Faith

Be Like James : Lessons From A Dearly Missed Friend

Picture your dream home.

Now picture your outdoor space.

Imagine I have contracted a landscaper that is going to build you a fire pit.  Complete with retaining walls, gardens, end tables for your glass of wine, and those long backed adirondack chairs.

Don’t get me wrong, you are going to flip the bill, I am not paying for the landscaper.

But the finished product will be all yours to enjoy.

I just need you to pick out a spot in your yard and we can get started.

So have you picked a spot?

If you are anything like me I can see the spot you picked. In the backyard, maybe close to and nestled in with some trees.  A private space where you can invite “the good friends over” to laugh the night away, enjoy a glass of wine or cuddle with your partner, where you can spend a summer night roasting marshmallows with the kids.

That space you are imagining my friend James built it and all those moments you imagined in that space he did those too; With one simple difference.

He built it in his front yard. No he does not live without neighbors in the country either. He lives in a thriving busy subdivision.

K29

This is James sitting in that space a couple years ago.

Today he would have been 46 years old. We lost him 2 years ago after he spent 4 years battling cancer. That space is still there in his front yard and highlights one of the most admirable qualities you and I can learn from James.

James was a busy successful family man but he always made time to focus on what was most important, RELATIONSHIP.

One morning a couple years ago James who was running his business and suffering through the cancer treatments sent me a text. “HEY BRO!!!! Tea?”  I accept the invite and as I pulled into his driveway there he was sitting in the front yard. We joked, we laughed, we had some serious conversations too. Every once and awhile a neighbour would pass by and James would call out to them by name. “YO! YO! How’s it going?”

As we wrapped up our conversation, James asked where I was heading. Then he proceeded to tell me he was heading down to a BIG meeting in an hour. He would be presenting a proposal to a large company. I thought oh wow and hastily stood up with a sense of urgency, I talked too long, he has this big meeting, he needs to prepare, he needs time, I better get out of here.

James stood up casually and said “hey thanks for the visit, what’s the rush?” I asked him “well aren’t you nervous you have to present in an hour, I can’t believe you invited me over for tea.”

He casually shrugged and reached over to pat me on the back and give me a hug.

That moment has sat with me.

That day, if I were James, I would not have texted a friend for coffee. Not before a big meeting like that and a fight like cancer on my plate.

Instead I would be sitting in that chair in that comfortable isolated space I built in the backyard. Doing what you ask? Worrying, planning, and worrying. With whom you ask? By myself.

In your life today “Where are you sitting?”

Your dream house the one I asked you to picture, there is no sense in it. Not if you are going to sit in your backyard alone, worrying.

We have all become too busy for what really matters.

While you are sitting in your backyard trying to control and manage every detail of your life, you are missing out on the relationships and experiences sitting around the fire pit in your front yard.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Mathew 16:25

Whether you are able to admit it or not your heart’s greatest desire is relationship. Our worry has no value it just robs us of what matters most, the present.

When I worry, I spent less time with God, I shift my wife, my kids, my friends to another “less busy” day.

I withdraw,

I isolate,

I actually accomplish nothing.

There I sit in the backyard of my life. While James with much more to worry about built a space in his life for the things that mattered he built it right there smack dab in the middle of his front yard. I am not saying he did not worry he worried. But time and time again he chose to not let worry steal lives best moments from him.

James lived 44 FULL years. His cancer was not the catalyst that brought about his priority for relationship. His value for meaningful relationship was always there. When I met him at 16 years old, I was a shy awkward teen lacking a lot of confidence. James, treated me like he treated everyone else.

James invited people in, whatever went on in his life you could always find him right there with his legs up in the front yard and he would always offer you a seat.

Stop using your “too busy” as an excuse. James was busy and James never did. He always made time and he always had fun.

I once left a clipboard in a bag that belong to James.  He kept texting me to come pick it up. I kept saying ok, I will come and get it, I don’t need it right away.

He kept texting.

So I picked it up with a bunch of other stuff that I needed from him. It was not until later that night that I unpacked the bag to find my clipboard. My clipboard that James’ had enhanced.

clipboard

 

James was killing himself laughing when I called him.  He said you know I may have cancer but I have been working out, just show people pictures of how buff I have been getting and I can be your poster boy. They will be lining up to personal train with you so they can “Be Like James”

This clip board that James gave me as a joke, now sits above my desk on the wall as a reminder to “be like James” and pursue meaningful relationship today!

happy birthday

Are you SURVIVING or are you CREATING?

Answer searchI took a seat at a restaurant a couple weeks ago, a restaurant that I had frequented a lot in the past, enough that I was known by name.  A familiar waiter came to the table paused momentarily to think and then said

“Ira, oh….it’s been a bit….I have not seen you in a while.”

My response “Yep.”  I grinned

“I moved to BC, three years ago…..it has been three years”

Stop and think about that, THREE years, BOOM, gone like that.  Really it has been three years?

I have been prompting my class participants lately to ponder this question.

If I went away for three years and came back to see you, would you be a different person?

Or would everything including you be the same?

After being away for three years, I ran into some of the same people, in the same places, complaining about the same things.  Now I am not coming down on anyone, if you know me that is not my style.

Shaking up the way you think, NOW that is totally my style;  Urging you to pay attention to today, not just survive to the end of the day; Calling out the opportunity and not putting love off until tomorrow NOW we are talking about my PASSION.

Total health to me is not just good workout habits, enviable dietary traits and a six pack. When I think HEALTH, the words that come to mind are, FULLY ALIVE, VIBRANT, PASSIONATE, FUN, LIFE GIVING, CONTAGIOUS, ABUNDANT AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIP…… come on help me out, I know you can come up with a few more words to describe TRUE HEALTH!

I ran into people who life is just happening to, people who will end up with a life.

What I want for you and I believe God wants for you is a life that was CREATED not something that just happened to you.

I can sympathize I have been there a lot. Just ‘coping’ going through the motions. Sometimes I have found myself lying around just hoping bedtime would come sooner  so I could have a accomplishable task to do, one I felt I could handle…. like sleeping.

But my desire is to use my gifts, the ones God has given me to CALL YOU TO ACTION.  My desire is the lady I saw at Tim Hortons 3 years ago who evidently hated her job would not be there when I returned for a visit.  But there she was, same job, same time, same place, same frown, my heart desires more for her and for you!

I hear it a lot from people when I go back home.  “Ira, you have changed, there is something different about you, something new about you, you seem happier?”

It’s a change I do sense myself and the ones closest to me recognize it as well. Slightly more assured in my calling, more intentional, more focused, less concerned with pleasing people all the time and more concerned about the things that matter and certainly less likely to take offence so easily.

Where did it come from? TRUST, PRAYER lots and lots of PRAYER, and GRATITUDE, oh such a shift in what I am thankful for.

What did it cost my wife and I?  our comfort, our familiar, our security.  I sold our house, left a $120, 000 a year business, packed a small amount of our possessions in a moving truck and drove 5 days across this beautiful Canadian country to meet my wife and first child Noah who had flown ahead to pitch our tent in our new home Kelowna, BC.   I did not have a job waiting for me either.

Why? I can’t quite explain other than a prompting that started small and grew larger until I could not ignore it.  During prayer times in my car I started to ask God. “I need a revelation, should I stay or should I move?”  These words were lyrics from a Third Day song I heard LOUD and CLEAR one morning.  As I sat with that question soon came another prompting “Come on, take a chance, LET ME LOVE YOU.” I felt God saying STOP going through the motions, playing it safe, staying inside the lines, do it, take a chance, let me catch you, let me show you profound, life changing, uplifting LOVE.

What does this look like for your unique situation?

I am not saying you have to seek out a tough life. Or that you have to pick up and move away. Your journey will be unique to you.

Here are some points that have helped me:

Refuse to complain about things that you are unwilling to change. If you are not in the right “head space” to make a BOLD change, then start small.  Acknowledge the blessings in your current situation. Start changing your words and start believing that your current space is “training ground” for your future assignments. In fact ditch complaining completely it gives you temporary satisfaction but you get to live with the toxic aftermath of your negativity.

Start seeking out “doers” or mentors, people you admire.  I prayed for God to surround my family with people who would challenge, inspire, and LIVE out a LIFE rather than go through the motions.  He delivered.

Today NOT tomorrow. Don’t concern yourself with things in your tomorrows that distract you from your todays.  “Worry is a down payment on a problem you may never have.” (Joyce Meyers) Be intentional about being present in your TODAY.

Take Action. Take a chance. Pursue your dream. Maybe it’s a small step towards a dream and away from survival mode.  Ask yourself am I just surviving today? Or am I living and seeking and giving?

Exercise Patience. Getting uncomfortable is well, uncomfortable. Be powerful and be willing enough to stay in uncomfortable long enough to see the change and for things to be made new.  Make your goal progress not perfection.

I think you would agree life is short and time flies. I know I want to hear those words from God “well done, my good and faithful servant” when I die.  If you feel the same way and want to inspire a generation with me, be sure to stay connected.  If you’re willing enough you will  take action right ;) you can like my Facebook page today not tomorrow.

You Have Weighty Issues Too

rachel biggest loser

You may have heard the controversy over the Biggest Loser Finale this week. The beautiful and tenacious Rachel who weighed close to 300 pounds lost nearly 60% of her body weight in 5 and a half months, weighing in at 105 pounds to win the shows cash prize. Even the trainer’s jaws dropped upon first seeing her extreme weight loss. It was not long  before the social media “I don’t know you, but I will personal assault you with a vicious tweet” #trending began. I honestly watched the finale with a broken heart.

Why?

“Culture baits us to the edge of moral disaster than chastises us when we cross certain lines.” (Andy Stanley)

The “overweight” Rachel said she felt hopeless, out of control, unworthy, a failure.  The truth is that is how society viewed her as well.  Rachel’s coping mechanism is food, which unfortunately results in her literally wearing the weight of the world on her body.

Your coping mechanism may not be food and it may or may not be as visible as obesity is; But you do have your go to unhealthy comfort.  Is it drowning yourself in social media, alcohol, excessive exercise, gambling, gossip, TV, sex, I can keep going and I will eventually hit something you struggle maintaining a healthy relationship with.

So here is Rachel,

on public display,

deciding she is done,

fed up,

and ready to get uncomfortable and do something about her unhealthy addiction.

 

Our culture is sales driven and the show Biggest Loser is made possible because it is entertaining enough to attract an audience advertisers are willing to “pay for”. Stuck in the middle is a LIFE, Rachel’s and the other contestants lives.

When Rachel was struggling with obesity she may have heard,

“Oh wow, you have really let yourself go”  OR

“Rachel you were so healthy and beautiful, what happened?”

The weight of the comments would be overbearing and just perpetuate her already severely damaging self-talk.

When Rachel stood up and started to do something about it, we are on her side, cheering her on, encouraging her.

“You go girl, you are looking awesome!”

“You are an inspiration!”

“I can’t believe what progress you have made.”

Then Rachel finds herself at the finale; where it is obvious she gave it her all. During her Biggest Loser journey she had mustered up an “envious” amount of strength to do something about the pit she was in. Only to wake up in the same pit she found herself in 155 lbs ago!!

All over twitter you could find quotes like these:

#BLFinale becomes literally “The Hunger Games” with Rachel starving herself for 250K.

“LOL, you are soooo gross.” -Thin Rachel #BiggestLoser #holograms

Now I want to be clear. YES, as a fitness professional I agree Rachel lost too much weight, too quickly. But just like us she will struggle with her weakness for the rest of her life. This was not the END of the story it was just a tiny part of her life we saw on TV.

As I watched the finale, my jaw dropped when she walk on stage and my heart sank with it.  I knew what was coming. I knew it would be all over the news, social media and the morning radio talk shows.  I knew that even though each and every one of us has an unhealthy relationship with something OR someone we would be quick to chastise someone who was doing their best to overcome their worst. The pressure of our culture told her she needed to change, then we cheered her on when she decided to give it her all, and then chastised her when we saw her “failure” win on TV for 5 minutes that night.

Now can I ask you to bring to mind the unhealthy relationships you are struggling with?

What do you need from me?

May I guess you need my unconditional love, you need me to believe in you, listen to you, get to know you. Most of all you need me to offer you the SAME space and grace I need.  Space to LEARN how to flip the switch from “unhealthy” to “healthy”  and GRACE to do it as many times as it takes.

As a Christian I am called to LOVE unconditionally. I am not able to pass judgement because I am not FREE of my “issues” ever, no matter how perfect or on top of things it may seem.  The only words I should ever offer someone is kind words because I know if the self- talk that is in my head is in their head too that battle is already a difficult one.

Who do you need to extend GRACE and SPACE too? Or perhaps you need to believe you are worthy of receiving it.

Please keep going,

don’t give up

and remember to extended space and grace to the people around you.

Extended to people whether they are people you are close to and have a personal relationship with or someone you got to know a tiny bit once upon a time on a TV show.

“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24 

Interested in being part of the supportive community I have started on facebook? Pop by my “Ira McNamara” facebook page and let’s connect.

Slipped Up On Your Resolution Already? Why You Can’t Start Over

comfort zones

As much as you don’t like your old habits or what they produce, they are what you know and what you are comfortable with, getting rid of them is going to be uncomfortable.  Prepare yourself to push through the uncomfortable.

There is comfort in familiarity and lets be honest we like to be comfortable.  Being UNcomfortable is, well, UNcomfortable. Our disposition for familiarity is no secret either. Case in point; big box stores go to great lengths to create familiar environments.

Have you ever visited a Starbucks 5000 miles from your home that makes you feel like you never left home?

We crave the same old, same old. On the other end of the spectrum we yearn for something new.  So somewhere in the middle we desperately flounder to either IGNORE our dream or make failed attempt after failed attempt to go for it. This struggle is much more present during the NEW YEAR as we look back at what might have been and with renewed vigor set our sights higher this year.

Years ago I read a book by Bruce Wilkinson called the Dream Giver it’s a modern day parable about a man named Ordinary that lives in a place called familiar.

“For the most part, not much happened in Familiar that hadn’t happened before. Ordinary thought he was content. He found the routines reliable. He blended in with the crowd. And mostly, he wanted only what he had. Until the day Ordinary noticed a small, nagging feeling that something big was missing from his life. Or maybe the feeling was that he was missing from something big. He wasn’t sure. The little feeling grew.  And even though Nobodies in Familiar didn’t generally expect the unexpected, Ordinary began to wish for it.”

The New Year has a unique way of poking at those nagging feelings doesn’t it?

Can I ask you to trust that little nagging feeling was placed inside of you?  

Can I beg you to go get it?

Here is the truth.

The pursuit of any dream worth pursuing is not going to be easy. If I were a statistic kind of guy I would tell you right here how many people fail to use their newly purchased gym memberships a month after they purchase them.  Lucky for you I am not a statistic kind of guy. You might call me a statistic HATER!

Why? Because in that simplified sometimes skewed number is a sense that you might as well give up before you start. You feel like you already know which side of the statistic you fall on. Let’s face it you’re a victim to those numbers and you are never going to change  it.

…….WRONG! Picture me jumping up and down right now telling you “STOP, just STOP it, STOP believing these numbers have any POWER over you!

Guess what? Your comforts are literally killing you.  As much as you hate them they are going to BE HARD to get away from. You are going to want to give up, and curl right back up in those familiar habits. You need to acknowledge the journey is going to be hard. You need to prepare yourself to stay in uncomfortable for as long as it takes.

You are powerful and need to POWER up and BUILD up your RESOLVE to be uncomfortable long enough to conquer or perhaps take back some territory and expand those comfort zones. WHY?  There is much more to life on the other side of comfort.

I want you to really understand this. You are normal when not even a day into your new journey you suddenly find yourself sitting on the couch with a tub of ice cream proclaiming “what am I doing?” as you hastily throw another spoonful in. It’s easy to fall back into familiar.

How about every time you slip up you commit to getting back up, rather than feeling like you have to start over?  There is a difference.

When you are always “starting over “ it means you have  an expectation that venturing out of your comfort zone was going  to be as easy as flicking a switch.  Well it is not that easy, it takes time, it requires grace, it requires learning, it requires you to get back up and keep going.

Be faithful in the small things my friend! Over time the small ADDS up to BIG VICTORY in your life. You just got to keep getting back up. Will your spirit and ask God to make you strong and courageous as you step back into uncomfortable.  You are ready to rise above what keeps knocking you down.  You got this!

What You, Fitness, and A Homeless Person Have in Common.

At the studio I manage we recently replaced our well worn tired looking exercise mats for brand new cushy and comfortable mats.

I was thinking about the hours those old mats have seen and the weight of the members’ worries they have carried. So many people young and old have done endless crunches on them in pursuit of a flat stomach. Then there are the pelvic tilts for the perfect butt, side leg lifts for outer and inner thighs and OH the push ups, the begrudgingly done push ups.

Why do we spend so many hours on these mats inflicting such pain on ourselves?

Lets be honest, a good majority of the time its to fit in; to be accepted in a world where the quest for the perfect ‘body’ is admired and held at such high standards. For those willing to work hard enough you can have whatever you want.

You have stretch marks cause you had a baby? Well there is away to get rid of them.

Your arms wobble a lot more then they use to? Well you must do more push ups.

Love handles? side crunches.

Saddle bags? lift those thighs, get to work.

I have seen so many people FIGHT their bodies on those mats! I see the inner dialogue on my participants’ faces daily.

“Are you kidding me stomach? You did not look like that in high school, I can’t believe I let this happen, what the hell is wrong with me? It was that damn ice cream last night! Why can’t I get my act together like that perfect person next to me! I am going to KILL myself before my flabby stomach will live to see another day! “

So I ask myself what’s the ROOT?  Here is what I am learning.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” 1 John 4:18

WHAT? You lost me Ira?

Stay with me, We long for better bodies so we can appear what? …… more ‘attractive‘ right?

Therefore we exercise and punish our bodies in order to be attractive.

But what are we trying to attract? LOVE….acceptance…..relationship……approval……

And what are we AFRAID of? being alone, rejected, left out, being unLOVABLE.

So what am I trying to say? Well remember those new mats? We are already putting them to good use at the gym, carrying the weight of new worries.

But what happen to the old mats?

On Tuesday mornings I make breakfast for the homeless with a group of volunteers. A fellow manager at the gym was getting ready to chuck our old mats in the trash when she thought this seems wasteful, maybe I will ask Ira if they can use them at that homeless shelter. A phone conversation later these mats are now carrying the weight of a whole other level of worry. It’s -10 today and as I drop off the mats to the shelter one of the outreach workers was thrilled because just yesterday a homeless man was asking if there were any type of mats available that he could have.

I have to tell you I am physically shaking as I write this blog, because I believe this illustration has the power to massively shift your perspective.

A homeless person maybe seen as lazy, unproductive, or a burden on society and I confess I use to think this way I would ask myself  ”are we just enabling them?”  But I have learned there is a story behind each one. What I now see a person who is riding on their last thread of hope, whether it be covering pains with addiction, sorting out their mental health, running away from abuse or compounding circumstance after circumstance has left them with nothing. Each of those people CARRY a burden of worry very different from those using an exercise mat at the gym. So here is that part where I say suck it up, it’s just exercise you could be homeless and guilt you into a grateful workout.

That’s not where I am going. I want you to seriously think about something.

Is that homeless persons needs and worries really that different than yours?

Whether I am using the exercise mat to punish my flabby butt, or to keep a layer between me and the cold frosted ground, what do we BOTH need? LOVE, acceptance, relationship, approval.

As a Christian I am called to LOVE that is it. PERIOD. Will my love always be perfect… NO cause I cannot help being selfish at times, but God’s Love is perfect, and that’s my model.

You see when LOVE, approval, acceptance, relationship is given freely despite a person’s baggage, mistakes…..flabby thighs, wobbly arms, saggy butts, wrinkles, cellulite and the list goes on, it leaves NO room left to FEAR. Fear and Love cannot exist together.

If I am freely given LOVE and APPROVAL, my workout is no longer a fight, no longer driven by FEAR. I do not need to be perfect BUT I do want to be my best so I can give my best.  What does my best look like? Serving and blessing those around me, that are just like me, and are looking for the same love I am seeking.

One last question.

With FEAR gone what is left?

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  

1 Corinthians 13:13