Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

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How To Amaze Jesus

How To Amaze Jesus

I don’t think that it comes as a surprise to us today that people coming in contact with the unique Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, were amazed by Him.  The miracle worker, healer, and teacher extraordinaire consistently amazed the crowds.  Here’s one example.  In Matthew 7:28-29 you’ll read, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

But this is a stunner:  on two occasions the Bible says that Jesus was amazed!  That’s right, Jesus was amazed … as in astonished, astounded, shocked, surprised, flabbergasted, dumbfounded, staggered, and the always brilliant Shakespearian King James version … taken aback!

Have you ever pictured Jesus with a stunned look on His face?  A look that says, “Wow!”

Look at Mark 6.  (Second book in the New Testament, sixth chapter)

1 Jesus left there and went to His hometown, accompanied by His disciples.  2 When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were amazed.

There it is again.  People were amazed … even in His hometown of Nazareth.

“Where did this Man get these things?” they asked.  “What’s this wisdom that has been given Him, that he even does miracles! 3 Isn’t this the carpenter?  Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?  Aren’t his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”  5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them.   (Matthew 13:58 says, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”)  6 And He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus was amazed!  He was amazed at their lack of faith.

How you view Jesus will dramatically effect your confidence in Him, your beliefs about God and truth (Jesus claimed God was His Father, and that He – Jesus – was the Truth), and your opinions on miracles and healing (did they, and can they happen in real life?).  Your perspective of the Carpenter of Nazareth will, according to Jesus Himself, determine whether or not you have a soul-saving, life-changing relationship with His Father (John 14:1-14).

The people in Nazareth saw Jesus as ORDINARY!  No one special.  They were familiar with Jesus.  He was just one of the guys.  Just one of Mary’s children.  A carpenter … and the son of an ordinary carpenter.  So …

What do expect from ORDINARY?  What do you expect from a carpenter’s son?  (Furniture … or maybe farm equipment?)

Here’s a lesson in human nature:  The tendency is that if you grow up with someone, and you compare them to your ordinary self, you’ll tend to expect little of them … or yourself, or your peers.  That’s why all of us are surprised when one of the gang makes it big.  All of us are surprised when someone we perceive as “like us” does something beyond us.

And that’s when our ego responds.  Psychologically … we get offended … and the reason we do is because the peer that rises above us brings awareness to our lack of accomplishment.  Because we’re in the habit of comparing ourselves with ourselves and our peers and our relatives … when someone outdoes us, selfish-humankind that we are – we get offended.

And why do we do that?  Because we’re made to feel small in our own eyes.  The Greek word here for “offended” means “to be repelled because of unmet expectations.”  (The Nazarenes had low expectations of Jesus  – so they were repelled by Jesus’ wisdom, His teaching, and His power to perform miracles!)

Jesus was amazed one other time in His life.  Take a look at this (Luke 7 – third book in the New Testament, seventh chapter):

1 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum.  2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.  3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal His servant.  4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, “This man deserves to have You do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”  6 So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him:  “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, for I do not deserve to have You come under my roof.  7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You.  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

9 When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”  10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Because the Centurion grasped WHO Jesus was … and that all the power of heaven was behind Him … and because the Centurion understood that Jesus had power in and of Himself (!!) … he knew that all Jesus had to do was COMMAND the sickness to leave his servant’s body – and it would be done!

The Centurion recognized that Jesus had power.  The Nazarenes thought Jesus was ordinary.

The Centurion recognized that Jesus had authority. The Nazarenes thought Jesus was “upity.”

The Centurion recognized that faith in Jesus was the key.  The Nazarenes thought their disbelief was the smart (or safe) position to take.

So … Who do you have more in common with, the Centurion or the Nazarenes?  Are you willing to stand alone, with confidence in Jesus?  Or must you stand with the crowd where it’s safe?  Taken to the extreme:  Is Jesus God in the flesh, the Savior of the World … or was He another insane false messiah?

Think about it.



“If Christ were here now …”

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name – Mark Twain – is one of the most beloved authors and humorists in America’s history.   He wrote some classics:  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and more.

