Category Archives: Health

We’re slowly bringing about the Zombie Apocalypse

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not Christians should smoke Weed.

There are already several great articles on what the Christian position on Pot should be. Mark Driscoll wrote one here. Here’s another one from Relevant Magazine. And here’s my personal favorite from Christianity today, which unfortunately requires a subscription to read the whole thing. But that’s not what I’m here to do. I just want to approach this purely from a logical standpoint.

After the first few months of legalized recreational use of marijuana in colorado there was a series of articles explaining all the great things about pot. There were articles explaining that it’s not so bad, because the crime rate hasn’t gone up, but in fact it’s technically gone down because all the people smoking illegally before are smoking legally now. And there wasn’t an increase in violent crime, robberies, or any other type of crime related to smoking the doob. Then of course there’s the article that tells us that weed has brought in over $25 Million in tax revenue to date. Then there was the study that told us that cannabis consumption hasn’t increased significantly since the legalization. So again, it’s not that bad.

This is all supposed to lull us into feeling ok about the fact that people are toking up and it is now legal and increasingly socially acceptable. All the while more and more people seem to be saying that it’s better than other drugs used and circulated legally. After all, there have been studies that show weed to be less damaging to the lungs than cigarettes. It’s predicted to be less addictive than alcohol. Though in that same article, they mention that it has also been shown to create intense withdrawal symptoms “including insomnia, nausea, and anxiety.” Despite all this, many of these articles spend more time telling us about how “ok” smoking juju really is.

Very few of these articles ever talk about the effects THC has on the brain. This is partially because only now are the studies really starting to come out. Let’s think about that for a moment. It can take decades of research for a new medicinal drug to go from tests, to trials, to prescription only, before it can finally land at the easy-access of  being over the counter where any adult can buy it. By that time the drug has been taken my millions of people under the watch of a doctor who is obliged to report any unusual reactions. But Colorado just legalized a drug for recreational use by anyone that we’re only now just beginning to research thoroughly.

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I think this is the way most people who are against Marijuana sound to pro-pot enthusiasts

The best thing that can be said in an article from the National Institute of Drug Abuse is “Our understanding of marijuana’s long-term brain effects is limited.” though later on the article admits, “a person’s risk of heart attack during the first hour after smoking marijuana is four times his or her usual risk” and listed in the persistent and long-term effects of Marijuana are learning impairment, schizophrenia, and increased risk of something called amotivational syndrome, which is exactly what it sounds like.

This is what really concerns me and very few people are paying attention. In a 2014 study, Harvard scientists found that even a small amount of pot on a weekly basis has a significant impact on the smoker’s brain. From this article:

The 20 people in the “marijuana group” of the study smoked four times a week on average; seven only smoked once a week. Those in the control group did not smoke at all.

“We looked specifically at people who have no adverse impacts from marijuana — no problems with work, school, the law, relationships, no addiction issues,” said Hans Breiter, another co-author of the study.

Using three different neuroimaging techniques, researchers then looked at the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala of the participants. These areas are responsible for gauging the benefit or loss of doing certain things, and providing feelings of reward for pleasurable activities such as food, sex and social interactions.

“This is a part of the brain that you absolutely never ever want to touch,” said Breiter. “I don’t want to say that these are magical parts of the brain — they are all important. But these are fundamental in terms of what people find pleasurable in the world and assessing that against the bad things.”

Shockingly, every single person in the marijuana group, including those who only smoked once a week, had noticeable abnormalities, with the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala showing changes in density, volume and shape. Those who smoked more had more significant variations.

Critics will say that their sample size is very small, which would be a more valid argument if it weren’t for the fact that ALL of the weed smokers had significant changes in their brain no matter the amount they smokes. The researchers have said that they intend to repeat the study with a larger sample size, focusing on the behavioral changes that can be expected based on these physical effects.

So when people say that crime hasn’t really gone up, that the addiction rate is lower than alcohol, that there’s less of risk for cancer and other diseases common with cigarettes – they’re missing the issue. Because the truth about marijuana is much scarier. My concern isn’t that people are getting high and may do something foolish, or even that they’re harming their lungs. Emerging research suggests that  by smoking marijuana people are willingly eroding their own brain tissue. And there is an increasing number of people and leaders who are endorsing the legalization of a drug that relaxes, giving a pleasant high feeling, but literally reduces your brain power every time you smoke it.

marijuana-zombie

This funny thing is that we’re basically bringing about the Zombie apocalypse voluntarily. And these are people who can vote. That’s what terrifies me.

I’m not worried that we’re going to have an increased amount of THC related DUIs or crimes. I’m more concerned that we’re going to have a decreased amount of motivation and brain power in regards to the big issues that plague our country and that we the people, who are supposed to be stewards of our freedom, are going to use that freedom to get baked and slowly lose our freedom to voluntary brain damage.

