I have a ton of guilt.
Not contributing to society
Or household income.
And at this moment
Not doing the housework either.
But I just want to be
Here in the garden.
It seems to me
That so much
Of Your business
Is conducted in gardens.
The master gardener
Of hearts and souls
Of created order
And heavenly shalom.
I have, over the last few weeks, taken part in a course which looks at what Jesus had to say about blessing and the kind of people who find blessing. It is a practical course where we are set tasks to do each week. This week has been about being a blessing through seeking justice.
Imagining how we would like the world to be and doing something practical about it. This post is my attempt at that.
To be honest, most of my suggestions on helping people find their way through life when depressed or low comes down to things that I have found work, or things I would find a blessing myself.
It has been to some degree or another, a feature of most of my adult life. Like so many, the last 12 months have magnified it considerably. I have had more trouble with it over this last year than I have for the best part of ten years. On the bright side, I am also much better equipped to deal with it than i was in the past, but it still sucks.
It is worth bearing in mind that the spectrum of low through to really really depressed is both wide and deep. And how you help will depend on how well you know the person, how much (or not) they want to be helped and how much you are able to give without shooting yourself in the foot.
The difficulties depression brings are many, but just imagine trying to get on and do an ordinary day when:
Your brain feels like someone removed it, put it on the shelf and filled your head with cotton wool instead.
You feel anxious like you are about to take an exam on which the rest of your life depends
Your inner voice is constantly telling you that you are rubbish, no one loves you and you might as well die.
When you are presented with any kind of decision be it what to have for dinner or which pair of socks to put on, it puts you into an emotional tailspin
You are thoroughly exhausted and either cant sleep at all or need to sleep 15 hours in every 24.
You are full of grief like feelings which at times are so strong its physically painful.
As you cope less and less, your world shrinks to fit what you can manage until you are shut indoors unable to make contact with anyone.
So what can we do to help someone? To be honest, my ideas mostly come down to making sure the person continues to know they are not forgotten and not alone. Pick the things you like and that are relevant, leave the rest.
Keep in contact
Bear in mind that not everyone will feel able to talk on the phone. Whatsapp, email and especially physical mail are really useful.
Try not to put people on the spot – “how are you” can floor people or make them feel like they need to get better quickly so they have something to say. Perhaps try “how has today been?” instead.
Small gifts or a handwritten note can give people physical evidence that they are cared for at a time when they can’t trust what their brain is telling them. There is so much out there for free to beautify anything you send (see links below for examples). Gifts which help self care are far more valuable than their material worth.
Whether you believe in God or not, how ever you are able, positive thoughts thoughts or asking Jesus for strength and healing – lift up your friend in prayer. It will make a difference to both of you.
Even in these socially distanced times, it is possible to offer practical help. From shopping or providing home cooked meals or making phone calls on behalf of the person you are supporting.
Getting outdoors and exercise are incredibly valuable but it can feel just too much to get out of the door alone. Organising to go walking with someone where you turn up on their doorstep at a prearranged time, prepared to wait while someone gets ready because they haven managed to do that yet, is a real gift.
The crisis card
A crisis card or plan, is something a person writes while they are well. In it they detail what they would like to happen if they become really unwell. It is invaluable because it helps that person remain in control of their lives and gives you, the helper a list of things that really do help. If you are in a good enough relationship with someone, this is something you might suggest to them. Blurt Foundation Crisis Plan.
Get help and get educated
Helping someone with a mental illness can mean being in for the long haul. It can also take a lot out of you. So dont go it alone. As a minimum, have someone in your life you can speak to in confidence and how YOU are. But also, where ever possible, get a few of the person’s friends/relatives together and figure out who is going to do what and when, so that you can week by week support the person without burning out yourself.
Finally, make sure you sre up to date with your own knowledge. Have a look round some of the following websites:
….is a visible symbol of God’s presence, peace and blessing. Gather your household at the main door of your home and take turns reading the short passage from Matthew (below) and writing these letters in chalk either above the door, down the sides, or on the doorstep.
20 + C + M + B + 21 Finish with some short prayers and a final blessing – written out below.
What does it mean?
The 20 and 21 are the current year (so change it to 22 or 23 etc in future years).
The crosses remind us of Jesus and of the star that guided the Wise Men to him.
The letters C, M and B are for their traditional names (Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar), but can also stand for ‘Christus Mansionem Benedicat’, which is Latin for ‘May Christ bless this house.’ Or if Latin is not your bag, how about thinking ‘Christ, My Blessing’ each time you pass underneath?
Write the letters first, spaced out, then the numbers, and finally add the crosses.
