Friday, December 26, 2014

Deleting Worship

No Worship this Sunday? 
Should worship be deleted the last Sunday of the year? Should worship be cancelled because of busy Christmas schedules? For several years many churches have deleted worship on the last weekend of the year. (They’ve held just a token worship service in a chapel in place of three large services.) There are arguments in support of this. 

Christmas is such a busy season. Shopping, planning, cooking, parties and special music events and Christmas Eve services lead up to Christmas. The staff works hard and long through out the holidays. Church members, especially those who volunteer, 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 free to worship, delete worship? Why would they do this during this significant Holy season? 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. In its place they encourage family worship at home, a poor substitute. They cater to the C. and E. Christians by offering five or six Christmas Eve services and neglect the devout believers who want to worship every Sunday. It promotes a shallow faith.

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 the New Year? From 2006 on some churches virtually did away with worship on the last Sunday of the 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 this Sunday.

Blessings, Dottie


Friday, December 19, 2014

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Changes at Christmas
Eight or nine 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..."

At Christmas we were further challenged. Contemporary worship at Christmas left even more to be desired. We experienced two Christmas seasons with no traditional Christmas carols and no classical Christmas music. 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


Monday, December 15, 2014

Family Visits at Christmas

Q.  Every year during the Christmas holidays we visit my family and my husband’s family. Every year we are distressed by these visits. His family treats him like a child and ignores me. My parents are almost as difficult. No matter how long we stay they complain about the shortness of our visit. What can we do to make these family visits at Christmas less difficult and more enjoyable?


Visiting Parents and In-Laws
Family visits at Christmas can be fraught with problems. When we visit our parents as adults we may revert to our childhood role in the family. Whether we act like children again or are treated as though we are still a child, old issues between us and our parents often rear their heads. This can be confusing to our partner. All of a sudden a strong, capable husband or wife is acting like a mama’s boy or girl. They did not experience your history of slights or hurts so can’t understand the current issue.

Your spouse may also feel excluded during family visits at Christmas. We are back in the family nest, all cozy and comfortable, having intense, meaningful or even hilarious times with our parents and siblings and they feel left out. They don’t know the inside jokes. They don’t share the history of our past.

You may be dismayed at your own reactions to your family or to minor changes your parents have made. Your former room may now be in use as a study, for example. Childhood hurts and patterns can haunt us for a long time.
         
Your parents may feel sad because they’re no longer as important to you as they once were. Depending on the needs and maturity of your parents they may demand more time or attention, find fault with you or your spouse, or accept things as they are. Letting go of children isn’t easy. Family visits at Christmas may be difficult for them also.    

Preparing for Holiday Visits with Family
There are a number of things you can do to prepare for visiting your families this Christmas.
 
1. Talk over in detail with your spouse the problems you expect. Listen carefully and get a clear understanding of the problem issues for each of you. Then brainstorm about how to handle these problems. Be united and it will help you relax and enjoy both families.
         
2. Set up signals to use while visiting to let each other know when something is upsetting either one of you. Make a plan to talk alone each day about how things are going. Couples need some privacy even during visits.

3. Remind yourself that your first loyalty is to your spouse now, not to your parents or siblings. This is what marriage is all about. When family conflict occurs side with your spouse, no matter what.
         
4. Talk with your own parents ahead of time if there are specific problems that need to be addressed. Make clear to them the time you will arrive and when you will leave. Let them know also about any other plans. You may want to take a day to visit friends nearby. This will give them time to adjust to your expectations.
         
5. Show love and appreciation to your parents and your in-laws. In spite of their flaws they love you and they will put time, effort and money into entertaining you when you visit. Be respectful and understanding toward them.

6. Remember “the Reason for the Season,” Christ gave up his home to come to us as a babe, to live with us, teach us and redeem up, giving his life for us. Problems melt in the knowledge of the eternal God. Enjoy the Christmas celebrations and “Honor your father and mother. “ Deut. 5:16

I hope these ideas help you have blessed family visits at Christmas.

