SWEET MEDITATION – a good way to battle depression

As I was reading my Bible the other night, I landed in Psalms (which is normal for me).  I was reading along and found a familiar passage I had read many times before, but, this time, I saw something in it that I don’t believe I noticed before.  I found the word “sweet” written in a group of verses talking about singing and praising.

Most of the time in my writing, I use the NIV for Scripture as it is easy to read and understand.  However, there are some passages in which the beauty of the King James Version cannot be matched.  This is one of those passages – a passage where the word choice paints a richer picture that the heart seem to connect with just a bit more.

Psalm 104:33-34  (KJV)

33 I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.

“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live…”
There is no disclaimer here. There is no mention of situation in which we are not to praise Him.  It does not say that I will sing to the Lord on days when I feel great.  Nothing is mentioned of only singing when the weather is great or things are going well.  It simply states that “I WILL sing unto the Lord as long as I live…”

“…I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”
As long as there is breath in my lungs and my heart continues to beat, I am to praise Him. So long as my sanity remains (which is questionable some days), I am to praise Him.  Regardless of whether or not my “being” is what I want it to be, how I want it to be, or how I think I should feel in my “being,” I am still to sing praises to my God.

“My meditation of him shall be sweet…”
MY meditation of Him shall be sweet.  Oh how I love that line!  While I certainly want the Lord to be pleased with my thoughts toward Him (which is how the NIV translates that line) and the way in which I praise Him, my meditations of Him don’t just affect Him, they affect me as well.  They should be pleasing to my soul.  They should be beneficial to my mind.  They should be healing to my heart.  MY meditation of Him WILL be sweet – and it is because of Him.

“…I will be glad in the Lord.”
Such a simple statement with such wide reaching effect – and it is a choice.  We must make the choice every day to be glad in the Lord regardless of what life throws our way.  We must be determined.  We must make up our minds to be glad in Him.

We must choose to sing to Him.

We must choose to sing praises to Him as long as we possess the physical/mental ability to do so.

We must choose to be glad in the Lord.

With the choice made, the issue decided, and determination set, our meditation of Him truly will be sweet.  It is at that point that we can begin to understand more fully just how deeply the river of His heart flows, a river that flows with love beyond description, joy beyond belief, and peace beyond comprehension.

RUNNING IN THE LIGHT

In the quiet, before what is really occurring is truly known, the veil of darkness is lifted. Ever so slowly and gently, the warmth of the sun begins to creep into the cracks and crevices, into the corners and closets, driving away shadows along its way. The dark has left behind a weariness that is felt within the depths of the soul and cuts to the very center of the heart, the pain so overwhelming that the beginnings of the dawn are not even noticed. But the Father knows.

Ever gentle, ever faithful, and ever kind, the Father reaches down and begins to bandage the wounds left behind. He lovingly wipes away each tear and cherishes what each individual tear represents. As the intensity of the pain eases, He gently turns the face that is cradled in His hands toward the sun. The warmth shining in is so comforting, so soothing. The warmth brings with it a sense of calm and a peace that runs deep into the wounded places. Although wounded and weary, restoration is coming, peace is returning, and healing has begun.

Easing out of the corner and beginning to struggle to stand, a steady hand is offered, but this hand is unlike any other. This hand radiates power. This hand carries within it a boundless unfathomable love. This hand bears scars and written with in the scars, I find my name. I find my name carved into His hand! Within His hands, I find my healing, but it is a healing that is only found within scars left behind by nails.

Holding onto His hand, I rise. Holding onto Him, I find solid ground beneath my feet and the strength in which to stand. Focusing on Him, I find the assurance that all which remains broken will be healed, that strength will be renewed.

With one glance at the smile on His face, my soul begins to take flight. With wings like eagles, my heart begins to soar. Caught up in the strength of His hands, I find the courage to run once again. In His light alone does that which once was weary and broken become renewed and restored. Carried on by His everlasting arms, I run once again, for I am running in His light.

The Hidden Places

While in the process of moving lately, I came across a devotional I read a few years ago that had some interesting ideas. It was about finding God in different placed, hidden places, and not just in finding Him as the source of our creation, salvation, or being. It was about really, truly, finding HIM. I walked out of my office the other day and saw that this book was just sitting on a box. I don’t even remember putting it there, but it was there all the same.

