Legalism at the Table

4 signs you might be bringing a legalistic spirit to the table. Thoughts on food, faith, unity, angst, and guilt-free guacamole. 

11 Minute Audio

 

The Whole30

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday. Which means, depending on the endurance of your New Year’s resolutions, you either watched the game cradling a bowl of fresh fruit salad or a bowl of chips con queso. If you’re the average American, healthy habits began backsliding in the fall as you traded protein shakes for peppermint patties and kale chips for candy canes. But on January 1 you kicked off a blitz bodily detox, and resolved to reset.

One of the most popular January resets, endorsed by both crossfitters and average and Joe’s alike, is the WHOLE30: The elimination diet where you strip your plate of sugars, grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol for 30 consecutive days. If you sign up and adhere to the program protocol perfectly, then an official completion certificate will arrive in your inbox for your personal satisfaction or public social media posting purposes.

For some people, the Whole30 brings freedom from food addictions, relief from undiscovered allergies, and an increase in energy. Plus, it can even be fun with all the kitchen creativity and camaraderie. On the other hand, if a diet is approached poorly, and the spirit of the program is lost in the technicality of the rules, the result is something called “food legalism.” Interestingly, there are several similarities between legalism in food and legalism in faith.

Legalism and Definitions

In the health realm, I define a “food legalist” as someone who follows their diet perfectly, but not for the motive of things like proper nourishment, or sharing meals with good company. Following the food rules has become an end in itself.  

In Christianity, Steve Cole defines legalism as “an attempt to gain favor with God or to impress our fellow man by doing certain things (or avoiding other things), without regard to the condition of our hearts before God.” Having dabbled in both types of legalism at some point or another, I’ve made a few observations about the connection. 

 Below, are 4 signs of a legalistic spirit at the table. 

#1  Your vocabulary is sin centric

Look around any grocery store, and notice that foods, today are often described with words of moral judgment rather than flavor. If I peruse the aisles of Sprouts market, on one side, devil’s food cake tempts my taste buds with the seductive tag-line, “sinfully delicious” and hovering just over my other shoulder, the angel food cake and sinless whipped cream make a plea to my health righteousness ego. By the time I reach the chips and dips section, I face a moral dilemma of whether I prefer my bowl game guacamole guilt-free or guilt reduced. I never felt particularly guilty about guacamole before, but apparently, some foods must undergo a guilt reduction process prior to our consumption.

Food Faith Connection

Both legalists of faith and food have passion about what they’re against, although sometimes at the expense of what they’re for. Imagine asking a friend about her budding new love interest, and hearing a response like, “Oh Benjamin? He’s great! Our relationship is even cheating-free. It’s manipulation-less, and reduced-deception. Lots of work, of course, but totally worth it.”  Most likely, you were more interested in what they loved and treasured about each other, not about what they had agreed to avoid together.

A sin centric nutritional vocabulary can have a negative impact on our relationship with food, and even lead to behavioral backfiring. Operating with a legalistic spirit, you reason that if you already sinned one cookie, you might as well go all the way and sin the whole box.  Along similar lines, a sin-centric faith vocabulary, as commonly seen in legalism, can affect the way we view and approach God in relationship with him. Our behavior becomes motivated more by fear and avoidance, than love and abundance. But God is not just after us for our sin-free report cards. He’s after our hearts, and for our joy. He came to give us life and life abundantly. (John 10:10).

#2 You’re confused. A lot.

The big picture of the whole 30 is truly easy enough for a child to understand. In a nutshell, eat food you could hunt, gather, or catch. Drink black coffee instead of orange mocha frappuccino’s, and avoid processed stuff. Yet despite the inherent simplicity of the Whole30, some people approach meal planning like its Calculus BC.  

They ask questions like this:

  • Have you checked the Greek translation of the Whole30 rules? I’m pretty sure the outlaw of honey was culturally specific to the ancient Greeks and doesn’t apply to me.
  • If I get drunk with good people is my debauchery deleted?
  • What time, exactly, do I have to stop eating, at night? Am I allowed to eat bananas after 10 pm?
  • Since quinoa is technically a seed, not a grain, if I sacrifice the first of every 10 quinoa seeds to the garbage disposal does that make it a legal?
  • Do I have to come to the table every Sunday for family dinner? Or could I just go through the drive-through, alone if I still get fed?

Food Faith Connection

A healthy dosage of curiosity can be a very good thing. In honesty, I throw questions at my nutrition science friends, and church leader friends all the time! When asking these questions, though, we must also check in with our motives behind the inquiries. For example:

  • Am I listening to my body, and aiming to thrive? Or am I trying to get away with satisfying my sweet tooth cravings, while still staying skinny and impressing my friends with my whole30 compliance?
  • Am listening to the Holy Spirit and seeking more understanding about God? Or am I rallying on behalf of the flesh, to prevent my conscience from feeling uncomfortable?

With skewed food motives, we can weave ourselves into webs of confusion about what’s permissible, beneficial, or Paleo approved. But the body will not be mocked. At the end of the day, a box of donuts made of organic sugar and locally sifted rice flour will spike your blood sugar off the charts. Spiritually speaking, when motives go awry, or when stop listening to God, we make tangled mysteries out of the simplest of matters.

 Thankfully, we worship a God of clarity and order, not confusion. When lacking wisdom, we don’t have to resign ourselves to setting up camp in the dense fog of spiritual wilderness. Instead, we can ask for understanding.   (2 Timothy 2:7)

# 3 You believe your specific diet is the only way to health

A food legalist, by default, ascribes to a very specific nutritional school of thought.  Identifying yourself “paleo,” for instance, is not specific enough. Instead, you must specify whether you call yourself primal-paleo, veggie-paleo, or whole30 compliant-paleo. Not surprisingly, then, dietary division often lead to quarreling. Gather a group of firmly opinionated health nuts at a super bowl party, and the discussion might sound something like this:

  • Vegan Veronica: So, are you going on that primal-con retreat this year with your Paleo carnivore crew?
  • Ketosis-Kurt: No, my wife and I actually switched over to the keto diet a couple months ago. They’re a lot more scientifically sound. You should come check out our BBQ.
  • Vegan Veronica: But there’s no fruit in the keto diet. Literally. Ever since I went vegan all the cells in my body came alive. Why don’t you guys come over to watch Forks Over Knives, sometime? I’ll serve up some activated sprouted popcorn.
  • Ketosis-Kurt: Nah I just wouldn’t feel fed on that kind of diet. You guys cherry pick your snacks and water down your juice. My muscles need meat roasted by fire, not blueberries sprinkled in water. It’s a core value.
  • Average Party Paige: Uhh, I’m not a diet person. I’m just nutritional, so I do what feels right for my body. I believe in love and everything in moderation.

Food Faith Connection

Realistically, hundreds of different dietary regimens have led people down a path towards health, fitness, and even community garden potlucks. The food legalist, however, believes their dietary denomination is the one and only way to be healthy. Likewise,  in the Christian faith while doctrinal differences do exist, and matter,  many different denominations have led people to Christ and community. The Holy Spirit is alive and does multi-denominational heart transformation. Seek truth, but don’t forget to seek unity as well.  (1 Corinthians 1:10)

# 4 You’re in Constant Angst

One time, a friend of mine confessed that he struggled when grocery shopping for eggs. Somewhere between the cage-free chicken option, the Canadian ducks, and the omega 3 supplemented ostriches, he would get stressed out and opt not to buy any eggs at all.  See, for the food legalist, it’s imperative not just to make a good choice, but to make the right choice. After all, that program completion certificate is on the line,  just one corn kernel away from costing you the entire diet season.

Food Faith Connection

In the kitchen, even when we try our very best to eat right,  we will still miss the mark, on occasion. For example, it’s possible a Canadian duck suffered a bout of hypothermic malnourishment, throwing off your micro-nutrient count for a whole day. Sorry about that. But opting for starvation, because you can’t decide what to eat, does more harm than good. In this case, you’re better off making a choice to the best of your knowledge and savoring the omelet during a Wednesday breakfast with your spouse.

