Saturday, August 24, 2013

Misunderstandings - stigma

Recently I've become frustrated and angered again by a fresh reminder of stigma. Since this blog was initially started to speak out against stigma, I have to address this once again.

I was drawn to a book about fighting to have joy in our lives. So I bought it. I haven't read the whole thing yet but one small statement from the book makes me doubt that I will value what the author has to say. The author - who will remain nameless for now - said: "A Christian, no matter how dark the season of sadness, never is completely without joy in God. I mean that there remains in his heart the seed of joy in the form, perhaps of only a remembered taste of goodness and an unwillingness to let the goodness go."

It's so obvious to me that this person has no understanding of what deep depression can do to a person. For a person like that their "seed of joy" lies dormant - in effect, dead. There is no "remembered taste of goodness" for a person who wants to die.

I told my pastor how annoyed I was with this obvious lack of understanding. I told him how a person who had never experienced deep depression should not be writing about seasons of dark sadness, without at least mentioning the presence of mental illness in some people. I feel there's a huge gap in this author's knowledge and he shouldn't be writing a book like this.

Pastor told me how the author was probably talking about people suffering from bad times in their lives, and not thinking of depression. He told me how we need to treat "normal" people who don't understand with grace, as we who live with mental illness want to be treated with grace. I agree with him and yet...there's a lot of learning that absolutely must take place.

I heard another religious leader make the statement, "Depression is no excuse not to focus on God." And - as he had explained in his sermon - focusing on God will bring joy. This is another case of total lack of understanding. When we are deeply depressed, our minds are broken, unable to function normally. Often we are just not able to focus on God. It's no fault of our own.

Thing is, one in five people deal with mental illness. It's certain that many of the people who have trouble finding joy are suffering from depression. They will feel blamed for not focusing enough on God, made to feel guilty by church leaders and writers for something that is not within their ability to control. This is so very wrong and so very damaging.

I'm praying - praying big - that religious leaders will educate themselves about mental health issues. I pray that they will find ways of giving better support to those many of us who suffer in this way.

And I'm thanking God that Rick Warren, after losing his son to suicide, has started a sermon series to counteract the stigma. I haven't listened yet, but will soon. Thank you, Pastor Warren.


If you're dealing with a mood disorder and would like to receive a devotional every Monday, written from the point of view of a person living with bipolar disorder, you can sign up here. You may unsubscribe anytime.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Feeling unaccepted

Strange to be writing here. The only things I've posted lately are copies of my Monday morning Reflections on Scripture that I email out every week. But this afternoon there's something I feel I want to talk about that might not be as uplifting as those devotionals are intended to be. I'll write here and leave this out of my Monday mailings.

It's Sunday afternoon and I've been hurting ever since I came home from church. The pain isn't as bad as it sometimes is, nevertheless, I'm certainly not happy. I often come home feeling this way for one reason or another and I don't know whose fault it is. Although I love church, at times I don't feel loved or accepted. It seemed like no one wanted to talk to me today. I felt on the fringe...left out.

I've always said that my church is very accepting of people with mental illness, and I believe it is. So maybe the problem comes from within me. Maybe I wouldn't feel this way if I took the initiative to go up to people and make them feel comfortable talking to me. But I have trouble doing that - especially when my mood is slipping downwards, which it may be right now. I'm not a natural at making small talk.

Interestingly, I've received many emails from people with these kinds of feelings coming up in church. In most cases, they felt that there was an unfriendliness and lack of acceptance because they had mental health issues. Many people in church don't know how to approach people with such problems. There is a fear. Add to that the lack of understanding and belief that these problems are spiritual in nature, and it makes a very uncomfortable climate for people with mental illness. Often they are even shunned. It's very difficult to find a church they can come to consider home.

I wonder too if people with our disorders have social problems as a result of what we deal with. Stigma causes a lot of damage. Not only do people who don't have an understanding think ill of us, but often we think ill of ourselves. And thus we're probably more sensitive than we should be. If we could only walk up to someone with our hand outstretched, a big smile on our face, and ask how they are...totally confident about who we are as a person.

I don't know what the answer is in terms of finding a church where we'll feel at home. But we shouldn't give up looking. When I started going to my church I went prepared to educate, starting with the pastor, then my Bible study group, and gradually others. I spoke in church a few times, explaining what it was like to live with bipolar disorder. I told the congregation how God helped me cope with the symptoms and how He strengthened me.

So...what happened today? Maybe it was all my own doing. Maybe I longed for someone to talk to me but wasn't up to do the same for them. Maybe it's the result of getting less than six hours of sleep a night for over a week. Yup, I think I have a mood issue here.

If you deal with a mood disorder and would like to receive my Reflection on Scripture that I send out every Monday, you can sign up at

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Waiting expectantly

I waited patiently and expectantly for the Lord; and he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up out of a horrible pit [a pit of tumult and of destruction], out of the miry    clay (froth and slime),
and set my feet upon a rock, steadying my steps and establishing my goings.
                                                                                           Psalm 41:1-2 (Amplified Version)
It's Saturday morning as I write this. I haven't been doing well - overwhelmed with the many things I need to do. As a result I've had feelings of wanting to disappear - to just bail out of life for a while. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a death wish. I just wish for peace and not so many commitments. Tomorrow we are hosting a family barbecue for thirty to forty people. And just over a week later, we are off on a three week trip to Greece. We will travel for about 17 hours to get there. Even my holiday to Greece seems like a commitment. I would just as soon stay home and hibernate on our patio with a good book. I would just as soon stay home and write letters to you. I'm feeling on the verge of depression - unable to do the things I need to do.
But I know I need to climb out of this. I know I need to try and do what I can. Though I would just like to rest and spend quiet time, close to God, I can't escape the world. To withdraw will only sink me deeper into the "pit" that David talks about.
This morning I searched my Bible, looking for Scripture I could hang onto. I looked at verses talking about strength and trust. But they did not speak to me as they usually do; they were like cardboard - not alive.
I wrote to a couple of friends, just to express what was going on. To cry out to them, as I had been crying out to God. One of them asked what I would say to another friend who I often support when she is depressed. And I realize that what I would suggest is that she make a list - even if it's only two or three items long. Things she could try to accomplish that day. I've done that myself now. I will clean up the kitchen and, though it's not urgent, put away some laundry that's been sitting for a while. For fun, my husband and I are going out for dinner with some old friends tonight. I don't have to cook!! Some chores and some fun. That's the way to organize when life becomes a challenge. I will also putter, working on some things for tomorrow. Little things - tear up the lettuce, wash the tomatoes, put the long table outside.
...and writing to you - sharing with you is always a joy. By helping you I help myself. I hope hearing my story and how I'm learning to cope does help you somehow.
I turned back to my Bible and thought of an old stand-by for me - Psalm 40. I've always known that the tough thing is to be "patient" while waiting for God to lift us out of the "miry clay." But if we wait "expectantly" that makes all the difference, doesn't it? It makes the patience a little easier to bear. Waiting expectantly means that we're trusting that He is there as we go through our stuff. Crying out to Him as we need to, knowing that He is hearing us.
God has spoken through my friend who reminded me of some of the things I could do. He is - little by little - "steadying my steps" and helping me with what I should be doing. He is setting my feet upon a rock. I pray that God will continue to remind me to wait "expectantly" while puttering at what I can, trusting that He's in charge.
I pray, that if you're suffering from depression right now, this message would have been a source of encouragement for you. God always does lift us out of the "horrible pit." And He is always there, even though you may at times have to wait to feel His presence.
Now I'm going to have a sandwich, then clean up the kitchen.
I just looked outside. It's a beautiful, sunny day.

(If you would like to receive Reflections on Scripture from Marja, go to the Living Room Homepage and sign up to receive them every Monday morning. You can unsubscribe at any time.)

Monday, June 03, 2013

He loves we are

Hi everyone,
I've got to explain. The last post, published a few days ago, left a lot to be desired. With the help of my Port Moody Creative writing group, I've changed it to this. I will delete the original. 
Mephibosheth ate at David's table like one of the king's sons.
...and he was crippled in both feet.
Mephibosheth bowed down and said,
"What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?"
                                                                            2 Samuel 9:11,13,8
I see such beauty in this portrayal of King David's acceptance and caring for his friend Jonathan's son, though he was badly disabled. Such beauty, knowing that God does that for us as well. Aren't we all like Mephibosheth? We're all broken to some degree. Everyone, whether we're dealing with physical illness or mental health issues. And as God's children, we are treated royally. In spite of any shame we might feel, God invites us to eat with Him at His table. What a wonderful thing!
Many years ago, during a time when I was seeking God, I took this candid picture of a girl talking to her friend seated in a wheelchair. Although the boy could only make guttural sounds in an effort to talk, she met him where he was and answered him with similar sounds. She was connecting with him in a very loving way.
The photos I managed to get of the interchange moved me deeply. Two publications wanted to publish the photos, but I was in tears as I tried to sort out who I should sell them to. I wanted whoever published the story to regard it as precious, as I did.
But what was it in that picture that brought forth such emotion in me?
As I continued my search for God, the answer became clear. I'm the child in the wheelchair, and In the loving expression of the girl, I saw the face of Jesus.
He loves we are.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Christians speak out

I'm so delighted about what happened on Sunday May 12th. Two churches featured people speaking about their mental health problems. 

Please do take some time to listen:

At Emmanuel Baptist Church in Victoria, some members of Living Room shared their journeys of faith and mental illness. Pastor Joan Dosso brought a meditation on transformation from woundedness and stigmatization to finding our identity as God’s Beloved. To listen to the podcast, go here.

On that same day, Anessa Simpson from Brentwood Park Alliance Church in Burnaby shared the story about her journey with depression and anxiety. You can listen to her story as well, at this link

So good to know that churches are gradually becoming safe places to talk openly about our mental health problems.
I hope this news makes you as happy as it made me. I hope you will be inspired by these courageous individuals.

 A reminder: If you'd like to receive the Reflections on Scripture that I send out every Monday, please go to the Homepage of the Living Room website and sign up. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Beyond imagination

God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!
He does it not by pushing us around but working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
                                                                                                                                                                             Ephesians 3:20-21 (MSG)
That is so very true!
When I was young I was afraid to speak up in class or to other people. Being a leader of Living Room support ministries was the furthest thing from my mind, but that's what God made me.
When I think of what my life used to be like, I marvel at how it has changed. As a teen I had social anxiety disorder and depression. At the age of nineteen I spent nine months at Riverview, a major mental hospital in British Columbia. This was followed by a  lifetime of struggles with psychosis, depression and mania.

At the age of forty I decided I could no longer live on my own strength but needed God! I gave up my need for control and surrendered my life to Him. I soon learned what it was to receive divine love. My life became more meaningful. Although I wasn't cured of my disorder, I found a measure of healing. I grew.
I never dreamed that I would become an activist, trying to erase the stigma attached to mental illness. God's spirit worked within me, giving me the courage to respond to His invitation to join Him in the work He was - and still is - doing in the world. He led me from project to project, one step at a time. I never knew where He was taking me or how long the journey would be. That's how God operates. He doesn't let you see the big picture ahead of time. The important thing is to trust and follow. 
God helped me create church-based Living Room support groups, places where people with mood disorders can talk openly about their faith and their mental health problems. Before Living Room it was seldom possible for people to safely talk about these two things together - not in the secular world nor in the Christian  world.
I've struggled with bipolar disorder for 48 years now, unable to hold a paying job. In spite of that, I have been able to work for God - not doing anything wonderful on my own, but simply being His foot soldier. I went where He led, speaking and writing the words He gave me. Amazing what can be accomplished when we decide that the work is not our own, but God's. Such a wonderful world He opens up for us - a life that's beyond what we could ask for or imagine.
It's a privilege to be doing this work, including sending you these emails. I feel blessed to be able to serve God in this way.
May God bless you too as you follow Him on your journey - step by step, day by day. 
PS: This is a recent email I sent to the people on my list - one of my Reflections on Scripture. If you would like to start receiving these, mailed out every Monday, go to the Homepage of the Living Room website to sign up. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Monday, April 29, 2013


