Refuge

Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sailing to New Horizons - Part 2


            Part One focused metaphorically on the dangers of trying to sail through life without proper care for the soul.  Dry docking the boat is a sailing term for taking the boat offline to inspect and re-enforce stressed or weakened parts as a result of traveling the seas. Dry dock (downtime) is essential for ensuring stability and mobility through the storms of life guaranteed to test our vessel (personal being).  This Part Two focuses more on the practicals of dry dock. 
            There are many aspects of soul care which contribute to a healthy quality of life.  Sailing a boat requires knowing how to harness the power of the wind to navigate in a particular direction.  So too in life there are truths and principles that create predictable results.  Good ethics, character development, life skills, and virtuous living all help for things to go well in life.  Our performance-based culture rewards our focus on these kinds of activities.  But a truth frequently forgotten, is that good performance is predicated by how well we ”perform”  in our private thoughts and inner world. 
            As we noted, the main purpose of the keel, beneath the waterline, is to balance the boat.   When the keel is weakened or broken, the ship is in severe danger of losing its  balance in the slightest storm conditions, causing the ship to capsize with no chance to survive.  Balancing the time a ship spends sailing on the sea with time spent in dry dock to maintain its seaworthy condition, is crucial for survival.  Balancing the time we spend pursuing our duties in life (as a parent, employee, leader, member, friend, etc.), with time spent temporarily putting those duties aside for rest, is imperative for life to go well.   
            True rest is the balance that keeps your sailboat sailing. Proper rest is designed to renew and restore life.  There is no way around it.  Rest is the activity that keeps you active, creative, and productive.  Let's briefly consider four types of rest.  To help us remember these four types, let's unpack an acronym to sail (S-A-I-L).  The S is Sleep.  The A is Activity.  The I is Inspiration and Inspection.  The L is Listening intently.   
            1.  Sleep.  Sleep is the activity that completely shuts down our conscious mind for about one third of every day.  Yes, we sleep about one third of our lives.  Sleep is a huge and fascinating topic too big to explore here,  but two points are worthy of mention.  Although opinions may vary as to how much sleep is enough, making the decision to do what it takes to get enough sleep is the only way you will get enough sleep.  You must decide your sailing vessel (body and soul) cannot sail without it.  Secondly, sleep is not just for the body to rest, but also for the psyche to rest.  Especially for those in people helping activities on a daily basis, sleep  is important to maintain psychological sharpness and stability.     
            2. Activity.  In order to maximize the rest factor, consider better management of your daily activity.  Make the most of the types, durations, flows, and intensities of routine tasks.    Avoid extremes and practice moderation.  Maybe your employer controls a great deal of how your time is spent on the job, but you can limit stress by making time for sports, hobbies, music, reading, playing games with family, and other things you find relaxing.   Make "play" an intention practice in three areas: physical (eg. sports), spiritual (eg worship), and psychological (eg. reading).  Be aware of circumstances that sap your "emotional energy," and counter them with something that fills your "emotional tank."   
            3. Inspiration and Inspection.  This type of rest is meant to "feed" the spirit part of your being.  Humans are designed as spirit beings, and thus need spiritual food as desperately  as they need physical food to nourish the physical body.  A dictionary definition of inspiration is, "a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul."  Spiritual food may include time spent alone with God (getting to know Him better),  pursuing God together with other people, or anything with the goal of inspiring faith, hope, and love with divine qualities. 
            Inspection works hand in hand with inspiration to keep us honest about our true spiritual condition.  We need self-evaluation and input from other people to stay true to our core identity and purpose in life.  Our natural tendency is to try to make life work without God's help.  Even those who consider themselves God-followers have a leaning to "do life" under, over, from, or for God, as compared to living "with" God.  For an explanation of how this works, see Skye Jethani's excellent book called With: Re-imagining the Way You Relate to God. 
            4. Listening intently.  The fourth type of rest, and the most engaged form of dry dock, is listening intently.  Listening could be thought of as an extension of both inspiration and inspection described above.  I use the term listening to emphasize an active receiving mode.  It is not merely "hearing," or passive intellectual or emotional stimulation.  The goal of listening is to transform (for the better) who you are as a person.  It is not to evaluate performance as much as it is to uncover and strengthen your inner being.  The ultimate response of listening involves surrender.  The real secret to rest is complying with a definition that was given about 2000 years ago in Christ's words,  “Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest.  Accept my teaching. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will be able to get some rest.  Yes, the teaching that I ask you to accept is easy. The load I give you to carry is light”  (Matthew 11:28-30; ERV).  Listening acknowledges our need for help outside of ourselves. 
            God's voice of truth is all around us.  God speaks words of life.  We can only hear them, if we are listening.   Listening postures may include intentional quiet, complete silence, reflection, meditation, journaling, recording, and waiting.  Every so often, it is imperative to get away from ALL distractions for personal retreat.  Listening is rarely practiced in our culture.  A big reason is our lack of success at filtering out distractions.  Eliminating the hindrance of "noise" is the first step toward listening. 
            Noise is so commonly tolerated that its hard for some people to imagine an experience in life without it.  Sheer busyness (over-scheduling) is a huge source of noise.  Noise is somewhat dependent on background and culture.  A New York City dweller is adapted to noise more than an Amish farmer in Lancaster, PA.  A hearing impaired person is more likely confused by background noise, when  holding a conversation in a crowded room.  An example of psychological noise may be your inner voice telling you lies about who you are (or are not) as a person because of past hurts or wounds.  This kind of baggage noise causes excess weight to make sailing your ship even more difficult.  Whether it be circumstantial, physical, or psychological noise, the more noise, the less listening is possible.  Less listening means less rest.  Without the dry dock of rest, your ship (life) is more likely to break down when storms rage like job loss, close relationship loss, health loss, or financial  loss.     
            To the degree that you practice dry dock (these types of rest) you will be best prepared for the stressors of life when they come.  Your ship is made ready to S-A-I-L. 
            From time to time in my own life, I am forced to make some decisions needed to help me sail.  One example is my use of the cell phone.  I have chosen to limit my use of the phone for voice communication and not access the Internet.  I do a lot of my work on the computer, but do not want my computer on my phone.  The distraction would be too great.  I consider "texting" too great a temptation for distractibility as well,  I do not text.  I'm not a technophobe.  I spent 17 years developing software for my employment.  I simply cherish the "listening time" I maintain without the greater level of  noise.
For me, convenience is never a good enough reason to go with new communication  technology.  Research is starting to show the great danger in over-stimulation caused by recent technology.  I'm not saying that my personal boundaries should be adopted by everyone, but everyone needs designated personal time with their communication devices turned off completely.     
            In the Christian community, statistics are huge for burnout among church workers, pastors, missionaries, and leaders.  A variety of things may contribute to a shipwreck incident, but one of the greatest failures is the lack of dry dock.  I am committed to the value of rest in my personal life, and I want to see others become better sailors as well.   Personal retreats, sabbaticals, debriefings, or extended times to focus on inner strength should be considered normal procedure in the concept of ministry.  There are resources available to help.  I have linked with a group of care providers to offer personal debriefing for missionaries.  The Le Rucher model of debriefing has  helped thousands over the years.  For more information see  http://leruchereastcoastusa.org .   I have also helped many pastors and leaders through the counseling and spiritual coaching at the Blue Rock Bed and Breakfast.  Upon request, I tailor retreat activities based on time available, ministry setting, and specific needs for renewal. 
            Reading Gordon MacDonald's book called The Life God Blesses inspired me to write this article.   I encourage you to read his book, and consider dry dock an essential part of your work.  If you're not taking care of yourself, it's only a matter of time until you won't be taking care of anybody.  If you contact me, I would be glad to assist you in finding a better way to S-A-I-L to new horizons.

