A little paleo, anyone?

paleo picAs we were joining CrossFit Hammock Beach my wife and I accepted the paleo-diet challenge offered by the owner/coaches. Six weeks of eating like an ancestral hunter-gatherer caveman. We ate healthy already, so how hard could it be?

The biggest adjustment was eliminating grain from our meals. I was used to making a sandwich, smearing peanut butter on a slice of bread, snacking on tortilla chips, cereal for breakfast, and preparing pasta and rice as side dishes. I cut all that out and switched from peanut butter to almond butter, too.

Another adjustment was not drinking alcohol. A beer a night, a little bourbon here and there, or a glass of wine with supper were part of our routine. We hopped on the wagon for six weeks.

We were already mostly dairy free. Just had to cut out cheese. I already drank my coffee black. We had already stopped buying food with added sugar, so that really wasn’t an adjustment. I hardly ever drank soda, so nothing changed there. We cut way back on oranges and bananas, easy to grab snacks but a little high on natural sugars.

To tell you the truth I didn’t think it was really that hard. I like to cook and I like to cook with fresh ingredients. Most of our suppers were already just a salad with a grilled piece of meat. My only cheat along the way, if you could call it that, was a bite of cake after my grandson’s baptism and a glass of red wine at a family birthday celebration.

The big question: did it make any difference? Did I feel different? Did I look different? Did I perform better, especially learning new skills at CrossFit?

Here’s what I noticed:

  • I pay much more attention to what I eat. I used to grab whatever, not really thinking about it. Now I think about everything I eat.
  • I need to eat more. Without any breads or chips to temporarily fill me up, I’ve increased all my portions of meats and veggies and nuts.
  • I’m not sure if I lost weight overall, but I know my pants all fit looser at the waist. My muscles seem more defined, but that may also be a result of the challenging workouts I’ve never done before.
  • I didn’t really have any health issues coming into this, so I can’t comment on any changes like that.
  • More energy? Maybe. That’s hard to say. I don’t remember feeling worn out before.
  • I might be sleeping a little bit better. Either that or the WOD wore me out and I was in bed earlier.

The biggest difference for me is probably psychological rather that physiological. I know I’m not eating as much junk and that alone makes me feel better about myself. Plus the fact that I was up for the challenge.

I’ll know more when I weigh in and get measured next week. I’ve saved room for desserts at Thanksgiving, of course, but I’ll continue this plan. I think that it takes more than just six weeks to feel the full effect of eating this way. I’ll let you know how things turn out. I’ll probably start writing about some of the recipes and products we’ve found along the way that work for us.

 

 

Creative moments

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Photo by Danielle Dolson on Unsplash

A couple of times this morning, I had surprisingly creative moments. First, very early, while free writing after some scripture reading, the themes for my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day sermons popped into my head. Later, as I sat in my office to begin working on sermons for the next two Sundays, the themes and outlines fell into place in just a few hours.

After those few hours of door-closed, phone-in-airplane-mode, no distraction work, I paused to capture what made the morning so productive with what seemed like so little effort. You see, I want to be able to recreate such moments. As any writer, artist, composer or pastor knows, it’s not always that easy. Sometimes you close the door, turn off the distractions, pray, struggle, work and sweat, only to come up with nothing useful. Was there anything specific about today that I can replicate in the future?

One might suggest divine inspiration, and that may be a part of it. But there’s no way to predict when that might happen or turn it on like a faucet. God’s Spirit is like the wind. There’s no way to predict when you’ll feel the breeze. You just enjoy it when it blows.

I thought of a few things that might have contributed to an especially creative morning. First, I was as far away from Sunday as I could be. No pressure, no imminent deadline. I didn’t have to come up with any ideas. That reality freed my mind to wander, imagine, visualize and come up with all kinds of crazy ideas.

I’ve also begun drawing pictures in my journal, images that I find on the pages of my morning devotions. I’ll bet doing something artistic wakes up the right side of my brain, the creative side.

I believe reading helps, too. If I just read some devotional stuff, some fiction, a mystery, anything that takes me away in a story, and my mind begins to generate ideas. Out of nowhere. They just start to grow. Ten to fifteen minutes of reading opens a window into parts of my mind where really cool ideas otherwise lie hidden just out of sight.

I may not always be as productive as I was this morning. But I am going to try making every Monday morning such a creative time.

The renewal of my mind

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Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

This morning was a little different for me. Rather than two morning worship services, we had just one focused on God’s grace, especially for veterans and local heroes from our fire and sheriff’s departments. It was at a later time, so my Sunday morning began a little later than usual. We had a special guest preacher, too, so I didn’t have to worry about a sermon. I had a rare chance to simply sit and listen, reflect and renew my mind.

Paul’s words in Romans 12 are familiar, but I don’t know that I ever really put my finger on how to renew my mind. But that’s exactly what happened today. In a few moments of quiet, I jotted down a few ways that my mind was renewed today.

  • Since last Tuesday, much of the news in Florida was about the election results and now recounts because the contests were so close. There are a lot of strong feelings on both sides and will continue to be as official results are announced later this week. But worship today reminded me that the Lord is still on the throne. Always has been. Always will be. No recounts. No contest. That truth puts my mind at ease. One less thing to wonder about when I fall asleep tonight.
  • Worship also reorients my thinking from guilt to grace. The pressure to be better and do more comes from within myself as well as those around me. But when we gather as a church family, it’s all about how good Christ is and how much he’s done. It’s a lot easier and refreshing to be myself when the spotlight is on him.
  • The final benediction reminds me that God looks at me with approval. In his eyes I’m not just OK, I’m righteous. That reality helps me think of myself differently, with a renewed mind.

I don’t get that anywhere else. For me, that’s reason enough to want to be with the church each Sunday.

A tear in my eye?

(Tear in the title is pronounced with a long a, not a long e.)

A feeling of relief swept over my as the doctor stepped back and said, “Everything looks good.” Two weeks ago, I was in for my annual checkup with the retina specialist. A few years ago a colleague had repaired a tear in my right eye. Now something had shown up in my left, aka my “good” eye. I hadn’t noticed any changes in my vision. Asymptomatic is the term the doctor charted. A little lasering was the treatment he prescribed. (I’m sure there is more clinical-sounding word for that.)

eye laserSo an assistant numbed up my eye, I put my chin and forehead on the “look inside your eye” machine, and the doctor got to work with a trigger in his hand and an intensely bright light shining in my eye. For about ten minutes he fired shot after shot around the tear to isolate and attach anything that might come loose. There was a soft sound kind of like a “pew-pew-pew” over and over again as he called for his assistant to increase the power after each round. It didn’t really hurt. The sensation was like someone was in my head poking a blunt stick on the back of my eyeball. Annoying but not painful.

When it was all over, the assistant rinsed out my eye, put a patch over it and said, “Wear this for about an hour.” I asked, “Any aftercare instructions?” “Nope,” was his reply. “We’ll see you in a couple of weeks.” Oh. Ok. And just like that I was done and out the door. It turns out that was the easy part. Now I had to drive home with a patch over my good eye and my so-so eye fully dilated. It was only a mile or so, but I vowed right then and there to get a driver from now on.

For the next fourteen days I was ultra-sensitive to every little floater, shadow, blurriness, sensation that might indicate that something wasn’t right. Nothing happened during that time, but I was hyper-vigilant.

Finally it was time for my recheck. My driver dropped me off and left to run some errands. The doctor only dilated my recovering eye, peered in at every possible angle with two different kinds of light, and announced, “Everything looks good.” For the rest of the day, none of the floaters or shadows bothered me at all. Those three words made all the difference in the world.

On his way out, the doctor said, “We’ll want to see you more than once a year now.” I replied, “I’ll come whenever you want. Thank you!”

Eyes are pretty amazing. So are the doctors who specialize in the care of eyes and the correction of vision.

Animal Kingdom

We were up and out the door at 6 am this morning, on the way to Disney’s Animal Kingdom with my daughter, son-in-law, and two of our grandsons. For the little guys, Elijah and Daniel, it was their first Disney experience, so we were all very excited.

The drive through Orlando wasn’t too harrowing, even through rush hour. It’s pretty much one big construction zone the whole way, though. The crowds pouring through the gates were formidable from the minute the park opened.

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First stop was the Festival of the Lion King, a wonderful music and dance performance by some extremely talented folks. Eli’s a big Lion King fan, so it was a hit. 

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Next stop was a fast pass appointment with Mickey and Minnie!

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Eli rode the Triceratops ride at least five times. 

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The weather wasn’t too hot, but still perfect for a nice, messy, sticky strawberry popsicle. 

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Pluto spent a lot of time dancing around the bone yard…

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…while Eli made a lot of trips down a big spiral slide. 

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A random nice person gave Eli a long stuffed purple snake won at an arcade game!

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Eli capped off his day by scoring a really cool bubble wand. 

We also enjoyed the “It’s Hard Being a Bug” show, the safari, and the “Finding Nemo” musical.

A few tips for those headed to Animal Kingdom in the future:

  • The app lets you know all the wait times. Great resource.
  • The park was most crowded in the morning, then thinned out in the afternoon. Going later is a good idea.
  • A 210 minute wait for the Avatar ride? Three-and-a-half hours? Better use your fast pass or forget it. It must be an amazing ride. (We didn’t even go to that part of the park.)
  • There’s a Starbucks on property! It’s worth going just to see how quickly they can crank out the lattes.
  • Dress your child in a red shirt if you are going to let them eat the red popsicle. And the frozen chocolate covered banana is plenty big to share.
  • It’s OK to bring your own water into the park.
  • You can eat paleo at the park. Grilled chicken salad for lunch.
  • The bars have a nice selection of beers. For $10 each! I didn’t drink today.
  • Even though it takes longer to load up the dinos than the ride itself, the Triceratops ride never gets old. Like the Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom.
  • Animal Kingdom feels more relaxed than the other parks I’ve been to.

I hadn’t been to a Disney attraction in years. Taking the little ones made it worthwhile.

