Been Thinking

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Over the past two weeks has been a great experience for me.  I am amazed how much easier it has been for me to talk about my mental health.  It has opened a brand new world that I never considered that it existed, the world of WordPress.  

I have found myself immersed reading all the great blogs that are being written. A diversified group of authors, all putting their most inner feelings to words.  From them I have been gaining a new insight that for me has become my new group sessions away from the world of staying in treatment.

I took yesterday, Friday, off from writing, but my mind was still thinking about all those wonderful insights I have gleaned. 

So, here is my thinking, should I change if it is possible, the name of this blog and start a new one for the spiritual side of me.  I tried mixing it up, but I am perplexed on how to incorporate both that flows smoothly.  If I did change the name what would I call it. There lies my problem.

It is a question being processed within my thought process.  Not really sure how long it will take before I make a decision.  In the meantime I will continue to write about being bi-polar who use to be a preacher man.

What’s In A Name?

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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”  William Shakespeare

I have been thinking about this post for several days.  I hope I can put it in writing like I am hearing it in my mind.

There are names that when they are mentioned you have a distinct definition of what they are.  Cancer, Diabetes, Arthritis, Blindness, all these we at least have a general knowledge about them.  All of them can be shown in x-rays, bloodwork, and other detection methods.

However, mention the term ‘bi-polar’ most are not sure exactly what it is.  For others they seem to have an image that is totally wrong.  Bi-polar is a distinct as the person who is suffering with it.  It is a disease that as of this moment does not show on a x-ray, or under a microscope in a blood test.

Bi-polar does not define who I am.  I am more than the disease, I am male, fifty-seven years old, and has various interests ranging from Gospel Music to Sherlock Holmes.  I am a father of a daughter, a grandfather to three grandchildren.

It does not determine my future, nor keep me trapped in the past, for I determine my day by placing my feet on the floor each and every morning when I awake.

I would like to challenge every reader to define yourself, do not let the disease difine you!

Same Dull Routine

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My life is pretty vanilla in that I don’t have much excitement each day.  My day to day life is predictable.

While in treatment you soon learned a daily routine.  Meals were at set times, you were expected to be out of bed have breakfast.  Somewhere between breakfast and the first group take a shower then get dressed. 

Groups were at set times in the schedule.  The only thing that would change from day to day was the subject matter.

The scheduled events of the day were to give you a sense of direction.  Planning was the key.  

At home in my day to day routine I try to stay on track.  Take medications roughly at the same time, going to bed takes on a definite pattern.  All of this keeps me from acting eracticly.  Even shopping, doctor appointments, I plan them carefully.  One reason is so that I do not over due causing tiredness which triggers panic attacks.

I cannot say whether this method would work for others, but, for me keeps me on track.  It gives me a feeling of normalacy.

It is the same dull routine, but I guess I love it.

Sense Of Purpose

I feel most people would agree that we all need a purpose to be able every morning to get up out of bed and place our feet on the floor every day of our life.

Depression in my situation took away my purpose, I felt so empty.  At one time I started planning a suicide by giving away my groceries to my best friend.  I just did not have a reason to go on any longer.  Once again I find myself back in treatment for my bout of depression.

I have moved past those days finding myself on the road to recovery.  I have a purpose to get out of bed.  That being my daughter and my grandchildren.  I love hearing all about their lives and always wait for news that they are coming for a visit.  The grandchildren are growing into fine young adults.  I enjoy my conversations with them they keep me laughing and feeling young again.

However, I have found a new purpose to put my feet on the floor.  That being writing posts for my blog.  I wrote about a new perception, but this is a new energy that I am experiencing.  Oh, I know that it may be that I am on a manic high, no matter what it is I love how I am feeling.

Maybe, you are one who is looking for a purpose, mine came so unexpectling all from starting to write about my struggles as a man who is bi-polar.  Al I can say to encourage you is this, keep trying to move forward.  You may take two steps forward, one step back but at least you are in motion.

My purpose found new excitement so yours maybe just around the next corner, the next day. Just keep moving!

My Perception

For whatever be the knowledge which we are able to obtain of God, either by perception or reflection, we must of necessity believe that He is by many degrees far better than what we perceive Him to be. Origen
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/perception

In the past two weeks  I posted more posts than I usually do in a whole year.  One reason being is back pain.  For almost a year I was wearing a back brace and finding no true relief of the agonizing pain.  On May 31 of this year I received cortisone shots in my back.  For the first time that I can recall I woke up the next morning placed my feet on the floor and experienced no pain whatsoever.

It is amazing how something like pain can alter your peception.  Things like stress over finances, a sick child, an elderly parent all can skew one’s perception.  A feeling of being overwhelmed leaves one with little hope of moving forward to see the clouds roll back and the sunshine come through.

It is a great feeling to be able to take a walk with my dog, do my own household chores, all that has lifted my perception.  A heavy weight feels like it has been lifted from my shoulders.

Nothing else has changed around me, but yet, it feels like I am living a brand new life.  The sun feels warmer, the grass greener, and even food tastes a whole lot better.

So, today I am grateful for medical science giving me a new perception on my life.

Little Child

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Fifty years ago in 1969 astronaut Buzz Aldrin spoke the now famous words, “That’sone small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”   It is funny I can tell you the house we were living in, the landlord’s name, and who was in the house with us when my mom turned the t.v. on and we watched as Buzz stepped onto the surface. of the moon.

This post is not about the landing on the moon but rather, something that has been happening within me on a more frequent occurance.  That is recalling events, places from my childhood years, yet I can barely tell you what happened last week.

I was sharing this with my best friend as we were visiting and watching the Dodgers play ball.  He quipped, “maybe you are becoming a child again”.  We both laughed.  Yet, inside my mind I wonder if this is the minds way of  defending itself against the things that would cause me pain.

I woke up this morning not feeling quite up to one hundred percent.  I wasn’t sick or in pain but yet just not feeling my best.

I have noticed the same thing happening when I am experiencing low points in my life that I go back to something in my childhood.  Like recalling room to room the fine details of my grandmothers house including her very last phone number.  Maybe I am just over reacting to these moments, however it is like there is a little child in me trying to bring comfort, the same comfort when someone turns to a certain food they like.

I realize I cannot go back to those times, but I sure love the feelings that bring a definite smile to my face for just a calming moment.

My Greatest Worry

Job 3:25 MSG
25  The worst of my fears has come true, what I’ve dreaded most has happened.

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There are people who have fears including myself.  For some it is heights, spiders, water, and many more.  There may be reasons for some that has caused those fears.  One person I know has a fear of large dogs, the reason being she was bitten as a very young child. For myself it is heights for when I was about ten years old I fell out of cherry tree and broke my left arm in three places.

There is one more fear of mine, that being a falling back into severe depression.  I have heard about some that there body becomes immuned to certain medications causing disease to replicate itself within the body.

The depression I experienced robbed me of quality life.  Time not spent with interests that I loved, time not spent with family or friends.  It stole part of my personality at times feeling like I was just going through the motions of life but not connected to the world around me.

I am just now returning to many interests of mine that I love, reading, music, my dog, etc.,  Some of these activities lost was also the combined problem of acute pain.  So, I try to add one more thing to my daily routine.  

The best thing that I have added is writing this blog.  I will keep striving to move forward.

Educate Yourself

I can remember my first stay in treatment I would attend groups and it all sounded like Greek to me.  I had no understanding whatsoever was being discussed. Terms like; ‘manic depression’, ‘bi-polar’, plus many others.  I can remember after a discussion on being bi-polar I asked for the definition of manic depression only to learn the terms were inter-changeable.

My pyschiatrist would talk about different medications that she was going to prescribe and I was totally lost.  My problem was multi-fold, I didn’t know how to ask her about side effects, what the medication was targeting, etc., etc.,

My second stay went much smoother.  I knew what to expect like meal times, group sessions, follow up questions both in groups and with my doctor.  I was more comfortable opening up during the groups and also with my pyschiatrist.

It has been close to fifteen years since that first stay in treatment and I am still trying to educate myself on myriad of issues.

By educating myself was also arming myself for others who would ask me questions.

Moral of the post, never stop learning!

A Practical Gospel

Mar 12:29-31 MSG
29  Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one;
30  so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’
31  And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”

I have always known that the Gospel has to be practical.  People on the whole need help in all manner of things on what to do where the rubber meets the road.

Lesson Learned

These past several days have confirmed to me that people want preachers, pastors, teachers are like them.  No, they want to believe those leaders are not mired in the same sins as those who are listening.

When I was in the ministry I was never open about what was happening in my personal life.  I kept it shielded, compartmentalized, only let it out when I was by myself or with a close confidant.  I found that many Pastors are in the same boat.  They feel constrained, the burden of ministry weighs on them 24/7.  Some don’t even confide to their wives which starts to cause major problems within the marriage.  Pastors and those involved in the ministry are some of the lonliest people in the world.

Since I have started writing about my problems with depression, bi-polar, etc., the readers have shown me that I made the right step.  It has opened a whole new world to me causing some of my lonliness to disappear.

It now it is my fervent prayer that I can share more of my battles in life, yet at the same time share the Gospel of the Cross to the readers of my blog.

Pass The Pills!

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My day begins taking pills.  Warfarin to keep from developing blood clots.  Been hospitalized twice with blood clots in my legs.  Then a myriad of more pills including Naproxen.  Most of my medications handled by my best friend.  That started when I was double dosing of Oxycontin.

One time I had asked my doctor if there were some that could be eliminated, the response was no.  So, I guess I am on medications for the rest of my life.  Take some only after eating.  Others are once a week one half hour before drink or food.  Pills command my daily schedule, feeling like I am on a hamster wheel.

I have lost track of which pills I take.  Some in the morning, afternoon, and then evening.  All are prepared for me accordingly.

So, all I can do is say, “pass the pills“!

Road To Recovery

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It now is twenty plus years since my journey began.  Attempted suicide using the sleeping medication, “amitriptyline”.  Extreme mood swings and a feeling like I was alone, that no one understood what I was going through.

2004 my depression mixed with the grief of my grandmother broke my spirit completely landing in the mental health ward of the local hospital.

For the longest period I was constantly asking the question in my mind, ‘why me’?  I was raised to believe that God worked miracles.  I still believe it but I had to go back and study the Scripture again.  I finally reconciled that God sometimes let us go through trials.  I no longer asked the question of why me.  God sent help my way in the form of my psychiatrist.

Now I am on the road to recovery accepting the fact that it may take many years. It took over thirty years for things to go off track. I have reached the place I call acceptance. The anger I experienced left when I did accept with what I was going through.

So, I will keep on this road, staying the course determined that I do not want to fall back into the abyss of depression.

If you are like me just keep going on your road to recovery and you will be totally fine.

Keeping Concentration

During the worst times of my depression I could not seem to concentrate for very long times.  Doctor appointments required having my best friend with me so that if I asked what my doctor said he could refresh my memory.  There were times also that I thought I was showing the early signs of dementia.  My doctor put that to rest for me.  Silly how our minds try to spin all sorts of problems that do not exist.

Reading a book, working on the computer, plus other activities I enjoyed were put to the curb.  I just couldn’t hold my thoughts together.

I am improving in this area but I still have times of trouble with it.  What I have started doing is activities like Mahjong, Sudoku, and  reading short articles trying to make mental notes of what I had read.

I am not sure how many suffer the same effects of depression, but, I surely would like to know.  There is one area that I suspect might also be the cause, the medications I take.  I plan on asking for a complete list from my pharmacy so that I can research them on the internet.

Now, for something that has turned into something great.  Since writing about my journey I have heard from many of you.  I have found I am not alone, reading many of your blogs.  Again, thank you!

Learning To Laugh Again

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Pro 15:13 MSG
13  A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.

Let’s be honest and frank, life is too short!

I recalled reading about a man who laughed his way back to health.  I just used Google to make sure that my memory was correct.  The man’s name is Norman Cousins.  You can follow the link to read about his story.

For me I tend to look at things as a glass half full.  Somewhere along my life I lost the ability to laugh.  Maybe it was the medication, or certain events that have taken place in my life, or more likely a combination of both.

While in treatment there was one thing that was common among all of us in the ward, we all had an outlook on life that was grim and foreboding.  All of us focused on what was wrong with our lives.

During my teen years and even into my twenties I was optimistic about life.  It was during my early thirties that things took a change in direction.  It was the fact that some things were falling apart and I was losing control.  Inwardly I was very conflicted, feeling helpless, questioning my very purpose in life.  The optimistic outlook soon turned to one of pessimism.  It was this turn that soon found me overdosing on sleeping pills, landing for the first time in a mental health ward.

The joy of laughter was gone, it seemed like a very distant memory.  I was going through the motions of life, yet, feeling like a was adrift with no shoreline to swim towards. This would last for a period of ten years.

Several visits and stays in a mental health facility before any sort of laughter would return in my life.  It wasn’t until I had contact with my daughter and learning I had a grandchild.  My best friend did his best to bring some sunshine in my life.

Now I have my daughter in my life again, three wonderful grandchildren, a best friend whom has been in my life for over twenty years, and the ability to know joy and laughter again.  Life is no longer doom and gloom, but of dreams of seeing my grandchildren growing into wonderful adults.

Maybe your world sounds like my past, I would encourage you to find something, someone to bring some laughter into your life to bring a turn around for you.

As I started, life is too short!

My Many Faces Of Depression

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It use to be before medications I never knew who I was going to be when I woke up in the morning.  If I felt great I would get out of bed, if not turn over and go back to sleep.  Medications changed all that.

 Now mix depression with pain killers if I wasn’t down then I was too buzzed on Oxycondin.  My best friend would tell me something in the morning that we discussed the night before I had no recollection of the conversation.  He use to come in to check on me and find me sleeping in the craziest places.  Once under my cabinet sewing machine.  When I would wake up in the morning I would have to look in my sink to find a clue what I had to eat the day before.  That was my worst face of depression, just dull all feelings alone with the pain.  The pain was caused by back injuries years ago after a motorbike accident.

Another face of my depression was I would call home to my mother.  I would gather enough of my senses to have a conversation that sounded have decent so that she wouldn’t be worrying about me.

Then there is a face of depression that still bothers me today, my mind is always racing.  For me to sleep at night I start my bedtime routine hours before I decide to close my eyes.  There have been times my mind would be racing causing insomnia.  There is just any medication that can help, unless I want to feel like a walking zombie.

Anger is also a face of my depression before medication and counselling.  It would go off at the least little thing.  Then five minutes later I would be on even keel.  I wasn’t violent but it did cause me alot of headaches.  When out in public around others I fought to sound like a reasonable person.  Keeping my thoughts coherrent instead of being dis-jointed was a battle in and of it’s own.  Anger is no longer a menace in my life and for that I am thankful.

I have been quite stable for over fifteen years now.  Seeing my pysch doctor is not a must, but I can always approach if needs be.  Opioids were ancient history since about 2005, the strongest pain killer I take now is Tylenol 3.

Well, those are the many faces of my depression through my journey to have stable mental health.  It has been rough, but, I feel great now!

Creating A Safe Place

A safe place is not a new concept.  It can be found at your doctor’s office, hospitals, and your local church or synagogue.  What I mean is that what is discussed there stays there.

When I was an ordained minister it is only ethical that what is discussed between a parishoner and myself was a veil of secrecy between the two of us.

Many with issues concerning their mental health are more than likely suffering in silence.  Outside of a professional setting they feel they have no safe place to turn to.  It can be dangerous to discuss the issue at work for fear of being fired.  School is not much better because of the constant threat of being bullied.  Even their own family may shun them, or feel that the whole thing is being made up.

My best friend has a little sign he made that says, “What happens here, stays here”.  What that sign represents and tells visitors is, this is a safe place.  No need to fear condemnation, or what is said will be gossiped about outside of the house.

I have left the ministry, but, I still hold to this concept within my own home.  I have been told many things and not once have I shared it with anyone whatsoever.  It is a moral, ethical matter to me and also and issue of complete trust.

So, it is my utmost desire that you the reader if you haven’t already create a safe place where those dealing with such mental health issues can find refuge within your four walls.

More Voices Needed!

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This past days, maybe weeks, I have been amazed at the response on my writings about my journey of depression, opioids battle, and being bi-polar.  The reason is this, I didn’t think that anyone would be interested in reading this.  So, thank you!

 I never gave mental health a thought, I guess one doesn’t until it hits home.  For me it was 1983 when a relative was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  I had a front row seat, while on my honeymoon back in my home area.  The relative found out I was home and the hospital would call where we were staying, for they wanted me to go up to deal with her.

I arrived for the first time in the mental health ward of that hospital, found my relative and I was in complete shock.  She was a totally different person, speach was incoherent, talking about things that she thought were happening around her.  Also, talking about the past about events that were pure fantasy, I know I was there.

As I have already stated I started having my own difficulties in the early 90’s with an attempted sucide.  Now, I was totally ignorant about the term bi-polar, now I am face to face with it and must come to terms with it.

It has only been in the last five to ten years that the subject of mental health has been discussed here in Canada on a national basis.  I am thankful that some have stepped forward to bring education on the subject of mental health.

Mental health now is one thing I will advocate on for there is a need, especially among the crowd of Christian leaders.  They need to bring education to their congregation, listeners, and viewers.  Their predecessors blamed it on demon possesion, to that I call hog wash.

I know that there is a definite need in America for education of the subject beginning with the law makers.  

My heart goes out to those in America who cannot access professionals, afford medication because of their financial lack.  I do not pretend to have an answer how to approach a solution to such a great need.

It boils down to this; We need more voices!

Triggers

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Photo By: Thomas H.: Pixabay.com

For this post I will forgo using a portion of Scripture.  There are probably some that would be appropriate but none come to mind.

I would remind the reader I am not a professional, psychiatrist, etc.  I am just a fifty-seven yr. old man sharing my journey through years of depression and being bi-polar.

Here is what I have learned about handling both of these mental challenges.  There are what professionals call ‘triggers’.  These triggers can cause relapse in our progress to a more stable health mentality.

1.   Nutriton –  I would call this a major factor in your battle.  In my times of treatment we had to eat three well balanced meals.  Our mind is an organ in the body and for it to function at it’s peak it needs proper nutrition. 

I start every morning with a bowl of cereal.  Dinner is a balance meal.  Before bed just a light sandwich(probably Tuna – a source of melotonin).

2.  The one thing that many who suffer with depression, panic attacks, and just plain nervousness is coffee and smoking.  For many that is all they have for most of their waking moments.  Both are stimulants and also create a sense of calm masking the root problem.  These should be limited, I can drink more coffee than what I really should.  Smoking is not an issue for me, I recognize this is a very hard thing to quit.  Many try several times before being successful in this venture.

3.  The next two things that my doctors stressed to me to keep away from are these: Alcohol and Marijuana.  The main reason is interactions with medications. 

These are not hard set rules, but they are subjects I have learned along the way.  Triggers will vary from person to person.  There are probably many more that could be discussed, but you will know a trigger when a certain situation causes you to regress back into depression.

The best advice I can give is to create a plan and a list of your triggers with help from your doctor/s.  Then find people who can help you maintain keeping away from triggers between doctor’s visits.

Take your first step now!

Something To Sleep On

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Mar 6:31 MSG
31  Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.

While in treatment one of the most important issues discussed by professionals was the issue of getting a good nights rest.  Sleep allows the body to regenerate from the day’s activities.  Now how long is debatable, recommended amount is eight hours.  My best friend needs only six hours, as for myself I need at least nine hours.

They spoke about issues that interfere with our sleeping patterns.  The one that is showing up among young people is the cell phone.  They sleep with it under their pillows, waking up to check for text messages, social media, etc.  Also, the blueish light that is emitted from the phone scientists are now declaring also effects our sleeping patterns.

The professionals also recommended that there should be no television, digital alarm clocks in the bedroom, for it should be just a place that the body recognizes it is for sleep and sleep alone.

Rest is so important that on the seventh day God rested.  Farmers use to adhere to a seven year cycle for resting a crop.  They would not seed that area for that season allowing the ground to replenish itself with all the necessary nutrients.  In the above portion of Scripture Christ spoke to His’ disciples that they needed to set apart some time for rest.

So, tonight give your body a gift and get some proper and much needed peaceful rest!

A Big Thank You!

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There is something that needs to be said more, more than ‘please forgive me’, that one thing is ‘Thank You’.  It goes a long way to the person who it is said to.

As a child we learned to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  Maybe I am old and living in the past , but, I find there is a lack of appreciation in the under thirty crowd.  I come away with the feeling that they think the world owes them something.  One day they will have to face reality in a real world.

For several articles now I have shared some of my world as a bi-polar Christian.  I am usually very reticent about my personal life.

So, with that said I want to take this moment to say to all those who have let me know articles you liked.  Also, to those who have decided to follow my blog.  It is this lately that has kept me bouyant.  It has spurred me to sit at the laptop and share more thoughts on here.  It has also allowed me to try to find my style of writing, again, I am not a writer never thought of myself being one.

So, let me say a great big “Thank You“!

Prescription For Panic Attacks

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Psa 1:1-6 KJV
1  Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.(emphasis mine)
3  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4  The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6  For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

No matter your career, stay at home mom, retired, etc., life today is so hectic and chaotic.  Everyone is on the fast lane with very little down time to gather our thoughts, take a deep breath and calm our inner being.

I still suffer panic attacks, mainly when shopping, they are not as disabling as when I first started experiencing them in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  

While in treatment one method they would use while in group was called relaxation.  A compact disc would play and a commentator would speak in a calming voice guiding you through descending a stairwell.  Each step would be to calm your breathing, by the end of the bottom stair you should be in a total relaxed state of mind.  For the most part of the group it did what it was intended to do.

Here is a Scriptural remedy for panic attacks.  It does require some prep work by memorizing Scriptures.  For myself this started when I was still a pre-teen.  At Bible camp we were taught the Books of the Bible.  To this day I can still state them in order.  It is a great tool.  Now instead of a relaxation disc all you need is your memory which is with you 24/7.

The whole first chapter of Psalms can be used as a tool to combat panic attacks. It is verse two that I will comment on.  It is meditation.  God had it first, others picked it up and added there own flavors.  This meditation is not Yoga, just pure Scripture.

It may be just one verse that is your favorite such as; “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee”(Isaiah 26:3)

So, when you are facing a panic attack instead of giving in to fear use instead Scriptural meditation.  

Give it a try, it works!

 

Depression, Try This

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Jude 1:20-21 MSG
20  But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit,
21  staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!

I woke up and this portion of Scripture was on my mind.  Years, maybe two or three since I have thought about it, yet today it was weighing heavy in my thoughts. Who would have thought it!

I have learned many tools in the fight against depression, tools when used help to calm myself during a panic attack, or stopping myself from falling into the pits of despair. Then there is a spiritual tool that God told us that we can use.

We are bombarded almost daily on how our bodies should look.  Ads about exercise, diets, etc.,  Models that look like they have been sculptered by a great master.  Athletes that could be used in tv to be the fictional character “the Hulk”.

Now we look to how we should take care of our spiritual side.  I realize that there are many different approaches out there, too numerous to count.  The above Scripture is precise and succinct.  When or where you find yourself this can be done, at home, a spare moment at your desk while at work, riding the subway home, you pick the time and place. 

You do not have to a theologian to understand this tool, just take it and put it to use. No need to try and make sound mysterious, it is simple so simple a child can understand it.

So, we have discussed how to treat the mind, the body, and finally our spiritual side.  Now our triune being is healthy and whole. 

So, if you are combatting depression you now have a tool box full of tools.

Reader, depression? Try this!

Rear View Mirror

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Rear View Mirror

Exo 16:1-3 MSG
1  On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt, the whole company of Israel moved on from Elim to the Wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai.
2  The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness.
3  The Israelites said, “Why didn’t GOD let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!”

Growing up there was one movie I enjoyed watching that was, The Wizard Of Oz.  In that movie we hear Dorothy make a statement “there’s no place like home”.  There are moments in my life that I find myself thinking the very same thing.

In the early 90’s my grandmother decided to sell her house.  This house held such great memories for everyone who ever visited her there.  After she sold it and moved into a subsidized seniors apartment.  Just shortly after that I was talking with my mother.  I am not sure how the subject arosed my mother told me, “I can never go home again”.

In my weak moments I pine for my childhood days during the summers I spent there with my grandparents and my one aunt.  It didn’t have a televison, computers were still -sci-fi, but somehow I was happy.  Also, during these times I find myself going to the phone then realising I cannot call home for they are now passed on.

There are a multitude of factors that if we allowed them they would keep us looking back in the rear view mirror.  We cannot move forward for we are stuck in a past that we cannot have back.  And for the most of them alot of them were not so good times.

Advice is given to addicts in recovery are told to stay away from triggers that would cause them to fall back into old habits.  It may mean not associating with former friends, avoiding going to the places where we gave in to those habits of addiction.

So it was with the Hebrew children while in the wilderness.  They were angry with Moses for they thought it would have been better to stay and die in Eygpt.  They had regrets of following Moses to the barren land they found themselves in.

The Apostle Paul left us instructions that we can avoid the rear view mirror, he writes for us “press toward the mark”.

Php 3:12-16 MSG
12  I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.
13  Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.
14  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
15  So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet!
16  Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.(emphasis mine)

I would challenge every reader that if you want to be the homesick blues, depression, regrets, stop looking in the rear view mirror of your past life!

The Fight Of Your Life

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Eph 6:   MSG
11  So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.
12  This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
13  Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.

A preacher friend of mine once made this statement: “A rose smells nice, but, when it is crushed it brings out it’s true fragance”!

No one likes adversity, yet we know it is part of life here on earth.  When I hear the word cancer my heart breaks for those facing that horrible disease.  Some of them give up as soon as they receive the diagnosis, others face it head on never waivering.

Life is not a picnic.  The folly of our youth when we feel that we are invinceable, the world is ours for the picking.  Oh how wrong we were when reality sets in.  Having to find a job, pay rent, buy groceries, and then put gas in the tank.  I remember my first time living on my own.  I rented a small one bedroom apartment.  Then rent was reasonable.  I had a job at minimum wage working in an orchard.  I went to buy groceries for the very first time and I went to the till.  The clerk rang it all through, the cost showed up on the till.  I took out my wallet, looked at my money, then almost cried for I would be left with about ten dollars which had to last for two weeks.

Hardships can do two things, it can make you bitter, or you can face it and let it make you better.  Like the rose our true sense of who we are comes when we seem to be crushed when we face the giant trials in our life.

The Christian though has been given all the armour they need to walk this rocky road.  Even when we face the thorns and thistles we still can move forward in this battle called life.

I remember when growing up and someone was going through a battle you would hear someone tell them, “keep an upper lip”.  

If you are facing the trial in your life be assured you are not in it alone.  There is one who is always right there with you.  Like the Hebrew children thrown into the fiery furnace when they opened up the furnace doors they saw four men walking around.  Three Hebrew children and the fourth man appeared like the Son of God.

 

 

Steady As You Go!

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Heb 12:   MSG
1  Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.
2  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
3  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
4  In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed!
5  So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either.

While in elementary school there was a walk-a-thon to raise money for a cause, name escapes my memory.  I entered it not realising how difficult it would be.  If I remember correctly it was twenty-eight miles.  It was the longest day of my life until then.  Some seemed to have a burst of energy at the very beginning.  I tried that and found my strength slowly ebb from me.  I finally fell into a stride that I could manage. I will admit I was one of the last walkers to finish it.

So it goes with our Christian life.  When we first come to Christ we are so full of joy about our salvation we go out and tell everyone what has happened.  During my high school years a man approached me to be his piano player while he held some evangelistic meetings.  He had such a great fervor and was accepted by everyone he met.  Eventually disappointment came and for reasons that I cannot recall he quit.  The next thing I heard about him was a article in the local newspaper that his body had been found in a salt pit with a bullet in his head.

