The D’s of Depression – Depend on God, Part 4

God cannot give us a  happiness and peace  apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing    C.S. LewisIf you have followed my blog for any length of time, you have seen my references to the fact that we each have a divine purpose and that our learning to exercise faith is meant to be a part of our personal growth.

Faith is an interesting commodity. We can believe but we won’t develop faith – at least the kind of faith I am talking about – unless we make a leap. That leap will require action and stepping beyond our comfort zone. Life will require us to make many leaps of faith; one is never sufficient with God.

In the path to overcoming depression, faith in God becomes a central theme. Just like Alcoholics anonymous, there really isn’t a true chance of overcoming our “demons” until we acknowledge we are powerless to do so without God’s assistance.

Learning to listen to God and recognize his voice and instruction will yield incredible help and assistance. As I continue to share the multi-part article written by Rev. Mark D. Roberts, I hope you will find lots of wonderful “lesson material” that will help you recognize and utilize God’s voice in your life. I know that He is personally aware of you and lovingly awaits your request for His assistance!:

Confirming the Spirit’s Guidance, Part 1

Sometimes we won’t know for sure if we have correctly discerned the Spirit’s voice until we step out in faith. This is surely the scariest part of spiritual guidance because it requires both trust in God and a willingness to be embarrassed. But if you ask people who have risked their pride in order to confirm what they believed to be God’s direction, they’ll tell you that the rewards greatly outweigh the risks.

Most of the time, what I’m describing here isn’t all that spectacular. For example, when I was pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, each year we sponsored a number of “mission trips” to other parts of the world. These trips might have been to Mexico, or South Africa, or China. They often involved lots of hard work on the part of those who attended, and in some cases people were expected to raise quite a bit of money to pay for their trip. Some had the means to pay their own way, while others asked friends and family for financial support. All of this, especially the financial part, could feel daunting to someone who might have been interested in a certain trip.

Nevertheless, each year I’d have people say to me something like, “I think God is calling me to go on the South Africa trip.” Then they’d explain some deep sense of calling, rather along the lines of the whispering Spirit. Often folks tried to convince God that they shouldn’t go on the trip, but had felt his strong direction. “What should I do next?” they’d ask. My answer was that we needed to confirm what they were sensing in their hearts. Had they checked with their small group? Had they talked with a mature Christian who knew them well? These were important elements of the confirmation process. But then came the scariest part. Would they step out in faith? Would they (in many cases) talk to folks about their financial need? Would God supply the needed funds?

Time and again in my ministry, I watched people step out in faith, sometimes with very small steps. When they did, God graciously confirmed the guidance they had sensed previously. Confidants were encouraging. Supporters were generous. Sometimes funding came from completely unexpected sources. When they finally went on the trip, they knew without a doubt that this is what God wanted for them, not only because of what they were able to contribute, but also because of how they grew in faith and discipleship.

Now, of course, God doesn’t always confirm what we take to be his guidance. Sometimes the opposite happens. This disconfirmation can come as people share their sense of leading with their Christian community and run into lots of loving concern. Often, however, the disconfirmation comes after folks step out in faith. I expect that God would be perfectly happy to bail us out in advance, at least much of the time, but we’re often unwilling to follow his lead. As I’ve said before, it’s terribly easy for us to project onto God what we think ought to be there.

For example, a pastor friend of mine once received a “call” (Presbyterian language for “job offer”) to become pastor of a church a couple thousand miles away. He truly believed this is what God wanted for him, even though some of his closest advisors were uncertain. So my friend went to the new church, began his ministry there, and only then realized that he had made a terrible mistake. What this church wanted differed largely from who my friend was as a pastor. So, after six months, he resigned from this pastorate and sought a new call.

When we step out in faith, sometimes we’ll get out of line. And in some of these instances God will redeem our efforts and work things out. In other cases we’ll end up taking an altogether different course. Even some of the most spiritually mature people can, at times, misconstrue God’s will. I wish this weren’t true, or at least I think I wish it weren’t true. But the fact is that sometimes we aren’t sure of God’s guidance until we test it by our actions. And in these instances there will be times when we learn the hard way that we missed something along the way.

But here’s the great news: God can and will work in and through all of these situations. If you get off course, God isn’t up in heaven wringing his hands, wondering what to do next. Rather, he’s already at work redeeming and, if necessary, redirecting. I know Christians who get stuck in indecision because they’re afraid of messing up. The bad news is that we will mess up. The good news is that God cleans up.

As a seasoned “messer-upper,” one of my favorite verses of Scripture is Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” The “all things” that God works out for God include our mistakes and miscues. That’s not to say that we don’t pay a price for our errors. Often we do. But God is still at work in and through us, transforming us to be more like Him and using us for His kingdom purposes.

