Dude, You’re Being Soft

(An “Own It” Series for Dudes…series resurrected. Four previous posts were August-October 2017)

Based on current reads and also interactions with dudes, it’s time to address a thing-the glaring decline in strong dudes. It’s a thing.

I’m not talking about physical strength. There’s probably an increase there thanks to gyms and fitness addicts. I’m talking about the rest of a dude’s strength-emotional, mental, spiritual-which are more important to build and maintain. So it makes sense that if they are more important, then they require more attention and intention. That’s work. Hard work. And it appears it’s not happening for many dudes.

Why is that? Let’s be honest. Working on strengthening your emotional, mental, and spiritual muscles has the stigma of being soft. Guess what…that’s shame messaging coming from the grunt section. How can something that requires hard work be soft, particularly if it brings you more holistic strength? I counter that not working on these areas is the real characterization of being soft.

If you’re up for it-the hard work of strengthening all of you-here are ten questions to get you started:

  1. What was the last yes you gave God?
  2. When did you last purposefully do something emotionally or spiritually uncomfortable?
  3. How do you manage your fight or flight tendencies?
  4. How are you addressing your present doubts and fears?
  5. How much say does God have in your decisions?
  6. What have you learned about yourself in the last three months?
  7. How are you engaging what you don’t understand about culture, relationships, or God?
  8. What was the last intentional change you made?
  9. What other dudes know you don’t want to be soft?
  10. What’s your level of being all in?

What other questions could you ask yourself to bolster your emotional, mental, and spiritual strength? Who can help you engage these questions? What will your fitness plan be to stop being soft?


Sabbatical: The Saturday After

It was a good month. A very good month. Memorable in many ways. I was asked Thursday what was the best highlight. I gave an answer, but I could give you a different answer if you asked me today.

Rather than do highlights, here is the end of my journal entry from 10/30:

The lessons I take away from this month are:

  1. Grace is so needed in this world. I need to give more of it.
  2. People are very lonely in this world. I can offer them hope through my obedience to serve and to give my time, talents, and respect. 
  3. God has what people need in this world. They can find it through various methods-church, community, music, dance, family, books, new friendships, similar connections, and jobs where they can love people. 
  4. There is much to be in awe of in this world. But it shouldn’t replace my awe for the one responsible for all of it. 

For a bonus thought, I’ll share this note from my morning run today. In my first few miles, I wasn’t necessarily feeling it. I thought 7.5 may do it today, although I needed to do more. However, the more I ran the better my legs felt making me think double digit miles were possible after all (I was wearing Alabama socks…gotta be it). I ended up getting just over 10 done and felt good following. It reminded me of Sabbatical race #3 in Dover. 

Here’s the deal: our minds are a tool. They can beat us up or tear us down. Controlling the self talk in our head determines if we’ll finish strong or finish at all. 

Bottom line: Own Your Mind.

Photos to illustrate: 

Following mile 1 in Dover. Thought: “How will these next 12 miles go?”

Finish Line in Dover. Thought: “Thanks, God. We owned those last miles.”

Dude…You’re on a Detour

(An “Own It” series for Dudes)

My last post had to do with my recent travels, with quite a bit of levity. This post also has to do with those travels, but with a more introspective tone. Balance.

My travels have taken me through 13 states. Guess what? They all have construction going on. Shocking. And guess what? Google maps is there for you, in the congestion and the isolation, ready to be silent or ready to give you an alternate route.

Another term for alternate route is detour. I literally took one detour that had me circle all four exit and entrance ramps at an interstate exchange to detour around a closed exit. That was a first. Pretty sweet, actually.

In my trek from Ohio to New York, I had a long time to think. One thing I was chewing on was a phrase I kept throwing at my Columbus friend, “You have options.” And as I passed a couple of detours and watched various driver’s reactions to the traffic flow changes, including my own, some interesting thoughts about detours and options in life came to mind. So here they are in randomness:

  • Some detours in life come at you with no warning-GPS lost the signal, the accident ahead just happened, the road seemed closed for no reasons. You don’t know what it’s about, how long it’s going to last, and maybe even uncertain if the new route really is taking you in the right direction. These life detours could be anything from financial to physical to vocational to relational. You really aren’t sure if you have options or not. This delay is full of uncertainty.
  • Other detours in life come with a few warning signs-“Road work 5 miles ahead. Left lanes closes in 1 mile. Detour ahead.” Reasons may be clearer because of better information, which may also give you options to consider for getting through the delay sooner. The delay is real but with less uncertainty, less stress on the traveler.
  • For a little bit of honesty, let’s acknowledge that we drivers actually bring some detours on ourselves. Maybe we failed to listen to the GPS, or arrogantly said, “She doesn’t know what she’s saying.” Maybe we purposefully chose to take a detour to see something that looked interesting that takes us off the planned course. And we are mostly okay with these detours. Some end well, some don’t. Regardless, we have to own the fact that we chose the detour.
  • The truth about most detours is this: they don’t ruin our lives. We may immediately start worrying about arriving in time or disappointing the in-laws or missing the meeting, but the end of most stories is we eventually get there and all is well.

So what’s a dude to do when approaching a detour or waking up to the reality he’s in one that he didn’t see coming?

  1. Consider your options
  2. Thank God you’re still on a road and not under it
  3. Take a breathe
  4. Look at the scenery that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen
  5. Adjust your speed, your expectations, your plans
  6. Realize that 15-30 minutes is about the same time it takes to get your hair cut. It won’t last forever.
  7. If the Spirit leads you to take a detour, listen and obey
  8. Ask God “what” questions rather than “why” questions
  9. Look for the purpose in the detour. You might find that it’s taking you to a better road.
  10. Turn up the music. Lower the windows. Enjoy the ride.

Dude…You’re in the Restroom…at the rest stop

(An “Own It” series for Dudes)

This month I’ve been doing quite a bit of driving. Trips have been anywhere from three to nine hours in length. Therefore, I’ve had reason to make a few pitstops. One such stop was memorable. It was a rest area in PA.

Frankly, PA has nothing to do with it. I’ve experienced the same scenario before, but in a different way. In the other scenarios I wasn’t actually in the room, so not the same experience. I’ll get back to that.

The experience has to do with dudes and their phones. Before you go there, no dude’s phone got dunked…not this time. Water wasn’t involved. 

When I walked in, there was a dude in the first stall. While a couple others of us “rested,” the dude in the stall’s phone rang. And, you guessed it, he answered it. Not only answered it, but he was still carrying on the conversation when I walked out.

Dude, you’re in a stall…using the restroom…at the rest stop. Doing business while doing business isn’t something the rest of us need to hear, see, or filter through any of our senses. For us other dudes, please observe the following manly restroom and phone pointers:

  • If your phone is your business line, consider yourself out of the office for a few minutes when you enter this “not private” office. For that matter, for your customer’s sake go ahead and declare that for all restrooms.
  • If you know that the ringing of your phone is simply irresistible for you to ignore, leave the phone in your vehicle. Most likely, you’ll get finished faster as well as get back to your phone and the highway more timely.
  • If the restroom becomes somewhat of a man cave for reading or playing games on your phone at your actual office or home, keep it that way. Get in and out at the rest area. Here’s a suggestion: pretend you’re at the stadium and it’s halftime. There’s a reason why reading materials aren’t provided.
  • If you must carry your phone with you for reasons for which you probably need to see a counselor, let all calls go to voice mail. People really don’t expect you to answer 24/7. They get it. They most likely won’t get it when they hear flushing and other noises from the other business guys in the room.
  • And back to that other thing, don’t be that guy…the guy that has to answer, “In the restroom,” when asked by your caller, “Where are you?” Your caller doesn’t need that visual. Again, senses.
  • Finally and seriously, own your phone. Don’t let your phone own you.

Dude, You’re At…the Game

(An “Own It” series for dudes)

I’ve been able to get to two Rays games in the last couple of weeks. Both games were a lot of fun-good plays and good company. For me, baseball rarely disappoints.

What, or should I say, who can disappoint more frequently are dudes in the stands. These dudes seem to not understand the difference between watching the game from their recliner versus watching the game amongst strangers. So from one baseball-watching dude to another, here are some manly things to keep in mind:

  • Yes, you paid good money to come, and you want to enjoy the game. So do it already. Relax. Everybody has a better time when you do.
  • Chances are you don’t know anybody on the field, umpires or players. Follow the golden rule. Oh, and they most likely can’t hear you.
  • If you are so great to bring your kids to the game, here’s the best way to get the most out of the experience for you and them. Ready? Make it about your kids more than about you.
  • It’s a game. Somebody is going to lose. Chances are the players want to win more than you want them to. Be a good sport.
  • Yelling is fine, even encouraged. Try this rule though: for every degrading negative you yell you must yell three encouraging positives.
  • People are people. They have to go to the restroom and get food. Stand up and let them out of the row. It’s that golden rule thing again.
  • Excessive cussing and drinking do not make you a man (for what it’s worth, it definitely doesn’t look good on your lady either). The people in front of and behind you are literally inches away. One last time: Golden Rule!

At both of these games, a pair of dudes sat in front of me. They looked retirement age. They also looked like sports-loving dudes. They kept these manly things in mind and more. Thanks, dudes, for modeling how to be a dude at the game.

Dude, You’re At…the Gym

(An “Own It” series for Dudes)

Last Saturday, I watched something I’ve never seen. You rarely know a stranger’s story, but this dude had a story. 

We walked into the Manatee Avenue Planet Fitness at the same time. I always have a plan for my time in the gym. It most likely is get on the treadmill, run my preplanned distance or time, wipe down the machine, leave. Recently I’ve also joined the masses who plug in to their phone or the TVs to let music, news, or sports pass the time. This is what most “gymmers” do. They have a plan. They get it done. They own it.

This dude wasn’t an owner. I’m not sure what you’d call him. Maybe a wannabe. A poser. Bored. A leaner. Lost. From my observation, I’d definitely say he was confused about what to do when you go to the gym.

I never saw this dude pick up, get on, or much less turn on any piece of equipment. He touched a couple of pieces, but that was just to lean on them. No joke. For 25 minutes I watched him move from one elliptical to another, one bike to another just to lean on them and “change channels.” He’d stare at the TV above the machine for a minute or two, never plugging in mind you, and move over a machine or two to watch a different TV. Apparently he likes closed-caption viewing. This is all he did for 25 minutes. And the last time I saw him, he was walking away from every piece of equipment heading toward the exit. He’d leaned enough. Gym time was over.

Call me crazy, but what in the world? Hard to give, much less get credit for going to the gym when you might as well have stayed in the living room moving back and forth from the couch to the love seat. The recliner might have required some energy.

All kidding and judgment aside, when you are committing to a fitness plan, you really need to do just that-COMMIT. Playing at it makes a mockery of it. And the only one losing is you. The gym doesn’t lose. It doesn’t care if you commit or not. It’ll gladly take your monthly automatic deduction and roll on. If you actually hire a trainer, they don’t necessarily lose either when you don’t commit. You won’t be their favorite or star client, but they’ll also take your payment and work out any frustrations they may have because of you when they go to the gym.

Going to the gym, committing to a fitness plan is rather simple. At least from the logistic view. 

  • Schedule it. 
  • Develop your goals. 
  • Determine your action steps. 
  • Do the work. 
  • Enjoy the benefits.

If this isn’t working for you, then it’s time to ask yourself a different question. It could be worded something like, “What am I really doing at the gym? Why am I not owning this commitment?”

For the, I’ll say, 89% of dudes in the gym who are owning it, good job. Keep at it. Keep owning it. Like the two of you I was happy to share the gym with this morning.

One dude had an artificial leg. He got on the treadmill and owned it. The other dude had a significant limp and walked with a cane. He owned his gym time with free weights. They weren’t leaners or posers, lost or confused. They had a plan. They were getting it done. They owned it.

(I must give about 8.9% credit for this series to my dude Mark. He’s an owner.)

Fruity Fridays: 5 Ways to Own Your Faithfulness 

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

The fruit of faithfulness is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit which require the most use of Galatians 5:24, which says,

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Faithfulness is not a natural trait we are born with. It flies in the face of our natural bend toward selfishness. Left to our own desires and passions, we keep moving from job to job, bed to bed, habit to habit, relationship to relationship because it’s just too hard to be faithful when you are wrapped up in “what’s in it for me?”

We have to give that bend to God. We have to choose to own faithfulness rather than selfishness and pursue it with the Holy Spirit’s aid. So how can we own our faithfulness? Here are five thoughts:

Own Your Purpose

Yes, your purpose is God-given. But he doesn’t make you pursue education. He doesn’t make you go on the job interview. He doesn’t make you leave a purposeless job to pursue the purposeful job. He gives you a purpose, but you have to own it. Chances are when you do own his given purpose, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: John the Baptist)

Own Your Margin

We all have the same amount of time. We haven’t all learned the value of margin, the value of saying “no,” or the hurt created by a flippant, inattentive “yes.” Your margin is yours; your time is yours to obediently and wisely fulfill your God-given purpose. Chances are when you own your margin, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Jethro)

Own Your Commitments

If we take care of owning purpose and margin, this one is a lot easier. Commitments should not be causal, quick, or thoughtless. If the commitment is entered into only after checking it against purpose and margin, the odds of its longevity increase. Chances are when you own your commitments, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical examples: David and Jonathan)

Own Your Distractions

Owning purpose, margin, and commitments don’t negate self-imposed or enemy-induced distractions. You can be your own worst enemy; and, you are always target practice for enemy attacks to your mind, body, and soul. Know your susceptibilities. Know your distractions. Chances are when you own your distractions, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Daniel)

Own Your Tendencies

Very few people know you like you know you. It may be that no human really knows you. We should all own the truth that God knows us, every part of us, even when we forget he does or try to behave like he doesn’t. Knowing your tendency to leave when you should stay, run when you should walk, talk when you should listen, or obsess when you should forget will move you along in owning your selfishness. Chances are when you own your tendencies, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Paul)

31 Proverbs Highlights: #27-Own/Stop/Look

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

A sensible person sees danger and takes cover; the inexperienced keep going and are punished. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭27‬:‭12‬ HCSB)

My first marathon, Virginia Beach, March 2009. I felt ready. All was going well until Mile 16. I had brought enough gels to get me that far. The race guide promised gels would be at that aid station. Promise broken. I had 10 miles to go. Without needed energy, what was I to do? 

I know now what I should have done, but all I knew to do that day was keep running and deal with the eventual wall I was going to hit. Mile 21. BOOM. Nothing left in the tank.

I didn’t “take cover.” I was definitely “punished.”

What can we do with danger or the unknown? 

  • Own your inexperience-Surround yourself with experienced people.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself “keeping going.” Stop. Learn from the punishments for your inexperience. Forgive yourself.
  • Look for other inexperienced people. Bring them some sense. Help them own, stop and look.