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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Finding Yourself

Is “finding yourself”a humanistic idea? At one time in my life I was so overly concerned about slipping into humanism, that I think I lost my humanity, and the ability to recognize humanity in others. How can this happen? A little later, I'll address a fear that touches us all.
Humanism can be thought of as putting mankind at the center of the universe, or from an individual perspective, self-centered thinking. Humanism says that, God or anything outside of the human himself, is not needed to become a better human. I believe the opposite is true. Acknowledging a need for God is the first and most important way to become a better human. The original Designer and Creator of mankind knows best how his creation "ticks." In order for a builder to build a house, he must first have a detailed drawing (schematic) to work from. If a problem is encountered in the construction, or if repairs are needed after living in the house for some time, the original schematic is helpful to diagnose the problem. So it is with the human body, mind, soul, and spirit. We are complex beings that need a lot of help when it comes to growth and development. To be aware of our humanness does not automatically make us a humanist, but is in fact necessary to find true meaning in life.
I think much of the fear of becoming too humanistic is in reality, a fear of exposing something in your humanity that you won't know what to do with. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, "'Know thyself?' If I knew myself, I'd run away." It is normal to feel a bit apprehensive about exploring unknown areas of your personality or allowing yourself to experience God in a way you haven't before. But facing this kind of fear is necessary for personal and spiritual growth. In order to change for the good (better yourself), you must allow yourself to engage new thoughts and ideas.
Jesus introduced a new idea when he summarized the ten commandments into two by declaring,
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” First of all, awareness and surrender of heart, soul, and mind to God is most fundamental for discovering true humanity. Then, when you place God at the center of your being, you can accept who he made you to be so that you can “love your neighbor as yourself.” That is how you find yourself. The is the divine design for humans to express their humanity. We fulfill the commandments not by focusing on them, but by focusing on God (receiving His love) and focusing on sharing His love inside you with others (giving His love away).
Techniques of self-help, personal growth, and mindfulness are all secondary to the power of God driving positive change in a person's life. To be in touch with true humanity requires humility. Humility is most important of virtues. True humility presumes God-centered thinking and actions. When our deepest passions and motivations are submitted to God in humility, our actions will always produce good results. When God's love is completed in mankind, commandments aren't even needed!
Finding yourself, or finding your identity (who you are) and destiny (purpose for being) as a human, is what gives you meaning in life. And this meaning is found by relating to the God who designed a unique "blue print" for every human being created on earth, you and I included. The Psalmist explained, " For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13-16).
So when someone says something like, "You'll find yourself by looking within," they are correct, as long as we acknowledge God as the supreme authority. If we're looking within to find the person God made us to be, we are on the right path. If we're looking within, without the presupposition that God is the source and revealer of all truth, whatever we find will be deficient of God's intentions for our being. He gives us the choice. By choosing Him, we can find out who we really are. By rejecting him, we forfeit the discovery of our true self.
This is not a one time decision. It is a process of allowing our humanity (fleshly being) become more and more influenced by our spirit being. This happens by the God's Spirit breathing a rebirthing within our being. Jesus described it like this to a religious man, "truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. ... unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:3-8). As our relationship with God grows on our life journey, more and more of our identity and purpose is birthed into being. It matters not who we are, how well we think we know God, or how much (or little) we know about God, We are all in the same condition. We must surrender to God (on a daily basis) those parts of our heart not yet surrendered to be reborn by his Spirit.
Finding God is the key to finding yourself. Then,
loving what you find,
is the key to,
living well in mind.
It is certainly God's desire that you seek, find, and choose Him. My prayer too, is that wherever you are in your journey, the light of His love overwhelms any darkness trying to keep more of you from being found.

Note: The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness. This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith) to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: .

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Overcoming Depression

 Depression can be thought of in two major categories—circumstantial and chemical malfunction.  Chronic depression caused by brain sickness is less common in the overall spectrum of depression experiences and will not be addressed here.  However, depressed mood is something every person faces at one time or another and can strike at any time.

