Principle #3: When You Find Yourself Talking To Yourself . . . .

It was one of those rare jewels that you tuck away, not so much because of its beauty, but because you recognize its potential.  

Principle #3:

Whenever you find yourself talking to yourself,
you’re probably sinning.
Switch gears and TALK TO GOD INSTEAD!

My friend Sharon said a missionary friend had sent it to her saying, “it was too rich not to pass on”–and she was right!   For almost thirty years I have learned to rejoice in God’s provision of conviction that draws me to repentance and a deeper reliance on Him.  In the Counseling Room it has saved many a heart from hardening, as God has reminded each Client to talk to Him more.

When given this jewel, its truth made me chuckle as I remembered a “conversation” I’d entertained earlier in the day:

“I don’t have to put up with that!  I should’a said this, and I could’a done that . . .
boy oh man, that was so unfair!”  

Sound familiar?

In a contentious, mean-spirited world, sin comes all too easily.  It is tempting to say the growing ugliness that surrounds us is unique.  However, I suspect that the times Jesus lived in were no less difficult or dangerous.  The point is (humanly speaking), when sinned against, it is difficult to resist responding in kind.
So how can we avoid the trap?  Switch Gears!

SWITCH GEARS by:

  1. Confessing the sin that has crept in–whether it came at your own invitation or snuck in there.
  2. Refusing to continue down the path you were on.
  3. Talk to God (pray!) instead by first giving thanks to Him for sending His Son to free you from, “the sin that so easily entangles.” (Hebrews 12:1*)

Switching gears spiritually comes up frequently in the Counseling Room.  To begin the process we use what I refer to as, the Triangle Illustration.  The Triangle Illustration asks two questions:

  1. Who (or what) is (or was) the major influence over the decision made in a certain situation.
  2. Was God the primary influence? Or was it something (or someone) else?

The local Pregnancy Help Center (was located below my old office) serves as a helpful illustration as to how The Triangle Illustration works:

When a woman who was abortion-minded came to the Center, her Counselors would draw the Triangle Illustration on a white board.  She would then write the woman’s name in the bottom right-hand corner, and “unwanted pregnancy” in the bottom left corner.  The Counselor would ask the question, “Who (or what) is the major influence in considering aborting your baby?”  Whatever the woman said, was written at the top of the triangle.  (Many times it was pressure from others, fear or the inconvenience of it.)

Then the Counselor would talk from the perspective of the Scriptures.  How before God every life is precious and that ultimately we will be held accountable for out decisions.  Just that simple perspective was often enough to help the woman shift gears from having an abortion, to trust God to provide the help she was going to need in making further decisions.

For many years the Triangle Illustration has been a useful tool for my Clients (as well as myself) to keep God as the Ruler over our hearts. In those seasons when such things as hurt, fear, anger, pride or our desire to please others threaten, it gives clarity that has kept such sin from finding its way to the Top.

However justifiable we may believe that placement to have been,
allowing anything less than God to influence our hearts is an idol.

Also, God’s call to, “Love thy neighbor” is an impossibility, unless we make loving Him our first priority.

Be encouraged when He calls you through conviction, to trust Him to love others as Christ has loved you.  This verse from Proverbs is one that nails the importance of our response to His call each and every day.

“Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
Proverbs 4:23

All to His Glory!

*Hebrews 12:1, “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 . . . .”

To Speak Truth In Love . . . .

WORDS TO GROW BY:

“Then we will no longer be infants,
tossed back and forth by  . . . every wind of teaching
and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
Instead, SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE,
we will grow to become in every respect
the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

Ephesians 4:14-15

When the miraculous working of God’s Spirit changes a human heart, it is no less meaningful than when the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land.  Yesterday, I was privileged to witness such a miracle.  I share it here to demonstrate the beauty that is possible when truth is spoken in love:

We speak truth in love

When she walked into my office, there was no hint of the struggle that had been ongoing in her mind and heart for a very long time.  I saw relief on her face, as I explained how we would be looking to the Scriptures for the wisdom and perspective needed to help her.  She responded by saying that was exactly what she wanted but hadn’t known where to turn.  She expressed her fear of receiving counsel that would urge her to follow her heart, knowing how doing so would devastate her family.

As she talked and I began to ask questions, her struggle touched my heart.  Married and with children, she confessed her unhappiness . . . her “discontent” that weighed so heavy on her.  Though tempted, she expressed her conviction–“In my gut, I know it would be wrong to leave.”

My heart quickened as I remembered a similar time in my life:

Feeling like a complete failure as a wife and mother . . . thinking they wouldn’t miss me, I had prayed: “Lord, help . . . .”

I remember, the deep silence that surrounded me before His voice spoke truth into my heart:

“Kathie, if your critical spirit would get out of the way,
my Holy Spirit would work a lot faster in their hearts and lives.”

In a split second, the pain of truth, spoken by God in love, seared deep within me . . . even as it’s light offered HOPE.  It was true, MY critical spirit had been a roadblock in countless ways, but I hadn’t seen it.  I thought of the prodigal son* who, “came to his senses” and returned home to the father he had forsaken.  In that moment I was both humbled and grateful to God, for opening my eyes to my blindness.

As I told my story, I anxiously watched her countenance, hoping that the truth spoken to me so long ago would minister to her heart.  As I watched, her face softened for the first time.  She was so absorbed in her thoughts, that she did not look up until after she wrote the words on her notepad–“CRITICAL SPIRIT”.  Only then did she look at me with a softened smile and (dare I say it?) a slight glimmer of hope on her face.  In that moment I knew that God’s words had pierced her heart and the possibilities to move forward were limitless.

To speak truth in love is a skill that does not come naturally but is worth cultivating:

  • It involves risk–that of being rejected by the one it is offered to.
  • It is a God-thing that can only be cultivated by investing quality time with Him.
  • It is evidence of a mature faith–bent on replacing old ways of relating to others with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

The Bible talks about “putting off” old ways of thinking and behaving as we “put on” new ways that are pleasing to God. In the Counseling Room we look to Colossians 3 to gain insight into the process;

“Rid yourselves of all such things as these (put off):
anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self
with its practices
and have PUT ON the new self,
which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

(Verses 8-10)

To put off our old ways of relating to others, the Apostle Paul urges us to check our motives:

  • Manipulation
  • Fear of rejection
  • Saying what others want to hear at the expense of truth,

have no place in how we love others.  Instead, Paul encourages us on the basis of our identity in Christ (verse 12) as, “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved . . .” to, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” 

Paul says further in verses 13 and 14:

“Bear with each other and forgive. . . forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

So how can you develop spiritual maturity by speaking truth in love?

  1. Keep Christ central in how you respond to others.
  2. Prioritize personal time to be spent in Scripture and prayer to get to know Him better.  (The Journey Notes process is an excellent way to do this.)
  3. Join a Bible-teaching church for worship and fellowship with other Christians.
  4. Attend a solid Bible study that will encourage you to go deeper in your faith.  (Community Bible Study (CBS) has been a personal encouragement to walking my faith for over 35 years, but there are many others out there.)
  5. Prayerfully watch for ways to honor Christ, by loving and serving others in your community.

Paul affirms this in the rest of the passage:

“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.”

Colossians 3:15-17

All to His Glory!

*Luke 15:17, “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!”

 

Godly-Discipline: Stubborn, Steadfast, Grace-Centered Love . . . .

This is the sixth post in a series featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to urge you, to trust in God no matter what your circumstance may be. ❤️

WORDS TO GROW BY:

“Let your conversation be always full of grace,
seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Colossians 4:6

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud,
abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love,
unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good . . . .”

II Timothy 3:1-3

Are we in the last days?  We do not know, but certainly we are closer than the Apostle Paul was when he wrote his letter to Timothy 2,000 years ago.  What we DO know, is that God gifted us with the Scriptures to equip us with everything we need to navigate through life.

When it comes to disciplining/discipling older children (pre-teen, teen and young adult), the challenge for us is often to resist being run by fear, anger or resentment.  Instead, Godly discipline endeavors to provide the stubborn, steadfast love (GRACE) we otherwise lack.

Godly Discipline: Stubborn, Steadfast, GRACE-Centered Love . . . .

In this post Godly discipline, as it relates to GRACE, will be our focus as Insights #8 through 12* (posted 5/8/17) are expanded.  The following are the Insights touched on in that post:

  • Insight #8:  The key to effective Godly discipline is PRAYER.
  • Insight #9: Speak truth in love–relying on the Scriptures for the best means of ministering to the mind and heart. 
  • Insight #10:  When dealing with sin, resist the temptation to minimize it.
  • Insight #11: With older children/teens, resist using long-term restriction as a weapon.  
  • Insight #12: Problems seldom occur at convenient times.  Check your attitude by giving thanks that God’s timing is always perfect. 

