July 2008


Ya' Just Gotta' Love Those SUPERSIZED Veggieburgers...with CHEESE!!!

Ya' Just Gotta' Love Those SUPERSIZED Veggieburgers...with CHEESE!!!

I should have known that it would happen sooner or later! Sure enough, during a recent visit to the drive-thru lane at a local Burger King restaurant the employee waiting on me asked if I “wanted cheese” on my VEGGIEBURGER! When does the suggestive selling stop?!? Calgon, take me away!!!

As mentioned elsewhere on OveractiveFork, I have little patience for suggestive selling!!! I find it rude, disrespectful and have observed that it reduces the chance that my order will be correctly prepared.

Please note that I am NOT a “cheese-phobic” individual! Indeed, I eat at least two slices of cheese every day. The issue here is one of getting ripped off by greedy fast food restaurants that charge almost as much for just ONE SLICE of cheese that I can pay for a WHOLE PACKAGE of it at the grocery store (OK, that was just a slight exageration). The point is that if I wanted cheese on my sandwich (hamburger, veggieburger or otherwise) I sure would NOT pay an outrageous sum of upwards of 50 cents for JUST ONE SLICE of cheese!!! If I wanted cheese on my veggieburger I’d take the cheese from home and add it myself.

Thankfully, I did not go postal when asked if I wanted cheese on my veggieburger. It just struck me being strange, especially if I were a vegetarian — since some of those folks don’t eat dairy products (and cheese IS a dairy product). Nothing against ’em, but I’m NOT a vegetarian.

I don’t think I’m being odd just because I like the option of occasionally choosing something healthier than a traditional hamburger when dining at a fast food restauarnt (hence the selection of a cheese-free veggieburger). I’m wating for some fast food employee to ask me if I would “like cheese” in my Diet Coke! <eyes rolling>

Why is it that fast food restaurants take an otherwise healthy sandwich like a veggieburger and ADD 5 POUND OF MAYONAISE on top of it?!? Kind of DEFEATS choosing a veggieburger over a hamburger, doesn’t it?!? Oh wait, why wouldn’t they since these geniuses do the same thing to veggieburgers that they do to GRILLED chicken sandwiches?!? What was I thinking of? <blush>

Oh yeah, why not add a big slab of BACON to that veggieburger for an extra 50 cents?!?

I have some great blood chemisty numbers to share with y’all! When it comes to my cholesterol and triglyceride levels, I have much to be thankful for.

My latest Lipid Panel results are as follows (with the normal range for each result in parentheses)…

  • Triglycerides: 130  (0 – 149)
  • Cholesterol, Total: 162  (100 – 199)
  • VLDL Cholesterol: 26  (5 – 40)
  • LDL Chosterol: 98  (0 – 99)
  • LDL/HDL Ratio: 2.6  (0.0 – 3.6)
  • HDL Colesterol: 38  (40 – 59)
"Watch out!...Big stick!...I'll give you a lovely piece of candy if you don't cry!!!"

"Watch out!...Big stick!...I'll give you a lovely piece of candy if you don't cry!!!"

So all of my numbers are within the normal range, EXCEPT my HDL level. This is the GOOD cholesterol, which is just two points lower than the bottom of the normal range. I’m told that more physical exercise can improve this number.

The mere fact that all of my BAD cholestorol numbers and my triglyceride level are normal is no small accomplishment, considering I come from a family where these numbers run high-to-very high. My mother’s cholesterol level was around 500 around ten years ago!  Her twin brother’s bad cholesterol has to be treated with medication.

I credit my excellent blood chemisty numbers to sane, balanced eating  — which can be directly linked to my following the Weight Watchers’ POINTS food plan. The POINTS plan is all about balance and moderation. It isn’t the ONLY food plan for us food addicts to consider, but for ME, it is the best one I’ve ever followed.

I share my latest blood test results because another one of my “numbers” is causing me great frustration these days.  Yes, my weight is staying stuck again. Plateaus drive me CRAZY — they always have! Prior to recovery the number on the scale was the ONLY measure I had to judge my success. I’ve since discovered that MANY numbers should be considered when assessing my progress.

I mentioned in a recent post that another one of my blood chemistry numbers was greatly improved now that I’m working on my recovery on a consistent basis. My A1C level, which shows how well my diabetes has been controlled over the previous three months, is the best it’s been since I was diagnosed as being a Type 2 diabetic nearly two and a half years ago!

In addition to blood chemistry, even the fact that I can manage to loose inches around my waist while the number on the scale remains virtually UNchanged, tells me that the scale should NOT be my sole measure of progress.

