2 months ago The Sting of Death

I have written blogs for about a decade. Some of the most difficult to write were ones sharing my anguish in response to the death of someone I love. Ironically, all of them were sudden deaths for which I was unprepared. The one I write about today is likely the most difficult yet, but also the most precious. This blog is also the longest I’ve written and many will likely not want to read the whole thing, which is understandable!

It feels surreal to write about the recent passing of my second mom, Aunt Gladys. She humorously used to sign every birthday or special occasion card she gave me with “from your favorite aunt”.

I avoided even beginning to write when Gladys passed, which seems odd for me because I go to writing when deep feelings need to be processed. I can’t do justice in expressing the full range of emotions. Instead, I initially just decided to experience the grief and adjust to the suddenness of her passing. I assumed I might eventually write about my thoughts and emotions concerning Gladys. It just seemed overwhelming and impossible to write. It would take forever and would never be complete.

I realized that others will not likely be interested in reading about my personal feelings and experience. However, I feel obliged to express them as a tribute to Gladys. While I can’t do justice in describing her, I offer a weak attempt to honor her life with my efforts.

We have no doubt that she is with Jesus, who she loved with a love few people experience. Growing up across the field from her, her house was like a second one to me. Her cooking, words of wisdom, encouragement, and loyalty were like my mom’s. Childhood years develop us, write on our hearts in permanent ways, and make lasting imprints that go through life with us. Even after becoming an adult, Aunt Gladys was involved in every chapter of my life. As I think about her, I realize her life was like a sermon she lived before us. We sometimes forget sermons we hear, even if they were important, yet those who were close to Gladys will not forget the sermon her life provided.

It’s impossible to talk about Gladys without talking about love. The love she defined was loyal. The world so yearns for loyalty and it seems to be getting more difficult to find as the years go by. Loyalty like she displayed is not only more precious and valuable than gold, but also rare. She remained loyal and committed to people, and you never had to worry about her rejecting you if you didn’t act like she wanted.

It was obvious that Gladys had a servant’s heart and she loved in ways that were characterized by sacrifice. I have been blessed to watch how she, along with her two sisters, displayed sacrificial love versus the shallow love the world defines as love. I recall a man describing his wife as being a person who loved as long as it didn’t require her to sacrifice. Many who think they are loving, don’t want to put themselves out.

Gladys gave to others in ways that cost her, but which also brought her joy in the giving.

This morning, I picked up the coffee cup she had bought and given me that has the message on the outside, “Future Best-selling author”. Besides my mom, she was my greatest cheerleader of my attempts at writing. Each and every blog and book I wrote, she read, and her words of encouragement were given regularly. She boosted my efforts with her words of praise, regardless if they were or were not deserved.

Facebook has been flooded with posts about Gladys, a testament to the many people affected by her. She was a woman who was famous for her love of Jesus, along with her cookies, bread, and food given liberally, and her ability to encourage others.

She was so sensitive to the pain of others that she took on their pain in ways that psychologists would caution against. However, I saw this about her as being like Jesus. She hurt for others and you felt it when you the one in pain. In fact, it was best to be hesitant to expose my own pain too openly with her, for concern for how deeply she would hurt for me.

While some may think that being so sensitive and tender to others indicates that she was weak, that is far from the truth. She had a deep strength, but which came from the Lord. She had a definite adherence to justice and was clear in her stance against evil and sin. She could speak up with the best of them!

While Gladys hurt for others, she was famous for also not giving up on anyone. Regardless of how much they had messed up their life, she kept hope, love, and belief for them. She was willing to stay involved, praying, encouraging, and advising. While the advice was rejected by some, she still loved and encouraged them, even if they were disrespectful or dismissive of her.

Ironically, those who flippantly accused her of nagging and dismissed her as being a worrywart who was overreacting, later realized how wise she was and regretted not taking her warnings and advice more seriously. So many she loved wished they had made choices based on what she had tried to teach them.

Even though I knew Gladys cared for others deeply, I have become even more aware as I heard her daughter tell of how her mom would lie in bed praying for what seemed ages as she talked with the Lord about the concerns of others. She would talk to the Lord about person after person, naming them and pleading with the Lord on each one’s behalf. We flippantly say to each other, “I am praying for you” and yet, I wonder what we really do. The sincerity, commitment, and ongoing efforts of Gladys provokes me to realize how rare is such a loving prayer life.

I join many others who have been talking about Aunt Gladys and how she affected those close to her. Her love of others gave us a glimpse of how God must be and made us want to know Him better and snuggle up to such a merciful and tender Father.

Watching her made us look at ourselves in realizing we don’t come anywhere near her in being such a light to others. But it also ignited a spark to pursue the love she had for Jesus. It made us face the importance of how we affect others. It jarred us in realizing that we all are living a legacy and will one day leave others behind who will think back over who we were.

So many are now hurting because we want to talk with Gladys again, share our hurts and triumphs with her, and just spend our lives with her. So many of us miss her terribly. She talked openly about how the Holy Spirit comforted her and now we look for His comfort for us.

Her passing alerted me to be more keenly aware of the magnitude of how life changed when sin entered humanity. The Bible declares, “Oh death where is thy sting”. Yet, my heart wails that it does sting! The Holy Spirit is easing the sting, but I will never forget the pain of the effects of the fall, while on this side of heaven. Sin brought death to humanity that was never going to be experienced before it came. Yet, I also know that if physical death didn’t come, we will be left with sin, in a spiritual war zone, and not fully in God’s presence. This eases the pain and gives me great hope. The Lord says it precisely, “We don’t grieve as those who have no hope”.

I know that the pain is temporary, Gladys is more alive than ever, and our hurt will eventually lessen. My mom says she is hurting so badly, because she is being selfish. I remind her that Jesus wept when His dear friend Lazarus died. Mom knows that Gladys is where she yearned for, is more alive and joyous than we can imagine, and that we will be reunited someday. Yet, being separated for now still hurts. Yet, we rejoice that she is free, healed, and doing awesome!

Those who love others well, will be the most missed. The more we love others, the more we will hurt. Yet, it is a hurt that is precious and not to be regretted. Earthly life will not be the same without Gladys here. But, life will be sweeter because of her having been here.

“Death, you do sting! But you don’t last and its worth the temporary pain for what comes on the other side of experiencing you. You can’t kill our spirit. So while there may be a sting, you lose.”

Gladys would say if she could to all who would listen: “Be ready for the sting of death, because what follows it matters more than anything you can ever face while on this side of the sting!”

3 months ago The Golden Years

If we get to our sixties, like I am, I wonder what each of us would want to tell our younger self if we could. Only people who have lived a few decades even think of such. Yet, people have historically thought about what they wish they had known when they were younger. They realize that they would do some things differently if they had those younger years to do over.

“If I had to do over, I would not have given up on my marriage.” “If I knew then what I know now, I would have never have made that choice”.” I would have spent more time with my children and tried to be a better example.” “I would have chased that dream I felt God had given me.” “I would not have drunk alcohol so much.” “I wouldn’t have missed that opportunity, acted that way, avoided church, kept that resentment”, etc. etc. etc.

Songwriters have penned such thinking in many a song passionately wailing about thinking back over their past life.

When I studied and later taught Developmental Psychology, which explores the stages of life, initially, I wasn’t particularly enthralled. Yet, as I lived, I noticed that our lives not only followed stages, but that recognizing the vulnerabilities and challenges of each stage enables us to better navigate life in effective ways. The more we understand, the better we are equipped to respond in ways that will help us avoid derailment and lead us to better destinies.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t interested in pursuing this type of understanding when we are young. It sounds like a lot of boring and stuffy ideas that don’t really apply to us.

As we live, we will all recognize the way we look at those same past life situations differently. What was so important when we were fifteen is so insignificant now. What was so insignificant then, is so significant now.

As seniors, we realize what we had no clue about when young. We know: Popularity is a farce and wasted goal to pursue. Craving admiration from people is a ridiculous cancer that brings increasing destruction the more it is allowed to grow. Material treasures aren’t even treasures. Earthly pleasures and accomplishments are fleeting, while God has blessed us with eternal rewards that won’t stop.

We have opportunities to accept and pursue assignments and purposes while in this abode called earth that make all the temporary stuff we chase and obsess about ridiculously unimportant in comparison. Yet, on we typically chase in our youth, and some even throughout their earthly life.

I am saddened and sometimes I aguish as I notice this ongoing unawareness of what’s really important. I recognize that the older I get, the less excited I am about temporary accomplishments and pleasures. I’m not as interested in winning our human contests, achieving the accolades, gaining the gold medals, getting the dream house, and basking in great vacations and adventures of this world.

It’s not that I don’t find pleasure in earthly life events for others and myself. It’s just that they are surface and don’t thrill me as the eternal matters do. If we all felt this way from our youth, our lives would look much differently as we look back over our lives when in our golden years. Isn’t it interested that we call our last years on earth as our golden years.

Many may wonder why they are called golden, when our bodies are declining with age. Joyce, who has been suffering a host of health problems only after getting old, looked bewildered as she asked, “Why are these years called the golden years?”

They seem golden as a by-product of recognizing and embracing what’s really important. King Solomon, who was identified as the wisest man, had lived a life pursuing all the pleasures of this world. He had more gold than what anyone could imagine, yet he didn’t receive the real golden treasure until late in his life when he began passionately declaring: “All this we chase is like vapor.” Solomon ended his rant by saying, “I’ve enjoyed all the pleasures this world has to offer and it’s all meaningless. Instead the quest of life should be to reverence God and obey Him”.

Solomon found his golden years and in so doing found what was real treasure.

Oh that we find those golden years as early in life as we can! I sadly realize that is unlikely. But, my stubborn me keeps trying to believe some youth will listen to the nuggets from us “old folks” who have “been there, done that”. We may not be able to help our younger self, but those of us who have a better glimpse of real treasure can help some younger ones who are still chasing and obsessing about those empty and fleeting trinkets the world calls treasure.

Matthew 6: 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

4 months ago TRUST HIM

I have come to accept that I’m one of those speaker/writers that doesn’t communicate about light and pleasant topics, about which most people prefer to hear or read. I’m not good at jokes and I definitely didn’t get the comedian gene that my younger brother got.

It may not only be because I didn’t get the funny gene, but also because of what I do for a living. Being a psychologist, I hear people’s pain daily.

I felt the urge from a young age to explore what influences people and how they develop. I didn’t even know what a psychologist was. Yet, God began nudging me early to wonder and search for insight about such deep matters.

Now many decades later, I reflect back over what I have learned along the way, although like most people I didn’t always use that insight to make the best choices myself.

In sharing one of the most profound truths I have gleaned, I will illustrate with a personal, true, and painful memory.

When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer at age two, I felt my world was falling apart. The trauma and overwhelming sorrow and fear were more than words can adequately describe.

By the time the cancer was found, it had taken her whole kidney. Surgery, radiation, and then chemotherapy followed. While it was horrific, it looked as if treatment was being successful and you wouldn’t even know she was on chemotherapy except for her baldhead. She didn’t get nauseous or vomit. We went for our regular appointments to get chemotherapy and continued on with our lives. Little did I know how blessed I was that her chemotherapy didn’t seem to make her feel ill. But I would soon find out.

While still on chemotherapy, a year later a huge tumor in her lung was found. Since it was lying on the main vein to her lung, it was impossible to completely remove for fear of nicking the vein and her immediately bleeding to death.

The lung tumor came even after the cancerous kidney was cut out, radiation given, and a year of chemotherapy, which she still was taking. The cancer had survived and regrouped to make a huge tumor. There could also be cells spread throughout her tiny body. This meant that this cancer was resistant and resilient, determined to survive, take-over, and kill my daughter. It truly was my enemy!

That’s when the horrendous treatment began that made me quickly realize that chemotherapy cannot only kill cancer; it can also destroy and kill healthy cells too. It truly is poison.

Week after week, I watched as infusion after infusion left her vomiting for hours and hours, down to the green acid of bile. I watched as she was left an almost lifeless, shell of a child, with deathly white thin skin over a skeleton frame and hollow eyes looking at mom, who couldn’t make it stop.

My choices were to either stop this mad assault upon my precious child, or watch her be eaten away by a rapid and aggressive cancer than would leave her dead within days or weeks.

To read of the risks of the poisonous chemotherapy was tormenting. This included various different types of cancer, heart damage, hearing loss, kidney damage (she only had one left), paralysis, and a host of other horrifying effects.

You may not ever have cancer, but you too have an enemy. We all do. All of our families, everyone we love, and each one of us our self will be assaulted by evil.

We all will suffer and will sometimes feel like our heart is being ripped out. We can’t make it stop. It’s really cruel when our deepest injury comes from someone we love and we thought loved us. Those who have had their mate, who professed being committed to them for life, decide they didn’t want them anymore have wounds that no chemotherapy can fix. They can’t have the damage cut out like my daughter’s cancerous kidney. Instead, they are left with a damaged heart that must keep beating if they are to live at all.

The enemy of cancer created such sorrow and fear for me that I was desperate. I whined, cried, and fought to find the Lord’s comfort and healing night and day. I wonder if He ever wanted to thump me into getting still enough to hear Him assure me: “I’ve got her.”

I begged for Him to tell me that she would live and not die, at least not until she had lived a long and satisfying life. But, I never heard that from Him. Instead, I heard, “Trust me”.

I will if You will tell me she will live!

But still, He only would say, “Trust me”.

Some of you may be like I was. You want God to tell you that your spouse will come back, will love you again, and will honor their covenant of marriage. God instead may only tell you, “Trust me”. He may not reassure you that you can trust your mate to do what you want. But, you can trust Him.

Some of you may, like me, ask for specific messages, “Tell me my son will get off drugs, my daughter will get mentally stable, my business will make it, my mom will finally love me”, or any deep desire that you yearn for with all your heart. You may feel like I did that you can’t ever experience any happiness again or possibly even survive if you don’t get that for which you are begging Him to make happen.

Yet, I wonder if God keeps trying to tell you also, “Trust me”.

In my life long search for insight into what determines who we are, who we become, and our destiny, I realize that we must all choose to either trust Him or not. Those of us who not only fight, but who also fight the real enemy, have to give all our stubborn and determined efforts to “Trust Him”. The ultimate challenge will be whenever the mate doesn’t come back, the cancer isn’t dying, we don’t feel the comfort, and we don’t see circumstances going in the way for which we have passionately prayed.

Not only will this be when the challenge to trust Him will be the most difficult, feeling almost impossible to do, but also the most powerful in developing us into whom He wonderfully designed and establishing the destiny He choose for us. Fight to choose wisely: TRUST HIM!

4 months ago Developing a Secure Foundation

I have been reflecting over how blessed my twin granddaughters have been in having each other near as they faced life experiences together. Some think that they should have instead had more frequent experiences separated from the other, and thus lived more independently. While I believe that is true in some twin experiences, in their cases, I think not.

I used to teach Developmental Psychology at a couple of universities. Research showed that having a foundation of security was the most monumental influence upon our development. The early years set the stage, and to feel secure was the driving need for future healthy development. Yet, we live in a competitive and driven world that seems to push for independence and achievement above all else, even to the expense of our emotional well-being.

It seems like we are in a hurry to push young children to be in their own bed, to solve their own problems, and to get comfortable with being away from parents as they learn to “socialize”. They need to experience dealing with life without the cuddling mom, or in this case a twin being nearby. We hear stories of young children bravely doing great feats and we admire their strength and tenacity.

Yet, studying the development of those early years touched my heart and gave me insight into the need for a secure and safe foundation that takes time, patience, and years of it. We can gently pull back as we encourage them to do things independently. In so doing, they learn and develop.

My twin granddaughters have parents that both work outside the home and like most children of today, they were cared for by others besides family early in life, while parents worked. We grandparents and an aunt did part of it, but they were also in daycare and eventually preschool. Yet, they had each other every step of the way. Thus, they always had family because of this.

I’m glad they had that extra security. The secure foundation has given them an extra padding. They now seem ready to face the class of peers without the other by their side. They appear happy and outgoing.

They also were unusual in that they didn’t seem to compete with each other or fight for their parents’ attention. It was as if each knew they were absolutely loved and adored and felt secure in their parents devotion and care.

I’ve learned from watching their lives and find myself applying truths from them to the rest of us. We all need a secure foundation that takes time and effort in being close to our Creator. We need to spend time with Him, be loved by His Words and protective Spirit, and to know of His devotion to us. This secure foundation helps prepare us to face the world’s giants and pain that will come our way. Not everyone will accept us, just like my granddaughters will face with their peers. Not every experience will be good, with varying degrees of pain and heartache.

But our secure foundation and sense of safety with our Heavenly Father will have given us much more padding than having a twin that had our back.

We all can pursue the foundation of security we need as we face a fallen world with all its challenges. Don’t rush to the quest without first securing it. The intimacy that comes from such a safe foundation is worth the delay. You won’t regret the time you took to develop it. Rushing to face the world without the Lord is not only unnecessary, it is foolish. Don’t listen to those pushing you to do so.

4 months ago Never Alone

My twin granddaughters have lived their eight years experiencing life together in most every way. They are best friends and have played, fought, and loved each other. They not only entered life together, they have entered church, preschool, and elementary school together.

Now as they begin third grade, they will have their first experience in being in different classes. While this wasn’t their choice or desire, they will face the day without the other nearby.

While I’m sure they will be fine, and it may even be good for them, I am a little sad. I’ve always known they are truly each their own person! Yet, they also knew that they had each other’s back, so to speak. They seemed to feel the security of family near at each milestone they faced. While some may argue that they needed to face life on their own, I love the security that they enjoyed being enveloped in their daily life. They have truly relished having each other. They never felt alone.

The timing is probably right for them to begin more individual paths. Because they have had such sweet and secure foundations established, they are ready to begin being more on their own. While some may argue that they should have be separated earlier, I feel they were blessed being with each other. For some twins that may not have been the case, but for them I think it’s been great.

My daughter wanted them to still be together for now, but she wasn’t allowed to make this happen. Life also sometimes forces us to face what we don’t want to yet. But, in the long run, it may bring growth.

As I pondered on these thoughts, I began thinking of how each of us yearn to have someone who loves and is protective of us to be with us through life. Although we might not have come equipped with a twin to be with us, we all have the Lord wiling to be with us each step of our lives.

We may choose to try to separate from Him. We may ignore His presence or not even be aware of it. How sad for us to not feel the security of His presence, His support of us, and His willingness to guide us through troubled times. We have his unending devotion, seeing us as valuable whether people do or not.

I recall some painful times in life, that provoked not only sadness, but also fear. I also recall my talking to the Lord and picturing Him beside me as we faced each ordeal. I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew He was with me and His presence eased my distress. Just like my granddaughters felt secure in knowing the other was facing life with her, I can bask in knowing the great I AM is with me. It may not always be painless, but He won’t leave me.

While my granddaughters are forced to be apart at times, we don’t have to be forced to be apart from the Lord. Yet, we may need to nudge our awareness of Him whenever we don’t sense His presence; when we feel alone. The Word provides those clear reminders that He is there even when we don’t realize. We read in Acts 17:27 that “God is not far from each one of us”.

“Lord, I am eternally grateful that You are near me, never leave me, and I am never alone. Help me know this as I live here in this fallen world.”

26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; (Acts 17:26-27, NKJV).

4 months ago From Tragic to Beautiful

It seems that my journey in exploring how our past can either haunt or help us continues to bring nuggets of insight. I initially was eager to promote leaving the past behind as we live in the present. Yet, I came to appreciate how reflection can bring growth. In replaying our past, even the painful parts, we can trigger our gratitude and devotion to the Lord. We can also be more useable. We may be humbled by our past failures, but we can also be equipped with insight that only comes from learning great truths from great personal suffering.

We all will have to learn our own life lessons, but we can also share with those who will be teachable. Unfortunately, we often are unwilling to be greatly moved by another’s advice. That is evident by the fact that we may read the Bible with all its examples and insight and still not use its direction as we make our own stupid decisions.

However, the Lord loves us to use our stories to help others, whether they follow it or not. And every once in a while, some will even embrace and use what we have shared with them. The Lord was the great story teller. He repeatedly used stories and parables to illustrate truths that could spare us great heartache if we followed the insight that was given by them.

We too can use our past painful stories to provide warnings, encouragement, and direction that could be used in saving others from terrific harm, while leading them to the life God wants.

The past has power for good or bad. While only God can heal and fix our messes, we determine which way our past will be used.

We all love movies that have a happy ending. Yet, like our life stories, they come with parts that are sad, scary, and display painful times of failures. The more difficult and painful the stories, the more we rejoice over victorious endings.

As we share our stories with others, we have the honor of teaching others from our mistakes, comforting others with knowing that they aren’t the only ones who fail or suffer, and encouraging them with the truth of God’s redeeming love.

He changes our life stories from tragic to beautiful. Pass it on . . .

4 months ago Will Our Past Help or Hurt?

I recently was encouraging my friend Jane to stop ruminating about her past as she agonizes over regrets. She hurts about painful situations and automatically looks to her past actions that she feels brought on today’s heartaches.

I reminded Jane about the apostle Paul urging others to let go of the past and instead to press on in the now, striving for a better future. Yet, Jane repeatedly rehearses what she wishes she had done differently. I can’t seem to drag her away from the past that she regrets.

As I was thinking about how foolish it is to keep replaying the past, I recognized that I overlooked the wisdom and power that can come from SOMETIMES replaying the past. I had just wanted Jane to look at today and what she can embrace that gives hope and healthy actions now.

Yet, I realize that replaying the past is not only good if we are remembering the pleasant part, but also sometimes the bad. Recalling the pain of the past provokes my deep gratitude for God’s mercy, forgiveness, help, and rescues. I am fortified with hope as I realize that I survived what seemed unbearable at the time. Past failures humbled me in ways that hopefully help protect me from getting too unaware of my complete dependency on the Lord. The scenes of agony that I replay, remind me of the hurt of others who need comfort, help, and the news of the Lord’s love.

Especially painful are those memories of when my children suffered. I have a few especially horrifying ones where my heart felt overwhelmed with pain for one of my children. As I recall some of the scenes, I now feel overcome with deep thankfulness and tender love for my Lord who came to my child’s rescue. It’s as if the Lord was sharing my pain, along with my love for my child. The experience also reminds me that our messes only get fixed if we turn to the Lord. That applies to our children or anyone we love. Unfortunately, the more we delay, the more heartache we face. Yet, some growth and transformation takes time and God is so much more patient that I am. Watching Him in my children’s lives has shown me this and while I am still struggling at times, I am trying to learn to trust Him more and more with my children. I’m also learning of my own powerlessness and yet the power of prayer.

Recalling betrayals from others, my past foolish or sinful choices and actions, and/or attacks from the enemy make me aware of my present blessings, the faithfulness of the Lord, and the hope of heaven where none of those painful parts of a fallen world will ever exist.

I now realize that remembering the past, both good and bad, can lead to deep reminders of the wonder and beautiful love of God, reestablish our yearning to stay close to Him, and remind us of what we have learned that will forever help us in continuing our race.

As I think of Jane, I am reminded that revisiting our past can help or cause harm. I guess that’s why the Lord reminded us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Will our past be used to help or hurt?

4 months ago Following the Right Force

Most of my life I have been intrigued by what determines our life direction. I’ve always emphasized that our choices direct much of our life and experiences. Yet, since being a young child, I sense that there are unseen forces maneuvering and influencing the process in powerful ways. The less aware we are of those forces, the more we are clueless of their influence over us.

I had an unusual curiosity and awareness of God and evil beginning early in life. I don’t believe most little kids wondered about such deep matters. Yet, somehow, I knew both good and evil were brewing.

As I look back over my life, I realize that, like most people, my journey has had many turns and unexpected detours. I would start going in one direction, and before long, I would go in a very different one. As I look at others’ lives, like my own, theirs’ too had unexpected turns.

We might think we will marry one person, and then marry another. Some might be married to their first love that they think they will grow old with, and then end up with someone completely different.

We might plan to pursue a chosen career and end up in another. We might start out trying to be the next beauty queen and end up chasing kids and forgetting to even comb our hair much of the time.

As the years pass, we frequently make vast changes about what we deem most important in life. And all the while, those forces of good and evil are trying to entice and direct us.

Most of us can eventually look back and realize the forces that influenced our direction. We all likely end up having some regrets. It doesn’t take a second to identify that evil was the force that influenced our actions that led to those regrets.

Praise God that He is ever ready to redirect us, to gently lead us to sweeter waters, and to even use those wrong turns to draw us closer to Him. I yearn for my loved ones and myself to be sensitive to His presence, to follow His lead, and to be aware of the enticement of evil influence so that we will not succumb.

Thinking of such deep matters automatically brings many people to mind. I think of Jenny whom, when wanting more adventure and romance, had listened to the wrong enticement. Her husband’s pleas for her to stay were ignored as she followed the voice promising her a better life. Now I hear her pain as she cries. She has endured years of struggle and heartache in the abusive second marriage that came from her chasing the adventure. In between the bouts of weeping, she admitted that she should have heeded her first husband’s pleas. She should have followed God’s leading instead of her own and that of evil.

I also think of Ann who kept putting off her intentions of getting off alcohol. Her children are now grown and she never even raised them. Others took over her responsibility and privilege to love and parent her children, while she followed the booze.

John is another who followed the wrong force. He choose to pursue the call of worldly success. Jesus patiently called Him, to be repeatedly ignored. With his life nearly to its end, John sits sadly with his money, and nothing to look forward to.

In my pondering, I find myself reviewing yesterday’s encounter with Jane, who was grieving with such pain that it was difficult to even begin trying to comfort her. I was at a loss for words as I recognized I would be horrified facing what she is facing in her family. Like usual, Jane began voicing her regrets of past decisions. She went on to do what I knew she would do. I likely could have given the same speech I knew was coming. She began proclaiming the hopelessness of the situation, and gave her prediction of the bad to come. But, mostly, she rehearses what she wishes she and/or her children had done differently in the past.

Even though I think I would be prone to do the same, I muster up my encouragement and attempts to redirect her.

“The only reason to review painful parts of our past is to learn from it. Once we recognize what it teaches us, repent if we’ve done wrong, and accept forgiveness, we don’t need to look back and give it attention anymore. Move on. If we make good decisions now, better will eventually come. God is wanting to restore and help us, our children, our grandchildren, and all our families.”

Jane grew silent, the tears stopped, and she seems in deep thought. My heart not only aches for her, it also hopes that I have helped her hear what the Lord would have wanted her to hear. I’ve tried speaking for Him.

Suddenly, I hear the evil one trying to speak to me also: “Jane’s family is so messed up, they aren’t going to change, and it’s going to end badly.”

I switched my focus to my own fight now. Who will I listen to? I sense the soft voice calling me to hope. Guess who it is? Which one will I follow? Which one will you?

5 months ago Being a Light

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16)

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure v 13) that you may become blameless and [f]harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,(v 15) Philippians 2:13,15
We don’t have the right to control others. In recognizing that we don’t have the power or responsibility over other peoples’ choices, I am also gravely aware that we do have the divine assignment to be a light to the world. In so doing, our love and actions provide influence.

After accepting Jesus as Savior, I assume that God leaves us here instead of taking us to heaven so that we will influence others toward Jesus. Why else leave us here? We can live in such a way that we are a light that helps draw others toward God. Such an endeavor is the great pursuit to embrace.

It seems that we are all pursuing something. Some strive for wealth, some strive for fame, some for happiness, and some strive just for the absence of trouble and pain. At the end of the day, what pursuits or achievements really matter?

I am not convinced that success is just achieving what the world identifies as success. In psychology, researchers have studied at length about “achievement orientation. Having a high drive to achieve was seen as being most valued. Parenting styles were studied in order to identify those that promoted a high achievement drive in children.

I also saw this as the goal to be pursued. Yet, as I grew spiritually, my soul was unsettled with how success is defined by most people. I sensed that what the world promotes as what we should try to achieve doesn’t include what’s most important. It’s great to pursue education, to excel in our careers, and to advance in being creative and effective in skills. Yet, what’s most important is loving God and people and pursuing what is eternal. The world promotes achievements that are temporal.

I recall getting to know Cindy, who had a high achievement orientation and who had come from great wealth and privilege. She once told me that she thought I was like her in being driven to achieve. She made this observation as if we should both be proud of this and as if it was a compliment she was giving me.

While I could understand how we both are driven to achieve, I didn’t understand why I felt troubled by what she said. I eventually realized that I was bothered because Cindy and I differed greatly about what we are most driven about.

She wanted wealth and prestige. I didn’t want to be driven to only achieve what she felt driven to chase, and she had no understanding or respect for what I felt most driven to pursue. She reminded me of my younger self. Yet, the more I grew in knowing the Lord and embracing what the Bible identifies as real treasure, the temporal worldly achievements paled in comparison. In fact, I had come to realize that they frequently corrupt those who get too driven to secure them.

The more I spent time with Cindy, the more I wanted her to come to know Jesus and how much He loved her. She didn’t seem interested at all in pursuing God and I suspected that the more she realized about my faith and beliefs, the more she began to see me as less admirable. I felt that her respect for me went down. I think she thought my beliefs and attitudes were silly. Instead, she didn’t have time or the desire to pursue God; she was too busy chasing worldly success. In turn, I pitied her likely more than she pitied me.

I felt that my attempts to influence had no noticeable effect and again I was reminded that no matter what my concern for her was, I had no power over what Cindy did with her life and what she tried to achieve in her pursuits for success.

Yet, I talked with the Lord about her and prayed for Him to pursue her and to somehow open her eyes and heart to truth.

I’ve long since lost contact with Cindy. My hope is that how I acted and lived before her showed her love and planted a seed of influence, even though I didn’t see evidence of such. Like all of us, Cindy will eventually face sorrowful events that will leave her yearning for comfort and hope that this world can’t provide. Pain has a way of leading us to becoming disillusioned with what the world has to offer. My hope is that at those times, Cindy will be reminded of what I was trying to share and go searching for herself. Jesus will welcome her.

So I conclude my thoughts about my powerlessness over others, along with my call to be a light by embracing what I can do with the Lord’s help: love God and people and reflect to others the hope that Jesus provides, which is life’s greatest treasure to pursue.


If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 1Corinthians 15:19
But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Romans 8:25

5 months ago Power and Choice

It has taken decades for me to finally accept that I can’t make anyone do anything. While I might have some influence, in reality, people have choice, even when they think they don’t. I have had the honor of counseling others for over thirty years. I have so many stories in my head of people’s pain, along with their healing and of people’s failures, along with their victories. Yet, through it all, I knew I didn’t have the power to make any difference in their lives against their will.

During my doctoral internship, I learned right away I couldn’t fix people or make them benefit from counseling. At first, this revelation took the wind out of my well-intentioned sails. What was the point of counseling anyway?

Yet, as I watched those who were willing to seek direction and healing, and willing to take responsibility for what they did with counseling, my heart lifted and I saw the magic begin. I was humbled, knowing that I couldn’t take credit, but I was also relieved to know that I couldn’t also take the blame for their choices. I could only take responsibility for my behavior as their counselor.

We all have choices that unlock the beautiful power of God in our lives. We also have the choice to ignore Him, to stay with our pain without pursuing our great Healer. We choose daily how to respond to what’s before us.

We don’t have power over all that happens to us, but we do have power to make some choices. Sometimes we may focus on what we don’t have power over, while not recognizing what we do have power over. We can get overwhelmed with fear, anger, and deep relentless sorrow and not be aware that we can fight to hear God’s promises and direction.

One of my clients, Linda, is such a joy to work with in counseling. One might mistakenly think that is because she is happy, fun, and upbeat. Instead, she has faced a life of hurt, betrayal, and struggle. She currently is rejected by selfish and unstable family members. Linda is heartbroken over the decline of those she loves.

Yet, she faithfully keeps choosing to pursue the Lord, who is amazing in His faithfulness. I relish counseling her because she keeps looking for what she has the power to do to be as healthy and in line with what God wants. During our last session, I explained a pattern that I was noticing that she displays that I suspect hinders her progression. She was open and receptive to my feedback and began to explore for herself if such applied. As she agreed with me, she went on to immediately ask me to help her identify ways to change the pattern. And our journey toward another step in her progress began.

She will continue to grieve for her family, but focuses on what she has the power to do. Like Linda, you may grieve about what you have no power over—for me this typically involves people I love who appear to be struggling emotionally and spiritually. Yet, like Linda, we can pursue the power over our choices and we have the power to lift our prayers and cries to our powerful and awesome God.

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days;

Deuteronomy 30:19-20a

5 months ago Taking responsibility

I was stunned as I listened to Steven.

He had initiated counseling months ago and had been coming weekly. He was a mess when he began counseling, with a trail of messed up opportunities, conflicts, and struggles following him. He had spent several sessions explaining his efforts and subsequent derailments from pursuing goals, and in doing so, he talked of others who had treated him unfairly and hindered him. This included his mother, his boss, his friends, people at church, coworkers, and a few others.

I patiently listened and tried to redirect him in healthy ways. Yet, today, I am dumbfounded and found myself speaking out what I was feeling without even thinking of my words. “You sound so much better!” I was just talking to myself and not even noticing whether he was listening. I sure wasn't waiting for him to respond.

I was puzzled and trapped in my own thoughts, trying to understand what had happened to move him from being such a chaotic mess, focused on how he was victimized by others, to this calm and determined man who was making wise and effective steps.

Suddenly, I was brought back to the session as I realized Steven was speaking. “When I finally decided to take responsibility for my own life . . .”. Even though Steven followed this phrase explaining how he was seeking the Lord and trying to act wisely, I was mesmerized by his declaration that answered my burning question of what had brought on the change in him.

“When I finally decided to take responsibility for my own life”. This still rings in my heart from time to time.

If we take responsibility for our own decisions, actions, and our own life, imagine what this would mean. Instead, we are prone to look at how others have mistreated us in our eyes. We look to what is happening that we don’t have control over. We look at what we don’t have the power to change, instead of what we do have the power to change. It seems so natural to do this.

Steven’s breakthrough that began his transformation and better life keeps reminding me of the necessity of us taking responsibility for our choices and actions. I yearn for Jane to do the same. Instead, she continues to make unwise and destructive choices and then looks to what others have done that justifies her actions in her eyes. She is always the victim who is just reacting to the wrong done to her. Thus, she doesn’t take responsibility for her actions. Being the victim, she explains that she is helpless and thus not responsible for what she does.

Sometimes I daydream of how differently her life would look if she were to make the healthy decisions and take the actions that she has the power to do. While I recognize that she doesn’t have power over other people, she does have power over much of her actions.

I am significantly confused by her choices and I wonder if she is mentally so deranged that she can’t see accurately. While I am not sure, it’s difficult not to see at least some of the clear actions that she obviously has the ability to do that would help, but refuses to do so.

Only God knows the full extent of our capabilities We all make poor choices at times, and yet I realize that I am responsible for my choices. I had the power to make different ones.

Yesterday my eight-year-old granddaughter, Mallory, was quiet in the back of the car while we were on our way to my house. Suddenly, as if deep in thought, she said, “Nanny, you aren’t perfect”. I was perplexed at what brought that on. Mallory continued, “I’m not perfect either. Morgan, isn’t perfect either. Her twin sister, Morgan, like me, just quietly listened to where Mallory was going with this line of thinking

“Have you ever sinned Nanny?”

“Yes, I have Mallory.”

“I sin a lot sometimes”, Mallory said.

We went on to talk about sin, lying, and forgiveness. I had no clue that we were going to have such a memorable conversation as I was enjoying a car drive home with my twin granddaughters. But today as I recall our talk, I realize that I was trying to steer them to take responsibility for their choices and actions.

When do we start to develop our pattern of either being the victim or taking responsibility for our choices and actions? We don’t have power over other people’s choices and actions. We don’t have power over so much, but like Steven, if we take responsibility for what we do have power over, we are on our way to victory if we choose wisely.

But the human propensity to default to blaming, rationalizing our wrongs, and denying our responsibility for our actions continues. Like Mallory is learning, we are responsible for our choices.

7 months ago Directing Us Through Tests

We will always be tested in life. Even if we are good students who diligently read and study the Word of God, we will face situations in which we need guidance that isn’t specifically spelled out in the Bible. Should we take that job offer? Is this the right medical treatment? Should I confront this person or pray for God to deal with him or her? Is this opportunity before me leading to disastrous outcomes or to what the Lord wants for me?

While the Bible covers the scope of life experiences, it’s not the only way God equips us with wisdom. Sometimes we need direction for a situation at hand. Scripture encourages us to seek God’s wisdom in wise and godly counselors (Proverbs 11:14) and to pray for direction from the Holy Spirit.

I want a clear flood light that tells me exactly what to do. However, it’ not always so clear and obvious.

We may get sick and weary of the testing. But, we need to never forget that we have a merciful teacher who wants to help us in every test we face. The first chapter of James clearly explains what an awesome and compassionate teacher is our God.

James 1:5, NIV: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."

James is explaining that the Christian life is about developing increasing trust in God as we face tests and trials. While trials are what helps us to grow in trusting God, we gain wisdom from testing. In verse five, James is also referring to those times when we need wisdom for a specific circumstance. We all face times, when we need clear direction or wisdom in what to do, which choice to make, or what direction is best.

James explains that God gives generously and wants to provide direction needed. Thank the Lord that He doesn’t look at our past track record or previous foolish choices in deciding to help us or not. Instead, the Almighty stands ready and willing to give abundant wisdom to those who ask based on trusting Him and placing their confidence in Him, not themselves. But, unfortunately, we are sometimes impatient. We don’t want to have to wait and wait and wait.

I can look back and recall times where, although I didn’t get a loud siren or flood light to show me what direction or choice to make when I asked, I was given some nagging doubts and warnings. I now realize that the Lord was trying to provide guidance. I overrode and ignored the gut feelings that were trying to steer me away from certain choices and actions.
What seems right deep in our heart? When we are seeking God, trying to obey Him, and needing direction, the Holy Spirit can speak to us with gut feelings and impressions deep down within us. We may need to draw it out as we read about in Proverbs 20:5. “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out”.

I used to teach Developmental Psychology in college. I studied and taught about the stages of life and have since gone on to live most of them. As I look back over my own and those of many others I have counseled, I realize that by the time we grew in wisdom to make the best choices, we had already made them. Many of us have thought, “If I had only known then, what I know now!”

I also find it ridiculous that so many Christians made the big decisions of life without really seeking God’s wisdom. People choose careers, who to marry, where to worship, important parenting decisions, and a host of other decisions without aggressively and intentionally seeking God’s guiding wisdom. What were we thinking when we faced life decisions?

I can look back over my own life and see the faithful mercy of my sweet Lord. He allowed me to make some foolish and wrong decisions. He also helped steer me to better ones, even though I sure didn’t deserve it if He had based His willingness to help on my merit. People do that. I’m so glad God doesn’t. He doesn’t throw up in my face and try to remind me of my failed tests as He is helping me. We humans have much to learn from Him.

I’m in a test right now that I sure wish was over. You may be too. I keep looking to the Lord to help me choose wisely AND to pray for those I love to choose wisely.

Oh that we learn from the tests we keep taking, because they sure keep coming!

7 months ago Replaying God’s Loyalty

Difficult times in life propel me to run to one of my favorite Bible verses. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him”(II Chronicles 16:9, NKJV).

I visualize God scanning the earth and intentionally gazing on those who are loyal to Him. As His gaze settles on one, He shows Himself strong for him or her. He not only knows what each person needs, He loves to be strong and intervene for those who are loyal to Him. Being loyal is what we all want from those we love. Unfortunately, we all have experienced a time that someone who supposedly loved us was not loyal to us. We also may recall when we were not loyal to someone we loved.

Loyalty is important to God and if anyone deserves our loyalty, it is Him. I don’t hear the word loyalty being used much today. We only have to look at relationships to know that humanity has difficulty with being loyal.

Yet, God not only is the essence of loyalty, He also scans and hunts for it. When I feel afraid or agonize about a hurtful or threatening situation, I picture the Lord scanning and noticing me. Even though I am far from perfect, I believe He knows that I want to please and be loyal to Him. I picture His gaze settling on me and my heart begins to calm down and I feel the reassurance mounting.

Even though God is always loyal to those loyal to Him, I have some experiences that are particularly precious and endearing to me that clearly displayed the Lord being strong for me. He rescued and did it as only He can do. I have a recent one that I keep replaying like when I was a teen that would repeatedly play my favorite song at that time. Others, who weren’t as enamored with the song as I, likely got annoyed at me repeatedly playing it. Yet, I would love it each time I listened.

I also replay those awesome encounters where God came to my defense, where He intervened and protected me, and met my needs. What is most precious to me is when He rescued those I love.

The Lord has repeatedly gifted me with rescues that although were not painless, were times He showed His love and loyalty in intervening on my behalf, like when my retina tore in two places and was already beginning to detach, when my kidney developed a stone so huge that surgeons had to operate and go through my back to cut it out, or my meniscus ripped so badly that half of it had to be surgically removed. These rescues were only the recent ones.

The rescues that are the most precious to me of all are those of my children. Having God be strong for our children is a parent’s greatest desire. What can worry or create the greatest pain in my life are those hurts that affect my children. Most parents’ greatest nightmares and most difficult struggles with worry are those about their children.

The world can be cruel. Our bodies can be maimed. Our hearts can be broken. People can accuse us falsely. People we love can be disloyal. But hands down, all these hurtful times are more painful if they occur to my children than to me. For most parents and grandparents, when it happens to their children or grandchildren, it’s worse than if happening to them. When mine are hurting, I run to the Lord. I ask for Him to show Himself strong for me and this will always involve being strong for my children and grandchildren.

My most treasured times that God was strong for me was when He rescued and was strong for my children. Those are the ones I replay the most. I love reliving them in my mind and recalling how strong and loyal God was to me by touching where I was most sensitive, which was my kids.

As I struggle with pain and fear for them, I picture God scanning and like when replaying my favorite teen songs, I replay my favorite memories of when HE was strong for me. God is loyal and I yearn to be loyal too.

Like me, you may be facing a situation in which you yearn for God’s rescue and intervention. It may be even more painful because the rescue and intervention you desperately seek is for your child or grandchild. You may feel like He isn’t even aware or gazing your or their way. Don’t be fooled. He is looking to and fro to show Himself strong; so be loyal to Him. Then eventually you will want to replay again and again and again what happens!

7 months ago God is Scanning the Whole Earth!

Have you ever had a time in life where you felt at mercy to a blanket of worry and hurt that you seemed unable to shake? All of us likely have.

At those time, we yearn for reassurance that God knows what is going on with us and cares deeply. We may feel that we are alone in our hurt. We may feel that God doesn’t even realize or care that we are facing impending loss, heartache, or attack. We all want to be rescued. We usually have in mind how we want the rescue to look. We know what we want to happen in our situation.

Yet, if we accept that God not only knows what is happening and that He has a plan and motive that is good for us, we are more likely to relax the grip of fear and despair that discolors our life.

At those times, I have reminded myself of one of my favorite Bible verses:

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him”(II Chronicles 16:9, NKJV).

In psychology, we use different approaches to help redirect and calm anxiety. One approach that became popular decades ago involved visualizing scenes associated with peace, tranquility, and happiness. Many would picture scenes like the beach, a beautiful forest, meadow, or any landscape that was calming and pleasurable to them.

Instead, I think the more powerful visualization is to picture God scanning the world with a deep desire and intention to show Himself strong for those who are loyal to Him. I picture Him looking intently as He moves His gaze from left to right and back again. As He watches, with Him being the only one who sees and understands every aspect of people’s lives, He chooses how He will show Himself strong for each whose heart is loyal to Him.

Thankfully, He didn’t say He would show Himself strong only for those who have acted perfectly and who hadn’t made any wrong choices. Unfortunately, we may doubt His display of strength for us whenever we are still in pain and being attacked. Again, I must try to override my doubts and fight to see the truth: He is scanning, He has a plan, He will be strong for me and any other whose heart is loyal to Him.

He didn’t say it wouldn’t involve suffering. I repeatedly am reminded that I can’t see it all from my view. I can’t scan the whole earth like God, nor can I see the future. I have to remind myself that I don’t know it all. I need to relinquish my attempt to plan it all out. I sure don’t have the power anyway to direct everything, especially other people. But, because of His grace, I can choose to be loyal to Him. Then, I must trust that He will accomplish being strong for me how He chooses. And, it will be what I will later rejoice about!

7 months ago The Tests Keep Coming

I recall the many years of enduring tests as I went to school, especially during the years of graduate school. Whenever I would finish a school test that had much riding on how I did, I would be overcome with relief. I was especially relieved if I felt I had done well. Yet, even when I felt I hadn’t done well, there was some relief in knowing that it was over and there was nothing left for me to do.

Needless to say, I looked forward to not having to take any more exams! It was an amazing feeling when I was finished and knew that I didn’t have to be tested anymore!

However, we never stop being tested in life. Our faith will forever be tested while living in a fallen world. Whenever a painful test seems over, I am relieved. I never feel that I did perfectly. In fact, many times I felt I blew it and didn’t respond as I should. I am so thankful that my Lord doesn’t drop me because of failing a test. Instead, He is so willing to raise me up and help me try again, teaching me to follow His lead.

In school, sometimes teachers would let us know that an upcoming test was an open book test. At first, I would be thrilled and relieved that we were allowed to use our book to answer the test questions. However, it didn’t take long to realize that since the test was timed, if you hadn’t studied the material, you didn’t have time to search and find the right answers when being tested. I had to accept that there is no way around the fact that we need to study to do well in testing.

The most important tests of life come with an open book option. The book that has the answers is the Bible. I say option, because we can refer to the book (Bible) or not before taking the tests. God provided the answers to life tests that we all will take. We can foolishly not study it or ignorantly think our answers are better than those given in the Word. Instead, we may choose to answer life’s tests with our own choices that we deem as better than what God had instructed.

Like in school, we will regret waiting to find the answers we need until the open-book tests are before us. Like when taking a school open-book test, we may not have enough time to find what we need to know in order to respond to our personal tests.

I can relate to those who have sometimes not studied, or sometimes studied, but chose my response over those I had learned in the Word.

Our test may be a devastating rejection, betrayal, divorce, or death. Our test may be a sudden unexpected tragedy. Tests may be a simple or extreme. However, they keep coming.

My journey of being tested is not over, not until I get out of here and into my heavenly home. Yours’s isn’t either.

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4).

9 months ago Rescues and Praising

Recently I heard a timely sermon that was on fear of dreaded diseases. The pastor acknowledged that the Covid 19 pandemic had magnified fear with which many already struggle. He used the story of King Hezekiah who had been struck down with a deadly disease and how the King’s anguish was clearly documented. As the King wept before the Lord, his prayers were heard and the Lord healed him, telling him that he was adding fifteen years to his life.

I found myself wondering how strange it may feel to know that we have exactly fifteen years left. While that may seem like many years to some elderly, to others it may seem few. Either way, it’s odd to think of an exact time limit, while we all know that such exists. We just don’t know our personal one.

You would think that King Hezekiah would be determined to use the next fifteen years to magnify the Lord. In fact, in Isaiah the King tells of his commitment to do so for the rest of his fifteen years. “The Lord was ready to save me; Therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 38:20, NKJV).

When he was sick and facing death, King Hezekiah indicated that he thought that he would never be able to praise the Lord if he died. “For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth. The living, the living man, he shall praise You, As I do this day; The father shall make known Your truth to the children” (Isaiah 38: 18, 19 , NKJV). .

The Macarthur study Bible explains that King Hezekiah had an incomplete understanding of the resurrection of believers. However, the King rightly concluded that when he died, he would have no more opportunity for praise and worship to the Lord in the presence of people stuck in this fallen world. Like the rest of us, once we leave this world, even though we will spend eternity praising God, we won’t have any more opportunities to praise Him on this earth. Being the King, he had the powerful position of influencing the people of his day with his praising of the Lord.

King Hezekiah’s story provides several truths from which we all need to take heed. We all tend to desperately seek God when faced with an impending calamity. Most of us are eager to praise Him after being rescued. Yet, how soon do we get sidetracked from His glory. We tend to get back enamored with what the world envies when years, weeks, or sometimes when even days have passed since our own rescue took place.

After hearing of King Hezekiah’s illness and recovery, the son of the King of Babylon sent letters and a present to the King. King Hezekiah was pleased with his kind gesture and responded by showing him and those from the Babylonian kingdom all of his vast treasures. He went from talking of God’s greatness to trying to impress them with all his treasures and gain.

Before he was ill, King Hezekiah had no son. He had no heir to pass on his treasures or faithfulness. However, after being healed, King Hezekiah went on to have a son who would become one of the evilest Kings in all of history. His cruelty led to vast destruction for the masses over which he was ruler.

The pastor telling the story of King Hezekiah concluded that it would have been better for his kingdom if he had died with his illness. While we all want healing and rescue, there are some things much worse than disease and death. I wonder if his son would have been less apt to evil decline had King Hezekiah stayed humble and enthralled with praising the Lord. We aren’t given the full account of what led to his son becoming so evil.

How soon we can forget God’s rescues in our lives. All the tragedies we were spared are forgotten. We just pick back up with life and don’t give it much more thought.

We minimize what could have happened. We don’t think about all we could have missed out on had we not been rescued or the horrific pain that we would have faced. Kept alive, we can do more for the Lord while in a fallen world that desperately needs Jesus.

Today I was apprehensive about strange symptoms I was having with my eyes. Just a few months ago, a routine eye exam uncovered two tears in my retina, which was already beginning to detach and I was quickly sent to have laser surgery. Thus, the recent odd symptoms concerned me that something was wrong with my retina. Was it torn again or detaching?

They got me in to see the retina specialist within a couple of hours of my phone call. I am back home writing about the relief I feel to find out that nothing harmful was happening in my eyes. The doctor thought it was something with my sinuses.

While I was waiting for the retina specialist, I wasn’t sure what I would be facing. Would I have to have more surgery? Would I lose vision?

Now, I sit thinking about how I need to treat my sinuses and the threat about my eyes is long gone. Yet, I need to not only thank God, I need to never forget the Almighty who is to be praised in tragedies and in rescues.

We never know the exact path that our lives will take even a moment from now. Yet, whatever unfolds, Lord help us keep praising You.

11 months ago Types of Suffering

I love watching my grandchildren as they grow. I have enjoyed a close view from the time I saw the ultrasounds of them in the womb, to now, with the oldest being nine and the twins being seven. While they have times of sadness and discord, for the most part they are happy and seem to embrace life with eagerness.

    As I watch them grow and develop, I wonder what they will be like as adults. I notice their different interests, talents, and personalities and wonder what career paths they will take. They sometimes voice their ideas, with Morgan wanting to be both a cowgirl and a gymnastic teacher and Mallory wanting to be an artist. Periodically, their plans change.

    I realize that I had no clue as a child that I would grow up to work for decades and decades in the field of suffering. Being a psychologist automatically comes with dealing with suffering.

    While I love what I do, I realize that many might cringe from a career that involves dealing with people’s private and emotional hurt.

    However, working with suffering is what I do, and doing so has shown me that there are three types of suffering. For clarity, I will label them as type 1, type 2, and type 3.

    Type 1 refers to suffering that comes from living in a fallen world. None will live without facing hurt from type one. We get sick, we fall down, and we all face hurt.

    For months, I have been repeatedly dwelling on Type 2 suffering. Type 2 suffering we bring on ourselves by bad decisions and actions, or in other words, by disobeying God.

    Unfortunately, I’ve suffered much of the Type 2. For months I have been thinking of how we all need to recognize that we have a choice and thus power to influence what we reap. If we figure out what God directs us to do and not do, we must then recognize that we make choices daily to obey and follow His teachings or not.

    Many times we have problems learning from our Type 2 suffering experiences. Instead, we repeat the behavior that brought on the painful consequences and the cycle continues.

    I don’t like to admit, but know its true, that my happy and precious grandchildren will suffer at some point in life, and some suffering may be horrific. While I don’t want them to hurt, my deep desire is that they minimize the Type 2 suffering.

    Just tonight I was talking with my seven year old granddaughters about the importance of being truthful and of obeying. We were discussing how they tend to make their dad tell them three or four times before they comply as he tells them to brush their teeth, get their jacket, or other daily tasks. I explained about how God said that to honor your parents promotes having a good and long life.

    I know they, like the rest of us, will make some wrong decisions and will suffer from such. Yet, I hope they admit their wrongs, seek forgiveness, and grow even closer to the Lord from these times.

    Type 3 suffering is an honor to experience, even though it too can be extremely painful. Type 3 is hurt that comes from being persecuted for righteousness. We may be persecuted for our faith in Jesus, following the Lord’s commands, or resisting evil. The Word clearly addresses Type 2 and Type 3 suffering in 1 Peter chapters 4 and 5.

    We are told that we are blessed to suffer for being a Christian and that if we are heirs with Jesus we share in His sufferings, as we will in His glory.

    So back to my life career of working with suffering, I recognize that a fallen world will always involve pain. We don’t have control over everything that happens to us and we will all face heartaches and pain no mater how well we live. On the other hand, we bring on much of our hurt through our own choices and disobedience, and lastly, as a follower of Christ will face being persecuted and hurt for our faith and trying to live righteously.

    I look forward to the absence of pain in Heaven. There will be no Type 1, Type 2, or Type 3 suffering. No career will be needed that deals with suffering. But, until then may we cling to the Lord, follow Him in obedience, and embrace the hope and comfort of the Holy Spirit when persecuted.

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter (1Peter 4:12-16, NKJV).

10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you (1 Peter 5:10, NKJV).

11 months ago Crucial Vaccinations 1/2/2021

As I looked at the endless line of cars in front of me, I was fascinated at the sight. People sat solemnly waiting bumper to bumper as we inched down the long road which we couldn’t even see the end of, with mostly periods of just sitting still. We went from one long road, to circle a big parking lot, down another road, into another even larger parking lot, back up and down another long road, into another parking lot. After over two hours, I emerged with the COVID19 vaccine shot into my arm.

Someone signed me up as a health care provider to get the vaccine. Like many people, I had toyed with rather I would take it or not, prayed for guidance, and then sensed a peace in doing so.

As I rounded another turn in the maze taking us toward our appointed time for our shot, I suddenly had a flash of how this looked like a science fiction horror movie. We were lined up like cattle, with nurses and army personal stationed throughout the long line. There were checkpoints, highway cones to keep us in line, and those stationed to keep us progressing toward the goal line.

With such a lone wait, I turned on the radio and listened to news. This added to the sense that this doesn’t feel like the familiar world I used to know. Another riot with businesses destroyed and police injured had occurred in Portland, Oregon. This time, there was no vocalized “cause” told, but announcers were calling it “lawlessness”. I thought of how such a description was given in Biblical accounts of the end times.

As I thought back over the Biblical accounts of what will accompany the end times, much came to mind such as: lawlessness, pestilences, geographical disasters, wars and rumors of wars, rampant sin and disregard for authority, including God’s, along with an incredible surge of knowledge (not wisdom).

As if on cue, the radio program turned from the pandemic and horrific damage, to economic concerns, lawsuits filed by business owners who were trying to survive the massive shutdowns imposed, and unbelievable turmoil concerning the Presidential election, allegations of voter fraud, and intense conflict in the upcoming Georgia Senate elections that will determine which party has the upper hand.

The more I listened, the more apparent it is that our world is that described in Biblical prophecy.
While many Christians have been aware of the moral and faith decline, it seems like something has flipped it into high gear. Many seem shocked and shaken into a bold awareness of what’s at stake. Its as if we were asleep at the wheel or at least in a distracted slumber and we now have been jolted into awareness and we see the cliff we are heading toward.

I also realize that I am likely shielded from the full brunt of what is happening, being mostly surrounded by Christians and in a community full of Bible Believing folks.

As I finally exit from my Vaccine experience, I see the waiting cars lined as far as I can see. While I know history is in the making, deep within, I sense a peace about the beautiful love that the Lord has for humanity. I am encouraged that God want’s to draw us close, comfort our hurts, and lead us to our real home.

Yet, the sight before me also shakes my apathy into urgency. I don’t want to lose sight of what’s really important, what’s at stake, and my own responsibility and honor to help promote God’s plan in whatever way I can.

“Lord help us stay attuned to what is really happening. Vaccinate us from the apathy and deception that is causing more harm than COVID ever will.”

11 months ago "What do we want for 2021"

Finally, 2020 is behind us! But, surely we don’t think that this New Year doesn’t have some of the same junk. People convince themselves that when December 31 turns to January 1, all the junk from 2020 is wiped clean and they usually have a renewed drive to identify goals.

I believe the Lord wishes we would have a continual drive to love and obey, and embrace the purpose for which He has for us. I bet He yearns for us to love what He loves and flinch from what makes Him recoil.

I tried watching various New Year Eve countdown shows and was stung with the reality that each was riddled with vulgarity and scenes that led me to cringe not only for myself, but also definitely for my young grandchildren to witness. I kept changing channels until I realized there were none decent enough to watch.

We have become so accustomed to perversions, vulgarity, and sin that unfortunately it isn’t as shocking to us anymore. I am glad that I still have an ability to experience a tinge of disgust at the vulgarity and sin. Yet, I hope to have such a strong revulsion that I will quickly retreat from its presence instead of either tolerating or even being entertained by what is vile to God.

A great goal for us to take into the New Year is to love God so much that we feel the effect of our behavior on Him. Doing so, we hurt if we hurt Him and we feel joy when we bring Him joy.

There has been such suffering in 2020, but I’m most burdened about the suffering we bring on ourselves by disobedience. We all will face tragedies, injustices, and hurt from just living in a fallen world. However, I know that I have brought on some suffering and painful consequences from my actions that didn’t follow what the Lord wanted. Haven’t we all?

There’s so much of what we experience that we can’t control. But, unless we are deceived, we know that we do influence some of what we face by our own choices and actions taken.

We make our New Year resolutions and goals typically about what we want. As we face this New Year, my hope and prayer is that we have goals and desires that come from the Lord.

“Lord, help us to want what You want; rejoice over what You rejoice about; love what you love; hate what you hate; and put all our heart and soul into following Your lead.”

11 months ago “Perfect, strength, settle, and exalt us”

As we inch toward the end of 2020, so many seem braced for a next wave of tragedy. We want to believe that if we just get past 2020, everything will be fine, while deep down we know better. That doesn’t mean that we don’t hope, but we also have sense enough to recognize that just going from 2020 to 2021 doesn’t magically change our world.
We want to believe that there is a quick switch to better times and a reprieve from the heartaches we feel. Living in a fallen world will always involve hurt. Yet, even though fallen, our world also involves joys, love, and God’s faithfulness.
Recently, during counseling, Joan shared with me about her waves of deep sadness that seem to come out of nowhere. We talked of the ebb and flow between times of pleasure, somewhere in between, and deep dark sadness. She shared with me a scripture that validated her hurt, while also encouraging her with hope. I knew as soon as she read the scripture that I would run to it myself. I knew that it was a jewel and even though I had read it many times before, I had a fresh yearning to cling to it more tightly.

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10, NKJV).

The verses before it were enlightening. They emphasize the need to submit, be humble, casting our cares on the Lord, trusting Him to bring His will to pass, and to know that the same sufferings are shared by fellow believers. We are warned of the enemy and told to be alert and resist him by remaining firm in our faith and continuing to live in line with the truth of God’s Word. Doing so, we obey and stay focused on God’s truth.     
It is true that 2021 will bring its attacks and challenges, as every year in a fallen world will. Yet, the power of God continues to work in the experiences of people, accomplishing His sovereign purpose.
Even though we will suffer and be tested, the more we embrace and trust God in His work in us, the more we know that He will exalt us in due time.

6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:6, NKJV).

Last year Anything Good comes from Him

Seems like the whole world is cringing and bewildered by the unforeseen craziness that was thrust upon humanity in 2020. As a psychologist in private practice, I have been privy to the emotional reactions of individuals on a daily basis. I’ve heard the cries, the anguish, the fear, anger, and deep sadness. While some seem more affected than others, everyone seems confused and unsure, while many try to interpret what they think is going on.

COVID 19 has changed life as we know it. It seems like most of our whole world is experiencing some post traumatic symptoms as we hide away from each other, done our masks, and see the children with covered faces still trying to be carefree. We don’t know who will be next to be affected. Just this morning, I woke to one of my sinus headaches which comes with my fall allergies. Yet, before I could even speak out any concerns, my daughter’s words brought to light how differently we react since the pandemic. “Are you sure it’s not something else, mom?” I knew exactly what she meant.

Along with the encompassing pandemic that hovers, striking with no predictability, we are in a political war that obviously involves spiritual warfare. The intensity and even hatred among people is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Just last night, I heard of a landscaper who works in high-end wealthy neighborhoods who was told by one of his clients that he couldn’t put a sign up for who he voted for, because those who did, were vandalized.

The Democrats seem to think Republicans are evil and Republicans think Democrats are evil. Even for those who don’t label the other as evil, they see the other as ignorant and deceived. Last night as I counseled Mary, I heard the despair when she recognized her best friend, Jane, thought opposite from she. Jane felt that President Trump was evil and Biden a kind man, while Mary is convinced that Biden and those who think like he are evil and going to cause great harm to our country. Mary prays earnestly for God to expose what she believes is election fraud.

As I try to comfort and help give Mary hope, I recognize that her fear is taking her over in ways I have never seen for her. We began to talk of persecution and how we have been spoiled in America. The tension and division in our country have made many not know how to respond in healthy ways.

As I thought about the impending pandemic, economic upheaval, and possible persecution for where one stood on political views, I wondered about how individuals respond. We want to protect our families and yet, this time can also expose our selfishness. While we plead for God’s protection, do we grieve and anguish for those who don’t even know Him? Those with no hope beyond this earthy life should make us cringe and be committed to reaching them with the gospel’s message of salvation and hope. This should overshadow our own obsession with our self and our families who already know Christ as Savior.

In being honest, I have found myself lacking. It’s easy to focus on those we love over those we don’t even know. While this is not necessarily wrong, I don’t want any to suffer, and yet sometimes persecution and suffering usher in a deeper commitment to the Lord. Obviously, there is massive deception going on in our world and only the Lord knows each person’s heart and motives.

This year has not only brought much pain, it has also brought to light both the good and evil in humanity in profound ways. I recall a well-known line in the movie, Armageddon. The daughter of one of the main characters was telling her father goodbye, as he prepared to sacrifice his own life to save the world. She tearfully told him, “Anything good in me came from you.”

I found myself recognizing that this truly applies to humanity. Any good in us came from God, our creator. Unfortunately, I also recognize the selfish streak that also characterizes humankind.

As we continue to live in this crazy time in history, I believe none of us expect it to magically be transformed when 2020 turns into 2021. Yet, I pray for the Lord to transform us to be who He designed us to be as His offspring.

Doing so, we will be willing to stand for our convictions without cowering, while still loving those who we believe are deceived. We will also seek wisdom, recognizing that we all may fall into deception at some time. We will pray earnestly, seeking the Lord’s direction and power to be a light in this darkened world. Above all, we won’t only embrace hope, we will also grieve for the lost and hurting. The Lord told that He choose what time in history for each of us to live. He isn’t surprised or taken off guard by what is going on. He will hear our cries. Mary keeps feeling as if God isn’t hearing, but I know He is. I encourage her to also believe, along with accepting that we don’t know what all He is doing and specifically going to do at this time in history. But we do know He is good and anything good in us comes from Him.

Last year Surviving the Times: Keep Default Settings

Scientists have studied the human brain for eons, and in so doing researchers found that the human brain has a default setting that makes it notice the negative or what’s wrong in a situation over what’s right. The brain is geared to pinpoint what is wrong.

I assume such a default setting wasn’t needed before sin entered our world. Adam and Eve didn’t face risks before Satan came upon the scene. But, until we get to heaven we will desperately need a default setting that recognizes what’s wrong.

The year 2020 brought struggles like not seen in my lifetime. So far the COVID pandemic, political wars, riots, massive forest fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, and human tracking have characterized 2020.

The year 2020 has also been characterized by massive fear, increased depression, relapse, and suicide. I have searched and encouraged others to utilize a default setting that refocuses us with hope and deep faith in God.

I recognize that we are healthier emotionally when we are prone to notice the positive over the negative. Innumerable self-help books have been written to help people learn to think more positively. Psychologists promote redirecting negative thinking to positive in order to improve mood. Thus, is a default setting that notices what’s wrong over what is right really advantageous?

Without a healthy ability to discern what’s wrong, we leave our families vulnerable to harm and possible destruction. In turn, we leave ourselves ineffective in reaching the lost.

While our world has always involved sin and crime, we are living in a time in history that people have become so deceived that many think of wrong as right and right as wrong. While many people are terrified of COVID, they aren’t fearful of being deceived.

If there were ever a time we need a default setting that clearly and powerfully pinpoints what is wrong and risky, it is now.

In thinking about the brain default settings, I began thinking of the differences between my grandchildren. Since being a toddler, it was noticeable that Mallory had a default setting with a heightened tendency to notice what is risky or wrong. It made her more hesitant in risk taking and more prone to fear.

I had yearned for her to be more like Morgan, her twin, in being carefree and seemingly much less likely to be fearful. I loved their individuality, but I didn’t want Mallory to suffer the distress of fear in significant ways.

I have come to recognize we need both default settings: one that warns us of what is wrong and another that reminds us of what is good and promotes hope and reassurance.

We need Morgan’s aptitude to realize it will be “okay” and Mallory’s ability to sense the wrong and danger risk. We may enjoy the pleasant and positive approach, while wanting to avoid the alarm signals from the other.

When we love like Jesus, we have both sorrow and a burden for the lost and hurting, while we also have hope, joy, and peace. We both warn and we encourage.

I’m noticing how Morgan and Mallory seem to influence each other in helpful ways. Morgan is learning to recognize and redirect where she may need more caution. Mallory is learning to be less fearful and more willing to take healthy risks.

How do we survive these times? For now, our survival depends on both default settings: one to warn and point out what’s wrong and another to reassure and strengthen faith and hope. We recognize that if we don’t adhere to what the Word tells us is right and wrong, we are at risk of getting deceived, which can be more damaging than COVID, a political party, riots, and the many threats to our earthly life.

We also survive with the powerful promises of the Word, which we tuck deep in our heart and use regularly while navigating through these times.

Default Settings: I choose them both!

Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24, NKJV).

Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. (Psalm 119:11, NKJV)

Last year Survive: Turn your eyes upon Jesus

“Mason, don’t touch me! Mason, get away, you are too close!”

Listening to my granddaughter reminded me of the childish spats among my own siblings and I when growing up.

We had the ridiculous arguments where we would fuss at the sibling looking at us. “Mom, make him quit looking at me”, we would yell.

While it seemed absurd to be upset because another was looking at us, it was because the sibling was taunting us in some way.

But today as I listened to Mallory’s demand for her brother to back off, I heard the fear in her. She knew he was going to the doctor that morning because of his cough and I felt sure that the ever-present danger of COVID was on her mind.

Mallory has been the sibling more prone to fear. While she seems happy and carefree most of the time, I wonder how long it will be before fear takes her over as the pandemic and intense political fights continue.

I'm careful about speaking of the risks and dangers in front of her, since I know that Mallory takes the risks much more to heart than others.

Yet, I also know that there is no way to shield her as mounting tension and distress are rapidly creeping over our world.

The invading sorrow and fear reminds me of Kudzu, that creeping killer vine that is almost impossible to destroy. It begins as a few harmless green leaves that look lush. But within days, it spreads like wildfire. It takes over everything in its path and if left unchecked, it covers the whole terrain. I wonder how far it goes if no extreme measures are taken to stop it.

Every day I am faced with another glimpse of the growing vine of fear and sadness that is chocking the quality of life out of humanity. Its not just COVID, and its not just the political war between the right and left that is bringing the threat. It is also some of the advancement in technology.

While we all see COVID as awful and wish for its elimination, most love the advantages of technology. Yet, we may not recognize its advancing threat in some of its progression.

Recently, I attended a virtual conference put on by the Tennessee Psychological Convention. The last speaker not only gave relevant information, but also alarming news. He was describing the new advances in technology and how these innovations will affect the profession of psychology, along with many other areas of life. It didn’t take long to realize that the technology that was to aid us, also brought alarming risk of being used in harmful ways.

His talk included descriptions about the research and practice of using artificial intelligence in providing counseling. Virtual counseling manned by a computer who was the counselor versus a real person was already being tried. The research on such was amazing in that participants couldn’t tell that it wasn’t a real person counseling them.

The speaker stunned me as he pointed out that such technology could be used for good or evil. He warned us as professionals in the field, we couldn’t just decide that we won’t be a part of this. Instead, he urged us to be informed so that we can try to influence the process for good, while trying to do our part in keeping it from being used for harm.

The more he spoke, the more aware I became of the impending attacks on humanity. His warnings join with the many others that have become loud during 2020. The alarms began in profound ways beginning right before the spring of the year, when life is budding. For those in my community, it began with deadly tornados that ripped through our tiny part of the world.

Before we could catch our breath, the COVID was upon us, followed by its devastating affect on life, as we knew it. It was coupled with riots, political conflict that has rivaled our decency, and growing agendas that leave most people not knowing what to believe.

People seem confused, unsettled, and lost in how to respond. While fear, social isolation, and the anger are rampant, I am most concerned about the blanket of sadness that seems to have covered humanity in a dark and ominous way.

I watch, as people seem to trudge through life with masks that hide their solemn faces. I usually sense that there is no smile under the mask, since there also is no twinkle in the eye. Many who smile, seem to be forcing it.

How do we survive not only physically, but also emotionally? How do we stop the invading killer weed of despair?

In my musings, I keep hearing a song playing in my head.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

I was carefree like my grandkids when first learning this song. I recall singing it in church over the years. I was intrigued by its message, but didn't fully understand its significance until becoming more aware of the struggles of this world. At some points, when confronted with personal and family crisis and tragedies, the message took on even more relevance for me. Now as I contemplate the invading despair and threats that are taking over our world, I am not surprised that the song has recently begun playing its message to my soul.

I am reminded of countless moments when I followed its advice to look to Jesus. Once again, I realize that cares of this world grow dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Deep in my spirit, I know that the Lord is near. He knows what is happening, and He is guiding us to Him. He loves humanity and has a plan that COVID, riots, and no army can stop. He has plans for those who love Him and He continues to desire to reach the lost. He yearns to love and nurture us. Somehow in all this vicious attacks and hurts that seem flung upon humanity this year, I sense His gentle and kind presence that reminds me that He has this. He knows and is moving in ways I can’t even imagine or anticipate in the natural.

Recognizing the love and power of the great “I AM” slashes the invading killer weed of despair. It begins to die and release its grip on my mind, heart, and soul. It never could kill my spirit, but it sure could kill my joy, peace, and effectiveness in life if I allow it to.

The same is true for all of us. Thus, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face”.

nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39, NKJV).

Last year Joy and Hope offset the Pain

“Everyone thinks I’m so happy and I laugh and joke when I am with others.”

As I listened to Jenny, I thought about how she probably would make a great actress. I agreed with her that most people would see her as carefree and ready to break out in laughter at any moment.

Its amazing to realize that underneath her exterior, is one of the saddest people I know. It may have taken years, but she had become so real with me that the encompassing sorrow and dark mood that penetrates her essence has made itself known to me.

It’s a mystery to me. I understand clearly some of what hurts her. Yet, I can’t comprehend why the joys that mark her faith in the Lord don’t keep the pain more in check.

For years, I have fought to strengthen Jenny’s efforts at pulling out of the muck of depression. Every avenue known has been pursued and yet the invading depression infiltrates her soul and keeps it captive.

While only the Lord knows the full story, I suspect that one of the most powerful forces that keeps the pain in charge is Jenny’s inability or unwillingness to accept that she can’t have ONLY fun and joy while being in a fallen world. She doesn’t put much effort into contemplating eternity on the other side of her earthly life.

Jenny agrees that she is what she calls a “black and white” thinker. She wants to be happy and have fun all the time now. She doesn’t want any of the crud that comes along with living here. If she can’t have it all, she doesn’t allow herself to enjoy the good, knowing that the bad is there too. Knowing that she can’t just bask in the fun without being subject to occasional hurts and disappointments, she refuses to accept and embrace joy. She also acts like its unacceptable to contemplate heaven as a way to encourage herself now.

I find myself comparing her to Jane, who recently told me that she has been stocking up with books about heaven and devouring what she can read about what the Lord’s promises as she faces painful situations in her family. She accepts that there will be pain here, but she determinedly reminds herself that it is temporary.

In so doing, the sadness is held back from taking over Jane's whole soul. She doesn’t expect life to be without problems and hurts, but this seems to help insulate her from becoming captive to the darkness like what has imprisoned Jenny.

I’ve spent numerous hours pleading with Jenny to accept that while this life will never completely give her pleasant and fun times, eternity will. That’s not good enough for Jenny. If she can’t have it all now, she just won’t settle. I tried to get herself to embrace the blessings she has now too, while allowing herself to enjoy them.

So once again, I realize that I don’t have the power over another person. I encourage, I offer compassion, and sometimes just validate her hurt.

I look forward to heaven and I particularly hope for a chance to see Jenny on the other side. I picture telling her, “I told you so. If you had anticipated heaven like Jane and I, you would have had such a better life while stuck in a fallen world”

As my mind wanders to these thoughts, I am jarred back to the present conversation with Jenny. Her sadness seems here to stay. I begin my efforts once again, hoping this time will help. I don’t expect Jenny to be without some pain, but I can’t accept that the Lord didn’t also mean for us to also have hope and joy to accompany our journey.

If in this life ONLY we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15:9, NKJV)

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance. (Psalm 42:5, NKJV)

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12, NKJV)

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5, NKJV)

For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? (Romans 8:24 NKJV)

Last year He is Over All

I recall reading the passages on Christian persecution in the Bible, but it didn’t seem that relevant to my life. I have grown up in the Bible belt and most people that I knew were professed Christians, even if they didn’t always act like one. Most everyone I knew believed the Bible and considered the Bible as the standard for what was right and wrong.

I began feeling the pressure of non-believers as I encountered some college professors who thought the Bible as mythical. They set the stage as my first view of people who had no apparent respect for the Bible. They insinuated, and some even made it obvious, that they thought it ignorant and silly to believe and adhere to it as “the truth”. Instead, they thought that believing the Bible as completely true had hindered humanity. I knew to keep my beliefs to myself when interacting with those over me in graduate school. This was shown as needed when the faculty tried to kick out a student who had said that she was a Christian and hoped to use the Bible in her counseling. They tried to keep her out of the doctoral program and when they legally couldn't, they persecuted her throughout her time there.

Despite knowing that those particular professors would think despairingly of me if they knew my faith and spiritual beliefs, I was okay because most of those who I did life with believed in Jesus too. Thus, life proceeded with no obvious persecution for my faith, at least not blatantly.

As I fast forward to now, I recognize how I desperately need Jesus’ advice and encouragement on facing persecution. My world has changed while I was just living life and facing the daily challenges. It’s as if it was sneaking up on me while I wasn’t looking and I now am about to freak out about what has happened.

No Christian is immune from those ready to pounce on those who admit to having convictions that are in line with the Bible in ways that the enlightened modern culture deems as prejudice. Even when Christians don't try to push them on others, they are relegated and labeled in harsh ways if they cling to their beliefs that differ from the cultural norms that are in conflict with the Bible. Those who embrace modern culture have positioned themselves as the authority on what is right and wrong, debunking the Bible as the standard.

While I know that the Lord declares that His Word will always prevail and is the ultimate authority, what I see happening makes all those scriptures on persecution come to life.

I have not had to muster up my commitment to be ready for the onslaught of persecution. I haven’t had to face possible retribution professionally and personally if I stay true to the Word in whatever area is being attacked by the world.

I used to read about those beaten, tortured, and even killed for their faith and I couldn’t imagine facing such. I never dreamed of living during such persecution during my lifetime. Although we aren’t in a time where we are beaten, tortured, and killed for our faith by authorities, we are facing a huge wave in society that appears hostile to Christianity.

While I don’t believe Christians should try to force and pressure others to believe the Bible, we are mandated to live by it ourselves. Our Lord says if we love Him, we obey Him.

I love living in America and cherish our freedom to adhere to our own beliefs. Yet, never again will I be so naïve and blinded to what is happening. In fact, I’ve always known that I am in a tiny speck of the world that doesn’t represent the big picture of what’s out there.

Never again do I want to be so inattentive to what is spreading as a wave of deception. For a long time, it was creeping quietly in its advancement. I now know that the tide is turning in much of my world. It is aggressive and frequently militant and mean.

Never again will I feel so untouched by the growing animosity to Christianity. I pray for my grandchildren, their children, and all the others behind me that will be born into this growing force.

Yet, I also feel the stir of hope and victory as I look to Jesus. He is ever King and the Holy Spirit is hovering. I have no words that satisfy what my spirit senses about the all-powerful force of God. Yet, I know the GREAT I AM is over all . . .

Matthew 16:18 (MSG)
Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.

Last year In His Hands

As I think back over my decades of working as a counseling psychologist, I realize that a huge percentage of those that came for help were there because of distress concerning someone he or she loved who was living a destructive life. Face after face come to mind. Story after story, and heartache upon heartache, showed the pain that comes from sin.

My most recent was that of a mother whose anguished voice asked if I could meet with her to somehow provide relief and insight in dealing with her daughter who had destroyed her life with drugs. Another called telling me of her fear that her son might take his own life. The list seems endless of those who have called concerning a parent, spouse, child, or sibling who was in rebellion or in the throngs of addiction.

Others called because their loved one was suffering from mental illness, which always pricks a tender place in my heart, as it does my Lord. Some were under a load of pain because their child was heartbroken from the pain of a broken relationship.

I realized right away that only another who has loved deeply could understand the pain that is felt when a family member is bound with damage and hurt. Being a mother of three, I have hurt for each of my children when they faced pain. From slight disappointments, to horrendous losses, rejections, and painful ordeals, each have experienced them. No one is immune.

Mary, my latest mother calling for help, pricked my heart and mind with the reminder of how powerless we feel in rescuing our children. It’s so much easier to ease their heartaches when they are little. We can force many of their decisions when they are children, but none, as they become adults.

I commiserated with Mary as one mother to another. She told story after story of her daughter’s decline as if she couldn’t believe it herself of how her precious child’s life could have come to this. How could she bear the pain? How can any parent withstand when massive damage comes to our children?

Mary and other mothers I grieve with scramble to talk of our hope in the Lord. We talk of His love for our children. We talk of His desire and willingness to help them. We talk not only of our powerlessness as mothers, but also of our powerful prayers to the powerful Lord we serve.

The pain of our fallen world is in our Lord’s view, His heart, and His hands.

3 John 1:4
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

John 15:7
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

Philippians 2:13:
“It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
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.

Deuteronomy 5:29
“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!”

Philippians 1:6
“And so I am sure confident that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.”

Last year The Power and Challenge of Listening

The highest way to respect another is to really listen to him or her. It is also the most difficult challenge.

Much of humanity is notorious for being opinionated. We don’t REALLY listen. Instead, many of us have a pattern of frequently not hearing the full message of someone talking to us before we start responding. Thus, we respond in ways that often didn’t even fit what others had said. Sometimes our minds race ahead and others may get so frustrated that sometimes they just give up trying to talk with us about whatever they had wanted to say.

Much of the world was appalled at seeing this pattern displayed during the recent (2020) presidential debates. We listened in horror as we saw first hand the horrendous disrespect shown.

While we all may have sometimes shown this pattern, we all likely have encountered this pattern in others beside ourselves too. We may recognize, “you just can’t communicate with him or her. He or she won’t really listen and consider what we are saying, so we just give up.”

Sometimes it wasn’t about anything important and other times, it was. I have wondered how many times we have done similarly with the Lord. We start responding to life events before listening and understanding what He is trying to tell or show us. We may hear the words of the Bible, but not really the message. We may think we know what it means as soon as we hear it and not really be still long enough in trying to really take in and UNDERSTAND the message and how we should respond.

When communicating, if we tried to listen as if the other person is right, before thinking of our own rebuttal or view, we would be on our way to awesome communication and relationship. If after listening like this, we still feel differently from the other person, we should carefully seek the Lord in how to respond.

Most of us may not seek insight from others, while we instead think and decide for our self. We may think we are praying for direction, but it’s like we can’t get our mind to stop long enough in its own pursuit for figuring out and planning to really gain insight from the Lord. We want it fast and clear. Instead, comfort and direction from the Holy Spirit usually takes our time and patient and respectful listening.

The highest respect we can give another is to truly, completely listen, and give great effort in trying to understand what the other is saying and feeling. This is also the most difficult type of respect for us to give. Our own opinion and views take such precedence that they block us from really listening and being open to understanding what is being said and felt by another. Most of us also don’t realize how bad we are at this. We think we are good listeners and that we are open to understanding someone else.

If we were, we not only would have much better human relationships, we would have much more intimacy with the Lord. We would be so much better at following the Lord’s lead and we would experience the contentment of walking in sync with Him.

As I write about the respect of listening, I feel compassion and mercy for those whose brain is wired to have much difficulty staying focused long enough to listen well. I’m so thankful that the Lord is all knowing and has more compassion and mercy than we. He intimately knows how difficult it is for those whose brain races, jumps around whether they want it to or not, and fires its neurons in ways that make it difficult to really hear and dissect messages from others easily.

If this applies to you, don’t be harsh with yourself. The Lord knows your heart and wants to help you. He is patient and kind and accepts and adores you even with your racing mind that He keeps trying to get to hear Him. His thoughts to you are awesome and so lovely that He doesn’t walk away in frustration. I encourage you to keep trying. If we accept ourselves, with all our own particular disadvantages, and keep trying to seek Him, His love will carry us through all the dark places.

We sometimes give up on those who don’t listen well. The question is not whether God gives up, its do we give up.

Our difficulty in listening will never bring great harm if we keep the desire to listen alive. Most people don’t give up on people that they know are trying. They are more likely to give up on those that don’t try.

Listening is more difficult than we will ever know, and yet it is the greatest way we can advance in relationships with those we love.

“Lord please give us a deep and profound desire to listen well, especially to You.”

Last year Who is Writing the Poem?

“When I look back over my life, I feel I am a complete failure,”

As I listened to Joyce, I thought back over the years of knowing her and realized that she had been depressed as long as I had known her. Do you ever feel deep disappointment in yourself and like a failure? We all may at times. But, it brings much comfort and hope to read that we are God’s workmanship.

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10, NKJV).
"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:28-29, NKJV).

To think that God created me for goodness and is patiently chiseling and working me toward what He wants, leads me to not only be hopeful, but to also wonder what is my part in the process.
As I ponder on our ability to choose how to act, I am puzzled on what determines how God’s plan for us turns out.

I think of workmanship like someone’s project. My brother does woodworking and has made beautifully crafted bowls, vases, and various pieces that reflect hours of tedious work. He begins by searching for just the right wood, examining its texture, color, grain, and such. He knows the intimate features of types of wood.

Of course the wood doesn’t participate in the process of his crafting it. The wood doesn’t help plan on what he is to create with it. It just lays there as my brother works his magic on it.

Some take the belief stance that whatever happens, it’s up to us; we make our life by our choices. Others go to the other extreme, believing that our sovereign God makes all things happen as if we have no influence upon the process.

Yet, as I think of us being God’s creation, I recognize we aren’t like that clump of wood that has no part in the process of what we become. But I also wonder how much is actually God orchestrating, chiseling, and directing when we don’t even realize it.

I’ve been intrigued and puzzled when wondering about what determines our life direction as I read that God predestined us and sees us as His workmanship.The original Greek word for workmanship is from what we get our English word poem. What a thought! Is God saying that we each are poems He is writing?

Joni Eareckson Tada eloquently gives her thoughts on such in her book, “A Place of Healing”. As she wrestles with pain, she contemplates how suffering fits with the lines being written in the poem we become. She points out how ludicrous it would be for the poem to tell the poet what to write. Who are we to correct and direct the process? With such thinking, I would be telling God, “You need to take that line out. It’s too dark and painful. That line needs to be changed, it doesn’t fit with the theme.”

While Joni writes about how audacious it would be for us to think we have the right or power to direct God’s writing of our poem, I can’t help but think we must have some influence and responsibility in its development. It’s obvious that an artist wants to paint a beautiful picture. A sculptor wants to sculpt a magnificent statue. A poet wants to write a lovely and meaningful poem.

Yet, the painting doesn’t always end up beautiful. The sculpture may end up being a clump of mess and the poem may not only not be lovely, it may not even make sense. Is it the artist’s, sculptor’s, or poet’s fault?

When humans are the creator, it is. But with God, we must recognize He never fails. Thus, what did we do to derail His masterpiece?

The overriding answer always involves not yielding. In other words, we don’t obey and yield to Him in ways that keep propelling us to becoming the poem He intended, instead of one that is distorted.
Thus, it’s not the suffering, attacks, wrong choices, and sin that can end in the wrong poem if we yield while there is still time. Once the poem is finished with no opportunity for a different ending, we are stuck being the poem that was unintended. Of course this means our earthly life is over.

For those who know that they aren’t yielding, they never think they will run out of time. We push the limit and take risks when its ludicrous to prolong yielding so that God can do His magic, like my brother does with that lump of wood.

Being a counselor, suffering and pain is what I predominantly deal with in people’s challenge to become the poem God wants to write. Some yield to the Lord’s love and truth and their pain actually weaves beauty into who they become. Other’s resist and refuse to yield and their attempts to deal with pain distort them in ugly ways. They may be hard, prideful, selfish, miserable, or filled with greed or fear. Whatever the outcome, they will never become the poem God wants to write if they don’t yield to His masterful touch.

As I look around my house, I see piece after piece of beautiful wooden treasures made with the skillful hands of my brother who lovingly crafted them for me to enjoy. I display them mostly in my office, so that others who come can enjoy their beauty too.

How God must yearn to do the same. We are His workmanship. He wants to lovingly craft each of us into His masterpiece. We are the poem He wants to not only delight in writing, but also to share with the world. As our lives touch, we can enrich each other’s journey with the poem we display. We can be humble, kind, and ready to make another feel loved and of value. Unfortunately, we can present in ways that wound others and make our Creator grieve.

Who is writing the poem of which we become? I hope we allow the only one worthy and capable of writing it, but we can feel the honor of helping by our willingness to yield. Write on precious Lord.

Last year “What’s the point?”

“Do you ever think, what’s the point?”

“What do you mean? What’s the point of what?”

“Just, what’s the point? What’s the point of any of it?”

I sensed that John was asking what was the point of even existing, of trying, of any of life.
As I looked into his eyes that looked hopeless and empty, I replied.

“We were created for a purpose. Why leave us here once we have accepted Jesus and can go on to heaven? Its sure better than here. We are left because we have assignments. We are to love God and people and make a difference here. We are to help bring others to Him. When we fulfill what God wanted us to do while here, our assignments are done and He takes us home.”

Not knowing how John believed, I asked, “What do you think of what I said?”

“It’s what I wanted to hear.”

We all yearn to know and be reminded of our purpose and how we are God’s workmanship as we navigate through a fallen and sometimes hurtful and confusing world.

When we face those times of bewilderment about the painful times in our lives, it seems natural to wonder why and to lose sight of purpose. Its difficult to know that God is working all for good and to transform us into His son’s image.

“28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:28-29, NKJV).

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10, NJJV).

It’s mindboggling to think about God preparing me before I was ever born for specific good works and a journey of being conformed to the image of Jesus. Throughout history people have declared that their journey to an intimacy with the Lord came predominantly through times of life’s deepest sorrows. Those seasoned by pain, who run to Jesus, become tender and more like the ripe fruit that the Lord spoke of: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Last year The Fruit Reveals the Root

My brother, who is also my pastor, has repeatedly said, “the fruit reveals the root”. He has urged others to be so rooted in the Lord that they will produce the fruit that they are meant to produce. Conversely, he also points out that, while we may not grow fruit if we aren’t rooted in Christ, we may also produce nasty fruit that actually causes harm. It’s weird to even call it fruit, since we think of fruit as delicious and to be enjoyed.

Yet, we can bud out with all kinds of offspring that hurt us in the long run, along with our families. Rooted in material and worldly fame and fortune, we develop outshoots of greed, pride, and selfishness. Rooted only in the acceptance and approval of others, we grow dependency on others and may hurt them in the process by trying to coerce them to make us feel okay. The types of unhealthy roots are endless. Needless to say, we need our root to be in Christ and this assures us of producing healthy fruit that will bless us, along with others.

As I think of Janice who had a root of rejection and insecurity, I ponder on the role of Amanda, who was rejecting of Janice. At first, it’s natural to think of Amanda as hindering God’s plan. I believe God was using her in profound ways to help Janice. While we are all called to be kind and loving, it was the perceived rejection from Amanda that made Janice face her wounds and how she looked to people to make her feel good about herself. Janice also realized that she defined herself negatively when others didn’t respond to her as she wanted.

Others with the root of rejection, may not only overreact to rejection from people in destructive ways, some may also perceive others as rejecting when they aren’t. They live on high alert, ready to detect any miniscule sign of rejection. Some interpret behavior that has nothing to do with them as a personal rejection of them and the rest is history.

Some label healthy boundaries that others enforce as rejection. They refuse to accept and respect other people’s right to have boundaries or to choose how they interact, or with whom. They go on to provoke rejection from others due to their flawed thinking and behavior based on such.

The Enemy delights in all the ways we exacerbate harm for ourselves and others. I was so reminded of this today as I met with Jenny. As I heard her story, it became evident that while she identified herself as damaged, it was her husband who was profoundly wounded and didn’t seem to recognize how his wounds were causing harm for not only himself, but definitely her. Jason obviously had a root of rejection that kept him determined for Jenny to fix him, to make him feel valuable, and whole. He was on a rapid decline as he went from one maneuver to another to make her feel responsible for him emotionally. While I had no doubt that Jenny loved him, I wondered if she was going to be able to stay afloat from the pressure, and if she was going to feel one day that she had to leave him. She was miserable with the man she also loved.

If only Jason could stop looking to her to make him feel whatever he wanted to feel. I cringe about what will happen if he never sees the pattern. He so desperately needs to look to the Lord for not only healing, but also as the lifelong source for his emotional and spiritual well -being. We can love others deeply, without expecting them to take responsibility for our emotions and fixing all of our hurts.

Loving relationships can help promote healing, no doubt. But they aren’t our root, Jesus is. Janice has learned this, partly due to Amanda, who likely doesn’t even realize how she has been used to help Janice. Janice continues to be kind and polite to Amanda, but not with the intent to make her like her, accept her, and make her feel good about herself. She is not trying to change Amanda and make her be who she thinks God wants Amanda to be. She is learning to focus on what she needs to do, not what another person needs to do. Does that mean she doesn’t want well for Amanda? Of course not, but Janice is more sensitive to follow the Lord’s lead, instead of just what she wants and thinks.

Sometimes it’s our own selfishness that fuels our supposed desire to help others act like we think God wants. We want them to act like we want so we feel better. While we should desire for others to enjoy and display the fruits of the spirit, we may want it more for our pleasure for than for the Lord’s pleasure.

I suspect that is the case with Jason. He wants Jenny to produce fruit for his pleasure and doesn’t even seem to give a thought about the Lord’s pleasure. In fact, he criticizes her for seeking God if it takes her attention away from him. When considering what it takes to please him, I wonder if pleasing Jason would hinder Jenny from producing healthy fruit. His desire for her to be consumed with making him feel good would produce the nasty fruit that actually doesn’t bless anyone.

We can’t force others to be rooted in the Lord, nor can we make them produce the fruit we want to enjoy. Yet, the more we root ourselves in Him, the more we will grow fruit that blesses, not only others, not only ourselves, but also the Lord. It will be fruit that enhances others spiritually instead of feeding their flesh nature. The fruit reveals the root. Some nasty fruit initially looks like healthy fruit. It may look like kindness, while it may be contributing to another’s selfishness and obsessive desire for attention. It may look like supportive help, while it may be enabling another’s destructive or irresponsible behavior. It may look like mercy, while it eliminates the painful, yet necessary, consequences for another that would help bring them to repentance and needed change. It may look like sacrificial love, while it promotes unhealthy dependency on us rather than the Lord.

The root of Jesus only brings life, cultivates health, and makes us more like Him. The fruit truly reveals the root.

Last year The Dream

I wrote this the morning after Janice tearfully and yet excitedly told me of her recent
dream and what the Lord is showing her through it . . .

The tree looked stunning with its lush green leaves and strong limbs that gracefully reached upward to the sky. Yet, as I admired its beauty, I noticed that it was a fruit tree with no fruit. I was disappointed, yet even more intrigued. At first glance, it looked healthy and vibrant and there seemed to be no reason for there not to be fruit.

The Lord slowly led me to look within its branches, and there they were. Two long, yet obviously dead limbs were coming from the center of the tree. The lush leaves on the surrounding limbs had hidden its view from me. As soon as I saw the core dead limbs, the Lord told me that they were draining the tree and keeping it from producing fruit.

I knew that the Lord had spoken to me through dreams for much of my life, so I instinctively pondered on what the dream meant. “What does this have to do with me, Lord?”

For a few days I was left with no revelation about my dream. I went on with life. Days later at church, like usual, I was faced with a tinge of familiar hurt as I approached Amanda. I had been excited about my idea of starting a women’s Bible study.

I even sensed that the Lord had prompted me to begin this ministry to the women of our church. He really does want to use me, I had excitedly thought.

Yet, once again, Amanda shot me down. I had sensed her dislike of me for most of the time I had known her. I never understood why I seemed to rub her the wrong way. All my efforts to be friendly had been met with actions from her that left no doubt that she didn’t have any interest in connecting with me. In fact, she seemed to disapprove of me. While I never knew why, the Lord seemed to be showing me how rejected I felt by her.

Then suddenly, I knew exactly what the Lord was showing me through my dream. One of the huge dead limbs that was draining the tree and keeping it from producing fruit had a root of rejection. It had led to the death of the limb that was at the center of the tree.

Wow! That’s me. I had such a deep root of rejection that was there from as far back as I could recall.

The years of my tender heart being hurt by my mother who consistently showed her distain of me had taken its toll. I never understood why she seemed to, not only not love me, but actually hate me. Numerous memories flooded my mind. Cruel comments, accusations of me being worthless or disgusting, and so many other hurtful actions swept over me with such pain that the tears didn’t seem to do justice to illustrating the massive crisis in my heart.

“I don’t understand Lord. Moms are supposed to love their children, and I can’t imagine feeling toward my children as mom did to me. I love mine with such consuming love that I am at a loss at what happened to make my own mom unable to love me."

Lord, I believe that you have been showing me that something had damaged my mother that led to her inability to love me. This has helped eased the pain. I actually thought I had accepted that her rejection of me didn’t define me. It instead, defined damage in her.

But my dream showed me that I am still not healed and that the darn root of rejection still saps my efforts in life. Amanda triggered my awareness of how vulnerable I still am to rejection and how I allow my hurt to stop me from producing fruit.

Amanda’s hurtful comments and attitude had quickly zapped my eager drive to reach the women at church with hope and support. I had been excited for the Lord to use me in producing fruit.

But what about the other dead limb? I conjured up my dream and scanned it in my mind to take another look. Doing so, I realized that the other limb was actually an off shoot from the one that had grown from the root of rejection. The off-shoot limb that was attached was deep lasting insecurity.

I recognized its encompassing presence in my life. Insecurity had zapped much of my joy and stopped my attempts to connect with others, to pursue goals and dreams, and obviously to produce fruit.

As I gaze at the lush tree before me in my mind, I am sad at the decades of harm that the core of my existence has caused. The Enemy has delighted in the lasting effects from the root of rejection. My life has been marred and yet, my gorgeous leaves that were fully alive attest to the love of my Lord throughout my existence. He has truly been the reason I have grown and lived regardless of my dead limbs.

Why the dream now in my life? I don’t know. But, I do know that the Lord wants to eradicate the harm in my life from the root up. He is leading me to recognize that if I am fully rooted in Him and If I abide in HIS acceptance and love, the root of rejection, with its accompanying insecurity, will die completely and no longer hinder me. My core will be strong in the Love of my Lord, not in people who can’t sustain me and keep me thriving.

Maybe the Lord doesn’t speak to everyone in dreams. But, He does want each of us to recognize what is deep within us that is causing hurt, harm, and keeping us from producing fruit. Like in Janice’s dream, we may think we are fine, showing life and looking as if we are thriving on the surface. But, deep within we may have hidden damage that is robbing us from the full life Jesus wants for us.

I invite you to ask for a dream or revelation into yourself. The Lord is wanting to show us all. I don’t know why it took so long before Janice got hers. Maybe she missed attempts that the Lord had made over the years. Maybe she just wasn’t willing to face it. Whatever the reason it took so long, it did give her deep insight and compassion for others who are damaged in ways that suck the life out of them. God never wanted this for us and yet it continues until we embrace and keep abiding in Him.

My heart ached as Janice told me about her experiences with her mother. Yet, I was also delighted and reminded again of how healing it is to get close to Jesus. Janice didn’t end her conversation with me on a hurtful tone. Her dream had led her to cling even more tightly to Jesus and doing so led to sweeter waters. She excitedly told me of her ongoing quest for ministering to other hurting people. The fruit is obviously budding and I have no doubt that it will grow and continue to multiply in her life.

I think I will ask for some dreams from the Lord. How about you?

Last year Loving Well

While God is our only firm foundation, He displays His love through people. I recall a popular movie that came out years ago. The main character was murdered early in the movie and he came to indwell in a woman temporarily as a way to express himself to his wife who was deeply grieving his death. He spoke through the woman he indwelled. He would tell the woman what he wanted her to tell his wife. He desperately needed to let his wife know, not only how much he loved her, but also that the man she trusted, was actually his murderer who would hurt her too. He wanted to protect her and also let her know he was okay and loved her still.

Ironically, the Lord sometimes speaks His love through one human to another. His indwelling spirit allows a person to express His love and protective warnings to others. He deeply endorses loving relationships between people.

While a person can’t be our savior and our permanent foundation, God can provide support, love, and direction through human relationships. Jesus declared that all commandments hinge on loving God and people. We were designed like our Creator for relationships.

Unfortunately, people sometimes let each other down and subsequently hurt each other. Just like we couldn’t secure our own salvation, we can’t be the foundation for another’s existence no matter how well we love.

Knowing that Jesus is our only secure foundation shouldn’t keep us from pursuing relationships here. I’ve known many who had been hurt deeply by someone they loved betraying them. Some unfortunately responded to their pain by refusing to ever pursue a loving relationship again. Sue comes to mind. She had been so harmed by a betrayal from her friend Jane, that she choose to do life thereafter with no close friends. She had acquaintances and surface interactions, yet isolated herself and would not let another get close to her again. She intentionally was not going to allow herself to be emotionally vulnerable to another.

I tried to encourage Sue to rethink her stance. I knew that she needed to adjust and learn from her experience with Jane. Sue had ignored warning signs that she needed to heed when in the relationship with Jane. In fact, there were obvious clues that Sue needed to pull back from Jane and she refused to do so. Sue had allowed herself to become so attached and emotionally dependent upon Jane that she choose to cling to her instead of obeying the Lord. She later confessed that she knew the Lord wanted her to get out of the relationship, but she would not.

Sue needed to recognize what was unhealthy in Jane to the point that it necessitated her to distance herself. She also needed to learn how to be wiser in pursuing deep relationships. Some people are too unhealthy and destructive for us to expect a trusting and interdependent relationship with them. We can love them, pray for them, and sometimes minister to them, but we can’t expect the same relationship with them as we would another who is healthy spiritually.

Sue also had a huge lesson to learn from her time with Jane. Sue was obsessed with Jane. This wasn’t romantic or sexual, but was an emotional obsession that we should never have for another person. She was convinced that she couldn’t be happy in life without Jane. Sue wanted her to do everything with her, was jealous if Jane did activities with another friend without her, and basically seemed more needing of Jane over the Lord.

Finally, the Lord did it for Sue. She had no choice in the final matter. Jane finally dumped her as a friend and moved far away. Sue was devastated, but began to see how obsessed she was with Jane and began a long journey toward healing that still isn’t complete. However, she has turned more to Jesus and is realizing He is her foundation if she allows Him to be, instead of another human being. Unfortunately, she has seemed like a pendulum that has swung from one extreme of excessive dependency and obsession with a person to the other extreme of not allowing anyone to get emotionally close to her.

There are others who never seem to really attach to anyone. They are so broken that they can take people or leave them with little emotional involvement. I assume they are the same with the Lord. When we pursue Jesus and subsequently deeply attach with Him, we are on are way to being healthy enough for relationships with others. We can love deeply in our close friendships and family, yet we can also be healthy enough to know that only Jesus keeps us afloat. We hurt deeply when separated from our loved ones by death because we yearn to do life with them here. Yet, with a hurting heart, we trudge on with our sweet Lord carrying us.

So many come to mind who have done this well. They have carried the sorrow of missing their loved one, while carrying the joy and peace of the Lord at the same time. This would not be possible without them having established their hope and foundation on Him. Doing so, they continue to love deeply and pave the way for others to learn from them.

Sue desperately needs to see their journey so that she can begin the same. Love well, and keep standing on the foundation that Jesus provides.

Last year The Secure Foundation

People have come up with numerous phrases to describe events that suddenly and unexpectedly hurt them. “The rug was pulled out from under me” is one of them. What would happen if the rug was pulled out from under where we were standing?

We obviously would lose our footing and likely fall. Some say, “The rug was jerked out from under me”. This refers to events that we aren’t prepared for that lead to our tumble and possible injury.

Can you relate to such a time in your own life? Most everyone can by the time they are grown. It can happen to a child or at any time in our life. One of my most painful was when my daughter went from being a playful toddler, to having a stomach bug, to being diagnosed with cancer three weeks later. It felt like the earth was jerked out from under me instead of a rug.

A rug obviously can’t support our weight. It’s just a thin material made of fiber. When we feel that the rug has been pulled out from under, we need to remind ourselves that whatever we thought was keeping us afloat was not really our foundation to begin with.

Kathy could represent the many who have been toppled to the ground as they felt the rejection and betrayal that they never would have dreamed of coming from the person they loved deeply. Unfortunately, it happens frequently and brings a pain like none other. Kathy went from planning a life with Jeff, who had supposedly loved her for years, to him telling her he had already bought another house and was leaving her permanently.

She had no clue that morning when she awoke that her “world was going to be turned upside down”. That’s another phrase used to describe devastating heartbreak that seems to come out of nowhere.

The agony was unbearable and suddenly losing her footing left her grasping for something to sustain her. Ironically, it came through another who had also experienced the “rug jerked out from under him”. Tom heard what happened and gently provided comfort and support. “I know you feel like you can’t get past this, but you can. The same happened to me and I felt that my whole world was gone in an instant. I thought I could not go on. But God is there and I now realize that He will give me much more life on the other side of the pain.”

He spoke from deep heartache he had experienced only months before when his wife suddenly decided she no longer wanted him as her husband. He just didn’t measure up to what she felt would make her happy. They had gone from a fairytale romance and elaborate wedding made for a queen, to two years later her getting bored and disillusioned with daily life where he was no longer prince charming.

Tom was left with hurt that likely won’t be completely eradicated until heaven. Yet, he had come to realize that she wasn’t his foundation, God was. He would never leave him, get bored with him, or decide he wasn’t worth staying committed and tied to forever.

Those who have had their heart ripped out, instead of just a rug, have profound sensitivity and insight to minister to the hurting. They usually have an instinctual connection to those who have broken hearts and dreams. Some like Tom gain insight into the unconditional and unending love of the Lord and develop an intimate relationship with Jesus as a result. While they go on to love again and even enter into the risky commitment to another person, they never forget who keeps their heart. A human relationship may be deep, but like a rug, it doesn’t keep us afloat. It is not our foundation. Jesus is our firm foundation that will never crumble or be jerked out from under us.

He will weather every storm or tornado that makes us feel like our world is falling apart. He will gently remind our hurting heart that He loves us deeply and forever. Tom knows this now like never before. I look forward to Kathy finding this too.

When our rug gets jerked, like it will for all of us at some time, we need to get our footing. Don’t be fooled, no person can sustain us and be our foundation. It would be ridiculous to build a house with floors only made of rugs. Without a secure foundation underneath them, rugs will tear under the pressure of trying to bear the load of a person. The Lord directs us to love another deeply, and with commitment, but He reminds us that He is the only one who can permanently and completely handle carrying us.

My heart aches for those betrayed by another who was supposed to honor the commitment that they had made to each other. Sometimes we may have contributed to the collapse of the relationship, but too often people just selfishly give up way before the Lord wants them to. Sometimes the pain of the relationship ending is even more hurtful if we realize that we have been the primary reason for its failing.

No matter what led to the rug getting jerked and no matter who caused the fall, the Lord is steady and ready to help lift us up and keep us standing on the firm love that is the only permanent foundation.

Last year The Quest of Life

I wonder about people who live what most think of as a charmed life. The famous and rich are frequently thought of as living with great excitement and pleasure each day. People typically envy them and wonder what it would be like to be them. Television displays their elaborate houses, vacations, parties, and flamboyant lifestyle.

Yet, I have no doubt that unless they have a deep faith in their Creator, they have bouts of sorrow and wonder why they are discontent when surrounded with all that the world sees as success.

King Solomon was considered the epitome of success during Biblical times. Even modern wealthy and famous people can’t compare to his vast fortune and triumphs. Yet, he exposed the meaningless of human striving outside of a right relationship with God.

He vented his own journey to such a revelation as he confessed to his overwhelming quest for everything his flesh desired and its accompanying emptiness. He wrote:

" Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere"(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, NLT).

Ten out of ten die and we take no earthly treasures with us. Solomon gives wise advice in his final years. It took him most of his life to finally embrace the wisdom the Lord had given him.

"We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry. Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God"(Ecclesiastes 5: 15-19, NLT).

    The King, finally pursuing wisdom instead of his own pleasure, amply endorses how being able to enjoy life comes from being ever mindful of God being the giver of anything good in our lives and keeping deep gratitude of His mercy and goodness.

In pondering on such matters, I think of Martha, who told me that she had more money than she could ever spend. While I knew her for years, I never knew her to be happy or even content. Instead, while she was one of the wealthiest people I knew, she was also one of the most miserable. She obviously knew that riches, or any of the advantages it brings, didn’t secure happiness.

There is a deep yearning in us that will never be satisfied until Heaven. Solomon doesn’t condemn pleasure as evil, but instead reflected on his own tragic experiences of attempting to draw satisfaction solely out of pleasure. He also found how tragic and utterly foolish it is to try to get human gratification at the expense of God’s glory.

I made it much of my life quest to find and understand what should be pursued in life. I began early in life wondering about what God intended and desired from creating us. What truly is the meaning and quest of life?

I so relate to Solomon’s deep thoughts about these matters. He found that when all is said and done, we are to reverence God and obey Him. Our obedience shows that we have truly found Him, and in so doing we love Him and all that He loves. Life then has meaning and meaning has deep contentment and joy.

Last year Expiration Dates

Mallory, my seven-year-old granddaughter is so much like her mother in many ways. They both are sticklers for looking at expiration dates on food before eating it. Even if it is only a day old and sometimes if it is just close to its expiration date, they will discard it, not even considering that it may still be eatable.

While I understand that expiration dates on food are there to warn us that it is getting stale and possibly even molded, other expiration dates exist that seem more arbitrary. I have excitedly found a coupon to get a discount on a wanted item, to be disappointed in finding that it had expired. That coupon that could have saved me money was now not going to be honored. I would chastise myself for being careless and thus wasting an opportunity to be blessed.

There are more serious expiration dates that we should be even more determined not to overlook until too late. Our most important expiration date has been assigned even before our conception. The Bible declares that there is an appointed time for each of us to die. God made me personally more aware of this by a dream He gave me decades ago when I was just a teen.

I had no doubt that it was from God and just like other divine messages, it doesn’t lose its clarity and power as the years have passed. The dream made it abundantly clear that when we come to our expiration date, we may have profound regrets about all the missed opportunities that make wasted food, coupons, and a host of other forfeited pleasures pale in significance. In my dream, I realized how foolish most of us are in what we pursue as we live our earthly lives. I was horrified and angry with myself, not for missing out on selfish pleasures, but on all the opportunities I had neglected to bring others to the revelation of Jesus. I had wasted so many opportunities to advance God’s kingdom!

It’s kind of distressing to most people to think of a specific expiration date that exists for their own life here. Unlike food that we might go ahead and eat even after its expiration, we don’t have a. choice after ours.

I recall a funny scene one morning as my twin granddaughters were getting ready to eat breakfast. They both were obsessed with little chocolate chip muffins that they wanted for breakfast almost every morning. Mallory was worried that her pack of muffins might be expired, which it of course was not. Morgan didn’t even think of looking at every food for its expiration like Mallory does. She let out an exasperated sign as she advised her twin, “Mallory, as long as it doesn’t have green on it it’s fine to eat!

I busted out in laughter. Morgan was so frustrated at the obsessive worry of her twin in ways that Morgan thought ridiculous and unnecessary. Being only seven, I found her easy way to look at such matters a far cry from the pensive and sometimes anxious Mallory.

While Morgan’s attitude was actually more of what I wish for Mallory, I recognize that there are other matters that warrant serious concern. We all face opportunities each day to serve the Lord, to make a difference in another’s life, and on some days to influence another in ways that affect where he or she may spend eternity. We will face opportunities to ease another’s suffering and to share truths that help guide the way while in a fallen world. Unfortunately we may not even recognize them. And if we do, we may not be faithful to respond to them. Sometimes we don’t want to be inconvenienced. Instead, we may think we need to attend to other important matters that actually are more trivial and insignificant than we will ever know until we face our expiration date. Each time I recall my dream, I am knocked into remembering how it will feel if we don’t live our lives with a deep awareness of why we are here instead of heaven after being saved.

Morgan was trying to advise Mallory that food can still be eaten after the expiration, as long as it isn’t ruined. However, it may not be as fresh and taste as good. That’s not that big of a deal to Morgan. But, when we delay some opportunities, we may also not be as effective and successful in our efforts as we would have been. This can happen in relationships, like those who may stay married, but didn’t have the great marriage they could have had. Others regret the neglected opportunities to spend quality time and be a better influence upon their children during those precious years of their growing-up.

Other opportunities will never come again for some. Destroyed relationships and forfeited chances to lead someone to Christ may plague us. A recall a woman who I kept being around when we would spend summer week-ends at a certain vacation spot years ago. I was appalled by her flirty, provocative behavior and dress. She would get drunk and act in ways that worried me for not only my children, but also young impressionable others who were being subjected to her.

I tried to avoid her. Later I was greatly convicted of my attitude and realized the missed opportunities to try to reach out to her. While I had a responsibility to protect my children, I also needed to see her as one who needed the Lord’s love and grace to reach her through another person. I had failed and asked the Lord to forgive me.

I haven’t seen her in years, but the Lord has. I have prayed for her and hope that someone else has been more faithful in his or her opportunity to minister to her. We aren’t called to be able to reach everyone, but to some that God sends our way, we are.

While I would like to keep writing, my time to do so has expired. The clock shows that I must stop and go to another opportunity, since someone is coming to meet with me in only thirty minutes from now. Those scheduled appointments are easy to anticipate, but those that I haven’t scheduled myself often go unnoticed. I ask the Lord to nudge me, to help me watch for those opportunities and to be faithful in responding to them.

As each moment of life begins, another is expiring. I’m not sure that I can ever think of the phrase, “expiration date” the same. I hope you can’t either.


Last year The Green-Eyed monster

The green-eyed monster----That’s the title many have used in talking about jealousy. It seems that he is lurking in all of us. We may be fooled into thinking he’s not there, yet he is and has been from the beginning of humanity’s decline with Adam and Eve. Jealousy birthed the beginning of problems in God’s perfect world. Lucifer was jealous of God and the rest is history.

We are better equipped to live effectively if we just acknowledge this inborn weakness in us to compare, envy, and be jealous of others. If we think we are above such, we are setting ourselves up for problems. Instead, by admitting this vulnerability, we are grooming ourselves to guard our soul when it comes sweeping in, whether quietly or roaring like a lion or tidal wave.

As we run to Jesus, we can tell Him what we feel and He will redirect us with compassion to sweeter waters where we are content to just be ourselves and enjoy His acceptance and love of us. This makes me think of my twin granddaughters. Mothers of twins can relate to how important it is for each to be accepted and valued as being their unique self. As twins, they are constantly being compared to each other, whether they want to be or not. My twin granddaughters have vast differences, along with commonalities. Yet, I watch each seek out mom whenever feeling insecure. I also sense the deep love and acceptance of each from her as she cherishes their individuality and personhood.

Oh that we would run to our Heavenly Father for reassurance when we compare with others and find ourselves lacking. Our insecurities feed the green-eyed monster and left uncheck, he will wreak havoc in our life. Under his spell, we will not only hurt our self, we will also hurt others.

Jesus, the lover of my soul, dissipates the monster and his foul effect. Run to Him, embrace Him, and never forget the monster is lurking for us all.

Last year Lessons from God . . . and Jack

Recently, I wrote about how my grandchildren’s dog, Jack, was being confined in a pen when they were not home, which had been unwelcomed by him, but had protected not only family belongings but also Jack from harm. I had been pondering on how being restrained can spare us from great harm too.

A few days later, when free to do as he pleased, Jack got into some sugarless gum (which is like poison to dogs) that was left within his reach. I wrote about his brush with death, the expensive medical interventions, hospitalization, and need for ongoing medication for his liver. I concluded how his freedom came with a high price and how ours may too. I had written about this late one night and had no idea that it would be so applicable and needed less than 24 hours later.

    The next morning, I had a cancellation in my schedule and called Mack to see if he wanted the appointment time, since he had cancelled his counseling appointment due to a conflict in his schedule.

    Mack readily took the appointment. Later that afternoon, I listened as he told of his recent relapse and his anguish in dealing with the addiction that was wreaking havoc in his life. He reflected over how much of his life had been robbed by his attempt to live without the restrain of having to be accountable to anyone. He had tried doing life without the confinement that comes when in intentional recovery. He didn’t want to have to answer to a sponsor, attend group gatherings to help him stay on track, or to restrict his freedom to choose for himself.

    As Mack unloaded his despair and fear, I suddenly recalled my late-night writing about Jack from the night before. I began to read it to Mack and it was as if time stood still for a moment. He was obviously stunned as he realized how applicable the lesson was to him. He saw how costly freedom can be and how rules, accountability to others, and restrictions can spare us from horrific harm.

Mack began passionately telling me of his intentions to reach out to a man who had repeatedly tried to help him in his recovery. He was determined to secure him as a sponsor to help not only guard and hold him accountable, but also to provide support he so needed. Mack went on to plan a number of ways to pursue recovery, which will always involve restrictions to help guard us from the pull of temptation.

As I sit writing about this experience early this morning, a hear the patter of little feet and glance down to see Jack who had purposefully sought me out. It seems intentional that Jack is giving me this knowing look. He stared at me for a long moment and I stared back. He then quietly turned and calmly walked away. What in the world was he thinking? Why did he just look at me like that and then just leave as if he was satisfied?

I wonder how many times God speaks to us in ways that we may disregard as coincidental whenever instead God is trying to teach us, warn us, and protect us. I believe Mack believes this too. Jack, I’m not sure about, but who knows?

Last year Teachable and Correctable

I watched as the coach passionately explained the strategies to use in succeeding in the game. He had decades of experience and the young boys were lucky to have a coach who still was eager to train and encourage those wanting to excel at basketball. Yet, I watched the one boy in particular who obviously wasn’t listening to a word that the coach was saying. It was as if he thought he knew everything he needed to know.

He could represent so many who show a lifetime pattern of not being teachable. Those who pride themselves on thinking for themselves display the arrogance that stems from pride.

The greatest trait to have is to be teachable. Being willing to listen to others and learn from them, opens the door to all possibilities. Unfortunately, we may forfeit God’s greatest blessings by not being willing to be taught by others.

Being teachable involves recognizing that others may see what I can’t see. King David gave an example of one who humbled himself before the Lord and asked for the Lord to show him what he might not see about himself.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139: 23,24, NKJV).
The hardest to be open to in learning from others is about what is sinful in us. In this chapter, David goes from talking about his enemies and evil men, to asking the Lord to see if there is any wicked way in him.

David, not only sought the Lord’s evaluation of himself, he was also receptive when corrected by mere men. After his notorious fall into adultery and having the husband of his lover killed, David was confronted and called out on his sin by the prophet Samuel.

Other Kings, such as King Asa, were furious when corrected. When a prophet confronted King Asa about his sin, he threw him into prison.

But David was humble, and open to correction. He was willing to be taught and he listened to others. The Lord tenderly declares David as a man after His own heart (I Samuel 13:14).
When we aren’t will to listen to others, when we think we know it all, when we won’t accept correction, and when we aren’t willing to be taught, we are setting ourselves up for misery.

Sometimes the losses will be small and we frequently may not even realize that we lost out by not listening. We sometimes minimize the losses that we do notice and we try to convince ourselves that it wasn’t our fault. Yet, if we keep the pattern of not being teachable or willing to be corrected, we will inevitably suffer life changing losses and pain. Many losses will never be recouped.

Why do we forfeit the great advantages that come from learning from others or from being willing to be corrected?

I assume its either pride or we are deceived into not realizing there are benefits being neglected. We may ignorantly think we can’t profit from others' insight.

I recall many spouses who went from being unwilling to listen to their mate, to being humbled and heartbroken when their mate ended the marriage. While some became bitter and blaming, some embraced humility and became better people. They grew and changed and learned to be more considerate and willing to be corrected.

We all will suffer loss and pain. We all have the opportunity to learn and change for the better. Yet, we all won’t learn and be corrected.

“Lord, please humble us, make us willing to be taught, ever committed to seeking feedback and willing be corrected”.

Last year Writing Our Stories

I heard that there was a man who thought it was ludicrous that his wife always read the ending of a book before reading it. Yet, as he thought about our earthly life, with its times of struggles, heartaches, and trauma, he realized that her approach was actually wise.

When she used that approach when reading, I assume that she didn’t want to put the time, energy, and emotions into reading a book that ended badly. However, if she knew it ended well, she wanted to read it with all its adventures, good and bad. The happy experiences, along with the painful, would be parts of the quest to a great destination.

    If we know Jesus as our Savior, we also know that we too have a grand ending to our earthly journey with an eternity of delight to follow. Yet, as we embrace the chapters of our lives, we tend to lose sight and get swallowed up in the challenges here. The pleasures, and sometimes even more, the disappointments and heartaches, capture our attention and keep us mesmerized as if they are lasting and an end in themselves.

    We must repeatedly remind ourselves of the ending of our earthly journey and what instead will be lasting. If we know the story ends great, why do we fret as we do? Of course we will have pain and sorrow, but it should never be experienced without keeping the ending in our awareness.

    For those who don’t know and accept Jesus, you too desperately need to read the ending of the story as you try to do life here. Doing so, you will run to Jesus and that will change your ending from one of horror to one of lasting treasure.

I have had decades of experiences with others where I yearned for them to realize where their choices, actions, and attitudes were going to take them. I felt like I could almost see the ending for them, where they could not. I would pray for them, try to warn them, or encourage them to see what was ahead. Most of the time, it seemed to not make a difference. People are going to do as they choose and if they don’t see what’s coming, they won’t adjust as needed. I’ve been guilty of this myself so many times I can’t count.

    The Lord warns and gives us the information needed, that if followed, equips us for making wise and fruitful decisions. Deep within us, our spirit (if in tune with the Lord) will lead us, correct us, and help steer us well. But, instead, we often disable it like unplugging an alarm, or GPS that is telling us which direction to take.

    So many stories fill my head from not only my own personal life and family, but that of clients I have counseled over 30 decades of working as a psychologist that illustrate the tragic and senseless hurt and damage that comes from disregarding looking ahead wisely. Avoiding the advice given by the Lord, other people, and your own conscience is ludicrous and yet it defines much of how we live.

    We may even not realize that we do this. I recall so many who seemed clueless about the unhealthy patterns in their lives and if they had a hint of such, they minimized the negative effects of them. Their selfishness, anger, or impulsive behavior hurt those they supposedly loved, along with themselves. They forfeited the blessings God wanted and planned for them. Their families were cheated and hurt by their actions, choices, and patterns and all the while, they didn’t seem to recognize how they had affected their own lives, along with those around them.

    Maybe we all have some of these tendencies. Broken marriages, damaged children, lost promotions, unfulfilled dreams, tragic injuries and deaths, and a host of other consequences await us if we don’t look ahead as we live.

    On the other hand, being willing to seek and be taught, advised, and corrected is likely the greatest quality to have in securely great endings and futures. It also proves that we can help write our own endings. Our life stories are being written and we have the amazing ability to help write it since God made us in His image and gave us the power to choose.

“Lord, open our eyes and heart to see that You want to write precious and wonderful stories with our lives. Help us embrace looking ahead, be willing to be led, taught, and corrected, and to allow You to complete it with Your consuming grace.”

Last year Training for Life

On January 15, 2009, an emergency airplane landing in the Hudson River occurred that became the attention of the world. Whenever the engine of the massive jetliner suddenly failed, Captain Sully had 208 seconds to land the plane. In those seconds, he had 154 passengers along with himself depending on him. His training kicked in and he instinctually followed it, bringing the plane safely to land in the Hudson River, with no fatalities. The experience has been referred to “Miracle on the Hudson”.

The news was obsessed with the Miracle on the Hudson and coverage continued to focus on every detail of the experience. People were awed and called the Captain a hero. He seemed embarrassed being portrayed as a hero and instead credited the successful landing to his training. When asked what he was thinking during those 208 seconds, Captain Sully replied that instead of thinking, he was just acting on instinct from his training.

While we all want the pilot of any plane we are flying on to have had excellent training, we may not give much thought to our own. We realize that lives depend on that pilot’s training. We realize that he must know not only how to steer the plane, but also how to maneuver for any unforeseen conditions. It would be ludicrous to clear someone to fly a plane without intense training and yet people are released into living life, that not only requires knowing how to steer in the right direction, but also to deal with all kinds of situations and unexpected obstacles that require maneuvering to keep from crashing.

Parents typically adhere to the importance of their children being educated and trained in a variety of ways, and yet they may neglect the most important training of all. Being spiritually trained and equipped with the Word of God is often overlooked or at best seen as only an optional, but unnecessary addition in preparing them for success in life. Some parents who would never allow their children to not attend school, do not make church attendance mandatory, nor do they make Bible reading a priority.

We too may not have prepared ourselves with spiritual training. I used to be surprised whenever I would ask clients who were struggling what they do when deep sadness, fear, and anxiety attacks them and they would blankly just stare at me with no answer. Many would admit that they didn’t really know how to answer or they would reply with some action that was obviously not helping them. They might say, “ I cry, go to bed, eat, drink, or just worry”.

I stopped being surprised after encountering so many who had no plan, or in other words, no training for dealing with emotional/spiritual attacks.

We all will face fear, anger, sadness, discouragement, and a host of other crises. We may not be involved in a plane crash, but we will all face crashes in our lives. If Captain Sully had not been trained, all would likely have died. We too may face the death of our marriages, great injuries to our soul or to our children, along with emotional and spiritual losses that didn’t have to have happened if we had been intensely trained.

We will never get through life in a fallen world without bumps, bruises, and even possible injuries that leave lasting scars. Some hurts only get healed in heaven. Yet, we all must have training if we are to be able to deal with the attacks that come our way. We don’t have to become a spiritual fatality.

It would be ridiculous to try to fly a plane with no training, but just at tragic to try to do life without training. Within the pages of the Bible, the Lord graciously provided massive instructions, illustrations, and expert direction for doing life here in a world laden with unforeseen challenges and pitfalls. While we absently leave it sitting collecting dust, we are foolishly sidetracking the most critical training of all.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105, NKJV).

Last year The Cost of Freedom

I recently wrote about my grandchildren’s beloved dog, Jack, being confined in a large pen in the house whenever the family is away from home. Even though it seems sad for him to be stuck in the pen, I knew that he still gets into what he shouldn’t at times and doing so could not only cause harm to the family belongings, it could also be dangerous for Jack. I had been pondering on this and made the comparison to how we also need to be careful and quarantine thoughts and feelings that can derail us, putting us into hurting our self and those we love.

Ironically, just days after writing about Jack, we had a dangerous reminder of his need to be guarded and sometimes confined for his own good.

When the family is home, he is allowed to roam and have his run of the place. With someone always around to step in if the need arises, we have felt secure in allowing him this freedom. In fact, he has graduated to being able to sleep at night on my grandson’s bed, which has been delightful for them both.

Jack loves his freedom, just like we love our freedom. Yet, I recall those painful times I wished the Lord had just made me do the right thing. Since He instead allowed me to choose, I had made some choices that had brought painful consequences. Freedom sometimes comes with a huge price, when we have chosen poorly!

While Jack was relishing in his freedom, his innocent inquisitive nature led him to eat some delightful smelling sugarless gum that one of the grandkids absently left lying around within Jack’s reach.

We all quickly learned that sugarless gum has an ingredient that is deadly for dogs and within minutes he was sick and being rushed to the veterinarian. After scary and expensive medical interventions and hospital stay, Jack was back home, but with all of us even more intensely aware of his need for supervision. We recognized that he was lucky to have survived. He is still taking medication for his liver.

We too may find ourselves slapped with dangerous and painful consequences for our careless thoughts and actions as we let our guard down in the spiritual war. The Enemy wants us to underestimate the risk, to disregard the warnings that the Lord has given, and to overinflate our own ability to choose for ourselves.

The next thing we know, we may be like poor Jack ingesting what can destroy our families and us. Like Jack, we may wander into what looks tempting, inviting, and harmless, not realizing that it is deadly to our soul. We may take on actions and attitudes that will lead us in directions we didn’t mean to take. While our physical life may or may not be ended, we may have far reaching consequences. Hopefully, Jack’s liver will recover. Time will tell. You too may be waiting for your recovery.

We may not like what feels like a collar around our neck, a leash that holds us back, or a pen that restrains us, but we will surely love the safety and protection we will be provided if we realize what we were spared.

Last year What’s being taken Captive?

I looked at Jack, my grandchildren’s dog who they adore, as he lay quietly in his large pen. Even though the pen was large, had toys in it, food and water, a pee pad, and a comfy bed, I felt sad that he would be confined there from morning until the afternoon hours whenever the family came home.

They had a large pen inside the house for Jack to stay in while they were at work and school so that he couldn’t roam the house and either hurt himself or make a mess. While he is mostly well-behaved, he still gets into what he shouldn’t and the house is not child proof or dog proof.

Later that day, I met with several counseling clients who were coming for help with various struggles. Hour after hour I advised and encouraged them to monitor and guard their thoughts. I explained that none of us should trust and accept all of our thoughts and feelings as based on truth. We are notorious for being derailed by wrong thoughts and embracing feelings based on such. I passionately quoted what the Lord instructed, “Take every thought captive to the pulling down of strongholds!”

I found myself thinking of Jack held captive in that pen, which kept him from hurting himself or destroying what was around him. He wasn’t free to follow whatever tempted him as he roamed. Instead, he wasn’t allowed to roam at will. Neither should our thoughts and feelings. When our mind is allowed to roam at will and to settled in thought patterns that bring deception and increasing harm, we are promoting our own decline and usually we don’t even realize that we have caused it by not guarding our mind.

Instead, people usually just feel and think however the neurons fire and don’t put effort into monitoring and quarantining thoughts that should be eradicated with truth and redirection. We often tolerate and even embrace feelings of pain, anger and resentment, shame, and tormenting fear. Unfortunately, we may believe we don’t have a choice in the matter and make statements such as, “I can’t help what I feel.”

Yet, the Word gives us clear instructions on how to think and to thus influence what we feel. It’s not that we never feel hurt, anger, fear, and guilt. But, the more we take thoughts captive that cause harm and decline, the more we promote dealing with life struggles in healthy ways and we lead ourselves to the abundant life God wants for us. We don’t get trapped in sin patterns, hopelessness, a spirit of fear, and bitterness.

Jack may not like being confined, but he is protected by such confinement. As he matures, he will not require the confinement as he does now. He also is kept from hurting those he loves by destroying what is important to them. While he doesn’t have a choice about his confinement, we have to choose to confine and take our thoughts captive and unfortunately, we may resist such a process to our own decline and in so doing we sometimes even bring heartache to those we love.

At the end of my work day, I can think back of the people I met with today and realize that all were in a battle with thoughts and feelings. They represent the battle we all have while in our earthly bodies. Although I hurt for their pain, I felt hope in how each was receptive and even appeared eager to be encouraged and better equipped to guard his or her thoughts. The Bible says in so doing, we pull down strongholds that rob us from a free and abundant life in the Lord. Ironically, captivity can be protective or damaging depending on what we take captive.

We don’t have to be held captive to painful emotions, thoughts, and sin. We can instead take them captive and even dispel them as they are replaced with the grace and redemption of our Lord and Savior. He truly has set the captive free! Let’s not allow our mind and emotions to be taken captive by the Enemy.

Last year The Journey

The last few weeks have provided my family with a condensed, yet magnified view of life and death. It seems surreal that only days ago, my sister and I were talking of going on a family lake trip. We both knew that her husband was frail and declining in his battle with Parkinson Disease. However, we had no clue how soon his earthly life would end. Within a couple of days of our trip, he declined so rapidly that she and I packed up quickly and drove him home. By the time we got to their house, she and I had to practically carry him in the house.

Within a few days, he was on his way home to Jesus. Watching his body begin its physical decline was horrifying, yet beautiful at the same time. Surrounded by those who loved him, our family clung to each other as we witnessed him transfer from here to his eternal home. We were reminded of the effects of sin on humanity leading to physical death, which may appear horrifying, yet actually is a blessing in that it frees us to embrace our new glorified bodies and eternity.

As I watched my brother-in-law struggle to breath, I somehow knew that while he looked like he was suffering, he wasn’t. I felt reassured that the Lord had buffeted him from pain and fear, while escorting him home. I found myself wondering what he was seeing and hearing as we saw and heard death coming. The sight of struggle and the sounds of death we heard were a far cry from what he saw and heard. Knowing this eased the distress.

The Enemy banks on us believing what only our physical eyes and ears tell us, while the Lord speaks to our spirit the full and real truth.

If only we could fully embrace the beauty of the death of our earthy bodies as we slip into our eternal home, we would live in hope and wisdom while trapped here. As more and more of my family and loved ones make the journey, the more and more I sense how they yearn for us to know, and for us to not only be comforted, but to also ignite us with a passion to lead as many as we can to be ready for the same journey.

Last year Navigating in our World

It’s such a beautiful morning. As I sit on my porch getting ready to begin my day, I found myself forgetting all the difficulties of our current world. The clashes between so many, the pandemic, social distancing, fear, frustration, and uncertainty seem to have settled on humanity. But, for a brief moment it was as if all was clean, fresh, and lovely as I sipped my coffee and listened to the chirping birds.

Reality hits us like a brick sometimes. It reminds us of what the Lord warned, “the whole world is under the sway of the enemy”.

But, I must push through that reality to another that reminds me that God is propelling His plan and He loves deeply, passionately, and tenderly.

I find that people seem to either deny the darkness or get trapped in its pervasive presence. The Word doesn’t avoid talking about evil, sorrows, and the many problems that came with the fall of humanity. But, more importantly, it gives hope and reassures us that not only will God never forsake those who love Him, but also that someday we won’t have to face any struggles or pain.

Until then, we need to embrace and search for the joys in life, while seeking His guidance and comfort navigating in our world.

Last year From Hurt to Hope

Being a psychologist, during the decades of counseling I’ve listened to story after story of pain in others’ lives. People come to me with hurt that not only damaged, but also either led them to increasing harm or increasing health. In the midst of great hurt and distress, is not likely the time to tell others that pain will help develop them in ways they will later appreciate. In fact, I don’t know if it will or not. Some people’s hurt turns into resentment. Some people’s pain becomes life -long fear and other’s injuries fuel lasting depression.

Yet, I’ve known many who later told of how their pain turned into treasures of faith, compassion, and intimacy with Jesus.

Joyce, a survivor of years of emotional and sexual abuse was one of the amazing ones who found those treasures. She explained, “I don’t know how God did it, but what happened to me made me a better person than I would have been had it not happened. But we have to do something and take some kind of action to get there.”

An unending number of books have been, and continue to be written about what it takes to turn the pain into treasures. In fact, I wrote one myself (Turning Junk into Jewels). Finding the love of Jesus, embracing forgiveness and mercy, and coming to know and believe the hope God promises begin the transformation. Many painful detours accompany the path to healing.

Those who keep choosing to do whatever it takes to believe and embrace the love God offers find the way. They may crawl, fight, and drag their weary souls through a maze of obstacles, but they are never without the guiding hand of the Lord trying to nudge them to His healing presence. And when they find it, they will set the world afire with hope.

Last year Squandering or Investing Our Life Energy

“God, how much energy You give me until I die, You are getting it!”

I heard the minister passionately declare this during a sermon and realized that she was offering all her energy to whatever God wanted. As she shared her intense desire to continue serving God and reaching others for Christ until her dying breath, I wondered how many other Christians feel this way.

I watch as people scurry through life, going after this or that, planning for their futures, and searching for ways to advance financially, to retire, and to relax or travel. I don’t recognize determination and desire to use their energy and essence on spiritual assignments over their own personal comforts and desires. If we notice what we talk about the most and what we seem most interested in, we can deduce on what we likely spend most of our energy. What we think about the most also indicates on what we likely spend our energy. Unfortunately, most of humanity exerts energy on what’s temporary while what will affect eternity is not even noticed, let alone on which energy is used.

I felt a stirring within me as I heard the minister’s declaration, “God, how much energy You give me until I die, You are getting it!”

I want to be able to honestly declare the same. Nothing that I can pursue in life compares to the importance of pursuing Jesus and doing the work of reaching the harvest and of loving and caring for others.

A wasted life comes from being deceived into spending one’s energy on irrelevant pursuits only. Its lovely to enjoy the pleasures that God endorses us to enjoy. Yet, the work of the Master is why we are left, instead of being taken to our real home that will outshine any treasure or pleasure this world offers.

Satan uses a variety of techniques to entice us so that we waste not just our energy, but also our resources. I have been explaining to my nine-year-old grandson about marketing and how businesses track our purchases and online activities to try to tempt us with offers. He had been playing games online and the computer popups have begun to bombard him. He naively became excited at the items being offered for purchasing. The deals seemed too good to be true and he begged for a dollar here and a dollar there to buy the coveted prizes promoted for purchasing.

I explained to him that he had been targeted and that he was being enticed to waste money on what he would later regret. While I didn’t think he would fully understand and believe me, I was surprised that he stopped his whining and pleading for money to buy the advertised items. He even later told me that he wasn’t being tricked again and he went on to tell me about the other offers that had been sent to entice him. He appeared proud that he had been smart enough not to be tricked and tempted again.

I wish it was that easy for us to recognize and resist the marketing strategies that derail us into wasting our resources and energy on the unimportant, while having little to none left for what is most important. The minister I had been listening to had become enlightened in even more crucial ways than my young grandson. She had struggled through life with a mountain of hurts and resentments that had come from horrific emotional and sexual abuse. She had chased not only relief and revenge, but also whatever would make her feel of some value. Her encounter with Jesus showed her true treasure and the more she relished Jesus, the more she began her quest to use her energy and resources in pleasing the Lord and sharing Him with others.

I too was given a revelation about what’s important in which to invest our life energy. When only a young girl, the Lord awakened me to the brevity of earthly life and the vast forever that awaits us. He showed me that much of what we neglect is vitally important to our Creator and that we will never regret investing in what matters for eternity.

Unfortunately, I have frequently gotten distracted by the unimportant just like all of us and yet the nudging always brings me back to truth. Invest wisely, energy is limited, moments count, and when all is said and done, the essence of life can be squandered or embraced and illuminated through us as we live on this side of heaven.

Last year Carefree at Home

I’m amazed at the carefree attitude that my grandchildren have on a daily basis. They wake up as if each day is an adventure to embrace. They delight in running through the water sprinkler on a hot summer day, playing mother-may-I, or telling funny stories. Their excitement or just contentment in simple experiences come without underlying burdens and worries. They don’t obsess about acceptance from others, whether they look good, or how to meet the bills. They don’t seem to give a thought about their shortcomings or question whether God really loves them. Watching them makes it clear to me why people whimsically refer to the carefree days of childhood.

I’m not naïve enough to think that all children are so secure and carefree. Some are living in unsafe and hurtful environments. Some are groomed for fear and worry.

Yet, as I watch my grandchildren, I recognize that they have been groomed to feel safe, loved, and as if there is nothing for them to stress about as they embrace the moments of life.

While I know that the more they experience hurt and pain, the more their attitude and countenance will become guarded and less carefree. Like me, and the rest of humanity, they will desperately need a Savior and the hope of eternity where we will all again be carefree and relish in each moment.

Thankfully, they are learning that truth. As I watch them delight in their adventures, I recognize they provide a picture of only a fraction of the joy and carefree attitude that will consume us when we are home, with our Savior, with no sin, no worries, and not an inkling of dread or stress. I close my eyes and see our twirling child-like spirit taking flight and I think of how my grandchildren will be right at home.

Last year Embracing Promises of Hope, Suffering, and Persecution

As I listen to my grandchildren playing in the inflatable pool in our front yard, I relish how much they enjoy life. I delight in hearing their excited giggles as they flip from one adventure to another. They don’t seem to realize that life will not only bring adventure, but also pain and heartache. I yearn for their protection from the hurt that living in a fallen world will enviably bring.

As I ponder on their future, I remind myself of God’s promises. Don’t we all love being encouraged and comforted by God’s assurances. The lovely promises of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love are not only nourishment to our spirit, they are also great medicine to our soul.

As we search the Bible for hope and direction, we can’t help but also find the many references to suffering and persecution. While we are prone to seek out the promises of God’s protection and comfort, we may have difficulty accepting the guarantee that we will be persecuted and suffer, while not being guaranteed justice in our earthly life.

We need to prepare for persecution and suffering. Dr. Robert Jeffries declares that the intensity of our convictions determines the intensity of our persecution. The intensity is also determined by the degree of ungodliness in our culture.

While I cringe thinking of my sweet innocent grandchildren facing suffering and persecution, I plan to help prepare them. I talk with my nine-year-old grandson about the hurt that comes when peers exclude or reject us. I try to reassure my granddaughter of her value whenever she makes B’s instead of A’s like her twin sister.

These talks seem small attempts when I consider the deep sorrow that likely awaits them as the years unfold. We never expect the tragedies that hit, the betrayals of those who promised to love us forever, or the attacks from the Enemy that take our breath away. Yet, some suffering awaits all of us.

Even optimists accept that we will all face some suffering. But we don’t expect persecution, especially for doing what’s right. How do we prepare for suffering or persecution?

Besides accepting that it will come, we are less fearful or discouraged if we realize that the Lord will use it to grow us, to strengthen our faith, and to test our commitment to Him. Those who have suffered know how to relate and comfort others who are suffering or they instead sink into despair or bitterness. Those who are persecuted because of their convictions, either grow in their commitment to them, establishing them as more valuable than the discomfort of persecution, or they discard them in their quest for relief. Lastly, both suffering and persecution enhance our identification and bonding with Jesus who suffered pain and persecution to secure our eternal salvation.

Even knowing the rewards, we likely would crumble if we didn’t know that all the pain is temporary. The Lord knew that we would need to know and be repeatedly reminded that this isn’t our home and that all the glory and the pain of our earthly life will vanish someday.

So as we awake to another day, let us embrace both the promises of hope and those that promise pain as we hear the Lord’s message:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all (Psalm 34:19, NKJV).

Last year Will We Help Rescue?

The year of 2020 thus far has been one of the most bizarre, difficult, and history changing of my lifetime. Each person may experience a year that brings trauma in his or her life. But 2020 has affected all of humankind in disturbing ways. The uncertainty that most feel has permeated the atmosphere. As most of us were trying to get our footing following tornados, covid19 pandemic and quarantines, and economic upheaval, a scene of police brutality was displayed that left the world gasping in horror.

George Floyd who reportedly had been suspected of using a fake $20 bill was confronted by police officers who proceeded to arrest him. Their encounter quickly turned into a manhandling in which an officer pinned Floyd on the ground with his knee pressing on Floyd’s neck to the point that he couldn’t breathe. The motionless Floyd presented no resistance as he pleaded for his life.

The assault of the defenseless Floyd was an assault to decency and morals. I'm sure other loyal and honorable police officers around the world cringe in horror at what happened. Immediately, the media began airing it for all the world to see and the stunned world was again reminded of evil that thrives among us. Those who kept replaying it in their homes and mind likely wondered what we would do if we were there as it happened. Bystanders were screaming for the officer to get his knee off the man’s neck as Floyd begged and pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.

I watched a woman hysterically screaming, a man yelling, and others trying to get the officer to stop. Nothing they did made a difference and I wondered what would have happened if they had physically charged them. I suspect that the police officers would have shot them.

The anger, horror, and despair I felt watching the dying man plead for help made me wonder what I would have done if there. I have no doubt that I would not have been strong enough to tackle the officers that surrounded him. But I hope that I would have screamed and charged anyway, trying to entice the others to help me fight.

Would I rather have died trying or be left to live with the scene of the dying man in my mind as I watched while standing on the sideline? I first resisted watching the encounter that was easily pulled up on a computer for those who wanted to see what had happened. I knew I would be horribly upset by it. Bystanders had filmed it so that it could at least be used to hold the guilty officers accountable, even if they couldn’t stop them.

George Floyd’s death is now a permanent video that those through history can replay for years to come. He didn’t know that morning that he would be facing his last day of life, and he also didn’t know that his death would not only make him famous, but would also spark the world to fight evil and injustice. He sure didn’t know that his death would be filmed and watched by the world.

While it doesn’t take the horror away from what happened, it gives me comfort and hope to see how people are saddened, angered, and motivated to promote change because of what happened to Floyd.

Although we don’t know all there is to know about Floyd, we all are given detailed accounts of another who was even more brutally murdered. Jesus, who not only didn’t commit any wrongs, was tortured and subjected to a slow and excruciating death.

Because people only heard about the abuse and murder of Jesus instead of watching it as they did with Floyd, they don’t seem as distraught about His as that of Floyd. People were outraged and wept as they watched Floyd’s demise. There is something about seeing that affects us more than hearing. In fact, we often don’t believe what we have just heard and not seen for our self. Maybe we don’t think the account of Jesus was even real.

The tragedy of Floyd has led me to think on deep matters. Would I risk my own comfort and life to try to help rescue another from destruction? Even if I wasn’t powerful enough to rescue them by myself, would I try to get them help? Although I haven’t been in a situation like that of those bystanders who witnessed Floyd’s death, I have been and still am regularly a bystander to many who are headed for destruction. We all are bystanders to such. We are likely unaware of who is headed for eternal harm because they don’t know Jesus.

Watching the senseless and cruel death of Floyd has ignited a determination in me, along with many others, to do our part in rescuing. Knowing the impending doom for those who are spiritually dead should also ignite determination in me to lead them to be rescued by Jesus.

The death of Floyd has helped promote the goodness in humanity, although it came from the bad. The death of Jesus did much more. His death led to salvation and life for all who embrace Him.

“Lord, please help us reflect on what evil has caused, but even more on your love, goodness, and power to save. In so doing, ignite us to help rescue. ”

Last year Developing Well

I wonder about people’s lives and what influenced how they developed. Some might call it nosey, while I call it interested. Why do some people act hurtful, greedy, and rude to others, while others are kind, generous, and show respect to everyone?

Those who are selfish and unwilling to sacrifice typically are offensive to us. We might have anger and resentment in dealing with them. Yet, do we ever wonder what damaged them?

We all have been born into a fallen world, with a flesh nature that is prone to be selfish. In turn, we all will have some damage along the way. Yet, we were also created in God’s image, with a capacity for love and compassion. We see toddlers who hit each other, also turn around and show affection and kindness.

I used to teach college courses on Developmental Psychology and Theories of Personality decades ago. I learned and taught about what influences human development and personality. People intrigue me and I find myself wondering about what’s really going on in people’s lives. What do they think, believe, and feel. How can we perceive situations so differently?

It’s overwhelming to think we could ever figure it all out. We can’t. Yet, I also know that God knows and understands all the various experiences and influences involved in each and every life.

As I read in Dr. Mary Neal’s book, Seven Lessons from Heaven” about her near death experience in which she wrote about going to heaven, I was greatly moved by how she described being able to “understand everything”. She wrote about how she suddenly was able to see what all had influenced her. She also saw what had influenced the young boy who had sexually assaulted her when she was young.

While I know that I will never be able to identify and understand what all is going on in another person, I hope to at least recognize there is so much more that is of influence than I can know. I deduce that the more damaged a person is, the more damaging behavior he or she typically displays. The more affirmed and loved a person has been, the more loving and affirming he or she typically acts.

Its extra intriguing to see two people who both seem to have been exposed to similar damaging life experiences come through acting very differently. Sometimes siblings, who were both exposed to abuse and neglect, grow up with one being healthier and one being more destructive. Those with similar hurtful upbringings or experiences can differ vastly. One prisoner of war may develop deep faith, while another curses God.

While I sure don’t claim to have all the explanations, I speculate that those who were shown love by someone, or who somehow came to know that God loved them, turn out so much better than those who haven’t.

When I bump into those who are extremely selfish, disrespectful, and unkind, it helps greatly if I remind myself that they must be also extremely damaged.

On the other hand, I have also experienced people who appear friendly and kind, but who aren’t willing to be so compassionate and giving if it costs them much. They appear kind and tenderhearted, but unwilling to sacrifice to help. I recall a young woman who fits this description. She wasn’t willing to deny her wishes in order to help another. As long as she didn’t have to deny herself, she was friendly and seemed to want well for others.

I don’t think she would have seen herself as lacking compassion. Yet, compassion without sacrifice of any kind is shallow. She had been greatly loved, but not loved in ways that required her to struggle, to face hardships, to deny her wishes, and to face disappointments. Instead, her parents had doted on her and she had little if any experience in not getting her wishes met. Instead, they lavished her with approval and the best of everything. In turn, they never seemed to require her to sacrifice or to be reprimanded.

We sometimes need to be told no, to not get our way, and to be held accountable for selfish actions. Sometimes when we have been broken and humbled, we are so much more beautiful afterwards. We are more compassionate and less self-absorbed.

Abuse, neglect, and poverty causes harm. Overindulgence, excessive praise with no demands or discipline also causes harm. None of us get out of here without damage and some harm, but we also don’t have to live without grace and love from our Creator.

I’m so eternally grateful that God is merciful as He patiently watches how we respond to influences throughout our earthly life. He is truly the only one who knows it all and while He has every right to judge each of us, He also is willing to show mercy when we get humble and seek His forgiveness and help. We all have responded to influences in wrong ways.

Under His loving guidance, we have the hope of developing well regardless of our experiences.

Last year Desire to Be You

There is great advice I yearn to live by and also want to share with others. “Don’t desire to be anyone but who God created you to be. Don’t envy anyone else’s journey. Instead embrace the journey that the Lord has ordained for you”.

Tonight I watched a televised concert of a ridiculously famous pop star singer/songwriter. I noticed how talented and gorgeous she was and how the huge audience chanted her name and were mesmerized in almost disconcerting ways. It was as if she wasn’t even human, but an idol that they all envied and yearned to be.

How do we not envy those we greatly admire? Yet, the Lord strongly admonishes us not to envy.

I wonder how those adoring fans feel about Jesus. Do they hang on His every move, His every word, and yearn to be near Him?

While the concert clearly displayed talent, I also know that there are throngs of people likely just as talented that will never be famous. What makes one wealthy and another, who is just as smart, not? What makes one a superstar athlete and another, just as talented, not? What makes one famous and another, who is just as gifted, not?

Some rise to what the world sees as lofty positions, while others just as worthy and capable don’t. We may think it is all because of the effort that one puts in more than the other. I’m sure that sometimes that is the case. But, I don’t think it’s always that. The Word tells us that the Lord orders the steps of a righteous person, that He has a plan and a future for each of us, and that He doesn’t play favorites.

It seems that most people spend their life wanting to be someone else. They fantasize living someone else’s life, instead of the one before them. Even for those who seem content with themselves, there is a tendency to wish for something different than what we have.

For some of us seniors, the decades bring clarity. We grow to embrace trusting that God loved making us be us. We realize that He had planned a journey to the life He wanted for us. We also know that our sin and selfishness created detours, but that the Lord patiently steered and nudged us back toward the future He had planned. It will always involve heartaches, disappointments, regrets, and at times tragedies and wrongs. But our journey also involves forgiveness, grace, and blessings hand-picked by God Himself. And if we get close enough to hear His heartbeat, we come to desire being our self and embraced our own life that God had in mind for us personally, instead of wanting to be someone else and to have his or her life.

How differently life’s journey would have been if we could have started out and stayed accepting of God’s plan. We could have gladly turn down the temptation to envy, yearn to be that famous so and so, and the many other messages that tell us we aren’t enough. I wonder if God ever wants to just tell us “Just relax, I’ve got this, I know what I’m doing, just be you and love it.”

Last year Value: What Will We Inherit?

It’s puzzling how we develop our attitudes about what has value. What determines how value is assigned? It’s obvious that we value some positions over others and some possessions more than others. Humanity definitely sees people having different levels of value. We notoriously think the rich and famous as being of greater value. People even treasure getting a lock of some movie star’s hair or the scribbled signature of a famous athlete. Why would we want a piece of paper with someone’s name haphazardly written across it or a few strands of someone’s hair that didn’t even know who we are?

Even as young as grade school, children begin assigning different value to each other. Some peers become popular and there seems to be some unspoken system for pegging peers in different levels of value. Even though a child is treasured and more important to his or her parent than any other, he or she may be insignificant among peers.

Moms’ hearts ache with pain if they notice their precious child being ignored or excluded. It’s even more painful, if he or she is ridiculed. How in the world could their beautiful, gifted, and amazing child be seen as so unworthy of value? Are the others blind or just stupid?

Those mothers are the clear picture of God as he watches the same among peers of such a foolish world. As He scans humanity, does His heart ache as we foolishly and sinfully attach our different values to people? Does He feel anger about the audacity, pride, and ugliness that provoke us to think we have the right or sense to decide such values?

Forgive us Lord. Thump us with some sense.

Someday that person that you or I may not have noticed, will be shown as having as much value as any other we foolishly put on a pedestal. As I watch people throughout my interactions with the world, I can’t help but notice how people are seen and treated so differently. While we all may have tendencies to do this, some people seem to stand out as being immune from this malady. My mom is one of those.

I’m not sure what established her immunity to assigning different values to people. I assume this immunity ran down through her bloodline, for that’s how I remember her parents and her siblings. I grew up watching mom treat everyone of value and I truly didn’t recognize her as seeing one as more important than another.

I recall whenever she met a former US president when she visited the White House. My nephew was in the secret service and was able to introduce her. She gushed with joy as she shook his hand and had her picture made with the President. However, I have seen and heard as much delight and joy in her as she beamed about visiting with the girls jail. She has been faithful in jail ministry for decades and her encouragement and love shown them leaves me no doubt that she sees them as highly valued. She tenderly calls them precious.
Memories flood my mind of her respect shown toward people of all life stations, races, and backgrounds as I grew up. Even approaching ninety years of age, I recognize that she continues to display that everyone has value and she doesn’t seem to see one as more valuable than another. By this age, I don’t that she will change. Her immunity stays strong.

I have inherited good and bad from my ancestors. What I yearn to inherit is her immunity to the default setting in humanity to assign different values to people.

There was much that I didn’t have a choice about that I inherited, like my dad’s complexion or my mom’s short waist. But we all can inherit God’s love and view of people as we embrace His spirit. Going after such an inheritance leads to a great destiny for all of us, not just to those who this foolish world profoundly assigns greater value over others.

Last year I Love it being Permanent!

I loved living in Lexington, Kentucky whenever I was going to graduate school. Yet, I always had a yearning to be where I knew I was going to settle down and likely live for the rest of my life. Instead, I knew that my time in Lexington was going to be temporary. I have met many who love moving from state to state and even other countries. However, whenever I was living in Lexington, times were different in that there were no cell phones, internet, and other ways that made keeping in touch with others living far from us an easy process.

It was expensive to fly and there was no way to connect by all the ways we have now. In fact, I knew that all those people I was making relationships with while in Lexington would likely fade from my life after I moved. Even with good intentions, people typically didn’t keep in close contact whenever they left graduate school. While there, we were doing life together during some of the crucial chapters of our lives. I got married in graduate school, had my first baby, and first home.

Knowing that our interaction with others is brief and temporary hinders our connection. We don’t tend to emotionally invest as deeply whenever we know that we will likely never see the person again. Sadly, the most painful hurts we experience come when someone we emotionally and spiritually bonded with that we expected to be close with for life left us. This may come through death or rejection.

Our soul yearns for not only loving relationships, but also permanent ones. Reflecting on how essential it is for our lives to have purpose if we are to thrive, I recognize that such purpose will also hinge on relationships. No relationship can ever be as perfect, life enhancing, and wonderful as that we can have with Jesus. If like when in Lexington, I knew that my relationship with Jesus would be temporary, I don’t think I could survive. I would know that no one could replace Him. My grief that I experienced in leaving those in Lexington would have paled greatly in comparison to the permanent heartbreak I would have in losing Jesus.

I’m able to glow with hope, knowing that my relationship with Jesus is permanent and that I will have eternity to do life with Him. He will never abandon me in death or through rejection. This also provides me comfort when people do leave.

Last year What a Great Purpose!

People speak and write profusely about how we need to feel purpose in our life if we are to thrive. In fact, the major root in much of depression is a lack of purpose. Dr. David Jeremiah, in his powerful book “Overcomer” quoted the Wall Street report that “teens with a sense of purpose do better in school, are more resilient, and are healthier. Sadly, only about 20 percent of teens fit into that category. Eighty percent haven’t yet found a sense of purpose for their lives.”

Those studying aging also indicate that people who retire with a lack of purpose struggle emotionally and spiritually. Sadly, many people dream of retirement as a time for leisure, vacationing, and doing whatever they think is fun, like golfing, walking on the beach, or just playing in the flowers. Yet, without a sense of purpose, they wane and that coveted time of retirement is a far cry from the great time they had imagined.

Even our most notable accomplishments, valued possessions, and heroic endeavors have limited lifespans and deep down we know this. In the absence of embracing eternity that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection provided for us, the futility of life leaves us vulnerable to depression and decline.

Without the enlightenment of God, people strive for purpose that leaves them flat spiritually and headed for perpetual disappointment. Instead, we chase purposes that the world declares as significant and successful that end up leaving our heart still gasping for more. There will be a lack of meaning that our soul craves.

Ken Lawrence experienced this himself and illustrated the truth he found in the song he wrote, “I’m just the brush”. Ken was a business man thriving with financial and worldly success as he chased the American dream. He thought he was on the way to a great life purpose in achieving what others envied and yet God enlightened him to how insignificant and meaningless was his pursuit. Ken’s eyes were opened to the reality of true purpose, which was embracing Jesus who God ordained to make the way for humanity to love and thrive forever in His presence.

Being the brush God used to paint beauty, beckoned Ken’s pursuit of a purpose that would never end. Our true purpose isn’t finite, futile, and doesn’t have a limited lifespan. It will forever keep us enthralled with gratitude and love for our Creator, Savior, and humanity. What a great purpose!

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He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV).
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12: 25, NIV).
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, (2 Thessalonians 2:16, NIV).
Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:21, NIV).
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.(John 3:16, NIV).

Last year I’m just the brush

Last night I watched two television programs, one a movie and another a concert, that depicted two different extremes in attitudes toward life. Both were about a young girl who wrote songs, sang, played the piano, and performed for audiences. I first watched the movie “In His Steps” that followed a young girl named Rachel who wrote Christian songs that she sang and posted on U-tube, hoping for people to listen to her perform. She would excitedly look to see how many had listened. You could tell that she yearned for their admiration. She seemed to be getting enthralled with herself and her talents.

Rachel also performed at her church. At one of the church services, her pastor had passionately challenged them to make a commitment to truly follow Jesus, living each day as He would. The pastor’s intense plea had been provoked following a life-changing encounter that had happened at their church. For days, a sick and homeless man had approached different church members asking for help and their responses clearly showed that they sure didn’t act like Jesus would have in helping him.

Some were rude and offensive to him, while others just turned the other way, ignoring his desperate pleas. The man had surprisingly came to one of the church services and at the ending when the pastor was getting ready to dismiss them, he interrupted by going to the front of the church to speak. The homeless man addressed the church and told them that he was puzzled by the difference between the sermon at their church that promoted following Jesus and their behavior that looked so differently from how Jesus would act. The man ended up collapsing in the front of the church, but not before declaring that he didn’t know what Jesus would do, but he also didn’t think they knew either.

Rachel was so upset by the encounter and later moved by the pastor’s sermon that she made a commitment to make each of her decisions and actions be ones that would be what Jesus would do. Only a handful of church members took the vow that the pastor had invited them to take in making a life-long commitment to live like Jesus would. But being one of the few who did, Rachel continued to write songs with messages about hope and God’s great love.

It wasn’t easy to keep her vow without being tempted and attacked. She was put to the test almost daily, but none was more intense than when she had the shock of her life. She was contacted by a major recording company. The company was offering her a huge contract to record her songs with them. Her mother and she wept with joy, knowing that she was on her way to her dream of becoming a star. With such a prominent recording company behind her, it was a matter of time till everyone would know who she was and masses would hear her perform.

While she was initially in awe and couldn’t believe what was happening, within days, she began to feel unease. She couldn’t quite identify why she seemed hesitant and unsure of accepting the offer-----unless it had to do with her vow to do what Jesus would do. It wasn’t that she thought other recording Christian singers who had become famous had sinned. But, somehow, she didn’t believe that it was the Lord trying to promote her dream by the recording contract offer. Deep down she felt like Jesus wouldn’t take the offer and didn’t want her to either.

When word got out that she declined the offer, she was publicly ridiculed and portrayed as some religious freak. Her journey took her to a road different from that of fame and fortune. Instead, she continued to write and sing for those God put in her path. She embraced helping establish and run a shelter for abused women. This was a far cry from what she had originally envisioned.

Just a couple of hours after watching the movie, I watched the televised concert of a world-famous pop star that has surpassed others before and since her in the music industry. It is impossible to begin to identify the depth of her worldly success. As I watched her performance, I couldn’t help but be almost sickened by the way the audience appeared mesmerized and almost in a trance where they worshiped her. It was obvious that she was their idol and they hung on her every word and movement.

She too had once been a young teen, writing songs and likely dreaming of stardom. While she appears respectful and appreciative of her fans, while she doesn’t seem to write songs or perform with vulgarity like a lot of young female singers, and while she may be following God’s path for all I know, she obviously gets the glory that no human should ever receive. No one deserves to be worshiped, praised, and glorified except Jesus. Rachel knew that. I’m not sure if this famous singer did. Maybe deep down it makes her uncomfortable and she feels underserving. On the other hand, maybe she has slipped into what Rachel was fearful of doing; believing she should be adored and admired and subsequently addicted to the thrill of being an idol.

It didn’t hit me until late that night about what I had been presented with in absently choosing what to watch on television. While it may sound strange, I believe the Lord had prompted and maybe even orchestrated this encounter to show me a great truth about how we live our lives. I have wondered about what influences our lives and how we choose our paths ever since being a young child. As if I didn’t get a clear enough illustration about what’s important in our life choices tonight, I had another revelation the next morning.

I kept thinking about a song that Rachel wrote and performed at the last of the movie. It had lyrics that beautifully redirected praise to be given to our Creator instead of to people He had created. I googled the song, “Just the Brush” and was stunned to hear the true story behind it. The man who wrote it, Ken Lawrence, played the pastor in the movie. He told of how he had been a successful business man who was climbing the latter of success. He described himself as having been proud and needing a dose of humility. He was at the height of his game whenever he watched the movie, “The Passion of Christ” while on a business trip.

Although he had been a Christian for years, when he saw the movie, he was struck in a way he never had been by what Christ went through on the cross for him. He prayed for forgiveness for his pride and instantly realized how that nothing he accomplished in this world could begin to compare to what Christ had done for him. He emphasized that nothing in him is significance except what he could do for Christ. He truly understood that he was just an instrument in His hands. He was forever changed and he went on to write the song, “Just the brush”. The song tells of how we don’t respond to seeing a Picasso, Da Vinci, or Rembrandt by praising their brush, but by praising the artist who painted them. The message of the song is clear and illustrates how the author had been enlightened about what is important to strive for in life and how we should have no other on the pedestal but the Lord. We instead are just to be instruments in the Lord’s hands like the brush is to the artist.

Mr. Lawrence told of how a few years after writing the song, he was approached by a man who was making the movie, “In His Steps”. He wanted to use the song in the movie. While eager for the song to be used, Mr. Lawrence wondered how it would fit in. Then he saw how the character Rachel was in the same place in life where he had been. She was getting a little full of herself and was on the brink of great success. While hers was in the music industry and his in the business world, they were both at a cross roads of choosing what direction they would take. Who would be on the pedestal of their heart?

Are we striving for the pedestal? Are we yearning to be praised or used as the instrument by the one who is to be praised? As I ponder on what I have witnessed last night and this morning, I am soaking in the enormous consequences of what’s at stake for all of us in our own life quests.

Last year Forever Loved

So many parents are heartbroken that their child can’t go to senior prom or high school graduation because of the Covid19 and the mass quarantine. Parents wanted to help them pick out their prom dress or tux, take all the pictures, and watch them walk across the stage and get their diploma. While I should sympathize, I have my own pain that makes theirs pale in significance. I can’t do prom or graduation with mine either because my daughter was snatched from me in an instant in a car accident that took her life. The last year is a blur that changed my world.

The nights since her death have left me not only sleepless, but also tormented. While I have no doubt that she is in heaven having the time of her life, I do have doubts that I can ever sleep soundly and live without waves of deep sadness and grief.

As if I don’t have enough pain, the Enemy has begun a new tactic of torment about three weeks ago. Out of the blue the thoughts pierced my mind like fiery darts the Bible warns that Satan throws at us. "She didn’t love you. Your daughter didn’t even like you or love you".

While my brain knew that she did, I was distraught and deeply tormented by the relentless thoughts, even if I suspected that they were lies from the Enemy. I anguished and began even wondering if they were true. Maybe she didn’t love me.

I hated bedtime. Many nights I pleaded with the Lord to help me sleep. But now, I also begged for relief from these tormenting thoughts that my precious daughter didn’t love me.

Two days after the onslaught on my mind, I was profoundly reminded of God’s relentless love and desire to protect us from the tormenter. A woman I had casually met at a social function called me out of the blue. She had met my daughter there too, but didn’t really know her. In fact, I don’t know if my daughter would have even remembered the woman.

“I feel bad calling you about this. I don’t want to upset you about your daughter, but I felt like I was supposed to call and tell you this. I had a dream about your daughter. She was wearing a long beautiful burgundy gown. She was weeping and I asked her what was wrong. She said she was sad because her mother didn’t think that she loved her. She wanted her to know how much she loved her.”

My mind was reeling and my heart pounding as I clung to her words. How in the world could such a miraculous message be sent to me? It was a lifeline of hope. Not only did the woman not even really know my daughter, she sure didn’t know that my daughter’s favorite color to wear was burgundy and that she was wearing burgundy when she died. It validated even more to me that God was sending the message because it was from someone who wasn’t close or familiar with my daughter or me. She sure wouldn't have been privy to the information about the significance of the color burgundy. A person close to my daughter might have known. A person who had a close and intimate relationship with my daughter might have dreamed about her. Yet, my daughter was nothing to this woman.

