A Spiritual Clinic (book review)

Some of the most formative leadership books I read early in my leadership journey were written by J. Oswald Sanders. Books like Spiritual Maturity and Spiritual Leadership. It’s my desire to be a lifelong learner, and in that pursuit, I need an external, objective source to help keep me on track. Sanders’ book A Spiritual Clinic is just the check-up I needed! 

In the physical world, we may get a check-up from our primary care physician, a counseling session with a mental health professional, or perhaps a regular check-up with a spiritual advisor like a pastor or mentor. All of these are healthy if they are all grounded in the principles in God’s Word. 

Sanders brings us to his spiritual clinic for a well-rounded check-up of our spiritual leadership. He says, “[This book’s] thesis is that the complex strains and problems which the Christian worker encounters in the contemporary world find their answer, not in tranquilizers or stimulants, but in a correct understanding and application of scriptural principles, and effectiveness in Christian work is the natural outcome of conformity to spiritual laws enunciated in the Scriptures.” 

So “doctor” Sanders holds up the mirror of God’s Word to our activities to see how we are performing in light of God’s standards. He addresses topics like stress, learning, suffering, depression, spiritual ups-and-downs, and our conscience. He zeros-in on leadership topics like ambition, authority, discipleship, use of time, and understanding God’s calling. 

Each chapter is short but packed with so many principles that it should take you quite a while to evaluate and implement. This is time well spent! 

I am a Moody Publisher book reviewer. 

Hope-Filled Declarations

Whether it’s a doctor’s diagnosis of cancer, or a rapidly-spreading virus, or a painful relationship, Lynn Eib helps us keep these unexpected things in perspective. These may have taken us by surprise, but nothing takes God by surprise. No diagnosis nor prognostication can limit God’s power and love. 

As David learned in his painful time: “God has spoken once, twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God. Also to You, O Lord, belong mercy and loving-kindness” (Psalm 62:11-12). He is All-Powerful and All-Loving. 

Let these declarations Lynn made when receiving her cancer diagnosis help put things in perspective for you—

I refuse to believe my diagnosis is a death sentence.

I believe God is on the side of my healing because His unbreakable Word says so.

I believe treatment is effective against this illness, especially the skillful efforts of scientific medicine with my strategies for replacing lying thoughts with truth.

I believe my hormones and immune system are on the side of my healing and are even now working to overcome this illness.

I believe I am personally responsible for my treatment and for managing it.

I believe hope is a choice. I choose hope, not hopelessness.

My major aim is to have a mind fully submitted to the Spirit of God and His truth, not just to see better lab results or improvement in physical symptoms.

I believe I am on earth to share Christ, hope, and joy with others. I am here only to love others, regardless of my physical condition.

I believe that God’s will is good. 

I believe that He loves me and wants only the best for me—whatever He is allowing me to experience right now.

I can recover from this illness and live a rich, productive life of service. But whether I recover or not, I am going to leave this life someday regardless. Until then I can live a full life of service every day for as long as I am given. 

—Lynn Eib, in Peace In The Face Of Cancer 

Sleep Stats

Sleep is so important for maintaining good physical and emotional health. In the book The Secrets Our Body Clocks Reveal, the authors share some interesting information on sleep. 

“The clearest ninety-minute rhythm is the ‘sleepability’ cycle. About every ninety minutes, you enter a short period during which you are vulnerable to fatigue and sleepiness. …

“These rhythmic periods of sleepability are shorter during the morning hours than in the afternoon. That’s why it’s usually more difficult to take a nap in the morning than later in the day. Some of the time, you can fight off this fatigue—particularly if what you are doing is interesting or different. However, most of the time you would do best to give in to the rhythm and take a short break from your work—especially around the lunch hour, when you are already battling the early afternoon let down.” 

“Scientists have found that when we are bored, under stress, or short of sleep, our ninety-minute cycles tend to shorten to roughly sixty minutes. That may explain why we eat and smoke more under stressful or boring circumstances.” 

What deep sleep does for you:

  • Restores body and brain
  • Stimulates growth
  • Maintains mental health

What dream sleep does for you:

  • Consolidates and sorts memory
  • Enables learning
  • Ensures our physical safety

Things that can disrupt your sleep rhythms:

  • Dieting (loss of weight can cause more frequent awakenings during the night)
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Low-sodium diet (elderly people only)
  • Cigarettes
  • Sleeping pills
  • Exercising vigorously if you’re not accustomed to it
  • A sleeping partner who snores or thrashers about in the night
  • Pets moving about in your bedroom
  • Sporadic, unpredictable noises
  • A room that is too warm (more than 75° F) or too cool (less than 60° F)
  • Hunger
  • Stress

Things that can enhance your sleep rhythms:

  • Regular aerobic exercising (at least twenty continuous minutes) particularly in the late afternoon
  • Sex right before bedtime
  • Following a bedtime ritual
  • Relaxation exercises right before bed
  • A bedtime snack high in carbohydrates
  • A dark and quiet bedroom
  • A “white noise” 

“Many scientists now believe that we were meant to sleep twice a day, once during the afternoon and again at night. … In one study, college students who regularly napped showed improved scores on skill and memory tests taken just after a nap.” 

“Scientists have also discovered that short naps (twenty minutes or less) are just as revitalizing as long ones—and less disruptive to regular sleep rhythms. In addition, regular nappers wake up more refreshed than those who take only an occasional nap. When naps are part of the regular daily rhythm, they are less disruptive.” 

You can check out my full book review of The Secrets Our Body Clocks Reveal by clicking here. Some other quotes and statistics I shared from this book can be found here. 

Another great book is Sleep: It Does A Family Good. That book review is here. 

20 Facts & Tips About Your Body Clock

I really enjoyed reading The Secrets Our Body Clocks Reveal (you can read my full book review by clicking here). From this book, I’ve begun implementing a few of the tips I discovered. Here are a few of the facts and tips that I found interesting. 

  1. “Most of us reach our peak of alertness around noon. … We are least alert during the early morning hours—specifically, between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.” 
  2. “Your immediate, or short-term, memory is best during the morning hours. … Your long-term memory is a different matter, however. Afternoon is the best time for learning material that you want to recall days, weeks, or even months later. … How well you remember things depends on when you learn them, not when you recall them.” 
  3. “On average, we tend to do best on cognitive tests—things that require the greatest mental effort—during the morning hours, particularly the late morning hours.” 
  4. “All of your senses—taste, sight, hearing, touch, and smell—are their keenest during the twilight hours of late afternoon and early evening.” 
  5. Tips for keeping your daily rhythms on beat: (1) get out in the sun for at least fifteen minutes each day, and (2) try to follow a regular daily routine.
  6. “Fortunately, there is another way to avoid the Monday morning blahs. Stay up as late as you like, but make sure you get up at your regular wake up time. In other words, don’t sleep in. And don’t take naps during the day. Then, when night rolls around again, you’ll find yourself able to fall asleep at or before your regular bedtime, and you’ll avoid pushing your cycle ahead.” 
  7. “Scientists have also discovered that short naps (twenty minutes or less) are just as revitalizing as long ones—and less disruptive to regular sleep rhythms. In addition, regular nappers wake up more refreshed than those who take only an occasional nap. When naps are part of the regular daily rhythm, they are less disruptive.” 
  8. “Generally, our moods peek around four hours after we awaken.” 
  9. “A regular exercise program can go along way toward easing the physical effects of stress. … The exercise program must be regular, however; sporadic physical activity, such as an occasional game of tennis or softball, or an activity that is not appropriate to your physical condition, can be a harmful stressor.” 
  10. “Melatonin’s daily rhythm is similar to that of legendary vampires: it appears at the onset of darkness and begins to disappear at the break of dawn. In other words, darkness triggers the chemical’s release; sunlight suppresses it. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that melatonin reaches its seasonal peak in the body during the dark winter months.” 
  11. “Beards tend to grow the most on Sunday and the least on Wednesday.” 
  12. “If you wake up in the morning with a temperature of 99° F, you are very likely coming down with a cold, the flu, or some other kind of illness. But if you have that same reading around dinner time, you may be in perfect health. The reason, of course, is that your temperature rises during the day. A high reading early in the day is a greater indication of illness than the same reading late in the day.” 
  13. “Take a commonplace drug like aspirin, for example. When swallowed at 7:00 a.m., aspirin stays in the body for up to twenty-two hours. When the same dose is taken at 7:00 p.m., it is completely out of the body within seventeen hours.” 
  14. “When you know your rhythms are out of sync, be aware that you are particularly vulnerable to illness. It is the time to be extra careful about keeping your distance from people with the flu or other viruses.” 
  15. “The best thing you can do for a tension headache is to learn how to relax. As soon as the headache begins, lie down, if possible, so you can take the strain off your neck, since this is the location of most of the muscles that tense up and cause a tension headache. Close your eyes and breathe deeply to return oxygen to your strained muscles. Better yet, ask a sympathetic friend or loved one to gently massage your neck and shoulders.”
  16. “Eat your biggest meal at breakfast, your next biggest at lunch, and your smallest at dinner.” 
  17. “About every ninety minutes, most people experience an urge to put something into their mouths. … Generally, it will pass in about fifteen minutes.” 
  18. “According to recent studies conducted at Northwestern University, both morning and night people perform simple mental tasks better during the morning hours after consuming the caffeine equivalent of one to three cups of coffee. But when the tasks become more complex, only night people do better under the influence of caffeine. For morning people, the higher dose of caffeine, the more mistakes they make.” 
  19. “Carbohydrates help calm and focus your mind.” 
  20. “Protein foods increase your alertness and help you feel more energetic. … Protein can be eaten either alone or with a carbohydrate food to energize the mind. For carbohydrates to have their calming effect, they must be eaten alone.” 

I’ll be sharing some of the research that Susan Perry and Jim Dawson uncovered about the importance of sleep soon, so stay tuned! 

The Secrets Our Body Clocks Reveal (book review)

Do you know when is your best time to work on a mentally-challenging project? Or perform an athletic event? Or even take a nap? Our body clocks function predictably, but the issue is knowing what rhythm your particular body is following. In The Secrets Our Body Clocks Reveal, Susan Perry and Jim Dawson help us discover how to tap into our optimal performances.

The ups-and-downs, alert-and-tired, focus-and-distracted cycles of our body are largely predictable. Our bodies operate fairly consistently on a “clock” that can be learned. Once you know your rhythms, you can adjust your daily activities to operate at your very best. This book gives you amazing insight into the research of chronobiologists, and lots of charts to help you track your body’s clock, and even highly practical tips for how to re-adjust your clock if things have gotten askew. 

You will learn about how to keep things in sync, as well as how to get things back in sync after an illness or traveling to a new timezone. You will discover the best time of day to do certain activities, how to plan your sleep schedule, how to anticipate and regulate your mood changes, your “health thermometer,” and even how your diet can work with your body clock. 

This is a highly practical book! If you want to get back in sync or raise your performance levels, I recommend you check out The Secrets Our Body Clocks Reveal.

11 Quotes From “When The Darkness Will Not Lift”

John Piper has given us an extremely helpful book whether we ourselves are battling the darkness of depression, or someone close to us is. Please check out my full book review of When The Darkness Will Not Lift by clicking here. 

“This is the rock where we stand when the dark clouds gather and the floods lick at our feet: justification is by grace alone (not mixed with our merit), through faith alone (not mixed with our works) on the basis of Christ alone (not mingling His righteousness with ours), to the glory of God alone (not ours).” 

“Where should you start? Start at the easiest place for those in darkness. Start with despair. Despair of finding any answer in yourself. I pray that you will cease from all efforts to look inside yourself for the rescue you need. I pray that you will do what only desperate people can do, namely, cast yourself on Christ.” 

“You cannot isolate the spiritual from the physical for we are body, mind and spirit. The greatest and the best Christians when they are physically weak are more prone to an attack of spiritual depression then at any other time and there are great illustrations of this in the Scriptures.” 

“It will be of great advantage to the struggling Christian to remember that seasons of darkness are normal in the Christian life.” 

“One of the reasons God loved David so much was that he cried so much. … It is a beautiful thing when a broken man genuinely cries out to God.” 

“Faith is sustained by looking at Christ, crucified and risen, not by turning from Christ to analyze your faith. … Paradoxically, if we would experience the joy of faith, we must not focus much on it. We must focus on the greatness of our Savior.” 

