Tuesday, December 12, 2017

GRIEVING AT CHRISTMAS

Q. My husband and I both lost a parent this past year as well as several aunts and uncles. We’re still grieving these losses and our children and grandchildren are also very upset. We thought we would grieve for a week or two or even for six weeks and then go on with our lives. We are Christians and we know our family members are with God, but our sadness continues. Our whole family is dreading Christmas day. What can we do to get through Christmas this year?

A. Losses are keenly felt at Christmas. When a family suffers a number of losses in one year the pain is further exaggerated. The fact that loved ones are not there cannot be ignored. It's normal to feel sad under these circumstances. Your family cannot have a completely happy Christmas this year, no matter what you do.

Although you can't avoid your sadness there are some things you can do to help all of you make it through the holidays. 

1. Change your traditions. Ask yourself what you want to do to celebrate the holidays this year. Give yourself permission to eliminate old traditions and to create new ones. Tell your adult children what you’ve decided. They may object to doing things differently but stick to what will help you.

2. If your losses are very recent or are still very raw, a trip away can help ease you through the holidays this year. You might celebrate Christmas in a different climate, at a resort or at an out of town family member’s home. A change in location even in town will help you avoid painful memories.

3. Go shopping and do Christmas chores on your good days. Shopping from catalogs and on line is also an option.

4. Don't expect to avoid all your pain. On your bad days allow yourself to feel sad, to cry and to miss those you have lost. The loss of close family members is a major loss and grieving takes time.

5. Don't try to protect others from your sadness. If you allow yourself to feel sad and to express your sadness this will give permission to them to also share their feelings.

6. Talk about the family members you're missing. We don't need to protect other family members by avoiding mention of those who are gone. Rather than detracting from the Holiday spirit, talking about your missing family members can help you become closer to each other as well as helping all of you grieve your losses.
                
Say things like, "Mom would have loved seeing the way the tree looks this year."  Or, "Remember when Uncle Bob dressed up like Santa and fooled even you, Dad?"  Ask your children what their favorite memories are of their grandmother. This will help them grieve their loss. Sharing happy memories of the one lost can be fun although also sad. 
                
7. Give gifts or money to a charity in memory of loved ones. Children and grandchildren can help decorate graves at Christmas. A Christmas letter written to each person you’ve lost can also help family members grieve. 
                
8. Give everyone permission to have a happy Christmas day. Use humor to lighten things. Being happy or forgetting about lost loved ones some of the time won't mean you're being disloyal. 
         
“Blessed are those who morn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Blessings, Dottie


Thursday, December 7, 2017

HIDDEN CHRISTMAS

Here's a book review of a book you may want to read or give to someone this Christmas.

Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ 
by Timothy Keller

Hidden Christmas was a gift to me last year and I read it in January. I read it again in July and again this month! It is a profound book. In my review after the first reading I wrote, “I received this as a Christmas gift and thought of waiting to read it next December. I’m glad I didn't wait as it inspired me and deepened my faith and knowledge.” 

In Hidden Christmas Keller explores difficult Christmas scriptures that are seldom quoted. Each chapter sheds new light on words spoken to Joseph, to Mary, to the shepherds, and to others. In the final chapter on the Doctrine of Christmas Keller shows us that salvation is by grace alone. And the world celebrates Christmas yet doesn’t really understand it. Below is my favorite quote from the book:

“A God who was only holy would not have come down to us in Jesus Christ. He would have simply demanded that we pull ourselves together, that we be moral and holy enough to merit a relationship with him. A deity that was an all accepting ‘God of love’ would not have needed to come to earth either. This God of the modern imagination would have just over looked sin and evil and embraced us. Neither the God of moralism nor the God of relativism would have bothered with Christmas.

The biblical God, however, is infinitely holy, so our sin could not be shrugged off. It had to be dealt with. He is also infinitely loving. He knows we could never climb up to him, so he has come down to us.” 47

Hidden Christmas is a small but powerful book that I will reread at Christmas in years ahead.

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned...For to 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. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end." Isaiah " 9:2, 6-7


Blessings, Dottie



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

RITUALS & TRADITIONS STRENGTHEN FAMILIES

Q. My wife and I want to know how to create a strong family unit with our two children, ages three and five. We especially want to know how to make our celebration of the holidays a happy and meaningful time. Our families of origin were chaotic and holidays were often unhappy. What do you suggest?

A. Family rituals and family traditions are essential in creating a strong family unit. These provide a structure for family life that means security for children. Dr. Tony Campolo, a sociologist, says that “the higher the level of ritual, the higher the level of emotional stability in families.” 

The opposite is also true. Families with little or no ritual or tradition are destructive to the emotional health of children. These children lead fragmented, insecure lives. They have little direction; their family life has no form or structure. Rituals and traditions provide this. Rituals and traditions are also essential to children in developing and forming their faith.
         
There are numerous rituals and traditions which most families develop without realizing they’re doing so. Family bed time rituals are common and very important. If you haven’t begun these yet now is the time while your children are young. Each family works out their own rituals. It’s important to put children to bed in their own beds at the same time every night. Bedtime rituals often include a snack, brushing teeth, hugs and “Good night” to every member of the family, reading books and a bed time prayer. The ritual always follows the same format once it’s established.
         
The bedtime ritual calms children down after a busy day. The predictability is reassuring. Campolo says, “As fragmented as the day may have been, it’s all put back together at night with the ritual.”

Rituals also develop around meal times. Again, it helps a child’s sense of security as well as that of parents if meals are together and at the same times every day. A family prayer before each meal enhances the sense of unity in a family as well as encouraging a child’s faith in God. 

Holiday rituals and traditions are also important and can provide life long happy memories of family togetherness. Christmas rituals include decorating a Christmas tree, baking Christmas cookies, singing Christmas carols, hanging stockings, giving and receiving gifts, and a big turkey dinner with relatives. 
         
Each family develops their own unique form or “ritual” for carrying out these activities. If one person in the family bakes Christmas cookies alone, this is not a family ritual. A family ritual must include the children. Young children can help baking cookies and can help decorating the tree. Tasks may take longer but remember you’re building family stability.

Other family traditions can involve reading stories to your children about your faith and the meaning of each holiday. This can be done all year but the Christmas story is especially appealing to children. There are many Christmas books available at the library to help with this if your children need to see pictures in order to listen well.  The Christmas story straight from scripture can also be read. See Christmas script for families on this blog. See also Christmas Advent Wreath for families.
         
It’s traditional for many families to attend church events together at Christmas. This is a good time to become more involved in your church so you and your children will learn and experience the rituals and traditions of your faith together. In a world that seems chaotic the rituals of the church strengthen family life, comfort us and give life meaning. And most importantly, they teach us that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life!

“For unto you is born this day a Savior, Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11

Blessings, Dottie




Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Psalm 119 Meditations and Prayers Relating to the Law of God


This is the eleventh section of Psalm 119 – the longest chapter and the longest Psalm in the Bible. There are 8 different terms referring to Scripture used through out. These are: law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, word and ordinancesI’m writing my thoughts after each verse.

Yodh. 

73 Your hands made me and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.

Father, It’s astonishing to realize that your hands created me and shaped me. Breathe wisdom into me to understand you and your commandments.

74 May those who fear You see me and be glad,
Because I wait for Your word.

Those who fear you, my fellow Christians, will take heart and be glad
When they see me waiting on your Word.

75 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

Father, I know that your plans for me, your decisions about me are right,
And that the trials of my life give birth to my faithfulness.

76 O may Your loving kindness comfort me,
According to Your word to Your servant.

Father, Your loving kindness comforts and amazes me,
You live up to your promises of LOVE in your Word.

77 May Your compassion come to me that I may live,
For Your law is my delight.

Lord, fill me with your love and grace so I will be lively,
Your word delights me.

78 May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie;
But I shall meditate on Your precepts.

Let the prideful be shamed for they try to trick me with lies,
But I will cling to your word.

79 May those who fear You turn to me,
Even those who know Your testimonies.

Father, Let me be joined with those who fear you,
We who know your testimonies
 
80 May my heart be blameless in Your statutes,
So that I will not be ashamed.

Keep my heart blameless, strong in your word,
So I can be true to you always and without shame.

Blessings, Dottie


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

7. REASONS TO BELIEVE IN PRAYER

This is the seventh of a series of blog posts with my sister Betty Haynie about what we believe. Our thoughts may be helpful to those who don’t believe in God. Betty wrote down her beliefs in detail several years ago. I’ll post her thoughts monthly and add my thoughts and beliefs to each one. Our thoughts are intentionally brief on subjects that could fill volumes

WHY I BELIEVE IN PRAYER

By Betty Haynie

I believe that if God truly wants a relationship with us He must have provided a way to communicate since we cannot physically see Him. HE DID! It’s called “prayer.” I believe this is one of the most important ways in which we communicate with God regardless of our level of spiritual development. Just talk to Him as you would to any friend, for that is what He wants to be!!

It goes without saying that reading His word is a good way to learn about Him and find out what He wants for His people in general and for your self in particular. But equally or maybe even more important is prayer. 

The Bible tells us, to “Pray without ceasing.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17 I used to wonder how on earth I could do that. Well, as I have studied the Word and tried to “walk the walk” I realize that having God in my every thought, talking with Him and calling on Him to help me is praying without ceasing.

Prayer is not just asking God for our wish list of things, although there certainly is an element of that in prayer. Praising Him is prayer too!! Thanking Him for all He has already done for you is prayer. Asking Him what He wants you to do is prayer. Prayers don’t have to be said out loud. I “think” many of my prayers.

I talk to Him before I get up in the morning, praising Him for the new day He has given me and asking Him to help me with whatever He wants me to do for Him on any given day. I ask Him to help me do His will and to show me what that will is. I also pray for my loved ones and for those I know who are going through rough times -illness or sadness or whatever.

The difference I see between prayer and meditation is that prayer is a two-way conversation and meditation is just me alone, thinking on things. They might be spiritual things and that’s always a good thing to think on, but there doesn’t seem to be a real connection to God during meditation. I get the impression that the Buddhists, and others who meditate, do not expect an answer.

The “Lord’s Prayer” as people call it, is a format of one way people can pray. It certainly is not the only way. I don’t believe God cares so much what we say to Him as He cares that we talk to Him as much as possible.

Reading prayers that other people have written is another way to pray but has the potential to become more rhetoric than prayer from the heart. It is certainly better than nothing. I believe God wants our talking to Him to be truly from our hearts – and I believe He can tell the difference.

When we are finished talking with God we ask that all of what was just prayed be in Jesus’ name. Did you even wonder why we do that? Well, I believe it is because Jesus has told us that no one can get to the Father except through Him.

 “Jesus said to him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” John 14:6 (MKJV)

That sounds rather arrogant but when you know the whole story of why Jesus came and what He came to do for us it makes sense. In order to get to, talk to, reach, communicate, or visit God.....you MUST go through Jesus the Christ!!

I believe that if the god you are trying to reach is NOT the God of the Trinity, then you are wasting your time. No other God but God the creator, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost can answer prayer. Mohammad can’t, Buddha can’t, Mary Baker Eddy can’t, neither can St. Paul, St. Patrick, St. Jude, St. Nick or any of the other many Saints!! Not even Jesus’ disciples could answer prayer. Not Mary the Mother of Christ, or a Priest or Minister can answer prayer. God and God alone THROUGH the intercession of Jesus the Christ can and will hear our prayers.

This is not my OPINION - this is what the Bible says and I believe the Bible is the Word of God and God does not lie.

I’ve seen prayer work in the lives of many, many people - including my own - over and over and over!! Praise God!!

Blessings, Betty


WHY I BELIEVE IN PRAYER

By Dottie Parish

Prayer is essential to my life as a Christian. Prayer changes me, softens me, humbles me, and transforms me. It fills me with a sense of God’s presence. Prayer lifts my spirits and connects me with the God of the universe. How awesome is that! Jesus prayed at length and often very early in the morning. He also taught his disciples to pray.

Someone has suggested that the types of prayers can be summed up as “Help” “Thanks” and “Wow.” We can ask for anything in prayer = “Help.” We thank God for our blessings = Thanks! And we praise him for his amazing love and grace = “Wow!  I would add “Melt me, Mold me, Fill me, Use me.” And “Forgive me.”

Silent prayer is also special. My church at one point opened the sanctuary for silent prayer for an hour at noon on Fridays. Anyone could come in off the street to pray. I decided to attend weekly and it deepened my prayer life. I found that after about twenty minutes of silent prayer God revealed things I needed to change or let go of or ask forgiveness for. It took twenty minutes to get through to me! And what a freeing time! We need to take more time to quiet our busy lives and enter the presence of God.

I pray daily and often while still in bed. I attempt to pray without ceasing as Betty mentioned. See my blog about this. My husband and I also pray at each meal and at bed time together. Prayer between husband and wife is true intimacy and will benefit any marriage.

Prayer in our weekly worship service touches my heart and soul and helps me surrender to God and repent of failures or sins. It also provides uplifting times of praise to our God. Weekly prayer meetings in which we intercede as a group for the needs of missionaries, and others has ministered to me in deep ways. Here’s what Jesus says:

“If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven. For when two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:19-20

What a promise! This doesn’t mean we get what we want. God can answer with “No.” The Lord’s Prayer, as Betty mentioned, offers a format for prayer that is helpful. Throughout the bible there are many beautiful prayers that can teach us how to pray.

Writing this today makes me realize I need to spend more time in prayer. How about you? This Thanksgiving day let’s lift our hearts with thanks to God for all our blessings.

Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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."

Blessings, Dottie










Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Psych Info: THINKING STYLES

Q. My sister and I are total opposites yet we grew up in the same family. How can this be? When we get together it’s like trying to mix oil and water. I like to plan a head while she’s impulsive and spontaneous. I’m organized and she’s messy and disorganized. She says whatever she thinks while I’m cautious and quiet. She seems to have no sense about life - spending money she doesn’t have and never planning for the future.  

I love my sister and wish I understood her. Why are we so different? How can we learn to get along?

A. You and your sister have opposite thinking styles. Researchers in the 1970s discovered that the two sides of the brain have separate and distinct functions. The left side of the brain is where logical thinking, reasoning and organizing occurs. The right side of the brain is where emotions, visual images, and dreams take place. A left brained person is critical, rational, logical, disciplined, a thinker. A right brained person is a dreamer, emotional, free spirited, people oriented. 
   
In other words, we think in two very different ways. We think in words but we also think in pictures; we think verbally and non-verbally. The more we become aware of the two ways in which we think the more access we will have to both sides of our brain.
   
Those who are left brained and logical can develop the more neglected side their brain by being aware of the images in their minds. For example, if I ask you to describe your childhood home you will answer me in words but as you do so you will have a visual picture in your mind. We have visual images in our minds more often then most of us realize. Using this imaging ability consciously can help develop the creative side of our brain.
         
When you have difficulty getting a point across to your sister, use a word picture as this will speak to both sides of her brain at once. Tell her for example, “your financial situation reminds me of a boat with a hole in it. I’m afraid you’ll go down with the boat.”

Doug Hall, author of Jump Start Your Business Brain, says that logical left brained individuals are easier to work with on creative projects than radically right brained people. Left brained people can easily grasp the need to stretch their brains and become more creative. In contrast, right brained individuals can’t see their need to stretch and be more logical and practical. In other words it’s easier to get a left brained person to discover their right brain than it is to get a right brained person to find their logical left brain. 
   
Each brain style has its own strengths and weaknesses. As a left brained person your practical, cautious nature may keep you in a routine life style, preventing you from growing. You can make a logical decision to learn from your sister how to be more spontaneous, creative and free spirited in the way you approach life. 
   
It’s doubtful you can change your sister though your understanding of her may help you be less polarized. Show her this article and tell her your concerns about her impractical ways. If she’s interested in stretching her less developed left brain she can learn from you and she can also develop the left side of her brain by reading, keeping a journal and working cross word puzzles. 

The two of you can learn to work as a team with your sister thinking up the creative ideas and you bringing them down to practical reality. All this takes is appreciating and using your differences rather than fighting about them.

God loves variety. He created each person uniquely. We both grow when we understand our differences.

“As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man.”  Proverbs 27:17

Blessings, Dottie




Monday, November 6, 2017

SIMPLICITY OF ACTIVITY

Q. I feel pressured by time. The more pressured I feel the more stressed I become. My friends seem to be able to relax and enjoy life yet still keep their homes in order, feed their families, have a career and even do volunteer work. Why can’t I? How can I learn to not feel so pressured by time?

A. Many of your friends may feel as pressured as you do. Busyness and “hurry sickness” is epidemic in our culture. Studies show that the average American sleeps two and a half hours less and works ten hours more than those of fifty years ago. The many technological advances which we enjoy - computers, TVs, cell phones, DVDs, access to others via e-mail, vast amounts of information on the Internet, and an array of labor saving devices create more complexity in our lives than ever before. 
         
Even our cell phones take our time and attention. We are intrigued with the games, distracted by messages coming in and hooked on the latest Facebook post. All of these activities cut into family time, sleep time, restful time. Every new technology changes the way we live. 
         
We long for simplicity yet we enjoy the luxuries we have. As a result we live in constant overdrive. We pride ourselves on being able to “multi-task” - which means we try to do two or three things at once. Our culture has convinced us that “down time” is wasted. Most disturbingly, when we feel such time pressure we may see our family members and friends as obstacles that slow us down rather than as the loves of our life; the people who care for us and will always be there for us. Our hurried world glorifies productivity and even workaholism as the price of achieving our ambitions. As a result our relationships suffer and our health and well being suffer.
         
So what is the answer? How can you solve your problem of time pressure and hurry sickness? We all need to examine our priorities and decide what’s really important in life. We need to realize we can’t do everything. We need to set boundaries on our time based on our priorities.
         
We should be able to work hard and yet still have time to play with our children, eat meals as a family, take naps, read a book, get enough sleep. We need to trim our schedules to make time for rest and relaxation. We can turn off our phones during dinner - or even beyond! We can reduce the number of activities in which we and our children are involved. We can learn to say no.
         
Our attitudes, beliefs and thoughts can contribute to feeling pressured by time. Are your expectations of yourself too ambitious? Pare them down. Don’t rush, breath deeply, relax. Think positively and realistically about what you can accomplish. Let go of perfectionistic expectations. 
         
Carve out some alone time for prayer. Use routine activities, such as your morning shower, a coffee break or a lunch hour alone as times to pray rather than as times to worry. Take your mind off work and express gratitude for the blessings in your life. Exercise times can also be used for times of solitude and relaxation. 
         
Take time off. Purposely waste time. Enjoy your weekends. Take vacations. Hurrying through each day is less rewarding than slowing down and accomplishing less. You will feel better, your family will be happier and your immune system will improve. 
         
For more ideas on how to simplify your activities check out one or two of these books: When the Game is Over It All GoesBack in the Box by John Ortberg, Simplify Your Life byH. Norman Wright, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, and Margins by Richard A. Swenson. 

Blessings, Dottie

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 NLT