Book Report: “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud – mostly awful.

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I read this book as I’ve heard it mentioned here and there. While saying “no” is certainly a requirement in life and in a Christ-honoring life and about 5-10 pages of this book was helpful, most of this book was awful.

Saying “no” and defining limits is something that I have recently come to grips with. I have made a document by thinking through how to handle difficult people in difficult situations. Obviously, there are people that try to use you and not carry their own burdens as they are irresponsible or have expectations that you can’t meet (perhaps only Jesus can meet some of their needs).  Sometimes I agree to help people, but have to put specific limits on how I will help, or else I, in one example, would not have a car (seriously). Kind of reminds me of the Steve Martin skit of begging people for lint. We need to help and train people to be responsible and mature- not just give what they think would be best.

The 5-10 helpful pages:

Some of the good sections in this book covers the issue of enabling irresponsibility. This is certainly a real issue and where biblical wisdom comes in. While it may be “nice” to keep funding your post-college child, it’s not necessarily loving and in their best interest for them to develop into an adult. Continuing the flow of money delays maturation- including spiritual maturation. Cutting the financial umbilical cord early helps them realize that as an adult, you have a limited “fun money”- limited money for entertainment, going out to eat, clothing, gadgets in order to pay for the necessities- that’s adulthood. Often when I see parents helping adult kids, the adult child has every latest gadget and endless entertainment budget while claiming to “not have enough money”. Training the adult child to budget and track spending would be helpful– or adding another job. Biblical love is in the best interest of others – not creating their best comfort.

Another helpful section is boundaries at work. While I try to be servant-leader in my secular job, I can sometimes spend so much time doing other people’s jobs that I don’t get my job done. Obviously, there are times where I am needed, but I am learning (with the help of my boss) to not do other people’s projects for them. I have to intentionally delineate with my boss what is my job and what is not- and ultimately, sometimes letting people fail. Also helpful is the issue of chronic overtime. Though it may be needed for a season, it’s not a good long term pattern.

Saying “no” is biblical. Yes, Jesus did not heal everyone, did not feed everyone, and He did retreat to pray. That’s where the biblical fidelity ends.

The 310 unhelpful pages:

There are two main problems with this book: 1.) secular psychology and 2.) verses completely misinterpreted. This could be a good resource for a class on discernment. I would love to unpack each passage they pick out of context. It was somewhat painful to just read through it without examining each instance. Christian psychology uses secular psychology + random verses picked out to support the secular psychology = false teaching. All false teaching has some truth in it, but it does not mean it’s not false teaching.

The entire middle section is lifted right out of child developmental psychology textbook. It is interesting from an academic theory standpoint, but not for application purposes for the Christian life. They use secular psychology and then give recommendations for how to train and raise your child resulting in advice that is in direct opposition to scripture. The common christian psychology theme of “every problem you have today is rooted in your childhood” is thrown in there- unbliblicial (I’m not discussing abuse issues per se here). Our problems are usually due to our sin that comes directly from our sinful hearts. No adult would ever be competent and joyful it all hinged on their childhood. The psychology categories and labeling of personalities – unbiblical. If I am having a problem with a relationship, I can assure you it’s because of my particular sin problems and their particular sin problems- not that we are in a different psychology personality category. Every scientist knows that psychology is not a hard science and changes with the wind with whatever fad their is. Again, interesting for academic purposes, but not what I base my life on. Rampant throughout is psychological labels instead of calling sin, sin. When you call sin what it is and use the means God give us for sanctification (His Word, His Spirit, prayer) then you have real repentance, victory over sin, and joy. Giving your sin a psychological label helps you harbor it and continue in misery.

The particular problematic result of this false teaching in this book is assuring people that they don’t need to serve in their church- working in your church to point of exhaustion is unwise and potentially harmful to yourself and your family. It warns against churches “guilting” you into serving. In reading this book, I have realized that some have quoted this book or sections to me as reasons why they don’t need to serve in the local church. False teaching matters because it leads you away from Christ- perhaps slowly, perhaps imperceptibly, but away.

One example that I have encountered of how this book has led people away from experiencing Christ. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31. Many of us will have to earn our money outside of the church, but it doesn’t mean that if you “do it to God’s glory” that is a check in our “service box” and you are serving-exempt. An application of this false thought process- if your brother of sister is in need of physical help, but you work to the glory of God in your professional job  you can ignore their request for help. Yes, there is a verse about working for the glory of God, but exempting yourself from loving your brother or sister is a twisted interpretation (it’s helpful to read all of I Corinthians to get the gist of this passage in context).

I love my church and I love my elders and their families. I am generally a loyal person, but don’t get me wrong- I don’t serve out of loyalty to the elders and their families. I don’t give up evenings and weekends out of loyalty to people- nope, I’m afraid I love myself and my time all too much. I serve because I love Jesus. My church is a vehicle for me to follow Christ and not just be a fan. It’s not some event on my over-booked calendar that I need “set boundaries on”. Though my church is particularly cool ( it’s multicultural, in an amazing old building, has expository preaching, has dozens of people unclear on the gospel rolling through the doors, matches all my personal preferences, contains some of my very best friends, and is a church plant) I’m ultimately not interested in my local church, but through my local church, I serve Christ out of gratitude for redeeming me. When it’s a beautiful weekend and I could have hours of amazing workouts, visit friends or family, get a pedicure, go rock climbing, but instead scrub the toilets at church or working on material to teach children’t church or counsel a sister- it’s because together we are proclaiming the gospel! Do I need to hold down a job- yes, do I need to be a good mother to my child- yes… but I can do all that AND serve. Do I run myself into the ground to the point of exhaustion- yes sometimes I do! And I recover.

If someone professes to love Jesus, yet always has a reason or excuse not to serve, there is no objective evidence that they do. My church isn’t a burden- it’s an opportunity. My church doesn’t guilt people into serving. Obviously, I cannot do everything and that is fine- we are a body functioning together; however, my church will express concern if you profess to love Jesus, but are “too busy” to serve while seeming to have plenty of time to devote to your job, school, child’s activities or entertainment. This is a sign, that you may not in fact, be converted. If you are converted you want to serve. Your priorities change. What you love changes. This is why it is concerning- serving- loving the brethren is a sign of salvation. Lack of serving in your church or feeling “guilted into serving” isn’t good boundaries- it’s a sign that you may not be converted.

How do I know much of this book is crap?  Interestingly, my bible reading plan had me reading through Paul’s epistles while I was reading “Boundaries”. Did Paul run himself weary for the gospel… most certainly.

22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.

II Corinthians 11:22-31.

Did Paul have “boundaries” when it came to the gospel? No.

 

Ask Beth: “Do you think there are instances where people do not process chemicals properly and therefore need support from supplements to aid in the processing of them?”

Sometimes I get asked good questions from friends with inquiring minds. I thought I would share them in case anyone is asking these same questions.

To answer this question, I will break it up into 2 parts:

1. “Are there instances where people do not process chemicals properly?”

Yes, there certainly are, and unfortunately, this results in a lot of disease conditions. For example, people may be born with a genetic mutation where a gene that makes one of the hundreds of enzymes in mitochondria that does not function properly. The enzyme may be responsible for a chemical reaction to make something or break something down. They are what “process chemicals”.  If you lack the enzyme that makes something, then you will lack that product. If you lack an enzyme key in breaking things down, the byproducts of that specific metabolic pathway will build up and can be toxic. There are an array of mitochondrial diseases. These are disease, and if you are missing an enzyme because of a genetic mutation, you would have serious symptoms, and in some cases if not treated, will cause death. Many of these mitochondrial diseases can cause bleeding in the brain and present as child abuse (without a positive skeletal survey revealing broken long bones or ribs common in infants who have brain bleeding due to child abuse), which is another interest of mine.

Here’s one example:

  • Propionyl coenzyme A carboxylase deficiency

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Figure 1. A very beautiful 3D schematic of Propionyl coenzyme A carboxylase. The alpha and beta subunits move and interact together to “do chemistry”.

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Figure 2. The work propionyl coenzyme A does in your mitochondria all day long without you taking a vitamin supplement.

  • Inheritance Autosomal recessive.This is a ‘mitochondrial’ disease since the deficient enzyme – propionyl coenzyme A carboxylase – is located within the mitochondria. Encoding genes have been found on both chromosome 3 (beta subunits) and 13 (alpha subunits).
  • Metabolic features: The neonatal form presents with increased ammonia levels, erroneously suggesting a urea cycle defect. Ketosis, acidosis (metabolic and lactic) and hypoglycemia are found in conjunction with increased glycine levels (see above in methylmalonic acidemia). For the aforementioned reasons the disease is also called ‘ketotic hyperglycinemia’. The co-factor of the enzyme is biotin; hence other enzyme deficiencies (multiple carboxylase deficiency, see later in 3-methylcrotonyl coenzyme A carboxylase deficiency) related to impairment of the biotin cycle (holocarboxylase synthetase, biotinidase) may cause diagnostic problems.
  • Clinical features: The disease has a severe neonatal (80–90%) and a milder infantile (10–20%) onset variant. Skin rashes, hypotonia, lethargy, dehydration, seizures and irregular breathing are seen in the neonate before severe acidosis leads to coma and death.
  • Clinical course: Prognosis in the late-onset form is much better. If the ketoacidotic metabolic crises which are often triggered by infection, fasting, constipation or high protein intake are successfully prevented, affected patients may reach adult age.
  • Treatment: Low protein diet with l-carnitine supplementation. (copied from http://www.mrineonatalbrain.com/ch04-17.php)

2. “… and therefore need support from supplements to aid in the processing of them?”