Also, just as a food legalist worries about stepping out of line, and losing their program certificate, a Christian legalist constantly questions their own salvation. They tiptoe through life as though God’s will is a tightrope, and one wrong move could result in irreparable soul damage.  In reality, we will all make mistakes, here but we don’t have to live in angst about it; redemption and the restoration of the broken are central parts of the gospel. Jesus promises us a peace beyond our understanding, and beyond our earning. (Phil 4:7)

So alas, come to the table just as you are.  Let your cup overflow, and be salt and light.

Cheers,

Chrissa

 

The 2017 Book List

Books and other information sources read (or listened to) in 2017. Find the 2016 book list here.

Non-Fiction

  1. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown
  2. Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. by Brene Brown
  3. The Friendship Factor: How to Get Closer to the People you Care for by Alan Loy McGinnis
  4. Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships Sue Johnson
  5. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott
  6. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny, and Ron McMillan
  7. Love-ology: Love. Marriage. Sex. And the Never-Ending Story of Male and Female by John Mark Comer
  8. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards
  9. Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud
  10. Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Dr. Henry Cloud
  11. Never Go Back by Dr. Henry Cloud
  12. Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
  13. The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler
  14. The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow your Passion by Elle Luna
  15. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
  16. The Gift in You: Discovering New Life Through Gifts Hidden in Your Mind by Dr. Caroline Leaf
  17. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  18. Do The Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own way by Steven Pressfield
  19. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
  20. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry
  21. Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff

Theology

  1. What is the Bible? How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything by Rob Bell
  2. God Secrets: A Life Filled with Words of Knowledge by Shawn Bolz
  3. Fasting: Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship with God by Jentezen Franklin
  4. Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind by Joyce Meyer
  5. Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God’s Voice Above All Others by Steven Furtick

Also, teachings in sermon or blog format by Eric Knopf, Bill Johnson, and Gabe Lyons.

Fiction/ Memoir

  1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  2. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
  3. Chemistry by Weike Wang
  4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  5. How to Live on 24 hours a Day (1910 essay)by Arnold Benett

Other influential blogs and authors: Chase JarvisSeth Godin, Marie Forleo, Austin Kleon, Brain Pickings Magazine, Elizabeth Gilbert, Lara Casey.

Thanks to all book recommenders and lenders! Now, onto next year: what’s on your 2018 book list?

In the First Decade of Adulthood

28 things I learned about life in the first decade of adulthood. Written on my 28th birthday as advice to my 18-year-old self.

9-minute audio

 

  1. Life is not a multiple-choice test with a secret answer key; it’s a chapter book of choose your own adventure essays. Write often, and edit as you go.
  2. Living in Truth is always better than living in desired perception. But truth seekers, take note. When you pray for God to “wake you up,” buckle up for a wild ride, because reality is truly a thrill.
  3. Good things come to those who ask. Ask God for wisdom. Ask for the sale, the scholarship, the secret recipe, the side story, and for sermon clarification. Do live curiously. But don’t ask Google your most haunting questions at 2 am.
  4. Remember the big picture always wins the fight, after all, it is bigger. That said, the best way to steward the big picture is by showing up—consistently, and often awkwardly—to the small picture, also known as, the present.
  5. Learn to enjoy the paradox of living fully content where you are, while simultaneously longing, and pushing forward to where you want to go.
  6. Coed companions can create a fun and healthy balance to your social life, but when in doubt, define the relationship. Instead of complaining about being led on, take responsibility for your heart, and ask where the ship—friend, relation, or otherwise—is headed.
  7. Satisfying relationship closure is an inside job. Don’t put your well-being on hold as you wait for a grand Olympic style closing ceremony: those only happen every two to 4 years, anyway. Instead, redirect your energy to repairing, recuperating, and returning to the field when ready.
  8. Willpower is important, but annoyingly, and scientifically, finite. Sometimes the best thing to do is muster up just enough internal motivation to reach out to the right external structure. Tackle fitness challenges with friends. See a therapist to get unstuck. Or do as I am with this very post, and set a deadline with monetary consequences.
  9. If you feel lost, follow your stomach. Start by devouring some curiosity crunch for breakfast, and next, pay attention to your upset stomach. Which injustice makes you want to puke? What testimony makes you slightly queasy to share? Who is the person that gives you butterflies? Walk boldly in the direction of your nausea, although try not to literally hurl.
  10. Asking for what you need is not dramatic. On the contrary, ignoring your needs, or holding others accountable to unspoken expectations, can lead to a full-fledged dramatic emergency down the road.
  11. Learn to differentiate between physical, social, and spiritual needs. For example, if you suddenly feel like you have no friends and need to attend a raging party, check to verify that you’re not suffering from a bout of hangry thoughts–completely curable by bowl of cereal. Or, if you devour large bowls of rice whenever you feel empty inside, try filling yourself with scripture and prayer first. Finally, if you instinctively head to the prayer team after every tough week, consider that sometimes you need friends more than prayer, and go play at the sand volleyball courts instead.
  12. Friends and family are more important than chores. But since everyone has to cover their survival basics, bond over mundane activities whenever possible. Crank up the beach boys while washing dishes with siblings, wheel around the grocery with your classmates on a study break, or discuss difficult debacles while folding laundry adjacent to a roommate.
  13. Once you leave home, try to separate love and logistics when you go back to visit. For example, set aside some time to talk about your health insurance, and then put the paperwork away and enjoy a leisurely Sunday breakfast together.
  14. Abandon the search for permission. It turns out, you already have it.
  15. Failure, heartbreak, and disappointment are undeniably painful experiences. However, when weathered well, these storms serve as rocket fuel for growth. Keep your heart tender, and trust that you will come out on the other side with more compassion and wisdom than you imagined.
  16. Regard attention and focus as precious forms of love and generosity. Pay the highest dividends to who and what matter most. It helps to turn off notifications every once in a while.
  17. Whether homework, or professional projects, the majority of multistep wiki-how productivity hacks are accurately summarized by the titles alone of Steven Pressfield’s, and Jon Acuff’s respective books, “Do the Work” and “Finish.”
  18. Quality coffee is good for the mind, body, and soul. It also has a point of diminishing returns. Manage your energy by drinking responsibly, and sleeping when you’re alive.
  19. Don’t allow jealousy and comparison to distract you from your own hero’s journey. Harry Potter conquered evil at age 17, but Frodo Baggins didn’t defeat evil until he was 33. In other words, everyone has a unique timeline.
  20. Scrolling—through everyone else’s Facebook posts and Instagram stories—is not a legitimate evening past time.
  21. Feedback from trusted sources can take you a long way.  To be powerful later, you must be willing to expose weakness, today.
  22. The parking police are real, not merciful towards small town folk. Unless you want to allocate a budget for parking tickets each year, ask Siri for regular reminders.
  23. Fashion fouls. a) It’s illegal to wear socks with sandals. b) Leggings are, supposedly, not pants. c) Despite the advertisements, Lash Boss mascara does not actually result in triple voluminous self-esteem levels. However, crying with a friend while dressed in leggings and fuzzy socks, can be quite healing. In which case, a good waterproof mascara can help you feel better about looking more human than racoon.
  24. You are good enough, and pretty enough. Case closed. These are not interesting ongoing mental debates.  Now, go spend your energy on more important life questions.
  25. While revelation might feel like a bright beam of knowledge and euphoria shining straight to your heart, the actual breakthrough part, is not nearly as glamorous. Typically, a breakthrough happens when you face a familiar fork in the road, and make a simple connection with God. Aha! you realize, the last 4 times I turned left here, and it wasn’t good. So today, even though everything in me still feels like turning left, I’ll choose right. In that moment, an old pattern breaks and a new one begins.
  26. Between ideation and creation, there is a gap of hesitation. Shorten it. Perfectionism never delivers on its promises. Better to drive one idea all the way home to the imperfect finish line, than ponder in paralysis about 99 others.
  27. Stay playful. Not every aspect of your life has to function in service of saving the world, or meeting a personal development goal. Go ahead, and race across the swimming pool, sing, stargaze, bike through crunchy leaves, and take a taco Tuesday.
  28. Don’t chase after comfort and happiness. Instead eat a main course of connection, truth, beauty, courage, healing, humor, metaphors, and understanding. And then, quite often, happiness comes as a delicious side dish.

Thanksgiving 2017 Pregame

The Trudelle Thanksgiving pregame email, and meal sign-up roster.

Dearest Family,

Congratulations! On behalf of the Trudelle holiday coordination committee, I would like to formally offer you a spot on the roster for TEAM-T-GIVI-2017! Are you ready for it? Autumn leaves are dropping like Taylor Swift songs; the ground is crimson and crunchy underfoot, and the daylight is ever dwindling.  Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, toddlers and babies… We are now just one week away from the Thanksgiving tip-off and you are in for a treat!

Our team captains, Mama and Papa T, have spent their offseason acquiring comfy home-style accommodations in the Portola Valley Olympic village, for all attendees. From the recruiting end, Laura Newton and Joanna Trudelle gave birth just in time to bring our team’s newest additions, Caleb and Austin, to their first Thanksgiving’s outside of the womb.

For the pre-game national anthem, and inevitable spontaneous sing-along, we no longer have to flounder in search of the right note, because this year we’re bringing in the up and coming Piedmont choir vocalist, Kiera Gray, to cue us in!

As far as the press goes, unfortunately, even the iphone X won’t be able to capture all of our prime time memories, but don’t worry. Rumor has it, Orion Gray is a walking Wikipedia well of knowledge about drones. That said, if a flying video camera catches you in the middle of a midnight snack, simply wave politely, and get your head back in the game.

Training Updates

Regularly lifting heavy weights, and an even heavier Purduian class load, our very own,  Johnny Trudelle, is traveling coast to coast, in hopes of going coast to coast, at the family festivities.  Please give him a warm and hearty California hug.

Throughout the summer, our former defensive MVP, Erika Gray, increased her multitasking skills to such a degree, that she can now guard multiple stove burners simultaneously, in a wicked 2-3 zone. Personally, I prefer to guard the Nantucket style cranberry sauce in a  man defense, but to each their own. Whatever your defensive preference is, though, be sure to watch for reverse layups to the upper shelf dark chocolate stash. Foul if you must.

As for my other siblings, Peter and Marie Trudelle have been spotted before dawn at 24-hour fitness, 5k training in secret by climbing the Stairmaster to heaven. Speaking of, for those of you racing the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, the family track will be available at your convenience for strides or intervals.

If you don’t plan on running anything—perhaps you just gave birth, or maybe you prefer to run after the ladies—no problem. Stroll the Olympic village with the 1001 questions book, join Kristi Koltavary and Shane Curran for a quatro canine adventure, or walk hand in hand with Lily Newton at 1/5 of your normal stride length.

Substitutions and Rest

In the Olympic village, we also take rest and recovery very seriously. If you happen to grow weary with all the physical activity, we got you covered. Jump-shot-Jesse-Newton can reboot your energy with a cup of full-bodied, full court, french press coffee. In the case that you feel faint,  however, please see Gyongyi Koltavary on the sidelines for a blood sugar test or a tasty snack.

For all the new parents of the group: if chasing your baby ever leaves you winded, just make the universal sub signal—pull on your jersey—and one of the aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents will let you catch a breath on the bench.

Manners Matters and Fowl Territory

Simply put: manners, matter. In 1995, Peter’s sweater caught fire on Christmas Eve as he reached over a dinner candle for another helping of cold cuts. This year our appointed referee, Richard Zucker, won’t hesitate to blow a shrill whistle for the red cabbage reach.  In the case of a jump ball on the bubbly water, possession goes to the emptier glass. Also, texting during the feast is considered an automatic technical foul.

Offensive Fouls

Despite my long-standing efforts to keep our table conversations pleasant and philosophical, I’ve come to accept that many of you actually revel in controversy and heated debates. I’m sure it’s all in good fun. However, in the event that you knock another player off their feet in offense, Richard will call a charge. Take a 30-second timeout to cool off if you need it. And, if you’re trying to draw the charge, plant your feet and stand your ground, but don’t fake injury. After all, this isn’t soccer.

Dinner Defense

Even though Erika has earned two-time defensive MVP of the stove, a zone defense, quite frankly, has proven ineffective for our kitchen. See what happens is, we end up triple teaming the pumpkin loaf and letting gravy take the back door. Guys, that’s weak sauce.

