Monday, August 28, 2006

Bad Hair Days and Endurance



Thirty years ago, a hair stylist with two detached retinas took one look at my baby-fine locks and said, “You need some layers!” So I went under the knife. Little did I know that it would take the better part of three decades to get rid of them! Over the years, I have looked like a little boy named Sue, a little girl named Fred, and a virtual biosphere of exotic pets and foliage. Let’s see. One year I looked like a cornered hedgehog. Then there was the year I resembled an hallucinogenic mushroom. And long will I remember the home perm that turned me into the living embodiment of an electrocuted sheep dog. If only Tim Burton was around back then… I’d be famous.

So when I had to contemplate losing my hair to chemotherapy last year, I figured it might be God’s way of letting me start all over.

How ironic He let me keep it…

I’ve been growing out layers since the time of smiley faces, bell bottoms, peppermint pots-of-gloss, Wacky Clackers, Skinny Dip Cologne, enchilada TV dinners, foil-covered rabbit ears, green and gold countertops, shag carpet, polyester shirts, puca shell necklaces, brown paneled station wagons, Pillsbury Space Sticks, Lipton Onion Dip, black lights, blue eye shadow, flower power and the year Georgia Tech squashed Notre Dame.

It exhausts me just thinking about it… that was a long time ago.

But I looked in the mirror the other day. And they were gone! The days of looking like a victim of an encounter with a possessed Ginsu knife were over. The layers had vanished! I had reached a personal appearance milestone three decades coming.

I had to stop for a moment and reflect on why it took so long.

I came to the conclusion that I’ve had an endurance problem. Rather than having an end goal in sight, I caved time and again to the impulse to make a quick fix. Hair’s not looking too good… so let’s go get some MORE layers. I knew 30 years ago the split second the lady whipped off the black cape and chirped “What do you think of the new you?” that I was not a layer person. I took one look at a boy named Sue glaring back at me in the mirror and cried like a Pacific tsunami. But rather than gut it out and grow it out… I ignored the desired end state and continued to take one step forward and three steps back with every “quick fix” haircut. I was going in reverse instead of moving forward.

Isn’t it just like the walk of faith. Maybe we’re plodding along as best we know on the narrow path. Then life hurls a Molotov cocktail and we leap for a quick fix to drug and numb our inflamed heart. Maybe we even know better. But off we go in directions that detour us from God’s ultimate purpose for us.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James 1: 2-4

These verses are about going the distance with joy or hupomone—the Greek word for “patient and hopeful withstanding.” Because in pain and suffering there is purpose. The Bible assures us that trials produce endurance. And endurance leads to a desired end state of maturity.

Every time I whacked off another layer of my hair, I took a step back from a desired end state. You don’t get a “no layer” look by continuing to chop it off. How often in my walk with Christ have I done the same thing. All the detours and u-turns and switchbacks that have cut a winding and convoluted path.

James 1: 2-4 is one of my favorite passages. Because it gives us something powerful to hang onto. A light on the shoreline breaking the barren vista of darkness.

This thing called hope.

Saturday, August 26, 2006



Photo by Russell C, see flickr.com for use of this image

Who's Coming to the Party?

Have you ever been to a party where there’s an uninvited guest? It’s usually an uncomfortable scene. People whisper. What nerve! Can you believe it? Who does she think she is?

Someone asked me recently why I keep talking to Christians. Why my book and my ministry focus on people who are already saved. I didn’t have a good answer. I still don’t. It’s a question that’s rattled and challenged me lately. Have I thrown a party, I wonder, for friends. Are those outside the community of faith uninvited guests? Not by design, but oversight.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Matthew 28:18-20

This is the Great Commission. The last known personal instruction Jesus gave the Disciples. In verse 18, Jesus lays out His jurisdiction. His authority is “in heaven and on earth.” It is not a limited portfolio or range of command. Jesus has “all” authority. And with this mighty clout, He issues an order: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (vs. 19) ”

Couple thousand years ago, “go” meant walk or ride a donkey or take a boat. Flash forward to 2006. Think of the relative ease with which we can evangelize today. We have airplanes and mass transit and cable television and print on demand. On the one hand, this has made it very easy to spread the Good News. One individual can reach millions. But what happens when you take the feet, the donkey and the boat out of the equation? When there’s this sense that the professionals are out there using technology to get the job done. Evangelism—reaching the lost—can insidiously become someone else’s job. When it was your job and my job all along.

Notice that the sentence “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” begins with a verb. The subject “you” is not said but understood. Jesus said “go” because “you go” was clearly implied.

I am coming to a personal conclusion that the “you” understood here is not only the missionary in Russia, the church builder in China or the professional evangelist. While it is all of them and more… it is also me. And you.

Unlike the social scene, the uninvited guest must be welcome at our party of faith. Not only welcome but chased and wooed. By telecast and simulcast and books and blogs and planes and trains and automobiles and blackberries and blueberries and boysenberries and phone calls and e-mails and letters and donkeys and boats! Whatever it takes.

I know who I’ve been talking to.

How about you?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Early Detection Saves Lives!

Saw a sobering statistic at the doctor's office today:

90% of colorectal cancers caught early are treatable;
37% of colorectal cancers are caught early.

Please pay attention to your body and have a colonoscopy before age 50 if you experience any bleeding or if you have a family history of colon or rectal cancers or a family history of colon or rectal polyps, which can become malignant.

For more information on detection, signs & symptoms and prevention, go to:

www.cancer.org

Doctors have told me that they are seeing more colorectal cancers in younger patients (like me). It strikes women and men alike. I was 43 when diagnosed and have heard of patients with terminal conditions in their 30's.

I was with the good doctors at Baylor for my three-month check-up today. No sign of recurrence and we are now looking at single-digit odds of it ever coming back. Thanks to God, great doctors, loving family and friends, and the never-ending quest to make something good out of tofu...

Stay tuned for next blog on the topic of community vs. isolation...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Enjoying God's World

In Search of a New... Part III

Sustainable Living: More than Recycling and Sprouts?

I’m intrigued by this thing called “sustainable living.” I began doing a bit of internet research a couple weeks ago. I thought I might find echoes of wild and mystic over-the-edge alternatives... recipes for things like "cabbage ice cream" and "lentil smoothies"... 1001 beauty tips using backyard mud to achieve that healthy bronze glow. But the first website I found talked about “Sustainable Christmas” and it had practical, doable, sensible tips for healthier, smarter living.

But what exactly is it?

At one end of the spectrum, “sustainable living” looks like hard-core integrated environmentalism. Down and dirty sustainable types aren’t out to save a few trees or bullfrogs. They're on a back-to-nature crusade concerning everything they buy, everything they eat, everything they wear. Some are growing their own food and eschewing leather or non-hemp (non-drug variety) clothing.

Then there are the moderates who are trying to make environmentally friendlier choices. The faithful recycler. The families who choose hiking and camping over a Disney Cruise. Those who think twice about leaving lights on and running water or making unnecessary trips around town.

If there’s a core ethic to sustainable living, it seems to be this: “use our natural resources wisely.”


“The values of a simpler, less-acquisitive lifestyle, with respect for nature, can benefit anyone in any setting - urban, suburban or rural.” --eartheasy.com

People who've embraced sustainable living seem to approach consumer purchase decisions with some concern for the long haul. They make thoughtful, less-impulsive purchases. They’ve adopted a respect for nature. They’re wrenching the kids away from the X-Box and are teaching them about trees and birds and outdoor adventure. They’ve turned off the TV and can actually hear the crickets chirp at night because nature isn’t competing with the lady hawking face goop on QVC.

I learned of this movement as I was coming down from my first furniture shopping high. I was contemplating everything I “needed” to be cutting-edge and was having buyer’s remorse before I even bought anything. I knew this lack of peace wasn’t coming from God.

Maybe what I need is not so much major acquisition of all-new stuff, but a more clutter-free, peaceful environment. And perhaps there’s a biblical angle here.

We can look to God’s original plan for the role of man and his environment in Genesis:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2: 15

So from the get go, God established a custodial or, if you prefer, “managerial” role for man over the earth. Adam was to “work” his environment and “take care of it.” Yet it remained God’s property.

“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was his name.”
Genesis 2:19

So God created the beasts and the birds. And he allowed Adam to name them. Much like the family that acquires a pet. Few parents walk in the front door and declare, “This is a hound dog and he will be called Sparky!” Most parents involve the children in the naming of the family pet, because that’s a loving, bond-building and gracious thing to do. But as it is in the home, when all is said and done, the pet is owned by the parent and, ideally, tended to by the children. As it was in the Garden of Eden where God gave certain license to Adam, but very much remained in control.

So here we are in 2006. God hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s still the great Landlord. And we, the highest created inhabitants of Earth, maintain a responsibility to our environment to “work it” and “take care of it.” We are the tenants. And we should expect that God wants us making good choices with the resources He’s given us.

So what are some ways we can adopt “sustainable living” practices in our homes?

Check out final post in this series: Part IV: In Search of a New...

Part IV: In Search of a New...


Making smarter, healthier choices is surprisingly easy! Sustainable options can be made in virtually every corner of our lives. Check out some practical, easy tips below:

For your car…

• Keep tires properly inflated
• Keep current on auto maintenance (e.g., air filters and oil)
• Shut off all accessories (fans, radio, lights, etc.) before turning key in
ignition
• Avoid driving aggressively (“jack rabbit” starts and aggressive braking)
• Keep windows rolled up on the highway to reduce “drag”
• Remove roof-top racks and storage units you aren’t using


In the kitchen...

• Food cooks fastest on the outer edges of the microwave plate
• For small dishwashing loads, skip “Rinse Hold” and you’ll save 3-7 gallons
of water
• When using the oven, avoid repeatedly opening the door. Each time door
opens, you lose ¼ of its heat.
• Always use cold water when running the disposal.
• Keep frost build-up in the freezer to less than ¼ inch to maintain efficiency
• Vacuum coils on back of fridge twice and year and make sure there’s space
between unit and wall on all sides.
• Install a $5 faucet “aerator” and reduce water consumption up to 50%.

For your diet…

• Try delicious “one-pot” meals
• Enjoy “shade grown” organic coffee
• Know what foods retain the highest amounts of pesticides and make smarter,
healthier choices for you and your family!
(http://eartheasy.com/eat_pesticides_produce.htm)
• Like fish? Choose Wild Alaskan Salmon, Tilapia, Pacific Halibat, Striped
Bass and other varieties that are considered “sustainable” from a
harvesting, species management and health standpoint.
• Reduce meat (beef, chicken, pork) consumption


Things that Creep and Crawl…

• Use natural methods of pest control. For bugs indoors, we use a spray
product (available where chemical pesticides are sold) with “rosemary oil”
as an active ingredient. It’s safe around kids and pets and it works!
• Look for “Neem-Oil” based products

Lawn & Garden…

• Don’t give your lawn a “buzz cut.” Mow often, but not too short
• Water deeply, but not too often
• Water early in the morning
• Leave clippings on the lawn (otherwise known as “grass-cycling”)
• Investigate the new “reel mowers” (these are not your father’s lawn mowers!)
• Choose a grass that is adaptable to your climate and know how often that
grass needs to be watered before it goes brown!
(http://eartheasy.com/grow_lawn_care.htm#d)

These are just a few of many wonderful tips available from the eartheasy website. Check it out! You don’t have to stage a coup on your lifestyle in radical and extreme ways to make a difference. Make one or two simple changes this week. Follow the link below… and see where it takes you!

http://eartheasy.com/homepage.htm


p.s. If you don't see a "link" above... it's because I'm a baby blogger... how come I can't get it to highlight so you can click on it and go there? Hmmm... a mystery.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Visitor

Guy shows up at your church one day with a suitcase. It's obvious he hasn't showered in a while. The contents of that suitcase are probably all that he owns. Turns out he's homeless. Friendless, too. The guy goes through about 10 of your chocolate doughnuts and powers down a half gallon of orange juice before the third service on Sunday. You look around and you can see that people are uncomfortable. There's no one in a congregation of many who looks remotely like him. He is down and out and different.

Would he be welcome at your church? Why or why not?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Yummy Muffins!


When I was undergoing chemotherapy last year, a friend brought me freshly baked blueberry muffins. I enjoyed them so much, I asked for the recipe and have been making batches at home ever since. I’ve made some slight modifications to the original recipe. Below are both versions of Jennifer’s Most Excellent Blueberry Muffins. Enjoy!





Jennifer’s Original Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Mix Together:
¼ cup oil
¼ cup melted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (or milk)

Mix Together:
1 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda

Mix wet and dry ingredients together well. Add 1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen). Pour into greased muffin tin (or paper muffin cups).

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until nice and golden brown.

Alternative Recipe

Mix Together:
½ cup Canola oil
2/3 cup organic sugar (white or brown)
1 large organic egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup organic buttermilk or low-fat organic milk

Mix Together:
~2 cups of whole wheat flour
3 Tablespoons Wheat Germ or ground Flax Seed (flour + wheat germ/flax seed = 2 cups)
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda

Mix wet and dry ingredients together well. Add 1 cup of organic blueberries (fresh or frozen). Pour into lightly greased muffin tin (or paper muffin cups).

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until nice and golden brown.

Note: I keep a bottle of vanilla-flavored liquid calcium in the fridge and add a tablespoon to some of my baked goods. If you’re interested in getting more calcium, you can add liquid calcium to the milk ingredient in these muffins. You can buy liquid calcium in the vitamin section of many stores, including Wal-Mart.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Let's Talk About Lunch...

Jamey (see “comments” under Bored Mom Speaks Out…) touched on something it’s easy to lose sight of in the day-to-day bustle of parenting. As she suggests, when we bring a child into this world, we take on a colossal task that has eternal implications.

After I read Jamey’s post, I returned to what the British mom had to say about the mothers with whom she associates who are “boring” and “only talk about lunch.” I reflected upon how many times I talked about lunch this past year. Quite a lot, actually. Mostly about nitrites and Trans Fats and the daily (hourly?) battle over sugar.

I also thought about who I’ve been talking to about food. Let’s see. If we did a background check on all the “boring” people I know who like to talk about lunch, we’d find a former human relations executive, a nurse, a couple doctors, a mechanical engineer, an environmental engineer, a few teachers, some ministry folks, education administrators, a few marketers, some seminary students, an entrepreneur, and on and on. Some of these people have stepped off a fast track and made certain career sacrifices to raise children. Many are now at home full-time. And they are anything but dull. They are vibrant, interesting, gifted, truly amazing people… who sometimes talk about lunch.

So, guilty as charged. We talk about lunch. Not because we are morons. But because we care about the health and wellbeing of our children and we realize that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit… and we want our kids to live long, actionable, glorious lives for Christ. So when we talk about food… we are demonstrating in no short abundance our caring and unselfish love.

I was reminded of the story relayed in the Gospels of Jesus feeding the masses. In Matthew’s account, he relates how Jesus turned five loaves of bread and two fish into a seam-busting dinner for 5,000. Before this miracle, Jesus and His disciples talked. They talked about food. His disciples perhaps feared an impending emergency as thousands of people who followed after Jesus would soon need to eat. Jesus, of course, resolved the problem in a miraculous way. Now this is not a story about satisfying physical hunger, though that was accomplished. Instead, it was a demonstration on the part of Jesus of His deity, His all-sustaining salvific power, and His love for people.

When mom’s corner each other in the halls at school to talk about lunch, it’s not because we’ve got polenta for brains. Because underlying every meal and every load of laundry and every nine o’clock run to Wal-Mart and every cheer from the stands and every run-through the weekly spelling list is a heart full of love.

And you know what? You get a couple engineers and teachers and doctors together and you just might find them talking about something else, too…

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Jesus... Please Come Back, Like, Now!


Warning: This is gross!

I am just minding my business this morning trying to catch a few news headlines. I get past the Middle East and local weather... then I hit a headline about something called "extreme body modification"... I said, what's that? A new trend? I clicked on the link and was taken directly to a picture of some guy with a split tongue! And, no, he didn't have a bike accident! It was intentional!

From the Associated Press:

Allen Falkner’s tongue is just one of his unusual features.

It is split down the middle, and when he sticks it out, it looks like a two-pronged snake tongue...

Extreme body modification features a wide range of alterations, including some that are illegal in Texas and elsewhere. Some people get horns implanted on their heads. Some install magnets in their hands, creating a “sixth sense” for feeling magnetic fields. Others remold their ears to make them pointy.


Just when you think the world can't get any more bizarre.

Don't you think if God wanted us to have a tongue like a dodo bird, he would have given it to us?

Is this, uh, postmodern? Maybe I don't get out much...

p.s. Regarding the pic... those Batman ears are temporary!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Bored Mom Speaks Out...

My friend, Amy, shared an article she found on USA Today.com that's shaking up mommysphere. Seems a lady in Britain proclaims she is "bored rigid" by her children.

The writing appeared last week in the Daily Mail tabloid. It's a shockingly cool maternal musing that's erupted into seething criticism of the mom, who lives in upscale Notting Hill and has a nanny. The writer, a 42-year-old journalist and mother of two, told USA Today that she is "the most vilified woman in Britain."

Here's an excerpt from the USA Today article:

Kirwan-Taylor, the mother of two boys, Constantin, 12, and Ivan, 10, says many tasks associated with motherhood are tedious and boring. She'd rather go shopping or have her hair done than attend another child's birthday party. When she takes her kids to movies, she spends the two hours text-messaging friends on her cellphone. She says that when her children were young, she became a workaholic to avoid having to spend time with them. She begged the nanny to read them bedtime stories.

The article went on to say this:

"Up until 10 years ago, parents did not spend every waking moment with their children. We became a society where everything children say and do and think is meant to be fulfilling. Women are not allowed to have a life of their own, and if they do, it's considered selfish," she says.

Even worse than child-rearing is listening to conversations about child-rearing, she says. "The mothers in my school are so boring. They talk about packing lunches when we should be talking about the wars raging."

Kirwan-Taylor says new research shows that child-centered parenting is creating "a generation of narcissistic children who cannot function independently."


Hmmm... anyone want to jump into this one?

More on the Bored Mommy...

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, something dramatic happened to my view of the world. For a time when it was unknown whether I would live or die, everything in the background faded to black. The only thing that really mattered was my family. The many “hats” I wear and all the patently trivial concerns of my life went poof! My only real concern was around my most important role… wife and mom.

So when I read the article about one woman’s take on motherhood, I had a very hostile initial reaction. If she was faced with a terminal illness, I wondered, would the text messaging and pedicures still be more important than time spent with the kids?

But amidst all the electricity here… may I just suggest that she makes an interesting point that may have gotten swallowed up in all the tumult.

“Kirwan-Taylor says new research shows that child-centered parenting is creating "a generation of narcissistic children who cannot function independently."

I don’t know this research. Frankly, I don’t need to know it to feel on a “gut” level that there is something to consider here.

In my quest to unabashedly love and nurture my children, I need to make sure that I am not seeding a “center of the universe” mentality. Because I might be developing a "friendly" bond between mother and child. And building the foundation for a dysfunctional adult in the process… the narcissist that Kirwan-Taylor describes. A baby who grows into a boy who grows into an adolescent who grows into an adult who thinks life is all about taking and indulgence.

And it starts, perhaps, with parents like me who have the best intentions. We take on a crusade to create an easy, struggle-free environment for our children. A primary goal for our kids is their “happiness.”

You want that new toy! You’re such a good boy! You got it!

What can we do today to have fun?! Woohoo!

Well… we probably should wait for your birthday to get that. Oh, well. Why not!

Yes!

Yes!

Yes!


The best thing my mother ever said to me was “no.” She said it a lot. And it was a wise and loving thing to do. Because she saw the big picture. She was looking down the road. And she knew that a spoiled child is going to be a monster of an adult.

As parents, the most important thing we can do is launch our children on the road to spiritual maturity in Christ. Give them a stable home environment and model as best we can godly living that starts with a strong, unified relationship between a mom and a dad. This is not the “kid-centric” home that Kirwan-Taylor assails, is it? It’s a marriage centered home instead.

So where do I come out on the bad mommy debate? Most of us raising kids do battle tedium. I haven’t met a woman yet who says she likes to change diapers. And after a longgggggg summer day of going and blowing with three little boys, I would go to the county jail to talk to another adult. But we brought these kids into this world and we have them for such a short time. They are precious gifts from God. Sounds like Kirwan-Taylor would be happy to check out altogether. I flat-out can’t relate to that. I love my kids. And the years are just flying by...

The Bible tells us that man looks at the outward appearance while God looks at the heart. (See 1 Samuel 16:7). Many would argue that Kirwan-Taylor has a selfish heart. They might be right. But what about the super-involved mother who is super-parenting so she will look like a super parent… the mom (or dad) who is pouring into the children to live through them (think Violet’s mom in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory)? That’s the wrong motivation, too. And whose motivation is worse? Honestly, only God knows.

Aside from what I don't like about the "bored mom"... and the sympathy I feel for her little boys... I think she may have a point that's become lost amid all the furor. If I am honest with myself, I must admit that I can be "kid-centric." There. I said it. Guilty as charged. And I am becoming increasingly concerned that this may not be a good thing in the long run…

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?