Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm Handing You a Magnifying Glass

I have to warn you: I am at the tail-end of a very full and exhausting last few days (beautiful ones though!). I am prone to displaying signs of coma if I sit still too long, and also to be more or less verbally inept. Remember those posters from sixth grade with the fried egg saying "this is your brain on drugs"? Yep. Sans the drugs.

But anyhow, I've been rolling an idea around in my head the last couple of days. See, I am one of those people who is constantly...sharing. I almost always have an opinion, a story, a word, a picture, an idea - something - to tell someone. It doesn't matter what, and it doesn't matter who (usually my patient friends), but there is usually something. So I blog, I talk, I don't shut up in group discussions, I journal like it's going out of style, I take a thousand "artistic" pictures and post them. It's like pollocking, but from my soul. I say this all with a little laughter and a lot of grace for myself. But I've made this funny discovery, and that is that I kind of like not sharing so much. And by kind of, I kind of mean really. :) So there.

I understand that this is a highly ironic blog.

But in all seriousness, I am thinking a lot about what I say. I think there is absolute value and pouring deeply into several close relationships. These are the life-giving ones, the people that see your soul and laugh with you about the awkward and embarrassing, love you through the sin, and challenge you to be better. But in my bubbling eagerness, I think sometimes I want to extend this kind of invitation to everyone. But eight coffee dates later with "close" friends and suddenly I've shared away all the joy that I had about something! Rats! Knowledge can become like public property, and people sometimes take more liberty with that than they should. But at least in terms of my own life, I like the idea of guarding much more carefully what is private and what is mine. The more freely I give away knowledge about my life and who I am, the less I am literally able to cherish those things. In the hands of those close relationships, knowledge shared is cultivated, blessed, and returned with greater joy than before. But in the hands of more casual acquaintances, the same knowledge just gets cheapened. Man, the power of the tongue.

I even see this in terms of Facebook. Does anyone really need to know what I think about tacos? Or do they need to think that I am fun and exciting by going to such and such place and taking such and such pictures? Do they need to think that I am artistic when I post (basically the same) photos over and over again from my various outdoor adventures? What are my motives for posting the things that I do? What if someone had to get to know me? Why would I shortchange that by letting them imagine they can get an accurate summation from the internet? I would rather allow genuine friendship and community abound by not giving anyone such an easy out to get to "know" me. Does that make sense? (The brain cells are still working overtime.)

But all that to say...I think I am going to experiment in what it looks like to be a more private person. Not a shut-in, but someone who exercises grace, discretion, and restraint when sharing the deep and tremulous things about who I am. Not to hide, but to value. I am so open to loving people and to sharing with wisdom and discretion. But I also am beginning to see the value in being somewhat less of an open book. You follow?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Love Is Not a Fight

Every so often the words of a song catch you. I had never heard this song before, but it came on my pandora and completely distracted me because its lyrics resonated. I don't know what your musical style is, but regardless let yourself sit and take in these words for awhile. It is beautiful in any context of love. Although I guess it was written for marriage, I was thinking of it originally in terms of our love for God, our love for our brothers and sisters, and just love in general. I think love must be strong and it must be enduring, because that is the love of Christ for us.

Love Is Not a Fight - Warren Barfield

Love is not a place
To come and go as we please
It's a house we enter in 
Then commit to never leave

So lock the door behind you
Throw away the key
We'll work it out together 
Let it bring us to our knees

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is a peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave
May God send angels to guard the door
No, Love is not a fight
But it's something worth fighting for

To some love is a word
That they can fall into
But when they're falling out
Keeping that word is hard to do

Love will come to save us
If we'll only call
He will ask nothing from us
But demand we give our all

I will fight for you
Would you fight for me?
It's worth fighting for

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Able for What?

There is none so able...

We sing this song at church. I love the words. I love that God can do all things, and I love letting Him to teach me and stretch me in that. 

Recently I was taking a drive into the mountains to get some fresh air. This song came on and I got excited and turned it up. But I realized something, and that is, when I sing, "There is none so able" I often finish it (in my head) with, "There is none so able to give me the desires of my heart." I don't say exactly that, but I find myself happily praising God that He is able to do what I want Him to do. I get like a kid with an ice cream cone, "Yes, God, do that!" It becomes about my desires, not God's ability.

