The D’s of Depression – Depend on God, Part 2

Yesterday we started our conversation about depending on God. I know of no other way to successfully combat depression. God is a complete source of truth and a complete go-to-guide on you! You may think you know all there is to know about yourself, but the truth is that you are just a newbie when it comes to knowing yourself. The tried and true source of knowledge is your Creator!

I know from my near-death experience that this thing we call life is a school of sorts. We have come here to learn and to improve. A part of that learning and growth comes through exercising faith. Our experiences and our decisions also contribute.

We need to know ourselves and learn the truth about ourselves. The problem is that we are generally our harshest critic and the person most inclined to punish our self. Therefore, what we believe about our self is most often incorrect. However, we do have a resource at our disposal – God.

Communicating with God takes effort on our part. While God is ever waiting and willing to assist us – most of the time we have to initiate those conversations. And then…we have to listen.

Sometimes the spirit commands our attention in a dramatic way but most of the time the spirit whispers. In order to be receptive to those whispers, we must create opportunities to hear and receive those whispers. Meditation, prayer, silence, pondering, and a nice walk are wonderful ways of creating those opportunities for God to speak to us.

Today, I continue to share a multi-part post by Rev. Mark Roberts from Patheos.com. I hope you will read it and think about ways that you can create better communication between yourself and God. I hope you will feel God speaking to you often!:

Developing an Ear to Hear the Holy Spirit, Part 1

Occasionally, the Holy Spirit almost shouts at us. Indeed, “The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters” (Psalm 29:3). But most of the time, the Spirit deals with us as God did with Elijah, through what we might metaphorically call “whispering.” This presents a irksome problem for us: How can we hear the Spirit’s voice when our hearts are so overwhelmed by the cacophony of our busy lives and hearts?

When my children were young, I would often study in a McDonald’s Playplace. I’d read or tap away at my laptop computer while my kids would race through a maze of giant plastic tubes and slides. Invasive and syrupy Musak filled our favorite Playplace, though I could hardly hear it because of the competing racket from nearby video games. Babies were crying; toddlers were squealing; parents were shouting as they tried to get their children to come out of the play structure. It was noisy chaos.

Does your heart ever sound just like a McDonald’s Playplace? Have you ever sat down for a moment of quiet, only to notice that your mind keeps racing at breakneck speed? Do you ever try to hear the voice of God, only to be overwhelmed with dozens of other voices, including your own, and those of your parents, friends, colleagues, not to mention the culture? It’s no wonder that we find it hard to hear the Spirit’s voice, or that we mistakenly attribute some random thought to God. If we are going to be ready to hear the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit, then somehow we have to quiet our hearts and learn to focus upon God. For most of us, this is much easier said than done.

Several years ago I participated in my first silent retreat. My wife and I, along with some Christian friends, planned to spend a weekend in silence at a secluded retreat center in the hills above Santa Barbara, California. When we arrived on Friday evening, our bedroom was stifling because the temperature had climbed into the 90s and the window had been shut. Cranking it open for some ventilation, we left for the start of the retreat. The leader explained the importance of keeping silent for two days, though warning us how difficult it might be when we first started. He had no idea how prophetic his words would be for me!

When Linda and I returned to our room, the temperature had dropped considerably, but in its place we found about a hundred ravenous mosquitoes. Following the rules of silence, we quietly divided our efforts at bug swatting until most of the little vampires had perished. In the process, I received a dozen little red bites. For most people this would be an inconvenience, but for me it was a nightmare because I am allergic to bug bites. Soon my body was covered with quarter-sized welts that itched worse than anything I could remember. For hours, I sat in agonizing, sleepless silence, trying not to scratch my bites, while occasionally jumping up to swat a remaining mosquito. I couldn’t remember a more miserable, night. Finally, at about five in the morning, Linda awoke and took pity on me enough to break silence.

“Are you OK,” she asked. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m miserable. I itch like mad. I haven’t slept one bit. And I can’t even complain about it because of this crazy silence! But there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Finally, exhaustion got the better of me and I was able to sleep a bit. By late morning I had recovered enough from my ordeal to take a walk into the woods–with plenty of insect repellent applied liberally to my body. Finding a tranquil spot by a stream, I sat down to be quiet before God. Yet, as I tried to be quiet, I still heard a hundred buzzing “mosquitoes,” not real ones this time, but those that lived inside my head: the obnoxious buzzing of the things that filled my life, the demands, needs, ideas, hopes, fears, memories, disappointments, and dreams that controlled my life. These bugs couldn’t be swatted. They began to quiet down only after many hours of solitude and prayer, during which I surrendered to God everything that buzzed within my heart. In retrospect, I think God stirred up those inner mosquitoes so I could relinquish them to him. In some small way I began to obey the command of God found in Habakkuk: “The Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before him” (Hab 2:20).

Although my initial attempt at disciplined silence began with such great frustration, it turned out to be an exceptionally quiet moment in my otherwise noisy life. I began to discover why so many spiritually mature Christians set aside regular times for extended silence and solitude, and resolved to do so more myself.

As you read this, you may be thinking: “Well, that sounds great. But you’re a pastor. You can make time for this sort of thing. I can’t imagine getting away for a weekend of silence, or even for a half-day. What would you suggest for somebody like me?”

I’ll respond to this question in my next post in this series.

Developing an Ear to Hear the Holy Spirit, Part 2

In my last post, I talked about how important it is to quiet our hearts if we’re to receive guidance through the Holy Spirit. I suggested that literal silence, such as what we might experience on a silent retreat, helps promote internal silence. But how is this helpful to ordinary folks, to people who can’t easily make time to get away for a silent retreat?

First, in my experience I am able to make time for that which I value. Whether it’s a favorite TV show, exercise, or hanging out with my family, I am disciplined enough in the use of my calendar to make sure I do the important things, in addition to my work. I think this is true for most people, even extraordinary busy ones. Indeed, there may be short seasons of life when it’s almost impossible for you to get alone with God for a while–like when you’re a new mom with a tiny baby–but most of us can set aside at least an hour for quiet if we truly want to. The question is: Do we truly want to do this?

Silence can be scary, especially for those of us who aren’t used to it. We can be afraid that silence will be boring. Or we may be afraid that in silence we’ll have to deal with hard things in our life that we’d rather avoid. For example, when I spend quiet time with God, I’m sometimes reminded of things I have done wrong. God brings these to mind so that I may confess them and be forgiven, and so that I may talk with him about how I can do better in the future. But the experience of remembering forgotten sins isn’t particularly pleasant. Many of us fill our lives with noise because we don’t want to face our fears, our hurts, or our disappointments, in addition to our sins.

If you find yourself resistant to the whole notion of being quiet with God, I’d encourage you to talk about this with a trusted Christian brother or sister. Perhaps your first efforts at silence can be shared with this person, who will be there to support you in prayer and other ways.

Second, I think many of us don’t take time to be alone with God because we set the bar too high at first. We might read about saints who spends days in silence and decided to imitate them. But when we try, our efforts quickly fail. Most of us need to begin more humbly and realistically, not with days of solitude and silence, but with minutes or hours.

Some years ago, I encouraged members of my congregation at Irvine Presbyterian Church to set aside one hour once a month for solitude. More was fine. But one hour once a month was a great start. I recommended that folks go to a place that fosters silence, perhaps a secluded park or beach, or maybe a quiet retreat center. Personally, I find it difficult to be quiet and alone when I’m at home or work. Others might have more discipline and focus than I do, but it seems that most people are helped when they’re in a place that fosters quiet fellowship with God.

Moreover, I’d urge you to work with your natural inclinations, not against them. For example, I know people who can pray for long periods of time when sitting or kneeling. I’m not one of these people. Yet if I’m walking, and especially if I’m walking in a place where I can pray out loud, then I can go for longer stretches. Similarly, some people are helped to pray by going to a church sanctuary. I, on the other hand, find nature to be my best “sanctuary.” The beauty of the natural world reminds my of the beauty of God, and helps me to sense God’s presence.

For most of my life, I prayed either out loud or silently. Then, about eight years ago, I began to write out my prayers in a journal. I discovered that the practice of journaling helped me to focus, both on what I wanted to say to the Lord and on what he wanted to say to me. Of course I don’t journal when I’m walking! But many of my non-ambulatory prayer sessions now involve writing. This may or may not be helpful to you. If you haven’t tried journaling before, you may want to give it a shot.

To sum up, here’s what I’m saying in this blog post:

1. If you value solitude and silence, you’ll find a way to get it into your calendar.

2. If the whole idea of silence is scary, find a partner with whom to share your hesitations and your experiences.

3. Be realistic in your expectations. Commit to spending one hour in solitude once a month. More is fine, but start with what you can manage.

4. Work with your natural inclinations, not against them.

5. Try writing out your prayers in a journal.

As with every facet of the Christian life, learning to discern the voice of the Spirit is something we should do as a committed member of Christian community. Certainly, times of solitude are essential, but not a lifetime of separation from our spiritual family. A healthy Christian community will help you listen to the whisper of the Spirit, discern which voices are really from God, and speak in a way that doesn’t trivialize spiritual guidance by turning everything into a word from the Lord.

These two segments written by Rev. Mark Roberts have been shared from the following website: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/how-does-god-guide-us/

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Stillness…A Time to Reflect

Do you take time for meditation? Do you allow some stillness to be a part of each day? Do you take time to reflect and design your life?

I have found that quiet time – that time to reflect and to enjoy stillness to be very important in my life. It is during those times that I can most easily feel God with me. Feeling God with me enables me to be receptive to truth and wisdom whatever source it comes from

I hope you will take time to find the divinity within you – the peace it brings is priceless!

Enjoy today’s story!:

Thoughts While Alone

I met an old friend today that I’ve known since my earliest remembrances, and we took a drive. I could immediately discern that he was very wealthy. I don’t mean wealth by economic standards, but I could see an aura about him that reflected the joy, the happiness, the comfort, and peace that filled his very being. He didn’t have much to say, but I could tell he was in deep thought and this silence told me volumes. He told me about the many things that he no longer took for granted. He shared with me how fortunate he was to recognize what he had that he never questioned before.

I wasn’t surprised, as I continued to listen to him. After all, he had so much and he had taken his station in life simply as his reward for being good. He told me how thankful he was to have had Christian parents, who nurtured him, fed him, clothed him, and unconditionally loved him through his formative years. He told me about his Father who had died shortly after retirement and of his Mother and how she had lived a long and fruitful life.

He spoke of his family and how proud he was of his wife, his children, and his grandchildren. He spoke of the greater love of the entire family and how they all enjoyed gatherings for birthdays and holidays. He had great appreciation for the accomplishments of his family.

His wife had designed and built their home. His children had families and jobs they enjoyed going to each day. There was love and harmony in each family. He advised of his need to minister to others in this difficult world. He explained how his service was rewarded by God and His people. He reminisced about his church and his retirement. He became overwhelmed with emotion as he discussed the cancer, which had followed him since 1982, and how God told him all would be well. He told me of the joy he found in music and in writing. He had taken so much for granted, but today, he recognized and shared of his riches.

I listened to him all the way home and was so happy that he’d recognized his blessings and wanted to express thanks for his wealth. As I got out of the driver’s seat, I thanked God for this time to be myself and, as importantly, that this lifelong friend was and will always be me.

Copyright © 2013 Bob Stoess
Bob Stoess is a Retired CEO, prolific writer and wonderful mentor.
Story shared from the following website: http://www.motivateus.com/stories/thoughts-while-alone.htm

 

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Therefore the Lord Himself Shall Give You a Sign…

Signs surround this busy world of us. The problem is that too many of us are too busy to notice. Those of us familiar with the books in the New Testament, that share the story of the Savior’s birth, know that many signs attended his entrance into our world. What we may not know is that signs continue to provide evidence of our Savior’s existence.

I believe that signs follow those who believe. I think those signs can range from the simplest squeeze of the hand to splitting of the Red Sea. I believe it doesn’t really matter the size of the sign – it matters more the belief in the heart.

In that spirit, I will be creating and sharing memes this week that chronicle our Savior’s birth. In addition to the memes – the inspirational stories that I share will be stories of Christmas miracles. Truth be told, we are all a miracle in our own right. I hope that miracles and blessings are a daily part of your life like they are mine!

If you find that you have a hard time believing in signs and miracles, I hope you will ask for God to give you a heart of understanding and then I hope you will listen carefully…with your heart.

I hope you enjoy today’s story!:

Fate Threw a Tree at Us

During the hustle and bustle of Christmastime 1958, we told our children, ages 3 and 4, about the beautiful Christmas tree we would have in a few days. On Christmas Eve, at the bakery we had recently purchased, we counted the receipts, cleaned the shop and headed for home with our two sleepy children.

Suddenly, we remembered we had not gotten a tree. We looked for a vendor who might have a tree left, to no avail.

About a mile from home, we stopped for a red light. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew, and something hit the front of our truck. My husband went out to investigate.

The next thing I knew, my husband was throwing a good-sized evergreen into the back of the truck. He went into the mom-and-pop store at the corner where we were and asked the proprietor how much he wanted for the tree. He said he wasn’t selling Christmas trees that year.

We never did find out how the tree got in the middle of the road, but somehow we feel we know. Incidentally, it was the most beautiful tree we have ever had. —Gertrude Albert, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Story shared from the following website: http://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/christmas-miracles-true-stories/

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Labor to Keep Alive Your Conscience….

Silhouette of prayer bend to the cross to make a confession

Today, I am sharing a story from guideposts.org. It is a story about a woman following her conscience. So many times, it can be difficult to do the right thing. However, abuse is perpetuated and our safety, freedoms, and connection to God are compromised when we choose to ignore the voice of our conscience. Our conscience is the angel within. When we listen to that still, small voice – we will receive inspiration and guidance from God. If we want God to be a part of this world, we must allow our conscience to direct our choices and actions. Whether it is an individual, country or the world; when conscience prevails, God’s influence reigns. When God’s influence dominates the world in which we live, human rights are protected and truth rather than ego and greed becomes the overriding standard that guides conduct . Here is today’s story:

Reporter Michael Winerip details how Georgia state investigators were able to zero in on the Atlanta school administrators responsible for a widespread cheating scandal that falsely raised test scores in order to line their own pockets with lucrative performance bonuses.

The lead investigator, Richard Hyde, had a serious obstacle in his way. Finding a cooperative witness was key to the government’s case. Without testimony from one of the teachers assigned to alter students’ tests, the administrators who led the deception might escape prosecution. But the teachers all had their own reasons to stay silent.

One teacher, Jackie Parks, a single mother who taught third grade at Venetian Hills Elementary School for 17 years, had gone along with changing the tests because she could not afford to lose her job. If she became a whistle blower, she’d be fired and might not be able to feed her family. A difficult risk to take.

But one night in August, just before the beginning of a new school year, she had a dream.

“I saw people walking down the hall with yellow notepads,” Jackie told the Times. Not teachers or students. People who wanted answers. “From time to time, God reveals things to me in dreams.”

A few weeks later, out of a hundred Atlanta schools under investigation, Richard Hyde showed up at hers.

“I think God led Mr. Hyde to Venetian Hills,” Jackie told the Times.

At first, Jackie was afraid to speak to him. But he returned, day after day, and Jackie found it impossible to stay silent anymore. “I wanted to repent,” she said. “I wanted to clear my conscience.”

Jackie wore a wire to meetings that captured key players discussing the case. Several months later, the state investigators released an 800-page report, implicating 178 teachers and principals in the scandal and bringing down the alleged ringleader, Beverly J. Hall, the district superintendent.

 

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Sometimes God is Missing from our Lives…

Missing jigsaw puzzle piece, completing the final puzzle pieceI don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when I really needed God and it just seemed like he wasn’t there for me. Then, as I reflected on my relationship with God, I realized that I was giving lip service to the idea of my relationship with God but I wasn’t really including Him. I was asking Him for help and to solve my problems but I wasn’t listening to Him or trying to use His guidance. All I was really doing was wanting God to follow my instructions and do things my way. I’m not proud that it took a near death experience for me to recognize how inferior my ways were and how clearly superior God’s intelligence was in comparison to my own. Even now, I have to catch myself at times. It is easy to fall back into bad habits. I don’t tell God what to do but I am not always as good as I need to be at listening and seeking His will. If you have the same problem, I hope you will take the time to listen to the best friend and mentor any of us could ever have – our Father in heaven.

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