From the time of the phone call, I have slept nightly! The kindness of my sweet Lord overwhelms me. I had always had a keen awareness that God loved me deeply, but after my daughter was ripped away from me in death, I had begun to think maybe He didn’t love me so much after all. Ironically, while the Enemy had tried to convince me that my daughter didn’t’ love me, I guess I had begun to suspect that God didn’t love me either.

I know different now. That phone call confirmed what my spirit already knew. I’m deeply, unconditionally, and forever loved.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I was told this story today in a counseling session by a dear mother who had wept with me in sorrow as she yearned to find solace after the death of her daughter. She was delighted to give me permission to share her story with others who may be struggling with heartaches that won’t be eased. When faced with horrific hurt, we are vulnerable to the tormenting lies of the Enemy. He delights in making us feel unloved by God and tells us that if God loved us, He wouldn’t have allowed whatever caused us such pain to ever occur. Don’t believe him or your own thoughts that may question if God loves you. While we can’t get all the answers here and we won’t have pain completely gone till we get to heaven, the Bible is true and continues to declare that God loves us deeply, unconditionally, and forever.

Last year What Will Have The Most Power Over You?

Some of our experiences don’t seem to have any impact on us, while other experiences affect us profoundly. We don’t even register some daily experiences. What determines what gets our attention enough to make a difference in our life?

Usually, I am addressing what has a negative effect on people’s life when they come to me for counseling. This makes sense since it’s only the hurtful and negative that brings people to seek help. They sure don’t come to talk about the wonderful experiences and parts of their life.

Similarly, I am prone to notice what’s bothering me more than what is blessing me. Therein is the problem that hinders our lives. We may allow the negative to have more power over us than the positive. Yet, the Lord came to show us that He loves us and has a future for us that can always provide hope and joy.

Recently, I have struggled with great emotional pain because of deeply hurtful experiences in the lives of a couple of people I love dearly. I have agonized and grieved for them so much that it has been truly a fight to remember that God is working good for them. I have to intentionally remind myself of God’s nature and His promise to love, forgive, strengthen, and grow them through the suffering to be more like Jesus. Yet, my mind can begin its decline, “but what if they won’t seek and allow the Lord to teach and grow them?”

Like me, we all have to choose what we allow to have more power over us in our quest to have a faith filled life. We may not even realize that we are choosing.

During my struggle to choose to allow God’s promises to have the predominant power over me, I have been devouring a book that I have had, but never paid much attention to before now. I don’t think it’s a coincident that I happened to pick it up recently and began reading it. Within a few pages, I found myself glued to it like it was life-saving medicine for a dying soul.

The book is actually the second of Dr. Mary Neal who had written her first book, “To Heaven and Back” after having died in a kayaking accident. She miraculously was resuscitated and waited ten years before finding the courage to write about her experience in going to heaven. It became a New York Times Bestseller and she has traveled the world talking of her experience.

While I had read her first book, it was her second that has had such a profound effect on me during my recent struggle. Her second book, “Seven Lessons from Heaven” is a deep description and illustration of God’s love, Jesus’ nature, and the reality of not only what are the promises of God to come, but those that are actively being fulfilled now.

I read over and over some of the same passages that illuminated the determined love of God to bring us to a good future. Dr. Neal reported that yearly reviews of online searches show that Jeremiah 29:11 often ranks as the number one popular verse. “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.”

When Dr. Neal realized that this verse was often the most popular verse that people searched for, she wrote about her reaction.

“I find this little fact revealing because it shows what people most want to know and remember about God’s intentions toward us. In John’s gospel, I learn that God loves me. In Jeremiah, it’s that God has a plan for me. Both are exceptionally good news. That God has a plan for you and me----one that is full of hope, purpose and beauty---changes everything. Do you see why? It recalculates our worth. It calms our anxious minds. It invites us to believe and act on the fact that we matter---infinitely---to the one who made us. It reassures us that no matter what heartache we might be feeling today, our future is in good hands!” (Neal, 2017).

As I read of Dr. Neal’s experience in Heaven, I sensed the credibility of her story. I don’t always believe what I hear and read and thus, I was delighted and deeply reassured. I was given a clear and powerful glimpse of the future that God has planned that will provide the eternal healing of all and every painful experience we ever have during our time in a fallen world.

Not only does it provide hope for whenever we get out of here and into heaven, but her descriptions of her time with Jesus illustrates what the Bible already declares about the love and great mercy of God and our savior. Sometimes we read about His compassion and forgiveness, but we don’t really believe or we see it as limited by our failings. We can be so aware of our flaws and selfish or disobedient actions and thoughts that we can’t see the overwhelming brilliance of His mercy and compassion.

As I read of Dr. Neal’s passionate need to try to describe what she had experienced, I sensed that she knew she couldn’t fully explain it so that others could understand. The apostle Paul had the same struggle and realized that he just didn’t have the words to describe what he encountered as he was allowed to see into heaven.

I remind myself that I can’t fully comprehend the wonder, the magnificence, and the overwhelming love and hope of God until I get to heaven. Yet, I am even more determined to try to allow what He has shown and promised to have more power over me during my earthly life. I urge and challenge you to do the same! What are you going to allow to have the most power over you?

Last year How Much Power Are You Going to Let That (Rejection) Have Over You? Part 2

Relationships establish much of how we experience our world. Interactions with people influence how we think, feel, and much of our life. When people are facing impending death, they focus on and cling more to family and relationships over money, possessions, worldly accomplishments they have or haven’t achieved, and temporal pleasures.

The strongest influence on all of us is other people and this can be wonderful or terrible. The most difficult struggle is to minimize the destructive power that people’s behavior has over us. We must accept that people are not going to always think or act like we want or how we think they should. It will happen for all of us.

I suspect everyone who has worked in any type of helping or ministry profession will say that the greatest pain and damage in humanity comes from people. One of the major ways people hurt each other is through rejection. There is no pain in life like that of rejection. Unfortunately, we will all experience it if we live long enough.

Years ago, I had a young man loan me a book, “Dealing with the Praise and Rejection of Man”. It had a profound effect on me. The author, Bob Sorge, explained that Jesus didn’t allow people’s praise or rejection to derail him. While I’m sure his feelings were hurt, he recognized people as people, not God. He didn’t have to have their acceptance and he sure didn’t try to force them to accept him. Only God’s acceptance was necessary. He couldn’t bear God’s rejection of him as was shown when he cried out during his crucifixion, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” Right after this, he died.

You may be thinking, well, I’m not Jesus. But we are told to follow him and the Word says that God is trying to transform us into his image. We must accept that some people will forsake us and that’s just the way it is.

We will be hurt when rejected. The sting may last a lifetime. Yet, the Lord instilled within us a capacity to heal the more we embrace His love.

We all have the choice and responsibility to not allow others’ rejection to have control over us. People don’t have the power to derail us unless we allow this. We must decide to be whom God wants regardless of other people. Sometimes we lie to ourselves, “I can’t get over this, I can’t be happy without him or her, and I will never heal from this.”

Sometimes we just don’t want to give up what we want. We won’t accept that we can’t and shouldn’t try to make people act like we want. We don’t have the right to try to manipulate, threatened, or in some way try to force others to have a relationship with us. Even our Creator doesn’t do that. He lets people choose.

When we have been hurt deeply by someone, we try to understand why. We have a difficult time accepting that during our earthly life we may never have the answers. You may be allowing a rejection to continue to have negative power over you in ways that hinder your progression. . You may not understand why he or she rejected you. You don’t have to understand why to accept and move on. Instead, you have to accept that much of life involves situations that we will not understand until we get to heaven, but we still are called to not allow our lack of understanding to keep us from being obedient to whom God called us to be.

Job likely never understood why he was subjected to such horrific pain. God didn’t explain why He allowed such hurtful events to happen to Job. Yet, God wanted Job to STOP asking, to go forth with a submitted and gracious heart. He wanted Job to accept what he didn’t have the power or right to change. You may have people that you still obsess about that you feel rejected you. My hope and earnest prayer is that you STOP. God never meant for us to allow another person to have that kind of power over us. He wants you to accept that He is the only one who you can’t do without His acceptance.

Like Job, we want to understand, but also like Job, we have to face that we will likely not get it in this life. Instead, we need to run to Jesus and go forth with our life. The hurt may never completely go away until heaven. Like Job, at some point, we must stop asking and stop trying to make others decisions for them if we follow Jesus’ lead.

The Lord mandated that people get to choose from the beginning of creation. He told Adam and Eve to not eat of the Tree of Life, while still giving them the choice if they did so or not. If God allows humans to choose to accept or reject Jesus knowing the eternal consequences of doing so, why do we think we shouldn’t allow others to accept or reject us?

Like the Lord, their rejection will hurt. Our heart may feel the sadness of this until we get home to heaven. Yet, we desperately need to hold ourselves accountable for how much we allow human rejection to have power over us.

How much power will you let people have over you? How much power will you let the Lord have over you? The choice is yours.

Last year How much Power are you going to let that have over you? Part 1

I was waiting for Bill, my next appointment. I began wondering what struggles he was having that made him seek counseling. No one makes an appointment with me for what is going well in his or her life. Since this was my first appointment with Bill, I pondered on what I would hear this next hour.

In my musing, I glanced up and saw my sign that sits on my office fireplace. It’s such a big sign that it covers almost half of the mantle. The message it displays is “How much power are you going to let that have over you?”

Over my own life, along with decades of counseling others, I have seen the damage of allowing what we don’t like in life to have too much power over us, while we don’t allow the good, such as God’s promises, to have enough power over us. I commissioned the sign to be made because I’m usually trying to help others stop allowing situations, hurts, and frustrations to have such negative power over them.

People have been notorious in allowing much of what they encounter in life to have more negative power over them than they should. We all do this at times. We allow rejection, hurts, injustices, fears, difficult people, and so on and so on to have the power to define our life in unhealthy ways.

I think we don’t realize that we have a choice. We assume that we can’t help how we feel and how experiences influence us. Yet, if that were accurate, much of the Bible would not be true.

Just as I had suspected, Bill validated the effectiveness of my sign. As we explored the worries, hurts, and challenges of his life, Bill began identifying with me the ways he was allowing so much to have destructive power over him. He was receptive to the notion that he could do something about that. He had not realized that while he couldn’t change some past and present negative situations, he could develop ways not to allow them to have such power over him. I look forward to teaching him ways to do this.

For many people this may involve dealing with painful losses, chronic physical conditions, or a number of life situations that are difficult. Some of these may warrant grief, anger, and hurt that take much effort and time to get past. In fact, we may have experiences that create a pain that doesn’t completely go away until Heaven.

Yet, that doesn’t mean that we have to allow it to have the power to keep us hostage to it. We can focus more on the love of our Lord than on our pain from our earthly experiences and relationships. This leads to my other sign that sits on my office fireplace mantle: “It is what it is”. Sometimes we must just accept what we can’t change. We also have to accept that we don’t have the right to force others to change. We can’t force others to have a relationship with us, just as others can’t force us to have a relationship with them. We can accept what we don’t like, while also not allowing it to have ongoing power over our lives.

As Bill vented to me in counseling about how he had been affected by his mother, I recognized immediately that he needed to learn how to not allow her rejection to have so much power over his well being. It would be natural for her lack of nurturance and acceptance to hurt, but as a grown man he now had the power to accept that she wasn’t healthy enough to love him in the way he needed and wanted. He didn’t have to allow this to keep him from a good life. He had grieved long enough. He didn’t have to allow that grief to ruin his chances of an abundant life. He sure didn’t have to obsess about it for years, decades, and to the extent that it had a life long power to hold him back from a healthy and thriving life.

He had a head start in that he had already stopped trying to convince his mom that she was wrong and he was right. He accepted her right to think differently from him, even though he thought her thinking was wrong. He stopped depleting precious energy, emotions, and time into what he didn’t have power over.

Instead, I hope to encourage him to put these resources in what he did have power over. He can still love and pray for his mother and he can pursue healing and growth for himself. I knew that Bill had some healthy traits for us to use in his pursuit of a better life.

As we ended the session, Bill and I both seemed committed to him endorsing the message of my sign. He sees himself in training. He wants to get good at recognizing when he is allowing situations or people to have too much power over his emotions. He already has stopped trying to change others, but now he seems more committed to changing himself. He is eager to learn how to do this and I recognize that he already taken the first step: Believing that he has a choice and responsibility of determining how much power he is going to let that have over him.

Last year Forever Entwined

Being a parent, I assumed that all parents love their children with deep, unconditional, and all consuming love that only a parent has. I’m not naïve enough to believe this anymore. I know that some people have been so damaged that they don’t love like that. Yet, typically most parents have deep and unconditional love for their children.

I come closer to realizing the magnitude of God’s love whenever I think about Him allowing His son to suffer so violently, so viciously, and so heartbreakingly so that we could be rescued and allowed to have a relationship and an eternity with Him.

I also understand in a way I couldn’t before why He can’t have a relationship with those who don’t love His son. Those who blow Jesus off as some insignificant relic, those who ridicule and act like Jesus is a joke, and those who deeply hurt His tender heart by rejection and betrayal, hurt God in a way that only a parent can understand.

Those who love my son, I love. Those who have never given up on my son, I cherish. Those who are tender and loyal to him, melt my heart. While my son is far from perfect like Jesus, those who focus more on his good and see him as valuable enough to stay loyal and committed to, are forever loved by me and a part of my heart.

Those who disregard him as not worth their time, break his heart by rejecting or betraying him, and who strive for their own happiness while crushing his heart create more pain for me than if they had directed such treatment at me. Yet, I realize that it is the same as doing it to me, even more so since my son’s pain injures me more than if the assault was directed to me. His heart is more important to me than my heart and his life more significant to me than my own.

While the Lord has loved me so well that I can and do still love those who have rejected and hurt my son, I recognize that I can never have a relationship with them. If they won’t accept him, I could never accept them. I can clearly understand why God requires the same. What kind of father would enjoy a relationship with someone who rejected his son?

Jesus took our place by allowing the sin of the world to be placed on him as he paid the price for our redemption on the cross. I don't claim to understand it all, but I accept that for those of us who put our faith in Jesus we are made in right standing with God. Thus, we can have that eternal relationship with the Lord. Thus, I realize that there's much more monumental consequences for accepting or rejecting God's son than in the case with my son. Yet, I can still relate in how a tender and loving bond is created between us and those accepting our sons.

Grayson and my son became the best of friends beginning when they were only three, getting into mischief and adventures in preschool. They developed a deep and unconditional love and loyalty to each other. Although over the decades they both experienced life troubles, heartaches, and destructive detours in their individual lives, their love for each other never faded.

The darkest day of my son’s life was when Grayson went home to be with the Lord. He misses him in profound ways. I can sense the deep loss he feels, while he knows that Grayson is having the grandest adventure without him now.

I believe my son’s love for Grayson is what has intertwined my son so deeply in Grayson’s mother’s heart. While I haven’t spent much of my life with Grayson’s mom, my love for her son has forever intertwined me in her heart. Her love for my son, fuels my love for her.

“Lord, help us love your son, help us be ever loyal to him, to never be inconsiderate of his feelings, to never give up on him, and to never pull away from him as if he isn’t valuable enough for us to stay committed and loyal to. Father, in answering this prayer, I know that our hearts will forever be entwined.

Last year “The Dumb Decision”

As I look back over my own life and that of so many others, I am keenly aware that we sometimes make a dumb decision that leads to some of our greatest pain. Fortunately, this pain can also lead to some of our greatest transformations.

Whenever we know truth, have accepted Christ, and then later decide to just live our life ignoring Him, we are on the road to great decline. We likely don’t even register that we have made that dumb decision to ignore Him, but our journey will eventually show us that we have.

Many of us were taught about the Lord in our childhood. We had our tender hearts open to Him as a child and accepted Him as savior. Yet as we grew up we left Him behind like an old discarded toy we had outgrown. We go off into the big world making our own decisions and ignoring God.

We would never say we had discarded the Lord and we would say we still believe, but we don’t seek Him, ask for direction, and show with our actions that pleasing Him is more important than pleasing ourselves.

We don’t cultivate a relationship with the Lord and we just live making our choices as we think best. We make our big decisions about where we live, where we work, who we develop close friendships with, and whom we marry without even seeking His direction and approval. Doing so, we are destined for grave error and consequences. We will never be content. We won’t have peace and be blessed whenever we know truth and yet live ignoring God.

While we all will suffer some in life, it’s different for those who have known the Lord as Savior and yet trek off in life without giving Him much thought. That will never work out. We make decisions and pursue relationships that are destined to cause great pain. Being in a fallen world, we are choosing to discard the wisdom and blessings of the very God who wanted to protect and guide us. We are more accountable than those who didn’t know truth.

Many of us can look back and see where we did this very process and cry, “What was I thinking?” Why in the world did I think that would ever work well? I have been so foolish!”

Some grieve more about the pain our journey has brought us, than the hurt that our disobedience and dismissal of Jesus has caused Him. Yet for those with true remorse and repentance for how we sinned and left our first love, the pain is cleansing and powerful. We still suffer consequences, and many will lose relationships. Some losses will feel devastating, but we will be amazed at the kindness, forgiveness, and grace of our sweet Lord. He is so much more forgiving and gracious than people.

Those relationships we entered with people who don’t love the Lord during our hiatus, won’t likely forgive and hang in there with us if we have hurt and disappointed them. But, not tender Jesus. I am truly awed at the Lord’s willingness to take us back, to embrace us with such kindness, and to help clean up our messes. And in so doing, He is faithful to help humble us and teach us in ways that we hopefully will never forget. If we do, we will go again into directing our own life without Him and we end up in the same ditch.

The loving patience of the Lord amazes me as I read of the Israelites doing this over and over. It’s as if their painful consequences only lasted for a brief chapter of their life and they were back to forgetting what brought them on in the first place. Maybe the more pain we experience, the more we remember. While that didn’t seem to work for the Israelites, it seems to for many. Those who have had their hearts ripped out likely don’t forget as easily about what got them there.

So for those who can identify with the “Big Mistake”, I not only commiserate with you, I also encourage you. The Lord is so tender and gracious that He will hurt with you as you experience consequences and losses, while helping that pain to transform your heart in humbling ways that keep you ever gracious of His presence. This humbling and gratitude will fuel a determination to not try to do life without His guiding hand.

Last year The Challenge of Life: Our Quest to be Admired

As I listened to Claire tell of her inner turmoil and constant distress about her appearance, I recognized her dilemma right away. Slender, fashionable, and gorgeous, she carried the heavy burden that others likely would never recognize. She is the type of woman that other women envy and resent. If they only knew how tormented she was, they would be shocked.

I gently disclosed to her my thoughts, “You suffer what is the common problem that humanity struggles with---we worry more about how people see or think of us than how God does. We come out of the womb tainted and latter groomed to care so deeply about how people see us that we get distorted from the life God wanted for us. Those who don’t think they are affected by the praise and rejection of others are likely lying or deceived.”

Claire sadly acknowledged that my summation fit. She wished she didn’t care so much about how others saw her, but she felt overwhelmingly at mercy to this incessant worry about how she looks and what others perceive about her.

As I continued to help her explore what contributed to the dominance of this concern, I speculated that it was fueled even more intensely because she likely had been praised much for her appearance and that it was intoxicating. It helped in her quest to feel significant and provoked her to worry if it ever was gone. She didn’t want to lose attractiveness and her value in others’ eyes. I explained that if I had never tasted chocolate (which I love) I wouldn’t know to crave it and desire it so much. But she had hit the jackpot in that she is naturally slender which the world currently promotes as ideal and has the classic features that the world admires. She had white straight teeth and bone structure that models yearn for, along with hair that is a beautiful texture, color, and to be greatly admired.

While those who are ignored or shunned are at risk, those who are overly admired are also. When someone is greatly admired, it is likely difficult not to get even more obsessed with admiration. The Bible warns that its much more difficult for a rich man to embrace the kingdom of God. I assume that the riches are intoxicating, like admiration is to Claire.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10: 25, NKJV).

Yet, Claire wants to please God. She is distraught about her obsession and wants to change. We both realize that we need to ask God to help us want to care more about how He feels about us than how others do. People don’t define us, yet unfortunately we allow them to in our own mind. The struggle will continue since our flesh nature is not completely eradicated until we get to heaven. Yet, the closer we get to our Lord, the less the drive to be admired will rule us. Claire is on her way and my prayers are with her.

While its not unhealthy to praise others and to want and enjoy praise ourselves, we all need to be aware of our vulnerability to want to be admired and its potential to cause great harm if allowed to grow unchecked. We know to fear so many risky health hazards, but we likely don’t recognize our desire to be admired can go from motivating us to achieve to becoming destructive to our soul. It can become dangerous with us not even realizing it. Instead, we think we are being effective in our achievement drive.

Yet our quest to be admired can suck the joy out of our life, derail us form being our true self, and dampen our yearning and contentment for the Lord’s acceptance. It has led to many self-destructive patterns. Some we recognize, some we don’t. We may not recognize our obsessive worry. Even if we don’t crave admiration so much, we likely cringe when rejected or dismissed as inferior.

Claire recognized her excessive exercising, push to obsess about food, and horrendous self-punishing thoughts. Much of the time, her feelings and thoughts were centered on the goal of being what was to be admired. I wonder how much more that energy could have been used in awesome ways.

Claire’s sad face illustrated the yearning of her soul. “I wish I could be like those girls who carelessly wear bathing suits with rolls of fat showing and such imperfect bodies. You know—the ones that don’t seem a bit self-conscious. I don’t want to wear indecent or vulgar clothes, but I so wish I was like them in not caring about what others thought and being okay with themselves”.

We may not recognize that Claire is not that uncommon. Her essence is in all of us in some ways. We may pity her and even judge her a bit. Yet, are we blind to our own similar weakness? Maybe the Lord has guided us into sweeter waters of being more content in Him and less concerned over what others think of us. This often comes as we age. Yet, its cells of harm are lurking for us all.

Last year The Antibiotic That Covers Everything

I’ve poured out many hours of energy and effort into trying to get Beth to use the hope of eternity to ease the pain of her depression. Whenever she slips into another episode of the dark and oppressive sadness, she has refused the comfort of pondering on the delight of Heaven. Its not like I promote thinking of heaven as the only action to take. We have explored and used many approaches that contribute to uplifting her mood.

Yet, I have earnestly argued that heaven provides the most powerful way to ease the pain we encounter if we ponder on it. For years, Beth quickly dismissed my efforts with, “but that doesn’t help me with now”.

“That’s exactly what it will do!"

Why can’t she see that? Knowing that we live forever where the Lord declares as having no pain, no death, no sin, and with delights that we can’t even comprehend absolutely eases the temporary discomforts and even the deepest sorrows of here. I never said that it takes all the pain away from here, but it sure helps.

Why not ease the pain? Why just focus on what hurts us here? That’s especially important not to do when it involves what we either can’t change or some dark mood from an unidentifiable source. Sometimes it involves brain chemistry, hormones, or spiritual attacks. Often people or our own negative thoughts have fueled our depressed mood.

But, whatever the source and even when other approaches that help are being used, thinking of eternity for a Christian always helps ease the pain.

Anticipating an upcoming vacation is the best part, and it sure offsets the current frustrations and discomforts we are experiencing before the trip.

As I kept plummeting Beth with these thoughts, I was reminded of whenever my daughter had cancer as a child.

The oncologists explained that chemotherapy kills healthy white cells as it kills cancer cells. When this happens my daughter would be at risk of dying from contracted illnesses that require while cells to kill them off. They warned me that if she became ill and had a fever, we were to take her to the hospital. If her white cells were down, they would hospitalize her and pump her full of a wide spectrum of antibiotics to kill any strain of whatever may be causing the illness. They explained that they had found out that this was necessary because years ago whenever they would first take a culture and wait for its results before providing treatment, the patients would frequently die. Consequently, they changed the protocol so that they didn’t wait for results to tell them which specific antibiotic was needed—they just zapped them with a wide spectrum. Lives were saved!

I explained to Beth that pondering on eternity for a Christian was helping treat whatever was causing our pain. In so doing, it would ease the hurt. Eternity was like a wide spectrum antibiotic that covers any painful, harmful, and destructive event or situation. It may not take all the discomfort away, but it will promote healing and provide relief.

Beth’s countenance appeared to change a little. It looked like she was finally giving my message her attention and a little light bulb seemed to be going off in her.

My parting words seemed to jump from deep within me, “Take the antibiotic that covers everything, Beth!”

Last year Aware, on guard, and responsive

Recently I was using a power washer on our back deck and suddenly my hand slipped. The power washer wand jerked toward my leg and like a razor the water sliced into the flesh of my ankle. Instantly, I jerked it away from me, but not before injury.

I immediately thought about how powerful that force of water was and how it could have sliced into me in deadly ways. Had a person with no feeling in their legs had that happen, she would have likely been sliced to either death or to grave injury.

Sometimes we are numb to what is slicing into our soul and relationships. Even if we are not completely numb, we may have such a weakened ability to sense the injury that we don’t take the actions needed to protect our selves or the relationships we cherish. Sometimes this will lead to grave injury and sometimes-even lead to the death of our most precious relationship—our marriage.

The tragedy is that we didn’t quickly recognize the slicing damage in time to jerk away from the harm. Even when our mate is sometimes trying to warn us of the pain being inflicted, we may minimize it in our mind. We may muffle the message, not realizing the increasing risk to the health and even life of the relationship. If we had, we would have redirected our actions and attitudes that are slicing into the tender heart of our mate, leaving lasting harm that disables our mate’s ability to feel safe and loving with us.

As I pondered on my own wounded flesh from the power washer, I realized that mine was a surface wound. I didn’t expect it to need much attention and figured it would heal on its on within a couple of days. Yet, the Lord gave me another lesson in how we neglect wounds we underestimate in causing harm. Doing so, we set ourselves up for increasing infection and harm.

Instead of looking better in a couple of days, my wound looked worst. The skin around it also looked red and puffy and it was even more tender and sore than when it happened. My daughter saw it and warned me that I had better treat it before even more infection and damage occurred.

I still minimized the risk and shrugged off the danger. By the next day, I realized my foolishness and applied an antibiotic cream and bandaged it. I kept doing so and even now realize that it is far from healed, but on its way.

When we finally see the injuries in our marriage, why do we wait to treat it? Why do we foolishly put off responding with the attention and care needed to protect the wounds and enhance the healing?

Like me with my ankle wound, we think it will just heal itself in a short while. It will work itself out. It won’t require attention, cause that’s how stresses in marriage flow. They eventually take care of themselves.

Wrong—they don’t.

We all need to be aware of what is ever ready to slice not only into our own soul and mind with harm, but also into our marriages. The Enemy and our own carnal flesh nature are ever ready to promote the slicing harm.

Being aware, we are sensitive to what is happening. We are ready to respond with the attention and care needed to redirect the harm and to promote the health and life for our self and our mate.

I never want to forget how powerful and potentially dangerous my power washer’s force is. Even more importantly, I don’t want to forget the power of destructive forces and actions that are ever ready to harm.

Last year Am I Aware?

So many experiences make us aware that just a small flick of our existence is actually what we experience during our earthly life. I’ve been notorious for heralding the message that we are ludicrous to live as if this earthly life is all there is. Many likely feel like rolling their eyes and dismissing me as acting like a flake when I show grief and frustration about people putting all their efforts into such a temporal life. While they think I’m being flakey, I think they are.

I too recall spending much of my young life chasing the achievements that this world documents as success. The “stuff”, the prestige, the advantages, and the pleasures call us all to chase them.

Most sense a hint of eternity from time to time throughout their earthly life. Yet, it’s usually a profound experience that makes us keenly aware of the magnitude of eternity compared to our short life here. Unfortunately, it’s also usually a tragedy, a potentially devastating experience, or a death of someone we love deeply. We all likely wonder about eternity as we enter the twilight years.

I have had a heightened sense of eternity for as far back as I can remember. Yet, like most people, I didn’t live being influenced by it much the time. I recall one of the first times of a profound awareness of eternity when I was just seventeen years of age. I went from riding on the back of a motorcycle on a gorgeous July day, to suddenly being in intensive care hooked up to a respirator. I was alone in an ICU room in one of the top floors of the hospital so that my window showed the sky.

I wasn’t sure what all was going on. While I wasn’t fully aware of how close to death I was or that they didn’t really think I was going to live, I did have a keen awareness of eternity. It was like a quiet and peaceful connection with God as I lay gazing out the window up at the sky while a monstrous machine breathed for me through a hole in my neck. I couldn’t have raised up if I had wanted to, being hooked to so many tubes and with one that looked like a vacuum hose pushing oxygen through my neck to keep me alive. I didn’t really realize that it was breathing for me, but I seemed at peace and was content to just relax and gaze at the sky and talk to God. I don’t recall being afraid, but I keenly perceived that people didn’t seem aware of the bigger reality that was so much more than here. It’s difficult to explain.

As I watched the nurses come in and out of my room, I noticed their joking and talking of daily concerns. While they weren’t doing anything wrong, I realized that they seemed clueless about the bigger picture. I sensed that God was there watching as we scurried through life not realizing that it was just a brief speck of our existence.

While I survived and have went on to live many decades since that time, I have lived in and out of being in touch with the concept of eternity. While I never denied it, like most people I focused on my life here. We have to in order to deal effectively with daily life and what’s in our current domain. Yet, the times I stumble into the awareness of eternity again, I am reminded of the need to live wisely. Many people would assume that to live wisely is to live a boring and unpleasant life. That’s another great deception besides the lie that this earthly life is all there is.

Whenever I am in tune with eternity, I embrace life here with hope, comfort, and an intense ability to appreciate what I am grateful for and to enjoy what I might have otherwise dismissed as not thrilling enough.

I am currently sitting on my porch with my grandchildren watching them delight in a spring day’s fun. They flitter from one adventure to another and seem so content in enjoying simple pleasures. How I wish they could keep their ability to feel comfortable with who they are, with knowing that God loves them, and with finding delight in everyday experiences that they find fun.

They don’t seem worried or overly interested in the lock-down that has been thrust upon us by the coronia pandemic. It seems like an adventure where they just get to be with their family more, where we cook together, and play outside. Hearing of death so much during this pandemic doesn’t seem to cause them distress. This was recently made evident to me as I listened to six-year old Morgan. “Nanny, I will miss you when you die. But we can be together someday in heaven again. Isn’t that right?”

They are so comfortable with the notion that we live forever somewhere and that when it’s not here, it will be with Jesus. Of course they don’t understand it all, but that doesn’t seem to matter. We don’t understand it all either, but we adults allow it to matter in ways that hinder our faith and ability to believe.

I am looking into the sky that looks much like it did whenever I gazed at it from my hospital ICU room so many years ago as a seventeen-year-old intensely aware of eternity. I smile with appreciation. I hear my grandson giggling and a bird incessantly chirping in the background as I thank the Lord for wanting to spend forever with us. Oh that I don’t lose sight of eternity.

Last year Shaken

The last several weeks have been surreal. Our world has been shook in far reaching ways that we aren’t sure how to understand. The current coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it, and the whole world seems to be lost and confused about what to do. I have not been down this type of road before. Although there have been plagues, wars, disasters, terrorists, and all kinds of trauma in the world, this has been unprecedented in my lifetime. I’ve never been where there were mass shutdowns and quarantines, along with the economy seemingly holding its breath. We aren’t sure how to plan. We don’t know what’s coming.

Some people seem to blow it off like its all an overreaction and media hoax. Others are in a panic and think the world is crashing in on us. Many are being wise and cautiously hoping for this to pass.
Obviously, all are affected. Many are taking a sobering look at life, what’s important, and searching for faith and direction as the pandemic makes its effect known in all areas.

Most Christians are triggered to think of the Biblical predictions and find themselves thumped back into the seriousness of the world’s progression toward what the Bible calls the “last days” and the “Day of the Lord”.

While Bible scholars have a detailed account of the predictions, at least most Christians understand that the Bible predicts an ending to life as we know it with the eventual coming back of Jesus which ushers us to our eternal destinations. For those that have even a hint of belief that the Bible may be truth, the end seems terrifying when reading passages about the “Day of the Lord” in the third chapter of 2 Peter. We read that there will be much to be terrified about for those not ready. Even for those who love the Lord and are ready, it’s still terrifying to contemplate what’s to come for those that aren’t ready.

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; (2 Peter 3: 10-14, NKJV).

The Bible also tells of what people will be like during the last days.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people (2 Timothy 3: 1-5, NKJV).

While none of us know when the Lord will come or when we will go to our eternal destinations, times such as now shake us back into the reality that it’s coming. Instead of developing a spirit of fear, we need to embrace a confident stance of hope, determination, and clarity about what’s important. The petty squabbles and selfish ambitions have no place when we recognize what’s at stake. Its great to enjoy life, but its so crucial to live with eternity in mind.

While its sobering to think about the last days and the “Day of the Lord”, its also thrilling. We read of both the horror and the glorious triumph of such a time. The latter part of the book of Joel talks about the Day of the Lord in terms of promise and hope. We read that there will be a pouring out of God’s Spirit on all flesh. It will be accompanied by dreams, visions, prophetic messages, restoration, and hope. However, it also tells that judgment will be poured out on sinners.

Those of us who write or talk about such prophecies provoke the scorn or humor of many. They ridicule or silently “blow us off” as religious flakes. The Bible warned of such.

3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly (2 Peter 3: 3-7, NIV).

I join the masses of my generation that keep saying that we don’t recognize the world as familiar. We grew up in what seemed a vastly different world. We see what was declared as sin, as now being seen as good and normal. We see what we saw as good, now being labeled as wrong. We aren’t comfortable with the norms of our day. We can’t relax as we flip through television channels and we cringe as we see the younger generation so comfortable or at best, not shocked or convicted by what we thought of as blatant sin, with some things being downright evil.

As I face this time of the world being shaken, my prayer is that we are shook to our senses. Lord, wake up the world to truth, open eyes to what’s at stake, and have mercy on the deceived.

Last year Helping or Mocking God

Recently my friend Sue began learning about healthy boundaries and how the lack of them has caused much distress and harm in her life. In thinking about how to describe healthy boundaries, I went to the Bible. Galatians 6: 1-5 seems to be directly talking about boundaries. What did the Lord want us to see?

6 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.

This passage begins by instructing us to be compassionate to others who have made bad decisions. Obviously they had sinned and needed restoration. It tells us to restore them with gentleness and not to think we are above mistakes ourselves. The passage goes on to encourage us to learn from the experience and thus be warned about the possibility of us also being tempted with the same.

The passage also addresses boundaries. It tells each of us to examine ourselves, to carry our own load, and then we read verse 6.

6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.
As I pondered on this verse I began to understand. The way we help restore a person who has been overtaken is to lovingly share with him or her what the Word tells. We can’t and don’t have the right to force the person to embrace and follow the Word, but with gentleness and compassion we can share the truths with him or her. The Lord lets that person, just like all of us, chose to follow what is taught or not.
Verse six indicates that those we teach the Word can share in the good things that we are teaching. Yet, we read on in verse 7 that if they don’t choose to do follow truth and obey what they have been taught, they are to reap accordingly.
6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Wow! These verses address boundaries. Some of the bestselling books on Boundaries, such as those written by Drs. Cloud and Townsend, were not the first. The Lord was trying to teach us boundaries in Galatians.
We are to love others, help them with burdens, share with them what the Word teaches—both the warnings and encouraging promises. But, it also instructs us that God isn’t mocked, that we reap what we sow.
None of us would likely say that we are intentionally mocking God. Hopefully, we would never want to mock God. When others who know the truth choose to repeatedly disobey the Word and we remove their consequences that God declared to come, are we mocking what He declared about reaping and sowing?
While we can never disable what God declared, we can be going against Him with our efforts. Its scary to realize that even with good intentions, we can actually be going against God’s Word and plan.
“Lord help us not cross boundaries in our efforts so that we are hindering what You declared: We reap what we sow. You want us to have mercy and restoration when we repent. Yet, true repentance means change, it means turning away from sin, and obeying the Word. If others repeatedly refuse to do so after being taught the Word, the reaping is also a way to bring them back to you. Help us not mock you with our efforts to help.”

Last year Those Who Really Know Their God

I love hearing messages of hope and encouragement in the midst of distressing times. There have been troubling times since the “Fall” of humanity and we are currently in a massive season of difficulties.

In Middle Tennessee, we went from horrific tornados that left many with destroyed homes and deaths, to facing the coronavirus pandemic that is affecting the whole world. The world seems held hostage as the virus affects most all aspects of our lives. Schools, businesses, and all forms of public entertainment have been shut down. People are quarantined like shown in horror movies and our economy is braced for the unknown devastation that some expect. If I spiral into fear, it reminds me of movies showing worldwide attack like in the movie Independence Day or the impending world harm from asteroids like in the move, Armageddon.

History books will document many effects from the coronavirus pandemic and how our world was affected. While I imagine this will include physical suffering, deaths, massive fear, grief, and great economic decline for many, I wonder about other effects ( good and bad) that we don’t even realize.

While the Great Depression fueled some to be greedier and more selfish in their quest to take of themselves, others became more generous and willing to help their neighbor. Some became more fearful, while others became more faithful. Some became wiser and learned to stretch a penny and to be less wasteful. Many learned to value people more than things and grew to have great gratitude and trust in God when times were tough. Others unfortunately did the opposite. They craved more stuff and could never have enough. They no longer believed in the goodness of God, since their shallow faith couldn’t withstand that they were allowed to struggle, suffer, and go hungry.

They say that we should study history and learn from it. The Lord packed the Bible with historical events recorded throughout from which we can learn. I wonder how many people disregard it or never read it in the first place.

This morning I was waking up to the dark atmosphere that lays heavy over our world. Every television station and all over the web are impending doom references to the coronia virus pandemic. I asked the Lord to share His thoughts with me and I found myself in the book of Daniel and reading the following verse that intrigued me.

“ Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits” (Daniel 11:32).

A phrase jumped out at me, “but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits”. I read on in Daniel and realized that those who were identified as God’s people were in a time much more distressing than ours in many ways. The Bible describes the horrific actions taken against God by those in authority during Daniel’s time and uses words such as abomination, desolation, and blasphemies. The irreverent disregard for God was so massive that those who were surface followers of God were easily swayed to follow the wicked influence. Flattery aimed at enticing people to follow the evil irreverence towards God, along with great persecution of those who remained true to God, were used to bring to light whether people really knew their God or not.

Ironically, Daniel told of how some who had been identified as God’s people, pretended to be loyal to God when around the true believers. I guess they wanted the best of both worlds. They didn’t want true believers to be against them and they also wanted the perks of joining in with those in charge who were evil.

I had asked for God’s direction in my Bible reading this morning. I yearned for Him to give me insight as I faced the day with such trouble and uncertainty in our world. I also asked Him to help me understand what I was reading. Pondering on Daniel’s time in history, I realize that ours is similar in ways I never recognized until recently. Those who really know their God are at an amazing time in history to do amazing feats. At the same time, we are also at a time where we face persecution. Right now we may not be tortured and murdered for our faith, but we are facing persecution in ways I never imagined when I was a child.

We are considered as ignorant, harmful, and a hinderance to enlightenment and humanity’s progress if we believe and adhere to the Bible. We must choose to whom we are loyal. All through the Old Testament we read of numerous people who God raised up to warn the Nations and the world at large. Through them, God begged people to listen, to seek Him, and messages were given for all future generations to come.

We love the hopeful and encouraging promises and messages, and we so need them. Yet, we also need to love the warnings, because we need them too. Just like in Daniel’s time, there are those who will stay the course and instruct others even in the midst of persecution. We read of them in verse 33.

"And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering."

We also read that some who were intrigued looked as if they joined them, but were not truly committed.
"When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them (Daniel 11:34, NIV).

Some shall pretend to join the faithful, but won’t really when the heat of persecution intensifies. Unless we really know and seek God, we will be tempted to back off and give into fear, flattery, and temptation to join the masses who don’t reverence and obey God.

“Lord help us seek to really know You, to stay the course, and to both encourage and to warn."

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36:26, 27 New King James Version (NKJV)

Last year A Time to Mourn

So many have been posting pictures, writing, and talking about the tornadoes of 2020 that ripped through Nashville, Wilson and Putnam Counties, leaving a path of destruction that has affected us all. Whether our homes were hit, whether our family or loved one was killed, or whether we were physically harmed, we all were injured emotionally. Our lives were assaulted with a fury in the wee hours Tuesday morning. Every person I have encountered since the tornados has some story, feeling, or situation to tell. Its as if we need to talk about it. Ironically, counselors refer to the term “the talking cure” after it was realized that by allowing clients to talk and be heard, they get better with whatever aliments they were suffering.

So in the heart of this, I want to spew what’s going on in me. I feel tears wanting to well up most of the time. The numb feeling that initially occurred is being replaced with deep sadness, a sense of confusion, and an overwhelming recognition of how helpless I feel in comforting anyone who lost home or loved ones.

I find myself focused on how fragile life is. We are like a bunch of ants in my yard, scurrying in their tasks, that can be swept away in an instant and they don’t even know it. Ironically, we may know this, but we usually don’t give it much thought as we scurry through our days.

I thought of how annoyed I was about being waked up by the loud alarm warning of a tornado startling me from deep sleep. I think of my foolishness of staying in the bed instead of going downstairs to my basement. Yet, I also think of how powerless we are in face of a raging tornado that can change the world as we know it in a millisecond, whether we are in a basement or not.

While I love knowing that God gave us some power and control over our lives by allowing us some choices, I’m also painfully aware that there is much we have no control over. That’s what comes to mind as I think of tornados.

Dreams about tornados are not uncommon. They represent our lack of power and control over some force that has the ability to bring devastating destruction. Many feel this way about situations they face in life at times. It may be a loved one ravished by drug addiction, cancer eating our insides, the death of one we have our heart forever tied with, a betrayal that shattered our view of reality, and a host of other ways we have been victimized or victimized others.

I think of how we try to take away others’ pain when we should be just sharing it with them. Our well intentions sometimes do more harm than good. I think of the ways we try to explain what we don’t have the ability to explain and doing so can be so insensitive and hurtful when we are trying to be sympathetic and helpful.

I think of how much we need hope and comfort when there are times it seems impossible to secure. Yet, our Creator wove in us a drive and tenacity to keep trying to find it anyway.

I think of the face of evil and the face of God shown in our recent horrific tangle with the tornados. I see God's in those weeping for each other, bringing supplies, straining to help carry away the rumble, hunting desperately for those missing, and the many tender gestures of care. The evil is shown in those trespassing and trying to steal from the poor souls who have their life belongings strewn and exposed for all to rummage through if they choose to do so. Their memories in pictures, treasured mementos, favorite blankets, and personal items used in every day life have been viciously flung with violent force to lay among mud, twisted metal, shattered glass, and splintered wood.

Life will never be the same in some ways. Some will forever after talk of events as before or after the tornado. The dazed confused look of so many is edged into pictures that fill newspapers, Facebook, and television newscasts.

My mind keeps trying to make sense of what is so senseless. My quest to understand the mysteries of life drove me to be a psychologist and to seek answers to help elevate human suffering. I yearn to help advance humanity and to minimize the harm we cause. Yet, I cringe with the horror and sorrow and words fail me. I have no means to stop the pain for so many.

While I want to offer hope and comfort, I know that there are so many who have experienced a horror that warrants and deserves the intense agony they feel. I don’t want to insult those who are devastated by the instantaneous and vicious death of those they love, along with the blown away home in which they had experienced life.

Each time I begin to type a message of comfort and hope, I stop. It sounds so trite. This is truly a time to mourn, to agonize, and to unite in our cries. Thus, I cry with you and hope that His Words are heard among the pain of our tears . . .

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, NKJV).

Last year Only a Week Ago

I can’t believe that only a week ago, life seemed to be going along in unremarkable ways. We had not a notion that when we all went to bed that night, we would wake up to terror. Some would wake-up after the devastation had already taken place. Some would wake with only moments to embrace life as they had known it before the massive tornados would scar our community with devastating destruction and loss of lives. Some would never wake up on this side of eternity.

It still seems surreal that only a week has past. In some ways it seems an eternity has past in this last week and in another way, it seems like it has only been a second. Trauma is like that; it messes with the perception of time.

My friend Lou told of how she realized that a week ago she had been lazy and foolish to ignore warnings and to have not prepared herself for a storm, even if there had been no warnings of a tornado.

Lou lives alone and is elderly. She knows that it would be wise to keep a flashlight and phone near in case of an emergency or if the electricity goes out. She told me that since the tornados came last week, she has been pondering on how we ignore warnings. She realized that the warnings that were most dangerous to ignore were those that were about eternity. She explained that many people live their whole life hearing and ignoring the message of salvation and the accompanying warnings about rejecting Jesus. Many live their lives for the temporal outcomes, instead of those that matter forever.

While Lou may have been irresponsible or foolish not to prepare for the storm by having a flashlight or phone near, she has lived with eternity guiding her actions. She has lived with a heightened awareness of what will matter beyond this earthy life. Yet, she also knows that even those that heed tornado warnings can’t keep them from coming and they have no way to stop the destruction that they bring.

A week ago, we went to bed likely not thinking of eternity as we snuggled down to sleep. This last week has likely left most everyone in this area with a heightened sense of the frailty of life.

I keep thinking of those who have had their loved ones snatched away in a millisecond, as they face this evening a week ago. I imagine how they might be thinking tonight . . .

This time last week she was with me. He was snoring beside me. This time last week, my child was sleeping peacefully. They were still here and we had no thought of what was to come in just a couple of hours from now.

Oh, how I wish this was a dream and I would wake up to see our house intact and to turn over and see you there.

As my thoughts wonder, I hear the clocks ticking. I have a couple of clocks that tick loudly. I hear the ticking and realize that there is only about two hours left until the tornados hit our area last week. My heart aches for so many who wish we could turn back the clock and somehow change what is to come. Unfortunately we can’t.

But, I can almost hear Lou softly saying, but we can still affect our eternity.

Matthew 25:13 New King James Version (NKJV):
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour [a]in which the Son of Man is coming.

Last year Carrying a Burden or a Load: Helping or Hurting

Recently Sue, who I have known for several years, expressed her astonishment when learning about boundaries. She had been reading about what boundaries are and how they help our lives develop in healthy ways. Sue has read that people should not invade another’s life in ways that are disrespectful and controlling. She is learning that people have to take responsibility for their own decisions and that when they try to manipulate or force others to do so for them, it is wrong.

I was stunned that Sue seemed to just be realizing how her history reflected such a severe lack of boundaries. We had talked at length about what the lack of boundaries had caused for her. Why had she not recognized this the many times we talked before?

Somehow boundaries are confusing to understand for even those who haven’t been through trauma. Many Christians, trying to love others like Jesus, get confused about boundaries.

Many initially think of sexual abuse whenever talking of boundaries. However, Sue’s situation didn’t involve sexual molestation. Instead, Sue had some family members who had forced themselves on her emotionally and had manipulated her to take responsibility for their lives in ways that were obviously wrong. A close family member, I will call Ann, had notoriously made bad decisions and then expected her to fix it so that she didn’t have to suffer the consequences of her bad behavior and decisions. If Sue didn’t do so, Ann became the victim, laid on the guilt trips, angry outbursts, or in some way tried to manipulate her into taking responsibility for making her feel better. It was as if Ann felt that Sue didn’t have the right to choose.

I had watched this go on for years and had tried to help Sue set appropriate boundaries both for her sake and for Ann’s. Ironically, her story is much more common than you think. I bet many reading this blog may think, “that sounds like me!” “Is she writing about my story?”

Why do we think we should be responsible for another person’s life? Why do we think we have the power or right to do so? I assume it has to do with us thinking this is being Christlike or loving our neighbor as ourselves.

We get confused about how to help others and love in healthy ways. Sue’s confusion about boundaries shows that. She loves Ann and yet she is realizing that she needs to let her take responsibility for her behavior and choices. Doing so, Ann will seek and obey God. Hopefully, Ann will learn from facing the consequences and challenges before her, instead of draining Sue and making her carry the load that she isn’t supposed to carry.

As Sue and I consider what the Bible tells us about helping another, we recognize that we all need to examine if we are helping others’ carry a burden that truly helps them or if we are carrying others’ load that isn’t one we should carry and if doing so actually hurts them in the long run.

“Brethren, if a man is [a]overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.” (Galatians 6: 1-5, NKJV).

This passage instructs each of us to examine our own work and that we will rejoice in ourselves and our own work and not in someone else’s work for us. We are told to bear our own load. So obviously there are some loads that we aren’t to expect or ask others to carry, while there are burdens that we should allow others to help us with. This can be confusing, but I believe if we seek the Lord in these times, He will prompt us and show us the difference.

Sue is so eager to learn and to seek the Holy Spirit to help her tell the difference between when she needs to help and when she needs to not get in the way by helping. Those times, she prays, but resists the guilt, manipulation, and temptation to help in ways that others are trying to get her to do, but in ways the Lord is trying to get her to resist.

“Lord help us love well. Teach us and give us wisdom to know how you want us to respond to others, knowing that even with good intentions, we can sometimes hurt and hinder others when we think we are helping.”

Last year Ripples from "The Fall"

The ripples from “The Fall” seem never ending. I naively assumed that everyone knew what the phrase “The Fall” meant. However, I recently used the phrase and the person I was talking with had no clue what it meant. I explained that when God created Adam and Eve and made our world, it was without sin. As soon as they gave into sin, all existence as humanity would know it changed. People have come to refer to this event as “The Fall”. Life here would never be the same.

This week our community had a horrific ripple from “The Fall” that has affected all of us. Tornados tore through our small part of the big world, leaving devastation, loss of life, and shock waves that will continue for years to come. The waves will continue for many until they go to heaven.

The last two days I have listened to story after story of how people have been affected. My heart seems to flip from despair at the losses to deep joy at the love shown among people. I find myself weeping with sorrow at the heartaches to weeping with hope at the compassion shown among humanity. I realize that this horror has provided a clear picture of the face of God and another of the face of evil. I see God in the many who bear the hurt of others and who do what they can to help. I see the face of evil as others raid the debris and make their ways into exposed homes to plunder belongings strewn for all to see.

The ripples hurt and sometimes are monsoons, instead of ripples. This week we had destructive tidal waves, instead of just waves that inconvenience us. I can’t deny the evil, but I can rejoice and take massive comfort from my God being shown in so many in the mist of the pain.

Last year Birthing Courage

Recently I looked up the definition for courage after listening to an advertisement about a book entitled Courageous. Ironically, the first definition identified courage as the ability to do something that frightens one and the next definition described courage as permitting one to face extreme dangers and difficulties without fear.

So which is it? If I have courage does that mean I have no fear or does that mean I have fear and face things anyway?

I don’t think fear is the issue. I might be afraid or I might not be afraid and have courage. I think of a Christian’s courage as obedience. I realize that some have courage to do bunging jumping, go skydiving, drive a racecar, or any number of actions that people think of as a sign of courage.

However, the courage that Jesus wants from us is to live as His followers in a fallen world under the sway of the enemy. I think of precious people I have encouraged in counseling who face horrific heartaches, family struggles, and a host of painful challenges and their determination to keep following Jesus in obedience and trust is truly courageous.

Then there are those who refuse to follow convictions that will bring ridicule, sacrifice, and attacks from the enemy. They give into whatever they feel will make their life easier. We all have likely done this at times. Who of us have always lived courageously?

As I read of the life of Jesus, I am amazed at His courage. I can’t imagine living each day knowing what He would face ahead. The cruel ridicule, persecution, betrayal, and excruciating crucifixion were ever before him as he lived. Yet, He never wavered, never compromised in his submission to His Father, and finished his painful assignment.

I realize that it was Jesus’ love of God that fueled his courage and obedience. It wasn’t because he thought God was going to make it painless. In fact, he knew it would hurt. The scene we read about when Jesus agonized as he prayed for the Lord to remove “this cup” from him if there was any other way besides the crucifixion shows us that.

It’s obvious that Jesus loved and trusted God and his life showed it. Our love for Him will also. Our love will help us be courageous and obedient as we face the hurt this world will bring. It will help us fight the deception that the enemy hurls into our head. It will help us face the challenge of embracing our purpose, which will always involve loving God and others.

It’s amazing the courage that love brings. Parents, who love their children, are known to charge a vicious attacker to protect their child. They are willing to give their life to spare their child’s. I recently saw on the News a father weeping as he stood by his young son who was in critical condition in the ICU, hooked on a ventilator. A stranger had shot his son. In agony, the father declared how he wished he could trade places with his son. One could see the sincerity of his yearning to face the horrific pain and possible death in his son’s place. That’s courage, but it’s fueled by love.

We may be emotionally moved as we watch the father on television, but we should be overwhelmed with love as we think of the Lord’s taking our place. He didn’t just wish he could do so in order to spare us, He did so. How can that not birth our courage?

Psalm 31:24
Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Last year Seeing the Whole Picture

In thinking about how our focus determines not only the directions we take in life, but also our emotional state, I ponder on what the Bible shows us. We enjoy sharing that the Lord says He came to give life and give it more abundantly. We love to quote passages about the peace of God, His grace and forgiveness, and great mercy. Yet, Paul also talks clearly about the suffering of followers of Christ too.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul gives messages about the suffering he endured and yet he seemed to see it so differently than most of us. He understood that God chose frail and expendable people to make it clear that salvation is the result of His power and not any power that His messengers could generate and produce. While Paul indicated that his suffering was ongoing, he also explained that it was a result of attacks against the Lord, not him and other believers. He passionately and clearly indicated that he never regretted taking the honor of sharing the gospel with others, even though it would bring attacks and suffering. Some said that his suffering meant that he was a fraud and showed that God was not with him. On the contrary, Paul declared that his suffering was a badge of his loyalty to Christ and the source of his power.

Isn’t it ludicrous that, instead, we sometimes think that if we love God, He should never allow us to be attacked or to suffer, while He allowed Jesus to be viciously attacked and to suffer much hurt. He didn’t just get attacked and feel pain during His crucifixion. Jesus repeatedly was persecuted, accused falsely, and wandered through this earth without a comfortable house and luxuries we take for granted and to which we feel entitled.

And yet, just as Paul declared, there was also great comfort and constant hope provided by the presence and promises of God.

We may be prone to either think we have a magic formula to use that causes us to only experience what we ask for from God or we think we are doomed only to suffer or be at the mercy of the enemy. We are so prone to get unbalanced in our views and to not grasp the full picture that the Bible gives us. Kathy does this to her own decline.

She believes in salvation, yet says that she can’t believe the Bible fully. She was taught that if she did the formula just right, she gets what she asked for: protection from hurt, complete justice, and healing of all wounds on this side of eternity. Needless to say, it’s a shallow view that doesn’t incorporate what Paul was talking about in Corinthians.

Kathy is depressed, confused, and feels she can’t represent Christ to others because she believes the Word has errors since the formula doesn’t work.

How do we get our views? Do we focus exclusively on some passages and avoid those that indicate suffering for the believer? Do we focus on the attacks of the enemy and the suffering, and avoid the promises and validation that we win?

Do we read of Jesus’s healing the sick and not read in Hebrews of the suffering and persecution of devoted believers that didn’t experience the promise in their earthly life, but who looked to their real home in Heaven?

Do we think we always ask for the right thing, with the right motive when we pray? Do we realize that God knows what He is doing and has great motives when He responds as He does to our prayers? Do we believe in the power of prayer? "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:6, NKJV).

“Lord help us see the whole picture more clearly. Open our eyes in ways that we are prepared to live as Paul did, accepting of the suffering of what living in a fallen world under the sway of the enemy will bring, but with a deep love of the Lord, who gives us hope and great comfort”.

Last year Our Focus, Our Choice

A number of my clients have told me that they avoid watching the News on television. Even before they go on to tell my why, I already know. Mike, who I counsel for anxiety, explained if he watched the News, he would hear all the horrible things going on in the world. He would hear of all the craziness and ugliness in politics, he could hear of crime after crime, and of tragedies around the world. Why would he choose to listen to all that and how would it help him rise above the fear and anxiety that had robbed him of effective life?

Who chooses what to cover and share on the News? Obviously, shootings, robberies, wars, and tragedies are chosen over delightful daily encounters among people. The beauty of a sunset, the kindness of a neighbor, and the everyday blessings are boring compared to the horror and thrill of conflict. Every once in a while, something lovely will be shared among the horrors. But, newscasters know that the human nature is enticed to hear the bad and that’s what draws the audience.

What do we personally choose to focus our attention on? We may not have a choice over what the News picks, but we have some choice over our own. It would be ludicrous to think we could choose to never notice the bad or hurtful in life, but it would also be ridiculous to think we have no influence over what we think and focus upon. Why else would God gives us instructions to lead us in this:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy----meditate on these things (Philippians 4:6 NKJV).

Being a psychologist who provides counseling to others, I see hurt daily. I hear story after story of the painful events in lives. I choose to hear and I feel honored to do so. Yet, I also choose to focus on the hope and promises of my Lord. I am too cowardly to face life without Him. Without the Word of God and the ever-present awareness of eternity, I would be overwhelmed with pain and hopelessness in facing the hurts of my own and that of my clients.

I don’t understand why others choose not to keep eternity in mind as they live here. I sometimes get frustrated when I continually deal with some who struggle without giving eternity or God’s promises a thought. How and why they do this is beyond me. I yearn to be mindful of what helps us. That fuels my passion for counseling. There is such massive relief for those willing to focus and believe in what the Word tells us:

“Therefore we do no lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding, and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18, NKJV).

Even when focusing on eternity and God’s promises, it would be ridiculous to think we won’t hurt during some of life’s horrific afflictions. Yet, how in the world could it not help to know that it is temporary. Why not fight with all our might to believe what the Lord promises for those who love Him?

Mike and I were talking about this as we reflected back over his life before he began reading and striving to understand the Bible. He had lived most of it without such seeking. Now, as a senior, he has come to recognize how differently his life would have been had he sought the Lord as he lived. Now that he knows and meditates on the Word, now that he is in church, and now that he is equipped with the truth of so many Biblical passages, his life is so much better.

Mile had spent his years in fear, full of anxiety and dread. We eagerly talked of heaven today. We focused on so much of what gives us comfort and hope. As we talked, I found myself rejoicing about the changes in Mike’s life and also grieving for the wasted years and all those who never choose to change their focus in ways that bring hope and comfort. As I glance over and see my Bible lying near me, I am keenly aware that Its available to all of us, and yet few reach out and take it.

Why do we neglect what will help us the most? I wonder myself as I sometimes slip into this pattern.

“Lord help us wake-up from our ridiculous pattern of unwise choices. Thump us somehow to get into the Word, to focus on what gives us direction and hope, and to remind each other to do the same”.
Psalm 119:105 New King James Version (NKJV)

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105 New King James Version (NKJV)

Last year Warned but Encouraged

Today it was delightful to look outside and see the bright sky. Instead of hovering under the gray and drizzle that has lasted for day after day, I find myself basking in the sunlight. Most people I see today seem perkier and I welcome the smiles that I keep seeing on others’ faces.

I wonder if the others are also bracing for the next wave of rainy weather. I want to just enjoy the moment without worrying for when it will end. As I ponder on this, I also realize that I think I enjoy the sunny days more because of the rainy ones. I even enjoy the rainy ones whenever they don’t last for several days on end.

Similarly, I yearn for the joy filled days that are free from any significant stressors, frustrations, or spiritual attacks. When such times are here, I relish them and if I have just come out of a particularly difficult time, I tend to have it in the back of my mind that there will be more to come.

Being in a fallen world, we can hinder ourselves from embracing the good times if we focus too much on knowing that bad ones will come. Yet, if we expect there to never be any more frustrations or hurts, its like we are saying we are no longer in a fallen world with evil still trying to mess with us. That would be ludicrous.

The Lord knew we would need to be warned, but also encouraged.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all (Psalm 34:19, NKJV).

Last year "At War"

Today I was trying to cram in so many tasks that I found myself going from one to another, knowing that there was no way I could get all done what I wanted. Whether its from racing through tasks and projects, trying to squeeze in as much fun as possible, or just floating through life in a lazy stupor, we can all get fooled into forgetting we are at war.

Then suddenly, either a tragedy or just an “aw ha” moment will remind us. For me today, I had both. I recognized that there seemed to be an ongoing force that kept interjecting itself to block my efforts to get things done. To call it a force sounds overly dramatic. While struggling through the obstacles that kept blocking my efforts, I actually found myself chuckling.

I would call my sister and tell her the next ridiculous coincident that would block my efforts. One happened, as I tried to clear up some accounts that involved Medicare. To fully understand, one must recognize how difficult it is to get a live person on the phone at many companies, especially one as large as Medicare!

I finally got a live person at Medicare on the phone to clear up the problem with claims that I had tried to fix for months! I had just given the Medicare representative all the information when the phone went dead. This was followed with me getting through to another live person at Tricare in fix a problem that had went on for even longer with some claims to then be told that “the computer system was down”.

There were so many other weird incidents that I felt like I should look for a hidden camera since someone must be playing a joke on me!

Whether these were just the frustrations that come from being in a “fallen world” or the Enemy messing with me, I latter was hit with a sledgehammer notification that the war is raging. While I wasn’t the target, some people that I care about were. They were reeling with pain and facing horrific situations that left no doubt that the Enemy of God and humanity was attacking. They recognized that they were even more wounded by demonic attack because they had been careless in their spiritual walk. They had forgotten that they were at war and left themselves and their families at risk.

Today was not just a tough day, it was a day I needed. We all need those days to remind us that we are in a spiritual war. This doesn’t mean we need to live with a spirit of fear, but we do need healthy fear that prompts us to live intentionally, to stay as close to Jesus as possible, and to follow His lead. The war may rage on, but Jesus secures the victory!

5 I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around. (Psalm 3:5-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Last year Be Your Advocate

I wonder how our lives would turn out if when in doubt, we just did the next right thing. I suspect that we would keep ourselves on track and finish our race well. Taking a step at a time is not a new idea. Its especially essential whenever we are feeling confused about what’s ahead.

I have counseled for decades. Several times I have counseled with people who returned years later for counseling. I always felt honored that they chose to meet with me again. Many indicated that counseling had helped them in the past and they wanted to use my services for additional help.

Some have let me know that they used what had come out in counseling and had seen the progression in their life because of it. That’s why they again wanted to talk over some areas of life in counseling to gain perspective and a plan.

However, a few let me know that although they clearly had made healthy plans during counseling years ago, they had obviously discarded them or just didn’t follow-through. I wonder if they would have been more successful if during the tough times, they had just focused on doing the next right thing.

I can think of a number of areas in my own life where I could have been more successful if I had done that.

Today I am in deep thought about some people I know who have verbalized what they know they need to do. Patterns are difficult to change and obviously impossible to change if we aren’t intentional.

Some need to stop a relationship. Some need to stop trying to fix everyone who they don’t have the right or power to change. Some need to resist the destructive guilt that comes whenever they can’t please everyone. Some need to stop taking responsibility for other’s emotions and decisions.
Some need to stop smoking and other destructive behavior.

The list could go on and on and I am definitely included in it. I am in the “some” in many.

I encourage you to be mindful of patterns you need to change. Be your advocate and compassionate friend. Instead of beating yourself up or dismissing the need for change, encourage yourself to just do the next right thing in whatever area that involves an unhealthy pattern.

If you take a wrong step, admit it, deal with it, and begin again. Step by step you can do it!

20 Keep my soul, and deliver me;
Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.
21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You (Psalm 25:20-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

Last year A Step at a Time

People tend to take time to reflect and prepare when a new year begins. For some reason, the beginning of a new year prompts people to take stock of their life and to plan for how to live more effectively. Many make goals and develop plans on how to reach them. This new year also begins a new decade. People make references to the decades as a way to mark history. We talk of the fifties, the nineties, and such.

Although we may start out eager, we later joke about how easily our goals fade into the background as we bail on those well-intentioned plans. Many start out with zeal, but few stay the course. I would bet at the closing of each year, there may be no one that can look back and rejoice that they completed what they had set out to do at the beginning of the year.

Why is it so difficult to stay the course, to finish what we set out to do, and to basically stay faithful? We get distracted, we get tired, discouraged, fearful, and lose heart that we could ever met the goal. We are prone to want quick results, to be able to see the fruit of our labors, and to have the prize at least glittering before us to spur us on.

I doubt that there is anyone who hasn’t bailed on some plans and goals that they had at one time. For many, they may have come to realize that the goals and plans they had made were not feasible or even ones they should have made. Maybe we started out with tainted and selfish ones and were actually wise to discard them. Yet, what about those that we know we should never have given up on. They lead to some of life’s greatest regrets.

Many of us know about the Biblical passage of Peter stepping out of the boat when he saw Jesus walking on the water. At first I thought that Peter was likely impulsive as he leaped from the boat to go to Jesus. He was known for being impulsive. Yet, he first asked Jesus if it was he and if so to bid him to come to him. Jesus did so and Peter began his journey to Jesus. Within minutes, he went from such eager zeal to fear and to giving-up and he began to sink.

Crying out to Jesus, he was met with the Lord’s willingness to rescue him. While Jesus didn’t hesitate to reach out and save Peter, He also didn’t criticize him for trying to walk on the water to Him either. If fact, he had given Peter His approval of his request to come to Him. He also didn’t criticize the other disciplines for not getting out of the boat and even trying to get to Him. Yet, he does address Peter’s not finishing the course.

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 30,31, NIV).

In this case, we see that Peter got his eyes off Jesus and onto what looked frightening to him. I can relate. When we face situations that look like they will bring pain and possible harm, it’s easy to get sidetracked from pursuing our race. Yet, whenever we get our eyes on Jesus and just keep walking, we can finish.

So many times, I have recalled a statement that a man who was in a recovery group shared with me. He was trying to stay clean from drugs and knew that he sometimes felt lost, afraid, and not sure what was ahead. Yet, he stated that at those times he would simply remind himself, “Just do the next right thing”.

The statement may seem insignificant, but I think it holds a great key to finishing our race. Take the next right step, do the next right thing, and don’t try to go beyond that for now. Those steps will keep us going in the right direction and we will look back one day and realize that we made it.

When we have made the wrong steps and get off course, we can also learn from Peter. He did that more than once, but is likely most known for getting off course whenever he denied the Lord. The Lord told him he would deny Him and Peter ridiculously argued with the Lord that He was wrong, that he would never do that. I can only imagine the shame, regret, and utter brokenness he must have felt when he heard the cock crow after his third denial just as the Lord told him he would do.

Yet, Peter got back up and went on to take one of the most victorious and profound stances for the Lord. He finished his race in a way that would forever mark history as a triumph. Forever after his notorious set back and derailment, he would pursue walking each step in synch.

If we only keep in mind that we must go in the right direction, have the goals that the Lord is pleased with, and to take a step at a time in obedience. The Lord will do the rest.

Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,
For I am [a]desolate and afflicted. (Psalm 25:16 New King James Version (NKJV)

Last year The Critic that Matters

As we begin a new year and a new decade, we are facing a wave of alarming distress with the Middle East. Just days ago, President Trump gave the ok to bomb and take out the Iranian General who had been responsible for massive killing and harm to Americans. The General was reportedly planning a vicious and imminent attack on Americans.

While some are in strong agreement with Trump’s decision, others are criticizing him and accusing him of prompting retaliation and impending war.

If he had not intervened, he would likely have been crucified with criticism if the attacks had happened. Since we can’t prove the attacks would have happened, he is criticized for the actions he took.

Have you ever been in a situation that either direction you took was going to result in some negative consequence? You had to choose the option that you expect the least negative consequences to face from choosing it.

Most of us will face situations like this in our lifetime. I faced such a situation dramatically whenever my child was struck down with cancer as a toddler. I had to choose having her kidney cut out of her and her tiny body be poisoned with chemotherapy or to allow her to just be eaten up and killed by cancer. I didn’t like either choice, but I chose the very treatment that also came with risks and harm. Praise God that through those treatments the Lord brought her through and she has lived decades since. Yet, it didn’t come without harm.

Many of you reading this have your own personal stories of being in situations in which you yearned for another option besides the ones available. Unfortunately, since The Fall, there have and will continue to be situations that have no way to avoid some pain no matter what action is taken.

How do we choose our actions in these situations? While there is no pat answer, there is a definite need to seek the Lord’s direction. As we try to seek God and obey Him, we are more able to trust hearing and being led by the Holy Spirit. In James we read that if we lack wisdom to ask. The Lord wants to equip us with wisdom and wisdom is what we need in making those difficult decisions.

As we face the new year, the new decade, and the new risks and challenges before us, we desperately need the Lord’s guidance. We likely will have critics no matter what actions are taken in some situations. Yet, the only critic that matters is the Lord.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall [a]direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Last year What God Meant for Good

I’m prone to vent about some of the ways the world is different from that of my childhood. I want people to talk to each other instead of sending texts. I want kids to play with each other, go outside, run, and create adventures instead of staying on the computer, sitting and playing games on their phones, and having adventures created for them instead of by them.

Yet, I do love some of the changes. I enjoy how the computer age has brought great advantages into our lives. I love medical advances and ways that some of our prejudices have at least improved, even if they aren’t eradicated. I rejoice that many are open to getting real about their emotional and spiritual struggles and are embracing counseling and getting help instead of suffering in silence and isolation.
While there are numerable advances that have brought great benefits to humanity, advances can bring good or bad outcomes. Social media can encourage, enlighten, and bring people together. It can also disrespect and belittle others, breed jealousy, deception, and discord. It’s actually amazing at how much of what can be used for good can be also used for harm.

When considering the whole picture of life, its apparent that whatever is meant for good, can be perverted into bad. When you talk to the elderly, they passionately recall when the working class desperately needed labor laws and unions. When you talk with those who were around when President Roosevelt promoted welfare and aid to the unemployed, widows, fatherless children, and those unable to work, people that struggled during the Great Depression see him as a heroic, wise, and compassionate leader.

Yet, we also see how those same ideas went wrong at times. I recall my husband’s frustration decades ago when he worked for a company with a strong union. He was required to pay hefty union fees out of his pay and yet the union seemed to help only those employees who drained the company by being lazy. Many missed work with flimsy excuses and milked the system in ways that made it difficult for the conscientious workers. Those who worked hard had to pull the extra load for those who slacked. When the company tried to demote, fire, or somehow make the difficult employees do what was right, the union came to their rescue. The union fought for them regardless of whether they deserved it or not, and they always seemed to win and the employees kept their jobs and perks. There were even cases where employees were caught stealing and yet the powerful labor union fought for them and the company couldn’t fire them.

My husband felt that those who were faithful employees didn’t benefit from the union. The very union that helped the working class had somehow become a detriment in this case.

In considering welfare, we all know that most decent folks would gladly want their taxes to help support those who can’t support themselves. Yet, everyone knows that the system has been high jacked by many who misuse it.

Medications that were meant for good can be used for bad. We have seen this with pain relievers and sleep aids. The addiction problem is overwhelming. Even antibiotics that have saved the masses have also been known to strip our immune system and weaken our bodies’ ability to fight and heal itself when they have been overused.

Why does this phenomenon exist? Why do the amazing and wonderful sometimes become the damaging and hurtful? I assume it has to do with wrong motives or misusing its purpose. Unions, welfare, and medications are to help and protect and when used with wisdom and healthy motives, they do.

When we direct our lives however we choose without seeking advice, direction, and wisdom from our Creator, we are at risk of contributing to turning what was meant for good into bad.
We all must choose and are choosing how we influence, whether we realize it or not. The quest is to be responsible with our choices and to always seek wisdom in using what God meant for good.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10 New King James Version (NKJV)

Last year New Year, New World, Same God

Now that its 2020, we are starting a new year and even a new decade. I feel that we aren’t just in a brand-new year and decade; we are in a new world.

I thought the world was unsettled and changing in crazy ways a decade ago. Now, I not only know it is, I am astonished on a regular basis at how different my world seems from what I experienced as a child. Most of us over the age of fifty grew up hearing warnings that the world was heading toward the end as predicted by the Bible. While we may not have been intensely affected by the warnings when young, now we are; at least I am.

I find myself grieving over ways the world my grandchildren will experience is so different from when I was growing up. Instead of outdoor adventures and pretend play like I enjoyed, they have constant entertainment and interactions via technology. We played without the need for constant guarding and no one had heard of school shootings and terrorism.

Now conversations are texts, tweets, and snap chats, or whatever the current technological fad. Genders are confusing and we are labeled as prejudicial and critical if we yearn for clarity. Nothing seems sacred and clearly identifiably right or wrong to much of the world.

As I ponder on these concerns, I am determined not to stay discouraged or pessimistic. Instead, I focus on the Almighty God who knew and even warned of the progression toward His coming to wrap this all up. He is kind and generous and loves humanity.

My innocent grandchildren easily believe that Jesus loves them and that God is as real and good as they have been told. I choose to not embrace the wave of fear and sadness that tries to warn me of their impending crash with the sin, mounting temptation and deception that will inevitably come their way. Instead, I cry out to a loving God to protect their heart and soul and bring them through to His eternal home.

Change can be good or bad. New can bring hope or fear. As we face a New Year, decade, and world, it is comforting to know that God has always been and always will be. No matter how our life and world change this year, we can rest in the stability of God’s goodness.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17, NIV).

Last year Our Encounter with Christmas

We just celebrated Christmas and many are feeling the aftermath. That usually means the house is ransacked, along with our bank accounts and credit cards. We may feel bloated and sluggish from eating all the sugary and calorie-laden foods.

After our encounter with Christmas, we may look back with fond or painful memories. After many encounters in life, we may not even register any effects from the experience. Other encounters leave profound, and sometimes even lasting effects.

We all need to evaluate the effects of our encounter with Jesus, if we have had one. Sadly, for many, their encounter with Christmas didn’t have anything to do with Jesus.

Our encounter with the very reason for Christmas in the first place should have lasting and absolutely fantastic effects. The aftermath of our encounter should linger with us forever, coloring our hearts and insight with hope.

The famous Hallmark Christmas movies weave mushy and heartwarming descriptions of the magical spell that Christmas puts over humanity. Usually with no reference to the Lord, they still depict Christmas as washing everyone with a gush of hope, communal good wishes, and love.

Most of us recognize that as far from what the world typically is like even at Christmas.

Yet, if we really encounter the One who birthed the real essence of Christmas, we are forever after left with hope and the best example of real love. We may mistake a brush with someone as a true encounter. Thus, we may think, “ My encounter didn’t leave me with much lasting hope and love”.

A true encounter with Jesus can’t help but leave a lasting impression. We will be face to face with what it means to truly be loved and to have hope no matter what our past or current situation is like.

While our encounter with the Christmas season is typically quickly over as soon as it ends, we all need to search and evaluate our encounter with Jesus. The effects should never leave and instead always mark our lives.

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name [a]Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21 New King James Version (NKJV)

Last year Power to Help and Power to Harm

We have the power to share truth with others, but we don’t have the power to make them use it. How do we know when to share truth and when not to? When do we need to stay out of the way of others learning for themselves? When do we try to advise or warn and when do we stop? When do we encourage others, when do we not? When do we help and when do we help more by allowing others to help themselves?

These questions relate to how we use our spiritual gifts. God gifted us, thus creating us with special ability in certain areas where we are more useable and fulfilled in ministering to others. Some are gifted to teach, others to encourage, some to prophecy, others to lead, or to perceive. There are several types of gifting and they make our life more effective and meaningful when we embrace ours and use such wisely.

Unfortunately, we can misuse our gifting and cause problems. I had been declaring for many years that if we don’t use wisdom when using our gifting, harm can come to us and to those to whom we are ministering. Dr. Charles Stanley gave a clear way to explain what makes the difference. He explored each gift and said when that gift is being driven by our flesh or human efforts, we are not only not as effective, we are more at risk to cause harm.

For example, a person gifted with mercy may become an enabler that encourages bad behavior in others by protecting them from painful consequences for bad choices that sometimes promotes repentance and change.

When the gift of mercy is used under the direction of and fueled by the Holy Spirit, it not only is beautiful, it promotes growth and positive change. It doesn’t hinder God’s plan or cause harm. The Holy Spirit will prompt mercy when it will help not hurt.

Those gifted to give or encourage may do so to their own decline, along with those they are giving to and encouraging. Prompted by their flesh, their giving may fuel another’s selfishness or laziness, while their excessive attempts to encourage may drain them, along with fueling another’s dependency upon the person encouraging them, instead of them encouraging themselves in the Lord. While giving and encouragement are lovely gifts, they were meant to help, not promote unhealthy behavior in another.

Those with the gift of teaching and discernment, when operating under the Holy Spirit’s power, can advise and warn in effective ways. When their flesh is directing, their advisement and warning lacks power and effectiveness. Thus, we need to recognize when our efforts are being fueled by our flesh or when prompted by the Holy Spirit.

Those who warn or correct from their flesh typically sound critical and unloving. The same words under the power of the Holy Spirit sound so differently. They can be just as clear and direct, but don’t have the tinge of ugliness that comes from the flesh or carnal nature of humanity.

Why do we sometimes advise and warn even when not prompted to by the Holy Spirit? Usually we are impatient and eager to advise and warn most when its directed at someone we love deeply. We parents are notorious for advising and warning our children, even when they are adults, especially when we see them making bad decisions.

We have power to help and power to harm, even with good motives. Only being attuned and directed by the Holy Spirit in our efforts protects from harm and promotes help.

“Lead on Sweet Spirit of God.”

12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say (Luke 12:12 New King James Version (NKJV)

Last year The Power to Choose

I’ve been thinking and writing about what power we have and what power we don’t have. We don’t have the power to control all that other people do. We don’t have the power to please everyone and to fix all their problems and make everyone happy.

Yet, we do have the power to show love to others and to encourage and warn them with truth, while we sure don’t have the power to make them receive it.

I’ve thought back over the years and realized that I have poured much effort into a couple of people who never seemed to benefit from my efforts. Unfortunately, my attempts to help were fruitless. I don’t know why it took me so many years to realize that all the truth that I shared with them never seemed to make a difference in what they chose to do. I loved them and still believe that the advice I gave was with pure motives and based on truth that would have greatly benefited them if used. Yet when I recognized that it didn’t seem to help them at all, I felt foolish. I even stopped giving it.

When reflecting on this, I thought that I had not used wisdom. I beat myself up a little. So many tell us to maintain boundaries and respect people’s right to make their own choices. Did I even do more damage in giving the truth when I saw them going down risky paths? Maybe I was getting in God’s way. Yet, they were put in my path even when I wasn’t seeking to be put in the position to advise. Maybe I should have just walked beside their journey with compassion and encouragement. Yet, deep down, I sensed differently.

Truth is available for us and yet we too can choose to ignore it as we make our own decisions. I wonder how God feels as week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation, truth is given through the Bible and from people God speaks through from all walks of life that is ignored. Yet, He lovingly keeps giving it.

I can look back over the years and remember that I tried to lovingly warn when prompted to do so. I didn’t badger or try to hurt them when I saw them continuing down a bad path. Maybe God even appreciated my efforts. At least one of them has let me know that she appreciated my efforts and even wished she had heeded my warnings and advice. She knows that I loved her enough to warn and share truth. Yet, I also am reminded that I didn’t and still don’t have the right or power to make her follow it.

This prompts me back to thinking of Linda, who avoided her mother due to her excessive attempts to help. I think I can relate to Linda’s mother, yet I don’t want to cause harm like she did. So what’s the answer?

We must seek the Lord’s promptings. I seemed to recognize when the Lord was telling me to stop with the advising and warning. Until then, I was to share whatever truth the Lord seemed to prompt me to share. The challenge continues to be led by Him in doing so. It is awesome to have the power to warn and share truth to a struggling world whether they heed it or not. It is awesome to have power to love others enough to keep sharing when it is ignored. Our precious Lord showed me that.

“Lord help us use the power wisely”. Doing so we must always remember what we don’t have the power or right to do: We can’t make people follow truth and we can’t take responsibility for their lives.

But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—Ephesians 4:15 New King James Version (NKJV)

2 years ago What Power do we have?

How in the world do we come to think we have power that we don’t have, while not realizing the power that we do have? Some of us think we can control, fix, and make everyone happy. Many of us women fall into the deception that we can please everyone or solve their problems for them. We would say we don’t think this, but our actions suggest we do. It may have taken years for me to finally admit the power I don’t have, but now if I sometimes slip back, it doesn’t take nearly as long for me to remind myself that I can’t control others, please everyone all the time, and fix everyone’s life’s problems. Learning and reminding myself of this truth helps me focus on what I can do with God’s help.

When we act like we have the right and power to take responsibility for another person’s life, we can cause massive harm for others and ourselves too. It didn’t take me long to figure out when counseling Linda that she had experienced such damage.

Linda seems confused and struggles to explain her feelings and perceptions about her mother. Yet, as she tries, I recognize the signs of massive control and fear. Her mother had obviously operated out of fear as she excessively tried to control Linda by coercion, questioning, and advising. The effects were more devastating than her mom would ever know. While Linda loved her, she didn’t even want to be around her. The discomfort, frustration, and eventual anger were so intense that it was difficult for Linda to even feel the love for her mother anymore.

Sadly, I felt sure that her mother had no clue why her daughter avoided her and why their relationship was so strained. All she had ever done was to protect and try to help her daughter, she likely thought.

Just like Linda’s mom thought she had power she never had, Linda didn’t realize that she had power herself that she did have. But, she is learning. She has the power to set boundaries. She has the power to confront her mother with firmness and clarity, while still being kind and respectful. She has the power to pray and receive wisdom in how not only to confront and set boundaries with her mother, but also how to resist the unhealthy guilt that she suffers when she has tried in the past. She can remind herself that its natural to feel frustration and anger, and want to avoid someone who tries to keep a vice grip around us and control us in profound ways. The Word tells us to be angry and sin not and to work through it and let it go (Ephesians 4:26)

To do as the Word advices, we must

1)    Realize what we have the power to do.
2)    Learn what we need to know to use that power.
3)    Practice what we need to practice.
4)    AND to realize what we don’t have the power to do.

Linda is practicing. Linda is learning about herself too. She is recognizing that she has been under the deception that she can please everyone. She now knows that is ludicrous and that living under that deception has chiseled away at her ability to have a healthy life.

Knowing what we have power over and what we don’t is monumental in living well.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces [a]patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be [b]perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:2-5 New King James Version (NKJV).

2 years ago What will you be when you grow up?

I’m going to be someone famous! Everyone is going to know who I am. I might be a racecar driver. No, I think I will be an NFL football player.”

“I’m going to be a famous writer. They will make movies about the stories I write. I might even be the movie star that plays the leading lady!”

Julie chuckled softly as she listened to the children discussing what they would be when they grow up.

“What will you be when you grow up?” She had given that writing assignment to all the first graders she had taught over the decades of her teaching. They always had excitedly planned their futures as if it would be as they had declared. While most had grand plans for the future, they all at least chose some future about which they were happy.

Little did they know, Julie thought. It usually doesn’t come out as they planned, and for some it is drastically different. No one dreams of becoming an alcoholic, homeless, or a bitter old man. No one declares that they will be a thief when they grow up, or work somewhere they despise while only dreaming of retirement.

Ironically, they all also only respond to the question by answering with what career they will choose. They don’t say, “I will be a loving person who is kind and generous. I will be truthful and someone who loves Jesus.”

I wonder what their Creator thinks as those young naïve children ask themselves “What will I be when I grow-up?”

Julie fades into disturbing thoughts as the children continue their excited chatter. She didn’t even recognize little Joey when she bumped into him at the store. He was as thin as a rail which was a far cry from the pudgy little boy she taught in first grade twenty years ago. His eyes looked hollow and blank and the dark circles underneath made him look almost haunted. The drugs he had experimented with in high school had obviously robbed him of the bright future she had been sure he would have. She recalled his happy demeanor as a young and bright lad in first grade.

Then there’s Lacy, the cute and shy little girl who had wanted to be an artist. Her drawings clearly had convinced Julie that Lacy was gifted and destined for a future that would bring many creative and beautiful works of art for the world to enjoy and treasure. Instead, Julie had attended her funeral after learning that little Lacy had committed suicide at the age of twenty.

A host of other faces didn’t necessarily haunt her, but made her wonder. While there were young and eager faces of decades of first graders she had taught, she knew that many were now adults, with some even getting getting into their senior years. Where are they? Who have they become? Were they what they had written in her class assignment so many years ago? Did I help steer them in some way toward the Lord’s plans for their lives.

It’s too late for Joey, Lacy, and any others that have long left her classroom. Yet, determined to plant some nuggets of insight to guide them, Julie asks the Lord to help her plant seeds of truth about “what to be when they grow up”. Knowing that God has great plans for their lives, Julie also reminds herself, “Satan has plans for those precious children too”.

“Lord, help me plant some seeds that they will take with them long after they leave my classroom. Water them with reminders of what You want for them. Only You wrote the perfect response to the question, Who will we be when we grow up? I am reminded each time I open the Bible.”

God knows that Julie answered the question well for her own life. She truly became who He wanted her to be when she grew up.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 New King James Version (NKJV).

2 years ago Commissioned by Jesus

Mary looked around at the other girls in the room. They looked so sure of themselves. Most of them had those clothes with brand names that made them not only expensive, but marked them as the clothes that only cool kids wore. Mary knew she would never wear them and even if someone felt sorry for her and gave her hand-me-down brand name clothes, she would be too embarrassed to wear them. The other kids would surely snicker at the poor kid trying to be what she wasn’t.

Mary had always known that she wasn’t like the other kids. Her mother didn’t pack her a lunch in one of those cool shinny lunchboxes. In fact, she was lucky to get free lunches because her family was so poor. Her dad didn’t work much. He mostly drank beer and cussed. She couldn’t ever remember him ever noticing her, unless he was yelling. Mary wondered why her folks even had kids. At least she didn’t have to worry about her dad getting mad anymore since he took off months ago. Unlike the other times he left for weeks at a time, she knew this time he wasn’t coming back.

She used to dream about what it would be like to have a mom and dad that were happy and wanted she and her brothers and sisters. She imagined how her mom would brush her hair and put those cute ribbons in it like a lot of the girls in class wore. Her dad would read the Bible to them and pray before they ate. They would even eat together like a real family. They would go to church like the other kids and there would be no cussing, drinking, and fighting.

The frigid cold night air jarred Mary back into reality. The old house was freezing and her stomach hurt from being so hungry. It was even more heartbreaking to know that her younger sisters and brothers were hungry too. Mom seemed too miserable to even notice.

Mary was startled to see car lights beaming through her window. She rushed into the living room to see a woman and young girl carrying in bags and bags of food. What in the world was going on? Mom was tearing up and looked a little stunned and embarrassed. As they chatted, Mary saw the young girl with them smile at her shyly.

Maybe they were angels. But they looked like regular people, Mary thought. The woman said her name was Joyce and that girl with her was her daughter.

How did they know that we didn’t have food or the money to buy any? Mary would wonder that for years to come.

Years passed and they somehow survived without dad. Some of her siblings turned to drinking, especially her brothers. They all went to work, but Mary pushed harder than them all. College was hard, but she made it, even though she worked every semester. From college to career, Mary knew that she was considered the success of the family.

As she looked around the huge mansion of a house she called home, Mary signed. Why did she still feel like that poor little girl that didn’t measure up? She thought of the woman and young girl who had brought them food whenever they were destitute. Those groceries had lasted for weeks and tied them over until mom could figure out how to get more coming in with dad gone. Mary recalled the kindness in the eyes of those coming into their freezing dark house that night. The more she thought of them, the more she wondered if God had sent them. They didn’t even know them so it must have been God.

That spark of wonder ignited her quest to find God, although she didn’t feel worthy enough for Him to notice her. Churches were all over the place and unsure which would welcome her, Mary waited for months. She wasn’t sure what would help her figure out where to go and yet it seemed God sent another to show her. Like Joyce from years ago, another ordinary woman God commissioned to help her. Ann who had recently been hired at her work, suddenly invited her to her church. She acted as if she really wanted her to come. She even agreed to pick her up and go with her so Mary wouldn’t feel awkward.

Years have passed since that invitation. Mary often thought back to those God had sent her. As she smiled and closed her eyes listening as her church sang of God’s sweet love and grace, she could picture the woman named Joyce and her shy daughter on that cold winter night. They had given her the first glimpse of God’s love and provision for her. Ann had given her another.

Mary questioned herself, “How could she not have known that Jesus had always loved her?” That poor little girl who felt so inferior to the other kids had always been cherished by God. Mary began packing her bags of food that she would be taking to that tattered old house on the other side of town. She had seen children in the yard as she drove by. Memories had flooded her mind and she instinctively had stopped her car. The little girl had seen her and their eyes met. Her eyes looked sad and Mary couldn’t help notice the mismatched and worn clothes, dirty hair, and sparse surroundings.

“You are loved, little one”, Mary said underneath her breath and “I’m going to make sure you know it”.

    While this story is fictional, it actually isn’t completely. I recall being that young girl and my mom taking me with her to bring food to some poor family. Mom had heard about them and knew they needed help. I remember as we got to the house, I felt apprehensive because it looked dark, cold, and spooky. There were several children, with one being a young girl that looked like who I called Mary in my story.

    I felt sad as I looked around the house and wondered about their lives. Ironically, decades later, I met that little girl, who had grown up to be educated and successful in her career. As she told me that she still felt like that little poor girl, I shared with her about my Lord. My heart ached for her to have the wounds and scars from childhood healed by the love of Jesus. I can only hope and pray that her real story ended as mine written about Mary, with her feeling cherished and adored.

    Its humanity’s tragedy that we make some people feel more important than others; that some are pegged as inferior or tainted and less worthy of love. Oh that we take the opportunities to be a Joyce or an Ann or even a young child commissioned by Jesus to help a hurting world.

2 years ago Do I really love the Lord?

Christmas is coming and the urge to find gifts that will delight my loved ones is growing strong. The need to clean up the mess in my house is pressing upon me. I have been traveling, going to conferences, and working on some major projects. Sometimes I seem to ping from one task to another, with each feeling significant. Life keeps presenting competing stimuli that draw my focus from one task or delight to another. Yet, I am usually aware in the background of all life's noise of Jesus’ message: “But Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33, NKJV).

Sometimes I am nudged to be like an observer of not only my own life, but that of others. I see the scurry through life that displays people being so caught up in activities of life that don’t seem to have much to do with the kingdom of God. They may not be bad endeavors, just trivial compared to what Jesus repeatedly tried to get others, like His disciples to see.

The distractions of life become our lives. Do we see the essence of why we exist? Do we see the importance of what Jesus was telling Peter when He asked if he loved Him three times (John 21: 15-17)? How would I feel if Jesus called me by name as He asked, “Peggy, daughter of Hal and Geneva Davis, do you love me?” Imagine being Peter as Jesus asked you, “_______ do you love Me more than these?” Although I’m not sure what Jesus was referring to, I assume Jesus meant fish or Peter’s way of life when He asked do you love me more than they.

Even after you answering, Jesus keeps asking, “Do you love me”. It’s like He is pushing us to make sure and to dig deep into what real love and commitment means. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus asked it three times----the same number of times that Peter denied Jesus when he was being questioned about his relationship with the Lord at the time of Jesus’ impending crucifixion.

Not only was Jesus prompting Peter to examine the degree of his love and commitment, He was trying to establish it so that not only would Peter do his ministry or purpose to teach the Word of God, but for that love to sustain him as he faced his own suffering and death. Church tradition records that Peter suffered martyrdom being crucified upside down because he refused to be crucified like his Lord.

As Peter solidified his love, devotion, and commitment to the Lord, oh how he changed. He went from that scared man who denied Jesus to one who would live three decades serving the Lord while anticipating the suffering and death that would come to him and yet proclaiming that such suffering and death for the Lord brings praise and glory to God.

I recognize that I have a long way to go, but I want to be willing to see suffering for the Lord as an honor. Don’t we all need to remind ourselves of what really matters? Seek first the kingdom of God and then everything else follows.

Maybe each day I need to ask: “Do I really love the Lord”.

2 years ago What Really Matters?

“I’m so worried that they will be disappointed. They probably won’t care a thing about the few gifts I got them. What else could I get?”

I had heard such comments every Christmas from Mary, who distressed over trying to make everyone delighted in the gifts she gave him or her. It wasn’t just Christmas that brought this out in Mary. As long as I knew her, she had agonized over others’ possible disappointment. She didn’t want anyone to be disappointed.

Even slight disappointments became a big deal for Mary. It was okay if she was let down, but it was a catastrophe for someone else to be. She wanted everyone to get what he or she wanted, whether it was the desert desired, or the healing he or she sought.

What would happen if Mary were able to pull it off? What if none of us were ever disappointed? What if we always got what we wanted?

The Lord wisely allows us to face being disappointed. When I look back over my life, I realize that much of what was such a big deal in the past now looks so trivial. The decades have changed my perspective. I can only imagine how much more our perspective will change as we leave this earthly life and embrace our eternal home. Much of what we were disappointed about and what we allowed to have such power over us will look so insignificant. I assume we will have thoughts like, “If I only knew then what I know now, that wouldn’t have even mattered.”

I sometimes look back over my earthly life and jar myself into the reality of what really will matter in the big picture. I think we contemplate like this more as we get to be seniors. How I wish we would do that from the time we are young. We would have likely not only lived more wisely, but also with more peace, joy, and contentment.

Is it really that big of a deal Mary if they are thrilled with their gift. Of course you would like them to enjoy it and not be disappointed, but is it worth all the emotion, time, and distress you are assigning to it?

I need to ask myself the same. What has great power over me? What am I giving more power to than it merits? As I look back over what had such emotional power over me as I lived my life, I see so much that didn’t merit the power I assigned it. By doing so, other more important truths didn’t get the preeminence that it should have.

“Lord help us see what really matters.”

2 years ago What’s really going on?

My friend, Jane, frustrates me with her nativity. I get annoyed because she repeatedly assumes that those who look like they have it altogether and have perfect relationships do. Then she compares her own self and family to them and feels even worse. I keep reminding her, “You have no clue what their real life is like”. No one has perfect lives, yet she naively thinks whatever it looks like on the surface reflects all there is. It’s not like I want there to be problems in others’ lives, but I’ve been too involved in human struggles to think that anyone is immune.

Everyone has stuff in their lives that came from the fall. We all have an evil enemy that has been harassing humanity since “the fall”. We all have a flesh nature that is prone to sin from time to time. We are affected by others who sin too.

So why does Jane not stay reminded of this? Why does she assume that those smiling faces always mean happiness? Maybe she, like most of us, want it to always be positive. We want the movies and stories of life to always have a good ending. We want the good guys to win. We want the sick child to be healed. We want the marriage to make it. Whatever the outcome, we want it to be good.

I have to admit, like Jane, I sometimes succumb to noticing where others are doing better in some areas than those I love or I. That’s why we need to believe in heaven. We need hope that there will be an eternal home where no pain exist and what we see will be real. There’s no hidden problems or impending doom.

So I try to harness my irritation so that I don’t act hurtful to Jane when she makes another of those ridiculous statements about so and so having it all together and having such a charmed and perfect family. Ironically, several times she has made such a comment about people who have shared their painful situations and struggles with me in counseling. I secretly reflect, “If she only knew their real situation”.

I don’t doubt that some have more struggles than others. Some have been faced with more tragedies, less resources, and more horrific situations than others. I am ever reminded of that as I hear the private pain of so many in my counseling practice. It also prompts me to be more aware and grateful for my blessings.

Thank-you Lord for the hope we have in You. We are not equipped to know what each of us face. We can’t surmise what is really going on in someone else’s life. But You can and You care. That means only You also can read and know everything about me.

2 years ago The Pain and Pleasure of Relationships

I wonder what causes the most pain in humanity. There are all kinds of hurt and harm, but most hurt comes from relationships.

Ironically, God created us for relationships and they birth love and purpose, while they also cause deep heartaches. I look forward to relationships in heaven that will be pure and what God intended. Until then, I face people daily who come with the hurts of tainted relationships.

Like Sue, who cringes under the harsh anger of her husband or Thomas, who is constantly reminded of his faults by the woman who is supposed to be his helpmate, or the mass of others, stinging from the pain of betrayal and infidelity.

I realize the young are never immune; as I listen to little Sara shamefully tell of the bullying she has endured from her peers. Why would anyone delight in hurting sweet Sara? Her shame provokes not just my compassion, but also my anger.

I can never document all the endless cases of hurt that the decades of counseling have brought before me. I can’t stop the madness of humanity.

I’m sure none of us haven’t been hurt by another and have also hurt someone else ourselves. Why? The answers come in all kinds of ways, but basically because of sin. Sin breeds insecurities, jealousy, selfishness, and misunderstandings.

If you still carry hurt deep within, its time to relish in a relationship with Jesus, to tell Him your secrets, share with Him your hurt, and read of His kindness and words of grace and comfort. We might not feel His physical embrace, His pat on our back, or hear His audible voice. We may sense a peace, we may feel warmth and comfort, and we may not. Either way, He is near, He is safe, and we need to pursue believing He is who the Word says He is. The greatest relationship ever is waiting.

2 years ago Deep Down Counsel

The young woman looked so confident in her passionate rant about why she was right. She argued her case and defended her right to make her own decisions, right or wrong! “She should learn from her own mistakes”, she contended.

I wasn’t sure what I felt more—sadness or fear for her. I softly, slowly, yet clearly told her that deep down, most Christians know what is right. Although we can all get deceived, when we sincerely seek the Lord’s direction and shut up and listen deeply, we usually know what the Lord is nudging us to do.

I calmly told her about a verse in Proverbs,

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out (Proverbs 20:5, NKJV).

I thought about the decades of counseling that had presented me with stressed and confused clients who were stumbling through a situation in which they sought direction. When they quieted down, I reminded them that deep down they likely knew what they needed to do. After a few to several silent seconds, I saw the slight grin and knowing nod.

I wisely listened as my young friend softly admitted, “deep down I have doubts”. She insinuated that she knew that God wanted differently from what she wanted and had defended. She had previously passionately argued that she would learn from her own decisions. Now she was quiet and deep in thought.

I agreed that, “God will let us make so many of our own decisions. However, we don’t just learn from them, we can also suffer from them, sometimes painfully. Our decisions can promote God’s great help and plan for our lives or they can hinder and even nullify some.

As she sat quiet in thought, my hope was beginning to grow. I could tell that she was listening for that deep down counsel within herself that the Lord promised.

As we face the challenges and sometimes confusions of life, we need the wisdom that is ours for the taking. I warned my young friend that I had deeply regretted when I had neglected seeking that deep, internal counsel. Those were the times that, instead, I had followed what my surface feelings and thoughts wanted. Oh that we would be willing to stop and seek deep down and follow accordingly. Never forfeit what deep counsel is there for the seeking. As proverb declares, a wise man will draw it out.

2 years ago Leave the Costumes for Halloween: Getting Real

I recently was watching a cheesy hallmark movie. The typical story unfolded with a guy and girl meeting and being enthralled with each other at first sight. A scene displayed the man telling his leading lady, who he had met only a few days ago, “I feel like I could talk to you about anything.” She responded with, “I feel the same”. As they gazed adoringly into each other’s eyes, I realized that although it was corny, we women, and probably secretly men too, yearn to be so safe and adored by someone with whom we can be transparent and completely ourselves.

As I see all the costumes displayed in anticipation of upcoming Halloween, I also realize that most of us put on our masks daily. Yet, the more we feel accepted and unconditionally loved with someone, with them we take off the mask, we share our deepest thoughts, feelings, and painful secrets. This naturally makes me think of the Lord.

Unfortunately, we may not know the Lord accurately. Just like we may not know a person well enough to feel safe with them, we may not know the mercy, grace, and unconditional love of Jesus. The more we do, the more we get real, even when we feel like we need to hide from the judgmental eyes of the world, including our own. The shame that kept us prisoner begins to fade as we uncover, get real, and pour our heart out to our Creator, Savior, and most trusted friend.

As the masks and costumes are discarded, we just leave them for Halloween.

2 years ago Living in Reality: What a Great Inheritance!

Years ago, I met a woman I’ll call Jane. Jane seemed tense with apprehension about her finances. Her fear was manifested with her frequent references to money and her concern that she didn’t have resources needed. She seemed worried about going under, and whether she will have enough to pay the bills and whatever was needed in the future.

I recall feeling compassion for her plight. No one wants the impending risk of being destitute hanging over their heads. I assumed she was almost penniless, living from week to week. I encouraged Jane to trust God and to recognize the many promises He has made to take care of us. I knew that the closer she got to the Lord, the more her fear would fade. She would begin to get free instead of being held prisoner to fear that robbed her of the joy and peace in life.

Then one day, I met a close family member of Jane’s. As we talked, I found out that Jane’s house was paid off, that she was her grandfather’s favorite, that he took care of anything she needed financially, and that she was to inherit his belongings.

I was stunned to say the least! Why in the world would Jane be worried and bound with fear about finances? She didn’t seem materialistic and craving of money and luxury. Instead, she just wanted to know she could make it, that her family would be okay, and that they wouldn’t end up homeless and starving.

I racked my brain for how she could be so fearful when many with high mortgages, bills, and such smaller resources than Jane worry much less. Most of us would gladly trade places.

It was as if Jane didn’t recognize how safe and provided for she was. She didn’t relish in knowing that her grandfather had not only well provided for her, was ever present to help, and loved her deeply. She didn’t even seem reassured and thankful for the inheritance that was hers.

We may think Jane as some weirdo who needs to check back in on reality to the fact that she has nothing to fear and great to rejoice about. Yet, as I was reading in the Bible, I recognized we too sometimes act like weirdos who don’t recognize our own position accurately. Better than an earthly grandfather, we have a heavenly Father who has declared provisions for us that we don’t seem absolutely delighted and reassured in recognizing. The Word is packed with truth that the Lord will provide and care for those who love Him and that they have an inheritance that we need to recognize and embrace in ways that Jane didn’t understand.

Just a few reminders:

the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (Ephesians 1:18, NKJV).

[ A Heavenly Inheritance ] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (I Peter 1:3-4).

[ Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God ] He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. ... (Psalm 91: 1-3, NKJV).

We all need to check back into the reality!

2 years ago Till He Calls Me Home

Some people seem to stand out amount humanity because of their tenacity. They keep going when others give up. They are persistent, determined, and meet the challenges along the way without getting deterred from reaching goals. They are the CEOs, successful entrepreneurs, surgeons with cutting edge skills, teachers who don’t give up on any child, and preachers who stay the course even when tragedies, criticism, and spiritual attacks are repeatedly hurled their way. They are the wives who stay faithful, even when their husbands cheat. They are the husbands who keep bearing the load, when their wives shirk responsibilities and live selfishly.

They are those who have failed miserably in their walk, but get back up. They repent, accept the Lord's mercy and forgiveness, and finish their race.

They are those who get up, go to work, mow the lawn, and feed the dog. They may appear to have a mundane life to others, but to God they are faithful. What does it mean to stay the course and to run and not faint? What kind of life is met with the Lord’s commendation, “Welcome, you have run a good race, you have finished the course, now enter into eternal rest and reward?”

Our race may look differently to someone else’s race. Some are called to be like the apostle Paul who had a life of sacrifice and ministry. Others are called to what may look ordinary and unimportant. But don’t be fooled. We are all called to our individual races and like Paul, we all can get weary. Some seem to have even more reason to get weary. I was fascinated when reading about Paul’s infirmity. Some think he had Malaria and those with Malaria can experience cycles of attacks. Malaria infections are characterized by fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue. It may also include cough, chest or abdominal pain, and sweating.

When I think of how Paul traveled and devoted his life to leading others to Jesus and to encouraging and equipping believers, I am awed by his willingness to stay the course. Some believed he ministered in between bouts of Malaria.

Sometimes I experience bouts of fatigue, although nothing as serious as Malaria. Sometimes I’m excited about sharing with others, ministry opportunities, and goals for advancing the Kingdom. When the bouts of weariness come, the thoughts begin: what was I thinking, I’m dragging and tired, I don’t have the strength and energy to do this. I can’t muster up the drive.

I wonder if Paul ever felt like this. It sure doesn’t seem like it. Enviably the fatigue passes, the weariness lifts, and energy comes. I feel the excitement returning and think, why in the world would I not want to go forth with this. I’m so honored for the assignments and call to serve.
I hope I remember when the next bout comes . . .It will pass, stay the course, rest as needed, and keep going. My race continues till He calls me home.

2 years ago Kind to the Unthankful

Have you ever put great effort into a person, maybe with a thoughtful gift, intense service, or prayerful ministry and sacrifice and he or she shows no thankfulness? How do you feel?

I have a particularly painful memory from when my son was just a lad. Christmas had finally arrived and he was excited to give me his gift which was a digital camera. This was when digital cameras were the “new thing” and he had saved and secretly purchased one for me. This was huge for just a little boy.

It was Christmas morning and like usual, it was hectic and I was trying to get my gifts together to take to my mom’s where our whole huge family meets every Christmas morning. Each family does their own individual Christmas at their home and we then meet at mom’s. I was frantically trying to find my gift for my sister and found it missing!

I recalled that my son and his cousin had been rummaging through where the gift was and I surmised that they had somehow moved the gift. In my frantic search, I began accusing and fussing at my son about it, while he was waiting for my response to his precious gift to me.
While I tried to express my gratitude and surprise about his gift, I knew that my distress colored and hampered my reaction. He didn’t comment or complain, yet I inwardly felt that I had failed, had hurt him, and had not shown the tenderness and thankfulness that his sacrifice for me had deserved.

It was particularly painful because I realized that he was young, eager to please, and excited about what he had gotten for his mom with him being just a child, with little resources.

To add to my pain, I latter realized that he had nothing to do with my sister’s gift being misplaced. I ruined the delight of the moment for my son and even decades later, I feel a sting of hurt in recalling the incident.

I have expressed my remorse and apologized a number of times to my son and each time he reassures me and seems puzzled about why I am making such a big deal about it. Maybe we don’t make enough of a big deal about thankfulness. My son was so kind to the unthankful----in this case me.

The Lord is absolutely beautiful and sometimes we just don’t recognize His kindness. Years ago when I was getting ready to go into a meeting where someone would be who had hurt me, I quickly opened the Bible before going to the meeting. Amazingly, I opened to the passage that tells that God is kind to the unthankful and evil and for us to be merciful as He is merciful. Knowing that I too can be so unthankful at times, it comforts me to read of the Lord’s kindness and mercy.

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6: 35-36, NKJV).

2 years ago Default Settings: Choose Wisely

Scientists have studied the human brain for eons. Recently, I listened to a researcher who explained that the human brain has a default setting that makes it notice the negative or what’s wrong in a situation over what’s right. Its as if it’s geared to hone in on what is wrong. I guess that is so we can protect ourselves.

I wonder if that default setting came after sin entered our world with the fall of Adam and Eve. Makes sense that this default wouldn’t have been needed before then since nothing was wrong or risky. We sure won’t need such a default setting in Heaven.

The default setting doesn’t just promote protection. It can also promote harm. We all know people who are negative and always notice and complain about what’s wrong. Some also focus on what can go wrong, instead of what can go right. This default setting makes them fearful and robs them of peace and opportunities.

What do we do with such a hardwired default setting? How do we use it for good and not for bad?

We must develop our default setting to go by what the Word tells us. We mustn’t ignore that it doesn’t just tell of what’s right. It warns of evil and that we are in a spiritual war. However, it also emphasizes the love of Jesus, the great promises of salvation and blessings for those who seek and love the Lord, and the victorious eternity God offers us.

We were born with not only a default setting to focus on the negative, but also a default setting that yearns for love and purpose. We were created in the image of God, so we can choose to pursue the positive just as we are told . . .

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Philippians 4: 8, NKJV).

2 years ago Anxiety blocks contentment

I have been thinking and writing about contentment. I noticed that the apostle Paul talked about anxiety before he started telling about how he learned contentment.

I recognize that much of what hinders my contentment is anxiety and not just any anxiety. It is worry and anxiety about other people I love who I feel are making unwise decisions or being unhealthy in ways that will lead to their suffering and decline.

We can’t control what those we love do. We can’t make their decisions. We can’t protect them from the consequences of their choices. In summary, we don’t have the right or power to direct someone else’s journey, no matter how much we love them.

So here we go back full circle to what Paul was telling us about before getting to his disclosure about contentment: Instead of being anxious, take our concerns and requests to the Lord. Then trust Him. He loves those we love. He wants to use everything, even our loved ones’ suffering, for good.

2 years ago Learning Contentment

Recently I was talking with a woman about contentment. Wouldn’t it be great to feel contented, no matter the circumstances of life? We were talking about the apostle Paul and how he told of being content no matter what circumstance he was in: either in lack or in abundance.

My friend insinuated that she asked God and expected Him to make her content. I reminded her that Paul said he LEARNED to be content. This means he had a responsibility in the process. He must have learned by seeking and doing his part in learning.

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have LEARNED in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have LEARNED both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need (Philippians 4: 11-12, NJJV).

What did Paul do to learn to be content? I believe he came to love the Lord by seeking Him. He learned to take his thoughts captive and to redirect them to the truth of Lord’s love, faithfulness, and to what God promises, no matter what the temporary circumstances were. He must have recognized that suffering here is temporary and that the Lord is ever there to empower him and cares. He must have come to know the Lord so much that he didn’t have to understand everything he experienced to know that the Lord has good in mind for him and that He will lead him to victory and eternal comfort.

We learn so much in life, but some learning is much more precious than other learning. Some of what we learn doesn’t make any valuable difference to our lives. What Paul was talking about learning is amazing and worth our upmost effort in gaining. Sometimes we put more effort into learning some trivial video game or hobby than what Paul had come to devote his life to learning.

Godly contentment is great learning!

2 years ago Contentment

It seems that much of humanity is never content. We want more or we want different. I am fascinated with the apostle Paul and how he dealt with life’s great challenges and suffering. Paul gave the church passionate advice about anxiety. He urged believers to not be anxious about anything, but to pray with thanksgiving about their concerns, to make requests to the Lord, and then to think positively.

He then quickly follows with a message about contentment.

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4: 11-13, NKJV).

When I consider how most of us still search for contentment, I realize we need to strive for what Paul had found. His contentment came from the Lord and obviously wanting Him above all else. He was strengthened, encouraged, and led through whatever circumstances by His Lord.

How? What matters is what we need to do to get there. We must seek Him, read His Word to get to know Him, talk to Him intimately, ask and trust Him to love and direct us, and to obviously embrace His many promises.

We need to make wise requests: “Lord help me to want to please You above all else, help me love like You do, open my eyes to truth and what really matters.”

2 years ago True Veterans

Whenever I was a doctoral intern, I did a rotation at the Veterans Administration. Veterans are forever marked and changed after being involved in war. Those who were entrenched in the battle, watching their comrades get blown away are forever attuned to the intensity and honor of military service. They never forget.

The veterans I counseled at the VA taught me of how their experiences with the pain of war and death of their comrades birthed a forever reverence for those willing to serve, endure dangers, and sacrifice for a war worth fighting. They had a deep love and commitment to others hurt in the war.

While there are those who enlisted in the military, there are others that were drafted during wartime. Those drafted didn’t have a choice. We don’t either. We are drafted into the spiritual war as soon as we are conceived. Once we enter into our earthly existence, the forces against us and for us are in play. It’s ironic that those who feel safe and oblivious to the intentions of the Enemy of humanity are most at risk.

I recently was asked to speak at a group called Parents of Prodigals. This group has been banding together for encouragement, acceptance, and for developing and sharing battle plans and tips. I realized that they were veterans of a spiritual war and like the veterans from the VA, they too will never forget about war. I know several of them and their individual stories of battle wounds and struggles in their families. They have children who are prisoners of war.

As the word veteran came to mind, I thought of our American Veterans of War. They are often recognized by their forever reverence for the military. They tear up as other veterans are recognized, they bow in respect as Old Glory is flown, and they never face Memorial Day, the fourth of July, and D Day without remembering why they exist. They never seem to forget that the wars are ever brewing and the cost and causalities of being a soldier. Their devotion to other soldiers has always touched my heart with awe.

Parents of prodigals remind me of them. Some have had their child rescued and yet they never forget the pain and gratitude of victory. Others, whose children are still prisoners, have deep compassion for others in the same position. Even those who lost theirs in the war are forever bound with a yearning to help others. Their war efforts don’t cease. Even if their child is no longer with them, they want to spare others the pain they have endured. Now that’s a true veteran.

While the parents of prodigals group are veterans, others not so attuned to the war may feel sorry for them and think of themselves as so much luckier. They may be fooled into thinking that they and their families aren’t in danger since they think they aren’t in the war. Veterans know better.

Those with battle wounds are likely the safest because they know about the enemy and war. They are more likely to know to use the right weapons and who their great General really is. The Enemy tries to take all of us as prisoners of war. Again I find it incredulous that some prisoners don’t even realize they are prisoners of war. How can that be?

They may not know that their fear is keeping them shackled. They may not recognize that their dark mood is a spiritual drug being sprayed upon them like Agent Orange. They may not know that anger, rage, and bitterness are traps keeping them propelled toward damage for both them and their family. They may not recognize their jealousy and envy as an enticement from the Enemy that leads toward derailment. They don’t recognize coveted world treasure as a Trojan horse that will lead to their tragedy. Yes, there are many ways we can be a prisoner of war and not even realize it.

Addicts that are agonizing know they are a prisoner. Parents of prodigals know their child is one.

We all desperately need to know we are at war and that we have victory for the taking because of our hero Jesus. True veterans still shout out the news!

2 years ago "Don't Believe Him"

I felt drained and was fighting fatigue as I took each step. My head felt heavy and it was as if a quiet gray had settled over my spirit. I drug through the day and even laid down for a quick rest in between appointments.

Why in the world did I take on certain feats? I just don’t have the energy, desire, or resolve. In fact, I don’t even feel sharp enough for the task.

Yet, I somehow kept moving and told myself, "this will pass. I may feel drained and unmotivated and even sad, but I won’t feel this way forever".

Sure enough, the next morning, I felt something had lifted and I rejoiced not to feel the lull of the day before. I realize that many are dragging through a much longer and more pronounced lull.

However, we can sit and accept the gray heavy blanket over us, or we can rest, but then get up. We can remind ourselves that it will eventually lift, and we can help it along.

The Enemy would rather us slip into darkness permanently. He would rather us believe that we are helpless to do anything but stay beneath its weight. Don’t believe him.

2 years ago We Aren’t Helpless

“I wonder when this cloud over me will lift?”

“I wonder when I will come out of this funk?”

“I can’t help it, that’s just the way I am.”

As I listen to those making such comments, I feel almost like screaming! Yet, I control myself and instead calmly, yet directly challenge their thinking.

“You have a choice. You don’t just wait for some spell to go away, you have power to influence your life and who you are.”

I understand that there are some forces and events over which we can’t control. Yet, the Lord makes it clear that we have choices and the Bible clearly instructs what actions we must make to have forgiveness, blessings, peace, and victory. God doesn’t ask us to do what only He can do, but He does tell us to do our part.

Those studying human behavior found long ago that people can develop what’s called “learned helplessness”. After experiencing pain that seemed unavoidable, people can come to believe that they are completely powerless over what happens to them, how they feel, and their lot in life. Even though God gave them authority, weapons, and choices that give them powerful ways to affect how they think and eventually feel, they just sit and wait for whatever will happen. They stay embraced in believing they are helpless.

Its like they are in the back seat of the car and are at mercy to wherever the car takes them. They may be driven up a great road or over rough terrain, to over a cliff.
I say, “Get behind the wheel and steer”. The car may be out of line and keep veering to the right or left, but you can adjust.

I would never have chosen to be a psychologist if I believed that people could do nothing to enhance their life, change behavior, and pursue healthier relationships. God wants to equip us, heal us, and promote our lives. Yet, we have a part to play. Otherwise, why would the Bible give so many instructions and teaching about what choices to make, what to do, and how to pursue Him.

We need to shake ourselves out of the lull and deception of learned helplessness. We have powerful weapons that God wants to empower us to use. Get up, fight a good fight, think on His many promises, and go forth engaging in the challenge. When you feel helpless, know He is our strength.

2 years ago “Not On My Watch!”

    This is a well-known phrase, yet what does it mean? Most would think of it as referring to being vigilant in guarding something worth protecting. Guarding would require one to “watch” for whatever would cause harm in order to disable its attack. Our watch may involve protecting our country, a person or family, a business, or whatever else was precious to the one keeping watch.

    Most would consider their family as being more valuable than anything else in their life. When tornados, fires, or other disasters demolish one’s home and possessions, people passionately declare that their family being safe is what matters most.

    I find it ironic that while people earnestly proclaim their families as being most important, family members sometimes hurt each other more deeply than any others. Several neglect their family. Many fathers don’t protect their children in ways that are clearly needed. They might fight an intruder for them and even take a bullet in their place, and yet the evil intruder, Satan, is on the prowl and fathers don’t take the action needed to guard their families.

    Mothers sometimes put more effort into securing their daughters’ physical beauty and popularity and their son’s worldly success than their spiritual maturity and relationship with Jesus.

    Some siblings rival over temporary possessions instead of enjoying the comradery of being join heirs in the Lord’s family.

    I’m encouraged at those who live with the awareness of how to nurture and protect their family. I’m thrilled knowing fathers who teach their children to respect and obey the Lord, and to live with integrity and generosity. I’m awed at mothers who sacrifice for their children in ways that teach them what real love looks like. I’m honored to know mothers who display the heart of Christ to their children as they not only lead them to the Lord, but also show a burden for a lost and hurting world. Fathers who love their wives, and mothers who love their husbands, prepare their children for healthy marriages. Parents, who do the ultimate protection, teach their children the Word of God, which will lead them and provide the spiritual weapons they need in life.

    In the eternal existence of humanity, our earthly life is but a brief moment. Yet, how we live it can either harm our families and future descendants or help establish, bless, and protect them. The Bible warns of sins being passed on down through generations. In synch with this warning is epigenetics which is a fast-growing area of scientific research that studies how genetics are affected by what we do and to what we are exposed. We are born with DNA that we had no choice over, and yet some of our experiences, including ones we choose, affect what genes are “turned on” or come to be expressed and which ones aren’t. What was even more amazing was that the genetic effects were passed on to future generations. I was stunned when reading scientific research about some epigenetic changes that were traced to four generations later!
When I first read about some of the findings from epigenetics, I was absolutely amazed and enthralled. I was also profoundly reminded that we are not only accountable for our choices, but also for how our choices affect our families and future generations.

Pondering on both the Scriptures and epigenetic research made the phrase, “Not on my watch” take on a new and powerful meaning. As we live our brief earthly existence, we should all be on watch for our families. We must be vigilant while on our watch. We don’t have power over others’ watch and choices. Thus, we can’t be responsible for theirs, nor them for ours. But we are all responsible for our watch.

Irreverent disregard for God’s word, “Not on my watch”! Dishonest gain, “Not on my watch”! “Mistreatment and cruel behavior to others, “Not on my watch”! “Bitterness and pervasive envy or selfishness, “Not on my watch”. “Neglecting family, church, and feelings of others, especially God’s, “Not on my watch”!

“Lord, please help, empower, and keep me vigilant so that You, my family, and future generations of my decedents are pleased with and blessed by “My Watch”.

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You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, (Exodus 20:5)

maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:7)

‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’(Numbers 14:18)

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, (Deuteronomy 5:9)

The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” (2 Kings 10:30)

So the word of the Lord spoken to Jehu was fulfilled: “Your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” (2Kings 15:12)

2 years ago "Good Grief"

Masses of people are grieving. Some in response to the death of their spouse, child, or someone they love. Others are heartbroken over the demise of their marriage. Many suffer from letting go of a dream that seems to have vanished.

Isaiah told of Jesus being a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3a, NKJV).

That passage has intrigued me for years. I have wondered about the Lord’s grief and if He continues to grieve. When I see the hurt and sin in our world, I can’t imagine the Lord not grieving. He must grieve as He watches the lost not only stumble through life, but also as they pass from this one into the eternal. Surely He aches for those being mistreated, filled with fear, and bound with addictions and strongholds that rob them of life. He must grieve for the despair of those who feel hopeless, alone, and rejected.

Most don’t view grief as good. We want to be joyous and happy, not sad and grieving. Yet those tender and loving hearts can’t help but grieve, even if they also rejoice and bask in the love and hope of our loving God.

2 years ago A Lesson From Peaches

I wish I liked fruit more. I’m not excited about many fruits, but I do like fresh peaches. As my husband and I traveled through Georgia, I reminded him to look for the signs telling of peaches for sale. I found my mouth watering thinking of biting into a juicy peach. I've been known to get so excited to find fresh and juicy ones that I buy so many that I have to throw several away because they go bad before I can eat them all.

I recall buying a box of peaches that were so delicious that I had splurged and spent more than I should have on them. I felt the stab of regret at the money I had wasted as I began throwing out the decaying ones. If I had realized in time, I could have frozen them. But even frozen, they don’t last well past several months and they just don’t taste as good as when I bite into them when fresh picked.

Ironically, my thoughts of peaches triggered much deeper thoughts. The world’s delights are also so temporary. When we invest our soul and sacrifice our best for fleeting treasure, the regret is much more profound than that I experienced over my rotting peaches. My thought went from peaches to William.

William is impressive and his countenance oozes confidence and wealth. His appearance is flawlessly groomed and his clothes immaculately tailored, starched, and pressed professionally. He is driven and it seems that everything he touches turns to gold. His wife admitted to me that he can’t seem to stop himself from working and embracing the next business challenge and opportunity. He actually enjoys it.

He obviously had spent much of his life and energy on endeavors that brought great financial dividends. I wondered how much had bought ones that will last for eternity. My deep concern is whether he had expended as much of himself on what will matter for eternity.

Most of the time, he seemed distracted and disinterested in those around him. It was as if he were thinking of some other activity or project that needed his attention. I admired his finesse. He obviously had a knack for making it in the business world and he sure wasn’t lazy.

I only hope that William doesn’t experience what I did as I realized that I had paid too much for peaches that wouldn’t last that long.

I didn’t get any peaches today, but the thought of them provided me a sweet and juicy reminder to invest well in what will last forever.

3 years ago A Little Glimpse of Heaven

Recently, I was with a host of people who most of the world would see as extremely successful. They were highly educated and wealthy, with some millionaires. I felt like a country bumkin thrown into a world where I wasn’t sure how to act. We ate at places where I wasn’t even sure how to pronoun the names of the food, let alone know what it was. My life experiences had obviously not included the same as theirs.

I wondered why I felt insecure around them. I counsel people with insecurities and passionately share with them that God doesn’t compare us like that. He sees each one of us as valuable. He isn’t impressed by our station in life, but is delighted by the love and Jesus in our heart.

Thus, I’m not just embarrassed. I’m disappointed that I fell into the same trap. While with them, I had wished I was a little more polished. I had thought I should have dressed better. I had wished I was more cultured and knowledgeable.

Since my husband was with me, I had repeatedly looked over and noticed his warm and easy countenance A phone call from my sister reminded me of my family back home and my rich spiritual heritage. We were not wealthy by earthly standards, many were not highly educated, and we were not exposed to high culture experiences that only the advantaged experience.

However, as I thought back over the years, I realized my treasured memories, the good and bad, were filled with people of great faith. Their kindness, loyalty, and deep faith had enriched me with much more than the world could ever offer.

I also recognize that those I had allowed myself to be intimated by were valuable because they were created by the same God as I. They were gracious, kind, and eager to connect. How easy it is to judge and size people up by their outward appearance, titles, demeanor, and possessions. We also assess each other by what the world defines as accomplishments.

Ironically, when I was sharing about this experience with a friend, she told me of how her friend was intimidated and felt insecure around my family and me. Her friend felt toward us, the way I felt toward those I was intimated by. I guess everything is relative. I hurt for her and never wanted her to feel insecure around me. I wouldn’t have expected it. We all can look to someone who we feel we don’t measure up to in some way.

Some have never been raised with either a rich material or spiritual inheritance. For you I have great news. You have a Creator that offers you a great inheritance.

We can embrace the blessing of being adopted into the greatest family ever and with an inheritance that is incorruptible. We can be secure in our identity in Christ.

This week-end led me to look into myself and see that I am still in the boat with those I passionately counsel to see themselves and others as God does. Doing so brings such a sense of contentment and peace. It even brings a little glimpse of Heaven.

3 years ago Looking Ahead

It’s funny how life can turn out so differently than what we expect growing-up. I’m not sure if most of us when young children even thought much past the next day. For many, as we grew, we had at least some assumptions or even dreams about our future. I’m fascinated about how our lives turn out. Why did we make the choices we did? How did we develop our attitudes, habits, and personalities? Why did we choose our careers, mates, and where we live?

If we could have looked into our future, would we have made different choices? I can’t imagine that most wouldn’t have made at least some of their choices differently.

I’m sure Teresa would have. I recall how beautiful she was when I first met her. She seemed so happy and eager beginning her marriage and new life after coming out of a past one filled with drugs, promiscuity, and darkness. She and her new husband were so in love with not just each other, but with the Lord. They relished in the grace and forgiveness of Jesus and had embraced ministering to others bound in sin.

If they could have looked ahead and seen what was coming down the road, surely they would have steered differently to avoid the cliff that they flew over. Both had relapsed and I lost contact with them. The last I heard about Teresa was that she was back into a life of horrific sin and destruction.

I knew that neither of them had foreseen what was to come. How did it happen? Surely there were warnings along the way. I wonder if in their excitement they didn’t expect any attacks or detours that would entice them.

Seems like I notice our lack of foresight daily. My husband and I are flying down the interstate with him driving as if we are in an important race. The traffic is so congested that I am repeatedly startled as he suddenly slams on his brakes. I try not to nag too much, but it sure is tempting. I keep thinking if he would just look up ahead, see the string of cars and the obvious stalls up ahead, he would be better prepared and safer too. Instead, like many of us living our lives, he is focused on the space right in front of him in attempts to go as fast and as far as he can.

I only have to think of Teresa and feel the sudden jerk as my husband slams the brakes again to realize how we need to look ahead with the Lord’s guidance to keep ourselves from those dangerous gullies or even deadly cliffs.

3 years ago It Makes it Even Sweeter

It’s an absolutely gorgeous day. My husband and I are traveling through the country side on our way to Alabama from Tennessee to attend my daughter-in-law’s graduation from medical school. I’m so excited for her and also so glad that the weather is sunny and warm with the sky sprinkled with fluffy clouds.

I guess I noticed the climate with even more gratitude because we have suffered through months of more rain than we have ever had since rainfall has been recorded in Middle Tennessee. The weather newscasters periodically have told us the statistics, while we all plowed through the wet and gray days.

Isn’t it true that the more we have suffered, the more we appreciate when the suffering stops? The more we hurt, the more we enjoy comfort. The more we have been stuck in fear, the more we delight in peace. The more we have been heartbroken by betrayal, the more we bask in the loyal love of another.

Some of the darkest chapters of my life made me more attuned to blessings I had taken for granted before my detour into them. One of the most terrifying and tormenting began with my two-and-a-half -year-old daughter. She had been suffering with a belly ache that had been diagnosed as a virus. She suddenly became deathly ill and re-diagnosed with cancer. Thus began a journey through uncharted waters of despair.

Ironically, our jolt into this nightmare came at a time when we were excited to embark on our new future which began with our moving to Franklin, TN. My husband would begin his new job and I would start my doctoral internship at Vanderbilt. I had been stunned that a little country girl like me had been chosen. I had felt honored to be given the opportunity and my husband had also seemed thrilled at our good fortune.

But, that nagging virus had not gone away as doctors had predicted. In fact, a few of the doctors seemed even irritated that I kept bringing her to be seen because of my concerns. Now I know that she would have likely died had I not.

The next few years would be filled with agony. But they were also dotted with remarkable touches of God’s kindness. The love and tenderness of so many didn’t take away our fear and anguish, but it did provide reminders of the heart of God shown through so many who hurt with us and ministered to our needs. Those years also taught me of the faithfulness of the Lord and led me to understand like never before of how He truly never forsakes us.

While I know that not every parent has their child healed on this side of heaven like ours was, I am comforted to know that the Lord heals their precious bodies on the other side. I was forever changed after my trip through this dark time in my life. I had taken my child’s health for granted. I had not given much thought to many of the joys and blessings that surrounded my life. Now I do. I had known another world, where parents strain to hear hope from their children’s doctors and prayerfully wait for test reports. Days were filled with vomiting and suffering children instead of those running, playing, and messing up the house.

My heart will forever be tender to those of you suffering with your precious children. I offer my own experience of the faithfulness and love of God to ease your pain and quiet your fears.

As I ride along in the sunshine, the gray and damp days are behind me for now. They make me notice the warm and bright sky even more. Yet I know they will come again. My daughter-in-law knows it too. I was just thinking about the struggles and stress she has endured as she kept pushing through to get to this day of celebration. The struggle makes this day even sweeter. As I pondered on such, a phone call with my son stunned me in my musing thoughts. “Mom, Chelsea fell last night and broke her foot in three places. Her foot is in a temporary cast and she has have to have surgery”.

I was quickly reminded, yet in an even more startling way than I would have expected, that the rain follows the sun. It always will in a fallen world. But, I know Chelsea and my Lord. She won’t let it stop her from rejoicing in her graduation and relishing in her blessings. The Lord also won’t leave us or stop rejoicing in His love for us.

Some of you reading this are in a dark time in your life. You may even be in one of the most heartbreaking chapters of your life. Please know that it will make the coming blessings even sweeter. And some day, there will be no dark times or rain either. We call it Heaven.

3 years ago Burden or Load?

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NKJV). “ For each one shall bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5, NKJV).

Some might think that the message to bear another’s burdens and the message for each one shall bear his own load as contradictory. Yet, we need to consider that a burden and a load are different. Burdens represent difficulties or problems that people have trouble dealing with, while load has no connotation of difficulty. Instead, loads are life’s routine obligations.

Sometimes well meaning people jump in and carry loads for others that is not theirs to carry. In fact, it may not only deplete the persons carrying the load, since they are now carrying both their own load and someone else’s, but it may also hinder the character and future for the one who is now shirking responsibilities.

I’ve known many of us women who have taken responsibility for those we love when it wasn’t healthy for us to do so. We may have had good motives, but we were not wise. We allow others to not take responsibility for their own life. We try to do what they should be doing for themselves and in so doing we hinder their development.

When we face our own responsibilities, we grow. We all must do some things every day that we may rather not have to do. We may also not get to do other things daily that we would rather do.

Those parents that do the homework for their child, take care of what an adult son or daughter should be taking care of, and in never ending ways take responsibilities for loads that are not theirs, can be doing more harm than they ever know. Many of us can recognize we have done this.

On the other hand, helping others bear their burdens is the heart of Christ and is a wonderful blessing for both those helping and those receiving help.

The Word so wisely advises us to first consider if we are helping carry a burden or if we are causing problems by carrying someone’s load we are not commissioned to carry.

3 years ago Focusing On Our Sin More Than Our Savior

“I know God has forgiven me, but I can’t seem to forgive myself”.

I have heard this statement so many times over the years, I suspect that it is one of the common struggles that Christians deal with in life. My most recent interaction with Sue reminded me of how we seem more focused on our sin than on our Savior.

Sue had finally followed the advice of scripture after struggling with shame for years. “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 NKJV).

Sue was extremely uncomfortable telling about a past sin she had committed that she deemed the most wicked thing she could have done. I hurt for her as she struggled to talk about it with me. She had tortured herself for years about a sin she had committed that in her eyes was worse than others that had been forgiven. She didn’t have trouble accepting the Lord’s grace and forgiveness for the many other wrongs she had done. Yet, this one was unforgiveable and defined her as deplorable she thought.

Like Sue, I wonder if most of us have a particular sin that has been almost impossible for us to let go of in our mind, although the Lord has forgiven us, cleansed us, and forgotten about it.

Like Sue, we likely don’t want to tell anyone about what we did that Satan delights in reminding about as he joins in torturing us from time to time. We likely resist the antidote that the Lord lovingly gave us. He didn’t want us to struggle and allow the memory of the sin to haunt us. Once we confessed, repented, and asked for His forgiveness, He wanted us free and eager to go forth in victory.

Yet, if we continued to painfully hold its memory, He wanted us healed from shame. Sue found that finally confessing and talking about it with me, led to what the Lord predicted. She was healed and the relief was amazing to watch unfold. I imagine that the grace, mercy, and love I felt for her was like that of my Lord. I was honored to be her witness as she relived her past sin with me. I’m sure the enemy was sorely disappointed, as her shame lifted.

We prayed together and healing came like a flood. I realized that she had long ago been forgiven, but she hadn’t been healed.

We both realized that we set ourselves up for big problems when we focus on our sin more than our Savior.

3 years ago Bearing Fruit: The Harm of Leaves with No Fruit

Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away (Matthew 21: 18, 19, NKJV).

I recall reading about Jesus cursing the fig tree and thinking how harsh it seemed to curse it. Yet, Jesus was teaching a grave and important truth.

Unlike many trees that produce fruit, a fig tree produces fruit and leaves at the same time. The fruit starts growing when the leaves start growing. Thus, when coming upon a fig tree that has leaves, one would also expect to find fruit. You don’t get leaves without fruit and you don’t get fruit without leaves. Jesus was hungry and He went to get fruit, none was found, even though the leaves were present. The leaves were a false signal.

The world is hungry and needs the truth that Christians should provide. When we wear the label of being a Christian, yet bear no fruit, we deprive those seeking or needing nourishment and hope from not only getting it from us, but we also discourage non believers from thinking Christianity has any truth to give.

When people claim to be a Christian, have the bumper stickers to prove it, and yet bear no fruit, they can do great harm. Just like the leaves on the fig tree drew Jesus to seek the fruit that should have been there, Christianity presents a message, and with no fruit, unbelievers are left to think it’s a hoax.

Jesus shows by cursing the fig tree that He takes it seriously when one who professes to be a Christian bears no fruit. Just like a fig tree that’s healthy can’t have leaves without fruit, how can a true Christian have no fruit? The harm that can come for those lost and needing salvation coming upon a Christian with no fruit is horrifying. Those who react thinking there is no truth to the Christian message face an eternity without hope. Wouldn’t it be better for that one carrying the label of being a Christian to drop the label unless willing to bear fruit?

The Lord also takes it serious when so-called Christians’ absence of fruit hurts other Christians who need their support, encouragement, or love. One of the fruits of the Spirit is love and without that fruit, what is there to give to others who are struggling or hurt and seeking it from another Christian?

“Lord help us abide in You so that fruit is plenteous for a lost and hungry world”.

3 years ago What Drives You?

What drives you? Do we face life just wanting to survive the day, feed our families, stay out of trouble and disasters, and enjoy a few pleasures? I recall studying and later teaching a college course on different theories about personality and what drives humans. People have wondered since the beginning about why we do what we do.

One particular theorist that intrigued me emphasized how we begin developing foundational beliefs early in life about what we should strive for in life. Should our drive be to have fun, to get rich, be the most beautiful, famous, or talented, or to be the most secure from any harmful events in life? Much human behavior seems to portray us in a race to acquire the most stuff or to be the most admired.

We may be clueless about what drives our behavior. We may think our driving goal is one thing when its actually another. I suspect that many people become more aware of what should drive us as we age. King Solomon was a clear example of one who figured it out as he aged. Unfortunately, when that happens, much of our life has already been lived.

King Solomon declares as he faced the ending chapters of his earthly life, about what should drive us, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all (Ecclesiastes 12: 13, NKJV).

I believe we can miss what fearing God means. We may fear a crook, an evil person who harms others, a tornado, financial disaster, and a host of damaging forces. Fearing God is a reverence and a full belief that what He says is factual. His warnings and promises are always true. He owes us nothing, yet has our destiny in the palm of His hand. He is love and the ultimate drive of life is to love Him and submit to His lead. Doing so, we will love what He loves and that will always involve loving people. Our quest in life should always be to love God and love others.

As we get to the ending chapters of our lives, what will we look back on and recognize as having been our driving force? What fueled much of our behavior? As I read Ecclesiastes, the tone is sober. Solomon sounds sad to me as I read the passages. He was coming to the end of his life and seemed to talk from regrets and yet He must have embraced truth and love, as he wanted to share what he had come to understand about what really matters. Generations after him would read and hopefully be either enlightened or encouraged in pursuing the purpose and right driving force of life.
Maybe it would be worthwhile to ask ourselves daily, “What’s driving me”?

3 years ago Pretending vs. Being Intentional

We all live in a tainted world. We all will be faced with sad situations and with injustice.

Sue wept as she said, “I’m so tired of pretending”.

Listening to Sue led me to pondering. Being phony and pretending everything is fine when its not is not healthy. However, being intentional is very different from pretending.

I knew that Sue was in a situation she didn’t like. None of us should live in denial. Yet, I also knew that Sue had allowed a sad situation to be all that determined how she felt. Just focusing on what she didn’t like had given it power to discolor her world with darkness and sorrow.

Ann was doing the same. Her ailing husband and the task she was facing dealing with him and other family problems had robbed all joy from her and was keeping her chained to depression. I found myself feeling great sorrow when I thought of her situation.

How in the world can I possibly encourage her and give her hope?

I believe deeply in the power of compassion and empathy. The Bible tells us that there is a time for mourning. Yet, I also knew that she needed even more than my empathy. At least I think I would in her situation.

I began to verbalize my compassion and empathy, while gently suggesting ways to also intentionally direct her thoughts on what I knew was positive and provided great hope.

I knew that no human could fix her situation. All of us have some sad and hurtful situations. Yet, I also knew that if she were to have any quality of life, she was going to have to intentionally redirect thoughts to places of blessings and hope, while not trying to pretend that the sad and painful situations didn’t exist.

I recall a woman who called me trying to make a first time appointment with me for counseling. She vented not only her sorrow, but also her frustration.

“I’m so tired of counselors just telling me to pray and praise God, without helping me address my sad situation and sorrow”, she wailed.

I felt her frustration, while also wondering how her previous counselors had given their suggestions. It’s so important not to dismiss another’s deep pain, while still gently, and at the right timing, clearly helping direct them in ways to encourage themselves. The Lord validated our hurt, while still encouraging us with hope. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34: 19, NKJV).

If we will be empathic and validate another’s hurt, we will more likely be able to help them embrace encouragement. Yet, even more importantly, we may be able to help them take responsibility and have courage to encourage themselves. We all need and can benefit from encouragement from others, but we must all also encourage ourselves if we are to thrive in such a tainted world.

There is a time to mourn; yet there is also a time to intentionally think on what gives comfort and hope

3 years ago Love for a Lifetime

Another Valentine’s Day has past and all the left over candy, flowers, and trinkets of red and pink hearts will be marked down as clearance. I find it amusing and also touching that we take pleasure in treating our sweethearts with a surprise to illustrate our love on the same day each year. While it doesn’t seem harmful, our immature notions of love are. We set people up for disappointment and selfishness as we create an expectation of love that is ludicrous.

I just saw another version of the classic Cinderella movie. Isn’t it amazing that it is retold throughout the decades, with numerous versions still drawing an audience? Wouldn’t it be a let down if we turned it into a sequel as a reality show. Inevitably, the prince would not be as charming, Cinderella wouldn’t be so gorgeous, and the magic would wear off.

Humanity is enamored with love. God wired this need for love within us and yet we can twist it far from what our Creator defines as love. I saw the real beauty of love today that brought great sorrow and also admiration to my heart. I watched as my sister lovingly stroked her husband’s brow as he struggled to remember where he was. His confused and frightened look was soothed as she softly whispered that she was there and would take care of him. As she eased his distress, I watched her worn and exhausted face as the tears welled up in her eyes. Ironically, I saw a valentine heart balloon near his wheelchair and a fleece blanket across his hospital bed that was covered in hearts. He no longer looked the young and dashing husband of decades ago. I'm sure her eyes used to sparkle with excitement as they began their love affair many years ago. Her brow was now drawn in concern for her ailing husband.

The world promotes love in its flamboyant and thrilling version. Yet, the deep, compassionate, and sacrificial love lasts way past the flashy Cinderella stories. I watched that version tonight with a couple holding hands in a dreary little room.

3 years ago Listening to Opinions

I ran across an article that was about Anthony Hopkins, who is considered a brilliant actor. He talked of how he runs across young people who want to be an actor and who dream of being famous. The article shared his quote, “And I tell them, when you get to the top of the tree, there's nothing up there. Most of this is nonsense; most of this is a lie. Accept life as it is. Just be grateful to be alive."

I'm sure that people pay more attention to the opinions of famous people like Anthony Hopkins than the average Joe. His quote got my attention too since he is one of the famous actors who has experienced the success of reaching the top in his field. Oh that we listen carefully to those who could share great wisdom.

I wonder what lies we have bought into that fuels our dreams and ambitions. I wonder how many of us will have a rude awakening in realizing that we have spent much of our yearning and efforts on what didn’t even matter in the first place, while not embracing what really matters.

It seems that we begin questioning more about what is the meaning of life as we age. Why are we here? What should we most focus on while we are here? We may hear all kinds of people give their opinion. We may quote the ones we think are most impressive. The true expert created us. The Word tells us to love God and love each other. He sums it up well.

3 years ago Growing in the Wilderness

Many begin their New Year with a heighted sense of goals. No wonder we get bombarded with commercials about exercise equipment and diet plans when the New Year comes. We know that to get in shape physically, we have to work, deny much of what we may want, and be committed to not give up. Wouldn’t it make sense that we would be motivated to get in shape spiritually more than anything else?

Do we have a desire to grow spiritually? We may think we do, but do we realize what the growing process involves? We may picture a plant growing and expect our growth to resemble it in ways. We may think it gets warm sunshine, the water it needs, and the rich soil that nourishes it. Its protected from disease and insects as it flourishes and grows. We think if I get the warmth of love I want, the comfort and nourishment I enjoy, and the conditions that keep me from pain, I will grow.

On the other hand, we grow spiritually whenever we are in situations that are difficult with things not as we want and we act like Jesus anyway. We hurt, sometimes feel alone, and struggle. Sometimes I have been left in those times extra long as I didn’t act like Jesus.

On the other hand, the Lord loves us enough to allow us to stay in the wilderness sometimes to help us grow. Doing so, we become less affected by the world. We get more aware and willing to depend on the Lord. We get less interested in how people see us, while becoming more interested in how the Lord sees and feels about us. Things of this word matter less. We may even stop trying to put conditions on God . . .”I will follow You if You do this or give me that.” We begin to become more of the real us that God designed us to be. We quit trying to be someone else that we admire. God doesn’t help us become someone else, He helps us become who He designed us to be.

How do we know if we are in the Wilderness because of sin and Satan or if there because God is growing us? We need to ask the Lord to show us. Look at those who were greatly called to be used by God who all spent significant time in the desert. Joseph told of his calling to his brothers and immediately was sold into slavery and spent 13 years in the wilderness. David was commissioned to be King when just a lad and yet didn’t become King until 30 years of age. Before that he spent years running and even hiding in caves as crazy jealous King Saul tried to kill him. Moses was in the wilderness 30 years. The list could continue.

I wonder if as soon as we are called, we go next to the wilderness. When we realize that the wilderness can provide our greatest growth, we look at it differently. Lord, help us act like Jesus when in the wilderness. The growing pains are reassuring if I know you are enjoying my growth.

3 years ago Growing Pains

Today I heard a woman say that when we are hurting, we are growing and when we are happy, we are enjoying the growth we have made. She was referring to our spiritual growth. I could relate in that I have had seasons of struggle, fatigue, and pain as God was stretching me. We use the phrase growing pains when we refer to a person hurting because they are growing. On the other hand, we sometimes have pain because of sin. Yet, if we respond well, we can even turn sin into an opportunity to grow. Repentance, recognition of God’s grace and forgiveness, and a vast increase in our devotion to the Lord can follow sin if we choose.

We all need to regularly assess our hurt and make sure we are growing. The Word is packed with examples of people’s struggles, hurt, and subsequent growth or decline as a result.

Growth may hurt, but don’t we all want to grow? My granddaughter has reportedly been having growing pains in her legs. I found myself wondering if she is getting ready to shoot upward. I had mixed feelings. I love her being little and eager to snuggle and play. Sometimes we want our child and grandchild to stay young and in our nurturing care. Yet, we also know that growth needs to come and we can also relish in their development. We don’t have to lose our joy and intimacy in our relationship as we grow.

The Lord wants us to grow too, even though He knows this will involve pain. Yet, ever ready to protect and help, we can face the challenge with our Father. In fact, our suffering can make us even more intimate and bonded with Him—if we choose.

3 years ago New Beginnings, moment by moment

So many get hyped up about a New Year beginning. Its as if they classify their lives by years. Each year is somehow described as a good or bad one. I wonder why we don’t realize that each day, even each moment provides a chance to begin again. It’s healthy to reflect over our life and remind ourselves of changes we need to work on, goals we need to pursue, and truths that we need to embrace. If a New Year beginning prompts us to do so, that’s great. Yet, we need to regularly reflect and be intentional in reminding ourselves of what’s really important. David must have been thinking along these lines when he wrote Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (NKJV). David was suggesting that we assess how we use time in light of the brevity of life.

3 years ago Embrace Christmas Hope

I have stopped being amazed at how many people grumble that they hate Christmas and are glad when it’s over. While I have stopped being surprised when I hear their complaints, I still cringe and feel a wave of sadness. Christmas reminds us that the Lord loved us so much that He was willing to come down here in our mess, suffer in ways that words can’t do justice in describing, so that we could come live with Him forever with no more messes, conflict, and heartaches. We would have no hope whatsoever, if there had been no Christmas. We would be stuck in our eternal mess.

I recognize that most that say they hate Christmas are talking about some of what we have turned into a stressful chase that seems to not even address the meaning of Christmas. Yet, we have a choice to focus and rejoice on the love of our Lord displayed as He left the joys of Heaven to join us in our fallen and hurtful world.

Thank-you my sweet Lord for being so willing to come and rescue us.

3 years ago Breathe in Hope

I recently heard one of my favorite speakers say, “Learning to see the positive in a negative situation is one of the best things you can do for yourself”.

I found myself adding a few comments . . . “it may also be the most difficult—especially if you aren’t committed and aware of the resistance you will face in doing so”.

Life always presents both tragedy and blessings, pain and joy, love and hate, and the good and the bad. We can’t expect perfect relationships, totally healthy families, and days without frustrations. We are presented with the challenge of not living in denial, while still embracing hope.

For those that believe earthly life is all there is, I have no answers. For those like me who believe in Jesus and eternal life, keep breathing in hope, for the end to pain is coming and only the good stuff will last forever.

3 years ago Trusting in the Lord From Childhood

We experience fear beginning in infancy. "Be anxious for nothing. Don’t worry about anything." How well do we follow these instructions from God? It seems that from childhood on, we worry about something. Being in a fallen world, we can fear all kinds of endangerments. For some children, life began showing them these dangers early. Abuse, anger, poverty, and shame may have been a part of their life. Others may have faced serious illness. My eldest daughter was struck with cancer as just a toddler and her early years were filled with surgeries, painful procedures, and medicines that made her puke for hours on end.

Even for those with safe and happy childhoods, danger and hurtful experiences were looming. No one gets through childhood without some pain along the way.

Our challenge will be to trust in the Lord, instead of allowing fear to rule and set the tone for our life. Trusting in the Lord doesn’t mean that we don’t expect to ever be hurt or face pain. In fact, the Lord warns us that we will.

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all" (Psalms 34:19, NKJV).

We don’t need to set our children up to think that they will never face pain. But, we sure don’t need to set them up for a spirit of fear, ever ready to worry about what will come. We give them a great life lesson: Trust in the Lord.

"O Lord, you alone are my hope. I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood" (Psalm 71:5, NLT).

3 years ago Love That Can Fight a Bear

I recall hearing a true story on television about a man who fought a bear for his son who was being attacked. He actually put himself in front of his son and kicked the mouth of the bear that was trying to maul his son. His love for his son instinctively propelled him into protective action that almost brings me to tears as I picture it. His shoe was actually found in the bear’s mouth. A parent’s love is a force to be reckoned with. That bear found out as both father and son survived. Our father also instinctively jumped in front of our vicious attacker, Satan. Jesus didn’t hesitate to rescue us. Our love for our children provokes our fear that propels us into protective action and instead of debilitating and tormenting us, we can and will take on a bear.

3 years ago “Just a Minute”

    “Hold on, just a minute, I’m coming”.
    “I said now! I’m getting tired of waiting for you.”     
    “I’m on my way, hold your horses, I’ll be there in just a minute! I’m almost there.”

    “Just a minute” is a phrase we use to let those waiting for us be reassured that we are on our way and almost there. Its like we are trying to get them to calm down and hang on.

    However, have you ever been waiting for someone and she says, “I’m almost there”, when she actually isn’t? I have a friend who does that to me when she knows I have been waiting so long for her that I’m about to get irritated. She notoriously tries to do whatever she wants to do before coming to meet whoever she is supposed to be meeting. When she knows she is late and she is calling, she says something like, “I’m almost there”, when she is going to be several more minutes. I think I would be less irritated if she would just be honest and say how far she really is from getting there. “I’m about twenty minutes away” would be preferred instead of saying, “I’m about ready to pull in the drive”.

    I assume she is trying to get me to not be put out with her, so she stretches the truth. On the other hand, maybe what we consider “almost there or “just a minute” is different.

    Surely this applies where the Lord is concerned. His view of time has to be vastly different from ours. His seven days, is probably like our billions of years. He says that one day with Him is like a thousand for us. Somehow, we must measure time differently from the All Mighty. Since He has always existed, trillions of years must seem but a moment to Him. From His view, I understand why He says our life is like a vapor.
    Jesus told his disciplines he would be coming back soon. They have been gone for thousands of years; at least by our standards of time.

    Maybe my friend’s “just a minute” seems like that to her, when it seems much longer to me. Although we might get irritated waiting for a friend to meet us, we might get down right discouraged when we are eager for our Lord’s return and yet it seems so long. We might finally give up on a friend who is late. We might decide she isn’t coming, so we just leave.

    Those who give up on Jesus coming, do more than miss out on a grand reunion. They give up hope and the reason to keep striving while we are waiting. They give up on what’s most important to be doing while we are waiting. That friend might be hurt, angry, and disappointed that we gave up on her. Jesus had a wonderful future waiting and grand treasures he was eager to show us at his return. He wanted us to be patient, just like my friend begged of me.

    “Just a minute”, Jesus calls. “In only a twinkling of an eye”, I’m coming. Don’t stop waiting.     

3 years ago Looking to God’s Promises

Recently, I listened as Ann talked of her deepest fears. Trying to help, I shared with her about one of my favorite passages, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him”(II Chronicles 16:9, NKJV).

I excitedly tried to get her to visualize the Lord scanning the world to find those who loved Him who He then planned to show His strength in helping. I thought she would find such a promise as a reservoir of peace and reassurance.

Instead, she began saying that many who had loved God had been killed, raped, or faced horrific fates. She explained that’s why she couldn’t just embrace such a verse in a way that helped.

My rebuttal was that this is precisely why we embrace it. The Lord never said we wouldn’t suffer. In fact, He said we would. Yet, that doesn’t mean He won’t show Himself strong on our behalf. We are told “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19, NKJV) If we only focus on the painful parts of life and exclude such promises, we are bound for a life of fear.

A lifetime of fear robs us of the joy in life. Its ludicrous to deny that life in a fallen world isn’t going to include some pain. It’s also absurd to believe we can make it through with some quality of life without trusting God’s promises.

I was appalled when I recently listened to a group of television hosts who were discussing the recent Emmy Awards. In discussing a recent hit sitcom show, one of the hosts excitedly said, “It got me through life!” Even though she was being flippant and didn’t actually mean the statement, it stunned me. Unfortunately, people do sometimes rely on foolish sources. Its ridiculous what some people look to for getting them through life. We better look to God’s promises.

3 years ago Showing the World Who We Are

I recently saw a host of costumes displayed at the store in anticipation of Halloween. There were sparkling princesses, mermaids, and superheroes galore. Children love to dress up and pretend to be someone they are not. Ironically, we adult do too.

    Its not just Halloween that brings out the charades. We all do some pretending. We likely think we don’t do this and that instead we are real and never act differently than what we feel inside. I can’t help but feel that we all sometimes show the world a different version of what is really on the inside of us. This is not always a bad thing to do.

    We may not feel like speaking, but we do. We may not feel like smiling, but we do. We may not feel like forgiving, but we do. We may not feel like helping, but we do.

    There’s a difference in choosing to act intentionally in ways that are right and being phony in ways that aren’t right. Just like those horror costumes that project fright and evil and those that display beauty and delight, we must choose which we want to share with others. While we are at it, it’s even more important to allow Jesus to make the inside beautiful and delightful too.


3 years ago Kindness Returned

I recently witnessed a lovely experience that showed a man treating another man with great kindness. He sacrificed greatly for him as he took off from his full-time job to work tirelessly on renovations at the man’s home. He worked from daylight to dark in the smoldering heat and humidity of Tennessee summer. Day after day, he never complained, but worked as if the projects were his own.

I am delighted that the generous man was my son. I am equally glad that his father was not only the recipient of his kindness, but also the one who had modeled such sacrificial generosity to him in the first place.

I recall the extreme efforts and sacrifice my husband had made in helping my son renovate his condo a couple of years ago. After working massive hours at his own job, my husband would travel a couple of hours to work for the entire weekend to do whatever needed to be done at the condo. If he didn’t know how to do something, he would figure it out.

The pure exhaustion was an overwhelming display of love that had been proven by actions, not just words. I have watched other displays along the way that continue to illustrate how when we treat others kindly, they typically treat us kindly back.

My son has been taught how to be generous and to show love with action and sacrifice, as my husband has been his model. Not all have had a generous father who modeled kindness. Yet, our Heavenly Father provides the perfect model for us all. In fact, He was kind to those who weren’t kind. He was generous to those who didn’t deserve such. He was merciful to those who didn’t even appreciate his mercy. Imagine us trying to just be kind and generous back to such a loving Father.

What a heavenly type world it would be if we were generous and kind and others just treated us with the same. My husband and son would agree.

3 years ago Faith that He is Good

I recently heard a woman tell of a comment that was made to her when she was explaining to her friend why she didn’t end her unhappy marriage. She was sharing about her convictions concerning divorce. The friend made a familiar remark that I usually cringe in response to because the comment seems so right yet can lead to such wrong. The friend said, “Well do you think God would want you to be miserable?”

This friend was trying to reason that God didn’t want her miserable so she was right to divorce her husband. Instead, I was urging her to seek God's wisdom and direction about what He would have her to do. She needed God's direction and help. We can sure make a mess of our lives by just doing whatever we think will get us out of pain and into pleasure.

Thinking that God wants us to do WHATEVER makes us happy and relieves our misery is a scary, risky, and obviously shortsighted belief. When we recall that all of God’s disciples and apostles suffered, that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was not removed, and that we only have to use common sense to see that being in a fallen world will involve temptation and suffering, we know that such a simple and blanket statement is tainted.

Ironically, this same friend was a professed atheist because he thought God must not be real, since if he were, he allowed such suffering and hurtful injustices to exist in humanity.

My mind was whirling with so many thoughts. We must be ludicrous to think we can explain and understand all about God. If we could conceptualize and understand all there is to know about God, how in the world would He be God? Its like saying a two year old can understand all that an adult can understand. Even that doesn’t describe the extreme ridiculousness of us thinking we can capture God in our human limited mind.

Yet, through faith, we can know He is good, even when we are hurting. We can know He is kind, when people aren’t always kind. We can know He is love, even when we don’t understand all that happens in this fallen world.

3 years ago What's Your Thorn?

What’s your dream? Most of us have heard the question and messages about going after our dreams. A less welcomed and familiar question is, what’s your thorn? Paul’s famous “thorn in the flesh” has prompted much debate and speculation, but also much insight if we are receptive to what the Lord was showing from this encounter with Paul.

We all have personal areas we struggle with more than others. Some are more susceptible than most with struggles with fear and panic. Others seem more persecuted than most. Some are harassed with physical frailties more than average, others struggle more with addictive traits. Wherever our struggle, there lies the opportunity for God’s grace to shine. As we cling to him when struggling with the dark cloud of depression, the craving for our addiction, the persecution and harassment from the Enemy, or the repeated physical and financial setbacks, His grace is sufficient so that we endure. We press on, we use our spiritual weapons and we cling to our Hero.

We get tired of the thorn, but we never tire of our Hero. We come to hate the pain, but we love His kind grace and reassurance. We may even get a glimpse of what Paul came to embrace.

3 years ago From Thorns to Grace

The apostle Paul had some major struggles throughout his life. Like many of us, he yearned for the Lord to stop the assaults and afflictions that were causing him pain. Contemplate his encounter when asking the Lord to get rid of whatever was making him struggle. Many have speculated as they tried to identify Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (II Corinthians 12: 7). Whatever it was, it must have grieved him and led to many struggles since he sought the Lord until he got an answer. Yet, consider how he felt when the Lord denied his request. How would you feel?

Paul said that the thorn was a messenger of Satan sent to assault him painfully. Even though he said it was from Satan, it helped keep him humble since having had so many revelations would have made him proud. Some think that it was likely a demon leading the conspiracy that kept tearing up Paul’s beloved church and afflicting him personally. God allowed Paul's "thorn in the flesh" and explained what He wanted from this struggle and suffering.

God denied Paul's request, but went on to explain that His grace is constantly available and that Paul would endure because of it. God’s grace shines as we humans are shown our own weakness. Can you relate?

We are so prone to pride whenever we think we shine and conquer in our own strength. The decades of counseling have put me in the middle of what seems a never-ending sea of struggles and pain. Most of those involved professed Christians.

I’ve come to believe we all have thorns. God’s grace is sufficient and we become humble and cling to Him if we get the revelation Paul had. Unfortunately, we may want our thorns removed more than we want God’s grace to shine. We don’t want to suffer and struggle with a thorn. We just want it gone. We don’t want to have to be so dependent and to have to keep feeling the jab of pain. Yet, Paul saw the light as he declared. “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12: 9,10).

Wow! How much Paul must have loved God. The more we love God, we will look at our thorns differently.


3 years ago Riding the Waves

I am curious to see Kathy today. She had missed her last counseling appointment with me and I hadn’t seen her for a few months.

“I’ve really been doing mostly well, but . . . “ Kathy’s voice trailed off as she struggled to put into words her nagging concerns. “Its just that I sometimes still get so down.”
I asked questions to try to figure out what was bringing on these dark times. “What do you think fuels it? What are you usually thinking about before you get so down?”

“Well I usually start remembering horrible things I have done. Recently, I went somewhere that reminded me of my past sinful lifestyle. You know I made some terrible decisions. My past sins make me feel so bad about myself.”
The look on Kathy’s face told me of how tormented she felt when thinking about past sins. The shame and hurt changed her from that smiling and upbeat person who had come into my office a few minutes ago.

I began to passionately remind her of the love, mercy, and grace of the Lord we both love. I quoted her scripture about God’s forgiveness and how He wipes the sin away. I reminded her of her own repentance. Kathy had repented and allowed God to turn her life around in beautiful ways.
“Its not about how bad we have been, its about how great God is”, I declared. As I kept pumping her with truth, I watched her continence begin to change. The smile returned, the dark cloud began to lift, and she looked again the fun loving and eager woman who had entered my office only moments ago.
Kathy began to thank me and tell me of how much she had missed and needed our sessions. I began to tell her of how much I wished she would arm up with truth and use it to help herself when these dark times come. By now, Kathy knows that I am practical. I promote understanding and simple and easily remembered ways to take responsibility for living well. If it’s too complicated or hard to recall, we don’t do it. Jesus gave visual ways to picture deep truths. I too, tend to visualize our struggles and ways to overcome.

To equip herself, Kathy needs to uncover what fuels her dark attacks. As we explored, she related well to my analogy of these episodes being like waves in the ocean. Like Kathy, Sandy, another woman I counsel, also told me she had been doing mostly well lately. Yet, inevitably she also began telling me of her waves of depression and struggle.    

None of us are immune. We all get waves of dark times when we either get crashed under its forceful power or ride the wave with splendor. We need to understand our waves to know how to stock ourselves with a surfboard to soar over them. When we identify our waves, we know what deception is trying to drag us under. We then go to the Word of God for truth that keeps us from being at mercy to the waves of despair and defeat. For each and every wave of harm, the Bible has an answering truth and promise. For waves of fear, we have promises of protection. For waves of despair, we have promises of hope. For waves of painful betrayal and rejection, we have promises of the Lord’s acceptance and deep and loyal love. For any wave, the surfboards of truth await.

Surfers delight in riding the waves, excitedly soaring with splendor and ease. Yet, when they crash under the wave, they are at mercy to its destructive force that can thrust them to great injury or possible death.

Our surfboard is truth that makes us rise above our waves, keeping it under us instead of it keeping us under it. As Kathy and Sandy searched to understand their waves, they were ready to find their surfboards. Now the challenge is it use it.

As Kathy begins to thank God for His profound forgiveness, she begins to get out of the water and stand upon her surfboard. As she continues with praise and reminders of His promises, she begins to feel steady on her feet, and as she keeps it up, she actually begins to rejoice as she soars.

Unfortunately, many just keep getting plummeting by waves, when they have powerful surfboards available, the greatest coach to teach them how to surf, and a company of angels to cheer them on. How sad when we don’t learn about our waves, get our surfboards ready, and soar.

3 years ago "He Knows My Every Thought"

Have you ever wondered about what other people are thinking? When you think about it, all of us have thoughts going through our mind all the time, whether we are speaking or not. When you are riding down the road with someone in silence, both of you are having thoughts. When you are sitting in a class, walking through the store, or sitting in church, each and every person there is thinking. Wouldn’t it be mind boggling if we could hear each other’s thoughts?

I’m so glad we can’t. Thoughts are so very private and personal. I would hate to think that no thought is private. We choose what to tell others and what to just keep to ourselves.

While I’m relieved to know that we can’t read each other’s thoughts, I am aware that the Lord can and does. Many times this concerns me as I am thinking those that I’m sure make Him uncomfortable or grieved. Other times, I am so relieved that He understands what I think and feel and still loves me.

No one truly knows us and understands us like the Lord. Nothing is hid from Him and yet, it’s not nearly as horrifying as it seems when I compare that to us knowing and reading every thought of each other. He is kind and gracious, loving without restraint or conditions. We sure aren’t always like that. So if someone must know my every thought, I’m glad it’s the Lord. Are you?

P.S. I still cringe when I think of those that bring Him pain.

3 years ago The Amazing Ability to Heal

We can be injured when least expecting it. We can be enjoying a pleasurable time and be harmed in a moment. We may not realize that our injury is at risk to becoming even more painful and harmful if exposed to an unhealthy environment.

I experienced this first hand on a recent camping vacation in one of the most beautiful places I have enjoyed over the years of my life. I have wonderful memories of camping adventures there with my family as a child. Over the years, I spent some of the best times of life as I swam in the warm lake waters, enjoyed the beauty of rolling green hills, lush trees and scenes that could take my breath away.

A few days ago, I was climbing up the bank of the lake where I had just soared across its surface by boat, floated in its warm water, and played with my grandkids that are making their own memories to cherish. My foot slipped and as one of my flip-flops twisted, it painfully rubbed across my right foot, creating a rub burn.

It was sore even a couple of days later, but by about the third day, I recognized the signs of infection. I knew immediately, that the infection came because I continued to expose it to the lake, which I so loved and enjoyed. The very waters that had provided me with years of delight had also exposed me to bacteria and risky unsanitary elements that had created infection due to my vulnerable wound. If not wounded, the waters were harmless. Yet, with an open and compromised wound, the same elements had power to create increasing harm.

My foot began to swell and the throbbing and tenderness warned of growing infection that required treatment before destructive harm could multiply. It was amazing that a slight rub burn could turn into a throbbing infected and angry looking wound three days later. If I had just kept it out of the water, I am convinced it would have healed quickly without much notice.

