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What Should a Christ-Follower Do About Suicide?

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 Last week our planet encountered the loss of two well-known celebrities to apparent suicide. Concurrently, rates of depression and anxiety are climbing in increasing numbers in our world today (https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20180612cdcsuicide.html). These horrible diseases are a part of our broken planet, and though we may not hold all the clues on this side of heaven on how to cure these illnesses, we as Christ-followers can do our part to help our friends and neighbors who are suffering with these silent killers. 

How?

Well many of you are probably seeing really heartfelt posts offering assistance and suicide prevention hotline numbers to those who may or may not have depression in its various forms. While these gestures are great, and we would encourage you to do this, as people who are commanded to love others as Jesus loves them, we can take it a few steps further. These kind words are often followed by, “I’m here for you, reach out to me wherever you are.” Here’s an important thing to remember, depression often suppresses a person’s ability to think they are worthy enough for your message. Their ability to reach out goes away and then we hear about the awful result of one of depression’s side effects.

 So what are the next steps?

Help carry the burden.

Depression is a heavy load and as a society we put nearly all the weight and pressure of carrying that burden on those afflicted with depression. This crushing weight can often be defeating, so as Christ-followers, instead of taking a passive approach where we wait for someone to tell us they have a heavy burden, let’s be vigilant and on the look out for those who might be carrying the weight of depression.

You can start doing this in your family, friend, and school/work circles; whether you have dealt with depression before or not. But before we get into some really practical steps, here are a few disclaimers for those of you who have never experienced mental illness.

Relationship first.

None of the tips in this article will be helpful if you start applying them to people you “know of” but don’t really know. Just like any act of service, you should begin in relationship first. This means that you need to be loving, honest, vulnerable, and authentic with the people around you, if you’re expecting it from anyone else. Always start with love, and love can often be best doled out by being with someone.

Forget everything you think you know, and start with an open mind.

If you have not had depression or anxiety, the realities of these illnesses will be difficult for you to understand. Start your journey by doing some research and learning about these invisible diseases. Keep an open mind and remember that depression is a liar, and not a logical one. It can be way too easy to oversimplify depression by trivializing the feelings and thoughts we are plagued with, or by trying to convince us to think otherwise with logic. Here’s something really logical, if we could will ourselves out of depression, we would. Instead of arguing with our disease (we do it all the time already), just be with us.

Depression can put on a happy face.

People are often surprised to hear about a life lost to suicide because of how happy a person always seemed. Remember that anyone can put on a happy face, even those of us who are struggling through depression. We often look happy in passing, but if you take the time to really be with us, we will probably open up about our struggles. This is where starting in relationship matters most! If you love someone, be with them. True vulnerability will come as we spend time together in person, as you show us that we really matter to you.

Sometimes, we can be difficult to be around, and that’s when we need you most.

Depression and anxiety live and wreak havoc in the mind. When they are running rampant, it can be hard for us to see past our own thoughts and fears. This isn’t because we are selfish or short-sighted people. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about you. It doesn’t mean that we are incapable of seeing a silver lining. It just means that our brains are consumed with a disease. Remember that we are doing our best to fight it, and sometimes that means using every waking breath we have to fight the lies flying around in our brains. We can only think about our own problems because depression is telling us that we aren’t even worth that much thought. Even when we are consumed, you’re presence makes a difference.

We can sometimes have a hard time accepting help for basic things in our lives.

Depression and anxiety do an impressive job of paralyzing people and making simple, and even some enjoyable tasks nearly impossible to complete. And then to make matters worse, the disease lies to us and tells us that we don’t deserve help in completing these tasks, because nothing is “really wrong” with our bodies, we should be able to just get things done. So when you ask to help, you can expect the answer to most often be “No.” Sometimes it helps to just show up ready to help, judgment-free (but make sure we have that relationship thing first).

Remember, you aren’t the Savior or the cure.

We aren’t expecting you to make us feel better all of the time. When you’re around and simply spending time with us, it fights the lie that depression puts in our minds all the time. Your simple presence reminds us that we are worthy.

 Don’t over-Spiritualize depression.

