Together

 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  (Acts 2: 42 ESV) This scripture in Acts is referring to early believers.  The early believers were devoted to each other…

Tactics I’ve Used in Battling Depression

My battle with depressionIt has been about two weeks since I wrote my blog about my latest struggle with depression. The texts, private messages, calls, emails, etc … received from people struggling with this same issue have been overwhelming. My heart breaks for those who have to suffer with this. While I was in the shower this morning, I was praying for each and every individual who has reached out to me and the thought came to me to share some of the tactics I have used in this battle. They might be helpful, they might not, every person is different, but I pray everyone who struggles with this finds solace in the fact that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! You never were, but our enemy is a trickster and tries to convince us otherwise.

Share It

Don’t be scared to tell people who love you what you are going through. It is my belief that people genuinely want you to be real. They want to help you; they want to pray for you; they want to be a blessing to you. Think about the personal satisfaction you get when you do something nice for someone else. It feels pretty awesome right? Don’t take that blessing away from those who love you. I’m pretty sure Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” If you don’t ever need to receive anything, you rob people of the blessing of giving.

Shut It

Shut up the constant chatter in your brain. It is negative, self-defeating and untrue! It is impossible to do this unless you purposely put other thoughts in your mind. To shut my mind up, I memorize scripture. It is impossible for your mind to be talking if you are trying to memorize anything. Your brain gets focused on the task it is working on. Another tactic is to replace lies with truth. My favorite verse to do this with is Philippians 4:8. This verse has an onslaught of good thoughts to focus our attention on, which are things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Take those words and fill in the blank. Here is an example: True: My children love me, Noble: How my husband sticks beside me even though I am going crazy etc. If none of those work, play candy crush! That keeps your mind off anything, and now you know why I am on level 350!

Get Up

When it is 4am and you can’t sleep, and I know you can’t because you can’t turn your brain to off, get up and exercise. What good does it do you to lay there and focus on not being able to sleep? It is scientifically proven that when you exercise you release feel good chemicals called endorphins. You can’t sleep anyway, do something productive.

Do Something

Don’t be alone. Do something! I try to stay busy and productive. One of my favorite things to do is Yoga with my BFF. I have an army of BFF’s who “babysit” me during this time. We lunch, we shop, we put together crafts for church, we get our make-up done etc. It keeps me focusing on something else other than my miserable state.

See a Counselor

See a counselor. Sometimes it is good to talk to someone who doesn’t know you and has no vested interest in you. It is also good to have an unbiased perspective. Counselors exist because you are not alone, other people go through this.

See a Medical Doctor

See a doctor. Sometimes depression is caused by chemical imbalances and the chemicals need some help getting balanced. There is no difference in taking an anti-depressant than there is in taking blood pressure medicine or any other type of medicine that regulates your body. If you are embarrassed about what your friends will say, don’t be. The people that love you want you to get better. If your friends think that taking an anti-depressant make you less, get new friends. They are probably also the same people sitting on the couch, eating a Big Mac and popping cholesterol pills.

There is Purpose

I get so mad at God when this happens. The problem is, my enemy never misses a good tongue lashing at God, and he is there to cheer me on. Go to the scripture and see what it says about suffering. Typically all the things I am mad about and think God should be doing aren’t scriptural. God doesn’t promise me a bed of roses. We are supposed to rejoice in our suffering. We actually grow closer to Christ through partaking in the fellowship of His sufferings. It’s not fun, but knowing there is a purpose for the pain does make it easier. It is important to remember in this time, and all times, if there is ever a debate between what you are feeling and what Scripture says, Scripture wins…..ALWAYS! Your feelings will lie to you.

Acceptance

Accept the fact that this might be “the thorn in your flesh”. Paul talked a lot about the thorn in his flesh that God didn’t take away. I like that Paul never revealed what the thorn was. I think he did it so we could all relate to him, we could all assume that he shared the same thorn that we do. We must be aware though, this could be something that won’t go away. It could be a pruning process, it could be used to make us stronger, or it could be just because we live in a Fallen World. Whatever the reason, accept it. Your job is to glorify and enjoy God. So in this, find a way to do that, and ask God to show you what He wants to reveal through your suffering.

Serve Others

Do something for someone else! It seems like when I am in the middle of depression I am so self-absorbed with how I am feeling that is all I can think about is ME, ME, ME. Doing something that serves someone else not only keeps your mind off yourself, it glorifies God, which is our purpose!

This Does Not Define You

Depression does not define you. My sweet husband sent me an email, yes we send love notes via email, last time I went through this cycle and reminded me “depression isn’t who you are”. It is something I might have to deal with forever, but it’s not me. Remind yourself who you are, and if anyone sends you a note of encouragement, keep them and read through them to be reminded of who you really are.

Fearlessly Afraid

I hate Cheesy Christian tshirtsONE WORD – that was the challenge for 2014. Pick one word to focus on for 2014. After much thought, I chose the word FEARLESS. I was fresh off two years of greatness, as I perceived it, and was up for a challenge.

I had listened to God’s call and obediently adopted our youngest daughter, who has brought much joy to our house. I had tackled a mission trip out of the country without my husband. I had completed a triathlon. And now I was focusing my time and energy on a new challenge I felt God calling me to. I was ready to be even more fearless for God in 2014.

Then one week into the New Year on a Tuesday it hit me at 11am, the dread, the darkness, the fear, the stomach pain. By 2pm I had spiraled and depression had engulfed my whole being. I honestly thought I was immune. It had happened once a few years back, but I assumed it would never happen again.

I found myself angry at God. Why does He allow this to happen to me? Why isn’t He protecting me? Why would He choose to punish me when I strive to be obedient? Why, Why, Why?

This time when it happened, I didn’t try to live in hiding like I had previously. I informed my friends and family, who love me, and asked them to start praying. I knew from the last time, I needed to form an army to help me get through this.

Reflecting back on my most recent episode of depression, I wasn’t afraid to be honest. I wasn’t afraid to say, no I can’t be at the house by myself. I wasn’t afraid to call my friend and say I need to come to your house right now and ask her to pray for me. I wasn’t afraid to wake Brian up at 3am and say please pray over me. I wasn’t afraid to call my friend at 6am and say I need you to pick me up and take me to the doctor right now. I wasn’t afraid to go for a run at 4am; honestly, I was kind of hoping a bear would eat me to put me out of my misery.

I wasn’t protecting my ego. I wasn’t afraid of not being perfect.

Maybe when I chose fearless, God had different ideas for exposing my fears than I did. Perhaps He knew the deepest fear I needed to conquer was the fear of not always having it together, and He allowed me to suffer this so I could face it. I don’t pretend to understand all the reasons He allows us to suffer. I do know that through this, I have drawn closer to Him through reading truths in His word. Maybe He just wanted me.

Whatever it is, I am not going to abandon my one word; fearless. I’m sticking with it. I want more of Him. If suffering is what it takes to do that, I am fearlessly afraid to endure it.

I’m not a Republican.

Karen Culbertson Christian BloggerI’m not a republican. There I said it. Shocking right? I know you are probably replaying some conversations you have had with me, trying to think if you have offended me. I will save you the time, you haven’t.

Now you are thinking “how can she not be a republican, she’s a Christian?” Everyone knows Christians are part of the religious right who is owned by the Republican Party.

If that thought doesn’t make you sick to your stomach, some reflection might be needed. It seems as if everywhere I go within the Christian community there is some sort of subtle understanding that we are all republicans and must hate or look down on the “loose moral democrats”.

Recently I was at a lecture within a Christian environment and was so impressed and intrigued by the lecturer’s intelligence and depth of knowledge. Then he had to make the statement that CNN was the “communist news network”. At that point his credibility went from hero to zero. I don’t find hate amusing or appropriate within a Christian setting. Hate can be reserved for political conventions, the news and Facebook of course (where is the SarcMark when you need it). For about 8 years I have lived this truth about myself in hiding, out of fear of rejection or disdain from my brothers and sisters in Christ. They can be a very judgmental group.

So why the change of heart you ask? Why come out of the closet on my political stances right now?

Get ready for some more Protestant controversy, but here goes … the new Pope. Yes, I do believe the Pope, especially this guy, can be my brother in Christ. This guy is shaking things up and I find him incredibly fascinating! He’s hugging disruptive kids, firing Archbishops and converting their houses to soup kitchens, calling “the church” out on living the high life while there are people starving and he even has the audacity to live simply. He is saying, forget how things have always been done and what is “appropriate ” but rather he is looking to Christ for what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and worthy of praise. Bless his heart! His allegiance belongs to Christ and not to anyone else.

I find that to be refreshingly admirable and an example to be followed. We aren’t to conform to the world, or to the republicans or democrats, but we are to be transformed by renewing our minds so that we will be able to test and approve what is God’s will. Christ and only Christ is the one whom our allegiance belongs.

I’m not trying to convert anyone to the Democratic Party. I’m not a Democrat either. If you would like to classify me, you could say I am a values conservative and a process liberal. As my other Catholic brother Richard Rohr says “I believe in justice, truth, follow-through, honesty, personal and financial responsibility, faithful love, and humility-all deeply traditional values. Yet, in my view, you need to be imaginative, radical, dialogical and even countercultural to live these values to any depth”.

What I am trying to point out is we, as the body of Christ, need to cut the strings of the religious right. We are not their puppets; their battles are not ours to claim. Let’s not lose sight of our greatest commission by wasting time fighting wars that cannot be won or lost. This world is not our home, let’s set our minds on things above and not be distracted!

Eating Junk Food

My middle child Presley has always been kind of sickly. You wouldn’t expect such a big personality out of her tiny little frame. You know the saying “if momma isn’t happy, nobody is happy”? In our house the saying is “if Presley isn’t happy, nobody is happy”. This personality spills into her food intake, or lack thereof. The kid is very picky and doesn’t really like to eat food in general unless it is candy. This lack of food consumption, leads to her perpetual state of sickliness. No nourishment means a greater susceptibility to sickness.

She also has this nasty habit of putting her hands in her mouth, where she picks up more germs, and thus more sicknesses. As a mother I try to explain these concepts and every time she gets ill, I remind her if she would just eat and make better choices these illnesses wouldn’t be so frequent.

This week was another week of Presley being sick. We had to take her to the ER because she was so sick, undernourished and dehydrated. My level of frustration with her at this point is off the charts. I was driving home from church, fuming over her current predicament, when God does that thing where He convicts me. My thoughts were consumed with her malnourishment and in that moment God showed me my own malnourishment.

What does Jesus say at the last supper? Eat, this is my body; do this in remembrance of me. What does John say in the beginning of his Gospel? The Word became flesh. I realize the last supper is an act of remembrance, but I started thinking maybe when Jesus said to eat the bread representing His body, He was also reminding us to consume His Word.

I am as guilty of spiritual malnourishment as Presley is of physical malnourishment. I am getting a dose of candy by going to church for 2 hours on Sunday, which gives me an immediate boost, but then through the week I am slacking on continual nourishment of real food, which is the Word of God.

This is not a knock on Sunday morning worship or the pastors that provide the boost … unless the pastor claims they get special revelation from God and keeps changing the rules of what God says, or unless the pastor asks you to drink grape Kool-Aid. In that case RUN!!!!!

In this weakened state, I stick my hands in my mouth and get contaminated by the world.

This leads to the last problem. What does physical sickness inevitably always do? Spread, like wildfire; especially to those who are nearest you. The chain of physical sickness and spiritual sickness, really aren’t all that different.

No nourishment + dirty hands = sickness = contagious!

I like the counter formula much better.

Nourishment + clean hands = health = contagious!

Hallelujah God gives us his nourishing Word to consume. Don’t substitute it for candy…….ever! The price Jesus paid for us all was way too costly for us to rely on substitutes.

Unbalanced and Crazy

Karen SaltTeeFor pretty much 99.99% of my life, I have been aiming for the goal of living a “balanced life”. I have used phrases such as “everything in moderation” and have aimed to live a life that doesn’t have too much or too little of anything. I eat healthy, most of the time. I try to get enough exercise. I try not to watch too much television and have pretty much cut out all trash TV and trash magazines. My husband might disagree with that last statement. I’ve even extended this to my children. I don’t let them watch too much TV, eat too much junk food or get them over-extended in too many extracurricular activities, but I don’t deprive them either. After all, it’s all about balanced living; some might even call me Zen.

This morning on my run, I was having my usual morning conversation with God. Did I mention I am also a master multi-tasker? I was talking with Him about what our small group had discussed on Sunday night. Our conversation in small group was about what the first disciples must think of current day disciples and how little the Holy Spirit actually worked in our lives compared to how massively He worked in the disciples lives. We are talking about uneducated men penning and speaking some of the most eloquent words ever written or spoken through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I’m more educated than the first disciples yet most of the things that continually come out of my mouth are completely ignorant. In glaring contrast, the disciples words were so powerful that they were bringing thousands to Christ. The first disciples are ultimately responsible for the spread of the largest religion in the present day world, all through the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind! What is wrong with me? Why isn’t the Holy Spirit working in my life like that?

BINGO! I figured it out. All this balanced living is like a Holy Spirit blocker. I am like the women at the well who has spent so much time searching for happiness in all the wrong places that I have completely missed the source of living water.

It finally hit me today … living a balanced life isn’t scriptural. Living a balanced life is a distraction implanted by the master of all lies. God doesn’t want me to live a life of balance; He wants me to live a completely unbalanced life focused solely on HIM.

Every night I’m sitting in front of a brain sucker (TV) when I could be communing with the maker of heaven and earth and I call that balanced. I’m on Facebook catching up on what food you ate for dinner last night when I could be reading His inspired word. Am I going to be one of those “crazy” people who doesn’t have a TV in their house? Probably not, baby steps, but maybe that is the key.

We have gotten the “crazy” switched around. I’m sure the angels in heaven are constantly in awe of how flippant we are in our pursuit of happiness when the source of joy, incomparable joy is right in front of us just waiting to be tapped into. For me, I’m going to not only start tapping; I’m going to start banging. I want the Holy Spirit to fill me up like the disciples were. I want to be so unbalanced people think I am “crazy”. I want to give and take all I can to my Savior. This is my story, this is my song … praising my Savior, all the day long. You can have the balance, I’m done with it.

While you’re here, why not check out our soft and non-cheesy Christian t-shirts. 100% of all profits are given directly to ministry efforts in the Dominican Republic. Support this ministry by purchasing your SaltTee today.

An Elder’s Wife

Until this week, I never gave much thought to the term elder’s wife. I can be a bit oblivious at times. This week my life changed though. This week I became an elder’s wife… dun-dun-dun (sing that to scary music when you read it, it makes it sound cool). When Brian approached me several months ago and asked me what I thought about him becoming an elder, I said sure, sounds great. I always try to encourage him to be part of working in God’s kingdom.

I assumed it would be very similar to many of the other things he is involved in. My role in it would probably be to plan and organize some events and just help out whenever I can. That is who I am, a worker bee. I love to be behind the scenes organizing and planning and then fall behind the scenes. I don’t do well in the spotlight. I don’t get on stage and I don’t like to pray out loud. All of these things give me hot flashes, sweaty hands, shaky voice, a blotchy red chest and stomach pain. I’m a blender.

So, you can imagine my surprise this week when I had people coming up to me congratulating me. The first congratulation took me completely by surprise. I had no idea what they were congratulating me for. Perhaps it was that I had done a good job getting a handle on my acne, perhaps they were congratulating me for a particularly good hair day. I just wasn’t sure, as must have been obvious by the puzzled look on my face, followed by clarification.

The other unexpected surprise was comments from people like “just wait, now that you are an elder’s wife everyone is going to be watching you close”. WHAT???? Then I started looking around at the other elder’s wives. They are so put together and distinguished. Brian is the youngest elder and only elder with elementary age children and a toddler. I’m the one in the fellowship hall who had to rip the piece of chocolate cake out of her two year olds hand, pick her up as she is having a freak out over the loss of cake, only to then get smacked in the face by her, all in week one of the job. Awesome!

There isn’t a book for this sort of a thing, so far the only advice I have received is don’t screw up. Great, that is a perfect job description for me. It seems like I can always find a way to screw up. I’m the person who thinks when the spiritual gifts test was created, the author left out the spiritual gift of sarcasm and cynicism. I think that is a gift, probably because it is one I possess. Don’t judge, I’m still a work in progress.

This new title, made me reflect on all of the people within our lives and our church who we hold unrealistic expectations for. The people I have empathy for are pastor’s kids. Bless your heart. How it must stink for everyone to watch you so they can judge your parents. I’m sorry for that. We have robbed you of the ability to be authentic, we have shut you down. As my friend Beth Moore said in Bible Study today, we shouldn’t give anyone enough power to throw us off course by his or her actions. Everyone is going to mess up. The only person that will never mess up is Jesus.

So, let’s extend grace, all of us at some point in our life will inevitably need to have that grace reciprocated. Be careful not to withhold it. Messing up and failure doesn’t necessarily make those scrutinized under a microscope frauds, they make them HUMAN. Some of the PK’s (pastor’s kids) I know are battling the enemy and winning. They aren’t in the stands rooting for Jesus, they are on the field making plays and I am so proud of them!

So, this is for them. Keep on, keeping on and don’t be scared to be yourself. That is who God made you to be and He doesn’t make mistakes, people do. Will you make mistakes, let’s hope so, it will take some of the pressure off me, but don’t let it stop you. I will be right there along with you, doing my best, but probably having my share of screw ups along the way. Let’s love extravagantly, let’s show grace and mercy, even to those who don’t give it, but most of all, let’s make some big plays together for Jesus. That’s who we are playing for!

While you’re here, why not check out our soft and non-cheesy Christian t-shirts. 100% of all profits are given directly to ministry efforts in the Dominican Republic. Support this ministry by purchasing your SaltTee today.

I Must Be Going Deaf

Guest blog post from Karen’s mom Pat Cain (Brian’s mom-in-law) of Corydon, Indiana.

My daughter Karen called me the other day just as I walked into a department store. I do not do well with talking on my cell phone while doing other things. This is how you can tell I am old. Multi-tasking is not in my vocabulary, so I ask her to call me back later in the afternoon. When I passed by the children’s department I noticed they were having a great sale.

The frugality in me couldn’t pass this up since her youngest daughter Emery has a birthday next month. I decided I should call her back to ensure I had the right size. My daughter informed me to buy a size 4T. Emery will only be 2yrs old on her upcoming birthday, so I couldn’t believe she was going to be big enough to wear a size 4T. Karen and her family had just visited our home 2 weeks prior and while Emery is big for her age, I couldn’t imagine she was that big.

Maybe, I am losing my vision in this old age thing too. Karen should know what size her daughter wore, so I put the 2T’s that were already in my cart, back and purchased the 4T’s. Karen called me later that day. I told her I got Emery some cute outfits but the 4T’s looked awfully big. My daughter replied, “Mom I told you she wore a 2T.”

Now … I am certain I heard her right, otherwise I wouldn’t have exchanged them but she wouldn’t admit it. I know I can’t be losing my hearing and my mind too with this old age thing.

Later that evening I thought about our conversation and how it applies to our life in general. How many times do we misinterpret what someone says and it causes hurt or hard feelings? Maybe those misinterpreted words could even mark the end of a friendship.

When those situations arise and we find ourselves hurt by words, maybe we should face it straight on and ask again what they meant. Community with others is the one thing in this world that keeps us thriving. Isolation from others in our lives is the start down the road of much loneliness and heartache. Don’t allow it to happen.

And remember, it goes both ways. You never know when the words you use could cause hurt. Always give the benefit of the doubt to those you have relationships with. I’m going to work on that … but in the meantime I still think she told me a size 4T.

While you’re here, why not check out our soft and non-cheesy Christian t-shirts. 100% of all profits are given directly to ministry efforts in the Dominican Republic. Support this ministry by purchasing your SaltTee today.

Why I Left the Church

When I went away to college the church almost lost me. I went to college and met thinkers; to me this was a completely new concept. Questioning things and not just believing things because I was born into some religion was a new concept. Realizing there were thousands of other people born into other religions that thought the same thing I thought, I’ve got it all right, scared me to death.

I met the people of the “world” that my church told me would be so bad, and I liked them. They were cool people who encouraged deep thoughts of question and doubt. I met a group of people that loved philanthropy; this was a new concept to me. Even though Jesus was the greatest philanthropist ever, I wasn’t exposed as a child to serving the least of these.

By no longer attending church I no longer had to endure the messages each week of “try a little harder to be a little better” … the exhausting treadmill of works based teaching that I knew I’d never be able to meet.

Moving out of the confines of the church I began to feel free. Free to think. Free to live. Free to love those who didn’t look, talk and think like me. Free of the flannel board characters of the Bible. Free of the place that said the world was 5000 years old. Free of the place that said women were inferior to men. I was ready to explore the real world of thinkers.

To me it was a higher level of thought. I was leaving behind the world of the uneducated Christians who were confined to so many rules because they weren’t smart enough to think for themselves. I was so disillusioned by the church by the time I was 20 that I had grouped them all together as the intolerable nuisance that I must learn to tolerate. To me religion was just a coping mechanism for death.

My husband and I were out to dinner the other night with some great friends and thinkers. We were discussing our worst fears for our children. Our worst fears weren’t pornography, drug addiction, or pre-marital sex (though they were on the list). One of our worst fears was that our children would grow up to be that single minded, Pharisaical church goer who isn’t able to think.

It is a natural instinct to want to shelter our children from the world, but it is a disservice and dangerous not to encourage them to think, question and explore the doubt they will inevitably experience at some point in life. If we do not encourage our kids to think, they will be encouraged by agnostics and atheists to think once they leave the protection of our nests. If we (parents and church community) do not encourage them to discuss science and history with an open mind … I fear they will mature into lukewarm Christians who don’t know what they believe or why they believe it. They will miss the point.

When we moved to Florida ten years ago, I begrudgingly went to church. To be candid, I was looking for a break from my one year old and I knew she would have fun with the other kids in Sunday School. We didn’t know anyone in Florida, and I assumed the people in child care had gone through security checks. I wanted an hour to myself to sit in quiet while my daughter had an opportunity to interact with other children.

What I discovered was a body of believers who were trying to follow Jesus and answering hard questions. I was introduced to people that said “in opinions liberty, in faith unity, in all things love.” I was introduced to how electrifying God is. I started reading about faith from great thinkers like CS Lewis and Francis Chan who introduced concepts that were foreign to me, though they shouldn’t have been foreign since they have been in the Word of God for 1000’s of years.

In my youth I wasn’t reading and examining the Word of God. I was just listening to what other (well meaning) people told me. If and when I actually read the Bible it was to help justify what I already believed. There are two ways of gaining knowledge in God’s Word:

Eisegesis: an attempt to import a subjective, preconceived meaning into the text. Cults use Eisegesis to justify their beliefs. Eisegesis has been used to justify everything from slavery to greed to lust to a litany of other sins and social injustices.

Exegesis: an attempt to discover the meaning of the text objectively. Start with the text, draw out its meaning and allow the Spirit to illuminate it.

God is truth. He provides us the Holy Spirit for clarity. Don’t believe everything you have been told. The God of the universe has provided an avenue for you to learn truth. Open your Bible. Be an exegesis. Be a thinker.

There are some mysteries we will never fully understand on this side of eternity. I will encourage my daughters to study exegetically what God’s Word says, to ask the deep questions, and to be thinkers who study history, biology, philosophy, psychiatry and sociology. No matter if they come to the OPINION that the world was made in 6-days or 6-billion years, I pray that it only strengthens their FAITH that we serve an awesome God so they may extend His LOVE to this broken world.

Karen Culbertson is a founding partner of SaltTee, Premium Christian t-shirts with a story to tell. 100% of all profits from the sale of our soft and comfy Christian t-shirts is given directly to ministry efforts in the Dominican Republic. Support this ministry by purchasing your SaltTee today.