I began pouring the peroxide on my wound and was startled when it burned and made me almost gasp in reaction to its sting. The wound bubbled with the white foam that signifies that the infection is being attacked. The bubbling sign of infection being forced out of my wound hurt, but also reassured me that I was getting to the source that hindered my healing and that also could bring more harm.

God uses such ordinary experiences like my lake wound incident to illustrate profound truths. We too can be in a particularly pleasurable chapter of our life, when struck with an injury that seemed to come out of nowhere. We can feel its sting, but not recognize the potential for increasing harm if the wound is not protected from risky influence.

Like those nasty lake waters that were enticing and not harmful to healthy skin, people who seem supportive and who aren’t risky to us most of the time, can bring on infection to our soul. Their fears, resentments, and advice can be poison. They can provide risky support in the form of badmouthing whoever has hurt us. They may think their actions show their loyalty, while instead they may fuel resentment and help us excuse our wrongful actions of retaliation. The many ways that others can contaminate our wounds reminds me of the vast possible pollutants in the lake water that birthed my infection.

Along with other people, our own thoughts can expose our wounds to additional harm. When wounded, we are vulnerable. Thoughts must be carefully examined for potential threat, like people are searched before entering an airplane.

When wounds are gently cleansed and protected from risky pollutants, God has equipped us with an amazing ability to heal.

3 years ago Remember---then Celebrate

The fourth of July has been a time for getting together with friends and family and having fun. The cookouts, fireworks, and party scene are a part of the American tradition. In all the festivities, many don’t even think of what prompted the celebration in the first place. Inevitably, there will be a post on Facebook, a moving story in the newspaper, or a documentary on television reminding us of the heroism and sacrifice that birthed our Nation’s freedom that we celebrate on the fourth of July.

The reminders typically prompt me to a sudden pause in all the frenzy and to feel a tinge of guilt at getting so caught up in our own pursuits at having fun that I don’t even think of what we are celebrating and why.

Most Americans have a reverence when the reminders bring us back to our heritage; our deep convictions about freedom, and our patriotism that also makes us feel connected. Most also have a strong sensitivity and gratitude to those who have fought and suffered to secure our freedom.

Yet, as I ponder, I also feel an even more monumental reminder. Our Creator gave us a heritage of being made in His image and an eternal existence. As evil threatened our freedom and brought the most devastating war of all times on humanity, our true hero sacrificed and suffered beyond what any Facebook post, newspaper story, or documentary could ever adequately show.

I frequently watch people as they scurry through life, laughing at gatherings, and enjoying the hoop-la. I wonder if they ever give it a thought about Jesus, about the Almighty who watches and yearns for our attention, and who deserves our devotion more than any of our earthly heroes.

I also watch as people shuffle through life with disappointment, fume with anger and frustration, and weep with pain. I wonder if they ever think of the Almighty who knows their every move, every tinge of heartache, and each and every attack of the enemy. Do they remember that He provided the greatest sacrifice of all times that secured not only their freedom, but also the greatest victory of all times.

Our temporary pleasures and pain seem to keep our focus. We all need to remember . . . and then CELEBRATE.

3 years ago "Give Me Eyes to See You, Father"

The more we see God accurately, the less vulnerable we are to believing lies. When we perceive God as less merciful, forgiving, and loving than He is, we are primed to believe lies whenever we have failed miserably. Could it be that God wanted to help us avoid this trap whenever He planned for the story of the Prodigal son to be included in the Bible?

He knew that throughout the ages of history, the prodigal son’s story would be read, pondered on, and talked about. People would dissect its message and meaning and would not only glean insight into the selfish and sinful nature of humanity displayed in the son, but also the essence of who God is.

In that day, sons never received their inheritance before the father’s death. So when the son asked for his inheritance, it not only was presumptuous, selfish, and rude, it was unheard of in that era. We don’t even read of the father acting surprised or horrified at the request. We also never read of the father even trying to talk him out of it or hesitating in giving him the inheritance. Its like the father knew that the son had to be let go of in order for his heart to be changed.

I picture the father hurting as he watched and waited for his son to come home. He knew that sin brings heartache and that his son would suffer. The father also knew that chasing the pleasures of the world will never satisfy the spirit and soul and eventually the son would learn this too. God knows that we may have to suffer to come to truth. While he hurts for us, he loves us enough to allow the sin that will bring us home.

We see the heart of God as he embraces his son upon his return. He had forgiven him already, but the son didn’t receive his father’s forgiveness for himself until he owned his sin and repented.

The son assumed that he would be a servant, never in the position of a son again. Whenever we have repented and been forgiven, if we don’t understand the mercy and heart of God, we too may assume that we are now a second class citizen, never to be in the position of a treasured and honored son or daughter again after our sin. Yet, the father immediately restored him to full son ship.

We may have some consequences in life for sin, yet, the father shows that we are fully cleansed and restored when we come to him with repentance.

In order to rise above the accusing lies of the enemy, we must see God accurately as the father who was displayed in the prodigal son story. The enemy and our own critical voice may try to twist the father’s image due to our own remembrance of our past sins.

We may be even more prone to do this whenever we have been repeatedly exposed to others who have displayed this type of view. You may have had a parent who on the surface would forgive you, but would forever seem to see you in the light of past sin. If so, this can mess with your ability to see God accurately.

The essence of living life well revolves on seeing God accurately. The Prodigal Son story provides the everlasting picture for us to embrace of the Heavenly Father. Doing so, we are shielded from horrific lies that would rob us of the life the father wanted for us.

“Lord give us eyes and hearts to embrace who you really are.”

3 years ago Addicted to Reasoning

I heard a woman say that in her past she had been addicted to reasoning. This means she was always trying to figure everything out so she could fix it. Listening to her, I realized I guess I have been an addict too. Yet, I am in recovery.

How do we know if we are an addicted to reasoning? Seeking understanding, gaining insight, and trying to make things better sounds like what we should do. Yet, there are times when even a good thing can go too far so that it becomes a bad thing.

Proverbs tells us not to trust our own understanding or lean on it, but instead in all ways to acknowledge God and He will direct our paths. We need to be able to recognize when we need to stop with our reasoning and just trust God. We sometimes need to just do what we know to do in obeying God and then to trust Him to know it all and direct us.

That’s more difficult for some than others. I believe that the Lord has been trying to show me that there are times He wants me to stop trying to figure out a situation. Instead, I am to pray and remind myself that God has it all figured out and that I just need to trust Him and keep trying to live obediently. There are times we need to stop trying to fix a person or make something happen. At those times, I have needed to give myself permission to stop and to not feel guilty for doing so. Instead, it is a freeing experience.

There is such a difference in giving up whenever we shouldn’t and stopping trying to figure out a problem, make something happen, and fix it when we aren’t supposed to do so. That’s where we are doing more harm than good. Knowing the difference is crucial. I want to have ears to hear what the Spirit is trying to tell me. It’s like giving up on me fixing a situation I don’t have power or right to do, but not giving up on God. I am never to give up in praying and hoping for the best for others, but I am to stop trying to fix situations for myself or others whenever the Spirit is saying, “Now stop and let me”.

I’m still in recovery.

3 years ago Enjoy Life Even When There’s Problems

I heard one of my favorite speakers recently make a comment that is fundamental in living well. She said, “It’s okay to enjoy your life while you also have problems in it.”

I have pondered on this statement as I think of many of the problems in life. I’m used to hearing about people’s struggles since I practice as a counseling psychologist. Counseling for decades has convinced me that none are without problems. It comes with being in a fallen world.

I want to add to her statement, “but what about this tragedy or horrific situation?” Sometimes it seems we are unable to enjoy life when we are writhing in pain. However, the determination to focus on what is good, while still recognizing the bad is paramount to a well-lived life.

We can grieve as we also rejoice. Sometimes, we can tuck grief away as we embrace the delights that God has provided. His declaration that we are of great value to him, his promises of a great inheritance in heaven, and even simple pleasures in daily life are not to be ignored.

Some days it’s easier than others to enjoy the present or to happily anticipate heaven. Other days, we must fight to focus and remind ourselves of the good, when so reminded of the bad.

Yet, living intentionally will be necessary for all of us who want to enjoy life, while living with a problematic world. Training ourselves to enjoy even simple pleasures and comforts should begin early in life. Recently, as my grandchildren squealed with excitement as we filled their kiddy swimming pool and brought out plastic play toys, I told my daughter to enjoy these days when they were so easily delighted.

It seems that when we are young and when we get older we are more able to enjoy simple pleasures. What would likely have either been unnoticed or ignored in my younger days; now I embrace with gratitude. I savor my morning cup of coffee as I sit on my front porch and listen to the birds. I sometimes just rub my hands across the soft sheets on my bed, realizing that they are so comfortable when others may not even have a bed.

Even as I relish small pleasures, I am often aware of problems brewing, in either my life or others'. Yet, as the statement suggests, it’s okay to enjoy my life while there are still problems.

4 years ago Hope: Living with an Eternal Obsession

Most of us have heard the familiar song that says, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love, that’s the only thing that there is just too little of”. While it rings true that the world needs love, it also needs hope. People yearn for hope and having hope helps us not only survive, but also thrive. Hope helps us keep breathing, when we would rather stop. Hope keeps us trying, no matter how tired and worn out we feel.

A jewel that packs the true message of hope comes in I Peter. 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Those who know me know that I frequently talk of eternity and how brief and temporary our life here is on this side of eternity. I am like a broken record or one with an obsession that I can’t or don’t want o shake. I don’t think we can live effectively, wisely, and in victory without living here with eternity in mind.

Yet, it’s so easy to fall into living as if this is just it, even when we believe in eternity. It’s so natural to focus on now. While it is healthy to live in the present, it’s essential to have eternity in mind. This powerful passage from I Peter dramatically gives hope like none other in that it reminds us of an eternal inheritance that will never fade, be defiled, or be taken from us who believe.

No matter how we cherish our temporary treasure that we esteem important here, the eternal treasures should make the temporary insignificant in comparison. In turn, no matter what trials and pain and suffering here, the eternal relief of heaven minimizes it’s devastating impact.

No wonder I’m obsessed with living in the light of eternity. Are you?

4 years ago Desperate for Eternity

Some days I need a clearer sense of eternity more than others. Today is one of those days. I never dreamed a week ago that my son would be a pallbearer for his best friend. Less than six months ago, they were both smiling and dancing at my son’s wedding. Most of us could hardly imagine the two of them settling down. They were such pranksters, comrades in adventures, and determined to have as much fun during life as possible.

Now, my son feels the weight of the world as he carries his comrade to his grave. The pain of death would be unbearable if there were no eternity. I almost get angry when I hear, “Death is a natural part of life.” I so disagree! Before the fall of humanity, we weren’t going to even experience death. That’s why it’s so unnatural to be separated from our loved ones in an instant.     

I don’t know how people have any quality of life if they don’t believe in eternity. How do they face the death of those they love? Knowing that we can be with the Lord forever if we choose Him is the Hope we so urgently need.

I’m so desperate for eternity and so saved from despair in knowing that my son’s friend is more alive than he has ever been.

4 years ago Never Too Late to Change, but Overdue

I was anticipating my next appointment to be tense with emotion, since this was the first time I would be meeting with Janice since her mother’s death. I knew she had anguished over her mother, but for reasons besides her physical decline. Her mother had marked Janice’s life with sadness and frustration. She had been demanding, rude, and sometimes just mean. Janice was kind and had almost destroyed herself in trying to appease her mother. Although her mother was a proclaimed Christian, I sensed that Janice had fear about her mother facing death with such a selfish and hurtful attitude.

We had both prayed for her mother to change, to soften, to repent, and to be filled with God’s love before her earthly life ended. I was eager to hear about what had happened, but also concerned that she had left this world with the same ugly attitude.

Within minutes, I was almost overcome with gratitude and pure joy as I listened to Janice tell of the transformation in her mother during her last weeks of life. Someone had finally stepped up to confront her mother with her notoriously ugly behavior toward others.

Janice had recognized that enabling her mom to hurt others to get her way had not been wise. In fact, it was kind to set boundaries and confront her for her own good, along with that of others. We had been discussing how the Bible teaches Christians to warn, admonish, and confront each about sin and hurtful actions. Maybe her mother would have had a much better life if others had loved her enough to do that. Instead, they had let her actions go unchecked.

It was bittersweet for Janice. She talked of her mother’s transformation that included heartfelt apologies to those she had hurt. She had changed from a person Janice dreaded to be around, to one she enjoyed. She looked forward to just being with her, chatting, and enjoying her newfound kindness. Yet, how sad it was that she only had two or three weeks to enjoy this mother. God had graced Janice with a few weeks of getting to know the mother He had designed, the one she was meant to be, instead of the demanding and hurtful one she had known. This glimpse made Janice and I both think of how great relationships will be in heaven.

Oh, how I wish her mother had made the changes decades ago. Janice would have had a lifetime of sweet memories instead of a few weeks worth.

As we both grew silent, deep in thought, we came to understand the importance of being willing to confront and warn others we love and to be open to receiving such from others whenever we need it. Its never too late to change as long as we are still alive and alert, but it may be way overdue.

4 years ago You can do it: Don't allow worry to rule

Recently I heard a definition of worry that I found not only intriguing, but also helpful. Worry is self-torment. In other words., worry is the act of torturing oneself.
Why do we do it?

Five answers quickly come to mind. 1) We’ve worried so long and so much that we don’t even recognize when we are doing it. 2) We don’t realize that it’s harmful. 3) We don’t know that we can stop it. 4) We don’t know how to stop. 5) We think our worrying will somehow help us prevent whatever we are worrying about. I guess we think if we worry, we will figure out someway to stop the feared from happening, or at least get us prepared for it if it does. All these likely contribute to why we do it.

Yet, considering each of these, we see the antidote if we will use it.

1) Pay attention to our thoughts. Be mindful of monitoring and identifying when our thoughts are going to a bad place.

2) Recognize that it is harmful. Research has long ago proven that it contributes and even causes many medical conditions. In turn, worry robs us of joy, peace, and energy. It is in direct violation of what the Bible tells us to do: Be anxious for nothing . . .

3) We may not be able to keep all anxious thoughts from popping in our head, but we can definitely choose whether to entertain them and keep them. Otherwise, why would the Word tell us to “take every thought captive” and give so many verses that instruct us how to think.

4) Once we realize that we are worrying, recognize that it’s harmful, and accept that we have a choice in redirecting our thoughts, we are now ready to learn how to do it.

5) Being equipped with truth, God’s promises, and His directions, we stop allowing our worry thought and replace it with another that is consistent with the Word. i.e. “What if that lump is cancer, what if that person tries to harm me, what if . . . (identify the worry thought) and find a replacement: The scripture is full of His promises of help, comfort, and deliverance.

6) Take responsibility for my thought life. Sometimes we don’t want to do our homework---like study the Word to equip ourselves for when attacks come. Sometimes we want others, including God, to do our part. While we all should be open to help, we must take responsibility for our part if we are to be victorious.

I recall talking about the process of monitoring and establishing a healthy thought life with a young female. As I earnestly tried to equip her to improve her thought life, she innocently asked, “How long do I have to do this?. I chuckled as I responded, “Until we get out of here”. She knew what I meant. I found it ludicrous that she didn't realize that we would have to deal with thought battles for our whole earthly existence. Even as I write about this battle, I recognize that I don't always do it well. Yet, the challenge is still there to keep trying.

Until Heaven, the battle rages on for our thoughts and worry is ever ready to take over. Will we allow this?

4 years ago Someone's Always Watching

A dear friend of mine recently told me of an encounter she had that both delighted and stunned her. She and her husband were on a cruise. Both are retired and have been married for forty years.

They had enjoyed one particular quiet deck space daily for the weeklong cruise. She would stretch out to enjoy the warm sun and relax on her lounge chair. Her husband would accompany her.

On one of the last days of their trip, another senior woman approached my friend and asked if she could share some of her thoughts with her. To my friend’s surprise, she went on to say that she had been watching the two of them all week. She said that she had noticed the loving ways that her husband had attended to her. She was touched by his care of her, fetching drinks, food, or other niceties for her, pampering her with his willingness to do whatever he could to make her enjoyment the most it could be. She wanted to know if my friend knew what a good husband she had. She assured her she did.

The woman was not only encouraged and enjoyed watching them, she was also troubled as she realized such treatment was rare. She sadly ended by saying that so much of this generation needs to see the example of how to treat a wife that this husband displayed.

My friend was awed as she realized the impact that they had made on watching eyes. “Do you realize that people are watching us and how we act can affect them?”

As we both pondered on her question, we thought about how our influence can be good or bad. I thought of an encounter I had where I watched a husband act so angry and demanding to his wife , that I cringed. I noticed how embarrassed and fearful she looked as he went on with his tirade.

Like my friend, he didn’t even know that others were watching, including his small sons who accompanied them.

How we treat others both privately and publicly doesn’t go unnoticed to the most important observer of all: Our Lord.

4 years ago Our Value

Recently I watched another version of the story of Jesus. Watching reproductions of familiar Bible stories made the reality of His humanity while on earth come alive. Viewing His tenderness with the woman ready to be stoned for being caught in sexual sin, his patience with doubting Thomas, and his kindness with even the most offensive men was medicine to my soul.

The ongoing hurt of being in a fallen world with fallen people can sure make its mark on us. There’s no wonder why so many feel of no value at times. If we could have watched as Jesus interacted with people, we would see the see their value reflected in his eyes. He saw the detested tax collector as valuable enough to call as his chosen discipline. He saw the pompous earthly ruler, who taunted and ridiculed him, as valuable enough to die for, and the thief who would die beside him as precious enough to join him in paradise.

As Christ touched each life, we would see demonstrated the value of each person, no matter what his or her station in life, no matter what his or her past, and no matter what the world esteems him or her. We would also be enlightened of our own.

4 years ago Only God Can Do It

Recently I heard a woman make a bold statement. First, she described her horrific childhood in which her father sexually abused her for fifteen years. She explained that she went into adulthood expecting men to pay for all of what had happened to her. Her innocence had not only been robbed, but she had also been deprived of love and protection. She wanted some person to make up for what had happened to her and also for someone to fix it.

“No one can pay you back or fix it”, she declared.

It is true. But so many keep trying to make someone else either pay for or fix what harmed him or her.

Yet, her story didn’t end with this sad declaration. She explained how the Lord was able to turn her damage into a healed heart and soul, full of compassion and an intimacy with Jesus that more than made up for her past.

If she had never accepted that people couldn’t do what only God can do, she would have stayed in her miserable state.

I know of others who seem determined to keep trying to get people to do what they aren’t capable of doing. They won’t give it up and put their efforts where the results would be victory instead of disappointment.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek and enjoy the love and compassion of others. In fact, the Lord ordained for us to love and support each other. The love of others can sure help in our healing process, but it can never complete it and restore our soul.

The wounds and deep harm from others can only be healed by Divine, not human, power. We not only hurt ourselves, but we drain and harm others when we try to force them, guilt them, or manipulate them into doing what only the Lord can do. He is truly the source of our healing. He can make all things right.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 KJV).

4 years ago Infuse Life

My daughter looked almost lifeless. Her strength had been depleted from harsh chemotherapy that was used to kill cancer that was eating her insides. Now her frail, pale body was without any signs of vigor.

The nurse quietly began hanging a bag of crimson blood to be dripped into her tiny arm. I watched in amazement as her color eventually began to return with her rosy cheeks being the first to show. It was as if life was being pumped back into her shell of a body as each drop of blood threaded through the plastic tube and into her weakened veins.

My gratitude was overwhelming as I realized someone had to have their blood drained from his body in order for it to give life back into hers.

Today I watch another lifeless person. She’s slumped in despair from depression, instead of cancer, eating her insides. While chemotherapy had zapped the energy from my daughter, darkness had taken her zest. There was no nurse bringing her a bad of blood. Instead, I instructed her to go after her own IV infusion. Be intentional, I urged. Your life-giving source is the Word of God.

Just like that bag of blood was precious and brought back the power for my daughter to live, the Word is valuable and will infuse strength, vitality, and the ability to not only live, but also thrive.

Being in a fallen word, we’re all vulnerable to having the life sucked out of us. Yet, we have access to a Spiritual IV that is stocked with Truth. But its not brought to us against our will. Its not forced like a needle thrust into a vein. We must pursue it ourselves. We must infuse it into our heart, mind, and soul. If we regularly seek its essence, we are permeated with peace, healing, and power and with the blood of Jesus cleansing any sin that eats our insides, while bringing everlasting life. Infuse away!

4 years ago Believe the Expert

Human trouble began when the mind got confused about truth. When we don’t understand everything we read, we are vulnerable to doubt what the Bible says. It’s ironic when you consider that we believe all kinds of things that we don’t understand. We typically believe what we are told about medical conditions that we don’t fully understand. We believe about technology, even when we sure don’t understand it. We trust lots of experts when we don’t comprehend about what they are talking. Yet, when the Bible tells us truth that doesn’t always make sense to us, we may doubt its creditability.

We can be suspicious when our feelings don’t align with what we read. Do you ever feel distant from God? I think we all do at times. Do we seek God when we don’t understand what we are enduring or when we don’t feel Him?

Acts 17:27 says that the Lord is not far from each of us. That may be hard for us to believe when we don’t feel Him. But, like much else we trust that we don’t understand, its life enhancing to believe what the Expert says.

4 years ago Keep Groping

Recently I was reading in Acts where Paul was explaining that God “made from one blood every nation of men” and he went on to explain how the Lord determined the time of their existence and where they would dwell (Acts 17: 26). He choose the different races, where they would exist, and when kingdoms would rise and fall. I was fascinated by the next verse that says He did this, “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:27). I was intrigued particularly by the word grope. When we grope for someone, we aren’t concerned for anything but obtaining that person. When you grope, you aren’t moved by second guessing yourself or embarrassment. Instead, you grope when you aren’t allowing anything to restrain you.

I also think of someone being desperate or overwhelmed with desire when they choose to grope instead of just reach for something. I think of how important we are to the Lord for Him to hope that each of us individually yearn and grope for Him.

I was puzzled about why God placed people in a certain time and place in history in hope for them to seek and grope for Him. What did when and where they existed have to do with whether they sought the Lord or not?

Each time in history has its own challenges, influences, struggles, and pleasures. Each place on earth also has unique terrain, cultures, opportunities, and battles. God wanted in every particular time in history and in every place on earth for people to respond to their world with zeal in seeking Him. Sometimes that will come from desperation as we grope. Other times, we will respond to the blessings we encounter with seeking for the Creator of all things good.

My mom lived during the Great Depression, when food was scarce and people struggled to survive. I’m sure people felt the need to grope for the Lord as they faced the horrendous struggles. God wanted those living in war zones with bombs blasting and catastrophes all around to grope for Him. Those living during the persecution of Christians must have groped.

I can think of many painful times in life where God hoped for people to grope for Him, yet many groped for relief from other sources, like people, drugs or alcohol, or material possessions.

On the other hand, I wonder about those living in ease, lavished with safety, and abundance of love and belongings. There are those with strong healthy bodies and what looks like peace and serenity. Do they grope?

The question of life is do we seek God no matter what we face, no matter what time in history, in either good or bad. And do we grope for Him no matter what we are feeling, even when that includes not feeling He even exists.

As I pondered the question, I was overwhelmed with reassurance and relief when I read the ending of verse 27 “though He is not far from each one of us.”

As we grope, we are told that He is not far from EACH one of us. Wow, I so need to remember that when I’m not feeling the Lord's presence, when I feel alone, or in doubt. Do you? Then let’s start groping!

4 years ago Loving through the Dreary

I think it’s ironic that February, one of the dreariest months of the year, is also the one designated with Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, maybe it’s not so ironic.

It’s easy to bask in love and gush with sentiment when the sun’s out, spring is in the air, and life seems charmed with pleasure. But when it’s damp, grey, and the days drag on, with flu in the air instead of spring, it’s much harder.

I have found it intriguing to explore what real love is, when so many seem to define it differently than I. I see the hearts and cute Valentine gifts throughout the aisles of stores and I wonder.

When the dark times come, which they will for all of us, do we love deeply, sacrificially, and like Jesus? When our Valentine is acting like a jerk and we sure don’t feel adored, do we walk away, withdraw our efforts, and look elsewhere for that “fix” we all want. We want to feel special and cared for like the Valentine cards describe.

When the tragedies hit, or we feel unattractive, and rejected, do we stop bestowing our attention and care on our sweetheart? Do we nurse our wounds, to the exclusion of even noticing those of our loved one?

When we spot another that looks much more inviting than our Valentine, do we try to swap out, or at least fantasize about doing it?

Like February, when the dreariness comes, love is put to the test. Real love will stand. It may be accompanied by hurt, but it will persevere and weather the gray with determination because its propelled by a love that many buying into the Valentine fluff may not know.

4 years ago Emotions: Handle with Care

We come out of the womb with emotions, maybe even before coming out. Human emotion has determined the course of history. Emotions birth great actions and accomplishments and also some of the most destructive and cruel. Dealing with our emotions in healthy ways is the challenge of life.

We tend to think if we feel an emotion, we must accept it as valid and to be responded to with our actions. Although it’s not wise to deny and mask feelings, it is also not healthy to just be led by our emotions.

Oh that we would submit to the Word in situations where we feel anger, fear, sadness, or a desire to act towards another in ways that we know they wouldn’t want. Imagine the harm that would be prevented. The rant that we want to have, that boundary we want to disrespect, self-harm we want to do, or any other action that disregards what the Lord would have us do is birthed from emotion that can destroy when allowed to rule.

Lord, help us deal with our emotions in ways that please You. You gave us the capacity to feel the intensity of joy and pain. When filled with Your Spirit, we have self-control. Your presence will be our peace in the storm, our comfort in our sorrow, and our restraint in our anger. We were never meant to try to deal with our emotions without You.

4 years ago Self-Evaluation: Follow His Lead

I recall being a young naïve girl, studying psychology and supporting myself by working in a psychiatric hospital for children. It seems like a lifetime ago that I eagerly poured my efforts into the children, while learning how to use the approaches taught me by my experienced and wise supervisor. I recognized that our behavioral strategies with consequences administered to encourage positive behavior and discourage negative behavior effectively influenced the children’s actions.

Yet, inside my mind pondered about other influences. I wondered about self-produced consequences. Someone may reward us with external praise and treasures, while we may still punish ourselves with feelings of shame and self-criticism.

Throughout my graduate studies, I continued to be fascinated by our own internal self-evaluation processes. Till this day I am convinced that we can sabotage our lives by our own unhealthy produced consequences. Not only does this mean we may be overly punitive and harsh with ourselves, we may also be overly praising of our efforts. We may excuse our lack of discipline and obedience to the Lord or we may have such stringent standards that we set ourselves up for discouragement.

During counseling, I learn much from my clients. As I looked into the pain filled eyes of Sue, I recognized the rigid, stringent, and harsh self-critic that had robbed her of joy. I questioned her about why she was so driven to achieve that she was miserable. She calmly answered right away. “Because my value is based upon it”, she explained.

My mind whirled to challenge such thinking. Do we only have value to the Lord if we achieve a certain level of performance? I think not. We are His creation that had such value that He sent the star of Heaven, His heart’s delight, Jesus, to redeem us.

Somehow, when we begin to recognize our value to the Lord, we begin to be more equipped for healthy self-evaluation. The Holy Spirit is kind and gentle. He convicts, but He also encourages. He speaks truth about sin, but also about mercy and forgiveness. Oh that we listen and follow His lead.

4 years ago Living in Enemy Territory

I used to love watching the show, “Mash” which was set during the Korean War. While it was a comedy, it also had deeply emotional scenes and messages weaved throughout its episodes.

The characters complained about the terrible food, lack of supplies, and other inconveniences at times. Yet, they also made light of much of it because they knew they were living in enemy territory and their whole purpose for being there was to care for the injured, instead of enjoying a great lifestyle.

The last couple of days I have been thinking of how we are living in enemy territory. Being in a fallen world that the Bible says is under the sway of Satan should alert all of us to never forget.

But life here is like those Mash episodes that showed not only the destructive outcomes of being in enemy territory, but also the hope and beauty in humanity that reflects our Creator.

Like those Mash characters that yearned for when the war was over and they could go home, we may too. Yet, while they waited for such, they did their jobs, cared for the injured, and developed cherishing relationships. Maybe it was more than just entertaining to watch the show. It was a reminder of our own challenge in living in enemy territory.

4 years ago "A Blink of Eternity"

Those who know me are well aware that I promote living our earthly life with an eternal perspective. In fact, much of my blogs weave in this obsession I have to remind myself and others that we are here but for a brief blink of an eye. People likely get tired of this reminder, but I find it difficult to resist.

I find it so ludicrous to live only focussed on this blink of our existence. That’s probably due to so many recent deaths of those I know, the physical decline of elderly I love, and the revelation that I am a senior myself and my body shows it. I was somewhat stunned when recently a cashier ringing up the charges for my food looked up at my face and applied the senior discount without even asking my age.

While one might assume that I am sad about aging and the evitable death of those I love and myself, I am more aware of the feeling of urgency and frustration for those who seem so clueless about the need for Jesus. So many live as if this is all there is or with despair about their own physical decline and death.

This is over before you know it, but eternity has only begun. A couple of days ago I was talking with my daughter who is also a therapist in private practice. She counsels more with children, teens, and young adults than any age group. Usually we don’t think much about how temporary life here is when we are young.

“You know Stephanie, people come to see us for their temporary pain, not their eternal”, I said.

I want them to come and I so desire to help elevate pain and encourage their progression in life. Yet, as she agreed, we both were deeply aware that the temporary pain they face is just that, “temporary”. That not only provides some relief, it also emphasizes that what needs our greatest attention is what affects us for eternity.

4 years ago Life Stages

Decades ago I had the opportunity to add to my professional resume and help pay my bills by teaching a few collage courses while I was working on my Ph.D. The course I taught most often was Life Span Development, which is the study of the stages of life. Each semester I explained about typical challenges, influences, and outcomes of each stage. It became so familiar that I didn’t even have to give much thought as I rattled off the information.

I thought that God had provided an opportunity to support myself and promote my career. As I not only lived my life chapters, but also counseled those from early to senior years; I began to realize that God had much more in mind by positioning me to teach this subject. Doing so constantly requires one to think of the progression of life, facing that the beginning always propels to the ending of such.

I found that teaching information has a powerful way of implanting the material even more securely in your memory. You have to not only dig deeper to know the material to teach it, by teaching it over and over, you establish it more securely in your mind.

I am in the senior years now and want so much to share even more about what I have learned from not only studying the research on life stages, but from having lived them. Developmental Psychologists who did the research wanted the knowledge uncovered to help promote humanity. They wanted us to know ways to deal with challenges and to enhance our development and flourish as human beings.

Yet, sadly we may get to our senior years with much regret and with no opportunity to go back and redo our steps. It would be hopeless if we didn’t know the truth that our Lord is merciful and wants to help us as we face the ending of our earthly life and embrace our heavenly life. No matter how we have lived, He continues to want us to embrace Him.

We don’t typically think much about our bodies wearing out when we are young and strong. I was what people used to call a tomboy. I was strong and fast and recall outrunning my peers and beating the boys even in middle school in arm wrestling.

It’s such as surprise when we begin noticing our decline physically. We aren’t as fast and strong anymore. None of us know the exact way our body will deteriorate. We don’t know if we will get arthritis, cancer, or dementia. We can’t look ahead and see the picture as our face wrinkles and our abilities change. We all want to keep our facilities and be transported to heaven with no suffering.

As I watch those I love physically decline, I hurt for their discomfort, while knowing that their essence is only growing. Some people stay mostly well and independent right up until they are suddenly taken home. Either way, we all need to nourish our spirit and remind ourselves not to despair as this body declines. If we only focus on the physical, we get despondent and fuel depression.

The stages all come to this point for us, facing our end here. I yearn to warn others to never face life here, no matter the stage, without thinking of eternity. Doing so, we live more wisely and with hope and comfort no matter how our physical bodies decline.

4 years ago Welcomed Guests

The last month was a whirlwind, passing like a flash. Seems like I keep making comments like this about my life. One of the most precious recent events was the wedding of my son. The excitement and highlight of last year’s preparations ended with an exquisite wedding of glamour, packed with memories galore. My new daughter-in-law sent me a text the next day that it had seemed like a wonderful dream to her.

Away on their honeymoon on a tropical island, the dream likely continues. Yet, like all dreams, they eventually intersect with reality.

I so want her prepared for the jar she may experience when faced with the struggles that come. No matter how much we love, no matter how much we try, no matter how wise we have been, we will all face hurt from being in a fallen world. The disappointments, the frustrations, and the blatant attacks from evil intrude for all of us.

I noticed how the wedding was filled with smiling faces of people who belonged there, rejoicing for the happy couple. Each and every person was hand picked to be there.

Contrariwise, Satan intrudes, butting into our lives with no invitation or desire for him to be there.

I watched as bride and groom went from person to person, hugging and basking in the treasured moments of their reception. They were delighted to greet their guests and I could sense that each person felt special as the couple gave he or her their attention.

In stark contrast, I reflect on how the enemy busts into our lives with cruelty. Unwanted and bringing a darkness with him, we try to retreat. He provokes distress, conflict, fear, and condemnation. He stirs up painful emotions and pits one against another.

Unwanted quests may annoy us, but those coming from evil do more than annoy. We need to recognize that staying close to Jesus hinders the intrusions and definitely protects us.

I only need to remember the sight of my son and his glowing bride to stir up my yearning to protect them. I wish their bliss could remain unmarred. While I never want to rain on anyone’s parade, I secretly know the rain will come. Yet, even more surely, I know the Lord will never forsake and will be the most welcomed quest of all!

4 years ago Embracing the Victory of Christmas

I can’t believe that I haven’t written a blog in a month. When I think back over the last month, I can understand how something so enjoyable and important to me could have been neglected as I addressed pressing concerns in my family. Some were exciting, such as the upcoming preparations for my son’s wedding. Others were painful and were met with prayer birthed from desperation and yet fueled with hope in a loving God.

I can understand how people sometimes yearn to be released from a fallen world and decaying bodies. We long for Heaven where people don’t hurt each other, where bodies are glorified, and evil doesn’t mess with us.

In the mean time, I am encouraged to embrace the true hope and comfort that birthed Christmas: The Lord coming down into our mess to rescue us.

So many have vented to me that they hate the Christmas season. So many have expressed their wish that it was over. I ache for how evil has marred the joyous time that Christmas should be for us all.

Some grieve and miss their loved ones more during the season. Others cringe at the stress and materialism that is rampant now. Others just are reminded of the damage in their families. And yet . . .

Here I am trying to encourage them to celebrate, to redirect feelings and thoughts to the hope Christmas provides, and to stubbornly refuse to give Satan the satisfaction of robbing their joy of the victory that Christmas provides.

4 years ago Never Forsake the Journey

Seems like it was just summer, then a flash of leaves, and now winter is in the air. Time seems to speed up as we age. It’s hard to believe that I am a senior citizen with six decades under my belt.

Tonight I listened as my son and future daughter-in-law excitedly planned their wedding. They look to the future as a grand adventure I’m sure. As we talk of their plans, I am transported back in my mind to when my husband and I did the same. We were partners facing the world around us, knowing that we were in it together.

We had no clue of what life would bring. The adventures would bring not only pleasure, but also heartache. Many a time, we didn’t feel or act like partners anymore. But there were more where we did, knowing that we had each other’s back as life threw us struggles.

A couple of times, it didn’t look as if we would make it. But, the choice is always ours to keep trying, to put aside our offenses, and to show the other that we will never forsake our journey.

Now that the years have turned into decades, I sense the contentment and gratitude that we didn’t give up. Here we sit together, mom and dad, as we watch our son make dreams with his bride to be. Their excitement is our excitement. We both know that, just like we did, they will face many hardships and struggles along the way. We all do. Yet, I hope that they too one day will look back together decades from now remembering their young and eager planning for the future, knowing that they were partners to the end.

Sadly, I know that many have suffered the pain of having their partnership end, even when they gave it their all. We can’t make another love us, just like God doesn’t make us all love Him.

The great news and comfort to all who have suffered the pain of a broken partnership is that the most important relationship is still intact and available for the choosing.

The greatest of love relationships began when Jesus beaconed us to Him. The grand adventure begins with excitement as we come to know His kindness and abiding tenderness. When our journey begins to wane with disappointment, pain, and even tragedy, we may pull away; thinking Jesus didn’t have our back.

Oh that we console ourselves by pushing through to truth and remember our commitment, our dream of staying faithful to our Savior just as He is to us, for not only this life, but for eternity, never forsaking our journey.

4 years ago Embrace Your Family

Tonight I relished a few hours of relaxed pleasure as I hung out with some family members who came to enjoy a birthday dinner for my daughter. As we laughed and ate, I recognized the contentment of being with people who love each other. The ultimate expression of God is companionship in a loving and accepting family. While we have our dysfunction, like all families do, I know that I am blessed with family who care about each other. I also know that not everyone does. Some are alone and have no family to run to, play with, and count on.

I believe God wanted a loving family for everyone, yet sin brought great harm that destroyed some families more than others.

God provides hope for all of us to belong to His family. For those who have never had the sense of belonging, the Lord beckons “Come”, Embrace your family”.

4 years ago Strengthened or Strained by Rest

Today I got a clear view of how our attitudes can be so affected by sleep. Some of us are much more affected than others. I accompanied my four-year-old twin granddaughters as they were fitted for their flower-girl dresses they are to wear in my son’s wedding in December. As the seamstress began to try to measure and do what she needed, one twin was quiet and completely compliant. While she didn’t speak, she stood still and patiently did as told.

The other was sullen and downright gave us a fight to get her to cooperate. My daughter and I both took turns trying to encourage, bribe, and threaten her into putting on her dress, stopping trying to jerk it off, and standing still as the seamstress pinned and marked as needed.

I wasn’t surprised when my daughter said that their preschool had indicated that neither of them had taken a nap that day. The affect was so profound for Mallory and yet, not so much for Morgan.

Today’s brief escapade with them reminded me of how important it is to take care of our physical need for rest.

We live in a world that seems to propel us to keep pushing and going at such a speed that we don’t follow the Lord’s direction for us to rest and replenish. Some of us may not show the harm as much as others. Yet, for many, the increased irritability, distress, and sadness is a clear call for rest.

Our physical, emotional, and spiritual health will be strained or strengthen by our obedience to heed God’s mandate to rest that dates all the way back to creation.

4 years ago Tipping the Scales toward Joy

It seems that much of my blogs are centered on pain. Maybe that comes from counseling hurting people. I write so often about the hurts of life in attempt to provide encouragement.

Yet, I need to also talk about the daily joys. I recognize how much joy, love, and truly wonderful encounters I also experience. There’s the kindness people have shown me, the gratitude expressed by those I try to comfort, and the delight in my laughing grandchildren’s faces as they run through the sprinkler on a hot summer’s day.

I watch my sister tenderly stroke her husband’s wounded arms that were painfully scratched as he was working in the yard. My friend smiles widely as she hands me a huge bucket of blackberries she had picked for me in the blazing 90-degree sun.

I listen as my eighty-six year old mother excitedly tells of her last weekly visit with the girls incarcerated in jail. She lovingly reminds me of how precious they are. My heart swells with joy that a mom who loves people so freely and without judgment raised me.

I smile as the driver motions me in front of her so that I won’t have to wait for the massive line of cars behind her before I can pull out onto the highway. Her gesture may seem small, but it doesn’t go undetected. Kindness should never go unnoticed.

The lovely pink blooms from my roses and the later golden autumn leaves paint my world with beauty. As I feel the crisp fall air, I relish in knowing that my favorite season has arrived.

And if these delights aren’t enough to break my sad streak of blogs with joy, knowing that Jesus wants to spend forever with me definitely does.

4 years ago When the Hurt Comes

I just got back from a Christian Counselors’ Conference that lasted for days. There were people from all over the United States and even a few other countries. The days were filled with insight from presenters from early morning to late afternoon.

I was one of the last to present. I recognized that everyone there was likely exhausted and wanting to just go home. Yet, I desperately wanted to encourage my comrades who, like myself, work with masses of hurting people. My presentation dealt with ways to help equip our clients to deal with hurt in healthy ways.

It’s such an honor and responsibility we have. People don’t come to us with what is going well in their life. I passionately reminded my colleagues, “Dealing with hurt in healthy ways is not only the challenge of life, but also what affects our destiny”.

I emphasized that one of the greatest feats a parent can teach their children is how to deal with the hurts of life. They want to just protect their children from facing pain. But it’s not possible to protect them so well that they won’t ever be hurt.

Ironically, I faced the task myself as soon as I got home from the conference. My husband had brought my grandson, Mason, home to spend the night with us.

As we cuddled up and began coloring, I took the opportunity to explore how first grade was going. Mason informed me that the boys play with the boys and the girls play with the girls. I got around to asking, “is there any boy that no one plays with”? He seemed a little confused and replied, “No. Everyone is nice and we all play with each other”.

I was about to sigh with contentment, when he thought a minute and sadly admitted that his favorite friend sometimes doesn’t play with him. He explained that every once in a while, he leaves him out intentionally.

Such began my heart’s job to teach him how to deal with hurt. “Mason, everyone will someday be hurt by other people. Sometimes a friend will not let you play and act like he is more important than you. It will hurt your feelings. Let me tell you about such a time I had when I was
little . . ."

His eyes widened with sadness and surprise as I told him the story of how my best friend broke my heart many years ago. He seemed mesmerized as I told of how she decided to dump me because I wasn’t as cool as two other girls who were going to be her new best friends.

We spent the next several minutes looking at the painful parts of life that I wanted him to not have to experience, but which I explained would come to all of us. I reminded him that everyone was important, with each loved and cherished by God. He nodded as if he believed and trusted everything I said. I explained that God is sad whenever someone intentionally hurts another. I urged him to remind himself when someone hurts him, that he is always loved by and important to God. I begged him to try to never intentionally make another boy feel unimportant or unaccepted.

These few minutes with my first grandchild seem sacred and forever edged in my mind. I hope they planted lasting nuggets of truth to help buffer the hurt my sweet grandson will face as the days turn into years. May he look back, well after I’m gone, and remember that his Nanny loved him enough to prepare him for not just the joys of life, but also those that make us yearn for Heaven.

4 years ago The Great Deception

What leads to the greatest destruction in our lives; the type that brings the most pain and from which we may spend our lives trying to recover? While all kinds of answers may come to mind, one that tops them all is the "Great Deception", which says we can disobey God's commands and not suffer consequences.

The first destructive wave in humanity was birthed from deception. We see that from the first time humans succumbed to deception from Satan, they tainted their paradise experience and began the forever after human struggle.

The reason Eve likely went along with the deception is because she was first deceived to not only doubt what God said, but also God's motives. "Are you sure that's what God said? He just doesn't want you to be wise and all knowing like Him", Satan argued.

Seems like we are still vulnerable to forget that God's motives are always good and His commandments are protective and insure our well being if followed.

Yet, we seem to forget that we can’t disobey God and be okay. We are deceived to think we can disobey and still prosper, be happy, and escape consequences. Yet, we continue to do so and then seem surprised when the pain comes.

Having a clear conscience is priceless and such a part of being able to enjoy life. Yet, when we don’t follow the Lord’s instructions and commands, we forfeit blessings and protection.

Many times I have felt the sting from my act of noncompliance and later recognize how ridiculous I have been. As we look back over our lives, we see how much of our pain has been caused by either our own or someone else’s disobedience to God’s commands.

We will never be able to live without any pain until we get to Heaven. When pain comes when we are trying to obey, we can rest assured that the Lord will help.Yet, how much comfort and protection from much pain can be ours if we just obey. That requires us to resist sliding back under the "Great Deception".

4 years ago The Potter's Touch

Some of the most crucial messages in the Word were presented by using illustrations to which we could relate and picture in our mind. Christians were portrayed as soldiers in a war and as athletes running a race in quest for the prize. Satan was described as a lion seeking whom he may devour.

One of the most beautiful and enlightening pictures given was that of the Lord being the potter and we as the clay. If you have ever watched as a potter spins and forms clay, it is mesmerizing. As I wonder about all that the Lord wanted us to glean by this illustration, I suspect that we may have overlooked the full revelation He was giving us.

A potter chooses his clay and there are different types of clay that are suited for different uses. We humans are also wired or suited for different uses to the Master. Yet, we compare and frequently want to be differently from what we were suited and thus chosen for by the Potter.

Clay requires the intimate touch of the Potter to be gradually and intentionally molded and tenderly formed. It takes different shapes and directions as it is being led to its final outcome. Sometimes, the potter flattens it back out and seems to be just starting all over. Yet, he doesn’t seem upset or derailed and the clay starts to mount up in another form to which he begins his magic. The clay swirls and sometimes is squashed as he pushes out the air bubbles.

The heat from the fiery oven that bakes the clay doesn’t come right away. Yet, when it does, it helps the clay stand firmly in the design for which it was intended. It establishes its ability to not be misshapen by other touches that could derail the potter’s intensions for the clay.

Satisfied with its form, the potter puts the final touches with the seal of the glaze that truly brings the luster and protection to his creation. Somewhere along the way, the Potter signs his name, forever establishing that the creation was formed by His hands and vision.

Lord, do we see what your wanting to show us? You chose us, have specific dreams for what you want us to become and be used for, and aren’t derailed from your plans as long as we don’t resist your touch.

Earthly clay doesn’t choose, people do. You allow us to withdraw from You, and in so doing we become hard and unyielding. We can even try to form ourselves without You, and in so doing we spin out of control and into all sorts of distortions.

Yet, as we get back under your hands and yield to your touch, the spinning is again the beautiful and mesmerizing process by which even the painful touches bring us to those strong and useable vessels that you loving seal and upon which you sign your name.

4 years ago You Aren't Just Along for the Ride, You Are the Ride

I was stunned and saddened as I heard my elderly friend admit that she is just waiting her time out, not really contributing to life anymore. "Your assignments aren't over or God would have taken you home", I said.

This encounter was followed by another friend telling me of how she feels that she is just on the sidelines of life, instead of pursuing the dreams God has placed in her heart. I reflected on how gifted, vibrant, and wise she was and how ridiculous it was for her to just exist as if she has nothing to contribute.

I likely sounded outraged as I practically shouted, "You aren't just along for the ride. You are the ride!"
I almost surprised myself as we both soaked in what my words meant. She laughed as she recognized that she had slid into a stupor that she needed to be jarred out of.

I felt the satisfaction of watching the glimmer come back into her eyes as she began to talk of what she had dreamed of over the last several months, maybe even years. I saw the passion in her eyes as she talked of what she wanted to share with other woman she yearned to minister to, to encourage, and to equip with hope, truth, and compassion.

The tragedy of just living as if we are along for the ride, instead of embracing our God given talents, assignments, and dreams is so epidemic. We don't have to be the smartest, most talented, or courageous to obey God's call to get in the race, and "Be the ride", driving under His Power and pursuing where He leads.

4 years ago Who Are You Resisting and Who Are You Assisting?

While our desire to be admired can lead us down destructive paths, our need to feel of value is expected and addressed by God. His Word is packed with reassurance that each of us is of great value to Him.

If we search for our value and significance by referring to what His Word tells us instead of how we perceive peoples’ esteem of us, we are protected from great harm. Unfortunately, we are prone to stray back to defining our worth by worldly standards instead.

Some seem to get wiser and more attuned to God’s view as they become senior saints. I notice how many older people are more comfortable with themselves and seem more attuned into what really matters. Those who get wiser become more interested in pleasing God than pleasing people. They are more affected by knowing that God loves and values them than whether people do.

When we follow such a wise path, we are resisting the enemy. When we give into our vulnerabilities to be more interested in how people esteem us than what God thinks, we are assisting the evil that has led to the damage in the first place. We all need to question who are we resisting and who are we assisting.

4 years ago Resist; Don't Assist

I think I was actually asleep when hearing the command, “Resist; don’t assist”. I was well aware what the phrase meant. We are to resist Satan; also realizing we can unknowingly assist him. When we engage in thoughts and actions that are like his, we begin assisting him.

Recently, I was trying to comfort and encourage a woman who was weeping with emotional pain. I knew her story well, since she had confided in me for months. I also knew that what mostly had contributed to her current state of torment was her unchecked desire to be admired.

I had great compassion for her and reassured her that we all want to be admired. If we don’t think we have this desire, we are deceived or lying. We also likely don’t realize how such a desire can lead to massive damage if not dealt with in healthy ways.

As I tried to comfort my friend, I also knew that if I really cared about her, I would also warn her. I began to share what harm the need to be admired can bring and how it was the beginning of decline for Satan. His desire to be admired prompted his attempt to upsurge God and led to the forever after influence of evil.

The desire to be admired creates a human vulnerability that has made us all prey to damage. I saw the knowing light begin to shine in my friend’s eyes. She understood and recognized the need to be admired as the driving force that had created much of her pain. For years, she had instead focused on her own declared shortcomings: being too fat, too stupid, too messy, too undisciplined, and too much or too little of all desirable traits.

What’s most alarming is that like most of us, she based her evaluations of herself on what she thought others’ opinion of her would be instead of God’s.

Oh how we assist Satan when we do this and most of us don’t realize we are even doing it. I understand why even in my sleep I hear the call, “Resist; don’t assist”.

4 years ago Dealing with Life: Look at the Whole Picture

“They are getting their rewards here”, my friend said. At first I was puzzled as he described a family who were not believers in Christ. He emphasized that this family seemed to flourish in life, while my friend was dealing with heart wrenching situations in his.

I reflected on my friend's deep faith and commitment to Christ. His intense efforts in ministering to others and leading ones to Jesus were shown for years. Yet, he had suffered greatly due to tragedies, illness, and decline within his family.

It would be easy to question why there were such vast differences between their families and to even become bitter. Yet, my friend just seemed to understand that his rewards would come in the future.

A few days later, I was talking with another Christian friend. He told me that that he always blames himself when he suffers. While its healthy to evaluate oneself to uncover whether bad decisions or attitudes led to current problems, his stance was concerning. When any hurtful time came, he felt that God was somehow displeased with him and either causing, allowing, or refusing to help him because of His displeasure. This global negative explanation for all pain ever experienced was causing him harm.

How do we respond when painful times come? Are we willing to examine ourselves and see what might need to change? Sometimes, we have caused our own suffering. The Bible tells us this in a number of passages.

Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. Psalm 107:17

I admit that at times I have caused my own pain.

However, we also need to understand that even when we are serving God and trying to please Him, we can still suffer. The Lord reminds us of this in Psalm 34: 19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.” My friend who was suffering while waiting for his reward, realized he would be delivered.

The Bible can help all of us in dealing with pain. Malachi illustrates what many have questioned. “Why do people who are living ungodly prosper while others trying to please God suffer?”

The final chapter to Malachi clearly directs us to look at the whole picture, including what’s to come. My friend who is patiently waiting for his deliverance and reward does that. So must we if we are to deal well with life here.

4 years ago Lasting Pleasure

I just got home from a week at the beach and am trying to adjust back to the daily routines. Destin in July is crammed pack with overpopulation at every place you go, with masses of people all scrambling to have fun. While we push and strain to squeeze in and create pleasure, we sometimes actually do the opposite. It’s a relief to sometimes just back off and be aware of our Creator.

Although our efforts to enjoy life can be fruitful, sometimes the more we try to assure fun for ourselves and those we love, the more we bring frustration and stress.

Its funny how we go about trying to create pleasure. When we just melt into God’s presence and His direction for our efforts, the path makes sense and brings pleasure and PEACE.

The beach, the activities (at least some), and family interaction were fun, fun, fun. Yet, I am ever reminded that the real lasting pleasure that will surpass any that man tries to create is still to come.. I’m so relieved that Jesus purchased my lasting place of pleasure in Heaven. Destin can’t compare with that.

4 years ago Eternity: Does it Exist?

I recently was listening to a minister who made a profound statement, “Most people spend more time planning for a two week vacation than for where they will spend eternity.” The statement illustrates how absurd, ludicrous, and downright bizarre our lack of insight can be.

My mother, who was also listening to the minister, chimed in, “He sounds like you.” While I don’t always act like it, I have been preoccupied about such myself. Why do so many not give much thought to where or how they will spend eternity, while they obsess about their temporary life here?

I see this with not only myself sometimes, but also with so many suffering people. Every workday for me involves trying to help hurting people. I love the honor of trying to help, but also recognize that they come with pain related to their brief earthly life. For many, the thought of eternity in Heaven is comforting during their struggle here.

The only explanation that explains the lack of regard for eternal matters is that people think that their existence stops when their earthy life ends. I watched a television program that showed numerous people being briefly interviewed about eternity. They were people who were randomly stopped that were walking outside in a busy city. Just about every person was nonchalant about the topic. Many said that they didn't believe there is anything after this life, with a few being unsure, but uninterested. One woman stood out. She enthusiastically talked of Heaven and being with the Lord. She said that she was thrilled that they had stopped to talk to her about the topic.

Just as I thought, the others that either didn’t believe in eternal existence or were unconvinced put their thoughts and efforts on temporary life here. That’s understandable if you think this is all there is. But if you weren’t sure or if you believe there is eternal existence, its ludicrous to live focused and concerned more about what doesn’t affect eternity than what does.

It was heart wrenching to realize that the interview may be representative of our world. I have mostly lived and interacted around people who believe in life after earthly death. Even those who didn’t feel ready for eternity at least believed it existed.

My prayer is that the Lord will open eyes, hearts, and minds with His Spirit to the reality of eternity, before its too late.

4 years ago Who You Marry

Most have heard of Noah and the ark. We may think we’ve uncovered all there is to learn from the story. Because Noah chose to value and listen to God’s voice above all others, he and his family were saved.

We aren’t told about Noah’s sons’ walk with the Lord before the flood. I wonder if they doubted what their dad was saying but just went along with him or if they had deep respect for him and thus believed what he warned. Since Noah was righteous, I assume he taught his sons well and that they saw how earnestly he lived his faith. Thus, they too may have valued what God said above what man said. We aren’t told that God talked with Noah’s sons, but I assume they listened to their dad who did hear from God.

What intrigues me are the daughter-in-laws. Since the Bible says that all besides Noah and his family were evil and thus destroyed, that shows that the daughter-in-laws came from evil families before they married. They didn't have a father that led them in Godly ways. In fact, their fathers would have led directly against righteousness.

Did the daughter-in-laws believe in God or did they benefit just because of being married to Noah’s sons? Recall that in their day, women had little, if any, power. They likely didn’t have any choice in whom they married. How blessed they were to marry men who followed God’s voice, even if it came through their father-in-law. I’d like to believe that after becoming a part of Noah's family, they trusted God and what Noah said.

Today women have full choice about who they marry, unless they are in abusive countries that don’t respect and value women’s right to choose. If women get to choose, why in the world would they ever choose a husband who doesn’t listen for and follow God’s voice. Yet, for decades I’ve met with hurt and struggling women who were married to men who did not seek or follow God’s voice. The most important quality to look for in a companion is that he seeks and obeys God’s lead.

Instead, woman base their decision about relationships on all kinds of factors, some good, some irrelevant, and some even unhealthy. We see from the Word, that husbands are called to be protective of their wives and children, not just physically, but spiritually. Noah’s sons protected their wives by leading them to obey the voice of God that their father Noah had heard.

It may seem that there are no men seeking God’s voice. So many don’t even consult God’s opinion, let alone submit to it. In the end, so many women compromise and settle for a husband who doesn’t seek and obey God because they don’t want to be alone. They may not luck up like Noah’s daughter-in-laws who likely didn’t even get to choose their husbands. Instead, they may make one of the most important decisions of life and do so without following God’s voice, which would clearly direct them to marry a man who seeks and obeys Him.

I’m sure if they could talk to women today, Noah’s daughter-in-laws would passionately advise woman to not only seek God’s voice themselves, but also to marry a man who seeks, hears, and obeys God’s voice above all others. They likely would emphasize that doing so can help save them from much heartache, or as in their case, even their life.

4 years ago Who is Listening?

When you think about Noah, you recognize that the entire world around him was evil. That’s why God wiped all of them out, except for Noah and his family. We see that God choose Noah, because Noah was obedient and walked with God. What intrigues me is that the Word says God talked to Noah. Why didn’t God talk to the other people? Would they have walked with God if He had talked with them?

While I sure don’t claim to understand all the mysteries that will be revealed in Heaven, I have some speculations. I started thinking about why we sometimes chose to stop talking to people. Sometimes, we are angry with them. We may have jealousy or impure motives for not talking with them.

I thought about why we back off from talking or at least change how we talk to someone we love. A person came to mind to me. I love her dearly and while we still talk, I don’t get real involved in her drama anymore. I stopped trying to warn her or give advice. Why? She doesn’t benefit from my efforts. Instead, I am left hurt, disappointed, and frustrated. She continues going in destructive paths and making bad decisions that not only hurt her, they bring pain to others who love her. I pray for her.

Maybe God did try to talk to them, but they wouldn’t listen. Have you ever been somewhere and you were trying to talk and no one listened to you? They may have been talking to each other and totally didn’t seem to even hear you. You likely just stopped talking. Who would blame you?

Why did Noah listen? For some reason, he was aware that God’s voice was the most important to hear. Above any human being, he respected what God was saying. You may be in situations where there is one speaker that you want to hear above all the others.

Although I don’t know why Noah was wise enough to discern and they weren’t, my prayer is that I will listen for the voice that matters above all others. Maybe if we are eager to hear, God will speak to us. No famous singer, movie star, President, or loved one is more important for us to seek listening to than the Lord.

As the Lord looks over His creation, He is looking for whom to talk with. Who will He find listening?

4 years ago The Choice is Ours

Do you ever feel alone and disconnected from those around you? Do you feel like they can’t relate to you; that somehow you just are so different that it is awkward?

I have a friend who is like that where her family is concerned. She seems so different from them that I suspect they see her convictions and deep love for Jesus as peculiar. They have lived lifestyles that included abusing drugs, excessive sexual infidelity, stealing, and a host of other choices that grieved my friend.

While she loves them dearly, she doesn’t fit. She has felt much hurt because she has wanted to be involved in their lives, yet finds that it is damaging and painful to do so. Since she fervently loves the Lord, it breaks her heart to watch them live so destructively.

I thought of her as I read of Noah this morning. If anyone was alone in his faith, it was Noah. I am deeply intrigued with how he alone was so committed to the Lord, when no one else was. In fact, evil consumed the whole world. Why didn’t it seem to affect him? He didn’t have a preacher to warn and encourage him. He didn’t have a supportive church family or even the Bible there to consult. He sure didn’t have a mature Christian brother to walk with him.

Yet, the Word says he walked with God. He chose his companion to be God, instead of the people around him. I try to imagine what that must have looked like. I picture him looking up into the sky and at the earth around him and just knowing in his heart that there must be a creator. As he looked into his children’s faces and felt love swell up, he must have figured out that this creator was loving and worthy of our devotion and respect.

I imagine he talked with God as he lived each day. Walking with him likely involved intimate conversations. Since the Word also says he was obedient, he must have followed his conscience that was in tune with God since he walked with him daily.

He must have made a determined choice to listen and be influenced by God and not his fellow human companions. There is the crust of why he was chosen by God. Noah chose God instead of humans.

We live in a world that infiltrates us with evil examples. We invite in the filth at times with what we chose to watch, taste, and allow delighting our sinful appetite.

Being surrounded by those who disrespect God, we must make choices daily as to which we will follow. Will we chose to be like my friend who bears the brunt of ridicule and rejection from her family because she loves Jesus? Will we be willing to not fit in, to be made fun of, or rejected by those around us because we follow the convictions that stem from obeying the Lord?

The choice is ours.

4 years ago Living in a Stressed-Out World

The word “stress” gets everyone’s attention. It seems epidemic that all struggle with what we label as stress. We feel overwhelmed, overextended, irritable, worried, and unable to just relax.

Life throws us curve balls. The washer tears up, and if that isn’t bad enough, it does it when we have mounds of laundry that we have let pile up. Then there’s that nagging back pain that won’t go away, the coworker who gets on our last nerve, or the unreasonable demands that we feel we must meet if we are a good person.

The list of stress builders is endless. Living in a fallen world involves such ongoing opportunities about which to stress. I find that what fuels much of my stress is trying to address what needs to be done before its there to be done. If I can just focus on what’s in front of me, I am so much calmer. While some planning is needed, we thrive much more if we stick to the situation at hand.

I once heard a man say that stress is trying to control things we don’t have control over. I would add that we try to control things that we shouldn’t try to control, even if we had the power. We try to fix other’s situations even when we don’t have the right to do so. We may mean well, and there are times we should help each other. Yet, inevitability when stress builds, it sometimes is a signal that we are trying to fix situations that aren’t ours to fix.

Other times, we are trying to remedy situations with powerless methods, or even more likely approaches that make it worse. While the Bible clearly indicates there are times we are to warn others, sometimes we sure can mess it up. Instead of powerfully praying God’s Word over loved ones making decisions against His commands, we try to lecture or manipulate them into obeying God. Even if we don’t try to outwardly intervene, we worry ourselves into pits of despair.

There are so many ways to fuel what we call stress. These thoughts are just a snippet. We all need to explore what fuels our stress. We may be surprised to find that much didn’t have to become stress in the first place, if we had faced each moment with the wisdom of our Lord.

4 years ago Remembering during the Storms

The television is blaring the threats of impending tornados and ways to take cover. The wind is so loud that it almost drowns out the sound of the sirens heralding warnings. Suddenly, hail is nailing down and the sound is frightening. I wonder what harm it is doing to my car sitting out unprotected from the elements.

As lightening flashes and the strikes boom loudly, I realize that many are likely hovering in their bathroom, basement, or anywhere to try to be protected. Its like the sky is angry and having a temper tantrum on the earth below.

This storm has been like so many others that come and go. In the middle of it, it feels like it is here forever. Yet, it passes, like all other storms that intrude into our lives.

The aftermath is amazing. The air seems sweet and clean. The chirping birds heralding that the danger is over interrupts the quietness. The roses seem to sprout overnight, and I embrace the peaceful bright scene that follows the storm. Just as quickly as it came, it leaves.

If we recall the pattern during the storm, we would be more quieted in our spirit. Its true that storms can destroy. They can also clean and make way for growth.

There is no way we can live and not face storms. Storms will come and go and we all will experience them no matter what we do. The same is true of other storms that have nothing to do with the weather.

Sometimes we can tell that they are developing. Like with physical storms where the atmospheric density mounts, we sense the pressure building and try to prepare. Other times, they seem to come out of nowhere, with no warning. We may feel heaviness, darkness, and fright. We may watch helplessly as some of the strikes we have no control over.

Although we can’t stop thunderstorms, at times we can prevent other kinds of storms from developing. Sometimes we made choices and acted in ways that we were warned not to do that led to the storm. Other times, we didn’t actually cause the storm, but we could have avoided being so affected by it.

Either way, when storms of life hit, if we remember that they pass and that the Lord is always faithful, we will deal more wisely during them. Just like the peaceful sweet atmosphere after a violent storm, the calm presence of God’s faithfulness is most evident after our personal storms. Remembering that He will not only be there during every storm, but will get us through to the blossoming life that follows is the quest for us all. We are prone to lose sight of that in the middle of the attack.

Lord, help us remember and never lose sight of Your protection and faithfulness during both the peaceful and stormy times of life.

5 years ago Risky Perceptions

I used to run into an acquaintance from church that I perceived as cold and kind of snobby. I thought she tried to be in clicks and her arrogance turned me off. While I didn’t know if my perceptions were accurate or not, I didn’t make any special attempts to get to know her.

A few years later, I was inevitably around her more because we participated in the same women’s events. I noticed how she seemed slightly shy. During an activity that necessitated more intimate interactions she opened up and talked of her insecurity and battle with depression.

Needless to say, I recognized that I had trusted my faulty perceptions. I was reminded of how our perceptions can propel us to erroneous reactions to others. We interpret from our observations and how risky that can be.

Since that encounter from many years ago, I have been keen on recognizing how others may tend to give off cues that will set them up for misconceptions from others. As a therapist, I have the advantage of getting an up close and personal view of those being transparent in a safe and confidential setting. From such, I have compassionately warned clients whose outward countenance was incongruent with the real them. The one, who appeared angry and sullen on the outside, was so hurt and fearful on the inside. The one, who looked arrogant and unconcerned with others, was lonely and insecure underneath.

Only the Lord has the ability to know every aspect of the inside of us. We all need to be aware that we can’t trust our perceptions and interpretations completely.

5 years ago A Life Well Lived

Whenever I was working on my Ph.D., I taught at a couple of Universities. One of the courses I taught the most was Developmental Psychology, which looks at the stages of life. As I live my own life, I realize how true researchers had it in recognizing that our lives go through developmental stages or what I call chapters.

As I look back over my life, I realize that I would have dealt with much of life differently if I could have had a clear preview of what my later chapters would show me. I would have realized that while hard work and trying to reach goals are important endeavors, loving God and people would top any thrills or worldly feats.

I would have forgiven more easily, had extra grace for other’s failures, and been more generous with my time and possessions. I would have noticed and embraced the simple pleasures that youth take for granted, and ignored the silly arrogance of those trying to make others feel small. I wouldn’t have obsessed about the surface appearance that the world spends billions of dollars promoting as the quest of a successful life.

I would have grieved more for the lost, prayed more for humanity, and praised our Creator with passion. Lastly, I would have treated the days as precious opportunities to never take for granted, just as I cherished the moments with those I love.

My wish is to give previews to the younger ones, who are in their own chapters facing the challenges with what they know at their developmental stage. I guess it’s not easy for us to see beyond the chapter we are in, but I will keep sending preview messages as best I can. Even with previews, we sometimes take years to live with the wisdom that comes with age. Older saints, especially my parents, lived previews for me that clearly marked the way. I watched as they showed that loving God and people was the quest of a life well lived

5 years ago The Challenge

Our expectations can really set us up for harm. When we expect only bad from life, we position ourselves for damage. When we expect only good, we definitely place ourselves where disappointment and defeat will be magnified.

Much of the challenge of life is to deal with our expectations. Since we learn how to live by developing expectations, we need to recognize when our outlook and beliefs are veering us in error.

Sometimes we read of God’s promises and interpret them in ways that set us up for those faulty expectations. For example, we read, “No weapon formed against us shall prosper”, thinking that means nothing will injure or hurt us. While the weapons against Christ and those who love Him will not prevail, it didn’t promise that Christ or us wouldn’t be hurt. Christ suffered greatly and we aren’t promised that we won’t be attacked or hurt while being in a fallen world.

Yet, if we aren’t careful, we can promote the Christian message as if we are somehow not going to be touched by pain. On the other hand, we can also plummet into thinking we have a life plagued with heartache only until we get to Heaven. The old hymn, “I’ll Fly Away” includes the verse, “Just a few more WEARY days and then, I’ll fly away.” Thinking all of our days will be weary, discounts the encouragement and joy of the Holy Spirit and thinking all of our days will only be happy, discounts the reality of the hurt that comes from being in a fallen world.

Thus, our challenge remains. “Lord, help us rest in Your promises and yet still know that we will sometimes hurt and struggle and sometimes not understand.

5 years ago Responding like Jesus

It didn’t take years of listening to others’ pain to recognize that people hurt each other. Someone has wronged all of us. It’s easy for our hurt to propel a desire for justice, or what may actually be revenge. If we are honest with ourselves, the more we have been treated badly, the more we may want the one who harmed us to suffer.

Those with pervasive wickedness act cruelly and may seem to prosper. The Word gives direction and encouragement to those who have been so badly treated that they struggle with how to respond.

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles”, Proverbs 24: 17, (NKJV)

How do we not delight in such a one reaping what he sowed?

The more we recognize how God’s grace and mercy spared us what we would have reaped, the more we are equipped to love like Christ. While nailed to the cross and struggling with pain, rather than want His cruel tormenters to suffer, Jesus prayed for His Father to forgive them, pleading that they didn’t know what they were doing.

We need His grace to love like that, to forgive, and to yearn for the wicked to repent and be redeemed. -

5 years ago Hope for What's to Come

Life is made up of chapters. Some are so pleasurable that we wish we could remain in that chapter. Yet, each chapter also has some pain within. Some chapters seem particularly plagued with loss and struggles.

As we weave through the various chapters of our lives, we all need hope that our life story has a happy ending. I hate getting all interested in a book or movie that ends badly. I can remember a friend getting mad after watching a movie that friends had already seen and yet had not warned her that it had a sad ending. She wailed, “You should have warned me, I wouldn’t have watched it.”

We all want the hero to win, love to prevail, and the characters to end up happy. God wants the same. He wants us to choose our great ending by choosing the life He has provided for us if we embrace it through Jesus.

When we know that the ending of our earthly life transfers us to an eternal existence with God, we can face every chapter here with hope. Whenever I re-watch a movie that I have already seen that has a great ending, I can watch the scary and sad segments being relaxed and enjoying it because I know what is coming.

I’m so glad that the Lord gave us the hope of a good ending in His Word that provides the previews we need to deal with our scary and painful parts of life. Yet, we sure need to remind ourselves of what’s to come.

5 years ago A Simpler Time

I remember lying in the grass in my yard as a child, just aimlessly looking at the sky. I would notice the clouds and see the various streaks that marked through them. Time didn’t even register as I just embraced being there with no need to accomplish anything.

I can’t imagine such a peaceful time in children’s lives now. I watch as we scurry from event to event, video game to game, movie-to-movie, and social affair to affair. While most kids would instinctively connect with my childhood times of just “being”, they have been groomed to be adrenaline junkies.

We have to look no further than our mirrors to see who trained them. I am stunned to see how my own times of letting my thoughts wander and fuel a blog have been sidetracked for weeks. I have been in a busy streak of constant activity that robbed me of my quiet times of reflection.

I sense a yearning to escape back to a simpler time; a time that quiets my spirit and allows me to connect with my Creator. I think the yard is calling me . . . Is it calling you too?

5 years ago What to do with the Whys?

Seems like life has persistently drawn me to asking why? I’ve come to realize that some nagging “whys” don’t seem to entice me much anymore. As the decades passed, I have let certain of of my questions go. I just couldn’t seem to give up my quest to find the answers to them until I accepted that not only could I not find them while still confined to my earthy life, but also that I will have them answered when my heavenly life begins.

I Corinthians 13: 12: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

However, I still find seeking answers to many questions a worthwhile endeavor. As a counselor, I have been honored to join many as they uncovered wisdom from their efforts to find answers to their “whys”. The more truth they found, the more healing followed.

Most truth doesn’t help us if we don’t know it or use it. Thus, the chase for available truth is on and calls all of us to participate. As we find the answers that help life make sense, we move closer to our divine destiny. When we hit those unmovable walls that keep the answers hidden, we press on since we know they will eventually be revealed.

5 years ago Relationship Clutter

In considering the need to discard the clutter in our homes, I ventured into thinking about other kinds of clutter in our personal lives. Worry, offenses, temptations, people pleasing, and varieties of other types of clutter came to mind.

A friend told me about being in a new chapter in life in which she is much more willing to discard unused and unneeded clutter. She was finding it a “freeing” experience to “let go” of the stuff. We pondered on how much we could have benefited from such purging throughout our past life.

Our relationships provide much clutter that needs to be addressed. It can be confusing when trying to de clutter our relationships. Sometimes we need to discard the unrealistic expectations of others that set us up for disappointment. Other times, we need to shed old offenses and grudges. Frequently, we need to abandon much of what drains our energy and time that depletes us from having enough for our relationships that matter.

Lastly, there are those destructive relationships that we may need to leave. While we are called to never stop caring about the well being of anyone, we are not called to always remain in a relationship. Some can’t discard tangible belongings to such extent that they are identified as hoarders. Others can’t bear to get out of a friendship that is abusive or in ongoing ways unhealthy for them.

When examining relationships, the most important of all is our relationship with the Lord. Regularly monitoring my relationship with the Lord is paramount. What clutter gets in the way of our intimacy? What clutter do I keep that hurts the Lord? What junk hinders me from obeying Him? Jewels are hidden within the clutter and sometimes never found and treasured. Similarly, our life clutter can hinder us from hearing the Holy Spirit's treasures of reassurance and guidance. Sometimes I have been so affected by clutter that I missed the Holy Spirit's warnings. At times I took a different path from the one that the Holy Spirit was trying to lead me to because I was under the influence of the clutter instead of Him.

“Lord, teach us when and how to purge so that we stay focused on fulfilling our race for Your Glory.”

5 years ago Hiding in the Clutter

An effective way to improve our emotional well-being is to get rid of clutter. I’m convinced that all of us would benefit from purging half or more of what we have in our homes

We women talk frequently about getting rid of the clutter. Yet, for most of us this is never accomplished. We talk about it more than do it. Why is that? The most common reason is time.

It takes time to sort though and discard. It also requires making decisions that can be difficult. “Should I keep this?” “Maybe I will wear that when I lose weight.” “I may need that someday.” “How could I get rid of that when it was what my great grandma made?”

Some intrigue me that can discard much with little thought. They find it easy to toss whatever. Those extra Christmas decorations, chair, and handmade treasures are flippantly pitched.

Those at the other extreme also intrigue me. They can’t or won’t discard anything that they seem to have had from the beginning of life until the moment at hand. They have so much stuff, good and bad, that they can’t even know what all they have.

Most of us are likely in between these two extremes. When we have so much, it is inevitably harder to keep our space simple and clean. The excess seems to upset our peace.

My son, who has ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is notorious for keeping his condo immaculate. He has open space and sparsely decorated rooms. The disarray in his mind seems to be calmed by the organized and uncluttered environment in which he lives.

I envy such and yet find it difficult to achieve. I know that less is more. If I have less, it’s so much easier to maintain order.

The need to simplify and de clutter applies to all aspects of our lives. While our external world may be a challenge, our internal one is even more so. Trying to get rid of excessive worries, conflicts, competing priorities, and temptations can seem insurmountable.

As when we are dealing with physical clutter, it takes effort and resistance in de cluttering our mind and relationships. Making this a priority is a choice that we will never regret.

I picture looking back over my life one day and realizing that so much more peace and accomplishment could have been mine if I had treasured this goal above all the clutter that ruled my life. How about you?

Recently, a pastor caught my attention with a statement, “Satan hides in the clutter.”

Wow! I knew that clutter could bring stress, but never thought about how the evil one thrives in such. The pastor didn’t elaborate on his proclamation, but I knew that it warranted my attention and exploration.

I admit that I don’t relish the thought of sorting through all my junk. My life, like most people’s, is cluttered with doubts, worries, misplaced priorities, people pleasing, past hurts, and selfish tendencies.

I feel like just avoiding the whole mess and instead going for some chocolate. Yet, the task calls as I talk with God. He encourages me that we can do it together. You can too.

5 years ago "The Right Fear"

Recently, I was encouraging a woman to pursue her divine purpose. This would involve identifying her spiritual gifts and specific assignments God had for her. “Why would God leave us here after accepting Christ as Savior?” I asked. “Why not take us to Heaven where we will thrive without pain? The only answer that makes sense to me is that we must have assignments here”, I said.

As I continued urging her to consider embracing her gifts and assignments, she responded, “I’m afraid to”.

“I’d be afraid not to”, was my reply.

Looking ahead to the ending of our life, I thought about how we will look back to review what we have done with our brief time on earth. Compared to eternity, it’s not even an eye blink. The Bible refers to our earthly life like a vapor. It’s gone quickly.

Lost in thought, I continued sharing. “When we look back over our life, what will we see? If we realize that we never tried to find and fulfill our assignments from God, we will have deep regrets. Time is up. Even if we had a grand time pursuing our own comfort and pleasure, it’s been just a speck in terms of our existence. We have no more opportunity to do our tasks that would affect eternity. That’s a frightening thought. Much more to fear than trying to do our assignments.”

I looked up to see her face. I wasn’t sure if she was moved by my revelation. Yet, I was. Again, I was reminded by my own words the significance of living with eternity in mind.

5 years ago When We Have Hurt Others

Life’s great challenge is to deal with our hurt in healthy ways. Doing so, we don’t hurt others. However, none of us have always dealt with our hurt in healthy ways. It’s more likely that we have all hurt others at some time when we have been hurt.

Thankfully, the Lord is gracious and willing to forgive us when we repent for our hurtful actions. That doesn’t mean people always do, even if they should. The Word clearly tells us to forgive others. However, trust is earned.

A friend was complaining to me about her husband not being forgiving of her friend who had hurt her. She felt that her husband was wrong, and explained that her friend hadn’t meant to hurt her and had been hurt badly himself. Yet, the more she talked, the more I began to suspect that her husband was actually being protective of her. He may or may not have forgiven her friend. However, it was obvious that the friend continued to act in hurtful ways. Her husband was trying to shield her from further harm.

We desperately need to forgive others. We also need to receive God’s forgiveness ourselves if we are to thrive. I’m so eternally grateful that God is willing to forgive me for how I have hurt others, especially Him. However, if I willfully and continually choose to engage in hurtful actions, am I really repentant?

These tough questions expose tough challenges. These include dealing with our hurt without harming others, repenting when we have hurt others out of our own pain, and striving to stop hurting others, even if we are still damaged. The questions also point to the hope we have in a long-suffering, merciful Savior who is forgiving and who will help us recover from pain.

5 years ago “Hurt People Hurt Others”

“Hurt people hurt others”. This is a common phrase that provides a sad, but well-known truth. Most accept this as a phenomenon that can’t be avoided. Hurt people have no choice but to hurt others.

Recently a friend excused the hurtful actions of her father, explaining that he was responding out of his own pain. While having compassion for him was healthy, I found myself recognizing that just excusing his harmful actions might not be okay either. Don’t we need to recognize that we can’t expect to hurt others when we are hurting as if we have no choice in the matter?

Do hurt people have to hurt others? It seems right to have grace for others who are hurting and to not be stringent in our demand of their behavior being completely right when they have been damaged. And yet, they need to take responsibility for trying not to hurt others just because they have been hurt.

One of life’s greatest challenges is to deal with our hurt in healthy ways. In doing so, we don’t hurt others just because we have been hurt. We don’t demean them, disrespect them, bully them, or take advantage of them. We also don’t try to control them and demand that they respond as we want them to no matter how it affects their well-being.

I recall a heart-wrenching situation that happened to a dear friend of mine. She was involved in a car accident in which the driver of the other vehicle sued her for a huge amount of money that could make her bankrupt. I found it horrifying that the man suing could cause such harm when there had been no malicious or neglectful acts on her part. In fact, she had been traumatized by the accident and yet thankful that the other driver had walked away with no apparent injuries.

Her experience had brought back a memory for me from decades ago whenever I was only 17. An elderly man had turned right in front of me causing an accident that had left me injured for life. I was in the hospital for eight weeks, for days on a ventilator keeping me alive, sent home with a body cast for another couple of months, and left with a crooked leg that required a built up shoe and a lifetime of impairment. Even decades after the accident, one of the doctors declared that I was the sickest person that ever survived in that hospital.

The man never checked on me or talked to us after the accident, except for at the scene of the accident. While I was lying on the ground in a pool of blood, he angrily and accusingly asked my boyfriend who was driving if he didn’t see his blinker. The man was driving north on the opposite side of a busy highway where we were driving south. He literally turned right in front of us to to go across all the lanes as if the ongoing traffic should just come to a stop.

After I got off the ventilator and out of intensive care, an attorney came to see me in the hospital. He told my mother of how much insurance the man had and went on to tell us that he had a farm. He asked if we wanted to sue and take his farm. He assuredly implied that his farm was mine if I wanted it.

I didn’t even know if the man knew I had survived. However, my mother and I both were stunned at the attorney’s question. Of course we never even considered taking his farm. I never thought that the man intentionally hurt me. He may even have emotionally suffered greatly after the accident. I felt compassion for him in that he may have gotten confused when he was driving. He may have prayed earnestly for me. There is no way of knowing.

Our pain had been overwhelming, my injuries would continue to affect me, and yet we would never consider such a reaction. Yet, my friend faced someone who walked away from the accident and later decided to sue in ways that could take everything she had and more. I can’t imagine the soul of such a person.

Hurt people do hurt others. Sometimes we don’t see their injuries. My friend assumed that the man suing her was uninjured by how he seemed at the time of the accident. Obviously, he was injured, whether by the accident or emotionally and spiritually by past hurts in his life before the car wreck ever happened.

Just because people have been hurt doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect ourselves from them hurting us out of their past damage. In turn, if we are to follow the Lord’s lead, we will deal with our hurt in ways that don’t injure others. Jesus is a hard act to follow. As I think of Him stripped, beaten, ridiculed, and in terrific pain pleading for God to forgive those who had hurt Him so badly, I know that hurt people don’t have to hurt others. And yet, if they don’t know the love of God, they likely will.

5 years ago Keeping Eternity in Mind

It seems that I never tire of writing and talking about eternity. I watch people, including myself, as we putter through life. We pursue goals, we play, we fight, we work, and so on and so on. I wonder how often we think about our earthly life being such a brief speck of our existence.

Today I was talking with a woman born the same year as me. She talked of how we are on the way out. She didn’t mean that she thought we were on the verge of death. Yet, she rightly recognized that we are on the down side. When we know that even if we have a long life on earth, we are obviously on the last fourth or even half of life, our perspective changes.

For most of my life, I seem to have sensed how brief our life is compared to eternity, but especially during the last decade. This doesn’t mean that I am morbid or in despair. In fact, I believe keeping such a perspective actually minimizes pain, while still allowing us to enjoy much of our earthly life experiences.

Jesus enlightened us when He performed His first miracle where He turned water into wine. We read where He displayed an attitude that supported human comforts and pleasures, while still promoting what was most important, which always involved eternity. He responded to His mother’s attempts to get Him to do something about them being out of wine. Even though he provided the wine out of water, He gave an even more valuable treasure when He reminded her that His time had not come. He was referring to the main reason He was here, which was not to provide all our temporary comforts and pleasures, but to ensure our way to salvation and an eternity with Him.

If we could always keep an eternal perspective, we will live more wisely, but also die more wisely. A number of people I know have recently experienced the death of someone they love or a diagnosis that suggests a high risk that death may be soon. Such experiences remind us of what we sometimes tuck away as if it will never touch us. Death comes to us all, if Jesus tarries. It comes to those we love and hold dear. As we watch their last breath signify that life has left the body, we see the full effects of the Fall of humanity. We look at the shell that held our precious love one. It seems so surreal that the body so quickly changes. When you look upon the familiar features, they are suddenly so different without the spirit.

We read in Corinthians that for Christians to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. It shouldn’t take the death of a loved one or a notice that we are to die soon to remind us of eternity and how brief our time here.

“Lord, the obsession with eternity that You have placed on my heart is a gift. Please help me treasure it, use it as You intended, and share it with others in ways that bless them, warns and protects them, and directs them with wisdom and hope.”

5 years ago Who Defines Me?

“I hate how I look” “I wish I hadn’t been born, I’m useless”.

The young woman’s self-hatred was excruciating. Unfortunately, such self-loathing is common.

Although many don’t have the intensity of self-contempt that she expressed, all of us have mostly used the same process as she in evaluating our self-worth. We develop how we see ourselves by how others have treated us.

This causes most of life’s damage. We come into the world primed to be vulnerable to people. “Do they like me?” “Why don’t they include me?” “Did he leave me because I’m too fat?” The list is endless of the ways we define ourselves based on how we interpret how others treat us.

In turn, after the damage of such, our perceptions are adjusted accordingly. Thus, what we see is a reflection of how our lenses have been influenced by our experience.

While devaluing ourselves can damage us, we can also be over inflated because others may have treated us as if we were more special than everyone else. Either way, it’s ludicrous and dangerous to base our value by other people’s behavior toward us. People don’t define us, God does. It should not take us until our senior years to figure this out. Unfortunately, it usually does.

Our enemy banks on this phenomenon that defines humanity. We look to other created beings to define us instead of looking to the Creator.

5 years ago Choosing our Goals Wisely

Don’t we all sometimes wish we could start over? Like when we are drawing a picture and mess it up so much that we are relieved to just crumble it up and start with a fresh sheet of paper.

We may tend to look at the beginning of a New Year the same way. Its like we want to begin again and leave the past junk behind. I’m fascinated by how we choose New Year’s to begin all these efforts that we could have started any other day. New Year is associated with having New Year resolutions or goals. The retail world knows this well and thus they bombard us with ads and commercials about exercise equipment and all kinds of products that represent what people commit to addressing in their New Year’s resolutions. New Gym memberships soar.

We claim goals to lose weight, to save money, to clean out all our junk, to finally start that project, to all kinds of promises we make to ourselves. While all this can be motivating and even healthy, I wonder how long it takes for our intentions to crumble. I also wonder why we wait to a New Year to even begin our efforts. Lastly, I wonder why we pick the goals we do.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I have ever heard a spoken New Year goal or resolution that was not a good one. Yet, I wonder about the ones that the Lord would be most thrilled about. What would He recognize as the most important?

The answer is found clearly in the very first book of the New Testament.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid: and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13: 44 NKJV) “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”(Matthew 16:26 NKJV)

The Lord makes it clear that no temporary feats that we go after in this life compare to seeking the eternal treasures of His kingdom.

Recently, a friend was venting her sorrow to me about a man who was in a pitifully sad situation. While I was touched by her mercy and compassion for the man, I found myself instead thinking about where he would spend eternity. His earthly situation was bad, but temporary. I agreed that she was so right to reach out and help him.

The love of God is shown as we try to help others. In doing so what will matter most is if we help influence them for what will help them for eternity.

As we ponder over the beginning of a brand New Year, it’s motivating to set our sights on worthy goals. When you think about it, each day is a new chance, even every moment.

“Lord, brand Your goals so deeply in our hearts that they challenge us, propel us, and constantly direct our efforts”, not just for a short lived New Year’s resolutions phase, but for every day of the rest of our lives.”

5 years ago Deliberate Continual Stance –DCS

When Sue shoved past me, causing me to spill my coffee down the front of my new suit, I was livid. I looked up at her in astonishment and saw the horror on her face. It only took an instant for me to realize that she felt terrible about what she had done and that she never intentionally meant to knock into me. While I was still upset about the coffee all over me, I was more concerned over her obvious distress. I began trying to reassure her that I wasn’t angry with her and knew that she didn’t mean to do it.

While I just made up this scene to illustrate a point, it demonstrates a common truth. People cause harm, even when they don’t mean to do so. They can find grace and mercy in these cases, while our Lord is the epitome of such.

Deliberate hurtful actions provoke such a different response than accidental ones. That’s important to cling to as we read in Hebrews 10:26 (NLT), “Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.”

Three words define the message: deliberate, knowingly, and continually. When we know better, yet choose a continual and deliberate life of sin, instead of grace and mercy, we ensue judgment. Even when we knowingly sin, it’s the continual part that distinguishes between those under the grace of salvation and those not.

Most of us would likely expect consequences for those who knowingly, deliberately, and continually robbed, abused others, or in anyway caused harm.

On the other hand, there are great rewards for those who deliberately and continually strive for obeying the Lord, being kind, and showing integrity and generosity.

How deliberate are we in our lives. Do we make intentional plans to do well, to obey, and to pursue doing right? When we fall, are we deliberate to repent and get back up? Being deliberate sometimes requires us to also be stubborn and to have a determined stance. A deliberate continual stance (DCS) is called for when facing the onslaught of the enemy, the temptation to sin, and the frustrations of living in a fallen world.

Being deliberate can be good or bad, depending about what we are being deliberate. The Lord encourages us to be deliberate in our choice. He deliberately chose us.

5 years ago Darn those chips!

As the car whizzed across the floor, with a slight push of my finger, it instantly changed directions. Holding the small remote in my hand, I sensed the power I had over the toy car. I could make it stop, start, and go in any direction I chose. It was under my control. I could slam it into a wall or over a ledge.

What gives me this control? There is no visible evidence of how the remote is linked to the car.

Yet, inside the car, not evident on the outside, is a small chip that somehow is electronically linked to my remote. Without that chip, my remote has no power over the car.

Likewise, deep inside each of us are chips that give Satan power and influence over us. Those chips were implanted when humanity fell with Adam and Eve. Ever since, we have chips. Chips come from our carnal nature that wants its way, is prone to pride, rebellion, and selfishness.

We also have our own unique chips that were created from our individual journey in a fallen world. We may have deep wounds, strongholds, and implanted lies that keep us vulnerable to that blasted remote that the enemy keeps using to derail us.

Jesus so loved His Father and was in such total submission to His will, that no chips could develop and stay within Him. He declared this in John 14:30 (KJV) “Hereafter I will not talk much more with you, for the prince of this world cometh, and he has nothing in me.” The enemy’s remote was powerless, completely disabled where Christ was concerned.

Those chips that came with the fall are never going to be completely gone until we get to Heaven where no evil exists and we are fully who God created us to be. The apostle Paul said he had to crucify his flesh or in this case, chips daily. We do that with the Word and seeking the Holy Spirit’s help.

However, there are some chips that the Lord can remove if we submit our will and humbly allow Him to do so. Just like a splinter can be excised, some of our chips can be completely removed. Old resentments, hurts, shame, and obsessions can be eradicated. However, they have a way of worming themselves back in if we aren’t careful in our pursuit of the Lord.

Keeping our eyes open to who the Lord is and what has eternal value protects those pesky chips from infiltrating and thus making us vulnerable to the enemy’s remote.

While living our daily lives, we get so busy dealing with the tasks, pain, and pleasures at hand, that we likely don’t think of chips. The enemy sure hopes we don’t.

“Oh no, there goes another soul being propelled over a cliff.” "Darn those chips!"

5 years ago Confrontation

How do you feel when you hear the word confrontation? Some of us cringe. One of the great challenges of life is to deal with confrontation in healthy ways. Some never want to confront anyone for any reason. When we avoid confrontation to that degree, you can guarantee there will be dire consequences. We must sometimes confront others if we are to deal with living in a fallen world in a healthy way.

On the other hand, there are those who actually love confrontation. They seem to seek out opportunities to confront others. Usually those are also ones that confront in damaging ways. Some confront when there is no reason to do so or when not confronting is a healthy choice.

The decades of assessing pervasive avoidance tendencies have helped developed in me a keen ability to recognize those who have spent their life not confronting. Sometimes it feels impossible to change the pattern.

When the avoidance is extreme, I find myself wondering about what damage has occurred to create such aversion and unwillingness to ever confront others. The typical reasons are, “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I don’t want anyone to be mad at me, and I feel guilty confronting them.”

I recognize that for some, it goes even deeper. They likely aren’t even consciously aware of what fueled and sustains such a disability. It may sound extreme to label it a disability, but it actually is one when you consider its affect on their life.

Holy Spirit, we need Your light to illuminate the damage that keeps us prisoner in our own destructive patterns. We need You to teach us, equip us, and comfort us in learning how to deal with living in a fallen world with our own and others’ imperfections. Help us accept that this will sometimes involve the necessity of confronting others. It will also involve others confronting us.

5 years ago Knowing Ourselves

Have you noticed how people can have such different temperaments? Some are laid back and don’t seem to get that excited about anything. Others are intense and feel emotions much deeper. Some seem easily frustrated and reactive to stress.

While we may not be one extreme or the other, we still have our unique make-up. We aren’t able to tease out precisely the degree that behavioral patterns were influenced by environment and what are more fueled by our temperament. Either way, it’s so important for us to get an understanding of our patterns and ourselves so that we can take responsibility for how we interact with our world.

Our wiring can influence what we find more challenging and what comes easily for us. I was impressed with a woman recently who recognized and admitted that she is so emotionally intense that her temper is easily provoked. She recognizes that she needs to take responsibility for how her tendency to get angry easily and intensely can harm herself and others. I admired her willingness to pursue this great challenge.

Frequently, we aren’t open to see ourselves truthfully. If we go on a quest to perceive and understand our wiring and patterns accurately, we may be surprised by what we uncover.

Do we find that we are overly controlling, prone to see the negative, or overly sensitive to noise or conflict? Will we find that we have a peaceful countenance that tends to have a calming effect on those around us? Are we prone to be easily excited or do we have an abundance of energy and drive?

We may be pleasantly surprised or disappointed by what we become aware of about ourselves.

Knowing that God loves us helps encourage us in accepting ourselves and our responsibility to pursue being and acting as He envisioned us.

5 years ago Food for Thought

Recently I had some minor surgery that required me to have nothing by mouth for 12 hours before the surgery. I wasn’t able to even begin to eat for several more hours following the surgery. While I have plenty of fat reserves, I still found myself feeling the hunger pangs. Although I had to start with soft food, chicken noodle soup had never tasted so good. Food not only nourishes our body, it can bring pleasure and a sense of reward to our taste buds.

I was recently reading a familiar passage in John4 31-36 that made me take another look at food. The disciplines were concerned for Jesus who they were encouraging to eat. Jesus responded telling them that He had food that they didn’t know about. They were thinking of only physical food and were puzzled by His response. The Lord goes on to identify that His food was to do the will of His Father, which was to finish His work. He then elaborates on reaching the harvest.

How strange it may seem to think of fulfilling God’s will or reaching the lost as food. Yet, as Christians, we are nourished as we fulfill our God given assignments and this will always involve the harvest. We are strengthened, nourished, and even refreshed with the taste for which our spirit yearns.

As I slurp my hot bowl of soup, I recognize that my spirit also needs feeding. The harvest is laid before us like a huge buffet.

5 years ago Where am I Yoked?: Part 2

Even though God warned Christian’s to not get yoked together with unbelievers, what should you do if you have already done that? We may have entered a business partnership, a marriage, or a committed relationship with someone who is not a follower of Christ. Some of those unions will be more problematic than others. Some of these alliances can create great conflict and be painful. Others may hinder the two being likeminded in important ways, but may not be as destructive as it could be.

Some have felt great persecution because of their spiritual beliefs. Some have told me that their spouse was so against what they believed that they were cruel, angry, and tried to control them from following their beliefs. Others have not felt persecuted, but missed the closeness that could have had if they both had loved the Lord and shared similar beliefs.

What does a person do if they are in a business partnership, committed relationship, or marriage where they are not equally yoked? We need to first admit that we didn’t follow the Lord’s commandment and repent. I’m so glad that God is so forgiving and compassionate or none of us have hope.

Secondly, we must change our expectations to fit the situation. We can’t expect to have the same connection and decision making as we would if both were believers. Obviously, we must pray even more for God’s direction and leading. Sometimes, we need to back out of a business partnership if it causes too much compromise and conflict. Sometimes even a deep friendship can cause so much distress that we need to back off some. If we are dating, we still have a chance to stop. If we are married, that’s where it gets tricky.

Some have obediently stayed in marriages with a non-believer who didn’t abuse them. Even when they stayed in the non-abusive marriage, they didn’t enjoy the spiritual rewards that come from being equally yoked.

It’s important to get spiritually nourished and connected with other Christians of our same gender for the extra support that we don’t get from our spouse. This applies even when we are married to a believer, but one who doesn’t provide such support.

We need to be vigilant that we don’t begin compromising in ways that go against the Word. Some have tried to keep peace or promote pleasure in the relationship by going along with their business partner, friend, or spouse in engaging in sin.

I recall a friend who felt convicted about what the business partner was doing, yet didn’t want to rock the boat. Another, joined her spouse in activities she knew involved sin, but in which he wanted her to participate.

A recall a man-years ago who was trying to get more committed in his relationship with the Lord. He had been a believer for many years, but had struggled with drink and drugs. He told me that he didn’t want to get back into the bar scene that was so risky for him, yet his wife would go without him if he refused. He was so yoked with her that he was fearful of her getting with other men. Needless to say, he went with her and the rest is a sad history.

It’s also easy to get into despair and feeling so sorry for your predicament, especially as one sees other Christians who are equally yoked. It’s essential to guard from sinking into depression or other destructive reactions.
The Word provides ample help. “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”

5 years ago Where am I Yoked?

Many of us have heard the Scripture that we are not to be unequally yoked. I always thought that was only referring to marriage. However, it applies to so many other types of relationships. We can get yoked with someone in a business partnership or a deep friendship. Getting intimate emotionally or spiritually with someone sometimes yokes us together. When we are fully yoked, we are so bound with each other that there is great influence from one to another.

While we aren’t allowed to be yoked with an unbeliever, we may assume we are okay being tied with one who professes to believe, yet who obviously doesn’t commit to following the Lord. Doing so, we are still setting ourselves up for heartache.

Much of the pain that people suffer comes from not following this command to NOT be unequally yoked. Many of us have not taken this instruction as encompassing as the Lord meant for us. When we enter into an interdependent relationship, partnerships in business, and ministry with those who aren’t equally yoked with us as disciplines of Christ, we set ourselves up for trouble.

A yoke is a wooden bar that ties two oxen to each other and to the load they pull. They are unequally yoked when a stronger one is bound to a weaker one or a tall one with a shorter one. As they would walk, they would be at odds with each other. The shorter or weaker would be slower than the other and they would end up going in circles. Thus, they couldn’t perform the task because they were not in sync.

The oxen didn’t have a choice how they were yoked. A human made the choice and secured them together. Yet, we have a choice and people throughout history have discarded the Lord’s warning.

The kind of yoking to which the Lord was referring was that of our own choosing. If we didn’t have any power to choose, He wouldn’t tell us not to do it.

For decades I have met with women who have shared their struggles and heartache with me that came because they became emotionally and intimately entwined with a man they wanted, even though they knew they were not spiritually equally yoked. Getting emotionally attached to someone we are dating is establishing the process of getting yoked.

When a Christian starts spending time with a man as a potential partner that is not committed to Christ, she is flirting with disaster and yet it happens so much that I feel like screaming, “Why are we so foolish?” “Do we really think we can do this and not suffer consequences?”

We may also engage in a process of yoking that negates God’s blessings. He reserves sexual intimacy as honorable and permissible between a husband and wife. Yet, Christians override this notoriously. But, what’s most alarming is whenever we feel justified and that this is acceptable. None of us have followed His commandments perfectly. That’s why we need a Savior. We have all sinned. Yet, we need to at least call it for what it is: sin. Why do we think we can do it however we want, whenever it goes against His commandments and still expect God to bless our actions?

Again, our expectations can be so ludicrous! He didn’t tell us we reap what we sow and to not be yoked with an unbeliever for no reason. He always means what He says and we can believe Him.
2 day(s) ago

5 years ago Fitting Expectations

Sometimes we have expectations of people that are based on false perceptions. We may not know the person well enough to make our expectations match who they are. I have a dear friend who I cherish and have come to know well. I recognize that she is highly sensitive to other people’s pain and has the lovely gift of mercy. She seems to experience others’ pain more deeply than they do. When someone she knows is disappointed, the depth of distress she feels for him or her outweighs the disappointment that the person felt. I have adjusted my expectations of my friend to match more closely to her emotional tendency to feel much more deeply than most.

I sometimes wish that she didn’t feel others’ pain so deeply. I don’t think it is even healthy at times. While I am sometimes thick headed, I am becoming more willing to accept that I can’t change another person. I want her to learn to redirect some of that pain that doesn’t fix it for others, but just makes her so sad. I think my motives are good—I truly want great for her. I want my friend to not hurt so deeply. But, I can’t change her. I can’t expect of her what is not realistic.

Now that I know this tendency in her, I am more careful and protective of what I share. Just the other day, I started to tell her of a mutual acquaintance who was struggling with a sad situation and needed our prayers. My friend’s prayers are so powerful that I knew that they would be welcomed. However, I also knew that I needed to be sensitive enough not to emphasize the gory details.

My expectations need to fit my friend, not me. I could more easily let go of the pain while I faced my day’s challenges. My friend would likely be so deeply affected that she would obsess about it for hours; she would hurt more than I ever would. I used to feel that I am just not as loving. Maybe I am not. But, I know her deep mercy and tender feelings need to be considered as I interact with her.

Do our expectations set others or us up for distress and hurt?
What about our expectations for ourselves? Do we set ourselves up by thinking we have unlimited resources and wisdom in helping others or ourselves? Do we think we can handle taking everyone’s pain?

On the other extreme, we may think we aren’t equipped to help anyone. Yet, the Holy Spirit wants us to expect His help.

Having realistic expectations helps equip us to deal with life as it is, not as we wish it were.

5 years ago What Do You Expect?

Our expectations of others can set us up for much heartache. When we expect others to rescue us in ways that they aren’t capable of doing, we set them and us up for harm. When we expect them to have all the wisdom, resources, and compassion we need and want, we are fooling ourselves in destructive ways.

Usually, we don’t recognize we are doing this. However, it happens more than we think. We may try to rescue others in ways that are unhealthy when our heart sometimes overrides wisdom..

Recently a friend was grieving the pain of being disillusioned with someone who she had admired greatly. She vented about how those we think are so spiritually mature, don’t measure up to the criteria of a hero. She went on to say that we all want heroes in our life, but in reality, only the Lord is capable of being that. Movies with superheroes have always intrigued humanity and are guaranteed to be blockbusters. Adults, who know that can’t be real, still flock to watch the heroes save the world.

Sadly, my friend was facing what I have already uncovered. No human will match our expectations of being a hero that can solve all our problems and fix all our hurt. Even if we don’t expect them to be able to do that, we may expect them to have no flaws. Again, no one will meet that expectation, even those who outshine the masses with their generous heart. If we insist on living with these faulty expectations we cause others and ourselves to suffer.

5 years ago The Greatest Gifts

When I was growing up, our family didn’t have the financial resources to buy toys throughout the year, extravagant clothes, or costly trinkets. Yet, my mom who grew up during the Depression, made sure that we had all that we asked for and even more at Christmas. It was as if she wanted us to have this one time of the year to be blessed beyond measure. While we always knew the true meaning of Christmas, she also delighted us with toys galore. Even though we were excited with our presents, within a short period after Christmas, the toys lost their luster, although not as quickly for us as for those who got toys through the whole year.

Doesn’t it seem strange that gifts that bring such pleasure can be discarded or ignored within weeks? Why don’t we stay enthralled with them? The gifts didn’t change, but somehow our view of them did. Oh to have gifts that have value that lasts a lifetime. Ironically, we all have access to gifts such as these. Instead of unwrapping those bought with money, we must uncover what is already there.

When someone goes to great trouble to handpick a gift designed with my needs, personality, and desires in mind, I know that I am cared for deeply. Unwrapping a timeless gift is like accepting the love of the one giving it.

Uncovering our individual divine assignments is unwrapping the lasting gift that will continue to enrich and promote our life as long as we treasure it. When we truly recognize its value, it will never lose its luster. We won’t ignore its power and if we ever get distracted from it’s transforming influence, a gentle nudge from the Lord is all it takes to remind us. The pain, disappointment, and disillusion with the world’s gifts will be dimensioned as we once again embrace our assignments.

Assignments sound like work and duties that we wish were over. Yet, when they are our individual assignments chosen by our Lord, they were lovingly chosen to bring us meaning, fulfillment, and deep and abiding excitement.

We may think we don’t have such gifting and assignments. However, the Bible clearly tells us that everyone who accepts Christ as Savior has been gifted and given assignments that utilize those special gifts. Some are encouragers, some are teachers, and some have a profound depth of mercy. Whatever our gifts, they gift us back as we use them.

My elderly mother demonstrates this each Tuesday night when she glows with enthusiasm and joy after pouring out her heart in jail ministry. For decades, she has embraced her assignment of ministering to women incarnated and in need of love and encouragement. While her body is tired and her hearing declined, the spring in her step is always pumped back up after her time with the women.

How sad if we never uncover our precious gifts designed for us that would keep giving throughout our life. We may live and die and never open those that would not only promote the kingdom of God, but also bring us more joy than any gift that quickly loses its luster. This Christmas, lets uncover the greatest treasures and if we have already unwrapped them, lets continue recognizing their magic.

**Join me on CWA Blog talk radio show, "Uncover" as I explore God's enduring gifts.

5 years ago Finding the Real Treasures

I recall the naïve plans of my son when he was growing up. He would talk of what he was going to do and have when he was grown as if it was as easy as picking out what he wanted from a food buffet. His views implied that he thought his mom and dad just chose their cars, houses, and activities from all those available when they could have just as easily chose a Ferrari, Mercedes, a mansion with a giant swimming pool, and being a rock star, flying around the world doing amazing adventures.

I would listen in amusement, knowing that the years would bust his bubble. Yet, I also knew that if he matured into the man God designed, he would come to discern more wisely what are real treasures and goals to pursue.

He was so headstrong and unwilling to listen, that I was often discouraged and fearful of him ever embracing what the Lord had shown me about the real quest and riches of life.

Years later, I was stunned with an amazing awe and joy when I ran across a paper he had written when taking a sociology course in college. Some of the words I read were the familiar ones of my own that seemed to go in one ear and out the other as I shared them with my precious son. As I read his message of wisdom, the Lord reminded me of His own patient grooming of my son. Wow, we should never forget that the Lord is patient and kind and desires for all His children to learn of the hidden, but real treasures. Yet, we parents still have the great responsibility to point the way.

I share one of my prize treasures, my son’s words that I read years ago when I needed the reassurance that you may also need.

By Chuck Karlosky

Words to live by

Live life for today, make choices and never look back.
Time always has a limit, so take every heartbeat as if it were your last. Live to make a difference. It’s not what you have, but what you give that defines you. Love is the greatest gift; so don’t be afraid to give it. Always stay humble, for pride is the demon that can destroy us all. Don’t get caught up in your worldly possessions, they all destroyable and can be gone in an instant. Don’t give out your word if you can’t stand by it, it’s easily lost, but it’s hard to restore it. Be loyal to your family, and good to your spouse. Be an inspiration to someone and an example to every one else. Now many friends will come and go, so cherish the few who last forever. Stay true to your faith and what you believe. This life’s but an eye blink to eternity. Remember these things as you live your life, tomorrows never promised. What if tonight was your last night?

5 years ago Join the Circle of Thankfulness

Do you have any Thanksgiving Traditions? At my in-laws, before eating the Thanksgiving feast, we always got in a huge circle, holding hands, and each person told something for which he or she was thankful. Sometimes what was told was tender and reverent. Others were comical and we would laugh lightheartedly. Some were such redundant responses; we made a rule that no one could repeat what another had already told. Since my mother-in-law had eleven children, our gatherings were huge with spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. While the circle experience took time with such a large bunch, my mother-in-law insisted on this tradition. Yet, we all really loved it too. And over the years, I realized that we not only needed to say our thanks out loud, we needed to hear each other’s words of thankfulness.

Many in our big circle were also suffering painful situations in their lives. Our circle wasn’t immune from cancer, divorce, betrayals, and heartache. Each and every year, one or more who voiced their thankfulness were also in the middle of painful circumstances. In fact, my mother-in-law was devastated by the break-up of her 47-year marriage when my father-in-law decided to leave her. Yet, there she stood clasping our hands and making sure we expressed our gratitude and thankfulness.

We can’t honestly deny that our lives involve pain, along with joy. We all sometimes face heartache and situations that are so wrong that we have to force ourselves to focus on what also is right. Sometimes we are hurting even when we are choosing to be thankful and to express our gratitude to our Lord. There is great power in our choice and I encourage you to push through the pain and attempts of the enemy to make you only focus on the hurt, while skimming past what deserves our gratitude and thanks. Join the circle of believers who call out what we are thankful for both in our heart and to those who need to hear.

5 years ago Being Open and Discerning

I have been thinking about how blinded we can be about ourselves. I know that this applies to all of us, including me. Is it that we don’t want to see our flaws? Is it we don’t feel comfortable seeing our strengths and talents?

Some tend to see their talents as greater than they are, while others don’t even recognize their special abilities. Some don’t see their insecurities and negative character traits, while others only see their negative qualities and blame themselves inaccurately for others' behavior.

Healthy self-reflection must include a rigorous willingness to see both the good and bad. Recently I have been writing about the damage that comes when we are overly affected by others' perceptions of us. However, those with healthy motives and wise insight can help us see what we can’t see about ourselves.

Being open to trusted individuals' feedback is essential if we are to gain valuable insight into ourselves. When we feel unsafe, we typically aren’t open to receive feedback that may identify our flaws and weaknesses.

The most important insight is provided, as we remain open to the Holy Spirit. He will help us discern between feedback that is accurate and that which is a distortion provided by the one giving it. Knowing that God loves us without restraint and wants us equipped to be all who He designed us to be provides the reassurance we need to be open and also discerning.

5 years ago How Well Do We Perceive?

The universal challenge of humanity is to not be so influenced by others’ perception of us. We may think we aren’t that concerned, but it is a rare individual that truly is untouched by others’ praise and criticism. Its funny how we can have fifty people approving and one disapproving and we are typically more affected by the lone critic.

Why do we allow people to have such power over us? We are even hurt by the feedback from those not healthy enough to give an accurate evaluation in the first place. Even if their evaluation is accurate, why does it carry such power to hurt us?

Hopefully we feel the healthy pain that needs to come when we recognize that our shortcomings involve sin. Yet, after repentance, we have the grace of God to wipe away the pain. But, if we aren’t careful we allow the continued attitudes of our critics to keep the pain alive.

When others make inaccurate negative conclusions about us, the intrigue begins. I recall Joe, a man I knew years ago that would periodically rant about some negative behavior or trait of his wife. It took only a short time of getting to know him to realize that whatever the rant was about, I could count on his descriptions reflecting himself instead of his wife. It was most bizarre.

Psychologists have studied behavior such as Joe’s and recognize that it is a defense mechanism they call projection. What’s amazing is that most, just like Joe, have no conscious awareness that their perceptions actually describe themselves instead of the one they think it fits.

Have you been on the receiving end of someone else’s projection? Many of us have. We may have actually done the same to others unknowingly. Not only is it painful to be perceived negatively falsely, it is frustrating to recognize that we are unlikely to ever set the record straight with our accuser.

I wonder how painful it was for Jesus to be the recipient of false accusations? Some of His accusers likely believed their perceptions, just as those who project their own flaws on others.

Many people have cried about the unfairness of life. Its as if we have a sense of justice and equality bred into our soul. Another deceived person I knew rightly perceived the grievous tendencies in others, but perceived them in exaggerated degrees, while not recognizing that they existed in him to a much greater degree than in the others he was assessing. In fact, much of the time, he didn't recognize the traits in himself that were massive and yet saw even the slightest tendencies in others. He was so keen in identifying the traits in others that others missed, while being so blind to the tendencies in himself that were so obvious to others. I would watch as he magnified the other’s wrongs, while I knew full well that he manifested the targeted behavior in alarmingly more excess than the accused. Sadly, he didn't perceive them in himself. On the other hand, maybe he didn't want to see them. I confess we may all be guilty of this. In fact, we all need to be aware that we can be so blinded ourselves.

Its concerning that we all have the vulnerability to be deceived. Most of us think we perceive ourselves much more accurately than we do. Years ago when I began to sense this blindness of humanity, I asked the Lord to show me traits in myself that I didn’t see. Lovingly, without malice, He began to show selfishness and areas of deception in my life. As He exposed what needed to be changed, I knew that I would forever need the light of the Holy Spirit to monitor and bring to light what I didn’t even recognize.

It helps to know that the Lord sees and knows the full truth. It helps even more knowing that He still loves both the falsely accused and the accuser. When all is said and done, His opinion is what matters and He is our advocate no matter what our flaws, real or imagined.

5 years ago Where to Find Understanding and Hope

When we suffer or struggle, we are so much more comforted by someone who has suffered or struggled similarly. That’s why recovering addicts are so much more able to minister to other struggling addicts. That’s why those with a history of anxiety feel understood more by others who have suffered with anxiety. Whatever problem our life story holds- depression, rejection, an eating disorder, low self-esteem, or poverty, those who have walked a similar road can relate and understand.

Yet, whether they can help depends not only on their ability to relate, but also the hope they provide by their own victory. They don’t have to be without any setbacks or beyond all struggles. However, if they have not found any progression themselves, we may feel understood, but left with even more hopelessness. When they tell how they dealt with their anxiety, addiction, or temptation and found relief and help, we are given a glimmer that we too can get better.

My daughter had cancer when she was a child and I will always have a tender understanding for parents of children with life threatening illness. I recall going for my daughter’s Vanderbilt check-up when she was about eighteen. A woman in the waiting room overheard some of her past history and began asking us questions. My heart ached when I realized that her child was fighting cancer. I recognized her desperate need for hope. My young daughter and I lit up with delight as we patiently answered the pain stricken mother’s questions.

I understood her fear and desperate need for hope. She clung to our words and she kept asking for more as if she couldn’t get enough. She kept looking at my daughter who was so healthy and years beyond her cancer as if she was trying to brand the sight of such in her mind. I’m sure the sight of my daughter was helping her believe that her child could also survive and even thrive one day. I know I craved such reassurance and hope when mine was so ill.

Only because of my daughter’s history could we have such a powerful voice in this mother’s struggle. What an honor for us.

Jesus is the only one who can provide the universal understanding and hope for every person, regardless of his or her story. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16).

5 years ago What are we Spreading?

Recently, my grandchildren were sick with a cold and before you know it, the illness spread like wild fire. Their mom, dad, and now I caught the germs. Some became sicker than others. My daughter almost got pneumonia and I am on my way.

The nurse agreed that she didn’t blame me for first trying to fight it off myself. We discussed whether I was contagious and she said it depended on the bacteria and for me to not get close or cough on anyone just in case.

Shouldn’t our faith be infectious just like our illnesses? Do my faith and love of the Lord influence others if they get too close to me? Instead of getting contaminated with something harmful, they should get boasted with the hope that comes from knowing Jesus.

I know that we can infect others with fear and bitterness. Can’t we just as well spread our hope and faith in our Lord? When we don’t, I wonder why? Sometimes I get too caught up in the unimportant and the struggles to stay full of infectious hope.

I recognize that just like some seem more immune to illness than others, they may also seem less likely to be open to our Lord. They may try to fight off the truth, like I hope my immune system fights off the bacteria causing my illness.

Being contagious can be good or bad. My prayer is that we spread the hope and love that a vulnerable world needs.

5 years ago First Choice

Have you ever been in a situation where you were asked to identify your top three choices in order of preference? Sometimes this happens when we are signing up for assignments, jobs, or classes. We aren’t promised our top pick, but we are asked to put them in order of our preference. It’s always a blessing to get our first pick. Like in a football draft, coaches love getting their top pick.

When God chose Moses to be the one to lead His people from captivity in Egypt into the Promised Land, He identified some of His top picks. Moses negated one due to his fear when he responded to the Lord’s choice of him in this honored position. “Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant, but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

The Lord responded to him with questions that should have settled it, silencing any doubts he had about God’s first choice.

So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11)

When I read this verse, I see the irony. Did Moses actually think that God didn’t know about his slow speech or weakness? Did he think God needed him to point it out to Him? The Lord’s response puts Moses in his place.

The Lord also confirms that He will be with him and equip him. “Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:12)

Moses continues to be ludicrous by pleading for the Lord to pick someone else. But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.” (Exodus 4:13).

Although the Lord was angry with Moses by this point, He consents and gives up His first pick, which was for Moses to be who He equips fully to speak and lead. He chooses Aaron to speak for him. While the Lord continued promoting His plan, the story would not have been quite the same, had Moses not talked the Lord out of His first choice.

Just like He knew everything about Moses before He picked him, the Lord knows everything about us, including our weaknesses and areas in which we are less than skilled. I wonder how many times we have negated the Lord’s first choice for us because of our fear and unwillingness to trust Him to equip us.

***Join me on CWA BlogTalk Radio/Spreaker on my show "Uncover" as we explore how to respond to God's call without negating His first choices for us.

5 years ago High Alert: Desperate for Hope

His face looks devoid of anything but gloom and weariness. Its as if darkness and despair weigh him down with a ton of force. Even talking seems difficult for him. When he does talk, his words reflect the inner thoughts that fuel his countenance:

They reflect the horror of ugliness that defines the presidential elections. They include grieving descriptions of the mass intrusion of pornography that colors almost every avenue of media and home of America. They quote alarming statistics documenting corruption in the business world, law and government offices, and even many churches. They reflect the greed and entitlement prevalent in much of our people, and last but surely not least, the hopelessness of the masses. The especially hurtful revelation is that much of our world and upcoming youth don’t even acknowledge and reverence God and His Holy Word as the authority for how to live.

My heart aches for him as I rack my brain on how to respond in the face of such hopelessness and despair. It’s as if I know before even searching---go to the Word. I’m so thankful that I have put much of it already in my heart and mind. I understand why the Lord emphasized to write it on our heart and study and brand it in our mind. For its times such as these, we need to respond with its hope and direction.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11). Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:7) Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near (James 5:7-8). For whatever things were written before were written for our learning that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:4-5)

Lord, there are so many scriptures, it’s overwhelming to pick just a few. Its as if You have opened my eyes to the Hope that is always available if we just choose to embrace it from your Word. No wonder You emphasized Your Word as above all else. You have given us so many stories to learn from. As I think of the atrocities in the Old Testament and how your plans continued to come to pass regardless of the evil attempts to stop it, my heart fills with hope and I am eager to share with the hopeless man before me.

* Does anyone else feel the urgency I sense that hope needs to be shared with the masses?

5 years ago Our Response to Sin

Living in a fallen world is such a crazy experience. Life can be flowing smoothly and then some weird and hurtful experience comes out of nowhere. Other times, I do something dumb or even outright wrong and bring on painful consequences for myself. Can you relate?

What do you do when you are disappointed in life or especially when disappointed in yourself? Typically, we sure don’t feel like rejoicing or worshiping the Lord at those times.

True stories of other people’s experiences facing extreme disappointments and heartaches have always intrigued me. Two particular ones come from the Old Testament. Each displays a man who had brought on dire consequences for himself and others by his own sin. Both men were also Kings, thus having great power, influence, and responsibility. What they did affected masses of people and generations to come.

Yet, their stories don’t just have similarities, they also have huge differences. King Asa and King David both had been instrumental in leading the people back into obedience and reverence to the Lord. This also brought God’s great defense and protection of them and accompanying peace and prosperity.

They also are similar in that they both made huge failures in judgment that not only involved sin, but also that brought horrific consequences for them and others. However, their stories go on to display huge differences between how they responded after being confronted with their sin.

King Asa was outraged at God’s prophet who confronted him. He threw him in the dungeon and resisted repentance. His lack of remorse and repentance brought on wars and tragedy. He ended up dying a painful death.

King David, on the other hand, responded very differently when God’s prophet confronted him with his sin. He immediately owned his wrong, was remorseful and repentant. However, the Lord declared that while he would be allowed to live, his unborn son would not. David mourned, fasted, and prayed and pleaded for his unborn son’s life. Yet, the Lord did not recant His decision.

Following his son’s death, David arose, washed, and worshiped. Even before eating, he worshiped. What a different response and outcome. While both Kings suffered punishment, only David who had admitted his wrong, not only lived, but went on to have other great blessings. After worshiping the Lord, David ate and then went to comfort his wife. He then was again intimate with her and she conceived another son, one who the Lord declared He loved. The same prophet that the Lord had sent to David to confront about his sin and punishment, the Lord sent to declare to him that his son was loved. The prophet called David’s new son, Solomon, by the name Jedidiah, which mean “Beloved of the Lord”.

There is so much to learn from these two stories. We will all sometimes give into temptation and sin. Yet, how we respond can either bring the Lord’s forgiveness and restoration or our continued decline. We may still face consequences, yet we will be restored and saved from further decline because of the graciousness of God and His desire and willingness to respond to our remorse and repentance.

I find it remarkable that David quickly worshiped after experiencing the Lord’s denial of being gracious to him in his plea for his son’s life. His men questioned David when his countenance was so improved after his son’s death. He explained, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, “Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?” (2 Samuel 12:22)

When David saw that the Lord was not going to be gracious in sparing his son, he responded by worshiping Him. What a lesson that is for us all. Will I maintain my devotion to the Lord, even when He tells me no? Even when He allows terribly painful events, will I still worship and serve Him?

5 years ago Where Dreams Come True

Recently, we made a brave journey. No it wasn’t into a war zone, but instead the designated land of dreams: Disneyworld. With grandkids in tow, we plowed through masses of people as we sought the delights to experience.

Along the adventure, I witnessed both the good and bad of humanity. People trying to push over others and irritable patrons taking their frustrations out on each other marked the path. Yet, I witnessed even more the comradely between people as they eagerly embraced the fun. People giving each other room, some giving up their coveted seat so that weaker others could sit, and parents patiently encouraging others who were struggling with tired and fussy children.

People shared tips and ways to get the most out of their experience. When we were trapped in a downpour that soaked us to the bone, I watched a young couple give their dry jackets to a shivering mother and two young children. I was almost overcome with tears of joy to see such compassion. They provided a lasting memory for that young child that showed that people have a great capacity for generosity.

We may be so disgusted by offensive behavior we encounter that we focused on it over that of the generous and kind. While we aren’t blind to the nasty behavior, by concentrating on the good we are encouraged with what’s to come on the other side of eternity if Christ is our Savior. Disneyworld can’t compare with the magical land where we are going. Dreams really will come true. While Disneyworld was fun and beautiful, dreams don’t materialize as promised. Yet, Heaven will surpass any dreams we can imagine.

5 years ago Loving Enough to Confront

Being at war always involve confrontation. Using war terms, we think confrontation means attack. The apostle Paul wrote to equip us for spiritual war. Yet, he gave us a different view of confrontation.

Even though he was equipping us for war, he was also teaching us how to love. His love for fellow Christians is astounding. Few of us could even approach the sacrificial love that he had for his Christian brothers and sisters.

While we may recognize his love by his sacrifices, we may not recognize his love by his willingness to confront.

Just like war requires confronting, love does too. Paul confronted the Corinthian Church about their sin and their lack of loyalty to defend him to the false teachers who lied and tried to discredit him.

Some may accuse Paul of being judgmental and harsh. He actually anguished not only for his concern for those in sin he was confronting, but also for the pain they would feel when confronted. Yet, Paul loved them enough to do it anyway.

Paul had a deep understanding of both war and love. They both involve confrontation.

**Join me on CWA blog talk radio/spreaker on the show "UnCover" as we explore the role of confrontation in our Christian walk.

5 years ago Getting to the Other Side

I can’t believe that I am a senior citizen. It seems like yesterday that I was finally reaching my thirties. I look back over years of experiences that I had no way of anticipating before they came. Many of them brought worry and sometimes-downright fear. I couldn’t imagine how I would get to the other side of them.

Like facing death at 17, hooked to a ventilator with the doctors warning my folks that they would try to keep me alive two hours at a time. Or when watching my baby brother blowing his brains out with drugs while we were powerless to stop him. Then there was seeing the heartache of my sister, then my brother as they faced divorce. Watching my father taking his last breath, my young cousins lying in coffins way too soon, and my own precious toddler struck with cancer. As my young daughter dwindled before my eyes, the pain was more than I could take.

Yet, I got to the other side of 17 and many decades beyond. My brother was rescued and preaches to the masses while leading them to life and salvation. My sister not only survived divorce, but also years later married the love of her life. My brother too found a family filled with children and grandchildren. I watched as my dad slipped into heaven gazing in awe of where he was headed and I know my cousins joined him soon after. Cancer didn’t win and my daughter is now a mother of three.

Yes, I look back over decades of struggles and fears, but also decades of God’s faithfulness. Sometimes I’m tired and feel ready to go home. Other times, I sense there are many more challenges to face. I still can’t anticipate what all is to come. But, looking back over my life, I now know I can count on my Lord to get me to the other side for each and every struggle that comes.

5 years ago Giver or Taker: The War for Our Heart

I recall a sermon in which my pastor said life is made up of the givers and the takers. The takers can’t get enough, while the givers have the most contentment. The pain in humanity is uplifted, even if for a moment, when we witness generous acts. The outpouring of compassion during tragedies stirs our hope in humanity.

A giving heart is a healthy heart. The medical field statistics tell us that heart failure is the number one cause of death. This sure makes sense both for physical death and spiritual. The heart of God is giving. When our physical heart stops performing as it should, the decline comes quickly. When our spiritual heart stops giving, the decay sets in.

Living in a world in which we see greed, selfishness, and hoarding, it’s easy to follow its lead. The seed for such was unfortunately planted in us at the fall.

My daughter’s fight with cancer when she was a child reminds me of our spiritual battle. The doctors told us that the abnormal cells that turned cancerous in my daughter were there from conception. Unfortunately, since the fall, we too have cells that are abnormal spiritually since they were not from God. They can turn cancerous and take over our giving nature.

If we abide in Him, our heart keeps in sync, our abnormal cells kept in check, and our life will be a giving one. Taker or giver, which will we be?

5 years ago Living Well

How differently I would have approached life when young if I knew what I do now. Oh why could I not have seen how stupid it is to spend our vast amount of time, energy, and emotions on chasing shallow dreams? We work, scheme, fret, and obsess about getting the car, the dream house, the recognition, and toys that allow us to have what the world sees as success.

Most of our motivation is fueled by folly. King Solomon must have felt like many of us do after we get the sense that comes from many decades of living. Oh how foolish we were to buy into the stupidity of the world. Things come and go. Much of what we think will bring pleasure, leaves us empty and is so short lived.

While I don’t enjoy my body giving out, I bask in some of what the senior years bring. Yet, I also grieve for the wasted time and energy spent that I can’t get back. I yearn to get the young to see the truth while they still have decades before them. However, sadly, they probably won’t until they are seniors too.

I so relate to Solomon as he poured these same feelings out in Ecclesiastes. I join him in calling out to all who will hear. Realize that when all is said and done, what matters is loving and obeying God. Doing so, we will have lived well and it will show.

5 years ago I Need the Reminders

I’ve noticed now that I am a senior citizen; I have embraced those cliché phrases that tend to make people roll their eyes. You know the phrases that we have all heard so much that we tend to think, “I know, I know” while dismissing the profound truth of the message.

That’s the danger in phrases that have become labeled as cliché. I was one of those who felt the annoyance and boredom when listening to others proclaiming them like they had found an exciting discovery as if we hadn’t already heard of it.

Yet, now I have a deep commitment and a fresh appreciation for the simple, but profound truths that others have coined in phrases. I’m sure most were composed during painful struggles in their own lives.

I invite you to search your memory for those you have stored away and yet may need to re-examine.

One of mine is, “you can’t take anything with you”. While we all know that we can’t take earthly treasures with us after we die, we live as if we can. What the heck is the matter with us? Its as if we don’t get it. We put all our efforts and emotions into what matters for our brief time here. With our life here not even an eye blink compared to eternity, why do we do that?

It’s as if I go back and forth. I guess that is how it has to be. We have to deal with what’s before us and yet we need to never lose sight of what matters for eternity.

That’s why I need the reminders, even if they sound cliché.

5 years ago Knowing What’s Contagious

I recall a particularly painful memory from when my daughter had cancer as a toddler. While I had many that were much worse than this particular memory, it was so different from the others. My daughter was in-between hospitalizations and trying to live as a normal child who wanted friends and to play like other kids.

Yet, she sure didn’t look like a normal kid. She was bald, terribly thin from the chemotherapy, and had dark circles under her eyes. It only took a glance at her to know that she had cancer and was undergoing treatment.

On this particular day, a couple of children in our neighborhood had initially presented to play with her. Somehow the atmosphere changed and a lone girl explained. The other child’s dad had been afraid that whatever my daughter had was contagious and had stopped his daughter from playing with her.

Although pain stabbed at my heart, I also recognized that he didn’t know any better. Since he didn’t know that cancer wasn’t contagious, I could even feel tenderness for his concern for his daughter.

It seemed ludicrous for him to think that his daughter could catch cancer from mine. It is also ludicrous for us to think that we can’t catch emotional and spiritual cancer from those eaten up with resentment.

While it isn’t an absolute that we will catch their infectious bitterness, it is highly likely. Sometimes people can be around someone with a virus and never catch it even though it is highly contagious. Others can be around them and catch it quickly. What makes the difference?

I assume that those unaffected had a better immune system. The medical field warns that young children, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune system are at most risk for catching and dealing with any kind of contagious illness.

Similarly, those who are weak spiritually are most at risk when being around others who are infected with resentment. The familiar saying is that resentment is like drinking poison, which hurts is the one drinking it. However, sometimes it also hurts those who are close to them. Not only can it be emotionally draining being in a relationship with someone who is full of anger and bitterness, it can also be dangerous. We may not notice the symptoms that we are getting infected ourselves.

Even those with a strong immune system can catch a virus. Those who are strong spiritually can also succumb to the contamination of resentment from those close. We all need to take precaution when around easily spread diseases and infections. Physically, we need to wash our hands, not drink after, or touch those highly contagious. Spiritually, we need to wash in the Word, pray off the spirit of bitterness, and not allow the anger words we have heard from others to stay in our mind and fester.

Staying healthy is a lifetime endeavor. None of us will get out of here without some injury and illness. Hopefully, we won’t forget what is contagious.

5 years ago Fishing for Life or Death

I don’t really understand the thrill of fishing. Maybe its because as a kid I caught a small fish and was horrified by the sight of the fish bleeding from its mouth as dad unhooked it. Or maybe it was hearing all the stories of my dad never being able to catch a fish no matter how hard he tried. He even bought a fishing boat, which only added to the disappointment of his failure at catching fish.

I’d say he just didn’t know the tricks of the trade. He likely didn’t know much about how to lure fish, what bait to use, and how to pick the right spot and timing to fish.

In the Bible, the phrase “fishers of men” refers to trying to save people; in contrast to hooking them like that poor little fish I caught as a kid.

Jesus loves saving people and promoted fishing for the lost. However, Satan tries hooking people for horrific harm. He uses effective types of bait that lures people with deadly power.

Poor Dad never found that magic bait to make his prey succumb. He would try different bait with no success.

While Satan uses a variety, one of his most effective types of bait is offense. It typically works every time. When we get offended, it is so easy to bite the hook that gradually sinks deeper into our tender flesh, finally making its stronghold where we are stuck. The hook turns into bitterness and resentment and we are captive.

As I watched dad trying to get that hook out of the fish’s mouth that I caught as a child, I cringed and felt such guilt for causing its pain and death just for sport. There was no way dad could get the hook out without ripping its flesh and the bloodstain documented the harm.

It may seem a great overreaction that I was so disturbed by the sight. Yet, it is alarming that so many aren’t horrified at the hook that they have become captive to that is tearing into their tender heart and harming their soul.

Just like those fish outsmarted my dad and never took his bait, Jesus wanted us to know of Satan’s devices so that we don’t take the bait either. If we are hooked, we need our Heavenly Father to gently remove the hook. But He doesn’t do so without our participation and willingness.

5 years ago The Serenity Prayer

It seems that the older I get, the more I appreciate the “Serenity Prayer”. Its wisdom needs applying in so many situations that its no wonder that so many have memorized and chanted its words as if trying to brand it into their mind in order to follow its lead.

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.

Many use a shorten version that ends after “and the wisdom to know the difference”. Yet, each line captures a precious truth. Today, the word acceptance resonated during encounters I had with people struggling with hurtful relationships. While there was no way to make the situations without pain, I recognized how the pain was being intensified by their faulty expectations of others and their unwillingness to accept that they couldn’t change others.

It’s so difficult to accept what we don’t like. While we need to make efforts to achieve, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and damage when we repeatedly try to change something or someone we have no right or power to change.

Over and over, I watched as those I was counseling finally nodded their head as if admitting what they already knew. They couldn’t change the other person. If they had that kind of power, they wouldn’t still be struggling. We can’t make another person love deeply. We can’t make another apologize and own his or her mistakes. We can’t make a person forgive us. The list is endless.

However, there is so much we can do. We waste such energy and cause such distress trying to control or change what we have no power over.

The masterpiece we call “The Serenity Prayer” is more important for us to memorize than many of the passages we are required to memorize in school. Consider the magnitude of power given to our upcoming youth if they were required to not only memorize, but if we also enlightened them about the meaning of its message.

5 years ago Ready for the Storms

Recently, a couple of my family members were trying to sell a house that was quite lovely. They had a buyer quickly and were excited about the ease of the sale. However, the home inspection identified a problem with the foundation. Needless to say, the sale was off. Instead, they had to get the corrections made before even pursuing a sale.

It’s amazing that there had been no noticeable problems with the house and it was quite beautiful. Yet, the inspector knew that there could be future difficulties due to the issues with the foundation.

Just like the house, people can seem fine on the outside and yet vulnerable to collapse when life throws them a tragedy. We can seem like we are living a charmed life, when in reality we have no firm foundation. A famous passage in Matthew 7:24-27 tells the profound truth about the necessity of Jesus being our foundation if we are to stand when our home is beat upon by the storms of life. I recall singing a song during childhood about the wise man building his house upon the rock and when the rain and floods came, his house stood firm. The foolish man built on sand and his collapsed.

I understand that little song much more now that I have lived many decades since learning it. I didn’t realize it’s profound message as I sang its catchy tune. Likewise, many young people don’t seem to recognize the importance of building their life on the foundation of Christ, of following His Word, and trusting His guidance. Instead, they chase their dreams, live for their own enjoyment, and follow the world’s tainted views. Those who are blessed enough to have been taught about a firm foundation are so much more equipped for the future pain that will come.

I yearn to enlighten others of what Christ was so adamant about us understanding: He is the rock, we can stand if He is our foundation.

5 years ago The Chosen Five: Mary-Embracing Our Assignments

In the elite list of five chosen women Matthew included in his account of Jesus’ genealogy, Mary, the mother of Jesus is the last in line. Mary was a hand picked woman. The Lord chose her and she is called blessed among women. Mary was of no special recognition in the world at the time of her choosing. As she humbly accepted her phenomenal assignment from the Lord, I wonder if she realized the persecution and ridicule it would bring her. Joseph at first wanted to hide her away as if she was a dirty little secret getting pregnant outside of marriage. His concern for her is touching in that he didn’t want her publicly displayed.

I wonder if Mary comforted herself when bracing for how the world would falsely accuse her of sin. She reminds me of the cost that accepting divine assignments sometimes brings. Many times we don’t consider the sacrifice and even harassments that accompany assignments from the Lord.

We read that when the Angel explained to Mary how the Holy Spirit will come upon her and that she would birth the Christ that she responded saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1: 38)

Mary accepted her assignment without hesitation. Unfortunately, we sometimes falter, or even decline ours. While Mary’s assignment overshadows that of all women, it doesn’t negate that all women have assignments. Once we accept Jesus as Savior, why not take us all home to heaven where God’s perfect will exists? The only answer that seems feasible to me is that we must have assignments on earth.

Mary was not chosen because she was perfect as some may think. If she had been, she wouldn’t have needed a savior like the rest of us. She wasn’t chosen because she was some famous person. Instead, the Lord had noticed her faithful, receptive and willing heart. Are we available and willing?

Aside from the command “follow me,” the saying “whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” is the most repeated saying of Christ in the gospels (MacArthur Study Bible). Mary may not have felt that she was giving up her whole life, but she must have known that her life would forever be changed as she accepted this divine assignment. She didn’t know the heartache she would face as her precious son would be cruelly treated and killed in a torturous way. Yet, she surely knew that all her laid out plans for her engagement, wedding, and establishment of a home and family would be forever changed. In fact, she likely didn’t even know how.

Mary seemed in awe as she recognized the enormity of her special assignment. It would forever change history. Her trust and willingness to submit to God’s plan should inspire us to do the same. No treasure, pleasure, or feat in this life can compare to completing the assignments He choses for us. The spiritual attacks, sacrifices, and heartaches that we face in doing so don’t compare to the victory and rewards of doing them with a receptive and willing heart.

We may think we aren’t worthy enough, strong enough, and capable of the task. Surely Mary felt the same. We may think God made some mistake in choosing us for a divine assignment. Mary may have felt the same. We may think our assignments are insignificant compared to Mary’s. However, being obedient is what pleasing to the Lord and doing our personal assignment is all He asks. We might get into pride and want a more recognized assignment. Or we may want a less taxing and difficult one.

Mary had an angel come and speak to her directly as he told of her assignment. On the other hand, we may feel uncertain in ours. Did God really give me this assignment? Because Mary accepted hers and Jesus accepted His, we now have the Holy Spirit to instruct us instead of a literal angel. Yet, He doesn’t just drop in without our seeking and receptiveness.

While Mary is the last in the genealogy list, she isn’t the last in Jesus’ legacy. Women through the generations since have followed her lead. We have shared her love for her son and yearned as she did for Him to be cherished and treated well. We have shared her pain as He is mocked, ignored, or injured with rejection and hate.

I wonder if Mary thought of us women following her and how we would also be faced with assignments that affect eternity. Her Lord is our Lord and His grace that enabled her to do her assignments will enable us to do ours.

**Join me on CWA blog talk radio/spreaker as I conclude the series "The Chosen Five" on the show "Uncover".

5 years ago The Chosen Five: Ruth--Hope for all Born with a Bad Label

Ruth is the third woman listed in Matthew's account of Jesus' genealogy. She represents those born into situations where they were already pegged in the world’s eyes as tainted. She was a Moabite woman and the significance is recognized when one studies their history. In Deuteronomy we learn that they were excluded from the worshipping community of Israel because of their vicious hostility toward God and His people. God intentionally restricted His people from the Moabites to prevent the evils of their idolatrous influence. While they were an outcast group, they were offered grace and acceptance upon personal faith in the true God and Ruth is the example of this.

Many are born into such a dysfunctional and damaged family that they felt set up for struggles. Some are born into hostility. Others felt like they entered with a bad label stuck on their forehead that they couldn’t get off no matter what they did. Tracy comes to mind as I ponder on Ruth. Tracy was born into a family who were like the outcasts in the community that people shunned. Extreme poverty and shameful family interactions seemed to define what she experienced throughout childhood. I recall when I met her a few years ago. I was impressed for she was a classy, striking, and successful woman. Yet, she allowed herself to be vulnerable to me as she dropped the pretense. My heart ached for her as she admitted that while successful to those who meet her now, inside she still felt like that poor little girl who was the outcast.

I wonder if Ruth also felt the sting of her label. Did she hang her head down in shame like one of my childhood friends, Carly? Carly was from extreme poverty and a family that likely suffered mental illness. I recall how she would seem to almost tiptoe quietly through school with her head down, hair hiding her face as if she wanted to be invisible. Yet, her gentle kind heart and love of Jesus made me know that she was on His elite list in heaven.

Matthew was so kind to include Ruth in his list. She provides such comfort and understanding for those born into a stigma or bad list that they didn’t choose. She also illustrates the fairness and graciousness of the Lord to those who might mistakenly think He is prejudice and treats some better than others. Ruth’s legacy is a beautiful love story and display of hope for all who were born with a bad label. Ruth shows that we can all be accepted into the Lord's family if we choose Him.

5 years ago The Chosen Five: Knowing Whose View Really Matters

Rahab was a chosen woman. Being a prostitute and a Gentile, she was looked down upon by people. I’m so glad that the Lord’s view of us isn’t always the same as that of people. One of life’s greatest challenges is to care more about how God sees us than how people do. Being human seems to destine us to be not only attuned to how others think of us, but also to be so affected by such. We typically define ourselves by how others treat us.

Usually we think only of how we are damaged by other’s critical and demeaning attitude toward us. However, if we are somehow put on a pedestal and thought of as some idol, we are prone to really be messed up. Being praised or rejected can be dangerous unless we know truth and use it to recognize that people don’t define us, God does.

Each of the five women Matthew chose to publically identify as Jesus’ ancestors provides examples of how differently our views can be from that of God. Who would have thought that He would pick a prostitute or another known for her adulterous affair with the King? Others included a woman from a tribe that was excluded because of their evil idolatry and one who tricked her father-in-law into getting her pregnant. The last and most famous was Mary, who didn’t come with a sorted and sinful lifestyle. Yet, she was a young teenager of no special recognition to the world.

Rahab entices me to consider how we sometimes look differently at those in sin from how God looks at them. We might never consider the Lord using someone obviously in a sinful lifestyle in His divine plan. We might have written them off and keep them at arms length.

The Lord shows us through Rahab that those trapped in bondage are precious to Him. He yearns and orchestrates their rescue. However, what if the spies had refused to let Rahab help them. They could have resisted going to her house, especially for what it represented. In so doing, they could have forfeited their own rescue, along with hers.

I wonder if Matthew realized the various lessons we can learn from Rahab’s story? Did he follow the Holy Spirit’s leading to include her in the genealogy list without fully realizing the magnitude of her significance? Did he know that we would be intrigued by her name being listed and explore how she got involved in the first place? Even if he didn’t, the Lord did. It amazes me that the Lord so keenly gives us glimpse into His heart if we take the time to dig deep, to read each passage knowing that there is a reason for it being included, just as there was a reason for including Rahab.

5 years ago The Chosen Five: Rahab (God's Redeeming Love)

One of the five women chosen by Matthew to include in his account of Jesus’ genealogy was Rahab. She was a Gentile and a prostitute. As I pondered on why God would choose her to be in his family line, I remembered how unfair men had treated women found in sexual sin. Men shamed and accused the woman found in adultery and they didn’t even mention the man involved (John 8:3). Yet, the Lord was different. He chose not only imperfect men, but also imperfect women to bring His precious plan to pass.

Can you imagine how Rahab felt about herself? I envision that she felt shame and saw herself as a failure. Yet, the Lord saw her as precious enough to want her in His genealogy that others throughout history would read and study. It didn’t matter how others saw her. It didn’t matter that they might snicker behind her back and look down at her through their judgmental noses. The Lord had big plans for her.

In the second chapter of Joshua, we read of where Rahab helped the Israelite spies who were scouting out the Promised Land. As Rahab was helping them, the King of Jericho sent to her demanding that she turn over the men. I imagine that she was terrified. If she was, she didn’t let it deter her from helping God’s people. She must have feared God more than man.

Even though she was at the bottom of society and a prostitute, the Lord used her to help his chosen people. He used his people to save her. While it looked like she was saving the spies, God had strategically sent His men to Rahab to save her. The Lord used her to show His grace and love for all, even those trapped in sin. We get a glimpse of the heart of our Lord as we see Rahab respectfully forever included in the Messiah’s plan. Her name stands with those paving the way for the Savior of humanity.

“Rahab, I am so glad that you are included. You give hope to so many other women that have felt that they were failures and had disappointed the Lord so much that they gave up on themselves. I assume that you hadn’t a clue as you lived your life that your future ancestor would be the hope and savior for all of us in messes. I also assume that you were thrilled beyond words when you got to heaven and found out”.

All of us who sometimes feel trapped in our messes need to learn from Rahab. The Lord knew before we were ever born that we would make some ungodly choices and He still has a plan for us. Like with Rahab, He isn’t done with us. We matter dearly to Him. Let’s hope He matters dearly to us.

***Join me on CWA blog talk radio/spreaker as I discuss what we can learn from the five chosen women on my show "Uncover".

5 years ago The Chosen Five-Bathsheba

I have been studying the five chosen women that Matthew included in his list of Jesus’ genealogy. I have intently explored their story because it is intriguing that Matthew listed them in the first place. People back then didn’t even list the females in genealogies, likely due to their prejudicial attitudes. In turn, with every man listed, there had to be a woman birthing the child, yet only five were included in Matthew’s list.

When we get to the fourth one listed, she is the only one who isn’t listed by name. What a mystery and insult! Every one on the list, both male and female was listed by name except her. She is referred to as “her who had been the wife of Uriah”. What a slap in the face! She not only isn’t identified by name, she isn’t even identified as the wife of King David, although she was when she birthed Solomon. While David is listed by name, Matthew reveals her by her past, a sorted one at that. It’s understood that those reading would know who she was. She of course is the one who had an affair. What about the man? It takes two! Again, doesn’t it seem a double standard shown?

Yet, Matthew might instead have been kinder than I think. Each woman he chose was a beautiful message for woman of all ages by which to be encouraged of how important they are to a gracious and loving God. Maybe instead, he wanted to show that while the world was casting Bathsheba as a tainted adulterous woman, God was casting her in the role of not only the one who birthed Solomon, the wisest, famous, and richest King ever, but a woman in the genealogy of Christ, the Messiah who would bring redemption to a lost world.

Many feel that others still identify them by their corrupted past. They may feel that others always think of them as the woman who had an affair. Even if others don’t, they may not feel relieved of the sinful label they cling to themselves. Satan, the accuser constantly torments us with whatever past sin he can throw in our face. I have had many a woman struggle with standing up for themselves in healthy ways because they feel they don’t deserve it because of a past affair.

While I wonder if Bathsheba had similar struggles, I suspect that she must have embraced grace for herself to some extent, even if she didn’t recognize it. This is displayed whenever she intervened to stop the plan of one of David’s sons by another woman from manipulating and claiming the King’s throne over her own son, Solomon.

Bathsheba is one of the most recognized women of the Old Testament. I wonder if she is thought of in good or bad terms. Is she remembered because of her past adultery with King David or is she remembered as a chosen woman who is in the elite group of Jesus’ earthy ancestors? I believe God remembers her as his chosen daughter. Jesus remembers her as His distant relative who paved the way for His coming. I remember her as a woman who overcame a past to help illustrate the forgiveness and love of a God who wants to transform our lives beyond our mistakes into a legacy of distinction.

5 years ago Hope for Our Messes: The Chosen Five (Tamar)

Is your life a mess? Sometimes we feel that we have made a mess of our life. Other times, we feel that others have caused the mess. Either way, all of us have found ourselves in messes.

When reading in Matthew recently, I had a fresh revelation of how gracious God is in not giving up on us when we are in a mess. The first chapter of Matthew gives a play-by-play list of the genealogy of Christ. I admit that when I start reading the long lists of who begat who, I tend to skim over and get past it. Before reading today, I asked the Lord to speak to me through His word and to help me understand what He wanted me to understand. As I read, I recognized that Matthew's main agenda was to prove the legitimacy of Jesus as the true Messiah. He wanted the world to know that Jesus was the fulfillment of God's promise to send His son as the Savior. Thus, Jesus's genealogy would be the most important that ever existed. Along with establishing Jesus as the true Messiah, he also demonstrated the evidence of God's amazing grace and determination to restore our messes.

As I read the list, I noticed the females listed. My study Bible pointed out that they usually didn’t even mention the females in the genealogies and yet Matthew names five. Each illustrates the working of God’s divine grace. Tamar was the first listed. She represents women who have been done wrongly and put in a mess, largely because of someone else. She also represents a woman who made ungodly choices in attempt to fix her mess.

Tamar had married Er, who was the son of Judah. The Bible indicates that Er was so wicked that the Lord killed him. I imagine Tamar suffered greatly being married to such an evil man. The custom in that day was for the brother of the dead husband to marry his brother's widow and bring up an heir to his brother. Yet, the brother of Tamar's husband intentionally rejected his duty and the Lord killed him also. After such trauma, another man mistreats Tamar again. Her father-in-law did not keep his promise to send for her to wed his third son whenever he came of age.

So here was poor Tamar suffering through a marriage with a wicked man who was killed, his brother rejecting her and being killed, and now being tricked by her father-in-law who she trusted. Men had sure left her in a mess.

In response to the mess that men had made for her, Tamar makes her own. Taking matters in her own hands, she dresses up as a harlot and tricks Judah, her father-in-law who approaches her for sexual favors. She gets pregnant by him and the rest is history; history that God restores. God's divine grace was working out Tamar and Judah’s mess. He didn't reject them and disqualify them as I would have expected. Instead, they remain in the blood line of Jesus. They are included in the precious genealogy of the Savior. I wonder if Matthew realized that as he listed Tamar, Judah, and their son, Perez, that they would forever provide hope for others who had made messes in their lives.

5 years ago Facing Adversity: Lessons from my Mom

I am intrigued by what influences how we respond to adversities we face. We will all have them, some obviously more tragic than others. Like many of the elderly, my mom lived through the Great Depression. As I was expressing my fascination with how differently people responded, she informed me that some committed suicide. Others survived with their physical life, but not with their generosity. Clinging to their stuff, they guarded their possessions, but not their soul. Their stingy demeanor was toxic and robbed them of what was more precious than gold.

I thought of those who were transformed in lovely ways. While some of the poor were unable to nourish their bodies, they were able to feed their heart. They grew deep compassion for others, along with a faith that weathers storms. Mom was one of them. She notices those in need and is willing to intervene. She also is amazing in her resourcefulness. I can’t help but believe that her devotion to not be wasteful stems at least in part to her journey through the Depression. What I so flippantly discard, she rescues and reuses. Some become hoarders, others use their frugal ways to bless and give to others.

Sadly, some came through the Great Depression to be forever transformed into a reservoir of fear. They were never able to enjoy the blessings of the day because of their dread of future tragedies or losses. While the Great Depression brought them a darkened cloud over their head, for others it brought a lasting faithfulness in a loving God who would get them through whatever lay ahead.

Just like I am fascinated with how people responded differently to the Great Depression, I am intrigued by what influences how we face all kinds of adversities and pain. How much can we choose how to respond and how much is an outcome of other influences we didn’t have the power to choose.

Did the generous survivors of the Depression watch parents who helped their struggling neighbor as they also tried to help their own families? Did they listen as Dad thanked and acknowledged God as they sat down to their sparse meal of bread and milk? Did they hear Mom read of God’s faithfulness in the dim light of their oil lamp?

Instead, did they hear Dad’s angry cursing and questioning if God even existed or complaining that He was uncaring? Did they see panic in Mom’s eyes and hear the worried whispers that convinced them of the doom to come?

As I ponder over what influences our responses to whatever our adversities are, I believe that we have a choice to nurture hope by seeking what the Word promises. Sometimes that requires a stubborn determination that defies our human reasoning. Choosing to believe is not always easy, but it is an option worth every ounce of our effort. Just ask my mom.

5 years ago I Don’t Want to be Young Again

“Oh to be young!” I said to my son’s girlfriend as we talked about their plans for fun and adventure. I quickly followed it up with, “But I don’t want to be young again”. She responded, “My mom says the same thing. She says she is happier now than she has ever been.”

While I don’t know about her mom, I explored my reasons for not wanting to be young again. While one might think I don’t want to be young again because I’ve had a horrible life, my reasons are different. I don’t want to lose what decades of living have gained me. The years have helped me come to terms with the big picture.

At the risk of sounding clichéd and corny, I am more comfortable with myself. I sense that I have more clarity about what’s really important. I have given up on those childish expectations that life is about having fun and impressing others. While that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any fun, I realize that life in a fallen world is going to involve some craziness, illogical rules, and frustrations. There’s going to be hate, along with love. Things aren’t going to be as they should be much of the time.

While I still believe in people having altruistic motives, I also know that much has damaged humanity. Evil exists and people hurt each other. I know that my hope is in the big picture: God is good and someday when in Heaven, we have the full type of life for which we yearn.

I recognize that those who have had the ongoing connection with Jesus reflect more of the decency, honesty, and compassion that offset the cruelty. Those who have been nurtured and loved, sprinkle our world with the beauty that gives me joy. I also relish in being able to enjoy simple pleasures that would have either bored me when young or I wouldn't have even noticed.

Having more insight about the effects of evil, I am more equipped with reasonable expectations of what it means living in a fallen world. That makes it so much more bearable when disappointments, injustices, and pain come. It also provokes me to put my effort into wiser endeavors, instead of those shallow, self-serving, and unrealistic ones that tend to characterize youth.

When young we have grand expectations of making it “big” in whatever way we define as “big”. Yet, we either don’t make it to our “big” or we get there and realize it didn’t bring the fulfillment we thought it would. Decades later, we begin to really “get it” and understand what older saints tried to tell us: “Things don’t bring happiness. What matters is how you lived, not how much fun you had. Much of what we worry about never happens and our worry doesn’t change anything anyway. It really is more blessed to give than to get. Having an attitude of gratitude makes your heart brighter. We will never regret trusting God and doing the right thing; while we will regret trying to control our own life without His guidance and our obedience. When our driving force is to go after our own happiness at the exclusion of all else, we will set ourselves us for misery and regret."

While I would like to continue to reflect on the vast tidbits of insight that decades bring, I close with the sense of contentment that comes as I embrace my own message, “I don’t want to be young again”.

5 years ago Our Journey to Healing

Recently, I had mouth surgery that involved invasive procedures that made me sure glad that I had been put to sleep. When they explained what all had been done, I was amazed that I seemed fine when I woke up after hours of being under. However, the swelling, bruising, and soreness came to a peak a couple of days later. I had been stunned that it had seemed so painless after the numbness had worn off. Thus, I was puzzled at the delayed swelling and soreness that came later. I began thinking that maybe I was getting an infection.

When the doctor examined me, she quickly explained that it looked great. There was no infection. She assured me that it looked, as she would expect it to look. She said that from all that had been done to me, it should swell, be bruised, and be sore. She went on to instruct me what to do in promoting my healing. I was reassured and felt kind of silly. Why would I expect my gums to be cut, rods drilled into my bone, foreign substances inserted, stiches sown into tender flesh, and there be no hurtful signs of the process.

I think we sometimes also expect to be in a fallen world, under the sway of the enemy, and not be hurt. We face rejection, betrayal, and injustices and then expect a quick procedure to make it all go away with no hurt involved.

Seems like the whole world is looking for healing from something. We might have a paper cut, a bruised shin, or a fractured limb. Many have a broken heart. Sometimes in our quest for healing, we’ve accepted the popular message that if we go about it just the right way, all our pain will be gone. We will always heal quickly, with no mess and no residual pain.

When that doesn’t happen, we start either feeling like we are the culprits that somehow didn’t follow the formula right or that we’ve been lied to. We may start thinking healing never comes or I’m just not good enough to be granted it.

Pursuing our healing is worthy, if we are to love ourselves as God asked us to do. Yet, we must realize that we are not guaranteed that it will come without pain or exactly how the whole experience will be. We are told that this life will involve suffering and tough emotions that to be human, we will feel.

Some seemed to have defined healing in ways that eliminate any unwanted emotions. Psalms is one of the most emotion filled books in the Bible and is also the book that many run to when hurting. David sure didn’t express only joyous emotions. He spewed out deep heart wrenching pain, fear, anger, and guilt as he earnestly sought his healing.

In the process, he found the faithfulness of God, the mercy and salve for his wounds, and the hope he so desperately needed. I imagine that his quest would have been so hindered if he had assumed that he was going to get instant relief and healing with no emotional pain involved along the way.

** Join me on CWA blog talk radio/spreaker on my weekly show, “Uncover” as I explore the journey to healing.

6 years ago Practicing Life: Love

How do we practice loving God? It goes hand in hand with loving people. I recall many years ago struggling with my thoughts. I wondered, “God do I really love you”? How do I know? I haven’t seen you. When I heard others talk about how much they loved the Lord, I was concerned, “Do I?”

The Lord helped me greatly as I confessed my doubts with Him. He placed a question back to me, “Do you love people?”

I pondered the question and recognized that I grieve for others that are hurting and rejoice for those who are blessed. I responded to the Lord, “Yes, Lord, I do love people.” “Then you love Me, He responded”. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I had no doubt that God had spoken these messages by thoughts in me that came without my provocation.

I admit that I don’t love perfectly and I sure don’t always like how people act, but I love people. That leads to the important question, “How do I increase this love”? That’s where practice comes in.

Practice involves a number of activities - like most of what we practice to get better at does. It involves getting into the Word of God that does some miraculous work in us, the more we ingest and submit to it. Practice also involves my communion with the Lord, which we call prayer. I actually ask Him to help me love Him and people more.

Love will always involve action. We get hung up too much on the feeling. I have found that when I am offended or just “put off” by someone, if I act loving to him or her, it begins to grow love. It’s like a muscle that the more you use it, the bigger and more developed it gets.

By acting loving, this also involves what only God sees on the inside of me. When someone has hurt me, my thoughts can sure become unloving. Yet, if I intentionally try to redirect my thoughts in ways that are pleasing to God, the toxic influence of my thoughts that are so deadly to love, begin to dissipate. I ask God to help me love the person, to see him or her as He does. It’s essential for me to ask why the person may have acted in hurtful ways. So often, I begin to realize that the most hurtful people, are the most messed up. Why would I expect someone who is lost, significantly wounded, grossly deceived, or miserable to act appropriately?

The Lord has a way of reminding me that I too sometimes act in ways that hurt others, including Him. This helps me have more grace with others who are messing up in practice. We all sometimes strike out, miss the mark, and have a bad practice. I am so thankful that our coach is so patient and determined to help develop us into who He envisions-one who LOVES.

6 years ago Practicing Life

My grandson’s attitude towards practicing T-ball reminds me of my son. My son played about every sport available to him growing up: mostly baseball, basketball, soccer, and football. Practice was grueling in many of the sports. The running, drills, sacrifice, and pain of exhaustion and sore muscles sometimes made him wonder if it was worth it. He was supposed to be doing this for fun!

While my grandson’s T-ball practice is nothing grueling or difficult, it was humorous to see his excitement when his first real game took place. He went from complaining, being bored, and wanting to play instead of practice, to suddenly exclaiming, “I love T-ball”!

My son also relished the excitement and thrill of the real game. Yet, much more time was spent in practice than in the game.

Life here in a fallen world also is a journey of practice, anticipating the real. We never get it perfect, that’s why we need a savior. But, to be a real player on the team, we are required to practice.

We practice living righteously. Those who aren’t even on the team don’t practice. “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God (I John 3: 10)

We practice forgiving, thinking thoughts that please the Lord, and loving others. We practice guarding our heart and tongue. We practice dealing with our emotions in healthy ways and remembering what’s really important.

It’s so essential to practice remembering that the real game that’s to come will even exceed our expectations of thrills. Before his first game, my grandson didn’t know during practice to anticipate the excitement of the real game to come. We haven’t seen what comes for us after all the practice either.

After playing in a real game, my grandson now knows what’s to come. We who have searched the Word have at least more to go on than my grandson did before his first game.

He didn’t realize how much he would be glad that he had practiced so that he could perform in the real game. Our stakes are much higher than the rewards of playing well in a T-ball game. Ours effect eternity. Our effective practice can bring us not only eternal rewards, but also such for others who accept Christ because of our efforts.

It’s likely that all the players on my grandson’s T-ball game will get a trophy. At his age, they like to make them all feel equally recognized.

According to the Bible, players on the Lord’s team will also be rewarded. In place of trophies, we get crowns. Instead of trying to outperform each other like in competition, we practice because we love Jesus. We want to hear His words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”. We want to know that we practiced well at doing our assignments. Did we sacrifice our pleasure in attempt to reach others who aren’t even on the team? Did we help others struggling to practice well?

There’s an old saying that “Practice makes perfect”. Like many old sayings, it’s not true. Jesus is the only one who practiced with perfection. Yet, He encourages us with His gracious promise that being on His team, we will be in the game of our life one day. We win, because He won. Let’ suit up for practice.

**Join me on the show “Uncover” on CWA blog radio/spreaker. I will be doing a series on “Practicing Life”.

6 years ago Tough Questions: Why Don’t I Always Live as if I Believe You?

We will all face heartache and suffering since we are in a fallen world. We have fallible bodies and even when we are trying to live in obedience, we will sometimes suffer attacks and harm.

Yet I have been perplexed at how so many of us have experienced some pain that we didn’t have to if we had just obeyed the Lord. Why do we think we can blow off following what God has commanded and still prosper? It confuses me that we who claim Jesus as Lord think that we can do what He has clearly warned us not to do and have no repercussions. Why would we expect to be protected and blessed even when we intentionally disobey?

Its like a person blowing his money and then not understanding why he doesn't have a nest egg for emergencies like his wiser neighbor does. Its like someone eating all junk food and not exercising and then wondering why she doesn't don’t feel good or look like her fit and trim friend. It’s like someone smoking for decades and wondering why she is so short of breath and coughs so much. I could go on and on. While we still do much of what we know not to do, we at least need to recognize that some of our outcomes are a result of our choices.

Sometimes we get deceived and don’t realize that we are disobeying God. Other times, we know, but we still do it. Maybe God has been so gracious that He allowed us to wavier for a while and we think we will get by with continuing with our disobedience. Maybe we don’t think He really feels that strongly about what He warned us not to do. When my children were young, I sometimes allowed them to get by with only minor consequences for their misbehavior. Parents may even ignore or tolerate their children’s tantrums or disobedience.

The Israelites repeatedly disregarded the Lord’s commandments and warnings, even after experiencing reoccurring horrific consequences. Why didn’t they believe God when He clearly warned them of what would happen if they did such and such?

Somehow they must have not believed Him. I think most of us also sometimes act as if we don’t either. We may cheat on a business deal, be deceptive in securing a sale, resist giving, get involved in a relationship that is off limits, refuse to forgive those who have hurt us, keep engaging in a sin that is ruining our intimacy with the Lord, and a multitude of other thoughts and actions that directly go against what the Word says.

I have brought on some of my messes and hindered what God wanted to do in my life because I compromised on submitting fully to His commands. Haven’t we all done that?

Other times I have not intentionally sinned, but didn’t pay enough attention to those nagging feelings that were trying to warn me. Like me, most of my friends can recall some painful situations in their lives where they had previously overlooked little warnings that if heeded could have spared them a hurtful situation.

When called to make decisions that don’t present clearly as right or wrong, we need to go on a quest to hear God’s voice guiding us.

Why in the world do we make big decisions without seeking the Lord’s direction? We may throw up a quick prayer. But, do we really take the time and patience to wait on clear direction from the Lord? And if we hear that small still voice prompting us in a way that goes against what we want, do we obey? Instead, do we maneuver and convince ourselves that God’s okay with what we want to do?

As I ask these tough questions, I ask them to myself also. I don’t always like my answer. Do you?

“My hope and comfort is in the grace and mercy of you Lord”.

6 years ago What's my Delivery?

I’ve been intrigued lately with how people influence each other. I recently reflected on the Godly influence some people have had on my life. Don’t we all hope that we have influenced others more for good than bad? It is remarkable how much we can influence others in positive ways by just treating them with respect and kindness. When acting in caring ways, we can also share simple, but powerful truths that can equip others in ways that we have been equipped to live with hope.

Some have failed to be influential when trying to share the same truths because they were arrogant, bossy, or harsh in their delivery. It’s amazing that when approached with kindness and respect, people usually are receptive to even our corrective advice or criticism. Most people can tell if we care about them and if we are humble enough to know that we can be wrong too.

“Lord help me come across like you do when trying to influence for good.”

6 years ago The Influence of Others

The most likely influence upon our feelings, attitudes, and behavior comes from other people. People have been influencing each other since Adam and Eve.

It’s crucial to be careful during our times of vulnerability about who we allow to advise us. We know to reject influence from those we don’t trust. However, we may not be aware that well meaning people can influence us in ways that is contrary to how God is trying to lead us.

Sometimes people who care try to protect us and in doing so make suggestions that seem right, but hinder God’s plan. When they are angry with others who have hurt us, or even if they are trying to help us achieve a goal in our life, they want to influence in ways that seem right to them.

Many times when people are in marital difficulties, friends and family give advise. However, their suggestions must be scrutinized to make sure they not only line up with the Word, but also that they are in line with the Holy Spirit’s nudging.

When we have been victimized, others may try to comfort in ways that also either helps or hurts. When we are striving for a desired dream, working towards a challenge, or even when responding to conviction from the Holy Spirit, people can get in the way of the Lord’s leading.

Others’ influence is available during our dark times and our times of pleasure and prosperity. I recall a time when I was offered a job that looked like a dream come true. Many would have interpreted it as God intervening to meet our needs and to bless us. It seemed so ideal that one pastor said, “This is like one of those you don’t even have to pray about”.

At first I accepted the offer since it seemed absolutely ridiculous to turn it down. I had about a month before the position was to start and as the days passed, I could no longer deny the dread I felt about it. I think I sensed the nudge from the Holy Spirit even as the offer was first given. The Lord was kind and patient by gradually increasing the nudge and giving me weeks to obey. When I finally did, I let them know I couldn’t take the job. I knew the Lord didn’t want me to. I walked out of the office after my declaration as if the weight of the world was off my shoulders.

I have never regretted obeying the Holy Spirit, regardless of others’ opinions. But, I have many times regretted not obeying Him. Other’s opinions can sway us. While this can be good or bad, it is so important to be discerning.

