Friday, April 27, 2012

thoughts on "the hunger games" as a spiritual exerience

the first time i heard about the hunger games, i remember thinking that the concept sounded extremely weird and scary.  how could it be entertaining to read about children killing each other?

i finished reading "the hunger games" trilogy this week, after only a week and a half of reading... that is really fast for me!  needless to say, i really enjoyed the books.  it really got my mind working, especially impacting my faith, so i wanted to share some of my thoughts about it.  i wont give away any major parts of the series (in case you haven't read it and plan to!), but i will just speak to the broader themes and ideas that i observed.

1. its not a perfect ending or a hollywood ending.  but its realistic, and i appreciate that.

2. i cried at the end of the last book (which is actually pretty amazing because i haven't cried in almost a year! i think last time was the day we took the kids back to their mom).  not because it is particularly sad, but because it ends without much hope.  well, i guess some would say that there is hope at the end of the book, but i would say that there is not any real hope.

3. reading them made me thankful that i have real hope: confident assurance that God will right all of the wrongs in the world, that each person will be accountable for the sin they commit.  the end of this book has no hope for real change, and i am glad to have such a hope.

4.  for the first book, i was on team gale.  but for the second and third books i joined team peeta.  no comment on what may or may not happen at the end :) i'm not into mushy love stories, and i appreciated that the love story side of the books was not overpowering, but added just the right amount of extra flavor.

5.  something i really like about peeta's character: he embodies sacrificial love.  there never seems to be any selfish motives in his love for katniss, and he does everything he can to serve her.  he is a refreshing picture (though certainly only a shadow) of jesus' love for his bride, the church.  jesus lovingly laid down his life without selfishness, and continually seeks to do good for his beloved.

6.  katniss' decision to volunteer for her sister was also a cool picture of what jesus has done: taken our place for a death sentence.  once again, this is merely a shadow as jesus was perfect and didn't deserve to die, but it is a helpful framework to begin to understand the magnitude of his sacrifice.

7.  these books make it clear that there is no perfect form of government, because every form of government is corrupted by people's selfishness and sin (though there may be some forms of government that are better than others).  government cannot save us, only jesus can save.

8.  reading these books made me thankful for my years of studying latin and roman history.

9.  i really enjoyed katniss' character and i felt like i could relate to her.  i really appreciated getting to see into her mind (one of the ways that i liked the book better than the movie), seeing her have to sort through different hard decisions, and her reactions to different situations.  she often had mixed motives and ambivalent desires, and the complexity of her character i found to be very realistic.

10.  i'm not sure if this was the author's intention, but i found the descriptions of the hunger games and war scenes to remind me a lot about what american soldiers abroad are facing daily.  katniss herself (and several other characters) seem to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, two conditions many iraqi war veterans are experiencing.  it is not a pleasant picture (which is why we need to end these wars and stop war-mongering with iran... but that is another post for another day...).

those are just some random thoughts.

have you read hunger games?  how did it impact you?

Monday, April 9, 2012

3 recipes for homemade toothpaste (a review)

about a year ago, after learning about all of the harmful chemical ingredients in conventional toothpaste (especially flouride and sodium lauryl sulfate), we switched to using tom's of maine toothpaste, which was a little more natural.  however, even tom's contained a few ingredients that i am nervous about, so about 6 months ago, i started making our own toothpaste at home.

'Bollywood toothpaste' photo (c) 2010, Juan Delgado - license:

there are two main reasons that i started making homemade toothpaste: cost and quality of ingredients.  when it comes to health and beauty products, i prefer to mostly only use products that i would be comfortable eating, since the chemicals in health/beauty products are absorbed into the skin and into the bloodstream (think nicotine and birth control patch: both contain chemicals meant to be absorbed through our skin.  our skin is porous and chemicals can go right through, though we usually don't think about it). when making toothpaste at home, i know exactly what is in it, and they are all ingredients from my kitchen.

furthermore, the cost of making it at home is much lower.  there are brands that are safer than toms of maine, but they are expensive.  natural toothpaste rarely goes on sale, and can easily cost $4-$7 for a tube much smaller than conventional.  i can make the equivalent amount of homemade for less than $1.

and now that i have tried it, there is one main reason that i will continue to make homemade toothpaste: it works so much better than conventional.  in college my roommates used to laugh at me because i would brush my teeth for 4-5 minutes.  "you are going to brush the enamel off of your teeth!" they would say.  the problem was, even after 4-5 minutes, my teeth still never really felt clean.  so, when i tried these homemade toothpastes, i was blown away... i now brush my teeth for just a minute, two minutes tops and my teeth feel way cleaner than they have ever felt before.

some people say this is because the ADA and toothpaste manufactures are in cahoots to make and market crappy toothpaste so that people ultimately have to spend more on dental work.  i dont know if i believe this particular conspiracy theory (though i wouldn't be utterly surprised if its true), all i know is that toothpaste ads aren't going to fool me any more: i know that homemade toothpaste is MUCH more effective.

all of these recipes are really easy to make.  you can throw together a jar of toothpaste, enough to last you for a few months in about 5 minutes (or less).  this includes the time it takes you to gather all the ingredients from around the house: its just that simple.

recipe #1 (i got this recipe from christian personal finance)

1/2 cup of baking soda
a dash of sea salt
1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
stevia and peppermint essential oil (optional- these are to give it better flavor.  i used about 20-30 drops of stevia and 10 drops of essential oil)

directions: mix everything together in a small jar.

results:  my first time using this i was like WHOA.  and not in a good way.  this recipe is WAAAAY salty.  i couldn't brush my teeth for more than a minute because of the taste (which lead to my above discovery, that i don't even need to brush for more than a minute to get outstanding results!).

because this cleaned so well, i continued to use it, and got more used to the taste, though i still don't love it.  after a few months (where i thought i was testing my husband's patience with nasty tasting toothpaste) i decided to try two other recipes (below).  however, i just found out that my husband actually doesn't even mind the taste, and says that this one is his favorite of the three!  he said it took him a few days to get used to the taste, but that he loves the texture and the clean feeling from this toothpaste recipe.  good thing i decided to write this review or i would never have known he actually likes this one! :P

note that this toothpaste doesn't lather like store-bought toothpaste, so it might weird you out at first (another reason i falsely assumed my hubby didn't like it!).  it will take some time to get used to, but once you realize that it still works without a lather, you will be fine.  one of the reasons that companies use SLS in so many health and beauty products is because consumers like the lather it produces: psychologically it makes them feel like the product is working better (all the while the SLS is poisoning their body!).

i also made this one time with a mixture of orange essential oil and peppermint.  i liked it better but my husband thought it was weird.

recipe #2  (i got this recipe from naturally knocked up)

2 teaspoons of dr. bronners liquid castile soap (i used peppermint)
5 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
10-20 drop of essential oil (optional: i used just peppermint, but you could add some orange or whatever else suits your taste)
stevia to taste(optional)
1 tablespoon of water

directions: mix the soap and coconut oil together first, and then add the rest of the ingredients.

note that this recipe contains a little bit of glycerin (in the castile soap), which some people think coats your teeth in a way that prevents them from remineralizing.  in my opinion, this is just a small amount of gylcerin, so i'm not too concerned about it, but its something to keep in mind.

results: the first thing i noticed about this toothpaste is that it actually does lather quite a bit.  i kind of like the lather, but i can easily do without it at this point after having used recipe #1 for so many months.  my husband says that he actually really doesn't like the lather in this one!

the taste is much less overwhelming... it mostly tastes like peppermint, with a little hint of soap-y flavor.

it has a bit of a slippery texture, which my husband doesn't really like.  also, it might be purely psychological, but i do feel like my teeth have some kind of thin coating after i brush with it.  however, my teeth do feel really clean from this toothpaste (as with all of these recipes), much cleaner than with conventional toothpaste.

recipe #3 (i wish i could remember where i got this recipe so that i could give credit where credit is due!  its from one of the blogs i read, but i can't remember which one.)

3 tablespoons melted coconut oil (refined oil will have a neutral taste, unrefined oil will have a pleasantly subtle coconut-y taste)
3 tablespoons of baking soda
25 drops of peppermint essential oil (optional)
stevia to taste (optional)

results:  this one is probably my favorite of the three, though its is a bit strange to brush your teeth with oil (but better oil than chemicals!).  i really like the taste and feel of coconut oil, so this was a big plus to me.  my husband didn't really have strong feelings one way or the other about this one.

the taste is slightly salty, but mostly pleasant (i used unrefined coconut oil, which i would recommend unless you don't like coconut taste) .  the oil/baking soda makes a bit of a lather, but certainly not like conventional toothpaste (or recipe #2).  as i mentioned with the other two, this toothpaste cleans really great, MUCH better than any store-bought toothpaste i have tried.

on the downside, the oil is hard at room temp (unless your house is really hot, like in the summer with no AC), so you have to kind of dig into the jar to get some out.

want an even easier way to brush your teeth?  just wet your toothbrush and dip it into some baking soda and brush!  this is what many of our grandparents did before toothpaste was widely marketed.

are you wondering about the chemicals in your toothpaste?  see how it measures up here at skin deep's database.

what kind of toothpaste do you use?  what do you like, and what don't you like about it?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

are you living in light of good friday or resurrection sunday?

last night, i was getting bogged down by some sin, namely worry and anxiety.  motherhood brings a whole new onslaught of things to worry about, but the reality is that worry has been a theme of my life for years.

in my head, i know that worry has no place in my heart, since i am a child of God, who is my loving, generous Father.  he promises to give me wisdom when i need it (james 1:6).  he promises to provide for me, and i know that he can provide exactly what i need (matthew 6:33).  he can even provide something from nothing, as he did with the israelites in the desert, proving water from a rock and manna for them to eat.

but sometimes this is just head knowledge.  and that is where the defeat comes in: the anxiety continues (albeit less and less as i grow in my faith).  why am i enslaved to this worry?  ironically, i worry about my worry and am anxious about my anxiety.

as these thoughts were tumbling about in my head, God put an interesting and beautiful picture in my head.  i am stuck on good friday when resurrection sunday (easter) is the reality.

'resurrection' photo (c) 2009, Charles Meeks - license:

good friday was a day of seeming defeat.  jesus was stripped, wounded, mocked and executed. more painful than anything else, though, was the fact that God the Father turned his back on him.  all of this was a result of sin (ours, not jesus', as he had none).  and if the story ended there, it would be a story of defeat.

but a few days later, that following sunday, jesus came back to life, conquering satan, sin and death forever.  and the implications are massive: he was stripped that i might be clothed in righteousness.  he was wounded that i may be healed of my sin patterns.  he was mocked that i might be welcomed in.  he died so that i might be given new life.

my focus is wrong: i have been focusing on my old life of sin, while ignoring the future and current reality of new life.

and that is a great reason to rejoice this resurrection sunday!

happy easter!  i am joyful for a hope that is miles deeper than bunnies and chicks!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

it makes me happy that you would ask

in college i had a friend that, every time asked her for a favor or to borrow something, would say "of course.  it makes me happy that you would ask".  and she truly meant it.

what she was trying to communicate was that it made her happy to know that i trusted her enough to ask; that i didn't "feel bad" for asking her and find some other way to get something done.  we were close enough that i could be vulnerable and depend on her for various things.

at first it struck me as a bit unusual when she would say this.  but i have come to understand more and more what she meant.

i've noticed that we live in a culture that more and more doesn't want to depend on others.  as americans, we highly value our independence (after all, it is what we were founded on), so we try to find ways to detach our need for other people in our lives.

'Borrow one here!' photo (c) 2011, {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester} - license:

what if your car battery dies?  don't call a friend with jumper cables, call AAA to help you out.

are you going through a tough time in life?  don't open yourself up to be vulnerable to a friend, hire a therapist.

do you need to move? don't burden your friends to pick up your couch, hire moving "professionals"

do you need parenting advice?  don't call your parents or friends, pick up the latest parenting book for all the "up-to-date" information.

need someone to watch your kids?  let the day care "professionals" do it, certainly they will love your kids just as much as a family member.

need a ride to the airport?  don't ask your neighbor, hire a taxi.

and the list goes on and on.  as we become richer, we are able to hire these "professionals".  so instead of humbling ourselves to ask a friend, we can hire someone and avoid the pain of asking.

in general, these things are just observations and not condemnations.

but i do have one caveat.  it should be different in the family of Christ.  for those who follow jesus, we should be depending on one another.

but perhaps we are hesitant to ask because we ourselves would prefer not to be asked for help.  and so the willingness to ask might need to start with the willingness to give.

what do i mean?  in general, you wont want to ask for a favor that you wouldn't readily give to someone else.  but in light of jesus' saving gift of forgiveness and adoption into his family, we are brothers and sisters, and so should serve one another like the perfect family.  moreover, as we recognize how abundantly and graciously God has already given to us, we should desire to graciously and abundantly give to others.

jesus himself said "it is more blessed to give than receive".

so next time you need something, call another follower of jesus.  give him/her the opportunity to be blessed by God by helping you out.  and you will be blessed as well, and draw closer to God as you humble yourself to depend on another person.