Holiday Blues?

IMG_1460Christmas is supposed to be a time of great joy!  Unfortunately, for a lot of people it is a sad reminder that someone they love is no longer with them, or they can’t afford to lavish their loved ones with expensive gifts, or maybe they have no friends or family to celebrate with. Add to this the many who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the list continues to grow.  

If you are among those who are naturally “joyful” count your blessings! When you see someone suffering from Holiday blues don’t try to ‘cheer’ them up. Instead, simply offer them the gift of compassion and understanding. Validate their feelings. Believe it or not, in doing so you will bring them joy.

It took a relative of mine pointing out my tendency to withdraw and become depressed around the holidays to help me recognize that I have seasonal affective disorder. Recognizing it was the first step toward dealing with it. Hopefully my journey will help those of you who may be suffering in silence. 

As a Christian it’s easy to feel conflicted about depression. After all, I have SO much to be thankful for! But, I am a Melancholy. No doubt about it. So, how do I combat this overwhelming desire to dig a hole and hide from God and humanity when my emotions betray me?  

Rest: When I am tired my emotions plummet. The holidays are busy and it’s easy to overdo. I have to make a conscious effort to take extra care of my body when I begin to feel emotionally drained.

Resist: When the “blues” stop by for a visit it’s tempting to withdraw. I have to resist the urge to isolate myself. There is a balance between rest and the temptation to hibernate for the winter! Thankfully, I have a dog. That forces me to get outside for some fresh air. There is something uplifting about enjoying God’s creation in nature. The point is, even if you don’t have a dog, get outside. Take a walk. Go visit a friend. Do something … anything other than crawling back into bed.

Reflect: Do you keep a prayer/praise journal? If not, I highly recommend it! It’s easy to focus on the negative when we are down. Having a praise journal will enable you to go back and reflect on the good things God has done in your life. Gratitude is very therapeutic. Life is tough. It’s okay to feel what you feel. It’s not okay to allow your feelings to consume your life and keep you from living.  Reflection helps me keep things in perspective. 

Refresh: I honesty don’t know how people who don’t have God in their life make it. I’ve heard people say religion is a crutch, but I prefer to think of it as a ROCK! When all other ground is “sinking sand” He is my stability.

IMG_1459Psalm 16:11 says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy.” Isaiah 61:3 talks about God’s gifts for consolation … He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  

When I am lacking joy, the most refreshing thing I can do is get into the presence of God! How do we do that? We enter His gates with thanksgiving. We come into His courts with praise. (Psalm 100:4)

I LOVE to worship. Anytime I want to be in God’s presence, I simply turn on my favorite worship music, close my eyes, picture the throne room of Heaven and sing to The Lord. I can imagine the angels of Heaven bowing before Him crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” There is no sorrow in Heaven!

PRAY: Father, Thank You for loving me, “just as I am.” As we enter this season of celebrating Your birth, help me to focus on the true source of my joy … Your presence. I echo the choir of Heaven and cry out: Holy, Holy, Holy are You Lord! Help me to recognize the warning signs of depression and to combat them by spending time in Your loving embrace. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Broken?

IMG_1455“The LORD is near to the heartbroken And He saves those who are crushed in spirit (contrite in heart, truly sorry for their sin).” PSALM‬ ‭34:18‬ ‭AMP‬

Imagine your own child committing treason against you and trying to steal your Kingdom. This was the situation King David found himself in as he wrote this verse.

Like the rest of us, David was human. He often wrote from the depth of despair. I have always admired David’s honesty with God. It reminds me that I can be honest with Him too. No need for games. After all, He knows my heart. My thoughts are not hidden from Him.

In the midst of his heartache David chose to praise God, rather than blame Him for his circumstances. He began this Psalm by saying, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” David lived with an attitude of gratitude. He was able to praise God in spite of his pain because he knew, unlike his son, God had not abandoned him.

Nor has He abandoned you. I pray, you will find peace and encouragement today knowing that God is close. He has not left or forgotten you. He sees your pain and He longs to clothe you with compassion and comfort. He understands your anger and confusion. It’s okay to be honest with Him.

The worse thing we can do when we are broken is to isolate ourselves. We need each other. If there is no one you can reach out to, reach out to me!  

PRAY: Father, like David, I choose to bless You at all times. Your praise will continually be in my mouth! Thank You for the promise of Your presence. I know You are with me and I am never alone. Lord, I am broken. Please comfort me and clothe me with compassion. I may not understand my circumstances but I know You love me and Your love will sustain me. Help me to trust You as I walk through this valley. Anoint my spirit with Your oil of gladness. Heal my brokenness Lord. 

 

 

 

The Battle is The Lord’s

The LORD will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm.”. EXODUS‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭AMP‬‬

IMG_1454The children of Israel stood trapped … the Red Sea before them, the army of Egypt behind them. There was NOTHING they could do to save themselves! They needed a GOD sized miracle, and they got one. As soon as they stepped out in faith and their feet touched the water, the sea divided and “made a way when there was no way.”

As I read Exodus 14:14 this morning I was reminded of a recent situation where someone was literally spewing their anger toward God at me. Their friend had just lost a two month old baby and of course they were devastated and in shock at the seeming injustice of it all. As the young man continued to accuse God I felt the Lord tell me to be still. “I do not need you to defend me. Do not respond.”

You may not see the connection, but it felt as if I was being verbally attacked as a representative of God. It was not my battle to fight. Had I disobeyed the Lord, I could have done more harm than good.

When we feel helpless, we can be confident in the Lord. We can trust that He will fight FOR us. When we have done all that we can do, our battle becomes the Lord’s. As the Israelites had to step forward toward the sea, we are often called to fight in the war room of prayer.

PRAY:
Father, I thank you that “no weapon formed against me shall prosper.” As my Father, I can trust you to protect and provide for me. Nothing is impossible for You. Help me to recognize when I need to fight and when I need to simply be still and see the salvation of the Lord. When it feels like I am defeated remind me that I am not alone and that You will fight for me.

Shielded Through Suffering

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans‬ ‭8:31‬ ‭NKJV‬‬ 
IMG_1452This is one of those verses that can be very confusing when you read it “out of context.” At first glance it sounds as if this is a guarantee against defeat. 

Jesus said the world would hate us, because it hated Him. I have seen more animosity toward Christianity in the last ten years than my entire lifetime. While this may be a new concern in America, Christians around the world have suffered persecution for centuries. 

When we read this verse in context we find that this chapter speaks to the glory in suffering. We aren’t promised to be shielded from suffering, but rather through suffering. In comparison to the reward of eternity with the Lord our suffering seems trivial. In fact, suffering strengthens and purifies us. Psalms describes it as being refined by fire. 

We see in Roman 8 that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ, and even in death we are more than conquerors.

My take on this verse is this: If God be for me who cares who is against me! My life is His. I live for an audience of ONE. God alone is my judge, and Jesus is interceding FOR me.

PRAYER:
Lord, I am so thankful that nothing can separate me from Your love. I am thankful for the promise of Your continual presence. Knowing You will never leave me or forsake me gives me the courage to face this life. Thank You Lord for suffering in my place. You left the comfort of Heaven to purchase my redemption.

When life gets tough, remind me it’s temporary. Help me to be spiritually minded, which brings life and peace. Help me to have an attitude like Paul who considered suffering as unworthy to be compared to the glory that awaits us.

Jesus, thank You that You are interceding on my behalf before God. I know You will work all things together for my good. Thank You for making me a conqueror!

Thankful Everyday

“I will give thanks and praise the LORD, with all my heart; I will tell aloud all Your wonders and marvelous deeds.” PSALM‬ ‭9:1‬ ‭AMP‬‬

IMG_1447Tomorrow is “Thankgiving” here in the USA. It’s the one day a year set aside for Americans to reflect on the goodness of God.

As I read Psalm 9:1, I am reminded that everyday is Thanksgiving. One day a year would never be enough to acknowledge Him.

As you gather around the table tomorrow take a moment and share one thing God did in your life this year that was the undeniable work of His hands.

What does it look like to give thanks and praise God – “with ALL my heart?”

  • Do I thank Him as fervently as I petition Him?
  • Do I consider the need to acknowledge Him in the things I take for granted … waking up each day, my health, my friends/family, my finances? 
  • Do I only reserve my praise for the WOW moments when He does something EXTRAordinary?

God deserves my praise for every breath. When I focus on His love, mercy and goodness my perspective changes. The glass becomes full and overflowing rather than ‘half empty’.

I have a roof over my head, a car to drive, food, clothes, my health, friends and family who love me and bring joy to my life. I have a church family who inspire and motivate me to be all God has called me to be. I have abundance beyond my needs. I AM TRULY BLESSED!  

Brag on God!  Something else stood out in this verse. David not only recognized the need to praise the Lord and walk in a heart of gratitude, but to tell others about the things God had done in his life. How can we NOT talk about the wonders and marvelous deeds of our God? People need HOPE. They need LOVE. They need GRACE. We have the ANSWER! He’s too good to keep to ourselves.

  • He’s ALIVE! Because He lives I can face my tomorrows. The grave couldn’t hold Him and it won’t hold me.
  • He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) He doesn’t change. I can trust Him. I can rely on Him. 
  • He did not come to condemn, but to save. (John 3:17) He delights in mercy. He is moved with compassion. 

PRAY:
Lord, I thank You and praise You because You alone are worthy of my praise. When I keep my eyes on You the trials of this life grow dim in comparison to Your glory and majesty. In Your presence there is fullness of JOY and the joy of the Lord is my strength.

Lord, I pray that the light of Your glory will shine through me as a beacon drawing others to You. Give me the opportunity to share Your goodness with others. Let my life and my words be a witness. 

Thank You for loving me. Thank You for giving Your life for my sins and taking my place on the cross. Thank You for the hope of eternal life with You. Worthy is the Lamb! I long for the day I will join the hosts of Heaven in Your presence and cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty…who was, as is and is to come.”

How’s Your Thought Life?

At some point we’ve all had someone ask us, “What are you thinking about?” I for one am thankful people cannot read my mind. While I’d love to be able to say my thoughts are always pure and reflective of Christ, the truth is a war is often going waging within me.  

You know what I mean, right? How many times have you held internal conversations with yourself? How many tongue lashings have you rehearsed in your mind? 

What’s in my heart comes out in my thoughts. While people may not be able to read my thoughts, God can. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 51:10:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 

IMG_1438When my heart is clean, my words and thoughts will be clean. When my thoughts are unclean and do not line up with the “new” creation God has birthed in me I have a choice. I can choose to “capture” my thoughts or I can allow them to capture me. But how do we capture our thoughts? 

We must start by being attentive to our thought life. People often argue, “I can’t help how I feel,” which usually translates into, “I can’t control what I am thinking.” But we can! Start thinking about what you think about. When a troubling thought comes into your mind, ask yourself: (1) Where is this thought coming come? (2) Is this thought pleasing to God? (3) Is this thought healthy for my spiritual well being?

Replace Your Thoughts When you are having thoughts that you know are not from God, are not pleasing to Him or healthy for you replace them with what God says in His Word. Psalm 119:11 portrays the importance of meditating on the Word. “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” This requires research. You know the areas you struggle with in your thought life. If you struggle with fear, find and memorize scriptures that combat fear. If you struggle with anger, find and memorize scriptures on overcoming anger. Whatever the issue, God’s Word IS the answer.  

Journal If you really want to see the progression of learning to take your thoughts captive, journal. (1) Write down the thought you need to replace. (2) Write out the scriptures that address the issue. (3) Write out a prayer for God to cleanse your heart and renew your mind.  

Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” That includes changing our thought life.  

Pray: Father, I thank You that when I am weak, You are strong! Help me in my weakness Lord. Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Lord, quicken my spirit when my thoughts get off track. Guide me back to the path of purity. I commit to hid Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You. Help me to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. AMEN

 

 

 

 

Teach Me

 

IMG_1425I can’t imagine life without the Word of God. I’ve seen videos of people, in nations where the Bible is forbidden, literally weeping and kissing the Word when they receive a written copy. 

It made me stop and think how different my life would be if the Bible was illegal here in America. Would I have enough of the Word within me to sustain me? Would you? 

God’s Word is living and active, and as Psalm 119:93 points out … it gives us new life when we follow it’s teachings. The Word of God has the power to transform us, from the inside out.  

Do you rely on someone else to “teach” you God’s Word? Don’t get me wrong, God has blessed us with some amazing teachers in our time. I am very thankful for their wisdom and the time they have invested to research the Word and feed my spirit. Yet, how many of these teachings do we apply to our lives? If all we do is hear the Word without putting what we learn into practice, we remain spiritual bottle fed babies. God wants to feed you meat!

If Bible Study is something you find boring or confusing I’d like to make a few suggestions:

(1) Take notes during church: Through the week, go back and review those notes. Look up the scripture references used during the sermon. Read them in the context they were written. (Another words, read several verses before and after.) Invest in a good commentary or use one of my favorites (Matthew Henry’s Commentary) which is free on: https://www.biblegateway.com. 

(2) Study scripture: 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) admonishes us: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  There is a big difference between reading and studying. Apply the practice of asking: who, what, where, when, how and why, to fully understand what the writer of the passage is trying to convey. 

(3) Memorize scripture: Many of the scriptures I hold dear today are verses I memorized as a teen. Whatever the battle, God brings them to remembrance when I need them. Memorization is how we “hide” God’s Word in our hearts.

(4) Pray scripture: God promises in Isaiah 55:11 that His Word will not return void. There is power in praying the Word over our situations. If you are facing a struggle, do a “Bible word search” regarding your issue, and write out a prayer using those verses.

(5) Join a study group: Get involved with a Bible study group. Not only will you learn from each other, you will build lasting relationships with like minded believers, who will become a source of strength in your life.  

The Bible is our instruction manual. Once you begin to see the difference it makes in your walk with God, you will develop a love for it. No other book compares to the life-changing Word of God. My prayer for you today is that God will make the pages of His Word come alive in you.