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Here’s the kicker: because I haven’t tried it, I’m often told that I don’t have a right to comment on it. It’s true that I haven’t tried it. I also haven’t tried hemlock, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, most kinds of molds, or arsenic. If any politician took a platform encouraging people to ingest any of those very legal substances, everyone would know that he was an idiot. But an endorsement of THC, a largely untested drug, (that when tested has been shown to destroy part of the brain) is a desirable platform for politician today. In fact, if a late night comedian were to summarize my position on pot as a part of a set-up to a joke it would elicit boo’s from the audience while the opposing view would garner cheers.

Why are people so happy to give away part of their brain? The late David Foster Wallace, author and thinker, said

“Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.”

When YOU are the greatest thing in your world, when your mind is the height of your own existence, then your existence is bound to be a sad, angry, frustrated one. We’re unhappy with our lives and are looking for the spiritual fulfillment from something. Getting high and destroying part of our brain is the ultimate way most of us can escape the reminder that we’re not fulfilled. If we kill enough brain cells maybe we’ll stop having to think about our unhappiness at all.

But it doesn’t matter what I think. It doesn’t matter what worldview I subscribe to. As a voter, as a human, as a part of this planet earth, you should be concerned about this. Unless you just like the idea of our world being lured into an increasingly illogical state, fueled by our desire for a series of temporary highs. Sedated into weary nothingness.

“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.” – Malcolm Muggeridge

We have to fight this. One of the most common questions I’ve seen people ask those of us who uphold to a moral standard is this: Why do you care? Why do you care what I do? It’s not harming you. There are other sins you could be worrying about that are worse. Why care? . . . I confess it would be easier to simply ignore this. Let people just smoke themselves into oblivion. But we’re not called to that. We’re called to serve, we’re called to bring the truth of Christ into a dark world. We care because Christ cares. We care because he died for all of humanity.

Consider all this in your discussions about the topic.

Stop being crazy about mental illness

It might start with an elevated heart rate. Then you can’t catch your breath. It feels like you’re looking at your life through thick, foggy lenses. You can’t stop the wave of panic. Then it subsides and you wonder when it will return. You start waiting for the other shoe to drop. You don’t want to do anything for fear of triggering those feelings again and you think you might never return to a normal life. At the prospect of never feeling just “ok” you start to feel low. You disconnect from family and friends and you can’t get motivated to do anything. This is the cycle and anxiety and depression and I’m far more familiar with it than I’d like. If you’re one of several million Americans who suffer from these symptoms you’re not alone and you need to speak out and seek healing.

When people talk about physical disease, there’s an understanding that it’s a normal part of life. People get sick, and many people have chronic diseases that limit their diet, or may occasionally cause them to stay home when they have a flare up. But thanks to Hollywood when people hear the words ‘mentally ill’ they often picture a deranged psychopath or some dangerous doctor Jekyll/Mr Hyde type. In reality mental illness is a relatively normal part of life, just like physical illnesses. And, just like physical illnesses, mental illness can have a variety of causes. Some people think mental health is only determined by life experience and genetics, when in reality, your mental health can be hugely influenced by diet and exercise, viral diseases and even bacterial infections.

It’s a bigger problem than the Flu

[milestone_box animation=”fadeInUp” count=”26″ title=”Percent of Americans with anxiety or depression”] [milestone_box animation=”fadeInUp” count=”20″ title=”Percent of Americans who will get the flu”]

26% of Americans are dealing with some kind of mental illness right now. I say ‘right now’ because not all mental illnesses are life-long, many last a few years and some last shorter than that. In 2013 there were over 41,000 suicides in the US making it the 10th most common cause of death in the US. 20% of Americans will get the Flu this year and on average it causes fewer annual deaths than suicide (36,000 compared to 40,000), and yet we spend more time talking about, avoiding, and treating the Flu. We need to think of it like a physical disease – like asthma or bad allergies.

We need to treat it like a physical disease

Because it is; mental disorders are combination of factors, but persistent anxiety and depression disorders have many causes that are more closely linked to physical health. As long as we’re seeing depression as a mysterious ‘boogy-man’ disease we can’t treat it. Just like a cold, allergies, asthma, or the flu, a person suffering from an anxiety or depression disorder can’t help it. They don’t always know what’s causing it, they can’t choose when it happens and they can’t just “snap out of it.” The worst forms of anxiety and depression don’t have any obvious triggers. No reasonable person would tell a diabetic (a condition that can be caused by diet or by genetics) to not take their medication. Nor would anyone say that by taking medication an asthmatic not following God’s will. The medication used by anxiety and depression sufferers has saved many lives, and while it’s not always a long-term solution, it gets people to a place where they can think clearly enough to address their issues.

Treating it like a physical disease doesn’t de-spiritualize it, nor should it remove all responsibility from the sufferer. I think people in the church believe that if we call someone’s struggle with depression an “illness” that we’re somehow excusing it, or we’re saying that the person cannot do anything about it and therefore is absolved of responsibility. If a person has the flu, do we still not pray for God’s healing? We still treat physical diseases as if they had a spiritual element. By the same token, if someone doesn’t get a flu shot, doesn’t take care of themselves, doesn’t wear a jacket in the cold, misses sleep, and doesn’t eat healthy – would we be surprised if they got the flu? Their immune system in compromised and it was their fault. In the same way people can do things that put themselves in an unhealthy mental state, and yes it is their fault and they need to realize that. Once someone has the flu, do we say it’ll just pass and tell them to get back to work? No, they need to go see the doctor, rest, and take meds. Visiting a doctor, seeking treatment, taking medication – these don’t remove the spiritual element from illness.

Causes of mental illness

The first step in dealing with depression or anxiety is understanding where it comes from. If you can determine a likely cause then you’re more likely to be able to find an effective treatment. Having said this, most will have an issue caused by one factor and exacerbated by other factors, as such it is good to examine each area and consider lifestyle changes that will put you on a track toward spiritual, emotional, and physical health all at once as it can’t hurt anything to get better.

Spiritual

In the midst of explaining the physical aspects of mental illness we don’t want to lose sight of the spiritual aspects. After all it’s like Paul says,

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”Ephesians 6:12″]“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”[/parallax_quote]

In Matthew 8, Luke 8, and Mark 5 we have an example of one of the few passages to occur in all three of the synoptic Gospels; Jesus casting the demons out of the man called “legion.” Obviously this is a dramatic example, but the fact that all three Gospel writers wanted to include it goes toward the fact that they saw the need for hope and healing in a world where many people were probably struggling with lesser demons. Note that according to scripture demons can cause physical illness as well – so if you want to victim blame Christians for being mentally ill because it “must be” caused by demons, you have to apply the same logic for anyone suffering from a physical illness as well.

The good news is that Christians have authority to cast demons out. Sounds crazy but its true. Luke talks about this a lot in his gospel, which is interesting because he was a physician, and likely saw the link between the spiritual and the physical.

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”Luke 9:1″]“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.”[/parallax_quote]

Later on in Luke talks about how the very name of Jesus casts out demons

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”Luke 10:17-19″]“And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name, And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”[/parallax_quote]

Being far from God is another cause of depression and anxiety. I hesitate to say this one because this is the most misused cause, but it is a cause. For some reason, with all the many different potential causes this is the only one some Christians pick out. While being far from God is a cause of depression, I haven’t met many Christians for whom this was the cause. Many Christians struggle with anxiety and depression despite being active in a church, engaged in prayer, plugged into a small group, and reading scripture. If you haven’t ever struggled with a mental illness be careful about the way you assume it works.

Emotional

This is the most obvious one to most people, but also the one that can take the longest to untangle if left untreated. It’s normal to experience depression and anxiety if something happens in your life that makes you depressed or anxious, but if you don’t deal with those normal emotions in a healthy way, you may be setting yourself up for more depression and anxiety later on. Most of us are terrible at being honest with ourselves about what is causing our depression and anxiety and yes, there are often deep-seeded causes from our childhood that may need to be discussed.

It is also normal to feel depressed or anxious if you’re not living in community with people, or if you’re having trouble connecting with friends, or family. Sometimes the emotional cause has to do with personal goals and life focus, and while it isn’t the only cause, being exclusively focused on yourself is almost a guaranteed recipe for depression and anxiety, this can lead to a frustrating spiral effect; you think about yourself and you get depressed, you think about your depression and wonder if things will ever change and you get more depressed and anxious. Throw in a little guilt for feeling so self-focused and you’re a prefect, self-sustaining storm of angst.

I want to emphasize that I’m not talking about normal emotions that occur in the immediate wake of tragedy, or because of a specific circumstance to which the normal response would be depression. Getting upset about bad things is a healthy emotional response. However, if after the upsetting circumstance has passed, or if you are still finding yourself having trouble coping with a loss even years later, that is likely a sign that you need to treat it as an illness.

Genetic

We now know better than ever that many common mental illnesses can be glitches be in our DNA passed from parent to child. This isn’t any different from genetic causes for heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and auto-immune diseases. But just like with those diseases there are ways to curb risks and be proactive about dealing with your predisposition. This also does not mean that sufferers have to be victimized by their biology. “I was born this way” has never been ok with God because thanks to Adam, we’re born sinful, and God has given you the power to over come your flesh through the Holy spirit.

Physical

There are many different physical causes of mental illness that doctors are only just now beginning to understand. Really anything that can cause you physical illness can cause or contribute to mental illness. Viruses, Bacteria, Physical trauma, Diet & gut flora, (lots of research supporting this now) and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to your mental state. Too often we don’t account for the fact that being obese, being sedentary, eating unhealthy foods, and even just getting sick can have a profound impact on the way your brain is functioning and lead to systemic problems in our regular thought patterns that, if unaddressed, lead to worse and worse things.

Treatment for Mental illness

It should be liberating, and very encouraging to know that there are many effective ways to treat mental illness. And while most treatment takes time, making a plan to fight back can be in and of itself a therapeutic act. While most mental illnesses have a variety of factors, its important to understand how to treat them based on their cause that way you can form a plan of attack and begin to be proactive. Think of it like the the fable of the bird that chipped away at the mountain by pecking his beak at it, only each time you return the bird gets a little bigger and a little stronger.

Spiritual

Prayer – you’re thinking ‘of course you’d say prayer, you work at a church’ we’re not the only ones: “The findings add to the growing body of research confirming a connection between a person’s perceived relationship with God and mental and physical health. In fact, a recent study by Oregon State University found that religion and spirituality result in two distinct but complementary health benefits. Religion (religious affiliation and service attendance) is linked to better health habits, including less smoking and alcohol consumption, while spirituality (prayer, meditation) helps regulate emotions. Another recent study by Columbia University found that participating in regular meditation or other spiritual practice actually thickens parts of the brain’s cortex, and this could be the reason those activities tend to guard against depression — especially in those at risk for the disease.” (source here)

Reading scripture – Today in Frazer’s contemporary worship service Emily Roach talked about a doctor who encouraged her to read scripture as a part of her mental health regimen. Reading a Psalm a day is an example of a simple prescription for spiritual peace. And having a readular scripture and prayer quiet time will help you be sure that you’re not feeling depressed simply because you’re far from God.

Attending church & Going to a small group – according to a study by the university of Maryland found that people who are happier engage in a few common activities “We looked at 8 to 10 activities that happy people engage in, and for each one, the people who did the activities more — visiting others, going to church, all those things — were more happy,” Dr. [John] Robinson said. (source here)

Serving others – even secular psychologists are seeing this “People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness” – Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota (source here) Think about the dead sea versus the sea of Galilee. The dead sea only ever receives, yet nothing can live in it. What’s more is despite the fact that it only has water flowing into it, it’s water level is receding and we can’t figure out why. The sea of Galilee has water flowing in and and flowing out. Not only is the water level staying healthy, it has a whole resort-like atmosphere and fishing economy built all around it. It is what Jesus commands us to do:

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”John 13:34″]“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”[/parallax_quote]

So if you’re not serving you’re actually being disobedient. Matthew five has Jesus’ sermon on the mount, probably the most well-known part of this is the beatitudes. They’re the ones that all start with “blessed are the…” which is another way of saying “happy are the…” Just read those and do them – I don’t want to copy and paste them all here and make this entry even longer – so I’m going to ask you to just go and read your Bible.

Emotional

Counseling – Counseling isn’t for ‘crazy people’ any more than marriage counseling is for bad marriages, or going to the doctor is for people who don’t take care of themselves. Anyone can benefit from going to a counselor. And just like physical therapy, it can take several sessions to feel the benefits. The greatest benefit of a counselor (and the reason that counseling is the best treatment in all circumstances) is the fact that they’re an objective observer who can help you develop a plan for fighting your depression. Keep in mind that finding a good counselor can take time, don’t give up if you don’t click with the first one you visit. This might be the most important step you can take, so take the time to make it happen. Counseling isn’t free, but it’s worth it.

Expressing it to close friends and family who know you well – try to explain your feelings to your family, guys this is especially difficult and you don’t have to take forever and draw it out. It might just be as simple as saying to your wife “I really miss my dad tonight” or calling a friend up and saying “I saw something that happened on TV that reminded me of the car crash.” Or simply admitting  “Work really has me feeling down today” You don’t have to analyze it; you don’t have to draw it out, just talk about it. The more you talk about it the easier it is to deal with it. And you also gain allies who can help you through things. If you currently don’t have any friends then visit a few churches in your area until you find some. Also, try not to dump your issues out on the table the first time you meet them – wade in slowly.

Exposure therapy – when trauma happens in our life the natural tendency is to shield ourselves from anything that reminds us of it. This often makes things worse as it can eventually cause a person to withdraw from everything: work, relationships, and church. As hard as it is, it is just common wisdom that little by little you have to be willing to expose yourself more and more to things that may trigger depression or anxiety. This, coupled with counseling and the support of allies who know your struggles, is an important part of overcoming trauma. You may even consider working up to sharing your own story as a goal in this.

