Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the 40 days of preparation (Lent) that leads to the celebration of Chris’s death (Good Friday), burial and resurrection (Easter).
On this day, we focus on our sins, repentance and God’s forgiveness and grace. It is a reminder of the price our Lord paid to free us from the grip of sin.
So today, as we think about the seriousness of the cross and what it means, examine your heart in the area of relationships. Take a few moments to engage in quiet contemplation. What might you give up for lent?
This year I am giving up all sweets. But in years past, I have given up all kinds of different things. One year, it was worry, another it was anger at someone who had hurt me.
Pastor Phil of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Old Bridge, New Jersey posted a list of 20 things you could give up for lent. He also suggested you give these up for life, not just lent.
Here is his list and the link to his blog:
- Guilt – I am loved by Jesus and he has forgiven my sins. Today is a new day and the past is behind.
- Fear – God is on my side. In him I am more than a conqueror. (see Romans 8)
- The need to please everyone – I can’t please everyone anyways. There is only one I need to strive to please.
- Envy – I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
- Impatience – God’s timing is the perfect timing.
- Sense of entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
- Bitterness and Resentment – The only person I am hurting by holding on to these is myself.
- Blame – I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.
- Gossip and Negativity – I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic bringing other people down.
- Comparison – I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me.
- Fear of failure – You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fail forward.
- A spirit of poverty – Believe with God that there is always more than enough and never a lack
- Feelings of unworthiness – You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139)
- Doubt – Believe God has a plan for you that is beyond anything you could imagine. The future is brighter than you could ever realize.
- Self-pity – God comforts us in our sorrow so that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
- Retirement – As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. That does not come to an end until the day we die.
- Excuses – A wise man once said, if you need an excuse, any excuse will do.
- Lack of counsel – Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.
- Pride – Blessed are the humble.
- Worry – God is in control and worrying will not help.
Thanks Pastor Phil for the challenging but great list!
When we hear anything about eating disorders, we tend to think of girls and women. Yet, some of you are familiar with the term “manorexic,” referring to boys and men who also struggle with a clinical eating disorder some time in their life. In fact, 10 million men suffer according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
Robert was one of them. He came to my office incredibly thin and confused about his identity. Robert’s fear of assuming the role of a man and taking on responsibility pushed him to restrict his eating and take on a more child like look. Family members then organized to take are of his illness. His dependency for care helped him avoid more independent living and decision-making. The family was stuck and needed help to respond to his food restriction and fears.
Last week was National Eating Disorders Awareness week. While women still suffer with eating disorders at double the rate of men, men feel the pressure to be ripped, lean and muscular. If not treated, both genders are in danger of dying from these psychiatric disorders.
However, eating disorders are treatable. Healing and recovery are very possible but most often need the help of a multidisciplinary professional team. So if you know a boy or a girl, man or woman, who is struggling with an eating disorder, encourage the person to seek professional help.
For more helps: Breaking Free from Anorexia and Bulimia by Dr. Linda Mintle
Not every person who is depressed can tolerate the side effects of antidepressants, nor are the medications always effective. So if a treatment with few side effects that targeted a specific region of the brain was available, would you be interested?
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) may be that treatment. In 2009, TMS was approved by the FDA as an alternative form of treatment for treatment resistant patients. It uses technology to alter brain functions similar to what happens with medications and even electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). It’s being used to treat depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, and other cognitive disorders. The Mayo Clinic reports that TMS works best for people with moderate depression who have not been able to tolerate antidepressants. But keep in mind, this treatment doesn’t work for everyone, especially those who have not responded to electro-convulsive therapy (ECT).
According to Eastern Virginia Medical School, a TMS device generates a magnetic field that passes through the brain. The magnetic field is a powerful electric current that causes a therapeutic effect on the cortex of the brain. The current rebalances dysfunctional brain circuitry like a reset button on a computer. In terms of depression, the magnetic field stimulates nerve cells that improve depression.
The beauty of this treatment is that it is generally pain free and rarely shows any side effects. In some cases, patients have noted mild headaches and muscle pain after the procedure. A few patients have reported persistent ringing in the ear, and in very rare cases, seizures have resulted. The number of treatments needed varies with diagnosis. Drawbacks are that it can take several weeks to work and can be expensive.
Although there is more to learn about this procedure, it is a promising tool as an alternative treatment. For those who have not found success with medications, other therapies, or cannot tolerate side effects of medications, this is one more advance that might have real promise. In the case of any new treatment, however, we need time to evaluate if there are any long-term side effects and how to best use the treatment. If you consider this treatment, talk to your physician about potential risks and benefits so you can make an informed decision and decide if it is worth the cost.
When I would visit my mom in the nursing home, I would visit the Alzheimer’s unit and ask my mom to come sing with me while I played the piano for the patients. What was remarkable was that the Alzheimer patients, who couldn’t remember who I was from time to time, would join mom and me in singing the words to many old songs. And after we sang, they seemed to converse better.
What I didn’t know at the time was what was discovered in a November 2013 study in the Journal of Neurolinguistics. In the study, researchers had Alzheimer patients choose familiar music . When they listened to familiar music for two minutes and then were asked to do a conversational memory task, they did better than a group who sat in silence and then did the task. The familiar music enhanced the grammar, meaningful words and content of what was spoken. Music improved their conversational skills.
Alzheimer patients experience a decline in autobiographical memory that affects their sense of identity. The thinking is that familiar music may help with recall of deep memories and strengthen the patient’s sense of identity.
Little did mom and I know that our enjoyment of music and playing the old tunes could actually be helping in other ways. We saw the smiles, we heard the joyful singing, we noticed they remembered the words, but we didn’t know that music could do even more.