Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows

Let there be light!

One of my favorite features of our new home is all the natural light that comes in through the windows. The photo on the left is the view from my chair in the corner of the bedroom, looking into the cheerfully sunlit bathroom. The photo on the right is a closer view of the window which fills the room with all that glorious light.

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Wait on the Lord ~ Psalm 27

This psalm is so rich! It is one of the most comforting of all the psalms to my heart!
Here are the highlights…

 

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Verse 1: The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Just saying the words causes comfort to wash over me like the tide washes gently over the sand. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” He is my light. Indeed, He is our light. We need not stumble in darkness. Darkness brings fear; light dispels fear. The Lord is my salvation. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they have it more abundantly.” Wow! Abundant life! Not just existing, not just getting by from one day to the next, but living abundantly. That is what Jesus gave me. And not just in this life, but in the life to come, eternal life. Again, He said, “That whosoever believeth on me shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The Lord is the strength of my life. Several verses come to mind. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” “Without Me, you can do nothing.” “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” I can’t even get out of bed in the morning without the strength that God gives me.

Verse 4: One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple. Even before I had a personal relationship with Christ, when I had only head knowledge of what He had done for me, I wanted to serve Him. From my youth I have desired only to be in the service of the Lord, regardless of what He might ask me to do. He has allowed me to serve Him as a missionary, teacher, and musician. Now my ministry includes writing. I praise Him for desiring to use me, a broken vessel, for His glory.

Verse 5: For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock. One thing we can all be sure of in this life is that trouble will come. But I have the confidence of knowing that the Lord will not feed me to the wolves. He will hide me and protect me. The last phrase seems like a contradiction. “He shall set me up upon a rock.” How can anything on a rock be hidden? The image I see here is a lighthouse standing tall on a rock, so high that the fiercest storm cannot knock it down, and I am safe inside the lighthouse. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “He is the Rock. His work is perfect, for all His ways are righteous. A God of truth and without iniquity. Just and right is He.” He is the light, the pavilion (i.e. lighthouse), and the rock. The storm rages all around me, but it cannot touch me, for I am sheltered safely inside.

Verse 8: When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said unto You, “Your face, LORD, will I seek.” God desires that I would seek His face continually. That is the reason I have so many problems, both big and small. If my life were always easy, I would have no need for God. Sure, I’d give Him thanks, but even my thanks would become trite right quickly. I find that I am much more thankful for His provisions after a period of doing without.

Verse 10: When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. And not just my father and mother. But when my spouse, child, and friend forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. In fact, He has said that He will never leave me or forsake me. Others might. Correction: Others will. We are all human, and when the going gets tough, all too often we get going—to higher ground, leaving others behind if necessary. We are limited, but God is infinite. We are fickle, but God is constant. We are selfish, but God loves us with an everlasting, unconditional love.

Verse 11: Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of my enemies. I want to follow Christ, but distractions so often get in the way. These “enemies” of my soul may be wolves in sheep’s clothing. They may even be well-meaning people who simply do not understand God’s will for my life, though they think they do. There is safety in the multitude of counselors, but our ultimate counsel must come from God alone. He alone knows me inside and out. And He alone knows the plans He has for me. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

And finally, verse 14: Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. Waiting is one of the hardest things to do, but it does get easier with time. I am not nearly so impatient as I used to be, though I won’t say that I’ve mastered the grace of patience by any means. In some areas it is easier than others. Do you want to know the secret? Waiting is easier when you allow God to be God and learn to trust Him fully. And as for the areas of my life where I still lack patience, I remind myself once again to “wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.”

Photo taken near Luray, Virginia, 2009

Martha: The “Perfect” Hostess

Busy Bee

Can a Type-A person learn to wait on God? You are familiar with Mary and Martha, right? Mary was content to sit at the feet of Jesus, listening to His teaching and soaking up everything He had to say while Martha, our typical Type-A, was busy in the kitchen, preparing a feast fit for a king and fretting about not having enough help with it all. Oh, Mary had helped some, and perhaps the meal was nearly ready when she excused herself to the living room to sit with Jesus. She couldn’t help it if Martha decided at the last minute that they needed an extra vegetable, or that the dinner napkins were the wrong color and must be changed out. Those details did not matter to Mary. She wanted to spend time with Jesus. In the kitchen, she would just be in the way of her perfectionist sister, so she got out of the way.

