Christian Living

5 Ways to Stir your Faith

I write a lot about mental illness and faith.  However, there are many more aspects to a believer’s life that do not center around illness.  I am going to begin sprinkling in different posts on subjects such as “Christian Living, Spiritual Wellness, and Encouragement” in addition to my posts on mental health.

I’d like to touch on a subject today that I tussle with quite a bit.  It is how to stir up your faith. When we are newly saved, it’s like a honeymoon period.  We are so in love with Jesus that having faith is quite easy and it feels great. But, at some point, life enters that relationship and faith can begin to wane.  What do we do?

I have found that when my faith is running a bit thin, I have difficulty praying and doubts bombard my mind.  I start asking questions that I know the answer to but have trouble believing. God seems far away.  I know the problem is not with God, but with me. So, I determine to spend more time with God, to pray more but those efforts seem to fall flat. But I did find a few ways to stir up my faith.

  • Spend time “soaking” in the presence of God:

 Find a place where you can get away from distractions, turn on some instrumental praise music, and just center your spirit with the Holy Spirit and allow yourself to connect. It is not hard; it just takes some patience.

  • Get in the Word:

If you want to know God and grow closer to Him, you need to find time to get into His Word. Take time every day to read and study. Before you can grow your faith, you need to know the God of faith. Do not feel overwhelmed. Just take some time and let His Word permeate your soul.

  • Worship:

Praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music or silence is a wonderful way to stir your faith. Reading the Psalms aloud is one of the easiest ways to worship God.

  • Prayer:

Conversing with God about what is on your mind, no matter what the subject or what we are experiencing is a powerful way to build your faith. Not only can you pray for yourself, but praying for others can, and often does, fuel your faith because you are not making it all about you. This may be difficult when your faith is low, but just a little talk with Jesus can make a big difference.

Christian Living, Encouragement, Mental Health

Anxiety and Worship

Have you ever heard that worry and worship cannot live in the same heart?  It’s a phrase I heard years ago when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  To say I worried is an understatement.  I worried so much that it turned into a full-blown anxiety attack.  That anxiety got so bad that it paralyzed me. I came across a little book that had an intriguing title. It was a book about ridding oneself of anxiety and worry.  Since I was dealing with that exact issue, I bought the book.  Want to know what it said?  It said that the best way to get rid of anxiety and worry was to worship.  Worship? Really?  Could it be that simple?  Yes, that simple, but not easy.

When we are experiencing anxiety so great that it affects our ability to live life, worshiping can seem like a monumental task but I learned that just repeating the phrase “Jesus, I love you” was an act of worship. So that’s what I did.  I told Jesus over and over how much I loved Him and how much He had changed my life and how grateful I was.  I did this for days and days.  And, you know what? It worked.  The decrease in my anxiety was almost immediate! The more I set my heart to worship, the more my mind calmed.  Pretty soon, I was waking up with a sense of peace, not turmoil.

Now, I guard my peace.  I will not do anything to lose it.  It is so important to me and the best way to keep my peace is to keep my eyes upon Jesus.  To never lose sight of the fact that God did not give me a heart of fear.  Isaiah 35:4 says…

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with diving retribution he will come to save you”.

Wow! What a promise.  Do not fear. Do not be torn down by anxiety.  Lift your eyes for your God is coming and he is coming to save you.  You and me. That’s a promise you can depend on.

So, when anxiety strikes, all you need to do is Worship and stay still. God is coming and He will deliver you.  That’s a promise!

Christian Living, Encouragement

We Are Blessed to be A Blessing

We Are Blessed to be a Blessing

So many times, we forget that we are blessed.  Yes, we suffer from a mental illness but that does not negate God’s blessings on our lives.  Every day that we wake up and have the wherewithal to go through the day feeling well is a blessing. Each small victory we have is a blessing.  Each time we can touch another with our story is a blessing.  God is blessing us in so many ways that sometimes we can take that for granted.  We need to be more aware of the way God is blessing us, so we can be a blessing to others.

Being a blessing to others is not complicated.  We do not have to stretch ourselves too much to brighten someone’s day.  A simple smile and cheerful hello could be all that person needs to give them something to smile about.  Sending someone a card telling them you care and are praying for them would be a blessing to them.  It’s so easy and simple things can bring the biggest blessing.

But not only will doing things for others bring them blessings, these blessings get multiplied back to you.  You will never regret blessing someone.  A few weeks ago, I was asked to bring dinner to a family whose husband had a stroke.  The family lived quite a ways from me and taking them dinner was going to be a strain on my time.  I had to shop for the ingredients, assemble and bake the casserole, put it into a travel bag and drive the 45 minutes to their home.  All on a Friday night when my family was over and wanting dinner as well.  I obeyed God in this and I was thoroughly blessed when I saw the thankfulness on their faces.  It was a simple act of obedience on my part that brought me a huge blessing and I am so glad I obeyed.

See, simple things bring blessings.  We do not have to complicate this.  God blesses us, so we can bless others.  I know that sometimes the hardest thing we do in a day is getting out of bed.  Days are dark, tiring and anxiety that builds so much we are frozen in fear.  These are the times we need a blessing.  God says you reap what you sow.  If you have been a blessing to others, God will have others be a blessing to you right when you need it.  He will send blessings your way at just the right time.  Remember we are blessed so we can be a blessing and others will then be a blessing to us.

Christian Living, Encouragement

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah

When I think of Jesus my mind tends to focus on His sacrifice as the “lamb of God”.  He is referred to the “Lamb of God” twice in the Old Testament, but many times in the New Testament – 29 times, primarily in Revelation.  But there is another name which Jesus is known as – “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah”.

Revelation 5:5 refers to Jesus as the “Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David who has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals”.  When I think of a lion, I picture a majestic, strong, fierce animal.  I also think of loyalty and royalty as well.  Can you see Jesus as a fierce, loyal lion?  Does the image of a lion, rippling with strength and might come to your mind or do you always imagine Jesus as the lamb?

There are days when I am hurting and in need of the strength of Jesus to pull me up and out of the pit.  In those times I picture Jesus as the lion who has come to save me from myself and the attacks against my mind.  In Revelation 19:11-16 Jesus is described as the rider of the white horse called “Faithful and True”. “His eyes were like a fiery flame and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written that no one knows except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood and his name is called the Word of God” (CSB).  This description does not conjure up the image of a lamb in my mind.

Yes, Jesus was the lamb who took away the sins of the world and He was crucified and resurrected, but He is coming back as a lion who will destroy the enemy forever.  I need to focus on this aspect of Jesus because there are times when my illness requires the strength of a lion to overcome its debilitating effects and to set my feet back on the rock.  I am sure you feel this same despair at times, and you look to Jesus for your strength.  It is comforting to know that He is as fierce as a lion and ready to fight for you whenever you call on Him.  He is the source of our strength.  He is our comforter and healer and he is the lion who fights for us.

There are times when I love to think of Jesus as my shepherd, or the lamb of God especially when I am reading the Psalms. But the image of the lion imbibes me with strength.  I am a lioness and my Lord is the lion of the tribe of Judah and He will always defend and protect me and through all trials!

I have a picture of a white lion in my prayer room that is a constant reminder of the strength and loyalty of Jesus. It is a beautiful image and I look at and am in awe of who Jesus is to me.  The next time you are tempted to think there is no one on your side and that you are fighting this battle against your illness alone, remember that Jesus is the Lion who will fight your battle for you. You need only lay down at His feet and allow His power and fierceness to defeat your enemies. He is the “lamb of God” and He is also the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” and whether you need a shepherd or a warrior, Jesus is both and all that you need.

Christian Living, Encouragement

Seeking Refuge

This morning I was reading in Psalms 17 and verse 7 jumped out at me. It’s a Psalm of David asking God to protect him from his enemies.  During his prayer, he addressed Jesus as the “Savior of all who seek refuge”.  This spoke to me in a powerful way.

I’ve always known Jesus was my Savior, but I never really thought about the fact that, He is Savior to all who seek refuge in Him.  How many times have we tried to find refuge rom our illnesses and the complications these illnesses bring to our lives in our own power?  We think “I can do this.  I’m stronger than these symptoms and I can take care of this on my own”. I know that when I was first diagnosed in 2003, that is exactly how I thought.  I felt that the diagnosis was completely wrong and that I didn’t have Bipolar. I promptly went out to live my life proving to everyone that I was fine, and I did not need anyone to help me, because I wasn’t ill.  Well, that lasted about two weeks before it became very apparent that I, indeed, was quite ill.  But did I cry out to Jesus for refuge?  Nope. I went about acting as if I was the savior of my own life and I, alone, had control over everything.  As you can guess, that didn’t work very well either.

It wasn’t until I started seeking Jesus as my refuge that I started to turn the corner into wellness.  I am embarrassed to say that this revelation that I needed Jesus to bring healing and comfort to my exhausted mind took a few years. Yep…years!  But, as soon as I began to seek refuge in Him, everything changed.  I still had dark days. I still had manic episodes. But my perspective had changed.  I knew that without Jesus as my refuge, I would just be out there in the wind of my own mind, flailing. I couldn’t live that way.

The most wonderful part of this Psalm is that is says “all” who seek refuge.  This includes, well, all.  Jesus doesn’t bring some refuge or bring refuge to those most deserving. No, he said all.  This should bring great comfort to everyone who feels that they are unworthy of this kind of love.  I know we often feel, because of our illnesses, we are undeserving, discounted, and pushed to the fringes, and a lot of times, we convince ourselves this will never change.  But Jesus is faithful and if we seek refuge, He will give it.  How many of us just need a rest?  A break forms the endless struggle to gain a sense of normalcy in our lives.  Well, Jesus is inviting us to come and rest in Him.  He is our refuge. He loves us. He is for us. So, when we feel as if we cannot take one more step, we need to get on our knees and simply seek Him.  Our refuge lies in Him and Him alone.

Christian Living, Encouragement, Mental Health

Can God be Trusted?

Have you ever felt that you cannot trust God with your illnesses?  I have.  When I was first diagnosed, I would question God as to why I had been the unlucky one to have Bipolar Disorder.  I felt it wasn’t fair and that if God allowed me to have this, clearly, He could not be trusted.  I think we all think something along these lines at one point or another.  How could I trust a God who would allow such a thing to darken my life and the lives of those I loved?  I felt fatalistic, as if I was never going to get better and the pain that I felt would never go away. I felt betrayed.  Why God why?  Was I ever going to be well enough to return to my normal life?

I was asking this question to everyone but God.  I would cry to my husband about how unfair having this illness was and how it ruined my life and at the time, I truly believed this.  I couldn’t see past the pain.  Everyone started treating me different.  All those who knew we well, knew that our relationships were going to change.  I even lost friends when they found out I had a mental illness.  It wasn’t until much later that I decided to have a sit down with God and hash all this out.

I got on my knees and I got very raw with God.  I yelled and I cried, and I told God just how I felt about Him allowing this illness into my life.  I told Him how everyone looked at me differently.  How I could no longer work and how dreams I had for my future were now dashed into pieces. I told Him how my family was affected.  How my kids were struggling to understand, how I was struggling to understand.  Once I stopped telling God about my victimization, He began talking to me.  I sensed in my spirit that God entrusted this illness to me because He could bring good out of it.  I knew He was going to use my illness to bring me closer to Him than I had ever been, and He was going to use my experiences to help others facing the same struggle.

Fast forward several years, many tears and much suffering and healing and we have today.  Now I am in, what I call, remission.  God has been faithful to bring me into a place of wholeness so that I can now help others.  That is why “Faithful in the Midst Ministries” exists.  To help those who suffer from mental illness to find their way to God and to seek His healing touch on their lives.  I hope, that as I blog, you feel free to send me an email and let me know how I can pray for you and help you find God in the midst of your suffering.  I am here for you.

Christian Living

Complain, Complain, Complain

Have you ever found yourself complaining?  I know I have.  If it isn’t about the weather, it’s cleaning the house, or doing the laundry, or running errands. Virtually anything that goes on during my day, I can find a reason to complain about it.  But, do you find that you don’t like to be around complainers?  They can bring you down or simply annoy you.  Have you ever thought that is how some people see you?  Sobering thought isn’t it.

As much as we complain, have we ever stopped to ask forgiveness from God for our complaints?  There are so many verses in the bible that speak about the Israelites complaining about God to Moses.  So many times, Moses had to talk God out of destroying the Israelites.  Many times, God punished the Israelites for complaining.  I tend to forget about this during my complaint sessions.  How about you?  If God took complaining so seriously in the Old Testament, how much more does He look upon it in our day?  We see in the New Testament that the Scribes and Pharisees were constantly complaining to Jesus and the disciples about infractions they had committed.  Jesus called them vipers.  Woe, what would He call us.

Now I know we live under the blessing of grace and there is forgiveness for our sins, but have you knelt before God and repented of your complaining?  I never thought about this until the other day when I heard someone ask this question.  I thought about it and could honestly answer NO!  How terrible.  God has given me everything I could ever hope for and I find reason to complain. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Complaining is powerful and it is catchy.  Once I begin to complain, I can usually find someone who will jump or board and complain with me.  The adage “misery loves company” is so true.  But what if I turn that around and start praising God for the housework that needs done, because I have a house.  Or if I praise Him for the weather, rain or snow, because it waters the ground and gives creation a rest.  There are so many things to be grateful for and when we start to complain, we need to turn that around and find the praise within our words.  We need to change our attitudes to one of gratefulness and appreciation for all that God has given us.  We need to be less like the Israelites and more like Jesus, who in everything, gave thanks.  And we need to get down on our knees and ask forgiveness each time a complaint enters our minds, even before we speak it.  I think we will start to live a more victorious life if we will put this into practice. Try it… I am.

Christian Living, Encouragement, Mental Health

Tired and Worn

I’m tired.  I am not complaining, it’s just a fact.  Living with a mental illness can do that to you.  It always seems like an uphill battle.  There are days that seem easier than others and we tend to gauge our wellness on how we feel from one day to the next.  Are feelings being often fickle and if we go to them to define whether we are doing well or not, we may be deceived.  I suffer from a mood disorder so my “feelings” are always trying to control me. I used to get up each morning and think “I feel this way or that way so today is going to be __________ (fill in the blank).

But now things are different.  I get up each morning and the first thing I do is thank God for the beautiful day.   Now the day may not be beautiful weather wise, but it is the day God has made and I am alive, so it is beautiful.  Doing that one thing can change my outlook on the whole day.  My mood may be dark, or it may be manic, but the trueness of God and his goodness never changes.  I can rest assured that as long as I invite God to share my day with me, no matter what happens, it is a good day.

The Lord reminds me often that He loves me.  He loves you too.  I know you may not believe that when you are in the throes of an episode.  Depression or anxiety may reign supreme in your life right now.  But that does not define you.  You have the Lord God fighting this battle with you.  And do not, for one minute, think this is not a battle, because it is.  It is a battle for normalcy.  We fight it every day and it is exhausting sometimes.  I know. I am right there with you.  But, ultimately, this battle has already been won.  We need only to call on God for help.  God can revive a tired spirit, and heal a fractured mind, and ease our depression or anxiety.  Spending some time with the Lord is key.  I am not saying that praying, reading the Bible and meditation is the cure all. I believe thoroughly in the value of medication and therapy but trusting God with our healing is vital.  He is the missing piece.  If you take the time to schedule some time with the Lord, it will change your life.

I used to get so worn out from fighting this battle all on my own. One day I turned the whole thing over to God and entered into a much-needed rest.  I am still resting in Him.  This does not mean I am not still fighting, I am. But now I know that I can turn to Scripture and prayer and get filled with the strength I need to fight each day.  I have said that sometimes, the bravest thing I do is get out of bed in the morning.  That is true because I know there will be a hard-fought battle I will face, but I also know that I do not battle alone.

If you are tired, go to God.  Allow Him to hold you and imbibe you with strength from above to fight the battle that is mental illness.  He knows just what you need to overcome the obstacles you face.  He will refresh you and strengthen you, so you can fight another day.  Never give up!!

Christian Living, Spiritual Wellness

Distractions

I seem to be going through a bit of a dry spell with my faith walk.  Have you ever experienced this?  It isn’t that I lack faith in God…Oh no, it is just that my quiet time, and prayer time have gone a bit stale. It feels as if I am praying the same prayers, reading and studying the same things, finding nothing refreshing.  Today, I asked God what was going on. You know what He said?  One word – distractions! I understood what He was saying to well.  I have allowed the distractions of life to get in my way of spending authentic time with God.

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is check my e-mail… distraction.  The second thing I do is check Facebook…distraction. And after that I do a myriad of things before I even sit down with God to have some quiet time. By this time the quiet has long since gone and my mind is on what I need to do for the day… more distractions.   This is when the lying begins.  Here is when I begin telling myself that I will have my quiet time later when I get everything done that needs to be done.  Right.  That never happens.  I go from one thing to the next thinking I’ll get there God, but most of the time I don’t.  I tell myself that once my son goes to work in the afternoon, I will have all afternoon and evening to commune with God and study His word and while that is true, I never quite get there.  The time is available, but I am now engrossed in binge watching “Live PD”.  (A very uplifting and positive show).  So now comes the ultimate lie… “I’ll just start over tomorrow and I’ll do better”.  Nope, same things, different day.

Has this ever happened to any of you?  I feel it has. I cannot be the only one. I am not trying to sound legalistic about wanting to spend time with God. I am not saying that He loves me or you any less for failing to make Him priority #1. No, He loves us just as much.  The problem lies with how much we love Him.  I do not show a great deal of love for Christ when I cannot turn off the TV and spend the afternoon with Him.  I know people who love God who would love the amount of time I have available just to sit at His feet. I am very blessed with a lot of free time.  But this still does not motivate me to lose the distractions.

Now that I have this confession out there, and now that you may be doing a little soul searching on this topic, I feel like I can make some serious changes as to how I spend my days.  God needs to be the priority throughout my whole day.  Less TV, and social media…more God.  I am so glad God is a God of grace because I am certain will have a few more days like this one.

Christian Living

Playing in the Puddles

Do you have a longing so great for more of God, yet you cannot seem to get loose from your ties to the world?  I have run across this dilemma many times.  I so desire for a deep, lasting relationship with God but there is so much of me still in the world that I have a difficult time giving myself over 100% to my relationship with God.   I love God so much, but I get caught up in all the “stuff” of the world and this keeps me from seeking God fully.

I remember once when I was young that I wanted to go swimming in the worst way.  Only one problem, we didn’t have a pool.  I was frustrated, and it had recently rained so I decided to go swimming in the puddles in our driveway.  I played in those puddles for a long time, all the while pretending they were a pool.  Isn’t our relationship with God sometimes like playing in the puddles?  We long for God, to hear His voice and yet, we play around in the world, all the while pretending that we are content with where we are with God.  We ask the question “How much of the world can I cling to and still have a deep relationship with God?  The answer…none of it.

Scripture clearly says in 1 John 2:15

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.”

That is pretty black and white.  Love the world, do not love the Father. So, any loyalty we have to the things of this world separates us from the love of God. So how do we get ourselves out of this world and closer to God?  Well, first we must set our affections on the right thing.  Many, including myself, are attached to things of this world. I like stuff and there is nothing wrong with having stuff, but are you putting too much emphasis on these things?  We need to replace our love of stuff with the love of God.  God needs to be our contentment, our thrill, our true love.

I find that what I spend most of my time doing is what is taking the place of God in my life.  It turns into an idol.  Now how to identify and remove idols from our lives is for a different post but the point I want to drive home is that we spend too much time playing in the world and trying to have a relationship with God.  The two cannot be intertwined.  We must separate from the world and devote ourselves to nurturing our relationship with Jesus. The more we invest in our relationship with Jesus, the less of the world we will desire. And one day we will realize that the world holds no attraction for us any longer. We will stop playing in the puddles and we will realize the refreshment of swimming in the pool!!