Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On the Altar of Sacrifice

On the Altar of Sacrifice

In ancient days long ago, mankind would offer up to God sacrifice in an effort to show of obedience, gratitude, devotion and commitment. Depending on the people or the god, the sacrifice would be something of great worth that would be a symbolic manifestation of their dedication or seriousness to follow their god.

Sacrifice can range from righteous to wicked.  Animal sacrifice (often a pure, unblemished white lamb) as performed in Jewish history was symbolic of God’s sacrifice of his son the messiah who would be the savior of mankind. The priest of Baal in ancient times, and sadly to say again in our day, offer up abominable sacrifices to this immoral bloodthirsty false diety.

Today, I speak of righteous sacrifice and how it can relate to our lives.  In baseball, a sacrifice can be made in order to advance the score of a team.  A player is willing to get out by bunting or hitting a pop fly, which allows another player already on base to score.  As we sacrifice something of lesser value, we can receive the benefit of something far greater either for ourselves individually or as a team.  When a righteous sacrifice is made, it is not to satisfy personal gratification, lusts, or to exercise power, control or dominion over others.  By giving something up we may end up in better health, wisdom, and have personal benefit.  A true sacrifice [in order to hold real power and strength] should be performed through higher motivation than personal gain.

I work with a lot of people who struggle with a myriad of health concerns.  Some conditions are readily resolved while others can be more resistant. For those who do not regain health as seamlessly as they would hope, there is often underlying issues that impede or even sabotage the healing process. More often than not, there are emotional or spiritual components that must be addressed. I believe that there are spiritual roots to everything we experience, for good or ill. I have heard more than I care to express, “Isn’t there just something I can take?” The answers are sometimes complicated. “Yes, you need to take this supplement, but you also have to stop drinking soda pop and eating donuts. You have to exercise and stretch and breathe. You need to forgive your spouse, your parents, your children.” Oh my goodness, there is so much we each need to do. 

Many of you feel like you’ve been betrayed by your aging, pain-riddled body. But in reality, it may be you who have done the betraying through your violation of the laws of health and nature.  So where do we go from here. Are you stuck with the consequences of poor dietary decisions, addictions, and inherited genetics? 

This is what I do know. You have a God that loves you and is mindful of what you suffer. I believe that God allows suffering, disease, illness (of body and brain) to get your attention. Once He’s got your attention (isn’t pain a great attention getter?), then it is your job to listen.  Understand that God knows your pain. He knows your financial situation. He knows the pressures you experience at work and home. He knows about your indigestion. He knows your relationship with your spouse and the annoying neighbor with the unkept yard. He knows your thoughts and the intents of your heart. He understands your selfish tendencies and your weakness in addictions.  He even knows what is coming in your life and in the lives of everyone around you. Based on all of this, He can, through the whisperings of the Spirit, give you guidance and direction.  You can, and do, receive subtle prompting and urging as to what you should do or not do.

How many times have we said, “Arghh, I knew I should have done that!” or “Something told me not to do that!”. You see, the spirit (also known as your conscience) speaks to you all the time.  Unfortunately, many of us have become so accustomed to disregarding these impressions that we hardly notice them anymore. 

Most of us acutely know that there are things we are doing in our lives that are not conducive to our health and well-being. It may be what we eat or drink. It may be staying up too late or wasting time on social media. I may be expressing criticism rather than gratitude. It may be acting on the need to control others and events. It most probably is our thoughts that are not in harmony of the righteous desires of our heart.

Most of us have tried (repeatedly) to root problematic issues from our lives only to fall back in failure feeling weak and small and at the mercy of appetites and passions that loom larger than our will to conquer them. It is my feeling that spiritual promptings and direction are given to us, in an effort to guide, strengthen and support us.

Back to sacrifice. I believe that many of the addictions and issues we struggle with cannot be overcome by shear willpower and grimed determination. I think you need help. I know I need help. I have found in my personal life, that when I place my issue on the alter of sacrifice I am imbued with power and strength beyond my own. Let me share with you an example. Several years ago I was told in my heart and mind, that I should not drink soda pop. I have never been a regular consumer of this elixir of Babylon, but felt that I should offer my abstinence of this liquid candy on my alter of sacrifice. Drinking soda since then has no longer been an issue of health for me, but an issue of my commitment to God. It has taken on a whole new dimension. The temptation for me now is pretty non-existent.

Here is the important thing you need to understand. You should not make covenants or agreements with God, unless or until, you receive spiritual impressions to do so.  It is not wise to say “I’m giving up sweets! – There that ought to please god and make my arthritis go away!” First off, you are setting yourself up for certain failure. God gave us taste buds that are specifically designed for sweetness and wired them to the pleasure centers in the brain. Therefore, sweets are good, but only the sweets that God has provided for us in nature – fruits, honey, etc. Not the unhealthy counterfeit sweets made with processed or artificial sweeteners. Perhaps, you would do better to put on the alter of sacrifice the Oreo cookies (if that’s your thing). But my point is, do not take lightly making any such commitment. Let your sacrifice be dictated to you through spiritual promptings. Then give it a few days or a week. Ponder it in your mind. Make it a matter of meditation and prayer and then when you feel it is right, make that commitment. Your commitment will be spiritual in nature, but the blessings and benefits can and will be seen physically. And because of the spiritual nature of your commitment, you can draw on the powers of heaven to be strong and overcome.

As we sacrifice, love increases. Just as the mother’s love for her child is strengthen due to the sacrifices made, so too our love towards God will grow as we sacrifice our sins and weaknesses to Him.

For many, the next step in your spiritual growth and development will necessitate the making of commitments. Consider what you will place on the alter of sacrifice. Will it be processed sugar? Soda pop? Staying up too late (unnecessarily)? Not expressing gratitude? Let the spirit guide you.  Start out with something simple that may not seem like too big of a deal. You MUST have a success, otherwise you may become discouraged and may abandon the avenue of spiritual growth placed before you. As you build upon your successes, you will trust Gods direction more in your life and God will trust you more through your honoring of commitments made.

I pray that each of us will have the courage, faith and fortitude to overcome our demons. That we may align our minds with our heart so that we are no longer divided within.  Life if hard, but I promise there are vistas and realms of peace and joy that can be yours. May we become one in heart and mind with God and each other.


Dr. Kyle Christensen
June 2016

Wheat! Overcoming Gluten Intolerance

Wheat, Wheat
Everywhere and not a grain to eat!
Or Overcoming Gluten Intolerance

By Dr. Kyle Christensen

So you’ve been dutifully prepping and have amassed a nice stash of wheat, only to discover that you or a family member has become gluten intolerant. So now what?! As you settle into the world of gluten intolerance, you discover that this growing problem has made wheat more of a foe than a friend. Way back in the early 1980’s when I was in chiropractic college, we were never taught about this exponentially growing malady known today as Gluten Intolerance. Of course we studied Celiac Disease – as a genetic inability to breakdown or digest gluten, but that was rare – afflicting maybe 1/3 of a percent of the population. Understand that gluten intolerance is real and it is growing and afflicting more and more of us. But also understand that the vast majority suffering from gluten intolerance do not have the genetic disorder known as Celiac disease.  It seems that many patients are more satisfied with a disease title than just being intolerant of something.  And doctors are giving them what they want, a diagnostic title that for many gives them an out or excuse from personal responsibility. So now many wear the badge of Celiac Disease, assured it is no fault of their own. You see, there are two rules of thought regarding disease. The first (and more ascribed to) is that disease or illness descends upon the innocent and unsuspecting and gets you. The other is that there is a rational cause – usually the result of lifestyle choices. It is my opinion that gluten intolerance stems from the latter of these.

The problem of Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease is growing exponentially.  And as a result, the gluten-free market is booming.  Doctors, celebrities and the mom with kids next door are disavowing grains while preaching its evils with religious fervor.  If you hint or suggest that wheat may not be quite the villain portrayed in the media you can bring upon yourself quick and harsh judgment.

As is so common in our culture, we are so quick to come to conclusions and often not even asking the right questions to the issue at hand.  The first question that should always be asked is WHY? Or what the heck is going on here?! Even the most ardent foe of grains today must admit that the issue of gluten intolerance did not exist in past decades like it does today. So, in my thinking, we must ask: What is going on here?

I am not questioning the reality that people suffer and indeed suffer greatly from eating wheat or other grains that contain gluten.  What I am suggesting is that there is more to the picture of gluten intolerance than simply wheat (or rye or barley) being bad.  Certainly, there is an individual genetic component in some people, but that is not the only factor to consider.  GMO’s, while not a good thing, was not around (as far as wheat) when the gluten intolerance crisis began.  Modern hybrids are also blamed, but even the ancient grains have gluten (as well as gliadin and glutenin which are contributing factors). What I suggest is that wheat or grain is not so much the problem as the way it is prepared.

Modern methods of food manufacturing have changed the way, I believe, grains are prepared as compared how they have been prepared over the past millennia.  Your typical manufacturer is interested primarily in profits.  To insure profitability, they focus on getting the product out as quickly and economically (for them) as possible.  They are also interested in shelf life of the product once it gets to market.  There are other factors of course, but these are the main two that have effected the digestibility of your bread.

Bread in times past, was not made with quick rising yeast.  In fact, Fleishman’s introduced rapid rise yeast in 1984. Which coincides with the advent gluten intolerance. Being able to use a yeast which would allow bakers to make make twice the amount of bread in half of the time was just too good to be true. It seems, as we will discuss later, that there is more to the rising processes than just rising. Bread and grains in times past were not laden with preservatives and chemicals to lengthen the shelf life, to enhance the texture, color or whatever else they do to increase sales.  Modern convenience dictates that we don't make "daily bread", but we buy our bread once a week and expect it to stay fresh (and not mold ever!). Which, with chemicals and additives it does.

Grains, as well as legumes, nuts and seeds, naturally contain chemicals known as anti-nutrients.  The purpose of these anti-nutrients (such as phytates, enzyme inhibitors, saponins), that are genetically built into many plants, are there to insure their grains survival.  If, for example, cattle begin to eat too much of a bean or grain growing in the field, the antinutrients cause a mild digestive irritation prompting the cow to move on to something else.  Without these anti-nutrients, the tasty grain or bean would be entirely consumed and its survival could be in jeopardy. Additionally, phytic acid acts as a protective coating (kind of like cellophane) on the grain, nut or seed which prevents germination. This is why we can store wheat and plant it successfully many years later. In some cases, such as with kamut, thousands of years later. It turns out that it takes at least 6 to 8 hours for this protective phytic acid shealth to dissolve or break down once exposed to moisture. Which is why we water or soak our seeds before planting them.

Ancient man was pretty cleaver.  Through trial and error (and without refrigeration), they discovered ways to preserve seeds as well as make their food more digestible as well as more nutritious.

If we ask the question, "What are we doing to the grains we eat today that people back in the day did differently?" We know as historical fact that people have been eating bread and grains for thousands of years without it causing problems.  In Christianity, we pray for our daily bread and Christ even refers to himself as the Bread of Life - each example having very positive connotations.

Every culture prior to ours would soak or ferment their grains and bread dough prior to cooking.  Bread was not made with added yeast, but with a culture or sourdough starter.  This natural leavening (typically a strain of lactobacillus bacteria) was acidic and would break down the phytic acid, deactivate the enzyme inhibitors as well as cause the bread to rise.  The resulting product was a fresh aromatic easy to digest and healthy bread.  Genuine sourdough bread is made today as it was anciently with three primary ingredients – Grain (flour), Water and Salt. If done properly, this combination delivers a light nutritious loaf with exquisite taste.  This bread is not made in a day, but traditionally takes 2 to 3 days to make.  This is why the Hebrew people in their exodus from Egypt were instructed to make unleavened bread - bread that didn't require the time to culture, ferment and rise.

Because bread and grains (this includes pasta, pastry and anything else made from flour), prepared improperly, have been eaten as a dominate part of the diet in more recent history, these anti-nutritents cause irritation, inflammation and deplete minerals in the digestive tract.  Coupled with a genetic predisposition that many have inherited, the result can range from mild discomfort of gluten intolerance to the ravaging inflammation of Celiac Disease.

As a result of years of eating bread and grains that are milled too finely, risen too quickly and eaten too abundantly, chronic and sometimes disabling digestive conditions are spreading as an epidemic across modern cultures. The consequence of gluten intolerance and celiac disease with their attendant inflamed and damage digestive tract. 

Let me share an analogy. As we are hiking through the forest, we come across a beautiful idealic meadow. Grasses and wildflowers in abundance. A small babbling brook meanders and of course, Bambi is skirting the perimeter munching the wide variety of foliage. Imagine, to our dismay, a crop duster flies overhead dumping his load of herbicide resulting in the destruction of the grasses, flowers and wild growth. Then it begins to rain and rain.  Without the healthy root structure of the plants to hold the soil intact, the rich fertile soil begins to be washed away. Over time, what was once a gloriously diverse healthy meadow has become a barren eroded waste land.
 In our attempt to restore the meadow, we purchase seeds (we are smart enough to know we need a variety of species – cause if we just plant kentucky blue grass seeds, we could end up with a lawn not the meadow we desire). But sadly, few of the seeds take hold because of the depleted soil. Patches of growth occur which certainly helps but we end up with a compromised meadow.  Determined to succeed, we bring in tons and tons of compost – rich fertile nutrient rich compost. Now the planted seeds take hold, sink their roots deep and with time even Bambi returns to our restored meadow.

Compare this now to our digestive tract. The grasses and wildflowers are the probiotic that grow in the gut and the rich soil is the lining of the intestinal tract. The herbicide that kills the growth can be antibiotics (which kill both the good and bad bacteria in the system) or chlorinated water (designed to kill pathogens to protect our water supply, but once in the body continues its sterilization). Additionally, food additives, preservatives and a vast array of chemicals can compromise the healthy complexion of our digestive tract. Couple that with a diet that is dominated by sugar and processed foods. The wiped out probiotics which are an important part of digestion are not there to do their job such as converting the nutrients we eat into a form that can be used. Combine this now with quickly made bread and pasta which do not have the phytic acid broken down, which results in the robbing or bind up of minerals from the lining of the intestines. What was once strong intact intestinal walls, now becomes a much looser matrix of tissue or what we would call a “Leaky Gut”.

To heal the digestive tract, we must take the same approach as healing the meadow. First we need to eliminate what is causing the problems. Next bring in compost, for the gut it is in the form of bone broth and gelatin – providing the richly diverse minerals and nutrients to heal the connective tissue lining of the gut. Then we need seeds – wildflowers and grasses for the meadow, but for our gut, we need an equally diverse supply of probiotics.  Sorry taking only acidophilus is akin to planting only kentucky blue grass.  Then with time and eating healthy – whole natural foods – you can even begin to eat wheat again – of course – properly made with wheat in a sourdough form rather than quickly made through modern yeasts.

The solution will not be found in simply eliminating gluten from the diet (although this is necessary and it does help with the symptoms).  Honestly, people suffering from gluten intolerance, even though they have completely eliminated gluten in all forms from the diet, still have digestive problems and are oh so sensitive to so many foods and magnified by stress.  Remember, the digestive tract needs to be healed.

There is hope. 

Food and eating should be a wonderful experience that is discussed, planned, anticipated and savored.  Unfortunately, those suffering with digestive distress too often view mealtime with anxiety, frustration and trepidation. 

Processed foods, and I include in this wheat/gluten containing products (even homemade) made from rapid rise yeasts, when eaten too abundantly act as irritants, resulting in inflammation, diminished absorption of minerals and nutrients and ultimately damage of the intestinal tissue.  Compound the naturally occurring “anti-nutrients” with chemicals added by the manufacturer such as preservatives, artificial colors/flavors/enhancers, etc. and we end up with inhospitable foods.  The knee jerk reaction, (exhibited by many popular doctors – usually pushing a diet plan), is to eliminate all grain from the diet.  However, our ancestors, were pretty clever, even if they didn’t drive cars, fly planes and entertain themselves with electronic gadgetry.  By soaking grains, seeds, nuts and beans, something magical happens.  Gluten is broken down, phytic acid is neutralized and enzyme inhibitors are deactivated.  The inhospitable food is now not only easily digestible but has transformed into something quite healthy and nutritious.

As we’ve discussed, grains are not so much of the problems, but how they are prepared.  Breads made from wheat or other gluten containing grains must be soaked or fermented with an acid (such as sourdough starter or apple cider vinegar) for a minimum of 6 - 8 hours before proceeding to cook. An Italian study has shown that with proper sourdough fermentation of wheat, gluten counts have gone from 75,000 ppm (parts per million) down to 12 ppm – which is well below the reaction threshold making it safe for those even with Celiac Disease. This is how every indigenous culture prepared their grain (and nearly all of them ate grains – wheat, oats, corn, barley, etc.). 

By the way genuine sourdough bread is not made with yeast – read the labels.  I once mistakenly bought Apple Cider “flavored” vinegar.  You don’t want sourdough “flavored” bread as is sold in many markets.  When bread is introduced back into your diet, it should be sourdough of your own making or a reliable baker. Once you understand a few basic techniques, sourdough baking is fun and easy.

But I must repeat, before you get into sourdough bread, you must heal your gut (“the gut” is the scientific term for the entire digest tract).  First and Foremost – YOU MUST NOT EAT ANY FOODS CONTAINING GLUTEN or other foods that cause you digestive upset or other symptoms. 

In order to overcome gluten intolerance, we must heal the damaged gut or digestive tract.
This is done by observing 4 basic principles namely:
1. Stop eating those foods that cause irritation
2. Bone broth to heal the intestinal lining (healing the leaky gut)
3. Probiotics – necessary to convert nutrients eaten to nutrients that can be used as well as assisting in the digestive process
4. Digestive Enzymes – to assist a tired or compromised digestive tract

Stop eating Foods that Irritate: Most people with Gluten Intolerance end up with what is known as a leaky gut.  The intestinal villi are damaged and the channels in the intestine for absorbing foods are larger than they should be.  The gut is too porous allowing food particles that are not broken down sufficiently to be absorbed into the blood stream.  The result is often the development of food allergies.  So, compounded with the inflammation and irritation caused by gluten, you now are allergic to corn, dairy, sugar, nuts and many other non-gluten foods.  It is important to avoid all foods that act as irritants until the digestive tract is healed.  Only then should you begin to introduce other foods.  The raw vegan diet will most certainly tear you up. Gas, Bloating, pain! Eat soothing foods such as roasted vegetable.

Bone Broth: Once the gut has become a problem, we need the nutritional building blocks to restore the connective tissue lining of the intestines. This is where grandma comes to the rescue.  Soup made with a soup bone.  Of course, it makes the soup taste better but unbeknownst to grandma the bone and cartilage provide the perfect building blocks the stomach, small intestine and large intestine needs to knit itself into strong healthy tissue.  Tissue that welcomes the growth of the good bacteria (probiotics). Bone broth is also very soothing for an irritated digestive tract. Healing the gut may require you to consume from 2 to 8 cups of bone broth each day depending on the severity of your condition. You have to make bone broth at home on your own. You cannot buy broth at the store – all you will get is chemically flavored water.

I know that we are not all going to eat soup each day and so on the days you don’t have soup with a nutrient-rich bone broth, take a tablespoon on bovine gelatin. This is what jello used to be made from (literally the ground up cartilage, ligaments and tendons of cows). Great Lakes is a good brand of gelatin.

Probiotics: These “good bacteria” that have become so popular are necessary in converting nutrients that we eat into nutrients that the body can use.  85% of the bacteria in your gut should be the healthy ones.  Too many of the unhealthy flora (like candida and so many others) will result in cravings for unhealthy foods – sugars, carbs, junk food.  This is why so many children are picky eaters – an unhealthy digestive tract.  By eating a healthy amount of probiotics, found in yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kvass, sauerkraut (homemade, not canned), sourdough bread and quality supplements, digestive health can be restored.  Cravings for junky foods will diminish and your kids will actually begin eating things that are recognized as healthy foods.  As parents, you may need to be sneaky to get probiotics into their tummies, but as you do, you will begin to see changes in behavior and pickiness. 

Many find it easier to take probiotics in capsule form.  You need to be taking a lot of probiotics from as many sources as you can to provide a rich diversity of the good bacteria. Don’t skimp.

Enzymes: You must digest and break down the food that you eat. If the food is not broken down into small enough chunks, it can ferment (causing gas and reflux) or be absorbed as too big of particles creating an immune response (allergies). By taking digestive enzymes, we can insure that the food you eat is broken down. Your digestion needs to be good.  Some can get by taking a couple enzymes with each meal, however most will need to take more. Many may need to take up to 5 or 10 enzymes with each meal as well as taking them on an empty stomach.  By taking enzymes on empty, they act as powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that scavenge and clean up inflammation in the body. One common side effect of poor digestion is joint and muscle pain. High quality enzymes (we want good proteolytic enzymes) are important.  Enzyme therapy has also proven to be effective in helping many severe health conditions. When eating, slow down and chew your food thoroughly.

And so what to do with all of that wheat.  As I see it, you’ve got two options. Either heal your digestive tract or give your wheat to the neighbor (the one who tells you “I’m coming to your house when the economy crashes”) and buy a bunch of rice.

I have personally assisted hundreds back into the realm of eating delicious bread through the means outlined in this article.  This article is a brief (unscientific) overview to this topic, and yes the science supports this. We only have time and space here to teach the general concepts. Understand that while gluten is vital for the delicious crumb of our bread, the sourdough process deactivates it rendering it harmless to your digestion.  Yes, gluten intolerance is a problem and yes, gluten is not a nutrient you want to consume too much of, but you can be healed and dining can again become a pleasurable and eagerly anticipated experience.

Bon Appetite!

Dr. Kyle Christensen

Coming Back to Christ - for Depression, Anxiety, Chronic Pain & Insomnia

Depression, Anxiety & Insomnia
A Mindful Perspective or Coming Back to Christ

A new form of treatment for depression, anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain is growing in support and validity in the scientific community. What is being called Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy or MBCT after only 8 weeks is showing significant improvement in these conditions and reducing the risk of relapse - and it is all without drugs. MBCT is the fancy scientific term for what the layman calls meditation.

A Johns Hopkins University research review of 47 clinical trials performed through June 2013 among 3,515 participants that involved meditation and various mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, substance use, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic pain, demonstrated very positive results far beyond what could be classified as a placebo effect.

“A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” Dr. Goyal says. “But that's not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, finds that mindfulness meditation may rival antidepressants in easing the symptoms of depression. Mindfulness meditation may not cure all, the research found, but when it comes to the treatment of depression, anxiety, and pain, the practice may be just as effective as medication.

My understanding is that the purpose of the process or practice of meditation is not to think of nothing, nor is it to think of one thing. Rather, as we sit, or lie down to meditate, we are to call our attention or focus back to the anchor we have chosen. One common anchor is the breath. We simply observe our breathing as we inhale and exhale. When the mind wanders, we gently shift our attention back to the rise and fall of our breathing. Some may choose a word, such as OM. By thinking, humming or chanting this OOOOMMMM, it can become the anchor with which to return when the mind goes elsewhere.

We know that this process of calling the mind back when you notice it has wandered or become distracted is what quiets the mind and reshapes the neuronal pathways in the brain. Scientific research has demonstrated that those who suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia or chronic pain have a thickening in the area of the brain called the amygdala as observed with an MRI. After 8-weeks of meditation practice, participants not only reported improvement in symptoms but MRI follow-up demonstrated changes or a thinning in the amygdala region. It is thought that the thickness of the amygdala has a correlation with the persistence (like a positive feedback loop) of feelings of depression, anxiety, insomnia and even pain.

The study of neuroplasticity teaches us that changes in the brain can be dynamic and we are not stuck with how the brain may be or how it has developed.

Additionally, the new field of Epigenetic teaches us that a mere 5% of our DNA is being expressed at any time and we are not limited with the current expression of our DNA. As your environment shifts and changes, your DNA can adapt changing your brain and physiology to make the appropriate modifications. All of this simply means, we can change our brain, we can change our physiology.

During meditation, as your mind wanders or you become distracted, you may choose to employ another tool called Mental Noting. This is done by naming the distraction that comes to the mind. A general term such as this is a “thought”, “emotion”, “sensation”, or “urge” . You may choose to be more descriptive such as that is a “fear” or dog barking or foot itching. Mental noting gives the thinking mind something to acknowledge by naming it, which makes it easier to pull away and come back to your chosen anchor, rather than leaving the mind to its own devices (for example: escalating worrying).

Learning to control your mind by gently bringing it back is what is meant by mindfulness.
Developing a lifestyle of mindfulness or bringing back your attention can be practiced during all activities of life - at church, a boring lecture, etc. As we train our minds through a mindfulness meditation practice, we achieve better focus and concentration as well as calmness and peace.

Coming Back to Christ
Over the years that I have tried to learn to meditate, I have never found a practice that really resonated with me deeply enough that I have continued with the practice. I went through Deepak Chopra’s 6-day meditation workshop (20 years ago) as well as read books and to be very honest, it was often so immersed in Ayurveda (the traditional health care practice of India) and the religions of India that as a Christian, I somehow felt that I wasn’t being true in my devotion to Christ.

Recently, I have renewed my pursuit of meditation, however with a focus on Jesus the Christ. What I have discovered is called Christ-Centered Meditation. The task is to reflect upon Jesus Christ. Some may choose a particular verse of scripture, others may reflect on his name repeating it as they would the OM sound. Personally, what I am doing is using a document entitled, “The Living Christ”, which is a written witness or testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ.

For me, I needed an anchor that held greater meaning and purpose in my life. As mindfulness or meditation is the spiritual practice of many throughout the world, for me, it is vital that this avenue of spiritual practice reflect my personal and religious beliefs.

This is how I do it. Again, this is just me, Kyle, and I am not suggesting that this is THE WAY you or anyone else should meditate or engage in your spiritual practice. As you engage in a serious practice of this you will discover what works best for you.

I set aside 30 to 40 minutes (with the intention that I want to meditate for at least 20). For me, it’s early in the morning before the craziness of the day begins. I will choose a phrase or sentence from The Living Christ to begin with, such as “He went about doing good, yet was despised for it” or “He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead.” I will repeat in my mind the phrase and visualize it. Soon, usually very soon, my mind wanders - “what’s the dog barking at” - then gently, without any judgment (like, Come on! Kyle focus! - can’t you stay focused for even 30 seconds!), I pull my mind back to my phrase and focus of Christ. I let my imagination take me to the life of Christ - I imagine Him healing the sick, teaching the people, and walking the dusty roads. Then I discover, I am thinking of the itch on my left foot. As soon as I realize I’m no longer with Christ, I gently come back repeating a phrase. Sometimes, I will read a paragraph or two. Sometimes I will repeat a phrase again and again, memorizing it.

I am accomplishing at least two objectives during this practice. Number One, as I continually return my focus to my anchor (Christ), I am retraining my brain so that it enjoys the full benefits of a meditation practice as documented in the scientific literature. As a result, I find a greater sense of calm and focus in my life.

Number Two, I am developing the spiritual practice of drawing closer to God and Christ. I believe that one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to testify of truth. This means that when a truth is expressed, I will feel a measure of spiritual confirmation of that truth to the degree of it’s importance in my life. For example, if I say “my shoes are brown”, I may feel a subtle impression that says - “well, sure, that’s true”. However, when I say, “Christ will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords.” - I feel the spirit say “YES! That is True!” The resulting benefit is that my faith is strengthened and I feel a greater connection to Christ.

Many who have enjoyed the practice of meditation have reported an experience that is referred to as “the gap” between the thoughts. As the mind fluctuates between the anchor (Christ) and the distracted thought (the dog), occasionally, you can experience a sensation where you are neither thinking or aware of either thought. This is said to be the space or gap between the thoughts. This is often where we experience profound calm or joy or feel at one with God or mankind. It is said that miracles occur in the gap between your thoughts. I know this all sounds metaphysical, but there is truth here. Particularly if you understand that one of the purposes of Christianity is transformation. As Paul put it, to become a new creature in Christ. Or to be renewed, born again or experience a mighty change. During meditation, you can receive deeply spiritual experiences of peace, comfort and answers.

My experience is that the practice of mindfulness (meditation) has more for us than simply pulling us out of chronic depression, anxiety or insomnia. It can become a vital part of our spiritual growth and development.

It can easily be practiced without tools, money or advisors. For example, when I struggle with insomnia, I have decided, as I lie awake, it is time to pray. It’s time to meditate. Heck, I’m not doing anything else anyways. So lying in bed, I gently (without judgment) call my distracted or racing mind back to my anchor - Jesus. When it comes to prayer, it has been said that we have one mouth and two ears. Use them accordingly. In other words, we need to listen twice as much as we vocalize our prayers. Mindful meditation can help us to listen as we call back the mind to our anchor.

Many studies have shown that this type of daily practice is just as effective as pharmaceutical drugs, but without the side effects (which for some are worse than the condition the drugs are taken for).
 8-Weeks Practice
So, if you are up for a challenge and an adventure, commit yourself to an 8-week experiment in mindfulness. Dig around and do some research on your own, but get started. You’ve got nothing to lose and peace to gain. As you experience the positive benefits, you just may want to incorporate this mindfulness meditation as part of your lifelong spiritual practice.

