Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Get Your Claws Out of My Head!

A couple of days ago, Jorjanne found something on our cat’s head.  She tried to get it off, but couldn’t. We decided that it must be dead skin.  A few days later, Jeff pulled the mysterious “thing” out to discover that another cat’s claw had been embedded in Darth Vader’s head.  Ouch!  A constant reminder of his last fight.

As I’ve thought about the cat’s claw lodged in Darth Vader’s skull, I wondered how many times I’ve let parts of past “fights” stick in my head.  Why is it that we forget the positive statements, but let negative statements get embedded in our memory, constantly nagging us, reminding us of the stinging pain felt by someone else’s words. 

Just this week, I had a confrontation with another person, and I bet I’ve replayed that conversation in my head a million times.  The crazy thing is that I’ve had multiple encouraging conversations, but do I revisit them – rarely!  Why is it that we do this to ourselves?

I am trying to “take every thought captive,” so that I don’t let someone’s “claws” get stuck in my mind.  The scripture commands us to focus on “whatever is pure, whatever is admirable, noble, and praiseworthy.”  May we learn to let God renew our minds and eradicate negative, self-defeating thoughts and replace them with more positive ones?  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Depressed, Lonely, and Cloudy Thinking

This week I have been teaching my students about the life of Elijah.  The story that comes to most of our minds is his showdown with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18.  Elijah has a mountaintop experience after God demonstrates his power to all the idolaters in Israel.  Elijah is elated -- for awhile.

You see, Queen Jezebel worshiped Baal, and she was furious with Elijah for humiliating her and for killing all of Baal's prophets. She sent word to the king that she wanted Elijah dead.  When Elijah heard the news, he fled into the wilderness, and hid in a cave where he became overwhelmed with grief and sadness.  His depression was so great that he stopped eating and begged God to take his life.

Elijah felt alone. He thought he was the only one left who worshiped God. In 1 Kings 19:18, God tells Elijah that there are 7000 men who have not bowed down to Baal.  Depression often clouds our thinking.  Elijah wasn't really alone, but in his sorrows, he felt abandoned by God.  Elijah was so focused on his circumstances, that he failed to recognize God's presence.  

When we are lonely and depressed we tend to feel sorry for ourselves. We can’t see all the blessings in our lives. God had just used Elijah to prove His might and now Elijah is hiding in a cave feeling sorry for himself. When we are down, we need to focus on what we have to be thankful for. It also helps to look for ways to help others. Elijah was so caught up in himself that he failed to see the 7000 others worshiping God.

How do you think this story might have been different if Elijah had connected with the 7000?  We need other believers in our lives.  The Church is a body -- we need all our parts in order to be all that God called us to be. We need encouragement, accountability, fellowship – we need each other.  I could not have made it through my first husband’s death without the church. They were the hands and feet of Jesus in my life. We need church.  If you aren’t going to church, I challenge you to find one.  Make it a priority to find a church where you can attend.  

A side note:  If anyone tells you that Christians don't get depressed, remember Elijah. He was a great prophet of God, and yet he despaired to the point of longing for death to overtake him.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Unexpected -- A Song from My Hubby

When I was single, I prayed over a list of things I would want in a husband -- two lists actually.  I had a must-have list that had to be met to warrant a first date, and I had an added bonus list that I wrote saying, "God if you really wanted to bless me, these things would be great in a husband."  One of the things on the second list was someone who could sing and play guitar.  Jeff is not only a singer and guitar player, but he is a song writer as well.

I've been away this week for school, and Jeff wrote me a letter for every day I was gone.  Yesterday, he surprised me by sharing that the first line in every note was a lyric to a song.  I am so blessed to call him my husband and I thank God for not giving us both more than we ever dreamed.  Anyway, enough of the sentimental stuff. I was so impressed with his song, I wanted to share it with you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rambling through the Snow

OK, so today is one of those days that I am reminded that I grew up in the south.  I went to class this morning in Virginia and there was less than an inch of snow on the ground.  At noon, classes were cancelled for the rest of the day, and so I faced the blizzard-like conditions on my way to the car.  Snow was piled on top of my car five to six inches deep.  "So cool," I thought.

Well, I threw all my stuff in the car and climbed in the seat.  As I turned the ignition, I realized that I needed to clean off the windshield and the snow was too heavy for the wipers to do the trick. I climb back out of the car and wipe off the snow using my hand (no gloves mind you) and my arm.  I cranked up the defrost and off I went.

About a half a mile up the road I realized that I should have cleared off the side windows and the back window too.  I couldn't see to change lanes.  Not really thinking, I rolled down the window to clear off the snow when an avalanche of ice and snow fell into my car.  I quickly rolled the windows back up, but I still couldn't see.

Finally I pulled over and wiped down the windows and the back windshield, and left again.  This time I noticed that my side mirrors were snow covered, my seats were drenched, and my fingers were frozen.  I shivered as I continued to drive, and I realized that if my Ohio colleagues could see me I would be the laughingstock of class.

You see, in Georgia, if it snows even a little, life stops.  Stores close. Schools cancel.  Everyone stays indoors and praises God for a day of rest.

I was definitely humbled as I travelled in the wintry mix today.  I am grateful to be indoors where it is nice and cozy, and I thank God that I live in the South.

Friday, March 21, 2014

1 in 4 people

Did you know  research suggests that 25% of the population will seek medical help for mental illness in their lifetime?  That is a quarter of the population.  Think about your closest friends; if this is true, 1 in 4 will experience mental illness at some point in life.

Why then, so we still suffer in silence?  Why are we afraid to ask others to pray for us because we are depressed or anxious?  The short answer:  stigma.  Sadly, people don't understand mental illness, and we tend to shy away from things we don't understand.

I can remember when just saying the words cancer or AIDS was taboo.  People would almost whisper the words and cancer was known as the Big C. With education, people have learned more about these illnesses, and much of the stigma has been erased.  Athletes even openly discuss their HIV status on television today.

We are still a long way in the battle to eradicate stigma associated with mental illness.  I challenge you to take time to learn about mental illness.  Don't be afraid of people with a mental illness; after all, this is 1/4 of the population.  Mental illness is a part of a person's life. It does not define his life.

If you know someone with a mental illness, find out how you can support and encourage them.  Many long for someone they can share with about their struggles.  Do your part to stop stigma!