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Gratitude & Contentment: Counter Cultural

Have you noticed that one of the most recent trends on social media is finding ways to live a simpler, minimal life? There’s a reason that this trend has gone viral and that’s because it is so counter cultural–even revolutionary–to American society.

Everything we watch on television is chocked full of items and lifestyles the world says we need in order to be happy. Scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest, you’ll find ads from companies who know everything about you in order to market their products to your specific tastes.

We are a culture of more, more, more, but God is calling His people to less and less and less.

The Rich, Young Ruler

Remember the rich young ruler in Luke 18? He wanted so badly to follow Jesus, but Jesus knew there was one thing the ruler would never give up–his wealth.

And of course, as always, Jesus was right! The ruler turned on his heel and walked back the way he had come, unwilling to give up the grandiose lifestyle he had grown accustomed to. Afraid to miss out on the life money offered to him, he missed out on the incredible journey Jesus had to offer him.

If there was ever a country that mimicked the rich young ruler’s example, it would be America. To live content and grateful for what God has given us means we have to swim upstream against the current of our culture. It requires work, practice, and endurance.

But the life God is offering you is so much more valuable  and surreal than what this world could ever offer you. Do you believe that today?

Questions for Your Day:

  1. What is an area of your life you may need to fight to be grateful for this week?
  2. In what way are you like the rich, young ruler?
  3. Do you truly believe that the life God is offering you is far more valuable than what the world could offer?



3 Ways to Remember You are Valued

Think about the three people you are most grateful for in this world. Is it too hard to narrow down just three? How about five? It’s amazing how deeply our lives can be impacted by the people God places in our lives, and let’s all agree, some people are absolute treasures to us!

Now, let me ask you another question. Do you believe in your heart or hearts that someone out there would consider you to be one of their three people? If so, I know that brings a lot of warmth and value to your heart. But if you don’t believe that, I’m sure you have questions about your value to the people you love, and that can be a very lonely place to live.

While you can’t change the way others communicate their gratitude for you, you have every ability in the world to change your mindset and believe you are valuable and loved by others regardless of how they show it. Here are some reminders to help you remember your worth:

You are Valued because God Says You’re Valued

What would it mean if a person sacrificed the thing they love most in this world in order to restore a relationship with you? It would mean everything, would it not?

1 Corinthians 7 says that God paid a high price for you–one that none of us deserve or asked for, but a relationship with you was so valuable to Him that he sacrificed the life of his only son, Jesus, in order that you could be with him forever!

So whether you feel valuable or not, value is based on what someone is willing to pay for something, and the price God paid is higher than you could ever imagine!

Others may Express Gratitude Differently than You Receive it

Have you ever heard of the five love languages? It is a great study conducted many years back which compares how different people feel and express their love.

One thing they realized was that people express love in extremely different ways, which leaves room for a lot of miscommunication. Be encouraged that just because someone doesn’t express their love and gratitude for you the way you expect doesn’t mean that they aren’t immensely grateful for you! It just means that their love language is different than yours.

More than likely the way you express your love for others may not be the way others expect as well. So give your loved ones the benefit of a doubt and try to translate their actions in whatever love language your love ones speak best.

Be Transparent with Your Pain

If you feel undervalued or neglected by those you love, speak up! There is no point in walking around with open wounds. Be transparent about how you feel. Share the ways that you feel you need to be loved in order to feel valued and appreciated. This will allow any bitterness in your heart to be removed and you can move forward in your relationship with healing and understanding.

So there you have it–3 reminders of how wonderful and valuable you are! If you are still having doubts and need to think about this further, I encourage you to think through the following questions:

  1. When was the last time you explicitly told someone how grateful you are for them?
  2. What is your love language? If you’re unsure, you can take the test here.
  3. Who do you need to have a conversation with to resolve this pain?



Fear of God Brings Gratitude

Have you ever wondered about the Bible verse in Proverbs that says, “Fear the Lord?” What exactly does it mean? And why would fear ever lead me to feel gratitude?

God is the creator and designer of all things. If we remember how powerful He is and stay in awe of the miracle He performed on the cross to make us a part of His family forever, our only desire will be to please Him and honor Him. We won’t care about what people think of our life choices or our decisions because our priorities are seen through the lens of the cross, and our hearts can’t help but become full of gratitude.

If (or more likely when) we lose sight of the cross and of God’s work in our lives, God will become smaller in our minds, and we will instead see our priorities through the lenses of other people’s standards for us.

And we all know how impossible those standard can be!

The only way we know to impress each other in our culture is to buy more and more stuff to show how successful we are. Without realizing it, we fall into the trap of living only to one-up the Joneses. Whatever gratitude we may have experienced is instead replaced with envy and discontentment.

