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...
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I love the idea that church being more than sitting in a service on Sunday and I love that we are being challenged to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community so that people can hear and see the message of Jesus’ love. But sometimes the thought of trying to help people in need can...
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...
(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...
I’m getting ready to leave for the Dominican Republic on my first international mission trip. And actually my first mission trip in a really long time! I’m lucky, because I was asked to go and my trip is paid for generously by the staff budget, but I think if it was up...
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.
I love the idea that church being more than sitting in a service on Sunday and I love that we are being challenged to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community so that people can hear and see the message of Jesus’ love.
But sometimes the thought of trying to help people in need can be overwhelming. There are so many needs…so many ways to get involved…so many ministries that I could help with. And sometimes I admit that I even wonder how my actions could even mean anything in the big scheme of things.
But here’s what I’ve learned: We don’t have to do ALL THE THINGS! But we DO need to do exactly what God is leading us to through the pull and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I was in Curtis Bay doing some volunteer work and I thought maybe I would stop at the store to grab some groceries on my way home. As I was coming over the hill into Severna Park I felt a nudge. It was a little whisper that urged me to watch for someone. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I knew it was from the Holy Spirit, so I decided to just slow down and look around as I ran my errand.
As I was walking into the store, I saw a man sitting on the curb. I smiled at him. He smiled back.
“How are you today?” I asked as I passed him.
“Good,” he said. “Just trying to make some money for bus fare.”
Just then I remembered that earlier I put $10 in my pocket to pay for lunch. Turns out, lunch was taken care of, so I still had $10 in my pocket. I pulled out the money and handed it to him. “Oh, then this is for you!” I said.
As I handed him the money, his eyes widened and he smiled. Just then, someone with a cart came by (this man was returning the carts that people gave him so he could keep the quarters that you insert to get the cart at this particular store). The moment seemed to pass as a gentleman handed this man his cart, so I walked inside to do my shopping.
When I finished my shopping, I headed out to the parking lot. The man I spoke to earlier was there watching the door. He approached me as I left the building and I smiled.
“You didn’t have to do that,” he said. “But thank you. Thank you very much.”
“Well,” I replied, “on the way here today I felt God tell me to help someone, and I think he meant you.”
The man told me his story. He had been living with his mother, but she died a few months back and since the subsidized apartment was hers, he lost his home. He told me how hard he has worked to try to get on a list for housing but he was having a hard time trying to make ends meet. I gave him information on The Transformation Center (a partner ministry of our church) and asked if I could pray with him. When we finished praying, he had tears in his eyes.
“You blessed me today,” he said.
“And you blessed me,” I replied.
I am convinced that God has a plan for each of us. It’s not necessarily a plan to do all the things…but God does have a plan to use you—at the right moment, at the right time—to help one of his beloved children in a real and meaningful way. We need to prepare ourselves to hear his voice, and respond to the Holy Spirit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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!
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.
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!
I’m getting ready to leave for the Dominican Republic on my first international mission trip. And actually my first mission trip in a really long time!
I’m lucky, because I was asked to go and my trip is paid for generously by the staff budget, but I think if it was up to just me, I might let my fears get the best of me. I hope that by putting some of my fears on digital paper, that I can address them when I get back and maybe encourage you to take a step towards an international mission trip soon.
A Foreign Language
I took three years of Spanish in high school, but that was over a decade ago. When I cracked open the Duolingo app that I downloaded eons ago to brush up on my “skills” I couldn’t even remember the word for blue. That’s my favorite color, I should know it! As a person who really values communication, it’s pretty terrifying to realize that everyone there is going to be speaking a language I can’t understand!
Different Food and Water
And now a moment for TMI: my digestive system doesn’t like to travel. Like at all. My first solo mission trip as a high schooler I got elevation sickness and spent most of the trip hiding in the bathroom or my bunk horrified while VBS songs played in the background. A new cuisine and not-safe-for-drinking tap water makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it.
At our last pre-trip meeting I found out that we won’t learn our roommates until we arrive at our hotel. I think most people are probably like “Eh whatever!” but an introvert me likes to mentally prepare for what’s ahead. And now a mystery roommate is adding to my nerves. Don’t get me wrong, everyone going on the trip is awesome, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know them. I’m just generally awful at social interaction so I have to plan for it a lot. (Can I get an “Amen!” from the introverts hiding in the back?!)
Being Away From My Family
My husband and I have done a lot of long distance in our relationship in the past, so I know eight days away won’t even touch our relationship. But I’m just not sure how to explain to my toddler that I’m going to straight up abandon him for eight days, and daily calls not guaranteed. I find that little monster of guilt trying to slip up into my brain telling me that my son will be damaged forever if I leave.
Our team is serving with a couple of construction projects (cue laughing that I’m included). I’m a measly 5’1” lady with no muscle mass whatsoever, and I definitely don’t have any steel-toed boots in my wardrobe. Oh, and I’m totally out of shape right now! Good news, I do know the names of most tools though…just not in Spanish.
So these are the things that are making me nervous about our take-off on Saturday morning. When I get back I will write an update on God’s faithfulness in each of these areas, or maybe what He taught me as I faced them.
Here’s what I do know and what makes me excited to go!
I’m about to get to see God in totally different ways through very different people in different places. Any time I get to exit my worldview for a little while, I get to see a new facet of our very big God. This knowledge outweighs all of my fears, and has me counting down the days joyfully!
What are some of the things keeping you from taking your next big faith step? What’s in that step that could be worth more than hiding from your fears? What are you going to do next to walk towards God’s leading in your life?