Found this gem in my email this morning. It is from Pastor Gary, a good Haitian friend who pastors the church where we served last year for their annual crusade. As this crusade is coming around again, Pastor Gary was reminded of how our trip ended last year. Here are his poignant words:
Dear friends and Family in Christ,
As we approach November, the
period of our annual crusade, the church and I can't prevent our self to
think about you and keep reminding of your love, kindness and your service
for the Lord among us.
Since this regrettable event, I feel so
guilty and never find strength to write you but you were constantly and
regularly in our prayers. The Sunday morning that follows the week
of the crusade, we had a thanksgiving service for the crusade and was
praying for you for physical and emotional healing. It was with tears
that many people interceded for you.
We know this experience leaves a bitter taste about Haiti and our community especially. We are desperately sorry. If
you can't come in Haiti again, know we will keep preciously in our mind
the time we had shared in His service together.
We will not forget your music Joel Larison.
We can't forget the
Leadership Camp at Villa Mamika with you Jason Lee.
Your leadership and
sacrificial devotion to your team Jason Braun(that's a servant & a
Your courage Bruce Donaldson( you are in our prayer).
changing football team Curtis Stout.
Your encouragement (it was amazing to see a smile
on your face the morning after the tragedy. I see it again while I
write this) very dear pastor Morgan Young.
Thanks to pastor Mark Malin
who allows you to come each time.
And to all of you who had helped in
a kids Camp, build the stage for crusade or had involved in any other
ministry at Double Harvest, we say two words that come deeply from our
Thank You and we love you.
Keep doing the good work. If we don't meet again here, nothing can prevent our sure appointment in heaven with each
other and the Lord Jesus where we will rest eternally from our works.
In the last eight days I've done three talks for two churches and a manufacturing company, a book review for Tony Morgan's latest eBook and a wedding for long-time friends. I am tired, yet I am full.
What a great diversity of people I had the privilege of serving: my own cutting-edge church, a company of both blue and white collar employees, a church of 20-somethings to nonagenarians, and a family I've known for 30-some years. People who love & live for Jesus and Jesus-not-so-much people.
The great thread of the week was Jesus; He was in every writing, every talk. Maybe my favorite talk was the wedding. Getting to speak with a group that may or may not be into Jesus vibes with my soul, I'm sure because of my non-Jesus past. Many knew me in this setting who know little to nothing of a Morgan that is trying to live for Jesus. (Seriously, the stories they could tell...)
So to them, lines like these made sense: "Was it the apostle Paul or Jerry Garcia who said, 'What a long strange trip it's been?'" And, "Who would of thought that 30 years ago, hanging out around the pool at 1530 Taylor street, that today we'd be here--I'd be marrying you, and it would be legal?"
I'm glad that God gave me a sense of humor. Glad that He gave me a sense for the poignant and serious. Glad I get to blend them together so people can laugh and moments later, tear-up. I'm honored that the Holy Spirit uses a schmo like me to evoke those responses from people. I'm glad I can write and speak in ways that serve people and honor God--and even perhaps pull people closer to Him.
Who'd a thunk some thirty years ago when I thought about writing that God would give me such rich opportunities to serve people and Him? Who would've thought that the guy who was pounding margaritas and beer like a sailor around that pool on Taylor St. would be used to serve that family thirty years later? So humbling. So grateful.
Indeed Jerry--what a long strange trip it's been! And I wouldn't trade it for anything. Tired, but full.
One thing I love about the eBook concept is books can be concise, to the point, and practical (because printing costs don't need to be justified). Tony Morgan's latest is a great example.
His premise is a simple one: so go your senior leaders, so goes your organization. I used the word organization because I believe this book is applicable to all organizations, not just churches.
Being on the senior leadership team at Oakbrook Church, this was a sobering read. Sobering because this book is an honest reminder that time and position do not justify a seat at the leadership table. Sobering because the health and state of your organization is directly tied to its senior leadership.
Having been on a leadership team for almost a decade and a half, his lists of must do's and must not do's rang true--sometimes eerily, conjuring up our past mistakes. What mistakes could we have avoided had we read this years ago?
Like so many things in our Christian faith, the concepts Tony Morgan lays are seem clear and simple. Yet, I can tell the application and appropriation of them will be much more challenging. I loved that he included evaluative questions. I predict our team will wrestle with these in the days and weeks ahead.
I read this book with anticipation, as our church is stuck. We've been hovering around the same number for more than a few years now. It was sobering that a person who's expertise in helping churches get unstuck put so much emphasis on the make-up of the senior leadership team.
"Determining who is on your senior leadership team will shape every other decision."
I am anxious to begin the process of self-evaluating our team and optimistic about the process of it-- not because it will be easy (I'm confident it will be tough), but because this simple and clear eBook will serve as a dependable and legible road map for that journey.
If you are part of a senior leadership in your organization or church, pick this up. Who knows how many mistakes it will prevent and how much healthy leadership it may usher in.
My one bit of constructive feedback might be that it could have actually been a little longer. Yes, longer. Some real life examples here and there would have created some higher def points along the way. Still, well worth it!
