How My Anatomy Class Taught Me About God

anatomy

anatomy

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Maddy Preston. I loved the science aspect of Maddy’s story today. We all need reminders from time to time that our body is wonderfully and beautifully made. Thank you for sharing your story today, Maddy!]

At the end of my senior year of high school, I stepped on the scale and discovered I was about 20 pounds overweight. Frustrated but unsurprised, I decided this needed to change and went on a fad diet, cutting out entire food groups in the hopes of feeling better about myself. While my initial intentions were healthy, the desire to become healthy quickly brought about a desire to be thin, and I launched myself into years of weight fluctuation due to strict dieting followed by periods of binge eating. I deluded myself into thinking that once I reached a certain weight, I would be satisfied, but 2 years later, I started my junior year of college 15 pounds lighter and every bit as insecure as I was when I first started.

I also started the year anxious. Anxious to take what most people consider the hardest class in my major—Human Anatomy. I had heard horror stories from my friends who had already taken it—spending every Friday night in the lab studying for the practical exams, failing tests they had studied so hard for, and passing out in the lab due to the smell of the preservatives and the sight of the cadavers.

But it was in one of my moments of anxiety that the Lord spoke to me. I was in the lab by myself one afternoon, studying the slides I would have to know for the quickly-approaching practical, when something in the atlas stuck out to me. It was about bone tissue, and how it has canals that transport blood vessels through the bones to provide them with nutrients. It hadn’t occurred to me that bones even needed a nutrient supply to begin with, but I realized then that God had designed every detail of my body to work together perfectly.

And I thought to myself, “Wow. God really knew what he was doing when he made me.”

This wasn’t the first time God had tried to tell me this. Over the past few years, he had spoken to me through friends, books, and pastors, trying to tell me this very fact. But I think it was in this moment, sitting alone in the lab, that I finally started to listen. And I kept listening. And he kept speaking. In that class, as well as in the physiology and biochemistry classes I took the following semester, I continued to learn about the biological processes occurring in my body that even the most experienced scientists couldn’t comprehend. My body did not exist for the sake of looking pretty. It was created by God for his glory.

Many times over the course of the year, I called to mind Job 38 and 39, when God responds to Job’s complaints by reminding him, without any sugar-coating, that He knows what He’s doing.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding,” he says in Job 38:4.

Learning about my body made me realize that I, like Job, have no understanding of the ways of God. Where was I when God laid the foundation of the earth, or even the foundation of my body? Where was I when he designed every intricate, incomprehensible detail of how my body would work? And furthermore, how could I dare to complain about my body and determine its worth by how much it weighed?

My epiphany in the anatomy lab was a far cry from the end of my struggle with food and my body. In fact, at the time I was on another restrictive diet that provided a temporary state of emotional security before deteriorating into a year of overeating, weight gain, and even counseling. But I think God used that temporary emotional security to speak to me during a time He knew I would listen. I would have been so much less likely to accept that message had I been in a season of overeating and self-deprecation.

I’m still a work in progress. There are days when I am tempted to take my eyes off of our indescribable Creator and put them on my appearance, to ignore all he’s taught me. But he is faithful. And he reminds me so frequently of how glorious he is and how futile it is to criticize what he has created and called “very good.”

Maddy Preston is a senior at Wheaton College (IL) majoring in Spanish & Applied Health Science. She is from the northern suburbs of Chicago and enjoys walking the streets of Chicago and exploring its neighborhoods. She loves reading cheesy thrillers, watching NBC comedies, and doing anything & everything with her family.

Continue Reading

My Modesty Story

modesty story

 

modesty story

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Hannah Anderson. Today Hannah is sharing her personal modesty story — and I commend her for that. Everyone has different modesty standards today; let’s face it, there’s no cut and dry rules. Hannah felt led to share and I love the lesson in her story! Thank you Hannah for being brave!]

A twenty-something Christian woman who always always held herself up to Christian standards of purity and modesty (sort of, more on that later) and wore her father’s purity ring he gave her a decade prior with pride. This woman always liked to talk about how above the world and the pleasures of the flesh she was and how sorry she was for other women who destroyed their lives by going outside God’s boundaries.

However, this woman was self-conscious. She thought herself to be homely and overweight. She noticed that no guys ever paid attention to her except to be her friend and she pretended this didn’t bother he because that is not what a Christian woman should care about. She also noticed that homely girls could get attention from guys by dressing immodestly, but she deigned not to go down that road because of her faith.

This woman met a man at work she really liked. He was an independent contractor working there temporarily. They talked all of the time on lunch break but he never pressed it further. He was about to leave and the woman was tired of being just a friend so she did something. She bought some new clothes that were still very modest but could be quickly made immodest. The lady would be dressed just as demurely and modestly as ever except when talking to the man on lunchbreak when she made sure he saw more than he could handle.

The woman rationalized this behavior by telling herself she was still “dressing modestly.”

The man saw what she was showing and lusted after her. After a week he asked the woman out. The woman was happier than ever but she felt very guilty about using immodesty so he would lust.

