Mothers come in all shapes and sizes that include "Other Mothers" and Grandmothers who fill in the gaps in special ways.
Happy Mother's Day to all!
Mothers come in all shapes and sizes that include "Other Mothers" and Grandmothers who fill in the gaps in special ways.
Happy Mother's Day to all!
It felt good to return to work after traveling half-way around the world and back. I love to travel because it reminds me of just how big this world is–a healthy reality check! However flying twelve hours in a plane to begin and conclude the adventure was hard! What helped on our return flight, was watching a map of our progress as we flew out of Beijing to Toronto over oceans and seas, land areas and towns I had never heard of. As we made our slow progress traveling the nearly 7,000 miles across the globe (“slow” being a very relative application here!) I thought about what a speck in God’s amazing cosmos we actually are! It is amazing to me how we humans live as if the reverse were true; viewing ourselves as big and God as small and distant.
Travel is not the only way to receive that much-needed reality check. The Scriptures also serve as an excellent means of keeping us straight as to who God is and who we are not! That is why in the Counseling Room, frequent trips to the Bible are the key means of keeping our bearings. There are a myriad of places to go for help, depending upon the need. Often, when the problem(s) seem particularly daunting, I have found the broad spectrum comfort and assurance of Psalm 121 a helpful beginning. (I invite you to stop and read the following passages aloud, just as my clients do. Allow God’s Spirit to minister to whatever need you have as only He can do.)
God knows and cares about what is happening in your life and mine! Even as we sleep, He is at work watching over us.
Another one of my favorites we frequent for a spiritual reality check (especially when the problems are nasty and overwhelming) is chapter six in the Apostle Paul’s letter to his friends in Ephesis. The passage reminds us that the battles we face are far larger than we can see; that God will provide the courage and power we lack to stand as we lean fully on Him. (Again, be blessed as you read this slowly aloud. Pay special attention to the scope of the battle and be encouraged by the Source of our strength as we are called to stand)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6: 10-18)
No matter where you are in your life, be you problem-free or facing challenges like never before, referring to the Scriptures on a regular basis is a good and needful part of walking well with Christ. However, honoring the highlighted portion of the Ephesians is what makes for a truly meaningful reality check in each of our lives. When we “pray in the Spirit on all occasions”we entrust ourselves to God’s enormity as our Creator and Provider. There is no more meaningful reality check than that!
What are we to do when evil strikes and when life does not make sense? How are we to respond to someone who slaps us hard and looks at us with eyes of hate; when there is no apparent remorse for what has been done? It is tempting to try to hide from evil, to pull away from a world fraught with danger until things clear and we feel safe again. Truthfully, that is my first response when life gets hard. However, rather than curl up and hide, I have learned in my Christian walk to take a deep breath and respond to whatever challenge faced (be it my own or when helping someone else) according to the simple direction of James 1:5,
“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.”
As the events of 9/11/2001 took place, I remember begging God for wisdom and perspective all that day and into the night. I felt tormented and did not know how to respond to such evil. Finally, as I was going to bed exhausted and confused these words came to me: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. God is good.” (The first part is from Romans 12:9b; the second served as a reminder as to where I could safely put my trust.) A sense of relief flooded my mind and heart as I reflected on the simple clarity imparted through those words. As I went to sleep I remember how the words continued to work through my mind and heart: “Hate what is evil . . . cling to what is good . . . God is good . . . .” I slept peacefully that night, finding my resting place in the hands of a loving God who is worthy of my trust despite the chaos in the world.
Since then, those words have continued to echo in my mind and heart, even as evil has continued to lurk and destroy. I have continued to see God’s goodness still holding the upper hand. This week though, I felt myself stumble inwardly as the tragedy in Boston took place and as I counseled three women hurt by the pain of rejection and betrayal. What to do? Deep down I realized I was tired of the hurting and done with the unfair suffering imposed on innocent people by the sin of others. Even so, I had to smile when the words came to my mind, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God . . . . ” My response was what I have learned to do, I took a deep breath and ran to the Scriptures, this time with my Clients. Focusing on I Peter 3:8 through the end of Chapter 4, it was the final verse that settled into our minds and hearts as it rendered this simple clarity and assurance:
“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
What would God have us do when bad things happen; when we are treated unfairly or betrayed by others? Are you tired and feel as if you have nothing left to give? God has cleared a simple path for you and me as He urges us to ”continue to do good” by hating what is evil and clinging to Him for the strength and mercy we need to speak and act in love. We live in a fallen world, full of heartache and confusion; a world no different from the one two thousand years ago that rejected and betrayed its only Hope. God was faithful then and He continues to be now so . . . continue to do good as we trust HIM to deal with the ugliness of sin in this fallen world. Truly, HE IS WORTHY OF YOUR TRUST!
All to His Glory!
I’ve discovered how essential it is to keep things in perspective in order to maintain hope when you’re in the midst of a trial. The first and most important lesson I learned was focusing on what I have and not on what I’ve lost.
Our family before I was diagnosed with ALS. (Mary still had BIG hair).
Perspective: the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.
“On a scale from one to ten (with ten being the worst) how painful is this?” It is a generic but surprisingly helpful question asked in medical situations. Asking such a question helps to bridge the gap between the individual in distress and the one they are looking to for help. For the patient, it helps to take a small step away to make a more objective evaluation of their physical pain. It also is a practical means of communicating the pain level to the caregiver; information that can be very valuable in prioritizing treatment. But what about measuring emotional pain? Can we use the same scale? I thought about this after talking on the phone to a woman calling to make a counseling appointment. When I asked her the nature of her problem she said, “I just found out my husband has been having an affair and is leaving me.” My heart went out to her; I could hear the pain in her voice. It was what she said next though that really touched me, “I don’t think anything in my life has ever hurt me so deeply.” Somehow the clinical question, “On a scale of one to ten . . .” misses the mark completely when it comes to measuring pain experienced in the human heart and mind.
For me, the ultimate “ten” on the emotionally wounded scale is when it hurts so bad that it’s hard to breathe. That depth of wounding almost always is tied to a broken relationship or loss.
Such pain often tempts us to build barriers of protection around ourselves. We think that by hardening our hearts we will avoid being hurt again. Sadly, the fruit of such action complicates matters as those emotional barriers isolate us from other people and from God. The better way to deal with the emotional “tens” of life is to run to God through prayer and the comfort and perspective of the Scriptures.
Joseph is an example of someone who was hurt so bad it was hard to breathe numerous times in his life. (To read about Joseph’s life see Genesis 37,39-50, it will be well worth your time) Joseph was number eleven of twelve sons and the doted-on favorite of their father. His jealous older brothers sold 17-year-old Joseph into slavery and let their father believe he had been eaten by wild animals for over twenty years. The interesting thing about the Genesis account of Joseph’s life is that it says little about his emotional ups and downs of being sold into slavery, of being falsely accused of a crime he did not commit and then winding up in an Egyptian prison for the next thirteen years of his life. What the Bible does speak of is God’s faithfulness to Joseph during his years of suffering and how Joseph was eventually released from prison and made second in command over all of Egypt. Eventually God sees fit to reunite Joseph with his family. Joseph forgave his brothers and blessed them and their families by bringing them out of the famine to the shelter of Egypt to settle. In the final chapter of Genesis we are given one last look at the relationship between Joseph and his brothers:
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. (50:15-17)
Where did this emotional “ten” come from? Why do you think Joseph wept? The Bible does not tell us, but my thought is that after choosing to be a blessing to his brothers and their families for so many years, it hurt him to realize that his brothers believed the worst of him. God had blessed Joseph with a heart willing to forgive and love his brothers, but his brothers never changed. It was a painful revelation for Joseph. Here is the final account of Joseph’s dealings with his brothers:
His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (16-21)
In a letter written after 9/11, Queen Elizabeth of England wrote, “Grief is the price we pay for love . . . “. Joseph grieved for his brothers but chose to trust God by continuing to forgive and love them all of his days. Are you hurting so bad that it’s hard to breathe because of what someone has said or done to you? Perhaps there are barriers you put up long ago that need to come down? Or, are you still suffering the loss of someone you held dear and you do not have the strength to move forward? Believe me when I say that I understand on all counts! Yet, I write to encourage you to learn from Joseph’s example to trust and honor God even in your grief. Life IS hard, but God is always good when we choose to trust and honor Him.
“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” (I John 4:9)
All to His Glory!
I do not come from a family of runners. In fact, in my extended family if anyone said they were “going to run to the store,” it was understood that they were driving the car to get there! That is why when my oldest decided to take up running I was incredulous. ”Running . . . really?!!!” It has been several years and she is still at it. In fact, we are vacationing together and this morning when I found my way upstairs for some coffee Kara came in from running “just under five miles . . . .” Am I proud of her (and ever so slightly jealous?) You bet!
While I do not come from a family of runners, I do know about another kind of running: Running Scared. How about you? There are times in life when most of us have been run by fear or doubt. But how we handle fear is what makes Christians distinctive in facing the dangers of a fallen world. The Scriptures counsel that the only healthy fear in life is “the fear of the Lord.” (Proverbs 9:10) Otherwise, while the Bible recognizes that we live in a scary world, God’s own are admonished throughout the Old and the New Testaments to not give way to fear. So how are we to react when we’re facing trials or are suddenly overwhelmed by fear?
It was in a trying situation, when I wanted to run scared, that I discovered the wisdom and encouragement of Isaiah 30:15-18. At the time, I felt like I was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz; when her Auntie Em’s house was ripped from its foundation and was flying through the air. Like Dorothy, everything that flew around me took on a bizarre twist until the house finally landed with an almost imperceptible “thunk.” Verse 15 served as the “thunk” that set my mind and heart straight:This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
There it is, God’s prescription for just about every problem we face. Our response to such wisdom? Sadly, a total mess-up:” . . . but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.”
There I was, feeling totally alone . . . convicted about my foolish desire to run. As I reflected on God’s call to “repentance and rest . . . quietness and trust . . . salvation . . . strength . . .” I felt my soul being tended to like nothing else could. A quietness of mind and heart settled over me as I took my focus off myself and was honest with God. “Yes Lord, my sin is great but You are greater still. Help me to trust and honor you rather than run away.”
It is in that place of loneliness that we recognize the pit of despair where no one wants to live. It is a place fraught with anxiety and without hope. Even so, it is a place where redemption is near for all who cry out to God for the help they need. He waits ready and willing:
Tired of running? Not sure where to go from here? Take it from someone who has faced fear at many levels and can say with complete confidence . . . He is worthy of your trust! So, what are you waiting for?!!
All to His Glory!
I was two years old when my father was called to fight in the Korean War. I have no memory of when he left, but I definitely remember him picking me up and hugging me over a year later when he returned to us at the Navy dock in San Diego, California. Korea changed Dad. He suffered severe frostbite on his legs and feet so he walked like he was walking on broken glass. Also, he rarely slept more than four hours a night because of the nightmares that plagued him. Early on I remember his hands shaking from what they called “nerves,” and he could not walk into a darkened movie theater for many years. (Dad said it reminded him of the night he had to keep running along a steep ridge as he and his fellow Marines were shot at from either side. Anyone shot had to be left, because the enemy was so close they “could hear them breathing.”) It was rough carrying so many memories of war, but Dad worked hard and did his best to provide for our family.
Eventually, my parents worked to build a successful dry cleaning business. While Dad cleaned and pressed the clothes, Mom did alterations of all sorts. My brother and I helped Dad take care of customers, marked in clothes and put orders together when we weren’t in school. To most people, Dad’s handwriting on their receipts was an almost indecipherable scribble, but after working together for so many years and because I loved Dad, it became as familiar to me as my own. Almost fifty years later that proved to be an asset when I transcribed ninety-two of the letters Dad wrote to Mom during the year he was gone. I must admit there were challenges (some letters I had to hold up to a light to make out the faded writing.) But for me, it was a labor of love as I imagined Dad writing home from such a hostile environment. As I carefully opened each letter, unfolded the fragile paper and started to read, it was as if I could hear his voice speaking through time. To be honest, I believe transcribing Dad’s letters was one of the most worthwhile things I will ever do for our family. His letters reveal the character of a young family man who wanted to be home but learned to love and care about the men he served with. To this day, he can still tell you the names of many who “didn’t make it” back to their families.
Just as I recognized Dad’s “voice” speaking from a time when I was small, I believe Jesus was referring to a similar familial connection when He responded to the questions of some men who rejected Him as God’s Son in John 10:27-30,
“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
When Jesus came to this earth He knowingly stepped into enemy territory, a spiritual battle fraught with danger, to save those who would listen to His voice for eternity. In my last post I wrote about Connecting Your Story with His.
It is as we connect our stories with His though faith, that we learn to listen and recognize the voice of the Shepherd of our souls.
Do you have such a connection? Do you recognize His voice as He speaks to your heart? Then embrace the miracle of a changed heart and mind; remember the battle waged that ultimately secured your redemption. If you do not know the voice of the Shepherd but desire to, then answer His invitation given in Mark 1:15,
“The time has come,” He said. ”The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News!”
His Sacrifice given on your behalf and mine proves He is worthy of our trust . . .