I was eager to read “the Anxious Christian” by Rhett Smith. I’ve heard him speak live and have read many of his blog posts. I think his has a lot of important and helpful things to say about faith and living whole and healthy lives – spiritually, emotionally, and physically. And beside, with Jon Acuff writing the forward you know that there had to be some witty stuff that you could use in your next blog or sermon!
I also wanted to learn more about the intersection of anxiety and faith. Like you, I have a personal reason to want to learn more about how to nurture and respond to anxious people. Much of what Rhett had to say was helpful in that regard. He proposed a new way of looking at anxiety. Rather than the all-too-familiar response of well-meaning Christians that anxiety is a sign of spiritual immaturity, Rhett suggests that God may use anxiety to cause us to trust him more! His development of this concept alone is worth getting your hands on this book.
There are some pretty good discussion questions at the end of each chapter that can guide the reader into taking some positive steps toward implementing helpful habits and actions in their lives. They could also be beneficial to a family our group that read the book together. A few times I felt that the material got a little too clinical but overall it was very accessible and practical.
Smith focuses on anxiety that rises up from a point of embarrassment about an inability to perform or function at a certain level. (“I can’t do that! I’ll fail!” He uses his personal experience of stuttering as an example.) That is a very common point of origin but I was hoping to see something about anxiety that rises from a point of fear that something is going to go wrong that is completely out the control of the individual. (“What if something bad happens?”) I wanted to know how I can encourage that person and help give them hope.
I would recommend “the Anxious Christian” for most people. You may be a teacher, a church staff member, or the spouse or parent or friend of an anxious person. Or you may be that anxious person, yourself. “the Anxious Christian” is worth the read. I found his approach and advice to be very thoughtful, balanced, and practical – something that is not easy to do with this subject.
More than anything else, I use this blog to review books – especially those that I find particularly interesting or I think will most significantly benefit those of us who occupy the second chair. I have assembled quite a large stack of books that will be on my 2012 reading list. Here is a partial list – in no particular order:
Becoming a Coaching Leader, Daniel Harkavay
The Litigator, John Grisham
I Am A Follower, Len Sweet
Search & Rescue, Neil Cole
Coaching 101, Logan & Carlton
Bloodlines, John Piper
Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell
Switch, Heath & Heath
blink, Malcom Gladwell
Leaders Who Last, Kraft
Real Marriage, Driscoll
not a fan, Idleman
Made to Stick, Heath & Heath
Reimagining Church, Viola
Foregiveness Formula, Hitz & Hitz
War Room, Dawson
Spiritual Conversations, Rohrmayer
The Way of the Wild Heart, Eldridge
Dug Down Deep, Harris
Generous Justice, Keller
The Reason for God, Keller
Assured of Heaven, Ricker
There are a few others that I am looking at but haven’t put in the stack just yet. Any suggestions?
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.
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.
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?
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?
My friends at Booksneeze.com (Thomas Nelson publishers) sent me a copy of “Couples Who Pray” to review. The premise is pretty simple and straightforward: make a commitment to pray together as couples for at least five minutes each day for 40 days and your marriage will be strengthened. SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt make a good case for the importance of couples of faith taking time together to pray for each other and for the details of their lives. To add weight to their argument the authors convinced several celebrity couples to take the challenge and report on the results. These couples include Scott & Tracie Hamilton, Denzel and Pauletta Washington, Bruce Santo and Donna Summer, and Patti and Gavin McLeod among several others. Their personal stories are heartwarming and encouraging and may motivate some couples who do not yet pray together to take the challenge themselves. There is even a website coupleswhopray.com to give you some daily structure and encouragement along the way.
So while I support the concept of couples praying together my task is to review the book – not the subject matter. Given that reality, I have to point out parts of the book that I found weak and over-reaching. The first is their repeated emphasis that since prayer is the most intimate act possible between a man and a woman that if you would just pray together your “lovemaking” will improve. It seems a bit formulaic (a+b=c) and simplistic and could easily lead to a false motivation and spiritual insincerity. The second area I found substantial disagreement with was the section that addressed praying for your finances. With a series of ‘health-and wealth’ examples they argued that you cannot out give God (that’s accurate) and that he will always materially bless whatever you give away (that’s not accurate).
One lengthy example described a couple that was quite successful in life and had accumulated numerous possessions and numerous debts. They made the wise decision to radically change their relationship with money and possessions, moving from their 6,000 sq ft home into a 1,600 sq ft condo while becoming consistent tithers. Great story if it ended there but the real end to the story is that because they prayed about their finances and began to tithe that now the couple lives in a 13,000 sq ft home! Really? Many praying people who tithe will never own a new car and will live out their lives in a small 1-2 bedroom home or apartment all the while having been blessed beyond measure by a loving, faithful God.
On balance I recommend the book in-so-far as it may motivate you to take prayer in your marriage seriously and commitment to at least five minutes each day praying with your spouse. But do so because it is an important spiritual discipline that honors God and will strengthen your marriage, not because of what you might get out of it.
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.”