Archive | July, 2013

When Food Tastes Delicious . . .

22 Jul

When Food Tastes Delicious . . .

I have noticed something as I have embarked on my journey to maintain a lower, more healthy weight for the rest of my life.

We who live in the U.S. are in a food-rich country, so the idea of denying ourselves the pleasure of good food is not a common one.

But what about the idea of reserving some delicious foods as very occasional treats?

I can resonate with that. In fact, the way I enabled myself to not eat sweets at all initially during my Weight Watchers loss was to promise myself a piece of mile-high cheesecake from my favorite deli once a month. I still have that custom going on!!!

But there are other foods being added to my list of “very occasional treats.”

For one, I noticed at a recent cookout where we all brought our own meat that the 85% lean ground beef patties I had purchased at Food Lion were turned into the most delicious medium rare cheeseburgers ever by my Pastor’s skillful hand on the grill. I can still taste that burger, if I close my eyes. And I have to say it was among the five best burgers I have ever had.

I only eat burgers perhaps half a dozen times a year right now. Nothing wrong with them (if I count the Weight Watchers points). It is just that they have gone from being an everyday food, consumed two or three times a week, to being a huge treat.

I wonder whether my Pastor’s cheeseburger would have tasted quite so delectable if I were still in the habit of having burgers 2-3 times a week!

Last night, I had a piece of dark chocolate cake, celebrating my son’s departure for college. It was a big piece, very moist, with creamy frosting. Delicious.

I counted my 14 points and savored every mouthful. It seemed to be the best chocolate cake I have ever had.

Again, I wondered whether that was due to the fact that I have had cake about four times since the beginning of 2012. I assumed that was the case.

If I still ate cake at least once a week, even chowing down on lesser storebought cakes, I doubt that I would be able to appreciate the superior quality of the bakery version I had last night.

I think I may have the best of all possible worlds and I am extremely grateful for where I am in my new healthy lifestyle.

I live in a country with lots of food choices. I have enough money to afford the food I wish to eat. But I voluntarily have set aside certain things that I used to eat regularly, putting them into the category of occasional special treats. And that seems to be working out very well for me. My food, when I have it, tastes delicious. When I don’t have it, I never feel as though I am missing out on anything . . .

Does that make sense? Anyone else forming a similar conclusion with their lifestyle choices?

There are Only Five Original Thoughts . . .

22 Jul

We live life at 100mph.  

At that speed, we hardly have time to think, let alone read.

Yet we want to be seen as thinkers so we constantly look for sources of material to use.  As long as we can read and “digest” it in three seconds or less.

I have become convinced that almost all posts on Facebook can be boiled down to five main thoughts, none of them original to us.  Especially since about 60% of Facebook appears to be “shares” from other sources.

So it is in the church and in the field of theology.

Much of what is written, published, taught, and shared one-on-one appears to derive from about five original sermons located somewhere on this planet . . .

As a Christian teacher, I am tired of being that stale.  So I am going to devote myself to some heavy reading for the next several months to try to recover my ability to think and to actively interact with written material, rather than just “digesting” it (then turning  around and passing it on to someone else . . .).  

Pray for me . . . I believe God has given me the gift of teaching and I believe He has more for me than living life at 100mph, never stopping to think about  anything for more than three seconds.  

Is Trayvon Martin another Emmett Till or Medgar Evers?

21 Jul

The reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict continues apace.

After five days the President weighed in with a statement that seemed as though it was based on opinion polls demanding that the president say something.  Here is one quote from our local paper:  “The president said that distrust shadows African-American men: They sometimes are closely followed when they shop at department stores; they can draw nervous stares on elevators and hear car locks clicking when they walk down the street — experiences that he said he personally felt before becoming a well-known figure.”

Three points from that quote for discussion:

1) How many of us have been followed by store detectives more than once? I have. I am a slow shopper. I compare prices, read tags, and check seams. I have been followed while comparison shopping so many times that I prefer to shop online now (that is not the only reason, but a minor one). I could claim I am being profiled as a slow shopper, but I won’t go there. Sometimes it can be the patterns of what we are doing that cause people to pay attention to us. 

2) The unease on elevators. I have that almost every time I am alone with a man on an elevator, whatever his age or race. Do African-American teens not realize that? Does the President not realize that?  African-American teens are not alone in evoking a bit of caution among women who are on an elevator.  In most altercations that take place between a man and a woman, the woman comes out on the short end of the stick due to our physical strength being, on average, less than a man’s.  We learn to be cautious when in a situation where we are alone with a male stranger.  Like on elevators.   

3) When there is the clicking car lock. I actually feel guilty when I do that to an African-American man. I don’t feel guilty when I do it to a Caucasian. But . . . I do it to both of them. When I am alone and getting into my car, I am not going to leave the door unlocked just to prove to someone that I trust him. That would be stupid. There are too many carjackings nowadays.  I am not going to leave my door unlocked just to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.  Nor are most women.

