Category Archives: marriage

I Am A Follower

It is rare when a book comes along that is truly transformational. Leonard Sweet’s I Am A Follower is one such book.

Sweet is part prophet (both foretelling and forthtelling), part annoying eccentric, part wise sage, and part poet. You can’t read Sweet without a reaction and that is certainly true in this current volume. The main subtitle is: The Way, The Truth, and Life of Following Jesus. The tiny subtitle of I Am A Follower is: It’s Never Been about Leading. That should tell you a lot abut what you will read between the covers of this book.

Sweet identifies (and I think, correctly) that for the past 3-4 decades the church in N. America has suffered from an obsession with leadership.  How many books, seminars, conferences, articles, sermons, have we heard, taught, written, or preached on the subject of leadership? I myself was a charter subscriber to Leadership Journal 35 years ago. I have embraced a mantra of creating “More disciples, more leaders, and more churches.” Everywhere you turn in the church today there is cult of celebrity around ‘successful’ leaders. And have you noticed that “successful” always means “bigger”? Always.

“One of the greatest myths about leadership is that bigger is always better. I predict that future societies will recognize the fallacy of this myth and that the three mantras for the society will be these:

  • Live more with less.
  • Make little large.
  • Upscale by downsizing.”     (p. 151)

I found that much of Sweet had to say resonated with my own recent personal pilgrimage. Over the past several years I have intentionally pursued the title of Executive Pastor. I have skills and experience that would seem to indicate that I could perform XP functions with ease. Recently I came to realize that the greater role would be to do something less! (I think this fits with Sweet’s second point above.) I am now working to spend more of my time in discipleship coaching rather than ministry administration. I will be investing in men and women to coach them to become better equipped to carry out their ministries and to grow as followers of Jesus. I don’t really see this as a diminished role – except where it would appear on an organizational chart! My desire is to return to my original ordination charge, “…to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

If you are a church leader at any level you should read this book. If you are a Christ follower at any stage in your journey you should read this book! I believe that this would make a great book for group study for church staff, board, small groups, or even couples together. I just finished reading I Am A Follower and I plan to read it again.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I Sold Out for $4.99!

We are not major coupon clippers – just a few here and there. But when it came time to do our shopping for Thanksgiving dinner we assembled a stack of coupons and headed off to Fred Meyer in hopes of scoring a free turkey. We were pretty sure we could meet the $150 threshold required to get a frozen bird for “free.” Our strategy included a little stocking up and holding a few higher priced items ’til the end to toss in at the last moment if needed. No need. We were in great shape – coming in at about $160. So with the turkey bonus well in hand I did it. Something that I had never done before anywhere. I asked for the senior discount!

At this store seniors get an extra 10% off certain items every Tuesday in November and December. Altogether we discounted our purchases by over $60 when combined with a rewards card, store coupons, manufacturers coupons, the turkey coupon, and the senior discount. When I tallied up the individual discounts I discovered that the senior discount saved us $4.99. Hey – it’s five bucks! Nothing to sneeze at, right?

Well, maybe. But now I’ve gone public about the fact that I am 55. I voluntarily steeped into a demographic that I don’t feel at all ready for. What’s next? Senior housing? Safe driving classes? Eating off the senior’s menu? Am I going to arrange my shopping around senior discount day? Maybe I could take my parents with me! They’ve been collecting the senior discount for years.

And maybe that’s the real issue for me. Maybe that’s why I feel like I sold my soul for $4.99. I’ve become my parents. As hard as I might push back against the clock, time continues to move along. Days become decades. Children get married. Grandchildren are born. Refusing to take the senior discount won’t change that. So I will embrace my new economic windfall and ask for the senior coffee the next time I’m at McDonalds! I’ll save a seat for you.

It’s A Start

I’ve waited a while to write this post and am even a little tentative about writing it today.

I’ve lost 20 lbs.

I’ve been overweight for a while but I just kept eating. And eating. And eating. I’ve heard that people tend to gain about 10lbs per decade. That’s just one pound per year. I like to tell people that one pound amounts to four quarter-pound meals at McDonalds in  year. Just four more than usual! Or just a few second or third baskets of chips at Azteca. One pound pound per year! You wouldn’t even notice your clothes fitting tighter until year 7 or 8!

So in the past two months I have rolled back the clock two decades worth! It feels great. My blood pressure is lower, my wife says I don’t snore as much, and I’m fitting into clothing sizes that were a distant memory.

But I’m still a bit leery of celebrating too much because I think I’m only half way. According to my medical provider I’m at a BMI of 27.53 (down from 30.41) when I should be 24. So I still have some work to do. I’ve lost 10% of my weight and I have another 10% to go to be where I should. That would put me close to my weight in college and when I got married. It’s hard to imagine being that weight again but I’m going to give it a try during the most difficult dietary season in America: The Holidays!

