COVID-19 UPDATE: Christian Counseling Center is continuing to offer mental health counseling services to existing and former clients, in addition to a limited number of new clients; we are prepared to offer our therapy via secure phone or video sessions. We are committed to providing high quality services during this time of unprecedented stress and uncertainty. If you or someone you know needs help, please call us at (203) 846-4626.
Christian Counseling Center
3 Lewis Street - Norwalk, CT 06851 - Established 1980
CHRISTIAN COUNSELING CENTER Newsletter/Blog
by Laura Coppola
Star gazing is something I love to do, through an astronomer's telescope or the naked eye. The best views have been in remote places with minimal light interference, most notably the island of Kauai and Kenya. The constellations were sharp, strikingly visible, and majestic. In fact, the North Star, Polaris, is famous for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. It is the anchor that helps those who follow it determine direction as it glows brightly, guiding those without a compass.
Jesus, like the North Star, is also fixed and certain, His foundation is sure. In fact, He declared, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" John 14:6. Jesus is the right way, the full truth, and offers abundant life. We just need to keep reorienting our lives, making course corrections to stay out of sin and destruction in order to stay on His narrow course for our lives.
In John 8:12 Jesus states, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” What an amazing promise, giving us such security! These short and darkened days of Fall and Winter are the perfect time to realize how Jews and Christians around the world enjoy celebrations of light, Hanukkah and Christmas. Both of these festivals occurred when the world’s darkness was at its peak, yet God’s light broke forth in miraculous ways.
Lauren Daigle has written and sings encouraging 'Light of the World' lyrics:
"For all who wait, For all who hunger, For all who've prayed, For all who wonder, Behold your King, Behold Messiah, Emmanuel, Emmanuel, Glory to the light of the world".
May your light shine as you celebrate with family and friends. If yours has grown dim, consider making an appointment with one of our counselors at 203-846-4626. Our staff wishes you much peace and joy for a very Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas season.
Grateful, thankful, blessed is a popular slogan printed on shirts, cards, and decor, especially for this holiday season. I know my closet and home feature these words, yet my consistent demonstration and application may be lacking at times.
Psych Central offers practical ways to demonstrate care and gratitude. “Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” – Henry Ward Beecher Philosophers and poets have long praised gratitude as one of the most desirable attitudes. Surely, each of us has much to be thankful for, so why not express our gratitude? It costs us nothing, yet yields countless benefits. In fact, these ideas may offer an alternative to traditional holiday gifting.
*Touch someone. Next time you're saying thank you to someone, reach out and lay your hand on their arm.
*Give something small to those closest to you for no reason at all – just to show that they are on your mind.
*Smile brightly and broadly, your eyes will sparkle over any mask.
*Give again to those less fortunate. "Blessing bags" for those less fortunate with water, snacks, wipes, socks, etc. let he/she know someone cares.
*Act without reward.
*Write a note of encouragement, handwritten or email. Dash off a thoughtfully worded communication to let another person know he or she is in your thoughts, adding entertaining or informative items.
*Be present with your focused presence in our hurried world, this is a wonderful gift.
*Genuinely thank those who provide service or assistance to you mechanic, house helper, grocery clerk, bank teller.
*Kind words earnestly spoken are like healing balm to a troubled soul.
*Include others in your plans, it's an effortless way to express gratitude.
*Listen intently, leaning in letting your body language speak.
*Call to say hello, a loved one’s voice on the phone is much more personal than an email, although it doesn’t take the place of a physical visit, you’d be surprised how satisfying a call can be for the lonely.
*Offer to do an errand, help with chores, or bring a meal to a shut-in.
Scripture speaks of us being filled with peace and thankfulness. "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." — Colossians 3:15
The Christian Counseling Center is open to offer compassionate support to you; call 203-846-4626 for an appointment. Our counselors and staff wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.
Fall Blog, 2021
As a child, I liked to keep my belongings clean, organized, and unbroken. When an item in our home inevitably would break, I'd spring into action attempting to 'fix' it. Over the years I've learned that my gifts lie in other areas, chuckling at the memory of my "completed" blender repair with an extra spring staring at me on the kitchen table.
Thankfully, Jesus loves and uses us as broken vessels to accomplish His work and will for our lives. Ephesians 2:8-9 lovingly states, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."
Diane Shirlaw-Ferreira in her Worth Beyond Rubies blog reminds us of four reasons why God uses our brokenness and inadequacies to do amazing things.
He chooses flawed people because that is who we can most identify with. We relate to those people. We can’t relate to the holy and righteous Pharisees…no, but we relate to Peter though.
2. Our Need
He chooses flawed people because their flaws make them see their need for a Savior.
3. No Cause to Boast
He chooses flawed people because they have no cause to boast. They HAVE to rely on grace. If He chose a skilled orator and leader to lead the children out of Israel, he might have assumed to have done it through his own skill and leadership and not given the glory to God. Had Peter been a righteous and holy man, he may not have seen his need to lean on God and taken the credit for himself. There’s no question, when you are flawed, that it was GOD who did the work THROUGH you and not you on your own!
4. No Special Qualifications
God chooses and uses broken people to show us that He can equip anyone to do His work. We can look at Moses and see that we don’t need to be a great speaker or a skilled leader to do God’s work."
Jesus is mighty to save and uses each of us, if we are open and willing vessels. If you're struggling with your worth, shame, or not realizing your God-given potential, call the Christian Counseling Center for an appointment with one of our compassionate counselors at 203-846-4626. Our prayer and desire is for you to mend any broken spaces for new growth this season.
August 2021 Devotion
This Summer season, my husband and I became fascinated gardeners and guardians. Our lanai, a sanctuary, hosted at least a hundred assorted caterpillars who honed in and devoured parsley, dill, and milkweed. Interestingly, I've observed a correlation between their lifecycle, growth, and transformation through metamorphosis and our own spiritual walk with God.
After eggs have been laid by the adult butterfly, larva caterpillars emerge, voraciously feast and grow on a host plant before transitioning into the pupa/chrysalis stage and then into a beautiful butterfly, with a very short but precious lifespan. Frequently, we noted the caterpillars became distracted looking for the next morsel, wandered off the safety of the host plant, often leading to their demise by a predator wasp, bird, or lizard, failing to reach maturity. Hence, we chose to protect them inside nets.
Matthew 7:13-14 tells us, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Our worldly culture has been causing division, yanking emotions, and taking attention away from precious time spent in the Lord's truths and in relationship with Him. We must be careful to live in the world, but not of this world. If we choose the world's agenda over Biblical truths, our path will meander into destruction and away from safety, security, and intimacy with our Heavenly Father.
Kenneth Copeland Ministries encourages us on how to stay connected to God.
+Stopping All Compromise
Refuse to allow the things of the world—material possessions, career position, sinful pursuits, ungodly relationships or social standing—to eat away at your time with God. Get His Word into your heart so deeply that no one else’s opinion is important.
It’s time to talk directly to God. Instead of relying on anyone else to tell you what God wants for your life, start a direct conversation with Him. Tell Him what is on your mind. Tell Him your concerns. Ask for what you need and even what you want. Pray for the needs of others. And, believe that what you ask will be answered (Matthew 21:22).
+Accepting Jesus’ Love
John 14:21 says, “Whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him.” You don’t have to be shy about your relationship with the Father. You can be confident of God’s love for you and His desire to bless you.
The Christian Counseling Center has therapists available to pray, listen and guide you on the narrow path; appointments can be made by calling 203-846-4626.
Home Sweet Home, Summer 2021
As a child, my mom would remark, "you must have been born with wings". She wasn't referring to the angelic kind mind you, rather fixed airplane. I was always up for travel and adventure, packed on a moments notice to destinations near and far! Not much has changed except, with each passing year, I look forward to returning to the creature comforts and presence of home.
Katherine Lee Bates wrote and published this poem in 1895 after inspirational views of Pikes Peak in Colorado; it was set to organ music in 1910 by Samuel Ward.
"God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above
From the mountains to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home."
I am indeed blessed to call America 'home'; yet as a Christ follower, I know my eternal home is not on this earth, but of God’s kingdom. Our time on earth is temporary, so we are not to live thinking this land is our permanent home, nor cling tightly to the things of this world as if it's all there is in life. Instead, may we invest in our relationship with the Lord; understanding heaven helps us endure any trials we face. Three things will last for eternity: God, His word, and the souls of men and women. Understanding our eternal destiny teaches us to invest our lives in that which will endure the test of time.
The Christian Counseling Center therapists are available to listen and assist you in finding hope and peace while residing with God in this world. Call 203-846-4626 for an appointment.
Be Good of Courage
Susan Cain wrote an article in Psychology Today recalling times in childhood and adulthood when we all would have liked to act more bravely, but couldn’t muster the courage. Maybe we weren’t lion-hearted or quick-witted enough, thought it was for those more noble, or daredevils, unlike us.
Being of courage helps us grow and give, and is available to all. It involves understanding what courage really is and training ourselves to perform small, daily acts of bravery. Practicing courage is a habit, a muscle you can exercise. Most of us aren’t born courageous, so we shouldn’t expect to acquire it without practice. Brene Brown reminds us that "courage is a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. You learn to swim by swimming; you learn courage by couraging.”
