Friday, December 18, 2009

Primal: A Review of Mark Batterson's Latest Book

2010 should begin with you reading Mark Batterson's latest book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity.  In this book Mark looks at the Great Commandment as the definition of the soul of Christian [loving God with all of our heart, soul mind and strength].  Mark takes these four ways of loving God and expounds on how each is essential for a Christian to mature into the follower of Christ.

In each book that Mark has written he has displayed a thirst for knowledge and biblical truth.  It is quite clear the he reads across several genres, from physics and biology to pop culture and theology.  And while this book is easy to read and process, it is also challenging.  It is likely the type of book that you read through quickly, but will want to pick up and read again as soon as you are done.

Mark's gift at communication is clearly seen in his ability to take enormous truths and pack them into a few words.  There are so many scattered throughout the book, but here are few of my favorites:
1. "If the goal of reading is to get through the Bible, the goal of meitation is to get the Bible through us."
2. "Sin is a waste of energy. It's wasting your energy on things you can't have or can't control."
3. "Lack of faith is not a failure of logic. It's a failure of imagination."
4. "Most of us are alreay educated beyond the level of our obedience."
5. "You can't listen to just half of what the Holy Spirit has to say. If you aren't willing to listen to everything He has to say, you won't hear anything He has to say."

I hope you enjoy the taste of Primal and will add it you Christmas shopping list.  The book is due to make it's official release on December 22.

This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Liturgal Year

Just in time for the Advent season I have wrapped up The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister.  This book was a little bit of challenge for me because I don't come from a tradition that follows any type of liturgy. Nor do we follow any "church calendar." So thinking about the flow of the year in connection with the life of Christ is new to me.  Coming in as an outsider there were some terms that I wish had been better defined, but they are probably quite elementary for those whose traditions follow the liturgical year.
There are many great challenges within this short book which is part of the Ancient Practices Series.  One of the first, and most powerful to me is this,
"The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. It does not concern itself with the questions of how to make a living. It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life."
Isn't that what we are searching for, how to make our lives meaningful?
I would highly recommend The Liturgical Year for the reader who wants a deeper look into the experience of someone who has followed the liturgical calendar for a number of years.  Sister Joan Chittister is a gifted communicator who brings this Christian practice to life.  It has certain challenged me to rethink the way I spend the Sabbath, special days in the life of Christ, and time in general.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Breaking Out of the Funk

Yesterday I wrote about being in a "spiritual funk" and provide some advice about how to/not to get of such a funk.  Well, it happened today that I was reading Galatians and came across this verse (in the NLT):
"It doesn't matter whether we have been circumcised or not.
What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation."
It was exactly what I needed.  I have read through Galatians countless times, but today, reading it in a different translation, this verse hit me. My life in Christ is not a one time decision, it is a continual choice to change.  I get fired up when I see something in a different way.  It makes the passage feel new, although I have read it numerous times.  I love how God does that!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Getting Out of the Funk

We've all had the funk. I don't mean the mean the good, jammin' out to classic rock tunes funk.  I mean the stop reading your Bible, saying memorized prayers, going through the motions funk that all Christians seem to struggle with at some point or another.
I've been in the funk for awhile now. I've continued to lead prayers with my family at meals times and before bed. I've continued to teach a class on the book of James and attend a men's Bible study on Monday nights. Still the funk remains. I'm not really sure when it is going to leave, but here are a few things that have/have not helped in the past.

Things that Have Not Helped:
1. Trying to do more. It seems like you get in the funk, get behind on the daily Bible reading so you set aside some time to get caught up.  What happens is a marathon reading that allows little depth into the text.
2. No plan. Thinking, hey these things happen, I'll snap out of it soon.
3. Comparing myself to ourselves.  This is rarely a good idea. God made us in His image, not in the image of your best friend, next door neighbor, or anyone else.

Things that Have Helped:
1. Continue in the motions.  Yes, there are times when your whole heart may not be into it, but to stop altogether is not the better solution. There have been too many times when I have just been reading my Bible or listening to a song while in a funk that the Lord showed me something I had never seen before and then the funk was over.  Don't give up on the disciplines that have gotten you this far.
2. Admitting you're in a funk.  Simply recognizing that things are not how you want them to be is powerful.  Sharing that observation with others multiples the effect.
3.Change of place+change of pace=change of perspective. I first heard this from Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. It's great advice for getting out of any funk that you are in.