Reading Read this short gospel passage about the visit of the Wise Men, and imagine them coming to your home, just as they visited Mary, Joseph and the young Jesus. We hope that they would find Christ living in our homes too.
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11 Wise Men Visit the Messiah
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. … The star that they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced greatly. Going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
One person reads out these words slowly, with pauses for different people to write these symbols either above the door, down the sides or on the doorstep:
20 + C + M + B + 21 The Three Wise Men: Caspar [pause while someone writes C], Melchior [write M], and Balthasar [B], followed the star to find the Christ child two thousand  and twenty-one  years ago. May Christ [+] bless [+] our [+] home [+]. All: Amen.
Peace be upon this house (school/church/etc), and upon all who enter here. All: Amen.
May all who enter our home rejoice to find Christ living here. All: Amen.
Lord Jesus, may we be like the star that guided the Wise Men to you, shining the light of your love to others. All: Amen.
The Lord bless us and keep us; the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us; the Lord turn his face toward us and give us peace. All: Amen.
It just goes to show, that nothing ever remains the same. We entered 2020, it seemed fairly normal… and now the country has shut down, thousands are wondering where their next pay will come from and the government is wrestling not only with the virus but people who are either unbelievably selfish or dealing with the whole covid19 thing by pretending it isn’t happening.
In the meantime there are many truly decent human beings reaching out and helping their neighbours in any way they can.
As a household we have been so very grateful for the people around us and further away who have supported us either through prayer or bringing food to our door.
A week ago both my husband and I went down with covid19. For some it has been thankfully mild, we believe our two and a half year old may be one of them.
But for me, it has put the flu we had over Christmas into the shade. I have never felt so ill in all my life. I have never felt so empty handed.
Never was “there by the grace of God go I” more true.
I find myself coming to Jesus and all I have in my hands is an old carrier bag with a hole in it. I’m so broken and sad, I wish I had more.
I thought perhaps he would exchange my tatty old carrier bag for something glorious. But he hasn’t. My hands are still empty, I’m still broken and I have yet to rise from the ashes.
He has instead given me His arm to lean on.
I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am. His dear presence, His love giving me strength for the day. I find myself living the truth that we can do “nothing apart from Him.” John 15:5
Covid19 will eventually leave our house. But may the presence of Jesus remain, because “In Him we live and move and have our being” Act 17:28
I’m 45 and in the past few years I have felt a sea change in my internal world.I have been a Christian for the majority of my life, but recently I have found my life with God deepen.Things which have been features of my life, have coalesced as God has drawn me in. It has brought me to the OMS, and I began my novate year at the beginning of this year.
I’m learning about, with others, what it means to be true to Christ, kind to others and take the gospel to the nations.And I’m slowly discovering what that might look like in my life.I’m finding it all such a joy. If feels like coming home.God has drawn me to it at the same time as planting me as a community pastor (which I started in October).When I compared the vows and practices of the OMS, it read like my job description.Coming home, planted and deeply grateful to God:“The goodness of God” Bethel music
Some religions have specific rules around what is acceptable to eat, where as Christianity allows its followers to eat whatever they like and in the same breath tells it’s followers not to look down on what other people choose to eat.
So where does this leave you if you are a vegan interested in Christianity or a Christian interested in veganism? In a pretty good place as it happens.
In the beginning.
Christianity teaches that God made the world (no arguments about how here please), that he made it good and he put humanity in charge of caring for it all. Now if someone dear to you handed over their prize possession and asked you to take care of it, you wouldn’t trash it, right?
As a Christian, my veganism is very much part of my love for God and all he has made. Also, I notice that before people mucked up their relationship with God, they were vegans, so I feel it is a very natural thing for me to be a vegan, all the while remembering not to judge those who eat meat. And speaking of judgement:
Love your neighbour as yourself
Jesus taught that we shouldn’t judge other people, which informs how I approach meat eaters. By the same token, it should mean that church is a place where vegans don’t get judged.
In reality it can be a place where misunderstanding around veganism is a rife as it is anywhere else, although I have to say in my own experience, church has been wonderful.
Our church did a rota of dinners (to bless us after the birth if our boy) which lasted us two weeks. And this from meat eaters who all cheerfully went online to look up vegan recipes to feed us.
Spreading the word…
…On veganism is no different from talking about Christianity. You can’t make anyone believe anything. People look at our actions way more than words. Its why my husband and I don’t talk to people about becoming a vegan very often… But we do invite people round for dinner. It means we get to show hospitality towards others and they get to try food they might otherwise not have chosen.
At the end if the day kindness and genuine friendship are great helps to the cause… Both veganism and Christianity.