The Christian Counseling Center
3 Lewis Street - Norwalk, CT 06851 - Established 1980
CHRISTIAN COUNSELING CENTER Newsletter/Blog
by Laura Coppola
Who is the love of your life, the object of your affection? Some will quickly name a parent, child, significant other, best friend, or a beloved pet. How many of us would say, Jesus is my first love? Writer and national speaker Cindi McMenamin suggests, "Jesus is the Only One who satisfies and therefore, the only relationship that will never disappoint." Scripture promises that when we seek Him first--and His righteousness--all the other things we want and strive for will fall into place (Matthew 6:33).
We “leave” our first love when we give more passionate love to someone or something else, or obey God out of duty, rather than devotion; Jesus truly deserves to be the first love in our lives. Cindi gives us some practical steps to put Jesus first in your love life.
*Tell Him First
Next time you get exciting news, tell Jesus all that’s on your heart and mind before sharing with anyone else. Of course, He already knows whatever it is you’re going to say but, you are reaffirming to Him and to yourself, that He is the single most important One in your life.
*Take Him Seriously
Taking God seriously is prioritizing our lives in such a way that He gets the first and best of our time. We live in a world of so many distractions, so make an intention to give Him moments of thanks, praise, and prayer as soon as you awake and before checking cell phone messages.
*Trust Him Fully
Circumstances will come that you don’t understand; yet to trust God fully means to trust in His Word, character and promises like Romans 8:28 – that He causes all things to work together for good. If God can take care of your eternal life, He certainly cares for your everyday emotional life as well. We need to cling to Him when trouble comes and lean into His everlasting arms to hold us up.
*Treasure His Word
Can you imagine receiving a love letter from the object of your heart and only reading a little bit of it?
Jesus has written loving words to us in His living Word, the Bible, so let's take some time to read, study, memorize and meditate on it.
*Talk of Him Constantly
Start talking about Jesus: who He is, what He’s done in your life. When Jesus is first in your heart, a river of praise will flow from your mouth (Proverbs 4:23), and it won’t take long for Jesus to become your first love.
Cindi's article closes with this prayer: "Lord, be first in my life--today and always. You truly are the Only One who satisfies, the Only One who will never disappoint, and the Only One who deserves to be the captain of my heart. Thank You for loving me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)".
The Christian Counseling Center exists to help during all life's phases of joy, sorrow, love and loss; call 203-846-4626 for an appointment.
Be encouraged and begin January 2020 with the best intentions. Wellness coach, Naz Beheshti, wrote an article published in Forbes magazine about New Year's resolutions, and how the statistics show that one-third do not succeed past the first month. Rather than being disappointed with ourselves, the author suggests taking a different approach. Because it's said to take sixty-six repetitions to reinforce a new habit for weight loss, exercise, saving money, smoking/drinking cessation or whatever the desired goal, Beheshti suggests putting less pressure on oneself by making small changes.
Her suggestions for success are as follows:
"Institute a daily attitude of gratitude, with intentions to better ourselves. An intention is more forgiving than a resolution; intention honors effort and process and is rooted in the present. Setting an intention starts with mindfulness with this simple yet powerful three-step method she calls PBC:
Pause. Stop what you are doing. Take a brief time-out and check-in with yourself.
Breathe. Take a conscious breath to become present and grounded. Reset.
Choose. Make a mindful choice about an intention for that day,
We put less pressure on ourselves by developing the habit of making regular daily, weekly, and monthly intentions instead of making laborious resolutions. In the same way, an attitude of gratitude should be a year-round practice rather than consigned to one day; setting intentions to better ourselves will be more sustainable if we spread the effort throughout the year."
The Christian Counseling Center staff wishes you a blessed Christmas and New Year's season. The Good News we have in Jesus is that each new year presents an opportunity for a fresh start, and every day a new beginning!
God is Love for All
Stores decorating for Christmas, the shopping frenzy begins, searching for perfect gifts. With this added distraction, it can be a challenge to stay focused on the true meaning of the season. Jesus, the light of the world, was born for us!
1 John 4:8 describes one of God’s primary attributes as love. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Believers can be confident knowing all we need is His all encompassing love. Everything God has ever done has been out of love, because He is love for all people.
+We can trust in God's love. Even in our disobedience, He loves us. After Jonah fled from the Lord, God provided a big fish, and delivered Jonah from death. Looking at the faithfulness of God’s love throughout history, we too can trust that He will continue to act accordingly in our lives.
+Our salvation is an expression of God's love. God did not send Christ as a reward to the obedient, but rather as a ransom for the disobedient. Jesus healed the sick, and He even prayed for the forgiveness of those who ultimately placed Him on the cross. Salvation is open to all who believe in Christ; God’s love does not discriminate.
+Our ability to love is enabled through God’s love, who loves us perfectly and radically. To possess supernatural love that loves our neighbor as much as we love ourselves, it must come from Him. We cannot love like that without first being born of God.
+We can rest in God’s love. Because God’s nature is love, it's unconditional. God is not our “Punisher-in-Chief,” but| our Heavenly Father who has a plan and purpose for our lives. God is for us, not against us; so, we can rest in assurance of God’s love.
+We can have confidence in God’s love. Psalm 136 beautifully describes God's love as unfailing. In fact, the psalmist recalls (26 times!) how the Lord upholds His creation and people in love. We, too, can grow in assurance that God always loves and wants to be in relationship with us.
In the hustle and bustle, remember that Jesus came for you, and His love is the perfect gift!
Is the glass half full or half empty? An interesting question to ponder, because it frames our outlook on life and joy factor. Psychology Today recently featured an article written by Dr. Austin Perlmutter entitled, "How Negative News Distorts Our Thinking". As an educator, I found it fascinating because Austin shows how news engages cognitive biases and impacts our mental health, potentially entrapping us in negativity and the inability to see positives around us.
*Negativity bias means we can't turn negative news off. The media emphasizes stories on the worst events, both global and local. There's a preponderance of negative news and, our brains become predisposed to seek out more negative content.
*Availability bias means we overestimate its significance. So, if we're exposed to a barrage of negative news, our brain thinks that these infrequent occurrences actually represent the general state of our communities and world.
*Confirmation bias means we will find evidence to support negativity. If we buy into the notion that our circumstances are horrible, we will tend to reject information that states otherwise, disregarding positives.
