Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to stay Green though you're Blue...because of the Red

I just got done preaching last Sunday morning over at a friend's church, and I preached a message with the same title as this post. Though I had a pretty good idea what I was going to preach that morning, I didn't have a title until I was about halfway to the church that Sunday. I was thinking that (in winter especially) it's easy to get depressed or discouraged, or "blue." But we've got to stay productive and joyful, or "green." And we can do that because of the blood of Christ, that is, the "red." Amen!

Think about it -- it's plenty easy to become blue or discouraged when confronted with a number of things. Finances. Relationships. Death. Conflict. My soft spot? Sin and guilt. Sometimes, out of the blue, I think of things that I wish I had never done. Whether it be something small or something big, it's easy for me to feel very guilty and depressed (in the truest sense of the word) over the wrongs that I've committed. Now, I know that I am forgiven by God, but sometimes it's very hard to feel that way. So no matter what causes us to be "blue," this fact remains: It does happen, and it happens to everyone in some way.

Also, these next 3 paragraphs are for those of you who insist that depression does not exist as an actual medical disorder, and I pray in love for your heart to soften soon. Depression is real. Now, I'm not talking about being sad because someone died. That's normal grief. I'm not talking about feeling guilty because we did something wrong. That's normal, too, and it can be taken care of by simply going to the Lord and leaving it there. I'm talking about an actual physical, chemical, non-cicumstantial depression. Sometimes it can be brought on or worsened because of circumstances, but it usually just...comes. And I know of what I speak, unfortunately. For instance, last month, I put my head against the wall of my home and felt like sobbing for no apparent reason. Nothing bad had happened, and I have a wonderful life and count my blessings regularly. But that didn't stop the feelings of  hopelessness. Despair. Pessismism. Yuck. Like being trapped in a black hole. Nothing sounds good when you're in that kind of spot. Nothing. I'd truly, truly, truly rather have a broken back and a migraine than to suffer one day of my worst depression. And, no, I'm not crazy.

Don't believe me? Here's something that may help. No matter what you believe about depression, check out "major depressive disorder" on Wikipedia. Then look at the sub-type of depression called "melancholic depression." Now, I don't agree with everything the world has to say about depression and its treatments, but do you want to know how I feel when depressed, circumstances notwithstanding? Look at some of the symptoms: Loss of pleasure in most or all activities (food or any other pleasurable activities have absolutely no appeal),  failure of reactivity to pleasurable stimuli (again, nothing sounds good),  depressed mood worse than normally felt during grief or loss (there's a true feeling of hopelessness; no matter how much a person may KNOW that there is hope, that person doesn't FEEL that way), worsening of symptoms in the morning hours (it's weird, but true. Mornings are the worst), early morning waking (again, very weird, but it happens), psychomotor retardation (means you're sluggish), excessive weight loss (I recall having lost about 30 pounds in about 2 weeks because of a bout with depression back in 2007), or excessive guilt (this is by FAR the worst part of depression for me. I truly, earnestly feel like turning myself to the police for going 31mph in a 30mph zone or calling everyone I've ever lied to or sinned against and airing my dirty laundry to them instead of simply going to the Lord). Whew! During times of depression, I tend to fit this bill to a "T." And the worst part is, it just comes whenever it wants to, which for me tends to be once every couple of years. Sometimes it seems pretty manageable, sometimes not.

Now, I don't believe in throwing pills (MAOIs, SSRIs, etc.) at depression to make it go away. I used to, but it really, really doesn't seem to work for many (if not most) depressed folks, and it didn't work for me. In fact, do your research: There has been absolutely no evidence whatsoever that antidepressants work in mild or moderate cases -- they only seem to work in severe cases, many (if not most) of which require hospitalization of some sort. Also, several studies have evidenced that placebos (sugar pills) are just as effective in treating depression as many antidepressants! That being said, however, I do take vitamin D, and maybe some herbs (though I stay away from St. John's Wort and 5-HTP...they don't make anything better). But anyways. This post isn't about the reality of an actual chemical imbalance/disorder called depression, though it is real, and I have struggled with it a few times. This post is about being blue, and depression is just one of those ways, although probably the most severe form of "blue" there is.

