Archive for the ‘Life!’ Category


As a pastor and now as a counselor, I have dealt with a lot of end of life and bereavement situations.  Many times I have heard well-meaning people giving bereaved people advice similar to “just give it some time, after all ‘time heals all wounds.’” It is as if these well-meaning people are saying: “You just have to wait and in time your sadness, anguish, yearning, guilt, , and fear will just fade away, and you’ll be fine.” But hold on a minute, that approach to grieving raises the question how long is “some time” – two months, one year, two years, five years? Having been on the hurting side of grief myself, it is my belief that while time helps, time does NOT heal all wounds. A more apt saying is “IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH THE TIME THAT HEALS.”

Instead of sitting back and hoping that time will heal, the Bible tells us to turn to God for strength.

Sometimes the pain is so bad that we don’t think we can go on, we just want to quit. At that exact moment we are exactly where God can do his best work.

Once, when the apostle Paul was facing a very painful situation in his life, he begged God to take it away.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 [NIV]

It’s our weakness that we find it easier to allow God to be strong in us. But what exactly do we need to do to make that become a reality in our lives?

Andrew Murray, a preacher and writer the end of the last century experienced an injury to his back early in his life that left him with deep pain for most of his life. At one point, he was bedridden and lying on his back at home and he would do his writing there from the bed.

One morning he had been writing in his journal and his maid came in to announce a visitor. “There’s a woman downstairs,” she said, “and she’s got great trouble in her life and she would like to know if you have any advice, anything you could share with her.”

Murray removed from his book the page he had been writing in his own journal and he handed it to the maid and said, “Share this with her; I wrote it for myself.”

The words he handed to her were these: “In times of trouble, say these four things:

1. He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this place; and in that, I rest.

2. He will keep me here in His love and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.

3. He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

4. In His good time He can bring me out again how and when He knows.

Therefore, say, ‘I am here, one, by God’s appointment, two, in His keeping, three, under His training, and four, for His time.’

Question – as you deal with your pain and grief, are you trying to buck up and get through it on your own? Or are you turning to God and laying the issue at his feet. It’s not easy to do this, by the way, but it makes a huge difference in our attitude.

Well, that’s a plan for good grief: express the pain, accept the reality and turn to God for strength.

Some of us are in the middle of a lot of pain right now. We’ve got a choice to make. And that choice will take us to one of two very difference destinations. One is a destination of hopelessness and numbness and just going through the motions. The other is a place of joy and dancing, even in spite of the sorrow.

You have turned my  into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11 [NLT]

That’s my hope for you. And it’s God’s promise, that if we’ll manage grief His way, one day we will be able to dance again.

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LIVING IN THE STORM

Posted: May 12, 2012 in Emotions, Life!, Work, Worry
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I haven’t written a blog post in some time so I decided to pick up the pen (actually laptop) again. The truth is, I have not had a clear enough head to put any thoughts together in an organized fashion, and that is a good description of my whole life right now.

In September of last year, I left the job I had and loved for 14 years.  I am fully convinced I was following God in this and I am still convinced today. What I seemed to forget is that following God will sometimes put you right in the middle of a storm!  Look at this passage from Matthew 14: Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray… Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.  Do you get the picture here?  The disciples were doing exactly what Jesus had instructed them to do and it put them right in the middle of the storm.

I thought about just listing the frustrating events that have been my life over the past 7½ months since I moved back to Mississippi but every time I would start to write them, I would hear a little kid voice in the back of my head saying, “I think I hear the whambulance.”  Just so you know, for some time now I have been working on a manuscript for a new book titled: AM I CRAZY OR WHAT?  I suppose after the disclosure that I hear kid voices in my head one might conclude that I am giving away the ending of the book. But I digress.

While sitting alone in my blue Lazyboy, I got the idea to write down a list of the areas of my life that have been wounded, some dramatically, since last September. Then I wrote down another list of the fears I have in each one of those areas, fears of what might go wrong, fears of more pain. And then, finally, I wrote down a third list of what I really hope for in those areas in the future.

