Thursday, March 5, 2015

Break Time!

Dear Readers, I am taking the rest of the week off blogging to host the Bearing One Another's Burden's Biblically Conference. 

I have been very touched by the number of you who have commented on the blogs about the trip I took with my dad. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. 

Lord willing, Monday will bring new things to write about. 

Until then... 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Eight Cents

I have concluded my visit with my dad. He's back home up north and I'm back home in the wonderful Midwest. 

This trip has been a mixed bag for me. If you've read the past couple of blogs you'll know that I escorted my dad to visit a friend in Las Vegas. 

You have to understand, Las Vegas is the last place on earth id choose to go for a vacation (please don't be offended my Las Vegas readers). It's just not my kind of thing. I don't gamble or drink (I'm a church lady after all!) and the knowledge of the sex trade that goes on there makes me ill. However, it's where my dads friend is for the winter, so off I went. 

This trip has been tough on a number of frontiers. My dads age (93) and his age related dementia (ARD), hearing problems, and his being unsteady on his feet made it a pretty intensive time of supervision and compassionate care that looked a lot like me going along for the ride (even though I drove).

My dads friend is a nice widow lady. When my mom was alive the four of them square danced together so she and my dad are comfortable reminiscing about years gone by. 

My dear dad has taken somewhat of a shine to this lady however, she only wants to be friends and dancing partners and He (mostly, grudgingly) accepts this. 

He's lonely. He misses my mom and the gentle company of a woman who loves him, and can relate to him in this stage of life, that much was clear. The time he spent with her was the highlight of the trip and no matter how much it was it was never enough. 

This is how I found myself in a casino, getting a players card one night. His friend wanted to eat dinner in the restaurant upstairs and of course, you got a deal with that card. The card was also loaded with some "free money" to spend in the casino. 

When dinner was over she insisted that I use the money on that card telling me, "You can't leave Las Vegas without playing the slots" (really, I could) and I could see that my dad's evening with his friend would be extended if I agreed to do so. 

So I did. (Don't judge)

I slowly played out the "free money" on my card while my dad and his friend did their thing a few machines away. I listened to their banter and smiled at how much my dad was enjoying himself. He laughed and they chatted about things they both were familiar with, people they know from their dancing club, and memories of the past, about Her husband, and my mom. 

When it was finally time to go back to the hotel I walked away with some winnings. A whole eight cents. A shiny new nickel and three brand new pennies.

As I sat on the airplane winging my way home I heard that money jingling in my jacket pocket. I thought of how much happiness I was able to give my dad by going on this trip because he could never have gone alone. I thought about how I overheard him tell her that he's missed her and was so glad to see her again; how he enjoyed our group day trip to Red Rock Canyon, and how I watched out of the corner of my eye as he shyly gave her the box of candy he brought from home because that is just how you treat a lady. 

I'm thankful I was able to give him something that was important and meaningful to him. Life doesn't hold many real pleasures at his age. 

He's been such a good dad... 

I think I'll hang on to that eight cents. right now it's just pocket change, but one day in the not too distant future I suspect it will be  worth it's weight in gold. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Socialite

Today's guest blogger is Anne Dryburgh. Anne is a missionary in Flemish speaking Belgium since 1991 doing evangelism and biblical counseling. Her ministry is unique and I know she would appreciate prayer as she ministers to those around her. These posts will give you an idea of what she faces in her ministry, and how important biblical counseling is to the people she serves.Anne often brings counseling applications to life through stories on the blog. 

Barbara is a shy young lady who often experiences that people treat her badly. When she is in a group, others will often ignore her. At other times, when she does speak to people, still others join the conversation and take over, or the other person walks away. Each time that Barbara experiences this, she wonders what is wrong with her, thinks about how mean that other people are, and about how Christians should treat others in a more loving way.

The first thing that Barbara and I talked about was her motivation for going. What was her reason for being there? To be treated well? To make new friends? To honor God? To love others? If her goal is to honor God and treat others well no matter how they treat her, she would deal with their bad treatment of her in a more constructive way.

