Monday, July 30, 2018

The Lure of Sugar

So here's something 'right where we live.'

I love sugar. Always have.

I've always known it is bad for me, at least in quantities I consume. So why do I do it?

"Logic!" say the young. "If we'd all rule our lives by reason!" The implication is, of course, that the speaker does precisely that and further, that such a thing is really possible on any meaningful scale.

Fact is, reason tells us that we do not rule our lives by reason, but largely by feeling and emotion.

My body feels good when I have sugar, so I eat it. A thousand rationalizations are easy. Tonight it was typical: "This chocolate cake is from my birthday. I can't let it go to waste."

I've done this for years and I assume most of us do in measure: we rationalize poor eating habits. This is the wrong use of the reason so touted by the young as the cure for what ails us. That is, reason is at work on a wrong assumption, namely, "If it feels good I should eat it. If it doesn't, not so much." Reason is serving our bodily foolishness.

Tonight I read some of a piece about the link between sugar and cognitive decline. Could this move me to 'lick the sugar habit', as goes the title of a book my wife hopefully gave me some six years ago?

Am I really going to answer in the negative such questions as these?

  • Do I want a healthy mind as long as possible?
  • Do I want to optimize my options for good health and activity?
  • Do I want to enjoy my family for the longest possible time?
  • Do I want to be here to love and care for my wife as long as possible?
Every indulgence of the sugar habit says "no" to those questions. and this is not some dour, ascetic attitude. We should have dessert. Just not all the time, in Mt. Dew and coffee creamer and German chocolate cake and pizza and jelly, doughnuts, syrup-on-pancakes, candy, cookies, twizzlers, and on and on and on.

I do not trust my will-power, which is fodder for another blog. But this article all-but pushed me over the edge. I must change these habits that undermine good living and increase the possibility that my children will unduly suffer because of my fault.. I do not want that to happen,

What say ye?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

On Consciousness

Ran across this puzzling quote today by the skeptical mystic I. Ronia Lirt: "I'm unaware of consciousness."

What do you make of it?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ministry Remnants: Rewards from Unexpected Places

Maybe the path of suffering is necessary to answer our deepest, truest prayer.


Today we considered this text: "...God rewards those who diligently seek Him." It is clear that the reward in mind is God Himself and it is Him we are to seek supremely. I often remember Lewis' reminder: if we make God our sole pursuit, all else is thrown in. Invert the order and lose all. Jesus said as much more than once, of course, primarily in the oft-quoted text "seek ye first the Kingdom of God...."

But I didn't want to miss the truth that God also rewards us in general, so I tossed out that reminder with this caveat: God rewards us but often the rewards are in disguise. Certainly they do not come when we want them or in the shape or quantity we wish. And they especially come in ways we could never expect.

I remembered how true this was for a dear friend. His son began adult life with painfully bad choices, leaving him poor, sometimes bitter, lonely, disappointed. My friend felt deep remorse, blaming himself. The son, for his part, eventually owned his own fault and began to make amends and develop zealous responsibility. 

My friend wished for the 'reward' of a son with grandchildren and a stable, godly home. He eventually got a godly son, sans home and grandchildren. Then, much to his deep joy, his son developed a large, entrepreneurial ministry that far surpassed anything my friend ever hoped to see. The son began to live out the deepest prayers of his father. 

The reward came by painful means; it came by circuitous route; and it looked nothing like my friend thought it would. And yet it was the answer to his deepest, un-uttered prayer.

Maybe the path of suffering is necessary to answer our deepest, truest prayer.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Waiting...

Waiting is the ellipsis...

Waiting...
...until you hear without effort;
...until a word births itself;
...until hope appears, uncontrived.

In the stillness we find him. Only in waiting we find what is worth waiting for.

Why are we so slow to wait, to get quiet, to listen?

Our trials take us there, but not always. We are recalcitrant.

I have known in rare days the sweet grace of waiting, of being still, of knowing.

I believe in God. When I wait for Him faith is working.

A faith that "diligently seeks" finds Him as its rich reward.

Waiting is the ellipsis, the too many dots that seem wasted space and time. Is waiting for God wasted time?

The reward is worth the wait. Hold on.

He is worth the wait.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

It's Just Me

It's just me, Lord. Not my ideas, rationale, defense, ponderings. It's not even my prayers. Just me.

Are you there? I know I can't say such things without praying, but the mess of mind and thinking leaves little place to just be.

So, it's just me. I need you.

I know it sounds sappy or weird, or like I'm trying to sound cool.

I just would like to be right about this, to quit the talk and stuff and know it is you yourself I need.

When you came to Mary she asked questions and was obedient and submissive. Some reasonings, but peace. Presence. In finality her, and you.

And so I think about not thinking. And I remember the scandal to mind of that oft-quoted Proverb: 'Lean not on your own understanding.'

I'm doing that, Lord. I do not know where you are, but I believe you are and I believe
you care.

I need you, and I wait for you in this happy crucible place.

It's just me.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Backward

In the overpacked category of "random" we find this musing on backwardness.

