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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

Becoming Malleable – Part 2

September 11, 2009 1 comment

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
       and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

God:  Alpha, Omega. Beginning and End. Counselor. Divine. Everlasting. Father. Great I AM. Holy. Infinite. Just. King of kings. Lord of lords. Mighty. Name above all names. Omnipotent. Purifier.

Those are only a few of the many descriptions of God.  Last time I wrote about God as our Purifier, that which can purify us.  No matter our bruises, no matter our hurts, no matter.  He can purify us.  Purifying is more than just dusting off and setting up right again.  It’s more than just the rinsing off of our outer vessel.  Purification is the cleansing within, without, to the most seemingly unreachable areas of our souls. 

My dad is a big man.  I’m talkin’ 6’4″, Baloo the Bear lookin’.  You know what I’m talkin’ about.  If you’ve ever seen The Jungle Book, you’re probably familiar with Baloo’s frequent need to have his back scratched.  He simply pulls up a tree and works it ’til that itch is a-gone-r.  My dad used to do that.  Well, not quite, he never ripped up the trees, but he had this one corner in the house that he would get right up to, to scratch.  He looked just like Baloo.  Though he seemed to take care of that itch, that was so nearly impossible to reach without added assistance, it always came back. 

I guess for the Believer we could add “backscratcher” to God’s roles. (Wait, I’d better capitalize that..Backscratcher, ah better.)  We have a place that just seems to creep up on us.  It’s annoying, it’s there until we take care of it.  Many times it comes back.  We live in a tainted world, we are bound to end up with at least an itch, now and then.  As we discussed last time, purification is a process.  It’s not magic.  You don’t suddenly say the “sinner’s prayer” and then have a lifetime free from the scathing of this life.  But we can get to the place where we just need an occasional backscratch.  Many times though, it takes effort on our part to remove allergens.  What might those be?  Well, what do we feed ourselves?  Allergens are in food, in the air.  We are exposed to allergens daily.  It is our resistance that allows us to function normally without reaction to the allergens. 

We are surrounded by pollutants.  Some that we can’t directly control.  Television is full of toxicity to our soul.  You can’t go without seeing a commercial without being subjected to some soft-porn ad for fast food today.  Certain dramatic shows and sitcoms are laced with perversion and blatant disregard for morality. Yet…somehow…our radar for those things doesn’t register.  Shouldn’t alarms go off?  WARNING! WARNING!  What I am mentally digesting could cause a spiritual decline later!!  (Danger, Will Robinson!)  You watch that medical drama and instead of seeing a doctor heroically save his patient, he’s shacked up with the nurse in the next room and his wife is waiting for him at home.  Or remember Friends?  I know, many of you will think I am a radical for slamming our most beloved sitcom.  But, what is sad is that I rarely ever thought about the poison that spewed from those story lines.  Years later, I cringe.  Allergens.  How ’bout that music, you know that song with the crazy beat and the clever electro acoustics?  (“Wait, what did she just say?? Oh, nevermind, you can barely hear it, that beat is SICK!”) Or how about sharing that bit of juicy news about…you know who…and you know what with…Do you need the dirt on people?  Some of us might say, “oh, well, I just thought I’d share to pray for them.” Is that true?  Or is just sweet sugar with a sulfer-laced center? 

Our spiritual output is a direct result of our mental intake.  Let me repeat that for my own learning:  Our spiritual output is a direct result of our mental intake.   What goes in must come out.  If we regularly ingest the allergens that pollute this world, we will have a spiritual reaction.  But, you know, sometimes, we develop resistance to the allergens.  This can happen in two ways:  First, we are so polluted with them, we don’t notice the reaction or we don’t have a reaction, our bodies are numb to the effects.  Secondly, and hopefully this is the reason, we fill ourselves with Christ.  We become resistant to the pollutants, because we would rather have Jesus, than the hives that result from an overindulgence in the allergens of this world.  Now there are still things that we are going to be exposed to involuntarily.  Allergens in the air.  Not ingested, but we are exposed to nonetheless.  We continue to draw upon the Lord and ask for that occasional backscratch.  We could all take a personal inventory of our allergen report.

In His service,

Jennifer

A Review of The Life You’ve Always Wanted by Jon Ortberg

I have read The Life You’ve Always Wanted by Jon Ortberg twice now. This book, when reflected upon can challenge our thinking. Here is my review and brief reflection. I would encourage you to check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

When one looks at his life, what is it that he sees? Is he full of regret? Is he bored? Does he crave more? When we accept the status quo we are bound to be disappointed. This world offers only emptiness on a silver-plated platter. While science proclaims that the sun is the center of the solar system, humanity proclaims “self” as the center of the universe. We must understand that this disappointment results not just from a lacking self-image, as this world would claim, but from failure to be who God intended us to be. When we come to the end of ourselves, we begin to see beyond the failures. If we allow God the central role in our lives it is possible to revert to the person we were destined to be. The fairytale is possible!
God does not simply want to repair our brokenness. He desires a full restoration. If we allow him, a metamorphosis can take place, a purposeful, intentional “morphing” into the creature God originally designed. When morphing happens, we no longer go through the motions of what Jesus would do; we actually want to do them. We become Christ-like.
While transformation is certainly possible, sometimes, without firm commitment a pseudo-transformation can occur, one without genuine morphing. There is vast difference between training to be like Christ and trying to be like Christ. Some questions we can ask ourselves are: Am I spiritually “inauthentic”? Am I becoming judgmental, exclusive, or proud? Am I becoming more approachable or less? Am I growing weary of pursuing spiritual growth? And am I measuring my spiritual life in superficial ways? Training encompasses a range of personal and intentional actions. Slowing down and resisting the “hurry sickness” that many of us suffer from is one. When we release ourselves from the daily demands that unnecessarily fill our schedule and divert our attention we are able to live in the moment. Some symptoms of “hurry sickness” are: finding yourself rushing even when there is no need to rush, underlying tension between family members, setting up mock races for others that really are about your need to hurry, a loss of gratitude and wonder, and indulgence in self-destructive behaviors. By deliberately slowing ourselves down, we can recover from the incessant need to rush. This is beneficial for both our families and ourselves; we must learn to take solitude for ourselves.
We can live an undivided life, one of simplicity and emphasis on Jesus. We can achieve all this by having a well-ordered heart.
Our sinful desire for self-elevation and experiencing the freedom from our need to impress others is another way we can morph. Society encourages us to surrender only to our own gratification and self-preservation. Getting ahead, no matter the cost, whether it is relationships, time, or money, is the ultimate goal for this world. Confession, freedom from peer approval, and meditation on scripture are all necessary to morph into the person God intended us to be.
Concrete Response
I have a blog. I don’t get to write as often as I want, but when I do, I enjoy it immensely. While I believe that God has given me an ability to effectively communicate, I sometimes rely too much on the opinions of others. My original and overall intent is pure; I want to inspire others to draw close to Christ. I want people to reflect on their lives, their relationships, their churches, and their country. I want to challenge people to go further, think deeper, and wake up! But, occasionally, there is the less than honorable part of me, that prideful seed, that craves that extra pat on the back. Don’t mistake me; it is always nice to be appreciated. But that beast needs to remain tame, lest it get out of control. What begins as a demonstration of uniqueness can suddenly be an invitation for ego inflation.
Years ago, when complimented I would retort a faux-modesty bit, “No…really?” God gifts us each individually. So long as we recognize the Creator of our talent and give Him glory, we maintain an appropriate balance of humility and grace. This world encourages the “approval addiction.” Consequently, people live in bondage to the opinions of others. (Ortberg, 1997/2002) It is ok to recognize our gifts, but when we are intensely aware of them we may be suffering from the “messiah complex.” (1997/2002) The author perceptively reminds us that there was only one person who never suffered from the “messiah complex” and he was the Messiah. (1997/2002)
Reflection
The author states, “Noone’s approval will affect us unless we grant it credibility and status.” (Ortberg, 1997/2002) This statement struck me. I had never really considered this fact. Ortberg (1997/2002) does an excellent job at illuminating the struggle of people in their “approval addiction.” However, he fails to touch on the underlying causes of this tendency. It is highly beneficial to recognize our proclivity toward this issue. It would be even more beneficial to look deeper into what need, specifically, we are trying to meet, that, perhaps, wasn’t met in the past. Maybe we were not validated enough by our parents. Could there is some type of abuse or neglect from childhood? Are there current tensions or stresses that are causing this: strained relationships, work, or financial problems? Many times our actions are reflective of dysfunctions that have not been dealt with. Simply confronting the symptoms without understanding the root of the problem will not efficiently free us from this tendency. Ultimately, all sin, including the “approval addiction” is rooted in the fall of man and his inherited carnal nature. But even more specifically, we are constantly barraged with the struggles of life and the failings of ourselves and others. When we recognize both of these facts we can move forward. We come to the end of ourselves and can gladly submit to the loving care and restoration of Christ. With Christ’s help and the support of mature, godly people, we can face the hurts of the past and remove their hold on our lives.
Action
Jon Ortberg (1997/2002) does a wonderful job at providing steps and suggestions to achieve the goals he highlights. We don’t have to wonder, “That’s great. Now what?” He encourages specific actions that can assist us on our personal journey. Now that I have read through the book, I want to skim back through and take a personal inventory. I alluded to my occasional, personal struggle with “approval addiction.” While I can immediately think of past issues that contribute to that tendency, I also believe it to be important that I get before God and ask Him to reveal those things to me. I pray that He will mould me in such a way that I only have to seek His approval. A sense of our abilities and talents is healthy. But it is wise to examine our motivations and the intensity of our focus.
I also want to attempt to slow down. I have three children. I have laundry and dishes, bills and dusting. There may be no deadlines. I may be too wiped to even think about tackling the mountain of laundry, but still I hurry. I suffer from “hurry sickness.” I read this book years ago, but one thing that stuck with me was Ortberg’s (1997/2002) story about his kids doing the “dee dah day dance.” I want to take time to celebrate my kids and their everyday joys. It will have to be an intentional effort, but I know it’s worth it, to me and to them. I need to slow down and simplify.

Getting Punched in the Gut

“What?! I….what? I’m sorry, I….don’t even…I…can’t….”

Those words pretty much summed up my reaction. What do you say? How can you even respond when you thought that you knew someone. Oh, you knew they were going through a “rough patch,” but…this? What…do…you say…when you find out that your friend was living a “double life?” What do you say when you realize that….they, for whatever reason, didn’t feel they could come to you?
You wonder,
“Didn’t they trust me?”
“Why did they let it get this far?”
“Why didn’t I see it?”
“I should have done more…but, how could I have known?”
You go from shock, to anger, to sadness, back to shock. Around and around the merry-go-round in a park with no amusement. Guilt, rage, tears….
You know what I’m talking about, right? I would seriously doubt that anyone reading this has never had someone they loved or knew or thought you knew, who you just couldn’t even imagine what was going on behind closed doors.

Yet, I know about Grace.

I know because I accepted grace. Its the only salve for our deepest wounds. Its the warmth that we feel in the coldest, darkest, pits of life. It releases us from the shackles of addiction, abuse, sin. Most of us though, walk around content in our jaded reality. Life throws punches and we are content to walk around with black eyes. Some of us try to use make up to somehow cover up the the wounds, but its still there…Some of us still, wear it like a badge that gives us, the right. We can wear a chip on our shoulder, because we didn’t put the chip there. But we’ll leave it for all to see, just…in…case.
“They don’t know what I’ve been through.”
“Don’t get too close, I’ve been hurt…see?”

For me, I see this situation through a variety of lenses. I can put on my “therapist” glasses and see the addiction as a subconscious drive. I can put on my “Jesus” glasses and choose to look at them with compassion and love. I can put on my “introspective” glasses, the ones that help me to remember, I have had hurts, I have sinned, but I am free, glory to God alone. I can put on my “righteous anger” glasses, the ones that allow me to be hurt, angry at the consequences of the hidden, secret decisions that have been made, but still love them just the same.

Then there are the “judgement” glasses…When people look at the church, they think we all have our “judgement” glasses on….a lot of us do…judgement glasses don’t account for anything else, but the crime. They allow the wearer to be solely focused on the what was done. Love is blinded, forgiveness is blinded, our own journey from sin to grace, also sadly blinded.
Wearing the judgement glasses is like wearing sunglasses at night. We don’t need ’em, If we have accepted God’s grace, we’ve been brought into the light.

To see this situation clearly, completely, I believe I need all the lenses, barring the “judgement ones.” So really I don’t have an answer to my original question. I am simply praying, asking God to fit me with lenses that allow me to see clearly, I won’t fully understand, but I need Divine glasses for my imperfect human eyes. Lenses to help me focus where I should. That is my prayer today.

Jennifer

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