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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Overcoming Depression – Creating an Attitude of Gratitude Part 1

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it Chuck Swindoll

We have spent the last couple of weeks looking at Depression and obtaining the tools for overcoming it.

We have looked at ourselves, gotten to know ourselves better. We have gotten to know God better as well. We need to stay on those tracks of discovery but now we are ready to add another dimension to our efforts to overcome depression.

This week we are going to look at Gratitude. Think you are already grateful enough? Think being grateful is all poof and no substance? Think again. Having an Attitude of Gratitude is such important stuff that, without it, you don’t have a chance in a million of overcoming depression without it.

Think life has dealt you more than it’s fair share of blows? Do you think that the world needs to pay for the pain you have suffered? Did you lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel so long ago that you have also lost sight of the tunnel? Well…get over it. Take that baggage that, to this point, you have insisted on carrying with you everywhere you go and hand it over to the Lord and get on with your life. I’m not saying you have to hand it over but the truth of the matter is that unless and until you hand it over or chuck it far away, you have little to no chance of overcoming depression.

Does that seem unfair? Let me tell you a big, well-known secret: LIFE IS NOT FAIR!!!

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s do something positive with our week! Let’s learn to be grateful! Having gratitude is one of those win/win kind of deals! You win and so does everyone in your life! I have a whole list of wonderful articles to share with you this week! Be sure to go find yourself a notebook that you can write in. Then, continue reading today’s inspiring article! I hope you start feeling the positive effects of having gratitude starting today!:

How to Develop a Gratitude Mindset

Gratitude, the cardinal moral emotion that promotes cooperation and makes our society civil and kind, is the feeling of reverence for things that are given, according to Bob Emmons Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Many of us spend most of the year thinking about what we want and what’s next. It’s not until Thanksgiving that we’re reminded to think about what we’re grateful for and how to express that gratitude.

Expressing thanks shouldn’t be a once-a-year tradition. It is possible to cultivate a gratitude mindset that will stick with you throughout the year. A gratitude mindset means lower levels of envy, anxiety, and depression as well as increased optimism and well-being. Research recently conducted at University of California-Davis found gratitude gives the person expressing it the power to heal, to be energized, and to change lives.

What Are the Benefits of Gratitude?

Gratitude can impact the physical, psychological, and social aspects of an individual’s well-being, studies show. Positive psychology sees gratitude as one of the keys in turning potential negatives into positives.

Here are some of the benefits that come from adopting a gratitude mindset.

Physical benefits:

  • a stronger immune system
  • less bothered by aches and pains
  • lower blood pressure
  • sleep longer and feel more rested upon awakening

Social benefits:

  • more compassionate, generous, and helpful
  • more forgiving
  • more outgoing
  • feel less lonely or isolated

Psychological benefits:

  • higher levels of positive emotion
  • more alert, alive, awake
  • more joy and pleasure
  • more optimism and happiness

The Challenges to Gratitude

Being thankful might seem like a simple task. There are roadblocks to gratitude, including narcissism, materialism, and even overscheduling. There are also the myths that gratitude expressed at work is “kissing butt,” that it can lead to complacency, isn’t possible in the midst of suffering, or makes you a pushover.

Gratitude is stronger when it is shared. To sustain your gratitude mindset, find a way to verbalize, write it down, or share through social media. Just like meditation is a practice, so too is gratitude.

3 Quick Gratitude Boosters

Keep a Gratitude Journal: At the end of each day, make a list of three things you are grateful for. Think of everything from running water and a cozy bed to no red lights during your commute and having a great friend at work. The list can be endless! As you practice, you strengthen the neural pathways that help you find even more things to be grateful for. Pretty soon, gratitude will be your attitude.

In one study funded by the John Templeton Foundation as part of the Greater Good Science Center’s Expanding Gratitude Project, middle school students listed five things they were grateful for—for two weeks.  They were then compared to a control group documenting their everyday events. At the end, the gratitude group reported more satisfaction with their school experience.

Write a Gratitude Letter: Choose someone who has made a positive impact on your life. Write he or she a letter explaining how and thanking them. Be specific and include lots of description. You can either mail the letter or just tuck it away. Expressing your gratitude heightens it.

Receive Gratefully: Many of us are better givers than receivers. Put your focus on your experience of receiving gratitude. When you’re given a compliment, do you belittle yourself by saying “it was nothing” or by playing down your role? Notice your experience as a recipient and try to receive complements or thanks with grace. The law of giving and receiving places equal emphasis on both sides.

Gratitude is essential for happiness. By setting the intention to prioritize gratitude, you have already begun to adopt the mindset. So thank yourself!

This article was written by Tamara Lechner is and shared from the following website: http://www.chopra.com/articles/how-to-develop-a-gratitude-mindset

 

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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 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 – Delve Into the Depths of Your Soul Part 3

Know Yourself and You Will Win All Battles Sun Tzu

If you have been following my posts this week, you know that I am addressing how to overcome depression. Overcoming depression is not an easy task but, I believe, it is a possible task.

The first step is knowing yourself. That is the focus for this week. You need to know you and you need to know who you really are. You need to know all of the self-talk that goes on within your head and you need to root out and eliminate all of the lies you believe about yourself.

Have you ever made a mistake and told yourself, “You Dummy!” Yup, me too. That kind of self talk may seem pretty innocent but my experience has shown me that, all too often, there is more lurking behind those trite moments of self-talk that are not innocent at all.

Let’s look at this another way. How comfortable are you with giving yourself a pat on the back? Do you commend yourself for a good decision? Is telling yourself “Way to Go!” a frequent occurrence? I’m not talking the I’m better than anybody else, conceited type of self-talk. I’m referring to humble acknowledgement of your strengths, abilities, and capacity.

Do you participate in a lot of comparing yourself to others? Do you understand that comparing yourself to others is a lose/lose proposition? There is no other you in the entire universe and there never will be. Comparing yourself to others is like a rose comparing itself to an orchid. Both are wonderful and beautiful but a rose is never going to be an orchid and an orchid is never is going to be a rose and the world is a much better place because we have both.

Sometimes it is not fun delving into the depths of your own soul. It can be a painful place to find yourself. Other times, it can be fascinating to find things about yourself that you never had known or acknowledged before. It can be hard work but I promise that you will be the joyous benefactor of all your efforts. If you are willing, knowing yourself will be a huge blessing and is a key step in overcoming depression.

Today, I am sharing another article by Farnoosh Brook. I hope you will take the time to read it and that you will continue to do the work to know yourself better. Hugs to you!

How to Get to Know Yourself in 5 Fool-Proof Steps

Living a lie comes out sooner or later.

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painfulthan the risk it took to blossom. ~Anais Nin

When I read this quote first, I felt something tighten in my heart.

I was still at my corporate job, living in total conflict with my core values, and still denying the reality of the situation. It took a simple phrase to snap me out of my coma and help me see how I had created my own agony: By denying who I am.

And for what? So I could go on being someone else to impress people I don’t care about for reasons that don’t matter? It isn’t worth living a lie and being untrue to who you are, no matter how crazy, how eccentric, how uncommon, how different you may be.

You are who you are. The earlier in life you accept this and get on with it, the easier and sweeter you shall live out your days.

Let’s start embracing it instead of hiding it under the covers.

As for me, when the lie became so blatantly obvious, I accepted who I am, quit my cushy job, started my online business, created my dream lifestyle and have never looked back.

A secret I didn’t even know: You won’t miss the lie you are living, because living true to yourself is the real paradise.

This kickstarted the beginning of a self-discovery journey that I share with you here: How to get to know yourself and how to have the courage to live life as exactly who you were meant to be, being true to your core values, and coming to peace with it all.

How well do you know yourself? Ready to find out?

You can be different from the rest of the world and still be fabulous — in fact, you’re fabulous because of it, not despite it.

Different means good. So if you are different, you, my dear, are good.

The idea is to understand what makes you different, and as you do that, you get to know yourself better.

It’s perfectly fine to explore what your heart wants. It’s completely alright to tune out the rest of the world so you can build a connection with your soul. It’s remarkably uncommon, but it’s fine and it’s alright, so do it. You won’t regret getting to know the person who lives inside yuo.

The most beautiful thing you will ever witness in your life is when you begin to unfold into the person you were meant to be from your very beginning.

It’s not about your favorite color or school subject. We’re talking big stuff.

Knowing yourself is beyond figuring out your favorite color or your favorite subject in school or your favorite music album. We are no longer in high school — thank heavens – where being “yourself” meant mimicking everyone else, acting stupid in the collective and defying rules, and feeling insecure all day long while doing it!

Knowing yourself is the process of understanding you – the human being – on deeper levels than the surface. It is an unpredictable road that you must bewillingto explore. It brings you face-to-face with your deep self-doubts and insecurities. It makes you take a serious look at the way you are living your life and put it to question.

The whole thing can suck for a little while but then it gets better, and like anything else, a little hard work at the start pays dividends in abundance for the rest of your life.

Knowing yourself means respecting your values in life, your beliefs, your personality, your priorities, your moods, your habits, your magnificent body, and your relationships.

Knowing yourself means understanding your strengths and weaknesses, your passions and fears, your desires and dreams. It means being aware of your eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, your likes and dislikes, and your tolerances and limitations.

Knowing yourself means knowing your purpose in life. Or coming really darn close to finding it out!

You’re not born knowing yourself. Get over it.

You do not get to know yourself simply by growing up and growing old. Knowing yourself is a conscious effort; you do it with intention and purpose.

Not knowing yourself becomes obvious sooner or later. A quiet frustration lives in your heart when you do not know yourself. You may choose to live with it and ignore it – or you may choose to start getting to know yourself.

How to Get to Know Yourself in 5 Fool-Proof Steps:

1. Get to Know Your Personality

Understanding your own personality is the first key. You have the collective opinion of others which is one aspect.

You also have your own database of information about what your personality is really like, and who you are in your private moments as well as in your public ones.

The idea is to get to know your personality inside out, to know what you are and what you are not like. Understand what makes you react a certain way in life’s myriad of situations. Ask yourself “Why did I do that?” and answer it.

Who are you behind your name? What are your characteristic traits? Who are you among friends? What about strangers? What persona do you portray to the outside world?

What are you really like on a good day as well as a bad day, in face of a challenge or a great reward? How do you react to the world around you?

2. Get to Know Your Core Values

Your core values are the morale codes and the principles you hold near and dear to your heart. When I work with my clients, one of the first things I ask prior to our coaching sessions is a list of their top eight core values.

You probably have more than eight values, but the top eight play the big roles in decision-making, influencing, persuading, conflict-resolution, communication, and living your day-to-day life.

In your work, in your home, in all aspects of your life, which values can you never compromise? Those are your core values.

Is it honesty, integrity, security or flexibility? Is it dedication to others, wisdom and learning, financial comfort or fun? Do you value loyalty above excellence, responsibility above ambition, or innovation above improvement?

3. Get to Know Your Body

Youth is such foolishness. In my 20s, I used to think I know my body. I was but a child. The more I learn about my body, the more mysterious it becomes and the more I push my body, the more it surprises and delights and amazes me. Yours can too.

How well do you know your body, your breathing, your abilities, your limits of balance and flexibility?

Have you ever said “my body can’t do this” and that “my body type won’t do that” without even trying a physical challenge? Before you close the door to wonderful possibilities, take another look. Take the time to become truly intimate with the loveliest temple on earth, your own body.

4. Get to Know your Dreams

Your dreams and hopes create the pathway into your future. They help you build the life you can be proud of living.

Your dreams matter. Your dreams are important. Your dreams are worth going after. Don’t believe anything less.

And start getting to know your dreams well. Get to know the details and the specifics.

If you want to become a musician, ask yourself: What instrument do you want to play? What level of proficiency do you want to learn? How big a part of your life would it be? And on and on until you know everything about your dream.

Make your dreams part of your daily pursuits. Take them seriously. Work at them. Glorify them instead of hiding them and being ashamed of them.

5. Get to Know your Likes and Dislikes

What do you like and just as important, what do you dislike? Simple, innocent question but knowing this about yourself gives you a lot of confidence into who you are. A lot of people go through life liking what’s popular and disliking what’s not “cool”. Don’t do that.

Take the time to define your likes and dislikes, and don’t put it up for a vote among family and friends. You decide.

Defining your own likes and especially dislikes takes guts. It maybe impolite to dislike attending yet another baby shower or spending 3 hours with extended relatives, but look at the alternative. If you keep doing frustrates you and neglect what brings you joy, you give up part of who you are. It’s the least likely path to any happiness whatsoever.

Stay true to your likes and dislikes. Nobody has to like them but you!

Getting to know yourself allows you to tap into the well of happiness beyond your imagination. Bliss even on cloudy days.

Today’s inspiring article was written by Farnoosh Brook and is shared from the following website: http://www.prolificliving.com/the-greatest-discovery-of-all-getting-to-know-yourself/

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