I hope the advice helps if you are in a funk.  What advice would you share?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Looking to Younger Examples

It never ceases to amazing me the things that I can learn from those who are younger than me.  This weekend I watched my determined 5 year old, Gabie run her first 5k- in Crocs no less!  Now, this wasn't planned. We showed up to the race on Saturday morning.  Meg, my wife, and her mom were going to run the Bison Stampede at Harding University.  The run raises money for the Sunshine School which helps special needs students.
Gabie asked if she could run as well, I guess because Meg and I have been running so much lately.  Well,  I thought she would make it around the first loop and she would be done, but she just kept going! Sure enough, here she is getting ready to cross the finish line at 38 minutes.  Not bad for someone who can't even tie her own shoes yet!

Another example is Austin Gutwein.  Austin has recently published his first book, Take Your Best Shot.  In Take Your Best Shot Austin shares how he was challenged to do something bigger than himself.  He was moved through the the efforts of World Vision to help children in Africa who were dying because of AIDS.  Although Austin is not a "basketball stud" he used his passion for the game to start a program called Hoops for Hope which is currently raising money to build a medical clinic in Zambia.  It's truly amazing to read about what Austin is doing.  This week at during our Sunday morning class the teens talked about not just waiting for programming created by the church, but to go out and live their faith today.  That is exactly what Austin, and many other young people are doing.  They are not the future of the church, they are the church today!  Now that I have finished reading Take Your Best Shot, I'll be passing it on to the youth group at Cloverdale, maybe some of the teens there will be inspired to do something BIG.

Let us always remember the advice that Paul gave in 1 Timothy 4:12,
"Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your live, your faith, and your purity." -NLT

Monday, October 26, 2009

Half Marathon Report

This weekend Meg and I, as well as 10 others from our running club at church ran in the Soaring Wings Half Marathon.  This was the first major step towards our goal of running the St. Jude's Marathon in Memphis during December. So here's the damage:
1. I hadn't run consistently for 4 weeks.  My last run before the race was a 15 mile run 2 weeks prior to the race.  I ran the 15 in 2:17, so I felt confident I would break 2 hours on race.  The only problem was I also developed an infection in my right hip, with a sore that is still open.
2. I went out too quickly.  Instead of being realistic about my training (especially over the the last 3 weeks) I went out thinking I could stay at my 9 minute pace with no problems.  What actually happen was I went out at  7:30 pace during the first two miles, leading me to puke twice during miles 4-6 while I pushed out an 11 minute pace during those 3 miles.  I quickly watched the 9:00 pace leader pass me by as I trudged up one of the many hills.
3. I finished the day 46 seconds behind my amazing wife who celebrated her 30th birthday on race day.
4. I learned to stick with my training, not skip the workouts, do the work, trust the plan.

I can't say enough good things about this race.  First, it was very well organized. The aid  stations were at even intervals that made it easy to know when you had one coming up. The city of Conway obviously cares about this event.  There were people everywhere! We ran through a couple of neighbors that had people lining the streets with signs, hands out to give passing runners high-fives and cheers all around.  My favorite was the guy at the top of the hill at mile 12 that keep yelling your name, encouraging you not to give up as you came to the crest this monster hill.  But the best part was the fact that kids from the ranch were there to pass out the medals at the finish line.  Great touch!  Without I doubt, we plan to be running this race again next year!
Finally, let me encourage you to check out Soaring Wings Ranch and read about their mission to help children.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Hardest Week of Training

This has been the hardest week of training, mainly because I haven't done any! Last week I had the flu, then Saturday a huge sore opened up on my hip (no gory picture, sorry!).  This weekend is the Soaring Wings Half Marathon in Conway.  My main goal this week is simply to try and get healthy and just do my best at the half as Meg and I prepare for our first marathon in December.  I would rather shoot for a great performance in December, than stress about training this week for the 1/2.  Hopefully things will be better by the end of this weekend.
Honestly, I'll be very disappointed if I don't break 2 hours in my run this weekend, but if I don't I'll know it's not because I can't, it's because of the hang ups I have had the last couple of weeks.  Hopefully on Monday I'll have plenty of pictures and a good report!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I believe that this life is preparation for the next, its the training crucible that refines and develops us for the plan that God has for us in the world to come.  This is my opportunity to share with you the various things that God is using to refine me.  There are the joys that come from raising 3 girls, the challenges of working at a Christ-centered drug treatment center for young men ages 14-24, the struggle of training for our first marathon (and hopefully many more to come) and the things that just seem to happen in life.  So if you can identify with any of these areas, I hope that you will check in often and share your own experience in the crucible.


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