Monday, June 28, 2010

Fellowship of Sufferings

A week or so ago, I asked the Lord what exactly is meant by “fellowship of sufferings” when it says in Philippians 30:10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death..”

And then a few days ago my husband was telling me about an episode of Dhani Jones Tackles the Globe. Dhani Jones is a football player for the Cincinnati Bengals, who in his off time goes in search of learning sporting pastimes from all over the world and he does it all on camera for the Travel Channel.

On a recent episode, Dhani was in Nepal, where he decided to go for a little hike. His goal was to reach the summit of Kala Patthar, which is 935 feet higher than the base camp of Mt. Everest and gives the hiker a good view of the pinnacle of the world’s highest mountain. The elevation of the summit of Kala Patthar is approximately 18,000 feet. The oxygen at this level is a mere fraction of what we normally breathe, and along the way, Dhani began experiencing shortness of breath and light-headedness.

Also on the trek was a man in his 60's, who was suffering from altitude sickness and was too weak to go on. Someone needed to carry him back down the mountain. Though Dhani was extremely fatigued himself, he volunteered to carry the man. Ironically, though Dhani was having a hard time climbing the mountain on his own, he said that he felt a surge of strength as he carried the man down the mountain.  He knew that he was helping to save a life.

I wonder if Jesus felt that way as he hung on the cross. He died the same agonizing death that had been endured by thousands of others. But His suffering was not for any sins He had committed, but for the sins of the entire world. And because He understood that His suffering had a great and noble purpose - to carry each one of us to safety and into eternity - He was strengthened to endure His suffering.  He knew it was His Father’s will.

Everyone will suffer, but if we recognize that our suffering in Christ has a great and noble purpose, too, then we share in the fellowship of His sufferings. Knowing that God can use our suffering not only for the benefit of our own spiritual growth, but also for the benefit of others, it gives our suffering meaning.

In Christ, we can carry others on our mountains (and valleys) of suffering and be strengthened in doing so. We carry them through our trials by exampling the peace and joy of Christ, especially to unbelievers; we learn greater compassion for others who are suffering and so are able to give comfort where we have received comfort; we gain wisdom that we can pass on to others who are experiencing similar circumstances; and God uses our circumstances of suffering in the lives of others in ways that we won't even see or understand this side of heaven.

When we recognize that our suffering is not just for suffering’s sake (and hopefully not because we are reaping the consequences of our own sin), but that because we are in Christ it has a grander purpose than just for ourselves and what we can see at the moment, then we share in Christ's sufferings. And as we fellowship, or partner, with Christ in suffering with a purpose, we will be strengthened to carry on with courage in our various trials knowing that they, too, will be used to the glory of the Father in the grand scheme of His perfect will.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Dear Father,
I pray for those who are reading this right now. Please carry us through the rest of this week. I pray that though we are weak, you would give us your strength to live in a godly way that magnifies the Name of Jesus.  Thank you for all the ways you've blessed us with and help us to always be filled with thanksgiving. Thank you for our salvation and thank you for teaching us how to love you and love one another.  Please keep the hand of the enemy at bay while we seek to serve you.  May You be glorified always.  In Jesus' Name I pray, amen.

Monday, June 21, 2010

12 Ways to Help Combat Depression

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13MKJV)

Two weeks ago I posted a blog called Depression in the Believer. I’d like to follow that up with some things that I’ve recognized over the years that have helped me when I’m feeling depressed. Most of these things are just common sense, but I hope they’ll be a reminder and an encouragement to you (and to myself) to put them into practice.

Please understand that I’m not at all trying to simplify depression and I’m not negating the need for a professional counselor or medication when necessary. But I believe that these are absolute imperatives in the believer’s life even when further assistance is needed.

1. Pray
Now, I know that sounds obvious, but remember, wishing is not praying, dreaming is not praying, and thinking about praying is not praying. Sometimes it’s hard to hunker down and really pray because my thoughts can be going a million miles a minute, especially when I’m feeling depressed. So set aside a “date” with the Lord each day, time when you will sit down with Him and let it all out and when you can receive from Him. He will give you wisdom IF you’ll put your trust in Him. And don’t forget to put on that attitude of prayer, so that you learn to talk to Him throughout the day about anything and everything that comes up.
     a. Give Thanks
          Do it often and about everything.
     b. Ask for Forgiveness
          I think we let a lot of sins slide, thinking that since we barely noticed God probably didn’t, either.  But He does and we grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin. Confess those sins so that they don’t separate you from a Holy God; so that the enemy does not gain a foothold in your life; and so that the guilt does not add to your depression.
     c. Forgive
          Not only does God's Word say that if we forgive, then we will be forgiven (Luke 6:37), but unforgiveness will turn to bitterness and will eat you alive.  It will steal your trust and faith and joy. Forgiveness isn't saying that what the other person did is okay.  It's letting go so that they don't continue have control in your life.  As they saying goes, forgiveness sets a prisoner free, and that prisoner is me.  Trust God to take care of the other person in the way that only He can.

2. Read the Bible
Again, very obvious, I know. But are you making time for other reading materials, yet little or no time for God’s Word? The Bible is God’s main avenue of speaking to you. Open His Word every day and let it cleanse your heart.  And don't just read it, study it.  Know it like the back of your hand so that the Holy Spirit can teach you and then bring it to your mind when you need it. 

3. Put Away the Secular Music
I know, a lot of you are booing at me right now and saying there’s nothing wrong with some secular music. But, if you’re feeling depressed, secular music can be to us what junk food is to a person who’s trying to lose weight. You get full on that and have no room for what’s actually good for you. So put away the music of the world and drench yourself in music that will glorify the Lord and will encourage you to sing out in praise and worship of your Lord, too.

4. Speaking of Junk Food…
Put it away, too, and eat food that’s going to nourish your body – lots of protein, fruits and vegetables. Chips and 3 Musketeers bars make us feel good in the moment, but in the long run they’ll make us crash and burn. If you have to have some (chocolate is my buddy) limit it to a very small amount. I’m working on replacing refined sugars with fruit instead.

5. Go to Church
I know when you’re feeling depressed that the last thing you want to do sometimes is get out of the house, even to go to church. But do it anyway. Your body is not the boss of you. You need to be spiritually fed and you need the fellowship. And get out of the house during the week, too. Just breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sun shining down on my face can give me a whole new perspective.  If you don't have a home church, please, pray that God will lead you to one.  The Christian faith was never meant to be lived on individual islands.  We were meant to co-exist and serve one another as part of the body of Christ. 

6. And While You’re Out of the House..
Help Someone. Serve at church. Pray with someone. Mail a letter or a card. You never know how the Lord will use you in the life of another person if you ask Him to. And getting our eyes off of ourselves and onto another person will do wonders for your morale and theirs.

7. Exercise
I didn’t say run a marathon (unless you want to!), but any amount of consistent exercise will increase endorphins and help you feel better. Hey, if you wear an IPod you can combine #s 1, 3, 6 and 7! I’m so resourceful.  :)

8. Get Some Sleep
As a chronic insomniac, I know how hard this is. But I also know how much better I feel on a day when I’ve had decent sleep as opposed to a day when there’s been only a few hours. Night and day. Try to get into a routine of getting ready for bed. Don’t eat sweets before bedtime. Try some herbal things if your doctor approves and if it doesn’t interfere with any prescription medications. (Do your homework and double check with your pharmacist on that one.) Just taking magnesium before bed helps me to relax and get to sleep.

9. Take a Shower and Get Dressed
Depression has a way of sapping our energy even to drag ourselves into the shower sometimes. It’s easier to just stay in the jammies. Do it anyway, you’ll thank yourself.  (And I bet your family will, too!) 

10. Laugh
Throughout my childhood and most of my adulthood, people were always asking me why I laughed so much. If something’s funny, I really do LOL. I never knew what answer to give anyone until well into my adulthood. (Most people I’ve known for a long time now and they don’t ask so much anymore.) But I realize that because of the very difficult circumstances in my life, God has given me a built-in survival mechanism, and that’s a ready laugh. Laughing produces endorphins just like exercising does, it helps you get your mind off your problems, if even for a few moments, and it helps you to see the lighter side of life. So all you people who’ve ever asked me that, that’s why.  So watch a funny movie, hang out with your family and friends and giggle it up.

11. Discover Your Own Personal Stressors
Pay attention to your own body, soul and spirit and recognize those things that bring you down, such as certain types of music or movies, being around certain people, eating or drinking particular types of food or drinks, being too stimulated by technology and not allowing yourself enough quiet time, etc.

12. Get Up Tomorrow and Do It All Again
Once is not enough. You didn’t start feeling this way overnight and you’re not going to feel better overnight. Be disciplined and consistent to participate with the Lord in overcoming feelings of depression. Ask Him if there are things you’re allowing in your life that are contributing to your depression. God made your body, mind and spirit and He knows what you need and if you don’t give your body those things you will feel the consequences. But I believe the Lord will meet us more than half way if we’ll partner with Him. I’m in this with you. If you need prayer, please, please, please let someone know. I would be absolutely honored to pray for you if you would leave a comment or send me an email.

I’d love to hear any of your suggestions on what’s helped you with feelings of depression, too. Don’t forget, we serve the Almighty God Who created the heavens and the earth and you and me. He loves you more than you can imagine.

“But it is just as the Scriptures say, ‘What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!’” (1 Cor. 2:9 CEV)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Linda's Friday Foodie - Cheesy Nacho Bake

"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."  (Romans 10:9)

So today’s Friday Foodie is, indubitably (yep, I said indubitably), dedicated to my friend, Linda. “Why,” you say?  I thought you’d never ask. It’s dedicated to her because I told her a while back I’d send her this recipe and I never did. (Sorry!) I’d remember every now and then, but it was always when I was right in the middle of some other pressing project, like a eating a bowl of ice cream or something. So, to try to make up for my memory lapses, today’s post is just for you, Linda! But I bet she won’t mind sharing it with the rest of you.  She's nice that way.

This is THE simplest recipe and it’s uber kid-friendly. (Pssst…you can even sneak some tomatoes into their diet.) Have a nacho-y day.

Cheesy Nacho Bake

1 lb. ground beef
1 can (14½ oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 package taco seasoning
1½ cup sour cream, divided
1 pkg. (9 oz.) tortilla chips
1 pkg. (8 oz.) shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese
chopped tomato and green onion (optional)

1. Brown meat; drain. Add tomatoes, ½ cup water and taco seasoning mix. Cook, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 cup sour cream.

2. Place ½ of the chips in a 13x9-inch baking dish; cover with ½ of the meat mixture and ½ of the cheese. Repeat layers.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top with remaining sour cream, chopped tomato and green onion, if desired.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Are You Rich?

I adopted this scrawny, little variegated Pothos from my dad when he died several years ago. When I took it home it had two, maybe three leaves on it and it hasn’t grown much since. The soil is not the best quality so it doesn’t retain moisture or nutrients very well. There have been times I thought it was near death, but allowing it to sit in water for a few days always brought about new growth, minimal as it was. What it needs is fresh, rich soil.

Good soil provides four things: water, air, nutrients, and stability. If the quality of any of these is less than a rich mixture, the plant may survive, but its growth will be stunted, like my little Pothos.

And so it is with believers in Christ. We need a rich soil in which the roots of our faith can grow deep and allow for a healthy life of bearing spiritual fruit. “But those {seeds} that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." (Mark 4:20) So how can we cultivate the “soil” of a good heart where our faith can grow strong and healthy?

First, we need water. “’He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, Whom those believing in Him would receive;” (John 7:38-39a) Does the Holy Spirit continue to flow through you, or has the fountain been stopped by unbelief? Determine to believe in your Lord.

Next, we need air. In God’s Word, Spirit literally means, “a current of air.” Not only is the Spirit of God breathed into us at the time of salvation, but we have to continue to keep our hearts sensitive to His instruction in our lives. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of all that I have told you.” (John 14:26)

Along with those, our hearts need to be fed with nutrients for our soul, which is the food of truth found in the Word of God. “But He (Jesus Christ) answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’" (Matthew 4:4) Feed yourselves daily.

And we need stability, which is the decision to keep a steadfast, unshakeable trust in the Lord no matter what trials we face. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

And don’t get me started on light!

So as you can see, the Trinity works together in perfect unity to provide everything needed for a rich faith and a life of abundant fruit perfected in Him.

If you search your heart and find that your faith has gotten a little weak, saturate yourself in your Lord. Have your fill of Him and be rich.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Foodie - Chicken and Walnut Stir-Fry

If it has soy sauce in it I love it. I’ve probably fixed 3 meals just this week that had soy sauce in it, and this recipe is one of them. It’s one of my favorite stir-fries.  It has a little kick to it and it’s really easy. And it has soy sauce. Did I mention I love soy sauce? I’d recommend getting all your veggies cut up ahead of time and your ingredients measured out - “mise en place” as the French call it.

Have a great weekend!

Chicken and Walnut Stir-Fry

1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons soy sauce (oh, yeah)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon grated gingerroot or ½ teaspoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 medium green peppers (or any combo of any color you want), cut into ¾-inch pieces
4 green onions, bias-sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 cup walnut halves
Hot cooked rice

1. In a small bowl, stir soy sauce into cornstarch; stir in dry sherry, gingerroot, sugar, salt and red pepper. Set aside.

2. Preheat a wok (if you have a wok I wanna hear about it!) or large skillet over high heat; add cooking oil. Stir fry green peppers and green onions in hot oil for 2 minutes or till crisp-tender. Remove from wok or skillet. Add walnuts to wok or skillet; stir-fry 1-2 minutes or until golden. Remove.

3. (Add more oil if necessary.) Add the chicken to the hot wok or skillet; stir-fry until just cooked through. Stir soy sauce mixture and add to chicken. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Stir in vegetables and walnuts; cover and cook 1 minute more.

4. Serve over hot rice.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Depression in the Believer

I watched a very insightful message this past weekend that Dr. David Jeremiah gave called Dealing with Depression (which is part of his series called Tried, Tested, and Triumphant), which compassionately spoke to and about Christians who suffer with depression. Sadly, many in the body of Christ would rather sweep mental illness under a rug rather than acknowledge it, let alone deal with it, and deal with it in such a compassionate, biblically-based way.

He did not say that it’s impossible for believers to have depression because they know Christ; he did not acknowledge it but say, as so many would, “you just need to pray and read your Bible,” insinuating that all depressed Christians are lazy Christians.

No, he tackled it head-on, knowing that believers can and do suffer from depression and most likely that depression is made worse because they feel shamed by the Church that they have such feelings and that shame causes them to live in fear, to don a mask of “normalcy” when inside all they want to do is die. A wall then goes up between them and other believers and even between them and Christ, and consequently, there is stunted spiritual growth and a lack of fellowship and serving within the Church.  I think we would be shocked if we knew the statistics of depression within the church and the crippling effects it's having in the body. 

Both my parents suffered with depression, my dad to the point of alcoholism and my mother to the point of really needing to have been dealt with on an in-patient basis. But that never happened. Now she languishes at a state-run nursing home half out of her mind because of undiagnosed and undealt-with mental illnesses including debilitating depression.  Both of my parents also had numerous relatives who I suspect dealt with depression as well.

God only knows the state I would be in had He not saved me early on. As it is, I deal with depression from time to time, and I have noticed that negative thoughts and depression can set in in the days after I have posted a devotional blog.

The enemy knows our weaknesses and he will play on them to keep us discouraged and hopefully, he reasons, kept out of spiritual service, out of prayer, out of the spiritual race. We have to fight against that.  And sometimes fighting means reaching out to someone to stand with us in the fight, and that means the rest of us need to be ready to stand with them in love.

Many times, as Dr. Jeremiah confirmed for me, depression can come to someone in ministry just after a spiritual victory, as was the case with Elijah, as the scene unfolds in 1 Kings 19:4, just after Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal, “And he himself (Elijah) went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he begged for his life, that he might die. And he said, ‘It is enough. O Jehovah, take away my life. For I am no better than my fathers.’”

And other times depression will come just before a spiritual victory, as the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, admitted to his congregation one day.  He told them that he had even despaired of his life and asked his congregation to pray for him. (Would anyone tell Charles Haddon Spurgeon that he just needed to pray and read his Bible more?)

Job fell into depression and wished that he had never been born. Jeremiah spoke of a depressed spirit in Lamentations 3:17-20, “My soul is sent far away from peace, I have no more memory of good. And I said, my strength is cut off, and my hope from the Lord. Keep in mind my trouble and my wandering, the bitter root and the poison. My soul still keeps the memory of them; and is bent down in me.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that depression never comes about because a believer has unconfessed, unrepentant sin. It does. And I’m not saying that depression never comes about because a believer has allowed the cares of this world to fill their minds more than prayer and God’s Word. It does. But it can also be a spiritual attack, and it can be clinical depression – a chemical imbalance in the brain, which is as real as any other physical illness.

But the cause is not for us to judge. Depression is real whatever the reason for it and it’s time that we, as the body of Christ, stop acting as if it isn’t. Whether or not you have personally fallen into the depths of depression has no bearing on the fact that it exists. And we can’t always tell how depressed a person is by the way they look on the outside. Many have taken their life and have left family and friends searching their minds for the clues they missed.

Instead, we need to come alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ who are dealing with depression and intercede to the Father for them and encourage them. Shouldn’t the body of Christ, above all, be able to depend on each other when we’re in the midst of a difficult time?

If you are dealing with depression, pray for a strong (same sex) believer in Christ who has the compassionate heart to stand with you in prayer and love you through the dark times. Find a good, Christian, biblically-based counselor who has understanding and wisdom about mental illness coupled with a strong faith and deep roots in God’s Word.  (A great resource within a resource regarding mental illness is my friend, Allan's, blog, More Than Coping.)  And if your depression continues, find a good physician who can determine if you have clinical depression, and who will then work with you to find a medication that works for you to balance the brain chemistry.

Whether you are able to find anyone to come alongside you or not, know this: your #1 Ally is ALWAYS Christ. He has not abandoned you, He has not forgotten you, He has not left you by the side of the road to fend for yourself. When all around us seems lost, the enemy loves to whisper in our ear that God has forsaken us. HE HAS NOT. The enemy is a liar and a deceiver. Remember that and hold onto the truth.

God is near to the broken-hearted, and if you are suffering from depression, whatever the cause, He is near to you. He loves with an everlasting love, a love that took Him and held Him to the cross for the remission of your sins because He loves you so much that He couldn’t bear to think of living eternity without you.

Allow Him into your life. Talk to Him about those deep, dark thoughts. He already knows about them anyway. God’s friend, Job, wasn’t afraid to speak his mind in the anguish of his soul as he exampled to us in Job 7:11, “"Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”

When you open up communication with the Lord – your Teammate - it gives Him a chance to lead you, to encourage you, to heal you, and to find a place of peace and wholeness again, as Jeremiah did when he spoke the truth above all, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:21-26)

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Too many things in our world are vying for our "trust." 

But only One is deserving. Only One is worthy.  Only One is righteous. 

Only Jesus Christ will reward our trust with complete faithfulness.

What, or who, will you choose to trust right now?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Foodie - Chicken Apple Sausage with Pesto and Gemelli Pasta

As promised (to some Facebook friends), here’s the recipe for the Chicken Apple Sausage with Pesto and Gemelli Pasta. If you're not normally a fan of pesto, don’t let it scare you. It’s stirred into the dish and your palate won’t be able to pick it out, but it does add a certain deliciousness to the dish. Have a great weekend!

Chicken Apple Sausage with Pesto and Gemelli Pasta
(adapted from an Emeril recipe)

1 12-oz pkg. chicken and apple sausage (or whatever flavor you like)
½ cup pesto
1 12-oz. pkg. gemelli pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 cups chopped, red bell peppers
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for the table
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until tender, about 30 seconds.

2. Slice sausage into ½-in. diagonal slices. Add sausage and peppers and stir until hot, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Drain pasta and reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Whisk pasta water with pesto and add to sausage. Add parmesan cheese and stir. Sprinkle the tops of each serving with parmesan.

4. Taste and go mmmmmm…