Good Health So Much More Than Not Being Sick

In the past, good health was defined as the absence of disease. Today, we acknowledge that good health is more complex than just being free of illness. Physical health, mental and emotional health, and social health vitally contribute to overall wellbeing.

The Integrated Whole

Physically, a health body functions well. You can complete everyday tasks without becoming overly tired. A healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and proper medical and dental care are all important for physical health.

Mentally, a healthy mind enjoys a comfortable relationship with self, others, and our surroundings. We stay alert, learn from mistakes, and recognize our achievements.

Emotionally healthy people respond appropriately to feelings and circumstances and events in their lives.

Socially healthy people interact well with others. We develop loving relationships, respect the rights of others, give and receive assistance. Building healthy relationships with family and friends is important for social health.

Monitor Risks Early and Often

So, good health looks like all of the above, yet, risk factors can affect each of these facets of our good health. While we cannot control some risk factors, such as genetics, we can control lifestyle habits, diet, physical activity, and sleep.  Quality of life begins with a proactive approach to health. By making good lifestyle choices during the twenties, thirties, and forties, the risk for chronic health problems is reduced and the chance for a long, healthy life is improved.

Weight On It

Maintain a healthy weight as being overweight or obese increases the risk for chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer that have a negative impact on daily life. Eat healthy meals that meet the nutritional needs of the body to maintain good health and wellbeing. Meals should include plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and low or nonfat dairy products. It is important to limit the intake of processed foods and fast foods and reduce the amount of salt in the diet (Family Doctor).

Right Exercise

Regular exercise has many health benefits as it helps the body look and feel better, improves mood, and lowers the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and osteoporosis. The USDA recommends 30–60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the per week (USDA Guidelines).

Sleep It Off

Attain the recommended amount of sleep because the body repairs itself during rest. Most adults aged 26-64, require 7-9 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Recommended guidelines for infants and older adults are available on the Sleep Foundation website.

Watch It

Diagnostic tests and screening procedures to maintain good health are mandatory and will vary depending upon factors such as family and personal medical history, age, and overall health and personal risk behaviors. As the body ages, often additional risks for certain diseases occur.

Regular checkups are vital for good health. Follow these guidelines recommended by the Cleveland Clinic during the twenties, thirties, and forties:

Twenties

Starting at age twenty, incorporate regular testing. For women, for example, a pap smear to detect cervical cancer should be done every three years, or as instructed by the doctor. Through regular skin cancer screenings, check for melanoma. Perform self-checks between doctor’s visits by looking for irregular moles, spots, or bleeding. Doctors also recommend annual blood pressure and cholesterol tests starting at twenty to check for any risks of heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure.

Thirties

Continue with the tests that are done during the twenties (pap smear, skin cancer, blood pressure, and cholesterol), and start getting a thyroid test as this gland produces hormones that regulate vital body functions including: metabolism, breathing, heart rate, nervous system, body weight, and muscle strength.

Testicular cancer is a health concern for men in their thirties. The incidence rate of testicular cancer increased in the US for several decades with about 1 in every 250 males developing the disease. Sadly, this cancer affects mainly young and middle-aged men, with the average age of diagnosis at 33 (American Cancer Society). As with cervical cancer, early detection increases the chances of survival.

Forties

Continue with all previous tests and women should include a mammogram on a regular basis to detect breast cancer in early stages. In between mammograms, perform regular self-breast exams.

In conclusion, even if feeling fine, it is necessary to see the physician for regular checkups. These visits can help avoid problems in the future. See the dentist once or twice every year for an exam and cleaning. If experiencing vision problems, an eye exam should be done at least every two years or more often if recommended by the provider. Taking good care of the body, mind, and spirit should be a priority.

 




An Open Letter to Christopher Columbus:

Congratulations!

 

Best wishes, Viceroy and Governor General Cristóbal Colón! (You don’t mind me using Christopher Columbus Statueyour Spanish name do you?)  Although you’ve been dead more than 500 years, you have the best of two worlds. Or rather, both the Old and New Worlds have the best of you. Spain has DNA proof that your bones are theirs, but Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) persists that their box of bones contains the true you. What if they’re both right? How does it feel to have two hemispheres haggle over your skeleton?

Holiday Elite

You’re so great that you are one of only two men to have his own U.S. federal holiday – even though you never even lived here. That other guy, Martin, didn’t come along until 500 years after you dispossessed discovered the West Indies. And what’s left of his struggle for peace and equality is fragile. It’s much more fragile than your global enterprise of extracting materials and exploiting human resources.

But that’s enough talk about him, because Cristoforo Colombo– this is your day! (Since there is some uncertainty about your origin, I just wanted to cover myself by using your Italian name also.)

Time Measured by Your Exploitation Exploits

You’re also only one of two people to divide history into B.C. and A.D. After Jesus lived, died, and ascended, we began to split timelines into Before Christ and Anno Domini. (This means: “in the year of our Lord”).

Ever since you landed in the Bahamas, the world has experienced the results of Before Columbus and After Domination. (Or insert: Disease, or Deception, or Decimation, or all of the above?) Well, the haters have to admit you gained more converts than Jesus did, right?

