Monday, December 11, 2017

10 things your Counsellor wants to say to you but can’t

ACTS of therapy require great courage — in both the giving and receiving of counsel. Going to counselling could be about as enjoyable as going to the dentist.
The point is made, however, that when either are needed only great detriment occurs when we put it off.
Here is a small list of possible things a counsellor might want to say a client, yet may struggle to:
1.          Don’t leave it until the damage is done to see me – counsellors want to say, be proactive. Take ownership of your mental and emotional health, marital conflicts, etc. The truth is some couples leave it too late, some individuals cause themselves deeper heartache by delaying action, and some children are harmed greatly because parents / guardians sat on the fence. Always escalate (overreact) as far as seeking help, then moderate back.
2.          Own your feelings, thoughts and actions – sometimes there are opportunities to coach clients, i.e. when they’re in a safe emotional place. Yet so many hear repeatedly the need to own one’s own feelings, thoughts and actions and never do anything about it. They could actually solve a lot of their issues sheerly from taking responsibility, and learning how to absorb hurts.
3.          Listen to me, listen to each other, listen to yourself – counsellors say this ad nauseam, but one thing they cannot say is why are you still not listening? It must be the rarest practiced relational skill. Listening alone could solve most of all our relational problems. Add accepting to that, and a great deal of mental, emotional and spiritual mastery is in our own hands.
4.          I’m not sure I can help you any further – some counsellors, when they get to this point, may struggle to say these words, because they don’t want to inflict despair. The truth is they’ve equipped the client with the information they need to apply techniques, and for some reason, occasionally the inability to learn or be honest, there is little more the counsellor can do but repeat themselves.
5.          You’re not as good as you think you are – it’s true. None of us are. Pride is the great ‘vindicator’ of the foolishness that refuses to see from another’s viewpoint. If others say you don’t listen well, or you talk over them, or you criticise and condemn, their perception is one important part of the overall truth.
6.          You’re not as bad as you think you are – again, it’s true. None of us are as bad as we often think we are. Guilt and shame make up for most of our maladjusted past. Be honest, yes, we could have done better. We have to accept we cannot redo our past. Thankfully counsellors can and do say this, but they may also have to deal with clients who mask feeling bad, like, “Oh, I really don’t have such a poor self-esteem” when they perhaps do.
7.          Don’t think or do that thing you always do and probably cannot stop doing – sometimes counsellors see something in a client that probably cannot be overcome. It usually isn’t anything fatal. Because they go gently, the counsellor accepts the limitations within the relationship. They have to. They take no risks where there is risk of harm.
8.          I strongly disagree with you – this depends on the effectiveness of the counselling relationship. This is about polarised views in the counsellor and client in terms of entrenched belief systems. The counsellor will most likely leave these types of issues in the too-hard-basket, accepting the diversity, and choose to work on other areas of influence. As the client it’s good to respect the fact they respect the differences between you.
9.          I think you’re dreaming – again, the counsellor will approach this sort of thing very gently, unless there is a great working rapport evident.
10.       You make me feel awkward / uncomfortable / unsafe – occasionally counsellors feel something in a counselling relationship that is less than ideal. Theirs is the task of bringing it into the conversation if it cannot be overcome. Sometimes counsellors must end relationships abruptly.
These ten points can be overcome in a counselling relationship, but many of these situations require great skill and care to negotiate.
The client can be very proactive in the counselling relationship simply by asking if there is anything the counsellor would like to say but feels they can’t. That takes great courage to ask, and a lot of humility to listen to. But the client can only prosper having asked and listened.

Friday, December 8, 2017

What is the purpose of this grief that sneaks up to confront and shock me?