Well, you can probably guess the woman is me and the man is now my husband. We have talked about this and while he did lust after me that was not the reason he asked me out. He said he always liked me but was too shy to ask me out and wanted to wait until he would never have to see me again in case I said no. He said he felt just as guilty about lusting after me as I did about being immodest. I, of course apologized to him just like I did to God so many times.

We should never break God’s commandments no matter what advantages we might procure, for he is the one who knows what is best, and sometimes, God in his graciousness gives us what we want despite messing up. Finally, we need to obey the spirit of the law and not just the ‘rules’ that we can keep while violating the principles behind them.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

hannah andersonI grew up South of Atlanta and got a degree in philosophy from Emory University where I learned to think deep thoughts while accruing even bigger debts. I now live North of Atlanta with my husband and son.

Continue Reading

Take Good Care of Yourself!

take-good-care-of-yourself[Guest post by Kunbi Ayo-Okanlawon: I found Kunbi’s post about the unhealthy fitness trends on social media very timely and extremely important for our readers. Remember, take good care of yourself!]

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”1 Timothy 4:8 (NLT)

I love fitness and I’ve been called a fitness fanatic a number of times. More importantly, I love encouraging and inspiring people on their health and fitness journey. Being fit and healthy is a good thing, and Apostle Paul alluded to that fact in 1 Timothy 4:8. Eating healthy (and within reason) and staying physically fit ensures that we can easily carry out our day-to-day tasks whilst also doing the tasks God has set for us to do.

In recent months, I have noticed a growing trend in the world of fitness where people are deeply involved in physical fitness but neglect other aspects of their health. A lot of people are suffering from eating disorders in the name of fitness and some aspects of fitspiration (fitness inspiration) on social media do not help matters.

Many people get carried away by what they see and do not take the time to assess and pull in the reins when they are overloaded with pictures of people with 6-pack abs, “thigh gaps”, ripped muscles, etc. So many people in the fitness community are suffering from depression and a number of suicides have been reported.

Orthorexia and anorexia appear to be a mainstay nowadays, and it is heart breaking to read stories of women who started out trying to lose weight and got completely obsessed with it; next thing they know, they are suffering from orthorexia, bulimia or anorexia! Orthorexia, bulimia and anorexia are all eating disorders. In the United Kingdom, bulimia and anorexia are considered serious mental health conditions.

Orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating, which can easily spiral out of control. Bulimia is characterised by binge eating followed by intentional purging. People with anorexia intentionally restrict the amount of food they eat in the bid to keep their body weight as low as possible.

Much as I love fitness, I am very particular about other aspects of my life that need attention – my physical, mental and spiritual health. Fitness is not worth it if we develop a mental illness from it.

It’s not worth it if by working out and trying to be fit or lose weight, we are letting go of our spiritual and mental health.

Apostle Paul says in that 1 Timothy 4 verse that training for godliness is much better than physical training. Why? Because it promises benefits in this life and in the life to come. What’s the point of building our physical muscles when our spiritual muscles are soft and flabby? What’s the use of being able to flex our physical muscles when we cannot flex our spiritual muscles?

As we spend time doing our workouts and keeping fit, let us spend even more time in God’s word and in His presence in order to grow our spiritual muscles.

Exercising is awesome and it’s something we should all do BUT while we work at keeping fit and looking good, let us not neglect other more important aspects of our lives. It’s easy to obsess with food and fitness; I have been in that situation myself where I was becoming obsessed with logging and tracking every single kilogram of my food. But, I have always had a rule in life and it’s this:

The moment I notice that I am getting a little obsessed about something, I cut it out of my life, no questions asked and no mulling over it.

This has worked for me in many ways over the years and it is something that you can give a try too. More importantly, hand it over to God by praying about it.

God is an amazing God and we can turn to Him for help and direction in EVERY area of our lives. You can also talk to someone you trust and be accountable to them. Please do not suffer in silence and please, take good care of yourself.

 

kunbi_ayookanlawonMy name is Kunbi Ayo-Okanlawon. I am a medical writer, serial blogger, wife and mama of a boisterous 3+ year old girl. I have a passion for writing and I love encouraging people with what I have learnt, what I am still learning and what God lays on my heart. I blog at www.kunbibalogun.com and www.natsandfitness.com

 

Would you like to “Become a Diva” and guest post on Devotional Diva? Follow this link!

Continue Reading

Shame, Our Souls, and the Gospel

shame

[Guest Post by Kimberly Davidson Campbell – I have never met a woman who had it all together on the inside. Maybe you do a good job or holding everything together on the outside, but there’s always traces of shame that tries to steal our joy. I appreciate Kim’s words of encouragement today. Like fresh water in a desert oasis of my heart. Receive them today with love!]

As I sit in the passenger seat of my husband’s now trip-cluttered (otherwise immaculate) Camry, I am intrigued and overwhelmed by all the areas of shame that plague me. 

These areas of shame don’t just plague me — but in some way — they plague most of the women we know.

According to author and blogger Shauna Niequist in Bread & Wine, most women are battling shame in two areas: how their bodies look and how their homes look. I would like to add one as well: how their children look (or act).

Here are some of those examples in my own life:

+ I’m ashamed that my husband is unable to give me a piggy-back ride or carry me over the threshold.  This isn’t because he isn’t strong.  He is.  I love his arms and how strong they are. It is because I weigh almost 40 lbs more than him.

+ I am ashamed because of my flabby body.  It is now covered with stretchmarks from two kids and losing large amounts of weight several times. I wouldn’t trade my boys for anything – but I don’t like stretchmarks.

+ I am ashamed because my closet is a mess and my husband’s is all in order and tidy.

+ I am ashamed because I struggle to keep our home as clean as the mister would like it.  So I come unglued when he suggests that he could help do some of the dishes or vacuum. Shame affects pride.

+ In high school, I was ashamed as a part of the cheerleading squad and traveling singing group because the order size for my uniform or dress was always bigger than everyone else’s.

–        I struggle when I am in public with my toddler and he is pitching a temper tantrum because he doesn’t want to do something.  My parenting skills are not what they should be if he is misbehaving.

+ I (wrongfully) pride myself in that my boys have never had to have their nursery number put up on the screen during church for me to come and get them. I would die in horror if that ever happened.

You may or may not be able to resonate with any of these examples, but I’m sure you have examples of your own.

Maybe it’s why you can’t look at pictures taken long ago. Or why you keep private stashes of House Beautiful or Shape for midnight reading. Maybe your shame in your body comes from a tattoo from another time in your life you would gladly remove if you could. Or maybe it’s the scars from an abortion or eating disorder.

Shame is not only an indicator of the outward home or clothing size or perfect children. Shame reaches our souls and steals our joy!

Shame also reveals many other truths about our hearts:

  1. It reveals pride. I’ve mentioned this before, but pride is so ugly in a believer’s heart. Everything we have ever received is from God and is not of our own doing. So, when we strive to keep appearances up for the sake of making ourselves look better – it is not a helpful tool in sharing the truth of God’s Word.  (Ephesians 2.8-10; Isaiah 2.17)
  2. Comparison is a nasty habit. Whenever we compare our lives with those of others it reveals an ungrateful heart to the Lord. It is wrecking friendships as well. Oh, be grateful in your heart for all that God has done for you and in you! He works all things together for our good and His glory! (Romans 8.18-39; Colossians 3.15-17)
  3. Both of these areas of our hearts reveal a lack of love for others. One of the two commandments we are given in the Word is love your neighbor as yourself. Friendships are one of most important things in my life.  I love the sweet friends that God has blessed me with over the years and in every place I’ve lived. But, when I let sin hinder those relationships, it brings bitterness that takes forgiveness to overcome – by the truth of the Gospel.  (1 Corinthians 13)

The Gospel – the life and work of Jesus Christ – as it does for every area of our lives, has a direct impact on our life and soul of shame.

  1. Jesus doesn’t love you because you are skinny or wear a certain size. I remember Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada boasting in the fact that she was now in a size 4. But, her life wasn’t any happier than it was when she was slightly bigger. Jesus work in our lives often to heal us from an addiction to the scale or the tag on the skirt.
  2. The gospel isn’t yours only if you have a farmhouse table in your dining room or your baseboards never have a speck of dust on them. The gospel is ours not because of anything we have done – but because Jesus has done everything.
  3. Christ is ours no matter how our children behave – or misbehave! Claim that truth!
  4. Christ frees us! Romans 8.1 is a verse that every believer needs to claim for their lives as a mantra. We are free. There is no condemnation!

The next time you find it hard to believe that you are more than your house, your outward appearance, or any other area you find yourself ashamed of – rest in the doneness of the Gospel of Jesus! And boast in that!

kimberlycampbellKimberly Davidson Campbell is a wife, mother, freelance writer and photographer who resides in the Atlanta area with her family. She graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity in Education. Her passions include life-on-life discipleship, speaking, teaching, writing, cooking, being healthy, and photography – and mostly spending time with her husband and two very active sons! She blogs regularly at http://kd316.com.

[photo credit: Jims_photos via photopin cc]

Continue Reading

Don't Throw Yourself Away

throw yourself away

[Guest Post by Wendy Griffith – I really resonate with her story and not throwing your life away. If you find yourself struggling with your worth in Christ today, be encouraged! You are not alone.]

My heart was crushed—but somehow I was still breathing.

It had been just a week since my breakup with a man whom I had once believed was the love of my life when Dr. Pat Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, called me into his office.

Like a concerned father, Pat gently commanded, “Wendy, come in here. Tell me what happened.” The compassion in his voice caused the tears that were already close to the surface to come flooding down my cheeks. I reached for the box of tissues on his desk and told him everything. Robertson, a man who has sat down with presidents and kings, a man who once ran for president of the United States and who formed a global media empire, wanted to hear about my heartbreak. I was deeply moved.

After I had finished talking, Pat gave me some heartfelt advice.

“Wendy, you are special. You are beautiful, and you are talented. Don’t throw yourself away!”

At the time I wasn’t quite sure what Pat meant by, “Don’t throw yourself away,” but apparently God wanted me to remember it, because Pat said it over and over during our short time together. “Don’t throw yourself away!” Later I figured it out. He meant, “Don’t settle. Don’t throw yourself away on a guy who is not worthy of you, because you are worth so much more than you realize.”

