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Monday, October 30, 2017

Party Poopers

How Halloween divides the saints! I am sorry about that—as I am about anything that makes sweet Christian people turn into fighting cats. You know the issues, and I’ve written about several of them in the past. (I’ll put my Halloween links at the bottom of this post.) But, I’d like to address the issue of party poopers. I mean the “Fall Party” poopers.

This year, more than ever, I’ve read blogs and articles against churches holding fall parties. Oh my! It is terrible! Can you believe it? (I am being sarcastic, but this is what they say.) Little children, dressing up as their favorite Bible characters, and receiving candy at their church as they walk from booth to booth or tailgate to open van! The horror of it all!

Or a group of Christian adults getting together for a pumpkin spice everything party! How could they do that on Halloween night?

How dare Christians substitute something good and wholesome—except maybe, too much sugar—for a heathen celebration?!!!

The principle of substitution is taught all through the Bible. Putting away bad habits, immorality, vices, and the way we lived before Christ is actually recommended in the Bible. Oh yes, the Fall Party Poopers say. Put away! I am all for that!

But, in the same Bible passages, God tells Christians what to substitute for the bad stuff. Put away, but put on, too. Let’s look at some of them, reading carefully to see what’s done away with and the wonderful substitutions for a life in Christ:
  • Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light (Romans 13:12b).
  • That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:22-32).
  • But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Colossians 3:8-10, 12-17).
  • Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
  • Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:1-4, 8-11, 15-21).
  • But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7).

Look at all the good that gets substituted for bad—far outweighing the bad in both number and quality! It’s a biblical concept.

Let’s get back to Halloween. If a group of Christians decides to exchange light for darkness, isn’t that a good idea? If they have fun and let their children dress up as Bible characters, isn’t that a good idea? If Christians decide to have a God-honoring, non-alcoholic, pure party, with prayer and a devotional thought, isn’t that good? Is there something terribly wrong with turning a holiday we don’t celebrate into a wholesome fun time?

I think not.

Another principle in the Word of God is about special days. The context of the whole chapter of Romans 14 is about new Christians whose consciences bothered them about food and special days (like Halloween) that were dedicated to idolatry. The Bible says that each person needs to come to his own conclusions and not judge another person because his conclusions are different. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind (Romans 14:5).

So, I’ve told you I think it’s okay to have a Fall Party and let little kids dress up. I’ve told you I think it’s okay to have a Pumpkin Spice Party at your house, too. But, if your conscience won’t let you do either of those things on Halloween night, it’s okay. We can differ. Am I partying on Halloween? No, I’m not much of a party person. But if you are, it’s okay. Do I celebrate Halloween with darkness, goblins, and ghosts? No, and as a Christian, I have an issue with those. I have no such problems with pumpkins, wholesome fun, and laughter.

Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.


If you’d like to read past posts about Halloween, you can access them here:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Results from my Survey About Depression--with Advice and Hope

Statistics tell us that depression affects one in five adults every year. I asked my social media friends to participate in a survey about depression. Twenty-four responded. Thank you to everyone who answered!

Why did I choose this topic? Because, it is part of many people’s lives. I believe, also, that depression is one of the least-understood problems in the church. 

First, I want to share my own experience. I’ve been depressed twice in my life. Once was as a young woman, when I was under extreme pressure and stress. The other was just after my beautiful baby was born. I woke up every morning with negative thoughts. I hated everyone and every thing. At the same time, I thought I was going crazy. I had a loving husband, I'd had a good, natural birth, a beautiful new baby, was feeling better post partum than with our first child, etc. We lived in a nice apartment and were active and happy … only I was not happy! I woke up with a nasty attitude every single day. I didn’t like anyone! I was nuts-o!

At the same time, I was suffering from asthma many evenings. (When I was pregnant, I thought my trouble with breathing was because the baby was big and I carried him high.) I would sit up and read at night when I couldn’t breathe. One of those nights, I was reading a back issue of Reader’s Digest, and lo and behold, there was an article about baby blues. I had no idea such a thing existed! (Why don’t they warn mothers-to-be?) It said that it usually lasts three or four weeks, and to wait to see if the chemical imbalance goes away. If not, see your doctor. Whew! I thought. I just have to wait this out. (I was almost at the three-week point then.) So, I did, and in a week, sure enough, I felt like myself again—happy to be alive and in the world.

Since my own experiences, I’ve known a lot of people with different kinds of depression. Two of my friends had cyclical (seasonal) depression every year. When the days got shorter, they slipped down into it.  Several had chemical imbalances. All they needed was a doctor’s help. Several felt depressed after breaking up with boyfriends. Some went though a time of depression after the loss of a loved one. Others were going through hormonal changes (baby blues, pregnancy, menopause). Still others were surprised when they woke up and suddenly had horrible thoughts and feelings.

Let’s look at the survey results and then we’ll draw some final conclusions.

Q. At what age did you first experience depression?
A. 0-15  14%
     16-25  32%
     25-35  32%
     over 35  21%

Q. Do you know (or suspect) the root cause of your depression? (Check all that apply.)
A. the death of a loved one  7%
     financial problems  4%
     emotional trauma (such as a break-up, personal problems, etc.)  64%
     stress  50%
     change of seasons/weather  15%
     baby blues  18%
     hormonal issues  36%
     I have no idea what triggered it.  11%

Q. Did you feel like you were sinking into a black hole or were hopeless?
A. Yes.  86%
     No.  14%

Q. Did your depression affect your ability to function in normal life? (Check all that apply.)
A. I didn’t want to get out of bed.  43%
     I was very emotional.  61%
     I lost interest in eating.  18%
     I felt guilty for everything I had ever done wrong.  54%
     I thought I was going crazy!  46%
     I wanted to hole up in my house and never leave.  39%
     I actually thought of suicide.  54%

Q. Did you get help? (Check any that apply to you.)
A. My family was very supportive.  44%
     I cried out to God.  84%
     I went to/got in touch with a doctor.  36%
     I got counseling.  32%

Q. Did you find out you had …?
A. cyclical depression  11%
     baby blues  4%
     depression due to a sad event  21%
     clinical depression (chemical problem in the brain)  7%
     other  57%

Q. Have you been able to beat depression?
A. Yes, it was only for a short time.  30%
     Yes, with a change of diet and exercise.  15%
     Yes, with the help of my doctor and a drug.  11%
     Yes, with counseling.  15%
     No, I am depressed a lot of the time.  7%
     No, it comes back every year at the same time.  7%
     No, and I don’t know what to do.  4%
     No.  11%

Q. If you have beaten depression, are there any words of advice you would give to others? (Please check all that you would agree with, and comment, if you like.)
A. See your doctor.  33%
     Look for a root cause or trigger.  67%
     Get up and do normal things, even when you don’t feel like it.  63%

Comments and advice: 
  • “Depression can be spiritual and physical. I needed medicine to break the physical cycle. But even though I still feel the depression in the back of my mind often, I rely on God to help me fight.”
  • “Talking about how you feel and trying to sort out why you feel that way with someone who can truly counsel you I think is a key to understanding what's happening and not feel even more guilty or depressed. Taking measures and forcing yourself to go on with life each day and shutting off negative thoughts is very important. Whenever negative and depressed thoughts come back, it's important to maybe understand why, but most of all to fight them off through prayer and spending time in God's Word. Also, keeping busy and maintaining a balanced life (food, sleep, exercise) are very important.”
  • “Do not focus on yourself (once any trauma has passed). If there has been recent trauma (emotional, physical, etc.), don't be hard on yourself, but surround yourself with people who will help you get past the pain. If nothing else, just listen to truth if you can't read. Go outside (weather permitting). Once some months have passed, don't be surprised if you feel low again. Do something for someone else. Even write a nice note, email, or text. A thank you note is always good. It keeps you focused on what to be thankful for while thinking of someone else. Counseling does help. So, does a mentor to go on walks with, or your favorite coffee shop, or whatever other activity you like. And lastly, diet does help! Stay away from sugar, packaged junk, or fast foods. Try to eat some cozy, healthy foods like your favorite soup or a good protein-filled meal. Take vitamin D3! Whenever I'm low, my vitamin D always tests low. I hope that helps.”
  • “Spend lots of time with the Lord. Read the Word and obey. This ultimately brought me out of depression.”
  • “One of the biggest ah-ha moments of my life was when I read a comment by Kay Arthur, that many depressed people were lazy in their thinking; they allowed their minds to think whatever it wanted. No way! I argued. But the Holy Spirit convicted me, and now whenever I struggle with depression, my first prayer is that the Holy Spirit would help me control my thoughts. That has helped me like no other!”
  • “A good counselor who helps you set goals is a huge help. Bible verses help.”
  • “My depression was medicinally and medically induced. I was seriously injured and heavily medicated with powerful pain medications. I went to my doctor and changed my medicines.”
  • “Talk to people and let them show their love to you. Don't isolate yourself. You are not alone.”
  • “As a young, unsaved teenager, I just went through my depression. Nobody really knew. After I got saved as a teenager, my whole life changed. As a young mother there were some struggles. Looking back, I'd tell myself to eat right, exercise, use a supplement to balance my tired body, and seek someone to talk with—including my husband. Later, I exercised, lost weight, ate better, took a supplement, talked with family and friends, had a prayer support system, rested if needed to, and kept close to the Lord.”
  • “Confront the people you're upset with and let them know how you feel and that you forgive them, even if you know that it will not be received. Get it open about out so that you don't have to live with it, even if they choose to continue.”
  • “For me it’s not a case of beating it. And, it never will be. It’s much more controlling it and being aware of triggers/causes. Then, taking steps (diet, exercise, making sure I’m in my Bible, paying attention to my hormones). The spiritual is number one, then physical.”
  • “Find someone to talk with. Find support, and never stop fighting.”

