Archive | February 2017

Depression: Friend or Foe?

Last week, I decided that winter was here to stay and that if I wanted to get into shape I’d better find an indoor place to walk. I bought a membership so that I could use the indoor track at the local college. The next day, the weather changed.

I  welcomed the sunshine and warmer than usual temperatures. With nearly bare roads, I’ve been walking again and my spirit feels happier. Like many people who live in northern climates, lack of sunshine makes me vulnerable to depression–SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

I’ve experienced other types of depression, too. For years, I felt embarrassed by that fact,believing that somehow it made me a “failure” as a Christian.  Yet, depression is a normal part of life’s experience; Christian, as well as Jewish people throughout the ages have not been immune to it.  Job, Elijah, and Paul are examples. 

Now I recognize that, like pain, depression can serve a useful purpose.  I think of it as a friend–the kind of friend that wakes me up and alerts me to a problem. Our human minds and bodies are made of flesh and blood, not indestructible steel.

We are subject to emotional and  physical injury. Chemical imbalances are a reality; for some people, medication is a gift. Sometimes, depression is a consequence of our poor choices; other times, we are fighting a spiritual battle. 

Whatever the cause, depression is not the kind of friend that I want to hang out with for very long; So, I acknowledge it’s signals and take the necessary action required to get rid of it. 


Depression Is a Friend of Mine

Depression is a friend of mine.
A friend? (I hear you ask.)
I can’t imagine why you want her
Get rid of her—and fast.

She will ruin you completely
She will take up all your time,
She will rob you of your energy
And use up your last dime.

I used to think as you do
About my friend Depression
I was embarrassed by her presence
Until I learned this lesson:

Her purpose is to warn me
To tell me something’s wrong;
In some way my life’s off balance;
Perhaps I’ve worked too long.

I have overdosed on sugar
With a resulting glucose plunge
Or my hormones are not flowing
Like they were when I was young.

I just might be a couch potato—
Neglecting exercise,
And my windows are all shut
No fresh air can get inside.

So, my body’s lacking sunshine—
Not much serotonin remains.
I may have buried anger,
Covering over guilt or pain.

Or I’m hiding shameful memories
And rejecting who I am–
Denying my giftedness
And feel like a sham.

Because of lies I’ve sheltered
In my subconscious mind
I try to change direction
But cannot do what I design.

I may have experienced a loss
And not fully processed grief;
In the circumstance I’m facing,
I’m questioning my belief.

The problem might be simple
But it’s often quite complex.
Depression won’t play God
She can’t tell me what to fix.

Depression is not pleasant;
I may resent her intrusion.
But she certainly won’t leave me
If I ignore her admonition.

And Depression does respect me
In a way, she is polite;
When I do that needed action
She, eventually, takes flight.

 

Receive God’s Embrace of Grace

What would wipe away my gloom?
I could make up a happy tune,

Write another rhyming verse,
Or organize my flowered purse.

It was my daughter’s gift to me—
Special, she will always be!

I could design a photo card;
It would not be very hard.

Have my neighbor cut my bangs
So in my eyes they would not hang.

Invite her to have tea with me;
Find out on what we can agree.

Take myself on a very long walk;
Listen closely to my “self-talk”.

Evaluate the truthfulness
Of my inner messages.

If I have blown my diet
It’s best not to deny it—

Confess failure without shame;
And better understand my game.

Come out from my hiding place—
Receive God’s embrace of grace.

This entry was posted on February 23, 2017. 10 Comments

Learning to Listen Well

I often rise before my husband does, but on some mornings he wakes up earlier than I do. He kindly refrains from eating breakfast until I wake up. Always eager to eat, he asks, “What time will you be able to have breakfast?” (I wait 30 minutes or more after taking a medication before I eat breakfast.)

One such morning when my husband asked me what time I would be able to have breakfast, I told him it would be 8:30. When I sat down with a plate of food in front of me, he joined me. But he only had hot chocolate—no food, in front of him.

     “Aren’t you going to eat breakfast?” I asked.

      “No, I told you that I would eat my breakfast right away but wait and have my hot chocolate with you.”

      “I didn’t hear that!”

     “You were standing in the hall when I said it; then, you walked into your office.”

     “I only heard you say that you would wait until 8:30!  . . . Are you sure that you didn’t just think those other words?”

We both laughed and I admitted that I had not listened well. I had turned my attention away from my husband before he was through speaking to me.

Sometimes I do the same thing with God. I read a Scripture verse and begin to receive the word of encouragement, correction, or wisdom that he has for me. Then, just like I did with my husband, I turn my attention away before God is through speaking to me.

I’ve found something that helps me stay focused and listen more effectively to God.  I call it prayer-journaling. I write down the words of Scripture that God speaks to me through. Then, I write down my responses to his words.  

Having conversations with God on paper helps my mind from wandering.  It also keeps me from, later in the day, wondering what it was that he said to me. I can go back and reread my journal.

I started this practice when I was a college student.  It has been the major contributor to my spiritual growth. More than anything else it has helped me to internalize God’s love.  I’m so grateful for the mentors early in life that helped me learn to prayer-journal.

Two of them, Rosalind Rinker and Leanne Payne influenced me primarily through their writing. (I never met Rosalind Rinker; I met Leanne Payne only once at a conference.)   

Through her book,“Conversational Prayer”, Rosalind Rinker gave me the inspiration and encouragement that I needed to start my journey.  She showed me that I could come to God as a friend and open up heart to him. No matter what was in it, he would never shame me.  

Through her book, “Listening Prayer”, Leanne Payne taught me the value of having a bit more structure, while reminding me that no two prayer journals are alike. To each one of us, God offers a private conversation.

Through prayer journaling, I’ve  learned to listen well.  Consequently, I am more in touch not only with God’s heart but also my own. 

Having a morning conversation with Jesus makes breakfast conversations with John more enjoyable. I can laugh instead of argue about what I did or did not hear. 


To help you start or better understand what prayer-journaling is,  I’ve designed a PDF. It’s FREE! Simply send your email address to 4choosinggrace@gmail.com and ask for my LEARN TO PRAYER-JOURNAL  PDF. 

This entry was posted on February 16, 2017. 10 Comments

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

I woke up in the middle of the night and looked at my digital alarm clock to check the time, but I saw only darkness. Why can’t I see my clock? I wondered. Maybe my pillows are piled too high and they’re blocking out the light. Then, I realized the problem: loss of electric power.

Because my body was covered with warm blankets and still felt warm, I did not feel too concerned about my situation. I went back to sleep, expecting that electric power would soon be restored and that the temperature of my bedroom would not decrease very much.

My husband had also been awake in the night; instead of going back to sleep, he took action. He called the power company and reported the outage. So, as I expected, when I woke up in the morning, our electric power had been restored. My bedroom was warm.

Would the power have been restored as quickly if my husband had not made that phone call? Maybe but maybe not—he did not leave it to chance. I started to think about the ways that I leave something to chance or rely on the actions of someone else and slip into inaction.

Inaction means I do nothing.  I don’t commit to anything.  Or, if I do commit to something, I don’t follow through and act upon it. I depend on someone else to get out of bed and call the electric company—climb out of their comfort zone and provide me with the comfort that I want.I admit that this feels nice at the time. But it has its down side.

How good do I feel about myself when I depend on someone else to do the uncomfortable thing (s) that I prefer to avoid? How does it affect my level of confidence? 


To truly grow, I must accept some discomfort—get out of my warm bed, put my foot on the cold floor (no, I don’t sleep with my cell phone), and call the power company.  I must get out of the “warm bed” of that which is familiar to me and step on the “cold floor” of that which is unknown to me. 

I resist such action because I don’t know the outcome. When God calls me to step into a new adventure, he doesn’t tell me exactly what will happen. Taking a step of faith means facing the discomfort of the unfamiliar.


If I remain in my comfort zone, I will never know the outcome of an unfamiliar action. While it might protect me from disappointment, failure, and disapproval, it also prevents me from happiness, success, and affirmation.

I, often, need to remind myself of this truth because writing—like any other creative activity involves stepping out of my comfort zone. I can’t predict how my words will be received or whether or not they will be read.  So, what motivates me keep on writing?

Receiving feedback and affirmation helps me. Thank you to everyone who’s taken time to comment on my posts.  The joy I feel when I hear someone has been encouraged by my words energizes me.  

But what happens when affirmation from others is missing? What,keeps me returning to my computer when I’d rather enjoy the comfort of sleeping in  It’s the strong belief that I have a calling. I am a writer.

I choose to step out of my comfort zone in order to complete the work God has gifted me to do, because I want the future joy of hearing these words:  “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together” (Matthew 25:21 NLT)!

Along with my expectation for future joy, prayer is the primary action that gives me the strength and courage to face the discomforts of my day. When I disconnect from my power source, I have nothing to say.

Some questions for your prayerful consideration:

  • In what way(s) might you avoiding discomfort?
  • What makes it scary for you to step onto the cold floor of the unknown?
  • What possible joy might you experience if you took a chance?
This entry was posted on February 9, 2017. 16 Comments

What Do You Need to Be Intentional About?

Last week, I participated with other New Hope Community Church members in a week of prayer and fasting. The fast that the Holy Spirit led me to do was a fast from making my own plans in order to listen more closely to his voice. Among other things, doing this required that I put on hold my book writing, greatly reduce my “things-to-do” list, and cut down the time I spent on FACEBOOK.

God rewarded me with amazing answers to prayer, a fresh awareness of his love, and renewed energy. I thought I’d continue in the same “not-planning-just-listening-to-God” mode this week. Isn’t that the more spiritual thing to do?

Not according to the Bible. Obedience to God involves listening and acting, hearing and doing–paying careful attention to all of these things.

When we commit to the Lord whatever we do, he will establish our plans (Proverbs 16:3 NIV) and that without careful planning we will fall behind in accomplishing our goals (Proverbs 21:5 MSG).


After a day or two of not planning, I discovered I was drifting away from the goals that God has given me for this year; I needed to get back to being intentional—make plans and follow through with those plans. (This does not mean I stop listening to the Holy Spirit–my GPS.)

One of my goals for the year is to finish writing my current book—the second one on emotional freedom.  To be intentional about this, I must put writing time on my calendar; I must think through what I need to have when I write, and I must prepare for my writing time.


The things that I need in order to accomplish my writing task for the day are a quiet space, peace-of-mind, a clutter-free desk, physical energy, and an alert mind. My mind is most alert in the morning. So, I prepare for my writing time by clearing off my desk before I go to bed.

The next morning, to make sure that I have peace-of-mind, I pray for God’s guidance; to assure myself of physical energy and an alert mind, I eat a nutritious breakfast and (since I stand at my computer) put on supportive shoes so that my legs do not ache; I am blessed with quietness, as my husband is either not here or quite content being by himself.

I am also intentional during my writing time. I do not check FACEBOOK or my email or answer my phone (I do glance at it and make some exceptions for people I know and care about, or I call back later). Before I start to write, I set my timer; I do not move away from my desk until it goes off.

Most importantly, being intentional requires that I pay attention not only to what I am doing but also to what I am thinking.  This, perhaps, is the hardest part of intentionality.  However, it is essential because thoughts are the seeds from which both our feelings and actions grow—as my following poem indicates.


Questions I Must Ask Myself

What seeds am I sowing each day, every night?
What thoughts am I storing in my  heart?
Are they pure? Are they lovely? Are they true? Are they are kind?
Take care! Both feelings and actions begin in my mind.

What seeds am I sowing each day, every night?
What words am I silently speaking?
As I play, as I work, as I eat, in my sleep?
Take care! It’s certain—what I’ve planted I will reap.

What seeds am I sowing each day, every night?
Which voices am I choosing to embrace?
What songs am I singing? Am I aware? Do I know?
Take care! What I’ve welcomed will take root and it will grow.

Which seeds am I sowing each day, every night?
What questions am I asking myself?
What will happen if I allow “that thought” to give birth?
Will I have joy in God or be more attached to earth?

This entry was posted on February 2, 2017. 6 Comments