This Year, Don’t Diet: Eat with Joy

I love food. I enjoy thinking about new recipes, planning menus for dinner parties, cooking, and, of course, eating: everything from fresh baguettes, cheeses of all kinds, chocolate, and, especially, the New York pizza I grew up with; the kind that turns the paper plate transparent because it’s so greasy.

Fewer than ten years ago, though, I wouldn’t have been able to admit that this most basic of human comforts–food–brought me so much pleasure. In fact, food didn’t bring me all that much pleasure in those days. For a full ten years–from age 14 to 24–I struggled to get by mostly on Diet Coke and Granny Smith apples. I was eating so much raw broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, and spinach that I had intestinal trouble and my doctor, after calculating how many servings of fruits and vegetables I was consuming each day, insisted that I needed to cut back for the sake of my health.

I had to cut back on vegetables and fruits. For my health.

My body–still growing during many of those years; I was a very late bloomer–craved heartier nourishment, and as a result, I began an unhealthy pattern of alternating self-starvation with the consumption of huge meals (often eaten in secret) after which I always felt guilty and awful. Once, I walked for miles and miles to ‘atone’ for what was, in retrospect, a thoroughly normal meal. I was embarrassed to be seen eating. I didn’t want anyone to know that I secretly loved food as much as any person, maybe even a bit more.

I thought the ideal attitude to have toward food was indifference: ‘fill the tank with healthy fuel, not too much, just enough’ was the philosophy I tried to live by. If I happened to enjoy eating something at one time or another, I’d be filled with guilt and shame. Dietary “righteousness”–usually in the form of huge salads with no dressing besides a splash of vinegar–was all that could please me. I tried to live as if I had no sense of smell or taste; no hunger or cravings.

I wish I could say there was a single moment in time when that all changed–a New Year’s resolution I made to start enjoying food and stop abusing it (and my body) for good. But the truth is more complicated, as the truth often is.

{this post continues at iBelieve}

Beyond the Rumors of Poisoned and Cursed Halloween Candy…

Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 11.38.51 AMIn 1989, Jack T. Chick published a comic strip gospel tract that claimed to reveal the truth behind Halloween: the panels reveal a group of Satan-worshipers gathering in the weeks before Halloween to “provide our father [the devil] with a number of sacrifices.” They plan to murder some children (“in order to obtain more blood for our master”) by tainting the candy with “razor blades, crushed glass, pins, etc.” while bringing other children under Satan’s “guidance and care” by performing incantations over the candy that, when consumed, will cause children who were once “so sweet” to become “totally rebellious”–refusing to go to Sunday school “without a big fight.”

This tract undoubtedly represented an extreme view even among conservative Christians, but the idea of Halloween as a satanic holiday rife with the potential to harm children seems to have held considerable traction in many families, including the one in which I grew up and even after the isolated and rare instances of candy-tampering were shown to be largely mythical. (Though Snopes.com confirms that there were a few–very few–instances where children were pricked by sharp objects that had been inserted into Halloween candy.) Ministries such as John MacArthur’s “Grace to You” pointed out the Celtic pagan roots of the holiday and churches sought alternatives: hosting “harvest parties” where kids could dress up (but not as witches), bob for apples, and overload on sugar. Jerry Falwell went a step further and created the “scaremare”: a sort of haunted house that “replaced the demon-filled message of Halloween with the biblical message ‘man dies, Christ saves,’” in effect scaring people into belief.

These days, even conservative Christians seem to be a little more relaxed on the question of Halloween. Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family admits that he and his wife “have chosen to allow our sons to engage in the innocent and harmless side of Halloween” while condemning the excessively ghoulish displays Halloween often encourages, acknowledging that Christians differ on the subject and insisting that he “respect[s] the strongly held perspectives in both camps.” At TheResurgence.com, which is closely associated with Mark Driscoll, Winfield Bevins suggests that a “Happy Christian Halloween” is possible and that it’s a bad idea for Christians to be “weird” about Halloween and refuse to participate. Over at John Piper’s website, DesiringGod.org, David Mathis makes similar suggestions, encouraging Christians to use Halloween as a chance to connect with neighbors for the sake of the gospel.

Concerns over the pagan roots of the holiday and the fear of tainted candy may have taken a backseat for most Christians, but it’s possible that other things should concern us about Halloween..

{Continue Reading at iBelieve…}

“Peace, Be Still,” The Fisherman’s Prayer, and anchors for the soul.

There is a very old prayer–known as the “fisherman’s prayer” or the “seafarer’s prayer”–that goes something like this: “Dear God, be close to me; thy sea is so wide, and my boat is so small.”

To me, this prayer captures something of what life itself feels like: the world is big and wide, and not altogether safe, friendly, or predictable, and our ability to cope with it all feels as flimsy as a small wooden boat battling the waves of the open ocean. We are all but guaranteed to face more than a few storms. It is, all in all, a frightening business, this journey of life. Psalm 107 describes this terrifying scene:

Some went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the Lord,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

The early Christians sometimes likened the journey of life to a voyage on the seas, with the hope that God’s promises are sure and steady, providing “an anchor for the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). Some old churches–including the one where my son performed the role of Jesus at Bible camp–are built to resemble ships on the inside, and the anchor–like the fish–was an important Christian symbol for many, many years–and fittingly so. It is good to have reminders that while the sailing will not always be smooth, and while our boats will sometimes seem pitifully small and rickety, the one who commands the wind and the waves sails with us, speaking to them–and to us–these words: peace, be still.

{This is just an excerpt from my first piece at the motherhood channel of iBelieve. Please read it all here, if you’re interested, and feel free to share.}