I found a great story about Mark Twain at the SermonCentral website.   The story goes that Twain “… loved to go fishing, but he hated to catch fish.   The problem was he went fishing to relax, and catching fish ruined his relaxation, since he had to take the fish off the hook and do something with it.   When he wanted to relax by doing nothing, people thought he was lazy, but if he went fishing he could relax all he wanted.   People would see him sitting by the river bank and they would say, ‘Look, he’s fishing, don’t bother him.’

“So Mark Twain had the perfect solution:  he would take a fishing pole, line, and a bobber, but he wouldn’t put a hook on the end.  He would cast the bobber in the water and lay back on the bank.  That way he could relax all he wanted and he would be bothered neither by man nor fish.

“Mark Twain is like a lot of Christians I know.  They have their pole in the water, but there is no hook on the end.  They are not fishing; they are relaxing.

“Do you think this is what Jesus had in mind when He said, ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’? (Matthew 4:19)”

Whoa!

By the way … Mark Twain didn’t speak well of organized religion, hated hypocrisy (especially when it was evidenced in his own life), and thought the Christians of his day were not representing Jesus at all.  He once said, “If Christ were here now there is one thing He would not be – a Christian.”

Think about that for a minute.

Now that you’ve thought about it, if you claim to be a Christ-follower, are you good at it?  Does that claim make your life different … better, more loving, compassionate, generous, and concerned about the eternal impact your life has on others?  Do you look like Jesus in any way (and I’m not talking about robes and sandals)?  Do you sound like Him?  Good questions, aren’t they?

If you aren’t a follow of Jesus Christ, consider this:  Jesus didn’t come to this world to create a religion or philosophy.   He came to build a bridge to God, His Father.  He came to make it possible for us to have a close and eternal relationship with God … something God wanted!  Jesus was crucified by the people of His day, not just because He was so different, or that He pointed the religious people of His day as hypocrites.  His death on the Cross was part of God’s plan to save Mankind from a lost, God-less eternity … and to give us LIFE, here, and now.

Think about that for a minute.

Now … what are you thinking?

The Church … as Anyone Would Love It

I ran across a blog tonight that blessed my soul and challenged my lifestyle.  On a wonderful blog site entitled Shame The Wise (Brian McDaris) he wrote an article way back in February of 2009.  It reads:

WHY DEAD THEOLOGIANS ARE COOL

Epistle to Diognetus
Chapter V.-The Manners of the Christians.

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

When Is A Church Too Big?

I opened the Editorial Page in my local paper – The Richmond Times-Dispatch – and read the following opinion.  Since I’m attending a large (mega) church, I was fascinated with the perspective of the writer.  The title of the Op/Ed is “All Size.”  Think about it.

“A new study has documented what many parishioners at megachurches already knew: Such houses of worship are neither cold nor impersonal, and can offer as much community as many smaller churches do, if not more.

“Those findings help explain the explosive growth of megachurches, which — according to another newly released survey — shows no signs of abating. Other factors might be at work, too. Megachurches are not doctrinally narrow or rigid, but they are clear about certain points of dispute. In anage when many mainline churches have drifted toward cultural relativism and liberal theology, 92 percent of megachurch members believe hell is a real place, and four out of five believe the Rapture really is coming.

“Most megachurches work hard to create intimacy within the congregation by offering dozens, if not hundreds, of small groups that focus on everything from Christ-centered personal finances to motorcycle riding. (That might help explain why the megachurch member is more likely to have friends in the congregation than the member of a traditional church.) The churches often grow by attracting people who come for the community — and stay for the communion.

“Megachurches have their critics, who point out (often with some justification) the emphasis on worldly issues rather than otherworldly reverence. But megachurches clearly have found a formula that draws many who otherwise might spend Sunday morning on the golf course. Based on our limited understanding of the Scriptures, the Final Arbiter will be pleased if more people come to Him — no matter which route they take.”

I agree with the writer.  Large churches have some down sides, but there are a slew of ups.  I’m not suggesting anyone abandon their small(er) church for a larger one – NO, no, no.  Not for a minute.  What I am saying is, let’s stop the criticism of larger churches – and the comparing, competitive spirit in the criticisms – and let’s get on with “being the Church.”  United.  Loving.  And humble.

The Persecuted Church in India – Part 1

I found this news article at the British Broadcasting Company site:  “Arrests over India church attacks.”  Does this series of incidents send a chill up your spine?  What do you think about what is happening in India?

“Police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have arrested over 60 people in connection with attacks on churches and clergymen over the weekend.  More than a dozen churches were ransacked by alleged activists of the radical Hindu group Bajrang Dal.  The Bajrang Dal claims that Hindus are being illegally converted to Christianity in the area.

“Last month, anti-Christian violence in the eastern Orissa state led to the deaths of at least 20 people.  The police in Karnataka say that churches were attacked by mobs in the districts of Udupi and Chikmagalur on Sunday.  Over 60 people have been detained after outraged Christian groups protested and called for a shutdown in the coastal city of Mangalore, which is the worst affected by the violence.  … More than 2,000 schools run by Christian organisations in Karnataka shut down for a dayin protest against the anti-Christian violence in Orissa.

“Karnataka is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has close ties with the Bajrang Dal.  ‘The BJP is responsible for the attacks. It is creating social disharmony,’ the main opposition Congress party leader Mallikarjun Kharge said.

“Meanwhile in Orissa two more people were killed and 12 injured when police opened fire on a rioting mob in Kandhamal district on Saturday.  The district has seen large scale violence since 24 August in which at least 20 people have been killed and dozens of churches and thousands of houses torched.  Saturday evening’s incident took place at Kurtamgarh village where a mob went on the rampage burning houses and prayer halls.  When security forces tried to disperse the crowd, somebody from the crowd shot and injured a policeman, the police said.  The police say they were forced to open fire, resulting in the deaths of two people.  On Friday night, six houses and a Christian prayer house were torched by a mob in Kandhamal district, the police said.

“The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the violence in Orissa as a ‘national disgrace’.

“Correspondents say Hindu groups have long accused Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to change their faith.  Christians say lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape the Hindu caste system.”

[Story from BBC NEWS:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7616314.stm   Published: 2008/09/15 10:17:50 GMT;   © BBC MMVIII]

Part 3 – Trust and Disappointment

Again, if you’re reading this article without reading parts one and two, you won’t understand the context of this exchange.  Please take time to read the previous postings.

After I wrote the long letter empathizing with Ellie, she sent me this sweet response.

hey Lowell…

     i wanted to thank you for your words of real empathy and encouragement… it helps to know that you have experienced the depth of despair that drives one to long for (and seriously consider or attempt) what seems like the only escape in death, and not only survived, but are stronger… and it seems, have gained a closer relationship with god as a result. that is honestly what my heart desires, what i trying to accomplish, and on a good day, what i seem to have a tiny taste of.

    “it was the hardest thing to do – because of the guilt and the pride and the fear of disappointment …. again. I had to trust God. I had to let go”…  yes, this seems to one of my biggest sticking points as well. especially the trust issue. when i am completely honest, at my core, i do not trust god. i do not trust him to protect me, not to hurt me, to love me… and i know much of this distrust is a result of the abuse in my past. and in acknowledging, and seeking to overcome that lack of trust, you would think that eventually, it would be a barrier i would have conquered. no such luck as of yet… still working on that one. but i do know that this is the key to true freedom in my life.

    it seems, for me, such a difficult task to cry out to god with anything more than a desperate “please lord, just make it stop… quiet my head, my heart, my past” in those moments, and while i know this is simply what i am feeling on a heart level, and what i yearn for… i do so wish that he would answer. at least in some way that “didn’t come from my “self-talk.” It was other-world.”

    i do not want to waste my life (as John Piper so eloquently warns against)… in suicide, or in simply existing, chained to my pain and my past, allowing my fetters to prevent me from having that promised abundant life, and bringing glory to god in living that life. i just want torment to end… and sadly, cashing in my chips so often seems to be the best and only option.

    Lowell… i believe in your sincerity and honesty, and i deeply appreciate your transparency and willingness to share some of your story with me. i am going to keep listening for his voice…

thanks for your prayers,

ellie

Then, just a few hours later, she sent this post script:

here is my P.S. note … how would you suggest that i pursue conquering the “trust in god” issue?

Ellie

I felt like a fire was lit under me!  I did my best to explain how I’ve approached trust issues in my life, and some conclusions I have arrived at.

Dear Ellie,

I’ve tried to wrap my mind around the question you asked, “how would you suggest that i pursue conquering the “trust in god” issue?”   I’ve been trying to do that for years now, and I’ve got some opinions.  Here are a few:

I believe to understand “trust” one must understand “disappointment.”  (I’m speaking of trusting people, God, etc., versus being disappointed in or by people, God, etc.)  That is, in your case and mine, because we’ve been so hurt, to understand the positive (trust) one must try to understand the negative first (disappointment).  In my search for answers I went to “disappointment” first because I believed, and still believe, that trust is destroyed/damaged/weakened when we are disappointed, so … how can I ever trust if I don’t know how trust was broken in the first place.

Let me explain disappointment this way, and I think you’ll get where I’m coming from.  To me, disappointment comes from unmet expectations.  If I have an expectation of God, or any other person for that matter, and He/they do not meet my expectation(s), I will be disappointed.  And to guard my heart from the pain of repeated disappointments I will not trust.  I won’t be vulnerable again to that person.

I’m trying to do these word gymnastics  (God, people), so for my sake and yours I’ll just go with the “trusting God” thing.

In our minds (young and old) we have a picture of how God should behave.  When we’re children we have a finite understanding of just how big God is, but we get the part that says, “He can do anything because He’s super-powerful … and He is the most loving Person in the Universe … etc.”  When we’re older, we tend to limit God.  We’re more successful putting Him in a much smaller box, i.e., “He might not be able to do everything, and He may not be the most loving Person in the Universe.”  That “adult” point of view comes from repeated disappointments in our life experiences:  that is, we were not protected when we thought He (God) would protect us; He did not “love” me by giving me what I wanted, when I wanted it.  You know what I mean.

So … when a young girl such as yourself experiences abuse, you would naturally think, “If God is all-powerful, and the most loving Person in the Universe, how could He have let this awful thing happen to me.”  Right?  We are disappointed.  Our disappointment comes from our understanding of how God works, or how we think He should work/behave.  And He did not meet our expectations.

The fascinating thing is – Yes, God is all powerful … and He is the most loving Person in the Universe … and because He is both of those things, He’s a gift giver.  If He can’t give His enormous love away, He can’t be a Lover!  Some people think – “UNFORTUNATELY, God gave the gift of choice to mankind … and because He stupidly gave that gift to us, selfish people use that gift to satisfy their lust(s) for money, aberrant sex, etc., and because God gave away CONTROL when He gave mankind choice, I have been hurt, injured, damaged.  Stupid God!  How could He have been so unloving, as to give people the power to inflict pain upon me????”

Hang with me.  I’m going somewhere with this … I’m just getting real wordy.

God’s dilemma?  How does the consummate Lover give and receive love?  God gives love when He gives us the “power” to make a choice to return love to Him.  The risk?  That the loved one (that’s you and me and the whole world) might choose to love our selves more than Him, and do our own thing, and in turn do our own thing to innocent little girls like you.  God could have created mankind as little playthings.  He could have created a perfect world (He did) and then controlled every aspect of life in that world (He did NOT).  Instead of creating a cosmic doll house, and spending His time moving furniture from one room to the next, and move little puppet people around, God breathed LIFE into man, and said, “I love you, and I want you to love Me.  I won’t make you love Me.  I want you to choose to do it of your own free will.  You are not puppets or robots.  You are like the angels.  You can worship me or not.  Your choice.”

NOTE:  You and I can relate to God’s desire for love returned from a person with a free will because that’s what we long for.  We don’t want anyone to love us because they have to, but because they want to.

As I delved deeper into why God made the world the way He did, and then gave us human beings the gift of choice, it dawned on me, “God risked not being loved.”  Wow!  The most powerful being in the Universe exercised His awesome power to choose by LIMITING His power over us.  He decided not to make us love Him, but to let us love Him if we wanted to.  He limited His control.

And I love Him for it most of the time.  But from time to time I have hated Him for giving mankind that gift.  We are so selfish, we choose to go to war rather than go to the peace conference.  We are so selfish, we choose to abuse little girls rather than value them by saying NO to our immoral desires.  Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a man because so many men use their power to choose to do what’s been done to you.  I hope you will forgive me for being “one of those!”  One of those monsters – those evil, selfish, sexually deviant types.  And sometimes I’m ashamed to be a human being – because we humans are so … so … inhumane.  Ellie, please forgive me.  Please forgive us.

