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Cross belong on shoulders, not steeples.

 

Assume the position for contraversy. The title alone does it. This blog by no means is meant to disrespect the church or the idea that steeples are in any way or reason wrong. This is based on a thought I had this week.

In and around 300 A.D. when Constantine established locations set aside for the church to exercise corporate worship, he took the church out of its intimate, organic, communal setting of homes and public places. Church was the people, bound together in a committed love relationship with one another and the Lord Jesus. Merriment with food and fellowship, preaching and worship, and serving the world around them was just life lived out of this love community. Natural. Eventually the church coagulated inside of brick and morter, scheduled to meet, and isolated from the community they once served as neighbors. No longer are they walking in their midst (on mission), “going about doing good” as said of Jesus Christ Himself. Now we have become weekly isolationists awaiting the hour long gathering. How can we conitinue to feed, heal, and visit the downtrodden? We need to invite them to us! We need a sign, a beacon, a recognizable symbol. Aha, a cross! And we shall hoist it high enough, over atop all other buildings. Then the lame and halt can hobble themselves to us!

Ladies and Gentlemen, how many friends are tearing the roofs off our churches to hoist their lame friends down inside for a miraculous healing?

Jesus “went about doing good”. He positioned himself in community, often times traveling out of His way to do an act of good. He sent His disciples out to travel to the town in order to be blessings, commanding them to pray blessing of peace upon the houses they entered. He sent them to the highways and hedges- to the lame, the halt, the blind, the demonic- the lost. Each one baring their own cross to die upon as they loved their neighbor as themselves. Ok, here’s the thing…we need more martyrs and less celebrities. As a pastor, I can tell you, we are pressured to preach for numbers, not neighbors. We’ve confused missiology for methodology. Programs. Money. Most young pastors today have a seminary education…yet don’t have any training in a “tent making” trade. They know, without their church salary, they can’t survive. Believe me, that pressure. Pressures to perform,perhaps even emulate the “hot shot preachers” with the mega churches, skinny jeans, and book deals.

It’s time we pull the crosses down from the steeples and place them on our shoulders. We cannot be the center of attraction, we must be the catalysts for missions. Deny yourself, your comforts. They will know you not for the size of the cross upon your steeple but the love you have one for another. By that, they will know you are His. And by THAT, He will be exalted and there will be no need to exalt a steeple. The crosses upon our shoulders are the crosses that feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and unshackle the bonds of the oppressed. They do it without church votes and church funds. They do it whithout others knowing or seeing. They do it in the spirit of the early missionaries to Asia and India, who carried all their earthly belongings inside their own caskets.  They do it because the cross is love for their neighbor.

Having the faith to walk upon the water.

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Peter was the only disciple willing to step out of the boat and do something no other human had ever done before. He walked on water. As the Lord Jesus bid him to come, in Peter’s mind, it must’ve seemed safer with Jesus on the waves than without Jesus in the boat. The other eleven disciples, huddled in fear and dismay, must’ve thought Peter was crazy to attemp such a thing. Isn’t it, however, what Jesus is bidding us all to do? The boat of “safety” is no place for a follower of Christ. He is calling each of us to live in such a way, that what seems safe, casual, or predictable is essentially more dangerous and degradating than the seemingly foolish actions of following him! I’m going to speak as one who has walked upon the water. I’m also going to speak as one who is currently standing on the water.

What do I mean by that? Nearly a decade ago, I followed God in a vision to plant a church. I’d never done it. Heck, I’d never seen it done! With a wife and two babies at home, I resigned from a healthy, lucrative church position to step out of my boat of familiarity and comfort to follow Jesus into waves deeper than I had imagined. I resigned on a Sunday. I was jobless and homeless on Monday. That following morning I drove around looking for work and a home. I can tell you that in the days and years to come, as I found myself hanging out ouside of my boat, walking upon the waves of shear faith and dependance, I saw God move in ways I could never have imagined. The remarkable stories of Moses, Daniel, Elijah, even the disciples all became more real because for the first time, miracles in my life had become normal and regular. I identified with the feats and acts of biblical proportions that, up until tha point, I had only read in Sunday School lessons. It was that season of walking upon the water that gave me taste for that type of living, causing anything less in my life to become dissatisfying, to say the least.

Fast foward to today. My family has again sensed a very real calling into a vision of God’s plan for our lives. Only this time, He is calling us out further, and deeper than we’ve ever gone before. As our family prepares for a new season of church planting, we realize that we are headed for deeper, shark infested waters. No longer we will have the familiarity of being indigenous to our surroundings, with family and friends to help us. We are moving miles away into a location where we know no one. Not a soul. We’re going to a place that is entirely different than what we are ust to, into an area of incongruent values and lifestyles. And, to do this, we have had to shed every piece of possible flotation devise. Behold, how God has called us to walk upon the water this time.

We, in the recent months, have essentially paired down to the bare essentials. We started by selling our home, giving away the majority of our belongings, and moving into a 250 sq. ft. camper. Yes, this caused a circus type attention, whereby we became an oddity to our community. It got worse. We began to pair down more, and more, and more. Selling this…giving away that. And, so now, here we stand. Virtually nothing more than the clothes on our backs. We have commited to our church to go, having transitioned our leadership to function in a way as to send us as missionaries. It’s done. And also, having committed to our new location to come. I’ve broken my parents heart. The die has been cast. Our farm is sold. In a couple of days I will travel down and spend a week looking for a new home and a new job. As I am away, my wife and children will be packing our belongings, cleaning out the camper, and moving into a borrowed apartment owned by our church. By the time I return, we will be homeless. The foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests…we will have no place to call our own where we may lay our heads. If the Lord doesn’t show up, we sink. 

THAT is the point. THAT is walking on water. THAT is what He has called us in to. We will either walk by faith or by sight. Faith saves. Sight sinks. Even as I write this, our decision has caused many friends to turn into distant skeptics. We are in a position of isolated abandonment. No longer do we have the friends, the family, the denominational support that we thrived in for so long. Many, or if not most, of them are still in the boat- looking at us with fear and dismay. Yet, we still hear our Savior bidding us to come.

So how does it feel to be walking on the water? You want to know the truth? A little stressful. To think it would be otherwise is sensational and idealistic. This was Jesus’ warning about following Him. It is NOT easy. It’s timultuous. At times, persecuting. All the while, challenging to stay focused and faithful. There are times I feel myself sinking. Everytime though, that sinking is met with a pulling up from my Savior’s hand. It’s definitely a feeling of adventure and it most certainly has a faith building component. You may ask, “you’re walking on water, how much more faith can you have?” Well, I believe there is a exorbant jump in faith even after the time spent walking on water as we are returned back to the boat. You see, after Jesus settles us into a new life, with our needs met and lives blessed, we will then take a deep breath and cry out with the same excitatory relief as the disciples to say “Surely You ARE the Son of God!” We will look in hindsight and say, “Did we really just do that!?” “Did you see what He did!” God, You REALLY are amazing!” That hypertrophic effect on our faith will initiate a spiritual growth as we’ve never seen before!

I am glad to be walking on water at the moment. It is the greatest sense of adventure I’ve ever lived. Total uncertain certainty! He’s got this! He’s going to protect, provide, and press us on to greater things. I know this, because my eyes are not on the waves. They remain fixed upon Him, the author and finisher of my faith. So, I’m asking you, to where…to what is He bidding you to, that you might be forced to step in to – that will require you to leave all that is safe, comfortable, or familiar? What safety nets are you holding on to? How can you know faith unless you step out of your boat, and tread water under your feet?

Curtis Woods

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Check out my interview with one of the coolest guys I know, Curtis Woods. In this podcast, we go deep into some of the issues affecting leaders in the ministry. Curtis is totally passionate about helping others reach optimal spiritual and physcial health.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-3-curtis-woods/id1195709802?i=1000380130675&mt=2

Fit For The Kingdom

I’m excited to announce that we are now published to iTunes! I’ll be building this content with more topics and interviews that will be sure to encourage and challenge you to live better. Head on over to iTunes and give me a 5 star rating! That’s literally what it takes to get the word out and YOU can help do that.

 

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FIT FOR THE KINGDOM PODCAST

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fit-for-the-kingdom/id1195709802

 

Never meet your hero. They’re messed up more than you are.

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There’s an old adage that says “never meet you heroes”. Everyone has heroes, right? I mean, sort of? Isn’t there a person or persona that we all look up to and idolize? As a kid my hero was Bruce Lee. (If you’re a guy) don’t act like he wasn’t yours too. Or perhaps yours was someone like John Wayne or Wonder Woman. We can idolize these larger than life figures, well, because we will never meet them. Fictional characters can be perpetuated into whatever we like them to be and dead characters, like wine, only get better with time. Then there’s the real to life, seemingly large than life figures that we’ve spent time trying to emulate in our own lives. We see these people as who we want to be or be like. They’re successful, they have it all together, why, they are untouchable! If it were ok with our spouse, maybe we’d even hang a poster of them over our bed and dream up the perfect scenario of what we would do if we ever met them.

(I once wrote Paula Abdul a letter when I was 10. I lied and said I was very sick and hoped she’d visit me. She didn’t)

So, what if we could meet them? What is it about the afore mentioned adage that beckons a warning to prevent this disastrous occasion? What’s wrong with meeting our heroes? The answer… “There is none righteous, no not one.” Romans 3:10 In our eyes, they only seem so.

