Archives For June 2011

Do you ever worry? What do you worry about?

The economy? Terrorism? Your health? Your kids? Your grandchildren? Your job? Your grades? Your career? Your future? Your past? Your death?. . . and the list goes on and on and on . . . doesn’t it?

I remember growing up in Sunday School class and singing the little jingle by John W. Peterson, Why Worry When You Can Pray? The lyrics with the cute tune were:

Why worry, when you can pray?
Trust Jesus, He’ll be your stay.
Don’t be a doubting Thomas,
Rest fully on His promise,
Why worry, worry, worry, worry when you can pray?

It’s a cute tune, but I still worry.

And honestly, at times prayer feels pretty lame. I know I’m not suppose to say that out loud, but don’t you feel that too sometimes? Prayer just doesn’t seem like it does much to help. Or . . . maybe it’s that I just don’t believe that God is all that interested in helping me and my situations the way I think He should.

So, how about it? Are you caught in the worry trap? Listen in and gain some insight from Larry Crabb as he shares his thoughts on Why Do We Worry?


PTSD Awareness Day

Tim Jackson —  June 27, 2011 — 3 Comments

Today is PTSD Awareness Day. It has been a day set aside to raise public awareness of the traumatic effect of war on the human soul. It is estimated that every day, 18 vets will commit suicide since having returned from war. That’s the heart breaking reality that many of our men and women in uniform carry inside as they return from the front lines of war. They may have left the battlefront, but they’ve brought the war home within.

Since working with two courageous vets who shared their hearts and stories with us last year as we produced our HFML videos on PTSD, I personally have become much more aware of the unique wound of PTSD that 11 to 30 percent  of our military personnel have been inflicted with since the Vietnam War.

One man’s story recently caught my attention for two reasons. He’s a vet who struggles with PTSD and there’s a dog involved . . . a Golden Retriever to be exact.

He’s former Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan who was discharged from the military after being diagnosed with PTSD and a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) because of the visible and invisible wounds he suffered during two tours of duty in Iraq. In his New York Times best selling book, Until Tuesday–A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him,  Luis chronicles his struggle to get help, the courage that it took to admit that he needed help, and the unique help and healing that came from a big-hearted golden that has become his constant companion.

In an interview, Montalvan commented on the alarming suicide rate of vets, “If our country’s toughest people, our warriors, succumb to suicide at that degree of frequency, then that’s significant.” And he’s right.

To better understand the impact of PTSD on the soul of the warrior, watch our video discussion with two vets who have struggled with PTSD and who share insights about their healing journey after war.

Let’s remember to pray for all those who have and are still honorably serving and especially for the ones who are fighting the PTSD war they brought home with them.

A Better Day Coming

Allison Stevens —  June 27, 2011 — 3 Comments

My heart is heavy this morning. One of my best friends has cancer and doesn’t have a hopeful prognosis.  According to her doctors, she’ll be lucky to live out the rest of this year.

Another friend’s father and brother were killed in an auto accident last night. I can only imagine her horror and grief.

This world is ravaged by sin and death. It hurts and I hate it. I feel helpless to stop it. I know I’m not alone; anyone reading this has been affected by tragedy and heartache in some way.

My heart is soothed this morning by what I read in Revelation 21:4:  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

I look forward to that day. I long for it. I hope you, too, find comfort from this promise of God.


Tim Jackson —  June 24, 2011

This is best site ever!

Recently I caught the last part of the Christian flick Fireproof. The film is about Caleb Holt, a husband who sets out on one last ditch effort to save his troubled marriage to Catherine by implementing a 40 day test called “The Love Dare.” At first, Caleb’s heart isn’t in what he’s doing, but he eventually comes to realize how selfish he’s been and what it truly means to love his wife.

What struck me watching the film this time around was the level of inconvenience Caleb was willing to bear in order to love Catherine…Spoiler Alert in case you haven’t seen it...After learning that his wife’s mother needed some specialized home care equipment that her parents couldn’t afford, Caleb secretly covered the cost with $24,000 he had been saving up for a new fishing boat.

$24,000 can buy a very sweet fishing boat. Believe me, I’ve looked.

Caleb’s bighearted gesture reminded me of a universal truth:

If you want to be considerate of your spouse…get ready to be inconvenienced.

Up for loving your spouse…get ready to have your schedule interrupted and your plans changed. Are you up for taking an interest in what’s important to him/her…get ready to do something that you wouldn’t choose to do yourself, but you willingly choose to do it because it’s valuable to him/her.

As a husband and Christian counselor, one of the best pieces of marital advice I’ve run across continues to come back something Jesus said. When asked what was the most important commandment, He said to love God with everything in you and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-38). No. Jesus may have not had a marital relationship in mind when he spoke these words, but if there is one relationship where His words apply…it is marriage. Whether a couple is married twenty plus years and in the throes of marital discord or just coming off their honeymoon, this is some of the best advice for both husband and wife (not just one) to take to heart and put into practice.

Loving others as we love ourselves can be inconvenient, but it has the power to produce deep intimacy and rescue even the most troubled marriage.


Trust & Verify

Tim Jackson —  June 22, 2011 — 8 Comments

I work with a lot of couples in crisis. Promises made at a wedding 3, 7, 15, or 28 years ago that expressed good intentions and carried so much hope were somehow forgotten. Vows are broken. Hearts betrayed. Trust shattered.

Rebuilding trust? That’s one of the the greatest challenges any couple will ever face in their marriage.

(By the way, it’s not just couples where trust can be broken. Parents break their children’s trust. Children break their parents’ trust too. Employers and employees alike can cultivate an atmosphere of distrust. Friends can betray friends.)

So what do you do to begin rebuilding trust when you find yourself standing in the smoldering ruins of a relationship that’s been torched by betrayal? Here are a few suggestions for a couple who is beginning this process.

First, recognize that rebuilding trust is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Everything inside of you screams, “Don’t do it! Are you nuts! They’ll just do it again! They’ve already proven that they can’t be trusted! You’d be crazy to set yourself up again!”

But that seems to put Jesus’ followers in a real bind. Because Jesus has called us to forgive those who have harmed us. Right? But how can we forgive after we’ve been so deeply betrayed?

Second, understanding that forgiveness begins a process that opens the door to the potential for rebuilding shattered trust (Luke 17:3-4). This is not a quick fix. This takes time for both the forgiver and the offender. And forgiveness doesn’t mean simply letting the person off the hook after they say, “I’m sorry.” It’s not forgetting. There is accountability in healthy forgiveness.

(For more on forgiveness, check out some of our Round Table discussions and Insight Videos on the topic of forgiveness.)

Third, understanding that rebuilding trust requires two willing participants who are devoted to Christ first and then to each other. One person doesn’t make a relationship. It takes two individuals who long for restoration and are willing to submit to God’s purposes and then risk being vulnerable with each other to learn how to love. Oh, and the offender in the relationship needs to set the tone by taking the initiative to be vulnerable first. Unfortunately, if the offender refuses to take ownership, makes excuses, resorts to explanations, shifts the blame to the other person or bulks at requests for accountability, rebuilding trust is impossible.

Forth, recognize that the only formula for trust building is consistency over a long time. That’s  the hard work of reconstructing the core foundation of a relationship one thin layer at a time. It’s a daily thing. It requires an intense amount of energy and investment on the part of both spouses.

The best analogy that I have found to describe trust building is the process of applying a fine lacquer finish on a piece of furniture that I’ve made in my wood shop. Here’s the process:

Lacquer is a finish that I spray on one thin layer at at time. After giving it sufficient time to dry, I lightly sand out the finish with extremely fine sandpaper. Sanding smooths and levels out the surface, allowing the finish to fill in the grain of the wood. It also creates thousands of micro-fine scratches in the finish. Then, when another layer of finished is applied, the scratches are filled in by the fresh layer of finish and binds the layers together. Then, after it dries, the sanding process begins again.

This process is repeated time after time after time. The layers build on each other and meld together to form a singular bond of protection the displays the beauty of the wood. The last time the finish is “rubbed out” with a superfine rubbing compound that produces a smooth mirror finish. The surface of the furniture feels like glass.

What I like about a lacquer finish is that it highlights all the beautiful grain in the wood. It deepens and takes on a richer glow over time as it ages. It’s a durable finish that protects the wood.  But as with any piece of furniture that is used throughout a lifetime, it will wear and inevitably get scratched, chipped or even gouged.  The finish can be repaired by repeating the process of rubbing out the scratch, reapplying a layer or two of finish (depending on how deep the scratch/gouge is). With a little TLC, the finish can again be restored.

That’s trust building: two partners who are fully invested in the long term process of rebuilding trust by demonstrating love consistently one layer at a time over a lifetime. The result is a durable relationship that lasts and reflects the beauty of the love of Christ reflected in the love of the couple.



Funerals vs. Parties

Tim Jackson —  June 17, 2011 — 1 Comment

Do you ever read things in the Bible that you just find baffling? I mean, you know what the words say, but you just don’t get it? I sure do.

And then, after some time has past and some things change in your life journey and you reread one of those puzzling passages and go, “Oh, I think I get it now!” Has that happened to you?

It has for me. Here’s one of those baffling texts that became clearer recently for me:

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting . . . Prov. 7:2a

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought that being invited to celebrate at a party was much better than attending a funeral. One is happy. The other is just plain hard. Right?

But having just gone through the first week after my mom’s funeral, I think “I get it.” Or at least I understand it better than I ever have before.

The writer of Proverbs went on to explain,

. . . for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Prov. 7:2b

Since I received the call 2 weeks ago today of my mom’s death, there has been one theme that has dominated my thoughts, invaded my dreams and ransacked my emotions–death. But when I say “death,” I don’t just mean my mom’s departure from this planet. I mean eternity. Her’s, mine, and everyone else’s who matters to me. Eternity is life viewed through the door of death as the exit from this world into the next. Death is not a cessation of life. Rather, it’s being transported from this reality into the next. It’s letting go of this present reality of struggle and being released into the reality of freedom and joy in what Jesus called “Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Death pushes our buttons like nothing else in life. It is the finale enemy to be conquered (2 Cor. 15:26). No one gets off the planet alive. If we live long enough, we all die (Heb. 9:27). It’s a foregone conclusion.

But, we spend so much of our lives distracted from what’s most important. Parties do that. They’re distractions. They distract us from the realities of eternity that are vividly unavoidable standing before an open casket with the lifeless body of a loved one inside.

Funerals bring what really matters into HD reality. It’s like watching a football game on a  standard definition 18″ TV. It’s good. You see all the plays. You know what’s happening and you’re fine with it. But then replace that TV with a High Definition 1080p large screen plasma and watch in amazement how the same game explodes with all the crisp, clear, and vivid colors that were unimaginable before. That’s what the writer of Proverbs is saying.

At a funeral, the issues of life and death, of love and relationships, of meaning and what really matters are strikingly displayed for all to reckon with. And like it or not, we all do reckon with them one way or another. And if, in that reckoning process, we “take things to heart” we’ll discover that the little things that really don’t matter much, just don’t. And the important things that do, really do.

All of us must face our mortality (death) and our destiny (eternity). A funeral helps us do that. Taking this to heart can change the way we live the rest of our lives. It should. I know it’s changing mine, and I don’t want to forget it.

Maybe you’ve had a life-changing experience after the loss of a loved one that you’d like to share with the hfml family. We’d be honored.

Unexpected Journeys

Jeff Olson —  June 16, 2011 — 2 Comments

Unexpected journeys. Little and big…life is full of them. A quick trip to the store turns into a car accident and a long night in the emergency room. The drive home from work turns into into break down on the highway and a long wait for tow truck. A call on the cell phone turns into the news that someone you loved has passed away.

We can negotiate the little journeys of life–mostly. The big journeys, however,  can turn our lives upside down.

I have a friend who just started down one of those big journeys this week. His cancer is back, and he is having a bone marrow transplant. This is an aggressive treatment that requires extensive chemotherapy,  a long stay in the hospital and  several months of isolation to complete. This is not at all how he and his wife expected to spend their summer and fall.

Unexpected journeys…the big ones can certainly rock our worlds. Some of us have a solid faith like my friend. As he enters this journey, I genuinely see in him what David wrote about in Psalm 23:4

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”

Others of us have more of a struggle. We go through times like David wrote about in Psalm 22:1

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help?”

God is gracious God who meets us where we are. During those unexpected journeys there are times for both Psalm 22 and Psalm 23.



That’ll leave a mark

Tim Jackson —  June 14, 2011 — 2 Comments

My brothers and I, along with our families and friends, buried our Mom last week. It was a bitter-sweet experience. The bitter–we all miss her deeply. The sweet–we know that after 81 years of life on this earth, she’s dancing in the arms of Jesus in heaven. And frankly, for a good Bible church girl, that’s saying a lot!

Our comfort comes from knowing she’s home . . . I mean, really home! Her present reality is what we all dream about and long for. What we imagine heaven to be like, she’s experiencing firsthand. Wow! And that’s a sweetness that has provided a peace that is sustaining us beyond description (Phil. 4:7).

The funeral was a celebration of her life and the difference she made on everyone she touched. When it was my turn to speak, the phrase that kept echoing through my mind for the days prior to the service was: “That’ll leave a mark.” We use that phrase humorously around our house when we are clumsy and bump into something hard, scrape a shin running up the steps, or some such affliction. We laugh and say to each other: “that’ll leave a mark.”

That’s true of my Mom too–“she left a mark on all of us.” In big ways and in little ways, she left her fingerprints all over our lives, our spouses, and our kids. Because Jesus had marked her life with His love and compassion, she left His mark on us each time that she touched us with her love and compassion. She modeled for us John’s encouraging words that remind us that “in this world we are like him” (1 John 4:17).

I have a myriad of words I could write about her. And for me, since words are the tools of my trade, that’s one of the gifts God has given to me to help me process this painful journey through grief and loss and to the celebration of a life well lived with gratitude and hope.

Jesus left a mark on my Mom, and I’m so grateful that He did. And she left a mark on me. And now it’s my turn to leave a mark on others.

In one of my last conversations with her, I told her how much I loved her and that she was a great mom. And I reminded her that her life mattered, that she made a difference and that every life that my brothers and I, our wives, and our children touch–even you reading this today–she has a part in.

Now that’s a legacy. That’s leaving a mark that really lasts.

Now . . . it’s my turn. And, it’s your turn too. Make a point to allow the love of Christ Jesus to mark your life in such a way that you make His mark on everyone you touch today.

Yea, that’ll leave a mark.

Staying Grounded

Jeff Olson —  June 9, 2011 — Leave a comment

Last week I was reading through a monthly newsletter from John Eldredge, founder of Ransomed Heart Ministries. Eldredge, who has recently written a book about Jesus, said that one of things that  struck him the most going through the life of Christ again was how grounded of a person Jesus was.

Eldredge wrote that Jesus’ “ability to navigate praise, then hatred, false flattery, then adoring crowds, vicious slander and then people who simply don’t care — all with a grace and a sense of self that was simply stunning. Here was one grounded man.”

Yes indeed…Jesus was one centered dude.

Eldredge’s observations about Christ made me ask myself, “What am I grounded in?” Perhaps a better question to ask is “Who am I grounded in?” & “How am I staying grounded?”

In order to stay grounded, Eldredge suggested, “Cut the insane busyness. Do not live for tweets, texts, Facebook or email. Unplug the TV. Read Christian writers…Practice solitude and silence (five minutes a day will rescue you)…Get back in the Scriptures.”

Sounds likes some good ways to become and stay grounded.

No matter what we are going through, intentionally abiding in Christ and staying centered in His truth and grace is the best place to be. It may not change our circumstances, but it will help us be who we truly are in Him.