Seven Tips for Weight Maintenance

With weight maintenance, there is none.

I am now in my fifth month of maintaining a significant weight loss. It’s going pretty well. There are ups and downs but so far I’ve been able to sustain.

I’ve posted weight loss tips a while back, but here are a few things that have worked for me these last 4+ months as I keep my weight at healthy levels:

1. Continue to weigh yourself every day. Or at least several times a week. Look at the forest and not the trees when you do this, but I don’t think a weekly weigh-in would be enough. At least not for me. I could see myself looking at a one-pound gain over a week and saying, “Eh, that’s an outlier.” And then repeating that for the next twenty-seven weeks.

2. Keep on tracking. Once I accepted that if I wanted to stay a healthy weight, I would have to be mindful about what I ate—for the rest of my life—things got much better. I still use MyFitnessPal faithfully. Yes, it’s a pain. So is brushing your teeth. Get over it.

That said, I do not log every last thing I eat. After a year of this, I know enough about portion sizes and nutrition info to be able to estimate a lot of things in my head. The key is finding a happy medium between writing everything down—which is boring and unsustainable, and probably unnecessary since maintainers have more calories to play with each day—and guesstimating too much, which can lead you to trick yourself into thinking a Panera orange scone is as virtuous as a pumpkin muffie, because hey, they’re sitting right next to each other in the bakery case!

3. Pretend you’re still losing weight. I have MyFitnessPal set for losing half a pound a week. This seems just about right, given that there are days I don’t keep track, and many days I go over. There’s also the mental aspect of this—yes, I celebrated when I reached my weight goal, but not too much because there’s no “arriving” with this stuff.

4. Your goal weight is your ceiling, not your average. I added this one because for me it’s an important thing that I kinda fell into. I lost my 40 pounds and hit my goal weight, and then I lost another pound or two. This means that even when my weight fluctuates, as it does each day, I don’t (usually) go above my goal. That’s a psychological benefit, for me at least. Even at my heaviest swing, I am still at my goal, and I don’t worry. Because in my house, worry can lead to anxiety, anxiety can lead to despair, and despair can lead to endless spoonfuls of marshmallow fluff. Can I get an Amen?

5. Don’t track food at all on days you work out. That’s my little reward for continuing to run and bike—well, that and feeling much better mentally and physically.

6. Be friends with food. Some people are abstainers when it comes to sweets or alcohol or whatever—they give the thing up entirely because once they start they can’t stop. I’m more of a moderator. Barring something medical going on, any fitness regimen that requires me never to eat [insert bad ingredient du jour here] isn’t going to work for me.

But whether you’re a abstainer or a moderator, you can’t see food as the enemy. Food is fuel, but it’s also a source of delight and sensual pleasure. I ate a brownie last night. And then I ate two more because they were soooooo good. And I’m super OK with that.

7. Continue to reward yourself, but make the rewards modest. When I hit my weight goal I bought a bunch of new clothes, because I had to, but also as a celebration. I have continued to buy one small thing a month. This is still a necessity as I build up a decent wardrobe, but it’s also a carrot for keeping the weight off.

I would love to hear your tips for losing weight, maintaining a healthy weight, or reaching other fitness goals you have.

Friday Link Love

And they’re off!

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Blind Runner’s Despair Turns to Joy at Paralympics — NBC

After suffering a devastating loss in the 400M, Brazilian runner Terezinha Guilhermina and her guide Guilherme Soares de Santana win the Women’s 100m at the Paralympics. Great photos there including this one:

So much to love about this. The guide had fallen in the 400 which cost them the victory, and you can see the joy here! Also love that this year, guides are also receiving medals.

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Gym-Pact — RunKeeper

I have joked about there needing to be a system that penalizes you financially for not keeping your fitness goals, and here it is, from the good people at RunKeeper!

Earn real money for making your workouts — paid for by those who missed theirs! With cash on the line, you’ll find it easier than ever to get to the gym and see real results.

