Archive for the ‘loss’ Category

hope

WHEN GOD STOOPS

I received a wonderfully encouraging letter from a dear sister in Christ…someone whom I hold in very high regard.  Her note brought God right into the core of my own issues in dealing with depression…loss of hope and self-esteem. That was over a year ago, but her thoughts are just as relevant and encouraging today to all who bump up against the rough edges of life. It is a note that I recently went back to to share the same encouragement with another. Here are the verses she shared…given by God:

“I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you.  I said, ‘you are my servant, ‘I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; Do not be dismayed, for I am Your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “Isaiah 41:9-10

 ‘YOU GIVE ME YOUR SHIELD OF VICTORY,  AND YOUR RIGHT HAND SUSTAINS ME;YOU STOOP DOWN TO MAKE ME GREAT.”  Psalm 18:35

She shared, “I have prayed these verses over you with astonished awe over a God who stoops.  Not the posture that is normally associated with deity, but the only one that brings hope.”

The God who stoops is the God who brings hope. Through this dear friend and sister in Christ and others who seek to encourage as God has called us to do, I am thanking God for His fathomless love for me, and the promise of redemption that He has given.  I am thanking Him today for the great things He has in store for me in serving Him and knowing Him….and for His sustaining strength I feel in my life today.  All because of someone who truly walks with God took the time to pray and care and share.

Thank you to those who continue to love as Jesus loves…

 

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REPRINTED FROM THE FAMILY HEALTH GUIDE:

We all feel depressed at times. But because we all know how the emotion of depression feels, we tend to assume we know how someone feels who is suffering from a depressive illness, or clinical depression.

In truth though we haven’t the first idea of what a victim of this illness is going through. At its worst it can be a glimpse of hell which the rest of us will never come near to experiencing in our lifetimes.

There are many misunderstandings about clinical depression. One of the most common is that people who get it are in some way weak. This is ironic as in fact the opposite is true. Stress induced clinical depression does not happen to weak people, but is an affliction of people who are too strong. There are several different causes of depression but by far the most common is stress. Life sadly is getting more stressful and as it does so an epidemic of depressive illness is underway.

And yet it can be prevented, is not difficult to treat and can be prevented from recurring in those who are unfortunate enough to suffer an episode.

This illness nearly always happens to a certain type of person. He or she is strong, reliable, diligent, with a strong conscience and sense of responsibility, but is also sensitive, easily hurt by criticism and has a self esteem which while robust on the outside, is in fact quite vulnerable and easily dented. This is the person to whom you would turn to in times of need, and they would never let you down.

Why should this type of person be the one to get ill? The reason becomes clear when one understands what clinical depression is. It is not only a psychological condition but also a physical illness.

Depression as a physical illness

A depressive illness happens when one part of the brain, called the limbic system, malfunctions. The limbic system is a set of nerve fibres arranged in a circuit. Essentially this circuit acts like a complex thermostat which controls a number of systems and functions in the body. Probably the most important of these is the control of mood. It usually works well with mood returning to normal reasonably quickly after most of the day to day ups and downs of life. But like any other physical system, the limbic system has a limit and if it is stressed beyond this point it will break.

When this happens, the part of the system that fails is the transmitter chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline. These are chemicals which allow the electrical impulse to pass from the end of a nerve fibre to the next. In depressive illness their levels fall rapidly, resulting in the circuit coming to a grinding halt.

Putting 18 amps through a 13 amp fuse

So what happens if you put a whole lot of stress on to someone who is weak, or cynical, or lazy? The answer is that they will immediately give up, so they will never get stressed enough to become ill. The strong person on the other hand, reacts to stress by redoubling their efforts, pushing themselves well beyond the limits for which the body is designed. When they start to get symptoms, because of their sensitivity to failure and fear of criticism, they keep going, with the inevitable result that eventually something must give way. What gives way is the limbic system.

If you put 18 amps through a 13 amp fuse, there is only on possible result. Stress related depressive illness is essentially a blown fuse.

Recognizing the symptoms

The symptoms of clinical depression are depressed mood, feeling worst in the morning and better as the day goes on, and a host of “loss-ofs”. That is the loss of:

  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Energy and enthusiasm
  • Concentration
  • Confidence and self esteem
  • Sex drive
  • Enjoyment
  • Patience
  • Feelings
  • Optimism

So if you have been diagnosed with clinical depression what do you do now. Answer: Exactly the same as you would with any other physical illness; rest and take the prescribed treatment.

The trouble is that on the whole people who develop this condition have overcome every problem they have encountered in the past by extra effort. The concept of giving in is anathema. Yet you wouldn’t try to overcome pneumonia through exercise of resourcefulness. Neither can you with clinical depression.

Beware of family and loving friends

They will give you the benefit of homespun wisdom: “Go on pull yourself together, get more interests, get out more, get more friends, come to a party, we’ll cheer you up”.

If you take this advice it’s likely that you will only get worse. Rest, especially during the early stages is crucial. This doesn’t mean going to be or sitting in a chair doing nothing, that would give you far too much time to ruminate. It does mean avoiding any unnecessary challenges and only, where possible, doing what is easy. If it is possible to take time off work, do so. If you can get someone to clean up, look after the kids and do other chores, do so. Cancel social events that you are not looking forward to. Watch more TV, read more, or do anything that comes easily to you.

Dispelling the myths about medication

Another difficult issue is antidepressant medications. While there is no doubt that they play an important part of treatment, they have had very mixed press and many people hold strong opinions about them. Again, misunderstandings abound.

Antidepressants are not addictive, though if you come off them too quickly you can get withdrawal symptoms; you doctor will be able to help you put together a gradual withdrawal plan. They don’t work straight away, usually taking a few weeks to kick in properly.

They don’t give you a false high, or make you a better, more creative person. Prozac is a good antidepressant but doesn’t deserve either the cult following or the condemnation it has attracted.

Above all, if an antidepressant helps you get better don’t stop taking it as soon as you feel well. It takes the limbic system several months to heal properly, even though the symptoms of clinical depression may have gone. If you do keep the drug going for long enough you are unlikely to relapse when you come off it, in the same way that, when a plaster cast is taken off a broken leg which is healed you can walk without a return of pain.

On the path to recovery

Once recovery starts things tend to become a little more complicated. You need to start doing a little more, but how much? The truth is that nobody but you knows. At every stage your body will tell you. You can divide activity into three categories; mental, physical and social. At your body’s physical limit at any point along your recovery you will start to feel heavy and lethargic. For mental activity you won’t take anything in. At social events you may find it difficult to talk sensibly or as eloquently as you usually do.

At this stage, or before, stop! If you do you will continue to recover, if you don’t you may feel ‘rotten’ for the next 36 hours or so. The harder you push recovery, the slower it goes. So take it gently and listen to your body.

The good and the bad days

Even following these steps you will have ups and downs, but they should be minimized. At the beginning there may not be many good days. In the middle of recovery some days are nearly back to normal and others may seem as bad as ever. Nearing full recovery the bad spells become shorter, further apart, less bad and eventually peter out.

Beware extremes of emotions during this period. Your first good day isn’t the end of your problems and the rotten day that follows doesn’t mean you will never be well. Don’t overdo it on the good days and don’t despair on the bad ones, this is normal recovery, the bad days are often a message that what you did yesterday was a bit too much.

See: Study Shows Meditation Changes Brain Structure in Just 8 Weeks

Re-evaluating priorities

Once you are near full recovery, it is time to ask yourself some basic questions, such as: What is life really for? Do I have to run my life this way? Can I say “no” occasionally? What do I want from life? Why do I always have to be everything for everybody? etc, etc.

These are difficult questions and there are many more. They involve you in identifying the choices you have in your life and making them. If you don’t think you have any choices, because of your commitments and responsibilities you are wrong, but you may have to give in a little on picturing yourself as the perfect mother, father, employee etc, to find them. If you do it will help you to stay well.

It isn’t always possible to achieve this on your own. This is where a psychotherapist comes in. There are a great many different forms of psychotherapy, but mainly they can be divided into exploratory or psychodynamic, cognitive and behavioral.

THE ESSENMTIAL POINT TO REMEMBER is that effective treatment isn’t a matter of drugs or change in lifestyle or psychotherapy, but is often a combination of all three.

After that it’s down to you. If you have changed the way you operate and maybe the way you think, you have a great chance of remaining not only well, but happy too!

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I am pushed along with the crowd of people.  Church is over!  We are outside.  I blink my eyes in the bright sunshine.  What is all the noise about? Oh, I see!  Look at all the balloons!  Red, white and blue.  Not regular old balloons.  They are floating on strings!  I have seen balloons floating in pictures, but I have never held one. The men are handing out balloons.  Will they give one to me?  Could I have one of those magical, floating balloons?!    Oh, I can really have one?!  He says to be a big girl and hold on tight.  He says not to let go.  I am a big girl.  I am almost four.  I will hold on tight.  I won’t let go!

Oh, there are so many!  Everyone is excited.  We stand in the bright sun, holding all the balloons.  I am holding on tight!  A man is talking loud.  He is saying numbers.  His voice is getting louder!  But now, what is happening?  Oh no!  People are losing their balloons.  Red, white and blue, all floating away!  Going far away toward the big, bright sun!  But, I am a big girl.  I won’t let go!  I am so happy that I did not lose my wonderful, floating balloon!

But, people are looking.  Do I have the only balloon left?  Mom and Dad are looking.  They are angry.  Their faces are red.  Why are they so mad?  I did what the man said!  They want me to lose my balloon?!  Oh, I don’t want to.  Please don’t make me lose it!  I start to cry.  They get madder.  They take my fingers and move them so I can’t hold the white string.  Oh!  Oh!  There goes my wonderful, floating balloon.  It is going up high, but I can’t look at it.  The sun is too bright.  I am hot.  I am crying.  They are angry.  I am not a big girl because I am crying about my balloon.  The man who said the numbers wants to take a picture.  All the people smash close together on the steps in front of church.  He says to smile. I cry.

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Now, in the hot car.  Boy, are they mad.  They say to stop crying.  We are going to a party.  I don’t want to go to a party.  I want my balloon.

The party.  It is hot.  Grandma and Grandpa are here.  I don’t know them.  I am afraid of them.  There are lots of big tall men.  I don’t like them, either.  They hold silver cans and little white sticks that make smoke.  They have dark, pinched faces.  I feel sad and afraid.  I stand by Dad’s leg by all the big tall men.

One big man looks at me and says my eyes are all red.  What’s wrong with me?  Dad starts to tell them about my balloon.  But, what?  Now Dad is not mad.  He is laughing.  He laughs to tell them how I wanted to keep the balloon.  Now all the big tall men laugh.  It is not nice laughing.  My eyes are hot and start to feel wet.  They laugh because I am crying.  Now Dad is not mad that I am crying.  He is happy!  He is happy because he is laughing.

I look for Mom.  She won’t look at me.  I am all alone with all the big tall men.  They laugh and laugh.  I try not to cry.  I am not a baby.  I am almost four.  I’m a big girl.

I did what the man said.  I held on tight!  Mom and Dad are mad that I held on tight.  They are mad that I cried.  But, they are happy, too.  Happy that I held on tight and happy that I cried.  I don’t understand.  I want to go home.  I hate floating balloons.

It is thirty years later.  A long time ago I learned that the big event was a balloon release to celebrate the bicentennial on July 4, 1976.  I know because I have seen the group picture from that day enough times.  I’m the little girl in the front row, crying.

Even though I am a responsible adult, I get anxious around helium balloons.  Especially if I see a child holding one.  “Hold on tight!” something inside me screams.  My stomach gets knotted up and I look away.  I hate floating balloons.

