Posts Tagged ‘Restoration’


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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Finally turning the corner from the healing land of denial, I entered an emotion that was all too familiar to me…ANGER.  Now I know anger is not always bad, in fact anger is not completely condemned in the Bible.  Jesus displayed anger.  The Bible assumes that we will experience anger, but the admonition is to not let our anger lead to sin. A very simplified way to describe the “sin” type of anger is anger that leads to destructive behavior stemming from bad attitudes.

In working with people who struggle with anger I have seen the tendency to deal with anger in a couple of ways: 

  • Rage
  • Repression

While there may be times when these can be healthy, they can also be harmful.  RAGE many times can lead to violent outbursts that can be hurtful and even harmful to those around you.  Anger tends to hit a lot of people who are not the ones you are actually angry at.  For instance some have been known to take the anger of divorce out on the kids.  There are also those self-destructive urges such as drinking, drugs, and sex.   REPRESSION is turning that anger inward and can cause health issues.

There are a couple of healthy ways to vent anger.  Let me suggest REDIRECTION.  Redirect your energy into healthy activities: Serving others, gardening, writing, soft punching bags, etc.  I remember one angry outburst I had where I so wanted to punch something (Ok, in reality I wanted to punch someone!).  There just happened to be a brief case in front of me so I wisely (sarcasm) kicked it shattering my big toe and thereby spending the morning in the ER.  Perhaps I should have stuck with gardening or writing.

Let me end this by suggesting another option… RECONCILIATION. First of all, reconciliation does not always mean you get back with your ex.  While that would be a good thing, let’s assume you’ve already been down that road and came to a dead end.  Sometimes reconciliation can be a redefining of the relationship.  You work to create a healthy post-divorce relationship with your ex.  This will include things such as forgiveness, boundaries to keep the relationship civil and if there are children, teaming up to fulfill the important task of child rearing. 

I’ve read that time heals but I have revised that.  I believe that God heals and time is one of the ways He heals.  Don’t rush the process. Enter the reconciliation process with care, emotional health, and wisdom.  I’ve written other blog post on anger that I can recommend.  Closing admonition: Anger, handle with care.

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“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of fateful trip.”  A few years ago my friend Dana, my son Clayton and I set out on a gulf fishing adventure.  We were all excited and anticipating a big day of reeling in a huge fish haul of biblical proportions.

I think the plan was to go about eleven miles from shore before dropping anchor.  It was a beautiful Florida sunshiny day as we finally arrived at the top secret GPS location Captain Dana had marked on a previous successful trip.  We were grabbing our rod & reels and positioning ourselves to do battle when it hit.  It knocked me off my feet and within seconds I was swinging on the precipice of death… SEASICKNESS!

I was feeling like the guy I heard of once who was leaned over the rail of the ship on a long and rough Atlantic crossing. He’d already turned several shades of green when a steward came along and tried to cheer him up: “Don’t be discouraged, Sir. No one’s ever died of seasickness.” The nauseated passenger replied, “Don’t say that. The hope of dying is the only thing that’s keeping me alive!”  

Captain Dana being the wise captain that he is immediately recognized the symptoms and swung into action.  He pulled up anchor, strapped down the rods, and started the engines.  At this point I’m in a dark place unaware of my surroundings.  All I remember is saying,” Oh God” and “Ralph” numerous times.  The next thing I know the boat came to a halt and Dana was saying, “Hop out of the boat.”  He had navigated us to a small island with a sandy shoreline. 

I jumped over the side of the boat into waist deep water and I kid you not, the relief was instantaneous.  I was healed.  It was amazing.  All symptoms were gone and I was back to as normal as I get.  I just needed to get my feet back on solid ground and that sad episode – with the exception of the memories held dearly by Dana and Clayton – was over.

I am reminded of that day often when I am counseling people who come in with symptoms of a seasick life.  In most cases this person needs a trip back to solid biblical principles.  They need to be taken back to a word from the Word.  So I listen trying to hear clues that will tell me which island of truth I need to navigate our counseling toward in order to get a solid foundation underneath his or her feet. 

Too often we do what Paul says in Romans 1:25 “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”  Anytime we take “Exit 1:25” there is disaster just ahead.  I encourage you to seek God’s answer to the problem you are facing.  If you need help… get it.  Don’t be too proud to ask for it.  Pray the prayer of the Psalmist, “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell” (43:3).  If I can help contact me through my website www.ready4lifecounseling.com

By the way.  We did go back out and had a fairly good day of fishing.  “Of biblical proportions,” naw… but it was great to be alive!

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To accept an apology isn’t easy for either person involved. Apologizing can be, if done correctly, a very humbling act. To apologize means guilt has been established and confirmed by the “offending” party.  Apologizing encourages the offender to accept responsibility for their role in causing offense. This, however, is hard on pride, and we have to be careful when we accept an apology. Humans, by nature, are prideful. We don’t often like admitting when we are wrong, especially to others. It makes us feel we failed in an area, and forces us to become emotionally attached to the situation. 

I recently had to apologize to someone because… well, I was wrong.  I made an unintentional comment that was offensive to someone.  Upon reflection, I put myself in the shoes of the other person and saw how my comment very well could have offended them.  I wrote a sincere apology listing the offence and taking full responsibility for it as the offending party.  In essence, I told the person that I had learned a valuable lesson and thanked them for helping me with this blind spot in my life, counseling, and pastoral ministry.

However, the response I received was more lecturing and accusations of intolerance and closed mindedness.  There was no acknowledgment or expression of acceptance of the apology. 

This got me to thinking about apologies.  What is the proper way to apologize and What is the proper response to an apology? 

Apologies can also be an expression of sorrow. In other words, the person saying sorry is attempting to be empathetic toward you. In this case, simply accept their apology. They probably are being sincere, and you shouldn’t analyze their intent.

Often, apologies are uttered as a mere afterthought for minor trivialities. For something insignificant, such as bumping into someone or burping, a brief but sincere apology is usually all that is needed.

Of course, then there are those situations that truly merit a more heartfelt apology. Sometimes you are the one who is doing the apologizing, and sometimes you are the recipient.

How do you make the apology?

A sincere apology will include:

– A description of the problem as you understand it

– An explanation of why it happened

– A pronouncement of regret

– A promise not to repeat the offensive action

When you say, “I’m sorry” you are demonstrating respect for the one offended. It says “I care about you, and I want you to understand I made a mistake.” An apology is the same as asking for forgiveness.

How do you respond to an apology?

I think first we need to dig down to the core of what we are talking about. At the core is an “F” word that is hard for all of us to say: FORGIVENESS.  At issue is “am I going to forgive this person or not?”  Why should I?  Just because the “offender” says I’m sorry?  No, it goes deeper than that. 

In Matthew 18 we get to look through a time warp and see a scene from the first century.  The occasion is a man who owes more money than he could pay off in two lifetimes is being called upon to pay his debt.  His inability to “pay up” is about to cost him and his family their freedom.  To the surprise of all present, the man holding the mortgage tears it up and forgives the debt.  Can you imagine the relief! 

Then the scene changes to another person who owes a few dollars to the man who has just been forgiven millions.  The man who owes a few dollars is shown no mercy from a man that we all would think should be the one person on earth to show mercy and forgiveness.

So I would think the first step in responding to an apology would be to do a self-appraisal.  Am I perfect or have I ever needed forgiveness?  Am I going to be like mortgage holder one or mortgage holder two?

Step two is to respond honestly.  Be honest with the other person about how you are feeling.  If you are struggling with forgiveness, tell them.  Thank them for their apology and continue to talk through the problem.  This can be very important in the growth of a relationship. 

Step three is to forgive and move on.  A person who has not learned to forgive is a person who carries a lot of pain through an already tough world.  I think the most misunderstood fact about forgiveness is the belief that forgiveness is a gift I somehow give to the other person.  In one sense it is, but in a more important sense, forgiveness is a gift I give myself. 

A friend told me that every offense I have not forgiven is like a meat hook in my soul that is tethered to the offense.  Every time move I have to drag that offense with me.  Imagine a lifetime of hooks that we drag around.  Not a pretty picture!  If we want to be free of the pain of the past we have to unhook and move on. 

My advice: UNHOOK!  FORGIVE!  It’ll do you good.

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Set aside protected time and space to be husband and wife.

 

Jesus once gave some good advice to his disciples,

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'” Mark 6:31 TLB

Why did he say this? He understood that people need to get off by themselves to regenerate and decompress. They need to refill their tanks. It’s a life principle. Marriage is no exception. You’ve got to get away from the kids.  Three ways to do that …

 A. Daily time

A few years back, Larke and I got started playing TETRIS.  It is a fun game of beat the clock and beat the other person’s score.  We had a blast.  In fact we wore the game out.  We need to get another copy.  The kid’s hated it when we did that because they were not the center of our attention and were not allowed to bug us under threat of banishment from the room.  Try to eat lunch together as much as possible.  Hold hands, pray, and eat.  Talk about the day to that point and plan your strategy for the rest of the day. 

You may not be able to do that everyday but find time for a few minutes a day for the two of you.  Don’t go too many days without that time.

 B. Dates

Try to schedule a weekly time to go out as husband or wife. It’s hard to find that time. You might have to be creative.

 C. Trips

Once or twice a year call up the grandparents and say something like, “Wouldn’t you like some QT with your grandchildren?” Sometimes, you don’t even need to leave. Let the kids take the trip.

When you regularly protect some time together, you’ll find your stress level going down – with each other, with the kids and with life in general.


CHANGE OF DIRECTION

I have a friend who drives a train for a living.  All I know is it sounds like a cool job and he gets to blow the whistle.  Before he goes out to work I always tell him, “keep it on the tracks.”  I’m sure that after hundreds of times hearing that he gets tired of it (Sorry about that, my spiritual gift is aggravation), but I think it is good advice.  Every time a train leaves the track there is always destruction and sometimes loss of life.  David experienced both.  His life got off track because he started doing things his way and going his own direction. Suddenly, he recognized that things had skidded out of control, and that he needed to make things right. He also realized that he couldn’t do it without God’s help. Listen to his words… (v. 7-12) Cleanse me…wash me…blot out all my iniquity…create in me a clean heart…renew a steadfast spirit within me.

We can mess things up on our own without anyone’s help, but it takes an act of God to get us back on track. We must depend on Him to cleanse us, and wash us, and forgive us. Too often we are guilty of trying to clean ourselves up and make ourselves “good” so that we will be acceptable to God-and that is simply not acceptable to God! There is only one way I can come to God- “Just As I Am.”  When we come to him this way, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Getting back on track requires a change of direction-where we stop going our way and start going his way. And what does it mean to “go God’s way”? It means we…

  • Start with the Gospel: I’m helpless to save myself; God rescues me and continues to rescue me on a day by day basis.
  • Hang out with God on a consistent basis. David said, “Do not cast me from your presence” because he recognized that spending time with God is what gives our lives direction.
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit. David said, “Do not take your Holy Spirit from me,” because he recognized that he needed the power of God’s Spirit in his life to overcome the power of sin that he obviously could not overcome on his own.  To someone who is hearing this filled with the Holy Spirit stuff for the first time, it may seem a little bit like the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD where people’s bodies are taken over by spirits that bring death. However, this is the DAY OF THE LIVING DEAD (Gal. 2:20) where I surrender control of my life to the leadership of the life-giving Spirit of God.
  • Ask God to give us a sense of joy. David said, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation,” because he recognized that a relationship with God is supposed to make you happy, not miserable. We can’t get back on track if we think that serving God is torture.
  • Ask for the power to be consistent. David said, “Grant me a willing spirit to sustain me,” because he recognized that we can’t be changed if we’re not willing to be changed on an ongoing basis.
  • Look for the chance to help others. David said, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you” because he recognized the Good News is worth sharing with others.

A change of heart. A change of mind. A change of direction. Do you know what all of this adds up to? Repentance. When we blow it, we need to repent. Some people think repentance is feeling guilty, but I’ve got “bad news” for those people: feeling guilty isn’t enough. There’s more to repentance than just feeling bad. Of course, when we sin we do feel guilty. That’s natural. But if you feel guilty too long, you haven’t really repented.

  • Repentance removes guilt. When David asked for God’s forgiveness he also asked God to restore the joy of salvation.
  • Repentance results in joy. If you’ve blown it, you need to get past feeling guilty and get back on track. Ask God to help you change your heart, and change your mind, and change your direction.

CHANGE OF MIND

Have you ever noticed that we gladly take credit for our accomplishments, but we often blame our failures on extenuating circumstances?  For example, how many times have you heard someone say something like, “I’m sorry I lost my temper? It’s because I’m so tired…or I’m under pressure…or you were getting on my nerves.”

Our natural tendency is to blame someone or something else whenever we fail. When people say, “I’m not myself today” they most often mean that they are at their worst, not their best. It’s not always easy to accept responsibility for our failures, but we have to if we want to get our lives back on track. We have to change our mind about who is making the decisions in our life. We have to stop blaming others and accept responsibility for our actions.

In 1980 New York City Mayor Ed Koch appeared on a local news program in the middle of the city’s financial crisis. Koch had spent over a quarter of a million dollars constructing bike lanes in Manhattan, and they turned out to be a disaster. Cars were driving in the bike lanes, pedestrians were walking in them, and bikers were getting crowded out. It was a mess and many people in New York were irate about it.

Koch was coming up for re-election, so a handful of journalists cornered him on this show, planning to tear him to pieces for spending money so foolishly when the city was nearly broke. One reporter said, “Mayor, in light of the financial difficulties New York City is facing, how could you possibly justify wasting $300,000 on bike lanes?” The stage was set for a half-hour confrontation.  Instead, Koch said, “It was a terrible idea. I thought it would work, but it didn’t. It was one of the worst mistakes I ever made.” Then he stopped. None of the journalists knew what to say or do. They were expecting him to squirm and make excuses, but he didn’t even try.

Another journalist stammered and said, “But Mayor Koch, how could you do this?” Koch said, “I already told you. It was a stupid idea. It didn’t work.”  Then he stopped. There was still 26 minutes left to go on the news show, and the reporters had to find something else to talk about. The last thing they expected that day was for the mayor to take responsibility for his actions.  Ultimately, of course, Koch went on to receive both the Democratic and the Republican endorsements for re-election.

The principle here is that we have to change our mind about who is in control of our lives. We cannot blame our sin on anyone else. We are responsible for our own lives. It does no good to say, “I am a victim of my environment, or a victim of my circumstances, or a victim of genealogy, or a victim of bad luck.”

David could have said, “It was Bathsheba’s fault-look what she was wearing at the time.” Or he could have blamed God. Or he could have blamed his other wives (yes, wives-he had hundreds of them) for not being sensitive to his needs. He could have placed blame in several different areas, but he realized that it was now time to take responsibility for his actions and regain control of his life.

That’s why he said (Psalm 51:4) Against you, you only have I sinned…You are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. I have been a sinner from birth.  David was saying, “I am responsible for my actions. I can’t blame anyone but myself.”

How’s your relationship with God?  What about your spouse or kids?  It is easy to get sideways in our our lives. Getting back on track requires a change of heart, a change of mind, and a…

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