I love cheeseburgers and endorphins.
I am a big fan of the “South of the Border” Burger at the Brown Lantern, the “M Forcer” Burger at Vagabond Station and (of course) the “Everyday” burger at Bastion. If I am traveling, my favorite is Five Guys Burgers and Fries with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, relish and grilled onions (of course I get the Cajun fries)… unless I am in California … then it’s In-n-Out Burger Combo #1… that’s a Double-Double with grilled onions (and fries and lemonade).
I’m not sure if I was born loving cheeseburgers, but I would be willing to wager I was a cheeseburger lover by age 7.
It took me quite a bit longer than that to realize my love for endorphins. These chemicals, which reside in our body, were first discovered in the 1970’s. They are a hormone that is naturally produced by the body which eases pain and gives you a sense of calm and happiness. Morphine is the medicine used to trigger the same brain receptors.
The 1970’s also gave us this new fad called “jogging”. Jogging was brought to America from New Zealand by legendary track coach Bill Bowerman. If his name sounds familiar it is because Coach Bowerman was one of the co-founders of Nike. Jogging was a quirky sport that took a while to catch on. It was reported that in the early 1970’s Senator Strom Thurmond was stopped by a police officer. His suspicious activity? Jogging.
It was shortly after the introduction of jogging/running to the American vernacular that another term entered our lexicon. “Runners High” became a common term used for the feeling of calm and happiness that followed a moderate run.
You aren’t going to believe this next part … Scientists soon discovered that moderate running caused the body to produce endorphins which then helped reduce pain, which was followed by a wave of calm and happiness! The term “Runner's High” soon evolved into the “Endorphin Rush”.
You know what’s even awesomer!?
You don't have to run to get it!
It turns out that upon further study ANY moderate exercise of 20-30 minutes would result in the production of endorphins in the body!
What’s your jam? Hiking, cycling, running, walking, jogging, basketball, swimming or ultimate frisbee? It doesn’t matter … get moving … start producing endorphins.
Now this is an important point to note … Each activity will start producing endorphins at different times. Running, for instance, starts producing endorphins after 8 minutes and 33 seconds.
These are two important points that we need to remember.
So what does this have to do with anything?
About six years ago I had an “unfortunate incident” that led to a moment of unconsciousness and an arm broken in four different places. Getting the arm patched up was fairly straight forward. Dealing with the loss of consciousness was a bit more troubling, my employment was in jeopardy.
My circumstances were out of my control.
I'm not sure how your brain works, but mine just wouldn't stop spinning.
I quickly came to the conclusion, I needed to start moving.
Endorphins and I had been introduced in the past, but this is when we became close friends. I started with walks, which evolved into hikes, which evolved into jogs, which evolved into runs. All of this to achieve a sense of calm over my uncertain future.
I was using the physical part of my humanness to affect the mental part of my humanness.
Something else happened during this time. The “spiritual or biblical” books and studies that I was engaged in started to talk about Jesus in a new and profound way. I have always identified with Jesus as God and Savior, but I was now being introduced to Jesus as “Rabbi” or “Teacher” or “Guide”. He is all of those things.
This started me thinking about how Jesus lived. His was a slower life, He typically walked from place to place… at 3 mph! He enjoyed eating long, slow meals with His friends so much so He was called a “drunkard and glutton” in Luke 7. He enjoyed serving the multitudes but He also enjoyed being alone with Himself and the Father. Matthew 14 is a great example, it starts in verse 13 as we see Jesus withdrawing from the crowds as He laments the loss of John the Baptist. He then engages the crowd with compassion in verse 14, healing the sick and feeding the five thousand. Finally, in verse 23 He dismisses the crowd and goes up the mountainside alone to pray.
He walks (3 mph)
He eats and drinks with His community
He serves the needs of those around Him
He retreats for rest … mental, physical and spiritual
As I began to draw close to Him as my Rabbi, I was introduced to these things called “Spiritual Disciplines.”
Dallas Willard (and many others) have identified the following practices: Prayer, Silence and Solitude, Community, Simple and Sacrificial Living, Meditation on God’s Word, Worship, Service to Others.
It is important to fight back the feeling of being overwhelmed right now. The point of the list is not to check all of the items off and get a “Good Christian” sticker, in fact don’t look at it as a list at all. Think of it as hiking, cycling, running, walking, jogging, basketball, swimming or ultimate frisbee. What’s your jam? Which one(s) work for you?
The point is to find a practice or practices to help you reflect the life of your Rabbi and in doing so draw closer to the rhythms of His life.
Slowing down, lingering in community, serving others, retreating for rest … mental, spiritual and physical.
When I do this I find the pain and concerns of my life minimized, followed by a wave of calm and even joy.
I am using the spiritual part of my humanness to affect the mental part of my humanness.
I call them “Spiritual Endorphins”.
Don’t forget our two facts about endorphins
What’s your jam? Prayer, Silence and Solitude, Community, Simple and Sacrificial Living, Meditation on God’s Word, Worship, Service to Others? It doesn’t matter … get moving … start producing spiritual endorphins.
Each day when I wake up I crave endorphins, spiritual and physical.
Do I want to run? Not necessarily.
Do I want to take time to pray, worship, meditate on God’s Word? Not necessarily.
But, what I do want, what I do crave is the wave of calm and joy that comes with taking the time to engage my body and my soul.
So, the next time you see a cheeseburger …
Think of endorphins
Think of running, walking, mountain biking, etc.
Think of spiritual endorphins
Think of prayer, worship and meditation.
And then order the french fries.