New Beginnings

I’m about to begin, if the Lord is willing, four years of graduate level education as I study at a Theological College. I’ve moved across the country and away from almost all my friends and family. It’s certainly a daunting time for me and also quite stressful. I definitely don’t feel prepared to pick up my Hebrew and Greek, or memorize the Heidelberg Catechism. I thought I would be one of the older people in my class but it turns out that at 25 I might be the youngest (there’s one student I haven’t met yet). The other students are married, some have one or two children, and are in a different place in life. Even though they’ve also moved and had to leave friends behind, they also took a support group with them. I’m somewhat envious of their situation.

There’s also a bit of excitement as I look forward to digging deep into God’s word. Each day at school the focus will now be on how to better understand, interpret, and apply God’s word to my own life and the lives of others. What a prospect!

Tonight is convocation, I’ve been asked to help usher and seat people. It’s a good opportunity for me to meet new people, something which I would rather not do but at the same time want and need to do. Then we have our new student orientation day on Monday, followed by a BBQ. Finally on Tuesday regular classes begin. So it will be an exciting, daunting, and whirlwind of a weekend! And as I’m about to begin a new journey I’ve been reflecting on Psalm 121, a psalm traditional used by travelers on their way to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.

 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

NIV

 

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Error and Truth

“Error, indeed is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced more true than truth itself.”
― Irenaeus of Lyons

Repentance and Cleansing

Lord God, we live in an age when sexuality is trivialized and when covenants are broken routinely.  We are bombarded with cultural insensitivity for the sacredness of life and what was once considered perverted is now common place and accepted. Please help me increase my sensitivity to the Truth of Your commandments and show me where I need to amend my attitudes and my actions. Forgive me my failures in this area and strengthen me to live a chaste life. Work within me by your Holy Spirit so that I would be able to resist the temptations of the world, my flesh, and the devil. I pray that you will not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. Wash away the memory of past sins from my mind, erase the feelings of guilt and shame for they have been nailed to the cross along with all my sins. Please think of me according to Your mercy and for Your goodness sake, O LORD, free me from the bondage of my passions and enable me to master my inclinations.  When I am tempted, may I rely on you; When I fall, may I find restoration by your grace. Heal me of past hurts and the impact of erroneous instruction and guide my relationships in purity, fidelity and love. Grant a renewed and faithful obedience to Your word, and work within me by Your Holy Spirit , so that I may keep Your commands all the days of my life. In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, who with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, lives and reigns forever. Amen.

My Tape pt. 2

Depression  is always a daily battle. Depressed folk have been described as “master thespians” who know how to put on masks for their friends and family. It’s certainly true for me, not to say I’m always fake or putting on an act but on a bad day I can normally still act like nothing is wrong or bothering me. It’s when I can’t put on the mask, when my friends or family can tell that I’m having a bad day – that’s when I’m losing the battle.

I hate burdening people with my problems, making them have to think about what I’m going through or experiencing. And yet it sometimes is the best way to process my thoughts and realize that I do matter to people. Then I walk away feeling terrible for sharing.

I want to help others through their struggles and weaknesses whether it’s a mental, physical, or spiritual health problem. I can’t stand the thought of someone else suffering silently, of not feeling loved or not feeling that they matter. Yet it’s so hard to accept the same. I don’t feel worthy of compassion or love or kindness. So hard to be on the flip side of this exchange, it takes an incredible amount of courage for  a depressed person to come out and say they feel dead inside or hate themselves. And no wonder, what a shot to our pride to do such a thing! To help someone in need can make me feel good and useful, but to admit to someone else – it’s like I think if I don’t let other’s know then it might not be how I truly feel.

Psalm 38:1-11 (Esv)

 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
    and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh
    because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
    because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
    like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and fester
    because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
    all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
    and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
    I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is before you;
    my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
    and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
    and my nearest kin stand far off.

 

 

My Tape pt. 1

There’s a tape that plays in my head, as is common for people who suffer from depression. I’ve learned that a key to beating depression is teaching myself to minimize this tape. Some days I’ve been successful and some days I haven’t. Thankfully I’ve had more success as of late, but the last week has been bad.

When I mess up the tape that plays in my mind tells me, “Of course you messed up, you’re an idiot. You retard what did you expect!”

When I talk to my friends about my struggles the tape tells me that they don’t want to hear about my problems. That I’m being unfair and dumping my problems onto them. That I don’t deserve to have friends and that everyone would be better off without me in their lives. That those who are my friends actually aren’t, they just can’t get rid of you. When a friend or a loved one dies my tape tells me that that should be me, and deep in my heart I want it to be me. I feel awful for it. I know it’s wrong and I have so much to live for, yet it’s there. I’m being selfish in those moments while at the same time trying to comfort my friend or loved ones.i

On a successful day I can fight against these tapes. I can cling to the positive and up building comments that my friends give me. Even criticism can be looked at with a positive spin – as a way to move forward and as the help that it was intended to be. I can cling to the hope and promises of God. I can realize that just because something went wrong at work or elsewhere in my life doesn’t mean it’s all my fault and doesn’t make me a failure. Part or most of the blame may fall on me but there are almost always a number of factors that played into whatever happened.

On a bad day the tape is crushing. This past week has been a battle to get out of bed. It has been a battle to fall asleep as the tape loops over, and over, and over… My mind races with thoughts. Worry and anxiety boil up and I can’t calm myself or ignore my thoughts. The nightly tape goes like this: Have I chased away my friends? Have I ruined another relationship? Will they ever speak to me again? When they talk to me are they merely putting up with me? Do they love me as much as I love them? They must all be faking it, who could ever be this broken wretches friend? Who could ever love a failure like me? This tape plays over and over again. It’s by far the worst part, I can live with being a failure but not the thought of being alone. The paranoia and insecurity can be overwhelming. I know those thoughts are irrational and yet they feel so true. I can’t gently push them aside or follow the mindfulness techniques I’ve learned. It can loop over and over for hours on end. It’s tiring, no it’s exhausting. Yet there’s no sleep or rest.

So I confess with Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, “[W]hile we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

I still have hope, my confidence is in my Saviour and I know that this wave too shall pass. I think on the positive things my friends have told me, the times they reminded me that we are true friends and not counterfeit. I recall the answered prayers of the past and cling to them as I go on into the future. And with thoughts like this, even though I can’t shut off the tape at least I have something to play over top of it.

 

Before the throne of God above

Romans 4:14-16 (NIV)
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

 

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea;
a great High Priest, whose name is Love,
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
my name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart,
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God the Just is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me,
to look on him and pardon me.

Behold him there! the risen Lamb,
my perfect, spotless righteousness;
the great unchangeable “I AM,”
the King of glory and of grace!
One with himself, I cannot die,
my soul is purchased by his blood;
my life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ my Savior and my God,
with Christ my Savior and my God.

 

  • Charitie Lees Bancroft, 1863, found in Spurgeon’s Our Own Hymn Book

The Sent Gift

O God, who dost teach the hearts of thy faithful people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. 

 

From the book of Common Prayer