These days “The Holiday’s” run from Halloween to Super Bowl. That’s more than 3 months of super-sized meals, desserts, candy dishes, and snacks. But with two months of practice I think I’m ready to face this challenge. I’ve been using the Smarter for Life diet plan where you eat six 100-calorie cookies throughout the day (about 1 every 2 hours) and then eat a lighter supper with some protein. I know that if I’d followed the diet to the letter I would have lost more but I’m pleased with my progress. I’ve also been walking about 7 times per week along a 2.5 mile route in our neighborhood with some steep hills. I’m pretty sure that in order to continue making progress the number and distance of the walks will need to increase.

So I won’t post every week about this journey – perhaps monthly over the next three months just to record my progress. I’d appreciate hearing your suggestions for pushing through the plateaus.

San Diego Restaurant Review

I recently spent 8 days in San Diego with my wife. We stayed in a downtown hotel near Little Italy and walked everywhere. Rather than give you a daily account of our urban vacation I’ll opt for a series of posts by categories. Today’s category: food!

Did I mention that we stayed near Little Italy? It’s a great district for food in San Diego. The first night we saw this line out the door of one restaurant and we figured that we had to check-out this one. Filippi’s Pizza Grotto is a San Diego tradition with locations all over San Diego. This is where it all started. A huge no frills menu just lists the traditional Italian meals – Spaghetti with meat ball, lasagna, etc. We waited over 45 minutes as the line slowly crept toward the door. Once inside we were surprised to enter this tight aisle through the deli/grocery part of the restaurant that extended the line another 20-30 ft! Being just two we got seated ahead of some larger groups. It seemed pretty obvious that we should go with the pizza – a simple green peppers and sausage version. Wow!! That was some pizza. Hot and tasty. We liked Filippi’s so well that we ate there two more times while in San Diego. It’s truly a landmark destination restaurant that should be on your San Diego ‘bucket list’ although the pasta dishes were pretty average.

Besides Filippi’s we also ate at the Burger Lounge three times – twice for their signature burger (simply amazing!) and once for the vegetable salad which we split. Burger Lounge is a very trendy stop for great gourmet burgers. At $8.95 for a burger without fries it’s not cheap fast food but cheap fast food never tasted this good. And it really looks and tastes as good as the pictures look!

We ate another dinner at Petrini’s that was also tasty but lacked some of the ambiance of other Italian restaurants in Little Italy. We wished we had eaten at more of the Little Italy signature Italian places. Other Little Italy locations that we included in our stops included a new coffee shop called Tazza D’ Oro with a great staff that was our frequent after dinner stop and Pappaleco for gelato.

In Old Town we scored a nice breakfast for $2.99 at the Old Town Mining Company, enjoyed a great lunch at Fiesta De Reyes (the best Mexican food on the trip) and stopped by the Living Room Coffee House for a late afternoon break.

In Coronado we had lunch twice – once at La Salsa (nice fresh ingredients) and once at Villa Nueva (French bakery and deli). Both restaurants are on Orange Ave.

At Balboa Park we ate on the patio at Prado. Very nice. Good selection of fresh salads and sandwiches. Really good service! This is THE restaurant of Balboa Park. I had one of the best tasting pulled pork sandwiches I’ve ever had! The flat bread and humus appetizer was a nice starter.

It sounds like all we did in San Diego was eat but we enjoyed visiting this great city and exploring their many neighborhoods and attractions, too!

Where have you eaten in San Diego? What would you recommend?

San Diego’s Citywalk Church

I had the amazing opportunity last week to spend 8 days in San Diego, CA with my wonderful wife of 32 years. What made this trip so amazing was that it was really the first time we have ever been away together for an entire week with no agenda – no meetings, conferences, family obligations, etc. – it was just us. On the first day back at my desk I can tell you that it was long overdue and I can’t wait until the next time we can get away for a week or more.

We are urban travelers. We’ve never done the camping thing or stayed in the wilderness. Instead, we like to find a good downtown location where we can leave the car at home and go everywhere either on foot or by public transit. That was easy to do in San Diego. We made it to Seaport Village, Old Town, the Midway museum, Petco Park, the Gas Lamp Quarter, Little Italy, Coronado, and Balboa Park easily – on foot, by train, or by ferry.

In later posts I’ll highlight some of the notable restaurants and destinations, but today I wanted to tell you about the church we attended. Citywalk meets in rented space next to Petco Park. It’s a smaller church plant that is making a mark for the Gospel in urban San Diego. We found it to be a friendly and authentic group of people with God-centered worship and Christ-saturated teaching. We’re glad we made the trek across town to worship with the people at Citywalk and would recommend it to you if you live near San Diego or might be in town in the future.

