A Real-life Easter Message: How Can Tragedy be Redeemed?

A Real-life Easter Message: How Can Tragedy be Redeemed?

Recently I attended a packed service at Life Community Church for a memorial service honoring their worship leader, Bryan Cooke, upon the one year anniversary of his death. Bryan’s father, Pastor Mike Cooke, powerfully shared what he has learned about how God redeems tragedy from his personal experience and reflections of the past year. In this sacred season of Lent and Easter, Mike has something precious to share from his perspective of an earthly father who also brutally lost his son. The following reflections from his unwanted journey are in real time, personal, intimate, yes, even holy. The courage and grace this family has exhibited is beautiful and a witness to the reality of God’s redemptive work in the worst of situations- indeed, we do have a great high priest who understands our suffering and never leaves us to face these times alone. Thank you, Mike, for allowing us a glimpse into your journey. It is a gift to anyone who has experienced tragedy and loss.

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Grieving Hearts:   A Child’s Perspective

Grieving Hearts:   A Child’s Perspective

By Jacquie Atkins, MS

GRIEF.  Reading this word may cause an unexpected, and immediate physical or emotional reaction.  Some of us may experience a knot in our stomachs, sadness or fear wash over us, or maybe even sweaty hands or a racing heart. We may find ourselves almost immediately reminded of a time in which we experienced the death of a parent, spouse, or even a child.  It could be the memory of a lost job, a lost love, or a house fire.  All of these are times in our lives that may potentially cause a period of grieving.  Grief, by definition, means to cause a person intense sorrow.  Humans feel grief when something terribly sad happens, and this definition applies not only to adults, but for children and adolescents as well. 

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The Perfect Valentine for Your Loved One

The Perfect Valentine for Your Loved One

By Robin Delaney, Ph.D.

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get.” This time of year, you may get the large Valentine Sampler of assorted chocolates from a loved one, someone who is supposed to know you, to know you well, and to be tuned in enough to give you something you would enjoy. For some of us, we love chocolate and that makes our heart sing. For others, we do not have much of a sweet tooth and the gesture is lost. For those of us who have given up eating sweets for our New Year’s resolution, the gesture could actually be angering. Then there are those of us who do not like chocolate at all and this sampler could actually be quite offensive. Love is like that box of chocolates. God has wired all of us to give and receive love in different ways; we do not all like the same things and various ways of showing love do not all come naturally.

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Technology in an “Evil Age”

Technology in an “Evil Age”

By Ryan O’Farrell, Psy.D.

While we tend to instinctively view the history of the world as one of progress, the apostle Paul uses very different language to describe the time we live in. In Ephesians 5:15-16, he says that we need to live wisely, making the most of the time, “Because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16, ESV). This sentiment is echoed in Galatians where Paul says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen,” (Gal. 1:3-5, ESV, emphasis added). Though many of us may bemoan the present state of affairs in the world, in general, most of us do not reflexively think of the times we live in as being, by nature, “Evil.” In fact, in the midst of constant medical, scientific, and other technological advances, we tend to assume that we live in a time of progress. And yet the fact remains that for Paul, the days are evil.

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What Do You Want for Christmas?

What Do You Want for Christmas?

By Barbara Boatwright, Ph.D. 

If there is ever a time of year that is marked by joy and celebration, it’s Christmas! It is the one Christian holiday in the year that is celebrated by hundreds of millions of people across the globe from all manners of faith and walks of life, a most special time of year marked for traditions such as family gatherings and giving generously to the poor. These practices are actually rooted in the deepest Biblical meanings of Christmas that are becoming increasingly lost to secular society. One of these traditions has to do with the giving of gifts, which originates from our gratitude for the gracious gift of Jesus Christ coming into our fallen world as our hope and salvation.

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Immanuel: Christmas and Loneliness

Immanuel: Christmas and Loneliness

Isaiah 7:14 And the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel- which means, “God with us.”

A couple of weeks ago, an unexpected package arrived in the mail from Amazon that I had not ordered. In it was Tim Keller’s newest book, called Hidden Christmas, The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ.  I love Tim Keller’s books. In that moment, I could not resist perusing the first chapter, and of course, I got hooked. The book was timely as I had been meditating on the meaning of Jesus’ name, “Immanuel, God with us” in preparation for this month’s article.

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Conflict: Wrapped Up in a Bow

Conflict: Wrapped Up in a Bow

By Robin Delaney, Ph.D.

