Recently, I was able to hear George Barna from the Barna Group present at a conference and this statistic stood out to me above all. Current research suggests if you believe in the following 7 tenants of the Christian faith your chances of developing a mental illness decrease to 2%:
1-God is eternal, omniscient, and the Creator. I would never look at a master artist and question his creation or tell him it would work better another way…Trust the Creator and worship him NOT his creations.
2-Humans are sinful by nature. We all screw up by nature. We are not perfect.
3-Jesus freely offers and gives forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
4-The Bible is true. Rest in this, it is freeing.
5-Absolute truth exists. Just FYI, if you say “absolute truth doesn’t exist”, that statement in itself is an absolute truth…
6-Success is defined by obedience to God. Period…
7-The purpose of your life is to know, love, and serve God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
If you think about it, sense can be made of it all. So much pressure of life is taken off of the individual when we have a solid belief in something greater than us, something beyond what we can see in this life, and a hope of a life without sin.
Knowing the absolute truth that God is sovereign, the creator who sees and knows all, and understanding that humans are sinful but we have Jesus who forgives sin gives me hope. I also know that hiding God’s word (the Bible) in my heart combats bad thoughts/lies with truth. Finally, walking in obedience to God and knowing his purpose for my life gives me peace.
Talk about and teach these truths to all you know,
For a while, I’ve noticed the addiction to all things comfort especially in the USA, as I’ve noted before, there is literally a mattress store on every corner these days. Feel free to go back and listen to my podcast episode and the danger zone of comfort, but today I want to share some insight on a book called, The Comfort Crisis, written by Michael Easter.
The book is not based on a Christian perspective but there are many things discussed that truly point to truths written but sadly rarely preached in scripture. The author shares his story based off of an evolutionary perspective but I hope he learns about the Christian faith because I believe if he does much of his research and studies will make much more sense.
The first thing that I noticed is that Michael is likely a millennial who was raised to achieve things that led him to live a “comfortable” life. However, he learned that the comforts of the world actually do not make one fulfilled and satisfied but rather, they make one anxious and ofttimes depressed. He noted that people who have more do not stop complaining, but rather their threshold for what they complain about changes. For example, if you no longer have to worry about where your next meal comes from, you may begin complaining about the type of food you have. It is a very sad truth but I see it played out daily as I’m sure you do.
Another thing Michael mentioned in his book was that if we stop doing hard things or never challenge ourselves or allow ourselves to be challenged, then we never learn how much we are truly capable of. As a parent, I have watched many parents handicap their children by making everything easy for their children.
Finally, I’m still reading…so stay tuned for more in the weeks ahead, but he noted that the reported happiest places on earth are not the ones with the most money or comforts but he mentioned a place he visited that was very poor yet extremely happy. One of the requirements of living in the place he visited near Nepal was “to think about death once daily”. Yes, I realize this sounds morbid but the idea is to remember how short your life is and to make the most of it each day.
Here are the biblical truths that should be taught are were told WAY before Michael wrote this book…
Phil 2:14-15 “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world”
Proverbs 14:23 “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
James 4:14 “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
And here are a few things I have learned or am learning: We truly have nothing to complain about in the USA. Also complaining makes you feel worse, not better. I’ve been in parts of the world, where they have no electricity or clean water. We never have to worry about that in the US for the most part, so stop complaining about taxes…
After a friend challenged me to complete a Spartan super race in Asheville, NC (one of the hardest courses they offer), it made me realize I could actually complete a full marathon, and did (although when I was born the doctors said I may never walk…) The strong will I gained as a child having struggles involving multiple surgeries has served me well…
I want my life to make a difference in the world because I believe that this world is not the end and I will stand before the Creator of all one day and give an answer for what I did with the gifts and talents he gave me. I do not want to say I buried them and did nothing.
Phil 4:13, “I can do all things thru Christ who gives me strength.”
I have really enjoyed answering the questions that have come in for the Dear Counselor series. Please feel free to share this and let anyone who is interested in asking a question to send it to email@example.com and I’ll continue to answer…
So, to the question at hand. What is the secret to love? It is so intriguing how much people love “secret” things. I remember reading the Secret Garden when I was younger and loving it. As an adult, I love figuring things out while watching crime or suspense-type shows or reading books. I also love the idea of a “secret recipe”.
My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe includes a “secret” ingredient from one of my favorite people (who went to heaven last year…). I’ve made these cookies many times and each time I prided myself in telling others it included a “secret” ingredient and everyone loved them! However, I’ve made other chocolate chip cookie recipes over the years and people have loved these cookies as well.
This has led me to believe that maybe it isn’t so much the “secret” ingredient that made the cookies so special but the person behind the “secret”. It is fun to make a recipe that came from someone you love and the fact that there is a “secret” ingredient made it even more special.
So why have I said all of this in answering what is the secret to love, well it is because just like the recipe story, I believe the secret to love is the person behind it. You see God is love. He is the secret ingredient. Regardless of whether or not it is friendship love, family love, or romantic love, I do not believe you can truly love someone outside of having God at the core of the relationship because He IS love.
He is the one who teaches us what love is and how to love others. He defined love by being a marvelous creator of good things, by giving us free will, and by extending us grace when he chose to go away from Him as a result of the free will by sending His son Jesus to die for our sins and giving us a chance to have a relationship with Him again. His love is patient, kind, gentle, not boastful or proud, not dishonoring, doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, is not easily angered, and doesn’t delight in evil. His love is protective, hopeful, trusting, and NEVER fails. (1 Corinthians 13)
God is the secret because He is love. Seek Him and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. (Matt 6:33).
I know it may seem early to start preparing for the holidays, BUT my youngest son and I must start now. I’m not referring to putting up decorations and watching Christmas vacation, although I love those things!
This year, we have a chance to help orphans and their caregivers who had to flee their homes from the war. Our plan is to join Glow Mission and Legacy Refuge as we host Christmas camps for refugees throughout Europe!
If you like to help us by sponsoring an orphan, we would be thrilled. The cost is $100 per orphan and we are hoping to raise enough to cover 700 children. If you’d like to donate, please go to Paypal and give to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Counselor Threads is my new clothing brand I’ve started to help raise money for these and other efforts, but you do not have to buy anything, you can simply donate at Paypal via the email address email@example.com. I will make sure you get credit for your donation.
You may also send a check to Natalie Atwell, memo: Ukraine orphans and mail it to 170 Davidson Hwy Suite 201, Concord, NC 28027
Have you or someone you know settled into a new season in life? Over the past month or so I’ve thought a lot about and written about transitions. Naturally, the next phase to consider is reflecting on the transition.
Oftentimes, we do not reflect back on phases or seasons of life whether good or bad. However, we have much to learn from and be grateful for if we look back and consider what we learned. This morning, I found a journal with an entry from 2009 in it. Wow, what a difference 10+ years make… In this particular entry, I was praying about finding proper childcare for my oldest son. Looking back, I remember how stressful that time was, but now I can see the wonderful ways in which God was with us in that season.
Now as my oldest is in high school, the worries and concerns for him are not the same as when he was little, but my strategy of taking my cares to the Lord is because I’ve learned over the years that the best thing I can do with my concerns is to take them to God in prayer. Reflecting back has encouraged me to keep praying and keep trusting God. It also shows me that God is always working and that His plans for us are great.
Rather, the transition you’ve experienced is fairly recent or not, I challenge you to reflect back on the last season and write down what you have learned, and who was there for you through the transition, challenges, and blessings you’ve experienced. This process of reflection may just help you go through the next season.
Personally, I like to also think of the funny things that happened during the past season. Laughter is one of my favorite gifts from God. Regardless of your process for reflection, don’t neglect it! Just like looking at your reflection in a mirror, reflecting back can help you learn even more about yourself. Then you can decide if there are things that need to change or stay the same.
As a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and university professor, I’ve been aware of the enneagram for many years, likely longer than most. However, over the past several years, I have been amazed at how the popularity of this test has increased dramatically especially within Christian circles. I’m often asked what my thoughts are about the Enneagram, so I will share below…
First of all when evaluating assessments and tests seeking to understand yourself, you should find out where the test originated, who created it, the validity, reliability, etc. Second, if you are a Christian, you should find out how it relates to truth as defined in the Bible. Third, ask yourself why you need this assessment or the information it is claiming to provide. Then as always, proceed with caution with anything that seeks to define you outside of God.
My concerns with the Enneagram as someone who has a doctorate in the field of counseling is related to a few things.
1-The “test” isn’t a psychological assessment that has undergone specific design and professional strategies to prove or attempt to suggest reliability or validity internally or externally.
2-The test has similarities and roots pointing to New Age (occult) practices and teachings.
3-This test attempts to put people into categories or boxes (similar to the concerns about critical race theory at times) in a way whereas God’s word never does this and suggests we are all created uniquely and wonderfully different.
3-If we believe the Enneagram is true, then we may latch on to and start filtering everything through the lens of the Enneagram. Similar to astrology or other efforts to explain humans, people have a tendency to latch on to things and begin believing everything a specific belief suggests simply because parts of it make sense. As believers in Christ, we should filter everything through the lens of scripture as it alone provides absolute truth.
4-Do not be easily deceived by things that seemingly “make sense”. This is often how deception occurs.
5-Be cautious about anything that focuses solely on your “self”. Focusing life and truth solely on your experiences is very dangerous and also what New Age teaches not what the Bible teaches. If you experience it, then it is true…This is a very dangerous idea.
6-Finally, remember as christians, we should be going through a sanctification process as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us each day. Therefore, just because at times for example we may struggle with perfectionism doesn’t mean God isn’t working in us to overcome this. Just like we should never say as believers in Christ, “I just struggle with anger, it is who I am.” Rather we should say, I am a new creation in Christ, I will die to my flesh daily. We may not change in an instant but we shouldn’t struggle as much today as we did the day we decided to follow Jesus.
For more information, I urge you to read the following article by: Marcia Montenegro.
Change is inevitable. We will all go through multiple transitions in life. During the fall season, the leaves in many places change colors on the trees. Some have children going off to college. Some are the ones going off to college and parents of new teens are freaking out of bodily changes… Others are beginning new jobs, trying new activities, etc.
As we have all settled in for the fall in one way or another, it may be important to understand the phases of transition that most people will experience. Transition generally follows this pattern: denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment.
1-Denial: In this phase, you begin to question the change. Was it the right move for us? We begin to feel disbelief that we have decided to make a change of this nature. We may also withdrawal from certain things, activities, etc.
2-Resistance: In the next phase you begin to resist as you become negative about the change. You being to focus on your emotions and personal impact or feelings associated with the change. You may even become less productive or make up excuses for being absent.
3-Exploration: Once you reach this phase, you begin to try new things, experiment with new people/places and possibly take new risks in your new setting. You may also seek answers to your questions during this phase about your transition, etc. This phase will bring about a new excitement and comfort for the change.
4-Commitment: In the final stage of transition or change. You begin to feel more comfortable with where you are and are now able to focus on the future without looking back. In the final phase you accept your new role and set new goals.
As you go through change in life or as you help another go through a transition, remember these stages. People go through these at different rates of time but it is important to know that the feeling, emotions, questions, etc. you have during the phases are normal. Change is a natural and healthy part of life but that doesn’t mean it is always comfortable. However, we will never grow as we can and should if we stay within our comfort zone and never embrace change.
From a faith perspective, we can know that God is the person who never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and will be tomorrow. We can hold fast to his word and person as we deal with the transitions of life.
Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
No, this blog has nothing to do with Duck Dynasty but I do love the catch phrase…. Lately, I’ve been encouraged to pray for and seek wisdom. My word of wisdom this week has been how to be happy. I’m generally a happy, silly person, but life is hard and I see so many people seeking after happiness the wrong way. You see I love school supplies and my recent purchase of erasable colored pencils are currently making me happy, but this happiness won’t last b/c I will settle into my Statistics book and the colored pencils I’m sure will not keep my happiness going to page 1000!
First of all, I believe happiness is attainable. Second of all, I do not believe you will be happy if happiness in and of itself is your goal. Third, I think most people are ultimately living to achieve it.
I’ll start with my third thought…the world is full of people trying to find a mate, a career, a calling, etc.. all to be what? Mostly likely, they are looking for happiness. Second, I believe what the bible says about happiness… Consider this:
Matthew 5: 1-12 (my paraphrase and the Message too)
1-The person who stops seeking after selfish things, but wants more of God is blessed/happy.
2-You are happy when you can truly allow yourself to be embraced by God which can be when you’ve lost what is most dear to you.
3-You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (the message)
4-You are happy when you want God more than anything you could ever want to eat or drink.
5-You are happy when you truly care about others.
6-You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (the message)
7-You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.(the message)
8-You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom…Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You are happy when you speak truth in love. (the message and me)
You see I’m learning that happiness is a byproduct of doing these things. If you try to do these things with God’s help and focus on these things, happiness will result. If you seek only happiness, you won’t get anything but dissatisfaction. So, get busy caring for others, seeking to be right with God, teaching people to cooperate, being content, choosing God above all else no matter what anyone thinks, and you’ll find true happiness.
“Shoot for heaven and you’ll at least get the world, try for just the world and you’ll likely get nothing” (Tim Keller).
This is the definition of encouragement. Are you putting courage in others?
Recently, I had a friend talk to me about trying to find a new mattress. She and her husband went to 6 or 7 mattress stores. Some were in the same chain…This of course made me wonder why there are so many Mattress stores, which sparked my most recent internet search. Yes, I was the kid who actually love going and pulling the encyclopedias off the shelf to look up things..
An article in the Chicago Tribune stated, “In its best markets, Houston-based Mattress Firm aims to have a store for about every 50,000 people. ‘If you think about how mattresses have been marketed, it’s all about health issues. If you read the ads, mattresses cure everything but balding,'”. This article also said it was an easy purchase during the recession and an increase in infestation of bed buds also promoted sells in recent years.
My friend needed some encouragement to make a needed purchase after 16 years of marriage and one mattress. I put courage in her by recommending a locally owned smaller mattress place and they finally made a purchase!!
I realize this is a silly store to talk about encouragement, but small things are important to God too. He wants you to rest in Him ultimately and help others to find his rest and peace. Encouraging others in big and small things in life can help them to find God’s peace.
Put courage in someone today. Strangers, family, friends, co-workers everyone in your path. Sometimes all it takes is a smile.
Have a great week!
I Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up..”
Too often these days, we (I’m referring to most people from the US) focus on one another’s differences too often in a negative way and lack the joy of looking at the similarities we have. Maybe if we start with where we are alike and appreciate one another’s differences, we can find ways to love one another.
Here are some insights I gained from a mission trip to a third world country recently where they do things differently:
-Contentment is a gift: accept your circumstances and focus on the good. Some places won’t allow you to throw your poop paper in the toilet, so if you can… appreciate a good flush! I dare you to count your blessings for one day instead of focusing on the things you think are wrong in your life. If you try this, let me know how it went in a comment.
-Being affectionate is something you can learn to appreciate: Hugs can affect your mood in a positive way. I watched people over the past week hug people they didn’t even know from a foreign country..why can’t we do that with people who live right next to us, work with us, eat dinner with us, or sit next to us in church?
-Flexibility and your attitude make life much easier. If a flight gets cancelled or your day doesn’t go according to your plan, turn it into a fun experience. My husband said I could kiss an airline supervisor guy b/c he was so nice to me:) see picture. I was still getting home a day later than planned but it wasn’t quite as bad as if I would have decided to stay ticked off for things out of my control. You can have fun in any place or circumstance.
-Don’t sweat the small stuff: a frog can be a weird thing in your room. My roommates and I in Brazil also roomed with a frog. Our leader told us to leave the frog because he would eat the mosquitoes. We did and even though it woke one of us up in the middle of the night by jumping on a neck, it wasn’t the end of the world. Sometimes, we need eo realize what things are small, and in the scope of life…most things are small.
-Perspective is everything: how can you change your perspective. Whatever it takes for you to change the lens from which you are viewing the world, do it from time to time. It’s worth it. Go on a trip, try to make a new friend, have a discussion with someone you dislike, watch a show with your kid, etc.
-Racism vs classism: they both suck, being judgmental only hurts you. In the US, we suffer from racism unfortunately. In Brazil, they suffer from classism. They don’t really have that many races but they do have a class system that hurts them as a country just like racism hurts the US. We went to work with the most poor and looked down on people in Brazil. It was a blessing, but it made me think about how we are all God’s creation and He loves us all. I believe we all came from the same two individuals, Adam and Eve so we are from the same family. I sure wish this view could break down the barriers and painful ways we judge one another. I believe with God all things are possible though…
-College students are cool: give people a chance. I had to room with a kid in college. Actually she’s a young lady, but when you realize you could have been her parent, it feels appropriate to call her a kid. We don’t have much in common as far as life circumstances at the moment. I’m married, she’s dating. I’m a mother, she’s not. I’m a career person, she’s studying. However, after a week of rooming together, I’ve gained a new friend. Give people a chance, even young ones. You just might gain a new friend!
-Most of your fears don’t come true: being eaten by an anaconda. One of the girls on the trip was told by her best friend to push me down if she saw an anaconda and run so the snake would eat me first. I understand the love of a best friend, but was only slightly amused by the comment especially after one night when the power was out and she and I were outside walking, the fear seemed like it could be a real occurrence. However, I’m glad I faced the fear and went to Brazil and wasn’t eaten by an anaconda.
-My Brazilian roommate and translator told me “I’ve never met an American like you, you are crazy. I like it because you are like a Brazillian.) Apparently, I fit in:) I’ve also been told by one of my favorite people in the world that I have “sister hips”, which I also love. Therefore, I’m part Brazilian, part “African American”, and I’m sure much more! You see, we really do have a lot more similarities than we think even if our skin looks different or we don’t speak the same language.
God Bless you today!
Romans 14: 1-23
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. …
Colossians 1: 16-17:
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands… (I love this verse, how beautiful heaven will be)!