Sunday, December 15, 2013

Grief During the Holidays

Loss, sadness, and grief are all part of the human condition. These experiences are unavoidable, inevitable. Around the Christmas holidays, things can be especially difficult for those persons who have lost loved ones in recent months or during the past couple of years. There are constant reminders during this special season of the ones we miss--those who have left an empty place in our hearts.

How are we to cope with our grief and sorrow during the holidays? This is a tough question to answer. But let’s first start with Jesus.

Of the Messiah, Isaiah (53:3) prophesied, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” In his days in the flesh, Jesus experienced the pain of isolation, sorrow, and grief. His human side knew all too well the inner turmoil that comes from losing a loved one to death. Upon the event of Lazarus’ death, and at the spectacle of the sorrowful sisters and mourning friends, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Yes, Christ was a man well-acquainted with loss and the accompanying sadness that ensues.

So, how can you cope when you’re still in the throes of bereavement during the holidays and the pain of loss is still so raw? Here are just a few practical ideas I hope may be of some help:

Acknowledge Your Loss Adequately to Your Own Self and to Others. People often attempt to stuff the disquieting feelings of grief by ignoring them or denying the full reality of their loss. Denial of loss and the accompanying sadness just prolongs the process of working through it. Therefore, allow yourself permission to feel sad and to experience whatever other uncomfortable emotions that may emerge. Communicate to others what you need from them to help you cope and also what you don’t need at the present. While the world seems to rush on, you are likely to find yourself seemingly stuck in your grief, left struggling with sadness and depression. You can’t just “get over it” and move on with your life as some may suggest. Also, keep in mind that everybody expresses their grief in uniquely personal ways. There is no one-size-fits-all grief process template that every individual will naturally conform to.

Honor the Memory of Your Loved One. Visit their gravesite and take flowers or even a present and speak to them. Tell them how much you still love them and miss them. When you are at home or visiting with family and friends, it’s important to be able to have open conversations about them recalling special memories. Share what it is about their presence that you miss the most. Light a candle in their memory. Hold their place at the dinner table and go around sharing what you loved about the person. Write a poem or song about them. Spend time alone with sentimental items that remind you of them. Look through old photo albums.

Pray to God for Help in Coping with Your Grief and Search the Scriptures for Comfort. God knows your pain and has not abandoned you in your bereavement. He is there to listen because He cares about you. He understands. Ask God for strength, comfort, wisdom, and peace. It’s okay to be honest with God about your feelings, even your anger regarding your loss. God is big enough to handle it. He is your loving Heavenly Father. Your “Abba” or daddy father (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). The Psalms are especially comforting and helpful (e.g., Psalm 23; 121; 136; 142; 147) as well as are several of the teachings of Jesus (e.g., John 10:1-18; John 14:1-5), and the apostles (Rom. 8).

Take an Occasional Break from the Grief and Do Something Enjoyable. Grief can be exhausting and often takes a long time to work through. It’s more like a marathon than a sprint. Therefore, it is necessary to take a break from it periodically to recoup, rest, and re-create. This is where some healthy distractions from it can be useful. Listen to some good music, take a candle-lit bath, exercise, catch a movie at the theatre, go eat with a friend at a nice restaurant, take a drive and look at the holiday lights, or just curl up and read a good novel to escape from reality for a while. Believe me, the grief will be waiting for you when you are ready to come back to it after you have regained some energy.

Participate in a Support Group and/or Speak to a Minister or Counselor. There are others in the community or surrounding communities who have gone through similar experiences within the past months. Just being able to speak about your sadness in a safe environment, where you can let your guard down and not feel the need to act strong can be freeing and cathartic. So many times, we are forced to keep our “game face” on to make it through the day if we’re working outside the home or tending to family needs at home. This makes it hard to find time to explore or express your deeper feelings about how you are doing inside.

There are many other helpful strategies, but I hope these ideas are of some benefit to you. Just remember that you’re not alone and that God loves you and cares about you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman (by Carole Brown)

How far would YOU go to avenge a daughter’s cruel death? Cara is considered rebellious and inappropriate to befriend. Dayne is the apple of Elder Simmons’ eye—until he takes a stand against their teachings. Can his prayers and love reach Cara and show her the way to redemption? Will Cara realize God’s love and forgiveness before she goes too far?

The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman is a novel of hope shining through the darkness with strong elements of suspense and romance. This novel was a semifinalist in the Genesis contest and is receiving raving reviews! Release date was October 21, 2013 from the Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. The link for the book which is on SALE NOW is:


From December 1 through December 16, the John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch and The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman is a featured book. 

As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go to: and enter the Raffle copter (toward the bottom of the page. Be sure and pick up your Kindle version of The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman for $.99 at

Video link:

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her here:

She is part of several other blogs:
Barn Door Book Loft:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Get Involved in Volunteer Work!

If you have ever done any volunteer work before, you know how rewarding it can be. There are generally a number of nonprofit organizations in our communities that depend heavily upon the generosity, time, and energy of willing volunteers. A volunteer is someone who serves not because he or she has to or is paid to, but simply because he or she wants to!

What opportunities are there in your own community to give of yourself as a volunteer? Perhaps there is a local soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, or a Meals-on-Wheels program for the elderly. How about a Boys and Girls Club, a youth residential treatment center, or a tutoring program where you could offer your know-how, resources, and energy? What about volunteering through the public school system as a tutor, the Child and Family Court system as a mentor or child advocate, or at a local nursing home? Habitat for Humanity is yet another wonderful program to get involved and provide adequate housing for those who need it.

Relay for Life (for the American Cancer Society) and Light the Night (for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) are also wonderful ways to raise important funding for cancer research. Sometimes churches provide weekly Mothers Day Out programs to give overworked and frazzled moms of little ones a much-needed break to get some time to themselves either to rest, go to the beauty parlor, or catch up on some chores without distraction.

What opportunities exist in your community where you can make a real positive impact? If you take a moment to think about it and explore the possibilities, you won’t have to look too far. Opportunities to serve in the community abound everywhere.

While working at these places and giving of your valuable time, you will be afforded many opportunities to show God’s love by providing people with services they could not obtain themselves. Moreover, working with persons who are in need has a way of opening Christians’ eyes to some of the hidden problems that exist in our society. So what are you waiting for? Go head and get involved, and make a difference! Show Christ’s heart of compassion by volunteering!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

We All Married Idiots (Interview with Elaine W. Miller)

I am delighted this week to be interviewing author Elaine W. Miller on her new book, We All Married Idiots. You will just love what she has to say! But first, here's a tidbit about Elaine.

Elaine W. Miller is a popular author and speaker known for sharing biblical insights with warmth, enthusiasm, and humor. Elaine and her husband, Dan, have been married 43 years and reside in upstate New York. Together they have led many marriage retreats and counseled numerous hurting couples. They travel to Europe annually as a pastoral care couple to missionaries in Bosnia.

Elaine is the author of three books. Her latest release, We All Married Idiots: Three Things You Will Never Change About Your Marriage and Ten Things You Can is listed on Amazon's Best Selling books on Relationships. She also authored Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Moms and Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Wives.

And now for my rather enjoyable interview with Elaine . . .

Me: Hello Elaine! Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview! Please tell us a little about your own background and marriage experience.

Elaine: Hi Dr. Fraser! Thank you for the interview. 

My marriage has indeed been an experience! The first year I packed Dan's bags three times. Forty-three years later, I shudder thinking that I almost threw away this man I adore. We share three children, ten grandchildren, a miracle-working God, and an amazing life and ministry. My husband is an ordained minister. Together, we have led many marriage retreats and counseled numerous hurting couples. I am not a trained counselor or psychologist. I am a wife with a passion to see marriages thrive.

Me: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Elaine: We All Married Idiots was inspired by my own marriage as well as numerous couples whose pain-filled marriages seemed too much to bear. God can take a dead marriage and make it alive again. I know, because He did it to mine.

The title We All Married Idiots came years ago when Dan and I were arguing. Throwing my hands up I proclaimed, "I must have been an idiot to marry that idiot!" Bursting out laughing, I realized that proclamation made me an idiot too. Years later I learned the word idiot comes from the Greek meaning common man. Aren't we all common man or common woman? There is only one who is not common man — Jesus Christ. When we look to our spouse to fulfill needs only Christ can fulfill, then we begin thinking our spouses are idiots to tolerate instead of gifts to treasure.

Me: Who is your main target audience? How or why does your writing style connect so well with them?

Elaine: Sad statistics report there is a divorce every 13 seconds in the United States. The divorce rate for couples over age 50 has doubled in the last 20 years. My target audience is anyone married or wanting to be married. We All Married Idiots connects with people because it is short and easy to read. Someone looking for marriage help may not connect with a heavy textbook on marriage.

We All Married Idiots is filled with scripture and God's Word on marriage. After all, marriage was God's idea. Anyone can read my book and understand God's plan for husbands and wives, even if they had never opened a Bible.

Me: Have you been surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response from your readers?

Elaine: Oh my, yes! Married couples are eager to learn what God says about marriage. 

Pastors are using We All Married Idiots for pre-wedding and post-wedding counseling saying if newlyweds understand the 3 things they will never change about marriage and the 10 things they can change, the new marriage is off to a good start.

Singles are reading We All Married Idiots as a guide for all their relationships and their future marriage.

Engaged couples are loving We All Married Idiots as the book prepares them for the reality of life after the honeymoon.

Couples married over 50 years are learning new ways to get along and love their spouse.

Hurting marriages are being healed. One couple finished We All Married Idiots and immediately went to their church, talked to their Pastor,  kneeled together at the altar and prayed the prayer of commitment at the end of the book. 

Me: What are a few of the most important ideas and themes of your book that you want readers to take away from it?

Elaine: The subtitle is Three Things You Will Never Change About Your Marriage and Ten Things You Can. Couples are taught to stop concentrating on the three things they will never change in their marriage, and begin focusing on the ten things they can. Then each will esteem their mate as a gift to treasure, not an idiot to tolerate.

God never says "Examine your spouse." God does say "Examine yourself."  We All Married Idiots encourages husbands and wives to stop pointing their fingers at each other and ask God to point his finger at me and show me where I am failing as a marriage partner.

Certainly, don't turn to someone else thinking a different person will bring you more happiness. I suspect you won't be in a new marriage long before you realize, "Oh no! This person is an idiot too!"

Me: Where did you get your great sense of humor?

Elaine: Can a sense of humor be inherited? My whole family is funny. Plus, God tells us to laugh. It's good medicine.  

Me: Any last words of wisdom for those who are trying to strengthen and improve their marriages?

Elaine: I'll end with my husband's favorite scripture for marriage.

Philippians 2:3-4. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Me: Thanks, Elaine, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me and my readers and to share these great ideas. It is much appreciated!

Check out Elaine's website and blog at or connect on facebook, twitter, or pinterest at Elaine W. Miller.

Friday, November 8, 2013

20+ Ways to Experience Burnout in Ministry

This week, I would like to share some rather "tongue-in-cheek" thoughts with all my ministry friends and colleagues. If you are not a clergyperson yourself, please share this post with your minister or pastor for the sake of their personal sanity and well-being.

In light of our own human finitude we naturally all have certain limits as to what we are capable of doing and achieving as ministers, as much as we would sometimes like to deny this reality. When we foolishly attempt to exceed those limits, we are inevitably asking for trouble. So here are 20+ ways to experience burnout in ministry. 

If it is your desire to burn out in the ministry, please heed the following advice:

  1. Never say “no” to anybody when they ask you to do something for them or help out in some way.
  2. Consistently place the needs of the members of the congregation before your own family’s needs.
  3. Take on everybody’s problems you counsel or help as your own and be sure to take these issues home with you.
  4.  Fit as many speaking engagements into your schedule as you can and never turn down any invitations.
  5. Eat fatty and unhealthy foods, seldom take time for physical exercise, and avoid getting sufficient sleep.
  6. Never take a personal break from your work and avoid taking family vacations at all costs.
  7. Don’t waste your time with any personal hobbies or pursuing recreational interests. In other words, no fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing, movies, bowling, woodworking, etc.
  8. Preach and teach every Sunday and Wednesday at every service and never take a break from the rotation.
  9. Avoid taking time to attend ministerial enrichment programs or lectureships, so you will be sure not to be encouraged or spiritually fed.
  10.  Compare yourself and your abilities on a regular basis to “big names" on the speaking circuit.
  11. Never take your spouse out on a date or weekend outing. In fact, it’s best to take them and your relationship for granted.
  12.  Answer the phone whenever it rings, either at the office or home, and especially while out enjoying time with your family. In other words, make yourself available 24/7 and 365 days per year.
  13. Involve yourself in multiple leadership positions within the community through school and civic organizations.
  14. Take every piece of criticism made about you and/or your family to heart.
  15. Try to please every single person in your congregation and expect everybody to like you.
  16.  Avoid taking time for personal Bible study, prayer, and spiritual renewal.
  17. Accept ministry positions where you are underpaid and over-worked.
  18. Develop a hostile and antagonistic relationship with the elders of your congregation.
  19. Allow members of the congregation to place you on a pedestal and to expect perfection from both you and your family.
  20.  Buy in to the idea that you are a hireling and not a true member of the congregation.
  21. Don’t spend time establishing and nurturing relationships with people outside of your congregation.
  22. Try to be “Superman” even though you don’t have a cape. Never ask for help for anything. After all, it will probably save you time to do it all “right” the first time, instead of correcting someone else’s “failed” attempt to help.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

10 Ways to Make a Bad Day Better (Guest Post by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer)

Hi, readers!

I am delighted to introduce you to a very talented Christian author, named Jayne Jaudon Ferrer. Some time ago, I read a wonderfully insightful, practical article she had posted on her creative blog (The Comma Goddess Speaks: Musings on Life's Joys & Vexations). Jayne has graciously allowed me to republish her article, "10 Ways to Make a Bad Day Better," here for your reading pleasure.

But, first, I'd like to share a little background information on Jayne that will give you a better appreciation for her unique perspective on life . . .

Jayne says she's always been a "half-full" kind of person, as opposed to "half-empty." No matter how bleak things look when she goes to bed, she wakes up optimistic every morning--though she doesn't always stay that way! She was blessed to be born into a wonderful, loving Christian family and, the older she gets, the more she's convinced that line from the play, "Chicago," is right: the troubled people in this world tend to be those who "didn't get enough love in their childhood." Although her father died when she was only seven, his presence in her life, and the foundation he laid for her, kept her from feeling that loss for a long time. Jayne says her life has been full of wonderful people and opportunities, but she has known sadness, too: her mother had Alzheimer's for ten very long years. 

When Jayne speaks to women's groups, she tries to emphasize that no matter what baggage women may carry or how limited they believe their talents to be, each of them has the ability to make a difference in this world--whether it's raising up a child in the way he should go, nurturing a row of cabbages or roses, or simply being a friendly face for a beleaguered check-out clerk.

I'm confident that you're going to be richly blessed by Jayne's article. Enjoy!


10 Ways to Make a Bad Day Better

My days have been pretty good here lately, but we all know those crummy ones roll around sooner or later. Don’t give in to them! The older I get, the more I realize we are very much the determiners of our own destiny—on a day-by-day basis, at least. We can choose how to react to less-than-perfect days, whether their badness comes in the form of weather, events, encounters, or the lack thereof, and by choosing NOT to let our happiness be derailed by some external force, we can salvage that day for good.

If your happy mood is about to be hit broadside, try one of these tips. Let me know how it goes!

1.        Take a 10-minute walk outdoors by yourself. Okay, so this might not be an option if it’s raining like crazy or there’s a blizzard in town but, otherwise, this is a terrific way to “push your reset button,” as my friend Pat used to say. Pay attention to detail: a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, an old guy walking his dog, a shopkeeper fixing a window display. The point is to realize what’s happening in your life is a tiny little speck in the great scheme of things. Whatever’s out of sync will pass.

2.        Indulge in a treat that’s good and good for you. Chocolate milkshake, probably not so much, but a straight-from-paradise Honey Crisp apple or a banana and peanut butter sandwich? Maybe all that’s wrong is low blood sugar or the need for a caffeine fix. You’d be surprised how grumpy that can make you!

3.      Look for a gift. Not one topped with a bow, but one you’ve overlooked. Parking place at the front of the lane? Happy little bird singing outside your window? Your favorite song on the radio? I call those little presents from God. He knows when you’re in a rotten mood and he may not be able to orchestrate a lottery win or heal your plantar fasciitis, but pay attention and you’ll be amazed at how many times He tries to say, “Here, will this help?”

4.       Focus on the least worst thing you’re dealing with. Yes, I’m fully aware I have an inner Pollyanna that annoys people to no end but, really, does it do any good to wallow in your misery? (Okay, sometimes a short pity party does help.) Skip past the empty bank account, the fight you had with your teenager, the fact that your mom is getting more and more forgetful, and dwell on  the nail you just broke. Will you die from that? No. Will you lose your job over that? No. Will said nail grow back? Yes. See? That's one thing that's not nearly as awful as it could be.

5.        Put things in perspective. I know, from where you sit at the moment, life looks pretty sorry. But switch views. Pretend you’re your 13-year-old son, or your 80-year-old neighbor, or the homeless guy on the corner, or Princess Kate. You might decide you like your life a lot more than you thought.

6.      Don’t be a Don’t-Bee; you be a Doo-Bee! Anybody remember the TV show, “Romper Room?” We’re never too old to take good advice: don’t be a Negative Nelly when you can be a Positive Pammy! Sometimes changing your mood is as easy as making up your mind to adjust your attitude.

7.     Turn on your radio. Or your MP3, cell phone, CD player, or whatever is the handiest source of music. (Maybe  one of your coworkers will do an Elvis impression for you.) Music has an uncanny ability to immediately transport us to a different place and time, especially if it’s a song with fond memories attached. Music is the quickest path I know from crabby to happy (along with #9!).

8.        Find something to make you laugh. Go to YouTube and search for laughing babies or goofy animals. Revisit your email joke folder. (You have one of those, right?) Take a break to go read funny greeting cards. Pull up a comedy on Netflix. Not only will you feel better, you’ll add a few years to your life.

9.     Find something four-legged and furry. Okay, maybe if you’re a fan of reptiles, a snake can make you smile, but my money’s on mammals. I dare you to stay downtrodden while there’s a kitten in your lap, a dog grinning in your face, a meerkat peering up at you, or a horse nuzzling your neck. Animals = smiles.

10.      Do something for someone who’s not expecting it. Sometimes, reminding yourself that it’s not all about you can get you past those rough spots. Focusing on someone else will get your mind off your worries and doing something for someone else, well, that makes you feel good all over. How about putting quarters in a bunch of parking meters downtown, or buying a burger for the lady behind you in the drive-thru? I guarantee that if you surprise the tellers at your bank with a bag of donuts they will treat you like a hero, and if you take a couple of board games or a basketball to your local women’s shelter, you may turn your bad day into the best one ever.

(Republished with special permission from Jayne Jaudon Ferrer. This article originally appeared on her blog, The Comma Goddess Speaks: Musings on Life's Joys & Vexations, on Thursday, February, 21, 2013.)

       Jayne Jaudon Ferrer is the author of five books and the founder and editor of Mother of three sons, she lives with her husband in Greenville, SC. Learn more about her at