The Church has been the source of some of the most demoralizing and trivializing statements towards mental illness. Remember that depression and anxiety are not Spiritual Warfare or punishment for what we have done wrong in our lives; it’s a physical reality of our broken planet. Many of us will not see full healing until we enter Heaven, and it’s not because we’re far from God. Like any Christ-Follower, we need accountability and encouragement in our faith from those in our closest circles. But you should never assume that more prayer, more Bible, or more serving will heal us. Many times, Spiritual lies are the biggest lies depression uses against us. So instead of piling on, pull us up and remind us how much our God loves us, how He is good, patient, and kind. How He’s not the type to hold a grudge or get bummed out by our presence. Remind me that God is consistently there even when I can’t see Him. When you are there next to us saying that, it will feel a little easier to believe. 

Take action.

So whether you’ve experienced mental illness in your lifetime or not, you can take action now to help carry the load of depression and anxiety in the lives of those around you. Start by simply asking and then offering the people you are in relationship with now, “Hey, have you ever experienced depression? I want to be more diligent about being with the people I love who have or may experience it in the future.”

You may get some resistance, but you’re more likely to get some very honest answers. As you learn of those in your life who have experienced these illnesses, make it a priority to be in consistent, intentional relationship with them. Accept the responsibility of reaching out and order the chaos of your life and schedule around loving them well. Pray for them daily, and follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to reach out even when it’s unplanned. Remember that you’re not called to be the healer, savior, or anything else; you’re simply called to love. Your consistent love from the heart of Jesus in you will remind us that we matter, to you and to God. So be with us, love us, and let that be enough.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” - John 13:34-35 (MSG)

 


We are looking to start depression and anxiety support groups here at Severn Run. If you are interested in facilitating one of these groups, please let us know  .

 


If you are dealing with depression and feel suicidal, please use the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Or you can text the word “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 for immediate crisis counseling.

 

If someone you are in relationship with is feeling suicidal or threatening suicide, call 911.

God’s Faithfulness in My Fears in The Dominican Republic

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(This post is a follow up to Bonni Mace's thoughts before she left on her first international mission trip. If you didn't read it yet, catch up here!)

Well, I’m back in Maryland after a wonderful warm nine days in the Caribbean! Before I left I shared a post about the things that made me nervous to go and meet our friends in another nation. This is the follow up.

Let’s jump right in.

A Foreign Language

So this one was pretty challenging but right off the bat I felt like I would be okay. At our first Sunday service in Consuelo, we were given in-ear translation devices and our guide, Tom, translated every word of the service for us. Soon after the service we met our next translator, Dioleica, who would hang out with us all week. A few days later we met Yissel who also translated. Between all these brilliant minds and broken Spanish I did alright communicating, but that’s not the best part. Many of you who know me know that I am terrible with names! I forget them almost immediately. While we were in the DR God graced me with something my mind never does which was remembering the names of each person I met and worked with. Even though I couldn’t say much I learned how to say “Great job!” in Spanish. I could tack on the name to the end of my one phrase and say enough. God transcends language friends! 

 

Different Food and Water

This one I can straight up thank each of you who read my post and prayed for me while I was gone. Not once did I encounter indigestion and I didn’t accidentally drink the water (even though I had to throw away a toothbrush). God graced me with a clear mind and settled stomach for the entire trip. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was because of prayer! Thank you!

 
A Roommate

Fun fact: I was right about everyone on our trip, they were all awesome. In Consuelo I got to room with the one-and-only Patrice Lyle. She sang me to sleep every night. Ok, just kidding, she didn’t do that but she was still an amazing roommate and in her many bags she had everything I didn’t have. Even better, she shared with me.

Once we got to Santo Domingo, my roommates doubled and Patrice and I were joined by Vicki DeLair and Adrienne Castle. Though I had to scale the ladder of the world’s tallest bunkbed that swayed like a rocking horse, my roommates and I never tripped over one another in the bathroom nor fought over anything so that was cool. Our cozy nest of night owls was a harmonious place full of fun connections, laughter and crazy morning hair.

