Pleasant Places

Several verses have been in my mind this week. One is John 14:1 and following:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me.

It is too easy for us to allow doubt, fear, and worry to consume us when every form of media is blasting at us 24/7 to doubt, fear, and worry. That’s why so many people are clearing store shelves of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, tissue, and other products considered to be essential for the duration. When this present danger is a thing of the past, I would love to see a poll about how how many people have rooms filled with all the stuff they took off the shelves, leaving nothing for others who needed the same products.

By the way, a bar of soap will do as much as all the hand sanitizers to protect against the virus. Many hand sanitizers have a strong alcohol content, which I’m learning dries my skin and leaves me needing lotion. You can see a good article here.

The main verse I’ve been thinking about, though, is Psalm 16:6.

“The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.”

I’ve loved this verse, the whole Psalm, really, for a very long time. And it became even more meaning years ago when I first heard this song:

Right now, it would be easy to fail to recognize whatever pleasant places you may have. Can you remember, though, a time when you wished you could just stay home for a while? Especially when we consider that there are those who MUST plan to work every day: Police officers, health and medical workers, fire departments, utility service people, and many others are not getting time off.

“But what about paying my bills?” Yes, I understand that is a deep concern. Remember that God is the Creator and Owner of everything, and He has always supplied our needs when we seek Him. So far, today’s needs don’t hold a candle to the years of the Great Depression. This, too, shall pass.

I’m not saying we should just sit back and meditate. We need to take whatever steps we can toward staying healthy. However, worry, doubt and fear do NOT lead to health. Rather, they increase blood pressure, poor immune systems, and an overdose of adrenaline and cortisol as well as headaches and poor sleep.

Why worry, when you can pray?

Sunday Morning Coffee: Dwell Safely

Proverbs 1:33.

 “But whoso hearkeneth unto Me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”

Image result for who listens to Me shall dwell in safety

Do  you struggle with fear?  When there is something you cannot control, do you find your mind wandering down paths that keep you awake at night, worrying about what may or may not happen?  Dwelling on the “but what if”  things in life?

The prelude to this verse, all of the first chapter of Proverbs,  speaks of the importance of learning wisdom; of paying attention to spiritually mature people; of avoiding foolish people who tempt us into doing that which is evil.

God tells us that He has called us to wisdom, but we have refused it in favor of satisfying self.  Then, when we are in trouble because of our own sinful choices, He will not hear our begging and pleading. He speaks of scorners and fools who laugh in derision at God’s Word, and will not hear His pleading.

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.Image result for Proverbs 1:8-9

This entire chapter is full of  counsel that, if we would only hear and follow it, will preserve us from the consequences of rebellion and rejection of God.  I like the picture in verses 8-9.  The words of godly parents, when we heed them, are  ornaments of grace for the head, and precious chains around our necks.

Perhaps you didn’t have godly parents.  Perhaps you never heard about Jesus, never looked at a Bible until you were grown.  That’s sad, but it is never too late to begin to study God’s Word.  It is never too late to gain the wisdom that comes with obedience to God.  It is never too late to enjoy, even in difficult times, the blessing of the knowledge that “The eternal God is thy refuge; and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).

 

Who Will Escape?

Isaiah 33:13-14. “Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge My might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”

Image result for The sinners in Zion are afraid

People everywhere are commanded to hear and acknowledge God’s acts and power. The passage goes on to name the classes of people to be punished by God:  Sinners in Zion, who are afraid; hypocrites who are surprised with fear of everlasting fire.

Then the question:  Who is going to be able to escape the wrath of God?   The time of reckoning  draws near, and all who have held themselves as above reproach, above sin and its results, above God Himself, will realize that there is no escape for them.

The next few verses will tell us who will escape, though. God always leaves the door of hope open.

 

In That Day

Isaiah 19:16-18. “In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the Lord of hosts, which He shaketh over it. And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the Lord of hosts, which He hath determined against it. In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts: one shall be called, The city of destruction.”

Image result for the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt

“In that day” is the immediate fall of Egypt as well as its future fall when Christ returns. Judah will become the instrument of judgment. The attitude of Egypt toward Israel would be changed, even to the extent of five Egyptian cities adopting Hebrew, the language of Israel, as its common tongue.  This particular prophecy could be considered to have been fulfilled when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, and Hellenistic Greek became the common tongue in Canaan and elsewhere and was adopted in Egypt (where the Septuagint Version was produced.

In verse 18, the “city of destruction” or literally Ir-ha-heres, could indicate the destruction of idolatry. That destruction took place after the successive invasions of the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, and Greeks.

In that day also brings us to the coming of the second advent of Christ, when the land of Judah becomes the center of world government and is a terror to those who resist it.

Rest from Sorrow and Fear

Isaiah 14:3. “And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve.”

Image result for Isaiah 14:3

There will be peace.  Israel will be done with the arduous cycle of disobedience, punishment, and restoration.  Her enemies will be finally defeated, and there will be peace.

I love the promises of this passage. The Day of the Lord will be one of mercy, grace, and victory for His people.

No Escape

Isaiah 13:7-8. “Therefore shall alll hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt: And they shall be afraid; pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another: their faces shall be as flames.”

Image result for therefore shall all hands be faint, and every heart shall melt

The judgment of God is nothing to be shrugged at. It will be terrible. There will be great fear, such fear that people will experience pain similar to that of a woman in childbirth.  Their faces will be red with shame as their sin is dealt with. There will be no escape.

Sunday Morning Coffee:A Setback

I was doing so well. Got my staples out of the incision, was feeling really good. Then I went to a store with Terry, stayed on my feet for maybe half an hour, walked a little, stood still  a little. Knew I needed to get back to the car. Little pinchy twinges in the right lumbar.

“NO!”  says I to myself. ‘I’ll be fine once we get home and I can stretch out on my bed. This is just a temporary setback.”   But I knew.  Really, deep inside, I knew.

My right-side lumbar pain is back. Not the one the surgery targeted. That seems fine. The one that started this whole mess two years ago, that’s what is rearing its ugly head.

So I’m back to resting, not sitting much, using the bed Terry set up in the living room. And maybe I can get ahead of it. If I have to, I’ll start taking my pain meds again.

What did I do to cause this?  Probably nothing. I’m always careful these days.  I took my cane with me, even though I don’t use it at home any more. It just happened.

So, how can I make a spiritual application here?  Always, it’s  good to look for that. It helps me to understand that God knows all about it, and I don’t have to  try to figure out.

First, it’s yet another opportunity to trust Him.  He knows I’m supposed to go back to work in  just a little over a week. He knows  what I can tolerate as far as sitting is concerned, and He will make a way for me to be able to deal with my situation. In my head, I know this is true. My emotions, however, are less stable and will take more convincing.  That’s one reason why we need to follow what we know to be true, not how we feel. Feelings change from moment to moment. God’s truth is always the same.

Second, it’s  an opportunity  to give Him my fear. I don’t like pain. I don’t like knowing that I will be dealing with pain, at some level, for the rest of my life. I have a condition, not an illness that will eventually be healed. Conditions like mine don’t disappear. The pain can be treated and eased,  but the underlying problem will not disappear.  I have to  give that to the Lord on a regular basis. Give Him my fear, and grab the promise, again, that He will be with me through the valley of the shadow of death. I’m not being melodramatic here.  I’m just looking to the future. If I don’t learn to trust Him now, through the small stuff, then I won’t trust Him later.

Faith, I’m learning, is a step-by-step journey. One step, one hour, one day at a time.

Please, Stop!

Rarely do I use this blog as a commentary on current events. Today I’m stepping away from that policy, because I’m appalled (not surprised, just appalled) at some of the behaviors on both sides of the political spectrum.

The anti-Trump riots are disgraceful.  I watched a video yesterday in which a gang of hoodlums was physically banging on a car, threatening the driver, while chanting “Peaceful Protest! Peaceful Protest!”  Right.  Fires, flag burning, vandalism and threats that there will be casualties in order to effect change?  NOT peaceful protests. Not even close.

Then I hear some stories from the other end of the spectrum:  A Muslim woman being verbally abused and intimidated because she was wearing her hijab.  An American-born college woman who was both verbally and physically abused by some street thugs because she is Latino. Both these people were informed that now that Trump will be President, they’re going to get what’s coming to them. There is no excuse for such behavior. Mr. Trump would not condone it, and it’s not what he’s been talking about.

I don’t care which side of the political playing field you are on–such behavior is never helpful, never right, never appropriate.

At this point, I’m not personally touched by such evil.  We live in a calm and quiet neighborhood where such behavior is not condoned and would be shocking to everyone, Liberal and Conservative alike.  But if it doesn’t stop, if people don’t get their heads on straight, it could very well be that this evil will spread from the cities into the surrounding suburbs and beyond.

I find it completely disgusting that college students are being pampered with therapy dogs and depression treatment, even having tests canceled, because their candidate lost. How pathetic is that!  They are crying and moaning, while at the same time other young people their age are out on the battlefields of the MidEast, working to protect people who do not have the privileges of this republic. I know which ones I would choose to stand for my own freedom!

I believe that the only real healing in our land will be a spiritual revival. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can calm people’s hearts and turn this ugliness around. We need to remember that Satan is at the root of all of it, on both sides. Anger, hatred, threats, actual violence–this is not of God.  It is of Satan.

We need to pray. We need to learn to forgive, to heal, to come together.  “Divided we fall” is just as true as it ever was. Please, stop this madness.  Stop the hatred, the vitriolic speech, the threats and the violence.  It is gaining nothing. It never does.

 

Friday Counseling Issues: Cluster C, Fearful/Anxious

Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior. They include avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

avoidant personality disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The person who has this disorder has probably always felt inadequate, socially shy, and is certain that everyone sees him as a loser.  He’s always picked last when kids are choosing up sides to play a game. It seems as if no one even sees him or notices when he quietly backs away and leaves. People forget his name, or just refer to him as “that round-headed kid.”

We’ve all fallen in love with Charlie Brown.  He mirrors how we feel about our own perceived inadequacies, and we can identify with him easily—unless we’re narcissistic 🙂

The biggest problem here is with the person’s own perception of himself.  Our perceptions become our realities, and it’s no different for the Charlie Browns out there.  Here’s a good comprehensive list of symptoms:

  • Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection
  • Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
  • Shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
  • Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
  • Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
  • Views themself as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
  • Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing

What we believe to be the truth motivates our emotions, words, and behaviors. The more convinced we become that no one likes/wants/appreciates us, the more likely it is that we will behave in such a way that avoids people altogether.We become so self-effacing that we are actually self-erasing.

Treatment can include good talk therapy with a counselor who understand that this is more than just being a little bit shy.  Sometimes an anti-anxiety medication is helpful in the early stages of counseling because it helps the person be more objective about his situation.

I have found that it is very helpful to talk with a client who has this diorder about his own worth and value to the God Who created  him.  Changing his beliefs about himself will start him on the road to understanding how God sees him, and will help him to realize that part of his problem is not so much  a lack of self-esteem as it is a conviction that other people don’t esteem him appropriately.

Friday Counseling Issues: A Ramble

I’ve worked two full weeks now since the end of my Christmas break.  It’s amazing how fast the time is going. Christmas was such a great time, having all nine of my grandkids together.  It just went too fast.

Anyway, today I’m thinking about a couple of things that some of my clients are dealing with. Both are difficult to manage, for the client and for the therapist.

OCD is a combination of two things:  Obsession is what goes on in the brain, and compulsion is the resulting behavior.

check20lights-sm_0

Some obsessions have their roots in actual events, usually somewhat traumatic. For instance, someone who gets caught in a stalled elevator may develop obsessive thoughts and fears of any small, enclosed place.  Those fears could result in compulsive behaviors such as never going into a building that has elevators; avoiding any enclosed place such as a public bathroom stall; or avoiding any room that has no windows. The person who suffers from this type of obsession may be compelled to check at least three times (pick any number) before entering a building, to make sure there are stairs, windows, and more than one door.

Veterans who come home from active duty having suffered, perhaps, traumatic brain injuries in an IED blast could very well have Post-Traumatic Stress as well. Any loud noise triggers a startle response. They may go into immediate defensive mode if they hear a car backfire, or even a balloon popping nearby. The obsession is the blast noise; the compulsion can become as serious as refusing to ever leave their house or even their own bedroom.  No TV, no music, no loud talking. If there are children in the home, they learn very quickly to play quietly.

Obsessions that are rooted in actual events are easier to treat than obsessions that have no apparent connection to reality. Take, for instance, a young man who is obsessed with the idea that he is too thin, and is unappealing to girls.  His obsession with his weight compels him to strip down several times a day, leaving his clothes in another room, making sure that he is touching nothing when he steps on the scale to make sure his weight hasn’t dropped below, say, 175 pounds.  If it should drop below that arbitrary number, he immediately begins to eat the most fattening foods he can find, and then he worries about getting a flabby belly so he does 100 crunches.  His whole day can be taken up with these obsessive-compulsive behaviors. He can’t keep a job.  He has no social life. Yet, the truth is that he is a fairly good-looking man with a normal body weight.  He is pleasant and kind, but he’s convinced that he’s a freak.

People who have OCD are often perfectionistic, which of course only makes their problem worse. There was a beautiful young woman who came to see me because her boss was threatening to fire her.  The problem?  She was too slow.  She had to type every document three times;  each document had to be proofread three times; if something was to be mailed, she had to fold it three times, put it in the envelope three times, check the address three times, position the stamp three times before gluing it down. As you can imagine,  she took three times as long as all the other girls in the secretarial pool.

What was her obsession?  She believed that if she did not take these precautions, she would make a mistake that would close down the multi-billion dollar company she worked for and collapse the economy of the whole USA.  Seriously.   She really believed that.

How do we help people who suffer?  And believe me, suffer is not an overstatement.

This is one of the few problems in which I insist my client see the doctor and get some good anti-anxiety medication. Once that is established, we begin working with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which addresses the obsession head on. Once the obsession begins to lose its power, the compulsions also begin to fade.

I’ve made it sound so easy.  It isn’t. Obsessive thought patterns are well-established and very difficult to remove.  It takes great strength of character to kick obsessions to the curb.

If you know someone who struggles, please don’t make fun of him; don’t tell him to just get a grip.  He wants to, he’s tried to numerous times.  He’d give anything to live your normal life, without all the fears and time-consuming rituals he feels compelled to perform.

So, not really a ramble after all.  I’m done.  And I’m not feeling terrific, so I think I’m going to go gargle some cider vinegar and maybe go back to bed.