With my house in disarray due to the move and the fact that unpacking has to take a backseat so many other things that are of higher priority and more importance, I found the book even more ironic. One of the first images that popped into my head was all the places in this house we have been so blessed with that the Lord could “hide.” But then the poet within began to think of all the places within me that He could “hide” and that really caught my attention.

How often do we go through our day-to-day lives and overlook so many of the miracles that are not only around us but within us as well? I know that I am personally guilty of this more often than I can say I am not. Yes, I do so appreciate a beautiful sunrise and am enjoying watching spring finally arrive. However, do I appreciate the beauty He has created within me and the blessings He has poured over my heart, my mind, my soul, and my life just as much?

After having come through such a long season of uncertainty, a season of dependence on others, and a season of waiting for the Lord to move in my life, I now am blessed with the peace, the space, and the opportunity to take the time to ponder on these things. I am sitting here in the peace and space of my new office and the words, which felt to be so far away for so long, finally seem to flow.

While the season of waiting seem to go on for so long and the answers never seemed to come, now that it is over, I can look back and see His hand in it. I can see how He was breaking down the things that did not serve to honor Him, allowing me time to come to the point where I would yield to His timing and not force my own, to come to the point that I acknowledged the fact that His plans for me where infinitely higher than the dreams I had for myself. Even when the Lord seemed to be so very far away, He was still there – waiting for me to find Him in the midst of my waiting, in that hidden place.

Regardless of what season in life you are going through right now, God can be found in the middle of it all. Even when depression seems to reign and you can’t seem to find the light of day, He is there. When chaos seems to have control and screaming into the darkness comes to no avail, He is there. Through the darkest night, the deepest sadness, the wildest storm, He is there.

The challenge is to not only look for God within His creation and to appreciate the beauty with which He surrounds us, but to also look for Him within, to find His hidden places within us. As I search for Him there, I know that I will continue to grow in the knowledge that He is my hiding place. As we hide our hearts within Him, He hides His within us – and He waits ever so patiently for us to find Him there.

Struggling To Reach The Surface, Fighting For Daylight.

I was hoping that the beginning of a new year would bring about a change in perspective, tide of events, and the opportunity for more positive transitions. However, after completing two months of this “new” year, I am coming to realize that these are not going to be outward occurrences in my life for the time being. I must, however, find them within myself and these need to become an outward expression of what I want my life to represent in spite of the trials.

Unknown circumstances…medical situations that remain unsolved, undetermined, unknown… These are not things I do well with and I have found myself struggling to keep my head above the waters of depression and despair. So many changes have come about in a very short amount of time due to the unknowns that still plague my heart that it has been a challenge to keep my balance, keep my perspective, and not get lost in the fast crashing waves of change. Absolutely nothing is the same and I don’t know that it ever will be again.

Because of this storm, I have a better grasp of how Peter felt when, while walking on the water to Jesus, he saw the storm rather than the Savior and began to sink. That is where I have been…away from the words I love so dearly, away from the outstretched hand of my patiently waiting Savior, away from many who could pray for the situation – or for me. I allowed the storm to rage and the waves to crash over my soul and here I sit, alone on the shore like a shipwrecked child.

As I sit here before this slowly filling screen, I am reminded once again of His faithfulness. I have thought about writing often, but I could never find the words to begin anew. As I sat the other day on the washed up shore of my heart, I began to try to put words to how I was feeling – even just a few. Slowly, the pieces of the title for this post began to float to the surface. Little by little, it came together until it was a cohesive string that summed up my heart and circumstances at the moment. I had been swallowed up the waves of despair and tossed about in the storm of the unknown. Reaching the surface was a struggle. Fighting for light in the darkness of my heart seemed impossible. So, I wrote those words and let the title sit (to simmer, so to speak). I allowed the thoughts that would come with it to soak into my heart and grow. When I opened the document the next day, those thoughts grew into words carried onto the page by only the strength of my Savior.

While understanding is great and crafting metaphors to explain things of the heart that words alone do not accurately convey can be wonderfully freeing, I now must ask myself some hard questions. What now? Where do I go from here? How do I open my heart to not only allow others to see the storm raging inside of me, to see the fear from the potential of the unknown, to see the pain brought on by the changes in life, or to even pray for me? After all, I am supposed to be the strong one …or at least the is the lie I have bought into for a long time… Honestly, I have no idea what the answer is besides to hold onto my Savior for dear life and trust Him to calm the storm, bring answers, and smooth circumstances in His time and in His way. Like the saying goes, I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds my tomorrow.

So, even though the storm rages around me, through my heart, and through my life, it is through these storms that I know my Lord will be faithful all the more. It is through these that He will show His strength on my behalf. Through this, He will continue to demonstrate His infinite love for me. Even though the challenges will continue to try to wash over me and circumstances will continue to disrupt and bring changes that so hard to bear at times, I know He is there. Even though my heart may feel like a piece of washed up shipwrecked lying on the shore, He will gather the pieces as they wash up on the shore, He will cherish them, and He will restore my heart.

All that is required of me now is to give Him my fears, trust His heart, and just be still.

To Be Found At His Feet

Rather than write about a segment of my journey or a particular place I am at in my life, I thought I would share some of my praise, some of my heart. This is the heartbeat behind my journey and, regardless of all else, the journey is for Him. I long “To Be Found At His Feet.”

To Be Found At His Feet

At His feet, we humbly fall –
in reverent adoration.
At His feet, we humbly fall –
our burdens tumbling down before Him.
At His feet, we humbly fall –
Laying down our dreams.

At His feet – the place my heart most longs to be,
So humbling,
full of mercy,
unending grace.

To lay myself,
my dreams,
my all before Him –
I am speechless, my Lord.

Tears of gratitude flood my eyes,
rivers form within my heart.

I pour out my all,
my praise,
my heart –
all before you, my King.

Mercy unending,
grace undeserved,
love unfailing –
All found at Your feet.

Faithfulness Displayed!

This past year has been one of challenges. It has not been the easiest year of my life, but neither has it been the worst. I am not quite sure what to classify it as beyond challenging. On the flip side of this, I can say that this past year with the Lord has been one full of grace and faithfulness. Regardless of the valleys, caves, or shadows, He was faithful through it all. Regardless of the victories, the mountain-top moments, and the realizations of truth, He was an ever-present constant friend. 2013 was a year in which God proved His faithfulness time and time again. It was a year that, if one looks with the eyes of the heart, the hand of God can be seen throughout.

On professional level, even though I started to work from home in the summer of 2012, the transition from going to work to working from home has been one full of challenges that I never knew would exist nor would I have dreamed would take so long to adapt to. I love what I do and I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given, but it is more difficult than one might think. The lack of social interaction is merely one of the challenges as is the tendency to not leave the house very often. However, the Father has been faithful through it all and has walked me through each day. It is a daily challenge depend on Him for the endurance to handle all that comes my way and to trust Him to provide the not only an escape from the four walls I am surrounded by, but also the inspiration to write when the opportunity arises.

On a spiritual level, this is a year that has shaken the very foundations of my faith. Every truth I ever held dear has been challenged and my faith has been shaken to the very core. This was a year where I had to go back to the Bible, search it out, pray it out, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart. One thing that stands out the most about this period of time was a challenge I was presented regarding the truth of Jesus as the Messiah by a friend who was searching out the depths of her faith. I was asked how I knew for sure that He really was the Messiah. The fact that He lived was not disputed nor was the fact that He was a wise teacher. She wanted to know how I KNEW He was the Messiah. She didn’t want to hear about how I felt in my heart or the standard churchy answers that tend to be full of doctrine and rhetoric. This question above all others sat me down and hit me hard. The reasons for her doubting made rational sense, the presented questions were relevant and authentic, and I found myself in a very frightening position of not having an answer. As I prayed through this problem and was searching for an answer to share with my friend, I had a wonderful conversation with a woman full of boundless energy, a deep love for the Lord, and the gift of putting a whole lot of truth into a small, blunt, right-to-the point package and then slamming you upside the head with it in love (or at least that is how it hit me). (Paula, you are a blessing beyond description!) The fact that He is the Messiah is a FACT that must be believed IN FAITH. It is a heart-thing. It is a choice. While the truth that she hit me with soaked in and was prayerfully passed along to my questioning friend, the Lord proved Himself to be so faithful. He brought back to mind a situation from many years ago in which I witnessed firsthand how the Holy Spirit guides in frightening situations as well as the awesome power that exists in the Name of Jesus. If He was not the Messiah, then how can there be such power in just His Name? If He was not the Son of God, then why do demons flee at the mention of His name? There was my answer…spelled out for me many years before the question was even asked. How faithful He is!!!! Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

On a personal level, this year has been one that has brought to light some rather ugly truths about myself that sent me reeling as well as the return of struggles with depression. In terms of the ugly truths, I feel I still have a long way to go in this area, however, I have no one to blame but me. After all, if you aren’t prepared for an answer from the Lord, it is usually a good idea to not ask the question because it just might get answered – and that is exactly what happened. I still have not completely regained my footing with this or with the depression, nor have I sorted through all that needs to be sorted and understood. However, I know that there is a purpose for everything, that I was fearfully and wonderfully made, and that He has a plan for me. While I have no idea what that plan is or where the words He lays on my heart will go, I know that He has His hand in the midst of it all. He will continue to show Himself to be faithful just as He always has.

This is my favorite part – the true joy of my soul. Writing! And what an amazing year this has been in writing!! Through His leading, I have been challenged to share my poetry in ways I would never have dreamed – and He provided the courage. He also provided the strength needed to write and to share my story and my journey with others through this blog. I am normally a very private and closed off person so this has been a great challenge for me and yet another way for Him to prove Himself strong on my behalf. As if all of this was not enough, He even provided a way for several of my poems to make their way into two different poetry compilations this year. (Yeah!!!!!!) I cannot describe the feeling of holding a book in your hands and see the words once birthed in your heart printed in black and white before your eyes. Every time I look at the book, I am in awe of His gift, His grace, and the fact that He could find a use for the words jotted down through my heart.

The struggles of 2013 have left me weary and worn, but I have not been forgotten or forsaken. I have been challenged and defeated, but the Lord has not left me there alone. Every valley lead to His throne, every dark tunnel was illuminated with His love, and He was there through every desert crossed. Even when I had nothing left but questions, He was still by my side. 2013 was a year in which the Lord proved Himself to be faithful time and again to one who was unworthy and undeserving of such tender care. It truly was a year spent with Him. It was a year where my soul can truly shout Baruch HaShem Adonai, Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

May the coming year finding you walking in His way, showered in His peace, and resting in His love.

The Dawning Of Grace

As I walked through the living room the other morning something caught my eye through the large window, which just happens to face the morning sun. A most beautiful display of red and orange was shining through the blind and panels. Of course, if it is this beautiful on the inside, it had to be even more so on the outside. I stepped outside the front door and beheld one of God’s most beautiful works of art! The sky looked as though it was on fire and it was streaking not only from side to side, but all over the sky. The magnificent pattern of color displayed was beyond description. Of course, being a great lover of sunsets and sunrises, I had to take a picture. But this sunrise was a little different than most – it kept on growing and changing. It ended up taking three different pictures that morning through different stages as it continued to change as the sun rose and the clouds added their part to the portrait. The fresh white snow on the ground provided a beautiful base to this unique and original piece of art displayed by the Artist of Time Himself. While I was in a hurry that morning (as I usually am), I was stunned by the beauty I was beholding and so grateful that the Father took the time to create this moment for me – a moment of peace to be shared with Him.

The day after I enjoyed this wonder expression in color, I was chatting with a friend. In the past, we had talked about the different metaphors contained in the concept of “daybreak” and the different aspects of our lives that can be like the dawning of a new day. (A few weeks prior, she had loved one pass away and she had reflected on the incredible daybreak this cherished soul must have had when she entered into her heavenly rest.) We started talking about daybreaks, sunrises, and new beginnings once again, and I told her about this sunrise I had witness the day before. It was then she presented an idea I had not thought of before….. Isn’t Christmas like a sunrise as well? Her next comment basically told me I should write about that.

This simple question posed has resonated in my heart ever since that chat. The more I think about it, the more I come to understand just how right she is. Since it is a few days before Christmas, please allow me to share with you my thoughts about that wonderful sunrise the Father designed in more ways than just one over 2000 years ago. (One fact that is important to keep in mind throughout this post is that, according to the Jewish calendar, the day is considered to be from sunset to sunset.)

On that most holy of nights, Jesus came into a dark and sleeping world (both physically and spiritually), and His arrival was proclaimed with lots of light. His birth was announced by a host of angels to a group of lowly shepherds, a new star began the wise kings on their journey, and a mother who kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. On that night, The Light of the World became Emmanuel, God with us. The Morning Star arose in our world dispelling the darkness from those would accept it, awakening those whose hearts were open to His call, and fulfilling all that the Father designed for His presence with us to fulfill. This Light of the World, which would become our salvation, had come to live among us.

While He came without pomp and circumstance and a traditional fanfare one would expect from a secular king, both Heaven and creation announced His birth. An angel presented the proclamation to this humble group of men that the Messiah had been born. Suddenly, a great company of heavenly angles appeared praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14) Obviously, these men were chosen by the Father to receive this proclamation because as soon as the angels departed, they hurried to Bethlehem to witness for themselves what the angels said – to see their long-awaited and promised Messiah with their own eyes. The dawn of His Light broke into their souls and they left the place where He lay to proclaim the glorious news of His arrival and share what they had been told by the angel. According to the Scriptures, all who heard what the shepherds had to say were amazed by the story. But Mary wasn’t amazed. What happens next in the story I find quite fabulous. The shepherds came and saw, they went and told, but that was not enough for them. They kept on glorifying and praising God for all that they had seen and heard – for it was just as they had been told. The Light of Messiah dawned in their hearts and they were not the same.

While they did not arrive on the night He was born, a new star was born and they were watching. The three wise men from the east saw His star when it arose in the night sky and they followed it. When they went to King Herod looking for this new king that had been born (they already knew that the star was for a King), he sent them to Bethlehem because that is where the Messiah was prophesied to be born. When they left Herod,”… they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (Matthew 2:9, 10). When they entered the house, they saw Him. The Scripture account tells us that they saw the child and His mother – the saw the Morning Star, the Light of the world, first. It goes on to tell us that the first thing they did was not to proceed with introductions, discuss the weather, or talk about how uncomfortable it can be ride on a camel’s back for a couple of years, but rather they bowed down and worshiped Him. These kings from the east, these wise men who had traveled so far, bowed down and worshiped Him. The Light from the Star had dawned in their hearts and their response was to search, to follow, and to bow in worship. Once they worshiped Him, then they presented their prophetic gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Scripture tells us that “…Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19). After all, her heart was the first place where the Light first dawned. When the angel Gabriel appeared to her saying, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26), she was trouble by his words. He told her to not be afraid and then proceeded to tell her how she was to conceive, carry, and give birth to the Son of God. He told her how this miracle of God would take would take place and that she was to call Him Jesus (Yeshua), for He would save His people from their sin. (Yeshua means salvation). It was her open and obedient heart that gave her the courage to answer the angel Gabriel with her simple statement of faith, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) The Light of the presence of God first born in her heart out of faith would be born from her body as the words of the angels were accomplished and prophecies from long ago were fulfilled. That Light remained in her heart as that is where she treasured and cherished that took place.

In my opinion, this Sonrise of Christmas was the dawning of the new age of grace. This moment in time would pave the way for us to come to the Father. He first came to us to show us how much He loves us, to experience life as one of us, to be us. The night of His birth became the dawning of our redemption. It was the first of the three greatest dawnings this world has ever seen and will ever know.

The second of such events, the second Sonrise, was the one that would complete and accomplish the work began with the gift of His birth and it was then presented it to the world. His death and resurrection was not only the sealing moment of our salvation, but it also happened to be the beginning of a new week (ironic that God would plan it that way?) The first day of the week became the first day of grace for those of us who, though we are Gentiles, have been grafted into The Vine because of this Sonrise. “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen!…” (Luke 24:1-6) The Son rose from the darkness of the grave and death and hell were defeated.

The third such Sonrise that this world will witness is yet to come. One day, our Lord will return! His feet will touch down on the earth once again in the same manner in which His disciples saw Him leave. At that time, all will know that He is Lord, that He is the Light of the World, that He is the Messiah!

So now, my friend, have you allowed the Light of His love to rise in your heart? Have you allowed Him to start a new day in your life? Have you allowed Him to paint your life with the colors of His love and to mold you as His own unique work of art? If you have not, I pray that you allow the Light that was proclaimed to the world by angels, witnessed and proclaimed by shepherds, followed and worshiped by wise men, and treasured by Mary to rise within you today. Allow Him to dispel the darkness with His light, allow Him to awaken your slumbering soul with the presence of His heart, allow Him to revive within you the purpose for which you were created. Let this Christmas be the dawning of a new life in Jesus Christ. He is Emmanuel, God with us and that is where He chooses to dwell – among His people. After all, He loves you so much that He was willing to not just die for you and came back from the dead for you, but He will return once again to take us home – to our ultimate home with Him.

Let us not forget the true meaning for celebrating Christmas. The gift of His birth, His love, and His life is truly the greatest gift of all – and it is offered freely to all who would come.

Merry CHRISTmas.