On Refusing Black-Edged Invitations . . . .

It had been a very long day. After sitting in a small boat teaching enormous crowds of people who came to see and hear Him, Jesus then ministered privately to His disciples. Having poured Himself out on all who sought Him . . . Jesus needed sleep.  Mark 4 records what happened next:

“That day when evening came, He said to His disciples,
“Let us go over to the other side. . . .”
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat . . . .
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.
The disciples woke Him and said to Him, 
‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves,
‘QUIET! BE STILL!’
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to His disciples, ‘
Why are you so afraid?
Do you still have no faith?’”

Mark 4:35,37-40

Having read the story many times, I would have skipped past it. What stopped me was that in my last post I had featured God’s call in Psalm 46 to, “Be still and know that I am God!”.  Before publishing that post, I had asked  my son Luke to read it to make sure that what I’d written came across clearly. What I hadn’t expected was the blessing of Luke’s comment written on the corner of the page. This is what he wrote:

“Be still and know that I am God’
is a command to HOPE
establishing who is God and who is not.”

That insight, filled my heart and soul with an awe of God that left me nearly breathless. That is why, when Jesus commanded the waves to “be still” and He admonished His disciples for their lack of faith, it grabbed my attention. What I have since learned is:

Our response to difficulty and pain before God matters,
because they demonstrate who or what rules our hearts,

It wasn’t wrong to run to Jesus in fear.  Jesus encourages all: 

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

What the disciples did wrong was to run to Jesus doubting His divine goodness: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

God’s command to HOPE is also a command
to refuse the temptation to doubt His goodness.
Such ‘invitations’ from Satan come to us in packages large and small:

Years ago I was friends with two sisters who grew up in Indonesia until their family was forced to leave for political reasons. One day a letter arrived in the mail, bordered in black around the edges of the envelope.  I became curious as they they carefully separated the letter from the rest of the mail.  When questioned, they explained that it was customary to send notices in black-edged envelopes to family and friends when someone died.  I’ve never forgotten the sobering veil that filled the living room, as they waited until their parents came home to learn what friend or family member had died.

Satan plagues us with such black-edged invitations, filled with every sort of fear and dread imaginable. When we open them, we are overwhelmed by dark hopelessness. So how are we to handle such ‘invitations’?  A passage in James 4 provides clarity and direction in how we are to run to God in faith:

“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.
Grieve, mourn and wail.
Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Humble yourselves before the Lord,
and He will lift you up.”

(Verses 7-10)

When life hits us hard He says,

Come . . . COME! Just as you are,
with tears streaming and hearts broken by despair,
COME in faith and you will find HOPE for your souls!

The following is a love-filled invitation to HOPE given me when despair threatened to capsize my boat.  I’ll never forget driving on a dark, rainy night, sobbing as HOPE flooded my heart beyond measure.  If you are in such a place, I offer it in the love, mercy and tenderness of Jesus. ❤️

“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I
will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:19
(New Living Translation)

All to His Glory!

*Matthew 11:28

Christmas Peace . . . .

It started this past fall.  Friends had told me about a struggling young woman who occasionally showed up at our church.  Professing faith in Christ yet full of doubt, anger and self-recrimination, I began to pray . . . .

When I finally did meet Sonia (not her real name) I appreciated her honesty in expressing her struggles and was slightly intimidated by the intensity of her passion. Most of all, I was impressed by Sonia’s goal for counseling:

To be healthy, happy, whole
and God-minded,

 even as she lamented, PEACE is what I want–and do not have.”  

Seeing that she had left a question blank on the Intake Form all Clients fill out before our first meeting, “Do you have a favorite saying?”, I recommended a favorite I use when I’m struggling,

“THANK YOU, GOD, THAT YOU LOVE ME.”

With every Session that followed, Sonia unfolded her story of heartache, disappointment and resentment.  Week after week we dove into the Scriptures:

  • To see God as a merciful Shepherd in both the Old and New Testaments.
  • To gain wisdom and perspective into how God uses the hard things in life to draw us closer to Himself.
  • To talk about how pride and resentment separate us from God, and how humility before God brings us peace.

