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I am (fill in the blank)

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“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God –” John 1:12

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. I have some understanding of the issue, at least as it pertains to my circumstances. Everyone’s issues are different so what I’ve learned can’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it will apply to some. My hope is that for those “some”, they will find hope in what I have to say.

I recently read an article in which the author states, “I am depression,” over and over again.

What I’ve found through my experience is that in stating it this way, you take on the reality of it. It actually does become who you are. You’ve given it permission to be you and for you to be it.

For a long time I let myself be a worrier. I let myself be consumed with a negative view of the world, of people and of myself. But in Christ, there is no reason to worry because He is good, does good, gives good things and brings good of every situation for those who love Him.

Even though I suffered from depression, I am not depression. Rather, I am a child of God.

I am loved by the Creator of the universe and have at my disposal every blessing possible according to His will and who He is. When I look at myself, I can become depressed because I am flawed, at times I don’t measure up and I will always find someone else who is just a bit better than me at something. But when I turn to God and receive His love, I have reason to rejoice and be glad. I am who HE says I am. I am precious. I am loved. I am a delight. I am worthy of His love. I am able to do all that He has created me to do. I am protected by His grace and mercy. I am able to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patience, faithful, gentle, kind, good and exhibit self-control because this is who He is in me. I am free, healed, redeemed, restored, content, and new because this is what He came to do for me, and for you.

I am not depression. And for at least some of you, you don’t have to be either. You do get to choose. God lets you have that freedom.

Jesus came to heal you and set you free from the things that weigh you down. Will you choose to accept that freedom? The sad reality is that sometimes it’s easier to live as a prisoner. I’ve considered it. As a prisoner we’re free from responsibility and accountability. We’re able to excuse, justify and blame – we just can’t do anything about it. Freedom requires action. And the strength to step into that freedom and action, responsibility and accountability is part of the blessing we receive in Jesus.

Who will you choose to be? What will you choose to accept as your foundation in this uncertain world?

Today I choose to be who God says I am. Today I choose Jesus and the gift of freedom He offers.

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Joy and Suffering

View of Geiranger Fjord from the mountains in Norway“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)

My daughter came home from her evening activities one night the other week. She stopped and turned, looked at me and I could tell she was looking for the right words. She is careful with her words and she doesn’t like to complain, but there was something on her mind and I don’t think she meant to complain as much as she was looking for someone to validate how she was feeling.

She started explaining her day; how everything had gone well for the most part: she had a good day at school, did well on a test, enjoyed her time with friends, had a good evening at her job…and then she got an email that something wasn’t quite how it should be. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible thing but it was something she would need to address and it was weighing on her mind a bit as to just how she would handle it.

Her overall question was basically, “Why does it always seem like when things are going well, something has to happen to mess it up?”

Welcome to adulthood and responsibility, my child. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

In a nutshell, this was my response. Just when I think everything is going well, something happens. And just when I think it won’t get any worse, it does. There will always be something that causes us to stop, turn and think about the change that just happened in our day, our situation, or maybe our life.

The truth is we all suffer at some level; some more often than others, but we all do suffer just the same. We all suffer in different ways and as we get older, we have more responsibility and become more practiced at suffering, not only for ourselves but for others as well.

In this world there is pain and suffering all around us. Each situation we find ourselves in has the ability to add to or increase the level of pain, discomfort, or struggle in our lives.  Everyone’s pain is just as important from the perspective of God and He has compassion and mercy for each of us in our own personal condition. This trouble we face has the ability to stop us in our tracks and keep us from an abundant life in Christ. The question is, at what point do we acknowledge our difficulties and turn to God and other brothers and sisters for help?

 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed (because God brings hope and healing); perplexed, but not driven to despair (because God gives knowledge and clarity); persecuted, but not forsaken (because God is always with us); struck down, but not destroyed (because God delivers us to life through Christ); always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (We live in victory, not defeat!) 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (Notes and emphasis added.)

Contrary to this world, in Christ, each situation we find ourselves in has the ability to increase our joy and happiness because we know He is with us and it will end. We already have victory! Regardless of how any current situation plays out in this world, one day it will be over and we will be without tears, without pain, and without sorrow. (Revelation 21:4) It is coming, do not give up!

The beauty of our victory is that we can experience and share it with people now. Do you believe in the victory enough to live it out? Do you share with others the reason for your joy in the midst of what others would consider unbearable? Are you willing to allow others to witness your hope even if they think you are crazy for really believing in that hope? The truth is that the idea of Jesus is crazy! It turns this world upside down and shakes it loose of all its preconceived notions and ideas of what it means to suffer and how to find true happiness and joy in spite of suffering.

Something to Consider…

As you consider 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, is there a situation that you feel afflicted or in pain; perplexed or uncertain; persecuted or abandoned; struck down or hopeless? Call on God with your whole heart, seek Him and His truth. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you how God brings healing, hope, clarity, knowledge, life and victory! God is faithful and trustworthy in all that He does.

It’s important to keep a good perspective regarding the significance of your pain and suffering. It’s easy to make something out of almost nothing and we can often try to downplay our problems not wanting to draw attention to ourselves. Don’t be afraid of letting Jesus and other brothers and sisters in Christ come along side of you so you can remember His perspective and be encouraged.

Let’s Go!

Bobo What's up (2)“‘Master,’ Simon answered, ‘we have worked hard all night long and have not caught a thing. But if you tell me to, I will let the nets down.’” Luke 5:5 (CEV)

I am on a health kick struggle. Some call it a journey, but for me it’s a constant battle of the will to even decide how I’m going to tackle the food and exercise choices each day. Is variety the answer or a consistent planned out routine?

The other day, I chose to walk my dog. He needs to get out more often so it was a twofer. The best part of taking him for a walk is the moment I tell him we are going. Actually, I ask with excitement and anticipation in my voice, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

His head lifts and tilts, his ears perk and his body is at attention. I ask again, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

He turns, stops, and looks at me as if to ask, “Now?”

And then the moment he’s been waiting for, “Let’s go!” He bolts for the door, tail wagging while pacing back and forth as he waits for me to catch up. I love every minute of it!

And if there’s anything he loves, it’s taking a walk. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, he drops everything for this one thing…even though he’s on a leash and never more than four feet from me. Even though he never gets to stay and check out a scent for too long. Even though he doesn’t get to choose the direction or the pace, he joyfully comes with me whenever I call.

His excitement, energy and joy made me wonder. What call do I willingly, joyfully drop everything to answer and follow? Is it an activity, a person, or a purpose? Does it matter if I get to choose the destination or the route to get there? Does it matter how fast or slow we go? Do my desires get in my way of being able to stay close, stay focused or continue in excitement? Do I see it as a burden rather than a gift – a gift of spending intentional time with another for a specific reason because I’ve been asked to join in and be part of what’s going on, take part in what this other person is doing?

I love the way Luke 5 tells the story of Jesus calling Peter to come and follow. Other versions simply say he dropped everything and followed. But here in this version we see the real thoughts and emotions of a person who is going about his day, tired from his work, and struggling to follow instructions that seem from his perspective and experience a waste of time.

 “They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart. Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.” Luke 5:6-7 (CEV)

After, out of obedience, doing the very thing he didn’t want to do, Peter sees the results that come when working with Jesus.

God is at work in this world. He is everywhere at all times and while He could go alone, He doesn’t. He calls to us to come with, to follow Him and to be part of what He’s doing.

God has made me an offer better than anything I or anyone else could imagine. I know who He is, I know what He’s done, and I know who I’ve been, as does He, which makes the offer all that much more incredible. He wants me to see what He’s doing, listen for His call, and be ready to act when He says, “Let’s go!”

That is my prayer today: that I would be aware of what God is doing, in tune with and listening for His voice above all others and in that moment when He calls I would willingly, joyfully and with great anticipation drop everything in response to His invitation to join Him in His work.

Something to Consider…

How has Jesus called to you and invited you to join Him in what He’s doing? What activities do you struggle to drop so you can follow Him fully?

What results have you seen in your work with Him? What actions do you hesitate to take because you don’t understand how it will play out?

How does knowing God doesn’t need you, but wants you to join Him encourage you to follow Him in whatever way He calls?

What Do You Think On?

View of Geiranger Fjord from the mountains in Norway“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

It didn’t take long after I woke up Monday morning for my mind to start thinking about all I had to do. And it wasn’t just about what I had to do that day; it was my whole week right in front of me.

My mom told me that when she found out she was pregnant with me (she and my dad already had six kids between the two of them) all she could think was that there was going to be another pile of laundry. Maybe you’ve picked up on the fact that I was not planned and when I think of this story, it’s easy to assume I was more of a burden than a bundle of joy, but that’s not true.  I am loved and have always known it; but as an adult, I now have a very clear idea of what she was feeling.

I have piles everywhere! There is no order to the piles; there is no order to the placement of the piles. The piles never really seem to go down. Just as I remove and check off some items, more gets thrown on top. My mom had no idea how she was going to do more and provide more without being more. She couldn’t see an end to the piles or the process. I feel this same way at times: scattered, helpless and overwhelmed with no end in sight.

