Letters to Lou, our Counsellor: responses shared previously in SPAG Magazine
As SPAG Magazine is no longer being published, our Counsellor ‘Lou’ isn’t able to respond to letters. If you have an urgent or important issue, we strongly encourage you to seek help from a qualified counsellor or Pastor as soon as possible.
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Following are letters printed in SPAG Magazine with responses from our Counsellor ‘Lou.’
Issue 27: December 2021 to February 2022
Letter 1: There might be a busybody in my Bible study group
Dear Lou
I’ve been going to a women’s small Bible study group for a few years now and I’ve been learning a lot. I also like that we can sit around and chat about our struggles and spend time in prayer for each other or those we love. We had a real trust going between us and I knew that I could share with them and not be judged.
A few months ago a new woman joined the group, and she’s been very friendly and joined in our Bible discussions. The problem I have is that a couple of the personal struggles I shared with the group since she joined have found their way to our Pastor and his wife. While I don’t want to blame the new person, it’s only happened since she joined the group.
How do I bring up this problem? Should I speak to the group’s leader? I don’t want to accuse the new person because I have no proof it was her. Now I feel like my trust has been betrayed and I don’t know that I can ever feel comfortable being so open with the others in the group again. Am I being over-sensitive about this?
Dear Trisha
The letter you have written is symptomatic of stories I hear often from small groups and even church life. I will make a few comments for you
Recognise that whenever a new person enters a group you will of necessity have to define afresh the trust boundaries of this group. This is why some groups don’t want to embrace a new person. I always say to any small group I lead, “the trust you build and the confidences you share are the property of this group and are not available for publication. It is all about trust.
I have a concern that because you have been hurt, you could easily choose not to share your heart in any group and this would be sad for you. I have a little test I use to see if someone is trustworthy. I share something insignificant about myself with that person that no other person knows about, and just leave it there. If nothing has come back to me in a few weeks I will share another facet and see what happens with it. If after a few more weeks I have heard nothing, I know I have found a person who is trustworthy.
Ask your group leader if the group, or the church has an expectation on confidentiality, and if so, mention it to the group. Keep attending the group as it has been important to you, but be very careful what you share. You will probably find others in the group who are doing the same.
I would encourage you to find a mentor who you can use as a sounding board. Someone who knows how to care without needing to share your story. Think of five people who you think could be a mentor for you and then start at number one and ask them if they would be a mentor for you. If they can’t then go to number two.
I have a booklet entitled “Accountability” by Keith Drury. In this booklet he talks about the keys to mentoring, and concludes with around 70 accountability or mentoring questions.
I trust this is helpful for you.
Letter 2: How do I Help My Withdrawn Teenage Son?
Dear Lou
Ever since my husband left us 3 years ago, my youngest son has become very withdrawn. He’s now 15 and refuses to go to any social functions and spends most of his spare time playing games in his room. He won’t even come to church with me anymore. My husband had the 2 boys stay with him on the weekend at the beginning, but for the last year he says it pointless to have the youngest stay with him because he completely ignores my ex-husband the entire time.
My son was much more outgoing before the break-up and I think it really affected him a lot. I’d like to send him along to a counsellor, but how do I go about doing that? Are there counsellors who specialise in children and teenagers? Where could I find out more information? Is there some way that I can help him through this? I’m feeling very lost.
Dear Kelsey
One important thing for you to recognise is the fact that when you separate, the world of your children is thrown into total chaos. What you are seeing is your son closing others out of his life so that he can’t get hurt any more. You would have heard the statement which says, “Every action will bring a reaction.” This is being worked out in your son in front of you.
As a teenager he is now making some powerful decisions, and these are going to have a significant impact on his moving forward. He appears to have already decided that if he goes into his own world he can’t get hurt anymore. Sadly, he does not have the ability to see the cost his behaviour is going to have on his future development.
You can’t change the direction he is going but you can learn ways to be the significant other in his life. My first suggestion is that you find ways in which you can encourage him. Don’t point out his issues, don’t talk about what has happened, don’t tell him to get his act together, but tell him constantly how much you appreciate him, and find ways to spend positive times together. A book I have found helpful is “Encourage – the key to caring.” It would be good for you to read it and learn what encouragement can do.
If there is a male young adult in your church who you know would be a positive influence for your son, talk to this person to see if he would be available to gently get involv1d in your son’s life. The key issue for your son is to have a healthy role model, and be able to model himself on that person. Find that person and ask them to get involved. Always remember that what they talk about is none of your business. You will be surprised at what a difference a positive mentor will have on your son’s life.
He will get through this. Give him time, but make sure you are part of the solution and not an extension of his problem. He will make it in his time.
Letter 3: I’m Tired of these Visits and the Criticism
Dear Lou
I love my home. It’s in a nice quiet area and my friendly neighbours live quietly too. At the end of the day I spend time in the garden and find it a good way to de-stress from work. I’d lived there for about six years when a woman I know moved into the street behind me. She likes to drop over unannounced and loves to talk and sometimes gossip. The most annoying thing is she also likes to criticise what I’m doing or tell me how to do things better at my home. She also sometimes invites herself into my home for a coffee without me even asking her.
Every time she turns up, I immediately tense up and wish I could tell her to stop bothering me. I know she’s on her own and feels lonely which is why I’ve tolerated her so far, but I also know she has no friends, which I wonder is because of her behaviours and criticism. She’s not a Christian and I’m concerned if I say anything to her that she’ll take it badly and think badly of Christians.
If she came over only once a month I could probably cope, but not every week or every couple of days. I’d like to tell her to stop criticising me and my home too. My teenage daughter tells me I’m being too nice to her. Do you have any suggestions about what to do or say?
Dear Erica
I appreciated reading your letter, as it is a topic I come in contact with so often.
The first thing I would suggest for you is that you develop a new understanding of who you are as a person. I would look to do a personality profile with you to look at how you approach life. I would suggest you read the book “Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer and to do the personality test she provides in that book. I also think it would be beneficial to read the book entitled “Five Love Languages.” When you get a better understanding of who you are, you will be able to establish much healthier boundaries for your life.
A couple of suggestions for you: establish the ground rules for your home and you need to be strong in enforcing them. If things happen which you are not comfortable in hearing, you need to say so. In fact, with all the conflict (even in church) about vaxed and non-vaxed people, I have suggested to some people that this is a non-topic in this house and remind people of that. For you, if there is gossip or topics you are not comfortable with, then you set the standard.
Reread your second paragraph and see if you can identify the problem. You comment, “she is on her own and feels lonely” and “she has no friends.” You are allowing her to come over whenever she chooses, and wonder why you are building up frustration and anxiety. She is controlling your life and you are letting that happen. The first thing you need to do is on some occasions simply say it is not an appropriate time for her to be there as you have other commitments. Take some ownership and listen to your daughter.
