The Problem With Running . . .

Countless times I have witnessed miracles in my office as God’s Spirit and His Word have worked in a hardened heart.  Last week, a young woman walked into my office angry . . . and rightfully so.  Married with two small children she felt:

Taken advantage of . . .

Unappreciated . . .

Disrespected . . .

Worn out.

Rather than argue I empathized . . . I confessed the times when I have wanted to run away too.  We talked about how the decisions made today will impact our lives and the lives of those we are tempted to leave behind.   She was at a crossroads and ready to run.  How did I know?  As I have told many a client, there is little that comes through my office door that I have not had at least a taste of in my own life experience.  I well remember those times when I have been DONE with life .  . . ready to escape the burdens that seemed impossible to bear.  How about you?

The challenge in counseling this angry young woman was to convict rather than condemn; to help her to realize the grave danger she was in. That is where the beautiful working of God’s Spirit and the Scriptures come in.   I shared a bit of my testimony, how to this day my  children (now grown and with families of their own) are grateful for how God stepped into my life, sparing our family from the tragic consequences of my abandoning them.  When God wakened me to my anger He helped me to see the dangerous possibilities my sin could cause.  The problem with running is that the consequences eventually will catch up with us.

We turned to the Scriptures for the perspective we lacked.  Considered to be the last letter written by Paul, the apostle poured out everything he had left in him because he knew his time was short.  Writing to a young man named Timothy (who Paul thought of as a son) it is a letter that speaks to the very soul of an individual.  I listened as she read:

“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, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

She stopped reading and looked at me wide-eyed saying, “How could God know so well the depth of our depravity?”  She shook her head and continued on:

“They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.”  (II Timothy 3:1-9)

She spoke quietly as she shared her first impressions ;  “‘Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God . . .’ that is surely me.”  She shuddered as she then whispered, “I don’t want that ‘weak-willed woman’ to be me!”  I watched as the hardness left her countenance and she grabbed a tissue, grateful for a God who saves us from ourselves.

Life experience has taught me that it is far better to run to God with problems than to run away from them (and Him.)   Next Session we will probably turn to God’s Counsel in Isaiah 30:

“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.
You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”
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!
People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.  Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.  Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”  (Verses 15-22)

No matter what difficulty you may be facing, give thanks to God for the clean slate of today.  Run to Him in repentance and faith as you trust Him to help you stay the course you are on.  Give thanks to Him for His love and mercy; give thanks that He has not abandoned you.  Then watch, wait and listen for the direction you need . . . in the confidence that He is worthy of your trust.

All to His Glory!

The Beauty of Solitude ~

Helping people with problems is primarily what counseling is about.  One of the advantages of counseling from a biblical perspective is in knowing that there are almost always positive aspects to whatever problem we face.  Case in point: the problem of loneliness.  Having battled loneliness personally, I know firsthand how insidiously loneliness can drain hope and light out of the landscape of the human mind and heart.

That is why I was grateful to read a blog posted this week titled, Solitude by Cristian Mihai.  Though writing from a purely secular view, I was refreshed by his reminder that there is much beauty to be enjoyed when we are on our own.  Here are some of his observations regarding solitude:

“As a kid, life is often simple.  I played with my toys, making up stories. I read books, tried to learn so many different things that I could talk to an adult as equals.  It was fun, actually.  But I also spent a lot of time alone, in silence.  But my mind was never quiet.

Solitude grants you this bizarre freedom, filling your mind with questions and answers and noise and stories.  I spent a lot of time building the life I was going to have.  I spent more time some place else than my body.”

 He went on to say that to work creatively– be it with words, paint, gardening or any other medium- solitude is often an absolute necessity.  He is totally right!  Here is part of what I wrote back to him:

“Your insights into the necessity of solitude in the creative process really hit the mark.  I would have to add that for me, what makes “solitude” most productive and exciting is the interplay of my Creator’s Voice with my own, urging me on throughout the process.  The problem of loneliness comes when my focus is so totally inward, that I lose touch with that other Voice.  The blessing is in knowing that even there (in my loneliness) His Voice can penetrate even the darkest of darkness.”  (Psalm 139:7-12)

To sort out the difference between solitude and loneliness, I checked the Oxford Dictionary Online.  What I discovered is that solitude can be very beneficial and should be guarded as something precious.  Solitude is defined as:

1  The state or situation of being alone: she savoured her few hours of freedom and solitude
2  Lonely or uninhabited place: the battle to preserve beloved solitudes flared up all over the country

Loneliness, on the other hand, is not so beneficial in its definition:

Sadness because one has no friends or company: feelings of depression and loneliness

The difference?  The root of loneliness has to do with a lack of companionship; missing that interpersonal fellowship with others with whom we share interests or friendship.  The danger in following the path of loneliness is that as we become increasingly self-focused, the world around us appears darker.

The beauty of the Journey Notes Praise Journaling process is that it helps us embrace God in our solitude as:

    1. We take our focus off of ourselves by logging our Praises to Him as well as our Prayer Concerns
    2. We look to our Creator for His perspective in the Scriptures
    3. We respond in faith as we trust and honor Him with our lives

Jesus encouraged His disciples to enter into precious solitude with Him in Matthew 11:28-29,

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

No matter what the season, the good news is that God has provided a means of blessing through fellowship with Him.  If loneliness has overtaken you, be encouraged that if you know Jesus, YOU ARE NEVER TRULY ALONE!  The beauty of solitude invested in Christ Jesus is, that your relationship with Him will deepen as God’s Spirit and Word minister to your mind and heart.  So get going!  Abandon the loneliness of “self” and indeed find rest for your soul.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and You know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    You are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    You, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and You lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

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.
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.  (Psalm 139:1-12)

All to His Glory!

More Than Voice Recognition ~

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.”  John 10:27, 28

It is amazing to think that a machine can recognize the voice of an individual as uniquely distinct as a fingerprint!    I found a helpful website called, “How Stuff Works”  (for “non-tech-savy” individuals such as myself) that explains the challenges of voice recognition technology development.   Their conclusion sums up the state of voice recognition technology,  “We can talk to our computers today.  In 25 years, they may very well talk back.”  

Voice recognition may be a new technology in our day, but the concept is not new.    Jesus talked about the importance of spiritual voice recognition in John 10:

  • “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of His sheep. The watchman opens the gate for Him, and the sheep listen to His voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.  When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  (vs. 2-5)
  • “All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”  (vs. 8,9)
  • “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.”  (v. 16)
  • “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow me.”  (v. 28) 

The spiritual voice recognition Jesus taught about requires more than a singular, casual connection.  Instead, it garners the image of a relationship of intimacy between Himself as the Good Shepherd and the sheep of His pasture.  We picture the sheep staying close to the Shepherd, not only because that is the safest place to be but because they love and trust the Shepherd.  They don’t want to miss anything that He might teach them.  In return, the Shepherd knows His sheep.  He knows all about the quirkiness of their personalities, their weaknesses and strengths.  He knows those things and is not bugged by them as they seek Him.   In fact, He enjoys each one because He loves them.  Can it get any better than this?  Actually, yes!  Completing the all-inclusive benefits of spiritual voice recognition between the Good Shepherd and His sheep Jesus added in verse 29: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.”   Eternal security . . . KA-POW!*  A deal made totally in heaven!

But we are stuck here on earth for now and “life” has a way of complicating things.  In fact, there are a multitude of voices that compete for our attention every single day.   If you are serious about your relationship with Christ Jesus and desire to more easily discern His voice:

  • Go to Him now in repentance and in faith.  (Isaiah 30:15)
  • Thank Him for His loving grace in calling you back to the shelter of His green pastures and quiet waters.  (Psalm 23)
  • Commit to stay closer to Him through daily prayer and reading His Word so that He can shepherd your heart. (I Peter 2:25)

I love and have been encouraged by the words of Isaiah offering hope in adversity as we listen for His voice:

“How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you.  Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.  Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”   Isaiah 30:19b-21

All to His Glory!

*For more on KA-POW! read September 21 post.