Friday, February 27, 2009

McChurch: Is Today's Christianity Like A Happy Meal?

Fast food chains thrive because of the drive-through window. Customers pull in, order what they want and leave virtually unchanged. In Franchising McChurch: Feeding Our Obsession with Easy Christianity, authors Thomas White and John Mark Yeats question some churches today that are catering to the drive-through mindset.

Though many seem to have categorized the book as targeting the multisite movement, the intent of the book is to address consumer-driven Christianity, White and Yeats said during a forum for the seminary’s Student Theological Fellowship on Thursday, Feb. 26. They discussed how McDonaldization of the church has resulted in an efficient, “boxed-in” faith that may or may not leave room for the spirit of God to move.

Without questioning evangelistic motives, they asked whether some of the various means of efficiency, such as multiple services, sites or worship styles, are wise. Rather than just going with what works, Yeats said, “There are limits to what we should be able to do because what Scripture gives us are limits.”

Rather than looking for something that works, White pointed out, church leaders should be asking, “Does this glorify God?” He said, “Yes, we want people to be saved. Yes, we want to be evangelistic. But we don’t want to take down so many barriers that we take down the cross.”

White encouraged church leaders to follow the unselfish example of Christ described in Philippians 2, considering God’s Kingdom as a whole, and to re-examine “pure religion” that James wrote about. Therefore, genuine life change should be the measure of success, not numbers.

Future implications for the McChurch are unknown. White ended the discussion with a question: “Will the franchised church of today result in disenfranchised religious people of tomorrow?” Is efficiency really worth the risk?

Through the pages of this book, you will be challenged to evaluate not only today's church, but your personal motivation when you walk through the doors yourself. Are you attending a church because of what you get from it or because of what you can give to it?

You can listen to the complete audio of the forum here:

You can buy the book online here:

One final thought: As I listened to this discussion, I couldn't help drawing a comparison in my mind. Have you ever given a child a gift only to find that they are much more entertained by the box that it came in?

I wonder if in a way, we have done the same thing with the gift that God has given us: church. He intended for us to establish true community with one another - corporate worship, true teaching from His Word, fellowship, and accountability. Just as we are frustrated with the child who is more concerned with popping every bubble on the bubble wrap than the actual present, how much more would God be heart-broken watching His children argue over how to "package" church, who gets to wrap it, or whether the gift needs to be exchanged for something that really "works..."

Chocolate PB Banana Smoothie

This is one of my favorite things to make for breakfast. Especially if you work out first thing in the morning, this is a great way to cool down after working up a sweat!

Chocolate Banana Smoothie

* 1 serving chocolate whey protein powder (Beachbody's is my favorite - To check out my store, just click on the title of this post!)
* 1/2 banana
* 1 TBSP natural peanut butter
* 1 packet Splenda (optional)
* 8 oz. water
* 7-8 ice cubes

Put all ingredients in a blender. (A small blender like the Magic Bullet works best.) Blend until there are no chucks of ice left. And instantly - you have a protein-packed healthy breakfast!

WARNING: This smoothie is so good - it can be addicting!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

8 Tips for Masering Portion Control

Eating healthy, especially when you are used to eating whatever you want, can be overwhelming at first. What do I eat? How often do I eat? How long should I wait before/after exercising to eat again? You know the drill. However, the best thing to master first is portion control: how much do I eat. You’ll see – it’s much easier than you think!

Just eat half.
You can cut the calories of your favorite foods by 50% without changing anything – just eat half! For example, if you normally eat a deli sandwich at lunch, eat half of it. (Dining out? Ask for a carry-out box as soon as your meal comes out. Put half of it away before you even take the first bite!)

Make smarter swaps for your sides.
Replace your chips with carrot sticks. Still hungry? Reach for a piece of fruit instead of chocolate for dessert. Produce takes longer to eat – and digests slower – than other foods. This will give you more time to notice that you’re getting full. (Not to mention, the additional fiber will help you feel much more satisfied than chips – which are empty carbohydrates.)

Resist the urge to upsize.
There is no need to upsize the already oversized “meal deals” at fast food chains. In fact, staying away from combos is probably always your best option. A side salad is always your best side instead of fries, and you don’t need the soda either. (If you absolutely MUST have something – you know those days that only a hamburger and fries will suffice – order the kids meal. Just a few decades ago, that was what we considered to be “normal-sized” portions.)

Good things come in small packages.
If you know that “once you pop, you can’t stop,” don’t buy the large bags. Most products come in mini-sized packs now, so try to limit yourself to buying these only. If you are budget-minded, buy the big bag, but divvy out the contents into single-servings in Ziploc bags AFTER you’ve just eaten (so you won’t be tempted to snack as you divide them out.) As a side note, you can do the same thing with leftovers. Instead of just sticking the whole dish in the refrigerator, go ahead and store it in individual serving containers. Instantly, when you go to reheat, you’ve limited your food intake without additional effort!

Say no to buffets!
Unless it’s the salad bar at Jason’s Deli, JUST SAY NO! It’s nearly impossible to practice portion control in an “all-you-can-eat” situation.

Keep seconds out of sight.
Keep pots and dishes away from the table where it’s too easy to dive in for more. Remember, it takes 20 minutes to feel satisfied. Wait a while, and you may realize you aren’t hungry for a second serving after all!

Use your hands.
You can use your hands as an easy guide for portion control.

Palm = Proteins:
 Make protein portions the size of your palm. Protein is found in products, like fish, meats, beans and cottage cheese.

Thumb = Fats:
 Fats are important but also very dense, so match portions to the size of your thumb. Good fat sources are avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

Fist = Fruits & Grains: Your bread, fruit, cereal, rice, and grain portions should be about equal to the size of your closed fist. (Plus, make sure it’s whole grain!)

Hand = Veggies: 
Open your hand and spread your fingers as wide as you can. That is a good vegetable portion. Raw vegetables are loaded with fiber and nutrients, and contain very few calories.

Treat yourself!
Every once in a while, you need to let yourself indulge in a “forbidden food.” This will keep your from feeling deprived. You can stop a binge session before in starts by allowing yourself a treat ever so often.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shoe Shopping Advice

One of the more common reasons for giving up an exercise routine is excessive pain caused by working out. What’s sad about this is that a lot of workout pain may be prevented by a good pair of exercise shoes. If you’re starting a workout routine, you should invest in a quality pair of shoes. Good shoes will support your feet and align your body correctly; you’ll feel less pain in your legs, back, and, of course, your feet. Here are some tips for finding the right shoe to fit your feet and your needs.

If you want to use your shoes for a specific activity, i.e. tennis, running, etc., get a shoe designed for that specific sport. It’s going to provide better support and flexibility in the areas specific to the movement you’ll be doing. For instance, tennis shoes provide better side to side support while running shoes provide more front and back support. You’ll also find a difference in flexibility between certain types of shoes.

Go shoe shopping at the end of the day. Pressure on your feet during the day makes them swell. If you buy shoes in the morning, you may find your snug shoes are now just too tight. You should also be sure to wear the same socks you exercise in; otherwise you’ll run into the same problem.

Leave a little extra space in your shoes. If there is a thumb’s length between your longest toe and the end of your shoe, you’ll experience less pain from crunched toes. Be sure the shoes don’t slide forward and backward when you move.

Find a shoe that fits the shape of your foot. A shoe with proper support should feel snug all over. This means the insole is absorbing the pressure, not your foot. If you can’t find a shoe with enough support, get orthotic inserts. This is especially important if you already experience foot pain. For severe foot pain, you should be fitted for a customized orthotic by your doctor.

Find a shoe that fits how you run. This is actually usually determined by the shape of your feet; specifically how high your arches are. Overpronators’ feet roll inward as they run. They often have flat feet and should buy shoes marked for stability or motion control. Supinators’ feet roll outwards as they run. The usually have high arches and should look for shoes marked as flexible or cushioned. If you have normal feel that don’t roll when you run, you can buy a variety of shoes.

Consider where your shoes will be used. If you’re running through the woods, you’ll require a different amount of traction than if you’re playing tennis or volleyball on a court. Be sure to check the tread and see if it is appropriate for your needs.

Try the shoes out. Don’t just put them on while sitting and then take them back off. Lace up the shoes and move around as if you were performing your exercise. Good shoes will feel comfortable as soon as you put them on.

If you follow these simple rules, you’ll be sure to find the perfect pair of shoes for you. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Perfection vs. Holiness

Most people take four years to finish high school and at least another four years to finish college. I started high school in August of 1999 and graduated college in May 2005. You can do the math.

As I read, I pay attention to grammar and spelling mistakes…even if it’s just a Facebook status update.

You will never catch me giving 99.9%. I am all…and then some - or nothing.

I have actually referred to second place as “first loser” on a consistent basis.

I insist on mopping my kitchen floor on my hands and knees with a rag. Mops make too much of a mess.

Every shirt in my closet is organized by color and sleeve-length.

Sometimes, I rewrite my to-do list because when I begin crossing things off, it looks too messy.

Other times, if I forget to write something down on my list, but it’s something I’ve done, I’ll write it down and mark it off at the same time.

You get the point…I’m a bit of a perfectionist.

Sure, it’s comical. My Type B husband makes fun of my Type A+ personality whenever he gets the chance. But it’s also serious.

Sometimes, I run myself into the ground trying to keep up with the expectations I have for myself and the ones that I think others have for me (even if they don’t.)

Nine times out of ten, I would rather make myself sick than tell someone “no.”

Though I’ve come a long way since my four-year struggle with anorexia, I still have bad days.

I’m not alone. Researchers have divide perfectionists into three categories:

Self-oriented perfectionists, who expect perfection of themselves.
o Risk factor: Depression
Other-oriented perfectionists, who demand perfection from other people.
o Risk factor: Ruined personal relationships
Socially prescribed perfectionists, who think others expect perfection from them.
o Risk factors: Eating disorders or suicide

I’ve been all three at various points in my life, and I know I don’t want to live like that.

My strive for perfection began with good intentions. I must have been in middle school when I highlighted Matthew 5:48 in my Bible: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

That became my life standard. I was going to be perfect. Perfect student. Perfect church member. Perfect community volunteer. Perfect employee. Perfect body. The pattern continued as I got older. Perfect seminary student. Perfect wife - perfect pastor’s wife, at that. As more roles were piled on my plate, the less perfect I was becoming in every area.

I noticed it in my blogs – particularly the last few. Not that God wasn’t teaching me and that those weren’t good lessons, but I’m never satisfied. I never think that what I have is good enough. I’ll never be one of those people who counts on getting into heaven because I think I’m a “good person.” I know that my salvation is because of God’s grace through my faith in Jesus Christ and NOTHING else.

As James and I began our “Read the Bible in a Year” plan on January 1, it didn’t take but a few days for me to get to Matthew 5:48. I wanted to skip it. But this year was different. I looked at the footnotes in my new ESV Study Bible and read:

As Christians seek to live in conformity to Scripture, they are in fact pursuing the very perfection of God…all of the Law and the Prophets find their perfect fulfillment in the perfection of the Father, which is what all Jesus' disciples are called to pursue.

It hit me that I had been striving for not only what God defines as perfect, but I wanted to fit the world’s definition of perfect too. I began praying for a perspective change – but it was honestly half-hearted because I didn’t really expect anything to change. After all, I’m pretty sure I was high strung by age six.

God didn’t let go.

The next day, I was reading in Matthew 6 when I stumbled across, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6 19-21; 24)

Now, I was starting to feel convicted. I began evaluating decisions I made with questions like: What am I trying to prove anyway? Whom am I really trying to please? What is my real motivation?

I’ve been very fortunate to have some extremely godly women in my life. During a conversation with Elizabeth Parks, she summed up everything I had been struggling with in just a few simple words:

“Michelle, perfection is not the same thing as holiness.”

Wow. That was two weeks ago, and I’ve been unpacking that statement ever since. The realizations have gotten more humbling as more time as passed.

It’s not enough just to know that I need to strive for holiness instead of perfection. But becoming more holy is not a quick fix – it’s a process. And as if that’s not enough, It’s not something I can do on my own. It’s something God has to do in me.

Sammy Tippit in Fire In Your Heart wrote, “An insight into the holiness of God will always produce a life-style of repentance. When one enters upon this highway called holiness, it does not mean that he is perfect. It does mean that he is walking down a road of change. Repentance means a change of heart or a change of mind. Throughout the Christian life we should be continually changed, or conformed, into the image of Jesus Christ.

The last two weeks, I’ve had a peace inside of me that I’m not sure I ever knew was possible. Leaps of faith that would have seemed impossible to me six months ago, have taken place with ease. Conversations that would have intimidated me just last month have been effortless.

And there’s just one secret. I’m not trying to be perfect in my own strength. I’m allowing God to make me more holy in His strength. (And you know that’s a feat that will take HIS strength!)

I found a new verse to be my life goal.

1 Peter 1:16: “Since it is written, “You should be holy, for I am holy.”

Friday, February 20, 2009

At the Gym: To Sneeze or Not to Sneeze

While we are still in the middle of cold and flu season, one of the main questions I'm asked is: Should I work out even if I am sick?

The answer is no...and yes. It depends on what kind of sick you are.

General rule of thumb: Listen to your body. If you are sick, your body is telling you that something is wrong.

You should definitely skip your workout if you have a fever. It puts too much stress on your heart, which is already beating faster because of your higher body temperature. If you have chest congestion and shortness of breath, you should also forgo the gym for a day or two. And this may be common sense...but if you exercise with a stomach ache, you will feel worse after.

In these situations, working out may prolong the illness. Plus, some viruses are capable to actually damage the muscles of your heart. There are a lot of myths about "sweating out" germs and toxins. While low intensity exercise may increase endorphins, you can also wear down your immune system. Be smart. Don't count on your endorphins to heal you.

However, if you just have the sniffles or milder symptoms of a cold, moderate exercise should be okay. Just don't push yourself to do your normal routine. Take it easy until you begin to feel better. Gradually increase your workout as your body heals. If you jump right back in at 100% the second you start to feel better, you're likely to relapse. Give your body time to recuperate.

One more thing to keep in mind: A little courtesy never hurt anyone. You may want to skip the gym is to keep from spreading the germs to everyone else. You can always take a walk outside or do a video at home until you are back to normal health.

If you do decide to head to the gym for a low intensity workout, just be considerate. Wipe down machines, wash your hands, etc.

So there you have it. Just be smart! (And if you're sick, feel better!)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

On February 14, there are lots of gifts exchanged between people who want to show their love. Many of us use this day as an excuse to over-indulge in chocolate. Remember: everything is okay in moderation. So here's your healthy alternative: DARK chocolate covered strawberries.

Chocolate and strawberries both contain antioxidants. Antioxidants are thought to improve immune function and lower the risk for infection and cancer. Antioxidants help protect our bodies from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are formed in simple body processes and can increase upon exposure to environmental contaminants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution or chemicals. Free radicals can damage cells and increase the risk for cancer, artery and heart disease, cataracts, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C. Just one-half cup of strawberries provides 50 milligrams of vitamin C. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin C is 75 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams for men. Vitamin C helps produce collagen which helps hold muscles bones and other tissues together, helps keep blood vessels firm to prevent bruising, helps keep your gums healthy, helps heal cuts and wounds and helps protect your body from infection.

Make sure the strawberries are dipped in dark chocolate - that is the key. NOT milk chocolate, and absolutely NO white chocolate! Dark chocolate contains more flavonoids. Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods. The source of antioxidants in chocolate is flavonoids. Flavonoids may also reduce the risk of blood clots and heart disease by expanding the arteries and increasing blood flow.

And remember - just because it contains fruit, that doesn't mean you need to eat the whole box in one setting. Just one or two should do it. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

got Calcium?

First of all, I hate to take pills.

Second, I hate when people try to get me to buy things.

But I'm throwing both of those out the window because of the great health benefits I have seen from taking Beachbody's Core Cal-Mag.

Studies show that most people don't get the recommended amount of both calcium and magnesium. (This is especially a problem for me since I am lactose intolerant!) And that's a BIG deal! Together, these two elements are required for over 300 metabolic and biological processes. If you body doesn't have enough calcium and magnesium, your body takes unhealthy shortcuts, taking away from other needed minerals to do other jobs in your body.

Core Cal-Mag contains 100% of the recommended daily value of calcium and 125% of magnesium, with added vitamin D so the calcium is absorbed for optimal bone health. Plus - it contains no lactose, protein, or milk allergens, so it’s easy to get an adequate supply of calcium daily, even if you don’t drink you aren't supposed to eat/drink dairy!

Together, these minerals work together to help support normal blood clotting, regulate blood pressure, support the functions of the immune system, and also contribute to increased bone strength and heart health.* In fact, it's an important mineral in regulating the entire cardiovascular system.

ATHLETE’S ALERT: There’s even more to magnesium. It also aids in nerve and muscle function! With added vitamin D and phosphorus, Beachbody's Core Cal-Mag gives you the important support you need to build and maintain bone mass and optimal health.

If you are interested, head over to and check it out!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Day in the Life

I came across an old journal this morning, and I was reminded of this lesson God taught me about two years ago. It's one that I forget often. As a reminder to myself, I've decided to pass along this story to you...

September 19, 2007

This morning, I woke up in a panic. As you know, I’m a little crazy, and I work out really early in the morning. Well, on Wednesday mornings, I actually teach a class at the gym that starts at 5:30. Normally, I wake up 30 minutes before the class starts, and that gives me plenty of time to get awake and get to the gym. But when I woke up this morning, I didn’t see the :00 that I am used to seeing. I saw :18.

Needless to say, I wigged out. (Again, no surprise there. Interruptions to my routine are not welcome.) I jumped out of bed, threw on my gym clothes, ran to the bathroom, put my contacts in, put some Scope in my mouth that I assume I spit out at some point, but come to think of it...I might have swallowed it...and flew out the door. It was record speed for me, no doubt, but I was still going to be pushing it to get there on time.

I drove to the gym and immediately began praying upon getting in the car. You know the prayer drill that you go through when you’re late for something. “Please give me all green lights. Don’t let me run into any cops." Plus, there's my all-time favorite: "God, if there’s a front row parking spot, it won’t hurt my feelings." The entire time, I kept glancing at the clock, watching as :23 turned to :25. (You get the picture.)

I rolled into the gym (and into my front row parking spot, I might add) just as I watched the minute turn to :29. Puzzled, I ran into the gym. The parking lot sure was empty, and mid-week at that time of the day, the gym is usually already bumping. The 5 am crowd is hardcore. Seriously. They don't play any games. Usually when I get there ten minutes before my class, there’s already a line waiting to get in the door.

There wasn’t anyone at the front desk, but I went around to the back and got the key to the Cycle room. I walked (OK, OK, you’re right, I ran!) up the stairs, and found that there was no line. There was one lady on the treadmill and a few guys doing weights. Where was everyone??

I searched around for the nearest clock, and that was when I saw it.


Yeah, I got up and drove to the gym at midnight.

Now, in my defense, the security alarm at the house I am living at is acting up, and it beeped at 12:18…sounding very much like my alarm clock. But it was still very much a security alarm and not an alarm clock.

On the way home, (Yeah, I mean, I’m a fitness fanatic and all, but I DID have to come back to the gym and teach just 5 hours later. I was NOT going to stay and work out at 12:30.) I began making excuses much like the one above as to WHY I had done this:

"I didn't have time to double check the clock."

"I didn't feel any more tired than I normally do when my alarm goes off."

"It's just as dark at 5 am as it is at midnight."

"At least I wasn't late."

Etc., etc., etc.

Then, I began to get mad at myself. Why in the world did I not look at the hour and just focus on the minute? If I had just examined the clock a little closer, I would have saved myself a lot of stress, some gas in my car, and definitely gotten a little more sleep.

Before laying down to go back to sleep, I had a realization. I do the same thing in my Christian life.

How many times is what God really wants me to do right in front of my face, and I continue to ignore it? I focus on the details (just like I narrowed in on the minutes) rather than the big picture. I wonder if I'm sometimes too busy studying God at seminary to spend time with Him. Or if I'm more concerned with having enough food at a college event than I am making sure that every student who shows up get some love and attention.

Here's the big one though:

And just like the beeping security alarm sounded like my own alarm clock, do I listen to the wrong voice and mistaken it for God’s voice? Do I listen to the things that I WANT to hear God say rather than what He is actually saying?

I got up that morning again at the right time when my alarm went off. I taught my class, letting them laugh at me for what I had done at midnight. I listened to the right alarm, got up at the right time, and I was on time and prepared for the task ahead.

After getting back from the gym, I sat down to have my devotional time with God and read in Proverbs 19.

Proverbs 19:21 stood out. It says, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."

So here's our lesson: Let's not get so caught up in the craziness that we call life that we miss true Life and His purpose for us.

Aren't you glad that you didn't have to get up twice this morning to learn that? :)