Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Midweek Worship: Victory

This week I need to think victoriously. I'm struggling, really struggling with this whole weight thing, and it's bringing me down mentally.

When I get like that, I reach for the songs that lift my spirits, speak a Word to my heart, and get my feet to dancing!

Kim Burrell's Victory is one of those songs. The only thing that drives me crazy about Kim is that she rarely sings a song the exact same way twice. So if you really enjoy a recorded rendition, don't look for anything close to that when she's live in concert. But her energy and unique vocal stylings more than compensate.

This is an abridged version of the song. Nevertheless, enjoy!

Peace & Blessings,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

God and Politics

I'm a Christian. I believe in the saving power of Jesus Christ, in redemption based on His death and resurrection, and the grace of God available to all.

I don't agree with many of the people who are quoted as representing the voice of Christians in our political discourse. I find a lot of the dialogue lacking in humility, mercy, and compassion, although they often characterize themselves as humble, merciful, and compassionate.

Over the weekend, I read an article that so eloquently articulated how I feel about the subject. Read it here.

Peace & Blessings,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It Takes How Long to Form a Habit?

Oprah has a feature in O Magazine where she expounds on things she knows for sure.

One thing I know for sure is the conventional wisdom on habit formation is crap.

Many years ago, I learned that it takes 21 days of consistent activity to form a habit.

More recently, I've heard that it's 14 days.

I'm here to tell you that it's neither. I really don't know how long it takes to form a habit but I do know it takes a lifetime to keep one.

In my case, I've been working out pretty faithfully since June. I was up to a solid 5 or 6 times a week by August and feeling pretty good about myself. So why am I struggling now to work out at all?

A few missed days, a few days of less than eager workouts, a few days of abbreviated workouts and it feels like I'm back where I started. Talking myself out of bed every morning. Talking myself into my workout gear. Talking myself into turning on the DVD. Talking myself into actually moving as opposed to laying across the bed and reading a few pages from a book.

Worst of all is that, even with my struggles, I'm still working out at least three times a week, not including the 4-7 hours of walking I'm doing every weekend to knock on doors in support of Sen. Obama's campaign. I feel as sluggish and almost as out of shape as I did nearly six months ago. (I can still lift my legs pretty high, though.)

I'm in an exercise rut.

My good friend Chicki suggested I needed to up my intensity. Yup, I do, and I realized it weeks ago. Except the last thing I want first thing in the AM is a super intense workout. Honestly. Even if that is exactly what I need.

I don't want to exercise that hard in part because it means a daily hair disaster. Not being vain. Just being honest.

But as I watch The Biggest Loser, a show which completely captivates me--I'm rooting for Heba--I realize that the reason these folks lose so much weight is exactly that. They work out intensely. Every day. Imagine the heartbreak of having exercise as your full-time job and still only losing two lbs for the week? Or none?

I figure if I want to lose five lbs for the month, I need to work out at least half as hard at the show participants (and waaaay harder than I've been doing).

Still, the habit of exercise is very difficult to form and very easy to lose.

So, I don't know much about the science or psychology of habit formation but I do know I've just got to keep giving this exercise and weight loss thing my best shot.

I hope you stick with whatever your personal challenge might be too.

Peace & Blessings,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Midweek Worship: Jesus Is My Help

Here's a song that takes me back, not just to the time but to a choir sound you don't hear too much anymore. At least I don't.

There is nothing like sound of a gospel choir from the 1980's or 1990's, before hip-hop got a stronghold gospel. Don't get me wrong. I love a lot of new music too, and this song really isn't that old. It's just that Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir have a sound that reminds me of many a Friday night/Saturday night musical or church anniversary or Sunday night service from years ago.

A part of me misses that. Another part of me is waaaay too old to be at church until the wee hours of the morning listening to choir after choir, especially if I have to go to Sunday AM service or work the next day.

Oh well...

Enjoy Jesus Is My Help with me.

Peace & Blessings,

Monday, October 20, 2008

Weekly Check-in: October 20, 2008

Week of October 13, 2008:

Weight Loss: None.
Not sure. Didn't weigh myself this AM. Didn't want to know.

