Today I’m sitting at the Bipartisan Cafe in NE Portland. It’s an urban coffee shop to the core. Baristas all pierced and tatted up, bare wood floors, loud music, historic and modern political pictures and posters adorning the walls, and people at every table, couch and bar stool. I’ve plugged in my earbuds and cranked up my U2 playlist so that I can tune out the grunge music with an attempt to focus on my writing. There are a lot of distractions here today -- including a giant Norman Rockwell poster of people praying that says, “Save Freedom of worship...Buy war bonds.” I can’t take my eyes off the elderly lady in the foreground...she reminds me of someone who I can’t quite remember. Every time I look up, I hope the name will come to me. I’m struggling to see how seven or eight other people around me, appear to be doing incredibly productive work, and one woman sits quietly on the couch reading through a novel she’s checked out from the local library. You might be surprised too, if you knew that the worst distraction isn’t on the walls. It’s not the loud music (which by the way, they’ve changed the channel to something a little more soothing). It’s not the loud floors or the buzz of people talking or the little boy next to me who squeals with delight as he turns pages in his little book about recycling (gotta love Northwest hippies...we are green to the core!). The most distracting issue for me isn’t seen or heard at all.
It’s the smell.
This little cafe doesn’t have a big menu, but whatever they’re making smells delicious! According to their signs, they are famous for their pies and based on the aromas floating around this coffee shop -- I believe it. Right now I can smell the distinct flavor of some kind of apple pie cooking in their ovens. I think I’m also picking up a distinct cinnamon flavor (while ignoring the little guy who just fell on the floor and is doing that fake cry to get more goodies from mom...ahh, I wish that fake cry still worked in my old age). The smells here are wonderful.
Over the past five days, I embarked on a reset program to help jump-start some changes in my health. Over the past two years I have been less active, my eating habits have taken a turn for the worse and I’ve felt the effects of poor health choices. My weight has gone up, my energy has gone down and my desire to eat better has shrunk. It’s not that I don’t want to be in top physical health (who doesn’t want to be in good health?!) I just don’t want to work for it. You know, give me a pill and make it all go away.
So my wife encouraged me to join her and a bunch of other people in a month-long health challenge, that included this five-day reset. I’ve done the reset before, but almost always in the context of losing weight or as part of a fast, but never as part of a long-term plan to adjust my approach to health. This one has felt different and it’s affects have already been substantially better than at other times. (As a side note, my wife's work is in the area of health and nutrition -- check out the 5-day program for yourself from this link, and feel free to e-mail me if you want to get in touch with my wife with questions or thoughts about how this kind of thing could help you.)
As the little hippy reader next to me starts jumping up and down at the success he’s having with his magnadoodle, I realize that the biggest thing I took away from this five day reset was this one fundamental truth: I love food. There are people who eat to live. They could survive on bisquik, water and the occasional blessing of ice to add texture to their drink. I think I fall more in the category of living to eat. I love food. I think about food. A lot. I enjoy good food and I enjoy garbage food. One of my favorite meals is one I partake in each week, an awesome hot dog from my outdoor vendor, Dogzilla. Trust me -- great Greek gods never ate food like Mike produces from his cart.
The list goes on: Burgers from Don’s, enchiladas from LaHacienda Real, Taco’s from a roach coach on State street, pizza from Straight from NY Pizza, and biscuit’s and gravy from White’s. I love those places. I love the food. And after this five day reset I realize just how much I love thinking about food. During the reset I enjoyed nutritional (and actually tasty!) meal-replacement shakes, great protein bars and a garden or two of vegetables with sides of fruit. But each day I found myself thinking about other types of food. Each day I realized that I kinda plan my days, inadvertently, around meals. I schedule meetings, errands and even study time around where/what I’m going to eat. Food plans aren’t added into my schedule, my schedule is added into my food plans.
This was a big ah-ha for me, and truthfully, one that is hard to admit. I like to think that I’m not that controlled by my food intake, but as I’ve tried to tackle some of these health issues in my life, I’ve come to understand that one of them has to be approaching food differently. It’s not that I can’t enjoy my food, it’s not that I can’t look forward to a great dish or even to my weekly hotdog, it’s that I need to not make my existence about food, or make my daily plans revolve around my eating habits. It’s that food is just energy for my body, it’s important for survival, but I could live on bisquik and water for a season if I had to. I think I spent an entire semester in college living off Ramen and Mt. Dew!
As I’ve had time to reflect on my food lust, I’ve come to realize that loving God and loving others is what really matters -- with or without the food I crave. Besides the great cheeseburger, I love Don’s because Don is so passionate about his little dive. He knows must of his customers by name and isn’t shy to bring his big sweaty body out from behind the grille to chat it up with patrons. Tonya (long “o” on Tonya) is our greeter at LaHacienda and we always get updates on her sweet little girl. Tonya asks about our family and always stops by our table two or three times to check on us and talk during slow times (which don’t happen often). At Straight from New York, Hector is the man tossing dough into the sky and catching it with a perfect twirl. We always talk about the business, family and sports. Big Mike and I have become good friends, and we talk about God, the San Jose Sharks (he used to workout with them), the Bay Area (Oakland/SF), weird people on the streets of downtown Salem and anything else that comes up while I’m throwing down one of his amazing hot dogs. His sister Cat and mom Vikki have become good friends of ours. In each case, the places I love to eat at are also surrounded by people I love to be around.
As I embark on this new journey of health, I want to make sure food takes its proper place in my life. In the Psalms, David talked about loving and wanting God more than the choicest foods a king could eat. Now that I’ve exposed what a craving I have for food, I know what my passion for God needs to feel like. I want a God-lust, an insatiable craving to be connected to the Almighty that drives my days. I need to seek God for His God-plans each day, then work my schedule around Him; instead of trying to work His plans into my schedule when convenient.
Food can be a touchy subject, but we all eat. Maybe you truly eat to live -- I hope God is the drive to your day. Living the Overboard Life, a life on the water where Jesus is doing His Kingdom building, requires a God-centered life. Everything else, even the necessary task of eating, must take its rightful place under Him. It’s so easy to justify putting anything, even the delicious apple pie that just came out of the oven, over our desire for God. My five day food reset has been a good reminder for me that I need regular check ups, and regular 5-day resets to make sure my heart for God, and not my stomach’s craving for pizza, is driving my day.
What about you? Maybe you need to take a 3 day fast, or a 5-day reset to put things back in balance. I’m thankful for the time I’ve had away and look forward to the approaching my next meal with a different perspective. I’m meeting some men for the final meeting in a 2-year mentorship program. We’ll be dining at the Flying Pie Pizzeria, just across the street from where I’m sitting now. I’m choosing to enjoy my salad and slice of pepperoni pizza (with breakfast bacon sprinkled across the top and just a hint of garlic. I’m going easy on the garlic to try and avoid offending the people who I’ll be sitting next to on the plane later this afternoon!) with thankfulness. I’ll also pray a little more earnestly before my meal, with a more genuine gratitude for the food. But when I’m done, I’ll continue to seek God’s plans for the days, and not worry too much about what my L.A. hosts will be feeding me for dinner -- if we have a meal at all!
What drives your day?
Go ahead and take plunge -- life is better on the water!