Thursday, October 23, 2014

Choosing The Extraordinary Path

“There are no extraordinary men... just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.” ~William Halsey, fleet Admiral and South Pacific commander during World War II

When was the last time you walked along the beach, sand squishing beneath your feet, and waves crashing on the shore and over your ankles?

I discovered something last week while walking along the beach looking for shells and again later while I lounged in my beach chair and watched folks pass by. Almost no one could resist picking up a shell that caught their eye. Why do we do this? Is there anything extraordinary about sea shells?

I’ve collected scores of shells over the past forty years, so this trip I decided only to collect extraordinary shells. How did I define extraordinary? They had to have a twist or curl, much like large conch shells. If it didn’t have a twist, there had to be some other extraordinary feature to justify keeping it. 

"fan" and "duck feet" shells
No ordinary “fan” or “duck feet” shells to join the hundreds of the same I already have.

my extraordinary collection
I’ll be honest. Part of my motive was to reduce the number of shells I took home. I had fun watching the waves roll in and recede, then checking to see what was left behind.

As fun as this was, I saw the parallel to how many of us live our lives. It’s not as though we choose the ordinary. Rather, it chooses us, and we ride along with it.

When was the last time you chose the path that led to the extraordinary challenge, even as you lived an ordinary life?

It may sound like a contradiction, but when you look to Biblical examples, like Christ, you find ordinary men whose chose the extraordinary path and seized opportunities God placed before them.

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.” Acts 4:13-14

Jesus’s life had purpose, and he didn’t waste time. On the surface, he did ordinary things every day, but when you dig deeper, he had many divine appointments, such as meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Both could be characterized as extraordinary.

Mother Teresa lived simply, reportedly possessing only two sets of clothing. Her daily life was no doubt filled with necessary, mundane chores, yet her service to poverty-stricken orphans in India reflected extraordinary service to the “least of these” (Matthew 25:31-45). 

As I collected shells, I thought about how often we settle for ordinary because we’re too scared or too set in our ways to strive for the extraordinary. Or perhaps we believe, especially in some Christian circles, we don’t deserve better or only those blessed with extraordinary talents or calling should be in this realm. In doing so, we often get trapped by the ordinary day-to-day time wasters like television, social media, or games. Do you know how often I get “friend requests” to play games on Facebook? It boggles my mind.

I'm not discounting the fact we all need downtime. I loved my time at the beach. It rejuvenated my exhausted mind and body. I’m also not talking about acquiring the “best life now” as promoted by certain prosperity preachers. Trials are a significant part of our earthly lives, as is the routine day-to-day work or chores we must do. I’m referring to listening for God’s plan of extraordinary work, divine appointments, and opportunities to minister and be His vessel while walking the ordinary path.

Let’s not waste time focusing on the mundane when God calls us to extraordinary tasks. When's the last time you listened for His call? Have the courage to ask what He wants for your life, and then be willing to follow through, no matter how challenging the path looks.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 

Sunrise

I’m excited to announce the release of my Christmas novella on November 6. I’ll share the link to A Christmas Chance when it becomes available on Amazon.com. Meanwhile, watch for opportunities to win a free copy! If you’re not linked with me on Twitter, please consider doing so @ Laura_Poole.

If you’d like prayer for a particular need, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you! J

God bless,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Three Reasons My Father is the Wisest Man I Know

My father taught me, “Take my words to heart.  Follow my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don’t forget my words or turn away from them. Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you. Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!” Proverbs 4:4-7a NLT 

I’ve learned in almost 50 years on this earth very few wise men exist. I’m fortunate God gave me one of them—my father. In fact, he's the wisest man I know. 