When I look at the Cross where Jesus died, what I see there is the epitome of wicked, inhumane behavior, and I pray, “Oh, God … we chose to KILL You rather than embrace You.  And we didn’t just choose to put a gun to Your head and pull the trigger so You would instantly die.  We chose to torture You to death … to make Your dying last as long as possible so that our hatred for You could be more fully expressed.  At the Cross we chose ‘freedom’ from Your Lordship over our lives so that we could do whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it.  God, forgive us.  God … forgive me.”

Dear Ellie, in order for me to trust God, I had to go where I just took you.  It was a painful process … and it took a while.  I had to address my disappointment in God.  I had to identify my expectations, and decide if they were based on truth or fiction, God’s word or my best guess.  It was a humiliating process, but I finally came to the following conclusions, and if my pain-filled life experiences can help you, then I have a greater appreciation for all the shit I’ve been through.  Oh, and let me say, right now I’m living a wonderful life.  It’s based on truth, not fantasy.  I’ve come to grips with my childish thoughts, and rather than keep God in a small box, I’ve let Him out to be GOD!

Conclusions for Lowell:

1.  God so loved the world … you and me and the billions … that He wanted to give gifts (a lover wants to love and be loved, and a giver wants to give), and God’s gifts included the gift of life, the gift of this planet, the gift of others (so we wouldnt’ be alone), the gift of sex, the gift of choice, and the gift of His Son, Jesus.

2.  We selfish human beings have taken all of His gifts, and for the most part we have used them to satisfy our desires.  (There are notable exceptions – Mother Teresa comes to mind immediately!)

3.  FACT:  It was NEVER God’s intention for mankind to abuse His gifts, His love, or each other.  He said so many times and in many ways.  One way was to give us the Ten Commandments.  They were limitations God put on selfish behavior.  His desire was always that we would choose Him, and that we would choose to love others like He loves us … to not hurt other people.  Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God, and the second would follow … we would love our neighbors.

4.  So … while it may be hard to trust people (and it has been) because “they” are self centered, I can trust God because He is actually “ME centered” – that is, He has decided that I’m worth ALL He’s ever given.  And He never wanted me hurt.  He always wanted me to enjoy all He has to offer.  (I put “they” in quotes because “I” am never selfish.  Ha!)

5.  And so … to trust Him requires that I changed my view of God.  That’s hard.  That’s the hardest part.  You may have a view of God so entrenched in your mind that you may have to have a transplant.  (Paul said in Romans 12 that we needed a transformation.)  We’ve got to deal with ideas like “God doesn’t care that I’ve been hurt”  and other real disappointments based on unrealistic expectations that we might have.  We need to understand that we live on a fallen planet.)

Just how do you view God?  And what is that view based upon?  Is your view The Truth?  Have you believed any lies about God?

Sorry!  I got a little preachy there.  I’ve shared a lot of my “journey,” and I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you.  Personally, I think you probably “know” everything I’ve told you at an intellectual level … but for me anyway, until all this stuff went from my head to my heart (the core of my being), I didn’t experience any change that brought freedom from my past and my pain.

Just after I press the “send” button I’m going to get down on my knees and thank God again for His wonderful gifts.  I’m going to worship Him for who He really is, and for all that He has done for me.  And I’m going to lift your name up to Him, and ask Him to smother you with kisses, and warm your heart with His presence.  My wife and I will continue to pray for you.  Live, Ellie!  You have a story to tell and a life to live that will have meaning beyond your imagination.  And don’t take my word for it.  Take His.  In Jeremiah 29, I think it’s verses 11-14 … “I know the plans I have for you (Ellie) … plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Amen!

Blessings, and Aloha!

Lowell

Part 2 – Trust and Disappointment

I hope you didn’t skip part one of the Trust and Disappointment series.  If you did, go back and read it.  It’ll give you the context of this, my part two.

