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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

38 Today

In Health, Humanity, Thought on February 5, 2009 at 8:18 am
"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."
Mark Twain

I turn 38 today. While my mother may have a story or two from my childhood to the contrary, for as long as I can remember I've never really cared that much about my birthday. For some (and you know who you are), a birthday is (or should be) a national holiday, but even if mine were, I don't think I'd care (they usually don't officially set aside those days until after you're dead anyway). To me, it simply is what it is.

Thankfully, God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, graciously granted me a daughter who shares my date of birth, which makes it easier to endure the fuss about the fact that we were born, as it's usually (blessedly) pointed in her direction instead of mine. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad to be alive and believe that every year – yea, every day – is a gift from God. But a birthday is like any other day for me. I just don't get the preoccupation.

I also don't get the fear of birthdays and what the accumulation of those birthdays represents. Our culture is so paranoid about growing older and puts so much into fighting (both physically and psychologically) the effects of aging that it's amazing we haven't collapsed into one giant heap of adolescence.

Children aren't taught to grow up to be adults in society; they're taught to grow up to be teenagers. Adults aren't embracing their position of elders in the world; they're fighting tooth and nail to get back to their glory days and not be viewed as old. (For more on this, read my post on Diana West's book, The Death of the Grown-Up.)

In case anyone's wondering, I have no plans to color the spreading amount of gray in my hair or trade out the beige Delta 88 Land Yacht I drive for a fiery red sports car. My goals do not include proving to myself or anyone else that I can still woo the ladies or that I can keep us up with the Joneses.

No, I'm content trying to act my age, even to the point of occasionally going beyond it in wisdom if/when God so enables. I'm more than happy trying to make better decisions about health, as opposed to merely ones made in pursuit of a more attractive body. I'm simply humbled trying to walk with God in a way that models love to my wife, children, and neighbors, rather than appearing religious and (self-)righteous.

So, I'm 38 today, and I'm glad to be so. I look forward to 40…to 50…to 60…all of it's gravy when you consider I don't deserve to live even a day, for "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). From this perspective, I can say with honesty and awe that it's good just to be alive, no matter how old I may be.

Walking the Line Between Loss and Hope

In Church, Family, Friends, Health, Humanity, Young Ones on October 15, 2008 at 11:39 am

You may not know it (I didn’t), but on July 27th of 2005, Congress proclaimed October 15th Stillbirth Remembrance Day, also sometimes called Stillbirth and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Though you might not know it, today is a hard day for many.

It may sound like a gigantic exaggeration, but almost every couple Megan and I know has experienced the pain of losing a child through miscarriage or stillbirth. Almost every one. Several have lost multiple babies interspersed between having multiple healthy ones; others are still trying to have their first after losing those once conceived.

For whatever reason, we have never experienced this kind of loss. We’ve had some scary moments – our first-born had serious surgery when she was four after a lung collapsed because of pneumonia; our third-born came out blue from having the cord wrapped around her neck during the end of her delivery – but we’ve never lost a child through miscarriage, stillborn birth, or SIDS. This, of course, has nothing to do with us, just as losing a child has nothing to do with those parents who have.

Though I use the language because it’s familiar in our vernacular, I’m no fan of the phrase “losing a child” or of the word “miscarriage,” as both imply blame that is wrongly placed on expectant parents. The idea that a pregnant woman has “lost” or “miscarried” a baby implies she once had total and complete power to keep and carry it to term. Which of our female friends misused that power during her pregnancy? None. Which of our male friends was party to such misuse? Not one.

For those who want to cast blame, our biology – or more accurately, our fallen biology – is the culprit, not God. God does not cause loss; God restores. God is not evil; God is good. For those who have recently lost a child or are still struggling with pain from years ago, Romans 8:28 (despite the cheeseball greeting cards misapplying the verse to any and every audience) offers hope to soothe heartache:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

The Scriptures tell us that even in the loss of a child, God somehow brings good out of the worst of pain; even when he is often blamed for it, he is at work redeeming these most heart-breaking experiences brought on by the sin of our representative parents, Adam and Eve. We lose our children because we lost our true humanity; each of us is fallen from the glory of perfection in which our parents were first made.

My friend and ethics co-teacher, Larry Hughes, and his wife lost their second child to stillbirth. They named him Sean and had a memorial service in his honor. This morning, I asked Larry what his thoughts were on that day and how he processed the grief he and Nancy felt years ago. He said this:

“To my mind, a key Scripture passage is David’s response when Bathsheba loses their child in 2 Samuel 12. Because of David’s many psalms reflecting his belief of being with God always, I think the response ‘…he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped…I will go to him, but he will not return to me‘ is encouraging not only theologically but personally. I think and believe that this, when coupled with the character of God, reassures those who lose their children in childbirth, SIDS, abortions, or in whatever way, that God does indeed take those on to Glory.”

David speaks of going to his son in heaven, but recognizes his son will not return to him on earth. He resigns himself to this reality (as evidenced later in chapter 12), but not before having resigned himself to the hope of reunion with his child. The Scripture is a bittersweet but beautiful passage of promise, one that records both David’s loss as well as his hope.

Many couples we know have gone through this same double-resignation. Our role as those who support believing parents in their grief should not be to rush them through the pursuit of the second (resigning themselves to the fact), nor to question the legitimacy of the first (resigning themselves to hope of a reunion). It’s a fine line to walk, but maybe there’s a couple who needs you to try with them today.

The Heart of the Matter

In Health, Humanity, Marriage, Thought on May 21, 2008 at 6:49 am

As the comments keep multiplying on my previous post on gay marriage, I thought it best to condense some of the discussion to get at what seems to be the heart of the matter. I’ve enjoyed hearing from each of you (many of you are apparently new readers – welcome), and I’ve entered into a conversation or two on your own blogs as well (click here for a good discussion Paperdreamer and I have been having on ethics and morals).

I’ve gone through all the previous comments (at least the first twenty) and pulled some quotes (hopefully within context) to which to respond. As I think most of you will concur, the issue of gay marriage is ultimately not one of legality or even of morality; the issue is ultimately one of who has the final say in the area of our sexuality (and everything else). For instance:

Vitaminbook: “I’m taking it as a given that nonconsensual romantic or sexual relationships should be illegal…children would be in a position to be exploited by this kind of thing even if it was legal….what marriage is defined as has nothing to do with why most people would agree that adult/child relationships are harmful.”

The questions here are where is the “given” coming from, and why would “most people” agree? The statement implies some kind of outside source (I would say the Christian God) who has already determined right and wrong; we, then, are simply deciding if we agree or disagree with his determination. The fact that we want to break the law – any law – is not a hetero- or homosexual issue; it’s a human one. We all have the two-year-old syndrome: that is, we want what we want, regardless of sexual orientation.

Vitaminbook: “Those who are against gay marriage seem to think that it will open the floodgates for legalized adult/child relationships, but I don’t think that’s being realistic – it’s like saying that legalizing voluntary euthanasia would open the floodgates to legalized, free-for-all murder.”

Given what humankind’s history shows us, we’d be hard-pressed to say it wouldn’t. I’m not trying to blow this point out of proportion, but am simply trying to make the connection that, just as our view of human life/death affects our tendency to respect/take it, so, too, does our view of the purpose for human sexuality affect our perspective in partaking in it.

If our sexuality is removed from God’s intended context of the monogamous man/woman marriage, intimacy has no God-prescribed commitment to cement (which, biblically speaking, is a main purpose of our sexuality). With this as a reality, we will then experiment and walk down some seriously repulsive roads in our search for “satisfaction.”

Vitaminbook: “For the record, I actually do think that people should be allowed to be racist or anti-homosexual if they want.”

On the basis of our shared humanity and the imago dei (image of God) within each of us, I would disagree with this statement completely. I don’t need or want to be “anti-” anyone in order to walk with God and love others.

Escapethedrain: “You and others are commenting on how much marriage is sacred and should be protected (from homosexuals). How sacred is this marriage you speak of when we have the highest divorce rate in the world? (talking the U.S. in general)?”

The question is what makes marriage (or anything) “sacred”? I do not come from the perspective that, because my wife and I have been married for almost twelve years, we are the ones who have made and kept our marriage sacred. The Scriptures teach that God makes marriage between a man and a woman sacred; we have just entered into the sanctity of what God has done. Marriage was God’s idea from the beginning (Genesis 2), and a government document merely recognizes and protects that sanctity; it does not create or power it.

Paperdreamer: “Homosexual marriage is a valid desire, legally and socially…[still] I will say that it is against nature to be homosexual.”

These two statements can only exist in the same sentence if one believes man is an animal who cannot control himself; in other words, homosexuality must be an evolutionary mistake (after all, gay men or lesbian women cannot reproduce, so this cannot be any kind of helpful natural selection), but since we’re nothing more than animals anyway, so be it (the caveat here is usually “as long as they don’t harm anyone else” – then there needs to be limits).

If any of us were asked if there is anyone in the world right now doing things we believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior, we would all say, “Yes, of course.” Doesn’t this mean that we do believe there is some kind of moral reality that is “there” that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of what a person feels or thinks? If we’re honest, I think we would say we do.

Lwayswright: “It is an often confusing topic because there are so many things in life nowadays that people are ‘born with a predisposition to.’ Where do you draw the line between predisposition and responsibility or lifestyle choice?”

I believe that the cause of homosexuality is as much nature as nurture. By this, I mean that all of us in our nature are fallen and broken sexually, regardless of whether we think of ourselves as being of hetero- or homosexual orientation. Regardless how the lines of brokenness fall, they have fallen on all of us; just as someone who may deal with homosexual tendencies and temptations, I as a heterosexual man deal with my own tendencies and temptations as well.

Thankfully, God woos us out of the sexual brokenness of our fallen humanity. We can embrace the exchange of Christ’s life of perfection for our life of sin, and respond in obedience to his love out of a heart of gratitude for what he has done. Indeed, the Christian God is a god of performance; the good news is Christ performed in our place.

All that to say (and as with all of life), how you and I view gay marriage has everything to do with how we view freedom, which has everything to do with how we view morals, which has everything to do with how we view ethics, which has everything to do with how we view the source of our ethics, which has everything to do with whether we think of the final authority as ourselves (in the form of government, philosophy, or good old-fashioned preference) or God.


On Gay Marriage

In Health, Humanity, Marriage, Thought on May 19, 2008 at 11:36 am

In light of the activist action of California’s Supreme Court late last week, here are some things to keep in mind with regard to the question of homosexuality and gay marriage:

  • According to a 2005 study by The Kinsey Institute, 90% of men aged 18-44 considered themselves to be heterosexual, 2.3% as homosexual, 1.8% as bisexual, and 3.9% as “something else.” The numbers are almost identical for women. It’s amazing how powerful a lobby the homosexual community has for being less than 7% of the population.
  • Joseph Nicolosi‘s research in the late-90’s on reorientation therapy’s effectiveness has not been refuted. In fact, Robert Spitzer, who argued in 1973 that homosexuality is not a clinical disorder, wrote in 2001: “Contrary to conventional wisdom, some highly motivated individuals, using a variety of change efforts, can make substantial change in multiple indicators of sexual orientation, and achieve good hetero-sexual functioning.”
  • Homosexuality is not the worst of sins, but neither is it merely a “non-ideal, lesser of two evils” sin. Contrary to what more doctrinally-liberal churches teach, homosexual relationships are not God-given, nor is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 and 19 merely an example of God’s wrath being poured out in response to the sin of inhospitality.
  • Apart from Scripture (which is quite clear in both Old AND New Testaments that homosexuality is not God’s model for marriage), there are some very compelling secular arguments against the cultural endorsement of homosexual behavior. Robert A.J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, has written as much as anybody on the topic and offers six helpful points here.

Considering where things stand, a defining federal Constitutional ammendment may indeed be necessary if traditional marriage is to be legally preserved in the United States. As much as I hate the idea of trying to legislate morality, I honestly wonder if the nation understands (or could ultimately survive) what’s at stake by not doing so.

Desperately Seeking Sabbath

In Health on March 8, 2008 at 2:07 pm

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Blaise Pascal

In a bit of a melancholic funk today from squeezing too much work into too little of a week last week; not sleeping well, not reading much, and not getting enough of my recommended daily allowance of time spent alone. Sabbath‘s looking pretty darn good.

Only 59 Years to Go

In Family, Health on November 26, 2007 at 2:00 am

Craig and His 95 Year Old Grandpa 

Here's a shot of me with my grandfather, Raymond Richardson. Grandpa Richie turned 95 this past weekend, and spending time with him reminded me of just how much/little life I have left to live. It was good and needed perspective, as it got me thinking about some personal disciplines I've let go as of late:

  • First, my desk (which I cleaned tonight) – I can't do good work if I don't have good space in which to do it (and I haven't had good space for most of the fall).
  • Second would be a more regular routine of devotion in the mornings – it's not that I'm not up; I just find my way to email and the newspaper far too quickly.
  • Third would be reading to my girls more regularly at night – I had been reading the book of Matthew to them, but then took a break for Megan to read Anne of Green Gables; it's time to get back on the horse.
  • Fourth would be diet and exercise – I haven't done anything intentional all fall and just feel like a slug; while I've pseudo-maintained my weight since summer, I still have twenty pounds to go to meet my goal, so I'm going to the Y tomorrow.

I don't know how much of this stuff Grandpa consciously thought about when he was my age (36); nor do I have hopes any of it will ensure my living to 95. But it wouldn't take a lot to make these tweaks a month or so before the new year and reap the benefits early.

After all, I may have only 59 years to go…

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s Me

In Health on June 6, 2007 at 9:07 am

As of today, I’ve lost ten pounds (10.8 to be exact) since April, weighing in at 199. My goal is to lose another ten by August 1 and a final ten by Christmas – thirty pounds total, putting me at a svelte 180. (For a preview of what that will look like, here’s a picture from ten years ago of me with friend Tim Withers; as it seems to have then, I’m hoping that weighing 180 will also make me look like I’m ten years old again).

Craig in 1998

Before coming to St. Louis, I was about ten pounds overweight (190) for my six-foot frame, but easily maintained it by walking all over Glen Eyrie and Eagle Lake (especially in the summers). I never formally exercised, ate whatever I wanted, and that was that (though it probably didn’t help my triglycerides level, as I have since found out).

Since moving to seminary, however, two years of lifting little more than books (not to mention having a 36-year-old metabolism that seems to be increasingly slowing down) took its toll, and I had gotten up to 210+ pounds. I looked and felt like Meatloaf (the singer, not the entree, though I’m sure a case could have been made for the latter).

I also think this is why I had a case of the gout (or something that felt an awful lot like it) back at the end of March, as my body was dealing with my extra weight and wanted to let me know it wasn’t exactly happy about it. Looking back, I would say that was my official wake-up call.

While I exercised a little to lose the first ten pounds, most of the weight loss has come by vicariously experiencing Weight Watchers through Megan (who has lost just over 15 pounds and counting, and looks great). Though never fast enough for my limited patience (what is?), I’ve been pleased with the results so far. More on this in future posts, I’m sure.