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Friday, February 22, 2013

How Ronald McDonald Killed My Happiness by Chris White



I am not overly health conscious.  I should be considering my age and family health history.  I do exercise regularly, practice deep breathing exercises for stress, and take a few supplements regularly, but I don’t spend a ton of energy on monitoring everything that goes in my mouth.  I once took a healthy cooking class from the Seventh Day Adventists.  The food was delicious.  The teachers were really, really old and had been eating this way for decades (of course I didn’t check their drivers licenses. They might have been in their 40’s and just looked really old).  But there was just too much emphasis on making things that aren’t meat and cheese, taste like meat and cheese.  It seems to me the healthier thing to do would be to lose your taste for meat and cheese or make your peace with it and just eat it with some moderation.  All this is prologue to the fact that when I turned 50 (3 years ago now), I made a decision that I really didn’t need to eat fast-food hamburgers anymore.  This was not a decision based on snobbery or nutritional self-righteousness, but rather the realistic assessment that I had probably eaten enough of them for a lifetime and they really aren’t very good for you so why keep going?  What was a mainstay for me years ago, has now become a very, very, occasional treat.

Enter the incident of two weeks ago.  It had been a couple of years since I had visited a McDonalds but I had my young grandsons with me for the day and wanted to give them a treat they enjoyed which clearly entailed a visit to the golden arches.  As they ran along to “McDonald’s Playland”, I went to the counter to order lunch for all of us.  And there it happened.  As I looked up at the beautiful backlit pictorial menu my eyes flashed with horror at a sight I had never encountered before: the calorie count for every item on the menu.  I knew this was coming someday and somewhere with Obamacare, but I figured it would only affect places like New York City where they love to regulate everything.  What I saw with the calorie count was that really almost nothing is a good or healthy choice at McDonalds.  Yes, I am aware they serve water and salads.  But the calorie count with the dressing isn’t a huge distance from a Big Mac sandwich.  But then again, as I would ask anyone, when you say “let’s go to McDonald’s” did you mean “Let’s go get a healthy salad?”  Only if you are a yoga instructor or anorexic.  C’mon.  McDonalds is about burgers, fries, and those oh-so-delicious fried apple pies.

As a Christian man, I do believe in the importance of truth, especially biblical truth, but all other truth as well.  I guess it is only right that we all know the real truth about the calories we eat so that when we step on the bathroom scale some morning we will no longer wonder how we added those last 10 pounds to the overall count.  But there is truth and such a thing as “d*mn truth” (an example of the latter is when your wife asks if their dress makes them look fat and you answer “yes” instead of “you know dear, that dress just doesn’t do your curves justice!”).  There are just times when you want to have some fun and be carefree and that includes what’s on the menu for lunch that day.  Having a calorie count inescapably emblazoned in front of your eyes as you order a milkshake (800 calories) seems inimical to fun and carefree.  Perhaps some day in the future we will discover that hamburgers and French fries are actually good for you and what was causing heart disease and obesity all along was worrying about it in the first place, not what you were eating when you were having fun with your grandkids.  For now, happy meals have grown a whole lot less happy as far as I’m concerned.

If you are curious about the reality of whence I speak visit: nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Grace of a Graceful Exit by Chris White




