Since there isn’t much left of May, I thought I’d post the picture of the ring I wear for Mental Health Awareness month. Mental illness is not only survivable, it can also form a strength, resilience, and empathy like little else can. However – if unspoken, unadressed, and untreated it can kill – or cause life to feel like a walking death.
After coming through a long dark season in my life that would have killed me had I not reached out for help – I had this ring designed. I borrowed the semicolon from a movement that started some years back using the punctuation mark as as a symbol for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Just as a semicolon indicates there is more of the sentence to come, it became a declarations that “My story isn’t over!”
And – as for the Greek symbols, my Maker has many Names, but one of my favorites is “The Alpha and Omega” which describes Him as the Beginning and the End – the Eternal One.
I decided to combine the symbols into one I wear all the time to remind me of this: My story’s not over because it’s all wrapped up in His Eternal Story.
So… if you’re feeling listless and lifeless inside because of this strange season our world is in or for any other reason – please reach out and tell someone. You are not alone… but continued hiding will make you feel like you are.
Please keep the pages of your story turning because you are a very important chapter in the story of our world and the story of our God.
(Alternate Blog Title: What Moving to Atlanta, Driving along the Trail of Tears, and visiting a Penitentiary taught me about Independence Day)
Personally, although I enjoy so many blessings by having been born in the USA, I don’t call today – July 4th in particular – Independence Day.
Moving to Atlanta, which once had been a city filled with slavery, and some of the history of the Civil Rights Movement I am learning here has helped establish this opinion of mine. I also now live so near the starting place of the Trail of Tears where so many Native Americans were driven from their Homeland and many lost their lives in the process.
In fact, this past weekend when I took some back roads to Tennessee to visit with my Dad, some historical markers let me know that I was driving part of the route of the actual trail of tears. I don’t know if it’s the strong longing for justice I have in me or the bit of Native American in my bloodline, but that knowing gave me chills.
Also, one of the places my Dad wanted to visit on his birthday weekend was the historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary which has now been closed and made into a museum. As we were sitting in the room watching the presentation and history of the place, we were told that the last use of the room we sat in before the prison closed was a chapel. And, in that place, over 1000 inmates – some of whom would die there and never know another day of physical freedom on earth, found true freedom in that place as they were baptized into faith in Christ. So those men their Independence Day behind imposing prison bars and razor wire.
So, to me – today is not Independence Day. Because there are so many countries and people who have no chance at the freedoms many of us in this country know, largely due to the fact that we often choose to pour the wealth our freedom creates back into ourselves.
So, although July 4th is the date The States became independent of Great Britain, I cannot – in good conscience – refer to it as Independence Day.
But there is good news! Because of the resilient human spirit breathed into us by our Maker and the freedom and purpose made available to us through the sacrifice of Jesus, every single day can be our Independence Day!
From the history that has formed our lives but doesn’t have to define our lives… from the hurts, habits, and hang-ups that bless us with brokenness that keeps us dependent on our Maker to soar even higher in life by His Spirit instead of our own futile efforts… from having to be in control… by surrendering to our Maker, we can call each and every day Independence Day.
So, tonight – rather than attend fireworks, I will attend my Celebrate Recovery meeting at my church as I do on most Thursday nights to enjoy the authentic fellowship and solid teaching and principles that enable me to find true freedom to rise above hurts, habits, and hangups. And, the first weekend in August I will join others at historicEbenezer Baptist Churchfor the 400 Conference by the One Race Movement because almost exactly 400 years to the day the first slaves were brought to these shores. You see, I believe the best celebration of freedom isn’t commemorating a date when some politicians signed some papers. Rather, a true celebration of freedom looks to me like definitive steps taken to obtain and maintain true freedom for ALL.
Today, tomorrow, forever – let’s choose to live free so we can truly say “Happy Independence Day”, friends!
Confession is a powerful avenue of healing that sheds light on any sin we are harboring. But it can get easily lost in today’s culture of photo-shopped perfection and social media highlight reels.
However, I challenge you and me to reclaim confessing “one to another.” It is a basic and powerful element of faith for those of us who call ourselves believers in and followers of Jesus. It is also the reason that sustained commitment to a twelve-step program, such as Celebrate Recovery or Alcoholics Anonymous, is the only way many find true freedom from destructive and addictive life patterns. And it is also the reason many modern churches have lost their effectiveness in truly leading their members into a lifestyle not dominated by sin. There sometimes is more of an emphasis on looking blessed than taking time to confess.
In His famous “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus stated, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8
Jesus’ brother, James, echoed that truth when he wrote, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16
What would our churches and our lives look like if we truly began to imitate the ancient and effective pattern of the early church of shedding light on sin so true healing can occur? Why not try it and find out?
Oh, and please note…. It doesn’t say you have to be some super human or a priest-type to hear someone else’s confession. The “one to another” lateral aspect of confession as peers and NOT as superiors is important. This prevents us from erroneously placing the power of forgiveness on anyone else other than our One True God.
Please feel free to click the “follow” link on this site to subscribe to this blog! And I would love to hear what you think…. So add your comments and insights as we become who we already are… together!
PS: If what I have shared here resonates with you, you may want to listen to this! Click here to watch an awesome worship set by Bethel Music. It is 16 minutes well spent to worship along or great background music for your day or drive-time!
So… I have been thinking a lot about why we in our abundance-filled Western culture seem to be unhappy and struggling much of the time.
A couple things have recently helped me wrap my head around this a little bit more and got me thinking maybe we become so miserable because we are simply living life out of order.
We are designed to be still and centered on the inside (spirit and emotions) while being busy and productive on the outside (physical realm) in order to create more beauty in this world our Good Father God has left in our hands. The way I have gotten this beautifully-designed order all mixed up is by living much of my life with a busy mind and spirit (filled up with chatter, clatter, and worry) while my body has been motionless (stuck in the bed or on the couch practically paralyzed from stress and fear. Now I am learning the importance of staying spiritually and mentally in a state of rest, stillness, and “centeredness” while staying in a strong forward-press with the rest of me!
So what has been helping me learn recently to “flip-flop” my life operations back to a pattern of peace on the inside and productivity on the outside?
First, Derrick Golden, Pastor of my Amazing Church (yes, that’s really my church’s name – and for good reason!) in my beautiful city McKinney, Texas, has been teaching a series called Intentional Faith University (simply click the link to listen to the teaching) which has served as a timely reminder for me to focus on the faithfulness of my Father, God, rather than the seeming impossible obstacles that sometimes seem to close in on our lives.
Next, I make a point to surround myself with those who inspire and motivate me rahter than those who fill me with negativity that contradicts the truth my Father, God, has laid out in His Word (a.k.a. The Bible). And that includes being very selective about what I read and follow on social media.
But some social media contributors can be a very positive influence in your life. One of my favorite Instagram pages is @PlanetBossThings from the owner of Boss Things Apparel. And today this picture was shared on that page which went right along with all the motivation and inspiration Holy Spirit has been pricking my heart with lately.
So, I challenge you… I challenge me… let’s make our tomorrows different and better than our yesterdays by working hard to be still and settled on the inside while active and productive on the outside. I know it won’t be easy because it’s a new way of living and thinking. But I know it will be worth it.
When it feels like people are asking more than you have after you have already given so much, God will empower you to give more than you thought was possible while blessing you to overflow. Rest in HIM and HiS example and you’ll realize no one can ever demand of you more than HE has already given. When I need to regain perspective about how others treat me or how I treat others, Philippians 2 is my “go to” chapter of the Bible when I find my attitude being pulled in the wrong direction. It’s like a #PerspectiveResetButton.