Since writing Raising Kids in a Screen-saturated World, I have had many conversations with parents about issues with children and smartphones. The conversations often include a level of regret from parents. They wish they would… More
Walking with someone in their struggle is not easy. If you are in the role of counselor, mentor, or friend and are asked to speak into someone’s life what can you do to prepare for those conversations?
Recently I was invited to speak at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation’s national conference on this very topic. I spent time looking at what the most important things you can focus on as a biblical counselor. In this talk I covered the following:
- Why Prepare?
- We are ministering the word and it deserves appropriate handling.
- We are ministering to people and they deserve appropriate handling.
- Why we don’t prepare?
- We don’t fully realize our need.
- We don’t fully realize our call.
- We are busy, distracted people.
- We have been successful without it.
- What does preparation look like?
- Focused time in the Word.
- Looking at who God is.
- Looking at who you are.
So much of our time in preparation might look very different than we think. In my talk I bring to light vital things that keep us ready to care for people. These are things that bring hope to us as caregivers as well as to those we care for. The teaching audio is available along with many other helpful messages at CCEF.org
Mention the word meditation and you will get differing understandings of what you are talking about. To say it in a conversation with a millennial may get you on the topic of eastern religious practices. To talk of it in a conversation with a yogi or health coach you might find discussions of inner peace and unity. To mention it in Christian circles could get a variety of responses from a questioning raised eyebrow to a affirming nod or “amen”.
As mentioned in my previous post about mindfulness, our culture has a heightened value on wellness that gives comprehensive and integrated attention to more than just physical well being. The understanding that our bodies are only a portion of our total health actually fits well with Scripture. Consider 3 John 1:2 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23 for example. We also know that a well-bodied person may be spiritually sick just as much as a person whose physical body is failing can be spiritually, mentally, and emotionally well.
Meditation is a part of holistic health and should be something every believer gives attention to. But just like mindfulness we must be clear as to what we are talking about.
Meditation is thinking. When a person meditates they are focusing their thoughts on a particular subject. Meditation is not the suppression of rational thought, it is the practice of focused thought. It is the drawing of the mind to a specific target. As believers that target is truth, ultimately the truth found in Scripture. The value of mediation is clear throughout Scripture. Psalm 119 gives many examples of the importance of this. Here are a few passages that are worth reading.
Psalm 119:15-16 points out that meditation on God’s precepts bring a person to consider God’s way and delight in them.
Psalm 119:23-24 tells how meditation on the decrees of God in the midst of conflict brings counsel and delight.
Psalm 119:99 says that meditation leads to great insight.
Psalm 119:148-149 shows how meditation on the promises of God give helpful purpose to sleepless nights leading to reminders of God’s love are protection.
We see in these verses the value of meditation. The focused fixing of your thoughts on truth is something Christians need to engage daily. Meditation can be practiced by taking a passage of Scripture and focusing your thinking on it through prayerful rehearsing of the words. It is the mental holding of truth while pushing out warring thoughts. It can be the singular focus on one word, the calling to mind rich promises, or the intentional focus on the manifold character of God. Meditation is focused thinking.
There are other places in the Bible that talk about mediation. But Psalm 1:1-3 is one of those places that highlights the connection between meditation and health.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The words there explain that daily meditation on Scripture is what brings blessing and produces a life that is strong and stable like a tree planted by streams of water. This passage alone ought to encourage us to make meditation a regular practice. As we meditate on God’s promises, there is no doubt that our inner spirit is helped but we can also see the value that meditations brings to our whole person. The focused attention on truth brings about well-being that encompasses all of who we are.
Books on grief are not sparse or hard to find. One quick search on Amazon will tell you that the subject takes up no small corner in the publishing world. In some ways this makes sense for a various reasons. One reason might simply be the reality that grief is not one size fits all. Grief comes in different forms and it impacts people uniquely. Another reason is probably because grief is something everyone faces eventually. You can’t get through this life without experiencing some kind of loss. But perhaps the main reason why it has been written on so much is because we need a lot of help getting through the agony of grief.
It is that last reason that makes me excited for a brand new book by my friend Bob Kelleman. Bob is no stranger to book writing. He has written many helpful resources for those seeking to better walk with people through the struggles we face in life. He is also no stranger to grief himself. His own experience has certainly contributed to how personal the book feels. Grief: Walking with Jesus brings a much needed approach to this prolific topic.
The book is a 31 day devotional that highlights the deepest levels of the compassion of Jesus for those suffering in heartache and loss. Each day provides hope to those beaten down with grief. The readings are filled with grace and comfort that will move the sorrow-filled heart toward our loving God.
What I appreciated most about this book was that the daily devotions are immediately practical. Opportunity is given to reflect and act on what was presented in the reading The reflections encourage the reader to move from grief-filled living to abundant life. All of this is done while being fully honest with the pain of loss.
The devotionals don’t side-step the heartache and simply provide optimistic platitudes. Bob helpfully acknowledges that “future hope does not obliterate our current pain.” He shows how Jesus’ own life did not deny this reality. Each page brings comforting truth in a way the motivates the mourner to cling to the Savior who is acquainted with grief and understands our sorrows.
It is the daily approach that I love so much about this book. You can read it every day or just pick it up and read the devotional for whatever day of the month you find it in your hands. I was personally ministered to in reading it and it is on the top of my list for recommendations to anyone struggling with grief and loss.
Grief: Walking with Jesus is available for pre-order from P&R Publishing. I highly recommend it. It is a book you will want for yourself and for anyone you know who is struggling with loss of any kind.
We live in a therapeutic age. One way we see this is in the heightened focus on inner health and wellness. More and more people are motivated toward living balanced and whole lives. This has had valuable outcomes. One of those outcomes is that it has led people to recognize the need to nourish their mental and spiritual condition. Conversations about the need for mindfulness, meditation, and reflection for internal health are common themes of workshops, news articles, blog posts, and tweets.
Secular modalities embolden people to find the source of healing from within where the journey for wholeness concludes in the self. The desire people have to focus attention on mental and emotional stability is understandable. However, the world’s approaches have an orientation for restoration that come through self-actualization. While the conclusion is flawed the pursuit of internal health is not.
Christians should pursue things that lead to human flourishing but the pursuit must have a different orientation than that of secular models. Christians realize that part of understanding true health must include internal wellness. Despite the reality that the body may have ailments a person can still thrive. This is especially true in regard to spiritual wellness. Internal steadiness comes from orienting our lives to our Creator not ourselves.
With that said, methods utilized by the secular world do not have to lead to the faulty conclusion reached by mainstream health and wellness coaches. Some of the methods, in fact, are tools Christians can and should use. This is because some of these methods are in line with both how God has created us and how God has called us to live well. Two of those tools are mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness mostly refers to a focus on the present moment in a way that acknowledges how the moment is impacting you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is the focusing of your thoughts on a reality in front of you or. Mindfulness simply notices and intentionally recognizes how things effect you.
Meditation is thinking. When a person meditates they are focusing their thoughts on a particular subject. It is likely that you were meditating the last time you sat at a long red light. The last time you had a decision to make you likely meditated on the subject before making a decision. You thought about all the possible consequences of the idea. Meditation is not the suppression of rational thought it is a practice of focused thought.
While secular definitions may vary, believers can consider mindfulness and meditation as simply noticing and thinking.
In effort to better understand how these two things can help believers we will look at each in turn with an emphasis on how believers can use these tools in a way that honors God and encourages spiritual health and well being.
For this blog we will look at mindfulness. Mindfulness that leads to spiritual health is an intentional directing of the mind toward truth and noticing how you are impacted by your focused thought.
We see an example of this in the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:21-22. In this passage we have a call to mindfulness.
“This I call to mind and therefore I have hope, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.”
