CANCER: “My Diagnosis Led Me to Worship God”

cancerCancer: A cancer diagnosis surprised Heart2Heart counselor Donna Hart, PhD. Her first question was, “What in this do You want me to learn?” The Lord’s answer: worship. Donna’s article appeared first here on her website and is used with permission. Donna also adds an update below to her cancer diagnosis. To all who prayed for her, thank you. –LAM

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I was doing well and just starting the deeper research of chapter five of my dissertation. The chapter was on endurance. I prayed the Lord would lead me to the best resources for the research.

Not many days later the doctor called to say the results from the breast biopsy tested positive for cancer. I had had these done before all with negative results so when I got the call I was taken by surprise. We know nothing is a surprise for God and that His hand was allowing this for me.

My first question after the fog cleared was to ask our dear heavenly Father,

“What is in this You want me to learn?”

I got a most curious and surprising one word answer, “worship.”

I am “Miss Independent” and very used to caring for other people; I’m very low maintenance when it comes to needing help from others.

God Provides a Friend

The first person the Lord provided to help me was a good friend who happens to be a nurse. She declared that she was going with me to all doctor’s appointments and surgeries. She said it would be important to have another set of knowledgeable ears to listen. At the time, she was walking through her own deep valley of trial: while she was on a road trip a while back, she looked down for a moment and ran a red ligh. This resulted in a fatality.

During my cancer journey, we walked together; she ministered to me as I ministered to her. I learned that trials are more endurable when walk through it with a friend.

God’s provision is so sweet in the loving hands of another.

Through the process of multiple cancer surgeries, my friends would go walking with me because that was the only exercise allowed. They walked with me outside on the miles of bike trail near my home and inside when the weather was inclement. We would talk and grow closer in our relationship.

God Provides Praise Music

The Lord blesses us with His love through the voices of other believers.

The days I walked on the treadmill I would listen to the Vertical Church Band. Do they realize how many songs they have written about heaven? What a gift to me from the Lord to get my heart focused on the right things. I thought, it does not matter what happens, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)cancer. I will worship You, Lord.

My treatment included four rounds of chemotherapy, four hours each, three weeks apart. My favorite sisters went along with me for this journey. We sat, relaxed, chatted, and knitted. What a blessed treat from the hand of the Lord: sweet friendships to make a trial a joy.

I did not know I was going to be my own dissertation research on endurance. As I sought references for my paper, the Lord brought me to an article on Counseling Suffering by John Piper, and I shall never forget his words, “The Lord is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.”

The world is watching: Are we a testimony that the Lord is good and enough, no matter what the trial?

The Lord was with me every step of this journey, teaching me to be less self-sufficient and more dependent upon Him knowing He works all things together for good.

Life After Cancer

Now years later and cancer free, I celebrate that the Lord is a continued song in my heart. I remember His words to me every time I would get my eys off Him and onto the circumsitons, “Iwhat crucified for you.”

Those words are a memorial reminter that He is with me, and I have nothing to fear. He started a goood work and He will finish it.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

Question for You!

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The Resistant Teen: Helping a Teen Who Hates Help

resistant teenLet’s be honest: Some teens do not want counseling! The resistant teen can be reached, however! In this article by Heart2Heart Counselor Ellen Castillo, which appeared first here, she delves deeps into why teens resist counseling and how counselors and parents can help the resistant teen. Used with permisison.hope icon

Fear Leads to Resistance

Fear of man is the primary reason that teens resist counseling. This is revealed in a variety of ways, but some of the most common are:

  • A resistant teen often has a perception that counseling is a form of punishment. They see the counselor as another parental figure and are therefore resistant to counsel.
  • There is a stigma that comes from the idea of “counseling.” Preconceived ideas or past negative counseling experiences often cause resistance. Sometimes they feel embarrassment.
  • Young people want to be understood, but they are often convinced that adults are incapable of it. This leads to distrust, which creates resistance to counseling.
  • A resistant teen often feels extreme insecurity, wondering if they are the “only one” who struggles, which leads to feeling hopeless. This “why bother” attitude leads to resistance.

In order to be prepared to encounter a resistant teen, it is helpful to gather data from the parents before you begin meeting with the teen. It takes some digging into their history in order to get an overall view of the teens. Teens are often unreliable historians because of their limited perspective and resistance to counseling.

Questions to Ask Parents of a Resistant Teen

Here are a few questions that are important to ask the parents:

  • Have there been any major changes in her life recently?
  • Has he had trouble like this before, or is this a new problem?
  • Has she ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder? Is she medicated? Ask for details.
  • How well does he cope with school, peers, church life, hobbies, sports, etc.?
  • Is there anything going on in your marriage or home life that could be troubling her?
  • What behaviors are you most concerned about? (Listen for defiance, isolating herself, mood swings, suicidal, substance abuse, sexually acting out, etc.)

The parent’s perspective on these types of questions gives you a good starting point when approaching the resistant teen. With this kind of background, you will know better what direction to go in your initial discussions. That will be critical to building some trust.

An Invitation to a Resistant Teen

Here is an example of a counselee that was initially resistant to counseling. Ahead of the initial session, the mother told me that this teen was failing in school, that she was angry and defiant with both parents, that she was isolating herself from the family, and that she had told a teacher that her mother hit her (which was true, resulting in a CPS investigation, which led to the counseling referral).

This fourteen-year-old girl walked in to my office, looked around as if to take note of some Christian themed decor, and before she took two steps she pronounced, “I am an atheist.” She looked surprised when I invited her to have a seat as I told her: “That’s ok, I look forward to getting to know you, and I was one until I was 30 years old.”

Behind what she meant to be intimidating and off-putting to this biblical counselor, I could hear the fear. She clearly hoped I would be offended and excuse her from the session. Instead, I invited her to tell me her story.

She Tell Her Story

She talked of troubled relationships at home, insecurities at school, conflicts with peers, and insistence that at age fourteen she felt quite ready to be emancipated. Her reasoning for rushing her independence was to “get away from the people who are causing all my problems.”

She told me that she did not need counseling and that she only needed to be rid of her parents. This unearthed a long story of family dysfunction and trouble on many levels.

I listened, interjecting heart-probing questions, and listened some more as I allowed her to tell me what is troubling her. She eventually broke down in tears, and I was able to ask her if she knew about the gospel.

She said yes, because she had been in church most of her life. The teen told me she remembered Awana verses from years past, and that she had always attended Sunday school. And then she admitted that she was not really an atheist. She confessed, “I was hoping you would be mad when I said that and then I would not have to stay in counseling.”

The Gospel Breaks through Resistance

By the end of this first session, we were able to begin the process of seeking God’s Word to address her fears. We began with a basic teaching about the fear of man—what it is and how to address it. Galatians 1:10 gave us a good starting point:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

This led to a discussion about the details of the gospel, which she understood intellectually but admitted she was not certain she really believed it. Because she had shared some of her story, we could start to discuss how her story fit in to the story of redemption found in her Bible.

She had softened to the counsel, I believe, because we were able to get right to the heart issues. Because I had the background from the parents, I was prepared to address her fears and give her hope. The fear of man is a very relatable issue, because it is common to all of us. We began to talk about the ways it manifests in people’s lives.

I briefly shared some of my own struggle with it so that she would see me as a mentor more than as an authority figure. The beginning of a potentially fruitful journey together began that day. We did not get to every discussion needed to address her struggles, but we did get to the gospel, and she was listening.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

Join the Conversation

What other causes of resistance have you experienced in discipling teens, and how did you address them?

Focus: Seeing Life Clearly Brings Peace

focus

A right and godly focus cuts through the complications of life and brings peace to your heart. In her article, which appeared first here on her website, Heart2Heart Counselor Karen Gaul shares insights from story of Ruth as well as Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Life has a way of being very complicated. It is so easy for us to get lost in the situations that happen around us that we quickly lose our focus and our way. We become overwhelmed, disillusioned, fearful, maybe even bitter and angry.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians it seemed that might be the case. Paul hoped to encourage this church. I wonder if they were thinking that since Paul was a follower of the Way and was imprisoned that maybe it could happen to them too. Perhaps the scuttlebutt around town was “imagine Paul in prison, chained up. I wonder if he is going to be killed soon? He must be scared. This is terrible. How could God let this happen? Is Paul wrong?”

But this is what Paul writes,

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” Philippians: 1:12-14

Deciding Your Focus 

Wrong thinking is one of the first places we look focus.

You can hear it in the true story of Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah. 

Naomi’s focus: Naomi faced famine and moved to Moab, a godforsaken land, where her husband dies. Her sons marry idol-worshipping women. They produce no offspring. Then her sons die, leaving her with two daughters-in-law. Life couldn’t get much more difficult than that.

She believes God’s hand is very heavy on her and that she has been emptied of anything and anyone who mattered to her. Now she was old. Death would have been a welcome visitor for her. She saw nothing but her difficult circumstances. Poor Naomi … lost, alone and disillusioned and bitter. She sees no hope for her future..

Ruth’s focus: Ruth, on the other hand, could have thought that if she went with Naomi to Israel, she would not be welcomed. She could have thought: “I will never marry or have a child. Perhaps I will face abuse and ridicule. I may starve.”

These were all real possibilities for her future. Yet she did a remarkable thing. She wanted to be where God was in the Land of Bread, and she was determined to go. She persisted and off Ruth and Naomi went to Israel.

Orpah’s focus: Orpah, the other daughter-in-law, returned to Moab and her idol-worshipping life. She lacked God’s perspective. To her, returning home looked most promising.

When we focus on circumstances, we miss what is really going on.

Listening to Paul’s Solutions

The aspostle Paul…

  1. clarifies the gospel
  2. focuses on results
  3. looks at the big picture

Clarification

Paul clarifies things so this little church isn’t discouraged or fearful. He doesn’t go into the details of what has happened to him. Instead, he reminds them that the Gospel is being advanced all over the place.

Focus

Paul focuses on the results. Paul reminds them that he is in chains for Christ and that the Gospel is advancing.

When we get lost on the problem, doesn’t our vision become limited? Naomi couldn’t see past her circumstances, Ruth saw something way beyond herself. She was going to be in the place God was and she couldn’t wait to get there. It didn’t matter what happened to her as long as she was close to Him.

We become self-absorbed when we focuse only on the horizontal of life. Our world gets smaller and smaller and it appears nothing will ever change. Naomi was caught in that place for quite some time.

But Paul took advantage of his circumstances and shared Jesus to everyone who was attached to him as well as anyone else. Ruth also took advantage of her situation and lived a life of integrity committing herself to the care of this older bitter woman who she loved. Both Paul and Ruth were witnesses of what a follower of Jesus looks like and people noticed.

  • How can we think differently about the situations that happen to us? What might God be up to? 

Sometimes we know the purpose but other times we don’t. Paul took advantage of this situation and proclaimed Christ.  Ruth on the other hand just lived her life in love and obedience to the God she found.  She wasn’t a great teacher or spokesperson instead she lived a life of grace and others noticed.

Big Picture

Paul looks at the big picture. Paul sees he is in chains, and other believers speak more boldly. And that is all that matters to him, that Christ gets proclaimed.

God desires for us to change our thinking. We live in a soft and comfy world and we quite like it that way, but following Jesus comes with great cost.  We might not be in chains like Paul was, but there will be ample opportunity for us to suffer and go through hardship and in it we can choose to respond like Naomi and get bitter or we can like Paul see the big picture.

Paul endured, he suffered, he sacrificed, he gave and he served because he loved.

How can we take up that same challenge?

During your darkest hours God is working, He is up to good things. He wants to redeem your struggle and use it for nothing but good in your life. You may not always know what He might be doing but you will know the end result is to make you reflect Christ more. (Romans 8:28,29)

What an honor we have.

Will you allow God to use your suffering to produce in you a most pleasing aroma for Him?

An Invitation to You

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Dad: Finding Hope After a Father Dies

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Do you miss your dad? Whether your dad has passed away or you have a poor or no relationship with him, your Heavenly Father is near. He comforts you. In this precious post by Shirley Crowder, a Heart2Heart Counselor, she helps us understand the true meaning of Dad. It appeared first here on Shirley’s website and is used with permission. Edited for space.

It is hard to believe that my Dad, Ray Crowder, died 26 years ago. This photo, circa 1976, taken at Little River Canyon, is one of my favorites.

I use F215644_10150152522862654_5025408_nather, Dad, and Daddy, at different times to speak of him. I began thinking about why I call him different titles. Below you will find the Merriam-Webster.com definitions of Father, Dad, and Daddy, followed by my connotation for each term, and a memory.

What Is a Father?

  • Father – a formal title for “a male parent” or “someone who has begotten a child.”

When I refer to him with this title, it is referring to his parental, and maybe even authoritative, disciplinary role in my life. So, I saw him as Father a lot during my childhood and teen days!

When my Father told me to do something, I was to do it immediately, joyfully, and completely, or there would be consequences (aka discipline). I remember one Saturday when Mom left to go grocery shopping that my Father told me I could not go play with my friend Donna until I cleaned up my room and put the dishes in the dishwasher. He immediately left to visit someone in the hospital, which I, of course, took as my cue to go play with Donna.

After some time had passed, I heard my Father calling—OK, yelling, “SHIRLEY JEANNE!” You know you’re in trouble when they use the first and middle names, don’t you?

I was grounded. This meant I could not play with friends. . .or my own brother! In addition, for a whole week, I was to do the laundry (under mom’s or his supervision, of course), vacuum the entire house everyday, and help Mom with meal preparation, serving, and clean-up. I could, of course, go to Sunday School, Sunday morning service, Training Union, and Wednesday night prayer meeting. I could also walk directly to school and home again.

That was my Father loving me enough to teach me to be submissive to authority. I learned that every decision I make has a consequence.

What Is a Dad?

  • Dad – an informal title for “a person’s father.” A handwritten note in a file I have on Fathering reads: “Being a dad means ‘being there’ for your child(ren).” (Unfortunately I did not notate the source.)

I began referring to him as Dad in my teen years. It is more informal and indicative of me becoming more independent of my parents, of my becoming more mature. OK, maybe older is more accurate! Perhaps the best marker of this shift was learning to discuss and debate things with him.

One Saturday night when I was in high school, friends invited me to go to a movie. Since Dad knew those going, he gave me permission. He told me to return home right after the movie.

Well, of course, after the movie the group decided we should go to El Burrito, and I didn’t want to miss out on anything! When I didn’t get home around the time Dad expected me, he told mom, “They wanted to get something to eat. I’m sure that’s where she is.”

(Now, before you think my Dad was an unconcerned parent, everyone in the city of Gadsden knew Ray Crowder. So, if we had been in a wreck someone would have called him.)

When I walked in the house, there sat Dad at the kitchen table. Being a discerning teenager, I could tell immediately that I was in big trouble! He wasn’t reading the paper, or drinking iced sweet tea, or eating a snack. He didn’t even look angry, he was just sitting there looking at me.

I sat down in a chair directly across from him. He continued sitting motionlessly and silently, and just looked straight in my eyes. Although mom said it was not more than a minute, it seemed like an eternity to me.

Dad Said ‘Sweetheart’

Finally, Dad said, “Sweetheart” and inhaled deeply. He did not raised his voice. Rather, he spoke in that measured and controlled tone of voice indicating to me that my social life had ended—FOREVER! Mom joined us at the table.

Dad reminded me how I was continually telling him that I was a teenager, old enough to have more freedom, to make decisions on my own, and that I knew what was right and wrong.” Yep, of one thing I was certain—NO MORE SOCIAL LIFE FOR ME!

Since it was evident, at least to Dad and Mom, that I did not understand the difference in right and wrong; we spent the next hour or so making sure that I knew how the Bible, Dad and Mom defined right and wrong. And the consequences of sinning against God and disobeying my parents.

Forty-one years later, I remember that discussion almost word for word. I learned the definitions of right and wrong, although my actions since then have shown that I don’t really understand, for if I did, I would have made much different choices in myriad situations!

Who Is Daddy?

  • Daddy – a title for “a person’s father – used especially by young children.”

Of course I called him Daddy as a child. Even in my early thirties (when he died), I would refer to him as “Daddy.” Now, when I speak of certain memories, or I am really missing him, “Daddy” comes to mind.

I must have been seven- or eight-years old when I took it upon myself to get something unplugged from an electrical outlet in the wall. I do not remember what I thought must be unplugged, but, it would not come out. So, being the brilliant youngster I was, I went into the kitchen, got a knife …

Yes, the shock knocked the breath out of me as I landed on my rear end, and it scared me!

When I screamed bloody murder, my Daddy (and my Mommy and brother, Tim) came running! Before he reached me, Daddy saw the knife on the floor near the outlet and realized what had happened. Daddy scooped me up into his arms. He and mommy checked my hands for burns, and asked me questions so they could determine if I had fried my brain.

Meanwhile, Daddy held me tightly while whispering comforting words: “Daddy’s got you.” “You’re OK.” “Ssshhhh.” “Mommy and Daddy are here.”

They declared me to be OK. Then my Daddy carefully and tenderly ensured I understood what happened so I wouldn’t repeat it!

Our Heavenly Father

Thinking about all of this brought to mind the following passage:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement
that addresses you as a father addresses his son?
It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.,
– Hebrews 12:5-6

I am all too often reminded of my earthly Father as I remember lessons I learned through the discipline I received from him.

I hear or read things all the time that I wish I could discuss with my Dad, and I wonder, “What would Dad think about this?”

All too often, I miss my Daddy, for he protected me, kept me safe (when I allowed him to), and made everything better (and so many other things)!

Remembering my Father, Dad, and Daddy always evokes myriad emotions, and sometimes leaves me feeling very unprotected and alone.

The Lord’s Precious Reminders

Yet, in His grace, the Lord reminds me:

  • I have a Heavenly Father, Who forgave my sin and saved me from an eternity of punishment through His wrath.
  • This same Father God (Savior, Lord) created me to live in intimate relationship with Him. As I read, study, meditate upon, memorize, and listen to preaching of the Holy-Spirit-inspired Word, and through prayer.
  • This same Abba Father lovingly and protectively holds me securely in the grip of his grace.

While Ray Crowder was far from perfect, I am blessed to have had an earthly Father, Dad, and Daddy, from whom I learned about my Heavenly Father, Savior, Lord, and Comforter.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. – Deuteronomy 4:9

I miss my Daddy and am comforted by my Lord!

Join In!

Did Shirley’s stories remind you of your dad? What are one or two thinks you think of when you hear the words Father, Dad, and Daddy? If you didn’t have a father in your life, what words do you share with your Heavenly Father? –LAM

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

What Do You Desire Above All?

desiresDesire. . .does your desire match God’s desire for you? The more your desire aligns with God’s, the happier your life. Especially when you deal with an evil like pornography. This article by Heart2Heart Counselor Karen Gaul appeared first here on her website and is used with permission. 

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Years ago I hated olives. I didn’t like anything about them, and one day my cousin told me that if I ate seven in a row that I would not only acquire a taste for them but would actually like them. So I rose to the challenge. He was so right! I shoved seven into my mouth (not all at once) with great difficulty and a few weeks later I wanted an olive, and the rest is history.

Unfortunately I don’t have to do something seven times before it becomes something that I really like. I wish it were so because we would be spared much trouble.

I was in a workshop with a well-known Christian artist, and he shared that while he was leading a men’s Bible study group in his church he came to learn that several of the men struggled with internet porn. Wanting to understand them better he decided to check out a website.

He did that once and he forever has wished he had not done so. It left a picture in his head. Pictures are indeed worth a thousand words. Vivid pictures leave a mark on your brain. What we put into our minds we do have to deal with.

What the Bible Says About Desire

“In the last days people will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). I think we are living in those days. Pleasure ads are all around us. We are encouraged to find it and hold on to it. We are told it is our right to feel good. We don’t need to work at desiring it.

Is it wrong to desire pleasure? Absolutely not. God delighted in His Creation, God delights in His Son.  John Piper wrote a book called The Pleasures of God. He writes that God finds pleasure in all He does.

Is it wrong to want pain and suffering gone? Again absolutely not! When Jesus was in the Garden He asked for His “cup” to be removed. Paul asked threee times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed. The Psalmist frequently asked for his trouble to be gone.

We are created to desire.

Where Desire Goes Awry

In the garden Adam and Eve desired God, they were intimate with Him, vulnerable with each other. It was a time of perfect and pure pleasure and then the snake subtly brought a new thought. They could find pleasure elsewhere, so Eve looked at the apple and it looked amazing, so she took it and ate of it. She was enticed to find her fulfillment (he
r pleasure) in something other than God.

God longs for us to find our absolute pleasure in Him. Here we get to taste that in part, one day we will have pleasures forever more and they will be fully met when we see Him face to face.

When then does desire for pleasure go awry? It goes awry when we want the fullness of pleasure now!

  • It goes awry when desire gives birth to a need and the need gives birth to a right or demand. James 1 says the temptation when conceived gives birth to sin.
  • It goes awry when we don’t know how to handle and deal with our trouble or pain or past.
  • It goes awry when we buy into the lie that pornography will satisfy.
  • It goes awry when we see it as a normal part of our existence rather than self-seeking.
  • It goes awry when what I want is more important than what God wants.

It may have started innocently enough You may have looked twice at a pop up on the computer, you may have accidentally connected with someone on Facebook, maybe you took too long a gaze at a magazine counter, maybe as a child someone shared something with you that you were too young to see, maybe you had an abusive experience when you were young and although you hated the abuse your body betrayed you by responding to the touch, maybe you were just curious. This list is endless as to how you were enticed.

Again we are creatures who were made to find pleasure, but. . .

we are so easily satisfied with the apple and miss out on the greater pleasures of God who created the apple.

Desire and Pornography

Pornograpdesireshy promises release from pain, release from tension, a different focus, pleasure because it always will lead to masturbation. I wish I could say this was a male problem, but more and more it is also a temptation for women. I wish I could say it would satisfy but it won’t. It will leave you filled with shame and guilt and worse.

It will rule you. It is a horrid and heavy chain. It is done in secret, it brings with it lies, it leaves a path of broken homes and relationships.

One glance and Eve was done. It’s not like you have to look seven times as in eating olives, but the end result is the same you will want more.

The bite had Adam and Eve. . .

  • thrown out of paradise, out of Eden,
  • out of the place where pleasure with God was a daily experience,
  • out of openness with each other.

Instead they ran for fig leaves. Hiding began. Brokenness was born. The apple didn’t deliver what the snake had promised.

Hope for You

Friend, pornography will not deliver either. If you are already involved in pornography you already know this. Find help. Make the call. Your relationships will be blessed if you do, your walk with God will be restored if you do, and you will open yourself up to experience the pleasures of God if you do.

Jesus came to set the captive free so if you are thinking “I am too stuck, I have tried it all, I have been involved for too long” hear this…Jesus came to give release to the captive, to give freedom from bondage, to give joy and fulfillment, to heal and restore relationships.

He is able! His love and grace and restoring ability is ALWAYS greater than our sin. 

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. Romans 5:20

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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