As we searched, Sonia appeared appreciative of what the Scriptures said, but invariably every Session ended with this roadblock:

“Why would God allow me to suffer the pain of hurt and rejection,
if He is truly a loving God?”

Sometimes reframing a question can be the biggest help to moving toward a solution.  In Sonia’s case, we began to look at why she blamed God for her suffering, when it was people who had sinned against her.  We turned to Genesis to consider the first instances of blameshifting:

“And God said, ‘Who told you that you were naked?
Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’
The man said
, ‘The woman YOU put here with me—
SHE gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”’*
Genesis 3:11,12

We then talked about how, as Christians, we are to break old sinful patterns by going to God in confession and in faith.  We turned to the New Testament for direction and Sonia began to read:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above, where Christ is . . . .
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:
sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed . . . .
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things
as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language . . . .
Colossians 3: 1, 5-7

We talked about the beauty of humility before God and the ugliness of pride.  We considered the example given to us by Jesus, as in humility He bore our sins rather than shifting what was due us from Himself:

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the Cross,
so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;
‘by His wounds you have been healed.'”

I Peter 2:24

Sonia continued to read, more softly in tone as we drank in each word:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another  . . .
forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:12, 13b-14

I told Sonia that every time I heard that passage read, the deep rumble of closet doors being opened sounded in my head and I imagined beautiful robes of “compassion, kindness, humility’, gentleness, patience and love” waiting to be taken out and worn–to cleanse our hearts and make us whole.

As Sonia read the concluding piece of the Colossians passage it was as if the words had come alive,

“Let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to PEACE.
And BE THANKFUL.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom
through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
GIVING THANKS to God the Father through Him.”

(Verses 15-17)

As the room was engulfed by quiet, I wondered if the Scriptures had ministered to Sonia’s heart as they had to my own.  There was nothing left to be said so I asked her to close us in prayer.  I remember little of Sonia’s prayer except for these heartfelt words:

THANK YOU GOD THAT YOU LOVE ME.
THANK YOU FOR SENDING YOUR SON
TO SAVE ME FROM MYSELF . . .
FOR YOURSELF.”

No matter where you’ve been in your life, God has a plan of blessing for all who come to Him through Christ in humble faith.  As I have chosen this path of humility in the most difficult of times–as well as in seasons of ease–He has proved Himself to be faithful.

May His Peace be your greatest gift this Christmas as you pray,
“Thank You God that you love me . .  .
help me to love others as You have loved me .”

All to His Glory!

*Emphasis mine.

 

 

Me Too . . . .

After hearing their stories, I have told countless new Clients,

“I won’t pretend to say that I know exactly how you feel,
but there is little that comes through my office door
that I haven’t had at least a taste of.”

It’s true . . . and most seem to know it, as I look them in the eye with as much tenderness and compassion as I can muster.

I thought about this as I scrolled down my Facebook timeline last week and noticed several “Me Too”* posts entered by people I care about. Knowing personally the powerlessness of being a victim of abuse (sin imposed by others), and having listened to countless stories in the Counseling Room, I was deeply saddened by the dark reminder that such evil continues.

While a sympathetic, “Me too”, may offer temporary comfort, the larger question remains, “Where do I go from here?” 

Christ Jesus–the Ultimate “Me too” . . . .

That is the question we face in the Counseling Room, and the answer is always the same:

“We go to God and the Scriptures,
for the wisdom and perspective we lack.”

Why?  Because, while the world offers theories that change with the seasons; God calls us to trust Him as He speaks to the heart of our problems in every season:

Genesis 4:6,7 (the first counsel offered in Scripture):

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry?
Why is your face downcast?

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door;
it desires to have you, but you must master it.’”

Isaiah 30:15,19:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
‘In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength’,
but you would have none of it . . . .

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!”

In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus said,

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, 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.

Of the many places we visit in the Scriptures, Psalm 139 is one that speaks light and hope to every possible challenge we face:

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your Presence?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.”
(Verses :7-10)

To those who isolate themselves from the world to avoid further pain or heartache, Psalm 139 reminds us, there’s nowhere to hide from a Sovereign and Good God:

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’
even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.
(Verses 7-12)

Truly, when the whole of Scripture
and the ultimate, “Me too” of Christ on the Cross is received,
a new dawn speaks light, hope and ultimate joy
into the darkness of brokenness.  

This is why I urge Clients to enter into the Journey Notes process, to discover God has so much more to say to them personally.  As they do, I am always profoundly touched as I watch God’s peace pushing back the darkness.

“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.
Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His Name,
He gave the right to become Children of God—
children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision
or a husband’s will, but
born of God.”
John 1:11-13

So my question to you, no matter what your past history is: “What are you waiting for?!!”

All to His Glory!

*Part of a movement on social media, meant to expose the problem of sexual harassment and assault in our culture.  “Me too” was a quote taken from a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano.

The Lost Art of Godly Discipline . . . .

This is the fourth post in a series featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to encourage you to trust in God, no matter what life brings. ❤️

As a child of the 50’s, I grew up thinking discipline was synonymous with punishment.  When I became a parent, I accepted the necessity of spanking as part of the arsenal of weapons parents used to communicate the seriousness of their children’s “crimes”.   As time passed, however, I became personally convicted about spanking my children, because too often, my anger took control and I spanked them harder than was necessary.

The Fruit of Godly Discipline~😊

In my last post, I wrote about how God brought order to my home after I surrendered my heart to Christ.  It was at that time that He replaced my penchant for perfectionism with Himself.  It was also then, that I became convicted that my efforts in parenting were too often motivated by:

  1. My anger at my children, and/or
  2. My fear of losing control, thinking–If I can’t control them when they’re small, what on earth will I do when they get into their teens?

The problem was, I didn’t know what to replace it with. Initially, I recognized my children still needed discipline so, I replaced spanking with yelling–A LOT!  (It was amazing how quickly they were able to tune me out!)  I struggled with feeling helpless and foolish most of the time in my efforts to parent.

 It was not until I learned:

  1. Discipline and punishment are NOT synonymous.
  2. “Disciple” is the root word of discipline.
  3. God shepherds the hearts of His own by leading (not beating) them! 

that “the lost art of Godly discipline” came into view.

So what is the difference between discipline and punishment?  The simple wisdom of Christian motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, is full of insight:

We need to understand the difference
between discipline and punishment.
Punishment is what you do TO someone;
discipline is what you do FOR someone.

The difference between the dictionary definitions of the two is stark:

  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary affirms Ziglar’s assertion with this definition of discipline:“Training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”
  2. Punishment is defined as, “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.”

Between the two choices, discipline is certainly preferable to punishment when it comes, not only to raising children but also in how we want to be treated by our Creator.

Yet, as I look at culture today (even Christian culture), it is very apparent that many children are not receiving the benefits of discipline.  Sadly, as culture has embraced the notion of developing high self-esteem, parents have been remiss in teaching the difference between right and wrong, as well as God’s mandate that we love Him and our neighbor.  The results?  Just listening to the nightly news says it all.

So how was I to proceed as a Christian parent?  The wisdom and truth of II Timothy 3:16, 17 drew me:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.”

It was then that I committed to depending on the Scriptures, prayer, and the leading of God’s Spirit to teach this servant of God, how to discipline/disciple my children.  Along the way, I received the assurance that God did not expect perfection from me as a parent.  All He wanted from me was a teachable heart:

“He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”
Isaiah 40:11

The following are insights that guided me through the process of discovering the art of  Godly discipline:

Insight #1: Godly discipline has to be learned before it can be applied. 

God convicted me early-on with this thought:

If you want your children (or your grandchildren) to take you seriously,
MAKE YOUR OWN BED BEFORE REQUIRING THEM TO MAKE THEIRS!*
 

Insight #2: Godly discipline is meant to be a lifestyle, not a series of events.

 I found great encouragement in this beautiful word picture given the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.”

Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Insight #3: God does not have grandchildren; He only has children.

This piece of wisdom came from Corrie Ten Boom, author of one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place.  I had read her book to my children, so they had great respect for its author.  I reminded our children of this at various stages in their lives, pointing out that being raised in a Christian home did not make them followers of Jesus Christ.

