Monday, August 22, 2016

Perspective: You Get to Choose!


This week I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Dr. Michelle Bengtson as a guest blogger.  I have had the pleasure of serving on her book launch team.  Enjoy!

Perspective: You Get to Choose!

Dr. Michelle Bengtson

When you look back over your life, have you ever gone through times when you’ve experience pain so great that you didn’t know how or if you would survive your circumstances?

I remember those times. Those days when I suffered from depression and I wondered where my next breath would come from. Times when I couldn’t pray for God to help me make it through the day because I had to pray for help to make it through the next five minutes. And then there were those times when all I could offer in the way of prayer was a whispered, “Help….!”

John 10:10 warns us that we have an enemy, a thief in fact, whose purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy us. In those difficult times, it definitely seemed he was out to steal, kill, and destroy me at all costs: in my finances, in my business, in my relationships, in my health, in my family. He tried very hard to convince me, “You’re not going to make it through this!”

There were days, weeks even, that it would have been easy to believe his lie. But scripture says to remain “alert and sober.” We must recognize the enemy and his lies, and counter them with God’s truth. Believing his lies is a fast track to anxiety, depression, or worse. If I had agreed with his lie, I might not have survived those times.

Instead, Scripture encourages us: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

We often cannot choose the circumstances we find ourselves in, yet we can choose to be alert and sober, aware of the enemy’s lies and countering them with God’s truth. While we cannot always escape life’s trials, we can choose our attitude in response to them.

For example, rather than worrying about the difficulties which is choosing fear over faith, we can choose to trust God and let Him determine the outcome of those trials, which produces hope, and in the end, victory.

The lyrics from Mandisa’s song “Overcomer” resonated with this part of my journey. In this song, she sang of how we can’t let our circumstances get the best of us. With God we are an overcomer, and we’ve got to stay in the fight until the end. We might feel like we’re going down, like things are hopeless, but ultimately God holds us up and helps us overcome whatever we face.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8VoUYtx0kw

To a very large degree, it is a matter of perspective.  What will you choose to believe and focus your mind on today?

~~

Author, speaker and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is also a wife, mother and friend. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com Dr. Bengtson’s book “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” (Revell publishers, August 16, 2016) is available for purchase now:  http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/

For more hope, stay connected with her at:
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/DrMBengtson (@DrMBengtson)



Short Brief about “Hope Prevails”:
Hope Prevails
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson

Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.

Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
  • An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
  • As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
  • Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations

As a board-certified neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson has seen the devastation that people experience when depression sweeps into their lives. She knew what research advocated in terms of the most effective treatments and prescribed them to her clients. But when she personally experienced to the ravages of depression, she found that the treatments she had been using with her patients didn’t help her. As a result, her personal experience became the catalyst for a more holistic approach to treating depression in others.

In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.

For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real help, hope, and healing for the future.

Dr. Michelle Bengtson (PhD, Nova Southeastern University) has been a neuropsychologist for over twenty years. She interned at the University of Oklahoma with “The Father of Neuropsychology,” Dr. Oscar “Oz” Parsons, and completed postdoctoral training at both the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and the University of Alabama Health Sciences Center in Birmingham, Alabama. She lives in Dallas/Fort Worth with her husband, their two sons, and two dogs. Among her favorite things are beaches, boating, and sea salt caramel. Learn more at www.drmichellebengtson.com.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Navigating Choppy Water

Last Sunday at church I ran into a dear friend I had not connected with in some time.  After the service, we did a quick “catch-up” and explored the possibility of getting out on the water that afternoon in kayaks.

Later, Sue contacted me and we made plans.  Keep in mind, I am incredibly blessed to live 3 blocks from Lake Michigan plus one more block to a kayak launching area.

Sue came over and we loaded up my 2 kayaks and other necessary stuff.  It was an amazing day to be out on the water.  We put the kayaks in near the public beach, an area somewhat protected by the wind.  We paddled about, enjoying our time together, the feel of the breeze and God’s amazing beauty.

Sue and I spent the first part of our kayaking on calm water, water easy to navigate.  Because the harbor was relatively smooth, I could choose how hard or easy I wanted to paddle.  After kayaking around the yacht club area, Sue suggested we head around the island which meant heading out into more open water. (Our local public beach is located on an island with a small bridge providing access from the main part of the lake front park.)

We agreed we could always head back to the safety of the harbor but the wind direction led us to believe we could easily get around the island.  

Feeling adventuresome, we headed out and as we rounded the end of the island, paddling into more open water….guess what?  It began to get more choppy and wavy.  Oh well…..  We kept going.  By the time we realized the wind had probably shifted, we were well into it.  We had to do some serious paddling!

I must disclose, although I don’t often put my life jacket on, I do when I encounter rough water.  I never felt really threatened; the water was warm (we have had a lot of hot days), my life jacket would have kept me afloat and my cell phone was protected in a water proof bag attached to my kayak.

But we had to really work!  When it’s rough out on the lake, it is so much easier to either go directly into the wave or to position the kayak to allow the wave to carry  it toward the shore.  Going sideways is scary…lots of buffeting about, kind of a tippy feeling as the kayak bobbles in whatever direction.

Isn’t life like that?  Sometimes we choose a life path that looks like fun but with no guarantees all will go well.  Don’t we sometimes get into situations we could not fully predict?  When that happens….then what?

For example, we get married with great hopes and dreams… and then life happens.  What do we do with the inevitable challenges that come?  Or we decide to have a family, believing that our children will grow up to be strong, healthy God lovers…and then children go their own ways, not necessarily what we choose for them.

Perhaps it’s a new job.  I once pursued a job I thought I would love and had skills for and I ended up hating it.  That period in my life was one of the lowest times I have had to date.

God tells us in His Word, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…..  The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  (Psalm 46: 1, 2 & 7)

We can head straight into the waves of life; we can approach those rough waters with confidence, knowing God is our ultimate “life jacket”, that He has our backs. We can bounce around on the waves of life without losing sight of land (or of Him).  We do not have to drift around sideways; as we approach troubling times, we can move into them headlong.  He will guide and direct us.

Sue and I landed safely that day.  We worked hard at our paddling; we laughed at the switched wind and we left the lake that day with muscles that had been stressed.  When we allow ourselves to paddle with God (whether it’s straight into the waves or being carried by them), we are assured we will come to a place of safety.  Always.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Travel Mercies

Prayer plays an important role in my life and it’s especially soul-satisfying to pray with other like-minded believers.  When someone is getting ready to travel, we ask God for “travel mercies.”  One day I asked myself, “exactly what am I praying for, anyway?”  Is it as simple as just praying for safety? 

I think I may have experienced a glimpse of God’s perspective on “travel mercies” during a recent trip.  I was flying from Michigan to Oregon to visit my son and his family. 

My flight was booked out of Green Bay, WI (better connections than our local airport offers), about a 2 hour drive from our home.  I arrived in plenty of time, boarded my plane and after a brief flight to Chicago, found the gate for my cross country flight.  So far, so good. So. Far.

As I was getting ready to board the next plane and settle in for the 4 hour flight, the gate agent announced there would be a delay due to a “mechanical problem”. A second announcement told us the problem wasn’t fixed but they were confident it would be soon, so they were going to get us on board.  Great. Right?

The boarding process went smoothly but I didn’t sense any forward movement toward take off.   More waiting.

The pilot soon apologized that the problem was not fixed and we would all have to get off the plane.  Once we all were off the aircraft, the gate agent informed us another plane was due in shortly that would get us to Portland.  I could feel my anxiety level rising.

The plane did arrive and we looked forward to being on our way. We were encouraged to board quickly because FAA regulations required us to be in the air by a certain time.  We complied and the airplane filled up.

Well, to cut to the chase (I will not keep you in suspense!), after sitting on that plane for a time, the announcement was made that we had missed our take off by two minutes!  WHAT!!!!!  TWO MINUTES?!!!  We weren’t going anywhere.

Travel mercies” – not so much!  Or so it seemed.

As soon as we were all off the plane, it got pretty chaotic.  The airline issued vouchers for a hotel, cabs and a couple of meals.  I kept reminding myself of God’s sovereignty, how nothing is a surprise to Him!

Travel mercies”…..in the midst of my disappointment and fatigue, I began to get a wonderful picture of God’s provisions…a glimpse of His divine nature as He cared for me. 
  • My cab driver was the best!  Kind, over-the-top helpful making multiple trips to accommodate the varied travel schedules of his passengers.
  • My room was lovely, clean and safe.
  • I had a cell phone to keep in touch with my loved ones.
  •  My suitcase was available.
  • The next morning, an airline employee (at the airport) went out of her way to help me navigate the system.   (Maybe she took pity on me when I asked her if she wanted to see a grown woman cry?!)

Yes, I made it.  “Travel mercies”….for sure.

As in life, God never promises we will travel this road without challenges and complications.  I. Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

This experience provided a glimpse of how He cares for us, through it all.  My grumbling (mostly internal) didn’t help in any way. What I most needed was an attitude of gratitude instead of an anxious heart.  

Because of my faith in Christ and His atoning work on the cross, I am assured that my life journey WILL take me to my heavenly home one day, no matter the roadblocks I may encounter.  Thank you, Jesus, for your “travel mercies”.