Mar 31, 2011

Christians and Depression

There are numerous reasons for depression. I can't account for all of them. Do people suffer more from depression today than in the past or is just more widely talked about? I don't know. There's all sorts of forms of depression like spiritual depression, biological depression, event-triggered depression or a combination thereof.

What is a depressed Christian to do? I am going to offer some suggestions and perhaps a kernel of hope to those of you suffering from depression or for those of you with close friends and/or loved ones suffering.

1. Tell Somone (trustworthy). Many are ashamed of their depression and so they suffer and spiral down  in silence. Insecurity, self-loathing, and embarrassment keep them from going to other trustworthy people in the body of Christ, people who would gladly help bear their burdens. If you are suffering from depression, please do not let lies or shame keep you from confiding in another trustworthy person. Tell of your depression and confess your sins if need be so that you might start to be healed. There are plenty of people who want to walk alongside of you and pray for you. God is here. However depression often mutes your perceptions of his presence. One of the most tangible ways you will experience God's love, especially in this darkness, is through loving, trusthworthy, people in the body of Christ. If you are reading this and haven't told a soul, now is the time to speak--to someone trustworthy--to someone who won't brush you off or offer trite answers.

2. Take Thoughts Captive. This requires your constant effort and continued vigilance. You feel awful--like you're looking up at rock bottom. You cut your soul with the words you say to yourself. It's easy to cling to everything awful and untrue while in this state. It is harder to tell yourself the truth about God, yourself, and life because you don't feel the truth or because you don't believe it.

This is where you have to often go contra feeling. Your depressive feelings and thoughts become obsessive.  It has become easier to swallow lies than truth. However, you have to combat them with truth even if you don't believe the truth right now. For example, you might have thoughts and feelings such as, "No one cares about me. No once cares whether I live or die. God could care less about me." That is untrue. But you don't feel the truth only lies. Even so what you might do is start listing off the people that care about you. There must be at least one. And also, try to find verses in the Bible that speak of God's care and his love. The Psalms are wonderful. I think of excerpts from Psalm 145 (NIV):

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does. The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing."

And even if you don't feel thankful for anything, start listing off the things you have to be thankful for. Like a roof over your head and food. And if you don't have that you can be thankful that you are alive and for the computer that you have that enables you to read this. We all have blessings to count and things to be grateful for even if we aren't feeling particularly thankful.

Another thing you might think about is the fact that many in Scripture and throughout history either suffered from depression or had bouts of depression or dark nights of the soul where God seemed silent. Think of Elijah, David, Jonah, St. Paul, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, and Mother Teresa. This fact probably doesn't make you feel better but it helps to know that you're not alone.

Think magnificently about God and not evil of him for he is not evil and means to do you good. In him there is no darkness at all.

3. Exercise and Get Outside. This is a hard one because for some people the hardest thing to do on any day is to get out of bed. But whether inside or out walking/exercising will be good for your soul. It'll get the endorphins going. For some readers it may mean putting snowboots on and trekking out in front of the house on a blustery day for a few minutes. The act of getting up and getting outside even in the cold will shed a bit of relief on a numbed soul. If you can't do it alone could a friend or family member walk and/or exercise with you on a weekly basis?

4. Maintain a Routine. This is the hard part. You might want to sleep in or neglect your job/other duties...maybe your children. You just don't have the  motivation or the energy to care. If you choose to give into those feelings troubles begin to pile up and make you feel like you're drowning. Don't give up! It is time to go contra your energy and feelings again. Doing what you have to do even though you have no ounce of desire to do it will help maintain your soul's health. It is possible. You might need accountability partner and some help. Please tell someone if you do. A loving friend/family member can try to keep you accounable.

5. Counseling. Pastoral Care. Maybe you can't afford a counselor. Maybe you can. Many counselors or social workers have sliding fee scales to help. Some churches have counseling centers and may be able to help you if you're having trouble paying. Some offer free counseling. It is helpful to have someone to talk to. Alert the caring leadership/pastors of a church. If you don't go to a church, maybe you could ask around for a good church. Churches often have reputations you know, and so people in your area will know where to refer you. It is good for the godly leaders of a church to know of your situation so that they can rally around you and rally others around you.

6. Medication.  See a doctor and tell her/him of your situation. There might be some other medical cause for your depression. I realize that some churches/pastors teach that Christians shouldn't take medication for depression. That just isn't true. Some have biological issues/psychoses that necessitate medication. You and your doctor can discuss that. Obviously one shouldn't over medicate or use medication in lieu of dealing with their issues. But sometimes medication under a doctor's supervision is necessary. If you don't have medical insurance, search for a free clinic and/or let your church know. Thank God that we now have medications to help people that we didn't have a hundred years ago.

7.  Read. Read scripture and stories of saints and others who have overcome adversity and difficult circumstances to gain encouragement and hope. It can do you untold amounts of good.

8. Humor. Find people, read about, or seek healthy situations that make you laugh. It will be good for you.

9. Remember. All the times God has been good to you and delivered you in the past. That'll give you reason to believe that he will be good to you now and in the future. Recall those times as often as possible.

10. Prayer. Cry out to God as much as you are able and have others pray for you. God hears. God  hears. He does hear. And he cares deeply for you. God answers prayer.

* climbing out of depression is a process. There is no formula and it doesn't happen over night. Some people struggle throughout their lives...but it doesn't have to be something you go through alone or as awful as it is now. Please seek help. And realize that my list is not exhaustive nor a formula. Hopefully it is something to cling to in the wilderness of depression. I pray God's blessing on you. Love to you in Christ.

Porn & The Good. The True. The Beautiful.

The other day as I was doing some research, I stumbled upon the website of a glossy women's magazine. I was thoroughly disappointed but not shocked to find the magazine unashamedly promoting porn. It's not just a men's issue anymore. Porn and talk about porn is trendy. The porn industry and its consumers are successfully marketing themselves to adults and children. Christians aren't exemplars in this area either. Many believers are trapped in the throws of a porn addiction and need support from the body of Christ to help free them from slavery. But lest you think I am merely going to rail against porn in this post, I raise the issue because something greater is at stake. I fear that many of us do not have large souls nor large imaginations. We have not tasted of the beauty and goodness of God. We salivate over vile paltry things, laying our lives down for innumerable death-filled hoaxes that consume us. But God, through the good, the true, and the beautiful calls to us. He calls us to something higher, to beautiful, good, satisfying, healthy life. He calls to us in the streets, in creation, in our lives, through beautiful  music, literature, art, films, the church, and others, perhaps through this post. He calls to us most loudly through Scripture. But more often we choose death instead of life because we don't know what life looks like, what it tastes like. But we do get hints of it in the good, the true, the beautiful, in this life. All of the time. God's fingerprint and life-filled breath is all over the universe. If we cannot see, if we cannot taste or feel it, perhaps our senses are out of whack. We are sick or bent up. That is the reality of sin.

So if you are drowning (whether a Christian or not) and have little hope, if you know that there has got to be more to life than this, please receive this answer: there is. God has not abandoned you to death or a meaningless, beautiless, pitiful, existence. God in Christ calls out to you and wants to set you free to live and to taste of the good, the true, and the beautiful in the midst of a suffering world. And then you too can tell others that what the ancients have been saying about God in Christ is true, because you experienced it (it is true regardless of our experience, but we are better able to explain that which we experience).

Although I am not saying that the theology in this particular song is completely accurate, I think the song Viva La Vida by Cold Play hints at what I've been talking about in the post. Coldplay hints at that which is beyond us (the good and the beautiful calling out to us). They sense it and I think we can sense it in their song. I post it here:

Tomorrow, I will let C.S. Lewis speak to this topic.

May you taste of God today in the good, the true, and the beautiful that Christ has brought to us in creation and through his resurrection.

Mar 30, 2011

God Leaves Life in His Wake (Beholding and Becoming II)

"Grant that . . . that we may be made like him in his glorious and eternal kingdom.”  (Collect BCP, Year C Sunday closest to November 9)

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has thus been destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Job 19:25-27

“ But at my vindication, I shall see your face; When I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.” Psalm 16:17

“Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” Luke 20:36-38

Lean in and pay close attention to my words. I’ve happened upon the message of my life and perhaps the single most important thing I can tell you. Remember it. Turn it over and over in your mind until it saturates your soul. Until you absorb it and live it. As you do, as you practice this truth, God will perpetually birth new life in you. For it is God who gives life to all living things. And life, God’s life, the eternal life flowing through your veins (if you are in Christ), and through all of creation is indescribably good and beautiful and wholesome and sustaining no matter the circumstance. The apostle Paul and saints throughout the ages attest to this truth.

Here it is:

Pay the utmost attention to God. Set your gaze on him, behold him, see him, do whatever necessary to keep laser focus zeroed in on him. Keep a single eye on him. As you do behold him, you will not conform to the pattern of this world—the pattern of death, but will be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1,2).

More and more you’ll live and breathe life. To change the metaphor, as you behold him, his streams of living water, his life, will continually fill you to the brim and flow through you into the lives of others. Think of it as unleashing a dam of life-giving water. This overwhelming force of gushing water cuts a canyon through hard-rocked souls leaving every form of life in its wake. Not a perfect metaphor by any means. Do forgive me. I’ll work on it. But that’s one picture I have of God’s life in us and in the world. As Jesus says in Luke 20:38, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

God leaves life in his wake. Not death. Do you believe this?

