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7 Things Lifting Has Taught Me About Life

Since February 2016 I have gone from 271 lbs to plateauing at 235 right now. I lost most of the weight by running but also cutting out a lot of snacking and over eating at meals. I need to lose about 20 more lbs but that will come slowly and methodically. On February 6th of this year I started weightlifting again. I use Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 system that incorporates four primary lifts (overhead press, deadlifts, bench press and squat) along with some assistance lifts to build strength.[1] I also run/do cardio three-four times a week depending on how sore I am or how much time I have.

Right now here are my 1RM (one rep max) for each lift:

Overhead Press: 170

Deadlift: 305

Bench Press: 250

Squat: 325

These are not big numbers but they are very methodical. I wanted to share this with the purpose of sharing what I have learned about life, so far, from lifting. I am no expert at lifting and am a novice at best. Yet…

#1 – Pain is part of the process

This is one of those “make it or break it” factors when it comes to lifting/losing weight. The tendency for our bodies is to run away from pain but what I have had to learn is that pain is just part of the process. I hate it but often I have to push through the pain to accomplish my goals. Life is that way. Pain often has her way with us and our tendency is to run away when perhaps we need to lean into the pain. Check out this quote from Henry Rollins:

“It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.”

#2 – Not planning is planning to fail

I used to just go in there and throw a bunch of weights around and say I was lifting while accomplishing zero results. That’s stupid. Since taking Wendler serious and using Excel to record my numbers I have noticed incremental changes in my strength. Why? I have a plan. I think many of us go through life just like this. We have zero plans and zero goals amounting to…you guessed it…nothing. I am not saying we all have to go Type A and get rigid with everything we do but I strongly believe we must set goals and plan.

#3 – Our biggest obstacle is ourselves.

The biggest obstacle in lifting has to be my own mind. So often I try to talk myself out of a lift because of this pain, or that time conflict, or on and on go the excuses. You get what you give and many times we hear voices telling us to quit. Life is that way isn’t it? The biggest obstacle between us and what matters most is often between our ears.

#4 – There is a right way and a wrong way

Technique is the difference between results and injury. Louie Simmons said, “Don’t have $100.00 shoes and a 10 cent squat.” My body is no longer able to bounce back from injury like it used to (and its getting worse) and so technique is key in my lifts. I am always looking for ways to improve my form or have an edge on trying to get stronger while maintaining proper form. Sometimes we go through life without consulting the experts or at least having a coach. We think we have the right form but so often we injure our mind, body and soul to the dismay of our growth.

#5 – Haters will suck the life out of you.

A weird epiphany came to me a couple months ago. Many people who are over weight, out of shape or lacking results want others to be just like them…miserable.[2] They will say some comments like:

  • “You should eat what you want, live a little.”
  • “Don’t lift a lot of weights as you will be sore when you are older.”
  • “Everybody needs breaks. Take a month off or so.”

I get it. Yet, what I want to reiterate is that part of having a plan incorporates rest, food and life. What it does not include are excuses, lack of focus and laziness. I don’t think I need to make the jump to life here for you. I think you get this. Avoid the haters.

#6 – Make Time

I used to say, “I don’t have time to work out” so that I could have a valid reason not to. The truth is that I had plenty of time but I simply did not manage my time well. Here is a window into a typical day for me…

6:00am           Awake

6:50am           Drop kids off at school

7:15am           Arrive at work

3:15pm          Leave work

3:30pm          Work Out

4:30pm          Arrive at home and begin to cook dinner

5:15pm          Dinner

6:00pm          Ball games

9:00pm          Get home, put kids to bed.

10:00pm        Go to sleep

As you can tell, I have hardly any time to breathe. That’s part of it. Sometimes my workout is two hours and sometimes I go in there for 15 minutes. The important thing is to put time in. Someone wiser than me once said, “You make time for things that are important to you.” That is true in life. Some people care more about money than they do their family or even their own health. Others care more about some perceived status than they do about things that matter most. As a youth minister I have seen it time and time again how families have jacked-up priorities and then tell me, “Robbie, we just do not have time for church stuff.” You know what? They are right. Why? Whether they can admit it is irrelevant because church (for whatever reason) is just not important to them. The same goes with weightlifting.

#7 – Growth is slow and incremental

Every month, as per my plan (see above), I add 5% to my workout in terms of lifts. I had a guy come over to me while I was benching and said, “Why don’t you add more weight sissy?” I laughed it off but I knew I deep inside I could tell him that I have added 15 lbs to my workout over the past two months but he probably couldn’t tell me his growth. Getting strong takes time. There are injuries, setbacks, obstacles and a host of other things hampering growth. That’s why it is slow, methodical and purposed. Many of us want veteran body with rookie effort. Again, life is that way. Growth takes months and years. I am glad I am at a different place now than where I was ten years ago but that took some time.

That’s it. What would you add?

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[1] Specifically I use the “Boring But Big” program in 5-3-1.

[2] I understand some people who are over weight or out of shape cannot help it. I get that and obviously I am not speaking about those folks nor am I claiming some sort of superiority over other folks who do not work out. I am just making some observations.

Dear church, our struggle is not against a denomination…

For those of you reading this and are a bit baffled I want to extend both an apology and an explanation. I am a youth minister for a church of Christ which is a small local expression of a larger movement which has historically opposed denominationalism maintaining a strict adherence to Scripture as authority and not some ecclesiastical hierarchy. Anything that smells denominationally is to be rejected because it must hail from some sort of human innovation and is thus not God authorized by God. If you talk to many ministers from the Churches of Christ they will tell you that we are, in fact, not a denomination but each local church is its own expression of the original first century church. When it gets down to it I think it is more semantics than actual biblical mandate as to why we are not a denomination but that is not the point of this post. I actually think the autonomous nature of the church is more theologically accurate than hierarchical structures but another post for another time.

The point of this post is to apologize to other expressions of Christianity that have been maligned, castigated and disregarded as “unfaithful” because of _______________________ (insert doctrinal qualms here). Christianity seems to be one of the fewest movements that actually eats their own (aside from American politics). I actually had this conversation with someone before:

Concerned church member: “Hey Robbie did you hear about Jim Bob and where he attends worship now in college?”

Me: “Ummmm no I didn’t.”

Concerned church member: “He actually goes to a Baptist church and is plugged into their college ministry. Can you believe that?”

Me: “I am so thankful.”

Concerned church member: “That is a denomination and…”

Me (Interrupting): “Would you rather have them doing keg stands at I Tappa Kegga and attending a church of Christ once a week?”

Concerned church member: “Well no Robbie but clearly it is wrong for them to be involved in that ministry because they _________________(insert doctrinal qualms here).”

Me: “ I support them because they are with a ministry that believes in advancing the gospel, baptizing the lost and plugging them into the kingdom to do the same thing. That is alright in my books.”

Many of you reading this are probably throwing your hands up and screaming, “Flaming liberal!” I think you miss the thrust of my conversation and the point of this post. Our struggle, brothers and sisters, is not against denominations but against the unseen forces of evil. Does that mean every doctrine a denomination practices gets a nod? Of course not. Does that mean you endorse everything denominations do? Stop it!

It means that my focus and energy are fixed on those who have no concept of Christ. Many denominations are so focused inwardly anyways that there is no room for discussion of those who are on the outside (wink-wink my Stone-Campbell brethren). I also do not have time to engage in discussion about minute differences in theology. I am sure this is a fruitful and necessary endeavor but one that I am most assuredly ambivalent to. I am not creating a dichotomy in which one chooses over the other but I am simply not interested in those discussions. Ripping apart denominational doctrine is low-hanging fruit for a Wednesday night bible class but for me I simply have no energy to do so.

I understand that doesn’t mean churches should blindly give the high-five of fellowship to any and all movements but I also believe it says something when all churches in a community practice solidarity except for some that believe their way is the only way. I also try to give folks the theological benefit of the doubt. I was reading a paper I wrote many moons ago and if I was a professor reading this for the first time I would be ashamed I what my student wrote. I was (still am?) so presumptuous in my conclusions that I failed to grasp the big picture.

So can we stop the kindergarten my-church-is-better-than-your-church conversations and shift our focus more towards those who are not in any church at all? Can we leverage our combined focus on Christ and use that to advance the gospel in our own context? Can we eschew our foolish pride that says we have to have our name stamped on a program and unite with other brothers and sisters to be light on a hill?

