Saturday, May 31, 2008

Experiencing God's love

I'm reading a wonderful book, Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. The subtitle is "Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. Such a revolutionary, honest piece of writing! Such a refreshing look at the Christian faith.

Miller quotes a friend who said, " be in a relationship with God is to be loved purely and furiously. And a person who thinks himself unlovable cannot be in a relationship with God because he can't accept who God is; a Being that is love. We learn that we are lovable or unlovable from other people. That is why God tells us so many times to love each other."

I've often told the story of how a person who I regarded very highly told me she loved me and would always love me, no matter what I do or say. She told me this at a time I was deeply depressed and did not think much of myself. This had such a huge impact on me. Through this friend I came to know how much God loved me. I remember the following days well. I bathed in the knowledge of that love - I savoured it - the feeling was one of great joy, holy joy.

We need to love each other. The best prayer I know is this: "Please, God, fill me with your love and help me share that love with others."

It's through you and me that people will come to fully understand God's love.

Finally back

I want to thank PJ for giving me a bit of a kick in the behind and encouraging me to write a bit here. Thank you for missing me, PJ. I've been feeling darn guilty for being away for so long.

Life has been a bit undisciplined lately with my husband gone, and that includes the blogging. On top of that, when I tried to go to your sites a few days ago and tried to post, nothing would load. It turned out to be a problem with my husband's computer which networks with mine. So...I have lots of excuses.

My husband is back now and I hope to get in gear again. I need to go grocery shopping; I need to cook again; I need to spend time with my husband. No longer the laid back approach to my day-to-day life. My holiday is over.

But in a week he's off again - this time for only a week.

Although my life has been undisciplined, I have been doing a lot of stuff. Have spent a lot of time with church friends and Living Room friends and did a lot of reading. I was only lonely one day. Not bad, eh? Actually, I almost feel guilty about not missing my husband more. But I did love the freedom.

And I stayed well - perfectly balanced - perfectly happy.

Now I hope to get back here a lot more often. I really do. And I will visit all of you before the day is out. It's good to be back.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Healing love

My biggest aim as a facilitator of the Living Room mood disorders support group is to help participants learn about and experience the love of God. It's when hurting people understand how much God loves them that healing can best occur. I know this, because this has been my experience.

It was when I was in the depths of depression that a person who I held in great esteem told me she loved me and that she would always love me, no matter what I said or did. This person is a very godly person and I knew that what she said came from God and that God was expressing Himself through her. And what a difference it made to me!

Now, when I help others through tough times, I remember what my friend did for me and I try to do this for others. I ask God to fill me with His love and to help me share that love with the people I meet. This is one prayer I can be confident that God will answer.

1 John 4:12 says, "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." It's through those of us who love God that God reveals Himself.

But God's love is unfathomable; it's beyond measure. We can only show a part of it, but we can do it with abandon. We need to accept others as Jesus did, using Him as our example, following in His footsteps. Jesus loved everyone - the poor, the sinners, the sick. He touched the untouchables and His loving touch made them well.

God's commandments that sum up all commandments given in the Bible is to love God with all our heart and soul and strength and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. God IS love. If only the whole world could share in this love! What a better place this planet would be!

But we each have a little corner of the world - a little sphere of influence - people surrounding us who we can love - people whom we can help to heal. Let us ask God to help us share His love with them...with abandon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

At loose ends

With my husband away I have a lot of freedom, yet I'm kind of at loose ends as well. Nothing to tie me down...floating from one little activity to another...trying to talk to some friends every day to stay in touch with the world. It will be good to have him back.

Tonight I called an old school friend, my first time in a number of years to talk to her. But it was like we didn't really know each other anymore. We used to be best friends, but we've grown so far apart. A shame how that happens.

I tend to be a very loyal person, not easily giving up friends. For the first 16 to 18 years that I was a Christian I belonged to the same church. When I found I could not stay there anymore, I cried for weeks. My husband and I have belonged to the same camera club for as long as we've been married - 39 years.

When I think of the women who I consider my best friends now, I could not imagine growing apart from them. They mean so much to me. Yet I suppose it could happen, especially if we were to move away from each other. That's one reason my husband and I would never want to move away from here. We need to stay close to our church and our camera club and our friends. We both find change in those regards difficult to deal with.

Just some musings to pass away some lonely time. Tomorrow will be better. My Bible study group is meeting here for dinner.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Trust when things are rough

In anticipation of the publication of my new book, A Firm Place to Stand (sorry - no link yet) are publishing excerpts from it.

