Focus and Service

Definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Being depressed we get ourselves stuck in a rut and we feel we can’t get out. Starting today you need to start doing something different. You don’t have to change your entire life or the way you been doing everything, but change something. Read your Bible more, start a journal, memorize scripture that will help you when you get in trouble, serve others, join a home fellowship or just pray more and let God lead you.

Change What You Focus On

Depression is the focus of negative feelings like uselessness, hopelessness, confusion, anger, sadness, hatred and other useless emotions. When our focus is on us we start picking on ourselves such as why am I so fat, why can’t I do this, why am I so stupid, etc. However, when we are busy living our life the way God has intended, we don’t have as much time to be depressed. One cure for depression is to put God first in our thoughts then others and then ourselves.

Depression has a tendency to make you look at the negative things around you, and the negative things in you, in others and in your circumstances. Sometimes we look for the worst in others in order to make us feel better about ourselves. We’ll look for the worst when people are talking to us, trying to find that negative thought or idea. Then these are the feelings we focus on during the course of the day which makes it worse and engulfs our whole day. Sometimes we will look for people that are unhappy in hopes that we will feel better in comparison and usually all that happens in our minds is that we confirm life is terrible.

So why was I so depressed? The doctors had all kinds of reasons from emotional to physical, but I believe it was my focus. Life is like a camera; whatever you focus on is what develops. My focus was on myself. I was constantly looking at things with me as the central focus, no matter what it was. If my family wanted to do something, it depended on how I felt. If there was something I wanted, I bought it. Our life is what we focus on. If we focus on what is wrong in our life that will be what we notice but if we focus on the good things, more good things will come our way.

Notice Satan doesn’t have us focus on him. Instead he distracts us with doubts, worries, basically his fiery darts. He wants to get our focus off of God, which is his target, because he knows we need God’s help to get through this life. We need faith in knowing that God will always be there and that He is in control.

Service is the Key

If you truly want to get rid of depression, take the focus off of yourself; go to a retirement center, visiting someone, help your neighbor, volunteer in your community and use the gifts God has given you. When you do something that honors God for someone else and you get this great feeling inside, where do you think that feeling comes from? Why do you think you feel so good, because you are doing what God has designed you to do.

He used several people to get the message to me. He took the focus I had on myself, and aimed it toward others who needed me and He brought other people into my life to guide me. One thing I did when I was so badly depressed was keep everyone out of my life. Have you ever done that? It seems that when you need people the most, you turn your back on them and don’t want them around. One of God’s greatest gifts is companionship and fellowship with each other. How many times does our Lord reference in His Word about loving each other and helping each other?

I’ve talked to so many Christians about the change in their lives that happened when they received Jesus as Lord and Savior and each one had something different that changed within them. I remember one of the first things that happened was I couldn’t swear anymore and when I heard God’s name used in vain I would get a sharp pain in my heart. But the one thing that really changed was the way I looked at people. I rarely even noticed or cared about them at all. I was so wrapped up in my own life, but now things were different. The homeless were no longer disgusting to me but unfortunate, the elderly no longer were just someone I needed to pass on the road, but people to learn from and children were not a bother, but a blessing.

I lived by the beach in a small apartment and I started work early so I would get up at 2:00 a.m. and walk along the beach and pray. I noticed so many homeless people sleeping on the park benches and my heart went out to them. So each week I would purchase several gift cards to the nearby Dairy Queen and place them in a card I made that had

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

on the front of the card and

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

inside and the words “May God continue to bless you and keep you safe, for He cares and loves you.” While the people were sleeping I placed the card next to them and quietly left. I would volunteer to help any ministry feed the poor and homeless and led the Thanksgiving Dinner at the church I was at. One day I was going through a very tough time in my life and had no direction on what God wanted me to do. I was heading for work when I saw this one homeless man that stood at the corner each day walking towards the tracks where he slept. It was Sunday and early so there was no traffic on the road and God put on my heart to stop and give him some money. Like Jonah I didn’t want to stop and I made excuses like; I was going the opposite way and there was no way to turn around, I have my own problems and I was running late. One thing I learned God doesn’t see our problems the same way we do and had me turn around. I stopped and looked in my wallet and I had a twenty and a one dollar bill in my pocket and looked up to see which one He wanted me to give, as if I didn’t know. So I ran over to the man and got his attention. I said I feel I’m supposed to give this to you. Pretty heartfelt don’t you think? As I handed the money to him I began to walk away and he stopped me and said, “What’s your name?” Startled I turned around and said “I’m sorry my name is Mark.” The man looked at me and said, “Wow that’s my name too.” As I looked into his face for the first time I noticed his eyes were this bright blue and his toothless smile warming as he said thank you. I did say God Bless as I left and take care. I walked back to my car wondering what just happened, and realized my anxiety was gone and proceeded to go to work. I never saw Mark again, but I’ll never forget him.

Hebrews 13: [2] Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

I was involved in a couple of small church groups and one of the men in the group owned a nursing home. We thought it would be great to prepare a dinner and then show a movie one evening. Some of the men brought their children to help serve. We all showed up early and the people were more than anxious to talk with us. I talked to a man who won the PGA Golf Tournament in 1968 and my friend found Freddy who use to box and knew Rocky Graciono. Freddy had a hunchback and my friend was over six foot five, but Freddy stood firm and occasionally gave him a jab to his stomach. I watched as the kids took the orders after everyone was seated, as our guests ordered shrimp and filet mignon when we only had burgers and hot dogs. However, that day was a banquet, a banquet of love.