While my piles are not physical piles of clothes, toys or dishes; they are the things that weigh on my mind, take my time and cause me to invest myself sometimes at levels that I am consumed with love, sorrow, joy and regret all at the same time. When I am on top of things, dealing with one specific pile, things are good. But it’s the running between the piles, back and forth with no clarity or plan where I struggle.

The valley: the place I need God to meet me, settle my heart, bring focus and clarity to my mind and walk me from pile to pile, mountain top to mountain top in His time, in His way.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to stop, but I do truly love what I do! Everything I get to do centers on what I believe God wants me doing. So why are the piles so overwhelming? Why does it appear that there no order when God is all about order – planning, preparation and purpose fulfilled?

Because my thoughts go to what I can’t do in my own power, what will happen if I don’t get through my piles and what other people will think of me and my efforts or lack thereof. And that’s the kicker…what others will think of my lack of ability to perform at a high enough standard to meet their expectations.

I haven’t even talked to anyone for them to tell me their expectations, if they even have any, and I’ve already assumed the worst about them and myself!

Regardless of whether you run your own business, work for a Fortune 500 company or stay at home with the kids, there’s stuff to get done! But according to Philippians 4:4, I’m not supposed to rejoice in meeting the expectations of others. I’m supposed to rejoice in the Lord – always! He is with me in everything I do and He alone brings peace to my mind, heart, and soul. When I rely on Him to help me work through it, rejoicing and thanking Him each step of the way, I will be doing what He expects of me. I will be moving forward in His power, plan and purpose for my life.

Something to Consider…

How does what you think about determine your ability to rejoice and be thankful?

Do you experience peace? Do you turn to something or someone other than God to fill the gaps between the piles?

What are your piles? Are there some that can go? Which are your priorities? Which ones are God’s priority for you?

Seek Him today in the valley between the piles. Thank Him today on the mountain top of progress. Rejoice in Him always!

Overjoyed!

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Matthew 2:10

“Are we there yet? When will we be there? I have to go potty! I’m tired! Are we almost there?”

We have taken many road trips as a family. Some short, little two-hour jaunts to our cabin every other weekend or so. Some 15 hour hauls across the country! Sometimes, we play games like the alphabet game or look for license plates from all 50 states. One time when the girls were little, two and five I believe, we had to duck every time we went under a bridge. This kept them occupied for at least 20 minutes laughing the entire time. I don’t remember what was so funny, but it didn’t matter; we were all together and enjoying our time.

I am reading through the Gospel of Matthew during my quiet time each morning and this tiny verse caught my attention. The wise men had traveled quite awhile. For how long they had been waiting and watching for the sign that the Messiah had been born, I don’t know, but it had finally come and they were on their way. Not many road signs or licenses plates to keep them occupied. And I’m guessing not many Country Inn’s or Country Kitchen’s to pull over at and rest.

Whenever we would be on a road trip, we would start out all excited, “We’re on our way!” Somewhere down the road, an hour in or so in to the trip, the attitudes and atmosphere would change. It would be the same old scenery, not much variety, just driving and driving and driving until we were just outside our destination city. Then, once again, the excitement would begin to build. “We’re almost there! How much longer do you think it will take? It will be so nice to finally be there.”

The wise men had made it to Jerusalem, met up with King Herod and were beginning the final leg of their journey to find the new-born King. This was not a short jaunt or even a full day’s trip. This journey took months to complete. I can imagine their excitement building; all this time, all this distance and they were almost there!

When they saw the star over the house where Jesus was lying, they were overjoyed! Jesus was just a baby. He had done nothing but be born and yet these men who held some position of authority, prestige and power came to worship Him as an infant, a toddler, and they were overjoyed to do so.

We are just over two months away from the anniversary of the birth of Jesus and I wonder, what will be my state of mind when Christmas finally arrives? Will I have been preoccupied with all the to-do’s, events, get-together’s and conflicting  schedules or will I have been celebrating and preparing for His arrival? Will I be stressed out, strung out and worn out, or will I be settled and at peace in the rest only He can provide? Will my mind, focus and energy be drawn toward the busyness of the season or will I remain focused on my purpose in Him, keeping Him at the center of all I do?

Will I be overjoyed each and every day to simply be in His presence?

Something to Consider…

As Christmas draws close, remember Jesus came so that we could be reconciled to God and live in relationship with Him forever. Take time throughout this season and coming year to grow and invest in your relationship with Him. On this day, He has given us the greatest gift of all!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

What activities or concerns weigh you down during the holidays? Bring these concerns to Jesus and allow Him to carry the weight, remove the burdens and give you His perspective of the situation. Allow yourself to experience the joy of His presence!

Joy and Thanksgiving

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

I want to hang this verse on my wall. I have the perfect spot between the bottom of my stairs and the laundry room. I pass this wall every day since it is between the bedrooms and the main living area of our home. And I don’t just pass it once a day; I pass it many times as I go up and down the stairs. I grab my purse but forget my shoes. The receipt is on the desk not in my purse. I left my sunglasses on the desk while looking for the receipt. Oops, I forgot to brush my teeth. Where is my phone? NOW, am I ready to leave the house?

It’s amazing what piles up in my kitchen because it needs to go upstairs. I also end up with piles of clothing in the laundry room. I definitely do not rejoice in carrying loads of laundry up and down the stairs. I used to rejoice in this simple task. At one time, we lived in an apartment on the third floor. When we moved into our first home, the laundry was in the basement. I would carry our clothes up and down three half-flights of stairs and be giddy. In the apartment, I would carry the laundry down three full flights of stairs, across the parking lot to my car, drive to my parents home and carry it down to their basement only to carry it all back and up again. My own laundry space in my own home was a dream come true. It didn’t matter where the laundry was located.

But then it happened. We moved. The laundry room was now located upstairs right next to the bedrooms. It was like the clouds parted and angels were singing. How could I be so fortunate? I had 18 glorious months of loving my laundry room and the task itself.

Of course, things do change and we moved again. The best I could do this time was a main floor laundry room, one full flight of stairs from bedrooms to washer and dryer. It was still better than the first house and way better than the apartment, right? Had I never had the upstairs laundry room, I would’ve thought it couldn’t get better than this. Now, anything less than two steps from my bedroom door is not good enough.

I began to wonder how many petty issues I allow to ruin my day and steal my joy?

I should be glad that I have machines to wash and dry the clothes for me. I should be rejoicing in the fact that I have clean water to drink, much less running water in my home to wash my clothes. I should be thrilled that I not only have the arms to carry my loads of laundry and legs to carry me up and down the stairs, but that I have the clothes to wash in the first place.

What is it that makes me think I deserve to have it easier when I already have so much compared to so many? Why am I not grateful for simply having another day to enjoy with those I love, another day to serve those I love?

Lord, I pray that I not only appreciate what I do have but that I would be content with what I don’t have. I pray that my desire to do your will would not be determined by my comfort, convenience or contentment but simply because I know you love me. You have already given me all I need. In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Something to Consider…

I’ve heard it said that nothing seems small in the moment. While that may be true from our perspective, it doesn’t mean we need to look at it from our perspective.

In what area of your life do you need a new perspective? What irritations can be replaced by joy and thanksgiving? How can His love and goodness be seen in your life?

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” Psalm 118:29

Shining His Light

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

I’m sitting here feeling like I’m frittering away my time. I’m enjoy some mindless activities but I know I have things to do today and people who are expecting me to be where I need to be when I need to be there. It feels like it should be a “pajama day”. You know those days when you just wear your comfy clothes all day, don’t worry about your hair or make-up and watch movies or read all day long. Yeah, that’s today.

But, then reality hits. I need to exercise. I have been hit and miss with this activity for way too long. And if I exercise, I definitely need a shower. I can’t even be around myself without cleaning up after a run. I do need to go grocery shopping which also includes checking my calendar, making a menu and organizing my shopping list…which is done by aisle so I can be efficient.

Once I’m home and groceries are put away, it’s out to dinner with my mom, daughters and friends for some food, fun and fellowship. Eating is considered a fun activity which is why I do need the exercise. And to finish off the night, we are doing a little summer clothes shopping. I will probably not be able to keep my eyes open at the end of the night for a movie or a book.

As I look at the day ahead, I wonder what else I’ll be doing. Who will I run into? What unexpected things will come my way? How will I handle the challenges and potential problems I may face? Will I reach out to someone, be willing to adjust and trust that all that needs to get done will get done?

Before I go or do anything, I quiet myself and spend some time with God.

Lord, what are your plans for my day? Who do you want me to talk to? How will I be able to shine your light to someone who needs to see it? What words of encouragement will you have me speak to someone who is wanting to hear it? Lord, this day is not my own. I give it to you. I pray I will let your light shine for all to see. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Something to Consider…

Our fellowship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit takes place in His light. Our joy is made complete when we shine His light and share in His fellowship with others.

Who are the people you see and do life with day in and day out? Is there somewhere you spend time that is dark in attitude and heavy in atmosphere? Consider how you can shine the light of Jesus in this place and with these people so they may also have fellowship with us.

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard,  so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3 (NIV)