Never Felt More Alive . . . .

It has been over six weeks since I knew I was closer to death than I had ever been before, and yet . . . I had never felt more alive. After being hospitalized with a badly infected perforated ulcer and then having problems with my heart, I was finally released from the hospital and wrote the following to a friend:

Thank you for your prayers! They carried me through many a cliff-hanger as doctors and nurses did everything they could to save my life.. Once the surgery was done, that took the back burner as two nurses worked through two nights to restore the natural rhythm of my heart. It was tough in many, many ways. But God blessed me with His presence and peace, which many non-believers who watched the drama unfold could not deny. It took 3 days and switching around countless medications to finally get the rhythm of my heart restored.

“Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
You display Your power among the peoples.
With Your mighty arm You redeemed Your people . . . .”
Psalm 77:13-17

I never realized how awkward it is to write about something that you know happened, but there is no other explanation for it except to say, it was a miracle.

Miracle defined: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.*

As I write about some of the “extraordinary events” that happened after being unexpectedly hospitalized, I do so in the hope of enlarging the vision of those of you who are facing challenges you would never have chosen for yourselves.  I invite all to draw your own conclusion as to whether it was God “intervening in human affairs” or if it was something else. (I would love to hear your thoughts.)

In the first of this three post series** I wrote about“sheltering in place” for months because of COVID-19, and how the thought of going to the hospital and picking up the virus terrified me. Then the night came when, finding myself in unbearable abdominal pain, I had no other choice than to face my greatest fear. As the ambulance siren wailed I found myself praying this simple prayer:

Thank you God that You love me and that I am not alone,
Thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life..
Help me Lord to see those You put on my path with Your eyes
as I trust You no matter what!

Such was the beginning of an adventure that would transform my faith in remarkable ways. It was that first night and into the next day that I came to understand this simple truth:

 God often uses the very things we are most afraid of
to draw us closer to Himself.

In my second post I wrote how God has faithfully worked in the lives of people since the beginning of time. I pointed to the prophet Elijah, who ran away when Jezebel threatened to kill him. The passage talks about how God ministered to Elijah and how eventually Elijah “pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave” when he heard God speak in “a gentle whisper.”  (1 Kings 19:11-13) In that post I wrote about  learning to listen for His gentle whisper when fearful, discouraged or feeling utterly alone.  The night I was wheeled through the Emergency Room doors I heard that gentle whisper in my mind asking, “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” 

Looking back all these weeks later, I can now see that when I responded to God’s question (at first tentatively and then fully) with, “Yes Lord, I will trust in You!” –it was then that the Holy Spirit stepped in. During the entire time He helped me take my eyes off myself/my fears and to choose to trust in God’s sovereign goodness.

Only now, as I reflect back on the night of my surgery, can I better appreciate what happened. Scheduled for exploratory surgery at five that evening I was remarkably at ease. In fact, as I was wheeled into the surgical room I suddenly remembered having seen the same setting of lights, people and a surgical table waiting when I had my tonsils removed when I was about six years old. For me, it was a pleasant memory as I remembered seeing stars after they put the mask over my face. That is my last memory until I was taken back to my room three hours later. I was told the surgery was a success, but I paid little attention to it as I watched two nurses diligently work through the night trying to get my heart rate under control. As they worked together the lights were low, and it felt like being in a cathedral.  Surrounded by a scattering of vaulted light and soft, shimmering colors, the nurses ran lines of various combinations of medications to finally stabilize me. I watched and prayed but experienced no fear and no pain. Finally the male nurse (Shawn) spoke to me: “Mrs. Siler, your hair is shining!” Moments later he exclaimed, “Mrs. Siler, your skin is beautiful!” and then asked, “Mrs Siler, what are you doing?” All I could think to say was, “I’m cheering you on!”

It wasn’t until weeks later that I thought about Shawn’s question: What WAS I doing?!! I thought about how they couldn’t understand how I was able to stay with them as I teetered on the edge of life and death!

  • Humanly speaking I should have been exhausted. I’d had major surgery to address a life threatening issue just hours before. (Imagine my surprise when, days later, I saw the seven inch incision down my middle being held together by fourteen staples!).
  • Yet I was clear-headed, not a bit fearful and felt no pain. (My only concern for the nurses.)
  • In fact, I felt exhilarated to the point where I cannot remember ever feeling more alive!

The only reasonable answer was the working of the Holy Spirit in me. It was indeed, “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs” .

So what can we learn from this?

  1. God often uses the very things we are most afraid of to draw us closer to Himself.
  2. To enjoy our God-given life to the fullest requires that we be fully invested in Him–not our fears or the things of this world.

But how can we avoid giving way to our fears/emotions and the stress that is so much a part of this world? The Apostle Paul put it well: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) To fight the onslaught of emotions that can so easily overtake us, I have found it most helpful to simply bring Christ into the center of my thinking:

Thank you, God, for loving me and
for sending your Son to save me for Yourself.
Thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life.
Help me Lord to live for, love and serve You with a glad heart.

The words of Jesus that flew like a banner in my mind when I first entered the hospital, continue to be true for all who choose to trust in Him:

“I have come that they (YOU!) may have life,
and have it to the full.”

John 10:10b

All to His Glory!

*Merriam-Webster Dictionary
**To access the first and second posts of this series press here >>Not Afraid << for the first post and here >> The Fullness Of Life << for the second.

 

The Fullness Of Life . . . .

Inspiring words posted by a friend about to lose her hair due to cancer treatment:

“And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:12)

“The stars are beautiful this morning, Venus in the eastern sky like a diamond. The moon in the southwestern sky. Every star has a name given by the Lord. Billions just like us, the sparrows, the hairs on my head, all the good and bad cells in our bodies, He knows it all. And with His great love, mercy, grace and justice, new every morning.”

As I write to you, I do so to share my story about the largeness of God and how He can use what we most fear to draw us closer to Himself.  We see it happen again and again in Scripture as we read about how He worked in the lives of people determined to trust Him since the beginning of time:* 

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
1 Kings 19:11-13

 This picture of how God ministered to Elijah, after Jezebel threatened to kill him, is one of my favorites.  Full of fear, discouraged and feeling abandoned, Elijah wanted to die.  But God still had plans for him.  In the passage God was not in the wind; nor was He in the earthquake or fire.  Instead, Elijah recognized God’s voice in, “a gentle whisper.”  I love it because I have learned to listen for His whisper when fearful, discouraged or I am feeling utterly alone: “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” Perhaps you have heard Him too?

In my last post  I told you about how I had “sheltered in place” for months because of COVID-19. During that time, the thought of having to go to the hospital terrified me most of all. Twice I experienced bouts of extended heart palpitations (when I normally would have gone to the hospital) but did not go because I so feared picking up the virus.

That changed on the night of August 4, when I was overcome by abdominal pain that was so severe that I could not walk. I screamed for my husband to call an ambulance. As the crew bundled me into the back of the ambulance my husband was told not to follow because he would not be allowed to enter the hospital.  It was then that I embarked on an adventure not of my choosing. As I rode to the hospital I prayed a prayer I have prayed many times to quell my fears and put my focus on Him:

Thank you God that you love me,
thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life..
Help me Lord to see those You put on my path with Your eyes
as I trust You no matter what.**

As I was transferred into the hospital Emergency Room my fears were left behind me as the words of Jesus pulsed through my mind: 

I have come that they (you!) may have life,
and have it to the full.”

John 10:10b

Suddenly the words ‘life” and “full” took on new meaning for me:.

To enjoy our God-given life to the fullest extent
requires that we be fully invested in Him.  

As I contemplated my circumstances– separated from the shelter of my home, family and friends– I none-the-less felt energized, even as I was poked, prodded and questioned. I did my best to answer their questions but I honestly don’t remember much about any of it except that the pain subsided even as doctors determined the danger was very real. They decided I had a perforated ulcer that might be infected but they needed to run more tests. I was admitted as a patient under observation and finally put into bed at 4 A.M.

Sound asleep and assuming I was in a private room because of my age and vulnerability (I am over 70 and have heart and lung issues)  I awoke to the booming voice of a young man trying to translate the hospital menu into Spanish for the roommate I didn’t know I had! There were other sounds I could hear but because of the heavy draperies that separated our beds I could not tell how many people were actually there or what was happening. I would love to tell you that I took it in stride but I didn’t. It was in that moment that fear gripped my heart in a big way.

After calling for the nurse, a young woman came to my bedside. In a shaky voice I expressed my concerns about being in the category of “most vulnerable” (I’d heard it on the news for months) and for that reason I had expected to be in a private room,  The nurse was patient but unsympathetic, telling me that there were no private rooms available.  She added that patients with COVID were no where near where I was. Suddenly I saw the tired eyes of a nurse who had had the same conversation many times before. Feeling very convicted at giving way to fear, I heard that gentle voice whisper, “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” 

In that moment something changed in me. After battling health concerns for months, I had longed to connect with God as I once did. Instead, I felt increasingly distant from Him. Even my love of reading Scripture had wained, as I looked around for other distractions. Watching television programs I had recorded and doing paint-by-number projects had become my two favorite distractions.

It was then that I knew God’s answer to my longing for more of Him,
was to place me exactly where I was,
away from all the distractions.

With that realization I gladly replied, “Yes, Lord, I will trust You in this!”

Are you in a place not of your choosing?  Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed by problems with your health; or are stressed over finances and/or family responsibilities.  Maybe you have so distanced yourself from the world out of fear, that you have also lost connection with God as I did?

Then if you claim Christ and desire to enjoy the fullness of life God intends for you, I encourage you to pray in the quiet confidence of His Sovereign Goodness:

Thank You God that You love me;
thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life.
Help me Lord to see those You put on my path
with Your eyes, as I trust You no matter what.**

In my next post I will finish my story about how:

  • God worked miracles large and small that would change me forever.
  • He opened up my eyes to appreciate healthcare professionals even more than I had.
  • My confidence in God’s Sovereign Goodness continues to draw me ever closer to Him.

All to His Glory!

*Read Hebrews 11 and the beginning of chapter 12 for inspiration.
**I have found that developing a praise response to God when trouble comes, is helpful to battling depression.and anxiety.  Keeping a praise journal (I recommend logging three things you’re thankful to God each day) helps breakup the negative perceptions so common with depression.

 

 

 

Not Afraid . . . .

“My heart falters,
fear makes me tremble;
the twilight I longed for
has become a horror to me.”
Isaiah 21:4

I do not think of myself as a fearful person. I have followed Christ for more than forty years, faced many a trial, and time and again He has proved Himself faithful. For twenty-five of those years, I have sought to strengthen every Client I have counseled, by helping them gain confidence in going to the Scriptures for the wisdom and perspective they need.

“I came that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Yet, I must confess that giving way to fear is the area in my life where I remain most vulnerable. Indeed, there are times when my heart falters and fear makes me tremble as my mind follows the ever winding downward path of, the“What if’s?”  I have prayed about it, confessing my weaknesses while fearing that I would fail to be faithful when/if truly tough times came. My one comfort that has provided hope for me at the prospect of facing hard times is the counsel Jesus gave His disciples before His arrest:

“Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial,
do not worry beforehand about what to say.
Just say whatever is given you at the time,
for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 13:11

Being mindful of how the Holy Spirit watched over and protected the early church, how he has radically changed lives through the centuries (including my own) I knew that relying on God’s Spirit was my only hope.

Then hard times came in the form of COVID-19.  After months of “sheltering in place” and facing my own vulnerability–I’m over 70 years of age with heart and lung issues–I found myself mentally in an ever deepening hole of fear despite my determination to face my fears. During that time I had two extended episodes of heart palpitations that I normally would have gone to the hospital for, but did not. Why? Because the thought of going to the hospital and picking up the virus terrified me most of all.

During that time, as fear continued to rule my heart, I struggled with guilt. I prayed, confessing my fears and asking Him to somehow help me to have victory over them. His answer to my prayer began on the evening of August 4 when I learned that:

 God often uses the very things we are most afraid of
to draw us closer to Himself.

The day had been crazy after a tornado hit our town-an extremely rare occurance. Our son and daughter-in-law were spending the night with us because their electric was off and they had a lot of debris from the tornado blocking their driveway.   I hadn’t felt well that day, but that was no different from  most days.  We shared a celebration dinner that no one was seriously hurt or killed in our area. I remember thinking as I sipped a glass of wine that maybe it would help settle my stomach that had been touchy all day.  Nothing could have been further from the truth . . . .

At about ten that evening I started feeling sick, and as the pain in my abdominal area increased, I knew I was in trouble.  I screamed for my husband to call an ambulance and suddenly all my fears of going to the hospital vanished as I began to pray:

Thank you, Lord, that you love me and that You are worthy of my trust. Thank you for sending your Son to free me from my sins
and that my days are in Your most capable hands.
Help me Lord to not give way to fear
but to see those trying to help me with Your eyes.”

It was a prayer that I had come to say in my battle against fear. That night, and in the days that followed, it took over my perceptions as God’s Spirit worked double duty in my heart.

As the ambulance neared the hospital the words of Jesus waved like a banner across my mind:

“I have come that they (you!) may have life, and have it to the full.”
John 10:10b

As I entered the Emergency Room that night I realized that whatever happened was part of the “fullness” God had planned for me all along. It was in that moment that hope and a quiet confidence in knowing that whatever happened would be according to God’s good, pleasing and perfect will . . .❤️*

I will write more about God’s faithfulness in my next post. For now, I ask you this one question: In this season of uncertainty, do you find yourself giving way to fear as I did?

There is nothing wrong with being afraid in uncertain times. However, there is definitely something wrong when, as Christ-followers, we allow our faith to be overrun by fear. Reflecting now on how God took over, providing the courage I could never have mustered in and of myself, I am grateful for this truth:

God often uses the very things we are most afraid of
to draw us closer to Himself.

Whatever you are facing, God is bigger than your fears and is worthy of your trust. I urge you to give thanks with me to a God who is faithful as we trust in His faithfulness:

“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26

All to His Glory!

*Romans 12:2

 

 

 

 

An Upfront and Personal God . . . .

I’m not sure where the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20” came from, but I appreciate how it pictures the process of connecting-the-dots of blessing after going through tough times. Sometimes it takes a while to recognize those blessings, but ultimately they all fall together to provide peace to those who trust in Him. It is during such times that I learned to give thanks for such an upfront and personal God.

I was reminded of His upfront and personal way of getting our attention while reading about an encounter between Mary Magdalene and Jesus on the morning of His Resurrection:

“But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent down to look into the tomb, and she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and the other at the feet.

“Woman, why are you weeping?” they asked.

“Because they have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I do not know where they have put Him.”

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not recognize that it was Jesus.

“Woman, why are you weeping?” Jesus asked. “Whom are you seeking?”

Thinking He was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried Him off, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  

She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
                                                                                                    John 20:11-16

It appears that when He spoke her name, Mary realized it was actually Jesus speaking to her. I wonder . . . was it was simply the way Jesus pronounced her name that reminded her of Him? Or maybe, having spent hours listening intently to Jesus, did Mary remember Him speaking about what was to come for Him:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law,
and He must be killed
and on the third day be raised to life.”
Luke 9:22

“He who began a good work in you WILL carry it to completion . . . .” Philippians 1:4-6

There’s no way to know what was going through Mary’s mind, but it reminded me those times when a soft yet upfront and personal voice has spoken to my heart, “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?

The first time it happened, I was in a quandary about something that seemed important at the time but years later, I have no idea what it was about. What I DO remember was NOT responding to the question because I didn’t want to be rude to God–as if He didn’t know what was in my mind!

So . . . for about two weeks I sensed this sort of cloud following me that continually echoed the question, “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” Finally, feeling totally worn down, I turned back to the Lord and said, “YES! Lord, I will trust You in this!” In that instant, though my situation had not changed, the cloud dissipated and a wonderful peace filled the void–bringing relief and comfort to my mind and heart.

In the years since that same question has, with prodding gentleness, helped me get through many a trial. I admit that at times I have been hesitant to answer, especially when fear grips my heart and mind. There have been times when I have prayed as the father who asked Jesus to heal his son prayed: “I believe, help me in my unbelief!”* But as time passes and I remember the lessons taught me in previous years, I have learned to respond more quickly–“Yes Lord, I do trust You in this!”

How about you? What is your experience with this upfront and personal God?Are you facing something unexpected that you don’t know how to respond to? Or maybe you’re tired of fighting a battle that never seems to end? Perhaps He has asked–or is asking you right now–“______, will you trust Me in this?”

These words written by the Apostle Paul to a church he deeply loved, lend encouragement and hope to followers of Christ,

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:4-6

With every problem that comes in your walk with Him, you can rest in the promise that, “He who began a good work in you WILL carry it to completion.” When we do step out in faith–affirming that, “Yes Lord, I will trust You in this,”–our situation may not necessarily change, but WE are changed as we gain courage and strength to trust Him with every portion of our lives. Give thanks for an upfront and personal God!

