Eleven Discoveries Upon Turning 40

40Turning a year older usually means a cake, presents, and possibly an off-key a capella chorus of waiters and waitresses intent on embarrassing you. However, a birthday can also change one’s view of life. That seems to be the way it is when a person transitions form 39 to 40. I know, I know . . . it’s an age that is often so scary that folks avoid using the number itself, instead choosing to remain stuck on 39 for decades.

Something happens, however, when a person reaches that milestone year in their life. My birthday was on Saturday and it was like I had somehow awoken wiser. Maybe it’s due to that 3 in my age becoming a 4. I’m not quite sure. But it makes things a lot more significant all of a sudden.

So, in fashion to the style of the Internet these days, here are a few words of wisdom that I’d like to share with you about life:

* Make your days count. I now understand how long the Israelites roamed the wilderness as they waited to get into the Promised Land. Forty years is quite a long time! It’s important to make a positive difference in the lives of those you come into contact with. Life is way too short to harbor grudges and stay negative about any/everything around you. Otherwise, you’re the one stuck in the wilderness.

* Don’t work so hard that you forget to see, admire, and appreciate the finer things in life. You only get one crack at living, so take the time to spend playing games with your kids, acting goofy, or even singing one of your favorite songs at the top of your lungs (you might want to try the latter in front of a mirror first, but that’s completely your call).

* Read a book once a month (if not more often). In this day and age, we’re so accustomed to having information dispensed to us in lists, memes, emoji, and 140-character screeds that people a century ago wouldn’t be able to decipher. So why not give a book a chance? (As a bonus, pick up a classic work and spend time with it.)

* Put down the phone, tablet, or other electronic device once in a while. I share a birthday with my now 13 year-old daughter. She needs to have me spend time with her that’s not dependent on me tapping on a screen and zoning out for longer than I think. So does the rest of the family, come to think of it… (Note: this goes for eating at a restaurant as well–I cannot tell you the number of families I’ve seen that are all on their devices simultaneously or playing with the digital kiosk-thing at the table.) People are way more important than checking your Facebook feed for the 25th time or trying to better your high score on Crossy Road (in case you’re wondering, my best is 234).

* Be spontaneous. Over time, we tend to get quite predictable in life. We go to the same places, do the same things, take the same path to the same destination. It’s time that you changed things up on occasion. Instead of running out and grabbing some takeout from the burger joint, go to a Thai place. Or, better yet, craft a dinner that will leave people floored. Go to the park and shoot some hoops (or go swing on the swings). Pay for someone else’s coffee at the local store. Ditch the movie stars on the DVD and go look at the actual stars outside. The possibilites are endless!

* Dare to dream. Do you still have hopes and aspirations? Hopefully, those fires haven’t dimmed in the light of juggling competing time demands. Take some time to write them down, then start the process to make them happen!

* Take up a new hobby. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn origami. Or learn to play frisbee golf. It doesn’t have to be something huge, but you can liven up things with a simple addition to your free time. And if you don’t have any free time, why not? Consider ways to build some into your life.

* Enjoy the company of family and friends. Life isn’t meant to be lived in a vacuum. Instead, it is to be enjoyed with other people. Find a community event to attend (or even create one of your own!). Have some folks over for dinner and games. Live life while you have the chance to.

* Remember the value of faith. The writer of Hebrews (11:1) says that faith “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Even though it’s great to do all the above things, we should take time and reflect on what the future holds–both here on earth and after we die. If you’re not sure about that last one, Jesus talks quite a bit about what happens. We would all do well to consider His words.

* Make a difference in someone’s life. One of my personal aphorisms is this: “If you don’t think anyone in the world loves you, take a look at your Facebook account on your birthday.” It’s a very easy way to be reminded that you do matter to people. It’s also a great reminder that you’ve made a difference in the lives of others. We can always go a step further, so think about what that might look like for you–then put it into action.

*  In order to make certain things happen in life, we often sacrifice parts of who we are upon the altar of conformity. When we do this, we’re robbing ourself–and others–of who we are. Always strive to get better–more patient, less angry, eager to smile, increasing in joy, abounding in love and respect. But at the same time, don’t forget to remain true to who you were created to be. Life without you wouldn’t be the same!

I’m hoping the next 40 years are going to be fantastic ones. It’s going to make each day a unique adventure that I share with each of you!

