Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, as ourselves. Great! But how do we do that, when we do not first love ourselves? And for that matter… how do we love ourselves? Is it about a pampered day at a spa?
No – unless of course you plan to love those around you that way, and you believe that is what Jesus had in mind.
I believe we love ourselves by taking care of our minds, bodies and souls. Beginning with the soul – we give our hearts, our faith, to Jesus. We feed that soul with His word. We feed our soul with good music that moves us to a closer relationship with Him. We are involved in church – His body. We talk with Him – daily. We cherish the gifts from God – our spouse, children… all of it.
Loving our bodies is easy to define, but hard to do. We eat better and exercise – this is love. We go to the doctor for check ups – this is love. There is more here but that’s the basics.
Loving our minds can be a bit tricky. The main ways we love our minds is through positive mental health and controlling the things we allow into our heads. Mental health includes the depression and anxiety we deal with. The grief that we often ignore due to busyness. The need to speak to a professional because it is overwhelming. Unpacking the past – the tragedies and neglect, the hurts and the hang ups. All of it. The truth is that unless we deal with it, one day it will deal with us. And how can we love someone else, who is going through the valley of the shadow of death, when we refuse to deal with our own?
Finally, we love our minds by controlling the inputs. The world has a message for you that may not be healthy for your mind to hear. They could be selling you things that are a lie. Social media can be good and can be bad. Too much of it has been shown to be bad for our mental health. They portray images of perfect families, on perfect vacations and leave out the pain and challenges – they leave out “the rest of the story.” I recommend taking a social media fast. Make it a week, minimum. See how you feel about it at the end of the week.
When we do these things- and for the record, this is not a comprehensive list – we will be loving ourselves. Now- go love your neighbor as you have loved yourself.
When I hear the word “good”, I think of things that bring a smile, or something that is positive in my life or the world. I think of a light rain that waters the grass. I think of a beautiful sunrise or sunset. I think of the embrace of my wife and her kisses. I think of how God describes His creation…
It is difficult for my human brain to understand how a day filled with severe, disfiguring pain can be good. Two beams of wood, three large spikes, and a long walk to Golgotha… can’t be good, right? To think of these spikes, driven into the hands and feet of Jesus Christ as he is nailed to the cross…
To imagine him placed on this cross, where He struggled to breathe, until He breathed His last… All of this while He is forgiving His executors, and inviting the one next to Him to join Him in paradise… how can we describe this as anything but horrific and tragic?
And yet… it was good.
This is Friday and all appears to be lost… but Sunday’s coming… to use all the pain and suffering for the good.
Jesus was placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. Along with Nicodemus, they wrapped Jesus’s body in burial cloth. They rolled a big stone over the front of the tomb, and walked away… Their thoughts are not recorded but can you imagine what they were thinking? Burying someone who had taught and performed miracles before them…
Guards were placed outside the tomb for fear that someone might come and take the body.
His disciples hid for fear that His fate would be their own. Women wept and planned to come back to the tomb and give His body the traditional burial treatments.
In their grief, everyone thought it was over… But God…
In God’s economy, the word “good” is not used often. The first time it is used was when God described His creation. So if we take that meaning and apply it to this day of events, we can see He is calling it Creation Level Good! What He is saying is that what has happened on Friday is about to change the world! And change the world in a way that is beyond anyone’s capacity to comprehend.
You see, what appears to be over and impossible… does not necessarily make it so. With God… all things are possible.
Here is the 3rd Installment from the book – Your Life Matters!
The Invisible Pain of Depression/Mental Health
Depression and mental health issues are rampant in our world today. I see it in my work as a counselor and in my capacity as founder of a veteran’s homeless shelter. I live it every day.
As a pastor, I used to run a small group that focused on mental health, and it was the most widely group in the church. Statistics from the psychiatry.org website show that depression is an epidemic. About 17% of people walking around at any given time are suffering from depression
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) statistics showing that up to 25% of the world population suffers from a recognized anxiety disorder and yet, only about one-third of those are seeking any sort of treatment
When we are depressed, we feel like doing nothing. Or worse, we may feel like taking our own lives. We may feel like our lives are over or it will never get any better. We feel like our lives do not matter, but that is a lie.
There have been points in my life when I have struggled with depression. Sometimes it seemed so dark, I didn’t know the way out. One day, in particular, a friend checked on me and I told her I was struggling.
She told me “Get out of the house. It’s too beautiful a day to stay inside.”
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I went outside while we talked.
“Cliff, now drive to Wal Mart. When you get there buy a fall plant, in a planter and give it to someone–anyone you see that might benefit from a little brightness in their day.”
“Are you serious? You want me to go and buy a plant or flowers for someone I don’t know and give it to them? They are going to think I’m crazy. They’ll think I’m a stalker and just weird.”
“Go and do it,” she insisted.
Reluctantly, I got in my car and deliberately drove past the Wal Mart near my home to a grocery store across town, hoping to avoid seeing anyone I knew. They’d certainly think I had lost my mind.
I took a deep breath and plodded inside. A beautiful display of fall plants greeted me near the entrance. At $10 each, I could do this. I looked over the plants and grabbed the first one I saw that looked decent and headed for the checkout.
After I paid for the plant and headed out the exit door, I stood to the right and watched the people coming and going. How strange that no one looked at anyone else. Even stranger that I stood there with an eye for giving something away to a perfect stranger.
Where do I begin? How do I choose? Some people were dressed up and others dressed down. Then I spotted an elderly lady coming out of the store. She took short deliberate steps with her cart of groceries, focused on the asphalt in front of her. She pushed as if she were using all her strength to push a sled uphill.
I walked to her, smiled. “Hi, my name is Cliff, and I would like to give you this plant for your home and maybe if you would let me, help you to your car with these groceries.”
She looked at me with a hint of a smile along with questions on her face. When she saw the plant in my hand, she lit up like a Christmas tree. “That’s the nicest thing anyone ever offered to do for me.”
I unloaded the groceries into her car and placed the plant in the seat next to her.
She gave me the biggest hug I had received in a long time and told me, “You absolutely made my day. Thank you so much.”
For the first time in a while, a smile crept over my face. I told her, “You made a difference in my life too.”
She tilted her head a little sideways with a question in her eyes, and then waved it off and thanked me again.
I’m not sure why I didn’t tell her why I came and bought a gift for a stranger. Somehow it seemed like it might dim the beauty of the moment. It was enough for me to know that I had made a difference in someone’s life. At that moment, that mattered more to me than I have words to express.
The depression that weighed me down, evaporated. That was a miracle to me. In fact, it felt so good, that I went back into the store and did it again and it was just as awesome the second time. I still do that from time to time.
By the way, I ended up marrying that friend who recommended it, but we’ll get back to that later.
I have learned that when you do something for someone else who cannot repay you, it’s as much a gift to you as it is to them.
This is all tied to a psychological theory called “Positive Psychology.” We discuss this at length in the tool kit section of this book. Feel free to skip ahead and read it. It’s important stuff.
Here is part of the first chapter of Your Life Matters. Let me know what you think.
What Can One Person Really Do?
My granny raised my sister and me after our parents divorced. Looking back, I am truly amazed at what she did for us.
Granny took us everywhere, never complaining or griping about it. She simply told us to get in the car with all of our stuff and “let’s go.” I played little league Red Devil football. We practiced three times a week and then played a game once a week in Houston, an hour away.
One time, my game started early in the evening. Granny dropped me off and she and my sister went to get something to eat. On their way back, she turned into the parking lot but missed the entrance and drove into a ditch. A deep ditch. Too deep to drive out of. They had to call a wrecker to pull it out.
They didn’t discuss the mishap in front of me. If my sister hadn’t told me about it, I would have never heard about it.
Granny told me, “Well, Bubba, these things happen. We weren’t hurt. The car wasn’t damaged. No big deal.” She let these things roll off her back like water off the back of a duck.
I learned a lot from Granny’s tales. She told me a story she heard while she was in nurse training. It was about a nurse and a little girl.
The little girl, Annie, had been diagnosed as hopelessly insane. They locked her up in the dungeon of a mental institution on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts. People said that this young girl was so far gone that there were times when she acted like a wild animal. She would attack anyone who dared to come close to her. They labeled her Crazy Annie.
Other times, Annie would be completely catatonic and wouldn’t recognize anything. She sat, staring at the walls for days on end. No one knew of a treatment plan or had any hope that Crazy Annie would ever get better. They had locked her up and thrown away the key.
But an elderly nurse, a woman of faith, believed God could do what modern medicine could not. She believed and had hope for all of God’s children and Little Annie was one of them.
So, she started with taking the long trek down to the dungeon every day to eat her lunch outside of Little Annie’s cage. The nurse had a deep desire to communicate her love for Annie as well as God’s love for the girl, but she didn’t know how to reach her. She only knew she had to go.
Each day, she ate her lunch beside Annie’s cage and talked to Annie with no response. Some days she sang for her, but Annie didn’t respond to that either. One day, the nurse left her dessert, a chocolate brownie, beside Annie’s cage.
Annie didn’t acknowledge the brownie beside her while the nurse remained, but when the nurse came back the next day, the brownie was gone. Every Thursday, the nurse would bring her dessert and leave it for Annie. When she returned the next day, it would be gone.
Something began to change through these simple acts of love and kindness that no one could explain. After several weeks passed, doctors noticed small improvements in Annie. Then, after a few months, the improvements were so profound, they transferred her out of the cage and moved her upstairs into a lower level of security. Eventually, the staff allowed her to be among the general population.
Finally, one day the doctors told the formerly hopelessly insane Little Annie she was well and could go home. However, she didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay and help others who were diagnosed as she had been.
You may recognize her name. Annie Sullivan. The same woman who later helped Helen Keller walk out of her darkness and into the light of a future. Helen and Annie inspired generations of people.
One elderly nurse, headed toward the end of her career, made a difference by sharing a few words, a little music, and some dessert. The hopelessly insane little girl who experienced love from that nurse, went on to impact a blind and deaf girl who changed the world.
When my Granny told me about the nurse and girl, I didn’t fully understand it. I thought it was a great story, but when she told me the rest of the story, I never forgot it.
Granny said, “This one nurse’s care and compassion had effectively changed the world. Think about it, Bubba. How many people did Ann Sullivan and Helen Keller impact during their lifetimes, and even today?”
HAPPY MOTHERS DAY! Somehow that sentiment doesn’t seem to be strong enough for how I feel about Mom’s. How about this – You Are God’s MVP’s and may He bless you richly with every spiritual blessing – AKA – Pour Out All That Heaven Has.
We all know the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus and the very real challenges she dealt with and walked through but what many of us may have missed is that her faithfulness is not an isolated incident. The Bible is full of Mom’s that did incredible jobs.
As we study the Old Testament, it becomes readily apparent that Godly Mom’s make a difference in the lives of many. Here is an example that is repeated in Scripture –
“Jotham was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. HIS MOTHER’S NAME ALSO WAS JERUSHAH, THE DAUGHTER OF ZADOCK.” 2 Chronicles 27:1 (emphasis is mine)
In this male dominated society why was Mom mentioned here? It is a repeated theme throughout the Chronicles. WHY? I know the Mom’s that are reading this are screaming the answer right now but just bear with me, I am getting to the point – I promise.
This King was noted that,
“… he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord…” vs.2
There is another example where a king had another Mom and things didn’t go so well.
“But when Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal seed of the house of Judah.” 2 Chronicle 22:10
SO what was the difference? Athaliah was the daughter of evil King Omri by way of Ahab and Jezebel. But the first Mom was the daughter of the chief priest – Zadock. One lived in Jerusalem and served God and the other came from a place that openly worshipped idols.
So Mom’s, your godly influence, the life you lead and the things you teach your children truly matter. They make a difference beyond what you could ever consider. King Jotham built up his city, won battles and made the country better than it was even under his fathers reign. His Mom made a difference in his life and therefore over 1 million people were directly impacted in a positive way. That is amazing –
YOU ARE AMAZING!
I am not saying that there won’t be some very dark times in the lives of your children. There are some, like me, that will make very poor choices along the way, but that godly example will be remembered and it will serve as a light house to guide us back home.
Some of you Mom’s and Dad’s may be saying that you have really messed things up. Trust me, I understand. My advice to you is that it is never too late to become the person God intended you to be. God can do more with your humble surrender, even late in life, than you think possible. I am telling you that it is not too late to make a difference in the life of your children, even if they are now adults. In fact, your transformation can be the thing that gives your family the hope they need to reunite and turn to God themselves.
This is something that has been on my heart for a while and I wanted to share it. So Godly Mom’s out there –
Let’s raise the roof with praise!
You are God’s Masterpiece(Ephesians 2:10), uniquely created to do a job that changes the world and helps us to see the beauty in the midst of a world full of ugliness, pain and depression. You are more important than any single day can commemorate. We love you more than words can say.
Do we really have “Guardian Angels”? Are they biblical? And if they are real, what exactly do they do? The Bible talks a great deal about angels and some of their activities. What inspired me to write about this topic is one of my favorite passages in the Bible – – Psalm 34:7
“The angel of the Lord encamps about around those that fear Him, and he delivers them.” NIV
So what does that mean? Well, if we put it into context with King Hezekiah, it’s pretty startling. He was having to deal with overwhelming odds. The King of Assyria had come with an army that had steamrolled the rest of the surrounding nations. They had in fact taken the Northern Territory of Israel into captivity. Hezekiah had no human army that could match this huge opposing force. So he did what all men of God should first – He prayed. But he didn’t pray by himself – he went to the prophet Isaiah and they prayed to God. God sent a message to the King by way of His prophet that basically said – I got this!
That next morning, 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were slaughtered by none other than – THE ANGEL OF THE LORD!
That is the kind of power you have with you. Not only does He promise you to have your back, God makes a special reference to our children – Jesus tells us,
“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father.” Matthew 18:10 KJV
I know for you parents out there, this is a special passage to you. I know that it is to me.
The Bible also tells us that –
“[Referring to angels] Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minster to those who shall be heirs of salvation?” Hebrew 1:14 KJV
SO they are indeed our guardians. One last thing, while all these beautiful pictures show angels with wings and flowing garments, that may not always be the case –
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.” Hebrews 13:2
So your angel may be your friend next door that you have to help out all the time or the beggar on the street that always looks you right in the eye. You know there is something about that person …. that’s different. He may have been sent by God to test and strengthen you in your walk through service to others. There is a song that speaks of one who says – “I’ll be the angel by your side….” Maybe we need to serve others like that was our primary mission in life – just like it is for our guardians.
I love this song. What inspired this post was my morning Bible Study where I am beginning in the book of Ezra and God, speaking through the prophet called out Cyrus by name to deliver the people of Judah and rebuild the temple is Jerusalem. This Kings name was foretold in the book of Isaiah over 150 years before this man was ever born.
God knows your name and cares deeply for you. He sent His Son to bring us salvation. He gives us grace for daily living through the power of His Holy Spirit. This gives us the privilege to be called sons and daughters of the Most High! Matthew West has a video that helps put this into perspective as well.
Hello My Name is by Matthew West
Let me ask you a question –
There will be some that Jesus will have to say to –
“… I never knew you, depart from me…” Matthew 7:23
For a long time I would have told you that I was saved and I even did very religious and churchy things. Yet, it was an act. I had no hunger for His word. I lived like hell Monday through Saturday and put a mask on for Sunday. I may have fooled the people around me but I didn’t fool God. Then one day my choices brought me down to the lowest point I could ever imagine. I wanted to die – I wanted out but it took that for me to realize that I needed a Savior that was real and I turned my life over to Him.
Since that moment, a very real transformation has begun. I am not where I need to be but glory be to God I am not the man I use to be. I know the risen Christ and my name is written in His Book of Life – Is yours? If it is, great!!! I shout, “Praise God” and I know that I will see you one day in glory. For those of you who are unsure, you don’t have to be any longer. Ask Jesus to come into your life and heart today. Just say –
“Jesus Christ, I know I need You, come into my heart, forgive me of my sin and help me to become the child of God you have called me to be.”
If you truly believe and place your trust in Jesus your name is now written in the Book of Life and the Holy Spirit has sealed you! Now get involved in a good Bible teaching and Holy Spirit filled church in your area. Share your decision with the Pastor and be baptized. Then share your new found faith with those that you love. Some won’t accept it but there will those who do. And maybe one of those you share it with, will give their hearts to Christ as well! The Angels in heaven are already warming up for their shouts of victory that one more person has given their hearts to Christ.