Saturday, June 27, 2015

Another lesson from a fiction book

I was reading a free fiction book this week that I had downloaded from Amazon.  It was titled All for Anna, by Nicole Deese.  I haven't found an easy way to find the free kindle books, but if you scroll down to literature, then scroll down to inspirational fiction, then have the books sorted by cost... well, then the free books will come up first.  One might say there must be a reason these books are free.  I think the reason is that they're usually the first in a series. If the author gets you hooked, well, you'll buy the next one in the series!

In this case, it really did hook me (I enjoyed the author's writing) and I was able to "borrow" the second book from Amazon Prime's lending library.  But, back to the book at hand and the lesson I learned...

The book All for Anna focuses on a 24 year old young woman, Tori, who is dealing with PTSD because she wasn't able to save a little girl from an accident.  The story keeps moving and I enjoyed reading the romance part of the story as well as how the young woman's family healed.  But, there's this one scene in which Tori is meeting her counselor and I had an "aha!" moment.  The counselor gives Tori a spiral notebook and explains that it's for her to continue processing.  It's a spiral notebook because some things are meant to be torn out and thrown away rather than held onto and remembered.  This was a powerful visual to me--simple, but powerful.

I shared it with my husband and his reply was quick and straight to the point.  That is what forgiveness is.

Ah.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Anger

This is the next post about one of the booklets.


Today I'm going to write about the booklet I read first.

It is titled, Help! My Anger is Out of Control, by Jim Newheiser.  It's interesting.  I don't always know what books God is going to bring across my path and what paths He's going to take me down.  I picked up this booklet this morning and I'm glad I did.

Anger is something I've had to deal with in my life--just like everyone else I know.  It is an emotion that is part of being human.  But, anger can be very destructive.  This booklet made me stop and consider the sources of my anger and what prompts me to get anger.  It also made me consider my own sin and its ramifications.  I felt the author had some very valuable insights.  The first thing I learned was that anger is our response to our own judgment against perceived evil against us in our lives--it comes from judgments that we make.  The examples the author gave for his points were easy to understand.  one very interesting point is that when people give in to anger, they are at risk of losing control (pg.13).  He doesn't mention this, but I believe that Anger gives a false sense of control--it is deceptive in this way.  I agree with the author that anger leads to other sins, is dangerous, and is contagious.  Another very interesting point is that sinful anger focuses on our own kingdom, rights, and concerns, not on God's kingdom, rights, and concerns.  Newheisers's examination of why we get angry was also very helpful to me.  It also explained to me how many Christian counselors have come to the conclusion that depression, anger, and other emotional reactions do not have biological roots.  And this is the first point of discussion that I want to talk about.

After I had each of my children, I went through post-partum depression.  Our marriage counselor had wisely explained to my husband and I before we got married that my response to feeling hurt is anger.  When I was dealing with the hormone swings that come from nursing, my depression played out in anger rather than sadness.  I had not been a person prone to such anger before having children. I wish now that I had taken an anti-depressant at the time.  Yes, I sinned in my depression, but my body was not cooperating with me.  An anti-depressant, I believe, would have allowed me to get to the emotional place where I could make a choice to sin or not sin in my anger.

In this book, Newheiser says on page 19 that "all sin, including anger, begins in the heart."  Ah.  The author goes on to explain the ramifications of this.  As I read this, I finally understood how some Christian counselors could see depression simply as sin, --because it must all begin in the heart.

This is the point that I adamantly disagree with and I have struggled over the years to argue against.  Not because I didn't know my own argument, but because I didn't know exactly what I was arguing against--the root of the argument on the other side.  I have been pondering this for several weeks now.  I know people that don't advise anti-depressants and other medication because they believe that Christians who take them are simply sinning and that if they dealt with their sin, then they wouldn't need the medicine.  People who have said such things to me over the years have revealed something very important to me when they say this.  First, that they themselves have neither experienced it themselves nor have known a strong Christian who dealt with mental illness.  I say that because people who are actively seeking God are usually trying to deal with the sin in their lives and Sunday Christians and unbelievers don't necessarily care (they may or may not).  Secondly, the case may be that they have been taught that Christians don't need medicine for mental illness, including depression.  I know so many Christians who will advocate the medicine sometimes (like in emergency situations), but then at others resist taking medicine at all costs because somehow it is bad.   I am surprised at how often I come across Christians who are stand offish about taking medicine, for all medical situations across the board, though one can argue that doctors and medicine are a gift from the Lord.

