Why I stepped away from personal training

Last week I made the most difficult decision of my life thus far. I decided to step away from being a personal trainer.

For the last five years I have been a personal trainer at a place that literally transformed my life… Brutal Iron Gym.

When I first walked into that building, back in 2009, I was in a dark place spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Through friendships, hard work, increased levels of self-control, and renewed courage and confidence I rediscovered myself.

When Rob Polenik (the owner of Brutal Iron Gym) asked me to be a trainer, and then asked me to consider competing in a bodybuilding show (in the physique division)… I didn’t know then, but he was saving my life.

When I walked into the gym I was close to walking out of ministry. I was burned out; disheartened; weak; and unhealthy.

Over the last five years I have worked with wonderful people, made incredible friendships, and rediscovered God and myself in the most unlikely of environments… surrounded by sweaty people, screaming music, and the nonstop clanking of iron.

I needed what Brutal Iron Gym gave me… strength. I needed to learn how to put a plan together and work the plan. I needed to learn how to persevere when I felt miserable. I needed to learn how to bounce back from failure. I needed to learn how to work on my weaknesses so that my strength would increase. I needed all of this… and found it at Brutal Iron Gym.

I walked in unhealthy and weak. I walk out healthy and strong. Thank you Rob. Thank you Brutal Iron Gym. Thank you to all of my friends and clients. I am different… better because of you.

This has been the hardest decision of my life. Seriously.

For the last 6-12 months I have had an “inkling” that this would happen. I ignored it… because I hated the idea.

Over the last two months I began to say it out loud – “Someday I may need to say goodbye to this chapter in my life.”

Last week God put His finger in my chest, and I knew with undeniable clarity that it was time to do what I had been slowly acknowledging. So I am doing it. After meeting with Rob and all of my clients, I determined that the end of this month (March) will close this chapter in my life. (EXCEPTION CLAUSE: I am working with two clients who are prepping for shows and I will complete my commitment to them.)

So why? Why am I leaving?

I’m not sure what you believe about God, but I believe that He creates and calls us to a purpose… a life mission. I know that my life purpose/mission is to pastor and lead in the church. In my case it is Church180.

It has taken me about ten years to fully recover from my “ministry miscarriage” (a church plant that failed to materialize). During these last years I have rediscovered strength, hope, vision, and energy, and now it’s time to engage all of those in the primary calling of my life… leading and loving the church.

I will continue to nurture friendships developed at the gym, and I will continue to work out… in other words, I’ll not be a fat pastor with no atheist friends!!! 😉

I have cried over this decision… and found deep peace in making it.

I am sad and excited! I am a little scared and a lot fired-up!

I have learned a lot from my time as a trainer… and now I’m ready to fully dive into the primary calling of my life.

To all of my friends at Brutal Iron Gym… I love you and am grateful for your input into my life. I’m better and stronger, and I know a lot more “bad songs” because of you! I love you!

To all of my friends at Church180… I love you and am excited about what God is going to do in us and through us as we line up behind Him and get to work lifting heavy things!


What do you mean?

This morning I was listening to the Bible on my way to the gym (thanks to The Bible app).

A phrase jumped out at me that I can’t quit thinking about:

“It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words.” (Matthew 12:34 MSG)

Here in the south we joke about one of our common phrases…


Taken literally, these words (“bless your heart”) sound nice… but the heart of the speaker is something completely different.

Another example…

A few years ago I was talking with the leader of a Bible college and referred to his “minions.” I didn’t mean it harshly. I meant to refer to the people who were in his theological camp and would count him as a leader.

He took it differently! In his mind, my use of the word “minion” was a pejorative and unkind reference to his friends.

We talked about it and cleared it up… but only after he rebuked me and I blushingly looked up the meaning of the word!

In both of these instances we have words that take their shape from the meaning intended in the heart; one sounds nice but is meant to be mean, the other sounded mean but was meant to be nice.

Jesus had a caution for those who speak (that’s all of us):

“Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” (Matthew 12:36-37 MSG)

As I reflect on these words from Jesus, I am praying that God will fill my heart with love for people, and my mouth with words that give life to everyone with whom I come in contact.

Today I am reflecting on these words from Jesus, and this sentence from Solomon:

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21 NIV).

What will you do with your words today? Destroy or give birth to hope and life?

Getting back in the swing of things

I just wrapped up a podcast interview with Jennifer Ford Berry from the 29 Minute Mom.

We had a great talk about ladies, marriage, parenting, and exercise… and we did it in 29 minutes!

At the end of the podcast she pointed people to my blog! As soon as she did that I said (in my head), “OH CRAP! I haven’t posted in forever!!! I need to…


So here I am… posting a blog to say “Hi” and “Welcome to my blog!”

I’ve been meaning to get back in the swing of things for a while now… but I’ve been distracted by other good things.

Today was a good time to kick this back off… so here we go!

For those of you who don’t know, you can track with me on various social media platforms:

Thanks Jennifer for inviting me on your show!

3 Ideas to get “Unstuck” spiritually

stuckI am in the middle of a conversation with someone who is “stuck” spiritually.

This person doesn’t like being stuck, but isn’t sure how to get “unstuck.”

I just sent them three ideas and thought it might be helpful for someone else too… so here they are:

Help someone who cannot return the favor

Most of the time when we are stuck, we have our head in a dark place. We’ve withdrawn and see or hear no one other than our own disheartened, discouraging voice.

The truth is there are other people… other people who may actually have it worse than you… but you’ll never know that until you get in your car and go find them.

Once you’ve found them… do something for them. Need some ideas? Here are five:

  • Go to the local homeless shelter and offer to help them for an hour.
  • Get background checked so that you can volunteer at your local public school… then go volunteer with the kids.
  • Go to your church and ask what you can do to help.
  • Look across the street and see what you can do for your neighbor.
  • Go to McDonalds and see if you can spot a hungry person… buy his/her lunch.

Read a book that will give you fresh ideas.

Too much time on Netflix, Facebook, and any other social media site will just send an avalanche of “I suck” down on your head. Seriously, “stuck” people should not be spending their time reading the faux lives of their online “friends.”

Rather than looking at other people’s lives… go make your own!

If you don’t know where to start, and your stuck so you probably don’t… pick up a book! Interact with some experts. If you’re looking for a recommendation I would be happy to suggest some to you. Just shoot me an e-mail and give me a word or two describing why you’re stuck and I’ll put together a short list of recommendations!


Take 30 minutes to pray and write down your thoughts in a journal.

Last week I taught, at Church180, about how Jesus was less busy, but accomplished more than we ever do or will. The question we asked was, “HOW did He do that?” One part of that answer is that he regularly “withdrew for prayer”. You can see that teaching here.

By incorporating prayer into your life you create space to hear a new voice… God’s voice. The voice you are most often hearing, if you’re stuck, is your own. It’s telling you all the reasons you cannot… will not… should not… did not…. God’s voice is different. He will speak… but only to those who are ready to listen.
When you are listening… and you hear… WRITE IT DOWN!
It’s amazing how many insights I’ve had that I don’t remember BECAUSE I DIDN’T WRITE THEM DOWN! Don’t make the same mistake! Always pray with a pen and paper readily available!
So there you go… three ways to get “unstuck.”
Have you ever been “stuck”? What did you do to get “unstuck”?

Thinking about “Urgency”

I’ve been thinking a lot about urgency lately.

Here are a few unedited and non-finalized thoughts about this subject:

  • When I am urgent about something I am laser-focused on it.
  • It is almost impossible to be urgent about multiple things simultaneously.
  • Urgency in one area generally means neglect of other areas.
  • How do I live with urgency while maintaining the other areas of my life?
  • It is impossible to work with urgency and multi-task at the same time.
  • Complacency is the opposite of urgency.

I know there is more to say and think about this… and I’m going to be doing that. In the meantime, what say you about this matter of “urgency”?

Do you feel a sense of urgency in any area of your life?

Have you been able to multi-task when you feel urgent?

