Monday, June 6, 2016
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3
I’ve had six different offices in my 14 years of counseling. I began working out of my condo, then moved to a tiny 9x9 office some years later. Last month I had the opportunity to move my counseling office within our suite. I had eyed the corner office with two walls of windows since we leased the suite three years ago. When I initially joined the suite, I was thankful for the opportunity to be part of a group of folks who, like me, loved helping people. First-time clients called my small office “cozy.”
A lot of good things took place in that small office. Clients laughed, cried, and God used me to walk alongside them in difficult times. I wrote and published my first book, From the Other Side of the Couch: A Biblical Counselor’s Guide to Relational Living. I was content and grateful for God’s provision. Then an opportunity came open and I stepped out and asked if I could move into the more spacious corner office. Just one door down, yet I feel a new energy, new ideas, and hugely blessed every time I walk into that space.
Some clients see my wonderful office and experience my joyful heart and incorrectly assume I’ve never had difficult life circumstances. They see me with a new song of praise in my mouth without knowing the slimy pit where God rescued my heart, mind, and soul. Looking at my blessings causes them to feel ignored and abandoned by God. Yet my transformational journey is the vehicle God continually uses to help others find their own firm place to stand.
Do you look at the blessings of others and feel rejected by God? Do you beat yourself up when comparing yourself to those around you? Do you feel helpless to change your hopelessness?
Waiting on God’s timing in changing our circumstances can be excruciatingly difficult and discouragement will threaten to set in. But it’s at those times we most need to lift our eyes up to the mountains, ask for God’s help in your time of trouble, and receive hope through the testimony of others. What matters most is your perspective. Work hard to confess your negativity to God, asking him to pull the root of bitterness out of your heart. Wrestle with your automatic fleshly nature when it compares and condemns.
Ask God to show you others who’ve been rescued. Listen to or read about their story of transformation and allow it to inspire your heart. Then focus on crying out to God in the middle of your muddy life. He will not leave you stranded. God promises to give you a new song anchored by the firm foundation of his love for you.
Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.com
Sunday, May 22, 2016
“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” Neil Postman
Today I spent time with a group of Christian mental health professionals and the topic of generational limiting beliefs came up. From the time Adam and Eve left the garden, their outlook on themselves, each other, and God became the beliefs they handed down to their children. Their children received distortions which affected their relational understandings with their own children. And so on and so on.
It breaks my heart to hear inaccurate messages my counseling clients received from their parents and representatives of God. “Your worth depends on how others view you.” “It’s selfish to consider your own needs.” “You always have to turn the other cheek and let others walk all over you.” In response, many folks create vows which limit their ability to prosper. “I can’t ever do anything right.” “Nobody will ever care about me.” “I’m such a disappointment to God.”
These messages get installed deep in our soul and cloud the vision God has for our life. Instead of living a bold and courageous life, our beliefs bring fear and timidity. We model this lifestyle for our children and their perfectionism results in guilt and despair.
What messages did you receive that God wants to correct? What messages are you installing and beliefs you are modeling to those in your life today? Commit to wrestling with your belief systems. Whether your foundational beliefs came from parents, pastors, teachers, or friends, there will be distortions and we need God’s truth to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Photo courtesy of www.believersbrain.com
Monday, May 16, 2016
‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ Luke 6:38
Thank you to the unknown couple who selflessly bought my breakfast this morning! I woke up in a great mood, feeling blessed and joyful. After an early morning appointment, I stopped into my favorite restaurant for breakfast.
“What can I get you?” Debbie asked in a flat, bored voice.
“Good morning!” I said enthusiastically. Debbie looked a bit startled at my response.
After giving my order, I pulled out a book and sipped rich, flavorful coffee. The restaurant was quiet mid-morning. Two tables up a couple packed up their to-go boxes, walking past me without a word as they left the restaurant.
The book was awesome and breakfast was yummy. After my third cup of coffee, I asked Debbie for a box and the check.
“You don’t owe anything. The couple who left paid for your breakfast,” she replied.“
“What a blessing! I love it,” I said gratefully. Again, Debbie looked started at my response.
“Well I absolutely want to bless you as well,” I told her as I handed her a large tip. Debbie’s entire demeanor changed.
“I guess we’re all blessed today,” she said cheerfully.
How awesome it is when folks give from God’s abundant heart. I have no idea whether this couple were Christians. But I have no doubt God moved their heart to bless me this morning. While I was the recipient of their generosity today, I believe God will bless them with this same measure tomorrow.
I aspire to live a generous life, staying open and available to hear from God on how to bless others. This worldview allows me to express genuine thanks when I’m on the receiving end and excitedly look for a way to share the blessing I’ve been given. I was thankful to be able to share my heart with Debbie in a way that gave testimony to God’s goodness.
What is your story of giving and receiving?
