Cancer of the Heart

Posted: February 1st, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Have you ever heard of someone having heart cancer? I haven’t.

Lung cancer. Prostate cancer. Breast cancer. All kinds of cancer, but not heart cancer.

In a review of 12,000 autopsies, only seven people were found to have had a cardiac tumor. The Mayo Clinic only sees about one case a year. So it’s a very rare cancer, at least medically. But spiritually, I think it’s a different story. Spiritual heart cancer is pretty common. It’s called pride. And I have it.

I really didn’t think I had it, but I do. The symptoms tend to mask themselves as other things that actually look healthy. On the surface, everything might look good. Underneath though, when we start to examine motives and hidden thoughts, we find this deadly spiritual cancer wreaking havoc.

I don’t know how it might show up in your life, but I’ll give you some examples of how it does in mine.

My pride, this spiritual heart cancer, causes me to fear others more than I fear God. It makes me to want to look better than I actually am. It causes me to value my reputation–what others think and know about me–more than I value what God thinks and knows about me.

In essence, my reputation is my idol. It’s what I worship. It’s what I have to preserve. It’s what comes before everything else.

So how does all that play out in my life?

Well, because I want to be thought well of and to be liked, I will hold back from being honest. Why tell you what I really think and cause tension or conflict? Rather than speaking the truth in love, I won’t speak at all or I’ll tell you what you want to hear. And that’s neither truthful nor loving.

When it comes to my desire for a strong marriage and family–is it because it pleases God or because I want to look good to others? And what is my reason for working out? To be healthy or to simply look better? When I give to others–is it because I’m being generous or because I want to be liked?

The truth is that nothing we do is from a totally pure heart. I’m not talking about that though. I’m talking about pride that has begun to rule in my heart, not just taint my motives a little.

This morning, I was reading in Mark 2 and 3. Jesus has entered the town of Capernaum and experiences some confrontations with the Pharisees. I encourage you to read the passage. It’s very fascinating to note the reaction the Pharisees have to what Jesus is doing.

The Pharisees are watching Jesus closely, waiting to catch Him breaking the law. Every time He does something they don’t approve of–they confront Him either directly or indirectly. And each time they confront Him, they become more bold in how they do it until Jesus turns the tables and confronts them. When He does, it says:

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

The more I think about the Pharisees, the more I identify with them. These were guys who were trying to do the right thing. They were trying to please God. Outwardly, everything seemed fine. But the problem was their motives were all wrong. Their hearts were far from God. They did things to be noticed by others, not to genuinely please God.

They were filled with a spiritual cancer of the heart. Pride was killing them and they didn’t even know it.

Maybe pride manifests itself differently in your life than it does in mine.

Maybe you always have to have things your way. And so you manipulate. And complain. And criticize.

Maybe your pride causes you to think too highly of yourself. You overestimate your strengths. You don’t listen to others. You don’t solicit feedback. And if others give it, you dismiss it. They really don’t know what they’re talking about, right?

Or maybe you have to be in control. You have a plan for your life and you’re going to see it through. God is mainly here to help you accomplish your goals. It doesn’t occur to you that God isn’t interested in your plans or your goals. He’s interested in you living in submission to Him and doing whatever He calls you to do.

If you’re like me, your first thought is that pride really isn’t a problem for you. And that’s what I would have said a week ago. But my heart is not only prideful, it’s also deceitful. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

I wish I could say I have three action steps to deal with a prideful heart. But I don’t. I need the Great Physician to heal me, but I just don’t know what the course of treatment will look like yet.

Pride is like a cancer that has spread to multiple organs, so I don’t think there’s a quick fix.

Stay tuned.

What Are Your Emotions Telling You?

Posted: November 2nd, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Last month, my son and I went to a NASCAR race in Kansas City. On our way back home, we stopped to get some dinner. After leaving the restaurant, I was accelerating to get back onto the highway, when I felt my car hesitate. It had been doing that for a couple of weeks, but it was worse this time. And that’s when the “Service Engine Soon” light came on.

