Overcoming Depression – Creating an Attitude of Gratitude Part 2

God gave you a gift of  86,400 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say Thank You?   William Arthur Ward

As I worked to overcome my severe depression, I found I needed to turn to the Lord daily in my efforts to get better. Through that entire process, He taught me many things. He taught me me to trust in the journey and He taught me the importance of my mindset.

One day, He inspired me with a story that I then wrote down. I call the story The Counters. As I wrote the story, I knew that it was really the Lord that was providing the story to me – not my vivid imagination. When the story was written, I was profoundly affected by the message of the story. I knew the lesson of the story was meant for me.

I am currently working to turn my story into a children’s book so I won’t go into the details of the story, but suffice it to say that being a counter is not a good thing. I realized I was a counter. I counted good events in my life and bad events in my life. I felt it was unfair for the bad to outweigh the good. I took my lesson to heart. I quit being a counter.

“Counters” are so busy counting all of the negatives that they fail to see their blessings. I knew better. I had and still have an incredible amount of blessings to be thankful for. I know that life is not fair. Now, I have learned to quit expecting life to be fair and to focus on the good, positive and amazing blessings of life that the Lord has provided to me.

As you read today’s article, I hope you will take time to reflect on your blessings. What do you have to be grateful for? Then take a second and express a sincere Thank You to someone!:

3 Ways To Develop Gratitude (The Great Healer)

Such an approach, though, eventually imprisons us in the very small world of our own needs, pushing away other people, and closing down the possibility of real growth. We may seek relief in a variety of ways – from the pleasures of physical entertainment, to the call to community service, and the possibilities of peace offered by spiritual practices and religion – but we often find that these tactics don’t provide the relief that we had hoped for, leaving us feeling more apathetic and cynical than before.

How can we escape this downward spiral?

All that ails us and the world, and the cause of all cynicism and apathy, I believe, comes from the lack of one essential factor in our lives: gratitude. The greatest human spirits have recognized that gratitude is the most rewarding and transformational practices that we can undertake. Cicero, the versatile Roman philosopher, stated:

Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all the others.

In a similar vein, the thirteenth-century Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, advised:

If the only prayer you said your whole life was “thank you,” that would suffice.

What exactly is gratitude, though? One definition that I discovered notes that gratitude is “an emotion that involves indebtedness toward another person,” and that this emotion arises when one receives something that meets the following criteria:

• It is valued by the recipient.
• It is costly to the benefactor.
• It is given with positive intention.
• It is given graciously, without any societal or professional obligation.

According to this definition, when these four criteria are met and we allow the emotion to arise, we experience gratitude. The problem with this definition, though, is that it makes gratitude conditional. When one of the criteria is not met – for example, when we don’t value the gift, or when we don’t believe that the gift is costly (monetarily, emotionally, or temporally) to the giver – according to this definition, we are excused from feeling gratitude.

Ethical, religious, and spiritual traditions encourage us to adopt a higher perspective on gratitude. From this point of view, gratitude is something far more profound than a momentary feeling of thanks for a specific valued gift. At its deepest potential, gratitude comes from an existential awareness that our bodies, our minds, our families and friends, the world in all its miraculous diversity, and all that we have are gifts. And that these gifts are given to us unconditionally, in love, at every moment of our lives.

This concept can be very difficult to incorporate because, as noted earlier, we tend to associate gratitude only with the receipt of a gift that we perceive to be valuable. When unwelcome events inevitably happen in our lives – disappointments, illness, conflicts – we naturally feel bitter and can easily believe that there is nothing to be thankful for. Conversely, when we get things that we think we want, we may be tempted to take all the credit, and believe that we have achieved these successes solely based on our own efforts and attributes. True gratitude, however, calls us to feel grateful not only for our successes, but also for our problems, our mistakes, and even for people who treat us unkindly. We can actually feel gratitude for our most difficult struggles, because these are seen as ultimately beneficial in our lives, even if the intention is not always immediately clear to us.

Gratitude can solve all that ails us because when we are truly grateful we immediately rise above our fear-based needs to dominate, control, or retreat in to cynicism. And when we approach people and situations with gratitude we will naturally be drawn to positive action, discovering new possibilities that we could never have imagined in the protective shell of self-isolation. These actions can take many forms, depending on the needs of the other person and the situation in the moment, but will always be beneficial for humanity.

Although gratitude is a feeling, it must be cultivated through action. The following offers several suggestions for developing gratitude:

1. Make a gratitude list: Srikumar Rao, who teaches a hugely popular class at Columbia Business School, and is author of “Are You Ready to Succeed”? recommends that we write a daily list of the things that have occurred for which we are grateful. These do not need to be major events, but can be the little occurrences that we usually ignore – the train arriving on time, good weather, a satisfying meal, a stranger’s warm smile – and the wonderful people and things in our lives that we all to often take for granted – our families, spouses, friends, jobs, homes, health, bodies.

2. Say “Thank you” to others: Stay alert for opportunities to express gratitude to others as often as you can. You will find that even when you are not feeling grateful, simply saying “thank you” will connect you to others, and will have an impact beyond the moment.

3. Develop a daily gratitude prayer: All religious and spiritual traditions stress the essential nature of gratitude, and place it as the bedrock of faith. Within many of these traditions the first prayer that a practitioner says every morning is “I am thankful for having awakened to another day.” This is a prayer of gratitude to our Creator for the very miracle of our lives.

These practices remind us that gratitude is available to us at any moment and under any circumstance, even – or especially – when we are not feeling particularly thankful. Seen from the highest perspective, gratitude is the door that opens to individual and world transformation, revealing our true nature, binding us to each other, and to the Divine.

Today’s article is shared from the following website: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-alan-lurie/gratitude-the-great-heale_b_266952.html

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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 – 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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The D’s of Depression – Depend on God, Part 3

You attract the right  things when you have  a sense of who you are   Amy PoehlerWe have been addressing overcoming depression for the last couple of weeks. There is nothing, in my opinion, more essential in overcoming depression than knowing who you truly are.

I know that overcoming depression is not an easy task. For me, utilizing the strength that God was willing to lend me and relying on His guidance were key in my recovery.

Listening to God’s voice does not always come naturally. It often has to be worked at. So often, we are in the mire of depression because we have allowed ourselves to become overwhelmed physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.

There is no better way to get back on track that to use God’s power to heal and instruct. He knows what we need and He can both strengthen us and guide us to the resources we need.

For some, realizing that God can and does speak to His children may be a foreign concept. I assure you that He does and can talk to us. I have been the beneficiary of His guidance many times. It was through His guidance that my husband became a chiropractor and I found and received the help I needed to overcome both my depression and my 24/7 migraines.

I cannot promise miraculous healing but I promise that as you seek and learn to listen to God’s messages to you, you will find strength, comfort and answers!

Today, I continue with the series written by Rev. Mark Roberts and listening to the spirit and the divine guidance of God. I hope you will enjoy his thoughts and I hope as you come to know yourself better, that you will find God, find yourself and find healing! My prayers are with you!:

Divine Guidance and Spiritual Direction

In my opinion, spiritual direction can be a valuable means through which God can guide us. Allow me to explain what I mean and why I think this way.

For most Protestant and/or evangelical Christians, the phrase “spiritual direction” is an unfamiliar one. The title of “spiritual director” conveys very little and can in fact be misleading. Those who lack understanding of what a spiritual director does might be apt to misunderstand the role because of what the term “director” conveys. We might picture a spiritual director as somebody who “directs” our spiritual lives, giving orders, telling us what to do, and so on. We might even envision the kind of authoritarian discipleship that was popular while I was in college, but has been rejected by most Christians as unbiblical and unhealthy. This is not what spiritual direction is all about.

Folks in the Catholic and higher-church Anglican traditions, as well as a growing number of Protestants, would be much more familiar with the notion of spiritual direction, whether or not they have personally experienced it. I first became familiar with the whole idea of spiritual direction through the novels of Susan Howatch. In her Church of England Series, sometimes called the Starbridge Series, her characters, who are Anglican Christians in some sort of crisis, are “in spiritual direction,” that is, they are regularly seeing a spiritual director. The chief task of the director is to help them discern God’s presence and guidance, both of which they need quite desperately. (Who doesn’t?)

Howatch’s portrayal of spiritual direction is sometimes more animated than reality, but she basically hits the nail on the head. The spiritual director’s job is not to give directions so much as to help someone pay attention to God’s directions. Thus, spiritual direction is a process that helps people to discern and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit.

In general, spiritual directors are wise, experienced, spiritually-sensitive Christians. They may or may not be ordained ministers, though most spiritual directors have been specifically trained and credentialed. Their training may include reading lots of spiritual classics, taking extended time for personal spiritual growth, seeing a spiritual director, being in a group with fellow trainees, and doing spiritual direction as a supervised intern.

In the last thirty years or so, Christians outside of the Catholic (or Anglo-Catholic) tradition have become more familiar with spiritual directions. This may be a result of the lowering of the wall between the Protestant and Catholic traditions. It may also be the result, in particular, of the popularity of the writings of Henri Nouwen (a Roman Catholic priest) and Susan Howatch (an Anglican novelist). For basic information on Catholic spiritual direction, visit Catholic Spiritual Direction. For a Protestant/Reformed perspective, see this informative discussion by the Rev. Kenton Smith.

I began seeing a spiritual director in 2006. I did so because it seemed like a good way for me to grow in my relationship with God. My expectations were more than realized, as I had the privilege of a wise companion in my spiritual pilgrimage. It was good to have a place to sort out my joys and frustrations as a Christian, and to have help in discovering God’s presence in my life. Though I did not begin spiritual direction with the thought that I’d be changing jobs, my spiritual director was invaluable when I was trying to figure out if God was guiding me to leave Irvine Presbyterian Church and join the team at Laity Lodge in Texas.

My experience confirms the fact that spiritual direction is not the same as counseling or therapy, even if both counselor and counselee are Christians. Though some of the methods are the same, honest sharing and sensitive listening, a counselor focuses on the individual and his or her needs, experiences, hurts, etc. In most counseling, there is quite a bit of emphasis on discovering historical and psychological causes for current feelings and behaviors. So, if I’m feeling lots of anger towards a colleague at work, for example, a counselor might help me see that this colleague reminds me of my father, and therefore my anger may be more about my relationship with my father than my relationship with my colleague. A good counselor would take me a step further, helping me to see my colleague more clearly and relate to him more fairly. A spiritual director might also be interested in the roots of my anger. But his or her focus wouldn’t be in the past, or even in my feelings and behaviors. Rather, a spiritual director would help me to discover God’s presence in my current experience. This might include finding God’s power to be less angry, or to communicate my anger more appropriately. But a spiritual director would want me to consider what God might be saying to me in my anger, and how I might experience God’s peace in a way that helps me deal with my anger in a healthy, even a godly way.

Given what I have experienced in spiritual direction, and given what I’m seeing in the Protestant/evangelical/Reformed world in which I spend most of my time as a Christian, I expect that the popularity of spiritual direction will greatly increase among folks in my tradition. There is a longing in people for spiritual growth and spiritual guidance. Spiritual direction can help satisfy this longing, and it is surely one way in which God can direct us through the Spirit. Moreover, though you can’t find the title of “spiritual director” in Scripture, the notion of discerning God’s guidance in relationship with other Christians is central to the New Testament understanding of the Christian life. The best spiritual directors both reflect this biblical understand and use Scripture in the direction process.

Today’s article was written by 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 – Depend on God

 When God works through us, No one and Nothing can stand against us Dieter F. Uchtdorf

There is a sometimes overlooked gift called the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I consider this gift from God to be one of my choicest blessings. I know of no other gift from God, other than the atonement of Jesus Christ, that has the potential to bless us so much. The amazing gift of the Holy Ghost has guided me in small matters and large matters both.

For those of you who are familiar with my book, you will be familiar with my life experience with migraine headaches and with being told to find my son Andrew. It was through the Holy Ghost that I was guided to find the source and cure for my headaches. It was the Holy Ghost that enabled my successful search for Andrew. (A task that a Christian Adoption agency told me would be like finding a needle in a haystack)

I am continuing to focus on Depression this week. Last week we talked about delving into the depths of your soul. If you followed last week’s posts, I hope you have gotten to know yourself better and that you experienced a wonderful week of self-exploration.

This week, we are going to focus on depending on God. Thursday and Friday I shared a post from the Patheos website. Today, I continue to share a portion of that post. However, today, we will focus on the whispering of the spirit or the Holy Ghost. God speaks to us most often through the Holy Ghost. Listening to the Holy Ghost takes practice. All prophets of God have depended heavily on the Holy Ghost. We can depend on the Holy Ghost too.

When we listen with our hearts and develop a pattern of sincere communication with our Creator through prayer, we unlock a priceless treasure trove. There is no one who knows us better than God. There is no one better that can assist us with healing and any other need(s) we have.

I have seen amazing things in my life because of this gift from God. If you haven’t already, you can too. I hope you will read today’s story and then contemplate where you are with your relationship with your Creator. Think about it for the rest of the day and then let’s reconvene and talk about it some more tomorrow!:

Divine Guidance Through “Whispering”

The Old Testament book of 1 Kings contains one of the most dramatic stories in all of Scripture (1 Kgs 18-19). Israel was languishing under the corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. The royal couple had led the nation into the worship of the pagan gods, Baal and Asherah. The king and queen had killed the prophets of God, replacing them with hundreds of pagan psychics. Only Elijah remained faithful and alive as a spokesman of the true God.

Empowered by the Lord, Elijah confronted King Ahab and his multitude of prophets, challenging them to a “my God is bigger than your god” kind of duel. Both sides would build altars on Mt. Carmel and prepare sacrifices on the altars. But they would not set fire to the sacrifices in the usual manner. Instead, they would wait for fire from heaven. Whichever deity consumed the sacrifice would be the winner. That god would be recognized as the true God.

The prophets of Baal went first, preparing a bull, placing it on their altar and calling out to their god. When Baal failed to answer, they began dancing wildly around the altar, crying out for a miracle. As Elijah taunted them, they even engaged in ritual self-mutilation in an attempt to motivate Baal’s response. But the fire didn’t fall. Baal was still and silent.

Then Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down by the pagans. He prepared his sacrifice and then, just to make things a lot more difficult for God, Elijah drenched everything with buckets of water until the ditch around the altar was filled to the brim. When all the preparations were completed, Elijah prayed a simple prayer, asking the Lord to demonstrate his sovereignty. God’s response was stunning:

Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the ditch! And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried out, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!” (1 Kgs 18:38-39).

In the wake of victory, Elijah zealously killed the vanquished prophets of Baal. But when Queen Jezebel heard what had happened, she sought Elijah’s life, forcing him to flee to wilderness.

Several weeks later, he found himself cowering in a cave in the desert, crying out to God for help. Then God instructed Elijah to stand outside of the cave and watch.

And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a “gentle whisper” (1 Kgs 19:11-12).

The God who had done such wonders on Mt. Carmel, the same God who controls the awesome power of wind, earthquake and fire, chose to speak to Elijah through the “sound of a gentle whisper,” what the King James Version of the Bible calls “a still, small voice.” The contrast between God’s mighty power and his quiet voice couldn’t be more stark. Though we might expect or even prefer dramatic demonstrations of divine guidance that knock us off our feet, the Holy Spirit sometimes speaks in a gentle whisper that brushes our hearts like a soft spring breeze.

Unfortunately, a multitude of contemporary Christians have trivialized this ministry of the Spirit. “God spoke to me” has become a virtual replacement for “I thought,” except that by saying “God spoke to me” a person avoids having to take responsibility for his or her actions. After all, if God told me to buy a new computer that I really don’t need, who are you and who am I to question God’s command? Claiming God’s authority for my own thoughts not only appears to protect me from being corrected, but it also gives an added punch to my own preferences.

While recognizing that the Spirit will speak to us, we must also acknowledge our tendency to misinterpret what we hear, or to mistake our own inner voice for the voice of God. My friend Dave was a pastor to young adults in a large church. Energetic, handsome, godly, and obviously single, Dave found that many of the women in his group were interested in more than just his Bible teaching. Every now and then, one of them would approach him with exciting news, “God has told me that we’re going to get married,” she’d announced happily. At first Dave didn’t know quite what to say to this unwelcome and unlikely bit of divine direction. But over time he developed an appropriate response: “Well, that could be great news. Thanks for sharing it with me. Now, just as soon as God tells me that we’re going to get married, then we’ll do something about it.” Oddly enough, God never told Dave what his young fans had purported to hear from the Spirit. He ended up marrying a wonderful woman who, ironically enough, hadn’t heard God whisper Dave’s name in her ear.

Stories like this make it easy for those of us who are more intellectually oriented to discount hearing from God altogether. I’ve known a few Christians even deny that the Spirit still speaks to our hearts in any direct way. But this extreme view opposes both the biblical record and the testimony of thousands of wise, balanced Christians who are not inclined to conjure up divine voices.

I have another pastor friend whose experience of the Spirit’s guidance for his marriage was quite unlike Dave’s. Greg, a scholarly Presbyterian minister, was teaching an adult Sunday school class one day. In the midst of his lecture, a woman entered and sat in the back of the class. Greg, who had never seen her before, barely took notice of her entrance until he heard an inner voice say distinctly: “You are going to marry that woman.” Not one to have such experiences, Greg just about fell over on the spot. Somehow he managed to finish his lesson. Many months later he did in fact marry that woman, but not because he clobbered her with a claim to spiritual guidance. First, he introduced himself to her. As a friendship developed, they both began to sense what Greg suspected from the beginning. Along with their Christian community, they discerned God’s guidance with all the tools available to them. Indeed, they did marry. Once again, a skeptic could chock up Greg’s experience to overactive libido or simply good luck. But as one who knows his spiritual integrity, I believe that the Holy Spirit spoke to Greg’s heart in order to accomplish God’s will in his life.

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

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