Posts Tagged ‘THM’

THM Recipe: Peanut Butter Muffins (S)

Dear Reader,

Looking for something a little more indulgent? I have a new variant of these muffins with chocolate . . .mmmm . . .  Check it out here.

Here once again is a Trim Healthy Mama recipe. These muffins are dense but tasty. They make a nice breakfast or snack.

Peanut Butter Muffins (S):


1/2 c flax seed meal

1/2 c defatted peanut flour

1/3 c xylitol

stevia to taste (optional)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 c peanut butter

1 c almond milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs or 1/3 c egg whites


Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients well (Gluten-free flours can take  a few minutes to absorb the moisture so if it seems liquid let it sit  a bit and then stir again before adding more dry ingredients). Divide batter among greased muffin cups. Bake 30 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

Peanut Butter Muffins (S)

Peanut Butter Muffins (S)




Financial Peace University

Dear Reader,

Do you ever feel like you are surrounded by acronyms? Lately I am thinking a lot about THM, FPU, and YEC. The last of these, Young Earth Creationism, is from the series of blog posts I am in the midst of on the whole creation/evolution debate. The first two are books I am or have been reading. I did a couple of posts earlier on THM, Trim Healthy Mama (see here and here). My general take on it is that I bet it helps in a lot of cases but there are aspects of it, particularly its use of Scripture, which bother me.

I bring this up again because I feel much the same way about my third acronym, FPU. FPU is Financial Peace University. It is a finance curriculum that we are going through at church these days. There is a series of nine or so videos that we watch together and follow-up with discussion questions, and then there is a book, Complete Guide to Money, by FPU’s guru, Dave Ramsey, and also a workbook and a really cool pencil-case. The goal of FPU is to teach Christians how to manage their money wisely. Just as with THM, I am sure Dave Ramsey’s programs have helped  a lot of people. But also as with THM, I am not at all convinced that his is the only way to go about it, nor does his use of Scripture sit well with me.

I came across this two post series by Mark Farnham at Sharper Iron which pretty much sums up what I think and feel about FPU. If you are, or if your church is, at all considering using FPU, I highly recommend reading Farnham’s posts first. I wish I had. He has been through the whole class, which I have not yet, and says it all much better than I could. But in case you are lazy about clicking links, I will sum up my three areas of concern. They are: the economics of it all, Dave himself, and the theology behind it.

I’ll start with the toughest part to write, my impressions of Mr. Ramsey himself. I have not met the man; I have only read most of his book and watched two of his lectures. Farnham uses words like “cocky.” I might not go that far. What I would say is that I find that he stereotypes a lot (men do this, women do that) and that he has certain fixed ideas which are not true (every marriage has a nerd and a free-spirit). If I did meet him, I imagine that he would not be the sort to listen well to others because he seems to have these ideas which are so set in his mind that there is no room for contrary ones. I find his style too slick and manipulative for my tastes, For example, the first lecture in his series begins with him telling a long story about his family’s own financial struggles. He uses their old kitchen table as a prop and talks about all the things which happened around it. But it all comes off as very rehearsed to me and designed to produce certain emotions in his audience (and the studio audience “aww”s on cue every time) and thereby to suck them into the next bit where he sells them on his financial approach. It all comes across as very salesman like to me (I have friends who are salesmen, but I hope you know what I mean by this). I guess what it boils down to is this: he is trying to produce emotions in his audience nd thereby get them to where he wants them to be rather than selling his approach on its merit. It gave me a similar feeling to what I experienced when a man came to our front door recently and tried to sell me cleaners for my home.

My feelings about Mr. Ramsey and his approach are subjective; they are based on my own likes and dislikes. But the financial aspect is a little more concrete. Farnham in his posts mentions something which has bothered my husband (who is in finance) as well — Ramsey overstates the return one can get on their investment. He cites the number 12% which is apparently unrealistic. The FPU strategy seems to work for  a lot of people who need help, but it is not the golden solution for everyone. My husband, economist that he is, is bothered by the fact that Ramsey has people pay down their smallest, rather than their highest interest debts first. The latter makes more numerical sense. Ramsey chooses to start with smaller debts for physiological reasons which is fine, but it should be noted that this is not the only way to approach the problem. He is also a big advocate of paying off one’s mortgage once other debts are paid and some savings are accumulated. It sounds good, but our own choice hs been to invest that money in higher yielding things rather than to pay down the mortgage right away. My point here is not that Ramsey’s advice is bad, but that we shouldn’t view it as the only right way. I feel about it the same way as I felt about THM’s diet advice. It is not bad advice, but it is not the only way. It is also not entirely new. Both base their system on what has worked for them and on some calculations (in the case of FPU) or studies (in the case of THM) which are valid. They combine ideas to come up with a system that can work. And, what I find most disturbing, they both then put a Christian veneer on it.

This brings me to the last area which bothers me, the theology behind it all. The truth is, there is little theology behind it all. In the case of FPU there is a financial approach behind it all and then the Bible stuff is tacked on. There are some principles which are biblical at the base of it. In THM it was “don’t avoid whole food groups which God has given us.” In FPU there is “don’t go into unnecessary debt” and “be a good steward of what God has given you.”

For FPU it is obvious that the BIble but is unnecessary because there are secular versions out there that can be used by businesses and the like. Farnham has a lot to say on the gospel, or lack thereof, in FPU. Since I have not gotten far enough in the lectures to see all of what he has, I will refer you once again to his posts. Here is what I have noticed so far. In his book, he does not use just one version of the BIble. This is not necessarily bad but it is a bad sign that he might be just looking for what fits his theory rather than fitting his theory to the Word of God. He also tends to use paraphrases such as the Living Bible. In his second lecture, he makes a valid point, that we can often tell what people value by seeing what they spend their money on. But he uses a verse to bolster this which says just the opposite. The verse is Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The point of this verse is that your heart will follow your treasure. Note that the treasure is already there, the heart will follow. It is not that what Ramsey is saying is wrong, but that he miss uses the verse, a pet-peeve of mine.

In the first lecture, Ramsey quotes some statistics. I may not get the numbers just right but it was something like 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck but only 55% of them are worried about it. Ramsey basically mocks the other 15% and says they are idiots. But doesn’t the Bible tell us not to worry? To cast out cares on Jesus and that He will care for us? Since when is anxiety something we should be urging on people? Which brings me to the biggest problem. I agree with Ramsey that we need to be good stewards of what God gives us, that it is not wrong to be wealthy, and that as God blesses us we should give. But I think he misses whole huge chunks of the Bible that relate directly to our possessions and how we should view and use them. Here are some examples:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,and all these things will be added to you.“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34; ESV)

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

Should we provide for our families? Yes. Should we invest what God gives us rather than just burying it in the ground (or  in a low-yield checking account)? Yes. But we are also told to trust God to provide for us and to be content with little if that is what God calls us to.  And throughout history He has called many people to be self-sacrificial and to give up opportunities for wealth, to willing chose poverty in order to serve hIm in hard circumstances. Both these things are part of Christianity. Ramsey seems to focus only on one side of what the Bible has to say about money and wealth and, as whenever we emphasize one part of God’s Word over another, he ends up lopsided. This sort of lopsidedness always distorts the gospel message.

So is Financial Peace University worthwhile? For some people, it probably is. If you are already a strong Christian who struggles with money issues and has never learned how to mange it well, then FPU can probably help you. If you don’t already have some issues, FPU is not likely to help too much. And if you are not Christian or not a strong Christian, I would be hesitant to recommend FPU. It may help you financially, but I think it also has the potential to shift one’s focus in unhealthy ways. And in the end a person’s spiritual state is way more important than their net worth.


Trim Healthy Mama and the Bible

Dear Reader,

Until recently I had been keeping to a (very) modified paleo diet, essentially a  low grain diet. And it had initially been doing what I wanted it to, which is not so much weight loss as relieving other symptoms. But I was never convinced by the premise of the paleo life-style which is basically that we should do things as our cavemen ancestors did. While I am rather agnostic on the topic of evolution, I imagine the reasoning behind this diet doesn’t sit well with a lot of Christians.

So I was intrigued to run across the book Trim Healthy Mama which is by two sisters and Christians and claims to have much more of a biblical basis. There is a lot I could say about the diet overall, but I want to stick in this post to its biblical basis and how the book uses Scripture.

I did not get the impression that the book’s authors, Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett, are saying this is the only, biblical way to eat though they do clearly reject some other approaches as not adhering to biblical principles. The basic argument of this book is that to be as healthy as possible (and, yes, to lose weight if necessary) one should not eat fat and carbs together. Their position rests on scientific studies which show how the body uses different sources of fuel. But it also rests on at least one theological plank: the belief that no foods given us by God should be entirely excluded from our diet. Thus, they reject paleo with its lack of all grains, legumes, etc. They also reject vegetarianism and diets like Atkins which eliminate all carbs. Their approach is about when and how to eat the different groups but they are very clear that no one group should be entirely excluded from the diet.

I like this presupposition. I do think it is biblical. The verse that comes to mind for me is “Let no man call unclean what God has declared clean” (I am paraphrasing off the top of my head here as I can’t immediately find the reference). I will admit that while eliminating gluten, it has always seemed very odd to me that we should get rid of a food (bread) which has been such a staple in the Bible and even bears a large theological significance (Jesus being the bread of life; the bread representing His body in communion). Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that my one daughter gets bad eczema from gluten (among other things) or that it seems to make me mildly sick. But it is still nice to feel that such essential foods are in some measure redeemed.

In terms of the diet’s theological basis, this one principle seems to be the main guiding idea. But the authors also refer to other biblical passages at times to bolster their position. And it is when they get to these that I tend to get frustrated. They spend quite a while discussing the meal Abraham fed to his angelic visitors in Genesis 18. They make much of the fact that he seems to have fed them only one small cake of bread each but much meat. And it does seem like that is what they were given, but one must ask is this a prescriptive or a descriptive passage? Sometimes God is telling us what to do, either directly (“Thou shalt . . .”) or indirectly; these are prescriptive passages.But sometimes the Bible is just telling what people did. There are certainly many things biblical characters, even basically good ones, do that we are not supposed to emulate. So one must ask, are we supposed to copy Abraham in how he fed his visitors? I don’t think so. Basically, Serene and Pearl seem to have substituted for the paleo question “How would the cavemen have done it?” their own new question “How would the patriarchs have done it?” Though to be fair, while they do seem to focus on Abraham a lot, I don’t think they limit their reasoning to him or even to the Old Testament. It is more like “How would Bible people have done it?”

And I am just not convinced that this is a legitimate question. I do believe the Bible is the only infallible rule for faith and life. But it is not our only guide nor does it tell us everything about everything. Just as I don’t believe the Bible tells us all the answers about how to educate our kids, I also don’t believe it tells us how and what to eat. I like the book’s use of the general principle of not eliminating food groups unnecessarily, and also enjoying the foods God has given us, but I think the authors push their argument too far when they look for specifics.

And they do not do so consistently. The use the example of Abraham when it suits their purpose (“Look, we aren’t supposed to eat too much bread at once and need lots of protein!”), but they reject other passages which do not suit their needs. For example, honey is mentioned frequently in the Bible and is clearly viewed as wonderful delicacy, but the Trim Healthy Mama diet rejects the use of honey and uses only sweeteners like Stevia and Xylitol. Their argument in this case is that because our lifestyles have changed and we are so much more sedentary we no longer need or should use such calorie-packed foods. But could we not make similar arguments about Abraham’s meal? Why not say his visitors were going no a journey and therefore needed more protein but we who have cars to take us everywhere no longer do? Their application of biblical passages is inconsistent and seems to be used only to serve their purposes and back up decisions they have already made (“protein good, bread limited, honey never”).

Furthermore, while one sister, Serene, is more of a food purist, the book itself advocates a lot of foods which simply did not exist in Bible times, like low carb pita bread and the sweeteners mentioned above. Nor do they take into account that the Bible itself spans thousands of years and includes many different kinds of people. Abraham was pretty wealthy; presumably most Israelites ate far less meat.

Before closing, I just want to add that there is one chapter in this book on . . . . ahem . . . marital relations . . . which uses another very sketchy bit of exegesis which I don’t buy at all. If you are a mature married person, you can read it for yourself and see what I mean.

So my conclusion on Trim Healthy Mama is that I do agree in principle with their basic theological premises, but I do not like how they use the Bible beyond that. Nor do I think it is necessary to their argument. I would say this diet is based far more upon scientific studies and what they have found works in their own lives, and that is fine. I think they would be better off if they stuck to that and did not try to incorporate more Bible in their dietary advice.

Another time, perhaps, I will discuss the diet itself.