Friday, March 28, 2008

Team Hoyt

By: Rick Reilly - Sports Illustrated

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. But compared with Dick Hoyt, I stink.
Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in Marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. On a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?
And what has Rick done for his father? Not much - - except save his life. This love story began in Winchester , Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

"He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. ``Put him in an Institution.''

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the Engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. ``No way,'' Dick was told. "There's nothing going on in his brain.''

"Tell him a joke,'' Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? ``Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, `"Dad, I want to do that.''

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described "porker'' who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. "Then it was me who was handicapped,'' Dick says. `"I was sore for two weeks.''

That day changed Rick's life. `"Dad,'' he typed, `"when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!''

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

"No way,'' Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, ``Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?''

How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzz-kill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? `"No way,'' he says. Dick does it purely for "the awesome feeling'' he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

"No question about it,'' Rick types. "My dad is the Father of the Century.''

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. "If you hadn't been in such great shape,'' one doctor told him, ``you probably would've died 15 years ago.'' So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

"The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types, ``is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.''

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Big Belly, Bad Memory

By Joan Raymond
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 3:50 PM ET Mar 26, 2008

Why that spare tire puts you at greater risk of dementia (along with a host of other diseases), and what you can do about it.

Alison Judge isn't a fashionista. Nor is she obese. But she admits that she is getting a little tired of wearing sweats, the only type of pants that doesn't show off what she affectionately calls her "middle-age muffin" and what the rest of us call the jelly belly. "Things just started moving south after 40," says Judge, 47, a marketing consultant from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. "Any extra weight goes right to my gut. I know it's not healthy, but it's tough to fight Mother Nature."

Indeed it is. But here's another reason to wage that battle. A growing body of evidence is implicating obesity as a major risk factor for a seemingly endless roster of diseases: certain cancers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, diabetes and gallbladder problems—even Alzheimer's disease.

When it comes to obesity and the brain, where you carry your weight may be a bigger risk factor for cognitive decline than how many extra pounds you're packing. And that's frightening news for people in middle age, a time when six-pack abs quickly morph into abdominal flab.
A new study published online today in the journal Neurology shows that belly fat in middle age—even among folks who are at a normal weight, like Judge—may put you at increased risk for dementia. It's a finding that even astounded the researchers. "We know that obesity is somehow linked to Alzheimer's," says study author Rachel Whitmer, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. "But no one was more surprised than me at just how big an effect belly fat seems to have."

The observational study followed some 6,500 people, ages 40 to 45, for more than three decades, starting in the mid-1970s. All participants were given a sagittal abdominal diameter (SAD) measurement, a simple procedure in which a technician uses calipers to measure the distance from the back to the upper abdomen, midway between the upper pelvis and bottom of the ribs. At the end of the study about 1,000 participants, or 16 percent, were diagnosed with dementia. After factoring out known dementia risk factors such as diabetes, stroke, hypertension and high cholesterol, data analysis showed that potbellies were a bigger risk for cognitive impairment than obesity alone.

And the fatter the gut, the higher the risk. Researchers used standard body mass index (BMI) measurements (weight divided by height in meters squared) to classify folks as normal weight, overweight or obese. Participants who were overweight and had a bulging gut were 2.3 times as likely to develop dementia as people with normal weight and belly size. Obese participants with large guts were 3.6 times as likely to develop dementia.
And if you are at a normal weight but have a gut, you aren't off the hook. The study showed that participants with BMIs of 25 and below who sported a gut were 89 percent more likely to develop dementia than hefty persons without a belly bulge.

That stubborn spare tire is the bane of the middle-aged, especially women. Hormone loss seems to play a role in its development after 40. "It's called the meno-pot," says registered dietitian Kathleen Zelman, director of nutrition for WebMD. "As women lose estrogen, weight gathers in the midsection." Genetics also plays a role in determining whether you are apple-shaped, with a big midsection, or pear-shaped, with a small waist but big buttocks and thighs. And let's not forget stress. A hormone called cortisol, released during the stress response, has also been implicated in developing belly fat.

Researchers aren't quite sure exactly how belly bulge plays a role in dementia, since obesity, with or without a gut, seems to affect Alzheimer's development. Beta-amyloid is a naturally occurring protein that goes awry in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, changing shape and forming plaque that disrupts normal nerve cell processes. Research shows that a high BMI is associated with higher levels of beta-amyloid, says Dr. Sam Gandy, Chair of the Alzheimer's Association Medical and Scientific Advisory Council. (According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in six women and one in 10 men who live to be at least 55 will develop Alzheimer's disease.)
But belly fat is clearly a factor, and scientists have some ideas why. The technical term for the potbelly is visceral fat. Unlike subcutaneous fat, the stuff you can pinch, visceral fat is tucked deeper within the abdomen, surrounding vital organs such as the heart and liver. It is considered particularly dangerous since it is active, producing chemicals that can affect health. Scientists suspect that it plays a role in inflammation, which is linked to insulin resistance, certain cancers and especially cardiovascular problems.

"There are still a lot of unanswered questions about obesity and Alzheimer's," says Gandy. "But unlike family history and age, which are important predictors for Alzheimer's, you can do something about your weight. It's a risk factor that is modifiable."

And there is some good news on that front—so to speak. Visceral fat is especially amenable to diet and exercise. "It's not a stubborn fat," says Dr. Keith Bachman, a weight management expert with Kaiser Permanente's Care Management Institute in Portland, Ore., adding that even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent can reduce obesity-related risks.

One of the best ways to lose the paunch may be to incorporate more whole grains into your diet. Recent research from Pennsylvania State University, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that folks who added whole-grain breads and cereals to a weight-loss regimen lost more belly fat than those who chomped on refined grains, like white breads. The whole-grain group also showed a nearly 40 percent drop in C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker implicated in heart disease. Of course, exercise is another major factor—physical inactivity is closely associated with the belly bulge.

Determining the size of your belly is a little more complicated than looking at the roll of fat above your pants. Some researchers believe the best method is the SAD measurement (was there ever a more apt acronym?), but since it isn't part of a normal workup, most of us will be stuck measuring our BMIs and waists. Research shows that women whose waists are larger than 35 inches and men whose waists are larger than 40 inches are at greater risk for disease. But even waist sizes a few inches less than that can increase your risk, though to a lesser extent.
The big question remains whether slimming down actually reduces Alzheimer's risk. Doctors admit that a clinical trial of that sort may be difficult and unethical, since one group of patients would have to remain obese, a known health risk. But that's no excuse to carry around a spare tire, says Whitmer. "About half the adults in this country have abdominal obesity," she says. "The scale doesn't tell the whole story. People have to be aware of where they carry their weight and then do something about it." To protect your brain, that something may be as simple as dropping a few pounds.

URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/129147

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Trust in My Lord

By Anne Rice

Look: I believe in Him. It’s that simple and that complex. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the God Man who came to earth, born as a tiny baby and then lived over thirty years in our midst. I believe in what we celebrate this week: the scandal of the cross and the miracle of the Resurrection. My belief is total. And I know that I cannot convince anyone of it by reason, anymore than an atheist can convince me, by reason, that there is no God.

A long life of historical study and biblical research led me to my belief, and when faith returned to me, the return was total. It transformed my existence completely; it changed the direction of the journey I was traveling through the world. Within a few years of my return to Christ, I dedicated my work to Him, vowing to write for Him and Him alone. My study of Scripture deepened; my study of New Testament scholarship became a daily commitment. My prayers and my meditation were centered on Christ.
And my writing for Him became a vocation that eclipsed my profession as a writer that had existed before.
Why did faith come back to me? I don’t claim to know the answer. But what I want to talk about right now is trust. Faith for me was intimately involved with love for God and trust in Him, and that trust in Him was as transformative as the love.

Right now as I write this, our nation seems to be in some sort of religious delirium. Anti-God books dominate the bestseller lists; people claim to deconstruct the Son of Man with facile historical treatments of what we know and don’t know about Jesus Christ who lived in First Century Judea. Candidates for public office have to declare their faith on television. Christians quarrel with one another publicly about the message of Christ.

Before my consecration to Christ, I became familiar with a whole range of arguments against the Savior to whom I committed my life. In the end I didn’t find the skeptics particularly convincing, while at the same time the power of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John swept me off my feet.

And above all, when I began to talk to Jesus Christ again it was with trust.

On the afternoon in 1998 when faith returned, I experienced a sense of the limitless power and majesty of God that left me convinced that He knew all the answers to the theological and sociological questions that had tormented me for years. I saw, in one enduring moment, that the God who could make the Double Helix and the snow flake, the God who could make the Black holes in space, and the lilies of the field, could do absolutely anything and must know everything --- even why good people suffer, why genocide and war plague our planet, and why Christians have lost, in America and in other lands, so much credibility as people who know how to love. I felt a trust in this all-knowing God; I felt a sudden release of all my doubts. Indeed, my questions became petty in the face of the greatness I beheld. I felt a deep and irreversible assurance that God knew and understood every single moment of every life that had ever been lived, or would be lived on Earth. I saw the universe as an immense and intricate tapestry, and I perceived that the Maker of the tapestry saw interwoven in that tapestry all our experiences in a way that we could not hope, on this Earth, to understand.

This was not a joyful moment for me. It wasn’t an easy moment. It was an admission that I loved and believed in God, and that my old atheism was a fa├žade. I knew it was going to be difficult to return to the Maker, to give over my life to Him, and become a member of a huge quarreling religion that had broken into many denominations and factions and cults worldwide. But I knew that the Lord was going to help me with this return to Him. I trusted that He would help me. And that trust is what under girds my faith to this day.

Within days of my return to Christ, I also became aware of something very important: that the first temptation we face as returning Christians is to criticize another Christian and his or her way of approaching Jesus Christ. I perceived that I had to resist that temptation, that I had to seek in my faith and in my love for God a complete certainty that He knew all about these factions and disputes, and that He knew who was right or who was wrong, and He would handle how and when He approached every single soul.

Why do I talk so much about this trust now? Because I think perhaps that with many Christians it is lacking, and in saying this I’m yielding to the temptation I just described. But let me speak my peace not critically so much as with an exhortation. Trust in Him. If you believe in Him, then trust Him. Trust what He says in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and trust what He says about having conquered evil; trust that He has won.

Don’t ever succumb to the fear that evil is winning in this world, no matter how bad things may appear. Don’t ever succumb to the fear that He does not witness our struggles, that He is not with every single soul.

The Sermon on the Mount is the portion of the New Testament to which I return again and again. I return to the simple command: “Love your enemies.” And each day brings me closer to understanding that in this message lies the blueprint for bringing the Kingdom of God to Earth. The Sermon on the Mount is the full blueprint. And it is not impossible to love our enemies and our neighbors, but it may be the hardest thing we have ever been asked to do.

But we can’t doubt the possibility of it. We must return to Jesus Christ again and again, after our failures, and seek in Him --- in His awesome majesty and power -- the creative solutions to the problems we face. We must retain our commitment to Him, and our belief in a world in which, conceivably, human beings could lay down their arms, and stretch out their arms to one another, clasping hands, and bring about a total worldwide peace.

If this is not inconceivable, then it is possible. And perhaps we are, in our own broken and often blind fashion, moving towards such a moment. If we can conceive of it and dedicate ourselves to it, then this peace on earth, this peace in Christ, can come.

As we experience Easter week, we celebrate the crucifixion that changed the world. We celebrate the Resurrection that sent Christ’s apostles throughout the Roman Empire to declare the Good News. We celebrate one of the greatest love stories the world has ever known: that of a God who would come down here to live and breathe with us in a human body, who would experience human death for us, and then rise to remind us that He was, and is, both Human and Divine. We celebrate the greatest inversion the world has ever recorded: that of the Maker dying on a Roman cross.

Let us celebrate as well that throughout this troubled world in which we live, billions believe in this 2,000-year-old love story and in this great inversion -- and billions seek to trust the Maker to bring us to one another in love as He brings us to Himself.

Anne RIce is the best-selling author of 27 books, including "The Vampire Chronicles" and "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt." Read an excerpt of her latest book, "Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

No Matter What Happens God Is With You

We live in a chaotic and uncertain world. Events confront us that can make us question: how can I know God and what is His plan for me, today? Even in the most troubled times you can be sure of these things:

God loves you and has an incredible future planned for you

In the Bible, God tells us:

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

Jesus, Himself, when speaking about the people who belong to Him, put it this way:

"My purpose is to give life in all its fullness." John 10:10

Even when life seems out of control, you can be sure of this...God has a plan and a purpose for you. Because of God’s love for each one of us, He provided a plan for our salvation - the way that we can become a part of His family and live the life He has promised us.

Our sin has separated us from God

Mankind is sinful. We only have to look at the world around us to know this is true. You and I have not lived up to the standard of God’s holy and perfect law. As a result of our sin, we are separated from God. In this state of separation, we cannot know God or experience the peace and hope of the life He has planned for us.

"For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard." Romans 3:23

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23

"If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth." I John 1:8

But, because of God’s deep love for each one of us, He provided the way of salvation – the only way that we are able to enter a relationship with Him. This plan is called "the Gospel." The word Gospel means "Good News." The Good News is that God Himself has already made all the arrangements for your salvation. No matter what you have done, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is able to pay the penalty for your sin. God loves you and wants you to be His own child.

Jesus Christ is the only provision for our sin

Through Jesus Christ, you can experience a personal relationship with God and enjoy a life of peace and hope. When Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for our sin, He bridged the gap that separated us from God. The Bible outlines this incredible plan:

"God showed us how much He loved us by sending His only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sin." I John 4:9 –10

"So we praise God for the wonderful kindness He has poured out on us because we belong to His dearly loved Son. He is so rich in kindness that He purchased our freedom through the blood of His Son, and our sins are forgiven." Ephesians 1:6-7

"For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." II Corinthians 5:21

It is only through Jesus Christ that we can know God personally. It is through Jesus alone, that we can experience God’s love, enjoy peace and hope, and receive the gift of eternal life.

We must each receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior

Just to give mental agreement that Jesus died on the cross is not enough. Each of us must turn to God, acknowledging our sin and powerlessness to save ourselves. We must ask Jesus to come into our lives and receive His sacrifice as total payment for our sins. We exercise our will and do this as an act of faith.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

"I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sin, but they have already passed from death into life." John 5:24

"Jesus told her, 'I am the Resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again.' " John 11:25

"God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." Ephesians 2:8–9

God sees and understands your heart. There are no magic words or precise formulas you must pray or say. You can talk to God right now in the quietness of your heart and invite Him into your life as your Lord and Savior. Here’s a simple prayer:

"Dear Jesus, thank You for loving me and dying on the cross for my sin. I want to know You personally. I invite You into my life as my Lord and Savior. Thank You for forgiving me of all my sins and for the gift of eternal life. Help me to grow close to You in this new life You’ve given me."

If this prayer expresses the longing of your heart, pray it right now. Jesus will hear you. He will save you and come into your heart and life. You will become a child of God and receive eternal life. If you have made a decision to trust Jesus, you have been born into God’s family. God’s promise to you is that He will never leave you or abandon you.

"But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12

"I will never fail you. I will never forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

One of the best things you can do right now is to tell someone about your decision.

"For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9

God has given you another gift. Now that you have believed in Jesus, God has sent His Holy Spirit to live in your heart. The Holy Spirit will help you in your new life and teach you about God. God tells us His Holy Spirit is our Comforter and Counselor, who will bring us peace and guide us into all truth.

"And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth." John 14:16 –17

"And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit …The Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us everything He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God." Ephesians 1:13 –14

The Bible says we are to grow in our faith. We do this through praying to God, reading the Bible, spending time with other Christians, and obeying the Holy Spirit’s prompting in our lives.

Remember, now that you belong to Jesus, nothing can separate you from Him. No Matter What Happens, you have God’s promise of eternal life and His peace and protection for your life now.

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, and our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38 – 39

God bless you! May the joy of God’s salvation fill your heart, today and always.

Living the Christian Life

If you prayed that prayer, you are now a child of God. The things of your old life have passed away and He has made all things new.

Adapted from: http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/BibleStudyAndTheology/discipleship/nomatterwhat.aspx

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Church in Saudi Arabia?

By JEFF ISRAELY/VATICAN CITY

Interfaith dialogue has become an important exercise in finding the right words to overcome both extreme violence and ordinary misunderstanding. True progress, however, is best measured in deeds. The inauguration last week of Qatar's first Christian church — a small Catholic chapel bearing neither bells nor visible crosses — has been hailed as a welcome step forward in relations between Catholicism and Islam. But an even more dramatic development is under discussion just across the border: The Vatican has confirmed that it is negotiating for permission to build the first church in Saudi Arabia.

Presiding over the cradle of Islam and home to its holiest sites, the Saudi monarchy has long banned the open worship of other faiths, even as the number of Catholics resident in Saudi Arabia has risen to 800,000 thanks to an influx of immigrant workers from places like the Philippines and India. Mosques are the only houses of prayer in a country where the strict Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam dominates. But Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, the papal envoy to the smaller countries on the Arabian peninsula, such as Kuwait and Qatar, has confirmed that talks are under way to establish formal diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia, and to eventually allow for Catholic churches to be built there. Pope Benedict XVI is believed to have personally appealed to King Abdullah on the topic during the Saudi monarch's first ever visit to the Vatican last November.


God and Tyler Perry vs. Hollywood

By RICHARD CORLISS

After the curtain calls for his 2004 theater piece, Meet the Browns--one of the strange comedy-musical-melodramas that have made Tyler Perry a hero to the older black Christian community--the author-director came out onstage to talk to his devoted audience. He confided that he'd been asked to produce a TV comedy series but turned it down because it couldn't be religious. "Did you know you can't say 'Jesus' in a sitcom?" he said, to murmurs of disapproval from the faithful. "They told me that, and I was like, You gotta be kiddin' me. If you don't want my God here, you don't want me here either. God has been too good to me to go and try to sell out to get some money. That's O.K. I will sit in a corner and be broke with the Lord before I will sit there and have them give me millions and sell my soul. It ain't gonna happen."

The battle lines were drawn. Since then, it's been God and Tyler Perry against the Hollywood establishment, which thinks that the films made from his plays are too square or weird to be mainstream and has not invested in them. (His movies are distributed by the indie Lionsgate.) Nor does he get much help from critics, whose reactions to his work range mostly from dismissive to baffled. His wild concoctions of brassy humor and fulsome sentiment seem to them out of fashion without being smartly retro. Perry must figure his critics have their minds made up in advance; he doesn't offer the press early screenings of his movies, including his latest, the film version of Meet the Browns, which opens March 21.

Read the full article here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1724393,00.html