Placebo Effect

I was chatting recently with one of my cousins–a physician–about the effect of placebo pills.  It is well known that they have great healing properties.  But he told me two things I didn’t know:

First, they work amazingly well even when people know they are taking a placebo!  This article goes into great detail on that phenomenon.

The second made me laugh out loud.  He said that in some double-blind drug tests, all the participants were warned about possible negative side-effects of the drug, and encouraged to report when they became too uncomfortable for them to bear.

Here’s what happened.  Subjects taking placebos bailed out of the studies because of unbearable side-effects at a higher rate than those taking the actual drug being tested!  And the side effects were real!

Dangerous things, those placebos!

Are we interesting creatures, or what?!


What would the media do without this word?  It is the staple of click-bait.

Here’s what it means.

flaunt /flônt,flänt/


verb: flaunt; 3rd person present: flaunts; past tense: flaunted; past participle: flaunted; gerund or present participle: flaunting

display (something) ostentatiously, especially in order to provoke envy or admiration or to show defiance.

No synonym works quite as well. 

Show off” sounds silly.  “Display ostentatiously” is embarrassing,  an offense to good taste.  Try this:  “Forty-nine-year-old model ostentatiously displays her beach body!”  You won’t see that headline.  But we are good with “flaunt.”

How did that happen?  What does it say about us that we can be drawn to one of the most unattractive vices?  But drawn we are.

Our new masters know us better than we know ourselves. They know things we don’t want to admit. They know what works and would not keep doing it if it didn’t pay. 

Every time we “click” we are sending them a message: “This is what I want more of.”  




Christian Marriage

There are many views of marriage today.  Some have felt compelled to fight for its “true” meaning.  The odds of victory on that seem very slim.

Adding the adjective “Christian” shifts the struggle from defining “marriage” to defining “Christian.”  There will still be differences of opinion but at least you have some standards to work with: the Bible, history and tradition.  This is the same way that a Muslim or a Hindu would approach their definition of marriage.

I’m glad that we have the option of a secular wedding at the court house.  Calling that a “civil union” might be more accurate, as it is essentially a business contract, though some folks feel “civil union” is somehow second-class.  Fine. If you want to call it a “marriage”, why not?  You might say a “legal marriage” or “non-religious marriage” or “state marriage”.  Doesn’t really matter. But its not a “Christian” marriage.

For most of church history Christian marriage has been viewed as a sacrament. Like Baptism, it is something that is given or done by the church and received by the couple, a sort of gift as well as a covenant.  It is proper for the couple to speak of their marriage in the passive voice: “We were married by Fr. Jones.”  And for Fr. Jones to speak of it in the active voice: “I married Bob and Sally.”  Swap “baptized” for “married” and you get the idea.

Not everyone wants to receive the gift of sacramental Christian marriage. It should not be forced on anyone.  It is a totally different reality than the courthouse contract.  If you call the civil union a “marriage” you definitely need an adjective (at least) to describe a Christian union.

This video does a great job of illustrating C.S. Lewis’ clear teaching of how most Christians have understood marriage until pretty recently, and how we at St. Peter’s still do.

Urgent, Important, Essential?

My uncle had a little saying that helped keep him sane.  He would ask himself: “How much is your peace worth?”

I’ve tried it and it comes in handy in a variety of situations, like when I am beating myself up when I find I have overpaid for something. Or agonizing over a missed opportunity.  Or sinking into regret over a blunder in the past.  Or worrying when I feel I must say no to an invitation, an offer or a demand. All of these cost me a certain amount of peace.

How much is your peace worth? If we stop to think about it we will find it is worth quite a bit, and we will be surprised how much of it we just give away to unworthy causes or pour into bottomless pits.

Living a peace-filled life these days may be the ultimate counter-cultural act of defiance. It is not easy, but we can make it easier.

It helps to recognize that our peace is always under attack. The Enemy is after your peace in the same way the market is after your money and the TV and internet are after your time.

St. Paul says the peace of God “will guard our hearts and minds.”  But we also need to guard our peace.  God replenishes our peace, but if we waste it we won’t have it when we need it and our  hearts and minds will be vulnerable to attack.

Have you ever thought of peace as a protection to your heart and mind?  How many bad decisions have you made when you were anxious?  Yeah.  Me too.

We need to create a “peace budget.”  Like the old saying, “I woke up today with only one nerve left and now you are getting on it,” sometimes we wake up with our “peace tank” near empty.  We are going run out long before the day is over.  It doesn’t have to happen, but it will if we do not take intentional measures.

One of the things people always notice about St. Peter’s is an atmosphere of peace.  That’s encouraging.  Peace is one of the most delicious and nutritious fruits of the Spirit.

Where do you think the Enemy is most likely to attack us?

The peace that we feel when we are all together is the aggregate of the peace we are allowing God to give us individually and in our core relationships, plus the wonderful Holy Spirit multiplication factor when two or more are gathered in Christ’s name.

Have you lived long enough and suffered enough to know that peace does not come from trying to please or to get along with everybody or from imitating others, or never saying, “No”?

It’s actually quite the opposite.  Peace comes from doing the hard work of defining what is truly essential to you — as a follower of Jesus — and then calmly, lovingly sticking to it, even at the risk of being different (you surely will be!) or offending someone or missing out on the next cool thing.

Jesus knew what was essential and He calmly stuck to it.  He can help us do the same.

This short video provides some helpful pointers from the secular world, but the principles apply to us.  The second longer one with the author fleshes it out more thoroughly.