But the thing is, God is able for His purposes, not for mine. God has come to set the captives free, to bind up the broken-hearted, and to save the lost (check out Isaiah 61:1-3). Are the things that I am so happily asking God to do anywhere in line with that? Or am I so often asking God to tend to my much smaller whims? See, God is not moved onto my agenda, but I am moved onto His. While God loves me dearly, and He cherishes me, and has good things in store, He cannot give in to me simply because I want Him to. I can't manipulate God, I can't win Him over. God is God. And even though He cares for me in the gentlest, kindest, most tender way, at the end of the day He still leads and I still follow. Because He is God and I am not. 

When I realized this, I found myself very appreciative of God's leadership. Because love doesn't mean that He does what I want. In love, He does what is best even when He knows that I will not understand yet. It strikes me that real love is steadfast, patient, too strong to be bent by my opinion. And sometimes I kick and scream, or get impatient, or find myself trying to manipulate God - but at the end of the day he knows that I'll tire out, collapse against his chest, fall asleep and one day see what He's done and thank Him. He is stronger and more loving still. He is a true loving leader. 

Of course, outside of the context of God's immeasurable love, this sounds harsh and commanding. Maybe I'll blog about that context next time. Love always makes all the difference. Ask Paul!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

For Nutrition Nerds

Hello. I realized that I often seem to start off my writings with a confession of some sort. I guess I'm not going to be shattering that precedent today. :) I've slowly been coming to a terribly inconvenient conclusion about myself, and that is that I am becoming a foodie (which is a nice way of saying I am becoming a food snob!) In the hipster granola sense. (I know, don't judge me.) Now, I feel like I have to justify myself, because this doesn't mean that I'm picky. I'll eat whatever's given to me, and chances are I'll probably like it. I'm certainly not far enough out of college not to appreciate food when it's offered! But I've found that when I'm left to my own devices - and when life is free of an excess of home baked goods, my eternal downfall - I generally have very intricate preferences about what I would rather eat and what I would rather not, all based on a complex equation of nutrition, taste, availability, my current level of creativity, and how prideful I am feeling about being "healthy." (The hungrier I am, the less I care.)

But I'm finding that I sincerely care about what I eat. It just makes a lot of sense to me that food has a lot of power over quality of life. There is health, of course. Disease statistics are astronomical. There is vanity: I honestly don't want getting older to be an automatic reason for me to gain weight or fall into disrepair. And there is also a spiritual component. 1 Peter says to be clear minded and self controlled so that you can pray. I still remember one late night I pulled in college, hopped up on sugar, energy drinks, and probably a breakfast burrito, miserably thinking, "I never want to feel like this again." I couldn't think straight to save my life, much less pray. I felt useless, and it was a direct product of poor food choices and lack of self-control.

Now the next part is where I get a little nerdy, and a little scientific. If nutrition is a bore, then you probably ought to yawn your way out of this one. I was suddenly very interested today in eggs. My roommate and I tease about having an egg-and-vegetable obsession, because some medley of the two has been implicated in very many meals of ours lately. We also have a slight....taco addiction. Don't hate.

Two addictions meet in one veggie taco scramble (amazing) breakfast!

Anyway, I was suddenly suspicious of egg proteins, and wanted to read up on what happens to those proteins when they are denatured (by cooking), and how those proteins would contribute to health or the lack thereof. It led me to something very interesting called the PDCAAS, or the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score. In other words, a way to rate foods on the "quality" of protein they offer.

Having heard quite the chatter about protein recently (namely debates about casein etc), I found this terribly fascinating. It is a standard that was adopted by the FDA in 1993 and is still used today. In 1993, the FDA determined that protein was highly important, and therefore foods that could offer the most protein that would be retained by your body were superior foods. The American diet is reflected in the items that top the list: casein (milk protein), egg whites, soy, whey (also milk), and beef. So remember how you were told that you had to drink all kinds of milk and eat all kinds of meat to be healthy? Yep, here's why. "Good" protein. Eat it up. (Oh my lanta, you might just keel over if you don't get enough.)

But the underlying logic of this does not sit well with me. The underlying logic of this rating system says that more is better. And it's not that I think these sources of protein are necessarily bad - but I think to eat them like there's no tomorrow is a reflection of the aforementioned poor logic, and I think it's frankly been reflected in some of the health downfalls in our country. I just think that too much of a good thing can be a very bad thing. Drinking too much water too quickly, for instance, can kill you (don't mess with your brain's salt balance...but don't worry, that takes a LOT of water). It's also worth noting that childhood obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure didn't exactly take a turn for the better after 1993. Mostly though, my problem is that I deal with this all the time in science. When you're running biological reactions, you quickly come to find that more of anything is not better, and can actually ruin your reaction. It's like a recipe. You need flour to make a traditional cake, right? It would be false to say that because flour is so important to making a cake, that you would make a better cake by adding more flour. If you add all kinds of flour without the other ingredients in their proper proportion, your cake might turn out pretty crummy. Literally.

