Thoughts From Pastor Tim – Week of August 12-18

Note: The following is a copy of the weekly email that hits the inboxes of everyone who attends Compass Church and who don’t mind reading my bunkum.

The theme of this “thoughts” installment is: Deadlines – A love-hate relationship. After lots of thinking, typing, rethinking and retyping, today I hit the “send” button on the first draft of our “Reach 101” class that will kick off our Life360 initiative. Life360 is our Spiritual Development Pathway – our intentional effort of making disciples (you know, turning atheists into missionaries, agnostics into apologists, and skeptics into martyrs!).

Well, I can tell you this: without the deadline it wouldn’t be done… some other priority would have gotten in the way. I’ll admit, there were times that I thought, “This is an artificial deadline… arbitrarily set by our staff. Who cares? What are they going to do, fire me?”

But we all know it’s so-called “little things” that matter. In fact, it really comes down to credibility, which, as these guys put it, can be defined as: DWYSYD – Do What You Say You Will Do.

Credibility is a powerful trait – I like to think of it as integrity in action. When you do what you say you will do, you bring peace to the soul of everyone you encounter. How’s that? Well, because they know that at the end of the day you’re going to show up. You’re not gonna flake, you’re won’t bail, be late, make excuses, “forget,” or do anything else but exactly what you promised, for better or worse. That brings substance to your word and stability to your life and the lives of those who depend on you.

In Proverbs we’re told, “A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” (Prov. 25:14). Our word is a gift promised, and we should be careful before offering it.

So this is where deadlines come in and where morality can tend to get fuzzy – at least for me. You see, in a real sense, credibility is service to those in our lives, and in an indirect way it is love. It’s fighting our own laziness, distraction, and complacency so that someone else can enjoy the benefit of our word, rather than experience the disappointment of us not living up to it.

In saying this I run the risk of sounding self-congratulatory. After all, the whole idea came up because I met a deadline and I made no bones about reminding everyone that I am awesome. But the truth is, sadly, I think I surprised myself; and the feeling of satisfaction that I got from not only being done but, really, honoring my word, was enough to make me want to write about it.

So who’s counting on you this week? Is there an opportunity to surprise them (as I may have undoubtedly surprised some of our staff today) by delivering, exactly the way you said you would? Can punctuality and follow-through be free gifts to those who are relying on you.

So you’ll be at Compass this Sunday, right? Good. I believe you.


Pastor Tim

A Little Back-to-School Kick in the Rear

It’s that time of year again for millions of children nationwide: the dreaded “school” night, followed by waking up late, chasing the bus, downing mystery meat in the cafeteria, and plowing through homework.

So if you’re a kid, a parent, or just a plain old adult, now would be a fine time to kick in a little motivation! Thus, a few pearls to inspire you to git-r-done:

1) No more excuses! I like Proverbs 22:13 – “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!'” We can always find reasons to avoid doing what we should. This guy is saying, “Hey, I don’t want to go out, I could get killed by a lion!” But lions need to be tamed. What is the “lion” that’s keeping you inside? What is your excuse? It could be fear, laziness, pride, lack of money, time, or just a little imagination. We’ve got too many things to keep us distracted “inside” all day long… get rid of those excuses and go out and make it happen!

2) Don’t “take it easy.” When I was in a residency at Dallas Theological Seminary, working on my doctorate, I roomed with a guy named Ed Choy. Ed and I hit it off right away, which meant we were already making fun of each other just hours after meeting. One morning I was facing an entire day in the library doing nothing but research. While leaving the dorm, I said, “Take it easy, Ed.” He responded with, “Okay, work hard Tim.”

I had never heard a reply like that before. I mean, honestly, when has “work hard” been acceptable way of saying goodbye?  But Ed’s reasoning was pretty good: “Everyone always says ‘take it easy,’ as if that’s some great value. Why should I encourage you to be a slacker?”

Made sense to me. So don’t take it easy today! Bust your hide, seize every moment, attack that to-do list until you become an unstoppable force of kinetic energy!!

3) If you’re overwhelmed, you’re likely on the verge of something great. Most things worth doing, in my experience, usually follow a pattern:

  1. Initial Excitement
  2. Progress
  3. Frustration
  4. Standstill
  5. Total overwhelm-ment (is that a word?)
  6. Breakthrough
  7. Completion

Here’s what I’ve learned: Steps 1-4 take about 20% of my energy, while steps 5-7 take the remaining 80%! The fact is, its easy to start something; it’s the finishing that’ll kill ya. Seth Godin refers to it as “shipping.” At some point you’ve got to have that project done so its ready to ship (turn in, present, sell, hang on the wall, etc.). The secret is that just when you think you’re never going to make it, that’s when you’re right at the verge of breakthrough. Unfortunately, that’s also the stage that requires the most concentration, willpower, and perseverance. If you can hang in there when its all about to hit the fan, that’s when the tide is likely to turn and you’re closer than you think to victory.

4) Discipline not desire determines destiny. Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I must credit my friend Ed once again for introducing me to this aphorism. Your aspirations are meaningless without action; they’ve gotta move to the present tense. I recently heard novelist Brad Thor interviewed on the Hugh Hewitt radio program. When Hugh asked him how he became such a prolific author, he mentioned that on his honeymoon his new bride challenged him to spend two hours a day writing his first novel. So here’s the question: Is your dream in your calendar? Have you scheduled an appointment with what you know you should be doing?

5) Set short-term goals. I learned this from Bill Hybels in his book, Axiom. He calls it “Six by Six Execution.” Basically, he sets six goals to be accomplished over a six week period. Setting yearly goals is great, but let’s be honest, where is the urgency? Six weeks forces you to get moving now. It might be hard to get something significant done in two weeks, but six weeks can really get the imagination going.

This also allows us to put the pedal to the metal for a while and then recuperate. If I can be a dissenting voice, by the way, sometimes living life in “balance” doesn’t get anything done. You gotta get a little nutty and extreme once in a while in order to make a breakthrough.

There you have it. All of this is based, of course, on the notion that as beings created in the image of God we have tremendous capacity that far exceeds our ability to catch up on whatever we DVR’d over the last few weeks. So tap into all that God’s made you and run like a mad (wo)man until you’re out of breath, and see what happens along the way!

What Came First, the Chicken or Chick-Fil-A?

I normally wouldn’t have gone to Chick-Fil-A today. Nothing against them, just don’t do a lot of fries and sweet tea. But if you’re gonna provoke a dishonest assault against freedom of expression and free enterprise, then it’s time for me to get some nuggets.

As a pastor, I haven’t campaigned against gay marriage. Instead, I have bit my tongue in an attempt to prove wrong all those who say that Christians hate homosexuals and discriminate against them. What I have said from the platform, repeatedly, is that our church is open to everybody regardless of who or what they claim to be. I happen to know for a fact that there are gays and lesbians who attend our church, and I have always treated them with love and respect, just like everyone else.

But then one day you realize that silence just isn’t going to work. The proponents of same-sex marriage are not merely content to express their opinions, but are rabidly and radically committed to extinguishing yours. Well, that’s not going to happen.

So let’s ask, what did Dan Cathy actually say? Did he say, “I hate homosexuals?” Did he say, “Homosexuals aren’t welcome at Chick-Fil-A?” Did he say, “I am absolutely against the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for same-sex couples?”

Nope. Here’s the article, from the Baptist Press. Read it for yourself. The quote that got him in trouble? Here you go: “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Wow. What a hateful guy. But what also got him in trouble was a statement he apparently made on the radio, according to an L.A. Times article: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” It was that statement which prompted the article’s author to label his  to an “outburst,” and later, “retrograde social prejudice.”

An outburst? Retrograde social prejudice? You see, I’ve learned something from having children: when you have no real argument, you inject emotion, throw around accusations, and manipulate language. My kids know how to take what I say and concoct incendiary conclusions to otherwise very lucid, normal statements. The strategy is this: when you can’t fight fair, raise the temperature and twist the truth.

That is how the supporters of same-sex marriage argue, much like my children. Here’s an example: I say, “I support traditional marriage.” They reply, “You hate homosexuals.” But I don’t hate homosexuals. Come to think of it, how dare you accuse me of such a thing. Who are you to judge my character without any knowledge of my heart or my behavior?

I say, “Marriage should be between one man and one woman.” You say, “You’re an angry, narrow-minded, backward, bigot because you don’t see it my way.” That’s the same type of hysterical reaction my 8-year old has when she’s out of rational arguments and just flat-out mad.

Take another example from The Huffington Post. The author accuses Chick-Fil-A of giving $5 million to, among other things, a “certified hate group.” A what? Who “certified” them as such? What criteria was used to “certify” their “hateful” status? Are we supposed to just accept the judgement of some unknown group upon another? But this counts as fair game for journalism.

So if we’re gonna have a fight, let’s have a fair fight. I have reasons why I believe marriage should always be recognized as one man and one woman. Here they are:

1) For the record, the traditional definition of marriage is not discriminatory against anyone. For example, neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals can marry a person of the same sex, or two people, an animal, or a close relative. As a homosexual, you have no more or less rights than a heterosexual.

2) If you alter the definition of marriage, you destroy the concept completely. If it is not between a man and a woman, then its between anyone and anyone. This is because the very logic for altering it to include homosexuals can be used to include any other arrangement. Thus, it becomes nothing and it means nothing. That is an undesirable outcome for society.

3) To alter the definition of marriage creates a horrible scenario for children. Every child should have a father and a mother. Two of me would be bad news for my kids, and quite frankly so would two of my wife. Men and women bring separate elements to the table. If you deny that then we’ve lost the ability to communicate. It is as obvious as the air we breathe. Two men or two women is not the same as a man and a woman when it comes to parenting. The counterpoint, then, is: But what about all the divorces, abusive and absent parents, and single parent households? Isn’t it better to have two healthy, loving people in the home, regardless of their gender? 

Of course there are deep problems in the execution of the traditional family model. People do selfish and evil things as parents which affect their children in a variety of ways. But problems existing in the execution of the ideal does not mean the ideal should be altered to be made more inclusive. If children don’t grow up with a mother and a father, they have missed something very important, regardless of the situation. The traditional definition of marriage affirms this ideal.

4) Then there is the theological argument. Among other things, one reason the Bible says that a man should marry a woman is because both of them bear the image of God in a unique way. When two people come together in marriage, the design is that they would each complement one another in a way that provides the complete picture of God’s masculine and feminine qualities, and do so as “one flesh.” When this works as it should, there is unspeakable beauty in it that cannot be replicated any other way. You may agree with that, you may not. But to call the position “hateful” is disingenuous and, once again, adding invective to a lucid and logical argument.

It’s not hard to be “for traditional marriage” and treat the homosexual with dignity, respect, and understanding. However, what’s good for society does not always fit the desires of the individual.

For many of the proponents of same-sex marriage, especially those who brought about what may be the best day in Chick-fil-A history, there is no real attempt to win the argument, because the argument can’t be won. They can only ultimately win the battle by name-calling, intimidating, and vilifying in an attempt to silence anyone and everyone who disagrees.

It’s easy to remain neutral and say, “There are problems on both sides.” It’s hard to take a position and say, “No, I think we can see clearly on this one.” Most people don’t have the time to voice their objection to the unjust threats to freedom of speech and free enterprise lobbed at Dan Cathy. But they gotta eat, which is why the lines are out the door at every Chick-fil-A around.

Sunday Preview: Don’t Be Talkin’ Smack!

Yep, that’s the title of tomorrow’s message on the 9th commandment. If you aren’t in the Phoenix Metro area to attend either our Goodyear or Surprise campuses, you can watch it live here at 9:00 and 10:30 PST.

The 9th commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Basically, we’re talking about everything from flat-out lying to your neighbor to the casual act of verbally throwing them under the bus to cover your booty.

Have you ever wondered why its so incredibly easy to let lies roll off your lips without even thinking? Well, the answer is simple: liars run in your family. In fact, they run in my family too, starting from the very first one.

The book of Genesis tells us that when God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they were given a choice: live as they’d been created to live, as recipients of every gift of God that can a human being can handle, or declare their independence from him and strike out on their own, claiming the earth and their lives as their own.

This choice was manifested in a tree that stood in the middle of the garden. As long as they did not eat from the tree, then their lives would be filled with living constantly under the blessing of God, in perfect relationship with him, each other, and the rest of creation. In the Garden there was no such thing as insecurity, manipulation, fear, or isolation. It was rather a place of perfect freedom, the highest possible pinnacle of human life. But to eat from the tree was to signify a conscious decision to tell God to hit the road – we humans will take it from here.

Well, you can probably guess what happened next. Eve ate the fruit first, being tempted to do so by the serpent. Then she gave some to her husband, who the Bible says “was with her” (Gen. 3:6).

Immediately their eyes are opened and they realize they are naked. Their innocence is taken from them and, ashamed, all they can do is run and hide. God comes looking for them in the same way a parent, who knows exactly where their children are hiding, looks for them. “Where are you?” he calls out.

Adam admits that he’s naked. God responds by asking, “Who told you were naked?” In other words, the Garden has always been a “clothing optional place” why are you so self-conscoius about it all of a sudden? Then he asks the critical question, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (v. 11)

Here is where art of spin is originated: notice Adam doesn’t answer the question, he diverts the focus off of himself and his own culpability, a classic spinmeister tactic: “The woman you put here with me, she gave me some, and I ate.” (v. 12)

Ha! He only includes himself after he’s passed the buck to his wife and blamed God for creating her in the first place. He’s basically saying, “You know, none of this would have happened if you hadn’t put her here!”

For a moment it seems like it worked: God shifts his attention to Eve and basically asks, “Well?” She then proceeds to blame the serpent: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (v. 13).

