Daily Devotions

The Wisdom of Arnold Palmer

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Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent. (Psalm 71:9)

The iconic golfer, Arnold Palmer, talked about the end of his competitive golf career. “He said, ‘It was a tough week, ending my career as a competitive player there, knowing that I wouldn’t go out and try to win one more. Yep, it’s hell to get old.’” Palmer wasn’t clinically depressed, but he was experiencing melancholia. Melancholy isn’t something we should medicate or even fight against. Melancholia is in the mind and perhaps is the Holy Spirit’s call for attention.

I found Arnold Palmer’s story in Thomas Moore’s book, “Ageless Soul.” I’ve referenced this book before, because it is so helpful. Moore points out that, “There is an art to dealing with emotions, and art itself can help.” Rather than chastising one’s self for one’s feelings, or trying to ignore them, finding ways to interact with our feelings of melancholia can help us find out what the mind or the Holy Spirit is trying to say. Music, for example, speaks to the heart and mind differently from simple rational thought. Moore provides the example, “A song that touches me with both sadness and romance is Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight.’ Willie Nelson’s ‘September Song’ is another popular song that links melancholy with love, as is Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne.’” Music is just one example of art that can tenderize us enough to address our melancholy. Have you ever choked up at a movie?

For the elderly, like Arnold Palmer, melancholy is often experienced as things that are regularly taken away. Palmer’s pro career was taken away by advancing years. The elderly, in time, have their driving, their health, and their friends taken away from them. Melancholia isn’t an option, but a reality for any elderly person who is honest with himself or herself. Who wouldn’t be melancholy when so much is being taken away?

What makes melancholia a healthy response, rather than one that slides into destructive depression, is one’s ability to evaluate and respond to the feeling of melancholia. Whether you read poetry, listen to or play music, paint, watch an emotional movie, or dance like you’re riding a pogo stick, soften yourself up enough to think through your feelings and face your frustrations. Invite the Holy Spirit into your thoughts, so God can weave strength and wisdom into the healthy responses you make. Melancholia is an opportunity to address struggles and make hopeful transformations. I pray that you and I will have the courage and tenderness to face our melancholia with determination and a few tears. (Don’t tell anyone, but I still tear up at the end the movie “Rudy.”)

Noise that Warps the Brain

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Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

I continue to read that our computer-driven society is actually transforming the human brain, and not always for the better. So much information is slamming us that we are now unable to process it with our conscious mind, which leaves our subconscious to make warped evaluations. This looks not unlike the difference between a cohesive story during our daylight hours, and a similar, warped story played out in a dream. The dream is illogical and often takes us to illogical places, with illogical feelings we cannot psychologically decipher. Now that we are overwhelmed by too much information, our brains are responding with the subconscious taking control not only in our dreams but taking charge of our thought evaluations while we remain awake. That is a scary thought!

Writer, Zat Rana, in his article, “The Most Important Skill in the 21st Century” affirms the fear when he says, “Growing up in a generation even as recent as the mid-20th century meant that your sense of self was mostly shaped by a combination of your local cultures, popular media culture, your education, and whatever life experiences you accumulated living in the real world.” I would add that the religion you were born into also had a huge impact on your sense of self in the 20th century. But Rana continues, “The internet has not only completely shattered and broken what we think of as popular culture into million little pieces…” Now, there are so many voices, with as many values and ideologies, that our minds are often unable to distinguish one from another.

When everything sounds deeply concerning, without the mind’s ability to decipher all the input, we are left to be manipulated by whoever is the loudest or most offended. This leaves us pointing the finger and feeling somehow continually anxious. Rana warns, “What matters isn’t what we consume, but how the grand total of our consumption is made sense of, and increasingly, in this latter regard, we are fighting an uphill battle that is edging us towards an unconscious perception of reality rather than a truthful one.” 

Rather than just accept this new reality, it is worth struggling to keep our individuality and wisdom. The first step in reclaiming our own identity is measuring all information from a faith perspective. A Biblical understanding calls us to ask, “Is there justice?” “Is there compassion?” “Is there Divine hope?” Questions of faith begin to chip away at the noise and help our minds begin to reprioritize, which brings freedom and wisdom back into our lives. Affirm the freeing power of God’s Holy Spirit to bring order and truth back into our lives. Pray for God to make room in our busy minds, for that “still small voice.”

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