A Gospel-Driven Weight Loss Plan


This is a picture of me from March 24th. Sadly, I was at my highest weight ever.

Like many of you, I have battled weight issues for years. Losing weight and gaining weight again and again is aggravating, but it has been the norm for me throughout my adult life.

It was later that evening that I decided to do something about it. A few days later (March 27th) I began the process once again of losing weight. Since then I have been walking 3+ miles per day, making better food choices, and looking for motivation anywhere I can get it.

As strange as it might sound to some, my greatest motivation has been the Gospel–I want to continue proclaiming it with gusto and effectiveness for as long as I can. Sharing the Good News of Jesus’s entrance into our world, his death for our sins, and his resurrection remains my mission and it is one I hope to continue being a part of for many years to come.

While I know the road to better health can be long and full of potholes (most of them full of donuts), I know I don’t walk it alone because the one who saved me and sanctifies me is sustaining me step by step.

So far I have lost 25 pounds and hope to lose about 75 more. Impossible? Not at all. The Bible tells me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It tells you the same thing.

Whatever it is you are trying to do–if it is something good and Christ exalting–take heart. The Savior is with you. Keep holding his hand.

What seemingly impossible goal do you have?
How can I pray for you in regard to it?

A Little Less Vinegar, Please—REPOST

This post originally appeared on 1/18/11, but seems appropriate based upon what I have seen/heard the last couple of weeks.  It doesn’t hurt to have another look.

My dad knew that something was wrong when he arrived home from work to find all of our furniture in the yard. All of our clothes were out there, as well. I guess the couch, love-seat, recliner, and all of our mattresses kept him from noticing much else.  This happened well before cell phones and my dad couldn’t receive phone calls while on the job. Coming home from work every day was kind of lake having a surprise party especially for him. Not all surprises are good surprises.

It was sort of amazing, really.  My mom had accomplished this feat by herself and we lived in a two-story, split-foyer house. No, she’s not a bodybuilder or a superhero; she has never turned green or owned an invisible jet. She was just mad.  Finding out that her kids have lice can apparently inject a woman with super-strength along with a helping of insanity.

Yes, my brother and I had lice. No, we weren’t street urchins who went out everyday picking pockets and climbing through the sewer system. I’m guessing that’s what my mom was afraid people would think. She was filled with indignation and determination. The lice had to be eradicated and she couldn’t wait for anyone’s help to begin the process. So she grabbed up our furniture like a fistful of legos and carried it all outside to be sprayed and aired out. But that wasn’t all.

She began calling people on the phone to find out how to treat our hair; this is what people did before they could look everything up on the internets. And for things of this nature, you would call the oldest person that you know. Old people and home remedies go together like honey mustard and broccoli. Honey mustard and broccoli don’t go together?!?! You must be one of those weird people who actually like broccoli, or you don’t have a wife that makes you eat it. Trust me–it’s good. Not really, but it does lubricate the broccoli with enough taste to allow passage down my throat.

The old person told her that washing our hair in vinegar would kill the existing lice and prevent any more of them from wanting to take up residence on our scalp.  Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Here is what’s worse: my mom never does anything half-way. Nosiree. This is why my ugly brother and I took a bath in vinegar.

That’s right, a full-body vinegar bath. My mom filled the tub up with the vile liquid and told us to strip down and sit in it. We were compliant children who generally did everything asked of us, most of the time without complaint. This wasn’t one of those times. We whined, complained, and begged; it did no good. Vinegar had worked for mom’s elderly advisor so it would work for us. And she didn’t want to take any chances. If washing our hair in vinegar was good, making us bathe in it was better.

As a result, the lice left and never came back. And I hate the smell of vinegar. A little bit would not have turned me against it altogether, but a lot caused me to despise everything about it from that moment on. I’m afraid my mom isn’t the only one who has used too much vinegar. I’m afraid that the Church has done the same thing. Not with real vinegar, but with words that taste like vinegar to the soul.

We have done a good job of telling the world what we are against, but sometimes doing a good job at something is a bad thing. Instead of proclaiming the graceful truth about Jesus, we have fallen into the seductive trap of declaring what is wrong with the world and everyone in it.  We have become efficient at enumerating the sins, calling them out by name. We aren’t so good at showing the Savior’s love through word and deed.

All of this vinegar has caused us to stink. All of this vitriol has caused many to flee.

