“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land– not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.” (Amos 8:11 NIV)

So, be honest… What has Covid 19 done to your eating, sleeping and exercise routines? Is your health index better or worse today than it was March 1st, 2020? In particular, what role has nutrition played in that? Are you eating well? Would you say you are enjoying meals these days?

Now that I have just turned off my readers, where am I headed with this? Christians have a biblical nutrition index not unlike our health index. Having a robust diet of truth from God’s word takes even more effort than eating right. Unlike our health index, which IS pretty visible to everyone who looks at us, our BNI (Biblical Nutrition Index) stays pretty invisible from others.

BNI requires a balanced diet of scripture with good habits of reflection and application. Like cooking for yourself, there are definite techniques that need to be learned. Meal planning, shopping, ingredients, food prep, seasoning, cooking, heating, cooling, stirring, pans, utensils, knives. The list can get pretty long, pretty fast. Ignoring the list means possibly eating a lot of the wrong things, eating things that taste horrible, eating too much, eating for the wrong reasons, and eating out. You can eat stuff that looks great in the package, but disagrees with your body. You can eat food that should be great, but evades your culinary gifts. You can just eat to fill your gut. You can eat in bad lighting, by yourself, with a mind full of unhelpful musings. There are a thousand ways to go wrong with food.

There are even more ways for Christians to go wrong with spiritual nutrition. It’s easy enough to say “I take God’s word into my heart every day in some form or another.” But what does that really look like? What’s the BNI value? We can get by with some of the worst habits. Sound biblical nutrition is born out of consistency and self-feeding skill. Most don’t actually know how to read the Bible. If scripture were a farmer’s market teeming with terrific produce, would we know what to buy? If we came home with shopping bags of phenomenal ingredients, would we know how to prepare them?

The choice to eat what others have prepared versus making our own dishes faces us every day. Truth be told, many can barely do “scripture ramen noodles” much less feed themselves a balanced diet. Self-feeding for most isn’t even a daily thing. We might hear a message online or at Church once a week. What would happen if we ate food once a week? And we wonder why “God doesn’t seem to make sense,” when he allows hardship into our experiences.

Cooking Class, not Fast-Food Dining.

My dream for north American Christians is that somewhere in their growth and development they could experience something like cooking class in their appetite for the Bible. Learning how to cook, not just eat. Self-feeding from scripture is not finding the best sermon online each week and enjoying the experience of listening to a message. Always having someone else spoon feed you the Bible is like always eating fast food. Christian, if you’ve done nothing but open your beak for your favorite pastor to drop in warm worms… little wonder you have a pathetic BNI.

The year 2020 will contain 366 days (what a fitting year to add the extra leap-year day). That means that there are 123 days left to this lovely year. Plenty of time to redeem your BNI before 2020 stops clubbing us. Between May 6th and Aug 14th, I spent 100 days reading my entire Bible. One hour of reading every day. I didn’t have a lot of time to study it. Just reading it and soaking it in. Anybody can do it. It’s had such an encouraging impact. Here are just few ways my BNI went up.

  1. I spent one hour a day completely tuned out from distractions, at rest, with my mind engaged with the greatest story our planet has ever heard.
  2. I gave myself direct nutritional input from God, not prepackaged, not shrink-wrapped, not dumbed-down, not predigested, no sugar added!
  3. I replaced what otherwise might have been a wasted hour watching nonsense online, shopping, or fixing broken things around my house.
  4. The whole story was in front of me – not just an isolated verse or passage. I had so many questions, struggles, and challenges in spite of what I already knew about this story. My theology got a good shake down!
  5. I read all the parts of the Bible that are easy to ignore. I had no time to bask in “comfort food” or meander through my favorite books.
  6. I marked up every page of the copy I was reading (NIV this time). Alert, active reading.
  7. At the beginning I gave myself an assignment: search for one theme as I read all 66 books. I’m writing a book about that theme. I now have a good grip on what the whole Bible says about that one subject!

In the Old Testament, when something like a famine happened, God’s people took it as an act of sovereign judgment. It meant that their covenant with God had been broken by their unfaithfulness. It meant repenting. It mean lamenting. Amos 11:8 was one of those verses that jumped off the page at me during my 100 day read-thru. God sends a famine, not for food or water, but a famine for hearing his Word. That can’t be good!

Covid 19 has been a relentless dismantler. I think it’s left us in a near-famine, spiritually speaking. It’s taken apart so much of what we’ve always counted on. It’s exposed a lot of things we’ve foolishly neglected. Let’s rebuild our hunger for God. Remake our appetite around fresh commitment to learn and follow-through. Rather than focusing on how soon we can return to church buildings and in-person services, maybe the Holy Spirit is waiting on us to renew our habits of listening to God’s word.

Me, the 100 Day Read-Thru?

You can do this. Consider launching yourself on a 100 Day Read-Thru. Read your Bible an hour a day for a hundred days in a row. If you start sometime in the next three weeks, you’ll finish by the end of the calendar year! Let me know if you attempt it!

Summer 2020 – in the can!

I hope you were able to make the best out of your summer. Here’s a random rant about mine, in no particular order. Covid made it hard to tell when summer started and mildly impossible to bring it to a close. I’d better call it a wrap and find a few things to look back on that were actually fun.

The deck was definitely stacked against the Perry family this summer. Let’s get the lamentable items on the table first.

  1. We held out hope from March to May that we’d still get to go to Cedar Campus as a family. Our week on Lake Huron in late July never happened. Nothing but our deposit arrived in the U.P.
  2. Silas’ graduation ceremony at Omaha Central High, postponed from May to July, was cancelled the week before it was supposed to happen. Purple cap and gown hung unused in the corner of our dining room all summer.
  3. We’ve not attended Celebration Covenant or Mission Church in person for going on 22 weeks now. Virtual church is just not the same thing. Not even sure I’d call it “The Next Best Thing”. Covid’s gotta go…
  4. Cheryl made the difficult decision to not renew her full time teaching position at Omaha Street School. Last year left her depleted. It’s taken most of the summer to replenish.
  5. On the second day of the second week of Staycation, a distracted driver ran a red light and destroyed our trusty 04 Honda Pilot. We are without an SUV. Grieving. Trying to decide how (or if) to replace it.

A dozen cool things happened in spite of the pandemic!

  • A somewhat low-key grad party with friends, neighbors and a food truck! Great fun to celebrate with Silas. He’s headed to Computer Engineering at University of Nebraska.
  • Road trip with Aaron and his furniture from Urbana to Camrillo. Dodged dead armadillos on I-44 across Missouri. Enjoyed the landscape across New Mexico and Arizona. Savannah and Poppy joined us three days later. They’re Californians now!
  • Managed to read my bible cover to cover in 100 days- starting May 6th. One hour a day. Marking it up looking for one theme: Rejection.
  • Recruited very few new donors, but new dollars did come in and my budget was very nearly even at fiscal years end. Thank you Lord! Thank you ministry partners!
  • My staff team all reported ending their ministry year in June encouraged and enjoying fruitful work in spite of campus shut-downs.
  • Worked a lot on my back yard in time for Silas’ party. Planted some grass, rebuilt a fence, put up some cool lighting and fixed up my famous giant wire-spool picnic table.
  • Spent a week in the city of St. Louis with Cheryl’s brother Steve helping him paint his soon to open restaurant. It’s a brilliant farm to table idea merging his dreams of ranching, dining and bringing justice to the city he loves!
  • Had backyard breakfast with a young dad on Tuesdays. Catching up. Prayer. Blueberry pancakes. Coffee.
  • Cheryl got part of her old job back at Omaha Street School… and a full time job offer from Omaha Bridges out of Poverty. Better schedule. Same overall pay.
  • Family-pastor action with swell friends at a nearby lake this past Sunday. Baptized the dad. Dedicated the one year old. First Tapanga I’ve ever met in my life – what a fun name! Felt great to bless a young family and be outdoors.
  • Went camping with Cheryl, Silas, his new tent and a couple of his friends down at Indian Cave State Park. a snorting dog tore through our campsite at 3am- ripped a stay right off our tent foyer. Woke us all up. Cheryl did scream slightly.
  • Learned how to make stretch-bar canvas frames and rebuilt a Rochester two-barrel carburetor on my son’s 1974 Kurbmaster (the food truck at Silas’ grad party).

Hope you were able to defy Summer 2020 and have some fun!