The D’s of Depression – Depend on God, Part 5

Be kind to you: Don’t bring up your past when you are here to  improve your Future

It may seem like the guidance that I have shared this week has nothing to do with depression…especially overcoming depression. However, depending on God and utilizing His guidance and instruction has everything to do with overcoming depression.

There is no better authority on you and no one who loves you as much as God does.

I don’t know that I know a single person who has suffered from depression who has not been guilty of running themselves too hard or who is not guilty of “beating themselves up”. Both scenarios are best handled through God’s guidance.

God can and will guide you if you need to be forgiven of some misdeed and He can help you learn to love yourself and take care of yourself.

If you are still looking for that magic pill that will make your depression go away without any soul-searching and work on your part – your search is going to be a long, long, long one.

As I began my own soul-searching and work to overcome my depression, it felt like God was taking a humble shack and trying to turn it into a skyscraper. At times, the process hurt and very often I did not like it. However, as always, God knew best. He helped me with the painful but necessary process a step at a time. He knew I couldn’t transform myself in one giant leap. He KNEW I could do it one step at a time. So can you!

It won’t always be pleasurable and it WILL be hard. And…it will be completely WORTH IT!

Our discussion on depression is not going away. We will talk more about it next week. Until then, I hope you will read more of the article I have been sharing this week by Rev. Mark D. Roberts. Have a wonderful weekend and be sure to share some compliments with yourself!:

Spiritual Guidance: For Whose Benefit?

In my last post in this series, I told the story of a woman named Eva who tested what she believed to be the Spirit’s guidance by stepping out in faith. Through doing this, she was able to bring God’s grace to a woman who was in a difficult place in her marriage.

Eva’s example illustrates another vital truth about spiritual guidance: it often comes, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. Of course, as the Spirit enabled Eva to care profoundly for the woman on the phone, Eva herself felt gratitude well up in her heart. To be used by God is one of life’s greatest joys! But the guidance Eva received was not primarily for her own blessing. Rather, it was for the healing of another person who deeply needed to know God’s love in a time of personal crisis.

Without a doubt, the Holy Spirit guides us through the maze of our lives if we seek his direction. But sometimes we become so absorbed in seeking guidance for ourselves that we overlook one of the Spirit’s main reasons for speaking to us: so that we might minister to others. When we are prepared to hear God’s voice, we will often be led to care on a deep level for the people God places in our lives. Sometimes the Spirit will lead us by placing a burden on our hearts for a certain person or area of need. Sometimes we will receive even more specific guidance, as Eva did during her phone call. But no matter the precise quality of God’s direction, if we make ourselves available to him, he will lead us into his ministry and empower us for his purposes.

Notice that spiritual guidance both flourishes in the context of true fellowship among God’s people and also contributes to that fellowship. As you are led by the Spirit to care for others with compassion and insight, your relationships will become deeper and sweeter. The Lord will help you penetrate the guardedness that keeps us at a “safe” but superficial distance from each other.

Notice also something that has remained implicit throughout this conversation of spiritual guidance. Spiritual guidance comes, not only for our good and for the good of others, but ultimately for the good of God. The Spirit guides us so that we might “do the good things [God] planned for us long ago” (Eph 2:10), and these things are all part of his plan for the cosmos. As we walk in God’s will, we derive personal benefit. The people around us are blessed. But, even more significantly, God’s purposes are being fulfilled through us. As my friend Buddy says, “Guidance from God is also guidance for God.”

When you pray, “O Lord, please show me your will,” you are acknowledging that God has the right to direct your life. God is sovereign, not only over all creation, not only over all history, but over you. The King of kings and Lord of Lords has every right to govern you, and you ought to follow his guidance because of who he is.

But we seek and abide by God’s direction, not only because he is our Master and we are his servants, but also because God’s ways are the very best, both for him and for us. Even when God seems to guide us along treacherous paths, even when walking in his ways denies our thirst for instant gratification, even when obedience to his call requires sacrifice and suffering, we follow him because “we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Rom 8:28). As we discover God’s purpose for our lives and as we walk in that purpose, he works in every part of our lives for our own good.

 

This truth about God reminds me of a wonderful scene from The Sound of Music. Maria had set her heart upon becoming a nun and was in the midst of her candidacy to join a religious order. But her ability to accept the disciplines of convent life was in question. So, the leader of the abbey, who exercised complete authority over Maria’s life, sent her away to serve as the governess for the incorrigible Von Trapp children. To Maria’s surprise and horror, she unintentionally fell in love with their father, Captain Von Trapp. Fleeing back to the safety of the abbey, Maria tried to bury her love for the captain, a love which would surely compromise her commitment to becoming a nun.

When the abbess finally gets Maria to talk about what happened at the Von Trapp home, the confused girl confesses her love for Captain Von Trapp. She begs the Reverend Mother for the opportunity to make her religious vows immediately, thereby removing forever the possibility of marrying the captain. But the abbess does a most surprising thing. Rather than accepting Maria into the holy order and protecting her from a marriage that would preclude her becoming a nun, the Reverend Mother orders Maria to return to the Von Trapp home. Disregarding Maria’s urgent pleas for admission to holy orders, she insists that Maria must test her love for the captain and thereby discover God’s will for her life.

Unhappily, Maria submits to the Reverend Mother’s command because she has no other choice. As a candidate for the abbey, Maria has submitted her life to the authority of the abbess. But we can see that this wise woman exercises her authority, not only for the good for her order, but for Maria’s good as well. Her guidance, however authoritative, is supremely wise and gracious, even though Maria cannot see it at the time.

So it with God’s guidance and our response. We obey God’s directions because we should. It’s the only right thing to do. But even when we can’t see how God’s ways are the best for us, they always are. Like the Reverend Mother, the Lord deserves our complete obedience. And, like the Reverend Mother, our gracious Heavenly Father guides us into the life of greatest fulfillment. When God directs us for his own purposes, we discover that his purposes include our blessing and joy.

This illustration from The Sound of Music helps us to see how obeying God can lead, not only to God’s good, but to our good as well. What it doesn’t capture is the miraculous and peculiar way God actually worked in the real life of the real Maria von Trapp.

Like the Reverend Mother who sent Maria back to the von Trapp family, God oftens “sends” us to places that don’t seem best to us. But, in fact, they are the best.

We can see this illustrated in the fictional version of the life of Maria von Trapp. But, in fact, her real life contained some striking examples of God’s unexpected guidance. Here’s an excerpt from the family history on the von Trapp website:

The movie strongly portrays Maria as the epitome of religious devotion in and out of convent life. Most people are unaware that she was raised as a socialist and atheist and became actively cynical towards all religions. Those beliefs quickly and dramatically changed by the chance meeting of a visiting Jesuit priest to Maria’s college.

Maria had entered a crowded church assuming she was about to enjoy a concert by Bach. Instead, a well known priest, Father Kronseder had just begun preaching. Caught in the middle of a standing-room-only crowd, Maria soon found herself caught up in the words of this preacher.

In Maria’s words, “Now I had heard from my uncle that all of these Bible stories were inventions and old legends, and that there wasn’t a word of truth in them. But the way this man talked just swept me off my feet. I was completely overwhelmed by it . . . .” When he finished his sermon and came down the pulpit stairs Maria grabbed his elbow and loudly asked, “Do you believe all this?”

A meeting between the priest and Maria changed her beliefs and the course of her life.

Though Maria was intensely devoted to her convent, she was taken away from the outdoor activities she once thrived on. Her doctor was concerned her health was failing due to a lack of fresh air and exercise. This was when the decision was made to send Maria to the home of retired naval captain Georg von Trapp. Her position was not governess to all the children, as the movie portrayed, but specifically to the captain’s daughter who was bedridden with rheumatic fever. The rest is truly history. Maria never returned to the convent and married the Captain on November 26, 1927. This is the story that has been made immortalized by The Sound of Music.

The von Trapp family began singing publicly, not because it was part of their escape from Austria to Switzerland, as in the movie, but as a result of what must have seemed like terrible misfortune to the von Trapps. When the family lost its wealth in the worldwide depression of the 1930s, they considered singing as a way of making money. At first the father was reticent, but according to one of his daughters, in the end he “accepted it as God’s will that they sing for others.” The family did indeed win first place at the Salzburg Music Festival in 1936, as depicted in the movie. And their singing was part of what helped them leave Austria, though without hiking over the mountains to Switzerland.

In the story of the real Maria von Trapp, we see how God uses circumstances, even apparently negative ones, to guide and bless and use his people. First, God led her to faith through her attendance at an evangelistic event that she mistakenly thought was going to be a concert. Second, her poor health in the convent was what led to her being assigned to the von Trapp family. And that which ended up bringing her family much acclaim, namely their professional singing, was something they did out of necessity when they lost their fortune.

Maria, by the way, remained a faithful Christian all of her life. In the 1950s she, along with her own children, Johannes and Rosmarie, and her stepdaughter Maria, went to New Guinea to do mission work there. Although Maria (senior) contracted malaria and didn’t remain in New Guinea for a long time, her children stayed on for several years, with Maria (junior) doing mission work in New Guinea for thirty years.

So the story of the real Maria von Trapp reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways, and that God’s guidance often comes packaged in unexpected forms. Yet he can use even the unexpected and the apparently negative both for our good and for his purposes.

How Does God Guide Us? Some Final Thoughts

In this series I’ve tried to show some of the ways that God guides us. I’ve explained that God guides us through:

• Circumstances
• Scripture
• Community
• Reason
• Dreams and Visions
• Divine Whispering
• Spiritual Direction

I suggested that we can confirm God’s guidance in various ways, especially through taking the risk of stepping out in faith. In my last posts, I showed that God’s guidance is not only for our benefit, but also for the sake of others, and especially for the sake of God’s own kingdom and glory.

I’ll finish up this series by responding to a couple of very practical questions that often hear as a pastor:

How can I learn to be guided by the Holy Spirit?
My life is so busy, how can I find time to quiet my heart enough to hear the Spirit’s gentle whisper?

How can I learn to be guided by the Holy Spirit?

I have found that many people simply need to be aware of the different ways that the Holy Spirit can guide them. Some who have studied the Bible for years to gain theological knowledge never expected the Spirit to speak to them personally through the Scripture. Once they have this expectation, they realize that the Spirit had been whispering in their ears in the past, but they had dismissed this internal voice as nothing of significance. Now they are ready to be guided by the Spirit in a more personal way.

Let me emphasize again that spiritual guidance must be evaluated for its consistency with Scripture. Moreover, we all need to be in close fellowship with other Christians who can help us to discern God’s directions for our lives. If you want to be guided by the Spirit and not simply to claim divine status for your own inclinations, commit yourself to Bible study and to active involvement in Christian community.

Remember that spiritual guidance often comes, not primarily for our sake, but for the sake of others. As you seek God’s will, ask him to show you how to serve those around you. Make yourself available to do God’s will, to participate in his work in the world. Submission to the Lord is a crucial ingredient of your readiness to hear his voice.

Finally, the practice of spiritual disciplines helps to tune our ears to the voice of the Spirit. As you spend time reading and meditating upon the Scripture, praying, journaling, taking time to be alone with God, being silent for extended times, worshiping publicly and privately, and fasting, your heart will be prepared for hearing God’s voice. If these disciplines — or even the word “discipline” — are unfamiliar to you, let me recommend a couple of marvelous books: The Spirit of the Disciplines, by Dallas Willard (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988) and A Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 3rd edition (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1998).

Today’s inspiring article was written by Rev. Mark D. Roberts and is shared from the following website: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/how-does-god-guide-us/

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The D’s of Depression – Delve Into the Depths of Your Soul Part 4

The one thing you have that nobody else has is You. Your voice, your mind,  your story, your vision   Neil Gaiman

We have spent the last few days talking about getting to know yourself. Now, there is an additional step in that process…accepting who you are!

Have you thought of yourself as an author but determined that, because you can’t spell worth a darn, there is no way you can write a sentence let alone a book?

Maybe you are an artist at heart and you have swept that yearning into the deep recesses of your desires because your mom and dad told you that you could never make it in the world as an artist.

I don’t know your talents, strengths and abilities but the Lord does.

Now that you have identified what is important to you and gotten to know yourself better, it is time to ask for the Lord’s assistance with the whole process. The Lord knows you better than you know yourself. Even more important, no one wants you to succeed and have abundance in your life like the Lord does.

Today, I am sharing a portion of a lengthy but very good article. I hope you will take the time to read it! Getting to know yourself is work but it is oh so worth it!

How Does God Guide Us? Introduction

As a pastor, some of the most common questions I’ve received have do to with divine guidance. What is God’s will for my life? Is God leading me to take this new job? Does God want me to marry this person? Could God be pointing me in a new direction for my life?

Of course the question of how God guides us isn’t just a pastoral matter for me. Ever since I first put my faith in Jesus Christ over 40 years ago, I’ve been more or less eager to do what God wants me to do . . . if I only knew what he wanted! As hard as obedience can be at times, I’ve found that discerning God’s will can be even harder.

I think back to the summer of my sixteenth year. My parents really wanted me to go to Malibu Club, a Young Life camp in Canada. I didn’t want to go, partly because I didn’t know anybody and felt pretty shy, and partly because I just wanted to hang out at home with nothing to do. But my parents were persistent, reminding me of the exceptional beauty of Malibu, which stands guard over a salt-water inlet on the Canadian coast a few hours north of Vancouver. As a lover of natural beauty, especially mountains, I must admit I was tempted. But still I didn’t want to go.

Finally I decided to see if I could determine God’s will for whether I should go to camp or not. After praying for a while, I didn’t have any divine revelations. So I decided to do the only sensible thing. I told the Lord that I would go to camp if he wanted me to go, and that I would let the Bible give me his answer. Picking up my Bible and closing my eyes, I let the Scripture fall open, and then put my finger on a passage. “God,” I prayed, “if this passage tells me to go to camp, I’ll do it. Otherwise, I’m staying home.” I opened my eyes, looked down, and read:

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
(Psalm 65:5-8)

As I read about the farthest seas and the mountains, and about “earth’s farthest bounds,” I felt sure I had received God’s answer. So I went to camp, and, to this day, my experience at Malibu remains as one of the highlights of my life.

Though I can’t prove it, I still believe that God used my silly little divination game to get me to Malibu. In his grace, he went along with my immature discernment scheme. But I do not believe that the “close-your-eyes-and-flip-to-a-Bible-passage” approach to spiritual guidance is God’s recommended approach. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used this mode of discernment ever again, for good reason.

Yet this still leaves us with the question: How does God guide us? Today, I’m beginning a blog series in which I will propose several answers to this question. Indeed, I believe that God guides us in a variety of ways, besides the “flip-to-a-Bible-passage” method.

If you’re new to my blog, I should briefly explain my assumptions as I begin this series. I am a Christian who finds a theological home in the Reformed/evangelical tradition, though I’ve learned much from other Christian traditions as well. I believe, above all, that God has given us the Bible as our supreme guide in matters theological and practical. Thus I might be tempted to answer the “How does God guide us” question with a simple “Through the Bible.” But this answer is too simple, since the Bible itself reveals a large number of ways through which God guides his people. So, as this series unfolds, you’ll find that I turn to Scripture again and again for direction.

Spirit Guide Silliness

Spiritual guidance is a marketable commodity these days. If you’re willing to fork over a few bucks–sometimes, a few hundred–you can receive personal guidance from people who claim to have a special channel to “the spirit world.” Many of these gurus hock their supernatural wares at expensive conferences and workshops. Others have turned to the Internet. Yes, you can visit websites where, for a fee, you will receive personalized guidance that purportedly comes from some immaterial being. This “spirit guide” may be an angel, or a departed loved one, or a person who lived thousands of years ago. (I’m not going to put up any links because I don’t want to encourage use of such websites. But if you’re curious, you can find them easily through Google.)

Your spirit guide could even be the spirit of a plastic doll! Some years ago, Barbara Bell, an architectural illustrator from northern California (where else?), operated the world’s only Barbie channeling service. For only $3.00, Bell summoned up the spirit of Barbie to solve the problems of those seeking her advice. “I appreciate and understand Barbie,” Bell explains. “She has been forced to be shallow all these years, but underneath she’s a profound person.” And to think I never realized there was anything underneath her slick plastic exterior! (Little known fact: Barbie’s last name is “Roberts,” according to Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler. So Barbie must be one of my distant cousins.)

All of this talk about spiritual guidance from angels, dead people, and even dolls ought to give us pause as we consider the topic of spiritual guidance. Just because somebody claims to be guided by some supernatural being, even if this being is God, we ought not instantly to believe the claim. Spirit guide silliness should make us careful, even if we’re Christians who believe that God actually can and does offer supernatural guidance.

Sadly, however, some Christians have been caught in the current of spiritual silliness, claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit into all sorts of nonsense. I know a man who once claimed that God told him to have an adulterous affair with the wife of one of his best friends. He truly believed this, as did his friend’s wife. For some reason, they just didn’t think the “Thou shalt not commit adultery” part of Scripture applied to them. They ended up acting on their convictions, breaking up a marriage and messing up many lives in the process.

Attributing one’s peculiar behavior to God is nothing new. It’s been going on for centuries. Over thirty years ago, for example, I found myself in Mrs. Poole’s Sunday school class. She was a fine teacher, well-prepared, biblically-literate, and interesting even to a sixth-grade boy. Mrs. Poole’s Bible lessons were almost always succinct and compelling. Almost always, I say, because every now and then Mrs. Poole would claim that the Holy Spirit led her to depart from her notes and launch into the stratosphere of more direct revelation. As she spoke under the impetus of the Spirit, I was struck by how hard she was to follow and, frankly, how boring. If I took Mrs. Poole at her word, then I could only conclude that she was a much better a teacher than the Holy Spirit! Whereas she was succinct, the Spirit was long-winded. Whereas Mrs. Poole had a way of speaking right to the hearts of sixth-graders, the Holy Spirit could hardly keep our attention. Even then I suspected what I now believe to be the truth: Mrs. Poole was confused about the Spirit’s guidance. Her ramblings may have contained grains of genuine inspiration, but they issued more from her exuberant imagination than from the Spirit of God. Though I can’t claim to be the final authority on such matters, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Spirit actually inspired Mrs. Poole’s careful preparation of lessons more than her spontaneous sermons.

These days religious people are claiming divine inspiration for all sorts of behaviors that are, not only nonsensical, but downright horrible. The most obvious case is that of Muslim extremists who kill innocent victims in the name of Allah, something that is contrary to the beliefs of most of the Islamic world. Christian extremism of this sort rears its ugly head every now and then, especially in some conflict-ridden sections of Africa. These examples have led some critics to conclude that all spiritual guidance is nonsense, and even that the idea of God is both wrongheaded and dangerous.

I don’t agree with these conclusions. But I do take seriously the tendency for people, even well-intentioned ones, to misconstrue God’s direction. It’s especially tempting for all of us to project our own desires onto God, reading them back as confirmation of what we ourselves want. We believe God is speaking to us through our experience, when it may just be that our experience is drowning out God’s authentic voice. So, we must approach the subject of divine guidance with due caution. At the same time, we must not shrink back from one of the most precious aspects of the Christian life: divine guidance through the Holy Spirit.

Divine Guidance Through Circumstances

Yesterday, I showed how Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit guides the people of God. As I continue my series on divine guidance, I’m beginning with this post to address specific ways we are guided by the Spirit of God. Today I begin by noting how the Spirit guides through circumstances.

Consider, for example, the following story.

In Acts, 16 the Apostle Paul and his colleague Silas were in Philippi, where they shared the good news of Jesus with a man and his family (Acts 16:16-34). The whole household believed the message and all members were immediately baptized. How did Paul and Silas get to the home of this man and his family? Not through inner spiritual guidance, that’s for sure. Not through dreams or angelic visions. Not through biblical interpretation. Rather, they got there through circumstances, rather odd circumstances at that. The man was a jailer who had been assigned to guard two prisoners, Paul and Silas.

The two missionaries got in trouble with the authorities when they cast an evil spirit out of a girl who had been used to make money for her opportunistic masters. Her spiritual freedom took away their source of income, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and accused them before the civic leaders of Philippi: “They are teaching the people to do things that are against Roman customs.” The officials had the Christians beaten and thrown into prison, where they met the jailer, who had no idea what was about to happen to him and his family.

Around midnight, when the two prisoners should have been licking their wounds and bemoaning their fate, Paul and Silas were praying and praising God. All of a sudden, a great earthquake shook the prison, knocking the chains off the prisoners. The poor jailer, supposing that his prisoners had escaped, was about to fall on his sword when Paul shouted: “Don’t do it! We are all here!” In shock, the jailer fell instead at the feet of the missionaries. He then took them to his home, where they proceeded to convert him and his entire family.

Given the whole tenor of Acts of the Apostles, we are surely meant to believe that the visit of Paul and Silas to the jailer’s home was no mere coincidence. Though not identified explicitly in this passage, the Holy Spirit was directing the action of Acts 16, just as the Spirit oversaw the mission of Christ throughout Acts. The Spirit got Paul and Silas into the jailer’s home by manipulating circumstances, some of which were obviously miraculous, others of which appeared on the surface to be both ordinary and distressing.

The Bible is full of stories in which God’s guidance comes, not by word or vision, but through circumstances. Such stories also fill most Christian communities where people seek God’s direction. We often don’t realize the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit until we look back in retrospect. But, later on, we see how God wove events together to accomplish his will in our lives.

Of course, the skeptic would deny that God was involved with such things. “Mere coincidence!” would be the claim. But sometimes the coincidences are so astounding that I find it very, very hard to believe anything other than that some Supreme Being is guiding events. In my next post in this series, I share one of my own experiences in which I’m convinced God was guiding me.

An Experience of God’s Guidance Through Circumstances

In my last post I explained that God guides us, in part, through circumstances. In this post I want to tell a story from my own life in which I experienced this sort of guidance.

When I was a sophomore in college, I wanted to share my Christian faith with others. But, as an introverted person, I wasn’t likely to walk up to a stranger or even a friend and get into a conversation about God. So I decided to pray and ask God to help me.

One brisk Saturday evening in October, I decided to go down to Harvard Square–which was always bustling with people–and see if I could share my faith with somebody. The Square was filled with students from all over the Boston area and it seemed a likely place for God to drop a seeker into my lap. I prayed earnestly for God to guide me to someone with whom I could talk openly about Christianity. “Lord,” I prayed, “you know I’m pretty shy about this. So it would be great if you’d work a little miracle here and find me somebody with whom I could talk about you. And if you could make it obvious, that would be really helpful.” With this prayer in my heart, I set off for the Square.

I wandered around for a while, wondering where “my person” was. “Lord,” I kept on praying, “please bring me somebody who wants to learn about you.” Still nothing happened. After a half hour or so, I began to feel both discouraged and silly. It almost seemed as if God was having a good laugh at my expense.

Just then, two young women approached me. “We’re going to a party at Dunster House,” they explained, “but we don’t know how to get there. Could you help us?”

“Sure,” I said. “Glad to.” Meanwhile I thought to myself, “This is great. Not only has God brought these people into my life so I can talk to them about my faith, but they happen to be two attractive women. God, you’ve outdone yourself this time!” Dunster House was about a ten minute’s walk from Harvard Square, so I figured this would be plenty of time to engage these women in a conversation about God.

On the walk down to Dunster, I kept bringing up subjects that I felt sure would lead to a productive dialogue about Christian faith. “I’m majoring in philosophy,” I said, “Are you interested in philosophy?” They weren’t. “Sometimes I wonder why we’re here on this earth? Do you every think about this?” They didn’t. Basically, all they wanted to do that night was to party at Dunster House, not to reflect on the meaning of life with their overly-eager guide. For ten minutes I tried everything I could think of to get these women to talk about God. Nothing doing. Of the thousands of students in Cambridge that night, it seemed as if they were the least interested in God.

When we got to Dunster House, I walked them to the door. They thanked me and left quickly, no doubt glad to be away from that stranger who kept asking invasive questions. I felt like a complete idiot. “Okay, God,” I prayed, “I get the point. You’ve probably had a good chuckle over my silliness. Well, that’s enough. I’m going home. This was a stupid idea.” I left the entrance to Dunster House and headed back to my dorm.

Just then I passed a student I recognized as being a friend of a friend, somebody I had met briefly during my freshman year. He said “Hi” so I returned the greeting as we went off in opposite directions. All of a sudden he stopped, turned around, and called to me, “Hey, are you Mark Roberts?”

“Yes,” I said, surprised that he remembered my name.

“Well, I’m Matt. I’m a friend of your roommate Bob.”

“Oh, yeah. Hello, Matt,” I said.

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you,” Matt said.

“Me?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, you!” Matt asserted.

“Why me?”

“Because I hear you’re a Christian. I need to talk to you about God.”

That’s the line, exactly as it happened. I need to talk to you about God. It couldn’t get much clearer than that, could it?

And so began a conversation that lasted well into the night. That conversation turned into a weekly Bible study, as Matt and I studied the Gospels to find out about Jesus. When we finished, Matt wasn’t ready to give his life to Christ. But he was closer than he had been on that strange night when we met on the sidewalk outside of Dunster House. End of story.

Now I suppose a skeptic could always say that my meeting with Matt was just an accident. But it seems to me much more likely that God used the rather strange circumstances of that evening to guide me–and to guide Matt –so that God’s work would be done in our lives. I could tell a dozen more stories like this, hundreds if I drew from the experiences of people I have known during my years as a pastor. There is no doubt in my mind that the guidance of the Holy Spirit often comes through the circumstances of our lives.

But there is a downside to this kind of guidance. How can we be sure that our interpretation of our circumstances is correct? Suppose I had been so convinced that God wanted me to share my faith with the two young women on their way to the party that I managed to worm my way into the festivities, spending the whole night beating my head against the rock of their disinterest, and thereby missing that providential meeting with Matt. Spiritual guidance through circumstances is great, but it’s usually ambiguous. What will help us sort out the circumstances of our lives so as to discern God’s guidance with confidence?

Tomorrow I will share more of this post.

Today’s article is shared from the following website:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/how-does-god-guide-us/

 

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The D’s of Depression – Delve Into the Depths of Your Soul

The most important relationship we can all have is the one you have with yourself, the most important journey you can  take is one of self-discovery. To know yourself, you must  spend time with yourself, you must not be afraid to be alone.  Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.    Aristotle

Over the next few weeks, I am going to share how you can overcome Depression. This week, I am going to concentrate on what I consider the first step: Delve into the Depths of Your Soul.

If you are looking for quick fixes, you will be sorely disappointed. Depression does not come on suddenly and it rarely leaves without some intensive personal work.

I have been there in the muck and mire of depression. I know that once we find ourselves there, there is nothing we want more than to get rid of it. If you are going through depression, you might be like me: I knew I had a great life. I had a wonderful husband and great kids and I had everything to feel wonderful about – but I didn’t.

The first step that doctors usually want to explore is medication. Explore that path if you must, but I have found that the most important place to start is with yourself.

There is often a good reason why depressed people don’t want to be alone with themselves. More times than not, a cacophony of emotions is raging within the soul of the depressed person. For me, the roar of emotions was deafening and yet I refused to hear it.

I had experienced some significant trauma and I had shoved it deep into the corners of my being – so deep I thought (subconsciously) that it would never be found or bother me again. Instead, like an eternal fountain, it all came bubbling up – demanding to be dealt with.

During the years (yes years) that I battled depression, the most important step I took was to take time to heal. Listening was a critical part of that healing. Listening to my family and my therapist was probably important but the very most important listening I did was to myself. I learned to listen to my thoughts – you know, the whisper thoughts we all have but don’t necessarily acknowledge to ourselves. As I did, I heard myself saying things like: “You can’t do that, nobody will ever love you again if you do”, “You don’t deserve to be alive”, “Do you realize what an enormous burden you are to your family?”.

As I began to really listen and acknowledge what I had said myself for a very long time, I knew that those subliminal thoughts were not grounded in truth. I also knew that although they were lies, I very much believed them.

At that point, I formed an alliance with the Lord that I continue to depend on to this day. With His help, I sought to find and then terminate each of the lies that I subconsciously said to myself day in and day out.

With the Lord’s help, I was able to identify and then remove the lies I consistently told myself. I was able to start believing in my worth and I was able to restore my confidence in myself.

You see, although I was not to blame for the trauma I had experienced, I believed that I was. Therefore, I beat myself up mercilessly. It’s amazing how much I was able to heal once I quit pummeling myself!

Coming to know myself deeply and personally was an all important step in overcoming my depression. Prior to my efforts to know myself, was I knew of myself was like tagging along for the ride. After I came to know myself, I found myself in the driver’s seat.

To overcome depression, we each have to sit in the driver’s seat of our life.

I hope, that if you are going through depression, that you will make the effort to know yourself. Today’s article shares some good information on getting started with the process:

How to Be a Success: The Importance of Knowing Yourself

by Delva Rebin

“Know Thyself” is a popular adage, but what does it really mean? The fact is that this phrase holds one of the keys to unlocking the secrets of how to be a success, but not many people are aware of its full implications.

To explain it properly, let’s use the analogy of a car. When you buy a car, you want to know everything about it. The gas mileage, the safety rating, the interior comfort, the color and model. How many people can it carry? How does it fare in difficult weather conditions? How does it feel to drive? How well does it take corners? What is the sound system like?

Knowing yourself is a bit like knowing your car. Just like with your car, you want to know how you hold up under difficult conditions. You want to know what you sound like to others. You want to know your limits, but also your potential. That is basically what the phrase “Know Thyself” entreats us to do: know everything about ourselves so we know how we will weather the trials and tribulations life throws at us.

To know yourself, it’s important to be aware of the fact that we all have four dimensions: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The first three are fairly straightforward: the physical dimension is how we see other people and how they see us, the emotional dimension is how we relate to others, and the mental dimension is how we think. The spiritual dimension is perhaps the most often neglected out of the four. It doesn’t necessarily have to be religious, but you should always recognize that you have this dimension within you. Often, people describe their spiritual side as the one that connects with nature, and other beings, and a Higher Power that interconnects all of us.  By exploring those four dimensions, you can become more aware of yourself and ultimately shape yourself into a more complete human being.

This journey of self-discovery is important because by knowing ourselves, we can maximize our chances of becoming a success, both in our personal and professional lives. By being aware of your limits, you can better assess every opportunity that comes your way and turn down those that don’t play to your strengths. But even more importantly, by knowing your potential you will become empowered to reach beyond anything you previously thought you were capable of doing. That is one of the ways to become a success: recognize which opportunities might not be for you, but have the courage and enthusiasm to jump on the ones that are.

Today’s inspiring article is shared from the following website: http://www.dreammanifesto.com/success-importance-knowing.html

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Changing Your Life…It is Always Possible!

To change your life, you need to change your priorities John C. Maxwell

Oh how I wish that I could take you with me and that we could visit heaven for just five minutes together! Just five minutes there and you would get what I want with all of my heart for you to know.

We talk of God being perfect but it is impossible to explain or even comprehend what perfect is as a mortal being. Understanding God’s perfection is as much an experience as it is an understanding. As I met with God during my near-death experience, I could feel His perfection and sense His utter and complete “wholeness”. We are talking here about a being who is without gap, crack, or lack in His intelligence, comprehension, and capacity.

That very same being who is whole and complete and utterly perfect is your Father and my Father and He is completely aware of you and He understands, in its entirety, your level of knowledge, wisdom and capacity. He wants nothing more than for you to realize your potential and for you to understand your worth. He is not attempting to produce clones of His children. Instead, He works diligently to help us, as we allow Him, to become the unique and special individual we were each designed to be.

He knows we are not perfect. He knows our mistakes. He never NEVER gives up on us. He loves us perfectly and completely in spite of our failings and flaws.

If you are as hard on yourself as I suspect you are, I hope that you will reach out to your Creator today. Ask Him to please communicate your worth to you in a way that you can accept and understand. I know He will answer your prayer if you make that request.

There may be no greater tragedy in this world than that of an individual believing that they are of no worth or nothing special or that they cannot be forgiven.

We each are wonderful and special and are meant to bring a positive contribution to this world that we have been made a part of. I hope you will allow God to speak to your heart today – I hope today’s story will inspire you as well!

Value

A popular speaker started off a seminar by holding up a $20 bill. A crowd of 200 had gathered to hear him speak. He asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?”

200 hands went up.

He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.” He crumpled the bill up.

He then asked, “Who still wants it?”

All 200 hands were still raised.

“Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” Then he dropped the bill on the ground and stomped on it with his shoes.

He picked it up, and showed it to the crowd. The bill was all crumpled and dirty.

“Now who still wants it?”

All the hands still went up.

“My friends, I have just showed you a very important lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, life crumples us and grinds us into the dirt. We make bad decisions or deal with poor circumstances. We feel worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. You are special – Don’t ever forget it!

Value story shared from the following website: http://www.livin3.com/5-motivational-and-inspiring-short stories#5%20Motivational%20and%20Inspiring%20Short%20Stories%20About%20Life,%20Stories%20that%20Will%20Make%20You%20Smile.

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Are You Living the Life You Were Created For…or an Ordinary Life?

I can’t believe that God put us on  this earth just to be ordinary   Lou Holtz

If you feel like you are no one special and that you have nothing to offer, You have quit listening to your heart. In fact, maybe you don’t know that your heart speaks to you?

When my oldest daughter was born (also my first child), my husband made me a drawing of her. On the drawing, he included a quote that contained the following phrase, “Cause God doesn’t make any junk”.

It was a cute quote then…now I realize that it is profound. I hope that you know your value and I hope that in your heart, you, in some way, can feel of your worth and importance.

You were not born to be someone ordinary. You were born to be extraordinary!

I hope you enjoy today’s story! Have an inspiring weekend!

It Is Not What’s Gone – But What’s Given

Not too long ago a little girl in my neighborhood was born without a hand. She was born just after my own second daughter Ella was born. Her parents were obviously shaken up. About a week later, I saw them at a neighborhood function and they came over to me and asked what my thoughts were, if I had any advice, for them and for their daughter. My advice? This is their daughter’s life and they were asking my advice? Talk about humbling. What do you say? I had nothing very smart to say.

I told myself I wouldn’t let that happen again. That it was important that I could share what I have learned.

I’ve learned that there are millions of people out there ignoring disabilities and accomplishing incredible feats. I learned that you can learn to do things differently, but do them just as well. I’ve learned that it’s not the disability that defines you, it’s how you deal with the challenges the disability presents you with. I’ve learned that we have an obligation to the abilities we do have, not the disability.

I was born without my right hand. I have never felt slighted. As a kid I was pretty coordinated and growing up I loved sports. I learned to play baseball like most kids, playing catch with my Dad in the front yard. The only difference was that we had to come up with a method to throw and catch with the same hand. What we came up with, is basically what I continued to do my whole life. I used to practice by pretending to be my favorite pitchers. I’d throw a ball against a brick wall on the side of our house, switching the glove off and on, moving closer to the wall- forcing myself to get that glove on faster and faster. I imagined myself becoming a successful athlete.

Growing up, sports were my way of gaining acceptance. I guess somewhere deep inside I was thinking if I was good enough on the field then maybe kids wouldn’t think of me as being so different. Honestly I hid behind sports. I wanted the attention that comes from being successful, but I was very reluctant to draw any attention to my disability You know it’s funny, there was an article in the L.A. Times recently about a high school pitcher who has been doing very well— despite missing one hand. He mentioned my name as an example but went on to say he didn’t want to be like me, he wanted to be like Randy Johnson. At first my feelings were hurt, but then I understood. That’s exactly the same way I felt growing up. I didn’t want to be defined by a disability. Focus on my pitching and not my hand.

I loved throwing a baseball. It is so important to find something in life you feel crazy about. Because you are so passionate you naturally practice, the hard work that it takes to do something well will come easily.

You know how it worked out. I got to play baseball at the University of Michigan, 2 United States teams The 1987 Pan American team and the 1988 United States Olympic team. Even though I played in the major leagues for almost 10 years the Olympics are still one of my favorite memories.

You know in my career I once won 18 games in a year, I also lost 18 games in one year. I was fortunate enough to go straight from the Olympic team to the major leagues. Never spending a day in the minors. I was also sent down to the minor leagues after 8 years in the big leagues. In 1996 I went 2-18 with a 7 run era . I couldn’t get anyone out. I was in the first year of a long term contract with a team near my home. It was supposed to be easy. That following year I was fired. Drove back to California, crying all the way. I spent that summer up in Michigan hurting and wondering if my career was over. Somewhere deep inside I wasn’t sure. So I called the Chicago White Sox for a try out.

They gave me a chance to pitch again. I would watch the major leagues on t.v. with the rest of those kids and it felt like a million miles away. That had been my life. I was away from my family who I know thought I was crazy. Then I got the call I was going to Chicago back to the show. That was the good news, bad news your facing the Yankees Sat. night. They were about 100 and 15 at the time. I went on to win that game against the Yankees that night. In fact I went 5-0 the rest of that Sept.

I would like to tell those parents back in my neighborhood how wonderful my own parents were, and are. They encouraged me to participate, but didn’t dwell on every move I made. I don’t ever remember a concession to the fact that I had one hand. Maybe even a little more was expected. I will always be thankful that they never allowed my hand to be used as an excuse.

I would like to tell that little girl, “Go out and find what it is that you love. It may not be the most obvious choice or the most logical but never let that stop you.” Baseball was hardly the most the most logical choice for someone with one hand, but I loved it, so that’s what I pursued. No matter where the road takes you don’t give up until you know in your heart you done everything you possibly could to make your dreams come true. You owe nothing to disability, ignore it. When you fail, get back up and try again. Leave no room for an excuse. Don’t listen to what you can’t do. 99% of the time I never think of missing a hand. I have never been envious of someone with two hands. Listen to that voice deep within you, it knows, when you’ve done your best.

Somehow when things are said and done there will be some accountability imagine someone coming up to you at the end of your life and saying “you’ve been given these talents what did you do with them.” There is a certain potential we owe it to ourselves to live up to. Work hard, don’t look back, celebrate the blessings in your life.

– Jim Abbott

Today’s inspirational story shared from the following website: http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com/storiesfolder/jimabbottnotgone.html

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