Posted on December 17, 2013
“There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact.” – 1 Cor 6:16 (The Message)
This took me a while to figure out. In my youth I treated sex as if it was exactly that – just physical. And at the time I thought no one was getting hurt. Now I know I was the one getting hurt.
Our culture says, “As long as you don’t get an STD and no one gets pregnant – then just have fun! No harm done, right? When it’s over , its over. But I think deep down we know this simply isn’t true. In our hearts, in our gut, and in our experiences eventually we come crashing into the reality the sex is not just physical. And to treat it like it is – is to hurt ourselves. Even if that hurt is a kind of numbness.
This is my story. This is many of our stories.
But things can change. There is hope. There is a different way to view sex. And there is always grace.
Disclaimer: This is an extremely controversial and sensitive subject – one that cannot be adequately written about or spoken about in a blog, or a 30min video. But, if you have the time, check out the message I gave a few weeks ago around the topic of sexuality. I will be receiving all hate mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on November 28, 2013
Firstly, I have only been doing CrossFit for the past five months, so I certainly don’t pretend to know it all, or even to have a valid opinion. These thoughts are just my own personal observations as a fitness-fanatic, ex-professional gymnast, and a physiotherapist.
So here are three things I love (and don’t love) about CrossFit.
What I Love: The Competition
The greatest thing for me about CrossFit is the competition. By creating “The Games” (and thanks to some very clever marketing by Reebok) CrossFit has captured the imagination of participants and spectators alike. As a sport (and it is a sport) it has almost singlehandedly brought “functional fitness” to the forefront of the mainstream, which has now spilled over into almost every other fitness arena. As a gymnast, I find it incredibly exciting to see all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds in all sorts of settings ditching the traditional gym machines in favour of rope climbs, kettlebells, rings, tire flips, pull-ups, push-ups, burpees etc. And so for that, I thank CrossFit.
What I Don’t Love: The Rush
Unfortunately, in my opinion, CrossFit’s greatest strength is also it’s greatest weakness. Because the sport is geared around competition, whether formal events or inherent in the WOD (workout of the day) concept, I find too often people are rushed into learning skills that are way beyond their capability. This is well acknowledged by CrossFitters themselves, who are always striving to teach correct and safe technique to newbies. However, while this remains critical, certain movement standards themselves that are built into the sport can be problematic. For example, I was a gymnast for more than twenty years, and not once in those years was I ever allowed to walk on my hands. Ever. A handstand is a skill designed to be held in a static position – that’s how you activate your core and ensure correct shoulder & body positioning. To walk in a handstand is to practice poor technique, and to risk injury. Now of course, in terms of competition, it’s a lot more entertaining to watch someone “running” on their hands across a field, then to watch someone standing still for less time. Similarly, as a gymnast I was always strongly discouraged against kipping pull-ups or muscle-ups. Now I don’t have a major problem with competing these moves, but what worries me is that people go straight from ‘no-handstand’ to ‘handstand-walking’, or can’t do a single strict pull-up but are already learning kipping technique. My advice is to SLOW DOWN and take the time to learn the basics before you advance any further.
What I love: The Community
I think one of the greatest aspects of CrossFit is the embedded sense of community and camaraderie that goes with it. CrossFit has successfully created a culture in their “boxes” (CrossFit training centres) where people feel like they BELONG – something that we are desperate for in our fragmented and community-starved world. When you join a “box” you join a family. People who know you, who cheer you on, who have your back, and who will push you to achieve things you would never have achieved on your own. After competing with my team in a recent competition, I honestly felt like I had gone to war with these people! We had literally bled together, and it has brought us closer as human beings. This is the power of community, and it explains why CrossFitters will defend their sport and their box with passion.
What I Don’t Love: The Exclusivity
Sometimes unfortunately, because of the strong sense of connection and affiliation with one’s particular box, I have found that their can be some really unhealthy rivalry within the CrossFit community. I’m not talking healthy competitiveness between boxes – I’m talking nasty, backstabbing, gossiping nonsense that goes on far too much. Of course, CrossFit is not the problem here, it’s people that are the problem. But what it creates is an exclusive, cliquey culture that is extremely off-putting to a person who is genuinely looking into starting the sport. Personally I would love to see more collaboration between boxes, and opportunities for athletes to use multiple training avenues without feeling like they are “betraying” someone.
