The Reinvention of a Health Nut

In the Seventh-day Adventist church I grew up in we embraced dietary restrictions, dietary and lifestyle counsel, and what Seventh-day Adventists recognize as the “health message.”

Several biblical accounts illustrate that God’s people—e.g., Samson, John the Baptist, and ancient Israel—followed certain health routines and diets. More than symbolic, ceremonial, and a way to set His people apart, the special diet had a beneficial effect. A favored example is the story found in Daniel 1 of the four young Hebrew captives and how they grew healthier and wiser on a simple diet rather than the rich foods and meats from the king’s table.

In addition to fortifying the whole person, good health would enable us to better achieve God’s purposes, and a clear and healthy mind can better hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Like people of some other faiths and denominations, we follow a diet free of meat from animals intended to be scavengers (see Leviticus 11). We avoid substances and chemicals that could compromise one’s judgment or will, or cause lingering damage to the body. We seek a lifestyle balance in time and resources, something we call temperance or moderation. We learned to respect the fact that underpinning all life is the power of God and to trust Him.

While medical science has documented that good health extends the lifespan, and reduces the risks of certain diseases, I’ll admit that throughout the years it has been easy to drift from what is sometimes perceived as fussy restrictions, and to gravitate toward an “easier, more normal” lifestyle. This meant choosing foods that were easy to access, easy to prepare, and able to be consumed in the car. Being on the go sometimes means enabling oneself to keep going—pumping up on caffeine, and energy drinks and bars. With good sleep interrupted, such substances as a good shot of “so you can rest” medicine helped. Add to this a sense that downtime has no value, and only personal, restless effort marks the potential for career success. Cranky and impatient, headachy and gloomy, palpitations and untraceable pains emerge, and foreboding symptoms go unaddressed. Now, it’s just normal—blood pressure problems, relationship stresses, and a God who cannot be seen or heard.

So it was a strange reawakening for me when I heard Los Angeles fashion designer and art collector Ron Finley’s TED Talk. He intrigued me with a perspective I used to embrace. (See his story on page 8.) I was energized at the idea that it is radical to take one’s health into one’s own hands by eat- ing whole, natural foods. I was reinvigorated by his disgust at the unavailability of fresh, nutritional foods in his urban neighborhood. When I heard him counter the idea that we are doomed to be sick and unhealthy, and saw how he planted fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs in undervalued dirt, dis- carded buckets and pots, I remembered the simple means that Jesus used to impart healing to the masses.

Finley possesses no formal medical, agricultural, or religious inclinations, nor is he even particularly health con- scious. He just has enough insight to know that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I used to know that. I know that.

Think of the scriptures detailing how Jesus tended to throngs of pained, debilitated, and ostracized people (Matthew 8:16, 17). He had to stop, to rest, but pressed on in healing and imparting life to all, regardless of their preexisting conditions (Mark 5:26-34), their lifestyle choices (John 5:1-15), and national origins that would have disqualified them from His benefits (Mark 7:24-30). Twice He even took time to heal and feed people in a food desert (Matthew 14:15, 16 and 15:30-38). Hence, the words of Jesus ring true: “I come that you have life, and life more abundantly.” Be in good health, I tell myself. I say the same to you.

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1 Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copy- right © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

2 Scripture quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.




The Record Keeper

The Record Keeper
The television crime drama makes escaping justice seems so simple—at first. The perpetrator concludes his incriminating call and snaps the cell phone in half. With the SIM card out and the battery gone, that’s it! There is no more trail. Unable to be tracked, the criminal moves forward with an attitude of invincibility.

But what he doesn’t see is the resolve of the one in pursuit. Both inventive and relentless, the pursuer will not stop until the culprit is captive, or, if the offenses warrant, destroyed.

We derive satisfaction from such tales because they are both predictable and neat. We want to live in a world in which justice is handed out in 60-minute increments, but real life isn’t so simple.

News stories remind us every day that terrorists, warlords, drug dealers, and other miscreants routinely find ways to slither into dark crevices, temporarily escaping the eyes of accountability, and eluding the arm of justice.

The settings vary widely, but they all bear witness to the shedding of innocent blood. An inner city park, a Middle Eastern food market, a dark alley in the metropolis of a developing nation, and with disturbing frequency schools, shopping malls, and workplaces all have pain-filled stories to tell, and we listen breathlessly, apparently unable to bring about change. The monster of indiscriminate violence roars.

