One Year Without Buying Anything New?

Have you heard about the new challenge many are accepting?  The challenge to buy nothing new for 365 days?  Believe it or not there are a ton of people who are accepting the challenge and in a weird way actually prospering!

While I have an interest in minimalism, decluttering, clean spaces, tiny homes and the like, I’m not sure I could handle a 365 day challenge of no new things.

Here are some of the advantages, that I must admit might be enticing to many!

  • Saving money
  • Preserving resources
  • Eliminating waste
  • Managing time
  • Living simply
  • Building a sense of self-worth

If you’re interested in a short post telling you more about the benefits and struggles of this HUGE movement then look no further.

Split Head and the Dizzy Fifties!

I completed another ultra race – 31 miles and some change on Monte Sano.  Here are the details from the race and my new training routine.

I decided to try a new diet this year called the Primal Blueprint in hopes of losing some belly fat. I combined that with heart monitor training. Heart monitor training is designed to help you race faster by training slower. You use a formula to determine your minimal and maximal range and keep your rate within those limits when training.

Heart rate training was incredibly frustrating in the beginning. I had to run a LOT slower than I was accustomed to in order to stay within the parameters set. But over time I graduated to a faster pace while keeping my heart rate low. Win, win!

The day before the race I began to monitor what I ate – if you recall this was the same race last year I lost my cookies and continued to do so for the rest of the day!  I decided not to eat after about 4 pm. in hopes of eliminating a repeat.

The race starts at 6:30. I want to be there an hour before the start – parking is sometimes a nightmare. This means I need to leave the house by 5:30am., which means I need to get up around 4:15 – 4:30am. That’s early folks!  I get up on time, get all my nutrition in the car, load all other gear, extra shoes, socks, blister repair kit, hydration pack, etc…  standard ultra fare for any race day. Find a great parking spot, set my phone alarm and try to relax until race time.

Alarm goes off. I get out of my car. Whatta you know! All the skinny people have shown up once again.  They ALL look more serious than I do. That may have had something to do with my decision to only do one long run per week leading up to the race. Of course I still ran multiple shorter runs but my longest run was probably no more than 13 miles. I was pretty loose figuring I’d start off near last and see if I could pass a few before the 4 or 5 hours passed. Yup, it takes a while for a 54 year old to run an ultra these days.

Things were going as scheduled for most of the day.  I had already decided I wanted to enjoy this race. Being out in the woods in the solitude of nature is pretty awesome – until my legs start to hurt! I spent a lot of that time talking to others but eventually I pretty much center on praying. All my nutrition decisions were going well so far.  No gels, just bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, some Gatorade and Coke.

Then it happened. One of my goals in every race is to not fall.  I know, I know, it sounds funny. But many ultras are run in the late fall and early winter.  That means that leaves are all over the trails. Add sunlight, shadows and leaves and you have a wonderful hiding place if you’re a rock. I use the term rock loosely, think more of an iceberg concept. The tip of the iceberg is just a small sign of what lies beneath. Same is true of rocks on many trails but certainly true on Monte Sano. If you’re even afforded  the  luxury of seeing  it, it looks like a small rock that you could kick down the  trail.  Usually not the case! What you see is just the tip of the unmovable boulder that lies underneath.

So here’s the usual chain of events for me and many others… Eventually your legs start getting really tired and want to cramp. Combine that with the fact that if you ever start leaning forward, as when one kicks a rock (attached to a boulder that’s not going anywhere) and you get a worst case scenario.  The perfect storm – leaves, shadows, rock, cramping legs, leaning forward and I can’t get my legs back underneath me. Then it happened, I went down.  I went down harder than any time before.  Picture in slow-motion… Legs are  tired, I’m cramping, I hit the tip of the rock, I start leaning forward, I try as hard as I can to get my legs back underneath me, not happening, I go down in briers then something happens that has never happened – I hit my head on a rock! Seriously, are you kidding me? Then I realize that it REALLY hurts. I reach up with my awesome yellow Nike running gloves, I pull it back down, BLOOD. Seriously?  I’ve cut my head? My knees are cut from briers and now  I’ve got to figure out if this could  be bad.  So I begin  to rub my head, just seemed like the thing to do to assess my situation. My gloves are getting bloodier and bloodier. Because I’ve been a lifelong fan of boxing I decided to jam my index finger into the cut like they do a q-tip in a cut in boxing.  After about a total of 10 minutes I get the bleeding to stop well enough to continue – I’m only half way done so I have to complete the race – right!

From this point forward when I run by the medical folks I do my best to turn my head or whatever it takes so they don’t see it.

Eventually I finish the race in one of the goal times that I set for myself and all is good.  My head still stings but I don’t think much about  it until a lady about 8 feet away says what did you do  to your head?  At that point I took a cut head selfie to see how bad it was. It actually took a few weeks  for all the scabs to disappear. Whatever!

All in all another great ultra with another great story.

Not because of the fall but this may have been my last ultra.  Been there done that. Will continue to run shorter distances for exercise but probably no more ultra distance stuff – but who knows?


Chuck Norris Approved Man Gifts

chuck-norrisAt gift giving times there appears to be a lot of confusion as to what men would like. Let’s get to it… Men like toys! No matter what some say, we don’t want underwear, socks, dress shirts or ties!  We figure that we’re going to get clothes at some point anyway!  So why waste a great gift with giving socks, ties, underwear, etc…when you could be giving the gift of toys!  That’s right toys – awesome man toys. Let’s have a look at just a few suggestions: knives, axes, Yeti coolers, power tools, truck accessories, camo, game cameras, drones, scopes, cars, Weber grills, rods and reels, fishing lures, lifetime hunting license, BIG outdoor meat smokers, outdoor cooking stuff, motorcycles – fast ones – no Harley’s, tires, rims, anything from Harbor Freight, cool stuff to trick out our rides, get it?  No clothes! Well, some clothes, but only if Chuck Norris would wear it.

I think the website says it best…

“We believe men deserve better gifts. Gifts that stir a primal craze of chest bumps and cheers, not polite half-smiles. We believe gifts should be just as exciting to give as they are to receive; the gifts of water cooler legend. We are Man Crates, and we do awesome gifts for men.”

So when given an opportunity to give a man a gift, don’t squander the opportunity to give an awesome toy that will become water cooler legend. Don’t settle for that gift that only creates a polite half smile. Give something that is the catalyst for a mosh pit of chest bumps and cheers!

Just my thoughts and your mileage may vary!

This post is Chuck Norris approved.

Benefits of Daily Journaling

journalBefore you’re finished reading this, I’ll provide you:

  1. With a great gift idea that really works
  2. A story of a spiritual exercise that I’ve failed at until recently
  3. With 7 benefits to daily journaling

I’m always in the  process of growing in my faith. One of the newest experiments that I’ve decided to try is one that I’ve failed at in the past.  Not just failed but failed miserably.  So much so that  I had written it off as just not something I was going to master.  So what was it?  It was daily journaling! The problem for me was twofold.. First I had  to get past the idea that this was the male equivalent of a diary which honestly was hard to overcome.  Secondly is that I would get traction then lose interest. That cycle would eventually cause me to write it off for years until…

Until a podcast I was listening to mentioned The Five Minute Journal. This is exactly what it says but more… The  more? It’s not a journal with just lines in it’s pages.  It’s a gratitude journal. It provides a structured set of questions that you answer each day. The questions are the same each day.  The questions?

  1. I am grateful for ______________________
  2. What would make today great __________________________
  3. Daily affirmations. I am _________________________

You make a commitment to answer these questions each day when you wake up, then at the end of the day before bed there are other questions you answer.  All centered around gratitude.

When you begin to focus on gratitude when you wake up and before you go to bed, it’s a game changer!  I have stuck with it now for about a month and it takes just 5 minutes.

I like it so much that I’m recommending it as a great gift for anyone on your  gift list.

The benefits of journaling have been known for a long time.  Just search Google and you get over 41 million articles. So that you don’t have to read them all I thought you’d like to read just 7 benefits of journaling from Michael Hyatt:

If I had to sum it up, I would say journaling has afforded me seven benefits. It has enabled me to:

  1. Process previous events. What happens to me is not as important as the meaning I assign to what happens to me. Journaling helps me sort through my experience and be intentional about my interpretation.
  2. Clarify my thinking. Writing in general helps me disentangle my thoughts. Journaling takes it to a new level. Because I am not performing in front of a “live audience,” so to speak, I can really wrestle through the issues.
  3. Understand the context. Life is often happening so quickly I usually have little time to stop and reflect on where I am in the Bigger Story. Journaling helps me to discern the difference between the forest and the trees.
  4. Notice my feelings. I understand feelings aren’t everything, but they also aren’t nothing. The older I get, the more I try to pay attention to them. They are often an early indicator of something brewing.
  5. Connect with my heart. I’m not sure I can really explain this one, but journaling has helped me monitor the condition of my heart. Solomon said “above all else” we are to guard it (see Proverbs 4:23). It’s hard to do that when you lose touch with it.
  6. Record significant lessons. I’m a better student when I am taking notes. Writing things down leads to even deeper understanding and, I hope, wisdom. I want to write down what I learn, so I don’t have to re-learn it later.
  7. Ask important questions. A journal is not merely a repository for the lessons I am learning but also the questions I’m asking. If there’s one thing I have discovered, it’s the quality of my questions determine the quality of my answers.

If you’d like to read the entire article, you can do that here.

Man Challenge – Part 1

d-johnsonIt’s been my experience that many men aren’t really interested in church.  Of course your milage may vary.  I think that it’s partially due to what the church has done to them over the years on Father’s Day, which is beat them down for being worthless fathers.  This seems to be in sharp contrast to Mother’s Day, where we get all mushy eyed about how great mothers are!  Another concern is how some men are portrayed on television. Many sitcoms portray men as absent minded goobs – Joey on Friends for instance, comes to mind.

Men deserve a better experience when it comes to the church.  Most of the men that I know in church are stand up guys.  They enjoy masculine stuff. They’ve served in the military. They enjoy fast cars. They love football. They ride motorcycles. They enjoy fishing, hunting and a host of other manly activities. As men in the church we need to get the word out that at Friendship we’re not beating men down.  We’re challenging them to step up and be the best they can be. But not in a condescending way.  You see most men like a challenge when done with respect…

So men here is your first Man Challenge:

  1.  Whenever you attend church be sure to shake as many men’s hands as you can!

Many men are dragged to church the first time by their wives.  All us men were once that first time guest, not knowing how things would end before the service was over. Our suspicion and skepticism said it wasn’t going to end well for us. So a good firm handshake from another man will go a long way to say welcome to a first time male guest.

How I Lost Over 20 Pounds – Part 2

scalesAs I was running this morning I began to think I needed to do a followup on an earlier post that I wrote about losing over 20 pounds by initiating a lifestyle change. If you missed it you can read about it here.  We’ve all read about people that have tried experiments like this only to fail in the end.  It’s not hard to do when you look at diets verses something becoming a lifestyle.  Diets don’t work in my opinion.  Your mileage may vary.

So have I gained the 20 plus pounds back? No!  Am I still eating as strictly as I was originally? No! Do I still eat SOME bread? Very little!  Mostly in the form of pizza – surely that doesn’t count – right? Have I drank many cokes (they are all cokes in the south – Mt. Dew, Dr. Pepper, etc… all referred to as cokes as far as I’m concerned!) Answer? Some! Just don’t care or them like I once did.

So where do I stand with the Primal Blueprint lifestyle change? I’m a big fan. But as with anything else you need to get it dialed in for what works for you.  For instance, natural peanut butter would not be primal. But that is a great treat for me regularly when placed on an apple slice!  Yum! I now love just a small piece of dark chocolate with a high cocoa content as suggested in the Primal Blueprint, on a regular basis.

Do I periodically have a cheat day – a resounding yes to that!  One month I ate a Shoney’s hot fudge cake! Another month I ate a piece of Jim and Nick’s chocolate pie!

Then there are some days when my gym workouts and running require me to eat for energy and calories.  I try to still eat good calories but due to my level of exercise I can get away with a little more than others are able to and  still not gain weight.

Overall I feel great.  It did take a few weeks to get accustomed to a new way of eating. But it has been worth it and I would encourage everyone to give a lifestyle change a try.

As I write this I’m training for another big, over 31 mile, race and all I can think of is this:


Returning From Exile

exileHeard a wonderful story last Sunday with parallels from the Old and New Testament that really spoke to me.  Not only did it speak to me, it also provided much hope.

The story came at the end of one of our many Sunday worship services.  This was a particularly special occasion as a wonderful couple, we’ll call them Mike and Cindy (not their real names) had made the decision to join the church. As I finished asking the traditional questions to them and our congregation… Mike asked if he might share a few words…

They were few but powerful.  Mike told of how they had been away for a long time but had made their way back. Of how multiple people had continued to invite them back home time after time… They eventually surrendered to the multiple invitations and came back. Mike then named those that hadn’t given up on them and named each one with Cindy’s help! Then Mike issued a tearful challenge.  Don’t give up on inviting those that have left to come back home. Continue to invite!

It makes, and made a difference in their lives and it will in others.

It’s odd that Mike and Cindy’s story of returning from exile would come at a time when I was deep into N.T. Wright’s book, Simply Jesus.  Odd that I was just reading about the Israelites returning from the Exile. Oddly it was making parallels of the Old Testament and the parables of the New.

Here is what it said…”The parables, in fact, are told as kingdom explanations for Jesus’s kingdom actions.  They are saying: “Don’t be surprised, but this is what it looks like when God is in charge.”…Specialists who have studied the way in which Jesus’s language works describes a “speech-act” effect, whereby telling a story creates a new situation, a new world….It was a new world in which God was in charge…This was the new world in which God was in charge at last, on earth as it was in heaven…This was the new world in which promises were coming true, in which new creation was happening, in which a real “return from exile” was taking place in the hearts and minds and lives both of notorious sinners and of people long crippled by disease.”

There comes a time when we all need to return from exile.  To a place that offers a loving accepting new world. A new world of possibilities.  That place can be the church and all us sinners are in need.

I wonder if Mike and Cindy’s story will have a “speech-acts” effect on those who heard it. To create an atmosphere of generosity and hospitality with a simple invitation for those who have entered the exile, to come home again.

I wonder how many invitations will be offered to exiles this week or even in one’s lifetime? An offer to come home.

One can hope.



Erik Smallwood the Boy Wonder!

1012998_10152960466885580_58277525_nI want to tell you about Erik Smallwood’s inspirational weight loss story…and more!  But you can’t handle the truth – yet, so let me set it up for ya!

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about how I personally lost over 20 pounds – for now.  The “now” doesn’t denote more weight loss but is there because I know I want to gain some of it back – just not as belly fat this time.

But let me introduce to you my friend Erik Smallwood, the boy wonder! Erik would just scoff at the loss of a mere 20 pounds.  He’d just snap his collar and wipe it off at the mention of just 20 pounds.  You see, Erik is the real inspiration of many, as he has lost over 90 pounds!

Erik became a part of our awesome team at Friendship Church several months ago as a worship leader and so much more at our Friendship North Campus. Over the last several months he’s shared his love of fitness but was quick to let me know that this hasn’t always been the case.

When I asked about his story I was blown away. He shared how he was an emotional eater finding comfort in food but one day woke up and decided to drop the excuses and do something about it. And do something about it he did! To the point he’s become an inspiration to many. He’s lost over 90 pounds or so and isn’t finished! Plus he’s happy to show you how too, if you’ll just ask!

I once asked him what’s the heaviest he’s ever been and he said he was afraid to look at the scales after the day 285 showed up under his feet.  He’ll tell you about all the baggy clothes, that he believed made him look better when he was at his heaviest.  He’ll tell you about the lonely nights in his apartment when he would turn to food for comfort. And did he find comfort!  About 285 plus pounds of it! One mouthful of BMI after another!  Now you’re ready for the truth!

Here’s the case today!  While he’s happy to share his success story, he’s even more excited to tell you about his current workout routine.  Of how he gets up early before work to go to the gym.  When his current gym closed for the week, he drove to another gym outside town. You’ll often find him and his wife, Hannah, preparing healthy meals a week in advance. BTW, Hannah, has an equally great story that I’ll be posting about soon! The Wonder Boy is now DRIVEN!

Erik’s not scared of a little trash talk either, as I pounded him to go running with me one afternoon. Second time running with me he did 6 miles! He was awesome!

While all that’s great, what Erik is really happy to tell you about is his faith.  How he was musically mentored by a friend named John David, played in a Christian Band, became a Christian worship leader for years but then left the church for years. He’ll tell you how he was hurt and broken but mysteriously found his way back to the church after a successful career as a worldly musician. He still loves playing his originals around town and DJ’ing at local gigs!

So if you have the time, Erik is more than happy to tell you how to lose weight, how to stay fit, how to how to lead worship, and how to follow Christ.

Seriously if you’d like to know more he’s happy to talk about any of those.

If you want to know more about Erik’s other life, go checkout that story at “about” page.  There you’ll find that he’s opened for some pretty big acts – opening for major acts like Joe Diffie, Jason Isbell, Shooter Jennings, Jason Michael Carroll, David Alan Coe, Josh Thompson, ThirdDay, Eli, Plus One, Gary Jules, Lenny LeBlanc, The Embers, Jennifer Knapp, Disciple, Luna Halo, Gary Nichols (The Steeldrivers), and many others.

Erik is the real deal.  Just check out these before and after pics.



Soul Keeper – What Went Wrong?

robert-youngA few Sunday’s ago I reminded everyone that YOU are the keeper of your OWN Soul.  Not the church, not your LifeGroup, only you are responsible for your own spiritual growth.  We live in a time like no other in Christianity to grow in our relationship with Christ.  The church, LifeGroups, the internet, etc… are all just tools to assist us in our spiritual relationship with God. But the burden lies on us to use them – to be the keeper of our own soul.

Little did I know, not long after that message on Sunday, that it would become evident how true that was/is – we are responsible for our own souls ( idea from Soul Keeper by John Ortberg).

I received some news that left me wondering, “What went wrong?”

The news involved a once good friend of mine Robert Young – that’s his picture at the beginning of this post. But before the news, let me tell you about Robert…

Robert and his family began attending the church I was serving at the time.  He was very soft spoken and uber polite.  In fact his entire family were just one of those families all minister’s want in their church.  Over the years he and his family would become an important part serving on multiple teams. They would do anything asked of them. Seriously a blue ribbon family.

But somewhere something went wrong years later after they left the church to attend one much closer to their home. I received the news that a divorce had taken place. I would see Robert here and there and he still seemed to be the good spirited, good natured guy I had always known.

Now to the news…

Originally I received news that he had committed suicide.  Upon hearing the news I immediately searched the internet but found nothing.  This seemed right.  I couldn’t imagine Robert doing that, or really anything bad at all.  But then I found this article:

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Huntsville Police have identified the man shot by officers early Saturday morning, September 17 at a Marathon gas station.

The man shot was Robert Young, age 45 of Huntsville.  He died on the scene.

The officers involved are on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation and Incident Review Board.

According to Lt. Stacy Bates, Huntsville Police spokesperson, officers were called to the Marathon station at 8212 Bailey Cove Road at approximately 3 a.m. Saturday.  Two officers arrived simultaneously and discovered it was a burglary in-progress.  Police saw broken glass in front of the store and spotted a male inside.

The officers gave the man verbal commands, but he began shouting, cursing, and throwing items from inside the store.  Officers said the man then ran out the front door and pointed what looked like pistols at the officers.

Police fired at him, striking him multiple times.  Officers determined the weapons were replicas of a Smith & Wesson M&P pistol and a Beretta 92 pistol.

