“What It’s Like Explaining Depression Meds to Many Christians” by To Save a Life

img_2605Hello dear readers!

I am in the middle of working on some upcoming blog posts for this week,  but I saw a great post today that ties in beautifully to the past several posts regarding invisible illnesses. I’m including one of the graphics, but you’ll have to click the link to see the rest:

 

http://tosavealife.com/mental-health/depression/what-its-like-explaining-depression-meds-to-many-christians/

May the peace of God dwell with you today and always.

Depression: What it is and How to Fight Back

This is part 4 of the series “Invisible Illnesses.” To read the previous post, click here

depression post

The problem of depression and the Christian is complex. As with PTSD, we need to educate ourselves before rushing to errant judgement.

Depression can be split into two categories (although they frequently often overlap): there is depression caused by physical/chemical triggers and there is depression as a state of the mind. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction. Continue reading

Depression: The Big Conundrum

This is part 3 of the series “Invisible Illnesses.” To read the previous post, click here.

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The heavy beat of drums and the wail of electric guitars blared through small white earbuds. Her cold, trembling fingers pressed them deeper into her ears, attempting to drown the screaming and thumping echoing down the hallway. Another uncontrollable tantrum. A tantrum over… what, exactly? She couldn’t put her finger on the triggering moment.

Continue reading

Coming glory (Day 6 of the #encourage marathon)

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For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

~ ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s Day 6 of our 26-day #Encourage Marathon! (You can read yesterday’s post here.)

Here are the previous 5 days we’ve covered so far:

Not Destroyed – Day 1

Do not lose heart – Day 2

More than Conquerors – Day 3

Joy will come – Day 4

Renewed Strength – Day 5

Someone out there is on their knees, worn out with suffering. It might even be you.

Grief.

Loss.

Betrayal.

Rejection.

Humiliation.

Abuse.

Persecution.

Death.

Sickness.

Starvation.

Tyranny.

War.

Have you experienced any of the above? Welcome to the world of harsh reality. Sometimes it feels as though we were born to experience trouble (hence the pursuit of excessive pleasure). The race is long. That finish line is barely a dot on the horizon (if we can see it at all!).

If you ask a mother about childbirth, they will tell you that it felt as though the excruciating pain of labor would never end. And yet, when they look back, the exhaustive labor seems like a little thing compared with the great joy of nestling their precious newborn. Joy, awe, and delight outshine the pain, making it a mere memory.

Like a woman in labor, so is our labor of life. As Paul says in our verse today, this suffering does not compare with what waits for us. When we finally see Jesus—the one whom we love and who has loved us from the beginning—all this will be overshadowed by the light of His presence.

I often think of it in the way Gandalf described it to Pippin in The Lord of the Rings:

PIPPIN: I didn’t think it would end this way.

GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?

GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

PIPPIN: Well, that isn’t so bad.

GANDALF: No, no it isn’t.

I think of Jesus in all his glory like that swift sunrise, and heaven that far green country, teeming with beauty. I am looking forward to seeing it. If I can just remember that, it’ll make all of this more bearable.

Something better and far more glorious is waiting for us, we just have to keep running.


I hope you’ll continue to join me on FacebookTwitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share this verse on your Twitter feed or Facebook page (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.

[If you click on the link in the above passage, it will take you to BibleGateway.com. From here, you can click a share link which allows you to share directly to Twitter, Facebook or send an email.]

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list.

Overcome or Overcomer?

alone

“Its only Monday, and the world is already falling apart.”

She raked slender fingers through her long hair, willing the movement to ease her tensed nerves. Her heart seemed to gravitate towards the floor. Why couldn’t something go right for a change? No matter what she did, it all seemed to unravel in the end.

As the minutes ticked by, the room grew darker until she realized her own hands were barely visible. The encroaching darkness brought relief, but only for a moment. Tomorrow she would have to face the catastrophe reverberating from today’s events.

Seized with sorrow, she sank to her knees and wept.

Plagued with doubt. Overwhelmingly defeated. Dogged by despair.

She lifted her hands to pray, her words only audible to the One who could hear the desperate cry flowing from a burdened heart.

“Why, Lord?” she gasped through tears, “Why?”

As the tears rolled down, words crept into her mind—words she had read several days ago: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”

Words from the Bible. Words that Paul—who suffered multiple losses and countless disappointments—had written to fellow Christians. Words she needed at this dark hour. Peace and comfort soothed her aching heart like a warm compress. Though the pain lingered and the problems persisted, relief came. God had not abandoned her. He was present with her in the gathering gloom.

These moments of doubt, defeat, and despair visit every person at some time in their lives. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you live, or how righteous you are. For many, the three D’s lead to the destruction of faith and/or life.

You may think the righteous of times past never struggled with the three D’s, but they did:

Moses

“I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” (Numbers‬ ‭11:14-15‬)

David

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭13:1-2‬)

Elijah

“I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings‬ ‭19:10‬)

Jeremiah

“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.”
‭‭(Lamentations‬ ‭3:17-20‬)

Jesus’ disciples

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened…” (Luke 24.21)

These examples merely scratch the surface. All who have served God faithfully have been tested and tried in this way. What we see in the scriptures is the enduring mercy of the Lord. He does not abandon us in the pit of despair, but always shines through in the darkness to those who cry out to Him in Faith.

He replaces doubt with trust, despair with hope, and defeat with victory. We are more than conquerors through Christ.

If we read further through each of the above passages, we see the dispelling of the three D’s:

Moses

[God speaking to Moses] “And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.” ‭(Numbers‬ ‭11:17‬)

David

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” ‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭13:5-6‬)

Elijah

[God speaking to Elijah] “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings‬ ‭19:18‬)

Jeremiah

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations‬ ‭3:21-24‬)

Jesus’ disciples

“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road…” (Luke 24.32-35)

The afflictions of doubt, defeat, and despair are ones we all must endure. What defines us in these moments is not our own strength, but upon whom we lean for strength. When we reach out to God, He will not push us away.

When there is doubt, he will bring certainty.

When we feel despair, he will supply hope.

When we suffer defeat, he will transform it to victory.

As you read the word each day, make note of how God demonstrated his steadfast love toward those who served Him in times past. To download a free PDF worksheet to use for your own encouragement, click here.

So we do not lose heart. 

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~ 2 Corinthians 4.16-18

Don’t forget to download this free printable for your personal study!

Does anybody care?!

imageFor people like me who wage a daily war with depression, there is a phrase that pops up every so often, and we grow weary of saying it: “I’m depressed… Again.” It’s frustrating, upsetting, and draining. “Will this ever completely disappear? Surely people are sick of my black cloud… I know I am.”

You know you have to face the day again tomorrow. You know you’ll likely wonder why you bothered to get out of bed. You feel like nobody cares.

There is One who always cares. He already knows you’re hurting. He holds all your tears in a bottle. He watches the ongoing fight.

God cares. Jesus understands. The Holy Spirit strengthens.

You are not alone.

People will grow weary of your ups and downs, but God never will.

There is an old hymn we sometimes sing entitled “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Most people focus on the friendship bit, but I want to focus on an often overlooked part:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.

Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

Are you really carrying everything to God in prayer or do you come with a few requests and then carry the rest to your best friend from school? Don’t bring some of your requests to God, bring them ALL. Pour out the anguish of your soul. Confide your worries, fears, doubts and weaknesses. Carry everything to Him.

Every person that I have ever loved in my life has let me down. That is not a reflection on their quality as a friend, but rather a reflection on our mutual humanity. I am quite confident that I also have disappointed each and every one of them at some point or another. We are not God, we cannot be omni-present, and we are prone to weakness. I have begun to realize in the last year an important truth: Rejection, disappointment, and failure are the gateway to true dependence on the Lord. We aren’t going to lean heavily on a God we cannot see when we have friends and loved ones we can see. We go to them when we hurt (and that is only natural), but at some point they won’t be there because they can’t be everywhere at once. When all obvious supports fail, we clearly see the One Solid Rock that has supported us all along.

God never lets us down. Jesus understands what it’s like to be abandoned by friends. The Holy Spirit is ever near to comfort you.

You are not alone.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

~ ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭55:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Memorize this verse and repeat it beneath those dark clouds of sadness. Then do it. Pray. Cast that burden on the Lord. Do it again until you feel unburdened. If the weight comes back, cast it off again in prayer. Do it for the rest of your life. Pray ceaselessly. Pray for others carrying that weight. Give thanks to God when you find relief.

Are you walking through that lonely, cloud-covered valley today? Is the weight of life too heavy? Take it to the Lord in prayer. Every. Single. Day.

If you are suffering from depression, I recommend you read these posts:

The Overlooked Truth About Depression and Faith.

The Cure is Worse than the Disease! What do I do now?!

Feeling Overwhelmed?

May you find peace in the Lord today so you can press on to the goal!

Feeling overwhelmed?

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Somewhere, right now, there is a young mother standing in her house, the fingertips of both hands pressed into her head in frustration. The house gets cleaned, only to be dirty within a few minutes. She sits down to rest only to be interrupted by another of her children. The sink is clogged, the repairman is calling, the bills need paying and dinner needs preparing.

Somewhere, right now, is a man sitting in a hard chair, head in hands, paralyzed by anxiety and grief. The list of honey-do’s at home and the never-ending stress of work has driven him into shut-down mode. He still carries the weight of the dead from his time in Iraq, and there are days it all seems like too much to handle.

Somewhere, right now, somebody you know is feeling overwhelmed.

It might even be you.

The account of Peter walking on the water toward Jesus (and his subsequent sinking/rescue) resonates with people. Waves and storms evoke a sense of overwhelming odds. Waves are powerful, crushing things that rise high above us, giving us the sense that we are insignificant and about to be overpowered. We all have days when the weight of everything is too heavy—our minds can’t focus, our heart rate increases, and we just wish we could hit “undo.”

How do you keep right on going when the weight of everything threatens to drown you?

Here are four tips for the overwhelmed and anxious:

Tip#1: Stop whatever you’re doing… and pray

“But I can’t stop! I have to keep going! I can’t just pause from what I’m doing! Catastrophe will ensue!”

You can stop, even if it’s just for a moment—take 10-30 seconds to pause and pray.

You don’t have to get on your knees or close your eyes. Just make an immediate appeal to God for help. Fix your mind’s eye on Him.

Here’s an example: “Lord, I feel overwhelmed. I know you are always near and said you’d be with me. You see what’s happening and you know how I feel. Have mercy on me and help me to keep going. I can do what needs to be done, but only with your help. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” (This only takes about 15-20 seconds!)

Still feeling overwhelmed? Keep pausing and praying until the day is over. Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you. That phrase is from His Word (Psalm 55:22) and it’s a promise! It doesn’t say He might sustain you, it says He will!

 

Tip #2: Reduce your intake of stimulants and sugars.

If you are having regular feelings of physical panic, it’s time to reevaluate your caffeine intake. Coffee is not inherently bad for you, but in many people (myself included) it causes heart palpitations and panic attacks. This can also include chocolate or black tea. Reduce or remove it. Some have found green tea to be a good substitute stimulant without the negative side affects of panic attacks, etcetera. If you use essential oils, put a drop of peppermint in your hand, rub both hands together, then bring them to your nose and breathe deeply. Peppermint gives clarity and stimulation. To relax, use lavender oil.

Sometimes, it’s just hard to focus. Reduce your intake of sugar and carbohydrates to lessen the 2 o’clock fog. A few simple dietary changes can make a big difference!

 

Tip #3: Make time for quiet.

We live in a loud world. Noise, distractions, and a constant flood of information are, in and of themselves, too much to process at times. Put down the phone, shut off the TV, turn off the music and do something quietly. Write down prayer requests, read a book, pray, or simply shut your eyes and process the events of the day. If you say, “I don’t have time,” you need to make time. Come up with 15 minutes in the morning, on your lunch break, or even before bed. It’s not impossible.

Here is another suggestion: When you get home from work, let the kids have a few minutes of play to themselves and allow yourself to decompress for as little as 10 minutes. Set a timer and tell the kids you’ll be out of your room when the timer goes off. Everyone needs to reset, refresh, and regroup. It’s good to train your kids to have “quiet time” as well. Admittedly, your kids may interrupt you with some catastrophe or other. Start with just a few minutes at a time and work your way up to 10 or 15 minutes. Over time and consistent practice, you will all fall into a healthy routine.

One last suggestion: make time to walk for a minimum of 20 minutes outside (weather permitting). There is something reviving about the fresh air and the solitude.

 

Tip #4: “Do the next thing.”

Writer and speaker Elisabeth Elliot emphasized this idea throughout her work. She derived this saying from an old Saxon poem:

Do it immediately; Do it with prayer;

Do it reliantly, casting all care;

Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand,

Who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,

Leave all resultings, DO THE NEXT THING.

This concept has helped me plow my way through some tough times. If your to-do list is a mile long and you feel like shutting down, ignore the list for a moment a focus on the next immediate task. Do the dishes need washing? Begin! Is your email inbox full? Reply to the first email. Take a few minutes to order your list and then start at the top. Instead of focusing on the mountain, fix your eyes on the first steps…

…And then the next foothold…

…and then the next handhold…

…then the next task, the next job, the next thing. Step, by step, by step.

Don’t concentrate on the list, concentrate on that first customer inquiry. Don’t think about all the demands, just change that diaper. You may only accomplish a few tasks, but you will have accomplished something in your day. With the Lord’s help, we can overcome our mountain of demands.


 

Are you feeling overwhelmed today? God is near and wants to help you. Leaning on Him is like resting against a great rock—peaceful, secure and steady.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;

My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;

My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.

The pangs of death surrounded me,

And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.

The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;

The snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.

He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.

Psalm‬ ‭18:2-6‬ , 16 NKJV‬‬

 

4 things to do before age 60

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”

~ Ecclesiastes 12.1, ESV

 

youth

When we are young, we think we have an abundance of time. After all, our parents and teachers tell us, “there’ll be time for that later,” or “not until your older.” We spend the first 18-20 years of our lives waiting until we are “older” to “do” things.

There is one thing we should never put off: serving God.

I remember asking my father if his hospice patients (those who were not Christians) tried turning to God near the end. They had lived their lives the way they had wanted—perhaps profligately—and now, with death staring them in the face, surely they’d want to make a change. He looked rather sadly at me and replied, “Once people get to that age, they’ve resisted God for so long that they have lost all desire for Him. Deathbed conversions occur once in great awhile, but it’s far more rare than it is common.”

It was an eye-opening statement, and one that has remained planted in my mind. We need to fix our desires, mindsets and habits now, before we do not have strength.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. 

By youth I mean anyone who is under the age of 60 not plagued by dementia or alzheimer’s. Even 70, if you’re still in great shape. Just because a child is 1 or 2, doesn’t mean you can’t start teaching them about God. Today is all we’ve got—make the most of it. I have sadly heard too many parents put off “church-going” because they think their kids won’t remember or “they’re too young.” They are more aware than you realize.

So, while we are still “young” we need to work on the following:

#1: Practice Forgiveness.

This should be a top priority. As I mention in this post on forgiveness, failure to forgive results in firmly rooted bitterness. We need to emulate Christ who forgave even his torturers. He also forgave us.

#2: Meditate on the Word.

Daily.

Don’t rely on Sunday sermons to fill you for an entire week. Even reading once a day isn’t meditation.

Meditating is not simply reading the Bible—it’s reading and pondering.

Here are three different ways to meditate on the Word:

  1. writing: keep a journal.
  2. walking alone: Some of the best thoughts come to me on my walks when I have time to think about passages I’ve read and sermons I’ve heard.
  3. talking with Christians: I love those kindred spirits who happily discuss biblical topics with me and allow me to think things through with them out loud.

#3: Pray Daily.

Again—daily. Multiple times per day.

If you are not in the habit of praying, start with meal-time prayers. After you get that set in place, set your alarm 10 minutes earlier get out of bed (this is important so you don’t fall back asleep) set the timer for 10 minutes and pray. After awhile, you may discover that 10 minutes isn’t enough!

Having regular communication with God while young will give us a stronger connection with him when we are old.

#4: Cultivate Joy.

This is one of my biggest challenges, especially as someone who is inclined to be a “brooding Irish” type. Joy does not equal happiness. Happiness is a momentary feeling swayed by circumstance; joy is a determined attitude.

There’s a few things involved in getting a joyful attitude:

  1. Know your home.
    This life overflows with uncontrollable circumstance. All that waffle about being the “captain of your destiny” is absolute rubbish. Most concentration camp survivors will tell you they couldn’t get out by their own power. A few succeeded in escaping, but most were stuck, plagued by illness or simply too helpless. The only thing you can control is your own mind. Knowing that there is an eternal home beyond the vicissitudes of earth is a source of joy for the Christian. We look to what Shakespeare calls, “The Undiscovered Country.” I long for that country which has been discovered by my brothers and sisters in the Lord who have gone on before me.
  2. Refocus the mind.
    If you are a long-time reader, you know that I have dealt with depression for many years (you can read more here). I still do. It is a daily fight to stay upbeat. I’m not always strong enough to keep my head above water, but God is! When this mess called life begins to weigh on my heart I have to recenter myself and focus my thoughts on what I know to be true.

    This is my constant aim:

    Finally, brethren,
    whatever is true,
    whatever is honorable,
    whatever is right,
    whatever is pure,
    whatever is lovely,
    whatever is of good repute,
    if there is any excellence
    and if anything worthy of praise,
    dwell on these things.

    The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

    ~Phillipians 4.8-9, NASB

    Bring the mind back into focus. Let it dwell on the things listed above. For more on this, read here.

  3. Pray.
    As I mentioned in the previous point, I know I’m not strong enough to fight the weight of the world. I need help. Only God is powerful enough to pull me out of the stormy ocean of emotion and circumstance. Fix your eyes on Him. I have always treasured the account of Peter stepping out on the water toward Jesus. He walked on the water (which is physically impossible) as He looked toward Jesus. As soon as He took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the raging waters he sank like a lead weight. What did he do? He cried out to the one who could save him—and Jesus reached out and pulled him to safety. You can read the full account here in Matthew 14.

    When life threatens to crush your joy, cry out to God. He will lift you up.

Serve God today while you still have breath and mental clarity. For while there is life, there is hope.

Day 15: Providence

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

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A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

~ Proverbs 16.9, NKJV

Providence.

Thats one of those old churchy words that people used to use in reference to God’s plan, right?

Very close!

Its actually a very beautiful concept. The origin of the word is from the Latin ‘providere’ meaning “to foresee, to attend to.” It is currently defined as “the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.”

You know, I love God’s providence.

I find great comfort in knowing that God provides and will provide for my basic needs. I am able to trust in the Lord because I know that He sees the end from the beginning and can guide my steps in the right way.

My friends and I were discussing prayer a bit yesterday and one of the things we touched on was the fact that God knows so much more than we do. We may ask for something and think that we ought to have it or that it would be beneficial. God may say “no” or “not yet” because He recognizes the physical or spiritual harm in what you request. God ultimately wants us to love and serve Him with our whole heart. Our prayers also should be geared toward that.

God orchestrates so much of what goes on around us. He confounds the plans of Satan. He raises and destroys kingdoms.

Today I arrived home safely from the conference in Anaheim. It was a lovely trip, but I was so thankful to get home safely.

I’m unaware of the abundance of ways in which the Lord has blessed me and led me safe thus far. But in moments like these, there’s a line from an old hymn that goes through my head:

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?

It breathes in the air, it shines in the light!

It streams from the hills it descends to the plains

And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain!

~ Robert Grant, ‘O Worship the King.’

what a lovely expression—his care distills in the dew and rain. His providential care surrounds us! I am so thankful for such assurance in this crazy life!

Day 14: Fellow Christians

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

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It was a small insignificant building in a small insignificant coastal town. The streets rolled up at 9 pm along with the gas station. As I stood outside on that breezy August afternoon, I noted with immense pleasure that I could see the ocean from where I stood. Inside the four walls were Christians I had never met before. I was full to bursting with mingled anticipation and trepidation.

My parents and I walked in and were greeted in no time by the preacher, the elders and various members. Within the space of 10 minutes we were invited to dinner, offered a place to stay and—since I would be carless—arrangements made for a ride to worship and bible classes. It was a small group, but large in love, hospitality and godliness. I spent the better part of five years with them. They were my family away from family. I essentially gained grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers. That building is gone, but the church remains. They relocated to a larger building so they could grow. Even today, I like to go back with my young family and see them.

The church is a great blessing. The ties I have to my Christian family run deep. Having lived all over the state, I’ve had the opportunity to worship in many places with many brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve never worshipped and failed to connect with a brother or sister with whom I’ve shared a common faith. It’s a beautiful thing.

We are connected through Christ.

We learn to love those who are difficult to love. We learn how to settle disagreements. We encourage each other to press on. We learn from the examples of the elderly and teach the young the way of the Lord.

I am thankful for the church and all the lovely Christians I am privileged to know!