Kings in Chains [Cold Hard Reality]

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“He who masters his passions is a king even if he is in chains.  He who is ruled by his passions is a slave even while sitting on a throne.”

-Richard Wurmbrand

Sometimes, I absolutely need a spiritual ‘wake-up call.’  The last few days for me have been taking on the general theme of freedom.  It’s very easy for me to accept being a slave.  The bait that’s used is very desirable and attractive.  It’s hard to let such wonderful morsel go by without a taste. I will sin– and repent later. But hidden deep inside me there is something very small, but very potent. It is a desire to be free from sin. God has placed that within.

Freedom, or that characteristic of walking unencumbered, doesn’t seem incredibly important, at times.  But it is a question of identity.

As a Christian believer, am I really a child of the King, a prince in a spiritual world?

Royal blood was spilled to set me free.  Is choosing to sin really in my calling?

There are many things that ‘trigger’ my Bipolar depression.  Triggers are those things which set off symptoms, ‘kindling’ a sequence of events that leads to total catastrophe.  All it takes is one–a lie perhaps, or a delusion that gets ‘airplay.’ I just slide right into the ‘paranoid’ trap set just for me. I essentially experience a total collapse of mood and emotion.  Life will crash in all around me. I am left sitting in ashes, in a heap. I have become a ‘king in chains.’

My hospitalizations all have come as a result of giving myself over to ‘twisted thinking.’  My suicidal tendencies are intensified, in part due to becoming enslaved.  I become chained and held captive  to these dark forces.  Meds and ‘talk therapy’ can really help.  They are limited though to what they can do to push back the inky darkness.  But when I use these things, and add to them:

  1. prayer, as intimate as I can make it
  2. reading the Word, searching for insights
  3. and fellowship, anything more than a handshake

I have a ‘recipe’ for freedom. But, I must initiate a believer ‘s response. I would like to suggest that “freedom” and “intimacy” are synonyms. You can’t have one without the other. Is Jesus real to you? Is His presence ‘more-than-life’ itself?

Whoever you are–it’s time to get free. Really free. Fall in love with Jesus again and the chains will fall off. Unless you do they will remain.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1, ESV

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Yield to God

 I read a story about a radio exchange that took place some time ago between a U.S. Navy ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland. The Canadians warned the Americans and the conversation went something like this: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.”

The Americans responded, “Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.”

The Canadians said, “Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.”

The Americans: “This is the captain of a U.S. Navy Ship. I say again, divert your course.”

“No. I say again, you divert your course.”

“This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers, and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north. I say again, that is 15 degrees north or countermeasures will be undertaken to assure the safety of our ship.”

After brief moment of silence, the Canadians responded: “This is a lighthouse. It is your call.”

Sometimes we don’t like what God wants us to do, and we want Him to change course when, in reality, it is us who ought to change course.

We need to understand that God’s plans are better than ours. Having said that, it does not mean that they are always the easiest or even the most appealing at the moment. There are times when we are going through life that we might not like the plan of God. But God’s plans are always better for us in the long run.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

Isaiah 55:8, NLT

Can you say, “Yes, Lord. I am Your servant. Take me, use me, spend me. Fulfill all Your holy, eternal purposes in and through my life, whatever the cost”?

That area you have insisted on controlling, that part of you you’ve just stubbornly refused to yield, where you have insisted on things being your way – it’s time to drop your sword and raise your white flag. It’s time to surrender.

Those of us with a chronic illness can find many of their issues can be resolved by this simple act of yielding to God. There will be aspects that linger, but much peace of heart and mind will can come through a quiet release of your will to Him.

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Schizophrenia, An Opportunity to Love


Do you know someone who seems like he or she has “lost touch” with reality? Does this person talk about “hearing voices” no one else can? Does he or she see or feel things no one else can? Does this person believe things that aren’t true?

Sometimes people with these symptoms have schizophrenia, a serious illness.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious brain illness. Many people with schizophrenia are disabled by their symptoms.

People with schizophrenia may hear voices other people don’t hear. They may think other people are trying to hurt them. Sometimes they don’t make any sense when they talk. The disorder makes it hard for them to keep a job or take care of themselves.

Who gets schizophrenia?

Anyone can develop schizophrenia. It affects men and women equally in all ethnic groups. Teens can also develop schizophrenia. In rare cases, children have the illness too.

When does it start?

Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men often develop symptoms at a younger age than women. People usually do not get schizophrenia after age 45.

What causes schizophrenia?

Several factors may contribute to schizophrenia, including:

  • Genes, because the illness runs in families
  • The environment, such as viruses and nutrition problems before birth
  • Different brain structure and brain chemistry.

Scientists have learned a lot about schizophrenia. They are identifying genes and parts of the brain that may play a role in the illness. Some experts think the illness begins before birth but doesn’t show up until years later. With more study, researchers may be able to predict who will develop schizophrenia.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia symptoms range from mild to severe. There are three main types of symptoms.

1. Positive symptoms refer to a distortion of a person’s normal thinking and functioning. They are “psychotic” behaviors. People with these symptoms are sometimes unable to tell what’s real from what is imagined. Positive symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations: when a person sees, hears, smells, or feels things that no one else can. “Hearing voices” is common for people with schizophrenia. People who hear voices may hear them for a long time before family or friends notice a problem.
  • Delusions: when a person believes things that are not true. For example, a person may believe that people on the radio and television are talking directly to him or her. Sometimes people believe that they are in danger-that other people are trying to hurt them.
  • Thought disorders: ways of thinking that are not usual or helpful. People with thought disorders may have trouble organizing their thoughts. Sometimes a person will stop talking in the middle of a thought. And some people make up words that have no meaning.
  • Movement disorders: may appear as agitated body movements. A person with a movement disorder may repeat certain motions over and over. In the other extreme, a person may stop moving or talking for a while, a rare condition called “catatonia.”

2. Negative symptoms refer to difficulty showing emotions or functioning normally. When a person with schizophrenia has negative symptoms, it may look like depression. People with negative symptoms may:

  • Talk in a dull voice
  • Show no facial expression, like a smile or frown
  • Have trouble having fun
  • Have trouble planning and sticking with an activity, like grocery shopping
  • Talk very little to other people, even when they need to.

3. Cognitive symptoms are not easy to see, but they can make it hard for people to have a job or take care of themselves. Cognitive symptoms include:

  • Trouble using information to make decisions
  • Problems using information immediately after learning it
  • Trouble paying attention.

 

Helpful Links for Further Thought 

Source, NIMH: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

http://www.mcculloughsite.net/stingray/2006/02/15/christianity-and-mental-illness.php

http://xrysostom.blogspot.com/2005/06/can-mentally-ill-people-go-to-heaven.html

 

 

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OCD: Rituals and Obsession

“I couldn’t do anything without rituals. They invaded every aspect of my life. Counting really bogged me down. I would wash my hair three times as opposed to once because three was a good luck number and one wasn’t. It took me longer to read because I’d count the lines in a paragraph. When I set my alarm at night, I had to set it to a number that wouldn’t add up to a ’bad’ number.”

“I knew the rituals didn’t make sense, and I was deeply ashamed of them, but I couldn’t seem to overcome them until I had therapy.”

“Getting dressed in the morning was tough, because I had a routine, and if I didn’t follow the routine, I’d get anxious and would have to get dressed again. I always worried that if I didn’t do something, my parents were going to die. I’d have these terrible thoughts of harming my parents. That was completely irrational, but the thoughts triggered more anxiety and more senseless behavior. Because of the time I spent on rituals, I was unable to do a lot of things that were important to me.”

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety these thoughts produce. Most of the time, the rituals end up controlling them.

For example, if people are obsessed with germs or dirt, they may develop a compulsion to wash their hands over and over again. If they develop an obsession with intruders, they may lock and relock their doors many times before going to bed. Being afraid of social embarrassment may prompt people with OCD to comb their hair compulsively in front of a mirror-sometimes they get “caught” in the mirror and can’t move away from it. Performing such rituals is not pleasurable. At best, it produces temporary relief from the anxiety created by obsessive thoughts.

Other common rituals are a need to repeatedly check things, touch things (especially in a particular sequence), or count things. Some common obsessions include having frequent thoughts of violence and harming loved ones, persistently thinking about performing sexual acts the person dislikes, or having thoughts that are prohibited by religious beliefs. People with OCD may also be preoccupied with order and symmetry, have difficulty throwing things out (so they accumulate), or hoard unneeded items.

Healthy people also have rituals, such as checking to see if the stove is off several times before leaving the house. The difference is that people with OCD perform their rituals even though doing so interferes with daily life and they find the repetition distressing. Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing is senseless, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.

OCD affects about 2.2 million American adults, and the problem can be accompanied by eating disorders, other anxiety disorders, or depression.  It strikes men and women in roughly equal numbers and usually appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. One-third of adults with OCD develop symptoms as children, and research indicates that OCD might run in families.

The course of the disease is quite varied. Symptoms may come and go, ease over time, or get worse. If OCD becomes severe, it can keep a person from working or carrying out normal responsibilities at home. People with OCD may try to help themselves by avoiding situations that trigger their obsessions, or they may use alcohol or drugs to calm themselves.

OCD usually responds well to treatment with certain medications and/or exposure-based psychotherapy, in which people face situations that cause fear or anxiety and become less sensitive (desensitized) to them.

Source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

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Paranoia for Beginners

No Escape
No Escape

A person who is paranoid has fears, such as being watched, harmed or poisoned. He or she does not trust others and is suspicious that others are “out to get” him or her.

It is normal to wonder if people are talking about you when you hear them whispering as you walk into a room. These thoughts are usually passed off and not dwelled upon for most people.

A person who is paranoid, however, does dwells upon suspicious thoughts. He or she goes out of their way to prove their suspicions even though no evidence exists to confirm their thoughts. It’s very hard to reason or speak what is real. Paranoia is usually found in small degrees in almost every mental illness.

Symptoms

  • Use and/or withdrawal of certain drugs, such as marijuana, crack cocaine and angel dust (PCP)
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Deafness or problems with hearing
  • Illnesses that affect the central nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, a stroke, a brain tumor
  • Mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia
  • Paranoid personality disorder, (PPD)

How to Recognize Paranoia

A person with paranoia may also:

  • Appear cold and aloof
  • Be withdrawn and anxious in social situations
  • Act stubborn and combative
  • Appear “on guard” at all times, out of fear of being harmed

A paranoid person also:

  • Complains about his or her health and often feels vulnerable and inferior to others
  • Holds grudges easily
  • Displays bitterness and resentment toward others
  • May be easily drawn into religious cults or other groups with strict beliefs
  • Can have delusions of being persecuted

Treatment

Treatment for paranoia depends on its cause. If it is a symptom of another condition, treatment for the condition will often take care of or lessen the paranoia. Paranoid personality disorder is treated with counseling, support therapy and often with medication. Treatment for this disorder is not easy, though, due to the nature of paranoia. Persons who are paranoid often do not trust others including doctors, therapists or family members trying to help them get treatment. It is likely that you will need to intervene, patiently and gently.  Paranoia treatment requires a huge commitment.

What You Can Do for a Friend or Relative

The most important thing you can do is to encourage your friend or relative to get professional help. Be aware that you may need to make the initial appointment with a professional. You may also need to take them to the appointment and stay with them. Be supportive. Paranoia requires patience, understanding, love and encouragement of the person’s loved ones and friends.

Be aware of the types of medication your friend or relative takes and when they should take it. You should also alert their physician or psychiatrist to any side effects that you notice when they do or do not take their medication.  If I may, I would suggest a film for you to watch, “A Beautiful Mind“.  This may give you insight into what you are dealing with.

Further Resources

Cleveland Clinic PPD Intoduction Site http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/personality_disorders/hic_paranoid_personality_disorder.aspx

Suite 101 PPD Site http://personalitydisorders.suite101.com/article.cfm/paranoid_personality_disorder

When You Can’t Find an Exit: Psalm 88

No exit, today!

A  Simple Psalm of David

    1 O Lord, God of my salvation,
      I cry out to you by day.
      I come to you at night.
 2 Now hear my prayer;
      listen to my cry.
 3 For my life is full of troubles,
      and death draws near.
 4 I am as good as dead,
      like a strong man with no strength left.
 5 They have left me among the dead,
      and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
   I am forgotten,
      cut off from your care.
 6 You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
      into the darkest depths.
 7 Your anger weighs me down;
      with wave after wave you have engulfed me.
                         Interlude

Psalm 88:1-7, New Living Translation

I definitely needed this Psalm today. Yesterday I went to the doctor and was blindsided by news that really isn’t good, at all.  Of course, I also have this ongoing struggle with depression.  Today I feel like I’m running a marathon with ‘leg weights’ on.  I thank God for David’s depression.  “Thank you God for letting this happen to David!”

This particular Psalm is radically different than the others.  This Psalm has no kind words, and no praise to God for deliverance.  It is a singularly sad song.  Imagine if you will, a huge stone fortress in the mountains.  Every room has a door, and every room a window.  All except one.  No light enters this room.  There is no entrance or exit, no way to get free.  Psalm 88, would describe living that torturous experience.

I like my Psalms to be strengthening or encouraging.  But then comes this one!  Life unravels and frays.  Everything scrambles and gets confusing. Life comes apart on me.  The thought of being one who is irretrievably lost and damned, tunnels into my thinking, like a strange kind of worm, assaulting my thinking.  The despair is beyond belief, I have no words to describe its special variety of darkness.  But anyone who has walked into this hell will understand.

Am I ‘less’ a Christian because of this vicious despair?  Some would say so.  David in verse 1-2, calls out to God.  (I guess this what you are supposed to do).  There is a sense of consistency in his cry.  In verses 3-5, we see him evaluating his position.  Again, there is a underground current of despair.  There is simply no help, no deliverance for him.

And in verses 6-7 is a painful recognition that God is doing all of this.  It’s a bitter and painful place to be.  There are no explanations why life has gotten so nasty and bitter and out-of-control.  But one thing that Psalm 88 does quite well, it strips you of any dignity that you have left.  I think that there exists a faith behind your faith.  (If that makes any sense at all?)

Now, I will get on my ‘soapbox’.  There is so much embedded in the Psalms.  Comfort, faith, victory and hope are what we find,  and more.  But in Ps. 88, we find a black pearl, the only one of its kind.  Somehow, we dare not leave it behind, just because we don’t understand it.  I’m convinced that it has tremendous power to the disciple in endless pain.  Just vocalizing this Psalm does something to us.  These words help.  This Psalm is ours.  God has provided it for us.

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Sometimes I Haven’t the Slightest, [Oblivious}

“Ah yes, the Shroud of Turin! We will have to dry clean it before we return it.”

Inspector Clouseau, (Upon discovering stolen artifacts) in The Pink Panther 2

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I honestly think that our bumbling attempts to follow Jesus are entertaining angels who watch our efforts and shake their heads in astonishment. ” Did you see what Bryan just did?”  I guess I’m the “Inspector Clouseau of the spiritual realm.”  Clumsy and very much oblivious, I bungle my way down the path of discipleship, without a clue. It seems when something right happens, I still end up butchering it.

We  have experienced so much, been given so much light, and yet we consistently choose to trade it for a lie. For the most part, I don’t sin automatically, I choose it, consciencely and deliberately.  People don’t sin because they feel they have to. We sin because we like the pleasure it brings. We sin because it feels nice. We sin because it brings a thrill to our bodies, fleeting satisfaction to our souls and excitement to the boredom of our everyday lives.  We sin because we believe the lie that the pleasure it brings, though passing (Heb. 11:25), is more satisfying than the pleasure obedience brings.

The issues I have are medical and psychological.  I have chronic Hepatitis C.  I survived a brain tumor and I need to walk with a cane.  I do have a bad case of Bipolar disorder. I have some struggles with paranoid delusions and social anxiety. These are forgivable and God gives me buckets of grace.  I know first-hand his agape love for me.

But he cannot bless disobedience and rebellion.  When we announce to the world that “Jesus is Lord” we can expect God will hold our feet to the fire over this.  The Holy Spirit will not negotiate when we suddenly decide we are hungry for sin.  Apprehended by grace, we must fully surrender all claim we have to sample sin’s delights.

In the middle of my psychiatric issues, I must remember joy.  I can not imagine being without it.  I’ve been clinically depressed to the point of suicide many times.  But God gives me joy in my darkness.  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah)

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