So, how do we break the cycle?
-First, limit consumption - be informed but not exposed to sensationalized news.
-Second, try to put negative information into context - consider if it's new information on a trend, or an isolated data point.
-Lastly, question your beliefs on a topic periodically to see if your opinions are still valid. "How could I be wrong?" is a great question to help consider another point of view.
Most importantly, meditate on Jesus' words in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Growing up in the northeast, I excitedly anticipated our fall garden harvests, apple cider, leaf peeping, and now pumpkin spice everything. It's such an aromatic and sensory bursting time of year, evoking fond memories and experiences. Drive I-95 south of Virginia this time of year, and tropical storms and hurricane warnings are the singular focus of conversation. In fact, news of hurricane Dorian captivated virtually everyone's attention, spreading tremendous concern and fear. On our weekend visit to the beach area on Florida's east coast, we were surprised to see the extended lines in gasoline stations and empty shelves at grocery stores as people scrambled to fill tanks and buy carts full of bread, milk, eggs, and multiple cases of water. Stores were actually slashing meat prices by 50% to clear all inventory. Pandamonium was occurring even as the potential snail-paced storm was ten days out. I went in for a few needed meal prep supplies, coming out empty handed. You see, Floridians are instructed to be storm ready all the time, so there's no need to fret, hoard, and fuss.
Ben Franklin famously said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." It is very true of life; we need to be prepared, yet mindful of when it's enough, reaching a point of satiated preparedness, waiting out the trIal or storm. There will always be another storm brewing in our professional and personal lives, as we try to control that over which we have none. So, what are we to do?
First, Jesus instructs us to believe in Him for eternal salvation and life; what an amazing promise and gift, John 5:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life."
He further instructs us not to fret; Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. ..."
As Fall ushers in and brings its challenges, remember that God is with us and for us. If you find yourself stressed or fearful of the future unknowns, call the Christian Counseling Center at 203-846-4626 for an appointment. One of our compassionate counselors is available to help you see the light, despite the storm you courageously face.
Going outside to snip some herbs for dinner, I was quite surprised to find our basil healthy as ever, but neighboring parsley void of leaves, only spindly stalks remaining. Crouching down to inspect the stripped herb, I found the culprits; swallowtail caterpillars had invaded the garden, their next stop our leafy celery tops. I marveled at the prospect of witnessing an army of larvae transform into chrysalis and finally butterflies. It brought me back twenty-five years prior, when we studied life cycles in my second grade classroom. With excitement, I sprang into action, creating a safe netted enclosure for our guests, since only one percent survive predators during their several weeks development from egg to butterfly.
Witnessing the incredible transformation process gets me up earlier and, before lights out, a final check on our garden blessings. Then, I become very aware of the challenging process these creatures endure to become beautiful specimens! Honestly, it's not a process for which I raise my hand, jumping up and down, requesting trials from the Lord. Yet, the reality is we will all endure physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges in this life. When we are equipped with the scriptures, we can tap into and invite the Holy Spirit's power to transform our life from ashes to beauty.
7 Scriptures About Transformation to read and believe!
2 Corinthians 5:17–"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Ezekiel 36:26–And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Romans 12:2–Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Philippians 1:6–And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Luke 6:43-45– For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Psalm 139:23-24–Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Jeremiah 32:38-40–And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me."
Transformation is not a walk in the park, but we don't go it alone!
Summer Dare to See
Waiting for a recent flight, I was pleasantly surprised with a divine appointment; a moment in time you know couldn't have been orchestrated. Darlene had missed her Chicago flight and subsequent Seattle connection from the 1-1/2 hour mowing traffic delay incurred on the infamous Merritt Parkway. We almost made the same mistake, but chose to follow the Waze GPS instead, despite my desire to take a "logical shortcut". The infectious joy and peace Darlene possessed knowing she'd be spending the night in an airport, waiting for the next early morning connection to her destination, was my teachable moment. Her life story full of pain and loss unfolded and, through tears, we parted. Upon reflection, I realized my gifts received that day. Not only had I gained a new prayer partner and spared missing our flight, the meet and greet helped me reframe my mind on daily gratitude and blessings.
Ann Voskamp wrote the wonderful book, One Thousand Gifts, with a dare to live more fully right where you are. So often we can look for the next greatest thing, new friend/relationship or better job situation, yet Ann challenges us to notice the gifts of being present in the here and now. Years ago, I kept a daily journal of provisions, protections, and blessings; some were small, and others grand of the "present". This chance airport meeting both impacted and inspired me to resume the discipline of choosing to "see". One of Voskamp's quotes is, "And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me".
Truly it is a challenge and deeper step of faith to be content and grateful for what we've been given. Sometimes it's too hard to imagine why we have been presented a heartbreak or challenge. Ann says..."life change comes when we receive life with thanks, and ask for nothing to change." Still not fully recovered from a trifecta pelvic fracture, the process has been frustrating, yet rewarding for me as I was forced to accept healing in baby steps. Learning to ask for assistance and receive, deviated from my I-CAN-DO attitude. It's been humbling, but transformational, relying upon God's gifts of goodness as He uses others in my healing journey.
Romans 8:28 reassures us, "God works all things together for the good of those who love him, and have been called according to his purpose." He has not taken His eye off us, but wants to bring us into a closer relationship with himself.
The Christian Counseling Center therapists desire to help you see with a new perspective. We wish you a joyful summer, daring to view differently all you've been given.
Life is full of ups and downs, times of sorrow and joy. Easter Sunday began a week of sorrow for our family as my sister-in-law suffered a massive stroke and later passed. She was an amazing woman, a retired NYC police officer and company president who enjoyed cooking, entertaining, and baking. Dawn was a force and gifted helper; so, to honor her life, she'd want to help others with the following awareness message. Recognizing the early signs of a stroke is very important. Thankfully, they are fairly easy to learn and identify. B.E.F.A.S.T. is an acronym for the following symptoms.
Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
Sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.
First, check for facial weakness. An uneven smile or weakness on one side could mean trouble.
Next, check for arm weakness. Inability to raise both arms evenly could be another sign.
Check for impaired speech. Slurred speech or difficulty repeating simple phrases could mean a stroke.
Immediately call 911.
More ways to spot a stroke:
Sudden weakness or numbness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side.
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
Remember, every minute counts. Do not wait. Call 911.
Dawn started feeling poorly with a severe headache that she tried to "rest-off" as not to disrupt the family's gathering. All I can say is please respond ASAP if you or someone you love exhibits symptoms. This P.S.A. is my tribute to Dawn who graciously invested in the lives of others.
"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10
For all the fathers, dads, and father-figures, we wish you a very blessed and Happy Father's Day as you serve and lead your families!
My mom was famous for reciting a proverb, "a watched pot never boils". Whether it's wishing Spring would hurry up and usher in, or waiting for some event to occur and time seems to be standing still, I find myself unsettled at times. If not careful, my prayer life may also become a list of petitions with an expectancy of now, please! Psychologist Susan David states that impatience is exacerbated in North America where happiness tends to be defined by personal accomplishments, and workplace cultures are pervaded with time pressures and priorities, so impatience just keeps ratcheting up.
A 2017 Psychology Today article posted these steps to rein in impatience: *Notice what triggers your impatience, and the physical response e.g., pit in stomach, racing heart, sweaty palms. Look for patterns: you might find that you are more vulnerable in specific situations or time periods. This awareness can help you prepare for difficult conversations and better manage your schedule based on your energy and emotional needs. *Choose another emotion to shift to; do you want to feel calm, compassionate, or curious? Before you go into a conversation, pick your keyword. When you notice your impatience arising, think of your keyword and breathe it into your body to help you shift your emotions to this adjusted state. *Celebrate your wins at the end of each day. The brain needs evidence of success before it will work with you to change habits. Instead of beating yourself up for mistakes, notice when you decreased impatience or explained your needs well. Find a meaningful way to celebrate wins, so your brain seeks this reward and supports its growth. *Tell others what works best for you. Sabina Nawaz suggests you tell people your communication style and needs. For example, say things like, “If you feel my response is blunt or direct, please accept it’s the way I think, not about you personally” or “I prefer to get to the point and then look at the backstory if needed” or “I’m not a morning person so I prefer to have longer conversations in the afternoon.” *Bonus tip: Eat and sleep well. Patience is impaired by sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, noise pollution, excessive conflict, money problems, and a shortage of friends. Often quoted is, "patience is not the ability to wait, but how you act while you are waiting." A lesson for all of us is to show God to others through our words, actions, and speech, especially in difficult circumstances. Since there are thirty-three Bible verses about patience, we have some company with this issue. :) Proverbs 14:29, "Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly." Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
As Spring bursts forth in all its splendor, may we demonstrate joy, peace, and patience in our conversations, deeds, and actions, with Happy Mother's Day wishes and blessings to all the mothers, moms, and mother-figures who so selflessly love!
Ever experience buyer's remorse? Hand to the forehead frustration over an improperly thought-out decision, can be so frustrating! Seeing a family member anguish over major purchase regret, brought me to a "squirrel" visual. Cute rodents scamper frantically across our yards and roads, causing us to slam on the brakes to avoid producing road kill. It started me thinking what is going on in their brains to cause such indecisiveness, and how often do we have similar erratic brain behavior?!
Interestingly, squirrels fail to recover 74% of the nuts they hide. Poor little creatures; no wonder they scrambIe to and fro. What's our excuse? How often do I enter a room and forget my intention? Or the list of things to share after a conversation begins? More frightening is distracted driving, the most common cause of road accidents in the United States.
Jon Bloom of Desiring God, writes: "Since the fall of man, people have had trouble staying focused, but we live today in an age of unprecedented distraction. Since you’re already reading this on some electronic device, I don’t need to elaborate. Lots of experts are talking about the negative effects this is having on us. Many of us feel it: the buzzing brain, the attention atrophy, the diminishing tolerance for reading, especially reading books.
We’re becoming conditioned to distraction, and it’s harming our ability to listen and think carefully, to be still, to pray, and to meditate. Which means it is a spiritual danger, an evil from which we need God’s deliverance (Matthew 6:13). Distraction, at least the dangerous kind I’m referring to, is shifting our attention from something of greater importance to something of lesser importance, the most dangerous in being distracted from God.
All of us have faulty brains and bodies, and so some of us battle distraction more than others due to factors like ADHD and other mental or physical illnesses. Environmental factors like poor nutrition, unhealthy family systems, and cultural/technological forces (such as the constant stream of media) can also affect our ability to focus."
So, is there hope for our "squirrel" moments? Yes, for certain there are helping options. When I choose to spend a few minutes focusing on His goodness, grace, and tender mercies early each morning through meditation on His word and prayer, it helps frame the remainder of my day for making better decisions and right living choices. Reference 2 Timothy 1:6-7, Titus 3:3-7
The counselors and staff wish you a blessed and Happy Easter as we recall Christ's sacrifice and resurrection hope for our future.
Sports fanatic is most definitely not a moniker used to describe me, but this year's playoff games piqued my interest. Having been to New Orleans for missions relief post hurricane Katrina. I was rooting for the Saints to go to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, one referee call squashed their opportunity, and led me pondering my immediate frustration. Hopefully, the Saints' team are able to humbly move forward with vision and focus for next year's hopeful success.
In March, 2009, Psychology Today Jeff Pearlman published an article titled Success: Winners and Losers. Jeff writes, "In a world where everyone wants to shine, real champions possess a strong work ethic and a certain amount of humility. They single-handedly alter the playing field by elevating everyone in their midst."
+Work Ethic: "If you have a player who is constantly working to improve, it's the number one sign of a winner who'll make winning contagious," Kimball says. "The focus isn't 100 percent on outcome, but on getting better and making the people around you better. If players see their star working his tail off, they'll feel compelled to do the same."
+Humility: In a profession overstuffed with tattoo-covered, sneaker-endorsing, trash-talking, Humvee-driving athletes convinced they are God's gift to humanity, those who rise above are often—if not always—well aware they will not always rise above. "Humility leads to an understanding that I'm not always the best, and that another person on any given day can win," says Wade Rowatt, a social psychologist at Baylor University. "If you look at the best athletes, most display this sort of respect for opponents."
In the midst of life's disappointments, we have a choice to become a victim, or elevate to victorious living through our mind shift. Below are some attributes for all of to consider making changes in order to become the best version of ourself in our work environment and personal relationships. James 1:12 encourages us, "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."
Successful people want to learn, unsuccessful people know it all already.
Successful people take full responsibility for their life, unsuccessful people say it is other people’s fault.
Successful people are willing to put in the work up front, unsuccessful people want instant gratification.
Successful people learn from making mistakes, unsuccessful people give up immediately.
Successful people listen, unsuccessful people talk.
Successful people embrace change, unsuccessful people avoid it.
Succesful people admire achievements of others, unsuccessful people belittle them.
Peering out my new hurricane - rated windows, I am amazed at the sound of silence. Our key lime tree once offered a daily cacophony of sounds as mockingbird, blue jay, robin, and cardinals had serenaded for hours on end. As I tried to adjust to the stillness, I pondered how better to spend my quiet time, no longer distracted and amused by our feathered friends.
David Mathis wrote about the value of silence and solitude, "We are humans, not machines. We were made for rhythms of silence and noise, community and solitude. It is unhealthy to always have people around, as well as to rarely want them. God made us for cycles and seasons, for routines and cadences."
Jesus gave us an example in Matthew 14:23 when He went up the mountainside alone and prayed. David Mathis elaborates on how to use such a season of stillness, from his "Take a Break from Chaos" article excerpts.
PRAY for God’s blessing to bring to light what needs your fresh attention. To hear God, open the Scriptures, and when your own thoughts align with what God has revealed in his word, consider them a gift, taking them to heart.
READ and meditate on the Bible; trust God to meet you in his word and lead your time with his word.
Spend a few minutes just LISTENing to the silence, and let your soul begin to “thaw,” especially if you keep a busy schedule in a crowded town.
Get the voices in your head down on paper by JOURNALing your thoughts.
Include an extended season of PRAYer, guided by the Scriptures, perhaps the Lord’s Prayer, and continue recording thoughts as you direct your heart Godward in praise, confession, petition, and supplication.
Join me in this season of stillness and receive the nurturing gift of God's immense love. The counselors and staff at the Christian Counseling Center wish you a Happy Valentine's Day. "We love because he first Ioved us" 1 John 4:19
Another year in the books, and happy to see 2018 come to a close. A series of personal challenges literally rendered me homebound for two months, and could have easily propelled me into a state of depression. Yet, this downtime must have been just as the Lord wanted. With each incident, my personal faith, trust, and hope was exercised and matured in the promises of Jesus. He reminded me in Malachi 3:6 "I change not"; Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. No one else can give that consistent promise of dependent hope for the future.
With each temporary setback, I recalled scripture, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning". Psalm 30:5, and so I have found it to be. Jesus may allow temporary suffering, but we have the assurance that this too shall pass, and He will not leave us nor forsake us.
The Little River Band released a catchy tune in 1977, "Hang on help is on its way, I'll be there as fast as I can..."
And so it is with our relational God; He is just a "help" prayer away, and always willing and available to hear from us to supply guidance, direction, and hope. We just need to be connected at the vine, and tap into His Holy Spirit power source. The Lord could have instantly healed me, but instead chose to send an army battalion of physical/occupational therapists, doctors, nurses, friends and family from near and far to shore me up physically, emotionally, and spiritually while healing continues. These amazing people have become my anchors and provided encouragement and hope on this earth. So often the news tells us about the horrors of humanity, yet I was given the gift of tangible proof that there are beautiful individuals all around who God gives us as a result of His immense love for us.
Reflecting back, 2018 was a year of blessing and provision after all!
We do not need to be a victim or defined by the past; we have the choice to glance back, and move forward in faith and persist. Happy New Year!
The Lord gives us good gifts, wrapped in many eclectic shapes and sizes; this I learned well on a recent trip to my annual women's retreat in New Hampshire. What started out as a picture-perfect, fun-filled autumn morning, took an unfortunate turn of events by lunchtime. Our shopping foursome started out well as we scrambled through bins at Christmas Tree Shop scouring for bargains and festive items for the upcoming holiday season. Working up an appetite, we stopped at Panera Bread for a bite and, while preparing to order a salad, I found myself falling backward on the tile floor, landing with an ungraceful thump on my right hip and gluteusmaximus. After the shock and regroup to a seated position, we ate our lunch and chatted away. However, by the time we arrived at our destination, it became crystal clear that my weekend would be humbly spent in a seated or lying position, no coincidence that the retreat title was Be Still. Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Not only did I learn to be still physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had suffered bilateral sacrum fractures, which precluded me from the independent ability to stand, sit, or hobble without aid. So, everytime I needed to transition, one of my newly "intimate" friends assisted by lowering and raising my pants, positioning me on/off the toilet, chair, or bed. I thought the childbirth process was humbling, however this brought humility to new heights, pun intended. Woman after woman graciously served me over the weekend by bringing a food tray, icepack, or applying anti-inflammatory cream to the maximus. Pride swallowed, I learned to become a gracious receiver of these "good gifts".
Being a do-er by God's design, role reversal has become my new normal until healing allows me to resume independence. While I practice patience and wait upon the months of recovery, the Lord has blessed me with a responsive husband, who has risen to the challenge of extreme caregiving. Meanwhile, being a humbled, yet gracious receiver, I've come to understand and appreciate that the many givers receive his/her own divine blessing from the Lord because, while serving me, all glory and honor go up to Him and He, in turn, loves to give good gifts to His children; What a beautiful cycle of love! Christmas season is near; Immanuel, God with us. May we embrace the good gift of Jesus, who desires a personal relationship with each His children. Merry Christmas from the counselors and staff at the Christian Counseling Center!
Veteran's Day honors military men and women who serve and protect the United States. Its history stems from World War I, which ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, hence why we honor and remember their sacrifices on November 11. If you have the day off from work, it's important to pause and remember these facts. + 16.1 million living veterans served during at least one war. + 5.2 million veterans served in peacetime. + 2 million veterans are women. + 7 million vets served during the Vietnam War. + 5.5 million served during the Persian Gulf War. + 2 million served during the Korean War. Not surprisingly, 2.1 million vets require mental health services from the devastating emotional effects of war and military service. Twenty percent who've served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Staggeringly, only half will receive treatment due to embarrassment, shame, fear, stigma, or logistical issues in scheduling with a V.A. facility. Whether you agree with war or policy, the fact remains that men and women in our military are fiercely protecting our country and the freedoms we enjoy. So, let's thank, honor, and encourage veterans this month. When I notice a veteran wearing a hat, denoting service, I thank them for their service. Almost all reply, "my honor". The Bible in Galatians 5:13 states, "13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." We are thankful for the humble service of our veterans and all first responders.
If you know of someone struggling with anxiety or depression, encourage them to seek help. The Christian Counseling Center staff exists to encourage and support, restoring hope that may have been temporarily lost. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us, to all of you! May this season of thanksgiving be filled with gratitude, as you celebrate with loved ones, family and friends.
Losing friends is hard to do. Unfortunately, five friends and neighbors passed away this summer, wreaking a roller coaster effect on my emotions. Canvassing the memories brought both smiles and tears, as I reminisced the encounters from my mind's eye. Some were church friends who left a legacy impact of immense proportion, and I delight in the fact that they are at eternal rest in heaven after their well-done earthly work. Other neighbors welcomed us to our sunshine state neighborhood by sharing a home cooked meal and settling in advice/suggestions from their experiences, and we treasured and valued their kindnesses and friendship.
As much as I miss my Christian friends from an earthly perspective, I take great comfort assuredly knowing they are no longer suffering, but are rejoicing in the heavenly estate; we will see each other again. Romans 8:18 "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
However, two neighborhood passings caused me great angst, as well as great opportunity. While it's easy to converse amongst Christian friends, it's also our responsibility to share the Good News with those who are not aware of its hope. The best witness is our Godly example, actions, and prayers for those who are not yet of faith in God. When Hurricane Irma came barreling through Florida last year, we made an invitation to our neighbors that we'd have prayer in our garage, hours before the storm was tracked to make landfall. Since then, our home became an open door place for conversation and prayer. So, when one of those neighbors passed last month, the husband asked us to speak at the wake and funeral, which was indeed a blessing, privilege, and opportunity to share about the immense love God has for each of us.
My takeaway is that we each have the opportunity to be a blessing in someone's life each and everyday. It's the little things that count: intentional smiling on a dreary day, holding a door, offering a shopping cart, thanking even the slow cashier because you never know the situation. The joy you can bring to someone's day through your gestures and actions can lift the human spirit to the heavens. Our openness and willingness to take the few moments of time to share the blessing we've been given, is a small price with a great return.
Time to Reboot Since teaching elementary school, I've excitedly viewed the month of September as a reboot. Summer is a wonderful season of rest, relaxation, indulgence and, sometimes, lack of routine. So, when September rolls around, many new activities and disciplines resume. Children excitedly select a new backpack, clothes, and school supplies readying themselves for new learning adventures. A new season of sports kicks off, and often exercise classes, Bible studies, and book clubs revive. As exciting as summer's rest and renewal is, there's great anticipation about gearing up for a new beginning. It's like a fresh start; the past is gone, and we can begin with a clean slate!
However, not everyone is so receptive; perhaps you like status quo, and your comfort zone is easily disrupted by change. If you're having trouble getting "back into the swing of things", remember that God promises to make all things new. Here are some scriptures to encourage you on your journey.
“No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.” —Luke 5:36-38 (NASB)
“And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” —Revelation 21:5 (ESV)
Jesus wants to do something new in our lives. Are you ready and receptive, or resistent because you fear the unknown? A study by the American Psychological Association found that although 71% of population has someone they can call for support, more than half, 51%, concede they can use more emotional support to help with the challenges and demands of everyday living. The Bible offers us thousands of promises for a hopeful future, and the Christian Counseling Center has a staff of counselors willing and available.
Many studies have been done about the number of words a person speaks in an average day. Women tend to use more; some say up to three times as many as men. More important than the actual number of words we utter, is actually comprehending the power held behind each spoken word. International author and speaker Yehuda Berg states, "Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
As Summer approaches, we tend to have more free time to spend with friends and family. We often look forward to being outdoors for picnics, concerts, and engage in more frequent social activities. This season might be a perfect time and opportunity to perform some oral health spring cleaning as well, being more conscious of choosing words wisely so as not to turn them into weapons. In fact, Lora O'Brien suggests our mouths have three gatekeepers. Consider, ▪ Is it true? ▪ Is it kind? and, finally, ▪ Is it necessary? Imagine our relationships' health if we ran our comments through a gatekeeper filter before it's too late to take them back?!
In fact, God must put tremendous value on word choice since the Bible contains over a hundred verses about the power behind the words we speak. A few scriptures that encourage me:
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits."
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
Let's not be confused into thinking we have to be silent, but rather be mindful of choosing wisely, speaking words that bring healing and hope to all our interactions during this wonderful season of rest and renewal!
The Christian Counseling Center staff wishes dads a very Happy Father's Day!
No need to turn on the news to know we are certainly living in unpredictable times. Just looking out the window, you may wonder if the calendar is correct; has springtime finally arrived?! The birds and spring flowers are confused, and most likely shaking their heads as well as temperatures and weather continues to fluctuate.
We may have hopes and desires, yet the reality is that there are very few guarantees in this earthly life. However, the one constant is that the nature of God does not change. He said, “I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). So, in the midst of our own questioning, pondering and wondering "what ifs", we need to commit that scripture to memory, cementing it into our hearts and minds.
Billy Graham preached, I quote him here, that "Christ will never change, but we need to change. Out of love, He offers salvation to all. He can come into your heart right now and change you. That is the beginning of a whole new life. I am not calling you to a church. I am not calling you to an organization. I am calling you to the Person of Jesus Christ. Make sure that Christ lives in your heart."
If there are uncertainty areas in your relationships with friends, coworkers, family, or God himself, call the Christian Counseling Center for an appointment with one of our compassionate counselors. Freedom and renewal will allow you to break free of the past and spring forward in your life. The staff also extends Mother's Day wishes and God's blessings to all!
This month's news is brought to you by clumsiness, trying to unsuccessfully multitask. Finding a local thriftshop bargain, I anticipated adorning our Spring-inspired Easter table with three jellybean-filled pastel egg cups. In my haste to the dishwasher, one cup went crashing to the porcelain floor, shards flying in all directions. After my initial disappointment, I was quickly reminded of how fleeting and fragile life is, highlighting the importance of savoring precious moments with loved ones.