Wow. Humanity’s first achievement after declaring their independence from God is to spin the truth to avoid blame and throw each other under the bus. Nice.

All of this should be very telling, however. We don’t “bear false witness” against our neighbor because we have nothing better to do. We bear false witness (i.e., spin the truth, hide the evidence, leave out critical details, blame someone else) for no other reason than to save our own skin. That’s it. Whatever it takes to come out smelling like a rose to the rest of the world, elevating ourselves above our fellow man and yes, even God!

But hiding the truth is serious business, as we’ll dive into more in Sunday’s message. God himself is described as truth in numerous passages in the Bible (e.g., Deut. 32:4; Psalm 31:5). Jesus also refers to himself as “the truth” in John 14:6. Therefore any attempt on our part to alter or hide the truth is a direct attack against God. In fact, to lie even in the slightest is to actually do Satan’s work, as Jesus calls Satan the “father of lies.” (John 8:44).

This comes in all forms: little white lies, slander, and gossip. It’s interesting that the Greek word for “gossip” is ψιθυρισμός, transliterated “psithurismos.” Read that out loud: it actually sounds like gossip being whispered in someone’s ear, doesn’t it?

It takes a tremendous amount of resolve, however, to become someone who speaks the truth. Maybe that’s why Proverbs 24:26 says that an honest answer is like a “kiss on the lips.” – a little unexpected and a little wonderful at the same time!

But to actually own something, to actually admit that it was your fault, and no one else’s, is to introduce a level of clarity and courage into the world that is rarely seen. Dr. Mark Roberts, in his book Dare To Be True, illustrates this well. He tells the story of a man who arrived late to a business meeting. Rather than doing the usual and blaming the traffic, he said basically, “Please forgive me for being late. I did not allow enough time to get here.”

Apparently the response in the room was palpable. While the others excused his tardiness, this “honest answer” paved the way for more honest dialogue in the meeting, as others felt the courage to express their thoughts honestly and truthfully. Apparently, another man then walked in even later to the meeting, blaming the traffic, which gave them all a good laugh.

If you want to hear more, come on out to Compass Church tomorrow or tune in to the live stream if you’re out of town. If you can’t make either of those, then the video should be posted by Tuesday right here.

The Art of Preaching

My job rocks. Every Sunday the challenge is to produce a 40 minute presentation of fresh, engaging material based on any passage in the Bible to hundreds of people who are hoping to catch something that will convince them that waking up before noon on a Sunday wasn’t a waste of time.

Preaching gets a bad rap and understandably so. The most common perception people have of “sermons” is that they are long, boring, irrelevant lectures droned out by marginally well-meaning but hopelessly out of touch individuals who had the unfortunate curse of being born in the wrong century.

But preaching is supposed to be an amazing and unique art form, primarily because the goal is not merely information but transformation. You don’t want people to leave saying, “I learned something I didn’t know.” You want them to leave saying, “I must change, and change now.”

There’s also a deeply spiritual dynamic inherent in preaching. The preacher, if he’s worth anything, believes, that because his sermon begins and ends with Scripture, it’s not merely his words, but the words of God coming out of his mouth. He is merely the interpreter, the translator, in a conversation between God and every single person listening. God is guiding the preacher’s words, using them to talk to each person, and connecting his truth to each unique need and circumstance. At its core preaching should be supernatural.

That’s not to say that whatever a preacher says is infallible. Preachers make mistakes all the time, and they can often be downright dangerous. But the goal of the preacher should be to communicate what God wants the people to hear, how God wants them to change, rather than just spouting off his own ideas.

Effective preaching is ultimately a result of the power of God. However, there are a bunch of practical skills preachers must have if they hope to truly engage their audiences. Here are a few I’ve learned:

1) Credibility is everything. What’s important is not that your hearers believe everything you’re saying. What’s important is that they believe that you believe everything you’re saying! Bottom line: If you don’t believe what you’re saying, get off the stage and give it to someone who does. Sadly, there are preachers in America who admit they don’t really believe what they’re preaching, but I guess they can’t find anything else to do at the moment. Nice.

2) Even the President needs… Passion!! I remember hearing Bill Hybels relay a conversation he had with Bono, where Bono told him that there’s one thing his fans expect when U2 hits the stage: energy. I’ve always remembered that. To have life oozing out of you is essential if people are to connect with you. Even if you’re a little nuts once in a while… at least you’re not boring!

3) Be clear. To clarify, be really, really clear. General Colin Powell described his approach to speaking like this: Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. But in order to do that, you gotta know what you’re going to tell them. Dr. Howard Hendricks is famous for saying, “A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.” The reason so many sermons fail so miserably is because no one can follow what the preacher is trying to say. He might crack a few jokes and have a magnetic personality, but that jig will be up really fast if know one, including himself, knows what in the world he’s talking about!

