Trust and Obey | A Workout Guide

bike-riding-cape-coral

I hate working out. Never a friend; it sits and stares at me while I try to build of the drive and the energy to wear myself out. People kept telling me it would get easier, I’d get addicted and start liking yet. That has yet to happen. I have become more disciplined, however, it is still discipline that drives my workout routine. Though I have held to a fairly regular exercise routine since 2006 (24 Hour Fitness in Omaha did serve me well for a while), it was January of 2013 that saw me take the next step in my workouts: cycling…in Florida…during the hottest part of the day.

Physical Training and the Swim-Cycle

Swim-cycling—I call it that due to the Florida humidity—has without question helped me take a significant jump in my aggressiveness of workouts and, to be honest, it has made a difference physically. Though, due to the arrival of the kids (whom I blame completely for my lack of time and energy), I have seen a slight drop in days per week I can work out, I am still pushing hard and seeing gains and physical improvement in myself. While it does not get easier every day (it’s a mix of good days and bad days), I am getting stronger and healthier. This is why, as much as I hate it, physical training is vital to my life.

I could site articles and stats that show the value of aggressive exercise and how it can add years to a person’s life, but I won’t do that (except for this). There is no researched of logical argument that can negate the positive physical benefits of vigorous exercise. That’s not the point of this post. The point is the value of training – whether it be physical training, mental training, spiritual training or so on.

Why We Train Physically and Spiritually

We currently have a two-year-old foster child who has been living in our home long term. “A” (to protect her identity) is, for the most part, a very well behaved little girl who really wants to please Nita and I, make her little foster sister laugh and is conscious enough to automatically pick up after herself and treat the animals gently. For those reasons and many more, she has been an absolutely wonderful child to have in our home. She certainly does have her issues and can be very stubborn (let’s not forget that she’s two), and though she does have our trust in certain small things, she does not have a long leash.

For example, early on we had to help her wash her hands after using the restroom. She needed us to lift her up to the sink and help with the faucet and soap. A few weeks ago, I caught her coming out of the bathroom without us helping her wash up. Surprised that she didn’t call for help, I figured she forgot and got up to remind her of what she needs to do. Yet, when I grabbed her hand, I noticed it was damp. Curious, I asked her if she washed her hands, to which she said “Yes”. Though hopeful, the story didn’t add up and I did not believe her. After walking her back to the bathroom, I asked her to show me how she washed her own hands. To my astonishment, she climbed right up the vanity, turned on the faucet, grabbed the soap and washed her hands totally on her own. She had just earned a little bit of trust. Because I knew I could trust her in that, I was open to allowing her an appropriate level of freedom in that area, plus opportunities to increase that trust level even more.

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.

Matthew 25:14-28, NIV

Training to Trust and Obey

Jesus used this very example to describe the nature of trust. It starts small and then is given opportunities to grow as the student learns to obey and be faithful. “A” is nowhere near ready to handle all of the hygienic responsibilities adults take care of while half-asleep, because it’s too early in the morning and the coffee isn’t done percolating yet. Her version of brushing her teeth is a huge, toothy grin while holding the toothbrush up her nose. She’s not there yet. So, while she can handle the hand washing duties on her own, she still has a lot of progress to go.

This, obviously, is normal and an expected part of growing up. My point exactly. She’s only been alive a little over two years, it would be crazy to expect her to playing Mozart flawlessly, let alone actually brushing the food off of her teeth. The lesson here, the one I am learning how much I still have to learn is one of spiritual obedience.

“A” does not understand why she needs to wash her hands. The complexities of germs and bacteria are still years away in her cognitive development. What she does understand is that her job, as our foster daughter, is to obey. We are the authorities in her life and the only thing she needs to worry about is obeying Mummy and Daddy. This is a perfect analogy of our growth and sanctification in Christ. This side of heaven we will never know what the plan is; Proverbs 3 makes it clear that God is the one who lights our steps and makes our paths straight. Yet that lighting generally only shows us the next step. And that’s the key.

The Goal of Spiritual Training

We are not responsible for the plan. We are not responsible for our lives. We are purely responsible to stand. “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” This is the first verse in Philippians 4, directly after Paul wrote about following the example of Jesus and living life as a long distance journey. We cannot control where the path leads, nor can we control what obstacles fly in our way. All we can control, and all we are ultimately asked to do is to obey. Obey Christ and stand. Stand firm in our faith, following where the lighted path leads and trust that He has everything under control. That is faith and obedience. That is our calling, our job description as Christians.

