Challenge, Healing, In the news, Issues of the Day, Training

Learning Psychoanalytic Therapy

Going through the books on my book shelf in my office I came across an old college book with writing assignments still stuffed neatly inside. I tossed the book, but kept the assignments to peruse them–interesting reading from the 1980’s.

There were all the different counseling approaches studied with practice assignments placing you with a counselee while using that particular psychoanalytic method. Professors threw at us as students tons of stuff to wade through like early childhood, teenage years, early adulthood, sexual impulses, unconscious factors, transference, disassociation, etc. It was like baking a cake with differing recipes and then trying to find the one you really liked and wanted to serve to others. 

Professors underlined words, placed checkmarks and wrote “OK” or “Good” at the end of the assignment. I was a dedicated Christian and my approach wasn’t always welcomed, even though professors pushed equality, diversity of thought and openness, nonjudgmental attitudes and acceptance. But as a believer, I rarely felt the same from them. I was not free to express my Biblical perspective.

I wasn’t offended, but seeing and feeling so much inequality, all the while equality is being taught seemed disingenuous at the least, feeling attacked at most. In one paper I wrote, “My values would be those closely related to the Christian ethic. Being a Christian will influence me in that it is impossible for me to hide those values or exclude them from a helping relationship. I know I will expose those values without imposing those values on my clients.” The doctor of psychology professor did not agree with me. 

But that was years ago. My degree was completed, followed by 25 plus years of counseling. It was an era of my life that I enjoyed and embraced. Psychology simply means the study of the mind, but who is the One that can truly understand the mind? Who has the answers to each and every issue in life and who brings healing like no other counselor? There is this One who predates psychology by a few years.

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulder. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

How to Provide Critical Input and Feedback

I’d venture to guess that most of us like talking more than we like listening. Counselors are paid to listen, but for the majority of us, we’d rather express our opinion versus listening to another’s. 

Having written a number of books and plenty of articles and published well over 600 blogs, I have, without trying, widely opened the door for feedback, push back, criticism and opinion. When I write something like a book I embrace the input of others, their corrective feedback and their helpful, critical eye. Using what I call pre- readers makes for a better book. Having hand-selected persons who I know will read the material and will also be willing to give me honest and fair input is invaluable.

By the time a book goes through editing and then proofing, being scoured for theological correctness and cultural sensitivity, etc., the author is ready to be done with it. This process can take several years and can be somewhat grueling.

Our first widely published book, Called Together, was featured in a magazine article about methods of premarital counseling. It was great to see it featured and to read the positive article about its effectiveness. One month later came the letters to the editor. While most were positive, one was extremely negative. It was obvious the writer of the letter never read the book, but those toxic and inaccurate words were already out there and I could not retrieve them or add a rebuttal. 

The same is true with online reviews where books are sold. While many are positive, there are those who criticize your work and give you one-star ratings for the most trivial things. Once again, authors cannot provide a rebuttal or even go on the offensive to somehow set the record straight. You have to learn to take the good with the bad and not lose sleep over it. 

Articles and blogs are somewhat unusual because it’s much easier to be critical of these than it is a book, primarily because of their shorter length. My experience with this type of writing is a bit different. Let me explain.

Negative responses from your audience might begin with a question. You, the author, do your best to provide an answer. This then provokes another question or two which are often not related to your response to their first question. You once again attempt to not be defensive, take the question as sincere and provide an answer. Now the tone begins to change and you begin to pick up that the questions were leading and a ruse for what is to come.

The next expression is pushback and criticism of your written piece. If you as the author continue to try and respond, the critic can easily become venomous, strongly opinionated and letting you know rather loudly that they are right and you are clearly wrong. The whole thing begins to break down and starts to feel really bad.

The worst part is this is normally not a person who when reading your many blogs or articles ever writes back with a positive comment or word of encouragement. This type of person is waiting for you to slip up and wander off into one of their sacred cows. And this criticism from the critic whose only goal is to prove you wrong by their expertise or life experience, is really to ridicule you and tell you how wrong you are. It is typically pretty unfair, undesired and often unprovoked. 

Most likely there will be nothing productive from the conversation and it will become more and more toxic along with the possibility of it also becoming anger-filled. 

How should we respond and give critical input to an author?

There are respectful and acceptable steps we can take that do not create further offense, hurt and anger. Let me share a few helpful steps with you. These are steps that I have incorporated into my life as well.