EYEOPENERS in life come in pleasant and painful extremes. And grief is an eyeopener of the most painful variety. A nemesis that seems to sneak up from nowhere at times, to take away our peace, our joy, our hope, our mind, to rob our heart of the security we so desperately rely on.
Grief can leave us floorless, baseless, sinking as if our world were bottomless. And all over a tiny nuance, a reminder, a word, an event, a colour, any connection that prompts us of our newfound dysfunction.
Grief says, “You’re alone.” It points out the kind of information that is only blatantly obvious when we’re weak. It pinpoints our weakness as if we didn’t even know we were weak. Grief sees weakness and then says, “Strike!” Grief causes us to feel that we’re ever vulnerable to weakness.
It does seem so unfair.
Being caught out of control with such astonishing regularity means our trust for reality diminishes. What has changed is that we have begun to second guess moments, as fear grips us in a new way. What we fear is that curtain of security can be ripped open at any time.
We’re exposed to this shocking sequence of moments we cannot control, for what? And yet, there is a thing that God is doing despite the horrifying reality of grief.
We get it wrong if we say God caused this grief to occur. No, we live in a deeply fallen and broken world where grief is inevitable. Everyone in time will be confronted with grief. Grief spares nobody.
What we can get right is that God can compensate us, and does, ultimately, as we seek Him. God’s compensation out of the events of loss are a new foundation of awareness and a building capacity for peace within the storms of life. God’s compensation is a patient teaching (which we can think takes too long) and we slowly but surely learn to cope. God is teaching us ultimately that there is no fear in anything besides fear in Him, alone — a godly fear which is holy esteem and holy respect. A right orienting for life.
Let’s not forget that God works through weakness, not strength. His power is perfected through our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). Our task is to discover how this works in our life. Our quest is to learn a thing where surrender becomes a key word.
God is bringing us through to a place where hope abides in any and all situations — especially where hope has been vanquished (see, for example, Philippians 4:12; suffering taught Paul much that he would otherwise been completely clueless about).
Is grief good. No, not in and of itself. But if we look at what lies beyond it as we trust God, even though the journey is messy and sorrowful and many levels of pain harder than we thought life could ever be, we do get through and experience teaches us deeper empathy, compassion, warmth, kindness, and patience.
For the love we lost, through a season of nakedness, grief clothes us in time in richer colours of love.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

An inextinguishable Hope

Photo by Olivier Fahrni on Unsplash
DESPAIR is such an unenviable condition, having been there, none of us want to return. Yet, life experience attests to a fact; if we fell to the pit of an abyss once, it won’t be the only time.
That’s said not as a pessimistic take on an otherwise brighter life. If we take the fact seriously — the threat that despair is a routine offender — then we have an opportunity.
Without the presence of despair in our lives there would be little need to tussle for hope.
I think hope only becomes a real possession when we’re desperate to acquire it. Otherwise it is easily taken for granted. There may be no such thing as an ambivalent hope. Hope seems to be something we need to fight for.
And that’s not all.
I wonder if there is a genuine gift of an inextinguishable hope on the other side of fainting, groaning, wilting despair, especially over the longer journey.
I sense that rather than being burned out by the serial pest that despair is, we may be established by it and fashioned positively by the realities of this confusing and fleeting and difficult life. Then we might realise that hope is the opportunity within despair.
But this understanding does not come easily, nor does it make immediate sense.
When I’ve struggled with my mental health, I can still discern the possibility of an inextinguishable hope, though the fact it’s out of my grasp. But, at my healthiest I know I can practice it with consistency, especially as it pertains to serving others. This is why pastors and counsellors must ensure they cater for the needs of their own self-care, simply to stay healthy. But, it’s something anyone can employ — and we should want to partake of the benefits of life experience.
The kindling of an inextinguishable hope is one of God’s greatest promises. When despair has schooled us in how to fight fiercely for hope, where the quest for health prevails, God does not disappoint. Ultimately, the quest for seasons of inextinguishable hope are realised.
God’s hope is an eternal flame enjoyed with no effort on our behalf when we’re spiritually healthy.

An inextinguishable hope, then, comes when we’re spiritually vitalised.

Monday, December 4, 2017

You know you’re growing when you…

Photo by Will Oey on Unsplash

DEVELOPMENT through the lifespan is important for the disciple. They accept they’ve been saved by grace alone through faith alone, but that very fact compels them to live for Christ. They translate that as spiritual growth.
You know you’re growing when you:
ü get embarrassed by certain actions you did a year or so ago that you wouldn’t do now – there is always some sense for the cringe factor when there is something you see you did but wouldn’t do again. Yet, grace gives you the instant understanding you’re both perfectly loved yet not there yet;
ü experience less pain than you would have or did some time ago – this is a key indicator of growth – to deal with something better than how it was dealt with in the past;
ü experience more pain because God has made you more sensitive and compassionate to the suffering in the world – this ‘more’ pain is not a pain that emanates from personal loss, but for others when they experience loss;
ü can calmly advocate for something or someone when you previously wouldn’t have been able and/or when you hear and obey the Holy Spirit say, ‘don’t speak now, just listen’ when you would have simply spoken up beforehand;
ü can simply enjoy the present moment, especially when your prayers for yourself are not be answered as you’d like them to be, yet you still have a hope you cannot explain;
ü can be honest about your shortcomings, easy on others, hard on yourself, and don’t feel resentful when others don’t accept their responsibility in faith that God will sort them out… eventually;
ü in seeing evidence of growth, believe even for future growth because God has convinced you that is the fruit borne of the life of faith;
ü [insert yours into one of the comments fields wherever this gets posted]
This would have to be an inexhaustible list.

Spiritual growth is less about what we do; it’s more about growing into who we are in Christ, reflected in how we go about what we do.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Writhing through the pain of hurt

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

THIS cannot be an article about hope — where hurts sting through tear-swollen eyes, a mind agonizing, a heart defeated — at least not a flippant hope.
It’s okay. It’s not okay that your heart is hurting. But it is okay that you cannot hope right now. It is okay that you cannot face thought of present, let alone the future.
It is okay to feel defeated when all is not okay.
It is okay to not feel guilty when you feel numb.
It is okay to feel guilty that you don’t feel guilty.
It is okay not to know where to turn, what to do, even how to breathe. It’s not okay, but it is okay.
As we wrestle with pain that torments the moment in myriads of ways, as we search ourselves over and over, only to keep finding nothing, as we are faced with reminders of our helpless reality, we are forgiven for wanting to give up.
Yes, forgiven. God understands. He who lives with you, in you, and knows you even as you know yourself, knows you even when you don’t know yourself. He knows your possibilities, even as He knows your purposes and plans. It is easy for God to hope for you. But it is not easy for you to know. It is something we can only, and are best to, accept.
The only way we can agree with God regarding the possibilities He has for us — those possibilities we cannot possibly know — is to live hopefully, in faith, trusting Him that He is good. There is no other way than faith.
And yet, in hurt our pride can take a while to succumb to the needs of reality. It’s okay to feel hurt, we just cannot remain there. The time comes to resolve again in faith that we will venture forward, however hard that seems right now, with fresh courage.
It takes humility to make that jump. It takes honesty to emerge from death to hope for life.

Yet just one step forward is blessed to be the hardest of all. Once it is made subsequent steps are easier.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Where is the hope when all is pain?

Photo by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash
THOSE who have borne pain begin to bear others’ pain. Cause and effect locates the bearer in a position where others’ pain irritates their own pain. It is why healing is so necessary.
Healing is heartfelt acceptance
never a thing we can do for ourselves.
If there is no healing, pain is simply too much to bear, and trauma re-incises old wounds, and festering of character and spirit takes place. But courage is mere choice and opportunity away. Hence, hope.
Pain forces us toward or away from hope, and the latter only because we gave up hope of finding it. The former is pain’s objective — to locate hope and reconcile who we are amid pain, and who we are to be post pain.
Wherever we encounter people of the latter school, those founded on despair, insight may give us the gift of seeing the sickness emanate from within them through varying forms and degrees of cynicism and helplessness that highlights they are fugitives of blessedness. They never hoped to be that way. Nobody ever does. And there are still so many individuals and groups for which pain doubles and trebles. A world where despair overwhelms.
But so too does blessing multiply.
It’s why healing is so important. Hope is central.
And yet, the hopeful former ones, who sought hope and promptly found it, can barely understand the latter’s affliction. Even less can those see who have never been afflicted. And there is no empathy possible in those who think they have suffered but indicate from the way they live that they have not.
Agree with what I write here or not, we have a problem in this world, and God gives us the want to bring His hope to all. But we cannot help unless we agree the aggrieved have cause. Their cause is not easily understood, and we can only help if we understand. It takes time and the humility borne of sacrifice to overcome ignorance.
Sometimes understanding is knowing
and accepting we don’t understand.
Sometimes the hope people seek amid their pain propels them into a deeper nuance of pain. There is courage needed to endure in the quest for hope. But hope will never disappoint us. It is worth every openhearted query. Yet we all need to be reminded through encouragement.
Pain causes us to stretch desperately toward hope, and where there is hope pain has meaning.
This article is not intended to heal. It’s merely an encouragement to keep searching and exploring.
Here are Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT):
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Healing is not an overnight process. But hope will hold us afloat in the meantime. There is one thing to do then: hope.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanking God for the Courage in your Encourager

They serve us by lifting us when we’re low, and they help affirm our calling when we’re curious. They are faithful companions on the journey of life: the encourager.
There is courage in the encourager. Look at the word: en-courage.
The encourager has courage in them
for putting courage in those they encourage.
The outcome of encouragement is courage fills us.
We may call it confidence or boldness. It’s still courage.
The encourager is an opportunist. They draw from within themselves the courage in them to encourage others. They see their opportunities and they take their opportunities.
Encouragers are risk takers. They would rather say something kind and right and get it wrong than miss the opportunity altogether. Encouragers don’t have to do what they do. They do so because they’re principled. They stand to feel rejected if the person they seek to encourage responds negatively. But for them the chance to do some soul-lifting is worth the risk. In any event, the light of Christ that burns brightly in them is too resplendent to repress.
Most encouragers are so adept at honouring what they feel so strongly about. If they see something in us worth us knowing, they don’t assume we know already.
They take the courage from within themselves, fashioning words, and they say them. Some encouragers are so courageous they’re prepared to sacrifice themselves in joining us on our journey. (But not in a co-dependent way! — in a faithful way of a mentoring sage.) They serve us in ways we know they’re there for us. All service of sacrifice requires courage. That’s a humble courage of committed faithfulness.
Thank God for the courage and confidence in them that builds courage and confidence in us.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What if we only lived 10 years

Photo by Blake Meyer on Unsplash

IMAGINE if God had designed human life to expire after just ten years. Try to think how that might challenge and change our perspective.
Could it be a worthy reflection, today?
What if we only had two years to grow through infancy, childhood and adolescence to adulthood. What if we married and had less than five or six years with our partner. What if we only ever had a three or four-year career. What if the final two or three years of our lives involved ageing.
I guess it’s a moot point, being that most people get nearly ten times that amount of life.
A near 100-year life should never be thought of as a curse, but perhaps complacency causes us all to take life for granted occasionally. If we lived ten years, with a 100-year life perspective, we sure wouldn’t waste one drop or one breath of life. If ten years was all we had, surely we would do with our lives what can never be done when we’re dead.
If we add the same logic to our near 100-year lifespans we should say why are we not given one-thousand? Even one-hundred years is miniscule in comparison with nine-hundred more. But, as any of us truly knows one-hundred years is more than enough, especially if we’re in chronic pain and/or our hope is to meet Jesus. Still, we suffer loss when we lose our parents and grandparents, just as our children and grandchildren will suffer the same anguish. Where there is life there is pleasure and pain.
What if our lives only lasted ten years. If we bore that in mind we might be more present, more grateful. Of course, a near 100-year life means we’re also rewarded for tenacity and perseverance.
Life is a sprint and it’s a marathon.
Run each stride with purpose and every mile with poise.
Live life with gratitude for time is fleeting, and with perseverance for the long haul.
Be present for yourself and with others, making the most of the present day.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Read this and you are NOT alone

Photo by Luke Ellis-Craven on Unsplash

OVERWHELMED is a feeling I get when I face a spiritual attack that always seems to come as a flurry of fiery darts. These six or seven issues confound my ability to face them one-by-one, and in being overwhelmed I just tear up and acknowledge that I can only accept what I cannot change. It is all I can do so it is all I do.
If you ever feel anything like this, please, you are not alone.
We don’t have to be strong to be capable when we are weak. But we do prosper when we accept the status quo. We do not need to be afraid that we feel alone. But we can understand and forgive our fear. You would be amazed at the sheer number of people who fold under the weight of spiritual attack. You are not alone in what you feel or how intensely you feel it.
The enemy is strong and cunning. And when we are under attack, we do not seem to recall just how infinitely strong God is. The most powerful thing God can say is you are not alone… I am with you. God has not and will never abandon us.
I am about sick of the alienating message of ministers of God who say, you need to be strong, when Scripture says, be strong… and courageous. We never need to be courageous when we’re feeling strong. When we’re feeling strong we do not need God, which is a dangerous fallacy. It is only when we are feeling weak and vulnerable that we need to be courageous. People most often need the opposite; permission to be weak, to overcome it through God’s power. When we feel weak we feel alone. But when we know others are weak we know we are in the company of friends. And then weakness, as a threat, melts away.
As you read this, you are not alone. The spirit these words are typed in feels alone. Yet, we are not alone, are we? We are never truly alone.
In case you missed it, God says this: you are not alone!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The company of God’s Presence in the numb night of grief

Photo by Josh Adamski on Unsplash

SOMETHING is common in the experience of those who have been broken by a pain that rips their lives to shreds. God’s Presence.
A situation that pushes us too far into the realm of inner destruction makes us reach out, and in the reaching out we’re helped in ways we could not have imagined.
I can speak in these terms for two reasons. I’ve experienced it once if not a dozen times. (More actually.) That’s the first reason. The second is the people God has brought into my sphere — some who will read this — so many of them have spoken, too, of these secret hidden realities.
It seems God wants these realities to remain elusive. I find words hard to come by to explain these things in real and rational terms that are credible — words for experiences that few have — not a select few — experiences chosen for any who would capitulate.
See, we ordinarily won’t allow ourselves to be crushed.
So when life does it to us, and we find we have no recourse to remedy for denial, brutality or escape, we find ourselves in uncharted territory. Too broken not to need to be rebuilt.
Suddenly we’re in a place where there is only one thing left. Stripped bare of all things other than the experience of our existence, we reach out to the Creator. He says, “Finally!” “Son/daughter, come to Me and find your rest in Me, because you know I know your pain.”
Suddenly He who is the Hero of our faith, becomes real and living in that moment. That moment we’re met! And life can never go backwards from there. We can certainly suffer greater things, but our knowledge of the reality of God’s Presence can never again be denied.
We can praise God for the numb night of grief that cast our souls to oblivion. That is the night when, with nothing left, we reached out and met God.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Moving forward when you’re getting behind

OVERWHELMED by the sheer weight and number of issues in life, you could be forgiven for giving up. But there’s no purpose in it other than thinking it’s easier. The truth is it’s only easier for that millisecond — as soon as we give up we backslide, and the hell we move into is worse than it ever was.
There is only one way to move ahead and that is to move forward.
But that seems so hard when we can barely breathe, when life is crushing the life out of us.
Yet, by simply holding open the possibility of forward inertia, life slowly begins to change inside out. As we focus not so much on what is wrong, but on the things we can do right, God blesses our intent, and small victories come into sight, awareness and experience.
Suddenly we realise the power in our minds to create a dream rather than destroy it before it was ever imagined.
No matter how far behind we think we are, we’re only one decision away from forward momentum.
No matter how long we’ve been floundering, the transition from being stuck to mobilisation occurs in a heartbeat.
No matter how much trepidation we experience, we’re counselled to initiate movement, for only when we do, does fear ebb away.
No matter how little it seems, what little there is needed to shift our momentum forwardly is within us.
A change of mindset of faith is the only requirement. One heartfelt decision is all it takes to get the inertia moving in the right direction.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Your Presence Matters

Photo by Elijah Hail on Unsplash

TRUTH and lies fill all of our lives. Yet, we can choose to nourish truth and negate the lies. One such truth to nurture is your presence matters. It really does.
You being alive matters AND your presence in others’ lives matters, too.
God can do things through you He would not do otherwise. Put another way, without you there would be things God could not do that He wishes to do. That’s because you think in ways that are unique to you. You will get and act on ideas that nobody else may.
But, even more primary to God doing unique things through you is the fact that your being alive matters to other human beings — those who love you, who couldn’t bear to be without you. So whenever you’re tempted to disparage or berate yourself, think of those who love you who would not wish for you to contemplate or act on such lies.
Of course, your being alive matters to God. He meant for you to be alive for the entirety of your life, from conception through the passage of time and then into eternity. Being alive you bear your soul. You’re no less precious than anyone else God has ever made or will make.
Being present matters.
Every passive moment is a moment where we refuse to live. Passivity doesn’t mean we cannot rest. Rest is an active thing when we’re intentionally resting. It’s a spiritual discipline.
Being present is being active so far as making the most of life.
God’s counting on you being you and me being me. It’s primary to the outworking of salvation — that we would grasp just how wide and deep the love of God is.
When we do, we begin to stop judging and condemning how we look and move and respond.
We overlook what we were once so afraid of. And in this we see signs that the Gospel of Jesus is changing our lives from the inside out. Every true believer of Christ needs to witness their own fruit to bolster the truth of their belief.
When we experience the truth by living it, the wisdom of discerning truth grows in us more and more, and God shows us untold treasures related to the importance of our presence. Finally, we’re able to more fully believe we’re irreplaceable.
Your presence matters.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Do you ever ask, did it really happen?

BUZZ goes the phone, and as I check for the message it’s a friend. He reminds me of the significance of a date (tomorrow) I already know — yet, suddenly, God has me go in on a journey. He shows me something surreal. It catches me by surprise.
I ask, for the first time I can recall, did this really happen?
It seems like it didn’t for the pure fact that all emotion is contained, dealt with, sublime. Unless, of course, I go in, as if to lift the lid. There it is, right there, again! Just as it always was. Preserved. Intact. The combination of a reflective moment, some choice photographs, and a special highly evocative song. Then it’s as real as it ever was. But it doesn’t overwhelm us.
It is healing? Or, it is denial? It could be something else, but at times it feels like it didn’t happen to us.
Tomorrow, on the third anniversary of his funeral, we bury our son’s ashes in a special pot we will plant.
I feel compelled to write and share. Yet I feel guilty at times sharing about Nathanael. I wonder if people think I’m trying to profit in some way by rehashing these stories. The truth is, I think, that grief is a fathomless pit of experience — and not all of it is harrowing. Some of it is reflective and good. Some of it teaches me about the voluminousness of life and wisdom and all there is to know by experience. Some of it is unbearable, for sure. But much of it is ho-hum, like it would be better if it weren’t this way, but it is. I know that some people would rather I didn’t make so much of our loss. I’m prepared to be unpopular if our experience helps even one person. What we’ve experienced must have meaning. Perhaps it’s those who are unattuned to loss who feel uncomfortable?
I don’t really want to bury the box that contains my son’s ashes.
But we will. We’ve been wanting to do it for some time, yet it’s safe and clean in our house at present. Isn’t it funny that I’d want material from my deceased son’s body kept safe and clean? Some of you at least would say, no, that’s normal.
Of course, it did happen, and we know it happened.
It’s a nice, safe feeling to know I can access my historically true sadness anytime. It is a treasured legacy of having lost our shining gift of God.
I suppose it’s a nice, safe feeling because we’ve always been thankful that we can remember him and his important place in our lives.