How Many Kisses Do YOU Want Tonight?

By JMathis

Every night, our nighttime ritual is the same. My daughter and I snuggle and pray; I wind her down by telling her stories of when I was a little girl, when daddy was a little boy, when she lived in my tummy, what our doggy in heaven might be doing at this very moment with Jesus (playing catch, Mama? eating popsicles? chasing lizards together?). 

She is tucked in and then we read the same story each night: “How Many Kisses Do You Want Tonight?”, by Varsha Bajaj. Every page introduces a different kind of baby animal being put to bed by either a mommy or a daddy animal, which leads to the mommy/daddy animal asking the baby animal, “How many kisses do YOU want tonight?” As each page turns, the number of kisses rise…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and last of all, 10!

You think this is the end, but wait…we then are introduced to a human child who boldly asks for, “100!” As if this wasn’t enough to end the book, there is just one more child, who jubilantly and confidently asks for it all: “1,000,000!!”

While it is never stated or pictured, it is certainly implied on every page, that not only is each child entitled to the number of kisses of her heart’s desire, but that she actually gets the number of kisses that she asks for from her mommy or daddy.

So, today I pose this question to you who are tired, overworked, frazzled, stressed, beat-down, furious with your little boy who sneaks cookies into bed, down-trodden and choked by the worries and sorrows of life:

“How many kisses do YOU want tonight?”

Abba Father is ready to tuck you in and receive you into His sweet and peaceful rest.  

Matthew 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Good night and sweet dreams.

Get Out of the Closet

By AbbyA

My little boy was CAUGHT.  I found empty gold fish bags, smushed caramel popcorn and jelly bean bags all hidden in the corner of my closet.  I am furious.  Although he is just about perfect, he sneaks, hides and covers up FOOD.  What is this all about?  I ask myself.  FLESH.  His little boy flesh wants what he wants and he’s willing to break the rules to get it.  But, the clincher is that he figures that if he’s hiding himself and the remains in my closet, no one really knows what he has been up to.

Aren’t we just like little kids?  We are hiding in our closet with our sin and suffering. We think we are in the dark.  We think no one can see.   It looks like JMathis’ family ignoring the elephant-gone-mental at the family reunion.  It sounds like – “I’m fine.  How are you?”  It feels like Bindu’s shackled prisoner of shame.

I remember my twenty-something outward appearance.  Laid back, content, passing on peace 99.9% of the time.  I don’t think anyone, other than the Lord, knew what was happening or what I fighting for those years.  I set out to crucify premarital sex, fill up the hole that caused me to really want attention from men and figure out who I am in Christ without the desire to achieve or kill myself with perfectionism.   The past can be unkind; unraveling is painful.  Particularly if you trap yourself in a closet.

The truth of the matter is that God knows and God sees.  Despite the fact that you hide in a closet, you are busted by the Lord of Lords.  The worst part of the oddity of isolation is that we really think that God doesn’t feel our pain and shed tears.  I think His tears fall on us when He sees us clinging to the darkness.  He is standing there with you in the darkness.  He’s calling you, rooting for you, inviting you to come into the light.  He wants to wash us with the Word, prune us and make us whole.  Get out of the closet.  If you can’t do it alone, grab on to a trusted friend or counselor and let them help pull you out.

At the moment, my kids think that I have secret powers that allow me to know everthing about them and everything they do.  It is my hope that through my parenting, they’ll eventually see that it’s not me with the power, but it’s our Lord.  Mom can take her own advice now and then.  Jump out of the closet and into the arm’s of God.  Undoubtedly, a risk worth taking.

A Plan of Attack

By JMathis

Philippians 1:19-21 (NIV): Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

I just love this set of verses. It swells up my heart with so much hope, and I send this to everyone I know who is struggling with difficulties such as a loss of a job, a loss of a loved one, a loss of innocence. In just a few lines, it provides you a detailed plan of attack, along with the expected results, for when life strikes you down and you experience those “April Showers”.

