Day 90 – Squats

I can distinctly remember it.

Walk backward with me in time to the winter of 2013. Obama was president, the Red Sox had just won the World Series and I was just starting this fitness journey. I didn’t know much what to do, but I knew I wanted to do it.

Hell … I knew I needed to do it.

I’d march up the stairs in my parents’ home to the workout room built by my dad, where a treadmill and Bowflex awaited me. At that point I had no plan or routine established, so I’d end up just messing around. I was finding my way. I’d walk on the treadmill, do some awful pushups, pull some rows (I loved them even then!) and probably a few other exercises.

Even then, in great part due to Pete’s influence, I knew squats were important. But folks, at 378 pounds, squats suck. Why? Let’s go through that.

  • Every significant physical motion, including walking, hurts when you are 378 pounds (especially if most of that is, sadly, fat). I oughta know.
  • Squats put pressure on muscles, ligaments and fascia that aren’t always used by modern, mostly-sedentary Americans. Which was and still to a degree is me, as I spend most of my day at a desk. In general, that meant pain and a lot of it.

I did as many as I could, and I managed to somehow drop a bunch of weight in my pre-heavy cardio days, but I never developed good form. It’s just really hard to do so.

But that was then. Now? Now, I’m focused on it. Good squat form means you have built a wonderful tool to burn a ton of calories (why? Your legs are full of big muscles!) and move at a much more efficient rate. This is exciting to me, a new path, a new venture. I’m blessed to have a coach willing to tolerate me, too.

For about a month now, as you’ve read about, I’ve been working on this. Sure, I’m trying to build my shoulders and develop my back. Yes, I work hamstrings too. But squats are my focus.

Sometimes my knees ache, but they don’t hurt. That’s a big difference. That had become a mental block for me, but with that going away?

Squat and squat and squat and squat.

Day 89 – Elon vs A.I.

There are days where I step in front of this keyboard and coherent thoughts spill out. I like those days, and I share as many of them as I can with you.

This is not one of those days. I’m tired (but feeling accomplished!) and simply have other tasks I need to accomplish first. So, like I’ve done before, I leave you in someone else’s hands.

This is a long but fascinating article from Vanity Fair on Elon Musk (seriously, one of my heroes) and his quest against A.I. Musk is a brilliant thinker, a gambler and a visionary, and his thoughts on the potential harm wrought by artificial intelligence are fascinating. What makes it even more fascinating is how many brilliant folks disagree with him.

There seems to be an exchange of ideas going on amongst the heavy hitters of the tech sector right now. How it plays out, God only knows.

Day 88 – On discourse, part two

This is part two of an ongoing discussion between my friend Kirsten and I about politics and discourse. You can read part one here.

Adam

Before I dig into that, let me first say this. I do not think public figures should necessarily be afforded the same decency or patience as common folk, especially with someone like Trump (and, frankly, Clinton) who has lusted after fame since before I was born. He is not a private person, by his choice. He still has every other American right, but I’m not as concerned about being gentle with him or other public figures. There can be some leeway there, perhaps, but in general, nah.

Anyway.

We all view the world through our own lens, crafted by experience and belief, and as such all of our assumptions and thoughts are skewed. We aren’t capable of anything else. And so while you have a definite right to say Donald Trump’s comments about women are, shall we say, inappropriate, it is also true that a large swath of people were offended by Hillary Clinton calling them “deplorable.”

It is hard to remain civil now, but it’s not just hard for you. It’s not just hard for me. For anyone today, with rhetoric as heated as it is, remaining calm is virtually impossible. It is perhaps the hardest hill to climb to appreciate that someone with antithetical views to your own could also be as annoyed and frustrated as you, but for entirely different reasons.

In the same way you have every right to want a candidate who supports your policies, the same is true of Trump’s supporters. My point here isn’t to forgive Trump – he’s intolerable to me – but rather to shine a light on everything. Perhaps the challenge — the hardest hill to climb — is recognizing how people with entirely antithetical views to your own can also feel as threatened or bothered as you do.

Of course, then you have me. I think it’s all intolerable. I was raised in a Republican house, and I likely will never vote for a Republican candidate again (I voted McCain in 2008 and Johnson in ’12 and ’16) because the party is unconscionable and refuses to stand for what I stand for. And so I simply went a different direction.

Kirsten

I think the whole election cycle served as a wake up call for liberals, especially those living in blue states or in big cities. People are obviously responding in different ways: some with complete resistance, and some with a combination of resistance and a desire for understanding. I’m in the latter group, because agree with you—it’s imperative to at least try to recognize that others have different views, and that there may be good reasons for those views. Immediately after the election, many of the news stories I was reading started referencing the book “Hillbilly Elegy” by J. D. Vance. The book was published before the rise of Trump, but it sheds light on how the economic and cultural conditions of rural areas in the United States made way for the success of someone like Trump. In a desire for some shred of understanding, I read the book, and it was enlightening and fascinating.

Liberals have a lot of work to do. And conservatives want to be understood. I don’t believe the person we’ve elected has the ability to heal the country, nor the ability to at least try to create a culture of understanding. He exposed our wounds, and now they’ll fester for a long time.

The best thing we can do for one another is try to understand. Some things I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand—such as the shrug of shoulders in response to some of the comments Trump has made about women. But other issues are becoming easier to understand—such as the anger felt when a steady, good paying job is seemingly unattainable.

It certainly doesn’t help when one side calls the other side deplorables, or snowflakes. Honest conversations need to be had without name calling, without an overdose of emotion, and without dismissive sighs. It would help to completely take politicians out of the conversation. Just talk about one another’s concerns and beliefs.

Day 87 – Nostalgia

The other night, I proudly went to a cinema and happily paid money to watch Power Rangers. I was, like many boys my age, a huge fan of the television show and I presume my parents were huge fans of buying the toys (sometimes, over and over again).

Of course, looking back the show is overwhelmingly corny and lame, but at the time? It was awesome. It didn’t stop there, either. You see, Power Rangers was but one “action” show I loved as a kid. I spent time with the Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons (Batman: The Animated Series is considered a triumph and at the time, I barely cared) and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (as my mother fondly remembers). Then came the WWF.

I enjoy nostalgia products, and that’s what this movie was. Although not loaded with fan service, there was enough for me and my friend to react like little kids when a certain song played.

It got me thinking about that experience, about remembering the past. The so-called innocence of youth always comes to an end – life is unrelenting and eventually everyone feels that sting. But those moments before … how magical. I don’t know that I appreciated those moments enough until recently.

Then, life was simple. It was food and fun and family and friends. For me, as an 8-year-old, I had barely any troubles. I was blessed that way.

Now, I’m nearly 20 years older and just now beginning to feel the weight of what a life looks like. I’m never carefree, and while I have joy, that’s more of a foundation than a high. I miss that innocence, that ignorance of the realties of life.

On the other hand, I’m also aware today of something I wasn’t at that young age. Yes, younger me has bliss, but older Adam has encountered the Gospel. Christ’s work on the cross evens every scale, cuts through each doubt, works deep into every wound, bringing a kind of healing unimaginable without Him.

He is the Way. And so, yes, I long for those days of old where I had no worries. But should I? Perhaps it cannot be avoided – after all, what I want to do, I do not do – but oh, if I could simply program my heart and mind to dwell only on Him and what lies ahead, over the hills.

Day 86 – The plan

Squats and squats and squats and squats. I’m becoming a tad obsessed with developing the mobility and strength necessary in my legs and ankles to effectively squat. I’m not touching weight yet, either — this is strictly about mobility.

It’s a process, like everything else. Luckily, the lack of weight means I can do them all the time, and so I do. Sometimes before cardio and sometimes after, but darn near every single day I step in the gym, I’m working on this. I go in my side room and I sweat.

Granted, I’m still working on shoulders, chest and back. But legs have become a real focus of mine (simple calculus: bigger muscles in my legs means more calories burned) and will continue to be. It hurts, it often sucks and it ain’t glamorous, but it breeds success and builds character, because this is unsung work. Powering through squats ain’t fun. It ain’t Insta-worthy. It’s just hard work that pays off.

No value in skipping leg day, homies.

Plenty of cardio, plenty of legs. A dash of shoulder press, a handful of pushups.

And then more legs.

Day 85 – Powerful

I was casually browsing through Instagram when this hit me a slug to the chest:

Not my will, but yours.

A post shared by Barnabas (@bpiper31) on

Barnabas Piper is an Evangelical Christian figure I follow (to some degree). He’s currently on a tour of Israel.

I would imagine seeing that would grab the breath from your chest and swallow up your whole attention. To be aware of the emotions our Lord felt at that moment? To feel it yourself?

Luke tells us what Christ felt:

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 

Jesus, the perfect bond between man and God, right before He was to drink down the worst suffering imaginable in any place and any time, wept blood. Christ knew precisely what was to come — He knew the suffering that awaited Him. He’d always known. From the creation of time, Christ was crucified. He knew as a baby, He knew as a teenager, He knew as an adult.

And He knew here, right before it was to begin.

But notice — in the midst of tremendous, unrelenting pressure, like a submarine pushing down to the harshest depths of the ocean — how He handles it. Christ asks if there is another way —  as we all would — but he follows that simple plea with something astounding.

Not my will. Yours.

Day 84 – Go Arnold

Read this.

Internet trolls are a dime a dozen now, so we won’t focus on that loser. If you don’t appreciate the power, dedication and grace shown by Special Olympics athletes, then be gone. I have no use with you.

Instead, focus on what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says:

Right now, I guarantee you that these athletes have more courage, compassion, brains, skill — actually more of every positive human quality than you. So take their path — you could learn from them, and try to challenge yourself, to give back, to add something from the world.

Courage and compassion are qualities that separate humans from other humans. It takes courage to stand up for what is right and compassion to recognize it in the first place. As Christians especially, we should be abounding in both. Courage to share our Lord’s gospel and compassion toward others, because if nothing else, if nothing else, Christ was compassionate to us.

I have to be careful how I speak here. I have such little tolerance for the mocking of people with special needs that I can become quite caustic. Yes, even deplorable people deserve compassion, and so consider that Schwarzenegger doesn’t make this too personal. (The “sad, pitiful jealous troll” line notwithstanding.) I already called the guy a loser up above, so I’m committed now.

He instead offers this random Internet user some helpful advice:

Or you can stay on your path, and keep being a sad, pitiful, jealous internet troll who adds nothing to the world but mocks anyone who does out of small-minded jealousy.

Join the masses and troll on, or break from the crowd and be something different.

Day 83 – Powerful

Romans 8 might be the most beautiful and powerful piece of writing in all of history (check back with me tomorrow, answer might change) and John Piper’s oration of the Apostle Paul’s exquisite reveal of the depths of God’s mercy to sinful humanity often brings a tear to my eye.

Sit on this. I am no general fan of Piper or his theology, but this amazes me each time I hear it.

Day 82 – Tame the tongue

I read this last night:

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
    he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

That comes from Proverbs 13, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Not just because I feel I can be obnoxious, but also as a writer. As it turns out, there are people who read this blog and take it seriously. I’m continually amazed by that — don’t you people realize who I am? — and also challenged by it. If I am so bold as to write about God’s Word, then by extension I must carry the burden of striving to tell the truth.

That’s no guarantee of success, mind you. God is fully aware that I will misrepresent His Word in some way. My prayer is that I don’t do it intentionally, and even then, that I repent and grow afterward.

Solomon’s words aren’t hard to understand. This isn’t a parable of Christ or the profound logic of Paul. It’s simple.

James says something quite similar to Solomon in James 3:

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

The words we say can harbor good or evil. They can empower and encourage or weaken and dismay. We can edify or tear down. This responsibility does fall heavier on pastors, I suppose, but the lay Christian isn’t free of the task here.

I distinctly remember in January this passage coming up in Sunday School. It hit me as hard as any passage has in recent memory. I pray it has taken effect.

Day 81 – Fear and trembling

In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul says this:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Sunday morning, my pastor read this quote as part of a sermon series on the importance of the Cross. One truly captivating part of reading God’s Word over the course of time is how at just the right time, His word can grab your heart and not let go. Paul, a man of great knowledge of doctrine and boldness of speech, tells this church he didn’t want to be known as a great speaker, or writer, or theologian, or man. He wanted to be known not at all. He wanted Christ known.

I’ve had a long running battle with pride, as we all do. I have to be so very careful in all I do, including this blog, to not place myself on a pedestal. I do not deserve acclaim or praise, because what am I? If Paul doesn’t deserve praise, then by easy math neither does Adam. And like Paul, I also have had to learn the consequences of pride, and it is not an easy pill.

Pride is so fundamental to American culture. We are a boasting people now, and in some ways we have reason. Americans have done wonderful, powerful and amazing things. We’ve made the world a better place.

But our country also has done horrible, shameful things. This is true of all nations in all times, and it is true of all peoples in all times. What Paul understood (and by Grace, what Paul taught us) is that we are nothing without the cross.

And so Paul, this highly-educated and accomplished man, says:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

A mentor of mine has worked on me for a few months about the necessity of self-denial. I’m terrible at it. In my deepest core, I’m Tony Stark without the accomplishments. That is the, as my sunday school teacher puts it, old man I must put down each morning.

That old man is why I must beat my body in order to claim the prize. Because if I don’t, he will come alive. And if he comes alive, I am forced to re-learn lessons I should already know. I’ve frankly just grown tired with that.