Tag Archives: Christian

Dreams of the Heart

Standard

 

When I was little, I thought about being a teacher some day. I liked the idea of helping others learn about subjects important to them.

Then I read some non-fiction books that helped me better understand God and His plan for me, and I thought how amazing it would be to write books that helped others.

Later, when I heard a speaker at my high school, I wondered if I could ever impact the lives of others through speaking.

I didn’t know anything about these careers or how to begin, so it’s no wonder that my college studies took me in a different (and more safe) direction of risk management. Sure, I could teach, speak, and write about my knowledge of business, insurance, and risk, but I gave up the idea of turning these childish fantasies into careers.

Boy was I wrong!

I had no idea that those fantasies were actually part of a bigger dream—a dream that God placed in my heart. That’s how He works, you know:

“Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 NAS).

This Scripture is two-fold. It means that God puts the desires in our heart and then He fulfills them.

Unbelievable Dreams

At first, I didn’t think my dreams held any meaning. That’s because of two issues.

1. I didn’t fully understand my dreams. They seemed distinct and disconnected; how could I have three different careers? But I’ve learned over the past few years in the writing world that speaking and teaching are integral parts of writing non-fiction. If I didn’t have a desire to do all three, then I wouldn’t be as successful as God apparently wants me to be.

2. I didn’t understand God’s long-term vision. I was looking for short-term wins, but God was focused on the long-term goal. It wasn’t His will for me to get published in my twenties, but maybe my books will come out in my thirties. Even if it takes longer, I am now content that God’s will is perfected on His time and in His way. All I can do is work diligently; He’ll handle the rest.

Celebrating Wins

Nowadays, I rejoice in the place God has me, and I celebrate every little win. This month, I have several things to be grateful for.

1. A Win for Writing – A few weeks ago, I shared with you that one of my articles was included in the anthology Faith and Freedom, which makes me a “published author.” As if that weren’t cool enough, I now have my own author page on Amazon, which includes my bio, links to my blog posts, and a list of upcoming events. Folks can even follow me on Amazon to know when my next book comes out.

2. A Win for Teaching – In July, I’ll be teaching a five-week class at the Tallahassee Christian College and Training Center called “Begin with Blogging.” I look forward to helping others start their blogs from scratch so they can get their message out there. I was recently interviewed on Wave94 about this upcoming class. If you’re interested, click below to hear the recording. You can also learn more and register at www.TCCTC.org.

3. A Win for Speaking – This year, I got serious about making my dream of speaking a reality. I’ve been working with a coach to solidify my messages and learn how to reach out to churches and conference hosts. Take a look at my Speaking Topics here and let me know if you’re interested in booking me for your next event.

4. An Awesome Opportunity – Next week, I’ll be joining my mentor Michelle Medlock Adams in New York, NY! We’re going to the Book Expo of America, the largest book expo in the US. Not only does this make the book nerd in me very, very happy, but it will be a great time to meet with publishers and this year’s hottest authors. I certainly didn’t expect God’s path to take me in this direction, which makes me all the more excited to see where it leads!

Your Dreams

What’s your dream? I know you have one because God puts desires in each of us. Perhaps you’ve forgotten what that dream was…or maybe you’ve been waiting so long that you think God has forgotten you.

Earlier, we looked at Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Do you know what the next verse says?

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it” (Psalm 37:5 NAS).

This week, I encourage you to write down what’s in your heart, even if it seems like a “childish fantasy” at first. Ask God for clarity and guidance, and then write down whatever He gives you. The more you seek God’s will for your life, the clearer it will be. And the more willing you are to take a leap of faith in God’s direction, the stronger your faith will become. Commit your way to God, and He will bring about the dreams of your heart in ways you never imagined.


Need prayer? Leave a comment below with your dream list, and I’ll agree with you in prayer this week that God will give you the knowledge, favor, and wisdom to move forward. God bless you as you live (and dream) for Him!

Depression: Curing Stigma within the Church

Standard

Thanks to One Christian Voice for posting this article on their site. Mental illness is a heavy topic, but it’s one we need to discuss. Only by bringing the topic out of the shadows can we help those who suffer in silence. 


Do you know someone suffering from a mental illness? The answer may surprise you.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), in America alone, 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year. That breaks down to one in five adults!

Unfortunately, only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received help in the previous year. NAMI states that social stigma creates “an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment.”

What are the consequences of a lack of treatment? Increased chances of further mental health issues, chronic physical conditions, addictions, and even suicide.

That’s why NAMI has designated May as Mental Health Month, with #CureStigma as this year’s theme. They propose we tackle social stigma by promoting “compassion, empathy and understanding.”