We've been talking in our church about the risk of sharing our faith. In a culture where more than ever, reality is up to the individual, espousing one way to heaven sounds like craziness. So there's a risk of being taken for a fool. There's also the risk of one way to heaven being true and the repercussions of that playing out. Regardless of what one believes, 100% of people will spend eternity somewhere.
It's been a great week! Finally--after hearing my wife Sandra, and so many others for years say, "You know, you should write a book." I did!
And here's the crazy thing: after pouring over this text since June--ready? I still like it. I'm not sick of it. I think (dare I say) God is in it. And I'm excited about how this little book might actually affect some degree of change in this world.
So to the fantastic love of my life, Sandra and all my friends: thank you for all the encouragement. I heard every word and appreciated each encouragement to write. Life is a collective and you are part of it. Thank you.
IF you liked it, and only if---I would love help sharing this. Could you email a few people that you think could benefit from reading it? Might you Facebook or Tweet it to your friends?
I made it free for just this reason--to easily share like crazy. If you like it, I'd love your help sharing it.
"Why did that guy go shooting in a movie theater?"
"Why doesn't Chick-fil-a condone gay lifestyle?
"Why is my friends' marriage all jacked up?
"Why do Christians think Jesus would watch Fox News?"
This is a problem. I'm sorry--it's not actually a problem if you're a non-Christian American. It's only a problem if you're a Christ follower.
Why, you ask? (see there you go again...)
The life of a Christ follower isn't about clear directions through life and clear answers to tough questions. It's more about a journey communing with God and each other. It's more about how and with whom, more than what, where, when, and why. And we love those 4-Ws!
This is revealed in our prayers all of the time. Listen to the degree we start a prayer request to God with what, where, when, and why. We want specifics from God and soon, please. I rarely start my prayers with, "I'm just glad you're here, God."
But it seems lately that being an American is pretty much about demanding answers so we can get mad at someone and hold them responsible for why something happened. (There's that word again.)
But the Bible reads like the journey trumps the destination. And when you think about it, being on a journey where how we travel is more important than having the right destination sounds very hippie. Sounds wishy-washy. It doesn't sound American. We Americans are about the declarative. We dig road signs and good clear explanations that help us sleep better.
But Jesus seems more like, "Dude, let's hang out. Love is where it's at bro. Let's slooooow it down."
Ironically in America I think we believe that Jesus would be in the NRA, watch Fox News and talk bad about liberals.
Regardless of what you or I think, Jesus loves people who watch Fox News and MSNBC. He loves gun-toters and gun-loathers. He loves conservatives, liberals and people who defy political labels.
I'm not saying He's a hippie, but Jesus did have some hippie tendencies.
He's not in a hurry. "Dude, just chill. Lazarus will keep, man."
He hangs out at parties. "Dude, don't worry, I'll make some awesome wine."
He digs people that turn off religious folk. "Dude, you wanna chuck the first stone, bro?"
All I'm saying is the Bible doesn't read like He's a type-A, "let's get 'r done," American. But He does seemed concerned.
Concerned about the Father and His story.
Concerned about eternity.
Concerned about you. About me.
Concerned about being with us when a gunman goes horribly wrong.
Concerned about people who run Chick-fil-a.
Concerned about people who aren't eating there anymore.
He's not hung up on the why. He's hung up on the Father and He's hung up on you.
Maybe the next time a bit of insanity breaks out in your life, instead of knee-jerk asking why---maybe metaphorically turn to Jesus and say in your best hippie voice, "I got You, babe."
I grew up in an apolitical home. My father would never tell me whom he voted for and my mother was the classic, "Oh, I like him," for purely intuitive reasons. The only political thing that sticks out in my memory is that my mom hated Jimmy Carter--because he was a hick and talked funny.
My parents also never took us to church; ever. So faith and politics are things I've happened upon and observed. I have no inherited bias on either.
Coming into and growing into my faith as an adult, I've decided that the way of Jesus is paramount in my life. And I've decided that politics is a necessary evil that I have to pay attention to, but I will not elevate it in my life. It will not be my rudder, nor my identity, nor will I espouse a party more than what voting in the primaries requires.
I've observed most of my adult life that Christians vote republican. The reason for this that I've heard more than any other?
"He's a Christian man. We need a man with Christian values leading this Christian nation!"
So I've always logically deduced that Christians were saying what they meant. They were in essence voting for a man in a relationship with Jesus and who espoused, and believed in Christian values.
Lately I've noticed an interesting wrinkle.
Many Christian republicans, nationally and locally; including my friends on Facebook and Twitter, are posting this little sound bite:
"No president since FDR has won re-election with unemployment over 7.2%."
My knee-jerk thought, "We've also never elected a president who was a member of a cult."
You may think the word cult is mean or derogatory. It's simply descriptive, and in this case, appropriate. Mitt Romney is a Mormon. At a glance, Mormonism looks like Christianity's brother religion. But looking closer we see:
> There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.
> Mormons don't find the work of Christ on the cross to be sufficient for salvation, but rather the starting point.
> Mormon's believe that Jesus was a polygamist having married Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus.
