Month: April 2014

Thankfullness and My Catatonic Life

Catatonia

An abnormal condition variously characterized by stupor, stereotypy, mania, and either rigidity or extreme flexibility of the limbs. It is most often associated with schizophrenia.


[New Latin, from German Katatonie, from Greek katatonos, ‌stretching tight‌, from katateinein, ‌to stretch tight‌ : kata-, ‌intensive pref.‌; see ‌ cata-‌ + teinein, ‌to stretch‌; see ten- in Indo-European roots.]


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

One of the more interesting effects of Adiposis Dolorosa on my body is that from time to time I become catatonic for short periods of time.

(It took me about 2 minutes to write that sentence because right after the word “I”, my body shut down for about a minute.)

Anyone who has used a computer knows that from time to time the computer becomes catatonic, unresponsive to keyboard or mouse commands. Sometimes, if you wait it recovers on its own, other times you reboot the computer.  My catatonia is similar to this. It can strike at any time whether I am standing, sitting or lying down. Sometimes I will close my eyes and my head will droop as if my neck muscles went limp.  Other times, my body will become rigid even flailing about as is common in seizures.  If I am off-balance when it occurs I have been known to fall to the floor. My autonomous nervous system is at least partially functional when it happens because mostly I do not fall as happens in people with Grand Mal seizures when they become unconscious.

According to Web M.D. my seizures may be best described as partial simple motor seizures, affecting only a small portion of the brain where awareness is retained. When they occur, it takes a few moments for me to realize what is happening. Inside my mind there is a dialogue going on but it is a dreamlike state.

 “What is happening… why am I? Oh it’s one of those seizures again… C’mon… wake up.  Just open your eyes and move.  I hope I don’t fall over. Wake up…”

(Then my mind drifts off into the twilight zone… as if I were in a dream.)

After a while (any where from a few seconds to as long as an hour) my eyes blink a few times and I’m back.

These catatonic states occur nearly every day. While writing this post I have had two of them. If you were with me when I had one of these you might not even notice it unless you tried to talk to me during the event. If I’m lying in my recliner watching TV you wouldn’t know, but I would come to wondering what happened during the last few minutes of the TV show.

There are other indications of brain injury from Adiposis Dolorosa. I developed double vision in January 2013 that has continued unabated to this day.  Later I discovered that I couldn’t follow TV shows without the closed captions on. When my hearing was checked they found that I had moderate to severe hearing loss. I get involuntary muscle movements, jerking or spasms, (known as Myoclonic seizures) and my hands often twist into claws.

hand

Some people have suggested that perhaps these symptoms are side-effects of the medications I take. This is certainly a possibility, but given the fact that these catatonic episodes and their frequency has remained constant over the last couple of years even though I have been on and off a number of different medications in that time, I suspect that medications are not the cause.

Once again, my current doctor has suggested that I be evaluated by a Neurologist, perhaps at Stanford University. I hesitate to do this because I have been evaluated a number of times and nothing has been discovered. This is not surprising because the effects of Adiposis Dolorosa on the brain and nervous system are so poorly understood.

In the meantime, I’ve learned to live with my condition. Nobody has demanded that I surrender my driver’s license but I suspect that it is only a matter of time. Presently, I have a caregiver who drives me most places and my daughter drives me as well. Losing my independence is a difficult thing, but there are good side-effects to it as I am rarely alone now which gives me time to enjoy the company of others.

Some people wonder, if I am so disabled, how can I write books, blog posts and work on a Masters program at the same time?  The answer is that I’ve learned to work in between the bouts of pain and catatonia. This gives me much time for reflection and study.

I’ve also learned that there is good in everything that happens to me if I am willing to find it. It is so easy to focus on the bad, the wrong, the painful, but scripture calls us to think about better things. To cultivate a life of thankfulness. Those who are not sick are busy and preoccupied with the mundane things of life so they may never learn to do this. Sickness has been my tutor, teaching me to reflect thoroughly and to search out the deep things of life and so I’ve learned that I can indeed be thankful in all things, even catatonia.

Corruption of the Soul

“You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!
Matthew 5:27-30 HCSB

This familiar passage came to mind this morning as I was reflecting on a quote from C.S. Lewis.

“You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.” – C.S. Lewis

I think these two insights share a connection.  Just as an iceberg is mostly underwater, most (if not nearly all) of us is invisible. Jesus made a remarkable statement in his comments about adultery and I think that perhaps our tendency to focus on the body and not the soul is the reason for this statement.

You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery (with your body). But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her (with their soul) has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In other words, don’t comfort yourself by thinking that your private thoughts of adultery (or other sexual sins) don’t affect your soul just because they weren’t enacted by your body. The corruption wrought by sin has already taken place in your soul when your chooser (will) makes the choice to entertain adulterous thoughts. When your feeler (emotions) acts like a child and wants to feel (whatever that feeling is that adulterous thoughts provide) and your thinker decides that such feelings are harmless because of a technicality (they aren’t enacted), Jesus warns you that corruption is taking place in the soul.

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Gangrene 

Jesus then goes on to make dramatic statements about gouging your eye out or cutting off your hand. Most theologians understand these statements to be hyperbole (A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect). In other words, Jesus is not commending actual amputation of body parts to prevent sinning. Perhaps what Jesus is suggesting is that sin corrupts your soul the same way that gangrene corrupts your flesh.

Gangrene is caused primarily by a lack of circulation to the affected area. When the blood stops flowing cellular necrosis (death) of the tissue occurs. Once this happens, if the dead tissue is not removed bacterial infections will eventually lead to death of the body. During the US Civil War, death from cases of Gangrene were reported to be as high as 45%. This explains why they were so quick to amputate limbs when a soldier have a severe wound.

There is one curious treatment that shows remarkable promise for dealing Gangrene… maggots. More than 1000 years ago people figured out that if you put maggots into gangrenous tissue that the maggots would eat only the dead tissue and spare the living tissue thus saving the life of the patient. Middleton Goldsmith, a Union Army surgeon during the Civil War applied this treatment to over 300 cases with the mortality rate dropping to just 3%.

Do you suppose that sinful thoughts which corrupt the soul are the equivalent of Gangrene of the soul? Perhaps none of us will emerge from this life with an intact soul, even those who are saved and go to heaven will arrive with a soul shaped by the corruption of earth. Why do I think this? Because Jesus did not say “Go ahead and think your adulterous thoughts because you will be forgiven in the end and it won’t matter.” No, rather Jesus seems to be saying “Do whatever you have to do to fight your adulterous thoughts, don’t make peace with them at any price.”

There are disagreements among bible scholars as to whether or not a saved person can lose their salvation. Could Gangrene of the soul eventually lead to death of the soul? I’m not sure honestly but we should take Jesus warning seriously and take appropriate action. Even if Gangrene doesn’t lead to death of the soul, it will most certainly take a piece of it. Will God in his mercy restore the lost portions of our soul eventually? Perhaps… but if this process was easy and automatic I don’t think that Jesus would have given such a stern warning.

If adultery of the heart was a problem in Jesus’ day, it most certainly must be rampant today. Any one with an internet connection can access a mountain of pornography for free. This corrupting influence has begun to take its toll on a generation of children born since the creation of the internet. I believe it has also taken an extraordinary toll on the lives of believers no matter what generation.

Some of us have simply decided to accept adultery of the heart as a normal part of living in the modern world. Things that were once considered shameful are now joked about with uncomfortable laughter. I believe the Spirit of God wants to warn us about soul gangrene

The Voice of Worship – Part 2

The Voice of Worship 2

 

In my last post I said that worship is a spectrum ranging from light to heat.  Just as Jesus said true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth, some people tend to worship more on the side of truth.  I call them “Light Worshipers” not because they worship light, but because that is their style to worship with their thinker..  Others are “Heat Worshipers” because their style involves worship with their feeler.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride
– When I Survey – Isaac Watts

Light Worshipers love songs like “When I survey.”  Look at the great thinker stuff in that song.  It says I look at the cross and then I make two choices based on my thinking. I count gains as loss and pour contempt on my pride.  Of course, heat worshipers can love this song too.  There is great emotion in these words but sadly most heat worshipers will never get a chance to sing this song because either their church will probably never sing it, or they will simply refuse to worship because it is a hymn.

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
– Oceans (When Feet May Fail)  Joel Houston, Matt Crocker, Salomon Ligthelm

Heat worshipers like songs like Oceans.  The key thoughts in this song are great feeler stuff. I rest in your embrace. I am yours and you are mine.  The language is romantic. You can imagine those thoughts in a song about your girlfriend or boyfriend. Of course, light worshipers can love this song too. There are chooser declarations in it such as “I will call upon your name” and “keep my eyes above the waves.”  Sadly most light worshipers will not worship to this song because either their church would never sing it or if they do many older light worshipers will simply refuse to worship to it because of the contemporary style and instrumentation.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:18-20 NIV

True worshipers… will worship.  They will find a way to get past their preferences.  Heat worshipers will have to find a way to be obedient to this command of scripture to speak to one another with “with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.”  Speaking to one another is one way  we worship with our thinker.

Light worshipers will have to find a way to be obedient to this command as well.  They will have to learn to worship from the heart (feeler) “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”

So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.
1 Corinthians 14:15 NIV

Immature heat worshipers need to learn to sing with understanding even when the song involves Organs and Orchestras.  Keep in mind that one day the style of worship will move on from rock and roll bands to something else and if you are going to be mature you need to learn this.

