Tag Archives: spirituality

God and Depression: What Does the Journey Really Look Like?

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Recently, I’ve been going through something I’ve been graciously calling a “funk”. You know, it can’t possibly be depression; I have no reason to be depressed because life is going pretty well; it hasn’t gone on for long enough to really be considered depression; it is not as bad as other people’s so I don’t really have the right to call it depression. Maybe these were little lies to get me by. But now, I’m ready to look at it for what it really is.

I stopped writing. I stopped prioritizing my spending and my daily tasks, stopped thinking of my to-do lists. I stopped wanting to hang out with my friends, but they wouldn’t know; I was happy to see them all the same. I stopped enjoying my practice times, and didn’t really get much done. The house is a mess, the dishes are dirty. The bathroom needs cleaned and the laundry needs put away. I haven’t done my Stats homework in over two weeks.

There is no motivation. It’s not that I’m motivated to not do things, like those times when I push myself way too hard and I desperately need a break–when I’m burning out. There is simply…nothing.

I’m having a tough time explaining myself well, so here is an excerpt from a journal-like post I started to write the other day…(dont’ speed read over this. You’ll miss it.) Read the rest of this entry

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Au Contraire, Rose

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Against whom, Rose,
Have you assumed these thorns?
Is it your too fragile joy
That caused you to become
This armed thing?

But from whom does it protect you,
This exaggerated defense?
How many enemies have I
Lifted from you that did not fear it at all?
On the contrary, from summer to autumn
You wound the affection that is given you.

Against whom, Rose,
Have you assumed these thorns?

I’m supposed to be writing a paper about this piece. Instead, I’m writing this.

If tears didn’t accompany you to the end of this piece, go back and listen again. And this time, let yourself feel.

 

Au contraire!

 

You see, I cannot write at this moment, because I cannot stop listening. Cannot stop feeling.

Not just because the music is beautiful. No, if it were just that, I wouldn’t have been so terrified to play it back in November. (My stage fright only comes when I don’t have adequate emotions to express.)

No, not that–but because I have finally understood what it means.

 

Au contraire!

 

Of all the moments in my life, these are perhaps the most beautiful.

 

Au contraire, Rose! No longer must you hold up your thorns to the outside world! I hold you now. Your thorns do nothing but hurt me…and hurt yourself.

No, my own defenses never protect me from that which I defend myself.

They only defend me from that which can protect me the most.

 

Au contraire! You are so wrong, my dear Rose…you are worth everything to me, please wound me no longer!

I am yours. And you are mine.

I am yours, and you are Mine.

 

What a Saviour I have, indeed–One who makes everything beautiful when I am so wrong.

And what a husband I have, indeed–one who reminds me of my beauty as I heal.

Nehemiah Bible Study: Kick-Off

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Hey there!

I’m doing an online Bible study through Eisy Morgan, a blog that I found through my mom. She and I are meeting over Skype to discuss as we go. More info on the study here. For now, I’m going to get started answering this week’s questions for small group discussion!

If you’re not doing the Bible study, don’t be scared off! With each of these questions, I’m sharing some stories and thoughts that transcend the study itself.

This first set of questions is based upon Psalm 119:129-135 (NKJV). Read it in The Message translation here.

1.  List every term the psalmist uses for God’s communication/revelation to man. (Example: V.129 ESV – “testimonies”)


Entrance of God’s words. Commandments. Custom. His word. Precepts. Statutes.

I won’t exhaust you with dictionary definitions; rather, I’d like to highlight one of them. I find it interesting that “look upon me and be merciful to me” is described as a custom. The psalmist recognizes that God is always looking upon him and showing him mercy…yet he asks for it anyways. To acknowledge his desire. His need. It’s quite comforting to just admit to yourself that God regularly looks upon us and shows us mercy–and nothing will keep Him from doing that. And of course…we all have to admit, sometime or another, that we really need His mercy. Constantly.

2.  Psalm 119:129 says, “Your testimonies are wonderful: therefore my soul keeps them.” Each of you (as time allows) share a specific way that you’ve come to know personally that God’s testimonies are “wonderful.” If you don’t have a newcomer to the Bible in your group, imagine that you do. Let your answer help explain to her why YOUR soul desires to keep God’s testimonies and why she should even consider it.

I’ve always told people, especially those atheists who come to me with guns blazing, that a relationship with God is an experience. One that you choose to have. After all, winning an argument never won anyone over for Christ. And so, I’m going to share a short story of a cool God moment I had a couple of years ago.

I’ve always loved the rain; sometimes I would go out and just spin in circles, and skip, and run, and then sit down and let it fall on me when I’m all tired. Childlike? Perhaps. But I think that’s the best way to enjoy God’s creation.

One day, it was raining, and so I went outside. But this time, instead of running around and splashing in puddles, I simply sat, and I started singing. You Won’t Relent by Jesus Culture. The rain swelled and slowed with my volume and energy. And I stopped. The rain stopped. I held my breath…

And then belted it all over again. The rain poured back down. And from that moment forward, the rain served as a reminder that God’s with me. He’s here, and He loves my praise. I’m important enough to stop and start the world for. What. I’m just one tiny person in a whole world of seven billion…but touching my heart uniquely is that important to Him. I mean, I knew I was important enough to die for, but this added a whole new dynamic.

And I have full faith that He feels that way toward every person on earth. You.

And the most exciting part is, we have a whole lifetime to discover His endless love for us.

3.  Psalm 119:132 says “Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is Your way with those who love Your name.” If you have placed your faith in God through Jesus Christ, you have demonstrated one titanic way of “loving His name.” Discuss the importance of trusting that God’s “way” is to deal with His children graciously. Talk about whether you tend to expect God to be gracious to you or indifferent or harsh and condemning. If you tend toward the latter, would you be willing this summer to seek God with the grateful expectation of His graciousness toward you.

As much as I talk about God’s love and mercy and forgiveness…I must admit to you that I mainly talk about them to remind myself of those things. Most of the time, I tend to think that God is sitting up there, watching my every move, waiting to chastise me when I do something wrong. I tend to think that He’s angry and upset with me when I do something wrong, and that I should keep away from Him for an amount of time (almost as if I’m waiting on him to “cool off”) before I’m worthy of going back to Him.

But God says I am worthy. Worthy of His love. Always. Why else would He give up His life to be with us?

4.  Psalm 119:133a says, “Keep steady my steps according to Your promise.” What specific challenges are before you this summer that could cause you to really need God to “steady your steps”?

I’m working as a summer camp counselor at a local church this summer. These kids are the ones who come to the summer camp for 10 hours a day, and many come from broken homes that have no choice but to send their kids to a camp while they work to provide for their family. Some of them don’t come from Christian homes, and I (along with the other counselors and the camp itself) might be the only taste of Jesus they might have. Needless to say, I feel a great load of responsibility for keeping my eyes on Jesus. He’s already given me a love for them that in turn causes me to pursue Him more so that I may lead them better. And I’ve seen Him work in me and in many of the kids there already. But I really need Him in that area–I need steady steps so that I can teach those kids how to walk.

5.  Psalm 119:133b says, “Let no iniquity get dominion over me.” THAT, Beloved, is a prayer that could have huge impact in our lives. If you are willing, share a particular tendency of your flesh that you’re really praying will not get the best of you this summer. (By all means, get personal as the Spirit leads but stop short of really graphic specifics. Give people the idea without the mental images.)

A tendency of my flesh is to let people walk all over me. Take advantage of me. Manipulate me. At first, it didn’t really seem to me that it was really “wrong” to let that happen–after all, my motives were based in “loving and serving others with self-sacrifice”–but there is an unhealthy degree to it. I’m constantly praying for healing and guidance through this particular issue, and I have a feeling that many a blog post will spur from it.

6.  Psalm 119:134 says, “Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep Your precepts.” Look up several definitions of “oppression” and discuss the vital differences between oppression and authority. How can they be confused? Once we know for certain we’re not just resisting authority but we are genuinely experiencing oppression, realize that God’s will is to REDEEM us from it. Pray fervently for Him to do so. He is perfectly capable of redeeming us from oppression while redeeming the relationship.

I know that God has placed certain people in authority over me–they have the right to make decisions and ask me to do certain things. However, the main difference that I found between authority and oppression is that authority is used to make a decision so that any issue or dispute may be settled. On the other hand, oppression creates issues and disputes. It harms and is not of good will.

Anyone can oppress us…friends, parents, significant others…not just people placed in authority over us. That’s a tricky thing I’m learning about through my answer in number 6.

7.  According to Psalm 119:135, conclude by asking God with a full heart of faith to make His face shine upon you, His servant, this summer and to TEACH you vividly through the Book of Nehemiah.

You know, my pastor at Calvary Chapel Tallahassee, at the end of each service, says, “May His face shine upon you.” What a beautiful thing that is.

And so finally, we are finished! I’m excited to discuss with my small group!

My Love Story, Part 5: Long Distance

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Part 1: The Hang-Ups

Part 2: Falling in Love with a Savior

Part 3: Love at Second Sight

Part 4: A Spiritual Leader

We spent the summer together, all day, every day. It was wonderful, and we became accustomed to one another. It was nearly impossible to let go, that night before I left for college. To be completely honest, I’ve repressed the memory (unintentionally) and it no longer exists.

There is a lot of bitterness stored up in this part of my life…and a lot of strong–hardly harnessed, truly–emotions that had no outlet then. This is essentially their first outlet. It’s something I didn’t share then, and I wouldn’t have thought to share now (until this series came along). The following information is an incohesive cloud of emotions that overlap and work together to create a toxic mess.

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My Love Story, Part 4: A Spiritual Leader

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Part 1: The Hang-Ups

Part 2: Falling in Love with a Savior

Part 3: Love at Second Sight

I was elated by Matt’s decision to get baptized. The testimony he gave at the baptism was quite touching. All I could do was be incredibly happy for him and encourage him despite his fears.

But I still couldn’t help but believe the wise advice that everyone had always given me. “He still can’t be your spiritual leader.” And I talked to God about it. Talked at Him. Let’s be honest: when He brought it up, I always cut Him off before He could say anything—“I know, I know, I’m wrong. He can’t be my spiritual leader. I’m taking care of it. Don’t worry about me.” How silly of me–to tell Him not to worry about me. HELLO. God of the universe up there. He loves me where I am! (These are things I wish I could tell myself back then.)

Well, I was really just avoiding the feelings of failure that I thought God would speak down towards me. How foolish! What He was really trying to say was, “I see you. I know your heart, and I love it. I love you. I want to give you everything—you don’t have to do anything else (and I could imagine Him shaking me at this point), just accept what I want to give you!” Now, what he could have meant by “I know your heart” could be any number of things; I think it is a mixture of “I know you love me and want to please me” and “I know you’re stubborn, so I just made your non-Christian into a Christian for you. And what’s more, he’s gonna be your spiritual leader.”

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Courage

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I’ve always found it hard to reconcile God and country in my mind.

I’d always thought that it was hazy, at best, what a country like ours–with all its “freedom” and “the Constitution is always right” philosophies–should do about a thing like God.

Ah, well, let me catch myself here–I suppose that when I think about “country”, I think about “law”, and all of the controversies surrounding church and state. One time, I posted a rather vague blog on another domain about my reflections on abortion, and I got like, 4 messages from some liberal (not that ALL liberals are like this) who just wanted to tear me apart for all of the reasons I always hear thrown against Christians: “What about the people who are raped”, “This isn’t a theocracy”, etc. etc.

It made me so angry. It always does. I hate it when people get all angry at me–and believe me, I’m a fighter. It took me a lot of reading those messages, and then walking away, in order to finally come back to them without anger and look at them levelly. Even then, I never responded because I knew this person was only looking for a fight. And what I thought was most ironic was that their username was something like, “LivingQuietlyAndPeacefully”.

There was another message that I got, from someone else, assaulting me with a profanity and telling me that they hope I burn in hell. Or something to that effect.

Ah, my point is, I didn’t even attack anyone–I just calmly listed some things with little to no explanation. And I suppose I should explain my opinions better in the future so that they aren’t so blown out of proportion…but a cynical part of me believes that they always will be.

So…things like this, and all the liberal arguments I hear on Facebook and on a college campus, only perpetuate the confusion inside of my heart (and I remember who is the author of confusion). This post is my attempt at dissolving the matter (though it will probably something I come back to over and over again, only to be healed further in Christ each time).

There are things in life worth standing up for, no matter how hard it is. And if people are going to attack you no matter how you say it, you may as well take a stand. Sure, who am I to say that I, or that Christians, know better than everyone, but I know a God bigger, and stronger, and smarter, and wiser than ALL of you. And everyone in the world. Yeah, he’s pretty awesome.

So I believe Him when he says in Jeremiah 9 that ruin only comes to the nations who perpetuate lies so badly that you can’t trust anyone you meet (when was the last time you left your car unlocked in a parking lot? When was the last time you left your house unlocked? It wasn’t always like that). I believe  him when he says destruction comes to the nation who runs from sin to sin and wears themselves out from all of their sinning (how many people do you see who come to work or school miserably hung over from the night before? How often do you feel burned out or unfulfilled from chasing the things of this world?).

Now, I’m certainly not trying to declare the whole “doom and gloom” message. No one wants to hear that–I certainly didn’t. It was actually really tough for me to accept and understand last night, as I was sitting in my comfy chair, listening to my pastor. The thoughts trying to enter my mind were, “That’s outdated. That was meant for Judah thousands of years ago.” “That doom-and-gloom message isn’t real. Maybe he’s gone off his rocker.” “This kind of stuff isn’t important, in light of everything else that’s going on in the world.”

For I am guilty as charged. I’m not the perfect person who is sitting back and saying that everyone else is terrible or wrong. I do those things, too. My heart is just as deceitful and evil as the rest of them. A part of me wants to believe that those things are normal, because it’s all I’ve ever known and I don’t want to take the time or energy to change them.

But I do know God. I do want to do and be those things He made me, and all of humanity, for. And He redeems me. He’s taken everything that I’ve done that hurts other people and myself and Him, and He’s cast it away from me. “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12, NLT). And that’s what He promises us, when we choose Him. This…is faith. That He knows what He’s talking about, and He never changes.

Jeremiah was known as the Weeping Prophet. He had so much compassion inside of his heart that the knowledge of his people’s path of destruction just tore him apart inside. It overwhelmed him.

And at the end, my pastor asked, will there be anyone in this country who weeps from their compassion for the people in this country?

I suppose, at the end of the day, after all of the arguments have been talked to death and all of our anger has been spent, that’s what it comes down to. Compassion. Will I have the compassion to speak the truth in love? Will I have the compassion to tell everyone I know about the amazing grace that I experience daily? Will I have the compassion to weep and pray for those who are making decisions for my nation?

Because at the end of the day, God is God. He’s still faithful. He still forgives. And He loves so, so much. He doesn’t want our weaknesses to destroy us. He wants to heal them.

But He is also good, and mighty, and powerful. He is so purely good that by His very nature, He cannot tolerate evil for long.

His character never, ever changes.

And sometimes, it just takes the courage of one person to say that.

..

If you have any response, or questions, or even anger to hurl at me, please leave it in the comments section below. I’ll respond with no anger or malice. I want to hear what you (YES, YOU) have to say!

My Love Story, Part 3: Love at Second Sight

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If you haven’t already, you should definitely read Part 1: The Hang-Ups and Part 2: Falling in Love with a Savior.

So, when we were all sitting in Taco Bell late one night after a jazz band gig, after all the instruments were put away and we were spending our spoils on the cheapest food around, Die-Hard Atheist and his agnostic and open-minded (read: indecisive) friends sitting around him had some questions for me.

I had tried to stay out of it…unsolicited Christian input (not any OTHER religious input) is typically pushed away in those conversations. Nevertheless, I found myself sitting in front of a panel of non-believers, being grilled with all the classic questions. “What about the starving kids in Africa? How can a God of love let them suffer?” “What about the people who have never heard about your religion? Why are they condemned to hell?” And all the common criticisms and misconceptions that go along with it. The Crusades. Legalism. Hatred of homosexuals.

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