A Little Oil and A Little Faith

“I never fry with oil. I use broth or a little water.” My girlfriend recently declared war against her bathroom scale and her growing wardrobe, growing in size that is, from an 8 to a 12. She had it with the disappointing reflection in her mirror, with her decreasing health and declining feeling of wellbeing, and she was sharing with me one of her secrets to her success: no more oil.

Imagine a tablespoon of oil. Now imagine a tablespoon of oil in a fry pan and compare it to the amount we really use. Imagine a tablespoon of salad dressing. Now compare that to the amount we use on our salads. Most likely what we actually use is more like two tablespoons, maybe even three. Oil is calorie dense and one of the most likely contributors to our increasing weight gain. Get rid of the oil and lose weight, gain health, and feel better.

Cuisines across all nations use oil. I recently experimented with a cookie recipe using teff flour, a North African cereal grain, and a half a cup of oil, among other ingredients. I just wanted the benefit of the calcium in the teff flour so I left out the sugar but I never considered the oil. The recipe turned out nicely and I started eating it for breakfast. After a few days, I noticed I had gained weight and, knowing the only thing I changed in my diet was the teff flour recipe, I realized that the oil in it was the most likely culprit.

Like salt, oil can enhance the flavors in a recipe. Oil is also one of the tools used to enhance the flavors in processed foods. The more oil, the more taste and the more fat. Dr. Furhman has a neat little diagram of a stomach filled with 400 calories of oil compared with 400 calories of greens and vegetables. The difference is striking as the stomach is quite empty on 400 calories of oil, while quite full with 400 calories of vegetables. The point is that we are still hungry after eating 400 calories of oil because our stomach are still empty, while they are completely full after eating 400 calories of greens and vegetables.

Oil is rich and eating fried or oil-laden foods causes us to overeat. Too much of this type of eating can sicken us, give us stomach aches, and over a period of a lifetime, create some pretty serious illnesses for our heart and arteries. Oil is fat and though some are more healthful than others, a little oil goes a long way. Think one tablespoon; not three.

A little faith can go a long way too. Faith, like oil, enhances the flavors in life. But how do we begin to have faith in our scientific world? People often scoff at religion for its fairytale-like stories of miracles and heaven where angels sing in the clouds. How do we take the historical Jesus seriously? Just wondering if he really existed has stumped some folks. However, virtually all historians agree that he did exist. The historical events in the New Testament line up with other historical texts, and references to Jesus can be found in texts other than the Bible. Making the assumption that Jesus actually lived is not much of a leap. A lot of experts agree that he did walk the earth once upon a time.

But what a walk. Accounts of Jesus in the Bible have him walking on water, feeding thousands with only a couple of loaves of bread and two fish, and even raising people from the dead. And healing? It seems like that’s all Jesus did wherever he went. Is believing all that accredited to faith?

I’d say faith begins with believing that Jesus lived and then died specifically as a sacrifice for sinful man. That’s not much of a leap either since crucifixion in Roman times was a common punishment for crimes, and in Jesus’ case, for blasphemy–claiming to be God.

So imagine Jesus who was a good man by anyone’s standards, letting himself be punished for crimes he did not commit, the crime of hatred toward him, and declaring right up to the end that he was dying for the very folks who were killing him. Now imagine Jesus embodied the soul of God who willingly endured a physically cruel and ultimately fatal punishment to save us from an equally cruel and fatal spiritual punishment so that He could love us forever, even while we were hating him. Going from the first image to the second is the first leap of faith, a fairly large one because it requires the acknowledgement that we are prone to evil and deserve punishment.

The belief that the historical death of Jesus met all the requirements for God’s justice against the evil in this world will flavor our lives with joy and comfort because we can approach God in peace and speak to Him as our own dear Father. Acting out that tiny bit of faith does enormous things to our lives, but getting there requires a good look in the mirror.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:10-11

Processed Foods and the Grace Gap

chipsProcessed foods are located in the center aisles of most grocery stores. Giving up processed foods is easily done by not shopping in the center aisles. Usually the produce is up front, the dairy on the side, with the fish, meat and chicken along the back wall. Everywhere else belongs to processed foods.

The most valuable space in food stores is the produce section and it is usually wide open and accessible as soon as we walk into the store. However, some processed food companies have found their way into it. These are items like salad toppings, packaged mixes that use fresh produce, caramelized mix for apples, shortcakes for berry desserts, vegetable chips and crackers, dried fruit snacks like apple chips, and dried fruit that has been processed with a coating of sugar. The trick is to see these interlopers for what they are: escapees from the center aisles, and spend time picking the fresh produce that will earn us good health. Once we get used to eating fresh produce, we won’t want to venture into those dark and salty aisles in the middle of the store, and the processed foods displayed in the produce section will look like the counterfeit foods that they are.

Except for one or two items that no matter how hard we try, we cannot resist. Potato chips are described as the perfect processed food in Michael Moss’ book, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. That is because they are wholly and perfectly combined with salt, fat, and sugar, the three key ingredients that are kings in the processed food industry. The sugar in a potato chip comes from the potato starch, with the salt added and the chip cooked in fat until it reaches a perfect state of crunch. Cheetos, Doritos, Chex Mix, etc., have all been manufactured to give a perfect taste sensation, utilizing all the taste buds in our mouth and throat. It is no wonder that they are so hard to give up.

In our spiritual lives we have much the same condition. We have an open path to God through Jesus Christ, just like we have an open path to the produce section. Communication with Him provides amazing powers of spiritual health and contentment. However, we all have stumbling blocks that keep us from centering wholly on God. Through scripture and prayer, God reveals to us these habits, practices, and thought patterns that separate us from Him. When once we overcome one, He reveals another or an old one crops up, and we find that we are always struggling with something because He is transforming us to His own perfection and holiness.

In Carol Kuykendall’s video, Our Story, a woman describes her Grace Gap. This is a place where we stand now in our sin–be it a menacing thought pattern, a worldly distraction, or a soul-binding habit–and the place where we want to be free from it and its temptation. That little area is the Grace Gap and holds the hope of a future new you. It is where our loving Christ’s spirit dwells in us. The Holy Spirit of Christ dwells in our longing for freedom and in our soul-wrenching repentance. He is calling us ahead, cheering us on to “Let go and let God”. Serve Him there, where it is a mighty struggle because in our struggles we find that He is a powerful force that can fill us with joy that comes only from knowing Him in those trenches. This is where He disciplines us and we know that He loves us because of it. So do not despair; we are in the Grace Gap.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness…” and “for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 and Hebrews 12:6