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An Integrative Perspective of Mental Health in Light of Eternity

February 8, 2013 1 comment
Redemption drawing nigh

Redemption

For those who have a relationship with Christ, we look forward to redemption, both in body and spirit. The introduction of sin into a perfect and spotless world tainted everything, from the land to the health and longevity of the human body. What was once a flawless frame, complete with perfected organs, sickness, disease, and death resulted from the Fall. Most amazingly, the Author of life didn’t give up. Though His plan was eternal, physical fellowship with man, man chose separation. God still had a purposeful contingency, a second chance found through Christ’s blood. We are told in the bible, that for those who accept Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we have an abiding hope of return to the glorified, original state God intended from the beginning. As Scripture states,

We will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, NIV)

From the kidneys to the heart, our skin and eyes, every part of our being will be made new and perfected. This includes the brain.

Dr. Jenkins (2013) eloquently stated, “My brain is in need of redemption, just like the rest of my physical body. One day, my brain will be in its glorified state.” Time, toxic elements, chemicals, and stress all have tremendous impact in the decay of our fragile bodies. This includes the physical make up of the brain. Most often, when people think of physical health, the brain is not the first thought (No pun intended.). Negative factors, such as those listed above, greatly influence the health of brain material. Combined with genetic predispositions to disease, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, the state of the brain can be precarious, indeed. While evolutionists claim that homeostasis was a natural process that all life forms adapted to ensure the biological maintenance, creationists believe that an all-knowing God planned our bodies with purpose and design (Hart & Ksir, 2011).

Our environment and our personal choices all contribute to the state of our brain. While many issues arise that are not within our control, it is important to consider how we can better care for our health. Unfortunately, many of us do not realize or begin to get serious about these matters until damage is done or the unexpected news is delivered. With our physical mental abilities, come our volition and will.  These, too, will be redeemed and properly focused soley on the Lord.  The mind is an integration of a physical and spiritual state.  There is great hope in our redemption! One day our physical form, every part, will be perfected. We will be changed in an instant and will forever live in the presence of our loving Creator.

References

Hart, C. & Ksir, C. (2011). Drugs, society, and human behavior (14th ed.). Boston, MA:

McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 978-0-07-338090-2.

Jenkins, D. (2013). Models of addiction. Audio Visual Presentation: Liberty University

The Prospect of 2013

December 29, 2012 1 comment

The Year 2013: Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

Following the Christmas holidays, its natural for people to get sentimental, reflect on the past year and look forward to the coming year.  The media always has their “wrap-up” citing the headlines that most impacted the nation and the world.  There are wishes for a “Happy New Year,” promises, conjectured in the form of “New Year’s resolutions” (lose weight, spend more time with family, etc.).So, as I sit here and ponder the events of 2012, I must admit, my outlook is….bittersweet.  By nature, I consider myself neither an optimist, nor a pessimist.  A realist.  I know, I know, most people like to overuse that label for themselves, but truly, when asked if I see a cup half full or half empty, I will always respond, “BOTH!”Perhaps, it’s not my outlook, so much as my bull-headed determination.

I’ll stick with the previous assertion, thanks.  (Its my blog. Well, for now.)

This year has obviously been interesting with the election.  For my part, I was absolutely unclear about who was going to win, though, I certainly thought I saw tremendous support for Mitt.  However, in light of the direction the world was turning, reading the tea leaves also gave strong indications that Obama would pull through, in spite of no record, nothing what-so-ever to recommend him, and a continuing treasonous scandal.  I advocated for Romney, as much as I could, grew tense, like the rest of the country, fervently prayed, and waited.  Like many of you, that night, though I wasn’t shocked, but I was shocked.  I had been on my face, begging for God’s mercy on this country.  However, I also prayed for His will to be done.  The Lord spoke, the fate of America was solidified.

I went, immediately, to a somber state of acceptance.

Like most of you, the prospect of 2013 is dismal, in light of the political arena.  I have lost all faith in politicians, even in those I thought were truly fighting for truth and justice.  Time and time again, we have seen them bow to the will of those who grow in worldly power.

NATIONALISM VS. PATRIOTISM

I have recognized, through this process, that there is a clear distinction in “nationalism vs. patriotism.”  Nationalism retains that sense of arrogance, even in the face of God that we are better, bigger, and stronger.  That nothing will stop or hold us down.  Contrarily, patriotism is vastly different.  The patriot humbly clings to the principles that make one’s country great.  He recognizes the blessings, even undeservedly, that have been bestowed upon his nation, contingent upon obedience to the Lord and the principles for foundation.  A patriot doesn’t put faith in any man, but looks to the Lord for his sense of national direction.  He bows his knee to the Great I AM, accepting His plans, knowing that the protection of the nation is directly hinged upon what is done with the blessings and how well we uphold Biblical precepts.

As I stated before, I am an eternal realist.  My worldly outlook for the nation ,as far as the state of this planet, is grave.  Evil has been unleashed.  All too common these days, we hear of rampages of brutal murder.  People immediately want an answer,

“WHY?” 

What could possibly be the reason for such senseless violence? Now we see a spectrum of blame, polarities that want to crackdown on this heinous barbarianism.  On one side, governmental leaders are grasping, white-knuckled, to the claim that the problem is GUNS.  “We MUST eliminate firearms!” Another argument from the other side is that “We MUST revisit mental illness!”

As you might expect, I do not subscribe to either.

The problem is that all sense of morality, more specific, humility before the Almighty, has been cast out.  Society, as a whole, has spit in God’s face and pushed out any shade of godliness.  People have been hypnotized by the Dark Angel, masquerading in light.  They don’t believe in evil, unless it suits their purposes.  They don’t believe in the antithesis of evil, that being salvation only through Christ’s blood.  Instead they exchange one lie for another, until all sense of rationality and reason is subjective and without basis.

So you see, we could talk about the continued, growing scandals that have growing tentacles over the White House.  We could talk about the wildfire of Radical Islamization.  We could talk about the fiscal cliff that looms, in mere hours.  We could talk about genocidal dictators racing toward mass-extermination.

But, the crux of the matter is not as complex as it seems.  People are hung up on the thousands of symptoms of a simple, albeit, eternal crisis.The world has cocooned itself in a cozy bed of Godlessness.  They have set up their own altars, whereby they sit on their own throne.  Rather than serving the God of the universe, humans, regardless of culture, ethnicity or nation (a true testament to color blindness), embrace and worship the god “within.”

This cannot last.

Just as God is grace, He is the perfect balance of Justice and Judge, as well.  He does not force His will on man, yet retains the control in decision-making.  He can allow us to make the ridiculous choices that will cause self-destruction, both individually, corporately, as a society, and internationally.

Though He allows us our own way, don’t think for a second that He isn’t angered by it.  We cannot be so pompously deluded to think that we were created by a limp-wristed pushover.

He is YAHWEH!

THE GLASS IS HALF-EMPTY, BUT IT IS ALSO HALF-FULL.

In God’s never-ending kindness, the removal of protection can serve as a wake-up call.  When we are stripped of comforts, whether in leadership, or in security, we have the opportunity to turn to the only lasting truth in YESHUA, Jesus Christ.

For the few of us, who are truly watching, wide-eyed at the plans unfolding around the world, faith is strengthened.  I’ve heard it said, “The national and international headlines are now catching up to the Bible.”  The cards are on the table.  We are coming to that fork in the road, whereby we can choose to move toward God, or turn our backs on God.  Sadly, the Bible tells me that many will fall away from the faith. (Matthew 7:14, 2Timothy 4) Further, Christ tells us, “15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev.3:15-17)

My hope is in the Lord.  I do not know the specifics of what 2013 will bring, but I trust that He is JEHOVAH.  I take great hope in His mighty power.  (Ephesians 6:10-18) My outlook for this world, in the direction it is hurtling toward, is bleak.  People have chosen the path of Baal.  The Lord is rousing from His Holy Hill and He will come with absolute Authority and Justice.

Though, I am desperate to see His glory and His might, at the same time, I tremble at the prospect of an angry, JUST God.  I fear living in a land that has chosen to shove the Lord’s hand of protection away for the false notion of self-preservation and governmental rule.

If this nation refuses to humble herself in fear of the Lord, it is doomed to destruction. 

Nationalism is idolatry.  It is an ideology that dominates both parties, both sides of the aisle. 

With all of this bleakness, comes great hope, when one seeks and clings to the ONLY hope we have!  We have access to TRUE LIBERTY!  We can be unfettered and freed from bondage in the hope that comes from faith in the Lord, through YESHUA.  When we recognize that He IS the source of life; we are liberated, REGARDLESS of worldly powers.

These days, I treasure God’s Word.  I recognize the NECESSITY OF IT.  It is easy to get enthralled and overly distracted with the events unfolding.  Though Christ commanded us to, “WATCH!” (Matt.24:4, 42 read all of chapter 24) I must keep my FOCUS upon HIM.  We must SATURATE ourselves in the WORD.  I am constantly amazed and deeply grateful for the Bible.  Without it, faith and hope would be very burdensome.  But again, God in His grace and mercy, gave us the Cliff Notes version.

In summary: I know how the story ends;

He wins.

——————————————————————

SCRIPTURE TO MEDITATE ON:

1 Samuel 12:24-25

24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

Response to a Viewer’s Comments in “Chrislam: A Blending of Religions, a Loss of Faith”

In response to this viewer’s recent comment regarding Chrislam: A Blending of Religions, a Loss of Faith, which I thought were wonderful points for discussion:

Hello Jennifer, I would suggest that you do more research into Islam before posting about it. Theologists are not in disagreement about the relationship between judaism, christianity, and islam. There is no question the three are based on the same God, but veer off into different direction concerning interpretations of biblical events, prophets, afterlife, and messiah. Just as you have written “Judeo-Christian”, merging Judaism and Christianity (which is very much the new trend in today’s conservative Christianity, largely based on political reasons), you are contradicting yourself as the Jewish faith doesn’t reflect the criteria you stated above either: They do not believe Jesus was the Messiah, similar to Islam, they see him as a ‘good guy’, a wise prophet. Judaism does not discuss the idea of afterlife or heaven and hell much either, instead, it focuses more on life on earth, and this is in contrast to Christianity whose primary focus is preparation for the afterlife. Many conservative Christian sects today are blending Judaism with Christianity to focus on the commonalities rather than the differences, and I believe this is a good thing. People should always focus on a similarities first, and often in doing this, the difference resolve themselves or prove inconsequential. You could do the same with Islam, focusing on its many similarities with Christianity, and that is what the pastor stated above is doing, its just not the Politically Correct, cool thing to do, so of course, he is taking heat for it.

Thank you for taking the time to visit Order in the Quart. I appreciate your viewpoints and taking the time to comment.  This is certainly a topic that is worthy of discussion and I invite it.

Firstly, you state that there is no question that the three religions mentioned in the post are based on the same God.  I would disagree with that statement, though I see your argument.  It is more accurate to state that, historically, the three religions were connected and began under the same view of God.  Judaism and Christianity believe in the same Old Testament teachings.  Islam believes much of it, but they have their variations of traditional biblical stories, such as Noah and the Flood.  The historical division takes place, as I am sure you are aware, with the children of Jacob and Ishmael, children of Abraham.  The Ishmaelites are now known as “of Arab descent”.  Jacob’s descendents are now known as the Jewish people.  Finally, Jesus Christ, himself was Jewish by birth and was the Savior.  By ethnicity, many Jews and Gentiles followed after Jesus Christ’s teaching and have accepted that He is the Savior for all mankind, thus the label “Christian”.

You are correct in your assertion that Jews do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, a similarity with Muslims.  I did not dispute this in the article.  As a Christian, based upon the direct teaching of Jesus, I believe that this is essential to eternal salvation. (John 14:6) Your assertion that Jews believe that Jesus was a “good guy” and a prophet is, however, not correct.  It is a historical and Biblical fact that Jesus was hated by the majority of the Jewish people.  The Pharisees were responsible for the death of Jesus, believing that He was a threat to the Jewish faith, tradition and a general troublemaker, who blasphemed God. (Mt. 21:46, 22:15-22, 23, 26:65-68)

Therefore, I would argue that there are great differences between each faith.

It is vital to understand that simply because I use the term “Judeo-Christian” does not imply that I fully embrace the Jewish faith.  

However, the Jewish people share the same Old Testament (Christians refer to it as old.) It is congruent with the New Testament. Further there over 400 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  Judaism refuses to acknowledge this, continuing to look for their Messiah.  So when I refer to Judeo-Christian values, there is no conflict in doing so; Christians have adopted the same scripture and laws that were set forth by God, but we have recognized the prophecies set forth in the Old Testament as fulfilled and leading directly to the person of Jesus as Messiah.

Further, just as there are many sects that proclaim Christianity, there are also sects of Judaism that do not depend upon a strict adherence to traditional, historical values.  Take for example Jewish mysticism, Kabballah, and the many contradictions between that and Orthodox Judaism.  The Old Testament makes many references to hell, often called Sheol, and heaven, so I would disagree with your assertion that Judaism does not discuss the idea of an afterlife. (Isaiah 26:19, 14:9-15, 2Kings 2:1-14) I would also disagree with your assertion that linking Judaism and Christianity is “very much the new trend.”  The linking of the faiths stems from the fact that Jesus was Jewish by birth.  Most of the original disciples were Jewish by birth.  Paul, who was called Saul prior to his conversion, was Jewish by birth.  Traditional Judaism has been linked to Christianity from the onset.

So in summary, as far as the link between Judaism and Christianity: there are differences, but Christianity was, quite literally, birthed from Judaism.

The Qu’ran is not steeped in the tradition of Judaism.  The book’s claim is by a man named Mohammed, who is referenced no where in the Bible.  Further, his assertions and “prophecy” about Allah contradicts Scripture, unlike Judaism and Christianity.  As a prime example, Allah commands that “infidels”, Jews and Christians be killed because of their faith, that being, the lack of faith in the god of Islam. The God of the Bible is the Father of the Jews and Christians.  How is this reconcilable as the same God?  This is only one of the many contradictions of the portrayal of the God of Islam to Judaism and Christianity.

I agree with you that there are many similarities in issues of morality, but I do not accept that the God of Islam is the same as the God of Judaism and Christianity.  I believe that there are many ways, outside of the acceptance and adoption of the Muslim faith, that we can build bridges of communication and respectability.  Mr. Warren’s idea is not one.  He is not finding similarities, he is forsaking the foundations of one faith and attempting to fit them into another.  Essentially, he has put a circular peg into a square hole and is trying to lead people into believing that this is the right way to faith.

Lastly, the comment you made, “and that is what the pastor stated above is doing, its just not the Politically Correct, cool thing to do, so of course, he is taking heat for it.”  I find that very ironic and actually quite the opposite!  The Politically Correct idea IS to embrace all faiths and have “tolerance” for other religions.  By tolerance, as defined by those who ascribe to PC is to accept without reservation. I do not believe in that.

Mr. Warren is actually doing the “cool,” trendy, acceptable thing.  As a follower of Christ, I am not into what is cool, acceptable, and trendy.  I am interested in truth, based in love.  I am happy to find commonality and respect for people of all faiths, but I will NOT compromise my faith and my belief system to accept and adopt theirs.  That is not loving.  Jesus tells us that there is ONE way to heaven and that is through him.  It is my calling to live out that truth.  He ate, taught, and had discussion with people who were different than his “people.”  But he never compromised the truth of what he knew.  He never sold himself out for the sake of popularity and economic gain.  He loved without abandon, he was desperate for the people to know Him and accept him as Messiah.  (The Jewish people need the Lord, too.  I do not overlook this.) Truth and love are only achieved in perfect balance when we embrace Christ and are lead by the Holy Spirit, not enticed by culture, fame, and prestige.

I pray that you continue to search for the truth, as only found in Christ.  God bless you.

Chrislam: A Blending of Religions, A Loss of Faith

Chrislam: A Blending of Religion, A Loss of Faith

You may remember Rick Warren.  He is the author of Purpose Driven….stuff.  He has a slew of Purpose Driven materials that hit churches and homes full force in the early part of the decade.  It seemed every church on every corner was offering small groups that focused on this premise.  I admit.  I was cautious.  Any time one man’s work gets a vast number of groupies, I’m usually skeptical.

As a person of faith, a follower of Christ, it is vital that I maintain the proper perspective of man and God.  Man is given to failure, pride, and manipulation.  God is perfect.  Throughout history, especially in the church, people’s hopes in men are dashed to pieces, based upon the fact that they thought their “hero” could do no wrong.  They forget that man is easily deceived.  They forget the humanity of humanity.  Thus, placing such high hopes on the ideals of a man is a dangerous business.  When people come face-to-face with the harsh reality that their “idol” isn’t Superman, but wrought with frailties, given to the temptations of this world, they often give up hope.  Hope in people. Hope in institutions.  Hope and faith, altogether. Gone.  At the same time, people who are so strongly led by men, who forsake thinking on their own accord, who don’t take time to look into “facts”, and research what they have been taught are often seriously misled.  There are many great thinkers, writers, and philanthropists, but ultimately, it is necessary to come back to a source of truth and check in.  Men are easily swayed, manipulated, and deceived.

I come, now, to Mr. Warren.

Pastor of a mega church in California, New York Times bestselling author, philanthropist, Rick Warren has obtained tremendous influence and power in the last 15 years.  His most recent endeavor has been the bridging between world faiths.  While many would see this as a laudable, even admirable, action, many are now deeply concerned.  The last few years, in particular, Mr. Warren has been called upon to serve on world faith councils.  He is consulted upon in unifying and bringing “peace” among the great religions.  Actually, his main focus has been Christianity and Islam.  Though men and women around the world have a heart to find like-mindedness in issues of morality and respect, Mr. Warren has sought to take relations among the faiths to a whole new level.  Last year, he brought the Qu’ran to be placed side by side the holy book for Christians, the Bible, in the auditorium during what were typically Christian services.  Most recently, he was a primary participant to “A Common Word Between Us and You”, the “Christian response” to a letter written by King Abdullah of Jordan and over 100 Muslim clerics.  In this document, those who proclaim Christianity have proclaimed that the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are one in the same. Here is an excerpt:

The Task Before Us
“Let this common ground” – the dual common ground of love of God and of neighbor – “be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us,” your courageous letter urges. Indeed, in the generosity with which the letter is written you embody what you call for. We most heartily agree. Abandoning all “hatred and strife,” we must engage in interfaith dialogue as those who seek each other’s good, for the one God unceasingly seeks our good. Indeed, together with you we believe that we need to move beyond “a polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders” and work diligently together to reshape relations between our communities and our nations so that they genuinely reflect our common love for God and for one another.  Given the deep fissures in the relations between Christians and Muslims today, the task before us is daunting. And the stakes are great. The future of the world depends on our ability as Christians and Muslims to live together in peace. If we fail to make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony you correctly remind us that “our eternal souls” are at stake as well.  We are persuaded that our next step should be for our leaders at every level to meet together and begin the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another. It is with humility and hope that we receive your generous letter, and we commit ourselves to labor together in heart, soul, mind and strength for the objectives you so appropriately propose.

There is one (among many) problem with this:  Muslims do not believe in the Trinity. The Qu’ran forbids the belief.  Why is that a problem?  Because Christianity proclaims that Jesus Christ is God, the son.  (Hence, the name of the faith/religion?  Christianity?)  Muslims do not believe that Jesus Christ was the Savior.  They believe he was a prophet, a good guy. But, for Christians, the Bible, from cover to cover is about the Messiah.  The focus of the book is not about a good guy, but about the Savior for all of mankind.

(Kind of a big deal to us Christians.  The true followers of Jesus Christ, that is.)

The two faiths are incompatible. It is impossible to believe that Allah is the same is the Judeo-Christian God, when their book and our book define two different Gods.

One is a big ‘G’ God, the other is a little ‘g’ god.  And both sides claim to serve THE God. 

You may ask why this is really such a big deal.  Many of you have genuine concern and a heart for the Muslim community.  Let me be clear that I believe that there should be mutual respect and kindness toward all people, people of other faiths, people who have different lifestyles, and those who do not believe as I do.

HOWEVER, as a follower of Christ, our hope is to reach out in love, as only modeled in the mind and spirit of Jesus. Yet, Jesus never compromised who He was!  He never forsook his purpose and always maintained truth and honesty.  He was gracious, kindhearted, and stood upon truth. 

Without the full grace of the Holy Spirit, we WILL most certainly forsake a merciful attitude and come across in an unloving, un-Christlike manner. So our ONLY hope is full reliance on and constant prayer in the Lord.

It is easy to want to see good intent of these men and women, both the Muslim, and those who define themselves as Christians, in “reaching out” to each other.  But, I also see a power play with people who are very influential as primary proponents.  A person can be loving, kind, and respectful, and still maintain their integrity, belief system, and commitment to truth.  I DO believe that there are some who are genuinely ignorant of what they have signed onto.  It is possible that they did not fully read or understand, pick up on all of the seemingly small, albeit powerful statements with wild implications laced throughout.

The following video clip explains the inconsistencies of Islam and Christianity and the complications that Rick Warren, Robert Shuler, Bill Hybels, and others have created.  Essentially, they have renounced Christianity, as the Bible sets forth, for a new faith.

 

Essentially, as this video so effectively states, this document renounces any higher allegiance to Christ and places common ground – “A Common Word” (which as the creator of the video points out is a direct reference from the Qu’ran). If we don’t have Jesus, we have nothing. Jesus and his sacrifice are what make our faith transcendent and unique from all others.

Without this essential person, being Jesus Christ, the namesake of our “religion”, Christianity, one could argue that Allah were the same as the God we serve!

Alas, our Book, our entire reason for being is woven in the person hood of God the father, Christ, his son, and the Spirit that gives us power. This key element – the Trinity, is blasphemy to Muslims. This is what the Common Word has renounced.

Having said all of that, our task, as unwavering, uncompromising believers is enormous. The Bible foretells of the climax of this battle in the last days, when apostasy will be rampant and the muddling and mixing of faiths will occur.

It is absolutely essential, (I am talking to myself and praying to Christ, as I type) that I remain in Him – HIS word, HIS truth, begging and asking for the mind of Christ moment by moment, and throwing off anything that entangles, so that I can recognize the wolf in sheep’s clothing and then know how to properly respond. I can ONLY know that if I am in Him and He abides in me.

Further, I completely agree that there could be dialogue between the faiths. I started to say “should”, but changed it.  If there is not a mutual respect, as there is NOT many times from the Muslim community, particularly internationally, (relations within America are different, largely) then, communication is not possible.

A response from the Christian community would be appropriate and even a gesture of good will.  But I believe that we would have to respectfully, yet clearly disagree. We can agree on issues of morality, ethical and cultural values, but this in no way demands commonality in pledging the same God and matters of faith.

This letter is not kindness and peace, but weakness, a lack of principle, a lack of biblical knowledge, and a wavering spirit.

Finally, we must pray for Rick Warren and the men who have unified themselves with these precepts, along with the Muslim community. It is undeniable that many of these men and women have tremendous influence and that is a VERY scary prospect. Those who are not careful, guarded in Christ, and saturated in Scripture will be easily swayed. Again, while I believe that there may have been some well-meaning, albeit, ignorant people who signed this document, there are absolutely people who have an agenda.

A Dose of Self-Awareness – Just What the Doctor Ordered

Gauging where I should be.

Gauging where I should be.

I have a fever.  I think.  The thermometer isn’t the most reliable, stupid little thing.  I just bought it too.  Well, I feel like crap.  I guess if I pass out and wake up in the hospital I’ll get extra attention if necessary.  Thankfully, at least I’m not delusional, yet.  (Hey, watch it…)

In talking with a dear friend, I began to reflect (alright ramble) upon some heartache I’ve had in the last couple years.  Funny, when we stop and actually listen to what we say we could learn a few things.  Sometimes, we learn how stupid we sound. (That’s where I’m going.) This time I’m reflecting upon the stupid things I’ve said and done.

About four years ago, I realized something. I really should have been on the debate team in high school.  I would have won, hands down, every time.  If my “high school” me was my “up to a year ago” me, that is.  I’m good with words, quick-witted, bold, and unashamed. I’m confident in this.  If someone comes at me with an arrogant attitude and is uncivil, I will do everything in my power to demean, condescend, and put him or her in their place.  I have no tolerance for incivility or disrespect.  There was nothing more gratifying that knowing that I won the debate.  If only the respect of the audience watching.

I am ashamed to admit that this crept into my passion in issues of faith.  Though my original intention was always to speak for truth and for what was right, my intellect, witticism, and conscientiousness became the prized idol. Admiration from others and respect was the game.  I won, but really I lost.  I sought out debates, I was harsh, critical, brash.  Even in scenarios where I began just wanting to communicate my feelings to friends and loved ones, I would get overly sensitive.  I wanted to win.  My intent started pure, always, but I was taking God off of the throne and putting myself there instead.  I was Master of my own, with pawns at my disposal.  This was my sin.  My attitude caused a rift in relationships.  I was spikey, uncouth, ungracious, and provoking. Known as passionate, but a hot head in political issues and sensitive in forms of communication.

About as comforting as cuddling a porcupine.

What is so sad to me, is that I now realize, that though my passion began with fiery fervor for truth, sadly became about me and not about Christ. I was prideful.  He humbled me.

God cannot receive glory when I get in the way.  I was in the way.  In a BIG way.  Thankfully, albeit, painfully, He took me out of the way.  I want Him to receive the glory.  It is HIS truth that matters, NOT mine.  It matters NOT what I think, only what He thinks.  I must remember:

Philippians 2:3-7

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit, but consider others better than yourselves.  You should not look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature, God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but rather made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant”

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

November 14, 2011 1 comment

Courtesy National Geographic

Abstract

 September 11, 2001 was a day of tremendous loss and trauma.  Both people who were directly exposed and those who were indirectly exposed through media and second-hand accounts were shocked by what they heard and saw.  The effects of this tragedy rippled across the globe and have perpetuated an onslaught of post-traumatic stress disorder diagnoses based upon the stress that witnesses endured.  In this paper, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, will be discussed as it relates to the events of 9/11.

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AND THE 9/11 TERRORIST ATTACKS

Key Words

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Direct exposure

Indirect exposure

September 11th, 9/11

Ground Zero

Introduction

            The events that occurred on September 11, 2001 will be forever apart of history as one of the most traumatic and horrific days.  For those who directly survived the attacks, most are permanently altered, perhaps not physically, but emotionally.  And for those of us watched in horror as thousands of innocent lives were taken, we will forever have the images burned into our memories.  Many of us can not forget where we were that awful day.  For many people, this event was the first realization that this world is not the place they once thought it to be.  Rocked straight out of their comfortable self-portrait of harmony, suddenly everything was tainted with the possibility of violence and evil.  This event was one of the largest and most visible acts of violence ever carried out.  Because of the accessibility of technology and media, the world watched as violent, raw evil converged upon New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.  As a result of the worldwide spread of images through television and internet, thousands of people suffered trauma.  For first responders, survivors, firefighters, police, and scores of innocent bystanders, their ability to easily move beyond their first-hand witness of the events became difficult in the extreme.  Amidst the physical injuries and the respiratory issues that plague many who were there at Ground Zero, there are wounds that are unseen.  Scars that have wounded the mind, dampened the spirit, and cast a shadow on the heart are common for those who were there.  When life as it once was, even in a new light, is unable to continue, the American Psychiatric Association (2000) calls this post-traumatic stress disorder.

Definitions

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV(2000) defines post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as:

the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death injury or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate. (APA, 2000 p. 463)

Some events that are considered traumatic include:  military combat, violent personal assault (sexual assault, physical attack, robbery, etc.), being kidnapped, being taken hostage, terrorist attack, torture, incarceration as a prisoner of war or in a concentration camp, natural or manmade disasters, and others. (APA, 2000) Criteria for a PTSD diagnosis include:

  • The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:  the person experienced, witness, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others or the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
  • The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced, or re-lived, in one (or more) of the following ways:  Recurrent, distressing recollections of the event, through images, thoughts or perceptions.
  • Recurrent distressing dreams of the traumatic event
  • Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated)
  • Intense psychological distress at exposure cues that symbolize or resemble some aspect of the traumatic event.
  • Physiological reactivity when exposed to cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
  • Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three or more of the following:

Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma, efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma, or the inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma.

  • Marked diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • A feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Restricted range of affect or emotional responses
  • Sense of a foreshortened future or feelings of doom
  • Persistent symptoms of increased arousal as indicated by two or more

Difficulty falling or staying asleep

Irritability or outbursts of anger

Difficulty concentrating

Hypervigiliance

Exaggerated startle response, jumpiness

  • Duration of the disturbance is more than one month (APA, 2000)

To be diagnosed with PTSD, the disturbance must cause “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” (APA, 2000)

Direct Exposure

Direct exposure is defined as someone who “experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events involved actual or threatened death or serious injury” (APA, 2000, p. 467).

Indirect Exposure

Indirect traumatic exposure is defined as “knowledge of an event through a first person account of actual or threatened death or serious injury (irrespective of the relationship to the survivor)” (Zimering et al, 2006).   Relief workers responding after the towers fell, received direct exposure to traumas at the disaster site and indirect exposure to trauma via survivor accounts of the terrorist attacks. (2006)

September 11th (9/11)

September 11, 2001 also referred to as 9/11 is the day that a terrorist attack upon the United States of America resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 people.  New York City was attacked by two commercial jetliners that crashed into the Twin Towers, causing the fall of both buildings.  Two more airplanes were used as massive bombs, one hitting the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and one diverted by brave passengers, crashing into a field in Pennsylvania.

Ground Zero

Ground Zero is the common reference to the location of where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood and ultimately fell, resulting in a massive loss of life and an enormous pile of rubble and steel.

Statistics

PTSD is a serious and debilitating disorder.  It is estimated that the prevalence of PTSD in the United States is approximately 8%. (Kazi, Freund, Ironson, 2008) Though this disorder was once thought to occur only in veterans, we now know that it also civilians of all ages and walks of life.  It has no limits to culture or socioeconomic groups and can arise from many different traumas.  September 11th, was not exempt from these traumatic events.  Many of those who were directly and indirectly exposed to the tragic happenings of that day were traumatized, some resulting in classifiable PTSD.  In a speech given at Ground Zero, the speaker said, “Here we stand today as the Trade Center casts a shadow over all of us. (Kanarian, 2007, p. 121) An observer wondered what the speaker was talking about, noting that the World Trade Center was gone.

The speaker continued, “The World Trade Center will always cast a shadow over our minds for the rest of our lives; there is no getting over this one.” The observer then remarked, “His words were the truest I have heard relating to the World Trade Center attack and post-traumatic stress.” (p. 121)

Direct Exposure

            When talking about direct exposure as it relates to the 9/11 events, exposure characteristics such as:  injury, exposure to the dust cloud resulting from tower collapses, proximity to the World Trade Center or WTC site, personally witnessing specific horrific events, experiencing panic attacks during the attacks would qualify.  (Neria, DiGrande, & Adams, 2011Among retired firefighters, 22% were found to have symptoms of PTSD four to six years after the attacks (2011).  For those respondents who were at the WTC at the time of the attack, PTSD was almost twice as common compared with those who witnessed the attacks in person from outside the WTC (Bonanno et. al., 2006).  Individuals who were directly exposed to the terrorist attacks exhibited signs of PTSD at a rate of 20% (Zimering et al, 2006).

Indirect Exposure

PTSD was documented in individuals who were indirectly exposed to trauma that did not directly involve a family member or other close person. 4% of individuals living outside of the attack sites who were indirectly exposed to the tragedies via television were found to have symptoms of PTSD (Zimering et al, 2006).  These findings implore us to understand that health care providers should be sensitive to and aware of the enormous variability in response following a major national trauma. (Silver et al, 2004)  It is not only those who are directly exposed to traumatic events who suffer, though, obviously they are most gravely affected.  As Kazi, Freund, and Ironson (2008) state:

 Terrorist attacks may differ from the other traumas that are known to elicit PTSD, as in the case of 9/11, where survivors not only had to manage their own escape but had to witness a national disaster, fellow workers’ deaths, victims jumping out of high windows, physical ramifications of inhaling smoke and dust from the fire, and the demise of the entire buildings. This terrorist attack resulted in the American society’s questioning its fundamental belief of the world as a predictable, safe, and meaningful place to live. (p. 101)

In a national telephone survey of 560 adults three to five days following 9/11, 90 percent had one or more symptom of posttraumatic stress, with 44 percent to a substantial degree (Meisenhelder & Marcum, 2004).  Further, in another study, none of participants in a positive PTSD group reported a 9/11-related death or injury to a family member or close friend (Silver et al, 2004).  This finding supports the notion that PTSD from PTSD from indirect exposure can occur even in the absence of a personal connection a victim (2004).  The researchers state,

We have found significant psychological reactions across the U.S. after the September 11th attacks; our findings strongly suggest that the effects of these terror attacks were not limited to communities directly affected.  Instead, our data show that substantial effects of the events of September 11th rippled throughout the country. Importantly, the degree of psychological response to the September 11th attacks was not explained simply by degree of exposure or proximity to the trauma. Many individuals who lived hundreds of miles from the attacks or had low levels of exposure (i.e., individuals who watched the attacks live on TV and those who reported no direct exposure at all) reported high levels of symptomatology. (pp. 138-139)

Immediately following the attacks, three national studies found posttraumatic stress symptoms throughout the U.S. population (Neria, DiGrande & Adams, 2011). In a national telephone survey conducted within the first week following 9/11 44% of participants reported substantial stress reactions (2011). In a similar internet survey study, with a nationally representative sample of 2,273 adults, 4.3% reported a prevalence of PTSD that was significantly associated with the number of hours of television coverage of 9/11 (Neria, DiGrande & Adams, 2011).

It is clear that the events of September 11th had a tremendous, traumatic impact upon those who were directly exposed and those who were indirectly exposed. Until 9/11, little regarding indirect exposure to trauma has been studied, but is now, clear that there is a prevalent need of further study and examination.  Though it is certain that, naturally, those who were directly impacted by the events of that day were most traumatized, people who were indirectly exposed were also at great risk for tremendous stress and trauma.

Symptoms

            The symptoms of PTSD can be severely impairing to even normal daily activities for the sufferer.  Some symptoms are recalling or recollection, avoidant and numbing, severe, lasting emotional and affect change, hyper arousal or startle response, functional limitation, nightmares and intrusive thoughts, and survivor’s guilt.  (APA, 2000)  Many of these stress reactions are frequently caused by “triggers” that remind the sufferer of the events that were found to be traumatic (Kanarian, 2007).  Kanarian (2007) defines triggers as, “emotional trip wires that evoke memories of traumatic incidents.  They can be sights, sounds, smells, and feelings and are timeless, capable of making memories years later feel as if they occurred yesterday (Kanarian, 2007, p. 122).  When we are able to recognize what situations, sights, smells, or sounds trigger a stressful reaction within us, we are, thus, able to deal with them.  By learning the signs and symptoms of PTSD and strategies for dealing with the triggers, it is possible to become aware of a reaction within ourselves.  The severe affect change within people suffering from PTSD can manifest in edginess, irritability, nervousness, and easily startled (2007).  PTSD can also cause short-term memory loss that may result in repeating questions and trouble concentrating or focusing (2007).

Re-experiencing

Seeing the images that accompany that horrendous day in September can burn the memory into one’s mind, replaying over and over.  For those who were there at the site, stuffing the memories and pictures away is difficult.  As Kanarian (2007), “Even after you have forgotten an incident, one sight, smell, sound, or thought can bring you back to the moment and stimulate a vivid memory of a traumatic incident.” (p. 127)

In an online article about 9/11 survivors,

For about a year afterward [survivor, David Donovan] had nightmares and little appetite. The company hired psychiatrists, but he said he felt more comfortable talking with his colleagues who had been through the same experience. For a year and a half, he couldn’t fly and found being in a subway difficult. He said he still looks for the emergency exit when he’s in a large crowd.  (Ochs, 2011)

Another survivor reported feeling in a state of shock for weeks or months after 9/11 (Kazi, Freund, Ironson, 2008). She related feeling “dull,” had difficulty concentrating, and experienced visual hallucinations of objects falling. She was clinically depressed, crying daily, and felt “paralyzed,” after 8 months.

This survivor’s experience of re-experiencing was discussed,

Judy reported having post-traumatic stress disorder following this event. She admitted to having panic attacks when sitting in traffic on a bridge, overhearing stories about the tragedy, and at the thought of traveling by air. There was a time when the fire alarm was set off while she was in therapy, and she recalled having an overwhelming flashback of being on the 78th floor at the time of impact. She said that she thought that she might be thrown across the room. So she left therapy, walked 13 blocks until she found the subway, and then felt safe. She had difficulty watching the news or reading the newspaper for some time thereafter.  ‘There was all of this awful news coming out at me, so I had to focus only on healing myself and not to get caught up in it,’ she stated.(Squillace, 2003, p. 25)

Numbing

            In trying to cope with the traumatic events that one has witnessed, many times it is natural for a person suffering from PTSD to push the memories, emotions, fears, and feelings away.  Shutting down seems easier than continuing to relive the horror, thus they become numb and avoidant.  Because there are triggers that can continue to evoke a response in the traumatized, many times he or she will simply avoid any place, person, or situation that might bring about a stress-related response.  In the Newsday (Ochs, 2011) article mentioned prior, one survivor states that he simply could not function.  He began avoiding, even simple, daily activities, such as shaving.  He recalls staying in his bathrobe all day.  “I went into a total funk,” he had said (2011).  A first responder related his experience,

At first, it was discouraging to constantly pick up only parts, and after a while it stopped upsetting me. I realized that I was becoming numb to what would have been horrible to others. That is when I knew that I had to stop working and it was time to go home. (Squillace, 2003)

Survivor’s guilt

One survivor of the attacks of September 11th, said that he learned to handle triggers that might prompt a panic attack, such as a car making certain noises, but “the hardest,” he said, “was the survivor’s guilt.” (Ochs, 2011)  Survivor’s guilt can lead a person to ponder why they were spared when others were not.  Guilt colors the elation that might be naturally felt for surviving a traumatic event.  Questions about what more could have been done, why they made it, if they should have done something different, even if it meant their demise, are common.  As one survivor related,

‘There’s always this nagging guilt,’ he said. ‘Should I have stayed to help? What could I have done? The rational part of me knows I did the right thing. I’m not trained to rescue . . . but there’s always going to be a piece in the back of my mind: Could I have done something?’ (2011)

Finding Faith in 9/11

            The days that followed September 11th, 2001 were unique.  Many people, who ordinarily would not, flocked to churches across the nation.  Pews and benches were fuller than usual.  People were looking for reasons, safety, and solidarity.  This seemed to be a temporary comfort for many, but there are some whose faith was strengthened, who changed priorities and re-examined who they were, what life was about, and what purpose it had.  Genelle Guzman-McMillan (2011) is one who took her second chance at life and chose to make changes.  The last survivor pulled from the smoldering pile of Ground Zero, Guzman-McMillan (2011) was pinned under concrete and steel for over 24 hours.  During this time, she relates in her book that she drew near to the Lord, as her only source of survival.  She states,

I haven’t had any marked emotional ‘issues’ over the years as a result of being buried alive.  I mean it when I say that God was my psychiatrist, and still is today.  I have been blessed by never having a single nightmare about my experience.”  (p. 165)

Mental health professionals often remark about the tremendous benefits of “religious coping” with post-traumatic stress.  In particular noted are the feelings of comfort, collaboration, and connectedness evoked by faith and communities of faith (Meisenhelder & Marcum, 2004).

God may be a source of comfort and meaning in the midst of a senseless act. Seeking guidance and support through God decreases the sense of loneliness and isolation. Turning to religious faith brings an omnipotent and ever-present Partner into one’s life, lending a greater sense of control, which is a critical element to decreasing posttraumatic stress.  Lastly, connecting with a faith community entails a support system, a promotion of personal identity, and enhanced intimacy with others.  The combined benefits of positive religious coping result in lower perceived vulnerability, isolation, confusion, and, therefore, lower posttraumatic stress response (p. 157).

Witnessing a traumatic event often causes people to pause and reflect about the purpose of life and mortality.  Some people find tremendous comfort in their faith.  They have an assurance of control, even if they are not the ones who have that control, they know who does.  There are still others who are angry.  Rather than drawing toward their faith, they distance from it and some abandon it altogether.  They simply cannot process and find meaning in senseless tragedy.  But for those who remain faithful, they proclaim that they do not understand either.  That is faith, believing in what is unseen.  The bible gives great hope for those who have walked through a traumatic event.  Jesus said in John 14:27 (NIV),

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

There is great hope that in Christ we have assurance of peace.

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Guzman-McMillan, G. & Croyle, W. (2011). Angel in the rubble:  the miraculous rescue

of 9/11’s last survivor. New York, NY:  Howard Books.

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Bada Bing! to a Swing

September 3, 2011 2 comments

A swing set only works if the core structure is supported.

Earlier this summer, we decided that the kids needed a swing set. (I suppose need isn’t the right word, but you get the idea.) Rather than buy the flimsy set-up that most retail stores sell, we decided to look for kits and the materials needed to build a swing set. Trying to be the most economical and being tremendously blessed with a husband and father-in-law who have MacGyver skills, we determined that it was best to build the thing from scratch. Even the kits that provide most of the materials were way more expensive that simply piecing it out ourselves, a la carte style. (I can lump “myself” in, because I am lawfully married to Mr. Handyman. Other than that I can claim no credit.) Some lumber, chain, swing seats and stakes,

VOILA! We had fun for all ages under 12. Seems like a great, down home story right?

Then…

That’s right. Then happened.

Through no fault of my husband or father-in-law’s (and since I don’t get much credit, I’m not taking any blame either.) The stupid beam at the top began to warp in the elements after only a couple months. I never noticed it, because I’m just really observant when it comes to metal and wood, but my husband was concerned. So, after only a couple months the swing set was surrounded with yellow “caution” tape. (no, not really.) Kids were banned until further notice and inspection could occur. Even after we were pretty sure that it wouldn’t buckle, (again, we. I don’t know why…) my husband thought it would be safest to attach some 2×4’s (or was it 3×6?) beams to the middle of the structure with bolts.

Bada bing! Back in business. Fun ensues. Happy, happy, joy, joy!!

Last night, I read a passage in Psalms 18 –

Psalm 18:16-19
16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me. (NIV)

I was struck with this passage and noticed a couple of elements. First, the author uses the words “my” and “me” several times. Obviously, he is writing about himself when he uses the word “me.”

“took hold of me,”

“drew me out,”

“rescued me,”

“too strong for me,”

“confronted me,”

“brought me out,”

“rescued me,” a second time,

“delighted in me.”

Eight times in four verses, he uses this word. However, every time he uses a word that typically denotes focus upon the author, he uses it to refer back to who rescued him.

God.

Though there is a lot of “me, me, me, me,” the author uses each and every mark for the glory of God and what He did.

Secondly, there is the word, “my.” This word is used as a possessive for the following word.

my powerful enemy,”

my disaster,”

my support.”

If we took only these phrases of possession out from the passage, we get the clear idea that this dude is in trouble. He is clearly unable and incapable of overcoming some sort of task.  Anytime he refers to himself, he is conveying that he simply cannot continue alone as the situation stands.

There is the necessity of One more powerful to get him through, get him out, and get him to the place where he can stand the pressure.

I began to think of that swing set. Really we are very similar to a swing set. We go out into life and very soon the elements beat us down, warp us, and render us near inoperable, at times. The very material of our structure, our core, can cease to fulfill it’s purpose when we are shifty.

We are weathered and worn.

It’s not until the proper support is firmly attached to the very center of our being, that we are able to stand the pressure and weight of this world. Without it, we will certainly collapse at any unforeseeable moment.

When we firmly affix Christ to the center of our lives, we are able to withstand life.

Pushing and pulling, relationships, finances, jobs, kids, life, can weigh on us and if we are weathered, warped, and too worn out, we are unable to stand and fulfill our intended purpose.

Are you battered, uncertain about withstanding life’s pressures, and left without purpose?

Or are you clinging to Jesus, standing fast and firm, and have the certainty of pulling through, regardless of the weight of the world?

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