What other questions should I be thinking about as I process this idea?

The genesis of this line of thinking came from Craig Groeschel’s podcast called “Institutionalizing Urgency.” Check it out in the links below:



Stop worrying about your clothes

nothing-to-wearRight now I’m really busy.

This weekend I will officiate at a wedding, preach a sermon, and then carry out my pastoral duties at a funeral… the funeral of a friend.

This busy weekend comes right in the middle of a teaching series I am doing at church called, “Making Space.”

As I am preparing to teach this weekend, I am reflecting on some words spoken by Jesus. These words are incredibly appropriate for every busy person… especially people who are driven and slightly distracted!

I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:25-34 NLT)

This is certainly not a call to forgo planning, hard work, or physical well-being. What it is is a call to STOP making secondary things the primary pursuit of your life.

I’ve realized this: when you pursue the primary things, you get the secondary things thrown in. BUT when you pursue the secondary things first you may never get the primary things.

Looking back over my life, I see that I have often allowed busyness to distract me from the primary things (God, relationships, physical well-being, emotional vitality, etc.)… and the result is rarely good.

The times in my life of which I am most proud are the times when I have kept the primary things in focus and enjoyed, subsequently, the secondary things.

So as I work through this busy season in my life, I encourage you to join me in processing what takes up space in your mind:

  • Is it clothes or close friends?
  • Is it paper or people?
  • Is it your job or your God?
  • Is it primary or secondary?

Give it some thought… and then take some time to make necessary adjustments. You’ll not regret it!

Making space in a packed life

Making Space1“When good things begin to happen, other good things begin to fall through the cracks.”

That is exactly what happened to the leaders of the church when it was in its early days. It’s something that happens to leaders today too. Things start going well, and then things start falling apart, and it’s often the important things that go first: spiritual vitality, relationships, physical well-being, emotional strength, mental growth, etc.

Look at this story found in the book of Acts (6:1-7) (I’m going to insert comments in bold throughout this story):

…as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.

Believers were “rapidly multiplying.” That’s a good thing.

Meeting basic needs, like distributing food to the poor, is a good thing, but it was falling through the cracks because the leaders were too busy… they had no space in their lives.

When good things start falling through the cracks “rumblings of discontent” will soon follow. Sometimes those rumblings come from inside your home. Sometimes they come from inside your body. Sometimes they come from the organization you lead. 

How long it takes for them to come and from where they come are different for each person. What is always true though is that when good things get ignored the rumblings will come.

So what do we do? Look at what the Apostles did:

So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”

They made a decision to let go of some things. They did not STOP them from happening, but gave them over to others to execute.

Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.

Look at what happened when the leaders let go of those extra responsibilities and focused on their sweet spot…

So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.

Things went gangbusters when the leaders made space in their lives to function in and lead out of their sweetspot!

Now here’s the thing, if you’re in any kind of leadership position, you are going to be responsible for LOTS of people and details… and if you insist on handling everything you will soon run out of space in your life and the rumblings will begin.

Here’s something we talked about yesterday at Church180:

The things you hold onto will determine how far you go.

If you insist of doing everything and letting go of nothing… you will run out of space, the people around you will become discontent and unfulfilled… and you and your organization will soon flatline.
The alternative is letting some things go either by choosing to STOP doing them or HANDING THEM OFF to other people.
Making the decision to “hand off” is tough… especially if you love and feel the responsibility of your organization, but when you do hand off you will discover that there are incredibly passionate and capable people around you that can do things so well that the organization will be happier, healthier, and more vibrant than when you were trying to do it all yourself!
So are some self-evaluation questions for you (and me):
  • Are good things happening in your life? Business? Church? Organization?
  • Have you taken time to determine if other good things are slipping through the cracks as a result?
  • What do you, the leader, need to focus your energy and time on doing?
  • What do you need to stop doing?
  • What do you need to hand off to a team?
  • Are you willing to let go of some things and trust others to do them?

As you’re processing this, remember that the things you hold onto will determine how far you go!

If you are interested in hearing how I taught this story yesterday you can watch it here.