"Welcome to Duloc, such a perfect town
Here we have some rules, let us lay them down
Don't make waves, stay in line
And we'll get along fine
Duloc is a perfect place
Keep your feet off the grass
Shine your shoes, wipe your...face
Duloc is, Duloc is
Duloc is a perfect place"
Do you remember this scene from Shrek? The little singing dolls welcoming Shrek and donkey to the perfect land of Duloc. Shrek and Donkey's face after hearing the ridiculous song. I remember laughing my, well "...face" off the first time I heard it. I think the funniest jokes are the ones that have a ring of truth to them. And "under all those layers" of humor and laughter, there is a very good moral to the movie - a lesson that the church desperately needs.
In Shrek, Lord Farquaad (the ruler of Duloc) has rounded up all the fairytale creatures and banished them. His reasoning is that the "fairytale trash" is "poisoning his perfect world." He lays down the rules for Duloc, the perfect place... The bottom line is that those who don't look like him, act like him, and validate his opinions are not welcome in his kingdom and are ostracized. We go through the movie and fall in love with Shrek and his misfit friends, all the while laughing at Farquaad's ignorance of his extreme short comings. We easily recognize who the good guys are as we watch Shrek. Unfortunately though, in our own lives, we are more prone to act just like Lord Farquaad.
We look around us and see fairytale creatures who don't fit our personal definition of what is acceptable and we exclude them. Instead of seeing beings created and loved by God, all we see are ogres. Your "ogre" could be anyone. It may be a person with an emotional or physical disability, the homeless, a college student who wears dreads and smells of patchouli, a transgender individual, a lady with gold teeth and rings on every finger, an ex-convict, a co-worker whose favorite 4-letter word starts with 'F,' someone with a loud or quirky personality, a person who is overweight, a biker with a long beard and tattoos... the list could go on and on. Because of stereotypes and our own cultural lens, we quickly judge people by their appearance and/or lifestyle and ostracize them.
This is a problem that begins on a personal level and, because the church is comprised of many individuals, it becomes a church wide issue. I think most of us have heard sermons about how the church needs to be a welcoming place - a place where everyone has free access to love and grace. We nod our heads and say "Amen," while failing to see that WE (myself included) are the problem. We tell our fellow Christians that "the church needs to...." (you fill in the blank) but forget that WE ARE THE CHURCH. If we truly want the church to be a warm and welcoming place, then WE have to share God's love on a personal level. God doesn't call us to tolerate and be friendly with people, He calls us to love sacrificially and without judgement. So what's stopping us, church?
I think that Pride is the root of most of our problems, and this issue is no exception.
I want to describe two people to you, both of whom are Christians. (For the record, these two examples do not represent any specific individuals but rather are compiled from many people I've known over the years.)
She is middle aged always wears a dress and heels and looks her best. She's been a part of the church for as long as she can remember. She rarely misses Sunday school or church and participates in a Bible study with other Christian women weekly. She watches Christian networks and rarely anything above a PG rating. Cussing and alcohol is not acceptable and rock-n-roll music is sinful. She considers herself to be a good, moral person and occasionally goes above and beyond to help others. Every year around Christmas, she serves in the soup kitchen and, whenever the opportunity arises, she puts a little extra in the offering plate for special missionary projects. She has a nice, quiet life surrounded by good Christian friends, Christian books, and Christian music.
She is a young, single mother. She tends to wear shirts that are low-cut and jeans that are form-fitting. She lives with her boyfriend who is not her child's father. She wants to move out of his place, but doesn't have anywhere else to go. She attends church whenever she is not working to earn minimum wage. She drinks occasionally and struggles with an addiction to nicotine. Hang around her in a casual setting and you are likely to hear a few swear words slip out. She has several tattoos and enjoys punk and Indy music. She also frequently drives to the area of town where she can find the homeless living under the bridge and passes out food. On the Sundays that she can make it to church, she volunteers to work with the special needs' ministry. She loves volunteering so much that she sacrifices earning money she desperately needs by requesting a Sunday off from work so that she can. She is struggling to make it financially, but her love of people drives her to share what she does have.
Now, I ask you, which of these two individuals is more accurately demonstrating Christ's love?
In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus compares a the prayer of a Pharisee and that of a tax collector (considered the scum of the earth by the Jews of Jesus' day). This is the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector:
"He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.'
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Too often, I behave like individual 1. I get comfortable in my environment, feel good about walking the moral high-ground, and pat myself on the back for doing some good works. As a result, I've been the loud mouthed Pharisee more times than I care to admit. However, as I've grown in my Christian walk and have met more people like individual 2, I have been humbled over and over again. This person, whom I have judged for the way they dress or act is more accurately demonstrating God's love than I am. I have exalted myself with a puffed up, "I am more righteous than they attitude" and, in my pride, have missed out on building valuable relationships and getting to know the people that God loves. In the past, I've thought that I should invite people to become more like me. But as I've grown as a Christian, I realize that I have a lot to learn from the tax collectors.
I think many of us have been too "churched." We've worn our Sunday best for so long that we've lost the authenticity of our faith. What separates the Christian faith from so many others is grace. You don't have to have it all together to have a relationship with God. It doesn't matter what your social class, race, or lifestyle is... God's grace is for everyone! But we have muddled it all up. We expect people to come to church in their best dress and with their best behavior because it's where people who have it all together go to meet. But a church like this, is not Christ's church. I get wrapped up in behavior and appearances when I should be wrapped in the Father's accepting embrace and inviting others to join in.
I am so grateful that Jesus Christ is my Lord and that I am not ruled by a Lord Farquaad. God calls imperfect people to be in relationship with Him and He chooses the most unlikely characters to be a part of His story. 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 says, "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen." This is evident over and over again in the Bible. He called Moses (a man slow of speech and slow of tongue) to be his mouthpiece, David (a poor shepherd boy) to be a king, Matthew (a tax collector - considered scum by the Jews in Jesus' day) to be a disciple, and Paul (a pharisee among pharisees who was imprisoning and killing Christians with zeal) to become the greatest witness for Christ and write 2/3 of the New Testament. If these people were invited to be a part of God's story, is anyone excluded from his love and grace? What right have we to chose who is worthy to be a part of our lives and our church when the Bible is so clear that the invitation is open to everyone?
On most Sundays, I look at my church's leaders and feel hopeful. Our pastor preaches in jeans, a group of our elders love their motorcycles and drive them to church, and our worship leader has a tattoo, an earring and a heart for God. These are really small things that get me excited. I love that the church is moving away from an attitude of "wearing your Sunday best" and towards a "come as you are" mentality. But our church leaders can only do so much... As the church body, it is our responsibility to transform our church culture. At some point, we need to stop welcoming people to the kingdom of Duloc - a perfect place reserved for perfect people. And we need to start inviting people to be a part of the kingdom of God - where imperfect people are loved by a perfect king.
When I came home from the hospital after giving birth to my second daughter, I weighed 185 pounds. That may not sound terrible, but that's a lot of weight on my 5'4" (rounding up my height here) frame. I tried to give myself some grace, but I was a little bummed about my weight because my 30th birthday was only 9 months away. I know 30 is just a number, but I wanted to leave my 20's on a high note and set a precedent for how I planned to live life in my 30's and beyond. So I got determined and set a lofty goal. I wanted to weigh 135 - the weight I was on my wedding day 6 years ago.
Recovering from a C-section meant that I would have to rely solely on diet to get the ball rolling. Honestly, it was pretty easy to lose weight to begin with. I was feeling nauseous almost 24/7 (it turns out I had a gluten allergy to thank for this) and having a newborn and a 3 year old kept me so busy I barely had time to think, let alone eat. So I wasn't consuming many calories and the pounds started to come off. But after about 20 pounds of weight lost, everything started to slow down... a lot.
Is there a number that taunts you? You try to lose weight, you succeed in losing 5 or 10 pounds, but you just can't break the barrier of that one number. My number has been 150. Over the years, I've been able to reach this point and every time I get close, the brakes slam. Even with exercise, I couldn't get past this point. This was true, once again for me losing my post-pregnancy weight. The first 20 pounds were pretty easy to lose. Once I got to 160 it became more difficult. As I approached 150, I could feel my body the hitting the breaks again.
I was doing research, trying to find a way to break the 150 barrier when I checked out the book "The Maker's Diet for Weight Loss." I didn't read much past the first chapter, but Jordan Rubin made a few points that altered my perception of what healthy looks like. He had a chart that indicated your ideal weight based on height and body build. After taking a couple of measurements, I looked at the chart and found my healthy, ideal weight. Then I took my measurements again because I thought to myself, 'That just can't be right!' According to the chart, my ideal weight is somewhere between 125 and 130. But the last time I weighed 125 or less was in high school as a soccer player!
I thought to myself, he couldn't possibly be suggesting that I should weigh that little. I can't even break 150! There's no way I can get to 130, let alone 125! Besides, at 150 pounds, I'm thinner than most people. I'm not really overweight... Honestly, I was getting defensive reading the book because I have never accepted the fact that (for me) 150 is overweight. Watching shows like the biggest loser makes 150 seem small. And while the rest of the U.S. is getting bigger, I was feeling like one of the skinny ones. But the truth was, at 150 pounds, I was overweight. My cultural perception of what is a healthy weight was obstructing my view of what was possible. In order to succeed, I had to first BELIEVE that my weight loss goal was possible.
Jordan Rubin was right, you have to take your height and body frame into account when deciding what is healthy for you. I had to come to terms with the fact that I am a petite woman and I can't eat the same amount as my 6'4" husband and expect to lose weight. It dawned on me that maybe I can't break the 150 barrier because I eat like someone who is maintaining a weight of 150.
Once, you determine your target healthy weight, you'll find that there are some great tools online to help you reach your goal. This is the calculator I used to help me determine my daily caloric needs to reach my target weight. Once I entered my information, I was told that I should consume about 1,300 calories a day. I was probably consuming closer to 2,000 at the time, so this was a significant cut in calories for me.
I'm not good about counting or tracking things, so I had to approach my diet a little differently. Processed foods have so many calories and leave you feeling hungry. Something seemingly healthy (like an energy bar) is loaded with calories! If I wanted to reach my goal and not feel like I'm starving, then I had to start eating the right foods. For example, an apple will fill you up and keep you full a long time but it only costs you 100 calories. Whereas 100 calories spent on one of those puny 100 calorie snack packs will leave you scavenging for more food. So, I stopped counting calories and started focusing on eating the right things.
I also began to take away food's power by waiting to eat breakfast until around 11:00. While maintaining my weight of 150, I would eat breakfast (something easy, like cereal) first thing at 7:00 and find myself hungry again at 10:00. What I've found is that if I drink water first thing in the morning, I'm not really hungry. Now, I wait until 9:00 and I drink half a serving of Keifer yogurt as a snack. This provides me with enough protein and sugar to feel good and I can hold off eating for another couple of hours.
I don't end up eating "breakfast" until around 11:00 and it consists of something very filling, but healthy. My favorite meal is peanut butter and a sliced apple on top a gluten-free waffle. Now 11:00, I'm feeling full and I've only consumed about 450 calories. At this point in the day, I'll treat myself to a cup of coffee (I've recently discovered that drinking coffee before eating breakfast makes me feel very jittery and edgy).
Because I'm eating so late in the day, I'm not usually hungry again until around 2:30. At this time, I'll eat something like a cheese stick, another piece of fruit, and a few slices of lunch meat (I can't have the bread with a gluten allergy). So now, it's almost 3:00 and I've only consumed approximately 750 calories. That sounds like nothing, but there is a good reason I eat light throughout the day. I know my favorite meal is coming up... Dinner!!
I've learned to limit myself to one plate of food at dinnertime, but it is a good portion and I enjoy that plate of food! Nothing beats a hot meal, in my opinion. So I save my calories all day so that I don't have to pinch calories at dinner.
After the kids are in bed, Danny and I typically I enjoy some chocolate milk as a desert, and that's my day! This has been my weight loss program. And it's based on one simple rule:
INPUT > OUTPUT = WEIGHT GAIN
INPUT = OUTPUT = WEIGHT MAINTENANCE
INPUT < OUTPUT = WEIGHT LOSS
So did following this simple formula work? Well, I didn't quite make my goal, but I came pretty darn close! On my 30th birthday, I weighed 139 pounds. I lost 46 pounds and 25% of my body weight in just 9 months!! I am so elated and encouraged. The crazy part is that I hit some road bumps along the way and haven't been able to work out. So, thus far, my weight loss has been completely the result of diet changes.
Stage two of my plan involves incorporating exercise and toning up. My calorie needs will increase as I incorporate exercise and I'll have to make some adjustments, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had faith that my goal was possible, and now I KNOW it is.
I'm not where I want to be, but praise God I'm not where I used to be, and everyday I'm closer to being the woman God has created me to be!
Here are my before and after pictures together. I definitely encourage anyone working on losing weight to do a before picture! You don't realize how far you've truly come until you get to see both pictures next to each other...
Dumbo ambles over to the group of other elephants. He was just separated from his mother and is looking for some company. "Pretend you don't see him," one of the elephants says as they all turn their backs on him. Dejected and hurt, Dumbo turns to leave. However, an observant little circus mouse named Timothy sees this exchange and springs into action. "Poor little guy," he says. "Look at that, not a friend in the world." Outraged at the elephants' cruelty, he responds, "I'll do something about this!"
And so the story continues. Timothy becomes Dumbo's friend and stands up for him and defends him over and over again as Dumbo is picked on by elephants, humiliated by clowns, and laughed at by crows, just because he has big ears. Through thick and thin, Timothy remains. Not only does he defend Dumbo, he sees the beauty where others do not. The same ears that others think are big and "dumb," he tells Dumbo are beautiful. He sees and nurtures Dumbo's potential. The ears that everyone called him a "freak" and "the laughing stock of the circus" for, the ears that made him different, those same ears end up making him famous - the world's only flying elephant! Dumbo is reunited with his mother and they live happily ever after!
This is a beautiful story of true friendship, and has a wonderful ending. But it makes me wonder, how would this story have played out if it had not been for our true hero - Timothy the circus mouse?
The sad truth is, I think we see this story end differently everyday because there are so very few Timothys in our world.
Unfortunately, bullying and cruelty is just a part of this fallen world. We can be overly idealistic and think that by holding pep rallies against bullying that we will put a stop to it. But the fact is that it has always existed and always will. And a lesson, pep rally, or raising awareness is not going to end it. So what do we do? How do we protect our kids from being bullied and prevent them from being bullies themselves? Even at the young age of three, my daughter has already had experiences where she has been excluded from a group and has been physically bullied. On the flip side, I have frequently had to put her in timeout for pushing her little sister over or snatching toys and we are working (both of us) on using a nice tone of voice. Teasing, pushing, shoving, dominating a smaller or younger child... it just all starts so young! So, what do we as parents/care givers do? Here are some practical examples of how lessons on being kind play out in our household:
I believe we need to teach our kids at a very early age to stand up for the bullied, the rejected, and the ostracized. We need to realize that to simply see an injustice take place and say "that's too bad," is not enough - that to be an onlooker is to be as guilty as an offender. We need to own up to our responsibility to raise our children to "love others as themselves" and work hard to see that happens. Because the world needs more Timothy mouses.
Disney: The Most Magical Place on Earth
Disney is touted as the "Most Magical Place on Earth." Before we finally decided to take our two princesses, I thought, 'This is going to be a disappointment. There is no way Disney is going to live up to the hype.' Man, was I wrong!