“What is the BEST spaghetti sauce?” & other musings about growing in our relationship with God…

Over the next couple of weeks, our church is offering a series of “Marriage Refreshers” with the theme, “GROWING TOGETHER IN…” So far we’ve talked about GROWING TOGETHER IN communication & intimacy. Tonight, (10/13) we’re looking at GROWING TOGETHER IN our relationship with God. This past week at church, I promo-ed the topic; afterwards, someone asked me: “So, what is the best way that my spouse & I can grow together in our relationship with God?” I answered him, tongue-in-cheek: “That’s the wrong question.” And then I explained.

While I was going through my Masters program (the MASL at LIFE Pacific,) I was exposed to TED talks for the 1st time. What an incredible resource – delivered in 20 minutes or less every time. Here’s how it came about: during one of the lectures, our professor asked the question: “What is the BEST way to make a disciple of Jesus Christ?”

And then, he promptly answered himself, saying: “THAT is the wrong question. Find the RIGHT one.” As a part of our homework we were tasked with watching Malcolm Gladwell’s TED talk, with the idea that it would help us, in essence, to do exactly that. (That TED talk can be seen HERE. It’s definitely worth the watch.)

In it, Gladwell tells the story of how a spaghetti sauce manufacturer (it was Prego,)  hired a renowned researcher to answer the question: “What is the BEST spaghetti sauce?” After a couple of weeks, their researcher came back & told them: “You’re asking the wrong question… but I think I know the right one: It’s ‘What ARE the BEST spaghetti sauceS?'” The answers his question had garnered were numerous – & far from definitive in determining which 1 sauce reigned supreme. In fact, he found that the sauce 35% of America craved more than any other sauce wasn’t even on the market… (It was the thick & chunky spaghetti sauce, in case you’re wondering.) So Prego took their research & decided to develop several of the best, most craved spaghetti sauceS they could – & in response, their business boomed. When they stopped trying to find the ONE best sauce & instead brought forth SEVERAL of the best sauces, they found they could reach a much broader & more diverse cross-section of the population. (NOTE: Today, Prego has more than 35 sauces available…)

Which brings us back to the original question, albeit modified: “What ARE the best wayS that my spouse & I can grow together in our relationship with God?” And my answer (which is far from all-encompassing,) is, it depends. And, there are probably several ways you’ll find that are very helpful in growing together, in God. Some of the factors affecting how we (individually & as a couple,) learn, grow, & best experience God are:

  • Our personality type. Are you more introverted or extroverted? Sensing or intuitive? Thinking or feeling? Judging or perceiving? And what combinations of the above? (you can take a free, online “type” test HERE)
  • Our learning style. Are we visual (pictures & images)? Aural (sound/music)? Verbal (words/speech/writing)? Physical (hands on/kinesthetic/touch)? Logical (logic/reasoning/systems)? Social (in groups/with others)? Solitary (alone/self-study)? You can find out more about learning styles HERE.)
  • Our primary way(s) of experiencing connection with God. Are we:
    • Naturalists – moved by creation/time outdoors
    • Sensates – experiencers of God with the 5 senses, sights, sounds, smells
    • Traditionalists – find great meaning in ritual, symbols, sacraments, celebration of the ancient practices of our faith (e.g. the Daily Office, Lectio Divina, etc..)
    • Ascetics – don’t need ‘stuff’ – find meaning in solitude, simplicity, & a quiet internal world.
    • Activists – experiencers of God through confrontation of injustice (think Isaiah 58)
    • Caregivers – lovers of God displayed through caring for & loving others.
    • Enthusiasts – experiencers of the mystery & celebration of faith, (think: cheerleaders for Christ & Christ-following.)
    • Contemplatives – experiencers of God through adoration & “being” (think” Mary of Bethany sitting at Jesus’ feet.)
    • Intellectuals – experiencers of God through study, worshiping with the mind through exploring theology, the Bible, & faith concepts.

In a nutshell – for a couple to grow together, in God, both parties will be pursuing their own relationship with God, taking faith steps, spending time with Him in a variety of ways & places. And both parties will also be engaging in their lives together with God as the context in which they do so… relationships are built when we share time & space, with a common focus. So going to church together; having ‘spiritual’ conversations about each one’s own interactions, experiences, questions, & wonderings; participating in a “marriage refresher” & then intentionally taking time to talk through personal & “as a couple” applications, goals, & growth points; engaging with one another in our spouse’s preferred context for connecting with God; all of these are ways we can grow together, in Him. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of possibilities that await…

When both parties are pursuing God & each other – it’s a beautiful thing. And it never grows old.

Thoughts on Acts 15…

Acts 15:10,11 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Acts 15 tells of a crisis in the church… the number of believers in Christ was growing daily, & not just among Jews anymore. Now, even the Gentiles were coming to Christ! So what’s the crisis?

Certain groups among the Jewish believers couldn’t imagine God calling and saving people that weren’t circumcised. After all, circumcision was VERY significant for the Jew, as it marked the establishment of their covenant identity with God. Circumcision marked them in most intimate way as a separate, distinct, people who belonged to the LORD.

I thank God for Paul, Barnabas and the Jerusalem council; when confronted with the pressing question, “What are we going to do about this?” they reminded their Christian brothers that the gospel being preached is one of grace and justification through faith. I imagine their debate with those that were demanding circumcision, wondering out loud what other hoops to jump through could have arisen if Paul and the others had given in. Dietary restrictions? Hair and beards? Rejection of one’s culture of origin to embrace the Jewish culture?

Here we are 2000+ later, mostly Gentiles reading this, wondering what the big deal was… in hindsight its easy to point out the Old Testament scriptures where God calls for the “inner circumcision,” a circumcision of the heart. It’s silly, because we know that we’d never put stumbling blocks in front of new believers, and for sure would never add to the gospel… Would we?

Hmmm. I remember as a kid seeing people different than my family and me coming to church. I know now that they were ‘hippies” – identified by their bare feet, old Levis, t-shirts, and mostly unkempt hair and beards. They really stood out…

I remember it was a big deal when they came to Christ, gave their testimonies of deliverance and expressed earnest desire for freedom from drugs, immorality, and their desire to be clean, whole, and experience real love. I remember the discussions that took place where church leaders wrestled with the influx of new people, and wondered how we could help disciple them… One suggestion rings in my ears:

“What they really need is some different clothes and a haircut. They need to know that they’re the temple of the Holy Spirit.”


We do it too. Makes me wonder… are we adding to the “Main Thing” of the gospel? Are there “Louie-isms” that are being elevated to “gotta do’s”?

LORD, remind us that we are saved by Your grace, just as our brothers and sisters around the world are.


With apologies to John Cusack & the re-PRESSED scene from “The Sure Thing…”

I’ve been pondering this for the last couple of days –

Proverbs 11:25b …those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

It’s counter-intuitive… it’s taking our eyes & focus off our our own needs in the desire to be a blessing & a help to others… & then while doing that, receiving the very thing that we’d been needing to receive in the first place.

My pondering has led me to try to think of ways to practically live out what it means to be a “refresher of others” – that thought process starts by 1st examining the ‘opposite’ of being a refresher – a life-sucker, a weight, a burden. What’s that look like?

To me, the opposite of ‘refresher’ means being selfish… Self-focused. Insisting on getting my own way. Getting my own needs met. Using others to do so. Complaining. Being contentious. Antagonizing. Nit-picking.

Refreshing means sharing. Paying attention to others & what they’re experiencing. Being willing to listen. Gentleness. Kindness. Self-control.

And in that, God takes it on Himself to be a refresher… and who does He refresh?

Isaiah 57:15b I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts.

The humble & repentant. The one who is in need of refreshing, & looks to God to do it.

Amen. & Right on.

Man Church… it’s real.

Statistically, less men attend church than women. There are myriad reasons for this – one of them, valid for the masses or not, is that church has become too “girly” or feminine – leaving guys feeling uncomfortable, on the outside in the pursuit of faith with God through Jesus. Many claim faith, yet find that the common church experience isn’t for them.

Enter a ‘new’ concept: MAN CHURCH. Interesting – Billed as a place for men to go to church, with lots of things men like, & not the things they don’t.

Instead of a speech/sermon, there’s a short 20-25 minute “Chalk talk.”

Guys that attend are guaranteed to laugh.

Instead of a worship team with 30 minutes of music/worship, there’s a non-marching, marching band.

Free pizza. A HUG-FREE Zone, (sorry TPT – I know you’re a hugger.)


I can still hear the voice ringing in my ears…

Do you still read your Bible? How much do you read your Bible? How often? Do you have many memory verses committed to memory? Which ones? Will you recite them for me now? Do you think you’ll have more memorized next week? Are you consistent with your devotions? What time of the day/afternoon/night do you do your devotions? When you do your devotions, how long do you spend on them? Do you pray? What do you pray about? When do you pray? How much do you pray? Aarrrgggghhhh!

What do these questions have to do with faith in Christ? Are they meant to evaluate the depth & breadth of belief? Can my answers to these questions (& myriad others like them) be plugged into a formula somewhere to determine whether or not my faith is valid? How does this help to uncover a life dedicated to loving God & loving people?

What it did to me – made me believe that God’s love for me was based on the amount of time I spent in these activities… rather than on the reason I was doing them in the first place – love for God. Made me wonder if I’d done enough. And then if I’d done it right. Made me measure myself against others – & their faith (based upon their own measurements…) As though. As if. When I had difficulties, I read more. Prayed more. Devoted more. All in the hope that it would make God happy enough to answer my prayer & deliver me from… what turned out to be me. A religious person. A self-righteous person. I knew the words, & often exactly the address where they were located in the book.. but I was miserable, & there was little to no evidence of a “life in its fullness…”


Fodder for a Monday…

Taking the Pasty Gangster to school this a.m. we were doing what we always do – listen to the pontifications of Colin Cowherd on ESPN 630. A topic that comes up occasionally on his talk show is his distaste for religion, esp. as expressed by tele-evangelists who are “just after your money” in any way they can get it… He brought up the interview that Good Morning America did with Joel Osteen, & Pasty & I prepared for a diatribe… A diatribe that didn’t come…

What did this self-described “completely unreligious” guy have to say about Osteen? He’s positive. He seems authentic. He keeps the message simple. He seems to believe it. He’s doesn’t hammer on others that don’t do it like he does. He isn’t a “religious zealot.”

Interesting to me – I know that Pastor Osteen takes a lot of heat from the “Christian world” – esp. with the statements that he is just doing “Christianity Lite” at best, “heresy” at worst.

Here’s a couple of articles that have been in the news of fairly recently…

ABC News Article on Joel Osteen… and another GMA


I’ve been reading the “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” book by Peter Scazzero (check out THIS LINK to find out more.) It posits the idea that we can’t grow as Christ-followers beyond the point to which we have matured emotionally… therefore, its possible, probable that a 40 year old person, a Christian for 20 years, could still be functioning relationally as an emotional infant, child, or adolescent. Very insightful stuff.

The excerpt I’m sharing with you is from pp. 178,179 & gives some characteristics of different stages of emotional development – read it & weep.


  • look for others to take care of them
  • have great difficulty entering into the world of others
  • Are drive by the need for instant gratification
  • Use others as objects to meet their needs

  • Are content & happy as long as they receive what they want
  • Unravel quickly from stress, disappointments, trials
  • Interpret disagreements as personal offenses
  • Are easily hurt
  • Complain, withdraw, manipulate, take revenge, beomce sarcastic when they don’t get their way
  • have great difficulty calmly discussing their needs & wants in a mature & loving way

  • Tend to often be defensive.
  • Are threatened & alarmed by criticism.
  • Keep score of what they give so they can ask for something later in return.
  • Deal w/conflict poorly, often blaming, appeasing, going to a 3rd party, pouting, or ignoring the issue entirely.
  • Become preoccupied with themselves.
  • have great difficulty truly listening to another person’s pain, disappointments, or needs.
  • Are critical & judgmental

  • Are able to ask for what they need, want, or prefer-clearly, directly, honestly
  • Recognize, manage, & take responsibility for their own thoughts & feelings
  • Can, when under stress, state their own beliefs & values without becoming adversarial
  • Respect others without having to change them.
  • Give people room to make mistrakes & not be perfect
  • Appreciate people for who they are – the good, bad, & ugly-not for what they give back.
  • accurately assess their own limits, strengths, & weaknesses & are able to freely discuss them with others.
  • Are deeply in tune with their own emotional world & able to enter into the feelings, needs, & concerns of others without losing themselves.
  • Have the capacity to resolve conflict maturely & negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others
  • Interesting, esp. as a mirror for self-examination. What rings true of me & my behavior? What am I able to see about myself? Next, I’ll take this to the Bean & ask her to honestly assess how I interact with her… & we’ll go from there…


    Just when I thought I was doing a good job at monitoring my processings of life here on this blog, I find out:
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