Hope and Pain

Oh how I wish it were as simple as “just think happy, positive thoughts”! ūüôā Life would be so much sweeter if it were easy to turn one’s thoughts from negative, melancholy things to positive, hopeful things.

The more I read and learn about mental illness, the more I realize it is, unfortunately, not a simple or easy process to switch one’s thoughts.¬† Perhaps it is for some people.¬† And yet, I think that for the ones that it’s most easiest, those people do not seem to struggle with ceaseless thoughts.

Just a few minutes ago, I was looking at some sites I have bookmarked on my laptop.¬† One of the bookmarks was a search I did to see what Myers Briggs personality type Rich Mullins was.¬† The eighth site down on the list said, “What Myers-Briggs personality type do serial killers usually have?” (Google “picked” it up as a search result because Herbert Mullin, a serial killer from the 1970s, is in the list.)¬† So then, I looked to see what personality types this site claimed the killers had.¬† This led to a few other searches.¬† (Talk about depressing!)¬† Among other things, I discovered that one of the Columbine shooters (who took his own life as well as the lives of other innocent people) allegedly had depression and struggled with ceaseless thoughts.

All of this to say, many people who suffer with mental illnesses seem to struggle with racing thoughts and/or with incessant thinking.¬† And, as I mentioned, the more I learn about mental illness, the more I realize and see certain patterns.¬† Is there an answer for those of us who suffer and struggle?¬† I wish I knew.¬† I only hope and pray that in my deepest, darkest moments, I’m able to keep looking to Jesus.

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He is truly THE only way, and it’s actually comforting to me to note that He sweated drops of blood and wept and overturned the tables in the temple.¬† In other words, His life wasn’t all about “thinking happy thoughts.”

I’m not sure where to give credit for this image.¬† No copyright infringement is intended. I’m “simply happy” that Jesus is portrayed as having “down” times too.

 

Come Inside My Mind

As I sit here thinking about so many different things at the same time, I’m simultaneously smiling while dealing with a lump in my throat.¬† I just watched HBO’s 2018 documentary, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind.¬† (I found it somewhere online.)¬† It has quite a lot of sexual innuendos (and not so innuendos) and includes cussing that, as Pam Dawber alluded to in an interview with TV Guide, would have once been banned on Mork and Mindy.

I continually am amazed at how the human mind works.¬† Watching and learning more about Robin Williams and his life in a short two hour documentary only makes me even more amazed.¬† My mind led me to my blog after tweeting a Robin Williams quote just a few minutes ago.¬† And, I began looking at my blogroll on the sidebar.¬† I saw Marsha’s blog and wanted to see if she’d added anything in the last few years.¬† (She hasn’t.)¬† Her descriptions of grief are eerily similar to my own inner dealings with grief even though we have grieved for two totally different reasons and in two (mostly) totally different ways.

How is it that our minds are so very similar and yet so distinctly different?¬† Christians would say, “Well, it’s God, of course!”¬† And, as a believer, I’d agree.¬† Yet, there is still something compelling about our nature that goes beyond the inexplicable and yet simplistic answer that it all goes back to how we were created by God and in His image.

My own mind feels on the verge of something great… some kind of writing or other creation that would somehow connect all of the pieces together.¬† And yet, I feel it would be just another form of entertainment, not education or discovery.¬† So, I find myself backing away from it and not wanting to follow my dream or desire to create something significant.

Perhaps I am similar to how Robin Williams was and therefore do not “operate like normal people,” as Cheri Minns, a makeup and hair artist presumably from One Hour Photo., said of him.¬† (I relate to the other things that she said about him.)¬† I’m not trying to say that I could ever come close to the ingenuous comedian that Robin Williams was.¬† I do, however, see quite a few similarities in how I process thoughts and feelings.¬† I’ve never been addicted to drugs or alcohol, as he allegedly was for a time in his life.¬† However, I’ve dealt with other kinds of addiction.¬† And, there are other similarities that I sensed while watching the documentary but also from having seen and heard some of the other things said about him since his passing.

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So, as I ask in nearly every blogpost, what’s my point?¬† My point is that I think we’re all connected… probably in many more ways than most of us might care to admit.¬† We all desire to love and be loved, and ultimately, that’s really what makes the world go ’round.

