Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Delay is Not Denial

Recently, I made a decision to pursue healthier eating and more consistent exercise.

After a visit with my doctor, I was convicted that I needed to take my eating choices more seriously and to make exercise even more of a priority. My doctor suggested that I read a book called "Anti Cancer" which was written by a doctor/scientist who himself had beaten brain cancer and a relapse. The author (David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD) explained some of the subtle and easy changes that can be made in order to live a healthier life and to make the body a less hospitable cancer host.

Although I don't have cancer, improving the way I eat and live will bring me positive results in the long run. I have only one body here on earth, and I have a responsibility to take care of it now so that in 20 or 30 years I will be less likely to develop any number of conditions - diabetes, heart disease, and cancer included.

Because of my toxic mold and pesticide exposures about 11 years ago, I already know that I have a higher chance of developing cancer than the average person. Being in an environment where I breathed carcinogens and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that affected my immune system and my nervous system caused me to have a number of symptoms indicating my exposure had reached toxic levels.

I suffered from extreme fatigue, swollen and sore lymph nodes, mental confusion and disorientation, constant dizziness, nosebleeds, disequilibrium, inability to multitask, frequent urination, severe gastrointestinal distress, weight loss, headaches, severe muscle aches, muscle twitching, sore throats, irritability, memory problems, and the need to sleep constantly.

During that very dark time, it was hard for me to be around even the most "innocuous" household chemicals. My system was overly sensitized and reacted to things that don't bother the average person. I felt sick from pesticides sprayed in grocery stores and movie theaters. The herbicides used by neighbors or around school would disable me completely. My environment seemed to set me off no matter where I went. Perfumes, cigarette smoke, even the detergent aisle would make me sick.

I've come a long way since those years of early chemical sensitivity through avoidance and slow recovery over time. It has been hard for me to accept, but the damage has been done, and my autonomic nervous system does not function like it should. This damage is a long-term consequence of events that happened years ago. Though I did not have control over those events or their consequences, I do have the power to make healthy decisions now that will positively affect my future.

In the past week or so, I have cut out most of the sugary desserts I used to use as comfort food. I have sought out organic fruits and vegetables as a snack rather than just grabbing whatever carbohydrate is nearby. I am also learning the powerful effects of antioxidants like the ones in green tea. Even though my illness prevents me from overdoing it on aerobic exercise, I have looked into stress-relief yoga and tried various DVDs from the library. I am trying to walk more often and stay consistent with taking my vitamins. I realize that all of these choices are small and rather inconsequential now, but they add up over time.

It's funny to me that this weekend, even after all of the healthy food and yoga attempts, I still felt terrible. It's hard to do the right thing and still get unpleasant results. Often, that's what determines our will to go on, the strength of our perseverance and desire to succeed. Can I overcome that hurdle to keep making healthy choices? Or will I go back to a hit-and-miss lifestyle of doing and eating what feels good in the moment?

I think spiritually the same theme applies. I am making choices daily to cling to God. I exert my will to seek him out in the Bible, to worship him through finding praise songs to sing, to listen to sermons online even when I can't be at church, and to pray regularly, pouring my heart out to God. I believe that these are the decisions that keep the soul from succumbing to the toxic spiritual exposure of living in a godless world - a world that wants to do what feels good now without regard for what will happen after death. How easy it is to be lulled into the false sense of security of this life that seems to go on day after day without end. How easy it is to subscribe to "if it feels good, it must be right."

But God commands us to live a different way. Moses was commended for his faith because he chose "to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeing pleasures of sin." Whenever we obey God's word over how we feel, whenever we do the right thing and show compassion rather than judgment, whenever we cling to Christ rather than caving to the world, God sees it, and he rewards it.

I am encouraged today that even though I have not yet seen the realization of my answered prayers, I know those blessings are coming down the line. He blesses the man and woman who wait on him, who cling to him, who daily make the tough choices to keep going even when the immediate results don't seem fair.

Keep going on your journey with Christ because God's delays in reward are not his denials. In fact, His greatest rewards for us have yet to be seen!

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"
1 Corinthians 2:9

Friday, June 18, 2010

How Long, O Lord?

I was inspired by these two quotes from the D. A. Carson book "How Long, O Lord?"

"To walk into the unknown with a God of unqualified power and unfailing goodness is safer than a known way."


"What is clear is that it is in extremity that many Christians drink most deeply of the grace of God, revel in his presence, and glory in whatever it is - suffering included - that has brought them this heightened awareness of the majesty of God."

Lord, trusting you in the dark and praising that you draw me close through pain - these are my challenges, and yet, also my greatest comforts.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Malware on my Mind

As I type, I'm waiting for "Malwarebytes" to finish scanning my computer. It's been over 1 hour and 17 minutes. Still counting.

While I was working today, a fake anti-virus alert (saying it was from Windows) popped up on my screen suddenly. When I tried to open my security software or search Google for info, I found that the malware had blocked both avenues of help. I was also seeing "alerts" constantly warning me of fake threats manufactured in order to scare me into giving out financial information to buy false protection from the malware site.

I used another computer to research the specific tactics of this malware: Deception, blocking help, and fear. As I read, it occurred to me just how universal these evil principles are.

Facing temptation to linger in anger or to dwell on discouragement are attacks that I face fairly regularly. Dealing with these temptations is a challenge, but knowing the intricacies of how they work will help me to defeat any attack the devil wishes to launch on my life.

When I consider the deception of a temptation, I am reminded that the Bible warns "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." It is my job to be on guard against ideas that look and sound fairly safe but will really lead me deeper into sin. It may sound good to say, "I have a right to be angry!" But ultimately, if I let my anger get the best of me, then I have lost self-control and lost the battle against sin. In order to be victorious, I must guard against philosophies and ideas that sound good but are not biblical.

In order to be able to recognize the dangerous, deceptive ideas that infiltrate my thoughts, I have to be rooted in God's word and in prayer to get help. Temptation will always attempt to block my access to God's help. Just like the malware blocked the helpful tools on my computer that would guide me to remove my problem, temptation can block off my prayer life and my time in God's Word. Feelings of weariness, discouragement, or anger can make me not want to pray. In my despair, I am tempted to leave the Bible unopened. "What good will it do anyway?" I often wonder. When I do that, I put myself in the weakest position possible because I can't get the help I need from God. Persistence and determination to find helpful guidance from God are the only ways to succeed against such an attack.

Finally, the tactic of fear can paralyze me and render me completely vulnerable too. When I am attacked with fear about my future, there are two things that can happen - I either shut down and become paralyzed by my fears, making me unable to act, or I get so flustered that I act rashly and impatiently, leaving no time for wisdom or for God to work. When under temptation, panicking is highly dangerous and can quickly lead to either foolish action or, worse yet, no action at all.

My malware attack was defeated by guarding against deception, determining to find access to help, and not letting fear motivate me into making rash choices or taking no action at all. Now, several hours later, I finally have the option to "remove selected" threats from my computer. The same can happen spiritually when we guard against the devil's reasonable-sounding lies, determine to walk with God daily, and decide not to let fear rule our decisions. Relying on the Lord will give us the victory in every battle, no matter what.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)