Confirming the Spirit’s Guidance, Part 2

A couple of days ago, I suggested that we can confirm (or disconfirm) the Spirit’s guidance in a variety of ways, but principally through stepping out in faith. I also acknowledged that this can be scary, since it may require us to do something that is potentially awkward, difficult, or embarrassing. The following story illustrates this possibility.

A woman I’ll call Eva was a grandmother, a gentle woman, and one of the most mature Christians I had ever known. For many years she had served within her church by calling recent visitors on the telephone. Usually she’d say how much their visit was appreciated and offer to answer any questions they might have. Most phone calls were short, pleasant, and appropriately superficial.But every now and then Eva would “hear from the Lord,” as she described it. One time, she called a visitor and began her usual friendly spiel. In the middle of her script, however, she sensed the Holy Spirit “whispering” in her heart. For no apparent reason, she felt that this woman was in a great deal of pain over a difficult marriage. She heard no audible voice and had no reason to know whether this was true or not. Yet she sensed that God had revealed something to her so she could care for the woman on the phone.

Now Eva faced a challenge: to go with what she thought God was saying to her and risk offending the woman on the phone, or to avoid embarrassment by not bringing up the issue of her marriage but thereby missing the opportunity to help her. Eva chose to risk the embarrassment of following what she believed to be the Spirit’s guidance.

“Can I share something a little odd with you?” she asked the woman on the phone.

“I guess so,” was the answer.

“Well, as we have been speaking, I keep having this feeling that you’re going through a tough time in your marriage. You probably think I’m crazy, but I felt like I had to say something.”

The woman on the other end of the line was silent for several seconds. Finally she choked out, “How, how did you know? That’s really why I went to your church.”

“I think the Lord told me,” Eva answered, “so I can pray for you and help you.”

Thus, a friendly phone call turned into the beginning of a healing encounter. Eva’s sensitivity to the Spirit, her boldness combined with gentle love, opened up an opportunity for ministry that might not have otherwise presented itself.

I have just related one of the more spectacular of Eva’s stories. Things didn’t always flow so smoothly and with obvious supernatural blessing. But even when she appeared to strike out, Eva kept on trying to listen for the Spirit and to obey what she heard. When nothing unusual impressed her heart, she didn’t make it up. She simply did her job graciously, welcoming visitors and sharing a bit of Christ’s love with them. When she believed that the Spirit had given her special guidance to care for a visitor, she stepped out in faith, knowing that God would confirm that which is truly his guidance.

As I finish telling Eva’s story, I can imagine the responses of some of my friends who are skittish about supernatural guidance of the sort I just described. “This opens the door to all sorts of nonsense,” they’d complain, “even heresy. How are we going to know if somebody’s claim to divine inspiration is true?”

This is a fine question. Actually, it’s one that Jesus himself anticipated and answered. In the Gospel of Matthew He said:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Those who are truly inspired by God, who truly hear the whispering of the Spirit, who are truly in touch with genuine divine guidance, will bear good fruit. That fruit will be evident in their personal lives. And it will also be evident in the lives of those who have been touched by them. What sort of fruit am I talking about? We could start with the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). To this list we could add such things as: people drawn to the Lord, works of justice and mercy, the building up of the body of Christ, and so on. One who claims to be guided by God will, if the claim is true, live a life that reflects the character and ministry of Christ.

Today’s article that I have shared 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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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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Knowing God is There…

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word “darkness” on the walls of his cell C.S. LewisI love C.S. Lewis. I plan on interviewing him when I cross over to heaven once again. I suspect that when I interview him, I will find his mind to be fascinating and his stories about his life riveting.

I honor the explorations of his mind and respect that he refused to be a fence sitter. Once he knew that God existed, he endeavored to help others find Him as well.

I have seen God and I know that He exists but, of course, I am a rarity.

I hope that you can feel your Creator with you each day as you navigate your life. I hope you can feel and see Him lending you strength, giving you blessings, and increasing your understanding!

I was going to share a different story today but after a couple of “glitches” that brought me back to today’s story, I am taking the hint from above and sharing it! I hope you will enjoy

God’s Hands

Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy was sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”

Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was so mesmerized they couldn’t recall what else the great master played. Only the classic “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

That’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. But with the hand of the Master, our life’s work truly can be beautiful. Next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You can hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”

Feel His loving arms around you. Know that His strong hands are there helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.

Remember, God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. And He’ll always be there to love and guide you on to great things. Life is more accurately measured by the lives you touch than the things you acquire.

