Ramblings about mental illness

I’m going to “think out loud” a bit about a topic that I know only a little about, but I do have some experience with it: mental illness.

Many of us have been touched by mental illness in one way or another and I have a few personal examples:

  • Many years ago, I worked with a person at Kodak who was convinced everyone in our department was conspiring with his ex-wife to cause him harm, although none of us had ever even met his ex-wife. He was becoming increasingly agitated, but Human Resources said they could not intervene unless he actually threatened someone. This increasingly tense situation continued for several months until the person was eventually dismissed in a general lay-off. It was my opinion that if the person had worked in the offices of management rather than on the production floor, he would have been dealt with promptly.
  • My wife suffered through a bout of depression and had suicidal thoughts after she severely fractured her leg in 1984.
  • My mom suffered from Alzheimer’s the last several years of her life.
  • A close relative grew up in a household with a mother who was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and did not take her medications regularly. The close relative dropped out of college last Spring due to anxiety and depression.
  • A very good friend is going through a second divorce at the age of sixty-three. The situation has completely unnerved him. He contemplated suicide this past summer after his wife moved out. Although he is no longer considering suicide, he is almost completely debilitated by anxiety and depression. I’m reluctant to visit with him because every time we get together he talks about his woes incessantly, for literally hours on end. It’s the same “poor me” pity-party over and over and over, like an endless loop. Yes, I’ve interrupted him many times and told him he must “get a grip.” He acknowledges that and then goes right back to his loop. He has taken a wide assortment of medications and has seen therapists without much change. He stopped seeing a therapist because he says he can no longer afford it. My friend seems to “enjoy” being a victim and wallowing in his misery. He craves company (i.e., people who will listen to him), but his behavior is driving his family and friends away. The situation has “unnerved” me to some degree, which explains this post.
  • I won’t go into detail, but I have seen situations within my extended family that included bulimia, anorexia, alcoholism, paranoia, paralyzing grief due to the death of a child from a drug overdose, and obsessive-compulsive disorder including hoarding. These terms aren’t “psycho-babble,” but describe very real circumstances that I have witnessed personally.

There’s a lot of controversy about mental illness in Christian circles. There are some Christians who say most mental illnesses are actually manifestations of a spiritual problem. In other words, if a Christian is suffering from depression or anxiety, then their faith in/relationship with the Lord isn’t strong enough. While that could certainly be true in some cases, I also believe there are pathological/neurological/chemical bases for mental illness. Not only must a Christian with mental illness deal with the problem, they must also deal with the stigma and guilt of allegedly not having the requisite faith.

Psychology and psychotherapy get a bad rap in Christian circles and sometimes for good reason. There are cases where drugs are mis-prescribed or over-prescribed and people become dependent rather than dealing with the root cause of their problem. Psychology is based upon humanistic, godless principles that are often at odds with Biblical teaching.

I haven’t suffered from any debilitating mental illnesses myself, although I have experienced depression and anxiety at times throughout my life. One morning, I was listening to a show on (c)hristian radio and the host mentioned her friend who has Asperger’s Syndrome (a type of high-performing autism). The symptoms that were described actually fit me to a tee, but we get into trouble when we self-diagnose. I subsequently took a couple of online tests and scored extremely high for the syndrome. No worries. I’m doing fine with my quirky self.

When a Christian experiences some type of troubling mental/emotional problem, the first thing they should do is pray. They then might want to see their pastor before they consult with anyone else. The situation may very well be a spiritual problem that can be helped with godly counseling. If not, the pastor can hopefully recommend a qualified Christian therapist. Obviously, there are serious cases of mental illness that require immediate medical intervention.

Okay, I’m done “thinking out loud.” Comments are welcome.

Postscript: Our eleven-year-old, forty-five-pound dog has frequent anxiety/panic attacks which most often occur in the middle of the night. She will start crying and shaking for no apparent reason and jumps up on the bed to try curl up around my wife’s head. We’ve tried various vet-prescribed medications without much success (also, my wife is against “pushing pills on her”). I must get up out of bed and put her in an enclosed room where she barks and claws at the door until she tires herself out. Not a good situation at 2 a.m. during the work week.

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How Catholics craftily try to “get around” taking the Lord’s name in vain

Many people are well aware of the third commandment of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” – Exodus 20:7. But using the Lord’s name as a frivolous exclamation or even as a swear word is quite popular throughout our society. Even atheists will mindlessly use “G–!” or “Oh my G–!” or “J—-!” as empty exclamations. Many people think nothing of also attaching filthy expletives to the Lord’s name as part of their profane utterances.

But pious Catholics think they have figured out a way to “beat the system” and avoid this sin while still vainly using the name of Jesus. Instead of exclaiming “J—-!” or “J—- Christ!” they will substitute the expression, “J—-, Mary, and Joseph!” They imagine they can take the Lord’s name in vain, but still not sin if they append the names of Mary and Joseph. They would defend themselves by saying they are only invoking the “holy family” trio in prayer rather than using the Lord’s name disrespectfully.

Two thoughts:

  1. No matter how they try to sugar coat it, they’re still taking the Lord’s name in vain.
  2. Invoking anyone in prayer other than God is blasphemy. Nowhere in the entire Bible does a believer pray to anyone other than God.

My parents went to mass every Sunday, but that was the visible extent of their Catholic faith as far as I ever noticed. However, I had a boyhood friend whose parents were very pious Catholics. Whenever the occasion called for a forceful exclamation of anger or surprise, the mother or older sisters would let out an animated, “J—-, Mary, and Joseph!” My sister-in-law, who also once fancied herself a pious Catholic, would also use this same “pasteurized” version of profaning the Lord’s name. This exclamation is used by MANY Catholics who think they are cleverly getting around the 3rd commandment. Whoops, Catholics actually number it as the 2nd commandment, which is another post altogether.

Have you ever come across Catholics who use the camouflaged curse expression, “J—-, Mary, and Joseph”? I’ve read that the phrase was once especially popular among Irish Catholics.

We are all sinners and all of us break the Ten Commandments either in thought, word, deed, or by omission every day. We can’t merit salvation because none of us are good. But God the Father sent Jesus Christ, God the Son, to pay for our sins on the cross at Calvary. He defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave three days later and now offers forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and fellowship with Him to all those who repent of their sin and accept Him as Savior by faith alone. Won’t you trust in Jesus to save you?

Postscript: I’m a believer and I’m pretty adept at not using the Lord’s name as a curse word, yet I admit that I also take the Lord’s name in vain. How? I call Him my Lord, but I don’t always do what He commands me to. Praise God for His grace, forgiveness, and encouragement to keep pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus! – Philippians 3:14

Polish Pottery – Genuine and fakes

My enamorment with my Polish heritage during my long prodigal journey away from the Lord (see here) dovetailed with the trendy popularity of Polish pottery in the U.S. Back in the mid-aughts, you could find displays of Polish pottery in many department and discount stores throughout the country. We even had a shop near us devoted exclusively to Polish pottery called Market Square Polish Pottery located at Northfield Commons at 50 State Street in Pittsford, New York. The shop was opened in 2007 by an enterprising young couple, Danielle and Jim Bonsignore (Danielle was part-Polish), and I bought three pieces, which we still enjoy today (photo left).

During the Polish pottery craze, you could find less-expensive, imitation pieces in discount stores. But all of the Polish pottery actually manufactured in the Bolesławiec region of Poland are stamped with a seal of authenticity on the underside (photo right).

Fads and trends come and go and Polish pottery is no longer anywhere near as popular as it used to be. Market Square Polish Pottery struggled for a couple of years and finally closed its doors. Even the Polish Americans living in the Greater Rochester area wouldn’t support the shop. Polish Americans are generally known for having little interest in their cultural heritage, but that’s another post.

The proliferation of inexpensive knock-offs during height of the Polish pottery craze reminds me of the proliferation of churches that claim to be Christian. There’s churches out there that deny the truths of the Bible, churches that preach works salvation, and churches that preach prosperity in this temporal world. But a true church preaches repentance of sin and the Good News of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. That is the Lord’s authenticating mark. Don’t waste your time on the forgeries because they are spiritually toxic.

Bolesławiec Polish Pottery – Wikipedia article
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boles%C5%82awiec_pottery

Happy New Year!

I wish all of my WordPress friends and readers a Happy New Year in the Lord Jesus Christ!

If you have not repented of sin and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone, what are you waiting for?

“For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” – 2 Corinthians 6:2

If you are a blood-bought, born-again believer, may you more faithfully follow the Lord, Jesus Christ, through His Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit!

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17

None of us are assured of seeing 2020 in these frail bodies in this fallen world.

“I have a good mind to call the town on them!”

