Take control, don’t take what life gives us, instead we dictate what we get from life. There is no point waiting around for something to happen, its time to get out and make things happen. it’s our choice!
I realized this week that our second winter on the farm in Illinois is quickly approaching and I am looking forward to it! Living most of my life in California, I never experienced the changing seasons or the beauty of fall in the countryside. When I lived in Brooklyn and Manhattan I would just get on a plane and head back home to California for a week each month when it got cold.
I never dreamed that I would be living on a farm with chickens, honey bees, ducks, dogs and acres of corn and beans. The chicken breasts I bought in the grocery store always came wrapped in plastic. I’ve learned that they do not start that way.
It has been a period of learning. I have learned about another way of life and I have also learned a lot about myself.
My life has been a series of small changes that have taken place very slowly because I was afraid of change. God wanted to heal my stone heart, but I resisted it along the way. Looking back I have to laugh at myself because all of this could have been much easier.
I took the long way. How many of you resist change? I did for so long because I wanted to hold on to some vague idea I had about myself. I was a slave to ideas and thoughts that kept me in various states of the same place in life.
Today, I want to work on everything in my life that I feel could change for the better. I want to do it all at once, but I know that I have to work on one thing at a time. Trying to move fast or working on too many problems at once will just lead to failure. Do you try to accomplish so much at one time that you end up getting nothing finished?
I think about where I am now in life and I feel this is where I should be at this time. It is another learning stage where I will be until I have grown and am ready for the next stage. Have you ever thought about the stages we go through and what purpose they serve?
Growing up we had a small lawn that took me at most a half an hour to mow. When I was older I just hired a gardener like everyone else. Mowing the grass on the farm takes me four to six hours and at some point it in the seasons it may even need to be done twice a week. There are days that can be so hot that I’m drenched in sweat or it can be so cold that I have to cover every part of my body to stay warm. I enjoy mowing, it gives me time to think about everything. It is a little like hitting a heavy bag with music blaring. The rest of the world does not matter. I am concentrating on a simple task, from start to finish. Do you have anything in your life like that?
Living in Los Angeles I used to wake up at 4am so I could hike with Phoenix (my dog) every morning. It was a perfect time when the city was quiet and dark. I loved being up in the hills of the park when it was dark. Here there are no hills but there is plenty of open space and lots of stars to see. I had to change things up after we adopted Henry (our other dog) so that I had more time in the morning. 3am is my new time to hit the road with the two dogs. I am often asked how I do it at that time. It is easy because it is my regular schedule. I am committed to take out my dogs for a walk every morning no matter what. Do you value your commitments? Will you keep them even when it is hard or the weather is bad?
There is an added benefit with the early walks. I get to see a lot of wildlife that most people never get to see. I have seen coyotes, skunks, a bobcat, lots of raccoons, owls, a bald eagle, and many deer. I get to learn about the land and what it supports. I also add a few miles of cardio to my day.
Our lives are not straight lines to our destinations. Life isn’t one long season, but more like the weather in the midwest, with seasons of growth, harvest and some cold hard winters and other lighter winters. I have enjoyed the beautiful colors of fall this month and I am looking forward to this coming second winter. Then, a new spring where everything comes back alive.
1 To everything
, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
The Robot Surgeon
Last week started the same as any other week. On Tuesday, after I trained my clients, I headed to wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu practice for two long hours. I came home exhausted. I rehydrated, showered and tried to sleep. I didn’t eat any food because early the next morning I was going to have an operation to fix a hernia.
After many years of uninterrupted mixed martial arts training, I was going to have to slow down.
There were so many things going through my mind. As I laid in bed I watched an educational video about general anesthesia, since I’d never had any surgery before. I was worried about it. What if I didn’t wake up? What if I was allergic to the medications they gave me? What if…?
Then I started thinking about the recovery. How long would it be before I could exercise again? Spar? Lift kettlebells? Walk my dogs?
Sleep came hard with all these thoughts going through my mind. I was up early to head to the hospital, and saw that in the night I had gotten emails and texts from people wishing me well. Friends from my small group at church said they were praying for me. People reaching out helped to ease my mind.
My head was pounding from dehydration, hunger and lack of caffeine. Every morning I drink at least one huge cup of the strongest, thickest coffee to start my day. Once I tried to give up coffee, and I lasted eighteen hours before I broke down and drank a cup.
My wife drove me towards the hospital, down a quiet country road alongside the recently harvested and now very barren fields. She said a prayer, and I began to relax and let the anxiety go.
Once in the hospital, everything moved pretty quickly. We filled out some papers and then I was given a gown, a bed and wheeled toward pre-op where they started my IV. When the resident who was helping with my anesthesia came in, I was reading a book. I looked up and noticed she looked just like a friend of mine from Los Angeles named Shannon. That was the last thing I remember until I woke up several hours later and asked the nurses when the surgery would start.
When they told me it was over, I was a little disappointed because I had wanted to see the robot that was performing the laparoscopic surgery on me.
The rest of the day was a blur. The next morning I felt better, good enough to walk around the farm a couple of times. I thought, “Wow, this is going to be easy, I’ll be training in no time.”
When evening came, so did the pain. It hurt deep down in my abdomen all night, even the ice and the prescription pain meds (which I hadn’t intended to take) weren’t taking the edge off. That night and the following day were the worst. There were times that I didn’t know how I could deal with it.
And then it was over. Saturday my pain was almost gone and I stopped taking any pain pills.
Sunday was a busy day at church, and I had no problem being up and about. I felt good, but was pretty tired by the end of the day.