Monday, April 18, 2016
I love being inspired and challenged by reading biblical accounts of folks who struggled with the same human weaknesses I see in myself. Many folks quickly dismiss the interpersonal aspect of these stories in their haste to find the bottom line. The ability to emotionally connect and be convicted by their stories, however, allows us to grow in our own lives. Learning how God interacts with others gives me a greater understanding of my own blind spots and roadblocks.
Naaman was commander of the Aram army. We can read his story in 2 Kings 5. He is described as a great man, highly regarded in the eyes of his king and fellow soldiers. Interestingly, the God of the Israelites is given credit for giving Naaman battle victories. Naaman suffered from leprosy.
Leprosy is a chronic infection affecting nerves, skin, and eyes and loss of the ability to feel pain. Minor wounds can become major issues resulting in loss of limbs or eyesight. Watching his body slowly succumb to this progressive disease must have been devastating for Naaman, his family and those under him. I wonder how Naaman processed his helpless. Did he shake his fist at the heavens, blaming the God who helped him in one area of life but apparently deserted him in this personal fight?
Within his house was an Israelite servant girl. She risked her position by telling Naaman’s wife about a prophet in Samaria who could cure the leprosy. Full of hope, Naaman asked the king of Aram to make a way for him to search out this prophet. Valuing his commander, the king gave Naaman gifts of silver, gold, and clothing plus a letter directed to Joram, king of Israel requesting Naaman be cured of leprosy.
Knowing he could not cure Naaman, King Joram tore his robes in despair, believing the Aram king was trying to provoke a war. Word of the matter got to the prophet Elisha who chastised King Joram, reminding him God was in charge and directing him to send Naaman his direction. King Joram’s reaction sounds very much like an anxiety response. He automatically went into panic mode and had to be reminded what was really true.
When Naaman knocked on Elisha’s door, the prophet sent a messenger with instructions to wash himself seven times in the Jordan river. Naaman was furious. First of all, he was a well respected man who’d traveled very far to come see the prophet, and Elisha didn’t even bother to receive him personally. Secondly, Naaman was probably very familiar with ritual washings and expected any purification rite to utilize the purest form of water, not a muddy, filthy river in the midst of a second-rate nation. Naaman had obviously expected some type of hocus pocus magic by the prophet to heal him rather than a call to humility before the Lord.
How often do we Christians expect God to work in very specific ways? Do you shake your fist at the heavens when God asks you to wait on his timing or to respond with grace and compassion instead of condemnation? Sometimes we need to be reminded who is in control, so we can voluntarily submit ourselves to God to receive all the blessings he wants to bestow.
Naaman’s servants begged him to reconsider the prophet’s instructions. Using logic, they reminded him of his character: he never backed down and never gave up. Acknowledging the truth of their words, Naaman humbled himself and did as Elisha instructed. His flesh was restored and his body was renewed. Returning to the prophet’s house, Naaman professed belief that his healing came from the God of Israel, a testimony he would share for the rest of his days.
How do you connect to this story? Is God challenging you to change your view on something or humble yourself in an area of your life? If so, allow the Holy Spirit to soften your heart so you, too, can receive healing.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
Worry and anxiety kept me internally isolated for much of my life. When I did share, any reassurance I received was like sand trickling through open fingers. I felt comforted and cared about for a short time, then it was gone and I needed another handful of reassurance. This pattern made me feel helpless and incompetent. Constantly asking for reassurance was taxing on my family and friends. Believing I was a burden caused me to feel even more isolated and fearful. But God broke through and rescued me from that lonely place.
1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” My lightbulb moment came when I realized moving from Fear to Freedom happens in the context of relationship. Even though my circumstances may not change, my ability to persevere and grow through them happens when I’m anchored in relationship.
I will never love God, myself, or others perfectly – but I don’t think God expects that of me this side of heaven. 1 John 4:18 tells me is there’s a connection between not feeling loved as the person God created me to be and my worry, anxiety, and fear. Being able to receive love, mercy, and grace significantly affects our ability to decrease fear-based symptoms. Fear breeds secrecy and shame. Opening ourselves up to receive love from God and safe people allows us to see what is true and hold onto hope.
I’ll always have a chemical predisposition to anxiety and depression, but I can have compassion and learn how to care for myself well when I’m in the midst of that storm. Learning how to battle my isolating thoughts and allowing God and others to care for me was really difficult. I had a lot of feelings and beliefs about being seen as weak and vulnerable that needed to be critiqued.
As a counselor, I work hard to offer a safe, caring therapeutic relationship to my clients. Sharing how they've been wounded emotionally and relationally is the key to healing. Allowing God to show how parents, spouses, and important people failed to love us in ways you needed is painful, but often uncovers old fears and hurts which invade the present.
Asking “what, why, how” questions allowed me to move from living in fear to embracing a joyful, freedom based life. John 8:32 tells us the truth will set us free. Truth gives us a solid foundation and energy to withstand internal and external storms. Doing the hard work of seeing how you’ve been relationally failed and understanding your unhealthy responses to those hurts will equip you with truth to face fearful worries, thoughts and feelings.