Monday, December 28, 2009

Weigh In #15

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

We had a great Christmas at our house this year. Family was in town for an extended stay. There was shopping, singing, worship services at church, presents abounding, and holiday treats. And there was Christmas dinner. Oh wow, was there Christmas dinner.

My wife makes some of the best traditional holiday meals so I especially love it when she gets to cook for everyone. This year was actually a little bit smaller meal. She is used to cooking for about 15 people (she has a big family) but there were 8 at the house this year (and one of them is 1 year old). But it was still an incredible meal...

We had roast turkey that I didn't so much as carve as I did just shake it off the turkey. It was literally fall off the bone tender. Inside the bird was her incredible homemade stuffing. I could eat that until I popped. Especially with the gravy she made in the bottom of the roasting pan after I took the bird out. And that gravy goes so good on top of whipped potatoes (with some Happy Cow butter and maybe a hint of cream...). And then, right there on the side of the plate where it looks like it might get pushed off the side by the mounds of other food is that golden brown wonder of sweet potato, butter, and brown sugar - candied yams!

And what's Christmas dinner without pie? Nothing, I tell you! So we had some pumpkin pie, an apple pie, and one of my Dad's favorites: egg custard. I ended up with 2 slices that night.

One thing did hamper my enjoyment of all. Since I have been eating less at each meal for the past 15 weeks, I guess my stomach has gotten smaller. I just could not eat as much as I thought I wanted to. It was actually frustrating. I was expecting to gobble up a mountain of food but had to stop somewhere in the foothills. I guess that was a good thing overall.

One thing that I think helped offset the indulgence on Christmas (and Christmas Eve... whoops!) was the fact that I moved about 3 rooms of furniture (2 of them up and down stairs) on Wednesday and Saturday. I know I burned some calories then.

Which leads me up to stepping on the scale, finally, on Sunday morning. And the results....


Kinda shocked me. I expected to stay even or go up a little. I guess moving furniture, eating right the rest of the week, and throttling back on the mountain of food paid off.

So that's more dollars added to the pledge total for over on the right sidebar. Each quarter I donate the pledged funds built up so far. I also let my friendly sponsors know their tally so they can donate as well.

If you are interested in sponsoring me as I (and others) support in their efforts to end human trafficking and restore those people freed from it, drop me a comment below, email me, send me a message on twitter, or friend me on facebook and I'll add you to the sponsor list.

You can also donate directly to any time you like by clicking the donate button over on the right sidebar.

Thanks for your support and I'll see you in 2010!

Background image photo credit to flaivoloka.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weigh In #14

It has been an interesting week. I thought Thanksgiving was going to be tough on me and the weight loss goals I set. Turns out, that was just a scrimmage. The Christmas season is like the playoffs. Between holiday parties, "cookie exchanges" at the office, gifts of sweets and breads at home, and a general deluge of seasonal treats being offered by restaurants, it has been tough trying to stick to a plan. Well, a plan that doesn't include a gallon of hot chocolate and half of a chocolate chip cookie pie....

I managed to make headway despite all that...


But today, that just does't feel that important.

As you may know, I've gotten very interested in the work that is doing (here at home and across the world) in freeing people from very real slavery and helping to restore them to freedom in the world. Salvation and restoration. What wonderful words to me, a person not chained up and abused, not forced into prostitution, not threatened with harm to my family, not stolen away in the night and smuggled into another country.

What incredibly amazing words are salvation and restoration. Why do I feel this way? Because the incredible folks at are doing for these victims of human trafficking what Christ has been doing for me: freeing from the bonds of slavery and restoring to freedom and love. The chains that I had might not have been the ones made from steel and hooked to a wall, but there were chains on my soul nonetheless. I may live in the Land of the Free and of Opportunity, but I am being restored to a life of freedom and promise that far exceeds what the USA can offer in the end. Just as Christ is working in me, is working for over 1.2 million children that are trafficked each year; for the 100,000 children here in the US who are forcefully engaged in prostitution or pornography each year; for the over 27 million people who are enslaved worldwide.

So, I ask you, can you get involved in even the least way with the work that these wonderful people are doing? Join me in supporting today. I'm giving $1 per pound that I lose until the end of October 2010. There are a couple of people who have agreed to sponsor me as well. You can see the current total pledged over in the right sidebar. There is also a button for you to donate directly to if you want to go that route.

If I haven't been able to convince you to help out, please listen to some people that are more knowledgeable than I am. Go over to the site and get the facts for yourself (* some of the information contains adult themes and actual accounts of sex slavery).

Photo credit to samplediz .

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weigh In #13

In the picture above, you can see what 35 pounds looks like. I know, I know. It's not the most exciting thing. It doesn't even move or have sound effects. But that little graph up there has been one of the key things that has helped me out over the past 3 months. I've gotten encouragement from seeing the downward run over time. I've gotten reminded that this is a "slow and steady" course and not a sprint as the days have stretched out to the right. I've also been kicked in the butt by those flat spots where it seemed like no progress was being made.

Yup, this has been an invaluable tool so far. And it will keep helping me, too. Many of you either know about or have heard me talk about it. The site (and it's many tools for fitness, health, and weight loss) are tied in with Lance Armstrong's Live Strong movement and Armstrong is a spokesperson and contributor to the site.

I'll go ahead and say it... Without and The Daily Plate, my efforts to lose weight and get healthier would definitely not be as productive as they have been and I might have given up already. It's been tough to get here (and I have a long way to go), but I can see that it is possible...

As some of you may have picked up by the far right part of the graph, this wasn't a great week. That flat spot means that I didn't lose any weight this week. I looked down at the scales and it greeted me with the same number from last week:


I even checked 3 times to make sure. Same number...

But I'm not discouraged (well, not much) and I know this is just one of those things. I'm going to keep pushing on. I'm still targeting 45 more pounds in the next 27 weeks. If you are inclined towards it, please say a prayer for me as we get deep into this holiday season. The next 4 weeks will be quite a test....

And don't forget Go donate to help free people (in this country and others) from the bondage of slavery and give them hope.

Peace to you.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weigh In #12

One good thing about having traveled for Thanksgiving is that we weren't hip-deep in leftovers the week after. The bad thing about traveling for Thanksgiving is that we weren't hip-deep in leftovers the week after. Actually it worked out for the best. Since I was gone on travel for work most of the week, it didn't affect me either way. OF course, traveling itself has its own burdens...

This time wasn't quite as bad as traveling last month. I had direct flights both ways (Woo Hoo!), left Tuesday morning and came back Thursday night. It was easy to get exercise while in DC - you walk everywhere... I easily got in 3 or 4 miles of walking each day.

But the meal situation can be a bit rough. Thanks to the travel schedule and some unforeseen events on Tuesday, I didn't get a chance to eat until dinnertime in DC. That wouldn't have been too bad but I found out we were all going to a "small plate", or tapas, restaurant that served Greek, Lebanese, and Turkish fare. I love that kind of food... I was starving from not eating that day... And you usually have to order A LOT of things at a tapas place to really have dinner. This was adding up to some high calorie and expensive dining...

It worked out really well with 5 of us having dinner there. There was a good selection of items that I could choose from and still keep things reasonable. And the check came in under $30 for each of us. And I didn't have to stop somewhere to get food on the way back to the hotel.

Wednesday was more reasonable during the day. The shops and restaurants by the building we were in were open and we had a chance to go to a place with a great salad/hot bar. Dinner started to look challenging as we went to an Italian restaurant. But I found a nice tuna steak with veggies on the menu. It had avocado and a "robust green sauce" that was amazing. So I was able to avoid the pastas, the bread, and the oil at dinner and salvage the meal.

Thursday was a work and travel day. I managed to get some fruit for breakfast before checking out of the hotel and going to work. Lunch found us at Wendy's (we were out of downtown DC by this time) where I snagged the usual Mandarin Chicken Salad. Dinner came with options that included Atlanta Bread Company. So it was the familiar chicken salad on sourdough.

