ThanksLiving Right

It’s easy to love this time of year.

The smoky smells of autumn, the traces of fall color, the countdown to Christmas…

…the thought of a better year beyond the horizon.

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense the third of week of November has become this pre-holiday rush pedestal, a calm before the storm we all know as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.

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If so, consider this post a take among many seeking to re-establish Thanksgiving as its own sacred entity.

For while most grasp the importance of giving thanks, not all see it as an unconditional reality as the will of God in Christ Jesus for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18) where gratitude is contagious, sacrifice a cheerful obedience metric, and thanksgiving a light share as opposed to a light switch (see Isaiah 58:8, Matthew 5:15-16; more on this in a moment).

The question is: If thanksgiving is more than periodical expressions of vertical delight, what’s stopping us from employing it horizontally?

Consider the following verses…

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.” ~ Nehemiah 12:27 (ESV)

I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells” Psalm 26:6-8 (ESV)

Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” ~ Psalm 50:22-23 (ESV)

But I am afflicted and in pain;let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song;I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” ~ Psalm 69:29-30 (ESV)

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” ~ Psalm 107:21-22 (ESV)

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 (ESV)

Note when we drill down systematically, we find thanksgiving to be far more than temporary appreciation, but a call to invite people to taste and see that the Lord and His provisions are good (Psalm 34:8, Psalm 107:9,  Philippians 4:19). Applicably, this has profound implications.

For starters, while thanksgiving is often confined to altar calls, staged responses, and special events, when we recognize its pre-Mayflower, pre-creation context, we find sanctified space celebrating what has always been…perpetual love in continuous offering…giving and receiving simultaneously.

Unfortunately, for many of us, when it comes to thanksgiving, it’s easy to compartmentalize giving and receiving. I know for me, ego, independence, entitlement, and agenda can compromise my benevolence and negotiate my generosity if I’m not careful; however, I also know by dying to these rights, I expand the room God has to reveal Himself1

…which brings me the reason I’m writing this.

If we desire the lost and broken to see Jesus, not only must we be intentional in declaring thanksgiving, but sharing it as well. For when we engage thanksgiving as celebratory and communal worship, we inevitably position ourselves to glorify God as fresh revelations of His providence abound. Granted, this doesn’t mean we dial up the decibels of our praise to prove the goodness within. Clearly, our hearts would be misaligned if the visibility of our virtue preceded the availability of God’s power to provide it.

That said, by understanding thanksgiving as an outpouring of interdependent love and vulnerable relationship, we ultimately discover how our loved-by-God identity can extend God’s Kingdom through perfect other-centeredness.

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Think of it this way: When I praise God for who He is and what He has done, while the point of my adoration is to love Jesus first and foremost, the posture of my adoration opens me to overflow the love I receive in return. Accordingly, to the extent I abide in this rhythm, to that extent God’s heart (i.e. His love, goodness, kindness, compassion, faithfulness, etc.) inundates the people and places I encounter. Perhaps this is what the author of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

Bottom line: Thanksgiving, at its core, celebrates the Trinitarian nature of God. While Pilgrims and Indians are worthy of mention, their actions in 1621 merely reflected a divine dance that has and will continue on into eternity.

As such, why not extend tomorrow (i.e. Thanksgiving) into each day? Why not [literally] give thanks as opposed to voicing it in isolation? Why not receive from the Lord as you inquire direction on what you have to offer?

After all, not only do you have something to offer, but a specific reason why. And that, my friends, is worth being thankfull for.

From my house to yours, have a Happy Thanks Giving…and don’t forget to look up as you reach out.

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Footnotes

  1. Also, the room is created for godly fear – not only loving what God loves and hating what God hates, but hearing what God says and seeing what He sees.
Cover photo creds: stmed.net

 

🥗 4 Shortcuts to a Leaner Life 💪

For years, His Girl Fryday has been helping people discover confidence within their influence from navigating challenges at work to managing ministry on the go. 

Yet, while our content has historically centered on internal inventory, occasionally we like to spice things up and go against the grain1

Thus, for today, I want to talk about some practical ways we can improve our eating/exercise habits having recently reached a major weight loss milestone.

Now I admit…I’m not the savviest of nutritionists nor do I sport the chisel-est of bods; however, what I do have is discipline, resolve, and the patience to see them through.