Here's another permutation of the concept. Many have reported angst, exasperation and anxiety with even the thought of having to set aside 20 minutes to do anything.  Here’s something that may help.

You don't need to necessarily spend a set amount of time. 2 Minutes. If all you have is 2 minutes - Come Back to Christ for two minutes - understand that your mind will wander 8 times during this two minutes - but the goal and the concept is coming back to Christ - NOT staying focused. Each time you become aware that your mind has wandered off - you bring it back to Christ.  It is the "becoming aware that you've gotten distracted AND coming back" that re-trains (actually entrains - the synchronization of the mind to an external rhythm - in our case Christ) the mind.

Want to super charge the experience?  Take Notes.  I promise you, God will not be offended if you bring a note pad and pencil to meditation or prayer.  Understand that the purpose of all of this - Meditation & Prayer - is to commune with God. Many times have I been given an insight, understanding, directive or revelation and said to myself - "I need to remember that" - and then of course, I forget.  Well take notes.  When I meditate or pray with the question "What Should I do?" answers come (you know for sure the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, when you begin to make excuses or rationalize why you don't want to or can't do what you are being told").  Anyways - take notes, write down your impressions. And yes - that still counts as your meditation and prayer experience. Don’t get caught up in with the clock.

Are you brave enough, Bold enough to try this for 2 minutes?  Two minutes is all it takes to get started and get a taste of this form of communion with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.


Dr. Kyle Christensen                                                                                                                          2016


I am seeing far too many who through their lifestyles are being disqualified from future service and goals. Many of you are getting older and the consequences of choices have turned into addictions (maybe addictions is too strong of a word and for you is reserved for substances of a more nefarious nature). But one of the most damning substances (using the word damn in it's literal sense of stopping progression or movement), is processed sugar. The most obvious culprit is the liquid candy called soda pop, but sugars including the artificial zero or reduced calorie ones are killing you.  But not outright, one organ or joint at a time.

I have often said, when I die, I want to die all at once, not one part at a time. Diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, many types arthritis are all examples of dying one part at a time.

 Sadly as the years roll on our health can gradually deteriorate until systems begin to hiccup and run less smoothly.

The challenge of course is change.  When it comes to food, people like to eat (and drink) what they like to eat, because that is what they like. Whether it is because of the caffeine that gives them a boost or the sweet taste of sugar, these addictions can have a hold not only on the body but on the spirit. 

Willpower alone is rarely sufficient in freeing ourselves from the grasp of addictions. (Oops, I used that word again - okay, you're not addicted you just really like the taste and could give it up any time if you wanted - yeah, we understand - wink - wink).

What I have found is that to truly break free and turn your health around, you may need to reframe your perspective and intent.  This is where the principle of sacrifice comes in.  In baseball, when you've got a player on third base eager to score the winning run, the player at bat is more than willing to sacrifice himself by hitting a pop fly into the outfield allowing the third base runner to tag up and score.  Was it really a sacrifice the batter made if the end result was winning the game?

So here's my point, when we make changes by sacrificing what we are currently doing, often we will experience far greater benefits in the grand scheme of things. 

Here's what I may suggest.  In ancient times, people would build an alter and sacrifice (often a prized animal) demonstrating to God their willingness to both trust and obey.  We likewise can metaphorically place our sacrifice our will or physical desires to God as an offering and show of our faith and trust that by giving up something that appeals to our physical body, we can reap benefits that are far greater in the big picture of our life - namely health and vitality that will allow a brighter future.

I promise that if you take your health issues (and the vast majority are of our own doing) and sacrifice to God our agency or will, we can receive his grace and strengthening power that can help withstand the temptations and give us insight and foresight to ward off what would normally cause our sinking back into self-destructive patterns.

By turning your health challenges into a spiritual endeavor (which is what it really is any way), we can draw upon our faith and spiritual commitment to garner strength to overcome our unhealthy tendencies.

I fear that too many may be disqualifying themselves from their dreams and anticipated futures because they have fallen victims to their taste buds.  But as with all sacrifices, by giving up and giving away those things which may be holding us back, we can become in line to receive a gift that is of far greater worth than the temporary fix we get from our vices.


Dr. Kyle Christensen
June 2016