When it comes to connecting GRACE to Godly discipline,
stubborn, steadfast, GRACE-centered love is key.

One of my favorite examples of a parent extending stubborn, steadfast, GRACE-centered love in the Bible was a parable told by Jesus.  The story begins with the youngest son demanding his inheritance from his father.  The father gave it to him and, soon after, the son left to squander his inheritance on everything that went against what his father had taught him.

Jesus does not comment about what the father knew or thought, He only says that the father did as his son demanded of him.  Almost predictably, this is what happened to the son:

“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine . . . and he began to be in need.
So he went and hired himself out . . . to feed pigs.
He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating,
but no one gave him anything.
“WHEN HE CAME TO HIS SENSES, the son 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
and say to him:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

I am no longer worthy to be called your son;
make me like one of your hired servants.’”
Luke 15: 14-19

A thought to ponder: Repentance inspired by conviction is beautiful in God’s sight.  

Most certainly, the father who thought he’d lost his son forever, saw such beauty in the face of his son . . . even at a distance:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him,
and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

(verse 20)

 

But there was a second son, the older brother, who was less than delighted to hear music and dancing when he came in from the field.  When he learned that the festivities were in honor of his “low life” brother, well . . . suffice it to say, he was extremely unhappy:

“‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you . . .
I have never neglected a command of yours;
and yet you have never given me a young goat,
so that I might celebrate with MY friends;
but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes,
you killed the fattened calf for him.’
 “

Luke 15:29 & 30

Humanly speaking, most of us can relate to the older brother’s anger. But jealousy combined with self-righteousness is as ugly as the sins of the younger brother.  The father’s reply reflects God’s call to forgive as we have been forgiven:

““And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.
‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead
and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”
Luke 15:31-32

In these times of uncertainty, when children raised in Christian families are denying the faith they were raised in, do not give way to despair–God is absolutely worthy of your trust.  Insights 8 through 12 are especially meant to encourage you:

  • Insight #8:  The key to effective Godly discipline is PRAYER.  The older my children, the more precious the gift of PRAYER became.  There is no greater weapon when applied in stubborn, steadfast, grace-centered love that rests in God’s Sovereign Goodness.
  • Insight #9: Speak truth in love–relying on the Scriptures for the best means of ministering to the mind and heart.  Lean on God and the Scriptures to know when to speak and when to be silent.  Remember that the spiritual battle for souls has been ongoing since the Fall–trust God to help you stay on His path.
  • Insight #10:  When dealing with sin, resist the temptation to minimize it . . . but also resist the temptation to make a mountain of it.  Learn from the father who, after all had been said and done, let his son go his own way.  (You can bet that in the weeks/months/years after his younger son left, prayer became his greatest ally as he watched for his sons return.)
  • Insight #11: With older children/teens, resist using long-term restriction as a weapon.  (Review Insight #6 for my perspective on this.)  If grounding is necessary to keep them safe, do what you can to draw that child closer by spending time with them.  I taught one of my daughters to sew during such a season and looked for ways to build good character by serving others with all of them.  Attending church worship and youth group activities were maintained as part of our regular routine.  Lastly, encourage them to get into the Scriptures for themselves by making Journey Notes entries.  (See Journey Notes Praise Journaling page).
  • Insight #12: Problems seldom occur at convenient times.  Check your attitude by giving thanks that God’s timing is always perfect. 

Along the pathway of raising children, prayers such as, “Lord, I didn’t know it was going to be so hard”, are common.  It is my prayer that blessing will abound in your life (no matter what the season), as you seek God’s wisdom in applying His stubborn, steadfast, GRACE-centerer love to those He puts on your path.

All to His Glory!

*The Key to Godly Discipline
**To read the story in Luke 15, PRESS HERE.

 

 

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.)

On Dealing With Fear and Bullies . . . .

This is the second in a series of posts featuring spiritual lessons God taught me through my family.  Over the years these stories have been helpful to many a Client; I share them now in the hope that they might also encourage you. ❤️

There is much talk about bullies/abusers in the world today, but bullies have been around since the beginning.  It was their fear of bullies, that resulted in Israel having to march around in the wilderness for forty years*; and Goliath (of David and Goliath fame) was nothing more than an oversized bully.