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13: 45-46).

Ladies, the Lord wants you to know that you are a pearl of great price, a treasure worth pursuing and protecting. You are worth fighting for and, like the pearl in the parable, worth everything it might cost a guy to obtain you. You are worth someone sacrificing his time, his routine, his comfort, his money, his whatever in order to have you. You are worth it!

One of the most inspiring love stories in the Bible is the story of Jacob and Rachel. In fact, it may be one of the greatest love stories of all time.

Jacob had been sent by his father Isaac to find a wife from a relative’s family. He traveled a long distance to his mother’s family, and when he met Rachel at a well, for him it was love at first sight. Jacob single-handedly moved the great stone cover off the well, perhaps trying to impress Rachel:

“When Jacob saw Rachel, daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud” (Gen. 29:10-11, NIV).

Interestingly, it wasn’t Rachel who cried but Jacob. He seemed to know with certainty that Rachel would be his bride. Rachel ran to her father and told him about the young traveler. Rachel’s father, Laban, ran out to meet Jacob, and then he hugged him and kissed him and invited him to his home.

Jacob stayed with Laban’s family and within a month fell deeply in love with Rachel. He was determined to marry her. But before he would allow Jacob to do so, Rachel’s father convinced Jacob to work for him for seven years. Jacob agreed. Jacob was so in love with Rachel that the Bible says the time flew by: “They seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Gen. 29:20, NIV). Wow, talk about romantic! I’d like to see a modern romantic comedy come even close to depicting this kind of love and sacrifice.

Jesus Is the Ultimate Example

There are many examples of men who “paid the price” for their brides, but the apostle Paul says that the greatest example of sacrificial love is Jesus: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).

What kind of love sacrifices its very life so that we might live? The love of Jesus does—and the Bible calls men to love their wives with that same kind of love:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself (Eph. 5:25-28, emphasis added).

You are a prize to be won, and so am I! You are worth fighting for. You are not only worthy of love, but you are worthy of “I love you” period.

You are a royal daughter of the Most High King, a princess in the palace, a pearl of great price and beautiful beyond measure.

Wendy GriffithWendy Griffith is an anchor and senior reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network and cohost of CBN’s flagship show, The 700 Club, with CBN founder Dr. Pat Robertson. She also co-anchors two other shows for CBN: Christian World News and CBN Newswatch. Wendy is the coauthor, with Craig von Buseck, of Praying the News. More information can be found on YouAreAPrize.com.

(Adapted from You Are a Prize to Be Won!, by Wendy Griffith. Copyright (2014), Gospel Light/Regal Books, Ventura, CA 93003. Used by permission.)

[Photo: thephotographymuse via photopin cc]

*****If you would like to advertise on DevotionalDiva.com for $30 for 30 days, please click here for details.

Continue Reading

Mental Health and the Church {With Video Links}

mental health and the church 9

Recently, I attended the Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church (#Hope4MH). 

The good news is that they just posted ALL the videos from the plenary and breakout sessions. You can watch them on YouTube here. If you struggle with mental health or know someone who does, please watch and share!

It was hosted by the Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, Bishop Kevin Vann of Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and Steve Pitman of NAMI-OC. You can download the conference workbook for free here.

According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year — that’s one in four adults and one in ten children. People of every race, age, religion or economic status are affected.

One in four adults.
I know because I am one of them. 

From the age of 10, I experienced signs of anxiety. In my 20s, I was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Now in my early 30’s, I am on medication (Lexapro) to help control my anxiety and panic attacks. It wasn’t until July of last year that I felt comfortable enough to blog about my mental illness, anxiety diagnosis, and which medication I’m taking. I wrote about it here and here.

Maybe it’s because I felt the freedom to share or maybe it’s because I felt that no one else was sharing about mental illness that I finally spoke out.

When I heard about the Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church I knew I had to go! I knew, however, that this conference did not come without a cost. My sympathies go out to Rick and Kay Warren in the loss of their son — and I don’t want people to miss this. Through their pain they are helping others navigate their pain.

I.
Am.
Truly.
Grateful.

If you struggle or suffer from mental illness or know and love someone who does, this conference is revolutionary and I hope you will feel the freedom to get the help you need!

The Conference Main Sessions included below WITH video links:

+ The Role of the Church in Mental Health with Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D., D.D. and Pastor Rick Warren, D.Min. – WATCH HERE
+ Integrating Physical, Spiritual, and Mental Health with Aaron Kheriary, M.D., Father Luke Dysinger, M.D., D.Phil., and Eric L. Johnson, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Helping the Helpers: Crisis Management for Church Staff with Tom Okamoto, M.D., Louise Dunn, D.Min., Chuck Hannaford, Ph.D., and Teresa “Tita” Smith, MSW, LCSW. – WATCH HERE
+ Resourcing the Church with Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D., Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div., Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div., Steve Pitman, and Tom Lambert. – WATCH HERE
+ Standing Together in Suffering with Kay Warren, Amy Simpson, MBA, Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D., D.D., and Pastor Rick Warren, D.Min. – WATCH HERE

The Workshops included:

+ The Lay-Person’s Faith-Based Response to People in Crisis by Louise Dunn, D.Min. – WATCH HERE
+ How to Launch a Support Group and Counseling Ministry in Your Church by Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div. – WATCH HERE
+ Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis by Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div. – WATCH HERE
+ Stigma or Stigmata: Helping the Church Rethink Mental Illness by Eric L. Johnson, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Christianity and Depression by Aaron Kheriaty, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Understanding Women’s Mental Health: Is There Really a Difference? by Shari Muis, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Living With Bipolar Illness by Tom Okamoto, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ El Papel De La Iglesia Sobre La Salud by Hermina Shea-Martinez, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ The Spiritual and Emotional Roots and Treatment of Addiction by John Townsend, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Saving Lives One Community at a Time by Jessica Van Der Stad – WATCH HERE
+ The Most Important Lesson Learned from 87,000 Brain Scans by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Celebrate Recovery and Dual Diagnosis by Pastor John Baker – WATCH HERE
+ Helping Helpers Manage Crisis in the Church: Building a Bridge With Professionals by Chuck Hannaford, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Understanding and Helping Loved Ones With Borderline Personality Disorder by Robin L. Kissell, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Welcomed and Valued: Building Faith Communities of Hope and Support by Tom Lambert – WATCH HERE
+ Abogando Por Personas Que Tienen un Diagnostico De Salud Mental Y Equipando La Iglesia, Las Families, La Comunidad Y A Los Profesionales Que Trabajan Con Ellos by Cecilia Mercado – WATCH HERE
+ Therapeutic Partnerships For Recovery by Steve Pitman – WATCH HERE
+ Food and the Body: 3 Steps to Healing Eating Disorders Through Community by Constance Rhodes – WATCH HERE
+ Troubled Families: Support for Loved Ones Affected by Mental Illness by Amy Simpson, MBA – WATCH HERE
+ Re-Think Mental Illness: The Role of the Church in Recovery by Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE

I took a lot of notes during the sessions and attended two of the breakout sessions listed (we were only allowed two). Here are some of the most impacting bits I wanted to pass along:

mental health and the church 13“The Church is supposed to be a place of hope. I’m not okay, you’re not okay, but God’s okay so we’re okay.” – Rick Warren

“Your chemistry is not your character. Your illness is not your identity.” – Rick Warren

“Our faith does not promise life without suffering, but it does offer hope. Science alone can’t provide us with all the answers.” – Aaron Kheriaty, M.D.

“We need to make a mess. Roll up our sleeves in the lives of others. The shepherds need to smell like the sheep.” – Father Luke Dysinger, M.D., D.Phil

mental health and the church 14“Hope brings healing to my brokenness. If you’re struggling I urge you to reach out. Revealing you’re feeling is the beginning of healing.” – Rick Warren

“Do your own recovery.” – Tom Okamoto, M.D.

“Compassion plus resiliency = model of active listening.” – Louise Dunn, D.Min

“Don’t say, ‘you just need to pray more to get over your mental illness’ to someone because it is hurtful.” – Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D.

“Create a culture of openness in your church. Give testimonies every week as part of your sermon.” – Rick Warren

” The issue is never the issue. Start with the easiest change first. It gives you hope for the next win.” – Rick Warren

“26% over 18 year olds will have a diagnosable illness this year.” – Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D.

mental health and the church 3

“I have bipolar disorder. I am not biopolar. There is a big difference.” – Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

“The most courageous thing I’ve done in my life was continue to live when I wanted to die.” Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

“You can borrow hope. The more hope you have, you can give away. If you’re in hell right now, don’t stop — you’re in hell. Keep going!” – Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

“You need a safety net of ‘CARE.’ C stands for Community (Galatians 6:2). A stands for Assistance (James 2:15, 16). R stands for recovery. E stands for Education.” – Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div.

mental health and the church 1“Turn your anger into advocacy.” Tom Lambert

“Women are twice as likely to attempt suicide more than men, but men complete suicide more than women.” – Shari Muir, M.D.

“Weight gain (besides pregnancy) is the second most likely reason women stop taking psychiatric meds against their doctors advice.” – Shari Muir, M.D.

“The person with a mental illness is not the only one who needs help or needs to change.” – Amy Simpson, MBA

“40% of homeless people have mental illness and 20% of homeless people have a serious mental illness.” – Amy Simpson, MBA

So what’s your story? There are pastors, authors, speakers, professors, and volunteers who were willing to come forward to admit things they’ve never said before. I appreciate their honesty and willingness to do so. Because of their bravery — I will continue to be brave and share my story.

mental health and the church 11“My brain doesn’t always work right but God always works right.” – David Mandani

Resources to Get Help:

+ Get Help Now! – Call 2-1-1 to find a Mental Health Practitioner
+ Saddleback Church Support Groups –  (949) 609-8392 or saddleback.com/care/supportgroups
+ Celebrate Recoverywww.celebraterecovery.com
+ New Hope Crisis Counseling – (714) NEW-HOPE or www.newhopenow.org
+ NAMI National – (800) 950-6264 or www.nami.org
+ County Behavioral Health Information and Referral – (855) 625-4657
+ 24-Hour Crisis Prevention Hotline – (877) 727-4747
+ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – (800) SUICIDE
+ Veterans’ Crisis Line – (800) 273-8255

“The art of medicine [has been granted us] as a pattern for the healing of the soul, to guide us in the removal of excess and in the augmentation of what is deficient: it has been granted us by the God who directs our whole life.” – Basil of Caesarea (ca 330-379)

Prayer in Times of Despair (St. Ignatius of Loyola)

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things 

Wherever you are on the journey to mental health, I pray that God be with you.

mental health and the church renee fisher.jpgIf there’s anything more I can do to help serve you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me or book me to speak at your next event.

*Thanks to Saddleback Church for allowing me to be a blogger for this event. I am in their debt!

*To see what others are saying about #Hope4MH go here.

Continue Reading

When it's Easier to Declare Defeat

declare defeat

[Guest Post by Mara Rose – I am so encouraged by her story because someday if my husband and I decide to have kids I will have to go off my medications, and that will not be easy. I love what she says that God still performs medical miracles. Believe it! Be encouraged today my friends.]

Sometimes it’s easier to declare defeat prior to trying, rather than to try and fail later.

There are so many things that we can worry about in life. And our worries can be amplified when we decide to have children. This past summer, my husband and I decided that we felt ready to start a family. Unfortunately, my ability to carry a child was still questionable.

My issue with doubt and self-defeat stems from 15 years of chronic pain and a questionable reproductive disease known as Endometriosis. I’ve spent years on medications to try and help me function “normally”.

I have often thought that my body should come with an instruction manual. Thankfully my Maker knows the number of hairs on my head, He knows my fears, He knows my desires, He knit me together in the womb, He knows it all.

Yet, I still had doubt.

What would happen to my body if I went off medications? What would happen to my pain if I got pregnant? Not only that, but statistics say women with Endometriosis can take up to 1 year to get pregnant and some aren’t able to conceive at all.

The answers were uncertain — which is when we took a leap of faith and gave it a try.

My first thought after reading the positive pregnancy test was, “Holy cow! This is a miracle.” My second thought was, “I need to talk to my doctor”.

Joking aside, it is incredible to know that despite my doubts and fears — God blesses us anyway!

In the first several weeks of this pregnancy, I was gripped with anxiety and uncertainty. I felt better after speaking with my doctor about how to treat my pain while pregnant, but I still had fear.

One day I was overcome with emotions (and hormones). My husband lovingly took my hand and said, “You aren’t the first person to have chronic pain and be pregnant. Trust God to take care of it.”

Even with the blessing of this miracle baby growing inside me, I was focused on trying to control my pain instead of giving it over to the Lord.

Our baby isn’t here yet but I am already learning so many things about myself through this pregnancy. Everything has improved since my first trimester. There are still challenging pain and energy days, but I’m learning to cope with it. Most importantly, I have to say that my faith in the Lord has grown immensely. He showed me that His Plan and His Power is far greater than any statistic or prognosis.

No matter what your doctor has told you, medical miracles still happen every day! Believe it.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:4-7, NIV).

Mara_RoseMara Rose is an up-and-coming author and Christian writer. She has endured years of chronic pain and strives to be a light for Jesus even on the darkest days. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Jonathan, who serves in the military and is an OIF Veteran. You can read more from Mara on her blog,wordsbymara.com, or on Twitter @MsMaraRose.

[photo credit: lanuiop via photopin cc]

Continue Reading

Lessons Learned from Fasting

lessons learned from fasting

[Guest Post by Elise Boggs – We met many years at North Coast Church. She worked on staff with the College ministry, and I was serving as a volunteer in the 20-something ministry. It’s pretty amazing to see how far she has come. If you find yourself like Elise, unfamiliar with fasting — I think you will like to hear her story.]

Miracles do happen.

Last year was a challenging year. I made the decision to leave my role in ministry, I ended a two year relationship, and I became overwhelmed with anxiety to the point of being issued a mandatory three month sabbatical by my doctor.

I felt like a stranger in my own skin.

My identity as a visible leader in ministry was traded for anonymity. The hope of an enduring relationship was replaced with the issuance of metaphorical “Go back to Start” card. My challenges with anxiety bubbled to the surface the day I went into work and shortly thereafter returned to the parking lot because of a panic attack.

I thought I was dying — in a sense I was. There were ways I was functioning that did not work anymore, ways that needed to die.

The first sermon of the new year  I heard was based on Philippians 3:13 where Paul encourages us to forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. I decided to start the year off with a spiritual discipline I have always avoided.

Like people who say (those people being me) that they aren’t runners, I always believed I was not one of those people who could fast. I am a lightweight. two glasses of wine is my limit, energy drinks make me nauseous, and I once threw up Golden Spoon frozen yogurt because it was too sweet for me.

When I thought of fasting, I envisioned myself failing miserably, too weak and disoriented to grasp any spiritual insights.

Despite my hesitations, I felt a nudge to start this year differently and attempt a fast. To help me acclimate to this discipline, I chose the Daniel fast, which is a 21-day partial fast consisting of fruits, vegetables, water, nuts, beans, and whole grains. The only beverage permitted is water.

Here are three of the most significant lessons learned from fasting.

1. I can change. I am a foodie. I watch the Food Network and read cook books like novels. My friends know that if they are looking for a recommendation for a good place to eat, I have a mental file cabinet of every cuisine stored away for every occasion. I enjoy every kind of food and am every person’s easiest guest because I like everything.

Enjoying food is a good thing. Being addicted to certain things, especially those that aren’t good for you is another. My addiction? Starbucks! A single day does not pass that I don’t think about my next Starbucks beverage. My daily ritual consists of coffee at home in the morning to wake me up and an afternoon fix at Starbucks to keep me going.

2. It’s not you, it’s me. When you care for something, you protect it. This fast has caused me to be more discerning about what I do and do not allow into my body. When going out to eat with friends, I have had to stick by these values as I watch them enjoy my favorite coffee or bite into a delicious burger.

As the days passed and I remained committed, I noticed that I began to experience a care for myself and well being in a way that has been foreign for me. Cherishing the body God gave me has been a tangible way to show love to myself, a continual message of my value to be nourished and protected.

3. The best exercise of my self will is letting go. The book of Daniel illustrates a constant struggle between submission and power. Daniel is submissive to God and His ways of living. The kings of the time were interested in their own power and half hearted in their devotion to God, despite the miracles they witnessed in Daniel’s life. During this fast I realized I have a hard time submitting to God.

My fears whisper that if I surrender, I might get hurt. Like the kings of Babylon, I do many things, even good things in my own strength, but have not experienced the miracles Daniel did. I often wonder if miracles even still happen? I don’t want to get my hopes up, but deep down I do.

The focus of a fast is spiritual — it is not an excuse for a diet or vanity.

I have not stepped on a scale since I began the fast. Surrender and submission are often associated with weakness, but if I take God at His Word, He says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I have heard this verse, but I don’t know that I have lived this verse. I have a hunch it’s because I have not fully surrendered those areas in need of his grace and power and I have been sitting in the nosebleed section in the house of miracles.

I anticipated symptoms of withdrawal and probable failure, but to my surprise this has not been the case at all. God’s power is the reason this fast was easy. I have no other explanation for it. My willpower is less than stellar when it comes to food. Each time I drove past a Starbucks, His power kept me moving forward forgetting what was behind and moving towards a new future. When I was hungry, He gave me patience to prepare a meal and not worry that it was taking away from something more productive. Each time I smelled meat cooking or went out to eat with someone, God kept my thoughts fixed not on what I couldn’t have, but what I could have,  a second helping of Him.

I have struggled for freedom in so many areas without success and I believe God in His mercy allowed me to experienced freedom in this seemingly small way to give me confidence of His power in the other areas of my life that seem insurmountable.

He is teaching me that I can change!

I can be free from anxiety, depression, financial struggles, approval addiction, unhealthy relationships — with His help and doing it His way, I can be free.

Who knew being released from these small things would have larger implications? Romans 12:2 promises us that God can transform us into a new person by changing the way we think. During my fast, my thinking shifted from believing that I could not overcome deeply ingrained habits to being set free in a very short amount of time.

This has larger implications for so many areas of my life where I have been battered and bruised or compromised my values for the approval and acceptance of others. It is easiest to blame something external, but the truth is that I don’t believe that I have loved myself in a way that has let the good in and protects from the bad.

I have come to believe my challenges with anxiety are rooted in my own self-neglect. But there is hope!

Now that I have had a taste of what it looks and feels like to care for my body, I can begin learning what it means to live out the message of Proverbs 4:23 which says “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.”

Elise BoggsElise currently teaches at Chapman (Brandman) University in the MBA and Organizational Leadership programs. She also directs her own consulting practice specializing in leadership training, team and organizational development, and career and life coaching. Connect with Elise at {eliseboggsconsulting} at {gmail} dot {com}.

[Photo: Susan L., Flickr]

Continue Reading

Why Not Celebrate?

why-not-celebrate

[Guest Post by Heather Von St. James – When Cameron, Heather’s husband, reached out to me asking if he could help share his wife’s story — I was inspired. I wish all husbands were excited to celebrate life with their wives. Today, if you are struggling with life — why not celebrate? Don’t wait for tragedy to strike! Celebrate today.]

Fear – we’ve all faced a form of it at some point in our lives.

I’ve learned that your fears don’t define the person you are, but rather how you deal with them. Humor is the way that my husband Cameron and I handled one of the most terrifying and trying times in our lives.

In November of 2005, after a series of biopsies and other tests, I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. I was a candidate for a risky procedure called an extrapleural pneumonectomy – this was no routine surgery. It required the removal of my left lung, the pleura (the lining around the lung), the left half of my diaphragm, and the lining of my heart.

I was already overwhelmed and what made it worse was the fact that I was a new mom.

My daughter Lily would be turning six months old two days after my surgery. When I found out my surgery date was February 2nd, I nicknamed my tumor Punxsutawney Phil, or just Phil for short. I joked about when they removed the tumor, asking if it saw its shadow, would I have six more weeks of recovery? It took the seriousness of the procedure and made it not as scary.

