Category Archives: Christianity

Emotional Healthy Spirituality

Since finishing my masters degree in May, I kind of put reading on hold. Grad school was so intense and I knew coming off the work load would mean I’d finally get to read some of my personal material, which I was really looking forward to! And then the day after grad school, along came Christian! And at work summer is our busiest time. So the reading thing… not so much.

I won’t go through the list of books on my desk. The list by my night stand is shorter. No, it just came down to one book that was #1 on my priority list. Emotional Healthy Spirituality (by Peter Scazzero) is our Robertson family book club book from last year. I’ll be honest – I kind of judged this book by its cover. I’ve read a few other emotional health books back when I was doing more college ministry leadership. I really enjoyed the material but at my current stage of life I didn’t think the book was really what I needed. But Katie started reading it and said that it was just what I needed to read. So I got after it.

Emotional Healthy Spirituality (Peter Scazzero)

Emotional Healthy Spirituality (Peter Scazzero)

The point of this post is to share a glimpse of what I’m learning through this book and to offer it as a suggestion for your reading list if you think there might be something in it for you (my bet is there is).  In a nutshell the premise of the book is this: through disciplined self-reflection and deep introspection, then and only than can we pursue mature spirituality. The two are inseparable and yet the emotional component is often ignored or under-appreciated in our culture.

The book got really good for me in chapter six: Journey Through the Wall. The ancients called it the “dark night of the soul.” I know, sorry, kind of a downer. But in a pursuit of emotional health and a greater relationship with Christ, I’m willing to go there. Reading this book, you will too. The previous chapter talked about going backwards in order to move forwards. In looking backwards, this reflection leads us do a deep understanding of some of the subconscious aspects of our lives which leads us to the Wall. How do we know if we’re at the Wall? Our walk with God is no longer vibrant. The spiritual disciplines from our early years as Christians don’t work any more. Our relationship with God is slim to none. We may not enjoy going to church any more. “Starbucks and the New York Times are better companions on a Sunday morning.” And we don’t know where God is.

For me this comes into play with my career. I am working a job where I feel I have come to the end. I have tools and relationships in place to switch careers, but the exit strategy isn’t working. Clearly there’s a lot more than I can share here, but this book has allowed me to search my subconscious and examine the Lord’s plan for my life. Statements like that can be cliche and trite. I assure you this process is anything but that.

Emotional Healthy Spirituality has allowed me to dig into my relationship with God in new ways. It’s helped me realize the multiple layers of any given situation and has encouraged me to study each aspect of my life and know that God is in control.

When you’re in the dark night of the soul, Scazzero argues that God is trying to purge something from your being, from your past, so that He can put something new into your life. This career path has been a struggle to say the least; maybe it’s been a trial; maybe it’s been a test; maybe it’s been hellish at times. Maybe it’s essential for what’s next.

A couple weeks ago I tweeted the following:

It was a response from what I’m learning in this book and how I’m applying it to my life, my family, my career. God knows how much I can handle. On days when I think it’s too much, I cling to this truth: God will not give me more than I can handle. Relying on His strength, I can overcome any situation.  This book has given me the tools to look deep into situations, my past, and my daily attitude so that I can move towards emotional health and a greater sense of God’s provision.

How about you?  Have you looked at emotional health?  Do you think you’ve experience the dark night of the soul?  Might this book have something to offer you in your spiritual journey?  I’d love to hear it in the comments.


P.S.  This book is part of Nancy’s Book Club, a Robertson Family book club sponsored by Paul and Jeri Robertson.  They purchased this book for us and I want to thank them getting this into our hands.  

Writing Songs about Injustice

In April Blackhawk Church hosted their Pulse Conference for artists in the Church.  I attended because Jars of Clay were performers and speakers at the event.  Jars have long been a favorite band of mine and now they were in my backyard!  What I appreciate the most about Jars of Clay is their ability to reflect on what’s happening in the world and write about it.  They are very active on Twitter and Dan’s blog about the backstory to some of their greatest songs are fascinating insights into how artists with a Christian worldview are interacting with their culture.


I was listening to Charlie and Matt early Saturday morning while Dan was doing his talk on “writing songs about injustice.”  Just this week I got to listen to his talk and I think you may enjoy some commentary from a man who has been a driving force in their band for over almost 20 years.

My favorite line: “Great art should lead us to ask better questions.”  Enjoy!


Essential Getaway

This weekend Katie and I escaped to the Northwoods for a getaway.  We were able to leave the kids with my mom and dad while we headed three hours north to Fort Wilderness.  It was the Valentine’s banquet on Friday which was amazing food and Fort-style entertainment.  Then Saturday was filled with two cross-country ski runs, a hike through camp and out on the frozen lake, a couple trips to the coffee shop, and great conversations with Katie plus other friends and family.

