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Sunday, March 31, 2013

"One Grain More" (aka Gluten Free Should Not Be Trendy)

Eating gluten free is getting a bad rap these days, in my opinion. Earlier this month a story came out in the media that 30% of adults are trying to eat gluten free. I mean, really? The articles quote some "expert" who says that "This is the health issue of the day." Ah, only in America, folks, with our first-world problems.

Now, when someone invites me over for dinner and asks if I have any "issues," or I'm on a consulting project and am asked what we should order in, it's hard not to feel ridiculous when I say I'm gluten-free. I secretly wish I could wear some little badge that makes the disclaimer that I'm not trying to be paleo or Atkins or whatever... (For a post from 2009 giving some of my reasons for eating gluten free, go here.)

But I will not play the martyr. I need to laugh at it along with everyone else. Enjoy this very funny video mocking the gluten free trend, titled "One Grain More."

I would not be gluten free if it did not make me feel a lot better, because it's not convenient or fun, especially when I travel. However, I have learned to work with it, and am now sort of enjoying the adventure of it. Now, when I'm heading out of town I google to find out where I can eat gluten free. Here are my top four so far:

Veggie Grill, which has several locations in the west (of course), serves some really good vegetarian and GF options. I went to one in Seattle during a recent work project, had some mac and cheese made with quinoa pasta that was terrific.

Risotteria in NYC. Probably my favorite so far. They serve you GF breadsticks when you sit down, and those are things you realize how much you miss when you finally get to have them! I let myself eat whatever sounded good: beer, sandwich, salad, dessert... because all of it was gluten free. It's my happy place these days when I am daydreaming...

Flappy Jacks in Glendora, CA. I am down in Azusa at least twice a month, and whenever I have to spend the night, I brave the crowds and go here. They have a huge gluten free menu filled with all the things you have hung your head over as a gluten free eater and just accepted you cannot have: waffles, french toast, pancakes that actually taste like pancakes...

Sensitive Sweets, Fountain Valley, CA. I just stumbled onto this place during a vacation in Laguna Beach. I had a chocolate fudge cupcake that was practically a religious experience (yes, go ahead and picture me with fudge frosting circling my mouth...). I bought a GF cake mix that was used for my birthday a few months later and it was perfection.

Those are just a few of the highlights. While I'm at it, I have to vent about my #1 pet peeve as one who has to eat gluten free: nearly every church I visit for training, speaking, consulting, etc., build their community meals around what I call the Big Three: pasta, pizza or sandwiches! I know, I know, it's because these items tend to be cheaper. But I end up scrounging around for iceberg lettuce and gloppy Italian dressing in the church kitchen refrigerator, and try to smile... Fortunately, whenever I visit Latino churches, I do just fine as I stuff my face with chicken, beans, salsa, corn tortillas...

Parting advice you didn't ask for: If you are considering going gluten free, I strongly suggest you do so only if you are having genuine medical issues, as I did. My acid reflux went away and the rumbling down below has abated, thankfully. Despite all the press about it as "the health issue of the day," I actually gained weight during the first two years I followed a GF diet, and finally got it all under control this year, losing twenty pounds as I understood more about metabolism, whole grains, etc.

Furthermore, it's not something you sort of do, like "I try to avoid it when I can..." because once I gave it up, I found that I actually became more sensitized to gluten if I fudged or accidentally ate it. (Other GF'ers have confirmed this too). You're either all in or all out. Otherwise, you do not gain the benefits that you think might be there.

There are a lot of GF products out there now, but be wise... I learned the hard way that you only want to eat whole grain. A lot of GF products use white rice flour, tapioca flour, etc, and that is high on the glycemic index (which sounds like I know what I'm talking about, but I don't... do your homework.)

All for now... go ahead and make fun of gluten free trendiness. I'm right with you.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


I find myself noticing that truth comes to me in bits and pieces. It usually starts with a tantalizing thought that leads unexpectedly to another, then another. If I'm attentive, I can follow these thoughts, one to another, until I'm on a trail to something.

I don't think I've arrived at the destination that these various things point to, but I am intrigued.

It started with some reading earlier in the week, when I came to Luke 1 in my One-Year Bible. Admittedly, I had that brief surge of "been there, done that" wash over me as I started a gospel I have read and taught out of many times before. I fought the temptation to skip over it, pretty confident that something would speak out.

I did not have to wait long:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 

But she was much perplexed (um, YEAH) by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (verses 26-380

I prayed for open eyes and ears as I read. And soon that statement, "For nothing will be impossible with God," stirred in me.

I thought to myself, "Do I believe that? I mean, really believe that?" Because if I did, I would pray bolder prayers. And I would never give up. That's what faith is. It means that I believe, and I am confident that God is who He says he is.

No, it doesn't mean I have to scrunch up my face and somehow prayer harder. But it does mean, like the persistent widow in Luke 18, that I keep showing up, and keep asking.

So I assembled a list of "impossibles." I don't feel the need to share most of them. But suffice it to say they point to the future, to forgiveness, to revolution big and small. And I have committed to praying about them every day. For healing in a friend's life, who just received a devastating diagnosis. For housing for two friends I have met in the last year who live on the street. For love to break through in some hearts....

As I said at the start, these truths come in bits and pieces. I pray for one, then two, then three days about the Impossibles. Then I heard last night as I studied for my class, a stunning reminder. We are working through the Torah, and are currently in the Book of Exodus. In chapter 32, there is a fascinating section, after God hears of the insane decision of Aaron and the Israelites to fashion an idol in the shape of a golden calf for worship right at the time when Moses is received the Ten Commandments. God is furious at their utter foolishness in praying to other gods. Moses speaks up on their behalf:

Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”  And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people. (verses 12-14)

There is not room here to go into the Hebrew and explain what this passage means. But certainly, we have imposed the English meaning of "change your mind" and tried to make it to fit into our little theological boxes, thinking we can constrain and quantify God to fit our favorite posture. But God will not be boxed!

I have enjoyed this round of reading Exodus, seeing an intimacy between Moses and God that is beautiful, and in many ways (I believe) archetypal of what we can have with God as we now have His Spirit in us. What I take from this is that if you find yourself in disaster, you can pray to God and ask him to have mercy or even remind him of his promises.  Some want to say that prayer is only for our benefit, to help shape us to conform more to God's unbending plans. Sure, that is part of the process. But I also know God to be a God of relationship and dialogue and mercy and love. The Bible is one unending story of God's pursuit of his people, repeatedly chasing us down and calling us to Himself, the Author and Sustainer of life.

Does that mean that I think God is my personal cosmic vending machine? Absolutely not. But do I know him to be one who wants to hear from me, placing every one of my hopes and fears and prayers into his hands, every moment and every day? Absolutely.

Today I came across a question that carried me further into these truths that have been eeking themselves out in front of me. I receive a daily reading from the Christian Quotation of the Day. (Have no fear, these are definitely worth subscribing to. They are not corny, Precious Moments, power-of-positive-thinking crap... they are historic, profound words from all sorts of writers, leaders, and saints.) 

Today contained this question. Let it bother you.

Do I exhibit the unexplainable in my life?

Like Mary, I am trying to have my reply be, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” May we live lives of faith in the impossible.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Galatians 3:28

I am in a good mood after enjoying a fantastic evening... I drove down today to Azusa because I happened upon the good news in my Twitter feed last night that Rachel Held Evans was speaking here at Foothill Community Church on behalf of Azusa Pacific University. Not only am I a fan of Foothill Church (a faithful Free Methodist congregation), but I am a HUGE fan of Rachel Held Evans!! (I also have to be in Pasadena all day tomorrow, so I decided to break up the drive. Nice.)

My groupie-status began while reading her latest book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. It accomplishes what I could only hope to accomplish if I ever write a book: it is equal parts hilarious, engaging, authentic and spiritually moving. You know a book is good when it makes you laugh out loud while you're reading it! It also made me cry a time or two, but not because it was cheesy or manipulative. In fact, I just downloaded the first chapter for free... either go to her blog and download your own, or take it off of my public dropbox folder. Yes, I'm a fan.

There were so many highlights to her message, and when it goes online I'll try to remember to post a link and reminder here. But perhaps one of my favorite parts of the evening was that I brought a former youth group student with me who is male (and yes, the majority of the room was female), who really enjoyed the evening. And we both agreed afterward that what is so nice about our history is that it never came up once in all the years of jr high and high school youth group that I was female. I just was. (And still am, let's be honest! I'm just not serving at that particular church any longer.)

I praise God that some thirty years later I am still at this ministry thing. I will not deny that there have been many bumps along the way, and I still encounter some now and again. But glory hallelujah, I have had some great opportunities to serve and lead in ministry, as a woman.

The first verse that made me know this was possible was the one I noted in this post's title:

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

I thank God for Rachel's message that is going out all over the country and online. I pray for her to persevere, and I pray for the many men and women who hear from her. May we be a hospitable place to gifted people. May the church not be a place of judgment and discouragement. Lord, may we all be FREE in you, to serve the way you created us to.