So...are you blue? Are you grieving? Are you sad? Are you hurting? Are you depressed? Pills really aren't the answer for most people. God's Word is. So let's see what God has to say.

In Philippians chapter 4, we see a recipe for healing. Now, you're not going to read this and be healed chemically or physically or all that, but the Scriptures sure will fix the innermost part of a man or woman, which is the first step, methinks.

First, look at verse 4. We must REJOICE. There's always something to be thankful for. Are you saved? Are you blessed? Do you have a home in heaven? Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say...Rejoice!

Secondly, verse 5 says we must BE MODERATE. That means not rushing around and trying to fix everything ourselves. It means taking a reasonable, measured-out appreach to life. Are you feeling guilty, like I tend to do when struggling with depression? Moderation means not going by your feelings. If you have confessed your sins to God, He doesn't even remember them. Nor should you. Simple as that. No, you don't need to go making it right with everyone. Though that may make sense when one is depressed, it is actually foolish, destructive thinking that brings reproach to Christ's name. No matter the case, don't be rash. Be moderate.

Thirdly, verse 6 says DON'T WORRY. The Word says to be careful for nothing. "But I --" Nope. "But what about --" Nuh-uh. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Don't worry about stuff. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Leave it to Him.

Fourthly, we're taught in verse 6 to ASK. The word "pray" doesn't mean "talk to God" like the world and the devil want you to believe. Look it up! (I'm not a fan of Webster's 1828 because it defines "repentance" way wrong, but he gets this one right: "to ask with earnestness or zeal") Ever read Shakespeare? They say "I pray thee" to each other in his plays once in a while, right? Well, they're asking each other stuff! Not talking to God! Good grief, let's use our brains! "Pray" means "ask." So does that fancy word, "supplication." Listen, God wants to hear us ASK. Simple as that. Need relief? Don't wait for God to read your mind. Ask.

Fifthly, verse 6 lets us know to BE THANKFUL. I like to recommend what I call "T3" files. Make one today! Take a bunch of index cards, and each day write on one card three things you are thankful for. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. Just be thankful! It can be anything from being thankful for "this piece of chewing gum in my mouth" to being thankful for "my eternal salvation." Keep them all together, and soon you'll have a LOT that you've been thankful to God for.

Sixthly, God assures us of His PEACE in our lives in verse 7. And it passes ALL UNDERSTANDING, so don't even try to figure it out. I'm usually all "obsessive-compulsive" and analytical about stuff. But not His peace. I don't even bother. But God's peace only comes and stays when we do the next two things:

Seventhly, look at verse 8. It exhorts us to THINK ON THESE THINGS. I like to call this verse the "Mind Filter." If it's not true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous or praiseworthy, then don't meditate on it. Throw it toward the cross and leave it there. Also, verse 9 says "those things [the Greek implies to me that the "things" in verse 9 refers to the "things" in verse 8]" Don't just think about good things. Do them!

Eighthly and lastly, BE CONFIDENT. Paul says in verses 11-13 that no matter what you throw at him, he can take it. Why? Because he's Paul? No way! The guy is a mass murderer, a serial killer by man's standard! But by Christ's strength, he's a warrior who can make it through anything, anytime, anywhere.

And so can you.

Because of Christ's blood, we can be productive and joyful even when we're experiencing grief, hurt, sadness, or even depression and despair. No matter what you've done. Listen, Michael Britt (that's me) is a thief, a liar, an adulterer, a criminal, and even worse by man's standard. But God doesn't look at me that way, and neither should I. I'm not trying to say to sweep sin under the rug. But what I am saying is that Christ can and will give full pardon to any and all people, no matter what you've done. Didn't He forgive Moses and Paul and David of their crime of cold-blooded, passionate murder? Didn't He spare the adulterous woman in John 8 from the death penalty (even though by the law and man's standard, she "deserved it")? Listen, we're all sinners, and we're all in the same boat. We all need His forgivness. And His forgiveness is big enough to cover all sins -- your sins against Him, against others, and against yourself.

And I'm so thankful for that, aren't you? AAAAMEN! That's enough to make a depressed, backslidden atheist shout for glory, amen? :)


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A new name, a fresh outlook, and updates!

Hello! It's certainly been awhile!

I'm excited about getting back to writing. I have a little bit more time on my hands now, and I like having a Twitter account wherein to post links my blog articles. I'm looking forward very much to resurrecting my blog; so is my wife, so that I don't just preach to her all the time. :) Kidding, kidding.

So I renamed the blog "Dirigo Excelsior." It turns out that a combination of the two state mottos of Maine and New York work really well together. "Dirigo" means "I lead" and "Excelsior" means "ever upward."

I like the title. I think it fits. I want to lead folks upward in any way that I can, and I believe that should be a goal of every Christian -- to edify and assist others in conforming more closely to the mind of Christ, with eternity always in mind, relative and relevant to every action.

Well, update time. Since the first post of this blogging thingamajiggy, I've gotten married, I've been blessed with a child (who is still baking in the oven until March, Lord willing), and I have been hired on staff at Church Hill Baptist Church as the Assistant to the Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Music Pastor. That means I'm a glorifed go-fer who flaps his arms around when the piano plays and feeds kids pizza.

And I LOVE it.

I've never been happier in all my life. Satan throws darts and conjures up dumb stuff like never before, but only because he hates who I am and what I am called and privileged to do. And he hates my Heavenly Father. There's certainly some pressures and obligations like I've never experienced before, but they are wonderful and meaningful things.

For instance: this last Sunday (Christmas Day), Pastor Wiley called me on my phone a few hours before the service. Now, I had already gotten up at 4:45 that morning to throw a ham in the oven for the Christmas Banquet that afternoon, and then tried to get back to sleep that morning. You know how that goes. Anyways, he tells me his kids are sick and I'll have to be "pastor for the day," as he says it (by the way, I absolutely love that he puts his family first, even before the church if need be. That's altogether good, right, and Biblical). So sure, there was a bit of nervousness (not at the preaching part as much, but at the conducting the cantata part, which I had never done before at all!), but it went great, and I had a very, very wonderful time watching God's people sing God's songs in God's house on a beautiful, snowy Christmas morning. Then I believe that Christ gave liberty in preaching; I did not have much time to prepare, but God showed me once again that it was Him, not I, who was and is and always will be primarily responsible for an accurate transmission of His message through His Word. Amen! So anyways, all that to say this: Yes, there's some extra stuff on the plate, and there's always going to be some curveballs. But I want all that stuff there. I love every little bit of it, and I mean it with all my heart. I couldn't possibly love what I do more.

So now is a good time to say this: I love my church. I love the attitudes, the personalities, the smiles, the genuineness, the love, the kindness, the sincerity...I just love it. I'm so thankful that I am able to be a part of an amazing church family like I have. Whew. Love it.

Anyways, I'm going to get off this computer for a little bit. But I am really, really looking forward to writing what I believe to be good, edifying posts. I enjoy writing very much, and greatly anticipate many fun, excellent experiences with this blog. Thanks for reading!



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On Marriage

Okay, so I wrote this article before I was married. But I still believe it now, no question about it. I actually received a good number of favorable remarks on this particular post, and I'm thrilled and humbled, for sure! Take a look; I welcome your comments or questions.  

Trust me, I know.

I know I'm not married. In fact, I'm more vividly aware of my unmarried state than you, my dear reader. I am fully cognizant of my singleness.

But does this disqualify me from making a point or short commentary on God's first Divine Institution, marriage? I would like to think not. Think of it this way: Let's say a professor of archeology has an important lecture scheduled at the local museum, but he cannot fulfill his appointment there. So he asks his newly-hired, wet-behind-the-ears assistant to take the notes that he had already prepared for the lecture and present them to the eager crowd at the museum, thereby sharing his knowledge to his audience by means of a proxy. Now, the assistant doesn't need to be well-versed and experienced in archeology to merely convey the professor's wisdom, does he? No, he doesn't. He just has to know how to read.

Same here. I've never been married, so I don't know the ins and outs. I don't know what it's like to share a bed with someone, nor do I know what it's like getting a kiss before heading out to work. I don't know what it's like to "sleep on the couch," and I don't know what it's like to camp out in the living room all night with my sweetheart watching old black-and-white movies. Friends and neighbors, it's true: I don't know what it's like to be married.

But, like the unlearned professor's assistant, I do know how to read.

And the Bible speaks very clearly on the subject of marriage, and there's some things we already know about this sacred union. For instance, we know it's supposed to be lifelong; divorce was never God's plan. Divorce, in any case, is wrong (I wrote a good couple thousand words reinforcing and proving that last statement in my first draft of this post, but you know what? This post isn't about divorce. And I'm not looking to pick fights. I may write one about that when I'm a little bit braver and when divorce is the subject at hand). Marriage is also supposed to be first priority. Too many marriages have been sacrified on the altar of ministry and vocation, so to speak. Too many men have lost their marriages to their jobs, hobbies, and even their own children. Don't do that, friends and neighbors. God made marriage first, and He puts it on a pedestal. So we know these things and others about marriage.

But there is one thing in particular about marriage that is overlooked time after time after time. And, interestingly enough, it's the single most important lesson we could ever learn about marriage that there ever was. It's what makes marriage stand apart from any other institution. It's what makes marriage so close to God's heart. It's what makes marriages work without fail.

Well, what is this secret? What is this element, this concept that Satan is obviously working feverishly to eradicate and make obscure? Glad you asked. Let's take a look:

Marriage is to be carried out in a Christ-Church Relationship. To state it memorably, one might say the following aphorism: As the Church is to Christ, the wife is to be to the husband. As Christ is to the Church, the husband is to be to the wife. This isn't original of me, folks. Paul said it all in his first epistle to the Church at Corinth and his epistle to the Church at Ephesus. As Christ loves the Church and serves the Church and gave Himself for the Church and works for the Church and bled for the Church and cries for the Church, and sacrificed for the Church and provides for the Church and nurtures the Church and empowers the Church, and so on, so should the husband be for his wife. Christ loves His Church, friends and neighbors. Limitlessly.

Conversely then, as the Church is to be submissive to Christ and obedient to Christ and joyful in Christ and in awe of Christ and subservient to Christ and engulfed in Christ, and so on, the wife is to be to the husband. The Church is to follow Christ, dear readers -- unwaveringly.

Now this concept isn't very popular today, is it? In fact, I can hear it now: "You male pig! Look at all those words! 'Submissive!' 'Subservient!' You dog!" Well, now, to answer those cries, I would ask this question to any believer: Believer, have you ever felt like Christ was an awful, hard, brutal taskmaster? Have you ever felt oppressed and burdened by Christ's power-hungry hand? Have you ever been afraid that if you said the wrong thing the wrong way, He would lash out at you? Of course not. In fact, I, for one, am happy to be His servant. I am happy to be His slave. He is my Master and my Lord (remember Sarah? Calling Abraham her 'lord' surely wasn't something he demanded of her. It came from a heart that was responsive to his loving leadership), and I am thrilled about that. Why?

Why do I have no qualms, no hesitancy, no fear about following Christ and submitting to Him unwaveringly? Because I know He loves me and will lead me to green pastures and still waters. Because He is an amazing Leader who cares for my soul more than I do. Because He is always there for me and treats me gently. He loves me. So, I've got some advice for both genders, straight from the Book of Books, amen?

MEN: Men, if you're expecting your wife to "submit" and "follow" but you're being a controlling brute and an all-around jerk, then how do you expect her to truly want to submit to you? Now, she's still supposed to submit, but how is being a thug being like Christ? If you're ruling with an iron fist, then why should she look forward to following you? Sir, if you are not gentle with her or kind to her, she will not look up to you or respond to you in the ways that you want and need her to. She needs to know that she is loved, thought of, appreciated. She needs to be treated gently, I don't care how much of a "tomboy" (God forbid! We don't need any more manly women and boyish girls! But that's another post) she is. You need to love her and support her and provide for her -- just as Christ does for the Church.

And what, then is the Church's reaction to Christ's love for us? We love Him because He first loved us, right? Exactly. We serve Christ because of what He has done for us, because He showed us His heart and then allowed us to break it. He has treated us so well, and we responsively and reactively love Him and submit to Him and serve Him. Ladies were made responsively and reactively, too. Connect the dots, friends and neighbors -- it really is a Christ-Church Relationship that is represented (and should be reflected) in the Husband-Wife Relationship. So, moving on:

LADIES: Ma'ams, do you believe that God would bless His church (or Israel, in the Old Testament and End Times) if they were disobedient and rebellious? God forbid. Do you think that Israel respected God and thanked Him for His provision when they were given manna in the wilderness? Of course not. So what happened? God's wrath was kindled against them. In other words, if you want your husband to be a bitter, empty shell of a man, then be a nag. Challenge his authority. Complain. Try to lead the home because he doesn't know what he's doing. Be like all the sitcoms -- try to be a smart, gorgeous, sassy wife bossing around her dumb, dull, lazy, stupid husband. Turn the order upside down. That's the best way to destroy your husband's manly, wild, rugged desire to lead you, to provide for you, to rescue his damsel in distress and care for you passionately.

God is all those things -- manly, wild, rugged. And He placed all those things in a man's heart. Watch boys as they grow! Look at the fairy tales! Men want to rescue, and women want to be rescued. Just like Christ and the Church. So, similarly to the husband, God can not be the Rescuer, the Provider, the passionate Lover of our souls when those who are under His authority do not submit to Him. As believers, when we do not harken to His voice or trust His leadership, we harness God, we strangle and paralyze God. We shut Him up and shut Him off when we decide that He doesn't know what He is doing. Ladies, please don't do this to your husband.

Now ladies, -- your husband, as you know, is not perfect. He makes mistakes, and he may very well struggle with some things. But what do you think he needs, someone who will say, "Oh, there he goes, sinning like that again. He's not qualified to lead me. He's not even leading himself! I don't respect him as much now. I can't follow this messed-up man," or do you think your husband needs a lady who will instead say, "My husband is not perfect, and neither am I. I know he's been struggling with this area or that area for awhile now, but I have my own struggles, too, and he is patient and forgiving with me. I need to encourage him and believe in him, no matter how many times he falls. Besides, he's an amazing, wonderful man who cares for my soul above all else -- how can I let this problem, big or small as it may be, stop me from loving him enough to follow his leadership and give him the respect and thanks he needs?" Now which one sounds more like a helpmeet? Like a Godly, Proverbs 31 lady?

Friends and neighbors, I've gone on for awhile about this, but listen -- if your marriage has problems, it's because one of you (95 percent of the time it's the man, because even when the woman is doing wrong, she is still a reactionary and responsive creation -- Sir, she will follow if you love her and manifest that charity in your leadership. So the ball is really in the man's court) is not in the proper position. So, in summary:

Arguments? Look back and Christ and the Church. Disagreements? Look back at Christ and the Church. Hey, this parallel relationship concept can extend to any area of your marriage, and it should. The picture of Christ and the Church ought to be woven into the very warp and woof of your marriage, the very fabric of your union. So, sex life? Food choices? What ornaments to put on the Christmas tree (if you so choose to have one)? Car purchase? Ladies' day out at the mall? Yep, every area of life can be guided and correctly executed with a healthy knowledge of Christ and the Church.

