Healthy


Lately I have not been feeling that well, and I have noticed that I am not thinking as clearly as I was not long ago. It began to concern me that some of the confusion and muddled thinking from my past might be returning. I started to question if I was falling into depression or if there was some more serious issue at work.

Then I remembered, we are what we eat.

Last year when I fell into crisis and became depressed, I also learned that what I was eating and drinking was affecting me. I was dehydrated, and my body was responding to the artificial ingredients and starches I was eating. I was not eating an extraordinary amount of these things, but at that time it was more than my body could handle.

Stress affects us in many ways. When we are under stress, the foods and beverages we eat and do not eat can affect us to a much greater extent than they might at another time. Different people will be more susceptible than others to certain foods. Prior to this time, I already had issues when I ate too much wheat, and I have to monitor that intake every day, but during the difficult time last year I was also affected by other starches, especially sugar, and by artificial ingredients.

When I removed the wrong foods from my diet and increased my fluid intake there was a dramatic change.

I lost over twenty pounds, my thinking became clearer than the spiritual changes already created, and my energy increased significantly. Over the course of the last year foods have been reintroduced and I had been eating pretty normally. Lately I have been in a very busy and stressful season, and I stopped paying attention to my diet and health. The issues I faced last year may have resurfaced, causing me problems once again.

When we are under stress, our diet can add to any feelings of frustration, confusion, and disillusionment.

If you are feeling those things, take a few minutes to look at any changes you could try in your diet for a few days. Take a moment to think about the music, media, and activities you are “feeding” on also.

I changed my diet two days ago and I already am seeing changes. God made us as whole people, and we need to treat more than just the spiritual areas of our life. Spend time caring for your whole body: heart, soul, mind, and body.

We all have bad days. Things don’t go as we planned. We don’t feel well physically, emotionally, or something.

Life can be hard.

And when life gets hard we reach for comfort.

What do you reach for?

 

Do you head for sugar? caffeine? alcohol?
Maybe you like to hide in sleep, turn on the TV, go shopping, eat junk food, excercise until you drop, or escape in a book. Maybe you turn to something you might not like others to know about such as drugs, sex, pornography, gambling, online activities, or even something criminal.

We all have something we turn to for comfort. Sometimes what we choose to turn to stems from hurts, traumas, fears, or areas of confusion that have not yet been healed. We have a need that is unmet and we are trying to fill that need. I have friends who turn to many things on this list. Some how it make them feel better. I have been lucky that most of these things have never been a temptation or issue in my life. I may eat too much sugar at times, or I might grab caffeine when I have pushed too hard or not slept well, but that has been about it.

So where do I turn for comfort? The answer surprised me. When I hit those difficult times what I turn to is negative thinking. I know what you are thinking. I thought it too. How can negative thinking be comforting? The truth is, it isn’t. It is comfort turned wrong. So are all our other addictions.

Food is needed for life, but when someone indulges in it in great quantity it is turned wrong.
Excercise is healthy, but when it is overdone it is turned wrong.
Buying a pair of shoes is okay, but owning 200 or more is way beyond what is needed.
An extra hour or two in bed is sometimes needed and can be a blessing, but all weekend is unhealthy.

How can negative thinking be comforting? It allows me to stay in my funk. I give myself permission to not work hard to change my perspective or outlook. I allow myself to think thoughts that put others down, criticize situations, and spiral a small situation into something much larger.

This past year I have been working hard to change how I think of comfort and where I look for comfort. It has been a process, but every week I know I am growing, learning, and walking more in the way God wants me to. The verses below have helped me rethink comfort.

Are there other things you have learned about comfort that have helped you find comfort in God instead of circumstances, people, or things?

Psalm 23:4
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 71:21
You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.

Psalm 119:50
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119:52
I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them.

Psalm 119:76
May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. 

May is Mental Health Awareness month.

It begins with Children’s Mental Health week May 1st to May 9th.

Depression is one of the greatest issues of mental health. One in every three people will suffer from it at some point in our lives. It is not a sign of weakness. It is an illness that can be cured. Depression is something that people of all ages, all genders, all races, and all religious may experience. It is not a sign of a weakness, nor is it something that we should be ashamed of. Often it is a sign that someone has been trying to be strong for too long, carrying the load alone for far too long.

Spend some time this month growing in your awareness of mental health this month:
  • Educate yourself and/or others about mental health issues
  • Attend a workshop/seminar/discussion group/support group
  • Assist someone who is working through an issue with their mental health
  • Talk with someone who either has or is working on an issue with their mental health and learn about their story
  • Serve a charity or organization in your community that provides mental health services
  • Encourage others to grow in their awareness of mental health
  • Uplift and support others in their pursuit of good mental health
  • Become an advocate for children, including their mental health
  • Look into what the Bible says about mental health, healthy living, and how powerful God is to change even those who are struggling with depression, trauma, PTSD, and other mental health issues

I read an article this morning at Out of Ur, the online blog of Christianity Today International.

A friend told me that Eugene Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant should be required reading for every pastor who has served for at least five years. That was how long it had been since my ordination. I picked up a copy.

Peterson claims that there are two common types of unhealthy clergy. The first is the messiah. Messiahs seek out wounded, broken people, to make them healthy again. It is a noble task, except for its motivation: messiahs need to feel needed. They consider healed people to be numbers, accumulated to suggest pastoral effectiveness.

Then there are managers, who seek not the unhealthy but the healthy: talented, faithful, and prepared people. Managers plug them in, finding the right places for them to serve in an ever-expanding congregational machine. The bigger the church gets, the better managers feel effective and useful. Once again, people become numbers.

I have both messianic and managerial tendencies. It is too easy for congregants to become statistics, which I can use to inflate my sense of clergy effectiveness.

That realization prompted me to search for a new pastoral identity….. (The full article by Magrey deVega is available at http://www.outofur.com/archives/2010/04/the_pastor_as_d.html)

Are there other common types of unhealthy clergy?

If leaders that are guiding as messiah’s or managers are both unhealthy, then what is a healthy role for leaders?

What attitudes, convictions, and examples can people look for in leaders that show signs of a good heart and strong healthy leadership?

I was reviewing some material from the book Soul Repair: Rebuilding Your Spiritual Life by Jeff VanVonderen and Dale & Juanita Ryan today. In looking at the foundation of our faith they speak to the fact that we need to take a hard look at our view of God. The image and perception of God that we hold shapes our entire spiritual life. Here are some examples they describe in the book as distorted images of God. Can you think of others that you might hold?

  • The Abusive god – tyrant, quick to anger, slow to forgive, wrathful, unapproachable, violent, cruel
  • The Abandoning god – left us or is threatening to, without love and grace
  • The Emotionally Distant god – does not care about our emotional needs, emotionally aloof, unable to give comfort
  • The Passive god – cannot help us, uncaring, impotent, lacking power, unreliable, no practical help
  • The god of Impossible Expectations – never please with us, expects performance, demands perfection

If thinking about these distorted images makes you a little uncomfortable then pay attention to your emotions. They may reveal some truths that are deep and underlying. Taking a deep look at your beliefs can lead to anxiety and discomfort, but usually that is due to the fact that you are recognizing something is wrong, that something needs to change. If you recognize you hold a distorted image of God in some way the next step is to look at how you can replace that image with the correct one. You can’t just throw out your distorted one and be left with nothing, you need to replace it with the truth of who God is and what his character is really like. You may wonder if there is any hope, that if you tear apart your spiritual beliefs that it will lie in ruins and will never be rebuilt. That concern is very understandable but it is only through examining the real foundations and being willing to look hard and be honest that you will start the hard work of recovery.

I am hoping and praying for your courage to take a step toward a recovered and truthful view of God. I have taken this journey myself and it was hard but the fruit that I now see as I have reached a healthier perspective is well worth all the struggle.

I have had several occasions lately where someone has asked me to share my testimony of how I have found healing and what has led to change on my road to recovery and restoration. Being asked to share it both scary and also exciting. Most exciting to me is the realization that I have changed and my life is different and far better today. I know that the root of that change is due to Christ and that is what I want to testify about.

When asked to share there are several things we should be asking and working through:

1) How can I share my story in healthy ways? Is it okay to share names of individuals and organizations? If so, how can that be done without defaming and slandering others? Are there times to call out those who are walking in sinful and hurtful ways?

2) Why am I sharing my story? Am I doing it for others or for me? Am I hoping to help others, if so will my story on its own help them or do I need to provide advice about how I recovered and changed?Are there times/places to share my story for my recovery and other times/places to share to help others?

3) Is my story about me and what I have accomplished, or is it about Christ? If it is about Christ am I really testifying about him and what he has done, or about me and how I have changed? If the story is about me then I need to go back to question 2 and determine why I are sharing the story and if I am shaping it correctly for the given time/place.

I have been thinking more and more about my story, my past, and why I have talked about it. Recently as I was sharing with someone it became clear to me that I was sharing out of my pain, my past, and my brokenness. I still had areas that needed to heal and where I needed to let go of pain. I was not sharing out of the joy and hope I felt but instead I was sharing about what I had experienced that was so impactful. God is changing my heart, leading me to understand what it means to testify about him and for him, and leading me to a place where I think my testimony can truly benefit, encourage, and give hope to others. I want to help the broken, discouraged, disillusioned, and searching find their way to God. That won’t happen if I am testifying about the pain and brokenness I experienced. Instead I am choosing to learn how to change my testimony so that it is about Christ, a life with God, and the life-changing restoration, healing, and redemption that has occurred in my life. That is what I want to share with others. That is what will change and affect lives.

Educating others about the affects of abuse means teaching them about emotional handicaps. Often people nod their heads like the get the concept, but unless they have more than just a head knowledge about it they are missing the point.

When I was 16-20 years old I suffered from some significant knee problems and we wondered if I would ever find healing and be able to walk again. I spent over half of this time on crutches and most of the rest of it in braces, therapy, etc. When I was in crutches or braces people would look and me and know there was something physically wrong so I could not handle the same things other could. People would carry things for me, hold doors, drive, etc. to help make life a little easier.

What wasn’t seen during that time were the mental, emotional, and spiritual affects. People would ask if I was in pain, but they wouldn’t ask if I was scared about having another surgery, or having trouble balancing physical therapy with my college studies. This same thing happens with abuse. If there are physical signs of the abuse people can see them and have some level of understanding, however the deepest and most profound affects of any kind of abuse are the unseen areas.

I try to educate people that I carry emotional and spiritual handicaps that are not easy to see, but the handicaps limit my capabilities. They keep me from living with the same freedoms, ease, openness, and peace that others do. They limit my ability to function at the same level and in the same ways as others. I live every day trying to overcome those handicaps. Some days I am very successful, and other days I miss the mark by enormous measures.

Are we living aware of the emotional, mental, and spiritual handicaps of those around us? Are we tolerant and accepting of others limitations, not excusing things that can be changed and not refusing to challenge people to stretch and grow, but loving them for who they are? We aren’t Christ, but he knew exactly how to accept others where they were at and care for them beyond their handicaps. How are we learning to be like him?

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