In the end, when I stepped on the scale Friday morning, I was anxious to see if I was able to move the numbers from the past couple of weeks. So...


Whew! Must have been all the walking...

I'm glad the number went down for a few reasons. First, I'm back to losing weight. Second, I get to add to the pledge amount for again. And third, I picked up a new sponsor last week so I get to add double to the pledge amount this week! Gotta say thanks to God for friends like that.

Remember, I'm still looking for others to partner with me on raising money for This organization is fighting against human trafficking, helping to rescue those enslaved, and restoring hope and life to those freed from this bondage. See some of the stats from below. You don't have to lose weight yourself (but you can if you like). All you have to do is pledge some money based on the weight I'm losing (like $1 per lb lost between now and the date of your choosing), pledge a flat amount, or donate directly to You can even do something else of your choosing, even for another cause. Just please do something for those in need!

Top photo credit to Kim Rosenbloom.
Bottom image from

Monday, November 30, 2009

Weigh In #11

Thanksgiving... Oh how I love and hate you at the same time.
This week I squared off against the great Turkey Tempter. And it was a draw....


I'll take it and move forward.
Hope y'all had a great holiday (for those US-based readers).

Photo credit to davidlat

Friday, November 20, 2009

Weigh In #10

Another week has flown by. It seemed like a pretty normal week overall, but I gotta say that it was not when I look back on it. We started last weekend with a wonderful wedding and parties for two friends of ours. Then it was a mad dash to get video shooting done on Sunday and editing/post production done for Wed night's show. In the midst of all that is my "real" job (no travel this week!), the two side projects, and two web sites I maintain. Most of them had plenty to do as we approach Thanksgiving.

So, with all that said, it's no wonder that my stress level was up and the amount of sleep I got was down. Neither of those things is good, to say the least. For me, extra stress has always been an excuse to rationalize behavior. In times past, I could easily convince myself that it was OK to eat extra/eat junk/not exercise/drink more/spend frivolously because of the stress or activity. Of course, the two things don't have any direct relationship. It's like saying that the reason I'm bald is because it's Thursday. Non-sequitor.

But, hey, the human brain (and heart) is a very interesting thing when it comes to those internal conversations. Logic and reason can be so easily subverted. I think it was Andy Stanley (North Point in Atlanta) that said that, in the affairs of desire, we make the decision about what we want to do and then enlist our intellects to make up a reasonable excuse for it. Who does that? This guy!

I thought I was doing OK with that this week. I looked back over the week's "Report card" on and saw that I was under 1800 calories every day (including the day of the wedding!). But then I started thinking about the particulars of each day and some things that might not have made it into livestrong. Like snagging the last quarter of one daughter's cinnamon roll when she was done. And grabbing 2 or 3 M&Ms at a time from a bowl - 10 different times.... I had lunch at a Mexican restaurant with folks at work. I added the chicken fajitas to the list but didn't put the chips and salsa.

My rationale for leaving those off? Well, those are too small to really matter. I mean, 3 chocolate candies? That won't matter. And you know what, 3 M&Ms probably won't matter unless it becomes 30 or more pieces. That's about a whole bag. D'oh!

So what caused this honesty retrospective? You guessed it, the weigh-in this morning wasn't as good as I would like it. I stepped up and saw...


Ok, it's not a badweigh-in. I didn't gain any weight (I actually lost a half pound) but I had it in my head that I should have lost a few. I have to get out of the "short sighted" mind set. I'm in this for the long haul. I've got to keep my eyes on the goal. Not to the exclusion of the day-to-day - I still need to do the right things and hit the marks. But when I look bigger I see that I have lost 32lbs in 10 weeks. That's above my original goal of 1.5lbs a week (80lbs in 60 weeks before I turn 40 years old: 80-60-40). And I feel a lot better and have dropped some clothes sizes.

And we have raised over $80 for! I'm going to keep going with the pledge of $1 per lb from now until my birthday (next October). If you want to get on board again with either a one time pledge or an ongoing pledge, please let me know in the comments below, on twitter, on facebook, or in email. I'll add you to the "team." Thanks to those who have donated and pledged as a part of

Until next week....

Photo credit to NYOBE

Friday, November 13, 2009

Weigh In #9

It feels strange to say it, but this week has been busier than last week. I mean, I didn't travel anywhere this week or do anything crazy. It was just the normal work-a-day of job and life. It's funny about traveling - you are always surrounded by people in airports and on planes, but you are effectively alone. Then, in your hotel, you are alone as well. When you are hundreds of miles from home, by yourself, you don't have the normal "things" that you have to do. So while the travel times themselves may seem very busy, the activities aren't the same and actually tend to drag. At least that's been my experiences over the past 15 years...

So this week, being back in the office everyday and being with the family outside of work, I have had a lot more to do. I'm not saying that's bad... I love being busy with my family way more than being alone on travel. I'll take picking my daughter up from gymnastics over a layover in ATL any day. Driving a few kids around to activities like choir and Girl Scouts tops driving the convertible rental car from the airport to the hotel and back. I think you see what I mean...

So, to modify a work out phrase: "It's a good kind of busy"....

Being busy this week, though, did not include doing any sort of real exercise. No walking. No time at the gym. About the closest thing I did was run my mouth... Fortunately, at this stage of the game with trying to lose weight, exercise isn't always required for me to actually lose anything. I have a feeling the day is coming soon where I will have to make exercise a daily activity or I'll be faced with some drastic, and hard to live with, changes in eating. That being said, let's se what the scale said this morning:


I really liked seeing that number go below 290. Just over a year ago, I joined in with some other folks (via Twitter and the web) in a friendly game of "lose 9lbs before 09". My goal then was to get below 290. I didn't make it back then. But I have now! And it feels good!

Before my trips last week, I was getting my clothes together to pack and I looked at my suit. I thought, "I better try this on before I just pack it." Good thing I did. The pants almost feel off! I told my wife that I needed to head out to the store and buy a couple of pairs of pants so I didn't embarrass myself at the client's office. I started trying on pants and found that I needed 2 sizes smaller than what I wore 3 months ago... Then, this week, I realize that the belt I wear with my jeans wasn't really doing its job too well. I found that I was at the last notch and it would go any smaller. So, back to the store for a belt (actually two, one brown and one black). I have to say that those were two of the nicest clothes shopping trips I've taken in a long time. Aside from spending the money, I'm actually looking forward to making a trip for some new jeans in the near future.

Now, before I go spend all my money on clothes, I'm going to send some to If you've been reading along, you know that I pledged to donate $1 per pound lost until Nov 16th as a part of The total of my pledges plus the pledges of others supporting me can be seen in the box in the right side bar. I'll be making a donation for that amount next week.

But, honestly, I'm not going to stop. I'm going to keep my pledge going until October next year when I turn 40. If you feel like being a sponsor for with me, just let me know and I'll add your pledge to the totals starting next week. You can leave comments on this post, or you can email me (address at the top right), find me on Facebook or Twitter. Just let me know.

God bless.

Photo courtesy of LotusHead

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weigh In #8

This was an interesting week to say the least. I ended up going up and down the East Coast for work. I was a bit depressed at the lack of decent food options in our nations airports...

I flew from Charleston to Tampa, through Atlanta, on Monday evening. I ended up grabbing a Yogurt, granola, and fruit parfait from the Au Bon Pain grab-and-go thing near my gate in Atlanta because of a short connection time. I thought I was doing OK but when I finally was able to pull it up on the Daily Plate database, I found it had 620 calories and some not so great ingredients. Ugh.

I worked in Tampa on Tuesday at a client site and went out to a local restaurant. I did OK there with some fish tacos (I passed on the corn chips). But dinner was going to be in either the Tampa or Atlanta airport that night since I was flying to Boston. I grabbed another yogurt parfait, but this time it had the info on the side so I could make a better choice than the previous day. It was 280 calories and no high fructose anything...

The conference in Boston provided a good selection for breakfast and lunch on Wednesday but I dreaded the fact that I would be going from Boston back to Tampa, through Baltimore this time, that evening. I was on AirTran and their gates in the Boston airport don't have any choices so I figured it would have to be dinner in Baltimore. We ended up getting to Baltimore late which meant I was squeezed for time between flights. I hit the Manchu Wok on the way to my departure gate. With some lo mein noodles, some mixed vegetables, and some spicy chicken, I managed to keep dinner under 700 calories (let's not ask about sodium and the like...).

Thursday was back in Tampa working. We went to Chilis for lunch and I stuck with their grilled shrimp salad (minus cheese and tortilla strips) for a decent sub-500 calorie lunch. Dinner was at a great little place right on the beach in Clearwater Beach called Palm Pavillion. I highly recommend the place for food, location, and atmosphere. We sat outside on the deck and could here the ocean (it was bight time or we could probably have seen the waves too). I got a salad with some seared Ahi tuna on it. Delicious, filling, and about 500 calories. I was very tempted to try their frozen specialty drinks but I held my line and passed on them...

I was up at 4:15am on Friday to get out of my hotel, get the rental car back, and get checked in for my flights home. I was going back through Atlanta but it was a very tight connection if everything was on time. So I figured I would grab something in the Tampa airport. Well, not a whole lot was open at 5:00am there. But Starbucks was... I got my Americano (espresso and hot water - it's better than it sounds!) and, yes, another fruit, granola, yogurt parfait. But it was one of the under-300 calories ones...

I finally made it back to Charleston Fri morning, did some work at the office, and got home in the afternoon. It was good to be with the family after the week away.

So, I got up this morning (not too early) and slowly walked over to the scale. I stared at it for a minute and then decided I would go ahead and step up...


Yup, down 3lbs from last week. I wasn't expecting that with the travel schedule. But then again, with the short times between flights in Atlanta and Baltimore, I did get in some unexpected cardio... :-)

That also adds some more to the total pledges to (see the right side bar). There is one more week of to get in on helping the causes. Please let me know (via comments below, email, twitter @scbubba, or phone) that you would like to support through me and I'll add your pledge to the total. Or you can go over and donate now!

Photo credit to JohnMason.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Weigh In #7

I've been thinking about a lot this week. The concept of people, adults and children, being in slavery and being bought and sold like they aren't human has been breaking my heart. So, I spent some time poking around the site to see what's going on and to look for some good news in this fight. What I was reminded of was that there are two main aims of Abolition and Restoration. It's not just enough to set the captives free... They need help to recover from what they have been through. To heal and begin life again, or for the first time in some cases.

I've been lifted, to a degree, by the many stories on the blog. On the blog, the staff and volunteers post stories about rescue, restoration, and recovery. They also post stories about the tragedies of human trafficking and the sex trade. As much as my heart breaks to know that people are living through these atrocities, I am stirred by the fact that others are fighting for them and helping. This mission of abolition and restoration keeps taking me to the work of Jesus. He has freed us from the slavery of sin and death and, even now, is working to restore us, to bring us back home.

My family has pledged to donate to as part of ThisMustChange. But I am feeling like there must be more that we can do... More to come on this I'm sure.

As for the donations, I'm afraid I can't add anything to the total this week myself. I stepped in the scales this morning and did not like what I saw:

296... Again....

I don't know if this is because of a birthday weekend last week, a lack of sleep throughout this week, or something else. But I'm not going to lose heart here. I'm traveling a lot this next week and that can make things tough. But it also might open up opportunities for working out as the hotels have nice fitness rooms. Tune in next week to find out (Probably be a Saturday post as I will not be at home where the scale is this coming Friday)

Photo credit to kovik

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book Review: Deadly Viper Character Assassins

I had heard a lot about something called Deadly Viper out in the twitterverse and on several blogs. I even went to the website a few times. But I wasn't quite sure what they were getting at...

But something clicked with me about what these guys are doing and I went over to Amazon and ordered a copy of the small book.

The authors describe the book as
[A] self-defense course for protecting your most priceless possession: your character... [Deadly Viper] unmasks the identities of your opponents and equips you, your family, and your congregation with the leadership skills to beat them. If your integrity as a leader is flawless, here's how to keep it that way. If your character and reputation have taken a hit, here's a route to hope and redemption.

Deadly Viper Character Assassins will help you achieve a lifestyle of integrity and grace.

And that was what hooked me. Having held, and often screwed up, several leadership positions in the last 20 years, the curiousity of understanding what "assassins" were out there and the hope for redemption and grace were strong. So I began reading...

At first I thought I might have made a mistake and wandered into a running joke the two authors were having. There was plenty of kitschy "Kung Fu" references and stuff about being ninjas and the wisdom of Master Po (from an old, and good, TV show not the Kung Fu Panda). But after the first couple of pages, it made sense.

Foster and Wilhite were going deep with their martial arts metaphor. And it works. Your integrity and character are under assault all the time. There are the full frontal assaults that most leaders can see and deal with. The authors are more concerned here with the ninja-like assassins that use sleathy, guile, cunning, skill, and ruthlessness to score a kill on your character. So this little book is about identifying yoru enemies, knowing them and how they attack, and training yourself to fight, and defeat, these character killers.

I'll give you the quick list of the 7 character assassins but you will need to read the book for a deep understanding of your enemies and how best to fight them:

  1. The Assassin of Character Creep - Character begins to die by a thousand small cuts that weaken you enough for the assassin to deliver the coup de grace...
  2. The Assassin of Zi Qi Qi Ren - Zi Qi Qi Ren is a Chinese word that literally means "self-deception while deceiving others"...
  3. The Assassin of Amped Emotions - In the moments of everyday life, he waits for you to blow your top, lose your cool, or go postal. Then he strikes...
  4. The Assassin of the Headless Sprinting Chicken - If you are too busy and tired, you have little defense against the attacks...
  5. The Assassin of Boom Chicka Wah Wah - Stupid decisions are made when thinking is done without the brain...
  6. The Bling Bling Assassin - While you chase for "enough" this assassin can cut you down...
  7. The High and Mighty Assassin - Over confidence and arrogance can do this assassin's job for him...

Each assassin gets a chapter that goes into detail about how they attack, what weaknesses they try to find or expose in your character, how to prepare for the attacks and how to recover if you have already been attacked. At the end of each chapter is a 2 page Q&A with a "master" in the assassin's area. Some of the masters include Duane Chapman (Dog the bounty hunter), Rabbi David Wolpe, Marcus Buckingham, and Joe Ritchie.

What really brings the book together and focuses the point are the first and last chapters of the book. These chapters do not deal directly with any of the assassins. Instead they deal with the real lives of the authors and the people that they know, interact with, work with, and share life with. Basically, they are showing why this is important by using themselves as examples. The last chapter also introduces an organization that caught my attention: People of the Second Chance.
1. People of the Second Chance are individuals who are fast to forgive. In a culture that believes in revenge and payback, we rebel with grace.

2. People of the Second Chance receive second chances in their own life. When we have experienced personal, professional, or relational failure, we refuse to be defined by our mistakes. We learn, we grow, and we have the courage to move on.

3. People of the Second Chance serve in places where people need second chances. We advocate for the vulnerable and fight for equality for the poor, the prisoner, and the voiceless.

These three values can be simply summed up by:

Give, Receive & Be the Second Chance.

It's the best way to fight the assasins...

If you are in a leadership position, have left a leadership position (voluntarily or otherwise), or think you will be a leader of people one day, go read this book.

(And, No, I didn't get this book free from anybody. I bought it myself. So there, FTC...)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Weigh In #6

I issued a bit of a challenge to myself last week. I got below 300 (albeit just barely) and stated that I wouldn't just accept that goal as a stopping (or even a pausing) point. That was last Friday. Two things happened that day that I thought might have an impact on that claim.

The first was that I found a whole pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream in the freezer while getting something out for the kids. Phish Food is, by far, my favorite ice cream in the world! The chocolate ice cream, the caramel, the fudge fish pieces. Oh my.... I couldn't resist. I scooped out a bowl for myself and enjoyed the decadence. And then I wallowed in the guilt.