Why does Paul, the author, rejoice? Because he’s onto something…he knows two things: 1) people are praying for him, AND 2) that the Holy Spirit is helping him. Because of these two things, he knows without a shadow of a doubt that the very crisis/problem/disaster that was meant for his DESTRUCTION will now turn into his DELIVERANCE.

He also endeavors to do one more thing in exercising his faith–he EXPECTS that this hostile situation he is facing won’t cause him to be ashamed or embarrassed.

As Bindu mentioned yesterday, you can’t expect people to pray for you unless you are honest and truthful with them about your struggles. You have to trust the Lord that He will give you victory over any potential shame or embrarrasment that comes from revealing these struggles to others.

Allowing friends, family and your church leaders to pray and agree with you BUILDS up your faith and gives you courage so that you know, that you know, that you really, really know, that the Holy Spirit is on your side to help you through this turmoil. Without this knowledge, you can never expect that things will change for you. WITH this deep-seated knowledge, however, not only can you expect the situation to change, but it will change for your good, with NO need to ever be ashamed.

LOVE this set of verses with me today. LIVE this set of verses with me today. EXPECT big things for your life today.

Prisoner of Shame

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

…And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32

 The Bible tells us that truth has the power to free us, yet so many of us expend so much energy in denying the big white elephant in the room…everyone knows it’s there, but no one wants to acknowledge its presence.

Yesterday JMathis so poignantly opened her heart to share a family secret that wasn’t so secret in her family. But she tore open the veil on her life and her family so that one of us could be touched. One of us could reach out to that one person whom we know is suffering in silence. One of us could ask someone for help when we begin getting overwhelmed by those “blues” that just won’t seem to go away.

As she shared her story, my immediate thought was “you have nothing to be ashamed of!” 

Yet so many people are prisoners of shame. We allow it to shackle us down and prevent us from getting the help we need. And that is exactly what Satan wants. He would much prefer we live in bondage than freedom.

 So as painful or as embarrassing as it can be, be honest about your struggle. You don’t have to post it on the wall of your facebook profile…nor do you have to twitter it to all of your followers…nor do you have to write a blog about it…but be honest with yourself…and tell someone whom you trust…someone who can help you get the right medical or psychological help. So rather than being a prisoner of shame, allow the “truth” of your situation free you to seek the help you truly need.

My Family Tree

By JMathis

I always joke around that my family tree resembles that of the Kennedys (minus all of the wealth and extravagance). Like the Kennedys, we are fiercely devoted to social causes and passionate about serving in the public interest. Instead of using government as our platform to reach the masses, though, my family’s preferred vehicle of service comes in the form of ministry.

I have family members who are Christian educators, authors, activists, scholars, philanthropists, social workers, songwriters, musicians, missionaries, pastors, evangelists and seminary students. You can find us anywhere from the mission fields of third world countries, all the way to the staff of America’s largest megachurch—we are in every pocket of Christendom imaginable and we are relentless in our ambition to do God’s work.

Yet, despite all of this tireless fealty to things of a spiritual nature, we have another very pronounced commonality with the Kennedys—our family is continuously plagued by tragedy. While our tragedies don’t take the form of assassinations, allegations of rape and plane crashes which seem characteristic of the Kennedy clan, our tragedies instead revolve around one thing: mental illness.

Every branch of my majestic, stately family tree has been impacted by mental illness. We are cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandchildren, parents and even children of the mentally ill. We see it all around us and we say nothing. We pretend it doesn’t exist even though it is the imposingly large elephant in the room of every single family reunion and gathering.

When one of us falls too far into the deep end, instead of throwing that person a life preserver, we whisper in hushed tones to each other, swapping knowing looks that simultaneously say “another one bites the dust” and “glad it wasn’t me”. We then proceed to step over the lifeless body and march towards our next assignment from God.

Apart from the obvious hypocrisy that runs rampant in my “spiritually oriented” family, we are still a family that is deeply rooted in the love of the Lord and one another, as confusing as that may sound. Unfortunately, these same roots are invasively thick with shame and silence. My family reminds me of the ficus tree—graceful, elegant and capable of growing in poor growing conditions. Yet at the same time, so rapidly destructive that it can rip through beautiful gardens and seemingly solid foundations such as sidewalks, patios and driveways. My family tree is both glorious in its legacy, while often heartbreaking at its core. 

A year after giving birth to my lovely babykins, I found myself still in the clutches of postpartum depression. I thought the “baby blues” were only supposed to last a few weeks, maybe months, but mine trudged on with a happy face, seemingly without an expiration date. I masked it well, staying busy with work, community volunteering and church involvement. However, deep inside, I knew that my internal compass was completely out of sorts. Looking back, I can remember feeling that pregnancy had caused every neuron and fiber in my body to be thrown off whack—as if someone had tried to rewire my neural structure, but did so incorrectly, with my orderly inner alphabet of “ABC” suddenly turning into a chaotic “ACV”.

After one year of this uneasiness and inner turmoil, it then hit me like a freight train. How many of my female relatives had languished in untreated postpartum depression, eventually hitting the point of no return? How many of my male relatives experienced intractable breakdowns after coming face to face with repeated stressors that could have been removed? How much could some of this mental illness have been avoided? Why was there such shame in taking the proper medication for something like this, or for sharing this with family members?

While the Christian holy-roller side of me would love to tell you that I broke this generational curse through prayer and fasting, the truth is, I finally caved and got help by seeing my doctor. She put me on anti-depressants and overnight, my world got much clearer and brighter—my wiring finally started to fuse in the proper order. Even though I was praying and reading the Word throughout this dark period of my life, it was not until I went on “happy pills” that I could say there was a light streaming in over the horizon.       

From a Christian perspective, I have no idea what this means. I know that God could have healed me without the use of any medication, but for some reason, medication was the course of action I followed. I would like to believe that the Lord took down my pride and led me to that decision just in the nick of time—still early enough where I could continue to fulfill my purpose and destiny in Christ. I have to trust the Lord and not over-think it theologically. After all, how should I know if Christians are to avoid anti-depressants? Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn’t; it’s not for me to decide or debate.

At the same time, I know very few people who would sweat out cancer, like some faith-healers, by relying solely on the Word of God. Most of us would seek treatment like chemotherapy, in addition to strengthening ourselves through daily meditation of scripture, prayer and fasting. Furthermore, we would enlist the help of family and friends for care, comfort, support, and more importantly, to wage spiritual warfare against this disease. Why should mental illness be treated any differently? Why is it sacrilegious to suggest that medication might be beneficial to someone facing a bout of mental illness?  Why is it taboo to share with friends, family and church leadership that you’re depressed?

In terms of my own experiences with post-partum depression and in light of my family history, I have learned a few things that I feel blessed and compelled to share with you:

1)      If you see someone sinking, throw that person a life preserver. Put aside years of shame, anger, guilt and fear of awkwardness, and help that family member or friend get through this difficult season.

2)      Throw away your pride and see if medication might help. As my doctor said, physiologically, we are a large mass of chemicals. When your inner chemical makeup is off-kilter, correct the imbalance through diet and exercise, and if necessary, the proper medication. 

3)      Seemingly normal, well put-together people experience depression—even people who are involved in ministry. If someone had a baby, even as long as a year ago, reach out to her and probe; ask the right questions. If someone just lost a loved-one, really assess how she’s doing a year later and offer a shoulder to cry on with continued support.

Even King David went through several seasons of depression throughout his life. “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” Psalms 32:3-4.

However, David prayed for wisdom, repented and sought the face of the Lord during emotional famines like this:

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” Psalms 51: 6-12

Have you prayed for wisdom for you and your family members in the area of mental illness? Have you repented of any unrighteousness in your life? Have you sought God’s face in how to deal with your depression?

I’m sick of the stigma that mental illness carries, and I will continue to engage in spiritual battle against the strongholds of shame and silence that repeatedly threaten to bring down my family’s long-lasting Christian heritage. I’m tired of the tragedy of mental illness that perpetuates itself in my blood line, and I take authority over it in the powerful name of Jesus. I’m also done with my pride that seeks to distance myself from getting the proper help and support that I need to move forward in the things of God.

I am ready to find my true legacy in Christ—not the one my family bestows upon me through genetics or in the way that my family members and I were raised.

I don’t want to be a Kennedy or even a descendent of Billy Graham. I just want to be a member of the family of God.

Furthermore, I may never fully understand why my incredible family tree produces both sweet and bitter fruit, but I do know one thing: I am of the lineage of Jesus Christ and I will do everything I need to do to help my family to continue serving our Father.

It Is Finished

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

In contrast to the “very serene, alive, white pure place” AbbyA described in her blog yesterday, I want you to imagine the opposite. I want you to imagine a dark, dingy, dirty prison cell. The cement floor is cold and clammy, and the cement walls are filled with crevices, filth and small creatures you’d prefer to not think about.  As you lay on your filthy, stained, uneven mattress, you stare at the rusted iron bars, believing they are the only thing that separate you from freedom and happiness.

But one day a prison guard comes by to personally visit you and tell you that you have been bailed out. You watch as he takes out his skeleton key and inserts it into the lock. You can hear the click of the lock as it turns to its unlocked state. You see the guard slide open those rusted iron bars, and with a flourish of his wrist, he let’s you know you are free…

Yet you remain. Paralyzed. Sitting in the filth and excrement of your past, allowing it to immobilize you and imprison you and rob you of your present and future.

In chapter 19 in the book of John, the disciple John describes a similar scene of someone who looks like they were about to be robbed of their future.

28Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”

Almost two thousand years ago, to everyone, including many of the disciples that had followed him, things did not look good for Jesus.  He who proclaimed to be the Son of God who came to save the world couldn’t even save himself. He was beaten brutally by the very people whom he came to save and left to die on a cross like a common thief. Things definitely did not look good for Jesus almost two thousand years ago.

For those who put Jesus to death and heard Jesus’s final words, “It is finished,” they probably would have whole-heartedly agreed that yes, it was finished. It was over. He/Jesus was finished.

And for those people, for their limited perspective, yes, it was over.

But we know now, don’t we? We know that the only thing finished was death….hopelessness…

So as you sit in your personal mental prison cell, what is imprisoning you? Hurt? Bitterness? Disappointment? Do you feel so overwhelmed by your pain that even though the door has been left wide open for you to walk into freedom, you prefer the familiar pang of your pain?

To you who feels hopeless…to you who feels unworthy…to you who feels empty…to you, I say, “It is finished.”

You have been bailed out. You do not have to remain where you are. You may feel that things are hopeless…but two thousand years ago, things also looked very hopeless.

But we know the truth…It was not finished…Life had just begun.


Where You Are Beautiful

By AbbyA

After reading JMathis’ prayer yesterday, my imagination took me walking through a very serene, alive, white pure place.  In this place, I am aware that my sins are buried somewhere deep and covered.  The awareness of my covered sins magnifies the holiness of this pure white place.  I think this is where I am who I really am.  In this light, I am beautiful.

Bindu reminded us of Just As I Am.  On planet earth, just as I am (me) is in desperate need of His grace.  I fumble and fail and then get up again.  But the just as I am on the other side is already cleansed by the blood of Christ.  This is where I walk on snowy powder that isn’t cold.  This place is beautiful.

Sometimes it rains very hard.  We end up feeling cold, drenched and alone.  In those lonely places, take heart.  He has overcome the world.  John 16:33.  For those with faith, heaven is a guarantee.  Discover who you are in His perfection while you are still walking in earth’s mud.  Such a journey just might open the door to seeing who you are in Him.  And, that, my friend, is beautiful.

Have a wonderful weekend.