Bringing Sexy Back. – Week One Weigh In

I went for a run Friday night. The positives: I ran for 40 minutes, broke a good sweat, kept a good pace the whole time and passed a man who was running without his shirt on. You know the type, the one with the perfect, Fight Club Brad Pitt body. Granted, he’d lapped me about three times and he had started walking when I ran past him. But still…I give myself credit for it. 

The negatives: the realization that I was not sexy. Aside from the normal things that makes running un-sexy, the funniest thing happened to me. 

I was running to the beat of one of the three greatest albums, ‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’ a la Justin Timberlake. His hit, “SexyBack” came on at just the perfect time. I was getting ready to run by a crowd of people and suddenly got self-conscious. “Oh gosh, do they notice its a tid-bit-nipply?” “What if they think I run like a duck?” and “How ironic. I am incredibly un-sexy right now.” All of those flashed through my mind. In a split-second decision I decided I was going to over-compensate.

I was going to pick up my pace, hold my shoulders proudly, and make every effort to look like a gazelle. 

The thing I didn’t factor in: the swarm of gnats. It is absolutely impossible to run in a sexy fashion through a swarm of gnats. Instead of peacocking my way through the crowd, I looked more like Jack Black attempting the Wobble on one leg. It was a disaster. 

Bugs were everywhere. My eyes. My nose. My mouth. My ears. Realizing my attempts at sexy were a failure, I straightened myself out and jogged sheepishly away. 

As I was running away I was convicted, confused and embarrassed. I had the very humble realization that in order to bring sexy back, I have to have had it in the first place. (Perhaps the title of this blog should really read “Getting Sexy…”)

While I was running, I began to think about how last week after my first post about starting Weight Watchers for Men, a few people thought I was too self-deprecating or self-conscious. And perhaps they were right. I didn’t give much of an explanation for why I was doing this. And honestly, I didn’t really think about it until I was running. 

For me, it isn’t because I think I’m fat. I know I’m fat. It’s not because I want to be skinny. I will never be that. Years ago, through the typical middle-school turmoil and torture, I learned that the shape of my body didn’t define me. I chose to let my mind and words do that. 

For me, doing this isn’t about bringing sexy back. Or even getting sexy. Its about being a healthier me…not for my sake…but for my future children’s. I owe it to them to be around and healthy when they get here. Its about being a good father and a good husband; one who lives to love his children well and one who lives to love his wife with all that he has. 

The perks? Getting slimmer, losing weight, and looking better. The purpose? My beautiful wife and unborn child(ren). [Side note: Sara is NOT pregnant.]

So without further ado…in the first week of doing Weight Watchers for Men, I have lost 4.5 pounds.

Goodbye, 4.5 pounds…I will not miss you and I hope I never see you again. 

 

 

Operation: Banging Beach Bod

The only thing banging about my beach bod is my man boobs as I jump the waves. In other words, I don’t have a banging beach bod…but a bod that bangs the beach. Its embarrassing. 

But, its time to move on from that. For a while, I was doing great being healthy-ish. Running. Eating right. Going gluten-free. Those were the glory days that came, lasted a few months and went running when the cold weather settled in. 

However…the tide is changing. I think. I hope.

Its time to start “Operation Banging Beach Bod.” And thus begins a three month trial with Weight Watchers for Men. 

I know. if you’re like me, you just laughed a little (a lot). Weight Watchers? Isn’t that for Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Hudson? Yes. It is.

But its also for Charles Barkely. So that’s neat. 

For the next three months, now through the end of June, I’m gonna be counting those points, watching the weight fall (I hope) and taking the steps to be a better, healthier me – mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. 

This journey isn’t going to be easy. I know that. I’ll want to quit. I’ll want to punch running in the teeth. I’ll want to upper-cut labels and point-counting calculators for sure. I have no doubt about these things.

But in the end, hopefully it’ll be worth it. Three months. Thirty pounds. I can do this. 

I invite you to join me on this three month journey. My accomplishments. My failures. My joys. My sorrows. They’re all coming your way…thirty pounds worth of them. 

