Compass Cover w:Title

“Compass” Lyrics:

Push against the wind

Running to the storm

Where you lead

I’ll go

Though my feet are worn

 

Dirt may fill my eyes

Fear might steal my breath

Let my faith arise

In the face of death

 

Spirit

I’ll follow

Take me where

You want to go

No fear

Will shake me

Even in the unknown

 

Your power

In me

Teach me how

To let it flow

Spirit

Of Jesus

Compass of my soul

 

(Show me where to go compass of my soul)

 

Thunder in the skies

Worry in my chest

Still my troubled heart

Help me feel your rest

 

As the flood surrounds

You will make a way

For me to walk ahead

Or stand in the rain

 

Spirit, I’ll follow

No fear will shake me

 

Your power

In me

Teach me how

To let it flow

Spirit

Of Jesus

Compass of my soul

Compass of my soul

 

(Tell me where to go compass of my soul)

(Show me where to go compass of my soul)

 

When the storm shall break

And reveal the night

In the dark, I’ll walk

And await your light

 

With my faith renewed

And my heart refined

I will seek the One

Who gave His life for mine

 

Spirit

I’ll follow

Take me where

You want to go

No fear

Will shake me

Even in the unknown

 

 

 

Copyright 2018 “Compass” by Rylan Rivers

 

I was roughly ten years old when I first met a witch. She wasn’t much of witch yet, could not do anything magical or fascinating, but she believed in magic very much. And not just the fun fairytale magic we get in Disney movies. No, this young friend was aspiring to be a witch, just like her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. I never witnessed anything special, but they had tarot cards that supposedly could tell the future and if they could just tap into their spirit, just worship the gods and goddesses enough, maybe they would obtain power.

They called themselves Wiccans.

At about ten, raised Christian, I was not very familiar with the idea that people existed that didn’t believe in Jesus. It felt evil to talk about their being other gods – and didn’t the bible say to avoid fortune tellers?

Yet, I was a very unpopular and shy child, extremely troubled by social anxiety. I knew what my friend was into was dangerous to my faith, but yet, I didn’t want to lose my bestfriend. Plus, I trusted her. Maybe Iwas wrong? So, I let my curiosity wander.

Luckily, this friend moved away and the decision was made for me that I would return to my faith and not chase after magic. I mostly let it go, though I continued to be amazed at the thought of – what if?

When I was 13, my family and I had just moved – in the middle of the school year – back to our hometown from Texas. I still was riddled with anxiety and let’s just say – people loved to pick on me. I was not popular. I had no idea how to handle my frizzed out curly hair. My wire glasses were always a bit crooked since I never stopped trying to adjust them myself. For some reason, in spite of my mother and sister’s keen sense of fashion and makeup expertise, I always found a way to wear the least flattering clothing I had and bright green eyeshadow (I thought it would make my brown eyes look hazel…).

So, in short, I was a nerd and the new kid.

I made a friend who helped me make a lot of friends. She was Christian – or said she was, at least. And while I wasn’t suddenly a popular kid, I at least had some really wonderful friends for once and felt like I belonged somewhere. I became very close to the one friend in particular. She became my new best friend for many years. I don’t want to go into tons of detail for her privacy, but I will say after that first year she had traded her Christian title for agnostic. She was very interested in paranormal things – ghosts, psychics, and supernatural abilities. I had never totally lost my interest in it, and so together we spawned a bit of an obsession. It got to the point where I was not just studying psychic powers and ghosts, but trying to obtainpsychic powers and talkto ghosts. I thought that, somehow, I was going to help the ghosts get to Heaven. I also thought that God had gifted me with an ability to “discern spirits” – which in my interpretation meant, see, hear, and talk to them.

It was here that my life began to flood with darkness. Again, I’ll spare most of the details, but I often wondered if I was losing my mind. I started seeing figures, reflections, and strange lights. I would hear voices and other peculiar noises, like melodies. I even felt like someone had laid their hand on my shoulder, head, or arms on several occasions. This was also the same time I began writing dark music about death, suicide, the end of the world, and other depressing subjects.

I was a mess!

I remember my dad calling me and talking to me when I would go visit him. He knew something was deeply wrong – the Holy Spirit had told him. He prayed for me many times, and almost every time the scary things would go away for awhile… then I’d start to miss them. Then it would come back, and usually worse.

Now eventually, I became scared enough and strong enough in my very contorted faith to choose to let all these things go. I decided I would avoid paranormal things and try my best to stay focused on God. I told my friend I couldn’t be around those things and that they were evil. I straight up called it all demonic and prayed God would protect me. My friend was good about it. She always was very good at respecting my desire to return to God, even if she didn’t believe in Him.

Well, I finally get a few years out of the deep depth, with only a few occasional slips back into my love of the paranormal. I mostly spend my time writing books that I’ll never publish and talking to that friend about her own writing projects as well as mine. Yet again, once I got to my senior year in high school, I ran into someone new.

While I had mostly upgraded out of complete nerd classification, I was now just one of those people that went mostly unnoticed. I had a couple of great friends and I finally knew a little bit more about how to dress nice and wear my makeup correctly. But something in me just longed to be noticed.

This new person I met was a gorgeous and brilliant aspiring film director. She somehow chose to befriend me of all people and with her at my side, I suddenly was bursting forth my creativity. I started to show people my music, art, writing, and was directing films in our Filmmaking course. Everything was going up! People recognized me. People actually would talk to me, and not just to get answers on the homework! And then this new friend began to slowly unravel her beliefs. Her abilities of “foresight” and a vast knowledge about the psychic and witchcraft subjects that had finally forsaken. For a short time, I fell under the spell of curiosity again. But by graduation, I had remembered how much evil it provoked and we both went separate ways.

But even after school, I became close to a girl at work. She was very invested in psychics and tarot cards. Unfortunately, I had just taken a nose-dive with my faith and didn’t even know what to believe anymore so I thought that maybe this was what I was supposed to be following the whole time. I let her do tarot readings. We went and paid a psychic over $100 a visit for her to tell me what my future held and what I was to do. The psychic told me her power came from God and I believed it. Then I watched as the tarot readings and psychic predictions began to prove themselvestrue.

That’s about when I got into using crystal pendants for guidance and trying to open up my chakras to balance my energies and unlock my psychic power. But the worst part of this mess, is that even though my Christian faith was rocky, I still believed in God Himself. So, I prayed to Him and asked Him to answer me using the crystals and tarot cards. I asked Him to help me balance my energies. But I distinctly remember one day when I started feeling some conviction and I asked Him if it was okay to use these methods to communicate with Him – after all, the things seemed to work until I asked Him to respond.

Lo and behold, the Lord said NO!

Praise God, I began to filter those practices out of my life. Meanwhile, my friends got deeper into it until they were proclaiming themselves witches, praying to Wiccan gods and goddesses, and mocking my faith in God (though stating they supported me).

I wish I could say I cut off from everything and fully turned back to God right then, but it still took me a few years to stop desiring their ways. God actually had me separate from those friends completely in order to protect me, because I struggled too much to keep my faith. I’m grateful and still sad for the loss of all these friends, especially the later ones. I think about them every day. I have dreams about them and pray for them. But I know that God has drawn boundary lines for me, and thanks to those, I now can see that all that I got into before was evil, offensive to God, and made me a child of the devil.

I’m sharing this story, though I feel much shame over these things, because it is through all of this mayhem, God revealed to me my purpose and calling. He shared with me recently that I experienced all of those odd (and sometimes frightening) situations so that He could use me as a voice in spiritual warfare. God took my greatest mistakes and sins, and is now using them to draw me closer to Him and to use me to help others see the truth in those areas of darkness. I am embarrassed to say I essentially practiced witchcraft (while calling myself a Christian) but I am so honored and humbled that God would use me in spite of it, and use those experiences.

There is no sin in our past that God can’t still turn around for good. Nothing goes to waste, nothing is an accident. Our perfect God knows what He is doing by letting us stumble and get lost. And I cannot express how beautiful it is or how much purpose is instilled when you ask God to show you why He let you do the things you are most ashamed of, and He answers.

I also shared this story to raise awareness of a growing belief system. The New Age and Wiccan cultures have been increasing over the years. The belief systems focus on self-empowerment and self-reliance which I know are not all bad. There is also a very heavy emphasis on looking into the future, which God warns us against. The issue is that the power they try to obtain is real in a way. The future they see is often relatively accurate. But the power comes from the Enemy and while it might make you feel better about yourself, more independent even, it also corrupts you the longer you chase after it. Though I was more confident than I had ever been, I became a very selfish and angry person. I did a lot of things that I regret now!  Seeing the future is also dangerous because it changes the way we act and can actually cause great damage when you try to obtain those things early or avoid them.

