Contrary to popular opinion, the end of the year holidays are a very difficult time for many people. Depression is often worse then. Winter is coming on; other people seem almost obnoxiously happy and there are many social gatherings. If one is not in the best mood or has experienced personal reverses or some serious losses and is grieving, the holidays can make the situation worse. Here are some suggestions to help.
Practice giving thanks for little things. When we are depressed we focus on the negative. In wholesome contrast, the habit of thanksgiving helps us get a wider perspective on life and encourages us to appreciate what is good even amid our difficulties.
Get in touch with the losses, hurts and angry feelings in your heart. Frequently depression has components related to grief and anger from circumstances in our lives, sometimes cumulative circumstances. When we are depressed, we may not be dealing in a healthy way with these feelings. It helps so much to be conscious of the roots of our sadness and then to talk it out with trusted and wise friends, counselors or pastors. Hiding these feelings inside feeds our depression in unconscious ways. Praying about these feelings also helps; think of prayer as talking out our feelings and circumstances with God.
Keep interacting with your friends and family. When we are depressed, we have a natural tendency to isolate ourselves, but this is not the healthiest thing for us to do. Maintaining or even increasing our usual connections with family and friends will help us greatly in getting through our time of depression. The warmth of friendship and love is healing for us even when it is hard to reciprocate. True friends understand.
Remember the character of God. He is a God of Hope and Encouragement (Romans 15:5, 13). So drawing near to God helps immensely. If it is hard to pray yourself, ask a Christian friend to pray with you. Keep attending services, if at all possible. Remember that God knows the hurts of your heart (Psalm 10:14). When words don’t come, He hears your heart.
Find some key Bible verses that speak to you. Write them on cards and place them where you will see them often or put them on your computer desktop. They will help reshape your thinking. Reading in the Psalms will help you find them. Here are some suggestions to begin. 1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 11:28; Psalm 23; Psalm 28:7; Psalm 46:1, 2; Psalm 55:22; Psalm 56:3; Hebrews 13:5, 6; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Isaiah 40:29-31; Isaiah 46:4, Isaiah 57:15; Philippians 4:4-8; and Psalm 103.
Finally, it you don’t find yourself making progress, seek help. It is a strong thing to do to recognize when we could use a little help and seek it. Counselors, pastors and doctors are trained to help in sensitive ways. Most everyone has times in their lives when they could benefit greatly from counsel.
As I interact with people today, I find that many are under pressure. Frequently there are two jobs in the home and children needing attention as well. Add to this the usual stresses of family finances, school situations, health challenges, and family sports schedules; it’s stressful just to name it all. Sometimes we need to find or review ideas as to how to handle stress. Here is a helpful list of ten ideas that contains much wisdom. Information like this helps us put into practice the advice of Proverbs 23:4 (NIV), “Do not wear yourself out to get rich!” If you are not fond of the word “relax” and some highly motivated people are not, may I suggest substituting the phrase “loosen up” in suggestion one and “calm down” in number six.
Try to relax while working, driving or doing any activity, keeping alert at the same time. Check to see if your arms and legs are tense. Consciously relax them. Breathe deeply and say, “I am at peace,” or “Lord, be with me today,” as you prepare for some activity.
Take time to “smell the flowers.” Delight in the ocean or a sunset, and really know what it is to be alive.
Laugh at yourself and. with others. Enjoy humor without hurtful teasing.
Don’t fret the small stuff! Ask yourself, “In all eternity, what will this matter?”
Try to be realistic about time commitments, allowing more time for each activity rather than crowding too much in a day.
Try not to be “anxious” or worry. Use your thought process to decide, “I am going to enjoy this day. I will be relaxed, knowing that God is always with me in whatever I am doing—in the little things as well as in the most important ones.”
Try to start each day with God, using a devotional reading together or separately. “Wait on the Lord.” “Be still.” “Lift your eyes unto the hills” (the sky, the clouds). Possibly start writing your “thought-feelings” for a few minutes, and then leave any concerns with God.
Be at peace at the end of the day, forgiving each other and other people. Lay aside guilt. Place all concerns with God. Hold hands together and say a simple prayer before getting in bed, such as: “Thank you, Lord, for this day, for our lives together, and for your love and ours.”
Deal with juggling and stress creatively. Try different methods.
Accept yourself as God’s creation.
(From Do-it-Yourself Marriage Enrichment by Warren and Mary Ebinger pp. 34,35)
Someone is way overdue for a Grandpa post. I am so much enjoying being a grandparent. And on November 17, 2014, our second grandchild was born, a little girl, Annabelle Jocelyn Stater, 6 lbs. 11 oz. One of the special moments over Christmas was being left in the Stater dining room holding Annabelle. I rocked her in my arm, looked at the tree and Sammie’s new oversize Melissa and Doug creation while listening to Christmas music playing from the iPhone on the table.
But back to the story. We were awakened in the wee hours on Nov. 17 by a call from Keely and Mark that they were going to the hospital. We left quickly. But Annabelle did not wait. She barely waited for the doctor to arrive. Mark accidentally dialed JoAnne as we were walking out of the hospital parking garage. JoAnne answered and heard the baby’s first cries. Keely and Annabelle were released from the hospital the next day.
JoAnne and I will also remember it for the very busy week that it was. I officiated at one funeral later that same day and met with two different families about funerals that I had yet to do. Besides that I ended up making at least three trips to the hospital in the first two days to visit and or pick up JoAnne. In addition, our choir was gearing up that week for a special presentation on the Sunday before Thanksgiving the next Sunday.
But we certainly had some very special blessing for which to give thanks the following week on Thanksgiving. The attached pictures are all from Annabelle’s first days.
This afternoon I took a walk up Broad Hill Road and on up the hill. I turned left into the Holcombe Farm trails and took the High Ridge Trail. I wasn’t feeling tops, but I have found that pushing myself to walk when I am not feeling spunky often helps me in the long run. There was not a lot to see in the early spring woods. I had to watch my footing as the trail was muddy in places from small springs. But I had my trusty hiking staff to keep me steady. I always keep my eyes open and today I was especially looking for spring flowers. After all, it is May and the old adage says, “April showers bring May flowers.” I was not disappointed. On my way to the woods, I had seen red trilliums in two different gardens but I did not find any yet in the woods. However I did find a beautiful little rock garden type plant growing in the path and among the mosses. It seemed to be a more dainty version of a plant I had recently planted in my own rock garden.
I was nearly back to the beginning of the High Ridge Trail when I almost stumbled over a fallen but still intact bird’s nest. It was too small to be a robin’s nest, built of different materials, and more neatly built too. I wasn’t sure if the white material in it was some kind of fine bark or lichen. I took its picture to record another find of interest on my path. Finds like this are why I prefer outside walks to inside treadmills any day, even though I might get rained on occasionally as I did today before I got home.
I guess my walk is another illustration of how we seem to find things of interest if we are alert and looking. Just becoming an observer of nature would cure boredom for many people, I’m quite sure. I derive so much pleasure on my walks from observing different aspects of the natural world that I have taken time over the years to learn a little about –rocks, trees, birds, wildflowers, ferns, mushrooms, and animals all provide something fascinating regularly. I’m afraid many people don’t notice much. I haven’t always either.
I think the habit of looking for interesting and beautiful things in nature helps us also to get in the habit of looking for good things in all of life. We all know that if we look for trouble, we find it; and if we look for good things, we will find them too. Noticing things we can rejoice and give thanks for gives us a healthy sense of anticipation and keeps our spirits up every day.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Jas 1:17 NIV).
This has been a great pastor appreciation month. My associate, Pastor Eric and I say thank you to all of you—so many kind words, gifts, food donations and people generally going the extra mile to make us feel special. Just as a sample, today I received a restaurant gift certificate & a great berry pie from adults, a plate of scrumptious chocolate brownies & card from a teen and a handmade appreciation card from a child. Wow! Beth Winans has done a great job coordinating it all too.
United prayers were a highlight
Last week as Eric and I (and our wives too in 1st service) knelt at the altar rails while many in the congregation gathered around us, laid hands on us and prayed, I felt so blessed. How blessed to be prayed for by the gathered body of Christ. It is so encouraging and empowering. JoAnne told me she was doing pretty well at not being emotional through all the thoughtful prayers until one of the teen girls prayed, then she was so touched, she could no longer hold back the tears and needed my handkerchief.
Seeing other people minister is rewarding
One of the biggest blessings of the month for me was to see so many people step up in this morning’s services and do things I had not seen them do before—like Anthony calling for the ushers and Caleb Wilkinson praying over the offering in second service, Mystical speaking so articulately about Eric’s analogies, Phil Seamans tenderly leading the congregation in prayer time in second service, Shaun Harrington clearly bringing a very Biblical message in second service and so many others who gave testimonies. As I near retirement, it becomes more and more gratifying to me to see that our church is equipping people to do the work of ministry in so many different forms. One of the greatest pastor appreciation things that could happen is to see those I have influenced “catching the wave,” “getting on board,” and actually doing the things I do, sometimes better than I do them, but in the same Christian Spirit. That is how the body of Christ is to grow and multiply its influence.
Thank you all for a great month.
“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.” 2 Th 1:3 NIV
After our fun celebration, I began thinking, “Why is it important to celebrate? Are there good reasons besides the fun?” I remembered immediately that God must have thought it was important as he taught the OT people to set aside time for feasting and rejoicing. Now, in the glow of our big weekend, I can see some of the reasons.
Celebration motivates people to volunteer and identify with the cause.
The energy of the occasion is catching. People like to be a part of a good purpose in a way that is immediate and tangible. Helping out at a celebration provides a positive emotional feedback to the volunteer, especially when coupled with appropriate appreciation from those being helped. Volunteering in turn helps the volunteer to feel more a part of the organization that they helped.
Celebration generates creativity.
We found that the combination of workers thinking together and the challenge of a focused task that they strongly believed in generated much creativity. All kinds of new ideas were spawned in the past few months and many of them were used. One of the biggest examples was the sanctuary makeover. The idea of preparing for the future helped set a climate for change. The creative idea of dividing the front wall between paint and paneling instead of all paneling was accepted by a huge majority. The new design’s decorative flexibility became evident at the 50th as the background of the cross became purple to complement the purple and gold color scheme of the celebration. Enlarging the vestibule and moving the doors to the center created an entrance so natural that it seems like it always should have been like that. For another example, we had done slide shows before on the big screen but never with the music embedded and narration overlaid. Anne Kipping and JoAnne Jones went as far as they could and then called in Josh Basile to put it all together. A third example was the spontaneous recreation of the church sign landscaping by Cindy Centner and Vicki Hilliges. All these examples made it obvious that creativity just happens as we celebrate.
What a great weekend we have enjoyed here at Community Wesleyan. There was a tremendous joy evident in all the events. Beginning with the hugs of surprise reunions at the parsonage open house, continuing amid the happy chatter of the delightfully fancy Meet N’ Greet reception, and throughout the service of thanksgiving on Saturday evening, joy abounded. Looking back, I’m so glad we added the Saturday events. I estimate at least 120 enjoyed the praise and thanksgiving time. It gave much more time to peruse the meticulously collected photo albums and bulletin boards telling our church’s story. It also gave time to try to guess who went with which baby pictures. I wonder if anyone guessed that early grade school picture was me. I also think it added greatly to the anticipation of Sunday.
Sunday’s Celebration events were climactic in every way. The coffee and cookie time was grander than ever and enjoyed by many. In service, who can forget the heart for winning others to Jesus of our aging founding pastor, Rev. Tom Boghosian as he urged us on. The music was stirring especially the rousing chorus of “Look What the Lord Has Done,” the grand piano, organ and reunion choir rendition of “To God Be the Glory,” the Sign Choir’s moving “Yesterday, Today, Forever,” the bell choir’s fresh reminder, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands”, and Dave Schwarz’s challenge with “Find Us Faithful.” Like our two services, the celebration was a mix of traditional and contemporary elements. At the suggestion of Dick Rugar, we used this day to also receive new members, of whom he was one. Another one, Nancy Collins, gave her testimony. A very well put together slide show summarized our church’s history and ministry very well. District Superintendent Wayne Wager Sr.’s message on Jubilee, a Time to Realign was both a warning and an encouragement to us to take advantage of this crucial time in our history to seek the kind of renewal that will return us to our original passion for souls.
What a blessing also to hear Pastor Eric’s official announcement that our goal of 50 ministries in the past 30 months had been exceeded. We praise God for enabling this. And since we want that spirit to continue, we hope many will send out one of the special postcards we made. That is our next outreach and service ministry.
In hindsight, one of the wisest decisions we made was to use a caterer and have the dinner at church. The turnout was tremendous. The downstairs was arranged to seat about 220 and some seats were used twice. The program was fun yet helped us reflect on the history of our church. The reminisces from former pastors Wolfe and Crandall and testimonies from Fran Filmer and Steven Sgroi gave us good perspectives too. JoAnne’s song, “Keep the Flame Burning” that we sang at the close of both the service and the dinner program seemed to sum it all up so well.
There are so many to thank for making it all possible. Pastor Wager was impressed with the planning we had done. I was personally blessed by all those who pitched in the last few days to put on finishing touches. There were set-up volunteers swarming the place for days ahead. Volunteers worked on at least 4 picture related projects constantly during that last week. Gardeners totally redid the church sign garden. People were practicing music and sign and bells whenever they could find a spot to do so. Then after it was all over, volunteers were cleaning up for hours. I say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped bring it all together.
I’ve been reflecting more about Thanksgiving and thinking about all its benefits. I have observed something as I have read what my friends and acquaintances have written on Facebook. Those who have been actively giving thanks seem very happy and joyful. While I’m sure it is true that when one is joyful, it is easy to also be thankful, I believe the opposite is also true. When one disciplines themselves to be thankful, even when circumstances are contrary, joy rises inside and surprises us. The more we give thanks, the happier we seem to be. So it is not an accident that those giving thanks are also bubbling with joy.
Thanksgiving encourages faith
This leads to a second salutary effect of Thanksgiving– a positive outlook. As we count our blessings, enumerating the people, circumstances, and things for which we are thankful, our outlook toward the future becomes much more sanguine. When our focus is on the good things that have already happened, it is easier to expect more of the same. Sincere Thanksgiving to God leads to growing optimism and greater faith in God.
Another major value of the Thanksgiving holiday is its emphasis upon family togetherness. In the entire year, only Christmas outranks Thanksgiving in magnetism for drawing families together. Witness the traffic on this weekend both on the ground and in the air, and you see demonstrated the desire of people to be with loved ones on Thanksgiving. How wonderful it is to have this holiday, one big feature of which is helping to bring families together. There is so much in our culture that pulls in the opposite direction. Thanksgiving reminds us of the value of family, both nuclear family and extended family.
In addition to these, Thanksgiving spurs generosity and charity. People are moved to contribute to food pantries, church turkey giveaways, etc. because they are thinking about how God has been so good to them and they want to share. This is an attitude that we should have all year long. Hopefully, such actions help make Thanksgiving a time of blessing for the poor also, as it should be.
So when I think of the holidays of the year, Thanksgiving rates high on my list–just behind Christmas and Easter.