What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Prayer and Peace

I need some peace in my life. I bet we all can say that since we live in a fallen world where there is suffering and anxiety all around us. I’m struggling right now with thoughts and memories of past traumas and it’s keeping me awake at night and depressed during the day. I know there’s supposed to be peace in our lives as Christians, so how do I find that peace?
As I’m still looking at a promise a day for my daily devotions from the Bible, I came across two in a row that remind me from where I can obtain peace. It has to come from God and His promises in my life. Specifically, I need to pray and give thanks. This comes from a very familiar passage, but it’s one I seem to forget in the midst of my struggles.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [New American Standard Bible] So the answer is prayer. Prayer can take many forms but in this passage two things are specifically mentioned: supplication and thanksgiving. I guess I’m not doing enough of either of those things because I’m not experiencing the peace that surpasses all comprehension.
Why don’t I pray more, especially when I’m anxious? I think it’s because I don’t believe fervently that God’s promises for life eternal will come to pass in due time. Another passage that came up in my list of promises this week addresses this. I Peter 3:12 quotes Psalm 34:15 and following. The verse in 1 Peter says, “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Some other key parts of Psalm 34 include phrases like “The righteous cry and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles” and “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Also verse 22 in Psalm 34 says, “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants; And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.”
Do I really believe and look for the ways God is delivering me from evil and helping me out in my troubles? Do I let Him heal me when I’m brokenhearted? I confess, I don’t turn to Him enough to do these things. And I have to know that ultimately, He will rescue me from this present life and redeem my soul. I forget to look to the end result and get caught up in my daily struggles. Today, I’m going to try to turn everything over to Him with prayer and thanksgiving, keeping my eyes on the future redemption which is available for the righteous.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


The sermon last Sunday was on chapters 8 – 11 of Revelation. The pastor summarized that chapters 1 – 7 were about individual Christians and churches getting ready for what is coming. Chapters 8 – 11 is about getting others ready for what is coming. There’s a lot of description in Revelation about what is coming from persecution to destruction of this world as we know it. And, ultimately, judgment.
So, I’m doing what I can to prepare myself for what is coming. I try to get to know Christ and walk in His ways according to the Bible. I pray to be changed by God’s Spirit on a day-by-day basis. I spend time praising God as a way of practicing what we will be doing once we are in His presence for eternity. I repent from my sins as I become aware of them and try to live differently from then on.
However, I’m not doing a very good job of warning others of what is to come. The trumpets in Revelation are like warning sirens we hear for when tornados are coming. They are warning that the chaos described in Revelation is meant to prompt people to prepare their souls for eternity. Anyone can read Scripture and know what is coming, but many will not read the Bible for themselves. It’s up to us who know what’s coming to get the message out to those who need to know.
That brings me to the convicting part of the sermon. I need to be a witness to people of what I know is coming. I don’t do a very good job of that. The pastor shared four ways we can witness to the spiritually lost. I spent some time this week considering how I do in each of those areas. I’ve been praying this week for the wisdom and opportunities to witness in one or more of the following ways.
Relational approach: develop relationships with people who do not know Christ as their personal Savior. These relationships can be as casual as the cashier in the grocery store or as complex as regular conversations with neighbors. I realized that the first part about this is having contact with people and seeing those contacts as an opportunity to witness.
Invitational approach: actually inviting those friends who don’t go to church or a Bible study to go with you to church. We may not do this because we are afraid of how the friends may respond. I know I worry about what other people will think of me. However, if I’m convinced that judgment is coming, I will be taking every opportunity to identify with Christ and invite people to the place where they can hear about the hope I want to display.
Testimonial approach: telling others your story of how Jesus has made a difference in your life. I know how to do this. When I was in college I learned how to talk about what my life was like (a mess), how I came to see Jesus as the One who could change my life, and how my life is different now that He’s a part of my life. In AA, we say it this way: what my life was like, what happened, and what is it like now. It’s my story and no one can say I’m wrong. I can do this with the people I’m developing relationships with or with perfect strangers, as God gives me opportunities. And He does give me opportunities.
Tangible approach: doing acts of kindness. I can reach out with love in service to others as an example of Christ’s love for all of us. There are many ways we can serve those who don’t know of the salvation that awaits them in Christ. This can include everything from giving money to donating material items. It can also include using my time, energy, and skills to meet other people’s needs. Doing tangible things for other people causes them to ask “Why are you different?” That opens the door to witness for Christ.
I am trying to consciously think about and pray about opportunities to be a witness to people. The first step is getting myself in positions where I will come into contact with people. That’s sometimes hard for me as I struggle with depression. But the thing is, when I do reach out to others, I stop thinking about myself and I feel better. Maybe it’s because I’m doing what God wants me to be doing.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Emotions, Logic and the Wise Mind

Lately, I feel like I lack purpose in my life. I used to have purpose or a sense that there was something to get out of the bed for in the morning. I’m not feeling it today. I’m feeling like the things that used to matter to me just don’t matter anymore.
However, feelings aren’t always accurate. I don’t get to that conclusion on my own. It takes someone else pointing it out to me. Feelings seem accurate, but they can be misleading. I feel a lot of things that are not necessarily true when the whole picture is looked at. Of course, feelings are indicators of a thought that might be going through my head at any given moment. So they are valid in the sense that they give me information, but I have to take them in context.
For instance, I can feel angry but not know what I’m angry about until I attach some thoughts to the feeling. And, sometimes those thoughts are not accurate either. I have a lot of distorted thinking if I stop with how my emotions are making things seem. I’ve learned that there are other ways of approaching a situation or event or a feeling. One aspect of that is to evaluate the situation from a rational, reasoning point of view. I can say that but doing it is another thing altogether. My emotions often cloud my reasoning and I need to get help from outside of myself to see things from a reasoning position. And, reasoning is not necessarily the whole picture either. Logic only takes us so far as humans. God made us to be emotional and logical – even at the same time.
That leads me to what is called, in some psychological philosophies, the wise mind. The wise mind makes decisions and evaluates situations taking into account the emotions and the logic. There’s something deeper to that kind of thinking. It comes from an inner state of being that can be seen in the psalms of David. He often started out with how he felt and moved into the logical point of view and then combined them to come to one conclusion: God.
I know that when I allow myself to look at things from a wise mind perspective I usually end up thinking about God. God is not emotion or logic. He is bigger, deeper, more profound than either of those things. Yet God made man in His image so there are elements of emotion and logic in God as well.
I don’t know where I’m going with this thought exactly. However, I do know that I can’t rely on my feelings or my reasoning to navigate successfully, purposefully in this world. I need an inner knowledge. That only comes from the Holy Spirit and gets me to see things from God’s point of view.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Other Changes

I’m still thinking about changes in my life in the last sixteen years. I said last week that before I wasn’t of much help to those around me. I was too busy trying to live and look good to other people. I thought I had to do and be all the right things in order to be accepted and loved. However, I had forgotten that, because of Jesus in my life, I am already accepted and loved by our heavenly Father. It’s His personality to love and have mercy on people. I had forgotten that. As a result, I was trying to please people, running myself ragged trying to be all things to all people. I appeared successful but inside I was crying and doubting and planning the next thing I needed to do in order to look good.
I still find myself falling into the thinking that says, “I have to do more” in order to look good to other people. That thinking leads me to believing that it’s me doing the good things, while in reality, it should be God working through me to do the good things. I am not saying we should stop striving to good things. I am saying that we need to be doing the good things because we are being obedient to God.
So, with the dawn of a new school year, I find myself thinking about what I could or should be doing with my time. In the past I taught school or substitute taught school. Those things filled up my days (but not necessarily my heart). I was doing them because I thought they looked good to other people. I do feel like something is missing in my life every fall without the teaching, but there are other ways to fill my time and still be useful to society.
So two weeks ago, I started volunteering at a Christian organization in my hometown. It’s called Christian Resources International (http://cribooks.org/) and they collect printed Christian materials from individuals, churches and publisher overruns and sort them. The purpose is to send these materials to people around the world that do not have access to these materials otherwise. What we take for granted – various study materials, Bibles, Christian novels, etc. – and throw out when we are no longer interested in using them, are highly valued in some countries around the world. (It’s amazing how many countries use English as one of their primary languages and can use our “discarded” materials.) I’m not doing any great theological or intellectual activity, but I’m contributing to getting God’s Word sent around the world. That’s a useful activity in my book. Where I can’t go, the materials I help sort can go and be used to bring other’s to Christ.
So, that’s a change in my life. I am being useful and helping to further God’s Word around the world. I wouldn’t have had the time or energy to do this type of volunteering while working as a teacher. I feel like I’m contributing to a bigger cause and it’s one of things I’ve scheduled into my week to provide structure and purpose.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Drunk off and on. Unable to cope without alcohol on a daily basis. Confused. Afraid. Frustrated. Unable to help others. Unable to help myself. Lonely. Depressed. Barely doing my job. Lots of conflict with other people.
That’s the way things were before recovery. Every once in a while it’s good to look back and remember how things were. It’s the “what I was like” or the “before recovery” me. There’s of course a lot more to my story than those few words above, but remembering even those feelings and some of the situations surrounding those feelings is therapeutic for me now. Especially when I feel those feelings in the here and now. And, yes. I still have those feelings from time to time.
Why remember those feelings? Mostly because they remind me that I didn’t know how to cope with those feelings. Things are different now. As I said, I still have many of those feelings (not all; I no longer think a drink will solve any problem). However, there are new ways – ways that actually work – to cope with the problems in my life. I’ve learned some things along this road to recovery. And looking back reminds me that I am no longer the same person in many ways than I was before 1999.
In the last month or so, I’ve been working on trying to put some structure into my days. I’ve learned in recovery that I’m a person who needs structure to live a good life. Without structure, I am left to thinking about things I shouldn’t think about or not thinking about the things I should be thinking about. For me, that usually leads to deepening depression. When I was first in recovery I needed someone to impose structure on my life. I needed other people to tell me what and when I should be doing something. When I would be discharged from the mental hospital, they would recommend some kind of “partial hospitalization” program for me so I would have structure in my life. Or I would have to call my AA sponsor everyday by a certain time to get my day started. I had checklists of things to get done in day, usually developed by someone else.
Now, however, I realize I’ve changed to a certain extent. I still need structure in my life, but I am capable of developing that structure without the structure having been determined for me. Don’t get me wrong. I still want help developing my weekly and daily schedules, but now I know how to get that help. And the people I go to for help usually ask me what I want to do when and then they just hold me accountable for doing it. That’s another change. In the past, schedules would be recommended for me and I’d rebel against keeping them. Now, I ask for help developing my own schedules and accept the accountability for keeping it.
That’s just one way I’ve changed. I have learned to cope with life on life’s terms as we say in AA. If I’m confused, afraid, lonely, depressed, frustrated, in conflict with other people, or struggling to do my responsibilities there’s people I can (and do) call for some help. And sometimes I just know what the next right thing to do is and I do it – without asking for help from someone else.