Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Benefits of Depression

”In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you will have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

I would first like to recognize that my trials have not been persecution and possible torture or death because of what I believe. The early Christians and current Christians who face these sorts of trials are greatly admired. My trials are far shallower than theirs but they are still refining me and bringing praise and glory and honor to my God.

For two years now I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The combination has left me drained and feeling absolutely useless. As a result I have struggled with guilt and blame, which has only increased my anxiety and thus my depression. As I face this autumn, once again the dread is back. It is not, however, as bad as it has been in the past; thank God for man's ability to manipulate chemicals so I can feel better (I began anti-depressant in May). I am in a different place today; I'm looking forward to a fall and winter in which I have the energy to be involved in the life Christ has called me to live.

In the midst of the storm I clung to Romans 8:28; now, as I step out of the clouds, I can see the silver lining. This depression has impacted me in ways I never would have expected. Good ways. I want to share these good ways because I remember sitting on my bed crying out to the Lord, “How can this possibly glorify You?”

Deeper faith: “...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...” Hebrews 12:2
As I struggled with depression, I also struggled with my faith. It was depression that brought me to Christ in the first place; to return to that place of sadness and anger has been scary. I often wondered if I had somehow failed Christ and, as a result, had missed out on His healing powers in my life. Worse, I wondered if Christ had failed me. But I clung to Him nonetheless, and, as a result, have experienced His love in tangible ways I never would have known had I not walked through this storm. I look back now and see that walking with the Lord through depression has built for me a solid foundation on which to stand.

Joy: “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
I am amazingly aware of a deep sense of joy inside of me, and I am incredibly thankful for it (there are not enough adjectives out there to express this properly). Having felt a desperate lack of joy for so long, I have completely embraced this new joy and allowed mirth free reign in my life. When you see me laughing, know that the joy I am experiencing is deep because I have fought for it for nearly two years.

Sleep: “In peace I will both lie down an d sleep, for You alone make me to dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
I am thankful for every good night's sleep I get. I didn't realize before how precious sleep can be but after having gone without it (almost completely) for a year, I now know how valuable it is and I praise God for how easily I slip into sleep these days.

Impact on others: “Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
One of the mistakes I made early on was to isolate myself because I didn't want others to have to “put up with” me. I've hated to admit that I was struggling, but I suppose that's pride. It is good for the Body of Christ to step up and love one another as we wrestle through the hard times. True, it is hard for people to watch their loved one struggle but it is an opportunity for people to grow in compassion, empathy, patience, and many other Godly qualities. I have had a few close friends walk with me through this depression, praying for me, crying with me, holding me, and watching out for me. I think each of these people would admit that it was a trial to walk alongside me during this dark time, but also that there was much they learned from it.

Then there are the girls I have come across who also struggle with depression. It has been an honor and a blessing to speak into their lives, to be able to connect on such a deep level, to share something that many other people just can't relate to, and to talk about our struggles with our faith in all of this. If this were the only reason God had me walk through depression, I'd be satisfied. Yet, in His omniscient goodness, that is not the only reason.

Patience and Perseverance: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope...” Romans 5:3-4
It takes time for the Lord to transform us, and it's rarely a pleasant process (I can hear the gold screaming as it faces the furnace). In this process, as the things I've already mentioned have been revealed to me, I see more clearly than ever before the value of patience and perseverance. I must learn to stand in the discomfort or the pain and know that this truly is good. If I can stand firm and face my trials with patience and perseverance, I will experience much healing that cannot happen when I try to escape (through addictions, numbness, certain behaviors, etc). Also, I will experience the love of God in tangible ways as He walks with me through the fire.

Reevaluate my life: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.” Psalm 46:10
Depression has caused me to dramatically slow down my life. While that has been very frustrating to me, the Lord has used it to make me reevaluate my motives and to realign my desires to His. Why was I trying so hard to do as much as I could? So I could prove myself. And what does God think about that? “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives” (Proverbs 16:2). “...And all of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment...” (Isaiah 64:6). Yikes! Scary! Once our executive director at YD Adventures told us that, if ministry is getting in the way of our relationship with God, He will take us out of it. I think that's exactly what God did, slowing me down so I could come back to a place of experiencing His love and serving Him out of love instead of a sense of obligation.

