Indoor-fins: The Science of Laughter

fish-bowl-small-sizeThe health benefits of laughter were known centuries before recent studies discovered the connection between laughter and endorphins (indoor-fins).

Somewhere around 900 BC, King Solomon assembled his collection of wise and pithy principles for life. Proverbs 17:22 is a good example: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

An article in Forbes does more than just confirm the words of Solomon, it lists six benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter is a potent endorphin releaser.
  • Laughter contagiously forms social bonds.
  • Laughter fosters brain connectivity.
  • Laughter is central to relationships.
  • Laughter has an effect similar to antidepressants.
  • Laughter protects your heart.

If you’ve been sick, down-in-the-dumps, needled by pain or coping with stress, laugh a little and let your brain release the endorphins that will kick-start your immune system, enhance your mood, soothe your pain, and tame your stress.

I hope the words of John McLeod will nudge you in the right direction and put a smile on your face:

Can I give you a handful of laughter

A smidgen of giggles to boot,

A cupful of tease and a comical sneeze

Followed by a hilarious hoot.

Are You Bushed?

Sleep-DeprivedBecause I don’t like the government tinkering with my sleep pattern, I’m not a fan of Daylight Savings Time. I’m hoping the government will eventually learn that you can play with a clock, but you can’t turn back time.

It takes some people months to adjust to the change, and they stumble around like a zombie, saying: “I’m bushed.”

Whether it’s an interruption in your sleep or some other issue, there are times when most of us have felt like we’re weary, worn-out, and at the end of our rope.  If this sounds like you, you may need to get Am-bushed.

To understand my terminology, think with me about the plight of the Hebrew people during the Old Testament days of the Pharaoh. The Jewish people were in bondage and in need of help, so they cried out to God in prayer. The answer to their prayers came in the form of a desert-dwelling, leather-skinned, sheep-herding, soon to be deliverer by the name of Moses.

At this point in his life, Moses was disillusioned. He wasn’t living the life to which God had called him, and he was running on empty as he yearned for that elusive something that would change his life.

Then it happened, and it was anything but ordinary.  Moses saw a burning bush, heard a voice, and turned aside to wipe the sand out of his eyes.  Was he seeing a mirage or was he dizzy due to the searing heat of the desert?

It was no mirage–it was majesty.  The burning bush was a bush that didn’t burn; it was ablaze; but it wasn’t consumed.

It was a spectacular sight to Moses, and he was stunned when he heard the voice of God emanating from the bush: I’ve seen the affliction of my people. I have heard their prayers. I know their sorrows. I’m going to deliver them.

Even more shocking to Moses was the news that he was to be the deliverer.  In need of confirmation, Moses asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” God replied, “I AM THAT I AM.”

Moses’ life changed on that day when he was Am-Bushed. He had felt as though he lacked eloquence, but God assured him that he was a diamond in the rough.  He had felt empty, so God filled him. His life had been meaningless, so God gave him purpose.

The life of Moses is an epic account of how God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. It’s the narrative of what God can do through you.

Faith On Strike

strikeHow would life, as you know it, change if churches and faith-based organizations went on strike and no longer contributed to the needs of society? The void of services would sound a mournful echo reverberating with the shock waves of desperation.

An article written by John Stonestreet, calls attention to the significant role Christianity plays in the daily life of the USA. According to Stonestreet:

One in six hospital beds in our country is located in a Catholic hospital. In at least thirty communities, the Catholic hospital is the only hospital in a 35-mile radius. This doesn’t even take into account hospitals run by other Christian bodies such as Baptists, Methodists, and especially Seventh-Day Adventists.

The next time you’re tempted to give a cold should to a warm-hearted ministry, you might want to weigh their heavy presence. The doors of these faith-based organizations swing open to bear the load of the needy to provide food for the hungry, clothing for the impoverished, and a word of encouragement for the frequently despised.

Being the CAN in Canned Goods

pantry

How you can help:

  • First Christian Church, has a Food Pantry, and you can help by either donating canned goods or through a monetary gift to help people in the El Dorado area.
  • The Salvation Army is a nation-wide ministry that exists to help those in need.
  • Samaritan’s Purse is a global ministry that responds to the physical and spiritual needs of people in times of crisis.
  • The Lord’s Diner is a ministry in Wichita that focuses on feeding the hungry.
  • Red Cross

As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:10

 

Grumpy or Gracious?

grumpyWhenever I read the opening verses of Psalm 92, the number 1,440 flashes through my mind.  1,440 is the number of minutes in a day, and Psalm 92 is a positive motivator on how to manage these precious moments:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and sing praises to Your name, O Most High. It is good to tell of Your loving-kindness in the morning, and of how faithful You are at night, with harps, and with music of praise.  For You have made me glad by what You have done, O Lord. I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands (Psalm 92:1-4).

Think about the words you spoke yesterday; was your vocabulary more grumpy than it was gracious?  How would your life be different if you would spend more time counting your blessings than tallying your slights?  Would you be happier and healthier?

Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, has examined the power of positive and negative thoughts. She has found that positive emotions enhance your sense of personal potential; opens your mind to new possibilities; and, they allow you to develop new skills and resources that add value to your life.

Fredrickson’s premise is a conformation of a principle from the Proverbs: Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ~Proverbs 16:24

Over the next week, I encourage you to use some of the 1,440 minutes of each day to put Psalm 92 to practice:

  • Focus on the blessing of God, and give thanks.
  • Whistle a tune, hum a favorite hymn, and sing a song of praise to God.
  • When you get up in the morning, start with a God is Able thought, and end your day by rehearsing the history of God’s faithfulness.
  • Begin and end each day with the following prayer:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14

Sensible Scents

Life-in-ScentsWhile I was reading in the Gospel of Luke, I began to think about the plight of the widow and the sacrificial giving of her mite. It occurred to me that worship can be expressed in cents as well as scents.  Like the widow, it’s possible to be nearly centless and still worship God.

There is another side to worship in which it is never scentless. When you approach God is the right way, your worship is the aroma of sweet-smelling incense that floats into His presence; and, it’s much like the scene in Revelation 5:8:

The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of fragrant incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

When your life mirrors the life of Jesus, you love as Christ loved, and your life becomes an offering and a sacrifice to God just like a sweet-smelling aroma:

Be imitators of God as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and has given Himself for us, as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 5:1-3).

Based on the chart below, people are willing to spend their money to control their bodily odors. Shouldn’t we invest the same amount in time and effort to make sure we are as pleasing to God as we are to the rest of the world?

Company

Profit

Proctor and Gamble $999 million
Unilever $682.3 million
Lever Brothers $329.5 million
Dial Corporation $152 million
Colgate Palmolive $146.6 million
Revlon $79.7 million

Before you turn your nose up to my earlier question, consider it in the light of this verse:

Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place.  For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved        ~2 Corinthians 2:14

How sweet is your aroma?

 

Depression: An Emotional Hole

A-5-Minute-by-Craig-SunterLife would be boringly bland if it were not for our emotions.  I’m thankful that I can scan the horizon of humanity and see faces of innocence framed in smiles that run from ear to ear.  What would a party be if a child never had the gift of joy when he unwrapped a toy?

Emotions are God’s gift to His creation, and I believe He intended for you to have a life filled with gigglicious moments—those times that are delicious with laughter.

When I think of emotions, I wonder about Adam and Eve.  They never had a second of sadness, and they were never disappointed; not, until they sinned and disobeyed God.  Their lives of delight were immediately overcome by fright and despair as they tried to hide from God.

The negative and debilitating emotions that Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden are the same feelings that still afflict thousands of people today.  Some research by the National Institute of Mental Health confirms this:

  • 60% of our fears are over things that will never happen.
  • 30% of our fears are focused on things that happened in the past
  • 90 % of our fears are somewhat insignificant
  • 88% of our fears are health-related (hypochondriacs)

The Anxiety and Depression Society of America has stated that anxiety disorders are the most common forms of mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). Uncontrolled worry can have a debilitating effect on a person’s appetite, relationships, job performance, and sleep–all of which can be precursors to depression.

While your situation may be different from those of another person, the circumstances of life should not circumvent your emotional health.  Circumstances are external events that trigger an internal and emotional response.  Even though you cannot control all of the externals, you can learn to manage the internals.

The simple truth is that you either control your thoughts or they control you. A key means of controlling your thoughts is to be introspective with a proper perspective. This is a technique that is at least as old as the Apostle Paul, who said: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

It takes discipline and practice to make this a habit. This is because many people are born with a negative bias in the way they see life. Research indicates that the brain is more likely to focus on negative feelings instead of positive feelings. This has been referred to as the FUD Factor (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). When our thoughts are left unattended they wander into the wilderness of negativity and stumble into the cesspool of distress.

This is one reason Paul said that we need to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).” Some thoughts can be wonderfully captivating; however, others are so powerful in their negativity a person becomes a prisoner of his own mind.

When you give some thought to your pattern of thinking, you become aware of your self-talk; and, you can begin to identify it as wholesome conversation that builds your self-esteem and glorifies God or an attack on who you are in Christ.  When you begin to recognize the pattern of your thoughts, you’ve taken the first step into transformative thinking that will renew your mind (Romans 12:2).

Aye-Sight: Seeing Eye to Eye with God

healthy-eyesight-tipsI think you’ll agree that the health of your eyes and good eyesight is of critical importance: Good vision helps you in every aspect of your life.

The same is true when you consider your spiritual life.  Good eyesight is an essential to spiritual health, and poor eyesight can be devastating.  In Psalm 119, there’s a verse that focuses on the object of your vision:

Psalm 119:36-38

Turn my head and my heart to Your decrees

and not to sinful gain.

Keep my eyes from gazing upon worthless things,

and give me true life according to Your plans.

Verify Your word to Your servant,

which will lead me to worship You.

Instead of wasting your time on the worthless, invest it in the precious.  Take a look at these “eyesight” verses:

  • Psalm 19:8: The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
  • Psalm 26:3: For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth.
  • Psalm 33:18: Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, and on those who hope in His mercy.
  • Psalm 34:15: The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.

I’ll close with Psalm 119:18, and I encourage you to make it your prayer for today: Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.