5 Life Lessons from 2020 of Biblical Proportion

As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20,” which infers that looking back adds clarity.  Well, 2020 is behind us now, and through the fog of Covid19 challenges we can find glimpses of clear and useful lessons that can help all of us better cope in the future.  Here at Creation Illustrated Ministries, we have found five of them to keep in your back pocket as reminders that “past is prologue” which can have a positive affect on everyone—even eternally.

1) Heroism resides in all of us.  While hospital staff, ambulance drivers, grocery workers, and utility providers seem to always be there for us, we now have a new appreciation for their selfless service to humanity.  By definition: “Heroism consists of putting others first, even at your own peril.”  The noun heroism comes from the Greek hērōs meaning someone who shows great courage.  Although we live in a society where superiority, attainment, and power often reign supreme measures of individual worth, the biblical concept to esteem others higher than yourself shines through as a vital character trait that uplifts everyone during times of hardship.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phillipians 2:3, 4, NIV).

Even in nature we witness acts of benevolence.  For example, the often vicious badger will share its den with other creatures such as coyotes that serve to protect the badger, as told in the Winter 2021 edition of Creation Illustrated magazine.  Countless symbiotic  relationships exist by Divine design, not the least of which include the bee, the flower, and the fruit upon which we depend for our very existence.

So our very being needs to be ready to respond with humble acts of heroism rather than remaining in constant isolation while assuming this is someone else’s job.

2) Charitable giving is inescapable.  The needy and homeless among us have increased in numbers exponentially with the loss of millions of jobs.  We often look to government assistance to care for the poor and less fortunate in times of economic decline, but in reality, we are the government.  We determine how resources are produced and distributed.  We typically pay various tariffs that get re-allocated in ways that may or may not be effective or logical.  So to ensure useful assistance to those in need, we each can look to our abundance and find a way to share something, anything.  The recipient obviously benefits from a hand lifting them up out of despair, but the giver also benefits from the joy of selfless compassion toward fellow humans.

The biblical counsel, “Its more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35), and “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8) guides us away from worldly “survival of the fittest” tendencies and toward connecting with others through heartfelt benevolence.  Our ministry has experienced an amazing influx of generosity and contributions in 2020 that encourage us to boost our efforts to bring the healing power of nature and Creation to hospitals, prisons, and schools.  Our gratitude cannot be put into words, so we choose to respond by furthering our global outreach to hurting souls.

3) Death is more than a number.  All of the Covid19 graphs, tallies, and projections of the dead and dying pour cold calculations over heart-wrenching loss of life and torn family fabrics that cannot be fully mended.  Such statistical devaluation of humans harkens back to the 1960s when the evening newscasts flashed a “scoreboard” on TV screens showing the cumulative number of American and Vietcong deaths as if this was a valid measure of victory.  Our ministry is dedicated to revealing the wonders of living creatures and verdure to help demonstrate that death was never a part of God’s original Creation.  Yet we need to recognize that coping with loss and grief also calls upon our symbiotic “codependency” that comforts one another in times of loss.

The biblical assurance, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4) is not a nebulous notion that this will happen automatically.  It is part of a series of promises that call each of us to participate in comforting those who suddenly need a huge void filled in their lives—much more than a card in the mail or a casserole on the doorstep.  Empathy means experiencing someone else’s feelings.  It requires an emotional component of personally identifying with the other person.  Sympathy, on the other hand, means understanding someone else’s suffering in a more cognitive way that keeps a certain distance.

Learning from 2020 how to reduce the vast numbers of losses to individual pain helps us know how to respond in a way that we would want others to respond to us.

4) Social interaction is not optional.  Being told to “social distance” during the Covid era places a painful misnomer on how we should relate to one another.  Preferably, the term should have been “physical distance” which is much more descriptive and to the point.  Social distancing void of personal interactions has plummeted countless souls into isolation, depression, and disorientation.  As social creatures, people have found ways to connect through online portals and cell phone apps that have allowed families, friends, and coworkers to interact.  Even choirs, bands, conventions, and churches have found ways to gather via technology.

Proverbs 13:20 advises: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm” so we need to be careful about who and how we associate with others.  But we are also counseled to “love our enemies” and to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Such admonitions challenge us to reach beyond our comfort zones to find common ground with others in an era of disagreement, disruption, and disinformation.  The enemy is seeking to isolate us and divide us from one another, whereas God designed us to interact.  Our ministry provides material that can be enjoyed by entire families or reading groups to build connections that might not otherwise exist.

5) Getaways are essential.  While we cannot fully comprehend the scope and number of lives impacted by Covid restrictions, we empathize with those in the travel industry suffering from the closure of hotels, restaurants, resorts, and transportation options.  Each of us can do whatever possible to help these businesses survive while trying to improvise and replace those minor or major outings that friends, families, and coworkers crave.

Our ministry seeks to encourage people to get outdoors and away from our protective bubbles.  Finding common joys in nature is a profound way to connect on common ground.  But even from the safety of your living room sofa we can take you places you’ve never been before.  In fact the current Winter 2021 edition of Creation Illustrated takes you to the grasslands of northeast Colorado for birdwatching, two places in Africa, and even to China.  Beyond that we invite you to explore with us the outer reaches of the stellar universe to listen to the songs of the stars!  If you clamor for a getaway in these restricting times, let us help you fill this void with not just interesting adventures but with mental and spiritual enrichment.

While we cannot prophesy about what exactly will happen in 2021, we need not be a prophet to know that we are one year closer to Christ’s return when we are called forth to embrace a getaway that is out of this world!

Discover Natural Stress Relief by Viewing Nature

Are you one of more than 40 million Americans who suffer from stress, depression, or anxiety? If so, spending time outside may do your mind (and body) some good.

Spending time in nature can provide natural stress relief. It’s also been proven to improve your mood, boost feelings of happiness, and help your overall well-being. There are many different ways to enjoy God’s Creation.

Consider King David’s reflection upon God’s Creation…

“All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.”—Psalm 66:4

“Mountains and all hills;
Fruitful trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all cattle;
Creeping things and flying fowl;
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For His name alone is exalted;”—Psalm 148:9-10, 13

…But when it comes down to it, they are all the same. The underlying element to all of these therapies is being outside in nature.

Humans were designed to thrive in the great outdoors. Your body benefits both physically and emotionally from immersing yourself in Creation.

In fact, in 2010, a group of researchers from the University of Rochester conducted a study about the reaction people have to nature. They had students take two 15-minute walks—one in an empty hallway and another down a wooded path in nature.[1]

Can you guess which students reported feeling less sluggish?

That’s right—the participants who strolled down nature’s path.

Our world is loud and full of distractions. This makes it easy to get lost in the shuffle of achievement and materialism that plagues this earth. Nature allows us the time and space that is needed to block out the noise and be intentional about prioritizing our life.

However, keep this in mind…

Nature is a tool that God has given us as a way to see His mighty works. It’s also a good reminder of how much God cares for us and His desire for us not to worry.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”—Matthew 6:25, 26-27

Natural Stress Relief

Although stress is a part of everyday life, it doesn’t need to take over. By taking a little bit of time out of each day to focus on your mental health, you can reduce your chances of becoming ill from chronic stress. It is not coincidental that the Bible tells us to take an entire day for rest. Our bodies actually need downtime.

Physical Benefits of Stress Relief

1. Time out reduces stress.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports in a CDC publication that stress levels at work are higher than ever. Reports show that “health care costs are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.” Stress wreaks havoc on our physical and emotional health.

2. Time out gives you a chance to move.
Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with many health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. On the contrary, exercise is hands down the best thing we can do for our physical and mental health.

Emotional Benefits of Stress Relief

1. You’re actually more productive when you take time out from work.
Data from the OECD shows that working more hours means less productivity. The most productive countries are Germany and France—each mandating more than 30 days of vacation. Downtime is actually proven to be beneficial in creativity and production.[2]

2. Rest days improve short-term memory.
Memory loss can be attributed to much more than old age. It could be that your brain is overloaded with to-dos. Taking a moment of quiet rest in an open space can lead to more organized thoughts and better memory retention.

Let’s be honest—we all feel better when we are relaxed. The key to relaxation is being able to actually tune out what needs to be done and allowing yourself space to just breathe. When you care for your physical, mental, and emotional health, you are more likely to be successful in your professional and personal pursuits.

It has been proven time and time again that spending time in nature can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and improve overall well-being. There is a lot of research to back this claim. Scientists have discovered that the terpenes found in nature play a key role in the therapeutic properties of a walk through the forest.

Another 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine found that participants who walked in a forest had lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol (aka the stress hormone) afterward than those who strolled through a city environment.[3]

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center studied the cognitive effects of air pollution (the word cognitive refers to brain processes such as thinking, reasoning, and remembering). They found that exposure to air pollution over time can result in higher rates of mental decline. This was especially true among older women.[4]

Spend Time in Nature

The good news is that you don’t need to move to the mountains to benefit from a daily dose of nature. Many studies examine the natural stress relief effects of nature after a mere 15- or 30-minute exposure. The positive effects, even after a short time, can still be seen.

If you live in a city, try not to get all of your exercise inside of a gym. Look for a local park where you can go on a walk or jog, take a bike ride, or find a body of water and dive in… if you know how to swim.

Although exercise has a positive effect on stress, you don’t have to be working up a sweat to enjoy the therapeutic effects of nature.

Take some time to really appreciate the Creation all around you. Breathe in the fresh air, admire the beautiful flowers, and listen to the birds sing. Try to let all of your worries drift away as you simply watch and listen.

Be Still and Listen

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”’—Psalm 46:10

Busyness and stress, like so many things in life, do not come with one easy solution. However, within Creation, we can see and hear the many promises from God come to life. Nature can help restore the voice of the Lord in our soul. With practice, His voice can become louder than all the struggles we are battling, and we can rediscover what it means to “be still.”

Want more information on healthful living, education, and God’s Creation? Check out our free resources here!

Reading from Screen vs Paper: Why Hard Copies Still Matter

A lot of attention has been given to the issue of screen time for youth and adolescents, but what about adults? Are there health risks associated with using electronic devices? If so, do those risks vary from one generation to the next?

This topic has sparked several studies over the years, yet many questions remain…

  • Screen vs. paper: What are the pros and cons?
  • What do studies show about reading from screen vs. paper in terms of reading retention and recall?
  • How much screen time is too much for adults?

Reading in and of itself has plenty of benefits for our minds. Consistent reading prevents mental decline and encourages a sense of empathy and understanding for the reader.

Let’s take an in-depth look at why there is still much to be gained by having a physical copy when reading.

Pros and Cons of Reading from Print

Pros to Print

1) The experience of reading and shopping for the book engages more of your senses and fires up more areas of your brain. A bookstore creates an opportunity for face-to-face interaction. On the opposition, shopping online can be isolating.

2) When you do lose your place in a print book, it’s far easier to find it again than it is in a digital book.

3) The tactile sensation of a book in your hand gives you a lot more feedback than you think. The thickness of the pages you’ve read vs. the thickness of the pages yet to read gives the reader a sense of accomplishment when they get closer to the end of the book simply by quickly glancing at the physical object and seeing the bookmark closer to the end.

4) The position of the words on the page (left or right, top or bottom) allows your mind to record your location not just by sight but also by the activation of emotional areas in your brain as well. It creates an experience, and we are more likely to learn from experiences that involve more areas of our minds.

5) Studies have shown that people retain more of what they read in print. This could be because of this multisensory experience explained above, including the texture and smell of the paper. Memories are closely associated with other senses.

6) Print is easier on the eyes than backlit displays. Although they are getting better, there is still a ways to go when it comes to easing up the harshness of screen displays on the eyes.

Cons to Print

The most obvious con with a printed book is the space it takes up and its weight. Books can be very heavy to carry. Not to mention that if you are using more than one book for any reason, several books can take up a lot of space.

Pros and Cons of Reading from a Screen

Pros to Screen

1) You can carry around hundreds of books in one device.

2) You can buy an e-book and start reading right away from your device in a matter of a couple of minutes.

3) You can read certain types of e-books in the dark.

4) References in an e-book can link directly to the other information.

Cons to Screen

One of the cons to reading on a screen is you have to rely on some type of power source, be it electric or battery. There is a continuous process of keeping track of chargers and available charging outlets. The other major downfall associated with e-books, or really any electronic device, is cost. They are usually quite expensive, and there is a learning curve with each one. You can buy a number of physical books for the price of one device.

What Do Studies Show: Reading from Screen Vs. Paper

Adolescents

Studies on screen time and the effects it has on the brain have been conducted for several years. In 2013, a study was done with 10th graders in Norway, with the students divided into 2 groups.

  • One group read 2 texts (1,400–2,000 words) in print.

  • The other group read the same documents as a PDF on a computer screen.

In the reading comprehension test that was given, the students who read on paper scored significantly higher than those who read the texts digitally. It was also easier for those who read on paper to remember what they had read.

It is believed that this is due to the spatiotemporal markers provided by a physical book. Touching paper and turning pages aids the memory, making it easier to remember where you read something. Having to scroll on the computer screen makes remembering more difficult.[1]

Adults

A 2014 study on adults found that readers who used Kindles were less competent in recalling the plot and events in the book than those who used paperbacks. Researchers still aren’t quite sure why this occurs, but it might have something to do with being able to physically and visually track your progress in a real book.

“’In this study, we found that paper readers did report higher on measures having to do with empathy and transportation and immersion, and narrative coherence, than iPad readers,’ said Anne Mangen of Stavanger University in Norway. ‘When you read on paper, you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right. You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual. … Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.’”[2]

In a nutshell, this is telling us that in most cases, we actually get more out of the physical copy of a book than an electronic copy. We are more likely to get emotionally involved in a magazine or book than a device. That involvement starts to engage our senses and leads us to a more meaningful experience and better recollection of the story, article, or information.

Although the 2 studies were done on different generational groups, they received similar results. Screens do make the reading experience more difficult and less memorable.

Think about this, in today’s highly electronic world, we are accustomed to scrolling and scanning most things on a screen. What do you do when you are searching on the web? You scroll.

Therefore, when we read from an electronic device, it’s as if we have been taught to immediately start scanning the content. No wonder remembering what we just read is difficult. There is quite a lot of missed information when we scan.

Should Screen Time Be Limited at All Ages?

The short answer is YES! We have all heard of limiting screen time in children and adolescents, but what about adults? For adults, the thought of applying screen time rules to our own devices are often overlooked.

In this age of unlimited screen access, it’s never been more important to use every tool we can to ensure our screen time is healthy and intentional. We have more access to screens than ever before, but we are also facing an entirely new type of problem…

For the first time in history, we have the capability and data required to program technology in ways that condition our biology to grab our attention and keep us coming back.

Meaning we get addicted.

Several studies have been conducted on the addictive nature of screen time and what that means for our lives.

The best thing we can do is to set limits for ourselves on how much time we choose to be on electronics and stick to those limits.[3]

Bottom Line: All Things in Moderation

The goal here isn’t to demonize electronic activity. Technology and e-books have their place in education, entertainment, and communication. However, there is still an overwhelming preference for hard copies when it comes to reading and learning.

When we approach the idea of setting boundaries with our use of electronics, we will have to make concessions with certain things. Books and magazines are a great place to start, especially those that allow readers to experience the beauty of the world around them through engaging stories and vivid images! Hard copies will produce better cognitive retention and retell for children, adolescents, and adults alike, which is why we encourage people to slow down and enjoy reading a printed copy of Creation Illustrated.

Sources

[1] Mangen, A, Walgermo, B R and Brønnick, K (2013). Reading Linear Texts on Paper Versus Computer Screen: Effects on Reading Comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research 58: 61–68, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2012.12.002

[2] https://www.medicaldaily.com/e-books-are-damaging-your-health-why-we-should-all-start-reading-paper-books-again-317212

[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201802/could-you-be-addicted-technology