Imagine our Heavenly Father's burden for each of His children to spend time together, teaching us how to live well. Micah 6:8 "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
Some of us might be fasting during the Lenten season to draw closer to God. However, Pope Francis offered a list of fasting suggestions not just for lent, but challenging us to incorporate into our daily lifestyle honoring the Lord, while shining His light to all.
● Fast from hurting words; say kind words
● Fast from sadness; be filled with gratitude
● Fast from anger; be filled with patience
● Fast from pessimism; be filled with hope
● Fast from worries; have trust in God
● Fast from complaints; contemplate simplicity
● Fast from pressures; be prayerful
● Fast from bitterness; fill your hearts with joy
● Fast from selfishness; be compassionate to others
● Fast from grudges; be reconciled
● Fast from words; be silent so you can listen
The counselors and staff at The Christian Counseling Center wish you a blessed Easter and Spring.
One never knows what will show up and show off on the Facebook feed. This week highlighted groundhog Punxsutawney Phil declaring six more weeks of winter. Then more encouragingly, one of America's most respected authors and consultants on human achievement, Denis Waitley writes, "Happiness is the spiritual practice of living every moment with love, grace, gratitude". Imagine the tone of our day when choosing to live intentionally - practicing an attitude of gratitude, dispensing grace, and displaying acts of love.
The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 says that his ministry "is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase gratitude to the glory of God." When we extend grace gratitude increases, because gratitude is the happy feeling toward a person who does us some sort of favor and we say thank you.
John Piper elaborates, "Grace begins when one person is full and another is empty. One person is a have and the other a have-not. One is rich; the other is poor. Then grace comes into action as the emptiness of one is filled up by the fullness of the other. What we do not have is supplied by what He has. Our poverty is replaced by His wealth. And all that not because we deserve it, but because Jesus is gracious. His riches are free. Therefore, gratitude wells up in the hearts of those who choose to receive His free gift of righteousness. So, when the grace of Jesus penetrates the human heart, it rebounds back to God as gratitude; Christian gratitude is grace reflected back to God in the happiness we feel toward Jesus."
Even in sports news, underdog quarterback Nick Foles and the Eagles made Superbowl team history; Foles knew where to place his gratitude stating, “All the glory to God.”
Coach Doug Pederson stated, "I can only give the praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity." This Superbowl win has indeed made history by amazingly showing the world where to place gratitude reflected back to the source, His unmerited love and abounding grace.
Christian author Mark DeJesus, Connecticut based Turning Hearts Ministries, is quoted as stating, "I would approximate 85% of all the problems that people face today have to do with love being compromised or lacking in their life. Relationships are broken. People don’t know how to be loved, love themselves, and love others."
That's a pretty staggering statistic that begs to be acknowledged and queried in our lives. Pondering its potential truth, we first need to have an understanding of our love and value through the eyes of God. He demonstrated His love for each of us, "God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
Not only does God unconditionally love and desire relationship with us, but He is love and that love is in us. 1 John 4:16"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." What an amazing gift of love we have been given and can tap into through the Holy Spirit, thus receiving and dispensing His daily portion of love, grace, and mercy. This fact that we are genuinely loved and adored by God ultimately provides and equips us with what we need to love ourselves, restore broken relationships, and love others.
Saint Augustine states, "Jesus Christ is not valued at all until He is valued above all." Where are you today on the continuum of loving and valuing our Lord? Are you testing the water or deep in trust?
Remember, we do not walk this journey alone, lsaiah 41:13 encourages us, "For I hold you by your right hand - I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, Don't be afraid, I am here to help you."
What a great promise and friend we have in Jesus, our constant companion. If you are lacking in love for God, yourself, or others, the Christian Counseling Center has staff members ready to listen, support, and encourage you in your relationships.
St. Augustine is a city on the northeast coast of Florida, laying claim to being the oldest city in the U.S. By day, visitors enjoy strolling around 17th century fortress Castillo DE San Marcos, sandy Atlantic beaches, and buildings boasting Spanish colonial architecture. Magnificent enough, however the city hosts two months of their 24th Annual Nights of Lights, a truly spectacular sight as the Old Town Trolley meanders through cobblestone streets. Visitors enjoy WOW moments with magical viewing glasses adorned, turning each of the three million lights into starbursts of glittering snowflakes or star shapes.
Imagine approaching this 2018 new year through WOW lenses of wondrous hope and excitement! We may have the tendency to view life with a myopic vision/filter, shortsightedly focusing, and not through the lenses of God and how He sees us. Kristen Dalton Wolfe writes about how beliefs of self were authored by the world's lies of rejection, hurt, and betrayal. When searching scriptures, Kristen realized how God lovingly views us; a renewing vision for life began, and subsequent journey to discover her identity through the eyes of the One True King.
Some scriptures to get started in this faith transformation:
2 Corin 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"
First John 4:4 is a scripture quoted often, but do you really believe that "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world?"
Our Heavenly Father is our only constant and will continue to be if we allow. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phillipians 4:6-7
Our Happy New Year hope and prayer is that each will discover his/her identity through the eyes of our loving God. Christian Counseling Center staff can help you realize your God given WOW potential.
Walt Disney was once quoted, “To all that come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America... with hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”
Having recently visited four Disneyworld parks in four days, I can attest that it is a wonderfully happy place, brimming with spirited employees, desiring to make your experience fun and memory-filled. However, coming off any highly charged emotional mountaintop, we may confuse happiness and joy. While spending time at Disney was an awesome and happy experience, it didn't provide joy-filled staying power.
Thankfully, a child was born to us; Jesus is our true source for joy! Luke 2:10-11 "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."
Christian author and Pastor, John Piper's joy definition is "Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world."
He further gives us this nugget, "The Spirit gives us eyes to see the beauties of Jesus that call joy up out of our hearts." These quotes are excerpts from Piper's series 'Jesus and the Journey to Joy'.
There are many ways to experience and share your spirit-given joy this year with family, friends, outreach such as Toys for or The Salvation Army. All of us from The Christian Counseling Center wish you a very Merry Christmas, filled with the joy that Jesus brings!
Bending the Knee
There's been so much media controversy about taking this postural stance. However, to fully comprehend why all the hoopla, comments and division, we need to get to the heart of the matter.
Knees symbolize both strength and humility. As the most stressed part of the body, athletes require and use strong knees to run for touchdowns, block shots in basketball, and spike in volleyball. Knees also bend in adoration and recognition of the majesty of our Holy God. To bend ones knee before God is an act of worship and humble stance while bringing forth thanks, petitions, and prayers. "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker", Psalm 95:6
What we choose to do with our knees, however, gives direct evidence of what we believe in our hearts. We may kneel beside the bed of a dying person, while proposing in marriage, when receiving communion, or petitioning in prayer. Knees express what we believe and make clear what we will live and die for; knees connote surrender! You may recall a time being 'brought to your knees' in desperation or 'cut off at the knees' in humiliation. Jesus gave us the ultimate example, and took the knee posture in prayer before going to the cross, an indication of submitting to the will and authority of God the Father.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful season of opportunity when we can all agree and come together in unity, with thankful hearts for our many blessings. May we all bend our knee with an attitude of gratitude for the gifts we have been given! The staff at the Christian Counseling Center wishes you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Not only was this the opening line of Charles Dickens famous novel A Tale of Two Cities, but it certainly could be the headline of every newspaper detailing the impact of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. We watched in horror seeing Harvey devastate Houston with intense flooding and, on its heals, Irma destroying Caribbean islands and the southern peninsula areas of Florida with her category five winds. Living in the area, I had a unique vantage point of seeing these storms bring out the worst and best of humankind.
Some of the worst included video footage of hooded looters taking advantage of evacuated properties. Others hoarded food and water, price gouging those in desperate need. Yet, I choose to highlight, elaborate, and celebrate the best examples of the human spirit.
Firstly, hallelujah, politics was finally off the front page! Our nation has come together unified in helping one another. Many individuals and businesses opened their hearts and wallets, donating hundreds of millions of dollars to relief organizations to lighten the burden of those affected. Trucks brimming with collected personal essentials from grassroots organizations and churches were loaded, delivered, and distributed, showing neighbor to neighbor love and care. Prayer warriors emerged and homes and streets were filled with prayers of petition and praise. I've heard stories of people who had power inviting strangers in for a meal, shower, and laundry facilities. A woman desperate for a generator to keep her father alive on oxygen, was granted the last one from a sacrificing man in line at a big box store. Storms do indeed shake us up, hopefully choosing to become better over bitter.
Jesus knew how to calm the storms as recorded in the gospels. In the book of Mark 4:39, 39 "He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm." Jesus was then and still is today in the restoration business, the healing salve for a hurting individual and world. All kinds of storms will come and go throughout our lifetime, some of devasting proportion: terminal illness, financial crisis, and relational breaks to name a few. Hope in Christ emerges, so we don't need to live in defeat. Ryan Stevenson wrote these lyrics to his song, Eye of the Storm.
In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm.
If you find a storm brewing, hold tight onto God's promises and get connected with a Christian Counseling Center counselor, who will help guide you through; call for an appointment today 203-846-4626.
Good news is hard to find in a bad news world. Can you recall the last time a newspaper or broadcast featured a feel good news story that elicited a smile, producing a happy tear? Unfortunately, good news stories don't produce high ratings or sell subscriptions.
Huffington Post writer, Carolyn Gregoire, wrote about what negative news does to our mental health. Research is clear that more positive news is needed to outweigh the violence and destruction we’re exposed to every day. Did you know it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative event? Sean Dagan Wood said in a recent TED talk, “A more positive form of journalism will not only benefit our well-being, it will engage us in society, and it will help catalyze potential solutions to the problems that we face.”
So, the question becomes, how do we speak good news, happiness, and joy in a world infiltrated with negativity?!
We never know from where inspiration will come. Watching an episode of HGTV's Fixer Upper, a client's favorite phrase was forged from metal into wall decor proclaiming, "Be The Change". RealIzing I too possess the power, ability, and responsibility to make a significant difference in the world expressing positive or negative statements, it's my desire to no longer propogate negative news stories.
Michael Jackson's 1988 hit Man in the Mirror is inspiring and possible, if we put forth the effort to be the change.
"I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change."
Further, Bible verse Joshua 1:9 encourages us in our quest,
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Self-Pity Is a Sin
A misstep can make or break us, the news abuzz with a comedian's vile attempt at humor. Sometimes we are victimized by the negligent acts of another, and that is truly a horrible shame. At other times, however, we feel sorry for ourselves claiming victim status, when the fallout sometimes comes from our own volitional poor decisions. This beckons the question, do I walk around as a victim or victor? Sure, there are times when we throw a short-lived pity party, feeling sorry over some injustice, hurtful words from a friend, or an accident that leaves our car damaged that was out of our control. Yet, if this attitude festers, it can bring us down the road of despair into sin. The Bible has a lot to say about this topic, and author Christy Fitzwater published an article that I found encouraging and relevant.
7 Reasons Why I Think Self-Pity Is a Sin
*Self-pity is a refusal to accept a trial as a test of faith, thus inhibiting my own growth toward maturity and completion in Christ. "My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith develops patience. But let patience perfect its work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4).
*Self-pity demands that I am entitled to a certain quality of life that has not been promised to me in Scripture. Jesus says, "I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
*Self-pity dilutes my compassion for others, as I elevate my own suffering to a place of prominence. "Finally, be all of one mind, be loving toward one another, be gracious, and be kind" (1 Pet. 3:8).
*Self-pity is married to grumbling and complaining. "Do all things without murmuring and disputing" (Phil. 2:14).
*Self-pity ousts gratitude. "Let the peace of God, to which also you are called in one body, rule in your hearts. And be thankful" (Col. 3:15).
*Self-pity fills my time with useless whining and moaning instead of prayers for help and rescue from the Almighty God. "... and call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me" Ps. 50:15).
*Self-pity will only accept joy that comes from reversal of circumstances instead of joy that comes from the Lord. ("Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4)."
We are all on our journey, and each of us fall into despair from time to time. This is natural and part of our circle of life. However, if you feel like you are constantly cycling and spinning, it might be time to assess your choices and partner with one of our counselors who can help you grow stronger through your circumstances. The Christian Counseling Center staff is reachable at 203-846-4626.
It's been said that March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb. It's such a changeable month; warm temperatures and sunshine may bring anticipation of an early Spring, or cold and stormy snowstorms may take us by surprise, beckoning boots and scarves. We can hope that if March starts off blustery and cold that it will end sunny and mild, but the key word is hope!
People across the world are longing to have hope in their lives. We may hope for a brighter career, for healing of disease and famine, or for peace. It's interesting and encouraging to note that South Carolina's state motto is "While I Breathe, I Hope". It's very true that while we still have life, we can remain hopeful. Our greatest source of hope, however, is found in the Bible, true hope in Christ alone.
Jeremiah 29:11 states, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." When we seek Jesus, find salvation in Him, call on Him, pray in His name, we have the hope we seek.
Taking down and putting away Christmas decorations, another Hallmark holiday has arrived, the store displays filled with cards, candy, and sentiments of love. Valentine's Day is a wonderful opportunity for those in a loving relationship to celebrate each other and make plans to enjoy a mid-week date, all while sharing genuine appreciation and gratitude for one another.
For those who do not have a special someone, who are grieving the loss of a spouse, or suffering from "broken heart syndrome", this time may be very depressing. If this speaks to your heart, you're not alone; depression affects more than 15 million American adults. Dr. Deborah Serani, an expert and author on depression, encourages self care by feeding the senses with nourishing, comforting experiences. For example, going for a walk, taking a bath, feeling the sun on your face, or enjoying a favorite cup of tea. Another good tip is to not hold your sad feelings in; talk to someone you can trust with your confidences.
Pastor John Hagee was quoted as saying, "Love isn't what you say. Love is what you do." So, this Valentine's Day, put your love into action for your own well being and extend it towards someone else. It's a great opportunity to reach out to a shut-in or someone going through a difficult time.
A New Year is upon us; we may pause and reflect, perhaps desiring health, relationships, or work to be different. Change, some fear it, others embrace it. Yet, each day we have the opportunity to adjust our focus/perspective, alter our course, and choose wisely. There are so many areas within our control that we need not live as victims of circumstance. We can make modifications to get out of debt, lose ten pounds, kick a habit, live more joyfully and purposefully, or learn something new; the options are endless!
2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here!"
While the Bible doesn't specifically address making/keeping resolutions, we can ask God to show us what His will is for our life this coming year. Knowing that our help comes from the Lord (Psalm 121:2), we can grow closer to Him every day and, with help from the Holy Spirit, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11
We're making our lists, and checking them twice; the Christmas season, a time of wonder, peace, and joy is rapidly approaching. The holidays can provide opportunities to unplug and reconnect, sharing quality time with relatives and friends, with laughter and special memories added to the scrapbooks of our hearts.
However, sometimes, the office, social, and family gatherings become messy with hurt feelings over gifting, unresolved past grievances, too much said, or not enough listening/healthy conversation. While you're planning upcoming events, it may be prudent to prepare your spirit for the "surprises" that will most likely arise, like an unexpected guest. Ephesians 6:13 instructs us to be ready by being prayerfully equipped with spiritual help from the Lord; "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
After weeks of all the preparation, anticipation, indulgent eating, and credit card balances, we may find ourselves under the weather, or feeling blue. Life can be full of disappointment, many times a result of unmet expectations. Let's remember that our great hope and good news comes with the reason for this season, the birth of a Savior who desires that none live apart from Him. Isaiah 9:6 "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Looking for change, believing our candidate/government will fix the mess, it's virtually impossible to avoid the media barrage of influence. However, the truth is we all possess a sinful human heart, and our nation's problems will not necessarily be fixed in the political arena.
In order to move forward, we must step back, removing ourselves from what's wrong, reframing our focus on what's good and right. What seems counterintuitive, will be what ultimately brings forth healing in our nation, workplaces, relationships, and personal lives. Positive change begins within each of us, and permeates our sphere of influence. Jesus stepped away, often withdrawing to lonely places and prayed. In Luke 5:16, he demonstrated the model for us to follow, seeking the power, strength, and will of God. He will bring chaos back into order, using us as open vessels.
Even in the midst of discord and anger, we can choose to live peacefully by spreading thankfulness and kindness, watching change unfold one life at a time. In the mid 1960s singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon garnered attention as she belted out, "What the world needs now is love sweet love, it's the only thing that there's just too little of."
A few years later, her brother collaborated and released, "take a good look around, and if you're looking down, put a little love in your heart, and I hope when you decide kindness will be your guide, put a little love in your heart, and the world will be a better place..."
Five decades later, this still holds true like never before. Let's look for opportunities to make a difference to show compassion and love: eye contact, a welcoming smile, helping hand, or volunteering. They won't break the bank, but will also fill your emotional tank.
We wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday, filled with gratitude for our many blessings.
Fall approaches, harvest apple and pumpkin flavors awaken our senses: coffee, donuts/muffins, candles, even lip gloss. Visual sensory stimulation for Northeasterners as the trees respond in full splendor. Paces energize as routines resume and accelerate from summer's rest. Cooler evenings and mornings entice, awakening oven to prepare comfort food; a wonderful season to savor and enjoy.
Drawn out of serenity into mindful awareness, trying to get to physical therapy on time. Propelled back into the 70's, amid the beeping horns and clatter, existential and thought provoking lyrics, "Does anybody really know what time it is, does anybody really care?" melodically fills the car. Appreciating the small pleasures in life was Robert Lamm's thoughtful purpose while penning Chicago's iconic top ten hit.
God also has a message for us about our use of time. Ephesians 5:15-17 states, "So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise, but wise making the best use of your time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is."
From where I sit the world appears apathetic. Knee surgery has temporarily placed me in a seated position, frequently public in wheelchair or mobile cart. This humbling posture affords the opportunity to people watch from a different perspective, in our fast-paced vertical world. Unopened doors, nonexistent eye contact, limited access, and virtually invisible, I apologetically meander as people bump or hurry past. Handicap parking spaces are often occupied by non handicapped individuals; frustration sets in, and then the Lord tugs at my heart, and the Bible reminds of my own hypocrisy, envy and unforgiveness.
When was the last time you positioned yourself lower?
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3
Are you bitter or better?
God even used social media to bring forth a challenging article:
*Forgive, not dwelling on injustices, and move forward
*Serve, and bless others with a smile or greeting
*Laugh, watch a funny movie or play games with friends
*Pray and "trust Him at all times, pour out your heart, for God Is our refuge." Psalm 62:8
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