Saturday, December 26, 2015

Best Books Read in 2015

Here are reviews of my top 7 books read in 2015. I start off with one true story. Also included are three books on death and dying which I discovered in a very helpful class at church on this subject. All seven of these books were thought provoking, informative, helpful, and/or inspiring. Enjoy!

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
By Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken is an incredible, beautifully written, and thoroughly researched book about Louis Zamperini, an Olympic hero and a World War II prisoner of war in Japan. His story is gripping and harrowing. It’s difficult to imagine surviving the starvation, tedium and terrors of being adrift at sea with two others when his airplane went down. Yet his trials had just begun as he also spent much time being abused, starved, and injured as a POW. I had not realized how brutal the Japanese were to the prisoners of war. I recalled more vividly the horror of Hitler and his concentration camps. The Japs were even more sadistic and depraved. How can anyone doubt the depravity of man?

Zamperini survives these many years of degradation and is then besieged by post traumatic stress which he handles by drinking. His marriage is troubled as a result but he is transformed after hearing Billy Graham. This ending is left out of the movie. In addition, I’m sure the book gives much more detail than could be included in a movie. So read the book even if you have seen the movie. You won’t be able to put it down.

Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert On Sexual Identity and Union with Christ
By Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Openness Unhindered is a sequel to Rosaria Butterfield’s book Confessions of an Unlikely Convert in which she details her conversion to faith in Christ after being deeply into the lesbian, feminist life style as a tenured English professor at a university. This book is different from her first book in that Butterfield goes deeper into the philosophical and theological roots of sexual identity versus the truth about a Christian’s identity in Christ. This is a book that must be read slowly to grasp the deep Biblical truths all Christians need to recognize, learn and digest.

Butterfield has profound chapters on Conversion, Identity and Repentance followed by two equally profound chapters on Sexual Orientation (Freud’s Mistake) and What Does it Mean to be Gay? Essentially she shows that our identity comes from God not from what we do.

This book will inform anyone looking for a biblical, reasoned discussion of the issues of gay sex and the church. It will help those struggling with sexual sin or guilt-ridden about the past. It will enlighten run of the mill Christians about the fact that we are all sinners. We need to repent daily and cling to our identity in Christ. Butterfield writes with warmth, wit and wisdom.

Mark: The Gospel of Passion
By Michael Card

Mark: The Gospel of Passion is an excellent and unusual commentary on the gospel of Mark. Many will recognize the author as a marvelous musician whoe music they have loved. I recall a devotional given by Card at a Gaither Praise gathering some years ago. It revealed his deep faith and knowledge. Reading Card’s book has further impressed me. He is a diligent and creative student of scripture and offers many valuable insights about the gospel of Mark.

An introduction tells us who Mark is followed by a chapter on the themes in the gospel of Mark. The rest of the book presents each chapter of Mark and Card’s commentary. This 200 page book is easy to read and insightful. I learned that Mark received his information from Peter and is simply writing everything he remembers; he doesn’t have an agenda, he just tells the story. Card gives evidence verifying the relationship between Peter and Mark. He also comments on the location of various events. For example he suggests that the Last Supper was held in Mark’s house.

In every chapter Card gives the reader a clear understanding of how Mark arranged the chapter and why. It surprised me to realize that Jesus is quite passionate in Mark’s gospel, hence the subtitle. Card documents the emotional words of Jesus. He notes also that Mark generally does not record the teachings of Jesus but rather his actions.

I like the fact that Card includes the Scripture within the book so the reader can grasp the text before he comments and without stopping to look it up. This is a book that can be read and studied over and over again.

When is it Right to Die? Suicide, Euthanasia, Suffering, Mercy
By Joni Eareckson Tada

When is it Right to Die? This book can be very helpful to parents with a handicapped child. Joni Eareckson Tada, well known author and speaker, suffered a permanent spinal injury in a diving accident when she was in her teens. This book, written more than two decades later, addresses the difficult topics of suicide and euthanasia, suffering and mercy. The book is divided into three sections. Part 1. A Time to Live, Part 2. A Time to Choose, and Part 3. A Time to Die. Joni’s story and experiences run through out the book along with stories about others who are handicapped or dying. She offers practical and specific information and help for those who are depressed, considering suicide; those who want to die.

She speaks from her Christian faith with a strong belief in God and notes that there is “an intelligence behind moral evil.” He’s the devil. He was called the tempter by Jesus. There is no truth in him and his goal is death. Pg.97. The devil tells us all kinds of lies – “No one cares.” “There’s nothing more to expect from life.” “I can’t live with this depression.” And the biggest lie of all, “Nothing awaits me after death.”

This book published in 1992 continues to help people with handicaps, people with depression and those who are nearing death. There is excellent information in here from a Christian perspective. Joni’s life is a testimony in itself to the fact that every life has a God given purpose.

Hard Choices for Loving People: CPR, Artificial Feeding, Comfort Care,and the Patient with a Life Threatening Illness
By Hank Dunn

Hard Choices - a short (75 pages), informative book by Hank Dunn, a healthcare chaplain - presents clear and concise answers to the families of those nearing death. He notes that prior generations did not have feeding tubes, ventilators or CPR – so they were not faced with the choices facing many today as they age. He describes the issues in using these, pro and con, and offers clear steps to choosing the best route in a particular situation. The final chapter The Journey to Letting Be (23 pages) is the most valuable. This can be helpful to families as well as the person who is dying. He notes, “We will die whether we give up, let go or let be.” He hopes dying patients will have “a sense of being upheld by a loving God.”

Finishing Well to the Glory of God: Strategies from a Christian Physician
By John Dunlop, MD

Finishing Well to the Glory of God is a wonderful, beautiful, outstanding book. Dr. Dunlop offers nine strategies for finishing well beginning with #1 Live Well and #2 Let Go Graciously to #8 Switching Gears from Cure to Comfort Care and #9 Rest in Jesus. Every chapter (strategy) is thought provoking and instructive. Biblical teaching runs throughout helping the reader understand the Christian perspective on each subject. Each chapter ends with a beautiful prayer and meditation. Strategy #7 Make Appropriate Use of Technology details the medical choices we face today. In addition appendix 2 offers Examples of Technology. The biblical teaching on God’s love, suffering, life and death defines the heart and soul of the Christian faith and will deepen the walk of every reader who digests these teachings. This is a valuable book to be studied, thought about, discussed, read and reread. Finishing Well is a unique and excellent guide that will help Christians live well and finish well to the glory of God.

Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World through Everyday People
By Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet

Restoring All Things is an outstanding and audacious book. Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet demonstrate through many true stories that God is actively at work redeeming, reconciling, renewing and restoring the world using the Church and resolute everyday people to do so.

The authors explain that helping must:
  1. Challenge and equip people to participate actively in permanently solving their own problems.
  2. Must recognize that poverty is not just a financial problem but also a spiritual problem. Compassion will address the root of the symptom.
  3. Help must be personal and recognize the dignity of the person. (pg 40 paraphrase)

Using stories of everyday Christians the authors vividly demonstrate that “little is much when God is in it.” The stories are about creating jobs, capitalism for good, valuing life, women’s issues, education, justice, racial reconciliation, homosexuality, disability and euthanasia, suffering, children, and creativity. The chapter on creativity describes artists in various parts of the United States who are painting murals in public places depicting Jesus with scenes from Scripture. In addition there are stories of two men who are redeeming nihilistic rap music with Christian lyrics. Redemptive stories in films are also noted.

The book challenges Christians to notice needs they can meet right where they are. They urge readers to grapple with four questions:
  1. What is good in our culture that we can promote, protect and celebrate?
  2. What is missing in our culture that we can creatively contribute?
  3. What is evil in our culture that we can stop?
  4. What is broken in our culture that we can restore? Pg. 25-26 and Pg.197

This is a book that can inspired and motivate many to “go and do likewise.” Happy reading to all in 2016!

“I trust in you, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” Psalm 31:14-15

Blessings, Dottie

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Changes at Christmas

Ten 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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

How Deep is the Love of Christ?

As we approach Christmas with all its preparations and celebrations, with all the hustle and bustle, let’s keep our minds focused on Jesus and on his incarnation – God in human flesh coming into our world. Let’s be amazed by the deep love of God in Christ Jesus. “God so loved the world he gave his only Son.” John 3:16 

Paul knew the deep love of God in Christ Jesus and wrote this beautiful prayer:

When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:14-19 NLT

Paul refers to the wisdom and scope of God’s plan. We know the whole incredible story. Jesus, the Son of God, came into our world as a baby to live and grow up as a human being, to teach us, and show us God. He also came to plant his Church on earth. As a sinless God/Man he died to cover our iniquities. What deep love. He arose from the grave, appeared to many followers and gave us more teaching. He ascended to heaven, is seated with God and sent His Spirit to be with us and in us. And he’s coming back!

He showed us Life and he conquered death. He showed us Light and he over came the dark. Does the world make any sense without this knowledge? – yet so many are lost in darkness.

How deep is the love of Christ? Think of this, when we take one step toward him he runs to meet us. His love is deep. No matter how far away we’ve gone, no matter how much we have rebelled against him, he’s ready to forgive us and take us back. The God of the universe, Creator of all things, wants a close relationship with each of us. His love is deep.

Dear Father,
During this Christmas season help us gain a deeper understanding of You. Help us make Christ more and more at home in our hearts and in our homes. Help us know we are forgiven and that nothing can separate us from your love. We can’t reach the top or the bottom of Your love. We can’t reach the width or the length of Your love. Your love has no limits. Strengthen us with Your mighty power in our inner being. Let Your power work within us to be Your Body in the world for Your glory. In Christ’s name we pray.

Christmas Blessings, Dottie Parish

Friday, December 4, 2015


Q. The many problems in our world today have made me rethink my priorities in life. I’m upset by the world situation and the materialism and lack of faith today. As a Christian I want to make some changes in my life to make a difference in our world. How can one person change the world for the better? 

A. Christmas is a good time to think about how we can make “peace on earth good will to men” real in our lives. We may want to reorder our priorities and think about our purpose in life.  Are we living up to the best that we know? Are we putting first things first?  Scripture speaks in ways that are contrary to the voices of our culture. To reorder your priorities and know your purpose in life, consider the following:

1. Is the pursuit of material possessions a major goal in my life? We live in a culture that encourages and provides abundance. We need to feed and clothe our families but does our pursuit of money and things squeeze out time to be with our loved ones, time to help others, and willingness to contribute to charities? Scripture says “No one can serve God and money.” Matt. 6:24

2. Do I seek personal comfort and an easy life? Do I spend too much time in my recliner, too much time in front of the TV and little or no time helping others? Many organizations that serve the disadvantaged need volunteers. Children need mentors, the elderly and sick are lonely and need visitors. We can get out of our recliners and find a need and meet it. Our culture says, “Relax, enjoy life.” Scripture says “Love your neighbor.” Matt. 19:19

3. Am I living a truthful life? Our culture tells us don’t get involved, don’t rock the boat, ignore behavior that seems wrong. When we know about an abusive parent or a drug addicted employee do we take the path of least resistance and say nothing? Or do we take a risk and speak up? Do we “steal” supplies from our place of work, rationalizing it because “everyone’s doing it?” Are we willing to be truthful with ourselves and with others in a culture that tells us there is no such thing as Truth? Scripture says “The truth shall set you free.” John 8:32

4. Do I guard my mind?  Our culture feeds us vulgarity, violence, permissive sexuality, and negativity. The images we watch on TV and in movies can accumulate like trash in our minds. We can be selective about what we view and read. We can learn to reject unwanted thoughts; thoughts that harm us and bring us down. Scripture says, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

5. Do we have hearts full of love? The world teaches us to pursue power and control. Power makes us feel strong. Control makes us feel secure. But these are illusions. No one but God has absolute power or absolute control. Power and control are cheap substitutes for love. Love puts others needs ahead of self. Love is patient and kind. We need to let go of anger, bitterness, grudges and resentments or we will not have love in our hearts. Our culture says seek power and control. Scripture says “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NIV

Soren Kierkegaard once said that life is like a large store window in which pranksters have switched the price tags. The things of greatest value are priced as worthless trinkets, while cheap trash is made to appear valuable. Bertrand Russell, an atheist said, “Unless you assume a God, the question of purpose is meaningless.” Seek God and you will find purpose and much more.

Examine your own priorities through prayer, meditation, Bible study, and worship during this Holy season. Peace on earth begins with change in one heart at a time.

“For everything, absolutely everything above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels - everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.” Colossians 1:16 The Message

Blessings, Dottie

Friday, November 27, 2015

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.” 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 lighting a wreath of five candles.

The Advent wreath is a circular evergreen wreath 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 evergreen wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of eternal life. The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The four outer candles mark the four Sundays of Advent. They also symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.

The 1st candle is traditionally the Candle of Hope or the Candle of the Prophets. This candle anticipates the coming of an Anointed One, a Messiah who weaves his way through Old Testament prophesies. For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

The 2nd candle is called the Candle of Love or the Bethlehem Candle. “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NCV

The 3rd candle, is traditionally Pink or Rose, and is called the Candle of Joy or the Shepherds Candle. “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2: 9-12

The 4th candle is the Candle of Peace or the Angels Candle. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

The 5th candle is white and is called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve after the other four candles are lit. It symbolizes the Holiness of Christ. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3

Our first experience of the Advent wreath with marvelous Christmas hymns and music by the choir touched us. For four weeks prior to Christmas 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.

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. Jesus is the Reason for the Season!

Dear Father,
Thank you for this beautiful time of year – Your Advent to earth (Christmas) is often celebrated 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 around 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! We look forward to your second coming! We thank you and praise you.

In Jesus Holy name,


Friday, November 20, 2015


Q. We traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving Day dinner with every family member expressing their gratitude about the year. This year, however, we have had many problems - job losses, deaths in the family, and accidents. How can we be thankful in the midst of all these troubles? 
A.  Giving thanks in the midst of troubles or tragedy is a challenge. Many would consider it impossible or even irrational. Grieving is normal and essential to work through disappointments and losses. Tears and some depression are normal at these times. However, we can focus on grief and depression too much. We do this when we forget to count our blessings. 
The apostle Paul, who suffered beatings, shipwrecks, and even imprisonment wrote,  “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11). He didn’t say he was content about his circumstances but in his circumstances.
Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed as the result of a diving accident in her teens. She used the Bible verse “Give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:18) as her anchor. She says, “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. The Bible verse doesn’t expect us to give thanks for the difficult times. We only need 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.
While attending a niece’s wedding years ago I took a serious fall which pushed two teeth up in my mouth and caused five stitches worth of damage to my upper lip. Though this was minor in comparison to the experiences of Joni Eareckson Tada or the writer of today’s letter, I found myself giving thanks that I was not knocked out, broke no bones, and was able to attend the wedding later the same day. I was very upset about what had happened to me but still thankful in many ways. 

Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance recommends keeping a Gratitude Journal in which we write down five things we’re grateful for each day. Doing this on a daily basis for several months will change us. A gratitude journal helps us notice the small caring gestures of friends and family members. And we then thank them more. Thanking others for being in our life and for the things they do for us enhances our marriage and our family life as well as changing us, and making us contented. 

A gratitude journal will help you see that even in the midst of trouble or pain, there is this, this and this going well in your life. It will also help you recognize what the difficulty or tragedy has taught you. 

David, who wrote most of the Psalms in the Bible, wrote about his despairing inner struggles yet he also was grateful for every blessing. He very humanly describes his struggles, even wondering if God has abandoned him, yet he continues to practice gratitude.
When things go well we take our blessings for granted. Difficulties force us to recognize what’s important in life; that we need God and that we need each other. Gratitude helps us grow spiritually. It connects us with God, the source of our life and our hope. 

Give thanks on Thanksgiving Day in spite of your troubles. A gratitude journal will help you learn to be contented in any situation and Thanksgiving Day is a perfect time to begin one. Have a blessed and thankful Thanksgiving!

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”          1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB

Blessings, Dottie

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Discipline of Journaling

My small group studied a book about the Christian Disciplines. Toward the end of the book we came to a chapter on the discipline of journaling. The chapter on journaling included two quotes of interest: John Calvin said, “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.” And Scripture says: “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” Psalm 102:18 NIV

Journaling is not mentioned in the Bible but there are many examples of “journaling” in scripture, especially David and his Psalms. David wrote down his prayers, his laments, his confession, and his praise. What a legacy he left to help all seekers and Christians through the ages!

My small group knew I have a long time history of journaling and asked me to tell about it. This is what I told them.

I’ve kept many lists.
Pet Tales. One of my lists appeared on this blog near the beginning. I recounted the experiences of obtaining two white mice for our nine year old, two gerbils for our seven year old and a turtle for our five year old. The list recounts the trials that ensued in the early weeks of this. See Pet Tales here.

Days of Our Lives. From our marriage on I’ve kept a running list of major events in our lives including vacations – listing the dates, where we went, and who or what we saw. This is handy to look back at and recall when things happened.

Lists of Goals or Priorities. These were usually at the beginning of each year.

A Gratitude List.  I began this when I read The Gratitude Journal which advocated writing down five things each day you’re thankful for. I did this for a year and discovered many blessings. It helped me be positive even on a difficult day. One experience of note I still remember. In a worship gathering I looked down at my red sweater and realized I love colors. I thanked God for colors right then and for days afterward.

Random Acts of Kindness. One Lenten season someone suggested that we could do a random act of kindness every day – instead of giving up something we could give something. I did this writing them down to be certain I kept at it.

Much of my journaling has been on scripture or a prayer and has been life changing.

Twelve Steps to Spiritual Growth.  In 1992 my pastor did a sermon series on the 12 Steps. These steps are steps to spiritual healing. They were life changing for me. Of course I wrote it all down. And some years later I journaled the twelve steps again using the Life Recovery Bible.

Psalm 51.  A Bible teacher suggested journaling Psalm 51 one phrase at a time during Lent. I did this and spent the forty days confessing sins new and old and seeking God’s forgiveness. I repeated this during lent this year. And it’s on my blog.  Psalm 51 part 1 is here.

Commands of Jesus and the Promises of Jesus. At a week long conference the main speaker said she was on the remedial path in Christianity until she journaled the Commands of Jesus and the Promises of Jesus. I proceeded to do this and have posted some on my blog. See the Red Words in Scripture or the Commands of Jesus and the Promises of Jesus. Here's the first one.

Mostly I journal prayers to Father God about whatever is on my mind. Although he knows all it helps to put it into words and tell him about my yearnings, my trials big and small, my hopes and dreams and the daily activities of my life. This also gives me a reference for looking back to remember the past and to see patterns in my spiritual growth. Often I don’t know what I want to say until I take pen in hand. Sometimes when I pick up the pen I start to cry. I discover inner pain that I need to acknowledge.

How should you journal? Journal in whatever way fits you. I journal during my quiet time. I use a spiral hard bound journal. Some people like to journal on their computer. I write at least once a week and some times every day. I write a few words some times and a few pages other times. It’s best to journal at least weekly to establish the habit.

Journaling is therapeutic. In his book Opening Up, James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D. describes research on the therapeutic value of journaling. Three blogs on journaling start here.

Writing prayers is more than therapeutic. It connects you with the living God.

“Depend on the Lord in whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

Blessings, Dottie

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Promises of Jesus

Matt 24:14 And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

John 20:21 Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. 

Acts 1:8 You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

Jesus is speaking to his disciples in these verses. The first one is prior to his death and resurrection. The other two are after his death and resurrection. A witness is one who tells what he knows to be the truth as in a courtroom. We witness to something that we have experienced; that we know and believe. We are made in the image of God and we are to bear witness to God by reflecting Christ’s image in all we do and say. We need the power of the Holy Spirit in order to do this. And it is a great privilege that he calls us to. He doesn’t need us but he chooses to use us.

John MacArthur on Matt 24:14 says: “Despite all the tribulations that would come – the deception of false teachers, the wars, persecutions, natural disasters, defections from Christ, and all the obstacles to the spread of the gospel – the message ultimately penetrates every part of the globe. God is never without a witness, and he will proclaim the gospel from heaven itself if necessary.

On Acts 2:8 MacArthur says: “The apostles’ mission of spreading the gospel was the major reason the Holy Spirit empowered them. This event dramatically altered world history, and the gospel message eventually reached all parts of the earth. The apostles had already experienced the Holy Spirit’s saving, guiding, teaching and miracle working power. Soon they would receive his indwelling presence and a new dimension of power for witness.”

Dear Father,
Thank you for the promise that you will use us as witnesses to spread the good news. We read of the apostles Holy Spirit empowered lives. They were fully surrendered to You. They were in the grip of your glorious will for them. Help us be as radical in our surrender to you. Forgive our failures to abide in you and our failures to risk all for you. Fill us with your Holy Spirit. We want to be your witnesses in our world. We want to do your will. Help us be bold yet graceful witnesses to You – to your glory.
In Jesus Mighty Name we pray, Amen.

Friday, October 30, 2015


In a prior blog post I wrote about two experiences with marriage counseling in which couples were encouraged to separate when they both wanted to learn how to solve their marital conflicts. I cited an article by Dr. William J. Doherty titled, “How Therapy Can Be Hazardous To Your Marital Health.” Today’s post is a summary of four ways he believes counselors undermine marital commitment. 
1. Therapists who are incompetent in marital therapy. Many therapists have no training in working with couples. They are trained in individual therapy in which they listen in a laid back manner, are empathic and clarifying. Clients feel heard and learn to think through concerns and plans. This approach works well with individuals but not in marital therapy. A married couple who are in conflict need structure and guidance. Their conflicts will overwhelm a passive counselor or one who doesn’t know how to focus on the patterns of interaction. The counselor will often decide the problem is due to individual pathology and suggest individual counseling for each person.   
Incompetent therapists also will take sides and “beat up” on one of the partners.  This frequently happens with men who aren’t in touch with their feelings “they just want to save their marriage.” Again, the counselor and wife decide they each need individual help. 
2. Therapists who are neutral about the marriage. A neutral therapist will ask questions like “What are the pros and cons of staying versus leaving?” When someone is thinking of getting out of a marriage they use the language of individual self-interest, not the language of moral commitment. Neutrality undermines the marital commitment couples have made to each other.           
3. Therapists who focus on pathology. One party in the marriage may go for help and the counselor, hearing complaints about the spouse will label the spouse, sight unseen, as “narcissistic” or “very dependent.” This shatters hope. Some therapists even pathologize the reason a couple married suggesting the marriage was a mistake from the beginning. Someone determined to work things out after their spouse has an affair can even be pathologized for their loyalty. A new pathology, Doherty says is ascribed to those who are “bored” with their marriage. 
4. Therapists who overtly undermine the marriage. “If you’re not happy, why do you stay?” or “I can’t believe you’re still married.” This suggests to the couple that they are basically incompatible and there’s no way to help them. Undermining also occurs by direct advice. For example: “I think you should separate” or “For your own health you need to move out.”
Competent marital therapists have studied Marriage and Family Therapy where they learned how “systems” (groups of people such as couples and families) operate and they have had supervision of their work. In marital therapy the “patient” is the marriage. The main focus is on the relationship between the couple and the patterns and problems there, rather than on the inner conflicts or the childhood issues of each individual. 

Couples seeking help should ask a counselor about their training in marital therapy. Also ask about the therapist’s attitude toward saving a marriage versus helping couples break up. If they say they’re neutral, look elsewhere. You need a counselor who values the marital commitment and focuses on the marriage relationship. Counseling with a pastor or Christian counselor who firmly believes marriage is a life long commitment to each other and to God will also avoid these issues.
Educational programs in my opinion and in Dr. Doherty’s opinion are often more helpful than marital counseling – especially Christian programs. I recommend you join The Third Option, Marriage Encounter or Weekend to Remember. These programs will help you understand your differences and how to change things. The most difficult issues can usually be worked out if both partners are committed to the marriage.

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

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, October 19, 2015

Parenting Advice: Teens & Brand Name Clothing

Q. My 13 year old daughter is already worrying about wearing the "right" or "in" clothes. She is refusing to wear the play shoes I bought her because they don't have a particular brand name on them. She wants a pair of very expensive jeans (with the brand name). Ordinarily she is easy to live with. Over this issue she seems determined and we are deadlocked. As a single parent I can't afford the fancy brands and it bothers me that she can't see that the name is unimportant. I don’t understand why this is so important to her. How should I handle this?

A. Children and teenagers from about 5th grade on often worry about "fitting in" with their crowd. Unfortunately, for many young people appearances are used to judge worth. This is because they are just beginning to figure out their own identities apart from their parents.

They are also beginning to experience many changes in their bodies and emotions as they physically mature. These changes are exciting but also scary. To provide some security, preteens and teens cluster in peer groups and the group does demand or value certain conformity in dress. In other words, your daughter has no doubt discovered that her group, or the group to which she aspires, wears the brand shoe or jean in question. Feeling socially inept due to the many changes going on within her, the clothes do assist her confidence.

Unfortunately, the manufacturers have also discovered this and they manipulate very expensive tastes among young people. And you are right; there is no reason for it. Often a $30.00 pair of shoes will wear just as well as the $80.00 pair. The same is true for jeans.

So, what do you do about it? If you say a flat no you will have a dejected child and she may make your life miserable. A power struggle at this age is seldom worth the battle. If you say yes, you will be going against your own beliefs and your own budget. When we "give-in" to our children we resent it, they sense this and feel guilty. We may also lose respect in their eyes.

The third alternative is best, though often over looked. Look for a unique solution that will satisfy you both. For example, this may be a good time to give your daughter a clothing allowance and let her spend it as she wishes. If she chooses the expensive items she will learn the consequences and have fewer clothes.

Another alternative would be to give her the amount of money you would normally spend on the item and let her put her own money with this to buy the item she wants. She may need to baby sit for a neighbor in order to afford these things. She will learn the value of money quickly once she starts earning and spending her own dollars.

Perhaps you can think of some other unique solutions that will satisfy both of you.

Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them. Proverbs 18:15 NLT

Blessings, Dottie

Friday, October 16, 2015


Q.  My husband and I are cautious about money. We’ve always saved for rainy days. We pay our bills on time and we live comfortably. We’ve never gone into debt other than for our house and our cars. Our son and daughter, both in their twenties, have a different attitude toward money. They received unsolicited credit cards in college and have gone wild spending money they don’t have. To make matters worse, our son likes to gamble. They are both in debt way over their heads. 
Why did this happen? We thought we taught them about the careful use of money. What will help them get out of debt and gain a realistic view of money? 

A.  Many of our values about money have been eroded by the changes in our society in the last fifty years. Thrift was a virtue and saving money was a primary goal for everyone. Children were taught these values in school, church and home. No one bought on credit. Any charge cards were paid off at the end of the month with no interest. Similarly, gambling was viewed as wrong, as an attempt to get something for nothing. 
Gradually we have become mad about money, driven to spend and spend and spend for more and more things. Our favorite pastime now is going to the malls. There were no malls 50 years ago. Shopping was done downtown and trips there were infrequent. Purchases were based solely on need rather than want.

With the advent of credit cards and easier and easier credit came the opportunity to have what we want before we pay for it. This has helped fuel our economy as the more we spend on things the more our industries flourish. To help these industries, advertisers do all within their power to make consumers want to consume. Commercials are slick and enticing. Credit is easy to obtain. Catalogs inundate us with choices of things we can buy. And it’s fun to shop. It is fun to have a new outfit to wear, the latest electronic gadget and it is more convenient to buy a book than to go to the library.
In addition, the acceptance and increase in state lotteries and gambling casinos enables us to gamble near home, not just on vacation and we can even take our children to some casinos where there is child care.

Your son and daughter grew up in this new culture and fell for its seductive offers without understanding the cost of credit or the cost of a life built on material things. Hopefully, life experiences will teach them that money and things do not satisfy. 
To help them get out of debt send your son and daughter to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. This is a non profit agency that will help consolidate their debts and work out a manageable budget - or they may recommend bankruptcy if that’s the only way out. Some churches also offer excellent classes to help couples manage their finances.  
Your son and daughter may be addicted to spending and/or gambling. If this is true they may need help from Gambler’s Anonymous or Shopaholics Anonymous. Those who are addicted get a high from whatever it is they’re addicted to. They attempt is to avoid inner pain or inner emptiness by spending or by gambling. 
A renewal of faith can help. God will fill an Inner emptiness that nothing else satisfies. 
“A person without self control is as defenseless as a city with broken walls.” Proverbs25:28

Blessings, Dottie