This year, in the latest locker room meeting, Coach Papa T called us back to a traditional man to man defense. “How does man defense work in the kitchen?” You ask. Well, it’s like ABA basketball, of course! You get on the court—aka the google doc—and CALL the food you plan to guard. Let’s shoot for clean communication here. It should sound something like this… “I got the pecan pie!! Johnny, who do you have? Marie, the rice was on fire last quarter, stick on it!”

Give and Go Team Work

If you feel uncomfortable cooking alone, find a partner and try the give and go technique. For example, if you’re unsure of how to pick a quality sharp cheese, take Andris Koltavary to Draeger’s and he’ll give you a complete history of Humboldt Fog.  Struggling to lift the turkey by yourself? Biceps Brian Gray will happily help you get the bird out of the car and into the kitchen.

To end with a quote: “Everyone is special in their own way. We make each other strong. We’re not the same. We’re different in a good way…We’re all in this together.” Yes, you guessed correctly. That’s Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez from High School Musical.

**What would you like to bring to the team table this year? Take your pick from one of the options on the google doc attached.**

Until tip-off… hugs and high fives. 

Love,  Chrissa

Thought Leashes

4 mind training tips for thinkers, dreamers, innovators, and intellectuals, to stay focused and use their thoughts well. 

The Border Collie Connection

Border collies are a Scottish, English breed of herding dogs, renowned for their intelligence, energy, curiosity, and stamina. Their love of challenge makes them some of the world’s best sheepdogs, and most loyal sporting companions. They do not, however, make for easy, docile household pets. Without a direction or task, border collies grow dangerously restless, and take out their energy by digging holes, barking at neighbors, or chasing cars.  While perhaps not obvious at first site, the personality of a border collie has a striking similarity to that of an active-minded human. In her book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” Elizabeth Gilbert illuminates the connection. As she sees it,

“possessing a creative mind is like having a border collie for a pet; if you don’t give it a job to do, it will find a job to do—and you may not like the job it invents.”

Indeed, for many deep thinkers and innovators, simply existing with one’s own company can be an experience, both as fun, and as challenging, as living with a border collie in a small house. Despite the inevitable difficulties, never resort to locking your imagination in a kennel for a lifetime of mental repression. Instead, use the tips below to train your mind like a border collie, and play to your strengths!

Tip #1 Feed the Beast
Why? Your mind is hungry

Border collies have big appetites, and sharp teeth eager to devour the food onsite. Without proper nourishment, they either wither into a state of depressed starvation or chew up the couch. As such, if you have a ravenous intellectual appetite, and a mind constantly hunting for something to tear apart, then you must feed the beast. Otherwise, you might start chasing your own tail, chewing on your own problems, or gobbling up trashy TV.

Be intentional about feasting your mind on good things. Devour books, discuss podcasts, study languages, learn skills, listen to clever song lyrics, observe art, or simply follow a curiosity trail as far as it will take you. Also, keep a bone in the back of your mind to gnaw on, for times of extended boredom. I find interesting quotes and new words a great way to prevent myself from getting “mentally hangry.”

Tip #2 Give it Something to Chase
Why? Your mind is active

For hundreds of years, border collies have been bred to chase. When focused, they will charge non-stop in a valiant effort to herd sheep and catch far-flung frisbees. Much to the dismay of many modern owners, however, the chase instinct cannot be trained out of their DNA. Lacking an outlet, they may attempt to herd cyclists, squirrels, cars, or even small children.

When it comes to chasing, most innovative, project driven people, have a similar instinct. That is, when we want something, we really want something, and we will work like a dog to get it. The catch, however, is that not all pursuits are positive. Sure, it’s possible you spend all your energy pursuing dental degrees, personal weightlifting records, and solutions to global health problems. But given your nature, it’s also quite possible, that you expend your energy chasing uber-EATS ice-cream trucks and troublesome members of the opposite sex. Or maybe you even chase the former with the latter.

Regardless, you will end up chasing something. To channel your instinct to charge, find a captivating project that stretches your limits, and then get after it. Build a treehouse, write a book, compose a song, train for a 10k, or launch a website. Whatever it is, once you set your mind to it, the options are endless.

Tip # 3 Get a Leash
Why? Your mind wanders 

Some dogs are tame enough to roam anywhere off leash and return whenever their owner calls. But border collies, even the friendliest ones, are curious creatures and notorious escape artists. Off leash, their curiosity can lead them to explore poison oak patches or water from impure sources. While they do need space to run free, at times they just need a short leash. And so do our own thoughts.

See, if left unchecked, the same imagination that allows you to create companies from scratch can also become self-destructive. Watch for the gradual slippery slope space out. Maybe your mind wanders back to the embarrassing work meeting, last week. Or maybe you start wondering why Tyler Tinder failed to show up for your second date. Then, before you realize, you sit captive as an audience member to a self-made mental movie with the tagline, “Unemployed and Unloveable”—the vivid motion picture autobiography coming to theaters in 2020.  These are dangerous rabbit holes to travel down, but thankfully, you don’t have to give up daydreaming and curiosity altogether in order to stay sane. Instead, identify your trigger territories and keep a thought leash at the ready. That way, you can let your imagination explore, and simply reign it back to the focus path whenever necessary.

Tip #4 Breed Responsibly
Why? Your mind is fertile

Responsible breeding is an important aspect of both dog ownership and creative mind ownership—especially for those prone to absorbing surrounding stimuli like a sponge.
The words and suggestions you internalize now will most likely give birth later, whether in the form of art, or a manifested reality. That said, if you have a particularly fertile mind, then be intentional about who you think with. Now, this does not mean we should all live in microcosms among those who share the exact same viewpoints. Actually, the ability to respectfully disagree and juggle opposing ideas can widen our perspective and sharpen our character. However, considering the law of averages, you will become the company you keep. The ideas, advice, criticisms, or comments, that others speak into your life, act like tiny seeds which bear fruit for good or for bad.

Choose your close pack wisely.

Alas, now that you have these training tips on hand, it’s time for your border collie get some exercise. Your mind is powerful, so use it well!

Books (and other sources) of 2016

read or listened to...

*A couple days ago I posted a table of contents of my own written work over the last year. Learning, reading, and sharing sources are some of my favorite ways to connect with others—feel free to leave a comment below!

Theology and Christian Life

The Will of God- Eric Knopf
Changes that Heal- Henry Cloud
Love Does- Bob Goff
Safe People- Henry Cloud
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years- Donald Miller
Every Good Endeavor- Tim Keller
Scary Close- Donald Miller
Blue Like Jazz- Donald Miller
The Screwtape Letters- CS Lewis
Present Over Perfect- Shauna Niequist
Leave Yourself Alone- Eugenia Price
The Supernatural Power of Forgiveness- Kris Vallotton
A Spirituality for 2 Halves- Richard Rohr, Paula D’Arcy
Dreaming with God- Bill Johnson

Thinking and Creating

Linchpin- Seth Godin
The Virgin Way- Richard Branson
The Gifts of Imperfection- Brene Brown
Daring Greatly- Brene Brown
The Story Teller’s Secret- Carmin Gallo
Creativity Inc- Amy Wallace, Ed Catmull
On Writing- Stephen King
Bird by Bird- Anne Lamott
Big Magic – Liz Gilbert

Switch- Chip and Dan Heath
The Paradox of Choice- Barry Shwartz
Focus- Daniel Goleman

Young Professional Life

The Defining Decade- Meg Jay
Adulting- Kelly Williams Brown
The Opposite of Loneliness- Marina Keegan
Start- John Acuff
The Highly Sensitive Person- Elaine Aaron
The Disease to Please- Harriet Braiker

Fiction/ Memoir

All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr
The Girl on the Train- Paula Hawkins
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens
Eat Pray Love- Elizabeth Gilbert
Little Failure- Gary Shteyngart
The Sweetheart Deal- Pauly Dugan
Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte

Other Sources…

The Epic Life community, Bridgetown church (on identity and vocation part 1, part 2, and part 3), Jesus Culture Sacramento,  commencement speeches, Donald Miller at Wheaton, Matt Chandler of the Village Church, Caroline Leafcognitive neuroscientist, Francis Chan,  30 days of genius series  on creative live, Brian Picking’s magazine, Forge Church old testament podcasts.

2016 Table of Contents

 Blog Posts by Category

God

  1. How to define your relationship with God so it’s no longer complicated
  2. What does the phrase  “it’s a God thing” actually mean?
  3. Looking for a godly spouse? Watch out for these theological red flags
  4. Crisis Christianity explained through medical metaphors.
  5. Is your relationship with God driven by love or fear? 
  6. Thoughts on perfectionism, God’s Grace, and black and white thinking.
  7. Ten ways for people with over-active minds to stay focused during church.
  8. The unseen connection between  Mario Kart, and the Kingdom of God
  9. The four things people hide from in life.
  10. Memorizing scripture through song lyrics: part 1 and part 2.
  11. A Ferrari analogy to explain our extraordinary power in Christ
  12. How not to worry about tomorrow by thinking of yourself as a 5th grader.

 Relationships

  1. How to tell if a guy likes you,” and why females should stop googling this question.
  2. A story about relational competition explained in terms of US history, kale salad, and cake.
  3. Should height or love at first sight, be deal breaking factors? I don’t think so.
  4. A few words on drama, introverts, invisibility, and the importance of staying authentic.
  5. Whether single or dating, use the famous 8 slice pizza strategy to enrich your life.
  6. Stop obsessing about the idea of someone, and let other people show you who they really are.
  7. Four common myths about women who wait until marriage to have sex.
  8. The connection between quidditch and relationships. Are you a seeker or a snitch?
  9. Whether gasping for Oxygen or exploding with sparks, it’s time to clarify the chemistry concept. 
  10. Before you get lost in translation again, read the comprehensive guide to texting men.
  11. A story about the time I asked my older brother for relationship advice.
  12. Should women play hard to get? Here’s a poetic opinion on the matter.
  13. Reasons for the increase in gender segregation in young adult church culture.

Creativity

  1. Find out the 14 commonalities of great thinkers summarized in the 30 days of genius series.
  2. Maximize decision-making energy by viewing your mind as a volleyball court.
  3. The case against waiting around for inspiration. Really, creativity is a boss.
  4. Make your life about verbsnot nouns.  
  5. Struggling with writer’s block? Consider writing delirious, creating a tent, or dictating on a walk.
  6. The idealist’s guide to surviving and thriving in the real world.
  7. Strengthen your communication by eliminating these 4 words from your vocabulary.
  8. A story about the “6 characters” driving my train of thought.

Young Adulthood

  1. Hangry, object permanence and other ways adults act like toddlers
  2. The dark side of the millennial generation’s obsession with nostalgia. The topic is covered in both paragraph and rhyming form.
  3. Reframe the negative emotions of transitions with this bay bridge analogy. 
  4. Eat chocolate chips, tell stories, ask questions, and take your babysitting/parenting to the next level by using my “Socratic sitter” method.
  5. Live with integrityor snowplow down the mountain.
  6. Is social media comparison making you feel lame? There’s a reason for that.
  7. People lacking boundaries will fear both engulfment and isolation; they resemble novice Marco Polo players.
  8. The food pyramid of the average young professional.

Student Life

  1.  Reasons your best friend, class rival, and class crush all make for great study buddies
  2. A story about the time I tried to explain the grad student experience to a professor via analogies of chocolate cake and hypothetical motherhood.
  3. What it would look like if track athletes practiced in the same distracted way that college students studied.
  4.  Studying in coffee shops for prolonged periods of time is bound to bring an interesting encounter or two.
  5. Ten ways to understand your friend’s breakup situation and study for your next anatomy/physiology test at the same time.
  6. poem of encouragement for physical therapy test takers.

Trudelle Family Stories

  1. The unusual story of how my parents met, became teachers, got married, and ended up at the Priory (The most read post of this blog).
  2. An “ordinary” morning in the Trudelle house. 
  3. How my older brother managed to rig the family chore system.
  4. Why the Trudelle’s are obsessed with bubbly water.
  5. A peek inside a family road trip car ride from the year 2000.
  6.  The profound effect my grandmotherNanuka has had on my life.
  7. The speech for my sister Laura on her wedding day.
  8. The email of “Costa Rican cupidity and flaming torch jungle runs which sent me to Central America just 48 hours after sending.
  9. The 2016 Christmas promo email.
  10.  A poem for my niece on her first birthday.
  11. If streets could talkthey would sound like this poem of hometown memories.
  12. Tales of running beginnings and my first cross country coach