Do you share any long-standing “inside” jokes with family members? Anytime my second-oldest sister comes over to visit and sees trash at the end of my driveway waiting to be picked up, she scolds me good-naturedly. Allow me to explain:

Our father was a VERY regimented, strait-laced kind of guy. I think he and many of the other second-generation European immigrants of that era were DRIVEN to be exemplary citizens. Their goal was to quickly assimilate into society and become even better Americans than the long-established WASPs. My father held himself, his children, his house, and his neighborhood to the highest standards of deportment and appearance. Let’s put it this way, my Dad would keep his suit and tie on for our occasional picnic lunches after Sunday mass. I’m sure Dad’s stint in the Army Air Corps during WWII also played a part in his disciplined approach to life.

Our father meticulously maintained our house and lawn and expected the neighbors living on our short street to do the same. According to Dad’s strict standards, garbage cans and other trash could only be brought to the curb the night before refuse pickup day so as to maintain the neighborhood’s aesthetics. As you can imagine, the neighbors didn’t think the same exact way about the issue and would regularly deposit their trash at the curb one day, or two, or three, or even an entire week before the pickup day. Well, that would absolutely drive my father UP THE WALL. It was amazing to observe this very staid, conservative man getting so emotional about the neighbors dropping some trash bags at the curb a couple of days early. From his reaction, you would have thought they had stolen his favorite lawn chair!

Years later, I purchased my own home, followed by the one we’re currently living in. I also like to keep the house and yard well-maintained, but I don’t make it into my religion like my father had. I have no compunctions about taking fallen tree branches, bags of shrub clippings, etc. to the curb a week prior to pick-up. When my parents were still alive and came over for a visit, as a favor to Dad I purposely didn’t take the bags of yard debris that had been sitting at the curb for a couple of days to the back of the house. I was trying to help him loosen up a little. 🙂

We all have our quirks and there’s no doubt I have mine. Dad had plenty of good points and was a good provider for his large brood. But my sister and I still get a good chuckle recalling his livid anger when neighbors took their trash to the curb “prematurely.”

What’s an “inside” joke shared in your family?

Postscript: My Dad was not an overtly religious man, but he did attend mass every Sunday. He was a Polish American and, like all Poles, Catholicism was an important part of his family fabric. The exhaustive legalism and ritualism of Catholicism also appealed to his sense of order and merited reward. He was especially proud that fellow-Pole, Karol Wojtyla, reigned as pope John Paul II from 1978 to 2005. My wife and I presented the Gospel to him and my mother many times, but they responded that their “2000-year-old” institutional church and its gospel of sacramental grace and merit trumped anything we could offer.

Conclusion of the 2018 Leaf Campaign!

If the following sounds like a complicated and exhausting military operation, it’s because I’m still recovering physically as I write and may have a touch of self-pity.

As I’ve related in a couple of previous posts (see link far below), a large number of leaves fall into our yard from our oak trees and our neighbors’ overhanging oaks during the month of November. Well, “a large number” is actually quite an understatement. Since we moved into the house in 2004, every month of November, the ENTIRE month, has been devoted to collecting the leaves and hauling them to the curb where our town’s highway department picks them up. The town stops leaf pick-up the first week of December. Oak trees retain their leaves right up into December. I’ve previously related how I finally broke down last year and purchased a gas-powered leaf blower to help with gathering the leaves. I can’t begin to express in words the enormous difference between hand-raking the entire lawn multiple times versus the ease of using the powerful blower.

Well, this past Sunday I was able to complete this season’s leaf campaign, although I was up against a formidable adversary this year.

I began the campaign on November 8, 9, and 11 by hauling 3, 4, and 6 tarp loads of leaves to the curb respectively. I usually haul around 50-something tarp loads each season so I was off to a good start; 26% of the job was done with 3 weeks still left to go!

But then the unthinkable happened! On Monday and Tuesday, November 12 and 13, Rochester caught the fringes of a major Nor’easter that ravaged the Atlantic coast and we ended up with about 6 inches of snow on the ground. Then, in the early hours of Friday, November 16, we woke up to an additional 6 inches. The result? For two solid weeks I wasn’t able to work on the leaves, which continued to drop at a steady pace. I was running out of time.

By Sunday, November 25, the snow had melted enough that I was able to collect and haul away 10 more tarp loads. But was I wasting my time? Was the town still collecting leaves with all of the snowfall? On Monday, I called the town and they said, yes, they were still collecting leaves and would be in our neighborhood on Friday or Saturday. Cool! More snow was predicted beginning Tuesday evening so I went out with the blower that afternoon and collected most of the remaining leaves into piles. My thinking? With all the leaves gathered in piles, I hoped I’d be able to rake them onto the tarp despite the thin snow covering. My strategy worked! On Wednesday, I hauled 14 tarp loads to the curb. Although the leaves were heavier because of the moisture, the tarp glided much more easily on the thin layer of snow. On Thursday, November 29, I hauled another 8 loads to the curb.

