Friday, February 17, 2012

Looking for God's Stuff

What would the things of God be?  

I imagine God toying with a nebula or stoking the flames of a supernova.  

In my last post Trifecta, I said that what we should be doing - rather than stressing - is seeking after the things of God.  Well, what are the 'things of God'?  And how do we seek after them?  

That phrase is a reference to the passages in Matthew 6 and Luke 12 where Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about the things of this earth.  What is actually stated there in both passages is that the disciples should 'seek after His kingdom'.  The Matthew passages also adds 'His righteousness'.  There are some other somewhat enigmatic references in these chapters about selling possessions, money belts that don't wear out, storing up things in heaven and about how the eye gives light to the whole body. 

Rather than try to explain all this, allow me to simply post the passages and get your thoughts.

Matthew 6
 24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
 25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[d] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Luke 12 adds:
 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?
 32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.
 33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. 34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

What are we supposed to be doing?
And what are we usually doing that isn't really all that meaningful?


Wednesday, February 8, 2012


British man on Tuesday at 11:45
According to a survey done in Great Britain, Tuesday at 11:45 is the most stressful time of the week.  Particularly if you coast through Monday and allow your work to build up.  I had a patient today who's an attorney.  She said stress is a major factor in her life all the time - even though she's reduced her workload from 80 hours a week to 65.  

How's your stress level?  

It's something we face, at some level and in some way, every day.  It affects us in multiple ways.  
Some are obvious, some not so obvious and some are probably not even known yet.  

You're probably familiar with what goes on mentally when you are stressed.  Worry, anxiety, feelings of impending doom, anger, frustration, fear, and so on.  Do you know what goes on physically?  

A hormone called Cortisol has been identified as being overproduced in people who describe being under elevated stress.  Cortisol is useful and necessary in the right amounts as it regulates blood pressure, heart functions, the body's use of fats and proteins, inflammatory response and 'fight or flight' response, improved memory, reduced pain, and increased energy among other things (  But when it is chronically high, you can have suppression of thyroid function, cognitive impairment, increased blood pressure, decreased bone density, and blood sugar imbalances. High levels of cortisol can also lower your immunity and inflammatory responses, as well as slow down the wound healing process.  Chronic stress leads to a high concentration of cortisol in your body.  Chronic high concentrations of cortisol is toxic to brain cells and can cause short-term memory loss. A lifetime of high cortisol levels may be a primary contributor to Alzheimer's disease and senile dementia and is also a primary cause of osteoporosis.

Didn't think it was all THAT bad, did ya?

When I have patients at work tell me they are stressed, I usually give them a copy of an article from the newspaper by Dr. Bryant Stamford, the medical columnist.  My disclaimer is that it may not directly apply to their circumstances, but it's worth checking out.  In the article, Stamford describes some of the destructive properties of stress and he talks about the aspect of stress that comes from fear of the future.  He states that the past and future don't exist, except in our minds.  Yet we spend most of our time there, worrying about things that have already happened or that probably won't occur.  He says it's the ultimate stress-promoting Catch-22 - conjuring up fears and threats we can't do anything about.  One of my favorite pastors, D. James Kennedy, said that worry is like paying interest on a debt you will likely never owe.  

Most of what we worry about doesn't even come to pass, yet we suffer anyway.  This is important to understand for our present peace.  

I can look at some circumstances in my life right now, extrapolate them out based on current trends and decide that all is in fact lost and will turn out horribly.  Yet my own life is proof of the opposite.  Stamford says we need to come fully to the present and practice the critical life skill of living 'here and now'.

Back to cortisol.   
(Not a self-portrait)
One effect of the stress response is to break down adipose (fat) cells to move triglycerides (fat molecules) into the bloodstream for more energy. Your body would use the energy from triglycerides in the "fight or flight" physical responses to stress. But do you have increased physical activity in response to most of the stresses you experience in the modern world? Most people don't. Instead of burning the triglycerides, cortisol causes these unused fats to be re-deposited in the adipose tissues surrounding the belly.  This inspires me to coin a new phrase 'fear belly'.

This is one of the many reasons exercise is good for us.  It burns off the elevated 'free floating' fat molecules produced by stress AND increases the release of the happy hormones - endorphins - making you feel better which in turn also lowers stress.  Of course, a stronger heart, lower blood pressure, and lower weight are associated as well.  I implied at the beginning that all the negatives associated with stress haven't been fully understood yet, and I also believe that all the benefits of exercise cannot be overstated.  I've read that lifting weights strengthens your bones.  I didn't understand how that could occur, but here's a connection.  Exercise = lower cortisol = stronger bones.  And this is just one example.

In some of my favorite passages from the bible, Jesus uses the phrase 'do not worry' 3 times in Matthew 6:25-34 and it's repeated in Luke 12:11-29.  Read over those passages again.  God doesn't want us to stress.  It's not good for us and it's not necessary.  Yes, we'll have trials and difficult times that He can use to grow us, but if we rest in the assurance that He's going through them with us, that He works out everything for our best, and that we can fully trust Him because He cares for us and has our eternal best interests as an endpoint we can quit diminishing our daily level of joy and quit slowly killing ourselves.

Don't run after the things the world runs after - money, fame, power and pleasure.  That's a cortisol factory waiting to happen.  Seek after the things of God.  He knows what you need and what's best for you.  Jesus asks an interesting question in the above passages, 'if you can't even do the small task of adding a single hour to your life, why do you worry about all the rest?'.

Don't worry.

Why Trifecta?  Because this is a win on all 3 of the main topics this blog is supposed to be about.