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Judy Lair is a licensed counselor and owner of Counselorplace Christian Counseling. She is the author of “From the Other Side of the Couch: A Biblical Counselor’s Guide to Relational Living.” Judy’s personal struggles with fear led her through the valley of hurt and sorrow. She now embraces a joy-filled life grounded in God’s truth and freedom in Christ. Judy uses her professional counseling expertise to tell stories that help people find healing and freedom. Her vulnerable, godly approach helps people find courage to move from Fear to Freedom. For more information or speaking requests, email JudyLair@counselorplace.com or sign up for blog posts at http://judylair.blogspot.com

 “Freedom is attainable. Trust me, I’ve been on the anxiety side, gone through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and now I’m praising God, eating at the banqueting table, and helping others make the same journey. Whether you find yourself stuck in anxiety, disappointment, grief, or confusion, your heart can be set free.” Judy Lair, “From the Other Side of the Couch.”

Sunday, August 24, 2014

One Single Word

Today I was reminded how one single word can make an enormous difference in our lives. One word can shape our understanding of ourselves, our paradigm, context for where we've been, and send us on a new path.

Words are used to beat us down or build us up. So much of the hurt we experience originates from slashing words uttered intentionally by someone close to us, often even to ourselves. Some folks respond by absorbing the pain, believing the words are true. Others build a protective wall by hardening their heart. How we respond to words dictates what impact they have on our life.

Lamentations 3 describes the horror of the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and exile of Judah's inhabitants. One command was given, resulting in centuries of pain and suffering. The author's emotionally-laden words connect with our own individual wounds and painful stories.

He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead. He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked..I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD." Lamentations 3:5-9, 17-18

So what do we do when we've received too many hurtful words and feel battered and abandoned? Ask God for a new word. A word that will bring light into our inner darkness, hope and vision for this day. 

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:18-23

God's compassion for me is renewed EVERY morning. Such power in that one word. No matter what comes my way today, God gives me a new, loving, compassionate, truthful word EVERY morning. It's my choice to learn how to ask for, and receive, His words.

We all have barriers that keep us from hearing God. Hurt, bitterness, beliefs, disappointment, busyness, etc. Don't be discouraged if you can't hear God today. Ask Him to show you what is blocking his voice. The ability to hear from God will grow as the healing process unfolds.

My word from God came today while sitting in contemplative prayer at a home group leaders retreat. We were learning different ways to incorporate prayer into our groups. God created us with different personalities, ways of learning, and communication styles. Prayer is as individual as we are, so if you cannot hear from God in one way, get creative! Nate introduced us to Praying in Color (www.prayingincolor.com), an interactive way to stay focused while praying. He also taught us the traditional Lectio Divina prayer model, a way of listening with your heart while you read Scripture. The steps are:

1) Read the passage, being sensitive to any particular word or phrase that stands out for you.
2) Reflect on the word, being attentive to what feelings it evokes and thoughts that come to mind.
3) Respond spontaneously to what you are thinking and feeling, offering prayers of thanksgiving, praise, petition, etc.
4) Rest in God's presence, allowing the Holy Spirit to draw you deeper into how this Scripture passage relates to you.

As I read Ephesians 3:14-20, the word "all" grabbed me. I absolutely want "all the fullness of God" in my life. As I focused on the word "all," God started giving me a vision of how he wanted to use me to impact others on a larger scale. Fear popped up. The more attention I get, the more risk there is for hurtful words to come my way. I was immediately reminded of the context of this passage. God promises fear must flea when I'm rooted and grounded in the knowledge that the love of Christ always surrounds me. As I focus on God's love for me, he will expand all five feet of me to be filled with all the fullness of God I can handle. Wow! One single word opened my heart up to an entire world of possibilities! What is God's word for you today?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sitting in Sadness

Recently one of my clients took the risk to lovingly confront me about a situation where I incorrectly took credit for an idea she had generated. She'd been hurt in this same way by others in her past. I was so proud she stepped out in faith to say something to me. She was absolutely correct and I truthfully admitted it. It wasn't done intentionally, but in my hurry to get something done I didn't review it to see I described the situation inaccurately. The client was gracious in accepting my apology and I'm very grateful she offered me understanding and grace.

Seeing and acknowledging mistakes used to fill me with a great deal of fear, sending me into a self-condemnation cycle. I'd berate myself not only for the present error, but for all the dumb stuff I'd ever done throughout my life. My inner Guardian became a military sergeant, telling me to shape up, scrutinizing and analyzing every detail of life for the next week as punishment. 