And, is just so many chemical reactions. It would be worth it to run them as wisely as it is in your power to do. And especially considering the various research that indicates our current diet preferences as highly unfavorable, my tendency is to question what I grew up learning.

Americans as a whole seem to be running around figuring out, what should I eat? What shouldn't I eat?! Is sphingosine-1-phosphate going to give me cancer????And while, yes, I am a self-admitted food snob in the making, I politely (ok, or maybe a little rudely since I am blogging about it after all) disagree with the FDA's logic about nutrition in this sense. It just doesn't hold up with the way our bodies work. I think that our bodies need protein, need fat, need the vitamins and minerals offered by vegetables, and benefit from good healthy carbohydrates. But when it comes to real food (note: real), we need a great variety of all those things, in their proper proportions, to keep us at our best. I guess the trick is just finding out what those proportions are.

Final words: I'm definitely not an expert. I'm just a little skeptical about what we've "always been told" about what's healthy. And I may or may not get a slightly morbid thrill from piecing apart some of the history of our nation's ideas of what's healthy (especially when they appear to be catastrophic). Finding this PDCAAS business makes me feel like I've found a cryptic piece of evidence in the American nutrition disaster. Or maybe I'm just one of those annoying scientist types who can't leave anything alone. :)

...and those were some amazing breakfast tacos. I guess I never did answer the egg question.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Foolhardy and Ready to Be Cheated

You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
-Matthew 5:38-42

I have had some car trouble lately. And by some, I mean a lot. My car has been in the shop the last month (yes, four weeks) being resurrected from the dead. After finally picking my baby back up last week, and being a little dismayed that it didn't sound so eager as I remember, the check engine light blinked on again only a couple days later. Compiled with a long day at work, to say that I was flustered would be a slightly underwhelming description of how I felt. Stress makes people act strangely, and I suppose I'm not exempt. Moreover, I think I have a tendency to overreact to the occasional implication that I am being fleeced, particularly in things like auto repair and other things that my five-foot-three girliness has little sway over.

My first thought (or many thoughts) involved intimidation and manipulation, honestly. I wanted the auto shop to know that I was serious, that this was not acceptable, and that I sure as heck wasn't going to pay for anything. I even mentally rehearsed a very "nice sounding" way to present my case if they were shifty, but truthfully, the underlying message was simple and unloving: do what I say.

Aside from the general ridiculousness of imagining that I could be intimidating in all of my five foot three glory, the whole situation brought to light a whole different issue. I was neither loving, nor was I trusting. I was not able to love the man at the auto shop because I was not trusting God as my provider. Go ahead and reread the verse at the top. I mean, really re-read it.

I'll wait.

At Second Mile this week, we heard an incredible message about how the law, the Old Testament, the New Testament, all things are worked together through love. "God is love" is not a conditional statement. Everything God does is out of His unending, indiscriminate, unmerited love for us. While I wish I could do this justice, there isn't time. But of key importance in this context: the things that God asks of us are not to be obeyed for obedience' sake. They are petitions to trust God and His character. For instance, the Ten Commandments: "Do not steal." That shouldn't be equated as, "Don't swipe the iPad at the store because you want it." Rather, it should be read, "Trust that I am your God, and I love you, and will provide for you, and you have no need in the world that causes you to steal." God is saying, "I'm good, and I love you, and I want you to live this way so that I can show you that I mean it."

As I was driving in to the car place this morning, I know God was telling me that my attitude was not right. I needed to genuinely show love, respect, regard, and kindness to the man at the auto shop, even if he was lying to me or doing poor work on my car. Not only has God said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," (Deuteronomy 32:35), but God is greater than man. The truth is that no man can cheat me out of God's providence. Think about that. Even if the auto shop is dishonest, their iniquity cannot blot out God's love and provision over me. So be good, be kind, and be loving to people. God has loved you, and He will absolutely provide for you when you trust Him to.

....turns out everything with my car appears to be fine, it was a quick repair at no additional cost, I had an extended and very good interaction with the owner of the shop while my car was being worked on, and my faith is restored in the honesty of the work they do there. I'm all the more glad that I was not little-miss-independent this morning.