I occasionally serve on our church worship team. Part of the process for me includes practicing the selected songs, printing out the lyrics and finding a possible part to sing. On one recent week that I was to serve I went to the website to begin working on the music. I was pleasantly surprised...
Depression. Do you have it? I do. It’s spreading like a virus in our society. It is no respecter of person, or position, title, gender, income, or opinion. It takes hold of a person and darkens their eyes so they can’t see anything but despair. Sometimes it’s circumstantial...
My husband is retiring from the military after 32 years of active duty service. This is a big step for both of us. He hasn’t had to apply for a job since he was in high school. And since we’ve been married, he has always known what he was going to do and when he would get promotions...
After the holidays, I’m finding our home is filled with stuff. There are piles of new things and the boxes they came in. On top of that, we also have a little baby girl arriving soon. There's so much to get and so much to do! This leads to my wife and I planning how we will get rid of the...
Comfort is a great thing. No one wants to sit on an uncomfortable couch, we all want our home to be a comfortable place, and no one wants to wear an itchy sweater. Everyone wants to be comfortable. Comfort means being relaxed, being more yourself, and feeling secure. Comfort is perfectly fine...
As the new year approaches, it’s customary to reflect on your life and look to the future, setting goals about how you want to live the next year. I don’t know about you, but each year setting goals only gets me so far. I have great ideas about what I want to accomplish, but in...
Grief is a peculiar process that life takes us through when we lose someone or something in our lives. It can be through death, divorce, addiction, separation or even choice. We could grieve the loss of a loved one or a job, unmet expectations, or unfulfilled goals and dreams. Thankfully, God is...
‘The weight of the world on your shoulders’ might seem like a cliché phrase, but if we're honest, we've all felt that weight. Whether you're a business executive with 30 employees under you making decisions every day that could make or break company sales numbers; a mother...
I’ve had the unfortunate experience of living life with this inescapable feeling of being alone. God in the beginning of the Bible recognized that, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18 Early on in my life, my mother and father divorced, and my father was my...
We’ve all been there. You’re in a place where you are quite content and happy; then suddenly God tugs at your heart that it’s time to go somewhere else. At first it feels heartbreaking, you’re doing something good and something worth doing and yet you need to let it...
I occasionally serve on our church worship team. Part of the process for me includes practicing the selected songs, printing out the lyrics and finding a possible part to sing. On one recent week that I was to serve I went to the website to begin working on the music.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover a song I’d not heard for a very long time had been selected. It’s a beautiful song sung by Jenn Johnson. It’s message is sweet and the words are poetic. Phrases like, “Let me be filled with kindness and compassion for the one, the one for whom you love and gave your Son. For humanity increase my love.”
As I listen to and digested these words, singing them in my car as I drove home or during my lunch break, I thought, that’s it - this will indeed be my prayer for 2019. I was excited. I had been trying to find a theme for the year to focus on. This theme was so fitting for the times we are living in when love is often based on appearances. We judge need and people by how they look, where they live, the words they say, and the job they have or don’t have. I asked God to increase my love for humanity.
When I arrived at rehearsal for worship team later that week, I discovered that the song was no longer on the schedule. I was a little sad as I thought about those stirring lyrics that would not be sung that week. The congregation would not hear, “Help me to love with open arms, like you do. A love that erases all the lines and sees the truth. So that when they look into my eyes, they would see you. Even in just a smile, they would feel the Father’s love.”
Those thought quickly fled and I moved on. I figured a better, or more fitting song for the week had been chosen.
The rehearsal moved forward. A time of devotion and prayer starts us off. This particular week one of our worship leaders shared with the group something with which she had recently been challenged. She wanted to challenge us as well. It was quite simple actually yet it had the potential to be life changing. She simply asked, “If you had no fear, what would you do in 2019?”
She looked around at the faces in the group and repeated the question. I hoped she’d not planned for volunteers to share as my mind was blank. I egotistically thought to myself, “There’s not anything I am not doing because of fear.”
I was so very wrong and God was about to make that very clear to me.
I decided to continue to sing “For the One” even though it was off the schedule. It was going to be my 2019 theme after all and I loved the words, “Oh how he loves us from the homeless, to the famous and in between. You formed us, you made us carefully, ‘cause in the end we are all your children.” That would be how I’d live my life. It didn’t occur to me yet how much I needed to change.
During my lunch break the following day, I was humming these words as I drove to a shopping area near my work. As I approached a major intersection to make a left hand turn, there he was. He stepped off the curb and began walking amongst the cars as they waited for a green light to complete their turn. He held a sign, a sign such as we have all seen—usually made from a tossed piece of cardboard. As I glanced at him, not wanting him to see me looking, I saw the typical words:
- God Bless
An old recording from my past played once again, “Don’t give them money, they just want to buy drugs or alcohol. It’s better not to give them anything if you don’t have food to give.” I had once heard this from a director of a homeless shelter. It had been my mantra every time I saw a panhandler. I kept my eyes focused forward and drove past.
He had a slight limp and was dressed in ill-fitting clothing. I noticed he worn a winter hat and his sign dropped to his side as he walked back toward the intersection to wait for the next group of cars. He appeared to have not been very successful in his collection attempt.
As I drove through the stoplight, making my turn, some of the words I had been humming popped into my head. “Oh how he loves us, from the homeless to the famous and in between. Let me be filled with kindness and compassion for the one, the one...the one for whom you love and gave your son.”
I was stunned. What had I just done? I began to make excuses:
- It is too late now.
- He probably doesn’t even have a baby.
- He might even have a job.
- Maybe his next stop is the liquor store.
How wrong these thoughts were, and that and there was something completely wrong with this picture.
What was wrong was me.
Later that day, as I drove home from work, the image of the man and his sign came back to me and wouldn’t let go. That’s when it all came together. That was my fear and it would keep me from loving humanity like God does. I was so unkind and lacking compassion. How could I love those lyrics, commit to loving like God, and yet do nothing when I saw the man and his sign?
As tears welded up in my eyes, a list of fears poured into my mind. I was afraid of:
- Looking foolish.
- Being taken advantage of.
- What others would say.
- What they use the money for.
All very real and very ridiculous. Was the man today really looking for food or a fix? Did he have a baby? Was he sincere or guilting with “God bless”?
One might think God had finally gotten his point across to me. He was not quite finished.
In the church lobby the following Sunday he brought to my attention all the serving opportunities coming up for Winter Relief. I couldn’t miss the large display of information pamphlets. I took one home. I will be volunteering.
Again God was still not finished with me. On the following Monday, as I did my morning Bible reading, I landed on Matthew 25:45. Here Jesus is speaking in parables to the crowd and explaining what it will be like when we are before the king at the final judgment. Talking about himself he said “...‘ I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’”
I had refused to help. I had refused to help Jesus. How does 2019 change starting out like this?
I change by taking action. Feeling my fear and doing it anyway. Seeing Jesus in the eyes of everyone. It changes when I stop judging the worthiness of those in need.
Maybe these are your fears, maybe not. Whatever your situation, I challenge you too - what would you do in 2019 if you had no fear? Maybe you think fears are no problem like I did at that night at worship team rehearsal. Think about it, pray about it and see what God shows you. He just might have a plan to change you in ways you didn’t even realize needed changing.
Depression. Do you have it? I do.
It’s spreading like a virus in our society. It is no respecter of person, or position, title, gender, income, or opinion. It takes hold of a person and darkens their eyes so they can’t see anything but despair. Sometimes it’s circumstantial, and other times it’s biological.
And I haven’t escaped its grip.
It has been a really tough season in my life. And there’s a real possibility that I’ve been dealing with depression for longer than I previously knew. Then with the holidays just passing, life hasn’t been any easier.
For me, depression steals away happiness and joy, replacing it with hopelessness. It’s dark and scary. Others like myself, live with “walking” depression which means that I carry a heavy mental and emotional burden that triggers here and there while I’m at work, driving home, doing homework, and spending time with friends.
Then it strikes. It’s like swimming with weights on your ankles and treading water where you feel like you’re on the edge of drowning, struggling to breathe and survive let alone swim. It doesn’t take much of that to bring me down and make me feel isolated, even if I’m not.
Most of all, it’s exhausting.
When you follow Jesus, depression gets even trickier. It messes with what you thought you have always known, and it makes you doubt what God is able to do.
Here’s what I mean:
- I know that God has a plan for my prosperity (Jeremiah 29:11), but it’s not going to look the way you’d expect.
- I know that God gave us the ultimate gift, but people in my life are going to be selfish and inconsiderate.
- I know God loves me, but these broken relationships aren’t healing.
- I know God won’t let me fall, but that doesn’t protect me from facing some really hard challenges.
Do you see the trend? God gives us so much, and yet depression can rob you of everything good in your life. I don’t have the perfect outlook on everything, but reframing the situation is starting to give me a new mentality. It might help you too, if we can embrace it.
- God has a plan for our prosperity, and today, we are one day closer.
- God gave us the ultimate gift, and today, our gift from God included waking up with breath in my lungs.
- God loves us, and the friends around us right now have been chosen specifically for our benefit.
- God won’t let us fall, and He is with us always, even today.
Personally, I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” solution to depression. Just like there is also no fixed way to serve the Lord. Paul in the Bible talks about different gifts and using them to the glory of the Lord. I’m learning that being a “good” Christian doesn’t necessarily mean that I am working in a church building. Likewise, people living with depression have different levels of depression that shows up in different ways. Fighting the depression also looks different for different people.
The one idea that God has been pouring into my heart is this idea of “today”.
It’s not too hard to look at my life and circumstances to think the worst and instantly become depressed. Then I remember that the situation looks the way it does only today. And what happens tomorrow? Today, I’m depressed. It’s hard to get out of bed. It’s hard to work on projects, schoolwork, chores, and finishing tasks. But tomorrow is a new day, and there is a hope that something will change. If nothing else, I am certainly closer to seeing something change.
This hope for a better day is strengthened by Bible. Romans 5:5 says, “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
That’s what realizing this idea of today means to me. It means that I can hang on for tomorrow. I can go on living to see something happen that can change circumstances because God has given us the Holy Spirit.
Depression today? Yeah. Hope for tomorrow? Even more so.
My husband is retiring from the military after 32 years of active duty service. This is a big step for both of us. He hasn’t had to apply for a job since he was in high school. And since we’ve been married, he has always known what he was going to do and when he would get promotions. We haven’t really had to worry about our future. Until now.
As for me, I’m a “recovering” control freak, which is a weird trait for a military spouse. But when things get stressful or uncertain, I default to, “If I can control all the things about this, then everything will be okay.” So, in this journey of my husband transitioning out of the military and into his next position as he continues his career, I have been trying to control freak it. Every day I was trying to gain control of the unknown by asking him if he took this step, or called that person. And I could tell I was stressing him out.
I finally decided that I needed to talk with God about it. I remember the day well. “Lord,” I said, “he is just not doing the things he said he wanted to do. He is stressed out and this is new territory for us. But God…what if he doesn’t get a job after he retires?”
Immediately I felt the Spirit say, “Do you think I can’t take care of you?”
I don’t always get immediate answers from God when I pray. Sometimes I don’t get answers at all. But I have found that when I am earnestly seeking him, or if my thinking needs to be straightened out, sometimes I will feel an answer from him like I did that day.
When I felt that answer, I took a sharp breath in. Yes! I thought. That’s right! God will take care of us now, just like he has taken care of us for all these years.
At that moment, my worry and angst disappeared. I no longer had to ask every day if my husband was taking care of things. Instead, I prayed each day, lifting my husband up in prayer. And instead of pointing out what my husband was or was not doing, I was able to talk about what God was teaching me; that he is still in control and has a good plan for us. We started agreeing that we just needed to look for what God was doing and follow his lead.
We still don’t know what my husband will be doing after his retirement. But we do know that God has been showing us some potential paths. We know that he has a specific plan for us. And we know that God will reveal that plan to us as we follow his lead, pray, and stay in relationship with him.
Now I am constantly reminded to live the truth of Isaiah 30:21, Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” I don’t have to know the path forward because I’m listening to the one who is showing me where to walk. He knows the way forward, and I trust him to show me.
After the holidays, I’m finding our home is filled with stuff. There are piles of new things and the boxes they came in. On top of that, we also have a little baby girl arriving soon. There's so much to get and so much to do! This leads to my wife and I planning how we will get rid of the mess, how to organize the chaos, and find some peace again.
My mind doesn't feel all that different from how my home looks. I find myself in a season of transition and cannot help but think about how things will be changing soon and although we try to plan for it, there will always be something to get, or to clean up, or…who knows. These thoughts turn into worries that are all bouncing around in my head like an old computer screen saver.
In the same way we are trying to tame the mess in the house, I’m learning I need the wisdom to discern how to address my concerns and worries. I need to decide which ones I need to learn to live with, with the understanding that our Father is taking care of them.
I find encouragement in the close of 1 Peter where he wrote to the early persecuted church, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
I find peace in this not because I can make everything right (there's always a new mess or a worry popping up), but through the knowledge that everything has been made right in Jesus Christ. I find peace in knowing that even if I do not know the path that I should be taking, God does. And Jesus has showed me who I should strive to be in every area of my life.
If you are like me at the start of 2019, trying to take the first steps towards finding peace after a hectic holiday season, I suggest a shift in focus from what we could do to what has already been done.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. - 1 Peter 5:8-11
Comfort is a great thing. No one wants to sit on an uncomfortable couch, we all want our home to be a comfortable place, and no one wants to wear an itchy sweater. Everyone wants to be comfortable. Comfort means being relaxed, being more yourself, and feeling secure. Comfort is perfectly fine and great in the physical aspects of life, clothes, furniture, and homes, but maybe that’s it. Maybe comfort isn’t supposed to go beyond physical things. Maybe it isn’t meant for how we live our life.
Since I’ve been married I’ve always felt like God was pulling my husband and I away from wherever we were comfortable. We moved 1600 miles away from all friends and family, and the place we were both comfortable and had always called home. We lived in a small apartment that just never really felt like home. My husband was in graduate school working as a grad assistant making very little so we had the smallest, and tightest budget ever--which wasn’t always comfortable to work with.
Then we finally started to get into a rhythm of that life and make what we felt was a great plan for the future, God made us uncomfortable again. My husband didn’t get into the PhD program like we had always planned he would. That meant we had about 6 months to find him a job before the university stopped paying him, and that was very scary and uncomfortable. Then he found a job, a great job and loved it, and after his second week there we found out I was pregnant.
The last 12 months of our lives have pushed us out of our comfort zones of being in control and feeling like we get any say in our future plans. Every day and each month all we could do was make a small plan for the weekly future, and honestly God has blessed us more in this season than I could have ever dreamed of.
This has made me realize that sometimes God calls us to be uncomfortable. Great things don’t happen when you are cozy in your comfort zone. Esther from the Bible is a great example of this (her story is recorded in the Book of Esther in the Old Testament). She was an orphan living with her uncle in a foreign city which I’m sure wasn’t the most comfortable place to be. Then suddenly she’s chosen by the King to be his new Queen just as one of the kings nobles wanted to destroys the Jews, Esther’s people. Esther’s uncle persuades her to use her new position close to the king to try and save her people; again, I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that was. She’s super young, newly married to a king and now she needs to try and persuade him against one of his highest nobles. She did it though, and ultimately the Jews were saved because Esther went where God needed her. She went where she was uncomfortable, and that is where God can do the best things.