Friday, March 30, 2007

Beef and Migraine Headaches

And now for something entirely different:

A few years ago, when I went in for my annual checkup at the doctor's office, I got some news. No, it wasn't the earth-shattering sort of news that most people eventually hear from a doctor. But it was news.

When he came to the end of his questionnaire, the doctor asked, "Is there something you want to ask me about?"

"Yes." I said. "Every once in a while, I get a headache that Ibuprofen just can't handle. The pain usually settles right behind one of my eyes. It's pretty intense."

"And do you notice that when you get these headaches, your eyes are sensitive to light, and that sunlight is especially hard to take?" he asked.

"Yeah. That's it exactly."

So he told me: "You've been having the textbook type of migraine headache."

He prescribed Imitrex, a common migraine medication. I took one pill the first time those symptoms showed up again, and within an hour or so the pain began to go away. The medicine did have a couple of funky side effects (feeling out-of-it, sort of woozy; feeling like a 5-pound weight was on my shoulders). But those were much better than the migraine.

A year or so later, I moved to West Texas. Immediately, instead of having one or two migraines a month, it was more like five or six.

Six months later, I was having Sunday lunch with several people from church. One of them is a nursing student who, at the time, was taking a course in nutrition. When I told him about how the migraines were coming more and more frequently, this unassuming, slow-to-speak man looked straight at me and emphatically said, "Stop eating beef."

It just so happened that at that moment, as I remember it, my mouth was full of some of the best-tasting brisket ever. So once I got past one of those awkward moments where the conversation is waiting for you to chew and swallow, I asked him, "Why?"

"Well," he said, "it's kind of complicated. Just do it."

"You think there's some sort of connection between my eating beef and getting migraine headaches?"

"If I were a bettin' man, . . . " he said.

Within a day or so, it dawned on me that my eating habits had changed, even more than I realized, after having moved from Connecticut to Texas. Living in Amarillo, I was now in cattle country, the land of beef. And I'd been eating a lot more of it ever since. Anyway, in response to my friend's advice, when it came to beef, I went cold turkey. Reluctantly.

That was July of last year. Ever since then, my migraines have decreased in frequency by about half. Not only that, but the two times I've put the theory to the test and have eaten a steak or a burger, no later than the next morning I've felt that terrible, familiar feeling.

I'm relating all of this for whatever help it might be to someone else. But I'm also bringing up the subject because I want to hear what works for other people (or people you know) who have suffered with migraines. They still come around. I hate them. And I want to do whatever I can to prevent them, if possible.

I need to stop here, but want to write about this another time because I've recently read of something else that can possibly help with migraines. Be well.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Bloggers, Books, and Bewilderment

Over the weekend, I took care of some housecleaning here at "Frankly Speaking." There are some new "Bloggers I Like" listed in the sidebar. Welcome, Wade Tannehill, Bobby Valentine, Matt Dabbs, and Royce Ogle! And thanks for your patience.

I also deleted a couple of links, not because I don't like those bloggers anymore, but because they're no longer at it; at least not there. I'll be rearranging and adding to my list again. Before that though, I'll have to correct the links to Dee Andrews and Greg Newton.

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Earlier this month, I mentioned the new book by Stephen Prothero, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn't (HarperSanFrancisco, 2007). Recently, Prothero talked with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show." You can see the interview here.

One of the neat things about being a Bible Chair director is that the major publishers send you their academic catalogs. So I get to keep up with books that are soon to be published. Decisions, decisions.

A few days ago, I was raving about Marilynne Robinson's novel, Gilead. Because I didn't know it at the time, I failed to mention that the book won a Pulitzer Prize. You can find out more about Robinson and Housekeeping, the book that began her fame, here.

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About my previous post, which was about Lenten observance among people in Churches of Christ: Without condemning the practice of Lent (far from it), I do think that questions like this one reflect a much larger set of issues that Churches of Christ seem unwilling to grapple with as we should.

If in the space of my short lifetime a certain practice has gone from being openly condemned to openly embraced by at least some in my group, I naturally wonder, "What changed, and why?"

Mine is essentially the same question raised by the headline of this month's issue of the Christian Chronicle, "Churches face 'identity crisis." You can read the article here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Lent Filter

I was looking around yesterday when I stopped by the website for New Wineskins magazine. At the top right of the homepage, I saw something that surprised me: a button labeled "Lenten Devotional."

Now, I've read and talked with enough people to know; it's no longer unheard of for folks in the Churches of Christ to observe days and seasons of the traditional Christian calendar, and to practice various ways of worship and devotion that years ago our people would have avoided and even condemned. What surprised me was that a magazine that's basically by and for people in the Churches of Christ would be providing instruction and guidance about the purposes and the ways of Lent. That seemed to me like a step beyond.

Anyway, I clicked on the button to see what was there. No surprises. Most of the "Lenten Devotional" material comes from outside our circles. There are even some elementary question-and-answer sections (again, written by someone from outside the Churches of Christ) designed to teach readers what Lent actually is and how it's observed.

Also among the entries is a well-reasoned, finely-written article by John Ogren entitled, "Give Up SEX for Lent?" Ogren serves as "the Communities of Faith Minister" at the South MacArthur Church of Christ in Irving, Texas. Finally, I thought. Here's something extensive, about Lent, by one of us. Maybe he'll take up the question. I wasn't disappointed. Ogren writes:

"It should be acknowledged that Lent is offensive to many evangelical Christians, perhaps because it is a remarkable feature of the Catholic tradition that we have, historically speaking, rejected. Furthermore, Lent is trivialized to many by the caricatures of Lenten discipline that abound (maybe you've know someone who gave up candy bars for Lent). But hopefully it is clear . . . how richly evangelical an authentic pursuit of Lenten discipline might be. And what some have trivialized might yet be realized, even by Christians with no place for Lent in their tradition or experience of Lent in their own past."

He continues:

"In Churches of Christ, the tradition in which I am happy to live and serve, there is no corporate observance of Lent, but we do practice something of a parallel to Lent in our weekly communion service. As long as I can remember, the Lord's Supper has been marked as a time for self-examination, following Paul's instructions in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29. If we have not always read this passage in its context or appreciated the corporate dimensions of this self-examination, we have still recognized the call to test our lives and behavior in light of what we affirm and proclaim when we eat the bread and drink the cup. Lent can be understood and practiced in a similar way: in parallel with the weekly testing that accompanies the celebration of our fellowship at the Lord's table, Lent is an annual season of testing and discipline that accompanies the celebration of the Resurrection. Like the self-discerning that Paul required of the Corinthians, Lent should be practiced in the context of relationships and community. We are not solitary individuals attempting to perfect ourselves, but rather we are members of a new humanity being built up to perfection in the Body of Christ."

A response or two. Then I want to hear what you think.

First, is it accurate to suggest that evangelicals and people in the Churches of Christ have rejected Lenten practice because "it was a remarkable feature of the Catholic tradition"? Was Lent something our forefathers objected to because it was Roman Catholic?

My own experience and reading suggest that those kinds of prejudices were probably never far away from a lot of our folks, including me. However, I would argue that in keeping with the best principles of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, we in the Churches of Christ have objected to Lenten practices not because they seemed so Catholic, but because they were what we called "unscriptural."

This is where I would question any comparisons drawn between Lent and the Lord's Supper. If I grant that believers need a ritual and a time for self-examination in the presence of Christ and his church, I also say that, according to Scripture, those have been given to us by the Lord Jesus himself. The same cannot be said for Lent.

I am not suggesting that Ogren has put the two on a par. He hasn't. What I am suggesting is that if leaders in the Churches of Christ want to pinpoint the source of our much-discussed "idenity crisis," they need to look no further than the rationale, right or wrong, that Ogren provides, as well as the question he doesn't answer: What about the unscriptural character of Lent?

It strikes me as an abandonment of the interpretive principles that are very close to, and inseparable from, some of what the Churches of Christ have put forward as their reasons for being a distinct group.

What do you think?

Week in Review

Okay, last week I was a slogger (sloth + blogger). But it was Spring Break for me, and Michele, and for kids here in Amarillo, and a step-kid visiting from the Dallas area. So we played.

Last Tuesday, we visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park and hiked the 3-mile trail leading to the rock formation called "the lighthouse." Way cool.

On Wednesday, we drove over to Altus, Oklahoma, my hometown. We went to a church supper and Bible class with my mom and dad, and spent the night with them.

Before returning to Amarillo on Thursday, we had to venture out to Altus Air Force Base, where we ate lunch and saw some big planes. To celebrate the arrival of Spring, I decided to get my head shaved at the base barber shop. I figured if anyone knew about short haircuts, they did. I was right. Their clippers have vacuums attached.

Friday was a lazy one. After a home-cooked supper, we went out to The Big Texan for dessert. Alas, no one was attempting to eat a 72 oz. steak with all the trimmings in an hour or less. However, we did get some amusement from the kitchen-sized trash can standing next to the table where all such attempts are made.

While it was snowing and sleeting in New England, here in the Texas Panhandle it was sunny and warm and calm (!) for St. Patrick's Day. We spent the whole day outside.

Anyway, my apologies to folks whose comments didn't see the light of day until several days after they were submitted. Several months ago, I had to resort to code-red comment moderation. And not just because of spammers; but that's for another post. Maybe.

Just remember: the fact that you're not paranoid is no guarantee that they're not out to get you. . . . I hope you have a great week.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Get "Gilead"

I mentioned a few months ago that in 2007 I planned to read, among other books, Marilynne Robinson's novel Gilead.

Well, I'm reading it. And I have to tell you, it's so rich and smooth and fine; like the best cup of coffee (or tea, or hot chocolate) you ever had. If you have a stack of books on your night stand, get a copy of Gilead and place it there. It will sweeten your sleep and enliven your dreams.

I especially like what Michael Dirda of "The Washington Post" said: This book "is so serenely beautiful, and written in a prose so gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read it."

You can read all of Dirda's review here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Needed: A Smarter Spirituality

According to a survey conducted in 2000, when Jews were asked whether Jesus was born in Jerusalem, 51 percent said "Yes." Not too bad for a group whose Bible doesn't include the New Testament.

But what about evangelical Christians? When asked the same question, "Was Jesus born in Jerusalem?" guess how many said "Yes"? 60 percent.

Six out of ten evangelicals think Jesus was born in Jerusalem?! That's what the survey said. It's also one of the reasons why Stephen Prothero, chairman of the Religion Department at Boston University, wrote his new book "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- and Doesn't" (HarperSanFrancisco, 2007).

You can read Christopher Shea's article that recently appeared in The Boston Globe here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

What Does "Tolerance" Mean?

I love this statement from a speech by Yale law professor Stephen Carter:

"When I use the word 'tolerance' I have in mind its traditional sense. We have a kind of casual and somewhat sloppy modern sense of the word that drains it of interesting moral content. This sloppy use of 'tolerance' is the one in which we say that, if you criticize my behavior or my ideas, you are being intolerant of me. In the old days, this was called 'disagreement,' and that is what we should call it today. 'Tolerance' in the traditional sense--let us say the Lockean sense--was more morally-robust on both sides of the matter. When Locke wrote of the need to tolerate religions other than officially-recognized Protestant Christianity, he had in mind a vision of tolerance almost like what we would now think of as the tolerance of the body for disease, the ability to include in the community a thing the community found unpleasant. His vision of tolerance did not in any sense place the thing being tolerated beyond criticism. This is why his vision is more morally-robust than ours. The larger society required to tolerate does not lose the moral faculty of judgment; and the dissenter, faced with criticism, develops the backbone to stand for unpopular ideas. . . . Criticism is not the same as intolerance."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Web Watch

The zany science TV show "Beakman's World" didn't come along until I was in my 20s. I wished it had been around when I was a kid. It was the perfect combination of learning and hilarity. In the great Beakman tradition, Bible Dudes is a wise-cracking, entertaining website for biblical studies. I'm thinking about using it for my OT and NT survey courses.

"Yale on $0 a Day" is the title of a recent article in The Wall Street Journal(Feb. 15, 2007). The subtitle says, "Top Universities Post Lectures and Other Course Materials On Web, Free and Open to All; Literature of Crisis on Your iPod". The article describes the increasing democratization of higher ed. Want to know what it's like to take "Physics" at MIT? Now you can find out. In fact, MIT seems to be the school that is leading the way. Their OpenCourseWare program now provides the syllabus and class notes for more than 1,500 courses. The OCW features a complete set of videotaped lectures from the course "Physics I: Classical Mechanics." (Thanks to George Caruthers for passing this one along).