Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Plateau

pla·teau
plaˈtō/
noun
  1. 1.
    an area of relatively level high ground.
  2. 2.
    a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.
verb
  1. 1.
    reach a state of little or no change after a time of activity or progress.




Some of you who know me closely know that I've been in the process of getting healthier and losing weight for a while now (about 2 years).  Over this time I've taken off approximately 70 lbs.  I'm not trying to brag, but I'm pretty proud of where I've come from, not to mention I've put on a decent amount of muscle in the process.  After losing 70 lbs, my arms are actually an inch bigger!

Anyway, it seems that I have hit a plateau. And, man, it is so frustrating. I have put on and lost the same 5 lbs since august. This week I was back up those 5 lbs again. This can be one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a person when they are in the process of losing weight.  I'm still not sure what I need to do to get past it. But I have a feeling that it will be a matter of eliminating something (wholly or partially) from my diet or adding some new physical activity to my routine.

But plateaus can happen in so many areas of life. Sometimes they happen in relationships. Other times they occur in our professional lives. Yet other times plateaus occur in our spiritual lives.

Breaking through a spiritual plateau is similar to taking on a plateau in weight loss. Chances are you'll need to either cut something unhealthy from your life or add a new physical expression of faith.

If you are feeling stuck spiritually, maybe you'll need to get rid of something you've been holding onto.  It might be something obviously sinful, like an addiction, but it might be something less apparent like spending too much time watching Netflix., too much time tracking your fantasy football team, or checking Facebook on your brand new iPhone.

Other times instead of eliminating something that is hurting your relationship with God, you need to add something new. Have you been reading your bible? If not, do it. If you are, try going a little deeper and doing a topical study on how great men and women of the bible prayed. It will not only give you some interesting reading, but it will also likely change the way you pray.  Maybe you need to find new places that you can pray. It could be that you need to be giving to your local church financially (yes, this really is important). Or maybe, just maybe, you should actually share what God is doing in your life with someone else! Tell them why it matters that you love Jesus and Jesus loves you (and I'm talking more than just fire insurance here).

Are you feeling stuck spiritually? Do something about it! Start by talking about it. Leave a comment expressing what you are going to change and how you are going to do it, then do it!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Loving Your Job

I know it's been too long since my last post.  And I swear that while this post won't cover all of the details of what I've been doing and what's new at Shiloh, it does have a lot to do with it.  Also, more post should be coming in the near future.  So here we go:


Yup, that's right.  For the first time in my life I can honestly say that!  And it is a great feeling.  While I wouldn't say I'm a work-a-holic by any means, I really like being at work and I really like doing my job.

There's a huge "but" though.

It seems that I have been so enthralled by my job and its busy schedule that I've forgotten about other parts of my life. I've made a point to stay close with my wife, and I honestly think that our marriage is probably the best that it has ever been.  Amanda and I have found a new church home that we are extremely excited to be a part of and we are really looking forward to getting involved more there.

So what is the part of my life that I've been ignoring?  My friends.

Men often live life like they are an island...

It's easier to just talk about sports and beer...

Relationships are like bank accounts...

No, I guess I will go with the last one.  Relationships ARE like bank accounts.  You can only withdraw as much as you are willing to put in.  It seems that over the summer I failed to make just about any deposits into my "friend" bank accounts. Now my bank accounts seem all but depleted and I'm wondering why my friends seem distant and upset.

For anyone else who is dealing with this (and I really hope that is no one because this is a miserable corner to work yourself into) the most important thing I'm learning is to start fixing things now.  Don't wait until you have more time.  If you think your friendships are worth having, start investing into that savings account now!

Most of my posts end with a question to my reader, so here goes?  Have you ever alienated a friend (or group of friends)? And what did you do to help remedy it?



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Knots In The Wood


This past week I spent a full day staining wood planks for trim work in the new gym. It isn't particularly glamorous work, but finishing work is important and it needed to be done. While I was staining plank after plank after plank I began to appreciate exactly what I was working with. These planks came from trees.

Somewhere 50 to 100 years ago a seed sprouted.  That seed grew into something magnificent and majestic that towered over lesser plants and shrubs. That housed innumerable birds, squirrels, and other animals. That tree may have provided shade for a weary traveler on a hot summer day. That tree, I'm sure, has countless stories that it could tell!  That is if it could speak. And had a mouth. And was sentient in some way.

Regardless of the fact that Ents remain a fictional species found only in Middle Earth, I found the idea of what this wood had become to be intriguing. It was being used for art (an industrial art, but definitely art none the less). And I began to think about knots.


Knots in the wood are found when branches sprout from the trunk of the main tree or when smaller branches sprout from large limbs. When the wood is hewn into planks, these knots are actually a structural weakness. Sometimes when doing wood working knots will actually fall out of pieces of wood. And yet, it is those weaknesses that make the wood so beautiful. Those weaknesses help define the wood and help the wood to take on a character of it's own.  A skilled artisan will take those weaknesses and use them to show off his strength and skill.

In much the same way, God uses our weaknesses, when we are willing to let God shape us into what he desires, to create incredible beauty. A friend of mine got married about a year ago. His bride can sometimes be... "passionate". Here's the deal with passion though.


Passion tends to boil over.




Things that boil over get messy.




Most people don't like "messy".



Her "passion" sometimes makes her laugh when others are silent. Her "passion" sometimes makes her cry when others are laughing. Her "passion" sometimes makes her scream when others are crying. Her "passion" sometimes makes her throw things when others are screaming. And you probably don't want to see her when others are at the point of throwing things.

But there is one more thing.


God has transformed this weakness - this knot - into something amazing, something beautiful. She loves harder than just about anyone else I know. She laughs more. She will be the first person to cry with you when you've had a terrible day. She will also be right next to you screaming in your defense when you've been wronged.

Her emotional side is her greatest weakness and yet her most endearing characteristic. God uses her weakness to create beauty. God is awesome that way!


Remember that it is the knots- the weakest points in the wood- that make it beautiful. And God wants to use your weak points to show off his beautiful creation too. Do you know anyone who's weakness shows God's great idea of beauty?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Useless Hands

I've been out of commission for two days.  After a bout with poison ivy (which was itchy, but not that bad) I have some other type of horrible rash that is on my hands.  Just about anywhere else on my body and I would still be at work, but yesterday I could barely make a fist.  How am I supposed to work with my hands when my hands don't work?

Please take a few minutes to pray that God would heal my hands (and legs that have the same rash) so that I can get back to work.  We have a quickly approaching deadline for the gym and I really need to be there getting things done.

Please pray that financial support will come in so that my wife and I can buy insurance.  I have yet to visit a doctor about this condition and have been using over the counter medicines to treat the problem.

Lastly, please pray that God will give us the ability to get the gym finished on time and that God would be glorified through it's use this summer and going forward.

UPDATE: My hands and legs are pretty much rash free now.  They no longer itch, though if I am very active and get my temperature warmed up a bit, you can still clearly see read splotches where the rash was.  Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Finishing Touches

At the camp we've been extremely busy putting the finishing touches on the new gymnasium.  Walls are being painted, the drop ceiling is almost complete in the meeting room, flooring is just about finished.  This is an exciting time.  God has taught me so many different things during this season of my life, but the thing I'd like to focus on today is...

Finishing Touches


When you are building something as massive as this gym (an ordeal that has taken us more than two years), it is easy to start strong.  You have an excitement that is naturally brought about by new experiences. We rise to the challenge. But as the work continues (especially over a long time) passion can wane. Finishing work such as spackle, paint, and trim may become sloppy. This is a shame, because it is, in the end, the thing that most people see and notice. Few people walk into a new building and appreciate the lumber used for the studs in the wall. Few people appreciate the quality of the concrete used in the foundation. I'm certainly not trying to diminish the importance of framing or foundations; the building couldn't stand without them. But it is the crown molding, the shade of blue on the wall, the soft carpet beneath one's feet that most people take note of when they enter a building.

Finishing Well Matters!

Finishing touches done well (or not) are the difference between a beautiful welcoming environment or a noticeably shoddy job. The same is true in life. 

Life is full of transitions. Are you almost done with high school or college? Finish well. Having a 4.0 GPA your last semester will be the icing on the cake along with your diploma (and it will help out your overall GPA as well). Have you given two weeks notice at your job? Giving an extra heave-ho at those last two weeks will really make your recommendations shine in the future. Are you a performer of some sort? Always end with something big, because that is what the audience remembers.

So I encourage you in whatever you are wrapping up right now to end it well. Give that project at work that extra little touch! In your workout, go for an extra two reps! If you are building a gymnasium, make sure those finishing touches are all done right!

It is never too late to give your all.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Top 10 Things To Love About Camp

10. Awesome hikes:

At Shiloh we get to enjoy a beautiful hike to a mountaintop (hilltop for all you west coast/rocky mtn. folks) that overlooks one of the most beautiful reservoir views I've ever seen. Sunrise, sunset, or anywhere in between you won't regret this sort of mountaintop experience.

9. Challenge courses:

How often do you get to rock climb up 50 feet in the air? How many zip lines have you been on? How about some team building or problem solving 20 feet above the ground? Looking for a rush? This is where it's at!

