Thursday, January 23, 2014

Health: When You Can't Even Look At Food

Hey, guys! So, since my last "health" post was such a big hit with all of you, I thought I would do another one. And this one is about the one thing that plagues many young people in their twenties. Can you guess? Stomach problems!

People in their twenties to thirties have a lot of stress placed upon them. Let's face it. College and new careers take a huge toll on us mentally and physically. And one of the symptoms of this stress is stomach problems. I'm not talking the "I ate too much" or "I'm constipated" or "I've got an ulcer" problems. I'm talking about the "I look at food and think I'm going to throw up" problem.

For many of us, we have way more stress than we know what to deal with and having a sick stomach that doesn't want to be nourished doesn't help. Then, when we try to let go of all that anxiety, guess what happens? BAM! Stomach problem sends us on a wild ride again. You may not even have anxiety before this starts to develop, but once you feel nausea that you can't control, that anxiety rushes in with a vengeance.

Having stomach problems at our age is totally normal. I didn't find that out until a much-needed visit to my family doctor. It was kind of embarrassing at first to tell her that I hated the sight, smell, texture, and even thought of an increasing number of my normal foods (it started with hot dogs, by the way). Up until that moment I had been told that I was developing an eating disorder and it was wrong. It was wrong for me to be full after ten bites of soup. It was wrong to smell eggs and not be able to choke them down. But instead of telling me it was all in my head like a lot of people seemed to think it was, the doctor listened intently. And then she said two words that sounded way too simple:

Sugar. Fiber.

And you know what? She was right! I started increasing my Wheaties and my dark chocolate M&M's and felt soooo much better. (To be honest, I knew she was talking about natural sugar and fiber, but the chocolate kicked in faster.) Less than a month later, I was back to eating anything and everything I wanted. There is hope! (Although hot dogs are still gross.)

Recently, I started developing problems again. This time, though, I decided to do some research and discover a healthier alternative. But I wanted something that I could munch on throughout the day and not feel like it was assaulting my stomach. And here's what I came up with:

  • 1 banana (for sweetness)
  • 1 apple (for lots of fiber)
  • 1 carrot (for more fiber)
  • 1/4 cup bran flakes (for a different type of fiber)
  • Splash of milk (to help break down the bran flakes in your stomach)
  • Any other fruit you like to help tame the flavor (optional)
  • Ice cubes (optional)
In the beginning I just did the first five, and I admit that it tasted less than scrumptious. Since then I've been adding strawberries (more fiber) and berries (antioxidants!) and it has helped the flavor tremendously.

Basically, cut the fruit and carrot up and toss everything in a blender.

Blend it until it is just a little bit chunky, but not smoothie consistency. If you prefer to start out with it cold, add ice.

Ta da!! Your very own fiber mix. 

What I do is carry the cup around with me all day (during the winter) and just eat by spoonfuls. You can also keep it in the fridge and go back to it when you start to feel nauseous, or you can eat it all at once (if your stomach is okay with it). After a week or two of munching on this stuff daily, you should begin to feel normal again. Then you can enjoy your new-found food freedom!

Word to the Wiser Than I: Make sure to keep your fiber and natural sugar intake higher than "normal" after you feel better so that you don't have to feel bad again. Also don't forget to keep up your water intake. And eat your yogurt to get the good bugs in your system! (If you want to, you can add it to your mixture, but I prefer to just get a high dosage of it in the morning.) 

Awesome side-effect of this mixture: Decreased snacking and sugar urges! You might find yourself losing a few pounds. Just make sure you don't make this an excuse to make more than one batch and instead "milk it" to make it last.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

God's Modus Operandi: Communication

It seems like today the whole world is obsessed with one thing: communication. We now have Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube, Blogger... and probably a hundred other means of communicating including cell phones and the Post Office. So why is it that with all that we still cannot answer the one question that bugs us the most:

How does God communicate with us?

So does he tap us on the shoulder and whisper in our ear? Write letters in the air? Strike us with proverbial revelation lightning? How?

Before we answer this question, we need a little bit of history. At the beginning of the Old Testament, Adam and Eve had direct, audible, one-on-one discussions with God. But after sin, that ended abruptly. Then people had only one way and one way only to hear from God- prophecy. Sure, they could pray to Him, but the only way He talked back was through the voice of another. Some of the most famous Super-Star prophets were probably Noah, Moses, Daniel, and Isaiah. There were also a few infamous ones like Balaam and Jonah, but God still used them to talk to His people.You see, the "Bible" as we know it today hadn't been written yet, and it certainly hadn't been distributed on a big scale. They had to have prophets.

Fast-forward some and you get the "500 Years of Silence"- no prophecy, no discussion. Nothing new from God. (However- the Torah and other Old Testament books were written down and were well-read in places like the Synagogues [kind of like churches].) By the time the New Testament rolls around, we have a new player on the scene- Jesus. He starts to teach us how to communicate with God again, but instead of focusing entirely on prophecy, he does something totally different- he tells us what God has to say by quoting Scripture. 

"Ok, cool," you may say, "but what about other ways? And can we still hear God through prophecy?" And here I would like to just take a moment and glare at you because you have opened up a whole different can of worms right there. lol :D

But you're right- this is important stuff. How else do we hear from God? Well, just to reiterate, firstly, it's through Scripture:
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
 Secondly, it's through the Holy Spirit:
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26) 
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 16:13-14)
Did you notice something in these passages? It all still comes back to God's Word! You see, hearing from the Spirit isn't autonomous from the Word, it coincides with it. The Holy Spirit reminds us of what we already have learned from reading Scripture. Sometimes he brings to mind specific verses for our situation, but other times he just shows us what we already know of God's character through having read His letter to us. (And personally, I would even argue that the current form of prophecy is just someone's special, Spirit-given gift of enlightening others through the Bible. Feel free to differ with me on that, if you want, but I think this passage supports it:
"And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." [2 Peter 1:19-21])
Anyway, back to the question of how God communicates. You know how people are always saying, "Get into God's Word!" and seem to be pushing us to read, read, read.... There's a reason for that. If we don't, then we aren't hearing from God. We can't. We wouldn't know what he sounded like even if He did strike us with that revelation lightning.

So, in conclusion: Open your ears. Get into the Scriptures. Listen to those sermons and that Biblically correct music. Re-open those communication lines! Let God's words shine in!

And who knows- maybe you'll hear something you desperately need right now. The Holy Spirit's cool like that.

So now that you know how God communicates with you, how are you doing right now in the listening department? Heard anything "new" from God lately?

Share with me.

Gravity Lost: When You're Spinning Out Of Control

Do you ever get that sick feeling in your stomach that just won't go away? Are you strung tight from being tossed about by things beyond your control?

Yeah, that's what I've been dealing with these last few days. It's a feeling of weightlessness, but not the good kind. It's that feeling that I imagine astronauts get when they get knocked into a tailspin in space that they can't pull out of. No matter how desperately they try, all they do is spin. And if they aren't hooked in and can't grab onto anything... they just keep going forever. That has to be the greatest fear- aside from asphyxiation- that every space man has.

Sometimes life is a little like space. One moment you feel yourself firmly planted on the ground, life is good, and everyone you love is fine. And then something happens and gravity is ripped out from under you. All it takes is one thing... one tiny, infinitesimal thing and we lose all orientation.

Up becomes down....

Left becomes right....

We can't stop. And eventually... we're going to run out of air. We know we are. We only have a certain amount left, and once it's out, that's it: game over. We know this in our heads, but that doesn't stop us from hyperventilating. It's eating up all of our precious oxygen. But we just can't stop.

It usually takes a while- a lot of waving of our arms and legs and getting nowhere- before we realize there's nothing we can do to fix what's going on. If only something- someone- would come along and stop the spinning. If only we could just get one toe on the ground, we'd be alright.

You may be thinking, "Hey, this sounds like a great analogy for my unsaved friend I've been witnessing to." Well, yeah, I guess it could be. But pause for a moment and think.

I'm not talking about an unBeliever here. I'm talking about me, you, and every other Christian out there who feels like their stability has just been taken away. Because we all go through it at one time or another. We all start spinning.

Maybe for you it's your kid- he's has left the church and you don't know where it was you went wrong. Or maybe you just got laid off and don't know where this month's rent is going to come from. Or maybe you're like me and God has asked you to step out on faith with something you're not comfortable with. If you are feeling disoriented and confused, you're spinning. But how do you stop?

First of all, STOP STRUGGLING!

Stop your pacing. Stop your worrying. Stop your nervous babbling. Just stop. Sit back and let stuff spin- it's ok. Close your eyes. Open your heart. Make that connection with God that you have not done since this whole thing started. Maybe you've tossed up a prayer, hoping that it doesn't land on deaf ears. But have you had a soul-crying, heart-shredding talk with God lately? Have you cried out to Him with all of your fears? Have you let Him be God? Or have you just been scrabbling around, trying to ground yourself on your own?

Second of all, remember your training.

Think back to those moments in your life where things have gone wrong before, but a miracle happened or where you have had a need/desire and God filled it. If you can't remember one because you are still too emotionally upset, think about someone else's life. I don't know if you've noticed this, but we as human beings can be a little myopic. When it comes to ourselves, we can't see God working very well. But when it comes to other people, we are often amazed. It's not that God hasn't been active in our lives, it's just that we are too emotionally involved to see it. So sit back and remember all that God has done in your life, in others, in the Bible. Count your blessings. Thank Him for every little thing you can think of- even if it's just the fact that you are still breathing! Let the world stabilize.

And thirdly, read the manual.

In every good space movie, no matter how much training the hero has there's always somewhere that he falls short. There are always things he can't remember how to do. And there's always a manual.

We as Christians have been given our manual (the Bible) for a reason. Even if we have struggled through something before, we'll probably do it again. And if not the same thing, something new. Our manual is not like other manuals. It's special. Any Christian who has spent any amount of time reading their Bible will tell you that it 1) never changes and 2) always has something new to show you. It doesn't matter if you've read a particular passage ten times. When you go back and read it again, there will be something totally new that jumps out at you. It's kind of like studying a painting: from far away it looks one way and from up close another, but it's still the same painting. It hasn't changed. Only your perspective.

Today I experienced something similar. A passage from Scripture that I have read a lot of times touched my heart in a whole new way. It was the perfect thing that I needed to hear at the perfect time in a way I don't think it has done before.

When I finally stopped struggling and turned to my manual, I was met with the information and assurance I needed. Did my situation change? Nah. Not yet. But how about the way I deal with it? Yeah, I think it has. I'm at peace with what's going on around me. Space can be space. I'll just wait here until someone pulls me back to earth again. Actually, it's kind of peaceful up here right now.

So why are you still spinning?


Philippians 4:6-"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

1 Peter 5:6-7- "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."

Romans 8:28- "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." 

Proverbs 3:5-6- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."