Unfolding Something New – Part Two

Pastor DouglasSometimes I get in too big a hurry to post and miss things.  It didn’t take long yesterday to realize I’d forgotten something in the telling of this story.  Unfortunately, the missing piece was quite important!

When I told you about the new church plant outside Pastor Douglas’ village, I mentioned that people come from all over the region, some who cannot walk, some who are sick, some who are blind.  Well, as he talked over our breakfast the other day, his eyes were big and the ever-present smile was in place as he told about a couple of folks who were delivered of demons.  One person in particular was not able to walk and had been dragged to the church on a blanket slung between two poles.  The man wanted Jesus to come into his life but the dark spiritual presence was giving him resistance.  The church came alongside and prayed…and the man was delivered.  As he raised his hands in victory, he got up and walked!  Not just walking, but skipping and jumping, something he hadn’t been able to do for a very long time.  The church exploded in praise!

In Africa, the people are quite used to the spiritual realms.  You don’t survive terror they way they have and not know what the dark side looks like.  They recognize miracles when they happen — and they happen quite frequently.  Of course, they are also quite familiar with stories that don’t have happy endings.

Life and death, want and provision, Light and dark.  They know it all.  And those who are meeting, accepting, and pressing into God through the teachings of folks like Pastor Douglas are witnessing the works and the miracles of Jesus Christ.  The people are not confused nor ignorant of spiritual things.  That is probably the difference between us and them.  They know.  Many have survived terror at the hands of people not associated with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Others have suffered at the hand of need:  clean, disease free water; food; loving arms to hold them.  And because of this, they give thanks and praise to God when they witness Him at work.  And it is from that knowledge and their appreciation that the smiles come.

Please pray for the people of Africa and other nations who have witnessed and lived through darkness.  Please pray for our country, that our eyes would be opened to both the dark and Light sides of the spiritual realms.  Just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Open our eyes Lord and help us learn how to help others be set free.

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Freed From Depression

thunersee-542782_1280I spent time with the Lord this morning and I realized something; there is a momentum rising in my life. I can feel it. This is thrilling to me.

The reason for my excitement? I spent a lot of time throughout my life trapped in the past. I lived each day yes. Did what I had to do, went where I had to go. But behind it all was the dark cloud of my past, always with me, always brooding. It reminds me of the cartoon character Pigpen in the Charlie Brown strips. While Pigpen walks through life with this cloud of dust from his favorite blankie, I walked through life with a dark cloud hanging just above my head, filled with the dramas of my past. That cloud tainted everything.

When I wanted to attempt something new, the cloud grew darker and it would begin to rain on my hopes. “If you try that, it’s only going to end up like…,” it whispered to me. And that would pretty much be it; the attempt at something new faded under the doom and gloom of the past. Every once in awhile I made it past the dreaded censor and actually accomplished something new or creative. Those would be days filled with hope, a hope I couldn’t quite get my fingers wrapped securely around in order to repeat the process. And the next thing I knew, the cloud returned. Living under the dark cloud of depression is debilitating.

About eight years ago, something new happened. I’d gone to my doctor yet again to ask to be put on antidepressants. I knew the signs well and when I felt I could no longer cope on my own, I asked to go back on the pills. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for science. Without the help of science, I’m not sure where I’d be to this day. But this particular day was different.

This was a newer doctor to me. My old physician (in the town I’d recently moved from) and I had come to a great plan of attack in the past; when I felt better on antidepressants, he encouraged me to go off of them. I really don’t know if this fit with medical community prudence, but he knew my attitudes about being on chemicals long term. It was a long discussion, but we came to a decision we both could live with. I so appreciated this man.

So after discussion my new doctor agreed with me that I should go back onto antidepressants. I’d gone to him with expectations. I asked how long he thought I should be on them. “For the rest of your life,” he replied. I wasn’t prepared for that answer. He explained the medical reasoning behind his words. I nodded my head, took the new prescription in hand, and left.

I had, just a few months prior to this, set out on a spiritual path new and foreign to me. As a Christian of almost 30 years, this recent move had plopped us (my husband and I) down into a new church where we were confronted by God. He challenged everything we thought, said, and did. And, as difficult as it was at the time, it was oh so good. God had gone before us in this move and provided the circumstances for us to grow – wildly grow in our faith!

So at this new experience, the Holy Spirit jumped in front of me when my doctor suggested I needed antidepressants for the rest of my life. “No,” He gently suggested, “I will heal you and you’ll never have to depend on antidepressants again!” I didn’t hear those words, I didn’t even realize anything had changed.  I just knew at the time that something in me bristled when the doctor spoke.  I filled the prescription one last time, took them until I felt restored to a more even way of dealing with life, and then weaned off of them, just as I had a few times in the past.

It wasn’t until months later that I realized something had truly changed.  I noticed I wasn’t feeling down anymore and I was handling the difficulties of life.  Even more months down the road, I came upon the truth one day — I was healed of depression!  I hadn’t asked to be healed, I just knew with that bristling that something in me changed.  Finally, while thinking about all this, it dawned on me.  I experienced a miracle at God’s hand.  I spoke it out one day in the retelling of the story.  A miracle!

That was eight years ago. The dark cloud is gone. Do I have down periods? Of course. Life is well, life. It has ups and downs. But I no longer succumb to the enemy’s plan to kill and destroy the hopes God implanted in me. Please understand me in that I am in no way suggesting this is the way for anyone suffering with depression. This was simply my journey.

Today, I’m aware of excitement inside. I have hopes and dreams. I’ve charted a new course for my life. More importantly, I sense momentum building. A boulder is so hard to budge when it just sits there. But take a figurative lever or catalyst to start moving that boulder and the game changes. While difficult to get it moving from its “dug in” spot, it can be moved. And once that process begins, don’t stand in the way for you just might get rolled over.

“Holy Spirit, thank you for standing up to my past and depression. Thank you for caring enough for me that you went before me during a huge transition in my life and helped me get to a ‘petri dish’ setting so I might grow in you. This has been the BEST! Help me now Lord to continue to grow and expand and thrive in your ever-presence. There is no longer a dark cloud, only vast, crystal blue skies on the horizon. Hallelujah! My soul is soaring with you today!”

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Note: Depression is a serious condition and should not be ignored. If you suffer from it, please see a doctor where help is available. However, please don’t forget there exists the Great Physician. His supernatural healing is available to all!

“Because He said, ‘…He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses,’ Matthew 8:17 (NKJV), we may boldly say, ‘I am free from weakness and disease because they were all carried by Jesus Christ for me.’

“Because He has said, ‘God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,’ 2 Timothy 1:7, we may boldly say, ‘I am free from all fear, for my God has given me power, love and a sound mind.”

Amen and amen!  Excerpts from “The Good Life” by T.L. Osborn.

It Was All Carter’s Fault!

Sometimes the most wonderfully unexpected things happen by means of surprising circumstances!

Our grandson came to stay with us this past summer.  He’s 12 1/2 years old and quickly approaching the age when it just won’t be cool to hang out with Mamaw anymore.  At least this is what my logical mind keeps telling me.  I cherish my time with this young man for he is quite wonderful and amazing.  We both love to laugh at things.  When he was little, I would often launch into absolute buffoonery just to make him and his sisters laugh.  Carter has the greatest dimples and when he laughs long and hard, he often says he’s having a dimple freeze meaning his face hurts from so much laughter.  That’s what I always hoped for; dimple freezes translating into we are having laugh attacks together.

Well, during that week he showed signs of wanting to hang out with Papa some and so they did some landscaping work with a bobcat tractor that Carter got to drive for the first time.  He was loving it and I might add, he took to it more readily than grandpa did when he learned!  Not surprising with today’s youth who grow up on technology, video games and joysticks.  He rambled around the yard with absolutely no problems!  Then Papa gave him a few lessons in the art of the golf swing and they spent a few hours throughout the week up in the shop, swinging away at the little white ball into papa’s golf net setup.  Seems Carter has his daddy’s natural ability to have a pretty hefty golf swing; Papa was impressed.  They also shot at targets with a 22 pistol and all these things added up to wonderful “guy time” for Papa and Carter.

As usual Carter and I had a few laughter moments (the old girl still has the knack!), but sadly, I had to work a bit harder to find the silly space between us.  My moments with him came in dreaming up meals that I knew he would appreciate or at the very least like, helping to plan out what we were all doing, and in confounding the boy by trying to turn facts into secrets or silly untruths.  He’s got me figured out pretty well at this age!

Then came Saturday.  Papa was going to be gone at a golf tournament that had been planned prior to our knowing Carter was coming to stay with us.  What were we going to do for the day?  Carter was pretty agreeable to most anything we discussed and then he had an idea.  “How about we do another one of those treasure hunts Mamaw?”  This statement caused no small amount of contemplation on my part.  You see, a treasure hunt is something of a spiritual exercise.  You pray beforehand and ask the Lord for clues to help you find people who need prayer.  Clues can include such things as colors, locations, body parts (meaning a limp, a cast on a wrist, a brace of some sort, anything physical that can be seen), specific articles of clothing, or any other thing to help you find God’s treasure (the person) for prayer.  We had done one of these with all three of our grandchildren about three years before; the results were pretty outstanding and the day made a lasting impression on these kids.  Shucks, they made a lasting impression on us adults as well!

So, Carter wanted to do another treasure hunt.  As wonderful as they are, treasure hunts can cause issues.  Issues like fear, insecurities, and other such distracting things to surface.  And, since it had been quite awhile since I had participated in a treasure hunt, all the uncertainties of treasure hunts started screaming in my head.  “Oh my goodness, I have to muster up courage to approach people!”, “what if someone yells at me?”, and a myriad of other objections wouldn’t leave me alone.  And yet, here is this 12-year-old looking at me with all the confidence in the world that his grandmother is going to take him out on a God adventure and we’re going to pray for people’s needs.  I simply could not let this moment and opportunity pass.

