Either God is Muzzling Me or I Have a “Communication Problem”

I really, really… keep… trying to publish something… ANYTHING… each day.

It’s like being restrained by an invisible muzzle. What did I do to deserve this? I think God’s answer would be something like, “I called you to be a spokesperson, and you keep getting in My way.”

Now, keep in mind that when I really start breaking things down it gets pretty confusing, so keep up.

Continue reading Either God is Muzzling Me or I Have a “Communication Problem”

60 Day Update On Intermittent Fasting

I shared with you a couple months back that I was beginning a new diet known as Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting. You can read my post here.

60 days in, and I’ve lost somewhere in the ballpark of half a pound each day. Weight really wasn’t my greatest concern, except for how it demonstrated that I crossed a line somewhere back in 2006. Truly, quitting smoking was the most difficult change I’ve ever made, and I ballooned while eating everything in sight.

My wife insists that our scale is garbage. So I stopped using it. But I can still tell as major things change. Even without numbers, running my hands over my sides tells me a lot. When the bumps disappear, that’s generally a good sign.

So as strange as it sounds, I’m tracking progress by the noticeable feel of my belly’s shape changing from day to day, but more pronounced from week to week.

Shedding excess fat wasn’t my only goal. It was a primary goal, but there were a couple supplementary goals attached.

Secondary Goals

  1. Reduce joint and foot pain
  2. Increase flexibility
  3. Accomplish more productive work
  4. Give a better first impression
  5. Reset my system so it works better

Number five there is a big one. I’m not sure how to know if I’ve accomplished that goal without someday quitting the process and eating more carelessly.

Regardless, one of the goals is to reset my system, so that I’m burning fat as a primary energy source rather than sugar (carbs).

The goal in everything is to live in abundance. To maximize quality of life. To excel at stewardship. To not miss out because I can’t move.

Life is about baby steps of progress toward abundance. Abundance in everything God created and called good.

6,288 Pages A Year

What you fill your mind with will control you.

I popped a sermon tape into a portable cassette player and took it with me on the road. It was a recording of my grandfather’s radio show, and he was telling a story about how an old lady accurately prophesied his wife’s death six months before she passed.

But that’s not the focus of today’s rumination.

I’ll expound upon that another day. Today I want to focus on something else Grandpa Lennard said that rocked my world. He confessed to reading the entire Bible SIX TIMES per year ON TOP OF his regular daily Bible study. SIX TIMES!

If you, like me, have read the entire Bible once in a year, you know how much perseverance that takes. Wading through the legalese of Leviticus and Numbers can be excruciating.

But six times??? I can’t even imagine how many hours that took each day. I mean, is that even humanly possible? If he had used my exact Bible, he would have read 6,288 pages. And naturally he did other Bible study. Naturally.

Imagine how that would change your thinking.

I’m imagining it. If I read that much Scripture, I would eat, sleep, drink, and breathe Scripture. There’d be no room for anything else in life. And yet… Grandpa Lennard traveled the world preaching the gospel and healing the sick for decades.

I can’t let it go. It feels like a gauntlet has been passed.

We’ve all binged on a show here and there. The age of Netflix and DVD sets is upon us, and it’s way more compelling to follow the storyline in a short period of time than to wait a week or two or twelve between episodes (LOST anyone?). And I must confess, when I’ve binge-watched a show, it seeps into me. It alters my dreams. My precious sleep time forms storylines that relate somehow to the story I’ve watched hour after hour after hour.

Which reminds me of a quote I can’t escape:

You become what you behold.

Whatever you gaze upon most often has the greatest power to shape your thinking, expectations, beliefs, and behaviors. It’s so subtle we sometimes don’t recognize it happening, but it’s happening. Music, movies, songs, videos, gossip, and social media all worm their way into our psychological DNA. They influence who we are.

We typically don’t WANT this to be true, because it calls us to a higher level of personal accountability. But knowing that what we behold shapes who we are empowers us to decide whether we actually want to keep choosing to be the same person. If you don’t like who you are, look first at what you behold. What do you most often watch, read, listen to, eat, touch, and daydream about?

You are forming reactions to those stimuli. You are compensating for their messages. You are adapting to make room for their truths.