So, while I must admit that I have not been very obedient to God this week, (and I only fit in two workouts) I get up each morning, get back on the bike, open back up the prayer lines and keep training. Some days are better than others, but as I look back through my life, my days are far better than they were years ago. I am a different person than I was and am continually being made new as I grow closer to God through trust and obedience. Maybe in a few years I’ll be trusted to brush my teeth on my own as well!

Your Job Is… from Cape Alliance Church on Vimeo.

Memes of New York

someecards meme creation for facebook

I have always been a big fan of the late, great Dave Barry. I say late because, as of the writing of this post, he is fifteen years late responding to my fan mail. Seriously though, his writing style has been truly inspirational to me. Every word so carefully crafted, it’s as if his filter was not a six pack of Budweiser, but a chain mail of brilliance. A lot of what made his writing so ingenious was his ability to pull together the most random of objects or discussion points, find a hidden link and tie them together to a wonderfully resounding denouement.

In the hopes of following in his steps, I want to talk about the memes that have recently been littering my Facebook news feed (I am referring to the images with a clever quote overlaid ..or something like that). Where did this phenomenon originate? Who came up with this crazy thing? To find out, I decided to use some investigative journalism. [Note to the IRS: Yes, it has been a long time since I've done any investigative journalism, but if you take a look at my previous articles, you will see I definitely do it for business reasons.] This time, my professional journalistic nature took me to the grand city of New York.

For those of you who have not yet been to New York City, let me tell you a bit about this wonderfully stuffed berg. It houses two of the most hated baseball teams in the Major Leagues and is the only logical city for Spiderman to sling around in. Let’s be honest – imagine if Spiderman lived in Omaha, NE. All he could do would be to spin a huge net between the Woodmen Tower and the First National Bank Building. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think he’d be very effective that way unless criminals were sling shooting themselves through the air.

Back to New York. While there, I ran into the tremendously helpful Jolene Smithers. When asked about her knowledge of the funny card corporation, Someecards, she excitedly responded, “Who?” To help jog her memory, I told her I was talking about those funny cards that get passed around a lot on Facebook. Now clear on what I was asking about, she said, “Oh, I don’t do that Facebook thing. Sorry.” That confirms only 1 of the 18 million people living in New York are not familiar with these memes, proving these are obviously significant no matter where you live.

Why does this matter? It matters because these memes are so completely helpful to our daily life. Thousands of barely surviving business struggle on Facebook trying to provide relevant and informative information to their constituent base, but they’re not doing anything for the gazillion Facebookers out there; nobody cares about helpful information anymore – mindless entertainment is the way to go! I could not agree more, as I am certainly a huge fan of mindless entertainment. I must say though that I am not a fan of the letter games going around; I’ve spent all day trying to figure out how many states do not have any vowels and I’m now way behind on work.

That is why I am so fond of Dave Barry’s work; his mind is as disconnected as mine and he doesn’t use words more complicated than “potato”. I’m pretty sure if they had memes back in the 80s, he would have become a millionaire (but only if he had been the one to invent them). [Note to the IRS: I admit this does not seem like a lot of research for an entire trip to New York, but I can assure you that I have more crackpot investigations to come; such as, what would happen if the Incredible Hulk got trapped in the subway? Or, what exactly does crab juice taste like? Trust me, there is a ton more where that came from.]

someecards meme creation for facebook

The Beauty of a Storm…Passed

It was, at the time, an eerie calm outside. It felt as if the wind had hit the pause button, though somehow you could still feel something moving through the air. My family lived in a single story home, which is rare for the Omaha area, and had very few options when rushing for the safe spot in the house during a tornado. Crushed and clamored in the hallway was certainly not our first choice for family interaction, but on Pease Drive, it was the safest. Reports were coming in with a tornado touching down about two miles west of our home, moving southeast.

This was all more of an annoyance, really. Growing up in tornado alley, this was just part of the summer experience. By the time I was in high school, I slept through and completely missed the tornado sirens for a touchdown that occurred on my school route. At the time, though, this was intense. I was maybe seven or eight then and the electricity in the air was palpable. My father decided he wanted to take a look and see things for himself; I immediately decided I had to as well and opened my eyes to my first live look at nature’s wild beast. I, of course, felt like Indiana Jones jumping over a chasm; my inner manliness wanted out to stare danger in the face. My dad, on the other hand, was frustrated this storm forced him to stop working on his yard project out back.

As a child, our eyes are usually closed even when we think we are staring danger in the face. That tornado did not pose a significant threat against me, even if it had turned more our way. With my parents making the decisions and advanced warning tools gaining momentum, there was only slight worry as to our fate. If things had gotten bad we could have taken the 30 second run over to our friends’ home with a basement; and even if we couldn’t get over there, our home was at the bottom of a hill and we were all tucked inside a hallway. Everything we could have done to protect ourselves was checked. At that point, all there was left to do was wait for the finger of God to move.

Recent posts of mine have referred to a story of a particular storm in my life; one that included years of car trouble, job searching and city jumping. It has certainly presented itself like a storm of storms. I felt much like the Israelites must have while trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army. As I was seemingly nearing the end of the storm, my church pastor gave a copy of The Red Sea Rules by Robert Morgan. It was not a big or complicated publication, but it highlighted ten basic rules of faith that was portrayed through the Israelites’ flight from Egypt.

I hope beyond explanation that this storm has passed. I am coming to realize, only now, the real purposes of this storm. Looking back over the last three or so years, there was not one moment where I was not under the protection of God. We never missed one bill payment, lost out on one meal, nor did we even have to significantly sacrifice much in the way of entertainment. We may have been dangling over the ledge, but there is no question there has been a rope tied around our waist. Of course, we could only be in the eye of the storm at this point and the cord could be cut – we could still go broke, lose our home, and go hungry; but God has made this abundantly clear: no matter what happens, He is still in control.

That said, I choose to praise and thank Him for His presence in my life. Things may improve from here leading to a wonderfully prosperous time for Nita and I; they may push us off the cliff. Either way, I have learned that though I may bend, I won’t break. I trust in Him who provides. Here are some words from MercyMe’s song Move, that I feel mirrors our experience up to this point. Enjoy.

“When life won’t play along

And right keeps going wrong

And I can’t seem to find my way

I know where I am found

So I won’t let it drag me down

Oh, I’ll keep dancing anyway

This hurt is getting heavy

But I’m not about to cave

Everything’s about to change

There’s gonna be brighter days”

redsearules

I’m Done Wasting My Life; Time to Lose It

riskisright

Yesterday I finished reading John Piper’s Risk is Right. It’s not a huge book, but I took my time with it, as due to the circumstances in which I received it, I felt it worth savoring slowly. I received it about a week prior, the afternoon after I quit my job. It was sent in the mail to me as a gift from two very close friends back in Omaha. For the three weeks leading up to leaving my job I battled constantly the idea of risk vs. wisdom. I have been feeling the call of God to start inching my way towards ministry again (He may or may not want me to be inching along, but currently that is my pace).

I left full time ministry 10 years ago and until last January never looked back. Based on prodding from my mentor in Seattle, the thought and opportunity to come back into church service has begun to bud. Even though I came very close to a job offer at our church in Seattle, it was not to be, and God led Nita and I down to south Florida. It was there he brought me to Cape Alliance. On our first day of visiting, they announced that was the last day of their Associate Pastor whom would not be replaced by paid staff. One of his main duties was the youth group. God spoke and here we are leading an entire youth group.

Upon our arrival to Fort Myers, both Nita and I graciously landed jobs quickly so that we could get our feet set. It is now seven months later and I am back in the job hunting mode again. At least this time we have no intention of moving. This is not a story about what happened at the job, and though it had a lot to do with circumstances surrounding working there, my battles over the last month have been about taking the next step in my faith. Maybe that meant moving a few inches at once, maybe just one, but it has certainly been a battle.

Conventional wisdom taught me to never quit a job without another one lined up. That has only been magnified under the current economic stress. But I felt a continuing nod to end my career in sales and open myself back to the world of giving, whether in church or at least non-profit service. With building pressure on every side, I became forced to make a decision: either stay where I am and close my heart to God’s pull or step out in faith. I have always desired control, even more so over myself. God kept tugging on me to let Him supply our needs and live on faith. One easy way to try that would be to give up an income…

Thus, last week I either did the stupidest thing ever or made one of my biggest leaps of faith. That said, I am being responsible and job hunting with fervor, but I have noticed that my faith and desire to trust in God’s leading for the next step is growing. There is where the book comes in. Arriving at the perfect time from friends that I trust with my life and who know on infinite levels more than me what it means to live on faith, I opened the pages and was impacted with the nature and power of risk immediately. The story of Joab and Abishai in 2 Samuel 10 was particularly convicting.

“Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him; so he selected some of the best troops in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans. He put the rest of the men under the command of Abishai his brother and deployed them against the Ammonites. Joab said, ‘If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.’” (2 Samuel 10:9-12)

We are called to do our absolute best with the talents, knowledge and strength given to us, but the lesson here is that God controls the outcome. The LORD will do what is good in His sight. I do not know what will happen, but I know that Nita and I have placed our lives in the center of His hands and am confident He has a good plan for us…granted, that plan may not be on this side of heaven. We’ll just have to travel on this journey and see where it goes.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

In case anyone is curious, though I am fully confident in God, do not be misled. The only times my knees are not shaking is when I am on them praying. Which, at this point, is often. Lastly, let me send a shout out to my friends Lee and Chelsea, the ones who sent me this book. They live on risk daily as they are paid by faith support through their college ministry, Cru. Follow the link to learn more about them and consider supporting them. Their first child is only a few months old and they are adopting 3 more children this summer. I’m afraid Nita and I still have a lot to learn…

riskisright

Phil Stalnaker, Stickboy Creative’s Business Development Director, Interviewed by News-Press

Phil Headshot CL

I am honored to announce that I have been highlighted in a story from the News-Press in their Coastal Life Section. The article was published on Friday, November 23rd, and tells the story of a dedicated professional who works hard while enjoying his sunny new life in Florida.

I am excited to be on the Stickboy Creative team and pumped that my efforts have led to an article after only four months of living in SWFL! Follow the link to read the article in the News-Press and see my dedication to doing what is right for each and every person I meet.

Stickboy Creative is a cutting edge Design Company specializing in Website Design & Development, Print Design and Print Management, Animation, Video Production, Identity Branding and much more. We are a one stop shop for all of your company marketing materials and we do not disappoint. Stickboy Creative was established in November of 2007 and has been growing at a rapid pace. Please contact us at 239.206.1193 or toll-free at 888.758.5558 to get a website that will make you bold | innovative | now.

FYI, since the publishing of the article is has already turned into direct business for our firm. Thanks, Florida!

This is a scan of the actual paper from the News-Press.

This is a scan of the actual paper from the News-Press.

Here is the full link to the article for sharing:

http://www.news-press.com/article/20121123/COASTAL_LIFE/311230003/Q-Phil-Stalnaker?nclick_check=1

 

Giving Thanks is Hard Work…So is Shopping

Black Friday Mob

As we enter into another holiday season, we realize how easy it is for all of us to quickly jump into Christmas mode while the impact of Thanksgiving fades away with the tryptophan. While I enjoy cringing at the start of “The Christmas Shoes” as much as the next guy, it seems a bit unfair that our beloved turkey day gets left in the dust. Stores have traditionally never had respect for the holiday, decorating for Christmas while children were still out trick-or-treating. Yet each year the disrespect deepens to the point to where “Black Friday” has now officially become a higher priority than Thanksgiving.
Black Friday, the day where good people turn into vicious monsters, has gained fame in recent years with the growing bargains of retail stores. As stores compete for who can run out of merchandise the fastest, consumers are prodded with earlier open hours and larger percentage discounts. Only a few short years ago, early starts on Black Friday were 4am. Last year, 4am turned into midnight, and this year has turned into 8pm the evening of Thanksgiving.

As much as it pains me to admit this, the frenzy for bargain shopping and the response by the retail outfits is actually in line with the original spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday. As the pilgrims celebrated the first year’s harvest, each individual at that table was relieved and thankful, because their death inducing labor finally showed fruit. With the first Thanksgiving, early Americans could finally see a future to work towards. Survival would soon turn to growth, and growth would eventually give birth to a thriving national economy. We, the people survived. It was true grit and tenacity that saw to that.

It is true grit and tenacity that will ensure our survival through these difficult fiscal times. Whatever business you may be in, success means rolling up your sleeves and getting into the game. We know that – and we know that we cannot do it alone. The team is the golden egg; just as any team truly is. Companies that have close, tight-knit units will operate with power and efficiency; those that don’t…well, let’s just say it doesn’t matter how early they open on Black “Friday”.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my wife and her willingness to do what it takes for others. I am thankful for friends and family, whether they have been around for days or years. I am excited and appreciative for every future opportunity and will continually be on the lookout for those whom we can help along the way.

The original settlers did what it took to survive and celebrated their success with thankfulness. Now, we do the same to survive in the mall. The times may look different, but the attitude of thankfulness stays the same. Let’s all hope that attitude is in full bloom when the shopping begins, as it is that attitude that made it possible.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Black Friday Mob

Image from Gengame.