Somebody try it and let me know how it goes. Although, so far I have been able to keep myself motivated because of…

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The Benefits of Middle Age Fitness — New York Times

What [researchers] found was that those adults who had been the least fit at the time of their middle-age checkup also were the most likely to have developed any of eight serious or chronic conditions early in the aging process. These include heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and colon or lung cancer.

The adults who’d been the most fit in their 40s and 50s often developed many of the same conditions, but notably their maladies appeared significantly later in life than for the less fit. Typically, the most aerobically fit people lived with chronic illnesses in the final five years of their lives, instead of the final 10, 15 or even 20 years.

There’s some insightful discussion in the comments about whether the study says what it claims to say. An example:

What if those middle-fit people had been fit their whole lives and it was their youthful fitness that gave them the real benefit?

I’m going to keep being fit, just in case the article is right, and because nobody has invented a time machine yet. And also because I feel much, much better in every measurable way.

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The Invisible Bicycle Helmet — Vimeo

Got this video about these two inventors from Brene Brown, who said, “I love these women’s daring!” Yes indeed.

The Invisible Bicycle Helmet | Fredrik Gertten from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

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The Pleasure Of… — Vimeo

Already shared this early in the week but it bears repeating. It will make you feel good. What pleasures would you add?

The pleasure of from Vitùc on Vimeo.

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On Christian Platitudes — Captain Sacrament

During the FB discussion about “God has a plan” (which helped inform this) a friend shared this blog post. I appreciate this critique from someone within the church:

It may not be immediately obvious, but when people offer these phases, these stock answers, it sends a clear and demoralizing message: “I don’t take your struggles seriously, and I’m not prepared to muster the theological depth to share them with you.”

This might be a harsh assessment, but this is a great problem, and worthy of such consideration. If you use these Christian platitudes, these unholy clichés in your care for your brothers and sisters, I urge you to carefully consider dropping them. If you find your friends using them on you, forgive them, then challenge them. Muster some courage and tell them you find those words to be theologically empty and pastorally cold. It’s the only way we’re going to grow and learn to struggle together.

I think there can be another, more benign message in these platitudes: I love you so much, and am so hurt that you are hurting, that I will seek to reduce the hurt any way I can. It’s just that platitudes aren’t effective in reducing the hurt and in fact can make things worse.

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A Chronological New Testament — Marcus Borg

Not really new stuff here, but it’s good to be reminded (and help people who didn’t go to seminary to understand) that the New Testament we have is organized by genre rather than chronologically. And Paul’s letters were written earliest, before the gospels.

Seeing and reading the New Testament in chronological sequence matters for historical reasons. It illuminates Christian origins. Much becomes apparent:

  • Beginning with seven of Paul’s letters illustrates that there were vibrant Christian communities spread throughout the Roman Empire before there were written Gospels. His letters provide a “window” into the life of very early Christian communities.
  • Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel — the good news — of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus’ historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance in their historical context.

More at the link.

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Prayer for the Nation — Jena Nardella

The benediction from night 1 of the Democratic National Convention. This has been shared widely but it’s here in case you missed it. Excerpt:

Give us, oh Lord, humility to listen to our sisters and brothers across the political spectrum, because your kingdom is not divided into Red States and Blue States. Equip us with moral imagination to have real discourse. Knit us, oh God, as one country even as we wrestle over the complexity of how we ought to live and govern. Give us gratitude for our right to dissent and disagree. For we know that we are bound up in one another and have been given the tremendous opportunity to extend humanity and grace when others voice their deeply held convictions even when they differ from our own.

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And my last link is especially for you church folk…

A Growing Church is a Dying Church — Street Pastor

So much to love here.

Whenever a congregation goes looking for a new pastor, the first question on their minds when the committee interviews a new candidate is: Will this pastor grow our church?

I’m going to go ahead and answer that question right now: No, she will not.

No amount of pastoral eloquence, organization, insightfulness, amicability, or charisma will take your congregation back to back to its glory days.

Read the whole thing.

 

Top Weight Loss Tips

People often ask me how I went about losing weight over these last several months. I feel very sheepish because I don’t have a good answer, and the stuff I do is in no way original. It’s a very unromantic combination of diet and exercise. No meal replacement. No expensive powders or weird smoothies. Just eating good food in the right proportions and running or walking 4-5 times a week.

