“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am with them”
~ Matthew 18:20 (NLV)
Online Church isn’t the same. But its still good. In fact, its better than good – its great. At least we live in a time where this is an option to help us all be connected. It isn’t safe for us to gather so many people together. We need to stop the spread of illness. This Coronavirus is scary and serious.
CDC guidelines, State mandates, and other words my eyes quickly skimmed led me to a sentence I never thought I’d read in an email from my church. Church services in our building are canceling until May 17. We’ll have online service options with a few leaders and a devotional during the week. Facebook, email, and our website will update you.
I know we’re not the only church dealing with this. You are probably feeling as numb as I am. No, I don’t make it to church every week but the idea of it being gone for two months feels like someone punching me in the stomach. I cried. I cried and I prayed again for help and comfort for us all right now. Then Matthew 18:20 came to mind.
I love the whole verse, especially now, but today my heart was drawn specifically to the word “where”.
I always viewed this verse to mean as long as people are physically together in some place that place can be a place of worship. It can be Holy. The woods, the beach, the lake, the mountains, my kitchen, your living room, someone’s yard, a table at a pub, or a crowded arena can all be places for God if our intentions are set on Him. The “where” wasn’t limited just to the church building as long as we were all together some place.
This is different though. Our “where” now requires us to not be physically together in any format. So now what? Does the internet count as “a place”?
The most common definition for “where” in the dictionary is “in or to what place or position.” It speaks about a specific location. That’s how I’ve always looked at it and why I felt so unsettled at first. However, if you keep reading there is another definition I think applies to where we all are right now:
where (adverb): the place or situation in which.
The place or situation in which. The situation in which. If that doesn’t apply to how we’re all experiencing life and worship right now, I don’t know what does. If we slide that version into the verse, instead of just leaning on the word “where” so heavily, this verse becomes the cornerstone of this new “social distancing” worship style we need to embrace.
For the situation in which two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am with them
~ Matthew 18:20
No matter where we are, if we are connecting with each other during this situation, He is with us. Our worships will be different than in the past, but the core practice of people who love God learning about him and loving each other are there. The building and proximity to our church family does not make a church. The people and their willingness to find God and each other in creative ways no matter the circumstances does.
Online church isn’t the same. But its still good. Its our time to look at things a little differently and learn new things about ourselves and those around us. Online church isn’t the same but it will still be good. It will still be church.
My New Year’s Resolution this year is exactly what it’s been the last few: to make no resolutions.
I know, we’ve all made the joke and yukked it up. Finally a goal we can reach, right? For me, it’s honestly the truth. I realized my New Year’s Resolution put a lot of pressure on me to flip some invisible switch at midnight on the first day of the year to become a better version of myself. All I was doing was setting myself for another failure.
Seriously think about it. Cinderella’s instant transformation only lasted a few hours and she had a freaking fairy godmother helping her out. I’m not topping that with my New Year’s resolution.
I decided long ago that I am better with New Day Resolutions. They’re like New Year’s Resolutions only smaller, generally more realistic, and if you goof up you can start over the next day without feeling like a loser. Some days have more than others, it kind of depends on what is happening in my life, which is great also. I mean, who’s life is basically the same for an entire year to support a massive resolution? Certainly not mine.
My current New Day Resolutions:
Answer people within 24 hours. I struggle with this, depending on my mood and frame of mind any day. Some time I answer people immediately, sometimes it takes me more than a day. Trust me, it’s not you – its me. I can get a doctor’s note to prove it. I give myself grace if I’m having a rough day but stay in touch like I want. And if I go longer than 24 hours sometimes, its ok. I’ll give myself another 24 hours if I REALLY need it.
Give myself quiet time. Sometimes I get hours or even a whole day! Sometimes I get the few precious minutes in a bathroom stall at work. But, I am quiet with no interruptions. I might think about what I want to say to you guys, sing an *N Sync song, or read but it is completely my little paradise.
Eat something I like. Yes, we’re all watching what we eat. I’ve been on weight watchers and I actually enjoy my treadmill (probably because I have made it no promises I cannot keep). I track my points but I refuse to live a life where I do not enjoy a treat each day. On a banner food day, I can have a cookie. Other days, I can have a single jolly rancher. The objective is to make sure I give myself something to smile about and enjoy each day.
Say my prayers.
Tell my people I love them. For my husband and daughter, this is easy. For my nearly 14 year-old son, he is accepting the fact that I will never stop hugging him and kissing his face daily. If something happened tomorrow they’ll all know two things for sure: mom was crazy and she sure loved us all. No regrets.
Ever changing and adaptable
There are others I sprinkle in from time to time such as: clean one thing, donate something, be better than yesterday, make a hair appt, read, and get outside. Sometimes it looks more like a to-do list than a resolution list, but I do not care. Its bite sized portions of progress to keep me moving forward and living life a little bit better every day.
At the end of the year, all those days add up to quite a big difference. I guess that sort of makes it My New Year’s resolution also.
What New Day Resolutions could you make for yourself?
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.” Matthew 10:8
We’re gathering next week for Christmas. Time spent with our family and friends. We come together because Jesus was born. We celebrate his birth for all He brought to us: love, healing, and forgiveness. We talk a good game this time of year, but how often do we dig deep to freely give love and healing to others?
Eleven months out of the year, most of us rush through life relatively laser focused on our needs. Its human nature, we’re all guilty from time to time. Then in December we throw a small gift in a can or change in a kettle to warm our hearts. But what about the people who were struggling before December? What about the families who were torn apart for reasons outside of their control? What about the peopke doing the wirk and doing their best who will need help far beyond the Christmas season?
We want to celebrate Jesus’ birth with presents and decorations, but what about celebrating his life through loving, helping, and giving? Society complains when single parents (especially dads) don’t step up to support their kids. We complain when they don’t work as hard as we think they should to support their kids. We rant and rave far too often about all the people who do things we do not agree with that we lose sight of the people who quietly step up and do the right thing day in and day out.
Kenan Harris is one of those people. I am honored to know and work with him. Kenan is a single father to an 11 year old boy (his son’s mother passed away when he was baby). Kenan is a family man who loves God and country. A veteran of the US Army, he works 70 hour weeks to support his son and raise him to be a man of strong character.
He doesn’t do it flashy, he doesn’t look for praise. He shows up to quietly do what’s right and spread his positive outlook. He does it all because its the right thing to do.
Its our turn to step up for him and anyone else in a similar position. To say thank you. To show his son that people care and doing the right thing, like his father does, will always come back to you.
An 11 year old kid shouldn’t be without his parent on Christmas. We shouldn’t allow it to happen without giving what we can to fund his trip or spread the news that they need help.
You were given love, no questions asked. Its time to pass it on.
The best Back to School Bible Verses to get you through the start of the year! Whether you’re missing summer vacation already (that’s me!) or sighing with relief as the school bus pulls away – these verses are perfect reminders for you AND your kids to get through the days! By no means is it a complete list but here are the best back to school Bible verses I like to lean on!
Isaiah 30:21 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Have a little faith, mommas. You’re raising great kids with great hearts. They know right from wrong. They will make make you proud. These lessons will carry on throughout their school days and lives. Keep up the good work
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
As long as there is school, kids will face hurdles. Bombing a test, not making the team, or being left out will hurt and leave them feeling discouraged. It’s hard on your momma heart to watch them struggle, but remember the growth they are going through (you too!).
Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”
Don’t gossip or bully. Never let the world harden your heart or take you off track. Find your passion, find your goal, and chase after it.
Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Starting anything new, even if it’s something as routine as school, can be scary. So can navigating friends, hard classes, and the unavoidable struggles that come with the territory. Remind your kids they aren’t alone and they will be ok, even if they’re sitting solo on a bus or at a lunch table. Remind yourself also they will be ok even without you by their side. They aren’t alone.
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Be a good person. Do good things. Be in control of yourself.
Luke 6:31 “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
Be the nice kid. Be the good you want to see. Easy peasy.
Proverbs 15:5 “A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.”
Parents are stupid. Mine were when I was a kid and now, it appears, I am equally as stupid to my kids some days. I think that’s just the way of the world in most cases. However, I wish I’d listened more – they did know what they were talking about – and I try to remind my kids daily I’ve been where they are and can save them some struggles if they listen to my words or wisdom (or stories of epic failure – just learn from me!).
Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
If you’re like me, the idea of sending your kids out into the world without you can be scary at times. I’m struggling extra with the middle school kid right now – that age is weird, this world is scary, and I just can’t even yet!!! I just remind myself they’re good people and will stick to that path we’ve started them on!
Colossians 3:20 “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
I know some of your classes are boring and the homework is stupid. Bedtime is lame and dinner is disgusting. I had all the same issues when I was your age going to school, so I totally get it. But have a little faith and trust me. I do it in your best interest just like grandma did it in mine.
1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
Oh my sweet children. I see so much goodness in you. If more adults looked at the world through your eyes and with your heart, it would be a better place. Please don’t lose that and don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young or don’t know enough to make a difference. Keep living your awesome lives so you can show the world what is possible with kindness!
What are your Best Back to School Bible verses for your kids or your momma heart?
I want to share some of my favorite Bible verses for depression with you today. Living with and working through depression is hard no matter who you are. I know from first hand experience. You can see and acknowledge good things going on all around you but you cannot feel them. You are numb to the warmth and peace the good parts bring, which is both frustrating and infuriating at the same time. It certainly doesn’t help you to feel “better” (whatever that term means).
Living as a Chistian mom with depression comes with its own unique challenges. Our religion is cemented in the faith that someone good (God/Jesus/Holy Spirit) loves us and is taking care of us, even when life doesn’t appear that way. Short of the Bibles containing the words that remind us, though, we have nothing concrete to cling to in order to feel that love and keep our faith. Christiantiy is a religion of feelings – love, trust, faith, gratefulness,mercy, forgiveness – but what happens when we can’t feel all our feelings?
Bible verses for Depression
These Bible verses for depression help me through my darkest times. Are they perfect? No. Do I feel better as soon as I read them over once? Not even close. But they do give me something to focus on that is constant and unchanging. The are promises made thousands of years ago and to billions of people. Surely, they apply to you and me too.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.
Normally, when someone’s well-meaning but overly simple advice to “look on the bright side” is given to me, it makes me want to puke. I get that its well meaning, but it’s not that simple. Sometimes, there is no bright side to a situation. Sometimes the only bright side is that the struggle will end, but there’s no guarantee it will be a good ending.
Thankfully, Paul isn’t telling us to look for the bright side. He just wants us to think about anything from any time to keep our minds and actions pure. That is doable. Today may be hard, but at some point in life, there was a good day or place. Think about it quietly for a few minutes. Write about it. Draw it. Tell a friend about it. Look at pictures of it. You will not be removed from your difficult situation, but you can get a little break from it. Little breaks and reminders life is good are invaluable gifts.
I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard me cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
You are not the first, nor will you be the last, to go through difficult times. David reminds us that there is no time limit on how short or long a cold season in life will last in this verse. We just need to remember we must be patient and talk to God. When it is time, He will take us from the most disgusting, deep, dark, and difficult places and get us back on our feet. We are not being left in the pit forever.
The world is full of normal people like you and I overcoming huge obstacles and very deep pits in their lives. They are not Prophets from the Bible, they are real people existing in our real world who have lived Psalm 40 completely. Google some for inspiration (you know how much I love Google). They were all pulled from the pits and placed back on solid ground. They were not alone. It happens. All the time. It will happen for you when the time is right. Just be patient.
If that’s not enough or a little hard, read a little farther into Psalm 40:11-17 for an honest prayer you can say or remember in your pit.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
This is my go-to, easy to remember Bible verse for depression for those late nights when the gears in my mind are turning at record speed and sleep evades me at every turn. My brain likes to replay my day at bedtime, but not as a highlight reel of everything good that happened. Somehow, those things never make the cut and instead I end up watching the world’s longest blooper reel looping through my mind. It’s like the worst Blockbuster store ever, playing the same awful movie on replay until every bit of the movie lodges into memory forever.
It’s easy to get lost in these thoughts and let them take over, I know because I’ve done that more times that I care to admit, but it’s also in those times when Matthew’s words comfort me. I am tired, I am worried, I want rest – so I start talking. My prayers are not pretty, they’re somewhat informal, like we’re best friends almost, but I think that’s ok. As I talk to God, my worries fade and the next thing I know – I have found my rest and it is morning.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
This has been one of my all time favorite verses for many situations; but these words feel like a verse about depression to help keep us going. I feel alone a lot, like no one understands how I feel (myself included). It is a scary place to feel so lost and unsure, but I find a lot of comfort in knowing that I am not alone.
The author hints life can be scary or hard, but we should not be afraid or discouraged. Easier said than done? Absolutely. However, keeping this around to read or repeat to myself in the hardest times has been a life saver for me. I recommend keeping this nearby in your purse or on your phone. Something you can peek at when you’re feeling down easily.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.”
Teaching my kids how to ride two-wheel bikes without training wheels was no simple task. The looks of terror on their faces communicated they thought they were not ready, struggling with the concept, and certain great bodily harm was in their future. I knew they were big enough, strong enough, and ready for this big step. They just needed hear I would stay by them, to feel my hand on their backs, and see me running next to them at first; until they got the hang of it. I am proud to say they both ride bikes brilliantly today.
I think that’s exactly what this Bible verse for depression says for us all. We may not feel we are capable or ready to face whatever is pulling us down, but we are not alone. God will stay by us, with his hand on our backs even if we can’t feel it, and run beside us. Or walk if we’re talking about me, because as God or anyone I know will tell you – I don’t do running. The point is, He will meet you where you are, stay by you, and give you the strength you need to move on. The only thing you need to do is show up and believe in his loving words.
Fill your war chest
There are a million other Bible verses for depression worth reading but these are my absolute favorites. My “war chest” of verses for the really big battle days. Reading these verses about depression reminds me these feelings are not new or only known to me. People have struggled with similar feelings since we left Eden. Feeling less alone makes it so much easier to keep going.
Do you have any favorite Bible verses for depression or books that help you through? Feel free to share them! I would love to check them out and build up the war chest!
I didn’t know you personally, but I knew who you were. I’d seen you walking the high school halls with your beaming smile and dimples in the past. You were so beautiful to me. So cool. The kind of girl I hoped I’d be in my own senior year, still four years away.
I didn’t know you personally but as it turns out, you were very special and important to many people in my life. Its clear that your friendly smile touched more than just an awkward freshman girl who never spoke to you.
I didn’t know you but I feel your story so deep. To my core. I understand. Wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, guide….while walking through a dark fog. One that consumed you. One that overcame you.
I cheered for you (and voted for you!) when you ran for office. I love seeing strong, intelligent women making strides in the world. I love the passion and hope thaty comes weeken people fight for change they believe in whole heartedly. I admire the difference you wanted to make.
I loved seeing you speak out for mental health. You were brave. You made it ok for people like me to get help and speak out. You started hard coversations to end the stigmas and help others come out of the darkness.
Now, as I scroll my Facebook I see your face, still covered with your warm smile and dimples, over and over. Pictures of your beautiful children. Memories being shared by people I love left here hurting.
Walking into chuch, the audible reaction to your passing left tears stinging my eyes. Those who loved you surrounded by love. Enveloped in arms of friendship and family. Every one in disbelief.
I am so sorry the sadness was so deep.
I am so sorry you saw no other way.
I am so sorry that life wasn’t as kind to you as it should have been.
I am so sorry that so many are hurting for you now.
I am so sorry I never said hello in the hallway.
I wish you felt how far your ripples reached. How many hearts you touched, both known and unknown to you. I wish you knew me. The conversations you led, the people you inspired, the struggles you shared that made us feel less alone.
You helped make it ok for people like me to speak up. Sometimes, we all need a little extra help and love. You gave others the courage to ask for it and, more importantly, showed others how to compassionately give it. Even through your loss, many others have been saved by your courage.
The world is a better place because you were in it, just a little bit darker now that you’re gone. Those of us still fighting the battle mourn you, you were like us, but we will fight on through the darkness. For you, for us, and for those we love or don’t even know – we will carry on the mission. You weren’t alone. Neither are we.
“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
–John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent
IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING OR HAVING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS – PLEASE REACH OUT TO A LOVED ONE, FRIEND, OR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE:
I have to admit, God and I spent a good part of this last year fighting. Well, I was fighting and He was sitting back patiently waiting for me to calm the heck down and let Him carry on with His plan. Thankfully, He let me go on and humored me while I freaked out, yelled, questioned, demanded, and finally trusted His plan.
Some people will say that I had no right to question or yell at God, but I don’t think that’s true. I think He’s ok with it. I think He would rather have an angry and honest me than a me who doesn’t totally believe. Even if it means I need to question things from time to time. At least I’m giving Him my all.
This year I was tested pretty seriously in both my personal and professional life. People I had trusted fully let me down. Plans I had been working on for years crumbled. Every scrap of self-consciousness was placed center stage for me to stare at. I was low. And it didn’t make any sense why He let it happen.
I pray. I go to church. I volunteer. I’m a Sunday school teacher, Deacon, greeter, communion server, coffee maker, meal maker, and all around super friendly, involved church person. I read my Bible close to daily, share God’s love with our kids, and do my best to be generous in our community.
So, when God let all these awful things fall down on top of me? My God, who I bust my chops for 24/7 let this go down? Well, I was livid.
One particularly hard day, last fall, I found myself sitting alone in my minivan at sunrise, at the beach, sobbing hysterically in my quiet space.
Things weren’t getting better. I was getting madder. Things felt like they were getting worse. Once again, I was doing things “right”, trying to fix my life, and God was letting it all happen. I was infuriated.
As Anne Lamott said, “God can handle honesty, and prayer begins in honest conversation.” I was ready to be completely raw with my honest feelings in my prayer that morning. Excuse the language (He and I have discussed that also), but the prayer went something like this – at the top of my lungs, through tears, beating on my steering wheel:
Alright God, what do you want from me? What more do you want me to do? I come to you, do your work, and do all the “right” things and you still let life shit all over me? I can’t keep doing this. You dump on me and leave me to sort it out without any help! You don’t even bother to tell me if I’m on the right path or not. I don’t even know if you’re here! Or if you care! If any of this matters! But if you’re there – we need to work something out. You need to give me a damn clue or a sign that I going in the right direction. My way isn’t working but I appear to be the only one showing up with a plan! You want to call the shots? Fine. We’ll do it your way. But you better check in. I want signs. Owls. I want owls and birds along the way. Big, cool, special birds – everyday ones like sparrows won’t cut it. Amen.
It was far from the most eloquent prayer I’ve ever said, but I promise you it’s one of the top most sincere and from the heart prayers I’ve ever said. Swear words and irrational bird demands included. He knew I was finally being real and seeking HIS way, not the way I thought people should see me doing His way.
That’s the wonderful thing about God. He doesn’t want us coming to Him with our fake selves. He knows who we are and what we need even better than we do. He wants our honest, authentic, raw, fully open hearts coming to Him.
I’m sure He looked at me raging in my minivan with a smile while I was making demands and shouting a to-do list prayer as if He needed my help to get my life “right”. And I’m so grateful he was patient enough to wait for the real me to show up and ask Him to take over.
God knows our weaknesses and loves us despite them. He created them in us, they are perfect. He wants us to come to him, with fire in our bellies, spirits of fire, and throw it at his feet. That’s when we get the good stuff. The love, forgiveness, and the help we need to get through our hardest times.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
I left the beach without a booming voice telling me what to do next or a flock of owls tap dancing the way I needed to go next. I wish the exchange had a huge earth shattering moment right then, but it didn’t.
I drove home with puffy eyes. I did my daily yoga practice. I read. Cleaned the house, watched some Netflix, then slid into loving mom and wife mode when my family arrived home. I stopped telling God what I needed or how He should do it. I merely stayed present and looked for Him through the evening.
I climbed into bed that night feeling foolish for my outburst that morning and more lost than ever. I was more exhausted than ever too. The weight of using to do it all on my own was too much and I was ready to calmly admit it. I didn’t want to thru to be the boss anymore. I kat can’t too do things His way. My way keeps ending up in a painful place, it’s clearly the wrong direction for me.
I drifted to sleep that night asking Him to run the show and call the shots. I apologized for the language, but I admitted that I really could use some little reassurance some time. Just the occasional check-in that I’m doing ok.
When I woke from a dream around midnight a few nights later, one I do not recall but left me feeling in absolute peace, I smiled to myself with a feeling of relief that He was hearing me. Then, I heard him. A loud owl hooting in the night. The first I’ve ever heard in the 5 years we’ve lived in this house.
God is with you. Give him your honest self. He can take it and He’ll still love you for it.