Do This One Thing to Lower Healthcare Costs


IMG_4214Are You concerned about the rising cost of healthcare in America?

In a moment, I will make one simple suggestion that, if applied, will help to make healthcare more affordable for you and those you love.

But first …

I sat quietly in the corner of the radio booth and listened to the interview with Chef Suvir Saran and others about an upcoming program on how to live and eat better

          Suvir spoke about what he told folks who visited his upscale New York City restaurant. “Eat at my table once a year and eat at your table every day.”

          His on-going message on the radio, in his books, and in the public square is slow down and enjoy eating together.

          I’ve heard for years the family who eats together stays together. Studies demonstrate children who eat at the family table at least once a day do better in school than those who don’t (I’ve heard this several times, the most recent being during the radio interview).

          A Loma Linda University study of 7th Day Adventists in California reported that this group tends to live 4 to 10 years longer than the average Californian.

Suvir noted two things in particular about the Adventists—their vegetarian diet and their habit of eating together, i.e. a community who gathered around the dinner table.

IMG_4873So here’s a simple formula for better health.

Good food + Community = a longer, better life.

I’d go heavy on the community, but good food sure doesn’t hurt. Why?

          Because food connects people with people.

          When I remember my family’s time in Russia, I think of how often we connected with our Russian friends through food. Ellen and I hosted our good friends Leonid and Natasha on several occasions to introduce them to Tex-Mex cooking.

          When we visited their dacha in the country, we’d sit around a table with spoons in hand. In the middle of the table sat two large bowls of fresh salads—one with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, the other with cold meat and potatoes cut into small cubes. No other plates, saucers, or bowls. We each dipped a spoon into the communal bowl, ate the salad, and talked.

          In March, the three churches I serve met for a single worship service followed by a dinner. It’s one of the few times I’ve had on a Sunday to connect with people. Typically I leave the first service before it ends then hustle on to church number two followed within the hour by church number three.

          That Sunday morning in March, I listened and learned a lot about the churches and their members. The dinner gave us all an excuse to linger and enjoy one another’s company, to connect.

          And connected people form communities.

          When you take the time to eat with others, you also have the time to toss out lines of communication, lines that strengthen loose connections and form the foundation for stronger friendships.

          You know as well as I do that a lot more than eating takes place around a dinner table. People talk about the latest movies, recent rains, new job starts, happy moments, and tough times.

          You may start at the shallow end of the conversational pool, but, if you remain at the table long enough, you dive in deeper.

          And remember the formula: Good food + Community = a longer, better life?

          So it stands to reason that …

          … stronger communities lead to healthier lives.

          And healthier lives lower the cost of healthcare.

          So, if you want to lower your healthcare costs, invite someone to dinner.

          I’m curious. How has food helped you to connect with others?

IMG_3119Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

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Stop Going to Church!


Church of the Nazerene, Gottmadingen, Germany“When we stopped going to church …”

          There’s more to that statement, and I’ll complete the sentence in a moment.

          Going suggests a place, and, when we go somewhere, we usually have a reason.

I go to the local supermarket because I need groceries.

          I go to the gas station (usually a convenience store) because I need fuel for the car.

          I go to the library because I’m cheap and want to watch a movie.

          I go to … because … You get the idea.

          If church is someplace to go, what’s my reason for going?

          A worship experience?

          Prayer?

          Christian fellowship?

          A timely word from the pulpit?

          And if my need isn’t fulfilled, then what do I do? For most people the answer would be, go somewhere else. The somewhere else may be another church place or it may be nothing so “spiritual” as that.

          Now for the whole statement.

          “When we stopped going to church and started being the church, something wonderful happened.”*

          In life, I do things. I am things.

Depending on my point of view, church can fit into either category. And my perspective on church (it’s where we go vs. it’s who we are) makes a huge difference.

          Things I do: read, write, preach, wash clothes, play basketball, mow the lawn, gripe about the weather, make awesome cinnamon rolls (for real!).

          Things I am: a son, a brother, a friend, a husband, a father.

          Let me pull one thing out of the I am list—a husband.

          What makes me a husband is my relationship with Ellen. We’re married (I know, I know. I’m only stating the obvious). We’ve taken vows and they remain intact to this day. We’re committed to one another (and I might add more deeply in love than ever).

          Has married life always been easy? No.

          Has our relationship been strained? Yes.

          But we’ve remained steadfast and faithful to one another. And the pleasure of our commitment has multiplied over the years.

          Okay, here’s the point. When I examine the I am category, I find the list involves my relationships with others. I am a son because I have parents. I am a brother because I have siblings. I am a father because I have a son. I am a husband because I have a wife.

          Now back to going vs. being the church.