Blessings, Dottie



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A PERFECT CHRISTMAS FOR AN IMPERFECT FAMILY


Q.  Each year I put all my energy into making Christmas magical and special for everyone. But my husband couldn't care less. He gripes about the money I'm spending and puts a wet blanket on the holidays. In addition, the kids get so excited that they're hyper for weeks beforehand. Then to top it off my mother spends Christmas with us and is always sad because Dad isn't with us. (He died 4 years ago.) I thought Christmas was supposed to be a perfect time of family harmony. What am I doing wrong? What can I do to create a perfect Christmas for us all?

Wanting A Perfect Christmas
You cannot single handedly make Christmas perfect for your family. They need to be involved. Are you so busy with Christmas preparations that you’re giving your family less attention than usual? If so, they may resort to irritable or impatient behavior to get your attention. In other words, you may need to change your own attitude and behavior during the preparations for Christmas so that you aren't neglecting anyone and so they feel included. Relax and focus on the joy and promise of Christmas. Lighten your mood and this will help everyone lighten up.

Have a talk with your husband. Ask him how he would like the family to celebrate Christmas. What does he enjoy the most? What does he enjoy the least? How did his family celebrate Christmas when he was a child? How much money does he think the family should spend? What would a perfect Christmas look like to him? Listen carefully to his answers and don't jump in and disagree.
    
Enlist his ideas and help in shopping and carrying out plans. If he's an active participant he will do less complaining. Can you give up some control of the holiday planning in exchange for a happier husband? If the two of you are really at odds, talk with a pastor or counselor. A family cannot have a perfect Christmas if major differences are unsettled.
    
Once you and your husband are in agreement, a family meeting can also be helpful.  Listen to your children's ideas about how they picture a perfect Christmas. Work their ideas into your plans if possible. Let them know what is planned and that their help is needed. Just before your mother arrives you might have a cleaning hour with everyone in the family working for an hour. The children can help dust, vacuum, put toys away, and so forth. An advent calendar in which the children mark off the days until Christmas can help them understand how long they have to wait. Teach them also that much of the fun of Christmas is the planning and anticipation of the day. Be excited with them.
    
When your mother mentions her sadness at losing your Dad, spend an hour or more encouraging her to talk about him. Look through old photo albums and reminisce with her. Perhaps she would like to tell the children some story about him they've never heard. Rather than detracting from the Holiday spirit talking about your Dad can help you become closer to your mother as well as helping all of you grieve his loss. After your Mom has talked at length you might ask her if she thinks your Dad would mind if she enjoyed Christmas without him here. She may feel she's being disloyal if she’s not sad. You won’t have a perfect Christmas but it can come closer to being so.

To have perfect Christmas focus on the reason for the season. Worship together, sing Christmas Carols, attend special Christmas church events together. Focus as a family on the meaning of Christmas. The most magical and special Christmas was the first one. It was a perfect Christmas.

“For unto us a child is born.” Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Blessings, Dottie


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

CHANGING CHRISTMAS PLANS

Q.  I’m upset about our son and daughter-in-law changing Christmas plans. They’re spending several days, including Christmas, with her family because her brother is coming home from out of state. In prior years they have split Christmas day between their two families since we live only a few hours apart. I’m having a hard time accepting their plans. How can I handle my hurt without letting it interfere with my husband and I having a good time when they do celebrate with us on the 28th?

AWhen adult children marry and begin lives apart from parents, changing Christmas plans is the norm. Many families struggle with these changes. We want the original family unit to be together for the special Christmas excitement and celebration. But young married couples have two families. Often they feel torn and confused about how to balance their desire to be with both families. They may spend part of each Christmas day with each family and part on the road between families. This can be a burden for them. Do they eat two Christmas dinners - one at each home so no one will be upset? Do they rush through one celebration so they won’t be late for the next one?
         
Also, as young adults have children, they may want to celebrate at home with their own children. There are many reasons for this but the main one is the difficulty of traveling with young children, the car crammed with gifts. Young families also need to start their own family traditions at home such as hanging up stockings and going to Christmas Eve services in their own church. The holiday scheduling is further complicated when adult brothers and sisters are involved and wanting to celebrate together yet also wanting to visit their in-law’s families. 
         
