My Struggle With Mental Health

These Are My Confessions

I am a pastor, husband, father, and a writer. I love Jesus and I am excited about what He is doing through me and in me. Yet, there are two issues that I have dealt with my whole life: ADD and anxiety. I became aware of them pretty early on in life. The anxiety manifested itself in two ways, especially:
  1. Public speaking
  2. Dark, lonely places
I’ve always said God has a sense of humor because he called me to be a pastor: a job that requires a lot of public speaking and also a lot of traveling and staying in dark places alone. And truthfully I must confess, traveling was very difficult for me for the longest time. The anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t fall asleep. And I will never forget how my anxiety took over when I preached my first sermon. I was so overwhelmed that even though I had 10 pages of written material I only spoke for 5 minutes. My girlfriend at the time was so unimpressed with my sermon she broke up with me soon after.

You Are Not Alone

The reason I’m sharing my experience is because I find so many leaders and members alike struggle with mental health issues. And to make matters worse they’re getting terrible counsel. Unfortunately, many of us are dealing with everything from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) by ourselves. Anyone facing these issues alone knows that isolation only exasperates the problem.

Get Counseling

You know what helped me? Counseling helped. At some point we have to be honest and admit that sometimes you can’t just pray depression away, or anxiety, or _______________ (fill your mental health challenge here). “Pray harder” may not be the best solution.
In fact, when you pray and the problem continues it can create a false sense of guilt and shame. Many begin to believe that either God doesn’t want to heal them, or that they don’t deserve to be healed. And neither of these things are true. The fact of the matter is, mental health issues are not exclusively spiritual issues. They are illnesses that require medical attention in the same way a broken arm or a heart attack requires a physician. So if you’re struggling with mental health go see a counselor.

Prayer Really Works

But in addition to the counseling, prayer really did help a lot. There is a calming effect to prayer. This calming effect is really why I believe talking to God is such a blessing. I can truly say that through prayer i’ve experienced the promise of Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Work With the Weight

I also found that doing my job regardless of how I felt helped. In spite of the anxiety, I continue to speak and travel. I’ve taken God’s instruction to Joshua to “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). It’s verses like these that teach me to trust in God’s calling more than in my issues.

Talk Through It

And finally, I learned that talking to people also helped. Because there is a stigma attached to mental health issues it is oftentimes hard to open up. But when we share our stories with others it allows people to feel comfortable saying “that is my story too!” Vulnerability breeds community.
I want to invite you to seek help. The Father says, you are worthy. Jesus says, you are loved. And the Spirit say, you are special.

 




But, Unto You I have Given…

The Bible story of nutrition and diet

Dietitians and nutritionists, doctors and health educators, health coaches and even the self-made experts share a lot of information to help you decide what’s best to eat. So many opinions easily cause confusion, to say the least.

At Message, we believe in a Biblical worldview. Whether it’s about your faith, money, relationships, health, or diet, there is always an answer in the word of God. And, that’s how I sift through all of the “evolving information” that continues to come from the world of nutrition experts. My choices follow this analysis: how does what they are saying about what I eat compare to the Word of God?

In Genesis 1:29, the Creator explained to Adam and Eve what to eat. “And, God said, Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” That verse describes what we now know as fruits, nuts or seeds and grains.

Cranberry Bread

  • 3¼ cups unbleached flour or 2 cups unbleached flour and 1¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup soy margarine, room temperature
  • 1¼ cups natural cane sugar
  • 2 teaspoons alcohol free vanilla flavoring
  • 1 8-ounce carton soy cream cheese
  • ¾ cup soy or nut milk
  • 1 16-ounce can whole cranberry sauce or 2 cups homemade cranberry sauce
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon salt (optional)

Spray and flour bread baking pan—regular size or several small ones which are excellent for gift giving.

In a bowl combine flour, and baking powder. In another large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Mix in vanilla extract and cream cheese. Add milk, cranberry sauce and lemon juice. Beating on low speed of mixer, beat in flour mixture just until blended. Stir in nuts. Pour batter into pan(s). Bake at 350o for 45-50 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool, cut, serve. b Yield: 1 large loaf or 3-4 small loaves.

Red Pepper Hummus

  • 2 cups cooked or canned garbanzos, with liquid
  • cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small red pepper (roast if desired)
  • ¼ cup tahini (sesame seed butter)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin or to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic

McKay’s NO MSG Chicken Style Seasoning to taste, optional

Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Add the roasted red bell pepper by stirring in diced pieces or by blending in the whole red pepper. Delicious on pita bread with lettuce, tomato, bean sprouts. b Yield: 3 cups

After Adam and Eve sinned, the Creator revisited their diet saying in Genesis 3:17, 18 “And unto Adam he said, Because thou has hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and has eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.”

Barley Vegetable Soup

Olive Oil

  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 small bell pepper
  • 2-3 carrots, sliced or diced
  • 2 cups fresh, coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1  cup each – barley, corn, lima beans, green beans
  • Water
  • McKay’s Chicken Style Seasoning, Basil, Thyme, Parsley to taste
  • 1 Bay Leaf

Pour a small amount of oil into a large soup pot. Add onion, celery, garlic, bell pepper and carrots. Sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add other ingredients stirring well. Add 4 cups of water. Season to taste with Chicken style seasoning and herbs. Let simmer a few minutes. Add 2-4 cups more water, bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer about 30 minutes until ingredients are tender. Add more water if necessary. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve. b Yield: 6 servings


♥ Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, diced into bite-sized cubes
  • 2 tablespoons margarine or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon natural sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger, oregano, thyme, cinnamon or Jamaican allspice or coriander
  • Dash of salt

Place diced sweet potatoes into an oven proof dish. Mix seasonings into melted margarine or coconut oil. Stir into sweet potatoes, coating them well. Roast in 400o oven until desired tenderness. Serve. b Serves: 4-6

For 2000 years, humanity ate a plant-based, or “vegan” diet. And, scripture lists the longest person to live as 969 years. When God began to grieve that He had made man on the earth, He said He was going to destroy it through a flood and give all who wanted to live through it a chance to join Noah and his family on the ark. No one took his offer.

When the flood was over and all the vegetation was gone, God told Noah and his family, the only ones who went on the ark, that “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you, even as I have given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat” (Genesis 9:3,4).

It was then that dramatic loss in life span occurred. About 300 years were lost between Noah and his sons. And, today the average life span in America is close to 70 or 80 years.

Years later, as Abraham’s descendants, the Children of Israel exited Egypt (the Exodus), the Creator fed them daily with manna from heaven. The Bible says that the manna was like coriander/cilantro. He told them in Exodus 15:26 that if they did what He said, He wouldn’t put any of the disease on them that he put on the Egyptians. At their demand for “meat” He sent them quail—and, they ate it until it came out of their noses and many died.

God also repeated the details of His diet for them. In Leviticus 11, He clearly lists the animals that they could eat – the animals that were “clean” or vegetarian. He also clearly listed the animals they should not eat, animals that were “unclean” or the carnivorous scavengers. In addition, He states that “It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations through all your dwellings that ye eat neither fat nor blood” (Leviticus 3:18). That would include milk and cheese and dairy products, which in their unprocessed state are full of animal fat.

Vegan Parmesan Cheese

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Using a food processor or spice/coffee grinder, blend all ingredients together into a powder.

Store in the fridge for up to three weeks. Modified from karissasvegankitchen.com


♥ Almond Milk

  • 1 cup raw almonds, rinsed
  • 4 cups water
  • Sweetener of choice – honey, agave, stevia
  • Salt, optional

Place almonds and one cup of water in blender and blend until smooth. Add remaining water and blend again until smooth. Add sweetener and optional salt to taste. Strain to remove any remaining nut solids. Serve as is. Serve with fruit or carob added. Use in any recipe that calls for milk. Variation: Use cashews in place of almonds. Make with flax seed using ½ cup flax seed and 4-6 cups water. b Yield: 1 quart

All through the Bible, God mentions honey. The Promised Land was flowing with it. And, in Proverbs (24, 25) He tells us to eat it, but not so much that it makes you vomit.

And, we see through the prophets Isaiah (11, 62, 65) and John the Revelator (22) that when He comes again to rescue us from this world of sin, the animals won’t die anymore to be served up on our plates. As a matter of fact, the lion and the lamb will play together. And, the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Avocado Salad Dressing

  • 1 medium, ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • Juice of one lemon and/or lime (depending on your preference, I use both)
  • ⅓ 1 cup water or more to desired consistency
  • Honey and salt to taste, optional

In a blender, place the peeled and sliced avocado. Add lemon and lime juices and water to make it thick but pourable. Add optional honey and salt to taste. Serve immediately. (Color darkens, longer it sits). b Yield: 16 servings.

Variation: Add ½ small cucumber, 1 handful fresh basil, 1 small container plain, non-dairy yogurt, 2-3 cloves garlic, water to desired consistency.

♥  Momma’s Rice

  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup your favorite veggie beef chunks, diced
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 2 cups Instant Brown Rice
  • 3¼ cups water
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • Garlic powder, Mckay’s Chicken Style Seasoning to taste

Pour a small amount of olive oil in a large pot. Saute’/stir fry veggie beef chunks and onion for about 3 minutes. Add carrots, peas and rice. Stir until mixed well. Add cilantro, some garlic powder and McKay’s Chicken Style Seasoning. Add water and bring to boil. Taste and add more seasonings if desired. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer until rice is done. Serve. b Yield: 6-8 servings

Echinacea/Golden Seal Tea

Often used in the winter months to fight colds/flu. Echinacea improves immune system, by increasing the white blood cell count. Golden seal helps upper respiratory tract infections, fights coughs and colds, and benefits stomach pain, ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, and intestinal gas. The powder can be made into a salve and used on rashes.

Boil 4 cups of water. Add 2 echinacea teabags and 2 goldenseal teabags. Remove from heat source and let steep for about 5 minutes. Add lemon and honey to taste. Enjoy!
b Yield: 4 cups.

I’m so happy that the Creator makes it so easy to figure out how to eat. He made us! He knows what’s best for us! He can give you power to overcome appetite

DONNA GREEN GOODMAN, M.P.H., writes from Huntsville, Alabama where she and her husband operate Lifestyle Therapeutix, A Lifestyle For Better Health Center.  www.lifestyletherapeutix.com She is a health educator who has been a college professor, National Ambassador for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure “Circle of Promise” Campaign, and is  author of Somethin’ to Shout About!, (Orion Enterprises, 1999), Cookin’ Up Good Health, (Still Shoutin’, 2008) and executive producer of her own cooking show “Cookin’ Up Good Health!” which aired on HOPETV.  Tune in to Donna’s YouTube Cooking Channel and visit her  at www.stillshoutin.com




Walk, Don’t Run. An Hour A Day Can Turn Off Your Fat Genes

In November 2011 my daughter Kiana and I ran the Honolulu Hawaii Marathon. I searched  for a “Honolulu Hawaii Marathon”  closer to home, but could not find any.  Alas, we had to force ourselves and fly to Hawaii. There we ran 26.2 miles of beautiful Oahu, a full marathon.

We could only find the “Honolulu Marathon” in Honolulu. I use the term “running” very liberally.

Now I use the word ‘ran’ very liberally. I did a lot of walking. A lot. (The next time you see me, ask me how long I took to complete the marathon). The point is, we finished and have our medals and tee-shirts to prove it. We trained for eight months before the trip, running and sometimes walking up and down our street.

Positive Health Benefits

Recently I found out that walking as an exercise, as opposed to running, has positive health benefits. Let us review a few here.

According to a study of 334,000 people by researchers at the University of Cambridge, a regular brisk walk, just 20 minutes a day, cuts your risk of premature death by almost a third. Two other studies, presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference in Chicago, suggest that walking can be a “potent weapon” in the battle against cancer.

The first study showed that over an eight-year period, women who were diagnosed with breast cancer and who walked for seven or more hours a week, were roughly half as likely to die from the disease than those who did not. The second study showed similar findings, this time for people who had intestinal cancers.

Walking Creates a Body Overhaul

Remember this is walking as an exercise not running.

  • A Harvard study showed that a brisk walk of about an hour a day counteracts by half the effects of “weight-promoting genes.”
  • Just 15 minutes of walking can curb the cravings for chocolate and a variety of sugary snacks.
  • Walking boosts the immune system and eases joint pain. Yes, several studies have found that walking protects the joints and reduces arthritis-related pain by lubricating the joints and strengthening the muscles that support them.
  • All the studies seem to confirm the fact that a regular walking schedule will reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular events including heart attack, high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.

Side Effects and Drug Interaction Risks Eliminated

One researcher stated in regards to the benefit of walking “it’s like a miracle drug.” Now to be very clear, any new activity you plan to engage in like this should have the blessing of your health care provider. It is important to realize that if the benefits of walking is to be maximized, the “brisk walk” should be fast and long enough to produce a slight sweat, at least.

In conclusion, the Greek physician and “Father of Medicine, ” Hippocrates of Kos (460 BC – 370 BC), once said “Walking is man’s best medicine.” The founder of preventive cardiology and physician to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Dr. Paul D. White (of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome fame), confirms this when he wrote “a vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy, but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.”

So why don’t you join me and get motivated? Begin to walk for your health. Begin today.




Walk out of Darkness-Emerging from the Shadow of My Son’s Suicide

Raising Awareness, raising money, raising our courage. These are ways we fight the epidemic of suicide.

My intent was to be there at the very beginning and to get involved, since I knew that I was truly ready to face this event. Last year’s Out of the Darkness Walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) was a challenge for me. This challenge was a part of my healing – healing of the wound left by the loss of my one and only son to suicide six years, two months, and seven days ago.

It was important to keep busy doing whatever I could. I fully engaged  by helping to hang the banner by the pavilion, and assisting with setting up booths, snack tables. Everyone was diligently performing their assigned tasks. While we worked I kept hearing discussions about “the tree” that the staff was anxious to set up. They didn’t know if the tree would make it due to the rain. They didn’t know where they would set it up either. This tree was really piquing my interest.

Tree of Lives

Soon, walkers gathered. There were families, who had just lost loved ones, walking around with signs and photos showing the dates of their loss. Some wore shirts with sentiments such as: “Your Life Matters You Will Never Be Forgotten.”

Then I saw a bronze-looking object with pipes of different sizes being unloaded from a truck. This, as it turns out, was to become the tree.  Once the pipes, which were actually the limbs, were assembled to the base, there stood the tree, in spite of the wind and rain.

It became a reality, and the meaning was clearer to me.

We were then directed to the craft table where we could choose stock paper, glitter, markers and colored twine to affix pictures of our loved ones to the tree. Slowly, I chose stock paper in my favorite color (blue) and glued to it the picture of my son when he graduated from the University of Phoenix, at the top of his class with a master’s in International Marketing.

“Yes. I was very proud of him.” Marialyce who lost her son to suicide six years ago poses in front of the tree that keeps standing in spite of the storm and rain.

Say His Name

Yes, I was very proud of him.  My McCants LeVon Carter, born November 13, 1978 was a quiet  child who became more confident after high school. He loved and looked up to his older sister, and was so proud of his two nieces. He insisted that they pursue their education. When his nephew came along later, he was equally proud of him.

He was a lifelong learner. My son loved to read car magazines, and books by Ellen G. White, especially The Great Controversy. He graduated from Bowie State University in 2003, and immediately pursued his MBA.

His love was vibrant, and he surprised his sweetheart of seven years, Meredith, with a proposal on stage at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Maryland. His proposal took place when they both graduated on the same day, with thousands in attendance. He later married her on his birthday. He loved Meredith and their two daughters.

 

Walk into the Light

It was an emotional moment to see the golden tree which bore pictures of our loved ones, even though I wondered why I was even at this event.

Once the ceremonies began, speakers told of their lost loved ones; some also told of trying to end their own lives. We know that people of all ages, ethnic groups and economic strata commit suicide. In fact, the numbers are higher for suicide than for all the veterans who lost their lives in Vietnam. A recent Washington Post article stated that suicide is a national epidemic, and that it needs to be treated like one. Organizers reminded us that AFSP needs more funding to lower these growing, alarming statistics.

The Walk will occur again, and my plan is to participate, again. Last year I walked the five miles, and met some of the walkers. There was a woman who was walking for her son, who lost his close friend to suicide. She wished her son could have been part of the Walk, and hoped her participation would serve as a vehicle for discussion and encourage her son to open up about his feelings.

If I Can Help Somebody

Overall, there was not much conversation as we were all there to represent the loss and to make a statement about the need for funding from the medical arena and the government. Losing a child is truly a tough journey. My desire is to help others get through this painful journey, which may be avoided by assisting others before they feel the need to take this final step.

Fortunately, I have had occasions to offer assistance to parents and family members by encouraging them that they, too, can make it through this trial. God does not give us what we can handle; God helps us handle what we are given

Find out how you can participate in a walk near you. Here’s one near me:

 




Drama Files: Never Leave a Man Behind

It May Have Been Too Late to Say Goodbye, But Not Too Late to Address His Addiction.

Carson had been a substance abuser since entering the military. He returned four years later, upon an honorable discharge from the army.  He was one of 13 children and always a loving and devoted son to his parents.

Carson was reared in a very spiritual and loving family.  He was very supportive, caring, and helpful towards his parents all while struggling with his personal drug and alcohol addiction. One afternoon after a day helping his mother and enjoying the afternoon with his parents, he walked out and told his father “I’ll be back.”  

Passing of Time

Later that week Carson’s father, James, went into the hospital for a breathing treatment. His physician decided to extend his stay because the effects of a  longstanding smoking habit were now exacting its toll. James’ lungs had been deteriorating for at least 10 years.  After a week, James was no longer breathing on his own. His body was getting weaker and weaker and his lungs were no longer functioning properly. 

Carson’s mother and siblings visited James several times throughout the week, until the doctor called and told them nothing else could be done for him.

James and seven sons all served in the military.  “You never leave a wounded solider alone,” they believed, and the family gathered around James one last time as the life support was removed.  He passed away early the next morning. 

A week later when James was buried, Carson was absent.  He missed his father’s illness and passing. Carson’s ex- wife, a police officer, went looking for him for the family. When she found him and told him that his father had passed away, Carson was in total disbelief.  He remembered seeing a huge funeral possession going down the street and was so surprised by how long it was, not knowing that it was his own father’s funeral. 

Life, Well-Lived

Immediately, Carson went home to find his mother and a single obituary in the china cabinet.  Carson realized he had to live with this for the rest of his life. 

Ever since that day Carson has lived with his mother and finally found healing in drug recovery.  Carson has begun counseling for PSTD  ( Post Traumatic  Stress Disorder) and also grief counseling. 

All Suffer

Alcoholism and drug addiction have obvious and well-documented effects on chronic substance abusers. Prolonged abuse of drugs and alcohol deteriorate a person’s physical health, impair mental functioning, and damage the spirit. These adverse effects also impact the immediate family’s finances, physical health and psychological wellbeing. 

Family roles naturally shift to adjust to the behaviors associated with drug or alcohol use, and to continue maintaining order and balance. Including the addict, there have been six roles identified to understand how the family functions around the substance abuser. They are:

  • The Enabler-Carson’s parents enabled his behavior by allowing him to come and go from their home knowing he was an addict. 
  • The Mascot-The Mascot was his sister Ann. This child feels powerless in the dynamics which are going on in the family and tries to interrupt tension, anger, conflict, violence or other unpleasant situations within the family by acting as the “court jester.” The Mascot seeks to be the center of attention in the family, often entertaining the family and making everyone feel better through his or her comedy. She may also use humor to communicate and to confront the family dysfunction, rather than address it directly. 
  • The Hero-The Hero in this family was Carson’s mother. This family member devotes his/her time and attention to making the family look “normal” and without problems. The Hero can mask or make up for the dysfunctional home life. Over-responsible and self-sufficient they are often perfectionistic, over-achievers and look very good – on the outside.
  • The Scapegoat-The Scapegoat was Darry,l the troubled child. The Scapegoat is the “problem child” or the “trouble maker.” This family member always seems defiant, hostile and angry.  The Scapegoat is the truth teller of the family and will often verbalize or act out the “problem” which the family is attempting to cover up or deny. This individual’s behavior warrants negative attention and is a great distraction for everyone from the real issues at hand.  The Scapegoat usually has trouble.
  • The Lost Child-The lost child was Carson’s brother Earl. This child avoids interactions with other family members and basically disappears. They become loners, or are sometimes very shy.  
  • The Addict-The Addict was Carson who spent many years fighting this demon inside of him. He felt trapped and worthless in his life. He wanted to stop the drug addiction but didn’t have the desire or motivation to do so. 

No matter how old a parent’s child is, discovering that a child has an addiction can be an unpleasant, rude awakening. It may cause mothers and fathers to question their parental abilities or the decisions they made. Parents of addicts, much like children of addicts, often blame themselves for the development of the substance use disorder.

God is a forgiving God. We must be willing to forgive ourselves and grow from our mistakes.  God can turn even the tragic addiction, and the grief-filled experience of losing his father into complete recovery and restoration. 

 

 

 




Why Memorial Day is Bigger Than the Barbecue

Drill down on the grill out, to find the true meaning of a righteous Memorial Day.

Grills are centers of gravity that pull family and friends together. And as Oakland showed us recently, diffusers of charcoal can be transformed into weapons of resistance.[i] Barbecue and the cook-out has been a part of celebrating freedom since the original Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day.

In 1966, Capitol Hill and the Whitehouse officially recognized Waterloo, New York, as the birthplace of Memorial Day. That’s because on May 5, 1866, the town shut down business in order to honor fallen Civil War soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers and wreaths. It was a solemn day of prayer and remembrance. Because of the emphasis on decorating the soldiers’ graves, these yearly commemorations were known as Decoration Day. Eventually the day became known as Memorial Day.

Martyrs of the Race Course

Formerly enslaved men unearthed a mass grave of 250 Union soldiers to give them each a memorial. On May 1, 1865, the newly whitewashed graves honored the Martyrs of the Race Course. Charleston, South Carolina

However, a year before Waterloo had their city-wide observance, there was a massive gathering in Charleston, SC, for essentially the same purpose. The site of the commemoration was a former horse race track that had been used as an outdoor prison camp by the Confederates. Prior to being driven out by the U.S. Army, the champions of slavery buried over 250 dead union troops in a mass grave on the property. After the area had been pried from the Southern traitors, formerly enslaved men unearthed the ingloriously dumped bodies and gave them honorable, patriotic burials. They built a fence around the new graveyard and whitewashed it. Then, on the archway of the entrance, they inscribed, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

On May 1, 1865, approximately 10,000 recently freed African Americans gathered to honor union troops at what is now known as Hampton Park.[ii] They prayed, read from the Bible, sang songs like “John Brown’s Body” and “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” made speeches, decorated the graves with flowers, infantrymen did marching drills, and yes – they had a cook-out.[iii]

Most people don’t know this part of Memorial Day’s history because the place where Memorial Day began by honoring dead Union troops is named after Wade Hampton. The Martyrs of the Race Course were displaced in favor of a plantation-owning, U.S. general. Hampton defected to wage war against the U.S. to protect his “state’s rights” to own other human beings.

Alternate Memorials – Just a pile of rocks aren’t they?

In Joshua chapter 4, Moses’ successor had the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel pick up large stones from the bottom of the Jordan River. Gathering them was made possible by God’s providence in parting the waters of the Jordan so the Israelites could cross on dry land. This miracle was a memorial in itself. It reminded a whole new generation of what God had done 40 years ago by parting the Red Sea when Moses led the multitude out of Egypt.

How I Got Over: Israel commemorated God’s deliverance through the Red Sea with a pile of stones, a conversation starter.

Once everyone crossed the Jordan and the men gathered their 12 stones, they stacked them up to form a monument. It was a stone memorial to remember the day that God parted the waters. The stones gathered from the bottom were physical evidence of this feat. It wasn’t expensive or ornate, but it accomplished a purpose.

When children saw their parents visiting and rejoicing at the sight of a simple pile of rocks, it prompted questions. What do these stones mean to you? Then parents provided their own documentaries to the next generation. Do you have some simple crafts that you can pass down through the generations to serve as conversation starters?

Alternate Memorials – Are you trying to poison me or what?

While Moses was still alive, God had given the people some other memorials. The yearly Passover meal was a memorial of how God’s angel killed the first born of the Egyptians in order to force pharaoh to finally release the Hebrews. Instead of a cook-out, this feast was a cook-in. Even so, people stood up while they ate. This was a reminder that when God gives the signal you have to be ready to move.

The seasoning was a little strange, though. The meat was purposely marinated in bitter herbs. Why? Exactly. When people (especially the youth) partook of the meal, it prompted the question, “Why is this meat so bitter?” That provided a teaching moment that would be permanently etched into their taste buds. They would have a gustatory (taste perception) trigger to remind them of how bitter the chastening rod had been. The repulsive prompt was meant to renew their vow of “Never Again.”

A similar principle is at work with God’s list of clean and unclean meats in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Don’t worry. No bitter herbs this time. God normally wants us to spice up our lives and enjoy tasty meals, except for times like Passover or fasting for one purpose or another. However, sometimes we act as though we’re being deprived when things are withheld for our own benefit. Although the food is fine, we get bitter and ask why we can’t eat certain things. There’s two short answers for this: 1) Trust Him in this area, since He’s proven Himself in other ways, and 2) Look at the longevity and quality of life of those who follow His plan.

Alternate Memorials – What Can I do?

God also commanded Moses to teach the people to rest every seventh day. The weekly Sabbath rest wasn’t something brand new. God established it in Genesis 2, to cap off creation week. However, just as many African American family trees have been separated from their roots, the Hebrews had been estranged from the concept of rest. In Exodus 20:8-11, the reason for rest is to remember our value comes from being created in the image of God. As we

We can memorialize the Creator and His creation every week on the Sabbath. We can also remember to relieve the suffering of His people.

contemplate His forethought in designing all the interdependent ecosystems of the world, it should develop mindfulness for how we treat each other and our environment.

In Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the same command is given for a different reason. This time the reference point for the Sabbath is emancipation from slavery. The application is to extend the liberation that God has blessed you with by doing one simple thing: Give the people in your sphere of influence the day off.

The challenge most children have is when their parents tell them all the stuff they can’t do on the Sabbath, they want to know what they can do. You can help the sick, the injured, the hungry, the lonely, to experience rest by relieving their suffering. Your compassion might be all someone needs to experience to believe there is a God who loves them. Once you get your focus off of your own concerns, you’ll be surprised at how fast the sun goes down and signals the end of another Sabbath.

Counterfeit Memorials

The Confederates didn’t like the fact that Memorial Day seemed to be geared toward Union soldiers who died in the Civil War and neglected their genteel warriors. Therefore, many Southern states renewed their rebellion by establishing their own Confederate Memorial Days and continue to do so in one form or another.

There are also some counterfeits we have substituted for the Biblical memorials mentioned above. Instead of simple decorations that draw attention to how God has blessed us collectively and wants to do even more to elevate humanity as a whole, we chase after trinkets to display our individual status. How can we witness about a selfless God while exhibiting self-indulgence?

Instead of clean foods recommended by our Lord of liberation, we indulge in some of the most disgusting parts of the most disgusting animals. Sometimes we even say we do this to honor Him. How do you honor the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world by eating the guts of animals that gulp down the refuse of the world?

Instead of accepting the weekly reservation set by God to commune with Him, we change the date and time. How do we get the nerve to tell Him to rendezvous with us after standing Him up the day before?

May we enjoy our food, family, and friends, while we remember that there are bigger things than barbecue on holidays like Memorial Day.

 

[i] https://www.bustle.com/p/photos-of-oaklands-protest-cookout-are-inspiring-the-story-even-more-so-9080720

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vgp1jgZnh8

[ii] https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/30/opinion/30blight.html




Our Youth and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Serious Non-combat PTSD More Common Than We Think

There are some things that you never forget, like the sound of a car screeching down the street and hitting one of your neighbors. You don’t forget the bombastic sound of a gunshot, and the sight of the blood and human damage that the bullet has done.

The sight and smell of the burned flesh from the bullet mixed with the smoke from the gun will stay in your memory. You will remember where you were and what you were doing when that one incident changed your life. And, it only takes a little thing like a scene on TV to trigger the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD that you contracted when the event initially took place.

In an effort to contribute to mental health month, I would like to look at the prevalence and long lasting effects of PTSD. The goal is to continue to expose some of the more common mental health issues, how we can detect the need for healthcare in ourselves and our youth, offer treatment options and to decrease the stigma making it easier to seek help. We have to talk about it to relieve the pressure of dealing with it.

Witness to Violence

At the age of 4, I witnessed the murder of my mother’s boyfriend and his young son. Three men busted into our quiet apartment, proceeded to shoot my mother in the back as she tried to protect him and left the bloody crime scene and dead body in the house with us.

I live a semi-productive, crime-free life now, however, in my early adulthood, I realized that I was incredibly angry, aggressive, and hyper-vigilant. It would lead me to physical altercations, ferocious arguments, fits of tears and unhealthy habits. I didn’t like how most of this ended. I started recognizing my triggers and learning to navigate through life in a way that kept things from getting to the extreme stages. Feelings of anxiety are also a prominent symptom of PTSD. When I felt these attacks coming on, I developed breathing techniques and simply removed myself from the area.

It was a process of acknowledging that something was wrong and resolving to not let it control my life. Although that may sound simple, it really is not. The other young child that was with me when the murder happened, was not as lucky. He has been in prison since 2002.

Personal Violence Survivor

At the age of 13 and again in college, I was sexually assaulted while I slept. I woke up to things going on without my consent and against my will. In both instances, I escaped the situation as soon as I realized what was going on. For years, over a decade, the residue of the incident prevented me from sleeping well.

Fear and an edge of paranoia prevented me from drifting off to sleep, even when I was tired and fatigued. Only complete exhaustion allowed me to fall off to sleep. Bad dreams and internal, unsettled emotions would quickly awaken me. This is classic PTSD.

Reliving the trauma when exposed to anything that triggers the memory of the incident is common in this disorder. Triggers can be recognized by urges to avoid situations, scenes and even certain people that remind you of the incident. I always sought to avoid sleep. Avoiding sleep caused mood swings, though. It also caused lack of performance in school and work. I also avoided social situations where I might run into these predators (the causes of my disorder).

Ripple Effects of Police Violence

Recently, Ste’Vante Clark, the brother of an unarmed man killed by police in Sacramento, California faced a barrage of criticism for his behavior after his brother died. During television interviews and even at the funeral for his brother Stephon, Ste’Vante was breaking down. He had lost two brothers, and police then arrested him for threatening to kill or seriously injure someone.  Many have come out in his defense stating that he is suffering from PTSD.

This very well may be true. The characteristics include irritable or aggressive behavior, reckless or self-destructive behavior, and hyper-vigilance. As tragic as losing his brothers is, an even worse scenario would be his family losing him to the criminal justice system because treatment was not sought and received.

How People Get PTSD, and Its Impact

Many people associate PTSD with being in the military or involved in a traumatic incident as a police officer. As many are discovering, Non-Combat PTSD can be based on experiences that occur in the home or neighborhood. The causes are medically stated as:

• directly experiencing the traumatic event

• being a witness to a traumatic event

• learning that the traumatic events occurred to a close family member or close friend; cases of actual or threatened death must have been violent or accidental

• experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic events

Kids that experience domestic violence, gun violence and child abuse become teenagers and young adults with PTSD symptoms. Only about one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of whites. Not getting treatment and learning to manage PTSD means it can develop into depression, bipolar disorder or another personality disorder. Many times, this can lead to some type of conflict with the criminal justice system which then starts a whole new cycle of issues.

PTSD is one of the more common psychiatric disorders in youth detention facilities, with the probability of PTSD being at least 1 in 10 detained youth (Abram et al., 2007).

Trauma, both experienced and witnessed, often continues into adulthood. All types of childhood trauma (physical, sexual and neglect) elevate the risk of lifetime re-victimization. Repeated trauma over the life cycle also has been found among incarcerated men. “Being traumatized as a child creates a story that the world is not safe in any capacity and that story stays with most well into adulthood, unless addressed.”

Of the 93,000 children currently incarcerated, between 75 and 93 percent have experienced at least one traumatic experience.

The effects of the trauma also include lifelong psychiatric conditions, including personality and conduct disorders, ADHD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorders and PTSD. This results in a higher likelihood also more likely to have learning disabilities and lower IQ levels along with, in many instances, school dropout and expulsion rates nearly three times higher than their peers who had not experienced trauma, which makes them also more susceptible to incarceration.  (C. Thomas-Whitfield, “Child Trauma Linked to Prison Time” 2010

Stop the Violence

“All this to say that the way we are treated as little people has the potential to have a great effect on the type of people we become,” said Syreeta Butler, a Licensed Family Therapist practicing in Southern California. “When trauma is a part of your lived experience as a child it has a huge hand in the way we experience and navigate the world.”

We must take our children’s mental health care as seriously as we take their physical health care. We start by making our homes as safe and functional as possible, keeping elements that could lead to traumatic circumstances away from our homes. The drugs and violence can have no sanctuary in our homes. Moreover, we need to do a better job with addressing trauma when it occurs, noted Butler. Children who experience childhood trauma should be able to tell their story without the fear of tearing their family apart.

Break A Generational Dynamic

To ignore abuse is to welcome its long-term effects, not just on individuals, but on families and communities. This builds into generational dysfunction that leaves it even harder to break the cycle. If we acknowledge our contribution to this preventable condition that effects almost 40% of our youth/young adults and work to reverse it, the results will be positive and dynamic for our communities as a whole for generations to come.

“Being traumatized as a child creates a story that the world is not safe in any capacity and that story stays with most well into adulthood, unless addressed,” says Butler. “Trauma is an illness that affects everyone and the stigma has to be lifted if true healing has the chance of taking place.”




Candida Concerns for Men and Women

Surprisingly common symptoms may mean you have a chronic infection.

Candida is a yeast whose primary work is to aid in the absorption of nutrients and to aid in digestion.  It  normally lives in the intestines, mouth and vagina, but an overgrowth of it can dangerous.  It can lead to a chronic infection known as candidiasis.  Do not be fooled into thinking that it is just a women’s disease because men also have mouths and intestines.

The problem with this Candida fungus is that when it overgrows, it becomes a systemic problem that leads to a host of symptoms such as:

  • fatigue
  • sugar cravings
  • bloating and gas
  • foggy thinking
  • random itching of the skin
  • scratchy throat
  • rectal or vaginal itching
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • multiple allergies
  • chronic sinus infections or mucous production
  • skin rashes
  • poor sleep
  • low thyroid function
  • sometimes depression and anxiety

Often, a white coating on the tongue can be appreciated which is accompanied by an unpleasant odor.  I guess it is a nice way to say that the breath stinks.  Don’t go around sniffing other people’s breath though.  You may have similar problems yourself.

Affected Population and Triggers

It is estimated that about 70% of the population is affected by candida and that number continues to climb. The use of antibiotics in meats,  steroids for your  cold or asthma and excess sugar are all contributors to this condition. Being on birth control pills for two years or more is also a major contributor along with pregnancy, parasitic infections, coffee, alcohol, GMO foods, heavy metal toxicity from tattoos or tooth fillings and chronic stress.

It can be diagnosed with laboratory tests such as stool samples, blood tests, urine tests and the at home saliva test.  However, symptoms are quite prominent and are enough to begin treatment.

Treat Right and Eat Right

Traditional treatment includes anti-fungal medications.  Dietary treatments are  available and are becoming more and more prevalent.  It is important to  eliminate foods that contribute to the condition and adding foods that fight it.  Food is friend, not foe. According to Hippocrates, in 400 BC, food should be our medicine and medicine our food.  Other additions include probiotics and prebiotic and supplements that repair the gut.

When this underlying and smoldering infection is eradicated, positive results ensue and include easier weight loss, mental clarity’s improved thyroid function, stronger immune system, energy increase, less pain, better sleep, improved digestion and better skin.

Here’s a list of the top 10 foods to avoid:

  1. Gluten
  2. Dairy
  3. Sugar
  4. Coffee/Black tea/White tea
  5. Dried fruit with a high glycemic index
  6. GMOs
  7. Meats especially non-organic
  8. Peanuts and pistachios (mold forming)
  9. Alcohol
  10. Ketchup/salad dressings/barbecue sauce (high sugar content with additives). Make your own instead.

Here’s a list of the top 10 foods to add:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Blueberries
  3. Blackberries
  4. Green apples
  5. Lemon
  6. Lime
  7. Raspberries
  8. Green leafy vegetables
  9. Non-starchy vegetables, such as beets, sweet potatoes, yucca, green banana, plantain
  10. Walnuts

 

*Please refer to the “Dirty Dozen and Clean 15”

*Look for non-GMO project foods.

 

 




Take Out Inflammation With the Clean 15

Inflammation is a normal function of the body. The purpose of the inflammatory response is to protect the body from harmful stimuli such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, toxic particles, damaged cells or irritants. The mediators of inflammation include the immune cells, certain inflammatory mediators and blood vessels.

The process of inflammation is usually under tight control, but when it becomes chronic it can lead to various diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, arthritis, lupus, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.

Acute vs Chronic Inflammation

Acute inflammation is the process that we have all seen before such as a cut on the arm or jamming a toe. The cardinal signs of inflammation include heat, redness, swelling and pain. Any injury will mount this response under normal circumstances. It is the initial response that involves a group of early or acute cells whose role it is to eliminate the cause of the cell injury and rid the body of damaged tissue and promote repair. Once repaired, a scar forms and is later remodeled to flatten out the scar and look more like the surrounding tissue. Then the system rests.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, involves a different set of cells and is characterized by the continuous and simultaneous breakdown and healing of the tissue. Because the process is continuous, there is constant destruction of tissue that can cause issues in various parts of the body so that if it occurs in the brain, it may lead to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. In the pancreas, it may lead to pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer, for instance.

If this chronic inflammation affects adipose cells it can lead to obesity. Interestingly, it has been discovered that nearly every disease has been discovered to be caused by this chronic inflammatory process.

The Culprits Behind Inflammation

There may be a genetic component that loads the gun, but our lifestyle choices pull the trigger. The question is, what is the most effective in-home way of interrupting the process of chronic inflammation? The answer is… An Anti-inflammatory Diet.

There are certain culprits that are known to be pro-inflammatory agents. It is the elimination of pro-inflammatory mediators and the incorporation of anti-inflammatory agents that seem to balance the system to decrease the risk of disease and obesity.

An anti-inflammatory diet leads to better healing, recovery of stress, better sleep, weight control and yes, reversal of many diseases including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, lupus, and did I mention the control of pain? Who knew?

Diet Against Inflammation

The anti inflammatory diet includes fruits and vegetables that are full of strong antioxidants that fight disease and cool down the “internal burning” in this chronic inflammatory scenario. You see, the inflammatory process releases something called free radicals that damage the “brain” of the cell or the DNA of the cell that leads to disease.

Foods high in antioxidants scavenge those free radicals to prevent damage to the “brain” of the cells thereby decreasing the risk of subsequent health challenges. The foods that are high in antioxidants are, you guessed it-fruits and vegetables.

Animal products simply do not contain any antioxidants and are quite the opposite. All animal products are pro-inflammatory. That means they are the culprit of this hellacious subsequent down-spiraling of health.

Buy Organic. Use Vegetable Wash.

The problem with our wonderful fruits and vegetables is that they are heavily sprayed with pesticides that these precious gems can become a toxic overload and resultant detriment to our health. That means, eating fruits and vegetables almost, I said almost, defeats the purpose of eating them. Almost. However, there are still benefits to these foods though somewhat tainted they may be.

Obviously, it is best to buy organic when possible, but if it is not feasible, there are other options. It is for this reason that I use a good fruit and vegetable wash to try to rid them of as many of the pesticides and dirt as possible. Certainly, this is not without flaw, but it is quite helpful.

Is there is a way to determine if there is some produce that is ok to buy conventionally? Guess what? There is!

The Environmental Work Group is an amazing organization concerned about the environment and our health. Every year, since 2004, the EWG ranks pesticide contamination of the 47 most popular fruits and vegetables based on the results of more than 38,000 samples of produce tested by the US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration (USDA and FDA).

Interestingly, these foods are tested after washing, and sometimes after peeling the item to detect pesticide residues. Unfortunately, pesticide residues are still present on many of our antioxidant allies. EWG is friend, not foe because once the information is evaluated, the organization develops a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce and publishes it annually. Use this list to determine which foods are important to purchase organically and which are safe to use conventionally.

The “Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15” is available at EWG.org.  Here is the EWG 2018 list. This list includes the best and the worst.

Happy eating!




Appleseeds

I am sure you have heard the saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  Well, eating many apples in a day may keep the doctor away but may also bring the undertaker your way.

Before I explain this, I have a confession to make to you.  You see when I eat an apple I eat it all, the flesh or peel, seeds and stem, if it is attached.  Nothing goes to waste.

Filling and Functional

I have found apples to be very good for you and your health.  They are about 85% water by weight and a medium-sized apple contains about 4 grams of fiber. Apples are good for filling you up when you are on a diet.  They are packed with vitamin C, A and flavonoids.  They have a small amount of phosphorus, iron, vitamin K and calcium.  A Harvard study in 2015 showed that adults who eat an apple a day do appear to use fewer prescription medications.

Apple seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide. Eat the apple, but leave the seeds, even though it would take about 143 of them before they would be deadly.

Until recently I had no problem eating two or three apples a day.  Then in research, I found out that the seeds (also known as pits or kernels) of apples, apricots, cherries and plums, all have cyanide in them.  Yes, the poison cyanide.

The seeds of these delicious fruit contain a compound called amygdalin, a sugar and cyanide compound which breaks down in your digestive system to hydrogen cyanide, the poison.

Swallow Them Whole

Now there is good news and bad news.  The good news is that if you eat whole apple seeds, they pass through your digestive system relatively untouched.   No cyanide exposure. However if you do what I do and chew everything including the seeds, you will be exposed to the chemicals inside the seed, exposed to cyanide.

The problem is that cyanide is a deadly poison at a dose of about 1 milligram per kilogram of body weight.  On an average, an apple seed contains 0.49 mg of cyanide compound.  There are about 8 to 10 seeds in an apple.  If my math is correct there is an average of 3.9 to 4.9 mg of cyanide in each apple eaten.  Now the dose of toxins in an apple seed is still small enough that your body can easily detoxify it.  A person weighing 70 kilograms, or 154 pounds, would need to eat 143 seeds to reach the lethal dose or about 17 whole apples of 8 seeds each.

The Rich Payoff Outweighs the Risk

The conclusion I have come to is that apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavonoids and dietary fiber.  The antioxidants may aid in reducing the risk of developing cancer, gastritis, hypertension, asthma, diabetes and  heart disease.  So eat and enjoy those apple a day but leave the seeds alone.