Posted in Book Reviews, Life as it happens.

Counseling Under the Cross by Bob Kellemen {A Review}

My first experience with counseling was as a young teenager. That counselor was a lifeline of Jesus to my soul. I saw Jesus in him and his relationship with Jesus drew me like a moth to a flame.  So much of who I am now and the path I’m following is a very direct result of his influence on my life. He showed me a different way to live, a different life and I am so thankful for his careful care and concern. He is one of the very precious Jesus grace-gifts of my life.

As a direct result of his influence in my life, I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. I wanted to be a Christian counselor, I have wanted to help others the way he helped me. I want to point others to Jesus, to be a beacon of light in someone else’s darkness. I have wanted to be used to draw others to the flame of Jesus until they can, like I do, dance in His Holy Fire.

Because of all this, I am still drawn to books about counseling or by counselors. When I find a book by a counselor on the topic of being a better counselor I am giddy. You can imagine my immense giddiness when I received an email from Litfuse about Dr. Bob Kellemen‘s book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther applied the Gospel to daily Living.  I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t think twice, I immediately clicked “Review This book”.

20170918_152631In Counseling Under the Cross, Kellemen teaches counselors to counsel the way Martin Luther counseled..under the cross and with the full gospel. Kellemen has divided the book into two sections. The first section is to get us acquainted with Martin Luther before Jesus gripped his heart. He lived in constant fear of the anger and wrath of God. He would spend hours confessing every known sin in his life. Martin Luther saw God, not as a good Father, but as a righteous and vindictive Judge.

And that is where chapter one ends. And where chapter two begins. Martin Luther went through a metamorphosis of ginormous proportions. He moved from seeing God only as wrathful to seeing God as his loving and kind Father.

This transformation not only changed Luther’s relationship with Jesus, it changed how he related to Jesus and to those people under his care.  His new freedom in Jesus drove him to share it with others.

Chapters 3-11 talk about how Martin used his freedom in Jesus to minister to others.  He used a cross-shaped method of counseling:

  • Sustaining,
  • Healing,
  • Reconciling, and
  • Guiding

Kellemen shares Luther’s theology and methodology of each one. He shares through letters Martin wrote to those he was helping, his table talks, and other writings.  Kellemen writes in such a way the reader really sees the heart of Martin Luther for all believer, but especially those who were hurting.

This book should be on the Must-Read list of every Christian counselor and/or pastor, as well anyone who has a heart to bring health and healing to the hurting in Jesus. 

What did I like about the book? In short, everything. Bob Kellemen wrote in a manner that drew me in deeper with every page. I had to read it with a highlighter in my hand because there is just so much good!

Bob Kellemen also wrote in a way that opened my eyes to circumstances I’ve experienced personally. I had many personal a-ha moments. So while this book is written for those in the role of counselor, anyone could read it and benefit greatly.

What didn’t I like about the book? From the introduction when Kellemen would quote someone, he only used their last name. I know this is nit-picky of me, but I would rather have the author’s full name at least the first time he is cited.

I also wish he had capitalized pronouns referring to Jesus.

A few of my favorite quotes:

When life stinks, our perspective shrinks.

When the devil casts up to us our sin, and declares us worthy of death and hell, we must say, “I confess I am worthy of death and hell. What more have you to say?” “Then you will be lost forever!” “Not in the least: for I know One who suffered for me and made satisfaction for my sins and His Name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. So long as He shall live, I shall live also.”

The Spirit empowers us to live out who we already are in Christ.

Faith activates love.

You who are so pugnacious in everything else, fight against yourself!

I give this book 10 out of 5 turning pages. Yes! It is that good!

I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse for the purpose of review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

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Posted in Life as it happens.

unnamed (7)Savoring the Not-So-Perfect Life

by Michelle Rayburn

 When I was young, my mother cooked most meals from scratch, baked six loaves of bread every week and canned enough vegetables to feed the neighborhood if we ever had to retreat to a bomb shelter. But on occasion, we had TV dinners when she worked the evening shift at the hospital and my dad had to feed us three kids.