And it hit me: my list of fears on the one hand and my list of hopes on the other represent two different visions for my future coming out of what has been the most painful and challenging rip in that imaginary protective membrane surrounding my life that I have lived in for the past 14 years. There are two very different destinations for which I can set my internal compass at this point. I mean, I can’t stay where I am. That’s one of the realities of pain. It always drives us somewhere. The question for me is … where will I wind up?

Actually, I think that’s the question that faces every one of us when we suffer in this life. What are we going to do with the pain of divorce or injustice or physical infirmity; the death of a dream, a betrayal, the death of a loved one or any other loss. How are we going to grieve? How are we going to react to loss? (And the word “grief” is simply a way of describing our reaction to a loss).

Beginning with my next post, I am going to look at the topic of grief.  Please feel free to send me an email if you have a story of grief recovery or if you have a question about the grief process.

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Nouthetic counselor Jay E. Adams writes that under the roof in his backyard hangs a hummingbird feeder that he keeps filled with sugar water. There are four openings in it from which birds may suck the nectar. Yet, day after day, from early morning until after dusk, the feeder is the source of the birds’ war – one bird chases all the others away. “As I said,” Adams writes, “there is room for four birds at a time, and fully that number attempt to feed. But the stronger one, who now ‘owns’ the feeder, will not let them. All day long he sits on the branch of a nearby tree guarding ’his’ feeder and defying others to transgress on what he has established as ‘his’ territory.

“This ongoing slice of life confronts us throughout the day as the war rages on – the hummers streak across the yard, the king hummer in hot pursuit of an intruder; and while the chase is on, others sneak a sip or two, only to be driven off when he returns. This is the lesson we learn: “I bought the feeder; I supply the sugar water. The birds do not earn it; they receive it all by grace. Yet, day after day, they fight over who may enjoy it.

“How like the people of God! All we have or are that is worthwhile is the gift of God’s pure grace. And yet we are proud, self-centered, envious, and quarrelsome. Often we fight over God’s good gifts rather than expressing our gratitude in humility and sharing what we have been given with others.” 

There are some things we can do to develop an attitude of gratitude in our lives.  These steps, if embraced and practiced will move us in the direction of having a thankful heart:

1. Learn to celebrate life.  I can’t remember the year but I do remember the teams that were playing, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos.  It was the fourth quarter and things were not looking particularly good for the Chiefs.  This was during the John Elway quarterbacking era for the Broncos.  80,000 Chief fans probably were thinking, “I’m sitting here freezing, and Elway’s gonna do it to us again.  Somebody remind me again why I do this to myself.”   As time clicked down to the last seconds the Chief fans (that were left in the stadium) held their breath as their kicker booted the ball through the crossbars to win the game.  The place went crazy. People were high-fiving and hugging and kissing. Every single Chief’s fan was thankful they had come, in spite of the cold, in spite of Elway.

Here’s the point: everyday, find something, anything – no matter how trivial – that resembles a last-minute, game-winning kick – and celebrate it.

2. Count your blessings often.  Set aside some time every day, or at least one day a week to brainstorm a list of what you are thankful for.  Each time add to the previous list.  Reflect on this list regularly.

3. Just say it – “thanks.”  Say it for everything you can think of. The more you do it, the more you’ll develop an attitude of gratitude. Of course you want to thank God, but also thank the people who have made positive contributions in your life.  Tell them face to face; if this is not possible send them a note.  Too often we feel grateful to others for what they have done but never return to those people who have helped us to say thanks. 

There is a story in the Bible about ten men who had the disease of leprosy.  One day Jesus passed through the area where these men lived and they called out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  They were well aware of the reputation of this healing rabbi.  Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests, and as they were going, a wonderful thing happened. Their skin became clean and free from leprosy! We can just imagine the joy they felt. 

Nine of the men continued on to go see the priest, but one man turned back and came to Jesus. He was praising God with a loud voice, and he fell at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. 

Jesus asked the haunting question, “Where are other nine men?”  Ten were healed, but only one came back to say “Thank you.” The obvious question that fits right here is, “Which of the ten men are you more like, the nine ungrateful or the one who returned to say thanks.    

4. Start today! Don’t be guilty of reading this, giving it a nod of affirmation and then quickly getting busy with your life.  Take one of these steps today.  With that in mind let me thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

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A poverty-stricken woman was found on Christmas Day eating a dinner that consisted of a piece of bread and a small fish. A visiting friend was pitying her because of her poverty.  The old woman with face aglow, replied, “Poverty? Dear heart, don’t you see that the Lord has created the land and sea to feed me this blessed Christmas Day?” This woman owned the earth, though she ate only bread and herring for Christmas dinner.

So where does that type of gratitude come from? Like any other attitude this one comes from what’s on the inside of a person.  So, what is on the inside of a person who has an attitude of gratitude? What’s in the heart and mind of a person that keeps overflowing in “thank-you’s” to people and to God for the gift of life? I know there are more but let me suggest a few that I’ve observed.

#1 There is an understanding that the doorway to gratitude does not hang on the hinge of good circumstances.

People with this attitude believe that it’s possible to do exactly what the Bible says: Give thanks in all circumstances [good, bad or ugly], for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

They don’t believe the lie that life has to be on the upswing before they can be satisfied. Even in the middle of the most difficult situations they truly believe they can find something to rejoice over.

I have a friend on Facebook named Kebo.  I kind of hope he doesn’t read this blog because I didn’t get permission to use him as an illustration.  Kebo is one of the most upbeat people I’ve ever met.  You never see him writing things like, “Ugh, it’s Monday again.”  He never uses one of those frowny colon-slash-opening parentheses icons.

I really look forward to reading Kebo’s posts on Facebook because they are always uplifting.  I want to be like him when I grow up. He seems to live with the attitude that he has everything he needs to be joyful regardless of the circumstances.

 Do you believe that about your life? That you have everything you need – right now – to be joyful? That’s the key to an attitude of gratitude.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about a Pollyanna approach that says “well, let’s just close our eyes and pretend that everything is ok even when it’s not.” I’m talking about a realistic approach that freely admits that “the situation is not good right now, but I can find something to appreciate about it, and I choose to make that my focus.”  I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do but it is the healthiest way to live.

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I have found myself saying the words, “Thank God” a lot this week.  It probably has a great deal to do with the fact that my first grandbaby, Charlie, was born Tuesday, September 7.  I kept looking at him and his dad and mom, saying, “thank you, thank you, thank you, God!” 

My mind sometimes travels down some strange paths at the most unusual times.  I was standing at the hospital nursery window and I remembered the following story:

Back in the days before automobiles, there was a traveling salesman who acquired a mule for use in his business. He was so appreciative that he would begin each trip by thanking God for providing the mule. Eventually the animal learned that “Thank God” meant to go. When they reached their destination, the salesman would again give a prayer of thanks, concluding with “Amen.” And so the mule learned that “Amen” meant to stop.

Before long, the business prospered and the salesman was able to upgrade to a horse. Having no need of the mule, the salesman sold him to another businessman in town. He explained the necessary commands and with a “Thank God”, the mule and its new owner were off.

Well, it was such a nice day and the ride so enjoyable that before long the businessman forgot everything else, until he suddenly realized that he was heading for the edge of a high cliff.

“Whoa!” he said to the mule, but the mule did not whoa. “Stop!” he commanded, but the mile did not stop. Frantically pulling on the reigns, the man yelled out a desperate prayer: “O God, please save me!–Amen.” With that the mule came to an abrupt stop, just in the nick of time, at the edge of the cliff.

Breathing a sigh of relief, the man said, “Thank God.”

Perhaps you can go overboard with saying it but I’m not so sure you can overdo the attitude of gratitude for a God who moment by moment pours out his blessings on undeserving people like me.  There are just some times when one “thank you” won’t do.