But thanks to the daily plate journal at, I was able to adjust for all the extra from the ice cream and keep my daily calories almost reasonable for the day. The knowledge of where I was for the day and how much was in the ice cream kept me from doing what I had in the past. Namely, justify going overboard for the rest of the day because I had already "wasted the day" by having the dessert. I suddenly felt a little less guilty.

The second thing I learned last Friday was that a chicken salad sandwich on sour dough bread (with no cheese) from Atlanta Bread Co has only about 400 calories. I love those sandwiches and finding out that I could easily work one in as a meal was a great find... Of course, since I've had 3 of them this week, I might try to find some other options for the next few weeks.

Anyway, I weighed in this morning. Working from 299.4 last Friday, I had visions of Phat Phish as I walked to the scale. I stepped up and waited for the display....



And that means more money pledged to from me and those wonderful souls who have agreed to pledge as well. You can see the current pledge total over on the right side bar. You can also donate straight to using the "Donate" button there as well. I pray that you will consider helping the fight against the human trafficking going on in our cities today.

Until next week.....

Photo credit to jimmers

Friday, October 16, 2009

Weigh In #5

Week #5 has come to an end and it's time for another Friday weigh in. Last week I made it to just over 303. I have been holding out hope all week that I would break through the 300lbs mark this week. And the verdict is.......


Whew! There was a time (like 2 months ago) where I didn't know if I would see the bottom side of 300. And now I'm not only through it, I'm on my way to leaving it behind. I gotta admit, I feel good about this result today but I'm not going to accept it as a place to stay and hang out. God willing, I'll be writing on here within the next 12 months about going through the 250 barrier. Hopefully even beyond that too. Thanks for your continued support and prayers...

Last week we picked up a new pledge for donations to as a part of This Must Change. I am so happy that friends and family are seeing how they can be a part of this effort to abolish slavery in our time. The idea that people are buying and selling other people in this day and age and in these United States just cuts me all the way to the bone. Thankfully, there are people like the wonderful folks at and like Zach Hunter (just ordered his book "Lose Your Cool" so I can review it here later) that are leading the charge in putting a stop to human trafficking and helping the enslaved.

Please consider helping out with this cause. You can leave me a comment here on the blog, talk to me on twitter (@scbubba) or email me at the address at the top of the blog sidebar if you want to make a pledge of support. You can also donate directly to by clicking the "Donate" button on the right side over there. You don't even have to do anything with this blog but please, oh please, do SOMETHING... Thanks

Friday, October 9, 2009

Weigh In #4

It's Friday again, and that means time for another 80-60-40 progress check. It seems to have gotten easier to get through the week now. I've gotten used to making better (mostly) food choices and we, as a family, are eating out less and less. What is still difficult to do regularly is to get out and exercise. I definitely did not exercise enough this week. I think I might have gone walking once all week. I gotta get better at that, now.

So, last week I got to the 305 mark. I have to say that I was really hopeful that I would break through the 300 barrier this week. I know it's just a psychological thing, but I feel like it is important somehow.

Well, I didn't make it under 300 but I did make progress: 303.2. That's almost 2lbs this pst week. Right on target and I'll take it...

That progress also means progress towards our goals for and the people that they are helping. As I said last week, I now have a partner in pledging money to the work that is doing. But I'm still looking for more people to help out. As a part of, I am pledging $1 per pound lost until (at least) Nov 16th. If you would like to help, please consider making a pledge of support (money or otherwise) in the comments section below. You don't have to lose any weight (other than a couple of dollars from your wallet perhaps) and it can be any amount. Shoot, you don't even have to go through me. Go ahead and click the "Donate" button over on the right side there and make a donation directly to today!

And if isn't the organization or cause that you want to support, then please find someone to help out. You can find other organizations over at Or you can find someone in your neighborhood that may need help. The bottom line is that God has blessed you. And not because you have earned it somehow. He has blessed you so that you may then become a blessing to someone else. So go become that blessing in someone's life today. Fight the apathy and selfishness that we see all around us. Break through the bitterness that keeps people separated. Help someone else today because This Must Change!

If you want to get involved here, or if you are doing something to help others, please leave a comment and share with us how you are blessing others. It i always encouraging to see a community come together like that.

Photo credit to bjearwicke.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Book Review: Green by Ted Dekker

I've read quite a few Sci-fi and Fantasy novels over the past 25+ years. I've read good ones, bad ones, and great ones. I've read stand alone novels and books that are part of extended series. All in all, I would estimate that I have read over 500 books in the science fiction and fantasy genre. So when I say that I like a book of that type, you know that I'm not just impressed with something shiny....

And I'm saying that I really liked "Green" by Ted Dekker. I liked it as a stand alone novel but I really enjoyed it as part of the Circle series. At least, I think I do. See, I haven't read any of the other books in the Circle series yet (Black, Red, and White). But Green, the 4th (and supposedly last) book published in the series, is written in such a way that you can either start the series with it, or end the series with it.

Dekker has really made a circle with the Circle series. Which is why Green is called "Book 0. The Beginning and the End."

In Green, Dekker opens up the scene on Earth 2000 years in the future. He shows us the people of Earth given a second chance after an apocalypse wiped everything out in our present day. Things are different in this future. Culture is primitive and somewhat medieval. There is no real technology and very little science there. But the biggest difference is that the forces of Good and Evil, the things that in our day are in the spirit world, have very physical manifestation on this future Earth.

I won't delve into all of the details about these manifestations. Or about time travel, angels and demons, or the end of the world. But I will tell you that Dekker is an amazing story teller and writer. The worlds (current Earth and future Earth) that he has imagined and illustrated with his words are incredible. I could hardly put the book down. Even staying up until after 2:00am one night reading "just one more chapter."

Once I finally did finish "Green", I was lucky enough to find a single volume that combined Black, Red, and White in their entirety (thank you Lifeway!) and I'm reading deeper into the Circle.

Whether you start the Circle with Green or finish it there, I recommend getting it....

Per the recent FTC ruling, I am required to tell you that I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for publishing my review.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Weigh In #3

Here it is, the end of the 3rd week of my 80-60-40 and campaign. That means that this morning is a weekly weigh in. I've already gotten to the point where I'm nervous when I get out of bed on Friday mornings. Mainly because I'm thinking how disappointed I'll be if I have gained weight or stayed steady. But there is also that expectation that I may have lost over and above the 1 - 2lbs I'm targeting each week. But I go step up on the scales each Friday...

Before I get to this week's weight, I want to urge you to learn more about and to please prayfully consider helping support their work to free people enslaved in human trafficking and help them get new lives. Click on the picture below to watch a short video that tells the story of (including where the name came from). It is very powerful:

As you may know by now, I am pledging to donate $1 per pound that I lose. This week I had one partner join me and pledge some money as well. If we can get just a few more folks to pledge something, anything, we can snowball this into a significant donation to help support the work of Remember, I'll do the work and you'll get the credit... So just call me, email me, facebook me, or @ me on Twitter to let me know what you want to pledge.

Now, on to the scales...

Last Friday when I loked down at the readout on the scales I saw 310.1lbs. That was a lose of 2 pounds for that week. I stepped up this morning hoping for something like that to happen this week. When I looked down I saw 305.0! That's 5 more pounds this week bring my total so far to 16lbs! Talk about feeling giddy.... I had to keep quiet because there were a house full of sleeping people that, while probably happy for me, would have been quite grumpy to be awake a 6:00am...

This week was harder than previous ones. I'm not sure exactly why but some of it was probably because there were a few days where I didn't plan for meals as well and was caught at work and hungry. I now have a couple of boxes of granola and fruit bars in my desk drawer along with some dried cranberries and raisins. Those can help me get through those times when otherwise I might grab a sugary snack or a soda.

My wife and kids have been a big help too. Their support has been awesome! And to see how, in just these 3 weeks, my kids are starting to think about the choices they make for food (sometimes) is very encouraging. I have also been lifted by the support and encouragement I have gotten from folks that I didn't even know read this blog. I've been stopped by folks in the hall at work and at church by people that say "Great job." or "I'm proud of you." because they see what's happening here.