If you think that stigma is only an issue “in the secular world,” think again.

In my experience, the stigma of mental illness is actually worse within the Christian community than outside of it.

 

Personal Experience

After my grandmother passed away, I struggled with grief and depression for two years. Normally, I would turn to my family in times of need, but they were struggling, too. Although I could have reached out to a counselor, doctor, or pastor, I never did. Looking back, I think it was the fear of being labeled as crazy or weak that kept me from seeking help.

Thankfully, God lifted my depression supernaturally. A couple years later, I finally sought Christian counseling and received healing for the root causes of grief and anger. Today, I’m whole and healthy. Still, I can’t help but wonder if I could have recovered faster if I had sought treatment earlier.

Today, I know many Christians who struggle with mental health issues including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, ADHD, phobias, and PTSD. While some of them are open about their issues, most of them suffer in silence for fear of judgment (only sharing their experiences with me in strict confidence). Those who have sought help through counseling or anti-depressants tell me they’re glad to being doing well, but they feel weak, ashamed, and less-faithful because they needed the extra help.

This self-condemnation is often the result of judgment they received from well-meaning Christians who believe that mental illness is really spiritual illness in disguise.

There are three main lies that perpetuate this belief in churches across America. Let’s fight these lies with God’s truth so we can cure stigma and make the church a safe haven for people with mental illness.

 

Lies We Hear at Church

Lie 1: Christians can’t experience mental illnesses.

“What fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14b NAS).

Many people think that Scriptures like this one indicate true mental illness can’t exist in someone filled with the Holy Spirit. The problem with this line of thinking, though, is that it equates mental illness with demonic possession. (And the Scripture noted above? It’s in reference to Christians forming alliances with non-believers. It has nothing to do with illness or demonic possession.)

While demons and their interaction with humans are well-documented throughout the Bible, true mental health issues can and do exist without a demonic source. Such was the case with King David. He was a man after God’s own heart, and yet he experienced periods of depression: “My heart throbs, my strength fails me; and the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me. My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague; and my kinsmen stand afar off” (Psalm 38:10-11 NAS).

So what causes mental illness? According to NAMI, “Genetics, environment and lifestyle influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events like being the victim of a crime. Biochemical processes and circuits and basic brain structure may play a role, too.”

Becoming a Christian doesn’t erase a painful past. Nor does being a Christian promise a trauma-free, healthy future. In fact, believers everywhere fall off ladders, get the flu, and suffer from cancer.

Trauma and illness are a result of our fallen world; they have nothing to do with the spiritual state of the one who gets injured or sick.

 

Lie 2: The cure to mental illness is to repent and have more faith.

It is true that some sins can open the door to mental illness. For example, the guilt of aborting a child or killing someone while driving drunk may result in mental health issues, like depression, later on. Such people can certainly find grace and spiritual healing through repentance.

The problem comes when we assume that all mental illness has a sinful source. The truth is that many people who suffer from mental health issues are victims of others’ actions or circumstances, not perpetrators who need to confess their sins.

As far as faith is concerned, the people I know with mental health issues rely heavily on their faith. It’s what gets them out of bed in the morning, helps them face their stressful jobs, and enables them to put one foot in front of the other. These people have a lot to teach the rest of the world about living on faith in the face of adversity.

In the end, only God knows our hearts. (See 1 Kings 8:39.) He also knows what ails us and what is needed to mend us.

When speaking of others, we should always extend grace and remember Jesus’ words: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1 NAS).

 

Lie 3: Medications like anti-depressants are evil.

I know several Christians who take medications for anxiety, ADHD, or depression. Each of them has told me how it enables them to think more clearly, respond more rationally and, in general, handle life better. Yet they’re ashamed of having to take medication and afraid of what their families and churches would think if they knew.

God enables doctors to create medicine to cure diseases, mend damaged organs, and repair physical deformities. Why would medication for mental illness be considered evil when other medicines are touted as “miracle drugs”?

We would do well to remember Paul’s words, “that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean….Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil…” (Romans 14:14, 16).

Helpful, effective medication is not evil when used appropriately. If you know someone who takes medication for her mental illness, don’t create a stumbling block for her by insinuating that’s it wrong for her to take it.

 

Depression – Helping Others 

As James said, “pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16 NAS). If you believe someone at church is suffering from a mental health issue, you can help by praying for God’s protection and peace over her, as well as a complete healing. Also pray for yourself, that you would do and say the right thing at the right time.

Many people with mental health issues feel isolated and rejected. You can help fix this by including them in your conversations, your Bible studies, and your lunches. You never know when a kind word can be the lifeline someone needs.