And if that’s true about less than ideal inputs, it’s true about ideal inputs. Which brings me back to Grandpa Lennard.

The Call to Action

I’m not pretending to try to read the Bible six times this year. C’mon, man! I got three kids, two businesses, a homestead, goats, chickens, cats, dog, and a garden. I shut down and crawl into a fetal position sometimes. But reading once a year again might be worth it.

There are mindsets I’ve never attained, levels of faith I’ve never acquired. And I can’t help but attribute this to the quality of my inputs. I’ve dreamed of a version of me that sees the world differently. That Daniel sees into the spiritual landscape of a geographic area and calls that which isn’t into being, somewhat like lassoing a unicorn.

But you don’t lasso the unicorn by sitting on a couch eating Cheetos (or non-GMO potato chips made from avocado oil).

I want to elevate my thinking.

So I’m stepping up my game to read the Bible in one year. And that’s on top of other reading I do to better myself, including poetry, audiobooks, and podcasts.

What are YOU going to do to be a better YOU?

Just Because It’s Familiar Doesn’t Mean You Belong There

Inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. I’m sitting in the theater with my wife and kids this weekend to watch Pete’s Dragon. One of the previews shows a girl who dreams of a better life who learns to play chess. It turns out she’s really good and has the potential to play her way into a destiny far beyond the simple home where she grew up. Then came the voice that said,

Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you belong. You belong where you believe you belong.

It’s really that simple. That unexpected moment relieved some of the pressure building up inside me.

I’ve known too many people who settle for very little in comparison to what is possible. And nothing grieves me like unfulfilled potential.

It’s such a confusing decision — knowing whether staying local and loyal to one’s roots is healthy or dis-ease. Sometimes leaving the only community we’ve known is the slow but steady death by a thousand cuts we fail to notice. Other times our homes and our histories hold us back and drag us down like weights.

Sometimes we escape the familiar because accountability is painful and restricting. Other times we stay close to home because we are afraid to try and fail.

The first lesson here is to “Know Thyself” well enough to discern your motives when opportunity arises. Are you motivated by fear, irresponsibility, laziness, passion, duty, or purpose? Positive motivations typically lead to faster development. Negative motivations can turn around over time as well. I know that I started on a path eight years ago because I was afraid. That fear drove me to do extensive research and discovery on a topic that led me to discover the beauty, power, and extravagance of permaculture.

I continued performing many of the same tasks as before. The difference being that my endeavors were once based on fear of loss and now are based on the desire to design and foster beauty in the form of harmonious micro climates. It’s not about avoiding my fears. It’s about embracing my potential.

The second lesson is to embrace growth. Growth means change. Ben Affleck recently said in an interview with Bill Simmons that for the longest time, he held this attitude that he wouldn’t let it (Hollywood, success, etc) change him. He called it being true to himself. He has a whole crew of guys from Boston who hold this ideal of never letting anything change you. And those guys have the same kinds of jobs and do the same kinds of things they did as teenagers.

Never changing means never growing, and eventually Ben gave himself permission to grow and change and develop as a person. That’s called maturation.

Points to Remember

You want to know yourself well enough to pursue life and achieve your potential, and you want to give yourself permission to change.

How This Transforms Your Culture

If you’ve read other articles on Culture Feast, you may be wondering how this subject applies to your culture. I write mostly for one specific audience, and I’d be thrilled if these ideas apply to others as well. But my single-minded goal is to chip away at the mindsets of the people I grew up with who are stuck in family traditions, church traditions, hearsay, and wives’ tales.

You can transform yourself and your local community culture by choosing every second to be your passion. To leave behind the old mindsets that may be comfortable but never got you anywhere.

Unless you grew up in a community where the things that excite you are valued and esteemed, what’s familiar may not be where you belong.

Sometimes we break free to become who we truly are. If you’re afraid of losing your roots, don’t worry. There’s often time to go back and rescue others where you came from. But you’ll have no power to rescue until you embrace your very own becoming.

I Stopped Considering Chronic Pain “Normal”

Basketball was my favorite sport to play as a teenager. I played three years at our private high school, at community college spring training, and multiple times per week at the local rec center.

But I was never able to play without nagging fear after I turned 19, due to repeated injuries to both ankles.

