Category Archives: Blog Posts

You do not have to go through it alone!

The Valley of the Shadow of Death 1867 George Inness with Words 700Psalm 23:4 (NLT)

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.

No matter how dark things may seem.  No matter how alone we may field.  We are not alone.  Even in the darkest valley, also known as the “valley of the shadow of death”, we can find comfort in the knowledge that God is with us.

This Psalm does not promise that God will pluck us out of the valley of the shadow of death.  In this Psalm, David, a great warrior and king, proclaims that he is confident that God will protect and comfort him as he travels through this valley.  And that God will provide everything he need (Psalm 23:5).

We do not have to let fear paralyze us.  God will guide us through these difficulties.  It is our responsibility to trust, listen and follow.

This time or situation in your life may be like a dark valley.  Take courage that others, such as King David in this Psalm, made it through dark times by trusting in God.  Many others share similar experiences.

You do not have to go through dark times alone!

Comments:

If you have an encouraging story (testimony) please share it in the comments/reply section.  It does us good to hear good news!

Flags Placed to Represent Veteran Suicides

IAVA 1892 flagsAn estimated 22 U.S. Veterans committee suicide each day.  That means about 1,892 veterans have died this year due to suicide.

A 27 March the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will place a spot light on this problem. Volunteers will place 1,892 flags on the National Mall in to honor these fallen.

We at HealingTheWoundsOfWar.com and the Hope and Restoration Team (HART) are grateful for the IAVA efforts to combat suicide.  Go to StormTheHill.org to learn more.  Let’s put an end to suicide!

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Does it matter if they (providers) really care about your recovery?

Does it matter of our doctors, nurses, therapist, clergy (or anyone involved in our healing process) really care?  Or is it all dependent on pills and checklists?

Many things are involved in the recovery of PTSD.  One aspect that we may not think about too often is the relationship between the provider of care—those involved in the healing process—and the one receiving the care.  Empathy and trust have been found to be important parts of care and recovery.  We are impacted by the empathy we perceive from those supposed to help us recover. 

Questions we may ask about a provider (consciously or otherwise):

  • Do they really care about my recovery?
  • Do they believe that I can recover?
  • Can I really trust them to keep all this stuff confidential?
  • Will they loss respect for me if they find out what I am really thinking and feeling?

Ronald Murphy, PhD in a symposium on PTSD notes:  “And a lot of therapists, and a lot of research shows that the best predictors of treatment—no matter what cognitive behavioral intervention you did—the best predictor was the degree of expressed empathy by the therapist and how much the patient felt understood by the therapist when you measure those things, very important. I think we underestimate the power of therapeutic alliance.”* 

Ted Kaptchuk, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard, observes that how physicians “frame perceptions” can affect the outcome.  A study done with people diagnosed with intestinal problems reveals this idea.  Even while receiving fake (placebo) care some patients actually go better—not just felt better—when the care was accompanied by empathetic interactions.**

If we are not making the progress that we would like in our recovery it may be helpful to consider the relationship and connection we have with those involved in our recovery.  There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that a care relationship is not working.

What do you think?  Does knowing/feeling a therapist (or other providers) really cares impact recovery?

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* http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/01/the-placebo-phenomenon

** http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/videos/transcripts/sat_change_2.pdf (National Center for PTSD, Readiness to Change in PTSD Treatment Part 2, Written Video Transcript pg 3) http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/materials/videos/change-ptsd-treatment.asp (Part 2 Video Time 9:50-10:11)

Ash Wednesday and Lent… What is the big deal?

Cross AshA Special post for; (a) those that follow Christ; (b) interested in Christian spirituality; (c) anyone curious about Christian history, teaching and tradition.

Many Christians all over the world are entering a season of the Church year called Lent.  In short, it is a time to remember our frailty and God’s gifts, goodness and offer for a new life in Christ.  It is a time of reflection and taking inventory of our life and actions.  This is not for the point of beating up on our selves, or others.  Rather it is on opportunity to let go of the past and things that weigh us down.

For those of us dealing with painful experiences and memories it is an opportunity to experience the power and freedom found in the act of repentance and offering and receiving forgiveness.  So Lent can also be a time of healing, even healing the wounds of war.

The following is a quote from the late Robert Webber on the practice of Lent.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps 51:10 KJV).

Ash Wednesday is the service and Lent is the season for repentance from phony Christianity, pretend spirituality, and words without works Christian living. The Holy Spirit uses the Lenten focus as a tool to open our hearts which have grown calloused through selfishness and pride. Throughout the busy year, we become spiritually dull and unapologetically self-absorbed. Our attitudes and actions are insensitive to others’ needs and disobedient to God’s call to life and holiness.

Ash Wednesday stops us in our tracks and reminds us that we are but dust and to dust we shall return. Dust can’t demand, dust can’t argue, dust can’t exalt itself, and dust can’t boast. Dust needs God to have life and only in God can these “jars of clay” minister life (Gen. 2:7, Job 42:6, Eccles. 3:20, Ezekiel 37:4, 2 Cor. 4:7). Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are nothing but dust, muck, and mire without the crucified and risen Jesus.

“We too easily forget our Maker and Redeemer; replacing God with things and ambition. Lent is the season that does something about this situation. It calls us back to God, back to the basics, back to the spiritual realities of life. It calls us to put to death the sin and the indifference we have in our hearts toward God and our fellow persons.

And it beckons us to enter once again into the joy of the Lord–the joy of a new life born out of a death to the old life. That is what Ash Wednesday is all about–the fundamental change of life required of those who would die with Jesus and be raised to a new life in him.”

Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004), pg 99.

Beyond the limits! Jason’s story…

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Doctors, professional books, and even those close to us will sometimes unintentionally place a limit on our potential.  They may be well intended.  Sometimes they are correct.   There are things that we may need to accept.

But …  That is not for others to determine on their own!  Consider Jason’s story.  The VA was willing to sustain him in an institution.  When he decided to go home with his parents their books determined that he was as recovered as he could be and cut off the rehab resources.

Jason, however, was still progressing.  So his family continues to pay for rehab services out of pocket.  The VA was willing to spend huge amounts on institutionalizing him but not to pay a much less amount for continued rehab services.

We understand that some people stop progressing in their rehabilitation and there needs to be checks and balances.  But a formula should not be the determining factor.  We are all unique and have unique situations.

Are you facing a physical injury, Post-Traumatic Stress, relationship issues, work problems or you are being told that it cannot be done?  Don’t accept that on face value.  Don’t blindly rely on the formula.

Be wise and listen to the counsel of others.  There are some limits we may have to accept; but not without a fight.  Not without first thinking outside the box!

Watch Jason’s story as captured by the Wounded Warrior Project

5 Tips for Everyday Encouragement

 

Encouragement Button Red

You can possess all the necessary knowledge of how to accomplish a task and not follow through to completion.  Even with the right knowledge we often need is some encouragement.  Sometimes we need just a little and other times we need a whole lot.

We may hold the need for encouragement in common.  However, each of us responds differently to different kinds of encouragement.  Different circumstances, such as training, family, or work can call for different kinds of encouragement.  Words, gifts, awards, smiles, quality time, express gratitude and confidence are just a few tools we can use to encourage others.

Perhaps I can speak best from my own experience.  What have I found most encouraging over the years? [NOTE: I am not real comfortable sharing this kind of info in such a public space.]

Truthful, sincere acknowledgment of something I have done or said that has made a difference.

For me it is important that the words, award or whatever the acknowledgement, must be objectively truthful.  Platitudes or untrue statements do little to nothing to encourage me.

We should try and understand how those in our own lives receive and respond to encouragement.  A few encouragement suggestions:

  1. Experiment – What encourages you may not encourage someone else.
  2. Smile more often.
  3. Listen.  Really listen.
  4. Give thanks – expressed in words, deeds, and acknowledgement.  Be specific!  Even when the outcome is not what you or they may desire, give thanks for their quality efforts.
  5. Express your confidence in someone’s ability to accomplish whatever they are facing.  Sincerity is key!

Perhaps our expression of gratitude goes along with encouraging others.  What do you think?  What encourages you? (Leave a comment–link is on the top of the post.)

Further reading:
“The Quiet Power of Encouragement”
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/light-and-shadow/201311/the-quiet-power-encouragement

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Is it possible to “love your neighbor as yourself”?

No matter what we have experience is it reasonable or possible to “love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself”?  It would be easy to think those who said these things, Jesus Christ and St. Paul, had easy and tragedy free lives.  Not so.  Both Jesus and Paul receive brutal treatment during their lives and died at the hands of others.

What does it mean to “love your neighbor”?

The word used for “love” in these passages is “agape”.  This Greek word for love is not tied to the emotions or good feelings we usually associate with our idea of love.  Loving someone in this understanding is doing what is right on their behalf.  This kind of love may include, but goes beyond, feelings. (Biblical Greek used 4 different words to express different aspects or kinds of love.)

Who are these neighbors we are supposed to love as ourselves?

Family, those next-door, coworkers, employer, boss, cashier, sales reps, and etc. are all neighbors.  This includes people on the other side of the world.  It includes those on the other side of the political spectrum.  And, yes, it includes people of different beliefs.

How do we know if we are loving our neighbor as ourselves?

What about the neighbor who has the continually barking dog, loud music, or some other near perpetual annoyance?  Does loving your neighbor mean you tolerate the annoyance?  Perhaps not.  Avoiding issues is not necessarily love.  Simply dismissing annoyances or offenses may be an appropriate demonstration of love; but it may also be a hindrance to relationships and growth.  How we address the issue demonstrates the love.  In fact, avoidance can lead to more intense future conflict.

Our spouse, children, employer, customers, and next-door neighbors all provide numerous “opportunities” to demonstrate love.  They also help expose the shortcomings in our ability to walk in this kind of love.  Those that have hurt us in the worst ways put this to the greatest test.

This seems too hard.  It seems impossible!

The Good News is that we do not have to do this on our own.  In fact, I am convinced that I cannot do this on my own.  For me, as a Christian, it is the work of God—through His Son—in my live that makes this a possibility.

Falling short in our own lives can help keep us humble in our dealings with others.  It also serves as a reminder for our need for God’s grace and the need to allow God to work on and change our own hearts and minds.

[NOTE: What loving your neighbor does NOT mean:

It does not mean you should let people abuse you.  It does not mean that you cannot defend yourself from violence.  The choices of others, such as in combat or fighting off an assault, will sometimes put us in difficult circumstances that demonstrate our own dependence on God’s grace.  However, when those brief, but life changing moments, have passed we are faced again with the opportunity to love (agape)—even our enemies.]

This idea can be particularly difficult for those of us who have experienced deep hurts or tragedies.  Yet we are not left alone.  We do not have to figure it all out on our own.

I do not always fulfill the command to love my neighbor as myself.  However, working together with God this is becoming more real in my daily life.  As I grow in this area I find new joy and peace no matter what circumstances I am facing.

Some of the factors that are impacting my life in this area: my relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the Holy Bible (Scripture), fellow Christians to challenge and encourage my spiritual growth, and all who continually provide opportunities for me to grow.

What, or who, is helping you grow in your ability to “love your neighbor as yourself”?

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How can we successfully deal with angry people?

So, you are not a hot head.  But you have to deal with one or two or three.  Below are some ideas to consider when dealing with outwardly angry people—note: we will have to talk about the quiet angry types in another post.

[Most important: your safety!  If the angry person becomes abusive (or you believe it is heading in that direction) you should remove yourself from the situation and seek appropriate help.  What we are discussing here is anger that does not result in abuse.]

Anger usually comes from some insecurity, fear, guilt, sense of inadequacy, etc.:

Understanding this can help us to NOT internalize the other person’s expression of anger.  When we internalize someone else’s anger we tend to get defensive—at least this is true for me.  When we get defensive we can get side tracked from the real issues at hand.

Expectations: Do you have unrealistic expectations about the reasonableness of the angry person?

It is unreasonable to expect a person in the passion of anger to be completely reasonable.  The biology of anger does not support it.  The more angry the individual the less the reasoning center of the brain can operate.  The blood flow actually decreases to the reasoning center (pre-frontal cortex—the part behind your forehead).  Instead the body/brain puts its resources in to the fight/flight response.

Anger, fear, anxiety and alike all have a similar physiological response.  It is important that this balance be restored before attempting to engage in a reasonable discussion.  Justifying our actions—even if we are in the right—accomplishes nothing in the heat of the moment.

Post-traumatic stress responses can involve anger outbursts.  PTSD is not a means for excusing inappropriate actions.  However, it can be helpful to keep in mind that the stress and anxiety that accompany PTSD can help contribute to a shorter fuse.

Diffuse before Engaging:                 

In the heat of anger (our own or that of another) our goal should be to diffuse the situation before attempting to solve the problem(s) surrounding the event.  Time is an important ingredient in this mix.  People’s bodies need time to work out the rush of hormones that accompanies anger and the fight/flight response.

It may not be helpful to declare an official “time-out”.  However, some kind of separation in time and space should be considered.

It is important that the individuals involved reengage the issues when all have had an opportunity to cool down.  If we are not careful time and space can lead to avoidance and the underlying problems will never get resolved.

Get someone else involved:

I don’t mean that you should drag someone else into the middle of the argument.  Rather, when a relative calm has set in, invite someone to help mediate the discussion.  This person should be perceived by all involved as being relatively neutral.

Addressing their anger issue:

Yelling back, “You have anger issues!” In the middle of their outburst is not likely to be helpful. (I know, I have tried it.)  When all is calm it may be possible to discuss your concern for how they are handling anger.

However, in order to be able to successfully deliver this message, it helps if you actually care.  I have not found many people ready to accept a “critical” message from someone who does not care.  If that is the case, then try and find someone who does care to deliver the message of concern.

This is by no means a complete list of things to help deal with angry people.  What ideas or strategies have helped you deal with angry people? (Please share your thoughts in the comments section.)

Check out the first part of our podcast series on anger: “Anger!!! What Lies Beneath

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Encouragement…how a simple video has encouraged many.

After one year and over 31,000,000 views this video is still inspiring.  Be encouraged!  Each of us has a lot to contribute to others.  This thee minute video is not a major Hollywood production.  It does not star a famous actor.  It was not produced by one of the industries greats.  Yet it is impacting the world.  

We may never directly reach 31 million people.  But we can reach someone in our little part of the world. 

Encourage someone today.  You may never know just how much they needed that encouragement.

When trouble comes our way…

Trouble,…
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble
Trouble been doggin’ my soul since the day I was born” song by Ray Lomontagne

Stuff happens! Sometimes we are at the center of the problem with the choices we have made. Others also make choices that can cause us problems and heartache.

Philosophers enjoy a good debate on the problem of evil. I admit this can be “fun” and it has its place. Nevertheless, regardless of the cause of these problems, they are part of our life. Jesus shared some thoughts on what we will face:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”John 16: 33 (NLT)

We “may” have peace in Christ. Here and now, regardless of what is happening too us or around us. This is a choice that we can make. We can abide, live, in Christ.

Simple? Perhaps. Easy? Not for me. Yet as I grow in faith I find that I more at peace—regardless of the difficult circumstances.

Jesus is clear that we “will” have trials and sorrows in this life. This is not “if you have tribulation”; it is “you will have many trials and sorrows”. In these trials and sorrows he tells us to “take heart”, that is, “take courage”–NASB. Why can we be courageous in the face of tribulation? Because He has overcome the world. Yes, this is a present reality. Yet it is clear that this has not been brought to completion; but it will be brought to completion at his second coming. In the mean time we can still find peace in Him.

We should not be shocked when difficulties come our way. Jesus assured of such things; but He also assured us that we can experience peace because He is with us and we are in Him and that He has indeed overcome the world.

Even while he was still experiencing difficulties St. Paul proclaims:  “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV

It is through this process of us following Christ that we spread the knowledge of him. This becomes even more evident when we face difficulties. The reality is that our trust provides unparallelled opportunities to grow when we experience trials and sorrows. As we trust him more and more and experience His peace and presence we bring glory to Him and this is as a fragrance to others that cannot be ignored.

Weather we have contributed to our difficult circumstances or not, Jesus is there for and with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. We can abide in Him and find peace—here and now. We can stand assured that “he who began this good work in you will bring it to completion.”

A final thought:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)