Accordingly, it is my hope these four dietary tidbits, while more conducive to long-term results, can better your family dynamic and pursuit of a leaning life…

1. De-dairy your diet

When time turned 2014, my body was in rough shape2. Granted, I wasn’t obese or struggling with an eating disorder; however, with a weight only a pound or two off my all-time max (i.e. 207 lbs), the sluggishness was real.

Thankfully, after making a list of dietary resolutions, it wasn’t long before I realized what dietary changes I needed to make and in what order. 

The first step? De-dairy my diet.

To do this, I narrowed the goal down to three phases:

  1. I replaced cow milk with almond milk – an unpopular move for my palate initially, but one I adjusted to3 after a month or so.
  2. I eliminated processed cheese from my diet – a minor correction, but a necessary one given my acid reflux history. 
  3. I reduced my intake of frozen dairy – easily, the toughest out, but conquerable once I a) allowed it to be a novelty and b) embraced dairy-free ice creams like Halo Top.

At first, physical changes were subtle; however, the more I established this rhythm, the better I felt overall on a daily basis.

Nowadays, if I’m ever craving cereal, a burger, and/or ice cream…check out the built-in savings…

  • Honey Nut Cheerios (1.5 cups) with almond milk – 210 calories
  • Honey Nut Cheerios (1.5 cups) with 2% milk – 255 calories
  • Difference: -30 
  • Burger King Whopper with no cheese/mayo + steak sauce – 550 calories
  • Burger King Whopper with cheese and mayo – 770 calories
  • Difference: -220
  • Halo Top chocolate ice cream (1 pint) – 320 calories
  • Ben & Jerry’s chocolate ice cream (1 pint) – 1000 calories
  • Difference: -680

Yeah, yeah…I know these examples may seem insignificant, but trust me: as you’ll soon see, they add up well with time…

2. Bun Voyage

If reducing dairy was the footing, cutting carbs was the foundation. After an August 2014 biometric screening revealed high amounts of triglycerides in my system, I realized I had to cut carbs and after weighing (pun intended) my options, I determined the best place to start was to make every sandwich an ‘open face’.

After all, the best part of a sandwich/burger is what lies in the middle. Why not cut out the redundancy?

At any rate, after three years later of de-breading/de-bunning my sandwiches/burgers …not to mention all the pizza crust thrown to my dog…the results speak for themselves.

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3. Walk the Plank

If you’re like me in the sense you have strong cardio discipline (~ 3-4 workouts a week), you likely have some sense of what foods will help you exercise more effectively; however, while tracking protein and complex carbs is ideal for better workouts, if you’re losing weight, it’s important to define what you trim.

For instance, I do a 3-5 minute variety plank routine and/or 40+4 push-ups before each run. Certainly, not a ‘have to’…but highly encouraged if you want a short and sweet road to transition fat to muscle within your core.

As I like to think, if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, a plank a day can only further the distance5.

By the way, this is not how you plank…

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4. Select Fasting

No question, my biggest dietary weakness is caffeine. It’s a drug for the day, a muse in the morning…whether you’re talking iced tea/cold brew/bottled soda on a hot, summer day or a roasty expresso on a cold, midwinter morning, the temptation is often tough to pass up.

However, as I discovered in a recent week-long fast, taking a break from fluids not named water, while old-school, is arguably the best way to detox your system. In my case, when fasting, I like to replace coffee and soda with sparkling peach-flavored water and green tea. Of course, there are many more options to choose from. The key here is not so much the substitution as it is giving your system time to be shocked. 

If liquid fasts aren’t your thing, consider fasting chips (or a similar salty guilty pleasure) one week, desserts another. Personally, I like capping my calories categorically (i.e. chips to 250, soda/dessert – 400 (on the few days I consume them), meals, in general, to 800), especially through liquid fasts since most of my empty calories come fluidly.

Another method you might try is ‘going green’ where 75/80%+ of lunches/dinners have the color in the meal. In our house, with dinner, we aim for steamed veggies and/or salads as sides 4-5 times/week; with lunch, we’ll often replace meat with cucumbers and heartier toppings with kale or spinach on wraps/bowls. Even snacks, we’ll munch on carrots or multi-grain crackers with avocado, hummus, black bean spread if we need a tie over. Again, not ground-breaking, rocket science strategies as much as tactical frameworks we can eat between.

Ultimately, the key with select fasting is identifying  your weak points, targeting them as voids, and filling them in with healthier alternatives6.

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So there you have it. Not the most inventive guide to a fuller, fitter life, but a workable template if your goal is to gradually lower those pant sizes, circumferences, and cholesterol levels. I know for some of you, going the keto way (or something similar) probably sounds more enticing, but if you prefer simple short cuts with long-term potential, consider these suggestions.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below if you want to share any additional advice or testimony.

