Month: October 2011

The Depths of Your Heart

By: Courtney Hollingsworth, PLPC

I recently spent time at a lake suffering from significantly low water levels. The state in which I experienced the lake seemed to expose much of what is typically concealed. As I sat by the water’s edge, I observed large logs and rock formations often obscured below the muddled surface of the lake. Observing boats and jet skis avoid these perils while zipping to and fro, I reflected on how normally these dangers are lurking, unseen, just below the water level. This caused me to think of how many of us, myself included, tend to act as recreation seekers, skimming along the surface of our lives with little desire peer into the murkiness found in the depths.
Do you ever find yourself living your life as a recreation seeker? Do you feel as though you are skimming the surface of your life? Do you ever feel as though you keep to the shallows of your heart and story in avoidance?
I think we do this for a number of reasons. Perhaps we are scared of what we might find, or we believe ourselves to be too busy to engage it, or we have experienced others handling the treasures and terrors of our depths in careless or even harmful ways. Regardless of our reasoning, this recreational type of living (i.e. avoidance) causes us to be very susceptible to getting tripped up, stuck, or harmed by the substance of our depth. It is scary to put on your snorkel and mask and peer into the darkness, but I believe failing to do so not only makes us all susceptible to the dangers that may befall us, but it also keeps us (and those around us) from knowing the depth of ourselves.
What would it take to inspect the treasures and terrors of you? What would it be like to invite someone trustworthy and caring, to come along with you as you dive? What would it be like to take a deep breath, and plunge below the surface to see what there is to find?

Living Within the Pain

By: Lianne Johnson, LPC

Nathan Foster said, “As is often the case in life, pain made me teachable.”  C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains:  It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

In Psalm 119 it speaks of experiencing pain.  Psalm 119: 67 says this, “Before I was afflicted (experienced pain) I went astray, but now I keep your word.” (italics mine)  Further down in verse :71 it says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statues.”

Is anyone sensing a theme yet from Nathan Foster, C.S. Lewis, and Scripture? 

It seems as though they are all communicating to us that we benefit when we experience pain.  Could this be? 

I don’t know if you would agree with the theme as I have labeled it, but I can say that I think what these men are sharing with us, as well as what Psalm 119 is saying, is indeed true.  Personally I have found myself in much pain these days.  Not physical pain, but emotional pain.  I often sense myself asking this question, “Will I choose to have this pain I am living within lead me to anger and bitterness or lead me to hang on for dear life to the truths of scripture?”

No matter what I choose, living within the pain will remain hard.  What is also hard is that I have to make this choice over and over and over again in the midst of my painful trials.  I have to choose truth over the false beliefs my pain would like me to believe.  And all the while I have to grapple with the understanding that God is allowing my pain. 

At times it seems like too much to bear.  But then I remember Psalm 94:17-19 and I am comforted.  “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.  When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  When the cares of my heart are many your consolations cheer my soul.”

And while Psalm 94 comforts me, Psalm 26:3 allows me the strength to continue in the painful trials I face assured of God’s goodness towards me, “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.”

What I realized when I read Psalm 26:3 is that I endure all that I endure, I learn all that I learn, I am able to claim for my own that I am a daughter of the King, and I am able to put one foot in front of the other everyday simply because I walk in His faithfulness to me.  You see, no matter what the current storyline of my life is, God’s faithfulness to me allows me to endure.  I am thankful for God’s faithfulness to me.  I am thankful that in my pain He cheers my soul.    

The Cubs Killed my Fandom

by Jonathan Hart, LPC

I grew up in Chicago watching the Cubs play baseball.  As a kid, I remember hating the fact that baseball interrupted my afternoon cartoons all the time (this was before Wrigley had lights). I watched some of the games, and I remember sometimes getting excited when they would get ahead.  But inevitably, they blew it in the 8th or the 9th, and the disappointment was bitter.  In 1984 (Yes, I had to look that up: http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/), they came close to winning it all, but they blew that, too.  I haven’t “followed” them, or anyone else, since.

Because of recurring disappointment, I lost my enthusiasm for sports.  I do not consider myself a “fan” of any team.  There are few names and no stats that are readily recognizable to me.  The only reason I know Pujols plays first base is because I live in Saint Louis, and I went to a game once when my son won free tickets for us.  There are other factors that have influenced my lack of affiliation with the sporting world, but I credit the Cubs with most of it: one can only handle so much disappointment before shutting those feelings down.

The trouble is that I don’t experience the high of a close game, the joy of celebrating a victory pulled from the jaws of defeat.  When the Cards suddenly hit their hot streak this year and pulled out a win for the Wild Card slot (I confess that I don’t really know what that even means), I nodded and smiled.  When the Rays did the same (and I likewise confess that I didn’t know there was a major league baseball team named the Rays until earlier this year), I have friends in Tampa whose celebrations resounded on Facebook.  I nodded and smiled.

A basic principle that is demonstrated by this story is that risk and disappointment seem to be inseparable from joy.  We cannot shut down disappointment without likewise shutting down joy.  Joy and pain operate on the same switch. We tend to protect ourselves from hurt, which is natural and helpful in the short term.  When this shutting down becomes a way of life, however, it robs us of our joy in the long run.

People let us down.  People harm us.  Trusting others with our hearts and with our dreams often leads to pain.   We rightly withhold ourselves from those who recklessly and selfishly feed upon us.  When we generalize this distrust (“All men are predators.”, “All women are emasculating.”, “Trust no one.”, “Look out for number one because no one else will.”) we begin to lose our capacity to experience joy.   We lose out when we do not risk entrusting ourselves to anyone out of fear that they, too, will hurt us.

It seems like the greater risk, the longer wait, and the deeper disappointment all lead to a reciprocally greater joy. I think of the Red Sox when they finally broke the curse of the Bambino (and I don’t really know why he cursed them).  The fans spilled into the streets for hours and days.  Smiles, laughter, and an entire city’s communal joy resounded.  I can’t imagine what Chicago will look like if that ever happens for the Cubs.  It will be a madhouse.  I will likely smile and nod.

What parts of your heart are you withholding, and from whom?  Where is your joy deadened?  Is life kind of flat for you?  When was the last time a celebratory shout left your lips before you realized it?  When have you felt your pulse quicken, or realized that there was a goofy grin glued to your face? These are just some diagnostic questions to help you sort out the places you are hiding from risk and pain at the expense of your joy.

Will I ever be a fan again?  Maybe.  Honestly, it probably won’t be with the Cubs.  I might risk it for a team that won’t interrupt my cartoons, or one that wins more than once a century.  I do, however, envy those Die Hard Cubs fans if and when their curse is broken (or when the Illuminati finally decide to take pity and let them win, depending on your conspiracy theory subscription).  I envy them the exponential joy they will experience. They have been waiting and hoping faithfully for a long time.  The fans deserve it.  Some call them fools, but I laud them for their persistence and loyalty.  It will be a mind-bending ride.

Technological Food for Thought

By: Katy Martin, LPC


I’m sure that everyone, by this time, has heard that Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple, has passed away after a long battle with cancer.  The news has been everywhere: websites, newsfeeds, facebook, emails, tv, etc.

I find it ironic that I heard the news via my husband’s AM radio as he listened to the Cardinals game, but that’s beside the point.

To be honest, I knew nothing about him prior to this week.  Sure, I know he was a genius and that he was probably beyond rich.  I’m sad that it was in his passing that I learned so much more.

Steve Jobs really was a genius, a creative genius, who worked hard and claimed to be living his dream.  He had a family whom he talked about loving very much.  He was adopted as a baby, given a home.  He has had a huge impact on technology as we see it now.  His creations and innovations were his passion and truly exciting to him.  Media is painting the picture that he lived a full, rich life.


As I reflect on the impact this man’s life and passing appear to have, I wonder what kind of impact we are all making.  Do you live with the same passion?  Do you find joy in life?  Are you accomplishing what you would like to accomplish?  Or are you just trying to survive each day and maybe looking forward to the next big thing?

I didn’t personally know Steve Jobs, but I still can’t help believe that he really did love life and made the most of his time here on earth.



The good news: every day is a new day.  We have the opportunity to create goals, fulfill dreams, and really love the people who are around us.  We can seek forgiveness, give forgiveness, and find emotional healing.


The best news: Jesus states in John 10:10 that He came to give us life and life to the FULL.  Do you believe this?  What would it look like to invite God into the struggle you have to find joy and fulfillment?  


What would it take for you to begin living a full life?  After all, today is a new day and tomorrow begins a new week.

Change and Loss

By: Courtney Hollingsworth, PLPC
Every change involves a loss. While we tend to limit the extent to which we allow ourselves to grieve and process unwelcomed loss and change, even more often I think we deny ourselves the freedom to grieve the losses that accompany longed for or beneficial change. Even those welcomed and “good,” every change brings with it necessary and non-optional forfeitures. Preschool graduation lets go of toddlerhood. A new house forces goodbye to the home of many memories. A wedding signifies shifts in many relationships, not only one. Job transition causes competence to be compromised. Moving out of town sacrifices the security of the familiar.
 
There is comfort in consistency. There is safety in what is known. Feeling both “positive” and “negative” emotions simultaneously about one circumstance can be confusing and at times frustrating. It is much easier to stuff down or ignore away the less pleasant emotions than to allow the two to coexist. However, if we allow ourselves to embrace this tension and ambivalence, we will live more honestly, be more connected to our own hearts, and experience the full reality of what every change entails for us. How do we begin to we do this? By allowing ourselves to acknowledge the presence and the weight of the loss. What losses in your life story have brought ambivalent feelings? What good things have you had to let go of in the midst of attaining other good things?
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” Anatole France