Streams In The Desert: January 21st, 2017

None of these things move me (Acts 20:24).

We read in the book of Samuel that the moment that David was crowned at Hebron, “All the Philistines came up to seek David.” And the moment we get anything from the Lord worth contending for, then the devil comes to seek us.

When the enemy meets us at the threshold of any great work for God, let us accept it as “a token of salvation,” and claim double blessing, victory, and power. Power is developed by resistance. The cannon carries twice as far because the exploding power has to find its way through resistance. The way electricity is produced in the powerhouse yonder is by the sharp friction of the revolving wheels. And so we shall find some day that even Satan has been one of God’s agencies of blessing.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

A hero is not fed on sweets,
Daily his own heart he eats;
Chambers of the great are jails,
And head winds right for royal sails.

–Emerson

Tribulation is the way to triumph. The valley-way opens into the highway. Tribulation’s imprint is on all great things. Crowns are cast in crucibles. Chains of character that wind about the feet of God are forged in earthly flames. No man is greatest victor till he has trodden the winepress of woe. With seams of anguish deep in His brow, the “Man of Sorrows” said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation”–but after this sob comes the psalm of promise, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The footprints are traceable everywhere. Bloodmarks stain the steps that lead to thrones. Sears are the price of scepters. Our crowns will be wrested from the giants we conquer. Grief has always been the lot of greatness. It is an open secret.

The mark of rank in nature.
Is capacity for pain;
And the anguish of the singer
Makes the sweetest of the strain.

Tribulation has always marked the trail of the true reformer. It is the story of Paul, Luther, Savonarola, Knox, Wesley, and all the rest of the mighty army. They came through great tribulation to their place of power.

Every great book has been written with the author’s blood. “These are they that have come out of great tribulation.” Who was the peerless poet of the Greeks? Homer. But that illustrious singer was blind. Who wrote the fadeless dream of “Pilgrim’s Progress”? A prince in royal purple upon a couch of ease? Nay! The trailing splendor of that vision gilded the dingy walls of old Bedford jail while John Bunyan, a princely prisoner, a glorious genius, made a faithful transcript of the scene.

Great is the facile conqueror;
Yet haply, he, who, wounded sore,
Breathless, all covered o’er with blood and sweat,
Sinks fainting, but fighting evermore
Is greater yet.

–Selected

Praise & Worship: January 20th, 2017

1. Good Good Father-  Housefires

2.  Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)-  Christ Tomlin

3.  Because He Lives-  Gaither Vocal Band

4.  I’ll Take You There-  The Staple Singers

5.  I Believe In You-  Bob Dylan

6.  From The Inside Out-  Hillsong United

7.  Deeper-  Meredith Andrews

8.  This Is The Stuff-  Francesca Battistelli

9.  The Mississippi Squirrel Revival-  Ray Stevens

10.  Be Thou My Vision-  Audrey Assad

11.  Come Thou Fount-  All Sons & Daughters

Election Overload?

We are very close to having a new person sworn in as the President of the United States. Who would have thought a few years ago Donald Trump would be that man?  A man with absolutely no political experience running against 14 or 15 other Republicans and wiping the floor with them.

He then goes on against all odds and defeats Hillary Clinton to the shock of most in the nation and around the world. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script.

Something happened along the way though. This election cycle managed to pit family member against family member and friend against friend. Relationships were harmed or ended as a result of the huge divide that was exposed in our nation. Maybe you know what I’m speaking of?

In the media and on the internet we’ve gotten to see people at their best and others at their worst. I’ve seen Christians drawn into arguments against one another in ways that were sad and disappointing. Anyone and everyone had the perfect meme or opinion as to what we were witnessing. Lines were drawn in the sand and heels were dug in for the long haul. Where this will lead I don’t know.

As a Christian you might ask what the right things to say or think might be. You won’t find it. The reality is Christians are all over the map with their thoughts and opinions on the state of our nation and the political landscape.

What I have sensed and seen is that people are afraid. They’re afraid of what President elect Trump might do to our nation. Others are afraid that those who don’t support Trump will resort to violence and mayhem to show their displeasure. Time will tell.

In the midst of everything I think of those with mental health issues. How are they holding up? Has all of this set off triggers that have exacerbated illnesses so many are living with?  Are they getting the support and reassurance they need?

I can testify that in the midst of everything swirling about us it’s easy to let our thoughts and cares drift away from God. We’re human. We aren’t and never will be perfect. As a result we can let ourselves down.

And when we’re down and at our most vulnerable the enemy of our souls is right there to pounce on us with all sorts of condemnation. He desires to take our hope away. He lies to us about a god that has forsaken us. In short he throws everything but the kitchen sink at us.

How might we respond?  Remember we serve a God who is all knowing. He is anywhere and everywhere simultaneously. He knew us before we entered this world. He loves us beyond our wildest imaginations.

When we feel there is no hope He is our hope. When we don’t have the answers He is the answer. When we are convinced we are alone He’s here. His Spirit dwells in us. His thoughts towards each of us are innumerable. He loves us unconditionally.

You who live with mental illness have survived a ton of things. The lie is that all of this is supposed to be easy. It’s not. You already know that. You’ve lived it and here you are.

Getting through an election cycle is so much easier than the battles that you’ve been fighting and winning.

God bless and keep you.  Allan

Seven Stages Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Taken from  alzheimer’s.net   which can be found   HERE.

Every person with Alzheimer’s disease experiences the disease differently, but patients tend to experience a similar trajectory from the beginning of the illness to its merciful end. The precise number of stages is somewhat arbitrary. Some experts use a simple three-phase model (early, moderate and end), while others have found a granular breakdown to be a more useful aid to understanding the progression of the illness.

The most common system, developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg of New York University, breaks the progression of Alzheimer’s disease into seven stages. This framework for understanding the progression of Alzheimer’s disease has been adopted and used by a number of healthcare providers as well as the Alzheimer’s Association.

Here is summary of the seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease based on the ideas of Dr. Resiberg:

Stage 1: No Impairment

During this stage, Alzheimer’s disease is not detectable and no memory problems or other symptoms of dementia are evident.

Stage 2: Very Mild Decline

The senior may notice minor memory problems or lose things around the house, although not to the point where the memory loss can easily be distinguished from normal age related memory loss. The person will still do well on memory tests and the disease is unlikely to be detected by physicians or loved ones.

Stage 3: Mild Decline

At this stage, the friends and family members of the senior may begin to notice memory and cognitive problems. Performance on memory and cognitive tests are affected and physicians will be able to detect impaired cognitive function.

Patients in stage 3 will have difficulty in many areas including:

  • finding the right word during conversations
  • remembering names of new acquaintances
  • planning and organizing

People with stage three Alzheimer’s may also frequently lose personal possessions, including valuables.

Stage 4: Moderate Decline

In stage four of Alzheimer’s disease clear cut symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are apparent. Patients with stage four Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Have difficulty with simple arithmetic
  • May forget details about their life histories
  • Have poor short term memory (may not recall what they ate for breakfast, for example)
  • Inability to manage finance and pay bills

Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline

During the fifth stage of Alzheimer’s, patients begin to need help with many day to day activities. People in stage five of the disease may experience:

  • Significant confusion
  • Inability to recall simple details about themselves such as their own phone number
  • Difficulty dressing appropriately

On the other hand, patients in stage five maintain a modicum of functionality. They typically can still bathe and toilet independently. They also usually still know their family members and some detail about their personal histories, especially their childhood and youth.

Stage 6: Severe Decline

Patients with the sixth stage of Alzheimer’s disease need constant supervision and frequently require professional care. Symptoms include:

  • Confusion or unawareness of environment and surroundings
  • Major personality changes and potential behavior problems
  • The need for assistance with activities of daily living such as toileting and bathing
  • Inability to recognize faces except closest friends and relatives
  • Inability to remember most details of personal history
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Wandering

Stages 7: Very Severe Decline

Stage seven is the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Because Alzheimer’s disease is a terminal illness, patients in stage seven are nearing death. In stage seven of the disease, patients lose ability to respond to their environment or communicate. While they may still be able to utter words and phrases, they have no insight into their condition and need assistance with all activities of daily living. In the final stages of the illness, patients may lose their ability to swallow.

Two Words That Scared Me To Death

What do we say to a suffering person?  What wisdom might we impart or what gesture could we make to take away the pain that person is experiencing?  What verse of scripture might we share to bring hope to someone that has lost hope?

Sermons have been preached and books have been written throughout the ages that help us as we wrestle with these questions. These questions become a bit more complicated when the person who is suffering is living with a mental illness.

Last night as I completed the book of 1 John I came across a verse I knew was in the Bible but didn’t have the address for!  It is in chapter 5 verse 14 and is listed below from the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition.

I John 5:14 And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him: [we are sure] that if we ask anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us.

In verse 13 we are given assurance that we have eternal life and in verse 15 we are given assurance for answered prayer.

Ah, but in verse 14 we are given assurance that God listens to and hears our prayers and this is where I missed the boat for so long.  I’m talking decades and it’s not easy to admit that being I’ve been a believer for 40 years.

Looking at the more familiar KJV we read

1 John:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, he heareth us:

This idea of praying for God’s will is included in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6: 9-13. As it is a portion of a longer prayer I was not struck so much as I was in reading 1 John last night as it drove home an inconvenient truth. I was afraid to pray for God’s will to be done in my life.

For me those two words could have meant disaster. I had this idea that God’s will for me was to include suffering that would totally undo me and take me to depths of pain and fear I thought I might not survive.

I needed God to get with my plan. My plan didn’t include any pain but immediate freedom from something I didn’t deserve based on some sort of entitlement I thought was due to me.

Since I had my situation totally figured out I would wait for God to honor it.  As time went on I created a god that didn’t exist which led to further suffering for me which then impacted those closest to me.

Sadly during those years my Bible often gathered dust as I began reading books that would show me how to find my healing. It was important these books included a recipe that I could follow and find healing. I then isolated myself for the most part seeking to trust in my reason to figure the whole mess out. As you can see I had it all backwards.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct[a] your paths.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.

Furthermore my faith was in the wrong place. I needed to see and understand things which only made things worse. My faith demanded guarantees as I was terrified of the unknown. As my faith in myself grew it could only mean my faith in God would diminish.

 Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Maybe you’re like me in needing evidence of things that are seen. It would make things so much easier or so we might think.

As believers sometimes we miss the fact of how much God loves us and how much we mean to Him. This can be true especially when we are in the midst of suffering, heartache, and pain.

If any of the above applies to you what do you do?

The first thing you do is seek help for whatever it is that has you in such pain. There is no shame in admitting we need help any more than it is for someone with cancer to seek help. Mental illness is just as real so never feel condemned for seeking help.

Depending on your personal circumstances the help you need could come in various forms. Having the freedom to share your heart with a close and trusted friend who will listen to you without judgment. Maybe it might be seeing your Pastor ( seeking to make sure he has a correct view of mental illness.)  If your Pastor finds himself in over his head with you hopefully he knows professionals who are trained to help you.

Possibly a trained therapist might be able to help you navigate and unpack that which you need to verbalize.

Depending on your circumstances you may need to see a psychiatrist who could help you via medication.

Unfortunately there are those in the professional field who will place you on meds before the door closes behind you. Be aware of that.

Does the counselor or psychiatrist have to be a Christian?  That would be my preference but there are times where the best help you will receive is from someone else. Not everyone has insurance or the money to pay for professionals. At this point you can research what is available for you in your area.

It’s crucial we  know and believe that God’s will is the best for us. The fear for me was the unknown and this idea I had deep in my spirit God would hurt me in some terrible way.

The truth is we will need to take steps of faith where we need to place our hope in God alone. Baby steps are acceptable as that means we are moving forward!

These last five to six months I’ve been taking those baby steps and God has been good to me. I’ll soon be 62 and I’m finding it’s never too late for any of us.  And yes I’ve had my moments along the way but here I am.

Don’t be slow to tell God anything. He already knows. I’ll close with a word from Romans. May God bless and keep you.  Allan

Romans 8: 35-39  

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[a]

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Streams In The Desert: January 14th, 2017

He putteth forth his own sheep   (John 10:4).

Oh, this is bitter work for Him and us — bitter for us to go, but equally bitter for Him to cause us pain; yet it must be done. It would not be conducive to our true welfare to stay always in one happy and comfortable lot. He therefore puts us forth. The fold is deserted, that the sheep may wander over the bracing mountain slope. The laborers must be thrust out into the harvest, else the golden grain would spoil.

Take heart! it could not be better to stay when He determines otherwise; and if the loving hand of our Lord puts us forth, it must be well. On, in His name, to green pastures and still waters and mountain heights! He goeth before thee. Whatever awaits us is encountered first by Him. Faith‘s eye can always discern His majestic presence in front; and when that cannot be seen, it is dangerous to move forward. Bind this comfort to your heart, that the Savior has tried for Himself all the experiences through which He asks you to pass; and He would not ask you to pass through them unless He was sure that they were not too difficult for your feet, or too trying for your strength.

This is the Blessed Life — not anxious to see far in front, nor careful about the next step, not eager to choose the path, nor weighted with the heavy responsibilities of the future, but quietly following behind the Shepherd, one step at a time.

Dark is the sky! and veiled the unknown morrow
Dark is life’s way, for night is not yet o’er;
The longed-for glimpse I may not meanwhile borrow;
But, this I know, HE GOETH ON BEFORE.
Dangers are nigh! and fears my mind are shaking;
Heart seems to dread what life may hold in store;
But I am His–He knows the way I’m taking,
More blessed still–HE GOETH ON BEFORE.
Doubts cast their weird, unwelcome shadows o’er me,
Doubts that life’s best–life’s choicest things are o’er;
What but His Word can strengthen, can restore me,
And this blest fact; that still HE GOES BEFORE.
HE GOES BEFORE! Be this my consolation!
He goes before! On this my heart would dwell!
He goes before! This guarantees salvation!
HE GOES BEFORE! And therefore all is well. 

–J. D. Smith

The Oriental shepherd was always ahead of his sheep. He was down in front. Any attack upon them had to take him into account. Now God is down in front. He is in the tomorrows. It is tomorrow that fills men with dread. God is there already. All the tomorrows of our life have to pass Him before they can get to us.
–F. B. M.

God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today,
Certain of finding at sunrise,
Guidance and strength for the way;
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain,
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain.

Songs From My Youth: January 13th, 2017

Through the years I substituted songs from my youth at times instead of praise & worship. As a young teenager and even later there were songs that captured my imagination that caused me to think about life. A huge departure from the pure rock and roll I was hooked on. These songs turned my mind towards life and God. They still impact me to this day. I hope you will enjoy them.  Allan

1.The Needle And The Damage Done-  Neil Young

2.  Father and Son-  Cat Stevens

3.  I’d Like To Get To Know You-  Spanky And Our Gang

4.  Ooh Child-  The Five Stairsteps

5.  A Summer Song-  Chad & Jeremy

6.  In My Life-  The Beatles

7.  High Flying Bird-  Elton John

8.  Games People Play-  Joe South

9.  He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother-  The Hollies

10.  Signs-  Five Man Electrical Band

11.  Dialogue Part l & ll-  Chicago

12.  What’s Going On-  Marvin Gaye