Delightful and Frightful Goodness

GhirardelliChocolate-4You may want to take a look in your rear view mirror to assess the bottom line aspect of Valentine’s Day.  When I wrote Friday’s blog, I didn’t have the heart to do a lead story on the lead contamination of chocolate. An examination of this delightful treat may have frightful consequences.

A California based watchdog group has released a study concerning your chocolate yearning. An independent lab examined 42 products, and it found lead and/or cadmium in 26 that were above the levels considered safe by California standards.

The findings of the report have been disputed by several people:

  • Jeff Beckman, director of corporate communications for Hershey, has said: “People have been eating cocoa and chocolate for centuries with no evidence of a single incident of concern regarding these naturally occurring minerals.”
  • Susan Smith of the National Confectioners Association offered this rebut to the study: “Heavy metals such as lead and cadmium are naturally-occurring elements found in the Earth’s crust. Since these elements are present naturally in the soil and water where plants are grown, there are unavoidable traces occurring in virtually all foods, including fish, meats, grains, fruits and vegetables. Like these other foods, cocoa beans, one of the main ingredients in chocolate, may also contain small amounts of heavy metals depending on the natural conditions in which it is grown.”

Diets have been debated since the creation of Adam and Eve.  If you remember, there was quite a discussion over what could or could not be eaten in the Garden of Eden.

There was also a controversy in Corinth concerning what was permissible to eat, and Paul said:

“I’m not going to walk around on eggshells worrying about what small-minded people might say; I’m going to stride free and easy, knowing what our large-minded Master has already said. If I eat what is served to me, grateful to God for what is on the table, how can I worry about what someone will say? I thanked God for it and he blessed it!

So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory. At the same time, don’t be callous in your exercise of freedom, thoughtlessly stepping on the toes of those who aren’t as free as you are. I try my best to be considerate of everyone’s feelings in all these matters; I hope you will be, too.” ~The Message, I Corinthians 10

There is no need for a state of gloom when you consume that piece of dark chocolate because most research speaks of its benefits.  A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains:

  • 11 grams of fiber.
  • 67% of the RDA for Iron.
  • 58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
  • 89% of the RDA for Copper.
  • 98% of the RDA for Manganese.

My conclusion?  “Please pass me another Ghirardelli.”

Valentine’s Day

images (4)Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, so this is your reminder to get a little something for that special someone who brightens your life.  Let me share some statistics with you to give you some insight into the 14th day of February:

  • Some 180 Million Valentine’s Day cards will be shared
  • 85% of the Valentine’s Day cards are purchased by women
  • Somewhere around 196 million roses are used for Valentine’s Day
  • 73% of the flowers that are purchased are bought by men
  • The average consumer will spend about $116.21

What is Valentine’s Day worth to the retail industry?  It is estimated that $403 million will be spent on flowers, and the jewelry stores will ring up sales in the area of $2.2 billion.

With all of the petal-pulling-she-loves-me, she-loves-me-nots, keep this truth in mind:  Regardless of the day of the week, God always loves you!

Jeremiah 31:3 is God’s Valentine to His people: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”  God’s love will not tarnish like metal, wilt like a flower, or grow dim like a gem.  It is constant and eternal, and you are the object of His love.

Thoughtless Thinking and Random Reasoning

Cloud computing conceptSome people find solitude in silence, and they give deep reflection to their thoughts.  There are others who negotiate life at a harried and hurried pace that allows no time for deep thought.

Have you ever stopped to think about how you think?  Please understand the question:  I asked “how” you think—not “what” you think.

When you start to think about your thinking, you can begin to reframe and reorder your life in a more positive context.  There are several places in the Psalms that indicate the writers were more than thoughtless thinkers:

  • Psalm 77:6: I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search.
  • Psalm 119:15: I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.
  • Psalm 119:27-29: I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold! Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things, I consider to be right; I hate every false way. Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.

When you read these verses, did you notice the due diligence that was exercised?  You can see it in words like:

  • Meditate
  • Diligent search
  • Contemplate
  • Consider

Solomon encouraged people to weigh the wisdom of words, before believing them: The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps (Proverbs 14:15.)”

Before you leave on a trip, you probably spend some time mapping your route.  How much thought do you give to your spiritual destination?  Do take just some random route or do you know where you are going?

Are you living your life in the blink of a second, or are you taking time to think and reckon?

