Monday, March 26, 2012

Putting Faith or Trust in Someone or Something

We must start at the beginning of our own individual human development itself, to really understand what having faith in or believing in someone or something else is about. Human beings have a bent toward, a proclivity for wanting and being able to place their trust in something, in anything, by virtue of our humanity.
This need to trust grows out of our tribal or communal nature. We find and create our own personal and individual identity as we connect ourselves to and with another person or with whole groups of people. As human beings, it is our very essence to live in multiple levels of social interaction, from intimate partnership with one other person to existing within many overlapping networks of relationship, all of which give us our total identity.
In fact, we are such social beings that we feel incomplete without relational interaction. Even hermits are interacting with the people they have left behind, pushing themselves into isolation as a result of  their negative emotional bonds to the people they have chosen to break ties with, leaving physically yet never forgetting the hurts or hatred between themselves and those others. The pet or plant lover who has reduced or eliminated their relationship with other humans out of mistrust, epitomized by the proverbial “cat lady,” is compelled to relate to their animals by personifying them into their own safe family unit!
This shows us that trusting and believing in something is actually a very deep desire on our part. It is a hunger that has to be fulfilled or people feel abandoned and isolated, even destitute. We are driven to find someone or something to put our trust in by our very nature as human beings.

Partial or total loss of this deeply ingrained trust or faith in people or something else, because of ongoing failures of other people and institutions to adequately live up to our trust, brings us to extremely difficult questions, which may haunt both the hermit and the “cat lady.”
If we learn not to trust anyone or anything at all in the process of being wounded by many others around us, do we then become so isolated that we only trust ourselves?
If this is where we end up, how long and in what ways will we be able to survive until we come to realize that trusting and believing only in ourselves may also be misplaced as well.
What then?
Coming to look squarely and clearly at these questions seem to be the defining prerequisite for finding true and full faith in Jesus Christ. The prospect of going through this very difficult reality sounds terrible and so many will never choose to even consider it. Each of us has multiple junctures in our lives where trust has been lost, but most of us would rather continue to find things around us to believe in anyway, whether people, systems, family, institutions, friends, even ourselves, instead of accepting the fact that trusting too completely in anything of human origin will eventually never really satisfy our deepest needs or hunger.

We don’t let go of these beliefs easily, but when we finally do let go of those things that have let us down, we usually go right away into a mode of choosing to shift our trust to some other earthly thing. It takes a long time for some of us to stop shopping around for the next thing we can lock into, right here in our own human environment, instead of looking upward and believing in a Resource that is greater than this world.

This process seems to start out early on for most of us, at those initial stages in the unfolding course of our lives. For some of us, we move forward by trial and error as we grow up in and grope our way through childhood, within unstable families, shifting structures, and unclear norms. Others of us find ourselves forced into and then constantly reinforced to keep carefully within the prescribed pathways created for us by strict families or communities.

Somehow we do begin discerning over time, more or less clearly, what we are able to do on our own.  We make these the very ways we become naturally inclined to think of, feel like, and do regularly, day in and day out. Over years of time, these become the template of  natural or normal ways for us, as the product of our ever changing and growing life experience, our intelligence, our willpower, our ability to influence others, our social standing, our capacity to communicate effectively, and our self-strength, among other aspects of life.

As we then go on wandering into the challenges and the vast territories of life beyond our own abilities, skills, talents, and capacities to achieve, we begin to realize that we must learn to depend upon and trust in something or someone greater than ourselves. These other resources we have relied upon may have been our families or friends or business connections, political allies, our gang, our team members, neighbors, or various benefactors or organizations, even our governments.

Ultimately we find that we can only trust any of these entities so far or so much. All human relationships and institutions have limitations or regulations that are either ineffective or becoming more and more burdensome for us to remain in, neither with integrity nor without desperation.

We can choose to stay within these natural boundaries, remaining locked into what seemed to be reciprocal relationships, which are actually not helpful at all or that ask for more from us than they are willing or able to give back. To do this, we may fall into deeper and deeper levels of denial, or move toward anesthetizing ourselves with pleasures or addictions.

Regardless of how we deal with our lack of sustained resourcing, it is inevitable that we will also be forced to reckon with or to run away from the inevitable onrushing awareness that we are actually more limited than we had earlier understood.  We end up hitting our heads against the brick walls or glass ceilings of our own inabilities and deficits, as well as the shortcomings of the people we are connected to and the various systems we are imbedded within.

The accumulation of these eventual dead ends leads us either to continuous denial or constant despair or into conscious discovery!

In other words, we begin to choose to get off the misery-go-round of trusting the untrustworthy! 
Although we are given the opportunity at any of our life junctures to choose to stop putting our full faith or trust into anything or anyone in this earthly realm, it is especially at these low points of stark clarity that we begin to look heavenward for an answer that is greater than all humanity can provide.
If we choose to look up to see where our ultimate help really comes from, we will spiritually come face-to-face with our Savior, Lord, and King, Jesus, the One Who is fully human and understands each of us more intimately than any one else, and yet Who is fully divine and so is able to experience all of time and eternity with each us, as though we alone are His greatest and only concern.

Jesus is the One Who has always, does always, and will always love us, Who lived the perfect life we can never live, always doing exactly the right thing and always loving everyone He encountered, whether telling the truth they didn’t want to hear or healing them in ways they couldn’t imagine, living life for us as the perfect Lamb of God, Who faced every temptation common to us all, yet Who never knew sin!
Jesus also chose to die an excruciating death that perfectly satisfies any penalties for falling short of every righteous obligation, not for Himself at all, since He had fulfilled all righteousness, but for any of us who believe in His finished work and receive it fully. Jesus’ death on the cross mercifully covers all of our sins and brings amazingly gracious healing to us from the all the sorrows caused within each of us, by anyone who has harmed us and sinned against us.

Jesus rose from His grave to offer His eternal life for us, and He is now coming to each one of us as His lost sheep stuck out in the middle of the nowhere of our own making, or as a result of being wounded by other people or situations.

Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, and cares for us more deeply than any human being ever has or ever can or ever will. He wants His very best for us, unimaginably better than any other possible life we could ever know or choose.

Jesus has the power to begin moving us into this new life by giving us a new birth, if we choose to have Him enter into our hearts by believing that what He says about Himself is Truth, and what His true disciples have been saying about Him for 2000 years is real, and that all of His love is really for each of us, even those of us who have hit many brick walls and fallen into many deep pits, knowing we cannot trust anyone or anything.

As we begin to grasp these amazing truths about Jesus and Who He really is and what He has done, is doing, and will do for each of us, we are opening our hearts and minds to truly living by faith, not only to rise up and go forward in this life through all the difficulties and minefields yet to come, but this faith life is also the gateway into eternity, with each of us growing in love and being loved greatly by Jesus, beyond our wildest dreams and expectations.

Believing in Jesus opens our minds and hearts to greater dreams and expectations which will outlast the bounds of this world and its false hopes, its lies, and its destruction.

Living in daily connection with Jesus fills our entire beings with His light each time we look His way, and His mercy covers all the times we don’t, won’t, or can’t, as He continuously draws us back again and again, each time becoming released in greater measure from more of the ties and binds that have held us down and kept us back, in order to live out the fulfillment of our eternal destiny for the rest of our time on this earth and into forever.

Loving and being loved by Jesus is the beginning and the endpoint of living by faith!

~Neil Uniacke, MC
Executive Director

Monday, March 19, 2012

Our Struggle for Perfection

How often do we ask our spouse or children to help with a chore around the house and then when it isn't done...or not when we want it to be...or not the way we would have done it, we do it ourselves? Is God that way with us? Many times we put so much effort into little things that we forget about the BIG things. We can do this in our spiritual walk as well. God's timing is not always our timing and so we become discouraged and take charge of our own problem rather than wait for God to show us His solution.

We live in such a way that everything must be "just so" or we won't be able to accept it and possibly even lose sleep over it. We watch reality shows on hoarding and how to clean up our clutter or infomercials on how to store more in less space. When we compartmentalize in our lives are we also compartmentalizing with God? Are there doors that we don't want our friends or family members to look behind? Do we have doors that we don't want to open up for God to look behind?

The next time someone doesn't do things "our way" perhaps we need to stop and do a self check. Will the task be completed? Will the outcome be the same as if we had done it, perhaps just not as well as we would have done it? If the end result is the same, do the steps to get there have to be a cookie cutter image of our own? God made each of us unique and we all do things differently.

Ask yourself what type of fruit you are bearing if you never allow your children to learn life skills. God wants us to "please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God". Colossians 1:10b NASB

So lighten up and allow God's love and patience to flow through you as you teach  your children life skills without giving yourself the ulcers of perfectionism.

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. I Peter 2:20 NASB

Elaine Campbell, M.A.
New Hope Counselor

Monday, March 12, 2012

Make Every Day Count

In the past two months, I have experienced the loss of several individuals. These people ranged in age from young adulthood to late adulthood. The circumstances were varied as well (i.e. somewhat expected vs. sudden and tragic). As we know, death is a part of life. But as a believer, we have a blessed hope. We "do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

We are soon approaching the season when we celebrate Jesus' resurrection. We can find comfort in God's Word and what he reveals to us there about death:

It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

The passage goes on to remind us that "He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs. 57).

As I've experienced these recent losses, I am reminded of one more thing. We must be careful not to take one another for granted. We must show our love to others while they are here to see, hear, and touch it. I discovered a poem entitled "Tomorrow is Not Promised" by Jonathan F. Choyce III that reminds us to:

Make every day count.
Appreciate every moment
and take from it everything that you possibly can,
for you may never be able to experience it again...

Ann L. Gantt, Ph.D., LCSW
New Hope Counselor

Monday, March 5, 2012


I've been thinking about a very important component of communication called listening. When we think of communication, we most often think of words and rightly so, but words are only a small part of communication. A large part of communication is non-verbal, that is, unspoken. Body language, tone of voice, even silence, are powerful communicators. Have you ever thought that listening is an important part of communication? Yes, listening is very important. After all, if I'm going to communicate with you, I need you to listen. Listening is a very key way to say: "You're important to me. What you're sharing with me is important to me. It is so important to me that I'm going to focus on what you're saying."

Listening involves several key components. First of all, one's body language should indicate you're interested in listening. Slouching in your chair, looking out the window, reading the newspaper, working on the computer or playing video games, texting on one's cellphone, or appearing tired and disinterested all say to the speaker: "I'm not interested," or, "I'm too busy," or, "Can we get this over with?" Attentive body language involves leaning forward in one's chair, good eye contatct with the speaker, and not allowing anything to distract you from giving full attention, etc.

Another important component of listening is what we might call "reflective listening." This involves repeating back to the speaker what you are hearing. This is not necessarily an exact word for word repeating of what's been said, but a good summarizing. One might say: "What I hear you saying is you are feeling really tired tonight and would like to stay home rather than follow our original plans" or "It sounds like you're really feeling upbeat over the good review you got at work today." Or it can be to attempt to evaluate what the speaker might be feeling: "Sounds like the news of your mother's emergency surgery really has you upset and confused about what you should be doing this evening."

Reflective listening can be very effective, not only for the speaker to be validated, but also for the listener, because it slows down the process of communication, i.e., it can help avoid escalation in conversation. Often times in conversations, the listener is only "half-listening," while thinking about what he/she might say in response, or in self-defense. If we can discipline ourselves to listen fully to what our partner, child, spouse, is saying, before we respond, this helps slow down and de-escalate emotions. I believe you will be surprised at how much learning to be a good listener will improve the quality of your relationships!

Tom Horst, MA
Marriage and Family Therapist