Monday, August 13, 2018

Depression: Fighting Back

Here are some suggestions that will push back the darkness of depression. Try to practice them every day whether you feel like it or not. Blessings.

GRAPES is a mnemonic acronym for
  • G is for be Gentle to yourself / Practice Gratitude
  • R is for Relaxation
  • A is for Accomplishment
  • P is for Pleasure
  • E is for Exercise
  • S is for Social / Spiritual
I try to do all of these every day of my life, whether or not I am depressed. GRAPES really works for me. For example, I might pay some bills, do my laundry, or clean my kitchen - that would be an accomplishment. And I might go to the local donut shop or coffeehouse to socialize there with friends or strangers. Or I might call up a friend and go for a brisk walk in the park for an hour - that would be both social and exercise, or just exercise if I walk alone which is also fine. The more of these I do the better I feel, though I know from experience that accomplishment and social are the most effective for me. Sounds like a pain in the ass, right? Well, it's not; it now comes naturally to me to do all six every day, and it makes a big difference.” {A testimony}
Elaborating on these activities:
Gentle with yourself: One aspect of depressive toxicity is negative self-talk; down-putting, self-critical thoughts. The first step is to become aware of your thoughts. Then practice getting outside the stream of negative or useless thinking into a place of deep self-acceptance, receiving forgiveness, and feeling the Love of God. This is a process. Be patient with yourself. Gratitude: The Bible teaches us to be thankful in all situations [1Thes.5:18]. This is a choice that, when made consistently, lifts our souls heavenward.
Relaxation: Peace is not an illusion; it is real and attainable. Jesus said “Peace I give to you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives.” Jn 14:27 Be still and know that He is God. Psalm 46:10. Immerse yourself in nature. Look for beauty. Breathe deep. In the universal sense, all is well in Christ.
Accomplishment: Every day do something that manifests what you value most in life. Be a physical manifestation of your values. Get something done, no matter how small.
Pleasure: Enjoy something every day: Nature. Children. Pet/s. Notice the Beauty all around you. Inspirational literature. Music. A pleasant conversation. Food.  etc.
Exercize: Your body is built for movement. The pleasure chemicals in the brain are released with physical activity. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. Feel the wonder of your body. Don't be critical of the shape or condition of your body; be thankful for the miracle that it is!
Social/Spiritual: We live in the context of relationships, and none of us does well in isolation. Stay connected with God and with friends with whom you can be authentic. If you are driving your friends away with negativity, get some therapy. Dump and process your negativity with the therapist and learn how to be a better friend. If there is anything between you and God, process through it. Remember God loves you more than you have ever or will ever love anyone; whether you can feel it or not! Love someone.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Quiet Place

There is a quiet place within like an oasis in the deserts of the soul; like a cabin in the mountains or a solitary cottage by the ocean, like a clean, fresh forest.
In this place the smoke of this world is gently cleared away by the breath of the Holy Spirit, and lucidity arises like the dawning of the sun, shining brighter and brighter.
In this ever-new clarity, the meanings of the words "peace, freedom, abundant life, joy and love" are experienced as a palpable, inner reality. Those words--the reality of them--are like colors in the rainbow, but in this place they are experienced holistically, like white Light.
Here all the secret, hidden, known or unknown desires of the soul are fulfilled. Here we merge with the God of this universe, or rather discover at a deepening level of the soul, our perpetual at-one-ment with Him/Her. Jesus is experienced here as our Friend. His Grace covers all our continuing character flaws--obliterates them like light obliterates darkness.  We may or may not experience ecstacy, and we continue to be imperfect human beings with character defects, and we continue to have the tribulations that Jesus plainly told us we would have; but it does not matter! We know  that everything is exactly perfect! The universe is in the domain of its God Who is Love. The darkness is being allowed because of All-Powerful  Love.  We embrace and are embraced by Eternal Life.  We are, even now, in Eternity; at one with Eternity and the Universe, through Christ in us and in God. Now we proceed in peaceful Love, Compassion, Kindness, Strength and Truth. And even though we cannot remain in this Lucidity, as the disciples could not remain on the Mount of Transfiguration, we have the unshakable foundation of this Truth underneath us as we walk through whatever dark valleys and challenges lie ahead. We have experienced a foretaste of the Heaven that lies ahead and that secretly embraces, permeates and transcends all of life.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Life--Valuing and Living It

Take a moment to get in touch with the value of your life. How valuable is your life? And the lives of your loved ones? Think of your "awesomely made" body; your mysterious and wonderful mind. Feel the beating of your faithful, consistent heart, pushing life-nourishing blood through your veins, into capillaries, supplying each one of your 120 trillion cells, each of which is a microscopic universe of life supporting activity in which warfare is conducted against harmful invaders; proteins produced, cells replicated.  You are being sustained, maintained and protected by your cells as they work together collaboratively with the single goal of keeping you alive and conscious! You are a conglomerate of living systems working harmoniously to keep you alive. You had absolutely nothing to do with this miraculous gift, but you use your mysterious, powerful mind to enhance or deter it through the lifestyles you choose; the choices you make; the very thoughts that you think.

