By a show of hands, how many of you knew that Lent was 47 days?
Okay you can put your hand down now & that goes for me too!
After about 30 days of participating in a Lenten fast, I started to do some math and realized I would be about a week short of Easter if I only fasted from sugar for 40 days. I was confused. I thought Lent was 40 days? Well as it turns out Lent is 40 days, but during a 47 day period in which you are supposed to “rest” on the sabbath. That means if you are fasting from something you can eat it every Sunday! I had no idea! I had been fasting including the Sundays for the first 30+ days. Just goes to show you how much I paid attention during certain Bible classes in college. In light of the new information I decided to fast for the full 47 days rather than change part way through.
In 47 days I consumed 1,283 grams of sugar or 2.82 pounds of natural and artificial sugar. I am sure that my calculations are off slightly for each day, so it would be safe to assume that I consumed under 1350 grams of sugar or just short of 3 pounds of sugar. In the 6 days prior to Lent I consumed just over 1,200 grams of sugar! I went from terribly unhealthy to healthy & balanced. I was able to scale back from 200 grams of sugar a day to just 27.3!
The obvious side effect of my change in diet was a result in significant weight loss. I weighed 199.9 on the first day of Lent. I weighed 186.4 on the last morning. The total weight lost 13.5 pounds. With about 2 weeks to go my weight was actually 183.7 for a total of 16.2 pounds lost, but the last two weeks have been such whirlwind that I have not been able to workout and have been eating my stress.
The plan was to eat sugars differently. The goal was to find time to read 45 minutes per day. With better levels of energy and a depth to my reading, my personal hope was that I would develop my relationships and cultivate friendships around me in light of the newness of what God had done in my life.
I succeeded in eating sugar differently and it made me feel a lot more energetic. As a result of the change in diet (the first few days were rough) my attitude improved as well as my outlook on life. I felt a passion and restlessness for the great things of life like I hadn’t felt in a long time. Things were looking up and was excited to see what God would do in my life during Lent.
I was able to finish two books, Love Wins by Rob Bell & Soulprint by Mark Batterson and I am most of the way through three other books: Running the Spiritual Path, Wooden, & King’s Cross. I have really enjoyed getting back to reading and devouring books like I did before Alexis was born. Through the first 35 days I was right on target with reading 45 minutes a day during Lent.
Lent was an amazing and encouraging journey until the last 12 days. I was drawing closer to God, my wife and my friends and enjoying the plan I had laid out; but our plans are not always God’s plans. On April 13, Sean Drozd, Ashley’s brother passed away and life took a different path. The sugar fast became harder to concentrate on and the reading plan fell off the to do list all together. Around the same time Alexis started teething and caught a cold. Sleep eluded me, diet didn’t matter anymore and surviving the ups and downs of each day became the only priority.
Lent started with a couple goals and I feel great that I was able to accomplish some of those goals by reading more, eating healthier and finding more positive energy. However, when Lent started one of the last things on my mind was what God sacrificed when He sent His son to the cross to die for our sin. I knew that was what Lent was about, but it was far from my goal to reflect upon. “Maybe around Easter I will think about that.” I said to myself.
Yet, at the end of Lent God’s sacrifice is the only thing I can think about. Jesus death was illuminated by the loss of Ashley’s brother. Putting myself in Ashley’s shoes or her parent’s role was a difficult and emotional task. What would happen if I lost my brother? What would happen if I lost my child? How would I react? What emotions would I experience? I can’t even imagine if I was asked to sacrifice my only child: I couldn’t do it.
Yet God did. For you. For me. For everyone.
Lent has been an emotional journey with extreme highs and tremendous lows but when it drew to a close on Resurrection Day I was flooded with emotion. God’s sacrifice trumps all the pain and heartache, all the sin and suffering, all the ups and downs. God gave so that we could live. I am so thankful for the sacrifice and although I know that there will be plenty of hard days to come I can walk confidently into the future knowing that God loves me so much that he makes all things new!
Lately I have been thinking a lot about . . . DOUBT.
Do you think it is healthy for churches, pastors or Christians in general to engage in conversations that create doubt? I think that this whole hullabaloo about Rob Bell‘s book Love Wins, will cause some who read it to doubt things that they have been taught about the Christian faith or its traditions. I believe that at times during Bell’s book he creates a doubt in the mind of the reader, at least he did for me. Is this irresponsible of him? Or is it okay to engage people in conversations that create doubt?
It has often been said to me and to others that “God is bigger than all of your doubts and questions.” If that is really true, then is it unhealthy to create a conversation of doubt about a certain part of the Christian faith or Christian traditions? Is any level of doubt healthy?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
What does a second chance look like for Brandon Davies?
Everyone deserves a second chance.
For some of us it is a hard sentence to bite off. We want people to receive the punishment for the crime and we carry around our gavel to leverage justice on those we think must get what they deserve. The opposite of revenge is grace. If you have been around me for any length of time you know that I am huge fan of an organization called The People of the Second Chance. Founded by Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite this movement of radical grace and second chances in life and leadership is a conversation I love to engage in.
At a time when my life was spinning out of control and I was making bad decisions I needed grace. I needed a second chance. Thankfully Jud Wilhite was more than a talking head for the conversation of grace but he was actively practicing grace dispenser. I was given a second chance and I haven’t wasted it. The second chance provided hope, opportunity and a renewed sense of life. I will never go another day in my life without being reminded of my second chance.
Last week, Brandon Davies was kicked off the BYU men’s basketball team for having premarital sex with his girlfriend. BYU has a very strict honor code. I give the university a lot of credit for the standards they hold in an era where players are paid to play and where rules are overlooked all over collegiate athletics. However, as a dispenser of second chances I am torn on what I think about the Davies situation. I agree wholeheartedly that the young man broke a code of conduct that he signed and said he would follow. But where does the conversation of grace and second chances enter into the story?
Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos chimed in last night asking a similar question:
“I do always think that people definitely deserve second chances because no one is perfect and we mess up everyday,” Tebow told the Orlando Sentinel. “There should be a punishment, but I don’t know that he should maybe … I don’t know. I don’t even know the situation, but I just always think about giving people a second chance. Maybe he deserves one, but I don’t know the situation.”
I always think of giving people a second chance. I love that line. I don’t know if kicking Davies off the team or suspending him for the season or a few games is the right thing to do or not, but I tend to think that if I was in that situation I would be the first one in line to dispense a second chance. Speaking of second chances, Brandon you could always come play for UNLV!
A humbling reminder from Matthew Paul Turner
Matthew Paul Turner aka Jesus Needs New PR, is a widely read & popular Christian author and blogger. MPT is known for his off the cuff comments and challenging debates with the Christian status quo. Matthew likes to ruffle feathers and is not afraid to throw a few punches in the process. Personally I have never read any of Turner’s books but we do carry them in our store and I have thumbed a few chapters of a couple of them and is a talented guy with an honesty that can be appreciated on this website.
Every so often I will swing by Matthew’s blog and read some of his recent posts. Most of the time I don’t engage in the posts, I usually just read and move on. However the other day when I stopped by Turner had just posted a new post containing a video about tithing and how mega churches were lining their pockets. Maybe it was my mood or the topic, but for whatever reason I decided to post a comment. I actually was one of the first few people to respond to the post. I made the mistake of clicking the box “subscribe to all comments” after posting my brief comment. Over the next 48 hours I received 91 emails telling me what people had posted on Turner’s blog! That was for just one blog post, sometimes Turner posts up to three things a day!
Here is the humbling part to write:
Deep in the recesses of my wounds, fears and ego there is a big part of me that wants to be Matthew Paul Turner. I don’t want to be as snarky or write like Turner, but I want to be an author and popular blogger. As much as I am wrestling through my own layers of the onion, I still find myself with a wounded desire to be known and be able to have influence in this world.
Turner’s post and the subsequent amount of comments regarding the video left me wondering how in the world I would handle that kind of traffic? I can barely manage my life, my family, my job and my own website with just a couple hundred readers, what would it be like if I had a couple thousand or tens of thousands? I am pretty sure that Turner’s full time job is blogging and writing books, so he has more free time on his hands to tackle the debates he facilitates. Even with more time on my hands I don’t know how I would handle the traffic Turner gets, or the controversy surrounding Rob Bell or Justin Taylor’s post this past week.
I am reminded by Turner’s post of something that I heard Jud say in a staff meeting once and he repeated again at the Catalyst labs yesterday: “Don’t become preoccupied with greatness, just do a good job and love people.” The amount of traffic that Turner gets is irrelevant to my quest to be known and have influence. What is relevant is the fact that it has reminded me that I have become preoccupied with becoming great rather than doing the work of loving God and loving people.
One Word – Part III
On Monday I posted a question: “If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?” I couldn’t answer the question. Later, I added some more dialogue that I had with my wife. The dialogue with my wife still left me searching to find out if even asking this question was important? Today I think I have an answer.
On Tuesday night our small group met, my wife and I have been responsible for bringing various Nooma videos to group and this week I grabbed a video that I thought had to do with the question I was asking, but I didn’t realize just how much it would hit at the core of where I am personally. Nooma #18, Name, takes the one word concept and expands it like my wife had said the night before. We all have a name, but sometimes that name is assigned to us by others: flake, loser or jerk. Sometimes our names are passed down to us from our parents: not wanted, not good enough, or maybe your name is just a family name like Zimmerman.
All of us have names attached to us, better yet we have one word labels: Wife. Husband. Father. Daughter. Helpful. Lazy. There are billions of one word labels living on this planet and many of us have come to act and live a certain way because of these labels. The labels we wear come in layers. I believe that the layers look something like this:
- What we think others think of us
- What we think our family thinks of us
- What our family & others really think of us
- What we think of ourselves
- What we actually are.
