Friday, December 28, 2012

KEEPING NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS


Q.  Each New Year's Eve I make a number of New Year’s resolutions. No matter how hard I try, I only keep them for a few weeks. There are many things I would like to change about myself and my life but I don’t seem to be able to make any lasting changes. Why is it so hard to keep resolutions? How can I reach my goals?

A.  The beginning of a New Year is a good time to focus on setting priorities for our lives. The end of one year and the beginning of another makes us pause and think about the direction of our life and our relationships. In order to make New Year resolutions that you will keep do the following:
 
1.  Discover your essential priorities. We all have priorities. What are yours? Too often we don’t think about our priorities. We allow circumstances or other people in our lives to push us in one direction or another.  What do you really want in life? A high priority has first claim on our time, energy and resources. We will do anything even sacrifice other needs or interests, in order to achieve a high priority.

For Christians our highest priority is glorifying God and his church. Our next priorities are our closest relationships – spouse, children, parents, in that order. Our work is a priority of necessity, but comes after God and family. Our health is also a priority. Our New Year resolutions will flow from these high priorities. Pray about God’s will for the coming year. He will guide you in choosing resolutions and keeping them.
           
Authentic priorities are those things we value, love, believe in, and want for ourselves and others. We are more likely to keep a resolution that is consistent with our values, interests, and beliefs. We have enthusiasm, energy and motivation to work for the things we love, the things we enjoy and the things we truly want. Don’t make resolutions you think you “should” make. Make resolutions you want to make. Make resolutions you know are God’s will for you.
           
2. Raise your expectations of yourself. If you set a New Year resolution that you don’t really believe you can achieve, then you won’t reach it. Watch out for “I can’t” messages you give yourself. Look at the obstacles to your goal as a challenge. In order to change we must stretch and grow. Trust God to help you with this.
           
3. Focus on the positive and put your resolutions in writing. Make certain that you word your resolutions specifically and positively. For example, “I want to stop procrastinating” would be better worded, “I will do things on time.” Writing down a goal convinces the rebellious or self-sabotaging parts of our personality that we really mean business.

4.  Be willing to take risks. Be willing to go through pain, struggle, and uncertainty.  We resist change because it feels uncomfortable - even a change for the better.  Our old ruts are more familiar. Change can bring some anxiety. And change involves effort. Often we fail at our resolutions because we are lazy or fearful. Be intentional and determined.
           
5. Take small steps toward each goal and note your progress weekly or at least monthly. Celebrate every step you take toward keeping your resolutions and praise God for these. This will reinforce your determination and increase your confidence.

I hope these ideas help you set and keep your New Year resolutions this year.

I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk; I will counsel you, keeping my eye on you.”  Psalm 32:8 NIV

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Deleting Worship


No Worship? 
Should worship be deleted the last Sunday or the last two Sundays of the year? Should worship be cancelled because Christmas crowds everyone’s schedules? Many churches last year deleted worship on Christmas day and some are deleting worship the last weekend or two of the year. There are arguments in support of this. 

Christmas is such a busy season. Shopping, planning, cooking, parties and special music events lead up to Christmas. The staff works hard and long through out the holidays. Church members are tired and need time off. Everyone needs a rest, so why not cancel church?

Christians in countries where the church is persecuted would wonder about this. Christians in China, India, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia risk their lives to worship. They would not understand our churches canceling worship. Why would a church that is able to worship in freedom delete worship? Why would they do this on one of the most significant Holy days? Does this keep Christ in Christmas? 

Yet in recent years churches in the USA have cancelled church in order to rest from busy holiday events and preparations and to enjoy lavish family gatherings. Should the secular, economy boosting aspects of Christmas take precedence over the true and holy meaning of the day?  

Sunday is a day of rest set aside to gather as a church. The Sabbath is to be kept Holy. We must spend time in worship as a church every Sunday. To cancel this is unthinkable.