Sin still needs to be called out, but the vinegar must be mixed with love and grace. It is the sweet savor of Christ that should be most prominent, even if that is not the way the older folks used to do it.

(Have you been exposed to too much vinegar lately? Have you taken steps to counteract it? Share away!)

It’s Okay to Smile

I like to smile.  Laughing is even better.  Here are 3 recent occurrences that caused me do both.

1.  I got checked out by a guy wearing make-up at a used bookstore last week.  And by “checked out,” I mean that he was the cashier.  He was very cordial and his foundation had been expertly applied, but I did feel a little awkward.  It could have been even more awkward.  I could have purchased a book about Biblical manhood.  Yeah–that would have been worse than the time that I announced my intention to part ways with a former church-member who wore a toupee by saying “I guess it’s time for me to get out of your hair.”  Did that really happen?  Yes.  Yes it did.

2.  When asked why we were laughing so much one afternoon this week, my co-worker said that it was because we get a little goofy during that time of day.  As I often do, I said the first thing that popped into my mind–“It’s better to get a little goofy than it is to get a little Pluto because that would entail being naked and unable to talk.”  In case you are wondering, I often get strange looks from my co-workers.

3.  We go to our local McDonald’s far too often.  To make it more personally enjoyable I have acquainted myself with several of the employees.  A couple of weeks ago, there was a new guy running the cash register who featured a variety of tattoos on both of his arms.  The one that drew my attention was a series of numbers inside of a rectangle.  I asked him what the numbers meant.  he laughed and said, “Well–when my dog got spayed they tattooed these numbers on her belly so I got a matching tattoo because I love my dog.”  Two thoughts: 1) I should probably quit asking so many questions and 2) Compared to this guy, we are all terrible pet owners.

I realize that this isn’t like one of my regular posts.  There is not a big, important lesson to learn.  There are very few (if any) semi-laugh-out-loud phrases.  There is just this:

It’s okay to smile at the silliness that surrounds us.  More than that, it is good for us.

 A cheerful heart is good medicine,
   but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22

You might have a crushed spirit.  You do not have to stay this way.  There are plenty of things with the ability to elicit  a smile or a laugh. 

You just have to be looking for them.

(Do you have funny story to share? Something that happened recently? Something that happened years ago? Has something crushed your spirit? Share away!)

Getting Creative with Alternative Fuel

We probably disagree on plenty of topics.

You may think that the new, strange-looking woman on American Idol is acting more like a fan than a judge; I think that Steven Tyler is doing a fine job.  You may believe that hummus is a perfectly acceptable food to put in your mouth and eat; I refuse to eat it primarily because it is called hummus.  You may think that Lost was overrated; I think that you are wrong and need to repent.

There is at least one thing that I believe we can all agree on.  No, I’m not talking about the fact that all newborn babies look like Winston Churchill.  I’m talking about how we can all agree that the price of gas is equal parts ridiculous and painful.  I’m not saying that I have ever wept openly while pumping gas, but I’m not saying that I have refrained from doing so, either. 

While I admit that I am not a scientist and that I am not particularly intelligent and that I was once emotionally invested in The Bachelorette (the one that featured Trista and Ryan), I am a ponderer.  Here’s a question that I have recently pondered: What are some things that we have a large supply of that could possibly be converted into alternative fuel?  Here are a few of my answers:

1.  McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.  In anDouble Mouth Nasty inexplicable display of fast food madness, McDonald’s now has Double Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.  I can only think of one reason why they would put this on their  menu–they have an excessive amount of fish filets that they are trying to get rid of by creating a felt need for a double dose of mouth nasty.  I don’t think that too many people would get upset if we took the excess sandwiches and converted them into a less smelly type of gas than they normally cause.

2.  Silly Bandz.  For the past year my kids have traded Silly Bandz with negotiating skills that would put high-powered sports agents to shame.  One of my boys started wearing Osh-Kosh sized Armani suits and drinking 17 energy drinks a day.  And when I told him that I needed to talk to him about his behavior he  told me to have my people call his people.  I don’t have to worry about this type of behavior now.  The Silly Bandz craze has started to fade.  If we could convert all of them that were sold into gas, we would have enough to fuel every car that will ever be made throughout the remainder of time.

3.  Teeth.  When I was a kid and lost a toot the Tooth Fairy would bring me a candy bar.  Yes, that’s right–a candy bar.  Presumably to ensure job security.  What do my kids get when they lose a tooth?  Money.  They get $10 for the first tooth and $5 for each additional tooth.  It was my wife’s idea and it would be fine if we only had a couple of kids.  But we have 5 kids. Before it’s all over, the Tooth Fairy may have to start taking video games to pawn along with the teeth that she picks up.  Anyway, if we could get our hands on all of the teeth that are being stored in plastic bags in the sock drawers of parents with gullible children and turn it into fuel, we would be set.

Maybe you have different ideas on what to do about the exorbitant gas prices.  Maybe you think my ideas are silly.  But I bet you agree with me that the prices are painfully high.

I hope we agree on a few other things, too.

I hope we agree that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

I hope we agree that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

I hope we agree that those of us who have obtained mercy should be merciful toward others.

I hope we agree that those of us who are followers of Jesus should be in the process of becoming more and more like Him.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,
that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Romans 8:29

I know that we disagree on plenty of topics, but I have grown weary recently of focusing on what separates us.  I wonder if  there can be somewhat widespread agreement on what unites us. 

Besides the ridiculous gas prices and the nastiness of Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.

(What other items should  we try to turn into alternative fuel?  What can we agree about?  What is worth dividing over?  Share away!)

 

Preventing Childhood Obesity

The only thing that I really know about childhood obesity is that it is on the rise.  That’s what a few headlines have told me.  The headlines try to say it in clever ways like “Childhood Obesity a Big Concern” or “Childhood Obesity is a Weighty Issue.”  Overall, though, I am pretty clueless about most of the details.

This doesn’t surprise me; I’m clueless about a lot of things.  Like why there isn’t a perfume that smells like bacon.  Or why people have a hard time calling me Matt and not Mike or Mark.  Or how my youngest son manages to break his glasses on a weekly basis. 

Even though I’m clueless about the details, I do know that childhood obesity is a problem that follows many children throughout their lives (of course it isn’t called childhood obesity when they are adults–it’s just plain ‘ol obesity then).  And, while I am not a doctor, I am an overweight guy with a few suggestions based upon my keen observations that will help prevent your child or children from becoming obese.

1.  Name your child Whitney.  I had at least 12 people named Whitney come through my office the other day.  I’m not sure if this constitutes a “gaggle” or a “plethora,” I just know that it was a bunch of them.  And none of them were overweight.  In fact, they were all quite petite.  As I pondered this, it dawned on me–I have never known an overweight Whitney.  I asked a few others (5 others to be exact) and they haven’t either.  This probably doesn’t work with boys, but if you have a daughter and want her to stay skinny–name her Whitney.

2.  Never introduce them to Little Debbie Snack Cakes.  According to the Institute of Fake Statistics (IFS), 67% of all obese children begin waddling on the road to Chubbyville via an Oatmeal Creme Pie.  Oh, it starts innocently enough with the child just eating one every couple of days.  But before you know it your darling child is eating a two Swiss Cake Rolls for breakfast followed by a midmorning Honey Bun snack followed by a sugar rush powerful enough to bring down western civilization. 

3.  Dissuade them from ever becoming repossession agents (aka repo men).  I have learned 2 main things from the “reality” shows that my wife likes to watch: Toddlers & Tiaras is the scariest show on television and all repo men are overweight.  Even though I have only watched the commercials for the repo shows, I know this to be true.  When I was unemployed, I considered becoming a repo man because I look like most of them.  Sadly, I didn’t meet the minimum qualifications because I don’t smoke cigars.

4.  Keep them away from Shoney’s.  The should be a sign over the entrance of every Shoney’s that says, “Abandon good health all ye who enter here.”  You may have known skinny people who went to Shoney’s, but I guarantee you they didn’t leave that way.  The air in those restaurants is even fat.  If you don’t have a Shoney’s in your area, please feel free to include the name of whatever restaurant you desire that leaves customers smelling like fried fish.

5.  Eat every meal inside of a church building.  All food eaten inside of a church building is considered–devoid of all calories and fat.  This is especially true for all casseroles and crock pot food.  Take your greasy grub to a church building and eat, eat, eat without worrying about whether it will attach itself permanently to your thighs.

