Monday, November 24, 2008

The Seventh Year

Numbers 13:23 And they came to the Valley of Eschol and cut down from there a branch with one cluster of grapes and they carried it on a pole between two of them...

I don't know about you but I have a hard time getting my mind wrapped around the picture of a cluster of grapes so big that two grown men had to carry it between them! It made me wonder how they grew so large and lush and then I got an email message about viable solutions to soil depletion and I had the answer!

Soil depletion is a very serious problem that affects every single one of us. It is simply a condition where the natural components (minerals and other organic substances) that create fertility in our soils is depleted - used up and not replaced.

If you think it doesn't affect you, think again. Depleted soil that is deficient in vital minerals and vitamins produces fruits and vegetables that are sorely lacking in essential nutrients. Basically, we are eating food that may look good but in reality is not truly nourishing us. You might as well be eating cardboard.

Father God knew this, of course, which is why He instructed His people in Leviticus 25:1-7 to plant for six years and then give the land a sabbath rest in the seventh year in order for the soil to be replenished. This is the principle behind crop rotation as well. However, and unfortunately, most have gotten away from doing this.

This principle is true physically and spiritually. We can't continually take and not replace, whether it is the minerals in our soil, our physical nutrition, or spiritually by building up our spirits with the Word of God.

The word depleted means used up, exhausted, consumed, empty, drained and bankrupt. Just as the soil needs a sabbath rest, so do we in order to replenish ourselves physically and spiritually. I don't know about you but I want my spiritual fruit to be enormous and full of life and vitality!

Monday, November 17, 2008


Philippians 2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing...

Continuing the theme of the last post on gratitude, I want to touch on a different aspect of negativity we often gloss over and that is complaining. From this scripture it's pretty clear we are not to complain or argue - about anything!

I know you may be thinking that's impossible to do, yet if God tells us to do it, then it is possible. First of all, maybe we need to get specific about just what complaining actually is. When I study out the Greek words translated "complaining" in this verse they are defined as blaming, discontented, criticism, dissatisfaction, grumbling, murmurings and quarreling. It's also defined as "to express pain, grief or discontent."

Now before we go off the deep end, it does not mean you can never point out a mistake or problem. You can state facts about a situation without slipping into complaining mode. We are told to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). So, we can correct someone by stating the facts in a loving way and refraining from making it personal and emotional.

While we surely can express our feelings honestly at the appropriate time, to continually harp on what is wrong only magnifies that in your thinking and then in your life (remember, as a man thinks so is he; and you can have what you say!).

We are told in Philippians 4:8 that we are to think on positive things and to magnify and exalt only God with every fiber of our beings (Psalms 34:3 and Philippians 1:20). Complaining creates dissatisfaction. We've seen from the previous post how negative thoughts, attitudes and emotions set a cascade of destructive hormones in motion. If complaining is a problem for you as it is for most of us - at least at certain times - visit for a very unique way to replace this destructive habit with a positive, healthy one!

Monday, November 10, 2008

An Attitude of Gratitude

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ...give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Gratitude is more than saying a perfunctory "thanks" over your meal or celebrating Thanksgiving. It is a powerful force both spiritually as well as physically. In 1 Timothy 2:1 God includes the giving of thanksgiving as a prerequisite to true worship. Consider the story of the ten lepers Jesus healed in Luke 17:11-17. Ten men suffering the ravages of leprosy saw Jesus on the road and begged Him to heal them of that devastating disease. His instructions to them were to go show themselves to the priests and it says "as they went they were cleansed." Obedience by faith caused the cleansing of that physical disease. However, it goes on to say only one, a Samaritan, a despised foreigner, returned to praise and glorify God and thank Jesus when he realized what had taken place in his body. Jesus' response seems incredulous - He asks, "Were not ten cleansed - where are the other nine?" Gratitude is precious to Him. Jesus then tells this grateful man that his faith has made him "well." When I look at that word in the original Greek it actually means "to be made whole." This suggests that perhaps the nine were cleansed of the disease but that thankful man was not only cleansed but made whole. If leprosy had damaged his fingers, toes, nose, ears, they were made whole again! He received so much more than simply being healed.

It is true in the physical realm as well. Studies conducted on the effects of gratitude reveal that thankful people:

Handle stress better;
Are more optimistic;
Are more alert and energetic;
Attract gratitude and kindness from others; and
Are healthier overall.

The reasons for this are due to the fascinating manner in which God created our bodies. It is related to our nervous system which is divided into two parts, the voluntary and autonomic or involuntary. The voluntary controls movement and sensations and the autonomic is concerned with functions we don't even have to think about like digestion and blood pressure.The autonomic is further divided into two more branches - the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic is the fight-or-flight system. It is concerned with our survival in a dangerous or stressful situation and acts as the body's defense system by activating organs and glands that provide the extra energy needed at those times. Because it necessitates so much energy expenditure, it breaks down the body if it is in operation too often or for too long. We now read about how the release of too much cortisol (the stress hormone) damages our bodies. The parasympathetic system is the rebuilding, nourishing, healing system. It stimulates the systems and organs that cause cleansing, stimulate our immune and digestive systems like the liver, stomach and pancreas. One or the other of these two systems are activated most of the time. Since the sympathetic system deals with our physical survival, it tends to overshadow the other. However, to enable your body to heal, rebuild and repair itself, it is critical to turn off the sympathetic system as much as possible while activating the parasympathetic. When you are experiencing chronic stress, even though it is not actual, physical danger causing the release of those hormones, it is damaging and breaks down your body systems. Stress of any type, as well as thinking negative, anxious, angry, fearful thoughts, activates the sympathetic nervous system.On the other hand, the parasympathetic system is activated by rest, relaxation and positive, happy thoughts, especially gratitude! Several studies found that healthy parasympathetic dominance occurs very infrequently and only in spiritually developed people as they tend to live in a state of peace, contentment and gratitude. It's hard to argue that Father really doesn't always know best!

Research was also done on how to optimize the coherence of the heart, or what they also refer to as the "emotional heart." Coherence simply refers to the heart's ability to adapt to certain situations and remain harmonious. The impact of thoughts and emotions in the test subjects was visible immediately as their heartbeats were observed on a monitor. Fearful, angry, anxious thoughts caused erratic rhythms. However, when the subjects exercised thoughts and feelings of joy, gratitude or love, the parasympathetic system normalized the heart rhythms.

The effective activation of the parasympathetic system naturally declines with age. However, as with any muscle in the body, or spiritual quality, it will respond if we exercise it consistently! We can consciously choose to exercise gratitude and joy daily and not only live happier lives, but healthier ones as well.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It is More Than Just Contagious!

Luke 6:38 Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.
1 Corinthians 10:24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 ...always try to be kind to each other and everyone else.
Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people...

Did you know that as many as 500 scientific studies demonstrate not only the truth of these words but that by being kind and helping others you enhance your own health as well! We are created to feel good and live longer by imitating our Father as we "live to give" and help others.

Research was done monitoring the brains of people as they made decisions to donate time or money to a worthy cause. The MRI's revealed that the same area of their brains that would be activated in response to positive stimuli (like receiving a gift) was activated by their decision to give of themselves in some way. Their brains actually produced feel-good chemicals, endorphins, in response!

Kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit that is already part of our spiritual makeup just as skin and bones are part of our physical makeup. We have to be intentional about exercising it. Spiritual qualities are very similar to physical muscles in that we have to make a point of using them in order to strengthen and develop them. Just as you have to schedule time to exercise on purpose, you have to keep your eyes open to the opportunities all around you to exercise kindness on purpose.

The old axiom "it is better to give than to receive" is actually very true physically as well as spiritually. Consider some of the benefits the "giver" receives:

Decreased feelings of depression and loneliness;
Decreased intensity and awareness of pain;
Reduced negative emotions such as hostility, anger, envy;
Decreased lung constriction leading to asthma attacks; and
Reduced stress by shifting focus from yourself and your problems.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation ( encourages people "to practice kindness and pass it on to others." Well, isn't that exactly what our Father told us in Matthew 7:12? I love the way the Message Translation puts the Golden Rule: "Here is a simple rule of thumb guide for behavior: ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them." There are wonderful "Kindness is Contagious" programs in many elementary school, including my childrens'. While I believe children should be taught these principles at home, it is wonderful to have our schools build on these principles as well.

Being kind can be as simple as smiling at a clerk, thanking a soldier for his or her sacrifice and service, making a special meal for your husband, shoveling the sidewalk for an elderly neighbor or speaking words of encouragement to a child. Being kind is simple but oh, so effective. And it's a win-win proposition - it benefits you as much as the recipient!