 

Brown dog security company

Brown Dogs

The two brown dogs guarding our home raise the alert status to Defcon 5 about every fifteen minutes or so. Growls, woofs and urgent barks echo through the house for any of the following reasons.

  • The mailman is delivering the mail.
  • The garbage man has arrived.
  • The UPS man has arrived.
  • The Fedex guy has arrived.
  • The neighbor across the street has opened his garage door.
  • The neighbor has closed his garage door.
  • Our garage door has opened.
  • The neighbor from down the street is walking by.
  • The neighbor from down the street is walking by with a dog.
  • The neighbor from down the street is riding by on a bicycle.
  • A car door opens.
  • A car door shuts.
  • A squirrel runs across the fence.
  • Something sounds like a knock at the door.

This is the short list. I am sure there are many more in the Florida Brown Dog home security manual.

Are there pointy hats in heaven?

party hatsEven though All Saints is technically November 1 on the church calendar, we celebrated it in worship today. And since we call it a “celebration,” the children’s sermon wasn’t too hard to put together. After all, if there’s joy in heaven when one person repents, we can celebrate here on earth too. So I gave out pointy party hats and party blowers, those things that unroll when you blow into them.

I knew those things would be fun, I just didn’t know how much fun. I got a big kick for the rest of the morning when I saw all these pointy hats sticking up from the pews as I preached. I also had fun working around them to bless the children who came up for a blessing at communion. Something so simple provided so much entertainment!

So as I reflect on the day, here’s my question: are there pointy party hats in heaven? On the one hand, one might immediately answer, “Of course not. That would be silly.” On the other hand, if the kingdom of heaven indeed belongs to little children, they may just bring their hats and noisemakers with them! I can so picture Jesus wearing a pointy party hat with the kids.

While we have little hints here and there throughout the bible of what heaven will be like, we’re not really going to know what it’s like till we get there. But I’m absolutely certain that when I breathe my last in this life and take my first breath in the next, if I see pointy party hats, I’ll know I’m in the right place!

Total meltdown

gem-lauris-rk-606993-unsplash“Ok, two minutes.”

That’s all I said. That’s all it took. Suddenly, my grandson fell to the ground, let loose a long, agonizing wail, and would not accept the truth that we were leaving the fast food restaurant play ground in two minutes.

This caught me off guard. A two-minute warning was usually well received. I had never seen such a reaction. I know he was just getting over a cold and wasn’t 100% yet, but this was over the top.

Later, I wondered — what makes me melt down like that? We all have our moments. Most of the time we are well-behaved, composed, and in control. But all it takes is one look, one comment, one request, and we can lose it, too. We may not scream, but we’ll certainly feel like it.

I did a little soul-searching and came up with the one thing that makes me melt down, at least on the inside. (When you are an adult, you learn how to stuff your feelings and make everyone think you’re doing just fine.) It’s when someone asks me to do just one more thing that I don’t consider to be part of my job description, but is a request that makes perfect sense to them.

I know, I have to explain. Here’s a good example. Someone who has no connection with the church whatsoever calls to ask me to perform a religious service for them, like a wedding or a funeral or a baptism. Or someone is concerned about their adult child who has never really shown much interest in the church, but perhaps I talk some sense into them because they are making bad decisions. Here’s another — someone has a great idea for ministry that they think I should implement. Will they help? Not a chance.

Those are just some of the moments when I just want to say, “I’ll be back in a minute,” so I can go outside and just scream at the top of my lungs. I don’t often do that. But I sometimes feel like doing that. In fact, if we’re talking and I step out for a minute, you can be pretty sure that’s exactly what I’m doing.

So I really wasn’t too upset when my grandson lost it. I thought, “I know; I feel your pain.” I’ve been in meltdown mode before. I’ll be there again. I’m thankful that I have a heavenly Father who’s willing to take me by the hand, walk me out of there, and give me a chance to pull myself together. I think there’s a lot of kicking and screaming in the kingdom of God. But he loves me anyway.

A smile!

I did it. I coaxed a smile out of my youngest grandchild Daniel today. I wasn’t the first to do that, but it was the first time for me.

As I reflect on that, I think it’s pretty amazing. I’m not absolutely certain, but I think smiling is an acquired skill. While we’re born with the muscles to smile, we have to learn how to get the corners of our mouths to turn upwards. And we do! At some point our eyes begin to focus on the face in front of us, a face that is smiling at us, and we imitate them as best we can and just like that, we’re smiling!

I enjoy making people smile. Sometimes it’s easy. All I have to do is look at my youngest daughter and she not only smiles but breaks into laughter. Other folks are harder. Some who hear my sermons, which usually include at least one humorous line or story, will not crack a smile.

What is it that makes me smile? There’s the usual — a funny story, certain bodily sounds, a silly face, puppies, finishing up a task, a package at the door, a check in the mail, a clever idea that pops into my head, finding some money in a pants pocket. When someone smiles at me, it’s hard to not smile back.

me and danielAnd of course, a baby. Even before they learn to smile, they make us smile. And then they learn how to smile from us. Isn’t that amazing.

Just thinking about that makes me smile.