Laughter Heals Your Heart!

laughterLaughter heals! In this uplifting post, which appeared first here, Dr Donna Hart, PhD, shares how having fun and laughing are not only good for you but also pleases God. Donna is listed on our Heart2Heart Counselor Directory.

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At a family gathering over the holidays, I enjoyed good food, good friends, and. . .laughter. In a conversation with the family matriarch, affectionately called “Memaw” by her grandchildren, she commented about the embroidered decorations on her sweatshirt and the effects of their strategic placement.

We started to laugh about the private joke between us. And we couldn’t stop laughing. The tears streamed down my face as others around us to start to laugh with us. I cannot remember the last time I laughed that hard. Something about that laughter gave my heart such joy and companionableness.

Are You Too Serious?

Christians have a long-standing reputation for being serious-minded people who are not prone to humor, laughter, or play. In early church history in America, the Puritans did much to cement this reputation of serious piety. They spent long hours in church and rigorous hours in daily Bible study and prayer. They are also known for their restrictions against music, dancing, and bright colors. Holiness seemed to be likened to judgment, suffering, and severity.

But John Wesley recognized the danger of taking this serious attitude to the extreme when he said: “Sour Godliness is the devil’s religion.” And Martin Luther is quoted in Is There Fun After Paul?: A Theology of Clowning:

If you’re not allowed to laugh in heaven, then I don’t want to go there.

Even though we eagerly bring joy, laughter, and good humor into our family lives, often we hesitate to bring the same qualities into our relationship with God. Are we worried that God does not have a sense of humor? If we want to bring laughter and play into our relationship with God, will we need to expand our view of His attributes to include laughter and fun?

Seeing Comedy in Life

To move in this direction, let’s define what a “sense of humor” means. It is a perspective on life that has the ability to see thlaughtere comic in creation, humanity, and the ability to laugh at ourselves. Human relationships do not survive well without the ability to have a sense of humor.

We are all too familiar with how struggles and communication barriers block our ability to know and be known to each other. When we can step back and see the humor in our predicaments, it softens our hearts to move forward toward each other.

The same principle applies to our relationship with God. If all of our prayers are solemn, serious, and focused only on weighty matters of importance, we will miss opportunities for light and playful prayers.

Tears and laughter are often linked in the Bible. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh (3:4). Luke 6:21 offers the promise of laughter when he writes “…Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” It is difficult not to love someone when you are laughing with them. Have you experienced the love that comes from shared laughter?

Laugh Well, Live Better

When we laugh together, we build relationships; we build sympathy for each other, and we become kindred spirits. Good humor and laughter depend on solid trusting relationships. We cannot command laughter nor can we dictate trust.

But we can be willing to seize the funny moments to laugh out loud when least expected, find humor in our own situations. We can share laughter with others and discover love. And we can delight in God and experience God’s unconditional love for us.

If we believe that God will laugh at us if we share our joys and excitements, then we will remain silent for fear of being ridiculed. However, if we can learn the joy of laughter that comes from the love of laughing with someone finding humor in human experiences, we will then learn to laugh with God.

Help for Your Laughter

If you have been hurt by laughter in the past, and this prevents you from laughing now, write a prayer to God about your specific need. As you write your prayer, detail the hurt you have experienced and how the memories still hurt. Be willing to ask God for what you need to heal these hurts. (You might want to try this journal.–Ed.)

Also think about the places in life where you would love to receive the gift of laughter. Pour out your heart and longings to God, for He will not scorn, mock, or belittle you. You can rest in confidence God will not laugh at you.

Counseling Hearts to Hope,

 

Help! I’m So Lonely! 10 Practical Suggestions

lonelyAre you lonely? During the holidays, lonely folks–and Christians get lonely too!–are as numerous as snowflakes in a Minnesota blizzard. Still, knowing this fact doesn’t take away the emptiness, does it? So what helps? Pastor Paul Tautges shares part of the booklet “Help! I’m So Lonely” by biblical counselor Deborah Howard, RN, an article that appeared first on his website. He is the editor of the Help! series.

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Loneliness takes many forms and its causes are almost endless. There’s loneliness from. . .

  • Losing a spouse or other loved one.
  • Being alone in a new environment.
  • Being single in what seems like a world full of couples.
  • Being in a loveless or troubled marriage.
  • Being married to someone who, through debilitating illness, is a shadow of his/her former self.
  • Being elderly, often starved for companionship or a friendly touch.
  • Being exceptional—whether exceptionally beautiful or plain, exceptionally intelligent or cognitively challenged, exceptionally fat/skinny, exceptionally tall/short, exceptionally famous or seemingly invisible.
  • Anything that sets us apart from others can cause us to feel disconnected and isolated.

Not only are there different causes, but loneliness varies in other ways. Some loneliness is temporary; some is long-term. Some is deep and aching; some is merely unsettling. Some causes minor discomfort; some causes major dysfunction.

Deborah Howard, RN, penned the wonderful mini-book HELP! I’m So Lonely. In it she explains why loneliness is an age-old problem and how God ministers to us in our loneliness.

10 Practical Suggestions

But what practical suggestions could help us in our loneliness? And what help could we give to lonely people? Deborah gives the following bits of counsel in her final chapter. The following is a brief summary of her counsel.

1: Spend Time with People When You’re Lonely

Spend time with people. Whether you realize it or not, you need people. Loneliness and grief shouldn’t be kept to yourself. Perhaps you don’t want to be in big crowds. Fine. Then spend one-on-one time with someone you care about. Schedule lunch with a friend and notice the taste of the food, the décor, the waiter/waitress—try to live “in the moment.”

2: Listen Closely 

Listen closely to your lunch companion’s conversation. The first few times you do it may seem empty and unfulfilling. But keep doing it.

3: It’s OK to Cry When You’re Lonely

Don’t be afraid or ashamed to cry. Crying can be therapeutic. It may make other people uncomfortable, but that’s their issue, not yours. Tears are a healthy response to loss. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust the Lord or that your faith is weak. It simply means your heart is breaking and your body is responding appropriately for you!

4:  Spend Time Outside

Enjoy some peace and quiet in nature. If you prefer spending time alone, don’t do it locked up in your house. Get outside. Surround yourself with nature. It’s amazing how the Lord ministers to us through His creation. Even something as simple as sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine or a gentle breeze can be amazingly restorative and uplifting.

5: Take Care of Yourself When You’re Lonely

Take care of yourself. Basically, this means doing the things that ensure your overall physical well-being. Grieving people sometimes forget or skip the simplest tasks. Eat regular, healthy meals. True, cooking nutritious meals for one isn’t easy.

But don’t just eat “easy” stuff—take-out, fast food, or microwave meals—and miss out on important nutrition (in fact, watching a person’s weight is a good way to determine how well they are coping with loss). So try to eat regularly, even if food seems to have lost its taste and appeal. You need it to get better.

6: Try Something New!

Cultivate new interests. Get involved in meaningful activities. This may mean taking a cooking or art class. Helping others can be fulfilling, so you might consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, church, hospital or hospice. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn another language, or how to garden, play tennis or the violin. Do it now.

7: Journal When You’re Lonely

Keep a daily journal of your thoughts. Set daily goals and meet them. No one else has to ever see your work. But writing is a way to express the inner workings of your heart/mind. It can be therapeutic to put your thoughts on paper, to review them periodically and see the progression of the healing process.

lonely8: Hello, Fido! Hello, Fluffy!

Consider getting a pet. It’s amazing how much company a pet provides. Pet ownership provides unconditional love, a reason to get out of bed, something to be responsible for, and a continual source of amusement.

9: Hang with Your Church Family When You’re Lonely

Don’t abandon the people of God. The church can be of significant value to those who are hurting and lonely. In a way, the body of Christ (His church) is like arms that can embrace you, hands that can serve you, expressions of empathy that can comfort you. Don’t turn your back on that kind of support. Sometimes a person becomes angry at his circumstances and angry at God. As a result, he becomes lonelier.

10: Stay in the Word

I’ll end this list of suggestions with this one. Even if you know the Bible well, you’ll need to stay in the word. It reminds us of truths we need to meditate upon. The scriptures help us keep the big picture in perspective. We must constantly remember who we are and Who He is! We must constantly be reminded of His love, His justice, His sovereignty, His patience with us. By keeping our minds focused on His word, we can do this. Stay in the word. Devour it. Trust it. Lean upon it. It will provide all we need to live our lives responsibly, lovingly, and obediently.

Resources!

If you are struggling with loneliness (or are concerned about a friend), seek counsel in Deborah’s mini-book, HELP! I’m So Lonely.

You also may like to check out all of the books in the Help! series. Click here to see them.

Counseling Hearts to Hope (and healing!),

God’s Peace Plan: P.R.A.Y.

planPEACE PLAN: Remember the spunky Miss Clara in the movie War Room? She narrates: “We fight for power. We fight for riches. And we fight for rights. We fight for freedom. There always seems to be something to fight about.” Yet. . .

“Very few of us know how to fight the right way.”

In this post, war-roomI’ll outline a simple, Spirit-inspired peace plan to pray. Miss Clara prayed in her closet she calls her “war room” and taught Elizabeth, played by Priscilla Shirer, to speak fervently with God about her crumbling marriage.

Is your marriage in trouble? Are your emotions out of control? Is your teen making poor choices? Are you ill? In financial duress? Brokenhearted?

God has a peace plan for the war you’re in. Prayer is your battle cry!

God’s Peace Plan

It’s a four-letter word: P.R.A.Y.

Do not be anxious about ANYTHING but in EVERYTHING, by PRAYER and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.” Phil. 4:6

Read this familiar verse again. Then think on it. Now do what it says: P.R.A.Y. This is your peace plan!

P: Praise

Begin with praise. Praising God puts your mind where it need to be: focused on God. He is the One who not only created to universe, but also knows your hurts and deeply cares.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16, NIV

R: Repent

To repent is to change your mind and line up your thoughts with God’s thoughts. Repentance is a gift from God, and I’ve noticed in counseling, those who repent make lasting, positive, godly changes the quickest.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

A: Ask

The Lord invites you to approach him confidently and share what’s on your heart. This is part of deepening your relationship with him. He promises to give you all that is good.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:2

Y: Yield

As you pray, believing that God can handle your problems, your faith will increase, and you’ll become calm and confident.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! Hebrews 12:9

Go ahead, PRAY. I will too. Tell me how it goes.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses are comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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ONLINE? Less Negativity, Please

onineONLINE? Facebook, Twitter, and other online sites drip negativity, don’t they? Where are the positive voices? Is this insightful post, counselor Ellen Castillo, listed here in the Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, shares thoughts on how we Christian women can choose winsome speech online. Her article appeared first here and is used by permission. 

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If you spend much time on the internet reading blogs and Twitter feeds and Facebook conversations, you might notice an overwhelming tone of negativity from Christians.

Many Christians use their online activities to express their views about the things they oppose. Lately, it seems easier to find posts that are about what the writer is against rather than what the writer is for. For example:

In the past few minutes, I have found online posts about what the Christian (who is posting on their social media) is against. Here are the topics that I just came across on my own Facebook and Twitter feeds, stating that the writer of each is:

  • against vaccinations
  • against people who are against vaccinations
  • against particular TV shows
  • against a particular Bible teacher
  • against a certain denomination
  • against a politician
  • against the people who are against that politician
  • against a celebrity pastor
  • against those who attend the church of a celebrity pastor
  • against a political party
  • against a company or store for their views
  • against people who share that company or store’s views
  • against people who live different lifestyles than they do

While searching a few moments ago, I also looked for posts about what the Christian writer is for. I noted a few posts simply quoting scripture, and one pro-life meme, but otherwise I found very few examples of redemptive language.

In our current political climate and culture, people don’t have to guess or wonder about what Christians are against. We are quite vocal about those things. I wonder, though, if they know what (or Who) we are FOR?

We feel frustrated because our viewpoints are so often squashed in this culture. I wonder if part of the problem is US, and our tone. Would we speak the same words that we are willing to write? To someone’s face? If so, what would the tone of our voice be, and what would our facial expressions reveal? Would someone see Jesus or just an angry Christian? Consider this:

Our written word should be consistent with our spoken word.

No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29, CSB

Redemptive Language

What if we made our tone more winsome, less negative, or more redemptive? Rather than simply posting and commenting and tweeting about what we are against, what if we focus instead on using redemptive language?

Redemptive language would be gospel-motivated and gospel-rich, bringing the reader’s attention to Christ, and to God’s Word.

We have a hope that is far greater than today’s current political, cultural, and moral climate. If we simply state what we are against, without giving a reason for the hope that we have, then isn’t our gospel witness hindered?

I am not suggesting we stop speaking to culture’s downfalls, or speaking against the things that are infringing on our rights. I am suggesting that we be more careful about our tone. Name-calling and nastiness are not winsome, and people stop listening around the first paragraph or at the first nasty remark. Loving and godly concern and hope are attractive, and I think people are more likely to listen and keep reading.

Why Does This Matter?

Our spoken words (and therefore our written words) reveal our hearts. If we tend to be negative and critical online, it is time to get honest about our motives for using the online platform to express our opinions. Many of our posts sound less like hope and sound more like this:

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. Matthew 15:18-19

When we are spoken to negatively, we will tend to remember that feedback more clearly than anything positive said to us. For example, we may feel insecure after public speaking. Ten people said things like “you did great” or “great job.” One person said, “you really should work on your speaking, I didn’t follow it at all.” We will tend to think of that one loud negative voice more often than the ten affirming voices.

It stands to reason that when we post in a negative tone on social media, it will stick in people’s minds more than the occasional post with a positive tone. You may think that you have accomplished what you set out to do – to prove your (negative) opinion is right. What you really did was reveal what you are against, without speaking enough about what you are for. This hurts our witness for the gospel because we are not addressing what, and who, we are FOR.

Offer Hope

Consider using your online activities in a redemptive manner. If you are compelled to share an opinion about something you are against, forgo name-calling and instead offer a winsome and compelling argument that is connected to the gospel in some manner. That will offer the reader HOPE. If we offer hope instead of just criticism, we may keep our audiences longer. If you have any kind of online platform, use redemptive language.

We have a hope that is far better than TV shows, politics, celebrity, and all of our opinions. Jesus is better.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. Hebrews 10:23-24

Consider

Have your written words been more negative than positive lately? How can you correct that? Will you purpose to post with a more hopeful tone?

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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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Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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Blessed, Daughter, Saint, and more!

In this delightful, four-color ebook, you’ll discover the precious names God calls you. Today so many Christian women don’t fully know their wonderful identity in Christ. Isn’t a time to know yours? Filled with scripture, photography, personal stories, and encouragement!

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