One of my biggest regrets in life is not heeding the doctor’s warning when he put the boot on my foot. Honestly, the whole testing and treatment phase was a blur — it barely registered. So when I took the protective boot off two weeks early and chose to play basketball in the apartment parking lot, I knew I was ignoring advice. But I didn’t grasp how important that advice was.

Fast forward 20 years, and chronic pain is still the hardest part of facing each new day. If it weren’t for my two year old son demanding more water in his bottle every morning, I would avoid stepping out of bed and walking on painful feet, knees, and ankles for as long as humanly possible. As you can imagine, this makes life a challenge, especially considering I live with my wife and three children on a 40 acre homestead with a garden, goats, chickens, guineas, cats, and a dog. There’s lots of work and movement required, which is all part of my dream. But constant, chronic pain stands in my way.

What Do You Mean By Chronic Pain?

The Daniel version of “chronic pain” is constant pain that is more serious than a bruise, but isn’t debilitating in and of itself. If it were, you’d get far more empathy from your friends and family. Not being able to walk or function communicates pretty clearly that you’re dealing with a serious problem.

Chronic pain makes everyday function a painful, undesirable process.That’s the rub. It’s constant, ongoing pain that hasn’t been resolved over weeks and months, possibly years. It changes the way every single day feels. It changes the way you feel about simple tasks and chores. Washing the dishes becomes a slow agony. Getting up to help your kids is an act of love and sacrifice that costs you dearly… every single time.

If you’ve not experienced chronic pain for a long time, you may not identify. And when you encounter someone experiencing chronic pain, you usually don’t know it. Why? Because we are technically able to function and the pain doesn’t stop us from moving, we don’t talk about our pain every day. In fact, we often grow to consider the constant pain “normal”. And that’s where our quality of life changes dramatically for the worse.

Once you’ve tried a dozen different methods to reduce your pain and nothing really works, most people give up trying. And pain becomes the new normal. And once pain is considered normal, Life isn’t such a great and wondrous thing. It’s a pain to endure. It’s agony, slowly killing you.

But Just Because Something Happens Every Day Doesn’t Mean It Should Be Considered Normal

I have seen time and time again that there is more power in choice than we ever really understand. If we choose to not accept the new normal, then possibilities open to us, because we have remained open and eager for new opportunities. That pain in my foot may have been the sum of bad life choices and poor reconstructive surgery, but I don’t have to accept chronic pain as the new normal.

Chronic pain is something to overcome. It’s something to surpass and leave behind.

With that belief in mind, I’ve made some powerful choices to eradicate chronic pain from my life:

  1. Lose ALL the extra weight. No lie, I started this diet least 50 pounds overweight. Some might argue 70. Regardless, I’ve undertaken the Bulletproof Coffee approach to intermittent fasting and I’ve lost about five pounds since starting last week. Reason? Losing the weight will reduce the burden on my knees, feet, and ankles, and the level of pain intensity will shrink as a result.
  2. Ditch inflammatory foods from my diet. Lots of foods can cause inflammation, depending on your blood type and your genetic makeup (MTHFR anyone?). So foods like corn, wheat, processed chips, and Starbucks sweeteners are the first things to go.
  3. Increase the number of anti-inflammatory foods in my diet. I’m eating more fresh blueberries, blackberries, green olives, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and salmon. Reducing the number of new inflammatory incidents is great, but when you’ve got massive chronic inflammation in your body, you gotta take the fight to the enemy. These foods actively reduce inflammation over time.
  4. Clean teeth and gums extensively at a holistic dentist. Inflammation sets up camp in the body and hangs out in different locations. Despite regular brushing, I’ve had inflammation in my gums for years, but didn’t understand it. My holistic dentist explained to me that if I clean my gums extensively, I will remove things that are causing inflammation. And the more inflammation you can remove from your body, the more your body can transition from fighting to healing.
  5. Increase my body’s flexibility. I’ve begun stretching twice daily to improve my horrendous inability to touch my toes. It’s much more than that, though. Tight tendons and ligaments have caused inflammation in multiple areas of my body, which leads to additional problems like exacerbating kidney function.
  6. Exercise regularly. Since I’m starting from a total lack of flexibility and chronic foot pain, I need low impact exercise I can believe in. Tai Chi has become my first choice because of its multi-faceted benefits. It’s low impact. It helps you reestablish a centered body frame. You reopen yourself where you’ve been closed off and unhealthy. And added bonus: you establish an ideal foundation for self-defense. Some people are afraid of Tai Chi for religious reasons, but I have not experienced that yet as a problem. My response to teachings I disagree with would be to continue to accept the desirable and reject the undesirable.

