Posts Tagged ‘Self help’

A Pastor’s Struggle with Mental Health: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

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Dear Pastor Jeremy.

It’s been a while since I reached out to you with a word of encouragement. Though you do not seek it from man, I acknowledge your hard work as you seek to glorify God through your ministry. It is not easy. You are called to study the divine scriptures and to walk the road with others as they navigate their way through sorrow, pain, and trials. It is my prayer that this letter will empower you through the mighty working of the Holy Spirit to minister His truth regarding a pressing need all too common and all too overlooked.

Everyone is so busy these days trying to stay afloat in stormy seas of family relationship, personal difficulties, work challenges, and financial matters. I too have found that everything on my to-do list for the day cannot be accomplished in the hours given. It has left me feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained. Because you desire peace and victory for me, I need to let you know how I am feeling.

I have attended church for as long as you have. I listen intently to your messages each week and find great comfort for my depression in the Scriptures you share passionately. How present Jesus has been as I walk the unpredictable road of my mental health-related issues and intense counseling sessions.

Next to my bowl of cereal in the morning is the anti-depressant medication I must take before I finish my coffee.

By three in the afternoon, my energy is running on fumes. As the sun sets in the evening, so the anxiety rises to take its place. And as my head hits the pillow, they who are hidden in the darkness empty barrels of the toxic sludge of PTSD and wounded memories in my mind.

God has brought me a long way on the road to healing, but sometimes I still attend church with a warm smile on the outside and unsettling heaviness on the inside. I rise in God’s grace to serve Him and His people, but often at the same time I fear the darkness I can see approaching from a distance.

Smiling on the outside is easier than smiling on the inside.

A service can go well without it being well with one’s soul. I know God wants me to smile on the inside. He wants me to rejoice. He knows too that depression isn’t a coat that can be taken off and stored in the closet.

There are some days that are so hard, and praying is difficult. I barely say anything. I carry my Bible under my arm and sorrow in my heart as I enter the sanctuary. Though I am still quite young, there are times when I feel very old on the inside. I desire to know God and experience Him afresh, but so often I struggle to do so because it feels like my eyes are stinging from the coarse grains of sand the storm of mental-health struggles has kicked up about me.

But Pastor, I’m not giving up. Don’t get me wrong, there is no confidence in the flesh.

No neuron or muscle, talent or accomplishment serves as a cure to soothe the inflammation of the mind and restore the missing inner smile. If I gave up, where else could I go? Where else could “we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share?1 Christ is our Truest Friend. He is the only dependable Friend of the church. I love God because He first loved me. I have tasted the Living Waters and have lost my desire for the cup of the world. I sing the hymns and choruses of old because they confirm what God has done in me. Partaking at the Lord’s table with Him is truly a sacred time. If I walked away from church and from serving God, then I would deny the confidence that “… I will see the LORD’S goodness while I am here in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).2

I know you are aware of the struggles Christians face as they live as Christ’s ambassadors on the earth. You have preached often about the bitter experiences of Joseph, David, and Paul. You haven’t been afraid to take your congregation through the pages of Job and Hannah’s story. You’ve encouraged the children of God to “have a cup of tea” with Thomas, Peter, and John.

I’ve seen you at times wearing an outward smile. I am not foolish enough to believe you have it all put together.

Each precious soul in the body of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ needs to find and keep their inward smile – a joy that is not dependant on good times or feeds off outward enjoyment of things. The church needs to return to the safest arms and warmest heart. He will not reject us though we come still wearing the heavy coat of depression to worship Him. The Shepherd knows how to carry His lambs and how to break the jaws of the wolves that stalk the flock.

When that darkness envelopes me, I have found Psalm 43:3-4 most uplifting: “Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God-the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!” 

It doesn’t take a professor of Theology to understand where a broken heart and troubled mind can go to be counseled, comforted, and restored.

I’m learning that the only way I will find my inner smile is to follow God’s light and truth to the place where He restores it anew. It leads to a place where I am touched by the Master’s hand. It is a place where holy acoustics convey the Father’s heart and words with perfect clarity. Though I suffer outwardly and emotionally, I do not need to ask Him to call me home. All that matters is that He calls me “beloved.” How often, dear Pastor we forget that God still Is everything He was, and that because He restored the inner smile of Joseph, David, Paul, Job, Hannah, Thomas, Peter, and John, He will do it for His bride today. I know it is your testimony too. May we all submit to His holy work and good plan as we work the corners of our mouths by flexing the muscles of faith.

Dear Pastor Jeremy, I encourage you to spend time in this Psalm. Follow His light and truth. Look into the matter thoroughly. I know you’ll be encouraged.

In Christ’s service
Pastor Jeremy

Jeremy Dykman is a pastor with a heart to serve God and a calling to share God’s Word with others. He was born in South Africa and spent thirty-nine years in Johannesburg before moving to Canada with his wife and two sons. Jeremy has recently released a book detailing his personal journey with depression. Room 13B is available through your favorite retailer.
1 What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Lyrics: Joseph Medlicott Scriven. Music: Charles Crozat Converse. Published in Sing His Praise by Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, Missouri, (1991).

2 Scripture quotation taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation. NLT® Text Edition: 2012. Copyright © 2012 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, Illinois.

Books for Celebrating Easter

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Easter is a great reminder of not only God’s sacrifice for us, but of His powerful love for us. Whether you need a book to stuff inside a little one’s Easter basket, or a title to encourage your child’s walk with God, here are some books that are great for Easter:

Guess How Much God Loves You by Karen Ferguson for Easter basketsKaren Ferguson reminds children of God’s love for them in her book Guess How Much God Loves You. Guess How Much God Loves You is the story of seven-year-old Lucy Lu, a colorful, creatively curious first-grader, who is starting to have serious questions about God.

How old is He? Does He sleep? What does He do all day? And the biggest one of all—does God love me?

After one particularly hard day of being bullied by her classmates at school, Lucy feels like she doesn’t matter. She sits with Papa Joe, who has promised to answer her questions about God, launching them onto a journey to discover God’s never-changing, never-failing, never-ending love.

What follows is a wild adventure through the Bible, where Lucy and her papa find themselves in the middle of each page of the exciting story of God’s love and faithfulness for all people throughout all of history.

I Know the Plans by Jennifer Bosma for Easter basketsIn I Know the Plans, author Jennifer Bosma seeks to show God’s love for us through the perfect plan He has for each and every one of us. It is so important for children to have a firm foundation to build upon. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path(Psalm 119:105). This children’s book, with its beautiful illustrations, points children to that plan.

God has a plan for each child before they are even created. But in this noisy world, it’s easy for our children to not hear God’s voice and forget who they were created to be.

I Know the Plans presents God’s promises to young children with a fun, engaging rhyme, planting the seeds of Scripture into their hearts to help them grow in their love for Him. With vivid illustrations accompanying each passage, I Know the Plans captures a little one’s attention from start to finish and should be the first book in every child’s library.

The Easter Donkey for Easter basketsThe Easter Donkey brings the story of Easter into the modern day through a donkey named Drupelet, who gets chosen to play a role in a reenactment of Palm Sunday.  This heartwarming tale introduces the topics of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the heaviness of Maundy Thursday, the sorrow of Good Friday, and the joy of Easter Sunday without weighing down the story or character with too much information, making it the perfect addition to your Easter basket. Author Donna Thornton wrote this sweet book not only to offer a fresh telling of the Easter story but also to remind everyone of its wonder.

Don’t forget to check out our pinterest boards with more great ideas for your holidays and more!

National Autism Awareness Month: An Interview with Author D’Ann Renner

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Dancing From the ShadowsIn celebration of National Autism Awareness Month, Ambassador International spotlights author D’Ann Renner and her book Dancing From the Shadows that discusses her firsthand experience with having her child diagnosed with autism. During National Autism Awareness Month, D’Ann’s book is available on or for only $3.99 for your eReader. In the United States alone, an estimated 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism according to Renner provides inspiration for parents everywhere who experience similar difficulties and pleasures of having a child with autism.

Ambassador: What were the main signs from your child that ultimately lead to the autism diagnosis?

D’Ann Renner: He didn’t play with toys typically- he’d spin the wheels of a toy truck without doing anything else. He would spend hours spinning a mixing bowl or watching a ceiling fan. He didn’t make much eye contact, was speech-delayed, and didn’t seem to feel pain.

Ambassador: How did you find peace with God after the autism diagnosis?

D’Ann Renner: I was angry and depressed at first, because I knew God could heal him, but wasn’t choosing to do so. I wondered how I had so displeased God that He would choose to punish my son. That’s just plain bad theology! Eventually, I came to the place that I could trust that God loved my son more than I did, and had a good plan for his life. Autism is not a punishment. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a gift. We all have challenges that God can turn into gifts if we allow Him.

Ambassador: Do you still struggle with finding peace? How do you deal with those moments?

D’Ann Renner: Yes, especially at transition times- like entering high school, or when other kids are getting their learner’s permits. At those times, I see a Grand Canyon sized gap D'Ann Rennerbetween reality and what my expectations were. I deal with it by reminding myself: God is Sovereign, God is good. Only He knows how beautifully our lives are being woven into the tapestry of eternity.

Ambassador: After immersing yourself into the special needs world for autism, what information do you wish was more widely known?

D’Ann Renner: Children with autism DO want to have social relationships. They DO have senses of humor. One just has to work harder to discover how to interact with them, and it takes time and patience.  And- kids with autism, even if they are non-verbal, understand a lot more of what is being said and what is happening, and they can be badly hurt by it.

Ambassador: What similarities do you share with the main character in Dancing From the Shadows?

D’Ann Renner: I did have a successful career in marketing, although not nearly as brilliant as Tori’s. We did adopt children from Bulgaria, and I’ve experienced many of the incidents she does in the book, although I fictionalized them and merged them with the experiences of others. THERE IS NO SIMILARITY BETWEEN MY HUSBAND BRUCE AND TORI’S HUSBAND PHILLIP!  Bruce is a wonderful, supportive husband, but that’s not true for many parents with special needs children. The character Phillip was based on the ex-spouses (male and female) of many friends and acquaintances.

Ambassador: Do you have any advice for parents who recently received the autism diagnosis?

D’Ann Renner: I’m going to go against the norm here, so understand this is just my feeling. It’s more important, in my opinion, to concentrate on expanding the child’s ability to think flexibly and communicate than it is to teach rote skills. I feel we concentrated so much in the early years on getting Luke to speak that I neglected working on his desire to communicate, and expanding his ability to think in a flexible way.  If I had it to do over again, I’d embrace more therapies like Floor Time, Relational Development Intervention, Neurodevelopment and programs like the SonRise protocol, rather than ABA. But that is just my opinion and many wonderful parents disagree with me.

Through the month of April, National Autism Awareness Month, pick up a copy of Dancing From the Shadows for your eReader for only $3.99! Shop now at or