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Beyond A.D. and Episode 2 of A.D. (Mini-Review)

ad“A.D. The Bible Continues” premiered last Sunday and did quite well in the ratings.  In fact, it was the highest rated show on television on Easter and even found itself as the #1 trending topic on Twitter (#ADTheSeries). One unique thing the producers of the show are trying is a web-only companion program called “Beyond A.D.” It’s filmed every Tuesday night in Valencia CA for the next 11 weeks and is similar in style to “The Talking Dead,” a webshow for “The Walking Dead” (Note: if you’re in the area and want to be in the studio audience, let me know, as I can get you a link for tickets). Each half-hour episode will feature a faith based guest, a celebrity, and a musical act.  Hosting the show is Jason Kennedy from E!.

I drove down to Valencia for the opening taping of “Beyond A.D.” last Tuesday and had a chance before the show to talk with two of the evening’s special guests–Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner and Israel Houghton.  Warner told me that he loved the first episode of “A.D.,” noting that it generated “amazing dialogue” in his family. The show “A.D.” isn’t just trying to depict what Christians believe, but it causes people to look internally and see where faith lies. I asked him about the importance of dialogue, especially in the internet age; Warner noted that the reason dialogue is extremely important is because “we want to tell our opinions” instead of listening to others.

There are some similarities to the role of Peter in leading the apostles and Warner’s role of playing quarterback for an NFL team. For him, it was being a leader in any way he could. Both of the roles have amazing responsibility due to the fact that they’re representing something bigger than themselves. There’s great risk and great challenge, but where else would you want to be? Warner added, “I didn’t take [the role of leader] lightly–I wanted to impact people.”  The biggest lesson Warner has learned from the book of Acts is a simple one: What are you willing to do for your faith?

Israel Houghton and I chatted about music for a few minutes–he shared that the role of music in a show like “A.D.” is vital.  In fact, it becomes an additional actor in the presentation. You could look at the score with the wrong music and not be as moved.  With that, however, comes an immense temptation to force emotion when it’s not necessary or overdo it.  Houghton likened it to going on a mission trip and having such a great experience that upon your return, you talk to others “in an amplified way just because you’re in tune with what happened.” The problem is that most folks weren’t on the trip with you and don’t fully understand. Thus, you have to take yourself out of the situation when composing a tune, knowing that a single violin note can carry as much (or even more) weight than a massive buildup of noise.

“Beyond A.D.” offers a recap of the preceding week’s episode and takes time to answer viewer questions sent via Twitter.  A sneak peek of the upcoming show is shown, followed by a musical number by that week’s guest.

I have seen the second episode and will briefly say that there are some extremely powerful scenes in it–especially involving the disciples as they try to make sense of Jesus’ death and disappearance from the tomb. There’s still an error with the placing of the nail marks in Jesus’ hands, but I didn’t find it to be overly jarring. Caiaphas and Pilate are at odds with each other and the relationship becomes quite precarious. It all builds up to a rather shocking ending that provides a glimpse of the trouble the disciples will face while Jesus offers them hope before He returns to heaven.

“A.D.” will be shown tonight from 8-10 PM on NBC (8 PM encore presentation of Episode 1; 9 PM for tonight’s episode).

“Beyond A.D.” is available now to view online at this link: http://www.nbc.com/ad-the-bible-continues/video/beyond-ad-week-1/2857200.  Look in the audience shots–you might see me with my hat!

Is it Time for a Do Over? (Book Review)

do overAt some point in your life, there’s going to come a time when you’re dissatisfied with your current job. It might not be today or even tomorrow. But it’s going to happen. In fact, seven out of ten people in a recent Gallup poll said something to this effect.

Jon Acuff wants you to understand that there are ways to fix this problem. There are ways to make Monday a great day instead of one that is dreaded. There are ways to avoid being stuck. There are ways to reinvent work. His latest book, Do Over, is an eye-opening look at what it takes to change work into something different–something better.

The first chapter is good enough to be a separate book of its own. Acuff shares that we control more than we think, then introduces a concept called a Career Savings Account. Just as it’s important to begin saving early so one is prepared for anything that comes up, a CSA allows a person to draw upon their current and past relationships, skill set, and character to help navigate career changes. Not every job situation is the same, but Acuff classifies them into four main categories:

* A Career Ceiling – This is when a person has climbed the ladder as high as they can at a job; they need to invest in skills to bust the ceiling wide open.
* A Career Bump – This is when a person loses their job for some reason or discovers they’re in a crowded job market; they need to fall back on their relationships to get them to the next step.
* A Career Jump – This is when a person has the opportunity to takes steps to further their career, be it a new title or through training; they need to make sure their character is where it needs to be to satisfactorily make the transition.
* A Career Opportunity – This is exactly what it sounds like; a person needs to hustle (defined as working hard) to have the chance to take the next step.

The rest of the book is an opportunity for Acuff to break down each of these categories and encourage people who are in each of these specific situations (again, that’s 70% of folks). He succeeds at this through a combination of realistic goal setting, challenges, and good-natured humor.  In addition, Acuff manages to keep notecard manufacturers busy for the next year or so–you’re going to need a pack or two by the end of the book. (Come to think of it, perhaps a free pack of notecards should be provided with future editions of Do Over.)

Will you be challenged by Acuff’s book?  I’m pretty confident you will.  I was reminded many times to take advantage of my current and past contacts to propel me in the event that I need to make a career transition. Everyone needs friends along the way, but they also need advocates who are willing to go to bat for them. It’s also never too late to work on new skills–both job related and in the form of a hobby.

However, my biggest takeaway was a reminder to never give up and to hustle when the time calls for it. Working hard is important, but no job is always fun to do (as a side note, Acuff wants people to have fun too–after all, who wants to simply sludge through life day after day?). That’s when being flexible, having awareness about the situation, and gritting out the tough parts of work pay dividends in the long run. It’s like the man in Matthew 7 who chose to build his house on a foundation of rock instead of sand. Sure, it took longer to find the right place and do the things that weren’t fun (such as caulking the bathtub), but the end result was that his house survived the storm that other dwellings built on the sand didn’t.

I’m certain that Do Over is going to be a book that will challenge people to become better than they are at both work and life while providing them courage to defeat fear in a staring contest.

Is it time to declare a Do Over in your life? If so, you should run to the nearest bookstore (in real time or online) and pick up a copy. It could be the best investment you make this year.

A Reason to Celebrate

adApproximately three months ago, I sat in a hotel ballroom in Pasadena CA as Mark Burnett and Roma Downey talked about an upcoming project called “A.D. The Bible Continues.” After their success with “The Bible” series a number of years earlier, I had one question for them.

Why now?

Mark’s response was telling: “We simply couldn’t make it fast enough.” He then mentioned how fortunate it was that NBC was going to air the premiere on Easter Sunday. I agree wholeheartedly with this, as “A.D.” looks like a game-changer in the realm of faith-based programming.

Are there differences from “The Bible?” Absolutely. There is zero carryover from the cast of the History Channel miniseries–all roles are played by different individuals. Instead of Diogo Morgado playing the titular role of Jesus, Juan Pablo Di Pace handles the role. Downey leaves her role as Jesus’ mother to Greta Scacchi. The rest of the cast is unique, as it’s reflective of the world today. As an example, the apostle John is played by Babou Ceesay from the country of Gambia, while Mary Magdalene is portrayed by Chipo Chung–a native of Zimbabwe.

After watching the first episode, it’s clear that Burnett and Downey have learned a lot about producing a show in the aftermath of “The Bible.” The production values are better; the pacing is more crisp; the acting is more convincing (Pilate [Vincent Regan] and Magdalene stand out); and the overall effect leaves a strong impression on the viewer.

Of course, one of the knocks on “The Bible” from evangelical viewers was that it took far too much liberty with the source material. I’m happy to report that “A.D.” corrects this in a big way. There is one questionable section at the end with an angel pulling out a sword (no ninja angels here), but for the most part, the episode is true to the Gospel retelling of the crucifixion and accounts in the Bible about the hours afterward. There’s violence, as you might expect, but it’s not as drawn-out and gory as either “The Bible” or The Passion of the Christ. This allows for a snappy episode that sets up future episodes well.

You may notice that I haven’t talked about Jesus so far. That’s because Di Pace doesn’t get to do too much other than confront Pilate and Caiaphas with steely reserve, hang on a cross, and die. What he does with the role, however, provides a sense of purpose that Morgado was unable to reach with his portrayal in “The Bible.” This allows the backstories of Caiaphas, Pilate, Leah, and Claudia to take center stage. It’s really intriguing stuff and helps to flesh out the tension that was in the air during those three days of the Passover.

Don’t miss this premiere–you’ll be hooked from the outset.

“A.D. The Bible Continues” is a 12-week miniseries that airs on NBC at 9 PM on Sundays, starting on Easter.