Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Promise of Being Thin

The promise of being thin is that I will finally be
     sufficient
     finally be enough
     finally be good.

The promise of being thin is made when people exclaim:
     "You're so pretty now!"
     "Look how beautiful you've become!"
     "You'll finally get a man!"

The promise of being thin is that everything will finally go right.

It is a promise made by those who remark:
     "It changes your life!"
     "It feels good, doesn't it!"
          (Never a question; never room to disagree)
     "You must be so happy."

The promise of being thin is a promise of perfection
     so amply demonstrated by glossy magazines
     with their airburshed models--
          their skin flawless,
          their eyes big and doe-like,
          their hair does not thin or go limp
               with lack of sufficient nutrition,
          their proportions impossible--
     altered by Photoshop.

The promise of being thin is a promise of being
     in control
     strong and impervious
     untouchable.

The promise of being thin is a promise that
     the stars will align
     everything will fall into place
     and for one shining moment that stretches into eternity,
          perfection
          enlightenment
          beauty
     will be mine
     and life will not hurt.

If I can just make myself small enough
     the pain I carry in me will shrink as well.

If there were less of me to be hurt
     I will experience hurt less intensely.

If I just make myself small enough
          (by any means possible)
     maybe I will no longer feel
          a constant surge of electricity crackling beneath my skin;
     I will no longer feel
          fire burning between my outside and my in;
     I will no longer feel
          as though shards of glass are embedded in my bones
          and protruding from my joints.

The promise of being thin is a lie.

It is the only thing I swallow guilt-free.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dehydration, Chronically Low BP, and Hot Tubs

So about a week ago, I decided to quit therapy. I have been going every 2 weeks, working on my food and body image issues. This amounts to about $70 a month. As I am in the process of joining a gym for $38 plus the cost of gas (as I can't force my work carpool partner to hang at the gym for 1-2 hours a day) each month, I thought it might be prudent to cut costs elsewhere. Also, I thought I was doing okay.

I have finally come to the conclusion that I'm kind of fucked up. I can deal with that. I have major body issues, and because of that, I've decided that I will never choose to be physically intimate with anyone. I have accepted that this is what my future holds, and I'm mostly okay with that. Having come to a place of acceptance in this, I've experienced a great deal of peace in general and less frustrations in my friendship with TB.

So, no more need to discuss the issues because they are what they are, and I'm pretty sure I can live with them. I can live a totally sexless existence, just me and my body issues. No more therapy. I have one date left on the books, and I was planning to break up with my therapist then.

All that changed this morning when I went to the gym.

It started out like a pretty typical day. I mixed up the hours and got to the gym with my mama and my younger brother an hour before they opened. So, we headed to the store for a bit and I sipped coffee while they ate breakfast.

I had forgotten my water bottle, but I figured since we were at the store anyway, I'd buy a coconut water and take it with me. I forgot to buy the coconut water.

When we got back to the gym and they were open, we got in and headed to the locker rooms. I was getting changed into my work out clothes, examining different parts of my body, pointing out my fat lumps to my mother, complaining about the wrinkly, sagging skin. This is what I do every day in my head when I look in the mirror.

Having dressed in work out gear, I took my mother to the weight room. "I'll be back in 45 minutes to an hour," I told her as I headed to the track.

I walked 1 mile on the track as a warm up. This particular track has 3 lanes, 1 running, 1 walking, 1 passing. The walking lane requires 14 1/2 laps to complete a mile. I had just finished my 14th lap walking and as I anticipated the start of my run, I literally giggled uncontrollably for the last 1/2 lap, I was so excited to be running.

I moved into the running lane and completed the 16 1/2 laps for 1 mile.

With a stitch in my side, I moved back to the walking lane and walked 7 1/2 laps. I thought to myself that I probably shouldn't have had 2 cups of coffee immediately before working out, as I was certain that was the reason I had a stitch in my side.

Moving smoothly back into the running lane, I completed 16 1/2 laps for my second mile, and then shifted back to the walking lane for the final 7 laps that would complete my second mile walking and effectively cool me down.

Then, I headed to the weight room. I forgot to get a drink of water.

After half an hour on the machines in the weight room I was starting to cramp a bit in my legs and I was feeling a bit nauseous. "Oh!" I thought. "I forgot to drink anything." Spying a water fountain, I immediately walked over and took a few sips. I finished with weight about forty minutes later.

"Okay," I told my mama and brother, "I'm ready to head to the pool!" I was about to throw up, so I headed to the water fountain again for a few more sips.

Once in the locker room again, as we changed into our swim suits, I once again examined my body. I explained to my mother that I often look at my abdomen and all the loose, wrinkled, lumpy skin and it reminds me of high school, back before I knew I was gluten intolerant, and I used to bake breads. "It just reminds me of bread dough. I'd like to cut it off, knead it until all smooth and elastic, shape it into loaves, and pop it in the oven," I said as I poked around at the little pockets and squishy lumps.

We showered and headed to the pool area where my brother was already doing laps. "Oh, sugar cookies!" I exclaimed. "I forgot to take out my contacts." I'm utterly terrified of losing a contact in the pool. "I'll be right back!"

I stowed my contact in their case and headed back to the pool. I did ten laps. Front crawl, breaststroke, front crawl, breaststroke, front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke, back crawl, front crawl, back stroke.

Now, having unusually bad menstrual cramps today, I decided that having cooled down sufficiently in the pool for 15 minutes, it might be nice to spend some time in the hot tub, with one of the jets massaging my lower back. So, we headed there next.

I turned on the jets and stepped in. My mama complained that it was too hot, but I thought it was perfect. My brother remarked that it was quite warm, but I still thought it was perfect.

We're all talking and having a good time. I share a little about my body issues and start to tear up. "Hey, M," my mama says, because I'm not looking at her. I look over. "You know, I love you no matter what. Testiness and all!"

"I'm only testy because I'm over training! I'm not eating enough to account for all the exercise and my body is constantly screaming, 'I'm starving! Feeeeed me!' and I'm screaming back at it 'Shut up already!'" My brother laughed at that. But seriously, body, you're not starving. If you're hungry, eat those lumpy fat stores!

After 10 minutes the jets shut off automatically. I hopped up to restart them, thinking, "The sign on the door limits it to 15 minutes, so another 5 should be fine!" I felt a bit dizzy getting out, but as I have generally low blood pressure anyway (typically 98/52), and I get dizzy nearly every time I stand up, I didn't think much of it.

Another five minutes in and we all head out.

This is when I knew I was in trouble.

This was more than dizzy. I was hot and though I'd just gotten out, my skin was almost immediately dry. I leaned against the wall and asked my mama to hand me my towel. She did, and I remember thinking, "I just need to sit for a minute." I started to bend my knees, and that's when it happened.

There were bright blinking lights and I did not know where I was. I was confused because I had no reason to be in a place with strobe lights going, and I'm not sure where I've come from, or where I am, or how I got here.

I can hear voices, distant and garbled as though I am at one end of a tunnel and they are at the other. "You need to say something so we know you're okay," I think I hear my mama say.

This is so out of the ordinary, all I can say is, "What?"

Then, I remember, we're at the gym. I didn't feel well. I wanted to sit down. But, I'm lying on the floor.... "Did I pass out?" I ask, unsuccessfully trying to open my eyes.

"Yeah," my brother says.

"Actually," my mama responds, "I think you had a seizure."

"No," I tell her, "I'm sure I just passed out. I'll be fine."

"Your eyelids were fluttering and your muscles were twitching. This was more than passing out," she says with motherly authority. Fluttering eyelids. Well, that explains the strobe light effect.

"Should we call an ambulance?" my brother asks.

"No," I tell them. "I'm sure I'll be fine. I'm just really dehydrated. Could you get me some water?" I ask my brother, finally opening my eyes and sitting up.

He runs to get me a cup and a pitcher full of water. He returns with four gym staff in tow.

I'm sure I'm blushing 100 shades of red, though I cannot feel the heat of a blush in my cheeks. I can't believe I passed out at the gym. This is so humiliating. "I'm fine," I tell them. "Really. Just a bit dehydrated. I'll be okay in a minute." I can't make them out clearly, just three men and a woman.

"Are you sure?" they ask.

"Yep. I'm just going to take a few minutes and drink some water. I'll be fine soon!"

Three of them leave, but the fourth refuses to go until he's sure I can walk out on my own. This is really embarrassing, feeling foolish for forgetting my water bottle and passing out because I got a little dehydrated.

After most of the water and about five minutes, I stand up. I take a step and then another and try for a third. The entire room is engulfed in white light. "Nope," I whisper, as I fall against the wall, the room going gray and then black as I slide to the floor. I'm not out for long. I can hear them asking if I'm okay. "Yeah," I say with my eyes closed. "I just need another minute."

I drink more water and rest for another 5 minutes. In the meantime, an older gentleman comes in and uses the hot tub. I try to stand up once more, and immediately, the room is engulfed in white light, fade to gray, I'm against the wall, black. I'm sitting there frustrated with my body.

"You need to lie flat on your back, put your feet up high against the wall, get blood to your head," the guy in the hot tub says.

"Oh, genius!" I mumble. My mama has gone to the showers to get changed, trusting my brother to care for me while I recover. We did not expect it would take very long.

"Don't let her get up for at least another five minutes," the hot tub guy says as he leaves. "You've got a bit more color," he remarks. "When you stood up before you were white as a sheet. Stay down this time!"

"Thanks," I tell him, still hugely embarrassed as he heads out.

We wait 20 minutes. After five, I still knew I wouldn't make it up. At ten, I asked for a bit more water. By 15 minutes prone, I tell the staff worker (who I am to see clearly now, and who is remarkably HOT) that he should have brought a book, because I'm sure it would be far more entertaining than "all of this" as I indicate my ridiculous position on the floor, feet against the wall.

We spend five minutes just talking. In my typical fashion I asked him questions (or interrogated him, as TB call this habit of mine).

At this point, I feel well enough (finally) to stand. Rather than feeling hot and dry, I'm starting to feel comfortable, almost cool, and I can feel the wetness in my hair and the hem of my swimsuit's skirt.

I stand up, and I'm immediately worried. Why can't I see anything clearly!? What happened!? Oh, right. I took my contacts out before jumping in the pool. Goodness, I'm a moron. I'm certainly my face would be flaming red if I were capable of blushing at this point.

Showered, dressed, mobile, we leave the gym. I grab a coconut water and protein bar at the grocery store. I am better.

When I get home I google complications from dehydration. Yep, sure enough, it was seizure. Involuntary muscle contractions and loss of consciousness. Thanks, www.mayoclinic.com! Thanks, mama for recognizing what was going on!

So, that's that. I've changed my mind. I knew I'd forgotten my water bottle and I knew it wasn't wise to work out without having one on hand, and I did it anyway.

I knew I wasn't feeling well. I knew that wanting to throw up was a sign that I was dehydrated, but I ignored it to push on in my work out. I pushed until I felt shaky and dizzy standing up and then only paused long enough to take a few sips. I needed so much more at that point.

I continued to push, despite the fact that my muscles were burning and cramping and I knew if I had had anything in my stomach at all, I would have thrown up, and still I didn't stop, because all I could think about was, "I just need to finish this set, this machine, this lap, and I can tend to my body after."

I continued to push, ignoring my body, telling it to shut up and do what it was told, pushing it to perform one more, ignoring it until it fell silent, until my thirst was forgotten, until I had a seizure. And I thank God that I was in the process of sitting when it happened, because otherwise, who knows how hard I would have hit my head on the wall or the floor if I'd fallen farther than I did.

After I got home, I rested for a few minutes before my next engagement today. As I headed out again, I thought about my plans to quit therapy. "I'll be fine," I said to myself.

"Oh, really?" I asked myself. "You just had a seizure. That's hardly fine."

"It happens!" I argued back. "It's totally normal. People get dehydrated. It's a common complication. I'll just be more careful next time."

"Normal? Really? Normal? There's nothing normal about having a seizure because of dehydration from over training. There's nothing normal about having a seizure at all. What's more, forgetting 'normal' as a subjective term for just a moment, there's nothing HEALTHY about having a seizure or even passing out."

I wanted to argue back. I really couldn't.

I guess therapy will have to continue.

And I'm going to put a water bottle in my gym bag as soon as I get home. If I can remember.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Another Fat Girl Rant

I have a friend who does not understand the depth of my frustration and pain as I continue to lose weight through healthier food choices and exercise.

In the past, I've had people assume that it's just the best thing ever and I must be loving my new body and the attention it brings me.

I'm in therapy because of my weight loss and the changes taking place in my body.

I cry about it. A lot.

I struggle to love and honor my body, sometimes over-training to the point of exhaustion, unable to function properly the next day, and yet I continue to work out anyway, because I'm willing to pay the physical cost of doing too much if I can avoid the emotional cost of doing less, even if intellectually I know my body needs a break and I am doing myself no favors by pushing myself beyond my limits.

Looking in the mirror, I see all of things that I still want to change about my body. I see all of the imperfections that could be perfected. I do not see the changes and how my body has gotten smaller, I only see how fat it still is and all the parts that do not look the way they are "supposed" to look.

Though self-loathing is hard enough to deal with in this fat-phobic culture in which we live, it is made even more difficult to stand against when well-meaning people make some of the most painfully degrading comments imaginable, with the intent of complimenting my weight loss.

"Wow!" said one woman, several years ago when I lost weight the first time.

"What?" I responded.

"I just got a glimpse of what a knock-out you're going to be if you keep losing weight."

Because my physical appearance is the only beautiful part of me, or at least the most important.

Though it was unrelated to this comment, I went on to regain 100 of the 150lbs I had lost.

Having re-lost that 100lbs and then a few more, I knew to expect the comments this time. I knew they were coming. I knew I would have to find a way to mentally re-frame them, because I cannot have the conversation in which I ask, "What is it you're really trying to communicate?" with every person I know. I wouldn't do it well and I do not want to alienate people who are simply trying to love me.

The remarks this time around are similar. I knew it was coming. I thought I would be prepared for it.

"I just can't get over how pretty you're becoming now that you've lost so much weight."

How pretty I'm becoming. Because I wasn't pretty before? My basic structure has stayed the same, there's just a bit less fat in my face.... Because beauty that comes closer to meeting the unrealistic physical standards in our society is more important than a beautiful spirit or beautiful acts or beautiful words?

"I just can't get over how beautiful you're getting! .... Do you think a man may be in your future?"

Because no one would want a fat woman? Because only the thin are deserving of love? Because my value as a human being is not only tied primarily to my appearance, but my ability to catch and keep a man?

Yes, I cry a lot about my weight loss and my changing body. Far more than I ever cried about being fat.

I spend more time looking in a mirror critiquing all of the parts that are not yet good enough. This, for the record, would be all of them.

The ironic part of all of this is that what motivated me initially to take better care of myself was not the insults or stares or abuse lobbed at me by our fat-phobic, fat-hating, fat-shaming culture.

Shame does NOT produce lasting change.

It was the unconditional love of my best friend who has always told me how beautiful I am at any size. It was her unconditional love and support and desire to not watch me die an early death that motivated me to take those first steps into greater health again.

And the frustrating response has been further body-shaming by a society that feels an intense need to control women by policing their bodies, always dictating that our value is wholly dependent on our appearance and relationship status, nothing else.

Now, as a thinker on the MBTI, I can tell you that if you want to capture my heart and get me excited and engaged, make me think. Start with the brain. Go hard-core intellectual on me.

The reverse holds true, and for that I am grateful.

If I am experiencing something emotionally and do not know how to process it, I'll intellectualize it and work through it, understanding it with my intellect so that I can discern why I'm having the emotional response I'm having or I can reset my emotional compass.

So, having looked at my body in the mirror (again) and having found all of the things I hate about my body (again) (and all of it), I decided to do some research. Surely there had to be resources somewhere. Surely, somewhere, some kind of scholarly article had been written about massive weight loss, the appearance of specific body regions, body dysmorphia, common experiences, and resources that help.

What I found in the first scholarly article returned in my search results was published on the National Institute of Health website. This is what I read:
Weight loss patients usually desire thighplasty. Hating their appearance, they hide under tent-like skirts and baggy pants. Panniculectomy further exposes the unsightliness. Repugnant odors emanate. Some are tormented by red chafed skin under folds. Sagging inner thighs couple with an overhanging abdominal apron and mons pubis rob self-esteem. The patients shun intimacy. (emphasis mine)
The article goes on to indicate that most patients really do want this surgery; doctors just need to convince them to accept the physical scars that will be apparent following the surgery.

Now, this was an article on a new technique for cosmetic surgery to address the issue of excess skin following massive weight loss. And maybe, given the fact that this is an article about cosmetic surgery, I ought to have expected the fat-shaming language used by the doctor who pioneered this particular technique.

But I didn't.

I read that paragraph in the medical literature and the conclusion I drew was not that I had made a choice to become healthier and this is commendable. The conclusion I drew was not that my physical appearance is the least important part of who I am. The conclusion I drew was not that I am valuable and worthy and loved and lovely no matter what.

What I read in that paragraph is that I am unsightly. What I read in that paragraph is that I am repugnant. What I read in that paragraph is that I am unworthy of self-esteem. What I read in that paragraph is that I should shun intimacy, because I used to be a gross, fat, disgusting human being and while I've lost a significant portion of my excess weight, my body still bears those marks and that is what speaks to my complete lack of value.

And of course, I have learned through years of body-shaming and verbal abuse that I should not expect empathy or compassion, because I brought this on myself by living most of my life 200 lbs overweight. It's my fault that my body looks like this, it is my fault that I do not have any value in this society, it is my fault that I will never be worthy of love or acceptance because I'm the one who made the choices that led me to this moment in the first place.

I wonder how differently this paragraph in the article would read if phrased as such:

Many patients report hating their appearance and using voluminous skirts and baggy pants to hide. Many patients also indicate that panniculectomy accentuates their thighs. Many patients also express concerns about odor from moisture and bacteria trapped between skin folds. Many patients indicate they feel robbed of self-esteem and they shun intimacy as a result. Thighplasty may be one method by which dignity and esteem can be restored to these patients, helping to foster body-confidence that may restore their ability to engage in intimacy again.

I called my best friend and told her that I want to excise large portions of my body and I'd like to start with my genitals.

To answer the question, "No. There will be no man in my future ever, because my genitals are ugly, disgusting, and no man would ever want to be intimate with me once they saw my lady-bits anyway."

I wish she had been in a place to have a conversation about the bigger issues, this incredible woman who loves me unconditionally and who truly believes I am beautiful no matter my size.

I am very fortunate, indeed, that I have several friends who will speak the truth to me.

I have several friends who will say to me, "Your value comes from God alone, not from your outward appearance," and "Hey, I value you a lot as a person no matter what size your body is!"

In a fat-phobic, fat-hating, body-shaming culture, I need to hear these messages far more than I need to hear how pretty I'm becoming. Even if I know what these people are trying to communicate is, "It's obvious that you are prioritizing your health and making self-care a real part of your life. I'm glad for you."

I wish that more people were aware of what their words communicate, and I wish they would make better choices to communicate unconditional love and acceptance rather than shame. Because unconditional love and acceptance are far more powerful at affecting change than shame will ever be.

Giving Thanks to Gain Perspective

Luke 6:20-31

*****

Every year, during the month of November, a large number of people on Facebook and other social media sites participate in "30 Days of Thanksgiving" updating their status each day with one thing for which they are faithful.  Last year I participated.

But I did not stop on November 30th.

Rather, I decided to continue for an entire year. In part, I wanted to see if I could make a commitment and follow through (though knowing myself as I do, this was hardly a significant concern). In part, I wanted to challenge myself to be more thankful in general.

The biggest, factor, however, was that I wanted to know what, if anything, I would learn about myself in the process, if I took just a few moments of every day to be thankful for something.

I did learn a few things: I have much to be grateful for. Most of what I truly appreciate in life is not any of my material possessions but my relationships first and foremost and my life experiences next.

I learned that my act of gratitude inspired others.

I learned that I am loved by many and there are those who will readily, if somewhat surprisingly, come to my defense when I am attacked.

There was one morning, a morning after which I had gotten the best night's sleep I had in months; a night in which I'd slept solidly after almost a week of getting virtually no sleep any night, tossing and turning and unable to fall asleep; this particular morning, I stated that I was thankful for good sleep.

Immediately a young woman commented that there were lots of things for which to be thankful and my choice that day was shallow and empty and I needed to "work harder."

This is a woman who has obviously never experienced prolonged insomnia. This is a young woman who clearly does not understand what is necessary for a truly good night's sleep: safety, security, comfort, peace. This is a woman who, it seems, does not understand that adequate, healthy, restorative sleep is absolutely NECESSARY for mental, emotional, and physical health.

When I express gratitude for good sleep, it is an expression of gratitude for all of the factors that made it possible: sufficient nutrition, a comfortable bed, warm blankets, a home in which my physical safety is not at risk, relationships in which my sense of security is not in jeopardy.

It is also an expression of gratitude for all of the benefits that come with good sleep: clarity of thought, emotional stability, sufficient energy to perform acts of daily living, and with that, the resilience to make wise and healthy choices in the face of temptation.

And when this woman belittled my expression of thanks, dozens of people came to my defense.

Some may be wondering what this story has to do with our gospel lesson this morning.

I am not, by an means, a wealthy woman. I am, however, incredibly rich in relationships. I am incredibly blessed by God.

I am incredibly blessed and rich in things that matter.  I have sufficient food and have not known hunger or the desperation of severe poverty in years.

This reality, and my ability and willingness to recognize it, leads me to worry a bit, as we read our gospel lesson.

Blessed are the poor.  I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I am among the top 2% of the world's population in regards to wealth, even if I'm in the lower 60% in the US.

Blessed are those who hunger.  I have have a fridge full of spinach at home. More than that, I have the luxury of skipping a meal here or there if I get too busy to eat or simply do not find anything that is immediately available all that appealing.

Blessed are those who mourn. I have certainly mourned in my life, but I am so richly blessed, it is hard to find much to mourn at present.

Blessed are those who are hated, excluded, insulted, and rejected because of Jesus. I have the privilege to stand before you today, in a position of authority and respect, because I am a pastor who loves to talk about Christ.

Woe to the rich, for they have received their comfort. Yep, I'm pretty comfortable in life.

Woe to the well fed, for they will go hungry. Yep, it's pretty clear just looking at me that I'm a little too well fed.

Woe to those who laugh, for they will mourn. If it's one thing I'm known for among most of my social circles, it's my laugh. Even having lost over 100 lbs in the last year, having become virtually unrecognizable to people who have known me for years, the moment I open my mouth and giggle, I am known.

Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you.... I think I'm safe here ;) No one can please all people all the time.

Questions are abundant for us in this scripture! Where do I fall? Is this a scripture to comfort or to warn me? How poor do I have to be to be blessed? How rich is rich enough to worry?

Must I always know hunger to be blessed? Or is having grown up in poverty with occasional bare cupboards sufficient?

How deeply must I mourn? How long must I weep? What must I lose and mourn that I might gain a blessing? Is the loss worth it?

Even if there are those who hate me, who exclude me, who insult me, who reject me, does God really expect me to JUMP FOR JOY!? Seriously!? Abused, reviled, bullied, excluded, taunted, tormented by others and I am told to do a happy dance?

And will God truly deny people comfort, food, joy, and respect in eternal life simply because they received such treatment here, on earth, in this life?

If it is a blessing in God's kingdom to be poor, hungry, to mourn, and be persecuted in this life because such people will be rich, satisfied, will laugh, and be rewarded in eternity; does it necessarily follow that it is a curse to be be rich, well fed, happy, and respected in this life, because God would deny these things in eternal life?

I do not believe so.

The Kingdom of God is not about denying anyone. The Kingdom of God does not operate on an economy of scarcity. Scarcity is the language of this world. Scarcity is a mark of the temporal.  I believe the language used in this passage is a reminder that the blessings of this life are short-lived. They will pass away just as our bodies will pass away. Just as the kingdoms of this world will pass away.

The Kingdom of God, though, is something else entirely. The Kingdom of God is eternal, everlasting. The blessings of God are greater and more significant than the pocket change of the millionaires. The Kingdom of God operates on an economy of abundance.

There is more than enough for everyone.

I think the problem in this passage is our perspective. Much like the young woman who felt my gratitude for a good night's sleep was shallow and insufficient, it is not that those who are rich, well fed, joyful, and respected now will not have access to abundance, good food, joy, or respect in eternal life. Rather, it is that they will not have the perspective to understand these blessings.

Having great wealth and blessings in this life can desensitize us to our blessings. Living in relative comfort, we can forget what it to want for basic necessities and end up yearning for more. There is more than enough, and we often become consumers en masse who want "just a little bit more."

It is not that the wealthy, well fed, happy, respected few on this earth will not have access to the abundance of God in the afterlife. But how much will it mean to them if they've known such comforts all their life?

A radical shift in perspective needs to take place.

Jesus tells us how, and sets the example himself as he lives out the values he proclaims: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.

Jesus calls us to put others before ourselves, to respond to hate with radical love; and he shows us how, loving his enemies and calling them friends, doing good to those who hated him, blessing those who cursed him, praying for those who mistreated him, reconciling the whole of creation to its creator as he chose obedience to death.

Everything about God's kingdom is the opposite from our understanding of how things work on earth.

Do to others, not what you feel they deserve, but what you would have them do to you.

In the kingdoms of this world, operating under an economy of scarcity, power leads to abuse. Studies have been done that demonstrate that the biggest predictor of immoral behavior is power. Being granted power encourages people to behave less like Jesus.

One does not need to look far to see this: presidents and CEOs of major corporations growing richer and richer and richer, amassing more wealth than they could possibly spend in 10 lifetimes, accumulating this wealth through the exploitation, abuse, and coercion of their employees.

Everything about God's kingdom is opposite from our understanding of how things work on earth.

Exploitation, coercion, and abuse have no place in the Kingdom of God. Respect, love, dignity, kindness, compassion, generosity. These are Kingdom values.

Perspective. Perspective changes our choices.

Putting others before ourselves, responding to hatred with radical love, turning the other cheek, giving beyond what is demanded, giving to all who ask, not demanding repayment. Doing these things will not only bless us in this life; these acts are a blessing in themselves, and unlike material possessions, they are blessings that will never pass away.

Eternal life with eternal blessings. Perspective. Being grateful in plenty and in want. In this way we are preparing ourselves to know and understanding the blessings to come.

Thanksgiving, even for the small, simple, and relatively insignificant things in life is still thanksgiving. Thanksgiving gives us perspective. Thanksgiving reminds us that we have much for which to be thankful. Thanksgiving sets our minds to an economy of abundance.

May you recognize the abundance of God's blessings present this day and always.