Something was going on underneath the hood that needed to be checked out. Something was wrong and the light was warning me about it.

I’m glad cars come with warning lights. They save us from ignoring or even being unaware of problems that could become very expensive to fix.

I think you and I have some warning lights as well. And when they illuminate, they’re letting us know that something’s wrong, that something needs to be checked out “underneath the hood.”

Those warning lights are our emotions.

I think I’ve had one lit up for a week or two now.

There was a day last week when I just felt annoyed. A bunch of little things were piling up and really starting to bother me. And I was starting to voice my frustrations.

Today, I’ve had trouble identifying just what it is I’m feeling. At first, I thought it was boredom. Then I wondered if I was just feeling stale. Although, I’m not really sure what “stale” should feel like. As I’ve thought about it some more, I think what I’m feeling is depleted. One dictionary defines “depleted” this way:

To decrease the fullness of; use up or empty out.

I don’t feel like I’m on empty, but my fullness has definitely been decreased.

Years ago, I read a book about a pastor who was very diligent in tracking two areas of his life: his workouts and his time with the Lord. He reasoned that if he was taking care of himself spiritually and physically then he would be okay. So he was completely caught off guard one day when he broke down in tears while sitting in his office.

He checked his spiritual and emotional “gauges” and they were both telling him everything was fine. So what was wrong?

There was another area of his life he’d failed to take care of and the breakdown in his office was the warning light. That area was his emotional health.

As he looked back at his schedule, he saw that he was involved in some very intensive activities that were depleting his emotional reserves. His activities were good ones, but they were running down his emotional battery and leaving him with little in reserve. Reading the Bible and exercising were not enough. He needed time to emotionally recharge as well.

How about you? What are your emotions telling you today? Is there a warning light that’s lit up?

Maybe it’s just a little annoyance or frustration like I was feeling last week. Or maybe it’s bigger like anger or discouragement or fear or anxiety.

If you’re not spending time in God’s word and taking care of yourself physically (exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep), then I’d start there. But let’s not ignore the need to also recharge emotionally.

For some of us, that might mean getting together with friends or taking a walk after work. Maybe it’s taking time to paint or go to a movie or read a book.

It’s tempting to think we should just maintain our hectic pace. Just keep going. Keep putting out. The problem comes when we’re depleted. When there’s nothing left to give.

When we get to that place, we’re not helping anyone, including ourselves, if we just keep pushing.

Is there a warning light on in your life?

If there is, what do you need to do about it?

Spiritual Heat Stroke

Posted: July 20th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

“Get away from the water!”

Ask any high school football player who played prior to just a few years ago and he’ll probably tell you he heard a coach yell, “Get away from the water!” more than once in his life.

Things have changed though.

There was a mandatory parent meeting at my son’s high school last night for the parents of the football players. One of the topics was hydration and heat related illnesses (heat exhaustion and heat stroke). None of it was new information for me because I’d heard much of it at the parent meeting for junior high football last year. And the year before.

My son’s junior high football coach is one of the toughest I’ve seen. He’s a great coach and excellent teacher of the game. He has high expectations of the players and pushes them to perform. But he also frequently stops practice for water breaks.

Last night, the head varsity coach made it clear that his players could get water during practice whenever they needed it. No player would ever be told he couldn’t have water. And if an assistant coach denied water to a player–he probably wouldn’t be coaching there any more.

When I played high school football between 1977 and 1980, the conventional wisdom was that drinking water was a sign of weakness. Going without water made you tough.

Now we know how absolutely stupid that kind of thinking is. Now we know football players die from becoming dehydrated and over-heated. And a coach knows they’d probably be sued by the parents of any player who became ill during practice because he was denied water.

Of course staying hydrated isn’t just for athletes. We all need water to function. A lot of us are probably dehydrated and don’t even know it. It’s especially true during the hot, humid summer months.

Screen shot 2011 07 20 at 7.45.20 AM 300x194 Spiritual Heat Stroke

Much of the United States is currently experiencing high heat and humidity. That large pink area on the map is an “excessive heat warning.” The heat index for Ames, Iowa today is forecast to be around 117 degrees. Ames, Iowa. 117!

This is a plant in my front yard. It not only requires a lot of water, but it’s in a spot that doesn’t get hit by the sprinkler. This morning, I filled a 2-quart pitcher at the kitchen sink and watered this poor plant. I filled the pitcher twice. As you can see, it needed it.

IMG 2252 225x300 Spiritual Heat Stroke

It’s not too strong a statement to say: water is life. Ask this plant. Or my son when he starts football practice on August 1.

It’s not just water that’s life though.

In Deuteronomy 30, Moses is speaking to the nation of Israel just before he dies. He’s giving them their final instructions before they cross the Jordan River to take possession of the land God promised to give them. In verses 19 and 20, he said:

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

The Lord is your life.

It was true for Israel. It’s true for me.

And it’s true for you. The Lord is YOUR life.

In Jeremiah 2:13, God said it this way:

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

A cistern is a receptacle to hold water. When we turn away from the source of living water, we naturally look for “water” (life)  in other places. We try work, pleasure, relationships, possessions or anything else we can think of to fill our souls. What we don’t realize is that those things are broken cisterns. They can’t hold water. They won’t work. They won’t give us life.

Sadly, we will hear of a football player dying of dehydration and heat stroke somewhere in the United States this summer. His core body temperature will rise to 108 degrees and his internal organs will begin to fail. And it will be a totally preventable death.

Just like your death. Or mine.

Are we dying and don’t even know it? If we could examine our “spiritual organs”–would some of us find they’re shutting down? That we’re close to losing our spiritual lives and we don’t even know it’s happening?

I’m not even talking about heaven or hell. I’m simply talking about living life as it was intended.

You and I were created to live in an intimate friendship with the One who created us. We exist for His pleasure. And He commands us to seek Him and know Him and love Him. But we’re trying to find life in people and things who, like us, can’t provide it.

If we’re not drinking deeply of living water by spending time in God’s word and in spiritual conversations with others who are also drinking deeply, then we’re dying. We just are.

Maybe when you see your lawn turning brown or a plant wilted from lack of water or you think about all those football players out on the practice field this summer–you’ll let it remind you that your soul is in desperate need of the living water only God can provide and that His word is a constantly flowing spring. And that whether you feel it or not–you’re dying without it.

Poor Diet

Posted: June 15th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Diet tips. Diet plans. Diet pills. Diet foods.

Diets for men. Diets for women. Diets for children.

Bikini diet. Abs diet.

The South Beach diet. The Atkins diet. The Full Plate Diet. The Maker’s Diet.

Low-carb diet. Low-fat diet. Low-sodium diet.

Gluten-free diet. High-protein diet.

Liquid diet. Vegetarian diet. Kosher diet.

We spend a lot of time talking about diets, don’t we? At least in America we do. I’m not so sure the rest of the world is as crazy as we are. Or as unhealthy.

This map shows the percentage of obese people in each state, based on the Body Mass Index. (I have problems with the Body Mass Index calculation, but for our purposes here, it’ll do.)

Picture 7 300x161 Poor Diet

Picture 91 Poor Diet

Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, CDC

You’ll notice that Arkansas and all of our surrounding states (except Texas!) are leading the way in the percentage of obese people. Arkansas is usually near the bottom in most rankings. Too bad we picked the area of obesity to be a leader.

The word “diet” comes from the Greek word “diaita.” It means “a way of life, mode of living.”

Apparently, our way of life, our mode of living in this area of the country is to be overweight, out of shape and unhealthy. And as tragic as that is, I wonder if that description would also reflect our spiritual lives.

Before the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan River to take possession of the land God had promised them, Moses spoke to the people and said:

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.

One of the things God was accomplishing in the desert was teaching His people “that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

As food is to our body, God’s word is to our spirit.