What that monster cannot see is the resolve of the One who created the world not for chaos, but for peace. He has spoken words of reassurance that we can firmly believe in these troubled times. No one can escape His hand of justice.

“I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them” (Deuteronomy 32:35, NLT).1 While we wait for that day, we must not lose hope. We must work continually for justice until Justice appears.

Let us remember that these words are true: “The Lord reigns, let the nations trem- ble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake” (Psalm 99:1, NIV).2 When will the earth witness the drop of blood that finally makes the cup of God’s wrath overflow? When will God, who cares when each sparrow falls, decide that the last grief-filled tear has fallen? I don’t know. I believe very soon.

My very hairs are numbered in His books. No details are ever lost. There is a Record Keeper.




Go Ahead, Push the Button

I remember a towering, kind, and genteel law professor who taught us how to craft our arguments to the jury in order to collect monetary damages on behalf of injured clients. Before many states instituted the current monetary limits on what an injured person could recover in court, lawyers like him appealed to personal outrage and the great sympathy of the jury. Juries, moved by these arguments, would often award huge sums to the victims or families of the victims to “make them whole again.”

Our professor was the opposite of the highly polished, fast-talking personal injury lawyers you see on television. No, his words were measured, his methods were well reasoned, and his voice was trustworthy.

“How much would that be worth to you?” he would ask members of the jury when a worker whose spouse and five children were dependent on him had died on the job through some negligent act of the company. In the case of a dedicated mother who had lost a limb or was now unable to walk and struggled to relearn daily routines, the same question: “How much would that be worth to you?”

The Creator-God, like the law in those cases, seeks resto- ration. In the case of the law, it seeks to make an injured per- son whole again. It’s the same with God. This gulf, this breach between us because of sin and the work of the enemy—this injury—is and has been a tremendously painful experience. How much would restoration of things to the way they were intended be worth to Him? Ask Him. Look at what it cost to bring everything back—it cost His Son.

God wants you to be in good health. He wants you to be at peace. He wants you to be in communication, on an up-close and personal level with Him. He wants it all to be the way He thought of it millennia ago. What would it take to restore that? How expensive would that be to repair that breach?

It was very expensive, and God paid the damages Himself. The work of restoration is important to God, and one can observe His attention to this detail.

“God’s healing power runs all through nature. If a tree is cut, if a human being is wounded or breaks a bone, nature begins at once to repair the injury. Even before the need exists, the heal- ing agencies are in readiness; and as soon as a part is wounded, every energy is bent to the work of restoration. So it is in the spiritual realm. Before sin created the need, God had provided the remedy. Every soul that yields to temptation is wounded, bruised, by the adversary; but whenever there is sin, there is the Savior. It is Christ’s work ‘to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, . . . to set at liberty them that are bruised’ (Luke 4:18)” (Ellen G. White, Education, p. 113).

Likewise, as the apostle Paul wrote, the way we treat one another has to be with restoration in mind: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:1-3).

What prevents us from pushing the reset button now? Go back and do it right. Act as if you have a reset button. Do the conversation over. Approach the estranged relative, start the conversation, a new conversation again, and move forward. Walk out of the door on a new journey to health and fitness as if you had the years back that you wasted in front of the TV. Sit down at the easel, the piano, the guitar, with the microphone and go to work, as if you pushed a button somewhere. Live the abundant life God designed for you now.

Restoration is the theme of God’s work for you. He longs to bring us back to the original plan. He is looking forward to re- creating the heavens and the earth. He wants the relationship He had originally intended for us. Reset is what He does.




Go Ahead, Push the Button

I remember a towering, kind, and genteel law professor who taught us how to craft our arguments to the jury in order to collect monetary damages on behalf of injured clients. Before many states instituted the current monetary limits on what an injured person could recover in court, lawyers like him appealed to personal outrage and the great sympathy of the jury. Juries, moved by these arguments, would often award huge sums to the victims or families of the victims to “make them whole again.”

Our professor was the opposite of the highly polished, fast-talking personal injury lawyers you see on television. No, his words were measured, his methods were well reasoned, and his voice was trustworthy.

“How much would that be worth to you?” he would ask members of the jury when a worker whose spouse and five children were dependent on him had died on the job through some negligent act of the company. In the case of a dedicated mother who had lost a limb or was now unable to walk and struggled to relearn daily routines, the same question: “How much would that be worth to you?”

The Creator-God, like the law in those cases, seeks resto- ration. In the case of the law, it seeks to make an injured per- son whole again. It’s the same with God. This gulf, this breach between us because of sin and the work of the enemy—this injury—is and has been a tremendously painful experience. How much would restoration of things to the way they were intended be worth to Him? Ask Him. Look at what it cost to bring everything back—it cost His Son.

God wants you to be in good health. He wants you to be at peace. He wants you to be in communication, on an up-close and personal level with Him. He wants it all to be the way He thought of it millennia ago. What would it take to restore that? How expensive would that be to repair that breach?

It was very expensive, and God paid the damages Himself. The work of restoration is important to God, and one can observe His attention to this detail.

“God’s healing power runs all through nature. If a tree is cut, if a human being is wounded or breaks a bone, nature begins at once to repair the injury. Even before the need exists, the heal- ing agencies are in readiness; and as soon as a part is wounded, every energy is bent to the work of restoration. So it is in the spiritual realm. Before sin created the need, God had provided the remedy. Every soul that yields to temptation is wounded, bruised, by the adversary; but whenever there is sin, there is the Savior. It is Christ’s work ‘to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, . . . to set at liberty them that are bruised’ (Luke 4:18)” (Ellen G. White, Education, p. 113).

Likewise, as the apostle Paul wrote, the way we treat one another has to be with restoration in mind: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:1-3).

What prevents us from pushing the reset button now? Go back and do it right. Act as if you have a reset button. Do the conversation over. Approach the estranged relative, start the conversation, a new conversation again, and move forward. Walk out of the door on a new journey to health and fitness as if you had the years back that you wasted in front of the TV. Sit down at the easel, the piano, the guitar, with the microphone and go to work, as if you pushed a button somewhere. Live the abundant life God designed for you now.

Restoration is the theme of God’s work for you. He longs to bring us back to the original plan. He is looking forward to re- creating the heavens and the earth. He wants the relationship He had originally intended for us. Reset is what He does.




No Easy day

As I write this, this morning’s news is burning in my ears. I watched a young woman, unaware she was being captured on video, explain to an undercover cop, who was posing as a would-be hit man, that she wanted to kill her husband.

“It’s just easier than getting a divorce,” she said, smiling casually.

This way she would not have to endure the social judgment of her family, worry about court orders, child support, and, oh yes, she could collect the $400,000 from his life insurance. Sadly, and while not for the same reasons, I personally know someone serving prison time, having been convicted of the same crime. And so, at this moment, my outlook for the family is colored with a little too much blue, perhaps.

In his book No Easy Day, Navy seal, and member of the elite fighting force that captured and killed Osama Bin Laden, Mark Owen (the pseudonym under which the book was penned) describes the stealthy clearing of houses in enemy territory—invade, surprise, and shoot, to put it simply. This “close quarters battle,” or CQB, proved essential to the success of Seal Team 6.

Close quarters battle is what it feels like for so many of us at home. On one hand, we are fighting sophisticated forces from the outside—everything from the ultraviolent and sexual images that stream in through the computer and television to over-the-counter pharmaceuticals for our children and substance abuse. On the other hand, abusive interpersonal dynamics, emotional and physical betrayal, threatens from within. It seems as if it would take an expert in group movements, vigilance, and communication to keep one’s home free from threat.

Your home may not be awash in this depth of evil, selfishness, and treachery, yet handy tips and fresh ideas for family togetherness just won’t cut it in the long run, not when so much is at stake. What is so serious, you ask? A love that Christ has for us, necessarily transmitted and transferred to others—in our homes in particular—through our families. What is at stake? The reflection in our homes of a permanent, unconditional, unwavering principled love of God. That’s what is so serious. We fail in this, and the divine vision of love fails to reach the people who need it most.

