Planning Your Own Funeral

Having worked at a church for nearly five years, I’ve been involved in the planning of quite a few funerals. I’ve witnessed the overwhelmed confusion of grieving family members who are left with the task of choosing what Scriptures should be read, which hymns or songs should be sung, how many people should speak, what kind of musicians should play, what bulletin cover should be used, where donations should go, etc, etc. Their world has just been turned upside down and they are just trying to get through the day. Some find this planning process to be a healthy part of grieving. But many others find it a very painful, difficult task, and often end up just telling the pastor or elder to make the choices for them.

When you witness this often enough, you can’t help but start thinking of what you might plan for your own funeral so that your own loved ones won’t have to take on that burden. Some of the more elderly ladies at that church have already submitted their choices for when they go. I love that idea.

So, over the course of several years, I’ve kept that in mind and considered what hymns or songs I would like at my funeral. I know I want the Gospel clearly preached. I have several pastors/teachers in mind that I would like to perform the funeral (depending on who is available at the time, of course). I’m confident in their own choice of Scriptures in order to clearly present the Gospel.

Funerals are for the purpose of mourning the loss of life. While these services are often referred to as a “celebration of life”, I don’t think it’s fair to require people to “celebrate” when they are sad. Definitely I want a focus on the fact that I’ll be in glory with my Lord forever, and no longer in pain, no longer in sin. So in that respect, it is a celebration. But it’s also a good time to be somber and consider eternity. Unless the Lord returns first, we will all die. It’s a reality that we don’t focus on much in our culture because we just don’t want to think about it. We have the pride of life in the forefront of our minds at all times. So, when someone is taken from us unexpectedly, we’re left reeling and lost. To some degree, that will always be the case in this life. But there are things we can do now to ease the burden on our loved ones as a final act of kindness and a final personal message for them from you.

These are some hymns that I currently have in mind. That may change if I come across any that I like more. I realize this is a lot of songs for a funeral service, and one or two may need to be left out.

I Will Glory in My Redeemer

Amazing Grace (I’d like all verses to be sung)

In Christ Alone

Higher Throne

How Great Thou Art

I hope you haven’t considered this post to be overly morbid or depressing, but instead I hope it has brought you to a place of somber contemplation. Putting in a little time to plan for your funeral is a gift for your loved ones, whether you die next week or 48 years from now. Please feel free to share any songs or hymns you would like sung at your memorial service in the comments below.

A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way

Have you noticed how difficult it is to find people who will step up and help with church functions? There’s a much quoted saying about how 5% of the people do 95% of the work. In my experience that’s usually pretty accurate. One big problem is the increased use of the word “volunteer” to describe this work. But in truth, it’s not really volunteering when you’re serving Christ and His body. It is service, and that’s what it should be called. So one small thing that may help is for all of us to get out of the “volunteer” mindset and think more about what it means to serve. It’s not just about altruistic giving of your time. It’s about using the gifts the Lord has given you to serve each other. It’s joyfully giving back to Him. In this light, even the smallest, most non-glamourous tasks become valuable.

It can also be difficult to find areas to serve in the church. Most churches aren’t really focusing on how we can each develop our gifts and serve effectively. Programs, classes, etc. are planned and scheduled, and volunteers (there’s that word again!) are requested. And so, the same handful of people step up again, and step ever closer to burning out. Meanwhile many able bodied people who have been gifted to serve are left in a position of feeling somewhat guilty, and with no idea how to really engage and get involved. Even in really solid, Bible/Gospel teaching churches, this can be an issue that needs some work.

I’ve also noticed that among groups that have been blessed with discernment, we can be pretty tough on one another, and often lacking in encouragement. I know that for me (a very introverted person with physical limitations), I’m far more likely to step up and get involved if I’m kindly encouraged to do it, not guilted into it. I know we all need a good swift kick in the butt from time to time. And it is important that we all step outside our comfort zones from time to time. But honestly, I haven’t seen a lot of time spent cultivating encouragement towards one another, though it’s a vital part of any spiritually growing church. Having worked in a church, I can see how the disconnect becomes such a barrier to moving forward. I regularly saw people who were able bodied and willing to serve, but had no idea where to start or how to get involved. And I saw others who would stubbornly do everything themselves and burn out, not even considering to ask for help, or that there may be others who have been gifted to do certain tasks. We need to be striving for a healthy balance.

So I want to encourage anyone who reads this to consider how you might be more of an encouragement to your brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Not just offering a pat on the back, but taking time to really think about and point out where you see God working in people, using them, gifting them. I suspect none of us can or will ever say that we get too much encouragement!

A Christian Primer on Marijuana (Part 3)

Medical Use
Welcome to Part Three of my series on marijuana and the Christian worldview! In Part One we looked at an overview of marijuana and the Christian Worldview. In Part Two, we got deeper into the issue of recreational use, as well as other uses for cannabis such as for nutrition and commercial products. And we also looked briefly at soChristians_and_Marijuaname of the legal and safety aspects.

Now in Part Three I would like to focus on cannabis for medicinal use. The research I have conducted over the past several years has convinced me this is by far the most beneficial, powerful, and much needed use of the plant.

Health & Science
As mentioned in Part Two, the leaf and bud of the cannabis plant can be consumed raw without causing any psychoactive effect, and with tremendous health benefits. It used to be a normal part of a healthy diet for many people in the past, before it was outlawed and regulated out of our culture completely. Although the stem cannot be eaten, even it can be used to make teas, butters, skin creams, etc. with their own health benefits. With so many chronic health problems and cancers specific to the industrialized western world, it’s time to start taking advantage of those natural benefits again.

The human body actually has cannabinoid receptors. God must have had a purpose in making us that way. Raw vegetable and fruit juicing has become an important and helpful way for many to improve their health in our society and even treat illness. Adding cannabis plant to this juicing has incredible potential. It is only when you dry and/or heat the plant that you activate the THC, which is the cannabinoid that can have a psychoactive effect. So in it’s raw form, it’s really quite innocent! For more information on the science and tremendous healing potential of raw cannabis juicing, watch this video from Dr. William Courtenay and his wife, whom he treated with raw cannabis juice and healed her of overwhelming illness:

That is just the benefits of using raw, fresh plants. Dried and heated cannabis also have a wealth of medicinal benefits. Because these uses require the decarboxylation of THC, they need to be treated as medicinal in the same way that we would view morphine or Percocet. They can effectively treat a variety of medical conditions, but need to be used carefully, and not abused.

Marijuana Strains 101

Marijuana Strains 101

Let’s talk a little more about different strains and varieties of cannabis. This could probably use its own separate post, but I’ll try to remain brief and provide some links for further investigation.

First of all, there’s hemp. The hemp plant grows well in nature (like a “weed”!) around the world. Because of its low THC content, it has minimal, if any psychoactive potential. Hippies sometimes refer to it as “Ditch Weed” because they can’t really get stoned from smoking it. Hemp has a lot of potential for medical, nutritional, and industrial use, and is already being used to some degree in those capacities.

The two types of marijuana are: Sativa and Indica. Both are often psychoactive, but have different effects on the body and mind. See the side graphic for more about that, and click on the graphic for details.

Within each of these two groups are many, many cannabis strains, with a variety of often colourful names, such as Purple Cush and Martian Mean Green. Many of these are hybrids of original varieties.

Prescription Cannabis Options
It is very interesting that, while governments and pharmaceutical companies alike have, for decades, claimed that marijuana has absolutely no medicinal value, and is very dangerous to use, both have invested significant funding into research of its medical properties.

One positive result of this is a product called Sativex. The pharmaceutical spray medication approved in countries such as England and Canada (and likely to be approved soon in the US and other countries), is created from a combination of Sativa and Indica strains. Its ratio of CBD to THC is nearly equal, which means it has little to no psychoactive effect on the patient. It has been proven to help MS patients with muscle spasticity (and I can attest to that personally, as well). Studies are beginning to show that long term regular use seems to halt the progression of MS, which means it may be one day prescribed as a Disease Modifying Drug for patients with the Relapsing/Remitting form of the disease. It is also approved for use by patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. What’s more is that, while it tastes horrible, the potential side effects are minimal and rare, with the most common one being sores in the mouth caused by irritation from the carrier alcohol. Even this can be avoided by changing the location in the mouth for the spray (under the tongue, side of the cheek, etc.) with each repetition.

One negative result (so far!) is a synthetic THC drug called Marinol. When compared to real cannabis, it falls short again and again. Synthetic medications that try to mimic (and patent, of course) something naturally occurring in nature, what you end up with is a wide range of side effects, and limited, if any health benefit. While such a drug is useful for making money, it is not a realistic substitute for the real thing.

As pharmaceutical companies have begun to see the financial potential of cannabis as medicine, I am sure we will see many more products on the market in the coming years.

Methods for Consuming Cannabis
Within the medical community there is much debate over the most effective way to consume cannabis. In my experience, it is actually the silent majority of medical users who want the medicinal and health benefits of marijuana without having to get high. They want to be more functional in their daily lives, not less functional. It’s just not as simple as getting some pot from a dealer and lighting up. Different strains and different methods of consumption, in addition to proper growing practices are vitally important.

Smoking the plant has been shown to be the least effective method for medical use. It does provide some benefit, particularly pain relief because it hits the system so quickly through the lungs. However, vaporizing can have a more powerful and instant effect without having to ingest the potential carcinogens that are made by burning and inhaling smoke. Vaporizing can be problematic because it requires (sometimes expensive) equipment, and depending on the strain of cannabis, has the potential to be extremely and immediately psychoactive. But, like smoking, it provides instant pain relief. For a patient who is in agony, this can feel like a lifeline.

Cooking dried bud and/or leaf has a slower effect as it must first process through the liver. Many patients find it helpful for treating chronic pain because of the slower, longer lasting effect and the ease of simply eating it in a baked good. The drawback of edibles is that if you are in significant pain, you will not get immediate relief as you would with smoking or vaporizing.

Possibly the most effective way to ingest cannabis is in condensed oil form. This involves a sometimes dangerous preparation of heating the whole plant in a solvent such as high grade alcohol, then removing the plant and cooking off the alcohol until only the oil remains. Then a very small amount of oil is usually applied under the tongue and/or on various parts of the body once or several times per day for an extended period of time. it can also be used rectally. There are thousands upon thousands of stories of people who have used this method to cure various cancers (particularly brain tumours and skin cancer), and treat a wide variety of chronic illnesses such as MS, Lupus, RA, Fibromyalgia and seizure disorders. One of the most vocal proponents of this method is Rick Simpson, who has made a name for himself by growing large crops of cannabis, making oil, and giving it away to people in need in his area.

CBD (cannabidiol) may hold the most health benefits of any of the cannabinoids that have been researched. But THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), while having a psychoactive affect, is also a vital chemical compound that cannot be ignored and should not be banned for medical use any more than morphine should be banned for medical use.

CNN correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta filmed an article a few years ago called Weed which chronicles some of those stories. He followed up with Weed 2 more recently. If you don’t think marijuana can have any medicinal benefit, please check at least one of these documentaries out. It will be well worth your time. Prior to filming Weed, Dr. Gupta himself was against the use of medical marijuana and believed it offered no benefits to patients. That changed once he did the research, and he is now an advocate of it.

Of course, things are never as simple as they are laid out to be in a TV documentary. There is controversy surrounding the Stanley brothers and their capitalizing on the needs of patients and the free exposure they got from Gupta’s documentaries. Additionally, while Gupta’s articles suggest that the Charlotte’s Web hemp strain is the best option for fighting seizures, not everyone responds the same way, and some need higher THC content to see any benefit. Further, because the use of cannabis oil in sick children is so new, tried and true safety and usage standards are not in place, and there is potential for the child to end up high, which is not the goal. This same concern is true for adults who experiment with their own treatments. While not life threatening, getting really high on medication is potentially miserable experience that needs to be carefully considered, and avoided if at all possible. This same risk exists in hospitals as doctors and nurses need to experiment with dosages for each patient. But in those cases, medical staff are on hand to monitor the patient. With medical cannabis, the patient is not under medical supervision.

Changing Laws in Canada
April 1, 2014 (fittingly, April Fool’s Day!), Canada brought in the new “MMPR“, or Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. The MMPR allows commercial grow ops to (once approved by Health Canada) grow and supply dried bud of a variety of strains for patients who are able to obtain a prescription from their doctors. MSP and extended medical plans do not cover the cost for patients (many of whom are living on extremely limited disability incomes), making the medicine unattainable by those who need it most.

This new regulation was to replace the MMAR (Medical Marijuana Access Regulations), which previously allowed patients to legally grow their own plants or set up a legally designated grower to provide their medication for them. Thanks to a court case launched by Jason Wilcox via lawyer John Conroy, the MMAR Coalition Against Repeal was successful in extending the existing licenses of patients under the MMAR. Further court dates are in the works, as there are still many restrictions that need to be sorted out. The MMAR program is in a kind of suspension, which allows current license holders to continue as before. But if they need to change growers or move to a new address, they have no options. There are other unhelpful restrictions that need to be corrected, not the least of which is allowing for new patient license applications. While it is encouraging to see the government allowing for commercial production (which suggests that it now sees there is some medical benefit to the plant), the kinds of restrictions placed on patients right now makes it extremely difficult for patients to get the treatments they need.

The changing laws in the USA are even more difficult to keep on top of because of their changes by individual state. More information can be found here if you would like to keep track. check back often because some laws seem to be changing almost daily right now.

Another challenge for the Christian regarding medical use is the behaviour of medical cannabis activists. In my experience, there is a small, but very vocal and often angry subset of patients who also identify with marijuana as a lifestyle. They generally hate government officials and police officers alike (well, except for Justin Trudeau – they tend to think he’s the second coming). They do have legitimate health problems that marijuana does help (which should not be ignored), but their fight is for more than that. They want to be able to affordably get high any time they want and as often as they want, and they aggressively mock anyone who wants to use cannabis to get better but not get high. Many of them are proud to break the law and rebelliously flaunt it whenever possible. Treating their illnesses seems to almost be a secondary issue. But like I said, these are not the majority, they’re just the most vocal, and therefore get the most media attention, which casts a terribly gloomy light on the larger majority who just want to be healthy and productive. The media loves to give them the spotlight because it creates controversy and increases viewership. Unfortunately, supporting and voting for the rights of medical cannabis patients often means supporting this subset as well. So, like I said – It’s complicated.

How Should We View This as Christians?
From a moral standpoint, medical use is a completely different thing than recreational use, and we need to remember this at all times. Consider what doctors prescribe for various illnesses that also have a psychoactive affect. We are thankful for such medications when in severe pain and in need of medical help. Yet, those prescription medications are often highly addictive and psychoactive, making it dangerous to drive or operate any kind of machinery, drastically limiting a patient’s ability to function in society when needed for an extended period of time, such as with chronic illness. Worse than that, prescription narcotics take a heavy toll on the patient’s health and can easily destroy the liver over time. Cannabis, and particularly THC have not been shown to cause problems for the liver.

When we limit ourselves to only thinking of marijuana in recreational terms, it seems like something to be outlawed. But when you compare it to prescription medications, it actually has significantly more benefits than what you can purchase at the pharmacy right now. The problem remains that some will abuse it, just as some abuse Percocet, Oxycodone, and many other prescription medications. That always needs to be regulated because fallen human nature reminds us that there will always be abusers out there. But should we demonize cough syrup (for instance) because some people abuse it? Of course not.

So, how do we as Christians respond to this issue? How should we vote? Largely this ends up being a matter of conscience. On the one hand, Christian compassion compels us to fight for the rights of the downtrodden, the suffering, the weak (the patients). But on the other, we cannot support legalization that increases the potential for substance abuse. Because of this, I don’t recommend voting in favour of full legalization of cannabis. (And trust me, as someone with chronic illness and living under a very corrupt governmental medical system I have been tempted to do just that for my own sake.) However, when it comes to medicinal use, we need to advocate for patients in need and work thoughtfully towards safe and effective legislation both to open doors for patients, and to limit the potential for abuse wherever possible. Human nature draws us to want to “pick a side” just like we pick a sports team to cheer for. But, like with most issues, it is just not that simple. We need to keep thinking deeply about and researching the issues to have a well rounded understanding and Biblical stand.

