Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In the Eclipse of the Struggle

Lately, it seems, everyday is a struggle.  It has also been great joy in meeting new friends and being with old ones and my family.  I have ask friends, had talks, read articles, sermons and blogs...why do I continue to struggle?  I love Jesus, Father, Spirit.  They are an essential part of my everyday life.  I truly can't function without God.

The world and even the church says to be mentally ill, is because of sin.  

It appears they are saying, you struggle because you do not have Jesus.  Just have more faith and you will not struggle.  Having a brain disorder is not a prestigious thing.  There are stigmas.  People are afraid of what they do not understand.  They also tend toward quick fixes and pat answers.  Our lives are to never be minimized or limited as such.

The brain is an organ, just like any other organ in the body...It can be sick.  When this happens things happen to your thinking.  (Am I defending myself here?  Maybe so.)  You have fears, like the average person but, they are not so average in that, they are bigger than normal and can be all consuming.  So grand are any possibly positive, but also negative thoughts.  The negative affects them, in a most negative way. The unmerciful, intense, sometimes untrue thoughts can be debilitating and extremely painful.  To keep them inside, unshared,  is self destructive.  The person is usually left without hope and truth within themselves.  They are helpless and desperately alone in their madness.  They are whipped, tortured with the thoughts that hold them prisoner, until God intervenes by His Spirit or by another person, in some way,  actually sets them free.  If the person has the truth to these lies within them, by reality and Gods word, they may discipline themselves to redirect their thoughts by these truths or by activity.  The activity gives the brain relief and they can sometimes begin to rethink more clearly.  If they do not have truth, more than likely the fears will reoccur, only to take them captive once again.  Mental illness is a disease, like high blood pressure or diabetes.  One in four of us struggle with some form of the disease.  It cannot be ignored.  Either we have it or someone we know and love does.  It affects us all to some degree.

It may sound like a contradiction to say, my faith has grown more in my sickness than in my health.  

I had many fears and struggles when I was healthy minded, but was unaware of many of them. My mental weakness has actually helped me beyond what I could have ever gotten otherwise.  I am such a determined, self willed person, without Jesus grace to see in my heart.   I have been trying, not to let my emotions control me, but to go about where Jesus leads me.  I thought through doing this,  things would get easier, but it hasn't.  But to imply, that the christian with struggles mentally, has more sin or  lack of faith in Christ, than every other christian, is unfair and untrue and shuts them down and of from one of the very things, that could help them in their struggle.  That being in an honest and caring relationship with them.  Bringing Jesus into the struggles of their heart, that we all have, letting them know their true identity in Christ.  Their false identity is so enlarged in their hearts.  We are all on this path of faith to fear to faith until we have a full glimpse into His face.  Today, may we see Him more clearly that yesterday.

I sat in my car yesterday, waiting on a friend to have lunch.  "Are you there," she called out.  I was praying.  Lord, do not let me envy.  Do not let me be jealous, especially of the ones I love.  Of the life they have.  Feeling sorry for myself was not too far in the distance, lurking just outside my heart.  Why can't I confess my fear, trust God and then move on and have this wonderful life of joy and peace and thanksgiving.  To be content in Christ and not struggle.  I want to be a witness that does not struggle. Lord may I see the blessings you have for me in this life of mine, even in suffering, doubt and struggle.  I want to see your glory God.

I can't dismiss it, why do I struggle?   Jesus ask Peter, do you love me Peter?  Jesus ask him three times.  Peter replied, yes Lord, you know I love you.  Peter had just denied Jesus three times.  Jesus was restoring Peter.  He was offering the rescue.  Feed my sheep, Jesus said.  Then Jesus continued you will be led a way, you do not want to go Peter, in your death.  Peter ask Jesus about John.  Jesus said, what business is it of you Peter, what I do with John.  Follow me.  Jesus had just told Peter how he would glorify God in being crucified upside down.

We each are individual...
We each have a unique personality, gifts and weakness and strengths
We each have a will and a mind that is our own
We each have a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord, who are His
We each are told to not ask for suffering, but are told we will suffer in this life
We each have a separate journey, a special story, all our own to share Gods faithfulness and greatness
We each reflect His glory in different ways
We each reflect the person of Christ in different and beautiful ways

I don't know the life God is calling you to, how He will work in you to bring you to dependence on Him or to manifest His power in you.  I don't know.  I know for me, yesterday I struggled, I prayed and He rescued me, as He has over and over again.  I ask myself, if I didn't know the struggle, would I know and experience the divine rescue?

Today the fears are gone...I have a greater awareness of Gods control and His love for me and goodness that I did yesterday, of who I really am...a child of God.

I want to leave you with these verses to think upon, to reflect and mediate on today.  2 Cor. 4:7-12 tells us that we have these treasures in jars of clay.  That we are hard pressed, but not crushed.  To show that the all surpassing power is in Christ, not in ourselves.  God is not calling us to greatness but  reflect His greatness.  Not to our power, but to His.  Not our plans but His will.  Not to trust in ourselves, but a child like faith, in weakness, in our Father.   I pray we are not to be determined or defined by fear.  He longs to meet us in the eclipse of the struggle, in the paradox of resting in Him, in the midst of it all.

I have this picture in my mind, of a little fearful sheep, that has lost his way, not realizing the Good Shepherd was there all along.  I see the sheep being rescued and resting in the arms, of his Shepard.  The Shepard caring him along the path to green pastures, in places he is too afraid to go on his own.  Holding the little lamb, tight and secure to His chest and in His arms whispering, I am here...you are going to be fine.  You are mine.  I have found you now.  You are ok.  You are ok.  Just fold yourself into my arms.  We will go together.  The little lamb, looks into the eyes of the gentle Shepherd and His heart calms, his fears are mellowed in, into the embrace of his keeper's arms, as his eyes are washed by His keepers tears.  He presses in and is safe and secure once more.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Even if it cost...

Today is like most days, I struggle with control, fear and wanting to hide.  This, just a short time ago, looked like going to my bed and pulling the covers over my head,  maybe sitting on my computer for hours at a time or just daze from my white cushioned chair on my screened in porch, without a thought in my head.  It was my way of controlling my life.  It was a way of escape from reality.

In those days, just doing more may have helped temporarily but something was wrong in my beliefs.  Even though I didn't understand or see it then, I didn't think God could be trusted with me, my family or my life.  I had a faith to get saved but not one to live by.  Can you think how you run from God, hide from others?  Try to control the circumstances and people in your life?  The Spirit will show you.  Ask Him and those who know you best.

If God does not control us, we are a controlling people, whether passive or aggressive.

Oh to be young again, full of life and determination and self wisdom.  I remember my self reliant days when I could conquer the world.  When I could do it all and I needed no one.  I could handle whatever life threw at me and do a pretty good job of doing it.

 Always becoming more like Jesus.  Can I really learn to love as He does?

I have heard it said, when we know the love and acceptance of God we do not want the approval of man.  I agree we do not want mans approval, but rejection and meanness toward us from others is painful.  Christ suffered for us in rejection and He felt the same pain we feel.  We can use our outward anger to try to control others or we can use the silent treatment, which is also anger, to manipulate control of others.

How others treat us does not define us or keep us from loving God.  Neither does it keep us from doing what He would have us do.  We are to stand against sin and confront it in us and others in a loving, gentle, encouraging way, if it is safe.   Our battle is not against flesh and blood but evil spirits.  How we treat each other really does matter and it can hurt.  There are many times I have had to say I was wrong, will you forgive me?

What comes out of our mouths and what we do, is in out heart.  It comes from what we are believing, trusting in.  I was trusting in myself to protect me and give me what I thought I needed.  We are to build up and encourage each other.  Life can be hard and a kind word can change everything in someones day.

I live by the renewing of my mind?

As the horrible, intrusive thoughts, uncontrollably shot through the broken walls of my mind, I prayed...  Holy Spirit would you take control of my mind, my thoughts.  Is that really what I want, I silently ask myself.   Do I really want the Spirit, to take control of my thoughts?  At first it scared me.  I decided yes, this is exactly what I want.  Let no unwholesome thought come into my mind but what is good, pure and praiseworthy.  Only what is God honoring.

A month or so later, I began my day with these prayers.

Holy Spirit would you fill me today.  I needed a daily, fresh awakening of the Spirit and its power to change me.  Would you satisfy my very soul of this craving inside my heart for more of something.  I want it to be you.

I surrender to you my day.  Bring into my life, who you will.  I do not know, how my life is suppose to look.  I ask you how to pray.  Jesus would you pray for me?   I long to follow you Jesus, where you lead me.  To go where you go, even in difficult places for me.

There were some things I had to give up.  I am still giving up. At first it was not easy.  There are still times I hold on to my way for awhile.  I want the Spirit to fill me in the recesses of my heart.  Even in the places I had let good things occupy, the most important places of me, my thoughts, my heart and my will.  I needed healing.

My life is changing...I am changing.

 "I love my life".   I am at a point now of no return.  I see with God none of it was wasted.  I wouldn't go back even if I could.   I love the people in my life, the old and the new.  I love my family and being there for them and with them.  

Some days are still really hard and I may not know why.  It just is.  I get weary and tired and want to give up, but just before I do, the Spirit reminds me of who I am to Him.  That, it really is worth the fight.  It is worth the cost.

Jesus has compassion with our weakness.

God is not just some distant, way off god, working this and working that, controlling life from afar.  He is intimate and up close.  As I pour out my heart to Him, my fears, my concerns, my worries and anxieties, my longings, He is there.  He meets me in my vulnerability and honesty, my desperation, in my struggle and my request for more of Him.  I don't always feel His presence or His grace, but He never, ever leaves me.  He brings joy, even in the struggle.  We can play hide and seek in our little games, but He will find us.  We will be found out.  He is totally committed to us and to have our whole hearts, even if it cost His life and it did.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Suicide Prevention Week and my attempt....

It was many years ago now.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  The faces, the voices.   I was sitting before a long table of people.  I was in a religious court and had been for days.  Three days I had not slept and don't think I had eaten but very little.  I was on trial and I was found guilty.  It was clear what was told to me and what I had to do.  If my family was to live, I had to give my life.  Take my life for theirs.  I got up and walked past Jesus.  From my back porch, I opened the door and walked past my sleeping husband on the sofa.  It was around 6 in the morning.  Still dark.  It must have been around this time of year.  It was not cold nor hot.  The leaves were still green and the sun had not come up.

This was all an illusion.  A delusion.  The people in this court of law were not real.  It was not really Jesus. Not that He wasn't there for me but not in my illusions.  I was really sick.  I was psychotic.  I was skitzo-effective they said.  I had a brain disorder.  No one knew just how bad.  The least of all me.  You could not have convinced me I guess, that what I thought just happened, was not real.

I went out our back door and into the garage.  Getting into my car and not looking back, I put on my seat belt.  Out of habit or out of the grace of God.  I backed the car out of the garage and left my home.  As I glanced to my right Jesus was there.  I was going fairly slow and then as I took the curve, a voice came...NOW!  I felt someone put their foot on mine and floor board the gas peddle.  I swerved and I ran straight into the woods, on the right side of the road.  All of a sudden was stopped, even though going at a fast speed.  I ran into several trees.  A house sat only yards before me.  It never occurred to me I could have killed someone that day until later as I view the demolished car.  There were no skid marks.  Only a narrow path, through the wooded area, made by me.

Oh no!  I sat stunned.  What was I going to do now?  I did not die.  What would happen to my family now?   I could not open my door as the car was crushed around me.  I unfastened my seat belt.  Do people who want to kill themselves put on a seat belt?  I saw God that day in so many ways.  I rolled down my window and crawled out and walked slowly into the middle of the road.  I stood in the center of the left lane.  The center of the on coming traffic is where I stood.  Traffic was picking up by now and the cars began to swerve around me, men cursing me in their anger and frustration and fear,  that someone would do such a thing as I was doing.  What if one of them actually hit me.  I can understand their anger.  How could I be sane seemed to never occur to them.

I felt a hand on my right shoulder.  I turned my head around to see a black man.  He said, it is ok.  Come with me.  I walked off the road and on to the side, onto the grass and saw the ambulance beside me.  The doors opened and I knew they were for me.  As I got in and looked out the rear of the truck, I saw my husbands sad and pain stricken face.  I saw the police.  I looked for the man that had just saved my life and he was not to be found.  He was no where in sight.

Could it be Jesus really was going with me and protecting me.  That this man was an angel sent by God to rescue me.  I did not argue with him or put up a fight.  Just the tenderness and care in his voice and face let me know everything was going to be all right.  I followed him.

This is Suicide Prevention Week.  I tell you my story in hopes one life might be saved.

It is still painful to tell this story.  My eyes well up with tears as I write.  The pain I caused my family and myself in those years of not understanding my illness and not knowing how to get help is still there.  My husband still wakes in fear when he can't find me during the night. He worries when he doesn't know where I am in the day.  I try to reassure my families fears.  It has taken hard work on all our parts for them to be able to trust me and for me to take control of my illness and it not to control me and all of us.

Many take their lives for different reasons than my attempt.  They feel worthless, lonely, unloved.  The pain of this life, the guilt and shame, they think will be solved by taking their life.  Young teenagers think they are invincible now.  Suicide is not the answer.  Taking your life is not the answer.  We were not meant to be strong and independent of each other and of God.  We need each other and a trust in God who loves us and died that we might have life.

You are created in the image of God.  You are His most valuable creation.  You have a purpose and He has a plan for your life.  It is to glorify Him and to enjoy Him.

If either one of these examples you can relate to, ask for help.  Go to your  church if you have one or find one if you don't.  Tell a friend.  These voices and thoughts can be deadly and life is so precious.  It is a gift from God and He wants you to live it to the fullest and you can.  There is help.  Get educated, get a counselor.  Seek the support of family and friends.  Do not isolate.  Find support.  You are so worth it.  There is help.  There is a way out of this hell you live in and think there is no way out.  Pain shared brings comfort.  Others have wisdom and can care.  Go to the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill or a suicide hot line.  Call 911.  Don't sit in your tortured thoughts and pain alone.

Ask for Help!

Brain disorders or some refer to as mental illness is no respecter of persons.

My plea is to get educated.  Reach out to the hurting.  Learn to bring the gospel into your struggles of everyday life.

Sickness of the brain and depression is running ramped.  People are being killed and people are killing themselves.  Don't shut the door to this epidemic of humanity.  I beg you churches get educated.  Form support groups and a counseling ministry at your church to save lives and impact how people live.  Help them.

I am blessed in so many ways.

I am blessed in so many ways.  I have a loving supportive group of friends and a family who loves me.  They have worked so hard and been there when many would have given up.  They have given me all that they have to keep me well and take care of me many times.  I am so thankful for them.  But I had to let them in.  I had to learn to be open and honest and vulnerable about what was going on with me or they could not help me.  They are very proactive and knowledgable and just don't give up.  They are the most loyal bunch you ever want to meet.  They pray for me and do what it takes to keep me well from watching me day and night to making office visits with me and talking to me over and over again, encouraging me and giving me advice and support.  There is hope for you even if you don't have this but don't shut your family out.  Give them a chance to love and be there for you.

Seek community

Rick Thomas has a forum if you don't have the support of a local church and even for those who do.  These last few years the counsel of Gods word, the articles Rick writes weekly and his resources and the friends I have made there, have made a huge difference in the quality of my life.  There is a forum where people support and learn how to help each other.  He gives conferences and webinars where you can be trained to help the hurting. Where you can learn to counsel yourself with the support of others.   It is a resource for both the hurting and the care givers of them. Rick Thomas at RickThomas.net is a wonderful educating resource for your church and you to learn to disciple others.

NAMI has support groups and educational groups on mental health.  I have led support groups there for years.  Understanding mental illness is imperative.  They also have a website.  Don't be afraid of the hurting because you don't know what to say or do.  All you have to do is to care.  To care enough to enter into someones pain and give them hope.  Care enough to do something.  Tell them you love them and they are valuable.  Give them resources and get yourselves educated.  We have a responsibility to each other.  Please don't ignore the call of this week of National Prevention of Suicide Week.  Take action.  Call your congressman.  Our country has shut the door to help for the mentally ill and sent them and the addict to prison and to the streets.  They are overflowing.  There is no help there.

People need people not fixing them or giving them pat answers but walking and limping along side them with truth and compassion and a love for them and God that overcomes all the struggles that keeps one from living effective lives.  We need relationship and intimacy with each other and with God.  We need His Spirit, Jesus and the Father in our everyday lives.  We need to take the truth from the bible and make it work not just sit there.  We need the faith to believe and to give us hope in a hopeless world.  We need to face reality and do it with a humble confidence and faith of a child.

The place for help for the hurting is in our hearts.

Please pray about what you can do and to whom you can reach out to this week.

I pray we do not continue to turn a deaf ear to a dying world but become active in the lives of those around us.  Help the hurting.  Make a difference.  We need change and it begins with you!  It begins with me.  We sit in the comfort of our homes and read on the internet and news and sit idly by as people waste away in their pain and suffering.  There is hope and there is life beyond mental illness, beyond addiction.  I still have hard days but I love life and the people it in.  My dysfunction has turned to healthy, loving relationships.  I know how to detect early on signs of not being healthy.  I call my doctors for mental and physical health, talk to my counselor, talk to friends, talk to my family, talk to God and seek His word and Spirit for counsel, take my medications, eat right, push myself to exercise, take supplements, fight my fears with faith, attend small groups and support groups, serve others who struggle, get good sleep.  I feed my mind with good things.  I think on encouraging things and share with others when I don't.  I can't afford not to.  It is worth the fight.  It is worth the struggle for good health mental and physical.  Life is worth it.  People are worth it.  You are worth it.  God's glory is worth it all.  This is why I share.

