Posts tagged ‘health’

Are You Ready to BE Healthy?

I have been in my new position for nearly 9 weeks. During that time I have been grieving the separation from close friends, the loss of a church family, and my role as a pastor all while I have embraced my new calling to help our Adventist hospitals in Denver to recapture their mission to “extend the healing ministry of Christ by caring for those who are ill and by nurturing the health of the people in our communities.” The first part of this mission is straightforward and one that every healthcare system in America strives to do with excellence. But the second part of the mission is much more difficult for one primary reason – the varying definitions of health and widely differing opinions on what it means to be healthy.

How do you define health? Can a person who has been paralyzed from the neck down in a motor vehicle accident be healthy? Can a young man diagnosed with terminal cancer live his last months of life healthy? Is health more than the absence of disease? The answers to these questions are profoundly influenced by our understanding of the words of Jesus in John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Could it be that Jesus is talking about health as He contrasts a life lived in subjection to the thief as opposed to the life lived in submission to the Giver?

I think of Mary who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer while I was an OBGYN resident in training at Bethesda Naval Hospital many years ago. I first met Mary when I was an intern. I had been on her surgical team that removed her tumor and had the privilege of caring for her during that initial hospitalization. She had a positive attitude and lifted my spirits every time I saw her. She returned for chemotherapy and so I saw Mary over the years as an intern, then as a second year resident, and finally as the chief resident on the oncology service. Three years later, after two courses of chemotherapy and a two years of being declared disease free, Mary was admitted to treat symptoms that were caused by the recurrence of the cancer. Despite her desire to overcome the cancer, this disease had not stolen, killed, or destroyed her spirit. Mary was happy and even counted her cancer as a blessing! She told me that the cancer had helped her see the true meaning in life. It had given her the gift of recognizing the smell of flowers, the singing of birds, the smiles on faces, and the love of friends in her path. As Mary laid in that hospital bed ready to die, she was somehow full of life. In fact, Mary was the very picture of an abundant life Jesus has promised each one of us in John 10:10.

Health has much more to do with who we are than with what we have. We may HAVE wealth along with success and yet BE miserably unhappy, stressed, and alone. On the other hand, we may HAVE terminal disease along with chronic pain and yet BE abundantly happy, filled with peace and love. And so health has more to do with love and the fruit of the Spirit than it does with any physical ailment or dis-ease we may experience on this earth.

And so I embrace the mission of the South Denver Adventist hospitals because it embodies the mission of Jesus to bring life abundantly to all people through two key words – “caring” and “nurturing.” This is what Jesus did as He walked on this earth to raise hope, inspire purpose, strengthen faith, bring love, and give life to all who were willing to receive. He not only cares for us when we are down and in need of help, but He nurtures us every step of the way. Jesus invites us all to be healthcare workers dedicated to caring and nurturing those around us. So how is your health? Are you ready to BE healthy?

A Peaceful Heart

A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.  Proverbs 14:30

I was sitting in the Denver airport waiting for my flight to board when a young woman approached the gate agent in obvious distress. The gate agent was calm and attentive as the woman began yelling at her hysterically. She was angry that her flight had been delayed while “all the other flights” were right on time. She became more and more intolerant and belligerent as she told the gate agent she wanted to get home. The agent tried to calm her down, but nothing she said seemed to help.

In the meantime, I observed a mother quietly waiting for the same flight who had 3 children under the age of 6 with her. The children were playing as the mother attended to their needs and desires. Her oldest child spilled his drink, but this was taken in stride as the mother recognized if for the minor accident it was. Nothing seemed to phase this mom. And her kids responded in kind.

I think about this experience when I am tempted to look at those around me who seem to be in good health while eating high fat foods that I love to eat. Sometimes it feels like everyone around me is in good health while I struggle to find the right food and the right amount of exercise and the right medications in the right doses. I know this isn’t true, but that’s what happens when I do not have peace in my heart. So how can we get this peace? How can we be the mother of three waiting calmly for a delayed flight rather than the angry woman? The answer lies within the heart.

When I focus on God rather than others, peace comes into my heart. When I seek His face each morning, recognize His presence in my life throughout each day, read His Word, listen to His voice, and act on His promises, His peace fills my heart. And with this peace comes the ability to face the circumstances of life. When my heart is at peace, my mind is open to His thoughts. When my heart is at peace, my ears hear His voice when others speak to me. When my heart is at peace, my eyes see Him more clearly in those around me. When my heart is at peace, my body is in harmony with itself. 

The path to health begins in the heart filled with peace. Do you have peace today? If not, what will you do today to fill your heart with peace?

What Are the Stressors in Your Life?

Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins.  Isaiah 38:17

King Hezekiah was deathly ill and only had a few days to live. Hezekiah turned to God for healing. He did not go to the healers of the day. He did not ask to be taken to the Mayo Clinic of the ancient world. He turned directly to God who gave him 15 more years. As a result, we see Hezekiah’s response recorded in Isaiah. He recognized a direct correlation between his physical and spiritual health.

I have discovered that stress is a major contributor to my heart condition. I often develop symptoms at times of stress that are not present with even vigorous exercise. But what causes stress? And does it have to be deleterious to our health? Stress is the word we most often use to describe our internal response to stressors, which are external to us. So when someone cuts me off in traffic, that can be a stressor that can cause an angry response in me that I call stress. But what if that incident didn’t cause me to be angry? What if I were in a conversation with God at the moment someone cut me off in traffic? My response would likely be much different and the incident would not be stressful!

Perhaps an active prayer life, one in which I “never stop praying” (1 Thes 5:17) is the key to reducing stress and adding up to 15 years of life! That was Hezekiah’s experience. He was a man of prayer. He immediately turned to God in any situation. And even when Isaiah later told him that his kingdom would be conquered by the Babylonians and that even some of his own sons would be taken as exiles to Babylon, he still had peace. 

I am comforted by Hezekiah’s experience for two reasons: 1) Staying in touch with God throughout the day, living in an attitude of prayer, is the key to overcoming the stressors of life and living in peace.  2) I don’t have to be perfect. Forgiveness is part of the stress management package God offers me. When I accept God’s forgiveness and live in His grace, I can forgive others. When I refuse to forgive others, I compound the stress in my life. When I get angry at the guy who cuts me off in traffic, I am not forgiving him. This produces stress! But when I am connected to Jesus, forgiveness is my first response and the incident isn’t even a stressor!

I have discovered that the expectations I internalize in my life are often the root cause of the stress in my life. Anything I see as preventing me from meeting the expectations I have adopted for my life become threats to my success and thus major stressors. But when I accept God’s expectations for my life and live in His will, then what I otherwise would see as a stressor becomes an opportunity for growth or even an outright blessing. Yes, God can turn a stressor into a blessing when I live with His expectations and in His calling.

What are the stressors in your life? Identify them this week. Give them to God, and never stop praying. You might just add 15 years to your life.

Healing for the Helpless

The people of Israel will no longer say, “We are sick and helpless,” for the Lord will forgive their sins.  Isaiah 33:24

It is easy, perhaps even natural, to feel helpless when you are sick. And sickness comes in many forms. You can be sick emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or physically. When one part of you is sick, it insidiously affects the other parts as well threatening to make your whole being sick. And this is when helplessness sets in. You feel helpless, which becomes a disorder all its own.

Of all the illnesses we can have, helplessness is perhaps the most deadly. When we feel helpless, we cannot move, breathe, or act. When we feel helpless, we become paralyzed and are in danger of dying no matter how hopeful our situation may be. If we cannot see the hope, we cannot grasp the help.

Perhaps this is why read this response of Jesus in Matthew 9:2, “And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.'” Jesus knew what this man needed. He knew the utter despair that comes with the feeling of helplessness. He knew that the man had lost all hope in his life. And so Jesus restored the man’s hope by forgiving him. When we are forgiven, when we are loved and accepted, when we feel the warmth of a loving gaze into our eyes, nothing else matters. Hope is restored because we have been helped in ways that transcend any physical ailment. 

It is tempting to blame ourselves for anything we perceive as bad that happens to us. And so when we are sick, we feel helpless, alone, and a burden to others. When we don’t get a raise, we feel unworthy. When a brother ignores us, we feel rejected. When a colleague takes advantage of us, we feel cheated. When a friend gossips about us, we feel unloved and even unloveable. We then begin to feel helpless and unable to accept any healing touch. It prevents us from accepting love, forgiveness, and even friendship.

No wonder Isaiah writes that God forgives us when we are sick and helpless. No wonder Jesus first forgave the paralytic. He knows exactly what we need. We need to be accepted and loved no matter our physical or mental or emotional condition. The path to true healing goes through God’s love.

Do you feel helpless? Has something happened in your life that has stolen your hope? God understands. And He is with you today to forgive, accept, and love you. The only question to be answered by us today is, Will I accept His forgiveness? When you do, you will receive all the help you need!

 

Looking Beyond

Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken.  Isaiah 28:16

In chapter 28, Isaiah warned the northern kingdom of Israel to follow God before they were conquered by the Assyrians. They were trusting in their own wisdom, strength, and power. They were focused on the battles and struggles on this earth and had forgotten about the bigger story of the earth that would be made new. Isaiah reminded them of the coming Messiah who is a firm and tested stone upon whom they could trust. If only they would believe in Him they would never be shaken.

And so it is with us today. How often we fall into the same trap of looking for solutions this earth has to offer when faced with trials, temptations, struggles, and battles. I am discovering that my current health challenge brings into focus two worlds. One world is here and now while the other world is beyond. The anxiety in this world is that it is always changing and we never know what to expect. It can feel like we’re chasing rabbits in every direction without any hope of ever catching them. But there is comfort when I look beyond this world and see that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)  What does this even mean in a world that changes constantly?

My strength does not come from the latest remedies as much as I seek and welcome them, but “from God’s grace.” (Hebrew 13:9)  It is God’s grace that allows me to have Jesus as my foundation. When I believe in Him, I have peace to know He is in control of the bigger story that lies beyond this earth. And with peace comes the ability to gain wisdom on this earth and apply it. This is a wonderful gift because troubling news, no matter what form it takes in our lives, can cause us to lose perspective. It can even cause our brains to freeze, becoming unable to process any information. I witnessed this hundreds of times as I shared a diagnosis of cancer with a patient. I always had to schedule a second, and sometimes a third appointment to give the same information again because they could not hear what I had to say on that first visit after they heart the word “cancer.” But it is God’s grace that brings peace that allows us to hear the information we need. 

When I build my life on Jesus, allow Him to be my foundation, then nothing can shake me. I can embrace the journey of this life with the confidence that there is more beyond the horizon than I could ever think to ask or hope. And with this confidence comes clarity, peace, optimism, and even excitement about the journey. I think this is because there is something exciting about the change on this earth when I know that He never changes. 

What battle are you facing today? What changes in your world are you facing? Have you thought to look beyond your battle and simply focus on Jesus? 

 

Where Do You Look for Answers?

… You run to the armory… You inspect the breaks in the walls… You survey the houses for stone to strengthen the walls… You build a reservoir… But you never ask for help from the One who did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago.  Isaiah 22:8-11

The country of Judah was under attack from Assyria, but the inhabitants of Jerusalem did not fight with their fellow countryman. Instead, they enjoyed life in Jerusalem with parities and life as usual. But when the threat came to their homes, they began to arm themselves and fortify their defenses. They did everything possible except the one thing that could actually save them – ask God for help. They never considered His plan.

It’s easy to be consumed with ourselves. We all have responsibilities that we must attend to. We have bills to pay, children to feed, and personal battles to fight. And so we easily turn all of our attention upon ourselves; our needs, our wants, our desires. If Jerusalem had cared about their brothers and sisters under attack by Assyria and had fought with them, they would have been much better prepared for their own battle. One by-product of helping others is to receive the hands-on training to help ourselves! This is true because when we are helping others we seeking God’s will rather than their own pleasure. God leads us to love one another and help one another.

As I have begun my journey to better heart health, I realize that health is not about me. That is because life is not about me. It’s about God. He is the Creator, the Life-Giver, the Sustainer. He is my friend, companion, and my dad. And He is love. Therefore, love must be at the very foundation of a healthy life. My first response to any attack, whether it be physical or spiritual, must be to seek God’s wisdom, strength, and power. And this comes more naturally as I seek to live for others rather than myself.