To be continued... right? “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, no wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
I laughed the first time I read that verse. It's just one of those verses that reminds me that it's not all about me. God has this perfect, beautiful plan and, in truth, it's not us being patient with Him, but the opposite; He is so utterly patient with us. As I grow to reflect my Lord more and more clearly, one thing I desire is for people to see me in the trials and say, “That woman has no fear. She trusts her God to do good. I want to know Christ too.”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Delight in the Lord

Before I became a lover of Christ, I thought of Christianity as a bunch of rules. And not just rules but contemptible rules. What's wrong with sex before marriage? Everyone's doing it; it's normal. What's wrong with getting drunk? You're only hurting yourself. What's wrong with cursing? It's just words. To me, Christians were a bunch of ridiculously narrow-minded hypocrites and their inane “laws” constraining.

Then I fell in love with Christ.

As a new believer, I realized that I am a sinner but I also realized it would be too easy to simply conform in order to look like a good Christian instead of allowing Christ to change my heart so I told God, “I will change nothing unless You ask it of me.”

Before I barge ahead and arrogantly claim to have done just that, I must admit that it is not as simple as I originally thought. In my naivete, I thought God would speak and Raychel would change. But sometimes God wants to change things Raychel doesn't want to admit are a problem and sometimes God wants to use people to address Raychel's problems and Raychel insolently balks at what they say.

Oh, Pride, you can only bring me death!

Well, Christ has asked for a lot of change from me. He has asked me to follow His laws closely, the first of which is, “You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3).

I have given my life to loving God with everything I have; He has become my Treasure, my All in All. I am delighting myself in the Lord, and He is giving me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4).

Amazingly, what I desire seems to be changing. As Christ becomes my treasure, as I find my joy rooted more and more deeply in Him, a process occurs and I find myself being transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). No joke! If you look back at Romans 11:33-36 you'll notice the love language Paul is using toward God, then you'll notice that he subsequently launches into this idea that if we present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices – and, honestly, who doesn't sacrifice himself for his treasure? - then, in this worship, we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (these verses, by the way, define worship).

If God is my treasure, and my mind is being renewed to know what His will is, it goes to follow that my desires will begin to align themselves to His will.

And now I no longer see His law as constraining (for the most part) but liberating. Why?

A friend once used an analogy that really helps illustrate what I think happens.

Imagine the Law is like a line drawn in the ground. If you cross the line, you've broken the rules. There are many people – such as myself, before I knew Christ – who don't see any reason to stay on one side of the line. There are many people who strive to stay on the right side of the line but have the perspective that it is restraining their freedom, so they try to get as close to it as they possibly can without crossing it.

Then there are people who see the line and know it was not put there to keep them from freedom, but to give them freedom. This line teaches them how to love God, themselves, and others with all their heart, mind, and strength (because that, in essence, is the Law, right?). Instead of dwelling on how to get as close to the line as they possibly can, these people turn around and see all the freedom God has put right there at their fingertips.

Instead of seeing “how far they can go without actually having sex” with their boyfriend or girlfriend, just because the Bible does not condone sex outside of marriage, they enjoy the relationship they can have with one another, maybe really digging into those conversations they're not too distracted to have or delighting in simply holding each others' hand, because they recognize that that's the best way they can love one another.

Instead of not getting drunk just because the Bible says not to, they realize that their bodies are a temple of God and so truly enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and do what they can to cultivate their awareness of Him.

Instead of avoiding foul language just because the Bible says to, they hold their tongues because they are saving breath to find new words with which to praise the Lord, which not only glorifies Him but causes others to take notice that what comes out of their mouths is different from the way other people speak (I stand convicted; my mouth is not clean: I gossip, whine, and curse. But as I write this I am discovering a reason for watching my tongue that is grounded in my delight in the Lord. I hope to see change.).

Christianity is not about strident rules, but about a relationship with One who is perfect and can satisfy our every need and desire. It is about discovering that true life comes in and through and for Christ alone. It is about allowing Him to transform us so that our lives can reflect the one true God. It is about discovering the life-giving freedom to love Him, to love ourselves, and to love others.

The reality I live in is merely a shadow of what I've just written about, but I look forward to continuing in the process of being transformed by the renewing of my mind and discovering where His will and my desires are aligning. I hope and pray that you, also, will delight yourself in the Lord and see a radical difference in what you desire so that your life can point to Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Holy Trinity

This past spring YD Adventures had the honor of working with the 8th grade graduating class of Holy Trinity for a multi-day challenge course. We stayed at luxurious Camp Eagle Fern and ate delicious food cooked by their staff. It’s not often we’re this spoiled!

As the trip coordinator, I was the one who outlined what challenge course elements and other activities we would be doing throughout the trip. I started working on my itinerary by praying, “Lord, what would You have me do?” I felt a sense of urgency toward sharing the gospel with these students as soon as possible so, on the very first night, I planned a gospel presentation. After more prayer, I scheduled one of my coworkers – Dave – to be the one to share the good news with these students.

Dave did an amazing job, sharing the gospel interactively so students would realize that they need to make a personal decision to follow Jesus. My favorite part was when Jerry jumped up and said, “Dave, I’ve decided that you’re going to be a vegetarian!” Dave responded, “Well, Jerry, you can’t make that decision for me. I’m going to have to make it for myself.” Jerry said, “Oh, you mean I can’t decide for you whether or not you’re a vegetarian or whether or not you’re saved?” “That’s right, it’s a decision I need to make on my own for myself.”

We challenged students emotionally, physically, and spiritually throughout this trip. On the last day, we led the kids on a hike. Becky asked them to take a rock and think about what is keeping them from following Jesus, attaching that significance to the rock. When we got the top, we shared what keeps us from Jesus, and threw our rocks over the edge, declaring ourselves freed of that burden.

Later, as we looked over response cards from students, we found that 21 out of 22 students made a decision for Christ: 14 first-time commitments and 7 rededications. Praise the Lord!! What a harvest!

A Sory Shared

I have just gotten back from four days spent with students. I am slightly dazed but very happy; it was a good trip. “What makes a trip good,” you ask? A good trip is one in which the Lord takes the lead and students are invited and challenged to a lifelong journey in relationship with Christ and His church (it is our mission, after all).

We began with a day on the challenge course, moved on to rock climbing, enjoyed a day on the river, and capped it with a lovely hike. Interwoven into the trip were analogies, quiet times to read our Bibles, and shared testimonies.

The trip seemed to speed by. On the morning of the rock climbing day we had a glorious thunder and lightning storm (for those of you in OR, do you remember the storm on Monday morning? I’m not going to forget it!). We were on the east side of Mt Hood but caught a good bit of rain. No one complained; instead, everyone expressed awe and delight at the storm. By the time we left for the rock site, the storm was over and blue was filling the sky.

Every chance I got I spent talking to students, “Do you have any siblings?” “What are your top 5 favorite musicians?” For the incoming seniors, “Do you have any plans for after high school?” Questions like these reveal what students home lives are like, what they’re filling their minds with, and whether or not they’re thinking about their futures, as well as a host of other details. It also helps build rapport between us and the students.

That evening I was given the opportunity to share my testimony. I shared with students the brokenness that I’d come from and the life that knowing Jesus had brought me. I shared about my current struggle with depression, and the hope and joy I’m discovering in the midst of it.

After I shared, we sat around the camp fire. One of the girls – we’ll call her Sarah – approached me and asked if she could speak to me. I could tell she was agitated. “Sure,” I said, “Do you want to go for a walk?” She said yes, and we walked away. Almost immediately Sarah began crying, telling me that she felt she could relate to my testimony, then poured out to me the story of her life. I listened carefully as she spoke but in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Oh no! What do I say? God, please give me wisdom.” It was humbling to be singled out for a conversation of this magnitude.

Sarah was looking for someone to listen to her, to sympathize with her struggles, and agree that what she’s struggling with is hard. She did ask for advice on how to grow closer to God, and I was more than willing to share a few simple ideas: some books that might make the Bible more interesting and a CD of scripture set to music. I also encouraged her to make time to read her Bible. Before we rejoined the group, I asked Sarah if I could pray for her. We stood there under the darkening sky, arms around each others’ shoulders, and I prayed that the Lord would draw her close, comfort her, and continue molding her into a Godly woman.

It is amazing to me that, in recycling my pain, Sarah was able to relate to me and find the courage to talk about her struggles. It reminds me of the importance of sharing our burdens with others because, in doing so, we are giving them permission to share their burdens with us. Praise the Lord for our burdens and thus our opportunities to connect with others in their pain.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


This was a homework assignment for counseling. I just thought I'd share. :)


She jerked awake at the sound of her alarm clock and groaned. She’d already hit the snooze button twice; she’d better just get up this time. She stretched, and then rolled her feet onto the floor, wiping the sleep from her eyes. A new day. Ugh.

In the bathroom, Ray Ann took stock of herself as the water in the shower heated up. Two arms, two legs, the proper number of fingers and toes. Hair still reddish and curly, mussed from sleep. Eyes still brown. Yup, another typical day.

After the shower, Ray Ann headed back to her bedroom. As she opened the door, her eyes caught on the treasure chest placed in the corner of her room. She smiled whimsically to herself, knowing what was in there. She approached the chest reverently, settling down on her knees before it. She opened it and looked longingly at the contents: one belt, a breastplate, shoes, helmet, shield, and sword. She had received these items when she had pledged her life to the King, though not in order to defend His life; He needed no defense. It was part of her inheritance upon joining His family, and she was told to wear it and stand firm.

At first she had put it on every morning. It felt clumsy and awkward and made her feel a little silly. She couldn’t seem to learn to wear it skillfully. For awhile she just carried it around with her but it was heavy and seemed to do her no good so, finally, reluctantly, she’d stopped getting it out of the treasure chest every morning, stopped putting it on, stopped trying to learn how to wear it; she had failed.

Today, as she gazed upon it, she ran her hands over it gently, remembering.

One morning after she had stopped wearing the armor, her beloved King had come to her. She had fallen on her face in fear and wonder but He had drawn her up on His lap. “Ray Ann,” He said, “Do you know that I love you?”

“Yes, my Lord,” she’d responded.

“Do you believe it is the Truth?”

“Of course I do.”

“Do you believe that nothing can separate you from My love?”

“Yes, yes I do,” she had said, eagerly.

“Child, take this belt of Truth and remember always that I am for you.” So saying, He had buckled the belt around her waist.

“Ray Ann, did you exchange the filthy garments of your past transgressions for the bright breastplate of My righteousness?”

“I did, My Lord.”

“Do you understand that My righteousness was bought for you through the blood of My Son?”

“Yes, Lord, I do.”

“Put this breastplate on and remember that you are not wearing your past mistakes, but My righteousness.”

“Yes, Lord.” He had assisted her in buckling the breastplate in place.

“Ray Ann, do you know that, wherever you go, you take My peace with you?”

“I’m not sure I understand that, my Lord.”

“That’s ok, child. Slip on these shoes and know that, as you live your life, if you praise My name, many of the people I place in your path will come to understand that I sent My Son in order to reconcile them to Myself. Will you do that?”

“Yes, Lord, I promise.”

“Ray Ann, do you know what pleases Me more than anything?”

“What, Lord?”

“Faith. Take this shield and remember to lift it up when My enemy attacks you with his lies. Have faith that I have done everything in My power – My almighty, infinite power – to make you Mine and he can do nothing to change that.”

“Yes, Lord, I will do that.”

“Ray Ann, do you believe that My Son’s blood has saved you?”

“I believe it, Lord.”

“When you first came to Me, you were sealed by My Holy Spirit. This helmet represents that anointing; it is the Helmet of Salvation.” He had gently placed the helmet upon her head; she could feel it pressed firmly against her forehead.

“Thank You, my Lord,” she whispered.

“With the anointing of My Spirit comes the ability to learn how to use the Sword of the Spirit. This, child, is My word. Keep these words on your heart by meditating on them, memorizing them, and sharing them with other people. This is the way you practice sword fighting.” He had placed His sword in her hands and she held it reverently.

“I will do it, Lord. I will work hard to learn how to wield Your sword.”

“Lastly, child…” He paused.

“Yes, my Lord? Anything.”

“Call Me Father. You are My child. You may call upon Me for anything. And please ask; I want to give good gifts to My children. I am generous and full of lovingkindness. Remember these things always. I am never far, Beloved.”

As the memory faded, she continued, for a moment, to kneel before the treasure chest, stroking the armor and smiling to herself. Then she stood and reached resolutely into the chest, picked up the Belt of Truth, and buckled it around her waist. Next, the Breastplate of Righteousness was put in place. Then she slipped on the Shoes that prepared her to spread the gospel of peace. Next, she picked up the Shield of Faith and the Sword of the Spirit. And the Helmet of Salvation, well, that never came off; it was a part of her now, a seal that marked her as a Child of God. Thus crowned and garbed, Ray Ann boldly strode from her room.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lonely: An Invitation

I felt loneliness slip over me like a too-small frock; it made me feel tight, trapped, inhibited. I had done something stupid again. What a loser! What an idiot! Am I destined always to push others away? Am I such a jerk, such a coward? Will no one ever know me as the person I long to be?

I railed against my cage, screamed to be heard. This is not who I am! Listen! Please listen! Yet what does it matter who listens? Loneliness is not caused by a lack of listeners but by the inability to know myself, share that intimacy with others and, in turn, know them. I am misunderstood because I cannot understand; lost in a darkness created by my own blindness.

Yet the Bible clearly says, “Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. (Psalm 139:12)” So at least there is One who can see into my darkness, One who knows me.

The other day I realized that if I have given all of me to my God, then He owns even my loneliness. Doesn’t that mean my loneliness is shared? At that point, it becomes a little less lonely. And lest I think I am entirely misunderstood, I need only stretch my mind as far as my Bible, and remember how alone Jesus was as He walked the path to Calvary with the blood-stained cross upon His shoulders. No one stuck by Him; no one knew Him; no one wanted to be known by Him. Even God abandoned Him. It was the loneliest moment in all of history.

I knelt down and I stretched out my hand. It did not touch flesh but, instead, found my guitar. With that I can play music; I can worship the One who walked the loneliest road, and triumphed over darkness so I can forever be united to my Father. Loneliness, after all, is a call to worship, an invitation to seek the Creator’s heart in order to know my own. I can offer up my loneliness, this too-small frock and, in exchange, receive a well-fitted garment with plenty of room to breathe, grow, and live.

As the new garment settles over me, the panic subsides. The darkness fades and the light reveals that the cage I rail against is not even locked; I can leave as I please. Now it is up to me. Will I embrace the freedom offered me as a child of God or will I waste my life in a cage? Will I hide myself behind the loneliness or will I allow Him to use it to show me myself, so I can be known and, in turn, know?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-24

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

I just finished “The Holiness of God” recently and I thought I’d write up a quick “report” about it, though I didn’t think of it until after I finished the book so I’m not equipped to do a lengthy, in-depth critique. I’ll just share the two things that stood out the most.

In the chapter “Holy, Holy, Holy” Sproul teaches out of Isaiah 6:

“Isaiah explained it this way: ‘My eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.’ He saw the holiness of God. For the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was.” p 45-46

I LOVE this. It is only through knowing God that we come to an understanding of who we are. In Proverbs we read, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). Or, as A.W. Tozer says: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (Knowledge of the Holy, p 1).

Know God, know God, know God. When we have a true grasp of who God is, we are humbled and no longer feel as though we have any right to judge anyone else, for we understand that no one measures up to His holiness (Psalm 143:2, Romans 3:23), especially ourselves. At the same time, when we truly know God, we know that what He says about us is the ultimate truth about us, and we learn that we are His beloved Children (John 1:12, Romans 8:16, 1 John 3:1), His created image on earth (Genesis 1:26, 2:7), and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

The other thing that stood out to me in this book is from the very last chapter, “God in the Hands of Angry Sinners”:

“[Semi-Pelagianism] entertains delusions about man’s ability to incline himself to God, to make ‘decisions’ to be born again. It declares that fallen man who is at enmity with God can be persuaded to be reconciled even before his sinful heart is changed. It has people who are not born again seeing a kingdom Christ declared could not be seen and entering a kingdom that cannot be entered without rebirth. Evangelicals today have unconverted sinners who are dead in trespasses and sin bringing themselves to life by choosing to be born again. Christ made it clear that dead people cannot choose anything, that flesh profits nothing and that a person must be born of the Spirit before he can even see the kingdom of God, let alone enter it. The failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God. If that one point were grasped, there would be no more talk of mortal enemies of Christ coming to Jesus by their own power” p 232.

I have no idea what to make of this. As far as I know, my whole job relies on our preaching the Gospel and giving students the chance to make decisions for Christ. If Sproul is right, are these “decisions” a load of BS?

I looked up “Pelagianism” on one of my favorite websites, , and found an article by Bob Deffinbaugh on “The Helplessness of Humanity”. In it he says:

“Because it is God Who saves men, we may proclaim the gospel boldly knowing that those whom He has chosen will be saved. And when we pray, we need not pray that men will have the intellectual ability to believe, or that their wills may be open to divine instruction, but that God will give them life, effectually call them, and draw them to Himself. If it is ultimately God Who saves men, then we can plead with Him for the souls of men, knowing His desire to save (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4), knowing He delights to answer our prayers (1 John 5:14-15), and knowing He is able to save any whom He chooses (cf. Acts 9:1-22)… In evangelism, as in every area of Christian living, we are never commanded to be successful, but only to be submissive to His will and obedient to His word (Isaiah 6:8-10).”

So perhaps the idea isn’t that sharing the gospel and giving people an opportunity to respond is useless but that we should share the gospel and then trust God to do the work He promises to do and is already doing. This certainly seems to line up with what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” Even our faith in the risen Savior is a gift from God’s own hand.

I’m still unable to fully articulate what I think about this, probably because I’m not fully sure what I believe about it. I welcome your thoughts and sharing of scripture, fellow gift-receivers of God.