So, back to my original question.  Is Trayvon Martin another Medgar Evers?  

No.  Medgar Evers is a hero of the civil rights movement who died for his beliefs and for his actions on behalf of African-American citizens.  Trayvon Martin, whatever he was, is not a civil rights hero.  He did not take risks on behalf of anyone but himself.  That is not to negate him as a person, but just to point out the stature of Mr. Evers, who lived a much longer life and achieved a lot more.

So, is Trayvon Martin another Emmett Till?

I would say “no.”  Emmett Till was savagely murdered for whistling at a white girl.  He was stalked by people who identified him and went after him later.  

Trayvon Martin died in the midst of an altercation.  His death is sad and unfortunate, but he was not stalked in the same way as Emmett Till.  In fact, as someone somewhere has written, “Who calls 911 before stalking someone?”  It is obvious George Zimmerman did not initially intend to kill Trayvon Martin or he would not have called 911.

What went wrong after that is under dispute.  We don’t know who struck the first blow in the altercation.  Given that, I believe the jury did what they had to do in acquitting George Zimmerman.

A guilty man may have walked.  But that is the risk we run under our system of justice.  We would rather take that risk than risk incarcerating an innocent man.

Trayvon Martin had a sad, unfortunate death.  My heart hurts for his parents.  

But I disagree about him being a civil rights icon like Emmett Till or Medgar Evers.  


This Teen is a Hero! But, Like George Zimmerman, He Made the Decision to Follow Someone . . .

20 Jul

This Teen is a Hero! But, Like George Zimmerman, He Made the Decision to Follow Someone . . .

The problem is . . . it is just too easy to be an armchair quarterback after someone else has taken action. The young man in this post made a decision to follow an older man with a child and . . . it turns out he had the right older man and the right child.

So his mission met with success.

George Zimmerman, concerned about a string of burglaries, followed a young man he didn’t recognize in his neighborhood on a dark, rainy night and . . . we know how unsuccessful that mission was.

It is so easy for us to see which person was right to follow someone and which one was not.

But can we grant that sometimes it is not so easy to see that at the time?

Now that we are calling for “stand your ground” laws to be rescinded, will it have the unintended consequence of criminalizing people who intervene in crimes or potential crimes? Will it force us into inactivity, leaving all crime-solving to the police, though they are stretched thin, lest we get in trouble for intervening?

Think about this. Think hard about it.


This Brother in Christ Says it Much Better than I Ever Could!

18 Jul

This Brother in Christ Says it Much Better than I Ever Could!

Driving-while-black really does exist. Racial profiling, I mean.

Our church is pretty well balanced racially, so my son grew up with fellow youth group members who were black, Asian, and Hispanic. Our church’s academy won the state basketball championship several years ago with a team that had only one white member (the rest were black or Filipino). The academy’s valedictorian has been a black person for two of the last five years and a Filipino person for two more of those years. In other words, our Baptist kids are raised with racial balance.

And . . . I have held my breath as several of my son’s black male friends have grown up and learned to drive. I know the approximate income level of their parents and the fact that their cars are well cared for and nice. And . . . I wondered whether those nice Christian young men would ever be pulled over on suspicion that they had stolen a car.

Thankfully, that never happened.

And things do seem to be getting better. When I pass people who have been pulled over on the Interstate nowadays, the ratio seems to be about 50% black to 50% white. When we first moved to Virginia over 20 years ago, almost all of the traffic stops seemed to involve black people. In our city, about 20% of our inhabitants are black, so that ratio didn’t work out well, did it? It actually still doesn’t.

There is a need for a dialogue on race in our country. The mere fact that some of my fellow whites dismiss the call for a dialogue as “throwing the race card” shows that we need to have the conversation. Our hearts can be pretty hard against each other.

Tribalism is a natural part of the human condition. However, in Christ, we claim to be born again, with a supernatural aspect to our existence, as the Holy Spirit leads us to grow to be more like Christ. If we are not shedding our tribalism as we grow, we are not fulfilling our Lord’s commands and desires.

Read John 17 and the book of Ephesians. God intended for our unity with our Christian brothers and sisters everywhere to be the supernatural mark of the Holy Spirit in us. He said the world will know we are Christians by our love (I John).

Dividing and Conquering: the Sanford Jury

17 Jul

In the series “The Winds of War” Herman Wouk provides a heartbreaking look at the subtle ways Nazis would pit people against each other.  

As State Department employee Leslie Slote is trying to lead a group of Americans from Italy to safety through Fascist-controlled territory, they enter Germany by train, with guarantees for safe passage from the German government.

Unfortunately, the out-of-control SS “machine” gets hold of this group and a petty bureaucrat at the train station in Germany demands to know which members of their group are Jewish (“not for discriminatory reasons, since you are Americans and all, but just because we have to fill in a block on everybody’s form”).   

Heroically, Leslie Slote says, “Then just check Jewish on everybody’s form.”  He almost gets away with his heroism.  

A few members of the group, however, decide to distance themselves from the two Jewish people among them.

They loudly argue with Leslie Slote, “You can’t write Jewish for me.  I am not a stinking Jew.”

The SS men, at this point, have the group members right where they want them.  They proceed to divide and conquer, asking each of the very vocal people whether they will point out the Jews in the group.  They actually refuse to do that.  In the end, the SS men figure out who the two Jewish people are and try to detain them . . . 

Sound familiar?  Divide and conquer is still a technique that is used a lot because people are still as tribal as ever.  They will quickly proceed to slice and dice other people if it means saving their own skin.  This particularly works if they can create an “us vs. them” scenario in which they can portray people as members of a group that is different from their group.  

I was thinking about that this week as one of the jurors in the George Zimmerman trial tried to distance herself from the other jurors in an interview she gave anonymously.  

She mentioned how she and two other jury members supposedly voted for Zimmerman to be convicted, until the other three members convinced them to vote for acquittal.  

What was she thinking?  In fact, in response to her interview, four of the other jury members immediately signed an affidavit stating that their memory of the jury proceedings does  not match this juror’s memories at all.

United we stand, folks.

It is never sound policy to blab jury proceedings (or your selective memory of jury proceedings) in a case this controversial.  They are meant to remain quiet forever.  You don’t get fifteen minutes of fame and a book contract from them, despite the mistaken interpretation many people have made of that concept in the past.   

There have been threats made against these jurors already.  

Does the woman who spoke to the press believe that, by saying she initially voted to convict Zimmerman, she will be spared the wrath of any mobs that act on those threats?

Not likely.  

She may be testing the waters for a book contract.  

But her mouth is going to end up getting all six jurors into more danger than they are already in.

In a case like this, we should all claim to be Jewish and just move on with it . . . 

No, she will not.  In the end, all six voted for acquittal. 


A Frank Discussion on Race, “You Go First” (Part II)

15 Jul

A Frank Discussion on Race, “You Go First” (Part II)

Quick, tell me who struck the first blow, Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman.

If you gave me either of those names, you just showed me you are capable of selective hearing and selective judgment.

In truth, only two people ever knew the answer to that question. One of them is now dead.

All of the eyewitnesses to their altercation came out of their houses after the fighting ensued. So none of them saw the first blow being struck.

It is amazing to hear the rumors being put forth from both sides to justify their belief in a given outcome to the trial of George Zimmerman. Most of those rumors are not verifiable because they concern events that no one could have observed.

No one, including the person putting forth the rumor!

Given the lack of data, the jury did the only thing they could do. They acquitted George Zimmerman.

In the U.S., we do that. If there is reasonable doubt, we err on the side of possibly letting a guilty person walk free, rather than erring on the side of possibly incarcerating an innocent man. It is the American way.

Still, this case is heartbreaking, no matter how it is portrayed. One young man is dead; another young man will be a marked man for the rest of his life.

Two families have been changed forever.

The reason I am writing about this twice in one day is because I see the inflammatory remarks on both sides and understand that we need to have some voices of wisdom out there telling everyone to calm down.

My first post concerned the role of the church in getting the dialogue on race going (finally) instead of everyone waiting for someone else to start it. That is why we call it Christian leadership, folks!

Now my caution is to those on both sides who are stirring others up with calls for revenge. Revenge, once unleashed, is a bottomless pit.

If a black person kills a white person to avenge Trayvon Martin, that will never satisfy him. He could kill 50 white people and still feel just as much anger, if not more.

If a white person kills a black person because he has heard the racebaiters saying that black people are out to get him, he won’t stop with one person. That is the problem with the taste of blood. You get it in your mouth and you become a different person forever.

Meanwhile, people who should know better are throwing gasoline, and matches, on this fire. It is a fire that could consume a large number of our country’s young people this summer.

Don’t do that. Do not repost articles calling for avenging the death of Trayvon Martin. Do not repost conspiracy articles that say whites must take the streets back.

All of that is a recipe for disaster. We can’t bring people back after they die in a flood of overly wrought emotion.

Some of the older folks, like folks my age, who are publicizing the threats of violence being made by younger folks are going to be just as guilty as they are if violence erupts.

The Scriptures talked about loving our enemies. More than that, the Scriptures demonstrated turning enemies into friends.

That is where the racial dialogue in this country needs to head.

To the realization that God made us all in His image and we must honor that image in each other.

Amen and amen.

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