Monday, March 31, 2014

Guilty Pleasures

 A couple of days ago, my manager noted that I am a "yo yo dieter." He wasn't accusing me of this, but rather he thought I had confessed to it...when I had done no such thing! However, with very little reflection I know: it's true.

Yo-Yo dieting (verb) - Weight cycling, commonly referred to as "yo-yo dieting," can be defined as repeated losses and regains of body weight. In a small cycle, weight changes by 5-10 pounds, while in larger cycles, weight can change by 50 pounds or more.

I think that describes what I do. I don't really have to explain in detail, because the blog has chronicled all of my diet issues:

It all started with a note on my lacking willpower in Diets, Legalism, and other such Nonsense. Then after my return from Bali, after flipping through photos, I realized I was busted and disgusted. So, I started dieting, and realized how impatient I was in Instant Gratification, which was immediately followed up with defeat by a cookie in Counting Calories. And there are others! Just last week (remember) I ate all the chocolate that I found in my desk. Sad.

I hate fruit in salad (it's wrong!) but this looks good
A couple of days ago, I brought a salad to work for lunch. I didn't want it. I wanted something else so badly. I was trying to understand: why do I hate the salad? The salad actually was very good. But I didn't know that because I spent five minutes convincing myself that it would be gross in order to justify leaving my office to find "better" food. Other health food? Nah.

I would like to say I did NOT cheat on my diet. I ate the salad. And it was good. I enjoyed it. But if I had gone off-diet, I would have comforted myself by calling the departure from my plan: a guilty pleasure. 

Guilty pleasure (noun) - something pleasurable that induces a usually minor feeling of guilt. 

With the diet...this is no big deal. But, I fear that sometimes, I brush off tons of actual sins as guilty pleasures with a focus on the minor feelings of guilt. There always seems to be some form of justification: "I was sad," "I was really angry that day," "I just felt like I had to do something" and our friends stand around and they nod and they pat us on the back and tell us that everything will be okay. And it will! You will be okay. The guilty pleasure sins will not send you to hell, have grace.  But in the same way that the dieter who is always cheating can never reach their desired goal, so the Christian who does not practice self-control (and other stuff) cannot reach their full measure of effectiveness. 

Will I die if I eat a carb? Nope. Will you go to hell for guilty pleasuring? Nope. The issue here isn't life or death. It's effectiveness. Faith gained you life. But what makes you effective?

An angry carb. Ha!
 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness...He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 
- 2 Peter 1:1-5

You already have the salad. It's there, in the refrigerator. The way of escape from the corruption of Panera cookies (which is what I wanted) has already been made. Likewise, we have received this faith that has allowed us to no longer be slaves to sin and guilty pleasures. God has made it possible for us to escape that. 
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 
- 2 Peter 1:6-9

But the salad being there is no guarantee that I will actually eat it. I could only eat the salad by adding self-control to its existence. Likewise, our faith alone is no guarantee that we'll be "lights" in this world. Faith alone is no guarantee that you're growing and developing as a Christian. So we have to add to our faith moral excellence (haven't we fallen down on this one?), knowledge (read your Bible lately?), self-control, perseverance (keep practicing that self-control), godliness, brotherly kindness (I suck at that one), and finally love. 

The scripture says these will be make you useful and productive. The reason why we're sometimes useless and unproductive is because we're so short-sighted. We only see our immediate needs and desires. We forget where God has brought us from, and we can't see to where He is trying to lead us. We fall into guilty pleasures and think: no big deal.

I want to live in the back of this truck
I thought that last verse about forgetting was deep, because it really ties in to the yo-yo dieting! Once I've lost weight, I forget how busted and disgusted I was...and I eat all the pie. In the world. I forget the former consequences of pie (at 3 am with vanilla bean ice cream) and think: no big deal.

