Music Mondays- Till I Met You by Laura Story

Yesterday the pastor of my church taught about what it means that God is love as it says in 1 John 4. It was a wonderful message. The message basically was:

God is love means that love is part of God’s core being. He doesn’t love because of what we do, who we are, or anything else. He loves because it is part of who he is.

When we come to God, our motives are not pure. We do not bring anything to the table that God needs. God does not need anything from us, but he loves us because it is part of who he is.

We bring to God our failures, our sins, our struggles, our depression, our anxiety, our illness, our doubts. our mess. God loves us. Not because of what we do or who we are. He loves us because he loves us.

I love this video by Laura Story. The lyrics of the song so beautifully express the truth of how God loves us even though we are a mess. I hope the song blesses you as you start your week. ūüôā

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

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When Hopeless Meets Real Hope

So many times in my life the situation looked hopeless from a human perspective.

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There was growing up with an alcoholic father and a mother with an untreated mental illness who was highly manipulative.

There was the experience of getting sick and almost dying.

There was the process of having to rebuild my life after my 3 years of being sick and recovering.

So many other examples from my life that would cause others to think at many times in my life that things looked hopeless.

BUT

With Jesus there is always hope.

1 Peter 1 says:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord¬†Jesus¬†Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living¬†hope¬†through the resurrection of¬†Jesus¬†Christ from the dead”

With Jesus, we can have a living hope because he defeated death. Think of it. He conquered death. If he can conquer death, he can help in any situation. There is always hope for us with Jesus.

Ali of mynotsopoeticstories.wordpress.com is a new blogger I follow. She shared in her first post about how Jesus came to her and brought her hope in a beautiful post- Amazing Grace. It is an excellent post to read and be encouraged by.

I know how it feels to feel there is no hope. I also know what it is like to meet Jesus and have him change my life. I know what it is like to have Jesus do the seemingly impossible in my life.

Whatever situation we are in, whatever problem we face, Jesus can and will work in our lives. He is hope because he defeated death for us and he invites us to come to him. n Matthew 11 he said:

‚ÄúCome to me,¬†all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,¬†for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

His invitation is for ALL. No one is excluded from his invitation. His arms are open wide.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

World Mental Health Day- October 10

Today is World Mental Health Day.

Living with chronic illness has also meant dealing with symptoms I did not know would accompany two of my chronic illnesses, depression and anxiety.

I will never forget the day that I finally started taking the prescription my doctor had given me for them. It has since changed for one that also addresses nerve pain associated with Fibromyalgia. I did not want to start medication. I was not even sure if it was the right thing for me to do. There is still stigma in some churches when it comes to Mental Health issues.

God spoke to me through watching a movie. The movie was Brain On Fire. It is based on the true story of a woman with a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the brain. She was about to be sent off to a permanent stay at a psychiatric hospital when a psychiatrist tested her for the autoimmune problem. She was placed on a medication for the problem and it cleared up her problems.

After watching the movie, I realized that autoimmune problems can affect our whole body including the brain. I researched it as well. So I went ahead and started the medication the doctor prescribed. Within a week, I felt much better.

I will also never forget the response of the pastor for missions and outreach had when I offered to resign my ministry as a home missionary if taking medication would be a controversy. I have always been aware of the stigma in some churches when it comes to Mental Health issues like depression. His response was, “Matt it is medical. You don’t need to resign.”

Jesus said in Matthew 11:

‚ÄúCome to me,¬†all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,¬†for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus wants us to come to him with everything. If we struggle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, or any other mental health issue, his invitation is to come to him. ūüôā

I wanted to share a bit of my story in case it helps someone. Also in honor of World Mental Heath Day I want to share a few videos.

First a Spoken Word Poem video by Racheal Stevens- Your Story Isn’t Over Yet.

And a music video by Jenn Johnson- You’re Gonna Be Okay.

Story Time- A Tiny X-Ray Tech Had to Catch Me

This is a picture of me when I was about 20 years old. I weighed about 200 pounds due to working out with weights a lot.

One day I started feeling sick and had a fever. It wasn’t the normal flu type sick, so I ended up going to the ER. The ER doctor called a surgeon who ordered x-rays of my stomach. A nurse came in with a wheelchair. She was about 5′ 2″ and weighed maybe 110 pounds. Being the young prideful man I was, I didn’t want a petite woman pushing me in a wheelchair. I told her I could walk.

I had to lay down, stand up, lay down and stand up for the x-rays. The last time I stood up, I began to faint. The poor x-ray tech who was also a petite woman had to try to catch me and guide me to the wheelchair.

When the nurse came back. I swallowed my pride and agreed to be pushed back to the ER room in the wheelchair. I ended up having my appendix out that night.