In order to help her honor God in her heart, Barbara decided to start to prepare her heart before each visit. She would look to the Lord and who she in the him. She decided to focus on some verses had spoken to her during her quiet time:

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11, 12).

These verses help her live in the truth that God has chosen her, he wants her, and that the purpose of her life is to glorify him. Barbara decided to write these verses on a card to put in her pocket so that the next time she was at a social event, she could read them and stay focused on the Lord and his purpose for her.

Knowing that what we think affects how we behave and feel, Barbara realized that she had to counter the wrong thinking that she engaged in when others treated her badly. She saw that as soon as she started thinking that others were mean to her, that Christians should behave better, or begin to wonder what kinds of things were wrong with her, she would have to stop these thoughts. These thoughts would have to be replaced with thoughts that honored the Lord and on how to love others.

These tips were a big help for Barbara in dealing with her heart that longed for love and acceptance. When she did not get the love and acceptance she desired, she became angry, critical, and judgmental. Now she could focus on the Lord, his love for her, and on how to relate to others in a way that pleases him.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Protect and Respect

"honor your father..."  Ephesians 6:2a

Spending time with my elderly father has been a mixture of joy and sorrow. I have made some good last memories with him. We've taken some scenic drives into the mountains; things I know he has enjoyed. He's spent time with the friend he came here to see.

It is clear he is declining.

At 93 what do I expect? I guess I never expected this to happen to him. Because of Age Related Dementia (ARD), he has lost his ability to think clearly and remember things. I am never sure what he remembers. I can't tell when he is functioning and when he's not. It seems to be moment to moment sometimes!
He wakes up in a frenzy because he's afraid he's late for something. Because he can't hear at all without his hearing aids, it is impossible to reason with him at anything close to a normal volume. When he is wound up, it is not possible to reason with him at all.

Sunday morning he was to meet his friend for some activities and he thought he woke up late. He was flying around the room trying to get ready and despite my persuasive abilities he was convinced he was going to miss the meeting time. He insisted on heading down to the breakfast area alone and, since neither I or my husband was dressed all we could do was move fast to catch up with him.

How can a 93 year old guy move so fast as to get lost? 

But he did. For about 15 eternal minutes he was lost in the outdoor maze of the hotel trying to figure out where the breakfast area was. The things that were going through my mind were endless, and none of them were good. As we scoured the hotel complex several times and he was nowhere to be found, I began to ask total strangers if they'd seen an elderly gentleman who looked lost.

By God's grace, we found him. He was confused and frustrated with himself. There is a part of him that knows what is happening, that he is unable to think and remember the way he used to. He gets angry that he needs help, angry that he can't think, angry that he can't be independent enough to get to the lobby alone. Angry at being old.

Several times he has said he feels so helpless. I find myself in the position of protecting him with respect. I cannot baby him or order him around. I can't tell him what to do and yet, I am responsible to ensure his safety and well-being. It involves being creative or frankly, manipulate the situation to maintain respect for him as my father and as an adult yet ensure he is not going to be in harms way.

Protect and respect. That's my goal.

Friday, February 27, 2015

When Giants Fall

I have been spending the past few days with my elderly father. He wanted to take a trip to see a friend who goes away for the winter. Because of his advanced age, it was not possible for him to go alone although he intended to do so. My siblings and I were very concerned about his plans, and so I offered to go along with him on the trip. Frankly, I manipulated my way on the trip.

This has been an eye opening experience.

I have always looked at my dad as larger than life. He is from the Greatest Generation and while he has never been an emotional man, he’s been a good father and was a faithful husband to my mom during their 63 year marriage. He loved her to the day she died and he’s not been quite the same since.

He always had a job, we had a nice home, and he worked very hard. He cared for our home and yard between golfing and his other sporting activities.

When I was a child, my dad had all the answers. He seemed to know everything. An avid reader, he was able to tell me anything I needed to know. He could fix anything that broke, and he only needed a pattern to make something we needed. It is from him that I developed my love for history, museums, and nature. I wish I had appreciated it more when I was young.

My childhood memories are pleasant. While he was stern and demanded obedience, in retrospect he was desperately trying to reign in a rebellious girl in a world and society that was changing faster than he could keep up with.
I wish I had appreciated him more when I was young.

He is not the same man. In the sunset of his life he is not steady on his feet and frequently loses his balance. In spite of this, he still bowls and dances. He can’t hear well, even with 2 hearing aids so he misses most of what is going on around him. Never one for small talk, he spends large blocks of time in silence.  He dozes off- a lot.

Once able to answer any question, his memory has faded badly and now everything has a label. He can’t be left alone for an entire day. He can tell you a story from WWII or his early life but he gets easily confused and forgets what happened thirty minutes ago.  

This is not my dad. 

I have had that thought more times than I can count on this trip. There are sparks of the dad I knew, but overall, he is feeble and it is clear he doesn’t have many more years of independent or even assisted living left. 

This makes me sadder than I can express. When giants fall the sound echoes throughout the land.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Competent to Counsel

Today Suzanne Holland. brings a special message to you regarding an exciting new opportunity for learning! Suzanne is a grateful follower of Jesus Christ, wife to John, and mom to two grown up boys. She is a Certified Biblical Counselor with the IABC, offering the hope of the Scriptures to those who are hurting. Suzanne writes on her blog, Near to the Healer, and has a special emphasis on ministering to those who suffer with ongoing physical pain. Her blog is reposted with permission. 

Compassionate, sympathetic, dependent, broken. These are words that describe most of the believers I know who suffer with chronic pain or disability. Because they suffer, they are able to relate to others who are suffering, and encourage them with the comfort they have received from God in their suffering. Interestingly, those first four words above also describe disciplers, or what some would call counselors. Broken people who know that they are dependent on God for everything are usually compassionate and sympathetic. Does this describe you? Have you ever thought of becoming a discipler or counselor in your own community?

Even if you do not want to do “formal” counseling, but would like to learn more about how to disciple others who come to you with their trials, some training can greatly improve you effectiveness with those you are mentoring. Romans 14:15 says,  “But I myself am fully convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.” So the Lord has told us that we are able to instruct, or counsel one another. Training in biblical counseling will help you to express the truths you have learned in a way that will get to the heart of the person you’re trying to help, and make your encouragement more effective.

Learning specific methods for comforting others with the comfort you have received can even help you to comfort and encourage yourself on difficult days. I can attest to this! I finished my certification last year, and I can honestly tell you that I am a different Christian than I was before my training. I have known and understood the Scriptures for most of my adult life, but what I learned in my counseling training helped me to apply those truths in ways I would never have come up with on my own. I especially learned how to ask good questions that get to the heart of the problem. Now, I ask myself these same questions whenever I begin to feel my own attitude going downhill. Much of what I’ve written on this blog is the result of asking myself good questions to redirect my thoughts whenever they are circling the drain.

So, have I convinced you yet to explore the possibility of getting some training? Good! Now, I want to tell you about an exciting opportunity for you to receive excellent training in biblical counseling. I believe this will appeal to you especially, as one who suffers from health problems or disability. Even if you have thought about getting training in biblical counseling, it can be difficult to sit through classes when every joint aches, and it is very frustrating to have to miss classes because of pain or exhaustion. Reigning Grace Counseling Center, where I was trained, now offers that same training online! The program is done 100% through the internet. There is no traveling or sitting for long hours in a classroom, and you can do the training at your own pace. If you’d like to learn more about it, visit their website at, or if you’d like a small sample of the program, go to

Nothing will get your mind off yourself like preparing to minister to someone else! Won’t you prayerfully consider this opportunity? I honestly do not know how I would be handling my condition now if it hadn’t been for the Reigning Grace Counseling Center training program. I learned so much about my own heart, and why I respond to trials the way I do. I gained an understanding of how my thoughts fuel my feelings and actions, and how to take those thoughts captive to Christ. I have learned to use my physical condition as a springboard for many discipling opportunities, both in and out of the counseling room. Since I started counseling, I have not become stuck in self-pity or depression, because I am constantly studying the Scriptures so that I can encourage that next counselee. Daily, I am amazed by the universal application of Scripture. No matter what someone is dealing with, there is a passage or principle of Scripture that applies to that situation.

Friend, there are so many believers who are suffering right now. They need the hand of someone a little further down the road of suffering to reach back and help them along. Could that be you? I hope you will prayerfully consider this opportunity to learn and grow. You will never regret learning how to come alongside a suffering sister and show her how to reach a place of peace and contentment in her heart, regardless of her circumstances. Our Lord is a mighty Redeemer. Perhaps He wants to redeem your pain and suffering by using it to encourage the sons and daughters of His kingdom!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What Do Christians Do?

Today's guest blogger is Karen Pickering. Karen is a Biblical Counselor and founder of The Lytroo Retreat. She is also the author of  Learning to Seek God's Presence, a ten-week study guide written for people who are broken by circumstances. You can read more about Karen and her ministry here. Her blog is reposted with permission. 

What do Christians do? I’m sure we all have a ready answer for that question. My answer has changed over the years. Let me explain.

I heard the gospel at a young age and accepted it. Somewhere along the way I twisted its meaning. I faithfully went to church, read my Bible, prayed, did all the things Christians were supposed to do. I was proud of who I was and what I had accomplished for God. I taught Sunday school, led Bible studies, served on committees, witnessed to others about Christ… Basically I followed my man-made list of what a Christian looks like and what a Christian does.

Then the trouble came. It began slowly over the years. Some painful episodes here and there. My faith was shaken, but I held on. Then more trouble and eventually a devastating family crisis that I was at a complete loss to “fix”. I turned to God in confusion and despair. The mess that was my life was beyond fixing. It was too shattered. I lived moment by moment. I kept my Bible by my bed. It was the last thing I read before I drifted off to sleep. In the morning I would pull it into bed with me before I got up to face the day. It was my life line. It was God’s life-giving word. During those days I spent hours in the word. Letting it flow over me, sink into me, binding up my wounds it gave me moment by moment strength. I would leave it open and not an hour or two would go by that I didn’t need to read and gain new strength. I remember crying again and again. It is too much, I can’t go on … and I would hear God whisper … “Can you get through this hour?” My answer was, “With You I can.” And I did again and again. He became my life and breath. The only thing that was keeping me sane.

My self-sufficient self had met its match in this trouble and I desperately needed God in order to keep on living. What I didn’t realize was that I had always needed Him. Unfortunately my displaced confidence was in living the Christian life well instead of simply living with Christ.

I needed the trouble to see my need. I needed the trouble to see the beauty of the one who loves me beyond measure. I needed the trouble to come to the end of myself and look more carefully at the God who made me. I needed the trouble to understand that God saves us in the midst of trouble not from it. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean we get a pass on awful things happening. We still live in a fallen world. The difference is we have a God who is with us.

That was what I was missing. I was trying to measure up. I was trying to be my own savior. God was there all along, waiting for me to acknowledge His presence.

So what is my life like now?  The trouble is still surrounding us. God hasn’t fixed it all, but whatever life throws at me He will be beside me. If the trouble deepens His arms will sustain me. The trouble has not been able to pry him from my side.

So getting back to my question. What does a Christian do? … Simply, they live in God’s presence. That changes who you are and what you do. Thus we don’t strive to do good works so God is pleased with us, instead our good works are a result of living in Christ. Being so absorbed with him and who he is that our life takes a completely different direction.

There are no longer lists to accomplish, but a life to be lived day by day, moment by moment in God’s presence.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NASB

Monday, February 23, 2015

Christ, Our Rescue

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:8

The world says that Christ is not enough and that the Bible is fairytales and a bunch of stories that poor, delusional Christians use to placate themselves. Their methods are philosophical and full of empty deception. Philosophy means to “love wisdom” broadly speaking and when Col. 2:8 says “takes you captive” it literally means to kidnap, or to be carried off as booty or spoils of war. That is the goal of this present world, to carry us off with deception. Satan knows he can never have our souls, but he can ruin the productivity of our lives while we are here.

It is an imperative or command of Scripture that we do not buy into what the world’s wise philosophers are peddling. Often they offer Christ plus something else as necessary for salvation, they twist and pervert the Word of God into saying things is doesn’t say. They are deceivers and want you to believe that Christ and the Bible are not enough!

The danger of being lured away by worldly philosophies grows larger by the day. They cause us to focus on temporal things, and to lose our desire and vision for God. Since we have Christ, should we bother with this nonsense?

My Pastor says, “Once we lose our vision for God, who He is, what He has done through His Son Jesus Christ, we get a vision for something else. God is put on the shelf, an abstraction. Christ’s work on the Cross becomes a footnote in history that has application when I die but is irrelevant now.”

Has this ever happened to you? Have you lost your focus on Christ and begun to look at temporary situations as all there is? I want to redirect you today from focusing on yourself, and your situation, the things that get you down, and cause you to feel bad to focusing on Christ in the Bible.

Remember that we are born with that God-shaped void in our spirit. We were born sinners, spiritually dead, without life, unable to do anything about it at all. We were helpless, and as hard as we tried, our good deeds were insufficient and incomplete. Who else in the history of all the world can make a person complete? No one but Jesus.

When we are complete in Him, we are also immediately positionally secure. This means that no matter how we feel about it God says that we are secure. Jesus knew exactly what was needed to rescue us and He went the whole distance. He did not stop short of the necessary sacrifice to secure our eternal destiny. This is why as he hung on the cross he cried, “It is finished!” because all that needed to be done was done.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)

We cannot add or subtract from that in any way because we did not do it! Our salvation was monergistic meaning it was a work done by One. We are passive in this process because we have been saved by someone else. There is no other Name under heaven by which we can be saved, Christ for He is our rescue.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Living With and Loving A Difficult Person

I know there are plenty of you out there today who are living with someone who is difficult to love. They may be cranky, obstinate, frustrating, mean, and selfish. They are really unlovable. If you didn't have to spend time with them or live with them you would not. I am not saying they are beyond redemption, or that they are incapable of being loved. I am saying that their actions and attitudes have brought your relationship to the point where every aspect of your relationship with them is painful, hostile, and adversarial. The only person they appear to care about is themselves, and they give little thought or care to how they affect you. You love them deeply, and you are concerned for them. You want to love them otherwise you would not be hanging in there.

They make it very, very difficult. Your love is often not returned or acknowledged, they treat you as though you "owe" them, there is so little respect for you or your wishes, and they lie to you, sometimes steal from you, and hurt you all the time. All they appear to care about is how you affect them. Your loved one is supremely selfish and self-focused.

Often, their loved ones try (and fail) to change them. And while some behavioral changes can take place and seem to stick for a while- sadly they don't last. Those who are the beneficiaries of some good Bible centered counsel know that behavior change is only temporary.

Their moods seem to change with the wind. Because they are mostly feeling oriented and feeling driven they appear to be “manic-depressive” in their behavior. What this means in biblical terms is “sinner.” Specifically prideful and selfish. The world of the unlovable person revolves around what they perceive to be their needs and wants. If they “feel” like doing something they will, if they don’t “feel” like doing it, they won’t. When their perceived needs are not met you receive an angry silence or hostility from them.

You have to set boundaries on what you will or won’t tolerate from them. Clear expectations on acceptable conduct are necessary. Sometimes the boundaries come in the form of consequences like the break-up of a relationship. You must evaluate their words and actions. I encourage you to be vigilant as to when they impose on you an expectation that you must never fall short of satisfying their demands. They will want to blame you their happiness is not achieved.

Worse of all, we want to fix them. We mistakenly believe that if we are just nicer, more loving, and more patient; give them all they want that they will change. This is false. It is not about us it is about them and it will remain that way until they repent. There will never be enough for them, they won’t be satisfied. What meets those perceived needs today, won’t tomorrow.

When you love such a person you must pray that God will capture their heart. As much as you want to change their actions or attitude, particularly toward you, you must realize you cannot. Only He can change them. So you pray, and pray that they will somehow want to change to conform to the image of Christ. You hope and pray that something, anything will cause them to long for Him more than anything else they desire. If prayer appears to go unanswered it becomes depressing and discouraging. Most people quit because they can't stand the discouragement.

The problem for those who love unlovable people is that you do love them! You love them deeply and completely. If you are spiritually minded you hurt for them because you can see the real need they have is for repentance and change (Eph. 4:22-30) and it is very painful to watch them flounder and seek after all the wrong things.

Can you recognize and accept why Christ has given you the burden for this person (good question!)? In what ways does this persons un-loveliness remind you of a time when you were similarly unlovely? Can you glory in the cross you carry for the joy set before you of being conformed to Christ-likeness? Can you accept their place in your life as being a tool God is using to change your heart?

For your loved one, pray that God will bring him or her to the end of themselves. Ask the Lord to give you what He wants for them, that they would desire in their hearts to love and serve Him only.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Searching for Peace in Decision Making

Most Christian are sincere about wanting to be in “God’s will.” We hear this prayed all the time. People think they are using the Bible in their decision making because they remember something about this passage:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:15 (NASB)

If you regularly follow my blog, then you know that I think we are an overly emotional culture. Even in the church, the theology of "if it feels right then it must be right" reigns. We rely on having a “sense of peace” in our heart as confirmation we are doing right and making a good decision. 

Perhaps those who subscribe to such thinking have never read or forgotten Jeremiah 17:9. 

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Why would we place any confidence in a message the heart gives us? Why would a person believe that if they do not have this sense of peace then perhaps I’m not in God’s will? 

Quoting Colossians 3:15 is often equated with using the Bible for decision making. However, there are a couple of things wrong with this as it’s a lame application of what this passage means.

The interpretation and application of the passage hangs on what is meant by “the peace of God.” I think the feelings based church culture we live in, which is a culture largely ignorant of theology or the principles of interpretation is responsible for the wide spread misuse of the verse. Nowhere in the context of this passage is it implied that this peace of God is related to making decisions. Instead, the word “peace” is in reference to the call of God to salvation. 

Remember, that the unsaved person is at war with God-he is not in a neutral position. In salvation, it is God who takes the initiative to make peace. This peace then refers to the attitude of rest or security we have in God because we know now He has made peace with us.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1 (NASB)

Yet, so many people, continue to use the word “peace” as if God gives them a sense of it when making a decision- good or bad! I have been told by counselee's they had a sense of peace while going out and getting drunk, carousing and being involved in debauchery. Biblically minded people know God did not give that sense of peace- the person gave it to themselves by justifying and rationalizing their behavior through the grip of their emotions. 

Sensing “peace” is a bad plan for decision making and not found in Scripture.

Last but not least we must not rely on or seek supernatural signs to help us in making decisions or knowing the will of God in a decision. Seeing something on TV, reading a book, meeting someone from an exotic place does not constitute a supernatural event of revelation. If you are looking for supernatural signs you may as well just read your horoscope in addition to all the rest.  It is Christianized hocus pocus to live that way and to make your decisions by such methods

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB)

… as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 2 Peter 1:3-5 (NKJV)

We do not need additional revelation. We do not need signs and wonders; we do not need supernatural events. We have the Word of God to lead us and the Holy Spirit working within us and through His Word to guide us and to aid us in making our decisions.