What about "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy?" (Ex. 20:8) What about "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing?" (Heb. 10:25a)

What about New Year's Day? From 2006 on some churches virtually did away with worship on the last Sunday of the year. Similar plans are in place for this year. The end of the year and the beginning of a new year is a special time to reflect on the past and make resolutions for the future. It's a time to worship our Holy God with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  


Let's find a church that is open and worship Christ the Lord.

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Charlie Brown Christmas


Several years ago our church worship morphed from blended traditional to out right contemporary music and worship. We adapted as best we could most of the time. We sang the choruses, listened to the praise team, focused on the repetitive words, praising God. And an occasional hymn or hymn phrase fed our souls. "Amazing Grace..."

This was different at Christmas. Contemporary worship at Christmas left even more to be desired. We experienced two Christmas seasons hearing no traditional Christmas carols, no classical Christmas music, and little Christmas Scripture. Instead we were "entertained" by contemporary music.  

Adapting to seekers is a common strategy in today's churches. This seems misguided at Christmas. Many seekers grew up in church. Most everyone holds these Christmas songs, music and Scripture secreted in the inner recesses of their heart, mind and soul. These songs, music and Scripture tell the amazing story of the birth of Christ. They tell the Reason for the season. God came to earth as a babe in a manger. He came down to us to show us who He is and to redeem us. God intersected history in person. Why are churches deleting Christmas carols that tell about this marvelous event?     
   
"O Come, All Ye Faithful . . ." O Little Town of Bethlehem. . ." "Silent Night, Holy Night. . ." Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. . ." "Joy to the World. . ." All missing!

We were unbelievers for years, but we enjoyed Christmas carols playing in stores as we shopped or on the radio as we traveled. We also watched Christmas TV programs, especially Charlie Brown's Christmas. In this well known story Charlie Brown is depressed. He visits Lucy's psychiatric booth and she recommends he get involved in a nativity play. Twists and turns in the plot include Snoopy's elaborate decoration of his dog house (commercialization of Christmas by a dog) and the other children attempting to modernize the play (messing with tradition). 

Charlie Brown searches for a Christmas tree determined to focus on the traditional side of the story. The children laugh at the scrawny tree he finds, throwing Charlie Brown back into despair about discovering the real meaning of Christmas. Linus then takes center stage and quotes the second chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, verses 8 through 14 from the King James Version.

"'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'"

Pastors and Churches: Take a lesson from Charlie Brown. Keep the Christmas worship traditional. Sing the carols. Read the Christmas scripture. As Linus said,

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
Christmas Blessings, Dottie


Thursday, December 13, 2012

DON’T STORE UP TREASURES ON EARTH


Matt. 6:19-24 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also....You cannot serve both God & Money."


Father,
I want my heart to be totally focused on you and your Kingdom. Help me let go of “things” I don’t need and guide me in the “things” I buy. Help me simplify my life but also keep my appearance and our home attractive for your glory. Help me give freely from the abundance you have provided, but also save enough so we aren’t a burden to others in the future. My heart belongs to you.
           
Father, this scripture is convicting especially at Christmas when shopping preoccupies our time. Our culture has made your Son’s birthday a celebration of materialism. Forgive us all for this. Help us focus on the Reason for the season and guide our giving. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus on the first Christmas. Gifts show love and appreciation and gifts involve generosity – a virtue you prize. Help us celebrate this Holy day in a way that honors and celebrates You and also expresses deep love for our family and friends. 

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

CONNECTING WITH FAMILY AT CHRISTMAS


Q. Throughout the Christmas holidays we visit relatives on both sides of our family. How can we make this a meaningful time rather than one of duty, tension or superficial talk? How can we connect meaningfully with our family at Christmas?

A. The holidays are an excellent time to enjoy and deepen family relationships – to connect with family members. Many of us will see extended family members we don’t see during the rest of the year. We reconnect with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins from our family and our spouse’s family. 

In order to change or deepen family connections, be intentional about it. Make a conscious decision to connect with relatives in a new way. This may feel risky but can be very rewarding. Include your spouse and children in your plans.  Refresh everyone’s memory about the relatives you will visit, including their names and how you’re related. When relatives are seen infrequently children often don’t remember or understand who they are.
           
To help your children connect with family members prepare them ahead of time. Describe to your children the background of family relationships and some of the unique experiences of your relatives. Tell your children, for instance, about why Aunt Mary is a special aunt to you or how Uncle Harry injured his leg in the service. This will help your children know your family members and will make seeing these relatives more interesting to them. 

Encourage each child to think of something they want to tell about themselves to Aunt Mary or Grandpa Smith or to all the relatives. Think also about what you want to communicate to specific family members. There may be someone who holds hard feelings against you. Think of what you might say to bridge the rift between you. 
           
One way to connect with family members more deeply is to show caring by greeting each relative with warmth and hugs. Be affectionate even if your family is not. One relative being affectionate gives permission to others to connect in this way. Smiles and positive comments also help.
           
Make use of individual time with family members. Play a new game with a nephew or niece. Help Grandmother in the kitchen or go for a walk with Uncle Charlie. Individual time can be difficult in a large family group at Christmas, but even a few minutes of individual time will help you connect.
           
If you’re hosting Christmas you can suggest at dinner that each person tell about the highlight of their year or about their happiest or most meaningful experience in 2012. This takes the conversation off of superficial chatter and will make it interesting for young and old alike and it certainly will enhance family connections.

Don’t expect the holiday to be perfect. Just stay focused on what is good about the family relationships and give of yourself lovingly to enjoying each person. I hope these ideas help your family connect in new ways.

During this season of Love and Peace let’s all break down the barriers that distance us or even alienate us from each other. Let’s reach out with love to all.

Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.”
Romans 12:10 NLT 

Blessings, Dottie

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hurt by Church

Have you been wounded by a church?


Barna reports that millions of unchurched adults are Christians who were hurt by church. They have decided not to look for another church because of their prior painful experiences with a church, a pastor or people in the church. Many Christians, including some of my relatives, have left church and say they are too hurt to try to find another church.

My experiences in leaving two churches were painful, but I didn't carry deep wounds. My faith had grown strong enough to anchor me, and many positive experiences in church gave me perspective. I drifted away from church once and knew this was not the answer. Many who leave church carry wounds they cannot forget. Their reluctance to find another church is understandable. They may need professional help, but they must also look for another church. Lone Ranger Christians lose their spark. Their growth in Christ is stalled without a church. They may even lose their faith as I did.

Unfortunately there are pastors and church leaders who demean, manipulate, seduce or even sexually abuse a member. These hurts are deep and real, even traumatic. Expectations attached to the role of pastor are shattered; trust is gone. Those leaving a church for horrendous reasons will need to seek professional counseling to heal the damage done. Be sure to see a Christian counselor familiar with your denomination or church.

Timothy Keller, in his book, The Reason for God, says "I realize that so many people's main problem with Christianity has far more to do with the church than with Jesus. They don't want to be told that to become a Christian and live a Christian life they need to find a church they can thrive in. They've had too many bad experiences with churches....I realize how risky it is to tell my readers that they should seek out a church. I don't do it lightly, and I urge them to do it with the utmost care. But there is no alternative. You can't live the Christian life without a band of Christian friends, without a family of believers in which you find a place."

Some who leave church and don't return have unrealistic expectations of church. They don't realize that Christians are sinners. We can be mean, petty, and unkind; you name it. Many people leave church because they view other members as hypocrites. They fail to realize that we are all works in progress. We can "talk the talk" better than we can "walk the walk." Who can't?

Close connections with others are fraught with problems. Look at family problems, marital issues, and extended family conflicts. Relationships are difficult. But we learn in relationships and we need them. The alternative is to be alone, uninvolved. Churches demonstrate greater love and acceptance than most groups even though the church spans all generations and all economic levels. Also, God has covered our sins and accepted us without any merit of our own. We are told by Jesus to love and accept others.

So, leavers, I urge you to look for another church. Do so carefully and prayerfully.There are many caring and safe churches.  

Pastors and elders, please be alert to visitors who have been deeply hurt by a church, but have decided to follow Keller's admonition (and mine) and look for another church. Handle them with loving care.

Blessings, Dottie


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Grateful Hearts


Q.  I grew up in a very poor family and as a result I learned to be grateful for even the bare necessities of life. I've been able to give my children more than I had, but they seem to take everything for granted. Even though they're still young they're very materialistic and greedy. How can I teach my children to be grateful?



Teaching Children to be Grateful
We need to encourage gratitude in our land of plenty. Most of us forget how fortunate we are. A grateful attitude is good for our health. Cynicism, the opposite, is associated with disease. Gratitude is an inner feeling; it cannot be taught directly. It springs up, unbidden, within our hearts. However, there are many things we can do to encourage this feeling or attitude to flourish in the hearts of our children.
           
1. Be appreciative of every gift your children give you. Children often give gifts that are unnoticed. The dandelions picked and brought to Mom are a gift. The drawing proudly brought home from school is a gift. Parents who recognize these gifts will display them proudly and thank the giver. When we are too busy to notice their gifts we discourage a budding giver. If we criticize the gift because it isn't perfect we squelch the giver further.
           
2. Give praise to your children. Tell them specifically what unique and individual traits you appreciate about them; what you are grateful for in them. "I'm so glad you are friendly with others."  "I love the way you smile." Your gratitude is a model which teaches them to also be appreciative.
           
3. Share your own gratitude with your children. Let your children see you wonder at the beauties of nature and the joys of human relationships. "My what a beautiful day this is!"  "Doesn't this rose look and smell wonderful?" "Isn't Grandma a loving person?" Too often, all they hear us talk about are our problems in life, our aches and pains, or our criticisms.
           
4. Involve your children in a project helping others. They can contribute good used toys or clothing or part of an allowance to help a family in need at Christmas. Our gratitude is often sparked in contrast to those less fortunate.
           
5. Pray with your children. When your children say their prayers with you at night encourage them to think about what they’re thankful for each day. Accept whatever thanks they express, without criticism. Giving thanks at meals also teaches children to be grateful.
           
6. Develop thanksgiving rituals at meals, especially holidays. At Thanksgiving dinner you might have each member of the family name three things they are thankful for. You can also read thanksgiving messages in the Psalms.

7, Gratitude demands a receiver. Ultimately our gratitude is to God who gave us life and our world. Gratitude to God is modeled for our children every week in every church. If you want to teach your children gratitude, be active in your faith.

All of us need to remind ourselves to be thankful. In the hustle and bustle of "getting ahead" or even just "getting by" we forget to appreciate and be thankful for the things that mean the most to us; the things that give us meaning and purpose in life.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever.” Psalm 106:1

Blessings, Dottie



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Over Reactions in Marriage


Q.  I often lash out at my husband. I have days in which I'm cross, moody or irritable. My husband stays on an even keel all the time. When he’s angry he gets quiet and withdraws from me. I hate myself for being the bad guy. What is the cause of my over reaction? How can I change?

Many of us with "short fuses" experience overwhelming anger with only minor provocation. Feeling frustrated, irritable and out of sorts on a daily basis suggests a habit of over reacting. We need to recognize our over reactions and realize these are irrational responses. By definition, emotions are not rational. We need our emotions, but as adults we must learn to control them. Lashing out at others harms relationships deeply.
                       
Over Reactors Raise a Stink
Someone has said there are two ways we handle our vulnerability: the Skunk Method and the Turtle Method. When a skunk gets in trouble he lets out a terrible odor which causes other animals to run for cover. The skunk can then safely walk away. The turtle, when threatened simply withdraws into his shell.
           
Lashing out and moodiness might be called the Skunk Method. “Skunks” yell, blame and are obnoxious toward those they love. Just like the skunk, they raise a stink. Others need not feel superior, however, as they handle their vulnerability with the Turtle Method— pulling in their head and withdrawing. “Turtles” will sulk in silence and feel sorry for themselves. Often they remain disconnected from others longer than the “skunk” who gets things off his chest.
           
"Skunks" can never become "turtles" and vice versa but often they marry one another.  Things could be worse. When two "skunks" marry they are constantly battling and when two "turtles" marry their relationship is characterized by too much distance and lack of connection. To modify your "skunk" responses, first notice when you begin to lash out or feel irritable. Next write down each over reaction and think about what triggers these. Ask yourself, whether each issue deserved such anger. Think about how you can modify your reaction in the next similar situation. Studying your "skunk" responses will help you gradually modify your behavior. Talk with your husband about this and let him know you are sorry about your over reactions. Be as open as you can with your husband, taking a risk to be more vulnerable than usual.  
           
Your temperament is naturally “hot” while your husband’s is naturally “cold.” Accept these differences and accept yourself even though you have these "skunk" characteristics. Counseling can help you control your over reactions. Marital counseling with your "turtle" spouse and educational marriage groups such as The Third Option, Marriage Enrichment, and Weekend to Remember will also help.

Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper make mistakes. Proverbs 14:29 NLT

Blessings, Dottie










Thursday, November 8, 2012

Deciding to Leave Your Church

 My book, Changing Churches: A View From the Pew has two focuses: 
       1. Church switchers and their difficult journey
2. Changes in churches.                      
Most readers have understood the focus on "church switchers" from the title, but this is only half the story. Changing Churches also describes the church today.

For decades the church did not change. You've heard the saying, "If you don't like the weather---wait a minute." In many churches now we can safely say "If you don't like the music, or the worship service or the preaching---wait a minute."  In many churches changes are occurring faster than you can say "Amen." We need to understand the implications of changes in churches so we can guard the truth that has been entrusted to us. We'll talk about change in a later blog.

In mid October I wrote a post on The Grieving Process and Leaving a Church. Go back to that if you missed it or some may want to reread it. Grieving and leaving is difficult. This week our topic is leaving.

Deciding to Leave Your Church
The decision to leave your church should be made prayerfully and carefully, not lightly or quickly. Pray about it and talk with trusted friends and pastors about it. When we were uncertain about leaving "Main Street Church," I attended an ecumenical prayer group held in another church. As I came to trust the confidentiality in the group I confided my struggle to them. This caring and supportive group rarely gave advice. In this instance they were unanimous and clear. "Don't leave your church unless God tells you to do so."

Membership in a church should not be dismissed casually. It's not the same as choosing to leave a health club or Rotary. We may not realize it, but God places us in our local church. And we commit ourselves to our family of God. Breaking that commitment should not be done simply because we're dissatisfied.

Here's what John Calvin says: "The Lord esteems the communion of his Church so highly that he counts as traitor and apostate from Christianity anyone who arrogantly leaves any Christian society, provided it cherishes the true ministry of the Word and sacraments." Changing churches for less than biblical reasons is a serious matter. 

Valid Reasons to Leave
There are valid reasons to leave a church. If your pastor is a "false teacher," God's Word supports leaving. Scripture tells us to flee, to run away from, false teaching. Other legitimate reasons to leave are: The teaching is not biblical, the leaders are tolerating sin, or God is calling you to help plant a church or calling you to leadership in another church. Even when some of these reasons fit your situation - prayerfully make your decision. Let God guide you.

Managing the Leaving Process
In 1999 my husband and I struggled about whether to leave our beloved church. Again in 2008 we grappled with leaving another dear church. Both times I found journaling invaluable. Writing about the difficulties helped me process them. Talking it over with my husband and with my prayer partner also helped. Of course I prayed about it daily, if not hourly.

I advise leavers not to talk about your issues or struggles in a church class or group in order to avoid spreading gossip or sowing discontent. Do talk with your pastor and leaders and let them know your concerns. Speak the truth in love, with grace, not with anger or blame.

Para church groups and events helped us during the leaving process. For example, when too upset to enter into worship at our own church, we were able to worship in a meaningful way at a monthly Emmaus meeting. We also joined Bible studies and a prayer group elsewhere. Leaving is difficult and assimilation into a new church takes time. Once you've decided to leave, begin looking prayerfully for your new church.

We're not supposed to give up meeting together.

On this rock I will build my church. Matt. 16:18

Blessings, Dottie

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fasting


FAST 
Matt. 6:16-18When you fast do not look somber as the hypocrites do....But when you fast...wash your face so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting.”                     
Matt 6: 16-18 When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God do not make a production of it.... Act normal.” The Message

FAST 
Father,
It’s interesting to think and pray about this Scripture on the heels of trick or treat candy and leading to our bountiful feasts at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most of us in the USA are over-fed. Help us understand Your will and way and live it by eating right and some times fasting. So many people in the world are starving. We can certainly eat less – cut out snacks or fast from dinner to breakfast.

I understand You are warning us again to not to be like the hypocrites, making a show of our “piety”. As the Message puts it – “Do not make a production of it.” We are to fast privately – rather than broadcasting it to others or making it some kind of contest.

For some (including me) it is difficult for health reasons to fast from food. You called me to do this several years ago during Lent and it was very meaningful. Another year during Lent I fasted from gossip and criticism (as much as possible) and this brought me closer to You.

From the Message version I understand the point of fasting is so we will spend more time in Your presence. Many of us need to fast from technology, and spend more time connecting with You. Can we spare an hour a day for prayer and reading your Word? Twenty minutes? Help us Lord. 

Blessings, Dottie


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Can a violent marriage change?


Violence is always destructive and signals major problems. Both partners may be out of control. Wild animals fight when attacked. Children fight with each other. Most adults do not use physical means to settle differences. We know how to control our anger. We know how to talk about problems. And we know how to walk away from conflict.
           
Seek Professional Help
Couples who are violent with each other have usually come from homes where they witnessed violence or where they were physically abused. The violence in their marriage is a re-creation of scenes from the past; an acting out of their frightened, hurt, confused and angry feelings from the past. When this happens in a marriage the couple are at risk of doing serious harm to each other. The violence must stop. They need treatment to learn how to do this and to resolve the underlying problems causing their violence. This will take time and will not be easy. Treatment can also help them discover the positives in their relationship, the love and caring that keeps them together.

Changes You Can Make
There are also several things couples can do on their own to stop the violence. These are not a substitute for treatment. They will only facilitate lasting change in connection with professional help.

Learn About Your Anger
Understanding your anger can help you control it. To learn about your anger write out your answers to these questions individually: 
             1. How do you define anger?
             2. What did you learn about anger as a child?
             3. How did you express anger as a child?
             4. What was your most recent anger experience?
             5. What was the angriest moment in your life?
             6. How do you react to anger?
             7. What positive ways do you use to get rid of anger?
             8. What do you enjoy or like about anger?
             9. How do you "pick a fight?"
            10. What do you do that triggers your partner's anger?

Read and study The Anger Workbook by Dr. Les Carter and Dr. Frank Minirth and honestly face the truth about your own violent anger.
           
Make Your Home Safe
Couples who are violent with each other must make their environment safe. To do this, get rid of all weapons. They might even place the kitchen knives in a locked drawer. They will need to make a pact to never become violent again. They will need to plan how they will handle anger when it arises.

One way to do this is to list the behaviors that are acceptable during a disagreement and those that are not acceptable. For example, acceptable behaviors might be: describing why you're angry, asking for different behavior, raising your voice, slamming doors, leaving briefly to calm oneself down.
           
Unacceptable behaviors would include any physical attack (hitting, biting, scratching), destroying possessions, threatening divorce, threatening violence.
           
If drinking accompanies the violence this issue will also need to be addressed. Couples with a violence problem need to find an experienced counselor and commit themselves to continue in treatment weekly for at least three months.

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11 NIV

Blessings, Dottie



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Leaving a Church - The Grieving Process



The Grieving Process and Leaving a Church
Leaving a church can be as painful as the death of a loved one or as difficult as a divorce. Grieving is a painful process, it takes time, and moves through stages or steps. The loss of a close friend or relative causes us to weep, mourn, struggle, and be acutely depressed. This is also true for leaving (losing) a church. Leaving a beloved church can be compared to losing your entire family. The leaver loses precious friends - brothers and sisters in Christ. The people we worship with, pray with, study with, and serve with, are not easily left or easily forgotten. The pain can be excruciating.

Active and devout Christians don't leave their home church on a whim. Leaving is not done lightly, though it may seem that way to others. Often the leaver suffers in silence for a long time before revealing he/she is struggling, upset and hurting - or even angry.

The process of leaving follows the five stages of grief, though not necessarily in the same order and each stage can be revisited. The process takes time. The stages are:

1.Denial - "This can't be happening." In this stage the leaver denies what is happening. He or she smiles and ignores troubling issues. The leaver disregards negative thoughts and events; avoids facing feelings of disappointment or even confusion.

2. Anger - "I'm angry about what's happened to cause this." In this stage feelings of anger and critical thoughts erupt. The leaver complains and expresses anger to close friends and family members and to God.

3. Bargaining - "I won't have to leave if....?" In this stage the leaver hopes for things to change, for the pastor to leave, or for things to change for the better; he/she yearns for any way to delay or prevent the inevitable loss.

4. Depression - Tearful laments define this stage. Leavers experience low energy, sadness, even hopelessness. Leaving, though scary, may be a relief at this point. But depression continues.

5. Acceptance - Eventually those who leave accept the loss. Leavers move on to another church and enter a new church family. Many realize later that their painful loss has led to personal growth.

For leavers who are reading this, my prayers go out to you. Read and reread the stages of grief above. It helps to recognize the steps and to expect chaotic feelings and thoughts in the midst of this. It also helps to journal about your thoughts and feelings. And most of all it helps to lean on God. Talk to him, read his Word, and continue to trust him no matter how bad you feel. And begin looking for another church. We are not supposed to give up meeting together. (Hebrews 10:25)

For potential leavers, my prayers are with you also. Hang on for the next newsletter before deciding. Hang on until God clearly directs you, also.

For pastors and elders, please recognize the painful road "church switchers" are traveling. Pray for them, listen to them, and love them-whether they are coming or going.

To read about my own journey and to learn more about changing churches, look on Amazon for Changing Churches: A View from the Pew.

 "On this rock I will build my church." Matt. 16:18

Blessings, Dottie

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Praying the Lord's Prayer


Matt. 6:9 “Pray like this:
 Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Give us our food for today, and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” NLT

Luke 11:2    “This is how you should pray:
 “Father, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us our food day by day. And forgive our sins – just as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation”. NLT

Father,
I want to consciously model my praying after the Lord’s prayer.  In thinking about how to do this I ran across a chart in Praying the Scriptures by Evan B. Howard, adapted below.  As you know I’ve already started using this and it has helped me remember to be specific and pray each type of prayer.

Verse                                     How to Pray                         Type of Prayer
Holy is your name                  Praising God for his              Worship, Thanksgiving
                                                holiness and thanking
                                                him for his grace
Your Kingdom come             Giving God total control         Submission, Surrender
Give our daily bread               Asking God to meet               Petition, Intercession 
                                                today’s needs
Forgive our sins                     Admitting sin to God              Confession
as we forgive all                     asking forgiveness.
                                                Telling God how you
                                                have been sinned against
                                                 and forgiving those who
                                                have hurt you.
Protect us from                      Asking for strength over         Protection, Deliverance             temptation and evil                 areas of evil which may
                                                tempt you and protection
                                                from Satan.   
.
Worship & Adoration
Father,
I thank you and praise you! You are an awesome God. You are the King of Kings, the Creator, my Lord and Savior. You are The Truth. You are Love. Your grace is amazing.

Submission/Surrender
Father,
I give you total control over my life, as much as I consciously can. Help me not hold back any thing from you or take back control. I can only do this with the power of your Spirit. Keep showing me when or where I fail to do this.

Petition/Intercession
Lord,
Today I need your presence with me and your guidance. Help me be loving and caring. Guard my tongue and my temper. Let your Light will shine through me. Help me speak only what you would have me speak. Bless my family members. Bless, comfort, help and heal friends who are sick or struggling. Open the eyes of relatives and friends who don’t know you and draw them to you.

Forgiveness
Father,
Forgive my sins this day and reveal them to me. Forgive me for irritation with a loved one yesterday. You helped me work it through so it did not infect our relationship. I thank you for this. I have forgiven him for his shortcomings and I have forgiven others who hurt me in the past

Protection and Deliverance
Father God,
Strengthen me in overcoming my own areas of weakness – pride, self focus, criticalness, and worry. And protect me and my loved ones from Satan’s attacks.

Blessings, Dottie


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Marriages in Trouble


The Fairy Tale Marriage
Several types of marriages often have trouble. The first type is the fairy tale marriage. The couple believe they have found the perfect person to meet all their needs. They believe marriage will make them happy. When they discover their partner is not perfect they become disillusioned. When troubles or struggles come (and they will with every couple) they are devastated. Since they believed the other person would make them happy, they think the solution is to leave the marriage and find someone else.
           
The Dominant Submissive Marriage
The second type of marriage is a dominant/submissive one. One person is in charge and the other person accepts this. They both may be comfortable with this arrangement for a while. Sooner or later the submissive one becomes depressed, resentful or withdrawn. It's difficult to act like a non-person. This couple believes that living together is only possible when one person is dominating the other.

The Care Taker - Rescuer Marriage
Another version of the dominant submissive marriage occurs when one partner feels inadequate and seeks a partner who will rescue and take care of him or her. The caretaker is loaded with all the responsibility for the relationship and the one being rescued continues to feel inadequate. There is no room for growth; there is no equality.
           
The Power Struggle Marriage
Another type of common difficulty is the power struggle. This struggle can be subtle or it can be open warfare. Each person is determined to prove they are right. Both are engaged in a fight to convince their spouse that they know best. Differences are threatening and viewed as wrong. They are engaged in a battle of self-justification.
           
The Contented Marriage
Couples who remain together enjoy and respect each other. They are affectionate with each other. They accept their struggles and view them as challenges. They learn to accept their differences. They learn to cooperate. They learn to accept each other's immaturities and idiosyncrasies. They work at understanding and communicating with each other. They are committed to each other and encourage each other's growth and development. The main ingredients of a lasting enjoyable marriage are love, respect, effort, communication and commitment. Marriage is never easy!

A couple in a Fairy Tale Marriage will need to recognize their expectations were flawed. They must learn that no partner can meet all their needs and that all marriages have some conflict. The Dominant Submissive marriages must take the risk to allow each other to be real, to each make decisions, to differ. A couple in a Power Struggle Marriage will need to realize no one is always right and that often there are many right ways to do things. In order to change these problem marriages, counseling and marriage enrichment courses will help. I believe any couple with some maturity who truly want to work things out can do so.

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33 NLT

Blessings, Dottie