It was so refreshing to get away.  It showed me how essential is it to get away from the normal life here in Madison, even away from the daily grind of taking care of two kids.  For Katie and I to get away and breathe deeply, relax and refresh ourselves was essential for our marriage.  We haven’t done that enough; we’re trying to do it more.  A healthy and disciplined lifestyle includes knowing when to get away.  As a Christian, I look to the example Jesus to lead my life.  Jesus regularly got away from his disciples, his teaching, even his family so that he could be alone.  Sometimes the disciples didn’t get it, they see the importance.  But there’s value in getting away.

It doesn’t take a 3-hour trip to get away, either.  It can be one our alone at your favorite coffee shop.  It can be a walk to and through the local park, the Arboretum, or any of our beautiful State Parks.  I suppose it could even be driving the back country roads alone.  Life gets busy.  Marriage is hard.  Time alone and time with your spouse will do wonders for your health.  Your family needs you.  So take care of you.

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What I Learned From the Haiti Challenge

This Haiti Challenge has been a mini-series on The Game Plan.  I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s made me think of the project from many different angles.

It helped people: 10 days ago this money hadn’t been given.  The need arose, people responded, and money was donated.  People benefited from our work.

Teamwork wins:  I’m very proud of the fact that my efforts in combination with the efforts of my team produced more dollars than would have been donated with just one person. Some would have donated anyway, some donated after reading the Challenge.  We formed a team.

Not everyone will join:  My biggest frustration and learning moment is that not everyone will join the cause, as good and as necessary as it may be.  I admitted in my first post of this series that,

It’s too easy to pass up opportunities to help.  I’ve done it so many times in the past.

I knew only a small percentage of my friends on Facebook and the blog would respond.  My blog has a small readership, and I know I have exactly 416 friends of Facebook.  But I honestly thought I could get at least 20-30 people to donate $5 or $10.  This honestly baffles me.  Maybe it shouldn’t b/c I’ve passed on other similar opportunities to give.  It’s leaving a sour taste in my mouth, so I’m done digitally processing this thought.

(Alright, tt’s still pissing me off)

People appreciate a good story:  I thoroughly enjoy researching a topic and presenting it to my readers and friends.  This story of course was a global disaster, but I took it and organized a sub-story for people to join.  If I’m frustrated with those who didn’t join, I’m equally joyful with those who did.  They joined my story. 

Social Media will be a platform for really good things:  Not everyone is into Twitter and Facebook.  I hope they will see how quickly good information and stories can spread if we get involved in networks that are so viral.  And texting generated so much money.  Technology can be such a powerful tool.

Every cause needs a champion:  I’m not saying I championed this Haiti cause, but I moved towards it.  For 7 days I was a leader for a really good cause.  This disaster will pass, recovery will happen.  In the big picture this is a small story.  Serious but small.  What are the bigger stories?  What stories need to be told?  What stories need a champion?  How has God gifted you or given you experiences that have drawn you towards a cause or problem that needs to be solved?

I’m not going to go back and delete that point about my frustration with those who didn’t join.  I know many may read it and be turned off by my harsh words, but I can live with that.  My frustration is equally directed at myself b/c in years past I haven’t put my money where my heart was.  Hypocrite?  No.  I’m learning and I’m growing.  I’m willing to challenge people to excellence even if I can’t always produce it myself.  I want to be in the game and leading myself and those I love towards goals that are bigger than ourselves.

Jack wrote his check to World Vision on Friday.  I wrote my checks this morning – $45 each to World Vision, Compassion, and Red Cross.  Thanks for reading about this Haiti Challenge.  Let’s continue to do good things and cheer each other on to greatness.

Final Numbers for the Haiti Challenge

There was no way I was going to process the reports from Haiti and not do anything.  It was impossible.  Over a two day period I watched Twitter and glanced at nytimes and  I saw the tragedy unfolding and knew that as a God-fearing man and father of a little boy that it was my responsibility to take action.  Families were being torn apart and forced into extreme conditions.  It was my obligation to assist in whatever way I could to the relief efforts. 

What I did was not revolutionary.  It wasn’t even my idea.  I was reading my Twitter feed and saw that Bebo Norman (singer from Nashville) was donating $5 for every person that mentioned that a link where you could donate: 

Help Haiti. Donate to Compassion’s Disaster Relief. Roshare & I will give $5 for every person that RT’s this link from TweetDeck

Bebo has 5,000+ people “following” him, so you can do the math and see how their bill could add up really quickly.  But the idea inspired me.  I talked to Katie about us donating, and then I decided to create my own Haiti Challenge.

I’m happy to report that my team raised $133 in six days.  The challenge was posted on Facebook and on my blog.  One of my blog readers then decided to match whatever I had to match.  So “Jack” is contributing $133.

Our grand total is $399!  Sorin just found four quarters in our couch, so you can tell people that the Haiti Challenge raised $400. 

I would like to thank each person who joined my team for this effort.  When people work together for a single cause, big things can happen.  $400 isn’t even a drop in the bucket for the problems in Haiti, but that money will certainly provide assistance to someone who needs it a whole lot more than we do.

(Stay tuned: my next post will include additional thoughts about this project and I’ll report when I write the check and where it goes.)

Last Day for Haiti Challenge

Tuesday January 19th will be the final day of my Haiti Relief Challenge.  In my last post, I challenged my readers here and on Facebook to donate to one of three organizations: World Vision, Compassion International, or Red Cross.  I asked them to post how much they donated (suggested $5 or $10) and I would match their gift.

(picture courtesy of Ruth Fremson NYTimes: Quikani Alakassis, 21, gave her 4-month-old daughter, Kiana Jean Baptiste, water from a bottle distributed by soldiers with the 82nd Airborne as she sits in her makeshift shelter on the grounds of the Pétionville Club.)

BREAKING NEWS::  one reader (“Jack”) has been inspired by this campaign and has offered to match what I’m matching!!    This means that if someone donates $10, I turn it into $20 and then Jack turns it into $30!  How cool is that?!?  Inspiration is a powerful thing.  There’s also power in numbers.  Do you know someone who might want to join our team?  Please pass this on and tell them that they can join anonymously by posting at the bottom (comments) of this blog. 

And thank Jack for Jack-ing up the donation!!!
Haiti needs our help.  Please consider a $5 donation.  

 (Photo courtesy of Damon Winter NYTimes: Quake survivors fight over goods that were taken from a destroyed home supplies store.)
(Photo courtesy of Ricardo Arduengo NYTimes: An injured boy in a hospital bed in Port-au-Prince. Many hospitals were destroyed, and those that were not are swamped.) 

(Photo courtesy of Damon Winter NYTimes: Marie François, in the foreground, who lost three of her six children, waits with a son and daughter for a delivery of fortified biscuits from the World Food Program.)

(Photo courtesy of Ruth Fremson NYTimes: Soldiers with the 82nd Airborne and members of the Navy loaded helicopters with food and water.)

(Photo courtesy of Ivanoh Demers)

Haiti Challenge

I admit I haven’t done much reading on this disaster in Haiti.  I’m just sitting down to write about thoughts that have been going through my mind for 24 hours with no time to process.  Yesterday the recurring theme on Twitter was, “Watching scenes from Haiti.  Wow.  Shocked.  Praying for Haiti.”

From where I sit on a daily basis I get my news from Twitter.  I fire up my iPod Touch and read “tweets” from people who make sense to me.  But this post is NOT about Twitter.  It’s about people’s reactions to the world.  My Twitter feed has given me a very unique perspective on this event from people who I highly respect.  I don’t hear from strangers.  I hear from very intelligent, thoughtful, and caring people.  And their response has been one of awe, compassion and action.  And that is what this post is about – action.

My life has changed since Sorin was born. The thought of my son suffering is unbearable.  And when I look at and and see the photos of Haiti, I see news through a new lens now – awe.  I see it through the parent’s lens, and I know each person suffering is someone’s child.  And they need help.

As I said, I haven’t done much reading on this.  But really, what do you need to know?  You need to see pictures and hear a couple stories of what’s happening.  From the

“You can’t do anything about the dead bodies, but inside many of these buildings people may still be alive. And their time is running out.”

–Eduardo A. Fierro, a structural engineer
inspecting quake-damaged buildings

Their time is running out.  I’m sitting on a laptop computer, sore from a hard day’s work, and ready to get some sleep.  But their time is running out.  


I have no other stories to share.  Do you really need one?  My purpose is very simple:  action.  It’s too easy to pass up opportunities to help.  I’ve done it so many times in the past.  Not this time.  I was inspired by Bebo Norman’s tweet where he said that he would donate $5 for everyone who repeated his plea (on Twitter) for financial support to Compassion International.  My challenge is this:  

  • donate $5 or $10 to World Vision, Compassion International, or the Red Cross (texting “disaster” or “Haiti” to 90999 will take it right out of your phone bill)
  • write on my Facebook wall that you did this (or comment on this blog post)
  • I will match your gift 

I started the challenge this morning, and I have 4 partners on my team

If you’d like to forward this blog post to someone who may be interested, please copy and paste right after you visit one of the three websites above.

Awe   =>>  Compassion   =>>   Action

3 Words for Twenty-10

I think new years resolutions set you up to fail.  Have you ever actually kept one past the third week of January?  On the other hand, I’m a big proponent of reflecting often on the details of life – where you’ve been, what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you’re going to do it.  The title of my blog, The Game Plan, should signal my readers that I believe in organizing strategies and executing the plan.  To my core I’m a teacher and coach.

In my last post I talked about articles by Michael Hyatt and Chris Brogan that are exercises in reflecting on the past and planning the future.  I highly recommend both articles.  It’s not too late to put together a plan for 2010.  In fact, I think without the pressure of the first few days of the year you can strategize with a more level head.

Chris Brogan has an exercise he does called 3 Words.  From his post:

Over the last few years, I’ve practiced something I call “my 3 words,” where I come up with three words that I use as guidance for how I should conduct my efforts in the year to come. I set goals around these three words. I build deadlines and projects around these words.

Here’s my 3 words for twenty-10:

catalyst:  A catalyst is someone or something that makes things happen.  I want to take more initiative with my family time (especially with a baby girl on the way).  Catalyst.  I want to add value to people’s lives.  Catalyst.  I want to take Katie out more often.  Catalyst.  I want to create excellent content on my blogs. 

athlete:  I understand the world of athletics; I think in terms of sports.  Athletes are into training, planning, practicing, performing, and then reviewing the whole process and doing it again.  Thinking of the word “athlete” makes me pursue my fitness.  Though I may not compete in a race this year, I want 2010 to be a solid year of training.  Athlete.  I want to prepare for each week (and month) as an athlete prepares for a game.  My life would be much more efficient and enjoyable if I spent a little more time preparing.  Athlete.  I also want to explore the idea of failure.  Athletes fail.  Failure is ok… if you learn from it.  I’m afraid of failure.  But if I fail I will know I’m trying hard and am fully invested.  “I’ve never failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

coffee:  This is my most abstract word.  Coffee this year reminds me of my morning routine.  Before my family is awake I’m up reading my Bible, journaling about life, reading a good book, and preparing for my day.  Coffee.  I’m also going to pursue a few more meaningful relationships for me and my family.  Coffee.  I want to host friends and family at our house.  Coffee.  I want to get into some strategic relationships with other Christian men who I can do life with.  Coffee.

Disclaimer:  These three words may mean nothing to you, and they can’t be fully understood from this post; it’s not meant to be all-inclusive.  But they have been pondered by me for over a week and I’ve internalized them and started to process them here.  Accountability is good.  Having goals is good.  Failure is ok.  Learning the process to growth is essential.

Exercise and Christianity

Since I became a fitness professional (as a personal trainer) I’ve made an intentional effort to practice what I preach.  It’s not enough to have the knowledge to simply prescribe a workout routine for people and expect them to become healthier.  I firmly believe a good trainer needs to model a healthy lifestyle to be effective.

In addition to training, it has been my experience that I also need to have open discussions about health-related topics as a normal part of my days and relationships with people.  I want my fitness profession to be more than a job – I want it to be a significant component to my life.  So I approach relationship with the lens of “how can I be a resource and an encouragement to those with whom I interact?”

As these conversations have taken place, I’ve realized that my fitness profession and my Christianity have something in common.  It seems to me that these two aspects of my life can come across as over-zealous and even self-righteous.  Here’s what I mean.

I admit that I don’t talk about my faith as much as I should.  I’ve certainly had opportunities and relationships where I’ve been able to be more vocal, and I feel good when I can share my faith.  But the general consensus in this country and culture is that talking about Christianity comes off as ‘better-than-thou.’  I hate that.  But it seems true.  Any discussion of Jesus, the Bible, my morals, or my views on family and society are interpreted as though I don’t sin, I don’t accept anyone else’s lifestyles, I’m unforgiving, or no one lives up to my standards.  Have you ever felt unreasonably pegged and wanted to defend yourself?

Let’s look at the excercise profession.  Since learning about physical and health education at the University of Wisconsin, I’ve realized how important health and fitness is to our culture.  Over 66% of the population is overweight – and almost half of that group is obese!  This has created a passion in me to see more individuals gain their health back and begin to feel better about themselves.  As noted above, I figure I’ll be more effective if I practice what I preach, but to be honest I’d probably be doing this training even if my profession was unrelated.

But then comes my dilema.  I’m thin, I’m active, I eat very healthy (thanks to Katie) and I compete in marathons.  How does this look to those I’m trying to reach?  To some it’s exactly what they’d expect.  But to others (usually the very-overweight ones) it just seems like they want to say, “Easy for you to say, Hans.  You’re in great shape and I could never get to that point.”  Maybe I’m reading into this or maybe I’m not bringing them along with me in the conversation.  But it sure feels like people hear me talk about fitness and just don’t care or don’t think it’s attainable.

So my faith and my profession seem to have this in common:  when you’re part of “the group” you’re elite and so you must be looking down on those that aren’t.  I guess at this point it’s just an observation.  I don’t have evidence of this and I don’t have a solution.  But I believe God has called me to develop these aspects in my life and I also believe he’s given me a voice and is allowing me to develop and grow that voice to work for His good.  So I’ll keep pushing my agenda and practicing what I preach.