Genetic

Parents who have dealt with anxiety or depression can be proactive about seeing the signs of it in their children and teaching them early on about how to manage it so they might be able to overcome it in adulthood.

Don’t be afraid of medication or counseling – both can be helpful, especially when you’re being overseen by a Christian doctor. Counseling is always helpful for someone who wants to get better. At the risk of sounding like a drug commercial – talk to you doctor. Seriously. If someone in your family suffers from depression and you have symptoms of it too, it might be something to talk about with a physician or a counselor.

There are counseling therapies to help change your thought patterns, just because your parents struggled with this doesn’t mean you have to also.

Physical

Physical causes can be cumulative and the only way to be sure that none of them are the cause is to see to all of them; a healthy life style goes a long way to dealing with depression and anxiety.

Frazer has an activities center, they’d love to help you make a lifestyle change that might help assuage symptoms.

Lots of simple diet changes can contribute to a healthier mental state Google “depression/anxiety diet” to read more about it.

Stay healthy – simple things that we all know to do, like avoiding disease, getting enough sleep, and not overexerting ourselves all make huge strides to reducing symptoms of mental illness

You’re not Alone

In addition to the millions of people out there who struggle with mental illness today, many of our church leaders both past and present suffered from some form of mental illness at some point in their life.

David’s psalms indicate many times that he dealt with both anxiety and depression and called out to God over it.

Some believe Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” in 2nd Cor 12:7 could’ve been related to anxiety or depression – it may have even been panic attacks.

Martin Luther may have struggled with depression when he was young, and wrote much about how to address depression in the church.

John Wesley was very depressed in the wake of his failed missionary journey to the US and some believe he may have had some obsessive compulsive tendencies.

Modern church leaders like Erwin McManus, Louie Giglio, and Carlos Whittaker have all been honest about their very real, very had struggles with mental health. Giglio was almost bed-ridden for three months due to what’s called “fear of death syndrome” about eight years ago. McManus has always been very honest about his life-long struggle with anxiety. Carlos Whitaker has a brief, honest blog entry where he confesses his own anxiety struggle.

Things to keep in mind

It isn’t (always) self centered – often times people assume that those who deal with anxiety and depression are simply too self focused. Certainly self centeredness can cause depression, but not all people who struggle with anxiety or depression do so because of self centeredness. Also, for a person who is struggling in the midst of also being self focused, it isn’t helpful to tell them that they’re too self-focused. They need to arrive that on their own. It’s better to assume there are other causes and focus on those to help them get to a healthy enough place to be able to see themselves.

Mental illness is temporary – even for chronic mental illness sufferers, with the proper help, you can work toward a life that overcomes your illness such that when it does rear its ugly head, it doesn’t have to take over your life and withproper treatment you spend less time dealing with it and more time living your life. There is hope for healing and it can come in many forms. Never get tricked into believing that your illness will last forever. It can get better if you seek help

You may need to deal with the physical and emotional causes before you can effectively deal with the spiritual causes; James talks about this when he says

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”James 2:16″]“If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”[/parallax_quote]

Or consider the fact that when Jesus talks about doing for the “least of these” in Matthew 25 he talks about meeting physical and emotional needs.

Total rabbit trail here: Psychologist Abraham Maslow identified this in 1943 when he developed what we now call “Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs” Basically it works like this: If you’re about to die because you’re sick or starving, you don’t care about your safety. If you’re worried for your safety, you’re not as concerned about your emotional needs, if you’re emotionally compromised at a deep level you’re not as concerned with being productive or being respected by your peers, if you’re not being productive or respected, you’re not going to be able to do all those wonderful things that us humans do best like think critically, be creative, overcome prejudices and accept difficult facts. – while spiritual needs exist at every level of the hierarchy of needs, we can be of more use to God the more our physical and emotional needs are taken care of.

Maslow-hierarchy-1024x761

You have to decide that suicide is not an option. If you are reading this and you are and have recently found yourself considering suicide, please know that it is not the answer and my home church and I so much want to help your realize that. Do not be embarrassed; millions of people deal with suicidal thoughts. Whatever lies you may be telling yourself, know that the truth is this: The creator of the universe loves you and we here at the church want to help get you to a place where you can experience that love fully, so please let someone know if you’re struggling.

Why is it so prevalent in the US? Some people point to the statistics that say that US has higher occurrence of anxiety and depression than other developed countries because of our affluence, that may be true. Keep in mind it also might be true that we are better at diagnosing it, and in some cases we may over-diagnose it. (We’re keeping children’s ADD diagnoses out of this discussion for now) Well first I would point you back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, which does show us that as more of are needs are met that new needs arise. Next I would also point to the obesity epidemic and repeat; physical health is inextricably linked to mental health. And finally consider this: if Satan sees that in the US we have the most advanced medical tech and we’ve conquered most major diseases, how would he choose to attack us next? He’d attack in a way that would go unnoticed until it was too late.

To those who have friends who deal with this:

First off, you need to understand that if you’ve never dealt with clinical anxiety or depression you cannot understand how it feels, and knowing that will be the most helpful thing in helping us. You will need to be patient and you cannot be bothered by repetition as you may hear the same thing thousands of times and you may have to repeat the same comforting words thousands of times. “This will pass” and “this is temporary” and “you’re going to make it through this” are usually helpful if said in a loving spirit.

Being told to ‘snap out of it’ isn’t as helpful as you might think. Similarly telling someone who struggles with anxiety that the object of their anxiety isn’t really an issue will only ever make things worse. Imagine if you knew that aliens were coming to kill us all, being told that it was crazy wouldn’t make you calm down either would it? You don’t have to agree with the cause of the anxiety to recognize the reality of the anxiety itself. The same goes for depression. The quicker you acknowledge the legitimacy of a person’s pain the sooner they can start on a path to healing.

To those who suffer from anxiety and depression:

We, the church, want to be part of your healing. We believe that depression is a spiritual struggle and we’d to talk with you and offer counseling. We do offer counseling in our chruches, but we know that because of the stigma of mental illness for some it’s a struggle to come to a church. If you’re from Montgomery, AL where I live, I highly recommend the Samaritan counseling center here in town. I’ve enlisted their services for my own struggles. Focus on the family offers a great counselor locator to tell you where to find Christian counselors. If you don’t jive with your first counselor, don’t’ give up. It may take a few tries to find a good fit.

I’d believe that I speak for all of the evangelical Christian church when I say that we all want to be a community of people who can be there for you in these times. Which is why at Frazer, the church where I work, we believe one of the greatest steps you can take for your own mental health is to join a small group. This isn’t group therapy, but it is community and having a support network is one of the best steps you can take for your emotional and spiritual health. You can find out details about small groups at Frazer here. But if you don’t live in Montgomery, I still really encourage you to seek out a church where you can be yourself and speak honestly about what’s happening in your life.

It’s all connected, the physical, the mental, emotional, and the spiritual. Getting healthy in one will help you with the others. So spend time with friends, make time for cardio, meditate, eat healthy, and if you don’t know Christ as your savior I’d like to introduce you. Meet me at church this Sunday.

I hope you find this helpful

Why Christians should care about Genetically Modified Organisms (not the reason you probably think)

I took a pretty long hiatus from my blog and I want to return with a really brief bit about the relative importance for Christians to be aware of incorporating food that is genetically modified into our diets.

I know you’re thinking that I’m going to start telling you about the increasing amount of emerging research and studies that show the questionable effects of GMOs on people, but I actually have no intention of doing that. I know that with the amount of food consumed by the US today, we cannot survive on organic farming alone – though the argument could be made that we need to become more efficient in what we do with food so as not to consume as much.

Nor do I have any intention of preaching to you about the effects that GMOs have on the environment though they are negative. If you’d like to read a book by a christian farmer who has a great deal to say about all of this, you can check out “Folks This Ain’t Normal” by Joel Salatin who I heard speak last year at Catalyst. Joel does a great job explaining the importance of caring about entire process of farming and food prep.

No the reason this is important is far more dire and even more scary. There is a small but significant movement within the scientific community that believes in something called “trans-humanism.” This is a philosophy that to reach the next stage in our evolution humanity will have to willingly undergo modifications – some genetic, others may involve cybernetics. This sounds like science fiction, but it is very real. I’m not going to list off any ramifications of this belief system because you’ll think I’m crazy, but suffice as to say that humanity could loose it’s humanity if everyone were to subscribe to this same thought process. If you want to get scared out of your mind read any futurist’s latest book about the way technology and genetics are going. I’m not making this stuff up.

What does this have to do with GMOs? Well that’s the good news. The movement toward all-natural foods as well as more homeopathic medicines and natural remedies is built on the idea that nature is balanced in such a way that it works in harmony with itself and the more we mess with it, the less harmony there is. As Christians we can agree that God did create the world and designed it with us in mind. He did tell us to subdue the earth and be its masters. Breeding plants and animals for specific purposes is one thing, but messing with the genes of an organism has the potential to disrupt the balance God has created for us in nature. If we’re willing to do it to plants and animals, then how long before we’re willing to do it to our children? At what point does it stop?

I say this not to alarm you, but rather to alert you to the ramifications of accepting GMOs as normal. Even if they were harmless today, they could be used as the reasoning for stranger things tomorrow. The movement for natural, God-breathed food is good for the church. We should join the movement. We should be willing to voice our concern for the laws have passed recently to protect cooperations from being prosecuted for their use of GMOs, should they be discovered to be harmful. We should be pushing a more healthy view of food and it’s role in our lives and we should be wary of putting anything in our bodies – the temples of Christ – that is not fitting for the King of kings.

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Less TV more Water.

I love watching TV, but to be honest TV is terrible for you.

  • According to the New York Times. A recent study found that happy people have several things in common: They go to church, they socialize, they read print media. But the only thing that they do less of is watch TV.
  • A well known study in the 70s told us much about TV’s effects. A town in British Columbia first introduced TV to its population in 1973. Several sociologists heard about it and decided to study the effects. In short they found that health declined, test scores dropped and perhaps most alarmingly, aggressiveness saw a sharp rise.
  • Studies have found that people who watch TV think the world is a much more violent place than it is. When surveyed, people who watch several hours of TV a day overestimated the number of violent crimes that occur in their town on a regular basis.
  • Surprise, surprise – Several studies found startling and undeniable link between amount of TV watched and depression. (Incidentally exercise has the opposite effect)
  • According to Kidshealth.org Kids who watch four hours of TV or more are more likely to be poorly behaved, overweight and make poor life choices.

I don’t drink enough water, but water is really good for you.

  • A recent study showed that drinking a full glass of water before every meal can help you lose weight.
  • Your brain is 90% water – ergo the more you drink water the more you think clearly. It also has shown to improve mood so drinking water will improve the quality and productivity of your day.
  • Water is the single best skin care product. Drinking enough water every day can replenish skin tissues and help skin maintain its elasticity.
  • Water aids in all major body systems, especially digestion. It can even relieve headaches.
  • Water improves you over all health and immunity. If you want to avoid anything from the flu to a sprained ankle, from cramps to cancer – a tall glass of water at every meal does wonders to bolster your immune system and speed up healing.
  • It is abundant, inexpensive, easy to get, and free of calories.

 

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Trapped: A Victim Mentality

A great way to stay trapped

Perhaps the greatest lesson that my father taught me about life from a early age is that a victim mentality gets you nowhere.

Likely everyone that regularly reads my blog would agree with me, but recently I saw some posts on Facebook that reminded me that some people earnestly believe that it is perfectly acceptable for individuals to rest on the excuses generated out of whatever unfortunate circumstances their life has given them.

To those people I’d like to say: that’s perfectly fine. From a secular point of view it is totally acceptable for you to use your past as an excuse for your current behavior, if you wish to stay trapped your whole life. That’s perfectly ok, no one will force you out of captivity.

A person in a victim mentality is much like a person who has been beaten, bruised and forced into a cage. Later, whether days or years, the bruises heal and someone will come to them with the key to their escape. Most will not use the key, however. Why? Because once you’re free you no longer have the excuse, you have to take full responsibility for yourself. Most people would rather be able to lean on the excuse of what has been done to them; garnering sympathy and demanding that people be sensitive to what has happened to them.

Before I continue, I should specify that I do believe that there are many reasons for a person to be a victim that they truly cannot help. Mental Illness or chemical imbalances caused by genetics are among them. But just as those people must choose to submit to therapy and/or medication; those who have chosen to be defined by their most tragic and painful moments, they need to eventually lay it all down to be truly free.

I also should say that I do believe in being as sensitive to people as is reasonable in every situation. I can’t begin to imagine the tragedy through which some people have lived and I would never deny them grief, anger, or mourning; all three of which are holy emotions expressed by Jesus himself. However, there is a massive difference between feeling and expressing a holy emotion and allowing yourself to fall victim to your emotions. The difference is in this phrase: “Because ______ happened to me I must always react by ______” When you say that you are becoming victim whether in a small or large way. By contrast each time you say “Despite the fact that ______ happened to me, I will choose to ______” you are choosing to not be victimized.

The Bible tells me so

Please understand that I’m not so arrogant as to say that people shouldn’t be affected by the tragedies of life. I don’t pretend to understand all of the different causes of strife in the world or the pain that people have experienced, but I do know that from a scriptural worldview its impossible to say that a victim mentality is acceptable.

I think you ought to know, dear brothers, about the hard time that we went through in Asia. We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead. And he did help us, and he saved us from a terrible death; yes, and we expect him to do it again and again. 2 Cor 1:8-10 Living Bible

Or, Perhaps more to the point. . .

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake Col. 1:24a

There are many many more scriptures about rejoicing in suffering. So from a scriptural standpoint, we see Paul – beaten, tortured ‘doomed to die’ and what does he say? “That was good.” Wait, what? “Powerless to help ourselves” “that was good” “overwhelmed” “that was good.” “crushed” “that was good.” seriously. It’s only been in the last several years that I’ve come to realize this. Christians are blessed with the hope in Christ and the ability to say that our suffering only brings us closer to Him and by suffering for Him, we take part in the fellowship of His suffering. We go from “that was bad” to “that was hard” to “that was good.”

Is this some kind of sickness? Perhaps masochism? By no means! Looking back and saying something was ‘good’ is far different then deriving pleasure from it. Again, there is nothing wrong with anger and mourning. The only reason why Paul is able to look back at the bad times and call them good is because he realizes they brought him closer to Christ. He realizes that Christ’s resurrection power is at work in our lives, but to access that power we have to die. Think about that for a minute. Its easy for us to think of Christ’s death on the cross as the great tragedy of history and his resurrection as the restoration of that tragedy. Christ’s resurrection wouldn’t have been possible without His death. A Christian view of suffering is simply realizing that without death there can be no resurrection.

On the practical end of things…

Even if you’re not looking at this from a scriptural perspective, say you’re an agnostic or a secular humanist, then look at it from the purely practical end of things. If we decide that there are some things in life that a person cannot be expected to recover from, some wounds that cannot be healed; that’s fine, but do you really want to work with someone who’s single greatest aim in life is to make sure everyone is sensitive to their life’s tragedies? After a while there must be a reasonable expectation of growing from your past, and becoming responsible for your present. I don’t say ‘moving on’ because I think that insinuates that you must ignore your past, not at all, instead you grow from it and become stronger than ever.

Steven Covey, the writer of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about this in the first Habit. Which is “Be Proactive.” He simply states that a part of being proactive is taking responsibility for yourself and your behavior. He suggests that the main meaning of being responsible is being able to choose your response.

Most people who have the victim mentality get angry at the insinuation that they are somehow to blame for their attitude. They act as if that’s tantamount to being told that they are to blame for the tragedy in their life or their genetic make up. That’s a huge leap in logic.  Between stimulus and response there is a narrow space where you can choose. You’re not Pavlov’s dog, forced to salivate by every bell that rings. You’re not a programmed machine, who’s brain will always produce the same reaction given the same set of circumstances.

I recently had the pleasure of hearing a lecture by Ben Carson. Dr. Carson is the preeminent pediatric neurosurgeon active today. He’s participated in several firsts in his field including the first separation of siamese twins that were conjoined at the head. This is featured in a movie called “Gifted Hands” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. In 2008 he was awarded the presidential medal of freedom, the highest civilian honor in our nation.  That’s impressive, but what’s more impressive is that Dr. Carson came from a low-income single parent household in Detroit. At a young age his parents divorced and his mother struggled to find employment as she couldn’t read – the only work she could maintain was that of a house keeper where Ben would later say “She observed that successful people spent a lot more time reading than they did watching television.” And she implemented a rule that her two sons would read two books a week from the library. You can read more about Ben Carson’s upbringing on NPR’s website.

The reason why the victim mentality is so pervasive is because there is only one alternative: work. It takes work to overcome the setbacks, the emotional stresses, the tragedies of life. No one would’ve blamed Ben Carson for being a  below average student, he had a number of things against him. But his mother chose to fight that and later he chose to fight that as well, working hard to get into med school and then working hard to become the best doctor he could be. That’s because they chose not to be victims of our circumstances.

Most people can’t even admit that they’re choosing to be victimized because If you admit that you can do something about it and choose not to do something about it, it becomes your fault. I wouldn’t be writing about this if it weren’t a struggle for me also, but one thing I’ve realized is that once you are real with yourself about where you are choosing to be victimized then you can start to allow the solution permeate throughout your life.

Personally…

I’ve struggled with having a victim mentality about many different things. There are some ways in which I continue to deal with it. One small example is the fact that I’m not an athletic person and most of my growing up years I allowed myself to be victimized by that, but as I grew up, I began to fight the impulse to feel victimized and I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried new activities. Now I have a whole list of sports and activities that I really enjoy, even if I’m not the best at them. Stepping out in this manner has opened so many opportunities to me that I would have never had if I had rested on the laurels of victimization.

I think the message paraphrase of the Bible phrases paul’s words in Philippians well:

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Phil 3:12-14

I think one of the mistakes we make when trying to overcome our victim mentality is the idea that we need to have it all figured out, that we need to somehow be totally fixed before we relinquish our victim status. In reality, we just have to admit that we don’t always know exactly what the path to healing is going to look like and we need to trust that it ends at the feet of Jesus.

Whatever your excuse is for not living a full and healthy life, that’s not God’s will for you. I can tell you he wants you to take hold of you inheritance now. Yes you have eternal life in terms of length, but you also have abundant life in terms of height and depth, so stop making excuses and grab hold of the abundance that Christ has given you.