Ten days later Ellie wrote this article entitled “The Bailout”:

the bailout

     here we go again… trapped in endless early morning hours, unable to quiet that within me that cries out for acknowledgement… a measure of comfort… release. this nameless, faceless, sea of anxiety that refuses to cease… and all the benadryl, relaxation techniques, night strolls, and desperate pleading in the world will not silence this beast. 

     and the exceedingly painful reality is that i know what will. i possess knowledge of one the tried and true remedy… something that works each and every time. every cell in my body, with every breath, and every ounce of strength in my being begs for the blade… and the blood….

     and the bailout. 

     but i cannot allow this disquiet to consume me… devouring me, and swallowing alongside… my progress and positive steps forward. there still must exist the light at the end of the tunnel, even if fear chokes its glow for these few hours.

     and so i wait… in hungry expectation for the gift of sleep, or the brilliance of morning, satisfied with whichever comes first.

I wrote my friend the following comment:

Hey Ellie,

I felt your pain today … literally felt it. I related. I empathized. My gut tightened as I remembered the times I wrestled with acute depression – the kind that “begs for the blade.” My heart goes out to you this morning.

One day I was so desperate I imagined how I could make driving my car into a bridge abutment look like an accident – and it shook me up so much I pulled over to the side of the road and started crying. The tears made it impossible for me to drive. And I cried out, “I don’t want to die.” And I heard, inside my head, some words so filled with hope it startled me. It shocked me out of my crying binge, it was so abrupt and real. “Cast all your cares upon Me … I care for you!” I didn’t come from my “self-talk.” It was other-world.

I said, out loud, “I’ve heard that somewhere, but where.” I broke my appointment, drove home, and started scrounging around until I found it.

It was in such an obscure place … but I found it. It was in the Bible, in the New Testament, and it actually didn’t say, “Cast your cares upon Me … ” but it was “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” (King James language, like Shakespeare) I looked it up on an easier version to understand and I got this from 1 Peter 5:6-8: “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

I realized I had a real enemy, and that there was nothing more the devil wanted than for me to die … but I was so prideful. I couldn’t admit that I was in such desperate need to anyone who knew me. I had to maintain this “front.” And the front was going to kill me.

So I cried out to God. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done. I had used people over and over again to “bail me out” of trouble, and I had used people to vent my frustrations … hoping they would have THE answer for my pain. Or I had turned to gifted counselors and doctors, and they helped me tremendously … but there was still this “hole” in me that no expert or professional could fill.

So … I just prayed, “Okay God, I am going to humble myself and ask YOU to bail me out this time. I’m going to give my worries and my pain to You. Please quiet the lies satan is telling me about quick fixes … or NO fixes … and untangle all the lies that I’ve been telling myself … calm the fears and ese the pain in my mind and in my being.”

That prayer was the beginning. I really sensed “someone” heard me. It wasn’t long before I felt better. And I thought, “This crying-out-to-God thing might lead to some real freedom and healing.”

I know that it sounds like I’m suggesting, “Here, take this ‘Bible pill,’ and it’ll all be better,” or “This is what I did. If you do what I did, you’ll have the same result (and then I can write a book about my ‘formula’ for dealing with depression).” I know how it sounds. I’m hearing it, too. But I can’t do much about that. I don’t think if you pray MY prayer, you’ll be healed … and over your pain. What I am suggesting (and hoping) is that you’ll go to God in your own way, in your own time, on your own terms, and use your own language.

And then … the hardest thing of all. At least for me, it was the hardest thing to do – because of the guilt and the pride and the fear of disappointment …. again. I had to trust God. I had to let go. I had to continue to listen for that whispering “voice” that was different than my self-talk. It was “God-talk,” and I could tell the difference. I began to hear the calming and healing voice of God. He’d say, “That’s a lie” if I started telling myself a lie, and then He’d offer something like, “Go for a walk, and I’ll talk to you for a while,” or “Call this person and tell them …” or “Read this,” or “Go to sleep now, and I’ll hold you in My arms and on My lap.”

Ellie. I’m praying for you right now. I don’t have a formula or THE “answer” for your pain. But my heart is breaking for you. I’m hoping you’ll go to the ONE who has your answer, and the key that will unlock your chains and open your cell. And when that happens, I’m hoping you’ll courageously walk into the light of freedom.

Your friend, Lowell

PS. For anyone (including you, Ellie) who might see this, and think skeptically, “This guy has got an agenda … blah, blah, blah.” You don’t know me. And there’s probably no convincing you that I’m sincere and honest. So I won’t try. But if not God, then what? What’s your answer for Ellie. Ellie, what have you tried? I’m just asked you to give God a go.