Finish my coffee, grab my bag, climb in the Tahoe with just enough time to make my 30-minute commute, turn the key, before checking my dash to see that, while I have enough time to get to work, I don’t have the gas.
Foiled again by my fine art of procrastination. Foiled again by my fatigue, pulling into the driveway after a long day to see that I’ve only a quarter of a tank of gas left. Foiled again by my self-delusions of waking up early in order to refuel on my way to work.
Foiled again by my snooze button, by checking my Facebook account before getting ready for work, foiled again by the extra few minutes under the hot water of the shower.
It’s almost as bad as running into the mall at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24 to complete my shopping list. Foiled by the lie I told myself repeatedly about doing my Christmas shopping after work, or tomorrow afternoon. The store is out of what I need.
I was going to start the diet and fitness program after the holidays, next Monday, or tomorrow. Yet, there I sat in the doctor’s office with a new diagnosis.
My former employer Matthew Williams used to say, “The bill always comes due.”
Procrastination doesn’t kick the can down the road, it makes it bigger. And the more you kick the can, the more it compounds with interest.
So if there’s a change you need to make, don’t lie to yourself. You won’t change tomorrow. Change today!
Yesterday, I shared with you how I was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and the lessons I learned from the diagnosis. Today, I want to share hope, because the changes I made following the diagnosis are already working.
My diagnosis is nearly a month old. I may throw a little birthday party for it. LOL.
The day I received the diagnosis, I made changes. I consented to every medication the doctor wanted to prescribe, and I changed my diet. The McDonald’s drive-thru is dead to me, unfortunately, and I will no longer consume McNuggets. I had quit full-sugar sodas, but now I’ve almost completely eliminated diet sodas.
What do I drink? Lipton Diet Green Tea Citrus flavor… it’s good and doesn’t leave me feeling bloated.
My diet consists of Cobb Salads (when I’m in a rush, I can get one from Chick-Fil-A), Subway sandwiches, McAlister’s club sandwiches, grilled and sauteed meats, sauteed veggies, and dark rye bread. I have also been able to keep peanut butter in my diet, as well as salsa, and eggs. I often mix the salsa and eggs for my own form of huevos rancheros, which is good.
There’s an old joke where a doctor tells a diabetic to purchase a box of diabetic snacks, throw away the snacks, and eat the box. The idea is that healthy eating is bland and gritty. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
I’ve had to get creative, and I’ve had to rediscover my love for the kitchen and the grill, but utilizing fresh vegetables, fresh meats, low carb seasonings, almonds and cashews, I’ve been able to put together some recipes that I find delicious that I actually enjoy eating.
The second step is exercise. I am currently putting in at least 20 minutes on an elliptical each evening with the resistance level set to 4. My goal is to get to 30 minutes. Once I get to that, I will begin running.
How is all this working?
I haven’t tested my blood sugar. I need to purchase a device. However, my weight is down to 257, which means I’ve lost 20 pounds since the day of my diagnosis. And I feel great. My goal is to get down to 177 by the end of the year, and if I can keep my program going, I know I can make it.
The key is a change in my mentality. I am having to intentionally change the way I see food, the reasons I want food, and the way I evaluate a food’s quality. I have to see exercise as a pathway to life, and a fuller life. And, I have to be willing to trust my doctor, which I do.
There is also a spiritual component to this as well. What drove my bad eating and health habits up until now has been a spirit of depression and angst. I’m having to repent of that, and learn to deepen my relationship with the Lord. As my doctor said, “If you get your relationship right with God, all else falls into place.”
Angst, anxiety and depression are often (but not always) symptoms of a spiritual issue, where the individual’s relationship with God is strained by a lapse in faith. This is common and completely understandable. It’s understandable, as we can all understand why Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and saw the waves when he tried to walk on water, or why the disciples panicked when they were in a ship in the storm.
This is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is something to turn away from. God is in control of all things, and He intends good toward you. Trust that. As you trust Him, your relationship with Him will blossom, the negative feelings that drive our bad habits will subside, and we’ll find physical healing to match our spiritual healing.
“It’s probably no big deal,” my doctor told me. “Any blood sugar reading below 100 means you’re okay. 100-125 means you’re pre-diabetic, and above 125 means you’re diabetic.”
The reading came back on the monitor… 200.
“Okay, so you’re a diabetic. Here’s what we’re gonna do…”
The following words were a series of prescriptions the doctor would recommend, the recommendation for exercise (run 30 minutes per day, four times per week) and a dietary recommendation (no simple sugars).
I wish I could say that this all came as a shock. It didn’t. I wish I could say I am just a victim of circumstance, the recipient of bad DNA. I can’t. I wish I could claim I wasn’t warned. I was.
Two years prior, I sat in the same doctors office after having a life insurance application denied due to a high A1C. Back then, we tested, and I came out okay. Diet and exercise would save the day. I started out well, but I didn’t finish.
Ten years prior to that, I registered a high blood sugar during a visit with the same doctor. I corrected my diet then, returned for a follow up, and was fine.
The doctor warned me that this day was coming. I was told to eliminate fried foods, not to drink my calories (sodas), and to exercise. After each warning, I would start out well, but after a couple of months, the disruptions would get to me, and I’d fall off my program.
A headline involving dying and diabetes may sound melodramatic, but it’s not. This is a terminal illness, but it’s one that can be managed. Diabetes is a disease where your body no longer breaks down the blood sugar. The result is a thickened blood that fails to reach the capillaries, resulting in organ damage. Also, the sugar itself damages tissues within the body.
Diabetics suffer from nerve damage, vision loss, and ultimately heart attacks and strokes, if not managed properly. Once the damage is done, it does not heal. Lost vision does not get restored. Damaged nerve endings never regain function.
My doctor and I have a plan, and I am confident in his ability to help me manage this diagnosis, but receiving this diagnosis has taught me a few things.
The day of reckoning is coming. For so many of us, we know that the consequences of our actions are coming, but we deceive ourselves into thinking that the consequences are far away, and we will be better able to manage those consequences when they finally arrive. This is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves. Whether we think we are delaying the consequences of poor health choices, or delaying the consequences of our spiritual choices, we tend to put off making the decisions that we need to make. However, the day is coming, and it will come as a thief in the night, at a time when we least expect it.
We must make the right choices today. As I just mentioned, the day of reckoning, when we will receive the full consequences of our choices is upon us, and it is coming faster than we think. We can no longer afford to say, “I’ll start that diet tomorrow,” or “I’ll open that retirement account next month,” or “I’ll start going to church and get right with Jesus next week.” We must make those decisions today. First, we don’t know that we have tomorrow, next week or next month. Our day may creep up on us sooner than we think. Secondly, the sooner we make those choices, the more beneficial they will be for us.
To follow those choices, we must learn to manage the disruptions in life. When my doctor asked me why I hadn’t been able to get my diet in order, I told him about the upheaval in my family, last year’s COVID outbreak at church, career issues, and the ongoing turmoil that I have found to be life. I told him, “I just did not do a good job of managing the disruptions in my life.” We can no longer afford to use those disruptions as excuses, because disruptions are part of every day life. As Agent K said in Men In Black, “There’s always an Achillian Battlecruiser or an intergalactic plague about to wipe out our planet. The only way these people get on with their lives is that they do not know about it.” Over the past few years, we’ve seen economic and political disruptions, and our entire society shut down by a global pandemic. This is the new normal, and such disruptions will continue, in addition to your personal disruptions. We have to learn to manage these disruptions and move forward.
What was death to me has now become life. Prior to my diagnosis, the idea of being fit sounded good, but I was happy being chubby and lazy. Sure, healthy food will make me feel better, and there’s nothing like the rush of finishing an ultra-marathon, but have you ever enjoyed a bowl of Blue Bell Ice Cream and a Netflix movie on an overcast Saturday afternoon? I chose the latter. It was easier, simpler, and more delicious. However, with my diagnosis, I now see that health foods and medications are not a way to a better life, they are the only way to seize and maintain life. With each salad, vegetable, and lean grilled meat, I am extending my life, and with each medication, I am helping my body restore its function. Over the past few decades, churches have sought to sell potential converts on the benefits of Christianity by saying that it leads to a better life. It does. But Christianity is life. Faith in Jesus is the only way to avoid eternal damnation. And just like my diabetic diagnosis came suddenly (but with warning), our last day of life and the day of judgment will come upon us suddenly. Don’t get shocked by a negative test result that day. Turn from your sin and trust Jesus as your Savior.
The diabetic diagnosis can be a life sentence or a death sentence. My doctor told me that in those exact words. And with God’s help, I will manage this disease and live to serve Him well in my life. However, this whole experience has taught me that I need to wake up, and start taking care of what matters, regardless of how I feel. I can no longer make excuses, I can no longer procrastinate. And the same goes for you.
If you have been putting off the decision to turn your life over to Christ, make that decision today. And if you have been putting off your health and financial decisions, you will avoid catastrophes and reap better benefits if you make those choices today. Don’t follow in my footsteps. You have the opportunity to do better.
Progressive pastors never miss an opportunity to enrage the fundamentalists, and the fundamentalists never miss the opportunity to be enraged. Such was the case recently on Twitter when a progressive pastor of whom I have never heard posted a tweet encouraging people to attend churches where the pastor goes to therapy, and encourages the congregation to go to therapy. The result? An onslaught of fundamentalists decrying this pastor’s statement, saying in essence, “all you need for mental health is the Bible.”
I’m going to be real about this. If I were to ever find myself in a position where I needed therapy, I would probably remove myself from the pulpit. I would feel that I would not be fit for Spiritual leadership, and that the church deserved better. But that’s an expectation I place on myself.
As for therapy and the Bible, let’s begin by setting the stage by defining what the Bible is and what the Bible teaches.
First, the Bible is the inspired word of God, penned by prophets and apostles who had God’s word given to them either through vision, angelic message or by direct dictation by God Himself. You can see the inspirational process in action when you read Revelation. The Apostle John, banished to the Isle of Patmos, saw the resurrected, glorified Jesus. Jesus then told John what to write. Throughout the book of Revelation, John sees things and tries to describe them. Angels tell him what to write, and at times, the Lord dictates to Him as well. However, the entire thing came from God, and thus is God’s word.
The Bible, being God’s word, is all we need for faith and practice. It’s all we need to learn more about God, to build our faith, and to live our lives in accordance with that faith. However, to say that all we do is drawn from scripture is an error. Not all church traditions come from scripture, neither are all of our personal choices.
Scripture did not teach the church to open the worship service with Doxology, recite a creed, do a responsive reading, sing three hymns, collect an offering and receive a sermon from the professionally paid pastor. There are a lot of beautiful traditions in the church that I believe praise and honor God, but many of these traditions are not explicitly laid out in scripture. Some point to certain passages and say that it can be inferred that these traditions were in place among the apostles, but that is a mighty big assumption to make.
Since we find that, in the church, we can make decisions and do things that scripture did not specifically teach, but still honor God in so doing, it follows we can do the same thing with our personal lives. Scripture says very little about how to pick a career, how to choose a college, or whether to send your kids to public school or private school. Scripture does teach us how to work (do all for the glory of God), but it does not tell us how to go about choosing what kind of work to do. The lesson is that you can still honor God by making these choices.
Does that mean that scripture lacks direction for believers? As Paul would say, “No, in no wise!”
Scripture was not given to teach us how to do church, how to live life, how to make money, etc. Scripture was given to teach us how to have a right relationship with God. And that right relationship comes through two steps, (1) learning, understanding and accepting the Gospel as truth, and (2) repentance and faith.
The central message of the Bible is the Gospel. All scripture either sets up the Gospel, illustrates the Gospel, explains the Gospel, or declares the Gospel. The Gospel is defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
Jesus Christ died for our sins, meaning that His death on the cross satisfied the judgment and wrath of God for man’s sin, thus we can walk away scot-free from His judgment, if we believe. Christ took that wrath upon Himself and shielded us from it. The fact that He rose again proves his power and victory over death. By defeating death, He brought in eternal life, so we can have the confident expectation (hope) that we will be received into His Kingdom (Heaven) when we die.
The Gospel teaches that I am broken, that I am a sinner, that my rebellious and selfish choices have inflicted harm upon myself, and those around me. However, through the Gospel, Jesus can heal my broken spirit, wash away my sin, and restore me and those around me from the harm I’ve caused.
Since many mental health issues stem from the issues of sin and brokenness, it is entirely possible, and very common to find healing in the Gospel and the Gospel alone. As a pastor, I counsel individuals through this process. I can, using only the Bible, show the source of the pain an individual is in, show how comfort and healing can be found in the Gospel, and give my congregant hope. I can, from the scriptures, demonstrate God’s divine purpose in suffering, and in so doing provide comfort for the one seeking my help.
And while I have seen people healed through this ministry multiple times, I can also say that there is a time when one needs to seek a qualified therapist who believes the Bible. I say this because I can demonstrate everything I have listed, but I cannot teach someone how to identify and control triggers.
In the Bible, I can show hope, but I cannot manage a chemical imbalance, or the brain patterns of someone whose mind has been altered by repeated mental, emotional and physical trauma.
In the Bible, I can listen and be non-judgmental, but sometimes people want to talk to a stranger for another view, another set of eyes and expertise.
And that is okay. I have on a couple of occasions referred people to qualified counselors who hold a Biblical worldview. And those folks got the help they need.
So, if you’re having issues, let’s talk. If I cannot help you, or you need more intense therapy, let’s get you to a counselor.