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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Story…The Great Connector

It seems that everywhere I turn lately people are grasping hold of the idea of telling your story.
Story…it seems to be the catch phrase of the day. Just google the word and you will see what I mean. There is a...
  • magazine in Kentucky
  • store in New York
  • restaurant in Kansas City
  • nightclub in Miami
  • conference for creatives in Chicago
  • seminar and a book by screenwriter Robert McKee
  • band in the UK 
  • scriptwriting software
  • Disney family photo app for story telling

All of which go by the name Story. And of course, who could forget Paul Harvey's, The Rest of the Story.  So you see there seems to be this almost obsession with the word, or rather the concept ofStory.

We all know that this concept of story is nothing new. Since the beginning of time, stories have existed. Stories have always been fascinating to the human race. In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God(John 1:1-4).  Our creator, God, speaks to us through through His Word using 'story' as one avenue to tell us many stories that bring understanding to our own stories, our own purpose, as it fits into the bigger Story. His Story.

The methods of telling our stories have changed through the years, but the fact remains that whether it be through the spoken word, the written word, or even on the big screen, we still have an innate desire to either hear or tell a good story. 

History is told through story. More than just a string of facts, it gives us a treasury of lessons learned and points us to a better way of living into the future. History gives us heroes to emulate...teaches us to dream big. It shows us that there is always something to be learned…even through failure. 

In East Of Eden, John Steinbeck puts it this way,
I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one…Humans are caught-in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too-in a net of good and evil…There is no other story.  

I believe that Mr. Steinbeck captured the essence of storytelling.  We are all in this epic adventure…one of the struggle between good and evil. We see ourselves in the stories told. We come to understand life...our own life...through the telling of those stories. We sympathize with the characters within the stories we hear, and especially through those that we ourselves tell. 

In one other quote from Steinbeck's book we read the musing of Adam Trask's servant, Lee: 
And, of course, people are interested only in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule-a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting-only the deeply personal and familiar.
While I am not sure that I am in complete agreement to that last quote, I do know that it is human nature to listen more intently when the story being told resonates within us. When there is something being told that we can relate to on a deep and personal level our ears perk up. We lean in and listen just a bit more intently as we connect in some way to the telling of a good tale…whether truth or fiction. 

I think Steinbeck hit the nail on the head when he said, "…a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last."  There is a great and lasting story…in HIS story, God's Word.  And yes…we are all a very important part of that story. 
It is the very promises within that great story that keep us going, that give us hope. 

One of my favorite modern day story tellers is Liz Curtis Higgs. She is especially good at the retelling of the stories of the women of the Bible. In talking about the story of Ruth, she tells us that the Hebrew word that opens the story, wayehi, is translated as, "In the days," or "And it came to pass." She says that this hebrew word actually embodies so much more to those original Hebrew listeners. When they heard the word, wayehi , they would lean in eagerly so as not to miss a word, because it literally meant, "Trouble is on the horizon but redemption is coming."  

Trouble is on the horizon but redemption is coming! Isn't that just the essence of a really good story?  We want to hear what that trouble will be and we can endure the telling because we know that redemption is coming…things will be set right once again, by something or someone! And because we know there is something good to come of the bad, we eagerly lean in to hear the tale…the story.

STORY…what comes to your mind when you hear the word? Do you love a certain kind of story because it represents your own 'happily ever after'?  


I hope you'll come back to visit next week as I continue to delve into this word…this concept…to hear, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. 

Come back and be ready to lean in!








..."The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim. ~Romans 10:8

 If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy one I wrote in the topic of Story for a Five Minute Friday post here: Five Minute Friday: Story, or as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story…" 

Or here:   Hope Awaits: A Story Yet To Be Unfold

Monday, September 8, 2014

Gina Holmes: An Interview with the Author of Driftwood Tides

Today I welcome author, Gina Holmes. In addition to being an accomplished novelist, Gina is a practicing Registered Nurse, a wife to the love of her life, mom to two boys and stepmom to three daughters. She and her family make their home among the Blue Ridge Mountains in South-Western Virginia. I hope that you enjoy this interview and that it will inspire you to check out her latest novel, Driftwood Tides!


The Interview:


Please welcome, novelist, Gina Holmes. Gina is the founder of popular literary site, novelrocket.com. She is also a two-time Christy and ECPA Book of the Year finalist and winner of the INSPY, Inspirational Reader's Choice, and Carol Award. Her books regularly appear on Christian bestseller lists.


Gina, tell us a little bit about your newest release, Driftwood Tides.


Driftwood Tides tells the story of an aging, alcoholic driftwood artist turned beach bum, Holton Creary, and young Libby Slater. Libby grew up with an absent father and a loving but cold, socialite mother. Leading up to her wedding, Libby and her groom-to-be go through genetic testing and she learns her blood type doesn't match either of her parents. She confronts her mother and is reluctantly told that she's adopted. She goes searching for her mother, Adele, only to find her husband, Holton Creary lying face down on the carpet of his Nags Head beach shack. 

She lies about her real identity until she is finally found out. Holton does not welcome the news. He never knew the wife he had given saint status too had given up a daughter for adoption. Together the two search to find the truth about Adele, Libby's father and themselves.


What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

At heart Driftwood Tides is really about discovering who we are, whose we are, where we belong and the need to accept and bestow forgiveness.


Why did you set the novel in Nags Head?

Oh, how I love that place! I'm not sure there's a more peaceful setting in all the world. And the further out I get from civilization, the happier I am. I love the sand dunes, the untouched nature, and the quaint towns. Just everything! (Well except the sand in my bathing suit maybe  J )

You seem to have a recurring theme in your novels about absent fathers, if it's not too personal, why do you think that is?

It is too personal, but I don't mind answering(wink!) When I was 6 years old, I was packed up by my stepfather and driven to my father's house. Overnight I had a new Mom, new sisters, brother, house and life.  It was as traumatic an experience as I can imagine. There were few explanations that made sense to me and I missed my other family desperately. I think ever since I've been trying to settle some pretty deep-seated questions. Writing books is wonderful for that.

The novel you've written that seems to be a fan-favorite is Crossing Oceans, do you ever see yourself writing a sequel?

I love that book too. Makes me cry just thinking about certain scenes. I would love to write a sequel, prequel or off shoot stories. I love those characters dearly. I'm under contract for three different novels, so I'm not sure when I'll have time, but I'd love to explore Craig's story and of course, Bella's. I miss Peg very much! 

You've said that your favorite novel you've written is Wings of Glass. Why is that your favorite? 

Well for storyline, I think Crossing Oceans is the strongest. I think my writing in Wings of Glass was my best, plus when I was very young I watched my mother in one abusive relationship after another, and then two of my sisters. I had been there too; despite thinking I was better than that. I know the mindset that keeps a woman (or man) in a relationship like that and I wanted to give insight to those who don't understand. I've received enough letters to know I did what I set out to do.

You're originally from NJ but write all your novels from the South, why do you set your novels down South if you're from up North?

Ha, you found me out! Yes, I was born and raised in NJ. As much as I love my friends and family, I am definitely more suited for the slower pace of the South. I've lived in Southern VA for half of my life and I plan to spend the rest of my life here if I can help it. I try to write books from settings that make me happy. So I write where I want to be. (Although, I've got to say, NJ food is amazing and you've got to love a boisterous NJ laugh!)

What do you like most about being a writer? Least?

Most, I like being able to have a platform to share lessons I've learned in my life that I know others would benefit from. And more than that, I just love to tell a good story.

Least would be the unpredictability of the business. Sometimes it seems so random and the lack of control makes me uncomfortable sometimes. (Which is probably right where God wants me!)

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

My advice is pretty much always the same. 1. Write. So many people want to have written but don't actually do the work. 2. Get to a writers conference because there's so much you don't know, that you don't even know you don't know. If you don't you'll be spinning your wheels for years, wasting valuable time. 3. Run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore and buy yourself a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Then apply it. (Best money I ever spent!) 4. Join a good critique group and get a nice thick skin, 'cause you're sure going to need it!

If you could go back to the pre-published writer you were, knowing what you do now, what advice would you give her?

Well, I wouldn't have told myself how many novels I'd write that would never see the light of day, because I would have given up. I wouldn't have told myself how little money there is actually to be made or how lonely writing can sometimes be. I wouldn't have told myself that I'd still have a day job with 4 novels out in stores, including 3-bestselling novels… okay, but that wasn't your question… I would tell myself to relax. Some of this, most of this, is out of your hands, and that's okay. It's not going to be at all what you think it is, but it's going to be so much more. You won't get rich, but you will touch lives. At the end of the day, that's going to be exactly what will fulfill you.


Where can my readers find your books and more about you?

Thanks for asking. My books are in B&N, BooksaMillion, Amazon, Lifeway, Parable, Family Christian and hopefully a good number of independent bookstores. You can find me at Ginaholmes.com

Thanks so much for hosting me!

Gina, it has been such a pleasure and a blessing to have you!

                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you purchase her latest book, Driftwood Tides, be sure to hop over to her website or Facebook author page and enter the contest she is running through September 29, 2014! Fun 'door prizes' and this fabulous book table! I'm hoping to win this beauty myself! Wouldn't it look lovely in my home office?!


Oh…and please leave a comment below. I'm sure Gina would love to hear from you! I would too! 





Be sure to connect with Gina here:

Facebook Author page: Gina Holmes
Website: ginaholmes.com
Twitter: @1GinaHolmes

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Soul Whisperer…Five Minute Friday

It's that time again…Five Minute Friday…I'm linking up with Kate Motaung and the flash mob of brave writers who, as Kate says, "feverishly tap out five minutes of unedited beauty and post it for all the world to see."

It's a one word writing prompt and this week the word is:

Whisper...  

Can you hear?
Press in close or you will miss it


Push beyond the noise 


Open your heart and listen... really listen


Slow down and quit rushing about in every direction




Quiet the clutter in your mind



Turn from the cacophony of voices demanding more of you



Turn off the TV...shut down the computer...turn off the music



Be still….just be

Can you hear it?


That still...small voice?


Lean in, closer still


Come close


He is whispering to you


Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me…watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you will learn to live freely and lightly.              
                                                                              ~Jesus,  Lover of your soul
                                                                                                               ~Matthew 11:28-30(The Message)
              
Are you listening? Maybe it's time to stop all the activity, settle into the 'unforced rhythms of grace', and just breathe in His presence.
Just.breathe...









I'm joining Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday writers today.

Click over and join the fun!

Friday, August 29, 2014

To Reach or Not To Reach…Five Minute Friday

It's Friday and I'm actually writing the Five Minute Friday post ON FRIDAY! Can I get a standing ovation for this?  A high five?  No?   Oh well…this is the post where I join Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday writers.  It's where we all write on the same word prompt of the week.  The idea is to write freely for five minutes…no editing, no over thinking, no worrying about grammar or punctuation.
So here goes.

Reach

Reach for the stars.

Reach out and touch someone.

Reach your destination.

No one is beyond the reach of God….

Reaching is work. Reaching is striving.

Reaching is…

a funny word when you say it over and over.  reach…reeeeach…..reeeeeach. But I digress…

                                                                                                                     Reach


Reach within to find yourself.

We reach out because we need something…or is it because want something?

Sometimes we get what we want , but we reach again…it wasn't what we thought it was.

No…that's not really the best way to find myself…to find what I need. Do I really know what I need?

Reach…reeeeeach…reeeeeeeeeah! Is that a cry for help?


Look at the sunflowers.

They reach for the sun…

Or do they turn to the sun…the sun reaches down to nourish the flower…to give it life.



















So…

 I stop reaching and turn to the Son…and He meets me right where I am.

Planted here in this desert land…dry and parched, drowning in the sands of time.

He reaches down…

He makes me bloom, bringing rains to refresh,

 the warmth of His face to bring life to these dry bones.

And so I reach out to God….

Turn my face to Him, extend my arms, my heart, my whole being to Him.

Not tight fisted to grab hold in desperation…no…with open hands…freely

Reaching out to surrender… my life, my longings, my heart. my stubborn will...

To Him,

Who "rescued me because HE delights in me"!
He reached down from heaven and rescued me: He drew me out of deep waters. He delivered me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the LORD upheld me. He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me. ~Psalm 18:16-19
Do you long to be reached down to, or are you still reaching?
Let Him reach out to you my friend!









I'm joining Kate Motaung and the  Five Minute Friday writers today.

Click over and join the fun!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Battling Within the Walls…Let it go!

So I'm a pastor's wife…not only a pastor's wife but a church planting pastor's wife.

I rarely write just from this perspective because, for me, being a church planting pastor's wife is just part of the flow of my daily walk with the Lord. I would choose to work in the church in some capacity, whether I had the 'title' or not.  I did before I became a pastor's wife over 30 years ago, and I continued  even when we took 13 years off from the ministry. I never took a break from God's people, His Church, or the local body of believers.

I believe, as the Bible says, the 'Church' is the Bride of Christ and that the located ministry of the church is God's design to encourage one another in our daily walk with Him. As it says,
And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encourage each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:24-25
We, as the body of Christ, need a local body that will not only encourage us, but also be a place where we can go to encourage others. It should be a safe haven, a place of healing, but also a place where we are challenged to walk closer to God daily.  A place that helps us learn to 'practice the presence of God' every single day of our lives.

We should leave each service ready to show the world in which we live…our homes, our workplace, our communities…the love of Christ. Not just with our words but with our actions.

That's how it should be and is for the most part.  But the local body of believers...wherever it may be located is made up of many types of people. We are all in different places, or levels of maturity, in our walk with God and some have yet to choose the path that God has for them. We are all capable of falling away from the life God has called us to, even as far as falling into the traps set by the enemy.
But he that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.
Anne Bronte, The Narrow Way

As a pastor's wife, and particularly a church planting pastor's wife I have seen both sides of the same coin.

  • The great reward of having front row seats to witnessing the amazing change that the Word of God and His Holy Spirit bring about in the hearts and yes, sometimes the circumstances of men and women's lives.  
  • The heartbreak of those who, instead of choosing God's way, try to figure out life on their own…even though their present circumstances resemble a bad train wreck. As the hubs likes to say, "How's that working for you?"

Let me break it down on a more personal level:


The reward:

 I personally love to meet with women and teach them how to look at their lives through the lens of the God's Word, the Bible.

 It is so rewarding to see women grasp hold of the love that God offers as well as the wisdom from His word and begin walking it out in their day-to-day life. Living it out in their homes, their workplace, and their communities.

I am encouraged to see the joy that comes from applying the principles of the Bible to everyday living. To see a woman transition from a life of worry and misery to a life of peace and contentment, even in the midst of serious trials, is indeed a rewarding thing.

I love witnessing the transformation…seeing the light in their eyes as they begin to realize their true worth and beauty as a woman created in the image of their Creator. The realization that she is forgiven and redeemable and not forever broken and worthless transforms a woman like nothing else I have ever witnessed. The very countenance on her face changes as the reality of exactly who she is in Christ sets in…such a beautiful countenance as the Holy Spirit comes in to set up residence in her heart.

I feel like a proud spiritual mother when a woman begins to understand her own calling and watching her step out, as a baby bird leaves it's nest, and begin to serve other's in the way God intended. Not my definition of who she should be, but God's. Not pride in my part of this in any way, but so very proud of the way she has allowed God to direct her paths as she begins to grow into the woman she was created to be. A woman who finally understands her purpose in this life blooms into beauty; one who is confident, yet humble.

The heartbreak:

One of my greatest sorrows…seeing a woman begin to understand her standing with Christ and walk toward Him…only to find the road, or her limited understanding of it, too difficult to travel. She turns back at the first trial in the new life available to her…she begins to long for the old ways and turns back to what she was familiar with. Slipping back on the old life like a pair of familiar, comfy, and worn out pajamas.

Witnessing the broken and fallen men and women coming into the church, as well as those who still refuse to test the Lord to see if He is good. My heart breaks when I hear some of their stories…stories that only the enemy of the soul could orchestrate with the intent to destroy the heart and soul.  Yes we are all fallen…that's why we all need the redeeming work that Christ carried out on the cross so long ago.  We need a savior and it is a privilege to lead others to my savior and see them embrace Him as their own. But still…the stories break my heart.

As a pastor's wife, my heart breaks when I encounter those who are within the church body, taking on the personal mission of tearing down the pastor and/or his wife.  I have seen it and heard it told in the lives of many of my fellow pastor's wives, and heard the pain they carried from the attacks. But to be completely honest and open about this issue as it applies to me as a pastor's wife, I never really experienced the critical naysayers within the church directed at myself or one of my ministries, even of the hub's ministry, as I have, in recent years.  At a time when I need the encouragement of fellow believer's most, I have been either attacked or just left as an orphan of sorts.  And that is…well…heartbreaking.

I know that God's got my back. I rest in that. I try not to let the arrow's of critical naysayers affect my moving forward into this thing God has called me to.  It is really hard not to respond to the latest nit-picking criticism with the facts that would prove them wrong. The ones that have a tendency to get under my skin are the personal attacks given in a self-righteous tone by those who tend to be, mostly talkers of the Word rather than doers of the word. But I know that it really doesn't matter. They will believe lies until they turn to God for the source of Truth and not to gossips.  It makes me want to cry out as the LORD did with His chosen people:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. ~Matthew 23:37

The real issue is not against those people…it is not against flesh and blood. It is against the enemy of my soul…Satan. He enters into the battle with a vengeance when we are about the business of bringing people into the Kingdom of God. He hates that! He hates us. And the harder he battles against this mission the harder we will fight for God. I will not be discouraged by the minority …the skeptics, the doubters, the naysayers, the gossips, the jealous, or even those who are just angry at everything…we just happen to be on their latest list of people to criticize. Even when I want to just quit and run away, I will not. God is in control.

The enemy still has battles, skirmishes to fight in this world and he does win from time to time, but the WAR has already been won. The enemy knows he is already defeated and he wants to take down everyone else in his path to destruction. Misery loves company, as they say.

The promise and the hope:

My choice will be to rest in the Lord.  I will surrender into His arms, into His peace, and into His rest.  He will be my sanctuary.  I will rest in the promise of His word:
The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. ~Exodus 14:14
He will go before me and fight those battles, clearing the path. Only His path will bring about that 'peace that passes understanding'…that peace that does not make sense in the midst of tribulation and trial.  When the world around me fails, He does not. And yes, even when we as individuals within the body of Christ fail to walk as He has called us to, HE does not. His love never fails. 


The truth is that ALL of us have theses battles in our lives, whether we happen to be a pastor's wife, a church planting pastor's wife, or a woman (or man) whose heart it is to love the Lord and serve. If we are about the business of our heavenly Father, we will face trials of many kinds in this life on earth (John 16:33).  But we have our Heavenly Father in the ring, fighting for us. As Paul says in Romans, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)  We have His promise in the Word:
No, in all these things, we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! ~Romans 8:37-39
What are you battling today?  Are you ready to let go, and let God take over?









I'm linking up with Holly at Coffee for your heart today…a day late. :-)

 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Reader's Response to Tears of a Clown

After reading my last blog post addressing the issue of depression, Jenni Saake sent a rather long and beautifully written response. Apparently it was too long to fit into my comment form on the blog post, so she private messaged me. While reading her response, I knew I needed to share this with you, my readers. Not because she was in agreement with my post, but because she writes from the heart of one who has traveled down the long and painful road of depression.  
Some of you may recognize Jenni's name as she also happens to be a blogger/author friend that I had introduced in a Writer's Blog Hop not too long ago. She is the founder of Hannah's Prayer Ministries and author of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage and Adoption Loss. After a chiropractic accident at the age of 30, Jenni suffered 6 strokes, sustaining significant brain injury, and journals the spiritual and physical recovery journey on her blog at Stroke Of Grace.

I was so touched and encouraged by her response to my last post that I knew I needed to share her words with you here. It is my hope and prayer that you will be inspired and encouraged as well!

Jenni's Response:

Very well stated. So often the church at large wants to make depression a purely spiritual issue. That as long as you are a Christian you cannot possibly face depression and still be in a right relationship with the Lord. I love how you talked of the complex interaction between mind, spirit and body then said, "That is not to say that people who are Christians do not struggle with depression. Some do. But the answers to our deepest longings can be found in Him. Joy is not a condition of the heart that is brought about by the perfect circumstances in life. Joy is the hope in the One who is our salvation, our hope, and our grace, in spite of the pains, the wounds that we attain in this life on earth. Joy comes about when we allow those feelings of anxiousness, and fear turn us to God, remembering His goodness, even when our world seems to be falling apart; trusting the One who can bring us through the storms of life."
After my strokes I was deeply depressed (sudden blindness, hearing loss, serious nerve pain, loss of any form of self balance or ability to walk, could do that to a person!) but I surrounded myself with praise music, audio Bibles, and a couple months in when I could finally make limited use of a large print Bible, submerged myself in Scripture that way too. I prayed rather continually and sought the Lord daily, fervently. The pastor, elders, friends would come pray over me, with me. Still, I grew more and more depressed and quite suicidal for many months.
About 6 months in my doctor convinced me to try an antidepressant, something I had resisted up until this time, thinking depression to be purely circumstantial and needing greater spiritual discipline to come through the storm. We didn't get the medication correctly balanced the very first try, but it was a starting point. Within a few weeks, it was doing enough good that I could see small rays of hope breaking through my despair for the first time, enough so that I was willing to continue working with my doctor to find the correct dose (that, once achieved, offered a night and day difference!). As it turned out, the strokes had caused enough damage to specific emotional processing centers of my brain and the overall chemical balance of this organ, that short of God's divine healing, my brain was simply incapable of creating anything other than a deep, dark slimy pit where joyful emotions should be. The medication was providing a better balance of the chemicals my body should have already been producing on its own, but was simply incapable of now.
Once I got on the right dosage of medication, my body had also had many months to gain physical healing, so the circumstances, while still daunting, were no longer as intensely grim nor dire. I also gained insurance approval to start counseling, so I finally had professional help to start unpacking emotional baggage. When the mind and body were properly addressed, ALONG WITH the spiritual, then there was room for spiritual healing as well. My prayer, from the beginning had been "restore to me the joy of Your salvation" and God DID both renew a right spirit within me and overwhelm me with His joy.
At almost 3 years, I now walk with a cane, have mostly restored vision, have regained a little hearing, but the chronic physical pain issues become more intense all the time (and were horrid to start with). So if we are going purely by circumstantial issues, there are great gains in some areas and ongoing losses in others. But I will tell you, I would so much rather choose this physical pain along with restored hope, than the emotional/spiritual writhing of depression!
Lest you think I am making an argument for depression being purely chemical, physical or circumstantial, I still believe there is a great spiritual interplay as well. A year ago I went through several weeks of a slippery slide springily downward, back into the slimy pit. I couldn't understand what nor why this was happening. I was on the verge of calling my doctor and asking him to raise my antidepressant dose, when a STILL SMALL VOICE broke through to my heart to remind me I had been neglecting consistent time alone with Him over recent weeks. Oh, my life was filled with good "Christian things" but in the new-found business, one-on-one intimacy with the Lord was lacking.
I returned to Him, confessed my neglect, and recommitted myself to seeking out priority alone time with Christ. Amazingly, all traces of my heavy heart vanished within a few days! When I start to struggle now, as I still do at times, my first question is always honest self-evaluation of the state of intimacy I'm enjoying (or not) with my Heavenly Father. Often a little adjustment there will make an indescribably amount of difference! If it doesn't bring about immediate positive change, I now know there could be other physical or mental issues at play, so I think through recent dietary choices, physical exercise schedule, check my pill box to be sure I haven't been missing any antidepressant doses over the past week, and I have yet to face a time when the heart/soul, mind and body are all being cared for as they should that I could even fathom suicide as a viable option anymore!

Wow! I am humbled by your words, Jenni. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey with us!  It is my prayer that God will continue to bring about healing in your body, and that He will continue to use your story to encourage, to inspire others, and to advance His kingdom through your ministry.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Sharing your story may be a blessing to others. Be alert…God just may bring someone across your path this week. Are you willing to allow God to use you to be a comfort to someone else?








Read the article Jenni is responding to here: Tears of a Clown…Take Heart!

Resources:

The American Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
Is Depression Emotional, Spiritual, or Due To A Chemical Imbalance? by Paul Meier, M.D.
Christians Get Depressed Too Films

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tears of a Clown…Take Heart!

So much is being circulated on the Internet following the sad suicidal death of Robin Williams on this past Monday.  It is indeed a sad day when a man who brought light moments and hysterical laughter to so many would choose to end his own life, to succumb the mind numbing, heart breaking, downward spiraling thought processes that his own mental illness would lead to.


It is reported that he has battled addictions, depression, and more specifically bi-polar disorder for a very long time now.  It just breaks my heart that this man who was loved by so many, and who, by all accounts, was adored by his own children, would make such a choice to take his own life. Leaving behind him a wake of grief and pain. This man who spent the majority of his own life making others laugh was indeed riddled by a deep inner sadness.

The words, 'tears of a clown, when there's no one around' come to mind, when I contemplate the life of this man.  I have read many quotes attributed to Robin, but I believe the following quote to be most telling:
 I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone--it's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone. 
Perhaps it was not really the people around him that made him feel alone but his own inner struggles with depression. Feeling alone, even when surrounded by friends and family can be hardest thing to deal with because by all accounts, that emptiness, the deep dark hole, should not exist.  But sadly, it does for many people who deal with depression.

I've struggled with how to deal with the issue of depression in this post.  I'm neither a licensed counselor nor a psychologist…so I will not presume to try and figure out what exactly went wrong in this man's life to cause him to take his own life.  I have not personally dealt with serious depression myself, so I cannot speak from the standpoint of one who has 'been there'.

But I have walked along side those who have...

As a lay counselor I have learned that depression can be excruciatingly painful. It impacts not only the one depressed but family members and friends, as well. It can be debilitating to the point of not being able to do the things we all take for granted, like getting out of bed, taking and shower…just your normal work day can seem insurmountable. Depression is a multifaceted and complex issue, and yes there can be chemical imbalances at play, but it is usually a symptom of a deeper issue.

Depression has many origins, so it is important to determine all of the contributing factors before trying to find a solution. And please know that there is a solution. There is a way to cope with this debilitating condition.  Many have faced the source, whether physical, or emotional, or inward emotional scars and pain and gone through the journey of the dark night of their own soul and have survived. Taking your life is not an answer to the pain and isolation you may be experiencing.  

There are entire books written on this and there is a complex relationship between the spiritual life and psychological health. I cannot address such issues in depth in this article. But I will say that dealing with depression as if it is only a chemical imbalance can be a deadly mistake. The mind, body, and spirit need to be addressed if an individual is suffering from severe depression.

The answers are complex, but the deepest issues of our heart and soul can be answered from God's word.  True joy can be found in a real, deep, and abiding relationship with God. That is not to say that people who are Christians do not struggle with depression. Some do. But the answers to our deepest longings can be found in Him. Joy is not a condition of the heart that is brought about by the perfect circumstances in life. Joy is the hope in the One who is our salvation, our hope, and our grace, in spite of the pains, the wounds that we attain in this life on earth.  Joy comes about when we allow those feelings of anxiousness, and fear turn us to God, remembering His goodness, even when our world seems to be falling apart; trusting the One who can bring us through the storms of life. Faith becomes even more of a reality when you learn to trust in Him, knowing that you are not alone. God is with you. He knows your thoughts and every intimate detail of your heart and soul…and He loves you. He is present even when you don't 'feel' His presence.

I don't believe that there is ONE approach to dealing with this issue. There needs to be a balance. You cannot just deal with the physical brain and ignore the heart issues. As I have already stated, there needs to be a multifaceted approach…mind, body, and spirit.

And then there's this…people who commit suicide are still making a choice. Yes, their judgement has most definitely been clouded by some kind of circumstances that have led to a depressed state of mind. But there are many who have dealt with depression and are still alive today. So if you are in the throws of depression please understand that your answer is not in taking your life.  That will only lead to pain in the lives of your family and friends.

You do have a choice…so make it the right one. Get help. Seek out a good licensed counselor. Tell God about your sufferings…He already knows everything about you. Giving voice to your pain and anguish to God will help. Open your Bible and read from its pages. Read the Psalms…David expresses every kind of emotional pain and turmoil imaginable. Memorize Psalm 130…in it David begins with expressions of despair but by the end of the psalm we see despair replaced by hope.  The Word of God is not a bunch of dead letters on a page but is living and active and contains the power to bring your spirit alive and in alignment with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Allow it to be the salve that your spirit needs.

We live in a fallen world.  The enemy of our soul wants to destroy us by whatever means he can. He wants us to think that the fallen condition of this world is all there is…but he is a liar!

There is so much more…both in this life and the life to come for those who have chosen to accept the free gift of God's grace through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ. However, even Jesus told us that we would have trials in this world. But He also left us with the promise of His peace…a peace that is beyond explanation in light of some of the trials, and temptations that we face. He tells us this in John 16:33:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

My prayer is that you will allow the love and peace of Christ dwell in your hearts. Take heart and don't give up. You, who are suffering the throws of depression today, will someday have the opportunity to share with others your journey through depression and bring hope and the light of Christ's love to them.


There is a time…yet to come when God Himself will wipe away every tear. There will be a place of joy...pure joy, which cannot be diminished.  And in that place you will take hold of the nail-scarred hand.  The very hand of the One whose unconditional, sacrificial love, and grace brought you through the raging waters to this place of calm and eternal joy and peace.

Hang onto the hope that is found in Him.







Update: A Reader's Response

Resources:

The American Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

Happiness Is a Choice:The Symptoms, Causes, and Cures of Depression, Frank Minirth, M.D. & Paul Meier, M.D. 


Related Articles:


Matt Walsh article on Robin William's death by suicide. 

What the Church Needs to Know About Suicide & Mental Health, Ann Voskamp