The bottom line, from my perspective, is that the RATE of my weight loss is NONE of my business — not is it the business of any other addict. I’ll let God and the health care professionals who take care of me be concerned about this matter. In the meantime I will choose to focus on the “other numbers” that offer me encouragement.

For as long as I’ve been working on OveractiveFork, I’ve wanted to share about my spirituality. I’ve held back from doing so up until this entry out of fear that something I would share about my spirituality might offend you.

Talk about a goofy, senseless fear! I finally figured out that my fear is “goofy” and “senseless” because…

— I’m not responsible for your being offended. It is your choice and your right to be offended.

— I’m only responsible for sharing my story. I need make no apopolgy because my spirituality is somewhat (or a lot) different from yours.

— I’m sharing my story, not yours. My story doesn’t diminish yours. Your story doesn’t diminish mine.

— If you don’t find something “offensive” in at least some of my journal posts then I’m probably doing something wrong. 🙂  I’ve certainly not hesitated to post thoughts about carbohydrates that are no doubt greviously offensive to carb-phobic individuals! So why should I also of a sudden be afraid to offend my readers?

So here is my truth: I’m a Christian. Please note that this statement is not intended to imply that you should be a Christian. I wish you were a Christian, but that’s between you and the Lord. I’m not here to debate. After all, God does the real “converting”, I don’t! 🙂

I’m not even here to preach. Instead I would like to allow a man who taught me how to preach (among other things, I’m a “recovering seminarian”) do the preaching for me through one of his more popular sermons.

I wont be offended if you don’t want to read Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker’s sermon Befriending Your Weakness.

Embracing My Addiction

Embracing My Addiction

On the other hand, if you are looking for some wisdom and insight into how to connect the painful reality of your addiction with the power of a God who is greater than you and your addiction, then please DO read on!

The short version of Dr. Shoemaker’s sermon, in my words, goes like this: As an addict I had to REALLY get honest about the REALITY of the pain and outright INsanity of my addiction before I could experience God’s strength to overcome my addiction, one day at a time. Being in denial about my addiction prevented me from truly seeking a Power Greater than my own in order to overcome it. Why seek to “overcome” something that isn’t all that bad?

Getting REAL about my addiction got me to the point where I began to experience recovery. Embracing my REAL (and very broken) self (which in turn is helping me to LOVE myself “warts and all”) is what keeps me in reacovery.

Two suggestions: If you do indeed choose to read the following sermon, please consider printing it out and then take the time to read it with as few distractions as possible so that it really has a chance to “sink in”.

And now, true words of wisdom from my friend, Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker…

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Befriending Your Weakness
by H. Stephen Shoemaker

(© 1989, 1996, 2002 & 2007. H. Stephen Shoemaker.
All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.)

Can we talk? It seems to me that in church we work hard to hide our weakness and do most of our suffering in lonely solitude. We spend our days hiding from ourselves, from one another and from God. The gospel invites us to another way.

When you’re young you think God uses your strengths. That is true. God uses your talents, your excellences, your triumphs. The older you get the more you realize God also uses your weaknesses. This is the beginning of wisdom.

Picture Simon Peter. On the day of Pentecost — surely in his prime — he preached and 3,000 were converted. Some sermon, huh? And the church was jump-started by the Holy Spirit into its world encompassing mission. But was that sermon a greater witness than the day years later when Peter was crucified? Upside down, he requested, for he did not think himself worthy to be crucified as our Lord had been, right-side up. Remember Jesus’ words to Peter by the seashore the day He recommissioned him?

“When you were young you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.”

Indeed.

Jesus images aging: another girding you and carrying you where you do not wish to go. As someone quipped: Old age is not for the squeamish. But the image is a more encompassing one for all human weakness. In this discussion of weakness, let us examine a “spirituality of weakness,” a spirituality which makes it possible to Befriend Your Weakness.

I

Two texts point the way. The first is an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson entitled “Compensation.” If you want to watch a great mind thinking read an essay by Emerson.

Compensation is a truth of the physical world: an animal with poor sight has extraordinary hearing, a strong right eye compensates for a weak left eye, and so on. It is just as true in the realm of the human spirit. Emerson begins with an arresting sentence, at least from the point of view of a preacher:

“Ever since I was a boy, I have wished to write a discourse on Compensation; for it seemed to me when very young that on this subject life was ahead of theology, and the people knew more than the preachers taught.”

When I read those words they had the ring of truth for me. The lives of people have taught me more on compensation than books of theology, and you have known more than I have taught.

One of those compensations he said is this: “Strength grows out of weakness.” The good, he said, “are befriended by weakness and defect.” It sounds almost too pat, especially if you have suffered the torment weakness and defect bring, more especially if you are suffering terribly now. How could we ever be “befriended” by such? Then he offers a sentence that could have come out of the Book of Proverbs:

“As no man had ever a point of pride that was not injurious to him, so no man ever had a defect that was not somewhere made useful to him.”