The first article is about learning to overcome fear when symptoms of depression or psychosis start showing up. Fear is a universal response to suffering. At times it can be very hard to trust. What to do?

Can we have faith in God yet have a hard time trusting Him?

Hope you'll all have a look. I think you'll be able to identify.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Repainting Christianity

Well, I've been doing bits of boring stuff: getting a bit of clutter organized, though I have a long way to go. For interesting stuff I've got the last bits of my book to the publisher and they say they will soon have a couple of sample covers ready for me to review. Exciting! To think I will soon have this writing I've poured so much of myself into in an actual book. Was I as excited when Riding the Roller Coaster came out? I don't remember, but I must have been.

Another interesting thing I've started on is a wonderful book called Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, founding pastor of Mars Hill. The subtitle is "Repainting Christianity." The product description reads: "God never changes, nor do the central truths of Christianity. But our understanding of those truths is in constant flux. Christians will always be exploring and discovering what it means to live in harmony with God and each other."

The book is full of questions. Such a refreshing thing. Too many Christians live as though they think they have all the answers. The truth is that understanding God leads us to a lot of mystery. We can believe and yet accept that we'll never understand it all and that we need to keep asking questions.

Just a taste of what Bell has to say:
"...the Bible is open-ended" (it is alive) "It has to be interpreted. And if it isn't interpreted, then it can't be put into action. So if we are serious about following God, then we have to interpret the Bible. It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says. We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people."

In other words, no one can say that he takes the Bible literally. It was written at a time in history when things were different than they are today. We need to interpret what it means for us, living in 2008.

Somewhere else Bell says:
"Questions, no matter how shocking or blasphemous or arrogant or ignorant or raw, are rooted in humility. A humility that understands that I am not God. And there is more to know. Questions bring freedom. Freedom that I don't have to be God and I don't have to pretend that I have it all figured out. I can let God be God."

I highly recommend this book, especially to those who want to believe in God but have had trouble believing everything the Bible says - those who need to understand that God is a fathomless mystery who we can embrace and believe in and love, in spite of it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Beer and a pickup truck

And you all thought I was a prim and proper old church lady in her sixties, did you? I was just thinking tonight about how I probably wouldn't at all fit the image you might have of me.

My son has the car for a couple of weeks and I'm driving our silver pickup truck. Just learned to drive it. Sitting high and driving that powerful (more powerful than the car) machine makes me feel pretty tough. I'm a truckin' old woman, I am. Actually, that's all wrong. I'm NOT old at all. I actually feel around forty, even if I was born in 1946.

And here I am, drinking a beer from my husband's huge glass mug. Have come to like a beer now and then. It quenches my thirst and feeds the hunger at the same time.

My husband has gone off on a trip to Greece and I'm free to do what I wish. No cooking if I don't feel like it. This is a holiday. Amazing how much more free time you have when there's no one around to distract you!

Actually, though, this afternoon I started feeling somewhat lonely. Felt like talking to someone - because I like to talk a lot. My poor friends know all about that. I call two of them almost daily and email them and others almost non-stop. Thing is, my memory is poor, and what if I were to forget to tell them something? So I email as soon as a thought comes to me that I want to share. My poor pastor is one of the recipients. Guess I should feel guilty, and I do sometimes. But most of the time now I feel that they know me well enough. They know I need to do these things. I have a lot of thoughts that have to go somewhere.

While my husband is gone I'm planning to contact old friends that I haven't talked to for a long time. This is a good opportunity and I will feel less lonely.

Another thing I battled with this afternoon was that I felt restless, longing for interesting things to happen. I don't like to get bored and if nothing interesting is happening in my life, I make it happen. I'm a firm believer that it's within our power to make our lives as interesting as we want them to be. Just takes some imagination, motivation, and courage.

Trouble is, there are a lot of boring things in this house that need to get done, like cleaning up mountains of clutter. And that's another thing I was planning to do while my husband is gone...if I can make myself. But now - one hour before bedtime - I will settle down with my beer and read a good book.

Thanks for listening to my jabber. I had to talk to somebody.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Keeping company with God

Every once in a while I've referred to Philip Yancey's Prayer: Does it Make a Difference?, a book that I've gradually been working my way through. I've only read small amounts at a time, not because it's boring, but because I want to chew on every little bit, to savour every bite. Such a good book!

I've often thought of myself as a really poor pray-er. When I try to pray my attention wanders and, before I know it, I'm thinking of the things I need to do or a whole mess of other stuff that tends to come into my head to distract me. I'm not very good at remembering to pray for all the people I should pray for either, too disorganized to keep a list, or to refer to it when I have managed to put one together. How I wish I could do better!

But Yancey's book has offered me some comfort, helping me realize that maybe I'm praying a lot more than I think. He says that just keeping company with God during quiet times could be considered prayer, even if you're not using words. Prayer can be listening to God; we don't always have to be the ones doing the talking (in fact, we probably shouldn't be). Maybe those early morning quiet times I spend with my coffee, journaling, and letting my mind wander, is time with God. I know that's when many of my ideas come to me, ideas that I believe are put there by God. In much of my journaling I talk with God as well - a little "thank you, God" or "please help me with..."

Cassian said, "We pray best when we are no longer aware of praying." Maybe we pray a lot more than we think - unawares.

Yancey quotes someone named Marcia: "If someone asks me for help in prayer, I tell them to find what they most enjoy and do that, only do it for the glory of God....For me, it's painting. Start with what really energizes you and touches your heart: flowers, music, hiking, birds, gardening, whatever. Ask God to remind you, as you do it, that you're doing it for him....Spending time with God is what's important. We spend the time anyway. Why not recognize that we spend it with God, and then act like it?"

Prayer is a lot more than a shopping list of things we want God to do for us. Would we spend time with our parents just asking them for a bunch of stuff? Our parents simply want us with them, telling them about our lives and how we feel about things, sharing our love with them. God is with us all the time. We just need to remember that and live with the awareness of His love constantly within us and surrounding us. And how much more at peace and joyful we would be if we could do that!

We simply need to live in company with God.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A burning desire

A few days ago I was feeling anxious about the publication of my new book, A Firm Place to Stand: Finding Meaning in a Life with Bipolar Disorder. This morning I'm feeling eager. Can't wait to get it out there and to share all that I poured into that book.

I want to share here a couple of bits from the introduction, just to let you know why I wrote this. And, to be honest, to encourage you to look forward to the book as well.

"I have a burning desire to tell you my story. I long to tell you what I have learned from living with bipolar disorder* for four decades. I want to help others understand what it’s like to have severe mental health difficulties. I want to help you, and all those who read my story, to learn from the hardships – and the joys – I have known.

I’ve come a long way. As a young girl I was shy and withdrawn, afraid to say much in school. Now I speak out on mental health issues. Some even call me an activist. Today I am bubbling over with a lifetime of thoughts and experiences I want to tell you about.

Bipolar disorder (also called manic depression) is a difficult diagnosis to accept, but a rich and productive life is possible, much more so today than in the past. If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I hope this book will encourage you, with the help of God, to find a better life for yourself."

Unfortunately, I have to miss Living Room today. I have to go to my husband's aunt's funeral. I hate missing, but I know the meeting is in good hands. Janice will do the devotional and there's lots of good help. What a blessing to know I can count on things carrying on, even when I'm not there.

Hope you all have a great day.

(I'm sorry for the weird fonts here. Couldn't make them do what I wanted them to do.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sorry for the absence

Hi everyone. I'm sorry I've been away from blogging for so long. I feel guilty about it - I really do. We were away for three days and the rest of the time my life has just been too complex to focus on writing something. I'm sure it wouldn't be too complex for the average person; I'm sure it's just me.

There are many things I'd like to share here. Have been reading some very good things in Philip Yancey's Prayer. Perhaps tomorrow.

My new book, A Firm Place to Stand, should be out within two months and I'm getting nervous. What if I overlooked something and left in some terrible, embarrassing errors? I just have a very uneasy feeling about it. For you who've had books published: Is that a normal way to be feeling?

And then there's all the stuff that will go with the publication: interviews (I hope), public speaking engagements (I hope), book signings (hoping I can do something about my dreadful tremors). But all of this is terribly stressful stuff, isn't it? I hope my moods will co-operate. I'm starting to feel stressed right now - this minute - just thinking about it.

I know, though, that there's only one way to deal with this: Remember that this is God's work I'm doing, and not mine at all. I'm only a footsoldier. He's doing the big job. All I have to do is put myself in his hands and trust him to lead me where I should go - do what he gives me to do, one little thing at a time. I need to pray.

Just so glad to be back writing here again. Thank you all for visiting.