Category Archives: relationships

What is Character Education?

This question was asked on a private education page where I post regularly, I took the time to develop an answer.
The systematic training and development of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph 6:4
It is the outworking of Deuteronomy 6.
Specifically these verses “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:4‭-‬7 NASB

It is good to read the entire passage to see the reasoning behind why we would do the teaching, guiding and nurturing we do on a daily basis with children.

Keep in mind, if children are young and have not been saved yet, we are not separating character training from the gospel but reminding them that these are things God will develop in them if they believe in Jesus as their Savior. We discuss the basics of the gospel- I Cor 15:3-4, our sin, our need of a Savior, that Jesus, as God, lived a perfect life and died for us and rose again to show He had power over sin and death, and how we can respond in trust. We want to see them walk in obedience to us as parents and be kind to others on the outside, but more than that we want them to put their hope and trust in Jesus Christ.
Once they have trusted Jesus we can continue to encourage the development of the things listed below.

Biblical Character Education involves teaching them many things. For a good resource, I recommend Kim Sorgius has developed kids bible studies that aid this learning that you can access here: about the fruit of the spirit and how they can demonstrate those in their lives from Galatians 5:22-25
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

In order to walk in the spirit that means it also involves teaching them about spiritual gifts and how they can exercise their spiritual gifts in the body of Christ.
See Roms 12, 1 Cor 12,

But more than just teaching it also involves a systematic daily intentional focus on developing these characteristics of godliness in their lives.

Suggestion: Have a character trait of the week that you incorporate into everything that you teach.
For instance if “gentleness.” Read a verse every day that had to do with gentleness.
Talk about how that could be demonstrated in daily life and then as things came up throughout the week practice the exercise of gentleness or talk about how to exercise gentleness.
For example, if another child was struggling with something rather than making fun of them or mocking them, we would come alongside and ask how we could help and be kind.

A great deal more could be said but the most important part of this is the intentional systematic development of Godly the character. Luke 2:52 says Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

Another list that needs to be added to this is in II Peter 1.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.  Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.  I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind. 2 Peter 1:2‭-‬15 NASB.

That is a good starting place for thinking about Biblical Character education. I welcome your comments and feedback.

 

New Bible Study for you. Is God There? 34 Ways God says He Is Faithful.

About this book:

Have you ever asked the question, “Is God there?” Is He really faithful? If so, how? Have you felt some deep pain and been glibly told “God is Faithful” as a quick fix, when you really needed to know how God could help? Now, you have in hand a ready list of all the ways God says He is faithful, with an explanation of how these verses fit in their context, and how these truths apply to help you.

To purchase the book through Amazon go here Is God There?

To purchase through Pay pal go here: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=R85MG3PY2TCE2

Watch a video interview with the authors

Forgiveness…Can’t be done..Or can it? “Victim” to Victor

I was literally gasping for air…physically choking on my own avalanche of emotion and confusion.  What did they just say? I can’t grasp this? What does this mean? Does it mean what I think it does? The relationship was severed….instantly with nothing I could do but reel physically in shock and the crushing kaleidoscope of emotions that were threatening to drown me….. trying to come up with a way to take the next step, let alone walk to my car and drive away…

I had trusted that person with my soul, my deepest pain, my heart, and they had simply dismissed me with a “flick of the hand.”  They had promised to support and help and assured me they were trustworthy…. and then..BANG they were not!!!

….when I most needed them to be.  It reminded me of the words of a song

“I leaned my back up against an oak…I thought it was a trusty tree…but first, it bent and then it broke (Bob Dylan).”

Only in my case, there was no bend!  It was an instant SNAP and CRASH!  What was even more crushing is I had no one to talk to about it. No one who could understand what this terrible tear meant in my soul. Part of me died that day and I was sure it would never EVER revive again!  The ensuing weeks and months were lived in a mindless numb shell as I carried on the functions of life without a soul.  I literally felt like a switch had been snapped between rational logic and emotion.

Those of you who know me may be shocked to know I felt that way..after all,…I am the MK (missionary kid) who knows more verses and Biblical songs by heart than most people I know…. because I was raised memorizing them and loved singing so have been called a walking hymnbook by some… But that was my reality at that point. My world was instantly catapulted into an emotional vault that words could not touch for a time.

I had been trying to learn how to trust again and the one person I thought I could trust to help me, had proved untrustworthy and walked away.  The picture I had in my mind was of being rowed out on a dark night into deep water and then told to get out of the boat and start swimming. The assurances of support and guidance were there until I was in the water and then… they were GONE! I was left to find my way back to land in the dark in water over my head… good thing I had learned how to swim as a child… but in the depths and not being sure which was land????…. God led me back to land in ways no person could.

I felt like I had been taken in for open heart surgery and then left on the table to figure out how to sew myself up, get up and walk out of there without any help from anyone. I did sew up and walk out by God’s grace alone. But in the process infection set in… and I was in a dark place of confusion between indescribable grief, despair and anguish once I processed what had happened. I would certainly never trust THEM again or ANYONE else for that matter.  Because I had no one to talk to at that point, the pain, gut-wrenching sense of loss, and confusion got buried into deep crevices in my soul like puss does in infection.  God left me alone with that dark place for a time, because we all need to know how helpless we really are before God can do anything with us… before He intervened … but that is for later. It took a full year for the emotional confusion to clear enough for me to fully grasp truth again and for God to use some wise people to carefully reinvite me into the world of trust again.

