2 Steps For Starting a Gratitude List

2 Steps For Starting a Gratitude List

2 Steps For Starting a Gratitude List

It’s November, the month best known as “Time to do the Christmas shopping” and “Oh wait, I need to remember how to cook a turkey.”

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around and you’re asking your family what they’re grateful for, it can be difficult to think of anything. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Especially if you start early on in the month, you have a chance to start shifting your mindset so when it comes time to say something you’re thankful for, you’ll be able to pick one of many rather than scrambling for one.

What’s a simple way to do this?

1 | Pick a friend (or a journal).

2 | Tell your friend (or write in your journal) three things you’re grateful for every day.

This will be difficult at first, since we often live in a mindset that focuses on how things went wrong, rather than how things went right. But by practicing with our friends or our journal, we can easily turn this into a prayer of thanksgiving every day.

When you start looking for things to be thankful for rather than things to be angry about, you’ll start to see them in your day to day life. You can be grateful for all sorts of things — coffee, health, a car, and a job come to mind right now, and that’s off the top of my head.

You can do it, too. And of the above options, I suggest a friend over a journal, or maybe do both. The reason it can be helpful to tell a friend is that you’ll have someone asking you what you’re grateful for today. A journal can’t talk to you, but a person can. A person can remind you of your goals and why you started doing this in the first place. Even more than that, though, a person can celebrate with you and be thankful with you. That community is priceless.

Jesus’ Coolest Miracles

Jesus’ Coolest Miracles

Jesus' Coolest Miracles

We live in a world where some of the most popular stories are those of superheroes and people with crazy powers. As humans, we love to be amazed and intrigued. That’s why we watch movies such as Superman or Avengers. It’s why magic shows have been around as long as they have, showcasing illusionists and why, when it’s all said and done, you don’t really want to know how the magician pulled a rabbit out of his hat.

Jesus’ ministry was full of really cool things like those. Some of the stories of what he did are things we’d expect to see from superheroes in fiction, designed to amaze and entertain.

But not only were Jesus’ miracles actual miracles – as in, he actually healed the blind and sick (John 9), actually drove out demons (Matthew 8), and actually turned plain well water into really impressive wine (John 2) – these stories aren’t fiction.

Jesus’ miracles aren’t illusions or magic tricks, and they really happened.

For shortened versions of the stories where we learn of his miracles, we can look at the Gospel of Mark.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. | Mark 1:32-34

In three short verses Mark describes how Jesus healed “many who had various diseases” after “the whole town gathered at the door.” Now, we don’t know how big the town was, but to have an entire town gather at one door means there was a large crowd, and they all wanted to know if what Jesus had done for one woman, healing, could be done for all of them.

Spoiler alert: it could be done for them, and it was.

Another time when Jesus did the seemingly impossible is when he calmed the storm.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him,

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” | Mark 4:37-41

It’s interesting that after Jesus does what the disciples asked him to, he asks them, “Why are you so afraid?” And even after he’s asked this, they feel inclined to ask each other, “Who is this?” because they were terrified. God’s power can be scary at times, because we often don’t know how to comprehend it. We know it would be nice if the scary thing, the wind and waves, could just up and disappear, but we haven’t thought about what would happen if that did actually happen. Not only can it actually happen, but the display of power on God’s part often leads us, in our mortality, to be scared, or more aptly, terrified. But Jesus’s next question is possibly more important: “Do you still have no faith?”

At this point, he has essentially revealed who he was. He has given them ample reason, ample proof, for them to have faith in him. Yet they still don’t see it.

Let’s not be like them, at least not in this instance.

One of the most important miracles Jesus did, however, even more important than healing the sick and calming the waves, was his resurrection after the cross. Mark doesn’t continue the story as long as Matthew, Luke, and John, but he does include the vital verses that describe the empty tomb and the message from the angels.

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” | Mark 16:5-7

This miracle is the most important miracle, because Jesus’ death and resurrection secured our salvation from the death we chose in the Garden of Eden. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read about it in Genesis Chapters 1-3.)

John summed up the main point nicely in John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It’s easy to want Jesus’ miracles to have happened. It’s also easy to write those miracles off as illusions or tricks. But writing them off says we don’t believe Jesus either A. tells the truth or B. is actually capable of doing what we read he did.

What we believe about his miracles directly ties into what we believe about the resurrection, and our belief about that is of eternal importance.

If you have questions about what you’ve just read, I suggest going back to the source. Take a moment to read through the Gospel of Mark, and then reach out to us. We’d love to connect with you and help you wrestle through whatever questions you may have. Send us an email so we can help you get connected to people who can help you dig deeper into the Gospel.

Depression: What Helps and What Doesn’t

Depression: What Helps and What Doesn’t

Depression: What Helps and What Doesn't

Depression, whether long term or a short episode, affects a lot of people. It can be triggered by circumstances present or past, or come out of nowhere and hit its victim like a brick thrown out a window.

If you have a friend suffering from depression, they need you now more than ever. But there are also a few things it could be helpful for you to understand about what they’re going through.

1 | Depression is a very real condition, caused by changes in brain chemistry.

What your friend is going through is a physical ailment to the way their brain functions. It isn’t something they can “think themselves out of” or “get over.” Depression is treatable, and your friend should go to a doctor about it.

2 | They will likely say no when you invite them to things. Don’t stop inviting them.