So how do we keep our eyes and our priorities fixed on God? We have to take actionable steps every single day to ensure that we never lose awe or fear for what Jesus did for us on the cross. When feelings of envy or jealousy start to creep in, ask yourself, “Did Jesus come off of His throne in Heaven and die a martyr’s death so that I could sit in jealousy of my neighbor’s new car?”

Of course the answer will be no. Asking yourself this question daily will keep you motivated to consider what He did make that sacrifice for and set your eyes on accomplishing the things worthy of that sacrifice–regardless of what others may think.

Here are some questions for you to consider as you start your weekend:

  1. Have you found yourself envious of something or someone lately?
  2. Who is the one person in your life you are trying to impress, whether you are consciously aware of it or not?
  3. What can you do to reignite the awe you have for what God has done for you so your heart can be filled with gratitude again?



Overcoming the Fear of Grace

Recently we spoke about how difficult it can be for people to say the word, “no.” But another common phrase that may expose an underlying fear is “I’m sorry.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not ruling out the necessity of a true apology or asking forgiveness. That is Biblical and a vital part of building and healing healthy relationships. The type of apology I’m talking about is the  kind of “I’m sorry” that’s impulsive, and flies out of the mouth a hundred times a day–even when we’ve done nothing wrong.

This sort of apology isn’t necessarily genuine and is instead a red flag for low self-esteem. When we don’t feel like we belong somewhere or when we’ve convinced ourselves that we are more of a nuisance than an asset, we tend to absorb the fault of everything around us. Low self-esteem can often be a mask for a fear of grace. We don’t feel like we deserve it, so we are afraid to ask for it. Even worse, however, is that we are afraid to accept it. 

Grace is a Calling

The first step in learning to accept grace is to know you’re right! You don’t deserve grace! And neither do I. The Bible is clear that we have all fallen short and that none of us deserve anything in this life other than death.

Ouch…

While this may not seem encouraging at first, let that sink in…God knows we don’t deserve grace, but He loves us so much He offers it to us as a gift anyway! What that should do is swell our hearts to overflowing because to deny the grace God is offering us is to say that our low self-esteem is more powerful than God’s love and generosity. And that’s just simply not the case. Once God has His eyes set on you and declares you worthy because of what His son did for you on the cross, you have no right to declare yourself unworthy! So stand up tall and straighten the crown of righteousness He’s given you!

Grace is an Act of Humility

Many people believe that low self-esteem is the opposite of pride or the same as humility. But in reality, low-self esteem is just another expression of pride. Rather than thinking too much of yourself, you think too little of yourself. Both are derived from the same action–thinking about yourself. One of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis says, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” This means that if we take our  eyes off of ourselves and fix them on others and on God, we will become more teachable, more confident, and will be able to find our place in the world to achieve the callings He’s given each of us.

Grace is Worship

You can’t do anything outside of the love and power of Jesus Christ. So stop trying to rely on your own strength and then beat yourself up for it every time you fail! God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness, so stop apologizing and praise God when you are so weak that He has to work through you to accomplish His work. What an incredible miracle that we can be so imperfect and still be used by God to do His work.

I hope these words inspire you and give you some encouragement this weekend. As you go about your day, consider these questions:

Questions:

  1. Do you find yourself apologizing even when you’ve done nothing wrong?
  2. Do you believe you are suffering or have suffered from low self-esteem in the past?
  3. What would it take for you to believe you are deserving of grace today?



Going Deeper: Getting to the Root of Fear

The first step to conquering your fear is understanding it. And let’s face it, some of our fears are shallow and easy to identify at face-value. For example, you don’t have to go through a traumatic episode to be afraid of spiders. People can be afraid of spiders simply because, well…

They’re creepy!

Other fears are a little harder to excavate, and it’s hard to fight against a fear that we don’t understand. For example, some people have an irrational fear of roller coasters. I had a client once who would break out in a sweat even if she overhear people talking about a theme park. She assumed it was because of a fear of heights, but  in reality, she was an avid rock climber who could be 300-400 feet in the air without much discomfort.

When we sat down to talk about why she was afraid of roller coasters but had no problem climbing up a 300-foot rock face, we realized heights weren’t the problem at all. The root of her fear was feeling like her safety was out of her control. She had no problem setting a rope hundreds of feet in the air as long as it was her hands that did it, When it came to trusting a stranger to design and maintain a machine that could go a hundred miles an hour, however, she couldn’t imagine strapping herself into the seat.

After digging further, it became clear that she had experienced a history of domestic violence as a young woman, and that experience made it difficult to trust other people with her physical well-being. So while at face-value my client seemed afraid of heights, deep down there was a whole lot of hurt and history that was keeping her at arms length from those she loved. Counseling not only helped her take steps towards riding her first (albeit, small) roller coaster, it helped her take steps towards trusting others again. Facing this seemingly simple fear had huge beneficial consequences for her, and I’m convinced you can have that same experience too!

So what about you? Are you ready to start digging deeper to the root of your fears? If so, then list out some of your most common fears on a sheet of paper. Then ask yourself these three simple questions:

 

  1. Do you notice any common traits in those fears?
  2. When did some of these fears first begin?
  3. By addressing the root of some of these fears, how would your life be different?

 

 

Break Free of the Enemy’s Strongholds

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:3-5

One of the topics that is talked about least in our culture while holding perhaps the greatest influence over our mental health is spiritual warfare. The Bible warns us that we have to demolish any strongholds the enemy can use to distract us from living and reaching our full potential.  If you believe that there is a God who designed you, created you, and set in motion a plan for your life, you have to face the reality that there is also an enemy, named Satan, whose only goal is to thwart God’s plans for you by distracting you from the course God has set for you. Scripture says that the enemy is a liar, incapable of speaking truth, yet we keep falling for his words over and over again. We have to remember, the enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy, and if we listen to his voice and allow him to have sway over our lives, he will lead us down a path of destruction.

Here are three ways you can find and demolish the enemy’s strongholds on your life:

1. We have to Know God’s Voice

God speaks to us through His word, through the people we love and care about, and even through nature, according to Romans. The enemy, however, knows this and tries to trick us by taking scripture verses out of context, speaking through people we trust and admire, and through everyday distractions. It is so important that we become familiar with God’s voice and work to develop discernment so we can know which voice is speaking to us.

2. We have to Guard our Hearts

The greatest battles between God and the enemy are fought on the battlefields of our hearts. As Christians, we can rest in assurance that God has already won the war for our hearts, but the enemy just doesn’t know when to quit, and can still do damage in the short run. We have to be aware that our hearts are constantly being pulled in two directions and take command over which direction our hearts will be inclined to go. If we are not knitting our hearts to God then we’ll drift farther and farther away from Him. The more space we allow between our hearts and God, the

3. We have to Take Every Thought Captive

Philippians 4:8 warns us that we have to fix our minds on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, and whatever is excellent. Only God can be these things, so when our minds are fixed on what is good or right or pure, our minds are fixed on God, and the enemy has no room to interject his own thoughts into our minds. So when thoughts of guilt or shame come into your mind, identify them for what they are and remember those thoughts are not from God but from Satan. And he has no business in your thought life.

I hope that this message brings encouragement to you and empowers you to face whatever battle you are facing this week. If you’d like to speak with one of our qualified counselors, please know our hearts are only to help you and guide you to living the best life God has called to you, free from all the enemy’s strongholds. You were made for so much more! Give us a call today and let us join you in your journey today!

Faith Forward,

Shawn



Feeling Courageous When You Can’t Even

The Bible doesn’t say “Be strong and courageous when you feel like it.” Sometimes I wish it did! But that would allow us to rely on our own strength which we all know is less than reliable. Instead, we’re called to rely on God’s strength which never fails and never taps out. This is even more difficult on days where we just don’t feel ourselves. Inevitably, there will be a day when we wake up tired, sick, or feeling like the cards are stacked against us. So how do we muster courage on those days? What are some ways we can push ourselves to be courageous to face the day when all we want to do is shrivel up and go back to bed?

1. Set Yourself Up for Success

The first thing you can do every morning is get up and dress the part. Even if you don’t feel courageous or prepared for the day, wake up at the same time anyway. Make the bed to keep yourself from crawling back in it. Get dressed in an outfit that makes you feel powerful. I had a client several years back who reserved a specific shade of lipstick which she called “the armor of God.” She reserved this lipstick for those especially difficult days when she needed a visual reminder to put on the armor of God and rely on His strength that day. Whatever makes you feel bold or powerful, make it part of your morning routine, and watch how quickly your attitude towards the day will shift.

2. Fake it in Faith

A study was done several years ago that showed that if you stand in a powerful position with your feet shoulder-width apart, your hands on your hips, and your head held high, you can actually trick your brain into feeling more powerful and brave. Whether you buy in to the study or not, the idea is very helpful. Sometimes you won’t feel bold or courageous until you start believing God can make you courageous if you faithfully play the part.

3. Pray…Harder

To rely on God’s strength, we need to be faithful and ask for it. This should be a daily occurrence, but some days, you’ll just need to stop from time to time, go to your knees in prayer, and beg God to bring strength when you have none. He is faithful and will always equip you to complete the call He has given you each day, so ask in faith knowing He will respond.