Jeremiah is mentally invoking something specific; the steadfast love of the Lord and His never ending mercies. What do you think of when you call to mind God’s unfaltering love? When you consider His eternal mercy what do you think of? What do these thoughts do to you? For Jeremiah these thoughts caused a reaction: Hope. “This I call to mind therefore I have hope.” Mindfulness isn’t just focusing on a specific truth but it is noticing what this intentional thought does to your whole being. In this case it brings hope.
Prayer is another way mindfulness can be practiced. As you bring the burdens of your heart to the Lord, you call to mind who God is as you place your burden in His care. Your circumstance have not changed because you prayed but your focus has, and this change in focus has an impact on you. The next time you pray about something notice how you feel after. Are you less worried? Do you have peace? The Lord intended that we notice the peace that passes all understanding. Mindfulness is taking the time to notice the impact that spending time with the Lord has on you.
With this explanation of mindfulness it is easy to see why this practice would promote holistic well being. The value of noticing what happens to us can help us experience more fully what we might otherwise move quickly from.
Too often we are fast to move from moments with the Lord to the daily hustle and bustle. Mindfulness means you take time to notice what you gain from time in the Word or prayer. Take time to mindfully experience God’s presence. Allow this practice to nourish your soul toward spiritual health.
Have unwanted graphic texts, violent video games, pornography, cyber bullying, sexting, or screen addition been a concern for you as a parent raising children in this cyber age?
These name only a few of the concerning vices that our screen-saturated world has brought about. Parents can feel lost in the digital landscape where their children are the technological experts and mom and dad struggle just to keep up. But keeping your child screen-free is about as realistic as keeping them from outgrowing their clothes.
If it isn’t already your reality, eventually your child will one day have that tell-tail rectangular pattern lining their jean’s pocket. Most parents are dependent on their child having a phone of some type in order to keep up with one another in a full and fast pace life. Despite the discouraging engagement that a world of devices can bring, the question to ask is this; Are screens really the problem?
Is the solution to avoid giving your child technology? Most parents have already found that is an unrealistic option. Screens enter children’s lives at the earliest ages. Pediatrician’s offices have screens in their waiting room to help the children pass the time. Libraries rent colorful tablets that are preloaded with books and games for preschoolers. Schools begin using iPads at the elementary level and many students will be assigned a device at the start of a school year.
Parents fighting for screen-free space in their family can wrongly vilify the device as the problem. But if the screen is not the problem what is? In Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World, parents will find practical answers to this tension. Consider the following:
“We are not fighting against technology. Phones, tablets, laptops, etc., are amoral. They are tools that can be used for good or evil. Don’t over- spiritualize activities because they either include or exclude a screen. Certainly there are times where living a life pleasing to the Lord will mean the intentional absence of screens but keep in mind that the screen is not the enemy. The frailty of weak and wandering hearts turns a potentially helpful tool into an instrument of destruction. In a world so profoundly dependent on technology, the answer is not to label devices as the problem and avoid them. Rather, reflect on what technology is revealing about what is in your heart and your children’s heart.”
This approach deals with the deeper issue. Conversations must be about what is driving screen activity is more important. What is motivating what they consume, produce, and promote online is ultimately where the problem lies. The screen simply gives a platform for the heart.
Recognizing that technology or screens are not the root problem will create a avenue to see the potential positive use that screens can bring into your child’s world. Rather than focusing on the screen consider how to better understand what is drawing your child and begin to have conversations there.
As a marriage counselor, I have seen my share of troubled marriages. While each marital crisis is unique, one thing is universal for these couples- they did not get married to be miserable. They, like you, hoped to live happily ever after. They didn’t plan on one day looking at each other and questioning the decision of “‘till death do us part.” In many cases, the troubles these couples face predate the marriage. The marital disappointments connect to the couple’s interaction before they said, “I do.”
If you are engaged, there are important conversations the two of you should have about your current relationship. The topics below highlight key pitfalls that engaged couples can fall into that will lead to marital distress if not addressed. Building a strong marriage begins now. As you read, consider where your own relationship is and what may need to be addressed. Then share your thoughts with a trusted mentor or counselor.
Common premarital pitfalls include:
1. Expecting Your Fiancé or the Relationship to Carry Too Much
If your relationship has advanced to engagement it means you have shared significant moments together. You are likely a source of strength for each other. Your fiancé may know you better than anyone else. This is wonderful and probably a big reason why you want to spend the rest of your life together. However, if your fiancé or the relationship is your ultimate source of hope or help, it will be more than the person or relationship can bear. We are designed to be dependent, but that dependency must always be ultimately on the Lord (Ps. 62:5-8). Have you felt the weight of being the source of your fiancé’s emotional balance? Is your fiancé the only one you turn to when you need hope? Does the status of your relationship determine your happiness? Your relationship will buckle under this weight, but the Lord will not.
Couples must point each other to the Lord. You can pray together and share Scripture to encourage each other. These are wonderful habits, but you both need to personally be resting in Jesus and looking ultimately and regularly to Him. Jesus is the best savior and refuge for your fiancé; you are not able to carry that weight (Ps. 46:1). This truth must be the foundation on which you build your marriage.
2. Swimming at Only One End of the Conversational Pool
When a couple only occupies the shallow end of this pool, they ignore vital conversations. They have a lot of fun and often have great memories of exciting times. They talk about the things they enjoy doing or interests they both have. Life is fun, just like kids playing in the shallow end of the pool. But when things get difficult, talking is hard. They tend to get out of the pool when conversations go deep. They don’t have the relational stamina to swim in the deep end. It’s exhausting.
On the other end of this pool are the couples who tend to only swim in the deep end. Their conversations are often about vital areas of the relationship. They discuss their relationship, faith, family, and plans very deeply (and often late into the night). When they have conflict, they talk through all the areas of hurt or misunderstanding. Every aspect of their relationship has deep meaning, and they intend to find it. While this kind of relationship has more stamina to tread the waters of deep conversation, they can lack the enjoyment, playful interaction, and rest that the shallow end can bring. This too is exhausting.
Couples need both. You need to know how to enjoy the less deep end of life that finds joy and pleasure in the little blessings all around you (1 Tim. 6:7). You also need to have the relational stamina to go deep with one another and not drown (Prov. 20:5). Learning this balance now will greatly help your future marriage.
3. Getting Physical
Until you are married, sexual activity is stepping outside of God’s plan for your relationship. God designed sex with a purpose. Sex invites another person into the most vulnerable places of your life. It is an act of building trust. Sex is also one of the most significant ways couples experience betrayal. Sex can build or break trust in a relationship. Infidelity or adultery is when married couples take sex outside of God’s plan (Ex. 20:14). Fornication or sexual immorality is when unmarried couples take sex outside of God’s plan (1 Thess. 4:3-5). These activities are battering rams to the walls of trust in your relationship and future marriage. If you are engaging sexually now, you and your fiancé are saying, “I am willing to compromise on God’s plan of faithfulness for our relationship.” If you and your fiancé will compromise on faithfulness to God’s plan now, why should you trust that compromise in faithfulness won’t happen once you are married? God wants you to have sex. He just wants you to enjoy it the way He designed it (Heb. 13:4). His design protects your future marriage. His design also builds trust into your relationship.
As you read through these pitfalls, did you see some characteristics of your relationship? If so, it isn’t a deal-breaker but it should be a conversation starter. The Lord is a redeeming God. He is gracious and forgiving. Turn to Him for grace and consider talking with someone about these pitfalls. Seek out a wise mentor, a respected married couple, or a biblical counselor. Share this with them and begin the conversation. Having these conversations will help you now and in your future marriage.
This excellent resource brings compassionate wisdom to those facing trials and suffering. Author, David Powlison offers hope on every single page of this very readable book. Check out my review here and then go order it from Crossway today!
(This post was written and shared anonymously by of a mother of 5 children seeking to honor the Lord in this journey called parenting.)
Every once in a while, life surprises us by converting a seemingly mundane moment into a watershed. The rather mundane task of finding a book at the library to help my 15-year-old with a research paper led me to a book that breathed new hope into my parched soul. The title jumped out in bold letters, You Are Not Alone: Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids. Instinctively, my hand reached out and picked it up. I flipped it over to read: “You would go to the ends of the earth for your child. So, if your teenager or young adult is in the midst of crisis due to self-injury, mental illness, depression, bullying, or destructive choices, you probably feel broken, powerless, and isolated.” I couldn’t believe my eyes. Did this author know me? I had been in a hard battle for the past six months with two of my adult children. I had been reading, discussing, praying, clashing, and pleading with God for answers. There are answers here? In this book? From the public library? If you say so. . .
I was quite surprised to find this book for a number of reasons. Primarily, I was surprised that I had never heard of this title or its author, Dena Yohe, given my own personal connections to the biblical counseling world and Christian authorship in general. Secondly, it surprised me that it was being so predominately displayed in a public library. Though I checked it out, I actually put it aside for a few weeks thinking that it was probably not going to be very biblically sound since it was being endorsed in the public square. But God has a sense of humor and loves to challenge our faulty thinking!
I started the book with a cynical eye, convinced that it was going to be a weak offering of self-help platitudes and feel good warm fuzzies with little gospel power. I was wrong.
Dena has personally gone through parenting hell. She pulls no punches; she makes no excuses; she gives no empty promises. She is self-revealing, compassionate, and full of gospel hope.
After reading, You Are Not Alone, I was impacted most significantly by the reality that there is no perfect parent. You may be thinking, well, duh, I know that already. But hear me: we all start out wanting to be that perfect parent. We vowed to not make the mistakes we saw other parents make; we dedicated ourselves to do whatever it took to bring our kids up in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord. We believed that if I do this, this will be the result. I used to look at troubled kids and say, “I wonder what mistakes their parent made?” And foolishly concluded, “Well, that won’t happen to me!” What brought the message home loud and clear was the example of God, Himself. God is the perfect Parent. And look how we turned out. How does knowing this help me? God having troubled kids is part of a perfect plan. He is my children’s ultimate parent. I fail. He does not. Yet, even in my failure, His plan will prevail for His glory, my good, and my children’s good.
I was challenged to understand that we need to let our children fail—even miserably. They need to learn to turn to God in their failure. We need to stop trying to fix them, their situation, or outcome. We can still love them as they struggle, but it will look vastly different than what we may have envisioned. It will take God’s grace for us to accomplish this. One of the most encouraging things we can do for our child is to work on the issues in our own life that God reveals along the path of parenting, instead of concentrating on our rescue plan for the struggling child.
Dena offers practical suggestions, passages of scripture to cling to, and a plethora of other resources to help us, parents of troubled kids, navigate these uncharted waters. Equally helpful were reflections scattered throughout the book by her daughter, Renee, giving her unique perspective on being the troubled child. Even if you aren’t a parent of a child grappling with the difficulties of life, you can benefit from this book. Parents of troubled kids are some of the most misunderstood, marginalized, and isolated subgroups in our churches today. Could God be calling you to minister to them?
I am grateful that God, in His providence, had me find this hidden gem in the most unlikely of places for this, my most unexpected of journeys. I look forward to reading it again in the weeks to come. Will you join me?
I am a creature of habit. So are you. We breath in and out daily routines without even noticing. What do you do when you first wake up? Not what do you want to do, or what you think you should do, but what do you do? Think about it for a moment. That is your routine. What do you do tackle first in your work? How do you engage daily with your family, your co-wokers, and your classmates? That is your routine. Where does God fit in in your daily life? Prayer? Worship? Are these things reserved for Sunday or are there ways you engage day to day? That is your routine. There is usually nothing extraordinary about it. It is…well…routine.
As a new year dawns it is an appropriate time to reflect on what ordinary things you could be doing to make the new year extraordinary. If you are like me there are probably some long-time daily rituals that need evicting. Namely, those things that seem to steal away your time. The daily habits that hijack your best intentions. They are mindless routines that are not helping you live fully invested in the weightier matters. They may not be bad things but they are keeping you from engaging in the best things. And they are shaping you. In her brilliant book, The Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren explains further, “We move in patterns that we have set over time, day by day. These habits and practices shape our loves, our desires, and ultimately who we are and what we worship.”
As you enter in to a new year take some time to take a look at your ordinary life. Do an inventory. Are there things you need to get very serious about eliminating from your day in 2018? Look at the ordinary activities that, on the surface, look harmless and insignificant but minute by minute, day by day, they are keeping you from being faithful to the call you have on your life from the Lord. Are your routines helping or hindering you from engaging in eternal things. Do your daily rituals bring value to your relationships? How are your little habits impacting your walk with the Lord?
As 2017 ends, consider the ordinary in your day. Think about the things you may need to remove but also consider the things you may need to get more serious about including. Let this be the year you finish that book, the year you read through the Bible, or the year you pursue with passion a life fully committed to Jesus. Start with the ordinary. That is where you will find what is needed to make 2018 an extraordinary year.
Do you want to make 2018 an extraordinary year? Share this with someone close to you and tell them what you plan to eliminate from your daily routine and what you plan to include. Ask if they would keep you accountable, or even better, join you!
If you are like me you have lived long enough to have been through disappointment. We actually encounter disappointment often. The disappointment in missing out on an event with friends, or disappointment when your team loses a championship game, or perhaps the disappointment of not winning that latest gadget after standing in line for hours. As much as these can ruin our day this is not the disappointment I want to look at. The disappointment I am talking about is the disappointment that is coupled with grief and hurt. Broken friendships or relationships, a job loss, being let down by a leader you trusted, or a crisis of health that changes the way life looks are just a few ways deep disappointment can take us to a place of great discouragement and pain.
Facing moments of significant disappointment can be revealing. It can reveal what we believe about people, suffering, and even God.
Disappointment reveals what we believe about people.
When a relationship fails to be what we had hoped often there is significant hurt. The investment we gave can feel wasted or worse it can leave us feeling used. In moments like this it is easy to only think of the bad things the relationship brought. But in reality the fact that there is disappointment and even pain is because there was once happiness. Grief is there because there was once joy. Only if we avoid deep relationships can we possibly avoid some of the pain but we will certainly miss out on the joy as well.
We are called to be in relationships. But those relationships are not called to be life for us. They cannot bear the weight of that. We are to find life in Jesus alone. In resting our hopes in Him we are then able to enjoy relationships with people in ways that free them from bearing the responsibility of our happiness.
Disappointment reveals what we believe about suffering.
When life disappoints us our responses expose our understanding of suffering. If we are shocked that things are not going as we had hoped or if we feel utterly confused by the trials we face it may be that we need to expand our understanding of what it means to be called to suffer (1 Peter 2:21). Suffering should not be looked at only through a lens of punishment or opposition. Suffering is a refining agent that makes us more beautiful (1 Peter 1: 6-7). With this view of suffering we can know that the Lord will use disappointment to shape us into a more beautiful person if we allow it. It is good to remember that he is in the fire with us (Daniel 3:24-25). We do not suffer alone.
Disappointment reveals what we believe about God.
When we face disappointment it reveals what we believe about God. Where did you go the last time you were disappointed. Did you call your best friend? Did you call your parents? Did you isolate believing that you were the only one who would protect you from further disappointment? I have done some of those things. Calling on friends and family is not a bad idea (it can actually be helpful) but if that is the only place we go it could point to our belief about who God is in suffering. He someone to run to in trouble. Do you believe He has something for you in this disappointment? Do you believe He will help you? Do you believe that He is an “ever present help” in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1)?
So when life brings disappointment it is important to take the time to reflect on what it reveals. Certainly there is more it can reveal than what is written here but in looking at these things it can begin to reframe how we see things. In this place we are more likely to grow and become stronger in our faith and love toward God as we trust His purposes and follow His perfect plan for us when things don’t turn out how we hoped.