Depression usually stems from unresolved disappointment.  Disappointments and losses occur in varying frequencies and intensities creating many different reactions and symptoms of body, mind, and heart.  If your depression is disrupting daily functions in your life, you should seek help from a trusted friend or counselor to avoid becoming a harm to yourself or someone else.  However, especially if depression is a fairly new occurrence in your life, be aware that depressed mood is very common (normal) and accompanies an often necessary process of grieving losses in life experiences. For example, if a close friend or relative of yours recently died, the physical loss is accompanied by emotional losses of the relationship.  The loss creates the need to acknowledge the impact of the event, deal with the realities, and adjust to find new hope and ways of having legitimate needs met.  This grieving process may include intense depressing thoughts and feelings before you can find a way to accept the changes and move on to a more rewarding life.
            Other losses such as health problems, job and career changes, relationship breakups, physical injuries, family turmoil, and faith shake-ups create similar normal depressive thoughts and feelings. Instead of denying or numbing the emotional impact, the healthiest path to adjustment includes dealing with the pain and difficulties.  The emotion of anger, for example, is often part of depression.   In my recent article called Anger Management or Anger Engagement I share more detail how to battle the anger. .
 Besides depressed mood, the clinical definition of depression includes examining other symptoms such as excessive body weight gain or loss, sleeping more or less, psychomotor changes, fatigue, difficulty concentrating or thoughts of death.  Mental health experts agree on some common coping strategies such as increase physical activity, avoid isolating yourself from other people, engage in activities that once liked to do, watch a funny movie, and avoid punishing yourself for feeling bad.  Seeing a medical doctor to rule out physical problems is recommended.  These and all the coping mechanisms in the world will not be enough if one core issue is not dealt with. That issue is self concept.  A person’s perception of self-worth governs everything about a person’s behavior.  Our inner person health centers around our perceived worthfulness in view of God and other people around us.  Many of my blog articles show how this is true and the one I mention above on the topic of anger is especially relevant to depression. 
            As for me, I have discovered God’s love as the solution to my self worth dilemmas and a place of refuge to escape depression.  As part of my formal education in psychology, I discovered I fit the definition of clinical depression, but never had been diagnosed.  To this day I’ve never taken medication to treat depression (neither legal nor illegal substances).  My background includes severe injury during the birth process that caused me to live my life as a legally blind person.  I’ve overcome many challenges, but depression is something that lurks to steal the joy of the sweetest successes.  I sometimes identify with the Psalmist who asks, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2)   
            Many peoples’ stories recorded in the Bible include symptoms of depression.  The Psalms in particular describe vivid bouts of depression and its close cousin, anxiety.  I read, sing, and interact with the Psalms each day to find Refuge from the storms of thoughts of defeat and disaster.  See for an example.
            If you are dealing with depression may I encourage you to turn to God as the best source for hope for lasting change. Also seek help from a counselor who can point you in a Refuge direction.  If someone close to you is struggling with depression, consider how you may become more empathetic to this struggle so you can offer appropriate (non-condemning) help.  If you’re not affected by depression at the present time, praise God, and let God remove any emotional “baggage” so you are better prepared to weather well any storms of life that may be ahead.  Prevention is always the healthiest strategy (see ). 
            May I encourage you to allow hope to rise within you.  Hope is a guaranteed way to overcome depression.  Personal growth expert Jim Rohn says, “Success is not something you pursue; it’s something you attract.  You attract success by becoming a more attractive person.”  I think this applies to hope as well.  You attract hope by becoming a more hopeful person.  Hope is more than wishful thinking.  There are always new things to learn, new skills to develop, new people to get to know, and new perspectives to discover about God and his love.  When expectations see failure, hope sees the substance for the future.  Hope can never disappoint.  Hope resolves uncertainties and puts depression in its place.

                Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: .

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Anger Management or Anger Engagement