My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.
                           Psalm 51:17

Have you ever felt really bad about something you've done or the way you've behaved? It happens to everyone at times. But when our moods aren't stable, we are especially susceptible to feelings of guilt. Sometimes well-founded; sometimes - when we're thinking irrationally - not so. We are often "brokenhearted." 
I've found that praying Psalm 51 offers great comfort when I'm hurting. David wrote it after he realized how wrong he'd been to have committed adultery with Bathsheba and to have her husband killed. David tells God that he has a "contrite [or repentant] heart," having a desire for forgiveness, a desire to change and become the kind of person God wants him to be. When I read David's words over and over, I too am able to express my deep regret and pain. I draw closer to God as well.
Good things come from humbly going to God with a broken and repentant heart. Scripture has shown how it can help make us into people God is able to use. There's David, for example, as portrayed in Psalm 51: Although great sin had led David to write this prayer, he became a person the Bible referred to as "a man after God's own heart." And then there's the apostle Peter in the New Testament: After he denied knowing Jesus three times before His crucifixion, Luke 22:61-62 reports how he "went outside and wept bitterly." The agony he must have suffered, realizing how he had turned his back on his Lord! He, too, had a broken heart. It was a heart that was ready to change, ready to obey God. The rest of Peter's story shows him to be a transformed man - a humble, but bold and dynamic speaker. He became a man who gave his all to Jesus.
If David and Peter were brought closer to God in their brokenness, able to be used by Him, could we not as well?  
PS: Glenda de Vries, the co-facilitator of the Living Room group at Rouge Valley Mennonite Church in Markham, Ontario, had an article published in the Christian Courier last week. The title of the piece: GOD LOVES THE BROKENHEARTED. You can access it by going to Congratulations Glenda, and thank you for helping raise much-needed awareness. We're proud of you.
(If you would like to receive reflections on Scripture like this one - written with people with mental health problems in mind - go to the Living Room website and subscribe on the homepage.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

At the feet of Jesus

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Luke 7:37-38
Where did that weeping come from? I don't think it was simply sadness or joy. I think I can relate. Can you relate as well?
Her weeping reminds me of how I cried in church when I had just started following Jesus. Many times tears would flow inexplicably during the singing of the hymns. I could not hold them back. I was like a child who had been separated from her mother far too long and was newly returned to her. My tears released my pent-up emotions - relieving the stress of trying to do life on my own. Not knowing the love of Christ had been harder on me than I had realized. I was embarrassed to break down like this in church, yet it felt good to let it all out. The tears cleansed my soul.
How this woman must have loved Jesus! Other people, like the Pharisee, treated her with disdain. But Jesus saw her as a person He could accept and love, in spite of her sins. What a relief it must have been for her.
I've heard from many people who have such emotions surface during worship...not only new believers. Tears in church are not uncommon at all. But imagine if we could have the physical presence of Jesus right there with us. Imagine if we could, like that woman, kneel at His feet when the tears come rolling down.
...Maybe we could do the next best thing. Next time we feel the tears surfacing, we could close our eyes and picture Jesus with us. We too could worship at His feet, knowing that we don't have to struggle on our own. We too are loved. We too are forgiven.
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Monday, April 01, 2013

Pockets of heaven on earth

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, "...he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, 'This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations...'" (Luke 24:45-47)
Preaching "repentance and forgiveness" - that is indeed what has happened ever since Jesus died and rose again.
I've been reading about the Easter story and am thinking more about what happened after, the resurrection that we celebrated yesterday. What a wonderful story it is!
The world has changed so much since then. The most common way of living before Jesus's ministry was one of pride and retaliation. Jesus's dying and rising ushered in a new way of living for those who followed Him. It ushered in God's reign - God's way - the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven as some parts of the Bible call it). The way of love and reconciliation and healing and hope has been preached ever since.
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray "...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10) God's will is being done on earth today. Don't you see pockets of heaven all around you? I know, there's a lot of pain and struggle and ugliness. But there are also little pockets of heaven in our community and - indeed - the whole world. People are helping the poor and the sick. They are working to protect the environment. We can all help to make such pockets of heaven happen. We can help build God's kingdom - little by little, each of us in our own way, as we are led by God.
I can see God's kingdom happening for people living with mental illnesses, at least in part. Although there is still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, as there is for a lot of other things, there has been improvement. When my book Riding the Roller Coaster was published, there were few people with mental health issues telling their story. Today there are many books out by those who live with mental illness. More positive stories are being covered in newspapers and magazines and on TV. And look at the Living Room ministry. That is definitely a kingdom builder. Can't you see how God's reign is getting stronger all the time?
Today I'm looking out on a sunny day. So happy for it, because in our part of the world we haven't had much sun this year. Our garden isn't looking too great yet. There's a lot of cleaning up to do after the winter. But we have two or three pockets of heaven happening here: We have daffodils - my favourite colour - yellow. I experience God when I thank Him for them. I worship God when I photograph them.

I pray you will find many pockets of heaven in your life, in your work and play...and in your neighbourhood.

Happy Easter!...Jesus Christ has risen! God's kingdom has come.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

"Be still and know..."

 "Be still, and know that I am God."   Psalm 46:10
Amazing what God will help us see and hear and think and feel when we spend quiet time with Him! How good it is to simplify things for awhile in the midst of our busy and oft messy lives. This is why so many of us like to spend the early part of the morning quietly reading God's word and praying. Such a rich experience it can be. It helps get the day off to a good start.
The sun is shining this Sunday morning - a truly wonderful thing, since we've had so much rain in Vancouver lately. Seeing the bright sky reminds me of the precious times I've spent on the patio in the early mornings during springs and summers of the past. One morning particularly stands out in my mind:
I was comfortably settled in my muskoka chair with my Bible, my journal, and my camera. I didn't always have my camera there with me, but the day before I had been delighted by a flock of small birds flitting amongst the stems of the tall daisies that bordered the patio. I hoped to get some pictures of them. Unfortunately, they didn't come back. But God did show me some other things.
As the sun started peeking over the tall row of cedars bordering our yard, I focused my camera on it. Shooting into the sun can do interesting things. So I played, including the daisies in the pictures and then bringing in the fuschias hanging nearby. Gradually I did the unusual, holding the camera at an angle as I shot. It was an exciting process. You know, when I'm creative and play like that - as a child might - not judging, not having preconceived ideas of what I want to achieve, I believe God has a hand in what happens. He shows me things I might have missed if I hadn't been so open - if I had gone my own way. This was my time with Him and He led me to see things in a way I hadn't seen them before.
I look forward to warmer weather, time to once more get out on the patio early in the morning. Thank God for all He has to show us - in our reading, in our seeing, in our thinking and feeling. We just have to stay open to Him, don't we?... holding our hands out to receive what He will give us each morning.
I pray for sunny days for all of us - not only outside, but within our hearts as well.
(I am now sending reflections like this to people by email. If you haven't got access to a Living Room group, this might be another option. To get on my list, go to and sign up. You can unsubscribe at any time.) 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Slaying our Goliaths

"You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied."
David in 1 Samuel 17:45
I recall vividly how I felt one day several years ago. I felt like a very small person trying to do something that was far beyond her. I wanted to reduce the stigma towards mental illness, especially the misunderstanding and poor support that exists in the church.
I felt like David facing Goliath. The difference was, that although David was probably not a fully grown man, he was confident. I wasn't confident at all. My Goliath looked like one huge messy mass. David aimed for the giant's forehead, but I couldn't see the face nor the arms or legs. How could I possibly attack when I had no place to aim?
David inspired me.
Through David, God reminded me that He has the strength and the power to fight such wars. With Him, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26) Fighting stigma and working for the good of people living with mental illness is God's work - not mine alone. All I have to do is to be God's foot-soldier, to go where He leads, and say the words He gives me to say. Looking at it that way gave me courage and strength. When I remember that God is in charge, I can do the work. He helps me devise plans and helps me know what to aim for.
We all have Goliaths in our lives; we have many different kinds of challenges. It could be coping with illness or learning to cope with a difficult job. It could be building a stronger marriage or helping make our community a better place.
If we could only trust God to help us deal with our Goliaths, as David did... It might take time; we will probably have to be patient. And God could have plans for us that differ from our own. I know from experience though, that we can trust Him to know best. Trusting Him and being prepared to join Him in the work can leave us pleasantly surprised with the outcome -to say nothing of the process.
I haven't always trusted God, too often trying to work under my own strength, frustrated - even suffering - as a result. But in the end, I do know He has taken the Living Room support ministry to places that have surprised me. The email ministry is one of them. My job is to follow God, one little step at a time. It's a wonderful mystery tour own which only He knows where we are going.
May God bless you richly and may He take you on an amazing mystery tour of your own as you slay your Goliaths.
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Thursday, March 07, 2013

A lesson from the buttercup

Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy…

                                               Psalm 4:6-7
I’'ve spent some delightful times on spring days, lying with my camera in the middle of a field of buttercups. The shiny gold blooms, growing in a park not far from my home, were a joy to behold. The stems were tall enough so I could lie underneath them, shooting up from below, using the blue sky as a backdrop. Dancing around on their lanky stems, the cheerful blossoms reminded me of the innocent, open spirit of children.

Quoting Charles Spurgeon again: (such a great preacher he was, and a gifted writer). In Morning and Evening he writes:

"The Christian should be like those lovely spring flowers which, when the sun is shining, open their golden cups, as if saying, ‘'Fill us with thy beams!’' but when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, they close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influence of Jesus; Jesus must be his sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness."”

I’'m looking forward to more of the clear days we had on Sunday and Monday here in Vancouver, so I can lift my face up to the sun and say “"fill me with your beams."” And I will experience the joy that a thankful heart can bring.

But, even if the sun isn'’t shining on us, God’s light will shine on us when we open ourselves up to Him.

May God bless you all with His beams.

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Monday, March 04, 2013

"Will you be a child for me?"

People brought babies to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off. Jesus called them back. Let these children alone. Don't get between them and me. These children are the kingdom's pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in.”
Luke 18:15-17 (The Message)

I've often tried to put my finger on what it is exactly that Jesus saw in the children. What childlike qualities does he want us to emulate so that we, too, can enter His kingdom? I believe God is asking us: "Will you be a child for me?"”

I have loved photographing children for many years. Children five and under are my favourites. That's when they can still express themselves freely. Young children are open and real. How precious that is to witness!

When they're exploring new things, children can get totally caught up with - in awe of - what they see around them. Everything else - everything that might distract from the moment -– fades away.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could all live like that? To forget our troubles and find time to give our attention to God's handiwork. I want to be like the child in this picture, openly receiving what God gives me, lost in the wonder of it.

Wouldn't it be beautiful if we were able to keep the curiosity we had as children? If we were able to be so easily delighted and excited about our discoveries?

I photographed this little girl many years ago - enraptured by the things she was discovering in this wooded campground. If we could only keep this attitude towards the things God has created! I think God wants us to.

God asks, "Will you be a child for me?"

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Take care.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

It is Well with my Soul

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

                                                     Psalm 46:1-3

At the last Living Room meeting in Burnaby, someone mentioned the remarkable story of Horatio Spafford, the person who wrote the words to the well-known hymn, It is Well with my Soul. My friend told us how much that hymn has meant to her when she faced hard times. How she would quietly sing it to herself and get encouragement from it.

Spafford wrote this hymn during a time of traumatic losses in his life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially. His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873 at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family. In a late change of plans, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed with business problems. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with another vessel and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone . . .".

Shortly after all these tragic events, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. The words were later put to music by Philip Bliss. Through this song, Spafford and Bliss have given hope to thousands.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!

It is well ... with my soul!
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Oh, if I could only get such comfort from my faith! I hope this story and this song will inspire you as it has inspired me. The song is readily available on Youtube. My favourite version is here.

May God bless you and keep you, no matter what you might be facing.


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Monday, February 25, 2013

Showers of blessings

Through the prophet Ezekiel, in chapter 34, verses 26 - 27 of his book, God said,
26 I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. 27 The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.
I believe that when God speaks to one person or group of people He is speaking to all of us. He is speaking to you and to me and whoever hears His word.

Don't you just love the words: "there will be showers of blessing?" It reminds me of spring showers that bring forth fresh green grass, new leaves on the trees, and flowers - all ready for the sunshine of a new season to bathe them with its warmth - gifts - blessings from our loving Father in heaven.

I've just started following Charles Spurgeon's devotional, Morning and Evening. Such riches his writings are! You may hear me quote him quite often. Spurgeon asks, "What is thy season this morning? Is it the season of drought? Then that is the season for showers. Is it a season of great heaviness and black clouds? Then that is the season for showers."

God will send showers. Not depressing ones, but "showers of blessings."

Says Spurgeon: "Look up today, O parched plant, and open thy leaves and flowers for a heavenly watering."
I'm sharing a picture I took some years ago of a wild rose, looking clean after a spring shower. Can't you just smell the sweet aroma?
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Like lambs in His arms

Years ago I saw this scene of a mother and her child. I could relate so I photographed it. It reminded me very much of the child I used to be - and the child I still am at times.

I was really taken by something Ravi Zacharias said in his book, Recapture the Wonder. He wrote, “Like a child who suddenly stops sobbing when he is clasped in the arms of his mother, such will be the grip of heaven upon our souls.” Is this so very meaningful to me because I’ve lived with so much depression? It must be, though I’m sure many will remember that feeling of being comforted, whether it be as a child or adult.

Zacharias talks about heaven, but I don’t believe heaven is only a place we go to when we die. I believe it’s available to us now. Heaven is possible wherever God’s kingdom reigns, wherever His will is done.

Jesus Himself taught us to pray:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
  your kingdom come,
your will be done
    on earth as it is in heaven.” 
(Matthew 6:9-10)

When we feel the love of God, isn’t it a bit like being clasped once more in our mother’s arms? Every time I am reminded of His love, especially at those times I’m having trouble emotionally, it’s as though I experience a little piece of heaven. There are many things that help me feel that. Scripture like Isaiah 40:10-11 for example.

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him, 
    and his recompense accompanies him.  
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

He carries us close to his heart.
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Monday, February 18, 2013

Finding strength in weakness

Hello everyone,
I received a note for you from Alison, "Wishing GOD'S strength in everyone's journey." She quoted from 2 Corinthians 12:9 where Paul said, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." 
Strange thing about that verse, I so often have trouble getting my head around it, trying to sort out exactly what it means. Sometimes I get it, and then, other times, I don't.
But we need to understand that verse, because we all deal with weaknesses, don't we? Some of us in a very bad way. We suffer.
In an adaptation from Charles Spurgeon's devotional Morning and Evening, he is quoted saying "Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give you victory." It's when we feel weak that we most have to rely on God's strength to uphold us. It's then that we most need to trust God, and that is good. The opposite would be to feel that we have strength and have no need for God.
Quoting something I found by Dane Ortlund: "The pattern in God’s work on earth is to channel his power through human weakness. God does not skim off the top ten percent— - the most gifted, the most articulate, the smartest, the best educated - —for significance in the kingdom."
"He picks the screw-ups. The nobodies. He picks people like you and me." Think of the many "weak" people in the Bible who God picked to do great things: Jacob, rather than Esau, young David rather than his more impressive brothers, Jeremiah, young and timid, chosen to be God's mouthpiece. "Human weakness is not a problem for God. It is the great prerequisite. It is where God locates His power."
And how do we find God's strength? Stay connected. Talk to Him. Ask Him for the help you need with this day. But it's something we so often forget to do, isn't it? If only we could do that daily!
Wishing you all a blessed day.

The above is a copy of an email I sent today to people who would like to be part of a Living Room group but aren't able to access one. If you'd like to receive such emails into your inbox, you can send your email address to me from the Living Room homepage at

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Help for children and youth

This week I was alerted to a wonderful service for children and teens - anyone under 20. It offers confidential phone counselling for those who need to talk but don't otherwise have anyone to talk to. Their website, has a lot of information as well. Their phone number is 1-800-668-6868.
Copying from their website:

What is
Kids Help Phone?

  • Phone counselling
  • Web counselling
  • For ages 20 & under
  • Free, 24/7
  • Anonymous & Confidential
  • Non-judgemental

The KHP Promise

Anonymous means you don't have to tell us who you are.
Confidential means whatever you tell us is safe.
If you know of a young person in trouble, please do let them know about this.
Have a blessed day.

Monday, February 11, 2013

An influential preacher talks about depression

How long it has been since I last posted! I'm sorry. I guess my focus has changed to more directly helping people who live with mood disorders. Actually, that has been happening for a long time - through Living Room and other kinds of writings.

I've very recently started sending emails to people who have looked for support through Living Room. Yet there are unfortunately not nearly enough groups to serve everyone. So I'm now sending messages via email to those people - an online Living Room of sorts.

If you'd like to receive these messages, send your email address to me at and I will put you on my list.

Here is my latest sharing:

Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon (19 June 1834 – 31 January 1892) was a British Particular Baptist preacher. Spurgeon remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is known as the "Prince of Preachers". He was a strong figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition, defending the Church in agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith understanding, and opposing the liberal and pragmatic theological tendencies in the Church of his day. In his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to around 10,000,000 people, often up to 10 times each week at different places.

Spurgeon suffered from depression and left behind writings about it that should comfort any Christian who longs to be understood by other Christians.

I thank Keith, one of our readers, who thoughtfully shared the following link, which contain a lot of what Spurgeon had to say:

If you don't have time to read it all, or find the old English hard to get along with, here is a quick idea of what he talked about:

“I know that wise brethren say, ‘You should not give way to feelings of depression.’ If those who blame quite so furiously could once know what depression is, they would think it cruel to scatter blame where comfort is needed. There are experiences of the children of God which are full of spiritual darkness; and I am almost persuaded that those of God’s servants who have been most highly favoured have, nevertheless, suffered more times of darkness than others.

“The covenant is never known to Abraham so well as when a horror of great darkness comes over him, and then he sees the shining lamp moving between the pieces of the sacrifice. A greater than Abraham was early led of the Spirit into the wilderness, and yet again ere He closed His life He was sorrowful and very heavy in the garden.
“No sin is necessarily connected with sorrow of heart, for Jesus Christ our Lord once said, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.’ There was no sin in Him, and consequently none in His deep depression.

“I would, therefore, try to cheer any brother who is sad, for his sadness is not necessarily blameworthy. If his downcast spirit arises from unbelief, let him flog himself, and cry to God to be delivered from it; but if the soul is sighing–’though he slay me, yet will I trust in him ’–its being slain is not a fault.

“The way of sorrow is not the way of sin, but a hallowed road sanctified by the prayers of myriads of pilgrims now with God–pilgrims who, passing through the valley of Baca [lit: of weeping], made it a well, the rain also filled the pools: of such it is written: ‘They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.’
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1881, vol. 27, p. 1595

I hope you find comfort in these words - the kind of comfort you need to receive from a fellow Christian.

May God bless you.