I have come to realize that it’s not only the helium ones that I hate, but all the other ones, too.  My parents sometimes gave me the ones called Promises.  I tried to hold on tight, but they usually managed to pry my fingers off. I could only watch helplessly as the Promises floated away.  Sometimes I had the ones called Hopes, but I couldn’t keep those, either.  And, while I tried hardest to hold on to the Dreams, somehow they always slipped through my fingers, too.  Where are they now?  Probably lying in ditch somewhere, next to an ancient, deflated bicentennial balloon.

Lately, God has been showing me how helium balloons and other things like that are keeping me in chains.  They are heavy, shame chains that I drag around with me.  I have heard of a place called Grace, where there are no chains, and where the balloons don’t fly away.  Oh, how I want to get there!

And, that is why I am the grown-up woman, sitting in her pastor’s office, crying about a lost balloon.

But, Pastor Bob asks me to pray.  To tell God what it felt like to be the little girl who couldn’t keep her balloon – the little girl who was shamed into the ground by big, laughing men who thought her tears were funny.  It is a different way to pray, but through my tears I tell God the story.  And then, Pastor Bob tells me to ask Jesus to show me where he was.  After a few moments, I choke out an anguished, “JESUS, WHERE WERE YOU??!”

Oh, those big tall men look scary when they laugh.  I want to run away.  I want to hide.  Oh no, now there is another big man!  I don’t know if he is tall because he is down by me.  He doesn’t have a silver can or a little white stick.  I wish they would stop laughing!!  The big man by me wants me to look at him.  He is so close to me!  I don’t want to see a pinched, laughing face that close.  I look at the dirt.  He puts his arm around me.  He feels strong.  Slowly, I look up to his face.  Oh!  He is not laughing!  He is not mad!  Oh.  His eyes are wet.  He is crying, too.  He squeezes my shoulders.  He says, “I understand.”  Oh, he does!  He does!  Now he looks at the big tall men.  His face is sad and angry.  But he looks back at me.  He holds tight to me.  He won’t let go!  I can’t hear the laughing anymore.  He is down here by me.  His eyes are wet.  He understands.  I am safe.

And now, it is several years later.  I like helium balloons!  I buy them for my kids.  They are an essential part of birthdays and parties around our house.  And, I did get to the place called Grace.  Along the way, Jesus healed many more deep, old wounds.  He has taken the shame-chains away.  And while I know that I am not perfectly free, I live a life that is lighter than I ever imagined possible.

And, I learned that all those Promises, Hopes and Dreams did not just end up in some dirty ditch.  They didn’t float away into nothingness.  Jesus caught them.  Every single one!  I know because he has given some of them back to me.  They are in my hands again, and you better believe that I won’t let go!  He is keeping the others for me, and because I know that he understands, I’m okay with that.  Every so often I get surprised by a long lost hope or dream suddenly becoming a reality.  Jesus has perfect timing!

The desires of my heart matter to him.  And so, I won’t be a bit surprised if he meets me in heaven with a big smile on his face, holding on tight to a wonderful, floating bicentennial balloon.

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Written by a woman of excellence, a wife and mom who has gone through the Genesis Process and found inner healing, hope, and freedom…                          (Pastor Bob Barnett, Real Life Ministries USA)

balloon girl

 

Gods's Unfailing Love

Gods’s Unfailing Love

HEALING OUR WOUNDS –Part One

Not all wounds are visible.

Crash!  The sound of two cars colliding at high speed in the street brought me to my feet and out the door.  Two badly smashed cars, several people injured, and one bleeding profusely right in front of me.  I tore off my shirt and made a compress to stop the bleeding from his head wound. His mother took the compress and held it tight. I proceeded to assess the others, some still in the vehicles.  One young man involved in the accident was walking around directing me to the others who might be injured. He seemed unscathed, just as the paramedics arrived  he collapsed and was quickly taken care of and transported by ambulance to the hospital.

He had no visible wounds because his were internal.

Sometimes the wounds that you cannot see are the ones that are the most damaging of all.

