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Sunday, June 17, 2018

What's on your face?!

Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 8:12 PM

“Just as water mirrors your face, so your face mirrors your heart.” (Proverbs 27:19 The Message)

Now that is a sobering thought! If I am not at peace with God, myself, and others, my face will reflect my struggle. When I spend time with Jesus, my face reflects Him. When others look at my face what do they see? If I studied your face, what would I see?

If you are sad, I might see liquid pools of pain. In every culture tears are the language of the soul. God placed tear ducts in our eyes because hurt is meant to be shared. When hidden from others, bitterness tends to creep in. Although anger may cover sorrow the face will become lined with hardness.

On the other hand, tears touched by God’s love are mingled with a sweetness that is emitted only from a surrendered heart. For you see, the sweetest perfumes are extracted though tremendous pressure. Myrrh is costly because it takes time for the tree that has been cut to yield its fragrance. Has sorrow softened your heart so that your face reflects Jesus the Man of Sorrows?

Jesus, please transform my heart so that my face bears a strong family likeness of You. Where bitterness has hardened my heart like a rock, please strike it so that water will flow out from my eyes. I am willing for the river of God that brings life to all things to flow through me. I want my expression to be softened by Your comfort. When I am sad or scared, may Your comfort soften my expression. When I am angry, may Your spirit of forgiveness relieve the tightness of holding onto offense. Transform my countenance so that people are drawn to You in me. Amen.

Your Past Doesn't Have to be Your Future

Sunday, June 17, 2018 @ 6:39 PM

The Pastor's Place

I sat one day thinking back over my life, wondering where did the “I” of me go? Somehow I felt I got buried alive emotionally at a very early age. I wasn’t raised in a physically violent home but the emotional neglect of bonding, the verbal abuse and the brokenness of spirit took a toll on me that caused me to believe a lie that I’ve carried—until now.
     I know my dad loved my mom. I’d see him hug and kiss her cheek and say “I just love this woman” and sweet, endearing words of that nature. I observed my mother’s response every time. I saw her react in hatred, bitterness and disgust. That look, and the body language told me, “I don’t love this man” and “This is how you treat a man; this is how you are to behave; this is you.” It sounds strange but that’s how a lot of us grow up—into the image of our parents. Year after year, we carve out an identity that was never ours to have. We reflect their image and most may not even be aware of it.
     The second Commandant from God says we are not to make a graven image, don’t bow down to it or serve it. This is a serious command, not an option. There are things we worship other than God Himself. We tend to worship statues, external objects, sports heros, etc. But my understanding of this is quite serious in my opinion. A child seeking to find their own identity is very often stripped or even raped internally of their identity under the duress of family settings. Watching the same thing repeatedly for years brands that idea or image in your psyche causing you to identify with the image you created or carved in your mind with the underlying thought, “This is how I’m supposed to be; this is how I should behave.” And there you have carved a graven image, a false image, bowing your identity to it and serving it as “me.”
How you see your life becomes cloudy in the window of your mind. How you see yourself is how you react emotionally to circumstances in the home. The many influences of childhood will determine whether you make for yourself a graven image or the real “you.”
      The Bible shows us plainly in Ephesians 4:22 that we are to “lay aside your former manner of life, the old self, which is corrupted with the lusts of deceit and be renewed in the spirit of your mind which, in the likeness of God, is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” We don’t have to keep living with a false identity that was created with lies. Once you see the truth, it becomes easier to see what lies were told to shape your being. Things like, “Can’t you do anything right?” Or, “Why don’t you ever listen?” “You’re just a no good, do nothing.” These and other accusations deeply harm a child’ self-esteem.
     We can let God recreate us in the truth of who we really are, who He intended us to be before we were ever born, in His holiness and truth. This tells me I don’t have to keep on living with my parents’ attitudes and behaviors that I learned day after day. God wants to tear down the idol I built on a lie. What a freedom comes as we are delivered from evil. We become corrupted inside by lies of what we see daily, constantly. When we give this up to God, asking for forgiveness, He brings His righteousness into the circumstance of our heart and creates a renewed identity because He breaks the power of the lies by telling us the holy truth and we become free.
     Dagon, as pictured here, was a foreign idol that was set up next to the Ark of God. When the people awoke in the morning, Dagon was face-down. The next day they found Dagon broken into pieces, his head and hands were broken off. (1 Samuel 5: 1-7) It takes time to change the dagons of our lives. As a side note, next time you're in Starbucks, look at their icon. Idol worship still exists.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Christian Women's Weekend Inner Healing Retreat

Friday, June 15, 2018 @ 1:29 AM

"WHAT'S IN YOU" Inner Healing Retreat
Eagle Isle Bed and Breakfast
Fremont, Ohio

You are invited to attend a Christian Women's Retreat. "Healed" - Your journey toward emotional wellness. Linette Graddic, M.Ed., LPC, Retreat Host and Speaker; Deb Greves, LPCC, Seminar Presenter; Martina Moore, PhD, Workshop Presenter. Registration and information - MercyCenterGlobal.com or call 216-459-7222. Limited seating.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Greatest of All - Love for Self

Wednesday, June 13, 2018 @ 10:48 PM

For many years I lived a life defined by other’s expectations of me. From a very early age I was told I was smart and I spoke well, so instead of engaging in activates that I longed for in my heart like dance and sports I conformed. I read books, participated in plays and basically said and did all the things that were expected of me. It all looked great on the outside and looking back it was not all bad.

It wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I heard the lyrics to Whitney Houston’s song Greatest Love of All that I paused to think, “what if”. Now mind you, it was only a pause – a momentary interruption in the normal ebb and flow of my teenage life. But that brief pause planted the seed of “what if” that allowed me to begin to think a little differently.

Later as a young adult, I can recall sitting in my bedroom miles away from everything familiar on a cold, rainy and just plain dreary day again listening, a little deeper this time, to the lyrics of Greatest Love of All. I was 21-years old and had made the very grown up decision to relocate 1,025.7 miles (15 hours and 21 minutes) awawy from everything I held dear. And again, living a good life but just not fully the life I wanted. This time however, a second song immediately followed. It was Stephanie Mills’ “Home”. Now I know what you’re thinking, “God does not speak through R&B music”. Well, I am here to tell you that on that faithful morning God used the morning DJ on a Milwaukee radio station to play just the right songs at just the right time and in just the right order to get this girl’s attention!

The lyrics that struck a chord in me where:

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity……
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
(Whitney Houston, Greatest Love of All)

AND

Maybe there's a chance for me to go back
Now that I have some direction
(Maybe there's a chance I'll get home)
It sure would be nice to be back at home
Where there's love and affection
And just maybe I can convince time to slow up
Givin me enough time, ooh, in my life to grow up
Time be my friend
And let me start again
(Stephanie Mills, Home)

I won’t say that everything changed overnight, and I immediately began to make decisions without giving a second thought to what others believed. I will say that this revelation started me on a journey of self-discovery. One that has had it’s ups and downs and wins and losses, but a journey that I will never regret, because it has led me to discover the fearfully and wonderfully made woman God designed me to be!

What I have learned and strive every day to pass along to those I encounter and engage with, is that living authentically begins with accepting ourselves as we are, flaws and all. It is living a life where our daily actions align with our beliefs and values. It is being true to ourselves and boldly embracing the amazing person that God has designed us to be!

The Hidden Problem of Cops and Alcohol

Wednesday, June 13, 2018 @ 1:02 PM

Cops. You either love or hate them.

We love them when they rescue Miss Kitty from the storm drain, but not so when they write us a ticket for doing 50 in a 35.Whatever your perspective on cops, consider this: cops have significantly higher rates of alcoholism, along with suicide and divorce, than the general public. Which means that along with the power comes a measure of pain.

Alcohol abuse among cops is both serious and widespread. Some studies estimate that between one-quarter to one-third of all police officers in the U.S. have drinking problems. And it's no coincidence that law enforcement is considered one of the top most stressful occupations in the country.

What makes it so stressful? Interestingly, physical danger doesn't top the list. Among the top stressors are: poor supervision too lenient or too tough); no reward system for a job well done; ambiguous policies and procedures; and a public that doesn't truly understand and often views them harshly.

Well, hey, we all have problems, right? Why don't these cops just take up yoga or see a therapist?

Problem is, it's not how they roll.

Police culture is like...John Wayne! Be strong. Don't let 'em see ya sweat. Never apologize, it's a sign of weakness.

You get the idea, pilgrim.

Booze has been part of cop culture since the first NYPD officers began pounding the beat in 1845. In the days before "patrol" meant riding around in a climate controlled SUV, a nip or two of brandy was essential to spending eight hours on foot post on a cold winter's night.

Drinking also was—and still is—the preferred method of dealing with the stress of the job. See, cops don’t generally like to tell their families about the nasty stuff they deal with. They can try to talk to their civilian friends, but frankly if you haven’t ever walked the walk then you’ll never really understand.

Cynicism and distrust of others is very common given the nature of police work. It’s hard to just walk into some strange therapist’s office and begin spilling your guts.

So they drink alone. And when they get together after work. Because sometimes the only person a cop will talk to, is another cop.

As a former EMT and reserve police officer, I'm blessed to serve members of law enforcement as well as other First Responders in my practice, Milestone Group. This work has included helping these men and women identify their inner strengths and the resources--family, friends, faith--that they have. If you're a cop looking for help, or you know someone who is and you live in Monmouth County, NJ, please give me a call. I'll be happy to help. My number's 732.291.1993.

There's also a wonderful hotline, Cop2Cop, manned by retired law enforcement men and women. If you’re on the job and you think you might like to talk to someone who’s been there, done that, here’s their number: 1.866.Cop.2Cop (1.866.267-2267) and website: http://ubhc.umdnj.edu/cop2cop/main.htm

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Things Are Not Always As They Seem

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 @ 11:28 AM

As a young child I enjoyed dressing up in my moms high heeled shoes, jewelry and any piece of fancy clothing that I could get my hands on. It was like being transported to a magical land of make believe. I would spend hours pretending to be a fairy princess or a celebrity! It was great, but at some point, the make believe would end, the clothes, shoes and jewelry would go back in their proper places and I would once again go back to being Crystal. The little girl that lived on West 6th Street.

Even as a teenager and young adult I would spend hours getting lost between the pages of a romance novel. I would spend hours reading about and dreaming about love everlasting, moonlight kisses and magical romances. Again, this was enjoyable, but there would yet again come a time when I had to return to reality and embrace my life for what is was. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but most of all tangible and real!

Today as a wife, mother and mental health clinician I still find myself getting lost from time to time in a great day dream. The key word however is dream and the reality that it is just that a series of thoughts, images and sensations that are occurring in my mind, not in my reality.

So often, however, it is hard for many to accept the everyday realities of life. This leads them to hide behind their titles, careers, money, marital status and so on. Many of us on the outside looking in buy into the mask, engage in the superficial conversation and walk away with the belief that because everything looks good it is good. This is so far from the truth!

With the tragic deaths this week of Fashion Designer, Kate Spade and Celebrity Chef and TV Personality, Anthony Bourdain, it has become all to clear that we must pause as a society and take the time to look behind the façade that so many put forth. We must begin today to ask the uncomfortable questions of those we love and often of those we have chance encounters with.

Questions like:
• How are you doing spiritually?
• How is your marriage really going?
• How are you doing with your finances?
• How are you doing with your purity? In both thought and action.
• How are your private thoughts about yourself?
• What do you need most right now?

We can no longer accept the standard polite “I am good” or “things are fine” responses. If we claim to love someone we must be OK with maintaining eye contact during those few moments of awkward silence that often come when we ask the tough stuff.

We must begin to look past materialism and titles when we feel in our gut that something is just not right. Feelings of hopelessness are real. People are hurting. People are dying because of the stigma associated with Mental Illness. We no longer have the luxury of keeping it safely tucked away in the shadows only to be discussed in secret discreet whispers during family gatherings.

According to a 2016 Center for Disease Control Report, suicide claimed the lives of nearly 45,000 people and was listed as the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States. However, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. In 2016 there were twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19, 362).

When you feel something is not right 9 times out of 10 something is not right. Below are a few warning signs that someone may be having suicidal thoughts:

•Unusual Focus on death – talking openly, dwelling on the topic or researching ways to kill themselves

•Making plans for death – updating their will, giving stuff away, saying goodbye, writing a suicide note

•Becoming withdrawn – avoiding close friends and family, losing interest in activities & social events, becoming isolated

•Showing signs of despair – talking openly about unbearable pain or feeling like a burden to others

•Changes in mood or sleep patterns – depressed, anxious, sad, or angry. They may also be very irritable, moody, or aggressive. They can also suddenly become calm once they have decided to go through with it. They may also sleep a lot more or a lot less

Proverbs 20:5 says “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out”. We must start today to be that man/woman that will take the time draw out what is really going on within a person.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). It’s always open, and you can speak to a trained counselor.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Distractions

Saturday, June 02, 2018 @ 2:17 PM

“And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” Acts 2:2

If a sound came from heaven, would you hear it? Sometimes, I wonder if I would! I can get so caught up in distractions that I may not be listening. There is a price to pay for too many distractions, but for me, not hearing God would be the biggest cost.

So why do I allow them? In part, distractions effectively keep me disconnected from feelings of confusion, fear, and uncertainty. Not being in control feels threatening. And I can’t control the sound from heaven; the voice of God. The uncertainty of not knowing when or what He may say can be uncomfortable. The next assignment I am given may be difficult. Sometimes I doubt my ability, or fear the focus and energy it will require.

I think we have trained our minds to run from being in the present moment. It is a symptom of the Distraction Syndrome so prevalent in our culture. Yet God says “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). Gratefully, I think He understands our fleshly resistance to His command. Perhaps that is why He told the disciples to wait in the Upper Room and pray. They were positioned to hear!

Perhaps, like me, you need to practice not acting on the urge to distract. Just stay with the feelings that arise when you are still. Times of quiet meditation will make hearing the sound from heaven easier. Sometimes God speaks softly. At other times, He sounds like a mighty rushing wind. Either way, rest assured that what He says is coming from Perfect Love. And His love is exactly what we need to meet us in our hearts, to replace the fear that has driven us to distraction.

Lord, we confess that our ceaseless activity is a manifestation of mistrust. Without the knowledge that You are working on our behalf, we do not cease from activity. Please help us to notice when our mind tries to run. We need your grace to develop an ‘Upper Room’ posture that does not give in to the distractions that are around us. Open our eyes to recognize that this is a critical season; we need to put our hearts in a position to hear what Your Spirit is saying. May the Upper Room Transformation be the result.
In Jesus Name, Amen.