8 Habits of a Forgiving Heart

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How do we heal from those wounds for which no restitution can be made? How do we extend true forgiveness when we don’t feel like forgiving? How do we ease that burning in our hearts for justice?

Forgiveness is one of the most challenging commands given to the Christian. Sometimes complete forgiveness takes more than a day, a week, a month, or even a decade. What we feel on the inside must not dictate our actions on the outside. We must make a conscious effort to obey God externally while fighting the battle internally.

In the previous post, we discussed Peter’s flawed question of how many times we ought to forgive. Today, I hope to encourage you to develop a mindset of forgiveness, particularly for those hurts which run deep.

Forgiveness is not merely an action, it is an attitude we must develop and nurture until we return to dust. Continue reading

Depression: What it is and How to Fight Back

This is part 4 of the series “Invisible Illnesses.” To read the previous post, click here

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The problem of depression and the Christian is complex. As with PTSD, we need to educate ourselves before rushing to errant judgement.

Depression can be split into two categories (although they frequently often overlap): there is depression caused by physical/chemical triggers and there is depression as a state of the mind. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction. Continue reading

Preparing for the Next Circuit

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I’ve been a bit reflective the past few days. Holidays do that to me.

 

The earth makes one full rotation each day. Rotate implies circular motion.

The earth makes one full rotation around the sun each year. Again, a circular motion.

We are going in circles.

Does that mean we aren’t getting anywhere? Continue reading

The Number One Myth Surrounding PTSD

This is the second post in the series Invisible Illnesses. To read the first post, click here.

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Humans are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are complex beings, an intricate tapestry of mind, body, and soul. Advances in research continually enhance our understanding of the mind-body connection, yet scientists and laymen alike continue to minimize the power of this perplexing organ.

As Christians, we believe in the unseen. We have confidence in the power of God to heal. We know the war of the mind rages daily. The bitter irony, then, is how we treat those with “unseen” mental injuries as though they are weak-minded sinners:

“If you just had more faith, you could be healed.”

“You need to pray more. That will fix your depression.”

“That guy simply needs to stop making excuses for his PTSD.”

As if it’s so simple…

If I were to say, “That cancer patient is downright lazy. He needs to get on his knees, start praying and have more faith in God’s power to heal,” what would happen? Death threats. Accusations of insanity. Disdain. Derision.

Why?

God, in His infinite wisdom, does not always give us healing. It might be our time to go home and be with the Lord. It could be our “thorn in the flesh” training us to patiently endure. Yes, faith can move mountains yes, prayer is powerful; but God’s will is the final word. Sometimes the answer is “no,” or “not yet.”

The world we live in is plagued by diseases of all kinds. We conquer one outbreak only to be assaulted by another. Tuberculosis used to be the great killer, now it’s cancer. People feared Polio, now it’s autism. We strive endlessly to circumvent disease, but the world has been the realm of hardship since the first sin.

Mental illnesses are invisible diseases, often created by physical stimuli, but we (particularly Christians) treat them as though they are self-inflicted wounds, controlled by our will alone. We completely ignore the physiochemical side of the issue.

It is far too complex be treated so lightly.

The #1 Myth of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

During the tumultuous election, I numbed to the cringe-worthy statements from the-candidates-whom-nobody-wanted. Then, out of the blue, Mr. Trump said something in total ignorance—and I was no longer numb:

“When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it but a lot of people can’t handle it. They see horror stories, they see events you couldn’t see in a movie, nobody would believe it …”

Donald Trump, October 3, 2016 (emphasis mine)

Open mouth, insert foot.

Mr. Trump merely stated what most people already believe—PTSD only happens to the weak.

That would be Myth #1.

PTSD results from traumatic stress, hence the name. Furthermore, nobody has been able to crack the code of the human brain to determine why one person gets one set of symptoms and another person does not. One thing the experts all agree on is this: PTSD is NOT the result of weakness.

The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) states: “PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will develop PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control.”

The VA estimates that eleven to twenty percent of veterans from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD. They also estimated the number of Vietnam Veterans with PTSD is only slightly higher—about fifteen percent. I’m a little skeptical of their numbers because most people—men in particular—are reluctant to admit there is a problem due to the social stigma surrounding PTSD. Furthermore, the needs of veterans returning home from Vietnam were ignored (read: treated like garbage) and so it is likely that number is also inaccurate.

What I am about to state in this paragraph is purely my opinion, based on my eye-witness observation and reading: PTSD—particularly when manifested in military veterans, law enforcement, and first responders—is a sign of deep courage, conscience, and compassion. We were designed to desire justice and mercy simultaneously. It is not in our nature to find joy in death and destruction. If one sees rampant devastation and remains unmoved, something is seriously wrong.

We watch movies and TV shows of people going through trauma. After each life-threatening situation, they move on with life as though unfazed. Consciously or subconsciously, we consider these characters tough. In real life, we would think they were sick and twisted at best. One cannot be confronted with such high, unremitting levels of violence and remain unaffected, unless there is some underlying sociopathy. We civilians cringe at the sick humor of doctors, nurses, soldiers, and cops thinking them to be callous. They are not unhinged— humor is their coping mechanism. They are deeply affected by what they see day after day, month after month, year after year.

People with PTSD are not weak, and Christians in particular need to grasp this truth.

Some Facts About PTSD

According to the DSM-5, the following is the Stressor Criterion:

The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, as follows: (one required)

  1. Direct exposure.
  2. Witnessing, in person.
  3. Indirectly, by learning that a close relative or close friend was exposed to trauma. If the event involved actual or threatened death, it must have been violent or accidental.
  4. Repeated or extreme indirect exposure to aversive details of the event(s), usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, collecting body parts; professionals repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse). This does not include indirect non-professional exposure through electronic media, television, movies, or pictures.

Symptoms of PTSD:

  1. Irritable or aggressive behavior
  2. Self-destructive or reckless behavior
  3. Hypervigilance
  4. Exaggerated startle response
  5. Problems in concentration
  6. Sleep disturbance
  7. Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive memories.
  8. Traumatic nightmares.
  9. Dissociative reactions (e.g., flashbacks) which may occur on a continuum from brief episodes to complete loss of consciousness.
  10. Intense or prolonged distress after exposure to traumatic reminders.
  11. Marked physiologic reactivity after exposure to trauma-related stimuli.

Getting Treatment

 

The biggest obstacle to recovering or coping with PTSD is failure to get treatment.

What do we do if we have a bacterial infection? We usually go to the doctor and get an antibiotic. If we get in a car accident with severe injuries, we don’t stand around bleeding. We go to the hospital and get help! PTSD needs proper treatment just like any other bo`dily trauma. 

What is proper treatment?

I am not a doctor, so I would first advise you to find a medical professional with specific experience in counseling trauma victims. A marriage and family therapist is not usually an expert in this area. Be specific in your search. You wouldn’t see a gastroenterologist for an eye problem. Don’t see the wrong kind of therapist for this either.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an emerging form of therapy making waves in the mental health industry. There is, of course, disagreement about it’s effectiveness, but I’ve heard from both professionals and patients of it’s amazing results.

Other forms of treatment include (but are not limited to): Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medication, family counseling (for the family affected by PTSD), and psychodynamic psychotherapy. Click the link to read more in-depth.

If you are a war veteran suffering from PTSD, I highly recommend getting in touch with Headstrong, a non-profit organization created by Veterans committed to helping fellow veterans recover from PTSD by getting them connected with EMDR therapists. I connected with them last year to inquire about help for my best friend, but since his PTSD wasn’t connected with his military time, they couldn’t help. However, the person I spoke to—a vet who had personally gone through this therapy and recovered—went out of his way to get me the names of clinics using EMDR therapy that he had personally vetted.

Don’t leave God out

We pray for healing of our illnesses, we pray for help with our struggles, and we ought to pray for recovery from mental illness with the same conviction. If you have a family member suffering from PTSD, you also need prayer and support. Give your pain over to the Lord—He is a safe harbor in the storm. Like any illness, we pray for healing, good treatment, and wisdom for the doctor. We pray for God to do His work and we also do what is within our power to do.


If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, take heart. There is hope for you to lead a happy and full life. Do not succumb to societal pressure to ignore the problem. Get the treatment you need and lean on God for support.

 

A Spark in the Darkness.

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Shootings in Dallas. Riots in Charlotte. Explosions in New York.

Deceit in the debate hall.

Worry abounds.

When darkness prevails and our grief overwhelms us, how do we get through it? What do we hold on to?  Continue reading

Why we need to pray for GenNext (Part 2)

This is the final article in the series “Raising GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.

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Yesterday, we looked at why prayer is so critical in the effort to raise GenNext. Remember, GenNext is not just children; GenNext also includes new converts and current Christians. Like Jesus, we long for the growth of those who will follow in our footsteps. The effort to train “replacements” begins today, for today is all we have. As with any endeavor for the Lord, we need to be praying throughout the process.

What specific requests should be included in our prayers?

Continue reading

Back to School Prayers

Clogged up parking lots. Fresh, clean backpacks. Crisp new clothes. Sharp pencils. Eager young faces… Yup, it’s back-to-school time!

No matter what form of education you choose for your child—homeschool, private school, or public school—we need to pray diligently through this season of life. The education process is indeed challenging.

I realize that many children are already in school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shift your focus toward school-time prayers!

 

Below are links to some PDFs with prayers for you, your child’s teachers and (of course) your children. Some of you have only one child in these situations,some of you have multiple children. Your child may have special needs. These printables are merely springboards to guide your thoughts. I have made three PDFs; one for homeschoolers, school-aged kids (for public or private school), and college students.

I welcome additional suggestions in the comments below!

For those of you teaching, may the Lord grant you a calm spirit, a heart of patience, and diligent hands. Thank you for your efforts to teach the children entrusted to your care!

For Homeschool, click here.

For School-Aged Kids (Attending Public or Private Schools) click here.

For College Students, click here.

I hope these are beneficial to you!

 

Navigating the labyrinth of life.

Over an hour ago, I was preparing to add tags and hit publish on this post when…

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…this happened.

Continue reading

How to Equip Your Children to be Future Christians (Raising #GenNext)

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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Yesterday, we covered why we need to teach our children. Today, we will be covering how to teach our children. This is merely an overview. Entire books have been written on this subject!!

For starters, let me make a disclaimer: I am a youngish parent. My kids are all under the age of 9. What I am about to suggest are principles I have learned from older, wiser people and/or have put into practice myself. Continue reading

Justice is weeping today.

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Photo from Wikipedia.

I don’t normally discuss politics or national news on this blog; I typically devote all my articles to learning about God and how to walk with Jesus. I hope you’ll indulge me, just this once, in a short commentary on current events.

Brilliant flashes of colorful fireworks set the faces of my children aglow beneath the darkening Texas sky. We reveled in our new-found Texas freedom and the love of country that swells in this region of the United States. I was thankful to live in this nation, in spite of the issues that plague us.

That was Monday.

Monday feels like an age ago.

This week has been traumatic for Lady Justice and her best friend, Wisdom. They weep unrestrainedly at the black events of the past few days.

On Tuesday, the FBI washed their hands in Pilate-like fashion of the blood of Americans murdered in a preventable, yet cowardly attack in Benghazi. Carelessness by a top official was treated as no great offense. It only resulted in sensitive information falling into the hands of our enemies. It only contributed to the death of a few Americans. It only compromised our national security. It could have been prevented, but, in the words of the offender, “what difference does it make?” My dear, it makes all the difference in the world when you ask for the privilege to lead people whose lives apparently matter very little to you.

The FBI admitted to the commission of a crime, but refused to take legal action. Why?! Only God knows. I’ll spare you my little theories, for that is all that they are.

Justice wept bitter tears.Wisdom cried aloud in anger.

Last night, the country witnessed a cowardly attack on law enforcement. Eleven officers were shot and five were killed.

Five people.

Five people are dead.

Five circles of influence shattered.

Five sets of families are left with a gaping hole.

Five oceans of tears.

Six people.

Six people with survivors guilt.

Six people who will suffer the life-changing agony of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Six families who have to relearn how to live with the one they love, because that person will be forever changed.

Put yourselves outside of your life and into the shoes of these people. Imagine how you would feel if that was your father, fiancee, or friend? These families are suffering, and all the news can talk about is how two police shootings sparked this deadly attack.

STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!!

How about we talk about compassion for those left behind? How about we send messages of support during their time of grief? How about we make sure there is funding for counseling for all those involved?

How about we talk about the trickle down effect of disregard for law? How about we realize that our country has given evil far too much license? How about we focus on our very broken (and corrupted) justice system? Instead of criticizing cops, what if we were to give them what they needed, which is leadership that upholds the law instead of undermining it (and administers appropriate discipline towards them when necessary)?

Our President responds with shock. How touching. Maybe if he hadn’t undermined the authority of law enforcement throughout his tenure, we would not be seeing the tragedy that unfolds before us today.

On Monday we celebrated independence. On Tuesday, the powers that be rendered our independence to be unmerited. On Thursday, we experience tragedy.

There is a new kind of tyranny at work today, and our country is enslaved by it—the tyranny of the entitled. They demand everything without the willingness to give anything. They overturn justice. They call evil good and good evil. Nothing is ever enough.

The men and women who stand in the fray, protecting us from things we can barely imagine, are the ones being vilified. The criminals who disregard justice, on the other hand, are exalted as paragons of virtue. Many good men and women are walking away from these jobs as protectors because they do not feel the sacrifice is worth it any longer. What we will get in their place is what many think already have—a corrupt, gestapo-like force.

The leaders of our country consider themselves above the law, even though they are supposed to be beneath it, upholding it. When we allow those in power to flagrantly disregard truth and justice, the citizenry will follow suit.

God, who is righteous and just, sees all these things. He will ensure that, one way or another, Justice has her day. We may never see that day while we live on this earth, but we have confidence that He will carry it out in His own good time.

 

Thanks be to God that we are just passing through and belong to a kingdom that cannot be shaken. This week has been another reminder of the fragility of governments and of life. Put your trust in God.

Take time today to pray for the families of the fallen. They need and deserve our compassion.