Insight #4: Make regular worship at a Bible-teaching church and fellowship with other Believers a priority.

Early in my walk with Jesus, I learned: “There is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian.”  Worship of God with other Believers became our priority. I remain grateful for how our church family has loved us through good and tough times.  Having relationships with other adult Believers benefited our kids greatly through the “teen years”–when Mom and Dad were “uncool”.

Insight #5: Help your children think biblically by reading to them–A LOT!

Early on I discovered God uses reading to shepherd our hearts.  I especially loved summers when we had larger blocks of time to read all kinds of books.  As my children grew (early elementary age and above) we enjoyed reading true stories about the lives of other Christians–Corrie Ten Boom’s, The Hiding Place, Joni Ericksen Tada’s story as well as Hudson Taylor, Eric Liddell, Gladys Aylward, David Livingston, and George Muller are but a few of those we enjoyed.  We also read the Narnia, Little House and Lord of the Rings series as well as delving into the wisdom of the Bible.  (Reading The Hiding Place and Joni’s Story in the shelter of our home, gave opportunity to talk about sin, the human heart and how God blesses His children through adversity.)

Insight #6: When disciplining your child–draw them in–rather than isolate them.

I’ve never understood the practice of sending children to their room when they get into trouble.  When my children needed discipline, I viewed that time as an opportunity to minister to their hearts.  This is the pattern we followed when they were small and required discipline:

  1. They stood in the corner of the room where I was working (usually the kitchen) with the timer set and their hands behind their back (to help them think about what they had done rather than get distracted.)  If they fidgeted in the corner, more time was added– they soon learned to settle into their corner as I continued to work!)
  2. When the timer dinged, I sat on a chair and they either sat on my lap or stood in front of me.  (The main intent here was to make good eye contact.)
  3.   I then asked, “Why did you have to stand in the corner?”  I soon found this to be a critical piece of the discipline process–especially when they were a bit fuzzy about what they had done wrong.
  4. We then talked about what had happened, the sin that was involved, and then, how to make things right again.  (Often it was to apologize to one of their siblings.)
  5. Before we went on with our day I prayed for them–about what they had done but always with thanksgiving to God for their lives and His plan for their future.

As they grew the pattern adjusted.  Rather than stand in the corner, I assigned appropriate passages of Scripture for them to read and apply in a short essay. (The intent was to help them take sin seriously by going to God in confession and faith.)

Insight #7: Along the way, watch for ways to bring laughter, adventure, and opportunities to serve others into your family routine. 

I Timothy 6:17-19 pictures this beautifully:

“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 be rich in good deeds . . . to be generous and willing to share.
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves . . . for the coming age,
so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Through the years God proved Himself faithful to our family, even when we were not entirely faithful to Him.  What our middle-child, Amy wrote in her early twenties sums our family up quite well: “I come from a family of five sinners . . . . “  Over time we have grown to be a family of fifteen, still delving into the lost art of Godly discipline . . . .

All to His Glory!

*Underscoring the warning against saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!”  (Such an attitude breeds disrespect and contempt.)

The Tyranny of Perfectionism vs The Joy of Godly Discipline . . . .

God uses what He will to shepherd our hearts.
This is the third in a series of posts featuring some of the ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to encourage you to trust in God no matter what “life” brings. 
 ❤️

A WORD TO THE WISE:

“Do not deceive yourselves.
If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age,
you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”

I Corinthians 3:18, 19a

For many years, feeling as if “failure” was my middle name, I struggled with depression. After surrendering my heart to Christ, the first Bible study I participated in was a six-week study of Philippians. Written by the Apostle Paul from a of filthy Roman prison cell, Paul none-the-less urged his friends toward JOY:

Battered by winter, yet signs of spring prevail!

“REJOICE in the Lord ALWAYS, 
again I say, REJOICE!”
Philippians 4:4

What did I learn from Paul’s letter?

  • That for Christians, the basis for JOY runs deeper than mere happiness.
  • JOY is a choice.
  • No matter how my circumstances change or what others do, JOY is always to be had through Christ who strengthens me.

From then on, that was all I wanted . . .
pure, unadulterated JOY in the One who saved me
for Himself.

Yet I continued to struggle in two areas:

  1. I was disorganized.  I felt as if I constantly let God down, as I struggled to care for home and family.
  2. Going deeper, I knew my children needed discipline as they grew but, I didn’t how to discipline my children as a Christian mother.

At times, feeling closer to despair than joy, I prayed and dug into the Scriptures for the perspective I needed.  Finally, this verse pricked my mind and heart:

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at.
People look at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7

As I contemplated the wisdom of Samuel, it struck me that my problem was rooted in my ideal–PERFECTIONISM (or what I jokingly referred to as, “Better Homes and Gardens perfect”.)  I realized that I was confusing Scripture’s call to holiness** with perfectionism.  Until then, I would have laughed at the suggestion that I was a perfectionist–assuming that true perfectionists DID have their lives together!

However, the one thing I knew for sure,
was that God as my Shepherd would be far gentler
than the tyranny of perfectionism that had ruled me for so long.

Soon after, help that would answer my struggle with organization arrived.  A church friend invited me to join her and several others looking for help in organizing their homes.  Using an organizational card-system for “Side-tracked Home Executives” (referred to as, SHE), we found encouragement.  For several weeks we laughed as we listened to tapes featuring the stories of sisters, Pam Young and Peggy Jones, who sounded as if they had been more disorganized than we were.  It was their humor as well as their insights shared, not only about organizing our homes, but also a fresh perspective on husbands and children–that ministered to my heart.  In the end, their system did help me bring order to our home, but it also brought fun ways to encourage and discipline my children toward organization through:

  • “The Maid’s Box”–a cardboard box where favorite toys cluttering our home were placed until redeemed for 25 cents; and
  • “The Room Fairy”–who left occasional treats when their bedrooms were picked up.

Looking back, that season not only brought order (a healthier goal) to our home but also encouraged my heart in many other ways.

One memory that still causes me to smile occurred while we lived in England.  After my daughters found special treats on their beds from the Room Fairy, a neighbor girl said, “Aw, there’s no such thing as a Room Fairy, your mum bought those things.”  For a moment fearing that I had been found out, my oldest promptly responded, “Yes there is a Room Fairy, there’s no way my mum would buy such great stuff!” 😊

I continue to be grateful for how God freed me to trust Him with managing my home and family.

While getting organized outwardly, there was still a long way to go in tending to God’s primary concern: the inward condition of our hearts.  In my next post I will write about lessons learned as God replaced perfectionism with His perspective on discipline.  Here’s a hint to encourage you until then:

“He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah 40:11

All to His Glory!

*But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” I Peter 1:15

A Fresh Perspective on Valentines Day . . . .

I had some thoughts to share about Valentines Day, but the honest freshness of my friend Kristy’s perspective expressed it far better.  Read it and be blessed:

Tomorrow will start the flood on Facebook of all the lovely flowers, candy, jewelry and other niceties given to the many women I know who are committed in some fashion to their other half. A lot of single people find the day really depressing. They believe what the media tells them, that in order to enjoy Valentine’s Day, you must be in a relationship with a significant other.

Love always hopes, always trusts . . . .
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes . . . .

Let me tell you the real truth! Valentine’s Day is not a day strictly devoted to couples. It is a day you can choose to show love to anyone special in your life! If you are single, you could choose to show love to your parents, your siblings, special young people in your life, special older people, widows, orphans, and special friends. You could even show a little extra love and kindness to a stranger.

Tomorrow, I plan to celebrate the love I have for my daughter who lights up my life and makes me laugh. I will smile and I will enjoy the holiday as I do all the rest. Peaceful and content in who I have in my life.
For all my friends who are in relationships, post those pics of your beautiful arrangements! I would love to see them.
Lastly, I hope that you will remember the greatest love story and that is:

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”
John 3:16

God loved you so much that He sent his only son to die on the cross for your sins. That is Love! ❤️ ❤️

Didn’t I tell you?  Thank you, Kristy, for reminding me that true love is about so much more than hearts and flowers.  True love puts God and neighbor first as we give thanks for His Presence and kind provision in our lives. Happy Valentine’s Day!

All to His Glory!