Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I've been doing some thinking about communication. Someone may say, "I don't like to communicate." Ebenezer Scrooge was heard to say in A Christmas Carol: "I wish to be left alone." Maybe you feel that way too. The fact is, however, one cannot not communicate. We are communicating all the time: by words, by body language, by silence (ever hear of the "silent treatment"?), and we also communicate by touch.

As I counsel couples, individuals and families, I hear a lot about communication: "We don't communicate," or "We never learned to communicate about our feelings," or "I shut down rather than talk about my thoughts, dreams, fears." A lot of our communication patterns are learned in our family of origin. Maybe the only way your parents communicated with each other was by yelling, or perhaps when there was anger expressed, it was followed by hours, maybe even days, of silence. Or maybe the only time your father or mother talked to you directly was to criticize, rather than affirm you, so you never learned to give compliments or affirmations to your spouse and children. These patterns are picked up in childhood years and carried into our adult lives.

Here's a few principles of healthy communication:
  • Healthy communication is the freedom to express your wants and needs without demanding.
  • Healthy communication focuses on understanding others before attempting to "fix" them.
  • Healthy communication is not reactive but responsive.
  • Healthy communication involves developing reflective listening skills.
  • Healthy communication in the midst of conflict involves talking it out rather than "taking it out" through verbal or physical violence or passive aggressive behavior.
  • Healthy communication seeks to initiate talking when hurt instead of emotional distancing.
Finally, a verse from the Bible about commuication: "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will become more and more in every way like Jesus Christ..." (Ephesians 4:15)

Tom Horst, Marriage and Family Therapist

Friday, July 15, 2011


Recently, a client and I were talking about how God redeems the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). She had struggled in deep depression for several years. Sadness and pain consumed her life. She was the mother of four children and found herself incapable of caring for them. She was dependent on her extended family to do the most basic chores. She felt ashamed that she couldn't function normally. Doctors prescribed drug after drug. Nothing seemed to work and she lived in a medicated stupor for too long.

Those sad years were formative for her family. Her children struggled through adolescence without the nurturing hand of their mother to guide them. She watched with no ability to help as they tried to navigate value and life decisions. With no energy and a foggy mind, she wallowed in shame and discouragement. Now, even though she lives from a hope-filled place, my client still struggles with guilt that she wasn't capable of mothering her boys. She feels a heavy burden that she is responsible for the past depression and the resulting struggles of her sons. Their relationships have been strained.

Yet, there is hope. My client's husband was a rock for her as they all suffered through her illness. Last winter, as she began to experience hope, she and her husband had what she described as a "healing conversation." As she poured out her shame and sorrow for not being there for him and the children, she exclaimed, "I'm so sorry." To which he quickly and matter-of-factly replied, "You're forgiven." No questions. No hesitation. He had no problem forgiving his wife. His love had been strong throughout her illness and that love is strong as she heals.

A beautiful benefit of this experience of forgiveness was that my client saw displayed in a human relationship what God has done for her spiritually. "I have no problems now believing God's forgiveness," she explained. And after years of feeling ashamed and guilt-filled, that is something to celebrate.

Shannon Shertzer, MS, NCC

Monday, July 11, 2011


Have you ever asked yourself where your hope resides? Do we fall into the many pitfalls of putting our hope into another human being, an object, or do we put our hope and trust in God? During a difficult time in our lives where do we find hope? During a recent devotion, I was reminded that through our tribulations we become determined to persevere, to build our character, and ultimately to find hope.

Romans 5:1-5 speaks of hope and the steps to get to hope: "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (NASB)

So many times we simply forget who is carrying us through our trials and tribulations and cry out to God wondering where He is. Once we have gotten through the trial and are able to reflect, we see that God didn't forget us or leave us but had simply carried us through; for without Him we have no hope for our future.

So where is your hope?

Elaine Campbell, MA

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Plant Your Garden

In this season when many of us are involved in gardening, I am sharing this poem. It is a reminder about our spiritual gardening as well.

Plant Your Garden Today ~ Author Unknown

First, plant three rows of peas.

Next, plant three rows of squash.
Squash gossip.
Squash indifference.
Squash criticism.

Then, four rows of lettuce.
Let us obey the Lord.
Let us be loyal.
Let us be true to our obligations.
Let us be unselfish.

Finish with four rows of turnips.
Turn up when needed.
Turn up with a smile.
Turn up with a vision.
Turn up with determination.

~Ann Gantt, Ph.D. MSW, LCSW (counselor)