4) Crack a joke, the earlier the better. Laughter is the universal language of connection. Two people don’t even need to speak the same language, but if they can laugh together, a greater bond is possible than through hours of conversation. Don’t make those poor people sit there and listen to you for 30 or 40 minutes (or longer) without saying or doing something funny. They got up and got their kids ready because they trust you have something to say to them – the least you can do is crack them place up once or twice, lighten the mood, and help them engage with you even more.

5) Cut one major point entirely rather than hollowing out two or three major points. I learned this axiom from Dr. Don Sunukjian, my brilliant preaching professor. The idea is this: if you have to cut something due to time, don’t cut sub-point “c” out of points 1 and 2. Just cut all of point 3. If you cut your sub-points, you don’t get the opportunity to drive home your main points, leaving your message shallow. You know what you had to cut, but no one else does, so who don’t worry about it being incomplete. Most people will remember once salient sentence or story more than they’ll be able to recite all three or five of your main points anyway.

6) Use descriptive language instead of generalities. What’s more interesting? To say, “My brother has an old car with a big engine that’s a lot of fun,” or “My brother Matt has got a fire engine red 1967 Mustang with a .302 liter engine that literally sends a chill down your spine when you hit the gas.” It easy to be lazy with language.

7) Use slides sparingly. You’re not giving a lecture on the intricacies of grey matter in the human brain. You’re communicating for transformation, which is hard if you’ve got 85 Power Point slides to get through. Every time you transition a slide the eyes of the audience move off of you and on to your whatever is you’ve written. I want everyone’s eyes on me as much as possible. I limit my “slides” to main points (usually two or three), key verses of Scripture (for those who didn’t bring a Bible), an occasional significant quote, and sometimes a picture.

I love and believe in effective preaching and I think it is still the primary method which serves to transform the hearts of men and women who desperately need the touch of God.  Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

We who preach just need to get better at it. Thoughts?

The Shelf of Hats

Right now Ryan and I are in the bay area chipping away at our plan of hitting all the baseball parks in the MLB. This particular trip started as a result of the expenditure of some of the $1,000 travel credit we earned on Southwest a few weeks ago for our willingness to get bumped off an oversold flight. A thousand bucks worth of flights to arrive at 5:30 rather than 2:30? Yeah, I’ll take that.

We figured that if we flew into Oakland we could hit the A’s and the Giants back to back. Judi, who was very supportive of this idea, hooked us up with her cousin and his family who live in Dublin, CA. So, free flight, free lodging (and some awesome cooking I might add!), and great company. Not too shabby.

Of course when we got to the Hertz renal car counter I turned on the upgrade negotiating skills. Our original reservation was for a Yugo or equivalent, but there was an orange Challenger with a Hemi out front. Eight of them, actually. After some back and forth, it was clear the Hemi wasn’t going to happen, so we opted for the fire engine red Mustang.

My theory on rental car upgrades is this: both our cars are paid off, they’ve got 135,00 miles respectively, and we’re saving up in the hopes to pay cash for our cars from now on, thanks to the influence of this guy.

So I pay a few extra bucks to scratch the new car itch, keep up on the latest features (they come with USB ports now!), and enjoy the admiration from strangers who have no idea it’s a rental. So there.

I had never been to the Coliseum before. It’s gritty. Even the womenfolk looked tough. We sat out in the bleachers and I wore jeans. The only thing missing was a rotisserie and some seasoning. Ryan wore shorts, which meant that our first stop after the game was to CVS to get aloe vera gel.

The A’s played the Yankees. Actually, the A’s swept the Yankees (people brought brooms in hopeful anticipation). I’ve got to hand it to the Oakland fans, especially the ones in the bleachers, who just wouldn’t accept defeat. One guy, who established himself as our yell leader, kept the whole section energized until the bitter end, long after his voice started to sound like Nick Nolte chewing on sandpaper. Another had a giant sombrero and a vuvuzela. They kept the spirit alive. I was sure they A’s were done for, but sure enough, they pulled it off in the bottom of the 12th.

Ryan was elated. He doesn’t much care for the Yankees, and it was fun to be surrounded by a bunch of crazies, who, through creative (but hardly profane) slurs and mocking references to the New Yorker’s accent, loved to watch them go down.

We got him the official A’s hat (well, the road hat, since they were out of the home hat in every head size except “Egg” or larger).  The tradition is to get a hat at every stadium we visit. We attached a shelf to a wall in his room where each hat is placed. After tonight the grand total will be eight.

Each hat represents a story. Each hat reminds us both of moments that can never be taken from us. A few rain-delayed games, a few extra innings, a few like yesterday baking in the sun. Conversations about life, sports, the uniqueness of cities and ballparks. A little childhood wonder, a little adult nostalgia along the way. Hopefully its all forming the substance of a lifelong relationship.

So the Shelf of Hats continues to grow. As I see it, it’s evidence that there’s a boy who is important to his father. It’s a testimony to the fact that in this crazy life of ours we’re trying to put the “big rocks” in the jar, throwing off the urgent for the important, and enjoying the journey of being father and son.

Why I Eat Paleo

Since October 2011, I have been (almost) strictly following what is known as the “Paleo” diet (pronounced PALE-e-oh). Of course its not really a “diet” as much as a lifestyle. While there are several different definitions of what constitutes Paleo, it can be best described as a “hunter-gatherer” diet. In other words, meat, vegetables, nuts, and some fruit. Thus, your typical staple crops: corn, rice, wheat, and potatoes are off limits. The Crossfit site describes it well:

In plain language, base your diet on garden vegetables, especially greens, lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar. That’s about as simple as we can get. Many have observed that keeping your grocery cart to the perimeter of the grocery store while avoiding the aisles is a great way to protect your health. Food is perishable. The stuff with long shelf life is all suspect. If you follow these simple guidelines you will benefit from nearly all that can be achieved through nutrition.

Two events contributed to the adoption this diet: a) joining Crossfit Fury and, b) reading Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.

It was surprising to walk into Crossfit Fury last Fall for the first time and read the phrase “No Sugar!” as a dietary axiom. Equally as surprising was the claim that steak, eggs, shellfish, and bacon (really?) are on the list of stuff you can eat. The folks at Fury recommended The Paleo Solution so Judi and I got a copy and read it, ironically, on a cruise ship the following week (talk about a conflict of interest!).

Since then, we have (for the most part) been “eating Paleo.” Here are my findings:

1) My intestines are no longer demon-possesed. Before going Paleo, I religiously ate a large bowlful of steel-cut oatmeal every day. No frills, by the way: just oats, salt, and raisins. That’s it. I kicked the soda habit a long time ago, and I tried to limit my red meat intake to maybe once or twice a week. I’ve been in decent shape over the past few years, doing a lot of running and faithfully hitting the gym.

But while I looked fine on the outside (not fine as in hot, but fine as in decent), the truth is my insides were a mess. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I had an extremely fast metabolism. I was going to the bathroom all the time, and in between trips I basically felt like I had swallowed Mt. Vesuvius. I’m a little ADD, Type-A, and whatever else attempts to explain hyperactive behavior, so I figured that my intestines were just an expression of my life. But since I’ve switched to the Paleo diet the volcano has gone dormant, my digestive system feels great, and I can assure you everything is functioning as it should!

2) My vitals are good. Heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight are all good. I’m hovering around 150 lbs., 30 pounds lighter than I was back in my early thirites when I wasn’t working out and eating lots of fries. I’m 15 lbs. down from where I was before I started eating Paleo and doing Crossfit, and I’ve gained muscle.

3) You don’t have to “roll me out” of a restaurant anymore. Our family went to IHOP recently and I ordered the bacon wrapped steak fillets. Most people would say that’s committing suicide by IHOP. However, I walked out feeling full yet not stuffed. Compare that to a stack of pancakes lathered with whipped cream and strawberry topping, hot chocolate and hash browns. Talk about a sugar coma. I’ve done that before, and all I can do afterward is lament the gluttony as I struggle to take a breath!

4) Sugar has lost it luster. I don’t “crave” sugar like I used to. Soda holds no power over me, nor does pasta, bread, or most desserts. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have a piece of cake at my kids birthday party, and self-serve yogurt is a great “cheat” once in a while. But when I go to Starbucks, I have no desire for a mocha or a Frappucino (an occasional sip of my kids’ will do). Give me black coffee, no cream or sugar – just as God intended!

5) I still eat some dairy because I’m actually trying to gain weight. Super-strict Paleo frowns upon milk and cheese (eggs are okay, but not too many of those either). Milk is a rarity for me, but cheese, especially on a Protein-Style Double-Double (or the “Flying Dutchman”) from In-N-Out, is a must!

6) Breakfast can be interesting when you eat Paleo. I have a lot of bacon eggs for breakfast, but the experts warn to not go too crazy on either. They also recommend cage free Omega-3 eggs and all-natural bacon free of hormones. But there are other options I’ve learned to love: salad, chili (there are some great paleo chili recipes), and whatever was left over from last night’s dinner. I know, it sounds awful at first, but I’ve learned to love it!

7) My recovery time is quicker between workouts. When you’re eating clean you’re not housing all that processed material in your body. While Crossfit sometimes just beats my 38-year old body up, I’m doing myself a favor by feeding it stuff that helps my muscles heal and grow (well, at least heal!)

8) You don’t have to be an evolutionist to embrace the Paleo diet. My research and common sense prevent me from believing in the “goo to you by way of the zoo” view of life. So I’m not out to live like a caveman. God told Noah after the flood, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (Genesis 9:3). Then, in the New Testament, God gives Peter the Apostle the freedom to eat that which had been called unclean by the Law of Moses. Further, my Christian worldview provides the reasoning for improvement of all areas of life, including our understanding of nutrition. If scientific research supports the Paleo diet, that doesn’t mean my great grandma to the 100th power was a knuckle-dragging mouth-breather.

7) Here are some Paleo-friendly options that fit with a busy lifestyle:

  • Chipotle – I get the bowl, double meat, substituting vegetables for rice and beans.
  • In-N-Out – As mentioned above, protein style (meaning no bun)
  • Cobb Salads – most run of the mill restaurants have them.

So there you have it. Because the only thing unchanging in all the universe is God, I expect our understanding of nutrition to ebb and flow as the years unfold and research persists. But as a believer in man’s ability to discover truth, hopefully the swaying pendulum will lead us closer to the center of what is best for us, so we can feel better, live longer, and most importantly, bring glory to God in all that we do.

Thoughts on the Massacre in Colorado

As the story of the tragedy Colorado unfolds, here are a few thoughts:

1) Before we attempt to politicize, theologize, analyze, or any other “ize” this we must remember that what those people experienced on that night was the manifestation of pure evil in its darkest form. It is unimaginable what they went through and the road to recovery that lies ahead for the survivors and their loved ones. There will be scars of all types for decades to come, and we must not lose sight of that.

2) We cannot exchange our freedom for fear. I purposely took Ryan to see Batman the following morning, just as I had planned prior to this tragedy. The theater was crowded even at that early hour, and yes, I kept a watchful eye. But had we stayed home out of fear, as many now say they would do, then evil has truly prevailed. It’s not just about the odds of it happening again (which are very slim), its about principle. You still get on the plane after 9/11, you still travel to the Middle East after you hear of a kidnapping, and you still go to the movies after something like this. Otherwise the world becomes dreadfully small.

3) I did not tell Ryan about the shooting until after the movie. While I debated this in my head early this morning, I came to the conclusion that an 11 year-old boy deserves the opportunity to sit through a movie and not be consumed by fear. If my son is afraid to go to the movies, then, once again, evil has prevailed.

4) This is not a “gun control” issue – it is a theological issue. Guns are an effective way to kill people. But if every one of them magically disappeared, men would invent yet another way to dispatch his neighbor as easily as possible. The root issue is the human heart, not the device used to carry out its intentions.

5) Since the beginning human beings have had to deal with their propensity for evil, in this case, murder. While most of us would never commit such an act, all of us possess the raw material in our hearts to do it. Most of us may never have to come face to face with such an experience, but when it does manifest itself in such a common environment as a movie theater, we are once again horrified at the human heart at its worst. By citing the weapon as the problem, we misdiagnose the situation and thus are unable to see the problem clearly.

6) In addition to understanding our propensity for evil, we must also acknowledge that all human beings are created in the image of God. Based on that, all reasonable measures must be taken to ensure the safety and protection of innocent human life. Rather than misdiagnosing the problem as “gun control,” we are now able to see the situation as one where we understand both a) the capacity for evil in the human heart and, b) the need to respect human life. That frees us to come up with creative solutions to the threats that we face, rather than the myopic but fashionable conclusion that merely “guns” are the problem.

7) Unfortunately, both notions are under attack in our society today. First, most people wish to deny the human being’s capacity for evil, and second, great attempts are being made to distance humanity from its Creator. The narrative today is that we evolved, we’re accidents, we need no image with which to be created in. Because both of these points are lost on giant swaths of society, evil such as this becomes both inconceivable to us and leaves us paralyzed in our response.

8) If we as a society embraced these two notions, we then could begin to move forward with solutions that directly address the problem. No, we won’t be able to eradicate evil completely in this life. But we could begin to answer questions like:

  • Do businesses such as movie theaters have a responsibility to protect their patrons from conceivable threats?
  • Should everyone be allowed to carry a gun regardless of training or experience?
  • Do we fully understand the effects that depictions of violence have on our view of the value of human life?
  • How can we prepare our general citizenry to respond to acts of violence should they be placed in that situation?

In any case, we’ll have plenty of time to think through these issues. What’s most important now is continued prayers for the victims and their families, that God would bring peace and healing.

Not That Kind of Pilgrim

I know everyone is consumed with seeing a movie about a man whose alter ego is a bat (in fact, my appointment is at 8:50 tomorrow morning to beat the crowds!), but there’s another story about a man who faces all types of dangers, villains, and hardships. And like our masked hero, this man must win the inner war (which we all know is the real story) just as assuredly as the outer one.

The hero’s name is simply “Christian,” and the book is called The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. I’m embarrassed to admit that I avoided this book for years because I thought it was a book about the pilgrims who came to America. Nothing against the pilgrims, but I just thought Why rehash the whole thing? We all know they made it. They ate  with our Native American friends, and now we have Thanksgiving.

What can I say? Some things just manage to slip through the cracks. But if John Bunyan were still around, he could have looked at me and said, “Not that kind of pilgrim, son.”

Anyway, I recently went camping overnight in Oak Creek Canyon all by myself and took the opportunity to read this book. I was instantly taken by the vivid expressions of thought, emotion, and authenticity.

And while I was sitting in my camping chair, with the sun setting behind the mountains and the wind rustling through the trees, I read a line that I instantly knew should be my life’s mission statement.

Christian, the protagonist, sets out on a journey to find the Celestial City (a.k.a., heaven). He tries to convince his family to go, but they want no part of it. He is conversing with two characters, one named Pliable and the other, Obstinate.

Obstinate asks him this question: “What are the things you seek, since you leave all the world to find them?”

His response is magnificent: “I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, and it is laid up in heaven, and safe there, to be bestowed, at the time appointed, on them who diligently seek it.”

Just focus on the first phrase: “I seek an inheritance incorruptible…”

That is his quest; but not only his quest, but the answer to the question of why he leaves “all the world” in pursuit of it.

It hit me there in my camping chair that that is the essence of the believer’s journey. Why leave behind what the world has to offer, when what it offers is pretty amazing? Because it is corruptible, it is defiled, and it fades away.

So the aim of my life is the pursuit of something better than the world’s produce. Better than the car that will inevitably find its way to a run down used car lot. Better than a mere human being who, as alluring as they may be now, will someday get old and scaly and raspy and give up the ghost as fast as they got it.

C.S. Lewis writes about us being “far too easily pleased” and maybe its high time we become a little more uppity when it comes to our expectations:

  • 80 or 90 years is NOT enough.
  • Retirement in a Winnebago is NOT enough.
  • Sex, in all its uses and misuses, is NOT enough.
  • Power, even over all the world, is NOT enough.
  • A well-chiseled body, at least this current one, is NOT enough.

This life is a journey to the next. That’s what it means to say “I seek an inheritance.” I enjoy what God has given me, but not the expense of my inheritance! Why would I settle for this pale life, when 1 Peter 1:4 says,:

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

I want to be a snob when it comes to what I believe God has in store for me. I’ll turn my nose up at a Rolls Royce should it get in the way of the pursuit of what awaits me in only a few short years. Just ask the people who aren’t here anymore (oh wait, we can’t) what matters now, and whether they are happy with where their hearts affections settled here in this life

So, it wasn’t about the pilgrims after all; but it was about a pilgrim – a man on a journey, like you and me. I’ve been rolling that statement around in my head for weeks: I seek an inheritance incorruptible.

That’s why I avoid sin. That’s why I forgive. That’s why I don’t mourn over the absence of wealth and fame. That’s why I surrender to the will of God.

Hey, it costs a buck on Amazon to download. Yes, its old English, but you can do it.

Vacation Update

Still technically on vacation until next Tuesday afternoon, but we made the drive back from Colorado yesterday and are back at home. We did 890 miles in about 12 hours and 20 minutes. (As a man, it’s important to report that sort of accomplishment. Let it also be known that we had three kids with us who slept all the way past the AZ/NM border!).

We stayed with our friends John and Dee Cook, whom I went to Egypt with last year. They live in Monument, CO, and graciously opened up their home to our family of five.

The highlights included sailing on John’s boat in the Grand Lake area (see pic). The “low-light” was the fact that I’m still getting over a stomach illness that I think is dehydration from the combo of high altitude and non-stop activity that characterizes my life. This morning I weighed myself and I haven’t been this light since 9th grade.

Anyway, still learning my way around the new blog and working on getting pages uploaded and general stuff.

Took Ryan to see a Colorado Rockies game, so as to get one step closer to completing the quest of hitting every baseball park in America (oh, and the Canadian one). Great game – rain delay (never happens in Phoenix) and an exciting twist in the 9th inning where we thought the Pirates might take it. Beautiful stadium, by the way.