Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Lame Excuse for Abandoning Christianity

I recently saw this comment on FaceBook:

It is safe to say that I do not buy into the Christian faith. Growing up in the bible belt I saw to much prejudice coming from people who called themselves Christians.
Of course, we've all heard these excuses many times over from folks who have decided to abandon the Christian faith.  But when I read this, I saw for the first time how invalid this type of thinking truly is.

Think about it.  We do not apply this test to any other decision we make in life!  When have we ever heard someone say any of the following?

*  I'd really like to have a meal at that restaurant, but too many hypocrites eat there.

*  I'd love to drive that car, but last week I saw someone run a red light in one just like it!

*  I would really like to believe Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation, but just this morning, a person who also believes it was very rude to me!

Deciding the truth or falsehood of a set of beliefs based on the misbehavior of a subset of its adherents seems foolhardy.  For one thing, why would anyone want to cede this much control to other people, people he has already identified as ethically flawed?  In the end, such a person, were he to be consistent, would end up believing nothing, because "prejudiced" people can be found among the adherents of every belief system.

In the final analysis, this charge against Christians may be nothing more than an excuse, invented after the fact by someone who is not willing to accept the rigors of Christian life, or who is unwilling to turn loose of some pet sin.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Interview with Bodybuilder Janet Kaufman.

It is my pleasure to interview national level bodybuilding competitor Janet Kaufman.  Thanks, Janet for agreeing to be interviewed!
You have been bodybuilding for nearly as long as I have been following the sport, which in itself is an incredible achievement.  I believe your first contest was in 1987.  Can you tell us how that came about?
I was going to college out of town and came home to see my parents and brother. Keep in mind that I wasn’t athletic in high school.  I tried track and tennis but just never seemed to do any good at it.  When I left to go to college I fell into the usual scene of eating and partying like most college students but if one isn't active, well we all know what happens, I was about 140 pounds of flab.  So when I came home for that visit 23 years ago my brother, who is brutally honest, told me my butt was getting really big.  Well no girl wants to be told her butt is big especially from her brother.  I was pretty mad.  The same weekend my brother asked if I wanted to attend my first bodybuilding show.  As I watched, still fuming from what he had said I told myself I was going to be competing on stage.

Obviously, bodybuilding has become a large part of your life.  What keeps you motivated to keep at it?
It’s weird that I have to think about what keeps me motivated. I have been doing it so long that I just do it. It’s like going to work every day. But my goal is to someday get my pro card. So that drives me to go the gym every day.  I also told myself that I want to be active into my 80’s and bodybuilding keeps me healthy.

That's great!!  Do you work in the fitness industry (e.g., training clients)?  If not, what sort of work do you do?
I do train clients at Gold’s Gym in Lewiston  part time to help pay for contest expenses. But my main profession is purchasing clerk at the Lewiston school district.

Over the years, how has your level of muscularity been viewed by the general public?  Is there more acceptance now, and more awareness of the sport of bodybuilding than, say, twenty years ago?
I have always had good support here in my home town.  But I am sure that there were negative comments as well.  Everyone has their opinion on what is pleasing to the eye.  I do believe that the bodybuilding is better understood now than it was twenty years ago.
What sort of workout philosophy do you follow (e.g., volume training, high-intensity, low rep training)?  Has that changed over the years?
My workout philosophy is base on muscle confusion.  I mixed it up from workout to work out so I am never doing the same exact workout.  I feel I get better growth out of this.  I may not be big but I feel the muscle I do have is good quality muscle.  When I first started training, I trained with my brother who did the typical heavy weight training workouts.  It got me a good base but not the detail that I have now.

What is your favorite body part to train?
I love to train legs.  I like the feeling of total exhaustion when I am done.

I’m interested in your off-season diet.  Do you allow yourself greater freedom in terms of what you eat, or do you continue to eat according to a strict plan?
I loosen my diet up a little . I eat more carbs off-season but the food is still pretty clean.  I do have a scheduled cheat meal once or twice a week.  Off-season I don’t get heavier than 15 lbs above contest weight.

I’ve been impressed by your back development.  Any secret to how you built up your back?
Lots of weighted pull ups and doing a variety of exercises  to get the detail.

What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out in bodybuilding?  
Eat!  and persistence ...
When I first started I didn’t eat enough so the first  5 or 6 years I didn’t put on the size I could have had I been eating the way I do now. Also be persistent gains don’t happen over night.

I read that you were a judge at the very recent Emerald Cup.  Can you tell us about that experience?
The Emerald Cup is a huge show and I was honored that Brad and Elaine Craig asked my husband and I to judge.  All the competitors looked great and it was tough to judge.  Some classes were very close.
I love watching the fitness competitors.  Something that I would love to do but don’t have the coordination, flexibility, or strength to do that and I could go on and on.  Those girls rock!

What would you consider one of the high points of your bodybuilding career thus far?
I have won my weight class twice at Masters Nationals which was pretty exciting.  But I think the high point for me was placing 2nd at this year’s Nationals and getting a phone call from Steve Wennerstrom telling me he hopes I  stick with it and thinks I am close to getting my pro card.   To me that was big.

Did you have anyone who mentored you during your early years in the sport, or did you figure things out all on your own?
When I first started, my brother helped me with the working out part of it all and then I had a gal that ended up being my workout partner for a few years that taught me contest prep.  But contest prep is an evolving process.  I find that my body adapts quickly and sometimes doesn’t respond to the same things every time  I do a show.

Are you planning on competing at Masters Nationals in July? 
I am planning on competing at Masters

Thanks, very much for agreeing to be interviewed!
Thank you for the opportunity.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Beauty of Holiness vs The Holiness of Beauty

Scripture (the Proverbs in particular) are full of a particular type of comparison between two things, behind which lies an implied 2 by 2 matrix.
Let me illustrate this using Proverbs 15:17:
Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.
Two situations are compared, but since there are two binary indices (love/hate and calf/vegetables), there are actually 4 possible combinations:

1)  Vegetables with hatred;
2)  Vegetables with love;
3)  Fattened calf with hatred; and
4)  Fattened calf with love.

This can conveniently be displayed in the aforementiones 2 x 2 matrix, as follows:

Clearly, the best of all worlds would be Beef with Love, and the worst would be Vegetables with Hatred.  Because these are obvious, the Scriptural verses which have this structure compare only the two situations in which you get one good option and one bad option.  These are the two boxes highlighted in yellow.  Proverbs 15:17 indicates that, should you find yourself in this dilemma, you should give up beef before giving up love.

And now, finally, on to the topic of this post.  The phrase "beauty of holiness" occurs not only in the Book of Common Prayer, but originally in the following places in Scripture:

O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.  - Psalm 96:9

For several years, I have thought about the trade-off between the Beauty of Holiness and what I have come to call the Holiness of Beauty.  For beauty, being a rare, fine thing created by God, is in many ways a holy thing.  The ability to appreciate beauty is part of God's gift of Common Grace, meaning that even full-tilt pagans can appreciate beauty when they see it.  In fact, the suspicion with which some sorts of Christians have viewed beauty has led some to wonder if only pagans can appreciate the holiness of beauty.

This, too, can be displayed as a 2 x 2 matrix:

Obviously, if you can manage it, you'd like to have both beauty and holiness (the green box).  And of course, the worst situation is when you have ugliness and unholiness together the red box).  But my mind is drawn to the two yellow boxes, and I am tempted to try to draft my own amateur proverb regarding the two.

This question has been in my mind lately as I ponder all of the many godly folks who have fled the Episcopal church due to its blatant unholiness.  In many instances, they fled from places of great beauty:  architectural beauty, musical beauty, and liturgical beauty.  Often, they have found refuge in holy little Anglican parishes where these sorts of beauty are, relatively speaking, lacking.  While this is sad, their action is in congruity with the proverb I would draft:

Better holiness where beauty is lacking than beauty where holiness is lacking.
or ...

Better the beauty of holiness than merely the holiness of beauty.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Will Barbie Save The Episcopal Church?

This essay from Walter Russell Mead is well worth reading.

Here are a couple of paragraphs that resonated with me:

On the other hand, we did successfully vet the lyrics of the 700-plus hymns in our hymnbook for ’sexist’ lyrics. We have repeatedly made certain that the world understands that we think that poverty, injustice and war are wrong. There is no fashionable virtue that we don’t praise, no unrealistic aspiration of the foundation left that we don’t sprinkle with holy water. Our procedures and our canons are among the most complex and recondite in Christendom. We tithe mint and dill and cumin while the house is burning down.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think God mocks us and holds us in derision. I think the disasters we have already experienced and the much greater ones that are coming closer every day are signs of his wrath. I think he is giving us the taste of wormwood and gall: he’s letting us face the full consequences of our own silly deeds. He waited patiently for decades as we frittered away the inestimable riches and advantages accrued over centuries. He bore our hypocrisy — incompetent busybodies and Mrs. Jellybys lecturing the rest of the world on how to manage its affairs as our own household fell progressively into deeper disarray — and our general inconsequential messing around with low priority issues like ’sexist’ hymn lyrics as our seminaries edged steadily closer to bankruptcy. But we’ve exhausted God’s patience and spent down our endowments. The Bailiff of Heaven is knocking at our door; the notice of eviction is in his hands.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Concentric vs Eccentric Contractions for Spiritual Hypertrophy

Bodybuilders and exercise physiologists talk about three different kinds of muscular contractions: isometric, concentric, and eccentric.

In the isometric contraction, the muscle neither shortens nor lengthens; it is static.  In the concentric contraction, the working muscle shortens.  In the eccentric contraction, the working muscle lengthens during the exercise.

Novice trainers often focus exclusively on the concentric phase of an exercise, to the virtual exclusion of the eccentric.

For example, in the barbell bench press, the point becomes to get the weight up to the top of the range of motion at all cost - which is the concentric phase of the exercise.  The pectoral muscles, anterior deltoids, and triceps brachii are all shortening during this phase.

These novice lifters sometimes almost let the barbell free fall back to the starting position, giving very little resistance to its downward motion.
But studies have indicated that the eccentric portion of an exercise is more important for hypertrophy (muscular growth) than the concentric phase.

During the bench press, then, this indicates that the lifter should pay special attention to resisting the barbell's downward motion, if growth is the goal.

I imagine that it is really the same in the spiritual realm.  I believe that often the greatest spiritual growth is achieved not when we are victoriously and concentrically overcoming a spiritual burden, but during those times when the weight seems to be advancing  downward against us and, though we resist it with all our might, seems about to crush us.