Monday, November 16, 2020

Purity 266: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

 Purity 266   11/16/2020            

 Good morning!

Today’s photo comes from a friend’s hike from back in October, the friend and the location are a mystery to me as I “grabbed it” about a month ago, on the 18th. So if it’s you or you know the location and want to share, leave it in the comments or message me and I will update the post.  My friends come from all over this country and some overseas and sometimes I lose track of where these sights come from. 

I share it because of its natural beauty and I imagine coming through “the woods of the weekend” and embarking on a journey into a week clear of holidays and prayerfully a week clear of obstacles and undue stress.       

Well the weekend flew by with my Saturday being consumed by car repairs and a project to lay some bricks to border my house and new Generac generator system.  It was a hasty project with humbling results, and I was happy my back wasn’t too pained after placing approximately 70 paving 1 foot square paving stones (my mind still struggles with that number – I know how many I returned… but maybe Lowes didn’t give me what they said they did – it seems too high).  The good news is it is finished, the unused materials were returned, and I was so busy I easily stayed within the limits of my eating plan. 

But…Sunday Bloody Sunday….

Our church was hosting Thanksgiving meals at all of the life groups and I had intended to be true to my plan and even calculated some likely consumables into my fitness app before going to know my limitations but quickly gave into temptation and decided that this Sunday would be a cheat day.  So I over indulged at the Johnson family’s life group, and because I’m a social guy, I stopped at the Lambert family’s life group too! 

I was too ashamed to even try to calculate the damage but today is a new day and a new week! I have already hit the ground running by working out and by deciding to fast breakfast to compensate for yesterday’s feast.  

And that brings us to grace, and paradox of Christians as Saints who Sin rather than Sinners saved by grace. 

When we have come to Christ and made Him Lord and Savior, all our sins are forgiven: past, present, and future! We also receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the fullness of God’s love, as we are adopted into His royal family, and the power to say no to sin, or freedom from sin.    

If we have truly come to Christ, we can live a holy life if we follow Him. The problem is we lived independently of God for so long that we have to renew our minds to think and therefore behave like Christians. And that’s key – we have to change our minds and hearts to follow Christ.  Changing our behavior isn’t enough.

We had some measure of success changing our behaviors before coming to Christ but we predominantly we would always fall back into our sin – which is best defined as “missing the mark”. 

It was “only food” but I “missed the mark” yesterday.  What I did went against what I wanted in terms of my goals. However, there is grace in failure.

God forgives us everything. If we’ve placed our faith in Him, NOTHING we do will separate us from His love. Our relationship with God is not performance based.  He loves and forgives us regardless of what we do. 

However, He loves us so much that He wants us to do what is righteous and good because He knows that is what is best for us and that when we do that we best represent Him as His children.  

He understands that we won’t always do things perfectly, but He continues to call us to follow His ways for our good and for His plan for our lives. 

So, what do I do today? Do I hide in shame and guilt and beat myself up?  NO! I have God’s grace. I’m forgiven. He loves me no matter what!

However, I don’t take “missing the mark” lightly either. I have asked for God’s forgiveness, strength, and guidance in prayer to better follow His plan for my life, to strive for a healthy body that can be a better temple for the Holy Spirit, better suited to work for His kingdom, and to enjoy life.    

It's not about perfection, its about progress. It’s not about pleasure, it’s about peace.  It’s not about impressing other people, it’s about following the Lord. It’s not about living up to the world’s standards through our efforts, It’s about believing what God’s word says about who we are in Christ and living according to it continually.

Today we continue to share from Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where I will share a lengthy amount about the Mind Body Correlation, Bipolar Depression, and Unipolar depression. 

I’m reading ahead and have decided to share larger portions of the basics and medical information so we can get to “the good stuff”.  All of this is good stuff, but I want to get to the aspects of how our faith as Christians comes into treating depression. 

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support his work:

The Mind-Brain Correlation

The correlation between the mind and the brain is obvious, but there is a fundamental difference between the two. The brain came from the dust of this earth, and will return to dust when we die physically. At that moment we will be absent from our bodies and present with the Lord (see 2 Cor. 5:6-9), but we will not be mindless.

Today, we have a wonderful analogy to illustrate the working relationship between the brain and the mind. Between our ears is a very sophisticated computer operation. Like every computer system, it comprises two distinct components, the hardware and the software. The hardware (the computer itself) is obviously the brain in this analogy.

The brain functions much like a digital computer having millions of switching transistors that code all the information in a binary numbering system of 0s and 1s. The miniaturization of circuitry has made it possible to store and compile an incredible amount of information in a computer the size of a notebook. However, humankind has not even come close to making a computer as sophisticated as the one that is now making it possible for you to read and comprehend this book. A computer is mechanical, but our brains are living organisms composed of approximately 100 billion neurons. Each neuron is a living organism that in and of itself is a microcomputer.

A brief but basic anatomy lesson should be shared at this point because we will be referring to its components as we discuss possible causes and cures for endogenous depression. Every neuron is composed of a brain cell, an axon and many dendrites (inputs to the brain cell), as shown in the following illustration:

Each brain cell has many inputs (dendrites) and only one output through the axon that channels neurotransmitters to other dendrites. The axon has a covering known as the myelin sheath for insulation because the cell sends electrochemical messages along the axon. Every neuron is connected to tens of thousands of other neurons. Given that there are 100 billion neurons, the potential number of combinations is mind-boggling.

A junction between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites of another is called a synapse. Through its dendrites, every brain cell receives information, which it processes, integrates and sends on to other neurons.

In the axon exist many mitochondria that produce neurotransmitters. When a signal from the cell reaches the axon it releases neurotransmitters across the synapse to other dendrites. There are numerous types of neurotransmitters. The best known, and possibly the most important for our discussion of depression, are norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin and acetylcholine.

Bipolar Depression

Endogenous depression is categorized as either bipolar or unipolar. A bipolar or manic-depressive illness has two poles: highs (called manic moods) and lows (depressed moods). The manic symptoms include the following: increased energy, unrealistic and grandiose beliefs in one's own power and ability, racing ideas and thoughts, poor judgment, increased talking or social activity, extreme euphoria, impulsivity, irritability and distractibility, obnoxious, insensitive or irritating behavior, and abuse of alcohol or drugs. Paranoid, delusional and psychotic thinking is also possible in the manic phase.

Current estimates indicate that about .5 to 1 percent of the adult population suffers from manic depression. That means between 1 and 2 million Americans have had or will have this affliction. Bipolar illness is equally common in men and women. It is typically a recurrent or episodic disorder: a 1973 study examined nearly 400 patients who had an episode of manic-depressive illness, and only two failed to have a recurrence.

Kay Jamison, one of the foremost experts on this illness, struggled with manic depression herself. She wrote a fascinating book called Touched With Fire that revealed the relationship between art and madness (mania). Some of the most creative people in the world have struggled with this illness. Included in the list compiled by the author are, among writers, Hans Christian Andersen, John Bunyan, Samuel Clemens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tennessee Williams and Virginia Woolf; composers, George Frideric Handel, Robert Schumann, Peter Tchaikovsky, Irving Berlin, Noel Coward, Stephen Foster and Cole Porter; and artists, Vincent van Gogh and Michelangelo.

Faulkner, Hemingway, Williams, Woolf, Schumann, Berlin and van Gogh all spent time in an asylum or psychiatric hospital. Hemingway, Woolf and van Gogh committed suicide.

In her autobiography, An Unquiet Mind, Jamison shares her struggle with this illness and describes her incredible accomplishments during periods of mania. Treating her illness with lithium brought her great relief, but also decreased her creativity and productivity. She also said that taking medicine was not enough. She needed the objectivity of someone else to help her get through the depressive cycle. Like many who struggle with bipolar depression, her lows were so awful that suicide often seemed to be the only way out.

Leo Tolstoy shared what others are undoubtedly thinking during the low moments of depression:

The thought of suicide came to me as naturally then as the thought of improving life had come to me before. This thought was such a temptation that I had to use cunning against myself in order not to go through with it too hastily. I did not want to be in a hurry only because I wanted to use all my strength to untangle my thoughts. If I could not get them untangled, I told myself, I could always go ahead with it. And there I was, a fortunate man, carrying a rope from my room, where I was alone every night as I undressed, so that I would not hang myself from the beam between the closets. And I quit going hunting with a gun, so that I would not be too easily tempted to rid myself of life. I myself did not know what I wanted. I was afraid of life. I struggled to get rid of it, and yet I hoped for something from it.

And this was happening to me at a time when, from all indications, I should have been considered a completely happy man; this was when I was not yet fifty years old. I had a good, loving, and beloved wife, fine children, and a large estate that was growing and expanding without any effort on my part. More than ever before I was respected by friends and acquaintances, praised by strangers, and I could claim a certain renown without really deluding myself.

Endogenous depression may have nothing to do with external circumstances, as in the case of Tolstoy. This is an internal or physical struggle due to a chemical imbalance in the brain or possibly a battle for the mind, as shall be examined in later chapters.

The transmission of a message through the brain cells requires a certain balance of sodium (positive) and chloride (negative) ions. In bipolar illnesses, the balance and polarity of positive and negative ions is abnormal. In depression, the sodium ions increase about 50 percent, and along with the mania they increase as much as 200 percent. (Compare the way electricity flows through copper better than it does through iron, due to the chemical makeup of each substance.)

The drug of choice for treating bipolar depression is lithium carbonate, which is an inert salt. This reduces the number of sodium and chloride ions that allow the transmission to proceed more normally through the cell and into other neurons.

Unipolar Depression

Episodes of serious depression without corresponding "highs" often indicate "unipolar" depression. Depression of this type affects nearly 10 percent of the American population and appears to be growing. Two major studies in the late 1970s revealed a tenfold increase in depression over the course of this century! As noted earlier, the diagnosis of depression has nearly doubled since the mid-1980s. This tremendous increase in depression has experts everywhere proclaiming that an epidemic of "the blues" is upon us.

Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.

------------------------------more on Monday-------------------------

God bless you all!





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