Blueberries and Bikinis

217The English language seems to be in a state of flux.  As an example, I used to wear thongs all of the time.  I no longer make that claim, because thongs are no longer associated with footwear.  According to Wikipedia, a “thong is a garment generally worn as either underwear or as a swimsuit.”

CNBC did a cover story on the barely covered Hannah Davis.  Davis is featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing a thong.  The newscasters discussed the appropriateness of the thong and their conclusion was:  “You have to push the limits.”

Can you push the limits so far that you are out of bounds?

That she called a thong isn’t anything like what I used to wear on my feet. In fact, I’ve worn band aids that easily covered more skin.

One more thing about the English language:  When did “fresh” start to mean “frozen?”

On my way out of Wichita yesterday, I bought a blueberry muffin at a market that had Fresh in its name.  I made the assumption that a store that was a Fresh Market would sell freshly baked goods.

When I bit into my muffin, I was disappointed to discover that the center was frozen and not fresh.  They lied, and filled my blueberry muffin full of preservative stuffin!

Lies are usually celebrated as truth and marketed as though there is a great benefit to them.  By the time the truth is finally discovered, a person may be bankrupt physically, financially, or spiritually.

Judas thought 30 pieces of silver would buy happiness, but that miserly sinner only found misery.  Whenever you try to find happiness by substituting the world’s goods for the goodness of God, you are apt to discover sorrow.

The Apostle John made this very plain:  “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity (I John 2:15-16 ~The Message).”

Disciplined Discernment

discernmentAfter I read Psalm one, I am always struck by the contrasts it offers as it looks at the differences between two men, two ways, and their two destinies.  The first verse serves as the thematic sentence for the rest of the Psalm:

“How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of scoffers (NET Version)!”

The message of this verse is that the input you receive and believe will determine your output.  Being aware of this, the “blessed” will not:

  • Receive and believe the “advice of the wicked.”
  • Follow the “pathway of sinners.”
  • Set in the “assembly of scoffers.”

To accomplish the three points above, you must learn to discern, so you’ll know what to spurn. The apostle Paul refers to a discerning walk as walking in a worthy manner (Ephesians 4:1).  To reach this goal, Paul gave some instructions to the Ephesians:

  • Don’t walk like the Gentiles who walked in the futility of their mind (Ephesians 4:17).
  • Make sure you “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you (Ephesians 5:2).”
  • “Walk as children of Light (Ephesians 5:8):
  • Don’t walk as “unwise men but as wise (Ephesians 5:15).”

The key component of the discerning life is found in the second verse of Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 15:16:

  • Ps. 1:2: “He finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night.”
  • Jer. 15:16: “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16)

Once you begin to practice a life of spiritual discernment, you will gain a greater understanding of verses like Psalm 16:11: “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

The pleasures and treasures of the Lord are promised to the blessed man of Psalm One, and through a life of disciplined discernment, they can be yours as well.

Brian Williams: Truth or Consequences

While at a funeral this past week, I met a lady who is a psychiatrist at the VA in Oklahoma City.  When I learned where she is employed, I said:  I receive most of my healthcare at the VA in Wichita.  She asked me:  “Did you serve during Viet Nam?”

I never give just a “yes” or “no” answer when I am asked this question.  My standard reply is:  “I served during Viet Nam, but not in Viet Nam.”

I am careful to make this distinction because of something called “stolen valor.”  This is unethical behavior that makes false claims about a person’s military service or the wearing of unauthorized and unearned medals.

Stolen valor has been in the news because of false claims made by Brian Williams who claimed fan RPG hit the helicopter he was in while in Iraq in 2003. Not only did Williams tell this lie, he has stayed true to it.  His fraudulent claim has raised the dandruff of Tom Brokaw who has called on NBC to fire Williams.

Mr. Williams’ quest for fame has left him labeled as a mythomane. This lie has tarnished all the truths he has told and questioned the essence of his integrity. The problem with lies, even the white ones, is that they eventually leave you blind to the brilliant colors of truth.

People who perpetuate a lie remind me of what Solomon said in the Proverbs:  “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

The tall tales told by Brian Williams may dock the tail of his career.

Havoc Among the Holsteins

holstein-cowDid you hear a strange noise the last time you drove the dusty back roads that line the dairy farms in rural America? Instead of hearing the characteristic “moo” from the herd, you may have heard ole’ Bossy and her cohorts mournful “boo.”

A new product from Coca-Cola, Fairlife, will soon find its place on the shelves of grocery stores.  It’s described as “science milk” that has 50% more protein, 30% less sugar, and lactose-free. I imagine that Holsteins hate these whole steins of engineered lab milk, and many dairy herds are be-mooing its existence.

The fact that Coke sells its product for twice the price that the dairy farmer has been getting for his milk is enough to make any udder shudder in disgust. These Holsteins must be thinking that Coke has little concern about a fair life for them.

There’s a good chance that some situation has caused you to question the fairness of your life.  Even David struggled when he tried to solve life’s riddles.  In Psalm 73 he said:

 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end . . . I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory . . . it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all your works.

The next time you feel like you are caught-up in a stampede and life isn’t fair, remember these words from Peter:  “Humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern (I Peter 5:7).”

Good Deeds in a World of Evil

While standing in a line waiting to place an order, I overheard a couple of men talking about the word “good.”  One of them said:  “If you shot a person at a distance of 100 yards, you might be a good shot, but would you be a good person?”

Although I did not wait to hear the reply to the question, it did remind me of Proverbs 3:27:  “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”

Matthew Henry offered this comment on doing good:  “Wherever the Providence of God casts us, we should desire and endeavor to be useful; and, when we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can.”

The Bible is full of statements that associate “good” deeds with the Christian life:

  • Ephesians 2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
  • Galatians 6:9-10: So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

When Paul wrote to the Christians living in Rome, he encouraged them to do the good they could, and he provided them a list (12:9-21):

  • Be sincere in your love.
  • Detest evil and cling to what is good.
  • Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.
  • Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.
  • Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble.
  • Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Paul summarized and ended his list with these words:  “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”

Think about the way you live your life:  Is it defined by evil or good?   Do you impede with your greed and mislead or is your life characterized by good deeds?

I’ll close with these words from Saint Basil:  “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

Remarkable and Wonderful Craftmanship

newborn-baby-on-hand_90311-1440x900With the popularity of TV programming that focuses on Crime Scene Investigation, people tend to think DNA is the best means of identifying a person.  Both fingerprint identification and DNA analysis have proved to be valuable tools for personal and criminal identification.

I’ve been told that fingerprint identification can be more accurate than DNA analysis.  This is true even with identical twins.  They may look exactly alike and have the same DNA structure, but they will always have different fingerprints.  Your fingerprints are unique because they are formed in the womb.  The random movements of a baby within the womb form the distinctly individual characteristics of each person’s fingerprints.

When you think of the uniqueness of your fingerprints, I hope it will remind you of the special relationship you have with God:  “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well (Psalm 139).”

Re-Routing Routines

Do you ever wonder why you keep doing the  things that you do? You can find the answer to this encyclopedic problem in a little 5 letter word–habit.

I believe it was Aristotle who said:  We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.  Repetitious behavior is a coin with two sides:  good habits and bad habits. 

Because they are so ingrained in our lives, habits are often performed unconsciously.  This means you give little thought to some of the things you do.  This auto-pilot mentality is either a wonderful servant or a worrisome master. 

Research has shown that old habits appear to lose some of their power when new habits begin to replace them.  The new habit is a positive detour that bypasses the old rut.  

According to Ryan and Markova we form new habits by considering our three zones of existence: comfort, stretch and stress. Comfort is the realm of existing habit. Stress occurs when a challenge is so far beyond current experience as to be overwhelming. It’s that stretch zone in the middle — activities that feel a bit awkward and unfamiliar — where true change occurs.

Any time you try to kick a habit and develop a new skill, you can expect to experience some discomfort.  If you are right-handed, try writing or eating with your left hand.   Unless you are ambidextrous, it will feel a little odd or clumsy.

The same is true with any change in your routine.  At first it will seem awkward.  Several years ago I was told that I should substitute rice or almond milk for regular dairy milk.  The first time I tasted the substitute, my tastebuds shouted:  YUK!  I did a quick reframe of my response and said:  It isn’t milk, but it tastes pretty good for what it is.  And, I’ve done fine with it ever since.

New habits are not developed overnight.  At a minimum, I suggest 40 days of consistent practice as a start and for long-term success I think 3 months dedicated to the new routine is important.

Paul contrasted the habits of the flesh and the habits of the Spirit in Romans 6: I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.  When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

I hope this thought keeps you thinking:  Where in your life do you need to intervene, so you can begin a healthy new routine?

 Note: This is a slightly edited version of an article I wrote in February 2012.  I have posted it because it is a good follow-up to yesterday’s post.