I came to realize that I used this destructive cycle to keep me from feeling sad and disappointed in seeing my imperfections. It's scary and frustrating to see immaturities. Instead of bringing God into those feelings, I just wanted to quickly fix it all myself. Many times I came up with a good plan to make sure I never made that same error again. But in doing so I completely missed the bigger lesson God wanted me to learn--that character is not determined by making mistakes. It's shown in how we bravely risk to be vulnerable with God and others when those weaknesses are brought to our attention.

My initial concern was to take responsibility for my failure and make sure the client felt safe to continue the discussion. Driving home, I allowed all the other complicated feelings to surround me. I felt grateful she felt safe to bring the subject up, sad I'd hurt her leading her to question my trustworthiness, embarrassed because she was correct, and frustrated I could've made a different choice and didn't. My inner Guardian worried this lapse in judgment meant something negative about my character. It felt like she was shaking her finger and scolding me, saying something about me getting too big for my britches these days!

It was really uncomfortable meditating on my actions that evening, but I wanted healing more than I needed to side step hard emotions. I've learned how to sit in these difficult feelings and condemning thoughts without needing to defend myself or employ an avoidance strategy. It's not easy and still takes intentionality to implement. But that's where I find God--in the midst of doubts about myself. He reminds me what's true. My responsibility is just to sit still and be sorrowful in the arms of He who loves me dearly.

Graphic from Office.com clip art

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Do You Want to be Healed?

Jesus was at the pool of Bethesda one day and started up a conversation with a man who talked about being crippled for 38 years. He explained to Jesus that every so often, an angel would stir the pool and the first person to get into the water was healed. Jesus asked the man a very interesting question. “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6 NIV)

Now why would Jesus ask that question? Obviously the man wanted to be healed, he had just told Jesus all about his physical ailments and how he spent his entire day waiting at the pool. It seems like a very illogical question on its surface, but there were lots of reasons why it was critical Jesus ask that question of that man -- and why God asks it of each one of us.
Sir, the invalid replied, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me. (John 5:7 NIV)
The man’s response shows hope in his healing had dwindled down to almost nothing. He had no one who cared enough to be by his side to help him. We can often feel like the victim of a loveless world and get caught up in hating our weaknesses. At those times we need Jesus to ask this obvious question designed to challenge our ingrained monologue of hopelessness. 

This question shed light on the invalid’s despairing heart and gave him the opportunity to anchor to truth. Human beings equate love with actions. If someone loves me, then they will do things for me that feel loving. Instead, hope for healing and happiness must come out of our understanding of God’s heart for our full transformation. Changes in circumstances are temporary. Hope in God’s heart for us is always assured. Holding tight to this truth will change us for eternity. 

Is your hope in something or someone fading? Rather than narrowing your vision and demanding change happen in a specific way, I encourage you to ask God to expand your view. Lifting your eyes to heaven and genuinely asking to see through God's eyes allows us to not only gain a different perspective--but also draws us closer to His heart. Hope is found in a person. Healing comes by genuinely asking God if He loves you, separate and apart from your circumstances.

Photo by Judy Lair in Jerusalem 2011

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Revel in Being Loved

Before we can do relationship with others well, we need to revel in how God loves us. That means learning how to close out the world and sit inside God’s heart. Ask God to shut out everything clamoring for your attention and develop a special, unique place in your soul where the two of you can communicate. 

I do this by reading Psalms to hear David talk about God’s loving kindness and feeling Moses’ frustration with stiff-necked Israelites. Be inspired by Peter’s zealousness and go on an emotional roller coaster with John to share Jesus’ last days. Listen to music that stirs your heart. Sad, mad, joyful -- pour out all your feelings and God will share Himself with you. What we gain is a different way to view ourselves and others through God’s eyes.

A good example of this is when Jesus was invited to have dinner with a Pharisee named Simon. A woman anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them dry with her hair, kissing his feet and pouring perfume on them. From the Pharisee’s viewpoint, she was a known sinner and he would never have allowed such an unclean person to touch him. Jesus told a parable to help Simon see what the woman already knew about forgiveness and mercy. 

God’s viewpoint always starts with seeing how much He cares for us. Despite our weaknesses, it’s His loving kindness that leads us to repentance and new life. Humankind sets up artificial standards and judges whether people measure up. When we view the world through relationship with God, there is love, grace, mercy, compassion, and acceptance.

Do you revel in being loved by God, even when you see your weaknesses? 

The Bible truthfully reminds me of God's constant, unwavering love. I experience it in my soul when I feel the love I have for my son Ben, knowing God loves me even more deeply. I surrender to the waves of emotion when I'm in the midst of worship. And because I revel in God's love in all these ways, I'm able to believe it by an act of my will when my shortcomings and immaturities are painfully revealed.

Photos by Judy Lair