So here’s to a better me. A healthier me. Goodbye beach-banging man-boob bod, and hello bangin’ beach bod. 

 

5 Reasons Christians NEED to Watch Noah.

Let me start off by saying this: I have long anticipated the release of the blockbuster Noah. Regardless of who says what about the movie, I made up my mind years ago that I’d be there opening weekend to watch Russell Crowe take on one of the more iconic roles in our faith. 

If you know me well enough, you’ll know that when I set my mind on something…I do it. And, that I did. My wife and I saw Noah this afternoon. My first impression was, “Well…that was…weird.” Now that I’ve had time to chew on the film a bit, I wanted to share something.

Every Christian needs to see this movie. Here’s five reasons why:

1. Don’t be an idiot. – If we really accept the argument that we shouldn’t watch this movie because it was penned and created by an atheist, then we are all idiots. If that’s the case, we should stop watching movies altogether. If its a moral dilemma you’re having about giving money to “left-wing, eco-friendly” Hollywood…then look at it as an opportunity to spend $10 to share the real story with you’re non-believing friends.

2. It was penned by an atheist and marketed to the masses. – Obviously this movie is based off of the Bible…but it wasn’t just marketed as a Christian film. No…this is not: Facing the Giants, Left Behind, God’s Not Dead or Fireproof. It is an epic movie with epic acting and epic special effects and epic story-telling. Those kinds of movies are marketed to the masses…which mean the masses will see them. Do  yourself a favor: read Genesis 6 – 9, go see the movie and instead of reacting or responding to conversations at the water cooler at work on Monday, lead the conversations at the water cooler. If non-Christians are going to see a movie about a story we hold near and dear to our faith penned by an atheist, then shouldn’t we know what they’re seeing? 

3. The special effects. – Growing up the only special effects I had to fathom the story of Noah were some felt giraffes, a felt boat, some felt people and a felt board. You get the jist. In a way that I didn’t know I was missing out on, this film deepened my reverence and appreciation for the breadth of the flood waters and the beauty of God’s creativity in animals and the magnitude of His creation.

4. It asks tough questions. – I found myself uncomfortable through most of the movie because I was faced with questions like, “Could those inside the ark really hear the screams of all of mankind while they drowned?” Its a question that was never laid out on my felt board, so I never thought about it. This movie made me stare that harsh reality in the face and accept that through it all, God was still loving and just at the same time. 

5. We need more of these. – I have long lamented the state of Christian artistry. While this movie is hardly Christian artistry, it is artistry based on the Bible. We have long asked for Hollywood to embrace Jesus, so why push back at the first real offering any serious filmmaker/production company has put out? We asked for it, now let’s come along side it and use it for the sake of the Gospel. 

 

The Story of My Life: I hate it, but not really.

I have a confession.

I’m currently obsessed with this new little radio ditty called ‘The Story of My Life.’ I know, my wife is probably weeping and gnashing her teeth that I just admitted that to the world. But its true.

1D. Harry Styles & Co. (Who really knows the rest of the band) Or, as they like to be called, One Direction. I thought I was through with my ’90′s pop phase when Brittany stopped being innocent and Christina let the genie out of the bottle. Guess not.

Fact is, it is an unfortunately catchy beat, not horrible tune and has what I call the Mumford kick. I apologize, Sons, for that. But its how I feel and I’m not sorry for that. In all fairness, I neither knew who it was nor really listened to the lyrics. In other words, the tune is just too damn catchy to hate it.

All that to say, One Direction is currently having a profound impact on my life (said no one ever unless you’re a teeny-bopper [can we still call them that?]).

Oh and, I’d like to know how they came up with their name, One Direction. Assuming they’ll end like NSYNC, Backstreet Who, and every other boy-band that ever existed, they should have called themselves Dead End. After all, isn’t that where one direction leads you to?

Yes that’s it. Yes this whole blog post was about an unfortunately catchy song. No, I’m not sorry. I just needed to get that off of my chest.

It’s Okay to Smile

Teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam in the summer of 2007 has easily been one of the brightest moments of my life. Far and away (see what I did there…it’s all the way on the other side of the world…get it…okay, I’m done), it is one of the most life-changing experiences I have ever had and will ever have.

It was a time of sailing through Ha Long Bay, hiking up the sides of Buddhist Temples, exploring the famous Night Market of Hanoi, sipping the best coffee in the world (weasel coffee, anyone?) and eating exotic foods.

It was a time of making lesson plans with no experience (God bless you, teachers), dancing the Mexican hat dance by a bunch of white college kids with a bunch of Vietnamese college kids and teaching English and American culture to the future diplomats of Vietnam.

It was a time in my life where God shattered my previous worldview and invited me into a deeper relationship with Him and His creation and with His people.

It was the time of my life.

Except, you wouldn’t have known it then.

You may not believe it (actually, you may), but at one point in my life I was wound pretty tight. I held on to bitterness like it was my job. I took myself too seriously and didn’t want to make a fool of myself. I wanted to impress people. I wanted to make sure the task assigned to me got accomplished.

So, when I was tasked with the job of teaching English and American culture to a bunch of future world diplomats, I took the job seriously. I poured over my lesson plans. I graded their papers (who does that on a mission trip?). I took myself and my class a little too seriously.

Then one day, the sweetest girl in my class approached me and said, “Mr. Littlejohn. It’s okay to smile. Be happy!”

It hit me then, that I was caught up too much in the perfection of myself and not the perfection of the moments God was creating for me to experience.

The scales fell from my eyes and fortunately I had about three weeks to shed the habit of taking myself way too seriously.

I tossed the lesson plans. While we still chipped away at our workbook we talked about different things. Bigger things. Better things.

Since it was a mission trip and since we were in a country like Vietnam, we weren’t allowed to speak of the Gospel from the front of the classroom. I had to get creative in showing who Jesus was, because my wound-tight self certainly wasn’t cutting it.

I became much more intentional with my students outside of the classroom; and much more intentional with what I taught in the classroom.

We had a debate on the practices of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. We used two days to just talk about two quotes from my favorite movie, Gladiator.

One of those discussions, “What we do in life echoes in eternity,” sparked such a conversation, that I had my Dead Poets Society moment. It was also the moment where the Gospel incorporated itself into the conversation and into my relationships with my students outside of the classroom.

You see, it took a sweet, innocent student of mine to point out that I wasn’t enjoying the presence of the Gospel. She may not have directly said that, but its exactly what the case was.

While I learned a lot that summer, I definitely learned this: when we take ourselves too seriously, we don’t take the Gospel serious enough. When I was distracted with making myself successful and taking myself too serious, I inadvertently put up a barrier for the Gospel.

I think one of the most appealing things about the Gospel is the joy that it offers. Sometimes, all it takes is a smile to melt away our own notions of what we should be doing to usher in what the Gospel is doing.

So remember this:

It’s okay to smile.

PS – To show you just how stupid serious I was: I was teaching the level 5 English class (the highest) in a university where you had to pass a written and spoken English test to get in. That’s right, I was teaching the students with the highest level of English who already passed an English test to get into college. These kids were much smarter than me and knew English grammar better than me. And I thought I was ‘teaching’ them something?

Tennis Lessons

The Australian Open started Sunday night.

It also began a two week period of my life where I live on little sleep, lots of coffee and anticipation of another late night of watching tennis.

To say I’m obsessed is clearly an understatement.

It never fails when tennis is on and a tournament is going, I think of my previous life as an aspiring tennis professional. By professional, I mean I played in high school, had ambitions to play in college and played a few USTA tournaments.

Highlight of my career? Being a part of the second-place men’s doubles team in one of those USTA tournaments. (Confession: Only two teams entered the doubles draw).

Nevertheless, I ponder what could’ve have been and relish my glory days as a tennis player. This time around, though, I needed some blog material and my wife encouraged me to talk about tennis. Sad fact, if I really did that, none of you would keep reading.

So, I’ll talk about what tennis has taught me over the years. And, while there’s plenty of cliches or heartwarming things I could share, I’ll focus on one:

If you get hit in the balls, you can’t just stay down. You have to get up to finish the match.

