We’ve all heard the bible story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I’ve heard it many times, too, so I thought I knew it well. Until I heard a teacher highlight this one part: Daniel 3: 26-27, “So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and [they] crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.” The part I learned was that we can walk through the fire (OF pain FROM others) but NOT let the world smell the smoke (of their burns) ON us. You and I have had our share of burns from others, haven’t we? Yet, in this story, these guys were in the fire–but when they came THRU it, they didn’t have the smell of smoke on them. I wanna be like that. First of all, I wanna be a girl who gets THRU the fire. Even if it takes everything I got–I wanna be a “comeback girl” from the pain others cause me. Secondly, I will not go through the rest of my life smelling like smoke from the ones who burn me. They don’t deserve that much impact. And it is a poor representation of God, if everywhere I go, I leave a trail of smoke instead of a trail of light. I hope this encourages someone today!
Theatrically speaking, our marriage is a mystery-thriller-comedy. So I thought it might be fun to invite you into our bed for some theater-convo. Over the years, Raul and I have been misunderstood, and we get that. We are not normal. OK, I am not normal. So how have we made it seventeen years? Contrary to the ole’ adage, it’s actually not our opposites that attract–-but our ONE similarity: God. You see, we don’t have the luxury of having similarities. We don’t have the same I.Q., childhood experiences, strengths or weaknesses. We don’t handle conflict the same. We don’t have the same love language. We don’t lead the same, we don’t follow the same. So when alllllllllllllllll these differences are challenged, we HAVE to have something that holds us together. Thank God we have God. For some, opposites may attract, but for us, God is the attraction. For seventeen years, we’ve both loved God; sought Him and hope to one day hear him say, “Well done.” Without our common denomination of God–-our differences would rip us apart. So what will keep Raul and Heather, under one roof, in one bed, for years to come? One God! Thanks for joining us on our bed, we hope this encouraged you.
There are many comforting bible verses that help us with fear. One that’s grown on me is Luke 12:32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” This fear-verse speaks to me because of two insignificant words in it: “little,” and “kingdom.” First, “little.” God knows I feel little when I am afraid or anxious. The big fear outgrows my littleness. It becomes so big, that the fear moves from a thought in my mind, to a manifestation in my body (i.e., heartburn, headache, insomnia) and this should not be. God knows we feel little when we’re afraid. But God is not little. God is big. God is bigger than your fear, the enemy causing it and you! So tell the devil where to go, and tell your mind what I tell mine: “fear, you are not my master because Jesus is my Savior!” The second word is “kingdom.” We’re afraid? Shouldn’t we be condemned for this? Shouldn’t God discipline us for our lack-o-faith? This verse tells me that God doesn’t take from us, He GIVES! And not only is He gonna give me something if I keep going in spite of my fears–He’s gonna give me something BIG: a kingdom! So if you feel afraid, and your fear is making you feel little, take heart. God’s got you, and He’s gonna GIVE you something BIG. So hang on, hold on, don’t give up. You’ve got a kingdom waiting for you!
Several years ago, I went through a dark time. I cried a lot. I can’t recall ever crying as much as I did then. It was comforting to know that despite the pain causing the tears…God was holding onto every one of them (Psalm 56). There’s an adage, “Don’t cry over spilt milk.” It means, “don’t waste your time worrying about things you cannot change.” Admittedly, during that dark time, I had made some mistakes to cause those tears, but other people were responsible as well. I learned that sometimes, we DO have to cry over spilt milk. It’s literally a physiological reaction when there is pain. To suppress the crying that the body is generating is just as preposterous as spilling a glass of milk and acting like you didn’t. So if it hurts, if you regret it–as you work through it–it’s ok to cry. But if you would indulge me, based on what I went through, I’d like to add one line to this adage. I’d add, “but also clean up what was spilled.” At some point, we have to clean up the milk. And at some point, we have to stop crying and begin the clean-up of our pain. Trust me, neither one is fun. But both are necessary. And the God who was with you before the milk spilled, is the God who is with you as you cry over it, is the God who is with you to help clean it up. I hope this encourages someone today.
Is there one day you wish you could live over? You know what I’m saying? You look back on it and your mind starts flashing images of the day, and your memory starts flipping through questions as if they’re flash cards. I used to have that “one day.” I did something really stupid in college. Although I eventually got it to the back of my mind, it would eventually manage to make its way to the front and begin the image-flashing and question-asking. What are we supposed to do with that? I don’t know the psychologically-based, theologically-laden, intellectually-stimulating answer, but I can tell you what I did. One, I asked God to forgive me. I needed Him to forgive me for what I did, because in his forgiveness, I would find freedom from the chronic mental-replaying. Jesus came to set the captives free- and sometimes, those captives are our thoughts. But like James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” ASK Jesus to forgive you for that “one day.” The next thing I did was I forgave myself. You see, Jesus forgives AND forgets. The bible says “as far as the east is from the west, that is how far He removes the guilt.” Guess what? The East and the West NEVER meet, so they are endless in contact, just like his guilt-remover with our sins. SO, if JESUS can move on, what’s my excuse? Listen, guilt beats up, conviction wakes up. I’m glad I was convicted about that “one day.” But I’ll be danged if I’m gonna walk around with guilt for something Jesus already died, rose and forgot. It’s actually almost sacrilegious to not forgive ourselves, because it’s like saying, “Jesus, you didn’t pay enough for this, so I’ll make myself pay for it.” The other thing I did was put to memory a verse that helped me create a tangible “action” to attack this memory when it tried to bring itself up. I learned, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5). So when that regrettable “one day” memory tries to push its way to the front of my mind, I’ll put my hand to my head, take that thought captive into my hand and MAKE it obey Christ. To make that thought obey Christ means to make it SHUT UP. It has no right to my thought-life! And I’m the boss…not my thoughts. I don’t know if these steps will help you, but I DO pray that if you struggle with that “one regrettable day,” that you will consider what I’ve shared here. And walk into a new day…without it.
Have you ever noticed we post about going to work, school, Doctor, vacation…but we don’t tweet about going to a counselor (or therapist)? If you know me at all, you know I have a big-bipolar-mouth () for Christian Counseling. There is no number I give out more than the counselors’ contacts I have in my phone. As long as God gives me the ability to communicate, Christian-counseling is what I’ll be shouting. And I’m not just an advocate…I’m an avid member! I started seeing a Christian counselor when I was a kid. So truthfully, I never developed a stigma toward it because it’s all I know. At the end of the day, if we can agree that there is no shame in going to a doctor for a hurt lung or a leg, then we can agree there should be no shame in going to one for a hurt brain. And hello, it’s biblical! Proverbs 15:22, “Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.” I hope this encourages someone today. And if you have a Christian counselor or therapist, thank them. And if you need one, email me.
I often troll the bible looking for mental-verses. One thing I’ve learned is there’s no therapy like the bible. It is the book of LIFE. It is a “double-edge sword” against thoughts of death. It is a book that–when opened–buries itself like treasure in your belly, NEVER to return void. It is the book that, when stored in your heart and uttered aloud, will make the enemy flee. It is a very powerful mental-health remedy, and it’s free and accessible to all. So I was thrilled when I came across Isaiah 61:3 that says God can give, “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” This verse tells me that God can exchange my bouts of wet-wool-blanket heaviness for his garments of praise. How? By praising Him! This sounds super-spiritual, but I’m not and I do it, so anyone can. I’ve learned praising God isn’t bound by church services or acapella voices. On a jog one morning, I passed a lady praising God while walking. Praising God is sometimes in song, sometimes at church but it’s also when we’re driving, walking, exercising, working, crying, falling asleep, waking up, writing, praying, rueing or reflecting. It’s simply giving God props in a reverent way, from wherever we are. It’s telling Him how good He is, no matter how bad we are. It’s taking our focus off our heaviness and putting it on His holiness. If you are in a spirit of heaviness, try on the garment of praise. There’s nothing to lose…and only a garment to gain. 🙂
Over the last few years, I’m thankful for the attention mental-health has received in the grass-root, governmental, medical and ministerial arenas. However, I’ve also seen the underbelly of this attention in the misuse of it among folk like you and me. Here’s the deal, mental illness is not something I would ask for or wish on anyone. Although I do my best to be a good steward with it, given the chance, I would get rid of it any day. In the many conversations I’ve had, I don’t know if everyone who says they have mental illness truly has it. And for those who self-diagnosis, I struggle with that because you haven’t gone through the proper training or licensing to be diagnosising. What I know for me, is: I was diagnosed after a thorough historical, circumstantial and psychological analysis by professionals, over a period of time. So I believe my diagnosis to be legit. But full disclosure, I also know that in my younger years, I was guilty of using mental illness as an excuse, and misusing it for attention. Shame on me, right? Trust me, I felt the full weight of taking a “thorn in my side” GOD has allowed, and abusing it for personal gain. And no sooner did I, and I confessed that junk and vowed to not do it again! It is an illness, not an excuse, not a drama-grabber and not an attention-gainer. And if God has allowed it, it is not my job to abuse it. I’ll close with an encouraging word for 3 groups of people:
>If you *think* you have mental-illness, seek Christian professional help (if you need a recommendation, email me).
>If you *know* you have mental illness, be a good steward with it (read Paul’s account of his “thorn,” 2 Corinthians 12)
>If you *don’t* have mental illness, don’t use it for personal gain, give God thanks you don’t, and say a prayer for those who do.
I hope this encourages someone today!