  1. Know your boundaries. Stay within your field of ministry or expertise. (See II Corinthians 10:12-18.)
  2. Earn the right to speak into another’s life and what they write. If at all possible, make sure of the health of the relationship first. This builds trust which allows truth to be spoken without taking offense.
  3. Thoroughly read what is written. Do not allow a word in the piece to cause you to emotionally react. Try to be sure the author is saying what you think they are saying and do your best to not only read words but to hear their heart.
  4. Find the positive. What can you agree with and then include this in your comments.
  5. If you don’t understand something, then humbly ask the author for further clarity. Perhaps you are misreading the piece.
  6. Questions to the author that are leading in nature will be picked up by the author and you will be setting yourself up for a defensive response. Stay away from leading questions. These are questions with an agenda attached to them, e.g., “You don’t really mean what you are saying about ______, do you?”
  7. Give your input through your experience or knowledge humbly. The author will receive it when it is felt that it’s coming from a genuine experience and a genuine heart of humility.
  8. Do not keep the dialogue going beyond one or two responses. It just gets defensive after that. If there is disagreement, let it go.

You can do all these steps without being defensive or argumentative. A know-it-all response will come across as not legitimate, but rather arrogant.

When responding, keep these verses in mind:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:12-14)

 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col. 4:6)

I hope this will help to give improved and more gentle responses in a sincere effort to be a builder in conversation keeping the admonishments in mind from the above listed scriptures.

Standard
Challenge, History, Issues of the Day, Training

General George Washington Learns About Forgiveness

During the days of the Revolutionary war, Rev. Peter Miller served as the pastor of Bethany Reformed Church in Ephrata, PA. Later he left the German Reformed church to become a Seven Day Baptist minister. This move provoked the ire of one man, Michael Widman.

Miller was a talented and highly educated man. Thomas Jefferson actually requested that Miller translate the Declaration of Independence into seven different languages.

The Ephrata Cloisters

Michael Widman was also a resident of the town of Ephrata and he developed a hatred for Rev. Miller. Widman was a deacon at the Reformed Church and Rev. Peter’s withdrawal caused a notorious and frequently noticed hatred toward Rev. Miller. Widman’s abuse included punching him and spitting on him. Miller never spoke an evil word against his enemy.

Mr Widman owned a tavern in Ephrata and one evening was loudly boasting of his loyalty to the British cause. Little did he know there were two American spies in the tavern that night who heard his treasonous words. The men attempted an arrest and Widman escaped out a back door.

Widman ran to the British army looking for protection and offered to spy for them. Later Widman was caught, court-martialed and convicted of treason against the colonies and sentenced to die by hanging.

Rev. Miller was personally acquainted with General George Washington, as Washington had first met him at the Ephrata Cloisters. After Miller had heard about the sentencing of his personal antagonist, he arose early in the morning and walked seventy miles through the snow to find General Washington at Valley Forge, PA. After Washington heard Miller’s request for a pardon for Widman his response was a firm no for his “friend.” “My friend!” said Miller. “I have not a worse enemy living than that man.”

“What?” exclaimed Washington. “You have walked seventy miles to save the life of your enemy? That, in my judgement, puts the matter in a different light. I will grant you his pardon.”

From the scaffold Widman remarked, “There is old Peter Miller who has walked from Ephrata to have his revenge gratified today seeing me hung.”  

Rev. Miller raised the pardon in the air and commanded the execution to halt. Miller and Widman walked together back to Ephrata as friends and neighbors.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  –Jesus

Happy Father’s Day to every one of you who are fathers! May we “raise the pardon in the air” to all thse around us who are in need of forgivenss and our love.

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Training

Have You Surrendered?

Surrender. It’s an interesting word. In western culture, it can be a negative word because it means to give up rights, to yield, to relinquish control or comfort. These are all things we hold onto tightly, often for self-preservation.

To give up control for some is terrifying. We cling onto power and control in order to have some sense of oneself having legal standing, political standing, religious standing or just human rights standing. 

To be in total control of our lives literally means to perceive oneself as knowing better than God. To walk through life in this way is to worship the idol of self. The Commandments told us to worship no other gods but the Lord God and yet we often persist in demanding our rights, e.g., it’s my body, it’s my life, what I do behind closed doors is my business, etc. To be in total control of one’s life is a scary place to reside. How so?

  1. You can only trust you. 
  2. You dare not surrender your rights to anyone for anything.
  3. You are pressed to ultimately decide your own fate.
  4. You must hold back emotions so as to not be out of control.
  5. You must be suspect of any input.
  6. You must control or avoid any life-changing decisions and the persons initiating or provoking those changes.