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Figure 3. A bobcat.

Enzymes are a type of protein and function as the work horses in our body. Let’s use an analogy that bobcat is one type of enzyme/protein- it has a 3D shape, it moves in space, does work, “processes chemicals”, vitamins are like the oil that keeps the bobcat running, and ATP is the gasoline. Vitamins lower the energy required for the enzyme to work – less gasoline/ATP. How do we get our enzymes? Sometimes  “food mysticism” literature (internet), implies that we are passive to our food and that we can digest key enzymes in raw milk or raw food. However, our GI tract does not absorb proteins/enzymes. The pH of the stomach is around 4 and then peptidases in the small intestine rip enzymes/proteins apart. Our intestine actually absorbs amino acids- sometimes as long as 3 amino acids in a row, but not proteins. Going back to our bobcat analogy, if we eat a bobcat, which is a protein in a steak, it will get homogenized in our stomach and then in our small intestine peptidases chop up the bobcat into parts- the fender, the tire, the wheel, the smokestack and then specific transporters for each part move it across the gut epithelia into our body. The inside of our small intestine is actually “outside” of our body, which is good as it has billions of bacteria (another interesting topic). Your gut epithelia is like the Berlin Wall- only very specific things can pass through. Also, vitamins pass through via their specific transporters and each type of nutrient gets across very specific transporters. What does your body do with these bobcat parts? The bobcat parts get absorbed into your blood and diffuse across capillaries when in your tissue, let’s say your bicep has a low concentration of arginine (an amino acid) as it’s constantly turning over muscle. Arginine, a bobcat part- let’s say a tire, would be transported into the muscle cell and if your muscle cell is deciding to make bobcats that day, it’s DNA, which is transcribed and then translated would instruct the cell to add arginine (a tire) to a bobcat it’s making or maybe another protein, let’s say it’s making myosin that day… a corvette. It would pop that tire on from the bobcat it ripped apart in your small intestine and then put it on a corvette in the cell in your bicep.

Our bodies are incomprehensibly complex and are robust factories that make very specific products on it’s own very specific agenda due to orders and communications from within the cell, the cell’s neighbors, hormones from the gut, hormones from the brain etc.. It is not passive. We eat food, our body rips it apart, and then decides what it wants to make with the parts. Of course, if you have a genetic mutation in an enzyme, including enzymes that process vitamins, you are going to have problems.

If you were unable to make a bobcat… or a corvette.. or any other key protein, you would have a disease. There is a very large area of scientific inquiry to try to solve the problem of how to correct mutated genes to make proteins we need. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving more of the protein that is missing (or being destroyed by your body)- like giving insulin in diabetes. Mitochondrial disease or any other metabolic disease, there is a huge effort to learn how to genetically engineer cells to give them the correct DNA to make the right protein (or bobcat) themselves. I have a friend who is a PhD student at MIT working in one of these labs doing very crazy theoretical things with DNA so that these disease where a protein (the parts of our cells that process chemicals) that is defective is corrected at the level of the DNA.

A big part of “food mysticism” is that vitamins are given more power than they have. You could give as much vitamins as you want to a person with a mitochondrial disease, but a.) if you one of your proteins isn’t working you have a disease, b.) if your DNA makes bobcats without pistons- no amount of oil is going to help. People with mitochondrial disease can manage their diet to decrease the activation of pathway involving the defective enzyme, but you can pour oil on your broken bobcat all day and it will not work. “Food mysticism” usually mixes in things that are correct: yes, it is possible that some people may not process chemicals properly, and yes, we do need vitamins +  incorrect information to get you to buy something (or click on a website which generates add revenue), but incorrect processing would lead to disease which would need a lot more treatment then the vitamins they are trying to sell you.

In conclusion, if you have a protein that’s not doing it’s job correctly, you have a disease that would need to be treated with medicine or altering your diet to avoid that metabolic pathway so you don’t die. Vitamins don’t help these conditions.