I read a really great article here that I agree with about mental illness and biblical counseling.  This article and discussion is relevant to this author's discussion of anger, because he doesn't acknowledge or agree with a biological source.  I do believe that there can be a chemical imbalance that can make people--more prone to anger.  I am not excusing the anger, but I want to acknowledge that the propensity to irritation and anger can be exacerbated.  In Lorraine Pintus' book Jumping of the Hormone Swing, she gives a wonderful discussion of women's hormones and PMS/Menopause.  She doesn't let women off the hook for sinning against others, but she does acknowledge the difficulty of managing ones' emotions when our hormones are affecting us.  If you are struggling with this, I highly recommend this book!  It's wonderful, biblically sound, and very helpful.

What I realized after a week of reflecting about this booklet is that it is just that--a booklet, not a book.  Anger is a big subject, because it's a big emotion.  This booklet will probably give you some food for thought. It's not exhaustive.  It can't be in so few pages.  Sometimes I read a lot into a small amount of words because I'm so analytical.  I realize this.

There are a few other points about anger that I believe worthy of mentioning:
1.  I think that no one is immune to getting angry.  We are human.  Even the person who thinks they have completely died to self and can get angry.  I've seen it.
2.  Anger that is not expressed outwardly is still anger if it is in your heart.  The conflict that is at the source needs to be dealt with.  Even if one thinks that other's won't know, what is in the heart will come out through a snippy tone of voice or facial expressions.

There was one really big question I was left with after reading this booklet:  What I felt after reading this book is that anger is because of perceived evil--but what if that evil is real and not a wrong perception?  What if wrong has been done?  What if when you speak the truth in love--and try to let someone know that they've hurt you, they lash out at you?  Are you simply supposed to take it?  What if the other person really intended to hurt you--intended to sin against you?  I remember my dad telling me once that if someone hurt him, he was going to hurt them back harder.  I think Christians can fall into this trap by using indirect means like excluding people from family events, by speaking passive aggressively--implying comparison between people as a means to manipulate.  Christians are human.

As usual, I seem to have more questions than answers, but I do trust that God will help me figure things out when He wants me to--and for that I'm very thankful.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this booklet for review from Shepherd Press.



Depression and Abuse

My next few posts are going to tackle seven books from a new series that Shepherd Press is publishing.  These are small books that you'd find at a side table at your church.  They're great, because you can sit down in less than an hour and read what they have to say.  The books I've read so far have given me a lot to think about and process.

The first booklet is about Depression.  

Carol Trahan has written a small and easy to read book. It tackles the type of depression that are part of the normal ups and downs of life. This is not a book for anyone who deals with ongoing, prolonged depression. She says from the get go that she is a biblical counselor, not a medical doctor. Even so, I wish she had included a few questions about how to discern which type of depression you are experiencing and how to get ongoing help.

But, as to the material in this book, I liked it. Quite a lot actually. I thought that she made some great points about depression and sadness in the Bible which I hadn't considered before. She also talks about how depression is a choice--and it is for people like me. I can tell when my thoughts are focusing in on sadness and I make the choice to turn away from it or towards it. Ms. Trahan addresses the hope that God gives us in this situation and also that He desires for us to have joy in Him. All of this was great. For anyone who crashes once in a while or is dealing with one particular event that has provoked a lot of sadness, I'd recommend this book.

For folks like the people I love who live with depression, I wouldn't recommend this book. I've had several Christians over the years, who've said to me that the source of mild depression is really just sin and that if the person struggling would confront those issues, they wouldn't need medication. Those words have hurt because of the people I love who I know that live with depression and one of whom committed suicide. One of those close to me once said that the medication allowed him to get to the point of making a choice of going down the road to sadness or not. Before the medication, he felt like there was no choice--it was like being belted into a rollercoaster that you couldn't get off of. One of the most harmful things that Christians, especially Christian parents, can do to someone living with chronic depression is badmouth medicine and tell them that they just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Mental Illness comes on for many people between the ages of 16 and 30 years old. If depression runs in your family, be aware--if you see signs of chronic depression, encourage your family members to get help from a counselor and doctor. There's nothing wrong or shameful about either one--don't push your family history under the carpet and pretend that no one in your immediate family will experience it. Books like this that are aimed at the short term depression. They can mislead people who have biochemical imbalances and make them feel that they must be trapped in sin and that how they feel is their fault. This is also the kind of book that makes it harder for people to get counseling and medical attention, because it conveys the idea that something is wrong with them if they need medicine--that they aren't spiritual enough be able to handle it the way that Ms. Trahan talks about. I did share the book with someone I love who lives with depression and he was offended and saddened by it.

In the end, handle this book with care. As with all books, filter in what's helpful to you and filter out what isn't.

The second booklet...

All of my adult life I have searched for resources that address abuse. In high school, a girl sat in front of me in one of my classes who was being abused by her boyfriend. I got her in touch with a counselor who helped her leave the situation. I'll never forget her. Over the years, I have been continually confronted with how to love people who have been abused and I have wanted to have wisdom and biblical counsel to share with them. I have searched and searched.

So, when this booklet came along, I was very excited to read it. Excited, not in a happy sense, but in the sense that I hoped it would be helpful to me. And it was. It defined abuse, used good examples, and gave steps on how to help the victim cope. It put this in the context of the church's responsibilities and role as well--which was very helpful. I would highly recommend this booklet to church leaders. I also appreciated that it doesn't encourage parents to stay in physically and emotionally abusive relationships that affect their children because God uses all things for the good of those who love him. The booklet encourages parents to protect their children. This is personally important to me because a friend's parent once justified the abuse of their children to me with that scripture from Romans.

This booklet also does not take the stance that one woman I knew took years ago, advised by the book The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. A woman I know believed that she should stay in that abusive relationship because a) so that her husband might be won over to the faith and b) if her husband had been confronted once with his sin, then she should go on being submissive to him. This book does not advise people to stay in abusive relationships so that their spouse or significant other might be won over to Christ. I'd like to point out that God is in control of salvation (predestination) and it is not us who saves but God. It is God's efforts that save, not ours. "We are saved by grace, through faith..."

I do have two concerns worthy of mentioning, though. The first is smaller and it is that a lot of emphasis is given to the victim taking a hard look at themselves and their own sins. Yes, we do need to see our failings and understand how we have fallen into traps, but the responsibility for abuse is not a 50/50 deal when it comes to the responsibility of being abused and being the abuser.

The second concern is a much larger and important one. On one page of the booklet, the authors state that the one who has been abused does not have to forgive unless the abuser repents. They are to be ready to forgive, but do not have to forgive unless the abuser repents. This is huge to me and I don't agree with it at all. I looked up the biblical underpinnings of why someone would say that. It is in the old testament, but not the new. In the new, we are called to forgive just as we have been forgiven (Lord's Prayer). How many times are called to forgive? We are called to forgive 70 times 7. We are called to forgive even if someone doesn't recognize what they've done wrong or ask for forgiveness. This is extremely, extremely hard to do at times. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or excusing. It doesn't even mean that you have to have an ongoing relationship with that person. That is often not a safe thing to do, which I understand personally.

I did correspond with the publisher about this concern and it was clarified that the words used are that relational forgiveness can't be fully granted without repentance.  I think the author intended to say that we are to forgive, but that forgiveness is more complete in some way when the abuser repents.  Given the different wording is strange, I would just keep in mind that page 38 isn't saying that we shouldn't forgive when someone sins against us.  

This is a very helpful book, but please note the two caveats I've mentioned and be aware of them.

Please note that I received complimentary copies of these booklets for review from Shepherd Press.

Free CS Lewis Literature Guides

This morning I was looking around and found some free resource guides on CS Lewis.org's site.  You can find them here:  http://www.cslewis.org/resources/studyguides/  The study guides are age appropriate based on the age at which students would read those books.  For example, the guide for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is for grades 3-5, but the study guide for Letters to Malcolm is written for high school students.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I just discovered this free resource on PBS Masterpiece Theater site: Teacher's Guides

There's a guide for Austen's books and Dickens' books as well as several other high school level books that Masterpiece Theater has done productions of.  

Friday, June 12, 2015

Flexibility

I have decided this:


The Best Way to Be a MOM:  
Be a Gumby and not a Ball Point Pen.  

Two days ago, my middle daughter fell on the grass when she tripped.  Yesterday, she went to the doctor and within 3 hours had a splint on her hand because of a tiny fracture.  
I did not wake up thinking I would have one of my children in a splint at the end of the day.  

It was just the way things worked out.  I had a choice.  Be a Gumby--flexible and set aside my plans for the day.  Or I could be a BallPoint Pen and be unwilling to bend, complaining as I had to rearrange my day.  I decided my family needs me to be a Gumby.