The support from my friends that connect with me online has been wonderful as well. Emails, messages in facebook, and the replies and DMs in twitter really make my day.

To all of you I want to say a very heartfelt "Thank You" for supporting and encouraging me.

I look forward to hearing from you. See you next Friday!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

I am a huge fan of Don Miller's book Blue Like Jazz. I'm not really sure why, exactly, other than it tells a very interesting story about Miller's life and struggles that I could, in some ways, identify with. As much as I liked it, I never got around to pick up a copy of any of his other books.

Until I got a chance to get his newest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Why was this one different? I wasn't really sure until I opened it up and started reading it. I literally had a hard time putting it down.

In this book, Miller gets to "edit his life" when two filmmakers approach him about making a movie around the story in "Blue Like Jazz." In this process, Miller learns a little about screenwriting, something about stories, and a lot about what life is and can be. Through the process of developing "movie Don", Miller tells us what he learned about character arcs, saving the cat, plot structure, struggle, and obstacles. Most importantly, he tells us about how story plays such a major role in the lives we have and choose to lead.

But "Million Miles" isn't a screenwriting, or any kind of writing, handbook. It is a story about Miller's life and, through the universal themes God has written on our hearts, a story about our own lives. That is the real appeal of the book overall; it is as much about the reader s it is about Miller. Sure the book has the details of Miller's story, but it could just as easily be the details of my story. The key is in the story structure. This came clear to me when Miller talks about how Jason saved his family.

Miller's friend Jason is having problems with his teenage daughter. She is dating the guy that no Dad likes, being generally rebellious, and may be experimenting with drugs. Jason and his wife have tried grounding her and strong arm discipline only to make the matters worse. Miller suggest something that gets Jason's attention - "I said his daughter was living a terrible story." Jason wants to know more.
To be honest, I didn't know exactly what I meant. I probably wouldn't have said it if I hadn't just returned from the McKee seminar. But I told him about the stuff I'd learned, that the elements of a story involve a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it... "[S]he's just not living a very good story. She's caught up in a bad one." I said a lot of other things and he kept asking questions.

A couple of months later I ran into Jason and asked about his daughter. "She's better," he said to me, smiling. And when I asked why, he told me his family was living a better story.

The author goes on to tell how Jason decided that his family was going to tackle the cause of orphans around the world. He told his wife and daughter that their family was going to raise the $25,000 needed to build an orphanage. It would be hard because they had a second mortgage and no extra money. But the struggle against this obstacle brought out the character in the members of Jason's family. His daughter was part of a better story. She wanted something and overcame obstacle to get it. Jason's daughter broke up with the boyfriend. As Jason says, "No girl who plays the role of a hero dates a guy who uses her. She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while."

And that turned on a light for me. Jason decided that his family needed a better story. So he was intentional in giving them one. He didn't re-write the story that had gone before and he didn't try to overthrow the ultimate authorship of God. What he did was step into the role of Father and Husband as it was originally written. And when Jason did that, he helped his daughter move into the role written for her - confident, strong, loved.

It is this kind of "everyday profound" that keeps you pulled into this book. Miller's stories about the people in his life and his stories about his struggle to get into a better story himself can make you ponder your own story. It can cause you to think about the role you are playing and the obstacles that are there (or why they don't seem to be there).

And even if you don't get into the self-reflective aspect here, you will likely enjoy the tales of Miller and the people he knows.

It turns out, Don Miller can tell a story...

Per the recent FTC ruling, I am required to tell you that I received a 2 free copies of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for publishing my review.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Weigh In #2

It's Friday again and that means it's time for the weekly 80-60-40 weigh in. Before I jump into that, I'd like to note a couple of things:

1) As a part of the team, I am trying to raise awareness and money for as they work to end human trafficking and care for those victimized by it. I am pledging a donation of at least $1 per pound I lose. I'm also asking you, dear reader, to support someone. You can pledge/donate money to or you can give to your cause of choice. I just ask that you please DO SOMETHING. Whatever it is that you do, please let me know so I can add you to my prayers.

2) I have added a couple of things to the sidebar over on the left. One thing is a "Donate" button that takes you straight to the online donation site. Please use it. I have also add a counter to let you know how much the community here has pledged. I can only keep it up to date if you let me know you are pledging or donating. And, No, you don't have to be losing weight yourself to participate...

Ok, now on to this week's moment of truth...

I stepped on the scales this morning and was met with the number 310.1! That's 2lbs for the week. I initially had some mixed feelings stepping off the scale. I knew that the big numbers from last week (9lbs in 9 days) wasn't something to expect each week, but a part of me had already done the calculations that included numbers like that. I had moments thinking I would be through the 80lbs by New Years! A sweet delusions....

I've brought myself back to the reality that I knew would mark most weeks: 1 - 2 pounds lost per week as long as I stick with it. And I'm happy with that.


Because I'm trying to keep my destination in mind. I try to see what life will be like on my birthday next October when I can look back and see that I did it. Each day, I'm deciding that I'm going to be that Steve on his 40th birthday...

And with the support of God, my wife, and a strong community of friends, I'm going to.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Other Things Must Change

As you may know by now, I have decided that there are some things that must change in my life. One thing specifically is my overall health and that means I need to lose weight. Not just the "Freshman 15" I picked up 20 years ago, but the other 100+ that joined those guys since then...

But I realized that it can't just be about me. Through a friend and other folks out there, God has put it on my heart to try to make a difference beyond my own reach as well. So I'm jumping on the wagon with The basic plan is that I will donate $1.00 per pound I lose to one of the great causes they are sponsoring.

And here is where you come in: all of these causes can use more support. And so can many other causes. So let's band together to help them out. I want YOU to sponsor me in this effort. It can be $1.00 per pound like I'm going to do. It can be any amount you want. It can even be as simple as donating 2lbs of food to the local food pantry for every 6lbs I lose. Be creative, but please help.

I'll be donating for the entire period of 80-60-40 (until the end of Oct 2010). You can add your support for some or all of the weeks. You decide.

If you want to help out, please leave a comment on any of the 80-60-40 posts on my blog. Or you can leave me a message on Facebook. Or you can find me on Twitter. Or even email me (see top of left sidebar).

I've chosen to support in their efforts to stop slavery and human trafficking. Here's some info on their organization:

Slavery is a prison of injustice.

And it’s alive and well in our time.

These statistics are startling and heartbreaking:

  • 27 million people enslaved around the world
  • World’s 2nd largest criminal venture (32 BILLION dollars)
  • Estimates say 2 children sold every minute into human trafficking and sex slavery.

The vision of is the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation. Nothing less.

That’s a fight worth fighting!

To work to that end, they provide aftercare for the children who have been trapped in this horrific industry as well as prevention programs to bring awareness to the issue.

So please, help join the fight and support more than just me in this effort.

Photo credit to PorcelainB

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weigh In #1

Well, it's Friday and that means time for weigh in #1 for 80-60-40. What's 80-60-40? In short, it's my quest to lose at least 80 pounds during the 60 weeks before I turn 40 years old. You can read more about it over at this page.

Over the past week, I've grown very fond of the Daily Plate with it's database of food items and record of my eating. Just making a daily habit of entering everything that I eat or drink and seeing the nutritional values add up has made me very aware of what I'm eating each day. I would say that, previously, I was neither intentional about nor conscious of my daily choices in this area. Now I'm planning ahead for the day, in some cases, so that I am not caught in a situation where I am stuck with bad food choices. Being aware of what i've already eaten in a day and what the totals are so far for calories, fat, carbs, etc also allows me to make better choices at the end of the day. That period from dinner to bed time has traditionally been the hardest time for me. also has the ability to help determine your daily caloric levels needed to get you to your goal. Using an estimate of your body mass index (BMI) based on height and weight, you age, level of daily physical activity, and weight loss/gain goal, you can get a daily calorie amount. This amount is your target for caloric intake each day such that you should be on track. I listed my goal as "Lose 1.5lbs per week" and my physical activity as "Light Activity (Seated or standing, e.g. computer use)". To my surprise, the calculation for me came out to be around 2500 calories per day. Kinda high, I thought.

