Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Victimization

This is the sixth lesson in the series on Biblically understanding the causes of depression.

The first lesson: Perfectionism.
The second lesson:Futility.
The third lesson:Idolatry.
The fourth lesson:Worldliness.
The fifth lesson: Guilt.


Adults are supposed to take care of children. Older people nurture younger people. This is something that we all know, or should know. But sometimes things go desperately wrong.

In last week’s lesson we looked at guilt as something that can depress us. In that case, the person is the perpetrator who wronged another. In this week’s lesson we will study depression from the other side: from the perspective of a victim.

It is an interesting fact that both the perpetrator and the victim can experience depression as a result of sin. One would think that only the guilty would feel this way, but this is not the case. Indeed, some who are guilty seem never to suffer any feelings of remorse at all. Being a victim may cause more depression than being the instigator. This is especially true if the guilty party never repents.

It is here that I must interject my understanding of Biblical forgiveness. Forgiveness follows repentance. If the wrongdoer does not repent of the evil that he has done, he cannot be forgiven by the victim. This is the way that God deals with sinners. Bitterness is another thing entirely. The Bible teaches that we should let go of bitterness because it does nothing to hurt the wrongdoer but causes further hurt to the victim.

This is a hard lesson for me to write. Like the lesson about idolatry I have some experience in this area but without the extreme conditions that others have faced. I do not think this makes my experiences any less traumatic for me, but mine could be perceived as trivial when compared to those of others.

Many adults today bear the emotional scars of sexual abuse. The offense against them was usually committed by the very people who should have been protecting them: adult relatives. I have not read recent statistics but at one time it was estimated that 1 in 4 people would suffer sexual abuse. There is no telling how many would be children but I think it can be assumed that it would be a high percentage.

That is not my story but I do feel that my family and I were victims of a very sadistic and cruel individual. In our case the abuse was one of terror and fear. I was na├»ve enough as a young pastor’s wife to think that such assaults only happened to missionaries on foreign fields. Evidently this is not so.

In one of the churches where my husband was the pastor there was a man who tried to control our lives. He appeared to be obsessed with everything about us including our ministry, our children, and our friendships. He was careful to never leave direct evidence that could be taken to authorities. This person was a coward. I can safely say that he was a terrorist. Terrorists are cowards who gain notoriety by making victims of women and children.

Anonymous hate mail carrying postmarks from outside our city would arrive after visits from our friends who are of a different ethnic background. Racism was one trademark of this individual. Also, whenever my husband traveled and left our small children and me at home we would receive threatening phone calls. This was back before caller i.d. At least once one of the children answered the phone and the person with the disguised voice threatened my child. Usually I answered the call and the disguised voice would either say things of an obscene or a threatening nature.

At first it was not obvious who was behind these acts but after awhile we figured it out and decided to test our hypothesis with an experiment. It was my husband’s habit to announce to the congregation that he was going out of town. It became evident that it was someone who sat in the pew each week who was taking note of my husband’s announced absences. My husband never again announced that he would be gone. Only those who needed to know were told. The calls stopped immediately. Since there were other reasons to suspect this person – he was not well mannered even when he was not committing criminal acts – it was not difficult to surmise the culprit’s identity.

It is not a new thing for a person to become a victim of someone who is supposed to love and pray for him. Joseph was a young man who was victimized by the very people who should have been concerned for his well-being: his older brothers. Parents of multiple children depend upon the older siblings to care for the younger. It is a matter of trust. In the case of Joseph, it was his brothers who argued among themselves about whether or not they should kill him. Finally it was decided that they should make a profit by selling him as a slave to a caravan of traders on their way to Egypt. They then had to make it look as though he had been attacked by a wild animal.

The day came when Joseph was revealed to his brothers as the savior of their very lives. I know that if most of us had our way the story may have ended a bit differently with the brothers going back to Canaan empty-handed. In God’s providence Jacob’s family was spared from certain starvation. Notice that whenever Joseph and his brothers discussed the prior deed their guilt is not passed over as though they had done no wrong. The brothers admitted the guilt in chapter 45 and again in chapter 50. Their repentance became as well-known as their sin. Joseph knew that they meant him harm and said as much. But God was able to salvage something good from that evil act.

Why do the victims react to their victimization with depression? I suspect it has much to do with vulnerability. There is something about being a victim that mimics being a hunted animal. The violation of one’s person, whether emotional or physical, is not easily overcome. I confess to you that at times I lived in fear which is exactly what our tormentor wanted. Victims are ashamed. They feel as though they are not worthy to live. The perpetrator is not the real winner. Satan is. Satan wins a battle each time that the victim relives the victimization and experiences depression because of it. This truly is guilt that is misplaced. The guilt belongs to the abuser but the abused picks it up and carries it with them throughout their lives unless someone interferes and tells them to put it down.

I am very glad to say that someone has interfered. Jesus tells us that He has taken upon himself our guilt. If we are not even to carry our own guilt we surely are not meant to shoulder the guilt that does not belong to us. God can then use the event to build something good from the devastation if we will let Him. It might be hard to see how that can be. I doubt that Joseph could see the big picture during those years between the time his brothers abused him and their arrival in Egypt. It wasn’t until the famine that Joseph was able to discern something good that could come from it.

This cause of depression is slightly different from any that we have studied so far. All of the others were caused by problems that we bring about ourselves. Perfectionism, feelings of futility, idolatry, worldliness, and guilt are all actions and attitudes that we control. This cause of depression is caused by the actions of someone else.

I have good news. We are not helpless. When it comes to fighting this cause of depression we have the largest spiritual warhead known to man. The words of comfort that are found in scripture are not mere words. I do not have steps for us to follow to fight this cause of depression. This week I will list only scripture verses because God can say it so much better than I can.

