On Being Christian …

I’d just like to clarify a few things. More and more often, I feel like Christians and Christianity are being disparaged by people who only know Christians by what they hear on the news. Generally speaking, Christians have become poorly represented in the media, and the Internet is full of haters who are only interested in one side of the story.

First of all, I’d like to say that you are free to believe whatever it is you want to believe — whether or not you’re right. And so am I. You don’t have to agree with me, but you do have the obligation as a fellow human being to respect me and my beliefs.  Just as I do you and yours. I know that nothing I say is going to change your mind. Likewise, nothing you say is going to change my mind, either. I know you find this frustrating, but stop calling me names. I’m not stupid, bigoted, ignorant or narrow-minded. I’m just as interested in scientific advancements and racial/gender equality as you are. I’m also not opposed to changing my mind on issues when it becomes obvious that I’m wrong. I don’t hate you because your skin is a different color, and I don’t care who you love as long as you’re not abusing or subjugating anyone.  I love science, and I try really hard to understand both sides of an issue before I make up my mind about which side I want to stand on.

What bothers me the most is that I cannot explain to you the peace and joy I’ve experienced because of my faith. I cannot effectively convey my experiences to you. I’ve tried, and you just smile politely and go away thinking about how quaint I am, and I go away thinking about how sad it is that you can’t feel what I have felt.

I am not and never will be a good apologist for Christianity, but here are a few things — in no particular order — that I think about that you might find interesting and contrary to how you view the Christian faith:

  • Jesus hung around with the people on the fringe — thieves, prostitutes, beggars, lepers, etc. These were the people who needed him the most. He wanted to make their lives better. He didn’t hold their sins against them. He encouraged them, healed them and simply asked them to love one another as they loved themselves and to stop doing the things that were hurting them and those around them. He held in disdain the aristocracy of his time, and they made him the most angry. That’s where the word “hypocrites” came from — they would go to Temple and act one way, but as soon as they walked out the door, they were back to wielding their power against their enemies, the poor and otherwise less fortunate. This still happens, and it wrongfully happens in the name of God. The human race can be so stupid.
  • I believe that God is our creator, which means that he created and loves each and every one of us. Again, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is or whether you’re gay or straight. It’s human beings who have created the biases present in our cultures. Again, we’re supposed to love one another as we love ourselves. We’re not very good at that.
  • When I say that God is our creator, I don’t believe that he sculpted us out of clay and then breathed life in. I believe that somewhere along the way, He set events into motion that allowed the human race to evolve into where we are now. In the process, he gave us free will to make our own choices. He wants us to love him as much as He loves us, but again, we’re not very good at that. That’s why we often abuse our free will and make stupid decisions that hurt people and actually turn people away from Him. Still, He lets us keep our free will because if we don’t come to Him because we want to, what good is it?
  • I don’t believe that The Bible should be taken literally. I believe that the Old Testament was written to explain the universe to us in a way we could understand at the time it was written. Just as we write and read stories to our children to explain the world to them, God gave us only as much as we could understand at the time. God sent Jesus to us to correct the misunderstandings that had become a way of life, and he did away with the ritualistic laws that were instituted by man. Again, he did this by relating to us in a way we could understand at the time — i.e., He spilled His own blood as a final sacrifice so we could feel clean. Before He died, He gave us sacraments that would allow us to renew ourselves in ways that didn’t involve slaughtering animals or our first borns. Jesus was one cool dude. I’m sure you would have liked him. He loves you.
  • I also believe in evolution. Are you surprised by that? I also believe in the Big Bang. Crazy, isn’t it? Believing in either one of these things does not make God impossible. If you understand how evolution works, then you will know that somewhere along the way, a mutation occurred and BAM: humans. Same thing goes for the Big Bang. Forces in the universe came together and what ensued is just too miraculous for me to believe it was a happy accident. It’s OK if you don’t believe this. One of us is wrong and one of us is right — or neither. We’ll probably never know which one of us is right, so let’s just agree to disagree. That way we can enjoy each other’s company without arguing about something that neither one of us can prove.
  • Our universe and everything in it is constructed in such an orderly fashion that I just can’t believe it’s a matter of coincidence. Isn’t it odd that the makeup of a galaxy is so similar to that of an atom? For example, the Golden Ratio can be seen in the measurements of a DNA molecule all the way up to the arrangement of the arms of a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way.
  • Every anti-Christian, agnostic and atheist I know was turned off to faith and religion by a misguided fellow human being who was acting in the name of a faith they didn’t understand. That doesn’t make faith wrong. That makes the human being wrong and far more damaging than someone who has no faith at all.

A final word: If you’re right, and there is no God then, as a Christian, I have lived my life well. Hopefully, I’ve made someone’s life better along the way, and I can die happy knowing that I have tried to live a good life in service to others. However, if I’m right, and God is real, I hope something happens to change your mind. Otherwise, I’m really going to miss you.

 

The Chronicles of Insomnia

I’m awake. Maybe it’s the ringing in my ears or the wind outside or any of a dozen notions that are rolling around in my head. Whatever it is, instead of fighting it, I just got up. Fighting insomnia is a losing battle. I try not to look at the clock, but I can’t help myself. Then, I’m counting the hours until my alarm goes off, and the math keeps me awake. Damn you, math.

So, I was listening to a podcast about the placebo effect yesterday. Ironically — or maybe to the point — the topic was perceived quality of sleep. Test subjects were told they would be given an EMG that would be able to tell whether or not they had a good night’s sleep. It all looked technically accurate, but the EMG was really a sham. The researchers really just wanted to test whether or not the suggestion of a good or poor night’s sleep was enough to influence an individual’s performance on cognitive testing.

When the study participants arrived, they were asked whether or not they’d had a good night’s sleep the night before. What surprised the researchers was that it didn’t matter whether or not the individuals thought they had a good night’s sleep. What mattered was what the researcher reported to the participants about the outcome of their EMG. If the researcher said that the EMG indicated the participant was well-rested, the participant did better on the test even if they had reported a poor night’s sleep. Ultimately, the study showed that as long as an authority figure presented the suggestion, participants would believe it. In other words, self-perception didn’t have an effect. Plenty of subjects reported they’d had a great night’s sleep, but if they were in the group who were told by the researcher that their EMG indicated a poor night’s sleep, they didn’t do as well on the test.

So, this whole notion that we are so susceptible to the power of suggestion has my mind churning. And that’s perhaps why I’m not sleeping. Ironic. Yeah, I guess it is.

I have so many questions. Does awareness of the placebo effect cause a person to be so cynical that it can no longer help them? Can you still benefit from a placebo if you know you might have gotten a placebo? What about all the rubbish on the Internet? There are all sorts of claims made about all sorts of things, and while most of it is rubbish, what does that matter if the suggestion that something works actually helps someone, as long as it doesn’t kill them, that is?

So after hearing this podcast on the placebo effect, I had an idea. What if this susceptibility to the power of suggestion not only allows us to benefit from placebos, but what if it also causes ailments? According to the research, we have actual physiologic reactions to suggestions. For example, if an individual is given a low-calorie milkshake, but they’re told it’s a high-calorie milkshake, the physiologic changes in their body are the same as if they ate an actual high-calorie milkshake.

In Radiolab’s Placebo episode, one of the doctors was telling about how we have receptors in our brains for morphine and other opioids, and when we’re given a placebo, the opioid receptors in our brains are activated. Did you get that? You are given a sugar pill, told that it’s a pain killer, and your brain says, “Hey, morphine!!!” Put another way: We have within ourselves the power to fix ourselves.

Well, what if the opposite is true? What I mean is, what if we make ourselves sick by the same power of suggestion that allows us to benefit from the placebo effect? I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill hypochondriac. We all have that Aunt Marge in our lives who thinks that every sniffle is typhoid (and please, God, don’t let me be her). I’m talking about the suggestions we hear every day from whatever mode of media we’re allowing into our heads — news reports on the latest culprit in the obesity epidemic, web articles on chemicals in our food that are sure to kill us all, GMOs, corn, soybeans, wheat, fossil fuels, McDonald’s french fries. We are bombarded with tiny little snippets of information, and we don’t always have the time to get the whole story. We develop our own perception of what we’ve heard, and that perception develops into a suggestion to our brains. Well, what if those notions are enough to trigger changes in our brains and bodies because we believe, on some level, what we’ve heard?

Somebody who is smarter than me is going to have to take up the gauntlet and figure this stuff out, and when they do, I’m sure I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and read about it.

I hear my family waking up to get the day started. Time to go fill my coffee cup and join them. I predict a nap coming on later. I wish that researcher was here to tell me that I had a good night’s sleep.

Visions of Sugar Plums

I’m sure traditional sugarplums are quite delicious (thank you, Alton Brown), but these are prettier, much better for you, so tasty, and they inspired me to get the camera out again.

It was just about this time last year that I started getting more serious about photography.  I haven’t been spending much time with the camera for the past few months, but the lights and colors of the season are getting me fired up again.  That holiday bokeh always sucks me in.  So, I’m going to ride this wave of inspiration and get the rest of the Christmas decorating done today.

Unstuck

I was just loading some clothes into the washing machine — yes, laundry.  See?  I think I said before, when all else fails, there’s always laundry.  I wasn’t kidding.

As I was turning on the washer, it occurred to me:  I’m not stuck anymore!  Hallelujah!

I’m pretty sure I underestimated the negative effect my stress fracture had on me.  I was essentially being held down by the big, clumsy boot on my foot.  It’s been gone for a couple of weeks now, and I’m cleared to resume regular activities.  So, that’s what I’ve done.  I’ve been working hard for the past several days, and I’ve gotten back to my daily walks with the puppy and my regular exercise routine.  I am completely amazed at how much better I feel.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not surprised by this. I am, however, amazed at the degree to which this all impacted me.  I think it’s pretty cool that I’ve been given this opportunity to measure how important activity is for me.  I’m just going to chalk this up as one of life’s little lessons, one of God’s little blessings, and I’ll store it in the back of my mind and pull it out the next time I feel like being a slug.  Anyone reading this can feel free to remind me.  Just be nice about it, ok?

So, what I have to say is this: If you’re having trouble sleeping, or if you’re feeling blue, or maybe you just don’t feel like doing anything, get yourself OUT OF THE HOUSE and just take a walk.  If you have a dog, you will now be your dog’s hero.  If you have kids, they’ll think you’ve lost your mind, and maybe they’ll just go with you to see what happens, and then THEY will also be out of the house, and how awesome is that?!

Enjoy your walk!  I’ll see you when you get back.

Friday Night Light … of the photographic kind

Looked out the front window earlier this evening and saw this …

Thunderhead… and that should give you some idea of how far away Lake Michigan is from my house because I’m guessing that cloud formed right out over the lake.

I went out to take the above picture and became distracted by these, which are growing by our front porch.

Rudbeckia

Those  made me so happy that I had to take this …

Rudbeckia

… and this …

Rudbeckia

And then this came running across the yard:

So fast, as a matter of fact, that she’s a bit blurry.

Finally, I wandered around the corner of the house only to find one last little bit of light shining right here …

Hydrangea

The End.

Stuck

I’m stuck.

Several months ago while I was apparently pretending to be someone else, I resolved to exercise my creative side more this year.   Clearly that other more-motivated me has left the building, because lately I’ve been everything BUT creative.  I’ve been bored, distracted, overwhelmed and disorganized with  little bursts of productivity stuck in there for good measure.

I did manage to work my way through volumes of paperwork, more laundry than you can shake a stick at, and some pesky, weedy flower beds only to find that the rest of the house was falling apart while I wasn’t looking.

Perhaps it was the distraction of the new puppy we adopted in March, her broken leg in June, or my broken foot in July.  Maybe it was the change in schedule when the kids got out of school.  Maybe my husband’s return to work?

Whatever it is, I’ve been off balance for a while now, and I’m searching for that little something that will help me to right myself.

I’ve been trying to shoot some photos over the past few weeks, but I’ve made no progress on the photography class I was taking.

I have two “craft” projects that have been largely ignored for months now — a window treatment for our dining room and a window-seat cushion for the lovely window seat/bookshelves my husband built for our daughter’s room. Completing those seems like a pipe dream.

I have a number of the supplies I need to re-do the kids’/guest bathroom.  It needs a new floor, too, and some paint.  The living room also needs to be painted and the office.

All of the carpets need to be cleaned.

To top it all, I decided back in November it was time to shed these 30 or so pounds I’ve been lugging around for a few years now. I’m a little more than 1/2-way there now. I was 2/3 of the way there, but I slid backwards.  I don’t think it’s any secret that I eat when I’m stressed.

I have no idea which one of these to tackle next.  I’m just stuck.

I think I’ll go do some more laundry. When all else fails, there’s always laundry.

“Energy” Bars by the Numbers

Lisa over at Snack Girl got me thinking today when she posted an article comparing Snickers to Clif Bars.

I started playing around with the numbers to see how they compared as a percentage of the whole.  The results weren’t too terribly surprising to me, but I was wondering if anyone else has obsessed thought about this like me.

I don’t eat snack/candy/energy bars very often.  If I do, it’s usually in a BIG pinch when I find myself starving while in a grocery store and wishing I hadn’t put lunch off for so long.  Usually, I can talk myself out of it because I’d much rather have a real meal.  I just don’t find a snack bar to be very  psychologically satisfying — probably because I’m usually not paying a great deal of attention to it while I’m eating.  Mindless snacking always gets me in trouble.

Anyway, I thought I’d share my comparisons.  I highlighted the “best” and “worst” numbers.  Tell me what you think!

Clif vs Snickers vs Newton’s Fruit Thins vs Larabars

Head-to-Head comparison of Clif Bars vs Larabars (since they’re the most similar)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: