The Ladies' Companion magazine offers you fresh perspective on the things that really matter.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Women at Risk

(from the Spring 2017 Issue of TLC)

For the last 17 years, I have been blessed to work with young women, and one of the most important things I've learned during that time is that every young woman can teach me something.  I've also found that first impressions aren't always reliable and that behavior (good or bad) doesn't exist in a vacuum.  There are always reasons for the way we act and interact.  We all have a story, and some of those stories are painful, some are shocking, and some are hard to hear.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.  Did you read that closely?  That means that in a Sunday School class of twenty girls, it is likely that at least five of them have been sexually abused.  And before you say, "Surely that can't be true among our church children!", let me tell you that according to some research, the faith community may be even more vulnerable to abuse.  Another reason this rings true?  I've talked to the victims.  I have cried with them, prayed with them, and supported them through years of therapy.  I have held them as they wept, sat beside them as they huddled in the corner, listened to them cry out in rage and pain, spent hours with them in psych wards, walked with them through horror.  Trust me.  It happens.  The problem is real, and it's right under our noses, sitting in our church pews, visiting in our homes.  All around us are women who are carrying the heavy, crippling load of abuse, and often they carry it in silence.

So what do we do?  Can we make a difference?  Oh, yes!  A thousand times yes!  One of the most powerful avenues of healing that God uses to mend the broken is the community of believers, the body of Christ.  We are chosen to be His hands and feet, His listening ear, His loving heart.  And as such, He can and will empower us to be agents of His grace to those in need.  If you wish to be part of His healing work, below are a few practical tips (by no means an exhaustive list):

·         Cultivate the art of being a "safe" person.  What does it mean to be safe?  Keep confidences (unless there is a threat to safety).  Be trustworthy.  Actively listen without judgment.  Practice these skills with everyone!  If you become known as this kind of person, the opportunities to share love and a listening ear will appear at your doorstep.  Trust me.
·         Understand that trauma is very real and has deep, life-shattering effects.  The individual's ability to handle and process trauma will be affected by things like the length and duration of the abuse, who the abuser was (was it someone who should have been "safe" like a parent or close relative?), the response of those who found out about it (was the victim believed and were steps taken to stop the abuse?), whether or not professional help was received or available, and many other factors.  Their behavior may be confusing at times and maybe even inappropriate.  You will reap what others have sown into their life.  I've heard heartbreaking stories of girls who were told that "boys will be boys" and of children who reported the abuse but nothing was done.  Remember that trauma goes deep, and healing is slow. 
·         Allow them to be open and honest - even when it gets messy.  Some things will be very hard to hear, and some may even be hard to believe.  Many trauma victims may engage in self-harm behaviors (like cutting) to help them deal with the pain.  Don't panic or overreact!  Understand that they are using it to cope.  Help them to find healthier ways to do so.  (Professional help may be necessary.)  Also understand that sexual abuse may open areas of sexual temptation and struggle for victims.  Don't further stigmatize or guilt them.  Lovingly guide them toward purity but do so with understanding and grace.  Listen with an open heart and mind.  Don't shut them down or dismiss them.  Listen.  Listen with love.  Listen to understand...not just to answer.
·         It's OK not to have easy answers.  In fact, knee jerk, spiritual platitudes, clich├ęs and/or reasons "why" are usually very unhelpful and can be extremely damaging. They cut off communication.  You won't have all the answers.  Make peace with that!  Knowing this brings freedom and a deeper dependence on the Holy Spirit.
·         Love them.  Love them unconditionally - even when it's hard.  And it may be.  Love doesn't mean allowing them to take advantage of you.  Set reasonable boundaries and hold to them, but keep loving.  Victims of abuse need to see consistent, unconditional love.  They need people who will believe in them, encourage them, pray for and with them, and hold them accountable.  Love is powerful!  Practice it!
·         Be ready to engage professional help when necessary.  Sometimes we in the church shy away from professional counseling.  However, we are quick to rush our children to the hospital if they have a broken limb or a cancerous growth.  Why not trust professionals in the area of mental health as well? Do your homework before recommending a counselor, but there are many licensed Christian counselors who are trained to walk abuse survivors through the healing process.

In conclusion, I hope we can see both the need that exists and the fact that we can do something!  However, in order to make a difference, we first must have a vital relationship with Jesus.  Without His Spirit, we will not have the discernment and wisdom necessary to do eternal work!  But when we cooperate with Him, we will have a beautiful opportunity to offer His grace to those in need.  May I issue a challenge?  You can’t afford to sit on the sidelines in a world of hurting people.  Give them a voice, an ear, a heart.  Give them yourself.  Give them Jesus.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Winter issue of The Ladies' Companion
will be going to print soon.