That sounds more eternally minded to me…

 

How do you handle someone who dislikes you? For all you people pleasers…

Part of my genetic makeup is that I care too much about what people think of me. When I learn that someone dislikes me it tears me up inside because I go out of my way to serve people, especially those who do not like me. I have had this quality ever since birth so the likelihood of me trying to erase it is near impossible. My best bet is to try to enact some principles that help my sanity but also my spirituality. I remember when I was a freshman in high school trying to navigate a new school, city and friend group all in one year. There was this one punk kid who made my life a living hell everyday. I don’t know what I did to him other than I simply showed up in his class and he did not like that. He mercilessly made fun of me calling me names and acting like he was going to fight me. He did this every…freaking…day. It tore me up because I had no clue what I did to him and the fact that he hated me tore me up inside.

 

So what do you do when someone does not like you? How do you handle situations like mine and a million other situations where people, for one reason or another, hate your guts? I don’t have the best advice but the following principles help me move on and focus on more important things.

First of all, I ask the question, “Have I wronged them in some way?”

Without sharing too many details there was this situation where someone was passive-aggressively slamming me on social media to their friends. Well, I was this person’s friend as well and so I see everything they posted and without a doubt it was about me. I was hurt. I was angry. I typed my essay in the comment section but then soon deleted it because I asked myself this question, “Have I wronged them in some way?” The answer was a clear “NO” and I soon realized that this person just didn’t like a decision I made. It was not an amoral decision just one they did not like and so at that point there is nothing I can do about it. Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). Sometimes people do not like us and we have wronged them and we need to reconcile that before we can move on.

Secondly, realize that hurt people, hurt people.

Why do they not like you? One reason may be that they are broken and come from a long line of brokenness. If scripture is right in saying we are all sinners then somewhere down the line that is going to infringe on your relationships. People are going to have skewed worldviews and this side of eternity we will never truly have perfect or complete relationships. There will always be prejudices, animosity, hatred and disdain. I hate that but it is true. I was working a particular job one time and I had concern about a hose that was leaking on the property. A guy was in the process of building houses (yes plural) and they were large and roomy. This guy clearly was blessed with financial means. I expressed my concern of the leaking hose to another worker on the property and his response was, “Who gives a $#@* about it? This guy is loaded anyways and as far as I am concerned he can just pay for it.” The worker clearly resented the man and was jealous of his financial means. You find me a section of humanity and no matter how genuine or utopic the community is there will be brokenness and hatred.

Thirdly, I always try to realize I live not to please man but to glorify Christ.

This is a tough one for me. First, I often find that my level of glorifying Christ is often in need of repair. Progressive sanctification means we are theoretically getting better at following God but many times, like the apostle Paul, I find that “when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me” (Rom. 7:21 CEB). Secondly, if people killed Jesus who healed and saved them then why would I be spared from the same fate? So instead of returning evil for evil our efforts should be to love and serve people whether they are friend or foe. I have one Lord to impress and really what I do is not that impressive. He looks at me and says, “Robbie you pitiful thing you. You are a spiritual nincompoop and the fact that you are a minister is laughable. You know what? I love you. Nothing can change that.” So I live in that knowledge of his unfailing love and leave the peripheral “liking and unliking” to God.

Fourth, when and where possible I try to confront the problem head on and talk with the person.

This dovetails on the first point but I am amazed at how passive aggressive people are at handling their problems. Not many people I know enjoy confrontation (there are a few masochists out there) but many times it must be done to solve the issue. Sometimes we perceive a person dislikes us (“they won’t talk to me” or, “they seem quick when we talk”) when something else may be going on unknown to us. This could be tricky especially when the perceived person is your boss. In that regard I usually approach the situation like this (after much prayer and then setting up a face to face meeting):

Robbie: I am grateful you decided to meet with me as I know you are a busy person. I wanted to come to you with a struggle I am having lately because I need some clarification. For some reason I perceive you disliking me in some way and I am unsure if it has to do with my job performance or if I have wronged you in some way. I do not want this to affect our working relationship and so if I need to do better at my job then please give me a list of things I need to improve on. If I have wronged you in some way then let me know so I can make it right.

I have done that a few times and just about everytime we come to an amicable agreement and a lot of times it was just my perception that was wrong that needed clarification. Notice I used this to clarify instead of condemning. I didn’t rush to judgment on their behavior and made sure I used plenty of “I” statements.

So those are my thoughts. What are some things you would add?

 

 

Five Tips on Disagreements You Need To Learn Now

To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. – Aristotle

Disagreements are unavoidable. They are part of our lives much like breathing or sleeping. Yet even though we have mastered the skills of breathing and sleeping we are not so good at disagreeing with one another. A friend shared with me that a recruiter had contacted her encouraging her to join the military. She absolutely did not want to but she didn’t know how to tell him and so instead of saying, “I am not interested” she simply did not answer the phone.

Have you ever done something along those lines?

We don’t want to hurt their feelings right?

I think it is a combination of a lot of things but the main reason, in my opinion, is that we just do not know how to disagree. So I have five tips that I have learned either from others or from my own failures that will help you with your disagreements.

#1 – Don’t take disagreements as personal attacks.

This is important even if it is a personal attack. Early on in my ministry I discovered some self-esteem issues whenever someone would disagree with me. I thought it was an effort on their part to attack me personally and so I would either shut down or I would lash out in an unhealthy manner. Many of the disagreements stemmed from a misunderstanding of a situation or of each other. Jimmy Carter said, “One of the most basic principles for making and keeping peace within and between nations…is that in political, military, moral, and spiritual confrontations, there should be an honest attempt at the reconciliation of differences before resorting to combat.”

#2 – Don’t run from disagreements because you hate confrontation.

I have not met too many people who enjoy confrontation. It is no fun. David Augsburger said, “The more we run from conflict, the more it masters us; The more we try to avoid it, the more it controls us.” Dormant disagreements operate the same way bacteria does in the human body. If left alone it consumes everything in its path until their is nothing left to consume. “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen” (Winston Churchill).

#3 – View disagreements as opportunities to learn

“Every problem has a gift for you in its hands” (Richard Bach). In disagreements I learn about the person I am disagreeing with, myself and the nature of disagreements. I know it does not seem like your learning in the trenches of a disagreement but if you couch it as an opportunity it changes the dynamics of how you disagree. I remember disagreeing with someone about a particular issue and I “blew up” and acted in anger. I learned something about myself in that moment and I have never repeated that behavior again. I learned.

#4 – Schedule a time to disagree together

Ambrose Bierce is famous for saying, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Many of you know this to be true as there have been countless times I have responded in anger rather than poise. To combat this it would help if you would schedule a “disagreement time” where the two of you can sit down and after working through your emotions can handle the issue in a constructive manner. Most people respond well to this but there may be some situations where this is not possible so I would usher a quick prayer for discernment in this period.

#5 – Ask questions and speak with “I” statements

For me questions seek to clarify and assess the situation. Sometimes I misinterpret things and so I want to make sure I have the right information. Example:

  • Bill (A parent in the youth group): “Robbie, I don’t think you should have had that devotional on a Sunday night right after going on a youth rally.”
  • I respond with, “Bill I am hearing that you disagree with having a couple activities back-to-back on a weekend is that correct?” (CLARITY)

This helps me make sure I heard him correctly so I can speak with clarity to the situation he describes. I also use “I” statements because I can only speak for myself and my own motives and saying “you” will only make the disagreement even more heated.

These are five tips that I think will help you in disagreements right now.

So happy disagreeing!

5 Things Church Bashers Have Taught Me

In the last six months within the Churches of Christ I have seen a number of different issues that seem to garner much attention over social media. The pattern (though not always) seems to go in this order:

  • Controversial issue[1] occurs at a church
  • Issue finds its way to social media channels
  • Ensuing social media discussion follows
  • Bashing of churches (or people) usually in a derogatory way.
  • Further polarization.

Church bashing is nothing new and I am sure this occurs in denominations all over the planet. I can only speak from what I have seen in my small little corner of the world which, admittedly, is very limited. I want to share 5 lessons I have learned from those who bash churches but I want to first give a disclaimer.