Of our three children, Amy (our middle child), was the most fearful. Amy was afraid of (or was resistant to) such things as:

  • Volcanoes. When we received orders to move to England, our then four-year-old middle asked with serious intensity in her voice: “Are there volcanoes in England?” (All these years later, we still laugh that if we’d received orders to Hawaii, we would never have been able to get her on the airplane!)
  • A boy in our village named Christopher Blackman.  I doubt that Christopher (who was probably about 10 and DID have a bad reputation) had any idea that our little Amy had stopped going to the village shop for sweeties (candy) because she was afraid he might be there.  Also, he probably was unaware that she immediately hid herself behind a garden wall or bushes if she saw him when walking home from school.
  • Pick-pocketers.  After traveling into London on a train, we heard an announcement warning that pick-pocketers had been active in the area that morning.  Amy clutched the little purse I had made for her tightly against her chest as she said, “They should make them wear uniforms so we can tell who they are!”
  • Learning to write–because she knew she wouldn’t be able to write as well as her sister–Amy resisted the pressure to learn to write.)

    Amy

Yet despite her fears, Amy could also be the most courageous.  When she saw a smaller classmate being bullied, she took it upon herself to stick up for them.  On one such occasion, Amy was quite surprised when the bigger kid (not Christopher) knocked her down.  Fighting back tears, Amy got up and yelled passionately, “I FORGIVE YOU!”  (I heard later that the bully looked quite embarrassed as he slunk off!)

When I learned about the incident I was both stunned and proud.  I had to admit that Amy’s response demonstrated a special courage and biblical wisdom that I lacked.

COURAGE defined: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

True courage demonstrates moral strength to withstand danger despite our fears
as we take our stand against evil.

God chose to teach our family a deeper lesson through Amy’s second fear: Christopher Blackman.

BULLY defined: “a blustering, browbeating person . . . one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.”  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

Our youngest, Luke (about 2 1/2 years old at the time), was notoriously friendly toward anyone he met.  While taking Luke out to the local playing field in his stroller, Luke reached out to Christopher–who I had no idea was THE Christopher Blackman!  Soon after, Christopher began showing up by our garden wall calling out for Luke.  Having found out WHO the boy was, I kept Luke inside at first.  But I remembered what Jesus taught about dealing with enemies in Luke 6:27, 28,

Luke
with Christopher Blackman

“Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.”

As we (Amy and I) began to pray for Christopher, something unexpected happened: God softened our hearts.  I began to see that Christopher genuinely held a special affection for Luke–who Christopher called, “Lu-key”.  As I made some inquiries around our village I learned that Christopher was in foster care and was waiting to be placed in a special school. (He had been put out of the village school because of something he’d done.)  We reached out to Christopher’s foster parents and learned that because his foster mom was quite ill with diabetes, she put him out of the house after he’d had his breakfast each day to roam the village.  I realized that Christopher was showing up at our garden wall, because he was lonely while all the other children were in school.

What happened next is really kind of a blur.  We began by allowing Christopher into our garden and it wasn’t long until he became a special part of our lives.  I cannot tell you how long it was before Christopher and a couple of his friends began attending church with us.  Looking back, I do not recall even a hint of Christopher’s bad reputation being expressed in our time with him.

You may be wondering about Amy in all of this?  Well, she now says that Christopher probably DID push her down, sat on her and pounded on her back one day before he became a special part of our family.  But when she saw how he liked her little brother and saw our genuine concern for Christopher, she was okay with it.  Besides, even as a child, Amy said, she “figured that it was what Christian families were supposed to do!”

Soon after we returned to the States Christopher started at his new school.  We wrote back and forth for a while but then lost touch with him.  After all these years, I still wonder what he did with his life and would love to see him again.

So what did I learn from my children about dealing with fear and bullies?

  1. To take sin seriously–my own included–in difficult relationships.  Romans 12:9 says, “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.”  God is both sovereign and good and worthy of our trust.
  2. To faithfully pray for my enemy.  I have learned that by doing this God keeps my heart soft. Praying for my enemy also opens the door to miracles, as God also can work in the heart of the bully/abuser.  James 4:7 hits the mark with this counsel: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
  3. To trust God to provide courage to resist being run by my fears. By standing up to bullies/abusers (and asking others to pray where needed) the sin is exposed for what it is.  The wisdom contained in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare, lends powerful encouragement to all who seek Christ’s help:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against
the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when (not if) the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then . . . .”

Ephesians 6:10-14

After 25 years of counseling, I have learned (where bullying/abuse is concerned) that prayer and getting help (be it in the church or by calling on the civil authorities) to stop the pattern of abuse is the best course.

To allow the sin of abuse to continue without addressing it,
encourages disrespect in the heart of the abuser toward the one being abused.
To call for outside help often forces the abuser to face the ugliness of their sin.  

In the end, there is opportunity on both sides of the relationship, for spiritual growth to take place as God works in both hearts.

All to His Glory

*Press here–> Joshua 5:6, to read the text.

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!

Dark and Stormy Nights: Hope For You and Me . . . .

A medium-sized, square black plate rests on the corner of my desk in the Counseling Room.  Most of the year the plate holds a smallish arrangement of flowers that I change with the seasons.  Along with the flowers there is a framed cross-stitch that says, “Tears Welcome Here”– words of assurance extended to Clients looking for hope and a safe place to work on their problems.  

During Advent and into Epiphany, the plate becomes a stage.  The stitchery and flowers are replaced, first with a solitary manger in front of a plaque that declares:

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things . . . .”
I Corinthians 13:7

Waiting . . . .
Waiting . . . .

Last week, Mary and Joseph were added.  With Joseph standing and Mary kneeling near the empty manger, the parents-to-be appear to be wondering about the Child, uniquely conceived, soon to be born– the Son of God Most High. Were they nervous?  Perhaps scared?  The Scriptures do not tell us.  What we do know, is they remained faithful as they waited . . . .

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee . . .
to Bethlehem the town of David,
because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary. . .
pledged to be married . . . expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came . . .
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger,
because there was no room available for them.”

Luke 2:4-7

As I look at the figures of Mary, Joseph and the waiting manger, I find hope and comfort at the gentle reminder: “Love bears all . . . . believes all . . . hopes . . . endures.”  Such was the point of Christ’s coming, LOVE CAME DOWN. 

The young couple’s lives had been turned upside down less than a year before.  Far from home, they had likely endured much societal rejection because of Mary’s pregnancy.  As they waited for the Birth, they were clueless about the drama that was about to ensue:

  • Shepherds paying them a visit to see what an angel had pronounced–“A Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord . . . a baby wrapped in clothes  and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11,12)
  • Magi from the East, following a star, would come bearing gifts to worship, “the one who has been born King of the Jews.”(Matthew 2:)
  • They would flee to Egypt, after an angel’s warning, before King Herod began his search to kill the Child–only able to return home to Israel after Herod’s death.
  • They would end up in obscure Nazareth (apparently not their first choice) to stay out of range of Herod’s son:

“So he (Joseph) got up, took the Child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod,
he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream,
he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and . . . lived in a town called Nazareth.
So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets,
that He
(Jesus) would be called a Nazarene.”

Matthew 2:21-23

So what can you and I learn from Mary and Joseph’s story?

  1. That when (not if) those dark and stormy seasons hit us, God is faithful to direct the steps and shepherd the hearts of those who rely on Him.
  2.  To honor God in the dailyness of our lives--faith is not something to be turned ‘on and off’ with a switch.
  3. To trust in God’s Sovereign Goodness to get us where He wants us when He wants us there–God’s timing is perfect.

For twenty-five years I have seen miracles happen as I have watched Clients, overwhelmed by their circumstances, make one of three choices– to trust in God, to trust in themselves or in someone (or something) else.  Those who cho0se to trust God:

  1. Look to Him in the Scriptures for the wisdom they need,
  2. Pray for the courage they lack to either move forward or to wait, and
  3. Give thanks to God that He was with them every step of the way.

It is nothing short of miraculous to watch as their outward countenance slowly begins to reflect a deepened, mature faith that affirms the truth of what is written in Hebrews 6:19,20,

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.
He has become a high priest forever . . . . “

On Christmas Eve I will return to my office one last time: to place Baby Jesus in the manger and add the Shepherds who came to see Him.  You and I are invited to enter the Holiness of that wondrous season as we celebrate God’s Perfect Provision–unto us a Child is born; a Son is given–Merry Christmas!

All to His Glory!