A friend un-named was pronouncedly backward when we first met. Smiling in the background, wordless interaction, seldom speaking even when spoken to, unless the question was clear and plain. And then the response gave "taciturn" new meaning.

In future years he and I became better friends, working together now and then, talking at great length. He is still kind of backward but it is not the first thing you notice. And his character is solid -- a faithful friend who loves his family and others with life-long devotion.

I never thought I was backward in that way, but I sometimes wonder. A dear and trusted friend says I am a closet-introvert. I dunno. But as the years go I understand better the beauty of being in the background, letting words remain unspoken, giving others space, action, conversation.

One realm that could use more backwardness -- OK, two realms: political discourse and Facebook in general. The ready-megaphone of media like this simple blog lets us fill the world with data, each byte cheapened with the swelling. This means political 'discourse' and Facebook can drag us down on scale worse than ever.

Things used for ill can also be used for good, and perhaps the effects balance out. I hope so.

For now I am learning happily to be more backward. And that can be a good way to be.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

You're Best Isn't Good Enough

I worked the early shift at UPS for two years. Supervisors yelling, co-workers sending boxes back up line, conveyor running, running, running. Mistakes were easy and rewarded with verbal affronts, not malicious but almost. The first days and weeks were harrowing.

One morning, Dave, my supervisor saw my woeful speed: “You gotta move faster! Your stuff is getting past and blocking the line! Move, move, MOVE!!”

“I am doing my best,” I protested, trying to hide indignation.

He was unimpressed: “Your best is not good enough!”

I knew he was right, but I protested in my soul. My best is not good enough?

This lesson is painfully true in life and ministry. All we can do is our best and that is what God expects, but it is not all He expects. He expects us to improve our best. Am I hurt when efforts are unappreciated and misunderstood, shortcomings criticized and strengths ignored? Yes! My best is not good enough! But if I quit and apply the poison salve of bitterness I only get worse. I have to take my lumps and see if I can improve my serve.

There are two lessons here:

One, our best can be better and it is wrong to just get by with what is comfortable. If we have a worthy goal for which we feel called then the fear of God calls us to be better. Job was surpassingly good but that did not make him successful. Success requires hard word and lots of it, steady excellence over time, willingness to fail and learn from it, and refusal to expect success as a result of virtue. Job's success came from his work and God's blessing, not just his exemplary goodness. 

Lesson two is this: God is the ultimate judge so seek His approval. He wants you to succeed and is relentless in His demands of your character, discipline, and effort. But He values you as His child, not just a performer whose “best is not good enough.” Because God is our Father, our best is good enough, it just isn't all. “Let me help you,” He says. “Look what you can be if you listen, learn and apply yourself here.”

My best is not good enough. Yes that stings, but I think it is true.

God's calls me to be all I can be, with glad hope of His smile and of someday hearing His triumphant, “Well done!”

Friday, July 6, 2018

Ruminations on the Fourth

From Native activists who call it the "farce", to Vicksburg who refused to celebrate it for many decades, to those who yawn as it passes and those who celebrate with passion and glee...one who is open and interested can be perplexed. Good friends caution us to avoid nation-worship and some churches 'observe' the fourth by engendering near-disdain.

What gives? Is it wrong to love country? Because Jefferson owned slaves is the progeny of his ideas forever poisoned? Because our forbears were not 'evangelical Protestant like me' can we not consider that in some appropriate and meaningful sense we began as a Christian nation? Could we somehow imagine that perhaps the good outweighed the bad? Could we believe there is something like exceptional, that against all odds we achieved it in some fashion, and rejoice in that without condescension?

Sometimes I decide I do not know anything. And maybe that is good. I truly admire the scholars, those who really understand and know and help us think straight. I also know they, like me, have assumptions that mislead.

Here's where I stand. I want to love my country, and I do. I am aware of and pained by her faults. I do not do enough to fix them -- who does? But I'm done with the guilt trip and shame that quashes love. I do love this country -- even the government that is a necessary evil. And I try to live my life in quiet and peace, observing the ethics and ideas that portend to peace and stability.

I'm weary of the outlook eclipsed by fault-finding such that beauty and joy and love are lost.

I love my country again, and I hope you do, too.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Vicissitude

Vicissitude: the quality or state of being changeable : mutability: natural change or mutation visible in nature or in human affairs  

Once during a major decision process a trusted mentor commented on the "vicissitudes of life." Change, unknowns, decisions about which the outcome is unknowable, the necessity of those decisions all the same. The term stuck in my mind.

Our circumstances -- unpredictable and often negative -- are largely beyond our control. Our chafing and worrying is of little value. Our response however is really up to us. If we neglect and abstain and refuse we aid the problem in dragging us down. If we respond proactively, thoughtfully and with purpose and determination, the effect of the circumstance will change and possibly be reversed or converted to something good.

This is redemption -- taking ill potential and making it positive.

The vicissitudes of life are often painful and distressing. Christ calls us to be strong, humble and holy no matter what may come.