Well, Friday and Saturday came and went and no sign of the town’s trucks. We had an unseasonably warm 60 degrees this past Sunday, so after company left at 3 p.m., I blew the remaining leaves into piles, which worked out to be 5 more tarp loads.

I’m happy to report the 2018 leaf campaign is officially over! I hauled a total of 50 tarp loads of leaves to the curb! The hard part was that, because of the snow interruption, I had to haul 37 tarp loads or 74% of the total in the last eight days.

I thank the Lord for the strength to haul those tarps! But I’m not getting any younger. My wife was unable to help me haul tarps this year because of her broken leg. My bones and joints are telling me I may have to buy a small tractor to drag those tarps prior to the 2019 leaf season.

Leaf Pile 3

The two photos above don’t do three-dimensional justice to the magnitude of the compressed leaf pile.

via Spiritual lessons from raking leaves???

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends here on the WordPress blogosphere! May your time with family and friends be happy as we contemplate all of our blessings through Christ Jesus! I’m especially grateful that my wife came home from the hospital yesterday and her broken leg is on the mend.

Update: My wife’s broken leg

I wanted to thank you all for your prayers!!! and give you an update on my wife’s status. They finally took her into surgery at 4:30 p.m. yesterday (Saturday). According to the surgeon, everything went very well during the operation!!! She’s once again the proud owner of lots of hardware in her left leg: a rod and bolts. Today she will begin gingerly walking on her leg. They don’t let patients lie in bed for long these days. The word is she will be coming home from the hospital on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Thanks again for all your prayers. My wife has osteoporosis and has had many problems with this leg in the past (a severe “spiral” fracture in 1984 with many subsequent complications) so I would appreciate it if you could say a prayer for her continuing recovery. Thank you all! Praise the Lord for His love and care! We long for the day when we can put on incorruption through Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:53-55

via Prayer request

Prayer request

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

My wife fell in the tub around 11 p.m. on Friday night and injured her leg badly. She was taken by ambulance to emergency where they determined she had broken her left femur, the same bone she seriously fractured thirty-five years ago while showing our sons how to skateboard.

It’s around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and we’re waiting for an opening in the operating room. Can you please say a prayer for her operation and her recovery?

Thank you all!

Tom

Truly a devotion time or a perfunctory exercise?

My wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior back in 1983, but, strangely, we never had devotion time together. In January 2015, I read an article which described how the former leader of the Byrds, Roger McGuinn, and his wife, Camilla, had a daily devotion time together in which they read a chapter from the Old Testament, a chapter from the New, a Psalm, and a Proverb. I asked my wife if she would like to read a chapter of the Bible and pray together daily and she happily agreed.

Well, we’ve been doing “OK” with our devotion time. At least I thought so. While it certainly hasn’t been every day, we have managed to read through nineteen books of the Bible in four years. But I noticed that when my wife or I read through a chapter, more often than not she didn’t seem to understand the message. My wife is not a voracious reader and definitely not one who savors the historical details that are a big part of many segments of God’s Word. She’s not going to dig into God’s Word with commentaries, a Bible dictionary, and a concordance like I am. That’s just not her. More often than not, when we finished a chapter she would look at me with a puzzled, frustrated look and inquire as to the meaning of what we had just read. Don’t get me wrong. My wife is a sharp cookie and a more faithful Christian than me in many ways, but reading and studying through the Bible, chapter after chapter, is not her forte. We’re all wired differently.

As we were perfunctorily reading through another chapter last week, I had the thought that I wasn’t serving my wife very well. In my zeal to plow through the Bible so I could check off another book “we” completed, my wife just wasn’t getting a lot out of it.

I’ve been receiving Charles Stanley’s monthly devotions booklet for about a year, but never used it personally. I was blessed by my daily “deep dive” Bible studies and the devotions booklet seemed to me to be just skimming the surface of spirituality. Well, the Lord put it in my heart to suggest to my wife that we use the booklet for our daily devotion rather than reading through the Bible. One night last week, I opened the devotional and read the short Bible passage and the brief life application and my wife absolutely lit up. It was like a house plant that had been withering away for lack of water that finally received the proper attention.

What a dummy I am!

The first rule of Communications 101: Always make sure the presentation matches the audience.