Job did. After all the hell he went through, despite all he suffered, or maybe because of it? Though certainly none of it was his own fault, he said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has thus been destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

As your gaze locks on to God, You will have abundant life (John 10:10). You will become whole, holy--like Christ--conformed into his image (Romans 8:29). As father Greg Boyles says, you will experience the Japanese concept of amae, that is, you will live in a deep sense of being loved and cherished by God. As our eyes are locked on him, God’s love will melt away all in us that is not of him. Again as Father Greg Boyle notes, this is a love that, “. . . melts you. It doesn’t melt who you are but who you are not” (Tattoos on the Heart, 103).

Dallas Willard writes, “I realize that I will either allow my view of evil to determine my view of God and will cut him down accordingly, or I will allow my view of God to determine my view of the evil and will elevate him accordingly, accepting that nothing is beyond his power for good” (Renovation of the Heart, 109-110).

But what if we have bad eyesight? What if we are allowing our view of evil to determine our view of God? What if we are blind? Then we ask God to let us see. We ask for healing. And in the mean time, if we can’t see clearly, we trust those who have better eyesight. My husband Shawn has 20/15 eyesight. I cannot clearly see things that are far away. I prefer that he drive at night and especially when it is dark and raining hard. If we  are in the darkness, because of whatever form of suffering, or because of doubt, or depression, or because we have not held our gaze on God, or for whatever reason, even if it’s not our fault, like it wasn’t Job’s. Listen. Trust the eyesight of those who have better vision.

Granted, I understand that as Paul says, in this life, we see through a glass darkly. But even in this life, there are those who can see better than others. If we are honest with each other, we know this to be true. This is a sober truth. God forbid that we allow ourselves to be lead by blind guides or by those who have poor eyesight. They may be sincere and well-meaning. But they very well might lead us to our death. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:22, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

May I offer practical ways to behold God? These are not exhaustive and in no particular order.

1. Scripture Reading and Memorization
2. Reading books
3. Beholding the beauty of Creation
4. Beholding the beauty of others
5. Contemplating the good, the true, and the beautiful in whatever form
6. Through lovely or even heart-wrenchingly beautiful music
7. Through little children
8. Through art
9. Through Church History and sayings fo the saints
10. Our employment
11. Through service to others, especially the poor
12. Through Prayer
13. By contemplating God's attributes
14. Through the elderly
15. Through the body of Christ
16. Through Christ

*There are many other ways. Perhaps you can share some with us.

Blessings to You.

Mar 28, 2011

Mar 27, 2011

Unleashing The Fires of Hell Upon Me Through Your Tongue

The fallout effects of the tongue
Part 1

I’ve been hit! I’ve been hit! I think I’m about to die. You wanted to get something off of your chest so you sprayed bullet words. Projectiles that tore through me -- and you don’t even care! I think they hit a major artery. I think I’m fatally wounded. There’s searing pain, blood all over. I can’t breathe! I don’t know if I’m going to survive.

And you know what? You barely even know me. That’s why one of hardest things for me to do is to forgive you when you don’t see or admit that you’ve done anything wrong. I offended you, but you murdered me. You walk away, leaving me to die. But you’re guilty of murder.

You think you’re such a great Christian because you are active in church. You go to Bible study or sing in the choir or in the praise band, or are a Sunday school teacher or an elder. But you think nothing of murdering me with your words.

“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:5-6).

Part 2

There’s something about me that you don’t like. So you’re bound and determined to right the wrong in me. It isn’t a major character flaw, but it sends you into a rage. It’s as minor as leaving a dirty cup out, forgetting to put it in the sink. But it enervates you. You think you have a right to express whatever’s on your mind. So, you unload on me in an effort to beat the hell out of me. You pummel me. I guess you think I’m your verbal punching bag.

You think you’re such a great Christian because you are active in church. You go to Bible study or sing in the choir or in the praise band, or are a Sunday school teacher or an elder. But you think nothing of beating me up with your words.

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean” (Matthew 15:17-20a).

Part 3

You smile at me, but you turn around and stab me in the back. You smile at me but there are daggers behind your eyes. All your friends know how you feel about me. Your family does too. Because of you, people look at me differently. How dare you smile at me? You don’t mean your smile. Why don’t you just come to me and work it out? It would be so much easier that way. But you don’t.

A while ago, I tried to talk to you but you deny that there’s anything wrong. Yet, you keep nursing your grudge. Don’t think that I don’t know. Your inner thoughts are affecting how you treat me and see me. You’ve pegged me. You won’t let me climb out of the pigeon hole you’ve put me in. You think you know me. But you are looking at me through a keyhole and making judgments. How can you think that you know all about me and my character when you see me through such a limited vantage point? Maybe, just maybe, things aren’t what they seem. You are slandering me behind my back and in your heart. You refuse to forgive me. Yet, I must forgive you even though you won’t forgive me. It’s only in Christ that I can. I cannot do it by myself.

You think you’re such a great Christian because you are active in church. You go to Bible study or sing in the choir or in the praise band or are a Sunday school teacher or an elder. But you think nothing of stabbing me in the back. You think nothing of your unforgiveness.

“Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart" (Matthew 18:25-35).

Part 4

Your words are sprinkled with sarcasm. Your words give me little cuts. But you smile and say you’re just joking. You ask me, “Why can’t you take a joke?” You say, “Quit being so serious.” But you always find ways to get a dig in. Your put downs are serious even though you deliver them with a smile. You wound me again and again. Sometimes I think you intend to cut me with your words. Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe you’ve gotten so used to putting me and others down that you don’t recognize it in yourself.

You think you’re such a great Christian because you are active in church. You go to Bible study or sing in the choir or in the praise band or are a Sunday school teacher or an elder. But you think nothing of murdering me with your words. But you think nothing of slicing me with your words, all the while with a smile on your face.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to vie account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:33-37).

Mar 25, 2011

Lust: Seven Deadly Sins - Virtue: Self-Control

Lust: According to Os Guinness and others, "idolizing of sex in the sense of an unethical and unrestrained expression of the sexual impulse (promiscuity, pornography, adultery, incest, seduction, prostitution, and unnatural vice). Characterized by self-deception and dehumanization. Sexual activity whose ultimate expressive purpose is violated for the sake of immediate sexual pleasure.

This observation on Lust vs. Self-Control is straight from

They say it better than me anyways.

Self-control and self-mastery prevent pleasure from killing the soul by suffocation. Legitimate pleasures are controlled in the same way an athlete's muscles are: for maximum efficiency without damage. Lust is the self-destructive drive fore pleasure out of proportion to its worth. Sex, power, or image can be used well, but they tend to go out of control.

Back to my own thoughts. If you are trapped by lust or sexual sin, feel that you have the scarlet letter branded on to you and you can never escape, know that Jesus can set you free. I don't say that lightly, I mean it. He is powerful enough. This sin doesn't have to have mastery over you. Day by day trust Christ, tell someone trustworthy in the Christian community that you want to be free. He will set you free as you trust him daily and renounce this sin. I am not saying it will be easy or that you might not have some set backs. But God is more powerful than lust.

Mar 24, 2011

Envy: Seven Deadly Sins

I continue sharing my notes on the seven deadly sins.

Sorrow for another's good. Wishing to see other's brought low because you cannot rejoice in their good fortune. Usually we're envious of those doing something similar to us, those with the same passions, gifts, hobbies, line of work, or a similar calling. According to Lance Webb, envy is self-love unable to permit anyone to rise or excel above one's own superiority, with resulting hate, jealousy, intolerance, prejudice, slander, gossip, and use of sarcasm or more violent means of leveling others to one's own height.

The opposite virtue of envy is love.

I quote from again:

Love is patient, love is kind. Love actively seeks the good of others for their sake. Envy resents the good others receive or even might receive. Envy is almost indistinguishable from pride at times.

Back to my own thoughts.

Does envy and pride keep many in the church from working together? I think so. If a church or denomination does not minister our way, or even think our way, sometimes we let those things keep us from working together for the common good, those differences keep us from furthering the kingdom of God and create internal, familial squabbles and even wars. This too is sin. We can all find common ground to further the cause of Christ, even if we do not worship together, can't we?

artwork from:

Mar 22, 2011

Greed: Seven Deadly Sins

I thought I'd share some notes I've collected about the seven deadly sins.
After all, we are to repent when necessary. These notes are taken the whitestone journal (, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Phyllis Tickle's Greed, C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, Kathleen Norris' Acedia, Lance Webb's Conquering the Seven Deadly Sins and Os Guiness' Steering Through Chaos, and my own experience.

Greed (Avarice) - can be disguised as thriftiness. Phyllis Tickle notes it is, " the sin of apostasy, of desiring life subject to human control over a life of vulnerable trust in the unseen." A fear of helplessness or loss of control can turn into a lust for power as a way of presenting an undesirable situation. Coventeousness.



In this form, earthly goods are chiefly a means to an end . . . to achieve personal power. These things can be used to intimidate or bribe others, reinforce one's own illusions about what is important or to build up a feeling of success. The real problem here is a desire for power rather than actual greed.

To destroy our desire for power, we must be generous in granting power to others. When appropriate, be submissive to others. Avoid jobs that are a temptation for a "power grab." Share credit for successes with others, and claim a fair share of responsibility for failures being blamed on others. The idea is to stop trying to control everything and everyone.

The Greed of Fear

Fear is a poor motivator for virtue, but an excellent one for greed. Sometimes greed is simply to have so much that we can't possibly run out. If we acquire enough stock, real estate . . . we think we will be safe from want. This is an illusion.

Part of the cure may be to embrace poverty. We may not become homeless, but we can learn to do with less. "Live simply that others may simply live." Once this kind of freedom is practiced, we realize we don't need much anyway.

Mar 12, 2011

Japan. Self-Denial. Humility. Charity.

There has been a horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan. With the world I pray for those immediately affected and as well as family and friends far an near. Lord have mercy on them and send your help! May we help however we can.

Here is William Law to tell us about what such a Christ-life would look like:

William Law (1686-1761)

"If self-denial be a condition of salvation, all that would be saved must make it a part of their ordinary life. If humility be a Christian duty, then the common life of a Christian is to be a constant course of humility of all kinds. If poverty of spirit be necessary, it must be the spirit and temper of every day of our lives. If we are to relieve the naked, the sick, and the prisoner, it must be the common charity of our lives, as far as we can render ourselves able to perform it. If we are to love our enemies, we must make our common life a visible exercise and demonstration of that love. If content and thankfulness, if the patient bearing of evil be duties to God, they are the duties of every day and in every circumstance of our life. If we are to be wise and holy as the newborn sons of God, we can no otherwise be so but by renouncing everything that is foolish and vain in every part of our common life. If we are be in Christ new creatures, we must show that we are so by having new ways of living in the world. If we are to follow Christ, it must be our common way of spending every day."

A Serious Call To A Devout And Holy Life p. 51-52.

God Offers Us Comfort in the Wilderness of Suffering and Difficulty


 “The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing” (Isaiah 51:3-4).

When our souls are tragically ripped from us, when searing wilderness pain has us begging for death instead of life, God gently comforts us. When we’re in the midst of unimaginable pain, it may be hard for us to believe that God will comfort us, for our pain continues unabated. But God, unlike many others, doesn’t expect us to quickly snap out of pain-induced depression. And he doesn’t endorse well-meant but ill-timed Christian platitudes like, “God has a plan for all of this,” when it takes supernatural strength for us just to cope with a new day.

No. He knows we’re human—that we mourn and suffer and shake our fists in anger because of the seeming injustice of it all. He understands suffering. And when the pain is most tender, the Holy Spirit quietly makes us aware that God is sitting with us in the wilderness, and like a mother with a young child, God beckons us to lay our heads down in his lap so he can gently and lovingly stroke our foreheads.

At first we resist, sobbing, shaking, screaming, pounding our fists in hysterics, demanding answers, trying to make sense of it all. Like a young child, we lack the maturity to comprehend the meaning of the soothing answers God offers.

But as his love and kindness penetrate our fitful senses, our sobs and soul seizures cease. Slowly we begin to calm down. Again we bury our wet faces in his lap, using his robe to wipe away tears and runny noses. Although there’s been little change in our circumstances, we feel a slight but perceptible shift inside of us as we gaze into his face. Somehow we feel comforted even without having received satisfactory answers. In the wilderness, God sits with us as we absorb little doses of his comfort and peace, until we are strong enough to stand up on our own.

~ Marlena

Mar 11, 2011

God Tests Our Callings In The Wilderness

Why would God call us to do something and then allow much difficulty and travail to come our way as we seek to be obedient? I am not completely sure. But as I take a look at Scripture I can recall many whose callings were tested--who suffered while being obedient. I've written about this before, but I'll write about it again today to encourage myself and anyone who might stumble upon this site. Let's seek mutual encouragement from God's word.

Abraham. At seventy-five years old, he moved. In Genesis 12, God told him to leave his country. He went to Canaan, a foreign land--where he was unknown and unappreciated. He was going because God told him that he would bless him there and that he and Sarai would have plentiful offspring although she was childless and barren. God said, "Just look at the stars and the grains of sand in the desert and you'll get an idea of how I will bless you forever. You will be a blessing to the entire earth."

But the problem was that Abraham and Sarah were really old. Sarah heard God's prediction and laughed--God's prediction was so unbelievable. At least twenty-five years lapsed between Abraham's call in Haran and Isaac's birth in Canaan. Do you think Abraham could've imagined at the outset that it'd be twenty-five years before God fulfilled the first part of his promise--offspring? No, Abraham couldn't imagine it. Both he and Sarah got tired of waitng, so they took matters into their own hands. Abraham slept with Hagar and Ishmael was born. God still fulfilled his promise to Abraham through Isaac, but there was great strife in the family because of Abraham and Sarah's disobedience (a disobedience resulting from impatience). Twenty-five years is a long time to wait.

Joseph. Some say he was an arrogant young man. He dreamed that he'd be a ruler and that because of his leadership, many would be blessed. His older brothers would serve him. And he told them so. They responded, "Oh really?" and tossed him in a pit. "How do you like them apples Joseph? You're lucky we don't kill you." You probably know the rest of the story. Joseph was sold as a slave, falsely accused, and forgotten for years while he spent day after day in jail until the moment that Pharoah needed someone to interpret his dreams. Why didn't God make Joseph ruler soon after his dreams (divine revelation)? Perhaps God needed that much time and those particular circumstances to form Joseph into the leader he desired.

Moses. At forty years old, he was probably being groomed to inherit Pharaoh's throne. Although a Hebrew, he was adopted by the Egyptian princess (Pharaoh's daughter) and brought up in the lap of luxury, courtside. Some how or other, he had an intuition that he was supposed to do something on behalf of the Hebrews. Perhaps he was to deliver his people from Egyptian oppression. He'd start by helping that poor fellow over there, abused by an Egyptian overseer. He killed the overseer for abusing the poor fellow and then fled to the wilderness lest Pharaoh should execute him.

Forty years he spent in the wilderness. It was not Egypt. On the contrary, it was monotonous, excruciatingly difficult to live in, and lacked the society he had grown accustomed to. Although he had a family he loved, this was not the life he pictured for himself. During Moses' forty years in the wilderness, God put to death the Egyptian life in Moses. Moses probably thought his life was over, that he'd live the rest of his days not as a deliverer, but as fugitive. And then when he was 80 years old, God called him to deliver the Hebrews. By that time though, Moses had no self-confidence left. He didn't think he was the man for the job. I am sure that as he reflected on his own life during those forty long years, he probably figured that the aspirations he had as a forty year-old were pipe dreams.

David. Samuel anointed him king at a young age. But did David take the throne right away? No. He spent between 14-20 years in the wilderness as a captive, as Saul's prey. David and his family probably thought that Samuel had it all wrong-that he wasn't supposed to be king after all. He had many trials and tribulations before he ascended to the throne. And then because of disobedience, he had many more. Yet despite David's sin (and our own) God was faithful to his promise to David and to those before him (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob). 14-20 years is a long time to wait for God's promise.

Jesus. He is God and he knew that while on earth. The problem was, not even his own family believed in him at first. Neither did most of his hearers. He lived in obscurity for thirty years, growing in stature and wisdom in order that he might turn the world upside down in only three years. Even in Gethsemane, he asked the Father to take the cup from him--if it were possible. Jesus' (God Almighty) call was tested over and over again.

So why are we surprised when our callings are tested? Why are we surprised that obedience to the call, becoming worthy of our calling, is difficult? We see that it is par for the course in biblical and post-biblical history. As saints, our callings are tested. But the thing is, if God has called us, and we've had external validation of our callings from the Church, then we need to press on.

But it is hard to do when we are apparently thwarted on every side. Sometimes, as a grain of wheat, we have to fall to the ground and die before the fruit of our toil and affliction grows (see Mark 12). I think of many martyrs whose life and death were the seeds of the church. Perhaps ours will be.

So today dear reader, whoever you may be, I comfort myself and maybe you with words of encouragement from Scripture. I am waiting to see God's faithfulness to me in the land of the living (if that is his will). After all, he is the one who has called me. But today, I deal again with what I perceive to be a setback or a rejection. I am tempted to despair. But this thing I know, I am to be faithful in the little things, faithful in the very things that are right in front of me. And I am to cherish everything around me while I am waiting on God--not despise the blessings that I have. I am to wait patiently and joyfully even in the wilderness of my calling.

Lenten Repost

Mar 10, 2011

God Reveals Our Identities in the Wilderness

Revelation of identity. Whether consciously or subconsciously, many of us spend our time searching for our identities, while others of us are desperately seeking to shed them in favor of becoming someone else. “Who am I?”, “Who can I become?”, and “Where do I belong?” are the questions that pull at us, motivating much of our behavior. Upon reflection, we find that deep inside of our souls dwells the haunting suspicion that who we are now is a mere phantom of who we’re supposed to be, or perhaps nowhere close to who we’re supposed to be. We’re half alive, searching for life, trying to find ourselves.

That is why the realization that God chooses to reveal who we are during our wilderness journey comes as such a shock. It is probably the last place we thought to look. It seems incredibly strange that God would reveal our identities in the crucible of life. But he often does.

During Lent I will not be writing new posts but will be scheduling reposts to be posted. These are some that I think are dandy. Blessings to you these 40 days as you walk with Christ through the wilderness.

Mar 9, 2011

Purification in the Wilderness of Suffering.

During Lent I will not be writing new posts but will be scheduling reposts to be posted. These are some that I think are dandy. Blessings to you these 40 days as you walk with Christ through the wilderness.


God uses wilderness experiences to purge us of multi-layered, deep-rooted sins, imperfections, and falsehoods. While they may or may not be obvious to us, they’ve burrowed down into the crevices of our souls. God aims to purge us of these deeply buried anti-Gods lest they attempt to overthrow him. But he is gracious and compassionate. Purgation is such an agonizing process that he does not purify us all at once lest we perish. Instead, during each wilderness experience he removes one layer. The next layer he leaves for another time. Even so, a sort of death happens in each stage of wilderness purification: mortification, repentance and death to the anti-Gods within, including the anti-God of self.

Mar 8, 2011

Fully Alive In the Kingdom of God

During Lent I will not be writing new posts but will be scheduling reposts to be posted. These are some that I think are dandy. Blessings to you these 40 days as you walk with Christ through the wilderness.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” — Revelation 21:5

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! — 2 Corinthians 5:17

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. — John 10:10

Before the awakening I was doped up, anesthetitized — all senses numb to the world around me. Half-dead, like someone in a deep depression. Confused about what’s real, what’s not, who I am. The world, really my gross misconceptions of it, consisted of all that related to me — all that I deemed important. I believed reality corresponded to my own deadened perceptions.

I was near-sighted. The world, mostly black and white, laced with grays. I saw shadows, but not the things themselves. Colors — I lacked the sheer joy of seeing and experiencing their brilliant tones, their finely distinguished hues. I didn’t notice inimitable details in a flower or in a painting or in a face. I didn’t see particular shapes and trees and lives. On walks, I was concerned only with starting and finishing; I didn’t observe the distinctive playfulness, personality, and face of the dogs exploring the world. All ran together. All blended into a glob of gray.

I had only heard about the goodness, love, incomprehensibility, mercy, grace, immanence, transcendence, salvation, and glory of God. I hadn’t tasted it. I’d get excited to taste test some new experience and found all I tasted to be dull — bland, bland, bland. Unsatisfactory. In the end, meaningless — no richness or lingering taste in my mouth. Many times it was bitter, yet sometimes it was honey to my lips and poison to my system. Nothing was as tasty as it was made out to be.

What I touched had no texture. If it did, I didn’t really feel it. Jagged edges, the furry, and the fluffy, hot or cold, soft and rigid — all pretty much the same. No fine distinctions. The touch of the Divine Presence upon me, upon the earth? His glory was muted. Yes, I thought the touch of the Almighty Presence was muted throughout the world, in some places non-existent. I smelled stale, polluted air. Coughing racked my lungs. Where was the pure fresh air?

But ever since Christ set me free from hellish captivity he has given me, as Henry Drummond writes, “the liberty to stop sinning, to leave the prison of my passions, and shake off the fetters of my past.” Ever since, I have been redeemed from the prison, saved, forgiven, I have been made and continue to be made fully alive, new. He has awakened me from the dead. Life, the world, is no longer about my interests. But he’s not doing that for me alone. He does that for all who allow him and for creation. The book of Romans tells us that animals, plants — all life forms groan for that redemption too. He is making all things new. He is redeeming me. He wants to redeem you — to show you what it is like to be human, the way he intended you to be. And he is redeeming creation. I see reality for what it is: it is about his motivation, his interests, his Kingdom — others. He is in the process of making all things new — people and this earth. I was blind, but now I see.

Now, I am continually silenced by the glory of God. My mouth hangs open in gaping wonder as the Great Almighty Presence, the one true God, through Christ, haunts my every waking moment. He clings to each of my thoughts. Holy Spirit Wind, Pneuma, kisses my face, rustles through my hair and I see evidences of the Spirit blowing through, touching the lives of peoples and institutions and creation. God, in the Spirit of Christ, calls me to love my neighbors, all those around, and he wants to redeem peoples and earth through me and through those in the kingdom.

Ah! I inhale, I breathe pure Holy Spirit air. My lungs are made strong. I see colors, particularities, details, God seeping through all things — he’s not the same as his creation, but his fingerprint is everywhere. He captures me, vivifies me with his presence. I’ve tasted his love and goodness and transcendence, and immanence, and salvation. God’s pleasures and sorrows are mine.

So now what? He hasn’t called me to live for myself, but for his pleasure and sorrow. I have an assignment in the kingdom. And so do you. He wants to make you fully alive. He wants you live for his motivations, interests, pleasures and pains. In short, he wants to make you like Christ. This is the God of the universe, who calls you to have life in Christ. This is the God who calls you to love him, enjoy him, and enjoy all that emanates from him forever. He has your best in mind. Too many Christians and those who know little about him see him as stingy and harsh and overbearing — not as the God he claims to be. See him for who he is. See reality for what it is. Live in him — be fully alive.

Mar 6, 2011

Hunger. Food.

Sara Miles quoting Rowan Williams, "It's the really hungry who can smell fresh bread a mile away. For those who know their need, God is immediate--not an idea, not a theory, but life, food, air for the stifled spirit and the beaten, despised, exploited body."

From her book: take this bread

Mar 5, 2011

Transfiguration. Transformation. Metamorphosis.

A part of my meditation on the transfiguration.
For Transfiguration Sunday 2011

"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light."  Matthew 17:1-3.

How about us? Are we being transfigured? Are we being changed? Is it earth-shattering although admittedly most often gradual? Do we peek through our fingers with fear and trembling and wonder as we look back over what Jesus has done in us individually and as a church, at what he is doing, and at what the future might hold?

If not why not? Earth-shattering change, transformation, transfiguration, though gradual is perceptible is it not? If we are ho-humming through life, yawning at the holy, at Jesus, asleep in the light, or drowning in our sins while we show up to church every Sunday, then something is deathly wrong. We’re not following Jesus. We’re either spiritually sick or dead. And that is hell. We’re like the frogs being boiled alive in the pot and not knowing it. Paul would tell us to examine ourselves to see if we are actually in the faith.

Listen. While everyday in our life in Christ isn’t a mountaintop transfiguration experience, everyday is pregnant with the divine. Pregnant with life and wonder. Every day is supernatural. What might transfiguration or metamorphosis look like in such a life?

If once you were a nag, but now are not—isn’t that earth shattering? If once your goal was to live a comfortable life and then retire in middle class America but are now sacrificing or want to sacrifice for the good of others—if you do what you didn’t want to because you are following Jesus--then that’s transfiguration.

If you were secretly addicted to porn or sex or approval or alcohol or self-injury, or popularity, or success, or work or self and now are set free from such things or in the process of being set free from such things or wanting to be set free from such things—that is transfiguration. Were you once a very angry person or in perpetual despair? And now you’re loving and kind, others-directed and seeing glimmers of hope? If your body is getting old or your mind is getting old and you're bearing it with grace or starting to bear it with grace or wanting to bear it with grace, If so—let’s say it together—transfiguration. One more time--transfiguration. You are changing and looking more like Christ, you are starting to glow with the life of Christ in you—glow like Moses did when he came down from Mount Sinai. You may not see it, but God does and others do or will.

Let me tell you, if we are truly following Jesus, every time we think we have him figured out, he’ll throw us a curve ball—like he did Peter James and John. For no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t control him or what happened while with him. And neither can we. But as we follow him—transfiguration.

We are undergoing metamorphosis. As we are enfolded into Christ’s life, as God is redeeming all things, we get only small glimpses of the transfiguration currently underway, but someday, our eyes will be completely opened and we will see ourselves and all of creation completely transfigured into his likeness. So no day is an ordinary when we obediently follow Jesus up a mountain or down into a valley—for we’re metamorphosing into his glorious saints.


Mar 3, 2011

Downward Mobility ~ Nouwen

"The compassionate life is the life of downward mobility! In a society in which upward mobility is the norm, downward mobility is not only discouraged but even considered unwise, unhealthy, or downright stupid. Who will freely choose a low-paying job when a high-paying job is being offered? Who will choose poverty when wealth is within reach? Who will choose the hidden place when there is a place in the limelight? Who will choose to be with one person in great need when many people could be helped during the same time? Who will choose to withdraw to a place of solitude and prayer when there are so many urgent demands from all sides?

My whole life I have been surrounded by well-meaning encouragement to go 'higher up,' and the most-used argument was : 'You can do so much good there, for so many people.' But these voices calling me to upward mobility are completely absent from the Gospel. Jesus says: 'Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:25). He also says: 'Unless you become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Finally he says: "You know that among the gentiles the rulers lord it over them, and great men make their authority felt; among you this is not to happen. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:25-28).

This is the way of downward mobility, the descending way of Jesus. It is the way toward the poor, the suffering, the marginal, the prisoners, the refugees, the lonely, the hungry, the dying, the tortured, the homeless--toward all who ask for compassion. What do they have to offer? Not success, popularity, or power, but the joy and peace of the children of God."

From Here and Now pp. 138-139

This is a repost from 2010.

Mar 1, 2011

Gleanings From George E. Ladd

These are some words of wisdom from George E. Ladd (1911-1982) in his book, The Gospel of the Kingdom

The Kingdom of God:

1. God's reign
2. Our present experience of God's blessings
3. The Future kingdom

p. 22

Eternal Life:

"To have eternal life, you must cut yourself loose from all other loyalties and follow me." Matthew 19:16 p.68


"Love seeks the welfare of its objects of concern . . . even an enemy" p. 90

Evil Attitudes:

"Where there is an evil attitude toward one another there is sin." p. 82


"You can truly forgive a man only when you act in love. If you do not look upon him with love, you do not really forgive even though you profess to do so." p. 91

What Jesus Demands In Following Him:

"Jesus demanded a resolute decision, an intelligent decision, one not lightly made." p. 98