When Loss Is a Gain

A couple of days ago, my scale said I weighed 190 pounds. I have been trying to get to that weight for months now–my goal when I started out at 238 in September 2011.

Of course, my weight did not stay at 190; it was up at 192 this morning. That is how it goes.

But the truth is that once I consistently weighed 195 or less I was pretty sure I could go the rest of the way. And I am pretty confident that I will get to 190 as my new base weight.

Not me, but what has been happening (I am not quite to the right image yet!)

I would expect this loss to make me jump for joy. I am pleased, yes, but not ecstatic. I almost forgot to tell Jonathan. What’s going on here?

After some thought, I think I know what’s happening.

I was ecstatic when I broke 200. That was a big deal. Even getting to 195 was pretty big.

But now, I know getting there is possible–I could probably go to 185, although I doubt I will. So it does not feel like such earth shattering news. Ho hum,that’s good, I weigh 190.

Besides, losing the weight was only one part of my plan to be more healthy and to change my life in some pretty significant ways. Now I need to get going on other fronts. For one thing, now I need to tone up my muscles. Thanks to going off wheat a few months ago, my “spare tire” around my middle is shrinking. But I need to tighten it with sit ups (ugh). That’s one example, but there are more muscles than that needing a tune up.

Even more importantly, I need to spend more time sleeping, and time working in my yard and garden, and reading. My soul needs some attention, too.

So I am happy to see 190 not far off, and I am sure I will arrive in that promised land. But the big news is not the weight so much as the knowledge I now have about what it takes to eat right to keep the weight from returning.

Even bigger than that is the reality that I have a changed relationship with food.

That is the biggest gain from losing the weight. It is not the weight loss so much as it is a new way of eating, a new way to relate to food. That is the big news here. Food and I are friends now, in a truly mutual relationship. I use food to fuel my body and my brain, not to bury my feelings or to bribe myself or reward myself.

That means the number is not so important as the relationship. Besides, I can’t measure the strength of a relationship on a scale exactly, but I do know that 190, or 195, or 200, all signal the same thing: food and I are no longer in a dysfunctional relationship.

And that loss is a huge gain.

The Ten What?

Some of us are spending time with the Ten Commandments.

No, I haven’t joined one of those groups that insist that the contents of Moses’ tablets (or at least their version of them) be posted on the courthouse or statehouse wall. Instead, we are just digging into each one to learn more from each other about what they mean for us today.

Each week, some folks at our church gather for Living Wednesdays, a time of short worship and then a discussion of a film or other topic. We started a few weeks ago focusing our worship on the commandments, one by one.

The first thing we discussed is the fact that Jewish scholars claim they are more like statements than laws.They are not intended to be rules for which violations earn punishment so much as they are intended to let people know how God wants to be in relationship with people–sort of like the ground rules couples make to insure they make it through tough times. This puts a different cast on how they are used.

So many of the people who want to tack them up in public places seem to want them there as a way to force people to behave a certain way. Or to draw a line between them and other folks (“We follow the Ten Commandments and they are heathens because they don’t”). Or at least to claim that these “rules” are the basis of our civil society (which is not true, despite their desire that it be so).

We just finished #3, the short version being, “You shall not take God’s name in vain.”

For about 15-20 minutes we shared perspectives. It was instructive. We all admitted that in our youth we were taught this meant not to use curses that involved God.

But now we understand that taking God’s name in vain has many meanings. One person said she thinks that people who use God to oppress other people is a way of taking God’s name in vain. Another person wondered if the American habit that claims that God blesses America, and by implication does not bless other nations, is taking God’s name in vain. Who are we to presume that we are God’s favorites–when we so fervently believe others are not?

This is related to our assumption as individuals that what we like, what we think is important, what we value, is what God likes and values. We then got into a bit of joking about what it would feel like to others if we transferred this to another person. One person joked that instead of using the term “OMG” (O My God) we used “OMK” (O My Kim or Kevin), or “OMR” (O My Robin or Rose). How would that feel? Maybe, someone said, this is just about treating God with honor and respect.

We also looked at Psalm 127 (and listened to Ian White sing the first part of the Psalm–click on the link to listen to this lively rendition), which begins, “Unless God builds the house, the builders labor in vain. If God doesn’t guard the city, the sentries watch in vain.” This connected us with the idea that to undertake our lives without God, while claiming we are people of God, is to take God’s name in vain. We can’t do life without God. To pretend we can is to deny and to denigrate God’s name. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKJZFY4Gl5E&playnext=1&list=PL0F8A6A8538C8683C&feature=results_video

All of this was very rich, and opens many more possibilities. We talked only for a short time, but so much wisdom was shared. God clearly was in the room, and animating the hearts and minds of those who were present.

Moses came down off the mountain, and started something so much bigger than he could ever imagine; it still reverberates today. That is the God-sized blessing in these Ten Statements.

Not that we bow down to them, but that we stay in relationship–a living relationship–with them and with the God who shares them.


This Blog Is Not Sponsored by Anyone

The latest example of a powerful trend in American life has happened right here in Richmond, VA. The Landmark Theater, formerly the Mosque, will soon be The Altria Theater.

The renaming is only costing the corporate giant $10 million. It seems to be a good deal for all: big bucks toward reaching a goal of $50 million to renovate the local icon and a chance for the corporation to remind all of us of its largesse for worthy community projects.

Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams reminds us that much of that money comes from tobacco, and thus our beautiful theater will now be funded in part on the deaths of many people from lung disease. (See tdmet01-michael-paul-williams-renaming-landmark-th-ar-2061897) That may be why the theater management was quick to say that there would be no advertising for Altria products. [For the record, Altria provides financial support, and leadership, for many important community projects. Also, of course, the various companies within the giant make products other than tobacco ones.]

But I am less concerned about any of that today than what I think is a broader trend in our society.

Everything is for sale.

Michael Paul Williams

Surely, our politics are now open to the highest bidder–thanks, in part, to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. And now seven states allow corporate advertising on the sides of school buses. Pete Rose, the banished former baseball hero, sells memorabilia of his disgrace–$500 gets you an autographed copy of the document casting him out–on his web site. Don’t want to stand in line at airport security? No problem. Just join a special club by paying the airline of your choice more money.

Sure, the difference between the rich and the rest of us is that the rich have more money. No news there.

But does it seem to you, as it does to me, that “the market” is now running everything? You hear the mantra all the time these days. Got a social problem you want solved? Find a market-based solution.

Thomas Friedman

Don’t get me wrong. I agree with Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist who wrote on this topic recently (see friedman-this-column-is-not-sponsored-by-anyone.html?_r=1 ). He said, “the market is a tool–a valuable and effective tool–for organizing productive activity.” Amen.

But it can’t do everything. We can’t turn all our moral decision-making over to market forces. Profit for investors cannot be the only benchmark we use to solve our common problems.

Markets are by nature selective–casting aside that which does not make an adequate return on investment. That is how they work, in order to produce profit.

That may be why we have 50 million or so Americans without health insurance. Some of them–the young mostly, who think they are invincible–don’t want to buy; but quite a few others simply can’t afford the cost, or the insurance market thinks the risk they pose to profit is too high.

Is that the best way to make sure we all are healthy? Is it not a social good that every one in our country have reasonably good health care?  Does that not make a stronger society?

Does that not help our ability to compete in global markets? Sometimes, you see, we have to pitch together to make sure we all get our baseline needs met. And, voila! there are economic benefits from that. The profit comes in not being governed by short-term profit, but seeing the big picture.

Maybe the day will come when Altria will ask for naming rights for healthy individuals–paying people to wear, every day, a sweatshirt or t-shirt that reads, “This space, and my heart, belongs to Altria, because they helped me stop smoking.”

Just for the record, this blog is not sponsored by anyone . . . yet. The way things are going, though, you never know.

Tourism at Home

Last Friday and Saturday, Jonathan and I did something we wish we had done long before: we actually walked around parts of downtown Richmond. 

It was his birthday celebration (actual date, June 18 but harder for us to celebrate on Monday), and we began by checking in our room at the Linden Row Inn on Franklin at First Street. This historic row of houses is loving restored and filled with charm.

Then, we walked a couple of blocks to the Elegba Folklore Society on Broad Street–it was the beginning of Juneteenth celebrations, and we were privileged to hear most of a talk by noted Richmond (and nationally known) attorney and left wing social activist, Mary E. Blevins Cox. She was in rare form and we had a great time. I, of course, bought her book.

From there, we began a food-focused journey. For dinner, we walked downtown, passing by the front of Virginia’s beautiful capitol, and went to Addis Ethiopian Restaurant on 17th Street in Shockoe Bottom. We went there for several reasons. First, we truly enjoy Ethiopian food, especially using injera, the larger sourdough-like flatbread, as our fork and spoon. Second, the owner very kindly had furnished some of his excellent food for a program at church some weeks ago. He was a very sweet man then, and he greeted us warmly this night. It was an excellent meal and we had a grand time.

Jonathan had his heart set on a piece of chocolate cake at Captain Buzzy’s Beanery so we climbed Church Hill to 27th Street, only to learn that we had stayed so long at the folklore society and dinner that the good captain had called it a night. So, he had to settle for some chocolate ganache at the River City Diner, back on 17th Street. It was tough luck, but somehow he managed to eat it all (and I ate my blackberry cobbler a la mode, too).

Saturday morning brought the true dilemma. Where to eat the pancakes Jonathan wanted–without meat of course. Everywhere we turned–Strawberry Street and Can Can, for example–pancakes are linked with meat. It bothered him, so we kept looking. And lo and behold, the Galaxy Diner on Cary Street offered some “black hole pancakes” that fit the bill perfectly. What are these diet-busting creations? An Oreo is cooked in the center, and they are topped with strawberry “goo” (the waitress’ term) and whipped cream. Just what the doctor (Dr. Jonathan Lebolt, that is) ordered.

We then waddled home (by car) and picked up Cocoa to go for a hike around the old reservoir near Byrd Park, and took Cocoa to the “Dog Bark” there. While at the reservoir, we met locally famous city park ranger Ralph White and he arranged for us to receive a tour of the old hydroelectric power plant now being restored by volunteers (as a place to hold dances and parties).

Dinner? Chinese delivered from one of our favorites, on our side of the river, Cathay Chinese Gourmet.

A big celebration! And a demonstration of why we like Richmond so much, why Richmond is home for us. Truly a great city. Culture. Food. History. Beauty.

A great place to celebrate birthdays!