Monday, April 15, 2013

Bodily Exercise Profiteth Little and God Looketh on the Heart... So How Does Health Fit Into a Christian's Life?

For the past year and a half, I've worked as a Weight Watchers employee.  I've recently said 'adieu' to this position, as the time constraints of homeschool are demanding my attention.  It's been fascinating being on the other side of the desk, observing and counseling those who are trying to achieve a healthy weight.  I would say that my lovely group was unique.  These were people who really wanted to be healthier.  They were not obsessed with 'sexy.'  (And if you're from my old group, you are now laughing because you know what I mean.)

But the weight-loss / fitness industry is.  If you're overweight, the clothing recommendations read like this:  "Not ready to show off those gams yet?  Cover them up with..."  "Until your hard work pays off in flashing some summer skin, here's how to..."  If you're working out, the fitness DVDs say, "You're looking great.  This is going to help you rock that bikini" and  "This is going to give you the tight buns you need for that outfit for the club." 

I recently spent an evening on the University of Alabama's main campus in Tuscaloosa.  I graduated from there in 2003.  I noticed one big change, okay, two big changes.  One, there was not a crowd of smokers around every entrance.  Thank you!!!  Two, all these gals were running around to class in workout clothes. Weird.  They were actually more 'modest' I suppose than the tiny little shorts they used to wear when I was in school, but weird.  (I stuck out like a sore thumb, even having a professor exclaim in front of 50 students when I walked in the door for a summer class, "Well!  SOME people think they have to $!% dress from head to toe."  BTW, if you're a parent thinking of sending your child to a public university, be aware that the environment is something for which they should be WELL PREPARED!)  Back to topic, being a 'gym rat' is oh-so-chic right now, I guess. 

Is our popular culture really obsessed with health?  I don't think so.  Why?  Because the implied reason for taking care of one's body is so it will look good enough to really enjoy the one time ride that life offers.  The same girls in workout gear are into the hook-up culture (casual sex, friends with benefits, whatever you want to call it) and going 'clubbing.' (which involves lots of alcohol and risky behaviors).  What good are those hours in the gym if you're infected with some of these!  My OB/GYN tells me the number of diseases he sees on the tables everyday are astounding.  I say, "Go wash your hands AGAIN... in bleach!" 

In a bit of a rambling side note:  any opinions on getting one's children vaccinated against HPV?  I really stood opposed until my Christian dr. said, "I don't want to vaccinate your children against sinful behavior.  I think in this sick world, with the possibilities of sexual abuse/rape, I think of it as a small protection against the creeps out there."  Now I don't know what I think...

So if you're reading this, and you want to be healthier.  I say 'healthier' b/c I don't consider myself 'uber-healthy.'  There are always a gazillion ways to improve.  Take a mini-micro-baby step today.  Here are a couple of ideas that I've implemented this year:
1.  Keep a liter bottle of water in the fridge.  Fill it up everyday, and try to get through it by the end of the day.  (Keep the kids out of it, or you'll never know how much you're getting).  And ALWAYS take it in the car- my easiest time to hydrate.
2.  Pack a snack.  Never leave the house without a healthy snack.  5 min. of prep will save you money! and time in a drive-thru with desperately starving children ;o).  I usually have an apple and a drink at least for everybody.
3.  Eat some dark chocolate.  It feels like dessert, but it's healthy.
4.  Try to eat a fruit or veggie with every meal and snack.  (Harder than it sounds- I'm working on this one.)
5.  Be a little less efficient.  Park a little farther from the store.  Take the laundry downstairs in 3 trips instead of one. 
6.  Insist on time.  My kids have been taught that a mommy who is strong is a better mommy, and that I'll fix them breakfast after I finish.  They get a snack and read a book, or... actually I have no idea what they do ;o)  (just kidding)  When they were little, I kept them with me if they were awake (of course.)
7.  Be the mom.  Kids survive if they don't get junk food at the store.  Little Debbie's are either God's gift to man or the original fruit that hung on the tree that Eve ate- I'm not sure which.  I just know if Swiss cake rolls enter this house, I will eat them.  So they rarely come home.  I'm just super-weak that way.
8.  Pop a stick of gum.  This is crucial for me when I'm baking (I really don't need to taste test the dough 20 times, now do I?  But I will- I kid you not!)  Also useful when I'm cleaning up after dinner.  Yes, close my eyes tightly and throw that last bite away.  Try not to think of starving children.  Be OK with not being the family's garbage disposal.

If this topic makes you want to go eat an extra snack b/c it brings on pain, stress, or sadness, you're not alone.  I never met a single person in the meeting room who didn't associate 'getting healthy' or 'losing weight' with guilt, shame or pain.  Why do you think WW stocks Kleenex?!  So cry a little.  Look in the mirror at your FACE, and say, "I'm a precious treasure, worth more than the world, a person Christ died for.  I am valuable.  I want to feel better."  And then make a tiny, teentsy change.    


Thursday, April 11, 2013

April 11, 2013 Daybook Entry
Outside my window …. It is the quiet dark just before dawn.  The cats are prowling.  May they find many voles in my yard and eat them all.

I am thinking …. I accomplished a huge amount yesterday.  In fact, if I had a cape, I’m pretty sure I could have flown.  Maybe I should take a day off.  Wishful thinking.

I am thankful for …. good coffee and the fuzzy little dog that meets me so happily every morning.

Around the house …. we are putting in new doors soon.  Outside, everything is a yellow wonderland of pollen.  The beautiful banks of wisteria are putting on flowers amongst the kudzu down the street.  Love!  This picture isn't local, but I'll try to get up one soon.

I am loving …. my cute fluffy read from Fannie Flagg.  So far, so good.

I am hoping …. That it won’t be raining too hard when we’re out today for the Charlotte’s Web production at the Birmingham Children’s Theater.  You know the mommy waddle with two growing children glued to her sides, trying to keep all body parts perfectly dry.  The “Kathryn’s making my big toe get sprinkled on!” wails.  The “I think I felt a half a drop on my dainty finger.  Move over.”  Maybe it’s time for individual umbrellas.  

I am stitching …. Normally nothing.  Yesterday, I sewed up a long slit into a more acceptable walking vent.  Does that count?

I am drooling over …. The Fiesta Bean Salad from  Wishing I had made more, since I ate it all myself :o)

I am sorely tempted by …. The thought of sneaking into the bathroom and wrapping an unsuspecting Nathan up in the wet, cold shower curtain.  I’ll wait until my braces are out; it’ll only be funny if I don’t get smacked in the mouth by the flailing appendages.   

I am reading …. every morning for my daily Bible reading plan.  Moving right along.  Also, we are reading the Hobbit during our morning homeschool, and Patricia St. John’s “Treasures of the Snow” for bedtime.

On my Kindle Fire… the children, usually.  I thought I bought it for myself, but there seems to be a lot more of Happy Jump and Temple Run on there than good books.

On my mind …. The creep who has been knocking on my Mom’s door before sunrise, and right after my dad leaves for work.  They live out a ways, so the cops aren’t super close.  I’ve been praying that God would strike him dead if he plans to hurt my mom.  I’m also very, very sure that God can keep her far safer than I can.  Thankful for the right to own guns.

On my To Do list …. Having my car detailed inside.  The vomit from last week may not stink or be gross, but having red Kool-Aid as the main ingredient did a number on the upholstery.  The glamorous life of a mom.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Exploring Culture With Children

I try to expose my children to lots of different cultures.  Homeschool gives me lots of opportunities for that.  Their daddy traveled the world with his family when he was a teenager, and he even lived in Beijing for a school year.  I haven’t traveled nearly as extensively as he has, but my skills in Spanish have allowed me special opportunities to explore the Latin American cultures through linguistics.  And since the woman who hung the moon (that would be Gramme- Dr. Nadine Brown) loves Asia, so does my little girl! :o)  So we love the places, the foods, the tales, the languages of the world, and that’s just ‘our thing.’
In public school, we were taught to ‘celebrate’ these other cultures.  If we went to Moundville, an American Indian burial ground, we were taught about these people’s search for God and how fantastic their culture was.  Culture was presented as amoral (unless it included human sacrifice), and something to be explored with freedom. 
In my adulthood, I have asked other questions.  What is it?  Is it amoral?  How do I understand other religions?  Are some cultures ‘better’ than others?  Should they be celebrated?  What do they tell me of God?  What does the Bible say? (The last being the most important)  I’m just going to share some conclusions I’ve come to, and how they work in parenting in cultural exposure. 
Some excerpts I pulled off Merriam-Webster online:  (Culture is) the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.
Presupposing the existence of absolute truth and morality, if something is the collective of a people’s shared values, beliefs, and actions, it MUST necessarily be ‘moral’ in nature.  And if a culture is not amoral, then some must be ‘better’ than others.  But how to rank them? 
A culture is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ as its values, beliefs and actions line up with, or stray from, God’s truth.

That means that a culture whose laws reflects God’s and whose people act morally is better (morally speaking) than one whose people do whatever is right in their own eyes. 

People of one culture are not more ‘valuable’ or ‘better’ than those of another, as every single person on the face of the earth is a precious treasure, whose soul Christ died to save.

Romans 1 describes God’s general revelation to all men, and the ways in which they have rebelled against the light.  According to Romans 1, there are no ‘innocents,’ rather all men have seen the light of His general revelation, and have purposely turned and shoved their way rebelliously into the darkness.  It even lists the consequences of such a rebellion.  That means…

The religions of the world are not man’s search for God, rather their attempts to rebel against the light they have been given.  Every person, in every time, and in every place has been given enough light to come to God, and each of us has chosen our own way.  We are without excuse.

Practically speaking, I do not allow the children to bring home any paraphernalia of other religions as souvenirs.  They are marks of rebellion against God (at best), and demonic (at worst).  That can really shrink the gift shop, if you know what I mean.

God’s laws are true, across all cultures.  

If immodesty is sinful, it is sinful in the church, in the store, and at the beach (ouch!)  It’s also sinful when it’s part of a ‘cultural costume.’  If lying is sinful, it is sinful everywhere.  If adultery is sinful, no cultural custom makes it OK.  Exposing children to the cultures of the world means that they will observe sin in action.  This is a fine line to walk, and each parent should carefully consider what they expose their child to.  We never, ever participate in any foreign language chants, dances or rituals, as they are often religious in nature.  (Turns out the devil understands all human language, even if I don’t, and I sure don’t want to be calling down some force into my life.)  If a display is sensual or very immodest, we leave.  I try to be sensitive to my kids’ consciences, and if their heart is troubled by something, I want to honor that.
I think God has chosen to reflect Himself in different ways in different people groups/cultures.  Some cultures have really strong godly values in a certain area, which I try to bring out to the kids.  

Some more examples of how these ideas play out in our homeschooling world and in other areas of life:
We read a children’s version of the Epic of Gilgamesh in history this year.  A character named Utnapishtim survives a world-wide flood, etc.  There are a lot of hints of truth found in the legends of the world.  We talked about how they’re alike, how they’re different.  The gods are annoyed with the noise level on the earth and decide to destroy it, or a goddess puts her necklace in the sky (the rainbow).   We talk about how bits of the truth persist and how they’re twisted by oral traditions.  We talk about the importance of preserving the truth.

We read a story of Mu-Lan (legendary Chinese princess)- also made into a Disney production.  Honor for parents is a big part of Chinese culture, as well as ancestor worship.  We talk about how the one reflects God’s values, and the other a rejection of the truth.  We talk about how sad it is that the devil has blinded so many to the truth, how important it is to share the gospel, how valuable each of them is.  

We watched a dance troupe of little girls doing a Balinese dance.  We talked about the beautiful fabrics, and how God has placed His love for beauty into the hearts of that culture. 
 (I encourage the children to admire the handiwork of other cultures, and point out that God is pleased with hard work, with excellence in our skills.)

We studied about the caste system of India, and how in their creation story, some people came out of the mouth, shoulders, knees and feet of the first man.  We talked about why our church runs an orphanage in India and ministers to the widows and leper colonies.  We talked about the untouchables, and how all this comes from an unbiblical view of God, Creation and the value of human beings.  

We watched a Native American demonstrating his skills with a bow and arrow.  We talked (later!  I don’t allow them to bring up their concerns in front of the people involved- love for others, love for others!) about his immodesty, and how God gave Adam and Eve clothing to COVER the body, and how much that should be based on our best biblical interpretation. 

We go to Wal-Mart.  That’s right- we live in a culture just as unique as those on stage.  There are beliefs, values, and actions played out every day that can reinforce our teaching Biblical truth to the children.  I could go on and on, but hopefully something here gave you an idea, or maybe you can give ME one.  Parenting is too important to be unintentional, and I love the opportunities cultural exposures give us to share God with our children.  Bring on the Lebanese food festival!!!  Hummus, anyone?

*pic from (this is the same group we saw yesterday)