                I can almost hear the Christmas carols. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Is it? Are the Hallmark movies a true depiction of the holiday season? We are supposed to be thankful for all of our blessings while happily making a turkey dinner and then moving on to celebrating our Savior’s birth while joyfully decorating the perfectly shaped Christmas tree and wrapping presents with the perfect paper and a matching bow. Then reality sinks in. There is so much to do and so little time. There are a lot of expenses with traveling, hosting, buying presents for family, friends, teachers, and more. There can be added stress when there is tension with in-laws or extended family. Who should sit next to whom? What if someone brings up politics or…. religion? All of these physical, emotional, and financial stressors can cause high conflict in a marriage.

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Overcoming the Shame of Addiction

Overcoming the Shame of Addiction

By Dr. Barbara Boatwright

It all began with a desperate phone call from Renée’s brother, John, asking for help for his 28- year-old son, who had been in and out of rehab programs since college, and was now living in a city park with no hope or reason to continue living. The family was affluent, capable of offering all the opportunities and medical care that money can buy. But after six years in and out of treatment, Bobby was in a dangerous and despairing place. Why?

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The Burden of Anxiety, Pt. 2

The Burden of Anxiety, Pt. 2

By Ryan O’Farrell, Psy.D.

Anxiety fundamentally has to do with security and control. When anxious, we take on the responsibility for caring for ourselves, whether through seeking to secure the future or providing ourselves with a distraction from anxiety. But when Jesus announces the gospel, he also announces that the final responsibility for caring for ourselves is not ours. We no longer need to be the masters of our own destiny. Instead, we are free to seek the kingdom of God, leaving both our final destiny and our daily provisions to our Father (Luke 12:31-32). In short, Jesus invites us to live in the reality that we need not be anxious because our lives are ultimately in his good hands.

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The Burden of Anxiety

The Burden of Anxiety

By Ryan O’Farrell, Psy.D.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are amongst the most common mental health problems in the Unites States, with about 1 in 5 adults experiencing an anxiety disorder during a 12-month period. But I think the problem with anxiety runs deeper than that. When we look at certain addictive activities and substances prevalent in the United States, it is striking to note how they relate to anxiety. As opioid use and dependence skyrockets in the US, I cannot help but notice that opioids calm and relax people. Marijuana, another drug that calms and relaxes people, is increasingly accepted within our culture and utilized recreationally. Speak with almost anyone in the church and they will tell you that pornography use is epidemic and once again, sex allows for a release of tension and relaxation.

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What Can Adam and Eve Teach Us About Addictions?

What Can Adam and Eve Teach Us About Addictions?

By Ryan O’Farrell, Psy.D.

In the Garden of Eden, immediately after eating the fruit of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil, Adam and Eve find themselves naked and ashamed (Gen. 3:7). They respond to their shame and nakedness by making a covering of fig leaves for themselves (Gen. 3:7), hiding from God (Gen. 3:8), and when confronted by God, blaming someone else for their sin (Gen. 3:9-13). These verses highlight some of the dynamics operating in those struggling with addictions, whether with substances or in other areas such as pornography and gambling.

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Science and Faith: Friend or Foe?

Science and Faith: Friend or Foe?

By Barbara Boatwright, Ph.D.

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” Psalm 8: 3-4

The historic solar eclipse of August 21 was visible in all 50 states and a total eclipse was seen across the entire continent for the first time in 99 years. It is believed to be the most observed and photographed eclipse of all time, with tens of millions of people re-orienting their lives and schedules to participate in watching the event. During totality, it is possible to see the sun’s outer solar atmosphere (the corona and chromosphere), which makes solar flares (a sudden flash of brightness near the sun’s surface powered by a sudden release of magnetic energy) observable. What I did not know until I read Dr. Michael Guillen’s newest book, The Null Prophecy, is that space weather, particularly solar super storms, can hit and impact the earth. Solar flares are often accompanied by coronal mass ejections, when clouds of electrons, ions and atoms are ejected through the corona of the sun into space. These are huge explosions of plasma and the sun’s magnetic field that can travel almost at the speed of light, reach the earth in as little as 14 hours, and fill half of the volume of space between earth and the sun on their way.  A CME hitting the earth causes huge geomagnetic storms and disrupts telecommunications and technology grids.

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From Slavery to Sonship: Coming Home (The Father Heart of God, Part 3)

From Slavery to Sonship: Coming Home (The Father Heart of God, Part 3)

By Barbara Boatwright, Ph.D.

“My son (translates “beloved”), the father said, you are always with me and everything I have is yours.” Luke 15:31

When we accept Jesus as Savior, our status as spiritual orphans and slaves to sin immediately changes. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us that we have been chosen by God, the Father, to be adopted as sons through Jesus (1:4) and that our inheritance as sons and daughters is completely guaranteed (1:14). We are actually invited into the very same relationship Jesus shares with His Father with all its benefits! But does this knowledge really impact how we live and experience each day beyond our attempts to “just be good Christians”?  While we may intellectually agree with this statement, our ability to live like we believe it is the challenge we face for the rest of our lives. This is the heartbeat of sanctification: the divine exchange of growing more and more secure in the love of the Father as his children, and as a result, becoming more and more like Christ in our hearts and minds and the way we live our lives.

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Returning Home (The Father Heart of God, Part 2)

Returning Home (The Father Heart of God, Part 2)

By Barbara Boatwright, Ph.D.

Rembrandt’s painting, The Return of the Prodigal, is considered by some art historians to be the greatest picture ever painted. The artist lived a life of excess and great tragedy coupled with a deep faith and knowledge of the scriptures. His many paintings taken from scripture reflect his empathy for the human condition and sense of spiritual understanding and insight into the pain of our fallen humanity. His first wife, Saskia, bore four children during their brief eight years of marriage. The first three died within weeks of their birth, and only 8 months after their son, Titus, was born, Saskia succumbed to tuberculosis and passed away. Rembrandt had a daughter some years later by his then common law wife, who was banned from the church “for committing acts of a whore with Rembrandt, the painter.” He did not marry her to avoid losing the assets of a trust established by his late wife. Despite his tremendous financial success as an artist and his wife’s inheritance, Rembrandt out spent his earnings and eventually had to sell his home and substantial collections to avoid bankruptcy. He ultimately died a pauper, and was buried in an unknown grave where his remains were later removed and destroyed, according to the custom of the time.

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The Father Heart of God

The Father Heart of God

By Barbara Boatwright, Ph.D.

Preparing the recent Lifeline article on bereavement set the stage for me to approach Lent from a slightly different perspective this year. I have more often focused on the suffering of Jesus during Lent than what the experience of our Father God must have been like. Most people would agree that the loss of a child is likely the most painful event we endure in this life. As heartbreaking as the loss of a parent or even a sibling may be, none of us believe we should outlive our children. When we see our children suffer, we would much rather it be ourselves.

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Love Well, Grieve Well: A Conversation with a Grief Specialist

Love Well, Grieve Well:  A Conversation with a Grief Specialist

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18

We grieve because we love.  Our remarkable ability to love someone intensely is turned upside down as we face loss of a person we have deeply loved.  The emotional, physical, and spiritual pain we encounter can be overwhelming and often unthinkable.  And yet, we live in a society that discounts the primal human need to grieve and mourn our loved ones. Feelings of isolation often accompany grief in our fast passed world, as family members, friends, and coworkers refocus on their own lives, work, and concerns, leaving us to feel as if we are mourning alone. Yet, it is in that place of pain and sorrow that we find the essence of life.  Knowing and understanding the basic human need to grieve and mourn gives each of us the opportunity to heal and to begin to live in a world different from before, but nonetheless, a world of hope and life.

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Hope and Healing (Meet Pringle Franklin)

Hope and Healing (Meet Pringle Franklin)

By Pringle Franklin

Think of February and most of us will immediately be reminded of Valentine’s Day long before we think of President’s Day or probably any other day. Valentine’s Day is another one of those holidays that tends to evoke feelings of the best of times or the worst of times, depending on the state of our closest relationships. In the creation story, the first thing that God ever said that was not good, was that man should not be alone (Genesis 2:18). We human beings are created for connection- with God and one another. Indeed, the entire story of Scripture is related to a Loving Father God who is working to restore broken relationship with us and provide a Bride for His Son, who, in turn, gives His Father children through His work on the cross. We, created by love, are both!  We are caught up in the most painfully wonderful love story ever created. And we live in these same relationships here on earth.  All of us have relationship stories that have brought us amazing joy and great pain. Fortunately, we have a loving God who has much to offer us as we navigate these relationships.

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Why Peace is Possible in Turbulent Times

Why Peace is Possible in Turbulent Times

By Barbara Boatwright, Ph.D.

“In this world, there will be trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” -Jesus Christ

Last year, my husband and I attended a medical mission meeting at The Billy Graham Center, The Cove, in Black Rock, North Carolina. There we had the privilege of hearing from a remarkable woman, Aileen Coleman, who has dedicated her life as a missionary in Jordan since 1956. The past 40 years of her service have been at the Annoor Sanatorium in Mafraq, where she oversees a 50 bed hospital and clinic treating chronic chest diseases, such as Tuberculosis, which are common among the Bedouin people. Because the recovery from Tuberculosis is so lengthy, many Muslim patients come to faith in Jesus Christ during their stay.

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