I was driving to a place of retreat and on the way was begging Him to help me out of this, to find a way back to hope and light and life if it was ever possible to recover from this kind of utter crushing? I was listening to the audio version of Andy Stanley’s Enemies of the Heart.  Trying to figure out how to get past this to a point of forgiveness… I finally understood in a powerful way how Jesus felt when his disciples deserted him in his hour of greatest need for emotional support. Andy’s book was a HUGE help in unraveling how to think about all this, but it took time for me to absorb the truths while battling the emotional blocks.  My mind still whirled and at times would be caught in a downward spiral of “How could they? and I  didn’t deserve this!!!  They completely misunderstood and misused me!! and I am all alone!! and No one understands!!”  You may also be familiar with the  “beat me up” or “beat them up.” ideas that plague the mind in these dark moments of the soul? The Psalms are replete with David’s thoughts like this.

I was aware in the fog of emotion that I was in a battle of a lifetime to regain control of my mind and in doing so I would be able to stop this emotional volcano. I had no idea how to do it. So I begged God for help and below is what I did.  (I have now told enough people these steps that I thought it was time to put it in one place so I can send people here who ask me how I was able to, not only forgive, but enjoy spending time with this person again.)

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons
are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end,
but by His making us wait,
bearing with us in love and patience
until we are able to honestly pray
what He taught His disciples to pray:
Thy will be done.”
~ Elizabeth Elliot
(for those who may not know her story, her husband was killed senselessly.
You can read about it, in this book. Through Gates of Splendor)
I love how God patiently waits when we are in these dark places until we can see Him and then gently helps us to walk out of it. He truly is the Gentle Shepherd!
I  have learned a great deal in the months and years since then, but to begin with, this was the first most important step and lesson. .. I can say much more about the Biblical verses. I knew those but I had never been in a place like this where words meant nothing and I could not control the raging emotional overload. A pressure cooker had exploded all over my soul and I had to find a way to put the pieces back together.  I will develop more of the Biblical part of this in the coming weeks but for now, this had to be step one!
 I am going to be very practical with this because the pat “you just need to forgive them” was simply not working!!
I needed a real way to get out of this tunnel of emotion!!!
The first thing I needed to think was “not forgiving was actually giving ammunition to them. It was hurting me, not them. It was allowing them to continue to ruin my life.” That was NOT ok with me. I NEVER wanted them to ever have any control over me again!
Once I fully realized that I was not willing to give them that kind of control over my emotions and mind anymore. They had betrayed me.  Jesus Never did. He had to be the controller of my mind and emotions!
Then I learned that forgiveness is a process… it’s not a one-time Act. Every time thoughts of that person came into my mind I had to intentionally tell God I needed help to forget them.
Then I had to force my mind to go somewhere else regardless of how my emotions were raging.  It truly was one of the most difficult things I have ever done!!! But I was determined to win by God’s grace!
I knew I could not take it on all at once so I picked one the specific times of day that were often trigger points. Usually, times when I could be alone with my thoughts, like when getting dressed or showering or driving to work.
I picked…
driving to work time.
Then EVERY day for 3 weeks, I refused to allow thoughts of that situation to control my mind for that time.  When a thought would hit, I would intentionally force my mind elsewhere by praying, singing good songs, like these ones,   Beside Gentle Streams: Hope for Hurting Hearts.  or this one Don’t be Afraid, reciting verses, calling someone to encourage them, or things like that.
The first day was impossible but I  got a few mins of relief, the rest of the week was nearly impossible..lots of tears…begging God for help…
When God wants to do something big,
He starts with an impossibility,
then it is difficult,
and then it is done!
~Hudson Taylor
The second week got a little bit better. I would play good music, I would think about the things I loved…I would pray, I would sing or play good music.
By the third week, I could see the thought pattern was finally breaking and with it some of the deep crushing emotion. So I picked another point of the day that I used to dwell on those thoughts and went after it in the same way. It was easier but still a challenge.
I kept working at it till each point of the day was broken, despite setbacks, and in time the pain Eased, the soul-crushing grief became manageable and I could move on.  I learned the real truth of the verse “having your senses exercised…Hebrews 5:14” (that word exercise in greek is the word we get  “gym” from. We develop brain cells just the way we develop other muscles in the body by working them which gives all new meaning to Romans 12:1-2 and especially the phrase “renewing your mind…”.  I have learned lots about the science behind mind, emotion connection as well. (more later)
My motivator was that these people were no longer allowed to control my emotions and my life. God was the only one who got to do that!
Thinking this way rather than trying to determine whether or not they deserved it, helped,….they didn’t deserve forgiveness…neither did I….none of us “deserve” it, we were all eternally condemned till Jesus died for us… We have to turn to Him, recognize him as God, believe that his death on the cross paid the penalty and ask for His forgiveness ourselves to guarantee a place in heaven. Keeping this truth in focus also helped!
It really had to be about getting back my life, my heart, my emotions, My Hope in Christ, My joy in Him, my ability to serve Him, separate from any other person.
What God has done since then is more writing and God’s work in progress.
Gentle Shepherd
Oh, the Lord is my Gentle Shepherd showing me the way.
Through the darkness, through the sunshine,
He will never lead astray.
He is with me ev’ry moment, He’s in my heart to stay.
Oh I feel His arms around me, and I hear Him gently say:
~~~~~
I am the Gentle Shepherd watching over you.
I am the Gentle Shepherd and I’ll surely see you through.
I have been where you’re going and I know what you have to do.
Oh, I am the Gentle Shepherd, and I gave my life for you.
~~~~~
If you’re looking for a Saviour, looking for a friend,
Oh let Jesus be your Shepherd, He will love you till the end.
The door is always open, come now and don’t delay.
And He’ll be your loving Shepherd; He will guide you all the way.
~~~~~
He is the Gentle Shepherd, watching over you.
