Posted in Mental Health Awareness

Exciting News

Yes, I have some exciting life news to share — earlier this year, I began work on a book with the working title of “I Found Jesus Through Anxiety and Depression” with a goal of publishing it in April 2021. It’s been a goal of mine to work on a book just like this, and I’ve got an amazing community of fellow authors and writers to write with and supporting me through the journey. I’ve already sent my editor my first content for feedback (which is exciting and makes this all very real!) My goal of the book is help break the stigma around Mental Health in faith circles.

Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing key pieces of the journey with you — things I’m learning, conversations I’m having, writing and book milestones, and sharing pieces and stories from the book.

And I’d love your help! If you know of anyone who is in the area of Mental Health or a Faith Leader and might be a good interview for the book (even you) please send me a message. That’s one of the most rewarding parts of the experience so far is talking to so many interesting people for and about the book.

Thanks in advance for all the support and here’s to the ups and downs of this journey to write a book!

Posted in Devotion

New Year, New Me?

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All of this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18

The time leading up to the New Year is filled with reflecting on the past year and planning on making the New Year even better by creating resolutions. We think resolutions to eat healthy, work-out more, or declutter our lives will create a new us. However, most of these plans fail before January ends.

This review of the past can also be dangerous. Focusing on the past does not allow for us to be in the present moment. We are not able to see what God is doing in the here and now because we are focusing on what God has or has not done in the last year.

The past can be improved. The story is yours to write. However, this can be done at any point. We do not need the New Year to decide to do what is best for ourselves. There is no New Year, New Me. The way we become new is not the hours between December 31st and January 1st.

We become new in Jesus. In our relationship with Jesus, we are reconciled with God. The old versions of ourselves pass away and we become new in Christ Jesus. There is no need for resolutions or unmet goals. There is only a need for preparing room in our hearts.

As the New Year greets us, do you have room in your heart for Jesus?

Posted in Seeing God in the Struggle

Seeing God in the Struggle: He is there

A story from Kathy Brown:

My brother Rees Harris II was born in December of 1982. He was soon diagnosed with Werdnig-Hoffman Syndrome, the infantile form of spinal muscular atrophy. It was very rare. Only a handful of kids were diagnosed with it. The nerves don’t send impulses to the muscles so they don’t work. He could not move. He had a tracheostomy tube and a ventilator to breathe for him. He had a feeding tube so he’d get nutrition. He had around the clock nurses to care for him because his condition required suctioning of his trach & use of an ambu bag while not attached to the breathing machine. He passed away exactly 22 1/2 years after his birth, outliving his life expectancy by 22 years. He also outlived several of his doctors and our mom.
So where was God in this struggle?
Rees had a smile that kept you from seeing his problems. God was there.
Rees had a fabulous mind trapped in a terrible body. God was there as he not only went to school, but excelled and was inducted into The National Honor Society.
To have Rees live 22 years longer than expected was truly of God. He was sent home to die on July 1, 1983. Our parents were told early on to just let him go, to enjoy their three healthy children and live their lives.
They did not.
God was in their decision to keep him alive.
God was there when they didn’t sleep, worried his condition would kill him sooner or later.
God was there when our Mom died unexpectedly and we had to carry on without her.
God was there when Rees finally could not fight anymore, when it was his time to go to heaven and join our mom and Jesus.
As Rees was dying, my husband joined two of his nurses and me around his hospital bed. We prayed him up to heaven and Ken remarked, “Can you imagine your mom’s face when Rees WALKS to her in heaven?”
How could we be sad? God won! Rees won! Every day was a miracle from God and we got well over 8000 of those days.
God was always there and He is always there. He’s there in our struggles and our celebrations. Thank you God for always being there.

Kathy Brown

Posted in Sermon Sunday

July 8 2018

Deuteronomy 6:5

Leviticus 19:18

Matthew 22:37-40

In Matthew 22:37-40, and it’s parallel verses, Jesus sums up all of the Old Testament laws with just two Great Commandments. This is impressive because there are 613 Old Testament Laws. All of these laws have been summed up to love. Which I think we do lose a bit in translation with these two commandments. If you look at the Greek, Jesus says, “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind” and “you will love your neighbor as yourself.” We’re not given an option here. Jesus is literally commanding us, yet we treat them as options sometimes.

So let’s dive into the commandments a bit more. “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Let’s start with all your heart since that is the easier part. When we think of love we think of something dear to our hearts; family, friends, pets. Here we are told to love God with all of our hearts. Not just a piece. Now I know I said this is the easy part and you are all sitting there going I already don’t have enough of my heart to go around. Well… just wait.

Next we have, “You will love the Lord your God with all your soul.” I think we lose a bit in translation here too. The Greek word is psyche which means life. And not just the fact that you’re alive, but with everything that is your life. The job you have should be done loving God. The relationships you have should be aiding in your love towards God. The free time you may or may not have should be spent living God. You should be living your life loving God in preparation for spending eternity praising God.

Alright, so now you know that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. Next we will love with our whole mind. This one word, mind, covers the rest. Mind is our words, our thoughts, our knowledge, and our imagination. All we say, think and know should be loving God. To sum this all up, every piece of our heart, everything we do, all we say and all we think should be done by loving God. This should be easy right? I mean look at the God we serve! He is worthy of all that. Yet, we get busy, our mind wanders, and we are all human. However, we can only love because God first loved us. Therefore as long as we are striving to love God with all we are and strive to be in a constant relationship with God then God is pleased. It’s when we begin to wander away, when we begin to place things before God, that God gets sadden with our absence. But He never stops loving us. We aren’t perfect and God doesn’t expect us to be.

All of that and we haven’t even got to the second commandment yet. Take a deep breath. Are you ready? The second is like it, you will love your neighbor as yourself. This too is multifaceted. Who is our neighbor? Que the story of the great Samaritan. We are to love the least, the last, the lost, and everyone else as our neighbors and therefore as ourselves. Now this leaves room for one tricky excuse. I don’t love myself much so I don’t have to love others much. Sadly, we hear this more often than we should. If you struggle with this, Think of the love God has for you, but overflowing, never ending love. What God sees in you is what you should see in you. Then you should see that and everyone else is well. God loves everyone, and that is your neighbor is. If you think about it the second commandment falls under the first one since it is an action of love and God by loving others. So, why would you just choose to state it as well? He chose to state this just to show how important it is to love others especially when it’s just plain easier not to sometimes.

I just recently saw church sign that said, “God loves me God loves you let’s love each other.” The first time I saw I just kind of dismissed it, but then it kept coming back to me. And since it was on my path from Tyrone to Morrisdale, I saw an awful lot. Then I began to realize that this commandment really is just as simple as the church sign makes it look. If God loves your neighbor just as much as He loves you, why shouldn’t you love your neighbor? That was the question I had for my weekly devotion and I would really recommend doing the same thing yourselves.

Either way, challenge yourself to begin fulfilling these commandments the new ways. Maybe that’s a new spiritual practice to grow closer to God. Maybe it’s reaching out to new people in your community. Maybe they’re trying to compliment someone everyday. Whatever it maybe love. Love with all you are. Love with all you do. Not only will your relationships here on earth begin the blossom, they are relationship with God will grow expeditiously as well. You could even say Jesus knew what he was talking about.

Let us pray:

God we thank you for loving us no matter what, 24 seven, no exceptions. We thank you for sending your son to pay for the way and even die, so we may live with you eternally. We thank you that the Holy Spirit resides in each of us, so we may begin to love as you love. Grant us the ability to open our hearts, souls, and minds to love more. Then open our eyes to see your neighbors the way you do, Lord. May we honor you and all that we do amen!

Posted in Devotion

Who do you say I am?

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” -Matthew 16:16

Take a second. Flip to Matthew 16 and read 16:13-20. This is a powerful piece of scripture. Jesus is asking those closest to Him if they have learned anything from Him. This is a huge test of His teachings. We are thrown this question everyday. We say we’re nervous about something and someone asks us, “don’t you believe in Jesus?” What they’re saying is, “Who is Jesus to you?” This is a question we should be asking ourselves daily. Jesus is our Savior, the Son of God. Lord of Lords.

Is this who Jesus is to you? Do you have a special title for Jesus?

Don’t let your battle with anxiety cause you to stumble answering this question. Jesus doesn’t leave you in your time of doubt, so don’t leave Him either. When others face you with this question, answer it with pride.

So, Who is Jesus to you?

© 2018 Kiersten Smeal

Posted in Mental Health Awareness

Mental Health Awareness

To help raise some mental health awareness, I created a survey to see what others thought about anxiety and being a Christian with anxiety. This post is the results of said survey with results from 44 participants.

Do you know someone who suffers from anxiety?

42 people answered that they knew someone with anxiety, which is 95.5% of the participants. This is actually pretty surprising since only 18% of the population is affected my anxiety (ADAA). However, this just goes to show why it is so important that people know about anxiety because even if they don’t have anxiety themselves, odds are they know someone who does.

Can you suffer from anxiety as a Christian?

38 of the participants answered yes and 2 answered maybe. Together that was 90.9% of the participants. This actually came as a huge surprise to me since it is typically Christians with anxiety that receive quite the backlash. This backlash is the number one reason Christians with anxiety don’t seek out help (Graber). Please read Graber’s little article on Christians with anxiety if you are still having doubts.

What do you think Anxiety is?

27 of the participants described anxiety as either stress, fear, nervousness, or worry. 7 participants, 16%, mentioned that it was a mental health issue or chemical imbalance in the brain. 4 participants either said they didn’t know or it was a made up disease. The ADAA defines anxiety as the inability to control worry for long periods of time which can lead to panic attacks, and there is a behavioral or functional change because of the inability to control their worry.

What advice would you give to someone with anxiety?

15 of the participants stated to seek professional help whether that be a doctor or a therapist. 9 participants stated to breathe or relax, but I do not recommend this response at all. I enjoyed that after reading those responses one of the participants wrote, “Definitely not to calm down.” Garber suggests to encourage them to get help and support them through the process.

Can you find examples of anxiety in the Bible?

While 86% of the participants believe that one can suffer from anxiety as a Christian, only 84% of the participants are positive that you can find examples in the Bible. Another 4.5% think there are examples in the Old Testament only. If you are looking for examples of anxiety in the Bible, click here.

Does Jesus talk about anxiety?

Here the percentage drops even more. Only 65.9% of the participants believe for sure that Jesus talks about anxiety. 22.7% are unsure if Jesus talks about anxiety or not. The Sermon on the Mount is probably the most common passage of scripture that is a prime example that Jesus talks about anxiety.

What most surprised you about these results? Did any of this resonate with you?

© 2018 Kiersten Smeal

Posted in Devotion

Beautiful People

When we think of someone suffering, we tend to automatically assume sadness and grief for that person. We tend to overlook the joy they are portraying in Christ. We tend to overlook how people overcome their suffering to be who Jesus wants them to be. The potential God sees in us.

When we see a person with a background of suffering and a joyful presence, what do we think? Are we those people?

What if I told you these people were beautiful people? Would you believe me? I think Jesus says this loud and clear when He communes with these exact people.

Beautiful people see beautiful people. -Caroline Barsom

We are able to spot beautiful people because we are beautiful people. Isn’t that great? I want you to remember that YOU are beautiful!

Beautiful people teach us how to be real. How to use our past to be more Christ-like in our present.

Do you know beautiful people? In what ways have they taught you to be real?

© 2018 Kiersten Smeal