All to His Glory!

*Mark 9:24

More Than a Cup of Tea . . . .

“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is
until you put her in hot water.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

When I read the above quote I laughed aloud as I thought, “Eleanor Roosevelt, how very biblical!”  Like it or not, it is adversity (or as Eleanor put it,“hot water“) that builds the kind of character and maturity that pleases God.  James bears this out in the introduction to his letter,

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

James 1:2-4

Just as brewing tea with scalding hot water brings forth the best cup of tea, it is often the challenges we would otherwise avoid, that mold and change us when we choose to trust God. This can also apply to relationships:

  • In my teens and twenties I enjoyed the simple pleasure of drinking a cup of tea while doing some personal reflection.
  • In my thirties my appreciation for the benefits of sharing a pot of tea with a friend broadened as I savored the warmth and fragrance of tea with friends and, in the process, became a better listener.

Looking back, I can now see how God blessed those conversations,
as He challenged me to love others as He loved me,
by learning to trust Him as the Shepherd of my heart. 

As time passed, God put two women on my path whom I quickly decided “needed more than a cup of tea.” One was a friend of someone I knew in a Bible study I was teaching. She was facing some tough personal issues that I felt were beyond my experience. At almost the same time, another person I was just getting to know, opened up to me about having been raped more than a year before.

After looking for a Christian counselor locally and finding no one, I widened my search and finally located one living about 40 miles away. Both women went there for counseling and were helped, but it bothered me that they had to drive so many miles on back country roads to receive the help they needed.

As I recognized the need for a Christian counselor in my community, I enrolled at a University to begin work toward a Master’s degree in counseling.  With 3 growing kids at home and a husband who traveled A LOT for his job–I studied the major schools of psychology, with the idea of  integrating the best of those methods with the wisdom of Scripture.  However, soon after starting my internship, I discovered that the secular base of psychology tended to undermine the strength of biblical wisdom.  It was that realization that led to developing Journey Notes Praise Journaling and the counseling approach I have used for 25 years.

Helping Clients look at themselves and their problems
by interfacing with the Scriptures, has proven to be extremely helpful
to those who embrace the process.

So why did I decide to write about this? To encouraged you to not be afraid to minister to the people God puts on your path with the wisdom of the Scriptures..Here’s where I went wrong:

  • Once I got counseling help for those two precious women, I continued to pray for them–but backed off from trying to help them . . . fearing that I might “undo” whatever therapy they were receiving.
  • I didn’t think about it at the time, but in doing that, I diminished the value of Scripture in my mind as I looked to psychology to provide the help that was needed.*

It was true that the two women I was trying to help DID need, “more than a cup of tea” (or simply a good listening ear.)

So how can you move forward? Here are my thoughts:

  • Make prayer for your friend a priority.
  • Commit to bringing God into the center of every conversation you have with your friend, by asking your them to list 3 things they are thankful to God for. (This can seem impossible at first, but it helps to break up the negatively skewed thinking that feeds anxiety and depression.)
  • Encourage your friend to start doing Journey Notes to help them draw closer to God as you do the same. (I promise, it won’t hurt and you’ll actually grow too!)
  • When you get together, talk about what God is showing each of you through the Journey Notes process.
  • Be sure to share some of your praises and close your time together with both of you giving thanks to God for His faithfulness.

I like the picture of God’s plan for relationships illustrated in Ecclesiastes 4:

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of THREE STRANDS is not quickly broken.”
(Verses 9, 10 & 12)

God’s intent for relationships is blessing–as we share in our labor or help one another when needs arise. Yet, the larger blessing in relationships comes when we bring God into the center of how we relate to one another as that powerful THIRD STRAND .Speaking from experience, when we bring Christ into the center of our thinking in how we relate to others, blessings abound.

In the end this is what I learned: Being a good listener–as in sharing a cup of tea--when someone who is hurting can be helpful . . . but it has its limitations. Helping them look outside of themselves to God and the Scriptures, however, is to encourage them to discover boundless hope and joy in a God who is faithful . . . Always.

All to His Glory!