So how is your spirit today? What have you been eating? What’s your diet like? Your way of life? Your mode of living?

Do you have a regular, daily intake of God’s word? Do you read it? Listen to it? Talk about it? Apply it?

If you missed a meal today, you’d feel it almost immediately, wouldn’t you? I know I would. As I write this, it’s almost lunch time and my stomach is letting me know it’s time to eat.

But do we ever feel hungry when we miss a meal of God’s word?

It’s like we’re being offered a five-course gourmet meal prepared by an award-winning chef, but we politely decline with, “No thank you, I’m not very hungry.”

Imagine how shocked our chef would be if we told him we weren’t hungry because we’d just filled up on a box of Twinkies and a 2-liter of Coke.

“But didn’t you know I was preparing this delicious meal for you?” he’d ask.

Yeah, we knew.

We fill up on work responsibilities, relationships, television, internet, games on our phones, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, hobbies and whatever else, then have no time or appetite for God’s word.

We’re spiritually obese.

If you tried to run a mile right now–how would you do? Could you make it? Would you have to walk most of it? Would we have to call for the paramedics?

Your performance would give us a pretty good picture of your fitness level.

But how about your spirit? What kind of shape is it in?

Is your spirit so out of shape that when a test or trial comes you’re unable to carry the load and you’re left gasping for spiritual breath?

We do not live on bread alone. We need God’s word to survive.

If you aren’t consuming generous portions of God’s word on a consistent basis–you need to know…you’re slowly killing yourself.

Do you know why most people fail on their diets? It’s because they never make it a way of life, a mode of living. They use it to try and compensate for years of unhealthy eating and then once they’ve shed a few pounds, they go right back to their poor diet, their poor way of life, their poor mode of living.

It’s time to eliminate the junk and start feasting on what God offers.

As food is to our body, God’s word is to our spirit.

If you need a little help getting started on a good diet of God’s word, check out my e-book. If you have a Kindle or iPhone, you can get it here. It’s a 40-day devotional to help you develop a healthy spiritual diet.

Top 10 Ways to Quickly Strengthen Your Marriage

Posted: September 29th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Last week, I posted “45 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.” I had a request for how to strengthen a marriage, so here are my top 10 ways to quickly strengthen your marriage:

1. Meet your spouse’s needs. First, you need to know what they are. Become a student of your spouse to find out. Write down everything you learn. Then start meeting those needs.

Yes, it’s that simple. Easy? Not always. Simple? Yes.

If you’re trying to come up with some needs, here are a few to get things kick-started: conversation, alone time, words of encouragement, romance, a hug, quality time with you, help with the housework, sex, a weekend away, an extra hour of sleep, respect, a phone call “just because”, a massage, etc.

Keep in mind, you’re looking for your spouse’s needs, not your needs. Also, while you’re at it, discover some wants and meet those, too.

2. Be third. God first. Spouse second. You third.

I know you also have needs and wants that aren’t being met and you may be giving a lot more than your spouse, but choose to meet your spouse’s needs even if yours aren’t being met.

What’s the alternative? Pull back and wait until your spouse goes first?

How well do you think that’s going to work?

I know it won’t be easy, but you will reap what you sow. Be the bigger person and begin serving your spouse. See what God does.

3. Pray together. If this is a scary thought to you, then start small. Before you go to sleep tonight, hold hands and say, “Lord, thank you for my husband/wife.” If it’s not so scary, then take a few minutes to pray for each other.

4. Believe God. Difficulties are inevitable, so learning how to deal with them as a couple is critical. The most important thing you can do is focus your attention on God, not your circumstances. Your financial crisis, medical issue or rebellious child may seem overwhelming, but it’s not to God. He has a solution and He has peace for you. Read Hebrews 11:6.

Choose to trust Him and not give in to worry, fear and anxiety. Those negative emotions will only poison your marriage.

How do you begin believing God, not your circumstances? There’s no substitute for spending time reading the Bible. In it, God has revealed Himself, His purposes and His ways. As we discover who God is and how He works, our capacity to trust Him is enlarged. Difficult circumstances no longer seem insurmountable when seen through God’s eyes.

