Friday, February 27, 2015

The book remembered!

I've done a bit of digging and found the title and author of the book on guidance to which I made reference in my last post. The book is called: Decision Making and the Will of God, by Gary Friesen. It is still available, albeit with a new cover by the looks of things.

It's been such a long time since I read it, almost 30 years I think, that I certainly couldn't do it any justice in terms of a review. However, I still think it's a book you might want to read if your interested in thinking through how you understand and apply the principles guidance in your life.

I know some might suggest that the book dispenses with the idea that God has a plan for your life, but I don't remember thinking that at all. In fact my memory of reading the book was a sense of liberation from the debilitating need to have everything confirmed by some sort of sign. As with all things, there is a need to keep a sense of balance and to understand the interrelationship between obedience, choosing freely and applying what you already know about God's general will. Too often Christians can become paralysed, unable to make a decision because they are unsure about what God wants them to do. I wonder if that is in some way because we have a showed view of God's will, not grasping the differences between his revealed will, his sovereign will and possibly something more specific to particular events or decisions we have to make. I wonder too if there are not times when we want God to be specific because we don't want to do the "wrong thing".

Complicated stuff, guidance.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Unrealised dreams and the question of guidance

As a short follow-up to my previous post about unrealised dreams, I beleive the particular Bible reference I had in mind was from 1Kings 8:18-19:
But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’ (‭NIV)
I guess the hard part is always going to be figuring out which dreams are going to remain unrealised and which are not. We would love such a clear message from God about such things, but our reality is that things are rarely that clear cut. Guidance is not that clear cut.

I recall reading a book about guidance, but cannot remember either the title or the author (was it Gary something? I'll have to check my library catalogue). at the time I found it a really interesting read and very helpful. I don't remember too much of the content apart from a small part about marriage that sparked an interesting debate with a couple of friends at college.

Marrying, excuse the pun, guidance with dreams and discipleship is a challenge. What is harder perhaps is not beating ourselves up about it all when we either get it wrong or when he hear others talk in a way that makes us feel totally inadequate in the area of hearing from God.

Maybe the answer is simple. Rejoice in those times when God speaks clearly and don't fret on the days when he doesn't, just continue to live as a faithful follower of Jesus.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Unrealised dreams

I was thinking about my previous post about waiting and it reminded me of something else. I remember years ago when I was in my first church leadership setting that I was reflecting and praying about the future and how things might develop. I wasn't sure whether it was time to move or whether we were to stay in that place for the foreseeable future.

A wise person said to me, "Don't let the size of the task keep you here." Their point was that there would always be something that needed doing, always a reason to stay. I had my dreams, a vision for the church and what we could become as long as we walked with God. I may not have articulated it in the words I'd use today, but it would have been along the lines of partnership with God in whatever he was doing in our community. We had a passion to figure out how to reconnect people with the God who misses them and we were exploring how we could that. I'm sure that if we'd stayed we would have found our way towards the kinds of things I've been discovering over the 20 years since I left that place.

The turning point for me came as I was working my way through the story of David. I came to the part of his story where he decided it was time to build a temple. David had great plans, he had the dream, the vision to build a permanent home for the Ark. It wasn't about him and his achievements, but about his relationship with God. Although I can't quite track down the specific verse (I have a note somewhere in a journal form that time), the phrase that has stayed with me since the day I read it goes something like this: It was good that he had it in his heart... David was not going to get to build the temple.

I realised then that two things were true. Firstly, I was not going to stay and see the fulfilment of the dream or vision for the church at that time. It was not going to mine to build. Perhaps God knew I didn't need an empire! The second thing I realised was that God remembers and honours the dreams of his people. My vision wasn't wasted, even if it wasn't realised. It's okay to have an unfulfilled dream.

I know that some people might look at my ministry and see a list of failures, of unfulfilled potential and missed opportunities. I think that too from time to time. But what I remember and what I hold on to is that it was good to have had it in my heart to do something great for God. I'd rather have an unrealised dream than no dream at all, and after all is said and done it's not about my dreams, it's about God's grand plan, his mission among the people he misses most.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The waiting game

I decided to pick up the story of David in the Old Testament at 2Sam. 3 this morning. It begins like this:
That was the beginning of a long war between those who were loyal to Saul and those who were loyal to David.
How long, I don't know, but it had already been quite a long time since David had been anointed as Saul's successor and still he wasn't fully established as king. That got me thinking about a few other stories in the Old Testament.

Abraham, for instance, was around 75 when God called him and told him he would be the father of many nations. Yet it would be another 25 years before Issac was born. Joseph spent something like 13 years in prison and Isaiah spoke about things over 700 years into the future. Things he probably longed to see but would never do so.

So, how long is long enough to wait for God to fulfil a promise? Days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries?

It wasn't an epiphany this morning, just a reminder that things can take longer than we'd like them to, and that God moves at his pace and not ours. There are times when I wonder why I'm where I am doing what I'm doing. Days turn into weeks and months with no apparent progress and then all of a sudden something happens and God's hand is revealed. Learning to live with the wait is quite possibly the hardest part of being a disciple.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In support of exercise

I like these kinds of visualised talks, and although this doesn't tell you anything radically new it is still worth watching (unless you don't like illustrated talks!).

We all know that exercise is good for us but sometimes the message is confusing. Hopefully this talk will encourage you to make moving a part of your day. With all the recent talk about how much exercise is good for you and whether running long distances is ultimately damaging, this talk gives a research perspective on the value of exercise for positive health outcomes. The debate will still rage about over-exercise but the value of moderate exercise cannot be understated.

What is fascinating is some of the research cited. Another interesting thought is the "Whole Body" impact idea that comes up when he talks about stents. Think about the implications for a while. If a stent only fixes one part of the problem, but exercise addresses a wide range of factors, ho might that be true for other diseases/ risk factors?


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Inaccurate fitness monitors

Lara Lewington at the BBC's Click has an article on the website about fitness/activity monitors that's quite interesting for those inclined towards gadgets. How long it will be available I'm not sure, but currently you'll find it here. Thanks to Adam for pointing to the article.

In simple terms, the article points out that if you take four of the most prominent players in the market, you will get significant discrepancies in the data they present to you about your activity levels and related data. I have to say that I don't find that particularly unexpected, and it certainly fits with my experience of my Polar Loop (which wasn't among the four tested). I guess the object lesson in all of this goes back to something I learned doing physics at school. We were taught the difference between precision and accuracy. As I recall, and it is a rather long time ago, the difference is that you can have very precise measurements that are inaccurate and conversely you can have accurate results that are imprecise. Sounds crazy I know, but we are talking about the mysteries of physics here. In common usage we might use accurate and precise to describe the same thing, but in science they mean different things.

So what does this mean for the activity tracker you're planning on strapping to your wrist? The most important implication is that the data you get has to be understood against the way the technology works, the kind of sensor it has and the maths it uses to convert what it measures into the data you get to read off the device. I've already blogged about the differences between a simple pedometer and my Loop and how the Loop converts body movements into steps. Even my pedometer doesn't necessarily measures steps exactly.

So why would you spend your hard earned cash on an activity monitor that can't tell you either accurately or precisely why you've been up to? I'm not sure the technology exists to do that, but that doesn't mean a monitor is a bad thing. The reason to buy one of these gadgets lies in a quote from one of the companies making the devices has to say.

Managing director of Fitbit Europe Gareth Jones advises people to simply be aware of the trend.
"Rather than get down to the half step or the next calorie is to look at the trend in their step pattern," he says,
"Are they increasing the number of steps in their day all week? Are they increasing the calorie burn day to day, week to week? Because it's that trend that's going to make you healthier."

It's pretty obvious that a device worn on your wrist is unlikely to give you a proper measure of steps taken, but it will indicate how active you've been. It's these trends that help you make choices about what you need to do to improve your health. So buy a gadget if you want, or get someone to buy one for you (mine was a Christmas present) and use it to motivate yourself to move. It's fun to see what yo've been doing, how far you've walked or run, how long you've spent sitting down. But don't get hung up on the raw data, look at the trends. Look at the bigger picture.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Is it a habit yet?

Well, as I've just tweeted, I passed 2 million steps and 1000 miles yesterday (4th February 2015). I've been recording the data since September 1st and I haven't missed my goal of 10000 steps a day yet. It's a record by some way given that I purposefully took a day off at 104 last time I did the 100 day challenge.

So, apart from some self-congratulatory back slapping, have I formed a habit yet? Actually, I don't think so. A habit is something you do almost automatically. It's a response, something you do because you always do it. It happens without much predetermined thought. Getting up and going for a walk everyday takes discipline, so I guess you could call it a disciplined habit, but most of the habits we do without thinking require no discipline at all and are usually bad habits. Maybe all habits that require no thought are bad habits.

No, habit is not the tight word to describe what I'm currently doing. At least not the right word for me. If I think it's a habit I'll more than likely stop thinking about it and that inevitably leads to a breaking of the habit. So I'll continue to call it a disciplined choice. There are days when I really don't feel like hitting the mean streets of Ockendon and pounding away at my goal. But I choose to do it.

Take yesterday for example.

I had two funerals to do and a visit to make. That doesn't sound like a lot of work I know, but funerals carry their own stress for me and I like to be there early so I'm settled and ready. Having said that, at yesterday's second funeral I managed to leave a candle in the chapel office and had to nip out doing a piece of music to get it! I did tell the family what I was doing, just so they didn't think I was running away! I've also got a nasty cold and I've got my torn calf muscle. Add to that the temperature and the fact that I didn't get ready to go out walking until gone 5:00pm and I definitely didn't feel like doing it at all.

But I did. I made he disciplined choice to exercise. Even with base layers, mid-layers and top layer on it was still cold. I wore a hat and gloves and I still found myself having to take some painkillers for the ache that gets in your face when it's been too cold for too long. This is why it's a disciplined choice and not a habit. You have to choose to do something like that, it doesn't come naturally. Of course once you're into your stride you mostly forget about everything else. You remember how much you get out of simply being outside and the pleasure of the walk or run. holding onto that memory is what helps making the following day's discipline choice to get moving.

Speaking of which, it's time to pull on the trainers and get out there again. Normally I'd be off to tennis, but I'm rehabbing my calf, so no tennis this week. All my steps will have to come from running or walking in circles.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Rehab progress

I thought I'd do a quick update on how my rehab is going on my calf injury. Friday was the first real opportunity to assess the damage, and it didn't appear to be quite as bad as I thought it was going to be. Everyone is different, and every injury is different. The muscle was certainly tender to the touch and there was a reasonably sized area that was both tender and firm to the touch. Dorsiflexion (imagine pointing your toes towards your nose) was the most painful movement, and I was most definitely limping. Running was out of the question!

I'd applied a Physicool bandage the previous day and rested it. I'd also put on a compression bandage, the good old tubigrip sort of thing. I decided that I would try walking and although it was obvious I was limping, I managed to do a steady, if rather slow, 4Km. Once home I reapplied the cooling bandage for 30 minutes before removing that and putting the compression bandage back on. About every 20 to 30 minutes I made sure I got up and walked around a little.

Saturday morning I went out for another walk and this time things were much better. I did a little bit of gentle massage of what had been the rather firm and tender area before setting out on the walk. My stride pattern was much more even, and I concentrated on making sure I was flexing my ankle while not stressing the soft tissue by going too quickly. There were still a few movements that were painful, but generally it was okay. I still couldn't run and when we were at the rugby match that afternoon it was pretty clear that running was difficult every time I needed to get across the pitch to deal with an injury.

By Sunday, walking was good, with very few issues. I even went for a faster 2Km walk on my own to finish off my sets for the day. Hopefully, by the end of the week, I will be ready to try a little running. Before I try that, I will do some simple weight-bearing exercises, and if they are pain free I'll try some short intervals.

And that's my rehab plan! I guess the lessons are pretty simple. Start moving sooner rather than later. Work within pain free ranges. Don't push too hard too soon. Listen to the feedback your body gives you.