> Mormonism's own teachings and doctrines make clear they do not follow the Jesus of the Bible, but rather a Jesus of their own making.
So by the standard we might utter that phrase, meaning decisions and choices; of how many people in our own churches, could we also say, "They're not really Christians."?
Let's pause here, as you may be falsely assuming this is a blog to promote a political agenda.
My point is, our Christian credibility is on the line when heretofore we've been very vocal about voting for the Christian candidate, when we now seem to be vocal about voting for the "lesser of two evils" and advocating a president who is admittedly Mormon; in a cult.
By back-handedly advocating a Mormon over a Christian, we appear to a watching world of unbelievers to be more republican than Christian.
This is why Christianity and politics are horrible bedfellows. It can lead us to a point to embrace a non-Christian member of a cult because they act and legislate in a way that seems more "christian" to us.
This is why, in a world we want to be black and white; there are unavoidable sticky shades of gray.
This is why we should be wholly known by the way of Jesus in us; not our political affiliation.
I think if Jesus were to pop onto the scene right now, He might not turn over the money-changing tables in the Temple. But He might violently pull a bunch of democrat and republican signs out of our yards and churches.
More to come on this subject in my upcoming ebook: The Christ Followers New Clothes; the Illusion of Politics.
I love it when local businesses survive being assimilated or obliterated by the national big box chains. This little shop having survived the last few years of a staggering economy and the domination of the Walmart and Target bicycle departments is indeed a Victory.
For most of my life this business was located on Sycamore St. just off the downtown square, and had been run by gentleman first class, Charles Sullivan. He was a man from another era. He always wore leather shoes and a dress shirt to work.
When Victory moved to its new home on N. Washington in the same building as Bob's Pawn, I wondered if the business had moved in name only.
Some of it is the same; display cases for one. I'd peered droolingly into those wood-framed glass cases as a little boy, ogling balsa rockets, slot cars and scads of bike accessories.
The digs are new and crisp. Clean slat-wall displays, a computer atop the ancient counter, and carpeting.
The personnel is both the same and different. Dave runs the shop. No leather shoes. No dress shirt. Casual. Cycling pants and shoes, depending on the day.
But Dave is a Victory guy in the best (Charles Sullivan) sense of the word. He's easy going; no pressure. "See something you like? Just take her for a spin!"
He's taking the phrase customer service off the oxymoron list. He wants the customer to be happy. He wants to service what he sells. He appreciates that the money one puts down to buy a bike didn't come easy.
He's warmly colorful. "Look, I had a bad accident and hit my head a few years ago so if I space out or start the same story again, just tell me." Dave is a good-hearted man providing great local service in a faceless franchised world.
Their main bike brands are Specialized, Cannondale, KHS, Fuji and Eastern. They stock a surprising amount of inventory for a modest-sized shop. And their prices are as good, usually better, than shops in Indianapolis.
If you're thinking about a new bike, consider Dave and his crew at Victory Bike Shop. And if it's been a while since you've been on a bike, the new technology and comfort has come a long way over the years.
The fact that I was excited to ride 18 miles on my bike, in many ways, is a testament to the year that has been: starting a health plan with Dr. Haendigas, surviving Haitian gunmen, working out at the YMCA with trainer Nicole Peel & friends--all these things have guided me to a place where I was physically and mentally able to do this. I never would have considered this ride a year ago.
The event really was kicked-off by tail-gate-maestro, Greg Taylor. Within minutes of arriving, he pulled a grill out of my van and cooked up totally yummy marinated chicken breast pieces. Accompanied by: Lynnell's 2 kinds of made-that-day salsa, sweet potato fries, cookie bars; Suzanne's large vegetable tray, various fruits and other noshy treats by the Herrs & Shappells. It was a symphony of healthy treats--great healthy fuel before the trek.
The picture at the top of this post is the melee of thousands of cyclists staged for the dark ride. Small sections of the hoard were released at a time, staggering our collective start. It took about 45 minutes to start all cyclists. The first group started at 11:00 pm.
While we waited and nudged forward we were serenaded with motivational and fun tunes through a great P.A. system: Stars & Stripes Forever - Sousa, Bicycle -Queen, Theme to Rocky, In the Mood -Glenn Miller, Star Wars Theme, Rockin' Down the Highway -Doobies, and the like.
It was great to ride through the heart of downtown and around the Circle as people gawked, waived, and cheered. The police cleared the streets for us, sometimes completely, other times just our side of the street.
Shortly after getting out of downtown I heard some faint music. I came upon two cool dudes in recumbent bikes. They had jams--Lowrider by War! Made me totally laugh out loud!
(example of recumbent trikes.)
The unofficial vibe of the event is anything goes. All types, ages and shapes of people. Every kind of bike imaginable. I will say this; it seemed like a pretty docile bunch. Out of the 3,500+ people in and around the event I never saw the need for an officer of the law.
The only requirements for the ride are a headlight, helmet, the ability to finish within two hours and an entry fee of $23-$29. Some people take a leisurely pace, talking the whole time; some going for their best time and everything in between.
