What’s on your mind at 6am on Saturday ?

It is not that often that I wake up before 6am on Saturday morning.  The first few hours of Saturday morning are usually my sanctuary.  Today, there is just a whole lot on my mind.

On the spiritual side, I am thinking about my friend SZ who has that tint in her eye, that hue on her heart, that life is burdening her right now.  I’m thinking about CK and K and their good fight against depression.  I am telling God about the very big number of prayer requests that have bubbled up from my dear sisters this week.  I am also thinking about my friend MB and how she reminded me last night how much we need each other.  In the midst of prayers, battles and claiming of victory, she wisely says . . .  Why don’t we all just hang out at the pool and have some fun this weekend?  (That happens in South Florida in October.)

The only thing you and I need today is Jesus.  He is really the only thing that we need everyday.  But, it is refreshing to breathe that in.  Refreshing to know that wherever your mind is, He is all you need.  He is all you need to think, meditate and pray through whatever is on your mind today.

Drink your coffee or tea, clear your mind and do exactly what God calls you to do this weekend.  That’s my plan.  What is on your mind at 6am on Saturday?

FF Oct 11

Flinching at God

We all know what it is like to physically flinch. After 911, I flinched when I saw the first airplane in the sky after the attach. I flinched for a few months at turning cars after my mom and I had a bad car accident on an out-of-state trip in a rental car. And, I will forever flinch if I think you are throwing a bug or lizard at me (childhood scars). But, until recently, I never thought about flinching at God.

I look back at the last several years and can remember a list of events that were painful. I think about my dad suffering from and fighting for his life against cancer. I think about some really empty times in my marriage. Money problems. Professional anxiety. I am not talking about our day-to-day pressure. I mean the very hard stuff. The kind that happens to you, rather than something in the news or something far away.

There is no doubt in my mind that God has brought me through each and every dark place. I mean that – – the dark places where, if you don’t quickly realize, it’s you and God, you’ll sink. You can make a move to cling to Him, trust Him and hold His hand through varieties of earthly hell. Or, you can make a move to sink without Him. My doubt and emptiness has often been big, but God has always been bigger. My problems have appeared without resolution or hopeless, but God has never left things that way. My sorrow has taken on forms of depression, but God always delivered me.

One would think that with all the hand holding and carrying God has done for me; with all the deliverance; with all the spiritual victory; that I would not flinch at God. As the new year approached with all of the unknown ahead, I sought God for His plan for 2014. And, before I could get the plan fully down on paper, I started to flinch. Many thoughts crossed my heart. There is the chance that I will write this God directed plan and it could fail. I would hate that kind of failure. Flinch. There is the chance that God will bring me to accomplish this beautiful plan, but what if it can’t be accomplished without pain. Big flinch. Are we going to do a repeat of last year God? Because I will definitely flinch if we replicate February through May of 2013. And, frankly, some of the summer stunk too.

The truth is that I would do February through May of last year eight times over just turn learn the lessons He taught me over that time line. The truth is that it’s Satan that encourages the spiritual flinch. Our God is calling us to wherever He leads. The unknown is good when it is in His hands. I am over my flinching for now. I like idea of going where He goes, whatever the cost.

Hopelessness

By Bindu Adai Mathew

The torrid rains of April are falling.

A flashflood into my emotionally overwrought soul.

Tears fall from my eyes like overfilled buckets,

Like Noah, I watch as the waters rise above my head.

I choke on the hurt and gasp for air,

But unlike Noah, I see no salvation, drowning in my own despair. 

There is nothing.

No God. No hope. Nothing.

Except more rain.

 

I imagine this is what hopelessness feels like. I imagine that possibly this is what the son of Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life, felt like before he committed suicide in early April.

Depression isn’t prejudiced like we are. It doesn’t pick and choose based on gender, height, or financial status. It doesn’t care if we are Christian or not…even if we’re the child of a famous pastor…depression hits us all. And it can feel overwhelming. At times our depression is the result of a situation and can be temporary. For some, depression can be clinical and an on-going life struggle.

Most of us are fortunate to rise above the rising waters and find our hope again. And some continue to fight. If you’re fighting depression today, I encourage you to let go of the cloak of shame. Don’t let it prevent you from seeking the help you need, the help you AND your loved ones deserve. Because no matter how hopeless it seems and appears, it is a lie, no matter how real it may seem. With God, we always have hope. And that is something we all need to be reminded of.

 “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Psalms 30:5

Part 3: Confidence that Gives

By AbbyA

You have been through a lot.  So much you can hardly recall.  You have experienced many revisions of yourself.  As the revisions color over top of one another, you have become quite beautiful.  In the making of woman, you have become gifted and full of treasure.  You are her now.  

You have walked to where you are supposed to be.  Many good miles in your shoes.  Paths, trails and routes under your belt, and in these shoes.  But your feet don’t hurt.  You are pleasantly quenched and the light unto your path warms and directs you as you walk.  The magic of your condition and of this course is that you seem both to attract and seek out souls to cross paths with.  Beauty doesn’t walk alone and treasures are worthless unless shared.

You are her now.  You hold treasures in your trinkets that are hidden in your colorful character.  You have gifts tucked away in the layers of the fabric of your life.  You see into the lives of the souls put before you.  You pass messages of encouragement and share bits of your journey in the right proportion.  You breathe life into what otherwise may have been dead.  The depth of your exchange resonates deep and wide.  For the good of others.

You could have chosen to keep your beauty to yourself or close the box that holds your remarkable worth.  You could have.  But then you would cease to be her.  You would slowly lose your luster.  Your layers would become limp, faded and unattractive.  You would find yourself selectively remembering the should haves, was nots and wishes for differentSadly, you may even find yourself alone on an island.  Loneliness lends itself to thirst and exhaustion, and depression.  This is no place for a woman of your quality.  No place for a woman who has walked good miles in her shoes.  No place for her

You are made of long lasting fabric.  The kind that holds up over space and time.  The kind that warms souls and quenches thirsty hearts.  The kind that transforms itself by loving, giving and growing.  She has so much to offer.  Explode into her.  She has become you.

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.

Just As You Are

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

Have you ever felt like you needed to lose weight before you start going to the gym and before you start wearing fitted workout clothes while working out next to people who seem more in shape than you are?

Often, we treat our faith like that…we often feel like we have to be more spiritual before we can go to God with our doubts, our frustrations, our disappointment, and even our depression.  We often feel unworthy and not quite in that “spiritual” state of mind. We often think being/feeling/acting spiritual as being a requisite to approaching God rather than approaching Him as we truly are…

But as AbbyA described being alone on her island in yesterday’s blog post, she admitted that she had been “argumentative and harsh towards God in my words and feelings.” But it was only by continuing to converse with God, that she was later freed from the very feelings that had kept her imprisoned on her island.

As I read her blog, I was reminded of that great hymnal “Just as I am.” As much as we would like to transform ourselves before we go to God, it is only in God’s presence that we can truly be changed…like the Potter who can take our messy lump of clay and transform it into something priceless.

So Come…Just as you are…

Just As I Am

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Recalling An Island Called Depression

By AbbyA

After a few years of disappointment, my prayers to God started with a heart that needed her daddy so badly, but quickly took a left turn to bitterness.  My needs were so great, my well so dry.  I started to turn my cheek to my God who seemed to be failing me.  As my once strong and deep connection to Him filled with static and sadness, I floated away from Him…only to find myself lonely and depressed.

If you are like me, at some very down times in your life, you have said to God…although I need you very much, I am not going to ask you for help or wisdom anymore because you are not going to do anything anyway.  That was the beginning of me chipping away at my own faith.  Creating an island for myself.  When you are on an island by yourself, already sad thoughts permeate the secret places where God once was the center.  It is sort of like pulling the plug on a powerful whirlpool that was generating the light in you.

Alone on an Island.  Floating in the dark.  The flicker of the light sort of makes you sadder.  You really want the light because it is familiar, warm and calling.  But what is takes to get up and head back (or forward) takes the last bit of energy that you really don’t know how to find within you.  The latter, most assuredly, is the trap of feeling depressed.  However do I get home when I am frozen here on my island?

Awhile back, driving to work, it came to me that I had been pretty argumentative and harsh towards God in my words and feelings.  It seemed to me that He had been silent for so long.  God said something like – – my child, in the way that I ask you not to answer another with argumentative, harsh words, I also refrained from answering you.  You were not aware enough to see my Hand at work and too lost to hear me.  In a flash, He showed me how patient He is.  In a quiet, omniscient way, He had been waiting for me to open the door for Him again.

I am a book-of-the-bible reader.  Devotions are for the in-between.  I like to read books of the bible and write notes.  That became hard for me, on my island, with so little inspiration.  For some months, it was even harder to read my old notes.   Professions of my gratefulness, unending faith in His prophetic promises and appreciation for the fullness of His word.  I hardly knew who that person was who wrote with such freshness and freedom in Him.  God has chosen the middle of the night and early morning to begin His changes in me.  Somewhere in the night, in a searching, sleepy way I asked Him about where again to start with His book.  Wherever would I start?  Malachi, Malachi and Malachi again.  Take a look at the excerpt from Malachi below.

“Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the Lord, Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’  You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, And that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of Hosts?  So now we call the proud blessed, For those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’”

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.

“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels.  And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.”  Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, Between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.  Malachi 3:13-18.

In the pressures, stress and disappointment of this life, we lose sight of following Him.  Where is He anyway?  We lose our freedom in Him and start to question our bondage to Him.  Bitterness.  Our words are harsh against Him.  Why isn’t He delivering me?  How far can I be stretched?  We begin to lose sight of His purpose.  We lose our way.  Alone on an Island.  But, He is there.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18.  He is praying for you.  Luke 22:32.  You are His.  I contemplate that, at the very time we are speaking harshly against Him, He is reading His Book of Remembrance of His jewel – – you.  He is quietly reading, meditating, remembering you as you really are.  A time will return when you see that.  His power will help you open the door to Him again.  For He is the way, the truth and the life.  John 14:6.  He will not leave you; He will come to you.  John 14:18.

I don’t know what has brought you to leave for your island or how deep your wounds are.  If you are on your island, I only ask you to rely on what you know to be true.  Whether or not you can believe you have the strength, your heart will return to Him.  His heart has never left you.  And, one day He will read to you from His book – -not only about the day you came home, but every last praise you sang of Him.  He is that faithful to you.  For you, my fellow sister, are His precious jewel.