Friday, June 27, 2008

Will someone please listen to this man?

Worse things could happen...

And worse things ~have~ happened, but I'm still a bit bummed.

My angel fish died... the jewel of my aquarium is gone! Now I don't have any mid to high level swimmers in my tank. It looks empty. The angel fish taught all the other fish who's boss, and they all swim near the bottom.

Surviving are: 1 Pictus catfish, 1 Ruby/Rainbow shark, 1 Pleco, 1 black molly, 3 blood fin tetra, 2 black skirt tetra, 1 siamese algae eater, and a tiny little cory that's cute and has a mustache.

Now what should I do?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


This is the sign that hangs on the wall of my garage at my squat rack. I hung it up as a reminder to... well... not quit!

I need the reminder because of something I've been experimenting with -- 20 rep squats, aka "breathing squats," aka "man-makers," aka "super squats," aka "squats and milk" (named for the drink that helps pack on the muscle).

Here's the concept: Take a weight with which you can squat about 10 times (not 11 or 12), and stand there until you're done with 20. It just may be the hardest exercise you'll ever do. It's physically and psychologically brutal. It makes you feel like you might pass out, throw up, cry, shout things you shouldn't, and QUIT.

Reps #1 through #10, simple enough, just like an ordinary set of squats. Rep #11 can only be done after pausing a bit to get some air into you. Stand there with the weight on your back... breathe... deep and slow... and squat... #12, stand there and breathe, squat #13... etc. Somewhere around #15 to #17, your body starts getting to your mind... "What in the world are you doing? Rack that weight and be done with this nonsense! Just quit!" Then I look at my sign. DON'T YOU QUIT. It's my reminder to keep going, now matter how bad I want to give up.

It's a simple and short phrase, because at the time of the greatest struggle, long or detailed arguments are not going to register very well. Breathe... huff, huff, huff, inhale BIG and... squat... back up again... #18. "I can't do this anymore, I'm going to quit before I pass out or puke."

At this point, it is nearly impossible to reason thusly, "Jerry, if you intend to get the maximum benefit of this very difficult exercise, you need to complete the set. It is precisely these moments of great struggle that provoke the physiological response that you seek. If you continue and finish the set, your body will release growth hormones and testosterone, and your muscles will grow bigger and stronger. Also, Jerry, before you put that barbell down, you may want to consider that your heart is also getting quite a good workout from these breathing squats. I urge you to continue until reaching your original goal of 20 squats with your 10 rep max."

No, no. That's not how your brain is working right then. It's more like, "oh.... huff, huff, huff, I can't do this... huff, huff, huff, I think I'm going to die...I quit, I quit." Then, I look at my sign again... DON'T YOU QUIT. Short and sweet. Very effective. "Why shouldn't I quit? I don't understand... this hurts!!! I should quit." DON'T YOU QUIT. Ok, ok, keep going. Yes, keep going. You'll understand it later, just obey it now.

After finishing the squats, some people collapse on the floor, others go the bench and do pullovers to help breathe and expand the chest. Me, I just head towards the door on my wobbly legs and try to get as much air as I can, knowing that I just finished a very difficult thing, and I didn't quit. Now I can go have some milk and enjoy the benefits of my workout (well, after the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness becomes tolerable).

Ok, what's the point of this post? DON'T YOU QUIT!!! That's the point. Consider this workout story to be some sort of metaphor for life. Times get tough. Our patience is tried, our energy gets zapped, our faith gets shaky, and sometimes we want to quit. DON'T YOU QUIT.

Need a sign telling you not to quit? Here it is. Post it up in your memory:

"If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small" -- Proverbs 24:10.

Note, 1. In the day of adversity we are apt to faint, to droop and be discouraged, to desist from our work, and to despair of relief. Our spirits sink, and then our hands hang down and our knees grow feeble, and we become unfit for anything. And often those that are most cheerful when they are well droop most, and are most dejected, when any thing ails them. 2. This is an evidence that our strength is small, and is a means of weakening it more. “It is a sign that thou art not a man of any resolution, any firmness of thought, any consideration, any faith (for that is the strength of a soul), if thou canst not bear up under an afflictive change of thy condition.” Some are so feeble that they can bear nothing; if a trouble does but touch them (Job_4:5), nay, if it does but threaten them, they faint immediately and are ready to give up all for gone; and by this means they render themselves unfit to grapple with their trouble and unable to help themselves. Be of good courage therefore, and God shall strengthen thy heart.
--Matthew Henry.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Psalm 71:20

Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
Note, [1.] The best of God's saints and servants are sometimes exercised with great and sore troubles in this world. [2.] God's hand is to be eyed in all the troubles of the saints, and that will help to extenuate them and make them seem light. He does not say, “Thou hast burdened me with those troubles,” but “shown them to me,” as the tender father shows the child the rod to keep him in awe. [3.] Though God's people be brought ever so low he can revive them and raise them up. Are they dead? he can quicken them again. See 2Co_1:9. Are they buried, as dead men out of mind? he can bring them up again from the depths of the earth, can cheer the most drooping spirit and raise the most sinking interest. [4.] If we have a due regard to the hand of God in our troubles, we may promise ourselves, in due time, a deliverance out of them. Our present troubles, though great and sore, shall be no hindrance to our joyful resurrection from the depths of the earth, witness our great Master, to whom this may have some reference; his Father showed him great and sore troubles, but quickened him and brought him up from the grave.
--Matthew Henry.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Inter arma silent leges

(Amidst the din of arms the voice of law is unheard).

Peace is a gift from God (Psalm 29:11). It is also something we are required to search for and chase down like a hunter pursuing his prey (Psalm 34:14). What are some practical ways to pursue peace?

In the case of Asa (2 Chron. 14), we see that God granted him peace and quiet for a period of ten years. What did he do during that time of peace? He reformed that overwhich he had dominion -- in this case, his kingdom -- removing all idolatry, requiring all his subjects to obey the Law of God and to seek the Lord. A heart for reformation may be a good pre-requisite for peace. Who would not seek peace who seeks to honor the Lord?

We also find in Asa a good example of how to maintain peace in the face of conflict. Ethiopa rose up to fight with Judah. Asa called on the Lord His God, and presented the battle to the Lord as being a matter of the Lord's glory -- "O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee." To Asa, the battle he faced was not a personal issue; it had to do with the glory of the Lord God. Viewing our conflicts as being a matter of God's glory is a good way to deal with them, and an excellent way to present them before God in prayer. Will God not act upon matters of His own glory?

Thusfar, we have two general principles to facilitate peace. 1. Have a heart for reformation, seeking peace because it is during peace that reformation can be accoplished. 2. Frame any conflicts as being matters of God's glory, and not matters simply of personal interest, and present it to God in prayer as such.

But what further may we do to find peace, especially between ourselves and others? Matthew Henry provides some good advise in his comments on Psalm 34:13, 14 -- " Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it." He writes,
Would we pass comfortably through this world, and out of the world, our constant care must be to keep a good conscience; and, in order to that, 1. We must learn to bridle our tongues, and be careful what we say, that we never speak amiss, to God's dishonour or our neighbours prejudice: Keep thy tongue from evil speaking, lying, and slandering. So great a way does this go in religion that, if any offend not in word, the same is a perfect man; and so little a way does religion go without this that of him who bridles not his tongue it is declared, His religion is vain. 2. We must be upright and sincere in every thing we say, and not double-tongued. Our words must be the indications of our minds; our lips must be kept from speaking guild either to God or man. 3. We must leave all our sins, and resolve we will have no more to do with them. We must depart from evil, from evil works and evil workers; from the sins others commit and which we have formerly allowed ourselves in. 4. It is not enough not to do hurt in the world, but we must study to be useful, and live to some purpose. We must not only depart from evil, but we must do good, good for ourselves, especially for our own souls, employing them well, furnishing them with a good treasure, and fitting them for another world; and, as we have ability and opportunity, we must do good to others also. 5. Since nothing is more contrary to that love which never fails (which is the summary both of law and gospel, both of grace and glory) than strife and contention, which bring confusion and every evil work, we must seek peace and pursue it; we must show a peaceable disposition, study the things that make for peace, do nothing to break the peace and to make mischief. If peace seem to flee from us, we must pursue it; follow peace with all men, spare no pains, no expense, to preserve and recover peace; be willing to deny ourselves a great deal, both in honour and interest, for peace' sake. These excellent directions in a way to life and good are transcribed into the New Testament and made part of our gospel duty, 1Peter 3:10, 11.
Peace -- let us seek it, and pursue after it. It is a matter of God's glory. We now have some practical things to work on in order to pursue peace. May God bless us by granting us the grace to pursue peace, and to obtain it.