Paul said that God “comforts the depressed” (2 Corinthians 7:6a NAS).

As representatives of God on earth, we should seek to do the same—to bring comfort to those in need. To do so, we’ll need to stand on God’s Word and stop perpetuating the lie that mental health issues are really spiritual issues. Only then can we cure stigma in the church and reach out to our brothers and sisters who struggle with mental health issues.

 

Resources

There are a lot of helpful resources online. Here are a few to get you started:


Did this story resonate with you? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a public comment below or send me a private message through the Contact Big Sister link above. – Ashley

To Romance Your Wife, Consider Her Love Language

Standard

The following post was first published on OneChristianVoice.com. Check out their site for news, entertainment, events, and inspiration.


I don’t like roses. I never read romance books. And under no uncertain terms do I want anyone reading poetry to me!

According to the media and most romance movies, I am not a “romantic person.” But that’s not really true at all.

You see, my primary Love Language is Quality Time. A romantic evening to me involves hanging out with my hubby on a Friday night. I don’t need gifts or flowery speeches, just the sacrifice of his time.

In other words, my Romance Language coincides with my Love Language—and I bet the same holds true for your wife!

According to Gary Chapman, author of the hugely successful series The 5 Love Languages, all of us have a primary Love Language. When our spouses and families speak to us in this language, we hear them loud and clear, and we feel truly loved.

So if you want to introduce a little romance this Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter), stop and consider your wife’s Love Language. Here are some suggestions.

 

Words of Affirmation –

  • Tell her you love her. If you miss this one, you’ll miss the boat entirely.
  • Tell her why you love her—and be specific.
  • Write a love letter. It doesn’t have to be long or filled with quotes or poetry. She’ll love the fact that you made the effort, no matter what you write.
  • Write a bunch of little notes (e.g. “Be Mine” and “I’m lucky to have you,”) and scatter them throughout the house. This is a great option if you’re uncomfortable writing an actual letter.
  • If her secondary Love Language is Receiving Gifts, then memorialize your love by giving her a necklace, bracelet, or wall art that tells her what she means to you. (You can find homemade, personalized gifts on Etsy.com.)

 

Acts of Service –

  • You know that honey-do list? She wrote it down for a reason. Start there.
  • Write her a coupon that entitles her to a “day off.” When she redeems it, let her put her feet up while you do all the things she would have done, from cooking dinner to doing the dishes. (Make sure you put in the same amount of work she would have. Avoid Chinese takeout and paper plates.)
  • If her secondary language is Physical Touch, then incorporate it by giving her a foot rub or a back rub…after you do the dishes.

 

Receiving Gifts –

  • Has she been dropping hints about something she wants? If it’s within reason, get it for her.
  • See if she has a “Wish List” on Amazon. You can find what she wants and order it as a surprise. She’ll think you read her mind!
  • If she mentions items she wants, write them down. She’s telling you for a reason.
  • Give her something that fits her secondary Love Language. If it’s Physical Touch, get her a spa certificate. For Quality Time, buy tickets for the two of you to see a play, watch a special movie, or see her favorite band.

 

Quality Time –

  • Dedicate a day to spend time with her. Let her pick the activity or destination. If she likes surprises, plan the whole day and let each event be a little surprise.
  • Don’t assume your time together has to be fancy to be considered “quality time.” If she’s more of a home body, or you can’t find a babysitter, order takeout from her favorite restaurant and enjoy it together while watching her favorite movie.
  • If her secondary Love Language is Physical Touch, hold her hand while you’re spending time together. If it’s Acts of Service, then spend the day helping her with whatever activity is on her to-do list, from cleaning out the garage to shopping for groceries.

 

Physical Touch –

  • Be physically affectionate. Even something as small as holding her hand can go a long way to filling her love cup.
  • Think outside the box. Consider activities that involve touching, such as going dancing. She may also appreciate different physical sensations, such as a late-night swim in the pool.
  • If her secondary Love Language is Receiving Gifts, then give her a gift certificate for a couple’s massage. If it’s Acts of Service, give her a foot rub and then paint her nails (which you’ll both find hilarious).

Being romantic with your wife is easy when you know her Love Language and you’re willing to make the effort to make her feel loved.

If you don’t know your wife’s primary Love Language, then have her take the quiz at www.5lovelanguages.com. She’ll appreciate that you want to know more about her, and you can take the quiz, as well. You can also research the latest books in the 5 Love Languages series.

You only have one wife; make sure you’re speaking her Love Language!

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Does it fit her Love Language? I’d love to hear from you!

[Click to Tweet: This Valentine’s Day, I’m considering my wife’s love language!]

[Click to Tweet: My romance language is my love language.]