I hope this helps you understand that you are not the only one suffering from adult children changing Christmas plans. Though it may appear that you have been given the short end of the celebration plans there may be some benefits to this. For example, your son and daughter-in-law may be more relaxed when they visit you because of the more leisurely pace this arrangement affords. 

The following will also help you accept this plan:       
1. Write out your feelings about the changing Christmas plans. Express your disappointment, hurt and anger. This will help you get over your disappointment and be ready to enjoy the celebration. Write for twenty minutes without censoring. If you are still troubled the next day, repeat this again for another day or two.
         
2. Mend fences with your son and daughter-in-law if they know of your unhappiness.  This can be done in a short phone call, a brief note or an email. Do this now.
                    
3. Find a way to enjoy Christmas day without them. Invite friends or neighbors who are alone to have Christmas dinner with you. Or volunteer to help at a hospital or nursing home on Christmas Day, allowing employees to be with their families. Or relax and have a special meal and open a few gifts with your husband.

4. Focus on the blessings and meaning of Christmas. Participate in Sunday church services and a Christmas Eve worship celebration. Many joyful celebrations of Christmas are also shown on TV on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day. Think about the true meaning of Christmas - God came down to earth as a baby. He came to show us he is personal and he is love. Read accounts in Matthew 1:18-24, Luke 2:1-10, Matthew 2:1-12 in this order.                                                                                                                          
I hope these ideas will help you have a joyful, loving and meaningful Christmas.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life and the life was the Light of men.” John 1:1-4

Christmas blessings, Dottie

Friday, November 28, 2014

Celebrating the Birth of Christ with an Advent Wreath

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Many churches observe Advent on the four Sundays before Christmas. This is a time of waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. Advent means “coming.” The Latin word “adventus” is a translation of the Greek word in Scripture “parousia.” Both mean “coming” and usually refer to the second coming of Christ. Advent celebrates the coming of Christ as a babe in Bethlehem and also anticipates the second coming of Christ. In many churches Advent is observed by the lighting a wreath of four candles. Here’s how it’s described by the Christian Resource Institute:

The Advent wreath is an increasingly popular symbol of the beginning of the church year in many churches as well as homes. It is a circular evergreen wreath (real or artificial) with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center....

The circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life. Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ….

The first candle is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope (or in some traditions, Prophecy). This draws attention to the anticipation of the coming of an Anointed One, a Messiah, that weaves its way like a golden thread through Old Testament history….

The third candle, usually for the Third Sunday of Advent, is traditionally Pink or Rose, and symbolizes Joy at the soon Advent of the Christ… 

The center candle is white and is called the Christ Candle.  It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve
  
My husband and I have been blessed by the Advent celebration. Our first experience of this was in 1990 when we returned to faith. I noted in a letter to our Pastor that our family celebration of Christmas now recognized its holy meanings. The celebration of Advent with marvelous Christmas hymns and music by the choir touched us. Each week the choir processed into the sanctuary led by child acolytes who lit the altar candles. Each week a family lit another of the candles in the Advent wreath. At the Christmas Eve service all five candles were lit including the center Christ candle.

Since then in our present church we’ve been similarly touched by the Advent Wreath candle lighting with Scripture readings noting the holy reason for the Season. Come one and all to church during this beautiful and holy season!

Dear Father,
Thank you for Your amazing love. Thank you for Your Advent to earth (Christmas) which we celebrate. Forgive us that we often celebrate Christmas without recognizing you. It is a time when your light shines in the dark of winter. We wear bright colors and buy gifts for one another. We go to musical performances, we sing carols, we send cards to relatives and friends, and we are more generous. Open the eyes of our hearts – all across this nation and all over the world – so we will know You, honor You, worship You. Open the eyes of those who don’t believe in You. Comfort those in pain or distress. Help us all see the Eternal purposes that conquered death and give us everlasting life. We celebrate your coming to earth as a baby – to become our Lord and Savior. What a surprise gift! And we look forward to your second coming! We thank you and praise you.

In Jesus Holy name,
Amen


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Giving Thanks is an Act of the Will

Q.  I know that you encourage people to think positively, count their blessings and be grateful. In other posts you have talked about the benefits of gratitude - that it helps us physically, mentally and spiritually. 

How can anyone do this in the midst of a very trying time ln their life? Also, how can someone learn to do this who has a life time habit of negative thinking?

A.  You ask two very important questions about learning to think positively and be thankful. We all face some dark times in life. We face marital or family problems, disability, illness, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one - to name a few common experiences. In these situations it’s normal to go through a variety of emotions. 

We feel out of control. Our life has been turned upside down. The rug has been pulled out from under us. Grieving is normal and essential to work through our disappointment and loss. Tears and some depression are normal at these times. 
         
However, like the person who has a life long habit of being negative, we can wallow in our grief and depression too much and too long. We do this when we paint everything with a black brush. We do this when we forget to count our blessings. We do this when we take our good fortune for granted. We do this when we’re wrapped up in ourselves and think life owes us only good times. We do this when we forget to trust and thank God.

Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed as the result of a diving accident in her teens. Yet she has gone on to lead a life that has touched and helped many others though she is still confined to a wheel chair. She says that the Bible verse “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) is her anchor. “I gritted my teeth, pushed aside feelings of despair, and willfully gave thanks for everything from the hospital breakfast of cold cornmeal mush to the grueling hours of daily physical therapy.” 
         
When she began this she didn’t feel thankful. She notes the difference between feeling thankful and giving thanks. Feeling thankful involves our emotions. Giving thanks is an act of the will. Also, the Bible verse doesn’t expect us to give thanks for the difficult times. We’re only supposed to give thanks in them. Joni Eareckson Tada says that months later a miracle occurred. She began to feel thankful. Her despair lifted and her attitude brightened.

To learn from Joni Eareckson Tada, we must make a habit of counting our blessings. This is not easy for someone to do who has a habit of pessimism. For any of us it will require a decision to do this, an act of our will, that over and over again we will keep track of our blessings. 

As I’ve noted before, a gratitude journal is very helpful in disciplining us in this habit.  Write down in a notebook five things you’re thankful for each day. Look for simple pleasures - seeing a cardinal in the snow, the laughter of a child, the smile of a friend. 
         
To change a constant habit of pessimism requires moment by moment attention to our thoughts. We change our negative mindset by an act of the will, over and over again stopping the negative thoughts and focusing on the pluses in our lives. Prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit can help you. With practice we can make giving thanks a habit and soon we will really feel thankful.
         
This Thanksgiving Day let’s all thank God for our blessings and let’s begin a written gratitude journal and give thanks to God every day of the year. Doing so will bless us.

Give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Blessings, Dottie


Friday, November 14, 2014

The Promises of Jesus


THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 18:20  Where two or three come together in my name there am I with them.


Matthew 24:13 He who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Matthew 28:20b Surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Luke 12:6-7 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 14:1-3  Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I grouped together many similar promises. It’s inspiring to read these and trust the God of all Comfort will lift every burden and be with us in every trial.

But do we trust him? I find myself worrying or fretting over the minor details of life. There’s too much to do especially at this time of year. Every little detail that doesn’t go the way I expect sends me into worry/fret mode. I must learn to trust him more.

He says we have rest for our souls, we can rest in his peace – unlike the world’s peace. He loves us so much he gave his Son to live and die for us, to ransom us, we will not be orphans. He is preparing a place for us in his Father’s house. He will come back and take us with him so we will be with him. We must learn to rest in his comfort.

Dear Father,
Your love and grace are amazing. We don't deserve to be your children but you love us so and give us your tender love and comfort. You “forgive our feverish ways” and you “drop your still dews of quietness ‘til all our strivings cease.” Oh how marvelous, Oh how wonderful! We thank you, we praise your holy name. We love you.
In Jesus name, I pray. Amen


Monday, November 10, 2014

Avoiding Divorce

Q.  My husband and I have been married for 25 years. We can’t resolve an issue that we’ve struggled with many times. We work it out for a while and then it pops up again. I love my husband but I’m not sure I can stay in our marriage any longer unless we resolve this. What do you suggest?  

A. You sound frustrated and upset about your marriage - at your wit’s end. Do you know that most couples feel this way at times? Your marriage may seem hopeless, but it probably isn’t or you wouldn’t have stayed together twenty-five years. No matter how long you’ve been married it’s never too late to work on your issues. Couples of all ages now seek help through counseling, reading books on marriage, watching marriage tapes, or attending marital groups or seminars.  A twenty-five year marriage should not be thrown away – at least not easily.
         
Read The Case Against Divorce by Diane Medved  and Married People - Staying Together in The Age of Divorce by Francine Klagsburn. Medved, who has been divorced and remarried, says “Leaving a marriage without exhausting its potential [for change] should be called running away.” She also says you can’t go through a divorce emotionally unscathed. Marriage isn’t easy but divorce will hurt more - in spite of what our popular culture says.
         
A marriage of 25 years lasts, in part, because of the positives in the relationship, because of the loving or exciting times. Are you focusing on this one problem and forgetting many other areas or times in your marriage that have been good? Most couples stay married in spite of difficulties. They struggle with differences, work out some of them and live with others unresolved. As a result they grow and mature as individuals and as a couple. They love each other and are generally content though they know they may have new struggles in the future.
         
Someone has said, “Commitment means a willingness to be unhappy for a while.” Commitment also means we’re willing to work on the relationship; we’re willing to put time and effort into resolving issues, even 25 year old issues. At times marriage may feel like an ordeal because it forces us to give up some of our self-centeredness and face our own flaws. We can’t always have our own way. We aren’t always kind and loving. Sometimes we control and manipulate. Life is a learning process. We learn not when things are easy but when they’re difficult. Perhaps God designed marriage to force us to grow rather than to make us happy!  Look at the differences and difficulties in your marriage as opportunities to learn and grow.

I recommend Christian counseling. Educational programs such as The Third Option or the A Weekend to Remember can also help you get unstuck and can help you regain a contented, growing love for each other. For possible counselors or marriage programs contact a local church and ask for resources.  Also check out www.smartmarriages.com.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you.” Proverbs 3:3

Blessings, Dottie





Monday, November 3, 2014

Books about Homsexuality and How Christ Helps

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality

By Wesley Hill

This book is a memoir written by a young man who has struggled with homosexual desires for many years. He reviews the biblical reasons for celibacy and agrees this is the standard he must keep. He struggles to change his desires and talks with a philosophy professor, a psychologist and two pastor/counselors as he goes through college and later. He clearly depicts the emotional, psychological and spiritual struggles he endured. He also includes accounts from two other Christian men with similar struggles.

I had trouble with this book because the counseling experiences seemed very shallow. As a counselor I doubted he received adequate help. If he wanted to change, why was there no discussion of how to do this? There was no social history and little information about his background even though he seemed to be a very lonely, anxious child and teen-ager with low self-esteem. I wanted to know his family relationships. I wanted a counselor to help him sort out all the influences and difficulties of his childhood and even search for major issues such as rejection or abuse. I wanted a counselor to tell him many teen-agers are lonely and uncertain of their sexual identity. I wanted a counselor to teach him to focus on thoughts from scripture rather than on his negative thoughts and feelings (desires). All Christians need to learn this. Feelings and desires come and go. We need to recognize them and let them go. To put Christ first we focus on him and let go of or ignore our feelings and desires, our self will.

It took a lot of courage and commitment to his faith for Wesley Hill to stay the course and publish this memoir. Hopefully this book will help the church affirm and connect with gays and understand their struggles.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith

By Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is an incredible, biblically sound book on a difficult subject. Rosaria Butterfield tells her story with wit, passion and transparency. As a tenured English professor in a top university she was deep into the liberal, feminist, gay agenda. When she met Jesus her life seemed “like a train wreck.” She faced chaos in every aspect of her life.

The lessons Butterfield offers are numerous. A pastor listened and did not invite her to church. He spent many, many hours with her and became her friend. Others also mentored her. She details her conversion, her lengthy repentance, followed by her sanctification and public worship. The final chapter is as amazing as the rest of the book. She marries a pastor, they adopt four black children whom she home schools. This chapter will be of interest to all home school parents. I will be rereading this book.

“This high priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT

Blessings, Dottie


Monday, October 27, 2014

Parent Advice: I.Q. and Emotional Intelligence


Q. I’m concerned about educating my children so they will be smart enough to do well in today’s world. A friend disagrees with me about the importance of I.Q. in predicting who will do well in life. How important is I.Q. in determining success? What characteristics lead to achievement in life? Can these traits be learned or are they fixed at birth or early in childhood?

A. In recent decades parents have been urged to teach and stimulate their infants and children from a young age. Flash cards, educational toys, playing classical music and providing lots of attention to infants is used with the expectation this will increase a child’s I.Q. and assure a child’s success in life.

While early education and stimulation may increase I.Q. slightly and infants and children do flourish with attention, new research indicates that I.Q is not the most important factor leading to health, happiness, and achievement. I.Q. is now believed to contribute only 20 percent to a person’s life success.

“Emotional intelligence” is now touted as more essential to success than I.Q. This concept is described and a wealth of research explored in Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. The term “emotional intelligence” includes characteristics like self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, self-motivation, empathy for others and hope. 
         
People with “emotional intelligence” are able to motivate themselves and they persist in completing tasks even when they face frustrations. They are able to delay gratification and to regulate their moods. They are able to think even in emotion packed situations. They also are optimistic about themselves and about life. These are the characteristics that successful individuals possess.

These skills lead to happier relationships, increased physical health and greater career success. They also correlate with lower incidences of delinquency and drug use in children. Goleman says that children who improve their emotional skills also do better on achievement tests.
         
A key to “emotional intelligence” is being able to recognize your emotions. Someone who has a bad day may arrive home in an irritable mood and lash out at others without knowing why. When we’re able to recognize our feelings we’re able to use reason to decide how we will handle ourselves. We can control our emotions rather than being controlled by them. Self awareness enables us to use self control without repressing our emotions.
         
Another significant trait Goleman explores is optimism. Research shows when optimists fail at something they view the failure as temporary and attribute it to something they can change rather than to some lack in themselves impossible to overcome. In contrast, pessimists view failure as permanent and blame themselves.

Another trait of major importance is empathy or the ability to recognize the feelings of others. Goleman tells of a think tank for engineers where the top performers were not the ones with the highest I.Q.s, but those who were popular and good at collaborating with their co-workers. These are the people who got promoted.
         
The recognition that “emotional intelligence” is more important than I.Q. is good news. These traits can be learned whereas I.Q. is relatively fixed from a young age. We can increase our “emotional intelligence” throughout life!    

How can we teach our children “emotional intelligence”? Children learn from our behavior as well as from our words. If we model emotional intelligence they will learn this from us. We must understand that their growth toward maturity is a slow process.  We must be patient and accept their immaturity while applauding each sign that they are becoming more emotionally mature. We need to be realistic about their abilities or lacks but also optimistic and loving about them also. Our optimism greatly affects their belief in themselves.

Dr. Goleman doesn’t address “spiritual intelligence”. I dare say that a child who grows up in a loving church and develops a strong faith in God and His Word will be even more mature, intelligent and optimistic.

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130

Blessings, Dottie



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

FORGIVE AND BE FORGIVEN

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Luke 11:9 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

John 14:13-14 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may give glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.

John 16:23-24 I tell you the truth, my father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Everyone who asks, receives? Is this true? Jesus compares our asking things of God to that of a child asking his or her father. Our God is a very good Father. He will listen to us. He wants us to come to him, to know him, to be persistent. A good father will not give a child his every request or he would not be good. A child doesn’t see the big picture. God gives what is best for us – not what we think is best for us.

John repeats several times above that we should ask in Jesus name and that we can ask anything in His name and he will do it. John MacArthur says this isn’t a formula that will assure us our prayers are answered. Rather it means we want our prayers to be in line with his kingdom, based on his merits, and for his glory. The Holy Spirit will translate our selfish prayers for his glory.

Dear Father,
Lord, increase our faith in you. When we seek you our faith grows. It’s reassuring to know from Scripture that you want us to pray; you want us to ask of you, seek you, and knock on doors, persistently.

As I was writing this I ran across these verses from Jeremiah 29:12-13: “You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Thank you for the assurance that you hear us and will give us good gifts, whatever is best for us. Help us keep your will in mind when we ask. Help us ask, seek and knock in keeping with your kingdom. Help us persist in seeking you. Help us pray with intensity. Help us understand that if we don’t receive what we pray for, it’s because you have something better for us.

It’s awesome to think that our faith in you can move mountains. It’s amazing to realize that in some mysterious way our prayers release your power into the lives of others, even those who don’t know you - healing or saving them. Increase our faith, Lord.
In Jesus name, I pray. Amen


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

HEALTHY SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE

Q.  In recent years I’ve been remembering things from my childhood that I had totally forgotten. I’m having flashbacks and nightmares about being sexually abused by my step-father. I went to counseling but it made me feel worse. The counselor wanted me to confront my step-father. I quit treatment because I couldn’t do this. All this has affected my marriage, too.

What can I do to get over the sexual abuse? I’m depressed, I have horrible nightmares and I’ve almost lost faith in God. I go to church but I’m just going through the motions.

A. You need to find a Christian counselor you can trust. Most counselors will allow you to move at your own pace. You had no control over what happened to you as a child. To feel safe in counseling you need to have some control over the process.  A Christian counselor is also very important for you. A Christian counselor will help you lean on God through the pain. You need to revive your relationship with God in order to in regain confidence and peace of mind.
        
You do not have to do anything in counseling unless and until you want to and are ready to do so. Some survivors of sexual abuse find it helpful and necessary to confront their abusers - but not all do. We are each unique. 

Counseling about sexual abuse of necessity involves some pain. It is essential to face some of the buried hurt and anger about the abuse. However, I don’t believe it is necessary to recover and explore every memory of every instance of abuse. 
        
In addition to counseling there are a couple of things you can do. Select a small object, such as keys or a stone that represent the here and now. Use this object to remind yourself that you are safe now. You could hold this object in your hands as you talk with your counselor or whenever you feel threatened.
        
Make a list of the qualities you like about yourself and of the things or relationships that you want to continue in your life. These should be written down and can include qualities such as a sense of humor, kindness to others, competence at work, enjoyment of reading, etc. Under relationships list your husband, children, dog, friends, co-workers, etc. Objects you want to keep can include your house, favorite clothing, books, etc. 

Keep this list with you at all times and use it to help balance the focus on the abuse. Remind yourself that this is where you are now. This list gives you a bridge back to the present when you have a flashback or a nightmare. 
        
Persons who have been sexually abused have learned to dissociate their feelings from what is happening. This is how they survived the abuse without being overwhelmed. A child’s fragile ego could not withstand the abuse otherwise. Rigid compartmentalization may have saved your life. 
        
Now you are grownup and are a stronger, more competent person. Even though it feels scary and overwhelming you will be able to gradually face the feelings that could have destroyed you before.
        
To become healthy you need to build bridges between the past, present and future so that you have access to all three. You need to be able to remember and let go of the past. You need to feel safe in the present and have hope for the future. And your relationship with God will change your life in every way as you grow in knowing Him.
        
Many pastors are skilled in counseling. Ask your pastor if he can help with this or ask for a recommendation to a Christian counselor who can help you. Two books can be helpful for you and your husband. Healing Memories by David A. Seamands and When Victims Marry by Don and Jan Frank.

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

Blessings, Dottie