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Faith Amidst Euroclydon

Swirling thoughts of uselessness, hopelessness, and despair encircle me to the point of near devastation and yet somehow I keep my head up or rather, I keep moving forward.

Recently, a friend of mine with a very similar personality to my own, texted something to me that made sense of my swirling thoughts and my seeming inability to formulate them in to words.¬† I usually keep those kinds of words/texts and dwell on them for days, weeks, months, sometimes even years.¬† However, I also occasionally tend to “clean out closets” in an attempt to not be a hoarder (even of words).¬† And, unfortunately, this apparently is one of those times.¬† Otherwise, I’d share with you the exact words this friend used.

As so many of my fellow Christians say, “I went to church on Sunday.”¬† I’m trying to change my vocabulary and say, “I went to a worship service on Sunday.”¬† I realize I’m being a bit “nit picky” and yet words and descriptions really do have an impact on how things are viewed.¬† The discussion regarding how to define the word “church” is better saved for another time.¬† My point to all of this is to tell of something I heard while at said aforementioned service that relates to my swirling thoughts and to what my friend said about me.

The pastor of this particular group of believers has been working through the book of Acts.¬† This past Sunday, he indicated that he’s never heard chapter 27¬†preached quite like he had at the Calvary Chapel 2017 International Senior Pastors & Wives Conference.¬† He shared the¬†video of Damian Kyle¬†teaching/preaching.¬† The following is part of what struck me as significant.

Acts 27:20 says this in the second part of the verse,

…all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.

This comes after they faced Euroclydon in verse 14.  Euroclydon is described as:

  • a tempestuous head wind
  • a wind of hurricane force
  • a violent wind
  • a wind of typhoon strength
  • a gale-force wind

It was seen as an infamous northeastern storm, not unlike the winter storm that recently hit the northeastern part of the United States.¬† Damian Kyle explained that he feels this particular story of a shipwreck was included to show us that even when all hope is lost, God is still there.¬† He went on to share the famous Footprints in the Sand poem.¬† I remember truly loving that poem as a child/adolescent and yet now I somehow feel as though it is over-used.¬† But, my mind is wandering again.¬† Back to what I considered ‘significant.’

I suppose one must realize that part of the significance comes from what the pastor did/said after the video of Damian Kyle was finished.¬† The pastor asked for people around the room/auditorium/sanctuary to stand if they’d been through a Euroclydon-type storm and come out “victorious” on the other side.¬† I remember feeling like I could perhaps half-way stand, and yet… I still so much feel like I’m in the middle of a Euroclydon because of my swirling thoughts that I’ve already mentioned… (numerous times, if you follow my blog at all).¬† After he had people stand as a “testimony to God’s faithfulness,” he then asked for people to stand who felt as though they were in the midst of a Euroclydon.¬† I stood, but then I immediately started crying and could not stay on my feet.¬† My younger daughter was with me, and she held out her hand to mine.¬† A man I’ve never seen before or since came and placed his hand on my shoulder or arm and asked if I was okay.¬† I nodded my head amidst my sobs.¬† (What else could I do or say?)

Why am I sharing this with any of you? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know except to say that somehow, not by my own choosing, God has given me a faith in Him that cannot be explained.¬† It is this faith that keeps my head above the waters, or as I stated earlier, keeps me moving forward.

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Satirical Saturday or my poor attempt at inaccurate alliteration

I’ve not blogged in a while… not because I’ve not wanted or needed to, but because I’m afraid of what people will think. Within recent months, I’ve told people (who I actually know) about my blog. And, that’s what has me frightened. I’m afraid I’ll divulge something that heretofore has been somewhat private. I’m afraid of being judged. (I know how people are… myself included. Why are we that way?)

Life is a complicated thing. Daily, all of us are learning how to maneuver and manage in this world… whether we realize it or not. Our world is changing fast. We don’t see it because of the intense speed with which it is changing.

I no longer feel like I’m able to accurately articulate my true feelings and thoughts about things. It’s like my own little corner of the world is spinning around and around and around with no end in sight, and I’m scrambling to try and figure out how to hold on or jump off. With my propensity to over-think things (EVERYthing), this spinning wheel may eventually crash. That being said, I truly am glad that I have a personal relationship with the One who holds it all together. Knowing that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. As James says, I’m verrrry slowly learning to “count it all joy when [I] fall into various trials.”

This song is not really related… or is it?

p.s. I have a different place to live. See my previous post if you don’t understand.

Praying for Open Hands

I am hesitant to ask for prayer mainly because my problems seem relatively minor compared to most.  However, I am extremely stressed and overwhelmed.  Things at work have changed supposedly for the better, and yet things are different.  (And even though, in this case, different and better are good; they are still stressful.)  The place where I live is being placed on the market to be sold.  Searching for another place is difficult at best (especially considering my very limited income).  The wonderful people who are a part of my local church and small group are so loving and kind, and yet I still so very often feel alone.  Considering the lilies of the field and the birds of the air (and how God provides for them) is great until my feet have to hit the pavement.  Trusting the Lord, completely, has been and continues to be one of the most difficult things. I am not even sure what to ask you to pray for, but thank you to whomever does pray.

This song by Laura Story featuring Mac Powell from Third Day is one of many that comes to mind:

“Mrs. Positive” vs. the Ex-Wife

So, my ex is married to “Ms. Positive of the Universe,” and I find myself wallowing in self-pity. ¬†Obviously, something is not right. ¬†Even to admit this publicly could bring shame upon myself. ¬†However, I need to get over it. ¬†(I’m sure “Ms. Positive” would agree with me. ¬†Oh wait… I should label her properly. ¬†It’s not “Ms.” but “Mrs.” ¬†Only those of us who are divorced and not remarried have the honour and privilege of the “Ms.” title. ūüôā )

Do I have a point to this? ¬†Probably not…¬†except to say that I’m attempting to let off some steam. ¬†I struggle with seeing how she claims to be the number one fan of her daughters and includes my two daughters in the (literal) picture (along with her three daughters). ¬†I know I need to probably ‘address’ this issue with her, but I really do not know how to breach the subject. ¬†Will I be banned from WordPress for writing about it here? ¬†I highly doubt it. ¬†Will she ever see this? ¬†Probably not… unless someone who knows her (and me) points it out to her. Will I be upset if she sees it? ¬†Probably. ¬†Will she be? ¬†I don’t know. ¬†It’s possible. ¬†But, will we all get over it? ¬†Will it one day “pass,” like many people keep telling me, “This too shall pass”? ¬†I sure hope so! ¬†Maybe by me writing about it I’ll somehow feel better. ¬†I don’t know.

The longer I live, I’m finding that there are many things that I¬†do not know. And, there are many things for which I have no answers. ¬†To simply say that Jesus is THE answer sounds great! ¬†I’ve been waiting a long time (and reading a lot of Scripture and excerpts from books written by dead theologians) to try and figure out how that applies to real life.

Redeem the Time

When and how do we know to move from the time of rest to the time of action?  I posed this question in my previous post.

And then today, I read Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s morning devotion which would seem to indicate we are called to action NOW… not some time down the road in the future.

Do it promptly; do not fritter away your life in thinking of what you intend to do to-morrow as if that could recompense for the idleness of to-day.

So, if it’s now, how does that truly play out in actual life? ¬†We (and by saying ‘we’, I suppose I’m referring to most, if not all, humans) are consumed with ourselves. ¬†We think we have got to have the latest, greatest. ¬†Or, we think that just because there’s a sale on something, then we ought to get it … in case it would be of some use ‘down the road.’ ¬†But, what about now? ¬†We’re really only given “right now.” ¬†We aren’t promised the future. ¬†Look at the recent tragedy in Chattanooga. ¬†The six children (ages 6 to 10) do not have a future here on earth. ¬†Neither they nor their family ever expected that their lives here on earth would be cut so short. ¬†So, how do we “redeem the time”?

I certainly don’t claim to have the answers. ¬†However, I believe the Bible holds THE answer, which is Jesus Christ. ¬†That is so simplistic, and yet that is somewhat the point. ¬†The gospel… that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin… IS very simple. ¬†So simple, that many do not accept it.