8. Camp food

Many people think that camp food is unhealthy and tastes terrible. You can blame Hollywood for that one. But the truth is, most camps try to offer healthy options for their campers. Not to mention that I can't remember ever walking away from a camp meal still hungry.  Also, s'mores. 'Nuff said.

7. Bows & Arrows:

That's right! Bows & arrows! In NJ it is pretty unusual to have regular access to this stuff. Boys can finally do more than pretend to be Robin Hood and Girls can more than pretend to be Katniss Everdeen. At camp you can learn exactly what it takes to be an archer like the best of them! 

6. Late night conversations:

Sleepover conversations are one of the best things about growing up. But that is only good for one night. At camp, you get to do this for a whole week! Often the hilarity that ensues during these conversations is beyond mention. But I would guarantee that at least one night during your week at camp, something serious worked its way into the discussion and you created a real connection with someone.

5. Music

Most people don't get opportunities to sing out loud other than alone in their own car. But at camp, you can sing loud and proud regardless of the quality your voice. Music helps connect people to a degree that other mediums could never even come close to.


4. Camp fires

I think that my favorite smell in the entire world is that of a camp fire. The smell that lingers on your clothing is earthy and warm and brings back so many great memories. Some music and some time to share about your week make this a special time for a lot of folks. Also, s'mores. Again, 'Nuff said.

3. The Staff

I still remember camp counselors from when I was a little kid. Most specifically I remember a guy named Shane and his brother Tim. They always ran the clinic for R.C. cars. One of the best things about the staff is that you can eventually be a part of it! Some of my co-workers became best friends (and vice versa). That brings me to my next point

2. New friends

I don't think that I could list all of the wonderful people that I met at camp. Those late night conversations help to add depth to a connection that is made while picking teams for dodgeball, singing camp songs, or fighting over that last piece of bacon at breakfast.

1. It can change your life:

A single weekend away at camp can change your life forever. Imagine what a whole week, month, or even a summer at camp can do! During the school year, many kids eat for free at school, but in the summer, for some families they have trouble scrounging up money for the extra meal. For these campers, a scholarshiped week at camp is the only week all summer that they don't go hungry. That can help change a life. Some kid's don't have anyone at home who will listen to them - a "seen but not heard" mentality. Having a camp counselor who will listen to them, encourage them, and believe in them can change a life. Thousands of campers also choose to have a relationship with a God who loves them deeply. Now that is a changed life!

Did I forget anything? Feel like I left something out? Feel free to share some of your memories in the comment section!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Cleaning

I've officially finished my first full week at Shiloh and I can 100% honestly say that I have never felt as sore as I have this past week. The gym construction site was pretty messy and disorganized. It needed some serious TLC and that was what I was tasked to this week. It was time for some spring cleaning (nice since spring has finally decided to arrive this week).


I moved large piles of sheetrock. Sometimes it was moving it only a matter of 10 feet, but if you've never moved a 14'x4' piece of sheetrock I can tell you that it weighs 100.8 lbs and sheets come attached in pairs.
- Now instead of these sheets taking up 56 sq. ft. of floor space they are leaning up against a wall.

I moved all of the yet unattached doors. Most doors in a person's house are hollow so that they are light weight and easy to open. But in a commercial building, all of the doors have to be fire rated and they are heavy and solid.
-Now these doors are set up by size and swinging direction ready to be grabbed when they are needed.

I swept up (and vacuumed up) more dust than I could possibly express.
-Now workers can move around without trudging through (and kicking up) a layer of dust.

I organized all of the tools by type and by task. All of the tools for sheetrocking and spackling are on one table.  All of the power tools (drills, grinders, saws, etc...) are on another table.  All of the fasteners (screws, nails, tape, zipties, etc...) are on yet another.
-Now when someone is looking for an item for a specific task, they don't have to take 30 minutes looking for what they need.

Why am I saying these things? While I do think I am awesome for doing all of these things, that isn't why I'm telling you about it. I want you to know that when you keep your life organized, keep your life clean, you enable yourself and others to better serve those around you.

If your life is crazy and you never know where you are going to be three weeks from now (none the less three hours from now), you are less able to help others. If your car is messy (and I'm speaking directly to myself on this one) you are unable to pick up that old lady walking in the rain with her groceries. If you don't take care of your house it is hard to invite people over for a bible study or a youth group's "night out/in".

What I'm driving at is if you keep a schedule and live a life with less clutter you will be more able to live the life to which God is calling you. Have you ever missed and opportunity to help someone because of disorganization or being messy in some way? What parts of your life might require some spring cleaning?