Average water per day: 2 cups. Notice
I'm trending down. Not good.

Number of exercise days: 3

Total min exercised: 90 min (avg of 30 min per day)


Still struggling with the October blues. I haven't exercised since the middle of last week. I did walk for about 5 hours this weekend, canvassing for Sen. Obama.

Thank God it's election season or I'd be a big blob on the couch!

I also just finished walking a couple of times around the perimeter of the parking lot with one of my co-workers. Now that the temps have dropped to a comfortable low 80s, we are resuming our daily walks.

If only exercise were the only problem...

Eating. As in, eating every thing in sight. That's my other problem.

So far, so good today. If I get through this evening without pigging out and I exercise tomorrow AM, those will be good first steps to getting back on track. Before the holidays kick in.

The real problem is that I just have not turned this whole weight loss thing over to God. I know I haven't or I wouldn't be still struggling with it, up and down, over and over, as I have been for the past 20 years.

Clearly I have some Israelite in me.

Perhaps I should start there...

Peace & Blessings,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

(Belated) Blog Action Day 2008 -- Poverty

As much as I read blogs, why is it that I always seem to find out about these things late?

Mid-afternoon yesterday (while reading a blog, of course), I discovered that yesterday was Blog Action Day 2008. That's a day chosen when all bloggers are asked to blog on a singular topic for the purpose of bringing worldwide attention to the issue and making a difference.

This year's topic is poverty.

Interestingly enough, on the way into work yesterday, I heard that America's working poor had increased by some 300,000+ families to approximately 29,000,000 families.

Those are families. Even with declining family size, that's a lot of people.

Of course, I hate that label "working poor", because to me, "poor" is a spiritual condition, a state of mind. Failing to have money is simply broke. Lots of folks grow up broke, live broke, and die broke. But I'd argue--and I'm sure I'd get a lot of flack for this--their broke condition doesn't change, in part, because they are poor in spirit.

Folks who have richer, more whole spirits, make things happen. They find some way to break the poverty cycle and get to a better place financially, even if it takes years.

Sometimes they need a little help. To me, that's what the fight against global poverty is about.

Worldwide poverty is incredible to me. At this time in history, forgetting the current global financial crisis--or maybe even in spite of it--I believe there is more wealth in the world than there has ever been.

It is unseemingly that some folks live with such largesse on this planet while others, even whole nations, languish in totally abject conditions--residential squalor, excessive unemployment, low wages, little, no, or spoiled food, contaminated water, rampant disease, etc.

The resources on this planet--people, ideas, natural substances, and yes, money--are too great for this to be the case.

A quick Google search turned up a host of organizations devoted to fighting global poverty, like End Poverty, The One Campaign, NetAid, PovertyFighters, and Care.

Take some time to learn more about the issue of global poverty and its impact on your life, because this issue affects every citizen of the Earth. Then, commit to do something to help eradicate poverty, no matter how small. One idea I saw had to do with making microloans as small as $20 to business entrepreneurs in Third World countries. $20 goes a long way in some places.

God said the poor would be with us always. I believe He meant those who are spiritually bereft and to some extent, that's by choice. But I don't believe He ever said His children would or should starve.

Let's wipe out global poverty.

It starts with us.

Peace & Blessings,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Midweek Worship: Lord, I Believe in You

Lord, I believe...

In Your Promises
In Your Grace
In Your Mercy
In Your Love
In Your Sacrifice
In You.

I love the sound of Crystal Lewis' voice. Close your eyes, focus on Him, and you'll be ushered straight into His presence.

Peace & Blessings,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The People You Meet (When You Get Involved)

Since August, I've been canvassing neighborhoods for Sen. Obama's campaign. Knocking on doors and getting people registered to vote, or now, trying to persuade undecided voters and encourage all voters (even McCain supporters) to vote early or vote by mail to avoid/minimize long lines.

You meet some really interesting people on the campaign trail.

The young woman who told me she heard Obama was a terrorist and everybody had just found out.

The McCain supporter who told me I was soooo nice. Not sure what she expected...

The young woman who won't get to vote this year because she was asleep in the back room when somebody else stopped by a few days before the deadline. Her friends/roommates answered the door and registered themselves but didn't think to wake her up. Lesson: Choose better friends.

The gung-ho convicted felons and non-citizens who tell me they are definitely supporting Obama. Except they can't vote and they know they can't. Don't think we have any kind of honorary tally for those who would vote for him if they could but at least I was able to get information to a couple of them about how they can get their voting rights restored for Sen. Obama's re-election in 2012. :)

The door slammers. One look at my Obama button on my tee shirt, one with his face on it, and they shudder, gasp, twist their faces, and shut the door faster than I can say, "Hello."

The older voters who wanted to talk...and talk and talk and... Because they remember the 2000 election and "It's a shame what happened" and "You're doing a good thing." and... I was always taught to be respectful of my elders but I have 100 more doors to knock on!

The older couple who applauded me for knocking on doors for "your guy" but told me that they were voting for the only candidate who's ever been 100% honest with the American public. Ralph Nader.

The two drunken fellows who were sitting on their porch in a somewhat seedy area and cheering me as I walked down the street. My son didn't want me to leave the car with them but I knew it would be just fine parked across from their house. I told him, "They'll sit right there and watch the car until we get back and we won't have to worry about it one iota." Sure enough, they did. Then, they asked me to "Sign us up!" I just hope they weren't so sloshed that they don't remember registering. And we'll ignore the part of them inviting my 13yo to a strip club when he turns 18.

I didn't think I would like canvassing. The few times I did this in the past, either for my husband's school board campaign in NY or for church witnessing, I absolutely hated it. My stomach would be queasy and I couldn't wait for it to end.

But I'm having a ball. It's nice to get out and learn some areas of town that I'm not familiar with and to meet new people. I've made a friend, my canvassing buddy, who invited my sons to her son's birthday party. And I feel like I'm making a difference, especially when I registered voters or give them any tidbit of information they didn't have before.

Not sure if I'll remain involved politically after this election. I'm not for monthly meetings and things like that. I guess I like doing something rather than talking about doing something. Yet, I believe in our process, however corrupted it might seem at times, and like doing my civic duty.

Are you involved in the presidential campaign at all? Emailing friends with reminders to register or to vote? Sharing valid political information (and not just unsubstantiated rumors)? Canvassing? Taking people to the polls? Volunteering to be a poll watcher?

Consider getting involved. Three weeks to go and it's not too late!

Peace & Blessings,

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekly Check-in: October 13, 2008

Week of October 6, 2008:

Weight Loss: 0 lbs.

Average water per day: 3 cups

Number of exercise days: 4

Total min exercised: 120 min (avg of 30 min per day)

I'm in the battle of my life...for my life.

October is a rough month for me. I'm not sure why. Last year, around this same time, after fighting to get off 17 lbs., I got sluggish. I stopped exercising. I drank less water. I began snacking and eating stuff I knew I shouldn't eat. By the time I realized what was happening, around Jan 15th, I had gained back every pound plus three.

I promised myself I wouldn't let it happen this year. This year because I'm more aware, more enlightened, I would guard against this happening.

It's happening again.

I don't know why. I think it has something to do with being born and raised up North. The climate is changing up there as Fall sets in. From October to mid-January, there was always a sense of things slowing down as winter and the holidays approached. People will begin wearing heavier clothing to keep warm and conserving personal energy whenever possible.

I don't need to do that down here in Florida.

So I'm going to fight my natural instincts. Didn't exercise this morning but I did walk for about four hours yesterday in addition to my regular exercise. I'll be sure to exercise for the remainder of the week.

And I'm going to be a bit stricter about the snacking.

My short-term goal is to make it to Jan 1st without gaining any weight. I'd love to lose but I'll be happy not to gain, as I typically do this time of year. I'll consider that a major accomplishment.

Should I lose weight, I'll be doing a happy dance!

How'd you do last week?

Peace & Blessings,

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What a Week! What a God!

What a week!

By now everyone knows this was an interesting week in American history. The US financial market is in a freefall. The Dow is down more than 5,000 points since a year ago and lost 20% of its value in the last seven days. Markets in countries around the world have been affected too, signaling a global problem. I mean, hey, Iceland declared bankruptcy and some prankster offered it for sale on eBay.

Lots of finger pointing. By presidential candidates. By congressman. By media. By the man on the street.

Is it the greed and excess of Wall Street? Was it the subprime lenders or the people who accepted subprime mortgages? Was it the deregulation encouraged, or at least, not opposed in Washington over the last eight years?

Who knows?

Greed and excess on Wall Street? Certainly. Wall Street, the aggregate of the brokerage houses, venture capitalists, and hedge funds, is all about making money. Seems obvious to me that those who can skirt the regulations and even break the law to maximize their profits without harming their sense of ethics will do so. They did.

Predatory lending by subprime mortage brokers? You betcha. Because they could do less work in terms of due diligence and earn as much money. So again, why not pile on if you can get away with it?

Greedy home buyers wanting more home than they could afford? A few. I believe the majority of subprime mortgage holders didn't get subprime rates because they were trying to be greedy and buy into a lifestyle beyond their means. A lot of subprime mortgage holders were working class people who got into subprime mortgages because that's what was available to them. Unfortunately in the last decade, the mortgage industry began sweetening the pot, not with subprime fixed rate loans but with adjustable rate loans that allowed as little as 0% down and had low interest rates for anywhere from the first six to 24 months. (I know because in the 13 years that we had a home in NY, we had both. Thankfully, we sold before the current foreclosure crisis.)

Under these easy money conditions, more people qualified for loans and walked through the gateway to the American dream, their own home. Some took advantage of the lax terms to invest in a number of properties for the purpose of "flipping" them and earning big profits. But neither group paid much attention to what would happen if interest rates suddenly began to climb. Mortgage brokers told them, "That's NEVER gonna happen." It happened.

Lack of deregulation? Yes and no. Because regulations have a purpose, to safeguard the financial system and the American public from some of what we're going through now. But at the same time, there are always creative new financial instruments that allow for the opportunity to achieve great wealth while also allowing for great abuse. The first is a good thing; the latter stinks.

Throw all of this stuff in a pot, boil in a steadily worsening economy, and you get what we've got now. The US government, the same government that's spending in excess of its revenues and that's borrowing money daily from the Chinese and others to pay for the war in Iraq, among other things, is going to save the financial markets.

I don't know about you and I'm not saying there are a lot of other options but I'm wondering how much they really know about the subject matter, what possible solutions are worthy of consideration, and who should be in charge of minding the store.

People are afraid. They're allowing themselves to become frantic or depressed, either of which leads to erratic behavior. Just this week, a man in California killed himself and his entire family because he didn't see a way out of their financial woes.

The future seems uncertain. Very uncertain.

There is one thing I do know. God is God.

We must take comfort in the knowledge that God is still who He has always been. Our Sustainer. Our Provider. Our Peace. Our Refuge. Our Comfort. The Lifter of Our Heads.

It may be tempting to worry, to fret, to be anxious about what's happening all around us. Let's be clear. Things are bad and they could get much worse before they get better.

But God will take care of His own.

That doesn't mean we won't experience hardship or difficulties, that we won't have to endure some stuff.

But we know that He will watch over and care for us, if we keep our eyes and hearts focused on Him.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:5-7, NIV)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Heb 13:8, NIV)

What a God!

Peace & Blessings,

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Midweek Worship: What is This?

I usually have these up way in advance but I realized, as I showered this morning, that I hadn't scheduled a worship song.

Whenever I need some quick, get deep yet pick me up kind of gospel, I'm going to my all-time favorites, The Love Center Choir.

This is Bishop Walter Hawkins and The Love Center Choir performing "What is This?"

Gives me goosebumps.

Peace & Blessings,

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pay Now or Pay Later

Since I really struggled with working out last week, Greg on Faith First Fitness had just the reminder that I needed:

Pay Now
o The struggle with schedule that makes time to workout consistently.
o Planning ahead in order to eat healthy.
o Muscle soreness from a challenging fitness plan.
o Resisting the temptation to derail a good nutrition plan.
o Working out when you don’t feel like it.
o Discomfort during a challenging workout.
o Swallowing pride in order to try something new.
o Get outside help, training, accountability.
o Changing a whole lifestyle that promotes health and fitness.