I am grateful that Jesus has all power. God created the universe. Nothing is impossible for God. Jesus is more than able to catch us when we falter. I often think about what Jesus said in Matthew 11:

“All things have been committed to me¬†by my Father.¬†No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

“Come to me,¬†all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,¬†for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.‚ÄĚ

Jesus has all power but he is gentle of heart. He invites us to come to him. If we struggle with depression, anxiety, chronic illness, addiction, family problems, or financial problems, he invites us to come to him. His invitation is for ALL. No one is excluded from his invitation.

The only thing preventing us from coming to Jesus is our own pride just like my pride got in the way in the ER that night.

Thank you for reading. God Bless. ūüôā

Journey Together While Blogging-Spotlight on a New Blogger

This week it dawned on me. It is unusual for me, so it sneaked up on me. I am healthy this week.

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I had the worst Fibromyalgia flare up I ever had the first week of September and then I had bronchitis for four weeks. This week I am breathing normally, well for someone with asthma, and my pain level is low only maybe a 3 out of 10. For me that is a healthy week. Healthy is kind of relative term when living with chronic illness. Nonetheless, I am calling this a HEALTHY week for me. ūüôā

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I wrote a post in August about how looking to Jesus helps me while living with chronic illness. It was-Jesus Understands Pain. Mornings are so important for me. Some mornings my prayer and worship time is deep and meaningful Some mornings it is a time to barely manage a prayer of please help me through this day while I listen to worship music. Either way, Jesus sustains me and gives me strength.

A new blogger I follow is Bro Craig. He recently wrote a post that I think captures the experience of someone living with chronic illness. His post was In Between My Fears. It is an excellent post to read.

I appreciate other bloggers who are willing to share struggles with health or with depression/anxiety. I remember when I first started to share about my struggles with both. I wasn’t certain about the response. But I felt as someone who has been a Christian for many years and as a person in ministry, if I would be willing to share about living with chronic illness and the depression/anxiety that are symptoms of 2 of the chronic illnesses I have that perhaps it would help others. My hope is also to be a small part of lessening the stigma.

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One thought I have about this blogging community is that for those of us who blog, in a way we are walking with each other to home. In this life we are strangers in a foreign land looking forward to our eternal home in heaven as Hebrews 11 says:

“Instead, they were longing for a better country‚ÄĒa heavenly one.¬†Therefore God is not ashamed¬†to be called their God,¬†for he has prepared a city¬†for them.”

But our journey in this life is a marathon not a sprint. We can journey together as fellow Christians who blog. Writing a blog is something I can do even on my down days with chronic illness. I appreciate my fellow bloggers and look forward to seeing more of your posts.

It is my privilege to share about new bloggers. Please check our Bro Craig’s blog.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Perception

Perception can be fuzzy at times. We can easily be misled if we do not have all of the information. A great example came from my conversation time over coffee with friends Friday.

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One of my friends, a young woman from Nicaragua, told me she was scared it would snow soon. She told me she received a notice of a snow storm in Montana. She expressed that it is close.

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So I googled square kilometers for Nicaragua and found it has 130,070 square km. Then I googled my state Nebraska for her to show her Nebraska has 200,349 square km. Then I explained that not only is Nebraska larger than her country, but so is Montana. We talked about how the drive to where the snow storm will be, would take about a day.

She felt relieved when I explained that it is normal to have a snow in the mountains of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado in late September or early October but it doesn’t mean we will have snow where we live anytime soon.

There are so many ways that we can get bogged down in life, get confused, or feel defeated, Often the problem is not the problem itself, but our perception that needs adjusting.

Examples:

Need a new job? Jesus already knows what our job will be because he is omnisicent-all knowing.

Memories from our past haunt us causing us to feel condemned? The bible says in Romans 12, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

The list could go on and on of truths from the bible that answer our doubts, clear up our misperceptions, and strengthen our faith.

We need the truths in the bible to clear up our fog. We need others to speak truth to us. We need time with our Lord in prayer and worship. We need to do what Romans 12 encourages us to do:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God‚Äôs will is‚ÄĒhis good, pleasing and perfect will.”

By renewing our minds with the Word of God, fellowship with others, and time in prayer, we rise above doubt and confusion. We can rise above the fog.

The truth of how far away the snow storm is freed my young friend from needless worry. The truth of who Jesus is and his promises can free us too.

Thank you for reading. God Bless

Defend Others/Show Christ’s Love

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
 Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

This quote is from Proverbs 31, Yes as in Proverbs 31 we hear quoted often by women saying they want to be a Proverbs 31 woman. Interestingly Proverbs 31 starts as an exhortation from a mother to her son about what kind of King to be and the quote is at the heart of her wisdom and advice- speak up for and defend the poor and helpless..

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This quote is one of the most inspirational for me as I serve, teach, and help refugees and immigrants. I have heard their stories. I have listened as they cried. I have tried to advocate for them whenever I can.

My home church recently experienced a transition to a new lead pastor. I am not a key person in the church. Since I am not an important nor influential person for my home church, I tried to stay in the background during the transition and pray.

But I have to share what CAUGHT my attention above and beyond anything else. As a family our new pastor, his wife and children accepted into their family and adopted an infant who was born to a meth addict. My first thought was this family lives out their faith and love for God.