Story shared from the following website: http://inspire21.com/stories/christianstories/godshands

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I Can Do All Things Through Christ…

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me    Philippians 4:13My youngest son became a part of our family as a result of incredible divine intervention. My experience in finding him and his sister is a powerful testimony to me of God’s awareness of each of His children and His willingness to do whatever it takes to assist us.

I know that many would suggest that God can do much more. I know that He does all that He can for us without removing our ability to choose and/or remove growth experiences that are designed for our eternal growth.

God can do much more for us when we ask for and reach for His assistance. I know that that was the apostle Paul’s personal experience and it has been mine, as well.

If life seems a unrelenting battle, I hope that you will reach out to the Lord for assistance. I know that when you give your all and then allow Him to give you His all, it is an amazing, synergistic formula for dealing with the challenges that are a natural and pre-designed part of life. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and that you enjoy today’s story!

Abandoned As a Child
 
In 2000, Oprah Show guest Kelly told viewers how she survived abandonment, a plane crash and leukemia—all before she turned 12. As a baby, Kelly was left on the side of the road in Vietnam by her parents. She had a short stay in a local orphanage, and then, in 1975, she was part of Operation Baby Life—a program that evacuated thousands of babies from Vietnam. Kelly was placed on a plane destined for the United States, but her journey did not go smoothly. The plane she was on crashed, killing 150 passengers. “I really don’t know why I was chosen to be one of those survivors. I feel incredibly lucky, and I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of second chances,” Kelly says. 

Kelly was eventually adopted by a couple in Seattle, but the obstacles did not stop there. At age 11, she was diagnosed with leukemia. With fight and determination, Kelly overcame her disease and went on to become a healthy and successful adult. “These obstacles that had happened in my life gave me strength and fueled my motivation to live and to succeed and to go on,” Kelly says.

Story shared from the following website: http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/14-stories-of-overcoming-the-odds

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Miracles…They Are All Around Us

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see C. S. LewisThose of you who follow my blog know that my granddaughter was critically injured last summer and that she is a walking talking miracle!

And, even though my life has been filled with miracles and events that God orchestrated, I think it is important to recognize that we are surrounded by miracles on a daily basis.

Today I share a story that reminded me in some ways of my experience with my granddaughter (think longer time line but she was saved by God nonetheless).

I hope that you will read and enjoy today’s story and that, as you look around, you will recognize the miracles that surround you!

Everyday Miracles

Tiffany Youngblood Gilliam – Seven years ago, my husband, Shane, who was a construction contractor and volunteer youth minister at Osage Baptist Church in rural Osage, Arkansas, called and said our little boy, Braedyn, had been in a wreck and was in terrible shape. I asked if Braedyn would be OK. My husband had no response, which alarmed me terribly. Waiting for my parents to drive me to the hospital, I felt so helpless. I dropped to my knees and began praying! Then, I started phoning everyone I knew and asked for prayer and they called other people. When I arrived at the hospital, my husband was crying in a way I had never seen a man cry. He didn’t want me to see Braedyn. When I did, it was terrible. His head was caved in on the right side. He had blood coming from his ears, eyes, nose and mouth. His pelvis appeared to be completely crushed. His catheter was full of blood, which means internal bleeding. The doctor told us the prognosis looked “very grave” and he might not make the flight to a big hospital in Springfield, Missouri. The thought of placing my baby on a helicopter by himself was just more than I could handle. The pilot asked if I wanted to ride, which is not usually allowed. I held onto my little boy’s arm and prayed during the whole flight that God would heal his broken little body. I told God I knew Braedyn was only on loan to me, but I wasn’t ready to not be his mommy. I fully trusted God that He would take care of my baby boy. When we landed, everything was so fast-paced. I was placed in a little room all by myself. There, I just continued to pray. After an eternity –  actually only about 40 minutes – the doctor came into the room. He seemed to be in shock!! All of the x-rays and tests had been redone and my little boy didn’t have a broken bone in his body. No internal bleeding. He was bruised and banged up very badly, but the doctor said “I can’t explain what happened. I thought I was going to be telling you there was nothing we could do, but instead I get to tell you that you are very lucky.” I said, “We are not lucky, we are BLESSED! Our God saved our little boy.” When we finally got to see him, his head was no longer caved in. He did have to be bed-bound for two weeks, but it was nothing we couldn’t handle. When we went for a check-up, our family doctor cried and hugged Braedyn. He said “I prayed so hard but I never thought I would see this little guy again.” God is so good! Braedyn is our little miracle boy!

Story shared from the following website: http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/galleries/12-absolutely-amazing-miracles.aspx?p=5

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