5. Be your best. About 18 months into marriage, Robyn and I attended a “Weekend to Remember” marriage conference. During that weekend, I realized what a poor job I was doing as her husband. I decided then to be the best husband I could be. That was in 1987. While I’m far from perfect, I’m much further along than had I never made that decision.

6. Give grace. Your spouse is going to blow it. A lot. What are you going to do then? Keep score? Hold a grudge? Punish? Where will that get you?

What if instead, you gave grace and forgiveness? The way God does to us. What if you chose to treat your spouse the way you want to be treated when you fail? Again, I know this isn’t easy, but that leads to the next point…

7. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 5, Paul gives instructions to husbands and wives. It’s some heavy stuff. And in our own strength, it’s impossible stuff. So prior to giving those instructions, in verse 18, he said, “…be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to be under his influence. In fact, Paul compares being drunk to being filled with the Spirit. When someone is drunk, they speak and act in a way that indicates they’re under the influence of alcohol. When we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we will speak and act like He desires.

How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit? Simply by surrendering control of your life to Him. You can be in control or He can. He’s not going to fight you for control. He’s going to wait for you to give it to Him. When you do, you will experience His wisdom and power in your life.

8. Get healthy. You can’t change your spouse, but you can change you. Commit to getting healthy both physically and emotionally. If you’re not eating right or exercising, then you won’t feel well. If you don’t feel well, you won’t have the energy to invest in your marriage. If you don’t know where to start, click here.

You also need to commit to good emotional health. If your leg is broken, you’ll have an extremely difficult time running a mile. It would be painfully obvious that what you need is a doctor to set your leg in a cast, so you can heal.

The problem with our emotional health is the broken things are less obvious. The consequences are no less serious though. If you’re walking around with unresolved issues from your childhood, hurt and resentment from a previous marriage, a bad experience in a legalistic church or some other emotionally traumatic event, then you do not have the emotional health required for a successful marriage. You just don’t. So get help.

How do you know if you need help?

If you often feel angry, anxious or depressed–you need help.

If you need _______________ to feel good, relieve stress, unwind or shake off a bad day–you need help. Put whatever you want in the blank: food, alcohol, drugs, pornography, shopping, sex, gambling, chocolate, etc.

If you often feel guilty or ashamed–you need help.

If you are verbally abusive to your spouse–you need help.

If you’ve ever hit your spouse (or been hit)–you need help.

If you’ve lost any hope of your situation getting better–you need help.

Find a Christian counselor and make an appointment. Do it today. You’ll be stuck until you do.

9. Be playful. Sure marriage takes some work, but it doesn’t have to be all work. Lighten up a little. Have fun with each other. Take a walk. Take dancing lessons. Take a shower (together). Go on a bike ride. Cook together. Send each other suggestive text messages. Go to a dollar store and buy each other five gifts. Exchange them over coffee and dessert. Play a game. Put the kids to bed early, order Chinese food and watch a funny movie.

Just enjoy each other and laugh together. Like when you were dating.

10. Get away. If you can afford it, spend a couple nights in a bed and breakfast or hotel. Don’t take any work. Leave the laptop at home. Turn off your phones. Focus on each other. Eat some good meals. Take walks. Talk about your dreams. Consider attending a “Weekend to Remember” for your weekend away.

Getting away from the normal routine of life will do wonders for your marriage. If you can’t remember the last time you got away, then schedule something now.

Obviously, these all work better and more quickly if you both commit to do them, but don’t wait for your spouse. (Read #2 again.) Do what you know to do. Start right now. Trust God with the results.

Okay, here’s a bonus one:

11. Be your spouse’s biggest fan. While you’re studying your spouse looking for needs, also be on the lookout for strengths. What is your spouse good at? What do they enjoy doing? What are they passionate about? What gets them excited?