There are so many issues in our culture and world today as sin increasingly ravages victims. As Christians, we represent the Savior of the World and the King of Kings. We can be a voice for the helpless. We can speak up for children. We can foster children. We can speak up for and help women who are victims of domestic violence. There are so many ways that we can be the hands of Jesus caring for the helpless.

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A little known historical fact is that in the days of the early church, during the brutality of the Roman Empire, if a father rejected a baby for whatever reason, the baby would be out in the street. Christians would take the babies in as their own. That is a sliver of the heritage we 21st Century Christians have to live up to.

A few examples of speaking up for and defending the defenseless:

A new blogger who really caught my attention is Rayna who writes her blog The Youth Advocate at youth-advocate.org. In her blog she gives a voice to defenseless children who are victims of crimes. I highly recommend checking out her blog and following here.

Love Justice is a ministry/organization that works to intercept children and young woman being sex trafficked. Please check out their website at Love Justice.

Dear Reader, please prayerfully consider how you can be a Proverbs 31 person and speak up for the destitute and defend the rights of the poor and needy. It is not the “social gospel’. It is in the bible.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Breathe/What A Friend by Hillsong

The worship song Breathe has been on my mind but perhaps for a reason one would not normally think. I have asthma and part of that is getting bronchitis. When I get bronchitis, it is difficult to breathe and I lose sleep because I cough all night.

When the medicine starts doing its work and the bronchitis begins to clear up, it is such a freeing experience to feel- just simply breathing. When I can sleep through a night for the first time, it is moment of private rejoicing. Just to give an example from last week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights I slept for one to two hours.

I go through this once or twice a year. When my lungs begin to clear up, this song is very much on my mind.

I think about how Jesus gave us life when he created us, He did so by breathing into us. In Genesis 2 we read:

“Then the¬†Lord¬†God formed¬†a man from the dust¬†of the ground¬†and breathed into his nostrils the breath¬†of life,¬†and the man became a living being.”

Jesus is our source of life, healing, forgiveness, restoration, and much much more. I am keenly aware of that when the bronchitis begins to fade away.

Living with chronic illness such as Firbomylagia and also living with depression./anxiety as a result of chronic illness, I can choose to focus on the pain, the fatigue, and other symptoms, or I can look to Jesus. I can express things to him I express to no other person. He invites us to cast all of our cares on him because he cares for us. I literally have days that Jesus keeps me going.

Jesus is the friend who is closer than a brother. He is our friend who out of love, died for us and our sins.

Whatever you are going through at this time in your life, please stop, take a moment, and listen to this song. Let it encourage you. Let it help you come into the presence of Jesus and cast all of your cares on him.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Peace by Amanda Cook

“Peace¬†I leave with you; my¬†peace¬†I give you. I do¬†not¬†give to you¬†as the world gives. Do¬†not¬†let your hearts be troubled and do¬†not¬†be afraid.” John 14

Jesus spoke these words to his followers as part of preparing them for what was about to happen-his arrest, crucifixion, death, and resurrection.

He gives peace. He gives us peace for our souls and spirits in troubled times. In his invitation for all who are weary to come to him in Matthew 11 he said”

‚ÄúCome to me,¬†all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.¬†Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,¬†for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus gives rest to the weary soul. He gives peace to our spirits when we are troubled. He knows everything about us and offers peace and rest to us even though we do not deserve them.

If we struggle with anxiety, depression, weariness emotionally or mentally, Jesus invites us to come to him.

I want to share this video by Amanda Cook singing her song Peace. I hope it blesses you and helps you experience peace in your souls and spirits.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

It’s Okay To Talk-Will We Listen?

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day

There are so many things pulling at us and so many issues pressing on us these days that it is easy to understand if someone is feeling down and hopeless.

People dealing with Mental Health issues of depression, anxiety, PTSD, need our compassion and understanding not stigma. I love the banner I found that says- It’s Okay To Talk. For that to be true, we need to be willing to listen,

We need to be willing to listen to someone in agony. We need to be filled with the love and compassion of Jesus and show it, so people feel they can talk to us.

One of the saddest experiences in my life was in September 2011. A 19 year old girl who had come to my weekend groups for a little while completed suicide. Being at her funeral was so terribly sad. The experience prompted me to get training for suicide prevention. Just being willing to listen and to ask the question can make all of the difference.

I have depression as one of the symptoms of chronic illness. I understand feeling depressed and how it can feel like things just keep piling on. But there is always hope as long as we are alive.

God loves you. That is where hope begins. God LOVES you. Even the faintest of a prayer whispering for help will get God’s attention. Don’t Give Up!!!

If you are in the U.S. and struggling with thoughts of harming yourself, you can call- 1-800-273-8255

A link for Suicide Prevention hotlines in various countries is- hotlines

I would like to share two videos. 1 is a spoken word poem I love and the other is a song I love. Thank you for reading. God Bless.