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Discouraged?

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Colonial Williamsburg

Ever notice that fears feed discouragement? You’re afraid of what might happen to your child with mental illness (MI) and your worrying grows. The problems inflate to a size too massive to handle.

I can’t begin to figure it out. What if school problems get worse? What if his new medication doesn’t work? What if our insurance won’t cover the new medication? What if we can’t find a better therapist? Giving up isn’t an option. Where can I go to escape this trial?

You’re not alone in wanting to escape. Take Elijah. He was so fearful that he felt completely isolated. He went into a cave. There he cried out, “‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.’” [1 Kings 19:10 (NKJV)]

The Lord met Elijah in his loneliness. He spoke to him in just a whisper.

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” [1 Kings 19:10-12 (NKJV)]

Listen to part of what God told him:

“‘Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’” [1 Kings 19:18 (NKJV)]

Elijah had become so discouraged that he thought that he was the only person left who had not bowed to Baal. Boy was he wrong! A whopping seven thousand others in Israel had remained faithful to God.

Things aren’t as bad as they seem. God understands our despair. He has words to encourage our hearts. He’ll meet us in our loneliness and discouragement. Not in the wind, or an earthquake, or a fire. But in a still small voice. We just need to tune into God’s soft messages. But how do we do that?

The Lord gave me insight when our piano was being tuned.

A friend of ours came to our house to tune our piano. While he worked, I did my devotions. The piano tuning drew my attention away from the Bible. I wondered, How is he able to tune our piano by ear?

Then I realized he had developed his keen musical ear as a music teacher. The more time he spent listening to notes, the easier it was for him to discriminate between pitches.

My mind shifted back to my devotions, but then continued to wander again.

How can I develop a keen ear to hear God’s voice? Probably the same way. The more I listen to His words, the easier it will be for me to distinguish His voice from all the other noises in my head. But how can I hear God’s messages for me?

With the piano-tuning serenade in the background, God whispered to me. “Remain in My presence and you’ll hear My voice.”

Remain in His presence. That’ll help me get my heart tuned up. 

With deeper focus I searched for verses about being in God’s presence.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”  (Psalm 139:7-10).

His presence never leaves us.

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Acts 2:28).

His presence fills us with joy.

“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence” (1 John 3:19).

Our hearts can rest in His presence.

So next time I’m discouraged, I’ll rest in His presence and tune into God’s still small voice.

 

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Dragons in our Lives

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Chinese Lantern Festival Philadelphia, PA

I didn’t stand in fear of the dragon. In fact, its beauty amazed me.  The vibrant colors lit up the dark sky.  It was just one of countless structures in the Chinese Lantern Festival.  It could do me no harm.

But dragons in our lives are another thing. Like the dragon named Mental Illness (MI). Knowing what it’s done in our child’s life, could anyone embrace that creature as a thing of beauty?

The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke seemed to suggest just that. In his Letters to a Young Poet  he explains, “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

It seems that Rilke would have us view MI as “something helpless that wants our love.” Seriously?  Such twisted philosophy comes from a man who lived his entire life rejecting Christianity. He searched for deeper meaning in life by writing poetry. His poems, therefore, reflect a troubled inner self.

In The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge he writes, “How is it possible to live when after all the elements of this life are utterly incomprehensible to us?” What a sad view of life!

Those of us who know God and who have an intimate relationship with Him gain an eternal perspective of trials. We have a clear vision of what He has done in the past, how He provides for us in the present, and what He will do in the future.

We see God as the One who has already triumphed. As the One who is greater than any challenges before us. And He is the One who will banish the dragon deceiver. Revelation gives us a picture of God’s ultimate power over deception.

“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.  He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.” (Revelation 20:1-3).

“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:9).

The deceiver of nations contaminated Rilke’s view of God. He prevented Rilke from finding God in his search for life’s meaning. That deceiver led him astray from knowing God. So Rilke created his own twisted version of God.

But that deceiver of nations does not have to deceive us. We need not listen to that voice that taunts, “God isn’t able to help your child. He’s not even working….” The Bible assures us God IS alive and working in our lives.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

There may be times in our journey that we wonder where God is. But He is faithful to reveal Himself in our darkest days. And His light is more beautiful than the dragon lantern’s vibrant colors that lit up the dark sky. He’s done it for me and he’ll do it for you.