To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. Deuteronomy 32:35, 36

Psalm 94 – (Read it yourself in its entirety. Here are a few verses from it) O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself. Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud. LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?...Yet they say, the LORD shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?...Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence. When I said, my foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul….But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge. And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the LORD our God shall cut them off. Verses 1-3, 7-9, 16-19, 22-23

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thy enemy hunger, feed him, if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 (See also Proverbs 25:21-22)

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help us to allow you to settle the score. Help us to give up the bitterness that poisons our souls. May our lives not be overcome by the depression that comes from being a victim of someone else’s sin. And may our abusers repent before their time of judgment arrives. Build something good from these things. Even though our enemies meant these things for our harm may they be used for your good.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen

A Puzzling Situation Update

When I wrote my original post here about the erroneous cover on the Sudoku puzzle book that I recently bought some of you suggested I contact the publisher. I did just that.

I really wasn't expecting much of a reply, and in one way I wasn't disappointed, but in another way their reply makes great blog fodder because it is just as humorous. The reply made it obvious how such a mistake happened in the first place. And it is always nice when someone responding to a criticism of their product can pass the buck as well. Nothing says, "couldn't possibly be our fault" better than that "company has gone out of business. . ." I suppose the distributing company has no editors of their own.

I sent a letter via our family email account (the one that arrives in your inbox bearing Pastor Dad's name as opposed to my anonymous "Karabeth" one). I'm removing all identifying information so that a big name newspaper publisher like, oh, say USA ----- doesn't get upset. The parts that have been edited for the blog appear now in brackets like these { }. Material in parenthesis appeared in the actual letter in parenthesis.

Here is my letter:

"About a month ago I purchased one of your puzzle booklets. The booklet is entitled { the name of the book}. On page one (inside the front cover) it says this is '{written by a certain puzzle company}'

Might I suggest that you take another look at the puzzle that is featured on your front and back covers? The numeral "1" is given twice in the bottom row. I truly do hope that the puzzles inside the booklet are not as impossible to solve as the one on the covers.

Sincerely,

Karabeth" (my real name was used in the original letter, of course, and not my blog nickname)


And here is the received reply:


"Hi, Pastor Dad- (they obviously used his real name and not his blog nickname)

Thank you for pointing out the error on our last Sudoku magazine. I have not received any other complaints about the quality of the puzzles so I suspect that was the first error in the 20 or so editions we published since October 2007. Unfortunately, our publishing and distribution partner for the Sudoku magazines { } has gone out of business but we hope to find another partner soon to publish similar magazines.

Thanks for your interest in USA -----.

{Signature}"

"Pastor Dad" appreciates the reply. :)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Shirttail Relations

I just returned from a funeral.

Perhaps that isn't the normal lead-in sentence for a humorous story, but then, most of you have never met my family. We don't "do" funerals like most families "do" funerals. While it is true that we shed our tears and grieve, we also laugh and tell funny stories about the deceased and each other. Since almost everyone in my family knows the Lord as their Savior we view a funeral as a celebration of our loved one's promotion. Laughter is generously mixed in with our grief, especially if our loved one has been blessed enough to experience a long, happy life.

Such was the case today. The loved one was a 95-year-old "teenager" who had more stories told about her by the family and the pastor who conducted the service than anyone I've heard about in a long, long time.

The deceased was not physically related to me. Okay, this is where things get a little complicated so feel free to either get a worksheet from Ancestry.com or try to keep up by drawing diagrams on scrap paper.

There were enough shirttail relatives at this funeral today that we probably could have made a conga line of gigantic proportions holding onto each other's shirttails if we'd had the time. And the deceased herself would have approved!

The dear lady who died was the grandma of my cousins - just not the grandma that we shared. But this grandma was good friends with both of my grandmas, including the one that the cousins and I shared. And because she was such a good friend of my grandmas I had been around this lady often in my youth.

These cousins are very dear to me. Well, all of my cousins are, but these didn't grow up with the rest of us. That's probably a good thing since it kept them from marrying within our circle of acquaintances. That's really funny, too, because the area where I was raised is near a large city. It's just that the little bedroom community where our parents were raised - and where I and the rest of the cousins were raised - is rather small. Since I am the family historian only I have any idea of how closely related everyone in the community really is. There wasn't any in-breeding, but it is a miracle to be able to say that. The automobile wasn't invented too soon.

Anyway, today I was at the funeral home for two reasons. First, I was there to pay my respects to a lady I've known my whole life. And second, I was there to visit with my aunt and the cousins that I don't get to see often. This aunt is my father's sister.

At the funeral home today were some of the cousins from my cousins' dad's side of the family (the other side of their family). During the conversations someone tried to introduce us .

"We already know each other" I said.

"How?" someone asked.

"We grew up together," was the reply. And as we were growing up we were aware of the fact that we shared cousins.

My cousin wanted to introduce me to her cousins' cousins from their other side of the family but they weren't there, unfortunately, but their parents were. Are you keeping up? I was to be introduced to my cousins' cousins' cousins. Not to worry. I already knew those people, too.

And as I mentioned, this cousin of mine is on my dad's side of the family. But as we were standing in the foyer at the funeral home the director walked up to my mom and asked her to step back about 5 feet. The reason? Mom's own cousin wanted to say, "Hi!" She was the lady upstairs on the second floor playing the organ.

Conga anyone?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Promised Give-Away

Okay, so I'm way past my 100th post, but a promise is a promise. This is the long awaited give-away.

We order books from time-to-time. Actually, to say we order books about once a week would be more accurate. Anyway, Pastor Dad and I have this joke between us that when one of us sees the UPS truck coming into the neighborhood he or she looks at the other and exclaims, "Did I tell you that I ordered . . .?" We get a good laugh out of it and feel we are doing our part to stimulate the economy by keeping book companies and the local UPS driver in jobs.

In our packages we often find books tucked into our order that the company sends just because they like us. Or because they know we're the folks keeping them in business. Or they send them to everyone who makes certain purchases. I don't know WHY they send them to us. They just do.

So in the spirit of giving I am willing to pass some of these books on to you. As you can see in the picture, there are three in the give-away. All of them will be sent to one winner.

They are:
  1. The New England Primer, Boston 1777, Patriotic Textbook Series, republished by Vision Forum
  2. The Original Blue Back Speller, New York 1824, Patriotic Textbook Series, republished by Vision Forum
  3. A Cluster of Camphire: Words of Cheer & Comfort To Sick & Sorrowful Souls, by Mrs. C.H. Spurgeon (originally published in 1898), republished by Particular Baptist Press

The rules are:

  1. Leave me a comment telling me that you would like the books.
  2. You may enter as many times as you wish.
  3. The contest will end at midnight Friday, April 3rd.
  4. Random drawing will be made at noon on Saturday, April 4th.
  5. If you leave a comment anonymously, please either give me enough information that I can tell who you are or send me a message at Karabeth6@gmail.com. I will not ask for your real name or address unless you are the winner.


Friday, March 27, 2009

A Puzzling Situation

Anyone notice anything strange about this Sudoku puzzle? Look at the bottom row. Yep. The number 1 is given twice.

This picture is from a puzzle book that I recently bought to keep me occupied during those moments I spend waiting in doctors' offices or taekwondo studios.

The book was published by a well-known publishing company. I only hope the puzzles inside the book are not as impossible to solve as the one on the cover. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Pox On Our House, Part 2



This is the continuation of last week's memory found here.

As many of you mentioned in your comments last week, chicken pox can be devastating to the health of an adult. So, yes, I do suffer effects from that ailment to this very day.

It wasn't that I had not been exposed to the chicken pox as a child. It might seem that as an only child I wouldn't have had much opportunity to get them, but actually I was exposed to them many times through the germ-sharing program that I participated in with my 30+ cousins. In that case, I'm sure I gave as good as I got. But I didn't get the chicken pox when it went around the family or school either. My doctors surmised when I got them that my immunity was low due to the recent pregnancy-childbirth-nursing baby stage I'd just completed.

About a week after the pox descended upon us Lulu and Princess had grown well enough to be back to their normal activities. For the just-shy-of-ten-months-old Princess this meant getting back to the business of cruising around furniture and crawling from one end of the house to the other.

But suddenly things got bad. Real bad.

Without an apparent explanation Princess started crawling around with one arm tucked up under her like a bird with a broken wing. This was followed by a terribly high fever that spiked higher than anything she had experienced while battling the chicken pox. It took several days before the doctors finally found the cause of the problem and unfortunately in their prior attempts to help they had only made matters worse. As our baby progressively got sicker and sicker one of the doctors finally found a spider bite tucked between her thumb and first finger. It was hidden among the chicken pox scars.

Since so much time had been lost and errors had worsened her condition, we were told that she might not survive. Regular readers know that she did! And that she is now expecting a little bundle of joy of her own! This was truly God's mercy.

The real reason I am telling you this is that I would like to thank someone for their ministry to us during that time. There are many people who stood by us but I have someone in particular in mind.

I would like to thank the mother of my son-in-law, Prince Charming, for taking Karen and Lulu to stay at her house while we watched to see whether the Lord would leave our Princess with us or take her home. I told her the last time I saw her that she'll never know what her friendship meant all those years ago.

She was one of the first ladies to befriend me when we moved to their area. She never manipulated the friendship so as to have an inroad with the pastor. She never expected preferential treatment at church. She was always just a friend in good times or bad.

I don't know if she reads blogs or not but I'm sure someone will give her the message. It might even be one of our mutually "Charming" granddaughters. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guilt

This is the fifth lesson in the series on Biblically understanding the causes of depression.
The first lesson entitled "Perfectionism" can be found here.
The second lesson entitled "Futility" can be found here.
The third lesson entitled "Idolatry" can be found here.
The fourth lesson entitled "Worldliness" can be found here.


Do you have a past? Well, of course you do. And if you are like I am you probably have certain areas of it that you don’t want to revisit. Sometimes meeting a person from our past can cause depressing memories to surface. Sometimes that depression can result in fear over the consequences.

There are certain people I never want to meet again. Just the thought of running into them somewhere unexpectedly is enough to cause trepidation. It would be even worse knowing that someone I want to avoid is going to be present at an event I plan to attend. I am not hiding deep, dark secrets but there are some memories and events that I do not wish to relive.

If you have been following my devotions on depression then it might have occurred to you that I am working chronologically through the scriptures. By the time a reader of the Bible reaches Genesis 32 he or she has encountered the story of Jacob and Esau.

What a past Jacob had! Several years prior to the events of this chapter, Jacob had both cheated his brother out of the birthright reserved for the firstborn and had tricked their father, Isaac, out of the blessing that was intended for Esau. Jacob had fled as a result. He was someone who had good reason to avoid his brother.

But forever avoiding Esau proved to be impossible. After years of serving his father-in-law, Laban, he made the decision to return to his homeland. The decision was approved by God who visited Jacob in a dream. As the journey with wives, children, servants, and flocks progressed, depression descended upon Jacob as he realized that he must face the twin brother who had sworn many years earlier to kill Jacob at the first opportunity.

Messengers arrived with the news that Esau was coming to him with a troop of 400 men. The Bible says that Jacob was afraid and distressed. He divided the animals and people into two distinct bands so that if Esau’s army attacked one group the other one might have a chance to flee. Servants were dispatched with herds of animals. These were gifts that were meant to appease Esau’s anger.

The next few events recorded in scripture astound me. After Jacob dispatched the women and children with the herds and herdsmen, he remained alone. He prayed a heartfelt prayer requesting deliverance. It is one of the first signs of humility exhibited by Jacob.

That night, God Himself wrestled with Jacob. I have always been amazed at the way God answered Jacob’s prayer for deliverance. Instead of sending bands of angels to guard the camp or arming Jacob with superhuman strength, God weakened him. How can this be? Wasn’t Jacob weak enough? Evidently Jacob was not weak enough to suit God. The fight with God meant that Jacob would forever walk with a limp. He would not be able to do the task of defending himself or his family. Only God could be his defense from that point.

But God didn’t leave Jacob in shame. Not only did God make it so that Jacob had no choice but to trust God as his deliverer but He gave Him a new name as proof. No longer would he be known as Jacob, the Supplanter (or Deceiver) but Israel, the One God Fights For.

Guilt can be a horrible burden to bear. Even those who know that their sins are covered under the blood of Jesus Christ and have been given the new name of Christian sometimes fear the consequences of their guilt. Their accuser often reminds them of any shameful past deeds.

What can be done about things of the past? You can do nothing about them. However, if we turn the past over to God in humility He promises that there is no further consequence: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” John 5:24.

What are the steps for overcoming depression due to guilt?

First, confess your sins. It is very important to admit when you are wrong. A person who is not willing to confess when they are wrong has problems seeing the root of the problem. Don’t explain guilt away. Own it.

Second, repent of the sin. That means to determine not to do it again. We fail at this sometimes, but the intention should be to not do that wrong thing again.

Third, if possible, make restoration or make amends. Nothing says “I was wrong!” more than trying to set things right. Not every story ends with two people weeping on each other's neck like it did for Jacob and Esau but restoration and the humility that it exhibits can go a long way toward making that happen.

Fourth, accept forgiveness, even if only God forgives you. Don’t live with a cloud over you for the rest of your life.

Fifth, if the accuser of your soul whispers in your ear reminding you of your faults, you remind him of your forgiveness. This is where you allow God to fight your battles for you. If Satan himself cannot successfully accuse you why worry about your fellow humans?

Do not allow the past to spoil your present and future. Let God fight your battles for you. And if you meet the people from the past who knew the old you, make sure you introduce them to the new you. Like Israel you may forever walk with a limp but let it be a reminder that God is fighting your battles.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

In Need of Affirmation

Call me Doubting Thomas. No, wait. That isn't quite right. Call me Ishmael. No, that isn't right either. I'm not out chasing Moby Dick although that may not be too far off the mark, actually. I'm not sure exactly what to call me. No nasty suggestions, please. If you have a literary or Biblical name that fits I'm all ears even if those ears don't belong to a young person anymore.

Anyway...

A few months ago I was offered a prestigious position and it was one that I hoped would be offered to me one day. At least, I used to hope. Then several months ago I figuratively hit an oil skid that has sent me careening somewhat wildly and recklessly through the traffic of life. In the midst of all that has happened I had begun cutting back on some of my extracurricular activities. Time has been at a premium. But the call came recently.

I was so tempted to say yes...

But somehow, I just knew that God wanted me to say no. I argued. Yes, Mom and Dad, if you're reading this, it is true that I still argue with my parents, even if it is with my Supreme Heavenly Father. Now maybe you won't take it personally that I was so argumentative during my growing-up years.

So I said no...

But I also doubted whether I'd made the right decision. Or I thought maybe I'd made the right decision for the wrong reason. I won't lie to you. There had been things that were driving me crazy about this extracurricular activity, but I wouldn't want to be guilty of declining because I am in the midst of a temper tantrum. Yes, Mom and Dad. I've been known to throw a few of those during my adult years, too.

A few weeks ago we started a Bible study written by Priscilla Shirer called "Discerning the Voice of God" and things started making sense to me. I became convinced that it really is God's voice that I am following. It isn't that the thing I desire is bad. It is actually a good thing. It is just that I feel that God is telling me that I can have something better if I don't tie up all my time with this good thing. So now I'm waiting to see what that better thing is. Maybe it isn't anything more than I'm already doing. I guess I won't know until God reveals that to me.

Today I participated in my extracurricular activity and the person who will be doing the job that I was offered was introduced to us. I was very pleased. And I had real peace about my decision.

Let me tell you, with some of the arguing and second-guessing that came after I made my decision to decline the position myself it is nice to be able to say that.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This Explains A Lot

I decided to try the audio test that Karen mentioned at her blog. As soon as I clicked on the "play" button the Bear, who was sitting at the computer next to me said, "WHAT IS THAT?"


Obviously this is his result:
Train Horns

Created by Train Horns




And this is mine:
Train Horns

Created by Train Horns



We really aren't on the same wavelength. But then, I'm not sure I needed any audio test to tell me that. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Pox On Our House

Twenty years ago this week the chicken pox descended with a fury upon the inhabitants of our house. Karen had suffered through them a few weeks previously. Therefore the 5-year-old Lulu and the 9-month-old Princess were soon so afflicted. Since I had successfully avoided them up until that time their 29-year-old mother was soon joining in with the scratching and the oatmeal baths.

Oh. My. Word. The Princess had recently weaned herself once she found that breastfeeding slowed her down from her active lifestyle and that sippy cups were more portable. I was sad when she stopped nursing a few weeks earlier but extremely relieved that she had once the pox broke out on my body. I had lesions in places that small children didn't even know existed unless they were just experiencing birth or were nursing infants!


It was not a pleasant couple of weeks, and I intend to share more next week about a dark cloud with a silver lining that followed this germy event, but for now, I'll just say that I hope everyone is having a nice "pre-Spring" and I'll see you next week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Worldliness

This is the fourth lesson in the series on Biblically understanding the causes of depression.
The first lesson entitled "Perfectionism" can be found here.
The second lesson entitled "Futility" can be found here.
The third lesson entitled "Idolatry" can be found here.

Where I grew up a trip to the city for a special event was something akin to a trip to Disneyland. The bright lights and the strange sights held a certain fascination for me. There was a special steakhouse where we would eat occasionally after a special event. I loved visiting this cosmopolitan environment. The rarity of the event was one of the reasons the trip to the city was so special.

Our lesson today about depression is going to be about someone who encountered worldliness in the city. In no way do I mean to imply that everyone who lives in a big city is worldly (meaning ungodly) and that small-town people are unworldly (meaning godly) individuals. The population of an area does not translate into godliness or ungodliness. Perhaps there is just more opportunity to get into trouble where larger groups of people congregate.

I have noticed that worldliness has a propensity to cause depression. I am not sure why this is so. Perhaps it is the feeling of being alone in a crowd that causes this. There is nothing worse than feeling like everyone else is enjoying each other’s company without you. Dolly Parton, a small-town girl if ever there was one, used to sing a song called “Two Doors Down.” It was about not being invited to a neighbor’s party and the loneliness that ensued. No offense, but the song isn’t one of my favorites even if I have experienced that “left out of the fun” feeling from time to time.

Lot was just such a person. When God called his Uncle Abraham and Aunt Sarah to come out from the idolaters of Ur, Lot packed up all of his belongings and moved with them. If only he had stayed close to them his life would not have taken the depressing turn that it did.

God blessed Abraham and Lot so much that their cattle could no longer graze the same fields. They had to separate their flocks in order to find good land. I have always wondered if this was God’s way of testing Lot to see if he had ceased to be an idolater much in the way He tested Abraham. If so, whereas Abraham passed his test, Lot failed his.

The next time we see Lot mentioned in scripture he is a city dweller and his livestock are not even mentioned. He was struck by the sights of the big city. Sadly, we are told of the progression that his life took until it found him and his family living within the city walls of Sodom.

How did this happen? Someway, somehow the inhabitants of Sodom convinced Lot and his family that they were missing out on life. The allurement was just too much for them and they were reeled in inch by inch. II Peter 2:7, 8 tells us that Lot was a righteous man who daily vexed his soul with the things that went on around him in Sodom and Gomorrah.

I often wonder about Lot. Did he think that no one would be harmed by his dalliance with worldliness? How wrong he was. It cost him his testimony, his wife, some of his children, and even his descendents. When the angels came to deliver him and his family from certain destruction Lot argued with them when they told him to flee into the hills. Even then, Lot did not believe that the judgment that was to come was as bad as the angels predicted. He took his two daughters and fled to Zoar, another city on the plain. He loathed leaving the worldliness to which he had grown accustomed. Only after two of the cities on the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah, were going up in smoke did he flee to the hills as the angels had originally told him to do.

The damage to Lot’s family was done. Lot himself was a believer who was either tempted by worldliness himself or was a weak father who could not stand firm when his children wanted to experience the kind of life that Sodom had to offer. He failed to tell them “no.” The “why” does not matter.

Did you ever feel tempted by sinful pleasure? Did you ever buy the lie that succumbing to the temptation wouldn’t hurt anyone but you? We have all been fed that lie and most of us have believed it at some time. Who hasn’t said the phrase, “I’m not hurting anyone but myself,” at least once? But life does not take place in a vacuum. Others are affected by the things we do, sometimes for generations.

One of my hobbies is doing family research or genealogy. To me, it is more than just putting names on paper. It is the stories of the individuals who make me “me.” I like to flesh out the details about their lives.

One story that breaks my heart is that of my paternal great-grandparents. My great-grandpa was the son of a minister. I have newspaper accounts of the revival meetings that his father preached in the counties surrounding their rural home. From what I can determine, my second great-grandfather was a godly man. But he had this son who became dissatisfied. At some point the son took his wife and young children and moved west. His father and mother sold everything they had, which included the land the father had inherited from his own father, and moved out west with their son. For the next ten years they can be documented as moving from territory to territory, place to place, as they gave birth to more children, farmed different lands, and ruined a marriage.

His generation's equivalent of Sodom snared my great-grandfather. He moved his family and his parents into a bustling railroad town. He spent their money on loose women and alcohol. My grandfather was just a boy when his parents’ marriage dissolved. They divorced soon after one of the federal censuses was taken. I found that abstract and the divorce decree that was granted just a few months later. I told my husband as we looked over our finds that we were looking at the remnants of the saddest tale I had ever encountered. It was a story of alcohol, adultery, abuse, and abandonment. Most of the children lived with their mother afterward. My grandfather, on the other hand, did not. He was sent to live with his father who decided to move back east with his parents and his young son in tow. Grandpa said that he remembered being sent by his own grandmother into a saloon to search his daddy’s pockets for all their money just to keep him from spending it all in the establishment. As far as grandpa ever knew, my great-grandfather never accepted the free offer of salvation. He never repented of what he did to his family. My grandfather never again saw his mother. She remarried and moved further west where she died a few years later.

My grandfather felt abandoned by his mother and abused by his father. He gave his life to Christ when he also was a young father who had planted a wild crop of his own for a few years. After his conversion he began to be concerned about his brothers and sisters. It became his mission in life to reach them with the gospel. But like Lot’s sons-in-law, my grandpa’s family thought he seemed like someone who mocked. My ancestors came from moral, godly stock, but someone was tempted by what the world had to offer and he took his family along for the ride. As far as I can determine, my grandfather was the only one that ever returned to the faith of his fathers.

Lot also had descendents that reaped what Lot had sown. The two daughters who escaped Sodom with him were so desensitized to the sexual immorality that was considered normal in Sodom that they didn’t give incest a second thought. Each found herself pregnant by her own father. The children that they bore began the nations of Moab and the Ammonites, two that tempted and plagued the Children of Israel (Abraham’s descendents through Isaac) for many years. God told the Children of Israel to destroy them. Nothing more is told us about Lot’s life after this incident with his daughters.

This is a matter that truly concerns me. There are many who live only for today and only for themselves. They give no thought to the future, either their own or others’. It is a sobering thought to me that the decisions I make can affect my family for many generations. If I am careless with the things of God my children might be even more careless. I don’t want to have that on my conscience. I do not want to be like Lot who was saved from eternal damnation but led his children straight to the brink of it by the worldly choices he made.

This is not a gamble with good odds. I can risk God's blessings upon my family just so that I can enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season? It doesn’t seem worth it.

How do we combat worldliness?

First, there are some things that are strictly forbidden by God. These are not “gray areas.” Search the scripture to find out what these forbidden things are. If you have been guilty of them, repent, and do it now! Get away from those things!

Second, ask God to help your new testimony of righteousness to be as well known as your testimony of sinfulness. It takes more effort to get out the good news. Wicked news seems to spread quickly.

Third, be aware that the choices you make today will affect others, including – or especially – your children and grandchildren. Is it any wonder that God talks about the sins of the fathers visiting the children for several generation?. It is purely selfishness to think you live just for yourself.

Fourth, find godly alternatives for any worldly pursuits and ungodly friends. Find like-minded individuals. Not all who call themselves “Christians” are proper friends either. Choose wisely. Remember that the boundaries that God set for us are for our protection. He is not some kind of cosmic-killjoy.

The best antidote for this cause of depression is to stop being in love with the world. It will vex your righteous soul and curse the generations to follow.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

Lots of things happened to all of us this past weekend and it all took place in many different states.

First there was a men's retreat that Pastor Dad, the Bear, and Karen's hubby attended out in Indiana along with several of their buddies from various churches. They seemed to experience a great time of "male bonding" around the Word of God, sporting competitions, and several board games. Since one of our friends (a missionary to Russia) was the keynote speaker there was also a touch of the extraordinary present. We were introduced to this missionary and his wife when I was an expectant Momma Bear over 14 years ago. When the Bear was born they sent us a congratulatory email from Moscow. Now the Bear got to meet the man we've admired all these years and figure out first-hand why we admire him. Seems to have left quite an impression upon our young man.

Second, I spoke to a group of ladies in Kentucky. The weather was a bit chilly but the fellowship hall was decked out for spring. I much appreciated the time I spent there and my only prayer is that something I said that day will be used to encourage the pastors' wives and other ladies in attendance as much as I was encouraged. One of the correlating fun things was that all 4 of our church's pastors' wives rode together in my car to the event. We are a fun-loving group of ladies and I laughed the whole way to and from the actual event.

Third, the Bear got to take part in a piece of citizenship in action by traveling to Cincinnati with one of our sons-in-law for the Tea Party. We do take our children to political rallies, etc. on occasion so the Bear has been around this type of thing his whole life. Pastor Dad and I are not rabid in our political views as we do not set our hope upon the government of the USA (after all the government is supposed to be "of the people, by the people, for the people" and the word "people" denotes imperfection) but we do feel that since we are part of the "people" we have a right to participate in the process.

Fourth, Lulu safely returned for her extended stay having driven straight from where she put Dan on the plane in North Carolina to here in Ohio yesterday. Dan is now safely in California (Hi Dan!) and we are adapting to Lou's semi-permanent residency with us as a result.

Everyone is tired today but looking forward to a great week. Now that I have finished delivering Saturday's devotion I might be able to return to my regularly scheduled programing this week. I seem to only be able to muster one decent devotional a week and since I have been working exclusively on the one that I just gave, I have not had the "oomph" necessary to do one for the blog. See you tomorrow with my next installment.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who Stole My Time?

I'm aware of the fact that Daylight Savings Time took one hour from my week this past weekend but I'm trying to figure out who took the rest of it. I want it back. Now.

The way I see it, I should have over 6 extra hours each week now that basketball is over. And those were just the practice hours. The drive to and from took up another 45 minutes each way. Don't even get me started on the time that games stole from my schedule!

But those hours seem to have magically disappeared. If you'll notice, there was no "depression devotion" this past Tuesday, which is depressing for me to say, and there was no Walk Down Memory Lane yesterday either. Why is that? I haven't had the time to write them.

So if you know who has my lost 6 hours each week I'd like to hear from you. Return them now and there will be no questions asked. Or if you know a way to provide me with one of those time-slowing machines like from old episodes of "The Twilight Zone" I know someone who would be willing to buy it. As long as it's cheap. :)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Sunday Night Antics

We went out to eat tonight with the Sunday School class that could be mistaken for a group of young married couples if it weren't for the likes of us hangin' around. Now that all three of our daughters and their husbands are members of that class Pastor Dad and I really are a couple of hangers-on or whatever it is they call delusional folks who think they are forever young. Remember when we first met - you the reader and me the blogger - back in October? It was when I related a story about just such an event as this one. See here if you need a reminder. It's okay. Old folks like us need reminders once in awhile. I'll wait while you go refresh your memory.

Are you back now? Great!

Well, tonight's post is a combination of that story and the ones I sometimes tell about the funny sayings of our middle granddaughter, Tigger.

At tonight's class activity - which also took place at a local casual restaurant due to the fact that not only do young married couples tend to need large open places for fellowship, but they also have numerous children to feed - there was a family with a small boy the same age as Tigger. As Pastor Dad was paying our bill the little guy was standing near the cash register. He evidently had lost sight of his parents. Not to worry! There was Pastor Dad, someone he instantly recognized, standing right there next to him. The only problem was that the little fellow didn't know Pastor Dad's name. Thinking quickly, he looked up and yelled, "Hey! Church Guy! Where's my mother?"

If Pastor Dad didn't already have a perfectly good blog moniker I'd be sorely tempted.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Glorious Day at the Dog Park

We are blessed to have a dog park nearby where our buddies can do some leash-free romping. Onyx, Zelda, and Pepper had a wonderful time meeting what appeared to be half of the dog population of the city today. The people in the family were happy to be soaking up some sun and doing some socializing of their own.

That's Onyx under the table. She preferred socializing with humans instead of with other canines. And getting exercise? Oh, puh-leeze.


Zelda made all sorts of new doggie friends today. She was happy that Cousin Pepper introduced her to some of the locals.

Can we go again soon? Can we? Can we please?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Good Clean Fun

Good grief, Charlie Brown! I just couldn't wait any longer to post this, not even the extra two hours it would take for today to become tomorrow.


Here is a discussion that the Bear and I had with Polly and Tigger on the way to taekwondo earlier this week. We were discussing the warm, spring-like weather we’ve been having.

Polly: We were so happy to be allowed outside today to play in the yard. We got dirty digging earthworms and went into the house to wash our hands.

Tigger: I couldn’t get all the dirt off my arm so I used my toothbrush to scrub it off.

Gram (Me): Not the toothbrush you use for brushing your teeth, I hope?

Tigger: Yeah. But I washed my toothbrush afterward. It looked fine.

Gram: !!!!

Polly: Well, I just went to the dentist so I think I’ll use the new toothbrush he gave me and give Tigger my old one.

Since I was driving the girls couldn't see me directly so I managed to keep my laughter hidden. I glanced over at the Bear who looked like he was about to require the Heimlich maneuver at any moment.

Oh, it’s great to be back driving The Crew to taekwondo! I missed our little talks.

(Here are the pictures and story behind that day that can be found on Karen's blog. She got to tell about the fun. I get to tell about the tale that was told afterward, and perhaps alert her to the fact that shenanigans are happening in the bathroom again when she is otherwise occupied.)

The Books of February 2009

It should be obvious that I am not the prolific reader that my daughter, Karen, is. I only managed to complete 3 books last month and I have to confess that I didn't even start reading them then. They were all holdovers from January.


The first book I read was an old one by Dave Barry called "Dave Barry's Greatest Hits" and I picked it up because the library had a display of his books. I don't know why they did. And I don't know why I picked one up either. I think it was nostalgia. I remember reading his column in either the Nashville paper or the Murfreesboro one (we got both) years ago and I remember thinking that his style of writing is humorous. Since this book was a collection of columns from that period I took a brief walk down memory lane a la Dave Barry. Some of it was humorous. Some of it was just plain annoying. I'll count this as my fiction for the month since I didn't actually read any non-fiction.



The second book I read was A Journal For Jordan written by Pulitzer Prize-winning editor, Dana Canedy. Click the link to get the history and then I'll tell you what I thought of the book.

Ms. Canedy wrote this as both a memoir for her son and as a way to keep the memory of Charles King alive. It is actually two journals in one.

The first journal is the one that First Sergeant King wrote to his son during Dana's pregnancy and after Jordan's birth. It was written as a means to advise his son during their times of separation. Being a career military man, King expected to be away from his son often. He knew it was possible that he might not return at all, but he tried not to think about that possibility. And of course, this is exactly the case. King was killed on October 14, 2006.

The second journal was the one written by Ms. Canedy to document for Jordan his parents' relationship. She interwove excerpts of King's journal with her own sometimes telling the same story from a different perspective or expounding further on an event.

It was a very honest, sometimes brutally honest, look at their lives. As a journalist, Ms. Canedy admitted that dealing with King's death and his funeral helped her see things from a different perspective than her usual one as a reporter covering similar events. Her role as the bereaved loved one helped her understand how callous the press appears to others in similar situations. It was evident that she grew as a person because of what she encountered. Her faith in God matured as well.

Ms. Canedy is quick to point out that she and King made mistakes. There are many things she would do differently if presented with a second chance. I appreciated that she admitted errors instead of explaining them away. No one expects time to run out but this story is proof that it does for everyone, some sooner than later.

I cannot say that I enjoyed the book. How can one enjoy reading a true tragic love story? But I can say that I appreciate the book very much and applaud her effort to make sure her son knows his father even if incidentally. It was a mother's way of keeping her son's hero father alive in their hearts.

This book helped me understand the dichotomy military personnel experience as they step between their dual roles as family members and warriors. Ms. Canedy did not know much about the warrior that King was until she interviewed members of his regiment. She and Jordan only experienced the shy, quiet, tender gentleman. She occasionally caught fleeting glimpses of the man-in-transition but Charles kept his roles separate as much as possible.

Read it and weep. Then pray for all the military personnel and their families.

(Visit Dana's blog here.)


The third - and final - book I read was "Blogging For Dummies" (2nd Edition) by Susannah Gardner and Shane Birley. This one should be self-explanatory.


That's it for February. Perhaps I'll do better this month.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's A Dog's Life

Okay, so we're not anywhere near the dog days of summer yet, however when we do get there I will be well prepared. With dogs that is.

Dogs have been coming and going so often in the last year that even our vet is confused as to who actually lives here. So Prince and Princess Valiant, if you're reading this, consider this your notice that Fergie is due for her bordetella booster.

I used to hear people say that I shouldn't be upset about my children leaving home because kids always return and bring others with them. I just didn't know they meant dogs. :)

Once again, there is no Walk Down Memory Lane with Lynette Kraft and bloggy buddies. Click the button on the sidebar and hop on over to read the memories of others if you need moments of nostalgia and inspiration. I'll try to do better next week. Right now real life is taking too much of my time, and it isn't all because of Lulu and the dogs either. We seem to have brought a nice variety of germs home from TN with us as our tournament souvenirs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Idolatry

This is the third lesson in the series on Biblically understanding the causes of depression.

The first lesson entitled "Perfectionism" can be found here.

The second lesson entitled "Futility" can be found here.

This is probably the most difficult cause of depression that I’ve identified so far. In our culture the idols with which we are most familiar are either in the form of technology and material possessions or fame and prestige as opposed to statues and totem poles. Therefore the kind of idolatry that can cause depression that I am about to identify might be difficult for Christians to accept. Some might take offense by this message. I have been convicted of this sin often, even as I wrote this devotion, and perhaps you, too, suffer from it from time to time.