In the story of the Passover we see the example of penultimate sophistication of God’s justice and mercy, destruction and protection, as it moves in and around families. (You can read the story in Exodus 11-13.) No simple tips for families facing that moment. Destruction would visit each household and claim the firstborn, with the exception of the homes at which specific instructions were followed. The Passover lamb, symbolizing the precious, innocent life of Christ, was to be sacrificed, and its blood spread along the tops and sides of each door frame. When mass destruction targeted that community, God saw the signal of the blood, and in His mercy went around, or skipped over, the homes under its protection (Exodus 12:13, 23).

This protection and Passover is not a one-time event, but both immediate and ultimate. In the short term, then, it signaled a willingness to hear, heed, and avoid tragedy. In the long term it symbolized the same on a transcendent scale, the ultimate rescue from the ultimate destruction under the cover of the blood of the Lamb. In the now, “We are the people spared; “the homes passed over are our homes. The God who acted is still saving and acting now” (Jon L. Dybdahl, Exodus, Abundant Life Bible Amplifier). Dare I suggest to you that if you follow God’s plan for your family—hear Him, and heed Him—He will protect you from threats within and without? Yes. Do you have fresh ideas or tips that are better?




When God Gives In

Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.”. . . “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?” (Numbers 11:4, 5, 20).

It just came to a breaking point, and the manna wasn’t doing it anymore. The newly emancipated and powerfully delivered Jewish nation had a taste for meat, but had none. Even though they had subsisted on the meager meals of slaves, they were accustomed to a certain diet. Here now, the wilderness was hot and dusty. Melons would have been refreshing, and the garlic and leeks would have seasoned the food the way they liked it. The requests were not unreasonable, but they came with so much whining that Moses almost had a nervous breakdown.

God heard them. He answered them. His mighty wind sent quail up from the sea, where they hovered over at approximately three and a half feet. The Israelites spent the day “catching” the birds, and collected tons of them to eat and dry for later. Their prayers—their whining—had been answered.

But while they were yet eating, the quail brought a plague on them—God had warned Moses that they would eat until satisfied. Actually, His promise was that they would eat so much of it that it would come from their noses. Everything you could want, your every craving satisfied. Apparently, it wasn’t such a good thing. An interesting case study in the spiritual science of the mind under the duress of temptation—the mind loses rationality and ultimately rejects God.

Never mind the fact that manna, created in heaven and delivered fresh, sparkled in the sun after the dewdrops evaporated. You can’t get more of a direct blessing than that. And that is exactly what Jesus prayed for when He said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Never mind the fact that manna was rich, nutritious, and suited for the needs of the people. After all, the people were apparently hardy enough to wander, fight off enemies, and carry on their divinely appointed tasks. Were they not? Never mind the fact that manna was apparently versatile enough to bake, fry, and boil. Apparently, they could make it what they wanted it to be. Could they not? Yeah, but “all we get is manna, manna, manna,” they cried (Numbers 11:6, Message).*

So much worse than that, the mind in want, in varying degrees, rejects God. How the words “in Egypt” must have stung God’s ears. You mean in Egypt where you were a slave? In Egypt where you were oppressed? In Egypt where you were in tatters? In Egypt where you worked your fingers raw? He finally moved heaven and earth, after 400 years of slavery, to bring them out of Egypt. His timing, His miracles, His glory calculated to inspire the heart. Yet they wailed: “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?”

An analysis of recent polling regarding “America’s favorite sins” is insightful (see “The Anatomy of Temptation,” page 10). Half of the participants in the study conducted by the Barna Group did not know why they give in to their temptations. Some respondents acted on their whims because they wanted to, or enjoyed it, or to feel less pain, or get away from “real life.”

Only 1 percent of Americans of any age are able to articulate that giving in to temptation might be caused by sin. Most Americans think of temptation more as a steady stream of highs and lows that must be navigated.

(“New Research Explores the Changing Shape of Temptation,” www.barna. org/culture-articles/597-new-years-resolutions-tempta tions-and-americas-favorite-sins?q=favorite+sins).

Is that it? Is that all there is to it? That so few selfdescribed Christians even think their tendencies come from sin signals a lapse in understanding of who we are, the mark of sin on our psyches, and the gravity of even simple choices. Was your temptation just a low point in your experience? Was it really just about a taste for something, an inconsequential, but irrepressible urge? Or was it something more? Could it be your mind unconsciously rejecting the only Deliverer you will ever have for the things to which you are now accustomed?