Throughout all of this, my sister kept me laughing. Her and I share the same weird sense of humor and we can always make each other laugh with just a silly phrase or sound. My husband and sister started talking about how we should celebrate such a day.

If it was going to save my life, why not celebrate?

Now, we refer to February 2nd not as Groundhog Day, but LungLeavin’ Day — the day my lung left.

The basic idea of writing fears on a plate and smashing them into a fire during LungLeavin’ Day came from my sister, who had done firewalking. In firewalking, you write your fears on a plank of wood, throw it in the fire, and walk across it – very symbolic. We wanted to take a similar approach, but instead of wood, my husband came up with the idea of plate, and instead of actually walking through the fire, we would smash the plate.

From that moment a tradition was born.

On February 2nd, 2007, one year to the day since my surgery, my husband went out and bought two stoneware plates and a sharpie. We spent a few minutes writing our fears on them before venturing outside. It was bitterly cold that evening, but that didn’t stop us. Cams cleaned out the fire pit, and got a nice little fire going. We bundled up and went out to the fire and smashed our fears in the fire. It felt GOOD! We decided right then and there that we needed to share this with our friends and family.

The following year, we made it an official celebration, and every year since then our little party has grown to include over 75 friends and family who come to celebrate life with us.

Within these past few years, Cams and I felt the need to make a difference by using the occasion as a fundraiser for mesothelioma cancer. We donate all the money raised to the three organizations that have been such an important part of our lives. The International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization all played an important role of who we are and what we do.

LungLeavin’ Day is not just for cancer survivors or warriors, but also for everyone.

This year, we wanted to reach out to an even broader base of people, and besides webcasting the event live via my Facebook page, we’ve also created an interactive page where you can go write your fear and smash your own plate virtually.

We hope that you take a moment to be thankful for the simple things, and all that life offers. Even in the face of adversity, something good can come of it, and our LungLeavin’ Day celebration is how we took something tragic, and made it a positive in our lives.

Heather Von St. JamesHeather Von St. James is a seven-year mesothelioma cancer survivor and continues to provide unending inspiration to mesothelioma victims around the globe. She carries out her mission to be a beacon of hope for those afflicted with mesothelioma by sharing her story of faith, love and courage both as a keynote speaker at conferences and through social media. Read more about her and LungLeavin’ Day at http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday/.

[Photo: Navy Blue Stripes via photopin cc]

Continue Reading

How to Treat Your Body as a Temple

how to treat your body as a temple

[Guest Post by Amy – I love this thought from Amy today, and if you haven’t read her first article entitled The Pit of Depression, you won’t want to miss that one either! I always appreciate it when guest posters ask to post again (hint hint).]

I grew up in what I like to refer to as the “The Deep South Land of Southern Baptists”.

I learned the books of the Bible, about Abraham and Moses and all the other Biblical heroes, and of course that drinking or dancing would lead to complete moral destruction.

I also learned about the all important Pot-Luck Dinner. One of the main theological tenets of the Southern Baptist World is the Pot-Luck. It is hallowed, set-apart, and holy.

It’s also killing us one bite at a time.

There were many Bible studies about treating our bodies like the temple of God, but it seemed to always revolve around pre-marital sex.  Somehow I turned those lessons into a presupposition that all verses that talked about our bodies were ultimately talking about sexual sin. And no one ever taught me that was wrong. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

It wasn’t until I was older that God opened my eyes to the fact that there are other aspects of my body as well.

That my body is the vehicle I get through life with, and if I allow it to breakdown then future ministry will be out of the question.

When you truly start to pray and seek God about how to treat your body as a temple, verses you’ve heard your whole life suddenly have little light bulbs going off over them.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

“If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:17).

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

And I could go on and on.

When you start to think through the fact that God does care about your body, focus seems to shift. No longer is it “I want to lose 10 pounds to fit in my old jeans”, but “I want to lose 10 pounds because they will eventually hold me back from doing something God may be calling me to do.”

If we continue to abuse our bodies and pretend that what we put in our mouths does not matter, then we may be “benched” a lot earlier than God had planned for us just due to diabetes/heart disease/cancer/etc. that were caused by our lack of concern.

The book Every Body Matters, by Gary Thomas, is an amazing book that should be a wake up call for every Christian. One of my favorite quotes from his book is this:

“We are not angels, pursuing God without physical covering, and if we try to pretend that we are – living as though the state of our bodies has no effect on the condition of our souls – all the proper doctrine in the world can’t save us from eating away our sensitivity to God’s presence or throwing away years of potential ministry if we wreck our heart’s physical home” (Gary Thomas).

I think it’s time that we as Christians wake up to the fact that it is a spiritual pursuit to live healthy lives.

We need to hear this from the pulpit. 

Then maybe our neighbors and friends will not only know us by “our love for each other”, but also by our unusual health and vitality to serve the Lord.

May we all be on this journey together.

Pieces of AmyAmy is a new west Texan and loving life where there isn’t so much humidity she has to wear her hair curly.  She blogs about the messiness of life and living with depression and anxiety in an authentic way and with a little humor sprinkled in. Come visit at www.piecesofamy.net.

[Photo: scrambldmeggs, Creative Commons]

Continue Reading
1 2 3 7