            Can anger be your friend?  It depends.  Anger is what I call a "surface" emotion.  Anger is only a messenger of a deeper inner message.  So, yes, if you are willing to be vulnerable enough to find out what that message is and respond appropriately, anger can actually be your friend.  If however, you allow your anger to turn to bitterness, resentment, rage, or revenge, anger can become the most destructive enemy imaginable. 
            People feel anger in different ways, with varying intensities, and for different reasons.  Feelings like disappointment, frustration, annoyance, irritation, aggravation, and infuriation are a normal part of the human experience.  But when these valid feelings of anger are rooted in things like self pity, critical judgment, or selfish ambition, invalid transgressions follow.   When, as a student for example, you receive a C grade on a test you thought you aced, being upset is valid, but it's your actions in response that identify your motivations.  If you respond by complaining about the test conditions, blaming the teacher, or justifying your incorrect answers to the questions on the test, the experience is likely to become a defeat.  If on the other hand, you receive the lower-than-expected grade as a motivator to improve your study habits or to seek help to understand the material better, the same experience can become an opportunity for growth and development. 
            Being aware of your behavior and making changes for the better (anger management) is a good thing.  But even better is making yourself vulnerable enough to explore origins of the anger feelings and engage resolution with a higher power outside yourself.  The deepest inner person growth occurs when you not only manage your responses, but you discover and root out the negative core thoughts and beliefs driving the feelings and actions.  When you believe your inner voice telling you that "You're not capable," "You're no good," "You'll never amount to anything," "You're not lovable," "You'll never belong," "You'll never get it right," etc., you will most assuredly act to fulfill those beliefs.  No matter how hard you try to change your behavior, if you do not change negative core beliefs you render yourself powerless to achieve the most lasting change for healthy growth. 
            Every human wants to know love and belonging.  What we believe about ourselves (self-concept) is shaped primarily by our experiences meeting needs of love and belonging. Our deepest hurts have to do with lack or fear of lack of sustainable love and acceptance.  To the degree we perceive this scarcity we become angry with ourselves or our world until we can regain enough perceived worth to go on.  Hence, when you grant yourself the vulnerability to feel beyond the surface of anger, the emotion of shame is the most revealing. 
            A topic big enough for another conversation is the role of shame in our belief system.  Shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown defines shame this way, "Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging" (see her book Daring Greatly).  Shame is an emotion packed with pain and a powerful motivator.  All negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves are connected somehow to lack of self-worth which presents itself as shame.  Shame is different from guilt.  Guilt is based on what I do, whereas shame is based on who I am.  Confusing the two has the effect of meshing our performance with who we are as a person.  A perosn's  worth is not based on his performance, but solely on the fact that he is human.  
            When sorting out anger responses, it is essential to make this distinction.  Are you mad at a person's actions (whether yourself or another), or have you fused his actions with who he is as a person?  Are you perceiving him as transgressor or jerk (guilt-based or shame-based judgment)?  A person can behave differently to correct guilt, but performance cannot correct shame.  Love corrects shame.  Humans are wired for love and belonging so that love and belonging corrects shame.  Shame expressions in things like self-pity, critical judgment, or selfish ambition mentioned above are often very hard to detect.  We are good at hiding shame.  Expressing anger is Ca very common way of masking shame.
            When you catch yourself being critically judgmental of a person (instead of just his actions) here is another scary thought.  This shaming of the person is the result of your very own shame being tapped into.  You cannot shame another without first shaming yourself.  To condemn another is to condemn yourself.   If you are serious about being a more courageous, compassionate, and connecting person, I highly recommend reading the book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are  by Brene Brown. 
            Our world seems to present more opportunities for disappointment and anger-producing feeling every day.  One of three choices will determine your future.   One, denying anger only sets you up for bigger problems later.  Two, managing anger provides some temporary coping mechanisms.  Three, engaging the underlying emotion through vulnerability will banish or dissolve anger's destructive flames. 
            For followers of Christ anger is not  automatically conquered when you first welcome God into your life.  The ultimate act of vulnerability is to receive God’s son Jesus, not only as the One who frees from the guilt of transgression, but also bears our shame (Isaiah 53:3).   Growing in your relationship with God involves growing in your vulnerability and surrender to God's ways.
            It's okay to feel.  It's okay to feel uncomfortable feelings.  It may seem scary to let yourself intentionally feel your anger in order to find deeper feelings of lack and unworthiness, invalidation, powerlessness, incompetence, unlovableness, loneliness, fear of not belonging, self-rejection, and other shame-based thoughts and feelings.  May I encourage you to be vulnerable today.  Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness.   It takes courage to meet the weakness of anger with the strength of vulnerability.  No one else can do this for you.  Put anger in its place, each time it tries to invade your space.

                Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: .

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Same-Sex Distraction

            The U.S. President visited Kenya last week with a message of homosexual rights as part of his agenda.  They warned him before his arrival not to bring up the subject,, but he did not respect their wishes.  Kenyans have it right to believe homosexuality distracts from personal health and healthy social relationships. 
            The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision attempting to redefine marriage is folly gone over the edge.   I believe this kind of a decision is more a rejection of God than it is about so-called same-sex attracted couples.  When a person loses his attraction to his Creator, he inevitably becomes more attracted to lust than to love.  True love does not seek self-fulfillment, but the fulfillment and best outcome for another.  Since God IS love, and Love defines marriage, there is no place for lust in marriage. 
            Attraction is based more on desire than on love.  Therefore, attraction is very vulnerable to lust (illegitimate desire) which is the opposite of love.  Physical attraction is not a bad thing, but when it is confused with love, it becomes highly distractive to true love (both heterosexual and homosexual).  God created mankind with desires.  He also created man with the ability to choose between God's way of fulfilling those desires and man's own ways of fulfilling the desires.  So-called same-sex attraction is a choice--a choice to lust not to love.  Opposite sex attraction consummated in sex outside of marriage is a choice--a choice to lust not to love. 
            Not only did God create marriage for the expression of true love, but the gift of expressing true sexuality which results in pro-creating the race.  Confusing gender roles distracts from God's purpose for human sexuality.  Two men together or  two women together cannot create a baby.   So, while lust detracts and distracts from love, same-gender sexuality detracts and distracts from true sexuality. 
            I understand some reading this will consider some of my statements as insensitive and perhaps unloving.  My intent is to be direct, but very sensitive and very loving.  Sometimes the truth is hard to accept for whatever reason.  God's love transcends man's willingness and ability to receive it.  But when man's perception of love becomes more like God's perception, a change of heart can transform thinking and behaving patterns to become more genuinely sensitive and loving.  I am writing this because I care for the many who get caught in the trap of thinking same-sex attraction is merely a biological issue leaving them powerless to choose otherwise.  Frankly, that is a lie! 
            As a certified counselor, and as a person who can attest to the possibilities of behavioral pattern changes, I can confidently assure you that change is possible when you remain open minded, and especially with the help of God directing the process.  A very tiny minority of same-sex attracted persons may have a medical problem at its source, but for the vast majority, an underlying self-image problem is at the root.   Again, same-sex issues present a distraction from reckoning with the root causes of a person's low self-concept.  If that idea is new to you, you can read some of my other blog posts to see how inner person health begins with inner self evaluation and change.
            I would encourage you not to be distracted from the real issue.  Don't be distracted from God's love.  Evangelist Billy Graham warns in his preaching and writings  that our eternal soul is at stake.  Heaven and hell are real places.  Not only is thumbing your nose at God unhealthy, but it is irreversibly deadly and eternally tormenting.  God is our Refuge.  There is safety in God's love.  Only foolishness would allow something like sexual lust to win your heart over  (away from God's love).  The only safe sex is chaste sex.   Whether homosexual OR heterosexual, sexual relations outside the covenant of God-defined marriage are defiant actions against His design for mankind.  True meaning and purpose in life is found by surrendering your heart to God's love. 
            If you feel like a mess-up, no problem.  It's never too late to turn around.  Simply believe in Jesus and trust His way, not your own.  Allow yourself to be vulnerable to the God who loves unconditionally and without fail.  This kind of love is powerful enough to feel like heaven on earth, and worth far more than all the distractions this world can offer. 

                Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: . 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Taming Ethnic Tensions

            Seems like just about every conflict between people is being spun by the popular media in America as "racist."  To read more about abuses of the media to propagandize so-called "race" relations, read the book called Mugged: Racist Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama by Ann Coulter.  One of the fallouts of this propaganda is the emboldening of some individuals who truly harbor hatred in their hearts based on skin color and ethnic background.  The gunman at the A.M.E. church in Charleston, SC two weeks ago seems to be one of these persons.  His actions left nine people dead and grieving families and community members for a lifetime.  Relatively few people allow their hatred to be expressed to this extreme, but it is however, very common for most people to critically prejudge and misjudge people of differing culture and ethnic background. 
            Or is it that only people of ethnic groups other than your own have problems with prejudice?  Is it okay to talk about cultural differences as long as your own cultural beliefs are not challenged as undesirable?  Most people believe they are more open to cultural and ethnic differences than they really are.  The reason is that core beliefs are so rooted in our psyche that we cannot even imagine life different from what is already familiar to us.   An example of two views of the world finding it difficult to communicate would be like an Amish person who never left the family farm in Lancaster, PA understanding the world of a New York City dweller depending on modern technology and street-wise mobility. 
            Many obstacles exist to overcoming cultural and ethnic differences and tensions.  If we somehow overcome the first obstacle of identifying and owning a view of the world that is different from our own, we immediately butt against a second obstacle.  That is, comparing in order to make value judgments.  We elevate our human judgments to supreme authority rather than yielding to the supremacy of God Almighty.  
            From a Christian world view, the God as known in the Bible is the ultimate Judge and supreme authority.  He is all-powerful, yet all-personal, creating each individual human being to bear his image and unique expression of personhood.  Each person is responsible to find and fulfill the innate meaning he or she uniquely contributes to the universe.  God places individuals in families, and families in communities, and communities in a global interdependence. 
            God is the giver of life.  All human life is created equal thus there is only one human race.    Life's deepest meaning is found in honoring God, and other human beings.  Because the first sin of Adam and Eve broke their perfect relationship with God, every person is born since then with a skewed perception of God, himself, and other people.  Like orphaned children the identity and protection of Father's love has been removed.  The default nature of each person born into the human race is sinful and motivated by shame and guilt.  Mankind is helpless and this condition can only be corrected by God himself.  God our Father restores us to son or daughter status only through His very own Son Jesus Christ.  By believing in Jesus we are born again into a new life with our guilt forgiven  and shame washed away. 
            This new life does not mean perfection or a pain-free life.  If means we have begun a process of becoming a son or daughter of a perfect God of justice and mercy.  This process involves change of both our mind and heart.  Our fundamental makeup as a human being does not change, but we must surrender to Father our perceptions of God, ourselves and other people to be changed.  God is our most valuable resource to be able to better see the value in cultures and ethnicity different from our own.  We need God's help (through his Holy Spirit) to recover our God-given identity and purpose for being.
            God also created in each individual a need to relate to other individuals for completion of their identity and purpose.  This need to relate extends to families, communities, and entire race of human beings.  No man, family, or community (culture or ethnicity) is an "island."   The Bible speaks of followers of Jesus as a Body.  Even more so than other people groups, Christ's Body should model diversity of ethnicity working together as one body for the betterment of all parts. 
            So how does a person see past their own cultural blinders and wrestle with their value system to know how to change?  A person's well-intentioned beliefs and values  do not automatically produce  actions that line up with those values.  This is where many people get stuck.  They know and want to do what is right, but for a variety of reasons (too numerous to discuss here), fail to follow through.  Treating others with dignity and equality requires a motivation of love.  Peter in the Bible writes, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).  But as noted above, we must contend with our default negative human responses.  Love does not come natural, but takes a lot of effort to practice.  A primary enemy of love is critical judgment.  whether a person is a Christian or not, critically judging and condemning others (done by individuals or groups is the single most destructive force behind cultural and ethnic conflict).
            Critical judgment surfaces through one of three main forms--complaining, blaming, and justifying.  Examples of complaining are complaining of other people seemingly enjoying a better lifestyle than you, easier access to opportunity, or a privileged status of perceived superiority.   Blaming might include labeling another group as trouble makers, not taking responsibility for your own part in causing strained relations, or repeatedly pointing out others' faults without admitting your own.  Justifying may include holding bitterness and resentment instead of forgiving, requiring someone else to change before you consider changing your own behavior, or making excuses for your own prideful or vengeful actions toward others.  Instead of allowing ourselves to complain, blame, or justify, we should take steps to get the facts, assess what can or cannot be done about a problem, and do our best to stay focused on positive change.
            Ethnic tensions are tamed when individuals are willing to look at the roots of their critical judgments.  A most important question becomes, "What core values, beliefs, and assumptions are unconsciously driving your  thoughts, feelings, and behavior?"  If the default direction is toward the negative (as discussed  above), it takes a heart transformation to reverse the patterns.  The root of all ethnic conflict can be traced to the condition of the hearts of the individual people in the groups.  All mankind has the same heart tendencies irregardless of skin color, cultural background, physical distinctives/ limitations, or ethnic preferences.
            OR, since the heart condition is the core issue, another way of  looking at ethnic tensions, is that it's not about the ethnicity at all. It's just about people differences. Ethnicity becomes just one of those differences to complain about, blame someone for, or justify away a fundamental poor heart condition.  Yes, ethnicity (parent's background) is the strongest influencer of who we are in terms of personality, socio-economic status, and outlook on the future.  That's why it's become popular in the media to propagandize so-called racial tensions.  They are messing with peoples' emotions, because they understand the heart tendency to complain, blame, and justify.   Hopefully after reading this you won't be fooled by them any more!  
            Especially during the last 15 years of my life, I have made a special effort to develop some significant relationships with people other than my own skin color and ethnic background.  My experiences with these people have been very enlightening and rewarding. I've discovered as much, and perhaps more, about myself and my own biases as I have discovered those of other people.  Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, "The only way to have a friend is to be one."  May I leave you with a challenge not to merely tolerate people different than you are, but befriend them! 

                Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Pain to Refuge

This article shares a few things in verse format, then share some Bible verses to focus on  Refuge as pain bearer.

When I feel lost, He's the One to be found.
When I feel unsure, He becomes my security and certainty.
When I feel unsafe, He assures me as Refuge.

When turbulence requires an ambulance, He transports me to Refuge.
When offense requires forgiveness, Refuge supplies all I need.
When hate requires an answer of love, Refuge love never fails.
When hopelessness requires a purpose to go on, Refuge hope satisfies the heart.
When doubt makes faith seem impossible, Refuge faith springs from a bottomless fountain. 

Who else could do what only God can do?
Why would I even try a counterfeit Refuge?
   ... complaining to drown disappointment
   ... booze, drugs, or food to drown sorrow
   ... non-marital sex to drown loneliness
   ... thrill of risk to drown fear
   ... blame to drown guilt
   ... self-rejection to drown shame
   ... victimization to drown victim-hood
   ... all-of-the-above and more to drown bitterness, resentment, and rebellion

Pain in the heart shows itself in many forms;  disappointments, sorrows, loneliness, fear, guilt, shame, and victim status.  Running to Refuge for healing is much better than complaining, overindulging, fornicating, risky behavior, blaming, hating self, and victimizing others.  Seeking Refuge finds happiness instead of complaining, joy instead of sorrow, fulfillment instead of loneliness, faith instead of fear, right-standing instead of guilt, self-acceptance instead of shame, and victor instead of victim.

The Bible has much to say about this:

"There is a way that appears to be right,
    but in the end it leads to death."  (Proverbs 16:25)

"Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
  Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken." (Psalm 62:1-2)

"The Lord will rescue his servants;
    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned." (Psalm 34:22)

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
 Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame." (Psalm 34:4-5)

"God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble. ...
The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress." (Psalm 46:1,11)

"Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1)

"But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself."  (Proverbs 6:32)

"Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me." (Psalm 31:2)

"How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings." (Psalm 36:7)

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalm 91:1-2,4)

About Jesus, Isaiah prophesied:
"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering," (Isaiah 53:4)
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair."  (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Jesus himself said:
 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Peter, a follower of Jesus, and writer in the New Testament, quotes Proverbs 3:34, which says,
“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”  (1 Peter 5:5)
and then Peter makes this statement,
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."  (1 Peter 5:6-7)

I am so grateful that it is never too late to surrender.  God always responds with love to a humble heart. God is my shelter, bomb shelter, safe house, igloo, bubble, balloon, sanctuary, asylum, haven, indestructible dwelling, solid rock, fortress, oasis, .....  or what word describes "refuge" for you?  Are you willing to surrender, and run to Jesus Christ as Refuge?  Right now is never too soon.  

                Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at  http://bluerockb
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Trash Turned to Treasure

            This is part three of a three part trilogy on the kind of "trash"  known as inner conflict or unresolved heart issues.   Part One (Taking Out the Trash) discussed some of the ways inner pain can  create unhealthy patterns of thinking and tolerating destructive behaviors.  In Part Two (Trash Leads to Crash) I show how these patterns develop into  diseases that destroy our quality of life, and if not dealt with, can lead to disastrous cancer and death.  This  article shows how to overcome and live in freedom as a Christian. 
            We looked at the example of the ancient King David in the Bible.  This godly man became a victim of trash thoughts and actions to the point of also victimizing others around him.  Psalm 51 records some of his response when he finally came to his senses so-to-speak.  Here is what David remembered about God, "Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom" (Psalm 51:6).  His heart of repentance allowed for redemption, even though some consequences had a high cost.  Instead of only feeling sorry for himself (remorse), he demonstrated sorrow for the grief he had caused his victims and God himself (repentance).  His offenses were great, but he recognized and trusted in the greater grace of God to execute mercy and justice to deal with the trash.  The way this occurred in David's life warrants a closer look than this article can provide.
            It seems somewhat ironic that the same inner person David allowed to become twisted toward evil, is the same inner person who became vulnerable to correction and straight living.  To experience the glad center of our being (peace, joy, satisfaction), we must learn to manage the risks and vulnerability of the sad center of our being (shame, guilt, and dissatisfaction).   Correcting "heart issues" cannot be done by denying they exist, minimizing their magnitude, or placing the blame somewhere else.  Shutting down your heart to the potential for "sad," will also shut down any possibilities of "glad."  Another way to see this is to recognize that life brings both sad and glad experiences.  There is no either/ or option, but both/ and is guaranteed. 
            Therefore, moving forward in our journey of life, whether a past experience becomes trash or treasure, is (in large measure), governed by how we decide to respond to it. We become what we focus on.  What we think, is who we become.  Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted to say, "The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."  This is true, at least in part, because each person, individually, is the ONLY person who can take complete charge of his thoughts to forge positive change. 
            The vulnerability of our human condition requires us to make an important distinction between guilt and shame.  Brene Brown, researcher at University of Texas, writes and speaks extensively on the topic of shame.  She points out that guilt involves feelings about what people DO, while shame involves feelings about who people ARE.  Guilt convicts a person of their conduct, while shame condemns the person.  When we confuse guilt and shame, we are unable to maintain our self-worth in the face of admitting guilt for wrong actions.  If we think shamefully of ourselves as a worthless, irreparable, unredeemable person, as noted above, we will surely set ourselves up to become that kind of person.  If we think  unashamedly of ourselves as a worthy person capable of repairable and redeemable actions, we can position ourselves for success.   Since our natural human tendency is to think negatively (shamefully) of ourselves, it requires effort to transform our thinking patterns away from shame-based responses.  Brene Brown also points out the error of equating vulnerability with weakness.  Making your heart vulnerable to things outside your comfort zone, is a sign of maturity, not weakness.  When you can acknowledge and face your personal susceptibility to shame-based thinking, you become a stronger person.  I recommend Dr. Brown's books on the topic of shame to gain more insight as to how this works. 
            The heart of mankind can be the source of mischievous desires and bad judgment, but at the same time, it is also the source of genuine satisfaction and fulfillment.  King David's example showed us how to overcome shame (feelings of worthlessness) to find the strength to face his guilt (sinful behavior).  Although anxiety and rest come from the same inner center of being, David fought through his fear and anxiety, so that the treasure of rest and peace of mind could be attained.              Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).  A Christian perspective of treasure begins with a desire to honor God with our thoughts and actions. The more obstacles (trash) we can remove from our hearts the more healed and Christ-like we can become, and thus the more fulfilled and purposeful we can live.
            A book that greatly helped me early in my personal healing journey is called The Life Model: Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You by James Friesen, PhD,  The authors write the following about how the heart, soul, and mind work together,
            "When the Word of the Lord tells us to love God with our ”heart, soul, and mind” (Matthew 22:37), that includes our whole self. The heart is your eyes for seeing spiritual reality (Ecclesiastes 11:9); literally, the heart is the ”eyes and ears that know God.” The heart is where understanding resides, and is the origin of spiritual discernment. It is particularly influential in shaping a person’s sense of spiritual identity. ”Living from the heart Jesus gave you” is a term that brings identity together with the spiritual reality of who we are. It is a term that says God designed each of us to be a particular kind of person, with characteristics uniquely our own. When we are living from the heart Jesus gave us, we are being the persons He specifically designed. Living this way integrates the soul, where the feelings are, and the mind, where the thinking takes place.
            In talking about our hearts, we need to be careful to note that the heart is not the emotions. Living from our hearts is not simply doing what our feelings tell us. That would be folly. Living from our hearts means that there is an inner directive that, if governed by the Spirit of God, keeps us on a path that is spiritually attuned to who we are and how God is leading. When our hearts are focused on God, we see who we are and know what we are to be doing. The Word of God reminds us that we all had desperately sick hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), and we all need God to heal them. The heart from Jesus is a reborn heart, a heart where He resides. There are many references to a transformed heart throughout scripture. One passage is in the book of Ephesians, where the apostle Paul prays for the new believers in the Ephesian church. ”I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17). God wants to live in our hearts. When He is there we experience the freedom and power to be the persons He created us to be" (Friesen, 1999).  
            Tolerating trash in our lives creates a divided heart, invites pests as guests, and allows our enemy to steal the abundance of life that Jesus came to give us (see John 10:10).  However, our hearts can be transformed into treasure, like the process of refining gold into a treasure of treasures.   Living with an undivided center of identity and integrity is the essence of wholeness.  Wholeness of heart is a treasure worth sacrificing for.  It can produce advantages such as preparing for future unannounced storms of life, simplifying and avoiding further complications in relationship, and living an overall healthier and higher quality of existence.  Why would we settle for anything less?
            The purest gold of all is the relationship we can enjoy with Father God.  Our tendency to be defeated by the shame and guilt in our heart is caused by our sin nature.  Jesus is our Savior from this vulnerable condition.   When we accept this treasure in our heart, we are once again restored to living in the presence of Almighy God.  We can experience God as Father, and enjoy all the benefits of sonship (or daughtership) with him. 
            And remember what made the greatest impact on King David's heart to push it in a different direction?  When he realized the One he offended the most by his sinful actions was God Himself.  Relationship with God was his ultimate treasure that he lost.  We too offend God when we offend (mistreat, sin against) other people.  It offends God when we critically judge, prejudge, or misjudge a fellow human being (when they fail to meet our expectations or needs).  These offenses (committed by ourselves or others) have been forgiven by Jesus as our Refuge. We need only to turn offenses over to him for his forgiveness (see John 20:21-23).  The Psalms (many written by David) express this Refuge theme again and again.  That's one reason I make the Psalms part of my daily reading, and I encourage you to do the same.
            I am reminded of a Neil Young 1970's hit song called Heart of Gold. which says, "I want to live, I want to give,  I've been a miner for a heart of gold.  ....   Keep me searchin' for a heart of gold ..."  What if we each sing that song about ourselves?  I think our world could be a much better place if each of us could turn the search inward before searching outward.  Can we really know what we're searching for, if we haven't found it first within?  A final question, "Am I willing to make my heart a "heart of gold," so that "miners" (other people) can discover the gold?"   Go for the gold!  And make the most of the refining process. 

            Disclaimer:  I realize there may be a small percentage of people who read this who have tried as hard  as they can to choose the better way, but feel, for whatever reason, they are unable to do it.  Please do not feel condemned for trying and failing.  Seek help from a trusted friend or counselor, and remember that human flesh may be weak, but God is strong.  God only asks of us what he knows we can handle.  

                Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Trash Leads to Crash

            This is part two of a three part trilogy on "trash talk."  Part one discussed some of the ways to allow pain to expose unhealthy patterns of thinking and tolerating garbage in our mental and emotional life.  In this article I show how these patterns create diseases that destroy our quality of life and the next article will show how to protect and overcome the destruction. 
            We looked at the example of King David in the Old Testament.  The Bible describes how this godly man allowed trash thoughts and actions to wreck his life and the lives of those around him.  His unchecked desires led to inappropriate entertainment, which led to womanizing, which led to adultery, which led to murder and a cover-up, which all shortened his kingship and damaged his legacy.  This raises a question, "How could David, chosen by God himself to be king,  experience such a hard crash?"   How could a person identified as "a man after God's heart" (1 Samuel 13:14),  become vulnerable to such evil actions?    Merely asking this question hopefully sobers us to some degree into considering our own vulnerability. 
            The Bible offers some valuable insight into the susceptibility of the heart of mankind. Jesus himself taught extensively about inner person health, and shared  many stories to reveal his listeners' true heart condition.  In the first book of the New Testament, the gospel of Matthew 5:21-22 says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell."  Jesus is making a very strong connection between holding anger towards a person and the wicked act of killing.  The feelings of anger are not sinful, but allowing anger to turn into bitterness, hatred, and resentment leads to cancer and evil.  The word 'Raca' in this text is similar to the word 'jerk.'  When we turn our attention from judging a person's actions, to critically judging his/her intentions or motives, we are considering them a jerk, and thus unworthy of their Creator's personhood. 
            For example, let's say your boss turns you down for a job promotion.   You may disagree with him/her about your past performance, potential duties, or other specific details of projects.  Your assessment (judgment) may be that the boss isn't understanding, fair, or best for the organization.  Instead of engaging the conflict to work through the differences, you decide to hold your opinions to yourself.  When your "judging" crosses the line to thinking of your boss as a "jerk," you begin to kill the relationship.  Your dislike of actions turns to embittered heart toward the person.  It may happen at once or on a slippery slope.  Perhaps your disappointment causes you to have a keener ear for other people's disagreements with the boss, and you participate in bad-mouthing and rumors (slander and gossip).  Your performance may slip because your attitude towards your work stinks.  Your boss is forced to confront you for a performance issue, and you react with complaining more about him/her, blaming someone else's faults, or justifying your own bad behavior.  Now your bitterness and hatred is turning to full blown rage and it's harder to control your emotions.  You "snap" at other people in your life (co-workers, roommate, spouse, kids) and maybe for comfort you turn to an old bad habit (addiction) you kicked a while ago.  If you're still blaming your boss for all this trouble in your life, your rage and resentment could turn to retaliation, and before you realize it, you're thinking about harming your boss (or someone else).  If these "trash" thoughts and feelings are not interrupted, they could develop into an act of revenge.  That's how trash leads to crash.
            Again, feelings of anger are not automatically a bad thing. Anger (as with many emotions) is a messenger.  Anger is trying to tell you something about a deeper problem of unresolved stress, unmet legitimate needs, or residual shame and guilt. 
Anger is often a "trash detector" emotion.  Failing to pay attention to the message and original source of the anger can entrap the heart and mind in a prison of harmful thoughts and emotions. 
            The last week of February 2015, brought a very sad and cold reality to Lancaster County. Similar scenarios to the above played out in real life in our community.  In two separate incidents, a community leader committed murder.  One is a former pastor of a congregation who looked to him for shepherding.  The other was an assistant principal in a high school with youth looking up to him for guidance.  It is difficult to comprehend how something this horrible can happen.  The families are let to deal with the trauma of the events, but the community is also traumatized. 
            We must remember that these events are "abnormal."  We must guard against these particular leaders' failures from casting an overall critical judgment upon all authority figures.  "Who can we trust?" is a very valid question, for example, but assuming that all leaders are untrustworthy because of the actions of a few, will not serve our community well.  Failure to trust good, solid, trustworthy leaders opens the door even wider for predator-type "leaders" to make their move.  Trustworthy leaders are worthy of the trust of their followers, and the vast majority of community leaders have paid a price to be in the position they occupy--positions earned by trust. 
            Though these tragedies are a very small part of the "big picture," it is worth looking at how they occur to try to keep them from happening.  I mention them to show that just as in the time of King David in the Old Testament, leaders today are also at great risk for moral and personal failures.  When leaders crash, the fallout can be devastating to a community.  Understanding the magnitude of the problem can help the grieving process back to normalcy.   Leaders are judged by their outward performance, but on the inside, their inner person is made of the same stuff as all mankind. 
            We try to conceal pain.  We don't try to be a bad person.  But concealing pain (not dealing with the trash) will lead people to do bad things.  So, in order to intentionally be a good person, we must intentionally deal with conflict and pain.  There is much wisdom in the Proverbs and other parts of the Bible about finding answers on how to do this.   In chapter 5 of the gospel of Matthew quoted above, Jesus taught how to avoid murder by acknowledging anger and turning away from calling people jerks.  In the verses following, Jesus shows adultery (going to bed with a person not your spouse) occurs in your heart (with no physical act involved).  He says, "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’   But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28).  Looking is not automatically lust, but allowing sexual desire to take your thoughts and feelings to a place only meant for your marriage partner is adultery.  "Moral failures," or "affairs" (euphemisms for adultery) do not occur only with the physical act of sex, but with the first expression of the wayward heart (ie. flirting, emotionally connecting, meeting alone, fixation).  Similar to justifying anger, entertaining lust is like trash that will lead to crash.
            The scenarios above may play out in many variations.  Instead of a boss, it could be any authority figure including a family member or church leader.  In the Church, the incorrect notion that, "Christians are not supposed to feel anger" can hinder the trash collection process.  Over spiritualizing or blaming too much on the devil can also be a common way to evade taking responsibility for inner person health. 
            In sum, the health of our heart determines the health of our entire being. Keeping the heart as free from trash (encumbrances, unresolved stress, and cancerous thought and feelings) as possible will assure the highest quality of life.  May I encourage you each day to take a few moments and briefly examine your heart condition before God.

                Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry