SPOILER: Valentine's Day Is Not Our Favorite

written by Zach

It’s no secret. Ash and I are not the biggest fans of Valentine’s Day. It seems like society has made it out to be one of the only days a couple can do something really nice for each other, instead of  making it a consistent practice. However, if I were trying to hopeful with it, maybe Valentine’s Day could be a catalyst for us treating each other the same way the rest of the year?

There’s another reason we’re not the biggest  fans of Valentine’s Day. We also remember being single on Valentine’s Day- Too. Much. Pressure. Even though Ash and I have been married for almost eight years, we were single more years than we have been married. So we remember well.

We love marriage. We love family. However, sometimes we wonder if our view of family, especially as Christians, is somewhat skewed. You see, when I read the stories of the earliest Christians, it seemed like there wasn’t SUCH an emphasis on the nuclear family.

Instead, there seemed to be a bigger, more inclusive practice of family. I’m definitely supposed to love my family, but I’m also supposed to love the  family of God.

How could we do this better? How could we do this in a way where a man or woman doesn’t sacrifice their nuclear family on the altar of ministry and loving others well?

Our family learned the benefit of having a “bigger” view of family last year.  Ash and I had been encouraging a younger friend, Gabby (I got permission from her to talk about her) from afar. One day, Ash and I both felt a leading to ask her to come live with us for a season. Everly was a year old. We were learning how to be a good daddy and mommy, while also still trying to be a good husband and wife to each other. I was working and also finishing up grad school. On paper, it was not the best time to have someone come live with us. However, Ash and I, TOGETHER, both felt strongly that Gabby was supposed to live with us for a little while. And she did.

Gabby came and lived with in the Dickson household from January until June. She became a part of our family for those months, and she remains a part of our family, even though she has moved on to work and live in the Big Apple- New York City.

When we asked Gabby to live with us, it was because we wanted to love her well.  But it was also because we want our family to be bigger than “us.” As a Christian, my concept of love and family has to be bigger and less exclusive. I’m not naïve. I know this cannot happen all the time, and it’s not wise for certain seasons of life. But can we hold each other accountable that the “specific season” of nuclear family life doesn’t become a forever thing?

You don’t have to let someone live with you, but you can invite someone into your family.  I believe this is more so about maintaining an attitude of welcoming, gracious, hospitality, and a commitment to helping others know they BELONG to a family.

How would Singles feel on Valentine’s Day if we could commit to living and loving like this? What are some ways that you have helped others feel like they belong to a family?  

Oh! I almost forgot to say…

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

 

CHANGIN' OUR STINKIN' THINKIN' (Part 2)

written by Zach

I heard a pastor recently say something that I agree with wholeheartedly. He said christians pray too often for God to make “a table” when God doesn’t make tables, but insisted that God makes “trees” instead. The pastor wasn’t talking about literal tables and trees, but was making an analogy. He said christians pray earnestly for something to exist, to happen, or change, without considering God might want us to take more initiative in whatever that “thing” is we’re praying so hard for to happen. God doesn’t make the table. God makes the tree. You and I use the resources of the tree, work hard, and make the table ourselves.

That dream you have is not going to just happen one day. It’s not just going to appear out of thin air. God might have planted some kind of “seed” in you for something to happen, but he expects you and I to work hard and work with him in order for it to come to fruition.

The same applies with our health, especially our stinkin’ thinkin.’ I remember when I desperately wanted anxiety to be gone from my life. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed…AND PRAYED for God to make it happen. He did, in fact, make it happen, but not in the way I thought he would. I prayed for the “table” without understanding that God had already planted a forest of trees all around that I could use to help find healing.

At that time I was not open to counseling and medication. These two options were actual, possible resources for God to use to give me the thing I wanted so badly- for anxiety to no longer rule my life. I didn’t know that scientists, researchers, doctors, and therapists had empirically proven, specific forms of therapy that could help a person quite literally change their negative thinking patterns to lead people to healing from their anxiety.

I don’t know why it took me so long to accept “outside” help with my anxiety. I just know I wanted God to take it away. I don’t know if I just didn’t want to work for it, or if I wanted healing to happen the way I thought it should happen. I don’t know if it was because I simply didn’t know that God could use other means, or if my legalistic tendencies would not allow myself to be healed in other ways except for the laying of hands and prayer.

I agree with the pastor. God doesn’t always make tables. But he always makes trees. As it relates to healing, I believe there is freedom from God for us to join him in the healing process. In fact, I think God enjoys it when we join him. He is a loving Father who wants an intimate relationship, so it’s natural for me to think of him in this way of joining him in his work.

The question Jesus asked a person coming to him for healing is the same question  I’ll ask you…”Do you want to get well?” If your answer is yes, then I want to encourage you to open your thinking and world up to other possible ways God might want use to heal you. How can you take more ownership in your healing? Or even better…how can you join Jesus more in your healing?

 

Changing Our Stinkin' Thinkin'

written by Zach

I believe every good thing in this life, and especially in my own life, is a gift from God. Psychology has been a blessing in my life. So, do you want to take any guesses as to who I thank for psychology?

That’s right. I thank God for psychology.

I thank God for science. I grew up thinking and believing that science was the devil, and that science was man’s attempt to “play god.” I believed that any acceptance of science was a slippery slope toward a lack of dependence on Jesus and his power for my life.  You know how you’ve always got to be on the lookout for that mark of the beast too!  However, my thinking has changed. My thoughts have evolved you might say…

I have concluded that God himself created psychology. The Bible even contain verses like,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

and

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Friends, these verses related to our thinking are psychology. I embrace this as the goodness of God in my life, that he would share these truths with us. However, I don’t want to just stop with the verse. Sometimes we are really good at reading a verse, memorizing a verse, or teaching a verse without getting practical with how we can actually apply it to our lives. We will study a verse TO DEATH, be able to explain the Greek meaning of it, yet miss the practical application.

That’s what these next few blog posts are going to be about: getting grossly practical with these deep truths in a way that hopefully help us change our irrational, fearful, negative thinking patterns…our stinkin’ thinkin.’

Williams James is famous for saying that "The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind."

Dr. Caroline Leaf adds that “Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking. When we hope, it is an activity of the mind that changes the structure of our brain in a positive and normal direction.”

Taking care of our mind is not just giving into psychobabble. I have found it to be one of the most sacred and beneficial processes I can daily take part in. It has made me a better husband, dad, and friend, as well as a more sincere, healthy Jesus follower. 

Anyone else want to go on this journey with us?

Is It Okay For A Christian To Doubt?

written by Zach

Almost a decade ago, as many of you know, I consistently struggled with severe anxiety and depression. There were multiple reasons for this, but one of the reasons was due my skewed  conceptions about God. Some of the incorrect thoughts were a result of my own incomplete personal studies, but some were also taught by different teachers.

As a person struggling with fear and anxiety, I remember leaving some specific sermons and reading certain blogs that left me more confused (and scared) about my issues with anxiety and depression. There’s a perception in the evangelical community that for a Christian to doubt  is a bad thing or even a “slander against the almighty.” But I actually think that perception is a bit unhealthy, and maybe even dangerous to teach.

Some might teach that Jesus died so we didn’t have to doubt anymore. However, I’ve learned to view doubt as my friend, not the enemy.

I see doubt and faith as two different sides of the same coin. I see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane at the end of his life, full of faith, but  also full of wrestling with doubt. I read in Paul’s letters, including the letters toward the end of his life,  written by broken man- full of faith, but also full of insecurity.

There is prevailing thought and belief among Christians that maturity equals certainty. It’s thought in some circles that the more certain a Christian is about their practices, beliefs, God and following his ways, the more mature they are…(especially if they declare these beliefs with much bravado in their voice). I see and hear it all the time and everywhere...in sermons, the songs we sing, and in conversations I overhear at the coffee shop...and it's not healthy. Certainty does not equal maturity.

A person’s trust in Jesus, in the midst of doubt and much uncertainty, produces real faith and maturity and is a lot healthier on the person’s mind as well.

In my opinion, the Christian will not one day come to a place when he or she does not experience doubt in some form. Where there is great faith, doubt will be present. Will you and I continue to trust still in the midst of it?  

I want more grace in my life and the in the lives of those I counsel. In this post I’m offering you a different perspective- it’s your choice to agree or disagree. However, if this perspective is resonating with you, I want you to know that if you ‘struggle’ with doubt- it’s okay. You are not less of a Christian than someone who is more 'certain.' My doubt has deepened my faith in Jesus and helped me to have true compassion for others. For faith to even exist, doubt must be present. For faith to continue to grow, doubt should be right there with it. I'm not afraid of my humanity anymore. I've embraced it, and by doing so, have allowed it to be transformed by Holy Spirit into deeper faith.