Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Extend a Hand of Wholeness: Post-Abortion Healing


By Tracy Nunes


In the article, “Extend a Hand of Wholeness” we took some baby steps into understanding the issue of post abortion healing and why it should matter to the body of Christ. Let’s take that a bit further and talk about the “How.”

Our Words: Be aware of words like “killer,” and “murderer,” when referring to abortion. While we can’t step away from calling it the sin that it is, we need to remember that even as the baby rests in Heaven with Jesus the mother suffers still. Use words like forgiveness, healing and reconciliation when talking about it. You may never know how you will minister to a woman’s heart though unaware of it. Encourage your church to start post abortion healing groups and share this information with your pastor and congregation. You don’t have to be post abortive to start a ministry like this.

Post Abortion Help: If you are a woman who has had an abortion recently or in the distant past, there are a multitude of resources for you. The article may have stirred your feelings and that can be frightening. Don’t bury those feelings. Run to Jesus. You may feel that silent suffering will make it go away, but what is buried will still find ways to rear its ugly head. Seek out post abortion Bible studies, recovery groups or a Christian counselor who specializes in this area. Most of all…know that your abortion will not separate you from the love of God, but running away will limit your opportunities to be whole again. Remember, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Internet and Print Resources for Healing:
• Ramah International: www.ramahinternational.com
• The Comforted: www.thecomforted.blogspot.com
• Her Choice to Heal by Sydna Masse
• Forgiven and Set Free by Linda Cochrane


Tracy lives in Hawaii with Richard, her husband of 25 years. She has two grown daughters, one grandson and works with Hawaii Right to Life to promote awareness of post abortion issues. Visit Tracy’s Post-Abortion Healing blog The Comforted: http://thecomforted.blogspot.com. She also has a blog where she writes about all of the ways that God has taken the mess of her life and made it into something for His Glory: http://tracynunes.blogspot.com.

Turn Your Girlfriends into Sisters

By Sallie Hagen

“I thank God every day for this group. I’ve never seen women share so openly and honestly.”
“I’ve prayed to be part of something just like this.”
“My husband jokes that we’re the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but he knows this group is good for me.”
These comments aren’t from my church’s women’s ministry or small group, they are from the ladies in my online group!

Have you ever wished you could be part of a small group of women that know everything about you, but love you anyway? We’ve all heard that small groups are where lasting relationships are formed, but how can we reap the benefits of a tight-knit small group when our hectic schedules won’t allow it?

Organizing and leading an online small group is easier than you think, and it will fit right into any busy schedule, since most of the group communication is via private e-mail.
One year ago, I tried to organize a small group of friends to work through a women’s devotional. Although I had no trouble finding friends who wanted to do the book together, we ran into trouble trying to pick a day and time to meet that would work for everyone.

Feeling led to move forward anyway, I came up with a plan to organize our group online, using a private e-mail group through Yahoo. Some were skeptical whether it would work, but it didn’t take long for us to figure out that we had struck gold. Originally, there were six of us who knew each other only superficially, but by working through a 90-day devotional together, we were quickly able to establish trust and share our real struggles and hopes with one another.

Now, one year later, we have grown to 10 members and are working through our third devotional. We are sisters. We share everything. We lift up each other’s prayers, and cry and laugh together through life’s trials and joys. We have managed to get together once a quarter or so, but the majority of our communication is through e-mail posts to the group. In effect, we talk, share and pray together many times during any given week, rather than just once like a traditional small group.

Do you have a close sisterhood of friends that you can trust through life’s ups and downs? Has your busy schedule kept you from joining a small group at church? Here are some tips to start your own online Christian women’s small group:

• Keep the group small, with no more than 6 to 10 women. This is not to be exclusive, but the quantity of e-mails might get cumbersome and you don’t want anyone intimidated by sharing with too many people.

• Establish ground rules. For example, my group routinely shares sensitive personal information so we have a privacy policy. Sharing others’ personal concerns with others outside the group is prohibited, with the occasional exception of husbands.

• Choose a scripturally sound book or devotional to study together. Consider common interests that your group may have. Choose a start date and project an end date so everyone knows what the initial commitment will be.

• To allow for flexibility, consider working through daily devotionals on weekdays and allowing weekends for catch-up.

• As leader, be willing to spark the discussion whenever the conversation lags.

• Be real. Share your testimony and encourage others to share theirs. The earlier you do this, the quicker the communication barriers come down.

• Ask everyone to share prayer requests on a periodic basis. Compile them in a private document and distribute them to the group to pray over during your individual quiet time with God.
• As leader, avoid monopolizing the conversation and put others’ needs first.

• When delicate or painful issues arise, tread lightly and come alongside with prayer and gentle wisdom.