In an avoidance of surrender, you must control all input, all process and all output from your life. It is an exhausting way to live. Mentally you are forced to stay ahead of everyone, you are continually second guessing those around you, perfection becomes your go-to process in order to avoid the loss of control and your rights must, at all cost, remain front and center. We see this exemplified all around us in our culture today. 

Enter Jesus. Jesus, the Savior who asks you to give up control. Jesus, the One who says to relinquish control to Him–all control. It’s no longer your money, your will, your sexuality, your political side or your self-gratification. Jesus requires surrender. 

For me to say, “I give up my rights to __________” goes against everything my flesh desires. But isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross for you and me? He gave up every right as the Son of God, Creator of heaven and earth, Creator of you and me in order to surrender His life willingly. He didn’t surrender to get something, He surrendered to give something–salvation to all of mankind. We surrender our lives to Him in order to give our lives to His kingdom. 

When we surrender our passions, our careers, our bank accounts, our pain, our lust, our children, our marriage, our employment and our sin to our Savior we are not losing control, we are gaining freedom from control. 

Do you desire true faith? Surrender.

Do you desire liberty? Surrender.

Do you desire freedom from sin? Surrender.

Do you desire freedom from yourself and your own control? Surrender.

When we surrender to Jesus, not just as our Savior, but as our Lord, we are saying that we are done with all of our self-efforts of power and control. We are finished with self-preservation. We are through with addictive behaviors leading us. We are done becoming angry over those who we perceive as annoyingly different from us. When we surrender control, we can let go of controlling and manipulating others to be who we thought we needed them to be. 

When we fully surrender control, we will find an intimacy with the Father like never before. The more we surrender, the more freedom we’ll experience. 

Marriages in which both partners stop trying to control the other are happy and fulfilling marriages. Relationships minus control are liberating and peace-filled. 

Are you willing to die to control so that you can experience the freedom that comes from trusting God?

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Small Groups, Training

Healing Our Insecurity II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 5

am forgiven all my sins. Ephesians 1:7

I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. Jerimiah 33:6

To die to ourselves as C.S. Lewis penned does not come easy.  We fight it, wrestle with it, deny it, defend ourselves, project onto others our shame and guilt, and feverishly attempt to coverup our inadequacies.  To die means to face them head on, acknowledge them, confess them to God in order to eventually lay them at the cross.

Why do we hold onto something that inwardly is hurting us?  We find it enormously difficult to be honest about ourselves.  We can barely entertain the thought of looking into a mirror and saying, “You have deep insecurities and you have to stop covering them up.”  For some of us, letting go is more difficult because it demands living another way.  It requires change and sometimes change, even for the good, is more problematic than staying the same, even when it is unhealthy to do so.  

Catch these verses found in Proverbs, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise, He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.”  (Proverbs 15:31, 32) 

Are you aware the Bible tells us that God, like a loving parent, initiates discipline and correction?  Do you know why?  He loves us enough to encourage life changes.  “…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”  (Hebrews 12:10)  God wants us to change through correction in order to grow and gain something good—to be like Him, holy.  

It is imperative that we renounce the idol of worshipping oneself.  To renounce means to give up a claim or to disown voluntarily.  Even if we seem unable to pinpoint any of our self-protecting insecurities, we can still take a step of faith and renounce anything in our life that looks like, smells like or acts like insecurity.  There is only one God to worship and it is Him alone.

But if we can label our insecurities, now is the time to confess them.  Perhaps along the way many of those insecurities have come to mind.  It is now time to confess them to God, renounce them and break off any unhealthy dependency or unhealthy attachment with them.  It is time to confess any fear of man that exceeds your fear of God.  It is time to break off inordinate relationships that have become a source of security for you.  It is time to lay down your excuses and justifications for negative behavior which actually stem from your insecurities.

“What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among then, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’  Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’  And, ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’”  (II Corinthians 6:16-18)

All of us have sinned. (See Romans 3:23.)  We all fall short of God’s plan, and the wages of “missing the mark” (which is the definition of sin) is death, but Romans 6:23 states: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  God has given us a free gift, without any effort on our part.

When the Bible speaks of being justified or having received justification (See Romans 5:1.), there is a threefold definition to this word.  To be justified means that I am forgiven of my sin, I am free from my guilt, and I am in right standing with God.  To be forgiven, free of the guilt I feel for sinning, and then to actually be in right standing with God in my human state is simply astonishing and yet true, based on what Jesus, the Just One, did for me.

