‘Heaven Practice’ Begins Now

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We will burst into heaven shouting to everyone, “It was grace that saved us!”

The last few days I’ve been a bit homesick for heaven I suppose. I wonder a lot about what it’s going to be like. I also think about dying. What is going to happen? Will it be painful? Can I opt out?

I also  believe that each will stand there exclusively by God’s grace, and everyone present will all know it.

For many, not understanding this leads to terror. Death for these poor souls is a horrifying idea, and it certainly must be avoided at all costs. But death should not be a fearful thing. I suppose it is like a doorway that leads from one room to the next, but in the next room we will meet Jesus. the Savior of our souls.

Some Christian traditions believe that the angel Michael has been chosen to escort every believer into heaven. Apparently Satan’s attacks intensify at that moment and an archangel is needed for our transition. (I suppose that Satan takes a last chance to try to destroy us.)

I am consoled by the extent of God’s mercy on me. You see, I’ve got this propensity to bollocks up everything I get involved in. It’s highly doubtful my death will be any different. I have to believe that at that moment all will be well; that I will know His ‘super attentiveness.’ God loves me far too much to let me face that moment alone.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

1 Corinthians 15:55

The strong issues of death can’t touch me. I believe there is enough grace to hold on to us while dying. I’m confident and sure of this. I am no longer afraid.

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” –CS Lewis

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

Psalm 116:15

“The death of one that belongs to the Lord is precious in his sight.”

Psalm 116:15, NCV

 

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Mother Teresa Explains Humility

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“But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”

Luke 22:26, NLT

Jesus Christ turned everything upside down. I know of no other teaching that might disturb his disciples as “humility.” I’m sure that they shook their heads and replayed what Jesus had said. (Maybe looking for a loophole?) This is not something you just “click into place,” rather it’s a complete overhaul of living as a disciple. Humility is a process, not an event.

“So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Matthew 18:4

We may think children are wonderful, but hardly the stuff of the Spirit. And then Jesus shows and as we listen to him we are schooled further. Generally the attitude of a child can be seen as: innocent, simple, kind, eager, curious, relying on others, and of course–humble.

As a bona-fide broken believer I find I’m quite consumed with “me.” Life can revolve around “me.” The awful nature of my mental illness is I get absorbed with it, and it is all I think about. And I  hate this. It isn’t right. It isn’t healthy.

Mother Teresa, 1910-1997

I came across this list written by Mother Teresa that sheds further light for us. Her discipleship was radically different than mine, and I have much– very much to learn. Perhaps you might commiserate our mutual lack.

“These are the few ways we can practice humility:

To speak as little as possible of one’s self.

To mind one’s own business.

Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.

To avoid curiosity.

To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.

To pass over the mistakes of others.

To accept insults and injuries.

To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.

To be kind and gentle even under provocation.

Never to stand on one’s dignity.

To choose always the hardest.”

Mother Teresa (The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living)

Once my church gave me a gold medal for humility. The elders took it back because I wanted to wear it all the time. Anyway, I like most of this list, with one/two questions— and I’ll let you find them.

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Apples of Gold

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“The right word spoken at the right time
       is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl.”

Prov. 25:11, New Century Version

I’ve been thinking about this particular verse for years.  I had an older translation and I couldn’t decipher it.  It is really good to understand what you have just read.

This verse tells us that there is a certain cadence– a timeliness for just the right word.  There is a proper sense, a beautiful art in making the situation perfect. The wisdom comes in a conversation, and suddenly everything makes sense.  There is a elegance that’s shared by everyone, and a dignity that the Holy Spirit bestows on our words. We only have to ask Him to bless what we say (or write.)

People speak wrong words as well.  Rather then edifying, they tear down.  Thirty years ago a Christian girl I was working with would always try to counsel me.  Soon, I had enough of it.  I walked up to her desk and said, “Becky (name changed), God has given me a word for you!”  She looked up at me and smiled. ‘It’s Judges 16:16’, she got out her Bible to read the verse I just had given her. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.”

I absolutely crushed her spirit.  I had used the Word to assault her like a blunt instrument.  Tears welled up in her eyes.  It would be a time before I sought her forgiveness.  I was hard and brutally used the Bible to purposefully hurt her.  I do not suggest that you do this.  I will never forget what I did. Oh man, did I ever learn.

That day I would learn the awesome power of my words— for good, or for evil.

Let us also decide that our words will bring life to those who we meet today– wise and encouraging words!

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Are You Depressed, Or Just Human?

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Depression can be devastating. Its worst form, major depressive disorder, is marked by all-encompassing low mood, thoughts of worthlessness, isolation, and loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities.

But this clinical description misses the deep, experiential horror of the condition; the suffocating sense of despair that can make life seem too arduous to bear. Here’s something else we can say confidently about depression: it is complex. The cause is often a mix of factors including genetic brain abnormalities, sunlight deprivation, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and social issues including homelessness and poverty. Also, cause and effect can be hard to tease apart — is social isolation a cause or an effect of depression?

Unfortunately, we can make one more unassailable observation about depression: the disorder — or, more precisely, the diagnosis — has gone stratospheric. An astonishing 10 percent of the U.S. population was prescribed an antidepressant in 2005; up from 6 percent in 1996.

Why has the diagnosis become so popular? There are likely several reasons. It’s possible that more people today are truly depressed than they were a decade ago. Urbanized, sedentary lifestyles; nutrient-poor processed food; synthetic but unsatisfying entertainments and other negative trends, all of which are accelerating, may be driving up the rate of true depression. But I doubt the impact of these trends has nearly doubled in just ten years.

So here’s another possibility. The pharmaceutical industry is cashing in. In 1996, the industry spent $32 million on direct-to-consumer (DTC) antidepressant advertising. By 2005, that nearly quadrupled, to $122 million. It seems to have worked. More than 164 million antidepressant prescriptions were written in 2008, totaling $9.6 billion in U.S. sales. Today, the television commercial is ubiquitous:

  •  A morose person stares out of a darkened room through a rain-streaked window.
  • Quick cut to a cheery logo of an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, the most common type of antidepressant pharmaceutical).
  • Cross-fade to the same person, medicated and smiling, emerging into sunlight to pick flowers, ride a bicycle or serve birthday cake to laughing children.
  • A voiceover gently suggests, “Ask your doctor if [name of drug] is right for you.”

The message — all sadness is depression, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, this pill will make you happy, your doctor will get it for you — could not be clearer. The fact that the ad appears on television, the ultimate mass medium, also implies that depression is extremely common.

Yet a study published in the April, 2007, issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, based on a survey of more than 8,000 Americans, concluded that estimates of the number who suffer from depression at least once during their lifetimes are about 25 percent too high. The authors noted that the questions clinicians use to determine if a person is depressed don’t account for the possibility that the person may be reacting normally to emotional upheavals such as a lost job or divorce (only bereavement due to death is accounted for in the clinical assessment). And a 15-year study by an Australian psychiatrist found that of 242 teachers, more than three-quarters met the criteria for depression. He wrote that depression has become a “catch-all diagnosis.” What’s going on? It’s clear that depression, a real disorder, is being exploited by consumer marketing and is over-diagnosed in our profit-driven medical system.

Unlike hypertension or high cholesterol — which have specific, numerical diagnostic criteria — a diagnosis of depression is ultimately subjective. Almost any average citizen (particularly one who watches a lot of television) can persuade him or herself that transient, normal sadness is true depression. And far too many doctors are willing to go along. The solution to this situation is, unsurprisingly, complex, cutting across social, medical, political and cultural bounds.

But here are three major changes that are needed immediately: Medically, thousands of studies confirm that depression, particularly mild to moderate forms, can be alleviated by lifestyle changes. These include exercise, lowered caffeine intake, diets high in fruits and vegetables, and certain supplements, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Physicians need to be trained in these methods, as they are at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. See Natural Depression Treatment for more about these low-tech methods, or the “Depression” chapter in the excellent professional text, Integrative Medicine by David Rakel, M.D. (Saunders, 2007).

Politically, if Congress — which seems hopelessly addicted to watering down all aspects of health care reform — can’t manage to ban all DTC ads in one stroke, it should start by immediately ending those for antidepressants. Personally, be skeptical of all DTC ads for antidepressants. The drugs may turn out to be no more effective than placebos. Many of them have devastating side effects, and withdrawal, even if done gradually, can be excruciating. While they can be lifesavers for some people, in most cases they should be employed only after less risky and expensive lifestyle changes have been tried.

Finally, recognize that no one feels good all the time. An emotionally healthy person can, and probably should, stare sadly out of a window now and then. Many cultures find the American insistence on constant cheerfulness and pasted-on smiles disturbing and unnatural. Occasional, situational sadness is not pathology — it is part and parcel of the human condition, and may offer an impetus to explore a new, more fulfilling path. Beware of those who attempt to make money by convincing you otherwise.

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Weil's-new-book-availableAndrew Weil, M.D., is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the editorial director of http://www.DrWeil.com. Become a fan on Facebook. Follow Dr. Weil on Twitter. Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-weil-md/are-you-depressed-or-just_b_307734.html

Good Medicine

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“A joyful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Proverbs 17:22, ESV

We have from ‘King Solomon’s mines’ a truth regarding joy. Whether we acknowledge its truth, or not, we find its effects on us to be binding. “A joyful heart” is like medicine for our souls. There are many issues that afflict us, many things that trouble us. I find within myself a veritable zoo. But there is a sure and ready relief.

“Worry, fear, distrust, care-all are poisonous! joy is balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power. He has commanded you to be glad and rejoice, and He never fails to sustain His children in keeping His commandments. Rejoice in the Lord always, He says. This means no matter how sad, how tempted, how sick, how suffering you are, rejoice in the Lord just where you are-and begin this moment. The joy of the Lord is the strength of our body, The gladness of Jesus, the balm for our pain, His life and His fullness, our fountain of healing, His joy, our elixir for body and brain.”

A.B. Simpson

 

For those among us who struggle so, we find a  treatment plan that will work. There is an active ingredient within a joyful heart that heals and protects our souls. Real joy— applied frequently to our aching souls— provides something quite  like medicine to someone quite ill. I’m no snake oil salesman. Nor am I into herbs and vitamins. (I suppose I could be a little more aware.) But I know that this principle is true.

“A crushed spirit dries up the bones.” We know first-hand that this is true. There is a ‘crushing’ wound that can breakdown our spirits and bodies. We are simply overwhelmed by life and we experience a crumbling and mashing of our personalities. We are as sick in our ‘bones’ as we might be physically. Now there is a huge difference between a physical illness and a spiritual one, but the factual principles are the same. The pain is different, but is it not similar?

A joyful heart is the pharmaceutical of choice for treating diseases of the personality and spirit. Sometimes we are unwell because we ignore the prescription.  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:10) Joy in the deepest part of us is almost always:

  1. transforming,
  2. God-honoring, and
  3. contagious.

If this is true, then we do well to ‘give it a whirl.’

“The joyless Christian reveals himself by having negative thoughts and talk about others, in a lack of concern for others welfare, and a failure to intercede on others behalf. Joyless believers are self-centered, selfish, proud, and often vengeful and their self-centeredness inevitably manifests itself in prayerlessness.”

John MacArthur

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