Note:  If you are reading this and you also provide ways to dry dock for struggling Christian leaders, please contact me so we can get acquainted.  Referral sources and mutual support is welcomed for this type of care.

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sailing to New Horizons - Part 1


            So, when was your last sabbatical, personal retreat, or just a few days of vacation?  Failure to balance work with appropriate rest is one of the most common reasons people in leadership and service professions are forced to quit.  Here are a few tips.
            In a book called The Life God Blesses, Gordon MacDonald tells the story of an expert sailor named Michael Plant.  In 1992 he set out from the US east coast to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a sailboat with the best equipment available and the experience of having done this routine many times before.  About two weeks into the voyage, his boat was found floating upside down in the sea with no signs of the man.  MacDonald tells this story to point out that "we're all in the same boat" (pun intended), and that success in our life's journey is much like the metaphor of sailing. 
            Have you or someone you know experienced a hard-to-explain sailing accident or shipwreck?  By wreck or serious accident I mean burnout, psychological breakdown (depression, anxiety, etc.), addiction, moral failure, suicide, homicide, or other criminal actions.  Demands of life seem to create stressors in greater numbers and intensity than ever before in history.  Professional achievement, accumulation of wealth, and outwardly happy marriage and family life do not automatically translate into a successful voyage. 
Hard work ethic, good friends and family, latest technology, and even strong faith are sometimes not enough to navigate the storms and trials of life.  Storms happen.  Disruptions occur.  Only foolishness makes us think we are immune to bad things destroying our lives. 
            Plant's boat capsized mainly because a four ton weight had detached from its keel.  MacDonald mentions, "I discovered this much about sailboats as I read about Michael Plant’s tragedy. I learned that in order for a sailboat to maintain a steady course, and in order for it not to capsize but to harness the tremendous power of the wind, there must be more weight below the waterline than there is above it. Any violation of this principle of weight distribution means disaster."   Although not visible, the boat's keel beneath the waterline is the most important part of the boat.  Plant's sailboat was found upside down because of failure of its keel.  Our lives get turned upside down when we fail to maintain our keel (soul) beneath the waterline (unseen inner person). 
            A sailboat must be properly maintained to ensure it can withstand the stormy seas.  Over time joints crack, bolts rust, wind-driven structures shift, and the salty sea water requires replacement of parts and reconditioning of other parts.  The only way to do the necessary repairs is to dry dock  the boat.  Dry docking is removing the boat from the water so the parts beneath the waterline can be accessed.  Without dry docking, safety is compromised, and the boat is guaranteed to fail at some point, likely at a most inopportune moment in stormy seas.  
            Sailing to new horizons in our life requires occasional "dry docking."  Depending on your circumstances and type of work this may mean vacation, debriefing, extended time off, sabbatical, personal retreat, re-training, rehabilitation, or a major re-evaluation of your current path.  Sometimes life above the waterline gets too busy keeping the business, church, organization, service, or ordinary roles and expectations  moving along.  Good appearance may become a higher priority than genuine soul care.  Our inner being beneath the waterline so-to-speak, is overlooked.  When our reliances, rewards, and relationships are only at a surface level, we are in great danger of "cracks" developing in our soul.  
            Cracks expand into compromised life structures.  For example, an unhealthy habit may turn into an addiction.  A "difficult person" to deal with may trigger old forgotten wounds making it impossible to feel at peace.   Or, a stressful situation may turn into a traumatic event because it is the third major stressor in a short period of time.  Cracks in our soul will eventually break us, likely in the most inopportune time,  wrecking our lives, and often, many lives around us.  Dry docking our activities, specifically for the purpose of inspecting the condition of our soul, is a necessary part of life.  
            A Proverb says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23).  The core of human experience is the inner being.  Most of the actions people take spring from the hidden unconscious level.  Relatively speaking, very few decisions are made at the conscious level.  Humans are creatures of habit, always preferring the familiar over the unknown, even if the familiar is unwise, treacherous, or  dangerous.  Gaping cracks develop in our soul (and remain unseen beneath the waterline)  because we tolerate the small cracks which make us increasingly vulnerable.  Most people who have an affair, for example, don't set out to have sex with someone other than their spouse.  The "play around" with flirting and one emotional attachment upon another sails them on a voyage of no return.  Things like pornography, drugs, and work-a-holism happen the same way.  Sometimes the only way to "guard your heart" (as the proverb says) is to dry dock and discover excesses (or omissions) in your behaviors. 
            The invisible keel of your personal life (whether you call it your soul, heart, core-self, inner person, spiritual center, or whatever), guides the course and quality of your entire existence.  Are you giving your keel the attention it needs?  Are you feeding your soul a healthy diet?  Are you protecting your heart from as much harmful influence as you know how?   Are you dry docking long enough to ask these kinds of questions?  Are you being transparent with someone close to you for evaluation and assessment of your true condition? 
            You may be a great "sailor" (skillful leader or well-qualified manager), have a great sailing "crew" (staff and volunteers), and even have successfully navigated difficult "voyages" in the past (persevered through trying circumstances).  The fact remains, to keep your "vessel" (personal life) sea-worthy, you must make "dry dock" (rest and re-evaluation) a regular and intentional part of your "sailing" (life journey) experience.  Taking a respite from your primary work or service project is not a sign of poor leadership, weak resolve, or lacking in mental, emotional, and spiritual stability.  Making a choice to dry dock is your only hope to develop resilience needed for the long haul. 
            It's even okay to admit you need help repairing your keel.  There are people who specialize in repairing of cracks,  re-alignments. and recalibration of the soul.  Good counselors help people live psychologically healthy lives from a whole person perspective.   Emotional health is another topic I discuss in many articles on this blog site.
            Three years ago I wrote an article to lay out specific actions people helpers can take to practice self-care.  It is called Taking Care for Care-Givers at:  http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2014_03_01_archive.html .  Since that writing I have become aware of at least a half dozen significant leaders in our community who have wrecked their lives and many lives around them.  Their offenses include murderer and other actions that have taken them to prison.  Through my counseling I am indirectly connected to dozens more of similar cases.  Sometimes the most difficult thing to grieve in these losses is the surprise element.  Many are "good people" giving no indication of their deepest struggles.  Successfully sailing the seas of life takes much more than good works and strong will power.  Dry docking our sailboats must be taken more seriously.  If we are going to sail far enough to see new horizons, we must first look into the hidden parts of our being for new strength and vitality.  My next article will be a part 2 with more specific ways of dry dock. 
            One more comment to those who follow God as their source for inner strength and peaceful sailing.  God has done his part in providing a Savior for us to experience rebirth and spiritual renewal.  It is up to us to surrender our hearts to him for his inspection and periodic dry docking for spiritual health.  Spiritual leaders are particularly prone to the perils of sailing without adequate attention on the keel.  My prayer is that dry dock becomes more an accepted practice for the journey.  I make myself available as much as I can to assist.  Have a great voyage! 
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Birthday Robbery

             A Presidential election is upon us once again.  Political issues come and go, but some issues go far beyond the realm of politics, into existential realities of life itself.  
            One such issue is the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion.  The procedure is carried out on late-term unborn children who are in most cases able to survive outside the womb.  After the combined decision of a mother not wanting the child and a medical professional who executes the procedure, the baby is killed in the birth canal.  After labor is induced and the baby's head has already appeared in the world, an abortion practitioner uses an instrument to crush the skull.  Then the remaining body of the baby is removed from  its mothers body.   To add to the cruelty, groups like Planned Parenthood (PP) have been caught selling the slaughtered baby's body parts.  PP uses these funds for aborting more babies,  propaganda campaigns disguised as "sex education," and further degrading of women.  This kind of treatment of human beings is barbaric.  It is birthday robbery for thousands of children in the US each year. 
            The debate last week between the two top candidates for President addressed this topic.   Can you believe the activities described above are proudly endorsed by one of the candidates?   The democratic party candidate (with the initials HRC) claims to have a history of advocacy for children.  But her party platform states in writing, and HRC strongly verbalizes her support for partial-birth abortion and PP.  Advocating for children by wishing them dead  is a double standard.   Framing PP as a health-care provider and ignoring their activities of extortion and cover-up is fraud.  This is also called deception.
Franklin Graham has called HRC out on this by saying, "You can't say you've spent your life standing up for children, when you support killing them in the womb." 
            Robbing children of their birthday is only one type of thievery HRC actively participates in.  The corruption of her thirty year political history is too great to list here.  Like never before in the history of Presidential election campaigns, HRC has been in collusion with  national press to influence public opinion in her favor.  The mainstream media has one-sidedly promoted HRC in her defense of PP and partial-birth abortion (and many other issues).  That is a specific type of deception.  It is called propaganda. 
            This powerful lobby doesn't have the final say.  The voters have the final say.  Your vote is your voice on this matter.  If you are  a person who cares about justice for all, I hope your voice will be heard.  Please do not turn your back on the voiceless children, but make sure your vote is counted to support life whenever you have an opportunity to vote.   A Proverb says,
"Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?"
Proverbs 24:11-12
            To NOT vote is a vote.  Not voting is a vote for death.  If you are one of those people who says they don't like any of the candidates, then vote WITH the one who has the strongest stand for life (if you feel you cannot vote FOR them).  Voting AGAINST the greatest evil, is better than not voting at all.  Besides, the names on the ballot aren't as important as the party platforms they represent (see my previous blog May God Be Made Great in America, Again).   When a candidate (and platform) confuses a barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion with "reproductive health," that must be called evil.  The ancient Israeli prophet spoke these words, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness ...  Therefore ...  their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel."  (Isaiah 5:20,24).  Simply put, rejecting God's created design for human life and natural order, creates chaos and irreversible disorder.  
            If you care about America, there are some additional things you can do about this.  First, you can pray.  Humble yourself and seek the face of God Almighty and turn from whatever ways are displeasing to Him.  He responses with healing and forgiveness when hearts are surrendered to Him (see 2 Chronicles 7:14).   Another thing you can do is turn off your TV and refuse to subject your mind to the propaganda campaign.  Abstaining especially from what they call "news," will clear your mind to receive truth in better places (particularly the Bible).  Then, encourage your friends and family to resist the temptation for propaganda as well, and vote for candidates who truly have a record of supporting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  
            Oh yes, and one more thing.  That same candidate that equated infanticide with advocacy for children also called everyone who disagreed "deplorable" and "irredeemable."  So, am I deplorable if I choose to think about how to avoid doing evil for good and good for evil?  I think not.  I think you are not either.  As Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing."   If fighting evil is called deplorable, I'd rather be labeled as such than to do nothing.   
            Irredeemable?   If there would be such a thing as an "irredeemable person," who would decide how to define it?    No person should be declared irredeemable.  Even people who align themselves with a gruesome practice like partial-birth abortion are redeemable.  If one person is declared unworthy of redemption, then the entire human race is equally irredeemable because we are all made of the same stuff.   Thus, when HRC condemned people as irredeemable in her speech, she declared herself, and her own supporters as irredeemable. 
            Do the Democratic party leaders believe in a kind of government that needs to control people in order to  "purify" the population from people they deem as deplorable and irredeemable?  Yes, we heard it directly from the mouth of their candidate running for President and their platform is full of such language.  This is called fascism (belief in a purified superior race).  We need only to look back in history as far as Nazi Germany to see what kind of horrific robbery this imposes on peoples lives.  By the way, PP's founder Margaret Sanger had strong ties to the Nazi leaders and comes from the same philosophy. 
            Politicians may use words to spin people's thinking in a particular direction, but the final authority lies with a higher power.  There is always hope in the Redemption of God's amazing grace.  God's mercy and justice are perfect.  God's actions do not have to satisfy political correctness because they exemplify absolute correctness.  God's vote is the final vote. 
            The One who came into the world to redeem the world (see John 3:16-17) has the final say on this.  True redemption is spiritual.  It is a supernatural event and process.  The primary goal of evil is to steal our redemption.  Jesus himself said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).  The true nature of the battle against evil is in the spiritual realm.  Jesus came and won  that battle.  The spiritual world has a mirror image in the physical world.  Jesus uses imagery of a thief  seeking to rob a person of life in contrast to the fullness of life he offers as a free gift to all who believe in him.  The thief is the enemy of our soul.  The thief  tries to make people believe they are irredeemable.  The thief tries to rob people of re-birth into an eternal life with God. 
            "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him ..." (John 3:16) is not irredeemably condemned to hell, but will have eternal life.  Surrendering your heart to him washes away guilt and shame.  Even the shame caused by birthday robbery has been taken care of  by the death of Jesus on the cross.   Christ's death resurrection gives each person the chance to be redeemed.  My hope is that you will receive that redeeming power today.   You may disagree, but you are never irredeemable.  by Ed & Stephanie Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Thirst for Justice


            So as a good person, you want to live a godly, fulfilling and productive life in the midst of (or in spite of) a world of imperfection and injustice.  Sometimes it seems impossible, right?  If you’re like me, frustration and disappointment seem to be a greater part of my experiences than I would like them to be.  For example, how do we reconcile, or “live in harmony” with someone who wants nothing of it.  Or how do you work as a team when one or more of the so-called team members are  controlling or even a bit manipulative?    Or maybe your own limitations or failures are holding you back from accomplishing greater things.  Whether or not other people change, we can  experience the peace and rest of God that our heart longs for. 
            In order for you to be more tolerant with yourself and others, it is essential for you to understand a human being’s thirst for justice and the “will to judge.” 
            The English word “judge” can mean  many things across a spectrum of “good” judging and “bad” judging.  Good judging may include rightly perceiving,  discerning, and discriminating. “Bad” judging is unfair criticizing, pre-judging, misjudging, demeaning, and condemning.  Communication via language can be very difficult, but with this word "judge," it can be especially  difficult to determine  meaning.  For example, the word  discrimination.  Discrimination is a word of "good" judgment, hijacked in recent years to be widely associated with unfairness.  In other languages, the problem is the same (like the Greek of Bible translations).  Understanding our problems of "bad" judging requires much more than intellect and reason.  It must include searching the inner heart of our own being. 
            Desire for justice is an innate part of our being.  Unfortunately, since the moment sin entered the human race through Adam and Eve, our default mode of judging is “bad” judging.  When man chose to give up existing solely on the “tree of life,” he chose “the tree of the  knowledge of good and evil.”   Judging (in the sense of knowing good from evil) was not originally meant for human practice.  Only God is the ultimate Judge.  God's laws (ways of operating) are supreme.  Therefore, any judgment a person makes, (even a “good” judgment), is subject to re-interpretation by a higher power.  Only God can satisfy our ultimate desire for justice.  God is a God of perfect justice and perfect mercy.
            So, although God did not design and desire man to carry the burden of judgment, the problem is that man wills to be his own Judge.  Our human nature does not want to accept God as Judge.  However, God is Judge, Jury, and Executioner.  He makes judgments, is not subject to anyone else’s interpretation, and acts as He wills on His judgments.   Our rebellion against this authority is sin. 
            One more problem makes the human condition inescapable without Christ as Refuge.  Shame and judgment work together to condemn our personhood.  Shame tells us we are not worthy to be the sons and daughters God created us to be (which is a lie).  We confuse shame (who I am) with guilt (what I do) to condemningly judge ourselves unworthy.  
            This rebellion and shame is so rooted in our nature we accept it as a fact of life.  It shows up in the earliest days of childhood.  Babies have legitimate needs and cry when they are hungry or uncomfortable.  But they sometimes scream  in anger for no apparent reason.  Toddlers sometimes through tantrums simply to demand their way.  Children do not have to be taught how to disobey, steal, manipulate, and the like.  The broken world in which we live imposes hurtful experiences causing perceived wounds and reactions ("bad" roots) of bitterness, resentment, blaming, and justifying.  Reactions turn into learned patterns of behavior forming who we are on the inside.   It is important to recognize, what goes wrong in our life is not because of the bad things others have done to us, but because of our bitter reactions to them. 
            We also do not have ability to  recognize this poor condition.  Each person is blind (for the most part) to their own bitter reactions, wounding, and critically judging.  Our heart could be compared to a vegetable garden with good plants and weeds growing together.  The soil feeds the roots of both good plants and bad.  The good plants try to bring forth fruit in keeping with what they were designed to produce, unaware of the weeds stealing nourishment and limiting their ability to produce.  God as the Gardener of our heart is the only one who can solve the problem by providing a means for taking care of the weed problem. 
            No garden will ever be completely free of weeds.  Even after a good weed pulling session, seeds are in the soil that will eventually produce more weeds.  The seeds of sin are with us as long as we live. Its an unending problem and just part of natural laws.  So too our hearts produce weeds as part of our natural existence. The nicest, most good-hearted, loving person carries the same seed as the most inconsiderate, unloving, or abusive person.  Even unrecognized or unacknowledged bad behaviors (rooted in bad judging) will  grow into unmanageable weeds.  Only the Gardener can take care of the weeds. 
Jesus is the Gift God provided to make things right in our heart.  The miracle cannot be finished with one weed pulling session.  It takes a lifetime of pulling weeks.  This is called transformation and sanctification. 
            The greatest enemy in the garden of the heart is the will to critically judge.  Our deep desire for justice becomes an excuse for condemning ourselves and other people for who they are instead of merely for their actions.  We explain away many condemning judgments on a daily basis.  For example, when you think or verbalize the following with a person or persons closest to you in relationship.  "I told you a million times not to do ____ (whatever annoys you )______ , but you keep being a jerk about it."   Or, "You really don't love me when you __________."  Or, "I cannot love you if you keep doing __________ ."   Or, "Drivers on the highway are jerks when they __________ ."   We accuse and confuse the guilt of "wrong doing" with the shame of "wrong being."  In God's eyes (judgment)  there is no such thing as "wrong being."   God does not think of any person as a jerk.  So, if we believe in justice, we cannot think and act that way either. 
            Again, there is no one exempt from this condition of humanity.  No amount of will power can correct it.   Instead of the "tree of judging" God wants us to enjoy the "tree of life."   Eating fruit from the tree of life means that our thirst for justice is satisfied by the Judge of all judges, not by our own self-determination.  God judged sin and shame to be taken care of through the mercy provided by His own Son, Jesus Christ.
            Other articles on my blog site explain how to apply this to your life through forgiveness and surrendering our heart to God.   If this way of thinking is new to you, or if you had a reaction to something I've written above, go back and read it again.   I promise that if you learn to apply this truth to your life, you will see a huge improvement in your relationships with people.   I would love to hear from you  about how this has made a difference in your life (either before or after reading this). 
            Be blessed in the justice of God Almighty!
             
Note:   A book I authored Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses truth for dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom through forgiveness (from a Christian perspective).  See more about the book by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Champions Are Made Through Change


            The 2016 summer Olympic games ended last month with the top medallists taking gold as their  prize.  Great effort and sacrifice precedes a slot to compete.  Olympians and professional athletes do not just show up at an event and expect to do well.  Athletes understand the need for practice, in order to change an unconditioned body into a body fit for Olympic competition. 
            Mental and spiritual transformation requires similar conditioning and change to live a fruitful life.  Jesus told many stories that illustrate the need for conditioning our soul.  At conversion we are given a new personal spirit.  The need for change in our mind and heart continue through our whole life.  The more we welcome and pursue this change, the closer we arrive at championship living.  
            In the book of Matthew chapter 22, Jesus compared our life in the Kingdom of God to a person preparing himself for a banquet feast at a wedding. 
“ … and the wedding hall was filled with guests.  “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.  He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.  “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  “For many are invited, but few are chosen.””  (Matthew 22:10-14).  Wow, this seems like a harsh treatment for a seemingly minor offense of not dressing properly.  Although additional interpretations may apply, "dressing" in (changing into) proper clothes seems to indicate the necessity of proper heart attitude toward preparation and conditioning for our life's journey.  Remember, this is a parable (story) Jesus used to make a point.  I believe his primary point is that He is interested in having disciples committed to a process of change of heart and not just showing up for an exciting experience. 
            Pious people also asked of Jesus, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” [the undesirables of the day]  On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:16-17).  Doctors are called on the diagnose health problems of sick people.  Jesus uses this picture to show that he heals the "sickness" of undesirable behavior (and sin).  I believe we can also infer from this that unless we consider ourselves "sick" (unprepared and unconditioned) our hearts are not in a place to receive the completeness of the healing Jesus has for us.   The healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is admit our need for further change and conditioning to live a more abundant life.  This involves examining inner attitudes and motivations (avoiding the extreme of being overly introspective).
            All throughout the teachings of Jesus, he connects the physical (tangible) condition with the psychological and spiritual (less tangible) condition.  Later in the book of Mark, Jesus speaks of this sickness as a problem of the inner person.   "Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'"  ...  He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.'  For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean'"" (Mark 7:14-23).  The point of this list is not as much to try to identify specific behaviors where we may fall short, but to reveal that each person has an "unclean" heart that needs to be re-conditioned by a process to clean it up. 
            Most people think of  preparation, conditioning, and change in terms of behavior.  Examples might be bad eating habits changed to good nutritious eating, negative talk changed to positive speech, or an addiction/ bad habit totally wiped out.  However, behavior is merely an indicator of a belief system.  Bad behavior (fruit) comes from bad thoughts and beliefs (root).  If you really believe using illegal drugs are wrong and bad for your health, you won't use any,  If's that simple.  Changing behavior requires a change of beliefs.  Trying to justify smoking weed in certain situations, demonstrates double minded-ness, and threatens any positive steps you've made toward re-conditioning your thoughts ad beliefs.  For another example, if you use pornography, you really don't believe in the dignity of women (or men), nor the value of purity, fidelity, and loyalty.  A change of heart is needed to re-align behavior with a healthily growing value system.    (Note: I am generalizing here, and please understand that trauma and serious mental haalth conditions may create exceptions).  
            Behaviors reveal beliefs, and beliefs reveal who you are on the inside.  Who you are on the inside is the real you.  The only way to change and condition yourself, is to change your thoughts and core beliefs.  If you claim to be a disciple of Christ, you will "dress" for the banquet with him, let him treat/ heal your "sickness," and surrender your "unclean" core being to him for him to change.  This is the miracle of salvation.  This is the progressive work of salvation.   This is essential in receiving the full impact of what Jesus did for us through his death and resurrection from the dead.    
            Change and heart conditioning is what we are called to as Christians.  It won't work to show up in heaven one day unprepared.  When Jesus taught us to pray that Father's will would be done "on earth as it is in heaven,"  could it be that he had the conditioning of our hearts in mind?   Honestly ask yourself a few more questions to help you live a championship life.  Am I  "dressed" as a champion?  Am I "dressing" (readying myself for the banquet) so my inner being is prepared for greater things?  Where could my heart be more given to "cleaning" and surrendering to the progressive work of change and conditioning?  Do I have a habit or pattern of behavior that needs to go?  Might there be something destructive in my life that I have been excusing as a "part of my personality?"  What thoughts and beliefs may be keeping me from further surrender?  Do I need to ask God into my heart to show me the need for surrender?
            God  designed you to be a champion.  Let the change begin, and continue, until your gold medal is presented in heaven!  And, let the heavenly results begin now while you live out champion lifestyle here on earth!

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry 

             
Note:   A book I authored Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses truth for dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom through forgiveness (from a Christian perspective).  See more about the book by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_

Sunday, August 7, 2016

May God Be Made Great, in America, Again!

         For decades some history writers have been trying to minimize the religious heritage of the founders of the United States of America. The truth is, America's success (or failure) is directly connected to it's citizens' view of God, and their actions based on relationship with (or without) God.
         An individual doesn't have to be a God-follower to reap the benefit from freedoms guaranteed by the founders' intent in the Constitution. The privileges we enjoy as a "free society" are evident in all areas of life including family, commerce, church, education, entertainment, and government.
         The founders based their view of government on principles found in the Bible. When these principles are honored, things go well. When God is dishonored by not granting supremacy to his ways over human ingenuity, things fall apart. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 33:12). It doesn't take long to make a huge list of problems in America today. Each problem on our list can somehow be traced to a further distance from the original design (although not perfect) for our government. We are paying huge consequences for forsaking godly principles.
         The solution to America's problems is not in finding a "perfect" political leader. America could be made stronger by shrinking the size of bureaucracy, wiping out our national debt, and re-empowering our military to accurately identify and fight our enemies, Putting our hopes in one person to achieve even the most noblest of goals is futility. America can only become great again if the hearts of its people honor God's greatness. John Adams (2nd President of the USA) once said, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
         If you are a person of moral and/or religious conviction, it is imperative you participate in our system of government wherever possible. At the very least, make sure you vote in the upcoming election. There is absolutely no reason not to vote. "I don't like any of the candidates," "They're all corrupt," "Both parties are equally at fault for our problems," and other similar comments are all lame excuses. There maybe some elements of truth these statements, but our system is designed to work, one vote at a time. America needs your vote.
         You're not just voting for one person. Yes, the "office" of President is held by one person. But, our system of electing that person includes that person belonging to a larger organization of like-minded individuals called a party. The candidate who wins the office of President selects a "cabinet" of key persons who also hold offices of top leadership in the government. This cabinet also selects key persons to serve in leadership to carry out the mission of its respective function of government. Generally all these top positions of the government are filled by people from the same political party as the top office of President. A vote for a presidential candidate therefore, is a vote for what is called the party platform.
         The party platform is the formal statement of values and beliefs held by the members of the organization. The two main parties in the US (Democratic and Republican), have each adopted a platform at their respective conventions last month. These two platforms have never been more divergent in our history as a nation. Since all the top leaders of our government will come from one of these two parties, it becomes very important to understand the contents of each platform in order to make an intelligent vote in the election. A vote in the Presidential election coming in November, is more a vote for a set of values in the platform than it is about voting for one person whose name happens to represent their party on the ballot.
         The platforms are quite different on social issues, friendliness towards Israel, free enterprise, religious liberties, and morality. The people helping the President to select the next few Supreme Court justices will be representing one of these two platforms as well. The choice is very clear, although watching the “mainstream media” you would never obtain enough truth to make a good decision.
         So for at least three months, turn off the television. TV has become a propaganda tool promoting ideologies very destructive to Americans.  Even so-called "news" broadcasts,
often defy standards of common sense.  The aim of propaganda is to distract you from thinking for yourself. Don't fall for it. You can think. You can make good choices. And if you allow God (who designed your personhood) to influence your decisions, you can make “God” honoring (godly) choices. That's really how God can be made great in America, again!
         If you like living in America, whether you believe in God or not, your best hope for America to thrive is for God to be made great in America, again.

Note: A book I authored Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses truth for dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom through forgiveness (from a Christian perspective). See more about the book by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm .

 by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Boehms Chapel Healing


            Most of the earliest European settlers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, were Anabaptists fleeing religious persecution in their homelands.  In 1725 Martin Boehm was born into a Mennonite family several miles from our current residence.  Boehm became a pastor and bishop in the Mennonite church, and his heart for God to be glorified, and passion to see people encounter God in a deeper way, drove his desire to unite Christians beyond denominational boundaries.   His widely successful efforts got him in trouble with his own Mennonite bishop brethren, and he was excommunicated in 1800. 
            Martin and Eve Boehm's son Henry became a minister and a prominent leader in the early Methodist church.  The Boehm family dedicated some land from their farm and built Boehm's Chapel in 1791 on the current site of Boehm's UMC church in Willow Street, Pa.  On June 26, 2016 my wife and I attended the 225th anniversary celebration at the Boehm's Chapel.  The ceremony was attended by people representing many Church denominations.  The service included reminders of the importance of understanding heritage, comments from current UMC and Mennonite leaders, and honoring of those who have worked on the present-day restoration of the chapel. 
            At the end of the service in the chapel an invitation was given to gather around the grave site of Martin Boehm just outside the building.  For those with Anabaptist heritage, and I believe for all people living in Lancaster County and beyond, a most significant event took place.  Several Mennonite bishops and local pastors were present to comment and read a resolution adopted by the Mennonite Board of Bishops in February of this year.  The proceedings rescinded Martin Boehm's excommunication 216 years earlier, confessed to sins of slander etc. of a servant of God, repented and asked God's forgiveness, and requested and declared a spirit of reconciliation to bring restoration and healing in the Body of Christ.    
            Why is this significant?  Because forgiveness and reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel.   Christians are commissioned not just to study and talk about forgiving and reconciling, but to practice and grow in it as a way of life.  As Bishop Weaver recognized, "we took prideful comfort in the areas where Holy Spirit had traction among us, priding ourselves in our singing, giving, charity and clean living. But the Scriptures are quite clear that “what is not of faith, misses the mark.” The blessed apostle said in his first letter to the church in Corinth: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Therefore, we renounce our pride, which was the cardinal sin of the enemy, and embrace the humble way of Jesus Christ."  When we practice Christ's commission not only as individuals, but as a corporate Body, we build a foundation that no enemy can tear down, not even the devil himself!   
            Most significant of all is the impact of forgiveness and reconciliation on the spiritual climate of a region.  And the spiritual climate is the most important element in forging positive transformation in a community and culture.  I heartily thank all who helped make the event happen at the chapel.  I also thank other forerunners like Dr. Robert Doe who (over the past two decades) have brought together representatives  of past generations (both offenders and those offended) to facilitate healing of old wounds.  Dr. Doe reminds us of William Penn's vision in the Foreward of my book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart, "The Kingdom of God was to be reflected in the society of Pennsylvania. In Luke 9 and 10, this is revealed to be peace, healing, deliverance and new life. In addition to religious and political liberty, Philadelphia was also the site of the first institutions of healing in the New World. The first hospital, medical school, pharmacy school, mental hospital, nursing school, osteopathic institute and other medical centers were developed in southeast Pennsylvania as the first of their kind in the United States. Therefore, it could also be expected that healing ministry and practical new models of Christian medical care should be a fruit of the historical blessing of our region."  Lancaster County has been at the heart of William Penn’s vision to see Kingdom of God principles expressed in community life.  Healing of broken relationships between individuals and groups of people is essential for the transformation (healing) and fulfillment of a destiny of a community.    
            Many pictures can be used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in transformation;  ie. doors opening, gates unbarred, river waters flowing, holy fire falling, purity fire consuming.  Only God knows precisely which doors are opened and which gates are unbarred to advance God's purpose and Kingdom in our region through the Boehm's Chapel event.   May we continue to follow the leading of Holy Spirit and obey the call of God for our destiny both as individuals and as a corporate people of God.  May God release a fresh anointing of inspiration, initiation, innovation, and trend setting in holistic living and spiritual revival to spread across our land.  As in the days of ancient Israel, our attention to God can make a difference as recorded, " if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14). 
             
Note:   A book I authored Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses truth for dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom through forgiveness (from a Christian perspective).  See more info. by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, June 5, 2016

How to Rest from Stress


            What you don't know about stress, CAN hurt you, right? Absolutely.  But what if I tell you that a bigger problem may be what you ALREADY believe about stress. There are many myths about stress.  Here are four essential things to practice and understand about stress.

First:  Stress is meant to be our friend.
            Stress in its truest form, is a physical response to avoid harm.  Rapid breathing and increased heart rate, for example, help prepare the body to respond to a threat.  Stress protects by initiating a fight or flight response to danger.  Stress is what kicks in when you encounter a big bad wolf on the way to grandmother's house.  Stress is what causes you to react to a careless driver by stepping back up on a curb to avoid getting run over in the city. 
            Stress-free living does not exist.  We must re-think stress, not as a burden, but something to be mastered for our success.   Toxic stress occurs when our imagination is more active than is warranted by the reality of an event.  For example, fear of failure will rob us from stepping out in new areas if we allow our mind to dwell on all the possibilities of things going wrong rather than enjoying the creativity and innovation of the moment.
            Toxic stress kills many people, but living toxic-stress-free, CAN be possible.

Second:  Resolving unwanted stress must focus on the inner person instead of externals. 
            Unwanted stress is not caused by circumstances, but by our response to the events and  people associated.  I first encountered this truth through a book called The Stress Myth by Richard Ecker. The back cover of the book reads, "Problems add up and the pressures of life get you down. This complex, uncertain, fast-paced world inevitably takes its toll. Right? Wrong.  This myth about stress, according to Richard Ecker, is as incorrect as it is widespread. The battles of life do not have to make us casualties. Many experts mistakenly emphasize coping with stress. But prevention, says Ecker, is the key. It begins with an accurate view of God, ourselves and the world around us. Ecker also helps us understand how unwanted stress affects us at home and at work, giving sound counsel on how to have peace during trying times." 
             More recently I discovered an e-book by Ecker called The Emotional Survival Training Manual in which he describes more about the true meaning of stress, and why stress should not be looked upon as an unnecessary or even undesirable response.  Ecker says, ”We may not encounter big, bad wolves on our way to see grandma these days, but the highways we drive to get to grandma’s house offer equal risk of physical harm— careless drivers, poor visibility, mechanical failures— all of which create conditions which we will be better able to deal with when we are under stress. But, if stress is such a necessary human reaction, how can anyone have any hope of avoiding all of those unpleasant and health- threatening consequences that we have come to associate with the experience of stress? The fact is, none of those unpleasant consequences have to occur at all— even when stress levels in the body are very high. The unpleasantness of stress occurs only when the body has no need for it and no physical outlet for it. Stress becomes a problem  only when you require your body to produce more stress than it needs to satisfy its immediate physical demands. For example, if you did encounter a big, bad wolf on the way to grandma’s house, you would probably experience a substantial stress response. It would be needed to equip your body to deal with the situation— that is, to prepare you for fight or flight. Both of these options require immediate and intense physical effort. A high level of stress is always required to prepare your body for that kind of effort. But, let’s say that your situation is much less life— threatening; perhaps a bitter disappointment in your work, to which you have reacted with anger and frustration. If your reaction in this situation produces as large a stress response as the one produced in reaction to the wolf, most of that stress will be unnecessary to equip your body to deal with it— simply because your body does not need physical preparation to deal with non-physical demands. So, if your circumstances do not call for a physical response, then stress is always an inappropriate reaction. And, any stress that your body is required to produce above and beyond the amount needed to prepare it for an appropriate physical response will be what we can call “excess stress.” Excess stress is what people find unpleasant. Excess stress is what can be harmful to their health."

Third:  All unwanted stress is related to a self-image problem at the core.
            Toxic stress (unwanted, or excess stress as Ecker calls it)( is produced by the same mechanism in our bodies as good stress produces to combat a threat to physical security. The perceptions that cause our bodies to produce excess stress arise from threats to our emotional security— more specifically, threats to our image of self.
            Our personality and emotional makeup is shaped by our background (the sum total of all experiences up to the present moment in time).  Ecker says, "Fueled by prior experiences, our personalities help us interpret life events so that we can undertake an appropriate response. If our personalities are abundant with resources, few of these interpretations will credit events with having any influence on our identity, and we will not then view them as emotionally threatening. But, if our personalities are abundant with conditions, many of the life events we experience will be interpreted as having a negative influence on our concept of self— and will be considered emotionally threatening for that reason."  The conditions Ecker speaks of are created by our core beliefs and value systems.   When we perceive the reality of a situation to be different from what we value, our self-worth inevitably comes into question.  Sometimes it takes a great amount of effort to discover our faulty belief systems, and separate our identity and worthfulness as a person from our performance on a task, social skill, or failure to measure up to some standard or so-called normal.   But, the more comfortable we can become with who we are asa person, and even more, who God created us to be as a person, the greater the degree of resolution  t unwanted stress we will experience.

Fourth:   Ridding your life of unwanted stress begins with a choice.
            Morton C. Orman, MD has authored a book called The 14 Day Stress Cure.  In  an article I found online, he addresses 5 most common myths about stress.  Orman says, "The most damaging belief we have today is that the best way to deal with our stress is to manage it. While stress management experts are quick to point out the positive benefits of exercise, meditation, and relaxation techniques, few will inform you of the negative side to these same coping strategies.  ... But the biggest drawback to managing stress is that it only deals with the symptoms of our problems. It rarely helps us to clarify or deal with the underlying causes of our difficulties. This means that managing stress--even when we do it well--CAN CAUSE MANY OF OUR PROBLEMS TO PERSIST OR EVEN GET WORSE! Since we never correct the root causes of our problems, they will continue to occur, over and over again."   
            I'm certainly not advocating that you  abandon all coping strategies you have discovered to de-clutter, de-stress, and simplify your life.  Techniques to improve time management, communication skills to enhance relationships, and other self-help strategies can add value to your life.  But, human doing can never be enough to satisfy human being.   You are a human being, and you must decide to focus on inner person change as the core solution to lifting the heavy burden of unpleasant stress.  The person you were created to be is awaiting the freedom inspired by self-acceptance, self-confidence, and a value-filled self-concept. 
            God offers us the unconditional love our hearts so desperately crave.  Total acceptance, validation, and affirmation of  our value as human beings is available to us by choosing to receive it from Him.  Wheher we yield to God's help or not, the only way to avoid excess stress is to examine our hearts to find the roots of bitterness that grow into destruction.  Where I live, we are once again at the beginning of the growing season.   We plants the seeds and hope the produce healthy plants for an abundant harvest.  But, inevitably, the weeds seem to greow faster than the good plants.  Weeds must be pulled, but they keep growing back.  They must be pulled again and again, so the good plants stay healthy.  Like the growing of a fruitful vegetable garden, the weeds of our inner person must be pulled on a regular basis. 
            So, when you feel physical or emotional pain, stop and take a brief inventory of your problem circumstances.  Be honest with yourself  to discover the loss, disappointment, failed expectations (imposed on self or by others), critical judgments, or false beliefs causing the pressure.  Read some of my other articles on how to change from the inside out.  It's often the closest people in your life who you feel the most toxic feelings towards.  Discern what you can do to change yourself, stop blaming circumstances or other people for the unpleasant stress you feel, and begin the  journey to stress-free living. 

Note1:   Please note that "chronic stress" is not what I am talking about in the article.  If you have experienced a traumatic event, or are living in very difficult circumstances for a long period of time, you should seek the help of a counselor to figure out what "normal" might look like. 

Note2:   A book I authored Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses truth for dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom through forgiveness (from a Christian perspective).  See more info. by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry