Sunday, April 7, 2013

What Are You Living For?

It absolutely never ceases to amaze me how God's timing fits so perfectly with the messages at church and what God is doing in my heart. Perhaps part of it is that I've been spending more time in God's Word and prayer and am just a little more in tune to the Holy Spirit and what He is trying to tell me. Regardless of why - I am in awe today and so very grateful for the message at church this morning. I felt, as I often do, as though Pastor Marty was speaking directly to me... I wondered what everyone else was doing there because it was SO obvious God was speaking to me. (The really cool thing is that I KNOW that He was speaking to all of us - it's just so cool when it feels so personal! God is cool like that!)

Our Pastor had Googled the question "What Are You Living For?" and came up with a list of answers people gave - one of them was something to the affect of, "I don't know - I didn't ask to be born, why don't you ask the One who put me here." That's really a good answer - God is the One who put us each here - so let's ask Him. He made a really good point also that struck deep in my heart - the answer should be MORE than with mere words - it should be with YOUR LIFE. What you are living for should be evident by how you live.

We began this series this morning and the first "point" is:

"I am living to extend grace to those who are difficult."

I'm not going to outline the whole sermon here but one of his points was from Ephesians 4:1:"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called..."

He talked about how we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing: Ephesians 1:3: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places..."so we should extend that to others... He made the points but didn't give references for all of them - what a great time I had looking through Ephesians for the verses to back up each of these Truths from God's Word!!

  • I have been made holy (Eph. 1:4: "even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.")
  • I am God's child (Eph. 1:5: "he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will")
  • I have been forgiven (Eph. 1:7: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace")
  • I am under His leadership (Eph. 1:19-23: "and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.")
  • I am sealed with His Spirit (Eph. 1:13: "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit")
  • I have access to God's power (Eph. 1:19: "and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,according to the working of his great might.")
  • I have been made spiritually alive (Eph. 2:1-5: "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind  But God, being rich in mercy,because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved")
  • I am God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Our Pastor then talked about how this looks and one of those things was gentle... he quoted Charles Swindoll who said:
"In our rough and rugged individualism, we think of gentleness as weakness,
being soft and virtually spineless. Not so! Gentleness includes such enviable
qualities as having strength under control, being calm and peaceful when
surrounded by a heated atmosphere, emitting a soothing effect on those
who may be angry or otherwise beside themselves, and possessing tact
and gracious courtesy that causes others to retain their self esteem and
dignity. Instead of losing, the gentle gain. Instead of being ripped off
and taken advantage of, they come out ahead!" ~ Charles Swindoll

Working in a warehouse full of guys and dealing with mostly male truck drivers, I have for a really long time tried to put up this TOUGH front - I thought I needed to be tough to be respected and not walked on. And, there are plenty of times things get heated and people get upset or angry.. not ALL the time by any means, but it does happen.

Now here is where it gets a little freaky... In a March 23rd post, following the Mandisa and Brandon Heath concert I penned these words:

"God reminded me that He is calling me to be His witness where
I am TODAY. I see truck drivers come in and out of the warehouse
every day and I admit - they look like blue mountains to me -
just a haze - they all look the same. But, if I took the time to just take a moment
to look closer I would see they are brown and green just like me -
they are people that have stories - a life - they may have a family,
they may be alone, they may be hurting, they may be broken...
I don't, and won't, often know anything deeper in these people's lives - 
but they come into my life for a few moments and I would be remiss
to not take the opportunity God gives me every day to
show them His kindness, grace, and mercy.

 I wrote that TWO WEEKS AGO and today's message was about showing grace to difficult people - Hmm.... "God? Are You trying to tell me something?"

Even just this last week, I was reading about one friend just returning from Haiti, another friend getting ready to go to Haiti, received an e-mail from a friend serving as a missionary in the Dominican Republic and again started wondering if God wanted ME to GO somewhere. Every time I wonder this, think about it, pray about it, I always here God speak to my heart that He wants to use me "WHERE I AM" I don't know what the future holds - but I know that RIGHT NOW, TODAY - God wants me to extend His grace, love, kindness, and mercy to every person I come in contact with WHERE I AM!

Pastor Marty concluded with a question, "If you wake up every day with the goal to extend grace to those who are difficult, how different would your life be?" Wow. Ouch. Yeah. My goal every day should be to extend the grace that God has SO richly poured out on me to others. THAT is what God is telling me today about what I should be living for.

Seeking to show His grace by my words and my life,


Coming Out of the Closet (sort of speak) - ~REPOST~

I've seen so much of an outpouring of love, support and prayer for Pastor Rick Warren and his family on social media sites after his son's tragic suicide over the weekend. I am grateful so many people are praying and supporting his family at this tragic time. However it got me to thinking - there are so many "invisible" people out there. I found these statistics in a quick Google search:

* The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that globally there are at least 20 suicide attempts for every success, meaning that there are least 20m, yes, 20million, attempted suicides every year - and rising.
* Almost 32,000 people commit suicide annually in the United States.
* Suicide ranks #11 as a cause of death in the U.S. (Homicide, by comparison, is #14). More people kill themselves than kill each other.
*The suicide rate for all ages combined is 10.7 per 100,000 people.
* Suicide, on average, claims the life of one person every 18 minutes.
* Men complete suicide 4.1 times more often than women. But women attempt suicide three times more often than men.
* In the U.S., there are an estimated 730,000 suicide attempts each year.
* The suicide rate among young people has tripled since the 1950s. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among teenagers.
* Suicide is not an inheritable trait. However, the risk of suicide may be higher for family members.

I plead with you - if you, or someone you know suffers with depression/mental illness/suicidal thoughts - SEEK HELP.

~ You are NOT alone even though it may feel like you are completely alone.
~ You have people who CARE ABOUT YOU even though you may not feel like it.
~ You are DEEPLY LOVED even though you may not feel like it.

Please, reach out to someone around you or call this hotline

I've been there - there is help available and there is HOPE when everything feels hopeless.

I am reposting this blog from October of last year because the message is worth repeating...

Why is it in our society that admitting to having depression, anxiety, eating disorder - or any such mental health issue - seems a bit like coming out of the closet? According to the World Health Association: "Depression affects more than 350 million people of all ages, in all communities, and is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease. Although there are known effective treatments for depression, access to treatment is a problem in most countries and in some countries fewer than 10% of those who need it receive such treatment."  I read this statistic and wondered why people don't receive the treatment they need. I honestly believe that one reason is that people hide. There is a certain stigma that our society attaches to these such problems. If someone has cancer or heart disease they don't hide it, they tell people, they ask for help, they aren't blamed or seen as weak or as less of a person or a bad Christian because of their illness.

Today marks the end of Mental Health Awareness Week. I didn't even know it was this week until Thursday. I haven't exactly hidden my struggles. I have been fairly open. But, I have never come right out and said it -
 I suffer with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. 

I've opened up to some people about it and in some cases received great support. In other cases I received strange looks and comments such as, "You just need more Jesus." or "You just need to CHOOSE to have a different attitude." Now, I am first and foremost a Christian. I believe in the power of prayer and I believe that God can heal. But, just take a quick read in the book of Psalms. If David were alive today he would probably be diagnosed with clinical depression. He dealt with a lot of emotions. Psalm 55: 2 "hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught." Psalm 8:1 "Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble." Psalm 13:1-2 "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide  your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?" Yes, it is David who said these things - David who was also called a man after God's own heart. A great book that I would HIGHLY recommend reading is The Cry of the Soul: How Our Emotions Reveal Our Deepest Questions About God by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman

It being Mental Health Awareness Week in addition to a very disturbing article on yesterday are what led me to write this post.  The link to the article is here: The young lady in this article dealt with bullying, which is another issue, but often, as in this case led to major anxiety, depression and panic disorder. She left a chilling youtube video and her body was later found - she committed suicide.

All of this has got me to thinking. I'm doing fairly well right now. I am seeing a counselor and take medication as needed. But it bothers me that I have been somewhat "forced" into hiding because of societal stigmas and some thoughtless reactions from well-meaning people. I want to "come out" because I think it is essential that others know if they are suffering they do not need to suffer in silence. I want anyone reading this to know that you are not alone... I am here. If you don't want to talk to me, that's fine, but talk to someone. I want you to know that you don't have to suffer in silence. Please don't wait until it's too late. Don't stuff those feelings inside and keep them to yourself. First and foremost reach out to God - He is ALWAYS there. But, don't be afraid to reach out to your friends. "Come out of the closet" with me - be bold, be brave. It is not a sign of weakness to get counseling. There are a lot of great counseling services out there. Don't allow the stigma that society puts on mental health issues keep you from getting help. It doesn't mean you are weak, it doesn't make you less of a person, it doesn't make you a bad Christian, IT IS OK to NOT be OK!