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.

Life’s Trails and Trials

pathA person’s path in life can be influenced by the trails he walks and the trials he endures. I’ve walked many trails that have been scenic adventures, and I’ve encountered several trials that were dismal and disappointing.

There will be times in life when nothing makes sense.  The trail will seem too steep to climb and too long to endure. When David experienced a situation like this, he realized that God had already walked where he had never gone and could see what was beyond his vision.

David said: When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path (Psalm 142:3).

The next time you have a tussle with a trial, remember that:

  • God never leads His children down the wrong path
  • You may not know where the path will lead you, but God does.
  • Just because you’re confused, God isn’t confounded.
  • God is present, and He will not abandon you.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Tragedy in Texas

broken-heart-valentine-background_1048-4957For many people, today’s shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas has stirred-up unwanted memories of Las Vegas, Columbine and Charleston. We should not be surprised that these events are beyond our comprehension, because they are often perpetrated by people who lack a conscience.

Sociopath and psychopath are words that have been used to described shooters or mass murders like Harris, Klebold, and Roof, as well as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Dennis Rader. The DSM-5 classifies sociopathy and psychopathy as Antisocial Personality Disorders and sets certain criteria for a diagnosis:

  • A disregard for laws, social mores, and the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior
  • Sociopaths are agitated, disorganized individuals, and they are unable to blend in with society

Psychopaths are high-functioning individuals who manipulate people with their charming personality. While they do not actually feel emotion, they can learn to mimic emotions to blend in with the crowd.

Due to their lack of conscience, people with these disorders process emotions like a blind man negotiates a maze; one doesn’t feel, the other doesn’t see, and both find the task daunting.

Dr. Martha Stout a Clinical Psychologist and former Harvard Medical School instructor, offers this assessment: An emotional word is love, hate, anger, mom, death, anything that we associate with an emotional reaction. A nonemotional word is lamp, street, hair, rug, that kind of thing. If I had electrodes hooked up to you right now and I said a string of words, and some of them were emotional and some were not, I’d get a larger spike on the emotional words. We are wired to process those words more readily than neutral, nonemotional words. We are very emotional creatures. But sociopaths listen as evenly to emotional words as they do to lamp or book—there’s no neurological difference. ~THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR

The obvious question is: How do you treat someone who has no conscience?  The prerequisite to change is a desire to do so, and without a conscience there is no desire. Without a conscience there is no good or evil, and the need for true healing is a recognition of that which plagues the heart.

One thing that never changes in these instances is the need for prayer, and I encourage you to pray for those who were touched by the tragic events of today.

 

 

Beating the Blues

HopeDid you awaken this morning feeling more down-and-out and less up-and-at-it? If so, you might identify with the “woe-is-me” mentality of Jeremiah who said:

“I’m the man who has seen trouble, trouble coming from the lash of God’s anger. He took me by the hand and walked me into pitch-black darkness. Yes, he’s given me the back of his hand over and over and over again. He turned me into a scarecrow of skin and bones, then broke the bones. He hemmed me in, ganged up on me, and poured on the trouble and hard times. He locked me up in deep darkness, like a corpse nailed inside a coffin.” ~ The Message

The sure cure for a case of the Monday Morning Blues is a long sip from this energizing Cup of Hope:  Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

When Jeremiah began to focus less on his problems and more on God, his perspective changed.  He began to realize that the high tide of God’s hope has a rhythmic presence that’s just as certain as the appearance of the moon in the night sky.  He also concluded that the faithfulness of God is as cool and refreshing as an artesian well that never runs dry—it’s new every morning.

In the Psalms, David learned that the riddles of life are never solved through the emptiness of the world, but through the fullness of God’s blessing. He said: I did not understand until I went into the sanctuary of God; and, He offered this conclusion: God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever . . . it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works.

As you work your way through today, remember that God is full of compassion, generous in grace, slow to anger, and boundless in loyal love and truth.  ~Psalm 86:15

Hatred’s Fertile Soil

Hands Holding a Seedling and SoilEach year at this time, my interests are directed towards my garden. I visit it often to watch the yellow flowers become tomatoes. I also add a little fertilizer to stimulate the growth of the plants, and put a fence up around the garden to keep the cats out; I don’t like their soul-enriching methodology.

The vegetation in a garden is much like the thoughts in your head.  Some can bloom and produce a beautiful crop of beneficial thoughts and productive ideas; others are weeds that are detrimental to your mental well-being and they can make a blooming idiot of you.

To live a well-ordered life, a life that’s more fruit than folly, you must manage your thoughts when they first appear in the garden of your mind.  Winifred Gallagher says, “It’s about treating your mind as you would a private garden and being as careful as possible about what you introduce and allow to grow there.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson recognized the power and potential of a person’s thoughts when he said, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

The more you think about something, the more it becomes a part of who you are. Whether it is positive or negative it will take root in the subconscious control center of your mind.  An incident that occurred yesterday is evidence of this. The actions of James T. Hodgkinson at the GOP’s congressional baseball practice, is evidence of a mind overgrown with the weeds of hatred.

The mind should be a weed-free zone; and, the only way to accomplish this is to take your thoughts captive.   If you fail to manage your thoughts and to take them captive, they will captivate and control you.

Yesterday, we witnessed both good and evil; Hodgkinson, was the personification of evil, and the good was seen in the heroic actions of those who stood in harm’s way to eliminate the threat and those who rushed to treat the wounded.

I can think of no better words to summarize my thoughts than these: Jesus said, The good person out of the good treasury of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasury produces evil (Luke 6:45).

 

Thoughts About Thinking

Thought-LeadershipSocial media has found an unwelcome guest in the form of fake news.  This strange bedfellow forces us to look beneath the bed sheets to validate the integrity of the stories being told—are they truth’s faithful companion or are they legends and lies?

These media hacks, have honed their presentation skills, and they offer tantalizing tidbits that activate the prey mentality and create a viral feeding frenzy.  The skeptical will deny the veracity of most everything they read, but the gullible will savage every story, hook, line, and sinker, like a hungry bass.

Skewing the facts and twisting the truth was also problem in the days of Isaiah, who said: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20).

Why are people so easily deceived? Leonardo da Vinci may have been a prophet when said the average person looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.

We can’t afford to be intellectual coach potatoes and allow others to do our thinking for us.  John Ortberg has said: What repeatedly enters your mind and occupies your mind, eventually shapes your mind, and will ultimately express itself in what you do and who you become.

Ortberg’s words are based on the advice of the apostle Paul who instructed people to manage the mental messages that bounce around inside the head.  If we fail to capture and control these thoughts, the mind easily becomes an echo chamber of negativity.

I’ll close with a quote that has been attributed to Frank Outlaw: Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

Jerry Reed: Gold Mines and Shafts

jreedIf you know anything about a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you probably know it has a transfer case, and if you know a little something about psychology, you most likely understand the concept of transference. An incident occurred earlier in the week that caused me to think of both.

When I arrived at work on Tuesday, I found a new welcome sign painted on the side of the building.  It wasn’t a message of love, but one that expressed a pathetic dislike for the police in some rather blunt and rude language.

Why would a person use the FCC building as a canvas to proclaim his dislike for the El Dorado Police Department? The answer is transference.  Instead of addressing the anger he has for the police, to the police, he projected those feelings upon the church.

I know very little about the individual who wielded the can of spray paint, and I know nothing about his circumstances in life; but, as I said in another post: We may not be responsible for the circumstances of life, but we are responsible for the way we respond to them.

To understand a case of transference, it might help to have a basic understanding of a transfer case.  If you drive a 4-wheel drive vehicle, your transfer case transfers power from the transmission to the front and rear axles through the drive shafts.

In a sense, the transfer case acts as a brain that synchronizes the flow of power to the rear wheels and the front wheels through the drive shafts. I’m not sure how the brain of this vandal was working, but I do know the flow of power was misdirected.

I’m also pretty sure the future has few gold mines for this misfit, and I’m certain we’ve been left with the shaft to clean up.

As I think of this incident, I’m left with a question: Which is more difficult, cleaning brick and mortar or cleansing the thought process of the mind?

It’s been said that charisma is the transference of enthusiasm; what thoughts, feelings, and emotions do you project upon others?

Unwanted Memories: Is There An Answer?

droofFor many people, yesterday’ shooting in Fort Lauderdale stirred-up unwanted memories of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in Columbine and Dylann Roof in Charleston. We should not be surprised that these events are beyond our comprehension, because they are often perpetrated by people who, unlike most,  have no concept of conscious.

Sociopath and psychopath are words that have been used to described people like Harris, Klebold, and Roof, as well as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Dennis Rader. The DSM-5 classifies sociopathy and psychopathy as Antisocial Personality Disorders and sets certain criteria for a diagnosis:

  • A disregard for laws, social mores, and the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior
  • Sociopaths are agitated, disorganized individuals, and they are unable to blend in with society
  • Psychopaths are high-functioning individuals who manipulate people with their can charming personality. While they do not actually feel emotion, they can learn to mimic emotions to blends in with the crowd.

Due to their lack of conscience, people with these disorders process emotions like a blind man negotiates a maze; one doesn’t feel, the other doesn’t see, and both find the task daunting.

Dr. Martha Stout a Clinical Psychologist and former Harvard Medical School instructor, offers this assessment:

An emotional word is love, hate, anger, mom, death, anything that we associate with an emotional reaction. A nonemotional word is lamp, street, hair, rug, that kind of thing. If I had electrodes hooked up to you right now and I said a string of words, and some of them were emotional and some were not, I’d get a larger spike on the emotional words. We are wired to process those words more readily than neutral, nonemotional words. We are very emotional creatures. But sociopaths listen as evenly to emotional words as they do to lamp or book—there’s no neurological difference. ~THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR

The obvious question is: How do you treat someone who has no conscious?  The prerequisite to change is a desire to do so, and without a conscious there is no desire. Without a conscience there is no good or evil, and the need for true healing is a recognition of that which plagues the heart.

One thing that never changes in these instances is the need for prayer, and I encourage you to pray for those who were touched by the tragic events of yesterday.

BiTTER or BeTTER:  A Titanic Difference

elite-daily-titanicEven though it sank on April 15, 1912, the Titanic is one of the most famous ships that ever sailed the sea, and of her 711 survivors, the unsinkable Molly Brown may be the most famous.

The difference between Molly and the other survivors is that she never embraced a “victim” mindset.  She refused to yield to the emotional negatives of what she had been dealt; instead, she focused on how she could deal; and, she transformed the negative into a positive.

Molly stepped-up at a critical moment and took charge of her lifeboat.  After being rescued, she refused to be defined by her personal loss and her near death experience. She chose, instead, to lead volunteer efforts on behalf of her fellow survivors.

Molly Brown never played Wheel of Fortune, but she knew the importance of letter placement and the power of vowels.  Molly chose an E instead of an I and became  BeTTER instead of BiTTER. This is the difference between a rose and a thorn.  Some people complain that the rose bush is full of thorns, while others are happy that the thorn bush has roses.

Molly could have wasted the rest of her life bitterly trash-talking the crew of the Titanic, and she could have denigrated the engineers who designed the ship, but she chose the better path in life.

I’ll close with this BeTTER or BiTTER instruction from the Apostle Paul: Put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and slanderous talk—indeed all malice.  Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. ~Ephesians 4:31-32

*You might enjoy this brief “Molly Brown” clip.

Dallas: A Grief-Stricken City

dallasDallas, you are in my heart and on my mind.  I am praying for the people who reside within the boundaries of this great city, and those who live in the suburbs.   I’m also praying for those who do their best to serve and protect the citizens of this ever growing metropolitan area; my heart bleeds blue for the slain officers.

Early reports this morning say these officers were shot by a black man who was frustrated by the recent shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.  Just as the actions of this man do not represent the majority of the people who marched last night in a Black Lives Matters protest, the questionable actions of a few cops do not represent law enforcement officers as a whole.

Vengeful acts of rage that are perpetrated on the innocent as retaliation against a perceived injustice are the illogical acts of malcontents who are a boiling pot of rage.  The tragic events of last night are evidence that a mind that seethes with anger is a mind that is primed to explode.

Please join me in praying for the people of Dallas and the LEOs and first responders across this nation who enter harm’s way to serve and protect us.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. ~I Timothy 2:1-6