• Plan a periodic outing together to solidify and strengthen relationships even more.

• If you’ve been wishing your girlfriend relationships could get past superficial chatter and delve into deep and meaningful topics, I hope you’ll feel led to take the first step yourself and start an online small group that will turn your girlfriends into sisters.


Sallie Hagen is a retired CPA turned full-time homeschool mom. She serves as club director for a Keepers of the Faith group, teaches literature and writing in a homeschool co-op, and leads an online Bible study group for women striving to be Proverbs 31. She and her husband John have 6 children, ages 12 to 24. Learn more at www.mypatchworklife.com
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Overcoming Perfectionism

by Rachel Olsen

Do you feel most of what you do is never quite good enough?
Do you avoid starting tasks for worry you’ll fail?
Do you think “average” is an ugly word?

If so, rather than working toward success, you are probably trying to be flawless from start to finish. It’s likely you are plagued by perfectionism.

I know; I’ve been there.

Perfectionism refers to a set of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors aimed at reaching excessively high or unrealistic goals. Mistakenly believed necessary for success, perfectionism is often detrimental. It can rob us of a sense of personal satisfaction or achievement, damage our relationships, and prevent us from reaching our potential.

In fact, research shows women who demand perfection from themselves often achieve less than women with more realistic strivings. Surprised?

Causes of Perfectionism

A number of negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs can drive our perfectionistic tendencies:

Fear of failure. Perfectionists often equate failure to achieve with a lack of personal worth or value. (God tells us we have value because we are made by Him, in His image, for His plans and pleasure.)

Fear of making mistakes. Perfectionists often equate mistakes with failure – and therefore, with a lack of personal worth. In orienting their lives around avoiding mistakes, perfectionists miss opportunities to learn and grow.

Fear of disapproval. Perfectionists often believe if they let others see their flaws, they will no longer be accepted. Trying to be perfect is a way of trying to avoid criticism, disapproval, and rejection. (Christ was criticized, disapproved of, and rejected – and He was truly perfect.)

All-or-none thinking. Perfectionists frequently believe they are failures if their accomplishments are not perfect from start to finish. Every part must be flawless. They deny the learning curve and discount the process of “failing forward.”

Belief that others are easily successful. Perfectionists tend to perceive others as achieving success with a minimum of effort, few or no errors, little emotional stress, and maximum self-confidence. This of course is inaccurate. At the same time, perfectionists view their own efforts and confidence as uncommonly inadequate.

A Harmful Cycle

Perfectionistic attitudes start a frustrating cycle in motion. First, perfectionists set unreachable goals based on unrealistic expectations. Second, they fail to meet their often well-out-of-reach goals. Third, they become anxious and self-critical over their failure. Finally, rather than realizing the true problem, they demand a perfect performance next time or avoid the pursuit entirely.

Also, without realizing it, perfectionists can apply their unrealistically high standards to others, becoming critical and demanding. Their frequent lack of grace damages their relationships. Furthermore, perfectionists may avoid letting people see their mistakes, not realizing that self-disclosure allows others to perceive them as more human and thus more likeable. Because of this, perfectionists often have difficulty being close to people and they create unsatisfying relationships – which only confirms in their mind their lack of value or their need to strive harder.

What to do About Perfectionism

The first step in moving from a performance-based attitude of perfectionism to a grace-based attitude of healthy striving and dependence on Christ is to realize that perfection, instantly or in everything, is simply unattainable. And the pursuit of it is counterproductive.

The next step is to challenge the self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that fuel your perfectionism. Some of the following strategies - many outlined by the counseling center at the University of Illinois - may help:

Set realistic, reachable goals based on what you have accomplished in the past. This will enable you to rein in unrealistic expectations and experience the satisfaction of achievement.

Set subsequent goals in a sequential manner. As you reach a goal, set your next goal one step beyond your present level of accomplishment.

Relax your standards for success. Choose any activity and instead of aiming for 100 percent, try for 90 percent, 80 percent, or even 70 percent success. This will help you to realize that the world does not end when you are less than perfect.

Learn to discriminate the tasks you want to give high priority to from those tasks that are less important to you. On less important tasks, choose to put forth less effort in favor of increased rest and emotional stability.

Focus on the process of doing an activity, not just on the end result. Evaluate your success not only in terms of what you accomplished but also in terms of how you accomplished it. Did you remain calm? Did you learn something new along the way? Did you enjoy the process?

Use feelings of anxiety and depression as opportunities to ask yourself, “Have I set impossible expectations for myself in this situation?”

Confront the fears that may be behind your perfectionism by asking yourself, “What am I afraid of? What is the worst thing that could happen?”

Recall a recent mistake you made and list all the things you can learn from it. Mistakes are powerful learning tools.

Pray daily, giving your stresses and to-do list to Christ to oversee. Remember that His priority is your character and relationships over your accomplishments.

As perfectionists, we’ve come to believe our value – in God’s or other people’s eyes – is irrevocably linked to our performance. In a quest to be accepted and loved, we set out to be flawless. This is both unnecessary and unproductive.

So pull out a sheet of paper and write out in your own words the reasons why your perfection is unnecessary and unproductive. Don’t worry if it is well-worded or commas are in the right place. And in the process, you’ll begin to overcome the plague of perfectionism.

Rachel Olsen is a woman who seeks to savor life with Christ and help others find that sweet spot as well. A writer, speaker and editor with Proverbs 31 Ministries, Rachel communicates biblical truths modern women need to know. To learn more, read her recent release “It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know.”

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tips for Preparing Your Child for Challenges

By Glynnis Whitwer

The promise of a new school year burns bright this time of year. Crisp white paper and sharpened pencils are at the ready, as excited children (and moms) fill clean, new backpacks with supplies. Back-to-school shopping has restocked the closets with shoes that fit, jeans that are long enough and jackets to replace the ones that were left on the playground in March.

By the first day of school, parents will have prepared their children well. But, have they thought of everything? Have parents prepared their children to deal with the anxiety of change, the fear of harder tests and the possible bullying from a new classmate?

Sadly, most of us don’t know how to prepare our children for the emotional challenges of school. We tend to find out about issues when they have escalated into problems. This year, I’d like to share a few tips for preparing children to deal with some of the most common problems they might face in the coming months.

Stress

People get stressed when pressures accumulate faster than our ability to adapt, last longer than our ability to maintain control, or our internal makeup is unable to deal with problems. Given that children have very little control over their circumstances, they are at a great risk of facing stress. Here are a few things parents can do:
· Create a stress-free environment at home. Establishing calming routines in the mornings, afternoons and evenings give your children a chance to regroup.
· Limit extra-curricular activities for all family members. Parents can model healthy activity loads when children are very young. Lots of time at home enables you to finish homework, study for test and work on projects without stress.
· Honor the Sabbath. This is difficult for most families, but it was God’s design for a day of well-needed rest. Try and build in a day where everyone is free to celebrate life together.

Fear

Many children will deal with fear at school. Fear often manifests itself with physical symptoms before your child will be able to communicate his emotions. Be attuned to slight hesitancy, upset stomachs or difficulty sleeping. What you can do:
· Establish a culture of openness at home. Always take your child’s fear seriously and investigate a concern. Your child will grow to trust that you will take her seriously.
· Desensitize your child. If your child is naturally hesitant and fearful, introduce new situations gradually. If the start of school is fearful, then practice walking to school the week before. Talk through possible situations. If you’ve never be separated before, then have some practice runs where you leave your child at a friend’s house for a short time and then return.
· Have an action plan. Play the “What If?” game. What if mom isn’t there to pick you up? What if you forget your lunch? What if you get picked on at recess? Talk though the potentially fearful situations and have a plan.

Bullying
Sadly, bullies are a part of life. Statistics say that up to 90% of schoolchildren will be bullied. Unfortunately, shame and a code of silence often keeps parents from knowing about it until it’s too late. Thankfully, there are things you can do to bully-proof your child.
· Don’t over-protect. Teach your children early on to deal with problems themselves. Children who run to adults over every small problem tend to be bullied more than children who are calmly assertive in meeting their own needs.
· Invest in your children’s friendships. Good friends are protection against bullies. Make an effort to invite other children to your home, or to join your family on outings. Create situations where your child can interact with others and develop good friendships.
· Teach your children to stand up for others. This might be controversial to you, but children need to know their parents would support them if they had to defend someone. We need to raise a generation who will defend the weak. It’s called moral courage and we need more young men and women who won’t tolerate injustice. That means getting involved and not walking away when someone is getting bullied. Another mom will thank you for it.

Problems are a part of life. We will always have them. Perhaps one of the best gifts we can give our children is to equip them with practical ways to deal with the everyday issues of life. I believe they’ll thank you for it when they’ve become adults who persevere through pain, and come out victorious.


Glynnis has written a book on this subject titled “When Your Child is Hurting.” In the book, she explores these three topics, plus 11 other common, everyday issues children face. Each chapter contains Scripture verses, inspiring quotes and discussion questions to be used in a small group setting or individually. It’s filled with practical parenting tips and encouraging stories. Click here to purchase or read more.