Here’s a peek at some of the photos I took of the Chinese Lanterns. Click on the link below and enjoy a diversion from your day:

http://play.smilebox.com/SpreadMoreHappy/4e4451774e7a59344e444e384f5459314f4441314f444d3d0d0a

 

What can we do in the face of threats?

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He is our light & salvation.

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He is our light & salvation.

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He is our light & salvation.

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He is our light & salvation.

The bombings in Brussels happened so far from us, yet the reality of such an attack weighs heavy in our minds. Americans know that terrorism can happen anywhere. So we can relate to the fear that’s engulfed the people of Brussels. Certainly, we can’t know the terror they experienced and are still feeling. But media reports give us some idea.

FOX News Network’s online article, “At least 31 killed in terror attacks at Brussels airport, Metro station” describes the horror travelers witnessed today. The scene was described as harrowing, with blood everywhere. Like a war scene.  There was confusion, chaos, and crying. The exploding bombs sparked panic. People ran to escape, but were unsure where to flee. Some were left dazed. Most were filled with fear.

Horrific events like this put things into perspective. Moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) may know one kind of fear. The kind that grips a mother’s heart, day in and day out. Fear of what might happen next. Many worry their child’s life will be lost to suicide or to a drug overdose. Many feel their child’s life has already been lost, in a sense, to MI.

Most of us haven’t been victims of mass destruction.  We watch the news and can only imagine such terror. We hear witnesses’ accounts of how life had been suddenly ravaged. And we begin to pray for them.

All of humanity holds their breath, wondering where the next attack will hit. But we’re all determined not to give into the taunting fear.  So we grapple with this question: What can we do in the face of threats?

Fear is fear. It’s an emotion that contaminates our calm at one time or another. Countless stories in the Bible tell of fear triggered by approaching threats. God has included those stories so we have examples of how to respond. We can open the scriptures and hear some of those heroes whisper words of wisdom.


Abraham shows us how to handle fear.

Abraham “did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). 

I wondered if I could be as “fully persuaded.”

How do people get persuaded? I contemplated. Undeniable facts are presented. So I reasoned:  if I want to have that same unshakable faith, I should reflect on the undeniable facts about God. He is real. He cares for me and my loved ones. He will never leave me. He has power to do what He has promised.


Still I needed more of a pep talk from another Bible hero. I found it in 2 Chronicles 20.

Jehoshaphat shows us how to face fear.

One king knew what it was like to face an attack from Syria (and other armies). Notice how he felt and what he did.

First: “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).

That’s what the citizens of Brussels and all over the world are doing: seeking help from the Lord, and gathering together to pray. That’s what a mom can do as well. Seek the Lord and ask others to pray.

Next: Jehoshaphat acknowledged God’s power and remembered what His past victories. He said, “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?” (2 Chronicles 20:6-7).

To bolster our faith, we can also reflect on what God has done.

We can also acknowledge God’s power and remember how He has worked in our lives and in the lives of our kids.

After that: Jehoshaphat made a remarkable statement. He boldly proclaimed that, “If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us” (2 Chronicles 20:9).

His was a declaration of faith in God, no matter what. Jehoshaphat knew that details and situations don’t change God. No matter what, he believed God would hear and save them. Jehoshaphat’s example inspires us to also believe that God will hear and save us from our troubles.

Next: Jehoshaphat told God why he was afraid, and asked God to provide wisdom and victory.

“O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Likewise, we can also tell God why we’re afraid, and ask God to provide wisdom and victory.

Following that:  Jehoshaphat, even before he went to fight his enemies, bowed before the Lord and worshipped. He even appointed people to sing praises to God.

“Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. Then the Levites of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with voices loud and high … And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever’”  (2 Chronicles 20:18-19. 21).

Jehoshaphat and his people worshipped God even before knowing the outcome. If he can do that, so can we. By faith, we can worship the Lord even before we know the outcome. Because we know He’s faithful.

How did God respond? The spirit of the Lord said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s’” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

God reminded the people that the battle is His. We can be assured of the same fact: the battle we’re fighting is His. God is bigger than any battle.

Jehoshaphat reassured the people, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:17).

We can stand still and watch God work, with the assurance that God is with us.

 How did the battle end? God had the armies defeat themselves.

“The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped” (2 Chronicles 20:23-24).


What we can learn from courageous spies:

There are others in the Bible who show us how to face fear.  The Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land. Before they crossed the border, God gave them instructions.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites’” (Numbers 13:1-2).

Fear defeated some of the spies because of what they saw. They reported, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are … We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:3b-4a).

We’re tempted to look at the giants in our lives and say, “Game over!”

Thankfully Joshua and Caleb kept their focus on the Lord. They reported a future victory, despite the size of the enemy. And bolstered the peoples’ faith by saying, “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:8-9).

We need not fear; the Lord is with us.


Daniel’s friends show us how to deal with fear. Just being thrown into a fiery furnace, the said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

We, too can be certain God will be with us. Regardless of the outcome, we can still worship the king of all Kings.

What did God do? He walked with them in the fire and spared their lives.

The king responded in his astonishment, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25).

God walks with us as we go through burning trials.


 

David and other psalmists show us how to remove all fear.

The psalmists knew about fear. David and others kept their focus on God. Fears of their enemies vanished in light of God’s power.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27: 1).

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).

“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:2).

“He will not let you fall. Your Protector will not fall asleep. Israel’s Protector does not get tired. He never sleeps” [Psalm 121:3-4 (ERV)].


I added those verses from psalms to photographs I took. As my gift to you, I’ve included four reminder cards at the beginning of this posting.

Let me leave you with words from Isaiah. I pray they’ll echo in your mind during uncertain times.

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Fear not.

On the Brink

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When we’re on the brink, does disaster always follow? Or can something wonderful happen? If everything around us looks bleak, can we feel anything but worry or fear? Or can we be filled with a calm assurance?

Moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) have teetered on the edge of disaster… times when we’ve stood by helplessly watching our child lose control or hope.  Some have witnessed their typically placid child suddenly lash out in violence. Others have seen their normally exuberant child shrivel up in despair.

Is it possible to face an uncertain future with optimism? When healing and restoration seem impossible, can we remain hopeful? There’s a man in the Bible who shows us that it IS possible.

Joshua and the children of Israel faced an insurmountable obstacle—the Jordan River.  How would they cross that body of water? God instructed Joshua to, “Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river’” (Joshua 3:8).

God had commanded that the priests literally take a step in faith and stand. They had to trust that the One who created the seas would reveal His mighty power over that river.

It wasn’t like when the Red Sea blocked the way. In that case, God’s people took their first step on dry land.

With Pharaoh’s army fast approaching, God separated the Red Sea and provided a way of escape. God’s people didn’t have to step into the water. Moses lifted his staff and the Red Sea opened.  They first witnessed the miracle of divided water before they took their first step.

But, Joshua’s priests literally stood on the brink of deep waters. God asked them to move ahead in faith, without first witnessing a miracle. Could they trust God to provide a way out? Or would fear of drowning prevent them from moving ahead?

What did they choose as they stood on the brink? Fear or faith?

Joshua 3:15-16 provides the account:

“It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho” (NLT).

They took a step in faith and stood in the turbulent water. And God was instantly faithful to His people. He dried up the Jordan so they could cross.

Are you struggling with that choice as you stand on the brink? Do you wonder if you can take a step of faith and stand, without fear of drowning in sorrows?

Our Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 is still in the business of providing and guiding.  He calls us to dip our toes in His oasis of care.  When we’re thirsty for relief, the psalmist reminds us to, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).

Dictionary.com defines “on the brink” as “a crucial or critical point, especially of a situation or state beyond which success or catastrophe occurs.” Success or catastrophe. Why does God take us to a crucial point where we anticipate some sort of extraordinary ending? Joshua’s story helps us understand God’s purposes.

For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God” (Joshua 4:23-24).

There’s the answer: “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful…” He takes us to the brink so that everyone might know the Lord’s is powerful. He gives us tangible reminders of His power. So that we’ll remember His power is greater than all our troubles.

I love the psalmist’s prayer about being on the brink:

“God, you did everything you promised, and I’m thanking you with all my heart. You pulled me from the brink of death, my feet from the cliff-edge of doom. Now I stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life” [Psalm 56:12-13 (MSG)].

May you enjoy your stroll with God today.

More Powerful than Pain

Lord.goes.with.us

If you obey the speed limit, the road will sing to you.

Yeah, right.

Newsflash: Melodies motivate motorists.

It’s true. Musical highways are popping up around the world. Sound unbelievable? Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJgCLq4Qo6A&list=PL5kpImGdIpVSiMPZZTUYNJTjT_K7mi8jQ

Drivers will only hear the melody when driving at the correct speed. That’s the point. Curiosity may kill a cat, but it can save a motorist’s life. Maintaining safe speeds to ‘play’ the tune can prevent accidents.

Popularity of these roads is growing because people enjoy the creative prompting to follow speed limits. Wouldn’t it be nice if all warnings could be equally enjoyable?

Raising a child with mental illness (MI) can easily lead a mom to dangerous thoughts. Her heart can be filled with fear, worry, and cares. If allowed to fester, worse emotions can result. Like depression and despair. The Bible warns against such contaminated thinking. But how do we resist when life seems so out of control?

God Word is full of loving guidelines. Gentle warnings. Our loving Father couples don’ts with dos, offering us a way out. The biggest warning sign in scripture is hell. But God offers eternal life in heaven through Christ’s death on the cross. All we need to do is accept His free gift of salvation.

There are others:

Don’t fear:

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

Don’t fear losing control of your reactions. Do rely on His power, love, and self-discipline.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).”

Don’t fear what will become of your child. Do depend on His perfect love to drive out fear.

Don’t worry:

“‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:25, 33-34).’”

Don’t worry what tomorrow may bring. Do seek His kingdom and righteousness.

Don’t cling to cares:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).”

Don’t hold onto your cares. Do give them to the One who cares for you.

Too often I plunge into my prayers with countless requests. Then I realized that’s not how I approach my son. I don’t start off all my conversations with. “Chris, take out the trash. Do the dishes. Fix my computer. Move that clutter to the shed. Clean your room…” Instead I say, “How are you?” I enter most conversations with a desire to find out more about him. My relationship with him isn’t based on what he will do for me. So why do I treat God like an almighty Santa Clause?

Christ had a reason for instructing us to begin our prayers with, “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10)’”.

He knew our need to shift our focus to Him. When we first contemplate His power, anxieties melt. Pain shrinks in the light of His greatness.

Come to Him first with love. Then the list.  

Many of us can relate to Peter who seemed to personify attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). No wonder he offers great advice when we mess up. God doesn’t say, “Off to the dungeon with you!”

Instead, 1 Peter 4:8 reminds us, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

So all we need to do is love (Ephesians 5:2), put on His armor (Ephesians 6:10-17), resist temptation (James 4:7) and draw near to His presence (James 4:8). That’s my formula for victorious living today.

Focus on Him and you listen to Matt Redman’s song ‘Blessed be Your Name.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnWKehsOXu8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multiple Diagnoses

Psalm 23.2

“I can’t take it anymore.” What’s your ‘it?’ Mine was more bad news from a doctor. I didn’t think life could get more stressful. But I was wrong.

It had been hard enough for me to bear knowing the challenges Chris faced because of his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And even more heart-wrenching watching mental illness (MI) ravage his life.

Life seemed to be back on track for Chris. God had helped us pass through turbulent waters and we were enjoying smooth sailing. Then multiple health scares plunged us back into troubled waters. Took us by surprise.

But who expects to have trials? Not me. I expected the opposite. We’d just endured trying times with MI. Somehow I thought God would space out our struggles. So we could catch our breath.

It didn’t seem possible for me to withstand the next storm. So I turned to the Bible for solace. God reminded me, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it [1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG)].”

He also assured me that He’s the Good Shepherd who, “makes me lie down in green pastures” and “leads me beside quiet waters (Psalm 23:2).” So I trusted Him to calm my fears.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

The first few weeks of college for Chris seemed to be running smoothly. He communicated with me daily. Sometimes by computer, but usually by phone. He needed to hear our voices. Calling frequently helped him through the adjustment to his first semester.

“How are things going, Chris?” I’d inquire.

“Pretty good,” he’d replied convincingly.

“How are your classes?” I asked during his first week away from home.

“I like them. But mostly I like my schedule. I can sleep until noon just about every day.”

I barraged him with typical questions. Covering all the necessary inquiries about his physical needs.

“What are you eating? How’s the food? Are you sleeping well? Do you have warm enough clothes?…”

He tolerated my motherly interrogation. So I ventured into more sensitive areas.

“Are you interacting with others, rather than isolating? Are you taking your medication? How are things going with your roommate?…”

“Yes, Mom. I’m taking my medication. My roommate is hardly ever in the room,” he replied.

That’s probably less stressful for Chris. Kind of like having a room to himself. Thank You, Father, that Chris is willing to answer my questions and that he’s taking his medication. Thank You for calming my fears.

As planned, I drove to his campus Friday afternoons so Chris could spend the weekends at home. Like any mom, I needed to see Chris face-to-face. It helped to look into his eyes and know he’s okay. He really did seem happy. Until one weekend.

Like most Fridays, I had arrived at Chris’s campus early. I never wanted to make him wait. Chris approached my car walking stiff-legged. It was so pronounced that it looked like he was walking like a robot.

That’s odd. Is he hurt? He didn’t say anything on the phone.

“What’s wrong, Chris? Why are you walking that way,” I asked as soon as Chris opened the car door.

“My heels hurt,” he explained.

“Maybe it’s from all that marching you did in high school. I’ll get you some orthotics for your shoes while you’re home. They should provide added support and comfort.”

Problem solved. Or so I thought. Each week Chris seemed worse, not better. After about two months Chris began to complain of new soreness.

“My back and shoulders hurt.”

“Do you think it’s because of all the books you’re carrying across campus?” I asked, hoping that was the cause. Fearing it wasn’t as simple as that.

When the pain and stiffness spread to more parts of his body I realized Chris needed to see his doctor. When Dr. Kent saw Chris, he was shocked at the severity of Chris’s condition. Chris couldn’t turn his head, rotate his arm, or bend over to put on his shoes.

“It appears you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chris,” he predicted. “I’m going to prescribe some blood tests. The results may confirm my suspicions. It will take several weeks for us to get the results. In the meantime, I’ll also prescribe some anti-inflammatory meds to ease your discomfort.”

Several days before Christmas Chris came home for the semester break. We got a call from Dr. Kent. The results of Chris’s blood tests had come in.

“It looks like…The results seem to indicate…It’s possible Chris has systemic lupus.” I didn’t know anything about the disease. But the doctor’s stammering and halting words concerned me.

Dr. Kent paused for my response. Fear gripped me. I couldn’t process the information. Dr. Kent explained the next step.

“No one wants to hear they have lupus. We’ll need to have Chris seen by a specialist to confirm the diagnosis. A rheumatologist will know if that’s the cause of Chris’s pain and stiffness.”

I hung up the phone and found Howie.

“That was Dr. Kent. He said Chris’s blood tests indicate he has lupus.”

“What’s lupus?” Howie asked.

“I have no idea. I’m going to check it out on the computer.”

A quick google search led me to the National Lupus Foundation and other sites. Someone recommended the book The Lupus Book; A guide for Patients and Their Families by Daniel J. Wallace, J. D. So I ordered the book. Big mistake.

Wallace’s book arrived Christmas Eve. I had been busy making our holiday meal so I only had time to glance at the inside cover. I learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea to investigate lupus on my own. The information I read terrified me.

“Lupus, a disease of the immune system, can be quite deadly, claiming the lives of thousands of patients yearly.” Chris’s previous bout with psychosis prior to his stiffness seemed consistent with systemic lupus.

Does this mean Chris will die young? Had he overcome MI only to be struck with this deadly disease? Father, this can’t be. Oh, please, dear God, don’t let this happen!

I began to sob. I became filled with sorrow and fear.

Please, Father, calm my fears.

The well-respected rheumatologist had a long waiting list. We scheduled an appointment for a weekday so Chris could be seen as soon as possible. We’d have to wait two months before getting a final diagnosis. That seemed like an eternity.

The day came for the appointment. Howie drove Chris to the doctor’s office located in the city. I had to meet them there since it was difficult for me to take off from work. As I drove toward the city I realized that in a short time I’d find out Chris’s fate. I tried to ignore my fears. But it got harder as I got closer to my destination. I felt as though I was about to hear a sentence from a judge: life or death for Chris.

When I reached the city I drove through stop-and-go traffic. I noticed the narrow city streets were filled with teenagers and young adults. None were dressed in business attire. The streets seemed to be speckled with police officers.

Something’s going down.

Suddenly I heard what sounded like rapid-fire gun shots.

Lord, help me arrive at the office safely. And find a safe place to park.

In the doctor’s office I overheard someone talking about the firecrackers going off to celebrate the Chinese New Year. There had been no danger. I had feared the worst before knowing the facts. That’s precisely what I’d done with Chris’s diagnosis also. The specialist informed us Chris did not have lupus. He had psoriatic arthritis. A condition treatable by medication. Never deadly.

Months later, at a follow-up visit with his primary physician Chris needed more blood work done. The results of those tests revealed that Chris had developed a thyroid problem. He’d have to take medication to treat that condition. The total amount of pills climbed to fourteen a day. He hadn’t gotten an early-death prognosis. But I worried about his future. How would he manage college? Would he face more pain? More suffering?

Another illness for him? I can’t stand watching Chris go through any more pain. Please calm my fears and remove all my anxieties.

 

MI: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

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Can Mental illness (MI) ever be good? One account in the Bible shows how “MI” came in handy.

King David faked insanity to escape the enemy. David, out of fear of King Achish of Gath and his servants, “pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (1 Samuel 21:13)”

Insanity led to David’s deliverance. “Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam… (1 Samuel 21:14-15 & 1 Samuel 22:1)”

Other than that story, I can’t think of anything good about MI. Can you?

So that’s the good of MI. What’s the bad of MI? The bad is when it seeps into a healthy person’s psyche. Contaminating thoughts. Selling lies.

A former second grade student of mine, Alex, had exceptional language skills. Rarely had I witnessed such amazing articulation. His verbal expression even impressed his peers.

The time came for students to give an oral book report. As expected, most were nervous. Surprisingly, so was Alex. He faced his classmates frozen. Unable to speak. Why would HE be afraid to do a presentation?

It became obvious the enemy was feeding him a lie. Telling him, “You can’t do this.”

I took him out in the hall to give a pep talk. Thankfully, as a Christian educator, I could use scripture to melt his fears.

I assured him by saying, “2 Timothy 1:7 tells us God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. What He calls us to do, He’ll enable us to accomplish. Philippians 4:13 promises, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ The truth is that God has blessed you with wonderful speaking skills. He’ll help you give your oral book report.”

Still afraid, he asked, “Can I do it tomorrow?”

I granted him permission to wait, knowing his parents would echo my words from scripture and pray with him. He did okay the next day. And remembered God’s faithfulness. In third grade he sang a solo during a Christmas concert—in front of hundreds of people.

Alex suffered a common fear: public speaking. Never before that day had he demonstrated anxiety. His behaviors weren’t a result of MI.

Some of our children suffer anxiety disorders. They face overwhelming fears which can be crippling. Or battle worries which are constant. Their symptoms aren’t temporary like those experienced by Alex.

Other forms of MI can be equally debilitating. Our children need help to overcome challenges related to their illness. Sadly, instead of support, we receive judgment from others.

The ugly truth about MI is that some people think our kids are pretending to have anxiety or depression. Assuming their behaviors can easily be controlled. Outsiders jump to wrong conclusions and pass negative judgments. “It’s a character flaw, a ploy to gain power, or manipulation to get out of doing work.” All beliefs are wrong. Anyone who has ever experienced MI would tell you they’d do anything to feel better. Sadly, our children who have MI aren’t faking it like King David did.

Another ugly truth about MI is that some people think the child should “just snap out of it.” The assumption driving such incorrect thinking is that the symptoms are temporary. Outsiders advise, “Just talk to your child and he’ll stop acting that way.” The false belief is that reasoning would be all that’s necessary to improve behavior (like it did with Alex).

God healed Alex from his irrational fear. Can our heavenly Father do the same for our children who suffer from MI? Certainly He’s able. I witnessed an extraordinary miracle in the life of an adolescent. You can read about her transformed life in the message I posted August 21, 2013 entitled ‘Anxiety.’

The wonderful Truth is that God is able to help us through our own challenges, heartaches, and loneliness of MI.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)”

Another wonderful Truth is that Christ overcame death. May you be encouraged by that reminder of His limitless power. Be blessed by this song as you reflect on His second coming.

‘Glorious Day’ by Casting Crowns