Claim Your Time in the Sun

Integratedspirituality (2)By Beth Davis, D.Min.

Adam and Eve spent their days working in the garden. And, for the next several centuries, men hunted and women gathered—out of doors. If you are reading this, chances are that you are living in an industrialized nation where the majority of people work indoors. I would guess that you have a difficult time receiving the natural effects of sunshine. Pollution and cloudy winter weather also block rays of sun from providing adequate supplies of serotonin to the brain.

Serotonin is important because it transmits signals between all the brain neurons. Without an adequate amount of this necessary chemical, the brain slows down. The Bible calls this a downcast spirit. The medical profession refers to it as depression. Fortunately, bright light stimulates the brain to produce serotonin. Although a daily dose of vitamin D provides an essential chemical for skin health and for other purposes, it does not substitute for the need for sunlight. So, how do we intentionally find enough sun to ensure vitality and contentment? Surprisingly, as little as 30 minutes of direct sunlight triggers the brain to begin its production.

You do not need full exposure to the sun to receive its benefits. Actually, it is the pupil of the eye that requires about 30 minutes of exposure. However, if you sun-burn easily or are susceptible to skin cancer, make sure that you protect yourself with proper clothing and sun-block. The following tips are some ways to incorporate a healthy dose of sunshine into your daily lifestyle.

 * Walk outside in the morning, if possible. Morning sun is the most beneficial.

* Spend some time out of doors during lunch or afternoon break.

* Remove your sunglasses for at least 30 minutes each day so that the eye’s pupil will receive sun rays. (Avoid directly staring at the sun).

* Abandon the car for short errands, and choose to walk.

* Take the dog for a walk.

* Play out of doors: tennis, golf, basketball, bike riding. Especially on your Sabbath day, make sure that you incorporate some type of recreation.

* Enjoy some time in the garden…working and walking with your Creator.

* Purchase a light box. If you live in a northern climate where winters are dark with little sun, you may need additional light exposure. Light boxes are available for purchase online and will provide the necessary 10,000 lux, which is equivalent to the sun’s output. For individuals who suffer from seasonal-onset depression, this is especially important.

Next week marks the first day of spring. And, soon after that we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Take time to enjoy and appreciate the Sonshine!

Lessons from My Father

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My father contracted Parkinson’s disease and struggled with it for the last eleven years of his life. The disease progressively attacked his short-term memory. So sometime in the fourth year of his struggle, he found himself unable to preach or teach because he couldn’t focus on any thought for more than a few minutes. He felt distraught beyond words. He loved to preach and teach so much that he happily flew thousands of miles to teach a class of only five or six students. But after four years of Parkinson’s disease, he exclaimed, “I am now useless. If I cannot preach or teach anymore, what good am I to the Kingdom of God? I cannot do ministry.”

Thus, he needed to refute what I call the secular “Lie of Productivity.” This lie states that our value results from what we can produce. One day, however, I asked him if a newborn child has value even though he cannot produce anything — I pointed out that a newborn child produces little else than poop. But the parents and grandparents will argue to their death about the value of that child, especially to the Kingdom of God. Like my father, I find that some retirement age ministers also struggle with the same secular lie of productivity.

Many ministers believe the secular lie that productivity produces meaningfulness. In their search to increase their productivity, these ministers focus on more teaching, more preaching, bigger and newer churches, winning more lost souls, and raising more money. Like my father found, everyone eventually reaches a point when they can no longer keep producing more and more. Sometimes a physical illness gets in the way and sometimes a simple administrative change gets in the way. Regardless, productivity is fleeting. Evangelical ministers in particular can easily spend their entire lives chasing the secular lie that their value is based on their productivity. A focus on productivity produces more productivity. When we mistakenly believe that it also produces meaningfulness, we base our identity on a secular lie. Indeed, productivity produces meaningfulness, but only to secular humans and only temporarily. As Christians, we base our identity and meaningfulness on something much more permanent than productivity.

When ministers base their identity on productivity, they grow co-dependent and sometimes even abusive. Co-dependence happens when our self-value (our identity) depends on being able to accomplish a task. Unlike secular people, a minister may pursue tasks that help someone else. But when that minister bases his/her self-worth on accomplishing those tasks, he/she grows co-dependent on positive feedback from his/her efforts. As we adopt this lie, we let others determine our self-worth, not God. Almost every minister understands that his/her self-worth is determined by God’s sacrifice, not manmade efforts. Yet we sometimes let a secular lie determine our worth. So the secular culture can sometimes insidiously distort how we value the self.

Consider this self-assessment for co-dependency: when rejected, do you feel emotionally hurt or do you feel grief? Those who feel hurt may suffer from co-dependency. That is, they sometimes feel hurt because their self-value is based on positive feedback from others. Jesus was rejected, but expressed grief, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matt 23:37). So His self-value was based on The Father, not on positive feedback from others.

In search for more productivity, some people can even justify trashing a relationship if it will help them to teach more, preach more, build a church, get a ministry position, build more status, or raise more money. In contrast, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-40 NIV).  So for Christians in particular, relationships with God, self, and others form the basis for all meaningfulness—not productivity. And our value is determined by His sacrifice—not our productivity.

Try this exercise:

  1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world in 1950.
  2. Name the last five winners of the Miss Universe pageant.
  3. Name the Academy Award winner for best producer in 1950, 1960, 1970, etc.

Although everyone on the above lists succeeded with productivity, at some point their value by others probably faded. Regardless, their productivity had value in the secular world, even if only temporarily. However, their productivity never affected their value to God, and so it never produces true self-worth or meaningfulness.

When asked what makes their lives most meaningful, most people first refer to their interpersonal relationships (Fehr, 4), not their productivity. Relationships represent the only earthly possession that we can take with us to heaven. Sadly, some ministers may arrive at heaven with lots of church buildings to their credit but few souls who know them personally. When I get to heaven, my first priority after meeting Jesus is to reconnect with my father and grand-parents. How about you? What is your priority?

Reference—Fehr, Beverley. Friendship Processes. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1996.

For those wanting to sharpen their relationship skills, we recommend Transforming Conflict: Relationship Skills for Ministers, available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/1475231350/. This book helps ministers learn:

  • How to prevent and eliminate relationship obstacles
  • How to cultivate research-proven relationship skills
  • How to adapt each relationship skill to their ministry
  • How to develop interdependence instead of co-dependence

Go ahead—indulge in Designer food

Hearty EatingBy Beth Davis

God created a large variety of food for our sustenance and enjoyment. Unfortunately, a lot of modern food products do not come from God’s garden. I challenge you to ask the question, “how close is this food to the way in which God created it? Is it refined and full of preservatives? Does it have a lot of additives including additional salt and sugar?” The next time you fill your shopping cart at the grocery store, stop and consider how far each item has evolved from its “original” packaging. Generally, the more processes that it takes to bring a food item to shelves in the supermarket, the less value it brings to your health. Consider menu planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation as a spiritual act. A healthy body allows the mind to more readily respond to the voice of God and provides the energy required to faithfully obey His will.

The following tips ensure that you will enjoy the best of the Great Designer’s signature food. Don’t settle for less.

* Plan meals that are low in saturated and trans fats. Also include plenty of grams of fiber in your daily diet. Small amounts of lean beef, chicken, pork, and fish along with whole grains, vegetables, and fruit offer endless possibilities for nutritious recipes.

* Include items high in omega-3: fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, tuna, and herring) and walnuts. Research shows that these foods keep your brain healthy.

* Use moderation with food items such as coffee, coca cola, and rich desserts.

* Enjoy a variety of foods, but control food portions. For these guidelines we look to the residents of Okinawa, known as the longest living people in the world. The Okinawa diet emphasizes eating well, but less. Three principles are summed up in the following three phrases: kuten gwa (eating small portions), hara hachi bu (eating until one is 80% full), and nuchi gusui (eating food for its health value).

* Sit down at the table, enjoy the aroma, and savor each bite. Actually our friends in Denmark top the scale in the area of “well-being.” I find it interesting that they value home-cooked meals and of all things, burning candles. The average Dane actually burns several pounds of candles each year—especially at mealtime. In fact, the act of slowing down aids the digestive system and helps control food consumption. Compare the joy of a simple yet healthy, candle-lit meal at home with a high caloric fast-food meal from a drive-through restaurant. During the next few months, I invite you to eat at home more often. Sit down, eat slowly, and enjoy being with your family and friends.

And, if you want to, join me in lighting a few candles!

To read  more about food and diet, please see Chapter 6 of Rebound From Burnout: Resilience Skills for Ministers at www.amazon.com/dp/1475217641/