change

Theology Now

or, “When Faith Kicks in for Real”
by Jonathan Hart, LPC

I went on a 20 mile hike with my 9 year old son last weekend.  We took a couple of days, camped overnight, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Except the last four miles.

It started with two rumbles of thunder.  The rain turned on like a faucet. This was not wholly unexpected.  The forecast had predicted “scattered storms”.  We donned our ponchos and put away our lunches.  We, wisely or foolishly, chose to hike through it, since we were pretty close to the end.  I believed the storm would be over quickly.

I was wrong.  The rain persisted.  Thunder and lightning rolled, becoming if anything more frequent.  We hiked off the hilltop and were working our way down into the valley.  My son was nervous about the rain and the lightning, especially the close ones (I was too, but I tried to keep a brave face on for his sake).  Half an hour into the storm when the hail started falling, he became terrified.

We found a  fairly large bent tree trunk to hide behind.  It was enough to deflect most of the hail, but not all.  Both of us took a few hits. That had to have been the longest ten minutes of the whole trip, when dime-to-quarter sized chunks of ice were falling around and on us, lightning blasting overhead followed by deafening thunder and torrential rain. I seriously considered getting out our cooking gear and wearing the pots on our heads.

I knew that hail typically lasts only about 10 to 15 minutes, if that.  I did not know if we could expect larger hail than that which was currently pelting us. I didn’t know if there was a tornado in the vicinity.  My son was crying and starting to seriously freak out.  I was well on my to “Really Frightened” myself.  One of my most immediate thoughts was, “REALLY, God?  This couldn’t wait another hour or two?”  And then I thought, “What have I done to my son?”

I had been praying since the rain began.  Finally, faith kicked in.  I had a “Theology Now” moment.  I took my son’s face in my hands, looked into his eyes, and said (speaking as much to myself as to him), “As much as I love you, and would do everything I could to protect you and keep bad things from happening to you, God loves you more than I ever could.  He doesn’t always keep us from getting hurt, but he Always, Always loves and protects his children.  He is looking out for us right now, even though it might not seem like it.”

The hail stopped a few minutes later, as I knew it probably would.  The storm continued for another two and a half hours.  We survived, though we were thoroughly soaked and very, very tired of rain and lightning.

Theology Now is when the rubber meets the road in faith-land.  It is when what you say you believe meets up with what you really believe deep down.  It is the moment when the truth of doctrine pushes on and stretches our limitations and grows our capacity for real, honest-to-goodness trust.

The funny thing is that these moments don’t usually happen in the sunshine.  They usually happen right in the middle of an obnoxious storm.  We must be challenged, stretched, and tested painfully in order to grow our faith.  In this way, God often allows storms and painful times into our lives because he loves us. We must come to the end of our own strength in order to find and believe in His strength on our behalf.

–JH

Giving Yourself Grace in Change





by: Courtney Hollingsworth, PLPC



This humorous clip is obviously an example of very poor therapy that is unlikely to be helpful. People are just too complex for such a simplistic and one-dimensional approach. I certainly hope that you do not have anyone in your life who interacts with you in such a way. But how many of us have internalized this ungracious and callous voice? How often do we grant ourselves little patience and understanding in the midst of our circumstances and our attempts to change? Oftentimes, we are the harshest critic of our progress or our performance.

In what areas of your life do you need be more patient and understanding with yourself? What words play in your head on which you need to turn the volume down? Grace is not only for shortcomings and failings, it is for growth too. And lest I fall into the same trap I am speaking against, here is your reminder that changing this way of thinking will require patience and grace for yourself. When it comes to warding off contempt in order to more fully embrace grace, you cannot tell yourself to simply “STOP IT!”

To Make a Resolution or Not to Make a Resolution; That is the Question

By: Katy Martin, LPC

Happy New Year!
Now is the time that we all look forward to a fresh start, new possibilities, new resolve to make changes, and try new things.
Popular resolutions tend to be: losing weight, working out, starting a new hobby, an attitude adjustment, starting therapy, organizing your living space, becoming less busy, having more fun, doing something new, stopping a current habit, etc.
Have you thought about yours?  Do you have actual resolutions or do you just feel like you SHOULD be doing something different?
It doesn’t help with media pumping out ad after ad of the latest weight-loss plans and gym membership deals.  Our Facebook newsfeed is overloaded with enough optimism about the new year and resolutions to sink a battleship.  Oh, and blogs.  How could we pass up blogs?  All of the blogs listing everyone’s fantastic resolutions and lists to accomplish over the next year.
Yes, this is dripping with sarcasm.
I really do love the idea of a fresh, new year.  I feel as if it’s a built-in opportunity to re-evaluate and make change that’s wanted but that we often feel too overwhelmed to do anything about. 
But what happens in February?  March?  When we haven’t done as well as we would have liked at keeping our resolutions?  How about October when we’ve totally forgotten about them?
Do you feel guilt?  Shame?  Does it feed into the lies that you can’t accomplish anything?  Do you feel even more like a failure? 
It’s these awful thoughts and attitudes that make me a little hesitant about resolutions.  I think this is why we should view the idea of New Year’s resolutions with care and concern.
Set your goals; strive for change.  But are you doing it within reason?  Are they attainable goals for your phase of life right now?  Are you setting your self up for success?  Do you need to seek out professional guidance?
Use this opportunity to focus on real things that you would like to change in your life.  Specifically, that in which can be realistically changed and is something you desire, not just something you SHOULD do.  Seek out appropriate means to accomplish this goal, and use the people closest to you for accountability in the process.
When someone decides to run a marathon, they aren’t going to just get off the couch and immediately run 26.2 miles.  They need a plan, time to train, encouragement, and enjoyment in the process.  I believe that we can be successful with our resolutions, with our desire for change, if we adapt the same process to our every day lives.

Guilt or Shame?

by Jonathan Hart, LPC

Guilt and shame are powerful feelings.  Many people experience them on a daily basis.  For some, they are feelings to be avoided as “inappropriate” in our current society. For some, they are tools or weapons used consciously or unconsciously to get children or adults to behave the way we want them to. For some, they are  ever-present and smothering.

I distinguish between guilt and shame.  Guilt, when internally experienced and heeded, is a productive emotion that leads to a change in negative behavior patterns. It is the “Godly grief” that 2 Corinthians 7:10 describes as leading to the genuine understanding that I have done wrong and hurt myself and others, and that I need to behave differently. Guilt says, “I have done wrong.”

Shame is a feeling that says, “Something is wrong with me”.  It is a statement describing identity rather than behavior.  It cannot lead to a change in behavior because the problem is “all of me”, as the character Hiccup says in the wonderful movie, “How to Train Your Dragon”.  The language of shame says, “What’s wrong with me?”, “Why can’t I …”, “I’m always/never…”, “I am (a screw up, a goof ball, a fool, fill in the blank…)”.

Shame speaks with the language of identity (“I am…”) rather than the language of deeds (“I did…”). As such, it makes change nearly impossible to conceive, much less execute. If the problem is who I am rather than what I did, there is no hope for change.

Think about the language you use on yourself.  Think about the language you use on others, or on your kids.  If you say things like “What’s the matter with you?!”, or “You are such a …” as you correct your child, you are very likely shaming them rather than reproving them productively.  Rather speak to their deeds: “That was inappropriate to do.”, or “You hurt your sister. That was wrong.”  In this way, you help train the child’s moral compass and help them to learn how to define right and wrong accurately.  You also make the problem a fixable one rather than a permanent one; the problem is outside the individual rather than the individual themselves.

We can do this for ourselves as well.  When you hear, “Agh!  Why can’t I ever get this done?”, or “I don’t know what’s wrong with me that I …”, you are using shame language.  Try shifting from statements of identity to statements of action: “I made a mess of that situation.  I will try to do it differently next time.”, or “I’m sorry I hurt you.”, or  “I see what I did, and I don’t want to do it again.”

Shift your language into language of hope rather than hopelessness.  When you describe genuine wrongdoing, make sure you use the language that describes it as wrong-doing, not wrong-being. It can take work to set the oppressive and impossible weight of shame aside, but it is worth the effort.

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

Are You Happy? Yes or No.

By:  Courtney Hollingsworth, PLPC

There is obviously humorous simplicity in this flow chart. Strict adherence would fail to take into account a multitude of factors that life presents. There is, however, truth in this simplistic presentation as it relates to choice, change, and power.

Socrates claimed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Failing to examine our lives, decisions, relationships, actions, past mistakes, and the states of our hearts can rob us of living fully. It can also lead to pitfalls and follies. Which misteps in your life could have been avoided by external observation and internal searching?

What do you see when you stop and look at your life? What do you wish were different? There is only one person you have the power to change. And, by the grace and power of God, there is only one person who has the power to change you. (Hint: both of these have the same answer)