• The Anatomy of Anxiety Part 8: Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

    Posted on October 27th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 8:

    Anxiety, Worry, Fear, and Phobia—Oh My!

     

    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk. For part two, please visit: http://bit.ly/20R01P. For part three, stop by: http://bit.ly/HAoxI. For part four, drop by: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF. For part five, visit: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt. For part six, please go here: http://bit.ly/19vCXx. For part seven, please visit: http://bit.ly/21wPLg.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

     

    What Anxiety Feels Like

     

    We use a host of terms for “anxiety.” Four of the most common are anxiety, worry, fear, and phobia.

     

    Though these are distinct and can be contrasted, we can also identify common threads woven throughout each of these terms. They consist of overlapping, similar experiences.

     

    The following are actual ways that people have described to me their experiences of anxiety, worry, fear, and phobia.

     

    *I’m constantly turned in upon myself and tuned in only to myself.

     

    “I’m consistently reflecting on myself and overly concerned with my life in a way that feels self-centered, obsessive, out of control, and abnormal.”

     

    *I’m hyper-vigilant in my response to threat and I always have a sense of foreboding.

     

    “I feel like something bad is going to happen that I can’t control or handle.”

     

    *My mind gets stuck in a state of alertness and preparation for danger, real or imagined.

     

    “I can’t seem to stop preparing for the worst.”

     

    *My fear is my survival system, like an alarm clock intended to startle me awake. But the button is stuck and the alarm won’t stop!

     

    “It’s like the old Lost in Space show with the Robot always screaming, ‘Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!’”

     

    *Anxiety is my present experience of a scary future.

     

    “I feel like the cowardly lion, afraid of his own shadow, and like all the Oz characters always chanting, ‘Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh my!’”

     

    *My fear retreats from the threat. Fear cringes.  

     

    “I don’t fight; I flee because I view the danger as bigger than my resources.”

     

    *My fear causes distortions. I seem weaker than I am. God seems weak, or uninvolved, or uncaring.

     

    “I’m David against Goliath, but I don’t see God in the scene.”

     

    *I sense a dangerous threat that I can’t control or surmount.

     

    “Life is too hard for me. This situation is too big for me. I’m a child in an adult world.”

     

    *I worry all the time. It’s a distracting care, a consuming thought.

     

    “I get stuck on the step of identifying every possible negative eventuality. I define the problem, but I don’t move on to identifying options, finding solutions, or taking action.”

     

    *I’m in a near constant state of dread or apprehension, usually not even triggered by any specific danger.

     

    “I’m swallowed in panic and confusion about my uncertain future. All I know for sure is that at least one of the potential negative outcomes is sure to occur!”

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    Have you “been there, done that?” Do any of these real-life descriptions fit your real life? Or the life of someone you love? Someone you are ministering to?

     

    It’s easy for us, especially if these issues are uncommon to us, to quickly say, “It’s all sin. Just trust God. Be anxious for nothing. Pray.”

     

    Even if all of that advice were always true; it’s still trite.

     

    We change lives with Christ’s changeless truth…not with our trite truisms.

     

    I invite you to return for part nine and beyond as we’ll begin to share realistic biblical principles for overcoming anxiety—at its root, at its core.

     

    Our entire blog series is moving toward the goal of finding God’s sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding care and cure for anxiety.

  • 12 Biblical Portraits of Anxiety

    Posted on October 21st, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 7:

    A Dozen Biblical Portraits of Anxiety

     

    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk. For part two, please visit: http://bit.ly/20R01P. For part three, stop by: http://bit.ly/HAoxI. For part four, drop by: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF. For part five, visit: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt. For part six, please go here: http://bit.ly/19vCXx.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love?

    Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

     

    The Bible Is Relevant

     

    Some people talk about “making the Bible relevant.”

     

    We don’t make the Bible relevant. The Bible is the most relevant book ever written.

     

    In fact, we have to work hard to make the Bible irrelevant. We have to work hard to make the Bible boring.

     

    Other people talk about the sufficiency of the Scriptures. I believe 100% that the Bible is sufficient. However, far too many people fail to link the sufficiency of Scripture with the relevancy of Scripture.

     

    We should never talk about the sufficiency of Scripture without also emphasizing the relevancy of Scripture.

     

    The Relevancy of the Bible and Anxiety

     

    What does all of this have to do with an anatomy of anxiety?

     

    Some people think that the only biblical reference to anxiety is Philippians 4:6. They also tend to act like the only biblical counseling that we need to do for a person struggling with anxiety is to quote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

     

    That’s an amazing verse, but the Bible is not simply a “concordance” on anxiety where we tell people, “take two verses and call me in the morning.”

     

    The Reality of the Bible: The Agony of Anxiety

     

    The Bible presents an amazing array of an anatomy of anxiety. I want to share just a small sampler of those to whet your appetite. These verses and passages realistically depict the agony of anxiety.

     

    The Bible is real and raw. It tells about real people with real problems. It presents real answers from a real God.

     

    One of the myriad beauties of the Bible is it teaches us that we are not alone. Others have suffered like we do now. And others have found victory. This sense of “universality”—that others are in the same boat, encourages us when life beats us down.

     

    A Dozen Biblical Samplers of the Experience of Anxiety

     

    If you are struggling with fear, panic, worry, or anxiety, consider the following samplers as just a few passages you can turn to that depict struggles with fear and anxiety in other godly men and women of the Bible.

     

    *Psalm 27: When fear assaults, David seeks God’s face.

     

    *Psalm 34: Read of David’s fear and broken-heartedness and God’s care and cure.

     

    *Psalm 46: Learn of God’s strength and ever-present help in our trouble and anxieties.

     

    *Psalm 55: David’s thoughts trouble him—ever been there? He is distraught—been there, done that! His heart is in anguish within him; terrors of death assail him. Fear and trembling beset him; horrors overwhelm him. He casts all his cares on Jehovah; He cries out to Jehovah in distress. He pleads for God’s sustaining care.

     

    *Psalm 91: This psalm has been called the 911 Psalm. When you experience terror and foreboding and feel like life is an unavoidable snare and trap, call God’s 911 hotline and find God to be your refuge and shield.

     

    *Psalm 109: David candidly speaks of his wounded heart (109:22). He is poor and needy, shaken and fading away (109:23). Attacked by others, he clings to God.

     

    *Psalm 116: The psalmist is overcome by trouble, afflicted, and dismayed, overly concerned, imprisoned by anguish. Where will rest be found?

     

    *Matthew 6:25-33: Jesus’ teaching on worry and trusting Father’s good heart.

     

    *Matthew 10:26-31: Jesus’ teaching on fear and trusting Father’s affectionate sovereignty.

     

    *John 14:1-31: Jesus’ loving message to His disciples and to us—when our hearts are troubled, when we feel orphaned and all alone, where do we find peace? Do not let your hearts be troubled.

     

    *Philippians 4:1-20: A classic passage on anxiety—but note that it is a passage in the context of a book. It is not simply a verse to quote like waving a magic wand.

     

    *1 Peter 5:5-11: Another classic New Testament passage in a wider context that includes not only casting our care on God who cares, but also discusses vigilance (5:8)—sound familiar?

     

    What About You? What About Your Friend?
     
    If you are struggling with fear, anxiety, panic, worry…don’t simply read these passages. Feel them. Live them. Experience them. Write a personal paraphrase of them. Memorize them. Meditate on them.

     

    If you are helping a spiritual friend who is battling anxiety…don’t simply preach these passages at your friend. Discuss these passages. Interact about them. Dialogue about them. Trialogue about them–you, your spiritual friend, and the Ultimate Spiritual Friend. Have your spiritual friend write a personal paraphrase of the passage.

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    I invite you to return for part eight where we’ll share personal expressions of the agony of anxiety from others who have struggled through it. You are not alone.

     

    Then in part nine and beyond, we’ll explore some causes of anxiety.

     

    All of our discussion is moving toward the goal of finding God’s sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding care and cure for anxiety.

  • Ten Snap Shots of Anxiety

    Posted on October 16th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 6: Ten Snap Shots of Anxiety

    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk. For part two, please visit: http://bit.ly/20R01P. For part three, stop by: http://bit.ly/HAoxI. For part four, drop by: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF. For part five, visit: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

     

    Where We’re Headed

     

    In our blog series on anxiety, we want to move toward biblical victory over anxiety. What want to explore together how to move from fear to faith, and how to help one another to move from anxiety to faith, hope, love, and peace.

     

    But before we do that, we have two more “stops” on our blog tour of anxiety. Today we want to summarize where we’ve been thus far.

     

    Then, we want to paint some real-life biblical portraits of anxiety—what it feels like and looks like. Where do we turn in the Bible to see such portraits? We’ll address that question next week.

     

    What We’ve Seen So Far: Ten Sign Posts for the Anatomy of Anxiety

     

    Let’s summarize our first five blog posts on the anatomy of anxiety.

     

    1. Emotions are e-motions. God designed them to set us in motion. They are part of the God-designed motivational structure of the soul. E-motions motivate action.

     

    2. God gave us the e-motion of vigilance to urge us to act quickly and courageously in response to a life need. When vigilance works, we have “mood order.”

     

    3. Vigilance is a faith response to threat. In our faith response, we love God by trusting Him, and we love others by protecting them.

     

    4. However, living in a fallen world, inhabiting unredeemed bodies, and tempted by an unloving enemy—Satan (the world, the flesh, and the devil), our vigilance can turn to hyper-vigilance, or stuck vigilance when we experience threat without faith.

     

    5. In stuck vigilance, instead of a faith response to threat, we have a fear response to threat that leads either to flight (anxiety, panic) or fight (anger, aggression). When e-motions misfire like this, we have “mood disorder.”

     

    6. So when fear strikes, we should be asking, “Where does fear drive me? Does it drive me to self-protection by flight or fight? Or does fear drive me to God, my Protector?”

     

    7. Faith that works does not shun vigilance. Rather, it controls vigilance. It refuses to allow the emotions to control the mind.

     

    8. God calls us to manage our moods and to master our emotions. We are not to ignore them, stuff them, or harm others with them. David is a biblical portrait of mature mood management. In Psalm 42, he is emotionally aware. “Why are you disquieted within me, O, my soul?” David then demonstrates soothing his soul in God. “Hope thou in God.” As Martin Lloyd-Jones says, David talked to himself rather than simply listening to himself!

     

    9. When anxiety stalks, faith wrestles. Faith talks to the self. “I know God will never leave me nor forsake me. I can do all things through Christ. I am more than a conqueror. Nothing will ever separate me from the love of God in Christ.”

     

    10. When faith wrestles anxiety, we refuse the fight or flight response. Instead, we choose the tend and befriend response. Trusting God’s protection, we refuse to protect our self. Instead, we courageously protect others for God’s glory.

     

    What About You?

     

    What are you doing with fear? With threat?

     

    They are opportunities to test Who and what you trust.

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    I invite you to return for part seven where we’ll offer some real-life, biblical pictures of anxiety. The Bible is relevant. It addresses real people in real life with real issues. It paints accurate soul portraits of anxiety. We’ll point you toward over a dozen next time we meet.

     

  • Diagnosing Anxiety

    Posted on October 14th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 5: Why Am I Afraid?

    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk. For part two, please visit: http://bit.ly/20R01P. For part three, stop by: http://bit.ly/HAoxI. For part four, drop by: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. 

     

    What Is the Biblical Portrait of Phobia, Anxiety, and Fear?

     

    John tells us that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).

     

    The word John uses for “fear” is “phobos.” It is used 138 times in the New Testament. Interestingly, the number one New Testament command is, “Fear not!”

     

    In a positive sense, phobos can mean reverence, awe, respect, and honor.

     

    In a negative usage, it means terror, apprehension, alarm, and arousal to flee. In Matthew 28:4, we have a word picture of phobos/phobia. When the Angel of the Lord appears, the guards fear and fall like dead men. Thus here it is used of paralysis of action.

     

    In Luke 21:26, phobos relates to uncertain expectations, terror, apprehension that fears the “What next!?”

     

    In Romans 8:15, phobos has the idea of slavish terror as Paul reminds us that we have been given a spirit of sonship, confidence, and relational acceptance, not a spirit of slavish terror about relational rejection.

     

    Fear of Ultimate Rejection

     

    John is quite specific in his portrait as he says fear has to do with punishment. Punishment means rejection, separation, condemnation—to be left as a loveless orphan, to be abandoned as a helpless child.

     

    To understand John fully, we must go back one verse. In 1 John 4:17, John says that “love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment.”

     

    Confidence is openness, frankness, boldness, assurance, concealing nothing, no hiding, no shame, no fear. It is the courage to come boldly before the throne of grace—because of grace! It is the courage to express myself freely and openly in relationship because I know there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

     

    So What Is Phobia, Fear, and Anxiety?

     

    So, how does the Bible picture and define anxiety, fear, and phobia? We might summarize it like this:

     

    “Phobia is paralyzing apprehension causing me to flee what I fear or to become paralyzed when facing my fear because I doubt my relational acceptance and security, because I doubt God’s grace. My ultimate fear is fear of rejection by God. That fear is the cause of all other fears in life.”

     

    What do I fear?

     

    “I fear God, but not in the sense of reverence and awe. I fear God’s rejection because I refuse to place faith in God’s gracious acceptance of me in Christ.”

     

    Why am I afraid?

     

    “If the God of the universe rejects me, then I’m on my own. And If I’m on my own, life is too much for me.”

     

    Making It Real

     

    Let’s make it real-life practical. Phobia/phobos/fear/anxiety makes me feel like:

     

    *“Life is unsafe. It’s too hard for me.”

     

    *”If I cry out for help, no one will respond. If I reach up to God, He won’t care because He has rejected me. He is ashamed of me and I am ashamed in His presence.”

     

    *”I won’t be protected. There’s no one who cares and no one who is in control. No one is flying this plane!”

     

    *”I am orphaned and left alone because no one cares about me. Therefore, I have to make life work on my own.”

     

    *”But I’m small, childlike, inadequate. I can’t overcome the 800-pound gorilla of life. While I  must face life alone, life is too much for me to face.”

     

    So How Do We Diagnose Fear?