Papa finds joy in life through his work, nature, and daily interactions with people. It’s not unusual to find him in the local convenience store with his Pepsi and pack of peanuts chatting with the clerks or regular customers coming in and out. He’s enlightened more than a few folks that putting the peanuts in the Pepsi and consuming them together is the way to go. J

Animals rank near the top of his joy list. My father loves animals. One of his favorites: the donkey. Perhaps this is because they’re kindred spirits. J They’re stubborn and strong animals who persevere despite their circumstances. He’s owned them for decades. The mama donkey who’d been with him the longest died over the weekend after becoming toxic while pregnant. While I listened to my dad’s account of her death, his sadness and regret shone through. But his wisdom and acceptance of life’s tough times reflected the character he’s always displayed.

I’m more than blessed to have Christian parents who instilled solid life principles in me. But my conversation with my dad made me stop and consider a few qualities that make him so wise.

My father is wise because he not only showed his children love, he taught us love.

Love is more than affection. In fact, it’s often confused with affection. Love is reflected in your everyday interactions with others. My father owned a cleaning company when we were growing up, which eventually evolved into a very successful landscaping company. All of us kids worked for him during our childhood. Back in the day, with nine people in our family, money was tight. We often collected glass coke bottles to turn in for 5 cents each to pay for a coke or treat at the store when we didn’t have an extra quarter to spare. Yet my dad never turned away a needy person. No matter how little money we had, or how far we needed to stretch it, he always had loose change or a dollar bill in his pocket to give the homeless people who crossed our paths. Working in a university town, this was a common occurrence. My dad had experienced homelessness and hunger in his life. He wouldn’t have been able to come to the dinner table to eat what little we had, if he’d walked past others who didn’t have a table or food to eat.

My father wisely showed his love by not making his kids the center of his universe or putting us first.

No, you didn’t misread that.

To everyone’s detriment, one of the biggest lies of modern culture is children should be made to feel they’re more important than anything else. We’re paying for it with a generation of narcissistic kids who are surprised and angry when a desire goes unfulfilled or they’re not the center of the universe as an adult. Or heaven forbid, when someone else's needs may come before their own.

Good parents make their children feel special, unique, and loved. But to instill the idea that one is special, and in fact, more special than anyone or anything else, isn’t good. My dad never attended any of my piano recitals during the six years I took lessons. As a teen, I resented him for that, but as an adult, I appreciate that his hard work ensured our needs were met and provided extras like piano lessons. This meant, as a self-employed businessman, work came first. In doing so, he showed me love by providing something that brought me joy. I discovered in my mid-20s that my dad loves music as much as I do when he bought a fiddle and started taking lessons. I realized his dreams had always come second to ours.

My father is wise because he not only taught us about life, he taught us about death.

Papa isn’t afraid of death and didn’t want us to be. After all, death is an inevitable part of life. When an animal died on our small farm, we all pitched in and buried it. Yes, tears flowed, but we learned life is temporary on this earth.

I remember the first time my daughter Lindsay attended a funeral with us. I struggled with whether to expose her to such a harsh reality at five years old. My dad settled it when he grabbed her little hand and walked right up to the open casket. He didn’t think anything of it. Doing so was natural.

Back in the day, when a relative died, the open casket stayed in the home and relatives sat with the deceased until the casket was removed for the funeral. Nowadays, parents shield their children (and sometimes themselves) from open casket funerals or viewings—and sometimes any kind of funeral or memorial service. In doing so, the perception of death becomes skewed. Often the first experience with death or a funeral is that of a close loved one or friend after becoming an adult. Then “Why me?” or “Why them?” questions ensue.

Shielding a child or ourselves from death also prevents us from dealing with the fact that we will all die, and then there is eternity to face. What will that look like for each individual? For some folks, it’s easier to live in denial.

And this brings me to the most important lesson Papa ever taught me about death.

For a Christian, death isn’t the final act but a transition into an eternal life better than our earthly life (Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5). Maybe that’s why I don’t fear death (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).

These are only a few of the reasons my father is a wise man. At almost 80 years old, he can be cantankerous and hard-headed at times, but I’ve often thought the only man more perfect than Papa is Christ himself. I thank God every day for the grace and love He showed me by giving me such a wonderful, loving father.


If you would like prayer for a particular need, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you. J

I’m excited to announce the launch of my quarterly newsletter, “So You Want To Be Encouraged!” next week. In the inaugural edition, I’ll share my exciting publishing news and give away one copy of master wreath maker Nancy Alexander’s “Deck The Halls: How to Make A Christmas Wreath” Kindle book, just in time for the holidays. To be eligible for the drawing to win her book, you simply have to be a newsletter subscriber. The subscription box is at the top right-hand side of this blog. Hurry and sign up so you don’t miss the first issue and your chance to win Nancy’s book. I’ll announce the winner in the first newsletter.

God bless,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Value of Bad Times

“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Are you a good learner? I wonder sometimes if I am. I often repeat mistakes before I learn from them. I trust and extend goodwill, despite being burned in the past by those I’ve trusted. I won’t say it hasn’t made me more guarded, though, because it has.

Yet embracing bad times as valuable means a willingness to walk through a trial instead of asking God to remove it. Tough one, huh?

So maybe the better question is: Am I a willing learner?

"A heart well prepared for adversity in bad times hopes, and in good times fears for a change in fortune." ~Horace, Roman poet

How do we prepare for adversity? For a Christian, that means staying rooted in God’s Word and at His feet in prayer. If we do that, we need not fear a “change in fortune” because we know He will guide and comfort us through trials, ultimately seeking to work out things for our good (Romans 8:28). I can say this with great assurance because I’ve experienced His comfort and guidance through the tough times. And in hindsight, I’ve often been able to see why He allowed the trial instead of removing it. My spiritual growth was exponentially greater because of the adversity I faced.

When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
anything about their future.

Would it help if we knew our future? Probably not. As Horace observed, it would fuel our fears and rob us of happiness during good times. God’s plan is always better than ours. The ebb and flow of good and bad is something He has deemed worthy for us to experience to grow deeper in our relationship with Him. We simply have to trust Him in all things, whether good or bad.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4 

Are you ready to embrace adversity as an opportunity for growth?

I’d love to pray for your needs. Please share in the comments section below or e-mail me confidential requests. J

I’m excited to announce the launch of my quarterly newsletter, “So You Want To Be Encouraged!” at the end of September. In the inaugural edition, I’ll share my exciting publishing news and give away one copy of master wreath maker Nancy Alexander’s “Deck The Halls: How to Make A Christmas Wreath” Kindle book, just in time for the holidays. To be eligible for the drawing to win her book, you simply have to be a newsletter subscriber. The subscription box is at the top right-hand side of this blog. I’ll announce the winner in the first newsletter.

God bless,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

“Bad Day Calendar” photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Fresh Green Tree Growing” photo courtesy of Just2Shutter/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

In The Hard Days—There is Hope

We milk in two groups. 
I am heavy with child. 
The new barn is almost ready. 
The summer days are warm, and I am restless. 
I have lost one child. 
I am resting each moment in grace. 
My farmer is restless. 
There is much work to be done. 


The details of the impending move to the new milking parlor fill his mind. 
Will it work? 
The success of the new depends on the swiftness of the move of the old. 
A date is set. 
The change; imminent. 
It is a stressful time. 
All my farmer has ever known, 25 years of milking in the same barn,
 is coming to an end.
The move takes over 18 hours. 
My farmer is up for more than 36 hours before he rests. 
We successfully transfer from a tie stall milking barn to a milking parlor. 
My farmer is exhausted. 
Two weeks later we pile on more change as we welcome Elijah Todd Davis 
weighing 9 lbs 1 oz at 4:17 pm. 
The days move to months and winter comes with all its Vermont fury.
 

The difficulties of a new milking system take their toll. 
The weight; unbearable.
My farmer begins the steep decline to discouragement. 
Being the dutiful wife I am, I encourage him to pray more. 
To focus on the positive. 
We dance this dance.
Me the cheerleader, teaching, cleaning,
taking care of a new baby and a step daughter. 
The cheering falls flat. 
  I receive a call at work.
 I meet my mother-in-law at the doctor’s office. 
Something is wrong with my dear farmer. 
In my heart I knew. 
But no words could explain. 
Depression enters my everyday vocabulary. 
A name. 
A disease. 
Little understood. 
The battle begins.
This pillar of a man.
Lover of God.
Student of Scriptures.
My encourager.
Is depressed.
A woman from our church who has lived with depression as her
  companion brings me a video.
It changes my life.
It explains the physiological effects of depression on the brain.
My farmer and I, together, begin the ascent out of the pit.
We seek medical attention.
We pray.
We ask hard questions.
I am scared.
I have a step daughter and a 7-month old.
I am teaching, and there is a farm to run.
Depression is not a household word.
There is a stigma attached.
I vow to educate.
I pray for wisdom.
Time marches on.
Eighteen years later we wake in the middle of the night.
We have visitors.
They are not the kind of visitors you want to have.
They didn't bring a gift.
They brought bad news and pain.
Our beloved first born son had taken his final drive.
Elijah went home to be with the LORD at about 12:30 am July 28, 2013.
He was not yet eighteen. He had just graduated.
The journey of grieving began. 
Less than two months later as the waves of pain threaten to overcome,
we receive the diagnosis that my farmer has cancer.
The world continues to spin without our son.
With cancer now part of our vocabulary.
The winter hits with a vengeance.
Radiation and chemotherapy expand our vocabulary.
Their effects leave my farmer heading toward the slippery slope.
The relentlessness of winter, the deep agony of grief,
the weight of the farm push my farmer under.
It's no wonder.
The lover of God,
Student of scriptures,
Succumbs once again to the fiery effects of the joy thief.
As the symptoms rear their ugly head, my farmer recognizes them.
We cry to the Lord for relief.
There is none in sight.
The weight of this world begins to crush.
Despair.
The tool of the enemy.
My role becomes critical.
I need to remember
Depression is masking who my farmer really is.
The joy thief knows no bounds.
I push aside my grief.
I throw my needs to the feet of Jesus.
I fight for my farmer.
I look past the discouragement.
I call the doctor and make an appointment.
He seeks help.
We manage slowly each day to find peace.
There is hope.
A glimmer.
It takes weeks of waiting for the medicine to begin to take effect.
Weeks of praying and interceding for my farmer.
Changes in doses of medicine.
This disease is not for the faint of heart.
We are spent from the process.
Yet we begin to see progress.
After three months, there are feet on solid ground.
There is a twinkle in my farmer’s eye.
He cracks a joke.
I know we have turned the corner.
For how long?  
I do not know.
We will take what we have and live in gratitude.
There is hope for the depressed.
Hope exists because of Jesus.
Hope exists because there is wisdom and understanding in this area.
The recipe is different for each person.
But there is hope.


As we navigate appropriate doses of medicine,
we also have conversations of what the triggers of this disease may be.
We search for ways to avoid the descent into the pit again.
Winter looms.
The Northeast is dark.
Farming is challenging.
We are still grieving.
Hard days may be ahead.
We will forge through.
Keeping careful watch.
Diligence.
Trusting in Christ.
Laying it all down.

A teacher turned home-school mom, Tammy Lynne Davis is a lover of God, farm wife, and mom trying to find her way while one son resides with the King of Kings. Originally a Rhode Island native and now living in Vermont, she and her farmer own and operate one of two dairy farms left in their town. They walk by grace as they put one foot in front of the other toward the cross. Together they seek direction after their 17-year-old son was called home to Glory after a single car accident and then three months later her farmer was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Her journey through this life can be found at www.farmingoncilleyhill.blogspot.com. Connect with Tammy on twitter @DavisfarmTammy.

Thanks, Tammy, for sharing your family’s journey with grief and depression. Also, many thanks to Katy for sharing yesterday about her journey with depression and bipolar. It’s the willingness to share openly and transparently about mental illness that helps erase the stigma and educate others. If you’re reading this and suffering with depression, please don’t hesitate to seek medical and spiritual help. Suffering in silence doesn’t make it better. If you’d like prayer, please leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you!

God bless,
Laura

“Rustic Vermont” photo courtesy of EA/Freedigitalphotos.net
“Dawn” photo courtesy of dan/Freedigitalphotos.net
“Man Walking in Snow” photo courtesy of Maggie Smith/Freedigitalphotos.net

I’m excited to announce the launch of my quarterly newsletter next month entitled “So You Want To Be Encouraged!” In the inaugural edition, I’ll share my exciting publishing news, as well as give away a copy of one of master wreath maker Nancy Alexander’s books on wreath making, just in time for the holidays. To be eligible for the drawing to win her book, you simply have to be a newsletter subscriber. The subscription box is at the top right-hand side of this blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Depression Doesn’t Care

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18 NLT

I'm lucky, fortunate, blessed, whatever you want to call it.  I'm grateful for my family, friends, comfortable home, and physical health.  But the mind is complex.  In the midst of my comfortable life, I battle mental illness: depression and bi-polar II disorder. Even though I was diagnosed at the age of 44 after a breakdown, mental illness has plagued me since childhood.  Grumpy, hard to live with, selfish, and defensive were a few labels assigned to me, along with funny, sweet, outgoing, and caring.

I coped with mental illness through spending, binge drinking, unhealthy relationships, and eating, but as a young, involved, and happy wife and mother, mostly denial.  My circumstances were too positive for depression.  Bi-polar disorder was for people who spent days or weeks in bed followed by days or weeks of mania.  However, deep inside I knew something was wrong. My inner rage, jealousy, and outward defensiveness showed up often.

Fall 2005.  With my youngest child in kindergarten, I was alone for the first time in 13 years, and life changed drastically. After 3 hours of sleep and 4 hours of racing thoughts, an AVON business, a dog, house, and yard demanded my attention.  I planted flowers then ignored them.  I folded clothes in silence like a zombie, attended PTO meetings begrudgingly, and quit going to Bible study, but faked a smile while teaching Sunday school.

Winter 2006. After a morning mood boost from exercise, I set big goals for my day.  But instead, I sat, stared, slept, and ate. With my husband away playing with his band one night, I ordered pizza with the intentions of watching a movie and playing games with my kids, but I sat in complete darkness for five hours in my living room ignoring my kids.  I did as little as possible: no yard work, no Bible study, no reading, and no housework other than laundry.  I existed with no joy.

April 2006.  I either paced the floor or cried.  At Easter lunch, after I cried throughout the worship service in the balcony instead of the choir loft, my husband told my family I wasn't feeling well and asked them to leave. The most difficult year of my life began.  One doctor prescribed an anti-depressant, told me to memorize Philippians 4:6, the worry passage (which I already knew), assured me whatever was bothering me was not important, and said his scales were broken, "It's impossible to lose 12 lbs in one week."

After two more weeks of crying, pacing, and losing another 6 lbs, I saw a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.  She changed my medication and prescribed sedatives for my anxiety and sleeping pills. I stared at that medicine every morning and night in disbelief. I didn't want to be one of "those people," yet I took them.  I used sedatives during the day and a sleeping pill at night for a year.  My body became rested and relaxed, and with the anti-depressant, I slowly returned to my life.  My brain is ill, so the anti-depressant, which I take now, keeps my serotonin level from lowering into major depressive disorder.   

Close friends insisted I go out for dinner. I didn't want to go or open up and share, but I did, and it helped.  One friend assured me, "You'll cry every day, then every other day, then once a week, once a month, and one day you'll wake up and not cry." 

My living room, with no television, became my retreat where I cried to God and read Psalms continually, focusing on the verses of David crying out to God day and night.  I highlighted each "I cried" and "He hears." 

July 2006.  I cried less but felt worthless and lonely.  My husband asked me to speak to a minister, Jeff, in Greenville. I went with all the answers to my problems. 

After listening to me, he said, "That's great, now, tell me everything about Katy." I spoke freely, sharing what I had never shared with anyone. He didn't preach, laugh, or criticize.  He listened.  I mentioned ADD, mood swings, rage, feelings of rejection, and racing thoughts.  He suggested psychological testing.

The ADD was obvious, but after opening up to someone about my life and answering questions honestly, bi-polar II disorder was not a surprise.  Bi-polar II is sporadic highs and lows but not as extreme as bi-polar I.  I left the office crying, then laughing.  My illness had been identified and could be treated.

My battle with mental illness continues.  I'm not ashamed.  Do I love or choose depression?  Of course not. I'd rather spend my day gardening, hiking, reading, or laughing instead of sleeping.  No matter how fortunate my life appears, my mind is unpredictable:  I'm happy, then I want to drive alone with no destination.  I accomplish much then make terrible decisions.  I laugh often but wake up with intense feelings of dread.  I'm touched by the smallest kindness then cry when I'm angry.

Depression doesn't mean I'm not aware or grateful for my husband, three beautiful children, comfortable home, family, and friends; in fact, depression doesn't care.  Mental illness means my brain refuses to see this life. 

Jeff shared an interesting example.  There are days when you look out a window where massive trees block a spectacular view. The view from other windows is clear, but you're unable to move, so you stay here unable to see beauty or experience joy.  Eventually, you'll move to a different window but may move back to the blocked window from time to time and eventually move again.

Mental illness is difficult to understand.  If I share with others who don't understand or think I'm selfish for being depressed because "you have it made," I move on and never share with them again. Their opinions are irrelevant to my illness. We all have traumatic experiences and fears that cause sleepless nights.  If others dismiss these traumas, it doesn't mean they're not real or important.  I share my illness with a few friends, my doctor, a few family members, and a ladies Bible study group, and it's healing.

Seeking qualified medical professionals and friends who understand our feelings of worthlessness and treat our illness seriously is important, but it takes time.  Most mental illness is left untreated for years, so we can't expect to be well in a few days. 

While seeking professional help and learning who to trust, I experienced God, the most loving counselor, like never before. He treats mental illness seriously.  Cry to Him.  He listens, understands, and assures often, through His word and His people, that on days my view is blocked, I'll be looking through a different window soon.



Katy Glymph is an adjunct writing instructor for Anderson University, a part-time associate at Belk, a wife and mother of three in Anderson, S.C.  She earned a management degree from Erskine College in Due West, S.C. and a secondary English education degree from Clemson University. Katy is the author of Recorded for Reality - the relevance of the Bible to our realities @ www.katybrownglymph.blogspot.com. When she isn't teaching, writing, or working, she enjoys reading, gardening, hiking, and talking about writing. She's currently working on her first novel.  

Thanks, Katy, for sharing so honestly and transparently. Join me tomorrow for the second in this series on mental illness when Tammy Davis shares her story. Meanwhile, if you have a prayer need, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I'd love to pray for you! J

God bless,
Laura
“Woman at Home” photo courtesy of Marin/Freedigitalphotos.net
“Sad Woman” photo courtesy of Frame Angel/Freedigitalphotos.net
“Tree in Bubble” photo courtesy of njaj/Freedigitalphotos.net
“Colorado Mountains” photo courtesy of Liz Noffsinger/Freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Riddle of Depression

I’ve written many times about mental illness based on my family experiences, which have mirrored others I’ve met in numerous state and local NAMI functions and even strangers who’ve shared with me. I’ve read numerous medical journals, scientific studies, and first-person accounts. One of the things that alarms me after a suicide are folks who speak with great authority on the subject, yet their opinions prove they have little actual experience with the disease. 

My sister suffered with major depressive disorder and schizophrenia, the former being the most intractable to treatment. At times, she shared my excitement for the latest news and scientific studies in medical journals. She’d say, “Laura, don’t ever quit looking for an answer. I wouldn’t wish depression on my worst enemy.”

But then, once, in a dark moment, she wrote: "There are so many people who love me and they just do not know what to do. Nothing is the answer. I have to do this on my own."

It’s in those dark, impenetrable moments that one takes their life. For those of us on the outside, we cope in two ways. Some of us have the answers: the person was selfish, only thinking of themselves; if only they’d gotten right with God, he would’ve fixed it. Then there are others who honestly seek the truth of the matter. I wrote about the selfish angle on my blog last February after country singer Mindy McCready’s suicide. (Click here to read.) I certainly know the validity of spiritual wholeness with God in order to maintain one’s sanity because I’ve experienced that myself.

But major depression goes deeper, much deeper than either of these. It’s a riddle those of us who find ourselves in suicide’s aftermath struggle to unlock. After Robin Williams’ death two weeks ago, I asked two friends, Katy and Tammy, if they’d share their personal journeys with mental illness with my blog readers. Join me tomorrow and Thursday for a two-part series where these two ladies give a transparent and honest look into the heart of depression and bipolar. Even if you think you know about this disease, their stories will give you a fresh perspective.  


© Laura Hodges Poole

"Why?" photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/Freedigitalphotos.net

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Press On To Perfection

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 NLT 

Have you ever wanted something so much that you were willing to do just about anything to achieve that goal? You learned your craft or attended school or saved up for that once-in-a-lifetime trip or maybe even relocated to a new town or state to make it happen.

You’re passionate. You’ve pressed on—no matter what. Reaching the pinnacle is all that matters.

Are we as passionate about being Biblical Christians? You might scratch your head and ask: Are there any other kind?

The Apostle Paul acknowledged in the verses above that reaching perfection in Christianity is near to impossible while on the earth, yet we must continue to press on toward that goal. In the verses preceding, he admonished Christians not to get hung up on their past accomplishments or get rooted in the present day Christianity morph that so many in our culture are getting trapped by.

In other words, safeguard our faith (Philippians 3:1).

I’ve noticed a trend among some Christians—winking at sin because, after all, we’re all sinners. Who are we to judge?

While we’re not called to pass judgment on those around us, we are to make judgments about right and wrong based on Biblical truths. Forget what social media or the latest cultural trend tells you. Simply vet the lifestyle or choice by the Bible. I often hear people say, “Well, not everything is spelled out in the Bible,” or “that was then, this is now.” While some of the Bible is meant to give us an historic perspective on creation, Mosaic Law, and mankind, the principles of everything in the Bible are applicable to our lives. Think of it like this: “We are citizens of heaven.” (Philippians 3:20).

In other words: If the choice wouldn’t be permissible in heaven, it’s not permissible in our lives.

Makes our decision-making pretty simple, huh?

And while it’s hip to quote “judge not, lest ye be judged,” remember, the most loving thing any of us can do is keep our fellow man out of hell. Yet our complicit approval often does the opposite. Instead of trying to ride the edge of the envelope on what’s permissible while living in a secular progressive society, maybe we’d do well to focus on what Paul discovered—“everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Jesus often hung out with the social outcasts and sinners, but his message was clear on these encounters—“go and sin no more.” Let us press on toward that goal in our lives as we seek to become more like Christ and bring his promise of salvation and hope to a lost and dying world. 

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If you would like prayer for a particular need, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you. J

I’m excited to announce the launch of my quarterly newsletter next month entitled “So You Want To Be Encouraged!” In the inaugural edition, I’ll share my exciting publishing news, as well as give away a copy of one of master wreath maker Nancy Alexander’s books on wreath making, just in time for the holidays. To be eligible for the drawing to win her book, you simply have to be a newsletter subscriber. The subscription box is at the top right-hand side of this blog.

Join me next week for a two-part series on battling depression and mental illness, written by two women on the front lines. Whether you have a lot of knowledge or no experience with mental illness, you’ll learn something from their stories.

God bless,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

Athlete Jumping photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/Freedigitalphotos.net
Future photo courtesy of graur razvan ionut/Freedigitalphotos.net