“It follows from this that we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism. But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties. While we have the light, let us cultivate distrust of the certainties of despair.” 

“Instead of only saying, ‘Just do your duty,’ we must say…that joy is part of your duty. The Bible says, ‘Rejoice always’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16). And in regard to the duty of giving, it says, ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). In regard to the duty of service, it says, ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’ (Psalm 100:2). In regard to the duty of mercy, it says do it ‘with cheerfulness’ (Romans 12:8). In regard to the duty of afflictions, it says, ‘Count it all joy’ (James 1:2). We simply water down the divine command when we call someone to half their duty.” 

“In dealing with our sin we can make two mistakes. One is to make light of it. The other is to be overwhelmed by it.” 

“If we want the joy of seeing and savoring God in Christ, we must not make peace with our sins. We must make war.” 

“Sometimes the darkness of our souls is owing in some part to the fact that we have drifted into patterns of life that are not blatantly sinful but are constricted and uncaring. … Unconsciously we have become very self-absorbed and oblivious and uncaring toward the pain and suffering in the world that is far worse than our own.”

“Paradoxically, depressed persons may say that they must care for themselves and cannot take on the problems of the world, when in fact part of the truth may be that their depression is feeding on the ingrown quality of their lives. … Joy in Christ thrives on being shared. That is the essence of Christian joy: it overflows or dies.”

When The Darkness Will Not Lift (book review)

Depression and a “dark night of the soul” can happen to anyone. It falls over us sometimes because of physical issues, sometimes spiritual issues, and sometimes mental or emotional issues. Whatever its root cause, When The Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper gives hope for those battling joy-suppressing melancholy. 

Depression, as with most ailments that humans face, doesn’t have a simple starting point. Most likely, depression is the result of a combination of many things—environmental, physical health, emotional crisis, spiritual attack, among other things. Sadly, many Christians attempt to address this multifaceted problem with a singular solution. Darkness doesn’t lift simply because someone has enough faith to make it so! 

“It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold Him.” —John Piper 

Pastor John weaves together Scripture, practical insights, and historical examples to help us see depression in its entirety. This comprehensive look will help you better understand both your own battle with darkness as well as helping you be a better friend to others who are also struggling with depression. 

Pastor John looks at the physical, emotional, and spiritual causes of depression, and then helps us battle for joy when the darkness will not lift. This is a short book, but one that you should return to frequently to help yourself and others in times of depression.

Raw Emotions In Worship

When someone was out to get David, he turned to God in prayer. And what prayers he prayed! 

He didn’t hold back. He came to God with all of his emotions right out in the open. Raw—but honest—emotions. 

God called David a man after His own heart, so apparently God loved the honesty even when David asked God to break their arms, turn them into jackal food, burn them with fire, give them black eyes, or even blot their names out of God’s book of life (Psalm 10:15; 63:9-10; 68:1-2; 69:22-28)!

Why do we hesitate to express ourselves like this, to tell God what’s really in our hearts? Do we think He doesn’t know? Do we think He’s going to fall off His throne in shock at our brutal honesty? He already knows what’s in our hearts, so the expression of it is for our benefit. We must get it out in His presence because that’s the only way and the only place where true, deep, lasting healing can happen. 

I love what R.T. Kendall reminds us: “Real worship takes place when we are unafraid to express what we feel. Worship ought to bring us to the point where we can be honest. We never need to repress what we feel when we are around Jesus. He will never scold us for our honesty. It doesn’t mean we are right, but if we are being honest, He can help us and bring us to see where we are wrong and to face the truth.” (emphasis mine)

When you hurt, get alone with God and then get real with God. He already knows what’s in your heart, so speak it out. You need to get that poison out of your system so that God can heal you.

9 More Quotes from “The Way Of The Warrior”

Erwin McManus’ book The Way Of The Warrior will unleash something in you to want to become the warrior for peace that God intended you to be! Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“There is no territory more critical or difficult for you to take than that of your inner world. … Every battle that you will ever face in the outside world must first be one in your inner world.” 

“When your mind is shaped by hope, you do not see simply two paths; you see an endless number of paths filled with opportunity, possibility, and beauty. However, if your mind-set is shaped by cynicism or fear or doubt, then the only paths you see in front of you are the ones that are filled with pain and disappointment, with failure and hardship.” 