     

    Phobias, fear, worries, and anxiety signify my failure to grasp and apply God’s powerful promise of gracious acceptance and protection. Fear and anxiety are caused by my refusal to accept my acceptance in Christ. If I believe Satan’s lying, condemning narrative, then I am left with no option other than trusting in myself. And I am far too small to handle life on my own.

     

    Fear becomes a vicious cycle. Fearing God’s rejection, I reject God’s help, and I end up feeling helpless to face life.

     

    The Rest of the Story: There Has to Be a Better Way

     

    There has to be a better way, don’t you think? I sure hope so!

     

    John gives us that better way when he tells us that “perfect love casts our all fear” (1 John 4:18).

     

    Join us again tomorrow when we examine biblical principles for overcoming anxiety with faith, hope, and healing love.

  • Eyeballs Only or Spiritual Eyes?

    Posted on October 13th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Are You Looking at Life with Eyeballs Only or with Spiritual Eyes?

     

    In yesterday’s blog post, I shared about how the extension cord connected to my computer was accidently unplugged during my How to Care Like Christ seminar (http://bit.ly/3YYAR4), causing my computer to go into hibernation. To read that entire post, please visit http://bit.ly/LLrwI.

     

    As I asked yesterday, I’d ask you again today to imagine the scene and to put yourself in my shoes as a speaker.

     

    Your computer is going into hibernation and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Your entire presentation is PowerPoint driven. Most of the audience doesn’t know you. The whole start and set-up for the entire day could be ruined.

     

    What would you do? What would you think? How might you respond?

     

    With Eyeballs Only

     

    My immediate, fleshly, emotional, eyeballs only response was to think and feel, “The day is ruined.” “They will think I’m a hapless presenter.”

     

    With eyeballs only, with a fleshly mindset, I was thinking about me, and not about God and not about them. Hardly a reflection of Matthew 22:35-40!

     

    With Spiritual Eyes

     

    Interestingly, just moments before this event, the seminar host and my spiritual friend, Pastor Mark Tanious, had taken me aside to pray with me. Pastor Mark specifically prayed that God would lead me not to say anything I should not say, and to say anything He wanted me to say, even if it wasn’t in my pre-planned presentation. Mark is a young man mature beyond his years.

     

    So what did I say? How did I react?

     

    Well, read part one for my first response which was a God-led object lesson about how we desperately need to stay plugged into our personal power source—God—because when we live in the power of the flesh we will eventually go into spiritual hibernation mode.

     

    A Second Object Lesson

     

    But God’s Spirit wasn’t done teaching lessons that were not in my lesson plan!

     

    A second major point of the How to Care Like Christ seminar highlights our need in spiritual friendship to help our spiritual friends to look at life with renewed minds—with spiritual eyes, with faith eyes. The only other option is to look at life with eyes of the flesh, with eyeballs only—conformed to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

     

    So later in the morning when we arrived at the point in the seminar where we address spiritual eyes, I confessed to the audience my earlier temptation to look at my hibernating computer with eyeballs only—with a “woe is me,” “I am defeated,” “it’s all about me” fleshly attitude.

     

    Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord

     

    And I shared with my audience that through Pastor Mark’s earlier pray, and certainly through their silent prayers during the hibernating moments, that God’s Spirit did a work in my heart. He enlightened my eyes. He opened the eyes of my heart. His Spirit transformed and renewed my thinking in the moment.

     

    The eyes of my heart were enlightened:

     

    *With the reminder that, “It’s not about me; it’s all about Him.”

     

    *With the reminder that, “God is in control and He cares.”

     

    *With the reminder that, “God allows negative events to occur so that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.”

     

    *With the reminder that, “I was not there to impress people, but to serve people and to serve God.”

     

    *With the reminder that, “I had a choice—I could look at life with eyeballs only or I could look at life with spiritual eyes.”

     

    *With the reminder that, “It’s not what happens to us that matters most, but how we respond to what happens to us that is the real measure of our walk with God.”

     

    How’s Your Eyesight?

     

    So…how’s your eyesight?

     

    Are you looking at situations in your life today with eyeballs only or with spiritual eyes?

     

    As Elisha prayed for his sight-impaired servant, ask God to open your eyes so you may see, so you may really see reality, God-reality (2 Kings 6:17).

     

  • Connecting to Christ

    Posted on October 12th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Are You Plugged In?

     

    This past Saturday, I was presenting one of my How to Care Like Christ seminars (http://bit.ly/3YYAR4).

     

    About five minutes into the presentation, my computer started to go into hibernation mode! Nothing I could do would stop it. The cords all seemed plugged into the power source, but it just shut down on me.

     

    Imagine the scene. Put yourself in my shoes as a speaker.

     

    My entire presentation is PowerPoint driven. Most of these people didn’t know me. The whole start and set-up for the entire day could be ruined.

     

    What would you do? What would you think? How might you respond?

     

    That’s When God Showed Up

     

    The tech guys (always have tech guys!) discovered that someone had accidently unplugged the extension cord from the wall hidden behind the platform. We were disconnected from the power source.

     

    As Forest Gump might say, “That’s when God showed up.”

     

    God’s Spirit not only calmed my spirit, He enlightened my mind.

     

    What Satan Meant for Evil, God Meant for God

     

    I shared with the crowd, “Satan wants to ruin our day. God wants to empower our day.”

     

    I continued, “My computer had been disconnected from the power source. It shut down, hibernated, because it has limited battery power of its own.”

     

    I went on to say, “A major theme of the How to Care Like Christ seminar is that we must tap into Christ’s resurrection power (Philippians 3:10). The same power that raised Christ from the dead, is within every Christian (Ephesians 1:18-20).”

     

    “Our limited power of the flesh is nothing compared to the infinite resurrection power of Christ. His power is not some impersonal force, for our God is infinitely powerful and infinitely personal. We tap into His power by connecting to Him; by fellowshipping with and worshipping Him; and by communing with Christ through spiritual disciplines.”

     

    All of a sudden, every person in that room realized that God had shown up!

     

    He blessed us with a disconnected power cord that shut down my computer and could have ruined my presentation because He wanted to teach us not to rely upon ourselves but upon the God who raises the dead!

     

    Are You Plugged In?

     

    At the end of the seminar, I always have us spend time reflecting on and sharing together about what most impacted us, about what we will “take home with us.”

     

    Thankfully, many things we had shared in the How to Care Like Christ seminar impacted people.

     

    But guess what impacted many people the most? Yep. It wasn’t anything I said or did. It was what God did. It was an unplugged power cord.

     

    So many people shared, “What God taught me today is that in my Christian life, I have to stay connected to Him.” And, “If I am going to minister to others and care like Christ, then I have to stay plugged into Christ.”

     

    Are you plugged in?

     

    Or are you trying to live your Christian life on battery power?

     

    The limited power of the flesh will eventually cause us to hibernate spiritually.

     

    Let’s stay connected to our infinitely powerful and infinitely personal God.

     

    Let’s stay plugged in!

     

     

  • Book Review of Sacred Friendships by Ian F. Jones

    Posted on October 8th, 2009 admin No comments

    Review of Sacred Friendship by Robert W. Kellemen and Susan M. Ellis

    By Ian F. Jones

     

    Mark these names and remember them: Vibia Perpetua (181-203), Macrina the Elder (270-340), Gorgonia (325-375), Marcella (325-410), Dhuoda (803-843), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Amelia Wilhelmina Siereking (1794-1858), Laura Smith Haviland (1808-1898), and Betsie ten Boom (1885-1944). These are ten members of an assemblage of over fifty women, formerly unknown to most of us, but now revealed in a remarkable book by Robert Kellemen and Susan Ellis.

     

    Sacred Friendships (BMH Books, 2009) reveals an area of church history that has been overlooked for too long—the important role that women have played in nurturing and preserving the faith and in teaching us today how to minister one another based upon their legacy.

     

    The subtitle of the book, Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith, captures the essence of the authors’ purpose. Kellemen and Ellis introduce us to each of these women by telling their stories in ways that are, at once, profound and moving. We read of Perpetua, who consoles and comforts her family and her fellow prisoners facing trial and martyrdom, and in her own dying shows us how to live.

     

    Macrina, the grandmother of Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, demonstrates spiritual nurturing, particularly of her daughter Emmelia, and reveals to us the important influence that women have had over the centuries upon the Church Fathers, whose names hold greater familiarity.

     

    Gorgonia, mother to two bishops, is eulogized by her brother, Gregory of Nazianzus, as a woman of godly character offering wise counsel based on the Word of God.

     

    Marcella chooses a life of biblical meditation and spiritual mentoring that influences her tutor Jerome. Hildegard of Bingen reveals one of the greatest intellectual minds in her spiritual letters of truth, love, confrontation, and comfort.

     

    Julian of Norwich builds bridges of reconciliation in human relations, and Catherine of Siena provides spiritual consolation and compassion as she comforts people facing execution and death.

     

    In the nineteenth century, Laura Smith Haviland opened schools for indigent and African American children and participated in the Underground Railroad. In the twentieth century, Betsie ten Boom provided a model of Christlike hospitality, trust in God, comfort, inspiration, and forgiveness to her more well-known sister Corrie, up to the time of her death in a Nazi concentration camp.

     

    Kellemen and Ellis uncover a vast storehouse of wisdom, spiritual counsel, and practical direction in the lives of these women. In so doing, they provide a refreshing antidote to an empty feminism void of biblical content and to an equally unbiblical blind dismissal of the value of women. The stories, drawn from five continents and covering nearly two millennia, offer practical wisdom, biblical insight, and inspiration for current approaches to counseling and soul care. 

     

    There is no claim that these women are perfect; however, their stories and their lives resonate with a desire to know God and His Word. This is not a book to be consigned to the dusty corner of a library shelf, suitable only for reference in some esoteric research project on church history. Rather, it is a book to be read, studied, and applied in our daily walk of faith and ministry.

     

    To that end, the authors end each chapter with a discussion guide comprised of a series of questions designed to engage the reader in personal and/or group assessment and application drawn from the truths learned from these women.

     

    Read the book and you will be humbled by the spiritual strength, power, wisdom, and influence of these women.  Gone, but now no longer forgotten, these women teach us how to live godly lives and give spiritual counsel to others, as Kellemen and Ellis draw back the curtain of church history and tell us their stories.

     

    To learn more about Sacred Friendships and to order your copy, you can visit: http://bit.ly/MG1l5

     

     

     

  • Biblical Models for Handling Anxiety

    Posted on October 7th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 2: Sentry Duty

    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

     
    A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

     

    Picture the difference between anger, anxiety, and vigilant faith like this:

     

    *Anger: The Fight Response to Threat—Attack: Vigilante Justice.

     

    Taking matters into my own hands.

     

    *Anxiety: The Flight Response to Threat—Retreat: Vigil without Action.

     

    Taking my safety into my own hands. “If I worry enough, at least I feel as if I have some control.”

     

    *Vigilance: The Faith Response to Threat—Befriend and Tend (Engage and Protect): Vigorous Response.

     

    Taking the safety of myself and others and surrendering it to God’s hands while I take a stand for God’s plan. It is befriending and tending to others even when I am threatened.

     

    Called to Sentry Duty

     

    The root “vig” relates to sentry. God built into our brains a sentry. A sentinel. Adam went off sentry duty when he allowed his wife to be attacked by Satan without intervening. He failed to use his vigor—his energy, force, power given to him from God to “keep the garden” and to “cleave to his wife.”

     

    Where does fear fit into this equation? We know that fear is a God-given emotion. We are called to fear God. Why did God create us with a capacity to fear, and how does fear run amok?

     

    Fear is our response to uncertainty about our resources in the face of danger. We are assaulted by a force that overwhelms us. Then we are compelled to face that we are helpless and that ultimately our safety is out of our control. Faith faces this reality by trusting in the unseen reality of a God who cares and controls. Fear compels me to face my neediness.

     

    Anxiety is fear without faith. It is vigilance run amok. We scan the horizon constantly, fearfully, but without ever taking action or responsibility. And without clinging to God.

     

    Biblical Models

     

    Jesus models constructive vigilance in the garden. He faced His dread of death (Matthew 26:39). And He placed faith in His Father’s good heart and strong hands (Matthew 26:39).

     

    Jesus’ disciples modeled destructive fear and anxiety. Peter at one point chose the fight response of vigilante justice—cutting off an ear! At another point Peter chose the flight response of vigil without action—denying the Lord three times. All of the disciples displayed the inability to hold a vigil. “Could you not keep vigil with me one hour?”

     

    Faith or Fear?

     

    Healthy vigilance and a godly response to fear prompt us to relationship: trusting God with faith. And it prompts us to impact: protecting others through vigilance with vigor.

     

    Abnormal, unhealthy, sinful anxiety prompts us to retreat from relationship: we turn to inward scanning without relational trust in God. And it prompts us to retreat from impact: we experience vigilance without vigor as we self-protect instead of lovingly and strongly protecting others.

     

    Fear of God roots us in the essence of existence not in the externals of our situation. Where does fear drive us? To protect ourselves through the flight response of anxiety or the fight response of anger? Or to God, our Protector who empowers us to tend and befriend (“Guard the garden!”)?

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    Join us again tomorrow when we explore how to move From Fear to Faith by Love.

  • Worriers or Warriors

    Posted on October 7th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 1: Worriers or Warriors 

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love?

    Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

    God intended for us to experience a mood that is the “flip side” of anxiety. If we are to understand the “disorder” of anxiety, we must understand the “order” that sin has disordered. What normal, healthy, God-given process has become perturbed in anxiety?

    Vigilance

    Anxiety is vigilance out of control and out of context. God designed us with the mood of vigilance which is meant to move us to relationship and impact. With vigilance, God puts us in fast motion, urges us to act quickly in response to a life threat.

    Anxiety is “stuck vigilance.” Vigilance is proper, constructive concern for the well-being of others, the world, and self. Anxiety is vigilance minus faith in the Father. Vigilance results in tend and befriend behavior. Anxiety results in flight or fight behavior.

    Anxiety is vigilance that does not turn us back to trust. It leads us to a toxic scanning of our environment. God says, “Be vigilant! Be alert! Take your stand, and having done all, stand firm! Quit ye like men!”

    Anxiety says, “What if? I can’t handle this! I have to run. I have to fight. I have to self-protect!” Anxiety is scanning without standing. Instead of scanning and standing, we scan, and scan, and scan… It is continual worry. Continued “what if?” thinking and feeling.

    The Family Tree of Anxiety

    Vigilant faith, anxiety, and anger are cousins. Their family tree? Vigor, from which we gain three related words: vigilante, vigil, and vigorous. Anxiety and anger involve vigilance without faith and without love. They are non-trust, non-relational responses to threat.

    Vigilance, on the other hand, is a trust, relational response to threat. It relates to others by protecting the person being threatened. It relates to others by engaging, challenging, confronting (not attacking) the person doing the threatening. It relates to God by trusting that what He calls me to do, He equips me to fulfill.

     

    In God’s Kingdom, we are either worriers or warriors!

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    Return tomorrow when we picture the differences between flight, fight, and faith. We’ll also explore positive and negative examples in the Bible of vigilance versus anxiety.

     

  • Spiritual Formation: Through HER Eyes

    Posted on October 6th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments
    Much of the time we view spiritual formation through less than half the church–because we ignore the remarkable contribution of amazing women of the faith. A new book co-authored by myself and Susan Ellis addresses this imbalance. Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith gives voice to the voiceless. Bill Higley and Chelsea Huizing have posted a review of Sacred Friendships at Bill’s excellent web site: http://bit.ly/124G6n

    Here’s their review.

    The purpose of this stop of the “Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith” bog tour is to review chapters 1, 2, 10, 11, and 12. Before I begin, there are a few preliminary things I want to say: First, thank you to Bob and Susan for allowing me this opportunity, it is my (and Chelsea’s—see below) privilege to be invited to participate in the blog tour covering the release of Sacred Friendships. Second, I must confess I’m cheating a little in my assignment. I have asked one of my former college students, Chelsea Huizing, whom is now in our school’s graduate Counseling program (specifically, the Master of Arts with an emphasis on Counseling and Writing), to help me in this process. I think it only fitting that someone like Chelsea be a part of this process. For in her educational preparation for future vocational ministry, she is in many ways standing of the shoulders of the heroes of the faith highlighted in Sacred Friendships. Moreover, she is a talented writer with a keen mind and she does an outstanding job with her assignment. So, a big “thank you” to Chelsea

    Therefore, in the division of this task, I (Bill Higley) will introduce and review chapters 1 and 2, and Chelsea will cover chapters 10-12. Here goes . . .

    Chapter 1 – So Great a Cloud of Witnesses: In Her Own Words.

    Chapter 1 of Sacred Friendships is crucial to understanding not just the content of this text, but also its presentation. In this first chapter, Bob Kellemen and Susan Ellis introduce us: 1) to their research process and intent; 2) to what we might call their “hermeneutical process” or “paradigm” for interpreting that research; and, 3) to the format with which they will present their findings.

    To understand these three aspects fully, I would recommend you to go back and read Dr. Kellemen’s previous works, Soul Physicians and Spiritual Friends, in which he carefully presents the foundation for his philosophy of counseling, and Beyond the Suffering , where he applies this counseling model to the spiritual history and contributions of the African American church in America. Sacred Friendships is built on this same philosophy of counseling and application model.

    That being said, it is necessary for the authors to reintroduce (or, first introduce) the Soul Care and Spiritual Directions counseling framework used for this book, and that is the purpose of chapter one. In their Introduction, they describe their approach as a: “. . . Cross-based, four-dimensional model (sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding) of soul care and spiritual direction as a grid to map the marvels of historical women’s ministry. This four-dimensional model is the traditional, time-tested, and widely-recognized pattern for understanding Christian spiritual care” (p. 2). Therefore, because it is so crucial to ones appreciation of this text, the authors dedicate chapter one as a sort of crash course in this counseling model.

    Without this brief introduction to the Soul Care and Spiritual Directions process the reader would be lost. As a matter of fact, Kellemen and Ellis call it the “Treasure Map” they will follow in their walk through the history of the contribution these women saints have made to the church (pp. 11-12).

    In presenting the model in this first chapter, Bob and Susan provide a helpful overview the Soul Care and Spiritual Direction on pages 14-15. The rest of the first chapter is a more careful unfolding of these concepts, through which they give further explanation of how they will use the model to decipher and apply the contributions the women heroes of the faith featured in Sacred Friendships, have made to the church.

    Most significantly, through this approach, Sacred Friendships combines the “grace and truth” perspective of Christian counseling and spiritual formation process, and skillfully uses it as an interpretive grid from which to read—and apply—these historical examples of the women they will introduce us to. Thus, chapter one introduces this quite helpful, “Treasure Map,” which will guide the reader through the rest of the text.