I’ll never forget it. I was playing a guy from Charlotte Catholic. They were a team made of those special kind of arrogant people that play independent sports (ie: people just like me). I was playing as the no. 3 seed for our team. I was almost guaranteed to lose. Its these kind of matches I loved, because I could throw all caution to the wind and slug it out with the guy across the net.

The second service game of the first set for the guy from Charlotte Catholic came. Being that I was throwing all caution to the wind, I straddled the baseline when I was returning serve. I wanted to hit the ball on the rise, and attack first in the rally…even if the serve was coming over 100mph towards me.

In a genius tennis strategy, the guy served straight into my body. I would have done the same thing.

When he did so, I didn’t get to hit the ball on the rise and attack first. Instead, the ball attacked me and hit me on the rise…if you know what I mean.

Men, you’ll know the pain that I want to describe, but you also know there’s no such words for it. Getting hit in the man-bits at over 100mph by a tennis ball will drop any man to his knees. I was no different.

A knot was in my throat and I felt like throwing up. Two things subdued the pain: laying on my back and walking around. I wanted some time to catch my breath, subdue my anger and perhaps, I wanted to be a little dramatic. So naturally, I went with the former.

Wrong decision.

My coach had seen what happened and came over. I thought surely he’d offer words of encouragement from man-to-man. But instead he said something like “Get your ass up. This happens to everyone. Finish the match. You’ll be fine.”

At the time, that was the exact wrong thing to be said. But, looking back on it…I think he was right.

We can choose to put our pain on display for everyone to see. We can choose to stay down and be a little dramatic. We can choose to sit in our anger. But, life is still happening to us.

Sometimes life isn’t easy. Sometimes its hard to comprehend why bad things happen to good people.

But then again, sometimes we’re too prideful to take a step back and think more strategic than the Devil…so we get hit in the balls of life.

When that happens, we must remember that the match is still going. Life must still be lived. We are not alone in our pain. The Great Coach is beckoning us to endure and press on.

I didn’t win the match that day. But I learned the all-important lesson of “When you get hit in the balls, you still have to finish the match.”

Life doesn’t stop just because bad things happen or we endure painful experiences. Fortunately, Jesus is urging us onward and vows to finish the match with us.

A Spot of Whimsy

I’ve been reading Bob Goff’s Love Does lately and its really got my wheels turning. It is a fantastic reminder to get lost in the wonder of God’s love for us and in His creation. Bob encourages us all to be mindful and live a life full of abandon, whimsy and love.

Its got me thinking about the most whimsical moments of my life. While there are few (mostly from my travels to Cambodia and Vietnam), one collection of moments has stood out.

My wedding day.

I know it sounds cheesy; and trust me I’m not saying this to suck up to my wife (although, I doubt this blog post will count against me).

But, my wedding day was the best day and most whimsical of my life.

Sara and I set out to plan our wedding with two things in mind: we wanted it to be a celebration of what God had done in our relationship and to serve as a commitment to where we felt like God was calling us in our relationship – a life of ministry.

When I saw Sara walking down the aisle on our wedding day, I wasn’t just looking at the most beautiful woman in the world. I didn’t just see a slammin’ hottie (as my friend calls his wife) or the ‘angel’ my mom referred to her as all morning. Rather, I saw God’s promise to a future. I saw the first glimpse of what a life of ministry looked like: loving my wife would teach me to love others in a whole new capacity. 

Watching Sara float down the aisle and join me in marriage not only brought tears to my eyes (I cried like a baby), but it set me at peace that God was alive and active. He created something beautiful that day. He showed me what whimsical was and that moment will always be a reminder of the beauty of God’s creation.

And when I say creation, I don’t just mean the trees, beach and mountains; I mean the things He is actively creating in our lives: relationships, opportunities to share the Gospel, families, and our futures.

I don’t know the exact logistics of what God is currently creating for Sara and I; but I have a feeling that if I focus more on the whimsy of what God is creating and on the fact that God is actively creating in our lives, then I won’t much care about what He creates, but only that He created it.