That’s an interesting paradox of life: strengths that trip us up, weaknesses that become useful to us. He illustrates with a famous fable, perhaps you’ve heard it. It’s about a stag, a beautiful deer who admired his horns but disliked his feet. But when the hunter came his feet were what saved him, and afterward, caught in a thicket, his horns destroyed him. Therefore, Emerson concludes, every one “in his lifetime needs to thank his faults,” because as he confronts his weaknesses, “like the wounded oyster, he mends his shell with pearl.”

A person goes to sleep in good times — is this not true — but as Emerson adds:

“When he is punished, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has put on his wits, on his manhood; he has gained facts, learns his ignorance, is cured of the insanity of conceit; has got moderation and real skill.”

This compensation is not as easy nor as automatic as Emerson in his brilliant prose makes it sound, but it gives us real hope nonetheless. A caution: rarely do we quickly see compensation at work. Emerson explains:

“…the compensations of calamity are made apparent to the understanding…after long intervals of time. A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a loss of wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment unpaid loss, and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the deep remedial force that underlies all facts.”

At the time all we can cry is, “O the loss, the loss, O the cost, the cost!” But in the strength of faith and by the remedial power of God’s Spirit, we go on and over time are given the gift of compensation.

Is this true? It is our hope for wholeness and usefulness and our only escape from bitterness or destruction.

II

Emerson’s essay is the first text; the second is the “luminous dark” of II Corinthians 12. The Apostle Paul was suffering the humiliating weakness of his “thorn in the flesh.” The image Paul used is more terrible than its translation suggests. Not a small splinter, a giant stake. Not mildly irritated, Paul was impaled by an affliction at times too great to bear.

We do not know what this thorn was. The history of the exegesis of this verse reads like a medical dictionary: everything from foot disease to eye problems, from epilepsy to obsessions, to manic depressive illness.

Whatever it was, it was no mild private irritation. It was an agonizing, public, and humiliating affliction. It was, to use Paul Scherer’s phrase, a thorn “lodged in the sinews of his apostleship” because it hindered his plans and made him a laughing-stock to his adversaries, the super-apostles. If he is so afflicted, they scoffed, “How can he be an apostle?”

The next verse is one of the bravest in the Bible. “Three times I prayed for this thorn to be removed.” Three times, he prayed, but his prayers were not answered. He was not delivered of this thorn. The three times represent hours, maybe years, of agony. God, take this away! How can I be who you want me to be, do what you’ve called me to do, with this thorn?

Out of the silence of heaven finally came the answer, not the answer Paul wanted, but all the answer he needed. “My grace is sufficient for thee”, the Voice said. “My grace I give you. Myself I give you in your infirmity, and that will be enough.” The first hint of that answer must have been hard to hear. Lord, that is not what I asked for! But as the answer came and came again, Paul hit bottom with this thorn, with this thorn and all those unanswered prayers and he heard at the bottom of the darkness the rest of the answer:

“My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Strength made perfect in weakness. Such is the mystery of the gospel and the mystery of grace. God’s strength is poured into our weakness, His grace flows into the hollow places of our lives.

III

The first text, Emerson, the second text, II Corinthians, the third text is the lives we have observed which give witness to this truth. It has almost been without fail. A person has been a great help to us, ministering to us with wisdom and compassion. Only later we discover how much they have suffered in life. Where did they get their wisdom and compassion? Out of their suffering.

The young man suffered a business failure. Years later he tells of the good it has worked in his life, a good he could not have seen at the time.

With all of us, it is our strengths that bring us success, and those same strengths trip us up. It is from the failures of our strengths that we learn our weakness, and from our weakness learn a truer strength.

The 12-step movement has been witness to this truth of the gospel. Meeting in church basements across America, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have often been more “church” than what happens upstairs. They’ve discovered the door to healing in that moment when they say finally, “Over this I am powerless,” and they call upon a Higher Power.

What they teach us is that to this point, whatever our weakness, all our efforts to get strong enough, smart enough, disciplined enough have failed. Ironically the harder you have fought your difficulty, the fiercer its power has become. Finally you admit that over this you have no power and you call upon God.

This is befriending your weakness. When you befriend your weakness you admit it may be with you always, and you learn to live with it day by day as friend, not enemy.

When you befriend your weakness you join the human race. This weakness is your doorway into your true humanity. Before, you pretended to be somehow different, better than most. We have this ideal illusionary self, a pretend self, and its pressed-down twin, our disinherited self.

God wants to love your real self, with all its strengths and weaknesses. If God can befriend your weakness, why can’t you?

When you befriend your weakness you for the first time take responsibility for it. You may have denied your weakness; or you may have said: That which I have no control over, I have no responsibility for. These are dangerous, illusionary, self-destructive paths. To this point all our efforts to get strong enough, smart enough, powerful enough to get control of the problem has failed. Ironically, the harder you have fought it, the fiercer its power has become. Finally you admit you have no power and call on God’s power. This is befriending your weakness.

When you befriend your weakness you join the human race, a human broken race dearly loved by God, and admit your brokenness. When you face this truth you discover community, for we all are broken in some way. It is our strengths and pride which separate us; it is our common brokenness that unites us.

When you befriend your weakness you let God’s grace be your sufficiency, both for pardon and for power. You begin to let God’s strength work in your weakness. The following story is told of a certain Baptist pastor in Virginia:

“One day a badly intoxicated man staggered up to the pastor on the street and announced, “. . . I’m one of your converts.” The pastor replied, “Well I’m not surprised. You look about like one of my converts. Next time, let’s let the Lord do it.”

Befriending your weakness is calling on a Power beyond you.

When you befriend your weakness you, for the first time, become — responsible in your weakness. You’ve fought your weakness as an enemy. That has only made your enemy stronger. You may have given in to the weakness and said, “That which no control over I have no responsibility for.” Dangerous logic. We are a responsible self in our powerlessness as well as in out power.

To be responsible in your weakness is to accept your weakness as part of your humanity loved by God and learn to live happily and at peace and responsibly in your powerlessness.

I do not know where your broken places are, but everyone has those places. And these broken places would be our deepest community; and they would be our best opportunity to experience the grace of God. Is it possible, asks the poet David Bottoms, to fall “toward grace?” It is not only possible, it is the gospel story.

My grace is sufficient, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

IV

Famous lives have become testimony to this truth. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s mental breakdown, Helen Keller’s blindness and deafness, Flannery O’Connor whose illness with lupus forced her back home to Georgia to live with her mother, but whose best fiction was written in the country of her affliction.

How about Stephen Hawking, the world’s greatest theoretical physicist, who teaches in the chair of physics at Cambridge which Sir Isaac Newton once filled. He is widely known as the smartest man in physics since Einstein. His book, “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” is a phenomenon, a physics book that became a best seller. What’s more amazing is that he has Lou Gehrig’s disease and can now move only one thumb. He gets around in a motorized wheelchair and talks and writes through a portable computer he has designed.

Hawking can speak only through that computer and can write only 10 words a minute, but he has made some of the greatest contributions to science since Einstein and is on his way to making the next great contribution in our generation. It was the onset of the illness itself which pushed him from being a brilliant prodigy with great promise into being the leading scientist of his generation. He says of his life: “Science is a very good area for disabled people because it is mainly the mind.” Befriending your weakness.

Those are the famous examples, but I’m just as stunned by the witness of hundreds of people in every day life, out of the spotlight, who’ve befriended their illness and live with courage and skill and compassion in the face of a myriad of weaknesses: depression, handicap, physical suffering and loss.

The nurse who has suffered terrible mental pain who converts this suffering into compassionate service.

The teacher, herself abused as a child, went to seminary to become a missionary, but now follows God’s calling as an excellent elementary school teacher.

The recovering alcoholic, a physician who now lives as a wounded healer, helping others befriend their weakness and receive and receive the healing graces of God.

The single person devoting her life to hundreds of boys and girls.

The woman in the nursing home afflicted with time converting her long days to the love of those around her, to prayers and to great witness of faith to her family.

The man who has forged his loneliness into a life of service.

God can use your strength, but if that were all God had to work with He’d have precious little raw material. He also uses your weakness.

It is the broken earth that receives the seed, the broken seed that gives forth growth, the broken bread that gives life. And it is your own very weakness into which the grace of God is poured and from the broken vessel of your life poured forth into the world.

So, befriend your weakness, don’t fight it, or curse it, or ignore it, befriend it. That’s what Jesus has done as He came to this earth. He’s befriended our weakness, every weakness. He’s befriended the whole running, limping, laughing, weeping, broken and beautiful human race. And He invites you to join it today and discover as you do the mystery of the gospel — grace sufficient and strength made perfect in weakness. “For when I am weak,” Paul said, still stunned with the news, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Blessed be the name of the Lord, who came in lowliness and befriended our weakness, was Himself broken on a cross, and was raised to life to live with God and in us. Come, O Friend, help us to befriend ourselves that we might wonderingly say with the apostle, when I am weak, then I am strong. Amen.