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

Continue reading

Pin It

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

Pin It

Dose of Beauty – Solitude

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone….” 

The poem “Solitude” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (below in its entirety) is a powerful exploration of an undeniable reality of human nature. There is a natural desire to seek out that which exudes happiness and cheer and to avoid pain and darkness. It extends to our tendency to gravitate toward other people who are joyful and happy and full of positive energy. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think it is healthy to surround ourselves with people who are positive and encouraging and exhibit love, joy and peace. No one wants to be around those who are constantly negative, cynical, sarcastic and depressing. So in one sense, this poem is a clue to the reality that others are attracted to us if we endeavor to be cheerful and positive rather than negative and gloomy.

But understanding this truth of human nature also informs us we should not ignore those around us who are hurting. Even though our natural tendency is to seek out joy and happiness and people who exude those things, the reality is we should cultivate within ourselves a desire to help others in their time of need. We all go through difficult times and need help from others who are in a stronger place in their lives – people who can reach out to us and draw us out of depression, grief or other pains.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox emphasizes the uncaring world by exploring not only how we humans often flee from those in pain, but how the earth itself is indifferent to human suffering: Continue reading

Pin It

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

Continue reading