*To be clear: In a fallen, largely unbelieving world, psychology has its place and can be helpful. But that should never negate the value of Christians helping others look to the wisdom of Scripture and relying.on God’s Spirit to minister to the human heart and mind.

Hope That Rises Through Change . . . .

Change is rarely something I seek but have come to appreciate.  My husband and I, married for almost forty-eight years, have lived in the same house for more than thirty of those years. We’ve made many changes to the house over time, but the placement of the couch in the living room has not changed since the day we moved in. (Just to clarify, we did replace the couch–twenty years ago!)

Yet we have learned to appreciate change–largely through our kids.  We enjoyed them when they lived at home (for the most part), but celebrated when they became contributing members of society, married, and gifted us with our seven grandchildren.  Last year we entered a new stage of change when our oldest grandchild left home to serve in the Army–much sooner than we were ready for.  But we have been gratified to see the fruit of that change . . . the man that he is becoming.

Change can be difficult and even unwelcome.
But we have learned that when change comes (not if),
God is always–always(!)–good!

Change is in the air . . . .

Meaningful change has come to the Counseling Room.  I wasn’t looking for it, but there has been a noticeable shift of attitude in the majority of Clients seeking help:

  • When I became a Counselor more than two decades ago, Clients sought help dealing with their problems–period.

Clients back then were open to looking at the Bible, much the same way that we do today, but their focus (and probably my own) was mainly on resolving their problem(s).

In recent years, change having to do with the long-term goals of Clients, has made work in the Counseling Room gratifying.:

  • Where resolving problems was the emphasis in the past, the majority of Clients today are expressing a “desire to grow spiritually” as their primary goal of Counseling.  

This is how one Client expressed it recently:

“I’ve been in [secular] Counseling for 2 years and nothing much has changed.
I’ve ‘vented’ for countless hours and filled journals that need to be burned.
Now I’m realizing that nothing’s going to change,
apart from God changing me.
I want . . . no, I NEED to know God better!”*

What has caused this change? My thought is that as our times have become increasingly uncertain, and as what is “right” and what is“wrong” have become blurred within society, people are looking for clarity and with it, HOPE.  In essence, this shift has taken place because hearts are craving what Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:6,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.”

There is a palpable “hunger and thirst” being manifested in the Counseling Room, like I have never experienced before.  I have found that the only way to satisfy that longing, is to bring God’s Voice (manifested through the Scriptures) into every conversation that takes place..

But the change doesn’t stop there.  Clients are more committed to actively continuing that conversation with God by doing their Journey Notes.  (to the point of challenging me to re-enter into doing Journey Notes myself.)  Every time we meet, I count it a joy and privilege to watch their faces and to listen to what God has taught them since our previous Session.  Please don’t get me wrong, there are still the harsh realities in their lives that need to be faced and worked through.  But even so, HOPE continues to burn brightly as the Voice of the Shepherd ministers to both our hearts.

As I write this,  I marvel at the freshness of HOPE received as God’s Spirit ministers to hearts through words written more than two thousand years ago.  Consider the wisdom of the Apostle Paul who wrote:

“And HOPE does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still sinners,
Christ died for the ungodly.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person . . .
but God demonstrates His own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:5, 7 & 8

How do you respond to change?  Do you give way to fear or get angry as you try to cling to what was? Or do you lean into God when change hits, determined to trust and embrace every lesson He has for you?

This week I discovered fresh insight into dealing with challenging times in Psalm 143, especially verses 5 and 6:

“I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.” 

At first glance we may perceive only a glimmer of light on the horizon of our lives. But as we remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past and we thirst expectantly for God to work out His best, we discover HOPE rising as it renews and floods our senses.

That promise of HOPE in God’s steadfast love continues in verses 8 and 12:

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in You.
Show me the way I should go,
for to You I entrust my life . . . .
In Your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am Your servant.”

No matter what you are facing, no matter how dark things may appear, our God of HOPE will never abandon you.  Do you have a friend who needs help but feel as if your efforts are going nowhere?  Then I encourage you to bring God’s Voice into your conversation for the direction and HOPE found only in Him.

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

Romans 15:13

All to His Glory!

*In no way do I mean to disparage the value of secular counseling–certainly there is a place for it in a hurting, fallen world.  However, the benefits of Biblical Counseling–learning to look at problems and ourselves from God’s perspective–is largely ignored and opportunities for personal growth never realized.