If not, know we’re cheering you on as you pursue a healthier, happier you…

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Footnotes

  1. Foreshadowing alert
  2. Gaining ten pounds of stress weight leading up to my wedding day in April 2013 that I hadn’t fully recovered from
  3. One could say I started finding it utterly delicious 😉
  4. My push-up count isn’t a set # as much as it is whatever my physical limit is for that day
  5. Speaking of distance, consider basing your cardio workouts on calories burned as opposed to miles. For me, I cut my runs off at 400 calories, unless I have more time/energy to burn.
  6. Specifically, ones that meet a nutritional need (i.e. vitamin ‘x’) as opposed to a habitual hankering
Cover photo creds: Wallpaper Studio 10

 

Halftime: A Musing on Life in 2018

Well, folks, the summer equinox is upon us and you know what that means…

…time for yet another enlightening installment of ‘halftime lessons learned’ where the year goes under inspection, the heart under reflection, and fears under subjection…

…where inventory becomes short story…

…and hopes teetering on paralysis find rest in analysis.

Now, I admit: when probing a year, I prefer filtering my thoughts into bite-sized, applicable takeaways; however, this year, I can’t help but feel I must take a different approach given its narrative and the irony of potentially leaving truth between the lines.

After all, not all years are created equal, and as such, easily quantifiable.

But where to begin…that is the question.

Obviously, life on the home front has changed significantly with Everly. Like Caeden, her joy has proved contagious in a year full of adjustments. Granted, with two under three and an adolescent pup, maturation compels naturally when a family grows for a third straight year. Even so, this year’s home-owning family of four has felt far more settled than last year’s house-hunting family of three. Accordingly, all is well and better than ever for me and my house.

Of course, not all change has been hunky-dory; the lack of youth ministry, in particular, has proven especially difficult.

For starters, I didn’t realize until after-the-fact just how much I’d assigned identity to role and pain to under the carpet 1 2. I suppose when you’re constantly pouring out and giving your all regardless of peripherals, it’s easy for that to become your reality. Unfortunately, the more you tolerate voids in this way, the more you think you can fill them loving on your own terms, as if the Golden Rule alone can grant purpose.

But as we know, that’s not how begetting life works3. Ultimately, if we desire a pure walk with God based in intimacy over responsibility, we must confront the interference…

…which brings me to where I’m at today…

…where if there’s any desperation, it’s for my sense of place and passion to be free from seeking re-orientation in ego4, specifically what should have been.

As the Lord has been convicting me in recent weeks, the world is searching for sacred love…is aching for eternity (as perpetual presence)…and yearning for believers to identify with Jesus. And while it’s easy to emphasize advancement and progress, there are seasons when we must return to awe, re-embrace the basics of our faith, and allow the gnosis5 of ‘we are not what we do’ to seep below the neckline6.

For when we allow God to reset, restart, and refresh both course and inner man, our strength is renewed to release not only what we lack, but what hasn’t worked7.

Think of it this way: whenever you crave wonder to extinguish discouragement, remember what truly lasts. Yes, seasons come and go. And yes, there will be times when you feel what should be happening isn’t happening.

But glory to God life is so much richer than our temporary inconveniences…that even in the midst of what’s not working or happening, he uses those voids to remind us who we are…and how much we need him.

And while the roadmap will surely vary from person to person…

…like a river to be crossed, we will get there.

As for the rest of 2018, there’s so much I could say, from our new family freelancing business to returning to school to finish my meteorology degree (see vid below for backstory); however, given much is still developing, I’ll hold off until December before lending a detailed update/recap.

‘Til then, enjoy halftime.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. In the name of endurance.
  2. Not to mention those pesky what if’s…like what if I had allowed myself to be poured into more consistently? What if I had recognized ‘x’ insecurity sooner? What if I had applied this personal/program correction at ‘x’ point? Etc, etc…
  3. Eternal esurance slogan?
  4. Notably in temporary measures like success, relationship, and comparisons
  5. Head knowledge
  6. Heart knowledge (i.e. epignosis); in case you need to know where I’m at, there you go
  7. Or isn’t working

Photo creds: Fine Art America

Saturday Night Life

Imagine being Rabbi Schacter moments after Patton’s army had liberated Buchenwald.