Over the past week, I pretty much didn't really come close to the 2500 calorie mark. My daily total calories usually came in between 1800 and 2000. I noticed that my real struggle this week was with sodium. While I was consistently under the daily allowance for calories, fat, cholesterol, and carbs, I was over on sodium just about every day. Sometimes over by as much as 50%.

On the exercise front, I walked about 5 miles total, in 1 mile increments over the week. Most of that was done during my lunch break where I can make the 0.5 mile walk to Whole Foods to pick up lunch and then the 0.5 mile walk back. Total trip time was about 25 minutes (including in-store time) which means a decent walking clip of about 3 miles per hour.

Ok, ok. Enough waiting. What did the trust bathroom scale say this morning? I stepped up on it and looked down to see... 312.2! That's 9 pounds in the last 8 days. I'm extremely happy and I'm also pragmatic. I don't expect this to be the norm by any means. I expect that my body will start to adapt to the lower calorie amounts and become more efficient (i.e., use less calories each day). This tells me that I will probably lose less each week and need to increase my physical activity along with the diet change.

For the moment, I'm going to enjoy the progress. And I'm going to thank God for being my rock during this week. It has been very hard. I have found that there have been times where I felt like I was going to make the wrong decisions about food choices. I felt almost helpless to not make those decisions. During those times, and many others, I tried to let go over my anxieties and focus on God. Sometimes it was focused prayer and sometimes it was more meditative. But I always felt like I was stronger following these times. I also know that I have many people praying for me now. That has got to be a good thing.

So, on to week #2. Come back next Friday and see how it's going...

Photo credit to SheCat.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Numbers of Hope: 80-60-40

No, this isn't a book review of Max Lucado's popular book about numbers. Actually, it's not even a book review - Gasp!

This little post between book reviews is dealing with something else. Here's the breakdown:

For a lot of my adult and teen life, I have battled a weight problem. Standing just shy of 6 feet tall (I like to say that I'm 5' 12") I have been anywhere between 195lbs and 321lbs since I was old enough to drive. It wasn't a steady increase over the years either. There was plenty of yo-yo and roller coaster in my weight and fitness level in there.

But the reality of it is that the trend has been increasing year over year. And I have arrived at what I hope is the top number now: 321 pounds (146kg for those outside the US). It has to be the top end. If I go higher, I'm in trouble. Actually, I'm in trouble now. I have some family history of diabetes, my dad had a heart attack back in June, and I have a wife and 4 children that I'm not ready to let go of yet. As my friend Fred told me on Labor Day, "I want to start thinking about [my son's] children." And I feel God giving me increasingly less subtle nudges/shoves to take care of myself. I've learned that I should listen to what He has to say...

So, let's talk the hopeful numbers. In about 60 weeks, I will turn 40 years old. My goal is to lose at least 80lbs in those 60 weeks. So, 80lbs in the 60 weeks before I turn 40. 80-60-40. That works out to 1.33lbs per week on the average. It doesn't sound like much that way but here's a case where I really believe slow and steady wins the race.

My plan is pretty simple: Pray, eat reasonably, add exercise at least 3 days a week, and keep a food journal. I've started using the "My Plate" feature of the free site for tracking my daily meals. Just in two days of using it, I've been making different choices because I can see what I've already had and how I'm doing against my goal for the day. LiveStrong also has a way to search for different food items and make suggestions for healthier alternatives (based on calories, fat, carbs, etc).

Whew. Glad to have that out there. Now, why am I putting this out on the interwebs? Is it so I can boast next year? Is it some sort of demented pity/ego dysfunction mashup I am afflicted with? Is it just for attention? Maybe some or all of those reasons plays into it. But my stated reason is to have some accountability. Not necessarily from the 3 people a week who might stop by the blog, but at least from myself. By writing and recording it, I make it real. It's kind of a motivator for me. Maybe this is my "inciting incident". (I know what that is now thanks to Don Miller. But that's a post later this month....)

I'm considering joining the folks at to try and raise money for the great causes they are helping. I probably will but I want to make sure I have my intentions right.

I will be posting progress reports. I'm shooting for at least weekly and we'll see how that goes.

I really will appreciate any prayers and support that you can give. This is a battle for me daily. I've lost weight before but never this much and never for a long time. If you think about it, add me to your list.

Well there it is. My numbers of hope: 80-60-40... Drop me a comment on here, or email me (, or find me on twitter @scbubba.

Credit for photo to pzado.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Review: Fearless

"Imagine your life without fear." That's the tag line from the latest book by author and pastor Max Lucado. In Fearless, Lucado draws you in with that invitation and delivers a very thoughtful book and doing just that.

In 15 chapters, the author discusses fearful subjects from "Fear of Not Mattering" (in a very Dr Seussical manner) to "Fear of Overwhelming Challenges." He covers fears like Violence, Worst Case Scenarios, and Not Protecting My Kids. Lucado also covers some spiritual fears such as Disappointing God, What Comes After This Life, What if God is Not Real.

In each chapter, Lucado draws on Scripture as well as his own life experiences to unpack the fears and to show how God has provided for us. The author, being the good pastor that he is, brings Biblical truth from everyday situations and people and complements it with verses and stories from the Bible. In discussing "Fear of Worst Case Scenarios", the author ties in an illustration of two young girls jumping into the pool to their Dad with Jesus in the garden at Gesthemane and on the cross at Golgotha with words from Yann Martel's bestselling book "Life of Pi."
[The] sister jumps. Not with foolish abandon, but with belief in the goodness of a father's heart and trust in a father's arms. Such was the choice of Jesus. He did more than speak about fear. He faced it.
The decisive acts of the gospel drama are played out on two stages - Gesthemane's garden and Golgatha's cross. Friday's cross witnessed the severest suffering. Thursday's garden staged the profoundest fear.

Lucado goes on to point out that in Mark's gospel, he used the word for horror meaning "used of a man who is rendered helpless, disoriented, who is agitated and anguished by the threat of some approaching event." That is to say, Jesus knew fear and faced it down as we all should - by giving ourselves over to God's will "with belief in the goodness of a father's heart and trust in a father's arms."

We should go to our Heavenly Father in prayer, as Jesus did, and turn over the fears to Him. Here Lucado borrow's from Martel's character Pi in saying that we should address our fears specifically when praying. As Pi fights his fears he realizes that he can "shine the light of words upon" his fears and remove much of the power it has over him. Doing this in prayer stands the fears in front of God where they lose all power.

All in all, I think this book is a good read. The author digs into some pretty heady areas of life and doesn't back down. What I come away with, however, is that it takes more than a book like this to really help people with their fears. Where this book helped me the most was in pointing out that my fears grow and strengthen when they are left alone. When no one else knows about them. The advice to take my fears to God is good advice but it can seem very hollow coming from a book written by someone I don't know.

Only when I take this advice and bring it into my community of faith along with bringing the fears to God, does it become very real to me. By sharing my fears, and my faith, with others and by seeing how God has worked in their lives, I can get my feet planted on the solid rock of God again. And I can even start helping others with their fears from that position as well.

Per the recent FTC ruling, I am required to tell you that I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for publishing my review.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: The Expanded Bible

This was an interesting book review. How do you go about reviewing not just the most pivotal piece of literature in human history but also the Word of God? Needless to say, it ain't like the other reviews. So, I'll stick to giving you my thoughts on what makes this version of the New Testament "different" from other translations.

First thing to notice is that it is only the New Testament and not the whole Bible. The official title is "The Expanded Bible: New Testament." This does not, in any way, detract from it at all, though. The hardcover edition is as thick as most full Bibles are. The print on the pages is very manageable, even a little larger than in novels of the same size. So, it seems impractical (from a consumer standpoint) to have all of the Old Testament and the New Testament in a single volume that would be 10+ inches thick.