Scientific Discovery

In spite of these honors, a few things have changed while your bones have been bleaching. Some historians say you didn’t exactly shatter the world’s belief in a flat round earth shot from spaceEarth. They suggested that Europeans already knew the Earth was round. But, so what if Martin Behaim made the oldest surviving globe, in 1490-1492?How can this mere science fair project, “Erdapfel” (German: Earth apple), compete with your historical relevance?

Besides, fiction writer Washington Irving (author of Rip Van Winkle and Legend of Sleepy Hollow) invented the flat earth story line in his 1828 The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. Why should you be penalized for not living up to Irving’s embellishment?

Religious Right

So, you did not spark scientific revelation or revolution, you did, however, discover “very many islands.” Please pardon our inquiry, however. How could you discover lands you acknowledge were already “filled with innumerable people”? Didn’t those innumerable people discover and settle those lands long before your arrival? (James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me About Columbus, 8.)

Oh yeah, Pope Alexander VI settled that question on May 4, 1493 in his Papal Bull, Inter Caetera. In very fanciful words, Rodrigo de Borja—Alexander’s name before becoming pope—declared that those lands weren’t truly discovered if they didn’t have Christian kings (like Ferdinand) ruling over them.

Alexander then established “a line from the Arctic pole to the Antarctic pole” going through Cape Verde. Everything “discovered” west of the Spanish pope’s Line of Demarcation was for you to exercise “divine clemency to bring under your sway the said mainlands and islands with their residents and inhabitants and to bring them to the Catholic faith.”

Hey Christovam, do you know if Alexander or Rodrigo  wore his WWJD? bracelet while he wrote that bull?

You’ll be glad to know that the United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall reaffirmed the Doctrine of Discovery hundreds of years later: “the principle of discovery gave European nations an absolute right to New World lands,” even though he admitted that Natives had some rights of occupancy. You must be proud of Marshall’s disregard for indigenous life, as well as his inconsistent analysis that has Natives occupying a land without first discovering it. See how influential you and Alexander have been?

Trail of Crumbs

So what if you didn’t really lead a scientific expedition to prove the world round, or truly discover new lands? And does it really matter if The Nina and Pinta weren’t really the names of two of your ships? You were an accomplished sailor, and they can’t take that from you!

Ship of Christopher Columbus?
African griots recount stories of sailing to the “New World” since at least the 1300s.

Before 1492, you travelled to Greenland. There you likely heard of Norsemen who had crossed the ocean to Vineland (in what would become North America) five hundred years earlier than your first transatlantic trip. The Norse also told stories of an Irish monk who had travelled across the Atlantic before them. We know that you also took trips to West Africa, where griots still repeat oral histories of Mansa Abu Bakari’s travel across the Atlantic in the 1300s. (Ivan Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus ) I don’t know if you knew about these accounts, but a lot of people think you likely knew what you might find by sailing west.

Meaningful to Indigenous Peoples

That doesn’t mean you should worry about the longevity of your legend. Your enslavement and exportation of Arawak/Taino slaves to Europe, along with your family’s importation of African slaves to work the mines and plantations of the Caribbean, have ensured your lurid legendary exploits have left an indelible stain mark on history that will never be erased.

On the other hand, you and your crew did plenty of erasing. In 1496, your brother Bartholomew took a census of Haiti, and the indigenous population numbered “1,130,000 people, excluding children and old people.” (James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me About Columbus, 4). Less than 50 years later, there were only around 600 left. The island was soon repopulated with Spanish colonizers and their African slaves, followed by French colonizers and their African slaves. So in this way, the preexistent world your ship crashed into became a New World.

Shall We Celebrate?

Because of your global impact on colonialism, racism, and human trafficking, your likeness will live on in textbooks and museums. What difference does it make if your contemporaries couldn’t describe you well enough for any of your portraits to resemble each other? You have more than 50 US counties and cities named after you. You know you have arrived when your name has been transformed into a verb – Columbussing!

So what if multiple states and cities are rejecting your holiday this year? Why can’t they appreciate how you saved heathen souls and brought civilization to the savages with the use of a little steel, gunpowder, and corrupted religion in the process? Everyone knows you gotta crack some eggs to make an omelet.

What difference does it make that the continent you allegedly discovered was named after a later discoverer, Amerigo Vespucci? Just remember, Christoforo, Cristóbal, Christoual, Christovam, Christofferus de Colombo, as long as you’re secure in who you are and where you came from – Spain, or Italy, or Poland – nothing the critics say can keep your skeletal fragments from resting in peace. It doesn’t matter how many places they might be scattered across.

Best Wishes

Carl McRoy




Recovering From Overwhelming Grief

A friend of mine drives a technologically advanced car. Recently, she told me about experiencing car trouble. While driving she rolled over a nail and punctured one of her tires. However, one of the features of her technologically advanced car is that it alerts her when air pressure is depleting from her tires. Thanks to this new feature it did not take long for her to notice a problem existed.

Before upgrading her car, she had a similar experience. Rolling over a nail and driving with tire pressure depleting, her older car lacked the ability to alert her of what happened. As a result, she continued to drive her car like nothing was wrong. Things were seemingly ok until she experienced a massive blowout! Thank God for technologically advanced cars!

Grief Without Signals

If the truth were told, most of us operate like the older car instead of the technologically advanced car when experiencing grief. It is not that we do not know that grief exists, but sometimes it is complicated identifying the signals that show up in our lives emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We are routinely hit with some of life’s biggest punctures, but oftentimes we are completely unaware of its devastating effects. Unfortunately, many of us do not notice we’ve been punctured until we experience a massive blow out.

Grief Triggers

Grief is defined as the emotional process of reacting to affliction or loss. According to Swiss-American Psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kūbler-Ross, people experience the five stages of grief in this order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In our sinful world, everyone inevitably experiences grief in some form or fashion. The most common way of experiencing grief is in the death of a loved one. However there are many other ways that people experience grief. Some experience grief over:

  • Divorce, or the end of a relationship
  • Oneset of a chronic or terminal disease
  • Job loss
  • Delivering a child with a birth defect
  • Disability from an illness or severe accident
  • Loss of independence
  • Surviving an act of violence or natural disaster
  • Discovering your child/teen has a learning disability, behavior problem, or is abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Having a miscarriage or still birth

Grief Alerts

Having a theoretical understanding of grief is often not enough to move people to action. In fact, no clear knowledge of what is causing the grieving process is what causes the most damage. It is when we are not aware that various experiences in life have punctured us that we begin to experience emotional, physical, and spiritual depletion. And grief left unchecked slowly, but surely leads to deterioration. But there are some grief alerts that can let us know something has punctured us and we are depleting:

  • Crying
  • Headaches
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Insomnia
  • Questioning your belief in God
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite

Any one of the above mentioned systems are overwhelming to carry. A collection of them are destructive, and often indicative of a greater issue. Leaving our grief triggers unresolved and our grief alerts ignored leads to mental and/or emotional illness along with a host of other medical conditions. The good news is that this does not have to be our reality. We don’t have to continue limping through life with a nail in our tire.

Paul’s Grief Recovery Program

As believers in Jesus Christ we have an advantage working in our favor. That advantage is the Word of God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” In these verses the Apostle Paul offers us two powerful principles concerning grief. The first, and most important principle, is that God is able and willing to comfort us in our grief. He is patient, compassionate, and gentle in how he comforts us in times of need. What better example is there of how to support others than in the example God shows us Himself?

God does not put a timetable on our grief. He does not dictate how we should feel. In His compassion He comforts us until we are once again able to stand on our own two feet. However, there is another piece to this puzzle. The second principle to Paul’s grief recovery program is that God comforts us so that we can comfort others. In other words, one of the best antidotes to grief is community. When we have people who sit with us, pray with us, cry with us, talk things through with us, and simply bless us with their silent presence those grieving experience a powerful healing and restoration. And after you’ve reached the other side of your healing you now can be to someone else what others were to you in your time of need.

Seek A Grief and Loss Professional

Additionally, consulting a grief and loss professional can be beneficial during the recovery process. The good Lord in all of His grace and mercy has equipped individuals with the necessary skills and expertise to treat mental and emotional illness in our communities. There is no shame associated with asking for help. The good news is that God is in the business of figuratively removing life’s nails from our tires and help us manage the wounds that from the puncture.

Grief does not have the final say, God does! 

There is life after grief, but it requires intentional and consistent work. But what’s great is that God has the ability to console, reassure, and even deliver us out of our grief.




A Word for the Weathered

It was January 15, 2018. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The campus was closed for the day except for a program later in the evening. I decided to take advantage of this chilly Monday morning and take my time. I got ready for a brunch meeting I had in a few hours. I opened my blinds and the brightness reflecting off the snow filled my apartment. The snow was steady falling, but it was nothing for Michigan. I reached into the cabinet and pulled down my jar of flour. With a deep breath I began a process I know so well, combining measures of flour, milk, butter and baking powder to my bowl. I floured my counter and began to shape my biscuits as I waited for my ride to a mid-morning meeting.

“Weathering”

Like many others, I use baking as an opportunity to catch up on my growing list of podcasts. Immediately one of the hosts of NPR’s podcast Code Switch, Gene Demby, introduces today’s topic: the impact of racism on health. My interest is peaked as the podcast shares the story of Shalon Irving, a 36-year-old epidemiologist at the CDC who died just weeks after giving birth to her daughter in 2017 due to complications post-pregnancy.

The researchers and experts attributed Shalon’s death as a result not of race, but of racism. They call the term “weathering” and researchers are finding that the impact of systemic racism in the United States, the stress responses to micro-aggressions such as being followed around in stores, stopped by the police, or even being called the n-word create a response that the body internalizes and it can impact the very DNA of an individual.

The Dangers of Being a Black Girl

The statistics are striking – black women today are tree times more likely to die in childbirth or after childbirth than white women. Black women are five times more likely than white women to report experiences of headache, upset stomach, tensing of muscles, or a pounding heart because of how they were treated in society based on their race in the past month. The American Journal of Public Health reports that black women are twice as likely to have higher stress scores than white women – regardless of age.

In fact, black women are dying faster and at higher rates than any other group in America from preventable diseases. For example, 82% of black women are over a healthy weight right now, 53% of black women are obese, and every 11 minutes 137 black women die from a preventable disease. T. Morgan Dixon, founder of health nonprofit GirlTrek, likened it to a plane full of black women crashing to the ground every 11 minutes.

The Mule of the World

The research and statistics made my heart weep for my sisters, aunties, cousins, mothers, and myself as I realized that Danyelle Solomon of the Center for American Progress was right, “The impact of systemic racism is manifesting itself in black women’s health.” I mean, Zora Neale Hurston did write in Their Eyes Were Watching God that the black woman was the mule of the world. Hurston wrote this not to belittle black women, but to call to our attention the unnecessary burden and stress that is placed on black women in particular.

If we’re honest, “weathering” is also caused by the burden black women bear of being valued by the amount of pain we can endure, and how much we can give to others, and sacrifice for others oftentimes to the detriment of ourselves. This burden of blackness “weathers” a black woman’s body and according to these statistics – kills her.

I mourn for the women whose lives have been cut short because of “weathering.” I mourn for the generations of weathered ancestors who died at the hands of this patriarchal, white supremacist American system. I mourn for women like Erica Garner, Sandra Bland, and Shalon Irving. I mourn for the women whose names we do not know and faces we will never see on TV, names we won’t read in our newspapers or hear on our podcasts. I mourn for the 137 black women who would succumb to preventable disease in the next few moments. I mourn for those of us who remain, and who move through life day-to-day with aches and pains and problems in our bodies that we cannot quite pinpoint. Those of us who are yet enduring the “weathering” of being a black woman in America.

Weathering in the Bible

Although I’m in mourning, as a womanist I am comforted by the way Scripture responds to the weathering of black women. Mark’s account of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5:21-34 reveals to us how the Divine responds to weathered women.

After His journey to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (the non-Jewish side), where Jesus delivered the man with the Legion of demons, and restored his ability to function in society socially and economically, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee again returning to the Jewish side. The oppressive Roman legions that monitored this side of the Sea also cripples the people socially, economically and politically.

These soldiers kept the privileged and powerful safe, while abusing, misusing and discarding the powerless and the poor. The legion, merely agents of the more powerful oppressive system, ravaged the lives of those they had taken captive. And the effects of this ravenous system were truly seen in the lives and bodies of the people Jesus encountered, like this nameless woman whose story Mark interjects in the midst of this larger narrative of the healing of Jairus’ daughter.

While I write specifically to black women, this text has relevance for black communities as a whole. There are three words this text gives to the weathered that I’d like to share with you here:

1.You are debilitated, but not defined by what weathers you (v.25-26)

This woman was most likely known in the community by her ailment. At this point in her story, there were many who believed that she would never be healed. But, the woman herself believed that while she was debilitated by her health problem, she was not defined by it. On a larger scale she was not defined by the oppressive socio-economic system that alienated her on every level. 

Black women know the statistics, we know what is stacked against us, but it does not define us. I know this to be true because like the woman in this narrative, we continue to see healing and resolution even when others believe our journey is in vain.

2.Tell the whole truth (v. 33) 

I am certain, when given the opportunity, that this woman did not just tell Jesus about her physical ailment, but also about all the loss she had suffered because of it. I image that she spoke about the system that made it difficult for her to receive care. She probably shared how no one believed her and how those who were supposed to support her abandoned her when she needed them most.

Verse 33 says that she told Jesus the whole truth. Likewise, black women are empowered to be truth-tellers. We have to tell the truth to our friends and family about what is happening to us physically, mentally, emotionally. We have to tell the truth to a society that attempts to ignore the root of what weathers us. We have to tell the truth to ourselves and realize that this truth is one that will set us free.  

3.Accept your status as “Daughter” and know that you are whole (v. 34)

This woman entered the crowd as a nameless woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and left as a whole daughter of God. She had been alienated from society and community, but in a word God restores her to community. She was unclean, but in a word God made her clean. From the beginning of the narrative, this woman believed she was going to be healed and by the end of her encounter with Jesus, her status was changed to whole.

While I live as a black woman and see the effects of weathering on myself and others, I know that we will be healed and eve more than that, I know that our God will continue to speak a word over us and make us whole.




The Theologian and the Skeptic

Portland, Oregon based The Bible Project has posted more than 140 Bible videos and podcasts on platforms including YouTube that have been viewed more than 100 million times in the five years since its inception.

Storyteller and “architect of ideas” John Collins, who with a slim build, modest attire and long hair looks like a modern day disciple, is the engine behind the Bible Project. He spent several years producing industrial videos for the likes of multinational corporations with complicated logistics and distribution systems, such as Sysco. Recognizing his God-given ability to make complex topics approachable, Collins teamed up with his buddy from Multnomah College. Together with his friend, Tim Mackie now a theologian with a PhD., the duo hit upon a ministry for the millennium: explainer videos for the Bible.

The Bible Project is to the church school flannel graph, what the iPad is to textbooks. Instead of a flat, pretty picture, arranged by the teacher, the multi-dimensional storytelling explores life’s ugly questions and chaotic experiences using dynamic animations. And, it can be accessed from all over the globe.

Bible Project’s team includes 33 mostly young, mostly white, mostly introspective (if not religious) technicians—animators to artists, social media managers to non-profit executives. Crowdfunded by viewers, and seeking to be free from interpreter’s bias or institutional agendas, the Project freely releases each new season on YouTube.

Executive Director Steve Atkinson, a former marketing and non-profit executive himself, was sold the first time he heard the idea, because, hey, who doesn’t have questions? One podcast exchange between Collins and Mackie sticks in Atkinson’s mind because of its relatable skepticism toward the Bible’s story of the Garden of Eden and its tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

“If we weren’t supposed to eat from the tree,” asked Collins, “why did He put it right in the middle of the garden? Why didn’t he put it over in the corner of the garden and put some thorny bushes around it, put it under lock and key? Why did he put it there?”

It was the soft answer, the humble answer, from brainy Mackie that Atkinson says makes this kind of biblical experience meaningful. Atkinson admits that as a lifelong Christian, he didn’t always feel comfortable asking questions.

   “Tim, just so softly says, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a great question.” Mackie then related how in the middle of what had to be one of the best dinners—ever—at home with his wife and two boys, one kid decided to spew rice from his cheeks all over the table. “That’s how it is,” Mackie summed it up. “The tree is right at the center of every one of our lives, we’re just one decision away from blowing things up.”

The real question is, knowing how close we have come or have even crossed over, where is the hope? Just as the prospect of failure is ever imminent, so is the hope and the solution of Jesus woven into every part of scripture said Atkinson.

“I truly believe the gospel is Genesis through Revelation,” said Atkinson, who says the company’s mission is to show the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus.

“[E]very story whispers His name, that you can see this thread throughout.”


This article is part of our 2019 September / October Issue
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It’s a Trap, I’m Telling You!

The prospect of a sunny day at an Orlando water park to cap off summer vacation managed to raise an eyebrow among our emerging adult children. With one in college, one a senior in high school, and one in eighth grade, we were lucky they wanted to be with us at all.

We trailed our kids up at least 150 steps to the top of Volcano Bay’s Ko’okiri, anxious for the fun to begin. Breathless on the top deck I was stunned as my children each climbed into the door of a clear capsule then vanished down the chute.

Wait, wuh?

I hadn’t researched the new Ko’okiri. I didn’t know it is reportedly the world’s tallest body slide, with the highest plunge, a fall at a 70 degree angle and 125 feet of sheer terror. I didn’t know about the trap door. If you think this is about quality experiences to cement relationships, you’re getting way

Volcano Bay

ahead of me. No, I’m using this as a metaphor for the dramatic and quick decline of the spiritual interests and practices of our millennials and the teens after them, the Generation Zers, or “screenagers.”

Have you seen the numbers in Gen Z The Culture Beliefs and Motivation Shaping The Next Generation? (Barna, 2018) More agnostics, atheists and “nones,” more ambivalence about the relevance of Christianity, and pillars of faith. As a Christian, this feels like a breathless ride into the abyss.

Without question, we believe the task to keep the legacy going falls to Christian parents: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” Deuteronomy 6:4-7.

So, people of faith want their children to have a living faith, a faith that allows them to navigate a secular, if not hostile society (p. 80). But, if a vibrant Christian life is what we want for them, researchers studying this younger cohort wonder at the dichotomy in modeling and teaching in parents. Parents bubble-wrap their children’s lives to protect them, yet, leave them unprepared for spiritual challenge.

Parents wait in cars for the school bus with their children to avoid the stranger danger. Yet, the empty streets after school, hide the fact that there are plenty of children in the area; they’re just spending their time inside, isolated, and unsupervised with uncritical access to a hazardous universe of media at their fingertips.

“[I]n an age of social media, ubiquitous porn, self-harm, cyberbullying and sexting,” said James Emery White (Gen Z p. 35, Barna, 2018), “children need greater protection than ever before—not less. Thanks to their parents, however, Gen Z is growing up too fast, and childhood has slowly evaporated in the name of independence and freedom.”

I am convinced that relationships are the most powerful shaping influences during the teenage years.

Strangely also, the unintended message Gen Z catches from watching the professional pursuits of their parents is the idea that financial success is the highest goal. Parents are role models, alright, for what they supply. Gen Zers are missing the underlying source of drive: purpose and life-meaning. It is no wonder that as a group, they are not in a hurry to engage in the the lifework of an adult.

Similarly, we seem surprised at what appears to be ambivalence on the part of our young people when it comes to “lifestyle” choices. We have taught them love, tolerance, compassion, appreciation for differences, talents, and gifts, cultures, races and peoples. Now, in the face of exploding exposure to diversity in gender, race and culture, and religion, instead of being threatened, our young people seem non-committal. It is logical, and not as frightening as one may think, according to Fikre Prince, an Associate Pastor, Evangel Ministries.

“When we make it seem as though God is against youth or their friends, of course they want to find ways to rationalize or explain away that idea. A lot of what comes across as ambivalence is really kids trying to make sense of what they hear, what they see, what they know of truth and love” said Prince. (p.67) We can help them by giving them a way to understand and explain their own beliefs (1 Peter 3:15, 16), but have to respect the way their compassion and empathy, and capacity for inclusiveness get tested every day.

Fortunately, we can both teach and learn by coming alongside the twenty-somethings and “screenagers” among us. “Gen Z increasingly feels isolated and alone, but they hunger for real relationships,” writes Jonathan Morrow, Director of Cultural Engagement at Impact 360 Institute. “I am convinced that relationships are the most powerful shaping influence during the teenage years.”

The teenager operating Ko’orkiri wouldn’t even look me in the eye. I watched her chat with a co-worker while she worked her buttons when the sudden clang of the trap door at my feet let me know she pushed my button. Free-falling and drowning at the same time, I thought “This might really be the end.”

As my husband and I washed ashore the concrete beach at the bottom, nose and sinuses stinging, pulling swimsuits from the crevices in which they hide, I realized one kid’s thrill ride, is another woman’s near death experience.


This article is part of our 2019 September / October Issue
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Biblical Herbs Complement Autumn Fruits and Veggies

Autumn is a spectacular time of year as leaves and flowered mums dot the landscape with shades of red, yellow, and orange. Just as the earth erupts with Fall colors, fruits and veggies also shine with brilliant colors. Truly, the Fall Harvest is a perfect time to increase dietary intake of fruits and veggies and reap the health benefits of produce loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. In fact, the USDA’s recommendation is to fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables for every meal and each snack. Farmer’s markets are a great place to gather such produce as their shelves are bursting with colorful seasonal produce like apples, pears, cranberries, pumpkins, and butternut squash.

But Autumn is not just a great season for fruits and vegetables, it’s also a great season for herbs. In fact, the body gains additional health benefits when combining flavor enhancing fresh herbs with fruits and veggies. Scientific research proves that herbs contain an impressive list of vitamins, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and minerals known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.

Food in the Scriptures

Did you know that Autumn fruits and veggies pair well with the Biblical herbs mint and dill? Here’s an interesting fact: the Pharisees offered mint for tithing in accordance with Mosaic law (Matthew 23:23 NKJV). Used for thousands of years to sooth indigestion, modern research proves that mint’s numerous health benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This seasoning contains vitamins A and C and the minerals calcium, zinc, and copper. And all flavors of mint include the aromatic decongestant menthol which loosens phlegm and mucus (Hosseinzadeh, 2015). This is why mint continues to be used medicinally. Its calming effects can be used as a natural aid for common concerns like flatulence, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, nausea, and headaches.

Tender mint leaves are best used fresh as they add a sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste.

Peppermint in particular, boasts an intense peppery tang while spearmint offers a milder sweet flavor. By incorporating peppermint or spearmint into your cooking you can augment a variety of autumn fruits such as tomatoes, limes, cranberries, figs, and pomegranates with a refreshing zesty flavor. For example, create a mint limeade or lemonade for a thirst-quenching drink. Roasted veggies such as cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes, and squash are also enhanced by fresh mint.

The Benefits of Dill

Dill is another herbal plant used in Biblical times for tithing, food preparation, and medicine (Matthew 23:23). The ancient people applied dill’s essential oil eugenol as a local anesthetic and antiseptic. Research proves that dill essential oil is a natural antimicrobial and antioxidant (Singh, 2005).

Dill weed is a good source of calcium, manganese, and iron, and as an antioxidant food, its flavonoids such as quercetin provide anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Quercetin plays an important part in fighting free radical damage, the effects of aging, and inflammation (Zhang, 2017). Dill contains vitamins A and C, folate, iron, and amino acids. By Including dill in one’s diet these important fatty acids improve wellbeing (Nguyen, 2015).

Herbs for your Health

Tomatoes, figs, cranberries, and apples combine scrumptiously with dill’s slightly sweet taste and hints of caraway, lemon, anise, and parsley. Dill heightens the flavors of Fall veggies such as cauliflower, beets, and squash. Try a butternut squash and dill soup for a hearty and warming autumn lunch.

These complimentary herbs enhance fruit’s sweet taste and the bold flavors of veggies. By incorporating dill into your cooking preparation, favorite dishes become an extraordinary food experience rich in vitamins and nutrients, as well as, color and flavor. Discover the combinations that please personal palates by sprinkling with herbs from the cupboard or windowsill herb garden onto various fruits and vegetable dishes.

Nature’s garden feeds, heals, and brings joy. In the words of the 9th century Emperor Charlemagne, “Herbs are the friend of the physician and the pride of cooks.”

Roasted Apples and Butternut Squash with Dill Recipe

This recipe combining two autumn favorites is a sweet and savory side dish for any meal.

Serves 6- 8

Ingredients

1 butternut squash

1 large sweet onion (I use Vidalia)

2 apples (good choices are Braeburn, Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith)

2 tablespoons fresh dill

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Chop the butternut squash, apples, and sweet onion into bite sized pieces. Mince the fresh dill. Mix the squash, sweet onion, and apples into a large bowl and add the olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper. Place the chopped vegetables in a covered baking dish and roast for approximately 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue roasting for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and top with the fresh dill. Serve immediately and enjoy!

***

References

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

Hosseinzadeh, S., Jafarikukhdan, A., Hosseini, A. and Armand, R. (2015) The Application of Medicinal Plants in Traditional and Modern Medicine: A Review of Thymus vulgaris. International Journal of Clinical Medicine, 6, 635-642. doi: 10.4236/ijcm.2015.69084.

Singh, G., Maurya, S., de Lampasona P., & Catalan, C., Chemical constituents, antimicrobial investigations, and antioxidative potentials of Anethum graveolens L. essential oil and acetone extract: Part 52. Journal of Food Science, 2005. 70, M208-M215.

Zhang, M, et al. “Antioxidant properties of quercetin.” Advances in experimental medicine and biology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21445799. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Quercetin, CID=5280343, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Quercetin (accessed on Sept. 3, 2019)

Nguyen, T., Aparicio, M., & Saleh, M. A. (2015). Accurate Mass GC/LC-Quadrupole Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry Analysis of Fatty Acids and Triacylglycerols of Spicy Fruits from the Apiaceae Family. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 20(12), 21421-32. doi:10.3390/molecules201219779

www.azquotes.com/author/38108-Charlemagne




The New Bloody Reality

As of September 1st, there have been more mass shootings than days this year. The worst part of this is that it appears that these types of violent outbursts began to spike around 2012, during the second term of Barack Obama. Nevertheless, some entities reported a rise in hate crimes as early as November of 2008. The rise of this phenomenon is actually not mysterious or inexplicable at all. Social scientists have long argued that this spike in hate is the result of shifting power dynamics in the country.

Vera Bergengruen and W.J. Hennigan wrote in the August 19, 2019 issue of Time magazine, “Law enforcement officials say the cancer of white nationalism has metastasized across social media and the dark corners of the internet, creating a copycat effect in which inspiring killers draw inspiration and seek to outdo one another.” This is the “45 Effect” – It is an emboldened mass of those who are determined to revert back to former times by any means necessary.

It appears that a large portion of the dominant group is unwilling to live in a country where equality reigns. They prefer to perpetuate systems of disproportionate power, dehumanization, victimization and oppression. In order for them to feel that all is right in the world they must maintain a position of power, authority and control.

This Has Always Been, America

Furthermore, on top of all of his fear-mongering, hate-stoking, and violent rhetoric, 45 has appeared to plunge into yet a deeper and deeper chasm of depravity and failed diplomacy. Yet, his followers are undeterred. They are convinced that the #MAGAtrain will surge ahead until 2025. Interestingly, the 2020 election has inspired hope in some on the other side of the aisle. Many democratic candidates and voters believe 45 will be defeated and that we will achieve, in our lifetime, the beloved community.

In my estimation, we would do well to remember that while the Pledge of Allegiance proclaims this to be the “land of the free,” the reality is that your station and status was settled by your skin tone. The violent terrorism that held those systems in check then have morphed a bit, but they are still very vibrant. And a changing of the guard in 2021 will not change this entrenched social system.

This is America. Or at least, this is the enduring legacy of America. This is the land that many have long said, “looks like a lamb and speaks like a dragon.” This is the same America that defrauded the indigenous peoples out of their land, and ravaged their tribes. This is the same America that has separated children from their parents at our southern border. There is no justice for minorities in America. And just in case you forget it, the dominant group has quite a few fringe members who will quickly grab an AR-15, run to a public place and remind us all that this is their country; and they will do with fear and force whatever is necessary to keep it that way.

Mourners gathered on Monday outside the Walmart in El Paso where at least 22 people were killed. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Pain in Prophecy

Here’s the sad news, and a bit of a bold prediction. This pattern of violent terror is not going to relent. As a matter of fact, this is (in part) predicted in scripture. Jeremiah says:

From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 6:13-15 (NIV)

Now, while that text may not apply directly to white-nationalists, just think, if the very priests that were set aside to care for God’s people had become unscrupulous because of greed and deception, what do you think we can expect from people who are bent on hate? The text, in essence, points to a time when people will lose their sense of compassion and decency. That time is now.

Our New Reality

This is the new reality. The battle lines have been so indelibly drawn and entrenched that it is highly likely that we have passed the point of no return. And remember, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV). These are not simply natural expressions of bigotry and hate. These instances are being fueled by the very essence of the one who is the archenemy of our souls.

Now, this is not a message of gloom and doom. Jesus has promised that he would always be with us, and that he would never leave us nor forsake us. In another place, he reassures us saying, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

With this is mind, there are some things that we should do in light of this new reality:

  1. Strengthen relational networks and systems that serve as safe places for underserved communities. Whether that takes the form of an active shooter training at your church, a mentoring program, or simply a more consistent time for family meals, we need to preserve the spaces where we belong authentically and fully.
  2. Develop systems for civic and economic engagement that consistently empowers those on the margins. Children at the border who have been separated from their parents need advocates who will continue to speak up for them. Small minority businesses find it even more difficult to develop in this reality. We need creative ways to provide support, build advocacy and create lasting value.
  3. Finally, pursue more dynamic and empowering opportunities for faith development. This may take the form of a Bible study, prayer group, or a church plant, or maybe even more consistent and committed service initiatives and the like. There is a definite need to grab hold of those themes of hope, faith and trust that will help to sustain us.

Protestors take part in a rally of Moms against gun violence. Photo by Johannes Eisele/Getty Images

These are very difficult times. With each mass shooting we are reminded of our vulnerability and the ever-encroaching scourge of bigotry and hate. When I was a kid riding in the front seat of my mom’s car, she had a tendency to stretch her arm out across my chest while she drove whenever she felt there was danger approaching. Her outstretched arm was in an effort to help shield and brace my body from potential impact. Today we need the arms of the community members to reach out, create safer communities, and shield our people with hope that Jesus will come just in time to save us from the impending collision.




Faith Over Fashion

“I’m gonna’ put on my robe, tell the story how I made it ova’.”

Contention over dress within the Christian church it is nothing new. For African Americans, clothing, fashion, and style have historically been acts of resistance, liberation, and counter-narrative. Our garb has also signaled and signified who we are and how we “made it over.”

So why is it that we ask the controversial question “how should we dress for worship?”

Many have harbored strong feelings about the topic of dress and worship for some time. And whenever people feel strongly about a topic that the Bible does not give explicit instructions on we find ourselves in an imbalanced state of division. But if we look back at history, P.E. Klassen documents in an article for Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation that Black women in the 19th century used dress to communicate. Both the political and religious messages in their attire suggest that women understood the power of dress and how it legitimized them in a society that was originally hostile towards them. In other words, dress in African American communities has traditionally not been a separate entity. Our dress was functional, political, and religious, all while displaying our cultural expression through style.

With dress originally playing such a pivotal role in African American political and religious culture, when did the two separate? How is it that now, African American dress is a choice between religious respectability or cultural identity?

Sacrificing Culture for Salvation

The truth is, I believe some African Americans have sacrificed their culture for salvation. Many African American Christians have traded in their cultural identity for respectability in Western European Christian churches. It’s as though we’ve omitted the origins of dress as a feature of culture, and an expression of being. But there is no Scriptural support for such a sacrifice. In fact, Scripture reveals that dress and all its particulars has always been important to God. In fact, God even believed certain religious leaders, those being the priests, should wear particular garb. Exodus 28:2 says, “Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him divinity and honor.” Some translations say “for glory and for beauty,” meaning the robes of the priests were to be both appealing to the eye and sufficient to represent the glory of God.

In other words, the garments in Exodus represented the culture of post-Egyptian bondage as now they are a people that has been set a part to worship Yahweh and Him alone. But they are also a representation of God’s standard of “divinity and honor.” These robes were to help them understand the significance of humanity coming into the presence of God in the sanctuary.

Covered

But God also spoke to the Israelites about His plan to save them and atone for their sin using the dress of the day as a metaphor. In Ezekiel 16:10-14, God describes how He found humanity, metaphorically a woman in the text, naked and covered in blood. He washes her and covers her:

“I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” says the Lord God.

Here, God is speaking to the prophet Ezekiel and He’s likening His redemption of humanity to clothing a woman in fine linen and jewels. Speaking of the fabrics and ornaments of that time period, God is not put off by cultural dress. No, here God uses the cultural dress of the time to describe His plan of justification and sanctification. The beauty of such spiritual covering, God believed, would be best understood by the people if likened to the finest fabrics and jewelry of that time.

Dress is an Act of Worship

By likening salvation to the cultural dress of the time, we see that African Americans have the authority to express their relationship with God through dress. God desires that we be beautifully garbed. But what’s of greatest significance is that our garb is not a prerequisite for coming into His presence. In fact, the truth is, all we do and anything we wear is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). This is why God promises to clothe us and cover us like the Father did the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.

Yes, God designed a robe specific for the priests because of their role as intercessors on behalf of the people. But to the people at large God did not designate any particular kind of clothing that was specifically for worship. This gives us the freedom to celebrate our authentic walk in Christ enjoying how our clothing is a symbol of God’s infinite grace. God is the Master Stylist. He took our fig leaves and clothed us in lamb’s wool, and because of the sacrifice of Christ takes our sin and clothes us in His righteousness. And God has even promised that when it’s all over He’s going to hand us a crown and a robe and we will put on the garments of Heaven and tell the story of how we made it over. So until that day, let us feel free to worship Him with the fashion of our various cultures remembering they are beautiful symbols of our justification and sanctification.