Diagnosis: Racial Bias

“This is the week, here we go!” I tell myself with a mixture of dread and excitement.

For the last two years I have co-led a weekly class where several hours of the course are dedicated to racism and bias in medicine. I walked into the week with a bit of dread because I know, given the demographic and geographic characteristics of my medical students, there is going to be resistance. I had to prep myself going in that at least some of my students were going to reject a reality that plagues our healthcare system: racial bias.

I knew this because I live and work in the State of Idaho, in a medical program that exclusively draws it’s students from the State, many from rural communities. However, I was also excited because I had the opportunity to teach such an important topic. These are future physicians many who are not aware of these facts. What’s great, is that now we are requiring these topics to be a part of their medical education.

Medicine and Racial Prejudice

Race and medicine is a topic in which everyone – patient and provider alike, regardless of racial or ethnic identification – needs to be made aware. The racial biases that exist in our world bleed into our healthcare system preventing many minorities from receiving equitable care. Healthy People 2020 defines health equity as medical persons addressing the avoidable, historical, and current injustices that create health disparities or differences in health outcomes across groups. These differences show up for example in rates of death and disease between groups based on their race, religion, gender, or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.

I’m sure many of you are saying to yourself, “well this doesn’t happen today.” “People are not dying from various illnesses or infections because medical personnel are refusing to care for them based on their race, religion, gender, or what have you.” “That goes against their oath to care for sick persons!” The truth is that yes, this is still a problem in 2019. African-Americans and other racial/ethnic minorities have historically been and remain affected by healthcare disparities. And it is important that we call it out so we can address it!

A History of Malpractice

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that various sources, including the bias, stereotyping, and prejudice of health systems and health care providers, are contributing to racial and ethnic disparities. In fact, they suggest they may be related to worse health outcomes among the racial/ethnic groups affected (Betancourt & Ananeh-Firempong, 2004).

For example, the framing of blacks as primitive and inferior has resulted in denied treatment for real ailments. This was seen in the 1932 Tuskegee, AL syphilis experiment on black men. These men were denied treatment for syphilis just so white physicians could identify how syphilis destroys the body. Or, in the case of Henrietta Lacks whose body was used for various scientific experiments for breakthroughs in medicine without her permission, or the permission of her family.

Even as far back as 1758, race has been factored into how patients are viewed and treated. A scientist named Carl Linneaus put humans into categories based on their race assigning them physical and psychological characteristics. Europeans he described as “fair…gentle, acute, inventive…governed by laws,” whereas Africans were described as “black…crafty, indolent, negligent…governed by caprice” (Witzig, 1996). In other words, this scientist used, or manipulated science, to describe Africans or those of African descent as sneaky, lazy, careless, and as people who act on a whim. Can you see how these stereotypes impacted, and still impact, how people of color are treated in society at large? But also, in medicine.

Enduring Effects

Black patients still suffer the same treatment and abuse their ancestors suffered. This history of racism in the U.S. has lingering effects that are evident in the medical care African Americans and other people of color receive. When I coordinated health programs in Tuskegee, AL I saw firsthand how the history of that tragedy still impact blacks in that community. Many, almost 80 years later, still have a poor relationship with healthcare professionals and struggle to trust medical providers. The sad truth is that they still have reason to distrust.

In 2015, the CDC published a report with a special feature on racial and ethnic health disparities. In this report, black mothers had the highest percentage of pre-term births; Hispanic and black children and teenagers had the highest prevalence of obesity (21.9% and 19.5 % respectively, compared to 8.6% in whites); black men (42.4%) and black women (44.4%) had the highest prevalence of high blood pressure, and Hispanic adults were the largest groups without health insurance, followed by blacks (National Center for Health Statistics, 2016).

More recently, the Harvard Public Health magazine has published its winter 2019 report entitled, “America is Failing its Black Mothers.” In this report Amy Roeder writes that “African American women are three to four times more likely to die during or after delivery than are white women. According to the World Health Organization, their odds of surviving childbirth are comparable to to those of women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan, where significant proportions of the population live in poverty.” The study goes on to state this is directly linked to racism and racial bias in medical practices.

Assumptions and Responses

These realities produce several common racial biases in medical practice that include:

  • Lower rates of major surgical procedures for black Medicare patients
  • Lower rates of pain control medication given for broken bones for African American children seeking care in emergency rooms
  • Lower quality of basic hospital services for things like pneumonia and congestive heart failure in black patients (Tsai et al., 2016)
  • Fewer referrals for kidney transplants when a patient is on hemodialysis (Betancourt & Ananeh-Firempong, 2004)


But there are ways that people of color can navigate racial bias when seeking medical attention:

  1. Listen to your gut. If you know something isn’t right with your body or your provider pay attention, make a note, and make a complaint.
  2. Come prepared for your visit. Have questions related to the reason for your visit ready with notes about your symptoms along with any concerns you have.
  3. Bring someone with you. It is always good to have support and an extra pair of ears to listen to what your provider is saying. They may even ask questions that you haven’t thought of.
  4. Be firm and aggressive. If a provider dismisses your conerns, it’s ok to ask them to explain why you should not be concerned. Make them explain things to you until you fully understand. It’s ok to keep asking questions. Even if someone seems impatient or irritated, it’s your right.
  5. If possible, go to a doctor of your race/ethnicity. There is a chance that this person will be someone who will better understand your physical, mental, cultural, and social needs.
  6. Get recommendations on a healthcare provider from people of your race/ethnicity when possible, people you know have a similar experience as you.


“Even well intentioned physicians may be susceptible to stereotyping and may unknowingly contribute to racial/ethnic disparities in health care,” (Betancourt & Ananeh-Firempong, 2004). Fortunately, these topics are being taught and discussed more and more within healthcare education. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of work to be done and one cannot rely on every provider to accept and “buy-in” to the reality of racial bias as experienced by their patients.

The fact is, it should not be the responsibility of the people oppressed by the injustices of the healthcare system to fix it. However, until it is fixed we have to protect ourselves. We have to do what we can to get what is needed from a broken system, including self-advocacy, researching providers before visits, identifying and using various support systems (e.g. friends and family), as well as being open to getting second opinions. Ultimately, when it comes to your health always be aware, and always come prepared.

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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


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


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!




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


Vaping: The Health Crisis Affecting Our Teens

Our teens are in crisis. Over the last several weeks the number of teens reporting respiratory illnesses related to a new craze called “vaping” has sky-rocketed. In fact, as of last night, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments, and other clinical and public health partners are investigating the multistate outbreak of lung disease associated with e-cigarette products.” This is because there are over 380 reported cases of e-cigarette related lung illnesses across 36 states, along with the sixth confirmed death. While the most recent death was of a fifty year old woman, the first cases of illness and death were in Illinois effecting youth and young adults between the ages of 17-38.

When the fifth person died in California, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health issued a press release cautioning residents to the dangers of e-cigarettes. Dr. Steven Dubinett, Associate Vice Chancellor of UCLA and Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, counseled in the press release that, “The increasing cases of severe pulmonary illnesses associated with vaping both nationwide and locally in Los Angeles County are alarming and underscores how much we still don’t know about the extent of harm that vaping can cause. We join Public Health, the medical community, and other health professionals in warning residents about the use of these devices and the need for a concerted effort to address this outbreak.”

A Potential Ban on E-Cigarettes

This epidemic has spread so quickly and affected so many that the CDC explicitly recommends that “youth and young adults should not use e-cigarettes.” The threat is of great concern even to President Trump whose youngest son Barron is only 13. Wanting to shield him from vaping and its dangerous health effects, President Trump met with the government’s top health officials on Wednesday, September 11. According to The New York Times “The White House and the F.D.A have faced mounting pressure from lawmakers, public health officials, parents and educators, who have grown alarmed by the popularity of vaping among teenagers but have felt powerless to keep e-cigarettes away from students and out of schools.”

Such has caused many leaders to begin considering a total ban on the product. A total ban of e-cigarettes has already taken place at the state level with Michigan being the first to ban the product last week causing other states like New York, Massachusetts, and California to seriously consider following suit.

What is Vaping?

According to Dr. Linda Richter, “vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.” An aerosol is comprised of particles that are released into the air as a fine spray made up of both liquid and gas. Vaping is addictive because it deposits nicotine into the body. But negative effects of vaping are not restricted to the lungs. Nicotine also has the ability to chemically alter the development of the brain.

Herbert Gilbert created the e-cigarette in 1963 as a solution to tobacco. In fact, a recent study published by The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that while e-cigarettes have been marketed as a means to help ween individuals off of traditional smoking, “the evidence regarding its effectiveness is limited.” In other words, although e-cigarettes may be slightly healthier than regular cigarettes they bring with them their own set of new problems for users.

The Teen Craze

What makes vaping and the sale of e-cigarettes problematic for many is that it appears as though they are being marketed specifically to teens and young adults “with flavor options such as cotton candy, cupcake, and tutti-frutti.” In fact, Dr. Robert H. Schmerling, faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing a journal published by the Harvard Medical School, cites that “one survey found that about 80% of middle school students had seen ads for e-cigarettes.” Furthermore, a survey taken in 2018 by the CDC shows that more than 60% of students will try vaping by the time they reach the 12th grade with 35% of 12th graders having already tried vaping.

Side Effects

While Nicotine is a known ingredient that most are worried about. There are other more dangerous ingredients to e-cigarettes that most do not know about. According to Barbara Calkins in her article “Teen Vaping: An Epidemic with Unknown Consequences,” “the flavoring chemical found in many e-liquids has been linked to lung disease and damage, with the aerosols entering the user’s lungs and leaving chemical residue behind.” She continues to explain that, “Lungs are only equipped to receive oxygen so anything other than oxygen is a detriment to them.”

Such elements within e-cigarettes has caused teens like Maddie Nelson to develop what doctors are calling “acute eosinophilic pneumonia.” According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center “Idiopathic acute eosinophilic pneumonia (IAEP) is characterized by the rapid accumulation of eosinophils in the lungs.” This kind of pneumonia, directly linked to vaping, took a relatively healthy teen like Maddie from a serious condition to near fatal in a matter of minutes. In fact, they had to place her in a coma in order to save her life. All due to vaping everyday for three years.

Talk to Your Teens and Young Adults

With this craze taking so many out so quickly, the best way you can save your child’s life is by talking to them. Don’t try to pretend like they have never heard of vaping, or have never been presented with the opportunity. Research is showing that kids in middle school are being introduced to it so that by the time they’re in high school they’re already using. Take the time to sit with your kids and talk about this vaping epidemic. Share with them the ways it’s negatively effecting the lives of young people across the country. Because there are no real federal restrictions or bans on e-cigarettes you can’t completely shield them from vaping. But it’s better they learn about it from you accompanied by an explanation of the side effects, than to hear about it from a peer accompanied by an explanation of the cool colors and flavors.

Coping With Dysfunctional Families

In the 5th grade I won the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) essay contest. I don’t remember what my paper was about or what made it compelling enough to receive an award. But I do remember the award ceremony. What I remember most is seeing my family in the audience, sitting together cheering me on. I also remember the subsequent family pizza night. All of us sitting together laughing and enjoying each others company over extra cheese pizza with my favorite accessory, Doritos tortilla chips. That moment is one that will forever be etched into my memory.

Shortly after, I graduated 5th grade and we had another family pizza party. It became a family tradition I looked forward to with every academic milestone. In fact, these dinners fueled every single academic accomplishment I’ve achieved even into adulthood. At some point, I learned that I could keep my family unified and “happy” with my academic success. And so, I tried with every fiber of my being to accomplish every possible academic award that was available to me. So I graduated with honors, academic achievement awards, perfect attendance awards, honor society awards, and more.

It’s My Fault: A Child’s Perception of Familial Dysfunction

Fast forward 19 years later after moving away. After earning my master’s degree I decided to take a break from school. One year later, my parents separated and I watched the family that I worked so hard to keep together begin to crumble. I was convinced that this was all happening because of my decision to take a break from the one thing that was keeping my family together, my ongoing academic success.

If you’re thinking, “that’s insane!” You are absolutely right. That’s the issue with family dysfunction, it creates an unbalanced dynamic that results in a confusion of roles, and boundaries. It produces a toxicity that undermines our capacity to individuate. Once this dynamic is established, it takes intentionality to see and understand things differently. Many of us are aware of the dysfunction that exists in our families and are looking for ways to cope. And although we can’t change our families, we do have a responsibility to work on ourselves. The following suggestions have been personally helpful and can hopefully be just as helpful for you.

Deal With Your Own Dysfunction

The first step to effectively coping with the dysfunction in your family is to deal with it. It is impossible to walk away from family dysfunction unaffected.

We are connected to people in our family history whose unresolved traumas have become our legacy. When the connection remains unconscious, we can live imprisoned in feelings and sensations that belong to the past.”

Mark Wolynn, Founder of the Family Constellation Institute.

Our ability to individuate and raise our level of consciousness is largely dependent upon our ability to makes sense of the dysfunction. While some choose to avoid and disassociate from their family unit entirely, this is not a solution. This will only temporarily table an underlying issue that will inevitably resurface (as triggers always do). Having some level of awareness of the dysfunction does not make us immune to its influence.

You Are Your Responsibility

Although we are not responsible for the dysfunction that we inherit, we are responsible for how we deal with it. Making sense of the dysfunction begins with self-exploration. And by practicing and developing new patterns of behavior we can change the negative thoughts and behaviors from our past. This is not something that we should expect to do by ourselves. The dysfunction created was a collective effort. And so your healing process should be just as collaborative. The good news is mental health professionals are passionate about and enjoy helping people like you and me process their past.

An additional underutilized resource is group therapy, also known as a support group. Group therapy provides a space for you to connect with other individuals facing similar issues. Inevitably, you begin to connect with group members (consciously and unconsciously) as if they were members of your original family unit. This creates opportunity to correctly relive familial conflicts. This is important because re-exposure to familial issues has the potential to repair existing wounds.

Forgive Your Parents

But the reality is that often, much of our familial dysfunction is attached to our parents. This is because the parental relationship is the most influential relationship we will ever have. It determines how we see ourselves and how we interact with others. And how we deal with the dysfunction in this relationship determines how we engage with society. In other words, coping with familial dysfunction oftentimes means forgiving our parents, especially when they don’t ask for forgiveness.

According to Oprah Winfrey’s article “Forgiving your parents,” unresolved issues with our parents impedes our ability to form healthy relationships with others. The anger and resentment that we hold onto is infectious and spreads into the new relationships that we form. But the truth is:

“Our parents cannot be expunged or ejected from us. They are in us and we are part of them-even if we never met them. Rejecting them only distances us further from ourselves and creates more suffering.”

Mark Wolynn,  It Didn’t Start With You

Effectively coping with the dysfunction in our families begins with healing from those childhood wounds through the process of forgiveness. Forgiveness begins with self-understanding which also involves understanding the family history underlying the dysfunction. It is through this process of understanding that forgiveness can occur. Forgiveness heals the wounds created by the dysfunction and allows us to objectively analyze the cause of our familial hurt. Once we identify and acknowledge our familial hurt we can make the changes necessary to keep it from happening again.

Protect Your Emotional Health

Ultimately, when coping with family dysfunction protecting your emotional health is crucial. This requires two things: practicing self-awareness and creating boundaries. Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine writes in his book The Body Keeps Score:

“We don’t truly know ourselves unless we feel and interpret our physical sensations; we need to register and act on these sensations to navigate safely through life.”

The key to understanding how to protect your emotional well being resides in your ability to be present. Taking a moment to check in with yourself (particularly when interacting with family) is an appropriate practice of self-awareness. Developing self awareness gives us the information that we need to create healthy boundaries.

On Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday Brené Brown, PhD, explains that “there is no trust without boundaries.” This is because it is with appropriate boundaries that we can begin to trust ourselves and become brave enough to build relationships trusting that others will engage with us with our boundaries in mind. Family members will continue to engage in dysfunctional behaviors. The onus is on you to protect yourself by staying true to the limits and boundaries you’ve set.

Facing the Facts

Facing the realities of the dysfunction that existed in my family was the most difficult thing that I’ve ever had to do. I still have to remind myself to be present. Even so, I wouldn’t change any of it. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. The “A” student, the overachiever, these experiences taught me how to leverage the dysfunction of past and turn it into the success of my future. I encourage everyone to learn this same lesson because how we deal with our dysfunction determines how we heal. And the fact of the matter is, how we heal influences the next generation’s ability to do the same. Choose wisely.

The Debate That’s Beyond Impossible

Before Popeye’s and Chik Fil-A, Message food editor Donna Green-Goodman’s parent’s made the best vegan “sammich” in town. Donna dishes on what it means to eat a healthy, plant-based diet.


Message Editor Carmela Monk Crawford and I are following the buzz surrounding all the “new” vegan meat alternatives hitting the market. While relative newcomers to the plant-based, burger-making industry, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat—now found in restaurants, grocery stores and fast food chains nationwide–are taking a bite out of crime, the meat industry is biting back! The Washington Post reported this week that officials in 30 states have moved or are moving to protect the interests of America’s 800,000 cattle ranchers by going to court to enjoin the use of the words “meat”, “hot dogs”, “sausage” and “burger” as they apply to plant-based products.

Donna Green Goodman and Carmela Monk Crawford sampling plant-based foods at brunch. Dupont Park SDA Church, Washington, D.C.

Having grown up on “veggiemeat” we’ve got a unique perspective on it. Carmela and I are Adventists. We have lived around people from around the world who chose at some level to omit meat/animal products from their diets. Both of us are practicing vegans now and graduated from the only historically black college/university (HBCU) in the country that is a vegetarian campus and offers vegan choices, Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama.

We know this space. There is absolutely nothing like the food our mommas and aunties and church mothers used to make from scratch. That’s right, homemade gluten (also known as seitan), pecan patties, Special K Loaf, veggie burgers, and “meat loaves” from beans, filled our tables at church and family gatherings.

And, until recently as we have seen the genetic modification of many food ingredients, we didn’t experience health problems with these foods. After all, they were merely seasoned fruit, nuts, grains and vegetables. The Adventist Health Study bears that out. And, if you’ve seen or read about Blue Zone Living, you already know.

Forty years later, I still run into people who want a sandwich like my parents sold at their restaurant when I was in college. And, I’m telling you, my momma Shirley Green, and Aunties Bertha Major, Savanah Robinson and Lois McGruder would have you slapping somebody with the plant food dishes they made. Oh. My. Goodness!

The Rub (not that you need a rub for your veggie-burgers)

The rub, in all this fuss is, whether we are eating healthier. Do veggie “meats” qualify as “real” food? Are they more or less healthy than flesh/animal products? Whole Foods CEO Jack Mackie said he would not endorse the plant-based burgers, because he believes they are not healthy. Is the motive for making and marketing them really about health or is it for financial gain? Why would people even want to eat them if they’ve stopped eating flesh foods? And, if veggie meats have soy or wheat gluten in them, should they even be consumed?

Eden was vegan, according to scripture. The original diet was based upon the abundant fruit of the garden.

Way before all the fuss started and you were identified as a health vegan, or an ethical vegan, or plant-based or whole foods plant-based (sigh), Seventh-day Adventists (SDA’s or Adventists) understood that their bodies were the temple of God. Because of that they wanted to fill it with the best fuel for long life and health and to honor the Creator. Animals benefit from this choice too. Based on scripture, Eden was vegan, or mostly so (true vegans believe one shouldn’t consume honey, but I digress).

The Genesis story is clear on humanity consuming fruits, nuts and grains initially and then vegetables, without restriction (that means soy). And, up until the flood, those folk lived for close to 1,000 years. If you didn’t eat meat and their by-products you were simply a vegetarian. Ultimately, eating with God in heaven eternally is the goal, where there will be a tree that yields seven manner of fruit and the animals won’t have the fear of dying.

Visions And Vegetables

Ellen G. White at the Loma Linda Sanitarium dedication Loma Linda, California, April 15, 1906, courtesy Ellen G. White estate.

According to soyinfocenter.com no other organization or group of people has played a more important role than Adventists in introducing soy-foods, vegetarianism, meat alternatives, wheat gluten, dietary fiber or peanut butter to the Western world. As early as the 1840’s, Ellen White, one of the founders of the church, received divine inspiration about how to eat better and live better for better health. In the 1860’s her counsel to the Adventist church covered a plethora of topics about good diet and good health. And, we like to say, the rest is history.

Cereal Magnate John Harvey Kellogg

Whether it was a Kellogg family member intentionally crafting delicious foods from plant sources for patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium; medical missionaries extracting milk from beans; experts creating “meat analogs” from gluten, nuts, soybeans and other grains at Loma Linda or Worthington factories the United States, or in Australia (Sanitarium Foods), or at the first soy foods company in Uganda started by D. W. Harrison, M.D. a Black Adventist medical missionary, Adventists have gifted this to the world. Now we are seriously wondering what’s all the fuss?

Here’s what I know:

  • A whole food diet of plant foods, prepared simply and seasoned well is the most health-promoting diet available to humankind.

Dietitians and physicians interested in the relationship between diet and disease are confirming that. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine, started by some Loma Linda University alum is training a cadre of medical professionals in lifestyle medicine.  Kaiser Cardiologist Columbus Batiste, MD and British Physician Chidi Ngwaba, MD are two black physicians who are Lifestyle Medicine Practitioners. The Adventist Health Study explores the link between lifestyle and diet and disease among a cohort of their members.  As a Public Health Educator and graduate of Loma Linda University School of Public Health, my job and joy is to introduce people to choices and support them in those choices on their Journey to Better Health. Recognizing that everyone is at their own place on the journey.

  • You never need to eat meat or meat products to have a healthy life. Never.

  • When creating what people call “fake meats” or meat analogs, clearly the best ingredients to use are organic, non-GMO sources that are processed as little as possible and resemble the whole foods they were made from.

  • Anytime you create these meat analogs for mass distribution or sale, you will probably have to add some more ingredients for product consistency and appearance and shelf stability.

That’s one of the costs of mass production. A lot of these newer foods look or taste nothing like the foods SDA’s made. I can still taste those yummy FrySticks and Choplets and gravy. (My friend Don Otis at Heritage Health Foods is doing his best to restore that). And, yes the more of those things that are added, especially the sodium, the less healthy they can become. But, none of them have blood or animal fat or hormones or risk of disease associated with consumption of animals and their products such as allergies, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

  • Eating these foods as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes other whole foods, plenty of water, exercise, the outdoors and sunshine, stress management, rest and worship can only improve one’s health.

On the other hand, it’s when we take the current standard American diet, one in which meat is the center and replace it with “veggiemeat” as the center of our diets, that we can definitely have some problems. It should not form the center of your diet. We’re about improving diets, not just replacing meat.

  • By the same token, we’ve seen “dietary standards” forced on people who are obviously allergic/sensitive to animal/animal product consumption. That is also wrong. Most people of color struggle with consuming animal products, especially milk and dairy products.

Milton Mills, MD of the documentary “What the Health?” has some interesting perspectives on diet and racism.  And, when I worked in the Office of Nutrition for the state of Georgia, and oversaw the WIC Program, I struggled with “requiring” mothers and children to eat foods that were allergens or against their beliefs. I was happy to finally see our dietitians integrating some of these alternatives for our allergy, vegetarian and Muslim patients. So, for some people, these animal product alternatives are clearly better than the foods to which they are allergic.

  • I don’t frequent the fast food places that are taking the veggie meat products to a new level, but Carmela and I are both concerned about folk who live in food deserts and carry a disparate burden of disease and do frequent these places.

Former Philadelphia “Health Czar” and Message Food Editor, Gwendolyn Foster.

I actually used a plant diet to recover from breast cancer after seeing the benefit of phytochemicals on health in a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Study by Herb Pierson. If the owners of these places can add these veggie meats to the menu, certainly they can partner with organizations to bring more whole food choices to those food deserts.Makes complete sense to me. That’s another reason that SDA’s created the products they did. They formed a part of what they shared with communities who were learning about how to make their lives better. They were alternatives as folk made healthier food choices. Gwen Foster, MPH , former Health Czar for the city of Philadelphia, (and Message health and food editor) spent her career doing just that! But, that can only work if the motivation is really about health over profit.

  • For those who are allergic to nuts, wheat, gluten, some of the newer products on the market are made with coconut or peas as a base, so you have options.

And, when making them yourself, you can always use other foods like beans and rice and other veggies. Just make sure you add some seasonings! Please!

So, do your research. Make the best choice for you. And keep making them. Every round goes higher and higher on your journey to better health.

If you’re looking for some plant-based options you can make yourself, be sure to subscribe to Message.  And, visit me at lifestyletherapeutix.com to order my books or watch my Cookin’ Up Good Health Cooking Show.

I’m ’bout to head in this kitchen and create another vegan-wholefood-plantbased dish for those I love!

#plantpowered #dietandracism #veganmeats #impossibleburger #cookinupgoodhealth #messagemagazine


A Lesson on Exercise From an 88-Year Old Champion

For several years I worked in a nursing home. Daily there were six or seven elderly residents lining the halls in wheelchairs. They were either sleeping, staring into space, or speaking incoherently to themselves. The odor in the hallway smelled of stale carpet and fake sweetener.  The mood felt like sadness and desolation. Day after day it was the same scene and the more I worked there, the more I was determined that I would never grow old.

The Glory Days

One day I noticed an elderly man siting in a wheelchair in the Physical Therapy gym, struggling with his exercises. He was given the task of lifting a pair of tiny pink 4-pound dumbbells 10 times over his head.  It was visibly hard work for him. As he rested between sets, he pulled out a picture from his back pocket. It was old, frayed and discolored. In the picture was a young man holding an impressively massive barbell loaded with weights over his head. Across the top of the picture was the word “Champion” in big bold letters.

With pride he passed the picture around to the other residents and explained that he was the young man in the picture. He spent the next several minutes describing his glory days. He told us of his many accomplishments as a competitive weight lifter, the number of years he competed and the glorious feeling of wearing the champion medal year after year. Those around him were drawn in by his stories and listened in amazement.  When he no longer had stories to tell, his therapist indicated that his PT session was over and that it was time for him to return to his room for his medication.  I watched as his feeble body was wheeled away with his oxygen tank in tow.

When Youth Meets Old Age

Later that day I went to the local CrossFit gym and stood in a room with young men and women, all working hard to beat the odds. Picking up weights and throwing them down, running laps, climbing ropes, swinging kettle bells, wiping sweat, pushing hard, and digging deep. They talked about their meal preps, how much they missed bread, the last dessert they enjoyed, and the latest vegan recipe. Everyone had the same objective. Get stronger. Get healthier. Stay young, defy gravity and stop aging!

Then my mind’s eye pictured that elderly man in the nursing home earlier that day. He once found himself in a gym just like this one, with people just like us, and with objectives just like ours.  And yet none of that prevented his gradual decline to frailty and weakness. His once strong body was still forced to succumb to the wheelchair. No matter how much work he put in, he still had to trade in his strong legs for atrophied pegs; his chiseled physique for a frail frame.

Aging is Inevitable! Why bother?

The obvious questions overwhelmed my thoughts: Why bother? Why bother with any of this, if even the strongest of us are forced to submit to degeneration and atrophy? Why am I waking up at 4 am to get to the gym? Why am I depriving myself of the foods I love? Why am I punishing my body with strenuous workouts if none of this will keep time from ravishing all my hard work?

The next day in the gym I lacked passion and purpose. Suddenly, like the thoughts of Solomon, everything seemed vain and pointless. “Nothing I do in this gym will change the inevitable,” I thought. Physical aging and death comes for all of us. The strongest, the fittest, the fastest…we all end feeble and weak.

At the nursing home the next day I asked that 88 year old gentleman to tell me another story of his physical feats. His eyes lit up and he boasted and beamed about the first time he held a champions trophy in his hands. He ended the story by saying, “Not anymore, I can’t do those things anymore. I was prepared though. I knew this day would come.”

A Lesson in Exercise From an 88-Year Old Champion

I asked him, if he ever felt like the years he spent working towards physical strength were a waste. With a smile of conviction and glassy eyes he said, “Not one bit! Growing old is a privilege that some never get to experience. I knew that one day my body would not be able to lift those weights.  But I eventually learned that the real reward was not the change in my body, but the change in my Spirit.” He saw the confused look on my face and precede to explain.

“Achieving goals I never thought possible taught me JOY.

Avoiding foods that cause me harm taught me SELF CONTROL.

Showing up to the gym day in and day out whether I felt like it or not taught me FAITHFULNESS.

Waiting for the slowest person on my team taught me GOODNESS.

Putting to rest the negative voices in my head taught me PEACE.

Encouraging a friend to never give up taught me KINDNESS.

Enduring the pain of depression taught me LONG-SUFFERING and GENTLENESS.

Treating my body like a treasure taught me how to LOVE.

Understanding that nothing changes overnight, taught me PATIENCE.”

“God brought the fruit of the spirit to life through the process of building my body, His temple. And because our bodies are in fact the temple of God, health and fitness is an act of worship!”

“If you are not actively improving your physical body, you may be neglecting your spiritual health.”

The next morning I woke up with more vigor than I had all week. I was filled with a sober conviction that taking care of my body was of Kingdom importance. Knowing that one day my body would return to dust ignited a fire within me to build My Body; His Temple. I now have this burning desire to worship Him through exercise. Will you join me?

CrossFit and the Process of Progress

I am obsessed with working out. More specifically, I am obsessed with CrossFit!

A global exercise phenomenon, CrossFit began in the small garage of a man in Santa Cruz, California named Greg Glassman around 2001. According to Glassman, “CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in…Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.” In their online CrossFit Journal, Glassman shares that he developed CrossFit to “enhance an individual’s competency at all physical tasks.”

And as many CrossFitters proclaim, this high intensity workout has changed my life!

Now don’t worry, this is not an appeal or an attempt to convince you to become a CrossFitter. Instead, I’d like the talk about the overall progress and the spiritual lessons that we can gain when we commit ourselves to consistent high intensity exercise.

The Process of Progress

I began CrossFit in January of 2018 after meeting Coach Rachel Keele. Rachel has not only coached me in fitness, she has also given me tools that coach me through life. When I first began training with Rachel, I would show her pictures of people I hoped to look like as I sought to achieve my fitness goals. She kindly reminded me one day that my best, my bodies best, should be my goal. Me working hard and doing my best should be my goal; my personal progress should be my goal.

This idea revolutionized how I see the process of progress. Many workouts leave me on the floor. But I am coming to a place where I anticipate being on the floor. I look forward to feeling wrecked and coming back the next day to do it all again.

The process towards progress in any area of our life requires that we commit to consistently giving everything we have to the point of pure exhaustion. It’s only after you’ve given it all you have that you rest so you can do it all again.

CrossFit has me truly sold-out to the journey. And I’ve learned to value the pain that comes with the process of progress. Hitting the floor keeps me humble. Each rep keeps me honest. And there is no better feeling than knowing you gave your all to something that left you sore but strong.

The Process of Christ for the Progress of the Church

This principle of the process to progress is not original to CrossFit. In fact, when I look at the early church in Acts chapter one, I see a group of saints sold out to the process of progress. Christ, anticipating this reality, says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”  See Christ’s example of radical love, transformational grace, and mind blowing restoration threatened the religious and political climate of its day.

Many of His disciples and followers all watched him die for these acts. And in this verse Christ is letting the disciples know that being His witnesses in the Earth, joining Him in the process of progressing religious and non-religious people into a new spiritual understanding is going to be hard work. It’s going to be work that’s going to require not just a commitment, but a power outside of yourself that is far greater than yourself.

The process of progressing religious and non-religious people into a new spiritual understanding requires the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

The disciples knew that following Jesus’ example, shaking up the spiritual and political climate of a religious institution, wouldn’t be popular or even widely accepted. These early apostles anticipated a difficult road requiring consistent prayer, vulnerability, and authentic fellowship with one another in order to make it. Expecting the discomfort and the soreness, they knew this gospel would cost them their lives. Yet, they still sold themselves out to the process of Christ for the progress of the Church. And like a strenuous work-out, the pain and soreness of the process served as a signal to them of their growing strength and faith.

The Commission to the Process of Progress

2,000 years later, the bold courage of the disciples ignites within me a desire to be a part of a church that is progressing. I too sold out to the process of Christ and the progress of His church. Wanting to be apart of a counter-cultural church, I desire to fully embrace the struggle such a worthwhile cause requires. Like the first followers of the early Church, the Spirit of the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and liberty for those who are oppressed.

The process of Christian discipleship calls us to be a revolutionary presence within our spheres of influence. The progress of the Church depends upon this level of unconventional, bold conviction.

The apostles show us what it looks like. So now, I am ready to join a collection of dedicated followers committed to doing the same.

Sore But Strong

CrossFit not only changed my body, it changed my perspective. One training session in particular is etched in my memory. One day, my coach designed quite the workout for me. Part of that workout consisted of doing thrusters with a barbell. The weight was really heavy and Rachel noted that I was struggling and taking long pauses. And as she saw me struggle she said something to me that I’ll never forget. She said,

“Tacy, it’s heavy so if you need to put it down that’s ok. But you can’t put it down for long. Count to ten and get back to work.”

We broke the reps into five lifts. I’d pause for ten seconds and then I’d continue. It took me longer, but I still completed my reps. In that moment I realized, sometimes life gets heavy. But progress comes when we choose not to stop, but instead to shift. So many things discourage us, but progress comes when we manage well what is before us.

I want to manage well what is before me. CrossFit has shown me that I can push myself. I’ve learned that your pain does produce results; that the pain of fitness does result in progress. There is no better feeling than knowing you gave your all to something that left you sore and strong. And it’s because of my consistent training with CrossFit that I am able to anticipate that this adventure called life is going to continue to build me up, one rep at a time.