Be looking for it!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Take Time to Be Holy

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.
Psalm 62:5

I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
Job 23:12b

We’ve all been there. It’s sad when it’s a friendship; tragic in a marriage. Interest wanes. Character flaws that we never saw before, become pesky annoyances. We were passionately in love or felt so very close, and now we are indifferent at best. We talked all the time and now we can’t think of anything to say. We planned things; now it’s too much trouble. It didn’t happen all at once. It happened slowly and subtly. All because of one thing. One or both of the partners failed to expend the time and effort required in keeping the relationship alive. It most likely wasn’t intentional, malicious or spiteful. It was a gradual death through neglect.

I recently heard a beautiful arrangement of an old hymn that I didn’t know well. When I looked up the lyrics, I was convicted by the words and curious to learn about the story behind it. 

William Dunn Longstaff was not a music minister, or pastor, or Christian worker; and yet his words live after him in hymnbooks everywhere. Longstaff was a dedicated English businessman, the son of a successful ship owner. He was generous with his resources, and thus, was influential in evangelical circles. He befriended the great William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army; and when the financial sponsor of one of D. L. Moody’s British campaigns died, Longstaff came to the rescue and became well acquainted with both Moody, as well as Ira Sankey, his song leader.

“Be ye holy, for I am holy,” was the text of a sermon by Griffith John, missionary to China, given at Keswick, which greatly impacted Longstaff. He mulled over the truth he had heard, went home and wrote a poem. His practical mind listed some ways that Christians could live holy. His poem was published in the Salvation Army’s paper, War Cry. Longthoughts staff showed his poem to Ira Sankey, Moody’s song leader, who passed it on to his friend George Stebbins, the Christian musician. Stebbins took the poem and filed it away. At some later point, he needed a song on the subject of holiness; remembered the little poem, pulled it out and added musicto it. Stebbins sent the new song to a publisher, who included it in the hymnal, New Songs and Sacred Solos, in 1888. It has been included in hymnals since.

Holiness is not some state of super-sanctity reserved for older saints. Its not only the name of a church or lifestyle. It is not even just the moment of full consecration. It is a life to be lived out. Mistakes are made, and corrected. In a relationship as real as any human one, love is communicated, and we, as the Bride, learn how to more fully please the Bridegroom. Unfortunately, people in churches that emphasize holiness doctrine sometimes have the tendency to become comfortable with two trips to the altar, and then settle back with “blessed assurance,” in our own unique brand of eternal security. True holiness is an increasing state of Christlikeness. It is dynamic. It involves change; even suffering. Refining is a grueling process at times. And all of this takes time together with the Holy One. It is so easy to be influenced by the world’s philosophy, which encourages us to do everything the easy way. That’s why there is so little emphasis on holy living in the greater church world. Discipline is not fun or popular. Even those of us who recognize that we will have to fight for our connection with God, still face the incredible outward pressures of busy schedules and endless activity; as well as the inward tensions, fighting those quiet battles in the mind. Yet, those who would be holy must develop some habits that nourish the most important relationship of our lives.

Its not new information that relationships take work, including our relationship with the Lord. But we all need times of evaluating what our lives really look like. The smallest things can become idols. May you be as challenged by Longstaff’s words as I was, and may this spring offer a new opportunity to order our lives to truly reflect our priorities.

1.Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide with Him always and feed on His Word.
Make friends with God’s children, Help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

2. Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be:
Thy friends in thy conduct, His likeness shall see.

3. Take time to be holy; let Him be thy Guide.
And run not before Him whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow still follow the Lord.
And looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

Resources: - Hymn Stories. -
“Take Time to be What?” - Gordon MacDonald. - Hymn Stories - Take
Time to be Holy - Richard Neill Donovan. - History of Hymns -
Take Time to be Holy - C. Michael Hawn.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Letter to My Friends

(article by TLC writer Christina Black which appears in the
summer issue of TLC)

 “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

Dear Ones,
Sometimes life makes us tired. Very tired. And in those moments we are possibly tired in body, mind, or spirit. We get tired of coming up with a new way to do things, and we get tired of trying to earn the praise of those around us. If we ever get brave enough to say anything, people look at us like- you are tired? What? You professors only teach 15 hours a week! You are just a pastor’s wife! You stay at home! Why would YOU be tired? And on it goes. Or they say:  So fix it- you get to make your own schedule half the time, and that may be true or not… however, people don’t always understand.

If your mind is tired, it affects both how you think and how you feel. You will notice it in the following ways: You will lose initiative and it gets difficult to do anything you don’t absolutely HAVE to do. You may even get tired of learning. The very mention of a teachers’ meeting, ministry conference, ladies retreat, or other, may make you want to roll your eyes. If your body is tired you will feel aches and pains, and find it difficult to go to sleep or wake up. If your spirit is tired you may find yourself avoiding worship, friends, Bible study, and even prayer.

Some things I have tried that do help when I am tired in mind, body, and or spirit are to:

1) Try to take a day each week to get away from all things ministry or work related.
2) Be nice to yourself. Quit expecting the unrealistic.
3) Pick a moment when the light goes off at night- whether you want to go to sleep or not.
4) Drink water.
5) Be quiet.
6) Eat something that is good for you.
7) Take a daily vitamin.
8) Sell a hat. [Sometimes we just need to quit doing quite so much] “There is a time for everything, but maybe not all at the same time.”
9) Go for a walk.
10) Breathe deeply.
11) Put some routines in place.
12) Follow directions. Read three times and just do it once.
13) Stop eating sugar before bed.
14) Remember you have nothing to prove.
15) Remind yourself that it is ok to rest or do something fun.
16) Listen to a song.
17) Watch the coffee
18) Control your mind. [Resist thoughts such as “No one appreciates all I do.” and ”I am all alone in this.”]
19) Talk to God honestly.
20) Pray the serenity prayer.

As the busy, busy recent days of finishing a doctorate, keeping up all the work related to the education department of HSBC going, and managing a home and family, have flown by, I have often thought I could not take another step. But I learned that these 20 tips really do help. Ladies, I suggest you try them- consistently.

What a difference it makes when you decide what you can change and what you can’t, when you feel better, rest your mind or heart, when you get some sleep, when you allow yourself to call or text a friend and just chat, or slow down a little.

        In the coming summer days, I will close my final school year as Ed Chair for HSBC, pack our way out of our offices, pack up our personal belongings, leave the only home we have ever owned, get in a rental car for deputation services, and again head overseas for the second time this fall. When the stress of a big change or job hits you, it is good to have some tips on hand. You can be as surrendered as possible in your soul, but it does not make the details any easier. The dirt behind the couch still needs cleaned, the files still need sorted, the boxes are still heavy, and the suitcases need packed. But if you try to handle it all in your own strength, you will falter or fail. Remember, it is His burden and He has promised to keep it light. But we need to cooperate with Him! 

With love, dear friends,  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Featured Article from the Winter 2013-2014 Issue of TLC

-- by Sarah Fry

I sat today and listened to a professional explain something that had the potential of being rather complicated and overwhelming.  I watched her brain working in her eyes as she analyzed her student and immediately simplified her material down to the basics.  As the conversation progressed, she continued to re-explain, re-evaluate and re-simplify. Over and over.  And she did it with patience and kindness and a sense of understanding and humor. 

By the time she was finished she had truly done her job.   Through her simple instruction, she had made exciting change not only possible, but manageable.    She could have done what I have seen many others do (and have done myself).  She could have overwhelmed her listener with layer after layer of excellent information.  She could have lectured and layered and lectured some more.   And she would have left the listener tired and overwhelmed and unmotivated.  But she didn’t.  She chose to leave out what she and I both knew was incredibly valuable information.  Because it was just too much.  She chose instead to teach the basics.

She had given the gift of simplicity.

It was refreshing to me.  And reminded me of the power and patience of simplicity.   It can be applied in just about every area of life.

As moms, we have to learn what our littles can handle.  You might assign your 4-year-old to cleaning out the entire fridge.  But if your 4-year-old is anything like mine, that would be a dire mistake.  There would be disaster to pay.

As wives, we discover that sometimes brilliant men need to be given very simple instruction.  Very. Slowly.  One. Item. At. A. Time.  In one of those crazy, miraculous moments when my husband asks me “what can I do to help?”  I have been known to ramble on with excited purpose:   “Awesome!  Thanks!  Okay…this bag goes to the car for goodwill.  This box goes into storage.  These 3 things go to the kitchen…”  and so forth.  But I look up mid-sentence and he’s gone.  Vanished….. With just the first item.  ONE thing in his hand!  I mean, seriously?  The man has a PhD and he can only handle one put-away task at a time?  It has been one of the great marriage mysteries of my life.   But it has taught me to simplify.

As a homekeeper, I am constantly learning to simplify.  Less is more.  Finish only the task at hand.  Improve one layer at a time instead of trying to overhaul the entire universe before supper.  Yeah.  About that…. Still learning.

As a teacher I must sort through the things I have learned in over 30 years of being a musician and choose to give my students only what they need in that particular lesson.  I certainly don’t do it perfectly.  But the older I get, the more I value simplicity.

Isn’t it exciting how God understands my frame and applies simplicity perfectly to the lessons He teaches me?  He knows how to boil things down to my level.  When He has a lesson for me, many times He sends the message through multiple methods.  I will hear it in a song, in a sermon, in a book I’m reading, from a friend.  And by the time Abba is done with me, His perfectly filtered, powerfully simple message settles in and becomes part of my heart as Light and Truth and Love.

I am going through one of those longish, hardish struggles that make me want to cry out to God…”whatever this lesson is, Lord, please help me to GET IT so we can move on!”   I am remembering tonight that He is teaching me layer upon layer.  And He knows how to simplify complicated lessons.  And that takes time.  I am not a natural at this whole simplicity thing.  I can complicate anything.  But no one is as patient as Him.  And He knows my heart like no other.    So perhaps, just maybe,  I need to stop trying to conquer the world before supper and relax into His beautiful simplicity.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”     ― Henry David Thoreau

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spring and renewal go together. . .

Women of Worth is getting fresh life. . . and you will hear about it in the next issue(Spring edition) of TLC.  Stay tuned. . . .