Category Archives: Mental and Emotional Health

Beware Fall Fall-out, Shelter Needed from Death by Watching…

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As the temperatures descend and the evenings get chilly most of us move indoors.  Fall leaves fly and the center of family life changes from the backyard and the patio grill to the family room and the entertainment center.  It is a natural change but beware the subtle fall-out that fall may bring to your family nest.

Fall-out is a term that was invented in the nineteen-forties to describe a phenomenon connected to the after-math of a nuclear blast.  Fall-out is the word used for the slow descent of minute particles of toxic radio-active debris into the atmosphere. “Fall-out” expands outward from the site of an atomic explosion and becomes largely invisible, extremely poisonous and can lead to a slow-death for those who come in contact with it.  While the metaphor is admittedly a bit overstated, the sad truth is that the effects of a fall-winter-and-spring spent tied to an entertainment center, can produce its own version of a deadly fall-out—a deadly fall-out that leads to what can only be termed “life-decay.”

Today the number one form of leisure activity in the United States is T.V. watching.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation “American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television more than any other single activity other than sleeping.  By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching T.V.”  Former president George Bush on C-SPAN in an interview about American T.V. consumption stated, “They put an off button on the T.V. for a reason.  Turn it off…I don’t watch much T.V.  His wife Laura Bush an ex-librarian and reading advocate categorically stated, “Children cannot learn to read by watching television.  Television is just background noise and a distraction.”  Prominent voices seem to agree that too much T.V. watching is not a good thing.  

If the inordinate amount of wasted time spent by children and others watching were not enough there are other deleterious effects linked with excess T.V.  It should be pointed out that—for every hour spent in front of the tube—over fifteen minutes of that hour is spent solely in the viewing of advertising.  Commercials are the centerpiece of programming and are meant to penetrate our minds with thoughts of consumption, need and greed.  Jerry Mander, an expert on media and its effects on society explains, “While watching television, the viewer is not seeing the world as it is.  He or she is looking at a world created by advertising.  Television programs are put together with the conscious attitude of promoting a consumer society.  The fall-out of television advertising overload is a spirit-poisoning, self indulgent attitude that subtly begins to creep in and controls us.  The consequence for our society is an ever-expanding consumerism that keeps us all knowing exactly what we must obtain next if we are to be truly happy.

Consumerism isn’t the only kind of harmful fallout American families who are glued to the tube are susceptible to.  The harmful fallout from T.V. watching is not limited to the effects of overdosing on advertising.  In 2014, the number one type of T.V. programming was “Reality T.V.” a popular style of programming with its own set of dangers.  “Reality T.V.” is that genre of T.V. that has no real story, no content, it is just watching someone else experiencing some part of life while you sit back and voyeuristically observe.

Millions of people each night settle for living life vicariously through others while life passes them by.  They watch the loves, the losses, the adventures, the successes, of strangers on the small screen while experiencing little “true living” themselves.  Reality T.V. is a type of video entertainment fraught with serious fallout. We are on the verge of becoming a nation who “loves to watch” above all else.  We put on hold our emotional, our physical and our spiritual interactions—in order to spend hours watching—and the result is a numbing slow death to what it means to be human beings created in the image of God with a plan and a purpose.

This fall as you move indoors consider the invisible fall fall-out your family becomes vulnerable to as you face off with the entertainment center once again.  Pay attention to how much time you spend in front of screens—inactive and focused on “synthetic life” with its demands and absorptions.  As the leaves fall why not consider turning over a new leaf and make each hour of each day more productive and full of living and giving.  You may need to schedule some alternative activities to fill the vacuum left by fewer hours in front of the T.V.  Why not take a walk and talk to God, prepare a home cooked meal with the family and catch up on small talk, attend a small group fellowship with friends, go for a Starbuck’s with your spouse and have some “couples time”, or get creative and start that home improvement project you’ve been putting off.  Experience LIFE that’s what living is all about!

Contemplate the reality that we are all God’s workmanship created for a life time of living out good works that He has planned for us (see Eph. 2:10).  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to miss out on the abundant life God planned for me because I fell numb under the effects of video fall-out, a life-decaying—death—by watching.

 

 

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Rethinking Beauty Part 2

In part 1 of this series I discussed in detail the fact that most women whether they think they are beautiful or unbeautiful  struggle with talking honestly about beauty…Here I pick up where I left off and continue on with a discussion of–what incorruptible spiritual beauty really is!

…If we don’t believe we fit the narrow stereotype society says is beautiful; talking about what beauty entails–tends to make us feel inferior, inadequate and just plain not good enough.

What I think is interesting however is that we have been fed a bill of goods about what true feminine beauty is.  In centuries past before visual media could be blasted throughout the known world—the social norms for beauty were wider.  You had a few very beautiful girls in your community and you also had some not so beautiful ones–but the community determined what beauty was and most women fell somewhere in the middle.

Today however it is much different from—those days gone by—today the media—decides what is beautiful and then airbrushes it and sends it around the world.

While the average size of a woman in the U.S. is a 14, Madison Ave has decided that “what beautiful is” is a size 0 or 2 and they reinforce their taste by featuring only models, actresses and spokespersons that fit that narrow grid.

And ladies it is not only those who think that they are “unbeautiful” who have it bad!

Those who think they might possibly be beautiful, also struggle because they know that beauty is fleeting and that they can age, change, or fall out of style and be un-beautiful again in a flash.

If the truth be known, even the most physically beautiful women wonder how long they can hold on to their beauty.

So you see, the pressure to be beautiful and keep your beauty in our society is an equal opportunity crazy maker.

But the question is–are we really viewing beauty accurately? –Or are we viewing the entire subject through a faulty lens?

Because–whether society will ever recognize it or not, God says true and lasting beauty is on the inside of a woman!  The Bible is emphatic about exhorting women not to be absorbed with outer beauty but to build up the hidden person of the heart.

I Peter 3:3-4 tells us, Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel–rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. I Peter 3:3-4

Now to be brutally honest when I first came upon this verse years ago I hated it with a passion. I felt it was unfair that God should show a discretionary bias towards a gentle and quiet woman.  This was my opinion, because in my mind, He had created me the polar opposite of the “gentle and quiet” stereotype that I believed He deemed beautiful.

Upon closer examination however, I was surprised to find out that the terms translated “gentleness” and “quietness” in English in the NT — did not mean exactly what I believed them to mean.

“Gentle” is the translation of the Greek word praeos, a word that is routinely translated in the NT as “meek”.  When Jesus referred to himself,  “meek” was the word that he was most likely to choose. Today the term meek tends to carry with it an idea of passivity and subservience, but it must be understood: the Biblical concept of meekness is different.

In the first century “meekness was a good thing” and meek was one of the great Greek ethical words. Meekness is strength under the control of God; it is the quality or characteristic of being even-tempered and having composure in every situation.

The term “quiet” in 1Pet. 3:3-4 is also different than we might think.  The Greek word translated quiet is better translated “restful” or “tranquil.” It has nothing to do with “not talking” or being “silent” but instead depicts a relaxed God-controlled disposition.

Perhaps what stands out to me most about both of these biblical characteristics is that they are qualities that do not come “NATURAL” to anyone. They are not qualities born of a personality type but rather born of the Holy Spirit of God working in one’s life.

I LIKE THAT, because God is not expecting me to shed–the personality that He has given me, but He is instead calling me to submit all that I am to Him–that my personality might be channeled appropriately in a Christlike way.

And on rare occasions in my own life I have actually witnessed “strength with composure” and “a relaxed God-controlled” spirit coming forth as a result of the Holy Spirit working in me.  It does not involve me not being me, but me– surrendering who he has made me be–to His Spirit and His divine superintending of my life.

In Eccl. 3, God promises that He makes everything beautiful in His time Eccl. 3:11. By His hand he works miracles in us that beautify us.  He places us in situations and circumstances that make beauty come forth and sometimes the places where beauty blossoms forth the strongest are in the most difficult places of life.

In man’s realm time diminishes beauty, while in God’s realm time perfects beauty—Beth Moore

I love God’s realm don’t you!

It takes a lot of courage to say this, but the truth is: I am beautiful as I am.  I have the looks and the shape that was gifted to me.  My breasts are no longer perky like when I was younger and my hips are wider than a fashion model’s–but for this I am glad, for these are the signs of a well-lived life! and meanwhile I know that God is at work on the inside of me—gracing me with his incorruptible beauty and making me more beautiful that I ever dreamed possible.

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Passing on Wisdom: The Art of Mentoring

 

Throughout history, training in the areas of marital life, childbearing, mothering and homemaking have always been lessons best passed on through one-on-one relationships.  Generation to generation, the most important of life’s skills have been passed on informally in the context of community.  “True wisdom” has continued down a chain linking older to younger and more experienced to less experienced for millennia. The term given to this life-driven kind of guidance is mentoring. 

      

           What is a Mentor?

 

 

The English word “mentor” has ancient origins; it is derived from Homer’s Odyssey.  In this Greek classic, Odysseus goes off to war and turns the guidance of his son, Telemachus, over to his friend, Mentor.  With his father gone, the boy is “mentored” by Mentor in the paths of life.  In the Bible, we see mentoring as the major means of educating women. Naomi takes on the guidance of her daughter-in-law, Ruth, Mordecai is a voice into the life of Esther and Elizabeth serves as a mentor to Mary.  The basis of the relationship is that the mentor has authority in the mentee’s life.  Due to this responsibility of speaking into the life of another, a mentor is usually a rare type of person. Mentors are individuals of unimpeachable credibility whose advice rings true. They are people whose past achievements back up their counsel and whose diverse experiences are what qualify them.  The accomplishments of the mentor should correspond with the area that she is mentoring in. For example, if you are a mentor for mothers, it is more important that you have raised a houseful of healthy children than that you possess a college degree. 

 

Why is Experience the key?

 

 

Experience is the key to mentoring because mentors base their life-shaping instructions on their real life experiences rather than the teaching of empirical knowledge.  The mentor imparts what she’s learned through sharing stories, anecdotes and experiences, not through covering materials or working through a curriculum. Mentoring requires an intimate relationship characterized by vulnerability and spontaneity.

During mentoring, training occurs in a free-flowing informal exchange.  Mentoring takes place through conversation and hearty dialogue rather than monologue. A mentor is not a college professor in front of a classroom surrounded by students taking notes. Mentoring is less formal than teaching and more about the individual being mentored than the information that is being exchanged. It is because of this unique characteristic of mentoring that the mentor must check any personal agenda at the door. 

 

 No-Agenda required!

 

 

In short, mentoring is not about one person living their life through another person.  Serving as a mentor is not about creating a mini-you. The mentee is a unique individual with unique talents and abilities who is following their own God-ordained course in life.  An overriding theme inmentoring is the intention to help someone help themselves. Wise mentors recognize that their guidance is most appreciated when it’s specifically asked for.  They offer up plenty of possible suggestions to their mentees without requiring a specific course of action.  They refrain as much as possible from telling their mentee what to do.  It is as if the mentor and mentee are driving down the road of life together.  The mentee is the one in the driver’s seat and the mentor is riding shot gun.  The mentor’s job is to ride along offering up advice and warning the driver about approaching bumps and turns but the mentor never takes the steering wheel and begins driving the car herself.

   

 

What about Trust?

 

 

A solid mentor-mentee relationship is rooted in trust.  Trust has to be established from the beginning of the relationship and must deepen over time.  In a successful mentoring relationship a strong alliance will be built.  The mentee trusts that the mentor is on her side. The overall atmosphere of the relationship should be one of mutual sharing and caring. The mentor must be willing to give the valuable gift of their time to the mentee and it can never be a “don’t call me, I’ll call you,” arrangement.  The mentor makes herself available as needed within reasonable limits.  The best mentoring takes place in ordinary life settings where mentor and mentee have casual and regular exposure to one another.  In these life settings, the mentor can come along side the mentee as she tackles the normal obstacles of life.  

  

          Where do “life’s Obstacles” fit in?  

 

 

Learning how to overcome obstacles is one of the most important lessons mentors can pass on.  Obstacles in life create a learning curve and cause the mentee to be more open to receiving new input.  Obstacles make for teachable moments. The crisis makes any help the mentor is bringing even more meaningful and useful.  Mentors tap into their own experience banks for examples of how they confronted similar obstacles.  Tackling tough situations together is what bonds and cements a solid mentoring relationship.

       

       When is “Real” mentoring taking place?    

 

 

The atmosphere of the mentoring relationship is relaxed and real. An intimate mentor-mentee relationship necessitates genuine sharing of insights, observations and suggestions.  Mentors offer an objective ear but they also offer real accountability.  They are not meant to be syrupy-sweet cheerleaders offering only affirmation, or speaking only what their protégé wants to hear.  Mentors give feedback on performance and offer opinions and confrontation when it is called for.  A good mentor can share hard things with as much openness as easy things.

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A Lesson from Lucy–What not to do on Valentine’s Day!

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Finding Your Way Out of Depression

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?

How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily?

How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;

Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”;

Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me. 

Psalms 13:1-6 (NKJV)

 

When believers find themselves in depression it doesn’t help to hold the despair in. The Bible models to us through the examples of the saints of old that when we are down and out the proper strategy is to open up and pour out our hearts to God.  David, that man after God’s own heart, was shameless about discharging his miseries before The Almighty.  In Psalm 13, we find David depressed and on his face before God and in just the first three verses he lists four woe-filled complaints.  Surprisingly, his grievances are not that out of the ordinary.  In fact, his complaints are the common complaints that torture those faced with long term despair.

 

 

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? is David’s first perplexed protest. The cry of David’s soul is that the dry and trial filled season he is enduring has gone on way too long.  His question reveals that his hope for relief has almost completely vanished. David is so emotionally trampled by life’s circumstances that he feels like God has abandoned him. He wonders if the arid season he is in will ever end and his questions for God aren’t ending either.   How long will You hide Your face from me?, he continues.  In Scripture “to seek the face of God” refers to seeking an audience with God and overtly seeking His favor through prayer. God “hiding his face” means He withdraws His presence or His favor.  David feels as if God has totally ignored him and his prayers for a very long time.  He feels rejected and wonders why God has chosen not to answer.

 

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? is complaint number three and it takes on an air of warning.  In contemporary language the essence of what David is saying is, I’m going to have to take things into my own hands if you don’t help me soon.”  David laments that he has spent every day in the same distressing situation only to be no closer to finding his way out.  He admits to trying to devise his own rescue by counseling himself, yet he realizes the folly of leaning on his own resources.  David is desperate and can’t understand why God has withheld His guidance. 

 

David’s final issue with God is– that on top of everything else–his enemy is triumphing over him.  How long will my enemy be exalted over me?, he quizzes His Father in Heaven.  David was a man well acquainted with war and highly competitive in his nature.  Nothing galled David more than to have God sitting back seemingly ignoring him while his enemy prevailed over him.  He hated being beaten by his enemy and does not hesitate in asking God why he would allow this happen?

 

Many Christians might think that the depressed David must have surely overstepped his bounds with this overflow of inquiry to his M.I.A. God.  Yet Psalm 62:8 commands, Pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.   Job and Jeremiah are two other saints who boldly risked coming before God with similar interludes of questioning.  Venting true feelings before The Almighty is not off limits.  Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe, however wisely calls for balance in the venting process.   He states: We must not deny our feelings and pretend that everything is going well…but at the same time, we must realize how deceptive our hearts are and that God is greater than our hearts and can still lift us above the emotional storms of life.

 

The Bible urges us to be discerning as we give air to our feelings, we should never forget whose children we are. 1 John 3:20 assures us, For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Many times in Scripture we see believers singing the blues when God has their ultimate redemption right around the corner.  In the story of Joseph for example when Simeon is left behind in Egypt Jacob bemoans that his life is over. The patriarch feels that everything has gone against him when in actuality everything in his crazy family is just about to be worked out. With this and many other biblical stories in mind it is good to remember as we set out to vent our emotions that our emotions are not always completely truthful. While clearing the toxic debris from our hearts is healthy and good and permitted by God we should never believe that just because we feel something, it is true.

 

When struggling Christians are depressed no matter how bad it gets they should continue to pray.  The truth is if we wait and persevere and don’t give up, God will eventually touch us and lift our hearts. The Bible teaches that even if we don’t hear God’s voice we can be assured the Holy Spirit is at work within us. Romans 8:25-26 states, But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  The Holy Spirit helps us through periods of trial and waiting and helps us to pray in the midst of them.  He communicates our feelings to God when we can’t find the words to describe them. The promises of God to reward those seekers who persevere through the desert are prevalent throughout Scripture.  In the book of Isaiah and then again in Jeremiah for instance God declares, For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground;  Isaiah 44:3, and I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. “Jer. 31:25 (NIV).

 

One thing is clear as the reader continues through David’s Psalm 13 lament.  After releasing his miseries to God David seems to get better and begins to find a new direction for his pain as he talks to God.  Instead of being accusative and viewing the Lord as being absent and uncaring for example, David now requests that He “consider and answer.” Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Psalms 13:3, reflects a different more intimate tone on the part of David.  Somewhere in the midst of his pain God has touched him and drawn him closer. 

 

As the Psalm goes on, replacing the total despair that had overtaken the outlook of his soul David somehow finds a burst of hope.  He passionately requests that God enlighten his eyes.  Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; Psalms 13:3 or as it is also worded Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Psalms 13:3 (NLT).  This request involves petitioning God for physical and emotional vitality as well as spiritual enlightenment. Here David shows inspired insight into the reality of depression.  Depression is a body, soul and spirit ailment and requires an appropriate all encompassing treatment. The Bible reflects the truth of the physical and emotional components of depression; it is not just a sin issue.  Scripture shows how the spiritual, emotional and physical aspects intertwine. Verses such as Proverbs 17:22 ,A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength reveal the interconnection between all aspects of a human being.  Those suffering with depression should consider the physical components of their malady and pray as David did for restoration. If a sufferer of depression is so weakened that he or she cannot function in daily routines there should be no hesitation in seeking the assistance of one’s personal physician.  The knowledge of modern medicine and nutrition can provide help to the person fighting the physical repercussions of long term despondency.

 

When Christians find themselves in seasons of despair they should “keep the faith” continuing to reach out to God .   Hebrews 11:6 teaches us what the bottom-line of “keeping the faith” really is, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Heb 11:6 (NKJV).  Those in the grips of depression should cling to the foundation of their faith.  They should continue to believe that God is a loving God who rewards those who diligently seek Him.  As the psalm draws to an end I believe that it is because David has encountered God that he finds the reserves to continue to express his trust in the Lord’s unfailing love.  Psalms 13:5-6 reads, But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me. David begins verse 5 with the word “but” and but is a word that usually introduces a contrast.  David is saying, in contrast to my former grievances…I have trusted and my heart shall rejoice and I will sing.  By the end of this psalm, David in prayer has made some obvious different choices.  His  faith shown byrelying on the Lord’s love and then remembering his mercy, has paved the way for David to rejoice. 

 

When a person is in depression it is good to try to train yourself to remember the mercy of the Lord towards you in the past.  How has God shown his loving-kindness to you at other points in your life?  Remind yourself of those times and praise God for those times and it can begin to have good results.  Paul a man not unfamiliar with depression taught, Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! …Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:4-7.  Rejoicing in David’s life led to singing of His goodness, which in turn began to lead David out of the depression giving him patience to wait on the Lord a little longer.  David had the foundation of an intimate relationship with God and a habit of trusting in God’s love and reminding himself of God’s goodness (see Psalm 34).  He knew how important “keeping the faith” was to the equation. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed, that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!  Psalms 27:13-14. 

 

As we come to the close of the psalm David’s circumstances had not changed. Saul was still hunting him down, the wilderness was still the wilderness and his longing for God was still a reality.  In fact we really have no evidence that God had spoken to Him throughout the entire ordeal but I believe in his lament and in the pouring out of his heart to God, God in the process touched him and revealed himself to David. Nothing around him was different and yet David on the inside at least for the time being was changed.  Our conclusion must be that because he poured out his heart before God, because he continued to pray staying close to God and because he kept the faith, he appears to have escaped the pit of his depression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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