 

September 10 is National TV Dinner Day, and it has me reminiscing about those foil-covered aluminum trays with frozen mystery meat and gravy, blobs of mashed potatoes, corn and chocolate pudding—because who doesn’t cook their pudding in the oven, right?

 

In those pre-microwave days, we peeled back the foil to reveal the ready-to-eat meal when the oven timer buzzed. The actual contents were always somewhat of a surprise compared with the images on the box. For one thing, the portions were more appropriately toddler-sized, and looking back, this explains why my dad chased his meal with a giant bowl of fudge ripple ice cream.

 

Nothing looked as appetizing as the box, either. The gravy sort of oozed from the mystery meat over to the corn, and pooled in the pudding.

 

Isn’t life a little like that sometimes? Before it becomes our reality, the idea of growing up, getting married, establishing a career or becoming parents looks magazine-worthy in the images we build in our minds. And after all the anticipation, we peel back the foil and suddenly it looks a lot messier than expected.

 

As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve learned some lessons to get me through my TV dinner life:

  1. Savor every bite of happiness. There is goodness there when we look for it. Turns out, even mystery meat can be delicious!
  2. Toss out unrealistic expectations and embrace the imperfection of real life. Accepting what I have instead of longing for a picture on a box has brought me such contentment.
  3. Enjoy the fun of the experience. For me, TV dinners weren’t really about the contents of the box. They were about the fun of doing something different with my dad—maybe even actually eating in front of the TV. Too often, I can miss life’s fun if I let complaining take over.

 

What’s in your TV dinner life? It’s a great day for a perspective change—and maybe a trip to the frozen food aisle, just for fun.

 

About the Author:

Michelle Rayburn is a writer and speaker who enjoys repurposing thrift sale finds into creative decorations for home and garden. She also loves finding gems in the trashy stuff of life. She is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure. www.michellerayburn.com

 

 

Posted in Life as it happens.

7 Tips for Handling Anxiety.

unnamed (6)7 Tips for Handling Anxiety

by Dr. Michelle Bengtson

 

Worry, fear, and anxiety are epidemic. Anxiety disorders are the most common class of mental health disorders.[i]

It started in Genesis, when Adam and Eve developed an unhealthy fear of God, prompting them to hide in the garden after realizing their nakedness.

God commands us not to worry or fear over 300 times, because He knew we would.

Scripture Gives 7 Tips for Handling Anxiety:

  1. Recognize it exists. My people perish for lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)

 

  1. Realize those thoughts aren’t your thoughts. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

 

  1. Ask God what prompted the concern. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. (John 16:13)

 

  1. Combat anxiety with the truth of God’s Word. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

 

  1. When tempted to worry, vocalize God’s truth. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

 

  1. Trust God to handle your situation and thank Him for His answers. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6)

 

  1. Stand firm, resist the devil, and command him to leave! Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s. (Matthew 16:23) So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

 

Anxiety isn’t from God. Instead God gives us power, love, and a sound mind. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Will you exchange your anxiety for His power, love, and sound mind?

About the Author:

Dr. Bengtson, author of Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression is a clinical neuropsychologist and international speaker. She gives practical tools, encourages faith, and offers hope to acquire peace and joy. She blogs at www.DrMichelleBengtson.com. Find her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/DrMichelleBengtson), Pinterest (http://www.Pinterest.com/Drbhopeprevails), and Twitter (http://www.Twitter.com/DrMBengtson).

 

[i] Kessler RC, Aguilar-Gaxiola S, Alonso J, Chatterji S, Lee S, Ormel J, Ustün TB, Wang PS. The global burden of mental disorders: an update from the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) surveys. Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc 2009;18(1):23–33.

Posted in Life as it happens.

Kick Off Fall

unnamed (5)Kick Off Fall with September Self-Improvement Month

by Gail Goolsby

 

Goodbye to lazy days of summer and vacation leisure. Hello to set schedules for kids and adults. Time for school and daily routines. Fall is here.

 

Freshly sharpened pencils. New clothes and unscuffed shoes. Sports teams with unblemished records. Blank report cards ready to register best grades ever.

 

Fall presents new opportunities. Make the most of Self-Improvement September by focusing on areas of your life left unattended over the summer or needing a reboot. Here is a brief checklist to get you started.

 

  1. Take inventory. Identify dissatisfaction with your current life patterns and habits. Ask God what could be working better in your relationships. Physical and emotional health? Career activity? Home tasks? Spiritual growth?
  2. Recognize feelings but focus on actions. Feelings are important and you need to read the signals they send. But, in truth your actions impact your feelings and so behaviors should be assessed with sound reasoning. Feelings change easily and can form a trap and hindrance to life satisfaction. What actions need to be ramped up or altered to feel better about your life?
  3. Check self-talk. Do you constantly criticize or speak negatively to yourself? Do you cheer yourself through hard tasks or easily give up and then berate your poor performance? Taking on new challenges requires a positive attitude and ongoing encouragement. Remember past accomplishments more than recent failures.
  4. Set steps for reaching goals. Once a plan of action is formulated toward self-improvement, smaller, measurable steps are needed at regular intervals. This requires commitment and work, but gives motivation as advancement is documented and you inch closer to your goals.
  5. Utilize resources. Prayer and God’s Word offer powerful inspiration and reminders of Who is always working for your good (and His glory!). Friends, co-workers, life coaches, and family members can be earthly gifts of accountability and encouragement. Let them celebrate with you as they support your efforts (and maybe join you in their own self-improvement goals).
  6. Embrace hope. As you develop new activities, relationships, and daily disciplines, keep your head up and recognize each day signals possibility and hope for better. Look for God helping you in small and big ways. Tell yourself this truth, you can improve.

 

Kick yourself into gear and make September a trophy month of self-improvement!

 

About the Author:

Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. Gail and her pastor husband of 39 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well.  Read more at http://www.gailgoolsby.com.

Posted in Life as it happens.

Honoring The Unborn

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Honoring the Unborn

by Dana Bridges Stout

 

“You want me to what?” I said as my defenses exploded in anger. “No way, no how! I purposely never wanted to do that because I knew it would be too painful, too real.” My Abortion Recovery Bible study facilitator assigned us to name our aborted babies and prepare for a memorial service for the babies represented in our class. I struggled for several days with even the thought of completing this task. Eventually, I prayed for the Lord’s help and began looking at baby name books. Through some tears, I decided on names for the son and daughter I never held.

The memorial service was one of the most holy, reverent and bittersweet services I’ve ever seen. Filled with symbolism of the uniqueness of each mother and child, we gave our babies dignity, recognized their personhood, introduced them to the world and released them to God.  Mothers honored their children in special ways such as singing a song, writing a poem, releasing balloons or reading Scripture. Through the truths of the study, the support of the group and this final sacred moment, I was able to connect to these babies as mother and child. Honoring and remembering my children was crucial to healing my heart from the grievous choice of abortion some ten years prior. I have since walked many women through the same study and presided over many of these services. Each time I am deeply touched to watch the intense struggle for healing come to completion as the mothers timidly but proudly call out their babies’ names, announcing their personhood and lineage to the world.

The second Saturday of September is National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children. September 9, 2017 will be the forth-annual event. It was organized as a service over the grave of 1500 aborted babies and the movement has spread throughout the United States. Pro-Lifers gather to honor the babies with dignity. You can find more information and a service near you at www.abortionmemorials.com.

Perhaps you have chosen abortion and now regret that decision. One step towards healing is honoring your child. And the biggest step is one towards the Lord, allowing Him to heal you through His Word. The wonderful ladies at Abortion Recovery Assistance at www.piedmontwomenscenter.org can help find a recovery program near you.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

(In honor of Joshua Daniel and Delilah Starling.)

 

About the Author:

Dana Bridges Stout founded Flourishing Life Ministries to minister restoration to women and direct them to truths that help them accept the Flourishing Life that Jesus offers. Dana speaks, leads worship, writes, and teaches live and online Bible studies. Connect with her at www.flourishinglifeministries.com or Flourishing Life Ministries on FB.

Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

Trust

20170715_065750Lately Jesus has been talking to me about trust. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means” has been what He has told me the most.

You see I always thought that trust was earned, easily broken, and nearly impossible to replace once broken. Trust was something you gave to only a select few and when your trusted persons quota was filled up you simply stopped trusting. There was no room for any more trust in people. If someone broke the trust you had in them, you were free to not trust anyone ever again.

Because it wasn’t worth the risk.

But then I met a woman who had written off people, mainly adults, as being completely untrustworthy by the age of 5. The age of 5! When she was in kindergarten she knew she couldn’t trust adults to care for her and had written them off, all of them. To say she had a chip on her shoulder in kindergarten would be an understatement.

The more I spent time with her the more I realized that she had much to teach me about trust. Something didn’t ring true about her feelings about trusting people. In her mind no one was to be trusted, not people and definitely not God.

Heaven forbid one should trust God. That was crazy.

Only it wasn’t. The more time I spent with this woman the more I realized the lies she was feeding me. Yes, to be sure there are people that can’t, or maybe even shouldn’t be trusted. But to think that no one can be trusted, and God can’t be trusted? What a sad, sad existence that would be.

I read on this on twitter the other day,

Maybe we can’t trust our whole lives to Him yet, but perhaps we can trust God with today & see what happens. Maybe we will be surprised. (Melissa Moore)

My thought and response then was, “I don’t know. If I don’t think I can trust Him with tomorrow will I really trust Him with today?”

So many of us have grown up thinking there is only so much love, so much trust to go around and when we’re out of it, we’re out of it. So we have to use it, give it a way wisely because you can never get it back.

Simply put, that is a lie. Especially for a believer.

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Back in the 1980’s, musician Steve Camp recorded a song that became very popular, “Love’s not a feeling”. We all applauded the new thought that love wasn’t a feeling, but a choice. It was a commitment. Then DC Talk appeared on the scene with their song, “Luv is a verb”. That showed us love is action, it’s what we do not just what we feel. And we applauded some more.

Love is a choice. It is active, but it isn’t what we do, it’s WHO we are. Because Love lives inside of us if we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Love is our nature. Love isn’t a feeling. Love isn’t a choice. Love isn’t a verb. Love is a Person.  Love is Jesus.

Plain and simple. It’s Jesus.

So what does love have to do with trust? Everything. Just as love is a choice so is trust. We choose to trust. We choose to see people as trustworthy. Even after our trust has been broken or violated.

Trust is a choice. And we can make it as many times as we need to. Or want to.

The choice to not trust is also always ours. We don’t have to trust anyone. But why would anyone choose to live in that misery?

Not this woman. And not the woman I mentioned earlier. You see, she’s had a change of heart, a Jesus-sized change of heart.

But how? How could she just change her mind, her heart on the issue of trust? I’ve heard her story and if anyone should get a pass on trusting people, it’s her. But she chooses to trust. Over and over again. It’s hard, I can tell that by looking into her eyes, but you know what else I see mirrored there? A steely determination, the kind that only comes from knowing and loving Jesus. The determination that says the enemy has taken enough years, he’s devoured enough of her and with Jesus to lead her, to guide her, she will trust.

Because people are trustworthy? In her eyes that is almost laughable. No. Because Jesus is.

She can trust others because she trusts Him. She doesn’t need to trust others to learn how to trust Jesus. She knows that if she can trust Him, if she entrusts her whole being to Him, she knows she can trust people.

The only blind trust she has is in Jesus. And even that isn’t all that blind. He has walked with her, talked with her, and taught her so much, she trusts His heart.

She knows people will fail. They will disappoint. But Jesus never will. There may be times it appears He is, but she knows, loves and trusts enough to know perceptions can be wrong and they can and will change.

But this fact remains, Jesus never changes. If He is trustworthy today, He was trustworthy yesterday, and He will be trustworthy tomorrow. And a forever’s worth of tomorrows.

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Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

People

20170603_135737Frankly I just love people. I am a people-person to the core.  I love to be around people, they energize me. Yes, I know that makes it glaringly obvious to everyone reading this that I am, at my core, an extrovert.

Without people I would die. Literally. Everyone needs people, we need interaction with other humans because that is the way we created. We were created to crave relationship with others. That is what draws us to continue the human race and to continue to seek hard after Jesus.

Ultimately our searching for fulfilling relationship is found only in Him, but the relationships He gives us along the way are breathtakingly beautiful to me. The precious souls He has purposely put in my path are some of my greatest treasures.

I’ve noticed a recent change in some relationships that I’m not altogether happy about. Since I’ve changed prayer tactics and reclaiming ground lost to the enemy of my soul in the name and power of Jesus.  I’m declaring my family and my friends are off limits to the enemy.  We are not for sale, we have been bought with the blood of Jesus and we are His.

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Jesus opened my eyes to see that since I’ve been praying this way certain friendships have struggled. There have been conflicts within relationships. But also some friends have experienced some very strange things, things that can only be attributed to the enemy.  While I’ve escaped somewhat unscathed.

Don’t misunderstand, what hurts my friends hurts me. No one is a fan of conflict and I am not exception. I’m used to conflict and so I don’t run from it, I’m not prone to squash my feelings to avoid conflict. Unfortunately my flesh tends to speak first and then think, which as, you know, causes conflicts and pain.

The enemy of my soul knows the great value I have in those I love. He knows this and he exploits this. He knows that he can get to me by getting to my friends. And he will use anything at his disposal, even if it is my own words and fleshly reaction. He will take a friend’s words to me (or my words to them) twist them into something they were not meant to be, then whisper them to me as if they were truth.

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He uses this to drive a wedge between my friends and I, because if he can get us to think the other one is the enemy, we will fight and devour each other.

Which is crazy because then we are doing his job! All he does is twist a few words, offer an alternate meaning and we’re killing each other. Stupid!

Ephesian 6:12 says we don’t battle against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of wickedness.

John 10:10 says the thief comes ONLY to steal, kill, and destroy.

But the thief has gotten us believing flesh and blood is the enemy we’re battling and so we destroy each other.

I think I’d like to get off that crazy train and go to battle against my true enemy.  But not alone. That is one battle we can’t do alone and we have no business attempting it on our own. Our enemy will eat us for lunch!

We do it by surrendering our will to the Father, the One who already won the war. The One who died to set us free from the power of the enemy. The One who says in Him we are more than conquerors. The One who says “Stand firm and see the deliverance of the Lord.”

I know I can be rash and have a huge propensity to be impulsive, and chances are you can be the same way too.  What if we decided to take our immediate, rash responses straight to Jesus, seek His face with the matter, ask for Truth to be spoken to our hearts before we just respond?

What if we did?

We would stop doing the enemy’s job. We would stop battling each other and join forces to battle the unseen enemy in the name and power of Jesus.  Instead of battling each other we would do battle FOR each other on our knees.

So let’s hit our knees and pray, first of all, confessing our sins of pride and unbelief, then begin praying for the one we’ve tried to annihilate with our words and actions. Then let’s seek to build up each other, spurring one another on in our faith.

We are so much stronger together than we could ever hope to be alone. We were made to be in real relationships with real people, to be mutually built up, not destroyed.