When Hate Comes Easy: The Danger Of Playing The Blame Game . . . .

Living in a time when hatred and shifting blame have become the “new normal”, the world has become an increasingly dark and scary place. The effect in the Counseling Room has been a marked increase of Clients struggling with anxiety coupled with hopelessness.  Many who come say, “The Bible tells us, ‘Do not be anxious,’ but how can I NOT be anxious in such perilous times?”

The following are some of the things we discuss in the Counseling Room to address this very timely question:

1. We talk about how the world can be a dangerous place and how Jesus had first-hand knowledge of that. The writer of Hebrews 12:2,3 helps us appreciate this:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We need to acknowledge that the world CAN BE a very frightening place. God calls us not to be naive about the dangers around us, but to walk daily in obedient faith. As we do He enables us live for, love and serve Him in trusting obedience.

2. We talk about how God calls His children to come to Him with our fears as our Shepherd and God of Hope.

“Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden.
Take My yoke upon you and LEARN FROM ME,

for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
Matthew 11:28, 29

 3. Living in a time when there is a lot of anger and finger pointing as to who’s responsible for the explosion of hatred being manifested around us, it is tempting to become caught up in shifting blame. But as followers of Jesus, we have an obligation to resist blame shifting (be it in our personal relationships or in the world around us) as we determine to follow Him:

“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.
He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Matthew 5:43-45

The commitment to honor Christ as we pray for our enemies  is what insulates us from being overwhelmed by anger and hatred ourselves. Such a practice (speaking from personal experience), is both humbling and freeing as we are helped to look at ourselves and the world around us with His eyes.  Only then do we become teachable and experience His peace–even in the midst of trials:

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Isaiah 1:18-20 (ESV)

 How can we put all of this into practice? Here is a two-part answer::

A. By maintaining the discipline of giving thanks to God through the process of doing their Journey Notes:**

“Thank You God that, no matter how I feel, I am never alone.
Thank You for Your love and mercy.
Thank You for the hope of spending eternity with You . . .
THANK YOU!”

As one Client said this week, “Doing my praises helps me  keep fear from taking over my thoughts.” It is as we give thanks to God to for His loving provision despite our fears, that humility and hope lighten our hearts.

B. By asking God to help us guard our hearts using this simple tool: The Triangle Illustration.**  (I know it’s an odd name but when you look at it you will understand.) It helps to identify who (or what) is influencing our perceptions.  Is it fear or anger? Personal desires or a desire to please others?

If it is anything less than God,
it is an Idol and needs to be confessed as sin.

The blessing is that when we put God in His rightful place,
He strengthens and guides our every step.

No matter what you may be facing, give thanks to God that you are not alone. Give thanks for His love and mercy displayed on the Cross as you follow His lead every step of the way . . .❤️

All to His Glory!

*Proverbs 4:23
**See top of this post to access.

 

Do Not Be Anxious . . . .

“For everything that was written in the past
was written for our instruction, so that
through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures,
we might have hope.”

Romans 15:4

God’s got this . . .❤️

I am always grateful to get to my office early enough to settle in and pray before my Clients arrive. During that time I ask God for wisdom and sensitivity in how I minister to each one.  I also ask Him for direction when it comes to encouraging each Client with Scripture. Last Wednesday was one of those times when God gave me not only the sensitivity needed to respond to each Client– He also provided Scripture that benefitted each uniquely.

To appreciate what happened, here’s a little background on the women I saw that day. All three are serious about living out their faith yet struggle with anxiety and have experienced panic attacks.* One of them I’ve worked with for more than a year; the others I’d seen for about six weeks. Each one is aware of the biblical admonitions regarding fear and anxiety: Do not be anxious about,

  • Your life . . .
  • What you will speak . . .
  • About how you should defend yourself . . .
  • About tomorrow.**

They also understand the admonition to be strong and courageous given throughout the Bible.*** They have responded well by learning to face their anxiety by answering their fears with Scripture. In the process they learned to turn to God with thanksgiving for His love, mercy and sovereign goodness. As they have done this, they have discovered courage not from within themselves, but through faith in the One who suffered and died for them.