“The warrior knows that honor is not found in the victory. Honor is found in the nobility of the battle. If the battle is not worthy of the warrior’s life, there is no honor in its victory. In the same way, the warrior knows there is no dishonor in defeat. Failure and defeat are not the same. To fear defeat is to surrender victory. There is only a good fight and a good death for the one whose life is given to the noble. The warrior never claims victory for themselves but only for others. In the same way, the warrior never gives blame for defeat but owns it for themselves. The warrior owns defeat, and therefore defeat never owns the warrior. The warrior who lives and dies with honor enters each eternity undefeated.” 

“Here is the hard reality: even if it’s not your fault, it’s still your responsibility. Though the wounding wasn’t your fault, the healing is your responsibility. Though your past may not be your fault, your future is your responsibility. Though their choices were not your fault, your choices are your responsibility. Don’t let those who are at fault keep their hold on your life by relinquishing your power to change and to be free of them.” 

“Energizing and exhausting are not diametrically opposed. The things that give you energy also cost you energy, but that cost has a return. The things that energize you the most might actually cost you the most energy. They might be the hardest things that you do. They might be the most difficult challenges in your life. But when they are energizing, you do not find yourself in a deficit of energy, because whatever it costs you, the return is greater.” 

“The warrior finds their strength because they fight only battles that matter.” 

“Worry consumes your energy without productivity. … Worry is a waste of energy. Emotions such as anxiety and stress are the result of unharnessed energy misdirected by our fears and doubts. … When you doubt, you hesitate. When the warrior hesitates, he faces certain defeat. … When you doubt, your energy wars against itself. It becomes unharnessed and unfocused and loses its power. There is a strength that comes when you have confidence that even if you fail, you’ve given yourself to the right battle. We spend too much of our lives trying to make sure we are right about the what, the where, the when, and the how, and too little time making sure we are right about the why.” 

“We transmit to one another what occupies our souls. Your soul is the conduit of your energy. If your soul is empty, you will consume energy from the world around you. … When you are full of life, you become a conduit of life. You will become a source of what is good and beautiful and true. People will naturally draw inspiration from your life. They will see you as a source of hope.” 

“This is the paradox that the warrior has come to know. They know they are not the source of their own strength. The fire that burns within the warrior is an eternal fire. The warrior knows their strength because they know their weakness. It was Jesus who said, ‘Apart from the Father I can do nothing.’ The warrior understands there is no weakness in this. The warrior has found their strengths and their weaknesses. Jesus spoke to Paul about this: ‘My power is made perfect in weakness.’ The way of the warrior is to know that God is our strength. The warrior boasts all the more gladly about their weaknesses so Christ’s power may rest on them. The warrior knows they were created by God who is Spirit. Though we appear as flesh and blood, every cell in our bodies is energy. All our energy comes from God. What we do with our energy is up to us.” 

Check out some of the other quotes from The Way Of The Warrior that I shared here. 

The Value In Retreating

So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (Luke 5:16).

So”—in light of what just happened. What happened? Jesus was preaching everywhere, He healed a leper, and great multitudes came to hear Him speak and to be healed. So Jesus had to withdraw frequently to pray and be replenished.

All of us have only a finite amount of energy. When we are sensing that energy level is low, we also need a retreat. Otherwise, our low energy levels can sabotage us and diminish what God wants to do through us. 

Then check out the results after Christ’s time of replenishing:

  • God’s power was “present to heal” (v. 17)
  • People were saved (v. 20)
  • Jesus had holy perception (v. 22)
  • Miracles confirmed the word that Jesus preached (v. 24)
  • God was glorified (v. 26)
  • People followed Jesus (vv. 27, 28)
  • Jesus had enough grace and patience to handle criticism (v. 30)
  • Jesus had enough wisdom and patience to handle tricky theological questions (vv. 33-39)

J.C. Ryle noted, “The most successful workmen in the Lord’s vineyard are those who are, like their Master, often and much upon their knees.”

Healthy leaders are keenly aware of their own energy levels. 

So… A mark of a godly leader is one who frequently retreats. 

This is part 32 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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