Food File: September 29 2018

Target Audience: Christians

There is a reason why I list “Christians” as my target audience and not overweight Christians, obese Christians or other kinds of unhealthy people. The reason is that it isn’t just overweight or obese Christians who are unhealthy and do not honor God with their food. In many ways, church leaders are enablers and facilitators with respect to dishonoring God with food and beverages. This blog post will not change the overwhelming majority of churches in North America in particular that serve high sugar, high fat, high sodium snacks and desserts to their members. Perhaps more appalling is they blithely comply with a culture of addiction to these cardiac killing desserts. Now I am aware that very few teenagers collapse with heart attacks or strokes due to too many desserts or too much sugary soda. That being said, it is standard fare at most churches. A case in point is The Meeting House in Oakville, Ontario, the church I happen to attend. It is an awesome church and I love the ministry team and the teaching of the church. During the month of September, though, they greeted people coming into the building with large baskets of Timbits (small donut holes of various varieties). They were ubiquitous throughout the building each Sunday. I managed to avoid them every Sunday but the first one. My point is that we need to find other ways to celebrate than food. Perhaps they could have given everyone a pen with the name of the church on it, or some other non-food item. Is it wrong to celebrate with food? Not at all. I think as our society is among the unhealthiest in the world, though, we might rethink the kind of food we use to celebrate. More and more people are celebrating with creative fruit platters and veggie platters. In my mind, it doesn’t sound as appealing as Timbits or chocolate cake, but I am still almost 200 pounds overweight, so I wouldn’t put my weight into what I think.

As far as my weight loss is concerned, things have been going fairly well. I went to Weight Watchers today (about to be rebranded Wellness that Works) and was up .8 of a pound. That happens. This past week has been difficult, but not totally unmanageable. Last Saturday night my family took me out to a restaurant for my birthday dinner. While I enjoyed the salmon dinner, which should have been a low point dinner, restaurants are notorious for hiding things like sodium, fat and other additives that can turn a seemingly healthy meal into one that is not. Then last night I met with some of my university buddies. We go out to a pub two or three times a year. I don’t drink but a couple of the others like their beer or ale. Anyway, I had treated myself to a steak dinner before I left home but found myself curiously hungry when I got to the restaurant and saw a salad that one of my friends had ordered. I ordered the same salad and it was good, but I wasn’t aware of the Ramen noodles in it, or the amount of oil they used as dressing. Everything else about the salad was good and healthy. Had I asked for dressing on the side and for them to leave out the Ramen noodles I might have been fine. 

This journey is more than just shedding 200 pounds, although that is a main motivator for me. It is about adopting a permanent lifestyle change of healthy eating, exercise and a mindset that shatters the connection between food and emotion. Dr Phil McGraw, a noted psychologist, commented in his book on weight loss that until you divorce your emotions from your eating you will never be truly successful. I will freely admit that I am an emotional eater. I have been ever since childhood when my parents medicated my moods with food. If I was unhappy, it was time for cookies. If I was celebrating something, cake or pie, if I lost a job and was feeling like a failure, a dish of ice cream would pick me up. It isn’t my parent’s fault, by the way. Long after their influence ended, I carried on this tradition in my own life, when I lived independently. If I was feeling apathetic, then tortilla chips, salsa, and sour cream would be an easy “meal” or two or perhaps even three. If I didn’t feel like cooking and just wanted to veg in front of my computer, a frozen pizza was on the menu for lunch or supper. 

This journey is also about how I feel. I have noticed over the past couple of weeks that I am walking easier. Yesterday and today I left my apartment without my walker for the first time in a long time. Now the walker is an excellent “cart” when I have 30 pounds of groceries to haul up to my apartment from my car, but when I am not going shopping I have now started leaving the walker in the apartment because I don’t need it. 

My goal for this coming week is to try a couple of new meals and to move more. The weather is getting cooler and it is easier for me to walk, which is precisely what I need to be doing. The Canadian Thanksgiving is next weekend and while I have opted not to join my family (a 2 hour drive each way) for their meal, I will be celebrating with one of my university buddies and his wife and friends at their condo. The goal: honor God with my food.

Food File: September 8 2018

Target Audience: Christians

So far this month I have lost just over 7 pounds. This week was somewhat disappointing because I lost a mere 1.7  pounds. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want it back, but I always hope that I can do better. My actual goal is between 3 – 5 pounds per week consistently. In order for me to achieve that level of weight loss I will have to become much more active that I am now. I am older now, almost 64, and not nearly as mobile as I used to be. Even with my walker and a cane occasionally, I have trouble walking. Standing can be extremely painful, which means the faster I lose the weight the better. In balance, though, I want to avoid costly fad methods of losing weight or doing things that may work in the short term but will bite me later. 

This week I have decided to go “breadless” for at least one week. I don’t eat a lot of bread, but I must confess I add it to meals, like breakfast, where it isn’t really necessary. My usual breakfast is low-sodium bacon (2 strips), 2 large eggs, with some egg whites added in. I have been adding two slices of bread or toast under the scrambled eggs. It just adds carbs to a rather good breakfast. In time, I will likely substitute ham for bacon, or perhaps peameal bacon. 

Tonight I am having my homemade chili made with ground chicken. On Weight Watchers, this is a zero point meal, until I add parmesan cheese at the table. There is a danger with zero point foods. Weight Watchers zeroed out chicken and fish, all fruit and all vegetables. While that can be a good thing, it can also tempt people like me, when I make something that is particularly good or tasty to eat more than I should. The Free Style program at Weight Watchers (WW) is good and I am enjoying it, but portion control is still essential to losing weight, even with zero point foods. So, I will have two cups (measured) of my chili tonight. I buy Jello Fat-Free, Sugar-Free puddings. They have been a food savior for me in the past because they are very low calorie and low point value. I can eat half the serving for 2 points in the evening, which makes a sweet snack without triggering my urge for real sweet desserts. 

I also learned this week that Timbits, a Canadian favorite, are not my friends. At church last weekend they were giving away these caloric bombs. I figured they were probably 2 points each, so I had five of them. When I checked only the plain ones were 2 points. Others were as high as 5 points. The worst catastrophe of the week happened on Wednesday night. I had my usual bacon and eggs breakfast that morning, but decided to have a really light at lunch and only had two cobs of corn. That was zero points except for the margarine. Then at dinner I decided to make a salad adding tuna for my meat. Except for the parmesan cheese and the salad dressing, that too was a zero point meal. I went to my Wednesday night Bible study and had two cups of coffee. When I got home, though, I realized I was ravenous. I had acquired a package of Italian salami at a food bank this past week. I didn’t eat the whole package, but I ate most of it while watching TV. I tracked the points to the best of my ability and racked up 80 points for that day alone. 

I share those hiccups in my weight loss journey because losing weight can be a very lonely experience, even if you are part of an organization like WW. There will be days when you are on top of the world and everything is just flying by. Then there will be days when you do things, like I did this past week, that I knew were wrong for me, but I still ate the salami and the Timbits. If you are on this journey too, I have a nugget of wisdom that I got from a man much wiser than me. The last meal that you ate means nothing now. You can’t do anything about it, nor should you try. It is history, in the past, and will be nothing more than a bad memory. The meal that matters the most is the one ahead of you because you can do something about that. Weekends can be treacherous times, because that is when Friday nights happen, Saturday dinners with friends, and whatever  other places of temptation we encounter that don’t happen during the week. It does get better.

Hatred Wrapped as Love

Target Audience: Conservatives, Evangelical Christians, Fundamentalist Christians

God is Love (1John 4:8)

What happens when we blend the definition of love with our political ideologies? An ideology is a set of beliefs commonly held by people within a certain group. For example, conservatives have beliefs that are distinctive to them. The same is true for liberals and other political ideologies. Everyone has an ideology of some kind. All of us align ourselves with one community or another, often several different communities intersect our lives. So our worldview is often a blend of various different ideologies and systems of belief. 

Those of us who identify as followers of Jesus, though, have agreed to align our worldview with a much higher standard — the principles of the kingdom of God, which Jesus Himself ushered in when He was on earth. As such, we commit to a new way of seeing other people. 

Recently, I had a conversation with a young Christian. He told me that while he doesn’t offer much original content on his Facebook page, his friends have no doubt about where he stands on God and issues such as LGBTQ. When I dug a bit deeper I discovered that his idea of “standing for God” was to tell people within the LGBTQ community that they are living in sin and their lifestyle would ultimately destroy them. In his opinion, this was the best way to communicate and show them the love of God. He went on to tell me that he did not have “time for theological discussions”. Sadly, he is symbolic of many right-wing, conservative Christians who tend to highlight the wrath, the judgment, the anger of God as opposed to His love, forgiveness, and His mercy. I was not privy to his conversations with the LGBTQ people to which he referred, but I doubt any of them asked if they could go to church with him to hear more about his vengeful God. 

Like so many [conservative] Christians these days, he focused on a person’s issues — note I did not use the word sin — instead of doing what Jesus really asked us to do, point them to Himself that they may know His love. Sin robs all humanity of the moral high ground. None of us have the right to think of ourselves as better than anyone else or to sit in judgment of another person. That alone is Christ’s role. 

When we wrap prejudice, hatred, and bigotry up and call it love we betray God and the essence of the gospel by which we were saved. I have often felt that the people who feel they have the moral high ground and look down on others tend to feel that it didn’t take quite as much of Jesus’ blood to cleanse them as it does the real perverts, like people in the LGBTQ community. 

That brings me to The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. While I can agree on a few points in this document, most of the points, specifically referring to race, sexual orientation, and women are abhorrent to the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This statement places men above women, and in fact subjugates women to men in a marriage relationship rather than making them equal partners with their husbands. A proscription found in the Pauline epistles prohibiting women from teaching in church or even speaking in church has been elevated to transcendent doctrine instead of being identified as a cultural practice. In Paul’s time men were usually educated and women were taught by men. Hence, women were not equipped to teach or speak in churches in that day. That doesn’t make them unequal with men. That is merely a cultural norm that does not need to be carried over into the 21st century. 

Women were not their only targets. People within the LGBTQ community also felt their hatred and scorn. Instead of welcoming people from that community into churches as full members of the body, worshipping alongside all others, The Statement declares them to be sinful merely because of their identity and their lifestyle. Far too many Christians have misread and misunderstood the New Testament with respect to homosexuality. Even worse, they have demonized homosexual men and women, making it a far greater issue than it ever was in the Bible. I have long believed this hatred and bigotry is borne of insecurity among heterosexual leaders in churches that they have successfully inculcated in their flocks over generations. It is now accepted as transcendent doctrine on the level of the deity of Christ, blood redemption, or the virgin birth, when in fact it is error that went to seed.

Jesus said: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. (John 13:34-35). The authors of the Statement got it wrong. It is the exclusive work of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin. In their smugness, highlighting the errors of other sinners for which Christ died, they inadvertently violated another instruction that Christ gave: take the plank out of your own eye before you worry about the speck in another person’s eye. The hatred and bigotry that shone through so brightly, not the love of God for all creation, is nothing more than a blight against evangelical Christianity. Instead of drawing people to Christ, many, I am sure, will flee as fast as possible. Who wants to be around a vengeful, hateful god like that?

A much more positive and progressive read is this one: Statement on God’s Justice