Things I need to learn: Less is More

I used to love money much more than I loved God (and this was after “surrendering” my life to Him). I am still in recovery. Being out of work and having to trust Him because He was the only option left to pay the bills changed me. Unfortunately, when we started making money again I began to slide back into serving money again.

But now I have the memory of a better way. And I pursue it.

Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil (Proverbs 15:16).

I used to struggle to get rich. Now I struggle not to want more than I need (except to give it away). My vocation was determined by wanting to serve God with the gifts and experiences He has given me. Not the size of its paycheck.

I have learned that when I sought after and relied on money, money wasn’t enough. And seeking and gaining money brought problems with it. When I relied on God, He was and is enough. His resources are limitless, and He brings joy with it.

Less with Peace (Jesus) is better than More with Problems.

Things I need to learn: Diligence

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty (Proverbs 21:5).

“I don’t have enough time,” Haste screams to me. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all your “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed, we have to move NOW!” “If we go as fast as we can and cut all our corners and everything works perfect MAYBE we can make it.” Panic says it is my friend, “I will motivate you,” it says, “I will give you much needed energy. Don’t stop, we don’t have time to think, it all depends on us. Let’s Go!” And a single penny on the track of this bullet train causes devastating  wreckage.

Diligence stands to the side, waiting for me to notice it. It is conspicuous by its lack of Panic. It is not worried about getting done. It knows it will. Or God will supply more time or more help or more of both. Diligence TAKES the time to plan, to think out what may happen in the future. To deal with problems while they are still easily solvable. Diligence discovers efficiency hidden from Haste’s frantic closed eyes. Diligence thinks and plans through the day, adjusting to new circumstances and using them to advantage. Diligence trusts in God to make all things work together for the good for those who are the called according to His purpose. Diligence can scale mountains. Diligence never fails.

Meds: To Take or Not to Take, The Top Five Reasons for Each

The Top Five Reasons I didn’t want to take meds:

  1. They didn’t work.  The professionals and my family said they worked, so why do I say they don’t work?  Some meds are outwardly calming but are inwardly ineffective in improving thinking.  Thorazine is an example.  It was used on me for seven months in Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital because it made me more easily managed by the staff.  But it did not help with my debilitating thoughts.  I only appeared “better”.  And that appearance was sufficient for the doctors to stop their search for an “effective” drug to help me.
  2. Stigma.  “Crazy” people are shunned by society.  They are looked upon as less than human.  They are shamed.  They have no credibility.  These things were what I feared would happen if I had the “mentally ill” label.  (And they did happen).  I felt the less meds I took, the less “crazy” I was.  So I took as little meds as I could.
  3. Fear.  Hey, these meds mess with my brain, what are they going to do to me?  I thought my brain was who I was, what will they change me into? Who will I become?  Will I be me if I take the meds?  If they change me into someone I don’t want to be will I know it?  Will I know enough to change back?
  4. Satanic lies.  The mental illness, coupled with satan’s influence, led me to believe the meds were evil and causing my mental anguish.  Satan knew if I got good meds he would lose control of me, so he did everything he could to dissuade me from taking meds.
  5. I didn’t think I was mentally ill.  When mental illness affects me I don’t experience it as me changing.  I experience it as “the world around me” changing.  My wife is very sweet.  When I am experiencing mental illness symptoms I “hear” her as being condescending, sarcastic and mean spirited.  In reality she isn’t being that way, but I experience her as being that way.  Then, like in a science fiction movie, I have to realize what I am experiencing as real is not real.  I have to go against reality and I have to check my meds and see if I have missed taking them for one and a half to two days.  I have to take the right amount of meds and sit quietly for a couple hours until the meds take effect.  When I experience my wife as her normal sweet self I know the meds have taken effect.
The Top Five Reasons I Now Take Meds Everyday (Unless I Forget)
  1. They work.  I was at a half way house in 1984, having spent the last ten years in and out of mental hospitals and occasionally taking my meds, when I had the thought, “What would happen if I took my meds the way they were supposed to be taken?  Would they help?”  I had not had that thought in the last ten years.  I started taking the meds regularly and I started spiraling up instead of spiraling down.  The more regularly I took the meds, the better my thinking.  The better my thinking, the more I wanted to take my meds.  I now believe God gave me that thought that started me taking my meds.  He was preparing my mind to be able to understand that He loved me, when the time came for one of his followers to present that love of Jesus to me.
  2. Success led to more success.  The success of the anti-psychotic on my thinking enabled me to discover that I had the symptoms of depression (undiagnosed) and anxiety (undiagnosed).  I pursued medication to treat those symptoms and experienced more life-changing results.
  3. The benefits of the meds far outweigh the negative side effects.  The meds take away my energy (when I have normal energy levels it means I missed taking my meds).  They are also a catalyst for weight gain.  These side effects are worth dealing with for the priceless benefit of being able to enjoy healthy thinking.
  4. Others depend on me.  I am blessed to have a wife and two children. They depend on me, relationally  and financially.  I can’t provide for them if I am not taking my meds.
  5. I can enjoy a relationship with Jesus.  When I was not taking proper medication life was a black hole.  My emotions were shut down.  I was in psychic pain. And there was no way out.  Meds changed all that by allowing me to be able to think well enough to have a relationship with the One Who loves me most and demonstrates that love to me every day.

What is a "Strong" Personality?

Our culture uses the term “strong personality” in a way that seems funny to me.  If you are loud, selfish, and stubborn, insist on your own way, and get it by force, the culture calls you “strong”.  If you are quiet and listen to others, if you don’t insist on your own way, but work synergistically to find a better solution than either of you had alone, you are “weak”.

Truly strong personalities can be dominant or laid-back, expressive or analytic.  What makes someone truly “strong” is servant-hood.  What makes them “weak” is selfishness.

Jesus was the strongest and the most completely developed personality I know.  He used His dominance to lead and protect 12 men from the attacks of men and satan.  He used His laid-back qualities to promote peace between a former Roman-sympathizing traitorous tax-collector (Matthew) and a former revolutionary Roman-hating Zionist (Simon the Zealot).  He expressed His love for others openly through laughter, weeping and everything in between.  He was calculating, telling Judas to hurry, revealing He knew Judas plot and making sure He would be buried before sundown.

Jesus used His strength to serve others, not to seek what He wanted.  He was and is committed to His Father and to us.

Are you strong?

How many can be first?

Jesus said that if we want to be first, we need to be the slave of all.  In the hierarchy of this world’s system only one can be first.  But thank God in His system being first is available to everyone.  All of us can be the slave of all.

You may say, “I don’t want to be a slave and certainly not to all.”  Jesus said that we are either slaves to righteousness (Jesus), or slaves to sin (satan).  There is no middle ground.  If we want to know Jesus, we need to follow him and do what he does.  And that means serving everyone with unconditional love.  And, inviting them to follow Jesus with us (if they so choose).

Why would a Good God give me Mental Illness?

By james.bruce.mcnaughton@gmail.com        http://i-m-4-u.blogspot.com

I grew up obeying rules and secretly (secret from myself, that is) thinking I was better than other people. At nineteen, as I was beginning a slide into depression, but didn’t know it, I was “called” into my bedroom by what I was hoping/afraid might be God. I told Him I wanted to be like the Christians in the Bible. God told me through the Bible that those who are forgiven little, love little. But, those who are forgiven much, love much. I thought I had little to be forgiven of so I told God I wanted to be forgiven of much and I thought it might be fun to sin. God impressed on my spirit, “You’re a sinner!” He wasn’t talking about your everyday church-going sinner that we all are. He meant I was vile, evil and depraved. I replied, “No, I’m not!” He said again, “You’re a sinner!” I said again, “No, I’m not!”

Then God did the kindest, most loving thing He could do for me: He “blessed” me with mental illness (that would not be correctly treated for ten years). The mental illness caused indescribable psychic pain, anguish, regret, and shame. My emotions left me (but I didn’t know it) causing me to feel like I hadn’t really talked to anyone for ten years; I literally felt alone for all of those years. And, my Pride was assaulted: I was in and out of mental hospitals, I was humiliated because I lost many jobs, I could not do some of the simplest of things (like count money), and I despised being labeled mentally ill and a failure.

Why did I call it God’s “blessing?” because that was the only way for my Pride to fall. I came to realize I was vile, evil and depraved; just like God had told me. God called me again after ten years and I grudgingly accepted Him. And God began the continuous work of changing me so that eventually I will have the beautiful loving character of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus.

But bringing me to Jesus wasn’t the only value of the pain. God allowed that pain to go deep within to allow me to care deeply about the hurts of others; to be able to empathize with others, and let others in pain know I that have hurt deeply as well. I use the pain God gave me every day in my job, as I walk alongside those dealing with mental illness. (And, I also use the pain to understand others who have experienced pain, such as my children, who were traumatized before we adopted them).

I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone. I wish I could have learned without the pain. But God used the pain to win me to Himself and change me; and help me to care about, and be willing and able to serve, others.

And for that I will forever be grateful.

If your eye is good your whole body will be filled with light

Jesus said that the eye was the lamp of the body.  If your eye is good your whole body will be filled with light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be filled with darkness.  And, if the light within you is darkness, how terribly dark that darkness (see Matthew 6:23).

What I see comes from the outside world.  How I see, comes from me.  Facts, (according to the book Crucial Conversations) are neutral.  It is the story I tell myself about the facts that creates meaning to me.  I then believe that the story I have created from myself is true and project that meaning onto the facts.

What if I see evil in other people?  If I condemn someone else, I have condemned myself first.  Because, when I see the facts of what someone is doing, I look back when I did the same or similar things, condemn what I did, judge myself and then project that condemnation and judgement on the other person (see Matthew chapter 7).

What if my eye is good?  To the pure all things are pure (see Titus 1:15).  When my eyes are good, I see evil as satan’s influence on someone who was created by and is loved by God.  I condemn the evil, not the person.  My struggle is not against flesh and blood (see Ephesians 6:12).  My struggle is against satan and his influence.  (Thank God, Jesus has already won our victory through His offering of Himself to God as our condemned substitute (see 1 Corinthians 15:17 ).

What if the light within me is darkness?  If I condemn what is actually good as being evil, then I close the door of my mind to the possibility of ever understanding good.  And I won’t know what is good until I say, as Jesus stated, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” (see Matthew 23:39) That is, until I welcome Jesus as the definition and the standard of the goodness of God, as God in the flesh.