     Most of this goes on unnoticed; but I am asking you to notice it. The deeper you go into awareness of your life and the biological and psychological processes of your life, of life itself, the more amazed you will become. The more gifted you will feel. And thankful to the Giver. This is an aspect of maturity.
I don't want to wait until I or someone I love gets the big, bad diagnosis or has a life-threatening accident to get in touch with the value of my life and the lives of my loved ones. I want to embrace the miraculous gift of life on this incredibly beautiful and life-sustaining earth every day--every moment if possible. I will not fear death [I know that it continues beyond death] but I will allow it to evoke within me the gift of valuing life on this earth, and doing my best to be a good steward of my allotted time here. And for me that means bringing as much of the Love and Truth of Jesus Christ into this world as possible. I have spent some time trying to think of a better way to live, and I cannot.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Arena of Love and Truth

If you are in the arena of human endeavor, trying to bring more love and truth into the world, you will make some mistakes. And those little souls, sitting on the sidelines, will delight in pointing them out and harping on them. Your brothers and sisters, however--those who are also in the arena--will encourage you, forgive and be gracious to you, because they are aware of the mistakes they have made in this great endeavor. We must not waste our time being indignant toward those on the sidelines, nor trying to defend ourselves against their persistent accusations, which would simply distract us from the needed efforts. We have compassion for them, pray for them, invite them into the the joyful endeavor, remembering that they "know not what they do." Then we carry on. Jesus did not chase Judas around trying to get him to "get it."

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Authority of Mind

How do you want to feel?  Feel that way!
What thoughts do you prefer to think? Think those thoughts!
What do you want to do with your frustration and anger? Do it! [But do not sin!]
How much peace do you desire?  Receive it!  It is a gift!
How free do you want to feel?  Wake up! You are free!
How much love do you want to receive?  Give that much and you will discover that you receive it!

If you cannot do these things, recognize that there are forces beyond you that control or influence you. [Who has authority of your mind and heart?] Jesus will enable you to master these forces.  Or you may continue to suffer. You are free to do so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Opioid Addiction

Churches Work to Combat Opioid Crisis

In the last few years, much attention has focused on a drug problem decimating American communities: addition to opioids. In 2016, Christianity Today devoted an entire issue to the problem. In response Congress has passed some legislation, signed into law by the President. Thankfully churches have stepped up in communities across the country to help alleviate the problem.
In Indianapolis several local churches have partnered with the Overdose Lifeline to receive training and tools to help addicted people in their communities:
The group meets inside Carmel Christian Church—a church that's embraced the call to action to help stop the opioid epidemic.
Pastor Jerry Zehr is part of a new effort by the Overdose Lifeline to form an interfaith coalition and develop a strategic plan for churches to be a powerful force in the battle against addiction.
"We are trying to be a place, a recovery church, a place where people can come to find a sense of hope and grace and love and that they'll be encouraged rather than judged," Zehr said.
At just their second meeting, members received a hands-on lesson on Naloxone and a free Narcan kit for faith leaders.
Helping those addicted to opioids can be complicated. In a helpful piece (Hope for America’s Opioid Epidemic Is Grace in a Syringe), an emergency physician in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, explains why recovery is often a long and difficult road:
While the goal for most users attending recovery programs is to get clean, the process is extremely difficult. Because opioid use permanently changes the structure and chemistry of the brain’s reward and pleasure systems and the body’s perception of pain, withdrawal is excruciating and the rate of relapse is exceptionally high: around 90 percent despite the most effective therapies. Overdoses happen most frequently when an addict relapses after a period of abstinence because their body’s tolerance to the drug drops substantially, and the same dose that may have only barely touched their pain previously is now lethally potent. The drug depresses the user’s respiratory and central nervous system so much that they stop breathing, and the resulting lack of oxygen quickly leads to brain and vital organ injury and minutes later to cardiac arrest. This means that one of the most lethal periods in an opioid addict’s struggle—the time they are most likely to overdose—is when they are trying to get clean.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Religious Freedom and Sexual Freedom

Below is a quote from Denison Forum regarding the retirement of judge Anthony Kennedy. His comments about religious freedom in his majority opinion statement seem to be important for all religious folks to know and remember.

Anthony Kennedy is best known as the "swing vote" on many rulings across his tenure. One biography describes him as "a surprising and unpredictable justice on the Supreme Court, displaying thoughtful independence that at times, fails to reflect any particular ideology."
Most significantly, he wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 five-to-four ruling guaranteeing the right to same-sex marriage. His vote not only legalized gay marriage in this country—it also opened the way to the escalating conflict between religious freedom and sexual freedom we are witnessing today.
In his opinion, Justice Kennedy stated: "It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned."
He added: "The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths."