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Friday, 31 July 2015

Swap Shop



The other day as I was running by the river, I passed two mums pushing prams. Immediately, my heart did its leap-sink-longing thing, as I felt the desire for a family. As I jogged on, I remembered a colleague at work, who frequently talks about how much he wishes he could still run. This in turn made me think of a blog post I'd read about a mum who felt she'd given up her "perfect shape" for having kids; she was adamant it was worth it, and yet still acknowledged the reality of the sacrifice and the pining for her pre-parenthood body.

As I thought about all the very similar and yet very different deep yearnings of the hearts of humanity my thought process ended up looking a bit like this.

Ever wanted to exchange: 
Curly hair for straight?
Or straight hair for curly?
Your skinny for some curves?
All your curves to be more skinny?
Shortness for a few more inches?
Tallness for a few less?
Some of your intelligence for an upgrade in beauty?
A little less attention for a little more respect?
Ever wanted to exchange: 
Singleness for marriage?
Or marriage for singleness?
Independence for company?
Company for a break?
Holidays for more success?
Productivity for a holiday?
All of your time for just a little more money?
A well paid job for just a little more time?
Ever wanted to exchange:
Certainty and security for a life of much more pleasure?
Free and easy living for the guarantee of safety? 
The day-in, day-out grind for the benefits of privilege? 
The benefits of privilege for fewer harsh presumptions? 
Amicable relationships for a lot more power?
Your high position for popularity you can trust?
Weakness for strength?
Strength for vulnerability?
Ever wanted to exchange: 
Your food to be in fashion?
What's in fashion for health?
Your self-control for impulsiveness?
Your spontaneity for wisdom?
Your wisdom for wit? 
Your wit for self control?
Your restraint for some emotion?
Your emotion for some stillness? 

Ever wanted to exchange:
This one thing for anything else?
Anything else for that one thing? 

...


"Thou hast made us for thyself, 
and our heart is restless until 
it finds its rest in Thee."
Augustine

---

"Come, all you who are thirsty, 
come to the waters."
Isaiah

--- 

"I will give you rest.
Jesus 
---


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Seeing Red


Recently I've found myself feeling angry a lot.

There are lots of contributing factors, some more reasonable than others.

Let's start with those categorically superfluous Minion things. They were mildly amusing in Despicable Me, but like a nauseating jaundice virus, these blobs of doom are now everywhere, at all times; taking over the television, the cinema, the supermarket, and my newsfeed. It's not the iRobot dystopia we need to worry about people, it's the iMinion one. And let's face it, most of the time, they're not even mustering mildly amusing anymore. In some places, they're even trying to be profound- as if a Homer / Mr Blobby mash-up might somehow make statements (and capitalisation ) such as - "Pretending to be happy When you are in pain, is just an Example of How strong you are as a person." acceptable. (This is a direct quote from "Minion Quotes", by the way.)

Or another current favourite, garden tools. The other day our landlord told us he'd like us to clear the garden. Initially a confusing request, it turned out that by "garden" he meant the wilderness out the back where the garbage-collecting fox lives.  He asked us to clear up the grass with a rake. By "rake", it turned out he meant a combination of a vaguely pointed stick and an entirely separate, severely rusted sort of comb-shape that's been disintegrating in the "garden" since we moved in. When I pointed out that usually rakes comprise of those two parts being together, he went away and, rather than spending the five pounds I assume it costs to buy a new rake on buying a new rake, apparently spent it on Pritt-Stick and "fixed" it himself.  To be fair it did work for about six and a half minutes, but then the parts decided they preferred living separate lives, and so I spent the rest of the time attempting to clear the fox wilderness with a severely rusted sort of comb-shape, while the stick went back to being a stick.

I feel angry about things beyond rakes and minions though, and here it feels more serious: mistakes of others at work that have a far-reaching impact that I can't change; circumstances of friends and beyond that seem desperately unfair and unsolvable; the relentless torrent of horrific news stories ; the response and 'solutions' to these stories often argued out superficially through provocative sound bites or trite memes; conflicts in priorities (at work, at church, at home) where the other party's point of view seems absurd or damaging; of course, there's more.