That said, here are some tips that have been most useful for me.

  • Log everything you eat. I use MyFitnessPal, which tracks food and exercise. I’ve also heard good things about LoseIt. The bar code scanner makes it fun. Over time I’ve gotten less anal about logging absolutely everything, but that’s because I’ve got an intuitive sense of where I am. Is that a pain? Yes. Are there days I get sick of logging everything? Absolutely. Would I rather deal with the hassle of logging than backsliding? Yes.
  • Weigh yourself every day. Studies show that regular feedback is key to achieving goals. I think the conventional wisdom used to be a weekly weigh-in, but that’s not enough input to keep me going. That said, expect ups and downs. Look at the forest, not the trees. But look everyday.
  • Invest in a kitchen scale and measuring cups. Portion size is everything. It’s amazing how much I can fudge my portions if I try to eyeball it.
  • Be around people who will support, not sabotage.
  • This is a lifestyle, not a short-term goal. Which means I eat delicious things that are “bad” for me, and I do it with some regularity. My friend Jay, who’s done a great job with weight loss, put it well: “Be sensible more often than not and you’ll go in the right direction.”
  • Then again, I’m a moderator, not an abstainer. Figure out which one you are and be that.
  • Another tip from Jay: when you’re at a restaurant and are starting to pick at your meal after you’re full, sprinkle water from your water glass all over the food. Weird but it works. I’ve done similar things, including (gasp!) throwing away the rest of something that just needed to be out of my house and my life. (See: leftover tubs of frosting after a kid’s birthday.) Sorry, starving children of the world.
  • Dessert, alcoholic beverage, or a day off from exercise: pick two on any given day. You’ll likely stay in range, but you can still enjoy life and be flexible to the needs and desires of the moment.

Do you have any tips you use? Share in the comments.

Image comes from this post, which I featured recently on Link Love

Friday Link Love

Away we go:

Man Barely Able to Stand Does the Unthinkable — YouTube

I would like to know more specifics about how the yoga teacher helped him, but yes. Amazing.

h/t: Teri Peterson

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Gets Sidetracked While Singing Children’s Songs — McSweeney’s

They get his gee-whiz pegagogical voice just right:

Actually, some might call the wheels on the bus a “discovery” more than an invention, as most things in this world are a discovery of invention, rather than a fabrication out of nothing. This brings up something I want to discuss briefly here, if you will allow, because I think the misconception that a lot of people have, uh, concerning, concerning SCIENTISTS. Oooo, “Scientists.” That word. Strikes fear into the heart of some, and amazement into the heart of, well, me. And probably you, since you are here today in this planetarium, listening to me go on and on about my love for this… hang on a sec, let me… okay, so, we often find people BLAMING scientists for, for, for, these discoveries and inventions… being misused or being funded for misuse. We must remember that the discovery itself is not moral or immoral, it is the application of said discovery that is required to be held to that standard. Also, how cool are wheels on busses, right? And circles, in general. The fact that you can take a circle and divide it by its radius and you get pi, everytime, is astounding to me. Gives me chills every time.

More at the link. And for those keeping score, this is the second week in a row that I’ve featured NdGT on Friday Link Love. Why? Because he’s kind of a big deal.

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The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen — That Organic Girl

This post offers a list of foods that are most important to buy organic (if possible) and a list of foods for which organic isn’t that critical.

I’m a pretty half-***ed consumer when it comes to organic goods—I basically get what’s available and what my kids are likely to eat. (Caroline just informed me that she no longer likes the big three: apples, oranges, or bananas. C’mon, WORK WITH ME KID.)

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Speaking of food,

The Anti-Diet — The Londoner

As I wrote on my Pinterest boards, “Best overview I’ve read on how to lose weight without dieting. Covers exercise, emotionally based eating, sustaining a discipline, the importance of enjoying food… I don’t know about the cravings piece (e.g. if you crave carbonated drinks you need more calcium) but it’s interesting.”

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Traditional Marriage: One Man, Many Women, Some Girls, Some Slaves — Religion Dispatches

Just so we’re clear:

Time to break out your Bible, Mr. Perkins! Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.)

