This is how I know I need this brain-clearing exercise:
Within the past week or so, I've--
1. Worn mismatched shoes to church on Sunday morning. They were the same brand and the same color, but had different heel heights and textures, and only one had a buckle in the front.
2. Sprayed my hair with Static-Gard--before I found the right can and finished the job.
3. Accidentally taken food supplements I was told to discontinue before now, in anticipation of surgery next week.
4. Attempted three times (on three different days) to answer an important email. Discarded each day's writing, after realizing it's not thought through well enough.
5. Kept 11 tabs open on my computer screen at once, because I knew I needed to give more attention to something at each tab before I lost track of them completely.
6. Forgotten about the carry-in after church on Sunday and went unprepared. Ate leftovers at home as planned.
What's in the brain that keeps threading around in there, knotting itself around other things taking up territory in the same space? Let's see if we can untangle some of the strands.
Full disclosure: This won't be a full disclosure. (I heard that sigh of relief.)
Here's a link
to a series of four sermons on the first four books of Daniel. We have just finished studying those chapters in Sunday School, and I enjoyed the focus in these sermons--all of them on integrity. Subheadings under integrity provided a title for the sermon based on each chapter. Chapter 1; Belief Under Pressure; Chapter 2, Giving God the Credit; Chapter 3, Counting the Cost; Chapter 4, Dependence on God. Continuing the series through chapter 6 are these titles: Chapter 5, Finishing Strong; Chapter 6, Removing Your Price Tags. Don Jones is the speaker. I don't know anything else about him, except that he's Baptist. The sermons were given originally in 2006. I haven't listened to the last two sermons.
(Excuse me while I close that tab.)
I'm not really hung up on Baptists, but here's
another sermon by a Baptist minister, Jason Meyer. This sermon is fresh off the press. It's based on 2 Corinthians 11:16-21, and the sermon title is "Fooled by False Leadership." After saying that "False leadership has the appearance of strength, and true leadership has the appearance of weakness. I want to drill down into those two points in the rest of the sermon. First, the false leadership that seems strong (v. 20) and second, the true leadership that looks weak (v. 21).
the speaker points to Paul as a model of Christ's leadership, and then addresses sin that sometimes masquerades under the "headship" category. He notes that it can take one of two forms, one being hyper-headship, which may involve domestic abuse. The other is controlling by excessive passivity. This is known in psychological parlance as passive-aggressive behavior. The application section of the sermon involves methodical listing of how these types of abuses look across their range--from mild to severe.
I'm not undertaking a definitive statement here about these matters as practiced in our brotherhood, but I'm thoughtful about the importance of thinking about these things rightly. I think I've seen errors in both ditches.
In Sunday School, the lesson was taken from roughly the last half of Daniel 4, where Daniel understood the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and apparently wished ever-so-much that he did not have to tell the king what he saw. He delivered the warning though, in obedience to God, and then followed it by pleading for the king to humble himself to avoid the awful consequence of the pride that would invite judgement from God. In our class we noted that doing all this was an act of humility on Daniel's part. I'm thinking now that it's this humility that gave Daniel credibility in warning the king against continuing in his prideful ways.
In share time, Arlyn invited us to give warnings, as Daniel did, and several people took up the challenge. I think it's wonderful to be openly invited to do that in a gathered body.
Today's sermon by Julian touched on these matters--not specifically in domestic or political situations, but in congregational matters. He distinguished helpfully between being a peacemaker and merely being a peacekeeper. I didn't start taking notes soon enough to repeat some of the excellent words we heard, but the gist was that to be a faithful member does not necessarily mean maintaining silence, but to offer one's perspective willingly, keeping the importance of maintaining good relationships in mind. He used Romans 12:3 to offer guidance in keeping good relationships--don't think of yourselves more highly than you ought to think.
All of these inputs have helped in relaxing some of those tight knots I'm aware of.
Rachel Y. sent me a link to this article
on recent research of the aging brain. The research was published in the New York Times
. The main take-away from this article is that, while mental processing speed peaks in the late teens, and processing speed does slow down markedly in later decades of life, one of the reasons this is apparently so is that the older brain is sifting through far more vast stores of knowledge, and bringing that knowledge to bear on whatever is being considered at the moment. A younger brain is simply less encumbered. "The picture that emerges from these findings is of an older brain that moves more slowly than its younger self, but is just as accurate in many areas and more adept at reading others’ moods — on top of being more knowledgeable. That’s a handy combination, given that so many important decisions people make intimately affects others."
This a helpful amplification of what the writer of the Proverbs calls the wisdom that belongs to the aged.
The next link
is to an article from the medical field. First, some background. In clinical research, the gold standard for credibility looks something like this: An article appears in a peer-reviewed medical journal, with careful documentation of the research behind the article. The research utilizes randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, if it's done "right." One of the most prestigious American medical journals is The New England Journal of Medicine
. For twenty years, its editor was Dr. Marcia Angell. The link above summarizes her damning assessment of the state of medical research. She says this: “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.”
This is profoundly disturbing news for anyone who aspires to avoid debatable "hype" from less officially credible sources--in favor of espousing well-documented and well-justified medical "truths." Apparently such truth is very difficult to come by.
I came to a similar conclusion after seeing what transpired in the sport of football when researchers began publishing some alarming findings about football injuries in medical journals, only to find other doctors willing to falsify their own research, discredit legitimate research, and shamelessly peddle influence with the journal editors to avoid compromising the money-making potential of professional football--at the great expense, often, of the players' physical well-being.
The above article contains a link to Dr. Angell's original article in the New York Review of Books
In thinking about wellness and disease, I come back over and over to asking what is God's plan or God's design here?
While I applaud the benefits of pharmaceutical drugs in some cases, I keep wondering if we aren't being really naive sometimes by not looking beyond this approach. I mentioned in a recent post that I think talking to God about medical matters first is always in order.
Because I see plants and other natural products as being part of God's good creation, I keep thinking that surely the wise use of these things must be part of what can bring health and wellness where it is lacking. Longer ago, people seemed to have much more practical knowledge of the benefits of using things in the natural environment to cure ills. I'd love to see someone in every community become well-informed on such matters--free from entanglements with what seems to cross over into dubious associations with powers not explicitly under the lordship of Christ.
Rosanna King from Pennsylvania is a Facebook friend of mine who is a master herbalist, a college student, and is pursuing a degree next year from a California school that offers further training in this field. Rosanna has a first cousin in our church, Mrs. Arlene Miller. Perhaps she is the one who will show others the way to become knowledgeable in this field and help us all to regain the wisdom lost over time. I'd love to see others take up this challenge as well.
The last dangling thread is perhaps best encapsulated in this blog post
by Dwight Gingrich. The comments that follow are part of the "problem" in processing this matter. Bryan S. made some reference to similar ideas in church this morning. I know the two men are friends and they have likely discussed some of these things.
On the one hand, it's easy for me to give assent to the idea that it's imperative that Christians avoid erecting cultural barriers that make it difficult for others to be assimilated into our local fellowships. On the other hand, I can never quite figure out how it's humanly (or super-humanly) possible to live out our Christian faith devoid of cultural context.
I also can't see that anything but chaos and eventually complete exhaustion would result from systematic suspension of our own cultural practices in favor of whatever culture a seeker might bring with him or her when they consider joining our fellowship. I've heard of exactly that happening in at least one intentionally seeker-friendly church/community.
My sense is that, while David Bercot's assertion is apropos--that some such barriers exist, very often (at least in matters with which I'm most familiar) the conflicts over issues are really matters central to Christian life rather than conflicts over cultural peripherals. We act foolishly when we fail to discern these matters accurately.
In specific situations that our brotherhoods face, surely God will make clear to us how we can live faithful lives while maintaining the good that we have, and extending a welcome--in the best possible sense of the word--to all who desire to walk with God and with us in faith.