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We (myself included) must learn to trust … no matter what. ¬†Also, we must continue ¬†on the road¬†in front of¬†us and not grow weary. ¬† (See Proverbs 3:5-6, Hebrews 12:1-2, Galatians 6:9-10, Philippians 3:13-14, Isaiah 40:31.)

Digressing and Trusting

I digress. ¬†My post from earlier this week¬†didn’t make much sense. ¬†But, that’s okay. ¬†I realize that I never really explained why I felt like I wanted to argue with Beth Moore. ¬†And, after re-reading her devotion for October 24, I realize that I’m not even sure about what it was that I thought I wanted to argue. ¬†So, I start telling myself how silly and useless I am… when deep down, I know that I’m not useless. ¬†(Perhaps I am silly but not useless.)

My ongoing depression seems to keep me in a near constant state of second guessing myself. ¬†That’s just the thing that the devil wants me to be doing… focusing on myself and not on Jesus and not on honorable, right, and lovely things (Philippians 4:8). ¬†Thing is, I tend to take all that I’ve ever read (specifically from the Bible) and ‘latched onto’ as things I need to do all at the same time. ¬†When very often, God would have me simply rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

When and how do we know to move from the time of rest to the time of action? ¬†Paul’s writings seem full of action… especially in Philippians where we’re told to rejoice in the Lord always, pray about everything, do all things through Christ, press on to the goal, look out for the interests of others, don’t grumble or dispute, and on and on. ¬†And yet, in some ways, he sums it all up in the first chapter when he says, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (See Philippians 1:21.) ¬†It would seem that the “how” of moving from rest to action is to continually focus on Christ. ¬†And, to continually focus on Christ would indicate that it must be done every moment of every day.

Some would say that it’s impossible to do anything every moment of every day, and yet we breathe every moment of every day. ¬†Is breathing¬†something with which¬†we struggle? ¬†(Those with a lower lung capacity or some other type of respiratory problem do, but I’m talking about the average person.) ¬†No, of course not. ¬†However, we seem to struggle with breathing Jesus in and out. ¬†(I’m ‘preaching’ to myself… as much as anyone else.) ¬†“Consider the lilies” comes to mind. ¬†(See Matthew 6:28-29 and Luke 12:27.) If only we would trust. ¬†As Oswald Chambers said in My Utmost For His Highest for October 27, the “secret of joy is that you have the right relationship with [Jesus].”

Perhaps ‘resting’ and ‘acting’, as I’ve coined them, can be simultaneous as we press on to the goal. ¬†(See Philippians 3:13-14.)

Belief and Faith – Opening a Can of Worms

I may be splitting hairs and opening a can of worms by writing about this; but after reading Beth Moore’s Believing God Day by Day¬†“devotion” for October 24, I found myself wanting to argue with her. ¬†(You should be able to read her words¬†by clicking here.)

I immediately thought of what the Bible says in James 2:19

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

But, as I looked more closely at the verse and the ones surrounding it, I thought of how often we may take it (as well as countless over verses) out of context.  The context of James 2:19 is the discussion of faith without works.

So, when any of us uses the words faith and belief interchangeably,¬†perhaps we are simply (as if “simply” could accurately describe anything about following Christ) trying to find one word to describe our devotion to God. ¬†Even as I type this, I have so many thoughts surrounding the words: belief, faith, devotion, walk with Christ, follower of Christ, total surrender to Christ, etc. ¬†(Even my use of the word “simply” brought up thoughts of the following verses because of how simplistic (i.e. childlike) belief (there’s that word again) in Jesus is.)

Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus said, ‚ÄúI praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.‚ÄĚ

and Matthew 18:3

and [Jesus] said, ‚ÄúTruly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.‚ÄĚ

And with that, I invite¬†you (and myself) to read (in my case, re-read) what Oswald Chambers wrote for the October 10 “devotion” in My Utmost for His Highest. ¬†(You can see the updated edition¬†by clicking here; or if you prefer, the classic edition by clicking here.) ¬†May our “arguing” with fellow believers challenge us to seek Christ more and obey Him without question.

Scripture quotations are from the NASB.

 

Seeking success through Clarity or Trust?