There are other comments I could make, but hear me Erica, when I say, take ownership of your life and set in place principles which are best for your family.
When you do that you will be spelling out what healthy Christian standards are all about. When you do that, she will most likely be offended. You must remember that what might happen is not your problem.
It’s important that you get to know yourself a lot better.
Issue 26: September to November 2021
Letter 1: I Hate My Boss
Dear Lou
I hate my boss. She makes my life miserable. Some mornings I get up and I feel like I want to vomit because I know I have to go to work. After this happened a couple a times, I realised it was because I hate work so much and it’s because of her.
I work as a shop assistant at a small store. I don’t mind doing stuff like filling shelves and I like helping customers, but my boss is always criticising me. She’s unpredictable like, when stock gets low I get another box from out the back and fill up the shelf. Then I note it down in the records and next minute she yells at me that I’m wasting time when I should be cleaning, or serving customers even when there’s no-one in the store. But after that if I don’t fill up when stock is getting low, she yells at me when I don’t do it. Then sometimes she’s so nice to me and I get confused, but I know I can’t trust her.
I’ve been looking for another job, but it’s hard to go in for an interview because I’m working full-time. If I quit I won’t be able to get any kind of job support. I don’t know what to do. I’m even having nightmares when I sleep now and I know I shouldn’t hate her but I do.
Dear Chloe
You are in a no win situation. Reading your letter shows the level of stress you are under. My concern for you long term is your mental health condition, and I believe you need to actively pursuing a change in your work environment.
I would have no idea as to what is playing out in the mind of your employer, or her away from work environment. All I can see is that you need to make the change. The one thing I want for you is a safe and friendly work place, and it does not appear that you will find that where you are.
Put out enquiries for other work opportunities and see what develops from that. I know my daughter works in management for the hospitality industry and she cannot get enough people to work. Look around and you might be surprised at what is available to you.
Chloe, it is time for change. Look for a new work place before you make a decision to quit your present job. In the meantime, be a good employee, and know that there is something better for you in the future.
Letter 2: Introversion Challenges
Dear Lou
I’m very introverted and my wife knows I find it difficult to go where there are crowds or big groups of people. We were invited to a church social thing and I went along for her. There were a big group of people all talking around one big table, and when I walked in, it felt like my heart was being squeezed tight, and my natural instinct was to turn and leave, but I stayed for my wife.
At first, everyone was just sitting around having small talk and then everyone wanted to play games around the big table. I just clammed up, and struggled to overcome my unease in the situation.
I feel bad because I want to support to my wife who enjoys this kind of event, but to me it feels like torture. I enjoy being an introvert, but I particularly hate small talk, and yet when it’s a real topic I’m interested in, I’m happy to chat in smaller groups, but I feel a bit overwhelmed when there are so many people.
Do you have some advice for me Lou?
Hi James
I have heard your cry for help many, many times before, and would make a couple of suggestions for you.
The first thing I do with every couple Who come to me is to do a personality assessment – for both of you. The bottom line is that you need to know what motivates you, and what you value in your life. You need to do this together so that you can both get an understanding of what it is that makes each of you the people you are.
A book I would recommend you read is “Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer. She is a very readable writer and you will find a personality test in this book. It is a fairly basic test yet one which I believe gives a very good picture of your personality make up.
The key is to find a counsellor who can help you work through what your profile shows and how you can develop as a person. With your wife you need to look at your comfort zones and also the areas where you can be stretched. This applies to your wife as well. Understanding your personality will enrich your marriage.
I would also suggest you read together “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. This will help you both find ways to enrich each other’s lives.
You are not alone in your struggle, so keep working at building relationships with other people.
Letter 3: Grieving, Hurt and Sad
Dear Lou
After our parents died, they left my sister the family home, belongings and their savings. My parents always treated my sister as the favourite daughter and I know it’s not her fault that she was their favourite. I’ve made an effort to try and improve the relationship between my sister and me over the years, even though it seems like she’s not ever really been bothered to try.
Recently I found out by an email from my sister that she’s sold the house and is moving far away. She didn’t even phone me to let me know or to say goodbye – just an impersonal email. It feels like such a slap in the face after all of my efforts to get close to her. We were much closer when were younger, but now to me, it’s evidence of how little she really cares. It makes me wonder if she ever cared at all.
I feel so angry and sad and hurt, and recognise how much healing I have to do. My parents never even mentioned me in their will and I guess I have healing to do there as well.
Should I tell my sister how she’s made me feel? Should I just give up on my relationship with her, when it seems so clear she doesn’t care about me, and has no interest in having a relationship with me?
Hi Erin
I’m so sorry to hear of your struggle. One of the realities of life is that we want good family relationships, and are saddened that we miss out on what we want to develop.
I always say that parents are the glue that holds a family together. When we lose our parents you can find a significant disintegration of a family relationship. Sadly for you, this is what is happening.
The only thing in life that you can change is yourself. You cannot change your sister or what is occurring in her life. To do so will only bring heartache in your own life, and with that a level of grief and sadness.
I believe it is time for you to let your sister go, and when the time comes, she might reach out to you. In the meantime keep an open heart for the time when she might make contact with you. Even if she never reaches out to you, you cannot allow her behaviour to control your life. Make your life count and begin today to do so.
I am not sure how you are handling the loss of your parents and some of your feelings toward them. My suggestion would be to find a Christian grief counsellor and work through your loss. This would also be applicable in your life regarding your sister.
I often say, “You can’t go forward looking backwards.” It’s like driving your car – you spend most of your time looking where you are going and only occasionally look in the rear vision mirror to see what is behind. This is a good analogy for living.
Move forward knowing the best days are still ahead of you.
Issue 25: June to August 2021
Letter 1: Is it Time to Break-up?
Dear Lou
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for two years. We knew each other as friends for a while before that, but now that I’m 23 and he’s 24, I think we’re growing apart. He’s still happy to go out with his mates and have fun, but as I’m studying and working, I don’t have a lot of energy to go out and have fun all the time. While I’m focussed on having a career, I’d still like to get married and have kids down the track. He’s still vague about getting married and having kids. He’s not even too worried about his career and is happy just getting by.
Whenever I want to talk to him about the future, he just kind of shrugs and says there’s plenty of time. This has been going on for a while now, and I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s time we break-up. How do you know when it’s time to end a relationship? How do you talk to the other person about this?
I don’t want to make a bad mistake, but I’m hesitating about wasting time on a relationship if it’s going nowhere. What do you think? What should I say to him?
Dear Mira
Welcome to the world of young love and building relationship. You are facing the reality that girls develop at a different rate than do males. I would talk to you about what is important to you both, and look for ways to grow in your relationship together and not just let it drift along.
There are so many things I could talk with you both regarding your future. The first thing I would do would be to get a solid personality profile which would let you both see what makes each other tick as individuals. I do this as a first step in working with any couple. It would be of benefit to you both. The simple test I use is a personality profile presented by Florence Littauer. You could find it online or in the book “Personality Plus.”
I would like you to think about the things that have made you want to be with him for over two years, the qualities that have most impressed you about him as a person. Look at these qualities and determine if these are the qualities you want in a life partner. Remember that good relationship is built on the foundation of hard work and commitment, it does not just miraculously happen. Give him time and he will get there.
You are in the situation where you are working, studying and trying to build relationship. I would say you have a good work ethic, and my encouragement would be to hang in there and let him catch up with you. I would love to see you both do a personality profile and find someone to work with you both as to how it would apply to your relationship.
Remember that you do not fall in love and fall out of love – the reality is you grow in love and you grow out of love. Don’t walk out of something because the going is a bit hard in the present.
Hang in there and keep working on your communication
Letter 2: Trouble in My New Marriage
Dear Lou
My wife and I were both divorced when we met at a local church function, and we hit it off straight away. We were both hesitant about starting a new relationship, especially since we both have kids. My daughter was 7 at the time, but my wife’s children who were in their early teens, were very cold towards me at the start. After we began seriously dating and talked about marriage, our children seemed to be ok about it.
Everything changed once we married. We knew the kids would probably struggle with adjusting to the change, but I never expected my wife’s children to be so awful! They refuse outright to listen to anything I ask or say, ignoring me or even just walking away. Sometimes they scream and shout and slam the doors. They act like we should wait on them hand and foot, arguing over everything they’re asked to do – not just occasionally but every single time. Even doing something like washing-up seems to result in a fight and I’m getting tired of being seen as the bad guy in this.
My wife says I should be easier on them, and give them more time. My belief is that if we all share a house, we should all contribute to the running of the house. They’re certainly old enough to help out. My daughter is 9 and helps out. She’s been getting very upset about the fights, crying and running to her room.
I’m at my wits end and spoke to my Pastor about it. He suggested getting family counselling, but my wife worries how her children will react. Lou, what do you think?
Dear Alan
It would appear that it is at most two years since you first met to being married and now going through struggles. My first thought would be; what else would you expect with such a rushed decision. You have hardly given yourselves time to get to know each other, let alone contemplate entering into a marriage.
The fact that you both have children is always going to bring massive complication into a future marriage. The children will have a very real sense of losing identity, as each are grieving what they have lost. You’ve entered into a new marriage and thinking that everything will run smoothly is so far out of the ball park, it is ludicrous. The major issues all of your children are facing is that they see that each new partner is taking their parent from them, and as a result they have major trust issues.
What did you do regarding pre-marriage counselling prior to your marriage? I have a rule of thumb which requires a minimum of eight sessions for a couple wanting to be married, and if the couple getting married have been divorced, I will add two more sessions, and further where children are involved at least another two sessions. If you are going to make your marriage work maybe you need to start right now and lay a foundation on which you can build a healthy marriage. This will also include your children.
As a priority you also need to get some material on building blended marriages. This is not a ‘you’ problem or your partner’s problem, or your children’s problem, it is an ‘our’ problem. You need to get involved in laying a new foundation for all of you.
Get into marriage and family counselling no later than today. You’ve already wasted two years. For you both to make this work it will require an absolute 100% commitment from both of you.
Give it your very best, Alan.
Letter 3: Can Long-distance Relationships Work?
Dear Lou
People I know have told me never to get involved with someone who lives a long way from me because long-distance relationships don’t work. I’ve met a couple of guys in the past couple of years, but I backed off when I found out that they live a long way from me. One was over two hours drive away, and the other lived in another state!
So, can long-distance relationships really work? If they can, how do you make them work? I don’t make much money so I can’t just fly off to meet them regularly. If I have to drive 2 or 3 hours to meet them, I hate the idea that we go out on just one date and then I have to drive all that way home again. I know we can alternate and he can visit me, but still, it’s a lot of time and effort. I also have a couple of dogs, and don’t like leaving them alone for long so I can’t stay overnight.
As I often help out at church activities, I don’t get a lot of spare time either. I’ve never met any guy in my church or home-town that I want to date, and anyway there are few Christian guys my age. My best friend said that I’m just making excuses for not dating, but I don’t think that’s it at all. So where do I go from here? Should I give long-distance relationships a try?
Hi Regan
Long distance relationships can and do work very effectively. In this day and age, we have so many avenues for communication that it is far easier than you would expect. You can use face time, email, twitter and a host of other ways to communicate
One of the greatest advantages of long distance relationships is you learn to talk to each other, and in this regard you have one of the best means of building a healthy friendship.
I have read your letter a number of times, and wonder if you are using this as a smoke-screen for not dating or getting involved in building a healthy relationship. Maybe you need to listen to what your friends are saying, and stop making excuses.
If you came to me personally, I wouldn’t start with the issue you have raised – long distance relationship – but would want to take a long hard look at what makes you tick as person, and what has been your life experience in building friendship. I would want to take a serious look at who you are as a person. I have always used a statement when working with people which says: “the real problem is always deeper down and further back.”
Long distance relationships can and do work, but we also need to look at what is happening inside of you as a person as well.
Please take this seriously as a challenge for you.
Issue 24: March to May 2021
Letter 1: How Do I Move Forward?
Dear Lou
I left my ex almost 12 years ago now, and I’m really grateful that we never had any children. He managed to track me down several times after I left him and I ended up in hospital twice and finally got the police involved.
After that I moved far away from him, and have tried to make sure my details are not available to the public. So far he hasn’t found me, but I know he still wants to hurt me or maybe even kill me. Things are going ok for me now, though I still have nightmares and worry when I get a phone call when there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the other end.
I’ve been going to counselling for years now and there are still times when I just want to close the doors and windows and stay hidden from the world. I pray a lot but I feel like I’m stuck and I can’t move forward. I want things to change but I don’t know how. Maybe I guess I want ME to change but I don’t know how to do that.
I’m almost finished studying and I hope to be able to help other women like me coming out of domestic violence situations, but there’s a part of me that thinks, “How can I help them, when I feel like I haven’t really moved on enough myself?”
Dear Kat
My heart goes out to you. It is very hard to live as though you have to keep looking over your shoulders. Right now, it is all about getting you healthy. I am pleased to see you studying so that you can help other victims of domestic violence.
You have made the right decision about moving away and redirecting your life. That is healthy.
My questions to you are these: what does your support base look like today? Who are the significant others in your life? Who is watching your back as you continue on your life journey?
I am a strong believer in every person having a mentor, and would encourage you strongly to find that person. This person needs to know exactly what you have gone through, and the fears that you carry at this present time. Any change that comes into your current situation you need to share with this person. Any time you are fearful you need to be able to call them and they will watch out for you.
Where you live, you need to have a couple of safe homes you can flee to in time of emergency. These need to be close to where you live and these must be people who you trust implicitly. All of these people need to have your contact details and you need to have their details.
I could talk a lot about how you find a confidant/mentor, but that would be too much information for this letter to you.
Kat, you are doing the right thing, and I think you will find it a real comfort to put my suggestion in place. You are protecting yourself, so continue what you are doing.
I pray you will know God’s protection still, after the last twelve years.
Letter 2: Disgusted by ‘Christian’ Men
Dear Lou
I’ve been out on several dates with men who claim they’re Christians. Some of them have seemed really nice and so I would see them again.
Sometimes they would say something which would make me wonder about their faith. Some of them were crude or had terrible manners, and I would try to give them a second chance thinking that they might not have had a good time growing up, but soon their lack of real faith became obvious to me.
Every time I went out on a date with a man, I always offered to pay my own way – that’s just me, because I think it’s the right thing to do. Some men insisted paying for me, then after that, some of them become really pushy and asked for sex, suggesting that since they paid that I ‘owed’ them!
I don’t understand it! I thought these men were supposed to be Christians? I’ve now almost given up trying to find a suitable man. Towards the end, I began dropping one question into our conversation that could often provide a good indication of their faith:
“So when you say, Christian, what do you mean by that?”
I could often tell by their hesitation in replying to that question, that they weren’t really Christians, or they’d say something like, “I have good Christian ethics and I try to treat all people nicely and with respect.”
It’s just so frustrating and emotionally painful to have to go through this time and time again, particularly when I thought they were genuine and I was attracted to them. Can you suggest some method we singles can use, or questions that we can ask early on, so we can figure out if someone is really a Christian?
Greetings Noelene
Your questions and comments are ones I have heard countless times over the years. I will try to give you a few suggestions which you can apply to every situation.
1. Build friendship before you build a relationship. This means that you are on a journey of discovery in understanding the other person. If you don’t have a healthy friendship you will never have a healthy relationship. This is a time for getting to know about each other.
2. Make church an integral part of your building friendship. This will enable you to know the depth of their commitment to God, and enable you to show your priorities in life where God is concerned.
3. When you find that your friendship is built on solid ground, then you can say what I am now suggesting. “I believe that we have developed a very healthy friendship and really value you as a person. I am convinced that now is the time to allow our friendship to build into a relationship. How is that with you?
4. Ask this final question at every step of your relationship when you move to a deeper level. This means that there will be no surprises.
5. During this time make sure you keep the sexual involvement totally under control. I know that in this day and age it might sound old hat, but I can assure you that once you get involved sexually, you stop communicating at the strongest possible level.
6. sure you do that together in a healthy church family. Do it now and don’t wait until after you are married.
If you can apply these suggestions Noeline, I am sure you’ll see a massive change in the development of your relationships. Good relationships don’t just happen, they do require a lot of intentional work and effort. The results are worth it. God will bless you as you continue your journey.
Letter 3: Messed Up
Dear Lou
I don’t understand what I’m feeling, and it’s like they’re just all seem so messed up together inside me and sometimes it feels like I’m going to explode.
My father was very bad with our family when I was a kid. He had a temper and we’d all just stay quiet until we could tell what kind of mood he was in, and even then he would sometimes hit us, and the rest of the time he says things to us like how dumb we are, and clumsy and ugly and that we’ll never be good at anything. I tried never to say anything to him so that he wouldn’t hurt me. I can remember one time when he was hitting my little brother, I didn’t think he was ever going to stop! I wanted to step in but I was too scared. Mum never did anything coz she was too scared too.
The first moment I could, I left home and moved in with a friend, coz I couldn’t stand it anymore. I moved out a year ago, and my little brother is still living at home and I feel real sorry and I wish could help him to get away from Dad.
Now that I don’t live at home any more, my feelings are starting to come out and I can’t figure out what’s happening to me or how to stop them or what to do now, and I feel a bit kind of scared. When my feelings get really strong, I go for a drive and park somewhere and try to figure out stuff, but I don’t know what I should do about it now.
Dear Wade
This is one letter that really upsets me because behaviour that is inflicted on you in your early childhood is going to have a massive impact on your personal development through life. It is impossible to change what you’ve experienced, so now we work after the fact, to help you develop a lifestyle and give you a positive and healthy future.
Getting out of your home has been a major plus for you. Now that you feel safe and away from personal abuse, you will have memories of what has been experienced through your life.
My strong advice to you would be to find a recommended Christian Counsellor who can walk you through your life experiences and see where and how you can become the person you want to be in the future.
Look at your moving away from family as you drawing a line in the sand and now redefining what you want to make of your life. Get someone who can walk with you through this journey and learn skills to develop healthy relationships. You need to develop skills to help you understand what your new ‘norm’ for living is going to look like. It will also show you ways to move on from your struggles and down the track talking with you about forgiveness. It is about building a new life free from bitterness and anger. The reward you receive will be well worth the effort.
So often I find that abusers have also been abused, and they simply continue to live out the problem. You have the ability now to redefine your life and this will take you time to achieve, but the outcome is going to make an impact on every person who comes into your life.
You are a change maker, so keep up the good work.
I don’t know what is happening with your little brother, but you need to make your place a safe haven and give him the opportunity to come and live with you. He will be going through the same worries and fears that you have experienced.
I wish you well Wade on this next step in the journey of life.
Issue 23: December 2020 to February 2021
Letter 1: I Feel Powerless to Help My Friend
Dear Lou
My friend is an introvert and has always struggled with her relationships, including her family. I’ve known her for many years, but worry she has a mental illness that requires treatment.
When things go wrong in her life, even things that to most of us would seem kind of trivial, she often retreats and won’t talk to anyone, cutting off all contact.
Sometimes she misreads things in what people say, including me and she’s even accused me of behaviours that are not like me at all. After all these years, she must know me well enough to realise that I wouldn’t do anything out of spite or nastiness. I find it confusing and frustrating.
I’ve taken a step back from our relationship because no matter what I say, she is choosing to ‘see’ things in what I say that simply aren’t there. Last time I had contact with her on a text message (because she wouldn’t talk to me on the phone), I said that no matter what, I’m still her friend and that won’t change and if she wants to talk, I’ll be there, but that I wouldn’t contact her unless she wanted me to.
She’s refusing help, and I think if I say something, she’ll cut off contact completely.
I feel bad that I can’t help her any more than that. I pray for her, but feel useless and that maybe I’m not a good friend. Can you help?
Dear Carol-Anne
One thing I have learnt in life is this: “You are the only person who can make change in your life.” No matter how hard you try, or whatever methods you might propose to your friend, she is the only person who can make any significant change in her life.
On many occasions I have observed people making an absolute mess of their lives and even though I would love to intervene, I realise that until a person comes to the end of themselves, change will not come.
From reading your letter, it would appear your friend has a number of life issues. This letter could have had benefit if it was written by your friend and not you.
Her perceived behaviour leaves you with lots of concern, and sadly she is the only one who can open the door to receive help.
What advice would I give you? It is simply this: be a friend and support her to the best of your ability and accept her with all of her perceived struggles. Remember that you are to be a friend and not a counsellor.
If she allows you to be a friend, be there for her, and if she closes down or shuts herself away don’t run after her. When she is ready, she will come back to your friendship. Whatever happens, don’t allow yourself to be made to feel guilty or manipulated.
Many years ago I was given this advice which has been valuable for me. When you are caring for a person give them support as if their problem was your problem without losing the “as if” quality.
Continue to walk in friendship.
Letter 2: Camping Crazy
Dear Lou
I’ve always loved camping. There’s just something so amazing about being out in the bush away from the craziness of the city, away from all that noise, the lights, the crowds are gone and I love it. Looking up at the night sky makes me feel freer, like I’ve thrown a heavy weight off my shoulders.
There’s something about hearing and seeing the wildlife and I kinda feel like I’m connecting with it somehow.
I try to tell my wife about how it makes me feel, but she just doesn’t get it. When we were dating she would come camping with me, under protest at first, but she seemed to grow to like it. But now we’re married, and specially since the kids came along, she says she’s too tired, or that it’s too much work, or it’s uncomfortable sleeping on the ground, there’s mozzies, insects and snakes … and lots of other excuses.
I’ve tried to explain why I need those times away because it helps me to kinda de-stress and the kids love coming along as well. I want my wife to join us, but she says she likes the time on her own to unwind and de-stress with a good book or to catch up with friends.
I’m disappointed that she doesn’t want to share this with me or the kids. I want her to know it’s important to me, and I want to share that time with her, but she doesn’t understand.
How can I explain to her so she’ll understand? How can I encourage her to come along and join us? I don’t expect her to love all the things I do, but camping is probably top of my list of the things I really love, and I think it could be good for us as a family.
Greetings Sean
My first thought when reading your letter was this: in a marriage, it is not all about you but it is all about us. All I hear from you is that your wife needs to fit into your plans and desires. That is very selfish.
I wonder if you have ever spoken with your life partner about the things that she might like to do to celebrate together.
My suggestion to you would be purchase the book “Five Love Languages” and find out what your love language might be. Your love language is about getting out into nature and enjoying solitude. Your comment that your wife likes time alone, tells me something about her love language.
My suggestion would be to find a counsellor who can work through some life issues with you both. This would hopefully help you discover mutually beneficial ways developing a healthy family relationship.
Work at make a major life change by moving from the things I like to the things we can both enjoy together. The only way that will change is by having significant discussion time together. Always remember this vital discussion time is just that, and not about me convincing her of what she needs to do.
Some relationship guidance would work wonders for you both. You are a team and you need to be united together. By doing this you will build meaningful marriage.
Letter 3: Is Love Real?
Dear Lou
Is falling in love real? I hear sometimes that people fall in love at first sight, but is that really real?
How do you know when you’re in love? How do you know if it’s enough love so you’re ready to get married and not get divorced?
I’m 16 and I’ve been dating someone for a little while, but I have all these questions and want to understand more so I can be sure when I’m ready for real love and things.
Dear Logan
These are good questions from a younger person. I could go on at length trying to answer your questions.
My comment to you is this: you don’t fall in love and fall out of love, but you do grow in love and you can grow out of love.
You are dating and you are beginning the journey of building relationship. The key to understanding dating is to get to know the other person, to know their personality, to learn what they enjoy about life, to understand their life journey and be a part of it. Marriage is embarking on a lifelong journey together, and the foundational things you discover will stand you in good stead through your whole relationship.
My best definitions of marriage says, “Marriage is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.” It is a life long journey and is the reason you grow in love as you share your lives together.
If you are in a church family ask your pastor to do some studies with you, your friend and others about building healthy relationships. You might even look around your circle of influence and know a married couple you admire for the way in which they have built a marriage and ask them what they have learnt about building a good marriage.
Keep up the good work you are doing and look for all the support you can get. Good marriages are the result of hard work and understanding. They don’t just happen.
God will bless you as you seek Him, especially when you embark on building a healthy friendship and later when you move into a life relationship.
Issue 22: September to November 2020
Letter 1: Is My Ex Even a Christian?
Dear Lou
My ex-husband and I were Christians before we married, but before long it became obvious to me that he seemed to enjoy hurting me, and I was really confused and hurt by his behaviour. He would comment on my appearance or kind of half-heartedly suggest that I was somehow lacking something as a woman, or even that I wasn’t sexy enough. We were both Christians, so how could he even WANT to hurt me like that? We had two children, and then he chose to leave our marriage, claiming that I was somehow stifling his freedom.
After the breakup, I didn’t want to leave our church because I had great support and friends there and also because my kids liked it. My ex-husband also chose to stay there, which has been stressful and very difficult for me. I know he’s also been gossiping and telling lies about me there as I’ve heard back from a couple of people I know and trust.
For the sake of the kids, I have worked very hard at keeping things civil, and generally I don’t instigate conversations with him, because most of the time he says something negative or hurtful. Recently he began telling me about a woman he’s been dating, and he says that it’s ok to have sex before marriage. Frankly I don’t want to hear this kind of stuff from him, but that’s the kind of things he does or says to hurt or confuse me. I’m quite alarmed at his attitude about sex and I’m hoping he doesn’t say this stuff in front of the kids when they stay with him, or confuse them by allowing her to sleep over when they’re staying there.
I want to talk to my Pastor about it because of my concern for my kids and how it will give them the wrong idea about sex and marriage, and I want to know how to approach this. My other concern is that my Pastor may think I’m doing this as a way of ‘telling tales,’ but I think he should know so that he can talk to my ex about his attitude about sex before marriage.
Should I talk to my Pastor? Is there some way I can broach this without looking like a snitch? What should I tell the kids? I don’t want them to be confused or hurt by his behaviours either.
Dear B.B.
You raise a host of questions with your letter which are of genuine concern to you. So to simplify all of your concerns I am going to bring your letter down to two areas of concern…
The first is this: “You are responsible to change yourself and not responsible to change your ex partner.”
A lot of your concerns are relating to the way you have been treated, the way you have been spoken about by you ex, and his current value system. You cannot change him and you cannot be responsible for his behaviour or his attitudes. Don’t even try. He is getting to you by his way of behaving and as a result you are allowing him to control your life. Claim your power back and do not get involved in what he is saying or doing. You are responsible for you, and this means you do not react to what he says or does.
The second concern is the impact his behaviour or attitudes might have upon your children. For any couple who have separated, divorced or are in the process of these scenarios, the major issue for you both is that you do not ever involve your children in adult conversations. This is relevant for both of you at this time.
You will never resolve this with your former partner so it becomes necessary for you to involve an outside party to get involved in this for you both. You said you are both in the same church, so the logical person to lead you in this process is your local church pastor or someone who he might recommend.
You need to begin the process by going to your pastor and spelling out your concerns. This would include your concern about his expressed value system where sex is concerned, and any other concerns you might have re your children being exposed to adult conversations and different value systems.
At this point you need to leave matters with your pastor to meet with you and your ex partner to develop the best possible scenario for the future growth of your children.Your approach to your pastor would be one in which you could say something like this: “I am concerned for my children being exposed to values contrary to my Christian values, and concerned about what my children might be exposed to in their weekend visits. Could you please help me to help my family to live in the healthiest environment we can provide.”
I pray God will give you the wisdom you need to help yourself and your children to continue to grow emotionally and spiritually.
Kind regards
Letter 2: I Hate Being the Bad Guy
Dear Lou
I hate having to be the bad guy when it comes to our two young kids. My husband and I both work. I start early and he drops the kids off to school in the morning. I finish my job in time to pick the kids when school is over. My husband arrives home about an hour before dinner (which I cook), and I take this opportunity to let him know if either of the kids have been misbehaving. We kind of have standard punishments for certain behaviours like no dessert if it’s something small, then bigger punishments might include no TV or games that night, or no stay-overs at friends for a certain time. Once the meal is finished and we’re still seated around the table, I let the child know the punishment we’ve decided and why they’re being punished.
Instead of completing their full punishment though, my husband usually relents and lets the child off early. I’ve tried to step in and reinforce the punishment we decided, but my husband shrugs and says something like “I’m sure they’ve learned their lesson.” It’s like my husband allows them time off for good behaviour, and I’m left looking the bad guy in the situation because I think they should finish their punishment.
I’ve tried to talk to my husband about it, and that it upsets me when he changes his mind about the punishment, particularly when we’ve both agreed to it. The kids have already discovered that they can usually twist him around their little finger, and can get away from their punishment early. I don’t think this is teaching our kids to take responsibility for their actions.
Do you have some suggestions about how I can handle this and make it work better?
Dear Bianca
Successful parenting is built on the back of a husband and wife both working together and working from the same family manual. The problem I hear is this – you don’t have a working manual which would enable you to both work together.
My strongest piece of advice to you both is to find a good family counsellor who can work with you both in developing positive processes on which you build your family home. The way you are headed is a perfect recipe for chaos and mayhem in your family.
I would love to know the environment from which you and your husband graduated. My suspicion would be that one of you had a very rigid upbringing in childhood and the other a very much laid back childhood. As a result you tend to resort to that which you know and each sees their model as being fine for the family.
Bianca, find a good Christian family counsellor and do everything in your power to prepare a new positive foundation upon which to build a strong resilient family. The issues you’re dealing with is not my way or your way [both have real problems] but what is healthy for our family.
Do all in your power to find a new way of building a healthy family environment.
Best regards
Letter 3: His Stepmother is Nasty
Dear Lou
My husband was in his early teens when his mother died, and his father remarried a few years later. They never had any children together, and his stepmother was not very loving towards him or his siblings, but they get along well enough with her since they became adults.
There have been instances though when their stepmother hasn’t contacted them when their dad became unwell, even the time when he had to have an operation. Then there was a time they were struggling financially. This really upsets my husband and his brothers and sisters, but the stepmother just kind of shrugs her shoulders when they demand to know why she keeps information from them.
His dad died a few months ago and now his stepmother is completely ignoring her husband’s request about his ashes. All of his life, his father said that when he died, he wanted to have his ashes scattered over the river near the farm where he grew up. It was a place that held great memories for him when he was young and also because he took on the farm after he first married, and most of the kids were born there too.
Now the stepmother is refusing to let them take their dad’s ashes, and she says she’ll do what she wants because she was his wife. They can’t get through to her, and she lies and says that he told her something completely different.
It’s causing them enormous anguish and heart-break because it’s the one thing they promised their dad they would do for him. Now they’re at the stage where they’ve contacted a solicitor, and the stepmother is threatening to dump the ashes down the toilet or in the bin!
How can people be so cruel? I just don’t understand it. I know how much my husband is hurting and I want to help him if I can.
Dear Kelly
This is one of those situations where it is almost impossible to obtain a positive outcome. Your father-in-law made a new life for himself when he remarried. This does not mean that he loves his children less, but has added a new dimension to his way of life. In a lot of ways his new marriage is a high priority.
Don’t just keep getting angry with your new mother-in-law. If she does handle the situation like she appears to be doing, you have given her power to control and manipulate a host of current problems. You need to take your power back and not enable another person to have any power to spoil your lives.
Reading between the lines in your letter, I can gauge a level of confronting behaviour on both sides of this problem. When this happens, it can only make the situation worse. The issue in reality becomes – not what we do with Dad’s ashes, but who has the control in this situation.
My advice to you would be to leave the matter alone for some time and allow everything to settle down, and in so doing develop a situation where healthy dialogue can begin.
In other letters I have spoken about two words we need to live by, and these are “React and Respond.” You need to take time to hear what is happening and then thoughtfully respond in a manner which is non-confrontational. This will in most cases create a healthy environment, which in turn enables healthy communication. Or you can react, and by this, you can jump in and demand what you want and find as a consequence you are now in a combative situation.
In almost every situation where I see this occur I would expect to find a very negative outcome. Step back and give this situation some room and see if it makes a difference.
In reading your letter I also note the hostility toward this lady because of her behaviour. My question to you is this – Why didn’t your father-in-law let his kids know what was happening in his life? He could have spoken with them about what was happening in his life, and keep them informed of developments. In fact, it was probably more his responsibility to do this than his new wife.
Again, my suggestion to you all is to let things settle down and seek to find ways to build healthy communication and not combative communication.
Give this matter time to settle down and see where you can go from that point.
All the best.
Issue 21: June to August 2020
No new Letters to Lou for this special Covid issue.
Issue 20: March to May 2020
Letter 1: Marriage Scares Me
Dear Lou
My boyfriend proposed recently and I found myself hesitating to say yes. It was only a few seconds, but it still surprised me because I really love him a lot. We have lots of things in common, though we don’t always see things the same way and we do have different passions – he’s a football fanatic and I loathe football as much as I loathe anchovies on pizza and he loves it.
I said yes, but it concerned me that I hesitated, but when I thought about it over the following few weeks, I realised it’s because I see so many marriages fall apart, and hurting people with hurting kids everywhere and it’s awful. I don’t want my marriage to end up like that and I don’t want to end up with a broken heart either.
We agreed to go to counselling beforehand to make sure we’re on the same boat with the same kind of expectations. My question then is, do you have some suggestions about how to help a marriage to work? I know men and women can sometimes see things differently, but what can I do? How can I also encourage him to know how to make things work better?
With many of our friends marrying, my girlfriends have shared how difficult that first year or two were, and I know that’s probably going to be true for us as well, so is there some way we can work at making our first year or two of marriage better, or at least cut down the fighting, or fight about stuff that’s worthwhile arguing about?
Dear Kristan
You ask a number of good questions in your letter.
Before you go into a marriage I strongly encourage you to get some serious premarital counselling. There is a lot of good material available and I would encourage you to find a minister who will walk with you over a period of months and look for ways to make a good relationship better.
Personally, I would encourage you to find someone who provides a course called “Prepare/ Enrich.”
‘Prepare’ is done pre marriage and ‘Enrich’ is completed after you are married. Together they are a great combination as the first looks at areas in your life which you can work at strengthening, and the second I use as a follow up tool after a few years of marriage.
Marriage is all about relationship and it takes a lot of work to build a solid, healthy marriage. The reason I say this is because we are all so different. The comment that “opposites attract” is so true, because you will most likely be attracted with a personality very different to you. This is normal. Problems develop when you then try to make your new partner like you instead of encouraging him/her become the best person they can be.
When you marry, even if it is the person who lived in your same community, you still have different value systems. Every family of origin has its unique set of values and standards and these become your “norm” for living. When you marry you now have to develop your own family culture. This takes work and often serious struggle, but it is the only way you are going to build a marriage.
Make sure you get a good understanding of your personalities as this will be a valuable asset in understanding each other. A simple personality test I have used is one provided by an author named Florence Littauer.
Another valuable tool for you is to get the book “Five Love Languages” and to read and apply these principles together.
Even with these resources you will still need to work on good communication, and to make your partner your best friend.
Welcome to the wonderful world of marriage.
Letter 2: I Want to Get Away From My Wife … Every Now and Then
Dear Lou
I’ve been married for almost four years and my wife thinks I don’t love her because I want to go out with the guys every now and then, or invite my friends over for a games night.
Every time I mention it she gets grumpy and sometimes sulks and won’t talk to me, like she’s trying to punish me. It’s really annoying and I’m getting sick of it.
Is it wrong to want time away, or just to hang out with my friends? She takes it like I don’t love her and that I’m trying to get away from her. But that’s not it at all.
How can I make her understand that it’s not even about her and it’s not that I don’t love her, it’s because I need to have a bit of fun and maybe even just be a bit of an idiot with my mates sometimes?
Dear Dan
Please read the previous letter to Kristan and apply the principles. I believe that you as a couple need to do the “Enrich” course.
A few other comments for you. I am amazed the number of couples who come to me and say that the person they are marrying is able to meet all their needs. That is living in fantasy world.
I always say to couples getting married – maintain your long term friendships. You both still need the healthy connections with life-long friends, so you must find ways to continue to nurture these friendships. The only ones you can’t maintain are those with the opposite sex.
I’m not sure you are giving me the complete story. If you came to see me I would want to know the state of your marriage – from both of you. Is your partner your best friend? What is your communication like, and how well are you sharing together?
Good marriages don’t just happen, they take a lot of hard work. My suspicion is that you are entering a stage in your relationship where you need to do some serious work together. It is not about your time with your mates it is about the time you spend with your partner. If you say the fun has gone out of your marriage, then do something to bring the fun and romance back into your marriage. It is never the other person’s problem but a ‘couple’ problem.
Find a healthy balance and you will find the time spent with mates is not the issue at all.
Please get serious about building a healthy relationship with your wife. You would do well to read “Five Love Languages” and apply the principles to your partner.
Letter 3: How Do I Move Forward?
Dear Lou
I left my ex almost twelve years ago now, and I’m really grateful that we never had any children. He managed to track me down several times after I left him and I ended up in hospital twice and finally got the police involved.
After that I moved far away from him, and have tried to make sure my details are not available to the public. So far he hasn’t found me, but I know he still wants to hurt me or maybe even kill me. Things are going ok for me now, though I still have nightmares and worry when I get a phone call when there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the other end.
I feel like I’m stuck and I can’t move forward. I want things to change but I don’t know how. Maybe I guess I want ME to change but I don’t know how to do that.
I’m almost finished studying and I hope to be able to help other women like me coming out of domestic violence situations, but there’s a part of me that thinks, “How can I help them, when I feel like I haven’t really moved on enough myself?”
Dear Kat
My heart aches for you when I read your letter.
You have done the right thing in getting away and doing all in your power to rebuild your life. Sadly, there is not a lot I can say but to encourage you in what you are doing.
I trust you have a good strong support network of people who you can have around you to be your safety net. The whole world does not need to know your story, but you need enough people around you who will not only watch out for you, but be there for you.
Make sure you have some people who are near you who you can call in an emergency or are fearful. They are your protection, so make sure you use them to help you.
I don’t know your support network, but if you are in a church family make sure you have these people watching out for you. You don’t need every person to know, but have a couple of significant others who you know you can depend on.
One of the comments I make to a lot of people is this, “you can’t go forward looking backwards.” After twelve years I would suggest you work to avoid looking backwards at your pain, and start to believe that God still has a plan for your life.
Remember these words “you can make it.”, put them on your fridge, have it in your handbag, carry it with you. With God’s help you will begin to live a life which is going to be healthy and moving on to new heights.
At this point look at getting yourself healthy and in a good situation. Once you have done this you can look at helping others. Right now you are the one who needs to be cared for and encouraged.
Kat, you are on the right track so get some good people around you and look ahead to what you believe is your best in life. You can make it.
Kind regards, Lou
Issue 19: December 2019 – February 2020
She Said / He Said
Letter 1: Did I Marry the Wrong Man?
Dear Lou
Before we got married, my husband and I had a wonderful relationship. We’d have fights sometimes but were usually able to get passed it pretty easily, and we talked it through.