In the 90’s people used to talk about “Worship Wars” to describe the painful struggle taking place in their churches.  I grew up in The Church of the Nazarene which was was born in 1908.  Back then the Nazarene church in Los Angeles where they met was called “The Glory Barn.”  Their pastor Phineas F. Breese said about their building, “We want places so plain that every board will say welcome to the poorest.”

I think the early Nazarenes were mostly Heat worshipers. But then over time something happened.  As generations came and went the Nazarenes became more Light oriented.  My parents and many of you were raised in a time when the culture of worship for Nazarenes was mostly on the side of light.

In the late 80’s my church, Liberty Towers Church, began shifting rapidly to Heat worship and I can recall vividly the transformation as it took place.  As a young man I was definitely more of a Heat worshiper (this is generally true of most people).  I loved the changes but my parents did not and there was a war about worship.

It was called a war because there were casualties.  When the church is at war people get hurt. People get angry and people leave.  Some people decided that the answer was to divide.  Let the Heat worshipers start new churches and let the light worshipers keep the old ones.

Maybe this was the best that we could do at the time but I found it very sad. My parents were a part of the older folks at Liberty Towers that left to go somewhere else.  They went to a church that was just for light worshipers. Because light worshipers are mostly older their church had only old people.  They loved their church because it was like the church they remembered from the early 80’s.

I went to a church in Washington that was one of a wave of new churches born in that era.  These new churches were built to cater to Heat worshipers. Because Heat worshipers are mostly young there were very few old people at my church.

What is so very sad about this situation is that we need each other and instead of holding together we allowed this war to tear us apart.  We need each other.

  • Old needs young and Young needs Old.
  • Light needs Heat and Heat needs Light.

The other reason this is tragic is that it took something so great, something we need so badly and turned it into a war zone so our worship was blocked by the sounds of war.

Who was right? Light or Heat? Neither.  There is no right answer here.  There is war or worship, true worship or false worship.  So let’s stop fighting wars over worship and learn to say Amen even when the song isn’t our style.

The Voice of Worship

“… the Father is seeking …”

John 4:23 ESV

Did you know the Father is seeking? What is he seeking? He knows everything… why would he need to seek unless he was seeking someone.  Who is he seeking?

“… the Father is seeking …people to worship him.”

John 4:23 ESV

Why would he seek people to worship him? Is this something he needs?  No, God doesn’t need anything from anyone. He is seeking worshipers because it is the most loving thing he can do for people. We were created to worship Him and the Father is seeking people who are fulfilling the very purpose for which they were created.

“… true worshipers will worship …”
John 4:23 ESV

True worshipers will worship.  You don’t have to twist their arm or cajole them into worshiping. True worshipers worship and not just on Sunday they find reasons to worship day in and day out. They see the sunrise and worship.  They see the stars and worship. They feel breath in their lungs and worship.

If there are true worshipers, then there are also false worshipers. What does false worship look like?

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
Matthew 15:8 NIV

False worship is pretense. When we pretend to worship on the outside. We open our mouths to honor God with our lips but our hearts are dark and distant.  How do our hearts get this way?  When we cultivate a lifestyle of hypocrisy.  John Piper says “Hypocrisy is behavior that tells a lie.” It isn’t sin that makes you a hypocrite. It is your pretending that you don’t sin that makes you that way. If we were honest each of us would have to admit that before we lift our hands in praise we need to beat our chest and cry out “Have mercy on me God for I am a sinner.”

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.
Psalms 24:3-6 HCSB

The one who has clean hands and a pure heart is simply the one who has brought his sin to the Lord and repented. The one who cries out for cleansing by the blood of the lamb. The false worshiper is the one who sets his mind on what is false.

“… true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth …”  John 4:23 ESV

When we truly worship, we worship in spirit and in truth. We worship the Father with all that we are, all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Worship a Spectrum

We all worship differently.  How we worship is a product of our personality, our age and our preferences.  Jesus is the Light of the world.  There are two things that a lamp gives off, light and heat.  Some lights are more heat (like the old incandescent bulb) and some or mostly light (like a newer LED bulb).

Some of us are very open, expressive people.  Our bulb gives off a lot of heat when we worship.  We raise our hands, we clap, we shout and everyone can see the heat of our worship.  Remember our soul consists of a Thinker (mind), Chooser (will) and Feeler (emotions). And when Heat worshipers worship, we worship with mostly with our feeler.  Jesus said we are to worship in spirit and in truth… both of them.  But if you ask a heat worshiper “spirit or truth?”,  they will typically choose spirit.

Others are less expressive outwardly.  For them worship is a personal, intimate experience and though they feel their worship, they prefer to worship with their thinker.  If you ask a Light worshiper “spirit or truth?”, they will typically chose truth.

So much more to say about this but I’ll save it for next time.