Note: Vitamin D is really the only vitamin that is found to be deficient in people not living in third world country based on scientific evidence— especially people living in regions with long winters. Though vitamin deficiency is obviously a problem, it does not mean that adding more vitamins is helpful if you are not deficient and vitamin supplements are actually associated with increased incidence of cancer and other problems.

SUMMER: Changing Pace!

Nehemiah’s last day of school was June 6. Of course, the week leading up to the last day was Spirit week where I gave him 2 haircuts (including a huge mohawk), he had 2 costumes, awards night/graduation, and a field trip to Chuck E Cheese for his end of school party. Spirit week is designed to make parents happy that school is out through utter exhaustion while we marvel at these creatures of wonder and mystery: teachers.

This is the first year since he has been at Veritas that I have been able to attend the awards night/potluck/graduation. The past two years I was too fatigued to endure that many people in the evening after spirit week. This year we stayed through most of the 4-8th grade awards and graduation. It was very important to Nehemiah to see his 8th grade friends graduate. The little kids get assigned to a middle school kid to do devotions with them and the older kids serve the younger by helping with recess. So, Nehemiah actually knows the big kids and most have made a big impression with him. This is something I love about Veritas- the older kids pouring into the little kids.

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Nehemiah’s 1st grade class and teacher.

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After school was out, I was able to write and finish my grant with him home with me provided he gets out for a few hours a day. Now that summer is here, I am taking lots of time off and working from home and we are going through a list of things we wanted to do, but with me working full-time and him at school haven’t been able to do yet. We hosted a play date with a friend from school, visited a park in Boston that we drive by on the esplanade, and are trying to visit every MA Audubon site around us. We are members and can visit for free. At some point I realized that I would rather visit various MA Audubon places instead of Boston’s array of museums geared towards kids as I enjoy it so much more and I haven’t encountered any screaming temper tantrums yet at Audubon locations.

Nehemiah is at a really fun age where he is becoming more independent and helping out around the house, but still is very into imaginative play and still has plenty of “whacky”. Several times a day I bust out laughing at something he says! He is a very fun hiking buddy and is game for anything that involves leaving the house. 🙂

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Under the Longfellow Bridge, which is under major renovation. Some day all of the bridges over the Charles may be open at the same time… some day…..

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This is possibly the coolest playground in Boston- under the Authur Fielder Bridge.

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Habitat in Belmont, MA- it has a few miles of hiking trails behind an English style home and garden.

 

Grant submitted!!! with 75 minutes to spare…

This past week as been a bit of an adventure heading towards the approaching deadline. The NIH has hard deadlines. If I missed this one, I couldn’t reapply until October or so and all the dates on everything would have to change. The bulk of my part was done about a week ago and then I had to various phase of hurry-up-and-wait as people go through it… and Nehemiah is out of school so he is tagging along for the hurry-up-and-wait. He’s been very patient as long as we get out of the house for hiking or visiting a park at least once a day.  There are two components- the 12 pages of science and then the 75 other pages of letters, biosketches, and other administrative pages- and routing it through 10 people at MGH and Partners. I submitted the rough draft 10 business days before then a few days ago Partners research management came back with 30 little things that needed to be changed in the 75 other pages and my boss did her final edits on the science end.

Besides the 11 letters in the grant, which I had to get creative in photoshop to make them fit the page limitation, I needed 3 external letters that the referees submit themselves into NIH. I requested 4, 1 declined a few days before the deadline. My two PhD references had their letters in earlier this week and the one MD submitted his last night at midnight. I have come to realize that MD’s and PhD’s have very different definitions of “last minute”. ha ha.

I submitted it to final route 24 hrs before it was due and then at noon today the woman at Partners tells me the NIH rejected it because it was on the wrong form and that form has expired. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH… fortunately, I did not vomit. I found the updated form (99% the same exact thing) and started copying the old form to the new form, but my computer kept crashing with them both versions open- the PDF is a form where upload other PDF’s and my computer doesn’t like one open nevermind two open. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH So I had to print it out.. but I have no printer at home… so Nehemiah and I raced to the church to print it out (usually I go to Staples for non-church issues, but time was an issue here). Fortunately, our departments admin person had me covered and filled out the new form and re-uploaded all my stuff into it much quicker than I could.

Then…. the person at Partners submitted it but there was an error. They told me to go into my NIH account, but my password wasn’t working…finally after 15 min of fixing my password I got in and realized I didn’t need to actually get in the account myself. Then I thought they were saying I needed to re-submit the corrected grant myself so I was trying to figure that out for another 15 min…. but turns out I didn’t have to. Anyways.. .despite ALL OF THAT.. it was submitted with a whole 75 minutes to spare…

Looks like I will have plenty of new fodder for future anxiety dreams…