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

I’m sharing this post for Invisible Illness Week (Sept. 8-14, 2014)

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Multiple Sclerosis

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2011

3. But I had symptoms since: Since I was a teenager.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Planning each day first thing in the morning when I can gauge how much energy I have. I still fall into the habit of making plans a day ahead or days ahead, but my body does not work like that. What’s worse, if I do plan something ahead of time, don’t have the energy to do it, but push through anyway, I will PAY for it for at least a day or two after.

5. Most people assume: That I’m fine because I hide it well.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: Getting out of bed.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: I don’t really watch any, other than maybe an occasional documentary or TED Talk. I used to enjoy medical dramas, but now that I have done so much medical research I am a lot more aware of all the sloppy and inaccurate writing in those shows. So that kinda ruined them for me.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My Vitamix. Veggie and fruit smoothies are a big part of my life now, and this appliance really lives up to the hype. I don’t know what I’d do without it anymore.

9. The hardest part about nights are: Hours awake with annoying pains, racing heart, racing thoughts, etc. and being so very aware that I am going to have to get out of bed in the morning because my body does not let me sleep in.

10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. (No comments, please): 8-15 vitamins/minerals depending on my budget.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: Believe they are the most hopeful and effective option. Modern medicine offers no hope for MS at this point, though there are sometimes new things to try. I’ve been a guinea pig for a new drug (not for MS) in the past and have life-long side effects from that. Not to interested in letting that happen again. So at this point, I prefer to pursue other options than that for my MS.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: That’s such a tough one. Mostly, I guess I prefer invisible because that means that most people I meet don’t ever have to know I have this thing. When people find out you have an illness, they can get so awkward and say such stupid things. Or they can judge you to be totally incompetent and irrelevant. But every now and then, visible would be more helpful so that people would have a little compassion when I’m struggling. For instance, I’ve shied away from getting a handicap tag for my car because I have heard from far too many people who have invisible illness and get reamed out by strangers for taking a handicap spot because they decide, even though you have a tag, that you must be faking. I don’t need that stress if I’m running to the store for a few items and need to park close by to preserve what little energy I have.

13. Regarding working and career: That’s a touchy subject for me. For years I worked long hours to pay my bills even through horrid fatigue. It was rough and I made mistakes often because my brain was so overwhelmed by the fatigue. I spent a lot of time beating myself up for being so lazy and not more ambitious. After I got married, I went through some huge stress that affected my health and cost me my job. At that point my husband decided I shouldn’t work full time anymore because, even though I wasn’t diagnosed until a few years later, he could see that I couldn’t handle working full time and helping out around the house. So he has carried the load since then, and I’m thankful for that. Eventually I found a part time job that I loved. But in early 2014 I finally medically retired because of the fatigue. It’s really frustrating not having that purpose in your day and not feeling like you are giving back or doing anything of value anymore.

14. People would be surprised to know: How depressed I often am.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: Letting go of my dreams to one day travel and see the world. The earliest that could have happened would be at retirement age, but I’m already too fatigued to really do it.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Finish a book. Since I retired, I’ve been able to finish several books, which I have really missed. I love reading deep books on theology, but haven’t had the brain power to get through them while I was working.

17. The commercials about my illness: I haven’t seen many, except online. What I have seen has been OK, though they usually are to raise money for the MS Society, which I have mixed feelings about.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Travel!

19. It was really hard to have to give up: Being active and having fun in hot weather, soaking up the sun. I have always loved the heat and sun, and would soak it up whenever I could. But I have heat intolerance now, so spend most hot days stuck inside with an A/C blasting on me.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Healthy “paleo” baking, and apparently blogging.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Only one day? Oh, where to start. I’d get up early and make a huge list of things to do, and go, go, go until after dark.

22. My illness has taught me: That I have a lot to learn and a lot of growing to do, especially spiritually.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: That if I just pushed myself harder and became more active, exercised more, etc. I’d be much better. Mind over matter, right? They don’t see what the true physical result of that is. I do it too often as it is because I want to be more active.

24. But I love it when people: Treat me like a normal person and engage in real, deeper conversation about important topics.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: The whole Bible is my lifeline. It reminds me that God is truly sovereign over all things, including my illness. That is a huge comfort and strength to me. I trust Him to work all of this out to His glory in my life.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Take your time to grieve and do your research before starting any treatments. There is a LOT of info out there to absorb. And many doctors will just push you to start the latest treatment or study, but you need to do that if and when you decide. You have time – take it!

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How weird people get around me when they find out my diagnosis. I’m still a human being, really!

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: When I’m having a really rough go, my hubby likes to surprise me by bringing home sushi for me. It’s especially sweet because he hates seafood, and particularly raw fish. So learning what I like and what I can eat, and going into a restaurant to order it and bring it home for me is a big deal.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: Invisible illness is something that I really knew very little about before being diagnosed with one. Awareness is so important. If I can help educate even a few people, that would be wonderful.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Thankful that you took the time stop by!

A Christian Primer on Marijuana (Part 2)

Recreational Use
In Part One of this discussion I touched on some basics about marijuana and the Christian worldview. I noted how this heated topic is fairly new on the modern church landscape because of our rapidly changing laws. In this blog post I’d like to dig further into the issue of recreational use and how it relates to us as Christians. From there, I will examine some broader issues, concerns, and uses.

Marijuana vs. Alcohol, Cigarettes, Cigars, etc.
MartiniSmoking marijuana has often been contrasted with using alcohol recreationally. Generally speaking, a person can have a drink or two of wine without becoming intoxicated or addicted. It is enjoyed for the taste and generally because it goes well with a meal. It is a social norm that extends back to Bible times and is not condemned (when in used in moderation). Of course, we must be sensitive to the potential for abuse, and abstain from it if drinking alcohol may cause a brother or sister in the faith to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:13). It should also be avoided if a Christian is prone to the temptation to abuse it. So the issue of alcohol consumption is not cut and dry. But because it has been legal for a long time, Christians have had the opportunity to thoughtfully consider every detail of the subject and make an informed decision as to how we might best glorify God.

Marijuana, on the other hand, has been a non-issue for decades and now poses many new considerations that we may not have really dealt with in the past. Generally when someone smokes marijuana recreationally, it’s specifically for the purpose of getting high. It’s not a pleasant aroma like a nice pipe or cigar (not that this is a major issue, of course). People don’t usually smoke it just for the taste. As mentioned in Part One, recreational use is not something for Christians to participate in, as we are called to be sober minded.

It has also been compared to smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc. The obvious difference there is that cigarettes, cigars, etc. are not psychoactive. However, they do have an impact on the body and mind and cigarettes in particular are highly addictive and incredibly bad for your health. So, we can see that smoking in general is not recommended because of not only its addictive properties, but also its negative impact on our health.

There is no denying that there is tremendous potential to abuse a natural substance that has such potentially strong psychoactive properties. And indeed, examples of that abuse are all around us. Terms like “pot head”, or “stoner” have been around for a long time, and it’s not by accident. People who regularly recreationally smoke marijuana tend to become lazy underachievers who sometimes even end up living off the system and just not caring about much of anything. That is one affect that marijuana use can have, depending on how it is used. I’ve personally seen it happen, and I’m sure many of you have, as well. Leaf

Digging Deeper
It is interesting to note, however, that while alcohol abuse can destroy the liver, and can cause death if too much is consumed, neither can be said for cannabis. There are no deaths ever reported from overdosing on marijuana. This is at least in part due to the presence of CBD, which counteracts the effects of THC. Further, depending on how you consume it, it can actually be good for your health. Even smoking marijuana cannot be compared to smoking cigarettes as it has never been shown to cause lung cancer (though of course smoking anything is bad for your lungs, so keep that in mind). Additionally, cannabis can be consumed in a variety of ways other than smoking, such as through vaporization, baked goods, butters, oils, etc. These methods still have a psychoactive effect (again, depending on the THC content), they don’t pose the serious health risks that smoking cigarettes or even chewing tobacco does. So, the primary issue is the psychoactive properties of cannabis.

What many people may not know is that it is possible to have a puff or two of marijuana to relax without getting high, depending on the specific strain and THC content in the plant used (more on that later). For instance, some strains can make you sleepy and are used non-medicinally by individuals just before they go to bed to insure they have a good night’s rest. If this is done legally, how is it different from popping a sleeping pill or having a nightcap before bed? Our instant knee jerk negative reaction is often based on the stigma that has developed over the decades, and particularly as cannabis was labeled a Schedule I drug by the American Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Of course, at this point I’m touching a little bit on medicinal use because it can be used as a sleep aid. More on that in my next post.

Another interesting fact is that drug rehab facilities use a variety of prescription narcotic drugs to help addicts get clean, such as methadone. But there is no medical drug to get off marijuana because it doesn’t cause the severe and sometimes deadly health problems that withdrawal from major narcotics (including prescription narcotics!) can. In fact, marijuana itself is sometimes used as that intermediary drug to help an addict get clean. It is also far less addictive than narcotics, and even cigarettes.

So, despite the abuse and intense legal regulations, and the stigma that those have created, the marijuana plant itself is really not the terrifying poison we’ve been taught to believe it is.

Other Uses
Hemp or cannabis plants that grow in the wild emit large amounts of oxygen and clean the air more effectively than any other plant we know of. Imagine if it was allowed to grow freely in the open and the tremendous impact that would have on the environment! Hemp, itself has been used for many, many years to make textiles and other products. It is a highly sustainable plant with many varied uses that should not be ignored, such as fuel, paper products and even building materials. With the laws beginning to change in the United States, and likely other Western countries in the near future, this may actually open up the market for broader use in many exciting areas.

Nutritional Benefits
blender_cannabisIt’s important to also consider the nutritional uses of hemp and cannabis. When consumed raw there is no psychoactive effect, which makes it safe for all age groups. Cannabis is now considered to be a superfood because of its superior nutritional properties. As the laws have relaxed some, hemp seeds (for instance) have become a common item found at supermarkets and health stores. Hemp is a kind of cannabis that is generally extremely low in THC. So even if it’s dried and/or heated, it is not likely to get you high. Other kinds of cannabis that are high in THC can also be consumed raw without getting you high. The reason for this is that in the raw, fresh plant, the THC is bound up in the form of THC-A (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid), which is non-psychoactive. To activate the THC it must be decarboxylated, which is done with drying and heating processes.

Fresh leaves and bud can be eaten raw on salads or juiced with fresh vegetables and fruits. The stems can be dried and made into tea, but cannot be eaten as they are not digestible. In the past several years, kale has been all the rage on health and wellness websites, cooking shows, etc. because of its many health benefits. I would not be surprised to one day see cannabis leaf gain the same popularity.

Grow Ops and Dangers Associated with Marijuana
I cannot deal with this subject without addressing the problem of illegal and unsafe grow ops. Many homes are destroyed by mould caused by poor indoor growing techniques. This causes incredible losses for the home owner and potential health risks for anyone who comes into contact with the mould. Mould can also infect the plant and make it dangerous to consume in any form. Insects can also be a serious problem. To combat these, growers often use pesticides and other chemicals, which themselves can be extremely bad for your health. What’s more, cannabis plants need to be flushed for about two weeks prior to harvesting, which many illegal growers don’t bother to do. That leaves chemicals inside the plant that can also be harmful. At this point in time it is difficult to gain access to organic, properly grown and cared for cannabis, and this is likely to be a continuing problem as legalization increases because so many who would like to capitalize on it will still not care about proper health and safety standards. We’re already seeing this problem with licensed medical producers in Canada. The vast majority of them do not produce anything organically. If personal growing is eventually legalized, proper health and safety standards need to be in place, as well as a great deal of factual education for anyone who wants to grow for themselves. It would be ideal to consider these factors when looking to the future of cannabis legalization, instead of waiting until after it has been legalized.

Another problem is the smell. Growing in a densely populated area can be a real problem when it comes to cooperation among neighbours. There are charcoal filters available so that when a room is properly vented, it does not cause a problem for the neighbours. But they are costly, and many growers, including legal medical growers don’t bother to use them.

So as I stated in my first post, there are a number of serious concerns about full legalization of marijuana. There is incredible potential for abuse, in addition to the plethora of health and safety standards that will likely not be in place. Voting on the issue of legalization is complicated. But I believe for the Christian, the fact that recreational use is abuse of the plant makes it clear that we cannot support it. However, if it happens, because there are so many powerful and important uses for the plant, we will need to work closely with our governments to make sure proper regulations are put in place.

On a personal note…
I’ll end here with a note about my background and how I’ve come to gain this information. I was diagnosed with MS in 2011. There are no prescription medications that can help me in the long term, and the existing medications cause hugely detrimental side effects that I am not interested in enduring at this point. One day at a prayer meeting I ended up discussing the issue with a brother in the faith who also has severe, debilitating chronic illness. He had been legally using cannabis to dramatically improve his health and fight the illness effectively. I had read a number of similar stories online, and so I began researching it more for myself. Because of my financial situation and the limitations in Canada’s changing laws, I don’t currently have legal access to any cannabis, and so I am not using it. I was able to try raw juicing for a short period of time. But unfortunately with some changing laws that threatened to end my legal authorization to possess it, I had to cut that short, and have not been able to pick up where we left off. I am now waiting on some court cases to see what happens next. I’ve never used drugs or been stoned (except in the hospital for surgery). I have no desire to be stoned. I want to be well and functional, and cannabis holds a great deal of potential to that end. What I am sharing with you in this series is the knowledge I have gained over the past several years and my Christian perspective on the subject.

If at any point you see any inaccuracies or need for clarification, please do not hesitate to comment below or contact me directly. My desire is to provide helpful, factual information for Christians.

In my next post I will get into further detail about medical use. I hope you’ll check it out. Click here for Part Three.

Hide Your Grey Hair Naturally

coffee-dyeI’ve been dying my hair regularly for nearly 20 years. I finally quit about three years ago and let the grey grow in. So what I have now is white streaks in my hair along the sides of my face and salt & pepper through the rest. It’s pretty hard to miss. For years, it worked well with dying my hair at home because the slightly colour resistant grey streaks created very natural looking highlights to the dye. When I first grew the grey out, I got a number of compliments because it was very “in” to have white streaks in your hair. Even young girls were actually bleaching out streaks to make their hair look like mine already did.

But over time, it faded and didn’t look so fantastic anymore, even with the help of some purple shampoos. My natural hair colour is ash blonde, or more descriptively, dishwater blond. It’s basically dark grey, and now with white/grey mixed in. Not exactly flattering. So recently I started looking at options for adding some natural warmer tint to my hair.

I tried a number of rinses, first starting with strong black tea, fresh sage and fresh rosemary. Well, this added shine and a lovely aroma to my hair, but the colour was really not noticeable after several applications. So, I added in espresso and continued with several more rinses, including spraying the concoction into my hair and leaving it on overnight. Still, not much change. And now my hair smelled like both coffee and tea, which is a bit strange. All the variations I tried created a huge mess that required me to wipe down the bathroom walls, counter and floor after. It was also very time consuming.

So, after more experimenting, what I finally came up with is this:

Fresh grind coffee, add a splash of hot water, and add a few quirts of shampoo just before applying to your hair. Mix it in the container with your finger, and then lather into hair, and leave it on for about five minutes. It’s messy, but that’s why it’s best done in the shower. The lather really helps keep it in place and spread the colour. Because the shampoo is left in the hair for five minutes, it’s best to use a mild one to avoid extra drying. You can add some essential oil like vanilla to the mix or try flavoured coffee grounds to give it an even nicer smell.

After about five minutes, rinse it out and use conditioner to help the process. Trust me, these little grounds can be a challenge to get out, so conditioner is a must! Once the coffee grounds are out, add some more conditioner to your hair for a minute or two. Then rinse, and you’re done! Keep doing this every time you wash your hair for two or three weeks.

I’ve found repeated applications over time help the colour to deepen. So it’s important to stick with it for a while to really see the difference.

After a little more than two weeks, I’ve found my grey is blending in much more with the rest of my hair and it all has a much warmer hue. Once you’ve achieved the tint you are looking for, you should be able to cut down to doing this once every week or so.

If you have lot of chemical build-up in your hair, try washing it with dish soap before starting your tinting treatment. Follow up with a good deep conditioning session to bring the shine back out and close up the cuticle.

The more damaged your hair is, the faster the colour will take. My hair is fairly undamaged, as all I normally do is wash every other day, condition, dry, and straighten with a good flat iron. If you bleach and/or other kinds of processing, you may find that the coffee tint takes much faster than it did in my hair. This is one of the few treatments that actually works best on damaged hair and is more resistant on healthier hair. But I am encouraged to find it works even on very resistant hair, and especially on grey.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!

A Christian Primer on Marijuana (Part 1)

Christians_and_MarijuanaFor a long time, the issue of whether or not Christians should consume or support the use of marijuana was a simple one. It was illegal to grow, use, and possess, and therefore not an option. The Bible clearly commands us to obey our government in all cases, except when it requires us to disobey the Lord. (Romans 13:17-7, Acts 5:29).

But with the increasing legalization of marijuana in the world these days, it’s not that simple anymore. It is vital now that Christians educate themselves on this hot button topic. I’ve seen it handled well, and I’ve seen it handled poorly even by Christian leaders that I have tremendous respect for. This is because it is an incredibly complicated issue, and most people simply have not had the time to investigate it fully.

Let’s start with whether Christians should consume marijuana recreationally. As Christians, we are called to be sober minded (1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 5:18). Smoking a joint recreationally would most definitely defy that command, just as getting drunk on alcohol would. Further, we are not to let substances gain control of us via addiction (1 Corinthians 6:12). But, what about a puff or two before bed to relax and sleep well? How does that compare to popping a sleeping pill or having a night cap? Further, what about medical use, such as to treat chronic pain, chemo-induced nausea and loss of appetite, muscle spasticity, seizures, asthma, and a host of other health problems? This is where it really gets complicated, but I’m getting ahead of myself now.

Probably the biggest challenge we are soon to face in the church is an increase of abuse/recreational use. With marijuana becoming legal, many in the church have started to see it as innocent and just part of the cultural norm. The reality is that while it may seem to be a grey area, it is in fact one that we should be prudent to consider and develop a settled, biblical stand on. The question for the Christian is not “what is permissible?”, but rather, “what will glorify God?”. Does getting stoned glorify God in the Christian’s life? I don’t see how it can, at least not by biblical standards. I assume that any Christian who may read this post does care about biblical standards. Pastors and elders in particular will need to be prepared for this issue as it comes up more and more.

In further posts I will briefly contrast using (particularly smoking) marijuana with consuming alcohol, and also with smoking tobacco. The latter two are already legal for adults. And as the former becomes legal, this is a good time to reexamine all of these issues and what part, if any they should play in the Christian life. All three substances can be abused. All three are addictive. Though it is interesting to note that marijuana is significantly less addictive than alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol and marijuana can alter your state of mind and perceptions. Where we see a contrast between the first and the other two, is that marijuana does minimal if any damage to your health (though there is ongoing debate about this), and actually has tremendous therapeutic and health properties. Alcohol can destroy your liver or kill you if you drink to much. Tobacco can cause cancer, asthma and COPD, among other health problems. But marijuana can actually be good for you.

I also plan to post a detailed exploration of medical marijuana, its uses, methods of ingestion, and how we as Christians should view it. This too is a complicated issue and one we need to think deeply about.

And finally, I want to present some scientific details about the different strains, chemical properties, and potential uses for the plant, as well as why this tremendous diversity adds to the complication of the issue.

It is my hope and prayer that what I present here and in future posts will cause you to investigate this in more detail so that you will have an educated, accurate response to give others, and to share with your brothers and sisters in the church body.

Our fundamental concern must be how we can glorify God in our lives. This requires that we strive to examine this issue with a Christian, biblical worldview, and not with a basal, naturalistic worldview. It is incredibly easy to give in to modern worldly pleasures, to our spiritual detriment. The world is constantly offering us more and more opportunity to stop contending for the faith, drop our spiritual armour and indulge or own selfish desires. It is also easy and tempting to back off and remain silent when worldly ideologies press their way into the church. No one wants to be the seemingly “divisive” one in the group. We cannot afford to drop our guard, but we also cannot simply have knee jerk reactions to new issues as they come up. We need to be fully prepared to give an account in season and out of season.

Click here for Part Two     Click here for Part Three

You Look Fabulous!

Since my MS diagnosis back in early 2011, I have never before, so many times, heard people tell me how great I look. In fact, prior to 2011, I don’t remember anyone telling me how great I looked. Sure, I’d get some occasional compliments on a new hairstyle or item of clothing, but not that I look good. But now I hear it sometimes multiple times per month or even week! And I’m mostly homebound due to my fatigue, so that means a very high percentage of people are going out of their way to tell me this.