One or two quick case studies and we're done. Let's say the husband wants blue carpet, the wife wants yellow. The man may be quick to say, "Aha! I'm the authority, and I choose blue! I like this Christ-Church stuff!" Nope. Wrong. Christ condescends to us as believers and He serves us even more than we serve Him. So just because you're in charge, big guy, doesn't mean you get everything your way. Remember: Christ and the Church -- what would Christ do for His Church in that situation? He would take the loving, sacrificing position as He always has. The carpet is yellow.

So let's say the wife wants to wear a particular blouse to church. The husband feels it's not the best choice due to modesty. Women don't always think the way men do, so it's not like she is rebelling or acting out or something; she just didn't think of it. But the husband did. And he says in love, "Dear, you look amazing. But may I make a suggestion? In my mind, and probably in the minds of other men, that blouse [accentuates this or that/reveals this or that/too tight here or there, you get the idea]." (Note how it's not, "You're not wearing THAT!" It's kind, gentle, and thoughtful while revealing the need for a change) Now, that's all the husband should have to say. He shouldn't have to even "make" her do anything. All he should have to do is suggest. He's not being a power-hungry dictator; rather, he is trying to protect his wife's modesty and manifest a God-given jealousy over his wife's body -- it belongs to him, not other men's hungry eyes. So what to do? Think of Christ and the Church. She could rebel, and even try to twist this concept: "You should love me enough to let me wear this!" Or she could react correctly and respect his leadership. A wife ought to be thankful that her husband wants to protect her and save her all for himself -- Just like Christ and the Church.

In conclusion, can I get personal here? I have an amazing relationship with my sweetheart, Amber. I'm not perfect, and she knows it. And then, in our case, there's naturally going to be some frustration to deal with because it's a long-distance relationship, and then add the tension that arises because we really want to be married. Then add the fact that my cellphone company is dishonest and subtle and I don't get to talk to her that much for the next week or so as I write this. Whew! A lot of things going against us here this month. But she still loves me. And you know what? By her own lips, she has said that she would do anything I asked. Anything. Why? Because she trusts me. Why does she trust me enough to follow me so blindly like that? Because she knows she is loved, and she knows she is cared for, and she knows that I would crawl a million miles on my knees in the desert just to bring her a glass of water. Why would I do that? Because Christ did the same for His Church. You see? She respects me and follows me, because I sacrificially love her, because Christ sacrificially loves me.

Amen and amen! Marriage really is a beautiful picture of Christ and His Church...if we're doing our part. Let us be constantly and keenly aware of this concept, and let us allow it to permeate our thinking and change our behaviour for the betterment of our marriages (well, your marriages) and for the glory of God!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Blogging, like anything else...

...takes patience and several attempts to "get it right." For me, anyways.

I remember the last couple of times I tried to do a blog. For my first blog, I remember really wanting to sign off each post with "This has been a Hard Hit from Mike Britt. Put some ice on it. It'll heal." Now, as compassionate as that was, it didn't really take off. My second attempt at a blog...well, I recall signing off with "This has been a Triumphant Truth. Anything else is a lie." Not a whole lot of wiggle room there, you think?

As you can see, I was kind of a fireball back then, but unrestrained and untempered zeal can really lead to a lot of impulsive, ill-founded posts, so my blogs ended up having a lot of statements that sounded good on paper, but were really either utopian in their ideals or simply rude in their presentation. Furthermore, I tend to rant about issues that grind my gears; that tendency wormed its way into my blogs as well, and I'm sure this blog will probably suffer from a little bit of that along the way. But I don't want to allow the little things to become the point of this blog.

So, in conclusion, this blog isn't about things that bug me, although I'll probably write about a few here and there. This blog isn't about my opinion about everyday things and current events, although I'm sure I'll offer it often. Truly, I suppose if I had to put a statement of purpose to this blog, it would be as follows: This goal of this blog is to present practical, culturally-relevant Biblical truths...voiced by some guy who lives in New England. It really is just my mental meanderings about some things floating around in Christianity. But I want it to be a blessing, and I want it to help people be more like Christ.

I hope it goes well.