk, so here’s a practical strategy for younger people to get into the habit of opening your Bible everyday.  

Search online for a good source to get a list of the top Bible verses to memorize. Print them out. Every morning start your day with looking up one verse. Mark it up in your Bible—make it messy. Read the verses that come before and after it. Then deeply think about what it means.  

This is meditation.  

Continue to think about it all day. 

Hide it in your heart.  

A lifetime of this practice will grow into a powerful spiritual discipline and branch out into other areas of your life as well.  

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Just Dance

Don’t ever be the guy who just sits while others dance. Don’t congregate around the punch bowl attempting to logically weight out the pros and cons. Don’t sit out to make small talk with some neighboring friend. And definitely don’t stare alone into the endless void of your glowing phone screen.

Dance! 

Don’t even think about it. Yes, you probably aren’t good at it, but it doesn’t matter. Be the guy who is secure enough in himself to simply have fun.  

Make life fun. 

Some will see your personality light up the floor and come join you. Others will want to but not have the confidence. They may applaud you afterwards in friendly encouragement or try to tear you down in deep jealousy. 

But no matter how tired, underdressed, or not in the mood, never let your girlfriend or wife dance alone. And especially don’t persuade her to sit it out with you. 

Your body was created to move. Use it. Don’t care what others will think about it. It is one of the greatest gifts you ever been given, and believe me or not, it’s fading quickly.  

So dance.  

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Growing Up with OCD

Stressed on Chair

I remember it being silent.

Dark.

Cold.

So early in the morning.

Alone.

It took me two hours to get ready in the mornings when I was in junior high. I scrubbed my entire body with soap and hot water in the bathtub and had to finish rinsing off in the shower. I had to partially air dry after using my towel. My hair had to fall perfectly into place before I plastered it with hairspray. I used my mom’s old blow dryer to warm my feet before putting them in my white socks—I was once told that damp feet cause athlete’s foot.

The meticulous details were physically tiring, and the obsessions were mentally exhausting. I barely made it to school on time to face all the other difficulties of junior high school life. If any part of my arduous morning process went wrong, there was a good chance I was “staying home sick” that day.

I had obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But I was never diagnosed formally.

Before the sun came up one routine morning, I accidentally knocked the blow dryer off the bathroom counter onto the hard tile floor. As I hurried down to pick it up, my hand grabbed onto the loose part of the cord that attached to the handle.

I’m not sure if the lights flickered or not, but with a striking flash, something hurt my hand. I examined myself. Besides for a fading stinking pain, I was okay. I continued my extensive process of getting ready for school. For the entire school day, I smelled the awful stench of burnt hair.

OCD wasn’t talked about as commonly as it is today, so my parents didn’t really understand my behavior. They were concerned though and took me to speak to my junior high school counselor. In his office he asked me a lot of questions. He was a nice man, but overall, he didn’t seem concerned about my behavior. He just encouraged me to try to get to school on time and not miss so many days.

Later on I learned more about obsessive-compulsive disorder. My struggle even helped inspire me to major in psychology. I wrote my college senior paper on the effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy versus selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Reexamining my own mental health past brought some frustration about the interaction that took place with my old junior high counselor so many years ago. I felt he should have known.

Maybe he could have helped me.

Looking back at it all now, I realize that it was a true blessing that I was not formally diagnosed. I was never given medication for it. I wasn’t given a reason or excuse for my struggle. Instead, I was expected to work through it.

That’s exactly what I did.

I learned to truly analyze every compulsive thought to see if it were realistic or not. I asked myself, “Do I really need to wash my hands again?” “Will touching money really hurt my health?” “So what if my hair isn’t perfectly in place?” I then took baby steps to remedy my compulsive behaviors.

I’m not sure if it was just me figuring out how to properly think through my thoughts or growing out of my OCD tendencies with age or my parents’ new family routine of going to church.

I do know that with the prayers of my parents and grandparents, God helped me relearn how to think.

Another boy I grew up with who was a few years younger than me didn’t have the same success. His parents took him in and had him diagnosed. Then came the treatments—drugs. Then came the side-effects. Then came more drugs to help with the side-effects. This led to a 20-year, downward spiral. Today he receives a monthly check from the government and still depends on his parents for stability.

I’m not stating that drugs are always bad when dealing with mental health, but drugs as treatment alone are not enough. There should always be something else paired with pharmaceutical treatment.

Mental health is such a major topic today, and so is physical health. But what people forget to add to this conversation is spiritual health.

