#30ThankYous Day 7: Team Pyro

Gentlemen,

It’s not easy being a Christian blogger, especially if you are actively seeking to teach and correct through your writing. People assume the worst possible motives in your words, misread your tone, take you out of context, and otherwise seek to condemn you for being judgmental or hypocritical. That’s what you get for kicking over hornets’ nests and tipping over sacred cows, I guess.

When the Pyromaniacs blog was in its heyday, every post’s combox became a bit of a rhetorical brawl, as the usual suspects showed up to lob accusations and misconstrue what should be PLAINLY OBVIOUS IF YOU READ THE POST. Nevertheless, you all handled these volleys with aplomb, often by logically and carefully responded to the fool so that he did not continue in folly, without stooping to foolishness yourselves.

I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you, gentlemen. Thank you for caring deeply about the Church, and spending time and effort to proclaim and defend the truth. Thank you for being willing to interact with people, confront ideas, even challenge foolish arguments. It was instructive for so many of us who were watching and growing from the interactions. Thank you so much for the edifying and challenging Sufficient Fire Conference. (I’m still holding out hope for a Sufficient Fire 2 someday. If you announce it, you can count on me being there!)

Most of all, thank you for the example each of you set:

  • Phil, thank you for not shying away from controversy, but being willing to continue standing up and speaking out about issues in the wider evangelical church. Your appearances on Wretched Radio are always instructive and beneficial, and of course your contributions to the ministry of John MacArthur and GTY continues to bless countless thousands.
  • Dan, thank you for your books, which continue to be a blessing to me. Thanks also for your example of faithful local ministry at CBC. You exemplify the day-in, day-out pastoring that Paul and Peter describe.
  • Frank, thank you for your wit and wisdom online, and also for your wise example in pulling away from social media engagement when you found it to be too destructive. And that’s not a back-handed compliment, either. There is so much discernment in stepping away when engagement begins to tear down the user. Too many people lean in despite these dangers and shipwreck themselves. Thank you for setting a good example in this.

In the world of Christian blogging, particularly discernment blogs of a reformedish nature, there are some real jokers and seedy characters. You guys have managed to be one of the few that not only didn’t go off the rails but continues to set the standard for how such writing should be done. Thank you for staying faithful to the task, in whatever context each of your finds yourself.

May God bless you as you have blessed (and continue to bless) His people.

–Dave

“I’ve been thinkin’ ’bout you…”

“Do you think about me still? Do ya? Do ya?”

It’s been a while since I’ve just sat down and started typing a blog post. The last few months…I don’t know. When it comes to this blog, I think I started out trying too hard to do it “the right way”–not writing, but “creating content,” not communicating but “building an audience.” And then it started feeling fake, so I pretty much stopped. My words dried up. I want to keep writing, but I don’t know if I want to keep doing it this way, you know? (And it’s not like I’ve been posting that much content, generic or otherwise. We both know I haven’t posted much of anything lately. Every time I sit down to write, I start getting all knotted up over it. Not writer’s block as much as writer’s rebellion. I’m not sure what my problem is.)

While working on something for a friend, I started digging through my past blog posts–I mean the early, early days of my blogs. Have you ever read diary or journal entries you wrote more than 15 years ago? Cringe-y is the word.

And yet, while I’m embarrassed by my emotional immaturity on display in those best-forgotten days, I was struck as I read the posts by how much fun they were to read. (No, I’m not humble-bragging or post-facto-bragging or any such thing.) It was just so clear that I loved writing. I loved writing blog posts, stringing together turns of phrase and pop-culture references and song lyrics. I was much more open and unvarnished and emotive. I bled on the screen.

I think I miss doing that, a little.

Things are different now. Times have changed. I’m no longer a young man in my early 20’s with a keyboard and a broken heart. I’m now a middle-aged man in my late 30’s, with a wife and a daughter and responsibilities–not quite where I hoped I would be by now, but getting there. At this stage in the game, I don’t need to be giving full-vent to my spleen in this format. I’m an adult. I need to act like one. To be honest, I don’t really want to go back to treating blogging like a public diary–that’s what Xanga is for. (Any of you kids remember Xanga? No? Just me? Okay.)

(No, I don’t actually have a Xanga. Actually, I think I did at one point years and years back, but the log-in has been long forgotten.)

[What was I on about? Oh yeah.]

I haven’t posted anything “from the heart” since mid-July, it looks like. And who knows, maybe that’s for the best. Maybe that’s what you readers want: that I should stick to book reviews, interesting-link aggregation, a bit of this and that about writing and freelancing, and some Bible study blogging. Maybe that’s why you’re here, really. Maybe that can be enough.