I have dealt with weight issues all of my life and am currently more than a few Klondike Bars overweight, so these suggestions aren’t coming from someone who could fit into a Smart Car (I’m pretty sure those things have weight limits.)  I know that the real suggestions include a healthy diet and regular exercise, so please don’t blast me in the comments.  I also know something else.

Not knowing and cherishing God is worse than being overweight.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things,
holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:8

I want my kids to be physically healthy, to not have to fight the same life-long battle that I am still fighting.  But above that, I want them to know that they are loved by God and to love him back.  I want them to be filled with the words of Scripture and with the Holy Spirit.  I want them to lead lives filled with compassion for the poor, the fatherless, the widows.

I want them to be like Jesus.

If I had to choose for them to be either overweight lovers of Christ or physically fit people who care nothing about following after Him, I would choose the former every time. 

So, I’ll keep trying to show them Jesus in my life, but I’ll also try to keep them away from the Little Debbie’s.  Especially the Raisin Creme Pies–those are my favorite.

(What other unique obesity fighting suggestions do you have?  What is your favorite snack food? How are you modeling Jesus for the young ones around you?  Share away!)

 


 

 

 

 

Looking Older

It happened again this past Friday.  No, I didn’t almost decapitate myself on a bathroom stall coat-hook.  No, my wife didn’t almost shoot me.  What happened is far more common; on average it happens about once every week.  I had  conversation about my age.  It seems that other people are able to avoid conversations like this.  Not me.  My questioner this time was the 27-year-old son of a co-worker.  He asked me the question that I get again and again, “How old are you?”  I gave him my standard reply, “How old do you think I am?” 

His answer–48.

There is nothing at all wrong with being 48; it is a fine age.  I have known some people this age who are active, healthy, and who seem much younger than me.  Honestly, I’ve known some 80-year-olds who seem much younger than me, too.  The only problem with being seen as a 48-year-old is that I am 15 years younger than this.  That’s right, I’m 33.

People have been thinking I am older than what I really am most of my life.  I remember being in Kindergarten and a lunch lady trying to charge me extra because she thought I was in first grade.  I remember hearing questions concerning my eligibility to play sports in a particular age classification because I looked older than the other kids.  I remember talking to a pulpit search committee when I was 26 and having some of the members think that I was 35. 

This is something I will probably deal with until my age catches up with my looks.  Here are a few reasons why:

1.  My hair.  I was born with jet black hair, but I have no idea why it was called jet black.  Wonder Woman has an invisible jet, but I have never seen a black jet.  Anyway, I received my first gray hair when I was 8-years-old and had a few more pop up in high school.  The gray hair revolution really picked up steam when I became a pastor, started a new job, bought a house, and got married within a four-month span.  Now my hair would best be described as salt-and-pepper, although it has yet to start a rap career.

2.  My size.  I can’t quite get a couple of my kids to understand that being the biggest does not always mean you are the oldest.  Methuselah wasn’t 57 feet tall.  Being tall doesn’t mean you are older than everybody else.  It also doesn’t mean you are strong and enjoy helping people move. 

3.  My clothes.  I have never styled and if my memory is correct I have also never profiled.  Generally speaking, I dress like a nursing home resident. 

4.  My skin.  It seems to be a rarity for someone of my generation not to have any tattoos.  It’s not that I am against them, it’s that I have a severe aversion to pain.  Does this make me a pansy?  Probably.  I’m okay with that.

5. My kids.  People seem to assume that having 5 kids means I am at least 40.  If we had spaced our kids out a little bit, this might be the case.  Instead, we decided to take the fast track a few years ago and go from 1 to 4 within five months.  Having a lot of kids does not mean you’re old, it just means you often feel old.

I don’t mind looking older than I really am; it has actually been a blessing, especially in ministry.  It seems that people have more respect for older pastors, even though this should not necessarily be the case.

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers,
in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12

Spiritual maturity does not come with age; it comes with walking by faith and not by sight on a continual basis.  Are there older folks who are spiritually mature? Yes. Are there younger folks with this same quality?  Absolutely.  Do I  put too many questions in one paragraph that I give one word answers to?  Sometimes.

No matter how old I am or how old I look I know that God is still working to make me more like Christ.  My gray hair may make me look older, but it is His work in me that will give me the maturity that I really desire. 

(Do you look older or younger than you really are?  Why? What are your thoughts on spiritual maturity? Share away!)

A Letter to My Feet

Dear Feet,

Okay, I get it–you’re mad.  Apparently you were offended by what I wrote earlier this week about the smell of feet and butt.  I can’t think of any other reason why you have been causing me pain since then.  And don’t give me that crap about it being because of the strain of having to carry my big self around all day.  I know better than that.  You’re stronger than that.

If you would have just talked to me about it I could have told you that I wasn’t talking about how you smell, I was talking about how other people’s feet smell.  While your odor may not be appealing to others (my wife and kids, for instance) I have always enjoyed your aroma.  If I could bottle your smell and use it as cologne, I would.  Other people would probably want to use it to repel skunks, but not me.  I love your smell, even when you are sweaty.

It’s not just your smell that I love, though.  I love everything about you.  But maybe I don’t tell you enough or give you specific reasons why.  Well–maybe its time I tell you why.  Here goes:

I love you for keeping me humble.  Whenever I am feeling prideful and partially invincible, you are always quick to remind me of that I am just another knuckle-head.  Sometimes you do it by finding the corner of a dresser to bang yourself into in the dark or by spotting a Hot Wheel with sharp corners to come crashing down on.  You sacrifice yourself to keep me humble.  I love you for that.

I love you for testing the waters.  Whether we are at the pool or in the shower, you always volunteer to take one for the team by taking the lead.  Knowing how delicate my other body parts are, you throw caution to the wind and plunge in toes first.  Your boldness is inspiring.

I love you for holding me up.  I’m a big man and you are a little under-sized for my body.  But you don’t let that stop you.  Day after day you keep holding me up anyway.  Tenacity is sorely lacking in our society, but it surely not lacking in you.

I love you for being beautiful.  I know that I have talked bad about your looks in the past.  I’ve even called you ugly because of the hair and the funky toes. I’m sorry for that.  I was wrong.  You are beautiful because the Bible says so (Romans 10:15).  I see that now and promise to never call you ugly again.

I know that you are often neglected, stuffed inside of socks and shoes.  I know that you are rarely thanked and shown the respect that you deserve.  I can see how you might have misunderstood my words from earlier this week. 

I hope that this letter clears things up between us and you decide to stop hurting. If not, I may have to put you in orthopedic shoes.  I don’t think either of us want that.

With Love and the Utmost Respect,

Matt

ps. If I can’t find the toenail clippers today, I will buy another pair tomorrow.  I promise.

(How is your relationship with your feet?  Have you abused them lately?  Are your feet beautiful?  Share away!)

Five Ways to Improve Subway

There is one McDonald’s location in Knoxville that I have vowed never to enter again.  Most of the time when we are near a McDonald’s one my kids will say, “Daddy, can we go there?”  When we are near this particular McDonald’s one of my kids will say, “That’s the McDonald’s Daddy hates.”  I don’t normally get angry at restaurants, or any other inanimate object, but on one occasion I became so enraged as to how I was treated that I rent my clothes and covered my head in ashes, Leviticus-style.  Then I went out and found an adulterer to stone.

I’ve never had the same feeling in a Subway restaurant.  For some inexplicable reason, Subway soothes me.  There is no need for Calgon to take me away–I’ll just go to Subway.  And it appears that this might be the case for many others.  Subways are normally quiet with people calmly meandering up to the counter covered with curved glass, casually ordering their sandwiches, and moving on down the line in an orderly fashion.  I was pretty sure that no one ever got angry at Subway, until the other day.  That is when I saw a man almost lose it because of what appeared to be a misunderstanding.

If he would have reacted this way because mayonnaise was added to his sandwich, I would have understood.  If I had x-ray vision, I would use it to determine if a sandwich is mayonnaise-free before taking a big bite out of it.  I’m not quite sure what his issue was, but he was vehemently angry.  I saw him grab his food, stalk over to his table, slam his seat back, plop down, and attack his sandwich using small, vicious bites in order to torture it as much as possible.  He even drank his drink angrily, gulping down large quantities and then holding the cup away from him to stare at it with disgust.

That’s when I did the only logical thing I could think of–I brainstormed about something that doesn’t matter.  As a result, here are a few ways to improve Subway:

1.  Produce a less smelly meatball.  I am convinced that the reason most people get food from Subway to go is that they don’t want to end of smelly like meatballs.  I am also beginning to think that the meatball smell may be slowly impacting our behavior.  Pavlov’s dogs heard a bell and began drooling; some people smell meatballs and become obnoxious.  Surely someone is busy researching this.

