Monday, April 22, 2013

Praise in Suffering

I decided to read Job this morning.  I read chapter one and found it inspiring.

Satan killed all of Job's family, took all of his livestock, and burned his fields up.

What was Job's response?

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[c]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Job's response was to praise God.  God gave him his family and all of his livestock, so even though they are gone, he praised God for even giving them to him in the first place.

I desire to have that reaction to suffering.

Friday, August 24, 2012

God is essential to the helping relationship

I'm taking a class called Counselor Professional Identity, Function, and Ethics.  Every week we have to write a little on something we've learned.  I draw from two books, which are cited at the bottom, one called Competent Christian Counseling and one called Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality.  I think it's an important message for counselors and for Christians alike.  Please take a minute to read what I wrote.

This week I want to share about the  importance of including Christ in the helping relationship with people. Competent Christian Counseling (p. 38) quotes another book by McMinn (1997, p. 17) that has a passage that encourages counselors to include religious experiences and spirituality into sessions because they are a very important part of the human experience. McMinn charges us to realize that our goal shouldn’t be changing behaviors, rather, bringing spirituality and God into the healing process in that person’s life (p. 17). Most people in counseling are coming for a sense of rest, freedom, and stability and that is something that our spirituality brings. Psalm 62:1-2 and many other verses in the Bible tell us that our soul finds rest in God and that God is our refuge and strength (NIV). If we are to bring rest, stability, and freedom into a counseling session, our clients must explore their spirituality in regards to God. 
I found it interesting that Clinton and Ohlschlager quoted Isaiah 62:1-2 because I had been thinking about those verses for a while now (2003, p. 32). I would include verse 3 because it really paints the picture better. The first two verses tell us as counselors about our calling, but verse 3 tells us that we have that calling so God can create “oaks of righteousness” so that His glory can be seen (NIV). I’ve been thinking about it, because, yes I have those callings, but it isn’t even about me and what I can do, rather what God wants to build up and grow in our clients. 
Therefore, it’s essential for us to realize, that our work will be meaningless unless we help people come into a life-changing relationship with God. We should focus less on changing behaviors and people, and more on introducing people to God, who through the Holy Spirit can bring real change into people’s lives and release them from their bondage to sin.

Clinton, T., & Ohlschlager, G. (2003). Competent christian counseling. (Vol. 1). New York, NY: Waterbrook Press.
 McMinn, M. (1997) Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Basically the idea is that if we are trying to help people, it's all in vain without the healing power of God.  God can bring the rest, peace, and strength that people need, we can't bring those to our clients.  Also, since we aren't capable of changing people and their ways, the Holy Spirit is key in changing who they are and what they do.

There is strength and change that comes with a relationship with God.  My job is in vain if I don't include that life-changing force in my work.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Live now... not later (Pt. 2)

This thought has been on my mind for a few months now, I wrote a similar, less detailed post a while back if you want to read it.  Live now... not later (Pt. 1)

Right now, I'm halfway through grad school.  I'll graduate in March and in May I am qualified to be a counselor with the company I currently work at.

I have spent the past three months thinking about what will happen a year from now.

Last night at church the pastor gave us this verse:

James 4:13-16Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

That verse is so true in that our plans about what we'll do in the future, don't mean but so much.  We can't even be sure we'll wake up tomorrow.  My big plans for a year from now mean nothing.  I can't spend my whole next year focusing on what happens next summer.  Rather, I need to give my life fully to what I'm doing right now.

I'm about to head to work as I'm writing this... if I'm thinking about how awesome next year will be, then how hard will I try tonight when this is just something I'm waiting to end...

It's irresponsible of me to focus on the future this much.

It's irresponsible of me to not give my all to the kids I work with at Intercept.

It's irresponsible of me to not give myself fully to all the ministries I'm in from: 
where I live, to The Gray Haven Project, to the three churches I serve at, to my friends, and to my job.

Yeah, it's great to have an idea of where I'm going... but I'm spending so much time thinking about that idea, that I'm letting time slide by right now and I'm not giving it my all.

I've learned so much about myself lately.  This time of "waiting" has been so key in shaping who I am and who I will be in the human services field and in the kingdom of God.

Don't focus on tomorrow, rather, do the best you can today.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

When they attack

I hate confrontation.  I don't like to upset people.  I don't like when people don't like me.

I've been trying to change how I handle confrontation... especially when I didn't do anything and someone is lashing out at me.

This can really be put into effect at work.

When people attack you, and it appears to be without reason... or they have a reason, but the attack seems too big to be justified by the reason...

... the real reason isn't you.

I'll give an example and then tell you the real reason.

This situation makes me think of when I worked at Ukrop's.  I worked in customer service, so I typically helped people who were having problems.  Sometimes, people were upset because an employee wronged them in some way... justified.  Other times, we didn't have their favorite cereal in stock, and somehow that was my fault and I'm an insignificant, worthless human because of it... unjustified.

The truth is, that customer wasn't mad enough to curse me out and insult me because we didn't have their cereal, most likely they had a bad day, or they were going home to a family that was falling apart, or they hated their job, or they had a fight with someone they love.  Maybe they are just an awful person... but most likely, they're upset about something else and they're choosing to take it out on me.

I learned the worst thing you can do is to let your emotions be affected by their emotions.  The best way to handle those situations is to realize that their problem is their problem.  They aren't really that mad at you, you just happened to be there when they felt like exploding.

So if someone attacks you and it seems unjustified: choose to not fight back, listen, and make them feel heard.  Don't let their frustrations with life affect your day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Liberty doesn't extend to everyone anymore

The Statue of Liberty has a poem on a plaque that's actually really pretty and here is a snippet of it that I think our nation has lost sight of.
"Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Let's be that nation that is loving of everyone and that can provide refuge to people regardless of race, language, or culture.  Let's ensure liberty for everyone, not just the privileged whites.  Let's not let xenophobia rule us, rather, let us strive for the love, freedom, and unity that Christ calls us to.

Let's strive to be without judgment

"One's native language is an intimate, integral, and very personal part of the self.  To have it recognized and valued is a boost to one's self esteem.  Conversely, to have one's language discredited or negated can be an assault on one's sense of identity."
Think about that next time you want to judge someone's intelligence, social status, or worth based off which language they speak.  We are a nation of diverse people.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Young and Inexperienced

I was humbled last week.

I am a young professional in the workforce with older professionals.  I've been told that people don't think I'm old enough or that I don't have the experience to do what I'm doing.  Because of that I overcompensated and acted arrogantly by pretending I could do more than I could.  That caused a little conflict at work.

Never act like more than you are.  Not only is that irresponsible to my clients, but it's lying about who I am and what I have to offer.

I learned that even though I don't have the experience to guide me like my older coworkers, and I don't have the age that gives more authority, I still have a lot to offer.

I'm not jaded.

I have more energy.

I have compassion

I can empathize.

I am ambitious.

So why would I pretend to be something I'm not?

Especially when I have been given gifts that make it so I have a lot to offer the human services field even without experience or age.
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12
The best way for me to show what I have to offer isn't by overcompensating, rather using what I do and say, lovingly and gently of course, to show that I have something to offer.  Even more simply and responsibly than that, I should use whatever skills I have to help my clients the best I can and not even think about what others think of my experience or age.