In order to diagnose this we need to define the term. Idolatry is anything that occupies a higher priority than God Himself. As materialistic as our society has become it is not hard to identify idolatry in those who value their possessions over God. But wealth, popular god that it is, is not the idol I am prone to worship. Even fame is not that god. The “anything” I am most likely to put ahead of God is not possessions or prestige. It is people. Placing loved ones ahead of God is a form of idolatry.

To illustrate this we can look at the life of Abraham. We are familiar with his call to leave his Mesopotamian home in the idolatrous city of Ur. God promised that Abraham’s descendants would replace the equally idolatrous Canaanites in the Middle East. Abraham’s obedience to the call proved that he did not value his cultural gods over the Lord God Jehovah.

We also know that Abraham did not totally put God first as he did not trust Him to deliver on the promise of descendants. He manipulated circumstances in such a way that it resulted in the birth of Ishmael through Hagar, a slave girl. In spite of the fact that Abraham thought God needed his help in delivering the promise, God continued with His own plan by giving Abraham a son through Sarah, his wife. Isaac was the promise brought to fruition.

The real test to determine if Abraham had fully given up idolatry did not occur until several years later when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac. The outcome is well known. God knew what the results would be before He tested Abraham so perhaps Abraham needed to be tested for his own reassurance. It was proven that he had so abandoned idolatry that he would not put anything before God in his life, not even his beloved son, Isaac. Abraham was no longer an idolater.

We may not personally be called upon to sacrifice in the same way as Abraham but this is an all-too-familiar occurrence to others. There are many grieving parents or spouses. Some have written stories detailing their struggles through their loss. The hopeful ones are written by people who fall on their knees before God in worship in spite of everything. The idolatrous stories are those written by people who are shaking their fists at Him.

I encountered a Christian family that was blessed with children. One day, tragedy struck and their child was killed. In no way is this meant to make light of their grief. The fact that their hearts would never totally be whole again is understandable. But many years after the tragedy one of the parents made the statement that they were angry with God because they blamed Him for their child’s death. That child had become their idol.

Although I have never lost a child I have experienced circumstances where it was possible and even probable. I struggled with God on those occasions. In each instance one of my children was spared from something that could have been fatal. Those who have lost loved ones would gladly trade places with me and they might think me ill-suited for writing this piece. Does that make me any less able to sound the alarm? No. A living loved one can be an idol as much as a deceased one and the fact that my children lived might make me more prone to idolize them because of my fear of losing them. That seems to me to be obvious from the story of Abraham and Isaac. The whole test was to prove that the living Isaac was not whom Abraham worshipped.

How are idolatry and depression linked? If we cannot trust God with the people most precious to us then who can we trust? Who else will make decisions that are best for everyone? If I turn my back on God I have nothing. That’s about the most depressing thought I’ve ever encountered.

Most Christians are familiar with Psalm 37:4, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." We like to think of this verse as one that proves that if we are worthy God will bless us. How human it is to put the emphasis upon ourselves and not on God! It is as though we think we could ever actually be worthy on our own merit! It seems to me that I receive the desires of my heart in spite of myself. My children are not alive and others’ dead as indicators of where we placed our delight. Abraham did not hear the call of God and receive his blessing as a result of his own merit either as his “delight indicator” indicated obvious flaws from time to time.

Suppose that this verse truly was the magic formula for receiving the things we want. What happened when some who delighted in God received their heart’s desire? Often the desired thing managed to occupy the very place that the LORD once did. The desire became the delight. Such an idea would imply that God is nothing more than a sucker who keeps falling for the same old trick from crafty human beings. Obviously, this is not the case.

Parents who dedicate their child to God at or before conception may later become angry when His plan for the child did not match theirs. Dedicating a child to God does not mean much if we intend to be the one calling the shots. Turning our loved ones and our relationships over to the Lord should not involve leaving strings attached.

How can we tell if we have placed an idol above the Lord?

1. If we have not achieved our desires we tend to blame God. Unmarried people are often insulted if God does not bless them with a spouse. Childless couples tend to find fault with God’s system of giving children to the unworthy when they themselves have not been so blessed. In other words, we take the omission personally and our unfulfilled expectations can become idols, too.

2. If we do achieve our desires we may worry about them constantly. I remember reading the personal anecdote that Dorothy Pentecost told in her book The Pastor’s Wife and the Church. She used to fear for the safety of her husband when he traveled. Her phobia became so severe that she sought counseling. She subsequently made a detailed list of the things that she feared in the event of her husband’s death and what she would do in each situation. The thought of widowhood wasn’t any more pleasant but the fear was removed once she trusted God with the details. Mrs. Pentecost’s fears were proven to be unfounded. She went to be with the Lord before her husband but not before they were blessed with many years of marriage.

What is the antidote to idolatry?

First, if you have been blessed with a spouse and children work on achieving healthy relationships. Ask God to help you love them without worshipping them. Do not allow fear to rob you of joy. Live for both today and eternity. What you experience now is not the end of the story.

Second, confess any anger, bitterness, or attempts at manipulation. If you are single or childless you need to seek God’s will without trying to bargain with Him. If you have lost a loved one cry out to your Father who understands your grief as no human possibly can. Do not cut yourself off from your only true source of comfort.

Third, make a list of the things God has promised you. God will keep His promises. Abraham believed that God would raise Isaac back to life if necessary for His promise to be fulfilled. Some of the promises God made to us are different than those He made Abraham, but we can believe that God will do everything He promised. Delight in those promises and in the fulfilling of them.

Fourth, remember the Biblical command to love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. The command is to love your neighbor as you love yourself, not as you love God. Remove the idols from your heart and put God back in the place of delight.