True freedom from depression minus the lies…

20140813-094803.jpg

It’s easy to judge those who have contemplated suicide from a pious standpoint. But I’ll be the first to admit, there were times in my past that I no longer wanted to live. Now please hear me when I say that was long ago and God has brought me far…far from that place. But anytime I hear of a suicide I am reminded of the suffocating emotional bondage depression brings. It knows no boundaries. No limits. And no one is immune.

Maybe that’s why the “Genie you are free” tweet after Robin Williams death bothered me so. Because I know what freedom from depression looks like, and it does not look like death. In reality, there is only one death that ever brought freedom to anyone and that was the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

And maybe you struggle with depression too. And maybe you are a Christian too. And maybe you believe as I do that when you die you will go to heaven and spend eternity with your Savior. So maybe you are wondering if the way out of this depression, these rotten lies in your mind, is to rush the process and head home eternally. Oh but sister, the process is not and never will be our process to rush.

The gift of depression is not the choice to end your life. The gift of depression is to choose life through the worst of it all knowing that there will be freedom on the other side: not just in heaven, but on earth.

Had I not experienced the lowest of lows I could not see the depths from which I have been pulled. Pulled back into life not by escaping my pain but rather being pushed through it by forces I cannot describe. He can give us a new reality where we see the lies of depression for what they really are and the joy of salvation for what it really is, all surpassing truth.

So what I’m not doing is condemning those who have pondered death. I myself would have done nearly anything to escape past mental bondage. But freedom from depression was not mine to give by taking my life or trying to escape in countless other ways. It was and remains the Lord’s job to set me free. It didn’t happen on my timeline. And may not happen on yours. But please do not rob yourself of His freedom promise in life for what you think will be freedom in death. The Lord gives and He takes and despite our desperate attempts to control it all, we must submit to the truth that He knows better, cares better, and loves better…and you will live better…He promises…when you wait on and in Him.

If you are struggling with depression or suicide please ask for help…from someone…anyone…you do not have to struggle alone. And if you know someone who you think is suicidal, ask them about it and offer to help them find help. Most people who have survived suicide admit they would not have gone through with their attempt if someone would have just asked them about it or even took the time to talk to them. You may not know what to say, but it doesn’t matter, just speaking to someone and showing you care instills hope and life.

Can a child with cognitive disabilities ever really “get” The Gospel?

I’ve done research on the topic. Can kids with cognitive disabilities ever really grasp the truth of The Gospel. Can a child who struggles with abstract thinking or understanding a passage of text really understand and process the truth and freedom offered in God’s Word? Can scripture speak to a heart and a mind that might not fully receive anything else? Does God make a way to perceive His truth?

I’ve read and heard thoughts on this topic, but nothing has spoken clearer to me than God’s Word in Matthew 13:16-17…

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it. ”

The truth is, even the smartest people can completely miss the message of the Gospel. They may hear the message and roll it around in their heads, they may see it, but never really see. Why? Because until God and God alone opens our ears, eyes, and minds to His truth – it’s not really going to sink in.

He’s sovereign over everything. He knows who will accept His truth before it’s ever offered to them. He softens hearts and hardens them. He makes the confused to understand and those who understand confused. He’s the giver of life and stands over all understanding.

I may not get the theology behind it. I didn’t go to seminary and don’t pretend I did, but I do know a few things.

If God is sovereign…there’s no power in hell that can prevent my child or any other person from “getting” The Gospel. So really, the most productive thing for me to do is make sure I am readily scattering “seed” for my child’s soil and praying to The Lord that He opens my child’s heart to receive the only One who can water it and make it grow.

Ultimately it’s all up to Him. And because He hears my prayers and loves my child even more than I do, I choose to trust his eyes and ears have already been opened. And no cognitive delay or damage in his genetic makeup could ever trump God’s sovereignty.

Matthew 13:12 says, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

Teaching our children to listen and giving them someone good to listen to becomes key. I cannot control if they will hear or not but I can certainly offer opportunities for them to hear.

So if I were to wrap this all up with a bow, I guess I would say don’t limit God by thinking your child has limits on his or her understanding. Because He can blow the limits off of our expectations. In His timing, He’s got it all taken care of. So keep offering those opportunities. And keep praying for open eyes, and ears, and hearts. Because God has ways beyond our understanding and He specializes in working with a troubled mind.

Visiting from SDG?!?!

blog picHi friends visiting from Soli Deo Gloria! I am so excited to meet you! The post I wrote for Jen’s blog today was a tough one, no doubt. And maybe you are visiting today because you experienced something similar…

If that’s you, I have a few things to share…

1. I am so sorry. If no one has ever told you that, they have now. What happened to you was awful.

2. It doesn’t define you. What happened to you is one life experience of many. It is not, does not, and need not confine or define who you are or what you will become.

3. Guilt and shame can take a while to go away. And you may not believe that God loves you, forgives you, and cares about you. Keep praying for Him to remove false guilt and shame and for him to help you overcome your unbelief (Mark 9:24) UNTIL it happens!!! Do not give up!

4. Make everything you do for the Glory of God. It’s all about Him. Move out of the pain of your past – why? – for His glory. He will be glorified in you, and yes, eventually even glorified in the story of what happened to you. His glory in your life is far more powerful than any person or sin – and no one can take that away.

Love and Hugs!!!! Stephanie

Can’t I set her free too?

20140608-162850.jpg

I know the feeling too well. Social struggles. She had a hard time walking into the party. I know enough to push her through the anxiety. But it’s difficult to watch. Girls she knows and loves. Girls that love her. But it doesn’t stop the internal garbage.

What if they don’t like me? Do they think I’m weird? Do my clothes look funny?

She would do anything to fit in and I would do anything to rip that garbage right out of her brain and put it where it belongs.

But I can’t.

Jesus, haven’t we fought this battle? Isn’t my freedom enough for her? Can’t the arms that set me free reach down and pull the chains from her as well? Can’t I fight this battle for her?

I’ve hashed through my feelings this weekend.

What did I do wrong? How can I help her grasp freedom?

It frustrates me that I may be doing all I can do. Taking her to church. Teaching her God’s Word and the power of scripture. I’m tempted to put her in every activity I can get my hands on. Maybe they will boost her confidence – give her a sense of belonging – and yet I know any sense of belonging or worth outside of Jesus will fail her, eventually.

And I wonder if Jesus doesn’t feel the same when He looks at me.

Haven’t I fought this battle for her? Victory over sin – It is finished. It is enough! Why can’t she choose to trust me? I tell her not to worry, but she does anyway…

And He could rip the garbage out of my mind in a second but He chooses not to. Instead He lets me learn and choose the Truth so it might be my own. Truth given specifically to me by a Savior who cares enough to let the working out of my salvation be a personal experience – a growth process – a relationship.

And so it will be with Lauren. Her battles must be fought within. I can be here, support, and guide, but ultimately she will choose that freedom for herself. And when she does it will be deeply personal for her. And although everything in me wishes I could just rush in and wrap it up in a bow for her, I know Jesus has a better way in mind. A way that will grow her relationship with Him.

And so I wait. And I pray. And I understand a tiny bit more about the way Jesus loves us than I did yesterday…

When He unearths a dream and brings you back to life…

20140602-195838.jpg

I want to be a writer and start a Christian counseling private practice. There, I said it. I keep waiting on God to blow the top off that dream, but it hasn’t happened yet. And I bet you have one too. A pet dream you keep waiting for God to bring into the light. You haven’t given up, but waiting gets awful at times.

But today, I was reminded of something. It seems while my eyes were focused on one dream, God has been busy blowing the top off of another.

It was a dream I held low and slow because I wasn’t certain it could happen. I have wondered, is He powerful enough, is He good enough to make this happen?

We have these dreams too. The ones we hesitate to ask God about. Maybe because they seem impossible.

Pipe dreams.

I had to look up the definition of pipe dream. I’ve heard it used, but didn’t know what it meant. The definition I found was that of a dream induced while smoking opium. Now I assure I haven’t been smoking anything, but I have had “pipe dreams”. Dreams that are such fantasy I seldom even pray about them. Dreams I am certain God could never be about fulfilling. One of such dreams is healing my son.

Now in so many ways I know he doesn’t need healing. He is who he is, awesome, because of the way his mind works. But most parents of a special needs child admit they would do anything for their child not to endure the hardships they face. There is beauty in trials, but if I could take them away from him, I would in a heartbeat. But the dreams I have for my son are pipe dreams at best…right?

Today I’m not so certain. It seems while I was busy focusing on other dreams, God has been busy blowing this buried dream out from under the dirt. Did He heal Ryan’s mind in a way that he thinks like any other child would think? No. And I wouldn’t want him to. Will Ryan continue to struggle? Yes. But today by showing me that Ryan can succeed at things I never thought were possible, like passing a state administered exam, well that’s enough to spark a fire under me. A spark to pray for more. To ask for more. To forget the term pipe dream and replace it with prayers and expectations for miracles from my miraculous God. The One who makes something’s out of nothing’s. The One who blows the top off dreams I forgot I had and teaches me to place others to the side until the timing is right.

And what about you? Have you looked around? Or are you busy focusing on a dream you want fulfilled so bad that you miss the dream He is fulfilling right in front of you? He blows the top off our dreams in ways we never expected. In timing we never expected. And in all dreams where He is glorified above all, He will far exceed our highest expectations.

The biggest idol you never knew you had ….

I stood in church asking God to examine my heart. What did I idolize? Money, power, fame, riches, fortune, stature? Nothing struck a cord. Surely I idolized something? But I walked away confused. I guess I wasn’t struggling with idolatry? But I felt an itchy spot between me and God. I just couldn’t figure out what it was. Until now….

You know how you go to the refrigerator or bathroom cabinet looking for something, you can’t find it, but then you do you realize it was right in front of you? Almost too close to see?

The biggest idol I struggle with is me, I was just too close to see it.

I don’t get on my knees and worship myself every morning. I doubt any of us do. But let me ask you a tough question….do you go to the Bible each day to learn about God? Or do you go to looking for answers about you?

It may seem obvious to others, but to me this question was kind of a shock to my system. I mean I know the Bible wasn’t written about me. I know am not the Good News. But I treat it that way. So often I go to the Bible to find the answers I want for me, with no intention or even thought about learning what I can about God. The One who the whole dang book IS about! He didn’t write it about me so that I could become the best me I could be.

Now this gets a little hairy – because learning about God does help me become a better me – but that cannot be my purpose in reading the Bible or living my life unless I desire to see myself as the center of the universe. My purpose for Bible study and for living in general must be this and only this – to glorify God and worship Him. Will I become a better me in the process? Certainly! But only as a byproduct of His glory. Certainly and never by my own rights and muddy, fault filled efforts.

So my Bible study is changing a bit. I go to His Word seeking what I can learn about Him. Not to twist and bend scriptures to fit what I want to apply to me. Because the Bible was not written about me. It’s about God. It’s about His glory. And learning this – shifting my perspective from a self centered to a God centered view of the gospel is slowly tearing down the biggest idol I never knew I had – myself.

How to keep the crazy from stealing your peace…

20140520-121037.jpg

Peace seems to get stolen right out from under me. I get up, have an awesome quiet time, and determine that today will be better. I will not get frustrated. I won’t let small things bother me. A patient mom, a loving wife, and a hard worker who does not complain will be the words that describe me. But then my daughter Lauren cries because her waffles aren’t warm enough, my husband spits his toothpaste right next to me which splatters my black shirt, and I spill coffee on my white pants at work. Peace robbing moments roll in one after another and before I know it I am a frantic frazzled mess just trying to survive.

The thing is I want peace. I really do. And I love Jesus. So I should have peace right? I mean Psalm 119:165 tells me, “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” But I stumble all the time. How can I find this great peace when life constantly tries to take it away from me?

I wish there was a simple answer. Like a peace pill we could just swallow in the morning and the day would be good. Troubles would roll in and roll out, but our peace would not be shaken. That would be nice, right? But this does not exist. The good news is that true peace, the kind of peace we want, is accessible. But we have to know what it is, who it is that gives it, how we get it, and how we keep it.

The word peace in Psalm 119:165 means wholeness and completeness, not the absence of turmoil like we might think it means. If you are like me, this comes as a surprise. I always thought peace was like stillness – an absence of movement, maybe even quiet and devoid of sound. But that’s not what peace is at all. The kind of peace the Bible speaks of is a peace that stands regardless of what happens in the environment. It’s a wholeness, a complete feeling, that comes only from knowing Jesus as the Lord of your life and choosing to love and obey His teaching.

So how does this kind of peace, wholeness, relate to what we thought peace was – stillness?

When we fill ourselves up completely with Jesus, when we choose to follow Him in ALL of our ways, we can have a certain stillness about us, a blessed assurance. There may be tears at the breakfast table over cold waffles, but because we choose to be filled with Jesus’ grace, love, kindness, and mercy – we recognize that our child’s tears are not a direct attack on our ability to be a mother – but rather the frustrated musings of a child who didn’t sleep well last night. The waffle tears no longer cause us to stumble and we move on reminding ourselves that maybe the kids need to get in bed a few minutes earlier tonight.

The wholeness-peace that comes from knowing the Lord allows things to happen throughout our day to be filtered through a better lens. A lens that leans heavily upon the body of the Lord’s teachings, His Word, and less upon our frazzled and messed up emotions. Peace will not fail us, it will not be snatched as often, when allow the Lord and what He would say and do to determine our reactions – even if our emotions do not agree. We can have peace. We can be whole. Even with our spattered shirt and coffee stained pants. They are just evidence that we live a very real, very full life with Jesus.

Because He held it on the cross…I can let it go…

20140506-220640.jpg

“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the lord laid on him the sins of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 NLT

Because I was raped, I sometimes carry the weight of another persons sin. I know it wasn’t my fault and I’m not responsible for his actions, but because he acted out sin on me, I carry pieces of it with me, for the good or for the bad, everywhere I go.

I struggled with and eventually came to forgive him. He didn’t ask for an apology, but that doesn’t matter. Sin rarely does, that is, ask for an apology. It just does it’s damage and moves on.

I guess that’s why I’m so thankful Jesus came. That he took all my sin AND the sins of others.

To me, that means He took on my screw ups so I could be forgiven, but He also took on the sins of those who hurt me. He understands what that person did to me. He understands the entirety of it – mindset, reasonings – because it was part of the sin that nailed Him to the cross.

I may never understand why that teenage boy hurt me the way he did. You may never understand why whomever hurt you in the way they did.

Senseless acts just don’t make sense.

But Jesus gets it.

Jesus held it on the cross, took it to the grave, and then He resurrected.

He fully understood, fully accepted, and then fully set us free from all bondage of sin – the sins we struggle with ourselves and the sins of others. And because of this, we can let it go. We can forgive. We can move on…knowing the fullness of justice was and is complete on the cross.

Either He rose, or He didn’t…what will you believe?

20140427-120903.jpg

“And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.” 1 Corinthians 15:19-22 NLT

I know trauma. I see it every day. I have felt it myself. Some come through it stronger. Others struggle to make sense of it. To make a way. And I can’t help but wonder why some find healing and others continue to flounder about broken and hurting? It seems so unfair.

But the conclusion I have come to is either Jesus rose or He didn’t. Either He conquered the grave or He lies in death. Either He broke the chains or He didn’t. Either He lives or He’s dead. And so it is with us. Whatever we believe…our life will follow suit. Either we have risen from bondage by the power of Jesus Christ or we haven’t. Either He has come into our hearts and minds and begun the lengthy process of healing us and bringing us into Him or we haven’t let Him.

As a counselor I believe in the power of counseling techniques, brain mapping, and altering the effects of trauma. But the inexcusable truth I cannot deny is that true healing cannot and will not be found without the power of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the grave.

You may he hurting. You may believe strongly in the power of Jesus and yet still lie amidst chains. I get that. I know that. I have been in the basement floor chained to the wall. But what I cannot deny is that He sat there chained with me until it was His ordained time to move. And when He moved He stepped up in a mighty way. And it was my choice to follow Him or stay. I chose to follow. And so can you. The freedom the world offers is shallow. Its gifts are empty. But God never fails. And He is most certainly, unquestionably able.

Wrote this post while listening to Aftermath from Hillsong. Follow this link to listen: http://youtu.be/Pe5635HOzIc

Grieve, morn, wail…is this Jesus?

james 4

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:8-10 NIV

Grieve, morn, and wail. Wait a second. I thought Jesus came that I might have life, and have it abundantly? What kind of life could this possibly be?

Verses like James 4:9 have a tendency to turn us off. We skip over them because A. - we don’t like them and B. - we don’t understand them. How can we possibly make sense of the Gospel when one minute It’s all sunflowers and daisies and the next minute It’s all gloom and doom?

A big misconception is the idea of a big fluffy candy giving Jesus in the sky, a prosperity gospel. It messes us up. Not all of us view Jesus in this extreme way, but if we are honest with ourselves, we all tend to fall in love with and heavily lean on the unconditional love and forgiveness of Jesus - and rightfully so. But while we are leaning into His amazing grace, we cannot forget the reason forgiveness was necessary – we did wrong – and a lot of it.

There had to be judgement of some sort of our foul and stench filled sin. So foul in fact, that it called for the murder of God’s only Son on a cross before God could even look at us again. In a world that speaks constant love peace and tolerance, we can’t forget the nastiness of sin. The only reason God is able to love us is because Jesus covered our sin, and never because our sin was tolerable. It’s not. It’s ugly. James 4:9 reminds us that sin should never, in no way, be tolerable in our lives, and it certainly should never bring us joy. Will we sin? Yes…but we must run to the Lord in grief and repentance. Only in doing this are we able to come under the forgiveness of Jesus in humility, and then comes James 4:10 – He will lift us up.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. But this abundant life is different from the world. And it should and will look different. We should not look like those around us who are emblazoned with phrases of complete and total acceptance of everything – why? – because everything is not okay! Sin is real, and it’s nasty, and when we do it, we should be sad and grieve. But the good news is, the pure amazing JOY of the Gospel is the defeat of the sin’s grave through the blood of Christ Jesus. So let there be no higher Name in our lives. He is Jesus, the Son of God.