Ok, the key to the Expanded Bible is that it provides inline information to the reader in order to facilitate a better understanding of the text. The information that is included in the Scriptural text varies in type and function. Always set off by brackets, [], the inline information ranges from alternate translations of words or phrases, the literal translation of a word, other "traditional" phrasings of he text, or comments and commentary about the text.

As an example, here is 1 Corinthians 13:12 from the Expanded Bible:
•It is the same with us [LFor...]. Now we see •a dim reflection [obscurely; or indirectly], •as if we were looking into a mirror [Tthrough a glass darkly], but then we shall see •clearly [Lface to face]. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as •God has known me [LI am fully known].

In the Scripture quote above we can see most of the types of inline information. Here's the breakdown of what it means. Anything contained in [ ] is the extra information. The information pertains to the word or words that precede it starting with the "•" character. Where there are simply one or more words inside the [ ], they are meant as alternate meanings for the marked text. For example, "a dim reflection" in the above Scripture could be replaced with "obscurely" or "indirectly".

The L character indicates that the information in the [ ] shows a literal translation of the marked words/phrase. The T character is telling us that the information in the [ ] is a more traditional translation of the marked text. The traditional translations are most often from the King James Version.

Not shown in this verse is the use of commentary. This sort of information is marked with the C character within the [ ]. Let's look at Acts 17:19 for an example of that:
They got Paul and took him to •a meeting of the Aeropagus [CAres (Greek name) or Mars (Roman name) was the god of thunder and war; the council of Aeropagus was the oldest and most prestigious court for intellectual and moral matters], where they said, "Please explain to us this new idea you have been teaching."

The Expanded Bible is based on the New Century Version (NCV) of the Bible. The NCV is, in turn, derived from the International Children's Bible (ICB). The ICB came from the work done trying to create an easy to read and understand translation of the Bible for children. This sort of translation follows a different path than do several of the "mainstream" Bible translations. Instead of trying to do a "formal", or literal, translation of every word from the original language to English, the ICB and NCV (and therefore the Expanded Bible) use a "functional", or meaning-based, translation style where the concepts and idiomatic meaning of words and phrases are often used in the English translation. These versions also attempt to avoid any vocabulary that does not normally occur for the non-theologian reader (The ICB targets a 3rd - 5th grade reading level).

This functional-equivalence approach and vocabulary choice have been criticized by some. One argument is that certain key concepts that are central to Christianity are glossed over or left out altogether. Eugene Peterson's "The Message" is another translation that has caught flak for this as well.

All that being said, the inclusion of the additional information in The Expanded Bible helps overcome some of these issues. The inclusion of the information inline with the text makes it readily available to the the reader and helps to illuminate several key sections of the text where one translation may have used word choices that were harder to understand or were easy to gloss over without understanding the impact.

I thin that the Expanded Bible makes for a good additional translation that could help when studying the Bible. It could also work as an introductory Bible for folks that are new to it and might struggle with some unfamiliar "theological" vocabulary found in many mainstream Bible translations.

Per the recent FTC ruling, I am required to tell you that I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for publishing my review.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Book Review: Rick and Bubba's Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage

Well, this was an interesting book. Aside from the real mouth full of a title, it is chocked full of advice that, if followed to the letter, will lead you to complete and total marital bliss...

OK, maybe that's not exactly right. But Rick and Bubba have been at this marriage thing for a little while (33 years of marriage - to their wives, not each other) and have some good advice to share with men and women (mostly men).

Rick Burgess and Bill "Bubba" Bussey are the hosts (and stars) of the Rick & Bubba Show (or should I call it the Rick & Bubba Empire?) and New York Times Best-Selling Authors (at least according to the book cover). They are also very good observers of the things in their lives and use many stories gleaned from daily life with their spouses and families to impart wisdom.

The book itself is a series of short chapters where Rick, Bubba, or both, talk about the important things that make marriage work. They often use clever "counter examples" to help illustrate their points. That is, these two fine men are quick to share the mistakes and mishaps that led to many of the lessons they learned and share with their readers. From stiff-arming your wife for crowding your lane in a race on the beach to explaining why his losing the keys was her fault, this book will have you laughing hard.
Three Sides to Every Story
The situation: "Great looking outfit, dear. How much did it cost?"
His side: Who cares - as long as it leads to romance?
Her side: It was on sale for only $63 - marked down from $65 - and I couldn't pass it up.
The truth: Goodbye, new truck...

Amidst all the laughter, there are some real good words of wisdom from these two fine gentlemen. Rick and Bubba are professed Christians (Rick is a licensed minister, too) and they are not ashamed to talk about how their faith is a central part of their marriages, and their lives:
Show us a good marriage, and we'll show you a union of two good forgivers. In fact, one reason the divorce rate is so high, especially among Christians, is that many of us have forgotten how to forgive. And one reason for that is we have a blind spot to our own need for forgiveness.
When Jesus taught us to pray, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," He was demonstrating how God reserves the right to tie our own forgiveness to how completely we forgive others. Grace is a free gift, but if we withhold it from those around us, He might withhold it from us.

My copy of the book also came with two bonus features: a CD with bits from the radio show and the "Book of Blame." The Book of Blame is an important piece of literature that men around the world will do well to study. It contains the 50 articles of blame that women use to blame their husbands for everything:
Global warming? Your fault. 2008 financial crisis? Your fault. Her speeding ticket? Your fault. Grocery store shopping cart with that flailing wheel? Your fault.
Reading the Book of Blame won't help it not be your fault, but it will help you with what to expect... :-)

Per the recent FTC ruling, I am required to tell you that I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for publishing my review.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

When my wife and I were still dating back in the day, we stopped off at one of those little carnivals that sets up in mall parking lots. We rode several rides (we were too young to think that a mall parking lot carnival would have less than the strictest safety measures...) and then, right before we left, we jumped on the Tilt-A-Whirl. She and I were the only ones on the ride so the operator let it run almost twice as long as the normal time. When we got done with the ride, we had a little different outlook on things...

In his first non-fiction book, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, N. D. Wilson uses the imagery of the carnival, and specifically the Tilt-A-Whirl, to draw the reader in. And once you climb on board, it is a wild ride. I got a little dizzy (but not nauseous) and was really glad I took the ride...

I really liked Wilson's style of writing in this book. The best way I can describe many parts of it would be to ask you to imagine C. S. Lewis as a beat poet on stage in a hip coffeehouse with a light jazz combo in the background. There is always a flow to what is being said. Even when there are interruptions in thought or digressions. Once I caught the beat and starting mentally snapping my fingers in time, I was utterly hooked on the book.

The book is partly a celebration of life in all of its stages, partly an apologetic (of sorts) on the existence of God, and partly praise to the Creator and Redeemer of all things. Wilson walks the reader through the four seasons, starting in winter, and uses them to parallel our lives and God's creation. In each season, the author's rhythms and word choices match the general mood. In winter, the reader moves slow and steady with a reverence reserved for the dead. As Wilson takes us into Spring, the reader picks up a step and might even begin skipping along with the word pictures and stories. If he is nothing else, Wilson is a vivid storyteller. See how he describes waiting for a light to change on his way home one early spring afternoon:
There are times when it is easy to go numb, when it is easy to forget that you sit in a box of metal, dug from the earth and alloyed, shaped by the men and robots of Detroit. I don't care that I sit three feet above the ground in a machine with the soul and strength of (muffled) explosions. Horses are for recreation; my harnesses are hitched to pounding bursts of fire, and they pull me (gently, please) without complaint, while I collect invisible waves from the air with a magic metal wand and turn them into orchestras, pop stars, and indignant voices complaining about the war. It is easy to forget that the trees are busily carving up the air with sunlight and factory-producing the new year's leaves more efficiently than Germans.
Yawn. Again.

The apologetic part comes in with Wilson's references to, jabs at, homages to, and sometime explanation of many dead (some not?) philosophers, theologians, and poets. The author seems to take particular interest in sparring with David Hume and Nietzsche. Wilson name drops old dead guys faster than I can type them into the search field of Wikipedia, so I finally give up on trying to know all of them and focus on what is being written. I'm not smart enough to try to summarize Wilson's discussions with/about the naysayers of God (Hume, Nietzsche, et al.), but I did recognize that the author uses sound logic and a Scriptural basis to deal with them. In the end, I felt like Wilson had helped shed some light on very intriguing, and often troublesome, areas for Christian and atheist alike: the existence of evil, Creator vs Chance, Grace...

In the end, I really liked how Wilson brought things into focus with our all knowing, all powerful, and all loving God:
But there was a Being, spirit, infinite, I AM. In that being there was One, and there were Many. There was Love. There was Joy. There was true Laughter. There was a Word, a Voice. There was Artist, but there was not yet art.
And that Voice said Light, and extended Himself a finite canvas to paint the only thing that could be worth painting, to paint the I AM.
The art has beginning - it began when time did - but it will have no end. Only endings. Even now it still grows and expands, twists and interwines, rises and sets, spins and doubles back.
The Voice will never be silent.

Hop on the Tilt-A-Whirl.. You will enjoy the ride...

Per the recent FTC ruling, I am required to tell you that I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for publishing my review.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Book Review: From Eternity to Here

From Eternity to Here by Frank Viola came into my hands because I agreed to review it as part of a book review blogging round up put on by the publisher, David Cook. The nearest I can tell, I got included because of my review for another of their books, Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

The ties with Crazy Love are more than just that, though. Originally pitched to me as "the perfect followup to Crazy Love" and the how to Chan's what, I had some big expectations going as I waited for my copy of the book to arrive.

Viola has written this book in 3 distinct but closely related parts. The author has a main theme running through the entire book: God's overarching and eternal purpose. I'll cut to the chase, Viola makes the point, many times and in many ways, that God has a central purpose for humanity and that it is to be a corporate body of believers: the Church.

I have to admit that I was turned off in sections of the book by the author's style of making his point. In other areas, Viola used a different style to talk about his points. I'll chalk it up to an appeal to different sides of the brain. What ever the reason for the approach, I read my way through all three sections of the book.

Viola, working from his premise that the creation of the Church for Jesus is God's primary purpose, dedicates each section of the book to viewing the Church differently according to Scripture. Section 1 is focused on The Bride of Christ. Section 2 describes the House of God. In Section 3, the author walks through the Gospels, Acts, and several New Testament books describing a new species on the Earth: the Family of God and the Body of Christ.

Personally, I liked Section 3 the most (maybe because I'm primarily left-brained) out of these sections. But what really worked best in the book was the Afterword of the book. In this chapter, Viola talks about his personal journey through Christianity into what he calls Deep Ecclesiology. This Deep Ecclesiology is a part of taking a new look at what the Church, and therefore local churches, should look like today. Viola is a part of a movement towards this reimagining of the Church (and his previous book is called Reimagining Church).

The Afterword served to tie things together pretty well, I thought. But in the end, I didn't really get that this book fulfilled the claim of showing the "how" to Crazy Love's "what". Don't get me wrong, there is some great stuff in here about local church, communities, and the purpose of the greater Church. I'm not knocking the book down against it's stated subject (the subtitle is "Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God). I think the real selling point is that Viola does to the "status quo" church of today what Chan does to the lukewarm Christian in our society.

And I think that's a good thing...

The following bloggers are posting a review or Q & A with Frank Viola on his bestselling book FROM ETERNITY TO HERE today, Tuesday, July 21st. You may order the book at a discount at – it’s also on audio book. Free discussion guide, sample chapters, interviews, and a free audio of the first chapter are available on that site also. Here are the bloggers who are participating:

Jay Becker -

Mark D -

Igniting Hearts - Kimber Britner -

Karyn -

Barefoot Preacher -

Every Day Angels -

FaithEngineer -

Kristen Schiffman -

CrossPointe: The Church at Bevo -

Crazy Love for God -

Amazima Ministries -

Down to Write Honest -

A Beautiful Mess -

The Blakes on a Mission -

Words by Jud Kossum -

Eric Jaffe -

Reconnect with God –

2nd Cup of Coffee -

Nolan Bobbitt Website -

Klappyanne -

Daveingland -

Randi Jo Rooks -

Ephesians Five –

Michael Bayne -

Encounter Church Helena Blog -

Thoughts B4 Conviction N2 Action -

Edevotion -

Seeking After -

Eric Powell -

Borrowed Light -

Per the recent FTC ruling, I am required to tell you that I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for publishing my review.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Book Review: Wasabi Gospel

The back cover of Shawn Wood's newest book, "Wasabi Gospel", gives you some warning about what to expect inside the covers:
Have you ever eaten wasabi? That dainty green blob on your sushi plate may look pretty tame, but take a taste - or even a whiff - and you'll find that little dollop packs a powerful punch to your senses!

If you have ever gotten too much wasabi at once, you know that the experience, well, it gets your attention in a hurry! And if you haven't ever gotten ambushed by wasabi, just imagine the sudden discovery of a fire bursting to life somewhere in you sinuses.

This sucker punch quality of wasabi is where the title for the book comes from. Wood pulls seven pieces of Scripture from the Gospels and explains how startling the meaning is within them. (Thus the subtitle "The Startling Message of Jesus"). These seemingly innocent words and lessons from Jesus, when considered seriously, can giev you a good wallop.

Wasabi Gospel can almost be seen as two books in one. There are seven sections/chapters to the book and each one has two distinct pieces: the discussion about the Scripture directly and an ongoing story/journal called Laura's Story. At the beginning of eash section, a day's entry in Laura's journal is given to the reader. I was quickly drawn into her story and, in the end, really enjoyed this approach to the material as much as the chapters themselves.

The seven passages of Scripture from the Gospels that Shawn brings to us to consider deal with mercy and forgiveness of others (Matthew 5:7), personal guilt (Luke 7:36-48), love your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), the 'rich young ruler' (Mark 10:24-25), children (Mark 9:42), leaving yoru sin behnd you (Luke 9:62), and why we sin (Matthew 5:30). Each chapter digs deep into what it means for us to take the words of Jesus seriously in each one of these passages. What it looks like in our lives both with and without understanding Jesus' message.

Shawn has a very comfortable and informal writing style that I find very likable. He mixes in appropriate personal stories with Biblical analysis. His use of humor and self deprecation work well alongside the subject matter. I'm sure that being about the same age with similar good ole South Carolina small town upbring doesn't hurt!
Here's an example of how Shawn shares his thoughts on the story of the "sinful woman" at the house of Simon the Pharisee -
I know many of you would say "dirty, rotten Pharisees." I am tempted to say the same thing. But then I remember that I would probably be right there with them. I would be a "dirty, rotten Pharisee," scoffing at Jesus' supposed divine power. You might be quick to deny it , but let's think about this: sometimes when you really see the facts in front of you (like calling sushi dead raw fish) they start to look a lot different.

Fact one: A guy shows up on the scene saying he is God.
Fact two: Said guy says that he can heal people.
Fact three: The word on the street from his followers is that he can calm the sea, can walk on water, and has been known to turn water into wine.
Fact four: (Here is the doozie) He says that he is God and can forgive sins.

Now given these facts that we cannot see, are you telling me that you would be a follower? When you look at it on paper, he sounds a little like David Koresh to me.

At the end of most chapters, Wood has a section called 'Take a Bite.' In these sections, the author provides a short and practical set of questions to help you see where the principle from the chapter's Scripture is or can affect your life. Wood even includes a small prayer in each one of these sections that I found to be very helpful.

All in all, "Wasabi Gospel" is a relatively small book that can pack a strong punch (not unlike wasabi itself). I really enjoyed the book and recommend it to everyone. It doesn't matter if you are already acquainted with the Gospels after years of growing up in a church or if you are just starting to wonder what Jesus was really about, the one-two wasabi combination punch will get your attention - in a good way...

You can find out more about "Wasabi Gosepl" over at And you can catch up with the author, Shawn Wood, on twitter, facebook, or his blog.

And don't forget the "Book Bomb" going on over at