Thursday, June 7, 2018

Spiritual Sensor Malfunction

I drive a slightly older F-150 Ford pick-up truck. It generally runs pretty good though it has a few quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Recently, I drove in it, along with a deacon from church, to the other side of Atlanta, Georgia, (to Duluth) to assist a husband and wife evangelistic ministry team as they transition to Tennessee to work under the oversight of our church’s elders. 

With a flatbed trailer in tow, the first leg of our journey from Selmer, Tennessee to Tupelo, Mississippi went relatively well. However, my engine temperature gauge began spiking whenever I exceeded 60 miles per hour. Of course, this warning was of concern to us. But we really got worried when the red low oil pressure warning light came on. We pulled over to the side of U.S. Highway 78 into a gas station to check it out and popped the hood. Strangely enough, everything looked okay: the engine coolant expansion tank was still full, the oil dipping stick revealed the oil to be just fine, and the motor didn’t seem to be running hot at all.

After turning the engine back on, we noticed that all the gauges had reset to normal levels and the low oil pressure warning light had turned off. So easing back onto the highway again, I tried to keep my speedometer under 60. But it wasn’t long before the engine coolant gauge tipped over into the red zone only to be followed by the oil pressure warning light coming back on. Oh no, not again! So we pulled off the road yet again. This time, upon deacon Steve Plunk’s suggestion, I turned the ignition off and then turned the key to the right again. Lo and behold all the gauges and warning lights had reset to normal. Weird right? We looked under the hood once more to check coolant and oil levels, and everything seemed just fine.

But, one more thing is worth noting here: the truck’s air conditioner seemed to be flailing too as the cab got increasingly warmer and less comfortable.

We both reached the conclusion that the engine coolant and oil sensors must be malfunctioning. So, with some trepidation, I made the decision to risk it and see what would happen if we drove at regular speeds and ignored the sensor lights and gauges. I think we were both pretty nervous about this crazy experiment. But guess what? Absolutely nothing bad happened. We made it through Birmingham, on to Atlanta, and finally to our hotel in Lawrenceville without a hitch. One thing Steve noticed, however, was that whenever we slowed down to between 45 and 55, the air conditioner began working effectively again. Strange! We’ve learned since that it may actually be related somehow to the other sensors malfunctioning.

As I’ve been thinking about malfunctioning sensors, I’ve reflected on how in our lives sometimes we get worried about many of the wrong things. It is like our worldly human sensors are triggered because we are spiritually malfunctioning. We get all stirred up because we’re overly sensorized in our pursuits of security! We worry about food and drink, clothing and shelter, physical health and personal well-being, and our jobs and careers far more than we ought to. What we ought to be thinking much more about is our soul’s destiny. Is the “engine” of our spiritual selves firing on all cylinders?

In Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV), Jesus said the following:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

In a world of sensory overload and false alarms, let’s pay attention to those spiritual matters that are most important.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Twelve Strategies for Alleviating Depression

Sometimes, depression can seem like an impossible mountain to overcome. You may feel totally defeated in your ongoing battle with it. But, please take heart, because there are several effective ways to alleviate depression. Here are 12 practical suggestions for you to consider.

1. Recognize the signs. Pay close attention to clues indicating that depression may be present in your life. If interaction with people is increasingly distressful, and if you find your self constantly withdrawing, you may be depressed. If you're unable to control your appetite, misusing alcohol, or overeating, depression may be lurking nearby.

If you're experiencing many aches and pains for which there is no real physical basis, this may signal an emotional problem. If you've lost interest in activities, which used to bring pleasure, such as hobbies, and there is also lowered libido, depression may be present. If you struggle with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and if death seems to offer a way out, you're likely depressed.

2. Re-analyze the feelings. Once you identify your depression, attempt to analyze the specific feelings associated with it. Why do you have these feelings? What triggers them? When are they triggered? Are they proportionate to the event which triggers them? Remember, some depressions result from loss. If this can be identified, allow your self to experience the sadness about the loss without feeling guilty about the emotion. 

3. Remember God’s promises. Sharing our struggles with God helps to lift despair. The psalmists found that verbalizing their grief, anger, and depression led to renewed hope for them. In a similar way, as you open your heart to God and verbalize your anger and depression, you will begin to gain a new perspective on your self, as well as an awareness of being accepted by God in spite of experiencing anger and negative feelings.

4. Rest, Re-create, & Replenish. Establish the Sabbath principle in your life. Take regular breaks from your work and other responsibilities. Engage in intentional replenishment weekly or monthly, confide in your spouse (if you're married) and seek spiritual direction from a trusted minister.

5. Refocus (Re-prioritize). Learn to set limits. Clearly define the parameters of what you will expect of your self and what you will allow others to expect of you. The scriptures give an instructive example of how church leaders unashamedly set limits on what they would allow others to expect of them when the apostles delegated some responsibility to others (Acts 6). 

6. Realistic Expectations. Establish healthy boundaries and set realistic expectations for your family, work, and church life. Even Jesus did not heal everyone, though it was within His power to do so. 

7. Regular Exercise and healthy, well-balanced diet. Physical exercise is extremely important in maintaining a mental-physical balance and good emotional health. The types of food you consume will definitely affect the way you feel emotionally.

8. Reconnect. Make a place in their life for personal friendships. By growing and testing perspectives with a close friend, you will gain internal strength to keep on going.

9. Reach Out for help. It's helpful to receive feedback from supportive others to gain perspective. If you've taken the time to develop a meaningful relationship with another person, it will be easier to share. But seek professional help if necessary. 

10. Rhythms. An awareness of your own biological rhythms can help you manage your depression. For instance, some are early risers, some work late at night. These and other patterns can be modified to some extent, but those who accept their own rhythms and work within those confines are the most effective and efficient.

11. Remain involved in life. Resist the tendency to withdraw because of your depression. Rather, define tasks they you do successfully. It is necessary though, that you begin decreasing your commitments and taking control of your schedules to reduce pressure. 

12. Reconcile. Try to resolve interpersonal conflicts with God, family, friends, and colleagues. Don’t let anger, resentment, and bitterness eat away at your soul.

I hope you find the above suggestions helpful. If you do, please put them into practice and share them with others who might also be struggling with depression.