The October Resolve

As I mentioned my “October Resolve” in the cheesecake entry published Thursday, it occurred to me that I had not explained what I meant by that term. Actually, I invented that term (but not the goals that lay behind it) when I wrote the post.

Recently, I have become irritated by myself and my failures in several areas. A week or so back, I determined that I had to make progress on these three items or I would probably find myself frustrated and defeated going forward. I’ve code-named them G, L, and S, but I can trust you with their actual identities.

G stands for the sin of gluttony. I’ve been up and down with my weight, my healthy eating, and my general level of fitness over the last five years or so. Over the summer, Penny and I both did great. Then I went back to school and wheels came off. Workouts ended and restraint with food went out the window. My G resolve is to eat within control every day through October. I’ll be measuring myself using MyFitnessPal and remembering Proverbs 23:20-21.

L stands for the sin of lust. Let’s be clear–especially if you’re my wife reading this–I’ve not completely gone off the rails. However, I have found my eyes and thoughts going where they should not go.  My L resolve is to keep my eyes on the right things as much as possible and to maintain a pure mind in sexual matters. I seek this beyond October, but I’ll start with these 31 days. To assist, I’m lining up scriptures like 1 Corinthians 6:18-19 to remind me of the importance of mental fidelity.

S stands for the sin of sloth. Although I have plenty of good things that I should be doing with my time, I’ve been a bit of a sluggard recently. With Proverbs 6:10-11 in my mind, I know that I simply have to use my time more productively. Yes, there are lots of good things on Netflix, but I don’t have to watch them all right away. I’ve created a document file that I’ll use to record my actions each day. So far, I’ve felt very good about my use of time, but can I keep it up for a month? We’ll see.

That’s what I’m striving to do this month. There’s no grand conclusion to draw, but I thought I’d share.

Running Lazy

I’m scheduled to run 8 to 10 miles today, letting how I feel about my legs and lungs determine the distance. The Rock the Parkway half marathon is a week away, and I’m tapering toward the start. My goal for the next seven days is simple: don’t get hurt. On the eighth day, the goal is to finish the race in less than two hours.


As good as I’m feeling about my preparations for this race, as confident as I am that I can meet the goal I’ve set for myself, I’m also somewhat concerned about my attitude toward the activity. Is it possible that I’m running in laziness? I know that sounds bizarre, but I’ve been thinking along those lines recently, and another writing by Paul Maxwell has really brought the idea to the fore.

Maxwell argues that laziness is not exactly what it seems to be but is largely a spiritual condition. In his mind, the workaholic, the guy who won’t roll out of bed before noon, and the obsessed runner might all be suffering from a very similar affliction, although only one of them seems to be lazy.

You have your little idol, right? Maybe it is called Pinterest or Tumblr; perhaps it is golf or tennis. It could be reading or music, cooking or TV, antiquing or housework. Anything that we do without a clear vision of it within the Kingdom of God, anything that puts us in control, shares qualities with my son who is not out of bed at 11:02am on a Saturday. Maxwell shares a list of these things and then comments.

They are our easy-bake mud puddle gods — simply sit, add water, and worship. What gets you out of bed (or off the couch)? To withdraw, to procrastinate, to stumble through a blurry haze of work days just waiting for the next opportunity to get back on the couch, back to the workshop, back on Netflix, or back to the gym, that isn’t life — and none of us is honestly or passionately arguing that it really is.

And so my question for myself is running. Do I run to put myself in charge? Is the pleasure that I derive from this activity a substitute for the joy I should be experiencing in God? It is, of course, possible to have both, but it’s also possible to foul up that joy with any of the lesser pleasures.

I can experience God in eating or I can eat to cover up the absence of God. I can actually indulge in worship activities that cover up the lack of true worship in my life. And, to the point at hand, I can run away from the lack of God in my life or run in ways that celebrate His presence.

This much I know to be true. What’s not so obvious is how to do the latter.

That Internet Guy

Another “hobby” that many people–men mostly again–get into to make themselves feel as if they are producing something is commenting on Internet posts. Just scroll through the comments of some mildly contentious story if you don’t know what I mean. Isn’t it great that some self-appointed experts volunteer to maintain the public discourse?

Rip Van Winkle Redux

I meant to write this post last week, but I just didn’t have the energy. What with getting out of bed, brushing my teeth, eating, and a bunch of other stuff, I just couldn’t get myself to do it.

That’s meant as a joke, but it’s really no joking matter. What Paul Mitchell describes as the “Complicated Life of Lazy Boys,” I would term malaise or lethargy or something. Laziness or chronic inactivity–more accurately lack of productive activity–struck me a couple of years ago. I had my work in front of me. I knew what I had to do, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it.

Rip Van Winkle

When you find yourself in that state, anything is possible except for the productive and needful. You can even involve yourself doing productive and needful things for other people. When I was in college, back in the days of typewriters, I had a roommate who flunked out because he didn’t do his own work but instead spent his time typing papers up for other people. Rip Van Winkle, in Washington Irving’s story, has this affliction:

The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. . . . He would never refuse to assist a neighbor even in the roughest toil, and was a foremost man at all country frolics for husking Indian corn, or building stone fences; the women of the village, too, used to employ him to run their errands and to do such little odd jobs as their less obliging husbands would not do for them. In a word, Rip was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own; bust as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.

I understand you, Rip. I understand you, but I don’t want to be you. Rip went out hunting one day and just never came back. Years later, he wandered back into town and spun a tale of meeting spirits in the mountains and sleeping for decades, but any close reader of the story will realize that Rip almost certainly just checked out of life.

How many men in the church have just checked out? Have done their equivalent of tending to other people’s business or going hunting. Sometimes that “other people’s business” might be the church’s business. Since I’m a layperson, I can point out that some people’s hobby is their church work. For others it is golf or gaming, Netflix or napping. We have to fill our hours with something to salve the pain. Mitchell speaks to this:

What do we need for real joy? Well, what is real joy (for the lazy hobby guy)? It is joy that gets us through life. Not the joy of living, but of surviving. What does that surviving-joy look like for the lazy man? Avoiding more and more work — escaping into a hobby. Hobbies can be good gifts from God, but men were made to work. Proficient entertainment cannot replace profession in the fight to live. “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4).

In Jesus’ day, the problem, I think was less acute. If you didn’t work, you might well starve. Today, with food pantries and AFDC, with jobs where productivity isn’t always all that immediately visible, we can convince others or even ourselves that we have not taken a draught from Rip Van Winkle’s cask until we’re pretty well inebriated by the brew. And some of the topics that I take up in this space–running, cooking, and the like–can actually be part of the problem instead of the solution.

With the affliction well described, we need to consider the cure. But not today. I just don’t have the energy.