Category Archives: Everything Else

A New Adventure Begins!

So I haven’t blogged in a while, or has it been a good-while? Or perhaps a long-while? I think it’s been a good-long-while. 

At the risk of sounding cliche, especially for a millennial Christian, I’ve found myself in a season off of discernment the last few years. Between marrying Megan, buying a new house, and marching closer to the big “4-0,” I’ve had plenty of cause to pause and consider where I am, where God is calling me, and asking how I need to be spending my time and efforts. 

Long story short, due to a number of things, I’ve arrived at a place where I believe that God is leading me to be in service to a people group to whom I believe the whole of the Christian Church is hasn’t given adequate attention. To be fair, the world at large has only recently become aware of this people group: neurodivergent people. 

Why Neurodivergent People?

If you’re not familiar with the term “neurodivergent” that’s probably because it was coined less that 25 years ago and it hasn’t become popular in the common vernacular until the last ten years. If you want to read a brief explanation of what it is you can read our first blog entry on our new website here. 

Full disclosure: I’m one of these people. As someone with an anxiety disorder and ADHD I’ve had internal struggles that are often not addressed by churches. And I’ve recently realized that many of the people I’m closest with are likely neurodivergent as well. I see these people and appreciate both their extraordinary talents and their struggles. 

Neurodivergent(ND) people often struggle to connect with others, especially neurotypical people. While some excel at school and work, many ND people have trouble in traditional class room and/or work environments. Because of these challenges ND people and are more susceptible to depression, addiction, and self harm.

Yet very few churches are making concerted efforts to reach out to them, and in fact they often unintentionally do things to antagonize them, often labeling accommodations for these individuals as kowtowing to consumerism. I should hasten to say that this is understandable as neurotypical people are in the majority, and they have a tendency to think of neurodivergent characteristics as childish or they over-pathologize these conditions and think of them as diseases in need of cure. I would suggest that we should be thinking of those differences as potential strengths that the church might be missing out on and try to be welcoming as many neurotypes as we can. 

The Church is missing out

The fact is the global Church could greatly benefit from embracing neurodiversity as with these people bring many skills to the table. People with Autism are also very good at pattern recognition. ADHD people are often more creative and can be quick at picking up new things (if they interest them.) People with dyslexia tend to be good a problem solving. People with dyspraxia are more gifted in strategic thinking. People with dysgraphia are often better story tellers. People with dyscalculia tend to be good verbal communicators. After a moment we start to hear something that sounds a great deal like the Body of Christ talked about in 1 Corinthians 12. I often wonder if what we call handicaps might in fact be part of God’s design? 

Many of history’s great thinkers, entrepreneurs, and artists were probably neurodivergent and many today have been diagnosed. Alan Turing, the famous WWII code breaker and father of artificial intelligence is believed to be autistic and dyslexic. There is little doubt that Einstein was dyslexic, and also possibly autistic. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic was eventually diagnosed with ADHD. Bill Gates is dyslexic, so was JFK and he and Walt Disney are both believed to have been ADHD. No one would be surprised to hear that Jim Carey has an ADHD diagnosis, but you might be shocked to hear that both Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps do too. And while most people know that Elon Musk is autistic, you probably don’t know that Lionel Messi, Dan Aykroyd, and Eminem all have diagnoses as well. 

Could you imagine people with the drive, hyperfocus, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking that we might be missing out on in the church, by not making an effort to specifically speak to people in this community?  I’ve been asking myself this question and wondering what we could do to be more loving and welcoming to my fellow neurodivergent people because they need community, and we can benefit greatly from including them. 

So what are we doing?

My wife and I recently decided to launch a an online store which you can find at the website This site is just a first step in the broader dream, but it’s a step we’re excited to be taking. It is a store where we are selling shirts, hats, and other accessories. We’re coming up with funny things that we find relatable or funny as nerdy neurodivergent people ourselves. If you’re not a nerd or neurodivergent you might think they don’t make sense or that they’re goofy – in which case you might not be the target audience, but that’s ok, you can still help us out in the

What we plan to do is to give 10% of profits to organizations that benefit neurodivergent people. But we don’t want to stop there. The hope that we have is that we can eventually use the capital raised from this online store to eventually open a brick-and-mortar table-too gaming store that would become a haven for neurodivergent people to gather and engage in a healthy community with . 

We can only accomplish this if the store gets sales, so that’s where you come in. You can help in several ways

  1. If you know anyone specifically who might be interested in our products please share the website with them. While it’s not bad to share the site on social media, people are less likely to click on a random link in their timeline than they are a link specifically sent to them by a friend. 
  2. Find us on all the socials and follow/like us. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Threads, TikTok, Tumblr, Pinterest, and YouTube
  3. Buy from us! If you see something you like, buy it and leave a positive review for us. Please don’t be surprised if it takes a little while for your product to arrive. We’re using a print-on-demand service to keep our overhead as low as possible. 
  4. Purchase a gift card – If you don’t see something that you would like maybe you know someone else who might, or maybe you’re just feeling generous and you want to help us get started.
  5. Pray for us – prayer is free, and it’s the most helpful thing you can do. 

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about Nerd Supply you can always email

9 Tips for having the most fun playing TTRPGs

So this isn’t an explanation of the rules or any kind of specific “How to” for D&D or any other RPG, instead it’s general tips for being the best kind of player and enjoying yourself while also encouraging other poeple at your table to have the most fun possible

  1. Listen – The first rule is the mos important; you need to listen carefully both to your GM and your fellow players. Often times players are looking for opportunities to jump in and talk – which is great, we all enjoy playing our characters, but you want to make sure that you’re hearing from the other players and catching important details in both your and their stories. If you listen to what others are saying and remember important details you will be a better player and others will want you at their table.
  2. Learn your character and do your homework. – Know all the important pieces of info in your character’s back story and if your GM gives you anything to read then read it and try to remember it. Usually it means there are important narrative moments that will depend on you knowing certain things. If the GM has to remind you of important details about your character in the middle of the game it will lesson the impact of the story.
  3. Say “Yes, and…” – the famous best advice for improv performers is remarkably relevant to RPG players. To be able to say “Yes, and…” You have to listen and know your character, but once you have done those things you can begin to add to the story. To do that you have to do two things – First agree to what the GM and other players are setting up. Second, add to what’s already going. Just make sure you’re adding to it and not hijacking it.
  4. Avoid unnecessary combat – A good GM will work hard to make sure that your campaign is balanced with both combat and story. If you’re patient you’ll get into some satisfying fights. Jumping to kill every shop keeper and and friendly wanderer is what’s known as being a “Murder Hobo” and while some people might enjoy that style of play, most prefer to allow the story to play out without random killing. Killing ever NPC in sight is a good way to derail the story and frustrate your GM as well as other players who might’ve chosen to make a character who emphasized on high charisma or intelligence instead of strength.
  5. Get creative! – Most GM’s and other players will agree: the rule of cool reigns supreme. If you’re in a situation where you’re facing a foe who is far more formidable than you foresaw, come up with a fun, funny, or cool way to escape, or to incapacitate them. Fighting an enemy on a ship? Could you tie the anchor to them and toss it overboard? Fighting a big group of skeltons in a cave? Could you knock out the supports around the room and trigger a cave in? Fighting a group of goblins in the forest? Could you reach a big tree limb with a rope and pull it down on all of them? Are you in a room in a wooden building? Maybe ask the GM if setting it on fire is an option. None of these are moves on your character sheet, but they’re far more interesting than choosing between a perscribed attack or retreating. But keep in mind that if all you ever do is the most chaotic thing you might be keeping the story from unfolding the way it should – so be respectful if the GM says that your crazy idea can’t work.
  6. Set others up for fun and success – If you’re less concerned with getting your own crowning, “Rule-of-cool” moment, and more concerned with helping other people get theirs then you’ll find that the GM and other players will make sure you get your time to shine. Being willing to support others will ensure that others not only want to play with you more, they’ll want to make sure you’re having fun as well. If you’re always racing to be the coolest, funniest, most interesting character then eventually no one will want you that their table.
  7. Communicate expectations and concerns early and often – If you have specific expectations for your RPG experience you need to make sure that those expectations are communicated to the GM. If you have concerns be sure to communicate those quickly and kindly with no hostility. It’s better to have any thoughts or concerns out in the open than to wait until other people figure out that you’re upset – because in all likelihood they never will.
  8. Leave the table if you’re uncomfortable – if people aren’t being respectful, if you’re consistently not having fun, or if you’ve expressed your concerns only to have them ignored then it is time to move on to a new table. This is tough, but the sooner you take action – while remaining respectful – the sooner that you can move on. Sometimes it’s not a matter of right and wrong, sometimes it’s just not a good fit. Don’t be afraid to branch out and find new groups.
  9. Have fun! – The point isn’t to “win,” or keep to the rules, or even to finish the story. The point is to have fun. If you’re not there to have fun then, well I’m not sure why you’re playing anyway. Don’t worry, be a jerk, and just enjoy yourself.

There are many other tips that could be said, but these general principles will ensure that you’re having fun.

9 Reasons I can’t buy into the Enneagram.

I first heard about the Enneagram several years ago and was reminded of it again a few years later when I heard Ian Morgan Cron, the author of the popular Enneagram book, The Road Back to You, speak at a conference. His talk was fun, winsome, and I wanted to like the concepts he espoused. I had taken an Enneagram test online many years before and I had gotten a 5. But in talking to many of my closest friends at that time many of them labeled me a 7. However, talking to work colleagues who only know me in that context, it seems they think I’m a 4 and one at the time said that I’m definitely not a 7. I’ve taken five tests in all and gotten 5, 4, 7, 3, and 6. That’s right, I’ve never gotten the same result twice.

I’m aware that Enneagram enthusiasts will all say that either that’s because tests aren’t really accurate, or it just means I don’t actually know myself, or I haven’t studied it enough, or I haven’t read the right book or taken the right test, or I need to spend more time with it all so I can really understand what I am. I’ve heard it all. So I have spent a long time – years in fact – evaluating the Enneagram and I want to share my conclusions. This blog entry has taken me four years to write, so please believe me when I say I don’t say this lightly, but first let me address those Enneagram adherents.

If you love the Enneagram, please don’t @ Me

Look, I’m not telling you not to like it, but I am asking you to question it. If you love it passionately then you’re probably not going to love this blog entry. So let me start off by saying this: If you truly, deeply find it helpful I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong for that. I most likely won’t convince you of anything, but before you go, I would ask you to please consider one thing: Is it possible that there are more than these 9 personalities? And for the Christians, is it ok that other Christians don’t want to be defined by something non-Biblical, even if you do? I’m just asking you to consider these things. If that’s all you do then feel free to stop reading here. Again, I’m not trying to convince you that you shouldn’t like the enneagram if you do.

I only ask that if you continue reading that you afford the same respect to me that I will try to do to you. I do realize that #NotAllEnneagramLovers applies here. I might also ask the courtesy of turning off your brain’s Enneagram typing system. I know you’ll try to put me in a box the longer your read this (you may have just decided that I’m a 4 because I said ‘put me in a box’ for example, or maybe I’m a 5 because of how verbose and cerebral my wording may seem.) I’m asking you nicely, please assume for a moment that I’m just a human and not a number.

Also keep in mind that I’m explaining why I don’t like the Enneagram, not why the Enneagram is “wrong.” If you read it as me saying “the Enneagram is wrong/bad/stupid for these reasons then you’re not reading it the spirit that I’m trying to write it. I might say I believe it can be “hurtful,” for example. I am not saying it always is. If you stick around for the whole entry I promise I will talk about a few things that I do find appealing about the Enneagram, so maybe that will motivate you to get to the end.

1) There is no credible psychological research that supports the Enneagram

When I first decided to write this entry I knew it would ruffle some feathers because I have many friends who love the Enneagram. And I debated starting with this objection because it’s a very harsh reality, but I feel that it must be said up front.

There is no sound psychological evidence that backs up the Enneagram. In my experience of reading about and discussing the Enneagram, when adherents refer to “researching” the Enneagram they’re talking about reading books by Enneagram proponents and not conducting actual psychological research to try to determine the scientific validity of the typing system.

I will hasten to say that the same could be said for the MBTI, however the difference there is I actually like the MBTI (wink)… no ok, I will have more to say about the MBTI in relation to all this further down, just stick with me for now.

I actually did search a few academic databases and found startlingly few works in peer-reviewed journals that seem to offer any real validation to the nine types, let alone the idea that they are either mutually exclusive or collectively exhaustive. What research has been done is either inconclusive (one Canadian study claims to affirm the enneagram, for example, but actually only affirms that the people in the study believed in personality types) or too small, outdated, and questionable in their methods. The only real study of any size is almost 40 years old and seems to only be seen as being valid by enneagram proponents, not the academic psychology community.

What I did find was many social science researchers questioning the enneagram, if not out right dismissing it. Perhaps the best summary of this when encapsulated when Rebecca A. Newgent wrote her Ph.D. thesis entitled “An investigation of the reliability and validity of the Riso-Hudson enneagram type indicator.” In the abstract she states “While some research on these enneagram systems has been conducted, [she lists the studies] limited empirical validation has occurred.” And even her own study is largely inconclusive, only had a small sampling, and was weakened by its reliance on self-report and lack of diversity of its volunteers.

In her discussion she writes “It is generally undesirable to have ipsative scales because the scale affects the psychometrics estimated” and continues to expound upon why this weakness lead to her results. In other words: when personality assessments require you to choose between multiple desirable options regrading yourself (IE: am I more spontaneous or reliable?) they’re largely seen as unhelpful assessment tools as they fail to capture the complexity of humanity because people are more likely to select what they see as the better trait. I might feel spontaneous at that moment, or I might want to be spontaneous, or I might’ve been recently told by someone who doesn’t know me well that I am spontaneous, and I might undervalue being reliable while still actually being reliable, I might center my identity around being reliable but I might still berate myself for not being reliable enough when I make one small slip up. And this is just one of dozens of questions that are asked in these kinds of assessments.

I asked a clinical psychologist and a licensed counselor about their opinion on the Enneagram and neither of them had ever even heard of it. Both of them said approximately the same thing, however: these tests can be useful for a person to think about their personality and get to know themselves, but they shouldn’t be taken as hard and fast rules of nature.

The discussion in the aforementioned study also points out another weakness of the Enneagram. You have to pick a dominant type – you can’t mix and match things from across the circle – which leads me to my next objection-

2) It feels less like “typing” and more like stereotyping

The premise of the Enneagram is that a person has a “dominate type” which should become apparent as you “research” the Enneagram. Yes, you can have “wings” (albeit only the numbers to your left and right) and you might have slightly different healthy and unhealthy behaviors based on which number is across the circle from you (which might be the most wildly arbitrary thing in the whole typing system; more on that later) But you can’t say that I’m a 1/8 even split. Or a 4/7. So instead of seeing the broad spectrum of your various traits and comparing to others you’re lumped into a stereotypical group and are assigned several arbitrary behaviors that make you “healthy” or “unhealthy.”

If you say to a Enneagram adherent that you don’t at all feel like you fit in with the description you’re given, save for a couple of descriptors, you’ll be told that not everyone fits every part of their description. So what if you don’t fit more than 30% of any of the traits of any number? What if you’re exactly 50/50 of two different numbers that have no relationship?

They’re not mutually exclusive They’re not collectively exhaustive

Types that have no official relationship can have a huge amount of overlap. 1’s are perfectionists – well, often perfectionism goes hand-in-hand with being achievement driven and vice versa, but those two types have no relationship in the Enneagram. Every type has another type in a another part of the circle that could be coupled with it if cross-typing were allowed, but instead most Enneagram authors espouse that people only have one dominant type.

I’ve found other people like me who, despite being introspective, emotionally healthy people who have done a great deal of self assessment, don’t identify with any of the types – or might equally identify with several. Despite this there’s no “spectrum” on which these types exist (unlike MBTI or the DISC assessment) which doesn’t give the wiggle room for the many complexities in human personalities.

3) The types are often used as either a bludgeon or an excuse

While I’m not saying there is no appropriate use of the Enneagram I can say for certain it has many improper uses – though this is definitely true of all other personality assessments as well. I personally have seen more of the system’s abuse than good use.

A bludgeon:

“You’re not a 2! You’re a 9!” or “You’re not a 7, you’re not that fun.” or “Well you just don’t know yourself, that’s why you haven’t figured out your type.” or “With as much as she argues? Definitely an 8” or “Have you really researched it? because I think it applies to everyone.” or “Ignore him, he’s just being a 1.” or “Sometimes it just takes a really long time for you to accept your type.”

To the people who say these things: Do you realize that every time you assign a type or tell someone they’re not a type that you’re subtly insulting them? Each type have some positive characteristics and some really negative characteristics (except 6, which might be why the study I mentioned in point one found it to be the least valid type in self-assessments due to its vague-ness) and in declaring someone’s type you’re insinuating some pretty strong intimate knowledge of that person – depending on which book you read. Also if you say that because someone doesn’t feel they fit into one of the categories that means that they don’t know themselves (also suggesting that you clearly know them better) is not only insulting, it’s arrogant. These uses of the enneagram aren’t helpful, they’re hurtful. Implying that because someone doesn’t identify with your system of categorizing people and thereforeare either ignorant, deluded or in denial is not edifying in any circumstance.

An excuse

“You know that because I’m a 4 I’m not going to react well when you say that kind of thing to me” or “you have to forgive her for being a jerk, she’s an 8” or “you can’t expect any different from him, he’s a 9 and they’re kind of lazy” or “Look you just have to get out of his way, he’s a 3 and he has to do it his way.” or “I know the only thing I mentioned was the spelling error, but I’m a 1, I only see your mistakes.”

Part of this is because Enneagram really drives home the belief that personality is static. To be fair, most type indicators seem to adhere to this. There was one book of those I read that tried to say personality is what you build to protect yourself like a cast around a broken bone – that was a very different take that totally clashed with the other books I’d read. Either approach doesn’t really get at the complexities of personality. If you believe that your personality is only a result of your victimhood then you’re going to lean into the victim mentality. And if you believe that your personality is static then it makes it easy for you to rest on your laurels and just say “it’s who I am” and you often either become a victim of your own traits or others do.

If your goal in taking a personality assessment is to be able to say that you’re never going to change, then you’re doing it wrong. Yes, we all have quirks that aren’t likely to change, but that doesn’t mean that we do nothing to mitigate them. Real maturity is just as much about doing things that don’t come natural to you as it is about accepting who you are. Just because it’s your natural response, doesn’t mean it was the right response. And just because you have a particular number assigned to you by some guys who made a up an assessment in the 60s doesn’t mean that you can’t do things differently! Which leads me to my next issue…

4) The “ancient” origins enneagram are false

If you’re an Enneagram apologist and you’re still reading you’re probably wondering if I’d read all the same books you have. If you’re like most I’ve encountered then you have a specific one you want me to read that you think will change my mind on this. Up to this point, the more I read the less I’m convinced and so far I’ve read three different books on the topic. It’s amazing how they somehow manage to both say the same things while still contradicting one another, but one thing all of them claim is that the Enneagram is an ancient typing system. This is easily debunked.

These books make vague references to ancient writings, which, when researched, bear no resemblance to the Enneagram of today. The only idea most of these “sources” had in common with the modern Enneagram is the concept of a limited number of types of people – meaning that these same ancient roots have equal in common with every other personality assessment in use today. And usually the “types” in question aren’t personality types, but were more abstract ideas about the soul, spirits, or facets of culture.

The word “enneagram” wasn’t even really popularized until the 20th century by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, an Armenian new-age spiritualist, but his talk of it still didn’t look much like the Enneagram we know today. It wasn’t until Óscar Ichazo invented the first modern take on the Enneagram in the 1960s that we get writings that look like what you’d read about in contemporary Enneagram literature. He had a student, Claudio Naranjo, who broke with him and started teaching the Enneagram himself in the 70s – Ichazo said that Naranjo’s Enneagram wasn’t legit, that he – Ichazo – was the only one who taught the real Enneagram, because he wanted people to come to his school and pay him to teach them about it, but he couldn’t claim a copyright on it without admitting that it was not ancient knowledge – which was a big part of his sales pitch. It’s Naranjo’s teachings that all the books, tests, and seminars about Enneagram are based on. What’s more is Naranjo actually is on video saying that the Enneagram was dreamed up by Ichazo.

One of Naranjo’s earlier set of students were Jesuit priests who integrated Christian beliefs into the Enneagram, such as associating the nine types with the seven deadly sins, which later prompted some Christian authors erroneously claim that the seven deadly sins are a potential source of the “ancient” Enneagram. In reality there is no hard historical evidence of any concrete link between the Enneagram and Christian teachings before 1970.

So no, this specific typing system isn’t ancient at all. In fact it’s predated by Pepsi cola and Nintendo (google it, it’s true!) That alone doesn’t invalidate it, but it does call into question the wisdom of some of the authors who continue to espouse its ancient origins despite the lack of any real evidence that there is any true connection between the Enneagram invented in the 20th century and any ancient writings.

And while I don’t like to be an alarmist about these kinds of things, I do feel that we should all consider the claims of former-Occultist-turned-Christian, Marcia Montenegro who has been interviewed on several podcasts regarding the ties that the Enneagram has to new age spiritualism and the occult. Here’s an interview with her on Cultish.

5) It’s a poor typing tool

When I take the DISC assessment I get similar results to the first time I took it. When I take MBTI variants I get similar results. But when I take an assessment for the Enneagram I’ve never gotten the same result twice.

Those in favor of the Enneagram have told me that this could be because I’m not taking the correct test, or because I don’t know myself well, or even because tests don’t work at all for typing the Enneagram and the only way to discover your type is by reading more books about it until you accept the category you fit into.

Regardless of which is true – all of these statements mean that Enneagram systems aren’t very good at fitting people into its various types. Because there is no definitive test, there really isn’t a definitive understanding of each type. While there are a handful of traits that most authors agree on, most authors have pretty different nuances in their understanding of the types. Reading the description of a 6 in one book can be pretty different from the description of a 6 in another book.

Of course, the basic descriptions remain the same across books. For example, type 2 is a helper who can tend toward matyrdom – this seems widely agreed upon. At that level those descriptions feel less like types and more like horoscopes since they’re so general, but they’re hard to argue with. However, the types really start to break down when each author does their own take on what specific secondary traits are manifested in a “healthy” and “unhealthy” 2 – often getting so caught up in the minutiae of the type that it decreases the number of people who will read and say “oh that is me.” Continuing with the 2 as an example. Most of us know someone who extremely helpful, but can tend toward martyrdom – those two characteristics often go hand in hand. In The Road Back to you Ian Morgan Cron tells a story about a supposed 2 who bought a car for a family without asking them – this is an example of a 2 who often is helpful, but only in the ways that they want. Well I know some helpful people who still struggle with a martyr complex who have that characteristic, yes. I also know others who don’t. “Ah yes,” adherents will say, “that just means they are healthy.” Well, yes and no. They still might have a big struggle with anxiety – which is a chief characteristic of a 6. “Well not every characteristic fits every person of that type” adherents will suggest, but this occurs to the point that I don’t feel comfortable saying – or even thinking that the people close to me fall into these types as I find most people might have 2-3 characteristics of any given one of these types at most.

In addition, the fact that they can be frustratingly rigid, the arbitrary relationships between these different types makes them confusingly fluid at times, but I’ll get to that in the next section.

Most typing systems have some level of flexibility in them, but the required flexibility to accept the types in the Enneagram strains credulity to me. I had a person I worked with tell me he thought I might be a 4 – I read the description of the 4 and found part of it to be somewhat like me – or at least I could see why he would think it was like me – and the rest to not only be unlike me, but rather repellent to me. I won’t get into those specifics as I don’t want to insult people who feel they have those characteristics. I don’t see how I could claim to identify with a type where half the description I can kind of see, but the other half I not only don’t identify with, but I actually don’t really even like. I also don’t see how I can identify as a type when the person hearing said Identification might be thinking of a different set of characteristics depending upon what book they’ve read, or what experience they’ve had with other people who identify as that type – that, in my opinion, makes it a very poor typing system.

6) The relationship between types is arbitrary

Ah, but Will, you might say, there are “wings” and also possibilities that people’s relative stress or emotional health might cause them to act differently – that explains why people have all these different characteristics which may seem inconsistent at first to the less trained eye.

In the Enneagram there are relationships between the different types that add to the tangled web of complexity – such that while they can be frustratingly austere (there’s no room for a person to be an even mix of two types) they can also be staggeringly fluid. For example, a 7, if “healthy” can take on the good characteristics of a 5, but if unhealthy OR stressed out (depends on who you ask, and no admission that these are two are wildly different things) they can take on the negative characteristics of a 1. A 1, if healthy can take on the positive characteristics or a 7, but if stressed/unhealthy can take on the characteristics of an unhealthy 4. Why? Because that’s the way they fall around the circle. Seriously. That’s the only reason for these relationships.

I haven’t heard a logical reason for these relationships between the types. In all three of the books I read, as well as the materials provided by the Enneagram Institute, there is absolutely no explanation given for why these supposed relationships exist. They just are. What’s more – these explanations make typing nearly impossible, but provide Enneagram adherents with a bevy of tools to keep the ball in the air when discussing the types with skeptics.

I know a person (really well) who fits a lot of the description of a 9 but occasionally acts like a 6. So an Enneagram proponent might say well he’s an unhealthy/stressed 9 because an unhealthy 9 takes on the characteristics of a 6 – but I can tell you that this is one of the healthiest people I know and, if anything when stressed he takes on the characteristics of a 2 – not the unhealthy characteristics of a 2, mind you, in fact he would never act like a martyr, but instead would just get to work being helpful. Maybe he’s a healthy 2 then – except the 2 characteristics are largely a result of stress in his case. Maybe he’s a healthy 8 who is taking on the characteristics of a 2! Nope, he hates conflict – really runs away from it. Maybe he’s just a six who is healthy and therefore taking on the healthy characteristics of a 9 – well no, because he doesn’t take on the characteristics of a 3 at all, but especially not when stressed.

Do you see why I’m having trouble buying this typing system? All of these relationships are arbitrary and they make it so that when you try to explain why you aren’t a type then you get questioned as to whether you’re healthy or unhealthy/stressed. In reality most of us have both healthy and unhealthy parts of our thought processes – making it nearly impossible to determine whether a person is a “healthy” 6 or an “unhealthy” 9.

I also want to address the confusion between “stressed” and “unhealthy.” The Enneagram institute actually uses the words “integrated” and “dis-integrated” which are terms taken directly from new-age-spiritualist roots of the Enneagram – Christian Enneagram writers have shied away from these terms and instead have chosen to use the words “stressed” or “unhealthy.” The problem is these are totally different things. As I said above, most of us have healthy and unhealthy aspects of our lives and to different degrees, but health is something that ebbs and flows – often taking hits quickly, but healing more slowly. Stress can set on very quickly or slowly and it can ease up quickly or slowly. Also stress isn’t bad. Stress is like friction – it isn’t comfortable, but it gets the gears moving. People’s response to stress is also largely dependent on how healthy they are, and there are such things as healthy coping mechanisms. Stress is to weather as health is to climate. And while they are two very different things they’re often used interchangeably in discussions about the Enneagram which makes it even more difficult to determine what a type is. Are they stressed? Are they unhealthy? Are they dis-integrated? Who knows?

7) It is a perfect example of the Barnum/Forer effect.

The Forer effect, also known as the Barnum effect is a psychological principle wherein people rate various personality assessments as highly accurate to themselves specifically, despite the types being general. This is the same basic principle that leads people to treat astrological signs as legitimate personality types.

This is also the same trick that con-artists use to convince marks that they have supernatural powers. A “psychic” with a room full of people can say something like “someone here has lost someone close to them.” That is general enough that it probably applies to half the room. From there things might get a little more specific, but only enough to allow the people who are engaged to become more certain that they’re the intended person. By the time it does get specific, the mark is willing to dismiss anything that doesn’t seem to fit because they’re hooked.

The issue is that even if you examine these individual types, they’re simplified. Someone says “perfectionist” and instantly all the perfectionists say “that’s me” without considering that there are many degrees and kinds of perfectionism motivated by different things and manifesting different ways. I’m not just making this up; depending on who you ask there might be three, four, or even five different kinds of perfectionism (click those links if you don’t believe me) – are they all 1’s? Or you say “creative” regarding 4’s and guess what? Once again – as I believe most people recognize – there could be three, four, or five different kinds of creativity. As a personal side note here, this also bothers me because it further denotes “creativity” as equivalent to “artistic.” Not everyone is artistic but everyone has some form a creativity since we’re made in the image of a creator.

Yet, the Forer effect shows that someone who has identified themselves as a perfectionist will look at the rest of the description and rate it as accurate. Especially after given a handful of other general traits with which they agree. So a person who calls themselves a 4 might be told “creative, sensitive, introverted” – three common traits that often go together – and then rate the rest as accurate because they so heavily identify with those first three.

It doesn’t fit perfectly? We’ve got wings and healthy/unhealthy relationships to explain that. – why you ask? Because that’s where they are around the circle. And soon your thinking becomes patterned around it and you start to see it everywhere thanks to the Tetris effect (the effect that causes us to make things fit together even if they really don’t) and the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (the effect that makes us ignore details until we relate them to ourselves; the way you start to see your car everywhere after you buy it). These are also common psychological effects found in believers of pseudo-science and conspiracy theories. Read up on them – they’re pretty intriguing.

8) It neglects the many basic realities about people and personality

The idea that personality is static is suspect at best. In my humble opinion, it’s just demonstratively false. Physical changes in the body can drastically effect personality. Anyone who has been close to someone who has gone through heart surgery would probably tell you that they saw some personality changes in that person. I knew a woman who didn’t know she had an ovarian cyst – she slowly became a different person for a while, and once it was removed, returned to her old self. I knew a guy who I thought was the most care-free person I’d ever met. He went through a series of traumatic events and quickly became a pretty different person. I’ve had friends to whom I was very close, who changed quite suddenly and radically for reasons I still don’t understand.

Changes to personality can happen because of hormonal changes, changes in medication, trauma, age, and new studies have suggested that even gut flora plays a big role in personality changes. Often these changes are temporary and small, but sometimes they can be large and sometimes they seem to be life-long.

But perhaps my biggest issue with this belief is that it turns us or others into victims of our personality. I know personally that I have chosen to make changes in my life that have fundamentally altered who I am over the years, but more importantly I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in me, maturing me, and transforming me every single day.

When I was in high school I was fundamentally not a good listener. My youth pastor and I honestly only had an “ok” relationship at the time. We were pretty different and while he was a great guy, I probably wasn’t mature enough to appreciate him at the time. One day he straight up told me that if I could just learn to listen it would be really good for me. I actually don’t remember the last part of what he said; I doubt I was listening. But enough got through to me that between that – and my dad talking about one of the great pastors he respected only lacking the ability to listen – I decided at the age of 15 that I was going to be a better listener. A large part of my job now is interviewing people on video – often about sensitive, life-changing things, and I’ve been told repeatedly that I’m really good at making people feel comfortable and listened to.

Here’s the thing. I wasn’t unhealthy as a teenager. I was immature. I had some people I respected point out how I was immature. Instead of saying “this is just part of my personality, I’m not the best listener. That’s just not going to be a skill I have.” I decided to go against what was natural for me and instead make a concerted effort to change that part of me. I’m not perfect at it. I can still get distracted when I’m talking with someone, but the key here is that I didn’t say “that’s not me – that’s not my gifting – that’s no who I am.” I saw a clear way that I needed to improve and I went after it. Now it is much more natural for me to sit and listen to someone else tell their story.

In the Christian faith there is a fundamental doctrine that we are all born sinful. Because of Original Sin, the world we live in is cursed and so are we. As such we have a sin nature. depending upon which theological camp you belong to you may or may not believe that your sin nature can be overcome in this lifetime, but either way it is there. This idea isn’t present at all in any discussion on the Enneagram – even the Christian discussions on it. In fact it’s almost the opposite – the concept is often presented in a way that says our personalities cannot be sinful – that it can only be “unhealthy.” Therefore there is no need for repentance and sanctification, there is only need for “growth.”

I, for one, believe that there are personality traits that are sinful – we all have them – and that the process of sanctification is a supernatural course that goes far beyond character growth. This by the way is not just my opinion.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here”

2 Corinthians 5:17

I have definitely seen people’s personality radically changed by the presence of God in their life and that leads me to my final thought…

9) It asks me to define myself – at the core of my personality – using something other than Jesus or scripture.

Both of the Christian books I read about the Enneagram mention the root for the word personality coming from the word persona – which is true, but I was surprised none of them talked about the fact that the concept of a “person” as we think of it today; largely came to being during the 13th century thanks in no small part to relating this word to the Trinity and discussing the three persons of God. It was odd to me that in a Christian discussion on personality this was not mentioned.

I want to again emphasize here that introspection is important to the Christian walk – self reflection, seeking counsel, having honest conversations – these are important components to growing as a disciple of Jesus. So don’t hear me saying that there is no value in taking this or any other personality test. Don’t hear me saying that there is no value to seeing what non-christian assessments can teach us about ourselves and the way the world sees us.

This is, however, where the rubber meets the road for me when it comes to total acceptance of this or any other typing system – the Myers-Briggs included. As believers in Christ we can learn about ourselves from anything, but we can only be defined by Jesus.

Submitting to God is a difficult but necessary daily component of Christian growth. What I dislike the most about the Enneagram is it asks me to submit my identity to something other than He who is revealed in scripture.

Yes, there is a ton of truth to be learned outside the bounds of the Bible. However, there can only be one place where Christians find their identity. Yes, we can learn much about ourselves, but there can only be one person who can tell us who we are.

There is only one love language. Die. to. self.

Christine Caine

I was at a conference years ago when I heard Christine Caine explain that it bothered her when people said “I can’t do that because it’s not my love language” she really challenged my thinking because I like the idea of love languages, I like the idea of personality types, and gifts assessments because they let me say “no, you should’ve approached me like this…” or it gives me that smug sense of superiority when I can guess a person’s MBTI or DISC type.

When she finished her thought she said “there is only one love language. Die. To. Self.” The last three words she emphasized as if each were it’s own sentence. I was, as the kids say, “shook.” Because she’s right. The christian life is a continual death-to-self. There is no room for us to submit to any label, name, or identity that Christ himself hasn’t bestowed on us.

Ok, but what about the MBTI?

For me personally the Enneagram has provided what all personality assessments try to and that is an opportunity to look at myself – which isn’t a bad thing. One thing that it taught me is to stop relying on personality types to define who I am. As I said at the start, I am a fan of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I used to make a practice of trying to guess people’s types and if someone wanted to talk about the MBTI, I would gladly oblige ad nauseum. What I realized from looking into the Enneagram (and talking with people who love it) is that I was allowing the MBTI to be a hitching post instead of a guide post in my life. Sure, I’ve got personality traits that I like about myself, but that shouldn’t stop me from dying to self as I am called to in scripture.

Honestly I’m grateful for the Enneagram rubbing me the wrong way because it revealed to me how much I’d come to see the MBTI as a defining factor in who I am. And while I do think it is better (and far more flexible) than the Enneagram – many of the same arguments I make here against the Enneagram could be said of the MBTI. Assessing the Enneagram has forced me to reassess the MBTI and as a result I’ve become more cautious of what I anchor my identity to.

After all that, what can possibly be good about the Enneagram?

Having said all this, fair is fair and I promised I’d tell you some of the good things I can see about the enneagram:

  • It gives me a mirror, even if an imperfect one. And this list of traits can be used as a guide of things that I need to put in check, rather than things I’m just supposed to accept about myself
  • It does emphasize “growth” and “health” even if these terms are often used in vague, new-age ways – they’re still components to the Christian faith and important to reflect on.
  • Obviously some people do find it helpful in seeing themselves and becoming more self-aware – both are important first steps in any journey toward maturity.
  • The fact that different friends of mine would each label me as different parts of the personality actually shows me what parts of my personality I’m showing to others and it makes me ask myself what does that mean – I don’t think I’m being disingenuous, but I’d like to believe that I’m becoming better at being content in any circumstance and recognizing what is needed for the moment rather than being reactionary based on my whims.
  • For many people I’ve encountered, the Enneagram seems to have been their first foray into this kind of introspection and self-assessment – it’s not a bad place to start that process.
  • It gets us all to look at other personality types and encourages us to think bout the vivid complexities of others’ thought-processes and how they might actually be totally different from our own.

I will be a little surprised if anyone who is passionate about the Enneagram has actually read this whole thing, but I do want to thank you if you have. I know back when I was a big-time MBTI evangelist that I didn’t take it well any time someone mentioned these kinds of criticisms. Because of course I wouldn’t take kindly to people criticizing the thing I’d used to define myself. I often say that what angers me reveals what my idols are.

“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended…”

If you’re upset with me or my tone or something I’ve said or implied here then I want you to know that I’m well aware that I’m a sinner saved by grace and I do humbly ask for God’s grace to be at work as these words are read and considered. I probably haven’t convinced any Enneagram adherents to change their minds, but that wasn’t really why I wrote this. I wrote this largely for other people like me who found the Enneagram to be lacking. I wanted you to know that you’re not alone. And for any people who truly love the Enneagram I hope maybe you’ve come to understand those of us who don’t. Thanks for reading.

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10 Fun and free things to do on the internet during your quarantine

Stuck at home? Still have an internet connection? Here are some fun things to check out

1) Go google maps sight-seeing

When google first offered its satellite view it was always fun to poke around and find interesting things that are visible from space like one the many shipwrecks sitting in the desert of the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, or The Airforce’s Aircraft boneyard (you can also find area 51, well at least what the government wants you yo think is Area 51), or the huge craters of the nuclear testing sites outside of groom lake (zoom out and head south west to see more) or any of the crazy things on this list (ever wondered where the world’s largest swimming pool is? they got that.)

But now, it doesn’t stop there! Thanks to Google street view you can look around at Times Square, Stand at the foot of the worlds tallest building, Burj Kalifa in Dubai, or walk around in The Magic Kingdom at Disney World. Yes, I know it’s nothing like actually being there, but it still is a little fun to be able to hop from the Forbidden City in Beijing to flippin’ Antartica in just a few clicks!

2) Go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole

I am an information addict, I’ve known that since I became acquainted with the term, so Wikipedia is where I often get my fix. What’s fun about Wikipedia is that because all the articles are interlinked you can navigate from one page to another and find constant new things. I’m sure I’m not introducing this to you for the first time, but if you’re looking for a place to start try Wikipedia’s list of unusual Wikipedia articles. It’s quite extensive, and I doubt you’re going to exhaust the list quickly. There’s also games you can play with Wikipedia similar to the six degrees of Kavin Bacon – you could pick two seeming unrelated topics and see how few clicks it takes you to get from one to the other, navigating only using the links inside the articles. Or pick a really well-known historical event or figure and find the longest path you can make from any given topic back to it.

In addition there of course is plenty of summarized history, science, and general knowledge about our world. Do you know how many stars there are in the Paramount Logo and why? Who was the Holy Roman Emperor to hold the title for the shortest period? Maybe you’d be interested in the creepiest articles on Wikipedia. Or this list of interesting articles that will all take you down the rabbit hole. WARNING: Some of these articles are down-right sad, so click at your own risk.

After a while you might find yourself typing random words into Wikipedia and seeing what comes up. “Incident” and “controversy” will give you some intriguing articles. “Failure” will lead you to some cautionary tales. And “Worlds biggest…” will usually give you some fun lists of ships, buildings, mountains, aircraft, canyons etc. Have fun!

3) Brave the subs of Reddit

If you’re not familiar with Reddit, then I should warn you – there is a lot of unwholesome stuff on there, but if you stick to the main subs then you’re likely to get more wholesome stuff, though the discussion everywhere gets pretty non-family friendly. Reddit is a social media platform that is built around discussion and info aggregation. It’s divided into subreddits or “subs” that specialize in a single topic. Your favorite TV show, band, movie, sports team, and even many podcasts all have subs dedicated to them.

If you’ve never visited reddit, I recommend visiting a few of the more popular, wholesome subs. r/AskReddit is one of the largest – click “Top” to browse the most popular posts and click whether you want to browse from just today, this week, this month, or all time. Select some of the more interesting questions and answers that have come up there.

r/Aww is one of my favorites; it’s just pictures that make you say “aww!” There are “humor” “funny” and “jokes” some of those get pretty blue, and even more are just meta humor that you’d have to be a Redditor to appreciate. There’s also r/Showerthoughts which is a list of odd, funny, or interesting epiphanies – the kind you have while in the shower.

The Top ShowerThought of all time

If you want to see people reacting to satirical sites as if they’re real then you can visit r/AteTheOnion. Or if you want to hear stories that people have told on the internet but are way to ridiculous to be true, then head over to r/thathappened. One of my personal favorites is r/WritingPrompts where people submit ideas for a plot and others submit the stories that are inspired by them.

I feel like I should emphasize the above warning, especially if you get an account and start interacting on there Reddit isn’t always the friendliest place, but it can be a fun place to lurk.

4) Learn a new language on Duolingo

It is downright amazing that Duolingo is available for free! There is a paid version, but even without it you can spend all day on this site (and the mobile app.) Not only does it have dozens of languages, it makes learning fun by having these game-like quizzes and it tracks your accomplishments and awards you points – putting you on the leader board against all other Duolingo users. I recently spent 100 straight days trying to learn Romanian.

What is especially cool about Duolingo is that it is actually saving dying languages. There are more people learning the Irish language on duolingo right now than are native speakers. Another fun fact about Duolingo: the most popular language being learned on Duolingo in Sweden is actually Swedish. Go figure.

5) Watch movies and TV shows for free (legally)

There are plenty of places to watch stuff for free on the internet – but here are a few you might not know about

Public Domain Films – If you consider yourself a movie buff and you’ve never watched a Buster Keaton silent film, now’s your chance to put up or shut up.

Rerun Century – There are many great TV series that are in the public domain. Most of the Dick van Dyke show is available, as well as the Jack Benny Show, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Documentary Heaven – You like documentaries on some pretty obscure topics made by people you’ve never heard of? Here you go.

Tubi – many more recent TV shows and Movies for free. I recommend the TV show, “Leverage” it’s basically a weekly Oceans 11. Also if you haven’t watched “The founder” – it’s intriguing. It’s the true story of how McDonalds came to be starring Michael Keaton.

IMDB TV – Also has a lot of newer TV & Movies. I recommend Lie To Me if you’re into detective shows. If you want something twisty and mind bending (and don’t mind the R rating) then Memento is a must watch. If you want to watch a family-friendly drama that is kind of slow, but very sweet “Whale Rider” is an excellent choice.

Many others- there are plenty of legit places to stream movies and TV for free. Youtube actually has quite a selection as well and if you have a TV connected box like a Roku, Fire Stick, or Apple TV, most of the above services have apps for all of those.

6) Download the You Version Bible App

You knew this was coming. But really, do you know how cool You Version is? In addition to the App – which has virtually every translation of the Bible now – there’s a kids app and apps on TV connected devices where you can watch free video content. You can follow friends and send each other messages, or do a Bible study together and participate in discussion.

Also have you checked out their Youtube channel? Or their Bible App for Kids Youtube Channel. Or BONUS an even better Youtube channel in the same vein is the Bible Project – which has some really cool content.

7) Take some personality tests and get to know yourself (and others like you)

My personal favorite personality test is the Myers Briggs Personality Test (MBTI) The official MBTI has to be given by a trained professional, but you can take test that is a pretty good facsimile here. Also really popular right now is the Enneagram, which I’m not as big a fan of (but that’s another blog entry) one of the challenges with it is that there is no definitive test for it (I myself have gotten a different result from every test I’ve taken) and some Enneagram proponents will even tell you that you really just need to read about the nine types and think over it, asking your friends, and really taking time to get to know yourself. But the first one that pops up on Google is this one – which you have to make an account for unfortunately.

There’s also the DISC test the always telling Political Compass Test, Or you could try this list of different tests you can take to get to know yourself that includes both IQ and EQ tests. Who knows, maybe you belong in MENSA.

After you’ve taken some tests you can find groups on Facebook filled with other people who have your same personality. Sometimes it’s fun to go to these pages and ask “Does anyone else….?” questions and find out how similar you are to others with your same type.

8) Read funny Amazon Reviews

If you’ve never Googled “funny amazon reviews” then you are in for a treat. There a bevy of well known Amazon products that are home to some of the most absurd reviews. I should warn you, not all products are family friendly. Here’s one of my favorites that didn’t make the above list. I was with a group of friends not long ago and we read some of these out loud and were all in tears from laughing so hard.

10) Read/Listen to classic books (or volunteer to transcribe/read them)

Project Gutenberg is a great resource if you have a tablet or e-reader and enjoy classic books. There are 60,000 titles that are all public domain. The works of Robert Lewis Stevenson, Jules Vern, Mark Twain, and HG Wells are all available here. If you’re like me and you actually absorb things better when they’re read to you then LibriVox is the site for you. It’s free public domain audio books.

If you’re already a connoisseur of classic literature and you’ve read all of those, then you could volunteer to help with either project. If there’s a book that isn’t in either above library (and is public domain) then you could offer to transcribe it for Project Gutenberg, or record a reading of it for LibriVox.

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Firm Foundation week 5: The Global Mission of the Church


1) What’s been your experience with Global mission work?

The Global Mission of the church

2) Read Matthew 28:16-20. This bit of scripture is called the Great Commission, where Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. As we talked about last week the word for “make disciples” is a Greek word that takes the noun “disciple” and makes it a verb. It is different than the word for preach or teach. Why do you think Jesus commands specifically to make disciples instead of simply preaching or teaching?

3) Read Proverbs 25:25, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Today the global church is growing faster than ever before and soon there will be far more Christians in China and Africa than the US and Europe. Are we still called to go to these regions even if they already know Jesus? How else might we be called to support them?

4) Short term mission trips are sometimes criticized as less beneficial to the people overseas. What are some of the pitfalls of short-term missions? When do you think they are beneficial?

If you want to read more, here’s a good article on this discussion:

5) Read Luke 10:29-37. There is actually much more in scripture about simply loving foreigners and travelers in our presence than there is about going to far off lands, how does that inform the way we can help accomplish the mission of Christ here as well as overseas?

6) Read Exodus 23:9, Malachi 3:5, 1 Kings 8:41-44, how might these passages challenge our view of refugees and immigrants?

7) How are you actively helping accomplish God’s global mission now?

Wrap up:

8) We’ve covered several topics over the last few weeks; Discipleship, Evangelism, Holiness, Scripture, the person of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Global missions. Of these topics what is the area that you need to learn more about or what is your chief growth area?

9) What can you do to, or continue – to improve in this area? Do you need to read more scripture? Do you need to study a specific topic? Do you need to take a mission trip? Do you need to start to serve in an area of the church? Do you need to commit to attending worship more often? Do you need to commit to spend more time with God? What next step can you take and how can this group help you?

15 Steps to Navigate Conflict – Ice Cream For Breakfast Part 3

There are plenty of good blog entries, books, and sermons about a Biblical look at handling conflict, and there doesn’t need to be another. This instead is a collection of practical steps I’ve learned to take when walking through conflict to achieve minimum blood loss. Each of these steps represents a lesson that I’ve learned in my life, many of them very recently.

I’m terrible at dealing with conflict, at least my natural tendency is to be terrible at dealing with conflict. Though I’m still not great at it, I think that over the last ten years I’ve gotten much better at dealing with conflict largely due to the fact that I’ve listened to lots of good advice on the topic. There are several related books I would recommend. In college I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which talks a lot about conflict, especially in habits 4,5,6. I also read The 5 Dysfunctions of at Team which outlines the way to diagnose conflict in its early stages. Pretty early on in my career, my boss recommended that I read Crucial Conversations and Leadership and Self-Deception. I also recently read Boundaries and Daring Greatly – which I’d recommend for everyone as well. All of these books have contributed to my understanding of conflict.

Before I jump in I do want to say that I’m not really addressing the issue of abuse in this entry. This list is about necessary conflict, not unnecessary rude and or hurtful behavior. So when I talk about staying and fighting it out, I’m not saying that a person should stay in an abusive situation. I’m saying that you shouldn’t give up on a necessary argument when it gets heated. the book Boundaries is probably the best book about dealing with emotionally abusive people and I recommend everyone read it. If you’re in a physically abusive relationship don’t bother with the book; find help and get out now.

The reality is that in adulthood you need to fight your own battles. If you call yourself and adult, never let a parent, a boss, a friend, a spouse, and definitely not a child fight a battle that only you should be fighting. Aside from the fact that getting more people involved in a conflict rarely makes it easier, if it is truly your battle then the easiest route to its resolution is going to be through your involvement – not through someone else’s.

I’m addressing conflict between coworkers and friends, but I believe most of these could apply to marriage as well. I just can’t speak to that from experience. I will say that a major difference in a relationship is that the relationship has to take precedence over who is “right” whereas in a work situation, you can’t have a productive environment if you can’t first agree on basic truths – and to do that you might have to have some conflict.

[home_callout2 animation=”fadeInUp”]
[home_callout2_line]#1 CHOOSE[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]YOUR BATTLES[/home_callout2_line]

This one is pretty cliche, and, at least in my experience, Christians are more likely to avoid conflict entirely than to be overly aggressive, but it is a challenge for some. One of the things that is important to realize when dealing with people is that everyone has an emotional bank account with you. Not that everyone keeps score, but everyone has a natural need for there be a balance of trust versus questions, of compliments and criticisms, of endorsements or arguments. Keep this in mind when choosing which conflicts to pursue. Just like with a fiscal bank account, you don’t want to spend all your equity on something and then realize later that you need it for something more important. Be sparing with your choice of what to challenge and how far to take it. Ask questions before you dive headlong into it. It’s never bad to respectfully ask a person why they’ve made a choice from a point of curiosity and then explain why you might’ve done something different, but recognize that if you go further you’re entering into a conflict. If you spend your emotional equity well then managing conflict can become very easy and over time heated conflicts will become very rare.

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[home_callout2_line]#2 ACCEPT THAT CONFLICT[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]IS OFTEN NECESSARY[/home_callout2_line]

I was in an argument with someone on a Christian facebook group. It was civil, but when I referred to our exchange as an argument, the other guy said that it wasn’t an argument, but rather a discussion. I told him that I was presenting an argument, that he was presenting an argument – so what do you call that? We’ve come to a place where the very word “argument” denotes something bad. In reality sometimes you have to make arguments to get to the truth. A court case is a slow, drawn out argument that is often totally necessary. At times people will refer to certain scriptures about unwholesome talk and say that it means we’re not supposed to get into arguments which is a flagrant misuse of scripture, and a spiritual manipulation tactic often used to squelch disagreements. At times the only way to get to where you need to go is to wade through some tough conflict.

No, not all conflict is necessary, but in the church there seems to be a really messed up idea that a lack of conflict is a measure of success. Conflict doesn’t have to be heated, it certainly doesn’t have to be unkind, it doesn’t have to be violent. But one of the ways God reveals his will is through the fellowship of believers. Part of that fellowship is going to include disagreements. And while not all conflict is necessary conflict itself is a given in life and a lack of conflict is NOT a sign of success.

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[home_callout2_line]#3 DO NOT[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]Overreact[/home_callout2_line]

If someone blindsides you with a passing challenge, or sudden bit of negative feedback it is tough not to jump into a heated conflict. It’s especially tough if the person was inconsiderate in the way they addressed it. Often times a poorly worded thought or thoughtless comment is just that – thoughtless – and because it hurt, your lizard brain wants to either run away or hurt them back. Take a deep breath and don’t create a conflict where there isn’t one yet. I’m terrible at this. If someone says something that bothers me I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about it. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was how to recognize when I need to respond to something and when I can just let it pass. It was amazingly freeing in meetings when I realized that I don’t have to respond to every mild criticism or every sideways comment. If someone’s inconsiderate remark is really bothersome it’s probably better to address in private, after a meeting and do so in a way that doesn’t assume the person was trying to be hurtful. Plus, given some time you may realize that it’s not a battle worth choosing.

Not overreacting and addressing things in private is a great way to avoid unnecessary conflict and in many ways will help you choose only the important battles. This is often hard to keep in mind because we have a tenancy to only choose one of two options when we’re faced with conflict.

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[home_callout2_line]#4 CHOOSE THE [/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]THIRD OPTION[/home_callout2_line]

In Crucial Conversations the larger part of the discussion is on the fact that our natural tendency is to either run from conflict or to dominate our way to the conflict’s conclusion. It’s animal instinct; fight or flight. Neither way will really get you what you need. Running away will just make the conflict worse in the long-run. Dominating things will make other people resent you and will make other conflicts worse. Notice I said “dominate” not “shout” that’s because you don’t have to be super aggressive to dominate an argument. Mentioning your position on the org chart might be enough to dominate a conversation in the work place. “Well, let me remind you I’m your supervisor…” That’ll end the conflict, but it won’t help you with the next one.

[pullquote animation=”fadeInUp” align=”left or right”]”When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth” – Patrick Lincioni[/pullquote]

The third option is simple, but often difficult – stay and reason it out. The process is long and it might get heated, but if you stick with it and don’t let them stop talking and don’t stop listening until they’re finished, you might find out that your position does actually need some alteration, and they might as well. It is much, much harder than the other ways of doing things, but once it’s done, it’s done for good and each conflict gets easier because as Patrick Lincioni says, once you’ve established trust, conflict is just getting to the truth.

Sometimes knowing there is a third option is the key to avoiding unnecessary conflict. I remember how huge this revelation was for me. After I read Crucial Conversations, I was in a meeting where I got some negative feedback. I felt my pulse quicken and blood rush to my face. I then remembered that I could choose not to react. I took a deep breath and listened. Basically what was said was fair, but I also knew the story behind the scenes justified why it all had happened, but I realized the people in the room didn’t need to know that, they just needed to know that I heard the feedback. I thanked the person for their feedback and the conversation moved on.

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[home_callout2_line]#5 LISTEN[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]AND VALIDATE[/home_callout2_line]

The greatest and first thing you can always do to diffuse tension is to validate the other person’s feelings. You can validate them without agreeing with their reasoning. If someone says “I feel depressed because you don’t care about me.” and you immediately say “I don’t care about you? Of course I do! I bought you dinner just last night!” then you start arguing about whether or not you actually DO care then you’ve missed the most important part of that sentence. “I feel depressed” is what you must address first. Tell them that you don’t want them to be depressed, and that you understand how hard it is to feel that way. Try to ask them why they feel that they’re not cared for and then you might kindly remind them about last night’s dinner. If you validate a person’s feelings before disagreeing with them you’re more likely to get them to listen to you when you explain your feelings.

In Stephen Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the 5th habit is “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” He talks about how some psychologists believe that the most basic human emotional need is to be understood – not even agreed with, but understood. By listening, repeating their position back, agreeing where you can, empathizing where you can, and asking if they feel understood, you can often end the conflict outright. Covey also says that most conflicts in relationships come about because of unexpressed thought about roles and goals.

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[home_callout2_line]#6 FIGHT FAIR, KEEP YOUR COOL[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]AND APOLOGIZE[/home_callout2_line]

There are whole books on how to argue in a fair way. Keeping to the matter at hand, not bringing up past arguments, being reasonable, and not interrupting are all important parts of this. When debating someone, getting heated isn’t always avoidable, but there’s no need to loose your cool completely. To avoid this, make sure that you’re only ever addressing the problem and you’re not attacking the person. “You always…” and “You never…” are generally untrue statements and they will not help the discussion. If you do loose your cool, apologize. Don’t say the word “But” after apology. Use statements of feeling and word pictures. “I’m sorry that I reacted. It was wrong of me. I think the reason why I got so upset is because when you’re late I feel like I’m just an extra in your movie.” Once again you have to listen and hear when you’ve hurt a person.

Some people think apologizing denotes a feeling. This is totally false. Some people think that apologizing for your actions means that you’re conceding the argument. Also false. Apologizing in the midst of conflict is primarily admitting that your actions (whether by intention or not) may have caused hurt and that you don’t want that hurt to get in the way of the discussion. You can apologize for hurting a person’s feelings and still discuss the truth. It is important that you clear the air before you get to the truth. Otherwise they’ll probably not come to you next time and they’ll just hold a grudge instead. I’ll say it again: Apologize if you caused hurt, otherwise you may totally win the argument and lose the person, in which case you have actually lost the conflict. “Winning” is more than demonstrating your right to the point that the other person doesn’t have a response. Oh, and “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not an apology, and if it is said to a person attuned to that kind of manipulative language it will only make it worse.

On keeping your cool: Just because you don’t raise your voice doesn’t mean you’re keeping your cool. If you interrupt, take a condescending tone, or make sideways comments about the other person’s opinions being less valid, then you’re not keeping your cool. Also smiling and/or laughing during a serious conflict DEFINITELY does not mean keeping your cool. It communicates to the other person that you’re scoffing at them or you’re not taking the discussion seriously. Keeping your cool means being totally in the moment, being serious without being angry, and being respectful and sympathetic to the person.

The easiest way to maintain your cool is to make sure you don’t demonize the person or over-simplify their argument. You really need to try to understand what they’re disagreeing with you on before you can find a resolution. Which leads us to the next item…

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[home_callout2_line]#7 TRY TO[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]GET TO THE ROOT[/home_callout2_line]

Try to figure out what the real cause of the conflict is. If someone is getting heated there is often some emotion involved and usually what you end up arguing about is only peripherally related to the actual issue at hand. You might ask: are they afraid of something? ashamed of something? In Daring Greatly Brené brown talks about how being vulnerable is one of the best ways to avoid conflict, and the thing that keeps us from being vulnerable is feeling ashamed about something in our lives.

Sometimes people don’t want to admit what is causing them to get emotional because they’re afraid of how they’ll be perceived. This is why it’s so important to keep your cool and establish trust. If someone feels like they can’t speak their mind around you, they’re not going to say what they’re really going through. To get to the root you have to have already established trust so that people can voice their thoughts on things.

Often times people have their own pictures of what is happening in an argument that may or may not be accurate. So often times to get to the root you first have to determine what those narratives are and whether they’re accurate.

This one is tricky, because if you’re dealing with a mature person it is a very effective way to diffuse an argument. But in real world application you’ll find some folks who are dealing with their own insecurities, being vulnerable could shock them into overreacting, or they may just be flippant in response to your vulnerability and basically give you a “that’s stupid that you feel that way.” If you find that people don’t respond to vulnerability in a mature way, you aren’t likely to find a quick or easy end to the conflict and you need to be careful that you don’t start arguing with them about their reaction to your vulnerability. Just back away, try not to feel to hurt and reengage through another path.

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[home_callout2_line]#8 WEED OUT[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]FALSE NARRATIVES[/home_callout2_line]

One of the greatest problems that we have with people is getting in a state where we have contempt for them – and usually to get to that place you have to build a network of false narratives. In Leadership and Self Deception a great deal of the book addresses what happens after we do something that we know we shouldn’t – something the book calls a “self betrayal” and how after a self betrayal our mind goes into over drive to justify that behavior, to do this, we often have to make up a series of false narratives. “Well sure I didn’t do what I said I would, but she didn’t listen to me when I was trying to tell her my opinion on the next project the other day and so she doesn’t really care about me and probably wants me to die anyway.”

Catch yourself when you start to make up these false narratives. Stop them at their root and realize that they’re often the cause of unnecessary conflict. Again, apologize for when you’ve behaved poorly. It is amazing how often conflict just ends when you apologize.

Brené Brown talks about this and says the best way to address it is often to tell the other person the story that you’re making up in your head. “Hey, yesterday when you rolled your eyes in the meeting it seemed really dismissive, and the story I’m making up in my head is that you don’t think I’m qualified to be here.” Sure, they might confirm that they don’t think you should work there, but more than likely they’ll respond with something more like “Oh gee, no I wasn’t even thinking about you at the time. I was responding to a lame joke someone on my side of the table had told earlier.” Conflict ended.

Similarly . . .

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[home_callout2_line]#9 DON’T ASSUME[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]YOU UNDERSTAND[/home_callout2_line]

Sometimes the thing that keeps a person from entering into a conflict is because they think they know what the other person will say, or they think they understand what the other person’s reasoning is. These are often false narratives that are keeping a necessary conflict from taking place. And even if they’re not false narratives, at the very least you can’t fault a person for something they haven’t said yet.

I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of a needless grudge and in pretty much every case the reason why the offended person doesn’t bring it up with the offender is because they think they know what the other person will say. If you are arguing with that person in your head then you’re probably making it into something worse than it is and you are already making up false narratives to support your claim. There might be a conflict there that needs to happen to get something sorted out, but you’re keeping it from happening because of your assumptions.

It’s also possible that, if addressed in the right way, the person will simply agree with you and you’ll find out that you had no clue what was in their head all along. If you’re so sure that you know what the person will say, here’s an exercise, write it down before hand and then go talk to them. Go back and see how different it was afterwards. Unlike the characters on TV shows you can’t really predict exactly what people will say.

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[home_callout2_line]#10 DON’T MAKE IT[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]ABOUT YOU[/home_callout2_line]

Before proceeding into any conflict ask, “Is this just about my pride, my way, my wants, and my expectations?” If yes, then you’re only arguing about you and you’re being selfish. It’s not wrong to say you’re not getting needs fulfilled; that’s different, but if this argument is taking place with a coworker or boss keep in mind they’re not there to fulfill your needs. Arguments about needs are reserved for spouses and friends.

If you’re working toward a common goal with a group and you don’t get what you want, I think you have to ask the question; can I truly make the argument that what I want is really what we need as a group? If not, then you’re making it about you. If so, then argue for that, not because you want it, but because you believe it’s what’s best for everyone – and explain why you believe it’s what’s best. Simply saying “I’m not getting what I was promised,” is an argument for something being unfair to you, but the sad truth is sometimes what’s best for everyone might actually be unfair for you. Again – go talk it out with your family, don’t expect your coworkers to be sympathetic when your reasoning is “I’m not getting what I want.” Does something being unfair factor in? For certain, but it shouldn’t outweigh everything else. If you feel that it’s unfair you can express it (I encourage you to), but not in such a way that shows you believe fairness toward you is a greater need than the ultimate goal of the group. Do so in a way that shows you recognize that it’s all for the greater good, even if you don’t get what you want. Example: “I don’t want this to be a determining factor, but I do think we need to recognize that this was not what was originally discussed and I feel that it is unfair. However, as long as we agree that this is what’s best, I can accept it, at the same time I hope we can all work together to be consistent with plans in the future.” Done right it could earn you respect.

One of the simple truths about Christianity is that we have to become more concerned with God’s kingdom than the little injustices in our lives. If you find yourself at the center of the conflict then you’re probably doing it wrong. If someone attacks you, try to look where you can apologize and focus on steps 6,7,& 8. Once you’ve rooted it out and thoroughly understood each other you should both have the maturity to admit if you’ve made it about your own wants.

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[home_callout2_line]#11 SOLVE IT[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]FOR GOOD[/home_callout2_line]

Don’t leave anything unsolved – if you have lingering feelings say them and get them out there – and make sure they do too. Not choosing to share something now doesn’t give you license to dredge up old conflicts back up. Let me say it again: If you don’t bring it up during that conflict you either forfeit your right to be angry about it or you cannot call yourself a mature adult.

I was in a conflict with someone I was close with not long ago. We talked about it off and on for the better part of a day. The great thing was when it was over it was totally over. If you leave something unexpressed there is a tenancy to also assume that they left things unexpressed and that will give way to false narratives. You don’t need to belabor the argument unnecessarily, but until you get to the place where you feel like you have resolved it don’t stop fighting.

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[home_callout2_line]#12 don’t hold on to the past[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”] LET IT GO[/home_callout2_line]

Sorry. Now it’s stuck in your head.

Once you’ve solved it resolve to forgive. The phrase “let it go” often denotes a dismissive tone, but you must recognize that when someone has hurt you during a conflict that got heated, letting it go is often a multi-part process. You have to choose to not dwell on it, to stop writing more false narratives, and to give up your right to be judgemental. This doesn’t mean you have to forget and not learn from it, but it does mean that you must move past it if you’re going to be successful in navigating future conflict. Not dealing with the problems you have in your past allows you to smuggle past baggage into future conflicts where you will have no hope of getting through it clean.

[pullquote animation=”fadeInUp” align=”left or right”]It is the height of immaturity to hold a grudge against someone for something you refuse to discuss with them.[/pullquote]

If you have reasoned that something is not worth bringing up then you MUST let it go. It is the height of immaturity to hold a grudge against someone for something you refuse to discuss with them. You give up your right to be angry if you don’t discuss it with them. If it is truly not worth bringing up, then you must forgive and move on. If it is worth discussing then discuss it, even if you think you know what they’re going to say; remember #9.

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[home_callout2_line]#13 be sure to[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”] Follow UP[/home_callout2_line]

If there is amends to be made after the fact, make that amends. If there is other action to be taken, take that action. If you decide to go in a specific direction with a plan go into that with gusto, especially if it wasn’t your plan. If you argue about it and come to a conclusion but nothing happens then all you’ve done is throw gasoline on some wood because the next time a match gets lit that thing is going up in flames instantly. If you don’t take the steps you agree to take then no matter how the argument ended you didn’t actually solve the issue and you’re setting yourself up for a much worse one next time.

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[home_callout2_line]#14 Thank them[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]for working it out[/home_callout2_line]

this is so, so, so important, especially if the other person came to you to discuss a conflict. You MUST thank them for working through it. The more difficult and long the conflict, the more you have to acknowledge that it was hard for them to work through it with you. You have to acknowledge that they were taking a risk by coming to you. You have to say that you’re grateful that they were willing to discuss it to your face rather than letting it fester behind your back. Hopefully you haven’t reacted, or tried to dominate the discussion, and hopefully you’ve apologized where you needed to, so they shouldn’t feel like it was an awful experience. To reinforce that this was a good thing for both of you, you have to give a sincere “thank you” to them for being willing to duke it out.

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[home_callout2_line]#15 learn from[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]your mistakes[/home_callout2_line]

There was definitely something in that conflict that you could’ve handled better. If you got heated ask why, and ask yourself how you can respond better to that trigger in the future. If they got heated think about how you might’ve triggered that and how you can be more sensitive – were you being condescending or scoffing? Were you actually listening? Did you interrupt?

As long as you think you handled it perfectly every time then you miss out on the reality that the only mediator who is capable of handling conflict perfectly is the Holy Spirit. The more you are willing to let Him influence your life the better you’ll get at this, but if you’re not willing to let Him do the work of transforming the way your view others, then you’ll always be stuck in cycles of unhealthy relationships at work and at home because of your inability to grow.

That’s it.

There are probably more that need to be added to this list. There are definitely more lessons I need to learn in this area. Handling conflict at work and in our major relationships is a major step toward health in every sphere of our life. Embracing necessary conflict is the sign of a mature person and handling it in a loving, unselfish way, is the sign of a good leader, which is a role that every adult must embrace: our place as a leader, a leader of self, in our family, of friends, and in our churches.

Cutting the Cord in 2017

Back in 2010 I wrote a blog entry about what TV would look like in ten years – we’re seven years later and pretty close to my predictions, but things are still pretty scattered. To get there, you’ll have to do lots of configuring and there are no truly “cheap” options. So let’s have a look at what you can do about cutting the cord (or satellite) in 2017.


You will need a set-top-box. This is something that I had hoped would fade out by now, but unfortunately the “smart” part of smart TVs still suuuucks. You will need to purchase either an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, or Roku. All of these boxes have their pluses and minuses so let me run through them quickly:

First: All of them have voice commands now, and most of them do it pretty well and they all basically work the same way. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Amazon calls their voice command function “Alexa” and Apple calls theirs “Siri” these actually don’t play into your existing amazon Echo or Apple devices. All of them can be configured to work with universal remotes like harmony and in most cases (depending upon the model) they can be controlled using apps from your phone.

Netflix and Hulu pretty much run equally well on all of them (at least on the higher end versions of Roku and Amazon fire TV.)

Apple TV – $150

(we’re talking about the 4th generation): Best all around, but most expensive. Uses airplay, so if you have iPhones, iPads, or Mac computers you can stream anything; audio, video, or mirrored displays – directly from those devices to your TV without any extra wires or configuration. It just works. It’s also the only device that will work natively with your iTunes account, so if you have lots of movies or TV shows purchased through iTunes this is the way you’ll want to go. Also the Apple TV has a native app called TV that works with other TV apps to make it easier to search for content across several different sources – this works similar to the amazon fire TV, though I prefer the Apple TV interface; it’s smoother and integrates with your iPhone to allow you to input text instead of having to scroll through the alphabet. The remote is the best of any set-top-box. It comes with a lightning charging cable and the top half is a track pad that allows for quick, precise movement across the screen. Netflix, Hulu, and apps for most major broadcast networks are all available here and more and more subscription content is available all the time, especially for sports fans.

Perhaps the biggest downside to the Apple TV (besides the higher price point) is the fact that there is currently no native Amazon Prime video app. Though, I’d imagine this would come eventually, there’s been no announcements of plans to make one. However, because of airplay you can always just open the amazon prime video app on your phone, iPad or Macbook and stream it from there, making it a minor problem in the end.

Over all I recommend the Apple TV because its from the most time-tested brand and even though it’s a little bit more of an investment, think of it as being 1-2 payments of your cable bill and you realize, it’s still pretty inexpensive.

Roku – $50-$130

The Roku really was the first Set-Top-Box to really succeed and the fact that it’s become its own brand and still competes with the likes of Amazon and Apple shows that they’re making a quality product. There are currently five different Roku products, which is confusing because there really only needs to be two. The Roku “Stick” is only $50 and is a great device, but its older brother the Roku “Ultra” has voice commands, 4K, HDR streaming (making it the highest picture quality set-top-box), and the remote can be used as a wireless audio controller so you can watch TV with your earbuds in and not disturb your baby (or husband) napping in the other room.

All the apps are here; Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and most others. Roku is a great device, and if I were writing this a year ago I would say that it was a good deal, but today Roku is probably the least impressive device when it comes to control and interface and it’s no longer the best quality or the least expensive. It all looks good, but it’s just not as smooth as the other two and as Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV have become more popular it seems like Roku doesn’t offer many advantages; Amazon fire TV is cheaper and works well with Amazon prime, Apple TV offers a better interface and works well with the Apple ecosystem. Unless you get a really good deal on it, I wouldn’t recommend the Roku at this point.

Amazon Fire TV – $40-$90

The Amazon fire TV is without a doubt the best over all value; for $90 you get a player capable of 4K video with voice control. The Amazon fire stick is the cheapest player and, having used it myself, I couldn’t tell a big difference in the speed of the interface between the Fire Stick and the Fire TV. While it’s not as smooth or slick as the Apple TV, it’s still very stylish and easy to use. It doesn’t have airplay, or iPhone integration, but if you just want something inexpensive this is the best way to go. The Amazon Fire TV box’s image is actually 4K, though I haven’t seen the 4K quality version in action – I’d suspect it’s solid. If you need 4K then this is the best way to get it. Also if Amazon Prime is the main source of online content for you, you’ll want to get this box as that’s what it is built for.

One last thing to keep in mind with all of these: They all run great over wifi if you have a a good strong signal, but you’ll get a better connection over hard-line ethernet and the stick versions only run on wifi. If you have a hard line near your TV I’d go with one of the boxes and hook it to your network that way. If you don’t get good wifi in your TV room and you don’t have a hard line, you’ll want to get something to boost your wifi signal or run a hard line before proceeding.

Internet-delivered TV options

Netflix $8-$12

You already have Netflix. I don’t need to tell you that it’s really the best streaming service out there for original content as well as syndicated classic TV. Yes the price has gone up consistently over the years, but so has the quantity and quality of content. For $8 you can go with one screen SD service, but you’ll probably at least want the $10 HD 2-screen service. Netflix is offering almost all new content in 4k via the new $12 premium service. The service also has an exclusive deal with Disney where they will get all new Disney films streaming before any other service does; that includes Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars films. A few shows you might want to check out that are only available on Netflix: Travelers, The Crown, Fuller House, Arrested Development, Daredevil, Voltron, Danger Mouse, and Stranger Things. Plus they have Friends, Frasier, and Cheers.

Hulu $8-$12

If you don’t want to bother with getting an antenna to enjoy most of the content available on three of the five of the major broadcast stations (ABC, NBC, FOX) then you’ll want to go with Hulu. It’s not the best deal, but they’re working on getting more exclusive content. Shows to check out on Hulu: Brooklyn 99, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Emerald City, Agents of Shield, Smallville (complete series available), Blindspot, the Good Place, Drunk History, and tons of reality shows that I don’t care about, but you may. If you want current TV shortly after it airs and you don’t want to bother with an antenna, this is the simplest/cheapest way to do that. The downside is that while $8 gets you HD, it does have commercials that you cannot skip. For $12 you can skip the commercials. There is no 4K option. Little tip: don’t subscribe through your Apple TV, iPad or iPhone as it can add a $1 monthly “convenience fee,” instead log on using a computer.

Amazon Prime $99/year or $11/month

Of these “big three” Amazon prime offers the smallest exclusive library of shows, and really if you like movies at all you probably own all the movies they offer by the time they offer them. There are a few original series that are ok, but none at the level of Netflix. The only reason I have prime is for the two-day shipping and I think I’ve actually watched two movies and a couple episodes of their original shows, but I have every reason to expect that their library will improve as time goes on. As the service also includes the shipping perks, a small library of free ebooks, and amazon music (Hamilton sound track!), this one really does give you the most ROI, even if not in the area of video content.

Sling $20-$40

Sling is a different animal. It is not an on-demand service like the others, but rather basically an internet-based cable TV service. As of the publication of the post It offers no options to pause or re-watch content, this is totally just for live TV – especially for cable channels, the content for which you can’t get over air or through other services. There are three different tiers. Basically the first tier, “Orange” has all of the Disney-owned stations (Including ESPN) plus a smattering of others for $20. The second tier “Blue” has Fox and NBC’s related networks (Including Fox Sports and the NFL network) plus the same smattering of others for $25. For nerds, Orange has BBC America and Blue has Syfy. The upper tier is all of Sling’s available channels for $40, though at that point you could get the lower end Direct TV with DVR for about that much. The main advantage of sling over cable or satellite is they don’t do the rate hike after a year of service, though there is no realistic guarantee their rates will never go up in the future, this is pretty nice. If you don’t mind calling the cable company every year though, you can keep your rate at about this level and have more channels plus DVR.

Antenna Options

You’ve probably seen the set top antennas bragging about how they can get you dozens of free channels at higher quality than cable. While over the air (OTA) options are generally higher quality than most cable options, you’re never going to get “dozens” of channels with an indoor antenna. If you’re really looking to cut the chord and want something reliable, I don’t recommend getting an indoor antenna at all for a few reasons: First you have to buy one for every TV: to get a good one for every TV means that you’ll need to spend $15-$30 per set. Second, reception is going to be limited due to their location and it will vary greatly depending upon the weather. And finally they’re obtrusive and the most effective ones tend to be ugly. Yes, you can usually get 1-5 local stations with a nice, flat window antenna, but if you want to get all the stations in your area clear and reliably there are few better options. And these do require some significant set up, but once you’re finished then you’ll have free and very good TV for a long time.

First with either of these options I recommend visiting and using their TV signal tool. It will generate a PDF telling you what direction you need to face your antenna to get what channels. It will also tell you how strong the signal is for each station so you know what to expect and what kind of antenna you’ll need to get each channel.

Outdoor antenna – Best signal

If you already have a satellite on your house this is a super easy option because it is taking advantage of your existing wiring. Buy the best outdoor antenna you can afford and a mast. I recommend getting at least a double bowtie antenna as you can use the info you got from the TVfool signal report to face it at two different directions and receive signals from multiple places. Remove your satellite and put the antenna on the mast in its place. If you have a small house and only 1-2 TVs you might be able to get by with just taking the signal strait in off the antenna using a simple coax splitter, but if you’re looking to supply TV to a medium-sized house or to three or more TVs you’ll want to get an RF amplifier to split the signal and make it stronger. You may already have one in place, if not they’re $40-$80 depending upon how many sets you have. Wherever your satellite cable is fed to into your house (usually its your attic) you’ll want to place the amplifier there and use it to send the cable elsewhere. Look, I can explain this all to you, but I’ll probably make it sounds more complicated than it is. Just find where the existing wiring is and use it. Google it if you need more info.

Attic antenna – Most aesthetically pleasing/easiest to set up

If you don’t have a satellite or ladder – or if your HOA forbids you from putting a big antenna on your house, an attic antenna is usually a pretty easy option that won’t lower the curb appeal. Most outdoor antennas can be used as attic antennas, so my recommendation stays the same: a double bow-tie antenna is your best bet for capturing more signals, but since your attic probably isn’t big enough to accommodate the double bowtie, you could either settle for two singles and a combiner or one single. By the way, you might want to make sure you have a good place to mount it in your attic before purchasing. The one pictured is nearly 4 feet long – you may also want to buy a small mast to get it clear of your roof and rafters and as high as possible. Face the elements based on the report you got from Then use your existing cable wiring to hook into the rest of your house. There is almost always an access in your attic to your cabling. Again you may want to buy an amplifier if you have a medium sized house or if you’re distributing to three or more TVs. Be sure to experiment with different locations before you drill holes. Get someone to stand up stairs with it and try a few different locations with the element facing the directions recommended by your TVfool report. and scan for channels. This is a hassle, but it will be worth it when you get a better signal.

Combine antennas – get all the channels

If you live in the middle of nowhere you might want to use the report to guide you as to where to place multiple powered single-direction antennas and combine those signals using a UHF/VHF combiner. This is a pretty advanced option but can result in getting lots of channels from over a hundred miles away. A less expensive, but more complicated option along these same lines is to get a single high-gain antenna with a rotor that moves the antenna from indoors so you can re-position it as needed. Again, this is really only if you live in the middle of no where, or if you just like getting channels from neighboring states.


Look, lots of people have talked about all the great options for Over-the-Air DVRs so I’m just going to tell you what the guys at say. You can read their whole article on it here.  The following is from that page:

Tivo Roamio: Best All around & best value

If you do this, you should probably get the lifetime subscription deal that Tivo offers. Plug the antenna into the Tivo, and you’re done! TiVo also has the best interface for a DVR. It does have the ability to access Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon prime, but these apps are not going to run as smoothly on TiVo’s box as they would on an Apple TV, so bear that in mind. As an added bonus, the Roamio can be controlled with your smartphone.

To expand to other rooms you have to buy a TiVo Stream ($150.) There is an app where the Tivo can be streamed via Airplay to an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV however a TiVo stream is still required.So you need at least one of them to do TV on multiple place and you might need more than that depending on how you want to scale your system, if you have three TVs.

Really this is the best option all around for an OTA DVR right now, for $400 you get a 1TB DVR with no added monthly fee.

Tablo 4: Good for gearheads and owners of multiple Set-top-devices.

If you want to access your Over-the-air DVR recording from multiple TVs, or from you tablet or phone, then the Tablo 2 ($190) or Tablo 4 ($300) systems are a great choice. The 2 has two tuners, meaning that you can watch one thing and DVR another or have two people watching two different things off of one Tablo. The Tablo four has four tuners so if you’re planning on accessing your Tablo on more than one device you might want to go with the 4. This type of system scales cheaply – to add another TV you just buy a FireTV stick. You can also do some of this with a Tivo by buying Tivo Mini’s, but it will end up costing more. The number of tuners determines how many programs total you can have being DVR’d/watched live at the same time. What’s also cool is that as long as you’re in range of your house’s wifi, you can actually watch your over-the-air TV on your phone(s).

A small, but substantial advantage to accessing Tablo through your Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire TV is that you don’t ever have to change inputs on your TV – you select the Tablo app when you want to access Live over-the-air TV or your DVR, then hit back on your remote and your on to netflix without having to swap to a different input.

The less than awesome thing about Tablo is that while it works great once it’s up and running it can be a bit trickier to get set up and requires you to purchase an external hard drive.(I had one laying around so I didn’t need to spend the extra cash) And while you can use the DVR system without subscribing, to be able to see more than a day in advance and get programming descriptions you need to pay either subscribe to a $5 monthly fee or purchase a lifetime membership for $150. That plus a hard drive, and a streaming device (if you don’t have one already) and you could easily spend $550+ getting what you basically get for $400 with TiVo – again, UNLESS you’re planning on doing this on two ore more TVs as TiVo requires you to buy a TiVo stream ($150) to scale this to other rooms.

So what does Will Adams think?

Well if you already are getting a set-top-box like a Roku, Amazon, or a Apple TV then Tablo 2 can be an inexpensive option if you don’t mind the configuration, especially if you’re wanting to access multiple TVs. TiVo is the cheapest if either you’re not going to buy a set-top-box device, or if you’re only going to need it for one TV. And really it’s the best all around.

I have a Tablo 4, and while I would’ve gotten a Roamio (had they been out at the time I purchased my Tablo) after I got it configured I really found that I liked the interface and the convenience of being able to watch on any device without buying anything extra. In short TiVo is for most folks, Tablo is for gearheads outfitting more devices.

So that’s it.

Go fourth and configure your system and let me know how it works for you so I can update this post with more info!

We’re slowly bringing about the Zombie Apocalypse

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not Christians should smoke Weed.

There are already several great articles on what the Christian position on Pot should be. Mark Driscoll wrote one here. Here’s another one from Relevant Magazine. And here’s my personal favorite from Christianity today, which unfortunately requires a subscription to read the whole thing. But that’s not what I’m here to do. I just want to approach this purely from a logical standpoint.

After the first few months of legalized recreational use of marijuana in colorado there was a series of articles explaining all the great things about pot. There were articles explaining that it’s not so bad, because the crime rate hasn’t gone up, but in fact it’s technically gone down because all the people smoking illegally before are smoking legally now. And there wasn’t an increase in violent crime, robberies, or any other type of crime related to smoking the doob. Then of course there’s the article that tells us that weed has brought in over $25 Million in tax revenue to date. Then there was the study that told us that cannabis consumption hasn’t increased significantly since the legalization. So again, it’s not that bad.

This is all supposed to lull us into feeling ok about the fact that people are toking up and it is now legal and increasingly socially acceptable. All the while more and more people seem to be saying that it’s better than other drugs used and circulated legally. After all, there have been studies that show weed to be less damaging to the lungs than cigarettes. It’s predicted to be less addictive than alcohol. Though in that same article, they mention that it has also been shown to create intense withdrawal symptoms “including insomnia, nausea, and anxiety.” Despite all this, many of these articles spend more time telling us about how “ok” smoking juju really is.

Very few of these articles ever talk about the effects THC has on the brain. This is partially because only now are the studies really starting to come out. Let’s think about that for a moment. It can take decades of research for a new medicinal drug to go from tests, to trials, to prescription only, before it can finally land at the easy-access of  being over the counter where any adult can buy it. By that time the drug has been taken my millions of people under the watch of a doctor who is obliged to report any unusual reactions. But Colorado just legalized a drug for recreational use by anyone that we’re only now just beginning to research thoroughly.


I think this is the way most people who are against Marijuana sound to pro-pot enthusiasts

The best thing that can be said in an article from the National Institute of Drug Abuse is “Our understanding of marijuana’s long-term brain effects is limited.” though later on the article admits, “a person’s risk of heart attack during the first hour after smoking marijuana is four times his or her usual risk” and listed in the persistent and long-term effects of Marijuana are learning impairment, schizophrenia, and increased risk of something called amotivational syndrome, which is exactly what it sounds like.

This is what really concerns me and very few people are paying attention. In a 2014 study, Harvard scientists found that even a small amount of pot on a weekly basis has a significant impact on the smoker’s brain. From this article:

The 20 people in the “marijuana group” of the study smoked four times a week on average; seven only smoked once a week. Those in the control group did not smoke at all.

“We looked specifically at people who have no adverse impacts from marijuana — no problems with work, school, the law, relationships, no addiction issues,” said Hans Breiter, another co-author of the study.

Using three different neuroimaging techniques, researchers then looked at the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala of the participants. These areas are responsible for gauging the benefit or loss of doing certain things, and providing feelings of reward for pleasurable activities such as food, sex and social interactions.

“This is a part of the brain that you absolutely never ever want to touch,” said Breiter. “I don’t want to say that these are magical parts of the brain — they are all important. But these are fundamental in terms of what people find pleasurable in the world and assessing that against the bad things.”

Shockingly, every single person in the marijuana group, including those who only smoked once a week, had noticeable abnormalities, with the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala showing changes in density, volume and shape. Those who smoked more had more significant variations.

Critics will say that their sample size is very small, which would be a more valid argument if it weren’t for the fact that ALL of the weed smokers had significant changes in their brain no matter the amount they smokes. The researchers have said that they intend to repeat the study with a larger sample size, focusing on the behavioral changes that can be expected based on these physical effects.

So when people say that crime hasn’t really gone up, that the addiction rate is lower than alcohol, that there’s less of risk for cancer and other diseases common with cigarettes – they’re missing the issue. Because the truth about marijuana is much scarier. My concern isn’t that people are getting high and may do something foolish, or even that they’re harming their lungs. Emerging research suggests that  by smoking marijuana people are willingly eroding their own brain tissue. And there is an increasing number of people and leaders who are endorsing the legalization of a drug that relaxes, giving a pleasant high feeling, but literally reduces your brain power every time you smoke it.


This funny thing is that we’re basically bringing about the Zombie apocalypse voluntarily. And these are people who can vote. That’s what terrifies me.

I’m not worried that we’re going to have an increased amount of THC related DUIs or crimes. I’m more concerned that we’re going to have a decreased amount of motivation and brain power in regards to the big issues that plague our country and that we the people, who are supposed to be stewards of our freedom, are going to use that freedom to get baked and slowly lose our freedom to voluntary brain damage.


Here’s the kicker: because I haven’t tried it, I’m often told that I don’t have a right to comment on it. It’s true that I haven’t tried it. I also haven’t tried hemlock, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, most kinds of molds, or arsenic. If any politician took a platform encouraging people to ingest any of those very legal substances, everyone would know that he was an idiot. But an endorsement of THC, a largely untested drug, (that when tested has been shown to destroy part of the brain) is a desirable platform for politician today. In fact, if a late night comedian were to summarize my position on pot as a part of a set-up to a joke it would elicit boo’s from the audience while the opposing view would garner cheers.

Why are people so happy to give away part of their brain? The late David Foster Wallace, author and thinker, said

“Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.”

When YOU are the greatest thing in your world, when your mind is the height of your own existence, then your existence is bound to be a sad, angry, frustrated one. We’re unhappy with our lives and are looking for the spiritual fulfillment from something. Getting high and destroying part of our brain is the ultimate way most of us can escape the reminder that we’re not fulfilled. If we kill enough brain cells maybe we’ll stop having to think about our unhappiness at all.

But it doesn’t matter what I think. It doesn’t matter what worldview I subscribe to. As a voter, as a human, as a part of this planet earth, you should be concerned about this. Unless you just like the idea of our world being lured into an increasingly illogical state, fueled by our desire for a series of temporary highs. Sedated into weary nothingness.

“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.” – Malcolm Muggeridge

We have to fight this. One of the most common questions I’ve seen people ask those of us who uphold to a moral standard is this: Why do you care? Why do you care what I do? It’s not harming you. There are other sins you could be worrying about that are worse. Why care? . . . I confess it would be easier to simply ignore this. Let people just smoke themselves into oblivion. But we’re not called to that. We’re called to serve, we’re called to bring the truth of Christ into a dark world. We care because Christ cares. We care because he died for all of humanity.

Consider all this in your discussions about the topic.

Food, Obesity, Weight loss and Apparent Irresponsibility. Ice Cream For Breakfast Part 2

I chose the name “Ice Cream For Breakfast” because it’s both a metaphor and an example of the struggle of adulthood.I lost a lot of weight recently and I want to talk about how I did it, but first I want to talk about my weight and what being overweight was like. But if you want to just skip to the end and read my conclusion – the real meat of this thing – just skip to the last paragraph.

On being fat:

Several years ago I was walking through Publix one day, I think I was on the cereal aisle – I was probably picking out something sugary – when one of my sisters called me to talk to my then-four-year-old nephew. His mom was talking to him about college and he was intrigued at the thought of living someplace without any “mommies or daddies.” So she called her little brother who was only a few years out of college to talk to him. He excitedly asked me if it was possible to eat pop-tarts and Doritos whenever you wanted. I laughed and confirmed this for him.

I grew up in a home where we didn’t often have pop-tarts or Doritos – at least not the real, full-fat kind. If we ever had anything it was probably both the generic brand and the low-fat version my dad was looking to save money and mom was looking to save calories – both, by the way, are good traits and somehow, I survived. I did get enough of that concern for calories instilled in me to be concerned when I saw a picture of myself after my junior year of college, which caused me to work to lose 20 pounds over the summer. Losing weight as a 21 year old is easy. You eat salad for one meal instead of a burger and fries and go jogging a couple of times a week and you’re good. This tactic doesn’t work once you get past 27.

you know those little subtle hints life gives you that all say “might lose a few pounds, buddy?”

Last fall I was at my heaviest – at 237, I wasn’t absurdly over weight by most standards, but I’m only 5’7″ so that puts me in the “obese” category easily. By the way, the word “obese” often gets used when people mean “morbidly obese.” I once referred to myself as obese and was chastised for being self-deprecating. I then explained that I wasn’t being figurative, that I knew what my BMI was and I was actually well into the “Obese” range for my height. The person, who thought they were being kind, then argued that those scales don’t take body type into account. She’s right; they don’t – but considering I was more than 30 pounds into the “obese” category – I knew that the categorization was accurate. Something had to change.

I didn’t have any discipline in my life as of last fall. For no good reason I’d fallen out of lots of habits of personal maintenance in most areas of my life and I felt it. The weight was one small part – it just happened to be obvious to everyone around me.

Deciding to Lose the Weight

In the past six months I’ve lost almost 40 pounds. And I feel . . . a bit better. I won’t lie I’m happier with my appearance, but when skinny people ask me “but how do you FEEL?” They say it like they expect me to say “Well, most of my life’s problems are solved and now I can’t be harmed by conventional weapons.” I don’t feel any more energetic, my mood hasn’t altered – I’m actually more apt to be cranky because I’m hungrier most of the time and I’m more aware of how I was dealt a bad hand with my metabolism in comparison to some of the people around me. At the same time I’ve learned more about the amount of calories that are in the foods I’m eating – which has changed my eating habits. And my body has adjusted to eating fewer calories.

Just having an idea of the foods I was eating that were higher in calories than I realized, gave me the ability to keep better track of what I was eating

But to me it’s more about the discipline. Being a little overweight isn’t a huge deal to me, but to some people it’s a big indicator of your whole life – people might even subconsciously extrapolate that an apparent lack of discipline in your diet means you have no discipline anywhere. They might think that if you’re over weight then you likely have no discipline, no self control, or you’re just plain lazy. In my case they’d basically be right, but still, these are superficial assumptions. Regardless, to some people fitness is next to godliness. Don’t be that guy. Don’t tell people they need to lose weight. Overweight people KNOW they’re overweight. They feel it with every step. They see it every time they look in the mirror. Being overweight is it’s own punishment – no need to be mean to these people.

BUT if you’re a Christian, then weight is a bigger issue than something superficial. And I’m not just talking about the sin of gluttony, though that is definitely an issue that the western church doesn’t address often enough. I’m also talking about the fact that your body is a temple. Yes, it’s Christian a cliche, but it’s also scriptural. Even if you have moments where you don’t respect yourself enough to put the ice cream back in the freezer and have kale and eggs for breakfast instead, you need to start with at least enough respect for your savior to want to keep his temple in some kind of shape. Not out of guilt, but out of love for him. Not out of shame for your appearance, but out of a desire to be a good witness.

Remember what happened last time Jesus showed up to a temple and didn’t like what he found? He went first century on their tails.

How I lost the weight:


In February of this year I bought a refurbished fitbit from Groupon goods.

It would be kind of funny to just end the entry there. Really that was basically it. I started keeping note of my steps and taking challenges with friends and family. I kept track of my calorie intake and while I’d tried this before – the difference with fitbit that it kept track of my calorie output. So if I wanted ice cream for breakfast I knew that I would have to walk an extra mile or two to burn off those calories (I eat low fat fro-yo anyway.)

I then started finding time in my day to get in steps, climb stairs, and to just stay active. I found meals that I enjoyed that were reasonably low-calorie and when I knew I wanted to have a bigger meal I’d budget my day around it. Since my small group fasts on Mondays anyway, I don’t have to worry as much about the calorie in take that day.

I started having sautéed kale, scrambled eggs and coffee every morning. I keep grilled chicken strips in my freezer all the time and throw them on a salad with a light dressing for a low calorie meal at home. Or I make my own chili. I still eat everything that I love, just a little less often and in smaller portions. I certainly don’t force myself to eat foods I hate.

I once had a doctor ask me about my diet – I thought he was going to get onto me and say I needed to lose weight. Instead he proceeded to say that I shouldn’t be on any of those “weird diets” that cut out whole categories of food. I say this to say that shock diets may help you lose weight, but most doctors don’t endorse them because they’re not healthy for your body in the long-term. There was never any danger of me trying one of these. The issue with most popular diets for me is that they’re more about what you can’t eat than what you can. I would hear about someone losing lots of weight on the slow-carb diet and think “well I’d never be able to do that.” and just say that I guess I can’t lose weight. Or I’d have a friend hang out with me and I’d fix dinner – he’d then tell me that he couldn’t have normal human food because he’s on the (fill-in-the-blank) diet. This bothered me as a good, southern boy, who was taught that it is rude to turn down food you’re not allergic to, so it further turned me off to fad diets.


I actually haven’t cut much out of my diet entirely, partially because I had a pretty nutritious diet – I was just eating too much. I’ve always avoided foods with lots of preservatives and other chemicals that make food harder to digest. I do avoid foods sweetened with high fructose corn syrup as studies indicate that it increases cravings and may contribute to several diseases. I’ve found that removing HFCS has helped  curb my cravings for sweet foods. I keep apples around and just decide to eat those any time I’m hungry.

I stayed active on a daily basis; this was the biggest change. My goal is 12,000 steps per day. When I started my diet I was very strict about getting it every day. Now, six months in, if I have a day where I don’t get it once or twice a week I don’t worry too much as long as I’m careful with my calories. I work in a large building, so 1-2 times a day I take 10-15 minutes and get up and walk around the building. I’ll also take 10-15 minutes around lunch to run the stairs in our worship center; I do enough to get 25 floors. When I get home I’ll walk my dog. Between all this it’s easy to get in 12-20,000 steps in a day. Obviously, I don’t have time to do this every day, but if I can make time to at least run the stairs and walk Zeus when I get home – that usually does the trick. I found it was less about getting “cardio” every day and more about just staying active – getting up and dancing alone in my office is not out of the question.

no caption necessary.

One of the unexpected things was I found myself being more productive; even though I was taking time out of my day to walk or run stairs, the rest of the time I was more motivated, and because I took some time away to think about ideas I found my head was clearer.

What I learned

  1. Anyone can lose weight – If I can do it, you can do it. I’m not an athlete and I love sugar more than anyone I know. If I can learn to curb my cravings, and can add a little more activity to my day, then you can do it. If this is a spiritual struggle, I’ll add that you and the Holy Spirit can do it, even if you can’t. I know I’m not a parent, nor am I married – but if you’re not healthy, you’re not doing your family any favors. If your job is keeping you from being healthy, you need to be working toward getting out of that situation. Nothing is worth your own health – not your job, your friends, you family, or bae – especially not bae.
  2. You don’t have to be a jerk to be healthy – Honestly one of the things that made me not want to work on my own health was the people I met who talked about their diet or exercise plan. Either they complained about their weird diet or they turned down the perfectly healthy food I’d made for them. For people who really struggle with their weight, you might have to be more regimented at first, but once you get in the swing of things you should be able to function normally without complaining about/criticizing  the food you’re offered at a friends house. And you shouldn’t be eyeing your friend’s plate at a restaurant, either judgmentally, or because you can’t stop complaining about what you’re having to eat because of your diet.
  3. But you will have to make sacrifices – If you want to have a doughnut, you can have a doughnut, but you might not get to have much of anything else if you want to have a calorie deficit for the day. The first few weeks were the hardest for me, but they were also the ones wherein I lost the most weight. You may have to be a little hungry some times until your body gets used to fewer calories. At first you may only get one meal a day where you really love what you’re eating. You may not get to eat everything you love every time you want to. If it’s easy, you’re not doing it right, but it gets easier.
  4. It’s not fat shaming – I believed this before, but I feel I need to say it now more than ever. People who are overweight need to lose weight. I still need to lose weight. There’s been a recent movement against encouraging weight-loss that claims you can be “healthy at every size.” This is a lie. While you can be healthy with any body type, and you certainly don’t have to be rail-thin to be healthy, being overweight puts you at risk for tons of diseases and puts pressure on all your various body-systems. You don’t have to tell everyone they need to lose weight, but you’re not doing anyone any favors by telling them they’re perfect.If a friend says they need to lose weight you don’t have to say “HECK YES YOU DO.” But you don’t have to say “no! you look great.” You could invite them to go walking with you a few times a week, or suggest some healthy meals.

    I saw this image of two different women’s MRI and it showed me the severity of things – look at the fat around the organs, imagine what that does to a person’s body.

  5. You know when you’re healthy – If you’re honest with yourself, you know when you need to lose weight. You also know what weight is the happiest medium for your lifestyle, confidence, and physical health. You might not be “perfect,” but you’re healthy and that’s more important. Don’t get overly obsessed with hitting a “target weight.” It’s good to have goals, but your main goal should be to be healthy and find something manageable.
  6. Being just a little more fit gives you more credibility – We’re superficial people, and when I was over weight I knew it made no sense for me to be talking about discipline, scriptural truths, or advice on how to order other people’s lives, when I so clearly didn’t have my own personal life under control. Who am I to talk about sin when it appears that I give in to gluttony constantly?
  7. Its on going – it never really ends, I currently am almost 40 lbs down from where I was six months ago, but I’d love to lose ten more pounds. At this point, though I feel pretty good and I think I’ve found a balance that works for me. It’s a constant climb, but it’s well worth it. As I said in the blog entry last week, there are no after photos in the christian walk. And really that’s the case in all life-long pursuits; it may get easier, but you don’t reach a point where you’re totally done. That may be discouraging to some, but when you realize that the alternative is to deal with heart disease, diabetes, joint pain, low energy, and numerous other health risks – you begin to realize that you’re choosing between applying some will power on a daily basis or shortening your life and being uncomfortable in your own skin.

On Health and Adulthood…

So the bottom line is that adulthood is about taking responsibility for yourself and being disciplined. Kids don’t have to think about their diet- they have a mom that’s keeping them from over-sugaring themselves. Children don’t have the authority or ability to control their own diet. When you as an adult don’t choose to take care of yourself, you’re essentially saying to yourself that you don’t have the ability to control your own diet, even though you have the authority. Regardless of your age, embracing the best for your adulthood is taking control of the things in your life that you can control and – unless you’re in prison – you can control what you put into your body. As with all acts of discipline it just starts with deciding to do it, and then having faith that the Holy Spirit is going to be available to help you with the follow through.

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It’s not an after photo, but it’s a during photo that I’m kinda proud of


This is part of a series called Ice Cream for Breakfast. To see more, click here.

There are no after photos in the Christian Faith

You ever see those commercials for workout programs and equipment? I always find it so amazing to look at the before and after photos on these things. Men and women, many of whom are my age, who may have struggled with their weight for years and just decided that they were tired of it. They then worked hard for months, sometimes years to develop healthier habits. They asked for help from friends and family and made alterations to their lifestyle to reinforce these changes and after lots of hard work they finally arrived at their goal weight and were able to take the victory lap of weight loss: the “after” photo.


Some of these transformations are pretty extreme…

Before and after photos are often really cool to see – the first image looks like a totally different, but similar person from the second, as if they might’ve been related – perhaps siblings. I like seeing these because they’re a physical and visible example of life transformation. The problem is that they don’t tell the whole story. Not only do they not tell you about the struggle in-between the “before” and the “after” even more importantly they don’t tell you the story of what happened after the “after” photo was taken. Did they stay on track? Did they backslide a little? Were they carried into heaven by a flaming chariot now that they reached physical perfection?

I think that because the church is so aware of how much everyone needs Jesus and the dramatic transformation he brings about in peoples lives we tend to think of people in one of two ways: they’re either a before or an after; meaning that either they haven’t surrendered their life to Christ (and therefore are a terrible mess) or they have surrendered their life to Christ (and therefore have things totally figured out.) But we know that there are usually many more steps in Christian maturity and growth beyond salvation.

Obviously the importance of the first step of accepting Christ cannot be overvalued, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only step. Yet the church often seems to believe that the people outside of the church are the only ones who need the church. As if to say that once you’re in the church you no longer need teaching, guidance, financial assistance, community, or counseling. That’s what everyone outside the church needs, but now that you’re in the church you no longer need it. This breeds the idea that when we, as Christians, do have issues, we’re the only ones. If you struggle with depression, marital issues, addictions, or meeting your family’s basic needs – it can seem like the church isn’t the place for you, because the people of the Christian church have it all figured out, right? The resulting effect is either that people either try to hide those issues or they don’t engage with the church because they feel like they don’t belong. Either way the very thing they need; the church isn’t able to help them.

Meanwhile, the truth is that there are no “after” photos in the Christian faith. There are only “during” photos. The Christian life doesn’t end with Jesus, it begins with it. We don’t believe that Salvation is the only work of grace. There’s sanctifying grace that continues to work in a person’s life until they go to be with Jesus at which point I fully expect they’ll take an “after” photo of you upon your arrival in paradise.

Yes there is a definite before and after in the Christian faith. Jesus’ impact on a person’s life should create a transformation that may be dramatic. This can be a very clear “before” and “after,” but the reality is there is more to it. To be accurate the after photo would have to be a video time lapse of a person as they continue to live their life. The time-lapse might have moments of pure happiness; where joy seems obvious on their face. Then they might have moments of frustration and doubt, where they’re angry with God. There might be moments of obedience where they trusted and God were faithful, despite their feelings. Then they might have moments where they feel like they’ve messed up again and aren’t deserving of forgiveness. They’ll have moments of assurance, and moments of despair. Hopefully they have moments where they grow closer to God and find that it’s easier to resist temptation as they know him more. That would be quite a long “after photo,”  but it would be more accurate then a single-frame snapshot of a person’s life depicting them at one high moment.

it might look kinda like this.

I think I too often appear to people who see me from afar as an “after” photo when I’m really a “during.” While I don’t think it’s wise to broadcast every struggle – after all it’s not about me – I do think there is some merit to admitting that we all have them and that I am a part of “we all.” So let me proclaim: any snapshot you see of my life is a “during” photo. I have moments of joy, moments of obedience, and moments of growth, but I also have moments of despair and moments of embarrassment. While I’m growing closer to God and learning to follow him better, it is an ongoing process. I do not say this to excuse my shortcomings, I say this to acknowledge them and declare that my hope and righteousness is in Christ.

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This is especially tough to keep in mind in today’s social media- driven world. You see a friend post about their marriage, or the birth of a child, or the fact that they just got another degree, bought a house, got a promotion, or are on an expensive vacation. Or maybe it’s not material success; they post photos of their family in worship, or the scripture they read this morning, or the theologian they’re reading. You look at this and think they have it all together; that they’ve arrived. In reality, they don’t post about the fight they had with their kids before getting to worship. They don’t tell about the fact that they lost their temper with a co-worker and they got reprimanded at work. They don’t explain that they’re struggling financially because they’re in a huge amount of debt due to the new house, expensive degree, and crazy vacations they’re taking. Those “after” pictures, don’t show the whole picture.

Also – don’t be afraid to unfollow those people that are only posting things that make you jealous or angry. You’re not obligated to keep up with them. I’m sure you realize all of this, because you’re smart, but I’m amazed at the number of people who complain about the kind of things they see on social media – which is a totally customizable medium; tailored to the way you make it. You don’t have to unfriend those people, but you don’t have to follow them either. If seeing those things aren’t edifying to you, then why choose to continue to see them? And while we’re on the topic – don’t contribute to the noise by being dishonest about your situation. You don’t have to broadcast every high and don’t be afraid to ask for prayer as a way of letting your friends know that you’re human. Otherwise your highlights might be someone else’s struggle.


To sum it up simply: The Christian walk isn’t a sprint wherein you might run hard for a few hundred feet, but then once you reach the end you get to soak in the hot tub for the rest of your life. It’s an ultra marathon that lasts for days and nights and is longer than anything else you encounter. Some days it’s uphill. Some day’s it’s flat and boring, if you’re fortunate, you’ll have a few days wherein you’ll run through a stretch where the crowds are lining the road, cheering you on. There are no “after” photos in the Christian life, so enjoy the during – it’s the during, the journey wherein we grow closer to Christ as we constantly rely on him in our struggles.