          If I’m going to church, I have to have a reason. If the reason’s not good enough, I go elsewhere or stop going altogether. My attitude toward church is similar to my attitude toward the grocery store. I’m there if I need something. I’m not if I don’t. I’m simply a religious consumer.

          On the other hand, if I be the church, the being means I have a relationship with someone. I’m not a consumer but a partner, first with Jesus Christ then with those who call Him Lord.

          I’m curious. Which one best describes you—a person who thinks of church as a place to go or a community to be?

*Stutzman, Paul V. (2012-03-01). Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail (p. 268). Baker Book Group.

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes on tour 006Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

For more of what People Are Saying follow link.

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

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Posted in Community | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Today I Choose to Get in the Game


IMG_2596After two years of posting articles on a regular basis (2 to 3 times week, every week), I stopped.

         I didn’t stop writing. At least, not entirely.

          But I stopped posting.

          I checked the date of my last post—March 6, 2013. I checked the date of my first post—April 17, 2011. Between the first and the last postings, I’d remained faithful in writing and committed to posting what I wrote.

          I stayed home. I wrote. I posted.

          I traveled to Texas. I wrote. I posted.

          I traveled to the Middle East. I wrote. I posted.

          I traveled to Alaska. I wrote. I posted.

          Then my writing journey morphed into jogging in place. I had thoughts, a few jotted sentences, some article starts, but no real movement.

          I went nowhere. I wrote little. I posted nothing.

          Today that changes.

          No excuses.

          No more—

“I’ll do it later this morning.”

          “After lunch.”

          “For sure right after my nap.”

          “Tonight! I’ll definitely do it tonight.”

          “Okay, I screwed up, but first thing in the morning, I’ll get up early, write, and post.”

          I’ve been …

          … busy as a pastor.

          … helping coach baseball.

          … adjusting to a new schedule.

          … thinking about other things.

          But mostly I’ve been …

          SCARED!

          And today I’m still scared.

          But fear doesn’t get anything done.

          Fear doesn’t write.

          Fear doesn’t post.

          And fear sure doesn’t move me forward.

          The main thing fear does is keep me on the sidelines wishing I was in the game.

          So it’s time to get on the field.

          It’s time to post.

IMG_1348Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Posted in Writing Lessons | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Hospice Comes to Our Home


IMG_4230For almost two weeks now, Ellen and I have been involved in dealing with a loved one’s imminent death. Her 90-year-old mother fell and broke a hip. Ever since, the family has gone from one crisis to the next.

We’d discussed where Grace would go after the hospital, what nursing home would accept her as a resident. Would she be in Sun Prairie where Grace lived or near us in Richland Center?

Saturday morning, the decision became apparent after Dr. Jones spoke to the family about what was happening with Grace and her tired old body.

She now is in our home with hospice care coming in twice a day to help (when we don’t have a major snow storm in the area).

Some observations about what has happened to Grace and to us.

Everyone is tired. We’ve all been under constant stress. Sleep has been anything but routine. End-of-life decisions happen multiple times throughout the day. It’s physically and emotionally wearing.

IMG_4228          Everyone is hopeful. Because of our faith in the Lord, we have reason to hope. Letters, emails, conversations—all reflect the undergirding hope we have in the words of Jesus Christ. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

Everyone is reflective. Death’s presence in your living room has a way of bringing sober reflection to the forefront. Same with walking a hospital hall. You see how fragile life in this world can be.

Everyone is sad. I’m not melancholy by nature, but I am under these circumstances. And I’m not the only one. Even when a person has lived a good, long life, you still feel the ache of loss as it approaches and then becomes reality. I’ve probably already had my last conversation with Grace on this side of eternity. She still breathes, but at this point, her lucidity isn’t a part of our daily routine.

In all this, the stuff of community thrives. When I spoke about Grace’s condition and soon-to-be hospice care on Sunday (she and Ellen arrived in Richland Center while I made my 3-church circuit), I found several people connecting with me through their own personal experiences with hospice.

Ellen has spoken to all her siblings today. She and I are very aware of the family’s connection and support during this difficult time. Soon enough, we’ll all be seeing one another face to face.

And it’s the difficulties that really cement relationships. When you’ve gone through grief together, when you’ve cried together, when you’ve made tough choices together, you come through with a greater respect for one another and a deeper appreciation for the gift each one brings.

I’m reminded of Michelle Obama’s comments concerning how power corrupts. She noted that power doesn’t corrupt character so much as reveal it.

In the same way, crisis doesn’t build relationships. It can just as easily separate people as cement them together. But crisis does, for better or worse, reveal relationship.

What has happened among Ellen’s brothers, sister, and her since Grace’s fall has taken on a life-affirming, I-trust-you atmosphere. That didn’t happen because Grace fell. It happened because they’ve all taken the time to show up for weddings, birthdays, and graduations; eat and talk around the dinner table; walk on the beach during shared vacations; laugh, fight, and cry together.

Here’s the takeaway.

Life and death happen. We celebrate life. We grieve loss. And both are done best in community.

Invest early and often in healthy relationships and later crises will only reveal how wealthy you are.

What has crisis revealed in your relationships?

IMG_3354Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Posted in Community | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

3 Lessons Learned from A Glorious Failure


Suvir and Ellen in our kitchen.

Suvir and Ellen in our kitchen.

I had enjoyed the weekend with a house full of guests and a big activity scheduled each day for four straight days. But by Monday, I felt like the guy strutting around in a tailored tux only to discover his fly had been down the entire evening.

The discovery crushed me.

And I had no desire to host anything in our home or to go anywhere people frequented (like the family birthday bash a week later).

Here are the three mistakes I made without recognizing them at the time.

I assumed too much. Ellen and I picked up her special friend Suvir Saran at the airport, someone I had never met but she knew well. Ellen and Suvir had built their friendship over a year of constant correspondence and conversation. I assumed a deeper relationship with him because of her. I assumed too much.

I said too much. While we were all in the car, I listened to Suvir share some important thoughts. I was so anxious to connect with him I wormed my way into the conversation and said something that offended him. We hadn’t even gotten home and I’d made him uncomfortable enough that he couldn’t look at me or relax in my presence for two days. I said too much.

I served too little. Ellen had tons of work she’d done to prepare for the weekend and tons more on her mind during the weekend. Yet when I had the opportunity to help out, I said, “Ellen can do that.”

When offered a great opportunity to do more, I served too little.

The honest feedback from my wife after the event bruised my soul. When it came to being a gracious host that weekend …

I FAILED!

I wanted to crawl under the covers and hide from life.

I grumbled.

I fumed.

I hurt.

And I wanted to quit on hospitality and meeting new people.

But!

I’ve learned the value of James’ words. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak …” (James 1:19 NIV).

In my recent devotional reading, I perked up when I read, “The good acquire a taste for helpful conversation; bullies push and shove their way through life. Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.” (Proverbs 13:2-3 The Message).

I bullied my way into a conversation and my careless talk ruined a couple of days with a guest in my home.

I’m also more in tune with the Lord’s words. “… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve …” (Mark 10:43-45 NIV).

Suvir with the kitchen crew.

Suvir with the kitchen crew.

Two people in my life have modeled this truth well.

Al Vom Steeg, former president of the Mission Society, visited our team in Russia in 1995. The conversation I remember best took place in our small kitchen. His actions, not his words, made the impression. He stood beside Ellen and helped her with a sink full of dirty dishes. The leader of our missionary organization took a towel and served us.

The second person? The guest I had offended.

During Suvir’s visit, he spoke in front of a crowd on Friday night. After speaking, doing two food prep demos, and signing books, he joined us in cleaning up the kitchen and putting away the chairs. He was among the last to leave the auditorium where he’d been highlighted as the celebrity chef.

Okay, quick summary.

I assumed too much.

I said too much.

I served too little.

And I failed in a big way.

But I learned …

… to listen more …

… speak less …

… and to serve always.

Am I applying the lessons I learned?

Feel free to ask Ellen.

I’m curious. What has an embarrassing failure taught you?

Recommended links:

Michael Hyatt’s 5 Ways to Energize Your Team

Shane L. Windmeyer’s Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A (a gay man’s friendship with Dan Cathy)

IMG_3119Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Posted in Community | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

How Do You Overcome Fear of Intimacy?


IMG_4137An older gentleman approached me and took the sandwich I offered him. His face bore the familiar red scarring found among those who’d fallen asleep drunk during a Siberian winter. The gray, dull-eyed babushka limped forward for her sandwich. One by one, the older folks received their meager meals.

In the distance, two boys circled our group with seeming indifference. Their breath rose like smoke under Russia’s frigid conditions. The taller of the two picked up a vodka bottle from the rubble, tipped it forward, drained it then tossed it.

I asked my Russian pastor friend, “Why don’t those boys come eat?”

Pastor Yuri said, “They’re afraid.”

Trust is essential to developing an authentic relationship with another person. If we don’t trust others, we can laugh with them, eat with them, drink with them, and spend time with them. But we can’t let them get close enough to be genuine friends. And we certainly can’t develop any semblance of intimacy.

If I’m afraid, I won’t get close. Not to you. Not to God. Not to anyone.

IMG_4158And therein is the problem. We, like the two boys, are afraid to draw close.

We’re hungry.

Food is available.

But we’re tipping empty bottles for a single drop.

Why?

 

Because we’re afraid …

And we can’t trust …

God!

