Pain at Christmas

MangerChristmas is a time for joy. It’s the wonder in a child’s eyes, the family you don’t get to see any other time of year, and the celebration of the best Birthday of all!

But for some, Christmas is anything but joyful. A friend of mine lost his mother this past February, and he’s dreading this first Christmas without her. Add to that the fact that his father is very ill and may not be alive when Christmas does come this year. Christmas just won’t be the same for him.

Another friend of mine was looking forward to spending Christmas with her first grandchild for the first time. Sadly her grandson was stillborn, so instead of joy at baby’s first Christmas there are empty hearts and an empty crib.

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When You Feel Anything but Grateful

When You Feel Anything but Grateful

Our world is messed up! And for that I’m feeling anything but grateful.

And you shouldn’t be either.

This week we will all see and hear everyone talking about what they are grateful for. Many will gather with family and friends for food and more. For some, as in our household, that “more” will include football. (Oh well: perhaps football does have some redeeming qualities. Feel free to enlighten me!)

For some, the holiday season is only painful. Once in a while it helps to put our gratitude against the backdrop of what is truly dark in our world.

Here’s a short list of a few things I’m NOT grateful for:

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Doctor, Doctor: Your Family of Origin

Three GenerationsYou can’t choose your parents. Or your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. If your family of origin was reasonably healthy you probably don’t think much about how you choose to relate to them. You look forward to family gatherings, and keep in touch between times together.

There is always some tension as young people grow up and leave home, but healthy families celebrate such transitions. While still connected, junior develops a life of his or her own. And you’re at least somewhat proud of your parents and the legacy they left you.

But not all families are so healthy. It seems some significant measure of dysfunction is the norm in most families. Volumes have been written on the topic, and the mental health field has provided numerous careers devoted to helping those from unhealthy families learn to function better now.

Growing up in a home with alcohol, drug use, rage, criminal behavior, or violence leaves permanent marks on your soul.

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Doctor, Doctor: The Hope Factor

Happy GirlWe all hope for something.

At least I HOPE you hope for something. The loss of hope is dangerous – of course mentally, but also physically. Hope is an especially powerful force for good in our health.

Science has been able to demonstrate the very real biologic effects of hope. Believing and expecting that something good can happen, for example, can block physical pain. With even a little bit of hope the brain releases endorphins and enkephalins – substances that act like morphine in eliminating pain and providing a sense of well-being. The pain lessens a little, which increases hope that the pain may lessen even more. It creates a positive cycle leading to healing.

Hope can also change the function of the autonomic nervous system, which controls many physical functions that we don’t usually think about, such as heart rate, gastrointestinal function, and our level of tension or relaxation. It can alter the chemical function of portions of the brain.

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Where Does Healing Begin?

Where Does Healing Begin?

As a doctor I can give you pills. I can recommend changes in your lifestyle that can improve your health. I can do surgery at times. Once in a while I might even save someone’s life. But can I heal you?

As someone wanting to be healthy you might get all the exercise you need. You might follow careful healthy eating habits. You might get enough sleep and take plenty of vitamins. But will that heal you?

As a minister I can pray for you. I can teach you about having a relationship with God, and faith. I can introduce you to Him and help bring you into His presence. But can I heal you?

Of course the answer to each of these is NO. And that really brings up the question about what healing really is, and where it begins.

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