When I keep my eyes on Jesus, He will not only initiate my faith, but perfect it (Hebrews 12:2). And when I live by the faith He continues to give me, I see with His eyes, touch with His hands, and go with His feet. With such an assurance, I know He will lead me to the right solutions and the best therapies as I serve others in His love. When I finally faced my health problems, it was tempting to first turn to solutions on the internet, or the doctor’s office, or the latest miracle cure.

I know the answers to life and health are discovered in a relationship with Jesus. So I ask for His help, and consider His plan for my life as I seek to serve others. This takes time each day. Time in His Word. Time listening to Him. Time emptying my mind of the distractions of this world and filling it with the attractions to His world.

What battles are you facing? Where will you seek your answers? 

Day 31 past Dighton, CO – Tracking Your Ride Stats

As I began the first day of the second half of this trip, I was very tired. Two days of riding in the flatlands is beginning to takes its toll as there is never a “break.” In the mountains you expend a lot of energy getting to the peak, but then there is always a descent that allows you to rest while you move. This doesn’t happen in Kansas. The only way forward is to peddle and peddle and peddle. It’s no wonder that my legs were more sore this morning and during the ride than at anytime on the trip so far. In addition, the saddle sore is beginning to cause a little more problems though it’s not to the point of needing “hotel surgery.” By the way, if I need to lance it, I have injectable lidocaine on the way with Pam when she arrives on Friday. So lancing without lidocaine is “motel surgery” while lancing with lidocaine is “hotel surgery.” I have always liked hotels better than motels anyway.

To get through an 80 mile ride in Kansas I divide it into 4 phases in my mind. I begin with a 30 minute warm-up by keeping my heart rate in low zone 2 and then gradually allow my heart rate to reach high zone 2 and a little time in low zone 3. This whole process takes 2 hours and is always the most enjoyable. I feel comfortable on the ride with no fatigue or saddle soreness. At this point I feel like I could ride all day. But then after about 2 hours I usually begin having one pain or another. This begins phase 2. Sometimes it’s my legs that feel tired, or my neck and shoulders, or my saddle. I have gone about 30 miles by this time and I know there are a lot more miles so I don’t allow myself to dwell on the pain. In fact I force myself to stay seated (rather than standing on the bike & stretching) and focus on my pedal strokes. This is the “process” that we’ve talked about previously. Usually I get to the end of the third hour before I know it and have at least 45 miles completed. I now enter phase 3 that is the middle part of the ride. I know this is the toughest phase because I am already tired, I’m not close to being done, and I have to grind it out the next 25 miles to get to phase 4 which is when I can “smell” the finish. In phase 3 I take 5-10 minutes off my bike eating actual food for lunch rather than the bars and gels I eat every 30 minutes throughout the ride as I try to consume about 400 Cal per hour. The lunch breaks up phase 3 for me so I can make it through. Once I get to phase 4 I simply concentrate on my pedal strokes knowing that when I focus on the process it always gets me home.

As I thought about the phases today, I realized that the stats I report to you in this blog should be more than just interesting numbers. The real reason for the stats are to help me analyze my ride so I can ride better the next time. They also help me track my level of fitness. There are different stats that are important depending upon the terrain I am riding in. Elevation gain is a very helpful stat when in the mountains, while the temperature and wind direction are much more important in Kansas. So you will see below that I will change the stats I will be tracking.

This leads me to the question, What “ride stats” do I track in my spiritual ride through life? How do you know whether you are growing in Christ or not? How do you judge your spiritual fitness? As I ponder these questions, I realize that devotional time with God is a very important “spiritual ride stat” for me. Another one would be anger. When I find myself getting angry at drivers on the way to work or with my wife at home, I know my spiritual fitness has waned. But such “ride stats” are only helpful if we track them and use them to grow in spiritual fitness.

Ride Stats: Total Miles- 80.1     Avg Temp- 74.1      Avg Speed- 15.2 mph      Avg HR- 113 bpm       Avg Cadence- 83

 

An early morning start to beat the heat… 

 

 

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