The Bible certainly speaks about it too. 1Corin16:13 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”
1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Rhett Power offers 10 practical suggestions to live a more courageous life
1. Embrace vulnerability
If you feel afraid of other people seeing who you are, open up and become more vulnerable.
2. Admit you have fears
Identifying what you are truly afraid of gives you the information you need to overcome the fears and insecurities.
3. Face your fears
People who feel afraid of snakes often change their minds after handling snakes with the help of a trained professional.
4. Think positively
Part of a positive attitude is allowing others to love you and show you affection.
5. Reduce your stress
Make sure you eat well, get enough sleep and exercise. Take your vacation time; we all need a break.
6. Demonstrate courage
Another important way to overcome fear is to show your courage. Instead of ignoring a person in distress, call for help or take bold step to intervene.
7. Know failure but press forward
If you fail, keep moving forward.
8. Cope with risk and uncertainty
If you fear losing your home to a foreclosure, set up an emergency savings account.
9. Continue to learn
Continue to grow by constantly trying to learn and improve your skills. The more you know, the less risk you have to take to be successful.
10. Accept your challenges
Stay on the course even after confronting challenges and fears; most fears never come to pass.
If fear is driving your decisions or stopping you from what you want to courageously try, call the Christian Counseling Center to make an appointment with one of our counselors. Many times when fears are shared with someone else, light is shed and we can move forward in life.
As we begin interacting more freely, we extend heartfelt Mother's and Father's day wishes. May God bless you, keep you and His face shine upon you.
Spring News 2021
Spring has sprung!
After a cyclical winter season, it appears we have rounded the corner. The birds are singing spirited tunes, colorful flowers arise from their slumber, the earth seems refreshed from its rest, and the beautiful sun and sky illuminates our longer days. Our hope is that you, too, have a hop in your step as we begin to open back up from winter's doldrums and the virus' fury.
Ramsey Solutions offers us some inspiring thoughts. "For believers, spring is a reminder that God is all about making things new. In fact, Jesus promised to make everything new one day Revelation 21:5. In the meantime, He gives us glimpses of the coming attractions through spring. To help you celebrate the shift from one season to another, here are some verses that hit on the best themes of spring.
+'Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.' Psalm 51:10
God is in the renovation business. He takes what’s old and broken down and transforms it into something incredible. If you’ve got an area of your life that needs some renewal, He’s more than ready to meet you where you are.
+Take a look at the flowers and plants blooming around you. They didn’t worry their way to awesomeness. And you can’t either. God cares about you, so let Him carry your worries and fears. 'Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.' 1 Peter 5:7
Whether it’s a long walk on a sunny day or splashing through puddles during an unexpected shower, soak up the blessings of spring. Let the sights, sounds and smells of a new season bring to life something new within you."
May the Lord bless you, keep you, and His face shine upon you as we enter this sacred and glorious season of Passover, Easter and Spring.
Over the past year, we've endured many changes, many without our choice or consent. Despite the world's condition, I'm making a conscious effort to take authority over which I have control, my thoughtlife and personal relationship with the Lord.
As we're upon the Lenten season, leading up to Easter Sunday April 4th, many people give up chocolate, desserts, or even social media, focusing on Jesus' sacrifice for everyone. This year, I am giving up sweets to eliminate the unwanted "Covid 10" pounds, but most importantly taking back my intentional devotion and journaling practice.
The 40-day period of Lent is based on two episodes of spiritual testing in the Bible: the 40 years of wilderness wanderings by the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt (Numbers 33:38 and Deuteronomy 1:3) and the Temptation of Jesus after he spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).
In the Bible, the number 40 holds special significance in the measurement of time, and many other important events revolve around it. During the flood, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4, 12, 17; 8:6). Moses fasted on the mountain for 40 days and nights before God gave the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:18; 34:28; Deuteronomy 9). The spies spent 40 days in the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:25; 14:34). The prophet Elijah traveled for 40 days and nights to reach the mountain of God in Sinai (1 Kings 19:8).
My desire during this Lenten season is for us to strengthen our relationship with the One who sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins, so we can live free from the bondage of guilt and shame. The best gift we can give ourselves in thanks to Christ, is deepening our personal relationship with Him. He loves each of us, and desires our companionship through prayer and time spent in His word.
May this Happy Easter and Spring season draw you into His loving arms.
It's no surprise that February is everything hearts - red cards, candies, as well as American Heart month with awareness to #1 killer, heart disease. Important as these are, I want to emphasize and encourage us not to "lose heart". Merriam Webster defines the idiom 'lose heart' as follows "to begin to feel that one cannot do something that one has been trying to do : to become discouraged". With the bombardment of social platforms and media noise chasing after valuable time, I encourage keeping our presence on those areas of life that bring joy. Perhaps books wait for attention, a new recipe to try, or you've lost zeal for activities that once spurred you on or produced laughter; let's reclaim peace and purpose!
Unfortunately, we are in a long lasting, yet temporal season in our World. At times, we allow ourselves to think circumstances are staying forever, and we lose sight of Jesus, who's still on the throne. Second Corinthians 4:18 NLT reminds us, "So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." Jesus, all the while, is seeking to reside in our heart. We can receive and host the dwelling of Christ in us through prayer, power of the Spirit, and obedience by faith, allowing His Lordship over every nook and cranny of our heart.
While we continue to patiently wait on the Lord to mightily move, let's not lose heart, but gain a heart full of love, understanding and compassion! Wordpress.com published the following.
8 Tips to enhance and allow God to open my heart to Jesus:
1. Be quiet. Listening is passive.
2. Be thankful. Start knowing my own heart by examining what I am truly thankful for from Jesus.
3. Be repentant. Recall where I went wrong.
4. Be humble. I am not God.
5. Be believing/trusting. Read the Bible. 6. Be honest. Sometimes this is the hardest one.
7. Be loving.
8. Be faithful.
Nehemiah 8:10 - "The joy of the Lord is my strength”
Bidding adieu to 2020, we may have called, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out!" While there were indeed blessings folded into the uncertainty and chaos, one word could sum up the year, 'patience'! Judith Orloff M.D. wrote a Psychology Today article on finding emotional freedom through the power of patience. Dr. Orloff suggests practicing patience allows us to step back and regroup. Instead of reacting or giving up on someone who’s frustrating, practicing patience allows us to invest meaningful time in a relationship without giving up or giving in. In fact, patience gives a liberating breath as well as a way to find emotional freedom.
Prayer Plus Possibilities by Kathryn Shirey takes us a step further, by praying first in the following manner.
*Pray for patience and fortitude through the waiting season.
*Pray for God to reveal the next step or the next season.
*Pray for your heart to be open to the work God’s doing through this current season.
*Pray for transformation and renewal.
Kathryn states it’s not easy to go to prayer as an initial step, but as you develop this discipline, you’ll find the waiting becomes easier.
"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." Philippians 4:6-7
I've done my share of deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, worship and praying while desiring to attain patience with all 2020's challenges. Patience, while we wait, is my prayer for each of us as we begin this new year with fresh hope and patience perspective. May God bless you and keep you as we embrace the new year.
Many of us look for heros to inspire us and render hope. Sir Nicholas Winton's humanitarian work left me in awe. He established an organization rescuing six hundred and sixty nine at-risk children from Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II. Winton supervised and found homes for the mostly Jewish Czechoslovakians enroute to safety in Britain. Amazingly, before the end of his one hundred and six year life, Winton was able to meet quite a few of those grateful adults.
Sir Nicholas Winton's life was indeed inspiring, yet Christ's birth, life, and death is the greatest and most powerful love story and gift ever given to us. Jesus loves us so, and desires a personal relationship with each of us. There is nothing that can separate us from His love, except our choice to do so. Christmas reminds me to focus on my presence with Christ and others, over the gifting of presents. We have the freedom to give our hearts, time, and treasure to others, because Christ first gave Himself to us. Perhaps you give a listening ear to a shut in, share a cup of coffee with a friend, or lend a helping hand to a neighbor. The Holy Spirit will lead and guide you how to invest your words, dollars, or minutes as you give gifts of encouragement and hope this year.
As we enter this wonderful season, I pray we each carry peace in our hearts, especially after such a physically, emotionally, and spiritually charged year. May these hymn lyrics encourage us to have joy this Christmas season.
Let there be peace on earth, And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth,The peace that was meant to be
With God as our Father, Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother, In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me, Let this be the moment now.
With ev'ry step I take, Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth, And let it begin with me.
The Christian Counseling Center staff wishes you a blessed Christmas season. May God bless you and lead you safely into the 2021 new year.
Searching for what unites us, not divides us, has been my quest the past few weeks. We tend to stay close to people who are like-minded, so we can remain in our comfort zone. What happens when we're forced to share a meeting or engage with someone who thinks differently or has views that oppose ours; do we agree to disagree or can we dialogue and graciously consider the other person's views? Henry Ford's quote is often stated, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” That propelled the automaker towards effective change, but what about us?
This has been a year of uncertainty and upheaval, leaving many of us angry, disheartened, or frustrated. We've been forced to approach life very differently, causing increases in physical stress and a staggering 53% increase in mental health challenges, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The antidote for fear is faith.1John 4:18 states, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…" Let's try to make a difference and practice kindness and thankfulness to all whom we meet.
