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.

10 LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE DARKNESS

While going through several recent bouts with depression, I attempted to try to not only put into words the stuff going through my head, especially as the darkness begins to subside and light begins to creep back in, but I also wanted to see if there was anything I could learn from this time…find some purpose in it…find something that can be carried into the next dark time…find something to cling to. I know that there is a purpose for everything under Heaven, so surely He has a reason for these. Perhaps He will use these experiences in the future, but perhaps there is a more personal lesson that can be learned.

1. It is dark….some days are darker than dark – but even in the darkest of moments, He still sees. The darkness within does not block out the view of the Almighty.
(“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:12)

2. It hurts… some days the pains is almost unbearable, although there is often no explanation for it, but the Father knows. Every tear we have ever cried has been seen, understood, and known.
(“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” Psalm 56:8)

3. Everything appears to be upside down and the top cannot be found. At times, it is as if you are being pulled down a spiral and there is no way to know which way is up or which way is down. It is a swirling sea of pain and darkness. But, despite all of this, He is still there, He is still holding on, and He will not let us go.
(“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b)

4. It seems to last FOREVER — and F…O…R…E…V…E…R… is no joke when you are drowning in darkness.

5. God doesn’t let the darkness remain all-consuming. He sends a ray of help at the darkest point. BUT, it is in His time and not ours, which is a tough one to swallow. Perhaps this is why I always felt drawn to lighthouses. They symbolize hope in the midst of raging storms and help to guide sailors away from the unseen ragged rocks that would dash them to pieces. He truly is our Lighthouse as He is the One who gives light in the dark, that protects us from what would crush us, and that guides us safely home.
(“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27a)

6. You are NEVER alone or unloved in the darkness, even though it may totally feel that way.
(“The LORD appeared to us in the past,[a] saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…’” Jeremiah 31:3)
(“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2)

7. Nothing seems to matter, even though everything really does – and even more so.

8. Feelings, while very frightening, are allowed and need to be released/expressed during this time. Freedom comes from expressing some of the feelings. It is almost as if that, by putting words to the feelings, they are disarmed and lose some of power.
(“The tongue has the power of life and death…” Proverbs 18:21a)
(“My tears have been my food day and night… 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:3 – 5)

9. It will end – the light will break through. Just be patient and remember to keep your head up despite the drowning sensation.
(“14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.”
“20 He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.”,
“29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea[b] were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:14a, 20, 29-30)

10. You will be stronger for having survived the storm.
(“2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:2-3a)

The biggest challenge for me, but one of the most crucial one, is to remember to just be still and to hold on. Even though I cannot see what is around me or where I am reaching, I must trust that when I reach out to Him, He will find me. When I grasp hold of even just the hem of His garment, He will hold onto me and will not let me go.

All that is expected of me during these times is to trust His heart and, most importantly, be STILL and KNOW that He is God.

He is in control even when the darkness surrounds and obscures all vision.
He is in control when everything around me seems to be crumbing to pieces.
He is in control in the mist of the chaos.
He is in present,
He understands, and
He will have mercy.

They dawn will break, morning will come, and He will exchange our tears for His healing, our pain for His peace, and our darkness for His light.

*All Scripture quoted is from the NIV.

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.

This Too Shall Pass

Once again, the blank, white screen is glaring off the monitor. It is just waiting for thoughts and inspiration to flow and land upon it in some cohesive structure and meaning. How long does it have to wait before this will actually happen…? This has happened many times over during the past week or so – the blank page screaming to be worked with, written upon, given meaning rather than deletion.

When fatigue, weariness, dryness, and disappointment loom larger than life, where do the words come from then? How can they find their way from the depths of the heart and out into open light to be given life and purpose? Does the river still flow even then?

In these moments, thoughts from Ecclesiastes come to mind reminding the heart that there is nothing new under the sun. These feelings and these circumstances have all taken place before in other times and other locations – and they will occur again in the future. The reminder of the eternal presence of the Almighty God is brought to the front as well.

The answer to the painful questions of a soul seeking water, peace, and green pastures is a resounding YES!!! The river will always flow – for it originates within the very heart of God Himself. The words will always be there for they too are His alone. Fatigue and weariness? While difficult to push through, these are just temporary and will pass. Dryness and disappointment as well are just stages in life that will soon be gone and replaced by refreshing streams and joy.

When understanding does not envelope the mind and more questions remain then answers, God is still there. When the soul longs for the living springs of water, but yet seems to be stuck in the valley, God is still there. Regardless of the feelings of the heart, moods of the mind, or stirrings in the soul, the Almighty God, the Everlasting One, The Eternal God is still there – and always will be. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will uphold us with His everlasting arms and will carry us through until we have the strength to stand on our own once again.

Take heart weary mind, take comfort weary soul, find joy disappointed heart. Remember always that “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms….” Deuteronomy 33:27

Busy, Busy, Busy

Some weeks my life is just crazy busy. There are some days when I am so caught up in all the work I have to do that I forget to eat, forget what day of the week it is, and have trouble keeping track of how many cups of coffee, if any, I have enjoyed that day. At that point, I must ask myself two very important questions: am I forgetting to spend time with the Lord? and am I forgetting to take time to write? What if the work load increases to test your priorities, your faithfulness, your dependence on Him, your dedication to the work He has called you to do? What do you do then? Torn between what you are called to do by the grace of God and the responsibility you have been entrusted with, a balance must be found.

That balance is exactly where I struggle. The work load itself is rather daunting and, when combined with other aspects and events of life, the priority scale tends to get tipped the wrong direction from time to time. What does it look like when this happens in my life, not counting an increase in the stress level and blood pressure? The result is this – I completely forgot to write my blog post for last week and here we are, most of the way through this week and I am just now sitting down to write this now. The frightening thing is, had it not been for a wonderful conversation with my dear friend Paula Michelson, I would probably have forgotten all about it period.

Now, to some people, this may seem like no big deal, but for me, it is. You see, I am trying to make writing more of a priority in my life just as the Lord Himself must be more of a priority. If the words I write are given by Him, if I am not writing, then were does the message go? If I am not writing, I am missing out on that special time I spend with Him. Yes, it is nice to take care of responsibilities, finish to-do lists, and see where progress has been made in the mountainous pile called laundry, but my heart needs that break, that time with Him where He speaks directly into my heart.

One lesson I am learning through this particular moment in my life is that, when He is placed in priority, the other things don’t seem to be as stressful, the work tends to be accomplished quicker, and there is a greater sense of peace. This may seem like an elementary lesson to some, and to some degree it is. In fact, this is a lesson I have learned before in my life – several times over. (One would think I would have remembered it by now…..) However, I am grateful that my Lord loves me enough to teach me the same lesson, to prove Himself to be faithful in the same areas, and to continually remind me of the same things because He knows that I will eventually get it right. He has enough faith in me to know that I will turn to Him, I will put Him back in the forefront, and that I will remember Who is really in charge – and that it is not the work load, the laundry pile, or the grocery list either.

May this week – although it is nearing an end – find you in a place where you are resting in Him, trusting Him for the endurance and strength to conquer the mountains you may face (whether they be laundry filled or not), and placing Him at the forefront of your life. When He offers the “Great Invitation” in Matthew 11:28-30, He never offers to remove the situations, alter the bounds of time and space, or make it all go away. What He does offer to those of us who are willing to answer the invitation, is the opportunity to come to Him, to accept the rest He offers, to learn from Him, and to trust Him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I am not there yet and I still have a ways to go, but, as we all are, I am a work in progress. Thankfully, I know who is the Author and Finisher of my faith and I know that He will be faithful to complete the work He began in me. All I have to do is come to Him, accept His rest, and fall into His everlasting arms.

Choose Joy

I will be honest with you, this past week has not been one that I am proud of, that I want to cherish in my memory, or that I care to ever repeat. It has been a long, dark week full of trials, choices, decisions, mistakes, and mess. It has been a week where my focus has been on the circumstances and not my Creator, where my heart has fallen into my hands and, rather than place it into His, I think I stuffed it in my pocket thinking I could do something about it myself.

So, as I sit before this blank page that is slowly filling with letters that will become words, I must ask myself what comes next. Where do I go from here? I have been here so many times before…just sitting in the crumbled ruins of plans I made for myself, of dreams I allowed to flourish without consulting His will for my life. One would think I would learn eventually how to avoid coming here. However, one thing I do know is this – even when I find myself here once again, I find my Lord here as well. His light envelopes my darkness, His love pierces through to my heart, His peace rains down on my spirit. He finds me in this place, takes me by the hand, and gently leads me out once more. My Shepherd – my Yahweh Roi – leads me back to His side, carries me when I am injured, and loves me through my pain.

Take courage, fellow travelers on the River. Even when no one else is aware of your pain, when no one else sees the tears, when you lack the courage to even ask for prayer, the Father knows – He sees the tears and He will lift you up again. I know this to be true for He has done this for me countless times. Sometimes, He even uses this once blank page to minister to my heart.

Here is my offering, my “solution” for the dark times. While this may be a little repetitive-appearing in its form, it emphasizes the need to continuously make the choice for joy regardless of all else. It is, after all, a choice…

Choose joy

When darkness surrounds
-Choose joy
When condemnation abounds
-Choose joy
When told you’ll never make it
-Choose joy
When told to just forsake it
-Choose joy

When the sun shines brighter than before
-Choose joy
When your heart sings like never before
-Choose joy
When all appears to be going right
-Choose joy
When you hear His song in the night
-Choose joy

Regardless of circumstance
-Choose joy
Regardless of whether or not you dance
-Choose joy
It matters not how you truly feel
-Choose joy
At times we must decide to choose what is real
-Choose joy

Just remember that, as the saying goes, just because the door is shut doesn’t mean we shouldn’t praise Him in the hallway!

His grace is sufficient,
His love is boundless,
His mercy is timeless,
His peace is beyond understanding,
His joy is our strength!

I challenge you to choose joy!!