One of the best ways to show them you care for them is to continue inviting them to participate in life, despite the many times they’ll turn your offer down. When they say no, they aren’t saying no to you. They aren’t rejecting you. They’re speaking a truth they feel about their inability to join you in that event. Continue inviting them and engaging with them, and do your best not to take their rejection personally.

3 | They will feel intense, negative emotions.

As your friend deals with depression, they will need a support system. Check in on them. Spend time with them one on one. Let them talk to you. Show your love for them. By being a consistent, caring presence in their life without pressuring them to get better while encouraging them to move toward healing, you can shine a light into the darkness they feel.

So what can you do? What helps? What should you avoid?

Things to avoid:
  • Getting frustrated or lashing out at them. Their brains are blaming them for a lot of things that aren’t their fault already.
  • Telling them it’s all in their head and they just need to be more positive.
  • Ignoring their depression.
  • Focusing too much on their depression.
  • Giving up on them.
Things that can help:
  • Remind them of their value.
  • Invite them to the things you’re going to.
  • Open the door for them to talk about what they’re going through.
  • Offer encouragement, especially through tactile things they can hold on to, such as notes or a small gift that says they’re on your mind.
  • Help them know that they don’t have to hide their emotions.
  • Remind them that they don’t have to fight this battle alone.
  • Pray with them.
  • Follow them on their ups and downs. Every day will be different. Some days they’ll be better than others. Take your cues from them.

If you have other questions about how you can help someone through depression, please reach out to a doctor or a counselor. You can talk to one of the counselors at Mission Hills by sending us an email or calling 303.794.3564.

Verses for Helping your Friend through Depression

Verses for Helping your Friend through Depression

Verses for Helping your Friend through Depression

Watching someone you love go through depression can be one of the most difficult things to endure, second to fighting depression yourself. There are only a few things you can do to help, and sometimes it feels like an upward battle. You love them, and you want them to be better.

When we can’t do it on our own we need to turn to God.

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” | Isaiah 40:31

Put your friend in the safety of the Lord’s care. Pray for them and encourage them to turn to God for help. Be there for them, and intercede on their behalf before the Lord, pray for what’s concerning them. Pray with them, and encourage them through God’s word.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” | 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Make sure that you remain in God. Draw his strength into you, be comforted by him so you are full and can comfort your friend. Nurture your relationship with God so that if your friend needs stability, you can be firm ground and can point them back to the God who will always be more stable than you.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” | Psalm 34:18-19

Remind your friend of how close God is to them. He knows what they’re going through, and he will deliver them from their pain and hopelessness. Commit your friend to God’s care. His love will sustain you and your friend. Take joy in the knowledge that God is near.

“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.” | Deuteronomy 31:8

When you go to your friend to try to lighten their load, you don’t go alone. God goes with you, and the situation is in his hands. God is working, success is not dependent on you. Especially if you don’t see immediate effects, don’t be discouraged.

“In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.” | Deuteronomy 32:10

Depression can feel like a desert or a wasteland. As much as you want to care for your friend, God is caring for them ten times over. There is nowhere God can’t reach your friend, even if you can’t reach them. Don’t give up on them.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” | 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Continue to encourage your friend. Build them up. Be joyful, but be real. Your friend doesn’t need fake, happy bubbly. Your friend needs you to bring light and joy, but meet them where they are and take the time to listen and understand what they’re going through.

I hope this is encouraging to you in your walk with the people in your life facing depression. What they’re going through is very real, very hard. Your patience and presence in their life is one of the most helpful things you can give them. So “encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Get Up and Eat

Get Up and Eat

Get Up and Eat

“The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.'” | 1 Kings 19:7

In this moment in Elijah’s life, he was coming off of the coattails of what looks from the outside like amazing success. In 1 Kings 18 he faced off with the prophets of Baal in a competition to see whose God could send fire from heaven and burn up a sacrifice. To sum this story up, after days of dancing, self-harm, and intense pleading, the prophets of Baal had gotten nowhere. Elijah had so much water poured over the alter he’d built that there was a moat around it, and after praying once, God sent fire down that “burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” (1 Kings 18:38). Elijah proceeded to slay the prophets of Baal, and then prayed for rain and ended a famine and drought that had been plaguing the land.

If I were Elijah, I’d be feeling pretty invincible. But it doesn’t look like he was feeling invincible, because in 1 Kings 19:3, after Queen Jezebel threatened him, the Bible says “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”

Ouch. Things had been going so well, too. For the first time in a long time, there was hope in Israel. Elijah had asked God to display his power so Israel would know who the true God was, and God won that contest easily. Despite that, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. Maybe not exactly. I haven’t had a queen threaten to kill me, and I haven’t called on God to prove his power to the world through a seemingly-impossible-to-burn burnt offering, but I have seen how God has worked in my own life and still been afraid and felt like giving up. Elijah was in such a dark place that he begged God to take his life while sitting in the desert under a broom tree (1 Kings 19:4). He was giving up and giving in to hopelessness.

“All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” | 1 Kings 19:5-8

When we feel hopeless, one of the best things we can do is to get up and eat. By taking care of our bodies, we make it possible for us to keep going. Elijah was so strengthened by the food that he was able to travel forty days and forty nights. I don’t know about you, but I want what he’s having. At the same time, however, God didn’t ask him to move until the journey wasn’t going to be too much for him. When we feel hopeless like Elijah did, we can still trust that God is going to make sure our needs are met. We can take hope in Isaiah 41:10:

“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 right hand.”

This material was modified from a staff chapel led by Jerry Jones.