What I’m getting at is this: the blog is just starting to feel a bit shallow to me. I don’t want that to be the case, but I’m not sure if or how I should change that.

Maybe nothing ultimately changes. Maybe I just need to start writing more and trust that it will start feeling natural again. I don’t know.

I’ve been wanting to say something to y’all for a few weeks, but I kept waiting for some great idea to kick me back into gear. The idea never came.

Here’s the update from my side of the screen: I’m busy with work, with church, with life stuff. I’m still putting off creative work that I am a bit too afraid to really commit to finishing, but even more afraid of giving up thinking about. There are a dozen things right now that need attention in my life and I’m constantly having to assess and reassess which priorities are most important.

But I miss talking to you, gang. So I’m checking in to let you know I’ve been thinking ’bout you (ooh na-na-na). And I hope you think about me still.

Happy October.

That Morning.

(Reposted and expanded from this post way back in 2004.)

It was fall, and school was just getting into full swing. My senior year of college, full of 400-level classes and theater and a girl with whom I was utterly smitten.

We, she and I, were getting lunch. Walking from the school cafeteria counters to the beverage island in the middle of the dining hall. Two small cups of Dr. Pepper, one of chocolate milk, balanced on my plastic tray, trying not to spill.

The nearby television was tuned to MTV, as Kurt Loder (or someone similar) was discussing the death of Aaliyah, the R&B star who died in a plane crash just a few weeks before. She and I chatted about the tributes and the memorial services that dominated the airwaves.

She mentioned that she heard one announcer say that Aaliyah’s death would be our generation’s “where were you when” moment. Our parents would have the Kennedy assasination, our grandparents would have Pearl Harbor, and we just had Aaliyah. I thought that was a bit of an overstatement (no offense intended to the dead), and that it would be pretty sad if the death of a pop singer were “the” landmark news moment of our lives.

She agreed. “I was more impacted when Kurt Cobain died. There were girls at school who cried all day, when they found out.”

I didn’t share that memory; my upbringing was devoutly devoid of pop music. But I understood and agreed, “Yeah, clearly Cobain had more of an impact.”

We sat at the table, watching the large-screen TV in the caff, and the topic shifted to homework and other things.

That was Monday.

=====

The next morning, my roommate Josh and I were getting ready for the 9:30 class we both had (Children’s Theatre? Scenic Design? Something in the theater building.)

I was perched on my dorm-room desk chair, Mr. Rogers-style, about to pull on my socks, when Josh uncharacteristically turned on the TV (something he never did in the morning). And I saw it. I saw the world change in an instant.

I saw a mighty city in flames. I saw the great tower shudder. I saw the smoke and debris.

Then the image of the second plane vanishing into the side of the second tower. To this day, I don’t know if that was a live video or a replay, but either way, it felt sudden. Jarring.

I sat slack-jawed and half-socked, unable to move. Josh dropped down on his bed, stunned. I heard him gasp. We sat silent, in our small dorm room on the small campus of a small Baptist college in the wide plains of middle America, and we watched in horror as Americans were murdered en masse.

After about ten minutes, I awoke from my shocked state. “I…guess…we need to get to class.” Josh nodded. I finished getting dressed, and we walked together in silence from the dorm to the communications building. On our way, we met our professor speeding toward and then past us, calling over her shoulder, “Meeting in the black box.”

We walked into the small theater, and saw the other students huddled in the seats, in twos and threes, some crying, some consoling, all speaking in hushed tones. We sat. I could think of nothing to say. I was numb. Hollow. As if my spirit had been pulled from me. Mrs. B, the other theatre prof, stood and said a few words. She said that now was a time to pray for our country, and for the families of the victims. We didn’t know how many, but we knew that countless were affected. We didn’t know what would happen next. We were afraid.

Our professor said that class was cancelled, and that we should spend the day praying. We prayed together as a group, and then dispersed. I walked out the glass doors of the building onto the recessed porch, half-stumbling. Some had been wondering aloud if this was the beginning of a war. I wondered the same thing. How many more cities would be attacked? Would there be a retaliation? Would there be a draft?

Most of us ended up in the student “commons” building. There were a few hundred, all huddled around a large-screen TV, watching in silence. Many faces were tear-stained and puffy, drawn with horror.

I stayed there for most of the day, watching the same images over and over. Then the first tower fell. Later, its sister followed.

We could forget about Aaliyah and Kurt Cobain. We had our “moment.” Every one of us now had our story.

So many things we felt. So many things we wanted to say. Now, so many years after, we’re still trying to find the words.

=====

It’s at this point in the original post that I concluded with a rousing “they didn’t just attack New York or DC–they attacked all of us” speech. And that’s still true. For one glorious, all-too-short moment, the partisan bickering was tabled in favor of bowed heads, clasped hands, and “How are you doing, neighbor?”

