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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh, Cana-DO!

An entire nation is overflowing with ‘cana- do-ness’ … flush with gold, silver, and bronze … reeling from a sense of patriotism that is intoxicating. Only in Canada, in the midst of such a flurry of emotion, would you hear a recurring theme in media interviews of marveling at this national pride, analyzing how this uncharacteristic display occurred, and almost apologizing for Canada’s exuberance. I love this mix of pride and humility, don’t you?
Is it possible to create a climate of jubilation that inspires athletic action, positive behavior, wall-breaking emotion? If you were able to take a walk in downtown Vancouver during the last two weeks, I think you might be convinced of the power of positive thinking. Like the picture my sister drew for me of her experience walking down Granville street: a celebrating joyful, polite crowd all around her, suddenly pausing in near silence, parting, making way for a quiet line of Vancouver City police on horseback, then, a spontaneous outbreak of, “Oh, Canada, our home and native land … “ The national anthem sung raw and real on the downtown city streets.
 I believe ...
Of course, most of us who are jumping around with bright red mittens waving, celebrating the achievements of our athletes, were not present to see the hours, days, weeks, years of practice, pain, and sacrifice that each athlete underwent prior to those few minutes on our TV screens. Still, I don’t think we can completely write off the push that positive thinking and a strong emotional support system can contribute to an athlete tuned to give the performance of his/her life.
Don’t you wish we could bottle up that ‘Cana-do’ spirit and ingest a bit now and again when we need to perform on-the-job? Or how about being able to prescribe it to our patients who are struggling in their efforts to make healthy living choices? How about infusing an Olympic spirit in the many diabetic patients who are wrestling with A1Cs that go up instead of down … or the ‘husky’ kids who wrestle with the Demon Coke, Ronald MacDonald, and that red-headed little terror, Wendy.
(The crazy thing is, that two of the three above noted fiends are strapping endorsers of the Vancouver Olympics. Can’t you just reach out and touch the irony of that? Off of our collective poor healthy choices, the athletes of the world perform so magnificently … )
It truly is a strange world we have forged for ourselves. Do you know that you can buy an alarm clock that wakes you to applause? Not sure how that can help, beyond a novelty grin lasting a few minutes over a couple of days. But, what if the nation summoned a roar of cheers every time a mom bought apples instead of cookies, or a kid walked home from school, past the local fast food trap, without spending his allowance? What if people on the street erupted into applause when a jogger panted on by? Or a dad spent time with his kids playing outside in the back yard? We need support to live well, to make good choices, to turn from the unhealthy patterns we’ve fallen into over the years.
If you are like me, you have recognized in yourself and in your patients that it does not work to simply stop a bad habit; what is more sustainable is to replace it with a positive behavior. It may seem like double the effort, but a vacuum just cries out to be filled. So many times an addiction is ‘cured’ with another addiction! I remember when chocolate was a ‘bad’ choice because it was high in fat and jelly beans were ‘good’ … then, for awhile, when both were ‘bad,’ as was any dessert-like food, I launched into bigger portions and second helpings of ‘good’ food (namely primavera pasta, heavy on the pasta and parmesan). Replacing an addiction with another addiction is not the same thing as a replacing a bad habit with a positive action.
We need support to make good spiritual and devotional choices, too. There are unhealthy devotional  patterns that many of us have we’ve fallen into over the years, too. How do we encourage strong spiritual growth without sacrificing a spirit of humility, or encouraging a feeble shadow of the spirit, rather than a robust authentic life-changing devotion?
Today is the second Sunday of Lent. Already, the ashes on my forehead have become a faint memory, a now-distant reminder of my mortality. As I move through these forty days of Lent, I am seeking , not a passive sacrifice of denial, but a positive sacrifice of action. Just a nudge of a perspective-shift, but one that adds a spiritual discipline, rather than takes away a habit. Giving things up for Lent is all very well, but most of us need to give those things that we annually give up a rest anyway. How about instead choosing to give of time, effort, to forge a positive habit, a spiritual action, or discipline? Jesus spent his 40 days in the desert not only giving up dessert, but meeting, head on, the enemy of his bride-to-be. Sacrifice can be denial, it also can be action.
I’ve already blown it a number of times, but, perhaps that failure in itself is a touch stone, a recollection to reality that I am not after forging an addiction, but prayerfully offering a sacrifice of authentic action.
And, you know, just for a minute, the other day, I thought I heard a small cheer from the heavenly hosts …. now that’s jubilation that heals!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all ye creatures here below
Praise Him above all ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost


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