What have we learned?
  • Depression is common. Many people suffer depression at some time in their lives.
  • It’s real, and it can be dangerous—especially if someone has suicidal thoughts (which was true in over half of the people who responded to my survey.)
  • Depression is caused by various triggers and sources.
  • Being susceptible to depression doesn’t mean you can’t lead a normal, productive life.

From my research, clinical depression can be caused by chemical problems in the brain, thyroid issues, and adrenal gland problems. As one of my participants shared, it can also be drug-induced. Hormones have a lot to do with depression in women.

Triggers like loss, stress, and traumas may cause depression. It can also be hereditary—a disposition towards depression passed down through the family.

Also, there’s depression that just comes on. No one knows why. It just happens. The person sinks into a dark place and feels he is hopeless and out of control. He may feel guilty, sad, or be overly emotional.

Did you know that several Bible characters suffered from deep depression?
  • Hannah. Her husband’s other wife provoked Hannah, therefore she wept, and did not eat. Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons? So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore (1 Samuel 1:7b-10).
  • Saul. And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him (1 Samuel 16:23).
  • Elijah. Elijah fled from Jezebel after the biggest victory in his life. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers (1 Kings 19:4).
  • Job. Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in? For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters. For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me (Job 3:20-25).
  • David. Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long? Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies (Psalm 6:2-7).
  • Jonah. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live (Jonah 4:1-3).

Did you know that historical Christian leaders also suffered from it? I'll name two that come to mind.
  • Martin Luther, as legend has it, allegedly threw an inkwell at the devil one night. Most people don’t believe the famous ink stain was original, but it’s a fact that Luther was plagued by oppression—or depression—much of his life.
  • Charles Spurgeon often suffered from depression. In his book for preachers, Lectures to My Students, I remember reading how a friend would take him to a cabin in the country so that Spurgeon could get over his “fit.” Sometimes, it took several weeks. An excellent article on Spurgeon’s depression (with his own quotes) can be read here 

Have you ever been depressed? Lots of people understand.

Are you depressed now? Get help. Here’s how: 
  1. If you feel like you are in a deep hole, don’t wait. Visit your doctor. Tell him about your symptoms and feelings. He will be able to diagnose what kind of help you need. It might mean a quick fix (medicine) to get you over a “hump” or it might mean you need counseling or long-term help. He truly will be able to help you distinguish how to treat your problem.
  2. Make sure you have someone you can talk to. This can be a counselor or a friend who will listen and not judge or condemn. If you feel suicidal, have someone stay with you. Talk to that person anytime you need to. Christian counselors can really help you.
  3. Get out of the house. Walk. Get healthy by eating good food. One of the people who took my survey recommends getting enough Vitamin D3.
  4. Find passages in Scripture that speak to your particular need. Are you fearful? Have you recently lost a loved one or had a break-up? Do you need assurance that Jesus is always there for you? Write out these passages on note cards and carry them around with you. When you dwell on God’s Word, your mind is in the right place.
  5. Pray. The Bible says we can Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us (Psalm 62:8). Jesus truly understands. For we have not an high priest (Jesus) which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
  6. Do you know Jesus? The Bible says, For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

The LORD is nigh (near) unto them that are of a broken heart;
and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:18).

Sunday, October 22, 2017

"Adulting" is a Process

I keep seeing signs, blogs, and memes about adulting, which is the new verb for being an adult. Doing the adult thing. Acting like an adult. Being a grown-up.

I decided to look up the word adult in the dictionary.

Adult = fully developed and mature*

Most of us are fully developed by age eighteen or so. We have grown to our God-ordained height, and our bodies are mature. But actually being an adult is much more than being big boys and girls. It means acting mature. We look up mature to see what the dictionary says.

Mature = 1. based on slow careful consideration: a mature judgment
                  2. having completed natural growth and development*

As you can see, being an adult and being mature is a process. Of course, the first part of the process is physical and mental development. Over childhood, the person naturally grows and matures. But the second part of being an adult is more abstract. It’s being mature in judgment, having self-control, discerning, and having wisdom.

How do you develop those characteristics?

What do we need to develop in order to be a real adult?

Thankfully, the Bible tells us!

Describing Jesus’ childhood, the Bible says: And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man (Luke 2:52). You can see here that Jesus grew up physically and also in other ways. Of course, He was different in that He was God. It's difficult for us to fully understand how He grew up.

This is what the Bible says about people and growth. I believe we can glean some valuable insights from these verses.
  • The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon (Psalm 92:12).
  • God says, But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall (Malachi 4:2).
  • But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ (Ephesians 4:15).
  • But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).
  • As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2).
  • But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen (2 Peter 3:18).

Do you understand that maturity is a process? Do you see how people can mature spiritually?

There are several metaphors in the verses above:
  • a palm tree
  • a cedar tree
  • calves
  • a mature man, eating steak
  • newborn babies

How are we to grow? Our “food” is the Bible, and our experiences in Christ help to mature us. We begin with milk and grow up to be able to eat steak. We give ourselves the opportunities to learn and grow in wisdom. A cedar doesn’t grow in a year, and neither does a palm tree. Newborn Christians aren’t able to handle meat—just as a physical newborn can’t chew or digest it. Discernment doesn’t come in a day. It takes time, ingesting the Word of God, and experiencing God’s working in our lives. Wisdom comes as we apply Truth. We grow and learn.

Many Christians can find themselves in one of these three categories:
  1. The Zealots—I want to know all the Bible now! I am excited, and I want spiritual maturity now!
  2. The Sloths—I’ll get around to Christian growth when I can. Not in a hurry. I’m young, and when I get to it, I’ll get to it. For now ....
  3. The Man at the Plow—This guy walks behind the plow and makes furrow after furrow, until the whole field is ready. He’s a plodder, and as he works, he learns and grows and matures.

Which one are you? These three biblical images might help you visualize your life. Are you patiently growing and maturing? As you grow, are you helping your children grow in their Christian life? Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk .... For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 28:9-10).

Let’s be learning the Bible! Let’s be teaching it to our children. Let’s grow up and be spiritual adults. It’s a process.


*Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fiction Review: Trial by Twelve

Trial by Twelve, by Heather Day Gilbert is the second book in her Murder in the Mountains series. It’s the sequel to Miranda Warning (You can read my review here.), which I recommend you read first, though Trial by Twelve can stand on its own. 

This book starts each chapter with letters from an estranged father to his child. You don’t know either who the father is or the child—until the end of the book. Then, the story is told. Tess works at the Crystal Mountain Spa in West Virginia. The spa is a tony place where the clientele can get massages, different baths and treatments, in a ritzy atmosphere—incense and candles included. Tess, married mother of a toddler, is an attractive, young, pistol packing kind of West Virginia woman. She works with elegant Dani, who’s small and fashionable. Teeny defies his name, and he’s the masseuse—and a flirt.

As backhoes arrive to install an outdoor pool, they find human remains. Unfortunately, the remains seem to multiply as you flip the pages. New bodies, old corpses, and all killed in the same way: a crossbow. Who’s the killer? Almost everyone seems like they might be. Tess’s husband becomes concerned. Why should she be hanging out in harm’s way? Several people close to her had already disappeared.

You’ll enjoy this exciting murder mystery. It’s clean and well written, and the author is a Christian from West Virginia. Trial by Twelve has an authentic feel to it. (I have a feeling the author carries, too!) There are several spa resorts in West Virginia, and I can definitely imagine one of them holding some secrets.

Four stars.