Church · Health · Living Hope

Focusing on Life

From the time I was sick back in 2011, I’ve been a relatively good follower of a whole foods, plant-based diet. “Relatively good” is a qualifier term meaning there were times when I fell off the wagon and ate fatty, non-animal things that were not healthy. For example, those amazing burgers made by Beyond Meat called “The Beyond Burger.” They look just like a real hamburger and taste terrific, though they are not meat.

Some of the nutritional makeup of these non-burger burgers:

  • Calories: 290
  • Fat: 22 gram
  • Saturated Fat: 5 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 grams

I’m glad that there is no cholesterol in these things (compared to a regular hamburger that contains at least 80 grams), and a reduced amount of saturated fat (5 grams as compared to a regular hamburger of 0 grams). It is great that these are plant-based burgers (no cows were slaughtered to make them). However, when reading the ingredients, there are three forms of oil contained in them: Canola, Coconut, and Sunflower. As a doctor once told me, oil is evil. It packs on the pounds, the fat, and makes your health poor. Stay away from it.

Hence, in the times when I’ve fell off the plant-based diet that was strictly low fat, all plants and grains and beans and legumes, I’ve purchased items like the Beyond Burger and all those mock meats found in the frozen section of the grocery store. In my mind, since they were still plant-derived, I didn’t feel bad. I was following a plant-based diet; it just wasn’t with a lot of real plants like green leafy vegetables and fruit.

Late last year, I fell off the wagon. I bought the Beyond Burger at Shop-Rite here in town simply because I was surprised they were selling it. The first bite made me circle the drain. I started buying fried eggplant sandwiches at the local deli on a white roll. For some reason, non-dairy almond milk creamer for coffee found its way into my basket. I started drinking vegan protein powders that replaced meals. And the cheese – the Daiya cheese – and all kinds of vegan yogurts and spreads became staples of morning breakfast. I ate tofu crafted into “scrambles” topped with non-dairy cheese. Dinner became those mock meats with grains.

Last month, I wanted to kick myself when my doctor told me that my blood work was fine, but some of the markers to bad health were up. Cholesterol – total, LDL, and HDL – were up over my last test. Though lower when compared to someone eating a standard American diet, the numbers alarmed my doctor to check on my diet. After telling her, she exploded and told me that I was dumb to fall back to these “vegan comfort foods.”

Ordering me to “straighten up” my diet, I started really focusing on what I’ve eaten. Sticking to a low fat, whole foods, plant based diet since July 22nd, I’ve noticed some good things. I’m sleeping a bit better. My daily blood pressure is down, as is my resting heart rate. I’ve started to exercise again, though I will not win an award for intensity or length, as of this morning. My weight is down some 13 pounds since the morning of July 23rd, which is surprising because after battling anemia due to my previous chemotherapy treatments in 2011 and 2012, I’ve struggled with weight gain due to the medicine that helped fight the anemia and the virtual impossibility to drop the weight after treatment.

Finally, I am more focused on all aspects of life. I want to accomplish tasks, though my issue of wanting to do everything without help when it comes to my professional and social life is still very much a problem.

I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of coffee I drink. When in the very recent past, I would make a pot of coffee and drink three-quarters of it, now I am down to a cup in the morning. One cup. There are times when I will drink one or two additional cups throughout the day, but I’ve found that this is limited to my church’s Bible Study Time on Thursday. In coffee’s place – green tea.

Years back, my doctors who were treating me told me the most important part of life for me is to do everything that I can to prevent getting sick again. Encouraging me to forego the standard western diet based on animal products and strictly focus on plants for nourishment, they explained that eating in a healthful way would promote good health. One of the doctors explained that she hadn’t had a cold since she moved over to a low fat, whole foods, plant based diet. Describing her immune system as running at maximum goodness, she was able to fight off the cold viruses and flus that roam around the hospital where she worked. Oh, it was more than a decade since she had a cold or the flu.

For a tiny bit less than a month I’ve been more strict to what I’ve eaten. Good things are happening.

As my congregation contemplates what it means to be a church focused on missions’ work, one of the areas I believe we can serve our community is through the promotion of health. Our bodies are called temples of the Holy Spirit. Should we not want these temples to be the best that they can? Should our goal of offering a healthier spiritual life be combined with a healthier physical life? I think it should.

Gospel Life · LCMS

As California Burns, Lutherans Care

California is on fire.

Since mid-July, a group of complicated and ever-changing wildfires have destroyed the landscape and property in their paths, notably the Carr Fire in Shasta and Trinity counties and the Mendocino Complex Fire covering Colusa, Lake and Mendocino counties…

Several LCMS congregations have been affected directly by these fires. Trinity Lutheran Church and Early Learning Center in Redding, Calif., is only two miles from the flames of the Carr Fire.