He is the Gentle Shepherd, and He’ll surely see you through.
He has been where you’re going, and he knows what you have to do.
Oh, He is the Gentle Shepherd, and He gave His life for you.
He is the Gentle Shepherd.
words by Duane Nichols, music by Duane Nichols and Mary Lynn Van Gelderen
recorded on Come and Sing by the Stouffer Men.

“Ginger” a Boylston Home Story.

Ginger came through the door of the Boylston Home with a 14-year-old sullen look on her face. She slumped in a chair and glared at me and her social worker. I was amazed at how many 14-year-old girls we had come through the doors. Did you know that being 14 is a very difficult age especially for girls? The hormones are raging! They’re trying to figure out who they are separate from their families, and life is very difficult at that age! She had been brought in as an intervention between home and some other place where social services was going to place her. She was absolutely NOT happy about being there. As we talked our way through the initial interview, when I mentioned the fact that this was a home where we believe the Bible and where we attend church, she angrily protested that she wanted nothing to do with religion, that we were not going to make her believe our stuff.

I immediately agreed with her because Christianity is not just a religion, it is a way of life, it is an understanding of who Jesus is. Nobody can force true belief on anyone else!  Only God can touch a heart and help them to see and understand their need for Him. Jesus does say “no man comes to the Father but by me (John 14:6).” We continued to talk and the social worker told her quite simply she had two choices, stay with us and comply for the three weeks or she got to go spend some time in a much more restrictive placement. She really did not want to go there so she grudgingly accepted the terms of staying with us.

We always gave a Bible to every girl who came through the doors, so we gave her one. She took it almost like it was going to bite her and set it on the table. As those three weeks progressed she would comment on and off about how stupid all this stuff was and that nobody was going to make her believe it. We quietly agreed with her, it wasn’t up to us and that we simply were giving her truth and information that she was fully responsible to choose to accept or reject on her own. The night before she left, she was packing up her things and I glanced into her room to see how things were going. She was nowhere near as angry as she had been when she first came in and she had settled into a routine and realized that we really did care about her and was actually somewhat upset about moving on. We chatted for a bit and then I left her room. When I went downstairs, Brittany, the house parent’s daughter, came up to me and said, “I’m really feeling led to give Ginger a Bible.”

I curiously replied, “Well that’s interesting because we already gave her one, but if you’re feeling that strongly about it then you go right ahead, maybe she’ll give it to somebody else.”

The next morning was a set for her goodbye party. Whenever a girl left the home, if we could anticipate her date and time of leaving, we took time to go around the table and talk about and encourage the characteristics that we had seen in her life, areas where she demonstrated solid character and growth and areas where we felt that she was gifted and could do things that would make a difference in the world. Most of the girls came to us completely crushed by life and we wanted them to leave knowing that they were specially created by God and could do great things for Him if they chose to follow Him. And we would usually give her some things to take with her.
Ginger was laughing and enjoying the party and opening the gifts.  However, when she opened Brittany’s gift, her eyes grew wide, and she dropped it on the table like it was a snake and gasped, “I can’t believe this!” Brittany gently said, “Open the front cover, I wrote a little note in there for you.” She reached out with a trembling hand and opened the cover and looked inside and then snapped it shut immediately, staring almost wildly at Brittany and then at me, she exclaimed, “What in the world! I can’t believe this! This is just too freaky! This is like, Beyond unreasonable! What …….she trailed off, “I can’t hide it, How did you know?..
We were all completely baffled by her response and I asked, “Ginger? You’re going to have to explain yourself, what’s going on?”
She looked at us with this strange expression of disbelief and stammered, “I tore up the Bible you guys gave me last night and threw it in the trash because I told you I wasn’t going to believe this stuff and God’s not real and I certainly wasn’t going to take it with me!! And here it is in front of me completely intact!!! The exact same color and everything…. same style…the same Bible….that’s just beyond weird.  What is even crazier is knowing that I tore that other one apart and then reading what Brittany wrote inside here is insane.”

I asked her what Brittany had written. She read, “A Bible that’s falling apart belongs to someone who is not.”
I could not help smiling as I thought about how God had made Himself and His Word powerfully real to her and every other person sitting at the table.

I asked, “Well Ginger, are you going to tear this one apart too?”

“No way!” she retorted “I can’t!  This is too crazy! This is too real. I guess I need to take this a little bit more seriously than I did.”

I agreed with her, “Yes, God has gone out of His way to make sure that you knew that the Word of God could not be destroyed in your life and He has something He wants you to do with your life for Him will you read it now?” She promised she would.

God’s Word will stand forever.  The Bible will prevail, and you can trust it.  More importantly, I loved that all the other girls were sitting there watching what God had just done in her heart to help her realize that His Word is real, and He is real.
1 Peter 1:24 The grass withers. The flower fades, but the Word of our God endures forever!

Light in Brokenness

I have so many dear friends who are going through such deep waters right now. My heart aches for them as they deal with death and cancer and loss of other ones. it makes me thankful that I know the Incredible God of Comfort who has comforted me, (2 Cor 1) can comfort them. As believers we sorrow not as others, but we do sorrow. One of the greatest comforts to me when my father died was the verse, “Jesus wept.” We have an intercessor who knows our grief! He is touched with the feelings of our weaknesses and prays for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. Roms 8:26 And we weep with those who weep! Ecc. 3.  We wonder why we, or those we consider dear, go through hard things. It is because when we are broken our light shines to others around us who need to see Jesus.  His light then enters into their hurting places and gives them peace that passes understanding!  My friends are doing this! Shining radiant lights of Christ in their broken places!

When I was a student at the NBBI, one Christmas my roommate gave me a Precious Moments bell as a gift. I loved that bell and I put it in a prominent place on my dresser. This cute little clown on a roller skate upside down just spoke of joy and for most of my life, I have had that interior sense of adventure. I love music, I love going to new places, I love experiencing new things, I love being with new people, I love the fun of friendship and adventure. One day when I wasn’t paying attention I was moving some things across my dresser too quickly and knocked that bell on the floor and it shattered into a thousand pieces. As I began to clean it up, getting ready to throw it away, I noticed the back piece had not broken. It was still intact, and it said, “Our life will always be in balance when we keep our eyes on Him.” I knew right then I needed to put that bell back together and keep it for the rest of my life. Like another Precious Moments figurine, it has a prominent place wherever I have lived because of the lessons that it taught me. First of all that we have to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross; despising the shame. (Heb 11:1) Being broken, we shine out the light that is inside of us much more effectively than we ever would when we aren’t broken. The light shines through all the cracks in our armor. Then people want to know what that light is inside.  Doctors and nurses need Jesus too! Paul said, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering.” (Phil 3:10.) We all want the power of the resurrection. We do not want to embrace the fellowship of suffering! But things happen in us when we suffer. You don’t get to really know someone till you walk with them in pain and suffering! God in His faithfulness breaks us so that we are more effective in shining His glory and His light to the world than we would be if we kept our nice neat perfect life intact. We have to be willing to deal with brokenness and let it change us and the process that it takes for God to put us back together when our lives are shattered. When he’s done we might look at it and think it’s not perfect anymore but He has put it back together in a way that allows the light to shine for the world to see. “Most gladly, therefore, will I glory in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:9-10) But let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God. But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy–acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:4, 15 AMP)

“Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, The one that remains faithful. “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. “Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock. The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level. Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord, We have waited for You eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls. At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; For when the earth experiences Your judgments The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Lord, You will establish peace for us, Since You have also performed for us all our works. O Lord our God, other masters besides You have ruled us; But through You alone, we confess Your name. O Lord, they sought You in distress; They could only whisper a prayer..(Isaiah 26:2-4, 7-9, 12-13, 16 NASB)

Jada

“It’s yours really it is!”

“No I don’t believe you, I think you are wrong!”  Those words still echo in my mind years later when I  think of this story that happened in 1994. I remember the date because I have it written on the bottom of the figurine and who gave it to me.

In the years that I was working at Boylston Home, I had lots of adventures with the girls.  All of them were wisdom developing experiences.

One spring afternoon Jada came bouncing in the door from school with a beautiful little Precious Moments figurine in her hands. She pranced up to me with a delighted look on her face and proceeded to hand me this little figure with joy. I said “thank you dear, but where did you get this?”  My heart was already sinking because Jada was known for having slippery fingers and coming home with things that did not belong to her.

“It’s for you Miss Ruth! I got it for you!” She gushed happily, pushing the figurine into my hands.

I asked her again, “Where did you get this?”

“I got it at school, Miss Ruth.  It’s for you! I got it for you!”  She was not to be discouraged.

“Are you sure are you telling me the truth or Did you steal this from someone?” I was sure I was going to have to take her to someone again and make her give it back..

“No, no! I got it for you honestly I did.”  She was starting to look a little crestfallen at my continued questioning.

“Jada, I’m sorry I can’t believe you.  You’ve taken things from people before that weren’t yours and I’m afraid you might have stolen this too.  I have to call your teacher and she going to tell me where you really got this from so you need to tell me now.”

She barely paused but firmly reassured me, “Yes, Miss Ruth, yes ! I know you like precious moments, so I got if for you honest!”

I walked away from her with a heavy heart knowing that she had probably stolen it wondering “how am I going to deal with this?  I’ll try to give her the benefit of the doubt and I will call her teacher tomorrow.”

The next morning I called the teacher.

“Hello, Miss Smith? I’m sorry, I hate to bother you, but you know how we have this history of Jada taking things that don’t belong to her?  Well, last night she came home with a Precious Moments figurine.  It’s really cute and I have no idea where she got it from can you help me out?”

“Yes Ruth, I would love to tell you what happened with that. Jada knows we have a prize box and a month-and-a-half ago I brought in that figurine and put some high points on it because it has value.  Jada took one look at it and she said, “I know Miss Ruth loves Precious Moments, I’m going to earn that figurine for her!” She spent the entire month earning the points, by good behavior, by working hard, by doing everything that she was supposed to do and getting along with her classmates so she could “buy” that from the prize box for you. That figurine is really yours!   I have been very proud of her effort and you can be as well!”

I wanted to crawl under the table where I was sitting. Not only had I misjudged this young girl. I had completely missed how deep her love was for me that she would sacrifice her earnings for an entire month, not tell me about it and not pick something for herself, but pick something to give to me!  My mind immediately goes to a couple of different verses when I think about this situation. “No man knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person ” (I Corinthians 2:11). and 1 Corinthians 13 where it says “love keeps no record of past wrongs” and, “thinks no evil.”