I was somewhere in the middle; sometimes talking with my mates and other times pushing it. The Taylors and I finished somewhere in the 1:40 time frame, mostly because we were trying to keep up with Lynnell, heretofore known as "The Pacesetter." There is a break available halfway through. We stopped for only a minute or two and decided to carry on.
In the midst of the ride I could definitely appreciate the cumulative effects of my Y workouts since January. Having never ridden more than ten miles up to this point I was curious how I'd fare. I'm proud to say I was confidently churning along, even pushing it pretty hard on the second half of the ride; several times whizzing by clusters of leisurely riders.
By the end, I was ready for the finish line, but nothing close to painfully so. I was tired but still had fuel left in the tank (must have been that great tail gate). The only annoyance by the end was a slight discomfort in the posterior region, perhaps remedied by a different sent and/or pants.
I have to say that I was really impressed with my Specialized (brand) Crossroads (model) bike, for the simple fact that I never thought about it the entire ride. That meant it was performing the way I expected it to and to a degree that never brought it into question. I recently swapped out the stock bars for some nondescript flat bars which has made a world of difference. Very comfortable and not one back nag over the 18 mile trek!
Plug: Dave and the crew at Kokomo's Victory Bike Shop are stellar. Great products and they're bringing back meaning to the fading term, customer service.
The only thing that was missing was my girl, Sammy Jo! She couldn't make it due to schedule conflicts. But there's always next year! Saturday June 22, 2013, in fact.
Great time and great friends who made the experience meaningful:
No. But I wonder if his popularity trail doesn't mirror the cultural trend that it's ok to be (shall we say) less than mature well into one's twenties?
When I was in my late teens all I wanted to do was grow up. Mature. Be my own man. Be thought of as a man instead of a kid. My observations of that same demographic now, led me to believe that today's 20-something guitar heroes have different aspirations.
It seems to me based on movies and the pictures and anecdotes shared on social media, that being a 20-something isn't about being the man as much as it's license to be kid-like.
To be clear, this isn't necessarily right or wrong. When I was in my twenties being in a bar drinking too much might have been my "manly," while taking goofy pictures of you and your friends in Walmart might be the event du jour. One may appear more mature, but I assure you it isn't.
Observations can be highly suspect, so I did some data-digging to see what I could find:
> In 1970, 69% of white men were married by 25 according to Bookings Institution.
> In 2003, 33% of white men were married by 25.
>In 1970, 70% of 30 year olds had married, started a family and achieved financial independence.
>By 2000, that figure had dropped below 40%.
>More young men and women are attending college, but the median number of years to complete a degree has risen from four to five since 1970.
Check this out. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a research professor at Clark University claims there is currently a kind of extended adolescence from 18 to late 20s. He calls it an emerging childhood.
"People don't go from adolescence to young adulthood at 18,19,20 as they did 50 years ago. It doesn't happen until close to age 30 for most people now," Arnett said.
This new dynamic does not just fall on the shoulders of 20-somethings. Their parents are more involved with them than any other parents in our history. This creates some new challenges. As life coach Christine Hassler said,
"They're closer to their parents than any other generation, and that impacts not feeling like a grown-up, because they're still highly parented into their twenties. One of the things I have to work with my clients on is getting them to stop calling their parents multiple times a day and consulting them for every decision that they make."
Sarah Fulghum, a 25 year old editor-in-chief says, "You can't blame these people for prolonging their teenage years, when their parents make it so easy. If society wants 20-somethings to become adults, it all starts with their parents expecting them to be adults and holding them to that standard."
Similarly, Brookings senior fellow William Galston said,
"No one resists or resents it (help, financial and otherwise from parents). Young people expect it. They expect it because their parents won't let them fail."
That last sentence stings a bit. What parent hasn't stepped in to prevent their older teen child's failure? And so it seems by this statement, that failure may be the path of maturity. Letting our children fail may be critical to our children's maturity and something we parents ironically fail at.
So what do I know?
It seems that millennials (generation Y) are in fact delaying adulthood more than prior generations.
As a parent of this generation, I have to learn to parent in such a way that encourages true independence while remaining relationally in touch with my children. Easier said than done.
For 20-somethings, I encourage you to work hard to be your own man. It's always taken hard concerted effort and it always will. It's always harder than playing Crazy Train on Guitar Hero. As a generational father to you, I am here to help. Even if what you need is for me to let you fail.
Now, who wants to sit down and laugh our asses off over The Wedding Singer?
"Discipleship is the art of pilgriming, the artistry of following Jesus. Or the capacity to be caught up in what God is doing in the world today.
We think art has to be made out of oil paint, bronze, or marble. But art can be made out of flesh and blood too. Jesus wants to turn you into artwork, But pilgriming is an art form that takes a lifetime to dry."
Sometimes art takes itself too seriously. I think we're in a mode where music is doing just that. And the funny thing is the seriousness is both secular and in worship music. Look at the collage; four of them are Christian artists. Pretty serious ;-)
Art reflects life; always has, always will. So our seriousness bugs me. Don't get me wrong, when serious has a purpose, I get it. But it feels like we're being over-serious because it's in vogue.
When a song protests or decries something wrong, seriousness is appropriate. But one of the reasons I like and play music is because it's fun. You remember fun? It's that emotion that makes your lips widen and your teeth show.
Fun is easily dismissed as pop or unimportant or fluff. I suggest that fun is critical to us as people. Are we ever attracted to people void of fun? I think not. (Unless of course accountants are attracted to other accountants...) So I look to art expectantly, to embrace fun.
Just yesterday I was tweeting with a friend of mine over the artist, Banksy. He suggested that his art comes off as saying something, but isn't really saying something. (click here to view some Banksy)
After looking over his art I concluded that some of his art was saying something and some of it was funny. Trivial. Humorous. In other words, not saying anything. I concluded I liked that Banksy runs the gamut of light fodder to saying something. Sometimes I'm in the mood for fun and other times I want a message. Seriousness and fun. 'Tis life.
And I mentioned Christian worship music. I get that there are serious themes and anthems. Is there not also unspeakable joy we could sing about? (Caveat: no one smiles more than Chris Tomlin ;-)
It just seems there's a lot of seriousness in the vibe of worship music these days at the exclusion of the joy of God, or at the exclusion that our God is fun as well. Not that I'm trying to bring back "The Happy Song" (oh dear), but that vibe seems absent.
Maybe I'm just a guy who likes variety. Maybe I look to art to give me a departure from news headlines as well as speak to them.
Maybe we're missing a little of what Bare Naked Ladies and Smash Mouth brought to the table a few years ago. Cee Lo may be trying single-handedly to bring fun back. Even though I dug him more with Gnarles, I respect that the man can sing and has a sense of humor about himself. Perhaps even too much so ;-)
Perhaps I'm tired of artists taking themselves so darned seriously. As a person, as an artist, I love to live in the variety of emotion we've been blessed to experience. As much as I can stew and rant over the worst injustice, I love nothing more than to lmbo.
As I was praying with Karl Stoneking this morning, I realized that one of the things I most appreciative is the virtual big brothers in my life. These are men that are just a bit ahead of me; guys I look to, to see how they're navigating things that I will have to deal with in the near future.
They are men I can go to. Look to. Count on. I appreciate them probably more than they know. So I just wanted to get this out there. It's always great to praise people--catch them doing things right, in public.
So here's to my older brothers (in no particular order). Thank you for who you are to me!
Ho-MOG-e-nous: of the same or similar kind of nature.
As much as I love how our country has grown and excelled in my lifetime, I have a parallel hatred with the homogenization of America.
Growing up in the '70s, I used to enjoy going to Cincinnati for vacations in the summer. They had different stores and different restaurants.
Now everyone has an Applebees, Starbucks, 3 of every fast food restaurant, and a large department store (the name doesn't matter: Macy's, Elder Beerman, Nordstrom--all the same).
We have franchised our world.
There are some upsides to this, like Starbucks will always have solid legit coffee. I can always find a decent product in town.
But there is a problem: one cannot franchise personality.
As much as Starbucks can control the freshness and automate the consistency of their coffees, the personality of the south Kokomo Starbucks is still pedestrian. You can't franchise everything.
Ever made a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy? The final image is not so sharp. And in coffee terms, Kokomo's Starbucks persona is a long way from Pike Place in Seattle.
In tech terms this annoys me. Why do I hate Instagram? It's not because it puts a cool effect on your picture and makes it easy to share. It is because now everyone's pictures look exactly the same.
Which is to say, everyone's Instagram'd pictures now have personality: one personality, Instagram's personality--not your unique personality. Your pictures now look like everyone else's pictures. How incredibly boring.
This is one of the reasons I don't use a Mac computer: they are all the same. Go to any franchised Starbucks and look at all the people on the same computer. How unique.
(Reminds me of the old joke: A biker rally is defined as 100,000 rugged individualists all dressed alike.)
I use a PC because #1 a machine doesn't make or break my creativity and #2 I get to pick which one I like: how it looks, the color, chunky, slim etc. I choose.
Some days I wish I didn't have this curse. Life would be easier. I'd fit in better. I'd be less annoyed. I'd go with the flow easier. But I just hate homogeneous.
I love seeing the little shop that makes gyros you can't get anywhere else. I love to hear an old song in a new way. I love it when I can say about an artist, "She's not like anyone else!" It's refreshing to hear worship music that doesn't sound like Passion or Hillsong United. And I love turning on Austin City Limits to see who's not mainstream.
And yet, at the same time...I want to fit in just enough...to be considered...to be heard. So I guess I have me threshold. I want to be homogeneous enough to be included in the conversation...to fan the flames of diversity and non-compliance. I want to be homogeneous enough to be taken seriously, but not so much that I get assimilated.
Shear audio volume? No.
Outgoing gregarious nature? No.
Sense of humor? No.
Ability to wrap an office? No.
(Although I am impressed to some degree with all of the above.)
What then? His insatiable quest for feedback.
Last year I got closer to Niko as he sat in as I led the Protege Program. He and I would then spend some one-on-one time together. I struggle for the right word. Iit could be called
Whatever you call it, he just keeps coming back for it.
