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Archive for November, 2007

If you are a GCF’er, then you may want to wait until Monday to read this post.  It gives a way a bit of the end of Sunday’s sermon.

I’ve been pondering the tremendous differences between our current celebrations of the Holiday season and the traditions of our ancestors in the Christian faith who celebrated Advent – not “the Holidays” in these weeks before Christmas. 

Our Christmas traditions involve the following kinds of words:  Manger scenes, trees, ornaments, lights, wrapping paper, Santa Claus, parties, candy, parades, family gatherings and shopping.

 Traditional Christian celebrations of the season of Advent involved the following kinds of words:  second coming, prayer, fasting, penitence, repentance, worship.

 Seems to be quite a difference between how we live during these weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and how our Christian ancestors lived during these same weeks.  Of course, they were focused not only on the first coming of Jesus in Bethlehem but were equally (if not more) focused on the promise and hope of the coming glory of Jesus.

I came across this quote from Abraham Lincoln this past week.  He was, of course, talking about the Civil War.  But I wonder if his words might also be aptly applied to our modern celebrations of “the Holidays”?

“We have forgotten God.  We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!  It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended God, to confess our sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

Not a very popular Christmas message . . . but then again, it’s Advent right now and not necessarily “The Holidays”.

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Five years ago I weighed 320 pounds.  Over about a year and half I managed to unintentionally lose 40 pounds.  I started drinking diet soda and stopped eating lunch at the preschool where I worked.  YES,  that is a sad commentary on the kind of food we serve school children!

About 3 1/2 years ago, something clicked inside of me and I decided I was simply tired of being overweight.  Between June and December of 2004 I lost 110 pounds and dropped down to 170 pounds.  I did it primarily by eating healthy, well balanced meals of no more than 1500 calories a day.  Believe me, you can do this and still get all of the nourishment you need.  I learned how to be full eating only 1500 calories a day.  After dropping the first 40 pounds, I started running and in the summer of 2006 I competed in the first atheletic event I had ever participated in (in my entire life)!!!!!  I ran the 10K in downtown Lexington, KY on July 4.

Then we moved and I changed jobs and my schedule went haywire.  Over the last year and half I have managed to gain back 50 of the pounds that I had lost.  I have held steady at 220 pounds for 6 months or so.

I really want to get rid of that 50 pounds.  About three weeks ago, I decided I would start running again.  The early morning runs were pretty short and left me absolutely exhausted.  I became frustrated. 

 Yesterday it dawned on me:  the running stinks because I am not feeding my body anything that it can run on.  It is not that I have been overeating, but I have certainly not been eating healthy foods.  Our American diet is so sugar-filled and fat-filled that even if we eat the right portion sizes we can still be guaranteed that we will gain weight.  For example, taking in an additional 30,000 to 40,000 calories a year can result in a weight gain of anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds.  Do this over ten years and you’ve gained 50 to 100 pounds!!!!

It is a junk-in/junk-out kind of scenario.  If we eat crap then we get to feel like crap – LITERALLY.  Your body goes into slow motion if you make a steady diet of fatty and sugar-filled foods.  It is not so much that I want to lose the 50 pounds as it is that I just don’t want to feel like crap.

So yesterday, I re-instituted the following rules in my life:

1.  Eat only 1500 to 2000 calories a day.

2.  Do not eat butter or other fatty foods or foods filled with processed sugars.  Do not eat anything with more than 5 g’s of fat or sugar per serving.

3.  THIS IS THE REALLY BIG ONE:  Take at least 20 minutes to eat each meal.  You should really try this one.  Rather than making your meals a feeding frenzy so that you can move on to the next thing, make your meals an event.  Spend 20 minutes eating slowly.  To help do this you can do two things.  First put your fork down as soon as you put a bite of food in your mouth.  Then chew.  Second, after swallowing each bite of food take a drink of water.  If you don’t have someone to talk to while you are eating (which really helps slow the meal down), then read a magazine while you eat.  Meals that are taken slowly fill you up on less food and it makes the food you do eat much more enjoyable.  You actually taste it.  In fact, when I first started doing this I discovered that there were some foods that I had always eaten that I didn’t really think were all that great when I stopped to really consider their taste and texture.

Just like the brain, the body needs to feed on things that are “good and pure”.  A big, greasy, hamburger is OK on some occassions but if you eat them all the time . . . well . . . you get to spend your life feeling like a big, greasy hamburger.  Have you ever wondered what it must feel like to take a bath in a vat of greasy, fried hamburger meat?

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I have changed the “Don’t Judge These Books” page to the “New to the Shelf” page and I have updated the list of books to those that I am currently reading.  Check it out!

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WARNING:  For those Christians (or others) who are offended by the word “suck” I am advising that you may wish to avoid reading any further so that you do not feel the need to write me a rant about my use of the word below.

Sermon writing last week got off to a slow start.  In fact, I chose the lectionary passages we would use last Monday and then did not look at them again until Friday morning.  I wrote the sermon on Saturday morning.

On Sunday morning I left early to finish the slides and the outline of the sermon manuscript.  Our worship pastor walked in a few minutes after I had sat down at my desk and we talked briefly about worship for the morning.  I told Matt that I was certain that the sermon for the morning was probaby one of the worst sermons I have evern written.  He said, “I’m glad to see you’re feeling confident this morning.”  I said, “I am quite confident – that this sermon is going to suck.”

 Turns out it didn’t really suck.  Lots of people told me afterward that the message had really challenged them.  I focused some on the seasonal challenge of keeping Jesus in Christmas.  Turns out people who had been busy for Thanksgiving and had already started shopping and are (much like my family) looking at a month with no free weekends really appreciated the gentle reminder that Christmas is a charade without Jesus.

At any rate, I really can’t take credit.  I preached from Colossians 1.9-23.  There is a terrific early church hymn stuck in the middle of that passage (Col. 1.15-20).  The hymn is amazing.! The more I preach the more I am learning that the Bible is such excellent literature that it can most often speak quite clearly for itself (without much help from me).  That’s really what happened yesterday and I am thankful for that.

 On tap for this coming Sunday:  Matthew 24.36-44.  A gentle reminder that Advent is as much about preparation for the second coming of Jesus as it is his first coming . . .

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