2.  Play more Kenny Rogers songs.  When I entered Subway on the day of the afore-mentioned occurrence, Kenny Rogers was singing about how you’ve got to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.  If I wasn’t in the mood for a Subway sandwich upon entering, I sure was after hearing his velveteen voice. 

3.  Hire a Jared Fogle look-a-like for every location.  I can’t think of a better way to remind people that they made a healthy choice than by giving them a living reminder of the fat guy that got skinny by eating at Subway.  Sadly, the Subway diet doesn’t work if you eat a meatball sub every day. 

4.  Make if feel more like a real, New York City subway.  Confession: I have never been on a real subway.  In spite of that, there are a few things that I think doing this would entail–a weird guy looking at you while you eat, someone peeing in a corner, a group of sullen teenagers with ear-buds in their ears texting each other instead of talking, and someone breakdancing.

5.  Make a bigger deal about employees being “sandwich artists.”  Make them all wear berets and act like divas.  Have them constantly complain about a lack of motivation.  Make all the men grow a soul patch and all the women have hair under their arms.  Give them a bonus if they make a sandwich that no one understands yet everyone loves.  

Why did I choose to brainstorm about how to improve Subway and not how to improve myself?  I have learned that the best way to improve myself is by not focusing on improving myself, but to focus on God and his glory.  As I do that, the Holy Spirit works in me to make me more like Jesus.  This sets me free from the bondage of always beating myself up for not being perfect.  While I don’t do this all of the time, I am learning to rely more and more on God and less and less on myself.

Maybe one day I’ll improve so much that I will be able to forgive the McDonald’s that I disdain and go back there again.  But I doubt it.

(What other ways could Subway be improved?  Have you ever been so aggravated by a restaurant that you refused to return?  How is God leading you to improve?  Share away!)

As Long As It’s Healthy

Whenever the question is asked, I cringe.  There is nothing wrong with the question; it’s the most common answer  that bothers me.  It’s an answer given by people who mean well, but who probably haven’t thought about what the answer implies.  This is especially true if the parents-to-be are first-timers.

Question: “Do you want a boy or a girl?”

Most common answer: “I don’t care what it is, as long as it’s healthy.”

This sounds like a solid, non-prejudicial statement; a statement made by prospective parents who don’t want to set themselves up for disappointment.  It’s likely that these words came out of your mouth during at least one of your pregnancies, or when your wife was pregnant, or when someone you love was pregnant. I’m sure that I used to hear these words without giving them a second thought. I’m also positive that I said this at least once at some point in the past.

Please do not misunderstand–there is nothing wrong with wanting a healthy baby.  It is the implication behind the most common answer that I find disturbing.  Again, the statement is, “I don’t care what it is, as long as it’s healthy.”  The somewhat hidden and often unthought of implication is that a healthy baby is worth more than an unhealthy baby; that the amount of love given by the parents to the baby is solely dependent upon its health.  It is a declaration of conditional love.

What if the baby isn’t healthy?  What if she is born with major disabilities?  What if he has to spend the majority of his first years in a hospital?  Is he  going to be loved, adored, and cherished even if his disabilities are long-term, even if he never gets any better, even if he is in an incapacitated state for decades?

Or, to put it another way, what if your child is healthy until her 10th birthday and then acquires a debilitating disease?  Do you cherish her less then?  Do you look at her differently?  Does your love for her grow cold?

I am not suggesting that we hope for unhealthy children.  I am suggesting that we consider the implications of our words, that we understand that our words have a way of shaping our attitudes.  If we aren’t careful, we can allow what we say to impact how we feel about people with disabilities.  Everyone is important.  Everyone has a purpose.  Everyone has been created by God and is loved by God.  Everyone, healthy or not.

Several years ago, I would not have considered any of this upon hearing the most common answer to the boy/girl question.  There is one may reason why this changed.  His name is Matthew and he is my youngest son.

Due to the drug use of his birth mother, Matthew (one of our adopted children) was born prematurely with a grade IV brain bleed, an injury so severe that he should have been profoundly disabled.  Some doctors predicted that he would never walk and that he would never be able to communicate with us.  He spent the first two months of his life in the hospital and came to live with us along with a heart and breathing monitor, more medicine than I can remember, and a lot of prayer. 