There are more steps to take, of course, but each one of these steps takes me closer to my goal of a life free from chronic pain.

What are YOU doing to eliminate chronic pain from your life? If you want to chat or keep in touch, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook through the icons below.

Mastering Pop Culture Might Not Make You As Amazing A Person As You Once Thought

A lot of you grew up, like me, burdened with the uber rules of a religious household. It was oppressive because parents were afraid of everything, from Dungeons and Dragons to Garbage Pail Kids to the Smurfs, a lot of churchy parents feared the influence of popular culture on their kids.

The simplest answer was to remove pop culture from the home. Whether that meant removing the tv entirely or only allowing kids to listen to “Christian” music, moms and dads tried a lot of different things to keep the influence of the world away from their kids.

There was a massive backlash eventually. After enduring the ever popular condemn-everyone-for-what-they-do-wrong stage, most kids went through a “I’m so authentic in my faith that I don’t shame others or myself into avoiding secular music and television. In fact, I’m going to always be in the know so I can be relevant in my faith for this day and age.”

And it sounds nice, the thought that we could take the judgmentalism out of the child and leave the devotion and faith to simmer in the midst of alternative grunge rock and Ethan Hawk movies.

The problem came with the never ending degrees of compromise. There was never really a safe place to stop experiencing pop culture. So we ended up being identical to pop culture. We dress the same, talk the same, watch the same movies, and talk about the same celebrities on Twitter.

And while it might seem like a virtue that we no longer make everyone feel like they’re going to burn in eternal hellfire for each bad decision they’ve made, our lives are so identical to the rest of the world that whatever ideas or beliefs we might have to share wouldnt’ matter in the slightest to them. After all, why take on the burden of new beliefs and ideas that really don’t change your life AT ALL?

Change that only takes place on the inside is theoretical change. Not REAL change. And change that only takes place in your “beliefs” or your “heart” aren’t worth adopting anyway. You can be just like you are right now, or you can believe what I believe because I say so and STILL live just like you are right now. It’s a decision that offers no point in making it.

There MUST Be A Point To Faith

Faith has to mean something. I know it’a cool and super accepting of you as a person to say that faith is a private personal matter like politics but it’s simply not. Sure, anyone can hold whatever beliefs they choose. That is a freedom and a right. But if they remain the same as everyone else in their behavior and lifestyle, their differences in “faith” are really not very important.

Faith causes us to BE more. And faith causes us to DO more. Not because we’re bad if we don’t. Not because we don’t want to be shameful citizens. But because faith transforms lives. It breathes new life into old weary bones. It opens eyes to new innocence and puts to death old ways of thinking, expecting, and believing.

What we do is the obvious, natural outgrowth of what we believe. So if we behave like everyone else, do we REALLY believe so much different than they do? Or do we just hold onto some different ideas in our minds?

Ideas can be examined objectively. Faith comes from hearing unwavering truth and being convinced on the inside of its veracity. It causes change because Truth means the rules are way different than we used to think they were. And the difference between these rules and those old rules is life changing.

Ideas are interesting. Faith is transformative. Let’s make sure we’re using the right words for what we have.

Radically Transform Your Life By Making One Tiny Change

I get easily distracted. Shiny objects, pretty blog themes, and social notifications are my kryptonite. So when I tell you that you can radically transform your culture one decision at a time, know that this is the voice of painful, failure-ridden experience talking.

Save Your Starts For Mondays

It takes A LOT for me to get moving, so I time my new ventures to coincide with events that will help me see it through. For example, I don’t try to start ANY new habits Tuesday – Sunday. It’s Monday or bust. First Monday of the month? Even better. First Monday of the new year? The absolute best.

Change feels more official when it begins on a first. Without this help, I find it much easier to feel lazy and chalk the idea of doing something new as a “fad” or “just another hair-brained idea”. Without that added bonus of beginning on a Monday, it’s more of a casual everyday decision. I don’t know about you, but I don’t get ANYTHING done when I handle life casually. So Mondays it is.