6 years ago Replacing My Plans with Yours

Many times I uncover something in my life that I later recognize as being almost universal. We visualize how we want some situation to be and then we go about trying to make it come to fruition. When it doesn’t go as planned, which most often it doesn’t, we get frustrated, disappointed, or dig our heels in more determinedly to make it happen.

Sometimes, God mercifully just stops us. Finally, with the air finally knocked out of us, we have to admit that we can’t make it happen the way we want. The important revelation is not that we can’t control the outcome, but that God’s plan is better than ours. That job we couldn’t get, that man we just couldn’t catch or keep, that house that we wanted but that got sold before we could get it, and that whatever that we wanted but couldn’t make happen is replaced with what He planned instead.

It’s humbling, but reassuring to recognize that God not only had a plan, but that we would have been so much better off to have tried to submit to His lead instead of ours.

A friend shared with me about her recent experience that revealed how her failed plans were so much better replaced with outcomes that came as God propelled His over hers. I am again reminded of how this happens to so many of us. Yet, I am not sure if we recognize it as it happens. Do we appreciate that God intervened in ways that spared us heartache that would have come if our plans hadn’t been derailed? Do we value the rewards that we are reaping from His overriding our efforts with His?

“Lord, I am forgetful and need reminding that Your ways are higher than mine, Your plans are best, and that I need to not get in Your way, but to submit and follow Your lead.”

6 years ago We Can Make a Difference

“What’s the point? My life is over. There is no reason for me to take up space.”

Its heart wrenching to hear someone declare feeling this way. Yet, sadly many feel such hopelessness, despair, and little regard for their value. How does someone get to this point? What would make someone feel that he or she had no purpose or value?

I can only assume it was because of people hurting them. The main way we come to feel we have value is in how we are treated. Satan uses people to do his damage. This is likely not a difficult task. From the beginning of the fall of humankind, people have been destined to hurt each other.

Yet, the Lord calls us differently. His clear plea is to love like He does: To cherish and value being kind, and respecting others. If we were being like Him, we would take great pleasure in providing tenderness and care for others. We have that potential provided for us. Made in His image, invited to be His heirs through Christ, we can follow His lead in truly loving others in ways that help them recognize their deep value. We look beyond their imperfections, scars, acne, and obesity. We look beyond their weaknesses, character flaws, and addictions. We look beyond their poverty, differences, and crooked teeth. We look beyond everything that Satan tries to magnify as reasons to discredit another’s worth.

We listen and amplify the voice of the great I AM who clearly declares His love for each of us. We may never realize the power we have to make another feel of value. Each day we have the opportunity to respond to another in ways that show that he or she is worth our attention and respect.

If we could accurately see this potential, we would be awed by what power we possess to make a difference that not only influences others in far reaching ways, but also in delighting the very God who designed our hearts to love.

6 years ago He is our Hope

I was reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness in my life as I went with my daughter who was to have routine testing at Vanderbilt. Being a survivor of childhood cancer, she is used to being tested. As I walked through Vanderbilt, floods of memories came and I recalled how horrific my life was decades ago. Back then I couldn’t imagine feeling calm like I do today as I stroll through the hallways. Back then my life was full of terror as I struggled to have faith knowing that cancer was eating my precious toddler’s insides.

Today I realized that during my nightmare, the Lord knew all along that not only would she survive, but she would be back here as a mom herself. She would birth first a son and later, twin girls in this same hospital.

I thanked the Lord for His faithfulness, even though I had not always been faithful. I also realized that there were other parents living their nightmare on this same day. My heart aches for them as they journey through the long days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years of painful and fearful ordeals. Everyday life is suddenly transformed into procedures and tests that keep your nerves on edge and tears ready to flow at a moment’s notice. I also realize that some of the precious children will be going home with you soon Jesus.

Lord, I ask for your comfort, your mercy, and your presence with each and every child and parent clinging to the hope that only you can give.

While you and yours may be healthy, we all face heartache. The Lord is faithful, the Lord is good, and He is our hope.

6 years ago Anxious or Angry: Inquire of the Lord (Part 2)

As I read of the many escapades of David, I am fully persuaded that inquiring of God and following His lead is the way to live. Even though David didn’t always do right and inquire of the Lord, God still called him a man after His own heart. God knew David’s heart and it pleased Him. David sometimes blew it as we all do. Yet, David wanted to please God. He repented when corrected and when he inquired of the Lord, he obeyed.

Saul was very different. Like David, he sometimes took matters into his own hands, without consulting God. Other times, he acted in defiance of what God had already instructed. After sinning, he didn’t appear to truly repent. God knew his heart, like He knew David’s.
Unlike David, he seemed to only want God to protect and help him, with no regard for wanting to please God. He appeared to want to use God, without really loving Him.

We all have faced fearful situations. We all have been done wrongly. We are so vulnerable when afraid, angry, or wanting to react to someone who has wronged others we love or us. Those are times we desperately need to pray and inquire of the Lord before we respond.

Sometimes God may lead us to patience and a deeper recognition of His protection. Sometimes He may prompt us to be confident in confronting and setting boundaries that others don’t understand. Some may not understand our actions, whether judging them as either too harsh or too lenient and passive.

When David refused to take revenge on King Saul and didn’t defend himself, his own men didn’t understand. Other times, when he determinedly struck others who had sinned, with apparently no hesitation, they may have seen him as harsh. When he reacted just out of his human emotions, without God’s leading, he could be too harsh or too passive. We need to stay focused on how God directs us to respond, regardless if everyone agrees with us.

Thus, the challenge is to live so closely to the Lord, that we are hearing and following His voice instead of our own emotions or that of others.

6 years ago Anxious or Angry: Inquire of the Lord (Part 1)

What a mess we can get into when we don’t consult God before making big decisions. Even if we love God, we can make decisions that lead to great harm for others and ourselves. We are especially prone to taking actions without seeking God’s direction when afraid or angry. When trying to protect others and ourselves, we can take matters into our own hands and make matters much worse. We can also sin when reacting out of hurt and anger, even if the party we are taking action against was terribly wrong.

In the Old Testament David gave us several examples illustrating harm caused when he didn’t inquire of the Lord and great protection and victories when he did. Jealous King Saul was in hot pursuit in a demented quest to kill him. Sometimes when running for his life, David tried to protect himself without seeking God’s direction. One such time, he ran to the city of the priests and lied so that they wouldn’t know that he was running from King Saul. His actions led to the slaughter of eighty-five priests and all the inhabitants of the city, including men, women, children, infants, and even the animals.

Protecting himself, instead of seeking the Lord to protect him had brought horrific results. If he had inquired of the Lord, the Lord would have shown him what to do. The Lord always led him wisely when he sought His direction. Just like David, when we don’t, we can sure bring disaster.

David almost brought another calamity when he was angry instead of afraid. He was enraged from being mistreated by Nabal who was an evil fellow. It’s so natural to react when we have been deeply wronged.

In response to such injustice, angry David was out for revenge. Without inquiring of the Lord, he determined to slaughter a whole household. Nabal had wrongly cheated and disrespected not only David, but also the men he loved. They had risked their lives for each other. Again, like David, we may find it even more tempting to retaliate when those we love have been greatly mistreated.

This time, God mercifully sent a wise woman, Nabal’s wife, to stop him. I can imagine how stunned David felt as he realized what he had almost done. He expressed his horror and relief that she had stopped him from the horrendous bloodshed that he had been bent on.

As David humbly admitted his error and accepted God’s redirection, the Lord vindicated him in profound ways. Nabal, who had done him so wrong, died within hours and David was actually blessed with Nabal’s beautiful and wise wife, Abigail. David wed her, not only blessing himself, but also blessing her. Who knows how much Abigail suffered for years being married to such a foolish and selfish man. She likely had been mistreated and hurt, along with witnessing her husband’s mistreatment of others. When we follow God’s lead, good comes, just as it did for Abigail and David.

*Join me on CWA blog talk radio in exploring great outcomes that came from inquiring divine direction from the Lord and avoidable disasters that were suffered when no Godly direction was sought. Go to CWA blog radio/spreaker and log into the show: Uncover/Dr Peggy Karlosky

6 years ago The Protection of Healing

None of us get through life without being wounded both physically and emotionally. While most of our physical wounds heal, many of our emotional wounds don’t. Many common physical injuries heal with no intervention, since God designed our bodies with such splendor that it begins trying to heal itself as soon as an injury occurs.

However, emotional wounds are a bit different. They typically don’t automatically heal without our intentional efforts to attend to them. Many drag wounds with them through life. They may have occurred in childhood, teen years, young adulthood, middle age, or old age. We are never immune.

What’s amazing is that we may have old hurts that affect our lives that we aren’t even aware of having. Marriage is ripe for stimulating old wounds. Everyone brings into their marriage some personal wounds. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t aware of our mate’s wounds or ours. Thus, we hurt each other as our wounds are being tapped.

One of the greatest ways to foster a healthy marriage is to identify and heal from our own personal hurts and to uncover and be sensitive to our mate’s. If we marry someone with deep wounds, having a healthy relationship with them will be difficult, especially if he or she is unwilling to take responsibility for healing.

One of the greatest ways to protect ourselves in the spiritual war is to identify and seek healing for our emotional wounds. Doing so, we disarm the enemy’s ammunition designed to derail our lives.

6 years ago No Greater Love

In searching truth, I have gone from one end of a continuum to the other. I’ve been exploring how our lack of healthy fear sets us up for disaster. We are prone to lose fear that’s necessary for survival. Solomon’s loss of fear illustrated the depth of horror that can come from not believing God’s warnings and thus not following His instructions.

I went from the grief of Solomon’s tragic ending to the other end of the spectrum to a fresh view of the mercy and tenderness of God. Reading in Judges, the cruelty and disobedience of the Israelites was disgusting me. Repeatedly, they used God for what He could do for them and then discarded Him with no remorse as they succumbed to idolatry. I never understood thinking that some block of wood someone carved or some chiseled rock had superpowers that called for worship. It sounds ludicrous to me. Did they really believe such nonsense or did they just like to join in the crowd.

My journey through Judges was interrupted with a needed trip into town. While doing an errand, I saw someone that provoked memories of my encounters with her years ago. She didn’t notice me as I watched her. We had shared precious, but extremely painful moments together. Her husband, who had adored her once upon a time, had repeatedly ripped her heart apart as he went for other women to replace her, like the Israelites had replaced God with idols. The repeated extramarital affairs had left their cruel marks.

She had adored him so deeply that she repeatedly forgave him and tried to build their relationship anew. When I saw her in town, I wondered if her husband had ever become faithful, if they had divorced, and if she was happy. As I watched her, I sensed that she was different than I remembered. She seemed sad and closed. She used to smile easily, talk freely with others, and had an engaging personality.

I deduced that he had never stopped hurting her and the signs of damage showed. I had a current view of how people cause such pain with their selfish acts. Going back to Judges, I recognized that like my friend had been treated so unfairly, the unfaithfulness to God was most devious of all. He is the great “I am”. He had delivered them repeatedly, had cherished and protected them, and had always kept His promises. Yet, here again, they displayed their notorious lack of decency, due love and loyalty to God, just like that cheating husband had betrayed his loyal wife repeatedly.

I am struck by the Lord’s tenderness and ability to hurt for them even in the middle of their sin. Just one of those instances in the second chapter of Judges made me sharpen my views of God. Like a parent hurts for that son or daughter who is suffering even though it was due to their continued rebellion, the Lord hurt for the disobedient Israelites who had treated Him so badly.

“And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.” Judges 2:18. Even though this passage didn’t say that the Israelites had called on the Lord and repented, He still felt such pity for them in their suffering He rescued them. They deserved what they had faced.

    I had watched the betrayed wife show compassion and pity for her husband when he hurt, even though he sure deserved it. I wonder if she eventually turned from pity to wanting to see him suffer.

    Again, after their many more betrayals and turning back to idolatry, the heart of God is revealed in Chapter 10. I wonder how God felt as He watched them bow to these stupid idols who had done nothing for them since they had no power or life. The Lord’s righteous anger resulted in turning them over to others who severely mistreated them.

    The Israelites had the nerve to cry out to the Lord. At least this time they admitted that they had sinned. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if they would have done so if they hadn’t been so miserable. At first the Lord wisely responded by reminding them of the numerous times He had delivered them from plentiful enemies. He then tells them to go and cry out to the gods that they had chosen.

    They continued to cry out to the Lord and I love the last of verse 16, “And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” Again the Lord couldn’t stand watching them suffer any longer and He rescues them again.

    Even in their mess, filled with selfishness, the Lord hurt for His children. Even when they treated Him so wrong, He treated them so right. That not only gives me a glimpse of the unfailing love of God, but also gives me hope. Hope for when I or someone I love has sunk in a sin trap and may still be there.

6 years ago Fear: Our Worst Enemy or Our Greatest Advocate

Fear can be our worse enemy or our greatest advocate. Being a psychologist has given me a front row view of the effects of fear. Usually, I am trying to help people overcome fear. One of the leading, if not the top reason that people seek counseling is fear. Even those coming with hurt and depression, are also bound with fear. Fear even brings on depression.
So how can fear be our advocate?

It depends on what we are fearful of. There is a fear that is foundational to loving and obeying God. Some of the most quoted and powerful mandates to have the right kind of fear were given by Solomon. Proverbs 1: 7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The Lord described Solomon as the wisest man ever and yet he miserably disobeyed a direct command of the Lord that came with a clear warning. The Lord warned the Israelites not to marry foreign wives because they would turn their hearts after their gods.

God had even appeared to Solomon to promise long life and blessings if he kept His commandments and warnings of doom if he didn’t keep them and if he served and worshiped idols

His love and desire of women would likely be labeled as sexual addiction today. How could he defy God and not be afraid of the consequences?

We can become so enamored with something that we lose our fear that protects us.

Solomon’s story was familiar to me, I realized that he not only married foreign women, he had an insane number (700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines). He even worshiped their false gods. I didn’t realize that the worship of two of the false gods was associated with the horrific sacrifice of children as burnt offerings. Even if he didn't sacrifice children, If Solomon was so wise, how could he have lived so foolishly? I don’t understand, and yet I unfortunately kinda do.

He not only was tolerant of idolatry, he even personally practiced it, worshiping images of wood and stone in the sight of the very temple which, in his early years, he had built to worship the Lord.

I was horrified as I thought of his decline. I am also greatly confused. How could he have been wise? I think of how I have frequently prayed that God would give me wisdom and help me to Follow it. The right kind of fear can help us follow wisdom. We need to fear doing what God has warned us not to do. If Solomon had followed the wisdom given him, he would not have squandered God’s blessings on his personal selfish pleasure. If he had followed his wisdom he would have kept his healthy fear intact.

As I read Ecclesiastes, I seem to hear despair and depression threaded in Solomon’s warnings. He aims to answer some of life’s most challenging questions. He concludes, from his unwise behavior, that the aim of life is to fear God and keep His commandments. Ecclesiastes 12: 13,14 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.”

I felt great sorrow when reflecting over how such a wise and blessed man had succumb to such devastating decline and sin. Ecclesiastes message gives me comfort and hope that Solomon repented and never let go of his faith in God. The overriding message he left us with is that those who fear God and keep His commandments have the hope of the good life and that this is the only reasonable response of faith. Conversely those who refuse to take God and His Word seriously are doomed to lives of the severest vanity.

Fearing God doesn't mean that we have to view Him as some big bully who will strike us with no concern for our suffering. Recall the old phrase that parents sometimes gave before a spanking, "This is going to hurt me more than you." Kids likely thought, "No it doesn't, it hurts me!" Yet the Lord who had clearly and lovingly instructed Solomon had wanted to protect and prosper him. He wanted Solomon to not only love Him, but to also to believe what He had told him. Its like a parent saying, if you touch that hot stove, it will burn you. The parent also hurts to see his child suffer, even when he or she caused it by disobeying. The Lord hurts and is moved by our suffering, even when, like Solomon, we brought it on by doing the very thing we were warned not to do. Our desire overshadowed our needed fear.

Solomon suffered from the imbalance of trying to enjoy life without regard for the fear of God’s judgment that would have protected him and kept him on the path of obedience. Doesn’t that describe much of society today? Everyone seems to be trying to enjoy life with no fear of the consequences of disobedience to God. We have plenty of fear—but it’s the wrong kind. The kind that costs billions, probably trillions of dollars—in medication, counseling, divorces, booze, crime, and a variety of outcomes that could bankrupt our reserves. Yet, the fear that could save our children, save our families, save our country, and save our souls is lacking. We are too enamored with our own pleasure to notice the vanishing fear with the consequences mounting. Solomon would scream, “Don’t do as I”. Can you hear him?

6 years ago Lessons from My Daughter: Getting our X-rays

    I recently posted a blog about the power of owning our sin. Owning our sin means that we take responsibility, admit, and repent for our wrongs instead of denying, minimizing, blaming others, or excusing and justifying it. It got me wondering about the various reasons we don’t. Of course, we may be in denial or deceived. Pride, shame, and fear may keep us from true confession and repentance. We may not want to see it, because we don’t want to give up our sin.

    In exploring these possible reasons, I recognize that sometimes we are blinded. I recall many years ago talking to the Lord about noticing how many Christians have blind spots—not recognizing sin in them. I was nudged—“I must have blind spots too”. While that wasn’t a pleasant thought, I knew that I needed to ask the Lord to search me and show me what was in me that was sin that I didn’t recognize.

    It was easier for me to do that because I had become more aware of God’s deep and safe Grace and Mercy. When we don’t see the Lord accurately, we don’t approach Him, as we should. As I asked the Lord to reveal in me what I needed to see, He was clear, yet gentle. I didn’t feel overwhelmed with shame and fear. I felt loved and accepted. I knew the Lord wanted to help me.

    He showed me areas of selfishness and wrong that I didn’t recognize as such. I still get nudged at times with reminders that I am being critical, judgmental, or having a bad attitude. I may be nudged that I am getting too caught up in my pride, selfishness, or controlling attempts to make things happen that I don’t have the right or power to control. I need the nudges. I also don’t want to have to be slammed instead of nudged. I also don’t want to become so affected by my blindness to sin that I leave my family or me open for increasing harm.

    While God doesn’t give or want us to have a spirit of fear, He does want us to have the right kind of fear. I want to be alert to my blind spots; that I still likely have them. I want to be fearful of not asking Him to show me what I may not enjoy seeing, but need to see.

    Satan tries to get us to view God inaccurately-as unapproachable, demanding and ready to punish our wrongs, or unconcerned. He sure doesn’t want us to recognize our vulnerability to have blind spots. He doesn’t want us to see the protection we need that comes from having essential deep probing of our insides by the Holy Spirit.

When my daughter was little, she had cancer. The kind she had was fast growing, could kill, and was resistant. Even after chemotherapy was completed, they x-rayed her every month for a year, then every 6 weeks, every 8, and so on for a long, long time. She still gets checked and x-rayed. Why?

They want to catch it early and blast it away as quickly as possible. While the threat of her childhood cancer is considered over, she still is checked.

My experience with my daughter taught me much. I also recognize that just like those tiny cells could multiple and become a tumor that was so destructive it could take over and kill even organs, my sin can cause vast destruction. I need my insides x-rayed frequently.

6 years ago Lessons from My Son

This is a longer blog than I usually write. I tend to stop reading when a blog is too long. Yet, I still felt compelled to share it. I hope to do a series on lessons from my children. I begin with my son today.

When my son was growing up, he accused me of loving to lecture. If he only knew, I thought. I would tell him, “I hate having to lecture. Instead, I just wish you would “get” what I am trying to teach you.”

I knew that I needed to follow what I taught other parents to do: 1) explain 2) set consequences, and 3) follow through. Excessive lecturing or arguing is not effective. Instead, it causes harm—it depletes energy, since it is wasted energy. It fuels frustration and it gives undue attention and power to the one you are lecturing and arguing with.

    So why did I keep doing it? I yearned to protect my son. One of the most common lectures I gave was birthed from my heartfelt fear of what was going to happen to him if he didn’t learn to admit or “own” his wrongs. From early childhood on, he was my one child who would resist admitting his fault or failure. He tended to always blame someone else or he would argue or defend his actions.

    He would accuse me of always having to be right. He truly made it sound like he thought the problem was that I always thought I was right. Over the years, I recognize he might have a point in that I do tend to think I am right most of the time—one of my faults I’m sure.

The other belief he had I didn’t accept, at least not completely. He thought I just had to win the argument. There are many times, I hoped I was wrong. Yet, I knew deep within me that there was a huge problem in him not admitting his wrongs, even when caught.

    Watching my son’s resistance in admitting his wrong; listening to him make excuses or blame his wrong actions on some circumstance or someone else, provided me with a clear illustration of what most of us do, even if not as pervasively. Watching I learned what we must look like to God. Being in the play by play with him, also gave me insight into how the Lord feels when we do the same thing.

    I tried to enlighten my son about the danger of resisting self-evaluation, of not taking responsibility for our actions, and refusing to admit when we did wrong. The Lord tries to enlighten the same to us through His Word. Story after story is told throughout the Bible, His teaching manual, of the effects and consequences for those resisting owning their sin and the amazing outcomes for those who did.

Like my son, some hear those stories and sermons as just lectures that they are tired of. They see the Lord as just wanting to always be the boss for only selfish reasons. They don’t see His attempts as trying to protect and help us.

When trying to teach my son, I had already had a vast history of personal experience in finding out that God was gracious, forgiving, and merciful when I fully owned my failures, admitted without excuses my sin, and asked for His forgiveness. Making excuses and blaming others never got me anywhere but in a bad place.

In his early twenties my son made a confession to me. He told me that when he argued with me so much growing-up that most of the time he knew deep down that I was right. I was shocked. I would never have known that he felt this way. He had me fooled completely. He really seemed to believe that he thought he had done no wrong. I didn’t know whether to be horrified or relieved by his confession. I choose to be encouraged and hopeful about it.

Yet, I also recalled my hurt, frustration, and fear that colored our relationship during those times of struggling. I loved him. But, it caused pain during those conflicts.

I also realize that we cause pain to our Lord when we resist owning our sin. When we minimize it, make excuses for it, deny it, or blame it on someone else, I wonder if God’s heart is pricked like mine was. It hindered the joy of my son’s and my relationship at times, just like it hinders ours’ with the Lord. He never stops loving us, just like I never stopped loving my son. However, the communion and pleasure of our time together was high jacked during those times.

Most importantly, we make ourselves vulnerable to the enemy, who will influence and hurt us as much as allowed. We rob ourselves of God’s forgiveness, restoration, and protection. Why in the world would we do this if we knew that our confession and owning our wrongs would bring God’s grace, forgiveness, and restoration? I still can’t answer that.

There were countless times that I tried to teach my son the truth that if he confessed, the consequences would be much less, sometimes even eliminated. I repeatedly tried to get my children to see the importance of owning their wrongs, knowing that it will also position them for help.

When my son genuinely expressed his remorse while admitting his wrong, my heart always melted. I would feel the love and joy overtake me as I relished the moment. The closeness and connection between us was precious.

The Lord has shown me that this is how it is for Him when I similarly admit and repent. As I pour out my attempts to let Him know that I am sorry for hurting Him, His heart melts and I believe He feels the tenderness to me as I do for my son.

I don’t expect perfection from my son. The Lord doesn’t expect it from me. But I do want honesty and a willingness to own his wrongs. My Lord lets me know that He wants the same.

The Lord has taught me so much through my son. He also taught me through His.

** By the way-I made sure that my son was okay with me posting this. Maybe he’s getting better than I at some things! Guess he’s teaching

6 years ago Life Under God's Wing

We are living in a time of distress and uncertainty. We are plundering through the horrific battle of presidential nominations. The Presidential debates were notorious. Some people cringe with fear at the possibility of a certain candidate winning. Others profess horrific consequences to come if a different candidate becomes President. Every candidate provokes fear and disgust in someone.

Since the fall, our world is not lovely. It’s infested with greed, immorality, and evil. It seems like the straying away from God has went from occasional detours and slow decline to an increasing race to get as far away as possible. It like the sin dial was cranked to high speed. Rules of morality were replaced with goals to live in whatever ways makes one happy, no matter how it affects our moral codes or defies God’s commandants.

The threat of mass decline and misguided leadership has birthed much fear. Like me, do you need a reminder of God’s protection? Psalm 91 provides it beautifully. It may become my stand-by that needs to be read almost daily in the months to come. The Presidential elections always tend to provoke the “what ifs” and impending doom predictions.

Yet I am reminded: Psalm 91:1: He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (The secret place is an intimate place of divine protection).
2: I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
3: Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.
4: He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

Life under God's wing is where I want to stay in all this mess and craziness. We are clearly shown that when we need refuge, we can find it under His wing.

8: Only with your eyes shall you look and see the reward of the wicked.
What reassurance is this verse—it’s saying that the righteous are so safe when disaster is all around them, that they are only spectators.

With Christ as Savior, we are the righteous. We will be spectators of increasing moral decline and judgment upon those defying the Lord. Run to Psalm 91 and pray for the lost to be found, truth to be proclaimed and revival to come.

6 years ago It Will Be Well With My Soul

Today was a distressing day in which I was faced with an unjust and pervasive trend occurring in the world that is victimizing many. Without giving specifics, let me add that what is happening is perfectly legal, while clearly wrong. Most of the day I felt grief, anger, disbelief, and powerlessness about what I had learned. It seemed even more alarming to know that the general public doesn’t even know about such.

I struggled to get peace and relief, yet wasn’t sure that I didn’t need to keep some of my distress. In Isaiah we are told that Jesus was a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. I believed He grieved about the hurt in the world, the cruel injustices that prevail, and those who try to do right that are victimized.

I was in a war between that part of me that wanted peace and relief and the other part that wanted justice and needed to grieve for the hurting. I seemed to vacillate between them. My struggling led me to aim for hope.

Do you also desperately need to be reminded of hope? Are you in a situation that is so hurtful and unfair that you need hope like a smothering person gasping for that fix that only air could give? I can relate. Our need is multiplied drastically when we are in such cruel and painful situations and we feel powerless.

In my experience today, I felt the tears of frustration knowing that I can’t make the giants before me do right. I can’t stop the injustice. Yet, I love the hope that the Lord reminded me of. Jesus’ sweet model prayer makes me wonder if Jesus also felt like I did today as He prayed, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven”. In Heaven, people won’t victimize others.

Probably my greatest frustration today was that those part of the injustice acted as if what was happening was fine and completely justified. When pushed with reason, they shirked responsibility and blamed others.

Are you in this situation? If you aren’t, I bet you have been some time in your life. We all have been. I encourage you with the hope I cling to. The Lord is gracious and compassionate and when we are where His perfect will is done, all will be well with our soul.

6 years ago Don't Settle for Wine over Treasure

With Valentine’s Day just behind us, I wonder how many found themselves feeling unloved. I went into a McDonalds on Valentine’s Day and saw hearts and Valentine décor galore on the walls, ceiling, and counters. I found myself wondering about who had decided to put all that up. I think it was a young person, probably a girl. Some of the decorations looked handmade.

People yearn to be loved. I can’t imagine people not embracing Jesus if they knew Him, since He is the epitome of love. I have heard pastors tell a new Christian to start reading in the book of John. I wondered why so many times John was advocated as the place to begin—as if it was a good introduction to the Lord. I figured that they wanted new converts to understand about the love of God, displayed through Christ.

Recently, I began reading John with a quest to have a fresh insight into the love of Christ. I got to the first recorded miracle of Jesus in the second chapter of John where he turned water into wine.

While this was a familiar passage, I realized how I had overlooked the real nugget of truth embedded in the scripture. I always thought that Jesus’ response to his mother when she told him that they were out of wine seemed rude. He stated, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

I knew that Jesus is love and He would not have been hurtful in the way I was interpreting. My study Bible pointed out that using the word Woman was not an impolite term for then, but instead was a way to distance Himself from His mother and her request. Again, I thought, isn’t that hurtful and rude? Yet, as I read on, I understand.

The thrust of his statement was to emphasize His mission on earth. He knew the human heart and how people would be drawn to the miraculous and for what He could do for them in their temporary earthly life. They would want the wine he provided, instead of their redemption. They could miss the whole point. They would settle for a cheap sign of love and overlook the essence of real and abiding love. This simple statement that seemed abrupt, was profound.

Just like Jesus thought, I too had paid attention to the miracle he performed instead of the profound truth He was trying to secure: that He had a mission to rescue us from destruction and secure our salvation. In fact, most refer to this passage emphasizing that this was His first recorded miracle. What was important instead, was that He was trying to clearly emphasize why He came and what was really important.

As I look around at the wrappings of Valentine’s Day, I see the candy boxes, paper hearts, and flowers. They are sweet and enjoyable, like the wine was delightful and welcomed by those at the wedding where Jesus attended. Yet, I know deep within me that love is so much more. Jesus’ words that seemed harsh to me have taken on a new meaning. He was intent on trying to get us to see what real love is and how to follow His lead to victory.

I cringe to think of abusive people injuring the heart of the person they are supposed to love one minute and then giving them valentine cards, candy, or flowers the next. I want to shout to the injured, don’t settle for a cheap and easily purchased candy or card. Jesus also wanted us to recognize there’s something so much more valuable that He offers than cheap wine. We live for our temporary comforts and pleasure, while ignoring the treasures we are offered for eternity. We are prone to be enticed by trinkets, and pass over the jewels before us.

Sometimes we don’t recognize love. The showy expressions impress us; while we don’t distinguish the deep sacrificial love that Jesus so passionately wanted us to embrace. The wine was pleasurable, but don’t settle for wine over real treasure.

6 years ago Examine My Insides Lord

Recently, I went to a long awaited appointment with a medical specialist. I had gone to him about symptoms suggestive of arthritis. I mostly went because I was concerned that I would become contorted from rheumatoid arthritis like some of my ancestors. I also wanted him to address other concerns for which one wouldn’t go to a rheumatologist. I thought he might be offended and unwilling to address symptoms outside of his area. Yet, I wanted someone to assess several possible concerns, some of which may be nothing but the aging process.

I was delighted that he was so thorough and knowledgeable that each and every concern I told him of he welcomed and appeared equipped to explore. While I don’t wish for problems, I was so relieved to be so thoroughly evaluated. I not only had to disrobe for a physical exam, I had to have several x-rays, and extensive blood work.

Why don’t we want that same kind of assessment emotionally and spiritually? With my physical exam, I knew that if he found something, I had a chance to make it better. I might not like a diagnosis, but my not knowing about it wasn’t going to just make it go away.

Similarly, the Lord is so gracious and willing to help us if we are willing to be examined and exposed in ways that might cause pain, but also will open the door for healing and His help. I am intrigued and awed by David’s plea in Psalm 139: 23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting”.

I won't enjoy seeing wickedness in me. I might have myself convinced there isn’t anything bad enough to be labeled wicked. David so wanted to be led into righteousness, he was not only willing to bear his heart to such a stringent evaluation, he asked for it. He also was open enough about himself to realize that there may be wickedness of which he was unaware. He knew he wasn’t above such. He knew not to trust his own opinion of himself. He needed the Great Physician to x-ray his insides.

I know a woman who avoids going to the doctor and instead just proclaims her own diagnoses over herself. Of course, her diagnoses are always mild and not nearly as dangerous as ones that might be more accurate. Symptoms of severe heart problems she explained as being overweight and out of shape. Luckily, she was practically forced by others to go for a medical exam that led to open heart surgery that spared her life in the nick of time.

We may look at her pattern of diagnosing herself and avoiding exams as ludicrous. However, many of us do the same thing about our emotional and spiritual condition.

“Lord, help us be willing to regularly ask for you to examine and expose our insides. Help us not trust our own perceptions and diagnoses. Help us want to please You so much that we are willing to face any pain that the results of our examination may bring. If we know You like David did, we will feel the safety of You doing the exam. You are gracious, merciful, and love us so much that You want to forgive, heal, restore, and protect us. Just like I had to disrobe at the doctor’s office, help us disrobe before You".

6 years ago Hope for the Hurting

It seems that every day I am confronted with how much of what happens shouldn’t happen. I guess it doesn’t take long for all of us to realize this growing up. Tragedies, injustices, and just people treating each other so hurtfully define much of life here in a fallen world.

Just now I was listening to a heartbroken woman tell details of her past and current life that could almost overwhelm me if I let it. My first instinct is to somehow fix it. It only takes seconds for me to realize that I can’t.

I can’t cure bodies, I can’t make people act like they should, and I can’t make the world live by fair rules. But I could listen, care, and remind her of whose love is unfailing. I was feeling inadequate and thinking that I was probably such a disappointment to the woman looking for me to help.

Yet, I was humbled and encouraged as I heard her sincere expression of how much it helped to talk with me. I was almost at a loss for words as I listened to how much calmer and hopeful her voice sounded.

This brief encounter demonstrated the power of someone caring, the power of being reminded of who God is, and how someday things will be as they should be. It also reminded me of how we are made in God’s image and how when we respond from that part of us like Him, beautiful things happen.

Recently, there was a local accident in which a young child was airlifted to a trauma center hospital with what appeared to be injuries that would likely end in tragedy. There was an outpouring of people texting, posting on Facebook, and displaying deep hurt and heartfelt prayers. I thought to myself, this is the heart of Christ. This is that part in us that’s like Him and it is absolutely beautiful and how our Creator meant it to be. What’s reassuring to all those turning to me with pain is to know that this is just a glimpse of what it will be in Heaven.

Most who know me well, know that I talk much about eternity. It helps keep me not only sane in an insane world, but it also helps me stay focused on what really matters. It also gives me a great pain reliever to offer hurting people.

6 years ago Uncover: The Real God, The Real You, and The Real Enemy

The intrigue of people is largely what drew me into wanting to become a psychologist. People can have such different personalities even when they come from the same family. When you watch people, do you notice that some seem to be outgoing and comfortable with most everyone, while others are reserved and seem closed? Some are very disciplined, while others are a mess. Sometimes we notice other people’s habits, traits, flaws, and strengths and ignore our own.

How accurate are our own perceptions of ourselves? I venture to say that even those of us who think we know ourselves well, don’t nearly as much as we think. On the other hand, we know more about how we really feel than anyone besides Jesus if we really take the time and effort to uncover our deepest thoughts, emotions, hurts, and yearnings.

Many have challenged us with inspiring messages concerning the New Year. We have been encouraged to lose weight, get out of debt, and go after our dreams. I join in by challenging us to let this be the year that we come to know ourselves and God like never before. The more we understand our Maker and ourselves, the more we can embrace being who God uniquely designed and living the life He ordained. Join me on “Uncover: The Real God, The Real You, and The Real Enemy” on CWA blog radio/spreaker. Each week I will be exploring and hopefully share what we all can benefit from uncovering.

6 years ago Seeing the full picture: Living by Faith

As we begin the New Year, many are thinking about what they need to change. While they usually think of bad habits, we also need to think of attitudes. We might need to drop some and add others. On CWA blog radio, I began the New Year with a new series on my weekly show, “Uncover”. I chose to address faith because it is so essential for living effectively.

In researching faith, I am eager to share how it shows up in our attitudes. Faith promotes gratitude, reverence, hope, and patience. When I think of faith, I think of how essential it is to understand who God is and to always live with eternity in mind.

The preacher, Francis Chan, gives a powerful illustration of eternity that would be great to see daily as a reminder. Picture holding the end of a rope that represents your existence. It stretches farther than you can see. It actually goes on forever. Yet, as humans we have difficulty with picturing forever, so just realize that it goes as far as your vision can reach.

As you look down at the rope you are holding, the end has about an inch of it colored red. That’s the part of your existence that is on earth. It seems insignificant as you look at the length of the rope. Yet, that is what we focus on. Most obsess about those fews years on earth, not even thinking about the million, upon millions of years that go on forever. What other deception can be as great as that?

We even obsess about a sliver of the rope that we aim for reaching: Having the house paid for, having enough money to retire well on so that we can live in style. We obsess about having a good time during that little portion of our existence.

When we look at the rope going on forever, hopefully we realize how foolish we have been to put all our attention, feelings, and efforts into such a snippet of our existence. Its an even more sobering thought as we come to understand that how we live that little snippet affects how we experience the rest of our existence.

Each time we visualize the rope, we get a wake-up. I have the chance to affect my eternity by how I live in this brief life that is not even an eye blink compared to eternity. While Jesus made it possible for us to even be able to face eternity with hope, we affect our rewards or regrets by choices during these few short years.

If you really get the picture, like me, you will believe that this understanding of our earthly life compared to eternity is what propels us to live well, to live wisely, and to truly live by faith.

6 years ago The "Faith Hall of Fame"

Even though I don’t think New Years is the only time we can begin needed changes, it is a time that many people reflect and dig deeper into trying to live life better. I can’t imagine living life well without faith.

How do we face such a world without it? We all have likely questioned why certain experiences happened and why desired other ones didn’t. Christians recognize that this isn’t our home and that we look to another where we won’t need faith—we will be in the Lord’s presence, absent from evil, and within the realm of God’s perfect will. Until then, we need faith like we need air.

What does faith look like? You might be surprised what is found in the famous “Faith Hall of Fame" provided in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Many different faces of faith are described and provide us a clear case study on faith. Join me at CWA blog talk radio/spreaker as I explore the “Faith Hall of Fame” on my weekly show: Uncover.

6 years ago New Beginnings

As my husband and I take down the tinsel, lights, and Christmas tree, I think about the New Year beginning. We’ve never made a big deal about New Year. I don’t understood why so many do. It’s another day in our brief life on earth. It’s not any more of a new beginning or chance than any other day. We have the same opportunity to start over, to make needed changes, and to embrace the life God designed for us any other day that we choose.

Maybe we like having some sort of tangible sign that we have a new chance that the New Year provides. It’s funny how some talk about having a bad year or a good year as if the whole year is defined as one chapter of our lives.

I find it helpful to take a day at a time, even a moment at a time. If we redirect our thoughts and actions to truth, we can turn around those dark and destructive episodes. We can begin again each and every moment if we remind ourselves of truth. When we are disappointed in ourselves, hurt by others, and feel that we are of no value, let us remind ourselves that that we were created by a God that wants us, loves us, values us, and suffered greatly to protect and redeem us.

Reminded of truth, we can create a fresh start like those who see the New Year as a blank screen to be written upon.

6 years ago Taking our Stance for Jesus

Next week is Christmas, which is the chosen day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. While we aren’t sure of His exact birthday, December 25th has been the day decided upon long ago. The world has made Christmas mostly about Santa, parties, and an excuse to be off work. When décor and attention is given to Christ, it shows the form He came to earth - a sweet baby.

Recently, my mom was at my house for a dinner party and noticed that our outdoor nativity had baby Jesus lying on the ground. The manger was broken and we hadn’t repaired it yet or found what to replace it with. My mom was so appalled and distraught about Jesus lying on the ground, she insisted we find something in which to place the plastic baby Jesus. I found a basket and she tenderly placed Him first in a towel to wrap His cold body and then in the basket that protected Him from the cold, hard ground.

We associate the baby Jesus with Christmas, while His birth was a means to an end; His crucifixion. This end was actually the beginning for us in that it secured our ability to be heirs of salvation. I can’t seem to see the baby, without thinking of the man.

As I think again of that baby Jesus thirty three years later being the Savior hung on a cross, Christmas takes on the meaning that is declared in Hebrews 1: 1-3 “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He Hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the Worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High”

While we celebrate Christmas, we know that America is now under attack like never before. We have had wars in the past. But the current terrorist war on America and the evading evil has infiltrated our homeland like never before. Many here at home have invited some of the tide of deception and vulnerability.

In turn, Christianity is under attack from within. Believers are being shunned and attacked as the enemy, the abusers, the haters, and unfair. Even some professed Christians are being deceived into compromising to the point of accepting what the Bible declares as sin as being acceptable and right.

We are deluded into thinking that we should embrace those who deny that Jesus is the Son of God as being just as valid in their thinking as the Bible. While we should always love others and treat them as Jesus would, we are not to say that all beliefs are equally valid. That would be ludicrous. How could we say that Jesus is the only way to salvation and at the same time say that other’s beliefs are just as true?

I was awed as I watched mom’s treatment of the plastic replica of baby Jesus as a treasure that was cherished by her touch. That precious baby grew up to pay a huge painful price brought on by those sins we declare as acceptable. Watching mom made me feel ashamed of my careless actions that had placed him on the ground.

Then I turn my attention to how most treat Jesus. We have enjoyed decades of mostly peaceful times in the homeland of America. Yes, there have been crimes, evil, and tragedies. However, for the most part Christians were not persecuted. We have been spoiled in comparison to other parts of the world.

I never dreamed of Christianity being persecuted in my lifetime. However, it is here and we will either rise to be strengthened in our faith or decline in backing off in fear or apathy. It seems that the early New Testament Church and those persecuted in other countries have tended to be more motivated, focused, and willing to suffer for their faith. Oh, that we will too.

When we face not just ridicule, but attack, loss, possible arrest, fines, or even death, how will we respond? When we are pressured to conform to wrong, will we resist? When we see deception, will we fight with truth and resistance? Hebrews 1:3 needs to be our reminder of why we won’t ever surrender to those against Jesus, who we declare defines Christmas.

6 years ago The Greatest Gift

As the days till Christmas fly by, so do my opportunities to connect with the one we are supposed to be celebrating. It’s a wonder that most don’t think it’s all about Santa and having parties. It amazes me that the Christmas movies, décor, and greetings mostly show everything but Jesus.

I am guilty myself of getting wrapped up in all the fluff. I run from shopping, planning, and doing the festive dance. I love Christmas and even the traditions that seem silly to many. Heck, I still fill stockings for my grown children and husband.

Yet, as the Christmas lights twinkle both inside and outside my house, I find myself getting a check in my spirit. Do I love the one who birthed all the true hope that Christmas represents? Do I pray that all will come to know that God loves them so deeply that He wanted to right all the wrongs, heal all the hurts, and be with each and every one of us forever?

Do I keep the hope of Christ alive in not only my heart and mind, but in my daily walk and talk? The décor will come down in a few weeks. The lights will be shut off. The presents unwrapped and some even discarded. We will go on with our rituals and tasks of life.

Will we plunge through life either surviving the stresses or grasping for the coveted achievements we think will define success? Will we remember? The greatest gift is ready for embracing, cherishing, and protecting and He is called Jesus.

6 years ago Great Beginnings to Tragic Ends

If I didn’t think people could be transformed and change, I wouldn’t have become a psychologist in private practice. What would be the point? While many don’t make needed changes, many do. I have been thrilled to witness progress and change for the better.

However, people also change for the worse. That intrigues me. How does that sensitive and considerate boy become an embittered man? How does that honest and kind woman become selfish and deceptive?

The story of Saul, who was chosen to become the first King of Israel sheds some light on how decline sometimes comes. Saul, who had started out so well, had become disobedient, proud, jealous, and a mess of a man. His kingdom was taken from him and given to another.

From Saul we see the danger of not following the Lord’s directions and commands. We see the danger of taking matters into our own hands, independent of the Lord. We see the danger of getting too proud and being unwilling to take direction. Much devastation was provoked by jealousy. We definitely see his later decline, as he became a bitter, vindictive, and deceptive man.

Like Saul, our disobedience affects not just us, but also our families. On CWA blog radio/spreaker, I will be exploring what led to Saul’s decline on Uncover, the weekly show I host. We can learn from other’s successes and failures. These stories were included for our benefit. They illustrate truths that can help save our destiny, protect us from our own decline, and advance our families and future.

6 years ago Helping or Hurting

Why do we try to fix everyone’s problems as if we are that powerful? Why do we try to keep everyone from being disappointed? Why do we feel guilty for telling someone no?

Maybe you’re thinking that you don’t try to fix everyone’s problems, you don’t think you can prevent all disappointments, and you don’t feel guilty for saying no. If so, you likely didn’t get programed for feeling responsible for the world.

However, many (especially women) have been programed this way. Just recently, another woman complained that she felt guilty if she didn’t try to do everything to help, even if it meant taking responsibility for others who were capable. We sometimes hinder others’ development and learning by trying to make everything easy for them, for doing what they should do for themselves, or for removing the painful consequences of their choices.

How do we tell the difference between being merciful and getting in the way of another’s development? Its not always clear-cut. However, staying in tune with the Holy Spirit provides the means for that nudge to guide us. Next, we must be willing to obey, even if it means others we love will suffer. Trusting God to want the best for our loved ones is essential if we are to stop rescuing and removing consequences that may not only help them grow, but sometimes even saves their soul.

6 years ago No Headaches in Heaven

Her face looked tense and she absently rubbed her forehead. I recognized the signs that her head was throbbing with another of her frequent headaches. I grieve for my friend who has been plagued with headaches, some even debilitating, for decades.

I recall the years of headaches my mother endured while I was growing-up. Once I remember being amazed as I watched the hair on the top of her head move back and forth likely in sync with the throbbing.

I am sure there are many irritants that trigger headaches: stress, allergens, and high blood pressure, to name a few. As I talk with my friend, I yearn for her head to stop hurting. I realize it probably won’t anytime soon. Also, unless a miracle happens, she will have many more to face in the future.

Yet, I also feel the relief knowing that there will be a time when she will never again experience the pain that has taken her head captive with no warning and with no way to stop it. Someday she will no longer be at the mercy of whatever hijacks her and keeps her prisoner until it decides to relent its vice grip on her brain.

Whatever our pain and whatever we are at mercy to will someday be gone. We can choose to follow Christ to a place far better than over the rainbow.

6 years ago Open Our Eyes

One of the strongest human drives is to feel significant. It begins early in life. Toddlers try to get that coveted recognition as they turn somersaults waiting for dad’s applause and mom’s words of acclaim. “How smart you are!” “Wow, you can jump so high.” Such praise fertilizes the growing desire for more.

Some people go through life still doing somersaults trying to prove to the world that they are significant. What’s crazy is that we still think that mere humans can establish whether we are significant or not. We may think we don’t succumb like others to this need to be admired, but sadly, we do.

Satan has milked this need to feel significant and this deception that we aren’t since the beginning. The first chapter of Ephesians is a powerful antidote for our insecurity if we grasp its full meaning. Paul’s message clearly establishes our significance that has been determined by God, not humans.

I can’t imagine how differently life would be if we didn’t strive so for feeling significant in others’ eyes. If we relaxed and accepted how God feels about us and everyone else too, we would do life very differently. Many come closer to this as they move into the senior years. While our bodies may fall apart, our spiritual eyes get keener.

Paul’s earnest quest was that his fellow believers would have their “eyes of understanding be enlightened; that they might know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19)

Open our eyes of understanding Lord.

6 years ago Desperate for Hope

With the craziness of the world spinning out of control, people seem to be trying to find some footing, anchor, or refuge to cling to for surviving. We may have heard of impending doom with each generation. Yet, I can only add my own voice in declaring that there has never been a time such as now in my personal history of life.

People seem to be hesitant to even listen to the news anymore. Children are being snatched right and left, even from ballgames, front yards, and places we associated with safety, fun, and carefree childhood. Terrorists have become the norm and we wait for the next attack. Instead of facing their enemies in the open, they attack in secret, like those who hit someone in the back and then run for cover.

Many are fearful to go to malls, stadiums, and even movie theaters. Some are even fearful of sending their children to school.

We live in a world that gives perverted messages. What God declares as right, is labeled as wrong and what the Almighty defines as evil, is promoted as good.

We are desperate for hope and direction. While there has never been a time such as now in spinning towards destruction, there has never been a time such as now for those who love Jesus to unite, to declare hope in the darkness, and to lead the way.

I wonder if others feel like I do at times. It’s as if I am still in shock, reeling from the changes that have perverted the world I knew even a decade ago. Its like I need to catch my breath, to collect myself, and then to get equipped for this new chapter in the war.

Fear is ever present, ready to bombard us with the “what ifs” that come for standing against the sin that is promoted as being enlightened, accepting, and open to expression. I never dreamed that in my lifetime we would face legal action for following the Word. Yet, that time is here and it isn’t going away.

I hurt for my grandchildren who will never know childhood like I did. We played outdoors for hours with our parents never even knowing exactly where we were. We might be having an adventure in the alley playing kick the can when I lived in Detroit. We might be playing on our homemade houseboat that consisted of planks spread across the creek banks when living in Tennessee. We road our bikes, went to each other’s homes for snacks, and no one thought to be afraid for our well being.

With all that seems so dark, I run to the Word. I read of God’s faithfulness, His care for those who love Him, and His promise to pour His spirit out in the last days. I read that many will be filled with His spirit and lead others to salvation and hope.

Counseling for decades has firmly shown me the universal desperate need for Hope. It’s there for the taking. When I read in Psalms of David’s desperate cries to the Lord when he felt hopeless, I can relate. Each time, David found hope and we will too if we cry out to the same Lord who has provided help and hope from the beginning of time.

6 years ago What's Love Got To Do With It?

Do you recall the song “What’s love got to do with it” recorded by Tina Turner in the 1980’s? It was her most successful single. Was it because of its catchy beat, her raspy voice, or because so many of us could relate to its message?

The lyrics tell a story:
“You must understand though the touch of your hand
Makes my pulse react
That it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl
Opposites attract
It’s physical
Only logical
You must try to ignore that it means more than that
What's love got to do, got to do with it
What's love but a second hand emotion
What's love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken"

Tina Turner had gone public with the abuse she suffered in her marriage. The beatings, cheating on her, and disrespect sure didn’t look like love. No wonder she would sing, “What’s love got to do with it?” Who wants to have their heart broken?

Yet, if we are going to really live, love has everything to do with it. The disciple John understood that to really know the Lord, one would see and recognize love. The challenge of life and the most powerful medicine for our hurt is to recognize and embrace God’s love. No wonder Satan has tried to blind us from recognizing God’s love from the beginning.

When John was distinguishing between children of God and children of the devil, he referred to Cain as from the evil one. As I read of Cain and Able, I found myself thinking that Cain must not have recognized the love behind God’s responses to him whenever his offering was not accepted.

God’s first response to Cain after the rejection of his offering was to notice Cain’s emotional condition. “So the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry: And why has your countenance fallen?” (Genesis 4:6).

We women relate loving someone with noticing and caring about how that person feels. God cared enough to notice Cain’s countenance and ask about his feelings. He followed this response with another that also displayed love. He encouraged Cain by telling him “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4: 7)

It’s like telling a friend who has just failed the test or faced disappointment, “Hey, keep trying and you will get it”.

God gives a third loving response, He warns. “And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)
Why would we warn someone if we didn’t care about him or her? God not only warns Cain, he lovingly instructs him what to do to protect him. He tells him to rule over sin. If God didn’t think Cain had the ability, He wouldn’t tell him to rule over it.

After all these loving responses and efforts God made toward him, Cain goes out and murders his brother, Abel.

Surely, he didn’t recognize and interpret love in all these attempts on God’s part. Wonder if we also don’t sometimes fail in recognizing God’s love. Living in a fallen world with hurtful events and unjust situations, we might lose sight. That’s likely why it was so important for Paul to offer his famous prayer in Ephesians to his brethren. His prayer was focused on those who were already believers. Maybe we all need reminders of the need for increasing knowledge of God’s love.

“Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (Ephesians 1: 15-18)

If only Cain's eyes had been open to the revelation of love behind God's actions.

**Join me on CWA radio network/spreaker on the show “Uncover” as we explore what love has to do with it.

6 years ago Jewels From John (Part 2)

    John keeps providing us hope by giving timeless messages of the power of our prayers. In I John 5: 14-15, we read, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.

    I am so glad John didn’t make those flippant promises like greedy, shallow advertisers do. Instead, he told us that IF we love and follow Christ, our prayers are powerful. He didn’t say God will grant any request that is selfish or out of line with what’s best. Those that are sincere and line up with His will (which is always for good) are heard and honored. That means He wants to forgive us, He wants to restore us after a relapse; He wants to empower us to live above the messes.

    As I examine the jewels that John uncovered, I review that I am God’s daughter, that when He comes for me, I will be like Him and I will see Him clearly. The more I recognize who Jesus is, the more I will feel loved and will love like Him. The more I abide and stay close to Him, the more I will be empowered with His Spirit to resist sin and keep His commandments. Yet, I am encouraged to know that God so wanted me close that He sent Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins, to appease God’s Holiness. He knew I would never do it myself. Do I ever agree!

    Just like we should want to find true treasures, we need to protect and value it. John concludes with reminding in II John 1:8 to monitor ourselves and protect our jewels, “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.”

    I urge you to seek the jewels, embrace them, and guard them earnestly as you allow them to light your life with the sparkle of hope.

6 years ago Jewels from John (Part 1)

    John is known as the disciple who had an amazing understanding of the Lord’s love for him. He repeatedly referred to himself as the “one who Jesus loved”. That may sound like he was conceited. However, I think he just knew the Lord more deeply than most. If we truly knew how much we were loved by Jesus the way John did, we would not suffer near as much as we do in life.

    This is evident to me as I read in John’s writings. Its as if his heart’s bursting with delight as he writes I John 3: 1, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

    John sprinkles his messages with jewels that when we find, the quest is to never let them go. To know that we are the sons and daughters of God changes how we not only see ourselves, but also how we face the struggles. Being a psychologist, I hear the heartache people face day in and day out. Some that are particularly painful are feelings of shame people face when bound with addictions and strongholds that they feel define them as failures.

    As if the jewel that John gives in verse one wasn’t precious enough, he follows with verse two (I John 1:2) that gives hope to all of us who claim Jesus as Savior. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”

    It provides a way to turn from overwhelming shame and defeat to anticipation that changes everything. When we feel the despair of failing again, giving in to that sin that keeps coloring our life, John reminds us that in this life we can’t see what we will be. But, when He comes, we shall be like Him! Not only that, we shall see Him as He is. That means, we won’t struggle, we won’t fall, and we won’t disappoint others or ourselves. We will fully see Him, not as that critical father who lets us down. We will see Him in all His glory and full of acceptance and love.

    What greater comfort can we receive or give others stinging with disappointment in ourselves? John goes on to follow with jewel after jewel in his attempt to share what he has learned in walking with Christ. Throughout chapter 3, John shares how when we come to know Christ, we love more like Him. The more we abide in Him, the more we have power to keep His commandments. While we still mess up at times, we have a yearning to follow Him.

    This yearning to love and follow His commandments, reassures us that we are His. When we love someone, we want to please him or her. We sure don’t want to hurt him or her. Don’t you feel unloved by those who don’t seem to care if what they do hurts you or when they show no effort to please you? When we hurt Jesus, we grieve. We also delight in pleasing Him.

    John goes on in Chapter 4 to remind us again of God’s love for us. Maybe he knew that after talking about keeping His commandments, we would need to be reminded. When I see how far I am from never messing up, I love John’s reminders that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins. When you look up the synonyms for propitiation, we find words like appeasement and soothing. You also find definitions like, “to find favor”. So as I look at me, I also need to know that Jesus made it possible for me to find favor with God even when I am stumbling. That provides the soothing we need as we cringe in the face of our addictions, strongholds, and setbacks or stumbles.

6 years ago Messages: Good and Bad

It seems that life has both a good and bad message at all times. The saying goes that every cloud has a silver lining. I say, every promise also comes with a warning. If you follow Jesus’s messages, it will become obvious that he encourages and cautions. He promises and warns.

In the famous message He gives in John 10:10, He tells us the horrifying truth about the enemy and turns around and reassures us with the words that have comforted and provoked hope for all who embrace them. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Recently I listened as a friend was sharing how much John 10:10 has ministered to her during some dark days. She sensed the Lord giving her tender reminders of it when she least expected, but desperately needed. I found myself intrigued that she only referred to the good message, while I seemed more intent on the bad.

She was being encouraged by our Lord’s message. I found myself being more focused on the warning. I sensed the alarm was to be vigilant and obedient in order to not give the enemy legitimate access into a controlling position to harm.

Focusing on only one part of the message sets us up for problems. If we only think about the Lord wanting to give us life and to make it even more abundant, we don’t recognize that He said that He is come that they MIGHT have life. It wasn’t like He was saying all would have life and abundant life because He came.

We not only have to choose Him as Savior and Lord to have life, we also must never forget that He warned us that the enemy is out to destroy. To have abundant life, we have a part to play. When He is our Savior, He is Lord. All through His Word, He gives us instructions and advice on how to live. The enemy attacks, yet when I am following Jesus’ lead, there is great help. When I allow myself to give in to laziness, rebellion, and bitterness, it’s like opening myself up for harm.

On the other hand, if I only focus on the warning message, I would get discouraged, fearful, and maybe even hopeless. Who wants to be a target for a cruel, vicious, and formidable enemy for which I am no match?

And then I hear Jesus . . . “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly”. Words don’t adequately describe the joy, the hope, and the wonder I sense to know that the Lord of Lords, who can strike the enemy down like lightening with just a word, tenderly and passionately loves us that much. How can I ever not love John 10:10?

When I consider that even His warning is birthed from love, I guess both messages are good. Won’t it be great when He never has to give warnings? We call that Heaven!

6 years ago The Greatest Quest

Doesn’t it appear that the older we get, the more time seems to speed up? It was just getting into spring and then its summer. It was beginning into the heat of summer and I turn around and leaves are falling. Yes, for me it seems that the dial on time tends to keep slipping into the faster and faster mode.

With all the talk and awareness of Biblical predictions smacking us in the face, I am mostly attuned to the spiraling advances in technology and knowledge. In Daniel 12: 4, we read, "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: MANY SHALL RUN TO AND FRO, AND KNOWLEDGE SHALL BE INCREASED.” It seems almost at a breakneck speed.

If we had a time line of human history, we would be amazed at the last few decades in comparison to all others. We seem in a mad rush and we can zip from one country to another, talking and even seeing someone across the earth from our common cell phone.

Life is like a fantasy episode from a science fiction movie of the future to those who were born over fifty years ago. I heard a man telling of a neurosurgeon on the cutting edge of medical advancements telling of plans to transplant a human head from one person to another by the year 2017!

In this surge of advancement and knowledge, I watch with secret knowledge of my own. God is not impressed or startled by our proud and even wonderful feats. I inwardly yearn for His wisdom in the race to the finish line. I am reminded of a quote of Henry David Thoreau, born in 1817. “Time is but the stream I go a fishing at. I drink at it, but I while I do I see its sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. It’s thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”

Eternity is so difficult to grasp and yet so necessary to our ability to hope and plan wisely. Wisdom tells me that while it is wonderful to seek and chase advancing our inventions and ways to promote life and minimize suffering, the greatest quest is to know God and to become as close as we can to who He designed us to be. We will leave all the technology and human accomplishments behind one day. What we considered marvelous and world changing will fade and eventually evaporate as we slip from this side of eternity into the next. Oh that we go after the greatest quest.

6 years ago Grieving with Hope

What comes to mind to you when you hear the word, grief? Most think of physical death. Yet, grief comes in many ways. The breakup of a treasured friendship, heartbreak over being betrayed, death of a marriage, loss of a job, and grief over the vast disappointments that sprinkle life with pain.

Grief comes in waves sometimes with no warning and knocks our feet out from under us. Sometimes its best to just ride out the wave. Other times, we need to paddle with determined strokes not to be swept under to destruction.

Not all grieving is restorative. Restorative grieving doesn’t imply that all pain is gone. Restorative grieving means we are able to finish our race and continue our journey in purposeful ways that God designed. That’s why sometimes we have to use determined strokes, meaning we may not want to go on. We might rather just allow the waves to plummet us to the bottom of the ocean of pain’s floor where we remain, never to truly live again.

When betrayal or divorce steals our reality, we aren’t sure what to believe, what to feel, and how to trust. Determined strokes lead us back to our haven of safety and eternal love that rest in Christ.

The cruelty of death that rips our loved one’s from our side, the rejection that defines us as unwanted, and the dashed hopes of a dream that fueled years of yearning and effort all demand a response. Only those that cling to the love of Jesus temper our grief with hope.

On CWA blog radio, I will continue our series on grief on the show Uncover. We all need to be ready to deal with grief since we are either grieving now or will in the future. We don’t have to grief without hope.

6 years ago Grief: How do I go on?

There are experiences that all of us will face that will provoke grief. None of us will get out of life without having to experience it. So many opportunities for grief to swallow us up in pain spring up, sometimes with warning and sometimes with none. Death, divorce, rejection, loss, cruel attacks, and loss of innocence impede our journey.

Many have written about grief from the beginning of time it seems. How do we recover? Do we ever completely recover? Some deal with grief in ways that at least help promote their ability to not just survive, but also to complete their race well. Others derail under the pressure and constant nagging grief. They never get back to really living.

Even those who persevere don’t do so without some lasting tinges of pain. Just because we go on to productive and obedient lives doesn’t mean we don’t hurt. It’s easy for people to have false expectations about how people SHOULD respond to grief. Life here will never be without hurt; that’s only in Heaven.

If you are in the throngs of grief, I offer you the comfort and hope of Jesus and the reminder of God’s provision for us to someday live where pain doesn’t exist.

On CWA blog talk Radio, I will be hosting a new series on grief. This week on my weekly show: UNCOVER, I will be talking with my guest, Gladys Burgess. Gladys will be sharing about the overwhelming agony that came as she experienced the death of two of her precious sons. Only the love and hope of Christ enables her to continue her race and even experience joy along with the pain.

6 years ago Knowing Yourself

Have you ever taken a personality test? Many have taken at least a simple personality quiz out of a magazine. If you did, what did you think of the descriptions of you that it gave?

Sometimes we seem to know ourselves well. Can you describe your temperament, personality, patterns in relationships, and tendencies in dealing with life. Sometimes we are pretty clueless about ourselves.

If we asked a close friend or relative who would give honest feedback to describe our personality, I wonder if we would be surprised. “Do you think I am controlling?” “Do you see me as reserved, cheerful, outgoing, wounded, negative, or fearful? Do you think I manipulate, am a show-off, or seem insecure?” How would we feel about their answers?

While it might seem a little disconcerting to hear other’s honest views on how they see us, it could be terribly enlightening. Terribly could mean just that; it may tell us of qualities and traits we don’t like about ourselves. It could also be encouraging in that it told us of ways that others see some of God’s image in us.

Either way, the more we understand ourselves, the more we are equipped for the wars of life. All of us will face them. Of course, we need to know God, our Savior, and the tactics of the enemy. Yet, we also need to know ourselves. Where am I still wounded? What is my innate personality? What are my spiritual gifts and what do I yearn for? What patterns of behavior have I adopted in dealing with life’s challenges? Am I a hot head, prone to over react? Or do I possess a quiet spirit and think before I act.

The more we will take an honest evaluation of ourselves, the more we will be equipped for ways the enemy will attack. If we are prone to fear, the enemy will throw in those “what if” thoughts that provoke our fear. If we are prone to pride and crave admiration, its no surprise that others may lavish us with compliments. The enemy studies us to cause harm. We need to study ourselves to not only protect ourselves from walking into his traps, but also to excel in fulfilling our purpose and using our talents and personality for His glory. We can even use our wounds to have compassion and minister to others.

Prepare for war and for victory: Seek getting to know yourself.

6 years ago Seeing Ourself Like God Does

People constantly compare themselves with others. It robs us of joy, keeps us focused on junk that doesn’t even matter, and hinders us from using energy on what really does matter. Even though most of us know in our head that it is unwise and even ridiculous to compare with others as a way to measure our own worth, we still do it.

I thought about the pictures we post of our children and grandkids on Facebook. When we look at our own kids’ or grandkids’ pictures, they melt our heart and seem to grab our attention more than all the others. It doesn’t matter if others' posted pictures show them to be prettier by the world’s standards or performing some feat better than ours. Ours' still delight us.

Wonder why we don’t think of our Heavenly Father looking at us like that? We are His and He adores us and looks on us as precious. He doesn’t delight less in us because someone else can talk better, is smarter, faster, or in some way more accomplished than us.

Wouldn’t it be life changing if we accepted ourselves with gratitude for the unique features, abilities, and nature that God gave us and just focused on being the best us we can be?

6 years ago Lift Your Voice

In such a time of uncertainty in our world, isn’t it reassuring to know that God is not caught off guard? He is prepared, knows it all, and is unfolding a plan. I may sound like a broken record, but I find myself repeatedly thinking, “How in the world do people keep from being consumed with fear, pain, and discouragement if they don’t believe in Jesus?” We either are in the middle of a mess, coming out of stressful situation, or will be in one in the future. Even if we aren’t in a current crisis, someone we love likely is or will be soon.

Yet, the Lord wants to reassure us that He is trustworthy, dependable, and wiling to help. I was talking with another woman today about how one of the best ways to a deal with pain is to remember that it is temporary. We both referred to childbirth and how it would be unbearable if we didn’t know when the labor pains are intense that the pain is temporary and that we will have something grand afterwards.

Wouldn’t it be phenomenal if we could look at hurtful situations in life like that? Yet, that only applies if we have Jesus as Savior and Lord. We know that no matter what pain we endure in this life, it will be worth it all when we get to the next.

I am scheduled to speak next week at the World Conference for the American Association of Christian Counselors. I realize that there will be impressive and brilliant speakers, some who are world-renowned. Here I am a simple minded woman who knows that she is not brilliant, notable, well versed or well traveled.

Yet, I join with others who want to reach the world with hope. I lift my country sounding voice to encourage the hurting and to warn those who ignore the impending traps of the enemy. All of those with Jesus as Savior are part of a massive army and a family of God who can proclaim to those who will listen: The pain is temporary if you love our Lord.

6 years ago The Tapestry

People use a lot of analogies to describe life. While many are so cliché, they are still applicable. One of my favorites is thinking of life like a tapestry. The individual threads and pieces are woven together and if you look at it from the wrong side, it looks a mess. Some patches or threads may be ugly and dark. Yet, when woven into the pattern, they help create its design. And when you finally turn it over, the tapestry’s beauty is finally revealed. Suddenly, those crazy threads, patches, and meaningless parts make sense.

My life has patches of experiences that were ugly and some terribly painful. Some represent deep regrets and poor choices I have made. Others shine brightly as some of the highlights of my life. Like me, you may also have some threads that don’t make sense. Sometimes, we get a glimpse of our personal tapestry that reassures us of God’s finger weaving together our life story into a divine design. Other times, we are still holding on to a weak attempt to somehow make sense of much of our experiences.

I Corinthians 13:12 reminds us that we won’t see the full tapestry until we get to Heaven. There we will see it all. Be encouraged that the more we trust and obey the Lord’s instructions, the more He is able to make a masterpiece.

I am continuing a series on “God’s faithfulness” on my weekly CWA blog radio show. This week I will be having Niki Payne as a guest. She will be sharing her story of God’s faithfulness in her life. Her horrific drug addiction and destructive journey would have ended in total loss if God had not intervened. Her remarkable testimony will encourage you to believe in the willingness and power of our God in taking our messes and making a purposeful and victorious life that reflects His grace. To listen, log into Uncover-the CWA radio network. Remember all episodes are saved so that you can log on and listen to any show at anytime you choose.

6 years ago Who Do You Trust?

Janie looked lost and bewildered. She didn’t know how to respond. The awkwardness of the moment was intense. She looked from the young woman’s startled face to that of her husband’s. She noted how flushed he looked which is what always happens when her husband, Mike is extremely uncomfortable. Janie had seen those familiar tense features many times when they had faced the stresses of life together as a team. No longer her teammate, he seemed more like a stranger to her.

No one knew what to say and the moments seemed frozen and suspended in time. Finally, her husband gave a nervous laugh and tried to introduce his mistress as a work acquaintance. While it was obvious that she didn’t believe that, Janie went along with the charade in attempt to not make a scene. She mumbled something about needing to do an errand and exited as fast as she could.

It’s amazing at what ridiculous thoughts and emotions we can have in a traumatic situation. Why in the world would he wear that green tie with that shirt? The blue one would have matched better.

It was evitable that the other feelings would come. Overwhelming shame flooded her as Janie realized that she should have slapped his face, told them both off, and acted like a woman who deserved dignity and respect. I’m ashamed that I was such a coward letting them off the hook by pretending that I didn’t know they were having an affair. I look like the fool!

Memories of another man from years ago began to sweep over her tormented mind. The man looked like her husband, but was different. The man from decades ago looked at her as if she were a grand prize that he couldn’t believe he had won. They were both young, in love, and glued to each other. He had sought to spend every free moment with her. They talked for hours and he seemed to find delight in all of her funny stories or compassion for each of her hurts.

While the memories were exquisite, they made the present events more painful than ever. She could never in a million years have expected what she had just faced. Most of her friends thought all men cheat. She had always known that Mike would never. He adored her, had such a tender heart, and strong convictions that guided him. That’s why she not only loved him so much, that’s why she trusted him with her whole heart.

Janie, like all of us, was facing the pain and shock that comes from feeling hurt by someone we deeply trusted. All of us have been wounded at some time by someone we had trusted. We yearn to be able to trust without reservation. We want to trust our parent, spouse, boss, the pastor, the medicine we take, those in government, and particularly God.

Some of us have been injured so deeply that we will carry a sliver of pain with us until we get to heaven. Some have been so affected by hurt that we don’t trust anyone to the degree that we can have close relationships. We may not let anyone get that close emotionally.

Others of us bounce back more. Maybe we were not victimized as much. There may have been people who loved us so well that they made up for the pain.

We all need to explore what trust really means. I read a book where the author said, “Don’t trust anyone but God”. While that statement seems extreme, I understood. Everyone will let us down in some way, either intentionally or not.

Our expectations can make us even more vulnerable for being let down. If we expect others to never fail us, always say the right thing, do the right thing, and understand us completely it won’t be long till we have our reality shook with the realization that people won’t measure up. In turn, we won’t measure up either.

What about God? If we expect God to never allow us to suffer, to stop every injustice in this fallen world, and to give us everything the way we want it and when we want it, our disappointment will not only devastate us, our trust in Him will be destroyed.

Janie’s trust in Mike was taken in a moment. Whether some of it is salvaged will be contingent upon both his behavior and her expectations.

Our trust in God is also dependent. The faithfulness of God is unquestionable, yet we question it; especially if we don’t accept that we can’t see the whole picture. Our trust must hinge on our believing He is who He says He is, no matter what happens here. Other times, the faithfulness of God hits us in the face. Its overwhelming when we look back over our lives and recognize that what we thought we could never face, He has provided the way to survive and even sometimes thrive. Janie will find that too.

On my weekly show on CWA blog radio, my mom and mentor, Geneva Davis will be telling amazing stories of God’s faithfulness in her life. Having lived over 84 years, she has many to pick from that will encourage and inspire you to trust in the God who is always trustworthy and faithful. To listen, go to CWA radio network/spreaker and click on the show Uncover. The show is titled: God’s Faithfulness with guest, Geneva Davis.

6 years ago The Power of our Words

Decades ago a woman I was counseling made an unusual declaration during our session. “I wish my husband would hit me”. She went on to explain that if he struck her with his fist she would clearly label it as violence, while when he struck her with his words, she wasn’t as sure how to recognize it as abuse. Although many years have past since that encounter, I have never forgotten the insight that came from my brief time with her.

Words are more powerful than most of the human race realizes. Most who come to counseling because of damage from others have come from the harm of words. Physical and sexual abuse is readily recognized as heinous. Yet, we sometimes don’t grasp the long lasting effects of critical, demeaning, and destructive words.

While some of us haven’t been physically and sexually abused, we all have been hurt due to the words of others. We also have caused pain for others with our words.

Many have refuted the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. We all know that isn’t true. Instead, I believe the unknown author was trying to promote our ability to keep others’ harsh words from having such power over us.

Words have an ability to influence throughout the ages. We don’t recognize how much power is available to us to affect the world. Instead, we tend to underestimate. Some feel downright powerless. The power of words is available to all who aren’t totally handicapped. Our power can do amazing feats for good or for harm.

There’s a woman I so look forward to seeing each time we have an appointment. She will likely never realize the extent that God has used her words to encourage me. I have told her, but I still wonder if she knows how much her words have been timely messages that inspire me that my efforts make a difference.

The Word has emphasized not only the power of our words, but the responsibility to use them for two main purposes: To encourage and to edify. I actually thought of encouragement and edification as the same thing. However, when you look up the definitions, they are different. Encouragement is when you praise, inspire, and reinforce others’ efforts. Edification is when you educate, equip, instruct, and enlighten others.

I call out to you to be encouraged and edified and to encourage and edify others. While some try to encourage others with kind words, they may not speak truth that is needed. Others think because they speak truth, they are edifying others. However, just because something said is true, does not mean it edifies, which also means builds up. If we say truth without the spirit of love, the listener likely is so affected by the harshness that they don’t receive the wisdom needed. If they are reeling with hurt or offense, they may miss the truth that could save.

“I’m just brutally honest”. Have you heard someone who uses this statement? Its like they say it as if it justifies their actions that have caused harm. I recall my retort, “its not okay to be brutal.”

Jesus spoke powerful truth, yet He did so with a spirit of love. Those who want to defend their brutality, point to Jesus getting angry and driving out those selling in the temple. Yet, look how Jesus was defending the Lord, not himself. Jesus motive was always for good, not bad.

We see that Jesus could encourage and edify without being brutal, with love always birthing his words and even his times of anger. Do we have the Holy Spirit not only guiding our words, but kissing them with love, even when fueled by righteous anger? Are they targeted on encouraging or edifying?

God’s words framed our world into existence. Words can also inspire us. I invite you to listen to words that will encourage and edify you as you hear of God’s faithfulness. On CWA radio-spreaker, (my show is titled Uncover) I am hosting a series on God’s faithfulness. Several guests will be joining me in the next few weeks as they tell their personal stories of how God’s faithfulness was manifested in their lives. What greater way to use our words than to tell of God’s Faithfulness.

6 years ago What's your Burden? (Part 3)

His Burden is Light, but His Cross is Heavy

Jesus said that His burden is light, but His cross may be heavy. Don’t we all sometimes feel burdened down in life? There are the bills, the chores, the kids fighting, a spouse who doesn’t love us right, conflict at work, and any number of other distressing situations. Some have burdens that make ours look like only small nuisances. Some are lost and trying to survive a life of tragedy, abuse, and regret. Some are bound with addictions that rule their life and others with shame that sucks the joy out of living.

This life comes with the potential for burdens that propel us either to destruction or to Jesus. Even though I was labeled as the strong and determined one in my family, I know the real truth. I am a wimp without Jesus. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer or the resilient and tough person they think. I don’t have assurance in myself; I have confidence in the Lord who loves me.

Many of my burdens come from the way we treat each other. Everyone wants to blame someone. We see others’ flaws and either don’t see our own, or we feel destructive shame. I have never figured out how some people live without having faith in God. How do they face the problems this life throws, and more importantly, how do they face life after this one.

When I feel the burden of life, I run to Jesus. I tell Him of my hurt, try to admit my wrongs, and I ask Him to help me. The Lord is so much more gracious than we usually are. He is so willing to be kind to me when I admit what a jerk I’ve been. His Word reminds me that He will embrace me, still see my worth, and carry my loads as I carry my cross.

A cross is taking a stand whenever doing so will bring persecution and denial. A cross comes with sensitivity to what hurts God. If that show I want to see, that verbal attack I want to give, that relationship I want to have, or anything else I crave causes pain to Jesus, I can’t easily enjoy it. My human side might like the pleasure, but my cross weighs me with remorse. I don’t want to make Him cringe as He watches my offensive behavior.

A cross coerces giving when it requires denying my own comfort. A cross compels apologies and forgiving others, even those who seem underserving. When you carry a cross, you aren’t able to skip through life and run unencumbered without the task of trying to make a difference. Instead, a cross slows us down as we notice the needs of others and our ability to lighten their load with encouragement and directions to Jesus. He will forever lighten their cargo of sin.

The heaviness of the cross is outweighed by the honor of being able to carry it. Only by finding Jesus, the lover of our soul, will we ever pick up the cross and follow.

6 years ago What's your Burden? (Part 2)

Why in the world would we choose to carry a cross? If it’s our cross, it is assigned to us and it’s a clear message of our love for the Lord. Those of us who have had babies recognize how difficult those late night feedings were and how exhausted and stressed we were at times. Yet, for those of us who loved our babies, we did it anyway. We carried the load even when it was uncomfortable. Some want to carry only when its fun. It’s so fun to dress up the baby in cute clothes, to cuddle, and play when we feel like it. But many who are not ready to be parents, aren’t willing to carry when the load hurts, and when it denies us what we want, whether that’s needed sleep or fun events.

    If we don’t expect the cross to be uncomfortable and to involve sacrifice, we are not prepared for being His disciple. Jesus knew this, just like we know that those expecting parenthood to be just like playing with dolls, crack under the load or abandon by either neglect or emotional damage.

    For those not willing for the cross to involve sacrifice, they don’t need to sign up. That’s what Jesus is warning.

    On the other hand, we sometimes carry crosses that aren’t ours to carry. We sometimes carry loads that He didn’t assign us and the result can range from discomfort to disaster. Carry the wrong cross can also keep us from carrying the right one, the one assigned to us.

    When we carry the cross-assigned to us, we are equipped with power and protection that reminds us that the Holy Spirit is fueling the way. We will have times of pain, but also unbelievable times of fulfillment, joy, and intimacy with the Lord. Parenting has love fueling our ability to sacrifice and face the stress and sometimes pain of parenting. Ask those with teenagers. Yet, the love of a parent is absolutely awesome. The ability to love another being more than ourselves, for their well being and comfort to be more important than our own is an experience that we wouldn’t trade for anything.

    Loving Christ has sometimes not only involved sacrifice, it has involved persecution. It has also made some parts of life hurt me more than if I hadn’t loved Christ. When we see sin, the way we hurt each other, and the disrespect for the Word, it hurts more deeply for those who love the Lord and carry a cross on their back. I have been in settings that others think are fun and entertaining. I felt like the party pooper because I can’t have fun if I see people getting drunk, cussing their kids, or acting in ways that led to the cross that was assigned to Jesus. He carried His painful cross to pay the punishment for what they are doing. Believe me, I’m aware that my actions also put that cross on His back. I don’t want to ever take that lightly. I hurt when others do.

    Are you carrying a cross? Are you sure that it’s the cross that’s assigned to you? Sometimes we take the wrong cross because the truth has been twisted. We think that we are supposed to please everyone, say yes to every worthy cause, fix things that we aren’t capable of fixing, reach everyone, relieve all the pain, and do all that needs to be done. Wow, none of us could carry a cross based on those assignments.

    The Lord’s message rings through the centuries to those who have ears to hear. The challenge is to love enough to take up our cross and to make sure it’s the cross assigned to us.

6 years ago What's your Burden? (Part 1)

    The most repeated statement that Jesus made in all the gospels is “take up your cross and follow me” (McAuthor Study Bible). We are warned that those who won’t pick up their cross and follow aren’t even worthy of Him.

    Why was this statement repeated so much? People repeat themselves for different reasons. Some because they are neurotic, getting senile, or are overwhelmed. I can relate. The times I repeat myself the most is when I’m trying to share a message that is not being heard or when I feel passionate about the importance of the message.

    When raising my children, this happened most often between my son and I. Having ADHD, he didn’t listen well and was easily distracted. In turn, he had a personality that didn’t receive instruction well. I loved him dearly, but I recognized that it was so much more difficult to speak truth into his life and to advise him because he was so resistant.

    Thus, I frequently did exactly what I told my clients not to do in parenting. I kept repeating the important messages and warnings, even when he was not listening or not willing to be receptive. I so wanted to protect him. He would accuse me of just liking to lecture and of just wanting my way because I thought I was always right. I wanted to spare him heartache. I also wanted him to gain the rewards that would likely be forfeited if he didn’t heed the messages.

    Jesus must have felt His message was paramount. Thus, it’s important to understand what it means to take up our cross. For one thing, we must understand that crosses aren’t comfortable. They take effort and sacrifice to carry. They keep us from doing some things in life that would be available to us if we weren’t carrying that cross on our back.

Is the burden you carry a cross or just a burden that needs to be let down. A cross may hurt and involve sacrifice to carry, yet an honor to embrace. Jesus said His burden is light, yet His cross may be heavy. Burdens are ones that likely hinder us from following Jesus, while a cross draws us near Him. The cross points not only to the need of Jesus, but also the redemption of His sacrifice and the truest sign of the cost of love. Sometimes love costs, just like that self-denial that comes from good parenting.

6 years ago "Impressions"

What happened to my sense of pride? I know that I cared deeply about how I was perceived, once upon a time. Its not that I don’t care---I like being perceived well. It’s just that I realize how much the decades have changed what I care about.

I was getting ready to end my session with a client who had just begun counseling. Most counselors make an impression on clients early. Clients must decide whether they would be comfortable opening up their private life and connecting with the counselor they have chosen.

As she got up to leave the session, she timidly said, “I think I ought to let you know that you have on two different earrings. “

“Oh well, I think I will just leave them and see how many other clients notice.”

I could tell she was concerned if her statement had embarrassed me. “Oh please”, I thought---“I guess I got over myself long ago”.

We’ll see if she comes back. If she does, I don’t think it will be because of my fashionable presence!

What makes people want to be a part of our lives? What makes people want to talk with us or to seek solace and help from us. One of my professors in the doctoral program had me to review and write a description for my qualifying exams that was over research on what makes clients see their counselor as professional. The research had gathered surveys from clients about what factors made the difference in their perceptions of their counselors.

I was amazed that many were highly swayed by how the person dressed instead of how they acted. I think my clients are much more insightful than that.

I have been so blessed in my private practice. I have prayed that God sends those that He chooses for me to engage in counseling. He has blessed me with so many who are open and receptive to truth.

I have been spoiled----I have clients who have been so receptive, respectful, and motivated that meeting with them has been such an honor. No one makes appointments with me for what’s going good in life. They come with pain, but I always want them to leave with hope.

We all need to be more aware of whether we give an impression that draws people—not for our outward appearance, talent, or surface presence. Do they see a person who cares, a person who has wisdom, and a person who loves Jesus?

6 years ago The Voice of Reason

We hear all kinds of voices in life. We didn’t have a choice about the voices we were exposed to as a child. Our teachers, parents, and others around us provided what we heard. Even as adults, we don’t have the power to always choose what we hear.

The voices we were exposed to the most and particularly those we heard when we were vulnerable children tend to become lasting voices in our head. Enduring thought patterns that were birthed from those voices now guide us with either encouraging messages or ones that darken our path.

None of us heard only uplifting and helpful voices. We all have some thought patterns that likely need tweaking. The quest of life is to take responsibility for birthing and maintaining the voice of reason.

God’s promises and what He advises provides all that we need to develop the voice to guide us. It doesn’t only tell me of all the joys God plans for me. My voice of reason tells me that my life here will involve hardships, disappointment, and wrongs. What happens here will sometimes be unfair and even tragic at times.

My voice of reason reminds me that most everything that happens here that upsets me won’t matter in the long run. My voice of reason reminds me that I don’t have to have a spotless house, look attractive to the world, make lots of money, or be popular. It reminds me that I won’t get everything done that I wanted to do and that it’s not the end of the world. It points out that if I lost my job, a friend, my house, and even my physical health, the real me would survive.

The voice to hear above all others is that of the Holy Spirit. However, we must also hone our own, since our thoughts will influence our emotions and actions. Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man thinks, so is he. The Word also tells us to take every thought captive that doesn’t line up with truth (II Corinthians 10:5) and to renew our mind with the Word (Romans 12:2).

Reflecting on God’s advice tells us that there are two main processes that will mark a successful life: 1) rejecting voices that aren’t based on truth and 2) replacing them with the voice of reason, which is based on truth. How we do this challenge will be the determinant of whether our lives will be marked with victory or defeat.

Voices we have heard have developed our thought patterns. Whether we keep them, discard the damaging ones, nourish the helpful ones, and definitely be intentional in birthing the voice of reason is up to us.

I am continuing a series on Choosing Voices on CWA Blog radio. Would love to have you listen in. Just Google CWA blog radio and scroll to the show "Uncover".

6 years ago Distinguish the Voices

My sister and I have voices that are so similar that people can’t usually tell which one of us is talking if they don’t see us. We recorded a radio show a few months ago and it was so difficult to tell which one of us was talking that I warned my listeners for fear that they would think I was just pretending to be two people talking.

If we label our thoughts as voices in our head, would we recognize the different sounds? Could we identify the voices that are telling us lies, promoting fear, resentment, or shame? Would we recognize those that encourage and redirect us to truth?

Recently, I met with someone who described having reactions to life situations that clearly were overreactions based on fear. She didn’t even recognize the thoughts or voices provoking her as being in error. She was listening to them as if they were credible. She discovered that she needed a “Voice of Reason” to redirect those voices that were exaggerating simple nuisances as catastrophes.

We need to monitor our voices and distinguish those that need to be rejected. We need to intentionally create the voices we need. They should speak loud and clear the messages of truth, wisdom, and hope. They will need to challenge the voices that lead us down the wrong paths. Developing our voices is worth the practice and effort it takes. Following them wisely will take our Lord’s help. Thankfully, He’s willing. He reminds us, “My sheep hear my voice and that of another they won’t follow.”

6 years ago Eyes to see; Ears to Hear

We’ve all heard the phase, “Life’s not fair”. As I listen to my clients share their stories, I am daily reminded of why that phrase has been so popular. Why are some born into families where they are cherished, protected, and loved, while others face a life of neglect, harm, and rejection?

We were created in God’s image. This means we have the innate need to love and be loved and the potential to love others. Under the right conditions, that capacity thrives. If you were born into conditions that were far from those needed to grow your precious seeds of love, go after them.

It won’t be easy. Nothing great usually is. It’s worth fighting for. Seek getting to know the great “I am”. Talk to God, ask Him to send messengers, read His Word as if it was written to you, and never give up. Act in loving ways to yourself and others, whether you feel it or not. When we act loving, we can grow love. The Word doesn’t tell us to love others and ourselves ONLY if we deserve it.

The greatest quest will be finding and loving Jesus, the lover of our soul. As I listen to so many tell of feeling unloved and unimportant growing up, I hurt. He never meant for you to feel this way. He wanted you to feel cherished, adored, and protected. Just knowing that this is what He wanted for you should ease your hurt and establish that you are just as important as those born into loving families.

We can never fully love without God equipping us. I pray that whoever reads this message that doesn’t feel loved will have eyes opened to how loved you are by your Creator and ears to hear Jesus’ message of love and hope.

6 years ago Stomping through Mine Fields

Wouldn’t it be ludicrous to just stomp through minefields as if we were in no danger? With explosives hidden throughout the ground beneath me, I would be frozen with fear. How could I bring myself to even move, to even take one step? What if my next step was my last? Would I die standing there, paralyzed with terror? That would be an excruciating death.

    As I picture the scene, I realize that if I had someone on the other side of the minefield that knew where each and every explosive was buried instructing me where to place each step, I could move. I could little by little, walk my way out of there. I would not take a step without him telling me exactly how. My eyes would be glued to his, my ears listening to only his voice, and I wouldn’t look down except to place my foot where he advised.

    Oh, how I would cling to his presence. I would be forever grateful of his help. I couldn’t survive without him. My greatest fear would be for him to leave me there to fend for myself.

    Does no one else ever feel that our lives are like that minefield? It seems that we sometimes go stomping through life as if there aren’t any hidden traps waiting to either take us out or mane us or our family. I know the answer is not to be paralyzed with fear. The Word tells us that God didn’t give us a spirit of fear. Yet, there is a great difference between having a spirit of fear and following His instructions: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).

    Its not only because I have counseled for decades that I have uncovered that most live oblivious to the war. I have also experienced my own disregard of how my actions or lack of, have placed me in danger, have taken me in different directions from where my protector advised.

    I know that the Lord says that perfect love casts out fear. The more we love Him, the more we seek His presence, listen for His voice, and heed His directions. Doing so, we walk through the minefields. That doesn’t mean, we never hit an explosion. I know that sounds contradictory. However, being flawed we will never follow His lead perfectly. Even when we are following, sometimes He allows us to step on one He knew would make us more attuned to His voice, more aware of our dependency on Him, and more committed, compassionate, and wise in helping others stomping through the minefields.

6 years ago Extremes: Present or Future; Joy or Despair

I have never forgotten wise word that I heard years ago from a pastor. “You can take anything to an extreme and lose it’s meaning.” In other words, “You can pervert its message”. I have found that true with much of life.

For the last several years there have been seminars and other types of messages emphasizing what is referred to as mindfulness. It promotes being in the moment not focusing on the past or future. We need to be fully aware and living in the moment. While I highly regard much of this message, I also recognize that if perverted, it doesn’t give place for looking forward to what God has in store for us.

Don’t we all enjoy anticipating pleasurable events like great vacations? We don’t want to go to the extreme that we don’t invest in the present and embrace our present life. Yet, we don’t want to negate ourselves the privilege of pleasurable anticipation. The Bible is packed with enticement to anticipate the good to come.

Another extreme would be to think we should only feel joy and happiness or we can only feel pain and sorrow. Recently, I was reading Revelation 10: 10 which says, “And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey; and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.”

The angel had warned John that this would be his reaction. We too can have great joy and sorrow. When Jesus is our Lord and Savior, we have hope, joy, and great anticipation. At the same time, we have deep sorrow and pain for those who never will know Christ. The sweetness of honey and the bitterness of doom remain.

6 years ago The Dangerous Lull

Have you ever been trapped in the “Lull”? The lull is a state of mind that’s like a fog; a slowed down version of life where one has a fatigued dulled state of being.

It reminds me of when my daughter practically lived in the hospital when fighting cancer. We would be in there for day after day when the lull would creep up on me. There is a tired state when we have exerted ourselves physically that actually feels good. After a hard physical workout, your muscles may ache, but you have a sense of accomplishment.

The lull is very different. It’s a kind of sick tired. At the hospital, I would think, I have sat here all day, why am I so tired and have no energy?

The lull is dangerous. It can creep upon us and keep us in a trance that robs us of fully living. Many don’t recognize the lull that is keeping them from investing in life. They drag through day after day without really living.

The lull also makes us vulnerable to Satan’s influence. I recall those old movies that showed poor souls being hypnotized by a villain. They were made to look into some swirling object that took them into the lull and then completely under the control of the villain.

While the lull may not involve complete control over our mind, it does dull our sensibilities and is difficult to snap ourselves out of. We may keep going through the motions, like on autopilot, yet avoiding other important tasks, opportunities, and adventures. We can find ourselves looking back over our lives and thinking I can’t believe years have past.

I heard a client sadly disclose that she can’t believe that years have past since her divorce and that she was realizing that she had been stuck in the lull ever since. Oh, how I encourage her to WAKEUP and take whatever steps (as long as not damaging) to snap out of the lull.

What gets us in the lull? What gets us out? I will be exploring that on my CWA blog radio show called “UNCOVER”.

6 years ago Moments

The older I get, the more I realize that our greatest investment is our time. The easiest way to uncover what is important to a person is to find out (outside of their required workplace) what they spend the most of their time doing.

Do they spend most of their free time seeking pleasure? How? Do they garden, travel, read mysteries, play golf, or shop? The list is endless of course. Do they spend most of their time making money, or at least trying to?

My husband has told of how some of his coworkers spend every moment possible trying to make another dollar. They would work every day for as many hours as the company would allow. How sad.

We make decisions how to spend each moment. What do we think about, who do we spend time with, and what do we strive to do? All these questions prick my heart with concern. We have only so many moments in this life on earth.

While I believe eternity exists for all of us, either in joy or despair, our moments here are fixed. The Bible says where our heart is; there our treasure is also. Again, how we spend our time shows our heart.

6 years ago Clinging to Jesus

Our world seems to be advancing and changing at such a rapid rate that it’s almost mind-boggling. Maybe the young don’t notice the whirlwind, but us older folks do. I can’t imagine how life will be when my grandchildren are grown, if the Lord doesn’t come before then.

While I love many of the great advances in medicine, in travel, and technology, I also cringe at some of the decline and ramifications of our supposedly advanced thinking. Many in our country no longer hold the Word of God as revered truth, even some who are labeled Christian.

As I read about the New Testament followers of Christ being tormented while they tried to lead others to salvation, I am always in awe of those who seemed to stay so focused on truth. They must have held tightly to the love of Jesus and to the promises of a better life after this one.

Did they ever wonder why God allowed them to be terribly persecuted and to suffer so wrongly? Did they doubt the goodness of the Lord they were serving because of the great harm that was happening to them and those they loved? If not, why did they seem to have such different expectations of their earthly life than we do?

Lord, I plead for your intervention. Open our eyes to truth. Expose the rapidly growing deception that is upon us. Help us be more concerned with pleasing You than pleasing our baser desires. When we don’t understand some of the injustices and hurts of this world, help us cling to You.

6 years ago Who's Your Daddy?

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I have been seeing Facebook posts of people's pictures accompanied with words of admiration and gratitude to dads. I feel for those who either were hurt deeply by a messed up dad or abandoned by their father. So many on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day don’t seem to recognize that many do not feel the same adoration and deep connection with their mother or father. We are so blessed if we have had a loving mom or dad.

No parent is perfect. Yet, some have been so wounded by their father that it is difficult for them to trust a heavenly Father. If you are one such person, you are not alone.

Have you ever wondered why the Bible doesn’t talk much about Jesus’ earthly father? We know that Joseph was informed that Mary was carrying the Messiah. We know that he accepted the truth and stood by Mary.

Yet, we don’t hear much about Joseph’s life and how he interacted with Jesus as he grew up. We don’t hear about how he disciplined, how he taught, how he encouraged. I am curious about how he was as a father.

How was your father as a dad? No matter how he was or is, your Heavenly Father is absolutely great. The Word tells us that if Jesus is our Lord, then His Spirit is in us. We are equipped to love, to be wise, and to display His characteristics, regardless of how our earthly father was as a parent.

I never knew my father’s dad. He was dead even before I was born. From the stories I was told (mostly by mom), he was an alcoholic and beat my dad. Yet, dad seemed to still love him. I was never sure of all the effects of this on my dad. I know that there had to be damage. I am so glad that my dad found Jesus and recognized that his Heavenly Father loved him deeply, was protective of him, and would never beat him in a fit of rage.

I have no idea of what caused all the damage in my dad’s dad. Obviously harm led him down a dark path. I heard he eventually accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Now that dad is with his Lord, I can’t imagine what it is like for my dad and his dad now. Are they finally close, loving, and enjoying each other in Heaven. What a thought!

6 years ago The Challenges of Life: Tolerating Pain

Living in a fallen world sure comes with challenges. We are all going to face hurt. I sometimes wonder why some people tolerate pain better than others. Some will have a dental procedure and want the strongest pain reliever they can get. Others can have the same procedure and not even fill the prescription for pain pills. Some can have a headache and will not go to work. Others wouldn’t even think of missing work for a headache.

I have watched people struggle with debilitating back conditions. I recall watching a client who had multiple back surgeries. He would walk slowly and carefully as he struggled to not move in any slight way that would make his back hurt worse. I could see the pain on his face as he winced. Yet, he would not take the pain pills that had almost ruined his life and brought him into counseling in the first place. He had learned how trying to numb his pain had created some of the worse pain in his life: addiction.

What influences our pain tolerance? I don’t claim to know the answer. I assume a number of factors, including our physiology. While I don’t know all the whys, I do know that if we aren’t able to have some pain tolerance, we will likely fall into an addiction of some sort. Our pain may be physical or emotional. Either can lead to addiction and poor choices.

Accepting that we may have to live with some pain is necessary to living wisely. I have a great compassion for those with chronic painful conditions. Many are cruel in their judgments of those who succumb to addiction. I don’t know how far I would be willing to suffer pain before giving into increasing use of pain relievers. However, for those with chronic conditions, it seems necessary not to ever expect to live pain free until Heaven.

I think of my friend who has told me many times that she refuses to use enough pain pills to remove ALL of her pain for she knows she would be dulled into the bondage of addiction. I know she hurts, badly at times. Yet, her resolve amazes me.

I have seen others who hurt emotionally so deeply that I know they yearn for Heaven. I think of my aunt who has two of her sons die. Her pain has never stopped as she is forced to live without their presence. Yet, I watch as she forces the smiles and faithfully attends church and serves her Lord.

I consider their ongoing choices to try to live with pain, while still finishing their race well. I consider others who refuse to live with pain. They numb it at all costs, regardless of the harm caused.

Thank-you Lord for your mercy. Only You are the one who knows all the facts, understands each person’s history, pain, and weaknesses. I also ask You to help us tolerate pain, look for Your comfort, and to never expect to live completely pain free until Heaven.

6 years ago The Challenges of Life: I am loved, I am valued

It’s amazing how much we are affected by our perceptions of how others view us. Just recently, I was preparing for a presentation I am doing at a conference. I had submitted my PowerPoint presentation and was working on my handouts. I received an email letting me know that they had to cut down my PowerPoint and that I had not addressed one of my listed objectives.

How ironic was my reaction to the email. My presentation is about how we respond to hurt. The first point in my presentation is that one of the most common unhealthy ways we respond is to let it define how we see ourselves.

Yet, as soon as I read the email, I began thinking, I bet they think they shouldn’t have picked me as a speaker. They probably think I am not qualified and as professional as the other speakers.

I finally realized I was responding just as I was trying to teach others not to do.
One of the most destructive threats to our emotional and spiritual well-being is our insatiable desire to be admired and how easily we allow others actual or imagined views about us to have great power over us.

Our desire to please others many times may be fueled by our desire for acceptance, approval, and admiration. It may be prompted by our trying to establish our worth by promoting ourselves in other’s eyes. We may be trying to prove that we are valuable.

Whatever the reason, our quest to please others and to be admired can get so out of hand that it overshadows our life. What a great medicine for our flaws and struggles is available when we embrace our Lord’s deep abiding love of each of us individually. If we could only fully understand that we are of great value all the time, not just when we are performing well.

Yet, sadly, that’s the challenge of life that we frequently never fully meet.

**I am beginning a series on CWA blog radio titled: The major challenges of Life. Join me on www.spreaker.com/user/cwaradio.com.

6 years ago Don't Overstay Your Alone Time

The last couple of weeks I have been reminded about the danger of isolation. I have watched as many people declined, both emotionally or spiritually, after they increasingly withdrew from others. What makes us isolate?

I can recall warning clients about isolating so many times. More than one relapsed in addiction not long after my warnings fell on deaf ears.

Depression, anxiety, fatigue, stress, shame, disappointment in people, anger, illness, and any number of reasons, including laziness, can cause us to withdrawn and isolate. It seems that we just don’t function as well if we go too far in being alone. While we may enjoy some of our alone time, too much can begin a decline.

God created us for relationship. In turn, when alone, we may stay too focused on ourselves. We may have no reality check when we need one. We also are devoid of receiving encouragement from others. We are definitely open prey for our greatest enemy. Satan will delight in attacking one who is alone.

Just like my flowers need sun and water, we need others. Everyone is not good for us; some may be toxic. However, we all need others. That’s why the Bible advises us not to forsake getting together. It says “even more so as we see the day approaching”. I think that means to come together, particularly when in distress and under attack.

I encourage you to follow the Lord’s advice. Don’t isolate for long. We all need some time to be alone, think, and seek our private time with the Lord. Yet, we don’t need to overstay that alone time, just like we don’t want company to overstay their welcome.

6 years ago The Great Erase

Have you ever had a debt that seemed to weigh you down? You may have that even now. I sometimes have found myself thinking, “If I didn’t have this debt, I could do . . .” The greater the debt, the greater it has the ability to have power over us, being able to restrict what we can do.

Probably most of you reading this may be thinking of financial debt. Me too. Yet, I invite you to think of the kind of debt that we may owe that affects not just our earthly existence, but also our eternal existence.

While our financial debt typically gets our attention and can stress us out if it is extreme, we may not be so attuned to our eternal debts.

Recently, I was reading Colossians. While I have read it before, likely many times, I had a passage jump out at me. I got to Chapter 2, verse 14 and read “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross”.

Picture the handwriting: There’s the contract written up that shows what I owe. Financial contracts show my purchase or the goods that I received that I now owe for. Yet, Colossians is referring to the handwriting for the offenses or sins I have committed that I now owe the punishment.

As I picture each sin handwritten out, I picture the punishment for that particular sin written across from it. Wow! Mine would seem endless. I am overwhelmed. How can I face all that?

Then I picture verse 14. It says Jesus wiped out all the requirements or punishments I owed, including each and every sin written against me. He then took it and nailed it to the cross.

The MacArthur Study Bible points out that criminals being crucified had a list of their crimes nailed to their cross to display what violations they were being punished for.

On Jesus’ cross they nailed “King of the Jews”. Some argued that it should say, “He claimed to be the King of the Jews” instead. Yet, they left it as written.

Yet, Colossians points out the truth: He took our sins and what we owed as punishment and had it nailed to His cross. He paid the debt, the punishment.

Some of us would fall over with gratitude if someone paid off our house mortgage. We would love that person forever! Yet, we might either forget about or not even acknowledge that Jesus paid a much greater debt off. It can’t even compare with any amount of debt we own in this life. Even if we were on the brink of bankruptcy, that overwhelming debt doesn’t compare to what Jesus erased from the handwritten score board I would shutter to have to face.

When I really grasp what this means, I am overcome with relief. I hope I am also overcome with gratitude. Are you?

7 years ago Marriage: Is Your's Thriving or Just Surviving?

Who we marry is one of the biggest decisions we ever make. Those who have married would agree with me, I’m sure. The quality of our marriages affects our lives in ways that we may not even realize. Being in a fallen world with our carnal flesh nature determined to live within us makes having a healthy relationship a continual challenge. That’s likely one of the reasons in his New Testament writings, Paul cautioned so much about marriage.

Do you ever feel that the marriage books, sermons, and advice on marriage seem to be written with the assumption that both spouses are motivated to work on the relationship? I find instead that in most marriages, there’s one mate that is more motivated than the other. There’s usually one mate who is healthier, loves God more, and is more willing to sacrifice.

We only have power over ourselves. We can’t change our mate, but with the Lord’s help, we can sure work on ourselves.

It’s true that it always takes two. Yet, there can be one that is working harder than the other to foster a good relationship. There is likely one who is more damaged than the other.

One of the best attributes to have is to be willing to examine ourselves in an open and honest way and to take responsibility for our own character flaws and bad behavior. It’s so easy when we are hurt or angry with our spouse to be unable or unwilling to hold ourselves accountable for having a bad attitude or being unwilling to pray effectively for our mate. It is especially difficult if your spouse is excessively selfish and hurtful.

I have such compassion for those in marriages in which they feel unloved, unimportant, and alone. There are many hurting in such marriages that notice others who seem supported and cared for by their mate. In reality, all marriages have problems, since they are based on human beings with flaws. However, those in excessively hurtful marriages face a more painful ongoing struggle.

To you, I offer encouragement to seek compassion and help from the Lord and from someone who is trusted and healthy spiritually. You may have a friend or family member who is always your advocate, but may not be spiritually healthy, wise, and mature. You may need insight on setting boundaries, healthy confrontation, and a better understanding of what is influencing your mate, along with yourself. You may need equipping in how to communicate better, how to understand you and your mate’s perceptions and wounds.

Please know that you aren’t alone.

***I am doing a series on marriage on CWA blog radio. Just go the to show: Uncover/Dr. Peggy Karlosky if you would like to listen.

7 years ago Dealing with the Toenails

Do you wish God would speak to you so clearly that you had no doubt that it was He? When you hear others talk about God speaking to them, do you wonder what did they hear? Did they hear an audible voice or was it a feeling or thought?

I have had times over the decades when God gave me such a direct message that I had no doubt that it was He. It typically startled me. For me it was like a thought that popped in my head that I knew instinctively was God.

Those times have been precious, but more infrequent than what I wanted. I yearn for more of those clear and direct messages.

Recently, I have been grieving because it seems like it’s been so long since I had a dramatic and direct message. I have been moved by scripture, encouraged by messages, and sometimes sensed His presence. Yet, I want those personal and direct messages too.

I wonder about God’s sense of humor. I tend to perceive God as serious. Yet, I had an experience recently and found myself recognizing a spiritual lesson from it that was comical. It made me wonder if this was another type of message from God.

Months ago I noticed that my big toe was looking as if it either had been infected by a fungus or had been smashed and was bruised. I didn’t recall injuring it, yet I know that I can get so busy and absentminded that I might have just forgotten about stumping my toe or dropping a brick on it!

It must have been a big brick because I realized weeks ago that my toenail was coming off. It was as if my toe recognized that it had to discard the nail keeping it from new birth and healing and it was forcing the nail to detach. I had deduced that I must have injured it because initially part of the nail looked bruised.

It amazes me that the nail has taken so long to come off! Its like there’s a war going on with the nail fighting to stay attached, “No I won’t leave” and my toe trying to heal, “You have to go”.

Needless to say, the toe won’t seem to get better until the nail is gone. Yet, underneath the nail that has come lose, I can feel a new, fresh, and healthy nail forming. However, that dead nail that keeps covering the new growth aggravates it.

My husband has advised me, “You need to pull the nail completely off”. He reassured me that it will hurt, but it will promote the healing. He’s an expert since he has had a number of toes and fingernails hurt while working on projects. He knew from experience that there comes a time, you need to take the plunge, pull the dead nail off that is hindering your healing.

“No, I can’t”, I whined to him. There’s a part of the nail that still is firmly attached. It’s only a small part, but a very well attached part. It would be like ripping my flesh off! Instead, I thought it wise to wait until the nail naturally detaches. Needless to say, I think the time has come that I need to intervene and help the process.

I began soaking my foot in warm Epson salt. I noticed that as the toenail softened, I was able to begin cutting off the dead nail that was already detached. When I came to the firmly attached part, I cut around it. I was amazed that if I kept soaking the nail, the softer it got and the easier it was to begin prying and cutting even the attached part.

I now have only a tiny part of the nail still attached. It feels so much better that I am amazed and determined to keep soaking and working it as needed.

While this is a long version of what’s likely boring to you, it hit me of how my experience is so like that of trying to deal with our human flesh nature and strongholds that keep us from life, growth, healing, and the ability to function in healthy ways.

We sit back, ignoring what’s going on and just wait for whatever holds us back to fall off on its own; Old hurts, bitterness, addictions, character flaws, sick relationships, ugly patterns in our live, and fears. The list of emotional dead toenails is endless. On the other hand, we may not even realize we are injured. I didn't even remember hurting my toe and didn't recognize the harm until the toenail started to bruise and detach. You too may not be attuned to your injuries and strongholds.

Paul talked of having to crucify his flesh daily. Maybe we all have dead toenails that need to be intentionally cut, pried, and at least soaked daily. Sometimes it hurts, yet it always promotes healing if we do it right. We could yank off the nail with no regard to infection, damage, and the need for soaking. We can also damage ourselves with cruel self-punishment such as shame and rigid feats we impose on ourselves that Jesus didn’t require.

God so divinely made us that it’s as if He built us with an inner drive to heal. That’s why when my toe was injured; it began trying to heal itself. It began detaching what could no longer help me, what would actually hurt me. Yet, it also replaced it with new and functional life.

You too may have something inside that is pushing you toward healing. Some part of you wants to detach what hurts and hinders you. It wants to find new life.

I encourage you to recognize where the Lord may also be giving you messages that may not be direct statements. Yet, what lessons is He giving us in our everyday experiences?

I also encourage you to join me in asking, “What do I need to soak with God’s word, prayer, and in His presence?” Only after such soaking can I begin the more potentially painful part: cutting, discarding, prying loose what must go. Today’s message for me: “Face and deal with the toenails that hinder what God wants for me”.

7 years ago God Good, Devil Bad; Don’t Confuse the Two

You would think that it would be almost impossible to confuse what Satan does with what God does. You would think that we would never mistake God for Satan. They are so opposite that it seems ludicrous that we would ever confuse the two. But we do! How can that be?

Even in the beginning, Eve was led to such confusion. Satan tempted her to think that God just didn’t want her to be wise, that He was holding out the good stuff from her. Thus, she accepted this deception and the rest is history. The same confusion still happens. Just recently, a client who had been greatly hurt said, “Why would God do this to me?”

I was stunned and responded quickly, “God didn’t do that, He’s not like that”. We then began to explore where her confusion came from, what God was really like, and how evil distorted God’s plan for good. It’s true that by God creating us with a free will and with God allowing evil to continue its influence, great destruction would come. I don’t begin to think that I can understand it all. The Word clearly tells us that we won’t (I Corinthians 13: 12).

Yet, one of the most effective ways to protect our minds and hearts is to be determined to not confuse God with Satan; to not blame God for the bad stuff, and to recognize that God always wants well for us, even if that means allowing us to suffer.

7 years ago Judging or Loving?

It may sound corny, but how do we know if we really love? That word love gets thrown around a lot. I sure don’t think we all mean the same when we use the word love.

I recently was discussing a situation with friend in which we found we had such different views. I was admitting that I was uncomfortable hanging around a person we both knew because he engages in self-destructive behavior. I had rarely been around him when he wasn’t drunk or at least well on his way to being. In turn, he can be friendly and charming and suddenly sarcastic and hurtful to others.

I explained to my friend that I felt sorry for the man in question, that I saw such good in him, yet hurt for how destructive his behavior was to both he and those around him.

My friend instead said that he didn’t care what the man did, “it was his life” and that he wasn’t judgmental, insinuating that I was. I was stunned to say the least. I felt instead, that I loved the man. I grieved for him, did care what he did, while I agreed that it was his choice how to live.

I found myself pondering on my friend’s views. Was I being judgmental? As I thought about it, I feel that we so misuse what the Lord meant about not judging another. I in no way feel that I am without fault. Yet, a person would have to be blind, lying, or downright mentally challenged to not realize that the man in question had a problem.

We read In James 5:20,
Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

If we really love someone, aren’t we grieved to watch as he or she self-destructs? How can we watch and not be moved at all? I recognize that we can’t change others. We don’t have the power or right.

Yet, if we love others, we hurt for them. We care about whether they are destroyed with alcohol and whether they abuse their families. While we aren’t to go around trying to boss others, preaching to them all what they should do, we are to pray. We should care enough to pray, to encourage, and to speak up with love if the Lord leads.

I recognized, I haven’t loved enough to earnestly do that. Forgive me Lord. I pray for this man right now. If all I do is feel uncomfortable watching him self-destruct; if all I do is hurt for him, but don’t pray, I guess I am not loving.

What is the difference between being judgmental and caring enough to notice? What do you think?

7 years ago Looking for Hope

I just posted a blog last night about how discouraged we sometimes get when we see what's happening in our world. However, the Lord presented me with hopeful messages this morning that I wanted to share with you. I invite you to listen to an upcoming show on CWA radio where I share about messages the Lord wants all of us to be encouraged by. We all could use messages of hope from time to time. My show is titled: Uncover. The show is supposed to play on Saturday, May 23 at 10 am (central time). However, it will be saved and you can listen to any show that you choose, since each is saved and made available for listening. It is such an honor to share with you and I hope you too share your messages of hope with me and others.

7 years ago "Can you hear Him?"

I recently had two different people open up to me in counseling about how grieved and distressed they feel about the immoral and greedy society in which we live. They seemed stunned as they reflected on how the world of their childhood was replaced by one marred by crime, distrust, greed, sexual perversions, and a lack of decency. Listening to them prompted me to think of a recent Facebook post I had read telling of how Dr. Dobson had recommended that children not be allowed to do sleepovers anymore. I guess he too had recognized that it seems a different world than the one we grew up in decades ago.

I recall the fun sleepovers and slumber parties of my childhood. We stayed up all night giggling, playing games, and eating junk food. What fun, what memories, and what innocence defined our times together as children. Yet, I too would not be comfortable allowing children to attend such in today’s world.

It saddens many of us to admit that life is so different. I grew up in my early years in downtown Detroit. Life was a grand adventure, with kids playing in the alleys, kick the can, and going from house to house. Parents didn’t even think about being afraid to let the kids roam and play. Come home when the street lights come on was the norm. We never even heard of “child abductions”.

I’m not naïve enough to think that there wasn’t crime back then. I am sure there was sexual abuse and dangers of which I wasn’t aware. Yet, like many from my generation, I know that life was less scary and we trusted others more. Parents didn’t have to monitor television because there was no cursing, nudity, or perverted morals to confuse us. Stores weren’t even open on Sundays because that was considered the Lord’s day and was set aside for worship and rest.

It seems it was such a different world. In some ways, it was. Can you imagine everything closes up on Sundays, except for hospitals? What happened? It seems that many of us feel that the world started down this dark path that pulled it against our will.

Maybe we didn’t pray enough. Maybe we didn’t complain and fight against the pull of evil. Maybe we just didn’t care enough. Whatever the reason, life will never be the same in many ways. Its like when your innocence has been robbed and you can never go back to where you were before you knew of such evil, such hurt, and such shameful things.

So many feel like my two clients who recognize that they are becoming discouraged and depressed in light of the world’s condition. Yet, I challenge the darkness with light: the light of a God that so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son to save us from the evil. My hope, my joy, my reason to not sink into despair is because of Him. He still loves us. He still wants to rescue. He still is calling to all who will hear and respond. Can you hear Him?

7 years ago More Alive Than Ever

It’s amazing how sun can brighten our hearts. This time of the year everything seems more beautiful. The trees become lush, the grass greener, and the flowers are in bloom.

I went to pick out flowers for some friends who just had their dad’s physical body die. I have felt such excitement for him and them. I realize that many would think this is strange. I knew they would be missing him, but that they also knew he so wanted to go home. He had lived a long life serving the Lord and was so eager to meet his sweet wife and Jesus.

As I looked for the card for my flowers, I just couldn’t make myself pick the only one available for taking to the funeral home. It said something like "with deepest regret".

How could I send such a message? I feel for them in terms of missing their dad. Yet, how could I say that I regretted his going home to paradise whenever he had lived a long life, was bedridden, and unable to respond to those he loved the way he wanted.

Instead, I picked up a card with no words, only beautiful butterflies all around. They looked so light and so unencumbered. My message: He’s more alive than he has ever been.

His ability to quickly, effortlessly, and delightfully lift to where he will never be encumbered seemed so represented by those flittering, light, and cheery butterflies.

As I look around and see new life being birthed; the buds forming, the grass sprouting, and the green all around me, I ponder on what is real life. All this green will be dying soon. Each of us is in the process of dying physically.

We live in a time that there is much focus on our physical bodies; not just our appearance, but also our health. Do we even think about that part of us that will live forever? Our spirit never dies. When we get out of these decaying shells, we are more alive than ever if we have found and loved the true creator of life. I call him Father.

7 years ago Learning to Confront

Does anyone feel that they are comfortable and healthy with confrontation? I am regularly faced with people avoiding confronting someone when such was needed. I too can so relate. Many, if not most, people I know are not comfortable with confrontation.

Is it because we don’t want to hurt others? Is it because we don’t want anyone to be mad at us? Is it because we don’t want others to not like us? Is it because we think if we confront, it will come back to bite us? Do we think others will retaliate? Do we think it is wrong or mean to confront? Do we think we don’t deserve to confront, like everything is our fault?

Whatever the reason, we will not deal with life in healthy ways, if we never confront. Those who love confrontation are sure not any healthier. If fact, they likely have even more serious problems.

Many who don’t confront, have avoided doing so because they found that nothing good ever came from confronting. Maybe they were given the guilt trip. Maybe they were ridiculed or blamed. Maybe they were hurt, ignored, or in some way made to feel sorry that they ever tried to confront in the first place.

What are some nuggets of truth that help us learn to confront in healthy ways? We need to explore why we are feeling the need to confront. What are our motives? Have we prayed and asked God to show us, lead us, and help us. If we have uncovered that we truly need to confront and that we want good to come from our confrontation, its not over. We need help with our delivery, our timing, and our follow-up. Prayer paves the way for our confrontation and our reactions afterwards.

Not everyone is going to respond to our confrontation in healthy ways. We don’t have power over anyone but ourselves. The Lord sometimes leads us to not confront others, even if we feel they are in the wrong. Other times, we may be led to confront others even though they won’t respond well. Yet, it still may be what God leads us to do. Ether way, He will teach us, lead us, and encourage our efforts.

I find confrontation easier if I think of it as self-disclosure. Instead of saying, “You need to stop telling me what to do.” I may say, “When you keep telling me what I should do, I feel that you don’t trust my ability, that you see me as incompetent.”

The journey to healthy living is just that, an ongoing journey. I encourage you to explore your own pattern in dealing with confrontation. Who or what do you need to confront---or self disclose about?

7 years ago The Greatest Mental Health Resource

It amuses me and even amazes me when the wisdom that God provided in his Word is found through human research that doesn’t give the credit to the original one who proclaimed it thousands of years ago. Researchers may think they have uncovered the findings and publish their research for all to learn from. While I so appreciate research, many times I find myself saying “It was there in the Bible all along”!
Its still awesome to see the truths of God supported by research today.

I was recently reading about a research study that was conducted by Dr. David Spiegel, director of clinical and medical programs at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety-Related Disorders. In his study it was found that the use of antidepressants and cognitive therapy work equally well. However, the relapse rates were much higher among those treated with medication versus cognitive therapy.

Think what this is showing. Promoting healthy thoughts has lasting effects. Cognitive therapy basically is learning to deal with our thoughts. The goal is to recognize which thoughts we are having that are unhealthy—leading to fear, worry, and negativity. Then those thoughts are replaced with healthy ones. The person actually tries to be intentional in directing his or her thoughts in ways that promote healthy mental health.

For decades cognitive therapy has been shown as one of the most effective approaches for depression and anxiety disorders. Even though the study from Spiegel was encouraging in that it showed the power of our thoughts, the Word of God had shown it way before researchers.

We read in Proverbs 23:7, For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. We also read in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Verses before and after this famous verse talk of the peace of God and how to obtain it.

The Lord emphasized the importance of our thoughts and how we need to take every thought captive to the pulling down of strongholds. I wonder how the Lord feels as he sees the studies showing what He had told long ago.

I am doing a series on fear and anxiety on CWA blog radio. I will be hosting a couple of women who will share about their personal struggle and journey with fear and anxiety. You are welcome to listen on CWA blog radio. Just go to CWA radio on your computer, scroll down to Uncover, with host Dr. Peggy Karlosky. You can click on any show displayed, even the old ones to listen.

We have access to the most powerful resource to find the means for dealing with fear, anxiety, and depression. Will we read and follow it? Even when we are taught cognitive therapy, it is only effective if we use it.

7 years ago Dangerous Alliances

Its amazing how the struggles and influences that hinder our life were the same that we can read about back in the centuries before Christ ever came. I was reading in second Chronicles Chapter 17 – 20. Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, had dramatically sought the Lord, walked in obedience, and had led his people into honoring God. I was excited reading about how bold he was in leading his people in the ways of God. Finally, a wise and godly King!

    Yet, I was fascinated that he made one of the most fundamental mistakes that we continue to make in life. He was enticed into a relationship with someone who did not honor God. He went on to align himself with Ahab, King of Israel who was living ungodly. The King of Israel had showered him with gifts and persuaded him to form an alliance.

    We may wonder how a man who had served God so devotedly, could make such a stupid decision. How could he ever think that this relationship could produce anything but destruction?

    Within a brief time, massive harm was done and Jehoshaphat was able to see the devastation that comes when we allow ourselves to be influenced by someone who is not honoring God. God was merciful to Jehoshaphat because He knew that he still had good in him. Yet, painful consequences came for him and his people.

    Even if you think that King Jehoshaphat was crazy to do this, we see it all the time. People can love God and yet allow someone ungodly to draw them into a relationship that makes them compromise their walk.

    When Jehoshaphat first connected with Ahab, King of Israel, it seemed right, honorable, and kind. Jehoshaphat encouraged the King of Judah to recognize that they were kindred and that he was loyal to him and his people.

    Yet, when Jehoshaphat was confronted with King Ahab making decisions by seeking counsel from men instead of God’s prophets, he should have heeded the warning. He recognized that this was wrong, yet he didn’t withdraw his alliance and willingness to go along with King Ahab's plans.

    Its difficult to imagine that when a Christian has gotten into a relationship with someone who doesn’t love God, that there aren’t warnings along the way. Yet, we too sometimes don’t retreat.

    I can relate to this story. Can you?


7 years ago Accepting You and Wanting to be Me

Have you ever wondered about how differently people are wired? Researchers have found that even infants have different temperaments. Being a psychologist, I mostly focus on the environmental influences on our personality and behavior. Yet, like most parents of more than one child, it is difficult to deny that kids can be wired differently.

Take my twin granddaughters who are turning two the end of this month. It is impossible to not know that Mallory is around. Her zest, her temper, and her excitable personality cannot be ignored. Morgan is quieter, goes to sleep easier, and is quite the thinker.

Their mom laughingly tells of their escapades. Just yesterday, Mallory was throwing a fit about not wanting to go to daycare that morning. Just as soon as her dad took her to her room, he turned to see that she had opened the door somehow and was running up the hall screaming with her teacher chasing her. I can imagine Morgan thinking, “My sister is so dramatic that it’s embarrassing!”

Morgan is a prissy one who can be found sitting in her bed with a play crown on her head after waking up. She daily asks for a hair bow. She must have a frilly gown to sleep in with princesses on the front. Just tonight, after bath time, Morgan gets on her sparkling gown and carries her baby dolls. Mallory comes running up the hall wearing her brother’s old PJ’s that have a lion on the front. As she runs, she growls proudly like a lion.

Its amazing that being so differently, they are so uniquely loved. I can’t imagine wanting them to be different than whom they are. I can’t imagine loving or preferring one above the other.

Yet, don’t we all tend to compare with others and act like some people are more valuable than others? I wonder if God wishes we could see from His position and heart as he looks at us the way I look at my granddaughters. I so cherish them individually, adore their features, likes, and personalities. I’m so glad God made them and really all of us as individuals. He could have made us replicas or clones.

I can only hope that Mallory loves her dark waves, full lips and taller frame instead of wishing she looked more like Morgan. I can only hope that Morgan loves her curly blond hair, blue eyes, and more petite frame instead of wishing she looked more like Mallory.

I can only hope that Mallory loves and accepts her twin, while still wanting to be herself. I can only hope that Morgan loves and accepts her twin, while still wanting to be herself.

I pray that we will love and accept each other, while still wanting to be ourselves. We will if we understand God’s great love for us and know that He chose to create us individually.

7 years ago The Damage of Avoidance

For the last decade or more, I have been saying that one of the most destructive behaviors in life is avoidance. To understand this statement, we must qualify that it depends on what we are avoiding. It’s wise to avoid evil, sin, and all kinds of influences, including a rattlesnake.

Yet, I am referring to when we avoid what we need to face. It may be a task that needs to be tackled, a sin or addiction that needs to be faced, an apology that needs to be given, and repentance that needs to be sought. It may be avoiding a confrontation that needs to be made. It may be avoiding salvation and Jesus Himself. It commonly is avoiding emotional wounds that need healing.

My decades of counseling have involved seeing the damage that avoidance has brought to so many. All of us have likely experienced damage from avoiding when we shouldn’t have. I have avoided my treadmill and have the damage to show for it.

Some avoidance has caused more hurt than others. I grieve as I hear and realize that certain hurtful outcomes in people’s lives could have been AVOIDED if they hadn’t of AVOIDED what should have been dealt with years ago.

As I recently listened to a couple describe their current family problems, we all realized that it didn’t have to have become so dysfunctional if they had faced and dealt with some issues and patterns long ago. Yet, like in most cases, some were willing to face and deal, while others were not. Typically, there’s a vital person who is avoiding that can derail the progress that could come.

The older I get, I also realize that not only can avoidance be destructive, but that the only one we have power over is ourselves. We can’t make others stop avoiding. We can’t make others face harsh reality or difficult changes that need to be made. We can only choose for ourselves what needs to be faced and not avoided. I encourage you to review your life and ask the Lord to reveal if there are areas you are avoiding that need to be faced. I know I sure have some!

7 years ago Don’t Forget to Flush

How many times have you gone into the bathroom to find remains in the toilet? It’s disgusting when someone forgets to flush the toilet. We may be a little more forgiving when it’s a toddler who forgot to flush. Yet, its always yucky and a relief to push the lever and see the commode get rid of the mess and fill again with clear fresh water.

I recognize that my example is gross, yet it is a visualization that sets the stage for remembering how we need to flush many emotions and thoughts daily. I recently met with a client who was describing his irritation with people and situations. He flippantly commented on how he needs to regularly flush it out.

I instantly found myself clinging to the expression and thinking about how effective it would be if we could remember to flush out of our mind and heart what needs to be flushed, just like that toilet that needs flushing every time its filled with waste.

When I allow that irritation, that offense, and sometimes even that hurt to remain, it begins to stink and to stain my life with damage. Some hurts and offenses are harder to flush than others. It may take longer and require more effort and grace. The analogy doesn’t fit some situations as well as others. Yet, some of life’s daily offenses and irritations fit precisely. Our flushing protects our emotional, spiritual, and physical health. So don’t forget to flush!

7 years ago The Blahs

Do you ever have the blahs? You may not be in despair, but you feel like life is missing something. It’s like the coke that’s lost its fizz. When you think about it, life has many of these times of feeling like we are waiting for more. Even though our journey is interjected with times of excitement, it’s also plagued with blahs. We feel the excitement when getting that new car, the birth of a baby, the new boyfriend, and numerous other experiences that temporarily fill our world with zest. Yet, I find that quiet yearning creeping upon me. Do you?

Even if we are prone to contentment and a grateful attitude, we all were made for more. Since we were made in God’s image, we were made for eternity, for loving interactions, and creative expression. Stuck in a fallen world stifles our being.

If we accept that our completeness, our being FULLY who we were created to be comes after we leave these earthly bodies, we are positioned to live wisely and to embrace the blahs with hope. We know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We will see Him face to face and we will be like Him.

1 John 3:2
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Sometimes I find comfort in just validating that my blahs may just be my reminder that I yearn for completeness, for knowing Him in full, and being fully who God designed me to be. That wouldn’t include my old flesh nature that is so prone to junk like selfishness, jealousy, pride, and boredom. I yearn for myself and others to be real, to love each other like Jesus does, and to stop the madness that comes from comparing and trying to impress each other. Don’t you look forward to being fully led by the Spirit instead of ever having to deal with the baser flesh nature? I definitely look forward to being in a place where there is no evil to interject its influence.

I can’t imagine the beauty and magnificent splendor of Heaven. I can’t imagine the lack of any pain, boredom, and temptation. I can’t even fully imagine what it will be like to see Jesus and the Father face to face. Yet, when I get the blahs, I am called to try to imagine and to recognize that my blahs may be my spirit just wanting to go home.

7 years ago Don't Waste Your Invitation

Have you ever found hidden treasure? The Lord referred to the Kingdom of Heaven as hidden treasure. On CWA blog radio, I am doing a series called The Great Treasure Hunt. I have been asking the Lord to prompt me to uncover and describe jewels that He wants to share with His children that are hidden from the world. These jewels equip us as we live in the war zone that comes from being in a fallen world.

This week I was prompted with my next jewel to explore: Romans 8:28. I can’t imagine how many times that verse has been the rock of truth that sustained me. It says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose”. So many are familiar with that passage. But, do we believe and stand on it?

When life’s terrible blows come, do we stay under the umbrella of truth that this verse promises? We might not see how it will be used for good, we may not see any signs of good coming, and we may begin the decent toward dismissing the promise Romans 8:28 provides.

Do we recognize that the promise is conditional? It doesn’t say that all things work for good to just anyone. It says to those who love God. Since we are also told that if we love God, we will keep His commandments, we could also say, all things work together for good to those who are obedient. I haven’t always responded with obedience. Yet, its amazing when the Holy Spirit convicts and I repent and obey, how God can begin the process of making all things work together for good. I may not see it immediately. Yet, He always has plans for good to those who love Him.

The last part of Romans 8:28 points out that the promise is to those called according to His purpose. Verse 29 explains more: His purpose is to transform us into the image of Jesus. What the Lord is referring to as good may look very differently from what the world or my flesh nature defines as good. Recently, I met with a woman who told of how she was stripped from a prestigious job, great income, and successful position in the world’s eyes. Yet, she tearfully told of how thankful she was for the loss. Instead, it positioned her to be humbled from the destructive pride in her heart. It drew her into the greatest treasure in her life: Her tender relationship with Jesus.

She had found hidden treasure. Her definition of good was like the good promised by Romans 8:28 and explained in verse 29: she was being transformed more closely into the image of Jesus. What a treasure! She had learned to value true treasure, not the world's idea of treasure. She didn't want to trade her new treasure for the prestige, money, worldly pleasures and all the admiration that comes from where she had been.

We are invited to the greatest, most valuable treasure hunt that ever existed. Don’t waste your invitation.

7 years ago The Powerful Stall Button

Life sometimes seems like a movie with no pause button. The scenes, plots, and challenges keep coming. There’s not even a speed button to slow it down at times.

Being a counseling psychologist for decades has helped me uncovered strategies that are necessary for dealing with life in healthy ways. Yet, that hasn’t insured that I always use them in my own life. We not only need to find these strategies, we have to remember to use them intentionally. Each time I discuss these approaches with clients, I find myself realizing how it helps me to review them.

One of the top five strategies, if not the top one, I have uncovered is what I call the “stall button”. I tend to develop visual images to represent whatever I am trying to be intentional in using. I picture my stall button being right in the middle of my stomach. I picture pushing it like a pause button when I need a moment to stop, reflect, and think before I react.

I can’t emphasize enough how critically important it is to use the stall button when we feel attacked emotionally, feel disappointment in ourselves or someone else, when we are full of anger, shame, or fear; or when we are ready to give up. When we are vulnerable to lies of the enemy or to reactions from our carnal flesh nature, our stall button is our greatest protection.

I actually bought one of those “easy buttons” from Staples that was shown on their famous commercials. My intent was to cover over “easy” and replace it with the word “stall”.

Even when I am wise and willing enough to push my stall button, it is just as critical what I do when stalled. While I may need different messages while stalled, I always need to remind myself of truth. I may need to take a deep breath and relax my clinched jaws and fists. I may need to slow down my racing heart. I may need to remind myself that God loves me flaws and all. I may need to recognize that the person I am most hurt or angered by is likely reacting from his or her own wounded heart.

Whatever truth I need, the stall button gives me a chance to find it. As I stall, I am positioned to praise my Lord, ask for His Spirit to quiet me, fill me with peace, and remind me of truth to dispel the lies. I ask for help in my delivery when I need to confront or set a boundary with someone. Wow, what a wonderful opportunity my stall button presents me.

My stall button seems broken at times. Even if I remember to push it, it just doesn’t stop my big mouth. I have to power up my button by plugging into the source of fuel; the Holy Spirit. If I don’t regularly ingest the Word, talk to the Lord, confess my wrongs, and seek His presence, my button is disabled and I’m on my own risky tightrope.

I can plummet into destructive thoughts, actions, and attitudes. I can hurt those I love, including myself. I can make dumb impulsive decisions. The harm I can do is pretty amazing. I bet you can too.

Today I heard a client say that he was trying to reprogram himself. He will definitely need a juiced up stall button to do that. Living in a fallen world, a spiritual war zone, and with a vulnerable mind, heart, and body should make all of us alarmingly aware of our need for the powerful stall button. Keep it fueled and push it wisely!

7 years ago GET STUBBORN!

I fluctuated between anger and sadness as I listened to a woman I counseled describe how unloved she has felt by everyone in her life. I could understand why as I heard of how everyone seemed to use her, while never being willing to sacrifice for her. No one seemed to put him or herself out to meet her wants and needs.

No wonder she has struggled with not feeling good about herself. It is vital to believe what the Word says, even when our experiences are so different from what we read. God wanted husbands to love their wives like Jesus did the Church. He wanted fathers to be protective and sacrificial for their families. He wanted mothers to love and nurture their sons and daughters. He wanted wives to respect and support their husbands.

How many of us have experienced what He wanted to the full degree? Right! It’s a fallen world, being influenced by evil moment by moment. None of us have experienced entirely what God wanted for us because of this.

We must DEMAND ourselves to foster truth in ourselves, whether our feelings match with truth or not. We may not feel valuable; but we are. We may not feel loveable; but we are.

Stubbornly going after truth is the best endeavor to be stubborn about. I was told that I was the stubborn one in the family. That can be good or bad. I yearn to be and stay stubborn in pursuing truth. If you’re not stubborn enough, please join me. Get STUBBORN!

7 years ago Relief for Mothers

As a mom, do you ever feel the enormity of the role you play in the forming of your children? Before I had children, I had been in graduate school studying psychology and learning about the powerful influence a mother has upon her children. It provoked a little fear in me as I realized I could really cause some harm.

Later, after becoming a mother, I still felt the seriousness of my influence. I was likely more concerned than most who had not spent years studying all the research on one of the most powerful forces upon our development: modeling. The studies illustrated how children imitate and copy others they watch in those young formative years of development.

Can you relate to me in realizing that I sure haven’t done it all right? There’s so much more I should have done. There’s so much I should have not done. There’s so much better I could have been as their model.

Yet, deep down, I know that I don’t have the power to make another person be who he or she is going to be. Yes, I am an influence. As mothers, we are one of biggest influences upon our children’s development.

In thinking about the responsibility of my role, I recall a poem that my mom recited to me when I was a young girl. I was so fond of the poem that I had her help me memorize it. She had learned the poem decades before me. She too had cherished the message from the poem. She recalls that the author is unknown and she didn’t even know of it having a title.

Whenever I would recite the poem to myself, I had a nagging feeling that there should be more to the message. While I want to assume my responsibility, I also know that it is not all up to me. In fact, the most powerful influence of all is that of my Heavenly Father who is the greatest model. What a relief!

I share with you the poem I learned decades ago and the addition I added. I hope it blesses and relieves you when you may feel like I do at times when I am reminded of my own imperfections as a mom. P.S. I gave it a title.

Molding Clay together

I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day.
And as my fingers pressed it still
it moved and yielded to my will.

I came again when days had past
That bit of clay was hard at last
The form I gave it, it still bore
And I could change it nevermore.

I took a piece of living clay
And gently formed it day by day
And molded with my power and art
A young child’s soft and yielding heart

I came again when years were gone
It was a man I looked upon
The early imprints he still bore
And I could change him nevermore

        Author unknown

Yet, the potter made the clay so grand
Its only He with the powerful hand
That can smooth the cracks and mend the holes
And change hard places into pockets of gold

He gently bent and stroked the heart
And shows that he knew just where to start
I watch with wonder as I exclaim, “oh me”!
The resemblance is striking as Jesus I see

How could I have not known all along?
The potter’s hand is where he belonged.
God always had the plan in mind
My son would look like His when Jesus he’d find.

        Author: Peggy Karlosky

7 years ago Remind Us

Tomorrow my first cousin will come to church. He will be dressed in some of his favorite clothes, surrounded by his family and friends. He will be in the familiar sanctuary where we have sung hundreds of praises, had family weddings, baptized many, and heard my brother preach many a passionate sermon.

We sat in the chairs sometimes passing notes and chewing gum. Our moms have stood at the entrance doors Sunday after Sunday greeting those coming in to worship.

Yes, tomorrow my cousin will come into a place with many memories. Yet, he won’t walk the familiar aisles. He will be rolled in a casket. He won’t be sitting in the back, where he preferred. He will be center stage for all to see.

This room has been filled with many emotions over the years; some joyous, some sad. Tomorrow, the tears will be many. The walls will echo the pain of those who don’t want to let go just yet.

Lord, it would be unbearable had we not been so equipped being within these walls. Within this familiar room, we have been filled with the truth to prepare us for this moment and for the moment when we too will be rolled down the aisle.

Don’t let our memory fail us Lord. Remind us that you are ever present; to be absent from the body is to be present with you. Remind us that our life is just an eye blink to eternity for all of us. Remind us that where we go will be sweeter and more familiar than this room with so many precious memories. Remind us when the pain is great, the loss feels overwhelming, and the enemy strikes our mind with cruel lies.

Remind us of Jesus calling and that my cousin just got ahead of the line.

7 years ago Wake Ups

Our family has experienced terrific pain this weekend. My first cousin, who grew up across the street from us, was found dead Saturday. He was sleeping on the couch, snoring away one minute and unresponsive and dead the next. A life gone too soon; only 49 years old.

The older I get, the more I recognize that this isn’t our home and that we will all have the wounds to prove that as we check out of here. My cousin sure had his share of scars to prove that life here wasn’t God’s original paradise.

Times like this weekend jar me into keener insight. What are we doing? Our days here are so brief and so uncertain in time that we need to make each count. Many think of this as having as much pleasure out of each day as possible. That’s still missing the point. We will have a blast in heaven; nothing here can even compare.

Yet, just as my cousin now knows, our time is over before you know it. He didn’t begin the day saying, “In just a few hours I will be meeting my Maker and then I will have no more opportunities to bring anyone with me. I will have no more opportunity to do my assignments here that God wanted me to do. In 4 or 5 hours, I will have no more influence upon eternity for myself or anyone else”.

He was sleeping one minute, the next he was waking up in eternity elsewhere.
What a wake up for not just him, but for all of us who loved him. We all need to have some practice wake-ups to tune us into what’s really important.

7 years ago A Case Study on Love

Have you noticed all the hearts, flowers, and talk about love this weekend? Being Valentine’s Day, I expected it. I bet many of the church sermons this weekend also focused on love.

This Saturday, I did my blog radio show and was continuing a series on dealing with hurt. I thought, “Wow I should have had the show topic to be on love, since it was Valentine’s Day."

After the show, I was amazed to realize that the story I was discussing from I Samuel displayed one of most tender examples of love. The scripture was about a time when David was at one of the lowest times in life. An enemy army had attacked, burned the town, and taken their goods, along with their precious wives and children. Some of David’s own men were ready to turn on him as they plotted to stone him.

Devastated, David turned to the Lord. After strengthening himself in the Lord and seeking His approval, David and 600 men courageously went to rescue their families. While in hot pursuit, 200 of the men, exhausted beyond measure were unable to get across flooded waters that blocked the path to the enemy. They collapsed and stayed behind as David and the 400 men continued the rescue.

The Lord gave them victory and all was recovered; wives, children, and all their stolen goods. The men, who had wanted to stone David, began their usual bad attitude. They declared that none of the goods should be shared with the 200 who had been unable to complete the mission.

Yet, David, who God described as a man after His own heart, tenderly displayed the heart of God. He adamantly declared that those too exhausted and unable to help would not be denied. They too would be rewarded, just like those who had completed the mission.

Aren’t you glad that’s the kind of God we serve? I had gone to that scripture to do a case study on how to deal with hurt, and yet, what a display of love I found.

If you have also ever been too exhausted to complete what God had called you to do, remember that we have a God full of mercy and compassion. David’s willingness to reward those who had tried and yet fell with exhaustion reminds me of that. It also encourages me to get back up and try again.

7 years ago God Dependent

Do you ever feel overextended? Do you have a hard time saying no to others? When someone you love is distressed, do you always try to fix the situations in life that are causing him or her pain?

If you answered yes to these questions, like many of us, you may also need to review the importance of using healthy boundaries. It’s great to love others and try to help when we can without causing harm to ourselves and when we won’t be hindering others by helping them.

I recall hearing all the buzz about “Codependency” when I was in graduate school. Since I was in graduate school in the early eighties, codependency was the new rave in psychology and recovery circles back then. I couldn’t figure out why I felt grieved by all the talk about it.

I finally realized that it was because I was hearing it from a secular setting that made it sound cold and selfish to me. It seemed that what was being advocated was to just take care of yourself, don’t be emotionally affected by others’ pain, and definitely don’t try to help them.

However, from a Biblical/Christian framework, I get it! Needed boundaries are essential to living a healthy life. We all need to use wisdom when deciding how to use our time and energy. There’s no way to please everyone and to eliminate all of others’ pain.

We are not limitless like God. We can’t carry all the responsibility; we weren’t made to. When I have tried to take all the pain and struggle away for my children, I recognized that I am not that powerful. I also recognize that the struggles and pain can be what is needed to remind us of our need for God, a loving Savior, and a hope of Heaven where no struggles and pain exist.

I hope to always hurt for others, help in healthy ways, recognize my limitations, and to encourage others and myself to recognize how dependent we are on the Lord’s help.

Maybe we need to use the term: God Dependent.

7 years ago Take Me Away

Do you remember the Calgon commercials in the seventies? If you don’t, let me enlighten you. The commercials began with a woman expressing her frustration: the dog, the kids (who were screaming in the background), the boss, and a few other stresses. The woman finally throws up her hands and says, “That does it, Calgon take me away!”

Next thing you know, you see her in a calm, peaceful bubble bath. She smiles as she basks in the soothing tub that took her away from all that distressed her.

I wonder what happened to the screaming kid, boss, and all the other responsibilities she whisked herself away from.

Do you ever wish you could do the same? It may not be a bubble bath, but we all sometimes wish we could just get whisked away from the stress, frustrations, and demands.

Sometimes we need to just withdraw from the whirlwind of life and be in a quiet, soothing place to regroup. Maybe that’s what God meant when He said, “Be still and know that I am God.” What a peaceful thought if Jesus is our Lord and Savior.

Being still and knowing that He is God, reminds me, “He’s got this”. Years ago I recall thinking everyone could benefit from identifying and using a motto to remind themselves of whatever they needed to embrace to be healthy. Each person’s motto needed to fit with what he or she struggled. Our motto may change over our life situations. I remember thinking mine at that time was, “I’m not God”. That may seem a strange motto. Yet, it was my reminder at the time that I couldn’t carry the load of everything and everybody.

Maybe we all could use that reminder. He is God. We can’t handle what He can. That’s better than even Calgon.

7 years ago Having the Right Fear

    Our society is in a time of such overwhelming change, confusion, and crime that we are plagued with worry, tension, and fear. The multi billions spent on anti-anxiety medications don’t begin to tell the full extent of the epidemic of anxiety. 

    Why are we afraid? Most simply put, “We don’t want to suffer”. We don’t want to go bankrupt, get cancer, our children to end up on drugs, our spouse to have an affair, to be robbed, raped, or murdered. We don’t want to feel insignificant or be alone. The list of possible fears would be longer than we would be willing to read.
Do you live in fear? What do you fear the most? Fear is what sends most people to counseling. As a psychologist, I have spent almost three decades trying to help people overcome their fears. Yet, I am passionate about promoting the right kind of fear; a fear that could be the most powerful promoter of your life. I invite you to welcome this fear. It’s the fear of not becoming who you were created to be.
    God created you and I with specific, well thought out plans. We were to develop our unique personality, skills, and interests. We were to have rewarding relationships and to display characteristics like Jesus.
    Our life was meant to tell a story. What story does your life tell so far? When I think of what my story tells, I recognize that I want to change some of its chapters. While I can’t change those already written, I sure hope to add some chapters that tell the story God meant for mine to tell.

7 years ago Behavioral Sink

Do you ever wonder, what’s missing from my life? Is there more than this? Famous people who are what the world would think of as highly successful have illustrated that they too feel this way.

Actually, we who have Jesus as our Lord and Savior were not meant to experience complete contentment and fulfillment here. Yet, we still want it, don’t we?

We yearn for more fulfillment and our mysterious itch to be satisfied. We may have moments of intense joy, peace, and a sense of well-being. We always have the truth to comfort us: We are loved, saved, and have a great eternal home, away from evil, our own flesh nature, and suffering.

Yet, while we are here, this world is not our home. There is an anthropology term called “behavioral sink” that helps validate our struggles. Most of my counseling clients have heard me use this term if they have met with me for a long time.

The term refers to research conducted on different species in which researchers were trying to identify the environmental conditions that are necessary for that particular species to thrive---to be at maximum potential. They were looking at gradually overcrowding them, even though they had the conditions to live. They found that when they gradually changed the conditions, their behavior gradually became more destructive and damaging to them.

We can generalize the concept from this line of research to us. What conditions are necessary for us to thrive? We were created to thrive when in our natural habitat and it sure isn’t here. When we are close to Jesus, others who love Him too, following the Word, filled with His Spirit, the more we thrive. Yet, to be fully in His presence, rid of our carnal flesh nature, and away from temptation and evil we will fully thrive. We will be complete, at home, with no unsatisfied yearnings or struggles. Until then, we sometimes have those behavioral sinks.

7 years ago A Society full of Anxiety: What are You Anxious About?

A society full of anxiety. Kind of rhymes doesn’t it? Anxiety is likely one of the top three, if not the top, motivators for people seeking counseling. We are living in a time of such overwhelming change; stress, confusion, and crime that we are plagued with worry, tension, and fear. The multi billions spent on anti-anxiety medications don’t begin to tell the full extent of the epidemic of anxiety.

Why are we afraid? Most simply put, “We don’t want to suffer”. We don’t want to go bankrupt, get cancer, our children to end up on drugs, our spouse to have an affair, to be robbed, raped, or murdered. We don’t want to feel insignificant or be alone. The list could go on for longer than I can type.

One of the greatest fears we should have is to waste our opportunity to love Jesus. We could live and die and never know how loved we were. If we know how loved we are, our anxiety begins to fade. We still may not want to suffer, but we know that God is always looking out for us and wants well for us. He never said we wouldn’t suffer. In fact, He said we would. Thus, we may still be prone to get anxious at the thought of pain.

In Revelation 21, we read that He will wipe away our tears. If they were happy ones, why would they be wiped away? If we were on our way to hell, why would He wipe them away? The verse must be talking to those headed for heaven. It only makes sense to me that He will wipe away painful memories. Will this include rejection, betrayal, physical pain, and grief only? I can’t imagine what else we would have tears about if we knew we were on the threshold of heaven, except for regrets; “Why didn’t I try to lead others to Christ more; be a better light to the lost, treat Jesus and others better?”

I am so thankful for His grace. Yet, I hope to keep some anxiety; the kind that makes me not forget the stakes involved. We are all headed somewhere; are we lighting the way?

7 years ago The Need for Significance

I recall my dad telling me many years ago, “The worse thing in life is to be ignored”. I didn’t respond to his statement with much enthusiasm. I thought that it seemed much worse to be abused or ridiculed. I think I would rather be ignored.

Yet, I realized that dad was making a profound point. Our very soul is wounded when we are ignored and feel that it doesn’t matter if we exist.

Do you feel significant? We all have a need to feel significant, as if we matter. Unfortunately, we usually determine if we are significant or not by how others treat us. This begins the problem. Some of the worse damage in life comes in our unhealthy attempts to become significant in others’ eyes.

I will be exploring our human desire for significance and ways that our attempts can cause damage on CWA radio. I welcome you to log in to CWA radio on your computer. This is a weekly blog radio show where you can listen to shows on your computer. After logging in, scroll down to the show UNCOVER: The Real God, the Real You, and the Real Enemy with host Dr. Peggy Karlosky.

We all need to realize that all of us are significant to our creator. God had wonderful plans for each of us and we need to UNCOVER how He sees us.

7 years ago What do you think?

I was in awe tonight as a witnessed one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen during any basketball game, or any competitive sport for that matter. As a psychologist I sometimes focus on the behavior and emotional expressions and reactions of players and coaches instead of just the game. It’s a rare coach that doesn’t display intense frustration and anger during competition, and even more as the game is a close and important one. I’ve often thought about how hard this is for their blood pressure!

Tonight, North Carolina, ranked 15, was playing North Carolina State, which is unranked. They were playing at North Carolina State and one can only imagine the rivalry between them. North Carolina had beaten them for the last few years; last year beating them by a basket.

The intensity was great and they were down to the last second of the game. North Carolina State was down by three points. The only way to tie the game required the North Carolina State player who was shooting a foul shot to make the first point and then to intentionally miss the second so that they could rebound and make another basket. The announcers explained the strategy, which was the only likely way for North Carolina State to have a chance, since only a second remained in the game.

However, the player made the first basket and then accidently made the second also and they lost the game. He knew immediately that they had no chance as soon as the ball went through the hoop. With only a second left, the ball would be given to North Carolina and the game was over, with them losing by one point. The crowd had been tense with excitement and the disappointment for the home team, North Carolina State was overwhelming. The player visibly looked shaken and shocked at what he had done. He knew he was supposed to miss the shot and yet had made it. He instinctively dropped over and writhed with despair.

He must have instinctively looked to his coach, because the cameras turned and caught the private, calm, and tender look and gesture that the coach gave to the devastated player, as the coach mouthed that it was okay. The gentleness of the coach’s smile spoke volumes. One could see it was a private one on one connection between them.

I found myself welling up with such emotion and admiration. The whole crowd was likely full of angry and heartbroken faces. Yet, the one the young player turned to was full of compassion. I wonder if that coach will ever know what an impact he had made on not only that young man’s heart, but also me and anyone else who recognized the importance of his gesture and reaction. He had such power to influence a young man and had chosen wisely.

Games come and go, they don’t really matter in the big scheme of things. We get so excited as if those scores affect history and eternity. We rank those coaches with the great winning records and national championships among the elite. I wonder how God ranks them. I tend to think God would count the actions like I witnessed of this coach as a championship that outranks the others easily. What do you think?

7 years ago Relish the Moment

My husband and I were lying on our bed watching a ballgame on the television, which is positioned perfectly on the wall in front of us. I found myself just enjoying the soft warm comfort of my bed. After a busy full day, it felt so great to just relax and enjoy my comfort.

I signed and said, “I love my bed!” “Don’t you just love our bed?” “It’s a bed”, he said as if he was indicating what’s the big deal?

I too usually take for granted simple and expected pleasures. If we ever had to sleep on the floor or ground for nights on end, we likely would exclaim with enthusiasm our delight for our soft, warm, and comfortable beds.

Although we were both having the comfort of the bed, I was blessed more because of that sudden rejoicing in the moment. I wish we would intentionally train ourselves to search for those opportunities daily to recognize the pleasures as events to relish and for which to give thanks.

7 years ago One Day

I love some of what comes with aging. After moving to the last half of my life, I accepted that there is so much I will never understand until I get out of here. People hurting each other, tragedies happening to kind people, stupid rules that don’t make sense, and so much more that God allows.

One of my favorite verses, or at least one of the verses I have needed the most to have hope and to stay sane is I Corinthians 13:12. We read:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face-to-face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known”.

As I encounter damage and pain of living in a fallen world, I have desperately clung to that verse. Its so reassuring that God wanted me to know that I can’t see it all from here and thus, I sure can’t understand everything. It is also reassuring that He promises that one-day I will see fully and understand.

If we don’t use this truth as we face the hurt of our world, we may become like the atheist who responds with, “God doesn’t exist” or the deceived who responds with, “God isn’t loving or fair”.

While some may respond to the “whys” by abandoning their faith, I want even more to desperately cling to mine. I Corinthians 13: 12 has enabled me to do so. Thank you Lord for promising me ONE DAY.

7 years ago Complaint or Divine Intervention

I wonder how many times what we complain about was actually a divine intervention. It may be the man of our dreams not being interested in us. It may be the promotion that we didn’t get. It may be the illness that laid us flat on our back. It can be all kinds of hurts. Some we may never recognize as helping us. Yet, sometimes we have our eyes opened to the lengths and ways that God intervenes.

I was enlightened to a situation today that I am beginning to think was one of those divine interventions that I had misperceived as a life frustration to complain about. In my office, where I spend literally much of my life, I have a vent less fireplace. I have had it for years and since I am very cold natured, I love its warmth. I typically make it too hot for others if I am not turned in to the obvious signs; their reddened face and sweat pouring.

My office also has a French door. Way before it should have, that lovely French door began to stretch oddly so that it left a huge opening between the main doors. Even the shape of the opening was odd. This allowed air to easily blow right in. We attempted to have it fixed several times. Nothing worked long at all. Before you know it, that stupid gap would be back.

We finally just had a new door installed. Sometime later I started feeling queasy and tired. I had even gone to the doctor to see what was wrong with me.

Well I thought we had gotten to the bottom of the mystery whenever I found that we had a gas leak that was coming from a pipe above my head in the office. We had this fixed and I realized how lucky (actually protected) I was from being seriously hurt or killed by such.

However, something kept nagging at me to get it further investigated. I began having the queasy feelings again, along with fatigue. Today a professional used a meter to check my office. While I didn’t have a leak, I found out that my vent less fireplace was too big for my office in that it was building up carbon monoxide in my room. The expert explained that it was quickly building up in my office each time my fireplace flame was burning. He said that it was just like someone running his or her car in a closed garage. Many have died that way intentionally. As I explained about my queasy stomach and fatigue, he responded by saying, it eventually puts you to sleep. I didn’t have to ask what comes after sleep.

It didn’t hit me until much later that day. I kept saying, “I have used this fireplace for years, probably ten at least”. Then I recalled that stupid French door that kept stretching out of shape. It was so bizarre. Nothing could stop it. It may sound crazy, but its like protective hands kept pulling it apart so that fresh air came in and likely saved my life. In fact the odd shape of the gap looked like what you would picture if someone had put his hands right in the middle of the door and pulled them apart on purpose. It literally bowed in the middle. No human hands would be that strong. Could it have saved me from both the leak and the carbon monoxide that was building?

Well meaning people tried to fix the door. Sometimes well-meaning people are getting in the way of what you may really need or what God is trying to do to help you.

Lord, help us to trust you, even about what we complain. You may be saying our life.

7 years ago Never Give Up!

Do you ever get sick of the downs that come with the ups of life? We can be going through life, sometimes feeling content and even blessed, when suddenly life isn’t so rosy anymore. Sometimes we know why, sometimes we don’t. One of the most helpful books I have read in the last couple of years is, The Invisible War, by Chip Ingram. If you know me very well, you likely have heard me mention it.

Chip discusses his own spiritual attacks and how he has come to recognize the times we can almost expect an attack. These include times we are growing spiritually, getting ready to launch ministry attempts, or trying to expose the enemy.

We all sometimes need to remind ourselves that the reward of doing our assignments for the Lord outweighs the pain of the spiritual attacks. The attacks are attempts to either discourage us, get us to give up, or to punish us after we have put much effort into assignments.

I sure get sick of the attacks. It’s so important for us to remember that sometimes that cloud of doom, that yuck feeling, and almost ludicrous frustrations are spiritual attacks. When I finally wise up and sometimes sigh, “Oh yeah, I think Satan is just messing with me”, I can sometimes feel a little better. That doesn’t mean it just stops. Yet, it helps me to recognize the source. I know my Lord is greater and will faithfully help me.

I know that life here will involve ups and downs. Living in a fallen world will involve pain and frustrations. However, some of those will be strategic spiritual attacks. We need to be ready to stand firm with Jesus, never give up, and know that it will be worth it all in the end.

Months ago I signed up to host a radio program on Christian Women Affiliate, which is a blog radio program. That means people can listen to the program weekly on their computer by clicking into CWA radio.

I was excited to be able to share with others and to provide a program that will expose truths that might help others in their own spiritual war. In turn, my hope was that the program would provide a voice for others who would share their stories and insight on my program.

While I am still excited, the obstacles in getting up and running have been so ridiculous that I can’t help but believe that Satan is trying very hard to stop my efforts. I admit that more than once I had thought about calling the whole thing off and telling the CEO of the program that I had changed my mind.

Yet, I can’t seem to feel okay about quitting. Do you have aspirations for doing something for the Lord? Do you keep facing such obstacles that you get discouraged? If you do, I can’t begin to tell you how much I can relate.

Bottom line: I get sick of attacks. Heaven is going to be great in that we have no more attacks. Yet, I don’t think any of us will regret keeping on trying to do our assignments; but we will regret giving up for the wrong reasons.

7 years ago Significant in His Eyes

We have experiences early in life that may affect us so deeply that we carry the effects (good or bad) into adulthood. We are so vulnerable when we are young. We don’t have the experience to help us know how to sort fact from fiction. We sure don’t know that others who reject us don’t define us as being of no value.

We all have a need to belong and to feel significant. Yet, we all have had experiences that tell us we don’t belong and that we aren’t significant. I recall coming to school one day eager to meet up with my best friend since 4th grade. We were now in junior high and needing to cling even more to our friends who helped us feel secure in all the stress of trying to fit in.

When I found my friend, she was acting funny. She just kept looking at me in silence when I approached her. On each side of her was a girl who was a well-known athlete at our school. They seemed to be cushioning her between them as if they were her personal bodyguards. I didn’t know what to make of the situation and yet was soon to find out what was going on, although my friend never said a word.

One of the girls looked at me pointedly and stated, “She is going to be hanging with us now”. She made it clear that my best friend, who was now going to be their best friend, was dumping me. It was also clear that I didn’t belong with them. I guess I wasn’t cool enough.

I recall looking at my best friend, who I had shared so many experiences with since childhood. I had always thought that she adored me, like I did her. I had more fun with her than any of our other friends. Yet, now she just sat there, watching me as I struggled to know how to respond. I don’t recall saying anything. I just looked at her and them and exited the scene. Humiliated and full of embarrassment, I slunk away in silence.

For weeks, the pain hurt deeply. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Everyone had known the two of us as best friends since grade school. Everyone was in his or her respective click. I had other friends who allowed me to hang with them. Yet, it was awkward.

I don’t know what really happened that changed it all. Yet, several weeks later, she was back being my friend. It seems a blur and I still don’t recall how we got back as friends.

I have never forgotten the experience, although I don’t think it caused lasting damage. Yet, it was one of my first powerful glimpses of how people hurt each other. The flesh is selfish and our desire to be significant can lead us to reject others in our attempt to establish our importance. I had been naïve. I didn’t even think about someone who I trusted being so willing to discard me in such a hurtful way.

Can you relate? Do you relate more to having been rejected or having been the one who rejected and hurt someone else who trusted you? Either way, the Lord wants us to heal, to forgive, and to embrace our significance in His eyes.

7 years ago Christmas Forever!

Recently I ran into a friend who looked stunned as I talked of taking down my Christmas tree and decorations right after Christmas. She looked appalled and said that she likes to keep hers up for as long as possible. I softened the blow to her by admitting that I put my up weeks before Christmas and love enjoying the lights, tree, and special treasured décor.

Many feel let down after all the excitement of Christmas. Others are glad its over. Mason, my three-year-old grandson, is likely the most enamored with the Christmas tree and lights than any I have ever witnessed. He cried for hours when it was all being put up after Christmas. He didn’t understand why anyone would not love keeping all the Christmas fun going forever.

Even with all the commercialism, little Mason clearly understood that it was all because of Jesus. Over and over I heard him exclaim, “God gives anybody good gifts, thats sooooooo sweet!”

While we don’t know when Jesus was actually born, at least some still recognize Christmas as the time we designate to celebrate Jesus’ birth into humanity.

Somehow He seems to sometimes get lost amidst the presents, parties, food, and rush. I am amazed at how most of the Christmas décor and movies don’t even include Jesus.

Even with all the confusion, many enjoy Christmas. However, at the same time that many are rejoicing, many others are hurting, heartbroken, or fearful. I don’t want to ever get so caught up in my own joy that I forget about those who need encouragement and hope.

Because Jesus came into our broken world, because He hurt for us, and because He took our punishment, not only do we have hope, we can give others hope also.

My friend wanted to prolong the loveliness and glow of Christmas by keeping the tree and décor up for weeks. Instead, why can’t we keep it forever like little Mason wanted? We can by living each day remembering that Jesus’ birth into humanity outshines any Christmas magic portrayed in movies or by beauty we create with our lights, tinsel, and trees. Yes, Mason is right, we should never stop cherishing Christmas. Christmas is forever.

7 years ago WAR

If we lived in a war zone, with bombs blasting, enemy forces hiding in the bushes, and causalities all around us, we would be on guard at all times. We would be attuned to our surroundings and ready to react to enemy attack. Have you ever thought about those living in countries where this describes their lives?

Yet, we are all living in a war zone and most don’t even realize it. There is a spiritual war going on at all times. Attacks are happening and more attacks planned. We have a formidable enemy. We could live in fear at all times, if we focused on the horror of the war.

While we don’t want to live with a spirit of fear, we also don’t need to live with a blind heart and mind. Jesus clearly warned of the war and the cruelty of our enemy. More importantly, He assures our victory if we follow His lead, stay close to Him, and never give up.

Day after day, I hear others' struggles and pain from the war. But, day-by-day, I recognize the comfort and healing that the Lord offers. I rejoice that He provided the strategic war manual that guides us to victory. No wonder our enemy hopes we don’t open our Bibles, let alone study it, and definitely not follow its instructions.

7 years ago What do you associate Christmas with?

Many have said, “I love Christmas”, while many others said, “I hate Christmas”.
Why would anyone hate Christmas?

Some hate the crowds, stress, and commercialism. Others associate Christmas with their loss. They miss their loved one who has died and are not there to share the season. Many are reminded of their loneliness and dysfunction in their families, which is in stark contrast to the rosy Christmas cards, movies, and commercials.

I yearn to help them associate Christmas with life, forgiveness, and a loving Father who wants to spend eternity with us. Regardless of our pain in this life, Christmas represents the healing love of Christ. While we don’t know the exact birthday of Jesus, we should always recognize what His birth into humanity really means.

It means we are so loved that our Creator was willing to send His son into a world that would hurt Him deeply, treat Him cruelly, and provoke the only separation between them that ever existed. Yet, His willingness to send Him anyway knowing what was to come blows this mother’s heart. How could I bear to send my son into such?

If we can see the significance, we will always associate Christmas with hope.

7 years ago Touching God’s Heart

Recently, I received a long, detailed, and passionately written text from a woman I had given a gift. Whenever I started to give the gift, I hesitated because it seemed slightly extravagant for a birthday present. As I questioned myself, I succumbed to give it anyway, whether I felt like it was asking too much from myself or not.

I initially received a generous verbal thank-you from her. I didn’t really need big thanks from her to feel the joy that giving and obeying the leading of the Lord brings. I wanted her to be blessed and I knew that she could greatly use what I had given. I feel hesitant to even write about this experience since it looks as if I am bragging on myself. Believe me, I know that my humanness comes with great pockets of selfish. I frequently don’t give, as I should.

The woman’s long text came days later, as if the more she had thought of my giving, the more she felt thankfulness. She poured out her heart in the text, telling me details of her life, how my gift met needs and seemed to confirm how important she was to me. She went on to express how much she hoped and strives to be able to bless me back someday.

Even though I was already blessed by the contentment of giving, I never realized how much her specific and personal expression of thankfulness would touch my heart. It made me think of how much potential I have to touch God’s heart if I took the time and effort to be detailed and passionate in expressing my thankfulness to my Lord.

7 years ago Cling to Hope

As I looked into the young women’s face, her sadness was obvious. I ached with her as she vented her pain. Her voice sounded forlorn, yet resigned to her current situation. She quietly explained, “This is so far from how I had planned for my life to go. Its so different from how I pictured it.” She then went on to stun me with the revelation she shared. God too had felt, “This was not how I had planned. Its so different from what I had envisioned for humanity as I created them.”

Even the Almighty had faced the heartache of what He wanted twisted into something very different from what His heart desired. Can you relate?

We don’t envision our efforts to suddenly derail by a tragedy. We don’t envision our adorable toddler growing up to be destroyed by drugs. We don’t envision the one vowing to love us forever to suddenly stop and be done with us. We certainly don’t envision ourselves succumbing to a temptation that exemplifies the face of evil. How could this have happened?

While we don’t have all the answers here, we do have the main one we need. We all have the invitation to someday go to a place where no disappointments exist, no divine plans are derailed, and no temptations or evil mar our world. Jesus invites us all.

Until then, we need to cling to this hope.

7 years ago Thankful for Eternity’s Sake

I heard a minister today who asked a potent question. “If whatever you are thankful for today is what you will have to experience for eternity, what will your eternity be like?”

Wow. Do I even keep in mind all that are blessings that make up my life? Do I take them for granted, while I go from one challenge to the next? Even what some would consider small details, are gifts that enrich my life.

As a psychologist, I meet with people each day of my private practice who are coming for whatever hurts them. Some have horrendous pain, some have struggles that aren’t nearly so intense as others, yet all come with blessings too.

If whatever I am thankful for today is what I get assigned to me to experience for eternity, I have a long night ahead of me to begin the thankful list. How about you?