We are so much more than physical containers housing neurotransmitters, and understanding this will help us have a proper perspective on life.

We are a soul; we are spiritual.

We have a body.

An earth suit.

And it comes with an unknown expiration date.

Concerning mental health disorders, sometimes the soul is fine but the physical body, the brain, is off. Sometimes the physical body is off because the soul is off.

Does the world ever suggest healing the soul and helping the spirit?

Typically, no. Just more drugs. Or a different drug. Or maybe, yoga.

Let’s be thankful we live in a time where there are drugs to help the physical body, but let’s never forget that more than physical healing, we need healing of the soul; we need spiritual help.

There are times in my life when I still struggle with old OCD tendencies. They come more when I’m tired or experiencing a lot of anxiety, but as I did as a child, I continue to do today. I try my best to take captive each thought. I force myself to go to bed earlier. I enjoy a light jog around the neighborhood. I refocus my life in meditative prayer.

And things get better.

Everyone’s story is different though, but this is mine.

May we seek after God in his Word as we are guided by his Holy Spirit to find the reconciliation that comes through Christ, Jesus—the mighty healer who cares for all parts of us, including every obsessive thought.

 

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Greater Things than These

Return of the Jedi hit theaters in May of 1983 when I was two years old. Not too many people remember much about being two. I don’t either, but I do remember when my great grandfather died—sort of.

I remember driving home with my mom and nanny after his funeral in Bakersfield sitting in the back seat of the small car. I remember my nanny saying to my mom who was driving, “He really wasn’t all that great of a daddy” as her eyes were wet with grief.

Being so young, I was confused. I didn’t understand why she was crying if he hadn’t been a good daddy; my child size capacity of thinking was very limited.

I also remember my mother holding me as we looked at the open land in Derby Acers where our mobile home was going to be placed. We had been living in a trailer a few blocks away for almost a year. I felt her excitement about moving into a new home and that made me excited too. I wanted her to put me down, so I could explore the wide, empty lot, but she said she had to hold me because there might be nails on the ground.

Out of all the things I could possibly remember at two, those are my main memories.

And there’s one more thing: Star Wars.

I remember sitting in a small movie theater with my parents in Taft watching Return of the Jedi. It’s where I first witnessed Ewoks fighting Stormtroppers on the planet of Endor. I can still recall where the theater was located.

Over 30 years later, I went back to that same place with my wife and looked at the building where I remembered the theater once was, and sure enough, we could see how the old building used to be a small theater. This was support for me that my memory was accurate.

Along with many of the totally rad kids who grew up in the 80s, Star Wars was my thing. There was He-Man, Ghostbusters, ThunderCats, Transformers, and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but Star Wars stood above them all, maybe because it was a live action film instead of a cartoon, or maybe because it was just epic.

I can’t count how many times I acted out each adventurous scene in my childhood. I can still picture myself in my front yard walking to the end of an imaginary plank as Jabba waits for me to jump to my death. I nod to Lando and then signal to R2-D2 before I lever myself off the plank into a flip as I catch my lightsaber from R2 and save the day.

It was clear how Luke Skywalker was able to do all that he did—the force.

Being newly married, my wife and I drove out to Taft to watch The Last Jedi when it came out; it was sort of a trip down memory lane. We watched it in the ancient Fox Theater, the largest and now only theater in Taft.

The main theater screen has a classic early 20th century style to it with a velvety blue, oval shape ceiling that gently glows with mysterious lighting. The seats are small, the carpet is patterned, and the screen is on a stage with red curtains folded to the sides.

The reviews of the new Star Wars film were critical, specifically relating to how the force was used by the iconic characters. Recurring social media comments questioned how the force was used differently than in the original three movies. I was bothered by this too at first until I read a comment that explained how the force didn’t operate by a set of systematic formulas, and just because we didn’t see the force displayed in particular ways in the original movies doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the newer ones.

The force can be used differently by different people at different times in different situations, and yes, even in different movies.

Now I know the force isn’t meant to represent the Holy Spirit; George Lucas is not C.S. Lewis by any means. At times, we may in our own minds limit the Holy Spirit to only what we read in Acts. But keeping the Bible as the foundation, let’s be open to all the greater things than these moments the Holy Spirit is capably of doing.

Let’s not put God in a box.

Let’s not create formulas to attempt to predict his actions.

He’s so much bigger than us.

He’s not limited to the past.

And just how the use of the force in The Last Jedi surprised its audience, God can still surprise his followers today with how he uses his Holy Spirit.

We can’t even imagine the great things he can still do with us—greater things than these.