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Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Great Mystery

I'm fascinated by the word "mystery".  It means anything that is kept secret or unknown.  It always arouses curiosity and we are driven to solve the mystery--to know the unknowable.  When we find the word mystery in the Bible it takes on a different meaning.  You see, in the Bible a mystery is a truth that is revealed only through divine revelation.  This fascinates me.

Other religions in the same time period of Christ kept knowledge of their religion secretive, or mysterious, on purpose.  Information was withheld from the followers perhaps to keep interest piqued.  But Christianity is different.  It centers around revelation.  It thrives on the journey one takes to know and experience more of God.  When God's purpose is revealed scripture calls this a mystery.

Our mysterious God desires to be known.  He desires to reveal himself, his plans and his ways.  To find the jewels in the Kingdom of God, one does not need to go on a scavenger hunt with cryptic clues.  The parables of Jesus are a great example of this.  His parables reveal the mysteries of God through story in a profound manner.

Divine mystery reveals three aspects of God's character.
  • God's omniscience.  He reveals his knowledge through his word and  relationship.
  • God's sovereignty.  He reveals his power over all things.
  • God's grace.  He reveals himself in the salvation plan through Jesus

The book of Ephesians is strewn with mystery, especially, chapter 3.

Will we understand all the mysteries of God?  Certainly not.  They are beyond what we can even imagine.  I have faith that God reveals the mysteries of our faith that we need and within his timing. He is a great God.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Stress Coping Strategies That Will Change Your Life

Coping strategies are ways to manage external or internal stress. When we experience stressors we change cognitive thought patterns and behavioral patterns in order to cope with the demands the stressor is placing on our bodies.  

These strategies can be healthy or unhealthy to our emotional, cognitive and physical well being.  They are almost always habitual, and we are usually unaware of many of our responses. A bad habit or an addiction are examples of unhealthy coping strategies. Even though they are unhealthy, they bring comfort and relieve the stressor.  This makes the unhealthy coping strategies extremely difficult to replace with healthy ones.

Coping strategies are unique to the individual. However, there are six coping strategies that apply generally to everyone.

1. Your Environment.
Don’t pollute or allow others to pollute your environment.  This is difficult because it requires a lifestyle change. If you are an addict you must be brave enough to ask your friends and family not to use around you.  You must not frequent places where the substance is being used. Sometimes you may have to change the type of entertainment you listen to, watch or read. The old adage GIGO, garbage in, garbage out,  is a truth. In some cases, you may need to move to a new neighborhood or city depending on your current environment. This is your LIFE! This is serious and you are worth the best chance you can give yourself.

  1. Triggers. Avoid your known triggers.  

I’m sure you know what they are.  If not give it some thought, and make a list.  If the trigger is a person, you may need to either avoid the person or avoid them in certain situations.

  1. Respect.

Treat yourself like you would treat other people.  Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Don’t expect perfection from yourself.  Love yourself.

  1. Distraction.

A two minute distraction is all it takes to stop the mind from brooding over a craving, stewing in anxiety, or mulling over depressing thoughts.  

  1. Socialization.

Loneliness is a health risk that some say is as dangerous as smoking.  Create a regular social life with healthy, supportive people. Reach out.  Don’t isolate yourself.

  1. Power of No.

Learn to say “no” to others.  You cannot be a people pleaser.  You simply do not have the strength to always say, “yes.”  Know your energy level, and say yes only if you really are able.  Do not say, “yes” to just make the other person happy or to have them think well of you.

Your Unique Coping Strategies

The purpose of this exercise is for you to create as many things in  lists as you are able. The list is of activities you can perform to destress.  They become your new positive coping strategies. You can pick and choose from these activities when facing stress.  

There is a rule that comes with behavioral coping strategies.  The rule is DO IT even if you don’t FEEL like it. Frankly, you are not going to feel like doing these things.  They push you out of your comfort zone. They force you away from your patterns of negative coping and everything in your brain is going to fight you.  DO IT EVEN IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT. No excuses my friends.

Following, I provide my own lists.  I hope this will help your own thought process as you create your lists.   I have divided the lists into contemplative/peaceful activities, other-focus activities, and creative activities.  Though not included as an example, a physical activities list would also be beneficial.

  • Contemplative & Peaceful Activities

Sometimes a stressor requires you to relieve anxiety and help infuse your being with peace.  Make a list of things that give you a sense of inner peace, comfort or love.

Contemplative & Peaceful Activity List

Alias In Town’s List
Your List
Being in nature

Reading Scripture




Calling a family member or friend

Taking a bubble bath


Going to a bookstore

Drinking a Chai tea in a real china cup

  • Become Other Focused

Sometimes we increase stressors because our minds continually swirl around our own circumstances.  You may find yourself thinking constantly about yourself. This doesn’t mean you are selfish. It is just one of the realities of this existence.  Other-focused activities can take your mind off yourself. They will help the stress melt away.

Other-Focused Activity List

Alias In Town’s List
Your List
Pray for needs of others

Write notes, emails or messages of encouragement

Do a simple good deed or act of kindness

Give sacrificially to a charity

Play with my grandchildren

Call someone to say you were thinking of them

If you are able, do an errand for someone

  • Creativity

Please don’t see the word “creativity” and say “I’m not creative” and skip this section.  Everyone is creative. It’s a human quality we all share. Sometimes it’s expressed in art and design, but most of the time it is expressed through projects and problem solving.  

Besides, even if you do want to express yourself artistically it can be for your own eyes and fun.  I believe everyone is an artist.

Creative Activities List

Alias In Town’s List
Your List
Coloring, painting, drawing

Sewing, crafting

Organizing something

Write your family history

Research your family tree

Ask your friends how they met and write their love stories

Design website

Use online tools to make grandkids story books

Fix that thing you’ve been putting off

Find someplace local on and go on an adventure

Take your camera and:
- Take pictures of something starting with every letter of the alphabet
- Photograph anything that looks like a face
- Get a snapshot of something from every color in the rainbow
- Capture the phases of the moon for a month
- Create some before and after photos

Start an art journal or art journal Bible

I sincerely hope the above information and activities are helpful to you in someway.   It is time to be WELL.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Puzzle Of Faith

Sometimes, it feels as though faith is a puzzle that must be assembled correctly.  There are two especially puzzling things about faith personal to me.  The first is frustration.  I get frustrated that I don’t understand faith.  Oh, how frustrated I get that my puzzle pieces are not assembled correctly, and I don’t have a clear picture of what faith looks like.  This leads directly to the second puzzling thing - guilt.  Sometimes, I either feel guilty I don’t have enough puzzle pieces or just when I think I have it figured out, I am missing the last piece of the puzzle.  

The good news is I have found an example in scripture that shows my thinking is completely backwards.  Faith isn’t a puzzle after all and I’m not missing pieces either. The good news is the simple story about the Angel of the LORD telling Abraham he would have a son within a year, and Sarah overhearing the conversation.  It is a story of laughter, which of course is the meaning of the name Abraham and Sarah give to their son, Isaac, when this promise was fulfilled.  Isaac means laughter.

Laughing Off Faith

Abraham was 98 years old when he was told he would have a son.  This was the second time Abraham heard this prophecy. The first time he doubled-over in laughter.  Sarah was 88 when she overheard the prophetic announcement and she laughed too.

I believe there is a difference between Abraham’s laughter and Sarah’s laughter.  When Sarah laughed she was questioned about it. She was questioned by God about it.  

God asked, “Why did laugh?”

Sarah lied and said, “I didn’t laugh.”

Abraham laughed too, but God never questioned him about his laughter.  I’m making the following observation that is completely my own opinion.  Abraham was laughing out of joy.  He had faith that God would bring about his promise.  God had been faithful to Abraham along every step of his journey from his homeland.  Abraham believed God would continue to be faithful. Sarah, on the other hand, laughed in disbelief.  “Ha!” she said, “I’m having a baby at my age.  Ha, ha! Yeah, right God! You’re going to give me a son, ha, ha, ha!”

Does Our Disbelief Stop God?

If my observation of Abraham is right it showed that he had faith.  It also shows that Sarah did not have faith. Did Sarah’s lack of faith stop God from delivering on his promise?  No! It did not!

David Feddes, a professor at Christian Leaders Institute, says, “Faulty faith doesn’t stop God’s irresistible grace or prevent his promises from coming true. Sarah may have laughed in disbelief, but did that stop God? No, says the Bible. ‘The LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.’  That is what happened. God was faithful in his promise to Sarah even though she obviously had a lack of faith.”

This story made me think of my own frustration and guilt over what I thought was a puzzle of faith.  I asked myself, “Does this stop God from fulfilling promises to me?” It does not stop God! Not only does he fulfill his promises to me, he sends mighty blessings my way, and he is working out his plan for my life regardless of my conundrum over the enigma of faith.   As I watch God’s faithfulness and grace, my faith becomes more established and it grows deeper.

Grace Creates Faith

“Don’t think God’s promise is based on our faith.  It’s the other way around. Our faith is based on God’s promise.  Some people have the idea that God looks ahead to see who will have faith and gives grace and life to those who he foresees will have the proper degree of faith.  But that is backward. It is grace that creates faith, not faith that creates grace. “ - David Feddes

Doesn’t that make you feel happy!  Grace creates the faith.  God’s grace in fulfilling promises to us. God’s grace in blessing us.  God’s grace in sending his son to die for us creates faith. As we continue to be faithful and as we continue to walk along with him, our faith takes root.  It becomes established. It grows.

Yes, Sarah laughed in disbelief but God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promise to her caused her faith to take root.  In fact it took root so deeply that she is mentioned in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11.

Is faith really a puzzle?  

No, it is not.  Just look at God’s faithfulness in  your life. Look at the grace he has given.  Over time, your faith will deepen and grow as well.  This makes me laugh. It makes me laugh with joy. Perhaps, one day I can get over my frustration and guilt.  Perhaps I can just smile and say, “God’s grace is building faith in my life.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Vestibular Migraine And My Four Non-medicinal Treatments

Vestibular migraine or migrainous vertigo is a type of migraine which may or may not cause a headache.  It causes a number of debilitating symptoms including vertigo, nausea, pressure in the head and ears, balance disorders which include fall risk, ocular aura and other symptoms.  When an episode happens I am completely incapacitated. 

Medications are given as a prophylactic (preventative measure), but once an episode begins medications cannot relieve all the symptoms.  Anti-nausea medications help with the vomiting, if taken in time. Other symptoms must run their course throughout the episode.  As a result, I have found four ways to help with symptoms to get me through an episode.

The Stare.  Along with vertigo comes nystagmus which is involuntary eye movement.  Your tendency when experiencing vertigo is to close your eyes and ride it out, but this actually prolongs the episode.  The best thing to do is keep your eyes open and stare at a fixed object.  This reduces the nystagmus and shortens the vertigo episode.

Other Focused Prayer.  It is very natural and easy to feel sorry for yourself and even angry during an episode. This just increases your stress level prolonging your suffering.  I have found that if I pray for others, it takes my mind off myself and focuses it on the need of others.  My prayer list includes people with much greater issues than my own, as well as people who are dealing with everyday life stressors.  I am not alone in suffering.

Create A Mantra.  A mantra is something that you tell yourself repeatedly and it includes a truism.  I have two different mantras that I repeat.  One is a simple statement, "This too shall pass."  The second mantra is a song written by Ze Frank. It is a song that goes "Hey!  You're OK.  You'll be fine.  Just breathe."    The story of how the song was written is a fascinating story you can read about here (

Social Network.  A social network is a vital tool.  Network sounds like a large group, but in reality it can be just a handful of friends or family members.  I am ill and I need help.  My network are people with whom I have the freedom to be my authentic self.  With them, I can take off the mask of wellness and reveal how I am truly feeling.  They are there for me at all hours and are just a phone call away when I am feeling in crisis.

Coping with symptoms without medications is essential.  Medications are not magic potions and simply cannot help with all symptoms related to migrainous vertigo.  These four things have become a sustainable, indispensable requirement for my well being.

My book Well contains other methods for coping with chronic illnesses of all types.  It is available on Amazon here

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Addiction And Suicide Self-Help...NOT!

I belong to a news organization where reporters seek out sources for articles and books they are writing.  If I feel I can be a source of help, I respond to the reporter.  I've had a few snippets with a byline in some articles.

Yesterday, I ran across a request that is so dangerous it has me praying with righteous indignation.  There is an anonymous author searching for sources with addiction and/or suicide stories.  That caught my attention because I have both of these stories.  As I read the description of what this author was looking for I had chills run up my spine.

The author is looking for stories and any sources of online help or organizations that you found useful in recovery.  Not too bad so far.  Then I read that the author is putting together a self-help book for addicts and suicidal people.  Chills, right!

I'm not against self-help.  There are many areas in your life where you can help yourself.  You can set some goals, create new habits, learn a new skill, and so on.  However, I'm sure there is no reputable counselor, therapist or minister would suggest self-help for addiction or suicide.

Addiction is stealthy and subtle.  The addict has a brain that has been addled with chemicals that force unhealthy behaviors.  This is out the control of the addict.  Their minds are not thinking clearly and the truly addicted will risk anything to get their next fix.  Yes, anything.  Their relationships.  Their health.  Their freedom.  Taking a brain that is wired for addiction and applying self help techniques will simply drive the addict further into their addiction.

Suicidal people are also not thinking clearly.  They are not themselves.  The natural will to live that normally keeps us safe from danger and preserves life is not functioning in the suicidal mind.  There is no safety net left in the brain.  A suicidal person will almost always reach out to someone for help, but not always.  They certainly can't look to themselves for help.

This book will be dangerous.  I am praying for protection for future readers of this author's work.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Why I Made An Ebenezer

First of all, what is an Ebenezer?  I’m not talking about the main character in Dickens, A Christmas Tale.  It actually comes from the Bible. The Israelites were under attack by the Philistines.  They were outnumbered and terrified. They asked the prophet Samuel to call out to God for help.  In response, Samuel prayed and offered a sacrifice and the Philistines were defeated. Then Samuel did this:

I Samuel 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
The definition of the word Ebenezer means stone of help.  Samuel created a monument as a reminder of God’s help in a seemingly impossible situation.  

There are many places in the Old Testament where stones are used as monuments to God’s help.  It’s probably not an exhaustive list but I found at least 15 verses where this took place.
I have been doing a summer Bible study with a group of women friends based on the book, The Me Project by Kathi Lipp.  It is a wonderful book to help you learn to focus on getting to know yourself, love yourself, understanding more of God, and creating a deeper relationship with God.
In one chapter she mentions the importance of remembering the successes that God has helped you achieve.  She mentioned an Ebenezer and other ideas as tangible memorials that can be looked at to take us back to that place of remembrance and be grateful.
As part of my “Me Project”, I decided to complete the marketing plan for my book Well, and do it incorporating the process used in Lipp’s book.
I am so happy to say that with God’ help I completed my project in a way that honors him.  I learned a lot about myself and God while I was doing it and my relationship with God is stronger as a result of this study.

To remember this summer study, I decided to build an Ebenezer.  It seemed fitting to create a well replica out of my stones of help.  It’s sitting on my desk and every time I glance at it, I feel a little extra joy in my heart.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Fallacies Christians Are Told About Chronic Illness

There are many things you must deal with if you have a chronic illness.  Some of the common struggles are depression, insomnia, struggles with identity, and being incapable.  If you are a Christian, like Job you will have well-meaning friends trying to give you spiritual advice about your illness.  They mean well, but like Job we must weigh what is said against scripture and the truth of our personal relationship with God.

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