Are you … hangry?

Have you seen the Snickers commercials where people aren’t themselves until a buddy gives them a candy bar to eat? One bite, and the person goes from frumpy/strange/inept, back to themselves. Like in this commercial of a guy who, without Snickers, acts like a diva:

Now, I’m not sure how a candy bar with 250 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 27 grams of sugar can transform a person – especially after one bite – but the idea behind it is helpful. It’s often true that how we feel affects how we live.

In his book, The Puzzler’s Dilemma, Derrick Niederman tells of a study sponsored by Ben Gurion University. The study looked at the results of over 1,000 parole board hearings in Israel over a ten-month period. Researchers found that the likelihood a prisoner would receive parole started at 65% each day, and then steadily declined to near zero until the first meal break. After the snack break, the likelihood of parole went right back up to 65%, then declined until lunch. After lunch, the likelihood went back up again to near 65%, but fell rapidly, and then hovering near zero until the end of the day. 61772216char

In other words, our blood sugar does affect how we feel, and how we act.

Which gets me to thinking: How does how we feel affect our spiritual journey? How does how I feel affect the choices I make?

It seems to me that we place a lot of emphasis on how spiritual elements contribute to our spiritual growth. And that makes sense. Spending time in scripture and prayer, regularly worshiping, being honest with others about my struggles, and serving others – all these are important parts of my faith journey.

But what about the physical stuff that we sometimes give hardly a thought to? If, as Ben Gurion U found out, our blood sugar level can subtly affect our thinking and the choices we make, what else can? What other physical elements in your life might be affecting the spiritual choices you make?

Some suggestions:

  • Rest. Is there any doubt that rest, and a good night’s sleep, are vital to giving you the energy and clear head you need to make good choices?
  • Exercise. Not only is physical activity vital to good health, it also has real emotional and spiritual affects, too.
  • Diet. We are what we eat. How many of us give very little thought to what we eat, and how it affects how we feel?
  • Smoking. I live in the state with the 2nd highest rate of smoking. Is this really what we want to be known for, Kentucky?
  • TV Watching, Web Surfing, and Mindless Phone Swiping. As I heard someone say once, “I’ve never had an experience of God watching TV.”
  • Reading. There is no doubt that reading (or listening to a good book) helps expand your mind and your understanding of God’s world.

In short, these are some “non-spiritual” things that, I believe, greatly affect our spiritual lives. I believe they are worth regular assessment – where we ask ourselves: How am I doing in these areas?

Any area you would add to the list? Feel free to comment – while I go get lunch with a friend.

What a fourteen-year-old boy has in common with a healthy church

My fourteen-year-old son grows like a proverbial weed. Scratch that; he grows faster than a weed. It is now a matter of weeks before he passes my tall, lanky frame with his soon-to-be taller, even-lankier frame. I am about to lose my 23-year-reign as the tallest member of our family. And when Quincy grows past me, I will from that day and forever after be 2nd place in the contest for family height. (What can I say? I’m a guy; everything is a contest.)20140831_140005

But that sure beats the alternative. I would much rather he would grow past me than not grow at all. I would rather he reach 6’5″ than stay the same size he was when he was 5 or 6. I know he’s healthy because he keeps growing – and because he keeps eating, and eating, and eating…

The truth is: growth and health go hand-in-hand. Whether you are a parent watching your child mature, or a teacher guiding a student, or a employer training a new worker, you want to see growth. You need to see growth. That’s how you know the person is healthy.

Isn’t the same thing true when it comes to our faith journey? The healthiest among us are the ones who keep growing; who aren’t content to sit still – or, worse yet, regress. Spiritual health is seen in my growth, as I continue to learn, to listen, to love. As I use my spiritual muscles, I become more and more like Jesus. And isn’t that the best way to measure growth?

And if that is true of me and you as individuals, can’t we say the same about us as a group (that is, the Church)? If I am healthiest when I am growing, isn’t the Church also healthiest when it is growing?

But truth is, sometimes that is hard to measure. I can chart my son’s growth; all I have to do is look at him and notice that I no longer have to lower my head to look him in the eyes. Soon I will be looking up to him. Growth, for Quincy, is very easy to measure – it’s seen in the swivel of my neck.

But measuring growth in church isn’t so simple. It’s not just a matter of knowing our ABCs (attendance, building, and cash). Those are helpful tools, sure; but often the way to truly measure growth is more difficult than that. In his article, The Measure of a Church, Will Thomas suggests five ways to gauge church health. All of his recommendations are good, because all of them point beyond simply measuring what we can count on our fingers.

At the end of the day, what matters is not how often we sit in a pew or how much we put in a offering plate, but are we changed by what we hear? Do our lives look different? Are we transformed by what we say we believe? And does that impact others?

In short: are we followers of Jesus who help others see what it means to follow Jesus?

At Fern Creek Christian, we have begun a new series, Discover Your Mission Now. But it is more than a series; it must be a way of life where we aren’t measured simply by what we attend or what we give, but by how we live. And healthy, growing followers of Jesus are people who live on mission – with Jesus, for Jesus, for a world that needs to see him live through us.

So, how healthy are you?