In all these things- from landlords to minions to terrifying examples of actual evil- life is essentially beyond my control: things are happening or have happened that I feel shouldn't be, or shouldn't have,  or they are not happening and have not happened in a way that makes no sense to me and yet I can't do very much about it... and I start to see red. And sometimes anger is okay.

But the other day, when I heard myself declaring, aloud: "cushions are the bane of my life!" I realised that I probably needed to get some perspective, and figure out a Biblical response to anger.

Yes, there can be legitimate reasons for it, but Ephesians 4:26 says loud and clear:  "Be angry, and do not sin,"  and "do not let the sun go down on your wrath". As my sister pointed out, moving to Finland or Alaska is one option- but in the meantime, if only for the sake of my soft furnishings, I need to figure out a better response on those days and in those moments when I see red.

So, here are some of the ways I'm trying to gospel myself in this area (you may have some tips yourselves- do share!), particularly with those things that make me angry that I cannot change or control.


1) REJOICING IN A BETTER KING
As I have been known to say frequently to arrogant year nine pupils (otherwise known as year nine pupils): "You are not the boss of everyone in the universe. Thankfully, for everyone in the universe." And the same applies to me. It is fantastic news that I am not King. Gloriously, in all things, the Lord Jesus is Christ triumphant, ever reigning; He is the Creator of the rolling spheres and the Potentate of time; He is the Name high over all; He is the risen, conquering Son; He is the crowned Lion of Judah who sits victorious and reigns victorious at God's right hand. In my moments of anger I need to guard against saying, "I should be reigning instead!"

I need to get perspective, gratefully bow down low and joyfully say- there is a Lord who is reigning who is more wise and more good than I am. He is powerful and kind, and he does all he pleases (Psalm 115:3). There are ways he is working in the mess that I cannot fathom. He is always at work (John 5:17). He is the One who brought spoils out of the tomb and who has ascended with power and who is enthroned in splendour and majesty, and I need to cast whatever crown it is I think I have down before Him. This Jesus- this Warrior, this Healer, this Friend- has got the whole world in his hands. And this Warrior-Healer-Friend can make a difference: He is a helper of the helpless (Psalm 10:14) and He is mighty in battle (Exodus 15:3) and He can fight on your behalf (Exodus 14:14). He is not powerless to change things- so rejoice! And go, in all your helplessness to Him.

2) CASTING ON A BIGGER HEART
1 Peter 5:6 & 7 says:

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

It seems that Peter is saying that casting your cares on God, and humbling yourself are connected. As I humble myself I say, "these cares are too big for me. My anger is too big for me. The world and all its brokenness and misery is just too big for me. But they are not too big for you: so I'm giving them to you." I love that the reason Peter gives for handing over our cares is that He cares about us. Humble yourself, he pleads, because your power is too small for your problems, but your care is too small too. Hand them over to one who is not only more mighty than you, but who also has a bigger, stronger, more robust heart than you. Not only does He have the whole world in His hands,  but those hands bear the scars of the love He has for it.

3) REJOICING IN A RIGHTEOUS ANGER
 In the midst of the red mist, I praise God for Jesus. Jesus never sinned in his anger. He felt angry, but it wasn't the self-righteous, proud anger of superiority. It wasn't him kicking out against God saying, "You're not reigning right!" He dealt with anger in complete and perfect righteousness- and the glory of the gospel is that He dealt with his anger perfectly in my place.

Because of the grace and kindness of God, my raging against God and others, my battle for his throne, my ugly frustration with others for not conforming to my will, in all- my sinfulness in anger was credited to the account of Jesus- and he paid the penalty for it. And because of the grace and kindness of God, the gentle patience of Jesus, his limitless forgiveness and forbearance with those who sought to usurp his throne, his complete trust in his Father in exasperating circumstances, in all- his pure righteousness in anger has been credited to mine- and I reap the benefits of it.

