Erin Keenright

Loving God, Loving Others, and Loving Yourself

Category: Uncategorized

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Living with Bipolar Disorder (I have BPD 2, more depressed than manic) can bring with it many ups and downs. I have days where I don’t even want to get out of bed or shower and I have days where I’m so excited about something I can barely contain myself. At these times, if what I’m excited about doesn’t come to fruition, my disappointment is palpable.

In the middle of all this, where is my baseline? If I’m quiet, maybe I’m depressed. If I’m up and animated, maybe it’s a manic phase. When my moods change with the wind, could I be going through a rapid cycle? Sometimes there is no way of knowing.

I may not have constant baseline, but I do have a constant anchor: God. The God who created me, loves me, and knows what’s best for me…even though at times, I may not agree! Beyond that, He created, loves, and knows what’s best for YOU. His love and provision isn’t selective. God doesn’t play favorites. He loves us all in the unique and special way we need to be loved. God knows our hearts better than we do.

Here are some verses to, hopefully, hit home to us all the vastness of God’s provision:

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” 2 Peter 1:3

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! …” Matthew 7:7-15

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

That last verse is very comforting for me…especially when my moods, thoughts, and emotions are all over the place. In those times, I know my God (and yours!) knows my needs, understands my pain, and will carry me through whatever storm I may be facing. When you face the storms, or even a rain shower, of life, think on these promises…promises that our Lord keeps on a daily basis.

The Long and Winding Road

Where to begin…back in 2007? No…too long and involved. Back in 1977? No…Way too long and involved. How about in September of this year with little blips from last spring. As some are aware, I took some time off of work to literally get my head on straight and returned to work in June. To my credit, I did give it an honest effort, but found out my effort wasn’t enough in September. To make a long story short, I wound up officially resigning as of October 31. I still have mixed emotions.

Is this the right choice for me and my family? I found out I could apply for disability retirement. What if that doesn’t go through? What if my writing doesn’t take off in order to provide income for us? What if no one asks me to come and speak at an event or Bible study? And then there’s school…what if I can’t finish? Even if I do, how do I know I will get accepted into seminary? As you can see, there is more I don’t know than I do know…A LOT. Not to mention feeling like a quitter for leaving my job.

However, here’s what I DO know:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

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

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

What all these verses have in common is God’s faithfulness and sovereignty…and none of it hinges on my ability to perform (which is good because my performance is usually sub-par!). What is up to me is to trust and believe…even if I make a mistake and ruin everything, God is still faithful. He still loves me. He knows what I need even before I ask it. But these verses don’t apply just to me…THEY APPLY TO EVERYONE. You are loved and treasured more than you can ever imagine. Every tear you have cried, every sleepless night you have had, every time you experienced unfairness and injustice, our Heavenly Father knows about…and He wants you to trust Him to take care of it for you, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

So, while my life may look like a road map of detours and wrong exits, by trusting God, I can know I will reach my destination and there will never be a point in that journey I will have to face alone. The verses above aren’t long or difficult. I challenge you to pick one and (write it down if you have to) commit it to memory. It can’t hurt and it will only help.

Feelings…Fact or Fiction?

“How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13

I get cranky sometimes. I get angry sometimes. Sometimes, I feel despondent and disappointed. Sometimes everybody in my home is cranky. None of these things are “wrong” or “bad” by themselves. It’s perfectly human to doubt or not “feel” joyful. Notice I said feel. Having feelings, be they good or bad, is not sinful. God created us with feelings and emotions. He has them and we’re made in His image. It only makes sense that we would experience this wide range of mental and emotional states.

If you read the verse above, you see David in a very negative place. I don’t know what was going on at the time, but you can bet it had him running for cover. There are times when I think David was bipolar and I take comfort in that feeling of solidarity! The important part of this text is not the beginning or the middle…it’s the end. David unloads and acknowledges his fears, sadness, and worry. He doesn’t try to hide them or act like nothing is wrong. The important thing is David doesn’t allow himself to stay there. Re-read the last two sentences. That’s the place he chooses to take up residence…in the steadfastness of his Lord.

For some reason, as Christians, we’ve bought into the lie that we should be happy all the time. After all, one of the fruits of the spirit is joy, right? I’m supposed to be joyful or I’m not a “good” Christian. That is a tall order. Regardless of everything else, what does God want from us in these situations? How should we respond when our feelings get hurt? Someone lies to us? Or when we’re face with rudeness or meanness from others?

First and foremost, I believe God wants our honesty. He knows what we’re feeling so why hide it from Him? That’s not even the best part. The best part is, our Lord and Savior has been there.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16
There’s nothing on this earth we will go through that Christ Himself didn’t experience. Isn’t easier to talk to someone when you know they’ve gone through it already and have come out the other side? Why do you think support groups are so successful?

Just in case I haven’t shared it before, I have been with Bipolar II, PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and generalized anxiety and depression. There are times when my moods not only swing back and forth, but they make a complete circle around me. (Sometimes I think my husband is running for sainthood!) In that chaos and upheaval, I have learned by turning to my Heavenly Father and praying about the situation, things will settle down and the urge to lash out or collapse inside myself greatly diminishes. (For the record, I do always take my meds and see my doctors.) When I do that, although small, it is a victory for me.

I recently witnessed a good example of how keeping our eyes on Jesus helps us avoid other problems that can arise from our wayward actions. Our daughter spent a week away from Mom and Dad at camp. On the last day, as part of closing ceremonies, the cabin groups performed to various Christian songs they had chosen. Here’s what I noticed: four days is nowhere near long enough for kiddos to learn a song and the motions that go with it. However, when they kept their eyes on their counselor doing the motions from the back of the room, they looked like pros! They didn’t have to have it all down pat as long as they focused on the one who did!

I’ll be the first to admit how hard life can be. I feel sorry for myself at times…to be honest, it’s hard not to. It’s not wrong to feel that way. Feelings are not sinful but nor are they facts. The facts are what we need to center ourselves around. Repeat after me if you have to.

1. God loves me and I am made in His image.
2. He wants my honesty and for me to go to Him with my thoughts and feelings, be they positive or negative.
3. When I dwell in His presence and keep my eyes on Him, He does for me what I cannot do on my own: go through the valley and come out victorious on the other side.

The two biggest combatants I can think of when it comes to negative thoughts and feelings is prayer and scripture. You cannot stay in one place when you’re moving to another…so, MOVE! Move toward Christ…move toward His word…move toward fellow believers who love and support you. Accept your feeling for what it is then look up and take the next right step!

The Haves and the Have Nots

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

Nothing on this earth, in this world is permanent. Good, bad or indifferent…it’s all temporary – only for a season. When I earnestly think on those words, it strikes two chords with me. One is that with the good things like my daughter being 8 or my husband and I being married for 14 years…those things will never return. Before I know it, it will be gone in a flash. That is one of the biggest reasons we should make the most of our time we have been given with our loved ones.

As for the bad times…only here for a season…of difficulty with disease, conflict, and tragedy. These events are not forever. At the time, it may seem like an eternity due to the pain that can be associated with difficult situations. The good news: it’s not. Why, then, should we dwell in that dark place? It’s only temporary and does not deserve my time or energy.

Instead, the Bible tells us to “store up our treasures in Heaven”, which is permanent. These treasures will have lasting effects long after we’re gone. There will be evidence in Heaven but more importantly, evidence here on earth.

What exactly are those things? What is deserving of our time and energy? I believe living out a faith that produces the fruits of the Spirit – that’s what will last and what we will be rewarded for in Heaven.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23

Thankfully, we do not have to show or express these attributes on our own or in our own efforts. These are the fruits (or product) of the Holy Spirit. We need God to bless us with these “products” of His Spirit…a part of Himself. He has to be the one and only source. Jobs can’t produce, people cannot, and “things (stuff)” cannot, and, mercifully, situations cannot either.

This is what’s often referred to as having a Kingdom mind. Your mind is set on what is important in Heaven and you make it important here on earth. That mindset will also take us out of the “if onlys”, the “I should haves”…looking ahead to what lays before us knowing, according to God’s clock, we are here today and gone tomorrow. In the wise words of Paul, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:14.

So, let’s make the most of our time here, quit dwelling on the negative after it has come and gone, and rely on our Heavenly Father to give us what we need when we need it. He knows better than we know ourselves…we just need to trust Him and He will give us that “Kingdom mind”.

Overcomplicated? Who me?

This morning Chris and I were listening to a podcast from Dr. Tony Evans. He was referencing how God has used man throughout the Old Testament as demonstrations of His grace and mercy and for His glory. When Dr. Evans got to Noah, he said Noah had a three-word sermon: “It’s gonna rain.” We laughed at the humor in that statement, but then I got to thinking about the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ and how we tend to overcomplicate it…at least I do!

Paul keeps the message of salvation pretty basic when he writes to the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 2:1-10.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Italics mine)

Granted, there are eight verses in this message but its simplicity is clear. Because of God’s love for us (along with His grace and mercy), He gives us a way to righteousness and a living, breathing relationship with Him that we could not obtain on our own. That’s it. I’m not denying the importance of theology and doctrine…not in least. What I’m trying to point out is how in our quest to share God’s gift with others, it’s easy for us to allow our own human fallacy to permeate it and overcomplicate it to the point that it becomes a set of rules and regulation and we leave the relationship out of it. That message, the one of R and R (rules and regulations) it is what a lot of unbelievers are opposed to. I believe the building of relationships is what draws people in along with sharing of the love that God has so richly blessed us with. Once in a relationship with Christ, like all of us, their eyes are opened to the error of their ways and they long to change them. Jesus said it Himself in John 14:15: “If you love Me, you will keep my commands.” Pretty basic and simple.

Looking back on this post, I feel as though I have done what I set out not to do…overcomplicate. My prayer is that whomever is reading this will get the message God would have them receive…that it would be simple and without confusion. Pray that God will give you ways to live out your faith in a complete, yet uncomplicated way. That is my prayer for myself and you!

Friends in High Places

I spent the majority of my afternoon with my friend and sister in Christ, Natalie.  She has patiently worked with me, teaching as she went, on building my website.  Natalie’s skill set is mind-boggling.  Where I was ready to give up and throw in the towel, my dear friend was accepting each challenge with wisdom  and experience.  I had neither of those so I called for reinforcements.

How often do we run pell-mell towards tasks with no plan, no experience, no knowledge, and more times than we care to count, no patience?  In this day and age, we’re all about getting it done and moving on to the next thing.  We have sacrificed quality for quantity.  We’re scheduling gurus and yet seem to miss the big picture.  We can hear the voice of distraction cheering us on to “just get it done”!

I’m going to challenge myself this week to slow down, look at what’s ahead of me, and take an inventory.  What exactly are my goals?  Do I have what I need in my tool box?  Do I need to ask for help?  Most significantly, how important is this task?

I try to consider the importance of something by using God’s word as a guidepost.  First and foremost, will the task bring Him glory?  How much time will it take me away from my family?  Could I include them in accomplishing the task?

Clearly, if we take the time to answer these questions carefully and prayerfully, our approach will be one of purpose.  Our actions will be intentional and with new experiences we can learn something.  I will close with this verses from Nehemiah1:10-11:

“They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.  Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name.  Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” (referring to the king for whom Nehemiah was cup bearer)