After dinner we set up the movie on a large screen. It was called, “Joshua”, a Christian movie about a modern day Jesus. At the end of the movie, Freddy came up to me with tears in his eyes. I know what it meant and I hugged him with tears in my eyes and an indescribable wonderful feeling in my spirit. As I was getting things together to leave, a woman came up to me and said, “I know who sent you.” I looked at her and said,” You do, do you.” Then she just looked at me. I looked back and said, “I love Him so much.” She said, “It shows,” and gave me a big hug. I never truly loved anyone or anything my entire life and now I love someone so much it showed. What a change.

I then got involved in the CARE (Child Abuse Recovery Education) ministry for abused children. The church would host events at the church inviting different agencies to bring kids. I hardly spent any time with my own children and now God wanted me to be involved with children going through the worst kind of abuse. Of all things they needed a Santa for the Christmas party being held and I stepped up to the challenge. The children have been so abused that no one was allowed to hug them because they were afraid of people. Everyone except for Santa. That day I had everyone sitting on my lap from small children to mothers going through substance abuse, seeing their children maybe for the first time in months. I was laughing and hugging everyone. It was as if I was born to do this. Maybe I was. As I would reach out for children and place them on my knee and ask what they wanted, I saw in line a little boy about four or five. He had burn marks all over his face, he had freckles and it seems as though someone tried to burn the freckles off with a cigarette. I was afraid to reach out to him and said from a distance, “what would you like for Christmas little boy.” He looked up at me and said, “I want a hug Santa.” I couldn’t hold back the tears and I reached out to him and just held him in my arms as he embraced me. His name was Mikey and I asked him to help me pass out the candy and toys to the other boys and girls. He was so excited and stuck by his new best friend Santa the rest of the day. When it was time to go home he ran up to me and gave me a big hug and told me that he loved me. I took off my gloves and glasses and handed them to him then said, “Merry Christmas,” as he got on the bus. I don’t know if Mikey will remember that day, but I sure know Santa will never forget.

I’m Santa every year and God has used me to touch others from praying with moms sitting on my lap while others waited in line, encouraging ladies that God has a plan for their life and touching the lives of children. Not bad for someone who always thought he was a mistake.

I became a leader for children with autism at the church. It was a class held on Saturday night and I was the only man who volunteered. I remember one night as the parents were picking up their children this one lady had two sons and they were about to leave. I shouted, “hey what about me,” the two turned and wrapped their arms around me and kissed me on the cheek. I looked up and there was their mom with tears in her eyes and said, “thank you for showing my boys some love.” I found out most children with autism usually only have mothers, because the father can’t take the pressure of dealing with a child with autism. Imagine God used someone who couldn’t love anyone, even himself, to show love to those who need it.

God blessed me with so much joy from serving, I wanted to help others experience that same joy. I started a ministry called the C.I.A. (Christians In Action) and came up with a booklet with over one hundred ways we can bless others by serving.

The idea was to help others realize their purpose by supporting them in whatever outreach God might have put on their heart. Most of the outreaches I did had something to do with food, since that is my gifting. One year we had a military outreach Christmas party. We invited families that their spouse was deployed or might return right before the event. We called and asked for specific gifts for the children, we had volunteers do crafts, take pictures with Santa (guess who was Santa) and had a wonderful lunch buffet.

We had a request from the wife of a soldier. He was praying that somehow his family would be able to go to Disneyland on Christmas day so the family wouldn’t miss him as much not being there. It would be his wife and three children. With the generosity of the church we were able to purchase all the gifts along with four tickets to Disneyland.

It was a wonderful day as our guest entered and were greeted and then directed to the crafts and pictures with Santa. I had a great time asking the children what they wanted and hugging each one. A little girl about five years old came and sat on my lap and when I asked what she wanted, she said she wanted her daddy home. I told her that was beyond what Santa could deliver, but I knew of someone who could watch over him until He gets home. I asked her if she knew Jesus and with a smile she said, yes. I asked her if she wanted to pray together to make sure her daddy gets home safely and she hugged me and said, please. We sat there talking with Jesus asking for a safe return for her dad as others waited their turn.

Right before lunch I gathered everyone together and told them about the real gift of Christmas and the reason we were there that day, to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Santa excused himself and went right to the kitchen and changed out of his Santa jacket to his chef coat. After lunch I went into the kitchen to clean up, while the others called out the names of our guests to receive their special gift. Someone came back to tell me there was someone who wanted to talk to me. It was the lady and three children who received the Disneyland tickets. They took turns hugging and thanking me, but I insisted it wasn’t me they should be thanking. The wife and mom gave me one last hug and said you made our Christmas, and I said no you made mine. That moment was my Christmas, the one moment I’ll remember most from that year.
How can it be so rewarding putting the needs of others above our own? All I ever thought of was myself, couldn’t care less about anyone else and I was miserable. God commands us to put the needs of others above our own and He is always looking out for our best interest. I guess if it was good enough for Jesus
Mark 10:45 (NKJV)For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
My list can go on and on how God used someone so worthless to make a difference to others. If you are still breathing, God isn’t done with you. He has a plan for your life.

Jeremiah 29: [11] 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.

See He doesn’t need to practice, He knows exactly what He is doing, even though we may not understand. His hand was there every time I tried to end my life, knowing He still had a use for me. We’re not mass produced, but each one of us is custom made and made for a purpose. Our creator took great care and thought as it states in the Psalms:

Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Psalm 139:15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

Psalm 139:16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.