I’ve met many of my heroes. Over the course of the years, I’ve developed an odd knack for connecting with larger than life individuals. I have no idea how, it just happens. I’ve hung out with professional athletes, mega-pastors, internet celebrities, best selling authors, CEO’s of million, and billion dollar corporations, you name it. Many of which Ive found myself idolizing and emulating. Here’s the one take away from my experiences…they’re all flawed. This is the thing we don’t want to have to face. It destroys our image of them. I’ve found most of them to be narcissistic, neurotic, having tendencies to lie and over exaggerate, and possessing severe emotional or mental handicaps. I’m not saying they’re fake. I’m saying, I focussed on or was only allowed to see that which was impressive to me and others. However the truth is this, these men are screwed up, flawed men, who have crafted one thing very well. They got good enough at something, that it took the attention off of the bad things. Our heroes are not really deserving of that title. And, better yet, they don’t want it. They’d more readily eschew such attention than be clothed in it.

I’m not saying not to have heroes or people that you look up to. Remember, though, that they are your hero for a reason, their craft; not because they have it all together or are even a good person. Babe Ruth had a drinking problem, Bruce Wayne was bat feces crazy at times, my musical hero Tom Petty smokes too much weed, and every one of the Apostles that Jesus called to be His world changers had deep seeded issues each to their own. Peter was impulsive. James and John had indignant tempers. Judas…so yeah. So, my advise is to admire, but do so from a distance. If given the chance to finally meet your hero, DON’T. Just settle for an autograph.

and P.S.

Meeting your hero will not make you best friends. Your hero meets their fans everyday. In reality, you’re just another one and that doesn’t make them stuck up.

 

CrossFit doesn’t need more community, it needs family

jody-Z.jpg‘Community’ has become a buzz word these days. Everyone is about creating community, growing community, engaging community, etc. Thank you millennials for making it cool to create pockets of people doing nothing together and making that cool. But, community is a cool thing. I should know, that’s what I do. I create community where there was none previously. As a church planter, missionary, or millennial, I’ve grown accustomed to drawing upon the values and appeal of doing things together. That climbing the latter isn’t really that great if you’re not taking people with you.

The only problem is, community is nothing new, nor special. Community actually happens naturally and organically ,if you let it. Why? Because it’s based on affinities. You know, shared interests. People with shared interests naturally find one another at that “shared” watering hole and develop relationships and experiences. That’s human history. I contend, however that what my sport, CrossFit, needs is not more community but family. Family is intentionally created and grown. Family is actually the earliest and most ideal structure of community that God created in the beginning! Crossfit is by default community. It’s one of the tightest communities I’ve ever experienced – To the point that it’s probably closer to a cult than a sport. *joke*images

I’ve come to this conclusion from the experience of two separate observations. One happened this weekend. I spent the weekend with 2010 CrossFit Games Champion Graham Holberg and his wife, Savana. imgres They are amazing people and the do a very good job at doing community. However they go a step ahead. They don’t see community, they see family. As Graham prepared for his next big snatch, Savana is around the corner chatting with other mothers, and their precious little guy, Storm is joining in on some Spike Ball with the guys after their WOD. They’re looking after him, helping in a sense to raise him. So, there’s a perspective difference. As Graham observed, “people who suffer together, share together.” Family suffers together. It’s a bond that is stronger than only enduring through the victories but it is committed to growing through the pain.

Secondly, I see this in my own box, CrossFit Unbridled. unbridled-new-logo1The owners Andrew and Ann are not your ordinary box owners and coaches. One thing that is heavier than their clean and jerks, is the burden and care they carry for those they call members. I stand around and talk to the members, getting to know them…what I hear is that they have a love for these owner/coaches that go way beyond that of simple community. They share the pressures and stresses that extend way passed the box, into their personal lives. They share responsiblity without asking, or having to ask. They “take care of the house”.

CrossFit is a sport. The nature of the sport creates community. But, the spirit of the sport is conducive to creating family. Relationships that are forged in ideals that transcend more than reps, WODS, numbers, etc. We need to move on from those binary projections and look deeper into the hearts and lives of those performing those feats. To care for one another. To listen to ne another between stations. To remember that sometimes, sitting on a barbell to talk and share may take precedence over lifting it.

How to bio-hack your way out of stress

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Do you struggle with moments of stress and anxiety? Let me rephrase that. Are a human being? Of course you deal with stress and anxiety. Granted, some of us have better coping skills, genetics, and emotional hygene that naturally help us to alleviate the damaging effects of stress. There are just some people who are cucumbers; just cool. They go with the flow, survive by adaptation, and quickly rise above the stress modalities. Admittedly, I am not one of those. This comment is not science backed, but I often wonder if part of my struggle is hereditary. I have excess worriers in my family. Added to that is lifestyle and career that is chock full of stress. I am a pastor and church planter. I have my personal struggles that I deal with plus the struggles of a congregation. I admit to you that I’ve always had a proclivity to gravitate toward anxiety. It’s something I have to keep in serious check. In 2011, I hit the wall. I burned the candle at both ends. I fried my hard drive. Use whatever metaphore is available…I was a wreck. Stress and anxiety nearly took my ministry, my family, and my life. I’ve spent years since then developing better, personal techniques for dealing with these tenencies.

I still struggle, though now I am able to more quickly identify, assess, and impliment healthy bio-hacks that have helped me navigate and stay healthy. Now, before I get into these techniques, understand that I am a Christian. I follow the teaching of the Bible and am grounded in them for daily practice, diciplines, and faith. As a part of my faith, I regard as truth “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.” (Isaiah 26:3) There is nothing more saving than my meditation and relationship with God through Jesus Christ and this has proven itself over and over. Some of what I’m gong to mention may seem a bit unorthodox, yet I believe God has given us an array of faculties to use as a way to operate in optimal health. Though I do not use pharmacueticals for stress relief, I do not demonize their use.

  1. I listen to my body. When stress arizes, it triggers physiological signals. Sometimes I don’t even know I am stressed if not for these physical signals. I’ve become in-tune with these signals enough to be able to stop any detrimental effects before they get started. My breathing will become short and shallow. I can feel my body tempurature spike rather quickly and my cortizol levels rise. Adrenaline, epinephrine, and norepinepgrine begin surging through my blood stream. My blood vessels constrict and my skin tingles around my neck, face and ears.
  2.  My immediate step begins with a change in breathing. I stop what I’m doing and begin some deep diaphragmatic breathing or some box breathing; doing nothing but concentrting on each breath in and each breath out. I do this for several minutes.
  3. I have a mantra that i repeat to myself. No, not the eastern philisphical type of mantra. The Bible says “the truth will set you free.” As I begin to relax my body, my mind relaxes on this thought, “All in my world is good.” How can this be true? Just within the past couple weeks, much has happened that has deeply stressed me out. Because, this world is not MY world. I belong to a kingdom, the Kingdom of God. That is where my true citizenship lies. In THAT world, God’s will reigns supreme and for that fact alone, all is good. Even everything that happens that stresses me out, though it may be damaging to this temporal world or MY fleshly will, it is working perfectly in God’s planning and providence.
  4. I get get out of breath. A little run or some exercise does more than the body good. It will flush those stress hormones, utilizing them, instead of allowing them to continue to circulate. Also, exercise increases dopamine and seratonin in the brain. We runners call that the “runners high.” these are the opposite of stress hormones.
  5. I tap into herbal alternatives and nootropics. Theres an array of natural stress reducers on the market and much reearch and education in this area is deserving. Ashwaganda is a fantastic adrenal builder. Gabba is a neurotransmitter with a soothing, calming effects. So is L-theanine,  and 5-HTP.
  6. This one is a really weird one but studies have shown the benefits, but I use what’s called “frequency therapy” to promote calming brain activity. It’s called binural beats and is really cool. We know that our cognition works differently with sets or measures of different brain waves. Our excititory nervous response to different stimuli have an effect on our learning, creativity, restfulness, or calming. Ideally, when it comes to reducing our brain’s stress signals we would opt for the “Theta” brain wave..as opposed to somethimg like “alpha” which could result in higher stress or impulsive decision making which is bad during times of high hightend stress. So, I use my ear buds and a free app called “brain waves” and it emits 2 seperate whole tone frequencies into each ear, resulting in my brain harmonizing with the resulting “binural” frequency, in this case the “theta” frequency. Think of a piano being harmonized to a tuning fork. This puts my brain into de-stress mode rather quickly. 

Stress and axiety are common place and vastly responsible for a myriad of diseases and life threatening health issues. I’ve stressed my body to the point of depleting my adrenal glands and twisting my lumbar spine into acute scoliosis. Even worse was the depression and suicidal thoughts. Stress and anxiety are nothing to ignore and hide. Perhaps one of the greatest practices for stress relief is talking it out with a friend. “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.” (Proverbs 27:17)  Listen to your body and let someone else listen to you. Above all, I hope you know that God’s ear is always attentive and his presence always comforting. Consider some of these practices the next time you feel a stressful situation effecting you negatively. It actually may be your answer for turning it around into something positve and efficatious to your life.

 

 

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