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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What do you mean we’re going to sleep in the same bed?????

cold feet

Cuddle with me so that I can put my freezing cold feet on you, and probably use you as a pillow, and steal all your covers.

The wedding was beautiful; everything I could have ever dreamed of. From the perfectly fitted wedding dress and gorgeous bridesmaids to the handsome tux-attired groom and his attendants; a perfect day. The honeymoon was just as perfect as we held hands over candle lit dinners then returned to our room to cuddle and snuggle. And then it was time to go home and start our new life together.

Now, I am a pretty independent person and that independence carries right through to my sleeping habits. I like to have my own space. At any given time I will be snuggled up with two body pillows (one for my knees and one for my back), as well as a standard pillow for my head. I like my covers wrapped around me a certain way with one foot sticking out at all times. You can imagine my disdain at having to share my bed space with someone who had their own idea of personal property rights!

Ah, the struggles that we have had over who was taking all the covers and, “Don’t touch my toes when I’m sleeping!” For years I was determined to have separate beds, but that is one battle I am glad I lost. I remember lying in bed with my hubby’s hand on my tummy as we felt the baby we were never supposed to be able to have, move. I remember intentionally cuddling so that he could feel the kicks at night. I remember holding him close to comfort him when his Dad passed away. We were sleeping the night we got the call that our son had been critically injured in Kuwait and was being flown to Germany. My husband held me there in our bed as I cried. And I remember how lonely I was while Jim was in the hospital having surgery for prostate cancer, I prayed that he would come back home to our bed.

Joining as one person is more than sleeping in the same bed . “And the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.” Mark 10. Becoming one person involves the sexual intimacy of marriage as well as the day – to – day activity of life.

One flesh. Two people blending together so well that they are thought of as one. I’m sure glad that God’s got this one, because it is way beyond my comprehension! At least that is what I thought when we first married.

Growing in marriage is much like progressing from baby to adult. We face many of the same stages:

  • Baby Stage: This is what I will call the Peaceful Stage. I smile at the anticipation of seeing my loved one’s face; knowing that no discomfort we face will last forever, because I expect that my loved one will always take care of my needs; not concerned with being myself, because we are now one.
  • Toddling Stage: I start to think that maybe I don’t want to be exactly the same as my partner. I want to explore on my own and live my own life, but with the knowledge that when I fall, my loved one will be there to pick me up.
  • Teen Stage: I really don’t want you to pick me up! I want to be independent and be myself, but I like knowing that you are there; just don’t stand too close.
  • Adult Stage: I can’t imagine my life without him, flaws and all. Til death do us part.

The advice I give all couples when I counsel with them before marriage is to accept each other for who they are and don’t go in to marriage with the idea of changing them. God made each of us unique and I love the qualities God gave my husband. Do I get aggravated when I have to bring the coffee cups from the garage to the house? Sure, but it’s not marriage – breaking. There is so much to marriage then the daily. The world tries to get us to focus on the nit-picky things, but let me tell you, my dear friends, life is always going to be nit – picky and it’s time we started enjoying and loving the good.

Marriage is for better or worse. The well – known vows taken originally from the Book of Common Prayer[1] go something like this, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part.” Wedding vows have changed over the years, but I still remember saying these words at my wedding. Over the years I have felt at times that we were going through the worst, only to find down the road that it can get even worse than that! But I have also found that it gets better and the bad times do not overshadow the good.

When we were first married we struggled with finances. I worked as a waitress at Howard Johnson’s and my tips often what bought our gas and groceries. My hubby had a good job that paid all of $85 a week. We had no insurance so we were devastated with hospital bills within the first year when I miscarried our first son. It was tough! But when you are newly married, it doesn’t matter. We had no stove, but I cooked pinto beans in the wedding present crockpot and made fried taters in the wedding present electric skillet. I am going to interject a word of advice here, do not try to cook spaghetti in a crock pot! It was so tough the dog wouldn’t even eat it!

But we had love. And the second year of our marriage we moved north to look for better financial opportunities. Jim went to truck driving school and when he landed a job with Pepsi Cola and made $25,000 that first year we thought we were rich!

Sickness takes its toll on a marriage, whether the man, woman or the children. Jim’s diagnosis of prostate cancer came as we were preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving Dinner with the family. The phone call rocked us, but we held tight to each other. Eight cancer-free years later, we are facing another health challenge and I’m afraid our closeness is being challenged.

In November, Jim was helping load wood from a tree that had blown down in our yard. He pulled his back, but that was nothing new, he had bounced back from back pain many times before. Over the next few days, the pain got increasingly worse and we ended up in the emergency room where he was given a prescription for a steroid and a low dose pain killer. We thought everything would be ok in a few days. Three months and two hospital terms later, we are still fighting the pain. He developed pneumonia and blood clots in both lungs and is still not able to walk due to the pain in his leg from the herniated disc.

To say that this has been easy would be a lie. Jim is my strong tower, but the pain and the medication he is on has taken much of his strength away. He feels that he has nothing to live for and that he has become a burden to me, our children, and his friends. That is the hard part for me. It hurts to the core of my being to see him this hopeless. I can encourage him, but I can’t do it for him. At times he does reach for his Bible and devotion book and read and it always helps. But then there are the times that the depression takes over and I feel like I need to watch every move he makes so that he doesn’t harm himself.

We will get through this and we will have a stronger marriage for having gone through it. Jim’s faith in God is stronger now than it ever has been; he has seen how God has directed our every path in this and has taken care of oh so many financial needs. God has brought witness of Jim’s testimony to him for encouragement and has provided in ways that we would never have thought. This, my dear friend, is marriage. Depression, sickness, and financial troubles are the effects of living in a sinful world. But when the two of you trust in the One who made the world, and give all of it over to Him, you will grow as one just as God designed. When my brother married I told him to remember that marriage takes three. His reply, “I’m not sure my wife will agree to that!” gave me the opening to share that the third party to that marriage is God. Without Him, there is no substance to the unity of man and woman.

Learning to sleep in the same bed, cook foods that both of you like, and living life to please another are all a part of marriage. My advice to my children, and now my grandchildren, is to marry your best friend and expect the bumps in that friendship to help you pull together.

 

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.

Simone Signoret

[1] http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1549/BCP_1549.htm

My Time is in His Hand

time in hand.jpg“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!”

Psalm 31:14-15

I have learned a lot these past three months. God has allowed me to go through a very tumultuous time of sickness; not my own, but my husband’s. My better half, to whom I lean on for support, wisdom, and just plain fun times, suffered not only a herniated disc that immobilized him for two months, but also life threatening blood clots in both lungs coupled with double pneumonia. I felt as if the enemy (Satan) was coming against us from every angle.

My first lesson came early in December when I realized that I now had to pick up many of the chores that my hubby did without thinking: lugging the garbage cans to the curb for pick up, putting salt on the outside steps before they iced over, and trying to keep the electric fence mended so that our precious Scruffy stayed within safe boundaries are just a small sample. Along with this came the responsibility of getting hubby to the doctors and hospitals, managing his medications, and arranging the house so that he could maneuver with a wheelchair. So, what was the lesson? I did all of this out of what I thought was love for my husband, but what God showed me through reading His Word was that I was doing it out of a selfish desire to prove I could manage it all. I had lost sight of the ultimate prize: God’s glory through tribulation.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”  Philippians 3:14-16

God showed me that even though I love my husband and would do anything in the world to help him, deep down inside of me, I had not turned this service over to Him. I was providing all of my time for me; not for Jim, andnot for God. I prayed for healing, but I did not trust that God would heal. I trusted in my own care to make my hubby comfortable. I trusted in my own management skills to take the pain away. And I trusted in me to be the relief that my hubby needed.

I praise God for teaching me that there is so much more to serving others than the actual service; service should be the result, but the goal is fully living in Christ and letting go of self.

The second lesson God gave to me was that Satan has no more hold on me than I allow him. When I released my service as a wife to God, Satan lost his power of my thoughts and emotions. I no longer felt that I had to be the one to bring my hubby out of depression and fear. I knew that I had to be the conduit that God used to open his eyes to the possibilities of what God was doing and instill trust in God’s sovereignty. I was called to live my life strong in the Lord and not in myself.

“Finally, be strong in theLord and in the strength of his might.”            Ephesians 6:19

I have often read Job just because I seek to understand how he lived. Job was a man of honor, he never turned his back on God. God trusted Job so much that He allowed Satan to tempt him to sin by turning away from God. I believe that my desire to read this text in some way helped me to get through these three months. Oh, I didn’t face anything like Job did; I didn’t lose my children, my home, or my health. But in this milquetoast world that we live in today, my spoiled self went through quite a trial.

Finally, I learned that time is nothing. Three months or three years or three hundred years; it all belongs to God, not to us. And the only reason we are put on earth is to walk hand in hand with Him and to do all things to the glory of God, not self.

Praying for All People

prayer_an-invitation-to-prayer“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”                                                                                                                           1 Timothy 2: 1-6

Have you ever heard of selective praying? Oh, come on now, I know that you have had prayer requests come to you that you think, “Oh, why should I pray for them? They don’t even like me.” Or, “They are surrounded by prayer already, I’ll just go on to the next person.” Or my favorite excuse is, “Why should I pray for them, they won’t listen to God when he speaks, anyway.” I am not alone in this so don’t try to hide behind righteous reasoning.

The Bible is very plain that we are to pray for all people. Timothy is just one section of many mandating this. My first thought is our president. President Trump has raised many eyebrows in the population of the world and many Christians are not praying for him just because he is not a Democrat, hasn’t built the wall yet, doesn’t talk the way we talk, parts his hair on the wrong side, and on and on. I saw the Christian community come together in praying for the right person to be put in office, and now we are letting down on our dedication to lifting him up to God. President Trump, Vice President Pence, all of the Congress and Senate, Representatives and leaders of our states and communities need our prayers. We are to present supplications: asking God to see to their every need. We are to pray: thanking God for his divine apointment and for his grace. We are to intercede: taking hold of God’s will for these people and not letting go until his will is done. And we are to be thankful: thanking God always for the salvation of the people in our leadership, for their following and praying for God’s direction.

There are people in my life who I choose not to spend a great deal of time with. And it is often hard to pray for them. But I have seen miracles happen when I get over myself and lift them up to God. Frozen hearts are unthawed. Sinful lives turned over to God. Financial needs met in ways that could only be by God’s hand. I was not always directly involved, in fact, almost never, but I know that part of the resolution came to be through my, and others, prayers. God never places anyone on your heart unless He is calling you to pray for them.

God wants us to have a peaceful life, but unless we are praying for all people, who have the power to fulfill that peace, we risk losing the grace that brought them to us in the first place. Self has no place in a peaceful world. We must sacrifice self in order to pray for others. Especially those we don’t feel like praying for. In the end, they probably need it more than anyone else; and that is why God called you to pray for them at such a time as this. Peace comes from praying for others.

 

 

A prayer of thanksgiving

Praying Woman“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16

Father God, to me every day is a day for giving thanks. You have blessed me beyond anything I could have ever hoped for.

But, America sets aside one day each year as a conscious reminder of how we are blessed to live in America. You brought us to this country so that we could worship You freely and without condemnation.

So many others around the world do not have this freedom and I want to lift each person up to You for guidance, safety, and fulfillment of your promises in their life. Some will be martyred today, before the sun sets on them, for their belief in the One true God. Others will continue to live in fear as they gather in secret to worship and learn more about You as they study the Bible and pray.

God, I pray that someday, around the world. that each country will have a designated thanksgiving day. A day when they were given the freedom to worship You and share their faith with others.

And Father God, let every American start this Thanksgiving Day on their knees, truly thanking God that we live in America. Let their focus be on all that You have freely given to us and let the Holy Spirit speak to each Christian on how we can give back to You this coming year. Ask us how to live life in a way that is not taking our freedom for granted, but using it as a means to live a life reflecting your Son, Jesus Christ, who provided that freedom. Let us come together as one Christian body. Bring a revival to America, Lord, and let it begin in me.

In Jesus’ Name I pray,

Amen

God is Greater

Devastation of man.jpg“Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man.”

Job 33:12

Last year our beloved Smokey Mountains were ablaze with fire. The devastation that man’s carelessness caused broke my heart as I traveled around Roaring Fork Trail and captured the charred remains of  age old trees. I wanted to cry. But as I hiked up the side of the mountain and looked out over the scene before me, my focus went from the burned stubble to the new life springing up all around. Sprigs of pine trees dotted the mountain floor and other green vegetation poked sturdy heads above the earth. I took this picture, because it spoke God’s life into me.

I sat down and prayed. I asked God’s forgiveness for only seeing the charred remains first. I asked God’s forgiveness for the individuals who caused the fire. And I found peace that in the midst of the ruins, God is greater.

I’ve been through many trials in my life. Some so bad that there will always be a scar. But the thing about scars is that the wound itself is healed, the scar is mark on me is a reminder of God’s deliverance.

I saw that in the forest. There were scars all around, but the healing was in the new growth. The healing was in moving forward and trusting in God who cares more about the foliage than I ever could. The Creator is greater.

 

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?