Recently he was up to teach in our high school ministry. He asked if I would come and listen to his talk and give him feedback.
After the talk, I wasn't looking forward to the feedback session. It wasn't that I hadn't caught him doing some things right, it's just that I also had some harsh feedback to give. Feedback that I knew was going to be contrary to all the "Great job!" comments he'd heard.
I was somewhat surprised when two weeks later he asked me for the same thing: please come listen and provide feedback.
I love this about Niko. After my first feedback session, a lot of people would have decided to seek some reviews from someone who might be less honest and more applauding.
But he said that he appreciates all the kind things people tell him after he gives a talk, but he wants to hear the critical constructive criticism that most people will not provide.
Get this: Niko does not report to me under our organizational structure--yet, he invites me, with all my honesty, to constructively speak into him.
On some accounts I've actually apologized for my potentially ruffling truth-telling. To which he's responded, "No, I appreciate it--I want to hear it!"
I love this about Niko. He's so earnest about what he's doing for the Kingdom that he's laying aside the comfort of polite accolade and insisting that someone like me, speak truthfully into him. He's saying no to the comfort of ego and yes to the potential pain of unbridled coaching.
Let me clearly say, I am honored, humbled and excited to be in his corner--to have access to his life and influence. I love that (and many other things) about Niko. And I am in his corner. I am a fan, a friend, a brother--someone who loves him enough to "stab him in the front" as someone said.
(For the record, I do catch him doing things right as often as I can--and he does numerous things exceedingly well!)
I recently heard Len Sweet say, "I hate accountability partners! What we all need is an editor; someone to poke, push and help us be better. And we all need a best friend."
And all this is very true and very biblical. I love how (unlike so much of our culture) the Bible is multi-generational. I love how Niko and I are multi-generational, yet friends, fellow workers, and a duo that the Holy Spirit is using in both of our lives, to bring His best out of us, for the greater good. I love Niko.
WE DID IT! We worked out 5 days a week for twelve weeks and lived to blog the tale!
Thursday was our last day with our trainer, Nicole Peel. We assembled in the lobby and she said, "Let's end by doing a 5k walk-jog."
So here's the crazy part: after 12 weeks I was like, "Ok." Seriously, if she hadn't killed us yet, what were the odds this would do us in? So off we hoofed from the Y heading west towards Forest Park. We walked, jogged, (more walking than jogging) laughed, and did just fine.
On our way home I said, "There is one activity we could beat Nicole in." All quietly looked at me with anticipation amidst labored breathing. "Teeter totter..."
I think Nicole will actually miss us, if for no other reason: comic relief.
According to our collective MyFitnessPal app the weight loss results since Jan. 9th are:
Humility is key. Humble yourself to a trainer, to each other, and to the reality that you and your body are where you are. Every day in the gym is humbling.
If I can learn to workout, ANYONE can!
I like it. I like working out more than sloth. It's good for my soul and my self worth and for those who love me.
It's holistic; it's nutritional and physical. Dr. Haendigas + a workout program (+ God) = health
The costs for nutrition & working out outweigh the future costs of debilitating health
There is no cultural divide in the gym. We are all just humans in shorts & Ts sweating, trying to get better
CONTINUE! Dave and I worked out Friday. And without Nicole, we put ourselves through a weight workout and even did 2 self-imposed sets of stairs (Oh Lord--I hate stairs...).
My goal for the twelve weeks wasn't a weight. It was a lifestyle. My goal is to continue 5 days a week. I'm also planning on buying a couple nice bicycles for Sandra & I to add to a more active lifestyle.
To the Y for this opportunity; for their staff that is kind and encouraging.
Nicole: she will never fully know what she's done to--er um, for me ;-)
Dave & Chad: I could NOT have done this without Hombres!
Sandra: constant encourager and the co-conspirator of this experience.
Sandy, Lisa, Trish and the host of encouragers in the gym.
You: for reading, caring, praying etc. We are all in this together.
God: He is the Giver & Orchestrator of all good things & this has been exceedingly good indeed!
As much as I am into words--words fail to capture what this experience means to me. It's definitely one of the most profound 12 week stretches of my life. Blessed...
Last Thursday and Friday I had the honor of sitting with about 30 other people in an intimate room, having a conversation with Len Sweet.
Let me first share who he is to me. Some 20-ish years ago I decided to take this fledgling faith of mine seriously. Having no history in church whatsoever, I had catching up to do. That meant there were books and the Bible to be read.
At this time I was finding myself asking the question, "Do I really fit in this faith? Does a guy like me with a bent towards intellect and the arts actually fit in, in Christendom?"
Along came Sweet's book, "A Cup of Coffee by the Soul Cafe." My soul relaxed. "I DO fit! There is a place for someone like me!" This may appear like a shallow statement, but I assure you, none of us will sign up or show up to anything unless we can see ourselves mirrored there.
His writings helped ground me in spiritual disciplines and in theology. His book "Learn to Dance the Soul Salsa" helped me lead the most fun and interactive small group--it marked all of us.