What I Love: The Challenge
If you’ve ever tried CrossFit (or any functional fitness training for that matter) you will know that it is TOUGH! When I first started using Kettlebells a few years ago I thought I was in pretty good shape and reasonably fit. Well… lets just say that for three days after my first workout I had to use specialised equipment to get on and off the toilet! Muscles I didn’t know I had hurt in places I’m embarrassed to mention. It was ugly. But I loved it! And I kept coming back for more. You see there is something almost addictive about pushing yourself to near-breaking point, and then realising you are stronger than you gave yourself credit for. It boosts your confidence and leaves you feeling energised! As the saying goes, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
What I Don’t Love: The Obsession
Of course, like any good thing, we as humans can take it to an unhealthy extreme. This is evident in any sport or pursuit. The compulsion to go too far too fast overwhelms us and we get enveloped in a world where we lose perspective on what really matters and what is most important. I see this tendency in myself, and I see it in the CrossFit community too. People who have drunk CrossFit “kool aid” and who will not listen to any advice or concerns or caution, or who have closed their minds off to any alternative form of training. They defend blindly, lash out defensively, and justify compulsively. My advice, which is really advice for myself, is to HAVE FUN and remember IT’S JUST A GAME. Actually it’s just exercise.
Posted on October 24, 2013
Last week I wrote a post called 8 Things I Wish I Knew Then That I Know Now. Here are 7 more…
1. Today is What’s Important.
It’s so easy to live stuck in the past or perpetually in the future. Pay attention to what is happening now, to the people around you, to the task at hand and to all of the choices you make today, big and small. What you do today, determines what tomorrow will bring. Our future is set by what we decide and act on today.
2. Money is Not the Most Important Thing.
Money is important. We all have bills to pay, I understand that completely. But in the end, or even in the middle, maybe especially in the middle, money is not the end goal. Satisfaction in a job well done, contributing to something worthwhile and finding something you enjoy doing (or figuring out how to enjoy what you do) are more motivating goals and certainly lend themselves to a happier and less stressful life. Contrary to what you have been sold by the “lifestyles of the wealthy and happy” fallacy, money does not equate to happiness. Nor does it insulate you from pain, suffering and conflict or improve your relationships with those around you. Money is simply a currency that allows you to eat, dress and live. It is not a magic wand.
3 . Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Up and Stand Out.
So often when we are younger we are afraid to speak out, but I say take a stand! Speak up! Stand out from the crowd. If something is important to you, then stand up for it, even if it is unpopular. Never compromise your integrity. One person can make a difference and shed light on injustice or unfairness. If it’s not right, say so.
4. Believe the Best of People
It’s so easy for us to expect the worst of people. We expect politicians to be corrupt, we expect people to be selfish. And we might often be right. But keep on believing the best in people anyway – simply put, it’s a better way to live. This does not mean put on Pollyanna glasses and ignore the bad. Dishonesty, disrespect, unhappiness and evil exist and you will have to deal with them. But don’t let those difficulties colour your experience. If you view the world around you and life’s challenges through the lens of goodness, then you will find life much more enjoyable.
5. Keep Doing the Hard Stuff
This is the first one that might not be as obvious. There were times in my life when work was hard, and I did it anyway, but hated it. I did it because I had to, but boy did it stress me out and leave me exhausted. But you know what? Every bit of hard work I did has paid off for me in the long run. Maybe not right away, but I’m using skills and habits I learned during those times of high stress and long hours and tedious work — I use them all the time, and they’ve made me into the person I am today. So keep going and don’t give up so easily!
6. Don’t Stress Too Much
All that stuff that’s stressing you out – I hate to say it, but it won’t matter in 5 years, let alone 15. When things are happening to you right now, it feels like it means the world, and that this reality will never change. But it will. Things always change. And perspective is a good thing to learn.
7. Stop Watching So Much TV
All that time you spend watching TV is a huge, huge waste of time. I don’t know how much TV I’ve watched over the years, but it’s a crapload. Hours and days and weeks I’ll never have back. Who cares what happens on reality TV, when reality is slipping by outside? Time is something you’ll never get back – don’t waste it on TV.
Posted on October 17, 2013
I’m coming up on 32 years old and have certainly made my fair share of mistakes in life. And while I’m not a big believer in regrets (I have learned tremendously from every single mistake) there are a few things I know now that wish I had known when I was younger:
1. Don’t Worry Too Much About What Other People Think Of You
For the most part, what other people think and say about you doesn’t matter, and yet we spend so much energy worrying about it. As Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Instead, choose a few people in your life whom you trust, who know you well, and who love you enough to tell you the truth (even when it hurts). Listen to them, and don’t bother too much about the rest.
2. Don’t Be So Sure of What You Know (or Think you Know)
I once saw a sign that read, “Hire teenagers now, while they still know everything” and I had to laugh. Because that’s exactly how I thought as a teenager – like I had all the answers and always knew better. But the more I seem to be learning these days, the more I realise how little I actually know, and how wrong I can often be. So stop trying to be right all the time and take the time to listen. You might learn a few new things.
3. Stop Trying To Get, and Give a Little
While it may seem paradoxical, I am absolutely convinced that the path to true contentment lies in the serving of others. That while our talents and abilities might reveal our purpose and our passion, it is our servant-hearts that reveal our maturity. It took me a long time to figure this one out.
4. Family First
Over the years I have spoken to many people who have cheated their families for the sake of their career goals, and have suffered the consequences. Work. Family. Church. Hobbies. Fitness. Housekeeping. Socialising. Sleep. With only 24 hours in each day, we simply can’t fit everything in. And what we choose to cheat is a clear announcement of our values. When you come home an hour earlier, miss a round of golf, or let the dishes sit while you play with your child, you make your family feel valued and secure. Simply put, you must choose to cheat at work rather than at home.
5. Friends Are Crucial
Long-term the people you make friends with are so much more important than your accomplishments or the things you buy. I’ve had a some achievements, I’ve bought a lot of things, and I’ve made a few friends over the years. Of those, the only thing that really matters – the only thing that will outlive me, is my relationships. And I wish I could have spent more time with friends (and family) than on the other things.
6. Pace Yourself
I am an extremely impatient person. I like to take action and get things done, so I often shoot out the starting blocks very quickly only to find myself exhausted early on in the race. So pace yourself. You do not have to do it all at once. In fact, if you try to do it all at once you will, at best not have time to enjoy it, and at worst burn out and damage your health and relationships. Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
7. Grab Hold of Opportunities
Opportunities in life aren’t always easy to recognise. We usually expect them to come with beepers and billboards, but most often they are dressed in overalls and look like work. Sometimes we call opportunities problems and we try to avoid them, but the truth is nothing is so often irretrievably missed as a daily opportunity. So take some risks and be ready to seize the adventures when they present themselves.
8. Make Your Kisses Expensive
My mom used to tell me this when I was a young boy, but I never listened to her. Growing up I was far to flippant with my sexuality and have had to pay the price in later life. The truth is sex is not just physical, and to treat it that way is to hurt ourselves.
Posted on September 23, 2013
Love it or hate it, it cannot be denied that PSY’s song “Gangnam Style” is a phenomenon that has taken the world by storm.
Here are just a few incredible facts surrounding the song:
- On December 21, 2012, the “Gangnam Style” music video became the first ever YouTube video to reach a billion views! As of today, the video has been viewed over 1.75 billion times, making it the most watched video in the history of the world!
- By the end of 2012, just four months after it’s release, the song had topped the music charts of more than 30 countries around the world (which is incredible considering the song is sung in Korean!).
- Given that the video is 4 minutes and 12 seconds long, if all 1,7 billion times it’s been viewed have been viewed to its completion (not even considering all the spinoffs and re-postings), that means approximately 120 million man-hours have been spent watching the video. This is about the same amount of man hours it took NASA to put a man on the moon in ten years!!
- Gangnam Style has reportedly made PSY $15 million so far from digital downloads and YouTube advertising alone… let alone record deals, record sales etc!
- The song’s signature dance moves have been attempted by British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. President Barack Obama, and even the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has hailed it as a “force for world peace”.
But, what lessons, if any, can be learnt from this song? Well, actually quite a bit, I think.
Ultimately PSY is asking people to not take themselves so seriously, and surprisingly I think God calls us to do the same…
Check out my video sermon to explore a little deeper.
Posted on September 16, 2013
Over the past year or so I’ve set out to discover as much as I can about “habits” – how they work, and how we can change them to improve our lives. Three books in particular have been incredibly helpful in this regard: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, and Your Brain at Work by David Rock. And so here are just a couple key insights I’ve gathered from these books, and others:
1. Habits are Powerful
After you make your habits, your habits make you. Intentions are great, vision is vital, but without the discipline of daily habits, we are not going to get very far. As Mike Murdock says, “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”
2. Habits CAN be Changed
The good news is that we have the capacity and the ability to change, alter and shift our habits. We need not be prisoners to our old ways, or held captive by ingrained patterns. It may not always be easy to change, but it is totally possible, and perhaps not as hard as we might think.
3. Small Adjustments Go a Long Way
Often when we think of all the things we want to change we get overwhelmed, run in ten directions at once, and change nothing. However, according to research it’s the small changes that have the biggest impact. (For instance, making your bed has been proven to make you more productive in the day). So stop trying to change all your habits at once and choose something small and specific and start there.
4. Habits are Not Only Individual
Groups, communities, families, companies, and even nations have corporate habits. They lie at the soul of our culture and are often taken for granted, but, if you can change a societal habit, you can change the world!
5. Habits Follow a Pattern
Every habit follows the same basic pattern: The CUE, the REWARD, and the ROUTINE. By simply understanding this pattern and identifying the cue and the reward, we are able to replace the old routine with a new one, with staggering results.
6. Habits Keep You Going
Motivation may get you started, but habits keep you going.
7. Keystone Habits Make All the Difference
According to Duhigg, research shows we all have a few “trigger habits” or “keystone habits” – singular habits which, when we do them, transform all other areas of our lives. Keystone habits set off a chain of internal events, giving us willpower and momentum to do other things. Over time, these keystone habits form other positive habits, and we become completely different people. So whether it is deciding to get up early every morning, or to walk every day, find and implement your keystone habit, and watch it set off a slow avalanche of change.
8. Community is Essential
According to Dr Duhigg “habits only change when we believe change is possible”. And this belief happens best in community. When we hear other’s stories, and witness others overcoming similar challenges, it strengthens our hope, which in turn strengthens our ability to change.
Posted on August 5, 2013
By dinnertime, your family is tired, in a bad mood, and often not together. The mornings are another story—and can bring all the benefits of supper, with none of the pain. Plus: waffles! Fast Company’s Laura Vanderkam lays out why family breakfasts are superior to family dinners.
Parents hear again and again that eating dinner together as a family is supposed to be important for kids. Studies find that kids who eat with their families are less likely be depressed, and more likely to eat fruits and veggies. Such research may explain why families claim to eat together far more often than they actually do. While one USA Today survey found that 50% of families claim to always eat dinner together, a UCLA study that observed middle-class families found that only 17% actually do. (Both stats can be found in this book.)
Despite our best intentions, dinner is just hard to pull off. Kids have after-school activities, and working parents may not be home until 6 pm or later. Someone has to make dinner just as everyone is crashing in the door, harried from traffic and starving. But dinner isn’t the only time a family can have a family meal. In our house, we’ve found that family breakfast has a lot going for it that family dinner just can’t match.
First off, we’re usually all there.
Second, everyone likes breakfast food. Many a family dinner has been marred by fights over broccoli or kale consumption. No one complains about pancakes, waffles, cereal, eggs, bagels, etc.
Third, research into the science of willpower is finding that self-discipline is like a muscle. It gets fatigued from constant use. By dinnertime, everyone has been taxing their willpower all day making decisions and dealing with difficult people. So we’re more likely to be crabby and unpleasant with our loved ones.
But at breakfast? We’re fresh—and able to give our families our best, rather than what’s left over. That’s worth getting up a few minutes earlier.
Laura Vanderkam is a nationally recognised writer who questions the status quo and helps her readers rediscover their true passions and beliefs in pursuit of more meaningful lives. She is the author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, August 27, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at www.lauravanderkam.com.
Posted on July 29, 2013
The wearable device trend is taking off, recording everything from how well you sleep to how far you’ve moved. But can it improve your life?
Every morning I get up, put on some clothes (while trying not to wake my wife who will kill me if I do) and walk to the kitchen to get breakfast. Already, I’m being tracked by my Jawbone UP health monitoring bracelet, which is logging every step I take, every staircase I climb and every kilometre I walk. And if I slip off my Jawbone and sync it with my iPhone, I can see exactly how well (or not well) I slept the night before.
Welcome to the world of “Quantified Self” (QS).
Wikipedia defines QS as “a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life”. Now a cynic might immediately dismiss the QS movement as gimmicky navel-gazing by geeky workout nuts (like myself), but I think that’s a bit unfair.
The truth is that if you’ve ever used a scale or kept a log of your spending, you’ve self-monitored. And if we’re told it’s a good thing to keep track of our money, why wouldn’t we also want to keep track of our physical activity or our sleep – two incredibly important factors in someone’s health and happiness? What’s more, many studies have shown that better information about your actual exertions makes for more informed decisions. And this is as true of exercise as it is of personal spending. As Dr. Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioural Research and Technology, says:
“Research shows clearly that heightening awareness of one’s performance virtually always improves that performance — smarter eating, higher productivity, weight loss, superior performance in sports, and so on.”
Little wonder then that, as monitoring devices become smaller, cheaper and better integrated with smartphones, more people are embracing their quantified selves. With an estimated $800 million in sales of wearable monitoring devices in 2012, this sensor-happy gluttony of self-tracking is shaping up to be a biological metric of the future.
So where is it all heading?
- Already there are a plethora of tracking devices out there, and more hitting the shelves every week: FitBit Flex, Nike FuelBand, Misfit Shine (this one is looks particularly awesome), Amiigo, Withings Pulse, Lark Life, BodyMedia Fit Core, Striiv Play etc etc.
- Apple has hired fitness experts for development of their much anticipated iWatch, which is sure to have a fitness-orientated component.
- Athletes and medical professionals are already experimenting with implanted and ingestible technologies, like the CorTemp ingestible core body thermometer, which transmits your core body temperature to an RF-enabled device.
Of course it’s still very early days for implanted technologies, so don’t expect to be swallowing Nike+ pills or injecting a Fitbit under your skin any time soon, but, when the day comes, the amount of data we’ll be able to collect about ourselves is likely to skyrocket.
With these new developments come concerns over data obsession and privacy violation, which I completely understand, but in my opinion the upsides outweigh the risks. When it comes to privacy, my view is that as long as I know who has access to my data, and I have access to all of it at all times, I say bring it on.
I have been using my Jawbone UP, along with my Garmin Forerunner 910XT with heart rate strap for almost two years now, and I can honestly say they have helped me tremendously to understand my body, my limits, my patterns, and my habits, thereby empowering me to change those very habits for the better.
Today QS may be reserved for geeky athletes who like to stare at graphs (guilty as charged), but in the future quantifying ourselves is not going to be done by some people but by all people.
Today we may call it Quantified Self: tomorrow we are going to call it health care.
- How the Quantified-Self Will Make Big Data a Normal Part of Life (siliconangle.com)
- In the Internet of Everything, “Everything” Includes YOU (blogs.cisco.com)
- The Body Data Craze (thedailybeast.com)
- Tell me EVERYTHING about you: What’s next in Quantified Self? (thenextweb.com)
- The Quantified Self: Growing Interest in APIs to Manage Personal Data (programmableweb.com)
Posted on July 15, 2013
We live in a culture that continually tells us to pursue a higher standard of living in order to improve our quality of life. But “standard of living” and “quality of life” are not the same thing. One has to do with the stuff we accumulate. The other is about the peace we experience regardless of our circumstances.
Of course there are certainly instances when quality of life and standard of living track alongside each other. And in the case of the materially poor, helping those less fortunate to improve their standard of living – access to clean water, electricity, decent education – these things can all have a massive impact on quality of life.
However, for the majority of us reading this blog, the constant call of our culture to pursue a higher standard of living in order to improve our quality of life, can often times be the very thing undermining that quality! Because here’s the truth:
Money doesn’t raise your quality of life, financial breathing room does that.
In fact, for many of us we may need to actually lower our standard of living in order to improve our quality of life. And if you, like me, are a follower of Christ, then you simply can’t obey the teachings of Jesus without financial breathing room because he said not to worry and you’ll worry a lot if you have no financial margin. That’s why Jesus says, “Don’t let your finances be your master”.
Of course this is easier said than done, and certainly not a quick fix. As Andy Stanley says, “You can raise your standard of living with debt, but you can only raise your quality of life with discipline.”
And yet it is that discipline that will ultimately bring us margin, and with that margin, freedom and peace. And THAT is quality of life!
This post was inspired by North Point Church’s “Breathing Room” Series.
Posted on July 1, 2013
I’ve recently finished reading Rob Bell’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” which, in my mind, is not only a brilliant title for a book, but a brilliant book as well. In it Rob uses three words to describe God:
Using just these three words, and in typical Rob Bell style, he manages to communicate deep theological issues and profound spiritual truths in a way that is relevant, clear, and compelling.
But this blog is not about the content of the book – rather the author himself. What I find fascinating is that very little Rob says is breathtakingly new, neither is it completely wacky or fundamentalist. And yet, at least in Christian circles, it seems you either hate him or you love him. And you must choose one or the other. I even know of a church where the pastor told the congregation they are not allowed to read any of Bell’s books for fear of being “led astray”. What the what?! That sounds more like Nazi Germany to me. Certainly not the Church – a place where faith and doubt can be wrestled with, and where it is safe to ask questions.
And that’s really what I love most about Rob Bell: his willingness to ask big questions, and to be OK with not having all the answers.
Now that’s not to say I necessarily agree with everything he says, but that’s the beauty of it – you don’t have to. In general I find him incredibly humble in offering his insights, and he’s often the first to admit he could be wrong or have totally missed the point. I think Rob also has an uncanny ability to cut through the bullsh*t that surrounds so much of religion these days, and get to the real heart of the matter. The thing behind the thing.
So why then do so many hate/fear/criticise Rob Bell?
Perhaps it’s because we like to have black and white answers. Answers we can control and that fit nicely into our predefined theology or ideas about God. Perhaps it’s because Rob has a wonderful ability to rub up against and irritate religious people far more than irreligious people (kind of like Jesus!). Perhaps its because he challenges the status quo. Perhaps it’s simply because we’re afraid of questions we don’t have all the answers for.
So what do you think about Rob Bell? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Posted on June 24, 2013
I’m currently reading a book called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It looks at the neuroscience of habit formation and change, and is really quite fascinating. Of course, there is much more to it than the diagram below, but I think this flowchart can be quite helpful in trying to change a habit. You can click on the image to enlarge.
Posted on June 9, 2013
Fantastic weather, warm ocean, great surf, awesome people, diverse culture… I could go on and on. In fact, here are 10 Things I love Most About Durban. But my love for this magical city doesn’t stop here. It extends up and down our coastline into some of the most untouched unspoilt parts of our country.
But this is not why I wrote this post. The reason I’m telling you all this is because as a wedding officer, I have also had the privilege of performing weddings all over this beautiful province of ours, and if you happen to be looking for a venue to tie the knot in, you need not look any further!
In addition to churches, schools, and beaches, here are just some of the wedding venues that KZN has to offer, and where I have officiated:
For further advice on planning for your wedding, check out www.weddingprep.co.za - your 1-stop wedding resource. No matter your budget or timeframe, this step-by-step guide has everything you need for your big day!