Sometimes I feel the anger rising and I worry it's going to consume me- and that's when I need to rejoice in Jesus: my angry, dark, selfish heart is no longer under a curse. The penalty for my sinful anger has been paid. I am free from its condemnation and from its weight- because Jesus got anger right, and now I am in Him. And gloriously, His Spirit is in me.  So that together we fight- in His power, side by side, against my sin that will one day be completely swallowed up in His glory.

As I praise God for Jesus, for the wonders of his perfect humility and for his unshakeable trust in God, my heart begins to be humbled- and I begin to see something other than red: I see One whose reign is loving and surprising and wise; I see One who I am united to, in all my mess, that I really can trust and cast my cares on, and I can begin to quiet my heart and calm down.

But I think it is also imperative that I stay away- as far as is possible- from those pesky, pesky minions.  

Friday, 24 July 2015

Home is Where...


I have lived in a new house every year since university. Here are five of my favourites:

  1. Bute Avenue (somebody witty had graffitied an accent onto Buté.)
    We were robbed in this house. Twice. It was in the badass Lenton neighbourhood of Nottingham, so no one was hugely surprised. But the thieves made off with our computers, printers, and half of my CD collection (rude!). I don't want to be accused of casting aspersions but incidentally the only clothes that were stolen were my trainers and my (awesome, by the way) late-90s Adidas tracksuit bottoms.

  2. CHEZ MADAME FRAPPA, Nice, France.
    MADAME FRAPPA always, and appropriately, spelt her name with capital letters. On my final day there she said something to the effect of, "Philippa, you're a lovely girl- but you're essentially crazy." My flatmates had a punk-dog who would come in to my room to pee (I still remain unsure as to whether or not he was following orders). Other than through the dog's bowel movements, the flatmates mainly communicated to me via non-passive and definitely aggressive notes that I had to use a dictionary to decipher. When I finally untangled the somewhat violent cursive (tone is everything), it turned out they weren't apologising for the pee.

  3. The Crack Den.
    This one has so many highlights it's hard to choose. There were meat hooks (and a fridge) in the living room, a bathroom door designed for hobbits, a king size mattress on a regular sized bed (which on request was replaced by a regular sized mattress stuffed with what must have been scrap metal), three broken wardrobes in one room (I didn't dare ask for a functioning fourth- I did not want to live in a furniture warehouse/ hospital)... and a large bathroom window level with the floor, so that if you hadn't adequately de-soaped, it wouldn't be three seconds before you'd slip-slided out of the window, plummeted three levels and crashed through the roof  and in to the lap of the landlord (who incidentally used to hide-out in a weird little office/shed number on the ground floor.) Someone ungenerous might say it would serve him right...

  4. The Slug Lounge
    This one is pretty self explanatory. But just in case- there were slugs. In the lounge.

  5. The Pit.
    The landlord referred to the mouldy, malfunctioning Ikea furniture as "antique". The bedrooms were filled with what can only be described as aggressive furniture- taking up a lot of unnecessary space and regularly leaning in for a fight. The kitchen on the other hand had zero drawers but a plethora of cupboards at exactly the right height for Goliath. Or, in fairness, anyone prone to practising stilt-skills whilst preparing for dinner. Wasted opportunity, perhaps. 

I could go on. 

But as I think about the various places I have come 'home' to over the past few years, I am reminded of this great line from a Bethany Dillon song (Say Your Name): "I think of the life of Anna; Your presence was her home." 

I think this is a lovely commentary on this part of Luke 2:

 "And there was a prophetess, Anna. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day." 

Home is where we go for comfort, rest, security and belonging- and this woman saw that the best place to find all of these things, was under the shadow of her Redeemer's wing. This widow did not have her own home to go to, but she made prayer and praise- God's presence-  her home.

So I guess I hope that wherever I may live- whether surrounded by an army of aggressive wardrobes or an array of tangible, blatant blessings- God's shelter, rest, comfort and very presence will be my true and ultimate home. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Expectations Vs Reality: What Delights God


Here are some things my cold, sinful, stubborn heart says about God:

- The Lord doesn't really delight in anything; leave him alone.
- The Lord delights in alone time; go find something else to be your source of joy.
- The Lord is a bit fed up with those who consistently let him down, so put your hope in your career, or your beauty, or your relationships - maybe once you've achieved something you could come back.

Occasionally, my malfunctional heart's own theology might muster:

- The Lord delights in those who merit his favour and put their hope in their awesome quiet times, bold evangelism and white-hot- holiness OR
- The Lord delights in those who avoid him when they muck up, in those who put their hope in being able to clean up their own act, or in time's ability to "heal."

Thankfully, my cold-hearted, sinful, stubborn heart is wrong.

Extraordinarily wrong.

Thankfully, the living and active, life-giving word of God says something radically, gloriously, deliciously different:

"The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love."
Psalm 147:11

This is glorious.

This means that yes, the Lord delights and takes great JOY in people being confident in His love! It gives him pleasure when we expect his love never to fail, when- knowing Him, we are assured that he will be gracious and merciful and generous- though our quiet times are sporadic, though we just messed up again, though we are weak. It pleases him when we turn away from ourselves- our own strengths, our own failings, our own successes or our own sins and say "Lord, my only hope is you!" The Lord is filled with gladness when we see he is the friend of sinners, when we trust that, for Jesus sake, he gives good things to the undeserving, when we are confident that his love will not fail even when ours does.

The Lord delights in:
those who expect him to be true to his promises,
who believe that He is for us,
who are confident that He's given us Jesus,
who trust his provision for our justification
who believe his declaration that we are NOT GUILTY
who know, deep down, that He will be good even when we most struggle to believe it,
who accept his invitation to cast ourselves on Him.

We all struggle to believe God loves us. But believing it pleases God. He loves for us to be secure, and confident and certain in His affection for us- and to hope in this love instead of in anything else. That's why Paul is so emphatic in saying:


I am convinced 
that neither death
nor life,

neither angels

nor demons,

neither the present

nor the future,

nor any powers,
 
neither height

nor depth,

nor anything else

(
in all creation
),
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

What delights God is that our hope is in His love. Not our own; His. At the cross, He has made an unshakable case for his own steadfast, robust, unchanging, unconditional, unfailing love for us. The Lord delights in those who hope in it. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

On Atticus


I just finished reading Go Set a Watchman, the long anticipated prequel to/ sequel to/ undoing of (depending on which review you read)  To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reading Watchman was a bit like (WARNING: biggest spoilers of the post in this sentence!) finding out that Father Christmas doesn't exist, or like the moment in Toy Story 3 when you realise Lotso-Huggin' bear does not live up to his name...

The big shocker of Watchman- and unless for the past six months you've not been reading the newspapers with your eyes open or have been living under a rock that is wedged beneath another rock it won't be a big spoiler- is that Atticus isn't everything he was cracked up to be in Mockingbird. His character is flawed in a way that sets ablaze everything Scout's gaze- and ours too- saw him to be.

Atticus of Mockingbird is wise and gentle. He is often misunderstood by his children, but when they do understand, they glimpse a wisdom that is warm and loving and powerful. He makes himself weak so that his children might understand what it is to be truly strong. He is courageous, though it is costly. He does not defend himself, and yet he is absolutely no nonsense in his defence of the weak. He is determined that his children learn this too.

Atticus of Mockingbird is willing to have people think the worst of him, so long as he does what his right, and so long as his children learn the value of courage.  He doesn't let the views of society shape the way he brings up his kids- Scout's failure to "be a lady" doesn't concern him half as much as the patience and courage in her character does.

Atticus of Mockingbird is integrity personified: how he is in the street is how he is at home and right to the bitter end he wants to uphold justice; and yet he is also instinctively merciful. He disciplines his children without always explaining why, yet is often proved wise- and in all things is empathetic, gracious, compassionate.

The narrative of Watchman unravels much of this:  from the moment I first heard about his "downfall" (or whatever you call it when it's a prequel/ sequel mash-up) I felt slightly like I'd been punched in the stomach. No, Harper, no! You can't do this to us! First they took Santa, then Lotso, now this!?

Interestingly, there is a line in Watchman when Uncle Jack says to Scout, "you confused your father with God." And to be honest, in many ways- in case you didn't notice, Scout wasn't the only one!

Atticus of Mockingbird is, in many ways, like God. And in many ways, what made me love Atticus, was all the ways he reminded me of Him, in all his compassion and wisdom and unexpected power.

So as I get over Watchman (and I do have so much more to say, but I will be chundering spoilers everywhuuuure if I take that path!), it is a comfort that the Father, Friend and Defender of the weak that Atticus (meekly) reflected will not change.

He is not a creation and is not subject to the whims of writers or editors. (2 Peter 1:16)
He will not lead to ultimate disappointment. (Romans 5:5)
He cannot lie. (Titus 1:2)
His discipline will always produce a harvest of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)
His mercies will be consistently new. (Lamentations 3:23)
His love will always be steadfast. (Psalm 63:3)
He will never change. (Malachi 3:6)

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Insecurity Versus


The dictionary defines insecurity as "being anxious or uncertain about oneself", or as "insufficiently protected."

I tell you this, not because I am aiming to imitate my pupils (who for some unfathomable reason seem to think that every essay they have ever written should commence in this way), but because that anxiety, that compulsion to secure myself is something I a) frequently experience and b) see the gospel relentlessly challenge. 

Insecurity is a force that produces a lot of negative behaviour. It is both caused by, and causes, self-centered thinking and self-centered behaviour and as such is very destructive. There are a thousand things which we can be insecure about, and I've tried most of them: the future, my appearance, my qualifications, my education, my friendships, my character, my godliness. And its lurking pressure can sometimes drive my behaviour. 

Insecurity makes us:
- hide our sin and weaknesses
- need to be right at any cost
- brag about our achievements
- develop the skill of bragging about our achievements without seeming like we are because we don't want people to think we are braggers
- use sarcasm to cut others down
- resent the successes of others 
- hold back from praising others 
- self deprecate before anyone else does
- self deprecate to secure affirmation
- speak to defend ourselves rather than to affirm others
- envy people who are better than us 
- avoid people who expose our inadequacies
- hate criticism
- lie

Insecurity uses each of the above behaviours as bricks to build an (essentially pathetic) fortress we hope will keep us safe. It also makes us miserable.

This is where One Direction (those great theologians of our time) have something to say/sing that nicely applies to Christians: "You're insecure. Don't know what for."

Thankfully, we don't depend on 1D for our theology (especially because I've taken that out of context to support my point #hermeneuticfail #harrywillnotbehappy) .

Paul says a similar (though infinitely more glorious) thing when he writes:

"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, you will also appear with him in glory." Colossians 3: 2

This verse is a big challenge to our insecurity.

It is a challenge to get our minds off "things on earth", to put down our lame self-securing bricks, and to fix our eyes on Jesus. In Him, we could not be more secure. Our life is in Him, and He is in God. In fact, He is our life. He has dealt utterly and completely with our sin. He is our future, so our future is certain- when he appears, we'll appear with him too. Our life is hidden with Christ in God and nothing can remove it from that position. Nothing. 

To quote another song (sorry One Direction, not you this time #harryissomadrightnow):

No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from his hand!
Til he returns, or calls me home- here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

The gospel therefore renders our insecurity-fueled behaviours pointless.

We are secure.

All those needs we feel- for significance, security, vindication- they have been met, comprehensively, in Christ.

In fact, we are so secure that Paul can write, "let everything you do be done in love." (1 Corinthians 16:14) He feels able to say: let everything you do be motivated by self-forgetfulness, by self-sacrifice, by service, by love! None of our behaviour needs to be motivated by a desire to secure ourselves: He is our fortress. 

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. (Psalm 62:6)

And so our insecure behaviour can change.
  • Because our failings and weaknesses no longer result in our condemnation, we can come in to the light and share our struggles, knowing that the only One who has the power to condemn us does not: in fact, "he is at the right hand of God interceding for us." (Romans 8:34)
  • Because our words, actions and finances no longer have to be used to attain our security, we can use all these things in love. We don't have to work for our security, and so we have a truckload of words, actions and resources freed up to defend, affirm and seek peace for others. 
  • Because our sinful self has died, and our life is now in Christ, we can put to death our selfish and sinful behaviours: reliance on them is offensive and rebellious, but it is also a waste. It's like getting a yappy puppy to secure a castle that already has stone walls, a portcullis, a moat and a dragon-riding Gandalf guarding it.
  • Because we cannot be separated from the love of Christ; because God has poured out his love in to our hearts, when presented a choice between self-service and sacrifice, we can always choose love: He is our source; we love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19) 
As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved... put on love.
Colossians 3


P.S You will now have One Direction in your head all day. You're welcome.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Bite-Sized Advice for Friends of the Depressed


If someone was to ask for some non-revolutionary, amateur advice on how to be a friend to a depressed person, this is what I would say.  Although to be honest, none of these ideas are really mine; they are just a record of some of what my family and friends did for me during some of my more wintery seasons. They embodied this amazing verse from 1 Samuel 23:16: "Jonathan went to David at Horesh, and helped him find strength in the Lord."

I am so thankful for their friendship; their love, self-sacrifice and forgiveness has been a reminder of God's kindness. Sometimes I saw it on the darkest of days, sometimes only when the sun came out.

I found these things helpful; I hope this advice might bless others too.

1) Speak...
Say words to your depressed friend. If you don't say it, they will be assuming things, without even realising assumptions are being made. Generally speaking, these assumptions will not be good. Tell them the truth: if they are being a pain- you can say that. But if they're not- reassure them: you are loved, you are valued, you are fun! Or how you are being now is not the quintessential you! Better still: write it down. Give them tangible words they can hold on to and read and re-read when condemnation is whirring through their heads.

2) Invite and insist!
 If you invite your friend to do something, and they say no, ask again. Or at least, tell them they will be missed- that it won't be the same without them. Encourage them to make a mind decision rather than a feelings decision. Do what you can to make it easier for them: "let's meet and go together"; "let's get ready together"; get to the venue first; tell them who else is expected so that they can prepare. This  insistence on their presence is not to torture them, but to encourage them to stimulate their minds with something other than... their minds. Although it doesn't always feel like it- real world data can be a friend to the depressed mind.

3) Recognise the small steps
 Be aware that being out is difficult: let them know you know that. They might need to go home. Congratulate them on making it out!

4) Feed them well.
Most depressed people have a complex relationship with food. But if you can share meat and two veg with them from time to time, they will be comforted by health and normality.

5) Be there.
You probably can't offer solutions. Either the cause of depression is impossible to access- or it feels like the last ten, fifteen years have all led to this valley. There's a whole lifetime of narrative that is making this moment unbearable- and you probably won't be able to unpick it or solve it. But you can make the most present moment better.

6) Admit the complexity.
You will desperately, desperately want to take the pain away. You will at times want to shake your friend, slap your friend, shout your friend out of their way of seeing things. Avoid doing these things; be kind and be there. Tell them how frustrated you are and how you wish the darkness could be swallowed up now. Let your anger fuel your prayer. Don't be afraid to admit the depths of the darkness: the problem does not have to be denied or simplified or untangled for Jesus to be able to redeem it. Gloriously, he can plumb the bitter depths, and work there- in the valley of shadows- for good.

7) Call out the sickness!
Of course there will be sin in your friend, as there is in us all. But it will help if you know and talk distinctly about the symptoms of depression. Your friend will want to put all the blame on themselves but they will need you to identify the symptoms at work. Be informed about the sickness, and the symptoms, and avoid citing your AS in Psychology as your authority on these matters.

8) Share!
Your depressed friend is still your friend: let them know what you need prayer for, where your difficulties are. This is a gentle reminder that there is life outside the depressed mind- and that gasps of freedom can come in loving others. It also reassures them that your relationship is a friendship, rather than you being a person and their being a sack of (very heavy, very sad) stones.

9) Be their perspective:
Let them ask you: "this is how I see it- is this right?" Some times they will take what you say on board. Some things will be impossible for them to compute. But later- they will remember what you've said.

10) Forgive them.
They will let you down. They will be afraid. They will doubt your friendship. They will not find things fun that they should find fun. They will be defensive- and offensive. The kindest thing you can do for them is forgive them.  If they hurt you- tell them, explain why you are hurt. They may apologise, or they may be blind. Try to forgive them anyway.

11) Tell them you are sad they are sad. This will make an enormous difference.

12) Pray for them.
Do this if you do nothing else. Depression is painful. And lonely. And destructive. It is, put simply, your mind telling you things that aren't true. Pray that the truth gets through. Pray for flashes of hope, waves of hope, torrents of hope. Remind your friend that their darkness is temporary- even if it lasts a lifetime. Pray that the darkness lifts soon. Depression is one of those things that makes you face up to the fact that there are some problems you can't fix. Let that drive you to the One who can make a difference.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Bite-Sized Advice for Days of Darkness


If someone asked me (by the way, they didn't) for some amateur and non-revolutionary advice on how to deal with depression, based mainly on my personal experiences, this is what I would say:

1) Go to things you don't want to go to.
Planning your weekend?  Or your holiday? What you will feel like doing is nothing. So try to plan with your head rather than your instinctive feelings about it. Plan with the facts of: "where there are people there is reality", "my mind alone is not good company right now" and "my friends are my friends".

2) Try to enjoy the teeniest of things, even if it's just for that moment.
Sitting in the sun's warmth? Cherish that goodness. Have time for a cup of tea? Enjoy each sip.

3) Downsize your expectations of what you can/"should" achieve- then big yourself up when you achieve them. 
Did you eat fruit today? Achievement. Did you exercise? Achievement. Did you go to something you did not want to go to? Achievement. Did you not knock out that person who asked you why you were sad when the Bible says be joyful? Achievement. In fact, you get double for that.

4) Use the energy spurts you have to love people.
Pray, when you can, that God will help you with this- and that He will use you even when you're unaware of it. 

5) Interrupt the "airtime" of the dark thoughts
Listen to music to drown them out (I found bass-heavy headphones worked most effectively), and inhabit the lyrics- if the lyrics are too much like the harsh hissing of your mind, find something else to listen to. Read books with short chapters - and big yourself up chapter by chapter. Watch TV that makes you laugh: things like Mock the Week or 8/10 Cats are better than more emo-heavy sit-coms.

6) Read the Psalms.
Even if it's just a few verses a day- even if it's Psalm 88 every day for many, many days.

7) Call out the depression, and try to laugh at it.
Try and see the funny side of yourself- and once you know what the symptoms are, try laughing at them. Try laughing at your mind's amazing way of making everything about you. Of blaming everything on you. Of reading your failure in to every situation imaginable. There are probably some things that have happened that are not your fault (!!). Depression can be outrageous and occasionally, you might be able to find it hilarious. This won't always be possible- but it's worth a try.

8)  Remember that your friends are your friends.
Some may tell you that what you are believing about yourself is not true. When they tell you this, remember that you can trust them. They are your friends; what they are saying is more trustworthy than what your mind is currently shouting at you.

9) The cross is atonement enough.
I realise this isn't a piece of advice. But it's just a fact that I feel needs throwing in somewhere: Jesus shed his blood for you, he suffered for you, he felt shame for you and was destroyed for you. There will be dark times when you may want to hurt yourself or cause yourself to suffer because you feel so ashamed, so desperate, so sad. But the cross is atonement enough. It is atonement enough.

10) Remember Jesus- without trying to find a connection to you.

Jesus is powerful
Jesus is at work
Jesus is reigning
Jesus is humble
Jesus is generous
Jesus is kind
Jesus loves the poor
Jesus will come again
Jesus is bold
Jesus is a warrior
Jesus has the victory
And so many more...

You might not be able to see any of this in connection to you right now, but rejoice in Him because of Him.

11)  Hold on to the promise  of the final day.
Darkness will get swallowed up: even this darkness.  This darkness will not be able to overcome the light of Christ. Oh that the night might give us joy in how glorious the Morning will be! Try to see the depth of your pit as evidence of the power of Jesus to redeem . Even in this pit, this darkness, this gloom: He is with you. And the Morning Star will rise!

12) Find it impossible to believe or do any of the above? 
Be assured- He will do good anyway.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Perspective


Christian,

Here are some things that define you more than your current relationship status, your job performance, your CV, your genetics, your appearance, your health, your past, your successes, your failures and pretty much everything else.

Hurray!

- you are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)
- you are a child of God (1 John 1:3)
- you are no longer a slave (Galatians 4:7)
- the most authoritative being in the Universe sets you free: you are free indeed (John 8:36) 
- you have the Spirit of the Son in your heart (Galatians 4:6)
- in fact, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)
- you are a friend of Jesus (John 15:15)
- you are a sibling of Jesus, and he's glad about it (Hebrews 2:11)
- your life IS Christ (Colossians 3:4) 
- you are no longer darkness but light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8) 
- you are more than a conqueror through Him who loved you (Romans 8:37)
- you are a true descendent of Abraham (Galatians 3:7)
- you are completely forgiven (Colossians 1:14)
- as in, your sins will NEVER be counted against you (Romans 4:7-8)
 - you were a lost sheep, and the Creator of the world rejoiced to see you found (Luke 15:7)
 - your Shepherd laid down his life for you (John 10:11)
- you have been ransomed by the most precious treasure there is (1 Peter 1:19)
- you have a perfect mediator (Hebrews 12:24)
 - you are kept by the One who died in your place (Jude 1)
 - you are loved by Him (Revelation 1:5)
- you are beloved in God the Father (Jude 1) 
- infact, he has lavished you with love (1 John 3:1)
 - you are royal (1 Peter 2:9)
- and you are part of a priesthood (Revelation 1:6, 1 Peter 2:9)
- and you belong to God (1 Peter 2:9, 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20)
- you are chosen ( 1 Peter 2:1)
- more than that, you were chosen before time began (Ephesians 1:4)
 - you live because Another died in your place  (1 Corinthians 15:3)
- and now you are the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)
- you are God's masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)
- you have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works God prepared for you (Ephesians 2:10)
- you are a disciple and a disciple maker (Matthew 28:19)
- you are called because of God's purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9)
- you have an imperishable, undefiled and unfailing inheritance (1 Peter 1:4)
- your beauty is desired by the King of kings (Psalm 45:11)
- you are a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
- your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
- you are united to someone who abolished death (2 Timothy 1:10)
- as such, you no longer live in fear of death (Hebrews 2:15)
- you are being prepared for an almighty and incomparable weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17)
- you will appear with Christ in glory (Colossians 3:4)
 - you will bear the image of Christ as you have borne the image of Adam (1 Corinthians 15:49)
- whatever your current status in life, it is not permanent. But something permanent is coming, and it will be splendid:

"Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour..."
Ephesians 5:25-27

#perspective


 
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