 

Being Away From My Family

My husband and I are so lucky to have parents who want to be involved in our son’s life. So while I was gone my mother-in-law came up from Texas to spend time with Marc and Caleb. While she was there I don’t think they even realized I was gone. Thanks to FaceTime and busy days, the time went quickly.  While we all did miss one another, but I know it's an experience I was meant to have. Before I left my goofy toddler was holding out on saying “Momma” because he thought it was a funny joke when I begged him to say it. Well now he's saying “mom" all the time, so I will take that whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing this time. 

 

 

Construction?!

This can only be described as God’s timing, but it’s kind of a long story so bear with me.

Our first partner church, IBCC, already had plans to repaint classrooms so I was pretty comfortable with that project. Once we got started I learned that they also wanted murals which was intimidating, but it was for little kids so I thought my sketchy painting skills could handle that well enough. Once the mural day got started, we immediately hatched a plan to have lettering extraordinaire, Bekah Twardowski, start the school’s theme verse. I was going to try to figure out what my limited drawing skills could handle when Kim Roane piped up, “Oh I love painting, I have an Art degree from MICA!” AWESOME! Thanks to Bekah's and Kim’s structure work and vision and our other team members’ ability to paint by numbers, we had two beautiful classrooms as the project wrapped.

 

While I wasn’t too intimidated by IBCC’s projects, I knew ICC’s project would really be a challenge. You see, they were getting ready to demo this huge building where they plan to expand their Montessori school. They were selling a generator to finalize the funding to get started on the demo portion of the project We were showing up right on time to support them in this work. Until God said, “Not yet.”

We arrived and ICC had just learned that their buyer was trying to scam them and by God’s grace they were able to end the transaction before losing everything. But the ICC staff was discouraged, we were there to help them with this exciting new adventure and now we couldn’t. So the ICC staff purchased some paint and lumber.  They then asked us to help them to build beds and refresh paint. When they learned we had three artists on our team, the ICC teachers almost lost their minds when we told them we could paint a focal wall in their school’s outdoor play space. They immediately pulled up Pinterest to show Kim their dream. Kim, Bekah, and the team were able to pull off a gorgeous tree mural for the kids to enjoy outside each day.

 

School leaders, Ruth and Claudinet, came out as we were finishing up and pulled out their phones to take pictures through their happy tears. When it was all said and done we had painted their outdoor area, 6 wooden locker-style shelves and a new bedroom for their homeless ministry. The carpentry team had also built 4 beds. Our team was also able to help serve lunch to nearly 60 homeless friends of ICC each day.

 

The Best Part Of All

I knew God was going to be up to cool things on this trip. I could sense it, which helped me overcome all of my fears about going. The most amazing part of the trip wasn’t the work we got to do, instead it was getting to hear stories of lives forever changed by Christ.

We heard stories from our Dominican brothers and sisters and we heard the stories from our Severn Run brothers and sisters. And let me tell you, our God is the same grace-filled, redemption-maker God in every country. It was amazing to see each Christ-follower embrace God’s role in changing their own lives and then God’s role through them to be the change agent in another’s life. One thing I learned from all of this story sharing is how to say “That’s how I helped bring a little Kingdom here to Earth now.” That’s how I was the hands and feet of God! 

 

Severn Run, you are all living a beautiful God-story! God is using you to bring a bit of His Kingdom to Earth now as you follow him. Even if you feel like you’re just receiving, you are revealing. Let me explain…

At ICC, they have a medical ministry where they bring in teams of doctors from Chicago to perform minor surgeries for the homeless population that they would otherwise never get. Pastor Rafael introduced us to a man who’s leg used to be crooked and now, thanks to the team of doctors, it’s straight again. Our friend with the healed leg stood up, showed off his straight-as-an-arrow leg and gave God the glory! When he did that, he revealed Kingdom to me.

We don’t have to be some dramatic savior to reveal Jesus, friends. We just need to walk in step with Jesus daily and notice when He uses us. Sometimes He will use us by allowing us to serve, sometimes He will use us in allowing us to receive. What matters most is that we notice what He’s up to in our lives and that we tell the story of God’s amazing glory in and through our lives any chance we get!

Want to start telling your God Story? Submit it here and we will help you put it on paper! 

Finally, be sure to save the date for Sunday, May 20. We are going to be practicing this idea of celebrating our God stories during each service. It’s an event we are calling “Story Sunday” and we want you to be there!

Living Joy in a Broken World

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God’s people had been through a lot over their early years; they finally left Egypt very wealthy, and were on their way to the Promised Land but they were not grateful. They grumbled about the miraculous manna from heaven, they criticized their leadership, they were led by God himself in the form of fire and cloud. Yet they asked to have a golden calf built so they could bow down to it. There definitely seemed to be an absence of joy during those times. Fast forward to present times and there seems to be an absence of joy in the present day as well, at least among believers and it should not be so.

Joy is a Person and a Path

When Jesus appeared as the Savior, he brought joy in the form of his person, and a path of eternal life to be reunited with God. In Matthew 3:17, we read: And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” Jesus brings God great joy. We, as Jesus’ disciples also bring the Father great joy when we follow his commandments and share his love with others.

I’ve been meditating on a line from Nehemiah 8:10 recently. It says: ...Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Whenever I feel down, things not going my way, anything that could go wrong seems to go wrong, I remind myself that I am weak on my own, but in God, I am strong. No need to be a grumpy, sad, overcast believer. Turn that frown upside down and rejoice because God has already won whatever battle, or condition, or circumstance for us.

Rejoice in Everything

When I read through the scripture there is so much emphasis on joy and rejoicing, it is clear that God wanted us to be happy in everything. The shepherds saw the star signaling the birth of Jesus, they were filled with joy (Matthew 2:10). A sinner repents and returns to God, heaven rejoices (Luke 15:7). If you experience any kind of trouble, count it all joy (James 1:2-8). If you are having a good day, be joyful, a bad day, be joyful. If you are having a meal together, be joyful (Acts 2:46). In this way we can show a broken world that we have something that they need.

Have you ever noticed when you go to a store that a salesperson most always will approach you with a smile and try to be very helpful? If you had to choose between a person with a smile and a person with a grumpy look on their face, whom would you want to be your salesperson? In the same way a broken world needs a joyful messenger to share a message of love.

Live Joyfully

If we live as believers and love Jesus, we have to live joyfully. We should perform a course correction in our lives if that is not already our norm. I’ve personally been working hard on myself in that respect. I’ve recently been through a nerve-wracking trial and I just stopped worrying about it and saying to myself, God’s got it. I cast my cares on him and I felt better immediately. I’ve been putting his word first, acknowledging him (Proverbs 3:6) and everything is working out for good.

I recently added a sticky note reminder to my work computer with the following items of encouragement:

  • LG – let it go, and Let God,
  • Faith,
  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and
  • The joy of the Lord is my strength.

These sayings serve as daily reminders that I am loved and I need to reflect the love of God to others every day, no matter what.

Choose Joy

As we fast approach Christmas Day, let us choose to follow the path of joy. Let us continually seek the joyful fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) every minute of every day of our lives.

Every day we remain on earth is another opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to someone. I like to pray that God be reflected through me, especially his joy.

If joy makes us strong, then sorrow probably weakens us. There are times when we may feel we have no choice but to be sad, but we have a comforter in Christ who knows and who is there for us. Let us choose joy no matter the issue (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

We have a short time on earth and an eternity in heaven, let us act in a way that the Father will say that this is my child in whom I am pleased.

 

The Importance of Racial Reconciliation

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In 1955 Pittsburgh, there was an accident in a steel Mill. Perhaps there were lots of accidents in steel mills during that time, but this one changed the perspective on race in one man’s mind.

Billy was working a fire in the mill. To make the fire hotter, a kind of lacquer was added to the flames. It only took an instant, once Billy added the lacquer, for the flames to leap up and engulf his arm. A man came to his rescue and as he lay in the hospital recovering from his own injuries, he recalled with great emotion, “The young lad was running, a ball of flames…I did all I could…” Billy’s father thanked him and later remarked, “I have a different heart and mind set about white people. Everybody stood there, frozen to the floor, but it was the white man who risked his life. He risked his life for my son and I have a different opinion now.”

Billy’s dad had faced many prejudices in his life. Not the least of which was the inequality he endured during his service in WWII. However, the selfless act of one person showed him that his ideas and opinions did not apply to an entire group of people. Sadly, Billy succumbed to his injuries and passed away. His accident though, was a catalyst for change in his family.

Billy’s sister, Arlene was profoundly impacted by her brother’s passing. Arlene went on to raise her five daughters with love in their hearts toward all people. Even though the community, school, and church where they lived was entirely black, many of the white teachers at their school were loving and poured encouragement and support into their lives. However, the girls did see and experience a lot of discrimination in the extended parts of their mostly-white church organization. It didn't stop them from worshiping with them or attending the events, but it helped them to learn how not to treat people.

Arlene worked at Teen Challenge year-round, and during the summers she took her five girls along with her. Patrice Lyle watched her mother minister with the love of Christ to people of all races. Because of this modeling, Patrice is driven to see and love others as Christ does; humans with beautiful differences all created in the image of God the Father. 

After the events in Charlottesville, Patrice hosted a Coffee and Conversation event. She invited others as an opportunity to learn to love each other by getting to know each other...one conversation at a time. The meeting was attended by 3 of Patrice’s sisters, her brother-in-law and 1 white friend. Patrice was so thankful for the friend that came because it lent a different voice to the discussion. “Every time you allow yourself to hear a different perspective, it opens your heart and mind a little bit more,” Patrice said.

The bottom line for Patrice with racial reconciliation is trying to know and understand each other’s hearts. Most times when people begin a racial reconciliation conversation, even if they don’t necessarily say the “right” things, they’re trying to get there—to racial reconciliation or an understanding of one another. People willing to enter into these conversations need to understand that no one is intentionally trying to offend but to change themselves and their thinking.

Ultimately, Patrice says, “How can you bring people to Jesus if you see people as different from you? When we allow our differences to affect if we share Jesus with someone, it’s sin.”

Patrice refers to the “journey” of racial reconciliation. She offers these steps:

  • Surround yourself with people different from you
  • Understand how you process those differences
  • Make intentional steps to lean, to understand, and then to love and embrace those differences.

Above all, Patrice says, “Allow yourself to be covered in grace. Grace allows you to not see the wrong and the faults in others”. This is great truth for interaction with ALL people!

 


*Quotes in the 1st paragraph are from “The Story of Billy” by Arlene Thompson. https://lilliethompson.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/the-story-of-billy/

 

Finding Peace in the Midst of Racism and Identity Politics

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“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) 

There is hope, even in these turbulent times. The spirit of the world is divisive, angry, hateful and racist. Those forces can deeply affect how we view ourselves and those around us. But looking to Jesus brings us clarity, charity and peace

Increasing racial tensions can quickly resurrect old wounds and cause them to burn with a vengeance. We can find bitterness an easy path to take, but it is one which wounds us even more deeply.

In our broken world, we are all wounded, often deeply, by the differences that divide us. Racism – and other divisive beliefs and attitudes – permeate this world, wounding and dividing us. But we can be at peace – and be peacemakers – in the midst of this turmoil. 

Jesus rejected racism and identity politics. In him, we “are all one” – transcending all racial, class and gender distinctions. Jesus prayed to our Father: “ I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22-23). 

How is that possible? Because we have Christ incarnate in us. The glory Jesus gave us is himself.

We are a new creation in Jesus Christ, who reconciled us to God and “gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

Now, we can have healing in our hearts and in our relationships through Jesus Christ. Jesus can – and will – heal our deepest wounds and soften the hardness of our own hearts.

At the cross, we see other people by the value of Christ’s blood. We see people of infinite worth in God’s eyes. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

We all need transformed hearts that are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

It is especially at troubled times like these that we must listen to and talk with one another. In so doing – in extending the grace, love and forgiveness of God to others – we minister to them and bring reconciliation.

Let us not get caught up in the superficial, the outward appearance, but rather look to one another as equals – brothers and sisters of Christ who are all equal at the foot of the cross.

 Let us love one another, as God loves us.

 

 

 

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