Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Pack of Smokes vs. Smoked Meat

I admit that I love a good smoked meat sandwich. I rarely have one, but I have been know, when the opportunity presents itself, to have a huge sandwich piled a mile high with smoked meat. I remember my first trip to Montreal to visit my brother who was doing a theatre production. One of the things I had to do that weekend was to visit an old famous smoked meat restaurant. It was certainly old, had very little in terms of decor and ambiance except for old pictures and news clippings of famous guests who had also made this smoked meat pilgrimage. Most of the pictures looked like they were from the 1970's, but without actually checking the date it was hard to tell as I am sure the grease filled air had prematurely aged the pictures to a greasy, faded, sepia tone. I was warned not to wear white as my shirt may face the same fate. I am still not sure whether that was just a joke or not. On arrival we were greeted by the surly man in a (yellowed) white apron who came out from behind the counter, seated us at a table with other guests that we had never met and asked in a very matter of fact grunt "what do you want." After ordering quickly, my brother told me the story about his last trip there with one of his more particular friends who apparently took too long to decide from the menue. Tired of waiting, the waiter just took the menue from him and told the friend what he would be having. It is certainly an experience eating there, all of which had a certain charm. Of course, if it were any other restaurant, no one would be calling it charm but rather sharing some choice words about the experience. But I think that just goes to show what an amazing smoked meat sandwich they must be serving.
What is with the stroll down memory lane? Well, knowing my affection for smoked meat, my wife and my children just couldn't wait to lovingly tease me about the news that they had heard last week. Harvard was releasing the findings of a long, large and exhaustive study that they had undertaken about meat. They were trying to study the effects of red meat on health. Well, they did not find any definitive links between red meat and heart disease. What they did discover, however, was just how bad processed meat products are for our health. The amount of salt that is used in these processed products make them a serious health risk. The results of the study were so shocking that it led some to suggest that processed meat consumption will become the new tobacco smoking in terms of its effects on human health and the needed societal response. One direct simile used was that eating a smoked meat sandwich was the same guessed it...smoking a pack of cigarettes.
This, of course, got me thinking. I have to admit that when I see a parent smoking in a car with children, or pushing a stroller with a butt hanging out of their mouth I almost always have an initial flash of judgementalism during which I think "seriously? are you that...(inject adjective of the day here)." It is hard sometimes to separate the truth of the situation from a judgemental spirit. Then I started wondering, if I don't stop my smoked meat thing cold turkey (is that a pun?) how long will it be before people see me in a restaurant with my kids and think that I am a terrible parent because of the example I am setting. And smoked meat is hardly addictive! But what about long will it be before we start looking at a ham sandwich as the devil's food and that anyone serving it to a child must be under demonic influence! And really how many of us have not fed our children a ham sandwich (or turkey or roast beef or salami etc.) And then there is the question that if peanut butter is out, and processed meats are out what are we possibly going to be able to send our kids to school with for lunch?
I wonder whether society will really change on this or is it such an ingrained part of our culture (not to mention economy) that we will sort of turn a blind eye to it because it is easier. Or maybe we will just talk about how bad it is, tax the heck out of it but then never really do anything to get rid of it but rather become dependent upon it as a revenue stream and then ignore the conflict of interest. Or maybe we will come to see it as significant enough of a health issue to do something about it at which time I wonder how we can seek to make the changes necessary without falling into being judgemental. Can we get to a place where we speak the truth in love?
Once again lots of questions, but not too many answers. Maybe you have some...feel free to post below. Meanwhile I will be grieving the loss of smoked meat!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

hospital visits

Well, I don't have a lot of time for a post as it has been bit of a crazy few days. As it turns out I got a call from my dad saying he was heading from a hospital on the other side of the city where he was visiting my grandmother, to a hospital downtown to visit my other grandmother who was being taken there. So I have two grandmothers in two different hospitals for heart related issues. They are in the best place to be as the experts do their job in assessing and coming up with treatment options. I would ask that if you are the praying type, you would join me in prayer, which is our most important role and the most critical ingredient.
I am reminded of James 5:14-15 which states "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well..."
Some scholars believe that the anointing with oil refers to using the oil for its medicinal properties. If this is the case then it would seem that the suggestion here would be to use medicine where appropriate and combine that with the most important aspect of prayer which is obviously the central focus of the teaching. So now that my grandma's are in the hospital with the medical professionals working on that part of things I would ask for your prayers to cover the other. I am praying that God would see fit to bring healing to them, whether by working through the medical professionals or other wise. I am also praying that it would be a spiritually significant time for them both and that God might use it to inspire them and reveal the plans and purposes that He might have for them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Insurance Companies - a grumpy old man's rant

Last week it came time to renew some life insurance. Many of you know that our son had a brain tumor a year and a bit ago and so we thought we should ask about insuring him. Our hope was that getting him insured now might help him get insurance in the future as we thought that maybe his surgery would make getting insurance difficult. Well they got back to us with a big "no go" for getting him insured. Once again I was under-whelmed by the insurance industry! It got me thinking about all the other things that drive me nuts about insurance companies. I have been fairly good over the last three years about not using this blog for the rantings of a grumpy, cynical old man but today I am giving myself some freedom. Insurance companies drive me nuts, and the lack of integrity and ethics is almost unbelievable.
I cannot think of another industry that is so willing to take your money (which is in some cases, such as automotive, legally required) to provide a service and then spends so much time and energy finding ways in which they won't have to provide it. I realize that in Canada, much of our medical is covered, but non the less we still live in a day and age when insurance is pretty much necessary for many different things. Of course the insurance companies won't insure anyone that they think they might possibly actually have to pay out on at some point. Why would we ever insure someone that might actually need it some day (yes sarcasm - if I am going to rant I am going all the way)? I have also watched them try to get out of paying up when people have made claims. And then there is the problems you will face if, heaven forbid, you might actually make a claim at some point. They either jack rates or drop clients who ever dare to use the services they have paid for. How crazy is it that auto body repair places are now directly advertising to a market who is looking to be able to repair their car without using their insurance. When people have an accident they are now asking whether or not they can afford to use the service that they have paid the insurance company for. It is now often cheaper to insure our car and then not use it ( in essence paying twice) than to make an insurance claim. What is this Craziness!!
I then have people working in garages telling me that the insurance companies are the worst to work for because they are always trying to cut corners when having automobiles repaired. All this makes me seriously question the ethics of this industry.
Perhaps the hardest pill to swallow is seeing how unethical and cheap they are after hearing about the profits these companies a pulling in. I would be making a great profit too, if I could sell a product or service and then not deliver, or get the government to insist that you use such a product and then, if you dare to use the service, to charge you double the next time.
At the end of the day I have been reminded, that although I may need to have insurance it is no insurance at all. The one insurance that I have, the one thing I will always have with me and that will not leave me and that I can always trust is my relationship with God. Heaven forbid we ever have the hubris to put our full trust in anyone or anything else.
Ok, now that that is out of my system...
Feel free to leave your thoughts... agree, disagree, do you have similar experience or do you have a completely different experience/take? Do you have a story about a great person/company that I need to hear about to change my opinion?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

You're Richer Than You Think?

There is a bank in my part of the world with an advertising campaign that uses the slogan "You're Richer Than You Think." The basic premise is to entice the consumer to use their banking and financial services which will help them save money and realize that they are "richer than they think." There is one television commercial in particular, in which a young couple put on their poker faces and ready themselves to drive a hard bargain as they enter the office of a bank employee. Soon after, however, they begin to melt as they hear the banker explain the different ways that she can help them save money and how much they will be saving each month. I don't know why, after months of airing, it was only last week that I actually paid attention to what the baker was saying, but I did. She listed about three different ways that she could help them save. First was to reduce their mortgage interest rate, second was to reduce their credit card interest rate and third was to reduce their credit line interest rate. Here is the thought I had...if the only way they are saving money is by reduced interest rates then they are not really saving at all they are just bleeding more slowly. And if the only way to "save" money is to be paying less interest it means that they owe money, which means they are definitely not "richer than they think!" At the very most, they are just a bit less poor than they thought.
I am not going to outright condemn credit and say that it has no role to play. I recognize that it is almost unheard of and almost impossible to live in a place like where I live without some kind of loan for a house or car or other big ticket item that one needs to live. Living without a car and a home in the suburbs of Canada, especially in winter, may not be realistic. I think that there is room for honest debate and discussion about how credit might be used in a wise and responsible manner. The reality however, is that in far too many cases, whether it be the way that it is advertised or the way that it is practiced, credit is not used in a wise and responsible manner. If you have a chance, spend some time and research the average credit debt for your part of the world, and depending on where you live you might be surprised. A thought that I have been challenged by is this:
Could credit debt be considered a form of slavery, and if so could it lead to me being out of step with what scripture teaches. In particular I am thinking about passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:23 which states "
You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men." We are called to be slaves only to Christ, that He is to have our full devotion and commitment and that there should not be anything to stand in the way of that full commitment to Christ. Could it be that our debt- which means that we owe something to someone else and that in reality we work for them and that even what we have a earn does not really belong to us until that debt is paid-that this debt stands between us and Jesus and could affect our full commitment to Him?
I am still thinking about this question, what the implications of carrying debt are -mentally, emotionally, spiritually etc., about the practical reality of life, what and how we rationalize things, and what might be worldly influence that is dishonouring to God. While I think these things through, however, the one thing I can say for certain is that if am carrying debt I most certainly will not be fooled into thinking that I am "Richer Than You Think."