And now we’re here–17 years later. We’ve defeated Bin Laden and Saddam, and new terrorists and warlords have risen up to take their places. The War on Terror hasn’t ended; it’s just changed location and shape. Truth be told, it’s been largely forgotten by many Americans–white noise in a distracted culture.

Meanwhile, we’ve had three presidents, all of whom were/are vilified by their opponents and defended fiercely by their allies. I’m not going to argue over who was better or worse (though I do find it interesting how one went from being portrayed as literally the second coming of Hitler to now a beloved and even fondly-remembered statesman in some circles–the benefits of perspective, I guess).

In some ways, it feels like this country is on the verge of fracture, though I wonder sometimes if that’s really just social media and cable news talking. Then again, moderation has fallen out of fashion. On the street corners and in the marketplace, everyone speaks in chyrons.

I don’t have answers, either. I’m still trying to find the words.

If there was a single silver lining on that dark day 17 years ago, perhaps it’s this: For one brief moment, we remembered what we had in common, and we realized that there was something more vital, more fundamental than the petty, partisan bickering that was already so deeply ingrained in the national conversation in the summer of 2001.

One nation, under God, indivisible.

May it always be.

Keto Update: 2 Months Down

I wanted to give an update for those who were interested in our progress on our new eating plan!

For those who were not aware, on June 1st, my beloved wife and I started a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) eating plan, patterned after the “ketogenic” diet. Without getting all science-y on you, the basic premise of the LCHF diet is that dramatically reducing your carbohydrate intake causes your body to begin burning fat for fuel, breaking down fat molecules into ketones and other things. This helps to regulate insulin levels, control hunger hormones, and provide a consistent, long-term energy supply for the body, so that your system is not constantly craving the quick hit of a sugar spike (followed by the inevitable sugar crash). Think of it as grilling by using lump charcoal instead of briquettes soaked in lighter fluid–low and slow, but steady.

The thing about this approach to eating is that it’s not for everyone. Despite what some diet and fitness gurus would claim, there’s really not a one-size-fits-all method, and it’s not just a matter of calories in vs. calories out. The proportions of calorie types do matter, and you have to tinker with it a bit. The trial-and-error nature of this approach may be off-putting for some users. I’m all-in, mainly because I’ve seen this kind of approach work for me pretty dramatically in the past. My body is carrying so much extra weight in stored fat, and was so sugar-addicted, that this approach was a much-needed shock to the system.

Note: I’m doing my best to intentionally say “eating plan” or “eating approach” instead of “diet.” Diets are always associated with short-term restrictions of food to accomplish a goal, followed often by total relapse. I’m trying to change the way I see food, the way I enjoy food, and the way I use food to fuel my body. This is something I could feasibly keep going, at least for the vast majority of the time. So it’s not a “diet” as most people would use the word.

So now, two months in, what are my results?

I’m officially down 26 pounds since 6/1/18. There was an initial drop of 6-8 pounds, then a bit of up-and-down ever since. About halfway through June, my weight stalled and then increased slightly. I realized I was consuming too many calories overall. Once I adjusted my total caloric intake, I started losing again. I stalled out again about 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been holding steady at the same weight for all that time. I know some of the reason why; while I’ve been following the basic principles, I haven’t been tracking the amount or proportions of my macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbs) lately. I also haven’t been exercising. Honestly, I’m not terribly upset by this. I chose to rest a bit during a busy couple of weeks. I haven’t lost any ground or gone back to any bad habits. Now I’m ready to lean in a bit more and see more progress.

The thing you should understand is that the scale only tells part of the story. The real difference for me comes down to mindset, control, and hunger.

In the past, I treated regimented eating plans and “diets” as punishment for my sins. I was abstaining and denying my cravings because I had to pay for what I had done, calorically. (Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea super-sized culpa!)  Even so, I still indulged in sweets all along, just factoring it into the totals. (Even on Weight Watchers, a repeated refrain is “You can eat whatever you want–just not all at once!”) That consistent intake of my drug of choice made it harder and harder to control my portions or deny my impulses, until I’d finally give in and binge, usually around the 6 month mark.

This time, I find my mindset is totally different. Not only is this plan doable, but it’s satisfying. My brilliant wife has found all sorts of recipes and substitutes so that I don’t feel like “I can never have ____ again.” (Hello, keto-friendly–or at least keto-non-antagonistic–sweets!) Furthermore, we are realistic about life. So when birthdays come around, or we decide to go out for a fancy dinner, we can choose whether or not to eat “off-plan” for a meal, without it sabotaging all of our progress.

Not only is my mindset different, but I find I have more control over impulse eating. I used to be a total snack scavenger, scooping up the remnants of birthday cakes or meeting refreshments that graced the break room or coffee alcoves of my office. No secretarial candy dish was safe from my scouring. To be honest, this created a great deal of shame for me, because I felt like a taker.

Now, by the grace of God, I can walk past a dish of my formerly-favorite sweet treats without grabbing one. I am able to say no to break-room donuts and meeting-room sodas. My addiction to sugar, while not totally broken, is now under control so that I can make wise choices. This is a gift from God, and I am thankful to walk in it.

The best part of this new paradigm is my appetite. Y’all, there was a time when I would essentially follow a hobbit’s dining schedule: breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, snack, coffee, dinner, late-night snack. I wish I were exaggerating that, but I’m really not. I’d need some kind of snack every 90 minutes to 2 hours. I would ride one sugary wave after the other, subsisting on the chemical highs of sugar and caffeine for years. I would hit up fast food joints on my way into work and on my way home from work, at around 500-1000 calories a stop. When the McDonalds drive-thru workers recognize your regular order and ask why they didn’t see you the other day, you have a problem.

While married life has encouraged me to control my caffeine intake a bit better, it’s only been in the last month that I’ve gotten a handle on my appetite. As a result, I can easily skip meals without freaking out or letting it affect my attitude or behavior. Breakfast is no longer biscuits or “peanut-butter-cup” oatmeal; often, it consists of just “bulletproof” coffee (with butter, cream, and coconut or MCT oil, along with a few drops of stevia).

Overall, I’m probably eating between 500 and 1000 fewer calories a day than I did in the last couple years (and probably 2000 fewer than I was knocking out in my bachelor days!), but I don’t feel deprived in the least. I’m satisfied with what I’m eating, because I’m eating real food with healthy fats that give me sustained energy.

It’s not perfect yet, and I’m still working on the details, but overall, I feel pretty great. I’m learning how to better care for my body without acting as a slave to my appetites, and my hope is that doing this consistently will lead to better health and a longer life to follow my Lord Jesus, love my family, and serve my neighbors.

If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter or post in the com-box below. I don’t want to turn into a keto evangelist (that’s even worse than being a vegan crossfitter!), but I’m happy to answer questions.

This is Where I Am Right Now (TIWIARN): 7/16/18

This isn’t going to be super-long, but I want to give an update/explanation of what will be happening with the blog throughout the rest of the summer and likely into the fall.

The thing I struggle with, vis-a-vis blogging, is that I’m torn between two desires: the desire to build a portfolio of work for the day when I really transition to “professional writer mode,” and I’m ready to up my profile and start promoting creative work using the blog (the “Jeff Goins” method); and the desire to use this blog as more of a journal, filtered but honest, less focused, more free-form and personal (the “Xanga” method).

At this point, with the current load of obligations and projects I have going on, I don’t think I’m up to providing consistent original content that isn’t of the public diary, TIWIARN variety. I’ve been thinking a lot about goal setting since reading Finish! by Jon Acuff. Part of that goal-completion process is deciding what things I am willing to intentionally “fail” at, in order to prioritize other things. To be honest, “consistent blogging” is one of those things. (“Aren’t you doing that already, Dave, har har har”–fair enough.)

So, despite what I posted a week and a half ago, I’m actually going to pull back a little more from blogging, rather than worry about producing more. I’m going to post book reviews/reflections as I finish them, either individually or in batches. I’ll post some “Friday Fives” when I have the chance. I’ll throw in some of these update-type, TIWIARN posts. But that’s gonna be the vibe of the blog for a while.

Obviously, this will affect if or how often I post elsewhere, like The 4thDave Papers. (Sorry, Tuck.) It’s something I will probably pick up again in the future, but I can’t make any guarantees. I really shouldn’t have said anything about it until I had a few posts “in the can,” as they say. But who knows? Maybe I’ll surprise you sometime.

[Good grief, does this post sound as tired as I think it does?]

Thing is, I’m not tired. I’m doing pretty well, all told. A bit frustrated with a stubborn scale, moving in the wrong direction despite my faithful efforts. I’m a bit anxious for a friend of mine and a project he’s battling to keep going. I’m feeling really busy and at the same time like I’m in a bit of a rut. I want to do a dozen things and none of them at the same time.

So, for the time being, I really just need to put my head down, write a few book reviews, work on the other stuff in my life, and not worry about it. This blog is not my life, and it’s not my job. It’s a hobby that I enjoy from time to time, but one that I can and should set aside when other things need more attention.

You folks who have started following me recently–thank you for that. I hope you’ll be willing to keep my on your feeds for a while until I can get this other stuff figured out and start churning out words worth reading.

That’s all I got today, folks. See you around.