But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants. Now that’s traditional marriage!

More. Much more.

Last week a conservative member of my denomination told NPR, “From the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament, the only sexual relationships that are affirmed in scripture are those in the context of marriage between one man and one woman.” To quote my friend Michael: biblical scholarship FAIL.

You want to be against gay marriage? You can do that. But the Bible doesn’t help you as much as you think it does.

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And just for fun, and to fill my quota on posts from Colossal:

Gale-Force Winds Directly to the Face — Colossal

So very entertaining and bizarre. It’s exactly what it sounds like:

Have a great weekend, all.

Breaking in Interesting Ways

Katherine Willis Pershey is hosting Any “May” a Beautiful Change, a blog carnival to celebrate the launch of Any Day a Beautiful Change through Chalice Press, which is also my publisher for Sabbath in the Suburbs.

This month, Katherine’s friends and colleagues are writing about a beautiful change they have experienced. Here is mine:

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Just so we’re clear: that’s not me.

My friend Keith Snyder, a music geek, recently tweeted a line from Brian Eno: “Analog synthesizers break in interesting ways. Digital synthesizers just break.”

Keith has made that line into a prayer:

May I continue to break in interesting ways.

That may be a strange place to start talking about a beautiful change, but stick with me.

I hit two personal milestones recently. First, I ran a 10K race. That was big for me. Until a year ago I had never run for more than a few minutes at a time. Ever. I was the smart one, you see, and the musical one, but never the athletic one. My body was the thing that carried my brain around. Aside from the occasional mountain hike while on vacation, and an intermittent practice of walking to stay in basic shape, I was a sedentary type.

But at 40, with a father who dropped dead from cardiac stuff at age 56, getting in better shape felt non-negotiable—the reasonable thing to do from an actuarial standpoint. That’s how the running started. Of course, it’s become something deeper than that.

Before I ran the 10K (6.2 miles for the metrically challenged), I’d never run farther than 5 miles in training. When I reached mile 5 at the race, I thought, This is as far as I’ve ever gone. Beyond this point, it’s all new. That’s a wonderful thing.

Indeed, my whole life feels that way in this, my fifth decade. I’m not a rookie in ministry anymore; I’m not the mother of little ones anymore; as of this fall I will be a published writer. Lauren Winner talks in her latest book about reinventing oneself every ten years. That’s happening, through my own volition and beyond it.

Among other things, running for me means embracing a blessed mediocrity. I’m not a fast runner; Robert has described my gait as “a bit loping.” I’ve never experienced a runner’s high. I like races because the crowd and the music provide a boost that my body chemistry seems unwilling to muster. I love the feeling of having run, but running itself is frequently a chore. At last month’s race, I was second to last in my age group, and way down in the bottom third overall.

Yet I do it. And there’s something liberating about doing something badly by most objective standards. I’m a perfectionist, you know. I like setting a goal and reaching for the top, and if I’m not good at something, eh…easy come, easy go. With so many luscious possibilities in this life, more than I could ever undertake, such a standard may not be the best way to discern what’s mine to do, but it’s what works.

Or has worked in the past. Something in me had to “break in an interesting way” for me to start running—to do this thing that’s never been part of my self-understanding. Something shattered in my brittle, do-it-well-or-don’t-do-it exoskeleton.

And thank heaven it did. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been, in more ways than one.

I now ask myself: What else could I do badly for the sheer satisfaction of it?

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The second health-related milestone happened a few days ago. I hit my weight-loss goal of 40 pounds.

I’m no numerologist, but there is significance in the numbers. James weighs about 40 pounds, so every time I pick up his stocky four-year-old frame I think to myself, This is the weight I carried around all the time nine months ago. It seems fitting somehow: in another year, James will be in kindergarten. There are no babies or toddlers in my house anymore. It feels right that as I move into another phase as a mother, my body would look different.

Also, it took me nine months to lose the weight. Is it an exaggeration to say that a new person has been born? Perhaps. But as with the running, something in me had to break in order for this change to occur. Caring for myself—I mean really caring, not punishing myself until I shrink down into some “acceptable” size—requires a certain vulnerability. I can do all the right things, as many people do, but there will always be aspects of our health that are beyond our control. Life is a genetic and environmental crap shoot. That’s an uncomfortable truth to face. Denial feels easier sometimes.

Another thing that had to break: a rigid expectation of what I would look like as a 40 year old with a normal BMI.

Hint: it’s not like a 20 year old.

Don’t get me wrong, I look different than I did when I was a new mother, with all my ample post-pregnancy curves. But as I’ve left 40 pounds behind on so many jogging trails and city streets, I’ve been amazed at the parts of me that haven’t been magically transformed. There is still…a thickness. A settledness. This body will never be that of a college student. Or a newlywed. Or a non-mother. As that great philosopher Indiana Jones says, “It’s not the years…it’s the mileage.”

And I’m grateful for every one of those miles.

That’s the beautiful change.

On (Not) Being a Runner

This is a re-post from several months ago on the RunRevRun website. It’s been on my mind lately, because my thinking is shifting on this topic. Being and doing, doing and being…

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I began the Couch to 5K program a few months ago. I wasn’t exactly starting from “couch”—I’ve been doing brisk walking several times a week for more than a year—and my fitness goal is not really to run a 5K, but to hike Mount Washington in New Hampshire this summer. I’ve hiked big mountains before, in various states of fitness, but it’s so much more enjoyable when you’re not wheezing your way up and stopping every ten yards to massage your charley horses. And since there’s no “couch to Mt. Washington” program, Couch to 5K is getting the job done.

Although I started this program to get myself up the mountain, I can see myself continuing it indefinitely, maybe even graduating to the 10k version. I’ve been an evangelist for this program on Twitter, Facebook and in real life. I’m grateful for the impact it’s had on my health and want to share it, but there’s also a selfish motive: I’m telling people far and wide to keep me accountable to continue. Along the way I have been very insistent with folks: “I run, but I’m not a runner.” This has been an oft-repeated refrain:

Oh, MaryAnn’s a runner now.
Actually, no I’m not.
But aren’t you in this running program?
Yes. But I’m not a runner.

What’s that about?

Why am I so reluctant to call myself a runner?

First off, I wonder what it means to be a runner. What exactly is a runner? Isn’t it simply “one who runs”? I think I have an image in my mind of a perfectly toned body, or a person obsessed with getting the right shoes, entering races, and reading Runner’s World, a magazine I wouldn’t even know existed were it not for the cover photo of Sarah Palin that emerged during the 2008 presidential election. I’m not really interested in running as a hobby. But is that really what it means to be a runner? Or is that just stereotypical stuff that’s not real?

Maybe I feel like I haven’t been doing it long enough to claim the identity of runner. I’m OK with the verb form—I run—but not with the noun—runner.

Am I giving myself an easy out by being Not a Runner? We are stuck with so many identities that we can’t shed in this life. I will be the daughter of my parents and the mother of my children forever. Maybe I resist calling myself a runner because I need to be free to have something in my life that I can quit without angst. Or that I can do badly. Intermittently.

Maybe I’m reluctant to call myself a runner because I’m playing old tapes about myself that aren’t helpful anymore. I was the slow kid on the softball team, the one the coach (my dad) would position at second base. It was a good fit for me because I had decent eye-hand coordination but couldn’t run very long without tiring. The best hit of my life would’ve been a home run with anyone else rounding the bases, but instead I was tagged out at home. By my best friend.

So, no. Not a runner.

My teams in school were theater/speech and Academic Decathlon.

But maybe that kind of baggage isn’t healthy. Over the last nine weeks I’ve been getting faster (slightly) and stronger (definitely). My endurance is increasing. Our bodies are for much more than brain housing and transport. Our bodies are built to dance, kneel, eat, love. Some of our bodies are built to grow other bodies and to push them out into the world. I get that in ways I didn’t understand when I was a kid.

As a pastor, I wonder about all this. I sometimes meet people who want to find a new term for “Christian.” They feel that the “brand” is fundamentally corrupted by people they see as judgmental, rancorous, loudmouthed. I’m not sure I agree that the word is irredeemable, but I sympathize with their struggle to find a label that fits.

I also know plenty of people who don’t identify themselves as Christian but whose behavior sure looks Christ-like to me. And I know Christians who are Christians in name only. I like it when people say they are seeking to follow in the way of Jesus. I can relate; it sounds like “I run but I’m not a runner.” And yet, belonging to Christ isn’t just what we do. It’s who we are; it is an identity.

I don’t know where all of these questions will lead me. Maybe someday I will consider myself a runner. Maybe I will continue to run and never take on that label. Maybe I will stop running and move on to some other physical activity. I expect that whatever I do, it will be in that strange space where action and identity intersect, where doing and being reside together.

Meanwhile, I pound the pavement.

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Image: Map of the 10K I ran last weekend. Funny, it looks a lot flatter on paper.

Ten on Tuesday: Updates, Tips and Miscellany

It’s all a rich lather of lateral thought here at the Blue Room today. I’m actually not sure there are 10 items here, but I like the alliteration… plus it’s a shoutout to my friend Katherine, whose book comes out soon. Have you pre-ordered?

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I’m over at Fidelia’s Sisters today, which has a spiffy new look. Check it out.

I also had a good initial conversation last week with a member of the planning team for the Young Clergy Women’s conference, Sabbath in the City. If you’re a YCW or know someone who is, mark your calendars — we’re going to have a great time in Chicago, July 30 – August 2.

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Let me be an encouragement to anyone facing a weight-loss plateau. You can get through it. After losing the same pound three times, I finally broke through. I’ve got less than five pounds until I reach my goal of 40 pounds, normal BMI. Then it’s M&M’s from here on out.

Maintenance and Muscle. Wait, what did YOU think I meant?

Here’s a little something I whipped up the other day. We had some leftover spaghetti I’d made with a little olive oil and garlic. I put a serving in a microwavable bowl. Then I added a dollop of Boursin cheese. Nuke and stir and presto! A reasonable facsimile of fettucine alfredo.

Oh, and Carb Police? Just keep on walking. Disperse. There is nothing to see here.

OK OK, as penance for that glycemic abomination, here are eight foods you should eat every day.

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Something very strange is happening at Tiny Church. These random people we don’t know keep showing up. On Sunday we had 6 visitors, which in a worshiping community of 50 is disruptively delightful. Three of them have been very regular for several weeks; three were brand new.

I can’t account for the sudden influx. We don’t advertise. These visitors are not friends of church members who invited them. We’re not the kind of bells-and-whistles church that most people are looking for. Our banner stand out front has been empty the last several weeks.

But it’s a great time for people to be visiting. After 2 1/2 years as pastor of Tiny, things are clicking, you know? It’s just that all the clicking has been internal and under the radar. They would have no way of knowing from the outside what’s going on inside.

Whatever is happening, it’s a holy mystery that makes the people of Tiny Church very, very excited. And their pastor too.

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My love for Evernote is deep and abiding. Hey, they almost made it into the acknowledgements of my book. But have I mentioned the beauty that is Evernote Clearly? Clearly isolates articles on webpages and filters out all the clutter, ads, and sidebar junk, so you can read the article on a nice clean page. (This is great for those of you who are easily distrac– SQUIRREL!)

So instead of reading this tiny cramped mess:

You can read this:

I also found a new use for Evernote. You know those Entertainment books that kids are always peddling for school fundraisers? We bought one from our girls, but there are very few coupons in there for stuff we use. Consequently, I forget about it and end up not using any of them. Instead, I tore out the coupons we are likely to use and created an note in Evernote that lists these coupons. So if we’re on our way to a restaurant or a water park, I can just check the list to see what we have.

And while we’re doing product endorsements: Clinique Black Honey Almost Lipstick. Where have you been all my life?

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I’ve gotten a lot of questions from friends and family, asking me what my next book will be. My first reaction is to be touched by their kindness to suggest that after Sabbath in the Suburbs comes out, that people will actually want to read more from me. But the answer is no, I have no idea what I will write about next. Any suggestions?