The first Jewish chaplain surveying the horror where hundreds of starving men piled in bunks from floor to ceiling. Though they had been freed, they remained in their barracks, numb to the sight of another uniform.

After all, new suits just meant new oppression and new abuse. Why leave camp to be battered and beaten again?

Then suddenly the silence breaks.

“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden, Ihr zint frei!” – “Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free!”

Slowly but surely, reality sets in…those sweet words of freedom spoken by one they now knew to be their own…

…the only one who could convince them they were truly free.

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For some of you reading this, like the prisoners, you’re desperate for release, you’re hungry for life, but past defeats and present turmoil have stalemated you. Like a car in neutral, you’re going somewhere, yet feel inert as life races on.

If you can relate, I want to encourage you to consider what today stands for.

For once upon a time, Jesus felt the same way you did…

…when nailed to a tree…

…he took every fear, hate, and dirty little secret upon himself…

 …and died for the redemption of man.

But that was ~2,000 years ago…yesterday.

As for today, its significance is often lost in the shadow of the cross. For while Jesus atoned our sins on Friday, it wasn’t until Saturday he ensured we could live free from them.

Granted, Jesus redeemed us from sin after judicially becoming it, but he knew sin had to go somewhere. Thus, with joy still set before him (Hebrews 12:2), he carried our sin to hell…so we could permanently be undefined by it.

Unfortunately, for many of us, like the Buchenwald captives, we base our identity in past and present circumstance. We know it’s for freedom Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1), but are still skeptical thinking it’s going to disappoint in the hell of the moment.

However, when we remember Saturday…the day Jesus ripped the gates off Hades’ hinges¹, deposited our sins (past, present, and future), and withdrew keys to our victory…we ultimately find freedom in full where sin is not only confessed and repented, but renounced so we can be free from its power.

For while we’re cleansed through confession and repositioned through repentance, it’s not until we renounce sin we begin walking in freedom’s direction.

Therefore, if you’re thirsty for breakthrough, remember Christ not only shed his blood² for you, but unlocked freedom’s door so your struggle, your shortcoming…would never define you. Yes, there may be times you feel like a hesitant hostage or a fighter with the wind knocked out; however, once you receive the power Christ bought you on Saturday, you’ll find the freedom and strength you need to renounce the bondage of sin’s baggage.

Regardless of where you’re at this Easter, remember freedom is more than cleansing term; it’s an identity term! Hence, why we have every reason to rest in Rabbi Schacter’s charge 73 years in the making…

   “Peace be upon you, all…you are free!

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Cover photo creds: Peg Pondering Again

Footnotes

  1. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/he-descended-into-hell
  2. As the final scapegoat

The True Meaning Behind ‘Spring Forward’ (Intro)

It’s a snowy night as I drive in a galaxy far, far away…

…a dusky night lit with flakes blasting the beams of my Millennial Falcon.

Low on tread, but high in spirit, my mind goes warp speed as I reset the clock.

Why do we spring forward on a Sunday morning, anyway? 

The seconds tick to the beat of the ‘shield.

And then it hits me…

…how we spring forward¹ on the day of rest…

…set apart so we can drink from whom springs up living waters within us (John 4:14).

Constantly flowing, always satisfying…even in the grayest doldrums.

For many of us, springing forward in spiritual terms is easier said than done. We crave the refreshment of God’s living water yet to a lesser extent what gets us there.

For instance, we may be thirsty for God’s grace, but not so much letting love spring from a pure heart (1 Timothy 1:5), faith from holy confidence (Romans 15:13, Hebrews 10:19) or cutting off springs of resentment (Hebrews 12:15).

However, when we consider God’s wells spring life for our wellsprings of life (i.e. heart; Proverbs 4:23), we ultimately find all his springs are in us (Psalm 87:7)². As a result, we can spring forward when we allow God to spring up.

Granted, this leveling up process takes time, discipline, and koinonia. Yet, even if you think you lack one of these elements or don’t have what it takes to ‘cross the river’, remember it’s not what you have, it’s what already dwelling inside you…

…the very reason Israel sang, “Spring up, O well” (Numbers 21:17).

Looking ahead, I want to unpack how we can better abide in these springs of life³ so we can spring from faith and lead in faith in a way that awakens more faith.” (Romans 1:17)

In the meantime, as we near Easter in this season of lent, let’s position ourselves for God to spring up new life so we can spring forward.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. And fall back
  2. Whether in mountain or valley (Psalm 104:10).
  3. God’s righteousness reveals

Photo cover creds: 4K Spring Field Flowers Image