Don’t Give Up Hope: Finding Joy in Tough Times

“If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.”

~Lucy Larcom (1824-1893), American poet

This past week was a rough one. Our family got some bad news and it has caused us to re-evaluate a few things in our lives. I have faith everything will turn out fine. But it does take some effort to see the bright side right now. One thing I have learned over the years is that happiness is mostly a result of our attitude. Being grateful for the good things in our lives is a powerful tool to combat the negative and the depression that often follows. To that end I am making it a habit to notice the good things in my life and acknowledge them specifically. I thank God for blessings each day even when I don’t feel like it.

The other major change in my life that has helped me cope with stressful circumstances is cleaning up my diet and getting my vitamin D levels into the normal range. These things have done wonders for my mood. I do not need medication for depression. The winter months used to leave me feeling blue but now I find even the gray days of the season calming and pleasant in their own way.

Frozen Lake

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Happy, Healthy and Free

“What we think, we become.”

It was my honor and privilege to be one of the speakers at a Ladies Day event yesterday hosted by the Bridgewater Church of Christ (at Garretson Rd) . The theme of the event was “Do You Know Who I Am?” and my topic was “Happy, Healthy and Free”. This is a subject very near and dear to my heart because I am very passionate about health and fitness for the WHOLE person Mind, Body, Soul and Spirit.

The starting point for my talk was the Bible verse Luke 2:52

Jesus grew in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and Man.

That verse encapsulates the entire 18 year period of Jesus’ growth from age 12 to the beginning of his ministry at the age of 30. It tells us that He grew mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. And I propose that we too need to focus on growing in these areas of our lives in order to be well-rounded individuals. I proposed how, instead of Happy, Healthy and Free, we are often Sick, Stressed and Depressed. This is something with which I am familiar because I have been all three of those things at certain points in my life. I shared some of what I have learned about the Mind-Body connection and how our bodies respond to stress. And lest anyone think that focusing on our own health is somehow self-indulgent, I argued that we NEED to work at our health in order to become more pleasing and useful to God.

What we think, we become. And just as the Lao Tzu quote expresses, our habits become our character which becomes our destiny. With that in mind, and through my own experiences, I have come up with Ten Healthy Habits for the Well-Rounded Person: Continue reading

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Healthy, Not Unholy – Part Two

In Part One of “Healthy, Not Unholy” we discussed the benefits and importance of physical fitness. Specifically, that exercise is important for physical and emotional health, how it teaches discipline and can contribute to our confidence. Today, I want to outline the potential downside to making physical fitness an important part of our lives.

To understand how the pursuit of physical fitness and attractiveness can potentially lead one away from God, it  is important to understand the meaning of the word “idolatry.” Idolatry is one of those words that immediately stokes the imagination. It may bring to mind images of ancient civilizations and mystic ceremonies where people dance around large statues and make violent sacrifices to strange and exotic deities.

Ok, ok….sometimes I let my imagination get away from me….but while what I described is accurate, it is not the whole story. According to the dictionary, the primary meaning of idolatry is “the worship of a physical object as a god.” As Christians, we do not acknowledge the existence of any deity but the God of the Bible. Therefore, it is accurate to label the worship of another supposed supernatural being or physical object as idolatry.

And God takes a very dim view of idolatry. In fact, He considers it sinful. We know this because He told us so several times. For example, in the Old Testament book of Exodus, His dislike of idolatry is revealed to Moses as the 1st Commandment:

Exodus 20:2-3

I am The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

Remember, God gave Moses 10 Commandments, but the very first one describes His view of idolatry! In verse 5 of the same chapter of Exodus, God elaborates further:

Exodus 20:5

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. Continue reading

Healthy, Not Unholy: Part 1

1 Corinthians 9:24

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

I have a confession to make:

I’m into physical fitness.

That’s right. I exercise regularly. I do it for many different reasons.

I use the word “confession” to make a point: some Christians may believe the pursuit of physical fitness, health and attractiveness are not worthy goals for Christians to pursue. While I disagree with that position, I admit their concerns can be legitimate in some cases. In a series of three posts I would like to explore:

Part 1) the benefits and importance of physical fitness

Part 2) the potential downside to pursuing fitness

Part 3) the reasons we NEED to put effort into our physical well-being in order to be more pleasing to God.

Let’s look at the positive impact exercise and fitness can bring to our physical bodies as well as to our spiritual lives. Paul’s choice of a sports metaphor in the quote from 1 Corinthians 9 was not accidental.

Exercise is Beneficial to Physical Health

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Does the Paleo Diet Make Sense Only in Light of Evolution?

The Paleo diet (or Primal if you prefer) is based on the premise that we humans are genetically adapted to the diet of our ancestors. There is a heavy reliance on the explanation that Darwinian Evolution is at the root of this – that we have EVOLVED to eat this way. Now I consider myself an intelligent person. For what it’s worth, while far from being the universal designation of intelligence, I do have a couple of degrees from great universities. I like to examine facts and evidence and use logic in making decisions. But guess what? While I acknowledge adaptations and the like, I am not a believer in Darwinian Evolution and I am not alone. There are many other people like me. The point of this post is NOT to debate evolution or change anyone’s mind (please, let’s not go there). But I would like to explore why it is that I am a devotee of a diet and lifestyle that appears so rooted in something I do not embrace.

Instead of relying so heavily upon human evolutionary theory, the Paleo diet makes sense for other reasons. I believe the argument “cavemen did this so you should too” is illogical. Sure, I like the fun, iconic caveman as much as the next person. There’s no reason we can’t have fun with this, right? But I believe as Matt LaLonde, a biochemist with a Ph.D from Harvard and a strong interest in Paleo nutrition, stated in episode #68 of Robb Wolf‘s podcast, that looking at what our ancestors ate is instructional at best. It can point us in the right direction but does not rise to the level of a convincing argument.

In fact, LaLonde said, Continue reading

Yoga and Christianity: The Meaning of Namaste

Even though yoga fits in well with the Paleo lifestyle (see previous post) I am certainly not a yoga expert. In fact it was not all that long ago I was reading “Yoga For Dummies”. But finding yoga to be amazingly helpful in relieving stress and increasing strength and flexibility has motivated me to learn as much as I can about the practice. One of the things I have learned is there is controversy when it comes to Christians practicing yoga. It does not come into play as much if you are attending classes where the focus is primarily on the physical fitness aspects. The problems arise when encountering the more spiritually focused yoga classes.

Rather than trying to tackle that subject in one post I will share just one aspect of yoga that is present in almost all classes regardless of type or location: use of the word “Namaste”. For those of you not familiar with the practice, it is a tradition at the end of class for the teacher to say “namaste” with students repeating the word. The spoken word is accompanied by a gesture in which your hands are brought together in a prayer position at your chest and you bow your head. Paleo Spirit Fitness Yoga NamasteIn fact, the word “namaste” comes from a Sanskrit word for bow. More specifically, the word “nama” means “to bow,” “as” is translated “I” and “te” means you. So “namaste” literally means “I bow to you.” It is used as a sign of respect from one yoga practitioner to another.

Namaste has also been translated to mean, “The divine in me bows to the divine in you”. For some Christians this can present a slight problem if taken literally. It could be argued it is wrong to bow to another human being, that we should reserve that type of respect only for God. I have even heard the argument that saying namaste is pantheistic and tantamount to worshiping other humans or elevating humans to a godlike level. If you are of this view or if the practice simply bothers your conscience my advice is to refrain from the gesture. Not participating will certainly not take away from the other beneficial aspects of yoga practice. However, I will give my personal view of the matter for those of you on the fence and questioning whether or not it is acceptable or wise for a Christian to participate in the namaste. I believe saying, “namaste” with the accompanying gesture is merely a sign of respect and is not in any way compromising to our faith. Remember, we are ALL created in the image of God:

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him: male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NASB)

C.S. Lewis spoke to this point in “The Weight of Glory” in which he points out there is divine in all of us:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

As with some other aspects of yoga there is a need to have an understanding of just what we are doing and saying and the significance of those words and actions. I hope to explore this further in future posts. But while it is important to be careful with our words and actions it is also important to remember we are all, regardless of religious faith, created in the image of God. Saying “namaste” at the end of yoga class is a moment to reflect on this fact. It is a small gesture that shows respect for others as creations of God and dearly loved by Him. Namaste!