By Monday morning I was back to my normal routine, up before dawn walking the dogs, heading to the gym to train clients, and then home to write.
For my whole life, I have found my identity in my physical strength. Other things about my life changed, but I always had my martial arts and my fitness. Surgery stripped that from me temporarily, and I had to rely on others to help me in things I had always been able to do for myself. It made me question where I get my strength from when I have none of my own. God is the ultimate source of both strength and peace in any situation.
It was a great experience for me. Not only is my hernia fixed, but I have a new appreciation for all the small things that make up each day that I took for granted, and for God being my strength when I am weak.
Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Some of us are leaders, some of us want to be leaders, and for some, the idea of leading is scary. The truth is, we lead every day with our actions. Leading is not about telling people what to do, it is about people watching and learning the way you process and respond to life, and then deciding to follow suite.
A writer friend of mine once told me to “show not tell,” in my stories. That applies not only to writing but life. What he was saying is don’t just tell the reader about a situation, show them through the character’s actions.
I have been thinking about this a lot in the last few days as I’ve been bombarded by negative news in the media. It would seem the world has gone mad and everyone has a grievance. On a large scale things seem so far from where they should be, and it’s easy to get discouraged. While we may never be able to fix the world or even the city/town we live in, we can each set an example in how we live our life. You can’t give up – you have to keep improving, starting with yourself.
Think about your life, do you talk one way around some people and live another? Start matching your actions with those words. This is why so many people act out, we are told one thing, but what they see being done is something completely different.
Change comes from the those who lead the way. I will share a little bit of what I have learned through my journey of change.
I decided that I need to change my life in 1996. I did not know at that time where the changes ahead would take me, and it’s a journey I’m still on today. It was a daunting task because I had so many areas of my life that I needed to work on. I knew how to see things through on a smaller scale, and I decided to apply that to my life. The first thing I had to do was change my environment.
I started devoting time bettering myself through knowledge and exercise. I made these two things priorities and made pursuing them a habit. I pinned down aspects of my life that I knew were wrong, and I began to work on them one at a time. As soon as I conquered one, I would learn that I had two more to work on.
I learned over time that being strong is not the same thing as being confrontational or aggressive. I had to learn to humble myself and open my mind up to things outside of myself. Finally, I began to treat others the way I wanted to be treated. The biggest moment of change and humility for me was when I realized I was living my life for myself when I should live it for God.
Then one day, for the first time in my life, people started thanking me for being a positive and inspirational person. This had never happened to me before because in the past I was known only for my negativity and the negative things I was capable of doing.
All this time, I’ve been working on change within, and the lessons I’ve learned and lived have had an effect on those around me. I got a text yesterday from a friend and it read, “Dude thank you for inspiring me without being preachy.”
I have a long way to go, and I know I’ll never be perfect. But while I’m on my journey I’m going to shine my light to anyone who is looking encouragement or a push in the direction of positive change.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Everyone has goals and dreams, so why is it that some people reach them and others do not?
Our goals will depend entirely on what you deem to be important in life. Money and possessions are top of the list for the many Americans, but goals can include spending more time doing the things that bring you joy – maybe taking a daily walk while the sun sets – or, improving relationships with those you love.
The problem with most goals that aren’t achieved is that they are not specific enough. Maybe you’re tired of your car breaking down and you want a new car. What type of car, what does it cost, how long will it take you to save for it? Maybe you want to spend more time reading or get more sleep. What books do you want to read? What time do you need to go to bed to get enough sleep? Instead of just losing weight, what size pants do you want to wear, what weight do you want to reach?
Clarify your goals, make them specific. Write them down.
Hopefully. you have multiple goals, and you take the time to define them all clearly. It’s also helpful to identify and write down any possible pitfalls you might encounter on the way.
The second step is to come up with a plan on how you will start moving toward your goal. Let’s say you chose weight loss. Do you want to just take a pill and lose it or maybe have an operation? A more realistic plan for long-term success would be to schedule 45 minutes at least three times each week exercising. Find a trainer or a workout buddy to help keep you accountable.
Whether you reach your goal or not is entirely in your hands.
Now that you have those first two out of the way it is time for number three: putting your plan into action. Every person who ever began a new path in life began with nerves. We like to be comfortable, and we feel secure when things stay the same, but there can be no change if you avoid unfamiliar ground. Doubt will come to mind, but don’t let your mind hold you back.
The fourth part is putting in the work. You are building the foundation of your goal. You may not notice anything for days or weeks at first, but if you work at it continually, you will. I like setting small goals that I can hit along they way to my ultimate goal. If your goal is a new car, set a goal to save $400. Once you reach that, make a new goal of $1000. Keep setting a new one after you reach the old. Progress is all most of us need to keep moving forward.
Start picturing yourself accomplishing what was once only a goal.
What else could there be? What else is important? The fifth step is to keep going! There are times you will feel discouraged, and there are times you will want to quit. That is when you must dig deep – go back to the paper where you wrote down your goals and remember the reasons they are important to you. Re-evaluate your methods and adjust, but keep moving forward. If a door closes, you open another or go around. Stick with it!
If this sounds like a chapter out of a self-help book, it’s because over the years I have read a LOT of them. They all had something to offer – encouragement, a plan. By following their suggestions I strengthened my resolve and accomplished a lot of goals. Whether the goals were financial or physical, they brought short-term happiness and feelings of success, but none of them brought me lasting inner peace or joy.
My values changed when I started living my life to serve God instead myself. The reasons behind my goals in the past were always self-serving. Now, when I set goals and accomplish them, I do it to glorify Him, instead of myself.
1 Corinthians 10:31(NIV)
Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.