Lifted Up ~ Psalm 30

 

Skyline Drive 271

I will extol Thee, O LORD; for Thou hast lifted me up,
and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried unto Thee,
and Thou hast healed me.
O LORD, Thou hast brought up my soul from the grave:
Thou hast kept me alive,
that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of His,
and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.
For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favor is life:
weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.
LORD, by Thy favor Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong:
Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled.
I cried to Thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication.
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit?
Shall the dust praise Thee? Shall it declare Thy truth?
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me:
LORD, be Thou my helper.
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing:
Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever.

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The Voice of the Lord ~ Psalm 29

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Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty,
give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

The voice of the LORD is upon the waters:
the God of glory thundereth:
the LORD is upon many waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars;
yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.
He maketh them also to skip like a calf;
Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.
The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness;
the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve,
and discovereth the forests:
and in His temple doth everyone speak of His glory.
The LORD sitteth upon the flood;
yea, the LORD sitteth King forever.

The LORD will give strength unto His people;
the LORD will bless His people with peace.

Here in Florida we get a lot of thunderstorms. In fact, I heard the rumble of thunder every day last week, even though I did not necessarily always see the rain. And I hear the distant rumble of thunder even now as I write this.

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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. The truth is, she had the perfect Guest in her home, and therefore she wanted her meal to be perfect—the setting just right, the food all delicious and hot and ready at the same time, the guests all comfortable, and the conversation all delightful. But she worked herself into a frazzle trying to make it happen. And by the time the evening was done, she realized she had hardly even cast a glance in Jesus’ direction. She had been so busy doing things for Him that she had spent very little time with Him. There had to be a balance, but how?

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King David was a lot like Martha. He too was a Type-A, a doer. In fact, King Saul was extremely jealous of him because the people had a saying, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands.” Yes, David was very accomplished, very talented, but he longed to learn to sit still and wait on God. Four times in Psalm 70 David asks God to hurry, and it’s a short psalm! Other times David does try to wait on God. I noticed this particularly in Psalm 69. “I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried; my eyes fail while I wait for my God” (v.3). He is waiting, but not very patiently. Others around him are more like Mary and have learned to wait patiently. David asks that he will not be an embarrassment to them. “O God, You know my foolishness, and my sins are not hidden from You. Let not them that wait on You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek You be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel” (vv.5-6). As he progresses through his thoughts, he shows us that God has taught him a measure of patience. “But as for me, my prayer is unto You, O Lord, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of Your mercy hear me, in the truth of Your salvation. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving” (vv.13,30).

Psalm 25 is also a psalm of David, and it is written from a position of rest. So to answer the question I posed at the beginning, YES, a Type-A person can learn to wait on God. David did. Read these first several verses of Psalm 25 and see for yourself.

Unto Thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
O my God, I trust in Thee:  let me not be ashamed,
let not my enemies triumph over me.
Yea, let none that wait on Thee be ashamed:
let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Show me Thy ways, O LORD; teach me Thy paths.
Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me:
for Thou art the God of my salvation;
on Thee do I wait all the day.
Remember, O LORD,  Thy tender mercies and Thy loving-kindnesses;
for they have been ever of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions:
according to Thy mercy
remember Thou me  for Thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.
Good and upright is the LORD:
therefore will He teach sinners in the way.
The meek will He guide in judgment:
and the meek will He teach His way.
All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth
unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
For Thy name’s sake, O LORD,  pardon my iniquity; for it is great.
What man is he that fears the LORD?
Him shall He teach in the way that He shall choose.
His soul shall dwell at ease,  and his seed shall inherit the earth.
The secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him,
and He will show them His covenant.
Psalm 25:1-14

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Let’s return now to our beloved Martha. Many things have happened in her life since that dinner when we first were introduced to her, but perhaps the most traumatic was when her beloved brother Lazarus took sick. Martha knew that Jesus had the power to heal Lazarus. She also knew that Jesus loved Lazarus (and Mary and herself). What she didn’t understand is why He didn’t come in time. Jesus’ heart broke to see her grief, but He met her right where she was, and He taught her a very important lesson.

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now, whatever You will ask of God, God will give it to You.” Jesus said unto her, “Your brother shall rise again.” Martha said unto Him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said unto her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said unto him, “Yes, Lord: I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:20-27).

This time when Jesus came into town, Martha had plenty of time to see Him, with no excuses, and Mary gave her space because she saw that her sister needed time alone with the Lord. Martha knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. She knew He had the power to heal the sick, and she knew that He would resurrect the dead at the last day, but she had not yet put two and two together to believe that He could resurrect her brother right then and there. It was too good to be true. Jesus tenderly and lovingly brought her to the place of understanding, then to prove His deity as much as to demonstrate His love, turned His attention to the tomb and cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” The brother’s body received his life again, and immediately he was released and restored to his overjoyed sisters in the presence of many witnesses.

The third and final time we see this family together with Jesus is at another dinner. Again Martha is serving, but this time there is no complaining, but only joy, for this time Martha serves from a position of rest. The “perfect” hostess has been perfected. What made the difference? Martha has spent time with Jesus. We don’t know all the time they may have spent together, but we do know of at least that one private conversation they had just moments before He raised Lazarus from the dead, where Jesus greatly increased Martha’s faith. Many believed on Him that day, and Martha learned to rest. Wouldn’t you? Imagine being there, when the realization floods over your soul that the Lord of glory was not late after all, He was right on time! He had a plan—a perfectly marvelous plan to show His glory in a wonderful way. I’m sure Martha learned that day that she could trust Him implicitly for any situation, for any problem, and there was absolutely nothing too difficult for God.

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1 Peter 5:10  But the God of all grace, who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.

James 1:4  But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

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You can read more about Martha here: Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-45; 12:1-11.

Next week: Rebekah

“Busy Bee” photo taken in Brevard, North Carolina, 2017

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