The passage I received after praying that morning was Ephesians 5:8-21. The passage talks about being light in the Lord:

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”
(Verses 8-10)

After reading the passage aloud, each then responded to my question, “What stands out to you?”  Each responded differently, but all were encouraged (one with tears of gratitude) by the call in verse 14:

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

We then focused on verses 15 and 16:

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:15, 16

We talked how one of the reasons we have been given the Scriptures by God, is so that we will not be naive. We also talked about the danger of naivety in a corrupt, evil world and how, even so, the Scriptures offer HOPE. It is in that eternal hope promised by Jesus that we find courage to stand and move forward despite our fears.

So how are we to be freed from anxiety that can be so debilitating?  How can we live courageously in an increasingly unpredictable and oft times frightening world? The Apostle Paul’s words proclaim truth and direction to all who love and serve Christ:

“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.”

Ephesians 6:10, 11

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement
give you the same attitude of mind toward each other
that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice
you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 15:5, 6

God calls us to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances. He encourages us to rely on Him for what is needed to be courageous as we face challenges large and small. No matter where you find yourself in your walk with Him today, put your life (your day!) in His most capable hands as you give thanks for His Plan and Purpose being worked out in your life. When it comes to dealing with anxiety, it is faith in Him that gives us courage like nothin else can . . .❤️

All to His Glory!

*Where in past years depression was the primary focus of help given in the Counseling Room, today the majority seeking help suffer from an anxiety that imprisons or impairs their ability to function.

**Matthew 6:25; Matthew 10:19; Luke 2:11: Matthew 6:24.

***Joshua 1:6-9;

Those “Aha!” Moments . . . .

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary refers to the times when we experience, “a sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension” as,“Aha!” moments. When they happen, they typically grab our attention as we realize an adjustment needs to be made in our perspective.

My first, “Aha!”moment. as a young adult took place when I was 19. I was talking to a customer at my dad’s dry cleaners while waiting for his order to be put together. Mr. White was a postman who had watched my brother and I grow up serving customers for many years. As we waited for his last pair of pants to be pressed, Mr.White and I were enjoying a jovial conversation about the qualities I was looking for in the man I would consider marrying.  Mr. White laughed as I chattered, quite enjoying the mostly one-sided conversation. It wasn’t until there was a lull in my chattering that Mr. White spoke these words: “Those are amazing qualities you’re looking for, Kathie. But have you ever thought about what you have to offer such a man?” I can remember feeling my inflated ego burst like a balloon, as I inwardly realized that I had a lot more to think about (and work on!), if marriage was to ever be in my future!

“Beautiful possibilities to be worked out over time . . . .”

For Christians committed to living an intentional faith, “Aha!” moments can be important markers of spiritual growth and maturity. They happen fairly frequently working in the Counseling Room, as each Session is opened with a prayer asking God to, “Direct the path of our conversation.” He continually proves Himself faithful, by leading us to Scripture that lends insight and direction to navigate through the problem(s) the Client is facing.

Here is an example of such a moment that happened a few weeks ago:

As I watched and listened to an already stressed Client list the things that contribute to her anxiety, I could see an expanding mountain of guilt threaten to overwhelm her. As I listened, a verse from Proverbs came to the forefront of my mind:

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; 
she can laugh at the days to come.”
Proverbs 31:25

It is a beautiful picture of a godly woman who trusts and honors God with her life.  Even so, I tried to ignore the verse because I knew that it is part of the description of “The Wife of Noble Character.”* Thought by many as being a guilt-inducing, daily “to-do” list–myself included-the passage exalts a woman who buys fields, plants vineyards, manages her household and feeds the poor while her husband spends his time sitting at the city gate! (As one already depressed and anxious Client asked me years ago–“Does this woman ever sleep?!!!”) When viewed as an impossible “to do” list, the passage can be overwhelming!

However, trusting that the Holy Spirit had brought the verse to my mind for my Client, I felt convicted that we should at least go to the passage. When we did, my heart softened as I saw the passage with fresh eyes. Rather than being a daily”to-do” list, I saw the Proverbs 31 passage as a picture of a life dedicated to trusting and honoring God over time. To be clothed with strength and dignity, and to no longer be overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, is to rely on God every moment of every day.

With that insight, the passage became a picture of beautiful possibilities to be worked out–as God guides His own through the challenges that WILL come.

In reading verse 25 as God’s goal for His children and then looking at the passage as being worked out over a lifetime, both my Client and I experienced the refreshment of an “Aha!” moment. Suddenly, wisdom and hope replaced guilt and anxiety as we understood that we are to no longer rely on ourselves but look to God as our faithful Shepherd.

Weeks later, that insight continues to inspire and encourage me and several other Clients I have shared it with.

Do you have an “Aha!” moment you can share that God gave you? Here’s your opportunity to pass the blessing you received on, by writing it in the comments below.

All to His Glory!

*Proverbs 31:10-31.

Hope At Easter: An Anchor For The Soul . . . .

It was a miracle. The morning after watching the blazing fire that ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral, there was little hope that there would be anything left but an empty, burned out shell. Yet, even as the fire raged, something miraculous took place as newscasters talked about the historic roots of the 800-year-old cathedral:

  • How those involved with the construction of the Cathedral–over the course of 200 years–dedicated what they were building to the Glory of God.
  • They noted that there are NO NAMES of those who built the architectural marvel, nor are there names attached to the multiplicity of statues or its world-acclaimed stained glass windows during those first 200 years.
  • They marveled at the mysterious dedication of a people (servants of Christ) who loved God and wanted nothing more than to pour out their lives to glorify Him.
“We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  Hebrews 6:19a

After burning through most of the night the fire was finally extinguished. The next morning, the world watched and wondered: Would there be anything left within the charred ruin?  The first pictures taken of the altar, showed the Cross of Christ anchored firmly in its rightful place for all to see. After watching the blazing inferno of just hours before, it was nothing short  of another miracle!

As I reflect on this week, knowing that Jesus declared victory over death with His Resurrection and is coming again, I am struck by an even greater mystery:

 Why did Jesus follow the trail that eventually lead to taking the punishment we deserved upon Himself?

That question has fired up many a theological discussion that I have no intention of entering into here. Instead, I offer to you a word picture given in Hebrews that invites all to look to and learn from Christ’s example witnessed that horrific day:

Therefore, . . . let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and perfecter of faith.
Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 13:1,2

Joy? Yes . . . JOY.

Despite His pain and suffering, Jesus saw beyond His immediate circumstances to the fulfillment of His Father’s Eternal Goal. With this call to repentance and faith in Christ, comes an assurance that brings about an eternal peace rooted deeply in the souls of all who trust in Him:

We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Hebrews 6:19a

I just saw a news report of multiple churches bombed in Sri Lanka with many fatalities and injuries. While mourning the pain of loss and suffering inflicted this Easter morning, we find courage and strength in the promises given in Revelation so long ago:

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Christ has risen . . . He has risen indeed . . . Come Lord Jesus, COME!

All to His Glory!

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons . . . .

“To everything there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to break down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh . . . .”
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4

Some of my fondest memories of growing up are tied to being part of an outstanding high school choir.  There was no “magic” associated with our excellence, except for the relationship between choir director, Leonard Cesene–who clearly enjoyed and respected his students–and the students who worked hard to please him. Five mornings a week we met to learn and practice a diverse variety of music that ranged from popular tunes to the deep richness of the sacred. With every opportunity  to perform, there was an almost palpable electricity that connected each choir member, as we watched for the nod of Mr. Cesene’s head and the movement of his upraised arms that signaled us to begin.  As the modulated, energized sounds were delivered, Mr. Cesene’s eyes danced with approval as the audience enjoyed our singing almost as much as we did.

So many years later, I still appreciate the blessing of having been part of something so special in the awkward season of my teen-aged years. For me, the balance of respect and discipline under Mr. Cecene (as well as the wonderful exposure to sacred music) positively impacted future seasons in my life.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

When I first read Mother Teresa’s observations on the seasons of life, I felt that same intense excitement of performing so long ago:

“Yesterday is gone.
Tomorrow has not yet come.
We have only today.
Let us begin!”

I like the way she set the stage, with three simple truths:

  1. “Yesterday is gone.
  2. Tomorrow has not yet come. 
  3. We have only today.”

Then, with a soft yet theatric, WHAM! . . . her words, “Let us begin,” reflect the divine call of Scripture:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us . . . .”
Hebrews 12:1

It is a passage that speaks to the rhythm of seasons ebbing and flowing as God’s people seek to live their lives by faith. That call continues to echo across time and generations to Christians today.

Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote to convict and encourage some friends who were in trouble. They had been duped by false teachers who entered their ranks after Paul left them.  He sought to encourage them with this wisdom and call:

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
Galatians 5:25, 26

Paul also wrote to warn them:

  1. To NOT lose sight of what they had been taught and
  2. To remember Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit who was there to help them with every step they took.

Following up on the importance of the Holy Spirit’s availability to help them (and you and I), Galatians 6:8-10 warns of the pitfalls as well as the goal of living life well before the One who saves:

“Whoever sows to please their flesh,
from the flesh will reap destruction;
whoever sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,
especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

But how? How are we to enter into the rhythm of such a life? The answer is remarkably simple:

  • By treasuring Christ as the Source of all that is good.
  • By putting off old patterns–confessing our sins as forgiveness is sought.
  • By putting on the newness that is ours in Christ, when we receive Him into our hearts through faith.

No matter what season in life you find yourself–in plenty or in want, in stability or in a season of uncertainty–God is right there to help you. Consider the reassurance, encouragement and hope offered by God in Jeremiah 29:13:

“You will seek Me and find Me
when you seek Me with all your heart.”

It is your faith in Him as the Shepherd of your heart, that will provide the courage needed to carry you through whatever you are facing.

As I remember Mr. Cecine’s eyes that encouraged us to give our best with every note we sang, I can also picture the eyes of a loving Shepherd who will lead His flock safely home . . .❤️

All to His Glory!

 

To Live a Fulfilled Life . . . .

“I have come that they may have LIFE,
and have it to the FULL.
John 10:10

To live a fulfilled life . . . isn’t that what most of us desire?  Yet, living in a culture where money and fame are held as the ultimate markers of success/ fulfillment, it is often a shock when people who appear to “have it all” take their own lives. The question that invariably comes to mind is, “Why?”

While researching this question, thinking specifically of notables Robin Williams and Kate Spade, I was struck by this observation posted on Millionaire Before 50:*:

“That they may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL.” John 10:10

“You can have all the money in the world,
but you’re still a failure
if you’re not fulfilled.

Success without fulfillment is worthless.”*

As that last sentence wound around in my mind, I wondered, “So what is true fulfillment?” 

Fulfillment can be many things for many people. According to WordNet Dictionary fulfillment is:

  1. A feeling of satisfaction at having achieved your desires.
  2. The act of consummating something (a desire or promise.)

The tricky thing about fulfillment, is the challenge of maintaining satisfaction. Typically, once we achieve what we set out to do–no matter how many accolades are received, or how much the bank account swells–our human penchant for “more” kicks in and we become dissatisfied. Because of this:

Fulfillment is elusive
because satisfaction is often fleeting.

There is no resting place when it comes to holding onto fulfillment in the world around us. When Jesus proclaimed, “I have come that they may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL, He was offering fulfillment that can never be found apart from Him. 

The Apostle Paul shared the secret to holding onto authentic fulfillment in a letter he wrote from a Roman prison cell:

“I know what it is to be in need,
and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content
in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry,
whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4: 12, 13

Fulfillment is not found by living a problem-free life and traveling the world. Jesus said, “In this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
So how can the fullness of life promised by Jesus become ours? We uncover such fulfillment when we: answer His call to “come” to Him in our brokenness and disappointment.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:28-19

Authentic fulfillment becomes ours when we take our focus off of ourselves and cultivate a thankful heart–no matter what our circumstance.

Remembering to thank God for His love and mercy
extended to us through His Son,
helps foster humility and
quiets the ugliness of dissatisfaction.

We discover true fulfillment when we are intentional in loving our neighbor and pray for our enemies–in remembrance of Christ’s sacrificial love extended to you and to me.

The Bible is full of direction and insight when it comes to living a fulfilled life.  In a letter written to encourage a young man he regarded as a son,  Paul wrote about accessing “life that is truly life:

“Command those who are rich in this present world
not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth . . .
but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us
with everything for our enjoyment.
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds,
and to be generous and willing to share.
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves
as a firm foundation for the coming age,
so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life
I Timothy 6:17-19

Ultimately, it is through our willingness to share with others (a reflection of Christ’s sacrifice for us), that we take hold of “life that is truly LIFE”authentic fulfillment.

All to His Glory!

*From a blog article posted on, Millionaire Before 50 titled, Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk, Be Thankful For What You Have.