Start Small. No REALLY Small.

Big changes come from doing small things over and over and developing new habits. Imagine how different you will be when at the end of the first year you’ve implemented 12 changes to your lifestyle and habits! This is radical life-changing stuff we’re talking about.

But most people who don’t see it through bail because they aim too high. Yes, this is the point when I tell you to get your head out of the clouds and focus on much smaller routine shifts.

What qualifies as a small shift?

Any number of things qualify. Here’s a few ideas to get you started…

  • Wake up 15 minutes earlier, make a cup of coffee, and meditate.
  • Take 5 minutes to thank God for your spouse, children, friends, job, latest victory, current provision
  • Add a leafy green vegetable to lunch every single day
  • Wear blue blocker glasses after 7PM every evening
  • Turn off wifi on phone and router before bed each night
  • Call your mom/dad every Sunday and ask about their week
  • Read 10 pages per day in a book you’ve been meaning to read
  • Stretch for 10 minutes before you get dressed in the morning
  • Spend your lunch breaks in the sun whenever weather permits

If this list doesn’t appeal to you, that’s okay. It’s not your job to do what I would do. It’s up to you to listen to your gut, your intuition, your conscience, and do the 1st thing that comes to you. Small shifts change lives. 

Just to give you an idea of how small the shift can be, I’ll tell you my latest small shift.

FLOWER ESSENCES. Yes, that’s how manly I am. I have determined within myself to put 4-6 drops of flower essences in every glass of water I drink all day long. If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, I’ll tell you in an upcoming post. But the point for today is that my change is using a liquid dropper and putting four tiny drops of liquid into my glass of water.

Will it transform my life? Maybe. But I’m not counting on one new shift changing my life all by itself. It’s about building momentum. My shift for this month starts a snowball of change. When next month rolls around, I’ll be in the habit of using flower essences all the time, and I won’t have to think about it anymore. Then I’ll add something else to my life in addition. One change will improve my mood and my positive attitude. That slight shift enables me to speak with thankfulness. That shift enables me to see people differently and choose to listen more. That shift opens up my channel of empathy. And before you know it, the snowball has grown so large that I’m rolling on a whole new level.

Week upon week, month upon month, year upon year. It’s radical cultural change one tiny choice at a time.

What will YOU choose?

Be The Change You Want To See

You have two choices. They’re the same two choices your neighbor has. And the same two your wife or husband has. Your boss, your teacher, your brother and sister – all have the same two choices to choose from each day.

A) Will I follow the easy path life presents me?

B) Will I chart a new path because I am compelled to be the best I can be?

If you answered B, then taking each day as it comes is not an option. It’s an intentional life choice, filled with uncertainty and unpredictability. But it’s also fraught with new experiences and delightful adventures.

Think differently.

Pop culture won’t get you where you want to go. It’s the common thread of our existence today, and yet it’s harmful effects drain the lifeblood from aspiring artists and world changers everywhere.

It’s time to think differently about relevance. Too many people seek to be relevant through commonality. I know the same music and movies as you. I follow the same celebrity gossip that you do. We have common ground because we consume the same things and idolize the same people. That mentality generates more of the same. If you want sameness, this is your path.

But if you seek a life of purpose and meaning, pop culture is NOT your ally. Seek out the voices in the shadows. Seek out recommendations from the experts in your areas of interest. The Gene Logsdons and Graham Cooke’s of the world can’t be found on TMZ or Facebook News

Shop differently.

Do you buy new things instead of repairing old? Do you throw things away that bore you and replace them on a whim? Do you spend more and more money on holiday gifts to prove your affection for friends and family? That’s the path of consumer culture. Buy to feel better. Shopping as entertainment.

It’s time to shop differently. Consider the products you normally buy. Where are they made? Under what conditions? How does the creation of these products affect the natural habitat of birds, fish, and mammals we need to maintain ecological balance? Could you build what you need instead? Perhaps a neighbor would be willing to trade so that products aren’t wasted or prematurely disposed.

We create the world we want to live in every time we spend a dollar. Whether on plastic baubles or meaningful experiences.

Work differently.

What type of career path will you choose? Will you seek a job where the salary is guaranteed but the opportunity is limited? Will you sacrifice creativity for stability? Or will you blaze a trail and create the job around the meaningful work you already want to do?

When you go to work, will you punch the clock and bide your time, or will you make the most of every minute? Success occurs when opportunity aligns with preparation. Preparation takes place for years prior to opportunity. This is your time. Your opportunity. Use it wisely.

Church differently.

Do you show up once a week to listen to someone speak and then return to your “real” and completely different life? Or do you seek to BE church and hone your God-given gifts and abilities by sharing them with people every day? Service, encouragement, teaching, prophecy, administration, shepherding… opportunities are everywhere.

Eat differently.

Is food a convenient pleasure? Or is it an intentional sacrament. Without getting legalistic, there is much meaning and richness to be found in the simple act of eating a meal. How you choose to think about food impacts the quality and convenience of each meal. And your direct involvement affects your connection to the world from which your food came. Are you drawing a closer connection to the soil? Or do you partake in a vacuum?

Play differently.

Does recreational time require expensive purchases or simple pleasures? Are you sedentary or active? Do you engage with others or isolate and consume? Recreation recreates your soul. How you partake defines your path and who you will become.

Be the change.

Intentionality. Each day you choose who you will be five, ten, twenty years from now. The smallest choices steer the largest ships. Where are you headed? Look to your choices. They tell the tale.

God’s Promise Means Prayer Time Is Over

You can’t Be The Change until you can be yourself. And you can’t be yourself until you see yourself as God sees you. As you pursue Him within the context of a social group, you start to receive words of knowledge and prophecies from other believers. And much of the time, God’s words about you sound like He’s talking about someone else.

God sees you outside of Time.

God himself is not subject to Time, so he knows you both as you were, as you are, and as you will be – all at the same time. So when God speaks to you, He speaks to the you who stands before the throne at the end of it all, full of glory and His righteousness.

He talks to us as though we are already the finished product. As though we’ve already completed all the trials and been purified. And in so doing, He prophesies to us who we are becoming. Who we will become in Time.

Each promise He gives is done.

It’s given. If we hear His promises from a perspective that cognitively steps outside of Time and sees that things “just are”, then we realize that outside the timeline the fulfillment of the promise already exists. But within the timeline we have not experienced it yet. But it’s there nonetheless. So we know that the promise realized already is and we cease petitioning God for that thing and we begin thanking him for that thing.

This is a critical step I missed for years and I don’t want you to suffer the same fate. You don’t HAVE to sit around and resent the fact that what God says isn’t happening. You don’t have to be miserable and depressed because you don’t know how to make what God says come true. 

Graham Cooke fleshes this out a little in his series, Living Your Truest Identity. ,

The importance of knowing how you are known in heaven. God loves to give us inheritance words. The whole language of heaven is the language of promise. Everything God does and says has promise attached to it.

The law of life in Christ Jesus – When God grants you something, he expects you to take him for granted. If you read Isaiah 61, the mission statement of Jesus, he’s granting us things in the context of change and transition. When God gives you something, it’s the end of prayer. When God makes you a promise, what he’s saying is, You no longer need to pray about this anymore. It’s the end of prayer and it’s the beginning of proclamation.

So when you go through your inheritance words and your prophecies, you understand that God is saying that you are released from supplication about these areas because you have a promise. So now I’m expecting you to stand on the promise and declare to me. I’m expecting you to rejoice. To give thanks. And to praise. Now I want you to stand before me and say, “Thank you that you have given me this. I rejoice in your promise. I rejoice in your intentionality. I rejoice in your faithfulness. And I’m grateful to You that you have now called me into a partnership with you that will enable me to grow in this area outrageously.

When God gives you a promise, it’s the end of prayer. It’s the beginning of declaration and confession. We are proclaiming to the heavenly host, “I have permission in this area!”

This changes everything.

What if those things you’ve been begging God for that He’s already promised would come much faster to you if you just stopped asking and began declaring and thanking? This is what it means to “stand on the promises.” It’s so simple. So profound. And yet it’s not being taught most places. We’re taught to beg and plead for a drop of God’s goodness and to cover up our disappointments when it seems He’s no longer listening.

Rather than beg like a pauper, let’s proclaim like entitled sons and daughters.