Of Donne and Dessert

Every time I have my best intentions to eat a more healthy diet, chocolate chip cookies get in my way. Yes, chocolate chip cookies are my kryptonite. Tonight, I attended a meeting at which one of the marvelous attendees brought cookies. They were still warm from the oven. I ate two, although she urged me to take more home.

What on earth do chocolate chip cookies have to do with Richard Baxter’s questions to guide reading choices? I’ve already gone over questions one, two, and three, so it seemed appropriate to land on number four:

Does this book increase my love to the Word of God, kill my sin, and prepare me for the life to come?

So again, what does that have to do with cookies? Here’s my first thought. I can read any number of things. They’re not terrible. They won’t ruin my life or wreck my witness. But are they beneficial? I’m reminded of Paul’s comments about food.

“Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be mastered by anything.–1 Corinthians 6:12

Baxter seems to be acknowledging that he could read a huge range of different things. In his own day, he might have read the works of the poet John Donne. He could read Donne’s mildly naughty early-life poems, for example. Nobody’s going to be cast into the outer darkness for reading “To His Mistress Going to Bed,” even as it goes into a great deal of poetic detail on a woman undressing. But is there a positive good to come from it? Is that poem apt to “kill my sin”? Is it likely to increase my love for the Word? On the other hand, Donne’s later “Batter My Heart,” despite its sexual imagery is a powerful spiritual text. Even if neither of these is a harmful thing–and we could actually argue that–why would I consume the empty calories of the worldly stuff at the expense of the spiritually nourishing?

By the same token, why would I stick a chocolate-chip cookie in my mouth when I could enjoy a nice piece of broccoli? Did I seriously ask that question? Why? I would do it because the cookie is a delight in my mouth while the broccoli is . . . well, broccoli.

But of course there’s a payoff to eating right. My payoff for eating the cookie is right now. Those two cookies I ate a couple of hours back aren’t giving me any benefit or enjoyment now. The broccoli that I didn’t eat, however, could be providing useful nutrients for the long haul.

Similarly, the junk food media that I might consume, whether it be book, film, TV, or something else, is a short-lived pleasure. Do we ever say, “Wow, I’m really glad I watched those twelve episodes of Kimmy Schmidt today”? But what of the things that draw us closer to God, that prepare us for a life here and hereafter dedicated to Him?

Someday, I will manage to say “no” to the well-baked chocolate-chip cookie. Someday, perhaps, I’ll get over my zombie problem. Until then, I suppose, Richard Baxter’s four questions can keep me evaluating my choices.

The October Resolve

As I mentioned my “October Resolve” in the cheesecake entry published Thursday, it occurred to me that I had not explained what I meant by that term. Actually, I invented that term (but not the goals that lay behind it) when I wrote the post.

Recently, I have become irritated by myself and my failures in several areas. A week or so back, I determined that I had to make progress on these three items or I would probably find myself frustrated and defeated going forward. I’ve code-named them G, L, and S, but I can trust you with their actual identities.

G stands for the sin of gluttony. I’ve been up and down with my weight, my healthy eating, and my general level of fitness over the last five years or so. Over the summer, Penny and I both did great. Then I went back to school and wheels came off. Workouts ended and restraint with food went out the window. My G resolve is to eat within control every day through October. I’ll be measuring myself using MyFitnessPal and remembering Proverbs 23:20-21.

L stands for the sin of lust. Let’s be clear–especially if you’re my wife reading this–I’ve not completely gone off the rails. However, I have found my eyes and thoughts going where they should not go.  My L resolve is to keep my eyes on the right things as much as possible and to maintain a pure mind in sexual matters. I seek this beyond October, but I’ll start with these 31 days. To assist, I’m lining up scriptures like 1 Corinthians 6:18-19 to remind me of the importance of mental fidelity.

S stands for the sin of sloth. Although I have plenty of good things that I should be doing with my time, I’ve been a bit of a sluggard recently. With Proverbs 6:10-11 in my mind, I know that I simply have to use my time more productively. Yes, there are lots of good things on Netflix, but I don’t have to watch them all right away. I’ve created a document file that I’ll use to record my actions each day. So far, I’ve felt very good about my use of time, but can I keep it up for a month? We’ll see.

That’s what I’m striving to do this month. There’s no grand conclusion to draw, but I thought I’d share.