DISCLAIMER: There is a difference in “bashing” a church and speaking truth to a church. I understand many are hurt by various churches who have either misused their authority or have appeared very much like the Pharisees Jesus spoke against. Jeremiah and a host of other prophets called the people of Israel to radically change their lives to pursue a more authentic walk with God free from hypocrisy. Church bashing is characterized by those who are more concerned about their “rightness” instead of helping churches become filled with God’s “rightness.” All churches need prophetic nudges at times but the bashers are those who seem to speak out of anger rather than love.

So here is what I have learned from those who bash the church…

#1 They have lost their focus

I talked with a baptist minister recently and the topic of differences between us came up and what he said was, I thought, very wise:

“To be honest Robbie I don’t have time to focus on all of our differences when their are so many people lost out there who need Jesus.”

Thinking about what he said I wonder if all of our efforts to talk about what this church has done or that church has done is akin to us shooting ourselves in the foot. In the animal world they call this type of thing filial cannibalism where animals eat their own kind. The Hebrew writer (whoever she is…) told us to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2) and if we are doing that we know that his focus was to “seek and save the lost” (Lk. 19:10).

#2 – They have forgotten the beauty of church autonomy

One of the reasons I love the Churches of Christ is their firm belief in the autonomy of local churches. Each church is governed by a local eldership made up of a few men who meet the principles found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. One of the unspoken maxims is that the Church of Christ has no creed but the Bible. I like that. But I also like the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed but I digress. When someone comes up to me and says, “Robbie, did you hear what Church A has done?” my usual response is, “Who cares? Church A is not your church so let their eldership worry about it so we don’t have to.” If there is serious error in the church then it is biblical to sit down with their elders and discuss things but that is about all you can do. Even doing that might be a bit of a stretch. Calling them out in public forums and putting them on Brotherhood Watchdog lists does nothing but feed the belief that we actually are not autonomous.

#3 Church bashing comes from all sides

It is tempting for some to think that “legalists” are the ones who bash churches but I have seen it from all over. These are actual statements I have seen or heard:

  • “That church just started using praise teams. Bunch of liberals.”
  • “You don’t want to go to that church as they preach with the NIV.”
  • “Their youth group goes to Winterfest. Pretty soon women will start preaching for them.”
  • “Why don’t you come to our church. That other church is stuck in the 1950s.”
  • “Nobody cares about that church. They are irrelevant and will slowly die off.”

All of this is church bashing and it comes from those who are progressive and those who are more conservative. This leads me to a very important point…

#4 Church bashing lacks humility

When I get to a point where I have to prove to someone just how right I am I might need to read Philippians 2:1-11 again and do a serious heart check. I would say that humility is a Christian discipline par excellence and that when we do not have the interests of others in mind then we find ourselves wanting in regards to humility. I certainly do not possess a corner in the market in terms of understanding the best position a church could be in theologically or otherwise but who does?

So…

#5 Church bashing comes from different views on how we interpret Scripture.

“I can’t believe that would do such a thing like that! Can’t they see it is plain as day in Scripture?” The short and less complicated answer to that is, “No.” Practicing some humility is it not healthier to say that maybe the method we use to interpret Scripture might not be the most accurate or theologically helpful way? I think there are plenty of things in Scripture that are “non-negotiables” but I also think there are plenty of things that are negotiable. How we arrive at those conclusions is very important but admittedly the tension arrives because we often use different systems to get there.

In the end I think it is biblical for other churches to confront churches that are in error but to bash them in a way that is demeaning, self-serving and free from love is something, I believe, the Lord is displeased with. I have done this before in previous posts years ago and I fully believe I did this with arrogance and no humility in me whatsoever. It is easier to bash something you don’t understand than to try to wrap our brains around it. I want to be known when Christ comes again not for poking fun at the bride of Christ but by making every effort to being peaceful with both those I agree and disagree.

IMAGE CREDITS: United Methodist Communications

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[1] When I say “controversial,” those who are not associated with the Churches of Christ (or Stone-Campbell Movement) might be scratching your heads thinking to yourselves, “What is he talking about?” Some of the controversial issues in our context are (but certainly not limited to): women in leadership, instrumental music, praise teams and open fellowship.