In a lull I got to share the essence of those last two paragraphs with Len. (And yes, we're on a first name basis.) And when the 2 days came to a close, I got into his space with a hug. A handshake seemed too linear--too Gutenberg ;-)
So how did I get in a little room of thirty people hanging with this spiritual uncle of mine? Via the generous staff at Westwinds church in Jackson MI.
I can't say enough about how God moistened my soul in those two days. I've been to so many great seminars with thousands or hundreds in attendance. But to be in an intimate room without microphones. Just voices. Natural interaction. Breathing. Talking. Together. So good...
I've put together a Tweet-style PDF that reflects my interpretation of our two day conversation.
So this week was a milestone for me: I've lost 30.5 lbs since last fall and 4.5 lbs in the last 2 weeks. Needless to say I was pretty pumped and excited.
I haven't been focusing on my total weight loss because it had been going slow for a while; I'd just focus on the weekly numbers. But after DeAnna at Dr. Haendigas' told me I'd lost 4.5 since my last weigh-in I was curious. When she said 30.5 I got a serious case of perma-grin!
After I workout today or tomorrow, that will wrap-up 11 straight weeks of working out and will leave just one more week with our trainer (and life to go)!
Thursday and Friday I was out of town for a cool experience (I'll blog about later). We stayed at a hotel and I learned an important lesson: ALWAYS TAKE YOUR WORKOUT GEAR. I didn't think I'd have time for it. Thought wrong.
Turns out I had time and they had a nice little room with an elliptical, recumbent bike and treadmill. "Oh well." I shrugged it off and headed out to dinner. I had an ale with my lobster pizza and in a moment of weakness took down a couple complimentary cheddar bay biscuits.
As I was walking the block or two back to the hotel I wasn't feeling too positive. I'd sat all day, eaten more food than usual and I was feeling kind of blah. I knew what to do.
I left on my black dress shirt, along with my sexy calf length black socks, threw on my sleeping shorts and hit the workout room. I looked like a class-A, USDA prime DORK! But hey, nobody knows me here ;-)
Another important lesson learned: drink an ale AFTER you workout ;-) "Ok , here we go--15 minutes on each machine, you can do it!" It was hard going. Every 5 minute increment felt like a battle. But I pushed through it and felt MUCH better the rest of the evening. The blah feeling was chased away.
The third lesson learned? Better to workout looking like a dork than be a well dressed blah-feeling sluggard ;-) If I can do this, anyone can do this!
We are scared of public restrooms and germs even though virtually every soap we use is anti-microbial and a simple hand-washing now is akin to a surgeon's pre-op scrub-up 20 years ago.
We are scared of what's going to happen to our kids while they are away from us at school, or wherever; even though we live in one of the statistically safest communities.
We are scared the next president is always going to take away our guns even though no president has ever done it and it would be instant political suicide.
If it helps, I am tempted to be scared sometimes too. Just last week I watched as Slater drove away from our home alone, legally licensed. Fear crept in, "What if?..."
If it helps, companies spend millions of dollars to scare us into their products. Insurance companies, investment companies and every home cleaning product company, spend 30-60 seconds to remind us of the horrible things in store for us without their product. Cleaning product companies are single-handedly creating a nation of germaphobes.
Just for fun, every time a commercial comes on, see if you can see the fear-motivation of it. It's rampant.
Rational fear is fine. A few weeks ago there was a crazed gunman who shot 4 people in the vicinity of downtown Kokomo. I was scheduled to be downtown for a workout. The shooter had yet to be apprehended. No workout that day. Rational fear.
The problem is irrational fear takes our mind off of things truly worthy of our attention and diverts it to trivialities. Oh, and also gets us worked up. Stress. Blood pressure.
And it robs us of today's blessings. When Slate drove away I had a choice: fret about what could happen. Get tense. Furrow my brow. Breathe seriously.
Or I could celebrate that a great responsible kid with solid driving skills just embarked on a new phase of his life.
Every day that nothing is wrong is a gift! (Even some bad things bring gifts, but that's another blog.) And when we worry about things that could happen, we're spitting on today's blessings. Instead of being wrapped up in smiles and all that is right, we tie ourselves up in fruitless knots. And it's a choice.
Be thankful. Give thanks. Maybe the reason we often say, "Where was God?" when something bad happened is because we hadn't given Him any thanks the other 364 days of the year. If today's got no emergencies, no real problems, dance! Smile! Hug someone! If you're so inclined, thank God!
The difference between living in fear vs. thankfulness is right between our ears. It's a choice. Fear only has the power we give it. The solution to a fearful existence is a thankful spirit.
The next time you're driving, or standing in line somewhere, see how many things you can notice that are going RIGHT in your life. Everyday is full of gifts. We just need to see and appreciate them.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go wash my hands after typing on this germ-filled keyboard ;-)
It could be because the staff is warm and friendly. It's actually a place where customer service is not an oxymoron.
It could be because a family can workout ad nauseam for $47 a month. (more prices)
But maybe a more profound reason to choose the Y is your membership pays forward to help others in our community. As a non-profit, I bet you didn't know:
Because they don't want to turn away anyone, they gave away 412 memberships in 2011 totaling $219,108. Part of your membership makes it possible for people to pursue health that can't otherwise afford it.
They waived $58,090 in program fees in '11 so 270 children could participate in YMCA childcare, youth sports and aquatic programs.
Bridges Outreach meets four times a week at the Y in its own dedicated space free of charge. This ministry feeds, tutors and mentors at-risk youth in our community.
So on Thursday at the Y we head over to the Paramount Weight Machines to start a rotation of three leg workouts. And Nicole says, "Let's do sets of 50." (We usually do 20.)
I'm thinking, "Holy schnikies, I'm going to have to bust it through these or there's no way I'm going to get 50 reps on multiple rotations of these three machines." And so I do. I'm kickin' 'em as fast as I can.
After I get done with the second machine (leg extensions), I get the slightest touch of a headache; but it goes away. After two more machines I'm back on Mr. Leg Extension. I'm kickin in. Then it kicks back: "WHAM!" Instantaneous ridiculously painful headache. Feels like someone hit me with a knife on the top/back center of my cranium. It stopped me cold in my tracks.
After sitting there a few seconds, I tell Nicole what's going on. "That's not good," she calmly and seriously says. "That's not good. Maybe you should get your blood pressure checked."
After a few minutes of walking it off and contemplating the rest of the workout and that freakish never-before-experienced headache, I decide to head over to Dr. Haendigas' office since I was due to weigh in anyway and they always take my vitals.
They take my blood pressure: high. "Let's get Dr. Haendigas in here." I get a little uneasy now as nurse DeAnna has instructions to not let me out of her sight. Hmmm. Enter Dr. Haendigas.
Doc: "I want you to get a CT scan."
Me: "Seriously? Do I really need one?"
Doc: "I'm concerned about the pain in your head while working your legs. This may be nothing but...yes, you are my friend, and I want you to do this."
Sidebar: I cannot express how highly I think of Dr. Haendigas and her staff. When I'm there it doesn't feel like medical staff and patient; it feels like friends--well, because we are now. Having the nurses express concern and for Dr. Haendigas to look me in the eyes and say, "you're my friend and I want you to go." Well friends, that makes a profound impression. And it was great to hear DeAnna say, "You'll be in my prayers." I so admire and love these ladies. If you need help losing weight, I can't recommend Dr. Haendigas enough. And no, I don't get anything for mentioning her in my blog. I'm simply a fan...and a friend.
My day got even better when Sandra & I got to the hospital and our favorite nurse, Jaime Verlee was working ER. (Sandra missed her Y dinner to be with her man; she's my awesomeness!)
After the 5 minute CT scan, Dr. Williams came in with incredibly positive, almost pumped, body language and tone. "...we even had our specialist in Indy look at your scan already, and your brain is perfect...your brain is beautiful!"
"Doc, I'm seriously going to tweet that."
(At this point Sandra is officially over listening to me recant the doc's quotes...)
He explained that at this age they can see future nastiness like dementia, and other long term brain-related yuckiness and my brain looks awesome. He told me to go back to the gym and keep working hard!
So what happened--why the headache?
It seems that Jaime Verlee was the first to crack the mystery when she asked, "So were you breathing when you were kickin' these reps?" (She knew this from her own workout experience.)
As I reflected on her question, I thought probably not. I was probably holding my breath several times during the 50 reps and my brain told me to stop it, idiot!
Friday, Dave Dubois did a great job of explaining breathing and weights--all great stuff because I'm clueless to this world. Dave & I went on to have a solid 45 minute cardio workout on the elliptical machines. I felt good.
I'm an American. Therefore I think I can do anything I set my mind to. I have American achiever genes, so if I just focus and channel my inner badass, there's nothing I cannot do.
On some level we all believe that. And this is pure crap.
Several months ago I pushed down my pride, and took a bite of a humility sandwich when I walked into Dr. Haendigas's office and confessed that I don't know how to lose weight. I confessed that in this area of my life I am anything but a badass.
Six weeks ago I pushed down some more pride (it gets easier, you know) when I walked into the YMCA with Dave and Chad and we collectively admitted to Nicole Peele that we needed her help.
Every day that I work out there's always a Local Schwarzenegger pushing weight like nobody's business. Or there's a Sandy McNulty racing next to me on the elliptical machine as I pant my way through my slow-to-moderate pace.
It's humbling to pedal half as fast and yet sweat and pant just as much. It's humbling struggling with minimal weights in the same room as the 5' 4" woman lifting more than her own weight over her head. Seriously.
Focusing on your challenges in the gym in the midst of people who are metaphorical miles ahead of you is humbling.
Everyday I willingly go to the Y because Dave, Chad and Nicole will be there and you will be wondering about my next blogpost. And in the company of this team, I am reminded that this not a journey I could do on my own. I need them. I could not do this alone. To realize my need for others is humility.
So what do you want do or change in your life? What new play is stirring in your heart? What do you hope changes between today and your funeral?
Change happens through humility. You can do it...but not alone. You need people who know what you do not. And you need some hombres; some great people to journey with you! In humility, YOU CAN DO IT!
True humility and fear of the LORD lead to riches, honor, and long life.