I certainly have no credentials as a “Vatican Watcher” but have long been a student of both the papacy and the Vatican for many years.  I do this from the perspective of my Protestant faith but would also quickly point out that while I do not subscribe to Roman Catholic dogma, I do know what it is and am neither offended or angry about it.  I simply don’t believe it.  The reason I study the papacy is because to not do so is to ignore the history of my Christian faith.  Protestantism was a reform movement within the Roman Catholic church which began in the late Middle Ages, thus there is a historic connection that must not be neglected.  With this as prologue, I was certainly shocked with the rest of the world to hear of Benedict XVI’s decision to step down from the papacy this month.  As the news media has pointed out this hasn’t happened much in the history of the church, but it is not unprecedented and it is perfectly legitimate according to the canon law (the rules) of the Roman Catholic church insofar as it is not being done under duress in some way.  This is why in the pope’s resignation letter he clearly stated he was doing this with full understanding of the gravity of the decision and with full freedom.  What I personally admire in his decision is the humility and the unselfish leadership this displays.  It is an uncommon man who admits his human frailty publicly much less gently lays down the reins of power that have been given him for life.  In the ecclesiastic world, there is no higher office this side of heaven, that exerts the kind of influence that the papacy does.  Benedict XVI is an incredibly brilliant man and he has been a clear and consistent voice in an age of moral confusion and dehumanization.  He would be perfectly justified in wanting to continue to use that influence until his death.  But he wants what is best for his flock even at the cost of his own power.  Perhaps part of his decision is the memory of the last years of John Paul II.  While it was comforting to have his presence, and his very public suffering was an example in itself to the dignity and value of all human life in every stage, JP2 could hardly have been doing much leading in those final years and when no one’s minding the store in an operation that big, you know there had to be some who were taking advantage.  Whether that had anything to do with B16’s decision earlier this week is less important than the legacy he will leave behind.  Benedict XVI served well but also shows the world that the only indispensable leader in the church is Jesus Christ.  Indeed, He must increase and we must always decrease.  May we all learn from this very public figure the grace of a graceful exit.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Let's Think Again About School Choice by Chris White




This morning I listened to an insightful interview regarding school choice in Oregon on our local talk-radio station.  The proposals and recommendations for reform are thoughtful and the need for reform bears out in simple numbers: the average cost for a public school student in Oregon is now $11K per year while private schools which generally offer the same or better education is $3-5K per year.  Add this to falling tax revenues due to a continuous recession and depressed home values and over $16B in unfunded liabilities to retired school teachers.  Obviously something will have to change, must change, if for no other reason than there will be no children in Oregon if people can’t afford to live and raise their families here.  And taxes figure into this at every level.  This is already happening in my part of the state where in nearby Ashland Oregon they have had to close two of their public schools because they simply don’t have enough children to fill them and are importing students from other districts, all the while the population of the city has been growing.  If young families can’t afford to live in a place, they won’t.  They’ll follow opportunity and options.
The idea of school choice makes sense.  This proposal for reform suggests that the public still fund education through taxes, but that the tax money follows the student rather than the school.  Instead of my taxes automatically going to the nearest school to address, they go into a pool that provides a voucher to school age children and their parents decide which school offers the best educational options for their child.  This might be a nearby grade school or it might be a religious school or a charter school or even home-schooling via a home-based curriculum or the internet.  In many cases this is going to take money out of the public system and give it to private schools but considering the fact that the parenting phase of a person’s life span is roughly 25-30 years, while the taxation phase of a person’s life extends an additional 50, most taxes a person pays towards education is to educate everyone else’s kids not their own.  It seems fairly equitable that during the parenting phase years, parents might have some options besides the school down the street.

While I’ve never been fond of the government controlling school curriculum (which is largely about social engineering through teaching relativistic values and secularism), I do think there does need to be a required core curriculum for all school options that centers on America’s history, form of government, and language.  While I know this statement should be more nuanced, what I am driving at is that every nation has a compelling interest in inculcating the values of citizenship in its young people.  This part of education should be the same for everyone no matter where they go to school.  Much of the rhetoric regarding today’s new immigrants is that they are not assimilating into the culture.  Such a curriculum in schools of all shapes would go a long way towards accomplishing this important goal as well.
I hope you’ll check out this web site: http://cascadepolicy.org