During my life I have encountered many roadblocks, heart aches, sickness, that sometimes I just want to quit everything.  Yes, I am no longer in active ministry of being behind a pulpit every Sunday, but, I have not stopped running the race that is set before me.  Instead of delivering sermons orally, I have found a place to share my thoughts in the form of writing on a format that was totally foreign to me, a blog.

Those days where I feel like I am defeated all I do is begin to think of all those who I have stood beside, ministered with and to, those who have finished this earthly race.  Knowing that one day there will be great reunion and I will see them all again never to say good bye again.  Just those thoughts causes me to study harder, write one more blog post and look forward to another day with the blessing of God.

We know that people experience burn out in their professional careers.  Many have at least three career changes in their life, compared to the generation before them.  The same is true sometimes in our spiritual walk with the Lord, it feels like we are having a burn out.  Take courage, it is not burn out, but rather, God directing you to stop along the still waters in the valley where there is fresh nutrition.  Your Christian walk cannot be one that goes from mountain top to mountain top.  There is sparce water, little to no vegetation for nourishment, and the oxygen gets thinner the higher you go. 

As I am writing this a favorite song written by a great Godly women, Dottie Rambo, the words to the chorus I would like to close with.

And He leads me beside still waters

Somewhere in the valley below

And He draws me aside
To be tested and tried
In the valley He restoreth my soul(emphasis mine)

Known By Character

Mat 15:10-20 MSG
10  He then called the crowd together and said, “Listen, and take this to heart.
11  It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.”
12  Later his disciples came and told him, “Did you know how upset the Pharisees were when they heard what you said?”
13  Jesus shrugged it off.Every tree that wasn’t planted by my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots.
14  Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.”
15  Peter said, “I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”
16  Jesus replied,You too? Are you being willfully stupid?
17  Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated?
18  But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart.
19  It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing.
20  That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that’s neither here nor there.”

Growing up there were several idioms people would use if you asked them about a person’s character.  Such as, ‘his word is his bond’ ‘he’s of stirling character’, ‘if he gave his word, you can take it to the bank’.  There are probably many more, but those are some of the ones I can remember, many when watching television shows of that era.  Good character was what defined a person.

I look around at society today and I am not so sure you could find many people with such characteristics.  People break promises, neglect to honor cheques, lack respect for others properties, and things.  It is basically every man for himself, no stomach in lending a hand when others request it.

The major portion of Scripture deals with the character of a man, morally and spiritually.  The Mosiac Law and then the Sermon on the Mount are two prime portions addressing a man’s character.  

These also define two more principal areas of character. Our relationships vertical and horizontal.  Our vertical relationship is with God, get this wrong and the horizontal relationships are not in alignment with the character traits set out in the written Word.  Both reflect each other!

These traits do not come easily, for most of us it is a constant struggle.  Many times going to others and asking for forgiveness for our treatment towards them.  Times of making amends for wrong actions.

Some of my earliest memories of listening to preachers are to describe what many called them in those days, “Bible thumpers”.  Yes, they would almost loose their voice, ranting and railing about the sins of the flesh, tobacco and alcohol.  Let there be no misunderstanding I believe both are wrong, but, not for anything found in Scripture, just on the basis they destroy one’s own health.

For those wanting to debate about the wine Christ made at the wedding feast I have no conclusion for there is a lack of information found within the account recorded.  However, Christ was dealing with something that was far deeper than just the surface attributes of a man.  His was dealing with matters of a man’s soul, his heart.

We find all through the four Gospels that Christ points out that a man ‘s character is not judged by what he eats or drinks, but, rather those things that comes out of his mouth.  For it reveals the true nature of one’s soul, one’s heart.

The Apostle Paul described it as an inner war:

Rom 7:14-22 KJV
14  For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15  For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

Every day I find I struggle with the same types of battles.  Easily frustrated at times with others around me, saying words that I cannot bring back as though they were never spoken.  Seeing a need that another has and not helping when I have the ability to do so.  It all seems so simple, but yet so complexed.

My final thought is this, yes, we are our brother’s keeper!