Read more at LCMS Reporter: As California burns, Lutherans care

Gospel Life

Comfort Zones

For more than a century, St. Matthew’s has been like nearly every other traditionally Lutheran Church: in a comfort zone.

All of us like what we like and we are comfortable liking it.

Nearly every Lutheran Church is the same. This doesn’t make any congregation that is in the comfort zone bad or out of touch – it makes them comfortable, relaxed, and happy that their church is open on Sunday mornings.

I believe it is time for a change, where we are not in a comfort zone, but are excited at possibilities of what bringing the Gospel to people means to our Christians lives. Excitement for the Gospel means we’re being led by the cross in all aspects of our church and outside-of-church lives. Hope in the Gospel is experiencing the true meaning of God’s love and forgiveness with others. 

Comfort zone church is history.

It is the time of living hope.

Church · Gospel Life · LCMS

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Some Lutheran pastors I know weren’t thrilled with the theology espoused by the Rev. Billy Graham, America’s pastor who was called to his eternal rest at age 99 this week. They viewed his preaching as being filled with ‘works righteousness,’ namely that faith in Jesus isn’t enough and one needs to “do something good” to earn salvation. It is the earning that riled them up.

I, too, wasn’t thrilled with Rev. Graham’s works’ centered theology.

But you can’t deny that there are a lot more Christians in America today because of Billy Graham. They may not receive the Lord’s Supper regularly or they may have been baptized in a pool instead of at a font, but in the end, they all believe that Jesus died for them. In the whole scheme of things labeled ‘eternal life,’ it is faith in Jesus that counts. And for that, we Lutherans should be grateful for all the work that Billy Graham did to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.

See, when Lutherans from the LCMS get to heaven, there are going to a lot of people there who weren’t followers of the church that bears Martin Luther’s name. We aren’t going to be subjected to a theology test at the pearly gates.There isn’t going to be a quiz about what is the true understanding of the Lord’s Supper or whether it is good to chant the Gospel on Sunday mornings. Believers in Jesus Christ are going to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Rev. Billy Graham was a good and faithful servant. May he rest in peace.

Church · LCMS

They Should Have Called It, “Divine Service for Dummies”

The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has seen enough of the worship wars. One side believes there is only one way to “do church,” and that is orderly and formal. The other side believes that there is a freedom to do worship. There will never be a uniting of these two camps.

In my pastorate, I’ve become one that sits somewhere in the middle of both sides, where orderliness is necessary while allowing freedom to sing and “do church” a little less formally. In fact, most pastors and churches fall into this camp.

Below is an excellent video from Gottesdient Online explaining a more orderly and formal Divine Service. My favorite line is how they describe the celebrant as he turns to face the congregation before the corporate confession and absolution:

“His words are measured and clear. He does not rush.”

I’m just saying that we here on the coast don’t rush. It just seems like we’re rushing because we usually just talk very fast.

LCMS

No to an LCMS Central Government

Last Friday (Texas) District President (DP) Ken Hennings sent an unprecedented, public letter to the rostered members of his district. The letter explains the drastic change that the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors adopted in May regarding ecclesiastical supervision.

But Hennings did more. The letter explains why District Presidents in Synod are no longer the final ecclesiastical supervisors of churches, pastors, teachers, DCEs and other church workers.  Our new, changed reality?

Synod President Harrison has taken that job for himself.

Read the complete article on Congregations Matter.

Ecclesiastical supervision.

Two words no member of an LCMS church should ever spend time worrying over.

I have tremendous respect and adoration for LCMS President Matthew Harrison. He is a stalwart Lutheran and expounds his love for the church in everything that he does.

But the Synod President should not be the judge and jury when doctrine and practice charges are leveled against pastors or congregations or DCEs or church workers. Districts should be the place where these accusations are heard and decided. District Presidents are empowered to do this work.

Will there be times when some in the Synod disagree with a decision of a District President? Of course.

On this side of eternity, none of us are going to agree on everything. As a church body, I believe we should be more worried about those within our society who need the light of Jesus in their lives.

Should we be a church body where people are motivated to go to church on Sunday to play an ugly game of theological ‘gotcha’ on congregations whose communion statements are either too short or don’t use all the right buzz words? Or what if a church uses a song during worship that hasn’t gone through theological vetting in St. Louis at LCMS HQ, should the Gotcha Police level charges that bypass the local District President and land on President Harrison’s desk?

As we come up on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, maybe our Synod needs a reformation that refocuses our St. Louis’ HQ bureaucracy on the Great Commission rather than on the mission to rid the Synod of people they don’t like. The people sitting in our pews who fund this Synod deserve it.