    Chapter 2 – Handmaids of the Lord: The Forgotten Church Mothers

    After the necessary introduction of the controlling metaphor of the book, chapter two wastes no time in taking us to the first line-up of the stars of this work. In this case, five “forgotten” (or maybe, more accurately, historically ignored) mothers of the church.

    First, in this chapter we meet Vibia Perpetua, whom is the author of “the earliest know document written by a Christian women” (p. 27). Perpetua was an early church martyr. But it is her example of persistence and boldness in Christ that marks her contribution to the church.

    Bob and Susan show the influence and power of their interpretive construct, when they conclude with this statement about Vibia Perpetua: “Here we witness not only Perpetua’s courageous example of persistence, but also her model of biblical confrontation. She provides riveting testimony to Christ’s power at work in the inner life of a Christian woman whose spirit could never be overpowered” (p. 30).

    Next we meet three women who demonstrated powerful spiritual influence towards three of the most significant early church Fathers: Macrina the Elder, grandmother of Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa; the mother of Gregory of Nazianzus; and, Anthusa, the mother of John Chrysostom. The authors’ introduce us to the each of these special ladies, and in so doing, show us how each modedl

    Appropriately, the chapter closes with an introduction to the mother of the most influential of all the early church fathers, Augustine. In their writing, Bob and Susan give us a needed context from which to better understand Augustine. In Augustine’s work, “Confessions,” we learn that his mother Monica “…. stands out above all others as the spiritual guide and anchor, indeed, as the determinative relationship in his life” (quoting Ranft, p. 37). How influential was his mother Monica on Augustine? She was his “best spiritual friend” (p. 40).

    This chapter leads us right to the heart of the message of this book. And in it, we are introduced to five huge spiritual influencers in the lives of the early Church Fathers. In all these cases, the legacy of their contribution to our soul care and spiritual formation would eventually run through their sons or grandsons— who are all recognized as pillars of the early church. And each one of these men was influenced significantly in their spiritual development by the ladies featured in this chapter.

    We do well to learn more about each of these women, for in so doing; indeed, our own souls are care for.

    Chapters 10-12, Sacred Friendships (Reviewed by Chelsea Huizing)

    The careful consideration given to each woman of the faith in chapters 10 thru 12 of “Sacred Friendships” quickly makes the book personable yet informative to the reader. The authors touch on several names that the reader is probably not aware of directly, but the connections to famous men make the names at least vaguely familiar. There is no fooling around or unnecessary introductions; the reader delves directly to the ‘meat’ of the stories, learning more about these women who had their hands on the development of the impressive men they were connected to.

    Each woman is looked at in detail, starting with her own personal life growing up and the spiritual background from which she came. It almost feels like you are reading a history book, capitalizing on spiritual influences and educational background that each woman had. The familiarity this attention to detail gives quickly serves to bring the reader to a personal, self-searching level of connection with each character. If you do not see elements of yourself in each person described, you almost certainly know someone who is similar in character or circumstance to at least one of the women within these chapters. And these connections keep the reader going, eager to learn more about these women and the potential they have for teaching lessons even today.

    The authors make no attempt to hide the faults of these women; indeed, the faults are described in full, perhaps to help the reader understand that they were merely human, as well, simply living day to day as best as they could, and seeking God all the while.

    The hardworking mother with overwhelming duties; the happy and forgotten housewife; the woman who is constantly fretting over things she cannot control; the neglected friend; and the companion who never ceases to struggle for and serve others, all the while battling thoughts of uselessness and depression. Such faults in women of faith did not serve to hinder their ministries, but rather drove them closer to the Lord.

    Details about the circumstances of their Sacred Friendships, and the specific ways that the Lord used them in the lives they ministered to, serve as gentle nudges to the spirit as one reads the accounts. Not one of the women was the same as the other, and these differences are highlighted; yet not diminished. What the authors describe as “spiritual soul care” takes on many different faces, as different as the personalities that these women displayed, and as varied as the roles they played. These differences serve as encouragements as you read further into each story: if these women can be used, and be used so greatly, by the Lord, than anyone can be.

    At the end of each description, you feel as though you have sat down and read a letter from the life of each woman; there is no disguising of words, no mincing of emotions. Many sources are used to give color to the stories, both facts from history books and quotes from personal letters; they serve to paint ever clearer pictures of how these women lived, loved and ministered within their friendships and companionships.

    No matter the era, the culture or the background of each woman, God saw fit to use their humanness and His Grace in their lives to draw blueprints for what can rightfully be called Sacred Friendships. Chapters 10 through 12 serve as more of a challenge and exhortation to the reader than anything else: If God can use these women, with their faults and trials, in such a mighty way, perhaps anyone can be used. The authors’ challenge throughout the chapters is clear and valid. The women in these pages are not meant to be merely a history lesson or a sympathetic letter to whoever will take the time to read, but rather a nudge in the right direction on how to develop Sacred Friendships in our own lives.

    Blessings
    3 John 8
    Bill H.