Facing Death Every Day

Today's guest blogger is Pastor and Author Charles Spurgeon

I say this, Christian brothers, I have joy in what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for you. That is why I face death every day. -Paul the Apostle

We die daily, said the apostle. This was the life of the early Christians; they went everywhere with their lives in their hands. We are not in this day called to pass through the same fearful persecutions: if we were, the Lord would give us grace to bear the test; but the tests of Christian life, at the present moment, though outwardly not so terrible, are yet more likely to overcome us than even those of the fiery age.

We have to bear the sneer of the world–that is little; its blandishments, its soft words, its oily speeches, its fawning, its hypocrisy, are far worse.

Our danger is lest we grow rich and become proud, lest we give ourselves up to the fashions of this present evil world, and lose our faith. Or if wealth be not the trial, worldly care is quite as mischievous. The devil little cares which it is, so long as he destroys our love to Christ, and our confidence in him.

The Christian church is far more likely to lose her integrity in these soft and silken days than in those rougher times. We must be awake now, for we traverse the enchanted ground, and are most likely to fall asleep to our own undoing, unless our faith in Jesus be a reality, and our love to Jesus a vehement flame.

Many in these days of easy profession are likely to prove tares, and not wheat; hypocrites with fair masks on their faces, but not the true-born children of the living God.

Christian, do not think that these are times in which you can dispense with watchfulness or with holy ardour, you need these things more than ever, and may God the Eternal Spirit display his omnipotence in you, that you may be able to say, in all these softer things, as well as in the rougher,

we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Do you want the truth no matter what?

Does this dress make me look fat? How did you like my presentation? Did you enjoy your meal? Are you mad at me?

We all ask questions like these, but do we really want the truth no matter what?

When I was a teen I remember asking my dad if he liked my haircut – it was 1978 and I got the trending cut at that time, “The Dorothy Hamill” wedge. 

It look darling on her, but not so much on me. My dad validated what I already knew when he responded with, “Do you like it? If you like it that’s all that matters”.  No, I didn’t like it, and I was hoping he could convince me that I did. Instead he delivered the truth in the gentlest way he knew how.

Are you familiar with the old testament story of King David and Bathsheba?  David was the boy who slew the giant with a slingshot, and years later was appointed King of Judah. He was rich, beloved, and well, had everything a man could want, but I guess that wasn’t enough. One day he spied Bathsheba bathing across a distant rooftop. He immediately desired her and had her brought to his palace. He slept with her and she got pregnant. He later had her faithful husband Uriah murdered and then Bathsheba became his queen.

David’s advisor Nathan saw the evil in David’s actions and soon made him see it as well by telling David a parable about a rich man who stole from a poor one. David was livid that the rich man could be so heartless! Then Nathan dropped the bomb: you are the rich man.

David knew what he had done was reprehensible. He could have cast Nathan out from his court – but he didn’t.  He needed accountability and although it was painful, he wanted truth.

Sometimes we can be too involved or blind from our own denial that we don’t see things as they really are. Do you want the truth, even if it stings? My fingers are paused on home row. It’s a tough question.  I want to say yes because I know it’s the wise choice.  I can’t grow without truth. Yet it’s in my nature to avoid pain.

I think the best you and I can ask for is to have people in our life who are honest, but not brutal, who speak the truth in love

The more I think about it, truth trumps pain.  I may not like it, but I don’t want sugar coated lies.  Does this dress make me look fat? Obviously or I wouldn’t be asking. However…don’t be too quick to say yes lest I drop three sizes in self-esteem. Tell me it doesn’t accentuate my best features, or it’s a nice dress but I look stunning in the black one.

At the end of the day, I want truth. Not half-truths, not sugar-coated-beat-around-the-bush blah blahs. The truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God!  How about you? Truth, as in a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like? As in that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality?

I may not always like the truth, but it’s only the truth that will set me free.

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair. C.S. Lewis

Could Your Headache Be From Something Life-Threatening?

Headaches are a common complaint. The cause is usually minor, such as tension in the muscles, lack of sleep, allergies, or hunger.

