These are pictures from yesterday. No new pictures today.
Today, we didn’t step foot outside of our Air BnB!
Woke up early. Made a spreadsheet of the value of my Air Jordan collection. 31 pairs valued at about $12,000. Contemplating selling a bunch of pairs. Ate instant ramen for lunch. Netflixed. Napped. Ate leftover steak for dinner. Netflixed. Napped. Blogged. Slept. My kind of day!
First day where we didn’t spend a dime! Second day where I haven’t eaten pasta or pizza. Today was a good day!
Today was my 37th birthday. Getting old!
Woke up early and did a 5 mile run before 8am! Felt super good.
Walked into the downtown area for breakfast. I had eggs, bacon, and two pancakes with strawberries. Rebekah had avocado toast. It was delicious!
Went shopping. Rebekah is getting closer to choosing her designer bag! I’m still contemplating buying some designer Italian dress shoes. No purchases yet!
Believe it or not, had poke for lunch! It was good!
Came back home. Rested.
Went to an incredible steak restaurant for my birthday dinner. Rebekah and I had our first glass of wine while in Italy. Red. it was smooth! Ordered a massive t-bone cooked Florentine style (medium rare!). INCREDIBLE. Whole restaurant sang me happy birthday! Waiter brought out tiramisu on the house. Delicious. Such a great experience!
So blessed to enjoy another birthday. So blessed to enjoy it in such a beautiful country in such a beautiful way. I am BLESSED. God is worthy to be praised!
Got a short, early morning run in before our departure. Run was great, scenery was better!
Boarded the first of our 3 trains for Florence!
Arrived at our place in Florence at about 1. 3 Floors up. Luggage. No elevators. No joke!
Ate a late lunch. I had Fettuccine Alfredo and a Magherita Pizza. Rebekah had Eggplant Parmesan. (It was great, but after eating this meal I vowed to NOT eat pasta or pizza tomorrow!)
Had a call with my publisher about the cover design for Only God! Can’t believe my book is actually going to be a reality!
I didn’t eat dinner. Rebekah ate some Nissin Korean noodles we found at a little Asian market!
Went to sleep early.
Started early with the goal to visit all five of the seaside villages in Cinque Terre.
Hopped on the train and went first to Vernazza. This village was Cinque Terre’s most highly recommended, but I didn’t quite understand why. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful, but each of the other villages had their own unique charm as well!
We then boarded the train again for the most northern village—Monterosso. This is the village most known for its beach and it was packed! On a whim, we decided to rent a paddle boat. It was a great idea! It got us away from the crowds and out on the sea. i went for a swim and it was refreshing!
Had lunch. Pizza and pasta of course!
Then, we boarded the train for Riomaggiore. We spent the least amount of time in this village. Had to hike a bit to get the picture taken above.
The final village we visited was Campiglia. This is the only village in Cinque Terre not on the water. We unexpectedly had to climb about 30 flights of stairs to get there!
Though we didn’t end up hiking any of the trails, 18,000 steps and 8 miles later we did accomplish our goal of visiting all the villages!
We came home, showered, and went out for dinner. I had lasagna. Rebekah had anchovies and a seafood spaghetti.
Tomorrow morning, we head out for Tuscany. God is good!
QUICK SUMMARY THOUGHTS ON CINQUE TERRE
Food - Great. I think I’d like the food a lot more if I enjoyed seafood!
Scenery - Incredible. How are the buildings staying up on the side of the mountains?!
Vibe - Beachy. It’s all about enjoying the water here!
Locals - No comment. Didn’t deal with enough of them to know.
Overall - Glad. Glad we decide to come here. Glad we decided to visit all five villages. Glad we only decided to stay here two nights!
Woke up early to catch the first of three trains to Cinque Terre.
Made a stop at the Moleskin store at the train station in Venice. Fun fact: I love Moleskin products!
After roughly 6 hours on trains we arrived in Manarola.
Settled into our place. Went to dinner. I had pesto pasta. (It was good. Very rich in flavor.) Rebekah had fish.
Took in some beautiful views at sunset.
Did our best to get to bed as early as we could (sleep schedule is still a bit off) for the full day ahead!
Woke up embarrassingly late into the day - 2pm!
Sat along the Grand Canal for awhile and continued reading The Knowledge.
Ate a late, late lunch. I had gnocchi. Rebekah had a salad.
Then I had my first Italian gelato. Strawberry and Raspberry. Delicious.
Came back home and slept some more.
Left for dinner around 8. Bought tickets for boat ride that we will need to take in the morning to get to the train station for our trip to Cinque Terre.
Rebekah had pasta. I ordered a Cesar Salad. It was…disgusting. Hated to do it, but had to ask to have it taken back. (Didn’t the Cesar Salad originate in Italy?! Just googled it…it originated in Mexico! No wonder Venice couldn’t get it right!)
Didn’t end up eating dinner. Honestly, I have a bit of pasta/pizza fatigue at this point. (I need to suck it up though. We’re in Italy for another 20 days!)
Went on one last long walk through the city. Absolutely beautiful night.
Came back home. Finished reading The Knowledge. Caught up with these blog posts. About to pack. Can’t wait for the next leg of our journey!
QUICK SUMMARY THOUGHTS ON VENICE
Food - Decent. We both found ourselves a bit unimpressed.
Scenery - Beautiful. Everywhere you turn, another perfect IG picture awaits!
Vibe - Busy. The streets are all pretty crowded all throughout the day.
Locals - Accommodating. So thankful so many of them spoke English!
Overall - Satisfied. A great start to our trip!
Finished my morning run by by 9a.
Brought back ham and cheese croissant sandwiches for breakfast.
Rebekah and I read and talked about Psalm 1 together. (Planning to read through the Psalms together on most mornings during this trip and beyond. I have to do a better job of leading us to have times like this together!)
Had my first spaghetti in Italy for lunch! Rebekah had some fried seafood over polenta. We then walked by a place that had Chinese dumplings. I couldn’t resist. They were decent. (What was I really expecting?!)
Went to Gucci. Still considering. Haven’t pulled the trigger on anything yet!
Went on a gondola ride. I agree with a statement I heard on a documentary about Venice, “The best views in Venice are from the water.”
Came back home. Rested.
Stepped out at well past midnight for dinner. Went to a 24/7 pizza/pasta joint. I had tortellini with red sauce. Rebekah had some sort of other pasta with white. We also had our first cannoli. It wasn’t very good.
It started pouring rain. We had no jackets and were wearing sandals! In order to stall, I ordered a slice of pizza. By the time I was finished it was still pouring. We were nearly a mile away from our place! We had to go for it. Using Google maps while traveling through the maze that is the streets of Venice is quite a challenge in the pouring rain. The picture above shows how happy Rebekah was about the experience. Me on the other hand am thankful for a memory we will never forget!
Got home, showered, and didn’t go to bed until the sun rose because I finished The Authentic Swing by one of my favorite authors Steven Pressfield and started another book of his entitled, The Knowledge. He is an incredible writer!
Went for a run at about 9:30a.
Brought some pastries back for us for breakfast.
Had my first pizza in Italy for lunch! (Went with the Diavola - Closest thing to pepperoni you will find. It is a spicy Italian salami.)
Shopping. Shopping. Shopping. Couple fun facts. 1. Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci are significantly cheaper than in the US because many of the items are made in Italy and other parts of Europe. 2. When flying back to the US you get a 12.5% cash rebate on any purchases made exceeding 150 Euros. All of this to say, we are very likely coming back from this trip with a couple of luxury goods!
Went back to our place to rest up for a bit.
Went out again in the evening and crossed the Ponte degli Scalzi for the first time. It is one of the four bridges crossing the Grand Canal and the second most famous after the Rialto.
Then, we had McDonald’s for dinner. Don’t judge us!
After a 9ish hour flight from New Jersey we arrived at the Venice Airport at about 10a.
Boarded a boat and was at our Air BnB by about 12p. Our host was so kind to pick us up from the dock and walk us to our place.
Slept till 6p. We were exhausted.
Woke up and went to dinner. Bek had pasta with squid ink. I stayed on the safe side and went with lasagna. It was delicious. Had to pay for bottled water. No tap water available.
Went for a walk over the Rialto Bridge. Views are stunning.
Rough first night sleeping. Woke up in the middle of the night several times. Jet lag is real.
Over the next several months, I will be focusing a majority of my writing energies editing Only God - a book that I have the privilege of having published by Lucid Books in the Fall of 2019.
To receive updates, preview chapters, free bonuses, and free resources prior to the launch of the book, visit onlygodbook.com.
Thanks in advance for your support!
For the last two and a half years, I have worked (and prayed!) really hard for two things to become embedded into the culture of THEMOVEMENT.CHURCH:
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to see the fruit of my labor (and the labor of the team I serve alongside), in a very striking way.
I preached at a College/Career Winter Camp for a church in Vallejo. Over the course of 4 sessions, I was blessed to be able to share about 4 characteristics of the early church.
Though, all of the sessions were helpful (at least that’s what I was told!), I was most proud of how the sessions on 1-1 discipleship and corporate prayer landed on the group’s heart.
After my message on reproducible discipleship, I was able to do a workshop on how we do 1-1 discipleship at our church. My wife and three others were able to share testimonies of how being in 1-1 discipleship relationships have positively impacted their relationship with Christ.
After we were finished, many of the campers approached their leaders about discipling them after the camp was concluded. Many of the leaders also approached campers about discipling them as well.
I am so thankful that two and a half years of work was able to result in me being able to pass on a way to 1-1 discipleship that is simple and reproducible. I’m so thankful that my time invested in the camp can go beyond my sermons and continue on in the form of discipleship relationships!
But that wasn’t all. My second session was on corporate prayer. After I concluded, we circled up to practice corporate prayer. In just a few minutes the students were able to experience for themselves how “doable” and impactful corporate prayer could be.
I received a lot of feedback on how the group wanted to take corporate prayer back to their church when the camp was over! Praise God.
Then, to cap off the three-day weekend, I returned home to attend our corporate prayer gathering on Monday night.
It was incredible.
The level of faith, desperation, hope, trust, humility, unity, and intimacy that was present in the room was other worldly! There was a palpable sense of the presence of God. There was a palpable sense of the pleasure of God for what we were doing.
Though our church is currently in a corporate fast, I’m convinced many (if not all) of us left our corporate prayer gathering full.
The work is paying off. The prayer is paying off. God is honoring how we are attempting to honor Him. God is using the healthy things in our church to be an inspiration to other churches. God is growing our commitment to and understanding of corporate prayer.
A revival is happening in our hearts. A revival is happening in our church.
I am so thankful.
To God be the glory.
Can there be such a thing?
So much joy and happiness that it actually “tires” you? So much of God’s favor that you’re overwhelmed? So much blessing that you actually want it to slow down a bit so you can savor it?
Though this may sound absolutely ridiculous (or for those of you who may not be going through the most joyous season of your life, it may even be offensive), for the last 4 months of 2018 and entering into 2019 this has been my reality!
In this post I want to write about some of the moments that contributed to this “joy fatigue,” not to brag or to boast, but to glorify God for His overwhelming goodness and grace in my life.
I also write down these moments so I can look back and remember all that God has done.
This season of “joy fatigue” actually started with one of the most unexpected, painful, personal experiences I’ve ever gone through. On September 11, while in Portland for work, I had to go to the ER for an excruciating pain in my right eye. It turned out to be a pseudomonas infection which to this day has clouded the vision in my right eye and will require a cornea replacement surgery!
On Sunday, September 16, our church celebrated our 5-Year Anniversary. Though I was unable to preach at the service because of the pain I was experiencing, we heard a testimony from the principal of the school our church meets at thanking us for our service to the school, we ordained a new pastor, we heard a testimony of reconciliation and healing from a couple who had experienced infidelity in their marriage, and one of the pastors I have been mentoring over the last several years preached a phenomenal message.
The week following our anniversary service, I preached a 4-day Middle School/High School Retreat. In spite of my pain, God carried me through, and I received a very generous honorarium.
I officiated a wedding for a couple in our church in Granite Bay.
I fellowshipped with some pastors at Pebble Beach where I was affirmed, encouraged, and prayed for.
I was blessed to enjoy a week with my family in Lake Tahoe. My eye was still hurting pretty bad, but the time with my family was refreshing.
A bill our church owed to the school district was miraculously reduced by close to $20,000!
The medications I was on began to reduce the pain in my eye dramatically.
I was privileged to preach at the church of another church planter in the Bay Area.
I officiated another wedding for a couple at our church in Burbank.
I was given the opportunity to kick-off the Acts 29 West Lead Pastor’s Retreat with a message around Increasing Our Affections for God. Pastor Ryan Kwon gave me an introduction that blessed me deeply. I was also able to have lunch with him and receive some much needed mentoring. I was deeply affirmed in my calling and gifting during this retreat.
I also was able to see my wife shine as the Event Coordinator for this event. Very few things give me as deep of a joy as seeing my wife flourish in her work!
God blessed my wife and I with a new couple in our church who I see becoming very close friends with.
We had a very life-giving Thanksgiving Weekend with my childhood friend and his family.
We had our highest internal giving month ever and an unexpected contribution of $20,000!
I led our staff through an off-site where I discerned the greatest level of unity, love, and commitment that we have ever experienced as a team.
I preached a teaching series on what the Bible has to say about money that God used to bring in over $48,000 in giving above and beyond our regular tithes and offerings! We distributed $14,500 of the giving to needs in our church, and we gave the school we meet at a $12,000 check to bless them!
The engagement and types of prayers that were being prayed in our Monday night corporate prayer gatherings was off the charts!
Enjoyed a very special Christmas service together as a church family.
Enjoyed Christmas with my wife in Texas. Discovered the patty melt at Whataburger! Enjoyed watching my dog swim at the dog park. Ate so much good food!
Finished the manuscript for my very first book (Only God.) and sent it to a publisher!
Have received very kind, unexpected, endorsements for book from people I deeply admire and respect.
Was invited to facilitate a goal-setting workshop for a business team. (Hadn’t done that in a while!)
Found out a pastor at another church is using the content from our December teaching series on money to teach his congregation about money.
Discovered that the first person to give his life to the Lord through our ministry, over five years ago, is discerning a call to go into full-time vocational ministry!
Was invited by another pastor in East Oakland to encourage his congregation.
Seeing the “worship temperature” in our Sunday services increase dramatically.
Seeing my joy and passion for teaching the Bible accurately increase dramatically.
Had an incredible membership meeting where new members were added, a new pastor was affirmed by our membership, and the level of unity and love in our membership was strongly experienced!
Seeing breakthrough in relationships amongst leaders in our church.
Found out the publisher wants to work with me to publish my book!
Seeing very high engagement and excitement around our 21-day corporate fast.
God’s goodness is so overwhelming!
And it doesn’t look like He is going to stop pouring out His love and favor on my life and my ministry anytime soon.
So what is the lesson to be learned?
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Since returning from my summer sabbatical, God has been requiring of me that I give honor to others in ways that I, if I'm being honest, am not the most comfortable with. Here are a few things I'm learning:
- Honor communicates gratitude.
- Honor attributes value.
- Honor should be extended when it is earned.
- Honor doesn't have to be earned to be extended. (Respect is earned, honor is extended.)
- Honor should be given both privately and publicly.
- Honor, when not given privately first, is disingenuous.
- Honor requires humility because it's not about you.
- Honor is a form of dying to self.
- Honor is a way you become less so someone else can become more.
- Honor shows preference for someone other than yourself.
- Honor, when reciprocated, feels great.
- Honor, when not reciprocated, feels lousy.
- Honor can't be given expecting anything in return.
- Honor strengthens the body of Christ.
- Honor honors God.
Who might God be requiring of you to honor?
Today I ran the Oaktown Half-Marathon. I had a goal to set a new personal record. My fastest half-marathon is 1:59:48, and I had ambitions of beating that today.
Unfortunately, I failed.
I ran the half-marathon in 2:05:35. Nearly 6 minutes slower than my fastest time.
Though I'm super bummed out, I am encouraged that this "failure" taught me a few important lessons that I hope can serve both you and I well in the future.
1. UNDER-TRAIN, UNDER-PERFORM.
I did 17 training runs to prepare for this race. When I ran the half-marathon in under 2 hours (in 2014), I did 42 training runs. To run faster than I've ever ran, I had to train harder than I've ever trained. Yet, I didn't.
In what areas of your life (this applies to so much more than running) are you "under-training" yet expecting to experience superior results?! Don't play yourself like I played myself! Your level of "training" will promote you or expose you!
2. YOUR BODY TALKS, LISTEN.
Though I wanted to stick as close to the 2-hour "pacer" I was running with for as long as possible, by about mile 4 I found myself needing to stop at the water stations and walk for a bit to catch my breath. Though everything in me wanted to run past the water stations so I could stay on pace, my body was telling me I needed to hydrate. My body was telling me I needed to slow my heart rate down a bit. My body was telling me, "No."
How is your body talking to you? Are you listening? Sleep more? Eat better? Drink water? Exercise? Don't ignore it. Finishing your "race" is more important than setting a "record." (Once again, this applies to so much more than running!)
3. FAILURE ISN'T FINAL.
I fell short. I didn't achieve what I set out to. But, this failure doesn't define me. This failure isn't the end of my story. I can get out there and try again. And I will!
What "failure" have you not bounced back from? What "failure" still debilitates you? Get up. Your story isn't finished until you are out of days to write it!
How are you loving when no one is looking?
How are you serving when no one is looking?
How are you working when no one is looking?
How are you spending when no one is looking?
How are you living when no one is looking?
This is what matters most. This is who you really are.
So much has been said about seizing the moment. Living in the present. Taking it one day at a time. And I'm all about it! (Who needs to carry the burden of what's going to happen in the future when the present can already be so overwhelming.)
ON THE OTHER HAND...
When it comes to influence and impact, we've heard this said before as well,
We overestimate what God can do in 1 year and we underestimate what God can do in 10.
As I look at the type of influence I want to have in people's lives, the type of influence of I want our church to have in the city, the type of disciple-making movement I'd like to see multiply...
I NEED TO THINK FARTHER OUT.
Deep impact doesn't happen over night. Systemic change doesn't take place in an instant. Trust isn't built over the course of days. Life transformation can't be rushed.
THE MOVEMENT CHURCH has been going for almost 5 years, and I feel like we're just starting to see what is possible if we keep at this thing!
So as much as what you do today is of extreme importance, the timeline you are giving yourself to experience the results you desire is equally important.
Pick an arena where you desire to have deep, real, long-lasting impact. Then, commit yourself to that work for 10 years.
Don't be perplexed by the amount of time it is going to require to build something deeply influential. Just accept it. Great things don't grow overnight.
I am grieved by how their sin stains.
I am frustrated by how their flesh won.
I am sickened by how their victims suffer.
I am devastated by how their family aches.
I am saddened by how their church struggles.
I am overwhelmed by how their actions impact.
I AM SOBERED BY HOW THEIR STORY COULD BE MINE.
I am thankful because God's love heals.
I am hopeful because God's grace restores.
I am joyful because God's purpose remains.
I am grateful because God's justice exposes.
I am prayerful because God's power overcomes.
I am cheerful because God's Church perseveres.
I AM MINDFUL BECAUSE GOD'S WARNING IS THIS:
"Take heed lest you fall."
Bless to the extent that you want to be blessed.
Honor to the degree that you want to be honored.
Support to the level that you want to be supported.
Affirm to the magnitude that you want to be affirmed.
Encourage to the depth that you want to be encouraged.
DON'T HALF-ASS IT.
The farther the "distance" you travel in loving people well, the more you resemble Jesus Christ who went as far as one could possibly go to give of Himself for the sake of others...
HEAVEN TO EARTH.
- God created me.
- God blessed me with good health and a fully functioning body.
- God gave me parents who introduced me to Jesus.
- God revealed Himself to me at a young age.
- God saved me.
- God stayed close to me even when I didn't want to be close to Him.
- God gifted me.
- God called me.
- God surrounded me with people who believed in me.
- God placed opportunities before me I could have never created.
- God filled me with His Holy Spirit.
- God delivered me from sin I could never deliver myself from.
But it's not just about what God has done that keeps me humble. It's also about what He continues to do!
- God authorizes whether or not I take another breath.
- God brings provision into my life.
- God speaks through me when I speak for Him.
- God makes it possible for me to think and act in a coherent way.
- God forgives me of my sin.
- God extends grace to me day after day after day.
- God blesses the works of my hands.
- God loves me.
- God upholds me.
There is nothing, and I mean nothing about me that is self-made.
I am God-created. I am God-ordained. I am God-sustained.
TO HIM BE EVERY OUNCE OF GLORY, HONOR, AND PRAISE THAT I AM CAPABLE OF GIVING, FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN!
- It's not easy.
- It's not attractive.
- It's not entertaining.
- It's easy to start, but difficult to continue.
- Initial interest lasts 2 months...max.
- Leadership must believe it's necessary.
- Leadership must persevere.
- Leadership must teach people how to pray.
- God does show up.
- God does answer prayers.
- God does honor the humility of those who attend.
- Sometimes, you leave the gathering feeling incredible.
- Many times, you don't.
- Answers aren't always found there.
- God always is.