Spiritually Speaking answers personal questions and concerns with a spiritual perspective. Local religious leaders that will take part in the discussion include Bryan Griem of Montrose Community Church; Jon Karn of Light on the Corner Church; Kimberlie Zakarian of Holy House Ministries; Skip Lindeman of La Cañada Congregational United Church of Christ; Rabbi Simcha Backman of Chabad of Glendale; Levent Akbarut of Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge; Betty Stapleford of Unitarian Universalist; Paige Eaves CV United Methodist Church; Bryan Jones of St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church; Steven Van Meter and Beverly Craig of La Crescenta Center for Spiritual Living and Sharon Weisman, atheist/agnostic/secular humanist/free thinker. We welcome your questions and comments. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Responses are offered from the perspectives of individual clergy members, which may or may not be in agreement with other respondents of Spiritually Speaking nor the editor and staff of the Crescenta Valley Weekly.
I am seeking advice about my concern for my daughter and her family. They are all overweight, but everything that they eat is a heart attack on a plate. She comes from a long line of health issues, as does her husband. At one point his triglycerides were over 600, but they think they are invincible. I understand with the economy and the schedules of the young today it’s hard to eat right. Most parents are working at least two jobs just to pay the bills, leaving little time for shopping to cook a healthy meal, if they have time to cook at all. They do not live close to me, so helping is not an option. How can I gently remind her that her health is more important or is this something that is best left alone?
Dear Worried Mom,
Are your daughter and her tubby hubby religious? If so, remind them of St. Paul’s words in the New Testament about their bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit. Romans 12 opens with the Apostle telling us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice “holy and acceptable to God.” Those of us who wouldn’t dare attach our bodies to a prostitute need to have the awareness that it’s also a good idea not to attach ourselves to too much flab!
Not to be negative, but old habits are hard to break, especially if they think that they are “invincible” (your word). Some Christians like to use the phrase, “born again,” and that phrase as Jesus used it when he was talking to Nicodemus (John 3:3) can mean to re-learn everything you thought you knew. In my own particular case, I had to do some re-learning. I had always thought that I was as healthy as a horse and could eat anything I wanted because I exercised a lot. Then one day I had pains in my arms as I was jogging, and I realized that something was amiss. That “something” was coronary heart disease, and I had to re-learn that I could not eat everything I wanted and as often as I wanted. So in a sense, I was “born again” and started to eat smaller portions and not so many creamy sauces.
I wouldn’t wish a heart attack on anyone – but maybe the only thing that’s going to “save” your daughter and son-in-law is some shocking realization that this life is truly fragile, that they are mortal and the only way to extend that mortality is to eat healthy foods more often than they do now.
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
Dear Worried Mom,
The connection between poor eating habits and negative health consequences is well known. I’m overweight myself and can confirm the need for diplomacy when discussing the topic, as you wisely note.
One approach might be to share your positive experiences finding and preparing healthy food quickly, not as advice, but just giving news of your life. You can talk of your visits to Farmers markets or use of Community Supported Agriculture (http://www.localharvest.org/csa/), which are great sources of interesting produce. Then relate your internet search for recipes for newly discovered vegetables or fruits and how fun it was to fix and eat them.
If you send gifts to the family, you might consider something like Harry & David’s Fruit of the Month Club or home delivered gourmet prepared meals.
Emphasize you want to give the family tasty treats and save them time, not that you’ve chosen healthy alternatives. Or if your grandchildren are age appropriate, you could send them kits to grow herbs in the kitchen window or “upsy daisy” tomatoes and peppers on the balcony. You can present it as a fun way to stretch the budget and teach science and responsibility. It’s in line with the First Lady’s White House garden, too.
If your daughter catches on and reacts negatively, you have to be honest about your fears and your love. Then you have to back off. You will
have the comfort of knowing you did your best. And if she wants help, the Family Dinner Project (http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/) is another good resource. It’s
part of the “slow food” movement that advocates family dinners or other meals. There is evidence the communication and sharing provides a host of other benefits in addition to lowering obesity rates.
Thank you for reminding me to eat better!
Atheist/Agnostic/Secular Humanist/Free Thinker
I’m 19 years old, in college and still living at home. My family never has attended church. Recently I began attending a local Protestant church and I feel really good about exploring spiritual beliefs and learning things about the Bible I didn’t know. Although I know my parents believe in God, they ridicule me for going to church and ask me what I think I’ll learn. I love my parents and want to show them respect and be respected in return. They have supported my interests until now.
Is there anything I can say to them that will help them realize this means a lot to me? We did have one conversation that turned into an argument when I told them my feelings were hurt and that’s why I’m writing.
Dear Sad Girl:
Well, at 19, you are technically an adult and entitled to practice the beliefs you feel are right for you. I understand the dynamic of still living at home. But if your parents are not forbidding you to go to church while under their roof (because they would have no right otherwise), I think this is one of those times when our faith makes us feel like aliens on this earth … especially in our families. And this is a difficult thing so many experience, that is why Jesus addressed it in the New Testament.
You can show your parents respect by not blatantly sharing your faith or experiences at church with them, although privately, you will be praying for them. And ask the Lord to give you peace in this as you await for the day when perhaps they understand by your good works, respect and behavior. But to keep making it a point of conversation is futile at this point because of their resistance. Find your joy in Christ, your church family and show respect to your parents so they have no reason to find fault in you.
You are not alone. So many others are on a similar journey. God never promised us that people would understand or support out faith. He only explained that it would happen, and that we were to turn our backs so to speak from those unbelievers and keep pursuing Him. He will grant you peace, knowledge, and respect in his timing for this situation.
The Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Montrose. Reach her at Kimberlie Zakarian Therapy, 2233 Honolulu Ave, Suite 310, Montrose, CA 91020 or by email at Kimberlie@kimberliezakariantherapy.com.
Dear Sad Girl,
It is sometimes a challenge to manage religious differences in a family, but know that you are not alone. Once, church membership in this country was routinely reported in terms of how many families a congregation had. It was just assumed that whole families were members together.
But now, in our pluralistic society which highly values individual choice, many people attend church today alone, without the spouses, partners, siblings, children and parents they live with. Some families deal with profound religious differences.
Each family has to find its own ways of living with differences. Faith commitments emerge out of deep places in each of us. Family members need to be respectful of this reality and I agree with you that mutual respect is what is needed.
I don’t know if your parents are willing to talk about it, but I wonder why their response has been so strongly negative. Could you ask them if they have had past experiences with churches or religious groups that have wounded them in some way? Are they reacting to negative stereotypes about religion in our culture?
Perhaps you could share with them the positive gifts you are receiving from your spiritual exploration. Or maybe those gifts will become quietly visible in you. But arguing doesn’t help. Nobody gets argued into or out of real faith in God. If respectful conversation about your differences is not possible, then maybe you and your parents can agree to respectful silence in this area.
In any event, I hope you know that God loves you, your parents and all of us regardless of what we believe or don’t believe.
Rev. Bryan Jones
St. Lukes of the Mountains Episcopal Church