We were unsure of what his little life would be like, if he would grow and mature the way that our other children have.  But one thing is certain–we did not love him any less.  He needed us and, even though I didn’t understand this then, we needed him.  I believed that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that God has a plan for each of us, but I had never been confronted with the possibility of raising a child with severe disabilities. 

Does God have a purpose for even those who are unable to move or to speak?  Does he love them with the same as he loves those of us who are healthy?  The answers to those questions are yes, of course He does.  I concluded that no matter what might happen in Matthew’s life that God would love him immensely.  And so would I.

Matthew is now approaching his 7th birthday with vibrancy and vigor.  While he has mild cerebral palsy, he does not let that stop him from running and playing with whoever is able to keep up with him.  He has a smile that lights up a room and a determination that has touched many.  There are other little boys on the baseball field and the basketball court with more talent, but there aren’t any that try harder. 

Matthew is fearfully and wonderfully made and so are those who will never be able to run and play, those who will never grow any stronger or be able to reciprocate that love that their parents give them.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made, too.  So are you.  There is a purpose for each of us–just because it may not be easily seen does not mean that it is not there. 

I will end this post with a simple request: be mindful of the words that you speak and the implications behind them.  Unhealthy babies need love as much as the healthy ones.  This is true for unhealthy adults, too.  May we love unconditionally and seek to assist each other on the journey home.

(Has this ever bothered you?  Does it bother you now?  How have you seen the lives are those living with disabilities inspire others?  Share away!)

I Am Not a Beast

Calling someone a beast is a good thing (in case you didn’t know).  I first heard a person referred to as this a couple of years ago from some young people during Sunday School.  They were talking about a football player; he was a beast that beasted in a beastly fashion.  They were beasts at saying the word beast.  Recently, I’ve gotten in on the act by calling David a beast for how he handled Goliath and by calling certain preachers that I respect beasts.  “I’m glad Piper’s back–he’s a beast!”  Subsequently, the usage of this word has plummeted among the young people at church.  It’s not cool to sound like the pastor.

Hearing the word beast can get annoying; being called a beast is pretty cool.  Sort of.  It happened to me yesterday while playing basketball with a group of men, most of whom share a similar shape as me–round and out of.  I made a few tough shots and did something twice that I have hardly ever done in my life–I hit 2 game winning three-pointers. 

Even though I enjoyed the encouragement of being called a beast, I could not enjoy it quite as much as others apparently do.  There are three main factors why:

1.  The X-Men Factor.  Every time I hear someone referred to as beast, I think of the X-Men character of the same name.  And he is ugly.  Blue skin, wild hair/fur, yellow eyes, menacing teeth–ugly.  Yes, I know that he combines strength, agility, and amazing intelligence.  All of that, however, is cancelled out by the fact that Kelsey Grammar played him in X-Men 3.  I liked Frasier as much as the next nerd, but I just can’t picture him putting his hot tea down long enough to whoop up on some bad guys.

Beast is ugly (bless his heart)

2.  The Soreness Factor.  Real beasts, after performing their beastly deeds, probably don’t feel like their body is about to fall apart the next day.  It’s not so much that I am sore, it’s that I can’t quite stand up all the way straight.  And I’m walking funny.  I’m trying to make it look like a strut; so far, no one is convinced.  Maybe wearing a fedora and using a cane would do the trick. 

3.  The Truth Factor.  There should be some rules for who gets to be called a beast.  Athletes that perform at the highest levels (Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning, etc.) could be called beasts.  Artists and writers with works that touch and inspire large numbers of people could be called beasts.  The people on reality shows that make extravagant cakes that cost more than my truck could be called beasts.  Overweight guys who are capable of hitting an occasional mid-range jumper while being guarded by another overweight guy during a game of half-court basketball should probably not be called a beasts.  Sorry overweight semi-sharp shooters–we don’t make the cut.

There was a time when I was concerned about what people called me.  Then I did something important–I quit defining myself by the silly and unreasonable standard of what others thought of me.  The truth is that I am a child of God, someone He loves relentlessly.  Being loved by God is far better than being a beast.  It is the best thing that I ever could be. 

I gave no one a real reason to call me a beast yesterday and I have given God no real reason to love me like he does.  He just does.  And I am thankful.

(What do you about people beast called beasts?  What is the best thing you have ever been called?  Share away!)