An Open Letter to a Sinner

I’m grateful for the opportunity we had to talk a few days ago. As I’ve prayerfully reflected on our time, I realize that there are things that would have been helpful for me to say. I can tend to be a conflict avoider so please know that writing to you now is reflective of my deep concern for you. I’m not trying to pick a fight or to suggest that somehow I’ve got it all together and you don’t. I come as a person most certainly in process also, “tempted, tried, and sometimes failing” as a familiar hymn reminds us.

Read More
Trusting God in Dreary Places

Elijah was burned out, completely exhausted, and Queen Jezebel had just threatened his life. Elijah told God, “The people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10). He was scared, stopped trusting in God and felt alone. It was time to quit.

Christians can find themselves in similar dreary places where we have no control over our circumstances.

Read More
The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Humans have a disease that eats away at the soul and relationships. It is a cankerous cancer that leads to shame and brokenness, and as it consumes, it perforates our relationships with God and others. Of course this disease, this cancer, is sin. Is there a soothing medicine that brings healing?

As a counselor I experience the effects of this disease regularly. Just in the last few weeks, I have consulted on divorce, parent/child conflict, and church conflict. There is much pain associated with each of these stories as the sickness spreads.

Read More
Never Alone… an Audience of One

How do Christians deal with isolation and loneliness? The reality is that most of us probably slip into the habits and behaviors found in the general population that exacerbate rather than ameliorate the problem. In other words, Christians are just as prone to the adverse effects of social isolation and loneliness unless they have embraced and mastered biblically-effective tools and incorporated them into a healthy lifestyle. Assuming there is no physical or medical issue at the root of loneliness that impairs a person’s perception, there are several ways Christians can grow in awareness that they are “never alone.” Some activities have already been mentioned, but I want to focus specifically on how we can practice the presence and power of God.

Read More
Helping Those Who Are Angry With God

Let’s begin with a case study. Todd, a middle-aged divorced man, says he is angry with God because, essentially, his life is falling apart. His wife left him for another man; his only child—a twenty-five-year-old son—is not very responsive to him anymore, and a stray dog recently killed his cat, which he thought was the only creature that seemed to love him. His life has not turned out as he once dreamed, and now he’s afraid to dream. What could God possibly be up to in his life?

What could you say in response to Todd’s anguished and angry question?

Read More

“We’re getting a divorce”, she explained, with a look of disappointment on her face.

Her tone of voice changed, as she tried to look on the bright side. “But it’s for the best. Things haven’t been working out for the past few years. We’re just too different.”

“For the best…Too different….” Her words echoed in my mind for hours after our conversation ended. I thought about the list of differences my husband and I possess. We are SO different in so many ways. Could it really be possible that a couple can be “too different” to have a thriving marriage? The thought didn’t sit well with me.

Read More

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a virus going around. In fact, experts call it a pandemic. But I’m not talking about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis–I’m referring to the virus of worry.

Of course, legitimate concern over COVID-19 is fueling our apprehension these days. Yet our tendency to get mired in anxiety goes far beyond this medical crisis. One psychologist called worry “one of the most urgent problems of our day.”

Read More

When people reach out to us for help, they have an agenda. So often, that agenda has to do with a troubling behavior—they unleash anger destructively, can be paralyzed by fear, are addicted to a substance, or they sin sexually. More often than not, they know their choices and experiences are less than God’s good purposes for them; that God sees their behavior as sin or doubt-fueled suffering, and they feel guilt, shame, or burden, and want relief. And we want it for them. This is where we can go so desperately wrong.

Read More

I could see their lips moving, but the words were muffled. I leaned in, trying harder to hear what they were saying, even though I knew exactly what was being said. It felt like I was in one of those out-of-body experiences you see in the movies—the scene where everything around the main character slows down, and everyone around him fades. The character’s internal dialogue starts as he tries to make sense of the unfolding situation.

For me, it was a very surreal and familiar situation. I was, yet again, get- ting bullied. This time my tormentors were getting creative with their insults. “What’s with your face, Mayfield? Did you run into a meat grinder?” or “Who dressed you today… your mommy?”

Read More

Sometimes “I’m sorry” is a selfish thing to say.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? After all, repentance is a cornerstone of the Christian walk, right? Sadly, I can assure you that it is indeed quite possible to spout humble-sounding words of apology more in self-protection than in real repentance aimed at real reconciliation.

The basic dynamic of phony repentance works like this: I say I’m sorry in an effort to make the “offended” person feel better about me or to make me feel better about me. Whereas Scripture calls us to seek forgiveness for sins that have harmed others, self-serving apologies aim to deflect someone’s possible disappointment in us or to soothe our own inner discomfort.

Read More