So, off we went into town, armed with our individual lists of clues that included mostly colors, articles of clothing, and a person with a limp.  First we went to one of the grocery stores in town that is situated in a strip mall.  We took our dog with us since she usually is a people magnet.  No one approached us; the dog was not working her charms that day!  We spotted a couple of people with the right color or piece of clothing, and even a man with a limp, but I couldn’t bring myself to chase them out in the parking lot as they approached their cars.  With much frustration, we commented to each other that this was turning out to be harder than the last time we did this.  Finally, we saw a friend leaving in her car and we promptly waved her down to talk.  We told her what we were doing and she told us we could pray for a need she had this day.  With our pump primed now, she drove off and we decided to go to another store in town.

We left Sophie in the car and went inside.  Looking down the aisles, we finally noticed a woman with a gray sweater, two of the clues on our sheets.  We approached.  I excused my intrusion and waited for the woman to acknowledge me.  She continued staring at the shelves of items in front of us.  Inside, I was dying!  “Oh my gosh, this woman thinks I’m a fruitcake!  We should just walk away,” I bemoaned to myself.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see Carter, waiting for his grandmother to launch into action.  How could I bolt with those eyes upon me?  And so I launched into my speech: “Hi, this is my grandson and we are on a treasure hunt today from the Lord.  You are wearing a gray sweater and that was a clue He gave us this morning as we prayed about how we were to find folks who need prayer.  We believe you are one of God’s treasures.  Do you by chance have a need today that we could pray about for you?”  The woman had remained looking straight ahead at the shelves until I finished talking.  She finally turned to look at me, smiled, and said, “oh I don’t think I have any needs today.”  I thanked her, apologized for interrupting her shopping trip and wished her a blessed day.

As we walked off, Carter said, “well, that was awkward, wasn’t it?”  I couldn’t have agreed more.  I felt that this was a bust idea, but for Carter’s sake I never let on how insecure I was feeling at the moment.  We looked for more treasures for another ten minutes or so and I finally said we should head for home.  I was so disappointed.  I had been sure the Lord would use us because He knows how tentative a 12-year-old’s faith is and I didn’t want the enemy to win.  Somehow my disappointment was quickly being transformed into thoughts of failure, all tied up with my fears and doubts about my own courage in this experiment.  We slowly walked out the door.  Off to my right was a pharmacy walk-up window and there, standing against a short wall waiting her turn at the window, was an older woman in a blue shirt and a flowery, knitted cap, more of our clues.  I knew in my heart that this was a woman going through chemo and the hat was covering her bald head.  I motioned to Carter that she was one of our treasures and he agreed; we approached the woman.

Once again, we introduced ourselves to her and told her of our purpose; “…you are wearing a blue shirt and a flowery cap, two of our clues this morning as we prayed and we wonder if you have a need we could pray for today?”  She looked at us and quickly answered, “I do have a need.  I have cancer.”  I asked if we might pray for her there and she told us yes.  And just like that, the day was transformed from an awkward personal challenge into a total victory for the Lord.  Did He heal her?  We don’t know.  But did He touch her?  I think so.

My day began as most others save for the fact that our grandson was visiting with us.  Carter, with a childlike faith to be used by God and his trust in his grandmother’s ability to lead the way, transformed the day into something magical.  I have every confidence that the Lord smiled down on all of us that day.  The woman in the gray sweater may or may not have had any needs, but I’m positive God will use the moment to cause questions to rise up in her thoughts about people, their willingness to reach out, and about this God who gives them courage to do so.  For the woman with cancer there may be healing or any other number of possibilities only He knows, the least of which could be encouragement on a rough day from two strangers.  For a grandmother with a very trusting grandson, I am humbled.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on the treasure hunt.  Once begun, I felt I was failing God miserably with my fears and lack of courage.  But in the end, the Lord turned it all into victory.  A glorious, full-of-God possibilities, wonderful, victory for two women, a hesitating grandmother, and a brave hearted, God loving 12-year-old.  It was all Carter’s fault!

Healing in Community

One of the major things I learned about at the conference I went to in April, 2010 (see my Home page for details), was that there’s healing in community. This is something that God provided for and the reason He created Eve.

…Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Gen 2:18 (NASB).

Some powerful things happen in the Body of Christ when people share transparently. I don’t mean sharing with just anybody. This process is meant to happen with people you trust.  When we understand this sharing concept, things can start happening in your life. You start feeling better. You can let go of past hurts. You can forgive…and forget and more. I came home from that conference and invited three friends to join me in watching “Changes that Heal,” a DVD series by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. As we’ve continued to meet, stuff has started coming out (see! there’s that stuff again!), things that had been buried so deep yet kept a grip on each of us negatively. We’re beginning to see signs of healing and we’ve decided we’ll continue meeting. It’s exciting when you begin to see change or the hint of it. It’s like walking outdoors right after a rain and the air smells so fresh, right down to your toes.  The hues of life take on new, interesting shades of color as you spend more time and energy bending to the process of change and healing.  Suddenly, change doesn’t seem so frightening anymore.

I’d like to encourage you to, in the words of Cloud and Townsend, get some traveling companions together and get on with healing!