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Posts Tagged ‘Health’

headache

After some years of pretty stiff headaches, I have speculated ad nauseam about where they might be coming from….genetics that I cannot escape…a small collection of cancer cells…deviated septum, too much weight, not enough sleep etc.   Arriving in Waco it was at the top of my list to get to the bottom of my headaches.  So, when I talked to my doctor in Waco I was surprised (many of you may not be) that he prescribed not a medicine but a visit to a local physical therapist.

Arriving for an evaluation, it did not take the therapist long to determine that my headaches were classic descriptions of stress to 2 or 3 of the cervical vertebrae of my spinal column.  The therapist said to me “you have been living with 10 lbs of weight extended out in front of your spinal column.  We need to pull your head back over your spine for your headaches to go away.”  Hmmm.  Getting my head closer to my backbone.  Now that has me thinking.

I guess it might be true that my physical ailment could be likened to a dilemma within national life.  That dilemma might be characterized as jutting our head out and ahead of where our strength is.   We jut blame about our circumstances against  the national government.  We allow our critical thinking to jump from our local place to national programs like welfare or national methods of taxation.  We project dilemmas upon people who are very distinct from ourselves, imagine their solution and then say to ourselves “If only they would behave this way the world would be a better place.”   We extend our judgement way beyond our imagination.   I have contributed to this national problem.

Getting ahead of myself is something that comes pretty easy to me over the years.  In my teenage years, I got ahead of my self in assessing the world and all that I might be powerful enough to affect.  In my twenties,  I got ahead of myself in assessing social and organizational problems and the “fixes” to them that could be applied (now I understand quite artificially applied).  In my thirties, I got ahead of myself in anticipating others criticism of me and trying to perfect myself before anyone could criticize.  In my forties, I get ahead of myself in trying to give advice to my children instead of asking them questions that will facilitate their own self discovery.

The physical therapist is helping me to modify my posture.  This is a remarkably difficult task, but a task to which I am committed.   I don’t want to get too much distance between my intellect and my courage.  Each time I sit down or stand still, I will be re-positioning my head over my spinal column.  Each time I engage my relationships, I will be re-positioning my sense of self over a genuine curiosity and love for those things given into my circumstances by God.   Each time I engage my citizenship, I will be re-positioning my imagination for America by problem solving in Waco.  

I don’t like headaches.

act locally waco image

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Weight Watchers tells me, “Count your points.”

Points are a way to anticipate how the consumption of food finds body mass and becomes weight.   The goal is that the body weigh less but not nothing.

Points are a hassle.  The counting of points requires attention if not mindfulness.  The counting of points can consume a day.   So after three weeks of refusing, (and I do have regular times when I refuse to count) I will start counting points midweek when it seems too late to do so.   Not only for my body but also for my soul.

I will count the points because I am not a good judge of the weight I throw around.

The points counted provide me a better sense of the weight of myself.  Of course, I do not just consume food.  There is an invitation to consume life and its experiences.   Those, too, need counting.  For some experiences “cost more” to consume than others.  Again, I am not good a good judge of the weight I throw around unless I am mindful of what I am taking in.

So in my forties, after consuming a lot of junk, I have grown weary of it.  I simply don’t consume the fast or process foods  as much as I used to.   This habit was a long time in coming.  Synchronizing the body and mind is years of work.  Funny, I thought my mind was ahead of my body.  When in reality, my body was the laboratory for my mind to learn the method that would also have a terrific spiritual benefit.

In my forties, I can also say that I have consumed a lot of spiritual junk as well.   Again, an expensive way to consume resulting in a weighted experience that I am tempted to throw around as I relate to others.  I used to take in and digest experiences that are the spiritual equivalent to junk food.  This I do not do anymore.  Rather, I savor what is fresh, life-giving and full of possibility.  This is not always comforting ingestion.  Painful experiences can be full of possibility.  This is not always self-focused ingestion.  How I treasure feasting with others as they celebrate their power and their empowerment of others.   Gorging no longer works.  The ingestion of what gives life and is robust with possibility requires the homage of careful breakdown upon the palate of life.  These are my best prayers….the digesting ones that never find adequate words.    Such a spiritual diet leaves me ready to “weigh in” confidently.

What is life-giving, fresh and full of possibility  is not expensive to consume.  The expense is in their breakdown, digestion and assimilation into my life…..as fiber to my soul.   Take, eat, this is my body….freshly broken,  full of possibility and life-giving.     You will not throw your weight my child, you will use it to carry my yoke.  

Jesus and weight watchers?  Well, for me anyway.  After all, he loved to eat.

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As we all know, the human brain is the center of the central nervous system and the receiver of information from our senses.  The brain begins the process of perception.  The human brain shares commonality with the brains of other creatures while displaying specific differences regarding language and communication.  Brain research is dynamic area of study as we strive to learn about human development and disease.   While we are learning a great deal about the brain as the premier organ of the human body, it merges with what we call the mind.  The mind is much more of a mystery.

People of faith are challenged to live fully in simultaneous dimensions of the brain and mind.  Our relationships and daily duties invite us to respect our  embodiment.  While our intuition, our limited imagination, our emerging intelligence, and our wonderment about the divine invite us to commit ourselves to a  spiritual dimension as well.  We are essentially stretched.   While the brain and mind are not easily separated and shouldn’t be.  The brain does  represent the embodiment end of the human continuum and the mind might represent the more intuitive/spiritual end of the human continuum.

Dr. Daniel Siegel in his book The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being defines the mind as “a process that regulates the flow of energy and information.  Our human mind is both embodied – it involves a flow of energy and information that occurs within the body, including the brain – and relational, the dimension of the mind that involves the flow of energy and information occurring between people…” (5)

Religion has been disparaged by some as a sort of opiate for masses of people.  But it does not have to be so.  Religion at its best stimulates / agitates the brain circuitry of the human being toward a greater mindfulness.  Religion can contribute to mindfulness that enriches and challenges the human being to radically faithful behavior.  Mindfulness might be particularly stimulated by the larger story that religion offers to the individual life.  For Christians the story of Jesus is the larger narrative.

As Lent approaches, I will be inviting the people of First Presbyterian in Osawatomie to consider the larger story of Jesus and give up the distance between their brain and their mind!  If you are in Kansas….hope you will join us!

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Texting on a keyboard phone

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Texting is a challenge to the human experience.  It challenges us to be articulate without our full communication arsenal at our disposal.  It challenges us to be brief and agile in our response time.  Texting challenges us to feel connected and yet be balanced in our solitude.  The High School Sunday School class at First Presbyterian Church of Osawatomie is studying texting in detail over the next four weeks.  This week, they will consider texting and the body. 

This subject is important because the state of our body influences our ability to communicate and text well and faithfully.  The subject is also important because the mechanics of texting makes great demands on our body.  The interdependence of the body and technology is remarkable.  Texting is just another part of the reality that we human beings are both organic and mechanistic.  Replaced knees, hearing aids, pacemakers, eyeglasses were earlier ways we enhanced our body joining it to technology.  Such a partnership, we found, could greatly enrich life.  When our body was aided, our psyches were released and more open to experiencing life.    

As a person of the Christian faith, scripture and tradition instruct me that my body was the design of the Ultimate Source of Creativity, God.  The hand-held device by which I text is a secondary creation even as it is full of wonder.  So, when I think about this partnership and how to manage it, I want to draw on the wisdom of the primary creation in order to guide my behavior and decisions.  In other words, using these fundamental observations regarding God’s design of the human body, how shall I be a person who texts faithfully?  

What shall we say of the body and the technology of texting?  We might begin by saying that our body is itself, a messaging system.  The body is hardwired, chemically triggered and a cautious receptor of the external environment.

 The body is hardwired in countless ways but perhaps the most fundamental of connections would be the synapse within our nervous system.   The synapses are both chemical and electric and are the means by which neurons (cells with a message) make their way to target cells that need their message.   Our body and brain’s hardwiring needs excellent nutrition in order to stay functional.   

So too, our texting needs to be of a quality that it enriches and nourishes other people’s lives and potential.  Of course there will be lots of pragmatic texts but I have also heard of texting that is sent in order to remind human beings  of their potential and their contributions.  Like food for thought to the brain, texting can empower the living of other human beings.

The body is chemically triggered in countless ways, but  a chemical of particular interest of the human being is the chemical serotonin.  This chemical performs a great many functions within the body which includes the working of all sorts of muscles.  Properly balanced, serotonin  allows for experience of happiness and satisfaction.  Out of balance and the human being can suffer from depression.  It is thought that protein rich diet, B-6 and daily exercise a healthy amount of serotonin in the body.   

Texting can trigger a chemical response within the human being.  Texts can trigger, excite, alarm us.  Because texting increases the amount of information that comes our way and affects the chemical reactions within our body, the wisdom of balance as discovered in research on serotonin becomes an important clue in texting faithfully.   We must balance anxiety with a calm responsiveness.  Not unlike Jesus stilling the storm for worried disciples.  We must balance alarm with a clarity of mind and strategic response.  Not unlike Jesus’ response when he is arrested in Gethsemane.  We must balance our anger or fear with a trust and confidence.  Jesus is remembered as saying,  “Forgive them for they know not what they do” from the cross.  If we do this…communication will less likely go haywire and relationships strengthened and individuals more resilient.

The body is a receptor of external information without being completely vulnerable to the exterior world.  Of course, our skin serves this most basic function.  It is sensitive to the outside world while simultaneously filtering and protecting the body from infectious and hazardous elements.  The skin can receive hydration gratefully one minute and detect an infection that needs to be fought off in the next.  Decisions, decisions.  So that even when our phone receives text messages, it is important to remember that we are not our phone.  We do not have to take in the messages that are received.  We can make decisions  to receive or reject all for the welfare and strength of our human pilgrimage.

So, somewhat playfully, this week we will offer our teens three body basic rules for texting:

1.  HARD WIRED RULE – I will remember my body does get tired and depleted.  When I am depleted and tired, I am not at my best to communicate in a faithful way.  I will let my phone charge while I take in lots of vitamins, minerals and rest.

2.  CHEMICAL RULE – I will remember that balance is the key to feeling good.  I will not overindulge in gossip, negativity or worry when I text.  Occasionally, I will move beyond passive texting and offer “food for thought” to those I love and care about.

3.  SKIN DEEP RULE – I will remember that I can receive information without taking it all to my innermost places of mind and heart.  When I am confused by others communication, I will take time to think before I vent to another person or fire off a quick response.  When I receive hurtful information, I will manage it before it makes its way too far into my heart and mind.   When I receive important information that is painful, I will find a way to take it into my system so that I am stronger and more resilient. 

Perhaps with such rules, we will feel less like triggered cyborgs driven by our devices and more like thoughtful human beings whose faith will be known despite any hex in the text.

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California Proposition 36 (2000) electoral res...

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This last week, my family has been spending the itune cards we all received from Santa.  There was one request that surprised me.  When my youngest child made her itunes request for “Your Love Is My Drug” by Kesha.  What followed was a conversation about why she liked the song, a discussion of lyrics versus rhythms and of course drugs itself.  I am not a foolish parents.  Drugs will forever be a part of my family’s life.  But how  they are a part of our lives is something for which I have responsibility.

So I approached chapter eight of Progressive Christians Speak:  A Differnet Voice on Faith and Politics with a personal interest.  The authors are quick to distinguish drug use as a criminal activity from drug use as a public health concern.  They are argue strongly for the latter and offer at least three responses to the war on drugs that has been raging in various administrations since Nixon declared first declared it in 1968.

Alternative #1:  Continue the war on drugs with increasing intensity though the evidence clearly shows that such crushing prohibition fuels greater drug traffiking and prison costs.  In this alternative Progressive Christians would be ignoring the evidence of failed policies.

Alternative #2:  Put an end to the prohibition of drugs the way that there was an end to the prohibition of alcohol. The authors note that while this may be successful in minimizing the sensationalism, tax dollars and court costs….such an alternative could leave our youth open for the marketing that currently makes them vulnerable to alcohol.

Alternative #3: Decriminalization of drug offenses without legalization of drugs themselves.  Efforts like this one began with Proposition 36 in November of 2000.  In the coming weeks its continuance will be reconsidered in California.  Supporters of proposition 36 say that the downturn in the economy and thus budget cuts have diminished the ideal effect of prop 36.  However states like Arizona, New York and Maryland have initiated similar programs. 

The most compeling argument for decriminalization without legalization comes from the authors citation of  Switzerland‘s experience.  “Switzerland has an estimated 33,000 heroin addicts.” The government there has adopted a ‘harm reduction’ strategy.  The pilot programs in Zurich and Bern, begun in 1994, feature clinics to which addicts come every day to receive ‘heroin maintenance’ injections of pharmaceutical heroin. …. The program has undeniably produced social benefits.  Crime has dropped sharply.  …The HIV/AIDS rate is down, since unsterile needles are a  major cause of HIV/AIDS and the clinics use sterile needles.  By being stabilized under medical supervision, two-thirds of the patients have been able, as they were not before, to keep productive jobs.” (133)  

The Netherlands and Portugal have begun similiar initiatives.  Fundamental to these efforts seems to be a decision to love and empower the addict away from the hazy life of drugs into the enriched life of community and social striving.

Many say that  addiction is the result of giving up conscious control.  Without an awareness and a consciousness all of us are subject to addiction….to shopping, to eating…to excessive working.  So, as for my own initiative, I allowed my child to download of the song.  We keep the lyrics’ question falling from our lips:  “Is my love your drug?”.  The answer…”no” but love might be able to prevent a spiraling addiction.   Mark 12:31

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Is there a faith reasponse that can counterbalance or inform the rise of narcissism in our culture as cited by Pickett and Wilkerson?   A first consideration is that narcissism might be counterbalanced by humility and communal interdependence (hallmarks of church culture).  But these, too, may be vulnerable to the pervasiveness of narcissism.  We are all well aware that humility can be a thin veil over arrogant and oppressive opinions.  Community can be an infrastructure for authorative leadership that actually disables community.  Is the church particularly vulnerable to narcissism?

It would seem so.  Is there not a ground swell in the voice of religious organizations that there ought to be essentials that declare one religious perspective to be declared THE truth?  Is there not a temptation among church professionals to find a secure and stable situation in which to minister rather than locating themselves in areas of need?  Is there not a temptation among churches to conserve what they have rather than stretch themselves into risk and uncertainty for the sake of the gospel?   Simulateneously, there is seems to be a massive movement away from the church.  It is a narcissistic sort of voice that says, “You don’t need church to connect to God”.  Even if that were true, loneliness is a pervasive dilemma in our society.   

What if the church could address narcissism in self, children and organizations by examining experiences that are more fundamental than humility and interdependence?   The Book of Job is a book of questions – human beings question God and God puts questions to human beings.  The search is for the truth of the relationship between God and human beings.  Job is audacious as he engages his fear, frustration and doubt.   Could audacity be a foundation for a more mature self esteem in the faith?  Since audacity seems a hair’s breadth from narcissism, how would the church encourage it’s community to audacity without church becoming an anything goes environment?

Perhaps audacity is a function of faith that allows us to go where we otherwise would not.  Into fear, doubt and frustration, audacity invites us (okay dares) us to push the envelope of our understanding, and ask God and our church community about current rationales and reasons for why the world is the way it is.  An audacious examination of fears, frustrations and doubt may yeild clues and thus be a gateway to transformation of the world.  

The church needs audacity and audacity needs the church.

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