4. Give yourself an incentive

There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a little reward or incentive to keep yourself going. If you struggle with social anxiety and know you have a day full of conferences or presentations, plan a quiet hike in the afternoon where you can escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy the quiet time you are craving. If you are an exhausted mother unsure whether you can manage carpool or toddler tantrums for one more day, plan a long bubble-bath or order a new book to look forward to as a reward for whatever chaos the day throws your way.

5. Remember the Long-Game

It’s easy to slip into the here-and-now mentality, but as Christians, we’ve been called to live every day in light of eternity. Think to yourself, in 10,000 years is this lousy day even going to be a blip on my radar? The answer is no. Will the faithful act of being courageous when God calls me to be matter? Yes it will. So don’t fall into the trap of believing that the struggle you are facing today has no expiration date. Keeping a long-term perspective will help keep the fears and doubts of today in their rightful place.

To encourage you, I’d like to leave you with a Bible verse to consider as you rest this weekend to face another week. Lamentations 3:22-23 says that God’s love never ceases and that His mercies are new every morning. That means that while we sleep each night, He makes a new deposit of strength and mercy to face whatever the day ahead of us has in store. If we believe that He has equipped us for anything in our path, the most courageous thing we can do is start walking.

Here are some questions to consider as you begin your weekend:

  1. Do you believe God has equipped you to face your day today?
  2. What is God calling you to today that you are tempted to shy away from?
  3. What incentive would motivate you to live courageously today?
  4. What makes you feel more powerful even if you feel your weakest?

If you’d like for these resources to be delivered straight to your inbox, be sure to subscribe to our mailing list by submitting your email below. We promise you won’t regret it and would love to welcome you to the New Vision family!



Approach Fear Like a Diet

Have you ever started a diet where you had lofty goals to lose three pants sizes in a week, only to look at the scales a week later and find you were a couple pounds heavier? Maybe dieting isn’t your thing, but instead you tried to train for your first half-marathon and found yourself on the couch in your running shoes gorging on a bag of potato chips instead.

Lofty goals can lead to pride or defeat–pride because if you succeed in accomplishing that seemingly impossible goal, you will have bragging rights for life. Defeat, however, is the more common of these two outcomes, because staring at a mountain and having no concrete or realistic plan can knock the wind out of your sails before you even begin.

I had a client a few years back who had a fear of spiders. She hated them, but could usually manage her fear enough to remove herself from an uncomfortable situation if she needed to. Her roommate decided this fear was irrational so she took a pretty radical approach to help her get past this fear. She released her pet tarantula into my client’s room and locked the door behind her. This of course traumatized my patient, and what began as a fear of spiders quickly developed into a full-blown phobia. Had the client been able to take baby-steps toward conquering her fear in her own time, she may have found the opportunity to move past this fear on her own. Unfortunately, due to her roommate’s rip-the-bandaid-off-quickly approach, she required profession counseling to help manage her fear.

While many fears do require the help of a professional due to trauma or anxiety, many fears can be conquered with a plan and a little determination. Approach your fear the way you would approach a diet with these three, simple steps:

  1. Make a Plan

Fear, much like a diet or any other goal, has to be approached in baby steps. Sure, you want to set goals for yourself, but if you have no concrete, achievable  goals to set your eyes on, you’ll get distracted, overwhelmed, and will likely give up. Just as a doctor would rarely encourage a patient to give up all sweets in a single day, I would rarely recommend jumping out of an airplane as your first step towards conquering a fear of heights. Instead, set measurable, achievable goals, and get started.

2) Find Your Person

Just as it would be helpful to have a friend or family member hold you accountable during a diet, finding someone you trust can make all the difference in the world as you face your fear. Getting over your fear requires transparency, so think of a single person you trust to gently but firmly come alongside you to help you achieve your goals.

3) Celebrate the Victories

It’s important to celebrate the small victories along the way to increase your stamina and keep you motivated. Conquering a fear is not easy, so treat yourself from time to time! Just as you might reward yourself for making it through a week without sugar with a victory cookie, think of something you can use to motivate yourself towards your goal.

Think of a fear that may have some control over you or may be keeping you from doing something really exciting. Today could be the first day towards conquering that fear! Take the first step now by answering these three questions:

  1. What fear do you think it is time to conquer?
  2. What are the first three baby steps you need to take in order to achieve this goal?
  3. Who do you trust to walk alongside you as you face this fear? Name one person.

    If you would like to learn more about our services or what we can do to help you overcome any fears or anxieties you might be facing, contact us and set-up a time to talk. Our experienced therapists and counselors are more than happy to talk with you and help you decide what your next steps need to be. If you’d like to join our mailing list to receive free counseling resources just like this straight to your inbox, type your email below! And don’t forget to share with a friend.



3 Steps to Resolve Anger

It’s inevitable…if we choose to be in a relationships with others, then sometimes we are going to find ourselves in situations where we feel angry or offended. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we are all guilty of causing others pain. As Christians, it is our responsibility to resolve conflicts quickly in order to heal relationships and move forward. Unfortunately, when it comes to resolving our anger, we can react out of anger instead and find ourselves in greater conflict than before.

If you find yourself feeling offended or angry, take some time to consider the situation. Pray for clarity and check your heart to honestly consider what is causing your anger. Once you find the clarity you need to address the problem level-headedly, seek out the person that has angered you and attempt to resolve the issue. Be authentic and honest with the person using these three steps as a guide:

1) Share What Happened

This will allow you both to align your perceptions and identify whether there is a problem to resolve or if it was a simple miscommunication. Either way, you will free yourself from the temptation of holding a grudge and offer the other person the chance to provide clarity. It is very possible the person is unaware he or she has offended you, so give the benefit of the doubt and initiate a conversation, free of accusation and full of grace.

2) Share How You Feel

Even if the situation turns out to be a simple miscommunication, you are still human, and feelings can be hurt even without bad intentions. Allow yourself the freedom to explain how the situation made you feel. Be open, transparent, and honest–but careful not to let your emotions get away from you.

3) Share What You Need 

The most overlooked step in resolving anger is sharing what you need to move past your anger. While sharing how you feel may help you feel better in the moment, it will not resolve the issue or prevent it from happening again. If there is something that you need in order to move forward in the relationship, share it! Allow the other person to do the same, and you are one step closer to creating unity in your relationship.

Unfortunately, this three-step approach cannot guarantee to fix every situation because you cannot control how the other person will react. It will, however, help you deal with your anger in a positive and healthy way that will lead you one step closer to a healthy relationship again.

God bless, and have a great weekend!
Shawn Maguire

Your Comeback is way better then your set back

Have you ever felt taken out by a person or a circumstance and felt like all hope was lost? Maybe thats where you’re at today? This reminds me of a man in the Bible named Peter. Peter was the kind of guy who went all out for Jesus. He left his family and fishing career and was the guy who walked on water for at least a minute. Peter was rewarded by seeing miracles, being one of the 12 disciples and even an intimate part of Jesus’ most trusted inner circle of three. They ate together, traveled and ministered together and talked about issues like who would be the greatest. Peter’s dream of restoring Israel back to her former glory was happening and he was at the center of it all. He even told Jesus that even if everyone else deserted Him, he would not. For Peter, life was great.

And then Judas betrays Jesus and the life that he knows is jeopardized. But Peter is fierce and doesn’t go down without a fight. He brandishes his sword and defends his Jesus and the dream life he has been living. What happens next was the beginning of the end for Peter and the life he knew. Jesus tells Peter to put the sword away then heals the man Peter wounded. Soon after, the son of God who cast out demons and raised the dead was taken prisoner.

This was too much for Peter and he fled. He fled because everything he thought to be true had just been wrecked. Peter lingered at a distance and denied knowing Jesus three times as Jesus was being judged. He had lost his identity because his identity was in the dream of who he wanted Jesus to be and not who Jesus really was. And then Jesus was crucified and the finality of his loss was made certain. This was Peter’s darkest hour.

But then the resurrection and hope was restored! Jesus met up with Peter as the risen King. He then asked Peter 3 times “Do you love me?” The conversation reached the point where Peter was really hurt and said “You know I love you.” Jesus had to acknowledge the depth of shame and pain Peter felt in his failure and lost identity to prepare Peter to receive a new one. This would be Peter’s come back. Then Jesus said “go and feed my sheep”. This is the equivalent of Jesus saying your shame and failures do not disqualify you from your calling. I am validating you as a loved child of God who is qualified by what I have done. The focus has now shifted from Peter’s identity being in his beliefs and abilities to Jesus and who He says Peter is.

• How have you experienced a set back or felt like a failure?
• Pray and ask God to show you how he wants to take you from Set Back to Come Back?

Shawn Maguire is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has served marriages, families and individuals for almost 25 years. He is the owner of New Vision Counseling, a place where therapists integrate. their faith with cutting edge counseling techniques to offer hope and healing in any circumstance of life. You can find out more about Shawn and his team at NewVisionCounseling.org or follow him on facebook and Instagram at NewVisionCounseling

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