Those of you who know me and/or have read my blog in the past know that I struggle with on-going depression. ¬†For the majority of my adult life (since I was 21 or 22 years old), I’ve struggled with it. ¬† I’ve taken meds. ¬†I’ve seen doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists (and yes, there is a difference between the¬†last¬†two). ¬†I’ve been hospitalized as an inpatient and as an outpatient. ¬†I’ve gone to several therapists and counselors, stringing out over several years. ¬†I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I will most likely struggle with depression in some way for the rest of my life. ¬†Does this mean I’ve given up hope? ¬†No. ¬†It means that I’ve accepted it and am learning how to live and cope with it.

So as one might imagine, when I see things like this video1 which basically say that it’s a matter of my outlook on life, I struggle again. ¬†I wonder to myself, “Is it as ‘simple’ as he says?” I’d never heard of Tony Robbins (a motivational speaker) before seeing this video a few days ago posted on a Facebook friend’s wall. ¬†Based on my new-found knowledge of Tony, I asked myself, “Just because he’s apparently a successful businessman, does that make him an expert?” ¬†Somehow, I think not. ¬†(No offense, Tony, if you happen to ever read this.) ¬†Granted, I don’t think he meant for this to be a cure-all for people who have been diagnosed with depression. ¬†But, he does mention that he no longer gets depressed because he changed his habits. ¬†He says he used to be depressed all the time. ¬†He changed his way of thinking. ¬†He mentions doing it for something greater than yourself. ¬†(Prior to hearing who he mentions, I immediately thought of the Lord.)

Additionally, I recently saw this motivational video2 by Steve Harvey. ¬†(Many know him from Family Feud. ¬†He also has a national radio program and has been successful in other ways.) ¬†There’s another version of the video that shows him on the set of Family Feud, sharing something with the studio audience. ¬†Basically, he claims that in order to be successful, you have to jump. ¬†You have to take a risk. ¬†I agree. ¬†Risks have to be taken. ¬†I ask myself this, “How can¬†(if indeed it can) ‘jumping’ help me overcome depression?”

But it’s not just these two videos or even the articles and video that I mentioned¬†on Friday that have me thinking. ¬†My own pastor has been talking about “Decisions” this year. ¬†Our biggest decision that I believe any of us will ever make is the decision to follow Christ. ¬†Outside of that, the decision to continue following Him often leads many believers to Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on¬†your own understanding. ¬†In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” ¬†My pastor puts emphasis on the first use of the word “all.” ¬†If we truly want success in life, we need to strive to trust God with ALL of our heart… not just part of it.

Today, the pastor took it a step further. ¬†He said when we seek direction from the Lord, “a lack of clarity is a wonderful thing.” ¬†That may not make any sense whatsoever, if we’re seeking direction. ¬†But, let me tell you how he explained it. ¬†He¬†read¬†a story from Brennan Manning’s book, Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God. ¬†(I did a little bit of research, and it seems to be a story that’s been told several times.) ¬†John Kavanaugh, a Jesuit priest,¬†travelled to India from the United States to visit Mother Teresa and asked her to pray for him to have clarity. ¬†Here is how she replied…

She said firmly, ‚ÄúNo, I will not do that.‚ÄĚ ¬† ¬†When he asked her why, she said, ‚ÄúClarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.‚ÄĚ ¬†When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, ‚ÄúI have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. ¬†So I will pray that you trust God.‚ÄĚ

My pastor went on to share three things that a lack of clarity will create for us: ¬†1) intimacy with God, 2) leaps in our faith, 3)paralysis (meaning we have to stop and rest… as Psalm 46:10a says, “Cease striving and know that I am God;” or in another translation, “Be still, and know that I am God”). ¬† I guess all of this¬†particularly ‘hit home’ with me because I’ve been telling God I trust Him, but I have also been praying for clarity… using that specific word in a prayer I voiced just within the past 24 hours¬†before I went to church services this morning.

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It’s almost as if we’re waiting for something to come into focus (clarity). ¬†And, until we put on the proper lenses (completely trust), we will continue to fret, worry, and wander around aimlessly.

(back)1How to Pull Yourself Out of a Funk, Tony Robbins, 31 Dec. 2015.
(back)2You Gotta Jump, Steve Harvey, 14 Apr. 2014.