But there is good power. There is a good Spirit we can communicate with. There is a good God we can worship and rely on. When we follow Him, we are filled with Hispower and His wisdom. God can do far more incredible things within us and through us than we could ever do through the Enemy’s means (witchcraft, sorcery, etc). And His power in us makes us better. When God is our source of strength, energy, understanding, wisdom, and power He enables us to produce good fruits that will help us and other people. There is nothing more incredible than being used by God! So, if for any reason, you find yourself in the shoes I once was in, remember that you can tread into the darkness and use the power of evil, or you can walk in the light and be filled with the power of the Creator of the universe – who spoke the world into being, who breathed in you life, who conquered death, and sustains everything you see, hear, touch, feel, taste, and beyond. His power is greater than the Enemy’s. His power is cleansing, pure, and holy. His power is founded in love and breeds love. If you aren’t convinced, ask Him to open your spiritual eyes. Ask Him to let you see His supernatural side. You will be amazed and all the “power” that this world and below has to offer will look like a speck of dirt in the grandness of His magnificence!

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. I had this wonderful idea of starting a new series to help people with the trials of faith – but then suddenly I found myself overcome with the very things I claimed to be healed from.

When I first returned to my blog, I proclaimed how God had lifted me from my anxiety and depression – wow, I don’t need a doctor or counselor or medications! It was a beautiful reprieve from my pain. I knew I was supposed to help people with anxiety and depression. I felt that was finally my chance to step up and be strong for others.  But then after a series of events, it all came back worse than before. There was a sudden onset of panic in my anxiety – hyperventilation and tingling – feelings so overwhelming I thought I would faint. My body broke out in rashes. I have tension in nearly every muscle. Nightmares. Fatigue. Memory-loss. I’ve blanked out and missed whole moments of my life. Then the depression got worse. I went from thinking “I just want to sleep all the time” to hearing the word “suicide” in my mind every single time I felt even the tiniest pang of sadness.

It’s been a rough few weeks! What troubled me most is that the more I struggled, the less I felt like I could help anyone. How could I teach about God’s love and grace when I felt so far from Him? I sought Him day in and out through prayer, fasting, bible studies, prayer meetings, sermons, and trying to still help other people. My sorrows and anxieties had overburdened me to a point where I just couldn’t hear Him anymore. I wanted to die and I won’t be surprised if that thought returns again someday.

But I’m not writing this to talk about poor me and how I’ve suffered. I’m writing this because as I’ve started to hear from God again and understand His purposes, I’ve realized that God has not made me to be miraculously healed. He made me to walk beside Him on the long, painful journey of recovery so that I may walk other people to recovery, maybe alongside me, maybe someday ahead. My heart burns for people who suffer with depression and anxiety – God knows that. He put that fire there for a reason.

I want those who read my blog to understand I am not coming from some sunshine filled mountain peak. I’m in the dark valley, too. I know how hard it is. Somedays I wake up and want to fight and be strong. Other days I want to give up and find my bed in the ground. But, I want to shed some biblical truth about these subjects.

First of all, let’s talk about the guilt of depression. You might think to yourself every time you get low that you are letting God or others down. You might think God will be mad that you aren’t being more grateful, more joyful, showing more love. Why aren’t you pouring out for others? How selfish of you to think about yourself and your pain so much that you would be overcome by it! You are a Christian – depression is a bad witness.

Literally writing that stings my eyes.

I’ve thought those things and so much more almost every day in the past few weeks. Remember though, that even God feels sorrow. There’s many examples in the Bible that suggest that Jesus might have even experienced seasons of depression. Read Isaiah 53.

Repeatedly Isaiah prophesies about the servant of the Lord (Jesus) and his heavy sorrows. He calls him a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (IS. 53:3b). He states that Jesus was “oppressed” in verse 53:7. The anguish is described as reaching his very soul in verse 53:11.

What’s even more, 53:10 says this is all God’s will! God willed Jesus to suffer extreme sorrows and be crushed. This doesn’t mean God liked it – obviously God is ultimately the one who felt this deep pain. But remember again the call of a Christian is to be like Jesus – that includes suffering like Jesus at times (see 1 Peter 3:20-25).

Everything has it’s due season. Sometimes God wills us to be in utter joy and bliss. Other times He wills us to experience deep sorrows. For those with depression, that will happen more intensely and frequently than it does for others. I know I would probably want to slap myself right now, if in this very moment I was feeling that deep pain. I would think “this is dumb. Why should I be a Christian? Where is God? I thought He draws near to the brokenhearted. Why did Jesus have to feel such sorrow? Does God love us at all?”

But be encouraged! If you have depression God has selected you for a deeper relationship with Him than your jovial friends can have. He has selected you to experience Him in a different way. To testify and witness in a different way. Surely, you will have opportunities of abundance where you share the joy of God – but right now, let’s focus on what you are doing that is actually good during depression.

I read a devotional today from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman that focused on a portion of Ecclesiastes 7, about sorrow. This really spoke to me about the significance of our sorrow.

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth,” (Ecc. 7:2-3, ESV).

Here we are reading God’s word and He’s saying it’s better to feel sorrow than to laugh. Okay, wait. Seriously? God, You’d rather me mourn than feast? Frown than laugh? That doesn’t make sense. I thought God wanted His children to be happy because He loves us!

Well, here’s the deal. I love how Cowman puts this, “Accordingly, it is sorrow that causes us to take the time to think deeply and seriously. Sorrow makes us move more slowly and considerately and examine our motives and attitudes. It opens within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it makes us willing to set our capacities afloat on a limitless sea of service for God and for others… God never uses anyone to a great degree until He breaks the person completely… It takes sorrow to expand and deepen the soul.” (From Steams in the Desert)

I kept saying to myself and to God, “I’m too depressed. How can I help anyone?” and God told me, after much waiting, “I’m using your depression so that you can help others. How can you help them if you don’t know the depth of their pain? The greater your sorrow, the closer you come to me, the closer you come, the more I will expand your wisdom and the more you will experience me.”

In some strange way, this brings me joy. Who thought I’d feel joyful about being depressed. Ultimately, what this is teaching me is that sometimes God choses to miraculously heal someone of depression/anxiety. Maybe that’s their witness because He knows that is what is best, but I think most of the time, He wants to use those things to teach us more and make us stronger. Let’s put it this way: if God doesn’t miraculously heal you, it’s because He knows you are strong enough to go to the darkest depths and still come back up. He will make you wiser. He will grow your love. He will reveal things to you that other people around you may never know or experience. It might feel like a curse. It might feel like you’re being punished or that you are disappointing God, but do not become depressed about depression. Be encouraged. Recognize those seasons as growth periods. Times to slow down from the whir of life and reflect on God and His ways and His purposes. You have been chosen to experience these things for a reason and you will reap eternal benefits if you just keep trusting God and fighting with everything you have and everything He supplies you with.

Ultimately, God does want you to experience joy, peace, and abundance. Don’t ever doubt that. He loves you immensely, but His ways are not our ways. His love surpasses our understanding. God is with you whether you feel Him there or not. He is doing something within you that will ultimately bring you joy, peace, and abundance, but you have to walk through valleys of shadow. You still have to climb the mountain to reach the peak, but the Lord will sustain you and guide you. You will know Him better and feel His love more every time you take a journey like this with Him.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!”(Psalm 128:5)

This is for you: “Broken Things” – Matthew West

All In

As I wrote in my last post, losing my faith destroyed me on the inside. Regaining it, brought an incredible healing and ripped me from depression and a destructive path.

But what changed? What happened to shift my perspective and raise me from my ashes?

It started many years before. My dad, a fairly new pastor, mailed me a book called The Reason by Lacey Sturm, a Christian rock singer. At this time of my life, I was not close to my dad. I didn’t understand him. I didn’t like the decisions he made. I thought he had gone off the deep end with his religion and I just was not willing to go with him. So, I thanked him for the book, promised to read it, and tucked it away.
Well, if you read the last post, you know there came a point when I just couldn’t take my depression and anxiety anymore. I was miserable and probably miserable to be around. I did what every one does when they reach such a breaking point – I called my mom. She stayed on the phone with me for hours, listening to me cry and try to explain the depths of my pain and worry. She comforted me and related to me and gave me some really great advice about how to cope and heal. The best thing she told me was a subtle reminder that God was with me.

After I hung up, I felt this incredible need to pick up that book my dad sent me. I felt something stirring inside me as I read it. I could practically hear Lacey sitting there telling it to me with this light in her eyes as she talked about her very similar struggles to mine. At some point, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I set the book aside and started praying. And God was with me. I felt him there, guiding the words as they fell out of my mouth. I felt the tension of regret, anger, and hurt leaving my body. I just gave myself to God. Trusting him with all. It was incredible and I wept tears of gratitude and joy for the first time in a very long time.

But then, I woke up the next day feeling incredible conviction about my relationship. My boyfriend in many ways had replaced God in my life. It wasn’t anything he’d done on purpose or that I consciously done, but I had placed him high above everything in life, even God. That morning God reminded me of something I had realized long before but it never sunk in.

When I was a child, my dad had also urged me to start praying for whoever I would be with someday – that God would prepare us for one another and bring us together at the right time. Of course, being a little punk, I told him I wouldn’t be with anyone ever so why would I do that. But, actually, I prayed this most everyday of my life. Ironically, the same time I started praying was the same time my boyfriend had picked up his guitar and started learning to play. Then years of mirroring situations go by and here I am with this man. Music had brought us together and was the thing we believed we were called to do together. And, our lives had so well prepared us for each other that we can understand one another in ways a lot of others can’t.

So God reminds me of this. He reminds me that he made us for one another, prepared us through our lives, and that when the time came to be together it was a promise to me fulfilled by him and I had taken this beautiful blessing and used it to replace God.

This hurt. Faith is not a walk under the stars. There’s a lot of pain in growing and becoming someone better, and when God gets involved, he definiately pushes you to become more that you even meant to be.

I prayed for forgiveness and asked God to take control of my relationship. This honestly was the most terrifying prayer I’d ever prayed. I basically said to God, “You are in control and I am letting go, even if I lose this man so I can be closer to you.” The struggle really came when I told my boyfriend this. I was crying so much I could barely speak. I thought for sure if I told him that we had trampled on God’s blessing and were living in sin by living together and placing each other above God that he’d leave me. I knew his love was strong, but I didn’t expect him to stick around while I chased after something as “uncool” as a relationship with God.

Long story short, that’s not what happened. My boyfriend instead became my husband within the month. We started doing bible studies together, then found a church where the sermons actually directly tied into the Bible studies we had done (the Holy Spirit is so intricate and dedicated to each of us!). We pray together and have given our whole lives to God.

So this is how I know God is real. He healed me from my soul; something medications and counseling could never do. He prepared my husband and I for each other and for our destiny together since we were children. He used my dad to give me that book years before I needed it and used my mom to pull me back into His presence. He spared my relationship and turned it into something so much more beautiful than before. I hear his Holy Spirit guiding me, prompting and teaching me. I have strength when I don’t have strength. I have peace when I don’t have peace.

The more you give to God, the more blessing he pours over you. If God wasn’t real, the more you give away, the less you would have. But he provides. He is more than enough. And he is real.

I’m not happy

But I’m still breathing

I don’t feel strong

But I’m still alive

My heart is broken 

But it’s still beating

I don’t know where to go

But I will keep moving on

 

And I

Will follow where you want me to,

Where you want me to go

And I

Will run blindly 

If you tell me to

If you tell me so

 

Guide my steps

Make them so obvious

That I can’t get lost

Make them so sure

That the waves cannot toss them

Into the sea

That the storm cannot ever

Take them from me

 

Help me, God, to live for you

Like you

To you

Help me, God, to hear your voice

One voice

The voice

The only one that’s true

 

Yes, I will follow 

Where you want me to

Where you want me to go

And I

Will run blindly

If you tell me to

If you tell me so

 

~~~

Listen to my demo here

I wrote this after a bit of an emotional breakdown of sorts, so apologies for the depressing tone. But it means the world to me.

A change in directions

A shift in the sea

What does it matter

 If it led you to me?

 

You wanted stable ground,

I offered you the Earth

But instead you sailed around

And forgot all that your worth

 

You slipped and you fell

You slid across the deck

You cried out until

You became the shipwreck

 

But hear me when I’m calling

Can’t you hear the gentle wind?

My strength can catch your falling

I am anchoring you in

 

With cast iron arms,

I will hold you down

Protect you from all harms

And never let you drown

 

Stop running to the sides

Checking if I’m there

Can’t you see the tides?

And taste them in the air?

 

They want to swallow you whole

Make you wonder where I went

But trust me and you’ll know

With you is where my time is spent

 

I will not forsake you

I’m anchoring you in

For that is who I am

And who I’ve always been

 

Just let me hold you still

And remember who I am

Just have faith in my will

And I will help you stand

 

You do not have to waver

You do not have to slip

You are in my favor

I have you in my grip

 

With cast iron arms,

I will hold you down

Protect you from all harms

And never let you drown

 

I will not forsake you

I’m anchoring you in

For that is who I am

And who I’ve always been

I was fallen

Low and scared

Hiding my face

Like no one cared

 

Thinking I had no purpose

Asking why I exist

Wondering each night

If I died, would I be missed?

 

I had to run

I had to get away

I found Your arms

Now I’m saved

 

And I’m singing out

Alleluia 

You gave me meaning

You gave me life

You gave me purpose

Made me alright

 

Bless Your name, Lord

You washed my shame

It’s so far gone

Look what I became

 

I’m still scarred

But I’m still alive

I’m still charred

But I’m so revived