Is the Light in you brighter than the light on you?

by Grayson Oliver

On Monday, January 9th, 2017, Clemson University won the 2016 NCAA Football National Championship. As the game clock ticked down into the early morning hours I found myself more energized after the clock struck zeros than I was before the game! Being a Clemson man, it was a tremendous feat that was great for the school that I will always cherish. Also, being from South Carolina, it was something that I felt was great for the state as well. All my life I had dreamed of those Tigers hoisting that championship trophy above their heads and it was actually coming true! However, in the midst of jubilee, what stuck out to me wasn’t that we had just won, but a quote given by the head coach.

While all the cameras were surrounding him, Dabo Swinney gave the glory to God in front of the whole nation, and he also said that he had been telling his players to “let the light inside you shine brighter than the light that’s shining on you.” He repeated this statement once again while accepting the Championship trophy center stage at Raymond James stadium. His words have made a profound impact in my life because it causes everything to come in to focus after realizing Who we serve and what He does in our lives. Matthew 5:14-16 tells us “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” How often do we feel stress or pressure that causes us to simply forget who we are representing in our daily lives? Many times we have the light on us only to succumb to the pressures of this world so we can be accepted by the ones shining the light. Or we might simply fade into the background so that we do not get noticed.

My encouragement to you is to remember the sovereign God that we serve and the position that He has put  us in so that He can continue to get the glory that He deserves. Let us be delighted to serve a God who loves and accepts us enough to allow us to show the world who He is THROUGH us! How great it is to be a child of the King! So therefore, let the light that shines in you be brighter than the light that shines on you.

YOU can help

September 28, 2016

Dear Friends and Champions of CrossLife Ministries

- “Without your help, I don’t know where our marriage would be!”

- “Thank you for providing this ministry…your counseling helped guide me back to a Christ-centered life!” 

- “Words cannot express my appreciation for you and your ministry…it is nice to find a place where you can find love, acceptance, safety and most of all truth.”

- “Because God directed you to help me, I now see God the way He wants to be seen, not thru the eyes of hurt and pain.”

These are only a few of the many comments we have received from clients. It has been our mission and purpose to provide Biblically-based, Christ-centered counseling from professionally trained counselors to those who struggle with personal, marital and family issues. We believe that all the answers to life’s difficulties and struggles are found in the person of Jesus Christ and through the precepts and principles of the Word of God. Therefore, we believe that Biblical counseling is superior to other forms of counseling for providing healing, hope and direction. For over twenty three years we have met with over 14,500 people totaling over 55,000 counseling hours. In addition to providing Biblical counseling, I have been training Biblical counselors here at CrossLife, with approximately forty five people who have completed graduate-level internships with us to hone their skills. 

We have also travelled overseas to provide Biblical counseling to “on the field workers” and foreign nationals throughout Central Asia with another trip scheduled for January 2917. I have provided training for the member care teams and continue to encourage and coach them in the work they do on the field. The International Mission Board in Richmond, Virginia refers workers from various parts of the world to me when they need to come back to the States for personal issues. We have done all of this, counseling here in Raleigh and internationally, totally on a donation basis. We do not charge a fee for counseling or training. 

Our budget for 2016 is $252,432.00, unchanged since 2008. We need revenues each month of $21,036.00 to meet that budget. Our counselors and staff are paid modest salaries and we guard the stewardship of the money that the Lord provides. We are seeing that 48% of those who come in for counseling can’t donate what is needed to keep the office open. Approximately 25% give little to nothing. As of August 31st, our budget needs were $168,288.00. We have only spent $160,437.10 and we have received $136,467.25 leaving us $31,820.75 below budget. We have worked to keep expenditures as low as we can.

As one who has supported CrossLife Ministries, I am asking that you join with us as a champion of Biblical counseling by doing three things. We need for you to pray for us because the enemy does not want us to do this work. Second, we need you to tell others about Biblical counseling and CrossLife Ministries and third, we ask for your continued financial support to help us operate and expand this ministry. 

God’s Word says in Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” We believe that Christ is the answer to our salvation and in Him we have the answers for living life daily and healing hurting hearts. If the Lord leads you to give a one-time gift or a commitment to become a monthly supporter, your tax-deductible donation will enable us to continue providing Biblically-based counseling to those in need. 

We have updated the look of our website and it is now possible to donate through our website. Visit us at www.crosslifeministries.org to see the changes. CrossLife Ministries is also partnered with the National Christian Foundation to handle all donations of stock, mutual funds, restricted securities and other asset based giving. NCF is the largest Christian Community Foundation in the country and facilitates all stock donations for us at no cost. Giving stock to support CrossLife Ministries is now easier than ever before! You may also donate cash through their web site. Their link is on the web site.

Finally, we’d like to invite you to follow us on Facebook. If you appreciate what we are doing, Like us and leave a comment. This would be an easy way for you to get the word out about what we are doing. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us directly to discuss them.

In HIS Service,

Archie L. Bost, Ph.D., NCC, BCC

Founder and Executive Director

It's All About Attitude

by Dr. Archie L. Bost

Maybe the greatest enemy of marriage or any other relationship that we have is selfishness.  James 4:1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

I have been actively involved in church ministry all my adult life and in full time ministry for 30 plus years.  In those years, I have witnessed failing marriages as well as ho-hum, weak and struggling marriages.  I sometimes think that people get married and make their vows, but mean something more like “I take thee for me.”  As soon as things do not go according to what they want, they are arguing, fighting and in many cases, ready to give up.  I believe that is because we have not matured as children of God.  We must grow in our fellowship with Christ, knowing that we are betrothed to Him.

Many people endure the Christian life rather than enjoy it.  They know what it is to be forgiven for their sins.  They have the hope of heaven.  But in between that initial experience of saving faith and that final experience of seeing Jesus, there is a vast gap characterized by barrenness, frustration, and failure. 

Far too many churches reflect the shallow “easy believeism” of our contemporary age.  Thousands come through the front doors while tens of thousands leave through the back doors.  Instead of preaching the message of a living, reigning, and caring Lord who is totally adequate for every human need, Many teach a watered down truth of the grace of God, thus giving reign to licentiousness. 

It is unpopular to teach a message of death to self...but Romans 6:6 says that the old man is dead.  Few verses in Scripture sum up this core message like Galatians 2:20.  “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”   So many Christians today try to live the Christian life apart from Christ; but such human endeavors are doomed to failure.  Jesus made that clear when He declared with categorical finality: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  Tragically, Christians attempt to copy the Christ of history in their own strength.  That fact that we can do nothing apart from Him also means that we can’t be married in a healthy, thriving way without Him.

The fact is, only one person ever lived the Christian life; it was Jesus, and He did so to the pleasure and glory of His Father (Luke 3:21-22; 9:28-35).  Having fleshed out the perfect life in undeviating obedience to the will of God, “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9).  After Jesus had finished His work and made it clear that eternal salvation came through the blood of His cross and the power of His resurrection, He ascended to heaven to impart His life, through the Holy Spirit, to all who believe His gospel and receive His full salvation.  So the Christian life is nothing less than the out living of the indwelling Christ on the very principle of dependent faith which takes us back to Galatians 2:20. The miracle of the indwelling life of Christ is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.  As we yield to Christ we will grow in our knowledge and love of Him.  It is this power that works in us to make marriage and other relationships great.  We can’t do this on our own. 

Better life, marriage, parenting, work, or other such relationships are not achieved by longing for them and lingering at the Cross.  There must be the appropriation, by faith, of the Holy Spirit to fill our life with the presence of the Lord Jesus.  That obtainment is by faith, and not by works.  Galatians 3:2 says, “This is the only thing that I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”  Just as salvation is by faith, so also is the exchanged life.  Our life of sin and self has been exchanged for a new life in Christ.  Just as we took the Lord as our sin-bearer, we take the Holy Spirit as our burden-bearer.  Just as we take the Savior as the One who paid the penalty for our sin, we take the Holy Spirit as the One who has power over indwelling sins that are present.  The Savior is our atonement, the Holy Spirit is our advocate.  In salvation, we receive newness of life; by the Holy Spirit, we find life more abundant.  In each case, the appropriation is by faith and by faith alone, wholly apart from any feeling on our part. 

After appropriation, we must abide by faith in the Savior.  Jesus said in John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  Part of abiding in Him is obedience to His will.  In 1 John 3:24 we read, “And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”

We must die to self every day if we want a marriage that is exceptionally beautiful.  Dying to self is the only way to live for Christ or for any other person.  Therefore, every morning when I wake up, I hope to remember that I have been crucified with Christ and that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  Basically, for my marriage to be what Christ wants it to be, I must remember that life is not about me, but about Christ and about my spouse.  Philippians 2:3-5 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, let each of you regard one another as more important than himself: do not merely look out for your own personal interest but also look out for the interest of others, taking on the attitude of Christ.” 

Taking on the attitude of Christ…now that is a high place to rest.  When we take on the attitude of Christ, everything in life looks and functions much better.  We will love our spouse with the love of Christ.  We will hate sin.  We will be submitting to God and resisting Satan and he will flee from us.  We will flee immorality and walk in victory.  How are you walking out your life? Are you dying to self daily?  Are you taking on the attitude of Christ?

Emotional Connection In Marriage

By Archie L. Bost

Do you want to come home to your marriage?  If you feel close enough to your spouse that you can trust him or her with your heart, you're blessed.  If your marriage feels distant you're not alone.  Too often, the close connection God wants married couples to enjoy becomes strained and broken.  Couples can try to repair the damage by applying wise principles to their marriage, but no advice or new found skills will make a difference unless they feel emotionally safe, close, cherished, and respected together.  It's that strong emotional connection that truly motivates spouses to build a healthy marriage.   Here are some practical ways you can build a strong emotional connection with your spouse:

You must have a genuine interest in the other person and be alert to not only the needs but the interest of your spouse.  There must be a growing understanding of each other, with happens only by intention.  Realize that, even in the midst of your fighting, both you and your spouse yearn to be seen, understood, and valued.  Understand that both of you are longing for the other to be a trustworthy person who will be emotionally available and respond in a caring manner.

Don't settle for an emotionally distant marriage; know that there is hope for your marriage to change.  Working with your spouse, review each of your schedules and build in time for each other regularly.  Recognize how your past affects your current relationship. Understand the ways in which you were hurt and what vulnerable places you now have, so you can seek healing for those issues and not blame your spouse for them.  Talk about your daily disappointments and the little ways you each (often unintentionally) hurt each other, so these small things don't build up into big things that will come between you.  Work on resolving the big issues of disagreement in your marriage, remembering that marriage is not about me, but we or us.  Try to actually be there for your spouse whenever he or she needs you, seeking to understand and respect the differences you and your spouse have in your families of origin and your lifestyle preferences (such as getting up early or staying up late).

Be reliable, so your spouse will know he or she can count on you to be honest, dependable, and on time.  Let your spouse know that, no matter what, you will always care for and value him or her.  Be genuinely interested in doing what's best for your spouse and your marriage, not insisting on your own way.

Make sure that your marriage is a top priority in your life.  Give plenty of time and energy to your relationship.  Whenever you find yourself harboring resentment against your spouse, pray for God to help you forgive and reconnect.

Be approachable, genuinely listen to your spouse without judging, criticizing, or problem-solving.  Make sure your spouse knows that you care about his or her thoughts and feelings. Ask questions to get more information so you can better understand what's bothering your spouse, and why.  Then discuss the issue, offering comfort and constructive suggestions for how to do things differently.

Regularly touch, hug, and kiss your spouse, being in close physical proximity whenever you can.  A gentle, caring touch has more power than most people realize.  This touch must be a non-sexual touch that would be appropriate in any environment.  Holding hands while sitting, riding in a car or walking along the way is another way to expressing caring heart.  Many have said that they feel safe when there is regular touching or holding of hands.

Strive to understand the emotions that lie beneath the emotions you and your spouse express, so you'll know how to more clearly bring the real issues to the forefront of your discussions.  Acknowledge each other's different emotional patterns, respect the way you each feel and the ways you each express emotions, and focus on your feelings during an argument instead of the details of what you're fighting about.  Most people remember the feelings of an argument but often do not remember what the argument is about.  Use self-control when expressing your emotions by understanding them before expressing them.  Listen gently to your spouse, trying to discern what's in his or her heart and use a tone of voice and body language that communicates respect for your spouse.

 Make sure your goal is to work toward a solution, therefore avoid defending yourself or blaming your spouse.  Strive to understand your spouse's perspective on the issue and to clearly communicate yours.  Respect your spouse's perspective, even if you don't agree with it. Ask questions to clarify what you heard until your spouse agrees that you heard him or her correctly.  Be willing to be influenced and to do things differently.  Believe that change is possible, no matter what your situation, because all things are possible with God.  Persevere through setbacks, speaking words of kindness to each other, and support each other as you each try to change.

 Honestly express how he or she has hurt you, without criticizing your spouse's character or highlighting his or her faults.  Listen as your spouse shares how you have hurt him or her and strive to understand the significance of the hurt.  Express your emotions clearly and take ownership of your own emotions.  Discuss how the hurtful event happened - what you did and why you did it.  Take time to understand the perspective of your spouse, and take responsibility for hurting your spouse, and ask for comfort and reassurance.  Forgive.  Commit to being available to your spouse in the future.

Heart connection is necessary for a marriage to be more intimate, feeling close and safe.  Heart connection doesn’t happen without intentionally working to stay connected.  While it takes work, it is worth the time and energy that it takes.  In fact, staying connected is actually fun, so enjoy the journey.  