The more we peel back the layers (some might use an onion as an example of the this) the closer we get to the core of who we are. I really appreciate this Nooma video, my small group and my wife’s conversation for helping me to get to a place where I can say that I do see that this pursuit has not been in vain. The question: “If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?” is very important and I believe that it can be answered.
In my own personal journey I think that I have peeled back some of the layers of the onion. I think I am somewhere between what our family & others really think of us and what we actually think of ourselves. I know I have come a long way in the last four years. I think that four years ago I was barely scratching the surface of what others think of me. Those labels mattered to me and I focused on them day and night. Now with each passing year I am getting letting go of what others think of me. I find myself moving closer and closer to knowing who I actually am.
Who am I? What is my one word?
I think no matter where you are on the journey of life and self-discovery, eventually we will all land in the same place. We are each unique. One of a kind. Special. God made me unlike any other in the world with my own talents, my own abilities and my own journey. I haven’t finished the journey. I haven’t arrived at the destination but I know that I am on the path to discovering the many names that make Benji, but the first real label on the core of my onion . . .
. . . is unique.
What names are on your inner onion layers?
One Word – Part II
This morning I introduced a question from Mark Batterson’s book, Soulprint: “If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?” I didn’t have an answer. Last week when I first started this journey one night lying in bed right before we were both about to drift off to sleep I unfolded the whole story of Mark in Soulprint to my wife and I asked her if she could describe me in one word. My wife, despite being nearly asleep shot up and basically went off. It went something like this:
“That question is so stupid. People can’t know people from one word. You can’t use one word to describe yourself because it has a different meaning for you and a different meaning for me. Plus you have different areas of your life so there is not one word that will capture a description of your spiritual life or your social life or your work life. These types of questions are just so dumb they should never be asked in an interview situation. I mean come on, really Benj, one word?”
Mind you I was paraphrasing but you get the point, my wife didn’t like the question nor did she want to give me a one word answer. At this point I rolled over and called it a night, I really didn’t want to engage the subject further. I would let life run its course over the next few days, maybe as I went through day-to-day routine I would have a revelation about what the true, honest and real one word was available to describe me. Guess what?
No revelation. No prophecy. No enlightenment. No answers.
I was still left searching, asking and wondering if it was possible to describe myself with one word that would best encapsulate who I am to the core. Honestly my wife’s comments had rattled me and I was left wondering after a couple days if this was even a worthwhile exercise? Do I really need to know how to describe myself in one word? Is that even what I am searching for anymore or is this something deeper?
Do you agree or disagree with my wife? Is this a trivial pursuit of some question that is not important or is this a worthy hunt to know oneself?
One Word – Part I
For the last week or so I have been diving into Mark Batterson’s book Soulprint. I will surely be posting a review next week but something hit me today when I was reading. Mark was telling a story about his ordination. In order to become an ordained pastor, he had to sit before a review board and field questions. Mark was prepared to answer all kinds of questions about church history, the Bible and theology, but the first question he was asked through him for a loop:
“If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?”
Mark admitted in Soulprint that he knew a lot about God but knew very little about himself. Mark went on to tell his story of the word he choose (driven) and how great he thought it sounded. In the end it was Mark who had egg on his face. Driven was his word, but selfishness was his motivation.
Mark’s story got me thinking: what is my one word . . . Adventurous. Honest. Hard-working. Or better yet maybe the best one word to describe me is . . . Brash. Proud. Selfish.
I feel a lot of pressure welling up inside of me. I am not even sitting in front of a review of my peers or am I? Getting honest about the one word to describe your life is really tough. I am sitting here typing full of anxiety because I am torn. I want to write what will make me look good. I also want to write what is truthful. The last factor in this algebra equation is that I don’t want to write what I have always been told, I want to write what I am.
But who am I?
If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
When was the last time you turned it off?
When was the last time you turned it all off?
A few days ago I was having an issue with an app on my smart phone. I had to restart my phone to get the application working again. In the process of restarting my phone. I flippantly said, “I don’t think I have turned my phone off since we flew to Michigan.” Shh! Don’t tell the FAA but I think I didn’t even turn it off on the flight. Flight mode: yes but off: no. So when was the last time I turned my phone off? I couldn’t tell you.
How many times a day to you check your Facebook account? or Twitter feed? or Blog Reader?
Confession time: a hundred or more.
Between my phone and my computer I bet I check those three things a hundred times a day! Sad? yes. Honest? yes. I have been extremely convicted lately that my phone has become a crutch in my life. I clutch to it in uncomfortable situations, I play with it when I am bored and I rely on it for everything in between. My phone is very quickly becoming an idol in my life. I am having a hard time figuring out a plan to escape from this narcissism and self-indulgence. But something has to change: my phone needs to be turned off.
But when and how?
Any of you fast from your cell phone? Do any of you turn your phone of daily? or for certain periods of the day?