Baby, Mom, and Dad did an amazing job with the birth thing.  I was having contractions in the waiting room but thank God, I pulled through also.  Thanks again God!

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by Katie Buttons

Ok. That title is somewhat deceptive. In reality there is no gray area only true or false. But that is not how we think is it?

Good, God-fearing Christians know better than to out and out tell obvious, bold face lies. We don’t typically do it. However, we have invented an area of lying that is neither white nor black. It is gray. And if good, God-fearing Christian people are going to lie, we try to keep our lying within the boundaries of this gray area.  This most certainly is how I lie. Rarely do I tell big, black, blatant and obvious lies. However, I can be tempted to lie, which sometimes is called “spinning” the truth. Here are three examples of “Christian lying.”

  • Taking Away From the Truth: Truth is truth and to take away from the truth makes truth an untruth. If my family finds a Dunkin Donuts bag in my car and I tell them I went in to get a cup of coffee but leave out the part about the Blueberry Cake Donut, I have deceived. And to intentionally leave out parts of the truth, when we know better, many times is motivated by a desire to deceive. Altering the truth is a lie.
  • Adding To The Truth: To embellish is to lie. This is taking the truth and adding more to it than what the truth is. When a politician says, “The American people want______________” is embellishing because not every American person may want___________. To spin things for effect or to make yourself look better than you really are is a lie.
  • Avoiding The Truth: This is an evasive tactic. This is another temptation for me. When I’m pressed to tell someone my real sin issues I’m tempted to avoid the truth because I do not want them to know the real truth. I evade. I’m dishonest. I’m a liar. In this moment my self-righteousness kicks-in and I do whatever I need to do to avoid the truth. There is another word for presenting myself as better than I am: HYPOCRISY.

One final thought: Most of us are tempted to lie in this gray world of neither truth nor lying. But the truth is, lying is lying.

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TRY AGAIN

Posted: September 1, 2010 in Life!
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Abraham Lincoln’s name would probably make the list as one of this country’s greatest presidents. He was instrumental in abolishing slavery, and he was instrumental in unifying our nation during a time we were divided by war. And if you have ever heard a motivational speech, you have probably heard this before. Nevertheless, it is worth revisiting. Here’s a quick summary of his life…

• First, he had an extremely difficult childhood, being raised in poverty and receiving only one year of formal schooling.

• In 1831 he launched his first business. It failed.

• In 1832 he ran for the state Legislature. He was defeated.

• In 1833 he started another business. It failed.

• In 1834 he ran again for public office, and was elected to the state Legislature.

• In 1835 his fiancé suddenly became sick and died.

• In 1838 he was defeated in a bid for Speaker of the House.

• In 1840 he was defeated in a race for Elector.

• In 1842 he married Mary Todd, and the marriage was (to put it mildly) a source of pain and torment for him the rest of his life.

• He fathered 4 sons, 3 of whom died before reaching age 18.

• In 1843 he ran for Congress and was defeated.

• In 1846 he ran for Congress and won.

• Between the years of 1848 and 1858 he was defeated 4 consecutive times in running for public office.

Think about this question: If this were your life story, when 1860 rolled around, would you be inclined to run for President of the United States? Obviously, Lincoln did. And his courage to do so changed the world forever.

There’s a principle that is taught in the book of Proverbs that I have learned to live by. Solomon said…

(24:16) Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.

Solomon is saying that the difference between a wise man and a fool is not determined by whether or not he fails. We all fail. The difference between a wise man and a fool is whether or not he gets back up. I recently read, “Failures who give up are a dime a dozen. Failures who get up are one in a million.”

The number one contributing factor in a successful attempt to quit is a previous attempt to quit smoking. People who quit smoking rarely succeed on the first try, but the people who are able to quit are those who keep trying…as many times as it takes.

The only way you can get what you truly want out of life is to make a commitment to try again and again. Rarely do we get what we want the first time around. It takes persistence to get what you really want. It takes a willingness to try and try again.

So what dream have you given up on?  You may have abandoned your pursuit just one attempt away from realizing it.

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