I guess it’s just one of those things you say when you feel awkward and want to keep things positive around someone with chronic illness. So, I shouldn’t be upset by it. But it’s frustrating to hear again and again, because it so often comes across as “You must be a hypochondriac or a liar, because you look totally fine to me”. And sometimes that is exactly what people mean. But I don’t think it’s what most mean when they say it. So I have to constantly remind myself of this and just smile and thank them for saying so.

This is such a common problem for the chronically ill that one woman who suffers from Lupus is actually making a living off of it and raising money for charity. Christine Miserandino started a website called which is based on her powerful analogy about the struggle she has with lack of energy. She called it The Spoon Theory. It’s quite clever, really. And it’s hugely, hugely popular because it strikes a chord with anyone who is suffering in the same way and feels so misunderstood. I love that she has created such a great, supporting place. We all need to know we’re not alone in this struggle.

But I’m still struggling with how to most effectively answer people who make the same offensive comments again and again. I know they do it because they are feeling awkward and don’t know what to say. Or sometimes they just don’t want to have to think about illness and just want to change the subject as soon as possible. I have learned to avoid discussing anything about my illness with most people (especially family) for this reason. That, and as much as I hate to admit it, I do put a lot of energy into trying to look OK. I don’t want people to see me looking all disheveled and with giant dark circles under my bloodshot eyes. I learned recently that I really, really don’t like them seeing me with a cane. So even if I think I may need it, I leave it at home most of the time. Oh, my vanity. I really need to let that go… but without letting myself go. Tough balance.

I’m always looking for the best responses that other people offer to these stock comments. I’d like to find some good, helpful, and possibly humourous things to say. I don’t want to be offensive or get upset, as tempting as it can be sometimes. Many of the comments I often hear are shared in this little video. Boy can I ever relate to that guy! But sadly, in the end he doesn’t have a good response that I could borrow.

Most often when people tell me I look good, I say “Thanks! It’s the make-up!”. And it’s true. I use a make-up brand that requires very little effort and covers my skin well enough to hide all the blemishes, imperfections, and dark circles. It even adds a little sheen which gives me a bit of a “glowing skin” affect. When I don’t wear it, I look run down and sick. So it really does make a difference. But ultimately, that comment isn’t working very well as people then carry on with more compliments like “oh, you’re just saying that! You really do look great”, and on and on and on… So I could really use some new material.

Do you have any good come back lines to those standard, ignorant-but-well-meaning comments? Post them below, please!

Ice Buckets & Media Overload

I’ve been stuck at home for the past two months recovering from major surgery, and have had a lot of time (read: too much time!) to browse around the internet – particularly Facebook – which has been an interesting and often frustrating experience. There sure is a lot of garbage floating around out there.

Facebook is a venue to spew your thoughts to your friends (or to the world), share the latest viral info graphic or video, and of course share lots of selfies, funny videos, and tributes to the most recently deceased celebrity. Don’t get me wrong, much of what I see is good. I follow a number of great theological leaders who often provide tremendous spiritual nourishment for me. This has been particularly important as I’ve been housebound for such a long time. And even before the surgery, for several years my abilities have been severely limited by crippling fatigue. I have more time on my hands than I need, but no energy or brain power to do anything with it. It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like right now without an internet connection! (OK, instead of having six books on the go, I’d probably have 20!)


Anyway, back to Facebook… Recently the most popular thing to share has been video responses to the “Ice Bucket Challenge“, which is a clever marketing campaign to raise awareness and money for ALS research. The cause itself is wonderful. And the concept is brilliant. Posting a video of someone dumping ice water on you for a good cause has become like the new selfie. Only with this version, you get to feel good about yourself for helping a charitable cause. And there’s a social aspect to this, since you get to taunt and challenge your friends or celebrities, politicians, etc. to do the same. The marketing design actually targets and exploits our fallen, narcissistic human bent. And boy, is it ever effective! “Look at me! I’m on the internet and I’m being altruistic!”.

Other groups are trying to ride the wave and get in on some of the action (and can you blame them??). Having MS, I am connected with a pretty large online MS community. A number of people there have started their own similar campaigns to raise awareness and money for the MS Society. One is called “Make a Mess for MS“, and another is the “MS Macaroni Challenge“. There are others popping up daily. I’m sure there are many others who have done the same for Lupus, Parkinson’s, and any number of other chronic illnesses.

Another issue with both of these particular challenges is an ethical dilemma. When it comes to the MS Society, I deeply appreciate my local chapter and all the help they have provided me. And I appreciate the VLAP program, which provided free help with my disability application form. They have been amazing! But I struggle with raising money for a society that is so closely tied to big pharma companies. Further, they function with a severe conflict of interest, and we as patients pay the price for it. (I may get into more detail on that another day.)

When it comes to the ALS Association, they fund a variety of research projects, one of which is embryonic stem cell research. For anyone who recognizes the sanctity of life, and the brutal injustice and immorality of abortion, this is a major, major problem. Thankfully, there are many ALS research groups that do not fund this particular type of research, such as the Mayo Clinic.

These kinds of marketing ventures are challenging to keep up with. There are so many causes that need attention and funding. If it’s really about supporting a charity like this, how do you choose the right one, and how do you know your money will be used wisely and ethically? It concerns me that the vast majority of people who give to a cause do so without taking the time to do the research. We live in an age of information, and it’s time we started using it. It’s not enough just to “give”. Where your money goes is just as important as the act of giving is.

The Gospel

Have you heard the Gospel? You may think you have, but have you really? You might be surprised. Many churches these days function for years, even decades without sharing the Gospel even once. Here it is in detail. Please take a listen.


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