So what makes us afraid?

Past Experience. Those two boys kept their distance for a reason. Something in their past taught them to remain wary around adults. The present pleasure of food couldn’t close the distance created by past painful experiences. They were hungry, but not desperately so.

Spiritual Dullness. My dog cringes if I take off my gloves. She cowers if I pick up my reading glasses.

She’s intelligent, playful, and sweet as she can be. But if I have something in my hand, she becomes skittish and wary. No matter what I say to calm her fears, she’s too dull to understand two things. She’s loved and she’s safe.

What then can we do to overcome our fear?

Admit we’re afraid. In Judges 7, Gideon prepares to lead Israel into a battle against the Midianites. God instructs Gideon to whittle down the army by asking, “Is anyone afraid?”

The Israelite soldiers had to acknowledge their fear. In fact, God encouraged them to do so in order to face their enemy.

Voicing our fear is like turning a light on. Suddenly those monsters under the bed aren’t so scary anymore.

Whenever I’ve spoken about my fears with Ellen (fear of failure, fear of lost dreams, fear of not living up to expectations), I’ve experienced an amazing thing—intimacy. She has accepted me, loved me, and encouraged me.

Embrace the truth. Jesus said, “… you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Fear may start with the truth (those two boys in a Siberian garbage dump knew some adults were dangerous) but it ends up believing a lie (no adult can be trusted, even ones offering hungry boys food).

I may start with the truth—I have failed—but I end up with a lie—I am worthless. If I embrace the lie, I fear facing God, my wife, and anyone else who gets close to me. And that’s painful.

I fear being found out.

I fear being fooled.

I fear being hurt.

Until I’m willing to admit my fear and embrace the truth, I remain distant and unknown to God and others. Or, rather, God remains distant and unknown to me.

I’m curious. Where does fear mess up your relationship with God and others? Where have you learned to trust God?

Recommended links:

Jon Stolpe’s Love Works Wednesday Link Up Week – Trusting

Jer Monson’s The First Secret of Getting in Shape

Kari Scare’s Financial Fast 2013

IMG_1336Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Do You Want to Be Used by God?


Nice to be inside with the family.

Nice to be inside with the family.

Do you want to be used by God?

I hope not.

What? Don’t you want God to use you for His purposes? Don’t you want Him to use you to bring people to Christ? Don’t you want Him to use you to change the world for the better?

No, I don’t think so. Let me explain.

Oh, please do. This should be rich.

I think you’ll understand with three simple sentences.

He used me to get what he wanted from you.

She used me like a cat uses a mouse.

I feel so used.

Would you like some true-to-life examples of being used by someone?

A father drives his son to be a great baseball player. The father uses the son to live out a lost dream.

Parents go through an ugly divorce and use their children to hurt one another.

Do you still want to be used by God?

I didn’t think so.

Use is an appropriate term for what we do with tools, athletic equipment, or dinnerware. It’s not appropriate for what we do with people.

Or what God does with us.

So what does God do with us?

“Come, let us reason together.”

“Come, you who are thirsty …”

“Come, those who are burdened and heavy laden.”

See what’s happening here?

Come … come … come …

That sounds like an invitation to me.

Come inside.

Come to the table.

Come. Let’s walk together.

Come. Let’s think about this for a moment.

Yep, definitely invitation, one and all.

I think an invitation is both what we long for and what we fear.

Here’s what I mean.

Long for. Ellen and I attended a Reds-Astros game in Cincinnati many years ago. We had nice seats looking out from the 3rd-base side of the field—lovely view of the Ohio River.

We also had a bird’s eye view of the luxury box right beneath us. We were well within smelling range. When the luxury-box attendant brought out a large plate of fresh-baked cookies, I longed for an invitation to be one level closer to the field.

We often feel like we’re on the outside looking in. We long for an invitation to join the group.

God knows the longing of our hearts and says, “Friend, come inside.”

Fear. Standing outside in the cold, we can appreciate a fire’s warmth. Being invited inside by said Fire is another story altogether. We desire warmth but fear getting burned.

I’ll address fear more in another post, but suffice it to say, although God invites all, not everyone comes.

But His invitation remains, and God is patient. He’s willing to do the hard work of wooing us to Him.

So why would you want to be used by Him? Wouldn’t you rather be invited to know Him? And wouldn’t you rather extend His invitation to others?

I’m curious. How has an invitation influenced your life? What place or event would you love an invite to?

Recommended link:

Jon Acuff’s The soft x

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes on tour 001Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

Tarver’s storytelling technique as he takes us along with Nick and Wayne’s journeys through opposite eternal pathways is nothing short of genius. … A must read.–Linda Rondeau, best-selling author of It Really IS A Wonderful Life

For more of what People Are Saying follow link.

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments