Forgive me, God, I’m depressed.

ImageI hate it. I really do. I am a positive and hopeful person most of the time, but then like a thief in the night it sneaks up on me, stealing whatever positive thoughts and hopeful expectations my heart had settled on but not fully embraced.

 I feel guilty. How could one so loved and so forgiven and so obviously favored feel so down? I can so easily speak to another about the Truths of God to help pull them out of their pits of self-abasement, but when I am lapping from the pool of self-pity, I simply forget there is Living Water dammed up inside. Do I forget? Or do I choose not to drink thinking in some twisted way this is my punishment for past sins and aggressions?

 That’s when the lies begin to surface and hover around my heart like a million bees stinging the vulnerable places. Every angry word spoken to me, every accusation made, every failure and misunderstanding find their voice and threaten to undo every Truth I have hidden there. It becomes too much, too loud, and I start to shut down, undone by the venom, needing an antidote but feeling too unworthy to drink from His cup.

 And in those moments, I am so homesick for His compassion and mercy I am literally ill. What is wrong with me? I tell myself, “You better pull yourself together! There are people depending on you! If you become so depressed and overwhelmed and you know the Truth and study it daily, what hope does that offer others that don’t have that foundation?” And I curl up, letting my Saviour cover me with His love and strengthen my frame while I weep over my failures yet again.

“The Lord has compassion on us for He remembers that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14-15)

I don’t have to look far to find other ancestors in the faith that had the same struggle. The Psalms read like the diary of a manic depressive; David was no stranger to depression. He went from the heights of favor and provision and praise to the depths of despair and anxiety and fearing for his life. And yet, he was still regarded as “A man after God’s own heart.” I once heard that wasn’t because he always said the right thing before God but that he spoke all that was on his heart – whether it was highest praise or confession of unthinkable sin. Nothing was hidden from God. In that, I suppose I am not so different from King David.

Those around me get frustrated with my emotions. My tears, not hidden, make others uncomfortable. The usual gleam in my eye is replaced with a glassy stare and those closest to me recognize it. “As Jesus is so are you. Jesus is not depressed, and neither are you.” I understand the meaning behind that, but the logic is unsound. No. Jesus is not depressed. Not now. But He had moments of such raw and overwhelming emotion that He was undone. Granted, I’m not in the Garden of Gethsemane about to take on the fullness of God’s wrath for the salvation of the world, but there are moments when ministry takes me to my knees and I cannot bear up under the weight any longer.

“Cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

 And how do you do that exactly? The word for “cast” there is literally “throw, as if casting a net, far and wide,” and far too often I merely hand my cares over like I’m afraid they will be dismissed or worse, rejected. You see how the thoughts then are cyclical?

 But in those desperate moments, very much like the one that I am in today, this verse becomes my beckoning:

 “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:12-13)

 With that declaration, my focus changes. The “self” cesspool that I was drowning in now is revealed for what it is, the destructive, defeat of an enemy that longs to see me stopped and silenced! And I declare with shaking voice, “You will not win!

 And this childlike warrior finds her weapon, takes her position, and resumes the fight. It is long and it is hard and sometimes I need a moment to run home and cry, to pull the covers over my head and beg for tomorrow to hurry faster, but my Daddy reminds me, “A failure is one that refuses to get back up. You, My child, are more than a conqueror!” Like my forefather David, I take aim at the giant before me, the impeding darkness of depression, knowing my God is greater than even my emotions.

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October Rain

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“The rain falls on the just and the unjust.”

 This is true.

 Only, when the rain falls on the unjust, we don’t feel it as much. It perhaps doesn’t look or feel like rain as much as karma. But, when the rain falls on the just, the delightful, beautiful souls that flavor life with salt and illuminate it with light… the clouds are heavy and the rain beats hard.

 October has been a grieving month for me for 12 years. I have missed and mourned one precious soul that inspired and motivated me to live intentionally and deeply the love of Christ. Her death marked a change in me. Her funeral served as a pep rally for the rest of my life. The void Aimee left demanded my fulfillment, and I would never be the same. Really. I remember leaving that memorial service, packed out with lives touched by her gentle and sometimes awkwardly large hands, knowing that the world had lost a powerful presence.

 I went home, picked my baby up out of her crib, and cradled her to my chest and cried. I had no answers. I felt just as fragile and dependent before God as the child I held. In some way I wanted to physically attend to her the way I needed Daddy God to spiritually attend to me. And as I rocked her, as I poured out my tears before a God that promised to capture each one, I watched the rain.

 There is no rain today, but the clouds are grey.

 Yesterday marked the death of another distinguished light, Sister Gussie.

 Cancer was her nemesis. Actually, that’s just the name for the battle of her final foe. To say that it overtook her is to declare her non-victorious, and I refuse to say that about my friend. Even as I close my eyes, I can hear her dear raspy voice – praying for me, encouraging me, speaking to my heart the lessons her older heart had learned so well.

 She taught me that weakness isn’t failure. She taught me that wrestling with depression isn’t being unfaithful to God. She taught me that whatever the season – be it stay-at-home mom of nursers and ankle-biters to a full-fledged minister traveling and pouring out more of yourself than you feel you can give – there is worth in it all. She lived it out faithfully – the silent and stalwart soul mate of a man that she loved unashamedly and sacrificially.

 In death, we have two choices, we can grieve and mourn these losses and relegate them to a memory, or we can see the void and commit to be a part of the legacy of living. We can see the rain as the lack of sunshine, or we can see it as the conditions that precede any rainbow. And, some days we might feel both… and that’s okay. Sister Gussie taught me that, too.

 Today I mourn. I allow my soul the chance to long for more time, more conversations, and more lessons that I cannot have. Again, my tears resemble rain, and I trust my Father is collecting them. My world is missing these two bright lights. But when the clouds of grief clear, my celebration of them will be to continue…to shine brighter, to love deeper, and to give more generously to make up for the voids that they have left behind.

The Flip Side of Poverty

We see them – vagrants living on the streets, asking for handouts, and bumming rides. We judge them as runaways, addicts, alcoholics, or panhandlers. We rarely see little more than dirty clothes, mussed hair or the cardboard signs they carry. We might be bothered if we are stopped to hand them a crumpled up dollar bill from our wallets, or the considerate and those that think ahead, may have on hand a bag of toiletries and snacks or gift cards to local fast food joints. Then, their are the spiritually considerate that might hand them nothing more than a tract, with a word of encouragement. None of those things are wrong, exactly…but is it enough?

 More and more people are finding themselves homeless and in abject poverty. Did you know that 633, 782 people in the United States experience homelessness on any given night? That is a lot of people. And whereas, some of those people have chosen it by choosing drugs over shelter, the majority of them are simply homeless due to bad circumstances and tough breaks. I was talking to a friend of mine who has been living on the streets off and on since she was fifteen, and she admitted that even in government or state funded shelters there is no sense of security or safety. In fact, within 48 hours of street life, they are solicited for sexual acts…if it takes that long. And, some choose it. Because if one sexual favor means the difference between sleeping in the alley way or paying a few dollars to sleep in a shelter, to them, it might be worth it. This then makes them prime candidates for trafficking, and their problems just got a whole lot worse.

 I can’t imagine that choice, that feeling of fear and insecurity, the inability to really relax. But, being the thinker and imaginative soul that I am, I allowed myself a look at how easily that might happen to me and to my girls:

 Right now we are doing quite well. My husband has a good job and provides for us well, but in one split second my husband could die, and without his thinking ahead to provide life insurance, within a few months we could go from middle class to homeless. That fast. When you consider that one third of his paycheck goes to mortgage and then the other two thirds go to feed and clothe us, that money will dwindle quickly. Just a couple of late payments or missed payments and rejected calls from collections agents, we could found our house foreclosed on, our savings stripped and left with no other choice but to take to the streets. For us, it would take months. For some, it would take weeks.

 My friend I mentioned found herself on the streets when she was a teenager. Her mom was an alcoholic and her step dad was a pervert. One night she had a choice, she could roll over and give him what he wanted or she could hit the streets. With tears in her eyes and just enough clothes as would fit in an oversized bag, she chose the streets. She begged her mom to take her back, but her stepdad had already concocted a story that made her look like a whore and without the mental capacities to choose correctly, her mom refused her request. Her grandmother took her in for a while, but soon she passed away, and my sweet friend, again, was found to be helpless and homeless. She has not only been mugged multiple times, leaving her with a fear of having anything worth any value or money in any quantity, but she has been a witness to some of the most violent assaults that have forever left her fearful and haunted. Tragic. Perhaps even more tragic is she is one of thousands.

 On one of our meetings, I took her to the food stamp office. You know, the place that so many look down on unable to see beyond the masses that take advantage of it? The truth is, it does provide help. But, after sitting down with an elderly man, eager for food and desperate for help, I realized it’s increasingly difficult for the uneducated, unadvancing, and illiterate. As I walked away 45 minutes later, no further in the process than when he asked, my heart hurt for him…what hope did he have? I remember one day while mentoring at a local charitable organization, a woman was sitting in a corner, deep in thought, heavily burdened. I placed my arm around her and asked what was wrong. With big, sad eyes she said, “My baby is getting made fun of.” She had all of my attention. “You don’t know what it’s like to have to choose between feeding my kids or washing their clothes… and lately all I can do is feed them.” She didn’t have to say any more. I know kids. I know their cruelties. But she was right, I didn’t understand her pain, not fully.

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There is a flip side to poverty. Humanity. There aren’t just poor. They are people with fears, insecurities, and dreams. We dismiss them because we don’t know their stories, we don’t feel their pain. We judge them based on heresay and speculation and prejudice. They are humans with souls and hearts, and each one of them from the addict begging for the next hit to the struggling single mom has a story. But, that requires getting out of our comfort zone. Knowing those stories is more work than handing out a baggie or a tract or few dollars. Because, if you get to know them, you might see that they need more. They might let you in to that well-guarded untrusting heart of theirs, and then you will be compelled to do something.

 What you can’t see this side of poverty, the side that we sit comfortably on with our cell phones and laptops with cold iced water in a glass, is that some of those “hopeless” souls know more about God and His love and provision then you and I will ever have to face. Some of them don’t have a clue about love, any love, or provision or hope or God. We can’t afford to ignore either of them – every soul deserves to be seen, even the unlovely.  I once heard, “People aren’t unlovely because they are unlovable, but because they are unloved.” I wonder, the imaginative hopeful side of me, if there were more loving, would there be less poverty. It’s just a thought, but grounded in Christ and living out His example, love is abundance.

 One of the most touching statements I have heard lately was from my mom whose heart for the hurting I inherited and who has lived out love to the less fortunate all my life. “I hurt for them. I would invite them into my house to stay in a heartbeat. In fact, maybe your dad and I will buy a trailer and set it up for just that reason.” I love her heart, and I would gladly contribute to that endeavor, and maybe we will, but we cannot house them all, feed them all, clothe them all, or help them all. None of us can save everyone, but all of us can do something – and it starts with loving them.

 

One Stone

“What are you doing here?! You are conceited with a wicked heart!” I can imagine the glare in the older brother’s eyes as he stared down at the boy before him approaching the battle lines.

I can also imagine the fair headed boy, looking up with wide-eyed wonder at that accusation. “Dad sent me here with some food. What’s going on up there?” The boy likely pointed ahead to the commotion at the front lines of the fight.

“Don’t go up there, David. This is big men stuff.” Maybe he said it, maybe he didn’t, but what we know is that David wasn’t dissuaded.

Boldly, he walks up to the front line, to the side of Saul, and looks over his opponent, and likely the cowering form of their King, “I can take him.”

This where the accusation of conceit must have come from. This is where the conceit is then twisted into the title of a wicked heart, but the truth of the foundation of that statement is declared not to Saul who feebly tried to equip the boy and failed, but to the opposing gargantuan man that stood a mere stone’s throw away, no doubt laughing, and said, “You fight me with sword, and javelin and spear, but I come against you in the Name of the Lord Almighty!”

And we know how it ends.

David – 1, Goliath – Dead.

Confidence is often mistaken for cockiness. Faith is often misinterpreted as pride. But, the source of the Confidence and Faith is where the answer lies. David without God wouldn’t have even approached Saul much less Goliath, but David didn’t have to worry about that. He stood on the side of the biggest Giant of the world, and with faith, knew that he would win.

I know the feeling. My giant isn’t quite as formidable but no less foreboding. And maybe it isn’t what my giant is as much as where my taunters stand. I can understand the sense of confusion that might have crossed David’s face when his brother attacked him, maybe not in that moment, but no doubt that wasn’t the first time he was accused of being wicked.

A wicked heart. It’s laughable when we remember that this was said of the very man that God, Himself, named “A man after my own heart.” But, then again, the accuser usually speaks the very opposite of what God sees into the heart of man. I can relate…to the accusation as well as the accused.

When someone stands up in adamant faith with unquenchable love well, it doesn’t sit well. It makes people uncomfortable and with that fear comes doubt and skepticism. I fought it forever. “I’m not who you think I am!” But, recently, I realized that the more I fight the more it seems I can’t win… but I have one stone…The Cornerstone…the Name that defies and stands against ALL names or giants that stand before me.

And I have come to use it…often. When the doubts or accusations come, and my heart and flesh threaten to fail, I speak it. “Jesus.” It’s the only Name that matters to me, in my life, to my life. And, if you will notice, David doesn’t argue why he is there… he merely states that he was sent and gets straight to the matter at hand.

That’s me.

My brothers and sisters hurl insults, and I am finding the strength to look past them to why I am where I am and dealing with the matter at hand but most importantly, in Whose Name I come!

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Body image issues

Body image issues

I recently heard that a small group won’t let a divorced woman lead them in a study about marriage. Why? She has repented and been redeemed, not to mention, faced the foe she is encouraging them to fight and resist! Why? She has learned the hard way about what it is to try and fail, to struggle and to find her only solace not in human arms but in the supernatural hands of her Daddy. I know from experience it is those of us that have fallen that are able to more effectively and readily administer grace to the falling.

This upsets me.

I want to stand before the women that have made this judgement and ask, “Who among you is without sin?” But the problem is, I know these women, they would look down their noses at me and point with long fingers at the crimson letter they insist is attached to me. There is no getting through to them. They’ve cast their lot, made their choice, selected their chosen with a smile and a condescending “bless your hearts.” I’ve seen them in the spirit. Empty, emaciated, lifeless women, colored green with their envy. Not willing to reach out past their own comfort, not even if it mirrors their own pain.

And these that they have marked, those of us that must face their looks of judgement and disapproval, we suffer from Body image issues. Does the Body look like this? Is this our only hope? Do we assimilate and pretend we do not wear blaringly obvious masks, bear our scars publicly at their disgrace, or what these have done… Starve ourselves?

Many will choose the masquerade, plastering a mask upon their cracks and holes – Hoping time will wipe away our grievances, looking down at others instead of pointing to theirselves, standing proudly above those they deem unworthy. And they exist. Only exist. Wondering but never quite willing to find out about an abundant life. Their glass steeples of self-assurance and self-righteousness might get dirty but they don’t crack.

Then, there are those that are starving. They neglect solace and retreat even though they long for it. They’d rather nibble at crumbs and call it a meal than dare to venture over to the wedding feast. That finger that they point at others in blame, they shove down their own throats and vomit its pain onto those around them. They are not happy. They are not unlike the masked in their delusion. They’ve been blinded by the words “enough” and “content” and the idea of seeking and finding a treasure in their faith is ridiculous. They look down on the transparent that have found joy. They doubt their validity and look for a sin to pin or repin. When they don’t find one, they make it up. Because it feels better that way – to call those who feast gluttons. They whisper their prayers not believing until they see. Faith is an exercise they’d rather abandon. And despite their greatest attempts at grace, it falls short in the glare of their envy.

This upsets me. I’m not the only one. It upsets me because in their own deception, they have deceived His Bride, and convinced His daughters that they too must starve themselves to be acceptable.

Then, there are the beautiful. They are made up of the shattered masked and the recovering starved. They will be transparent, despite the onslaught of judgement. They will wear their scars humbly before the Redeemer as His Bride with the knowledge that they do not deserve a smidgen of the grace they’ve been given, but instead of clutching it to them as a prized possession not unlike that of Golum, they freely extend and search for others, the broken that need to be repurposed – and they come – silently, quietly, desperately, running away from the life of the masked and starved, wooed by the Lover of their souls, longing for more than cheap beads, desperately believing they are a pearl recently discovered.

Sadly, the masked seem to have chosen; their pride shadows any look at what could be. They have what they need, or so they believe. They’ve hidden themselves perfectly and scoff at those who try and touch them. Like the starved they only nibble, but just enough to point out others wrongs. Only God can set them free, and He will when they are humbled and have no where else to turn.

I believe if we show the emaciated and starved a mirror, they can turn around, too. But, first they have to see themselves honestly – The way they are, jutting bones, protruding clavicles – The stark reality that they are wasting away when they think they are fine. They have to admit they need help, and they have to be willing to do the work, to be vulnerable, to reach out. They aren’t alone if they will open their eyes. We have been there before, those of us now pink cheeked but scarred and many still chinked. We encourage them not to hide what He has done and is doing. We remind them that He alone makes us beautiful. Hopefully, then, they will see our healthy glow for what it is – His love. Our girth for its intent – His grace. And slowly their greenish hue will fade into a radiant white as our image becomes the unblemished Body of Christ!

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The Elected

Today is the day after the vote, and nothing has changed.

This doesn’t surprise me.

I was talking to God about this, and He reminded me of this verse:
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

God did not say:
“…If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and select them a new governmental leader to restore their land.”

And yet, that is what we believe. We believe that if we seek and pray He will appoint someone else to do the work. This has never been so, and will never be. The truth is we aren’t comfortable with the idea that He has appointed us. We often look for ways out of our appointments.

We are burdened for a need in our lives or in another’s and so we beg off prayer. Pray for me, pray for this, pray over them… I am guilty. This takes the responsibility off of us. This allows us to look to other things, when obviously God has called our attention to those things.

We are tired of abortion and the taking of innocent lives in heinous and barbaric ways. But, are we supporting organizations that vehemently oppose those acts and reach out instead to help the mother understand the value of the life she carries inside?

We hate to see the impoverished; in fact, so much so that we struggle to call them poor. We make comments about laziness and living off the government, but are we lending them a helping hand? Are we showing them theimportance of work and allowing them the opportunity to serve?

I could go on and on…this list could be never ending. But, I am not here to point out what’s wrong with us. I want us to see what is right with us! What God purposes us to do, regardless of who is in charge.

Isaiah 63:1-2 says: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.”

That same Spirit that anointed Jesus is on His elect. We who are His are ambassadors, and as ambassadors we are chosen to continue the work that He started. That is good news!

As long as I have been praying and seeking God, this is what I have found – Prayer is the exercise of faith…the results are born in our hearts, out of that obedience. So as we pray we must remember that just as Christ declared as He took the stand before the people to announce His election, we too are called to do those same three things:

Bring good news to the poor – What is that good news? It is good news that the impoverished in Spirit don’t have to remain that way. Through Christ they are offered abundant life…That Christ’s economy isn’t based on the economy of man. That what they lack others have, and it is our responsibility to freely share.

Comfort the broken hearted – There are many of these, daily they grow. We aren’t called to stand on a soapbox and declare all the wrong things they’ve done to get there, we are called to sincerely comfort them, aid them in their suffering, and offer hope and life.

Proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners – We all can feel the chains or cage of some prison. Whether it is a literal holding cell or one of the mind and heart or the limitations of thebody. We all have the propensity to be captured by something. But, God says we have freedom through Christ! We must proclaim that.

Our circumstances may never change…in fact, they could get a lot worse. But, as Christians our election is sure! We know what we have been called to do and what it will take to heal our land…and it isn’t the promise of a Christ-friendly government. It is the promise of an abundant life in Christ…one that doesn’t look around for what we can get, but looks earnestly and urgently for what we can give.

The greatest empires always tumbled. The powers that be are now the powers that were. Nations have fallen, and wars have always been tragic. But, this election that we have isn’t about the “State of Affairs” it is about the affairs of the heart, it’s not a proclamation of the “State of the Union” but about the state of being unified. This is a Spiritual election that refuses to sit idly by and pray for others to do the work, but it is an anointing that says, “You are the one that I have chosen. Be my ambassador.”

In the end, it isn’t about who is elected. It is about what we elect to do.

Today is the day after the vote, and in my spirit, something is changing.

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Nature Calls

“From the beginning of the world, men could see what God is like through the things He has made. This shows His power that lasts forever. It shows that He is God.”

God delights to show His love for us.

I marvel over little things. I like to sit for long spells and watch nature, the hues of butterflies and dragonflies, the many facets of a bird’s wing, and the slow creeping of a secure turtle. As I watch them I am reminded of my Creator…of the intricate way that He has designed me, of the many facets of His personality that make up my nature, and in Him I can keep moving, knowing that I am His.

When I fail to take these moments, I can miss His messages of love.

We try not to be selfish. We try not to want to feel good, happy, comforted, or secure. We know for the most part that others are going through far worse and have experienced the unthinkable. We are constantly reminded of wars and rumors of war whether in the world or in homes or dear precious bodies. The darkness of the world slaps us in the face day after day after day after day. But, is it wrong to seek those moments for our selves? Is it selfish to need to be reminded that He cares?

God created us to seek Him.

When we seek Him we cannot help but look within. It’s when we look within that we see the many places we are lacking. We realize with infinite reality that we can’t change our circumstances, but we can change our attitude. And, when we find ourselves there, seeking Him, conversing with Him over the marvels of nature, we realize that what moments before might have seemed the biggest most depressing acknowledgement in the world, is actually one of peace.

He didn’t create us for ourselves.

Just the fact that we draw in breath day after day is evidence of our life’s purpose. No one is here by accident. Recently a friend of mine had triplets far too early. All three babies were delivered, but one lived only for a while. We might be tempted to get upset. What was the purpose of that, God? That life was in vain. But, we would be wrong. The reason thelittle guy died is because he was subjected to toxins and bacteria that his brother and sister were not. He kept them safe by blocking the birth canal, taking the sickness into himself to spare his siblings. They are alive and thriving today. His little life had great purpose for them!

He loves us.

We can’t neglect this all-important fact. As much as you love the person/thing that you love the most and cannot fathom what it would feel like to love more…multiply that by infinity…and that’s but a fraction of how much God loves us. Can’t fathom that? Nope. But, it’s true. His Word tells us that His love “endures forever.” Endure is pretty intense word. It means that it doesn’t give up. It means that it tolerates anything. It means that it stands firm in the midst of any adversity. And it means that it is on going!

He is for us.

I’m not trying to stroke your ego or mine. But, as I was listening to the heart of God this morning in my own very hurting heart, Hespoke this to me. “I am for you.” We gloss over this. We take this lightly. That, too, has deep meaning! He is for us means more than that He will fight for us. It means that He “takes the place of, works on behalf of, in respect of, concerning, and in spite of,” us. Let that sink in. Because sometimes we need to know that He fights for us, but more often than not we just need toknow that He is for us…and He is…remember His love?

Every time I take the time to look at nature, I see Him…and I see what I need to be more like. I also wonder what they know, these creatures that seem to have the simplest lives? Do they know that they have a Creator? Do they know that we can see evidence of Him through them? Do theyknow that as they simply flutter by our hair or squirm on the ground, we hear our Father whisper His love? I think they do. I also believe that He created them not just for His good pleasure but because in His enduring love, He purposed them for us…to remind us…we have purpose, too.

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