Pink Bikes, Birthday Parties, and Depression: Lessons from a 3-Year-Old

Guest blog by Heidi (Schwarz) Sadler heidiprofile-300x221

Because we have multiple medical appointments this week, our daughter, Heidi Beth Sadler, has agreed to share her blog with us here. Heidi  is a musician, writer, and cat lover in Portland, OR. Visit her on Facebook or chasingebenezer.com

Depression sucks. A lot of you know this firsthand. Personally, I’ve been walking through serious depression for some time (I’d suggest you go back and read my previous blog, Loved in Depression?). I’m glad to report that while I’m still working through it, things are much better. It’s certainly not been a quick fix. Some situations are fixed instantly, but sometimes the slow, holistic method is required. The benefit is that I’ve received some beautiful gifts on this healing path that I hope encourage you on whatever arduous path you might be traveling today.

The Soul

Whimsy. It’s not a word we use very often. We’re so focused on technology and science that the idea of mystery and childlike wonder is hard to come by. Well, over the past six months, there is a special little girl who has taught me so much about whimsy and joy and wholehearted living. She’s modeled better than many adults what it means to wait with wonder and great expectancy, and that has brought healing to my heart. (Here’s a photo of my precious niece Mo and her curly little head next to Uncle Ben during a little recording time).

Mo turned three years old in April, and for the six months leading up to her birthday, she was waiting for the gift of a lifetime: a pink bike. Now, in adult terms, that may not seem very long, but for a 2.5-year-old, six months is an eternity.

But here’s what’s so cool about Little Mo. She didn’t just wait a long time for her pink bike; she waited with hope and expectancy. Every time you saw her before her birthday, her eyes would light up, she’d flash her contagious grin, and she’d tell you she was getting that pink bike. Not maybe. Not she sure hoped she would get it. Not what an awful time she was having as she waited in agony. No, Mo was sure her parents would get her that bike. And the fact that she can’t do math means she had no real idea of how long she was waiting. She simply trusted that the pink bike would come at the right time. What an amazing opportunity it was for us to be at her birthday party as my brother-in-law wheeled out the long-awaited pink bike and we bore witness to her joy in receiving it, along with an awesome helmet from her big brother.

As we age, we lose our ability to have childlike confidence in God and His promises. Pain can crush the soul. We lose whimsical joy in our mysterious Creator who has good plans for our future.

Watching Little Mo’s pink bike journey makes me long to be filled with an unexplainable hope that believes in impossible things. I long to wait with wonder. When I am full of wonder, my heart is full of hope.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.  Selah. Psalm 62:5-8 (ESV)

The Body

In addition to the soul healing, there’s been a physical component to all of this. This tender brain of mine just needed some help from my doctor. It comes in the form of a little anti-depressant pill I am so grateful to have. It might not be something I take forever, but right now, it’s just what I needed.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. Psalm 31:9-10 (ESV)

There seems to be a stigma around depression and medication, specifically in the church. Thoughts like, “I should be able to kick this,” or “If I was more spiritual, the depression would go away,” constantly bombard me. And while I am actively in the process of learning how to take hold of my thoughts and behaviors, medication has drastically improved my ability to function. It may not be for everyone, but if you struggle with depression, I’d encourage you to talk to your doctor. It’s made it easier to manage my emotions and learn to navigate the challenges of life with a much more even mood, which has been good for me and my community.

The Spiritual

One of the challenges of depression is the temptation to isolate. Thankfully, I’ve had some dear friends who’ve not let me go. They are people I can call if I am feeling tempted to harm myself or to give up. Their words and prayers don’t always bring an automatic change in feelings, but I can see that over time, their prayers of truth from Scripture have brought strength.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.      Ephesians 3:14b-19 (ESV)

Whether you believe in God or not, there are people out there who do, who believe we can talk to the Creator and are willing to pray for you. Contact me if you would like to be connected to such a prayerful person (see other resources below).

A Song for You

I hope that my little story brings you encouragement. My problems aren’t all fixed, but that doesn’t mean I need to wait to pursue beauty. It’s been good to write out this journey and see splashes of color throughout so much sorrow.

Here’s the link to Eyes, a song I wrote asking for a heart that expects miracles. That prayer never gets old. Maybe you be filled with faith, hope, love, and a little whimsy too. Peace to your body, soul, & spirit. ~Heidi Beth Sadler

Resources

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression/suicide, here are some resources that might be helpful. No matter what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, your life is worth it. My best advice: rip off the mask and tell someone. Don’t try to do this on your own. Know you are loved right where you are at.

Everyday Health (Depression Resources)

-American Foundation for Suicide Prevention/Suicide Hotline

*Disclaimer: Heidi Sadler is not a licensed professional. If you believe you are experiencing a mental or physical crisis, please contact emergency services.

Text/Photos are the sole property of Heidi Sadler and/or Rebecca Schnable, Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved. The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.

 

 

Three Days with John the Baptist (recap)

Hi, Friends!

This is Gary Schwarz, Bible teacher for Principles for Life Ministries. Below are the downloads I promised you a few days ago. However, before you listen to them, I have a prayer request I’d like to make. As many of you know, I’ve been battling some health problems the past couple years – type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and spinal stenosis. However, over the past year, my hematologist has found some suspicious things in my blood tests. The white blood cells are much higher than they should be. So on Wednesday he is having me undergo a bone marrow biopsy to make sure that I’m not also suffering from some form of leukemia or other blood disease. They poke a whole in your hip bone and extract some bone marrow which they then proceed to study. My prayer is that they will arrive at a clear diagnosis and a helpful treatment plan. The main symptom I suffer is chronic fatigue. Thank you for caring and praying! God bless you all!

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(To download a written copy of this study, click PDF.)

(To download or listen to the spoken message, click mp3.)

Next week look for a study of the first disciples who believed in Jesus. It’s very insightful!

Three Days with John the Baptist (Day 3)

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The Challenge to the Righteous on Day 3—Follow Him!

In each generation, God sets apart a righteous remnant who He calls His own, not because of their good intentions, but because of His grace at work in their hearts. And rarely are they obvious choices. Case in point: The first disciples of Jesus who had little to recommend them except they were disciples of John the Baptist. In this study we’ll meet two of them.

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Since they were disciples of John—the best men he had—he knew that once he introduced them to Jesus, he was going to lose them. But that didn’t stop him, for he had no ambitions to develop a following for himself. His mission was to point people to Jesus. Verse 35, “The next day John was again standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ So they came and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.”

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The tenth hour means it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and too dark to walk home on a winter’s day. So what did they do? They spent the night with Jesus talking and asking Him questions. After all, wouldn’t you? If you had a chance to spend a night with Jesus, would you miss out on a moment of it?

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Notice two other things with me. First, they called Him “Rabbi,” a term of great respect in that culture, saying to Him in effect: “We’re ready to follow you now instead of John.” Verse 40 tells us who the first disciple was to make that decision. It was Andrew, and what did he do as soon as he got home? He found his brother Peter and led him to Jesus. Reading between the lines, we can also tell who the second disciple was to follow Jesus. It was John, the writer of this Gospel, who in keeping with his habit remains anonymous, yet gives away his presence by citing the exact day and hour he met Jesus. That’s something he could never forget.

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But the most important thought to leave with you is this: John’s testimony worked. Because he made his ministry all about Jesus and not about himself, our Lord was welcomed with great fanfare by the people of Israel. It didn’t last very long, for the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. But the truth captured the most important hearts of all – Andrew and John, who immediately told their brothers, Peter and James, and their fishing buddies, Philip, Nathanael, and Thomas. And because of that chain reaction of disciple-making, set into motion by John the Baptizer, you and I believe today and are on our way to the kingdom of God.

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So let’s not stop. Let’s keep the momentum going. Invite a friend to church this week. Ask someone to join you at your Bible study. Take someone with you to a Christian concert. Or pass on one of these lessons that may help their faith. Remember John’s three challenges to us – Turn to Christ! Believe in Christ! Follow Christ! The last of which involves more than following Jesus yourself; it also entails inviting someone to join you in your journey of faith.

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Three Days with John the Baptist (Day 2)

The Challenge to the Repentant on Day 2—Recognize Him!

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John the Baptist’s testimony continues in verse 29. It says, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.’ John testified saying, ‘I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

Notice several things in this short paragraph. First, notice John’s authority to baptize. The first day, when the religious authorities asked him where he got his authority to baptize, he didn’t even bother to answer them because there was only One Person he was living to please, and that was the One who sent him to baptize. John’s baptism was God’s ordained way of preparing His people to receive their Messiah. John explains, “I came baptizing in water, so that He might be manifested to Israel.” Furthermore, he says, that’s how God revealed to him who the Messiah was because before this, he wasn’t sure that Jesus was the Messiah.

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That’s odd, you say. I thought their mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, were cousins. Wouldn’t they have told their boys about each other? In all likelihood they did. But John and Jesus grew up in different places. John grew up in southern Israel in the wilderness of Judea, whereas Jesus was raised in the northern region of Galilee, in a little town called Nazareth. So the chances they played together as children were low. That doesn’t mean they didn’t know who each other was. The word “know” in this passage means “to recognize.” John knew who Jesus was when He came to be baptized, but at this point he didn’t yet recognize that He was the Messiah.

But you argue, wouldn’t his mother Elizabeth have told him about the virgin birth of Jesus in the little town of Bethlehem as the prophets predicted? I’m sure she did. But Elizabeth was elderly at the time of his birth and is likely dead by now. Furthermore, it’s been 18 years since anyone has heard from Jesus. At age 12 He traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with His family, amazing the scholars at the Temple with His understanding of Scripture. But since then, He’s been living in obscurity, working in the carpentry shop and providing for His family after Joseph his stepfather died. Since then no one has heard from Him. So God gave John a sign in order to recognize Him. John explains, “I myself did not know (recognize) him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’”

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Two things to get straight here: first, the Spirit is not a dove. I have no objections to people wearing the sign of a dove. That’s a lovely symbol of God’s grace. But it isn’t what John saw. He didn’t see a dove descending on Jesus, because the Spirit doesn’t look like a dove. I think what he saw was the Shekinah glory we talked about in John 1:14, “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John is clear. He isn’t describing what the Spirit looked like in this verse. He is describing the manner in which the Holy Spirit came to rest on Jesus. He came to rest on Him in the same graceful manner that a bird might land on someone’s shoulder.

Even more important is what he says next: “I saw the Spirit descend like a dove, and it remained on Him.” In other words, this was not a temporary empowerment. It was a return of the eternal glory that Jesus enjoyed with His Father from eternity past. For “in Him,” Colossians 2:9 says, “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”

But John’s most important statements are in verses 29 and 34 where he gives Jesus two titles. John didn’t care for titles when it came to his own ministry. But when it came to Jesus, it was vital that he get it right, for this was no mere man that he was introducing. “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” That’s a term the people immediately understood, for they had all raised lambs for sacrifice. They also knew the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to God on the altar of Moriah. But in response to Abraham’s faith, what did Jehovah-Jireh (meaning “God will provide”) do? He stayed Abraham’s hand and opened his eyes to a ram caught in the thicket, which he was then able to sacrifice in place of his son.

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They also knew about Passover and how the angel of death passed over their homes in Egypt when he saw the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. But to call Messiah a lamb was shocking. A great king or priest or mighty prophet! Certainly! But a lamb! That’s so weak! A lamb was a stupid and helpless creature offered once a year in the Temple. And that was enough. We don’t need another lamb! But what they failed to realize is that the blood of the lambs they offered never removed sin. It merely covered it for a while until God’s Lamb appeared and took away their sin forever. They were a self-righteous people who failed to recognize how sinful they were. After all, we’re so much holier than the pagans living around us. Why do we need a lamb or a savior? What we want is a king!

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But the greatest thing he says is in verse 34. John says, “He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” How did John know Jesus was the Son of God? He heard the Father say so at Jesus’ baptism 40 days before! How many others heard it or understood its meaning, we don’t know. For there were thousands coming to John to be baptized! But John remembers it. How could he not! Heaven opens, the Spirit comes to rest upon Jesus like a dove, and the Father speaks from Heaven saying, ‘This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.”

Then Jesus disappears!  Where did He go? Matthew, Mark, and Luke say He was led into the desert by the Spirit where for 40 days he was tested by the devil. Since then He’s eaten, been ministered to by angels, and is returning in the power of the Spirit, ready to launch His ministry, when John catches sight of Him coming towards him and announces to everyone within earshot: “This is the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

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Jesus, Ancient of Days, co-equal with the Father – Dan. 7:18 & Rev. 1:14

That phrase meant far more in the Jewish mind than it does to us Western thinkers 20 centuries later. In fact, to take our idea of “son-ship” and read it back into what John says is intellectually dishonest and spiritually dangerous. The hottest places in hell are reserved for people who twist the Scriptures like that. In the Hebrew mind, a son shared the same nature as his father, so when John calls Jesus the Son of God, he isn’t saying that Jesus is the greatest creature God made. He’s saying that Jesus shares the same essence as the Father and is therefore equal with the Father.

We’ll see that more clearly in John 5:18 where John says, “For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, for not only was He breaking the Sabbath, He was also calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” That was the point of John’s ministry. He came to prepare the way of whom? Isaiah 40:3, “I’m the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the LORD.” Matthew 3:3, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Mark 1:3, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Luke 3:4, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” There was never a doubt in John’s mind who he was sent to introduce. He was preparing the way of the Lord Himself.

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John the Baptist’s call to the religious on Day 1 was: Turn to Christ! His call to the repentant on Day 2 was: Recognize Christ. He is both the Lamb of God and the Son of God. So what’s next on Day 3? His call to the recognize: Follow Christ!