Food for thought...pun!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Life is a Gamble

Last week I was certain that I was going to win the lottery. I kid you not. I almost never play the lottery. Unless I feel "led" to play, I agree with all you graduates of Financial Peace University: the lottery is dumb. But the circumstances were right:
  1. I had a weird dream. In the dream I am on vacation in Africa and spot a giant giraffe. I say "giant" because the face of the giraffe was so big that I didn't realize it was a giraffe until I was on much higher ground.
  2. June also has a dream (she never remembers her dreams). In this dream a bunch of stuff happens that I don't remember because I zeroed in on her saying there was a miniature giraffe in her dream. 
So I was thinking: GIRAFFES! So I looked up the lottery numbers that  corresponded with dreams of a giraffe and played them all. Pick 3. Pick 4. Then I arranged them into a couple of different sets for Mega Millions. I lost. Five dollars down the drain of foolishness. But since it was a small sum of money my heart was not crushed.

I went to the Maryland Live! casino a couple of weeks ago for a friend's birthday celebration, and I lost $200. Quick. It smarts (a little) when I think of all the other things $200 could have bought; however, I had set aside that exact amount of money to either be the seed money for my winnings or the extent of my losses. So, since I was in control of it...that didn't really hurt either.

Lots of our most commonly used metaphors depict human life as a gambling game:

"I'll take my chances!"
"It's worth the risk"
"It's a crap shoot"
"He's totally bluffing..."
"Dating is a numbers game"
"Where is he when the chips are down?"

And the list goes on and on. Gambling seems stupid, but we have (at least in our speech) marginalized our very existence to a game of risks and rewards...and we play our lives out like that.  This had me really down because (as noted above) I lose. I lose a lot. There are other gambling stories that have been omitted, but none of those have happy endings either.

But those are just games. Surely a Christian never treats life as a gamble...or do they?

Our faith? Our hope? Are these the currency we gamble with? Like maybe this next prayer will be the one that wins big?

I've thought about this This is why the Bible says:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:8-9

...I should just end the blog right here. I hate to tell you, even my thoughts criticizing old thoughts is probably dumb (especially compared with the knowledge of God), but I still have something to say.

As early as yesterday I was thinking of faith and hope in terms of gambles. "Step out on faith." "Keep asking, keep praying." All of that seems like "take-a-risk" language to me;  like one of these prayers will "hit" or like "somebody's got to win." The more I thought of it like that, the more tragic my life started to feel. It was like God was Maryland Live! and "the house always wins." And I always lose. So at the end of every prayer, as my chips of hope and faith are swept away, a still small voice whispers "My grace is sufficient for thee" (cue evil laughter)?!! 

When prayer is a numbers game rather than a faith game, I think maybe we're dealing with "wishes." And then it actually is a lot like gambling, thinking "maybe this will happen", or "maybe that will happen." I was more certain I was going to win the lottery last week than I have been about some of my prayers coming to pass. Because I was convinced that the two giraffe dreams meant something! However, the scriptures and past experiences had proven less convincing.

Faithless praying. I think I do that when my heart is too crushed to believe anything anymore. If you ask someone how to fix it, they'll say: pray. Except, take the "maybe" out of it. Take the gambling out it. Pray believing that it's working. From the moment the words leave your mouth...believe that they are working. 

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." - Hebrews 11:6

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
- James 1:6-8

That person comes intending to lose $200, because to is a gamble. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Positive Thinking!

I'm so over this winter. It is 36 degrees today in Arlington, VA. Yesterday, it was mid-sixties. The day before we were in the seventies! Two steps forward, one giant step back. I keep thinking: "two more weeks" and everything will be okay. Weather got me down!

ze crates
There is construction going on at my workplace, and I have to move all my stuff to another office tomorrow. Crates are provided. I walk down to get a crate and they are stacked at least 9 feet high. At 5'2", I just walked away. Stupid crates got me down!

You know how in the winter time, one tends to gain weight. I've gained about 4 lbs since November and I need to lose them. I should have lost them a long time ago! I did a detox after New Year's to no avail. It's hard to go running when it's frigid cold outside. And
though I do have a gym in the basement of my apartment building...I kind of hate treadmills. It's almost spring, so I need to do springtime retail therapy, but I don't want to buy clothes before I lose the 4 lbs. Weight AND delayed shopping got me down.
In all of these issues there's a component where I have varying levels of control:

  1. Weather in VA - No control.
  2. Crates stacked too high - Some control. Though I cannot reach the crates, I could ask someone taller for help (but I hate asking for help). I sent out a few e-mails. No response yet. I walked back to the crates. I hereby amend my height estimate to about 7-8 feet. I tried to pull them down...but alas, I am too weak! I almost asked someone for help; I started a discussion about the crates. But I just didn't go far enough to say: "can you get the crates down for me?" Some control + neurosis = No control.
  3. Weight - full control. I'm simply lazy and lack discipline. While cleaning my office (for the move) I found some chocolate. I ate it. 
Then, while I was cleaning I found an old parking ticket that I had contested. Realized I hadn't heard back from Adjudication Services, went online, ticket was still there. Argh!

As I was writing out my three issues of the day, PLUS the annoyance of that ticket, I started to feel really sad. I started to feel unlucky. I started to feel like nothing ever goes right. I started to feel extremely discontent.

Last night in my small group we were talking about the power of words, and we noted how hokie the whole "think positive thoughts" cliche can be. Positive Thinking and its effect on general contentment, happiness and health is an age old tale. It is a story we've heard so many times that it starts to ring false. But it's true. Not in just a science-has-proved-it true way (like in the hyperlink above), but it's also biblical:

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:8-9

Why does it sound like wisdom coming from Paul and like mumbo jumbo coming from inspirational speakers?* Why does it sound like something really easy to do when you read it in the Bible (or at least like something you want to do) and like cliched garbage when your mom says it?

I don't know. Wherever the information comes from, the bottom line is the same, for every situation where you have varying levels of control, there's a component of it that you completely control: how you think about it. How you react to it. How you allow it to affect that hour/day/week/month of your life.

I own nothing like this.
So, I could enjoy these last cold days when I can still wear cute chunky scarves and boots. When I can go outside and see my vapor in the air (which I'm always excited about at the start of winter). When I can get my best running times in (because you can run faster in the cold). I can still cuddle up with blankets and hot tea watching my favorite shows (which will be off-season soon - Walking Dead I'll miss you!!!).

Regarding the crates, I could just wait until moving day (tomorrow). No one's going to let me not move, so a crate will be available. In the meantime I'll clean everything in my office and get it ready for the move. Or if I wait a little bit longer, other people will take crates until it's low enough for me to grab one. Or maybe I'll get over my hatred of asking for help, ask for help, and instantly have a crate in the next hour or so. Regardless, I'll move. My stuff will get packed. It'll be fine.

My director gave me that chocolate the day after New Year's. But I didn't eat it because I was on detox. I said I'd save it for later, and today was "later". I think it was kind of cute the way I quickly devoured it in my office. I felt like Brenda Leigh Johnson. I was really happy to have found it. I rebuke you diet guilt! Plus, what's 4lbs? All my current clothes still fit, and if I were to be less lazy, I could lose that weight in 3 to 4 weeks. Just in time for my sister to get here! She can go shopping with me since I dislike shopping alone! She can also keep me from making foolish purchases...waiting could be for the best.

Why did I write all that? I don't know. But once I got started I couldn't stop! I'm not making this up: writing that made me feel better! I was so sad after the first part of the blog (especially after finding that ticket!), that tears were threatening! But now, way less. I thought about the ticket, and since I knew DC might try to screw me over, I schedule a hearing a month ago. That will keep my window of dispute open. Aren't I smart?

I feel really good. I didn't set out to experiment with positive thinking/positive self-talk, but it turned out that way. And it was real. It worked. Paul was right, along with all those other people who I've been sneering at.

I just wonder if I'll remember this was real tomorrow...

*I think it seems legit coming from Paul because he's writing from prison. Everyone else doesn't seem that bad off. And so you want to slap them. Like: "what do you know about my pain?" But since I've never been locked up and assume it to be wretched...Paul gets some credibility.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent: 2014

this actually looks fun!
Remember when your parents or an older sibling would say: "If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?!" in order to shame you for being a follower?  Why was it always jumping off of a bridge, or something that was seemingly harmful? No parent ever says: "If all your friends went to college, would you go too?!" because...that's probably a decent idea. I have the same feeling about Lent. Today, all over the world, in many different languages people are being asked the same question:

"Are you giving something up for Lent?"

And you'll either (1) feel guilty that you weren't going to give something up and give up donuts posthaste; (2) feel nothing, you're not Catholic and you didn't grow up with Lent; or (3) feel validation and relief because the person who asked you isn't giving up anything either.

But if you've decided you're giving something up, then there's all this judgment about what you gave up. Like is that a "valid" sacrifice?  There are arguments about whether or not Sunday is a "cheat" day... There are even websites that guide you in picking your Lenten sacrifice (so you don't mess it up).
I've written about Lent before because I'm not Catholic and didn't grow up with it. So three years ago I gave in to the pressure and gave up something for Lent. I thought it was super spiritual and meaningful, nothing like ice cream or chocolate. So, since I'd done it before, I thought: maybe today I'll do it again.

so so good
But why? That's where Lent gets me every time! I have to know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. I just can't give up Friday meat willy nilly! Nor can I decide that the Sea Salt Caramel gelato in my freezer is on hold for 40 days without just cause.  Since I'm not Catholic, I've always struggled with the point of Lent. My last Lent blog likened Lent to a "spiritual New Year's Eve," except instead of doing better by myself, I'd do better by God. Today, I started thinking of  Lent as a way to be closer to God; closer to His likeness/character/nature. Said another way, I previously thought of Lent as an opportunity to reconnect with Christ, when it is probably more a call to be an imitator of Christ.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. - Ephesians 5:1-2

I love this scripture, because I want to be like a little kid, wearing my mom's heels. Trying on her church hats. Imitating the way she does things. I like to think of myself imitating God that way. So I start having all these warm/fuzzy imitator-of-God-for-Lent thoughts. However, when I see "therefore" at the beginning of a chapter, I know I have to go back:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. - Ephesians 4:31-32

Argh! That hard stuff! I guess I'll spend 40 days working on that...

...or not. I mean, that's really good. Sounds amazing (and I am going to pray towards that end and be more mindful of my thinking). However, I realized that I was trying to create my own little doctrine for Lent. Trying to put all these sentimental and biblical rules and parameters around it, in order to make it mean something for me.  In an exasperated moment,  I asked a Catholic what she liked about Ash Wednesday service:

"I like the ritual of it; of taking a moment to remind myself that this life is fleeting. Everything you see before you will crumble."

So simple. And that's when I thought: I'm taking this way too far. Jesus spent 40 days preparing Himself for 3 years of crazy. It was His time of self-reflection and worship to prepare Him for His life, His struggle. And he came out of the 40 days victorious over temptation. And He came out of the 3 years victorious over sin and death.

So, I guess I just want to come out of Lent with something. Maybe something as simple (and umm...bleak) as acknowledging that everything we see will crumble. Some will come out victorious over their bodies by denying themselves things they love (i.e. chocolate, ice cream, smoking). Maybe Lent isn't so much 40 days of suffering. Maybe it's 40 days of preparation for a victory.  

I might spend 40 days thinking about being victorious.

But ultimately, I think I'm going to give up over-analyzing Lent. Give up on imagining what everyone's spiritual sacrifice should be. Give up on imagining where someone else's victory lies, and what their shout of victory should sound like.

I give that up.


Side note: IF I were going to give up something small for Lent, it would probably be Korean dramas (I'm an addict), and I would believe that Sunday is a "feast day" wherein no suffering is allowed. It is a time of celebration. And I celebrate Kim Hyun Joong in Inspiring Generation! Team Gaya!