Do something today, please...Together we can make a difference.

Suicide Hotline...1-800-273-8255

Monday, September 7, 2015

God had an even better idea

One thing I have notice the mentally ill, have in common, is a low view of God and a low view of themselves.  I don't think they are unlike any other person but it is more evident in them because the things in the mentally ill are so magnified.  The worlds way is to give man a higher self esteem.  Gods way is to let man know who He is in Christ.  We are fallen and depraved and therefore come into this world lacking, broken, shameful and full of guilt.  God's answer is not to bring man back to the garden but to bring Him in Christ to Himself.

We think of the garden, before Adam and Eve sinned, as the perfect place and it was.  But only God can improve on perfection.  He saw something better than man walking with God and that was God indwelling man through the Spirit.  God saw more glory for Himself through the cross of Christ and man giving Him glory through a life of faith and trust and dependence on Him than man simply not sinning.  God uses sin, sinlessly.

God is not restoring man He is redeeming Him.  We are not moving backward to Eden but forward toward Heaven.

We are, the child of God, a new creation in Christ.  The old has died and the new has come.

The answer to our fallenness and sin and shame is the cross.  It is to be forgiven.  It is to be made new in Christ.  From our fallen nature we are self absorbed and everything in us, our motives, actions, thoughts and hearts have to be made in Gods likeness.  God came to serve and to be served.  We are to consider others more valuable than ourselves.  Our motives change and our actions change to glorify God and not to bring glory to ourselves.  This is a result of us being made in Christ and Christ living His life through us.

We die daily to our old nature and surrender to Gods will not our own.

Jesus tells us we are to follow Him.  This is the crucified life.  This is where new life is found.  A life of living for Gods glory.  Living to love Him and others more than ourselves.  This is when He is most glorified as this change of being like Him is displayed in us.  This is when we are most happy and content.  We find that the happy life is not in getting what we think we need and want but looking to our Father to meet our deepest need and longing.

Satan deceived Adam and Eve in using a good thing for evil.

It was not bad that Adam and Eve wanted to be like God.  To know the difference in good and evil.  But it was a bad thing to disobey God to get it.  To think this would make them happy.  They did not trust God and His good gifts for them.  How many times does satan do the same thing in our lives.  He uses our marriages, our children, our ministry for us to love them more than God?  We take things in our own hands and try to make a good thing happen rather than give our families and lives to God.  We think we know what is best and we set out to make that happen.  It is not that what we want is bad but that we try to make it happen apart from God.

We are independent creations and God wants us dependent in every way, on Him.

Many times our lives have to fall apart to look to God, instead of ourselves.  This is painful for us because we are being stripped of control and pride in trying to find life apart from God even in good things.  When we have despaired of ourselves and life and become weak and rely on Him is when we find true life and strength and power we have never known before.

Strength does not come through taking control and being strong but through being weak and through surrender.

We have to see our utter unreliability to make our life work.  Our self confidence is broken and our fears are realized.  We come out of hiding and covering ourselves into true fellowship with God. We become open and honest and real.  We see life is not the life what we tried to find in this world and even in good things.  He has achieved what we could not.  He is life.

We are all insecure, not only the shy but the over achiever.

Once we see we cannot earn Gods approval and love we stop trying to earn mans approval through fear of rejection and being a workaholic.  We stop looking to ourselves as our own savior and know we need Jesus.

Seeing Jesus was enough is when we began to long for more.  It is in the shadow of being complete and healing that ours hearts yearn.

Once we begin to see Jesus is where our deepest needs and longing are fulfilled is when we quit looking to this world to fulfill us and we long for more of His Spirit to fill us.  Our taste for anything but Him to bring life, peace, satisfaction and joy is when we began to find it in Him.  We grow in our understanding of just how big He really is and that He cares for the smallest details of our lives.  That He is for us and working it all for us.  In being satisfied in Him is when He gives us more and more of the Spirit.  He changes our hearts and our focus and our reason for living.  It is not more for us to be great but for His greatness.  He knows this is where we are most happy and most satisfied...We find Him as our purpose in life and are at rest.  The Father needed man to display His love to His creation.   So He decided to made Himself man and displayed Himself through other men.  Not out of a lack but out of an overflow.  He is fully satisfied in Himself and used Himself and man to do it.  Jesus did it for joy of pleasing the Father.  We are the Fathers gift to the Son.  We please Him by trusting Him and in Jesus only.