Step by step

HPIM0267“The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?”    Proverbs 20:24

 

Depression is real. It is many times a disease that frustrates loved ones as much as the person afflicted. The Christian community has often shied away from sharing their pain for fear that their faith would be questioned. Many try to mask their feelings of despair with unnatural gaity and busyness only to deepen their pit of helplessness. My friends, depression is real. And it is not always manageable only by faith.

Depression is defined as “feelings of severe despondency and dejection.” There are many causes for these feelings, both internal and external. So many people have sunk deeper into their hopelessness by listening to well wishers who cite scriptures encouraging them to just “let go and let God.” Others are told that it is a spirit that must be cast out by prayer and reliance on God. And when that fails, and the person still feels that weight on them, they sink even further under the sodden blanket of sadness. Don’t get me wrong, I know without doubt that prayer and fasting and belief in the ultimate sovereignty of God is critical to all life. And for some people, that is all they need. But we live in a broken down world where pain happens and we are sometimes faced with illness and situations that require treatment and counseling over and beyond blind faith.

If we have turned our lives over to God, completely and utterly trusting in Him, then our steps are ordered by God. Sometimes those steps are obscure and we have to really focus on the path in order to clearly see that we are following Him and not the advice of the world. God will direct our steps as we walk with Him whether through depression or other illness, health; financial woes, times of wealth; sadness, or happiness. God walks with us every step of the way and will direct us to the path we need to take, all the while helping us to see his Hand in action.

Depression is rampant in our family. It was evident in my husband, his Grandmother, his Mother and, now, our daughter. I have had periods of despondency when tragedy strikes our family, and I have fibromyalgia which causes depression along with the pain. But I have never experienced what I see in my beloved hubby and child. They have struggled with questions of “Why?” Knowing they were children of God, trying to rely only on Him, and crying out when their faith did not seem to be enough. Let me tell you, the world will break you if you let it, and that includes well meaning Christians who have a misguided belief that taking medication is a sign of lack of faith.

I like the way Billy Graham put it when asked about depression and faith, this is from Answers  on January 9, 2017;

Q: Is it a sin to be depressed? The doctor says I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that he can treat with medication, but a friend of mine says I shouldn’t do this because I just need to pray and have more faith. Who is right? I can’t stand this much longer.


A: (Billy Graham) Let me ask you a question: If you broke your arm in an accident, do you think your friend would claim it was a sin for you to have a broken arm, and all you needed to do was pray? I doubt it. Neither is it a sin for you to seek treatment for a chemical imbalance in your brain. The Bible says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)–and it’s true: Our bodies and minds are very complex. Although doctors can’t solve all our problems, we should be grateful that God has enabled them to understand more about our bodies and minds, and has given them new ways to overcome many of our problems. Don’t feel that you are somehow sinning by seeking treatment for your depression; it would be wrong for you not to seek treatment.

I sound like a broken record, but I have realized that, depression is real. It is a disease that is treatable just as any other disease. I know that someone out there needs to hear this. Please, walk with God daily and let Him direct your steps. Be open to that path leading you to medication that can help. Don’t let the world add to the sense of hopelessness.

You are in my prayers today,

Sheila

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Saved, now what?

how to receive the holy spirit - good news unlimited on Image Of The Holy Spirit“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

John 14:26

Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples. This time was not always spent in walking, fishing, and telling jokes, although I’m sure they did their share of that. Most of Jesus’ time was spent in teaching lessons that the disciples would need after he left them. Lessons on how to talk with authority when you don’t agree with them, lessons on how to show love to the unlovely, and lessons on repentance when you fall short of God’s expectations.

I have a heavy burden for those who accept Christ and are not taught the “what’s next” of a Christian life. My burden was given to me from God and through that burden I wrote “From Self-esteem to God-esteem.” These words on paper are a guideline to listening to the Holy Spirit in the “what’s next.”

When we accept Christ as our Savior and acknowledge that he has forgiven, and always will, our sins, we are free. We are free to be whoever we want to be. But as we are told in Psalm 37:4 that if you, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” our desires will be the same as God’s. Dwelling in the relationship with God is where the Holy Spirit comes in, and also where we fall short in mentoring new Christians in their walk.

Our strength to walk with God comes from the strength of God in us. Jesus did not leave his disciples, or us, to their own devices. He left them with an indwelling Holy Spirit that provides a way to continue walking with Christ. The Holy Spirit teaches us as Christ taught his followers: talking, loving, and repenting. He gives us wisdom and understanding for living in a sin-full world. He  teaches us meaning when we read the Scriptures, and he reveals sin through discernment.

We should never neglect the Holy Spirit power in us. I spent many confusing years trying to do it on my own, because I was saved through a denomination that made me feel like the Holy Ghost was a dirty word. I didn’t realize that I had all that I needed right with me from the moment I accepted Christ to live a Christian life. I worked, I studied, and I did. And I searched for something I thought was missing.

What a revival we could have if we would only take the time to mentor Christians and show them through God’s Word the power against the world that we have inside of us. My pastor has been giving out the “From Self – esteem to God – esteem” book to new converts at the time of their salvation. But we need more. That book is only a stepping stone to helping each other draw on the wisdom, strength, and power of the Holy Spirit living inside each of us.

Who can you mentor today?

The Lesson from a Grain of Wheat

wheat-field-640960_960_720 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

John 12:24-25

A loved one of ours is going through a really tough time right now. Her children are grown; she is alone and scared. Her whole life has been spent trying to hold onto her status as a needed role in her children’s lives and now that they have families of their own, it is hard for her to understand the change in the way that they need her. She is miserable and that in itself is pushing family and friends away. Her whole life is wrapped around her unhappiness in this world. And my heart breaks.

Jesus knew that this life was only temporary when he gave the parable of the wheat seed. The seed in and of itself is not life, but it plays a role in bringing life. Just as Jesus died and was buried in the earth to bring us life, so must the seed be planted so that it can die and bring forth new life in the stalk of wheat. If the seed does not die, then new life does not grow. And so must we be the same.

I have a good life here on earth, but I know that only in dying to self can I be truly satisfied and fulfill my calling to produce good fruit. I cannot cling to the comforts of this world and still grow in Christ. I cannot look at what I have and don’t have (friends, family, possessions) and keep the joy of Christian growth in my spirit. I have to die to self, I have to let go of earthly life in order to embrace new, eternal, life in Christ. And I have to die to self so that others might see the fruit of that death.

We go through stages in this life: single, married, divorced, widowed. And each stage has its own God designed purpose as I wrote in Submission is NOT a Four-letter Word, “God doesn’t call the roles of wife, single woman, or widow…God calls each (person), regardless of role in this life, to serve Him fully. We are to do this wherever we are and no matter what the role.”

I pray for my friend. I pray that she realizes that her life is not over, it is just beginning a new phase. I pray that she finds comfort in Christ and that she allows Him to direct her every thought, desire, and prayer. I pray that she would embrace this new relationship with her children and that she supports them as the generation that she instilled God’s love into as she raised them. And I pray that she realizes that she is never alone.

Cotton – candy promises

cottoncandymedThen the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand.  Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.”

2 Kings 18: 28 – 32

Ah, the promises of the world around us. The fleeting, disappearing promises of the world. Just like cotton candy, these promises disappear at the first hint of rain. We wrap our lives around the artificial sweetness of the world, layer upon layer of lies and empty promises. And then wonder where it went when the waters of life come.

And it is no different now than it was when Hezekiah was  leading the people of Judah to follow the one true God. The world (Satan) will put things in front of us that fit with our idea of comfort and stability. He will reach watch us and wait until he sees a weakness, a gap, where we have not altogether turned our lives over to God and he will pounce with a fierceness that we won’t even know what hit us until it’s too late.

Let’s look at Satan’s “promises” in the opening verses and see how many of them appeal to us.

  • “I can keep you safe from all your enemies.”  Satan plays on fear and anxiety, distrust and self – sufficiency. He will instill these emotions into our lives by pointing out the weaknesses in our leaders: in the churches, communities, families, government, and especially our homes. He will cause us to look at the failures, and we all have them, rather than the good that has been done through leaning on God. Just like in the Garden of Eden, Satan strives to bring doubt to our minds about God’s sovereignty and power. “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me.”  But Satan can be brought down in this one thing. By pointing out the weaknesses in people, no matter what their rank in our lives, he is encouraging us to look to God and to trust in Him and the Word that He has GIVEN to these leaders. We should always rightly align God’s preached word with His written Word – the Bible.
  • “I will provide for your every want.” “Then each of you will eat of his won vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern.” Satan encourages “self.” Pride, annoyance with sharing, and fear of losing hold of life’s possessions are some of the tactics he uses to become greedy in holding on to what we own and not letting go. He promises that whatever you want in this life can be yours if you just kick the other person out of the way and grab it. Our families are splitting apart because fathers, and mothers, are working twelve to fourteen hours a day to “provide” for their families. Children are being raised in nurseries, preschools, and day cares from the time they are six months old and younger! And most of these are either public owned institutions where the Word of God is forbidden or private owned schools where the Word is limited to a denominational view. Where are the hugs and kisses of an involved Mommy when a child needs them? Love is not the issue; how we interpret that love is. Many mother’s must work outside of the home, but we must choose what is the better good for our children and spouse. And, please, don’t get me wrong, I know it is a tough world out there and money is not easy to come by. But there has to be a priority set. We must not let Satan determine what we “need.” God has designed the family to fill our every need. And it is not just the mother’s who are falling into the trap of living for their work, fathers are, too, if not more so. Gotta climb that ladder, gotta spend more time entertaining the client, gotta spend more hours at work. In my book, Submission is NOT a Four – letter Word, I wrote “God designed men to be the strong disciplinarians in the family and the reward is seeing their children grow up strong in the Lord and in their roles as men and women. Once grown, these adult children become accountable to God and His discipline….both men and women have the characteristics of God, but discipline of the children, the man is the strong one. The woman administers the rules of the house and disciplines to keep order, but it would take away from the woman another characteristic of God if she was the primary rule – setter and disciplinarian: that characteristic is nurturing the children.”  Where are our children going to see God’s plan for the family if we refuse to let go of our wants and put them first.
  • “I will make you rich.” Ah, we’ve all had the dream of living the “good life.” Plenty of “grain and wine; bread and vineyards; olive trees and honey; that we may live and not die. Back to the Garden of Eden and Satan’s first attack on the family. “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it (the Tree of Knowledge), your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  We are encouraged to “live for the world.” Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, let me live life on my terms, make my own decisions on what is good and what is evil. And the world promises that if we do this, we will have wealth and prosperity. God says in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  In the world, we desire wealth, fame, fortune. In God, we desire an honest life, a true family, and righteousness. God will replace the worldly, destructive desires we have in following Satan, with healing, rich desires for living a Christ – like life.

We are called to be strong in the Lord and His way; not our way. We are called to live life following His Word as our fulfillment, not the cotton candy sweetness that Satan uses to appeal to our earthly comforts. We are to give up the artificial sweetener of the world and feast on the honey of God.

 

Journaling 101: The end of day journal

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot in my head when I get ready to retire at the end of the day! I have found that if I take the time to open my journal and write some of it down, it clears the way for a good night’s sleep.

So what are some ways to get this pen moving? Here are some suggestions, but in the end, keeping  a journal is personal and only you know how it can bring you to peace and quiet.

  1. Use a journal that encourages you to think good thoughts. I keep a journal on my nightstand that opens up with a scripture on each page. I use that verse to start my thoughts about the day I just completed and I start writing. For instance, one verse recently was Psalm 119:2, “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” From that I started praying and writing, “Father God, I pray that You would set my feet on your righteous path each day. Guard my way from turning to the left or to the right. Protect me from falling into the traps that Satan sets for me and keep my reputation spotless that others will not be able to place blame. Keep my testimony pure that I might lead others to You.” As I prayed, little things came to me that needed to be let go so I wrote them down.
  2. Don’t try to start a writing marathon right before you go to sleep; sometimes that only causes unnecessary worry about if you are “doing it right.” Again, there is no right or wrong way to journal. Sometimes my writing is as brief as , “Today was a really yucky day and everything I did seemed to turn out wrong! Tonight I will rest and tomorrow is a new day to get it right.”
  3. I know that in today’s technological world, the temptation to use a tablet for your journal is great; at least it is for me. But I have found that when I do that, it not only stimulates my brain into wide awake status (studies have backed me up on this), but it also distracts me into other things I could be doing, like playing Solitaire! No, put the tablet down, pick up a pen and start writing.

This blog post is short and sweet, but that is what  a night time journal entry should be; a release from pressure.

Happy Journaling!

Sheila

Journaling 101: The Basics

Journaling 101: Therapy for MY heart, mind and soul

Journaling can be very intimidating. After all, you are often putting into words your inner most thoughts, questions, and feelings. And that is why we are starting out a little slowly.

The mechanics of writing in your journal should be whatever you are comfortable with. They can be as simple as a composition notebook and a ball point pen, or as elaborate as a hard – bound journal and a monogrammed quill pen. I have several that I use and each serves the purpose of putting words to paper.

cropped-heartnotesoflife_logo1.jpgI actually used one of my open journal entries as the logo for HeartNotes of Life. This spiral notebook is where I write my  everyday communication with God. I use the spirals to hold a ball point pen that has a clip on the side so that it fits nicely over the spirals on the top end of the notebook. Spiral notebook w pen

This notebook can be bought at most retail stores; I personally like to get mine at Michael’s Crafts; they sell many different kinds and are very reasonably priced You can usually find them on an end rack.

One type that I particularly like using Magnet notebook-1(especially for the support groups I lead) is the one with the magnetic cover. The flap opens out, but, when closed, it stays shut for privacy.

 

The journals we’ve talked about so far can be used for your personal thoughts, communications with God, or sermon note – taking. They are small and easy to carry or slip into a Bible cover.

Prayer journal -1Another type of journal is the Prayer Journal. There are many different layouts for these; some  incorporate daily devotions and other leads for prayers.

Some people are more comfortable writing in a digital journal. There are many available sites you can use such as the robust Penzu site. This site encourages journal entries for many different topics: Bible reading, dreams, prayer, pregnancy, and so on. If you, like me, are really comfortable with writing daily on a computer – based journal, then this will be your ideal! Just keep a small hard copy journal handy for those times when you don’t have your computer or tablet with you.

These are really the basics. Other than what type of pen/pencil/computer you will use, this should get you started. Next we will go into what generates productive journaling. What is your purpose for writing in a diary type journal and why is it important to write.

Journaling 101: Therapy for MY heart, mind and soul

Until next time! Happy writing!

Sheila