 So it is with soul wounds… injuries to your soul, heart, and/or mind. 

What happens when your emotions are torn, there is a hole in your heart, and your thinking and beliefs have been damaged?  How can you identify your soul wounds and what must you do to heal from them?

Why Identifying Our Soul Wounds Is So Crucial —

Here are some key thoughts, proven principles about this:

  • Soul wounds affect how we think, how we feel, and therefore affect how we act and relate.  The wounds are at the root of everything in the sense that they affect everything.  I heard someone say that a heart early broken will grow back crooked and that crookedness will make us live and relate that way.
  • We are powerless to change that which we are unaware of, do not understand, or deny.
  • Soul wounds hold us back I life, in relationships, in loving, in serving or work, and even in our ability to receive love from others.
  • Soul wounds become walls to protect us from being hurt, but walls don’t keep just one person out.  The walls we erect (and they take many forms) keep all people out.
  • Our protective but destructive behaviors anesthetize, numb, or push down unwanted painful thoughts, feelings, and memories.  But, listen! We must feel in order to heal.

How We Can Begin To Identify Our Own Soul Wounds—

  • Look at your own copes:  What do you do to cope? Why? If you were not doing what you are doing to cope (to numb the pain), what might you begin to think about, begin to feel, or remember?
  • Look at your over reactions or under reactions.  When have you over reacted to a situation or person?  How about a gross under-reaction?  Either may point to an earlier time, event, or person that hurt or threatened us and how we learned to cope in a situation where that “button” gets pushed.  The soul or heart (limbic system) does not tell time, so when that same type of wound is opened the soul or heart react the same way. Who made you feel this way before? How old were you? What did you tell yourself as a result of what was happening to you?
  • Look in the mirror:  Who do you dislike?   What about them do you dislike the most? What negative quality in other people do you dislike a lot? It could be that you are projecting something about yourself onto others…something you can’t accept in yourself.
  • Ask Others.  I have at times of personal evaluation asked others, “What is it like to experience me?”  When honestly answered the results are very revealing though sometimes painful.  At one point of burn out I told my wife I had asked my staff that question.  She then asked, “When do I get to answer that question?” Sometimes the truth hurts, but truth is necessary to our healing.
  • Ask God.  A great man once asked God this of God: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
  • Ask Yourself.  Where does it hurt? Why?  Your wounds may be internal but they still hurt and they still “bleed.”  Write it down.  Discuss what you are thinking about with someone who can help you identify truth and discern the real issues.  You see, the truth is, we are all wounded.  So do not be embarrassed at that being the case for you.  Safe people are also vulnerable and honest people who are real and authentic and caring rather than judgmental.

 What We All Need To Heal Our Wounds —

Part Two, to be released later this week, will address a Ten Part Process of Healing.  But for now let me give you a few keys to get started with:

First, no one heals from soul wounds and destructive relationship patterns through counseling alone. I counsel many and it is essential.  But people are wounded in relationships and people are healed in relationships, but (LISTEN!) it takes real people in real community in real relationships. Find or create a safe forum of safe people for yourself and for others.

Second, we must experience truth in our soul, truth that identifies and replaces the lies or false beliefs we may unknowingly hold in our hearts.  When Jesus of Nazareth said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” He wasn’t talking about facts or head knowledge.  The word he used from that culture meant to know by experience or to know something in your soul.

A number of years ago Dave, a counselor  I was seeing asked me a question.  “What are the three deepest hurts in your life?”  “Let’s ask God to show you,” he said.   And God did.   

Dave had me pick one and relive it in my mind, narrating all that had happened.  IT involved rage and abuse from someone dear to me but much older.  I was a young boy. When I finished, Dave asked, “Do you sense Jesus coming into that room in the scene?”   I answered, “Yes.”

“Well,” Dave asked, “What does He do and say?”  To my surprise Jesus came over to me, held me close, and said, “I love, you, Bobby.”

There is more, but my life changed that day.  The lie I had learned to believe, that I was not loveable, was erased and rep-laced with the truth that I was lovable and deeply loved by God.

I knew the truth (experienced it) and the truth then set me free….

Well there is more to come about healing our wounds.  Next time we will look at the 10 or 12 keys to our healing….

PART 2 Coming Soon…

Gods's Unfailing Love

Gods’s Unfailing Love

CHRISTS EMPTY TOMB

THE EMPTY TOMB OF CHRIST

 

PLUG AND PLAY CHURCH

To look at something as if we have never seen it before requires great courage. – Matisse

Standing in the empty tomb in which Christ was buried and from which Christ arose put everything else about my faith in perspective.  It was no longer about “church” or growth or funds or programing or attracting people or even caring what people might think.  Suddenly it was about what was it was meant to be… about Jesus and life and meaning and caring about others and resurrection and a changed life a new life unhindered by the past and being freed to live for God in the present.

Just prior to His death and resurrection Jesus did something unusual even for Jesus:    He took His followers on a 26 mile detour into the Golan Heights to make one statement, Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”  This city, which sits at the foot of Mount Hermon, butts up against a large cliff, referred to as the ‘Rock of the Gods.’ Shrines to many gods were carved out there.  In the center of the Rock of the Gods is a huge cave, from which a stream flows This cave was called the “Gates of Hades”, because it was believed that Baal (a god of the underworld) would enter and leave the underworld through places where water came out of it doing irreparable harm.

In spite of all the denominational preferences for interpreting “this rock” to mean Peter or his confession of Christ as Messiah, the most obvious interpretation was a direct reference to the Rock of the Gods and what it stood for…. Namely the most degenerate places and morally repugnant on the planet.  Why else would He walk them to the most sin filled place around within walking distance?

Gates of HadesIn that era, it would have been the equivalent of New Orleans during Mardi Gras in its most debauched places or Las Vegas in the not so glitzy parts of Sin City—but Ceasara Phillipi was much much worse.  As one writer points out: In the open-air Pan Shrine, next to the cave mouth, there was a large niche, in which a statue of Pan (a half-goat, half-human creature) stood, with a large erect phallus, worshipped for its fertility properties. Surrounding him in the wall were many smaller niches, in which were statues of his attending nymphs. On the shrine in front of these niches, worshippers of Pan would congregate and partake in bizarre sexual rites, including copulation with goats – worshipped for their relationship to Pan.

Jesus said it is right at the worst places on this planet that He would be about building His community of followers to offer hope and life in his name.  Somehow I do not think plug and play church of today was what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” 

Where are the gates of Hades or hell today?

Where ever sin runs rampant… children are neglected or abused … wherever immoral sexual activity outside or inside of marriage is seen as ok…normal…. greed is applauded and security is found in money rather than God… disease runs unchecked because money is valued over the lives and welfare of others…. sin gets excused, grumbling and judging others carry the day….It’s wherever emotionally destructive relationships are tolerated and empowered instead of leaders of the faith intervening and making a difference… sex trading of children… impoverished people suffering when money abounds in governments…. Where churches  are caught up in themselves and fortress mentalities going out on projects to reach people rather than being the church and living among the lost and hurting people.

What is Jesus saying?  It is in these places…. At the very core of depravity, hopelessness, and injustice that I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail…overpower…stand up against it…  In a world that is dying I will bring new life and real hope… by connecting them to God….  How different is that from the plug and play churches of today?

Standing in the empty tomb in which Christ was buried and from which Christ arose put everything else about my faith in perspective.  It was no longer about “church” or growth or funds or programming or attracting people or even caring what people might think.  Suddenly it was about what was it was meant to be… about Jesus and life and meaning and caring about others and resurrection and a changed life a new life unhindered by the past and being freed to live for God in the present. It was never about bells and whistles to attract people, or the now in modern garb of Christian systems, but about just praying, going and being in order to reach the broken and the hurting people.

May this season of Easter and celebration be a realization of what Jesus wants His church TO BE rather than what we have become. No more plug and play…