Once you have those answers, encourage them to pursue those activities, ideas or dreams. Cheer them on. Help them. Help find the resources to make it happen. Do whatever you can to help the vision become reality.

As often as you can, say, “I’m so proud of you.”

45 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage

Posted: September 22nd, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

In no particular order…

  1. Assume your way is right and your spouse’s way is wrong.
  2. Fail to discover or understand your spouse’s needs.
  3. If you happen to stumble upon your spouse’s needs, just don’t meet them.
  4. Never put yourself in your spouse’s shoes or try to see things from any perspective other than your own.
  5. Secretly view pornography or spend time in online chat rooms.
  6. Don’t ever talk about money, sex, children or your schedules.
  7. Never address your past–things like your parents divorce, abuse, addictions, etc. Just limp along emotionally damaged.
  8. Put your Bible somewhere out of sight, then try to forget where it is.
  9. Keep score of all the good things you do and all the bad things your spouse does.
  10. Tell your spouse, “This is just who I am. You should just accept me.”
  11. Take for granted everything your spouse does. Never express appreciation.
  12. Don’t resolve conflicts as they arise–let things build up.
  13. Develop as many friendships and interests apart from your spouse as you possibly can.
  14. Don’t be gracious or forgiving. Make your spouse pay.
  15. Avoid showing affection, including hugs, kisses and holding hands
  16. Erode trust by keeping secrets and telling little lies.
  17. Develop at least one strong relationship with someone of the opposite sex with whom you can share your marriage problems.
  18. Compare your spouse’s flaws and weaknesses with others’ strengths.
  19. Let yourself go physically by not exercising, never trying a new hairstyle, not showering or buying new clothes.
  20. Put all of your money and energy into the wedding day, but invest nothing in all the days after the wedding.
  21. Take advantage of every opportunity to get your feelings hurt.
  22. Limit sex to no more than once a week.
  23. Avoid texting, emailing or calling each other throughout the day.
  24. Accumulate as much credit card debt as quickly as possible.
  25. Criticize, correct and interrupt your spouse in front of others.
  26. Flirt with others, but not your spouse.
  27. Try to be as inattentive as possible. Television, the newspaper, your phone or a laptop are helpful distractions.
  28. You probably can’t avoid buying a Christmas gift, but you should never buy gifts just for no reason. Your spouse’s birthday should be recognized with a card only. Slip a $20 bill in it to make it worse.
  29. Develop routines and stick to them. Meals, dates and sex should be predictable. Boring if possible.
  30. Don’t read any books, listen to any podcasts or attend any conferences that could strengthen your marriage.
  31. Go to bed at different times.
  32. Keep your spouse insecure and on edge by occasionally mentioning divorce.
  33. Keep raising the bar and moving the target so your spouse will always feel like a failure.
  34. Place your work, your children and your hobbies above your marriage.
  35. Make mountains out of mole hills.
  36. Assume the worst about your spouse. Never give the benefit of the doubt.
  37. Fail to anticipate trials and difficulties in the following areas: finances, health, in-laws, child raising, communicating with each other, etc.
  38. If it’s absolutely necessary to apologize, then be sure it’s followed with the word “but.”
  39. Use absolute statements whenever possible. For example: “You never help around the house.” Or, “You’re always complaining.”
  40. If your spouse confronts you about something, even if it’s done in a nice way, be sure to have a list of grievances to counter with. Under no circumstances should you admit fault.
  41. Make your own comfort, security and pleasure your top priority. Don’t invite your spouse to join you in living for a cause bigger than yourselves.
  42. Keep things serious. Playfulness is for kids.
  43. If you are angry or upset and your spouse asks if you’re okay, answer by saying, “I’m fine.”
  44. Watch TV, spend time online and/or bring work home, so that you’ll be able to say you just don’t have time to read your Bible or talk with your spouse.
  45. Don’t attend church together and under no circumstances should you pray together.

Feel free to add to the list by leaving a comment…

Also, now that we’ve covered the ways to kill a marriage, check out this post for ways to build a strong one.

Does This Worry You?

