Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Doubt and Courage

We all know of Christians who say that they have never doubted. Their lives seem so pale, so far off from the heroic adventure that is faith. The most fruitful believers tell us ashamedly of the inner battles that have torn them between doubt and faith. And the great Bible characters from Abraham or Moses right through Jacob, Jeremiah, Peter, and Paul all show us their conflict-filled lives, their revolts against heaven, their refusals to adapt to a God who was too demanding of them…They were real men!...they would not give in easily. Therefore their surrender had nothing in it that resembled childish dependency. Their very surrender was an act of manly courage. It brought them to human fulfillment and opened up human history to new seasons of life.

                                                                             -Paul Tournier, The Seasons of Life

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Spiritual Review of Systems

If you have ever been to the doctor for a new problem, you undoubtedly have been subjected to a series of questions by the physician as he or she tries to figure out what is causing your problem. Some of these questions are a review of systems (ROS). If you went in for a cough, the doctor probably asked you whether you had any wheezing, troubles breathing, whether you had chills or sweats, runny nose or wheezing. There are review of symptoms questions for the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, the endocrine system, the gastrointestinal system and so forth. 

In our practice of medicine, we have developed a series of questions we call a spiritual review of systems. These questions ask about potential spiritual problems that may be contributing to or even causing your symptoms. The first question asks, “What personal problems are you experiencing in your life?” The questions address issues related to guilt, bitterness, loneliness, fear, addiction, and purpose. We believe these are not simply psychosocial issues, but spiritual ones. When we are out of order spiritually, our mind and bodies will be affected. 

Just as a physical ROS can unearth physical reasons for our symptoms, so the spiritual review of symptoms an unearth spiritual issues that are making us ill. For example, I examined a man who came in with a chief complaint of chest pain. His symptoms sounded like angina, which is caused by clogged arteries of the heart. I sent the patient for a stress test which was surprisingly normal. The patient later disclosed the true source of his chest pain: his wife was about to divorce him because of his ongoing anger problem. His chest pain started soon after the breakdown in their relationship. Once he apologized to his wife for his anger, and expressed a willingness work on this issue, his recurrent chest pain resolved! The cause of the man’s chest pain was principally spiritual in nature. 

Take a look at our spiritual ROS. If you’re a provider, try asking one or some of the questions at a visit with a patient the next time you’re faced with a diagnostic dilemma. Dr. Tournier, who inspired our review of symptoms, made his life’s work unearthing spiritual issues that were causing patient’s physical problems. We think the questions may be fruitful in helping patients get well. 

If you’re not a provider, and you’re experiencing some troubling symptoms, reflect on the questions. Consider if any of the issues they unearth may be contributing to what you’re experiencing. The goal in the process is to foster the spiritual or relational virtues we allude to on the spiritual ROS, and to foster wholeness and peace: with yourself, with others and with God.

To access the spiritual ROS, click HERE.

For the related spiritual virtues, click HERE.

To download a pdf of the above tools, click HERE.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Sabbath

 Our spirits become more unified when our relationship with God is the center and focus of our lives and all other aspects find their proper priorities in the worship of the Lord. Our bodies are more sound when we enjoy a rhythm of fasting and feasting, when we truly rest by giving up the burden of possessions, when we have time for naps. Our souls are more complete when we can get in touch with our deepest emotions, our true sexuality, our creativity, and our sense of delight and play. Our minds become more robust when the narratives of our heritage as God’s people remind us of our redemption and when, as a result, our attitudes are made more wholesome and our freedom leads to the generating of new ideas. Furthermore, the interworking of all these aspects of our beings finds a new unity in Sabbath keeping because we no longer dichotomize between mind and matter, our bodies and our spirits or souls, our left and right brains. Rather, all becomes sacred and wholly integrated in our distinction from the world. We have even seen that there ceases to be any dichotomy between solitude and communal togetherness, because each is necessary for the other, and each contributes to the fullness of our being in relationship with God. As we become more intentional both about being a gathered Christian community and about enjoying our special times of solitude with God, the two work together to create a greater sense of both individual and corporate wholeness.
                                                              -Marva Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Partner

When God said, “It is not good that man should be alone,” he intended, by giving him a partner quite different from himself, to force him to face up to a difficult process of mutual adaptation. He intended him to go beyond himself instead of avoiding the conflict by surrendering to his wife or by enslaving his wife. In other words, he needs to grow up.

                                                                             -Paul Tournier, The Seasons of Life

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Spiritual Dementia

Only some will develop dementia of the mind.

We all have the propensity to develop dementia of the spirit.

In the clinic I frequently see elderly patients who are at various stages of dementia. On the surface, they can appear with it and carry on a basic conversation. But when I dig just a bit, it's evident they have a degenerative process of the mind. One of the hallmarks of dementia is short term memory loss. When asked, patients suffering from dementia don't know where they are, the date, or the year. They won't be sure where they live or who they live with. They may not know what medicines they are on, or when they last saw a loved one. In advanced stages, dementia patients are prone to wander and go missing. Dementia is a troubling disease for the patient, and a heart wrenching condition for the family caring for their loved one. Family members will try in vain to get their loved ones to remember certain persons, places and events. Such attempts typically end in exasperation for the patient and frustration for the family member.

Unlike Alzheimer's or the other brain disorders, we are all prone to spiritual dementia. We have the propensity to develop short term memory loss, but it's a different type of loss. We forget who we are, whose we are, how we should think, be and act. We forget our purpose in life, and what we should live for. We forget how to be kind, patient and forgiving. We forget what it means to love our neighbor, often the person closest to us. We're prone to wander from the ones we love. Such memory loss leads to broken hearts, relationships and families.

There is no effective treatment for physical dementia. Thankfully there is one for spiritual dementia: communion.

Communion with one another in worship. Communion with our maker. In our spiritual dementia, we are prone to look inward. Communion prompts us to look up. Look up to the One who sustains us, loves us, and gave himself for us. Gratitude issues forth. In the act of worship, in the partaking of communion we are reminded of who we are, whose we are, how we should think, be and act. Our spirit is revived. The degenerative process of our spirit is reversed.

Like physical dementia, spiritual dementia is progressive. The longer we stay away from communing with one another in worship of our creator, the more demented we become. Like our elderly demented, we become almost unrecognizable, an empty shell.

To heal spiritual dementia or to prevent it from developing, seek out a place where communion is celebrated. Bend a knee. Lean into the spoken word and turn the eyes of your heart upward. In humility receive the gift of giving thanks.

"Do this in remembrance of me."

Monday, May 14, 2018

Isolated Study

In order to study man, we stopped the course of his life history in order to pinpoint it at a given moment. We likewise set aside his social and physical environment. What is more, we even isolated each of his organs and each of their functions. It must be admitted that the gains of this analytical method were phenomenal. Nevertheless, what was gained in precision was lost in terms of an over-all view, of an understanding of the human person himself.

                                                                             -Paul Tournier, The Seasons of Life

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


One can search the brain with a microscope and not find the mind, and can search the stars with a telescope and not find God. 

                                        -J. Gustav White

Friday, May 4, 2018

Spiritual and Natural

We are therefore constantly exposed to two dangers in the study of man. We may, on the one hand, see nothing more than the natural being, and thus remain blind to the constant reverberation of his spiritual life upon his natural development. On the other hand...we may see only the spiritual being, and thus ignore the role of his natural life. Thus we doctors who, in the healing of diseases, perceive only the natural animal in their client. They treat him as if they were veterinarians, quite oblivious to the constant influence of spiritual life upon health. Inversely, we see spiritual healers who condemn any recourse to scientific medicine They show in this way that they’ve forgotten that man, as God has made him, is a part of nature, subject to its laws and curable by natural means...

Man does not have two lives, natural and supernatural: He has only one, his real life…The spiritual life is not made up of a few exceptional events, but of the whole of life, to which it gives meaning. Life is meaningless if it is but a blind series of phenomena…

God leads us both by nature and by His calls; he accomplishes His plan by natural means as well as by those which we call supernatural.

                                                          -Paul Tournier, The Seasons of Life

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Reflection

We have been created to reflect the glory of the only God. If a mirror says "No, I will reflect only myself," pulls down the shades, and turns off the lights, it shouldn't be surprised that there is nothing to reflect. It has violated the terms of its creation. Likewise, when humans say "I will live only for myself," it should come as no surprise that there is no real life to be lived."

                                                              -From the Faith in Action Study Bible, notes on Isaiah 13

Tuesday, May 1, 2018



Depression kills. A darkness inside that can take over your life. Both the result and the cause of great inner pain. Medically, interventions shown to help include counseling and medications.  We recommend exploring the facets on this site: working on the body, mind, and spirit; engaging in healthy community, seeking God, seeking truth, exercising, eating right, getting good sleep.

Pastor Phillip Miller talks about depression in his exploration of Psalm 42. It is an excellent talk and we highly recommend it.  Click here to play the audio