A Genuine Man

By Dr. Archie L. Bost

David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep.  When a lion or bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth.  When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.” I Samuel 17:34-35, NIV

That was bare-handed combat.  David didn’t even use a slingshot in this passage.  We don’t know anything else about how he did this great work.  But I have no doubt at all about David’s heart.  He was a warrior, pure and simple.  He shouldered his responsibility as a man and stood ready to protect whatever was in his charge.  His father’s flock depended on him for protection. 

In this fallen world, a man must find his warrior’s heart.  As a man you are also to be a kingly warrior.  Families who do not have a kingly warrior are in deadly danger in this culture.  Did you ever think about David as a model for your own life?  You should!  He was some kind of man.  After all, even our Lord Jesus enjoyed being known as “the Son of David.”

I’ve always liked David…he had a heart after God’s heart and yet he lived and sinned as all men do.  In some ways, he didn’t have much of a background.  He grew up in the backwoods, far south of the big city (the city that would someday bear his name!)  His dad’s acreage, Judah’s hill country, was off the beaten path, populated with witless sheep.

David, the sheep guard, the shepherd.  Can you close your eyes and see him?  Chewing a stem of grass, tossing rocks, rolling boulders off cliffs, watching clouds, wandering up nameless ravines, exploring caves, counting stars, strumming his harp, and – oh yeah, wrestling bears, and choking a mountain lion now and then.  The shepherd’s life: weeks of sheer boredom, punctuated by minutes of total terror.  A guy could go crazy with no one to talk to.  But David did have someone to talk to.  He talked with the Lord, the God of Israel.  And he played his harp for an audience of One.  All alone he plucked his strings; humming his songs…new songs composed of sunsets, starlight, dewy mornings, stormy winds, and untainted passion; and all for the Lord’s own ears.  He didn’t know that his songs would be recorded in the Scriptures one day.

Out there, left to himself with only the whisper of the wind, the beating of his own heart, and the still, small voice of the living God, young David came of age.  But no one saw it except God.  Then came the day when the Lord directed the boy into manhood and onto the pages of history.  It all started in a small valley west of David’s hometown.  No one but the audience of One could have known what was about to happen. It all grew from the heart of the man!  It was a warrior’s heart with two huge chambers, pumping the passionate blood of a man in love with God, and with God’s people.  What an incredible combination.  It would shake his world.  And it would touch the Heart of the universe.  God would call it a heart after His own heart.

Think of a few other biblical heroes.  Most often one of the things they had in common was a warrior’s heart.

  • With 318 men of his own household, Abraham pursued four kings and four armies, divided his forces, struck his enemies by night, thoroughly routed them, and rescued their hostages.
  • Joshua led his green troops against walled cities, populated by giants.
  • Caleb, eighty-five years old, didn’t want to sit around in a deck chair doing nothing.  He pleaded for the opportunity to drive God’s enemies out of a chunk of rough hill country.  Then he went out and did it. 
  • Nehemiah sent his men out to rebuild Jerusalem’s shattered wall with trowels in one hand and swords in the other.
  • Stephen stood toe to toe and all alone against the whole ruling body of Israel, condemned them from their own cherished history, and pointed to the Christ they’d killed, now sitting in glory at His Father’s right hand.

There are many others, who walked with God.  They were men who were willing to stand between their families and whatever lions threatened them.  1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  There are lions out there who would devour our little flocks, too.  Every day Satan is devouring men and their dreams along with their hopes for the future.  He roars loud as you enter manhood and then, later into adulthood, he roars louder and devours more because he knows that his time is getting shorter and shorter.

There is a world of many temptations that men have to fight on a very personal level.  There are many decisions that you will have to make.  Each of the true kingly warriors in Scripture listened closely to the still small voice of the living God.  As a man, you need to be a kingly warrior who loves the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind.  As the giants of this world come up on you, I pray that you will have the courage that David had when he faced the “Champion of Garth”, Goliath.  Sometimes, the giant you face will be your own temptations and personal desires.  Sometimes that giant will be your peers or our culture who want you to follow them.  Sometimes that giant will be outside forces attacking you and your family.  I pray that you will be more concerned about pleasing your audience of ONE than any one else.

With all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of manhood, may you be the man that God has called you to be.   Learn your responsibilities as a man and then shoulder those responsibilities well.  Stand ready to protect whatever is put in your charge.  But may your protection be in such a way that it pleases your audience of ONE. You must follow in the footsteps of David, and the Great Son of David, Jesus Christ. Play the man.  Be of good cheer, courageous and filled with godly hope. 

The Blame Game

By Dr. Archie L. Bost

In my years of counseling, one issues stands out more than any other.  That is the issue of blaming another person for things that go wrong or that are perceived to have gone wrong.  I could give you hundreds of examples, but you the reader, know exactly what I am talking about.  I hope to share with you some reasons that we blame others and how we can move out of the blame game and move toward healthy relationships.  I believe that it is important to realize that blaming others and being blamed tends to erode hope.

            Many couples get themselves in an endless cycle of blame, anger, and resentment.  Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”  Blamers look for others to blame for the things they do not want to accept responsibility for.  Another aspect of the blame game is to blame yourself for everything that goes wrong, even when you have nothing to do with the unfortunate outcome.  This type of blamer see himself as inept, foolish, and irresponsible or even a failure. 

            Do you immediately look for others to blame when misfortunes happen?  Do you look to place fault with someone, anyone other than yourself.  Do you accept responsibility for common mishaps that are under your control?  Or do you blame yourself for everything that goes wrong, even when it is not in your control or your responsibility?  A blamer tends to be one extreme or the other and if they can’t find something or someone else to blame, they blame God.  You can’t blame your partner for a tree falling on your roof in a storm, but you can blame God. 

            There are fundamental errors in blame.  People who blame will excuse themselves for the same negative behavior they blame others for, and this is sometimes because of perspective.  There is a strong desire to protect self, therefore, blame becomes a strong defense mechanism.  Whether you call it projection, denial, or displacement—blame helps you preserve your sense of self-esteem by avoiding awareness of your own flaws or failings. This is an unhealthy protection of self and this type of self-protection leads us to attack another person and end up hurting them whether intentionally or not. 

            Most people fail to try to understand the causes of other people’s behavior or even their own behavior for that matter.  There’s less effort involved in pointing out another’s contribution to a bad situation than in accepting the fact that we are actually at fault and determining to change so we don’t do it again.  It is much easier to blame someone else than to accept responsibility for our actions and choices and make correction.   We need to take the log out of our own eye before trying to take the speck out of the other person’s eye. 

            Sometimes we blame others because we choose to lie. It’s pretty easy to lie and blame someone else even when you know you’re at fault.  You may figure that no one will know it was really you who committed the offense, so you blame someone else. The real issue is our heart… our heart needs an attitude change, it needs to be conformed to the very image of Christ.  We must be transformed by the Word of God and develop an attitude where we really want to please God. 

Although most parents try to parent the best they can, none of us were raised in a perfect environment and we reach adulthood with an assortment of emotions, thoughts and a mixed up belief system.  Many are angry, full of resentment and they blame someone in their past for their current situation.  This person may have been, or perceives they have been, treated very badly—maybe by a parent or some other significant person in their life.  That other person is then blamed for the bad things that happen in the blamer’s life.  I have found that if we take the time to understand the other person’s story we would blame less or maybe not at all.  One example was a client that was raised in a home where yelling was the norm and the more my client cried, the more her mom yelled. Nothing she did was good enough for her mom, and she never measured up.  She could not understand why her mom would treat her that way.  This really came to the surface when my client had her first child.  She was filled with anger and resentment toward her own mom.  I asked my client about her mom’s childhood and my client knew nothing of her mom’s upbringing.  One day my client got the courage to ask her mom why she yelled so much and why nothing was ever good enough for her.  Her mom said “that is the only way I knew to parent”.  My client’s mom then began to tell about how she was raised and about her own mom.  After hearing the story, my client asked for more information about how her grandmother was raised.  It turned out her grandmother had been an even stronger product of her environment, and each previous generation was worse as they looked back.   After getting that new perspective and having more understanding, my client began to have much more compassion for her mother and their relationship began to heal.  In fact, my client said that she was flooded with compassion for her mom, grandmother and the others before her and that compassion released her from the anger and resentment.  She was free and blame was no longer part of her life. 

            As long as we blame others, we give up our power to change.  Before I can make any significant changes in my life, I need to have a high level of awareness of my own heart.  I can’t change without first knowing what change I need to make.  The big alarm that tells me when something isn’t working is when I feel pain.  Emotional pain always tells us that something is wrong and there is need to make an adjustment.  This pain can be sadness, anger, unhappiness… basically any emotion that feels bad is a warning sign that something is wrong and adjustment is needed. Therefore, I view pain as a gift.  It is through this pain that we can be brought to an awareness of the need to change and that is empowering.  We are then able to make the adjustment needed.

            I read somewhere that most successful people take 100% responsibility for their lives. In a good marriage, both husband and wife take 100% responsibility for where the marriage is and where it will go...it is 100/100% not 50/50%.  When we each take responsibility for our own behaviors, attitudes and words, we become more aware of our tendency to blame as well as other unhealthy traits.  As I have been working on this in my own life, I discovered that I would catch myself merely thinking a thought that was placing blame on another and I knew that had to change.  Letting go of the blame meant I would take full responsibility even for my thoughts.  Now don’t get me wrong—I haven’t arrived fully at this yet, but I desire to grow.

            We learn early in life to blame either other people or things.  A child might spill their milk and say, “It spilled”, thus not taking responsibility and owning that they accidentally spilled the milk.  That child does not want to get in trouble and blames the spill on the milk rather than on their self. As parents, we are to train our children to take responsibility by pointing out what really happened in a kind, loving, gentle way. We should let them know that they are not in trouble, because children really do want to please their parents. The parent who jumps on the child at that point will raise a child, who in adulthood, will naturally blame others for what happened to avoid getting in trouble.

            In marriage, when a conflict arises it is easy to fuel the fire with all kinds of “proof” of our partner’s character flaws.  We build a case against them to protect ourselves.  We start interpreting innocent comments as critical or hurtful because we have built that case against them.  We will not see the comment as it was intended, but through the lenses of blame.  The problem with blame in marriage is once an argument starts, blame tends to go back and forth getting more and more heated with both husband and wife getting hurt.  We must learn to not let it get started.  When our thoughts start moving in that direction, we must stop them quickly for the health of the marriage.  We must calm ourselves and realize how blessed we are to be married to our spouse and the treasure they are to us. 

            It does not take long when we are the recipient of blame for it to begin to erode self-confidence.  As self-confidence erodes so does hope.  Therefore, a married couple must determine that they will eliminate blame from their relationship.  We must break the pattern of blame and accept responsibility.  We must grow to understand our spouse and their perspective, grow in our compassion for them and break that old patterns/habits of blame.  When this happens, we will be filled with hope. 

            Ultimately Christ must be our hope—not people, and as we grow in Him we will take responsibility for ourselves and grow to become who the Lord wants us to be.  We must continually ask ourselves, “Does this please the Lord” or “Does this glorify the Lord”.   Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”Life is not about me.  Remembering this allows me to turn loose of blame and frees me to love others and grow in hope. 

Giving Up Myths of Marriage

By Archie L.Bost, Ph.D.

In Proverbs we read, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (16:25 NKJV).

My wife enjoys watching the Hallmark movies and I enjoy watching them with her.  I must admit that I really do get into them, but there are times in almost every one of those movies that I say to myself, “You have got to be kidding me.”  Movies and TV programs as well as commercials can lead to myths in marriage that must be addressed in order to have a great marriage. 

First, we must give up the myth of compatibility.  My wife and I are as opposite as two people can be.  When I was going though grad school, I had to learn to administer different profiles; and every one that I took, studied, and learned to administer, we were polar opposites on each one.   We could make a list that would go on and on, but I am sure that you can attest to the same thing in your marriage.  However, I heard a speaker say many years ago, “If we were just alike one of us would not be needed.” 

As a result of being married to my beautiful, wonderful, smart, and gifted bride, I have grown as a husband, as a father, as a person, and even as a Christian.  Gary Thomas says that God gave us marriage more to make us holy than to make us happy.  It is a wonderful thing when we have both holiness and happiness.  When our goal is holiness, happiness will be our reward, but when our goal is happiness, then we miss out on both happiness and holiness. 

What I have seen in the 43 years of my marriage is that we have become very compatible because we work at it and yield to each other in love.  When a couple gets married, they are often incompatible, but as they work at it and grow in Christ together, they become much more compatible.

Then there is the myth of greener pastures which causes us to think, “If I were married to another woman, she would appreciate me and we would be totally compatible.”  In marriage we see every flaw and weakness of our spouse, and if we look hard enough we will also see our flaws and weaknesses.  It is always a dangerous thing to compare our marriage to that of another couple or our spouse to the spouse of another.  At this point in my career I have seen over five thousand couples in my counseling office.  When I hear a wife say to her husband or a husband to his wife, “I wish you were more like …,” I know there is going to be a battle.  We must stop comparing our spouse to another’s spouse and desiring our spouse to be like that person.  We only see the public persona, not the whole person with their flaws and weaknesses.  We usually will not see the total person until we are married, at which time we may question what we have gotten into.  An attorney friend of mine who practices domestic law once told me, “We marry a dream, but sometime after the wedding we wake up to see that we are not married to our dream, but to a real person with flaws and weaknesses.”  There are no greener pastures.  Working on our flaws and weaknesses will grow us in maturity and godliness.    

The mindset of many people and the next myth we will look at is that “permanent positive change is impossible”.  There are many psychologists who believe that we don’t “change our spots.”  But in Matthew 19:26, Jesus said that “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  I have counseled with countless people who come with the attitude that permanent change is impossible and therefore they are hopeless in their marriage.  One such person said this week, “I believe that he is changing, but only to get me back with him. Then when he sees that I am back, he will revert to his old ways because permanent change just does not happen.  This change is temporary.”  Her mind was made up.  I asked her, “If your husband’s change was permanent, would you want him back?” and she said, “Of course I would want him back.  If these changes are for real, absolutely.”  I encouraged her that change is not impossible, and permanent change is possible as we allow Christ to create that change within us. 

For change to be good, right and permanent it has to begin with a desire to follow Christ.  We must die to our selfish desires and yield to the Lord daily.  Galatians 2:20 tells us, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  As we yield more to Christ and love Him more, our lives change in every area and our marriages get better and better.  We must die to self. 

Our next myth is that marriage will be smooth sailing.  Many people expect to have a marriage with smooth sailing, so when turbulence occurs they are not equipped to deal with it.  I refer to that as the Cinderella Complex.  Never mind the differences between Prince Charming and Cinderella, they will be riding off in the carriage to a happy life without conflict.  Prince Charming lives in a castle and has always been around the pomp and circumstance of royal living. Cinderella was raised as a servant in her stepmother’s house and mistreated by both her stepmother and her step-sisters, yet Cinderella and Prince Charming “lived happily ever after.”  This is not real life.  It takes time and hard work to smooth out the rough spots in marriage.

We all want a “smooth sailing, no conflict marriage”, but that is not a reasonable expectation for any couple.  Riding off into the sunset with beautiful music playing is only in the movies.  It is written into the script.  Sometimes while watching a movie or TV program with my brother-in-law I would question why something happened, and he would say, “It was in the script.”  That somewhat messes up the movie for me, taking me back to the reality that it is just a movie or TV program.   Marriage does not have a written script.  However, if we turn to God’s Word and follow it we can have a beautiful marriage, one that grows richer year by year.    

If we understood the purpose of trials in marriage, we would be able to consider them as pure joy.  James 1:2-4 tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when we encounter trials of various kinds, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance and we are to let endurance do its work that we might be made mature and complete lacking in nothing.”  Any relationship will have trials, but the trials can produce great things.  If we resist the trials and complain about them rather than embracing them, we will simply not learn what we were meant to learn and we will go through more trials.   If we understand that God is up to great things in us, we will know that the trials are God’s way of training us in the way we should go, and to purify us and bring us to maturity.  We are to turn to Jesus and embrace what He is doing by submitting ourselves to Him for whatever He wants to do with us.

There is an excitement about trusting the Lord Jesus with our daily lives, an excitement that can only come from Him.  We can have that excitement even though the seas of marriage sometimes get rough and at times may seem impassable.  We might even feel that we are going to drown and start asking, “How much longer can I continue?”  We can continue as long as the Lord is our Strength, our Rock, and our Shield. 

The reality of having a great marriage comes as we yield to the Lord and we have a strong prayer life.  In the recent movie, War Room, we see a good example of how to be praying for our marriages and our spouses. We must be praying daily for our spouses, praying specific things, not just general stuff.  I call the general prayers wholesale prayers, and the specific prayers retail prayers, item by item.  A wholesale prayer will be things like, “Lord be with my wife.”  Retail prayer is more like, “Lord, watch over my wife as she goes about her grocery shopping this afternoon,” or, “Lord, I know my wife has had a hard time sleeping for several nights now, so would you please give her a great night’s rest.”  Pray specific prayers for your spouse.  I suggest that you at least write the bullet points of your prayer and be very specific.  Then record the answers to those prayers so that you are able to go back and see that which the Lord has done through your prayers.  It will build your faith and build an excitement about praying for your spouse. 

Screen Time and Children

By Dr. Archie L. Bost

I have been asked by many clients about the effects of electronic screen time on children and adults.  I wanted to write this article with the focus on infants, toddlers, and children through the 6th grade.  I sincerely hope that this will be helpful to you as you read.

 "Screen time" is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Screen time is sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time.

Media is everywhere. TV, Internet, computer, and video games all vie for our children's attention. Information on this page can help parents understand the impact media has in our children's lives, while offering tips on managing time spent with various media. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommendations for parents and pediatricians.

Today's children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones, and other electronic devices. To help kids make wise media choices, parents should monitor their media diet. Parents can make use of established rating systems for shows, movies, and games to avoid inappropriate content, such as violence, explicit sexual content, or glorified tobacco and alcohol use.

Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.

By limiting screen time and offering educational media in non-electronic formats such as books, newspapers, and board games, and watching television with their children, parents can help guide their children's media experience. Putting questionable content into context and teaching kids about advertising contributes to their media literacy.

The AAP recommends that parents establish "screen-free" zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers, or video games in children's bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play.

Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.

Most American children spend about 3 hours a day watching TV.  Added together, all types of screen time can total 5 to 7 hours a day.  Too much screen time can:

·         Make it hard for your child to sleep at night

·         Raise your child's risk of attention problems, anxiety, and depression

·         Raise your child's risk of gaining too much weight

 ·         Sitting and watching a screen is time that is not spent being physically active.

·         TV commercials and other screen ads can lead to unhealthy food choices. Most of the time, the foods in ads that are aimed at kids are high in sugar, salt, or fats.  They also tend to eat more when they are watching TV.

Computers can help kids with their schoolwork. But surfing the internet, spending too much time on Facebook, or watching YouTube videos is considered unhealthy screen time.

Some good screen time guidelines are:

·         Children under age 2 should have NO screen time.

·         Limit screen time to 1 or 2 hours a day for children over age 2.

Despite what ads may say, videos that are aimed at very young children do not improve their development but rather hinder greatly their development.

Children who have had a steady diet of screen time will find it very difficult to cut back.  The following are good ways to decrease screen time:

·         Remove the TV or computer from your child's bedroom.

 ·         DO NOT allow TV watching during meals or homework.

·         DO NOT let your child eat while watching TV or using the computer.

 ·         DO NOT leave the TV on for background noise. Turn on the radio instead, or have no background noise.

 ·         Decide which programs to watch ahead of time. Turn off the TV when those programs are over.

 ·         Suggest other activities, such as family board games, puzzles, or going for a walk.

 ·         Keep a record of how much time is spent in front of a screen. Try to spend the same amount of time being active.

 ·         Be a good role model as a parent. Decrease your own screen time to 2 hours a day.

 ·         If it is hard not having the TV on, try using a sleep function so it turns off automatically.

 ·         Challenge your family to go 1 week without watching TV or doing other screen-time activities. Find things to do with your time that get you moving and burning energy.

Dr. Patricia Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA, in her study of 6th graders, found reason for alarm. 

Juana Summers said kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions, according to new research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.

The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that sixth-graders who went five days without exposure to technology were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who had regular access to phones, televisions and computers.

The UCLA researchers studied two groups of sixth-graders from a Southern California public school. One group was sent to the Pali Institute, an outdoor education camp in Running Springs, Calif., where the kids had no access to electronic devices. For the other group, it was life as usual.

At the beginning and end of the five-day study period, both groups of kids were shown images of nearly 50 faces and asked to identify the feelings being modeled. Researchers found that the students who went to camp scored significantly higher when it came to reading facial emotions or other nonverbal cues than the students who continued to have access to their media devices.

"We were pleased to get an effect after five days," says Patricia Greenfield, a professor of psychology at UCLA. "We found that the kids who had been to camp without any screens but with lots of those opportunities and necessities for interacting with other people in person improved significantly more."

If the study were to be expanded, Greenfield says, she'd like to test the students at camp a third time — when they've been back at home with smartphones and tablets in their hands for five days.

"It might mean they would lose those skills if they weren't maintaining continual face-to-face interaction," she says.

A Wake-Up Call For Educators

There's a big takeaway for schools, Greenfield says.

"A lot of school systems are rushing to put iPads into the hands of students individually, and I don't think they've thought about the [social] cost," she explains. "This study should be, and we want it to be, a wake-up call to schools. They have to make sure their students are getting enough face-to-face social interaction. That might mean reducing screen time."

The results of the UCLA study seem to line up with prior research, says Marjorie Hogan, a pediatrician at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

 "Common sense tells me that if a child's laying on his or her bed and texting friends instead of getting together and saying, 'Hey, what's up,' there's a problem there," she says. "I want people interacting ... on a common-sense level, and an experiential level. It does concern [me]."

Hogan relates the UCLA study's findings back to research on infants.

"When babies are babies, they're learning about human interaction with face-to-face time and with speaking to parents and having things they say modeled back to them," she says. "That need doesn't go away."

How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

For decades the AAP has warned that children need to cut back on their screen time. The group's latest prescription: Entertainment "screen time" should be limited to two hours a day for children ages 3-18. And, for 2-year-olds and younger, none at all.

The sixth-graders who made up the sample in the UCLA study self-reported that they spent an average of more than four hours on a typical school day texting, watching television, and playing video games.

The San Francisco nonprofit Common Sense Media studies screen time from birth, and, in 2013, found that children under 8 (a younger sample than the kids in the UCLA study) were spending roughly two hours a day in front of a screen.

"If used appropriately, it's wonderful," Hogan says of digital media. "We don't want to demonize media, because it's going to be a part of everybody's lives increasingly, and we have to teach children how to make good choices around it, how to limit it, and how to make sure it's not going to take the place of all the other good stuff out there."

Expectations

Posted by: Dr. Archie Bost

We must give up unrealistic expectations regarding marriage!

Have you ever read a “bride” magazine?  They ought to be classified under “science fiction.”  All the women’s blemishes and flaws have been airbrushed out.  No one is ugly; even the guests are stunning in those magazines.   Many weddings take on Disney extravaganza proportions with a cast of hundreds of people and thousands of dollars building up to that 30 to 45 minute event.  The woman hibernates for days and turns into a goddess that walks down an aisle.  It’s a fantasy world of “everything must be perfect”.  The honeymoon is some far-off place that most can’t really afford, but it is going to be perfect. 

Fast forward about 6 months or a year and that same couple is sitting around the breakfast table with the man in his t-shirt with a day’s stubble and she has yesterday’s mascara smeared down her face.  They’re arguing over how come they can’t meet the budget and who’s going to take out the garbage.  They’re looking at each other and saying, “What happened?”

The problem is that we bring such high expectations into the marriage that no person could possibly meet them.  That sets us up for disappointment, followed by discouragement, followed by despair.  We start saying, “Maybe I made a mistake.  Maybe I married the wrong person.  Why didn’t I listen to my mother?” 

The reality is that marriage is composed of two very flawed, very imperfect individuals.  It is crazy to think that two imperfect individuals can form one flawless, problem-free relationship.  It’s just an unrealistic expectation. 

There are three types of expectations that we need to face.  First, there is the conscious spoken expectation.  These are the expectations we speak and hopefully clearly communicate with our spouse or future spouse.  Second, there is the conscious unspoken expectation.  This is the expectation that we know is there, but for some reason, we are not willing to speak of it with our spouse.  Then third is the unconscious expectation.  This kind of expectation is often only realized when it is not met by our spouse; but sometimes, even then we do not see it as an expectation.  We realize that we are hurt or angry but we are not sure why.  Only after thinking through or talking through the actions that lead up to the hurt or anger do we realize that we had an expectation that was not met.

The first type of expectation is communicated clearly but it can still be a problem in marriage.  The husband may expect to go out with his fraternity brothers a few nights a week to a local sports bar and he communicates that clearly to his wife, but she strongly stands against him doing that.  She starts to feel like he prefers being with his buddies rather than with her.  That is an unrealistic expectation for him to think that he can spend that much time with his buddies and build a strong covenant marriage with his wife.  Sometimes the wife might expect that her husband will help her in the kitchen and she talks about that before marriage, but then in the marriage he rarely helps her.  She starts to feel hurt and communicates that with him, and he defends himself creating an even larger divide between them.  

Another example of such expectations is a woman that expects her husband to be the spiritual leader of the home but he is not stepping up to fill that role.  Disappointment, hurt or anger would be a natural response to that, but understanding is a better response.  Maybe another man needs to come alongside him and mentor him on being a spiritual leader. 

The second kind of expectation, the conscious but not spoken expectation, could be when the husband expects to have sex every day and some days twice, but he never communicates that with his wife.  As bedtime approaches, he starts to hint that they could have sex and she turns him down.  He says nothing but starts to withdraw and gets very quiet.  His wife asks him what is wrong and he says “nothing, good night.”  He starts to feel rejected and undesired, both of which are huge for him.  He has never communicated his expectation to her because he is uncomfortable talking about sex with her.  The distance continues to grow between them.

An example of the third type of expectation, the unconscious expectation could be one that I encountered over 30 years ago.  Both the man and woman were in their early thirties.  They had a beautiful wedding and the wedding night was exceptional by both accounts.  As he disrobed that evening he placed his shoes next to the wall close to the door of the hotel room and he folded his cloths and placed them on the dresser.  She was pleased because she feared that she would marry a man that just dropped his clothing on the floor and she might be expected to pick it up.  He was not like that, and she was very pleased.  The next morning as they prepared to get breakfast, he was dressed except for his shoes.  He looked at his shoes next to the door and said to his wife, “My shoes are still next to the door.”  She replied, “Yes, that is where you put them.”  His next statement lead to a tense and hurtful week of honeymoon.  He said, “My dad always put his shoes next to the wall like that and mom would polish them before he wore them again.”  His wife said, “Let’s get two things straight.  First, I am not your mom.  Second, I will never polish your shoes.”  When I saw them, they had only been married about 10 days.  She admitted that she handled that situation poorly, and he realized that he was allowing what he saw growing up to become expectations in his own marriage.  They were able to resolve their issue in my office and left with much more unity.

Unfulfilled expectations often lead to anger or deep hurt.  As we confront our expectations, we will discover that there are some good and reasonable expectations and there are some that are unrealistic.  The unrealistic expectations must be dismissed as such.  The reasonable and good expectations are appropriate, but we might need to be patient for our spouse to grow into them.  Having a better understanding of our expectations, we will be able to live with our spouse with better understanding and therefore, our hope is increased in the relationship.  

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Are You Satisfied?

Posted by Grayson Oiver, Counselor and Blog Contributor
 
  • Thank you for hanging in there with us! We know it's been a while since the blog has had some new text on it's pages, so now we break the silence! We are hoping to post a new one every week, so stay tuned!

 

        You’re sitting there with your friends, having conversations about nothing at all, playing out your best real life version of a Seinfeld episode while you chow down on the “free” chips and salsa. The whole time, you take in the smell of everybody else’s food around you from other tables wondering when you will finally be blessed to have “Combination #14” in front of you, so that your hunger that you’ve been dealing with since who-knows-how-longwill finally be satisfied. Because, you know that once you’re satisfied you can get back to being your happy-go-lucky self again.

            Right before you chew your hand off, after running out of chips, here it comes, in all its cheesy, beefy, peppery glory, all wrapped in a few tortillas! Conversation grows silent while everyone stuffs their face with the same ingredients you are, only put together in a different order and called another name. After five short minutes pass, forks hit the plate. Everyone you’re with leans back and has to loosen their belt. In trying to satisfy our hunger, we forgot about the 2 baskets of chips and the larger-than-normal water we each had before the real food came out. Satisfaction has turned into regret, and we vow to never eat Mexican again! ...or maybe just a week or two.

            All of us were blinded by the hunger that we had going into the restaurant, even to a point that we would do just about anything to satisfy it! Now we are left with regret, a check to pay, and a miserable night, while we go home stuffed with a volatile concoction that always tastes oh-so-good...(at the time).

            We are all looking to be satisfied, and not just in the physical hunger sense. Our motivation to be satisfied mentally, physically, and most of all spiritually is what drives our decisions on a daily basis. Two things that we are constantly and consistently looking for are pleasure/happiness and or a way to get away from some sort of pain that we may be facing. Either way we are looking to be satisfied in these two categories, and this drives our every decision.

            Where we, as Christians, are to look different from unbelievers is how we go about finding that pleasure/happiness and also the way we move away from the pain we may be facing. Some go about this by self-gratification, whether it’s buying new clothes or finding a new boyfriend/girlfriend every two weeks, they are trying to be satisfied. Furthermore, some go about finding this by drowning their pain in alcohol or numbing their pain with drugs, whatever way satisfies their need to get away or retreat from it. After either of these, many times we find ourselves in worse shape than where we started.

            However, Philippians 1:27 tells us that “above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”  We, as believers, are to live differently than those of this world. Why? We aren’t citizens of this world in the first place! So why do we intend on finding satisfaction through things of this world, especially if we are warned so many times in Scripture to steer clear of being of the world? We forget that we have the One who created the world to provide all the things we need, including satisfaction.

            Matthew 5:6 tells us that “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” It’s not about us at all, actually. It’s not about gratifying ourselves, or finding any part of pleasure on our own; nor is it being able to forget pain or make it go away through things of this world that will bring us relief or satisfaction. Satisfaction comes from our willingness to turn our minds and our hearts to Jesus in an attempt to be righteous like he is, and through this, we find that God provides us with the satisfaction that comes from Him, the type of satisfaction that cannot be surpassed. John 4:14 tells us that "those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life."

            So don’t get stuck wanting to loosen your belt, stuck with the larger-than-normal water that doesn't satisfy, and stuck with a check that is too much to pay! Rather, I pray that you satisfy yourself with something that lasts longer than the first basket of chips, and to look to the Creator instead of the created.  Are you satisfied?

The Power of Grace

It’s 9pm, and Joe walks in the door still carrying the burdens of his day at the office. The kids are already in bed, eyelids heavy but holding out for a “goodnight” from Daddy. Joe’s wife is tired but smiling and happy to see him.

And he doesn’t want any of it.

He stomps around, tearing open mail, griping about food that isn’t in the fridge, acting like a serious jerk. And in some secret place inside of him, he knows it.  Somehow, this only makes it worse.  He waits for the reprisal from his wife. The well-earned reprisal. The angry, “I don’t deserve this!”

But it isn’t forthcoming. Instead, she kisses him on the cheek, says she loves him, and goes to bed with the same smile on her face. Joe stands by myself in the kitchen, but he has two companions. His bad mood. And his wife’s grace.

Why Counseling Works

Counselors are trained in an endless list of interventions for changing people. But the truth is, they all pale in comparison to the most powerful tool at our disposal. We call it by many names—empathy, acceptance, and “unconditional positive regard”—but it all boils down to this:

The counseling room is a pocket of grace in a condemning world.  (There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.)

Does that sound like a rip-off? After all, people come to us to be healed, right? How will anything be fixed, changed, improved, transformed, or redeemed if people are allowed to stay exactly the way they are?

I understand the feeling. I’ve felt it.

But I can tell you now, grace isn’t just acceptance of the status quo. Grace contains the status quo—all of our struggle and pain and mess—and embraces us and values us anyway. Grace does not demand change in order for us to experience love, acceptance, and connection. That kind of love has power.

How Grace Begins to Change Everything

In the presence of grace we are given permission to be our fullest selves: that complicated amalgam of mess and beauty, shame and glory. In the presence of grace, we can allow the wholeness of our humanity to be seen—we reveal our sputtering rage, anguished tears, petrified fear, crudest and rudest sentiment, most bizarre interest, or deepest embarrassment.

And then we look up.

And grace looks back. It isn’t cringing or horrified or judging or saying in a reasonable tone, “Well, once we figure that out and change it, then you and I can get along alright.” Instead, grace looks back with a calm admiration—probably even a smile in its eyes—and it says, “There you are, I’ve been waiting for you and you’re welcome here. All of you. You are beloved.”

This is the brilliance of grace: it welcomes our darkness into the light and does nothing to it, knowing that it doesn’t have to.  Darkness thrives on hiddenness and is at the mercy of the light. Light drives out darkness, not the other way around.

When we no longer have to push our darkness back down beneath layers of shame our darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

What Grace Sees

Joe stands in the kitchen with his bad mood and his wife’s grace. And the brilliance of her love quickly becomes clear. Her attack would have only rooted him deeper in his anger. Instead, she has extended to him acceptance in the midst of his anger… the space to feel it and experience the fullness of himself.

He still feels grumpy, but he discovers there is something else there inside of him: He wants to apologize.

He goes to the bedroom and he tells her “I’m sorry”, and her response is quick and her grace is complete: “You had a long day, you’re allowed to be in a bad mood, and you’re a good man.  I knew you’d apologize.”

His wife saw his goodness, even in the midst of his junk. She believed in his light, even when all she could see was darkness. She believed in who he is and who he can be, even while he was being something else.

He used to say “I believe in grace”. He doesn’t say that anymore. Now he says “I have known grace, and what I know is this: grace believes in me.”

How Grace Finally Changes Everything

The healing power of grace does not end with the embrace of our darkness.

When we find pockets of grace in this world—when our true self is finally allowed to the surface—we discover all sorts of beautiful things entwined with our darkness. Like dragging the ocean and coming up with a bunch of seaweed. And some invaluable pearls.

As grace calls our true self forth, we discover magnificent parts of us we didn’t know were there—passions built into us, a purpose sewn into our DNA. Our identity is washed clean and we begin to see ourselves for what God created us to be: creators of beauty, order, and abundance. We no longer dismiss our ability to contribute in loving ways to a crumbling world. We take the grace inside of us, it becomes our guide, and we become grace-givers.

We quit dead end jobs and risk our family’s financial security to earn a teaching degree. We stop drinking and we start coaching. We quit living at the office and we invest in the life of our family. We trade in fear for boldness. We quit hiding in our homes and we start reaching out to the world by uncaging our ideas and our creativity. We stop waiting on perfection and we start wading into the mess.

When we quit seeking change and begin to seek grace, we let go of our frantic effort to be like someone else, and we discover a blessed peace with who we are. Finally.

The Danger Of Complacency

By Grayson Oliver, Counselor and blog contributor

 

“A feeling of being satisfied with how things are, and not wanting to try to make them better.” That is what Webster tells us that complacency is, and when we associate that with our walk with Christ, it seems a little frightening, as well as being right where Satan wants us to be. If we convince ourselves that we have reached a point of satisfaction in which we are comfortable with our faith and do not feel the need to move any further toward pleasing God and getting out of our comfort zone, we have lost the battle, and have been deceived by the Enemy. When we believe that our spiritual life plays second fiddle to OUR life, we have been defeated because complacency is the most dangerous place we can be as a believer. This is where we become lazy; this is where we become lukewarm; this is where we are deceived.

"For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don't know which is better." This is what Paul wrote to Philippi in Philippians 1:21-22. Seeing the commitment and the drive to work and glorify the Lord is nothing new, and we also see it in Galatians 5:24 when he tells us "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there."

For most Christ Followers these verses come across as powerful, encouraging to some, and even convicting. We all have good intentions when speaking of growing in our relationship with Christ, Thinking "I need to read my bible more", "I can't wait to get into the new devotional I just bought," or "I need to pray more expectantly," but somewhere along the way we begin to realize the intentions are just that...intentions. At what point to we step back and look at ourselves, our situation, and our motivation?

Lou Holtz once said that "Ability is what we are capable of doing, motivation determines what we do, and attitude determines how well we do it." Now, when Coach Holtz starts talking football, I may see things a little different, but as for his view on ability, motivation, and attitude, I couldn't agree more. However, I wonder if Coach Holtz realized what this statement meant for us that follow Christ? (I’ll return to this)

I understand that life happens, for all of us, actually; whether it's taking our kids to activities, working on the house, catching up with our finances, or even catching up on our favorite TV shows that we regretfully missed due to some prior commitments...even at church, perhaps. One day comes and then it passes, and so does the next, all the while we are on auto-pilot simply cruising through our daily routines while the hours seem to fly by.

While others of us are on hyper-drive, quickly wanting to conquer the next obstacle that is ahead of us. Consumed with the taste of success, and the life we have achieved (or want to achieve) for ourselves and family; all the while forgetting who has provided the very opportunities for us. My Grandmother once gave me a pin to place the visor in my sports car that read “don’t drive faster than your angels can fly.” When do we begin to live our lives faster than our angels can fly, or to a point that our faith can’t keep up?

We sometimes forget that Psalm 46:10 tells us to "Be still and know that I am God!" I don't believe that there is an exclamation point on the end of that sentence for no reason. I believe he meant it! "But with everything going on..." we say to preface another excuse, in order to make ourselves feel just a tad better about avoiding the scripture that we claim to know will change our lives. We also tend to point fingers toward other things and people in order to place blame on them for making us so busy, however, Galatians 6:5 tells us clearly "for we are each responsible for our own conduct."

C.S. Lewis, in “The Screwtape Letters”, writes “a moderated religion is as good as no religion at all…” and it seems to coincide with Revelation 3:16 when it talks about being lukewarm in our faith. We have become complacent. Furthermore, sometimes we have even become complacent in the fact that we are complacent! The simple expectation of that which we expect to be is the easy part, yet the work that is required of us, as well as some of the steps to get there, is the difficult part. We tend to listen to the enemy telling us that the work that’s required to keep growing closer to Christ and to keep our faith strong is too much for us to fit into our busy schedule, and “we are doing just fine as we are.” What is it about our walk with Christ that we feel we can put it on the back-burner? What is it about our salvation that we feel like tomorrow is the perfect day (and then tomorrow turns into tomorrow)? We have lost motivation, as well as our sight of what should be the driving force of our lives.

For me, being lukewarm and being spit out of God’s mouth is not something that I’m exactly striving for. So we go back to the Lou Holtz quote (I can hear him saying it now – lisp and all) “Ability is what we are capable of doing, motivation determines what we do, and attitude determines how well we do it.” God gives us the ability, with his power and guidance, to do anything – we read about this in Philippians 4:13 – so then, is it us to us to handle what we do and how well we do it. With that logic, it seems as though many of us choose to be complacent and allow our faith to be stagnant, allowi/.ng other interests or convictions to become priority over strengthening our faith in Christ. Most of these interests and convictions are rooted in our self-centered ideations of a world that revolves around ourselves.

Battling our own selfish desires will be one of the most difficult tasks we will ever do, and we will do it for the rest of our lives. Galatians 5:24 tells us “those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” Mark 8:35 says “if you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” And finally James 3:16 says “for wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.”

So to finish, we must take a step back. Through taking a step back we examine our priorities, our desires, and the condition of our faith. All of these are factors in our complacent Christian life, or our God honoring, thriving Christian life. It is up to us, and only us, to combat our complacency, find our motivation, adjust our attitude, and have a view of Christ that merits nothing but the top priority in our life. Compelled to worship, driven to serve, and eager to work toward the life that God calls us to live so that we may find freedom in Him. Putting ourselves, our desires, and our complacency to the side for the sake of His glory.