Monday, July 27, 2015


Q.  My marriage has been unhappy for many years. My husband and I don’t see eye to eye on any topic and now we barely communicate. My husband wants us to see a counselor or take a communication course. If I thought we could make the marriage better I would see some point to doing this but I don’t believe people or marriages can really change. What do you and other experts say?

A. We can change ourselves and our relationships more than we think we can. Some years ago six year old boys were obsessed with “Morphing Power Rangers” who were able to “morph” into heroes, transformed by new abilities to do amazing things. Since then the word “morph” has become part of our vocabulary. The root for the term “morph” comes from the process of metamorphosis which is used in describing the transformation that occurs when a caterpillar “morphs” into a butterfly. What a dramatic change!

John Ortberg, in his book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, says “It’s not just six year old boys who want to morph. The desire for transformation lies deep in every human heart. This is why people enter therapy, join health clubs, get into recovery groups, read self-help books, attend motivational seminars, and make New Year’s resolutions. The possibility of transformation is the essence of hope.” 
Not only do we have the desire to change many of us succeed at it. It’s not just butterflies who are capable of “morphing.” Many of us avoid change, fear change and are more comfortable staying as we are. But we are all capable of change. We may not be able to change as completely as the caterpillar does but we can change our thinking, our habits, our actions, our attitudes, our knowledge and skills, and our reactions to others. 
We avoid change because it takes work and its strange territory. Change means doing something out of our comfort zone. It means taking a risk. In a marriage it means opening up and sharing inner pain. It means learning to forgive and forget past hurts. It means learning to listen to each other and understand a different point of view. 
Marriages can change when only one person begins to change. When both work together on change they can reinvent their marriage and make it as different as a caterpillar is to a butterfly. I have seen this happen over and over.

We are conditioned by our past experiences, especially early childhood experiences. These limitations are often due to our thoughts and beliefs about our past, rather than to reality. In other words we don’t have to remain bound by our past. Psychologist Aaron Beck says that “the single belief most toxic to a relationship is the belief that the other person cannot change.” We also don’t realize the powerful difference even a small change in our own attitudes or actions can make. 

The Christian faith, when taken seriously, can also transform you and your relationships. Seek to know God and be active in a vital church. Change is not easy, but with the help of a mighty God change can amaze you.

A Christian counselor can help you and your husband break through power struggles or impasses causing difficulties. I also urge you to join The Third Option, A Weekend to Remember or Marriage Encounter. These Christian marriage groups teach couples how to understand each other and make positive changes in their relationship.
Take a chance and begin “morphing” your marriage. 

Don’t copy the customs and behavior of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2 NLT

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, July 20, 2015

Parent Advice: The Value of Music

Q. I’m very upset because my child’s school may eliminate music education in order to reduce costs. Music has been important in my life and very beneficial to me. I’ve heard that music improves learning ability. Is there any scientific evidence that music enhances health and learning? 

A. Many researchers have studied the effect of music on a range of subjects. The earliest work on this subject studied the impact of the music of Mozart on preschoolers and on college students and showed a significant impact on learning. As a result of this research more studies on “the Mozart effect” have emerged.

University of Wisconsin researchers exposed laboratory rats to Mozart’s music. Those exposed learned to run mazes faster than genetically identical rats exposed to contemporary music or to white noise. Other researchers are studying the effect of music on spatial reasoning and on cognitive abilities in the fields of mathematics, architecture, visual arts and stress management.

A book by Don Campbell titled The Mozart Effect, and subtitled, Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit, details the evidence that music has quite an impact on learning and on health. Most would agree that music does affect us. It can make us feel happy, wistful, excited, comforted or even sad. But the research goes way beyond these effects and shows that music is good for us - physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The research found similar benefits from Gregorian chant and from some jazz, Latin, pop and even rock music. Campbell gives case histories to show the role of music in assisting in the treatment of a variety of problems: substance abuse, obesity, insomnia, heart disease and others. He also tells of the effect of music in the operating room and the impact of lullabies in soothing infants. Research on the benefits of music suggests we should:

1. Provide music education in our schools. Also, when interest is shown, children should have the opportunity to take music lessons.

2. Play music in our homes to give us a calm environment. We also should play music for infants and young children as this apparently enhances learning.

3. Listen to music every day. Choose music that inspires you, lifts your mood, or calms you.
4. Join a choir/musical group and encourage children to do so.

5.  Become active in a musical, singing church. 
Though the researchers haven’t verified this and seem to not value Christian music, I believe listening to or singing worshipful music heals our spirits and connects us with God. This produces joy, comfort and hope in us!

“Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” Colossians 3:16 NLT

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, July 13, 2015

The War Inside Us

Q. I’m not happy with myself, my relationships or my job. Friends and family members are negative and critical and I get my feelings hurt easily. I also get angry when they won’t listen to me or do things my way. Life seems like such a struggle. What’s my problem? What can I do to have a better life?

A. Life is a struggle for all of us at times. However, many of our struggles with others are reflections of the civil war going on inside of us. Much of our unhappiness is due to a lack of inner harmony. For example, one side of us may recognize the need to lose weight and want to do so. The other side of us rebels against this and may even feel “safer” with the extra weight. Similarly, one side of us wants to risk changing jobs. The other side is fearful and holds us back. You can’t control other people but you can change your thinking and your decisions. You can stop the inner war. Ask yourself these questions:

• What is my purpose in life? What are my beliefs and values? Your life will feel aimless or unhappy until you know your purpose. And you will be at war with yourself unless your way of life is consistent with your beliefs and values. Ask God to reveal his purpose for your life.

• Where do I want to be five years from now? If you know your goals in life but are taking no steps toward them you will feel stuck or disappointed with yourself. Prayerfully develop a plan for your life.
• What am I avoiding? We need to face the things that disturb us in order to overcome them. Many of us have inner pain we avoid. Facing it feels risky, but the results are freeing. Write out your hurt and pain or tell a trusted friend or counselor.
• Who do I need to forgive? Bitterness harms us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When we hold a grudge we allow ourselves to be controlled by the past and by someone else. We also need to forgive ourselves and make amends to those we have hurt or wronged. Ask God to forgive you, too. He will welcome your confession.
• What do I lie about? Our pretenses take enormous energy and rob us of our freedom. Telling the truth and revealing ourselves takes courage. We need to accept ourselves as we are and be real. Write about telling the truth and vow before God not to lie or pretend again.

•Do I spend time on the things that are really important? The story is told of a grim, unhappy librarian on a college campus. A colleague, who saw her walking across campus happy and smiling, said "I've never seen you so happy." She replied, "I'm ecstatic. Its spring break and the students have left, so I've been able to get all the books back in the library!"

The librarian had a misperception about her job. She thought her job was to keep the books in the library rather than to loan them out. How often do we focus all our attention on the details of living and forget to spend time enjoying our families and friends and sharing our love with them?
•Where does God fit into my life? The Psalmist says, “My soul is restless until it rests in you.” Knowing God brings inner peace. Our “warring” sides find unity in the divine. Seek Him and you will find Him.
Your answers to the above questions will help you make your life more meaningful and satisfying. As you make changes pay attention to the part of yourself that holds back or sabotages your efforts. Listen to that part of yourself but don’t let it stop you. Talk back reassuringly to the needy, fearful self. Ask God for courage, too.

If you don’t make progress on your own find a Christian pastor or counselor who will mentor you. You might also read Self Talk, Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothchild, or Lord, I Want to Be Whole by Stormie Omartian.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go, I will counsel you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, July 6, 2015

Book Reviews on Time, Aging, Death, Grieving and Heaven # 5

Here are two books by Joni Eareckson Tada about time, aging, death, grieving and heaven that will give you new perspectives about what living and dying is all about. These books will grow your faith, help you live with purpose and guide you through grief.

When is it Right to Die? Suicide, Euthanasia, Suffering, Mercy

By Joni Eareckson Tada

This book can be especially 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 Judiasm, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism all “recognize 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.

By Joni Eareckson Tada

This is a beautiful, thoughtful, well written, and well researched book about Heaven as described in Scripture. The author, Joni Eareckson Tada, is a remarkable person. She is a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, has written a number of excellent books, is a national speaker, and has a ministry to disabled individuals. She pictures heaven in vivid, insightful and glorious images.

The book is divided into three parts.
1. What Will Heaven by Like?
2. Will Heaven be Home?
3. The Journey Home.

Throughout the book Joni gives illustrations from her own experiences and from the experiences of others, especially those with major handicaps. Chapter 5  Why Don’t We Fit on Earth? resonates with my own experiences. Our culture’s materialism, tasteless entertainment and corrupt morality cause me to feel this world is not my home. Joni writes “I’m a little like a refugee who is longing for a better country called heaven.” Pg. 98

Throughout the book Joni gives inspiring and thoughtful insights. For example “We are not only to ‘set our hearts on things above’ where Christ is seated, but set our minds on things above as well. That’s hard.” Pg. 127 She explains in detail why that’s hard and promises “we will have ‘the mind of Christ’ when we lay hold of Him and His ideas.” Pg.129 No book review can do justice to this book!

This is not an easy read. It must be read slowly and thoughtfully. It will challenge many Christians, especially Chapter 9 Getting Ready for Heaven and the scriptures about suffering. This book can be very helpful to anyone who is severely handicapped or who takes care of a handicapped person and wants to understand God’s perfect plan for their life.

It will give all readers a glorious view of our future home and help us focus on HIm!

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Blessings, Dottie