Christ-Like in the Bleachers

By Sara Jo Poff

The roar of the parents’ voices filled the gym. Admittedly, the game was getting tense, but the situation was worsening. It was the last quarter and the teams were tied for the championship. Parents were beginning to scream over the sound of the coach and the kids on the basketball court were becoming confused. When I loudly but politely asked the parents to calm down, the roar quickly shifted to whispers. One mom, however, turned to me excitedly and said, “Sorry; it’s just that we’ve never won a championship!” The coaches looked grateful for the silence and the elementary players no longer tripped over their own feet in perplexity.

Currently, 41 million children in the U.S. participate in team sports. Sadly, 70 percent of them will drop out before turning 13. Sadder even still is the reason they drop out: parental pressure. According to a Michigan State Youth Institute survey, the majority of these 28.7 million children cited “adults, particularly parents” as their reason for dropping out and the main reason for the game becoming a “joyless, negative experience.” According to these numbers, seven out of ten children on your child’s team are feeling an overload of pressure to play. Consider the following plays to make sure your child isn’t one of them:

Examine Your Intentions

Whether it’s for the chance of becoming pro or the opportunity to learn good sports skills and conduct, parents are doing everything they can to put their children in extracurricular activities, and for good reason. Team sports are respectable opportunities for children to learn things like competition, new skills, good sportsmanship, and parental encouragement. Many of these children, at least at first, are having FUN! It’s only when the interest of winning supersedes these goals that the pressure starts emerging. In some cases, parents live vicariously through their child and develop an over-identified zeal for the game.

In response to the growing number of incidences of abusive behavior from parents towards coaches, athletes, and officials, many organizations offer training programs for parents on good sportsmanship. One of these organizations, the American Youth Soccer Organization, requires parents of players younger than 8 years old to participate in sportsmanship and behavioral conduct classes. Others, like the Michigan High School Athletic Association, have put together a video for parents on appropriate behavior at sporting events that can be viewed at www.mhsaa.com/services.

Rewind and Replay

It is important to take a good look at which kind of sideline parent we are, especially as Christians. Whether our children are in sports or not, it is crucial for them to feel unconditionally loved, emotionally supported, and encouraged to pursue their interests.

In order to provide the encouragement and support children need, parents must first get back to the main reasons for putting them in sports. Foremost, focus on skill building, good sportsmanship, and physical movement.

Secondly, trust your child’s coach to do the coaching. This doesn’t, of course, mean you should have a na├»ve sense of faith in the coach, because they’re parents just like us. But, if you haven’t observed any verbal, emotional, or especially physical abuse from them and see the coach teaching good skills to the children, let them give the directions at games. All too often, children have voices hollering at them from so many directions that they are unable to hear their coach or know who to listen to. Be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19 NIV)

At the same time, make sure your child can hear encouragement from you during the game. “Good pass,” “nice shot,” or “you’ll get it next time” are good things for them to hear and aren’t distracting. Try to avoid comments like “nice try” or “almost.” [Parents], do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.” (Colossians 3:23 NASB)

Just as parents make mistakes, so, too, do officials. Instead of making sure these mistakes are corrected, think of it this way: it all evens out by the end of the season! If a foul wasn’t called and you know that your child was fouled (or even another child for that matter), don’t holler at the referee. Later on, a foul might be called for a clearly invalid foul. Use it as an opportunity to exemplify God’s commands to respect the authorities He has placed over you.

After holding back all “suggestions” during the game, don’t spend the car ride home telling your child how they could have done something differently. That behavior once again instills a winning-is-the-most-important-thing mentality. Tell them what they did well, and make sure they know that they have your support and encouragement no matter how they played.

Reach the Goal

If your child suddenly announces a decision to no longer play a particular sport, especially one they have greatly enjoyed in the past, gently inquire their reasons. Be supportive of those reasons and encourage them in other areas. Letting a child retire from a particular sport will not, as some parents think, turn them into “dropouts” or “quitters.” As long as that free time isn’t replaced with video games or television, your child can benefit immensely from making their own choices about things such as this.

If your child has other things they are not allowed to falter on, such as God’s commands, academics, and parental rules, they will know the importance of devotion and perseverance for the things that matter most in life.

The qualities that teach children good sportsmanship start at home, not on the field. Make sure your family strongly promotes good sports conduct in everything at home, from board games to yard games.

Use these ideas to help your children enjoy participation in sports. Get excited about opportunities to play. Treat them to ice cream after games no matter how well they played. and encourage good effort and self-reliance in their participation. Most importantly, make sure sports maintain their position as a hobby so they don’t turn into idols.


Sara Jo Poff, her husband Pete, and their five kids, enjoy playing basketball together from their home in Claremore, Oklahoma. As a freelance writer, Sara Jo specializes on topics related to natural family health, home education, and living for Christ. You can visit her at
www.healthyfamiliesforGod.com.