The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission by John Dickson





The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission is a well-kept one indeed: that evangelism is best done and most effective when ordinary Christians live out their faith in the context of the church and community.  I have read many books on evangelism through the years and I have noticed a couple of things they all share in common.  First of all they are usually written by successful evangelists who by gifting and temperament really know how to connect with people and ‘close the deal’.  I’ve known of few of these people and they are a tremendous encouragement to be around, but they are truly inimitable and often their suggestions for doing the work of evangelism are too.  If you are not confrontational or outgoing or a good conversationalist by nature you often find yourself feeling like you are wearing “Saul’s armor”: awkward and unnatural.  Enter John Dickson, an Australian evangelist who is quite gifted and passionate for souls, and yet quite sympathetic to the idea that most evangelistic programs are not a good fit with the average Christian.  What Dickson explains in the book is that there are many ways average Christians can be serious about evangelism without street preaching or cold calling people.  He presents many more thoughts in the book but I want to focus on three of them in this review.  First off is taking worship seriously and participating in it.  The entire impetus behind evangelism is that God is the creator and therefore all people rightly are His and should worship Him.  This being the case, setting the example for the world by being a worshipping community is a great witness.  When people who don’t yet know the Lord visit your church, they may not totally understand the service, but they will notice if the congregation is truly sincere in their faith and love of God in the worship.  Another idea that Dickson brings out is the apt or graceful answer.  What he means by this is that most of us are not going to have the time or opportunity to tell someone everything they should know about Jesus, but questions and statements about God are made all the time and we should be prepared to give a short reply that bears witness without being a complete information dump.  Finally Dickson points all of us to financial partnership with missionaries and evangelists as another means of seriously supporting evangelism.  This is not ‘hiring out’ our responsibility but rather recognizing that the best people to do this work are those who are gifted and we should get behind them with prayer and financial and emotional support that they are free to dedicate their service on a full-time basis.  This is a very encouraging book to read and as you go through it I suspect it will bring to remembrance the many circumstances, people, and things God used to draw you to Himself.  For it is a reminder to all of us that our lives are purposefully interwoven and that life’s connections are God’s most powerful tools for evangelism.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Review of The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer



I first read about A.W. Tozer in a book by Warren Wiersbe called Walking with Giants.  In Wiersbe’s book a whole cadre of great Christian preachers are profiled and lessons are drawn from their preaching methodology, personal ethics, and scholastic achievements.  What struck me about the profile of Tozer was that while he was known to be a very forthright and uncompromising preacher, it was his prayer life that was legendary.  Wiersbe relates a meeting he had with Tozer when he was a young minister newly planted in Chicago.  The two had agreed to meet on this beach near lake Michigan where they would spend some time in prayer.  Wiersbe showed up in his suit and dress shoes while Tozer wore a pair of coveralls.  After a brief interview and cordial words Tozer suggested they go to prayer and fell face down on the beach praying with great fervency and complete abandon.  Wiersbe never forgot that meeting and realized he was witnessing a man who believed in God and truly believed in the importance and efficacy of prayer.  Needless to say Tozer’s writing is also filled with great passion and devotion and a certain timelessness that comes from someone who really has heard from God.  Tozer wrote The Knowledge of the Holy  in 1961 (just two years before his death), but it’s message is so relevant to our times that it could have been written a couple of months ago.  The premise of the book is that the most important knowledge a human being can acquire is the knowledge of God, for in such knowledge lies greater peace and confidence that we are loved and that Someone really is in control of the universe.  Such knowledge also warrants our worship and obedience.  Knowledge of the Holy is a concise book which features a short chapter on all the known attributes of God.  Tozer doesn’t spill a lot of ink building a biblical case for each attribute but rather treats each one as a logical conclusion from scripture and then explains what it specifically means to the believer and the living out of their faith.  This book is theological but is definitely not a theology as much as it is a great devotional.  I would recommend this book as a primer on the subject of Theology proper.  I’ll close this with a quote from Anselm of Canterbury which Tozer cites in the book: “Up now, slight man!  Flee for a little while thy occupations; hide thyself for a time from thy disturbing thoughts.  Cast aside now thy burdensome cares, and put away thy toilsome business.  Yield room for some little time to God, and rest for a little time in Him.  Enter the inner chamber of thy mind: shut out all thoughts save that of God and such as can aid thee in seeking him.  Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek Thy face; Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” (P. 43).