But what about Martha? Don’t you think she also wanted to spend time with Jesus? Did she enjoy being “stuck” in the kitchen? Oh, to be sure, she loved cooking and entertaining. It was her forte. In fact, she was well known in town for her exquisite suppers. It’s not that she didn’t want to prepare the meal or set a fine table, but if only she could be in both rooms at once. Continue reading

Neurotherapy: A Cure for Bipolar?

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

This is the second half of my Bipolar story. For the first half, you will want to read The God in the Valley: A Bipolar Story. Since I am not a psychologist, or in any way a professional in this field, I’m going to draw on outside sources for my article and let you see some videos and interviews so that you will know that this is not just my opinion.

To begin, what is neurofeedback (also called biofeedback)? Watch this brief yet informative video to help you understand how neurofeedback works.

Going back to my own testimony, I was under the care of a psychiatrist and being treated with medicine for my bipolar symptoms. The mood swings were more or less under control, but I did not like the stigma of being under the care of a psychiatrist, nor did I like being dependent upon daily medications. If I missed a single dose, my family noticed because it showed up in my mood. But the worst part was that over time the medicine lost its efficacy, and my doctor and I would need to increase the dose or find something else in order to keep getting the desired result.

Then a dear friend of mine, who is also like a father to me, suggested I try neurotherapy. He knew of a therapist with a private practice nearby. The two of them had gone through the Naval Academy together. I had never heard of neurotherapy before, but on the recommendation of my friend I decided to give it a try. I called and made an appointment with Dr. Lanier Fly of Fly Family Therapy and drove 30 miles to his clinic. Believe me, it was worth every mile! In our interview he asked about my symptoms and background, and he said he could help me. Then Dr. Fly explained what I could expect from each session. There would be 30 minutes of talk therapy followed by 30 minutes of biofeedback. And more good news: he accepted my insurance. I agreed to the terms and started the treatment with two sessions per week.

Dr. Susan Othmer in the video above explained the biofeedback process quite well, but the actual procedure at Dr. Fly’s office was a little different, so I’ll tell you what we did. They put the electrodes on my head as explained in the video, but instead of watching a video game, I watched a movie of my choosing—well, a 30-minute segment of that movie, since the session only lasted 30 minutes. I could generally watch the entire movie in three sessions.

If my brain functioned as it should, the movie played normally. But if things weren’t working properly inside my head, then certain negative reactions would occur on the screen, depending on the setting that had been chosen at the beginning of the session. Usually for me it was a black curtain that would come over the picture. Also, muscular stress—such as laughter, yawning, or intense crying—would cause the picture and sound to fade, and I discovered that I could manipulate this to some degree. The blackout feature, however, was totally beyond my control to manipulate, but was all my brain’s doing. I could not consciously do anything to open the black curtain when it closed. My brain had to do that on its own. And eventually it learned. It’s amazing what the brain can learn.

Incidentally, something else I learned at these sessions was how to stop watching a movie partway through. One problem I had was that I was terribly sleep-deprived, but I would binge-watch my favorite movies even when I desperately needed sleep. Dr. Fly was elated the day I told him that the night before, when I got tired, I turned off the movie I was watching and went to bed. He told me that my brain needs sleep even more than my body does. During REM sleep our brains process thoughts, throwing out the trash and filing away the important information for easy recall later. When we don’t allow ourselves to get proper sleep, then our brains cannot function as they were intended. Ever since that day—with a few rare exceptions—I have made good sleep a priority.

After four months I was able to begin tapering off my medication–under the supervision of my medical doctor. Within six months of starting the neurotherapy I was completely off the bipolar medication, and I have never had to take it again! We also cut my biofeedback sessions back to once a week, then every other week, then once per month. All told, I went there for a little over a year, but about half of that was maintenance.

 

Is neurotherapy, or biofeedback, a cure for Bipolar Disorder? According to the experts, no, it is not. But is it an effective treatment that in many cases eliminates the need for medication because it retrains the brain in proper function. I like to think of it as remission. I have been off mood stabilizers and anti-depressants for six years and counting. Last year I actually passed a medical examination that qualified me for life insurance. That was huge!

There may be one more question on some of your minds: “Can I retrain my brain without biofeedback?” The misfiring is on the cellular level, and I’m inclined to think we might need some help with that. After all, God gave the doctors wisdom and knowledge. He has allowed us to understand how the brain works so that we can take measures to correct it when it is not functioning as it ought. God has made biofeedback possible, and it is certainly no sin to make use of this tool for healing and therapy.

However, biofeedback is expensive, and it is not available everywhere. What hope is there for those for whom neurotherapy is not an option? Again I ask, can I retrain my brain without biofeedback? I’d like to say yes, from a biblical standpoint. Biofeedback is all about teaching the brain to control its behavior. With God all things are possible, and God tells us to exercise self-control. He will not tell us to do something without also enabling us to do it.

2 Peter 1:3-8 According as His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you get that? According to God’s divine power, He has already given given us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ. The moment you become a child of God, everything you need to live a successful Christian life is given to you. You will not know how to use all the tools in the toolbox just yet, but they are there just the same. That means the more I study God’s Word and come to know Him, the better equipped I will be to manage my mood swings and every other part of my life.

But keep reading in the passage above. God has given us exceedingly great and precious promises. He has allowed us to be partakers of His divine nature. What does that mean? God desires to make you and me more and more like Him. When Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden that she would be like God, he was distorting the truth and appealing to her pride. But God genuinely does desire for us to take on His characteristics, and right here He explains that. This passage is not for the unbelievers, but for those who have placed our faith in Christ for salvation. We are to add certain things to our faith as a natural product of maturity: virtue (courage), knowledge (of God and His will), temperance (self-control), patience (cheerful endurance), godliness (obedience), brotherly kindness (love for Christians), and charity (love for all mankind). These characteristics are evidence of an abundant life in Christ. It’s hard to be emotionally unstable while living abundantly with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity.

Perhaps if I had been more mature in my relationship with the Lord, I would not have struggled so much with manic-depression. I don’t know. And again, I’m not a professional. I’m telling you what I tried and what worked for me, and I am glad to have received the neurotherapy. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. My battle with Bipolar is over. I do not give science the credit for my healing/remission. All that glory belongs to God alone. As I said, He opened the eyes of the scientists whose studies have brought us this treatment in the first place, He allowed friends’ paths to cross so that I would learn that such a treatment exists, and He provided the funds necessary for me to receive it.

Neurotherapy is better than medication, but best of all is having a personal relationship with the God who created your brain and loves you far more than you can imagine. If you want to know more about biofeedback, I encourage you to search the Internet because I don’t know the answers. But if you want to know more about God, you may send me a message, and I will be very happy to tell you more.

 

Credits:
“Neurofeedback for Depression” from About Neurofeedback. Published on YouTube April 1, 2015

“What Is Neurofeedback?” EEG INFO Videos” from Kurt Othmer. Published on YouTube April 8, 2007

“Neurofeedback: Bipolar Disorder” from Doctor Clarity. Published on YouTube July 29, 2010

“Dr. Carlton personal story with bipolar disorder and neurofeedback” from Carlton Neurofeedback Center. Published on July 14, 2016

The God in the Valley: A Bipolar Story

 

For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley;
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right.
And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times;
The God of the day is still God in the night.

Tracy Dartt¹

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This morning as I sat down to write my story for you, I first opened my Bible to have coffee with my Lord. I call this my Be-Still-and-Know Time, based on Psalm 46:10, and rarely do I start the day without it. At present I’m reading through the psalms again, and this morning I’m at Psalm 71. As I read, the Holy Spirit said to me, “Angela, this is what I’ve done for you. Tell them.” And I will. But first, you need a glimpse of the miry clay from which He lifted my feet.

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