Many people experience incapacitating migraine headaches, yet even those aren’t considered life threatening.

So when is a headache more than just a headache, but a sign of something more serious like a stroke?

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Any headache that is different than what you are used to, occurs in the very young or old, is accompanied by a stiff, painful neck, is preceded by a bump to the head, wakes you up from sleep, or comes on like a thunder clap, needs immediate medical attention.

when in doubt

Consider meningitis, an inflammation of the brain that causes sudden onset of headache, fever, and a stiff neck. Would you recognize it if you had it?

Any new headache is potentially worrisome. Add on other symptoms and there is no question there is a need for prompt, further investigation.  If your headache seems in anyway unusual for you, or is accompanied by any change in neurological function, an emergency consultation is necessary. If need be, call 911.

What Do Dogs Dream About?

I love to watch my dog sleep.  He curls up on our couch or his fluffy doggy bed, head and paws touching, tail tucked close to his body and falls asleep in what seems like seconds.  Soon I hear little woof-woofs while his nose twitches and paws move gently as if running through air. Is he dreaming? Is he chasing the bunny, playing at the dog park, or running to greet me?  Or, is his twitching and sleep barking nothing more than reflexive? What does science say about dog dreams?

He hears something, I think it was a car horn. He wakes, pops his head up and looks around the room and our eyes meet.  He seems confused, probably wondering,

How did I get here?  Wasn’t I running with the deer in the woods? Didn’t I chase the squirrel up the tree? I came so close to the edge of the forest where I have never been before.

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His head drops back down and he sighs deeply, sometimes he yawns, then he slop slops his mouth and swallows.  Maybe his dream gave him a juicy steak or his favorite –  a hot dog.  Whatever may have happened, or not happened, he is off to sleep again.

I love my beautiful, gentle, boy, and I adore him when he sleeps. I’m convinced he dreams, just like you and I dream. I laugh when he sleep-barks and am contented by the sound of his rhythmic breathing.  I have to resist the pull to snuggle him close, to stroke his back, scratch behind his ear, and lay my head on his chest.  The boom boom of his heart moves me and the single lick to my face is a sweet gift – he tells me everything is alright, I am loved, I am safe. And in case he had a bad dream and needs the same reassurance, I tell him everything is alright. I’m right here buddy. You are safe, go back to sleep and dream those doggy things.

And just-like-that, he does.
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Summer Cold or Allergies? The Number One Tell-tale Sign

A sudden onset sore throat.  Fine one minute, and just like that, your next swallow feels weird.  You think maybe you imagined it so you swallow a few more times and confirm, it definitely hurts. A little while later you notice your nose is getting stuffy, your ears feel plugged, and come to think of it – you are feeling run down. Crap – a summer cold! Or is it?

Your average cold (viral rhinitis) and seasonal allergies (allergic rhinitis/hay fever), have similar symptoms:

  • sore throat
  • congestion
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • post nasal drip
  • ticklish cough

Except for one tell tale sign…

the itch factor

Generally the key in distinguishing whether your crappy symptoms are a cold verses allergies is that itchy feeling of the throat, nose or eyes.  That itch is a tingling or irritation of the skin or mucosal lining that compels you to scratch, rub, or make annoying rumbling hisses and growly sounds that drives your mates and coworkers batcrap crazy.

itchy=allergies

That nasty itch is caused by a protein in pollen produced by grasses, plants, and trees. Other culprits include cat and dog saliva, dander, mold, and dust mites.

The allergic reaction is actually an inflammatory response by your mast cells and basophils. When triggered, these cells produce histamine, which causes the uncomfortable symptoms.  Over several hours, the histamine activates other inflammatory cells and this cycle repeats until the allergen is removed or the histamine release is blocked.

Allergies can make you feel miserable. The good news it they are highly treatable, depending on how severe your reaction is, you can do several things,

  • Avoid trigger allergens: If you know what you are allergic to, do your best to avoid exposure. Pollen counts high? Wear a mask.  So what if you look like a doofus –  it beats sneezing and feeling miserable. Other things that might help: shower before bed and use air-conditioning.
  • Antihistamines: Most are now available over-the-counter. Talk to your friendly neighborhood pharmacist if you need help deciding which one to try.  Side effects are possible (sedation with some), and if you take prescription meds you need to talk to your primary care provider before adding on another med due to potential drug-drug interactions.
  • Prescription nasal sprays: If your allergies last a season or all year round, prescription sprays such as fluticasone or mometasone are a great treatment option.  They control symptoms and are less likely to cause serious side effects.
  • Allergy Shots: Certainly the underdog, allergy shots are something to be considered. If you want to get to the root of your allergy problem and have the patience to do allergy testing and immunotherapy, treat your allergies using this route.

Allergies are not just kid’s stuff.  Some allergies take years of exposure before they finally develop, which explains why adults surprisingly become allergic when they never were before.

If that “cold” seems to be lingering, you are overly tired, and you can’t stand that itchy throat or nose, your problem just might be allergies.

As always, your healthcare provider is your best source of medical information for questions and concerns related to your health.

What Abe Lincoln Taught Me About Suffering

Abraham Lincoln is well known for his quips and clever words. Whether it be advice on civil rights, character, freedom, or success, our 16th president had simple, yet profoundly wise words that are timeless and still worthy of our attention.

Such as…

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt

 And this one that I hold dear,

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Though he couldn’t have known it when he said it, his years were cut short at 56. And much of his life was suffering. He was born poor, he was plagued with melancholy and suicidal thoughts, his wife had mental health problems, and three of their four sons died young.

Yet, he persevered despite these terrible life circumstances.

Thinking about that made me wonder-

Why is it that some people can’t cope with disaster or difficulties, while others with similar troubles thrive despite?

It blows me away when I meet people with things like terminal cancer, disfigurement, chronic pain, traumatic childhoods, or great loss are able to adapt and cope despite the atrocity of their situation.

They don’t give up. They still believe that God is good. That life is precious, and that they will overcome.

Others with similar circumstances groan how miserable they are and believe the world is a wretched place and life has no meaning.

I know life is unfair and full of pain and suffering. It makes no sense.

But life is also full of love and hope.

Bad things happen. But you and I have a choice –  to rise above, or to drown in the muck.

Yes, I do believe we can live and thrive in spite of an awful childhood, a debilitating disease, or a loved one gone too soon.

Lincoln with his son Willie

You may wonder,

How can I go on? How can I be happy? You have no idea what I’ve been through! 

You’re right. I have no idea what you have been through.  But I can try to understand. I only know what I’ve gone through, what I have wrestled with, and I’m still here.

  • I believe good triumphs over evil.
  • I believe there is a God who loves us, despite what the majority may believe.
  • I am sure we are not abandoned. 
  • I don’t think everything happens for a reason, rather life is fragile, an accident is an accident, and we will all die someday.
  • I can say broken hearts heal, and the pain lessens in time.  
  • And I am certain that no matter what, life is always worth living.  

When you arise in the morning – let your first thought be what a glorious privilege it is to be alive. To breathe, to think, to create, to hope, to love.

Be the person, like Abraham Lincoln, who carries on despite suffering. There are many who stand by us, offering us their example as a comforting embrace and reminder.  Like Abe, who wrote these loving words to a friend who just lost her father. ALquotescover-JPG-18

No matter what you are going through, no matter what has happened – let me, like Abe, alleviate some of your suffering. You are not alone. You are more resilient than you think. Life is what it is. Suffering is inevitable, but misery, existing in wretched desolation, is optional.

Although Lincoln’s melancholy “dripped from him as he walked“,  his hardships and intense distress gave him an unlimited supply of sapient guidance and an innate ability to truly empathize with anyone. If Abraham Lincoln was able to endure countless tribulations on top of his lifelong (untreated) clinical depression, surely you can, and most definitely I can too.

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to 
succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.

Abraham Lincoln

Can You Really Get the Flu From the Flu Shot?

Nope.

THE FLU SHOT DOES NOT, CANNOT, WILL NOT, DARE NOT GIVE YOU THE FLU.

Flu shots are made either with viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are not infectious, or with no viruses at all.

why the hey

Most likely because you were already exposed to the flu and the shot didn’t have enough time to work.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection.

It is possible to get minor side effects (low grade fever, aches, and a sore arm at the injection site).

If you are anti-vaccine, that’s your choice, but I hope you don’t spread your agenda to the point where some one who really needs a vaccine doesn’t get it because you told them not to. That’s shameful, and deadly.

What you should do is encourage others to discuss their concerns with their own health care providers.

In regards to the myths, Gizmodo has an excellent post  that addresses all that crazy talk like the flu shot contains antifreeze, causes Alzheimer’s, and weakens your immune system.

All flu-vaccine naysayers allow me to remind you of a time,

14th century Europe,

when germs were copious.

No immunizations, no anti-viral medications,  filthy oozing with death environments, and an average life expectancy of less than 30 years old.

And then there was the Spanish flu pandemic... of 1918.

Our lives are far better, and longer because of vaccines and other advances in medicine.

The flu vaccine is not perfect, but it beats taking your chances and potentially succumbing to an illness that could have been prevented.

And besides, the worst thing you’ll get is a sore arm because you really can’t get the flu from the flu shot.

Can Panic Attacks Be Life-Threatening?

Panic is a sense of overwhelming fear, triggering physical and mental reactions so severe that a person might believe he is dying. Symptoms include palpitations, pounding fast heart beat, shaking, sweating, choking, dizziness, rapid breathing, and tight chest.

The cause of the panic can be real, or imaginary.

We all have felt panic before – before a speech or performance, when pulled over by police, stuck on an elevator, or forgetting your anniversary.

In those circumstances, your panic is normal, it is not pathological and you will quickly return to a non panic state once the stressor passes or the situation is dealt with. On the other hand, if you experience recurrent episodes of panic, often for no apparent reason, you may have a panic disorder.  Some common symptoms are

shaking, shortness of breath, chest pain, blurred vision, tunnel vision, out of body feeling, pounding heart, trembling legs, spinning sensation, dry mouth, suffocating or smothering sensation, and a feeling that death is imminent

In his book, The Loss of SadnessDr Kenneth Kendler writes:

If an individual experiences a full-blown panic attack when he looses his grip and falls 40 feet before his rope catches him, no psychiatrist I know would consider this to be a psychopathological phenomenon. A panic attack is not—in and of itself—psychopathological. It only becomes pathology when it occurs in certain contexts—at times and in places when it should not.

One panic attack, not a problem. A couple more here and there, still can be dealt with.  If your panic is often, or is starting to interfere with your lifestyle or work, you need to see a clinician.  There are medical conditions that can mimic a panic disorder, and you should have those ruled out.  Also, it is safer to err on the side of caution.  If you feel you are having a heart attack, call 911. Chest pain or tightness should always be taken seriously!

The good news: you don’t have to be a victim of panic.

Don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek help, panic disorder is way more common than you think, and is very treatable.

Achieving Life Balance: How To Say No

Just listen to your heart. That’s what I do. Napoleon Dynamite

Saying no doesn’t always come easy.  Whether it’s your manager flooding you with last-minute-i-need-this-yesterday assignments, or your kid wanting to go to the mall NOW – there are times you say yes when you really want to say no.

Why do you do it? Why do you keep doing things for others and forget about what you want?  Has it been so long since you’ve considered what you want that you don’t even know any more?

Do you feel tired, restless, taken advantage of, or unhappy? Are you afraid to answer the phone because you know someone wants something from you and you can’t say no?

Doing something begrudgingly is not good for you. When you give of your time, emotions, and talents, it should stem from a sincere desire to want to do good, meet a need, or invest in someone’s future.

When you are overworked, stretched to the max, and leave little time for meeting your own need for recreation, and restoration, you are teetering on the edge of physical exhaustion and mental decline.

Excessive, prolonged stress is linked to burnout, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and more really bad stuff.

Seek balance in your life. Take a good look at what you’ve been doing this week and see if there may be some things you should have said no to. Next time you feel that twinge in your gut, listen to it! The majority of people will understand a no. And if they don’t, then they just showed you their true self.

If you say yes when you really want to say no, try one of these suggestions.

Decline with grace. You can be nice, and feel honored if you were selected for a cool opportunity. You can’t say yes to every request or adventure, even if it sounds fun.  Hey, good to hear from you!  I really appreciate you thought of me for this assignment, but I will need to decline at this moment.  Maybe later down the road when things quiet down for me. Thanks for understanding.

Compromise. A sleepover sounds like fun! But not tonight. Let’s look at the calendar and pick another date that will work.  How about I take you kids out for ice-cream instead?

Advise an alternative. Often a person truly doesn’t know what else to do, it can be hard to problem solve your own dilemmas.  I can’t give you a ride to work. Are you near a bus route?  Have you considered using Uber? Is there a car pool you can find? Do you have a friend from church or your exercise class that can help?

Stall. If you really aren’t sure what to do, buy yourself time. Don’t be too quick to decline an opportunity. Saying yes can be a strategic move and may open a door to a rewarding path.  I can’t give you an answer this minute.  Let me think about it and I will get back to you.  How can I reach you, and when do you need my answer by?

Pass.  Just say no. Be nice, grateful, with the response nothing more than a simple, I’m sorry but I can’t help you.

Skip the details of why you can’t do something.  It’s too much blah blah blah. People don’t have the time to hear the why, they’ve got to go down their list of people, and you can be sure you probably weren’t their first call, and definitely not their last hope.

After you say no, don’t fret about it. We are so afraid of hurting feelings or letting a friend down that we end up second guessing ourselves and feel guilty for saying no. Don’t feel guilty for wanting balance in your life.  Plus think of how your (true) friend would feel if he found out you said yes  though your heart wasn’t in it.

Give it a try.  Next time someone asks if you can do the coffee run, if you can babysit, or if you can host Thanksgiving dinner, say,

 Thanks for thinking of me, but I need to pass. 

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Super Simple Tips for a Healthy, Happy Life!

Nearly everyone has heard of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. He taught that disease had a natural cause (as opposed to a supernatural), and that clinical observation was an essential aspect of “do no harm” medical care.

Hippocrates teachings were revolutionary at the time (400 BC), and while he may be the father of modern medicine, he has legions of sons/brothers/daughters/cousins and such who continue to build on his ideas.

One Roman fellow, Aulus Cornelius Celsus was a huge fan of Hippo and translated Hippocrates and other Greek writings to Latin. Celsus wasn’t a physician – yet he had a major influence on medical thinking and is known as having coined,

accurate diagnosis must precede treatment

Aulus was a wise man – see below for a link to his most famous work, the De Medicina.  I like his simple tips for staying healthy and happy. You won’t need to buy organic ancient seeds drenched in glacier mineral water, no special supplements or aloe vera cranberry infused gluten free goat milk smoothies, just no fuss stuff. Sounds like exactly what I tell my patients!

Super Simple Tips For A Happy, Healthy Life

  • Make your home bright and cheery, keep it clean and free of clutter. 
  • Get regular and varied exercise – include long, brisk walks.
  • Do not overeat! (George Burns followed this rule: he attributed his longevity to his practice of eating only half of whatever was on his plate).
  • Start your meals with greens. Eat apples, dates, or other fresh fruit for dessert.

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  • Drink wine only in moderation. If you are indulging nightly, take a break.
  • Get massages whenever you can.
  • Get plenty of fresh air all year round. 
  • Treat your digestive tract kindly: don’t overdue it with fatty, fried, processed, or junk food in general. Stay hydrated! 
  • Make sleep a priority. 
  • Surrounded yourself with friends, loved ones, and never forgo a yearly vacation.

 

Celsus (ca 25 BC—ca 50) was considered to be way ahead of his time in regards to his teachings on maintaining good health. Ironic he died so young. His suggestions are common sense and accepted practices. I will overlook his blood-letting instructions and vomit obsessions. After all, none of us are perfect.

If you want to know what Celsus had to say about such things as treating gangrenous mouth lesions, agglutinating wounds, or helping women who collapse speechless, consult his expansive De Medicina.

Cheers to good health!