When was the last time you got away with your spouse for an entire week? No kids, no seminars, no family, just the two of you? Having just had this experience I know that we will begin planning for our next week-long get-away right away. Make those decisions that you need in order to make such a trip a reality. Start saving today. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and you don’t have to travel far – just far enough to be away. (We didn’t pay any big-ticket admissions.)And if possible, we would recommend choosing a destination where you leave the car behind. There’s something about being on foot that slows the pace and gives you more time together. And isn’t that why we take vacations in the first place?

Transformational Experiences – Yours, Mine, or Ours?

I first noticed it several years ago. I brought my high school youth group to a weekend conference. One of the musicians from the band talked about his spiritual journey and how at age 30 he had come to realize some things about his relationship with Jesus that weren’t right. Later the speaker talked about that moment in his life where he realized he was pursing things – other than Jesus – that nearly cost him his marriage and his ministry.

It dawned on me that the leaders of this event were telling 15, 16, & 17 year olds that need to have the same spiritual experience that they had. But these leaders were considerably older than our kids. They didn’t have these transformational experiences as teenagers but as full-on adults. I wondered if it was reasonable for us to expect kids to have the same experience or at least the same depth of experience. I began to wonder what a transformational encounter with Jesus would look like for the kids in my youth group and how it might differ from the experiences that these adults had.

Over the years I have noticed it again and again. People expect others to have the same spiritual experience that they had. Not only that, if your experience is not the same as theirs, then your experience is not legitimate! It shows up when people think you have to use the same translation of the Bible that they use, or sing the same songs that they sing, or even use the same verbiage to describe your spiritual journey.

It is spiritual arrogance.

I’ve seen it all too often where preferences and style become deeply imbedded in one’s definition of the essence of Christianity. You’ve seen it, too, when tradition trumps everything so that a not-so-subtle expectation is placed on others in terms of how they dress, what music they worship to, which instruments are used (or not used), or which foods and/or beverages they consume! At it’s core it is legalism to suggest that my tradition is better than yours because I’ve been practicing my tradition longer (or shorter) than you have. You see, it does go both ways. It is just as arrogant for me to say that my experience (or translation, or musical preference) is better than yours because mine is newer!

One of the things that is true about Christianity is that the way each of us live in relationship with Jesus is different. No two of us follow Jesus in exactly the same way. We are all on a journey. And while our journey travels down the same path there are times when we are walking, running, crawling, or even skipping! Some of us cover a lot of ground rather quickly. Others take frequent rest breaks.

This is particularly true when it comes to corporate worship. For me to insist that the worship services at my church are designed to my liking seems a bit arrogant, too. When we approach worship shouldn’t it be more about yielding my likes, preferences, and traditions so that others may worship fully? I am reminded of Emerson Eggerich’s answer in Love & Respect to the question of who should go first – the husband or the wife – in being more loving (husband) or more respectful (wife)? His answer is, “Whoever is more mature should go first!”  Could that be our practice in worship, too? That those who are more mature in their faith would surrender their wills before Jesus so that those who are ‘less mature’ may be able to worship unhindered? What would it look like if we really lived out  Philippians 2.3-4  , “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

Lent – Giving Up or Adding In?

Today is Ash Wednesday. For some, it’s only significance is that it follows Fat Tuesday- an excuse for partying! But Ash Wednesday is the official beginning of  Lent – a period of time (46 days) that leads up to Easter Sunday. In some religious traditions, people will attend a service today and receive an ash smudge or ash cross (made from the ashes of last year’s Palm Sunday palm branches) on their forehead as a symbol of humility and repentance. Many will also observe a day-long fast today.

Over the coming weeks many people will “give up something for Lent.” The list is quite endless. It could be coffee, or chocolate, or TV, or Facebook. Some may refrain from eating meat or smoking throughout Lent. The purpose is to enter a spiritual mindset that will allow the individual to focus on the work of Christ.

Ash Wednesday and Lent may not be part of your church’s tradition but observing Lent could be a meaningful spiritual experience for you. Instead of giving something up perhaps you might add something – a spiritual discipline to your life over these 46 days. The benefit of observing a new spiritual discipline over that time is that it will have become a spiritual habit – something you will likely continue practicing beyond the 46 days. My wife suggested that this might be a good time for couples to take the “40 Day Prayer Challenge” mentioned in a previous post and pray with your spouse for at least 5 minutes everyday for 40 (or 46) days. This could be a period where you would actually tithe 10% or more or read your Bible daily. Is there a spiritual discipline that is absent from your life that you might add?

How are you going to observe Lent this year? By giving up something or by adding something?