Mercy Christian Counseling 
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Counselor's Corner

Welcome! I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and I invite you to share your responses with other readers. Just so you know, comments will be reviewed to ensure that content posted will not contain abusive or vulgar language. Otherwise, you are free to agree or disagree. May God richly bless you today and always! ~ Dr. Susan

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Broken? or Disobedient?

Posted by mercycounseling on February 5, 2018 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Recently I heard a radio evangelist explain that the reason we don’t love as we should is because we’re “broken.” As I pondered this for a moment, I realized that I just don’t agree with that, not for Christians, anyway.


I think such a statement denies the power of God and the regenerating grace of Jesus Christ.


In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the scriptures tell us: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”


The false doctrine of continued brokenness for Christians does nothing but keep people in bondage! It is a lie that steals hope at its best, and at its worst excuses people of their sin. We don’t need to excuse ourselves of our sins by false teachings like this. Our sin is forgiven by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and when we receive Him as Savior, “all things become new.”

So let’s not deceive ourselves with the doctrine of brokenness. The sins we commit following salvation are due to the choices we make to be disobedient to the Lord. Learning to walk in agreement with the Spirit is a continual work of sanctification begun at the point of salvation. We are like little children who first learn to crawl, then stand, then walk, then run. Gaining spiritual maturity requires the same kind of drive. Yes, we will stumble – often – but not because we’re broken, only because we are not yet perfected. I think there’s a big difference.


It’s time for Christians to take full responsibility for their choices—choices that leave many with depression, broken marriages, and a whole host of other evidences of wrong thinking. It’s time to trust all of scripture with its lessons and promises and live according to this truth.


And so I reflect back to myself, even more than to you, as a reminder to all of us, these words from 1 Peter 2:1-2:


“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”


To the unsaved person, I say, to those who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior: you ARE broken due to the fall of man. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit (given at salvation), there is nothing you can do to please God but are trapped in the bondage of sin. Freedom is found in Jesus Christ. Repent and believe!


But to the saved, I say again: To continue to accept the doctrine of brokenness is to deny the power of God and the grace of regeneration given by Jesus Christ. You are NOT broken. The power of Almighty God given by the Holy Spirit dwells in you to provide the strength and stamina to pursue the road of sanctification. So “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

Peace to all.


If Pastors were Facilitators

Posted by mercycounseling on January 15, 2018 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

There is a great problem in the American-style incorporated "church." I put church in quotes because much of the situation is as far from being a "called out assembly" as can be. The vast majority of Americans who attend church are going to a building to sit in theater-style seats to watch a show; and more often than not, there is one man who exercises authority over how that show will be operated.


I submit to you that ministers of the gospel were never meant to be held up as sole authority figures within a fellowship of believers. Jesus told his 12 disciples that they were to be SERVANTS, not masters. Two of the gospel writers recount the story of the mother of the sons of Zebedee approaching Christ to request that her sons sit at His right and left hand. Jesus told her he could not give that assurance. The story continues as follows:


"And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:24-28. See also Mark 10:41-43)


Too often, I have seen pastors act as though the people were in "his church," and exercising authority that leaves the people in bondage--what to wear, how to look, what to think, even which Bible is mandatory. This kind of control was never intended by the Lord. Ministers are there to serve the people and not the other way around. 


Let's expand this now to the fellowship of believers. The Bible says we are ALL "sufficient as ministers" (NKJV) or variously reads "able ministers" (KJV). If able ministers, then we do not need a pastor to lord it over us and make up a bunch of rules to live by.


The corporate church is a place where only a very few people have an opportunity to share their spiritual gifts while the rest can do nothing more than watch. Why? Because the American model of bigger is better cannot accommodate the effectual sharing of all gifts and talents. (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12)


I believe we are seeing an exodus from the corporate church because of these things. People hunger for a place where they can have fellowship with other believers. The notion that sitting in a pew or chair for an hour a week is fellowship is false. To have fellowship only comes through relationships, and the corporate church with its master pastor is too large for this to happen.


What if pastors lay aside their crown and became facilitators instead? Websters defines facilitator as "someone who helps to bring about an outcome (such as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision." What if the pastor-turned-facilitator stepped down from the platform and instead encouraged others to give a message? What if that same pastor/facilitator abandoned the notion of the unwieldy large congregation and instead worked within smaller groups to facilitate a worship experience that was spontaneous wherein every member could share something and where the pastor/facilitator did not choose to be the center of attention? What if the outcome desired was to truly develop the spiritual maturity of each believer and see them blossom into a facilitator themselves?


Friends, this is the model of the early church as found in the Book of Acts, where members of the church were said to "have all things in common."


It's the kind of assembly I'm looking for. In fact, I would love to be a pastor/facilitator. But only to the Glory of God!

Spontaneous Worship

Posted by mercycounseling on January 14, 2018 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth,who have set your glory above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1)

Have you ever experienced spontaneous worship? It's a sudden lifting of the soul in praise and gratitude to God for Who He Is, and all that He is doing or has done. It can't be willed; rather I believe it occurs when a connection is made between our spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit.


It's so easy to fake worship and go through the motions; to put on piety for the benefit of being seen. But God is not fooled by this. In Matthew 15:8 the scriptures prove that God sees: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me."


God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24) No one but you and God will really know when your worship is done in spirit and truth. But you will know because the moments of joy you experience will be undeniable. There is such sweet freedom in this experience!


It's time to take your relationship deeper with Jesus Christ. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8) Then you will experience the joy of spontaneous worship!




It's All in Your Mind

Posted by mercycounseling on November 22, 2017 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The power of the mind is beyond the knowledge of most individuals. No doubt you've heard of the power of positive thinking. What you tell yourself IS important. But to be of benefit it is not enough to just think positive thoughts. They must be grounded in TRUTH, specifically, the truth of God's Word. Your own thinking has the power to change your day-to-day reality, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," (2 Cor. 10:4-5). 


Did you know that what you choose to think about alters the physical landscape of your brain which in turn affects every cell in your body? When you rehearse negative thoughts, memories, and experiences over and over, you reinforce negativity, contract your cellular DNA, and set up tension throughout the body. Stress is a leading cause of all sorts of degenerative diseases. The very real effect is that you make yourself sick.


But when you choose to mindfully reject the thoughts that make you feel a host of negative emotions and replace these thoughts with purposeful, helpful thoughts that place life in perspective, and when you choose an attitude of thankfulness, you begin to erase the actual negative landscape in your brain, your DNA relaxes, and the body responds by building physical and mental health. 


The two key principles that make all this possible are:

1) You must make your mind conform to the truth that God offers.

2) You must choose life.


Key Word: Choose. Your free will means you can choose every moment what your life will be.


"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days" (Deut. 30:19-20).

Stressed Out, Zoned Out, Freaked Out

Posted by mercycounseling on September 23, 2017 at 5:25 AM Comments comments (0)

The number of people seeking help for anxiety is rising rapidly! According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, "Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment."


Now if you think about it, isn't it amazing that there even IS such an association? This, and the fact that I see through referrals the numbers of people affected, convinces me that it's a very real problem.


Anxiety is basically a fear of the future or of the unknown. The human brain is wired to scan the environment for danger all the time, and the anxiety response is like having this brain center on overload, which hampers the ability to reason. Such people are prisoners of their own survival instincts and of the subsequent faulty thinking processes. But it need not be this way. 


Since anxiety is a fear response, it's important to consider that this may be happening:

False

Expectations

Appearing

Real


Granted, these fears are usually based on a counselee's past experiences in life. Much like in PTSD, symptoms occur in response to a stimulus that resembles a previous experience. Therefore, it is important to help the person accurately evaluate both the current and past situations.


If you suffer from anxiety, there are some steps you can take to help yourself:


  • If you are a person of faith, you simply must tap into the strength it provides. Believing in an ordered universe and a benevolent Creator will take much of the fear factor out of life.
  • Evaluate the pace at which you are living.
  • If you are zooming from one activity to the next and constantly under pressure, you need to get that under control. Some things you simply must say "no" to. Set your boundaries so that you can attend to your own needs. It doesn't do any good to wear yourself down to the point that you become dysfunctional. See a Temperament Counselor (like me!) to help you strategize. 
  • On the other hand, if you are so frozen that you are hyperreflective (that is, you are constantly inside your own head rehearsing your fears over and over), you need to take action to get outside your head by engaging in another activity to occupy your mind.
  • Try a 5-minute breathing meditation, which can be done anytime anxiety begins to rise. Sit comfortably in a chair and focus your mind on your breathing. In, out, slowly; in, out, in, out. If your mind wanders, refocus on the breathing, feeling your abdomen rise and fall. Slowly, please. Yoga is one of the best anti-anxiety activities you can do because it forces you to concentrate on your body, rather than engaging in hyperreflection.
  • Avoid stimulants, like caffeine. You may have a longstanding habit and think it doesn't affect you, but you'll be amazed how much calmer you will feel after several days without it. Drink more plain water while you are weaning off caffeine.
  • Avoid sugar, as this causes an inflammatory response in the body which leads to more stress and makes it hard to sleep.
  • Take long walks with a friend, and concentrate on the friend, rather than yourself. This will also get you outside your own head.
  • Evaluate your thinking, and you must be brutally honest with yourself. Make a list of the "what ifs" and then ask yourself how likely it is that any of your fears will actually happen. Remember, anxiety is an automatic response to perceived danger to life, status, or ego. If your life itself is not phyiscally in danger, then you must evaluate what the perceived threat would mean to your life if it came true. There is this thing called "general anxiety disorder," but I don't buy it. Fear is based on something. You must figure out what and why.
  • Consider carefully before you begin taking anti-anxiety medications. Do you really want to be hooked on them, or would you rather find a natural means for managing your own stress? It's easier to take a pill than to take responsibility for your own thinking, but you will not resolve anything if taking the pill is all you do.
  • See a counselor, who will help you through this whole process.

Anxiety will steal your life and relationships if you don't take action to conquer it. Don't let it take you prisoner.

 

What Is Your Relationship With Yourself?

Posted by mercycounseling on September 17, 2017 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (0)

As three-part beings, we humans exist in the realms of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23).


We are essentially a spirit (from the Greek word pneumameaning "air" -- as in Genesis when God breathed into Adam the breath of life -- it is what gives us life). It is our life force principle. When the spirit departs, the body is dead. 


We have a soul (from the Greek word psychemeaning the sentient, rational thinking, self-aware part of us). Even when our soul (mind) is not functioning -- as when in a coma -- our body and spirit are still alive and present together.


Our soul and spirit live in our body (from the Greek word soma, meaning, ironically, "body"). The spirit and soul cannot live in a dead body.


The spirit and soul live on after death, and the body will live again in the resurrection. (See Revelation 6:9, Acts 24:15)


Now the body is easily understood, as we have the senses with which to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. And the soul is understood, which is the mind, will and emotions; and the spirit, though less easily understood, is evident when we witness the life force ebb from someone at the moment of death. 


So while we are alive and conscious, all three areas of our being work in concert with one another. When we compartmentalize these principles, or when we do not nurture ourselves in all three areas, we cannot be truly happy or healthy. 


When God created Adam, He gave him a body first. (See Genesis 2:7). Apparently it was our Maker's intention that we should live in the physical realm of His creation. When God created, it was in perfection. Only in the fall of mankind did disease and death enter in. So to fulfill the first principle of God's creation (living in the physical realm), we need to value and respect our physical bodies. That means we must attend to the needs of the body and do our best to provide those things which the body needs to be healthy: clean air, clean water, unadulterated food, adequate clothing and shelter, and restful sleep; and provide all of these in sufficient amounts. Are you just acquainted with your body, do you neglect one or more of these needs, or do you really have a relationship with it that brings health and well-being?


When God breathed into Adam the breath of life, He brought forth both spirit and soul so that we could have fellowship with HIm and participate in His eternal plan. (See Colossians 1:16) How can we participate in His eternal plan if we do not seek Him with our soul -- our mind, will and emotions? Just as the body has needs, so does the soul: the need to feel worthwhile, the need to feel competent, and the need to feel loveable. These needs are met through various avenues of socialization, control, and affection. But we are not all alike in our needs in these areas. Our God-given, inborn temperament determines how these needs are expressed and satisfied. Without Jesus Christ we will never be able to satisfy these needs in a Godly manner. So we are advised in Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Are you building a Godly relationship with your mind through daily renewal in the principles of Christian life?


Since our spirit was given by God and is the life-force principle, shouldn't we nurture this life-giving force through a relationship with the one who gave it? We may be able to ignore God, or run from God, even deny God, but these behaviors cannot nullify the truth that God is the reason we exist. And no matter where we run, God is there (Psalm 139). When we fail to develop our spiritual selves, we become disconnected from the very source of our existence -- God. And while we may try to distance ourselves from the Creator, our spirit has needs that cannot be permanently satisfied by any person, possession or substance other than God. To build a relationship with your own spirit means to build a relationship with God. This is accomplished only through salvation in Jesus Christ. For we were made through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16). 


I hope I have shown you that there are valid reasons why you must not neglect any part of your triune being. To neglect the body leads to physical illness and death; to neglect the soul leads to sin and spiritual sickness; to neglect the spirit leads to spiritual illness; and if you are not saved before you die, to eternal separation from God, which is called the "second death." Revelation 20:11-15. 


Your relationship with yourself is as important as any other relationship you may have. That's why it's so important to take the time necessary to nurture and build your three principles: body, soul, and spirit. When developed in harmony, you will experience greater health and peace. Take care of yourself!

Redeeming the Time

Posted by mercycounseling on August 29, 2017 at 4:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Christian, are you awake? If the times we live in seem to be cascading into darker and darker evil, it is not your imagination. Lately I am seeing more and more people who are struggling with decidedly PTSD-like symptoms from being battered on a daily basis by all the crazy things going on in our country and endless news coverage of one horror after another. If there have ever been times in human history to "redeem the time, because the days are evil," this is surely one of them.


There are only two scriptures in the New Testament that use the phrase, "redeeming the time." Those are Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5. Each passage, when viewed in its complete context, speaks not so much about the evils of the world so much as how Christians are to behave in the midst of it. For complete context, you will need to read Ephesians 4 and 5, and Colossians 4:2-6.


What does it mean to "redeem the time?" Strong's Concordance assigns number 1805 to the word redeeming as it appears in the cited passages: "to buy up, i.e. ransom; fig. to rescue from loss (improve opportunity)--redeem."  Compare this with Dictionary.com which defines redeeming this way: "offsetting or counterbalancing some fault, defect, or the like."


"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil," therefore, implies that our behavior as Christians should in some manner seek to offset or counterbalance the evil around us. Because the evil around us is so great, then our efforts to offset it must be even greater. But how can we do that, and how can an individual's behavior really make a difference? My friends, think not about your tiny effort, but about the sum of millions of tiny efforts that can create an amazing and beautiful web of goodness which will, by its own weight, help to offset the evil. But you must choose to be a thread in that web in order for the greater good to prevail. You, and you, and me, and you and you and so forth.


At home, at work, and at play, we make a difference by our choice to smile at someone; to yield with grace when buffeted and "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one." (Colossians 4:5-6) 

A Holistic Approach to Christian Counseling

Posted by mercycounseling on August 27, 2017 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Good morning. It's Sunday, August 27, 2017. It's been (unbelievably) about four years since my last blog entry, and so much has changed for me, both personally and professionally! I decided to keep the old blog posts which you can view below, just as a reminder of where I've been. One of my closest friends cautioned me about the controversial nature of some of them (then and now), but I like to keep it real; so what you see (read) is what you get, LOL.

In April 2014 I was diagnosed with stage 3C breast cancer that had spread to lymph nodes under my left arm. After 11 rounds of intensive chemotherapy, radical mastectomy, and 41 radiation treatments, I emerged cancer free in June 2015. The "maintainance" chemo continued until the end of August 2015. I was left physically debilitated after all that, as you can imagine; but my spirit was strong in faith, and I never waivered from the belief that God would see me through. He did, and still does.

As I began to rebuild my strength, I became interested in natural healing for the body. A colleague had given me the book, Notes From a Naturopath by Thomasina (Tammy) Copenhaver. Tammy's book opened my eyes to an alternative view of health care called Naturopathy. I believe the Lord led me to her book due to how it all came about, which is another story; but this slender book vastly enlarged my understanding of the poor path of health I had been on all my life and opened my mind to the concept of truly counseling to the whole person--physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

At this writing, I have completed a 44 credit course in Natural Health Studies with New Eden School of Natural Health, which has helped me develop some of the skills necessary to help my counselees pursue a life of optimal wellness. 

Christian Counseling is still my calling and my passion, only now I can see that it is not enough to attend only to the emotional/spiritual aspects of people's suffering. If my counselees are going to reach their goals of mental health, I must also evaluate their lifestyle practices and offer solutions that will bring their body, soul, and spirit into balance. As I transition to this new model of helping ministry, I hope you will pray for me and Mercy Christian Counseling Ministries and for the people I seek to serve. 

Blessings to you!



Managing Anger God's Way

Posted by mercycounseling on December 7, 2013 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

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Halloween and Christians

Posted by mercycounseling on October 30, 2013 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

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