Five Ways to Decrease Fear and Anxiety Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Every day my Facebook feed wall is littered with updates on the novel coronavirus. Friends share a fresh perspective, up-to-the-minute stats, helpful tidbits and humorous memes in the spirit of staying informed and lightening the mood. These are uncertain times and people need information to feel safe. They want to know the current impact across the globe and how they and their loved ones are going to be affected.

If a highly contagious virus spreading like wildfire isn’t enough to stress you out, grocery stores aren’t able to keep up with the demand for food and supplies, social distancing is wreaking havoc on small businesses, schools have moved to virtual classrooms causing parents everywhere to pull out their hair and now graduations are being postponed. Closings, layoffs and a volatile stock market have everyone on edge and some are asking, “Where is God in all of this?”

We’re alarmed and searching for meaningful answers and understanding; there’s a new norm and we’re trying to adjust. The proverbial rug-of-life as we knew it has been snatched out from beneath us and we wait with bated breath for that moment of exhale; but when will that moment come?

This pandemic is unprecedented and as I look at the sea of faces around me, I’m discerning shock, fear and anxiety. In the counseling room, my clients are telling me they are being criticized for their fear and anxiety by other Christians, “You just don’t have enough faith!” cried one parent to my client after she made the hard decision to shut down a project to protect vulnerable citizens. Responses like this are more indicative about what is going on inside the speaker than the hearer. This is the Church’s time to shine so here’s what you need to know about fear and anxiety.

It’s normal to fear the unknown and anxiety is the body’s alarm system; it is never tied to the amount of faith you have in God.

Anxiety is designed to notify you when there is immanent danger so you can get yourself to safety. The brain as the body’s command center begins to call in all bodily resources, “You don’t need that energy to digest that snack you just ate because I’m about to tell you if you need to run, fight or freeze!” Adaptive anxiety is very helpful when walking alone at night and you hear footsteps behind you, or when you’re in the ocean and someone screams “Shark!” Anxiety kicks in and gives you a protective surge of hormones. Suddenly, you can run faster, lift heavier, hit harder or freeze until danger passes.

Maladaptive anxiety occurs when the bells and whistles go off but there is no apparent danger. You experience all the symptoms: rapid heart rate, butterflies, rush of hormones, flight of thought but there’s no saber tooth tiger chasing you.

No organism in nature can live in a state of anxiety for long before the body begins to respond negatively. Take the word disease and break it down: dis-ease. When the body is in a constant state of dis-ease, we are susceptible to all sorts of health issues and this is certainly not a time we want our immune systems to be vulnerable. It’s imperative we return to baseline as soon as possible.

Here are five mindfulness techniques to assist you with that goal:

  1. Deep breathing: Sit down and get comfortable, slowly take in a deep breath while counting to 4, hold the breath for 4 seconds, then slowly exhale to the count of 4. Repeat this 4 times.
  2. Meditation: Use an app on your phone or go to youtube if you prefer a guided meditation. Meditation has too many health benefits to list here. Every time your attention wanders use the phrase “bring it back.”
  3. Grounding exercises: Place your focus on your five senses, using colors, smells, sounds, textures. Splash cold water on your face, take a hot shower, sip a hot or cool drink, tune in to your surroundings and notice the sounds in your space, stretch your body, touch objects around you, walk outside and experience nature.
  4. Breath prayers: The Breath Prayer is an ancient form of prayer and it is easily adaptable. Simply choose one or two lines to meditate on and inhale and then exhale through them. The most common form of breath prayer is known as The Jesus Prayer. So using this example, do this:
    • Inhale filling your lungs with all your breath, then say: Lord Jesus Christ, son of God.
    • Exhale slowly and fully, then say: Have mercy on me, a sinner.
    • Repeat this practice for as long as you want.
    • Start with ten good breaths in and out, then add the words.

Consider switching the word “sinner” for “your beloved child” and notice how your body and soul responds to the change.

  1. Body Scan: Allow yourself plenty of time to investigate this practice. You can do this sitting or lying down.
    • Close your eyes to allow for better focus. Begin with a few deep breaths then begin your scan at the head.
    • Notice any sensations (buzzing, tingling, pressure, pain, neutral), don’t do anything about what you notice, just notice it and move to the next part of your body.
    • Just be curious and open to what you are noticing, then intentionally release the focus of attention and move to the next area to explore.
    • When you are finished, open your eyes and move mindfully into the moment.

So, where is God in all of this? I asked God that question in one of my prayers and I was reminded of Joshua 1:9: “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

A Week of Clarity & Mutuality: Boundaries in Marriage

Sarah Coates, LPC -1I am so stinking excited to introduce you to my guest writer today! I know you will enjoy reading her article, she has a lot of wisdom to share. Sarah Coates is the founder & owner of One-Eighty Counseling P.A. She started the group in 2007 and has facilitated the company’s growth to become one of the largest Mental Health & Substance Abuse private practices in both Johnston & Wake counties. Sarah is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor licensed in North Carolina (LCMHC) and provides mental health counseling to female adults & adolescents. She also provides business coaching & mentoring to female entrepreneurs. She easily relates to the entrepreneurial mom who has a dream in her heart and wonders how to balance family & business while developing that vision.


I draw a lot of my understanding about Boundaries from the work of Dr. Henry Cloud. Dr. Cloud is a Christian who has done lots of research, study and writing on the topic of Boundaries.  He’s an expert in my opinion on how to implement healthy boundaries in our personal & professional lives. One of the books that he wrote with Dr. John Townsend is called Boundaries in Marriage.  According to Drs. Cloud and Townsend boundaries in marriage are the property lines that define and protect the lives of the husband and wife as individuals.

And so, when thinking about boundaries in marriage I reflect on my own marriage and on the clients I’ve worked with over the years.  When working with clients, especially females, I hear the lack of boundaries often.  Lack of boundaries always leads to conflict.  Lack of boundaries always leaves one person in a relationship with this feeling of being taken advantage of.  In my experience, I see that many were raised in homes where boundaries were lacking or at the least, misunderstood.  Which then leads to adults engaging in boundary-less relationships.

In my opinion, one of the institutions that perpetuate a lack of boundaries in marriage is the American church.  Ever hear the bible verse, “wives submit to your husbands.”  Of course, you have! It’s used by almost every evangelical preacher around to demonstrate that wives are under the husband’s authority.  What is often left out or maybe its whispered as an afterthought, are the verses that come directly next in Ephesians 5:25-28:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Ephesians 5:22-28 does not say one spouse gets to overpower the other.  This whole passage of scripture is two-fold.  A command for one as well as a command for the other.  The way I see it is if the husband is not upholding his command to love his wife the way Christ loves her, then she has the right to draw the property line to protect herself as an individual.   What does a boundary look like for that kind of situation you might ask?

I work with women on boundary setting in their marriage on things as difficult as a boundary around policing her husband’s alcoholism to boundaries around how much laundry she is picking up off the floor.   Going back to this concept that men are to love their wives the way Christ loves them, espouses this natural ebb and flow of Respect for one another.   If one person is not respecting the other, then the spouse has a right to draw a boundary to command the respect.  I once worked with a wife who was so frustrated because her husband wouldn’t pick up his underwear and put it in the hamper.   She didn’t mind doing laundry, but his lack of picking up after himself felt so disrespecting towards her.  After multiple requests to put his underwear in the laundry hamper failed, I recommended she try drawing a boundary around doing the laundry.  Her boundary became, “ I will only do laundry that is in hampers.”   Her issue with his disrespect towards her was, of course, deeper than just the surface problem of laundry, but this boundary was the first attempt at addressing the issue of the disrespect she felt in her marriage.

One hot topic (no pun intended) is sex & boundaries in marriage. What do boundaries look like when it comes to sex in marriage?  One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Cloud is “No is a sentence.”  It’s okay for spouses to tell each other no.  Out of respect for their partner, the spouse should abide by the other person’s no.  Side note, if one party says no every time, there is certainly a deeper issue to be evaluated and my strong suggestion is to get professional counseling about issues in sexual intimacy.   However, in a healthy relationship espousing equal amounts of respect towards each other, saying no to someone should be a permissible communication.  “No” does not mean “I don’t like you”, it doesn’t mean rejection, it simply means no is my boundary right now.

Jesus cherished women just as he did men.  He created us each uniquely and to be together.  God did not intend for one gender to dominate the other. He created us to be harmonious, drawing out each other’s strengths and supporting each other’s weaknesses.    Boundaries allow for men and women to achieve this in a marriage.

Common Misunderstandings About Egalitarianism

“I believe Scripture when properly interpreted along with tradition, reason, and experience all support a posture of equality toward women rather than hierarchy,” (RHE) in the home, church, and world. The more I research and study equality between the genders, the more obvious it is to me that wrong assumptions and misunderstandings about mutuality flourish. Since I hate wrong assumptions and misunderstandings, I would like to remedy that situation. The top six misunderstandings that I have encountered the most are:

1. “Egalitarian women just want to be like men”: Egalitarians recognize gender differences, but understand those differences are not (a) Universal- men are generally physically stronger than women, but not all men are stronger than all women, some women are stronger than some men. (b) Prescriptive- men don’t have to be stronger than women in order to please God. (c) Indicative of hierarchy- a man doesn’t get more authority because he’s stronger than a woman. Equality isn’t sameness. I don’t want to be “just like a man.” I want to be a woman who has all the same opportunities as a man to use my gifts in my home, church, and community.

2. “You (egalitarian wife) just want to wear the pants in the marriage”: Mutuality in marriage is about co-leadership and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). As I have already mentioned there are differences among complementarians and egalitarians and how their beliefs play out in life. However, in my marriage, no one person has the “final say.” We are fortunate that we have been very agreeable in our marriage when it comes to making major decisions (car purchases, housing selection, college for kids). Maturely compromising and calmly talking through what is best for our family has settled most of our disputes. He leads out of his strengths and I lead out of mine, but Jesus is our head of household. So we both “wear the pants” in the marriage.

3. “You can’t have it both ways”: The implication here is that women cannot have equality and expect to be treated with dignity and respect deserving of all human beings. In my attempts to explain biblical equality to my male friends, I have been told “you can’t expect to be treated like a lady AND be treated like ‘one of the boys.’” But I think this sentiment entirely misses the point.

I don’t think women are asking to be treated like “one of the boys.” I think most women want to be treated like a woman but given mutual respect for her agency. Unfortunately what passes as respect in America these days looks more like men using their manners, e.g.: holding doors, helping women slide their chair to the dinner table, and paying for date night. Then there is this bizarre “gentlemanly” thing where the man is supposed to walk street side on the sidewalk to protect their woman from puddles and traffic.

All these “niceties” that get confused for respect are really basic courtesies; we should be willing to hold doors for anyone. Unless they are feeble and elderly, women are perfectly capable of opening and closing doors, handling their dinner chairs and even paying for dinner if they want, and in the spirit of equality, they can pay for their date’s meal too. What man wouldn’t like an occasional free meal?

You know what does convey respect? Equal pay for equal work as a male counterpart, hiring a woman for any job she is qualified to do, being treated as an equal marriage partner and giving consideration to her opinions and feelings even when they differ from yours. Respect is meeting eyeball-to-eyeball with a woman and restraining your roving eyes, it’s being intentional with your words and not using some vacuous pick-up line at the gas pump or gym. It’s muzzling your whistles and lewd comments because it’s not flattery when the attention is unwanted.

Respect is asking permission for physical touch; she is not your property, you can’t just take what you want. Respect looks like self-control and any man who claims he cannot manage his impulses around a woman is placing himself on par with Fido the family pet.

4. Egalitarians are going against the Bible”: This is an ongoing debate where complementarians say the authority of Scripture is being compromised because egalitarians are not living by every word of the Bible. But, no Christian lives by every word of the Bible. For instance, most churches do not require women to cover their heads in prayer (1 Corinthians 11:5), or remain entirely silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:12) or abstain from wearing jewelry (1 Peter 3:3), or abide by the Levitical Purity Laws that make them ceremonially unclean during their periods.  All parties in this discussion need to start with the presupposition that both egalitarians and complementarians respect the authority of Scripture and that both are selective in the application of Scripture.

We agree Scripture is the inspired word of God; we disagree on exactly how to apply what we have read and interpreted. It appears the real debate is not between those who support or reject the authority of Scripture, but between those who believe Scripture consistently presents hierarchy as the standard and those who believe that Scripture consistently presents hierarchy as the result of fallen humanity.

5. “Egalitarians don’t support traditional gender roles”: This is simply not true. Egalitarians support women in any role they choose from stay-at-home moms to CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Egalitarians do not believe that God requires women to fulfill a traditional gender role in order to please him. James Dobson has long been associated with complementarianism and the belief that women can best serve God and their husbands taking care of the home and raising the kids while men serve God best in leadership roles in the church and leading their families. As an egalitarian, the common teaching from the Church and parachurch organizations (like Focus on the Family) that motherhood is a woman’s highest calling deeply troubles me. As Rachel Held Evans has cleverly stated, “As a Christian, my highest calling is not motherhood; my highest calling is to follow Christ. And following Christ is something a woman can do whether she is married or single, rich or poor, sick or healthy, childless or Michelle Duggar” (A Year of Biblical Womanhood, p.180).

6. “Egalitarians are just feminists: Sarah Bessey defines feminism as the radical notion that women are people too, and since they are human beings, I think they are deserving of the same respect and dignity conferred to men. Now that we have defined feminism, what is it that feminists do? In its basic form, feminism seeks justice for women.

Egalitarians are also feminists because they seek justice and dignity for women. However, not every feminist is a Christian or an egalitarian. Egalitarians and Christian feminists both share a common goal: justice and equality for females. These are really biblical ideals that should be part of the moral teachings and daily practices of Christians.

God created the first couple as image-bearers and equal partners and gave them both dominion and leadership over the earth (Genesis 1:27-28). There was no hint of hierarchy within the context of Adam and Eve’s relationship; there was only harmony and mutuality until Genesis 3:16 when God said to the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (NIV). Enter the ongoing power struggle between husbands and wives. Patriarchy resulted from the fall; it was not God’s ideal plan for the world he created.




A Week of Clarity and Mutuality: Definition of Terms

“Women can’t be pastors, it’s not biblical.” This statement and similar ones were drilled into my daughter Teagan’s head on a near-daily basis at her fundamental Christian school. At the time of her enrollment years earlier, I inquired about the school’s doctrine and was given a copy of their “manifesto,” a nonpartisan list of “we believe” statements that most Christians would agree are central tenants of the Christian faith. It told me nothing about the interpretive lens through which they viewed the Bible. The principal assured me our theological beliefs would not be too far apart, so my husband and I sent our daughter and son to the school believing it was our best option at the time. But the red flags were almost immediate.

We attended an open house at the beginning of Teagan’s sixth-grade year. After explaining the homework policy and handing out the class syllabus, the female teacher asked, “Is there a father here who would like to close us in prayer?” As a new recipient of my local minister’s license, there was definitely “A MOTHER HERE WHO WOULD LIKE TO PRAY!” That retort reverberated in my head at a piercing tone, but I remained frozen, feeling like a second rate citizen whose prayers were not as potent as the man standing beside me.

The school was relatively new in the community when our kids began attending; they were still adding grades and staff positions with each new year. An all-male board was assigned to govern the school, a female principal oversaw the elementary students, but only men were interviewed and hired to fill that role for middle and high school. Eventually, a new position was created to oversee the entire academy and a man was hired for that position too. If it isn’t clear by now that only men were permitted in positions of influence, here is your final clue: all speakers for banquets, special occasions and graduations were also men.

Women bring something to the table that is absent when the association is all male. Prohibiting them from taking their rightful and God-given place in the world creates a blind spot that permanently impairs the collective whole. Women are sixty percent of all college graduates and sixty percent of master’s degrees are held by women, but only three percent of fortune 500 CEOs are female. Half the church is women, but they have been intentionally excluded from ordination in various mainline church denominations, ministerial teams, elder boards and positions of leadership in private Christian schools (such as the one my kids attended) simply because they are female.

This “all-male” preference originates from complementarianism, a view also known as “soft patriarchy.” Some of the chief influencers of the movement have acknowledged the word patriarchy carries a negative connotation therefore they use “complementarian” because it is a gentler term. Let’s take a closer look at complementarianism and its contrasting viewpoint, egalitarianism. I will start with basic definitions in this post, then continue the discussion on misunderstandings about egalitarian theology in the home, church, and world in tomorrow’s post. It is important to note that not all complementarians see things exactly the same nor do all egalitarians see things the same way. There are dissenting opinions within these groups, but these are the basic beliefs.

Complementarian and Egalitarian Theology Defined

Complementarianism: The word complementarian is a relatively new term, appearing only in the last 25 years or so and therefore does not appear in the Bible. It holds that men and women are created equal in personhood, but were created for different roles in marriage, family, and church. Practitioners of this view believe men are primarily the providers, protectors, and leaders of the home and the Bible requires the wife to submit to her husband. This view places the husband at the head of the household.

According to the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, complementarianism “affirms that men and women are equal in the image of God, but maintain complementary differences in role and function. In the home, men lovingly are to lead their wives and family, as women intelligently are to submit to the leadership of their husbands. In the church, while men and women share equally in the blessings of salvation, some governing and teaching roles are restricted to men.” Key Bible verses in support of this view are Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5:21-33 and 1 Timothy 2:11-13. I will address the interpretation of these passages in another post.

Egalitarianism: This term is also known as “mutuality” and like complementarians, they believe that men and women are equal in worth. Egalitarians believe that women enjoy equal status with men in the home and church. There are no restrictions on women in the church as leadership is based on giftedness rather than gender since the Holy Spirit is capable of pouring out the same gifts on women and men. Practitioners of this view believe in mutual submission and co-leadership with Christ at the head of the home.

According to Christians for Biblical Equality, egalitarianism holds that “all believers without regard to gender, ethnicity or class must exercise their God-given gifts with equal authority and equal responsibility in the church, home and world.” Key Bible verses in support of an egalitarian view are Ephesians 5:21, Galatians 3:28, Romans 16:1-7, Colossians 4:15, 2 John 1:1, 13, Acts 16:13-15 and other passages as well.


Kassian, M. Complementarianism for Dummies. Retrieved from: on January 27, 2020.

Retrieved from: on February 2, 2020.

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A Week of Clarity and Mutuality

imagesWhen I drop the term egalitarian among my friend circles, I’m typically met with a glazed stare, the one that lets me know I’ve lost my audience. I get it, it’s not a common word and it’s not used much outside of theological colloquy.

For a while now, I’ve incorporated the concept of egalitarian theology in my writing and speaking, although I don’t always write or speak of it overtly. So beginning next week, I am going to publish some articles defining the words egalitarian and complementarian, their origins and then I’ll discuss how these constructs show up in our daily lives and relationships. I will have two guest writers on my blog who will explore mutuality in the context of church and marriage.

I am really excited about these posts and hope you will follow along. Please reserve any major decision-making over which theological group you align with until the end of the posts. I maintain complete autonomy over all comments on my website. If they are not professional, engaging, beneficial or thoughtful, they will not be published.

If you have never heard of these concepts, this will be a good learning experience for you and if you consider yourself pretty educated in the area of biblical mutuality, awesome!

Here’s what you can expect:

Monday, March 16th: Definition of Terms

Tuesday, March 17th: Myths and Misconceptions About Biblical Mutuality

Wednesday, March 18th: Roman Household Codes

Thursday, March 19th: Mutuality in the Church, guest writer

Friday, March 20th: Mutuality in Marriage, guest writer







Why You Need to Grieve Every Loss

960x0My father was lost in a world of darkness. The chains of mental illness wrapped their wicked fingers around his throat and squeezed until he pulled the trigger on his life. That was January 1977; he was 36. I couldn’t wrap my young brain around that loss for decades. I just felt the colossal void his suicide left in the form of emptiness, pain, and lack. As a 9 nine-year-old child, I didn’t know how to grieve so I stuffed my feelings and lived.

Only it wasn’t that easy.

I had no healthy outlets in which to grieve, so all those stuffed emotions manifested in my behaviors. As a child that looked like poor focus, declining grades, unstable relationships, bed-wetting, and mood swings. As a teenager and young adult, it looked much worse. Let’s leave it at that.

If I could have a conversation with my younger self, this is what I would say to her:

It is okay to grieve and it’s okay to be afraid. Cry, be angry, and wrestle with all the hard feelings. Scream, punch the pillow and ask God why and any other question you want because God is God and he can handle the questions and the anger and anything else you’ve got.

Yes, grief hurts; people fear it, no one likes it because it feels terrible. It takes us by surprise, interrupts our lives, and demands its own way with our emotions and thoughts. But when grief is stuffed, it always finds a way out, like it did when I was a child. When we allow ourselves to acknowledge and feel the pain of loss, we begin the healing process.

Our culture seems to have forgotten how to lament. We will do anything to avoid the work of grief and bypass the pain, yet there is no other way to heal except by way of feeling our emotions. We either stuff our emotions or we numb them using a variety of methods including that fake Pollyanna attitude.

I see this evident at Easter when well-meaning Christians say, “its Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” in a most cheerful tone. No! No, on Good Friday we sit in the silence of the suffering and the truth that Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins and humanity crucified him. Sunday will come, but we must sit in the discomfort of the crucifixion and death of our Lord. That is called grief.

So if someone you love has died- grieve
If someone you trusted betrayed you- grieve
If someone has harmed you- grieve
Whatever your loss- grieve

You need to grieve your losses; not doing so can be detrimental to your mental and emotional health, but don’t do it alone. Reach out to a trusted friend or a professional therapist. We were created for community and you do not have to suffer alone.

This world is subject to torment and bondage and not many will escape without scars. “He was despised and rejected- a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NLT). If our Lord Jesus spent time grieving, why do we expect to shrink away from it and just get on with our lives as if this terrible thing has not happened?


3 Major Barriers to Reading the Bible


During my late teens, I began experiencing slight vision changes. Objects were blurry and distorted. Simple tasks like reading, writing, and facial recognition became a bit challenging, but I compensated by squinting and holding my books and papers closer to my nose. Since the vision changes were gradual they didn’t register as a concern until I could no longer read speed limits and road signs. That’s when I figured it was time to see an Optometrist, who diagnosed the blurriness as myopia and prescribed eyeglasses.

Turns out those fluttery green things on the trees outside my window were leaves. I could even read license plates on the cars in front me for the first time (ever) and I recognized people before they appeared directly in front of me! My world got a lot clearer that day. Because of my stubbornness, it took two years before I admitted I might need glasses and in that time frame I missed a lot of important things, like leaves and friendly smiles. Those details were always there; they were just in my blind spot.

We also encounter a few blind spots when we read the Bible. If we as Bible readers are to do the hard work of responsible interpretation, we must do so knowing there will always be three major obstacles:

1. Language- Most of us take a foreign language in high school; I took French, it’s a beautiful language and not too difficult to learn until you start conjugating verbs. Much goes without being said in any language, so we do well to remember that when we read the Bible in our native language, mostly just the words have been changed, what is behind those words that does not translate such as cultural values, assumptions and habits has not changed. Failing to recognize this causes huge mistakes in reading and applying Scripture. Language is a major barrier that even scholars and translators struggle with.

Every Bible reader is a translator on some level as well and if we are to be good translators, we must take the time to study so we do not carelessly quote Scripture or take it out of context. Fortunately, translators have already done the difficult work of translating the Bible into your native tongue, but they often have to make choices as to what the original authors were trying to communicate. Their choices can sometimes miss the mark, not to mention their selections affect how you understand what you read so we are all in a sense at their mercy. For this reason, it is a good idea to have more than one Bible translation on hand.

2. Culture- reading the Bible is a cross-cultural experience. Grammar, syntax, ethnicity and social class not only reflect but determine how people in a culture think and speak. Our culture shapes our worldview, which in turn determines how we form our beliefs and make our decisions. Our worldview is powerful enough that it even tells us what to notice or not to notice. We read, study and interpret more than two thousand years after the close of the biblical canon. Biblical culture is radically different from our own, yet we impose our modern cultural standards and ideas on the Bible.

3. Social Mores- pronounced mawr-eyz, it is the term for social behaviors that are accepted without question and represent the moral views of a group. Often we assume that what goes without being said in our language and culture also goes without being said in other languages and cultures, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Mores differ from place to place, are not necessarily permanent and can change over time within the same culture.

There is so much more that could be said about these barriers, but that is not the scope of this article. Guess you’ll have to get my book (when it’s published)!

These obstacles are not the only ones, but they are the most significant and if ignored, prevent us from reading the Bible correctly and that can lead to a misapplication of Scripture. Christians who do not acknowledge these barriers do themselves and the ones they influence a great disservice.



Alice Matthews, Gender Roles and the People of God: Rethinking What We Were Taught About Men and Women in the Church

Randolph E. Richards and Brandon J. O’Brian, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible

Sitting With the Broken: Part II

1-nQGzxC5iuilfC9eDnMOV6QDuring an intake session, a new client reported multiple traumas along with an eating disorder. When I asked if she had received treatment for the eating disorder, she stated she had seen a church counselor about ten years earlier. “Basically I was given Scripture to quote whenever I felt the urge to restrict my food or purge it after eating.” “Do you still restrict your calories or purge your food after you eat?” I inquired, “Yes, when I’m stressed or thinking about the past I won’t eat and sometimes when it gets bad, I purge.” She replied. In her third session with me, she reported moderate to severe depression and “not feeling like myself anymore,” with thoughts of dying. She let me know she was afraid to take medication because her time in church counseling taught her that taking an antidepressant was not biblical.

I recommended she see her medical provider anyway where she was promptly started on an antidepressant. “I don’t know what the Bible says about that (medication), but I’m starting to feel better.” That is not the first time a client has expressed concern about the Bible’s message on taking medication. Actually, the Bible says absolutely nothing about taking an antidepressant or any other medication for that matter. Surely sufferers in biblical days used whatever modern healing methods were available to them. However, since those healing methods are not stated explicitly, we assume medication is sinful and to be avoided, complicating matters further.

Instead of the church being part of my client’s healing, they were part of her trauma. The person who tried to help her was unqualified and my client’s illness was prolonged for an additional ten years because she did not receive the necessary treatment. Quoting Bible verses does not heal trauma, mental illness or eating disorders. While it is acceptable to give an ailing parishioner Scripture to quote, church leadership can best serve its congregation by referring folks who need more than spiritual growth to professionals.

If you lead a church ministry and you do not know any licensed mental health professionals in your community, endeavor to change that today. Do a Google search for providers in your area, check out Psychology Today, ask local primary care physicians who they refer their patients to and then get to know them over a cup of coffee or lunch. You might even ask if they are willing to offer a presentation on mental illness to your congregation.

I refer to mindless quoting of Scripture and bad theology (e.g. taking Scripture out of context, using it as a weapon, poor interpretation, or trite spiritual sayings) as roadblocks to the healing process. People should not be made to feel guilty because they need medication or therapy for a mental or emotional condition. That is a personal choice and does not make them weak or less of a Christian for doing so. You do not want to be the friend who discourages a depressed individual from taking their Prozac and two weeks later, end up at their funeral. Obviously, all medications have side effects that have to be considered, but when the benefits outweigh those side effects and they give suffering people their lives back, who are we to judge their decision?

We should strive to facilitate healing, not hinder it by minimizing suffering or offering skills we have not been trained to use.


Sitting With the Broken: Part I

why-god-allows-suffering-world-plagued-human-sufferingOn a crisp November evening just before bedtime, my phone alerted me to a new text. “I just got a phone call, my daughter died in a car accident today.” I stood frozen by shock searching for something of value to say to this grieving father. A wave of sadness swept through my body as I eked out a feeble, “I am so sorry.” I wondered how my client who was not on good terms with his adult child would fare. This particular client had already been through so much tragedy in his life, but he was putting in the effort each week to address the toll childhood trauma had taken on his emotions and closest relationships.

Now this.

I have visited that nightmare before. That place of suffering where I sit with a friend or client whose child has just died. Their loss so raw and heavy it sits as an entity between us. It’s like walking among the catacombs where there is no light, no life, only darkness. There are no words of comfort one can offer, no Bible verse to fix the situation, just the warmth of human presence and commitment to help shoulder a burden.

During such times of loss, it is not uncommon for Christians to mindlessly quote Scripture or offer trite sayings “Sad for us here, but what a welcome they received in heaven,” “We should celebrate they are with Jesus,” “God won’t give you more than you can handle” “Everything happens for a reason.” These responses while perhaps well meaning minimize the pain and agony of human loss and this is where Christians get it wrong.

Clients come to counseling in all stages of their grief. They are vulnerable, anxious and fearful. Sometimes dreadfully afraid to face blocked emotions, closet skeletons and family secrets. As a therapist, I am here to provide a safe space for them to grieve and heal, but I do not sprinkle Bible verses around like pixie dust. If I do quote the Bible I do so responsibly and in context.

Trauma’s impact to the body and brain is profound. It literally reshapes the brain and body; it compromises the capacity to trust, engage in pleasurable activities and maintain self-control. Trite sayings, shallow remarks and throwing Scripture at someone who has endured a traumatic experience contributes to retraumatization.

It is better to say nothing than to offer a careless response. Remember, Job’s friends were helpful until they opened their mouths, “I have heard many things like these; you are miserable comforters, all of you!” (Job 16:2, NIV). Since the intent of reading the Bible is to apply what has been read, it’s vital we take the time to study it in context. Misapplied Scripture not only weakens what the original authors were communicating, the entire meaning of the passage can be lost, it fuels legalism, creates bondage and continues the cycle of harm to self and others.



Failure Doesn’t Get the Last Word

images-1The most abysmal failure of my life was the time I planted and pastored a church and after four years of loving, nurturing and pouring my whole self into it, it died. I’ve succeeded at so many things, but this thing I could not do. In 2015, just one year into the church plant, my marriage weathered its toughest storm. That crisis tormented my soul and sucked away at my mortal energy.

My focus was everywhere except growing and pastoring the flock. I never regained my momentum and after a series of losses, it was glaringly apparent I could no longer lead these people. So, in August 2018, we closed the doors and my family joined another Nazarene church; now I support someone else’s ministry.

I spent the better part of a year nursing those wounds and trying to recover from that failure. I told myself I was done being a pastor. I removed the title from my resume, social media and website, donated over 100 theological books to the local thrift store and set about to ignore anything God would have to say to me on the topic.

Fortunately, I’ve done a lot of healing since that time and decided that verse about “the gifts and call of God being irrevocable” (Romans 11:29) is probably true (insert big toothy grin here). While I don’t aspire to be the lead pastor again, I do want to preach because women need to see women in the pulpit preaching and leading. I spoke at a ladies retreat three weeks ago and I’ve started writing again. I’m definitely in a different headspace and better able to frame that failure. In fact, I really don’t even see it as a failure anymore because it’s hard to call something a failure when I learned so much from it.

Which brings me to the main point here: failure doesn’t get the last word.

Failure doesn’t mean I didn’t accomplish anything, it means I learned something.
Failure doesn’t mean I was a fool, it does mean I had enough faith to try.
Failure doesn’t mean I’ve been disgraced, it means I dared to move forward.
Failure doesn’t mean I don’t have what it takes, it means I have to do something in a different way.
Failure doesn’t mean I’m inferior, it means I am not perfect.
Failure doesn’t mean I’ve wasted my time or life, it means I have an excuse to start all over again.
Failure doesn’t mean I should give up, it means I should reload.
Failure doesn’t mean I’ll never make it, it means I need more patience.

Failure doesn’t get the last word!



References: John Maxwell Podcast, Failure isn’t Final

Crossing the Terror Barrier

imagesHow I loathe coming against the terror barrier, it’s…well, it’s terrifying! What is the terror barrier you ask? It is the invisible obstacle that separates the comfort zone from the growth zone and it’s excruciating to cross. The comfort zone is predictable, cozy, safe, easy and in my opinion very boring. The growth zone is unpredictable, risky, and vulnerable, but it can be thrilling like a roller coaster ride.

You know you’re approaching the terror barrier when you get a new idea about a dream or goal you want to pursue, but suddenly you are filled with anxiety, fear, worry and dread. You might ask yourself, “What if I fail?” “What if everyone hates my idea?” “What if they reject me?”

At this point, most people are reluctant to step out and act on their new idea due to fear. Anyone who has ever accomplished anything of value has come up against the terror barrier but they channeled their fear appropriately and moved through it. I have recently opened the door to the terror barrier and I am trying to find the courage to walk through.

I’m petrified.

On one hand, I don’t want to turn back but I can’t stay where I am at, so I have to cross and get to the other side where freedom lives.

I’m working on this project that is bigger than me. It’s demanding of my time and energy. It’s above my education level and beyond my subject knowledge. Yet I feel compelled to move forward with the project. It feels like giving birth from my soul.

I know how to get what is needed to accomplish the final goal. I can figure out the direction in which I need to go. I have access to resources and I can visualize myself achieving this dream.

The “project” is a book about the desperate need for women to properly see ourselves in the Bible as something more than ancillary figures who submit to their husbands and bear children. The Bible is chock-full of inspirational women who were preachers, warriors, apostles and strong leaders.

The modern woman needs to hear and understand more about who those women were and what they did for the kingdom so they can see for themselves how they fit into God’s story.

Eve holds the key to our identity in the story of God. When we grasp her true calling and who she was created to be, we are then able to make better sense of the entire Bible and all those controversial passages about women.

I will share insights from my personal and professional experiences as a pastor and therapist and teach my readers how they inadvertently bring personal and cultural biases to the table when engaging the Bible.

God is my helper, I know that. It doesn’t take away the fear though and sometimes I wonder, “Will people take me seriously?”

Eve: The Mighty Strong Power

imagesThe Bible is an ancient collection of sacred scriptures. It was written in another culture, at another time, to a different audience and by men who spoke another language. Most people tend to forget this when they “read the Bible for all it’s worth.” They sit, they read, they elucidate and then apply a biblical solution to a 21st century issue based on their personal level of understanding.

The lens through which they interpret is the one of their own race and culture. The average Christian will rarely research the original language, syntax and culture or question the author’s original intent.

If we neglect to consider the cultural and language differences of the Bible, we miss something important the authors have to say and sometimes we miss the entire point of the passage. Since no language translates verbatim into another language, many Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible can lose their original meaning and power during the translation process.

Enter Eve

Lets consider for a moment the words “helper suitable” from Genesis 2:18:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Various versions of the Bible also record: suitable helper/helpmeet/helpmate/helper fit/aide fit/suitable partner/helper comparable.

Up until this point in Scripture God has declared all things “good,” now he makes this startling statement in Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” The word “helper” used in this verse in the Hebrew is ezer. Ezer means: to rescue/to save/to be strong. When these two words “helper suitable” are translated together you get ezer kenegdo and there are only two options when translating them into English: mighty strong helper or mighty strong power.

ezerrThe word ezer is a military term that God uses as his own name throughout the Old Testament to describe how God comes through for his people in times of great difficulty. God says “I will be your Ezer Israel,” “I will rescue you!” God gave THAT name to Eve and we are her daughters, therefore we are ezers too! God could have given Eve the Hebrew name for wife, but he did not. He could have given Eve the Hebrew name for assistant, but he did not. He could have given Eve the Hebrew name for aide, but he did not.

When rephrased based on this new understanding you can read:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a mighty strong power for him.”

Stated this way, there is not a hint of inferiority in this passage, yet throughout Christian history, Eve has often been presented as a subordinate helper to Adam. I would say something vitally important has been lost along the way.

The word helper in English means: teammate, aide, supporter, colleague. The problem with those words is that none of them were the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:18. The word that was used was ezer: mighty strong power! That was Eve’s first name and she was named ezer because that is the name God wanted her to have.

In Genesis 3 the ezer did something totally unexpected of a mighty strong power. Eve sinned. She did a “thing” she listened to the lies of the serpent, was deceived, ate the fruit from the tree she knew she should not be eating from. Immediately, she had a new awareness she didn’t have before and she suddenly feels that warm wash of shame, then came all the blame.

It was then that the relationship began to crumble. Now the equal partnership between the adam and the ezer was broken until Jesus came to reconcile the relationships between humanity and God and men and women. The statement “and he will rule over you” in Genesis 3:16 is a consequence of sin. God was NOT making a new command whereby wives should be under the authority of their husbands, it was a proclamation that this would be the new marital dynamic. Patriarchy became the norm after the fall, but it was never commanded and endorsed by God.

So my friends, it is time to reclaim our identity as ezers! There is no hierarchy in Christ. There is no God then husband then wife for God created husband and wife to stand shoulder to shoulder with one another as co-leaders and co-heirs in Christ and that is GOOD NEWS!IMG_3846

Being an ezer should not only be good news to women, it should be good news to men too because this means men do not have to take on the full weight of the home and world on their shoulders. Sisters, as the ezer you get to share that burden!



References: Reclaiming Eve, Vindicating the Vixens, Ezer Rising