No officers were hurt.

Investigators are reviewing body cam footage and surveillance footage from the store. An Incident Review Board is tentatively scheduled for Friday, September 23.

The two officers involved will remain on administrative leave pending the findings of the Incident Review Board.

While I have no idea what went wrong in Robert’s life, his mental state or anything else, it served as a reminder how frail life is and can become.  It was also a reminder how important it is for us to take responsibility of ourselves and our spiritual growth.  To take care of ourselves. To be our own Soul Keepers.

I wasn’t the only one to know Robert as a kind person before this tragedy and whatever took place in the years we lost touch.

Here is what the obit had to say:

From an early age, Robert displayed a heart for helping others and an earnest love for God, characteristics that would follow him throughout his life. Robert was active as a Boy Scout while growing up in Fayetteville, ultimately achieving the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout in 1985. A 1989 graduate of Lincoln County High School, he began studying Shorei Goju Karate in the mid 80s. He received his Shodan (first-degree black belt) from Sensei Garry Hampton in 2008. He continued training in Trias Karate until his passing. Robert was a member of Theta Xi fraternity while attending Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He was employed as a software engineer, most recently at Tec-Masters, Inc., in Huntsville. Robert’s desire to serve his fellow man was demonstrated by his previous service as a member of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s posse and as a deacon at Washington Street church of Christ. 

While I know that there were so many variables at play that we will never know, it’s still a sad turn of events for the Robert that I knew years ago.

Just leaves me with two thoughts:

  1.  What went wrong?
  2. We are the keeper of our own souls


How I Lost over 20 Pounds – For Now!

scalesSome have asked how I lost over 20 pounds recently.  So I thought I’d give you the skinny (pun intended) on it.  The catalyst really was a friend of mine that is always doing life experiments much like myself.  He ranted about how much better he felt due to his change in eating habits.  Notice he didn’t say “diet”, because diets are proven not to work.

Lifestyle changes do.

Not long thereafter I was reading about a triathlete who was laughing about how many triathletes would spend thousands extra on a bike to lose just a pound or two for a carbon fiber frame.  He believed, as I do, that it would be cheaper just to lose the weight himself. I quickly made the jump to my long distance running.  Why am I carrying all this extra body fat for all these miles!  Viola, now it made since.

I already knew that belly fat is the killer of many people.  I realized as I get older it’s harder to lose weight. Knowing that I love a good life experiment… Knowing that I’ve tried “diets” before and they didn’t prove effective for the long haul… Why not try a lifestyle change experiment?

So how about the lifestyle change already! Primal Blueprint eating lifestyle. Specifically I’m doing the Primal Endurance option for athletes. Yes, I did buy the book!

Basically I’ve cut out bread, desserts, soft drinks, most grains. Know that I’m not ultra strict.  If I’m doing long runs on any given week I will eat pizza!  Not giving that up.  But In the last 2 months I’ve had one soft drink and probably 2 deserts. I’m also pretty liberal with condiments.  Just because ketchup has sugar in it doesn’t mean I’m gonna kick it to the curb!

I eat a lot of red meat, fish, chicken, eggs and bacon, and SOME grains but very little.

So I’ve found this very doable.  I also realize I can cheat periodically and still go back without falling off the wagon.

I must say that I feel better than ever.  My belly fat is lower than it’s ever been.  I weigh about what I did in college.

So far I like this lifestyle change with the Primal Endurance idea with the modifications that I have made (Pizza!).

I also continue to go to the gym 3-4 times per week and run on a regular basis.

If you need to lose a few pounds without dieting, I’d suggest you give the Primal Blueprint a try.

Mark’s daily apple website is a good site to learn more if you’re interested.

I don’t follow EVERYTHING suggested by the Primal Blueprint and I don’t take any supplements other than a daily vitamin (when I remember to take it!)

I also may revert back to old eating habits at some point but for now I’m really enjoying what I believe is long term lifestyle change.

For the record, yes I will periodically drink a coke, eat a dessert, and a piece of bread! I’m not legalistic about it but it will be done sensibly.