The Pay Off
o Increased self-esteem
o Increased self-confidence
o Increased mental focus
o Increased strength and stamina
o Increased energy level
o Decreased stress level
o Weight loss
o More restful sleep
o Measurable results that move towards life goals.
o The overall GREAT feeling of health and fitness.

Pay Later
o High blood pressure.
o Type II Diabetes
o Heart Disease
o High Blood Pressure
o Sleep Apnea
o Osteoarthritis
o Gall Bladder Disease
o Fatty Liver Disease
o Chronic headaches
o Varicose veins
o Breathing problems
o Coronary artery disease
o Increased risk of stroke

We will all pay. Either “pay now” or “pay later.”

Peace & Blessings,

Monday, October 6, 2008

Weekly Check-in: October 6, 2008

Didn't forget to post my update this week but kind of wish I had.

Week of September 29, 2008:
Weight Loss: 0 lbs.

Average water per day: 3 cups

Number of exercise days: 3

Total min exercised: 90 min (avg of 30 min per day)

Thank God for those B-12 metabolism kickers! I only exercised 3 days last week, not counting the 5 hours of walking for voter registration that I did. Waaaay off my goal of min 5 days per week.

I was sluggish. I overslept one day.

At least I didn't gain weight. My eating, although not great, wasn't too bad.

Not off to a good start this week since this morning, I overslept again. I'm stretching myself a bit thin these days, what with campaigning and managing the Littlest One's baseball team, in addition to all my normal duties. I'm aware of it but these things are important.

The election, thankfully is less than 30 days away and I'm only canvassing on weekends.

The baseball season ends right before Thanksgiving. It requires one practice per week and one game, typically on Saturday mornings. I would be there anyway, so when the original manager bowed out, I volunteered. (I'm proud of Most Honorable Son Number One who is coaching the team for me.)

It will get better. I know it will.

Hope you had a better week than I did? Tell me about it.

Peace & Blessings,

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The (Wo)Man In the Mirror

I'm not a big fan of Michael Jackson's right now. But his music remains transcendent. (Isn't it sad that some of the greatest blessings go to the most tortured souls?)

One of his songs that I loved and still do is The Man In The Mirror.

I'm Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It's Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

That's Why I'm Starting With Me....

I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Make A Change
Boy, making a life change is way harder than it sounds!

The song, of course, is talking about making a change in the world around us, about not ignoring the challenges in our social environment but doing something to affect them.

I wholeheartedly believe in this, which is why I'm working hard to elect Sen. Barack Obama the next president of the United States of America.

I also think we have to act in small ways, every day, beginning with being better persons ourselves.

For me, part of being a better person is being a healthier person.

I think this is the hardest thing I've ever done.

Because there can't be any let up. If I go more than two days without exercise, I feel as though I haven't exercised in weeks. If I eat even a small cookie or slice of cake, I find myself grabbing for more, as though I've unleashed some sugar demon within.

But I'm more on track than off these days so I take comfort in that.

And I find that the more on track I am, the more energized I am, not just in terms of physical energy but deep within my soul. My outlook is brighter. I'm happier. Not just happier but joyous. I'm more inclined to give of myself and to look for opportunities to be a blessing to others. I feel as though I'm living in a way that is more pleasing to God.

So it really does all start with me. I choose to make a change.

Peace & Blessings,

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Midweek Worship: You Brought The Sunshine

Where do I begin to talk about the incomparable Clark Sisters? They been my favorites since I was a teenager, and they were but teens themselves.

And I'm pleased to say that these sisters have gotten serious about their health, losing weight and being much healthier today than they were then. Don't they look beautiful on their most recent album cover?

You Brought The Sunshine is one of their earliest hits. It's a tribute to God, who made the sun, the moon, the stars...all of it.

Here's a 1988 recording of the song. See how well it stands up after all these years?

You, God, make my day!

Peace & Blessings,