Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Collaborating with God

I've always wanted to live in God's presence - aware of Him, moment by moment. Yet it's a hard thing to do. The world is so with us, isn't it?

The devotional I've been reading every morning has some neat thoughts on it: Living in God's presence is like collaborating with Him. Our work becomes infused with His presence. "It is not longer laborious but delightful: more like play than work." Hmm, sounds like my cooking now-a-days. Last night I even enjoyed cleaning up my kitchen because I played some neat worship music while I did it. Yes, that was living in God's presence. The work became like play. And all of my kitchen work has become part of the cookbook project - the creative pathway God has planted in me.

Over the next few weeks I'll be collaborating with a psychotherapist, constructing a recovery narrative. This is part of a University of British Columbia study to discover the impact of personal narratives. We had one session already. And that - because it's collaborative - is turning out to be like play as well.

The writing process involves me telling my story to the therapist and her getting it down in note form and on tape. Then she transcribes it and sends the results to me in bare bone form. I then edit the results, writing in my own voice.

Now, I've done lots of writing on my own. It's hard work trying to formulate thoughts and getting them down. But the rewriting and editing I did yesterday on what I had done with the therapist was fun - more like play - not work at all. Collaborating with someone made it easy.

It's that way when we make God part of our day to day life, isn't it? It's that way when we follow His leading - the pathway He shows us. It becomes easy. In Matthew 11:30, Jesus says, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

My devotional has Jesus saying, "Whatever you do, do it for Me - with Me, through Me, in Me. Even menial tasks [like dishes] glow with the Joy of My Presence when you do them for Me."

How true!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hope in the Lord

My devotional guide's verse this morning was Hebrews 10:23.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

The guide asks me to think about a time when I felt God had let me down. And I think of the hard times I went through last year. I really never through that time felt let down by God. I felt let down by my disorder - by the meds that are supposed to be keeping me well. But no, I never blamed God or felt He should have prevented it all from happening.

Today my husband and I are just very grateful that I've stabilized and am able to live normally again. I can see that God planted a creative pathway within me to live a healthier life, a life not focused to such a huge degree on one thing - Living Room. Not that Living Room isn't important to me. It is. But now I'm spending more time cooking and looking after my husband, something that had been lacking for awhile.

My cookbook project may seem like a trivial thing, but the good it's doing me and my husband is huge. I look forward to cooking and enjoy looking for recipes and making my grocery lists. What was a chore has become a hobby again. It has helped lift me out of depression and given me something fun to give my energy to. I fully believe that God planted the idea for that cookbook within me. It's the creative pathway He showed me to a healthier balance. And - most of all - this makes my husband very happy. He feels like he's got his wife back.

God is faithful.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

While I'm strong...

I last wrote two weeks ago, telling you that I was doing well. And lo and behold, I'm still doing well!! I hope this will be the trend for awhile. In any case, I'm trying to do all the right things to stay healthy: getting plenty of rest, eating well, exercizing, and staying active with purpose for every day. I'm also following a daily devotional guide that leads me through an overview of the Bible and gives me Bible verses to meditate on. I'm trying to lean on God and not live on my own strength.

Only thing I have to make sure of now is that I take a Sabbath day on a regular basis. And that's tough. I'm not sure what a Sabbath day looks like for me. It certainly doesn't mean just sitting around being holy. What can I do and what shouldn't I do on such a day? I believe that Mark Buchanan, in his book The Rest of God, mentioned that it's mostly doing things that you don't "have to do." (Not absolutely sure if he's the one who said that or whether I heard it somewhere else.)

I was pleased to be asked to give a speech somewhere. And, as usual, I had to do a lot of soul searching. Should I agree to do this? How will I know whether or not I'll be well enough when I do the presentation in April? I never know where I'm going to be mood-wise, so it's very tough to make commitments. Yet I so much want to do this kind of thing. There is so much I'd like to share. It's another way I can follow through on my desire to educate Christians about mental illness and to reduce stigma.

But I did accept the invitation, thinking that I could start writing the speech now. If it were all written out, I could always read it, even if I were depressed. It must seem kind of strange to you to be starting to prepare a speech it January when I don't have to give it till April, but that's the way I can ensure that I can be relied upon.

Today, while I'm strong, I'll picture myself standing in front of that group of people, telling my story, teaching, encouraging them to support people who, like me, have a mental illness.

It's wonderful to feel strong and in control. I thank God for seeing me through a very rough year. He's taught me a thing or two through the trials I experienced. And I pray that I will be a better Living Room facilitator as a result.

And today...while I'm strong...I will write. Yes!!!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

My dream

This morning my devotional planner quotes Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." It talks about being a risk-taker for God's kingdom and asks the question: "What is your spiritual dream?"

That question started me thinking afresh of how my dream has been to significantly reduce the stigma toward mental illness in the church. How I would like to make things better for those who struggle with mental illness! How important it is for them to receive good support from their church families! To be encouraged in their faith, and not discouraged.

This is what I've been giving my life to over the past few years. This is the work I believe God has called me to. And what a huge work it is! And how privileged I feel to have been given a good start on it with Living Room!!

This past year has not been a good one for me health-wise. But I feel emotionally strong right now. How I pray that these better moods will continue so that I can continue the work I started! But as the verse above says, "I can do everything through him." I will trust God to the best of my ability. I will lean on Him for my strength. And I will always try to remember that it's God at work, not me. I'm only His footsoldier, carrying out what He leads me to do.

I so appreciate having a team behind me now. People to share with. People to help guide me. It has been so very important to me to know I'm being prayed for and still believed in - though so many times I stopped believing in my own ability to carry on. Today I feel strong. Please pray that this feeling of strength - this trust in God - will continue for me. God has taken me so far and I know He can carry me further still. Those are my feelings this morning.

Monday, January 03, 2011

God's passionate love for us

I shared the following with my Living Room group this morning, but want to copy it here, knowing it will benefit many of you as well.

I feel compelled to share some more with you - the journey I'm on - the things I'm reading that touch me. Because I'm thinking some of you might be touched as well and it would be wonderful if it would do something for you as well.

I'm reading Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus the second time around.

McManus talks about how awful it feels when we love someone but our love is not returned. "...if God's love is immeasurable and unending, as the Hebrews describe him, how deep and profound must be his sense of sorrow and rejection. If anyone knows the pain of a love unreturned, it must be God."

He goes on to say "This is the story of God: he pursues you with his love and pursues you with his love, and you have perhaps not said yes. And even if you reject his love, he pursues you ever still. It was not enough to send and angel or a prophet or any other, for in issues of love, you must go yourself. And so God has come.
"This is the story of Jesus, that God has walked among us and he pursues us with his love. He is very familiar with rejection but is undeterred. And he is here even now, still pursuing you with his love."

Mc Manus speaks to all of us - people like you and me who have such a deep longing for love:
"...God is going up and down the streets of the city, traveling the most obscure paths and untamed wilderness, walking on unnamed roads in the most desolate of places, searching for the one he loves - and that one is you and me and every human being who has ever walked this earth, has taken a breath, and has longed for love."

And how we need to love God, eh? This passionate God who loves us unconditionally, no matter who we are or what we might have done or not done. This Jesus who loved us so much that He gave His life for us. How it must hurt Him when we don't return His love!

My prayer for you this morning is that you'll feel God's love touching your hearts today.