Through Him I am forgiven of all my sin, in right standing with God and can enjoy peace and security in my life.

Question for reflection:

Can you take a minute to once again identify your insecurities, confess them and break off their power over your life?

To order the book for yourself, a friend, your family or a group click here.

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Parents, Training

Starting Tomorrow for Thirty Days!

Watch your in-box for some very special blog posts.

Starting tomorrow for 30 days you will be receiving a daily blog post and exerpt from my new book, Identity: The Distinctiveness of You.

I hope you enjoy this challenge and will take the time to read it each day. I pray you receive much from every post.

Pass it on to others and feel free to add your own comments. See you soon!

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Small Groups, Training

The Look

It transpired right after Peter’s denial as he disowned Jesus. Jesus was within sight of His disciple Peter and just after Peter’s final denial something really unnerving is mentioned in the gospel of Luke, chapter 22.

The rooster crowes and then this happens, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” There were no recorded words spoken, only a “look.” It was done, over, just as Jesus had said it would happen. Peter would deny Him in His presence. Can you imagine with me what Peter felt in that moment? His whole body must have become warm and filled with mixed emotions as blood flowed through his neck to his flush face. I can see him wanting to escape the trauma he felt, looking down, shaking, feeling embarrassment and, of course, shame. What thoughts were going through his mind as fear must have gripped his heart during and after “the look?”

Sometimes I ask a small group question that goes like this, “If you had the opportunity for one do-over in life, what would it be?” I know mine; do you know yours? I’ll bet everything I own that at that moment Peter would have wished for his one do-over.

However, Peter received His Lord’s forgiveness and went on to be the greatest soul winning preacher of the New Testament. He didn’t quit, he didn’t get depressed and he didn’t remain in shame. I believe he went to the cross and made it right. And for me, it is one of the greatest stories of redemption in the Bible.

Is there anything in your life that needs redeemed? There is One who from the cross said, “Shame off of you. Let’s work on a do-over.”

For Peter, the hours leading up to Jesus’ resurrection must have been pretty dark, but then came Sunday, where everything must have become full of light, life and hope!

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

Joining the Dishonest

Why do we think it’s more spiritual to appease others or live by conciliatory gestures?  And why is passive-aggressive behavior tolerated more today?  Are we being merciful and gracious or are we being dishonest?

 

Today we write comments on social media or letters to the editor trying to get our aggressions across in an acceptable media-centered way.  But is it the right way?  As well, what about the people in your life who will not tell you what they see or feel, but they will definitely show you or make an inference on Facebook?  That is passive-aggressive behavior.

 

Matthew chapter 18 tells us that if your brother sins against you, you are to go to your brother.  Nowhere in that chapter does it say to write a letter to the editor, bully them on Facebook, ignore them or slam them with passive-aggressive tactics.  We are to go one-on-one in love, in the hope that our brother will hear us.

 

Listen to I Peter 3:8 & 9: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  We must determine that part of being a blessing is speaking compassionate truth and words of blessing.

 

One day Jesus encountered an issue with Philip while Philip was requesting to be shown the Father.  Jesus looked straight back at him and said, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you for such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”  I’ll bet Philip never asked that question again.

 

I’ve had leaders who have loved me enough to confront me with what they saw as a deficit in my life.  As hard as that kind of thing is to receive and look at, I realize they love me enough to tell me the truth as they understand it.  To me, that is real mercy.  Not being confronted toward change will cause me to repeat the wrong I was doing. 

 

I’ve often asked other leaders to let me know if they hear something in what I teach that is culturally insensitive or incorrect.  After speaking on one occasion, I requested input and, low and behold, I was told, “Yeah, there was one thing…”  I agreed and was thankful for their honesty.  If you do not want truthful input, don’t ask, but then do not expect to grow.

 

Another Reason or Three Why We Do Not Confront

  • Self-protection – I am apprehensive because I am protecting myself from a projected reaction that will affect me, so I choose not to go there. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, “True friends stab you in the front.”
  • Arrogance – Rather than moving in love, compassion and humility, we feel arrogance because we’re not walking in this sin, wrong doing or what we think is wrong thinking. Arrogance is full of pride and will keep us from changing.
  • Insecurity – I perceive my worth, my identity wrapped up in the garment of this person liking me and not rejecting me. If I confront them, my identity could be shaken.  Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare…”

 

The book of Proverbs wisely counsels there are times we are to overlook an offense.  (See Proverbs 17:9, 19:11.)  It simply is not worth getting into.  But when is it worth getting into how do we confront someone with the truth?  Here are some life-giving ways or approaches to consider.

 

  1. When you expose another’s fault, a sin, you do so in love in order to win your brother or sister back (Matthew 18:15). Compassion is a major ingredient in the why of your confrontation.  “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”  (Proverbs 27:6)
  2. When it is not criticism for criticism’s sake and it is not, “The truth hurts sometimes,” because that can be mean-spiritedness. It must be that I love you enough to tell you the truth.  The spirit of the conversation is love and the vehicle is grace.  (Ephesians 4:15)
  3. Paul the Apostle disagreed with Barnabas about taking John Mark on their missionary journey because John Mark had deserted Paul in Pamphylia. Paul was honest about how he felt concerning John Mark and why.  Be honest, be truthful while at the same time believing for and positioning yourself for healing in the life of the one you have to be honest with.
  4. Paul would eventually reconcile with John Mark. Everyone is worth a second chance.  Give the one you are confronting the benefit of the doubt and trust God for a second chance and reconciliation.
  5. Proverbs says that the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18). Is what you have to say spoken in an effort to bring healing or destruction and judgement?  It takes courage in the desire to bring healing to another.
  6. Stop airing your opinions and move toward understanding (Proverbs 18:2 – “Fools have no interest in understanding, they only want to air their opinions.”). Once we speak what God has shown us, stop and listen to understand.
  7. Be the tongue that brings life and not death (Proverbs 18:21 – “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”) Grace-filled truth brings life.
Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Parents, Training, Women

Erasing Your Debt

If you would have been a member of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019, you would have graduated debt free. All 396 students had their college loans paid in full. How?

 

The commencement speaker that year was Robert Smith, a private equity executive worth $4.47 billion. During his speech, he shared that he was donating enough money ($40 million dollars) to eliminate every graduating student’s personal debt. Everyone was stunned to say the least.

 

In his speech he asked the class to pay it forward. I don’t know what that will look like, but I do know what it feels like to receive notice from the bank or mortgage company that my debt is paid in full.

 

Unfortunately, too many of us know more about indebtedness rather than a debt marked “Paid.” We deserve that new car or house upgrade, or for others, it was unexpected medical debt or some other emergency.

 

However, if we are faithful to make our monthly payments, even adding to the principle, we will realize our goal. And when we are faithful in our tithing and giving first, we will see God multiply our income so that we can eliminate debt even faster. I do not know how that works, but I can tell you in following those principles for 50 years of my life, they are proven.

 

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  (Eccl. 5:10)

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Training

How Is Your Root System?

The roots of a tree serve multiple functions. Tree roots absorb water and nutrients (minerals) for the tree. The tree root  system support the above ground portion of the tree. “Feeder roots” remain closer to the surface collecting water while lateral roots provide anchorage for the tree. Roots spread four to seven times the distance (radius) of the tree. While not all trees have what’s called a taproot, those that do are better held in storms and draw water and minerals deep within the soil, helping a tree in the driest of times. Thus, trees that experience infrequent watering will develop the deepest root system in their search for water, something that ultimately benefits the tree.

 

I once read that the mighty redwoods, even with shallow root systems, will grab hold of the roots of other trees and rocks underground in order to stabilize themselves. Many trees are dependent upon other trees around them for strength.

 

We love trees for their process of photosynthesis, i.e., turning carbon dioxide into carbohydrates.  We love their beauty and their shade. We enjoy the fruit that some trees produce and the oxygen and air-filtering they offer. Trees are vital to our environment, but tree roots are vital to the tree.

 

It is said that we discover the real us when pressure is applied. The longer the pressure, the more real we’ll become. We have a marvelous ability to fake it on the surface, but when the human element of pain comes and our roots are exposed, what has been held deep within us will surface.

 

How deep are your roots? The deeper they are the more life elements you can endure. In fact, not just endure but become stronger through the struggle and the trial. Tree roots can penetrate solid block walls and underground pipes. When your roots hit a wall, are they strong enough to find a way through?

 

Like the redwoods, are your roots grabbing hold of the stability of others around you? Do your roots sink deep into good soil for the proper nutrients to maintain a godly life?

 

 

…If the root is holy, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16b)

 

 

A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted. (Proverbs 12:3)

Standard