Posted: May 1st, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Fitness | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

We’re going to press “pause” for today on the “Prayer God Always Answers” series. Instead, I’m going to address a topic of great worry and concern for many of us.

I know some of us are worked up about global warming, ah, I mean climate change. For others, it’s the current occupant of the White House. Maybe for you, it’s terrorism or the prospects of a nuclear Iran. If none of those issues are particularly upsetting, then you’re probably worried about the economy and whether or not you’ll have a job in six months.

What I want to talk about today though is even more worrisome, for some of you, than any of those major world issues. It’s something you’ve dreaded. It’s something that can cause a great deal of anxiety. For some, it can just about bring on a full blown panic attack.

What is it?

Swimsuit season.

Yes, the baggy clothes of winter are gone. Spring is in full swing with it’s short sleeves and shorts. While it means we’re revealing much more of ourselves than we were in winter, we still haven’t let the world see the full leg (for women) or the stomach (for men).

But now it’s May 1st and we know it’s only a matter of weeks. Where I grew up in New Jersey–it’s almost time to head to the beach. Where I am now in Arkansas–some will start heading to the lake soon.

If the idea of putting on a swimsuit and parading around in front of your family and friends is only slightly more appealing than a root canal, then let me try to help. There isn’t much time, but you can still make some progress.

Before we start, let me say that if you’re more concerned with your body than your spirit, then you’ve got your priorities wrong. This body won’t last. Your spirit will. Sure, it’s good to have a healthy, fit body, but it’s even more important to have a healthy, fit spirit. Paul wrote:

“…train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7b-8

Godliness has value in this life and the life to come, but physical training or fitness does have value, so let’s take a quick look at how to lose some unwanted pounds and feel a little better about slipping into a swimsuit in the next few weeks.

First, the disclaimer: I’m not a registered dietician or health professional. I used to be a certified fitness professional, but I’m not now. I’m just going to tell you what works for this 47-year-old-fellow-swimsuit-wearer.

If you want to lose fat and build muscle (for women, you’ll just look more toned, not bulky), try this:

  • Eat five or six small meals per day. This is much better than skipping meals or eating three big meals. Be sure to eat some protein at every meal.
  • Eat lean meat, vegetables, salad, eggs, beans and nuts. If it’s not on that list, don’t eat it. If you want to add in a little cheese or a piece of fruit each day, then go ahead, but you will slow your progress.
  • After about four weeks, add in some whole grains: brown rice, whole wheat and oatmeal. Also, try a little more fruit. Don’t overdue it on grains or fruit though. Too much will slow or even stop your progress. You’ll need to play it be ear and decide what works for you. The key is to find something you can live with long-term.
  • Give yourself permission to cheat one or two meals per week. Not per day! You don’t want to feel deprived all week, so have something to look forward to: pizza, ice cream, cake or whatever.
  • Drink mostly water. If you want some coffee, tea or a diet soda–go ahead, but absolutely no drinks that contain sugar or corn syrup. By the way, get in the habit of reading food labels. Sugar=bad.
  • Do something five days a week to raise your heart rate. Walk, run, climb, swim, bike–I don’t care what it is. Just do it for 30 minutes. If there’s nothing you like to do, then at least find someone you can enjoy doing it with. Exercise to the point where you’re breathing harder than normal, but can sustain it for 30 minutes.
  • Shape and tone your body by lifting weights three days a week. If you’re not sure what to do, then I highly suggest hiring a personal trainer for a month. If that’s not an option, then ask a friend who knows what they’re doing. This site also has some great information.

If you stick to it, you should easily lose a pound or two of fat per week. You’ll also be building some muscle, so don’t freak out if the scale isn’t moving as quickly as you thought it would. Pay attention to how your clothes fit, not the number on the scale.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. Your question may help someone else, too.

The Root of Our Problems

Posted: March 9th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Other, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

When I was 16-years-old, I began weight training to get in shape for football. I immediately fell in love with it and have kept at it for most of the past 31 years. Except for the previous 11 months.