I loved this Pinterest idea to write 2020 gratitude messages on a pumpkin. What a great reminder of God's provisions in the midst of a chaotic year!
The staff at the Christian Counseling Center wishes you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving season.
Most of us are anxious to get back to some sense of normalcy, the way things were. As much as I desire to travel without quarantine restrictions, masks, and hand sanitizer, I've found some positive takeaways since March stormed in like a lion, and hasn't yet left like a lamb.
*Diligent, lengthy hand washing now proactive and beneficial in limiting future common cold and flu transmission.
*Supplement vitamin additions boost immune function, and have been a bonus to those previously unaware of their value.
*Savoring simple pleasures all around while stopping to notice nature's multi sensory gifts.
*Practicing Holy Spirit fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control challenged us in our interactions as we've had to socially distance and isolate.
*Prayer, reflection, and journaling, may have reenergized our relationship and dependency upon God.
*Unavailable items allowed us to get along with less. Fewer trips to stores helped refresh our environment; improved air quality was evident.
*Working from home expanded our creativity; many small businesses survived because they adapted and reinvented to accommodate these unprecedented times.
*Significant home quality time allowed us to enjoy precious time we would not have had with loved ones.
*Humility and thankfulness with a greater appreciation for first responders and numerous essential workers.
My hope is that we were all beneficiaries of heightened awareness of what's really important in this life. the best advice I've ever received from my former pastor was, "Stay the course; if God put you on this path, he'll see you through it."
Matthew 7:13-14 instructs us: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
Our hope and desire for you is to use this season of uncertainty to cling tight to Jesus, who never leaves nor forsake us, Hebrews 13:5-6. The Christian Counseling Center has therapists willing and available to help you during this season. Call 203-846-4626 for an appointment today.
American Express capitalized on the 1982 slogan developed by Ally & Gargano, "never leave home without it" touting their company had the safest traveller's checks and credit card that would meet all your purchasing needs. As time went on, it became apparent that their catchy phrase wouldn't always deliver. Some merchants did not accept Amex credit because of the higher fees associated with that form of payment. Nonetheless, it became one of the most successfully famous business slogans offering consumer confidence. Each summer we are reminded of tropIcal storm and hurricane season preparedness. Fliers and phone call alerts remind us to get ready in the event of power outages. Items to have on hand include: flashlights, batteries, portable phone chargers, bottled water, and non perishable food for seven days. Isaias recently gave many the opportunity to practice getting ready. Were you prepared, how did you fare physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
For those negatively affected, the experience may have revealed some areas needing attention. We all have areas in which to improve, and the Bible offers us numerous passages for times of crisis and emergency, so we need not despair.
Sadly, some people seem to be losing their way, walking around like lost people. Our historical statues/monuments, national anthem, movies, grocery items, social media platforms, and TV shows are under cancel culture review as a quick-fix panacea. In this immediate gratification society, we must pause, acknowledge our history, define necessary reforms, and thoughtfully move forward, while making course adjustments.
Hiking experts suggest using the STOP method if you become lost.
(S) Stay calm: Take deep breaths to calm down.
(T) Think: Was I on a straight course or twistIng and turning?
(O) Observe: Look for clues that might lead me back.
(P) Plan: Determine the direction to walk, and mark progress.
God's course correction is found in the condition of the human heart. It's critical to our faith walk, and all with whom we come in contact in our homes, workplaces, churches, neighborhoods, and communities. These verses speak specifically about the heart.
Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."
Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."
John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
While there are no easy fixes to our centuries of issues causing division, we need not walk around like lost victims. We have a choice to live our life wholly surrendered to God. He is our hope, great physician, and master of heart transformation. Reading the Bible, humble prayer, journaling challenges and blessings while making course corrections, will give us peace for our days.
Speechless is not an adjective often used to describe me. However, the events of late from COVID-19, murders, racism, and riots have left me reeling with vascillating emotions. Searching has produced more questions, with no easy answers. People are hurting in many ways from different forms of losses, and we need to model the change desired in this world. A common thread that does make sense is for us to humbly come to a place of compassion, and communicate out of a place of love.
Christ followers lost a remarkable leader, Ravi Zacharias last month. Ravi left a lasting impact on all who met him. Clarence L. Haynes Jr. recently summarized four significant life lessons he learned from Ravi's teachings.
1. Be Prepared
1Peter 3:15, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have..."
It's our job to know what we believe and be prepared to share this hope with others.
2. Be Compassionate
Matthew 9:36, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
The world needs light right now, and we can be salt and light by building relationships with those around us who need to see the heart of Jesus.
3. Be Respectful
1 Peter 3:15 "But do this with gentleness and respect".
Even though we may disagree with someone's opinions, beliefs, and lifestyle, we must respect where they are, in the hopes of earning their trust with an open door to sharing our Savior.
4. Be Humble
Romans 12:3 "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you."
In this life, we will never arrive at knowing it all, and always have so much more to learn. Measuring ourselves against the person of Jesus, will certainly keep us humble.
Our world is searching for answers, so let's press on with compassion, respect, and humility, being the change agent that God has called us to be.
Over the past several months, we've all experienced a miriad of highs and lows, emotions that vary moment by moment on any given day. Some have experienced sickness, loss of a loved one or livelihood, or become fearful of the uncertain future. In some ways we've all shared the grief stages: *Denial and isolation, is this really happening, who do I believe for the truth, and is staying home really the answer? *Anger of lost security and routine to which we've become accustomed, *Bargaining what ifs and incessant questioning, *Depression because this is going on too long, taking me out of my comfort zone, and *Acceptance of let's stop fighting this situation and accept the new normal for the time being, with imminent changes.
This is not a gloom and doom message, rather a "Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work" from Robert J. Morgan's book, The Red Sea Rules #5.
Psalm 37:7-8 tells us to practice patience while God is at work. "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil."
After the initial shock and awe phase, I remembered that He has not left the throne, and resumed journaling God's blessings from a limited vantage point.
Americans are strong and will unite under duress. So many individuals stepped up, using their talents and resources, to make hand sewn masks, face shield from 3D printers, contributed to food drives, created signs and honked horns of appreciation to first responders, showed intentional and genuine gratitude for all essential workers. When's the last time you were so thankful to stock clerks filling shelves with toilet paper and Lysol products?
Technology has allowed us to experience human connection during separation. We work, are educated, play games and socialize from the convenience and safety of our homes, laughing and creating memories, while "visiting" family and friends thousands of miles away.
Creativity is honed while acquiring new adaptation skills. Taking advantage of wholesale produce markets now desperately selling to the consumer, chopped-like baskets of unusual vegetables stretched our imaginations and culinary prowess in the kitchen. Picking juicy peaches and freezing twelve pounds of blueberries while supporting local farmers was a highlight.
Parents became teachers while homeschooling and bonding with their kids, uncovering facets of their personalities and learning styles. The kitchen as a classroom provides opportunities and the best curriculum stretching math, language arts, critical thinking, and reasoning skills.
Outdoor walks and talks for change of pace and exercise produces healthier relationships, bodies, and immune systems.
Noticing beauty from the ashes; enjoy the smell of renewed air quality, fragrant signs of blooming flowers, note clear, crystal blue skies and trees budding, taste seasonal produce, and hear birds in melodious song. The environment is thankful, rejoicing from our limited movements.
So, while we wait for the grand reopening, let's take full advantage of this unique opportunity we've been afforded, practicing awareness and appreciation for this season in time and space. Romans 8:28,9 "let's us know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Feed them, they will come!
One by one, the filled social calendar became empty, deleting cancelled dinners, parties, shows, MLB and Blue Angels events I'd been long anticipating. Peering out our L shaped lanai windows, an idea was conceived. If we are social distancing, I'll need to create my own entertainment venue. Hopping in the golf cart, I headed to the local nursery, returning with dozens of bee, butterfly and hummingbird attractor plants. Like a wide-eyed child in a candy shop, I'd selected various colorful plants to serve as food and hosts during all phases of the monarch lifecycle.
After stategically laying out plants in their new garden bed, I realized a few too many were purchased for the plot space. So, in short work, the garden enlarged thanks to Oscar, my gardener friend, who made my vision a reality. Literally within five minutes after watering the new additions, two monarchs arrived, depositing eggs for the larvae lifecycle to begin.
So often when trials and catastrophes arise, we fret and fail to see the hidden blessings and opportunities. Hopefully, you've been able to find some silver lining moments during our country's time of crisis. This is an unprecedented time of great financial loss for many, yet it has presented opportunities to embrace precious family time making memories, while staying safe.
Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Holy Spirit's Still Small Voice
We can celebrate this upcoming Easter with the confidence and knowledge that Jesus hasn't left us alone. He suffered crucifixion, was buried, and resurrected, sending His Holy Spirit as the wind beneath our wings. While we are thankful and unworthy of His ultimate sacrifices, He loves us so very much, desiring to be ever present in the seemingly little details of our lives.
Recently, I had an ah-ha moment. In fact, He often taps on my heart or in my mind with His still, small voice. The most recent occurred while organizing the flow of our home for a neighborhood social luncheon. Months of time had been spent slowly assembling a 500 piece aquatic puzzle, and the finish line was in sight. The puzzle was carefully placed on a foam presentation board with another on top, preventing fading in the sunny lanai. A voice whispered, "why not move that puzzle to another location"? Ignoring the gentle tap, I reasoned that it's pretty far enough away from the walking path. As you can imagine, a guest made a wide turn, toppling the puzzle boards to the floor. Hiding the horror in my face, all I could utter was, "that's okay" to her "I'm so sorry." Painstakingly picking up all the mispositioned pieces two days later, I recalled how the Lord loves to give good gifts to His listening children.
You may be thinking, how can I quiet my mind, minimize distractions, and hear from God? Author Dawn Klinge offers some tips for reading His word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."
*Place yourself in an environment that helps you concentrate.
*Talk and converse with God about what you're reading when you pray.
*Acknowledge distracting thoughts, but let them go for these few moments.
*Choose and meditate upon a short phrase in the Bible until it sinks in.
*Find a time that works for you. Many choose early morning.
*Start small with baby steps of five minutes and then you can build up longer periods.
Listen for God's voice; He has something to say to each of us.
Coping With Coronavirus: How to Guard Against Emotional Contagion - by Dr. Elizabeth Sadock, Ph.D.
The threat of the coronavirus is hanging heavy in the air since it was first identified in early January in the city of Wuhan, China. We can’t escape reminders of the virus. It is dominating news stories and social media, creating an eerie stillness in many cities, and impacting our everyday lives. Naturally, tensions are running high as people try to cope with the uncertainty of a quickly spreading virus. For those who are already more susceptible to anxiety, this can be a particularly challenging time, however, no one is fully immune.
This is in part due to a phenomenon called Emotional Contagion. It turns out that emotions can be contagious, just like a virus, and spread throughout our communities. This is true of pleasant emotions, like joy, as well as unpleasant emotions, like fear. Understanding how we as humans respond to fear can hopefully help us gain perspective, temper our worries, and improve our overall well-being to help us all cope during this stressful time period.
First, it is important to highlight that fear is essential for our survival and is our instinctual response to an unknown threat. If you are experiencing fear, your body is responding as it was designed for your survival. Fear is an activating emotion that can lead to behaviors that help us respond to threats. Fear or concern for your health, for example, may cause you to follow the recommended precautions to guard against illness, like washing your hands. Understanding the importance of fear can help us accept it and use it as a constructive signal to take reasonable precautions.
However, our fear also has the potential of growing in such a way that it interferes with our ability to cope and live our lives. When we witness other people expressing fear, our natural response is to mimic that fear, so that we too can protect ourselves from any threats. For example, if you came across a group of people running in fear, would you stand still and try to assess the information around you to determine if there was in fact a real threat, or would you join the pack and run? This is often referred to as Herd Behavior. This idea is further reinforced by a principle known as Social Proof, which describes our inclination to reference other people’s behavior as a way to guide our own. Our response to others’ fear is often unconscious and automatic, and so we feel fear without even understanding why. This makes it that much more important to be aware of the potential spread of fear so that we can regain objectivity and make sense of any fear we may be experiencing. Ultimately, we want our fears to work for us and provide protection, instead of feeling so consumed that it starts to negatively impact our behaviors.
Emotional Contagion is further inflamed by how we respond to threats on an individual level. When fear is heightened, our emotions flood our brains, impacting our ability to think clearly and logically. In these moments of anxiety, we are that much more likely to use mental short-cuts and fall into automatic thought patterns. These short- cuts typically help us make sense of a complicated world and process information quickly. However, anxiety has a way of distorting our thoughts so that they no longer offer us a balanced sense of reality.
One of the factors that can greatly increase anxious thoughts is the Fear of the Unknown. A lot remains unknown about the coronavirus, and new information continues to be collected and disseminated every day. With so much ambiguity surrounding the threat the coronavirus poses, and its eventual impact, it is not surprising that our minds may be more vulnerable to a pattern of thinking called Catastrophizing. This is our mind’s tendency to jump to the worst-case scenario, even if the likelihood of an event occurring is small, or completely unknown. As a result, we may feel even higher levels of anxiety and distress, making it that much more challenging to cope effectively. This is compounded by both the Negativity and Confirmation Biases. Our minds have been programmed for survival and so we naturally give more weight to negative outcomes or threats (such as the spread of a virus) than we would to favorable outcomes. And we have a tendency to seek out evidence to support or confirm our fears and beliefs, while ignoring evidence to the contrary. In the case of the coronavirus, if we were to hold a belief that the virus is far worse than reported, we may seek out further evidence to support this belief by scouring the internet, regardless of the reliability of our sources.
In addition to our thought patterns heightening our fears, our bodies also play a role. Evolutionarily, our bodies respond to fear through the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight or flight response. When triggered, our heart rate and blood pressure increase along with other autonomic responses that prepare our bodies to respond to threats. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot distinguish the difference between a threat that requires physical action, like fighting off an intruder, and stress that does not, like coping with the uncertainty of the coronavirus. And if we can’t physically expel the body’s energy build-up, this creates physical tension and stress on our bodies. The more our bodies are stressed, the more our minds are stressed, and vice versa.
Despite our human tendency towards unhelpful thinking patterns and a reactive nervous system, there is good news. There are strategies that can be used to help inoculate against the spread of fear contagion. Simply understanding how we respond to threats can go a long way in protecting us from becoming consumed by fear. We can transform what feels confusing and unmanageable into a clearly defined and reasonable response to a threat. Once we gain this perspective, we can then choose to take actions that keep our fears contained in a way that ultimately promotes our health and wellbeing. Below are some potential strategies:
Be a thoughtful consumer of news. Try to be analytical to guard yourself against fear-based reasoning, which distorts reality. And be wary of social media. There is a lot of information from unreliable sources, and that information is meant to be emotionally charged. Instead focus on the facts as they stand today; this will help counteract any tendency towards Catastrophizing and will reduce the Fear of the Unknown. Also, limit your news coverage of the coronavirus, which can feed the Negativity Bias. See if you can find a balance between remaining informed, while not over-saturating yourself with content.
Remind yourself of, and try to participate in, aspects of life that make you feel fulfilled and grateful. Whether it is time with family, playing games, or listening to music, try to remain connected to what you love. In this way you are not allowing fear to consume your life. This will further counteract the Negativity Bias and can even improve emotional and physical well- being. And from what we know about Emotional Contagion, it may be beneficial to share your thoughts with friends or family.
Do not isolate yourself. Even connecting over the phone is helpful in reducing stress levels and increasing endorphins.
Know what you can control. Anxiety increases when we feel powerless. At present, we know that we can at least take the following steps to promote our health: wash our hands, wear a mask, use a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes and then discard the tissue, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth.
Try to accept what you cannot control. This one is easier said than done. However, recognizing that there are limits to what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones against the virus (however painful this reality may be), can help you redirect your energy towards aspects of life that are still within your control.
Release bodily tension. Knowing that fear can be experienced in the body, exercise, relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, and diaphragmatic breathing can all release tension and help counteract our body’s stress response.
Finally, take advantage of community resources. In the face of adversity, it has been inspiring to see how the community has bound together to offer support. There are many examples of generosity, compassion, and resilience from community members and organizations. Consider reaching out to the growing number of hotlines, groups, and other mental health resources available, remembering that you are not alone.
In summary, it is only natural to feel fear right now with so much uncertainty about the course of the virus and its current and future impact on our lives. That fear is important and can prompt us to be conscientious and promote our collective health. However, our fears can also negatively impact our functioning if we are not careful. By understanding the concept of Emotional Contagion and how our minds respond to threats, we can keep our fears in check. That way we can take action in attempt to live more emotionally balanced and full lives.
Have you ever done something you think so foolish, you called yourself an idiot? Oh yes, I have a treasure trove of oops moments. One of my finest involved giving the wrong bag to the Sheriff's office; instead of handing off expired prescriptions for proper disposal, my bulk food store bag was given instead, including a baggie of suspicious-looking white onion powder. Long story short, a call to the Sheriff was in order, eliciting fits of laughter at my expense.
Fortunately, God looks at us as dearly loved children, even when we mess up. Lauren Daigle sings the following lyrics in her hit song, "You Say". This is only an excerpt, but I encourage you to listen and receive her full lyrics.
"I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I'm not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know
You say I am loved when I can't feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don't belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe,
What You say of me..."
That song always brings humbling tears to my eyes, and then I become reminded of my redemption in Christ.
So, when you and I say:
●I can't figure it out. God says, I will direct your steps, Proverbs 3:5-6
●I'm too tired. God says, I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28-30
●It's impossible. God says, All things are possible, Luke 18:27
●Nobody loves me. God says, I love you, John 3:16
●I can't forgive myself. God says, I forgive you, Romans 8:1
●It's not worth it. God says, It will be worth it, Romans 8:28
●I can't go on. God says, My grace is sufficient, 2 Corinthians 12:9
●I can't manage. God says, I will supply all you need, Philippians 4:19
●I'm afraid. God says, I have not given you fear, 2 Timothy 1:7
●I feel all alone. God says, I will never leave you, Hebrews 13:5
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)".
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