We Dare Not Turn Our Backs . . . .

After spending hours watching events unfold in the news and listening to the chatter of a myriad of opinions as to how to respond–it was after I finally turned off the television, that I experienced palpable relief from the tug-of-war going on in my mind and heart.  It was then, as the quietness settled within me, that a verse from James ran through my mind like a wafting banner:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault . . . .”

(James 1:5)

Ah, yes . . . PRAYER!  I was grateful for the reminder that the evil unfolding before us is not merely political or sociological.  It is part of an age-old spiritual battle.  The Apostle Paul gives clarity as to the stakes and the means whereby we must do battle:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up
against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

II Corinthians 10:3-5

So what are Christians to do?  The best way to stay on course is to depend on the guidance of Scripture and God’s Spirit to provide the wisdom and strength we lack.  The following is a “game plan” that I have found helpful:

A Call To Prayer . . . To be quiet before God who already knows the end from the beginning.  As I bask in the quiet of God’s call, the weight in my heart is lifted as I pray for the displaced millions of men, women and children who, through no fault of their own, have no place to call home.  James 1:27 declares,

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”


Pray also for our political leaders, that God will convict their hearts as He ultimately works out His Plan through them.

A Call To Face Our Enemies . . . .   

  1. Some call it, “madness . . . sheer madness!”  Be it one individual shooting up a theater full of people or an organized group, it is a calculated, ugly, hate-filled assault on people–seemingly the more innocent the better.  After the killing is done, the descriptions reported by the survivors are similar as they describe the perpetrators as, “emotionless . . . robotic . . . appearing dead except for the merciless shooting.”  The problem is real, it is global and it is not any one group–an angry deadness of the soul.
  2. The second enemy may surprise you, but it must be faced to gain the wisdom we need to face enemy#1: FEAR fueled by what I call, “the court of public opinion.”  It is easy to get sucked into fear, for me it is a constant battle. When fear grips the heart, wisdom and faith are far removed. What keeps us steady is in knowing that FEAR is a ploy the devil uses to deter us.  Here’s what James wrote to Christians facing adversity 2,000 years ago:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and He will come near to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

James 4: 7, 8 & 10

 A Call To Faith . . . I have said it to many a Client and learned it long ago:

To be overwhelmed by trials and uncertainty
is an opportunity to trust God more.

God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with Him
and yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not live out the truth.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”

I John 1:5b-7

Over time I have learned to listen less to my fears as I  have determined to trust God with it all.  These words (also from James) have been a tremendous encouragement to me and to those I counsel facing hardship:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.”

James 1:2-4

A Call to Action . . . REFUSE TO TURN YOUR BACK!

 1.  It is easy to hate the perpetrators of evil, but when hating comes easy we are in danger of becoming like them.  Take seriously Jesus command in Matthew 5:43:45:

“You have heard that it was said,
‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:43-45

God knows the heart of everyone.  Pray for the individuals caught up in this evil; that the attitudes and actions of Christians being held will touch the hearts of their captors.  Pray also that fleeing Christians will reflect the love of Christ to those who are also fleeing but do not know Him.

2.  Start looking for ways to help.  If your church has organized a means of reaching out in big and small ways, then by all means support that.  (Last year my church found a way to support Iraqi Christians by sending dental supplies {tooth brushes, toothpaste, etc} through a friend with contacts there.  It was such a small thing but I know it was an encouragement to those who could give as well as those receiving those small gifts.)

There are numerous charities working to help in this global crisis.  The following are some of my favorites:

Samaritan’s Purse

Mission to the World

Open Doors, USA

Voice of the Martyrs

3.  Watch the news following the stories of those caught up in this crisis and begin to pray for those who touch your heart.  There are several bloggers doing excellent work to help with this.  This post, by Humans of New York, is a good place to start: https://medium.com/@humansofnewyork/humans-of-new-york-refugee-stories-243336f4adeb#.ywdau2x1t

In good times and in bad, God calls us to prayer and to action as we live out our faith.
These are scary times to be sure, but they are potentially growing times
as we entrust ourselves to the One who Saves.  

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea . . . .
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.”
Psalm 46:1-6

All to His Glory!

Image Source: Google Images

A Faith That Flies . . . .

Forty-five years ago, I married a man in love with flying.  On our first date, he rented a small airplane to fly us over the Los Angeles Basin as we shared a pizza.  When he asked me to marry him, that man made sure I knew that flying would an important part of our future when he asked, “How’d ya like to join the Air Force?”  (All these years later, I still find myself smiling as I remember saying, “Yes!”–even though a small part of me wondered if he was an Air Force recruiter!  I was quite relieved when (four days later) he handed me a brochure titled, The Air Force Wife!)

On those occasions when we fly together, I always marvel at how carefully he looks over every inch of the outside of the airplane, making sure nothing is loose or missing.  He does the same thing once we get into the cockpit, handing me the checklist to read aloud as he confirms each section is in good order.

After watching him commit to memory so much about each airplane’s systems and procedures for so many decades, I asked him why a checklist was even really necessary?  This was his answer:  


“They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“A checklist is a necessity because human memory is fallible.
We get into trouble when we forget parts,
add what isn’t there,
or do things in the wrong order.
To go through the checklist verbatim makes sure nothing is overlooked.”

Bottom line?  Flying is serious and sometimes risky business.  Whenever there is an accident, especially when there is loss of life, there is always a team sent to determine the cause of the crash.  There can be many reasons cited when a plane comes down, the one that is most dreaded and hardest to bear is, “pilot error“,  because it implies the accident could have somehow been avoided.

As I reflect on how essential reviewing a checklist is before every flight,
I am convinced that Christians have a responsibility to rely
on the Scriptures themselves, rather than memorization,
to navigate a world filled with danger.  

I do not mean to say that Scripture memorization has no value–because it certainly does!  However, there is always a danger of misapplication when it is taken out of context.  In the Counseling Room, no matter how knowledgable a Client may be when it comes to familiarity with Scripture, there is always danger for “pilot error.” We are fallen, fallible beings who need the wisdom of the Scriptures–within its context–to keep us on track.   Hebrews 4:12 affirms our need:

“For the Word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” 

The wonderful thing about investing ourselves in the Scriptures, is that they offer so much more than the basics of living.  Through this “alive” and “active” entity, the Creator beckons us into a relationship with Him.  This, my friend, is the call to risk everything we perceive as being “safe”, for something larger and far richer than anything we can humanly imagine. In his second letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;
the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
II Corinthians 5:17

If you have surrendered your heart to Christ, celebrate His provision of the Scriptures and His Spirit to help you stay on the path He has marked out for you.  (Ephesians 2:10)

A faith that takes flight is alive and active.
Such a faith reflects the constant nurturing of the Scriptures
through the working of God’s Spirit.
In difficulty and well as in times of ease,
a faith intent on worshiping God is one that ultimately soars.

So . . . no matter where you are in your life, God calls you not to deal with the challenges and joys of life in your own strength–too much room for “pilot error”!  Instead, remembering “the old has passed away . . . new things have come”, go to the Scriptures with intentionality to get to know Him better.  The following are some passages that are some favorites of mine:

 Psalm 96:9:

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness;
tremble before Him all the earth.”

Psalm 104:2-4 makes me shiver with wonder:

“He wraps Himself with light as with a garment;
He stretches out the heavens as with a tent
and lays the beams of His upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds His chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds His messengers,
flames of fire His servants.”

I love the powerful images in Isaiah 4o:27-31:

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

Of course there are so many more . . . if you have the time, please share some of your favorites in the comments section.

Now for a little earthly honesty: When I met my husband I was full of fear when it came to flying.  In fact, I hid my fears from him because I wanted to get to know the guy with the twinkly eyes better.  Over time I admitted my struggle to him–did my best to support him in his career–but it was tough.  A breakthrough for me came in early 2002,. I was preparing to fly 3,000 miles from my home, when I came upon a verse I had read many times.  Somehow, it seemed to jump off the page with new meaning as it  connected with my problem:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Ka-pow!  God spoke to my heart at that moment with an assurance I had never fully appreciated.   I realized that there is nothing that can rob me of one moment of the life God ordained from the beginning of time.  The wonderful news is that it is the same for you!  I urge you: fly to Him with whatever burden is weighing on your heart–NOW!  Release it to Him with thanksgiving, as you enjoy the wonder of His faithfulness . . . All to His Glory!

A Lesson On The Heart . . . .

Because I was born three years after the conclusion of World War II, I grew up with a lot of questions about the war and why it happened.  My biggest question had to do with how any nation could embrace the hatred that resulted in the extermination of six million men, women and children.  I received insight into the answer to my question in the autumn of 1965 when, at seventeen, I learned about the corruptibility of the human heart.  My lesson began when an assignment was handed to me on a small piece of paper in Mrs. Story’s high school speech class: Debate ABORTION (against).


“Abortion?” I wondered to myself, “What the heck is abortion?”  

Too embarrassed to ask anyone what it was, I made my way to the high school library that afternoon to find out.  Back then, there were no books on the subject in our library, but I did manage to find several articles.  As I began reading about abortion, I remember feeling sick inside at the thought of an innocent baby being killed like that.  However, as I kept researching the subject I was assurred that when abortions were performed, there really was not a baby at all.  According to the articles I read, there was “only a smattering of cells . . . a blood clot . . . certainly not a baby!”  Besides, I learned as I read on, there was the life of the mother to consider . . . wasn’t her life far more important?  Certainly I felt empathy for any woman caught up in an unwanted pregnancy that could potentially ruin her life!

I began to wonder how I was going to debate against this weighty topic; the pros certainly appeared to hold the upper hand with the voice of reason.   I kept researching articles, increasingly depressed by the topic, until I read an interview with President John F. Kennedy on why he was against abortion.  Because He was Catholic, I assumed his answer would be based on religious reasons . . . but that was not what he said.  Instead, Kennedy explained that his conviction was based on a claim Adolph Hitler made about abortion and the hardened hearts of the German people.  Apparently, Hitler wrote that when abortion was legalized in Germany, he knew he could get away with anything else he chose to do–sadly, history bears out Hitler’s assertion.*

I can still remember sitting in the library that day, realizing that the answer to my questions about the horrific slaughter of innocent people was linked to hardened hearts.  It would be more than a decade before I came to understand that every human heart is prone to corruption–my own included.  In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about how the heart is reflected by what we say and do.  Jeremiah 17:9-10 declares:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
‘I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.’”

In Luke 6:45 Jesus said,

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart,
and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Fifty years later,  I remember nothing about the actual debate that took place in my speech class.  Since then medical technology has stripped away our naivety about abortion, but it does not seem to matter.  It would seem that our “rights” reign supreme no matter what the cost to our own children.  Over the past two decades, I have been profoundly touched in the Counseling Room, as women have poured out tears of regret, because the birthdays of those lost children were never to be celebrated.  Instead, they speak of the ages their children would have been, had they not had an abortion.

I share my story with you, because I have never been able to find the interview with President Kennedy that touched me so deeply.  Yet I write this not only about the tragedy of abortion, I write this during a time when each of us need to be examining our hearts as we respond to the masses of people who are fleeing for their lives because of the faith we share.  

It is tempting to avoid watching the news, I confess there are times when I have done that.  However, I was grateful when I saw this video by Samaritan’s Purse two nights ago: to see families . . . young . . . old . . . and every age in-between, desperate enough to leave their homes, climb into those flimsy rubber boats in the hope of finding somewhere safe to start over.  It struck me then, that to ignore the problem, tempting though it may be, requires that I (we) harden our hearts. 

But God calls us not to hide in times such as these,
but to be looking for opportunities to be large-hearted
in helping where we can with our prayers,
our finances or whatever else God provides us to offer.

The wisdom of the Apostle John speaks to the responsibilities Christians bear in such challenging times as these:

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need
but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

I John 3:16-18

All to His Glory!

*President Kennedy knew what he was talking about.  A serious student of history–particularly political history— he wrote his senior thesis at Harvard on what was later titled and published as, Why England Slept.  His second book, Profiles in Courage (focuses on eight American Senators whom Kennedy particularly esteemed for their political and moral courage) won a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1957.  To read a good synopsis on both books, you will find The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum site helpful.

Spiritual Windows . . . .

Although it is the smallest room in our home–long and narrow, with windows lining two sides–our den has always been my favorite room in our home.  It is a wonderful place to observe squirrels running and birds of all sorts swooping between the trees and feeders in our backyard.  I especially love watching the first snow of the season quietly sift down and the contrasting scarlet beauty of cardinals against the sparkling whiteness–it leaves me breathless every single time.  Best of all, our den has been a quiet place to reflect, read, write or to spend time with a friend.

Windows change everything . . . .

Windows change everything . . . .

But what if there were no windows in that room?  Would the den have the same appeal? Humanly, I tend to think not . . . especially as I peruse a small bird book left by the previous owners of our home.  In that book, the visits of unusual birds sighted through our den windows have been recorded since the 1950’s.  Over the thirty years we have lived here, our family has excitedly added to that little book, our own sightings of various rare visitors.

Yet, I am challenged by the wisdom of John Newton*, who wrote about windows and light from a spiritual perspective more than two hundred years ago:

“All houses from the king’s to the laborer’s,
however they differ to other circumstances, agree in this:
that they must have windows whereby they may receive the light.
A palace without a window would be little better than a dungeon;
and a man would almost think himself buried alive in it.
Many splendid houses are dungeons with respect to spiritual light.
A believer would not bear the thoughts of living in any situation,
unless he enjoyed the light of the Sun of Righteousness,
and with this any situation is tolerable.”
(From Letters of Newton, pg. 138)

Where we tend to think about windows and light from a purely surface perspective, Newton urges us to go deeper by thinking in spiritual realities.

Indeed, apart from the blessing of a faith that sees beyond the immediate to the eternal,we are all short-sighted as to recognizing the blessings being worked out by God in this day of uncertainty.

 The Apostle Paul knew this when he wrote his second letter to his friends in Corinth:

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
made His light shine in our hearts
to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory
displayed in the face of Christ. . . .

Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us
an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Now comes what is the “to do” part of opening up those spiritual windows:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

II Corinthians 4:6, 15-18

There have been seasons when I have looked out our den windows and saw nothing but a dark hopelessness because of the heaviness of my heart–perhaps you have been there too?  Indeed, in such times when Christ seems furthest away, we all experience that spiritual dungeon Newton referred to in his letter.  Yet is has been during such times of despair, when I have opened my Bible–determined to focus not on my despair but on His Face–that the spiritual light and comfort of hope have ultimately prevailed.  It has been during such seasons that our den has provided,

  • A shelter to prayerfully confront the various storms that have threatened
  • It has served as a place to receive comfort and ultimate healing as God’s light has strengthened me in my brokenness.

Best of all, our den has been a place of celebration, as God’s Divine Will has been worked out though those storms, to draw me and those I love closer to Him.

Having suffered through the perils of facing cancer among family and friends during the past year, and still suffering the loss of several of them, I was grateful for John Newton’s wisdom as it opened up the windows of my mind and heart to appreciate the spiritual realities of  God’s Sovereign Goodness.  The good news is that you do not need a special room to open the windows of your mind and heart.  The light and hope found only through faith in Jesus, will open wide those spiritual windows as you determine to trust in Him.

Romans 15:13 is one of those windows in Scripture that saved me out of a season of darkness and fear; I pray that it will do the same for you:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

All to His Glory!

*John Newton, author of the classic hymn, “Amazing Grace” wrote his letter in 1774.

An Intentional Faith . . . .

“Intentional” is a word that comes up a lot in the Counseling Room–especially when we talk about faith and how the challenges we face provide opportunities to trust and honor God.  The Bible has much to say about faith and makes clear that true faith is never accidental.  In fact, a faith that pleases and honors God is always intentionally applied.

One of my favorite passages in Scripture that demonstrates the connection between faith and intentionality is recorded in the second chapter of James.   He begins his discourse with a question that has been asked throughout the ages:


“What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?
Can such faith save them?”
(Verse 14)

He answers his question with a powerful example and declaration:

“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, FAITH by itself, if it is not accompanied by action (intentionality), IS DEAD.”
(Verses 15-17–emphasis mine)

James continues the argument,

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
You believe that there is one God. Good!
Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
(Verses 18, 19)

James concludes his discourse with the ultimate example of intentional faith (you can read it for yourself as it is recorded in Genesis 22):

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
(Verses 20-24)

Faith that pleases God is never accidental.  True faith is demonstrated with no lessor motive than a desire to honor God–even when we do not fully understand what He is seeking to accomplish.   An intentional faith:

  • Prays and waits for clarity before moving forward.
  • Relies on the Scriptures for wisdom and perspective in every situation.
  • Is lived out daily as we make choices that are God-honoring.
  • Refuses to entertain doubt or fear.
  • Is not naive, it is a growing, maturing faith.
  • Is committed to loving others, even when they disappoint us.
  • Gives thanks to God for His faithfulness, even when our lives appear to fall apart:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
II Corinthians 4:16-18

Do you struggle because your faith is weak?  Be encouraged by a conversation recorded in Mark 9:29-27, between Jesus and a father, desperate to save his son from being tormented:

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

I have always found Jesus’s response to the father’s confession reassuring.  He did not chide him for his inadequacy or turn him away by saying, “Come back after you’ve got your act together!”  Jesus freed the son and returned him to his father.

It isn’t the size of the faith but the willingness to trust that grows and matures a God-pleasing faith.  Faith intentionally placed in Him will carry you through whatever twist or turn your life takes:

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  
Psalm 16:7, 8

All to His Glory!

To Move Beyond Brokenness . . . .

We had worked together for months in the Counseling Room.  Many tears were shed along the way, but new vistas gained as spiritual insights helped to steady her course.  Then one day she walked into my office the color of ash.   I could see the hurt and anger in her countenance as tears brimmed full.  What do you do when faced with shattered dreams and the light of hope has suddenly been snuffed out?  Be they your own broken dreams or someone else’s, the need is the same: a listening ear, that human connectedness of a hug or embrace, along with the words, “I’m sorry . . . .” 

It is often said that, “Time heals all wounds.”  While that may be true in part, it certainly is not true when it comes to ministering to the broken heart.  Just as a broken bone needs to be set aright, wisdom and intentional care are needed to straighten and strengthen the broken mind and heart.  In the Counseling Room I have ministered to many people crippled emotionally and spiritually by the still raw evidence of wounds left untended for years . . . even decades.  I know of no better resource than the wisdom contained in the Scriptures that, when rightly applied, can open up light and hope like nothing else.

Hebrews 3:13 warns believers, to guard against letting the hardness of sin and doubt to fester in our hearts for even one more day:

“Above all else, guard your heart . . . .” Proverbs 4:23

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,”
so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

True encouragement seeks not merely to placate or build up the ego; authentic encouragement speaks to straighten and strengthen what has been broken.  

In my last post, I wrote about the Heartstrings Illustrationa very practical tool that helps identify the primary influence(s) we rely on to make decisions.  As I watched and listened to my Client, I understood the pain she was in . . . but I also understood the danger of beginning to doubt the only One we can truly trust.  To help stop the emotional and spiritual “bleeding” of a heart so broken and raw, she needed the wisdom of Scripture to help her assess who or what influence was tugging at her heartstrings. 

We went to John 21–one of those special places in Scripture that I enjoy because it is so personal.  It begins very early in the morning, with Peter and a few of the other disciples returning from a disappointing night of fishing. I asked her to begin reading the passage to me–I ask all of my Clients to read aloud to me so that was nothing new.  As she read about how Jesus was waiting on the shore and the events that took place, her voice returned to a more regular tone.  Occasionally, she stopped reading as we marveled at how simply, but powerfully Jesus ministered to the hearts of those men–by providing a miraculous catch of fish while already having prepared a meal that was waiting for them on the beach.  We were touched, when Jesus took a walk with Peter (the disciple who denied knowing Jesus three times after He was arrested.) In the conversation that took place between them, Jesus challenged and commissioned Peter to, “Feed My sheep.”

The part that I hoped would most encourage and challenge my Client came in the final section when Jesus said:

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger
you dressed yourself and went where you wanted;
but when you are old you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”

The text goes on to explain:

Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death
by which Peter would glorify God.
Then He said to him, “Follow me!”

(verses 18 and 19)

Stunned by what Jesus said (in my mind I picture Peter blubbering to himself and extremely uncomfortable), Peter looked around and saw another disciple, John, was near to them.  Peter asked Jesus the question many of us ask in such situations, “What about him?” Jesus’ response, simple and direct, serves as a needful reminder as to who is God, and who is decidedly NOT God:

“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?
You must follow Me.”

(Verse 22)

The room was quiet as we reflected on the text. It was then that I recognized a melding of wisdom and hope as color returned to her cheeks. Using the Heartstring Illustration to gain insight into what had just happened, she said,

“When I walked in here I was totally fixated on the pain of my situation–I had lost all hope.
In fact, I was angry at God for allowing my life to fall apart.
After reading Jesus’ answer to Peter, I was struck by my foolishness.
I knew immediately how off-course I truly was.
Nothing has changed . . . I still have no idea of the direction my life is going to take.
Even so, I am at peace–with God back in His rightful place in my heart.”

Time does not heal all wounds.   But as we entrust ourselves to God (refusing the temptation to doubt in His Goodness), and rely on the Scriptures and His Spirit to help us, we discover the wondrous grace of His Peace.  To move beyond brokenness is not something we can ever attain in our own strength, it is only possible as we rely on Him as our Resting Place.

All to His Glory!

Taking Ownership of OUR PROBLEM . . . .

It is such a little thing, I am not sure how many people even notice it when they walk into my office: “Tears Welcome Here.” Three simple words, cross-stitched and framed on my desk, greet every Client who walks into the Counseling Room.  TEARS . . . when you get right down to it, tears are at the heart the business of Counseling–tears of regret, tears in suffering, but also (and perhaps especially) tears of frustration–when God is silent and we ask, “Where is He . . . why doesn’t He answer my prayers?”

In this post, I will introduce a simple tool I refer to as, the Heartstring Illustration.*  It is a model that helps identify a problem we all have: that tendency to doubt God’s faithfulness rather than examining our own hearts.   There are times when God is silent because He chooses to be silent (after all, He is God!) and there is nothing to do except wait for further direction.  However, all too easily, we tend to blame God when there is a “disconnect” between us, rather than looking within ourselves. It is for that reason that we go to the Scriptures early and often in the Counseling Room, to gain insight into God’s perspective on OUR PROBLEM.  James 4:1-4 is especially helpful:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
You desire but do not have, so you kill.
You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.
You do not have because you do not ask God.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world
means enmity against God?
Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world
becomes an enemy of God.”  

Heart Strings-2

Like it or not, there is something refreshing about God’s ability to cut to the heart of OUR PROBLEM: a willingness to believe the worst of God rather than taking an honest look at ourselves.  Knowing full well our situation, Jesus clues us in on a more appropriate response to OUR PROBLEM as described in the parable of the prodigal son:

“When he came to his senses, he said,
‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare,
and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father . . . . ”
Luke 15:17-20

Little did the son know that, from the time he left to squander his inheritance, his father had watched and prayed for his safe return.  God does the same for you and me.  He watches and waits for us to “come to our senses” in repentance and faith.  The Heartstring Illustration is a useful tool that helps us turn to God for the help we need to identify OUR PROBLEM.  It is a simple means of gaining clarity when life appears chaotic.

I was first introduced to the Heartstring Illustration when working in a counseling office located above our local Pregnancy Help Center.  (I share this story because it is the simplest way to illustrate the value of the model.)  When a woman who was abortion-minded came to the Center, one of the Counselors would sit down with her to talk about her situation.  Looking at the triangle, on the bottom right they put the Client’s name; to the left of the triangle they wrote, Unwanted Pregnancy.  Then they asked the question: “Who or what is influencing your decision about your baby?”  Whatever answer that was given–pressure from boyfriend or parents, fear, money, etc–was written at the top of the triangle.  The Counselor then talked about how we will all be held accountable by God for our decisions; that we cannot shift the blame to others or to our circumstances,  Also, the Counselor explained that anything listed at the top of the triangle other than God–is an idol.  The Counselor then asked, “Who or what do you think should be at the top as you make this decision?”  To the best of my knowledge, every woman knew the answer: GOD.

The format is the same when we use it in the Counseling Room–only I draw it out on a white board. We talk about how dangerous it is to put our family and other concerns as our primary motivation (making them idols) rather than God.  Many times we refer to Psalm 139:24,25  as we seek God’s help in restoring Him to His rightful place in their hearts:

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

I have also been helped personally using the model, when I have been tempted to blame Him for my troubles or sense a distance in our relationship.

“Search my heart God . . . clean house as You see fit . . .
so I can serve You with a glad heart.”  

The good news is that when we pray such honest prayers, owning OUR PROBLEM,
He proves Himself faithful every single time.
It is then, that we gladly welcome tears . . . TEARS OF JOY in the Lord
who speaks and works in the hearts and minds of all who seek Him.
Struggling? Confused?
Go to Him NOW–He is worthy of your trust!

All to His Glory!

* For twenty-plus years I referred to this model as, The Triangle Illustration–doesn’t exactly stir the heart, does it?!  As my son Luke was helping me put together the illustration for this post, I mentioned my frustration at not having a better title.  Luke (a puppeteer) suggested, heartstrings.  I thought about it and BAM!  It was a great fit, communicating the idea that, indeed, we need to be more aware of who or what is tugging at our hearts.  Thanks, Luke!