When Jada came home from school that day I sat down with her and asked her forgiveness for thinking evil of her and wrapped her up in a hug thanking her for her incredible young sacrifice for me! Needless to say, that figurine has always had a prominent place everywhere I have lived and worked to remind me never ever to misjudge a student/child until I knew all the facts! Many times since then I’ve had other situations where, because I took the time to stop and ask all the questions, I was able to save those students the grief of being misjudged by an adult. In one case because I asked all the questions first and was willing to ask forgiveness of a student it saved another student’s life. But that’s a story for another chapter.

Misconceptions: dealing with grief and answers.

Misconceptions about Grief and some Biblical practical thoughts.

A dear friend who has suffered greatly and is now helping others like 2 Corinthians 1 tells us, to comfort, posed a question on FB this week. “What is the greatest misconception of grief that you have experienced?”

In a matter of minutes my mind came up with this list based on the things I have seen, read, heard and personally experienced. I only listed them there, so I want to take the time to develop the answers to each of these Biblically, hopefully for your encouragement and practical use. If enough people express interest I will work on developing a pamphlet that you can order from me.

These are listed as they came to mind so there really is nothing special about the order.  The goal is to supply some key principles to consider when talking to others about their grief. It is likely not completely exhaustive, but it is a good place to start with the common things folks have encountered.

  1. People think they can determine how you grieve is based on how they do.

The Holy Spirit knows our frame, He remembers that we are but dust (Ps 103:14) and because He knows us, He also knows how we handle suffering. If we look at how Jesus handled Mary and Martha in John 11: over the death of their brother, we see very quickly that He dealt with these two ladies differently based on their personalities.  Martha was immediately questioning and talking so Jesus answered her according to her words. Mary was much quieter and Jesus wept with her in silence.

  1. People think they know how long you can grieve.

We know that Job’s friends sat for an entire week in Job 2 before they spoke “because they saw how deep his grief was,” and they only spoke after Job did. (how many of us would sit beside someone who was deeply suffering and not speak for an entire week?) Next, we see that God allowed that discussion to play out for 32 chapters before He said anything.  Then He addressed both Job for his need to develop deeper trust AND his friends for their error in counseling a grieving person!  I was listening to a sermon several years back on Elijah and his “depression.” (1 Kings 19) The speaker proceeded to talk about how Elijah was just on a “pity party” and needed to get up and get back in the battle. This preacher failed to consider some very important things that are noted in the passage. One was the marathon Elijah had just run in Chapter 18. He was utterly exhausted when he was attacked  and threatened by Jezebel. That is when  the devil is most likely to try to take us down. (note that he waited till Jesus was weak and hungry to come after him…Luke 4) More importantly he missed the key phrase where God gave Elijah food,  let him rest, then fed him again with food that nourished him “for 40 days “(1 King 19.8). God knew how long Elijah needed to rest before he could get back to work.  Even when the resting period was done and he was ready to move forward, God did not speak through storms and earthquakes, He spoke in a still small voice with questions.  He never rebuked Elijah for his feeling of being alone, He let him speak and then when he was done saying his piece, God simply told him what he needed to do next. What is even more interesting to consider here is that Elijah was a very outspoken man, so it was surprising to see that when he needed encouragement, he did not get an outspoken rebuke from God. Instead he was given a very gentle question… We can think we are very sure how we need to address people, but we must be careful to ask questions to determine what we are really dealing with first!

  1. People think that your emotional scar is going to disappear/go away.

Emotional scars remain in the same way physical scars do. Like God has given us so many examples through Jesus ministry where he used physical things to demonstrate spiritual unseen things, God also gave us the physical scar to show us what we cannot see inside someone else’s heart.  Scars do heal but the flesh never looks the same.

  1. People fail to see the deepness of the wound.

The verse I think of here is “This kind cometh not out but by prayer and fasting. Matt 17:21.”  I do realize contextually Jesus was discussing why the disciples could not cast out a demon for a man. However, I think the principle applies where we need to consider that there may be harder things going on for a person grieving than we see and we need to be committing them to much more prayer.

  1. People fail to realize that some wounds take longer to drain and heal then others.

I had an experience at one point in my life that helped me learn this principle. I developed this terrible cyst on my back and it was in a place where I could not reach it or do anything to drain it myself. I tried to no avail but it needed to be opened in order to drain. I went to a medical friend. She did not want to hurt me so did nothing. I paid a doctor to look at it.  She said “its not ready to be dealt with yet. ( it was 2 inches across and very painful.) I ended up at someone’s home who took the time to open and do the initial drain that took a couple of hours that day. Then the next days she did more and for days after it continued to drain till it finally healed and I have a permanent indent in a spot on my back from it.  The multitude of applications this produced in my mind are another blog, but the main point here is that some people need more time to talk about, write about, process and work through their grief than others do. Puss needs to be gotten out folks. Some comes quick ,some takes much longer.  I think there is a reason why we are exhorted to forbear with one another. (Eph 4:2)

  1. People think grief is a sin.

Jesus Wept (John 11:32) Nuff said!!

  1. People forget about God’s condemnation of Job’s friends for not speaking right about Him and why God had done what He had done. Job 42:7

 

  1. People don’t know how to answer so say nothing or tell you to stop talking.

Saying nothing is not bad. Just being there in presence and silence can be very comforting. Even Job’s friends recognized that Job 2:13 and they visually looked for the clues to see that Job was suffering.

In reference to telling you to stop talking about your grief. I will develop more in another post about the concept of biblical processing versus venting. Biblical processing in short drains puss and helps to heal a wound. Venting with no desire to understand change or grow is different. The Psalms are replete with examples of anger and frustration expressed, that in the end always turned to a desire to see and understand and rest in the Lord in a new way. That is Biblical processing. Venting is self focused and not intent on growth.

  1. Often People don’t realize that the loss (of an arm to use the physical visual) cannot be just “gotten over.” Life has to be approached completely differently. You simply cannot do the things you did before that same way.

This is simply practical understanding. When you lose a limb you have to learn how to compensate without it. You are never the same but that does not mean you have to be useless. The same is true with a loss. You are never the same and you do have to learn to compensate.  When Paul went through things he talked about experiencing some level of trauma/trial as shown by how he was physically weak. 1 Cor 2:3, 2 Cor 12:-10. Yet even in his weakness Paul realized he could be strong because that is when the Holy Spirit stepped in to empower him. People need time to figure out how to deal with and create a new “normal.”

  1. The first year is not always the worst year. The second and following can be more so because all the support the first year goes away in the years later when things happen that still hit you hard.  My twin was cleaning a cupboard in the years after my dad’s death and pulled a box of Sugar Crisp out and started weeping. ( and then very quickly laughing because of the absurdity of crying over a box of cereal) It was dad’s favorite cereal. You can’t plan for those things! They just happen and you have to recognize the grief, work through it to move on.  I was driving on a highway 10 years after my dad’s death and a truck rolled by with the phrase “jack of all trades.” on the side of it. I immediately started sobbing because my dad was capable of fixing anything completely!

 

  1. Many forget the admonition of Prov 18:13.  You cannot answer till you fully hear or you are a fool.

People need to be willing to ask the right questions before they make quick statements.

  1. Some forget the principle of 2 Cor 1. We comfort how God has comforted us. We cannot help someone else if we have not embraced our own suffering before God and learned how He really comforts. The bible also says the reason the Holy Spirit is our Great High Priest is because He was touched with the feelings of our weakness! Heb 4:15

 

  1. People forget 2 key principles in Phil 3

Verse :10 Paul says he wants to know Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering. We all want the power of His resurrection. We do not readily embrace the fellowship of His suffering!

Verse 13 says “forgetting those things which are behind.” The context of what Paul is discussing here is that he is forgetting all his accolades, all he did well, and he is pressing TOWARD suffering for Christ. So those who try to quote this verse as the reason to just “get over” suffering are, in fact, misquoting scripture.

  1. People forget 2 Cor 12:9 we are strong when we are WEAK and God is strong in us. Suffering and loss absolutely weakens us! But in it, as we embrace our loving Savior, He strengthens us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

  1. In this culture people think weeping is weakness. John 11:35 negates that. Jesus was not weak!

 

  1. The claim that “Time heals all wounds.” Time does heal but it does not make scars go away. Just because a scar is not visible does not mean it is not there. I can’t see your mind but I know you have one.  I can’t see the cancer that ravages someone’s body but it is still there and has to be dealt with. Emotional scars are also there and like a physical scar, if it is bumped or scraped will peel and sometimes reopen, so emotional wounds can be reopened when bumped.

 

  1. Some people think you are manipulating and having a pity party when in fact you are truly confused and need time and help to process the grief.

Carefully asked questions and NOT making assumptions are incredibly important here! If someone says essentially, “I am just having a pity party and leave me alone,” that is one thing, but if someone is genuinely confused in the process of deep grief, they need to be more carefully helped and allowed to process their questions and confusion. Jesus let Martha speak her piece and then answered her. God let Job speak his piece so we all have a clear picture of his areas of confusion and anger etc. Then He answered him with lots of carefully worded questions. 1 Cor 2:11 says that no man knows the spirit of a man except that man. and only when someone states that they will choose to use their grief as a crutch or pity party can you address them this way. Most people who are grieving are genuinely gasping for air trying to survive until they learn a new normal. It is incredibly easy to stand outside of someone else’s sorrow and pass judgment. God gives grace for each person’s sorrow and He times their healing just like some folks get over cancer and others die from the exact same form. We do have to pass through the valley of Baca (suffering) and make pools of hope for those who come behind Ps 84:6 But no one can be the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life. Our job is to listen and ask them what God is showing/teaching them. Or gently ask them what they understand about what a particular verse means. Ps 54-56 are helpful places to start.

  1. People forget that grief is a process not just a moment.

Refer back to my comments earlier about how God handled Elijah and Job. and # 17 we do need to work the process. I have seen information that talks about anywhere from 5 to 15 stages of grief.  The bottom line is  that grief is a process and people have to work through the process at the pace God sets for them and  we need to learn the things God wants us to learn but we have to do this on God’s time table not man’s.

  1. People Misquote verses like “forgetting what is behind and pressing forward.” (see number 13) The context of that is Paul forgetting his accomplishments and pressing toward the fellowship of Jesus suffering…

 

  1. Fellowship is not an instafix. Fellowship means time spent with a fellow in his ship. Ships riding in storms can’t just go dock at the landing. They have to wait for the storm to subside before it is safe to dock!

 

  1. People forget that the skin heals faster than the tissue underneath. My brother had open heart surgery. I tore my baby toe nearly off. I can tell you that the skin heals but the tissue underneath needs more time. I started walking on my foot too soon and reopened the wound because the muscles etc. were not healed under the skin. This is true in loss and grief as well. Deeper grief takes longer to heal.

 

  1. People forget that there are many ways to express grief beyond what they are comfortable with. Some need writing, drawing, talking, hiking, quietness, to name a few.

 

  1. Some People think because you grew up in a Christian home and can quote half the Bible that you know how to deal with grief and don’t need their extended help and understanding. And you should be able to just get over it and be full of joy because we are supposed to rejoice in our trials like James 1 says.

 

While we know the truth of something, we cannot anticipate all the things we will do when we experience it. When you learned to drive a car, you took the paper test but you did not know a thing about pushing the brake or gas at the right time or how much till you got behind the wheel, or how hard to stop or start or how fast to go around corners, or how to maneuver to parallel park. You must experience and work the process and so it is with grief. When I first drove, I ran into a brick wall on a motor bike because I did not know how to turn or hit the brake right. Now that I have driven over 500,000 miles in all kinds of weather and several types of cars /bikes, with various transmissions and axles, there are things about driving I don’t even think about.  But I had to learn. In the days, weeks and months following my dad’s death I could hardly get through an hour with out gasping back sobs. Now 18 years later I can still be caught off guard by a comment someone makes but it does not feel like the “brick wall” of those early days because I have learned how to gently apply the breaks in my mind and redirect after the initial shock of emotion subsides.  Dad is part of who I am, that will NEVER go away.  I have learned how to embrace that while continuing with my life but that took time and understanding from those around me.

Knowledge puffs up. Experience teaches you (1 Cor 13.) You gain wisdom through the things God allows in your life.  God does say He tests us to see if we will follow Him (2 Chron 32:31, Ps 11:4; 26:2; 139:23; Jer 17:10; 1 Pet 4:12) and in the case of Paul He said he would see the great things he would suffer for Jesus sake.(Acts 9:16)  Suffering is part of life and we can have joy in the sorrow but the Bible does say too, that the whole creation travails in pain waiting for the adoption of our bodies. (Roms 8:22) We do feel pain physically and emotionally. Roms 8:26 says the Holy Spirit helps our weaknesses with groanings that cannot be uttered.

From personal experience I can tell you that you can experience an unusual peace and joy at the same time that tears are streaming down your face (or ripping your soul) with deep grief. It is a crazy mix of emotions that is not unbiblical or ungodly. It is the natural process of grief.

“Counting something all joy” like James 1 says, is a thought in the mind first (the word count is a mental process here) it is not instantly an emotion. The emotion takes time to follow.

These truths can be gently shared in small doses when someone is ready for them but they are not the first things to say when someone is gasping for air in a tidal wave of emotion.

Feel free to comment and if needed let me know things you think I should add.

How I learned my philosophy for helping people.

The answer I gave to someone this morning who asked me about how I learned the approach I have taken when I talk to people who ask for my help. First and foremost, it is about 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trouble, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in every trouble, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. “
We must comfort people not with proof texts but with the comfort God has given us! That means we have to be willing to face our daily “stuff!” before we try to “Fix” other people!
My Philosophy when it comes to psychology is quite simply, anything that works in psychology works because it was already in the Word of God to start with. Sadly in some of the biblical counseling world, we have not really dug into understanding what God is communicating in some of the passages. We may want the easy way out. We don’t want to deal with prickly hard things that hurt. It takes some real time and effort on the part of all people involved. I am working on a visual project of this that I will post in the coming days as it is taking time to do what I am doing and I have to work at it slowly as I have strength.
In the meantime, however, the more I have walked this road of growth and healing and trying to understand what God was communicating to me, the more I have understood some very key passages of scripture and exactly what God is really trying to say and how helpful it is to life and godliness! It has become a driving passion with me to never give a pat answer! To always think through things to make sure I understand what’s really going on and to give a Biblical answer that is not trite! God’s Word is like bricks and picked up and used properly they create a foundation that is powerfully strong. But if they are just picked up and thrown at somebody because someone doesn’t want to take the time to understand where that brick really needs to be laid, they cause more damage than help! I call them Bible bricks for that reason. I will never give someone the quick answer of “You just need to get over this and trust God.” Until I have asked all the question, Prov 18:13 I don’t know what it is they need to get over and I also don’t know if they have the tools and support to work towards getting over it. There are an awful lot of incredibly deeply hurting people who need truth given the right way, at the right time, and laid properly to create a foundation in their life! We can’t afford to pick up bricks and throw them and dash off to our next appointment! I have had people in my life who have done both. One approach was life-changing and directional. The other was deeply damaging!

Be Sure Your Sin will Find You Out!

There you are skipping down the road in time to the sunshine, oblivious to everything except the sunshine and your agenda and then it happens…I am thinking about this story because it is pouring rain outside today and that makes me think of water and….well ……you know how the mind jumps from subject to subject…at least mine does…but where was I..? oh yes skipping down the road.. in time to the sunshine…

Actually, this story was not about what happened to me. It is about what happened to someone else because of me and water.

I would love to paint the beautiful sunny ocean scene and forget about the real water in this story and the consequences of my actions.. but sigh… I can’t. It is one of those little tales I have told over and over ….exposing my guilt in the process but also the powerful lesson I learned.

The date was Friday the 13th…If you know me well you know I don’t pay any attention to that date more than any other, but I was at Boylston Home at this time and so the girls I was caring for had, of course, heard all the tales about this supposedly ominous date. As they were getting dressed they told me the tales. I told them hogwash and headed downstairs. I managed to catch my foot on the stairwell and slid down the last 4 steps. They of course hooted and asserted I should pay attention to the date. I logically dismissed it as my carelessness. Some other things happened too and I dismissed them, but I had more to learn about carelessness and lack of diligence and that is where the water comes in… just in case you were wondering what all this had to do with water…

So the girls were happily shooed out the door to school and I was in the kitchen chatting with the other worker on duty with me. I noticed a mug on the counter that needed to be put in the sink so swiped it quickly toward the sink being silly.  In the process, I emptied the half-full contents of water out across the kitchen floor. I looked at Jen, my coworker, who was shaking her head laughing at me because… you know.. the date and all…

I, in disgust at myself, said to her. “Really? That is ridiculous! I am not going to clean that up. It’s just one too many things gone wrong this morning!” She smiled and walked out of the kitchen. It was my responsibility to deal with. I did not.

An hour later, 3 of we childcare workers were all standing talking in the kitchen and my boss, who was over 6 feet tall, came happily waltzing into the kitchen… in time to the sunshine….hit that water and nosedived across the kitchen floor! Yes, ladies and gentlemen this REALLY happened! He gingerly picked himself up and looked around pointing and saying “there’s water all over the floor! Where did that come from?” We all stood completely stunned for a moment knowing this was not a laughing matter. He went down very hard! I swooped for the cloth and got the water cleaned up… The rest of the day the verse “be sure your sin will find you out.” (Num 32:26) came to mind. The context of this verse is when Israel promised to help their brothers and Moses told them they had better follow through or they would be held accountable for it by God…fit my situation. I did not follow through on a responsibility and I caused someone else to suffer as a result. God remembers these things.

Suzie

Oh NO..! I missed my chance!!
I had been at Boylston Home for about 2 years when we had a girl placed with us who was supposed to be with us for several months. She arrived on a Monday. That Thursday night, I was home alone with her as the others had gone to some activity. She had gone to her room and I was busy doing the other things typical mom’s do to take care of a house. The Lord very clearly prompted me to talk to her about how to be saved. I thought about it and then thought, “ah, I have lots of time and I have other things I need to do tonight that are more important.” So, I puttered around cleaning or whatever, just doing my “thing.” He kept prompting me with a clear internal thought. “Do it now!” and being the rebellious, insensitive to the Holy Spirit person I that I was at that time, to my shame, I kept saying back essentially, “but Lord, this thing I am doing right now is more pressing and she will be here for a while.” I kept doing what I was doing. Interesting how I can’t remember what I was doing that night that I thought was more pressing than telling someone about Jesus. I just listened to the lies of unbelief, instead of the truth. I had a lesson I needed to learn and God was about to make it incredibly real!

We had a policy at the home that every girl who came to us was immediately given a Bible on the first night and then we would introduce them to the information as they stayed with us. Many came to us who had never seen one before, so it took time to make sure they understood what it was all about. I had not taken the time yet to walk her through the simple Romans road plan, yet, because I figured I had lots of time. So as crazy as this sounds to me now, I went to sleep and let her go to sleep that night with no understanding of eternal hope!

The next morning, at 8:20 am, I got a call from her Social Worker telling me that there had been an emergency court hearing called and “Susie” would be going home immediately. We had just enough time to get her things packed back up and she was GONE!
I wandered around that house all morning in a daze, stunned that I had let a clear opportunity from the Lord slip through my fingers and I was devastated by my lack of response to a clear prompting from the Holy Spirit! I never let that opportunity slip by again as long as I lived there. I made sure that either I or one of my coworkers had at least shared the gospel plan with every girl who came through the door as soon as possible! I was not going to make that foolish mistake again. I learned my lesson! God taught me well!

3 YEARS later I was sitting at the desk writing a report when the phone rang and a Social worker proceeded to describe to me what sounded like a very troubled young teenage lady. I told her we were hesitant to take someone with those kinds of challenges into our program. She barked back impatiently, “Well I don’t know why not, you had her there before!”
I paused, “Oh really, what was her name?”
“Susie” she replied.
I could not believe my ears! God was bringing her back? I went and told my director what I was being described and what I knew of her from before and got permission to admit her back into the program. I was absolutely marveling that God was so orchestrating things for me to have a second chance!

That night I was scheduled to put the girls to bed and I intentionally took care of all the others before I went to her room. I was NOT going to miss the opportunity a second time! She was sitting on her bed and the Bible was sitting at the foot of the bed.
“Is that the Bible we gave you when you left?’ I asked.
“Yes, it is! I have moved many times since I left here and I have lost many of my things, but I made sure I hung on to that!” She stated it with emphasis.
“Really? Did anyone ever tell you what it was all was about?” I asked.
“No,” she sadly replied.
“Would you like to me to tell you about it?”
To my dying day, I will never forget the look on her face as she turned to me eyes ablaze with wonder and joy and asked me,
“Would you really?”
I had the incredible privilege from God to make good on what He had asked me to do 3 years earlier! She was gloriously saved that night. I know it was real because 3 weeks later she was moved again and after she had been gone for several days I got a call from the Social Worker.
“What did you tell Susie when she lived with you?” She demanded somewhat abruptly.
“I am not sure what you mean?” I responded perplexed.
“She is telling everyone where she lives now that they need to trust Jesus as their Savior or they will go to Hell,” She accused me. I reminded her of the policy at the home that was written in our intake packet that we would share the Bible with all residents who came to live with us and that it was their choice to believe or not believe what the Bible taught. She could not argue with me and hung up disgruntled. I hung up rejoicing that God in His incredible mercy had given me a second chance to finish the work He had asked me to do!

“God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance! 2 Peter 3:9 Behold now is the accepted time. Now is the day of Salvation! 2 Corinthians 6:2 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 We wait in hope for the Lord. Psalms 33:20 As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of Jehovah is tried; He is a shield to all those who trust in Him. For who is God besides Jehovah? Or, who is a Rock except our God? Psalms 18:30-31” (KJV, AMP, MKJV Esword)