A year ago, we moved which made it much less convenient to get to the health club where I used to train. A few months after moving, we let our membership lapse. While I tried to keep up with running, I didn’t continue weight training.

Just after the holidays this year, I was feeling the effects of not training. I’d gained some unwanted body fat. My lean mass (muscle) had decreased dramatically. So while the scale hadn’t changed much over the past year, my body composition had changed.

I was also starting to notice some physical symptoms related to stress. For most of the past three decades, my body had a way to relieve some of the stresses of life, but without weight training, I was feeling the ill effects.

I knew I needed to do something.

Several weeks ago, we joined the fitness center on campus, which is just a short walk from our house. In just a few short weeks, I’m seeing my body (and stress level) return to what I’ve been used to.

Even though I’m getting older, I keep telling myself year after year that I want to be in the best shape of my life. While it’ll be tough to top my condition at the age of 19, it doesn’t mean I can’t try.

That’s the problem though. Sometimes I can try a little too hard.

To build muscle (and lose fat), it’s necessary to push the body beyond what it’s comfortable with. That principle is called, “progressive overload.” You place more load on the muscle or cardiovascular system than it’s used to handling, which forces it to adapt by getting stronger. If you don’t push, you don’t grow. At least not very much.

A year ago, I was experiencing pain in both elbows–the result of lifting heavy loads during my training. I tried adjusting the exercises I did, but the pain didn’t actually go away. The only thing that really helped was resting for the past 11 months.

So now at the age of 47, my fitness training is a balance of pushing myself and listening to my body tell me when it’s had enough. Continuing to ignore the pain (injury type pain, not just the discomfort of a burning muscle) is just foolish. I’ve learned from my mistake. You can’t just manage symptoms if you really want to fix something. You need to get to the root issue.

Which leads me to this question: what’s at the root of most of the problems in my life? How about your life?

I’m not talking about exercise any more. I mean problems with relationships, work, finances, emotional health and any other issues you want to name.

What’s at the root?

In Matthew 22, there are two different groups of people who are trying to trap Jesus in His words. If they could trap Him, then they could arrest Him or discredit Him. The Pharisees gave it a shot by asking him a tax related question, but Jesus aced it. “So they left him and went away.”

That same day, the other group came and asked a question related to marriage and heaven. I’m sure they thought they could stump Him, but He began His answer by saying:

“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

Isn’t that the root problem for most of us? We’re in error, we make wrong choices, because we don’t know the Scriptures (God’s word to us) or His power that’s available to us?

If my elbows begin to hurt again, I could try ice and ibuprofen. I could try different exercises. I could keep pushing and hope the pain goes away. Or I could go to the root of the problem and make a real change.

Maybe the pain in your life is pointing to a root issue. Maybe it’s the result of not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God. Why no let the pain and confusion press you into God’s word?

Get to know Him. Learn what He has to say about your life and your choices. Discover the power that’s available to you if you’ll simply surrender your life to Him.

Who’s Watching You?

Posted: May 31st, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Fitness, Relationships | Tags: , , | No Comments »

When we moved a couple months ago, we got much closer to campus. We’re only 1/4 mile north of Razorback Stadium. It’s been great for ministry to college students.

It hasn’t been as great for my workouts. We used to live just a few miles from the athletic club. I could drive there in about seven or eight minutes. Now we’re on the other side of town. It’s not nearly as convenient, so I’ve been going much less frequently.

When a gym isn’t accessible, there are alternatives. One I like is to find some playground equipment to use to do pullups, dips, whatever exercises I can find a way to do. There’s an elementary school a couple hundred yards from our house, which has just what I need.

Yesterday afternoon, I ran over there to workout. When I got there, a couple young moms were there with their children. The kids were probably about three years old.

I started my routine of alternating pullups and pushups. After a few sets, I looked over to where the kids were playing. The little girl looked at me, dropped to the ground and did a couple pushups.

She’d been watching…and imitated me.

Who’s watching you?