Now we’re married, it’s like we’re fighting all the time, and my husband pressures me to give in when we fight because he thinks that as the husband and the leader of the marriage, that his decisions are better or more important than my own.
I always thought we’d share decision-making and for really important decisions, we’d pray about it a lot before we’d make a choice, but my husband insists that because he’s the man, his choice should have priority over mine and claims that it’s Biblical.
I always knew he was a little stubborn, but it feels like he’s belittling me and my decision-making ability and that sometimes it’s almost like he’s trying to be difficult on purpose just so that he gets to be the boss all the time.
Where’s the man that I knew before we got married? Was I really that blind to him and how difficult marriage can be?
Have I made a terrible choice in my marriage partner, and does this mean I have to live with him and his bullying ways forever?
Dear Shenae
Your letter sadly is more the norm for many couples, even more seriously within Christian marriages because I know men who misconstrue Scripture for their own benefit. Read and reread Ephesians 5:21-33.
Paul wrote:
“wives submit to your husband as you do the Lord.”
He then writes:
“Husbands you must love your wives with the same love as Christ loves the church.”
When you read this, the husband has the far greater responsibility, to be a man of God and to love, care and nurture his wife.
I see no indication here where a man is to be the controller of his wife, or to Lord it over his wife, or to be a bully in a marriage. The reason we see much bullying happening in some Christian marriages is because the men only read, “wives submit yourselves to your husband.” The biggest requirement is to put this statement in context with what Paul was saying.
When you marry ,you become one in Christ and this means you become equals. When I find a husband who lords it over his wife, I note that we don’t have a Christian marriage.
Let me answer a couple of other matters I have observed.
You wrote that pre-marriage you had a wonderful relationship, but you did have some fights which you were able to resolve with communication.
What is your level of discussion now and are you mutually resolving issues? From your letter I note your husband now is always right because he is the male: that’s a wrong attitude and even worse behaviour.
I note that you had differences before your marriage. I have a rule of thumb which says, “the relationship you build pre-marriage is often as good as it is going to get.” Serious arguments are always a red flag to me.
Much of your letter talks about the consequences of decisions that have been made and you are not being honoured or respected. As a Christian you have all of God’s resources available to you to make right decisions. You can make your marriage work, but it will only come with some serious intervention with a Godly Christian marriage counsellor. You need to seek out such a counsellor, and then encourage your husband to join you for some serious relationship counselling.
Failure to do this would leave me with concerns for the longevity for your marriage.
Marriage is about two people working together to build a respectful and loving relationship. Some of your concerns should have been noted in your pre-marital counselling.
Pray for God to intervene in your marriage in a special way, and look for some significant changes.
Letter 2: Did I Marry the Wrong Woman?
Dear Lou
Before we got married, my wife and I had a good, solid relationship. We’d have fights sometimes but we usually sorted it out, and after I listened to her, we’d come to an agreement, most times.
Now we’re married, and it’s like we do nothing but fight. My wife believes that her decisions are always correct and that I should just drop what I was thinking and agree with her. The fact is, the Bible is very clear that my duty as the husband is to be the leader of the household, and when we can’t come to an agreement, my decisions should be the one we accept.
If neither of us can agree, there will be ongoing acrimony and unresolved conflict, which I believe is why the Bible gives the husband the authority in those circumstances to break the stalemate.
I had never really seen the stubborn side of her before we were married, because she was so easy to get along with. When I feel like she’s not listening to my side of things now, I try to point out the flaws in her argument, but that just makes her more upset, and I can tell you that the look on her face sometimes is almost venomous. Then for days afterwards she barely says anything to me, other than an occasional grunt.
Where’s the woman that I knew before we got married? How could I not have noticed this stubborn side of her before? Have I made a terrible choice in my marriage partner, and does this mean I have to live with her and her brooding, sullenness forever?
Dear David
“Please read the previous letter I answered for your wife.
Now I will make a few comments for you to consider.
First let me say, you have the greater responsibility in this matter, because you are using your ‘lordship’ over your partner to get your own way. When you do push for your right to have the final decision in matters pertaining to you as a couple and as a family, you can be sure you are on a significant downhill slide.
When you use your position of authority to demand your way, your wife will only go one way, and that is to withdraw from you. When you say your wife is stubborn, brooding and sullen, you need to note that you are the major contributor to the problem. Your wife has lost respect for you because you do not respect her, and then use God to justify your position.
What would I suggest you do to get through this situation?
Get back to a place where you are equals in your marriage. It is not ‘you and me,’ but ‘us.’ The time has come for some serious heartfelt relationship building and find a place where both of you are important and both of you need to contribute to your relationship.
You will need a counsellor to help you work through this matter, and need someone to help you both with some good reflective listening skills, and the ability to guide you to building a healthy relationship.
David, please do not now or ever ‘lord’ it over your wife. She is your partner and what you have shared in good times is what should be your normal experience. Your wife is simply reacting to your behaviour, and you are the one who can turn this around.
I would have absolute confidence that if you will do the hard work, you will get a beautiful response from that precious lady who is your wife.
You can make the difference, so change your direction and build a mutual, caring and sharing marriage. Your wife will respect you as head of the house as you earn the right to receive her respect.
Do the work and you will receive the blessing.
Issue 18: September – November 2019
Letter 1 – I’m ready for marriage … again
Dear Lou
I was divorced by the time I was 27. I remember how selfish I was in those first few years and that I expected to keep on living the way I did when I was single, and my wife was hurt and became withdrawn. I know I wasn’t a good husband, though we started getting some counselling and I began to understand what I was doing wrong and I tried to do better. My wife though seemed to want to hold onto her hurt and her anger and she would pick faults about the dumbest things.
The thing that really destroyed our marriage was that she faked being a Christian. She knew that was important to me in marriage, that my wife would be a Christian and so before we got engaged, she said the right words and went to church with me, and I was so excited about being in love and getting married, that I didn’t see the warning signs.
I was really devastated when our marriage fell apart, and I felt terrible guilt about my part in it. It’s been five years now and I thank God that we didn’t have any children because my guilt would be much, much worse.
I think I’m ready now to consider getting married again, but I find myself hesitating. What if I make a mistake again? How can I tell if someone is genuine or they’re just saying the right words? I still feel fearful, but I don’t want to let it run my life any more. So I guess my question is, how do I overcome my fears?
Dear Louis
After reading and rereading your letter I would suggest you take a good hard look at your life, to go on a journey of self discovery to help you understand what makes you tick, and then bring significant change into who you are as a person.
You give a lot of your thinking away in the first paragraph. You were a selfish person living how you wanted to live in your marriage and then when that didn’t work you tried counselling. That apparently stopped because your wife was angry with you. Your thinking now says “I tried, but it hasn’t changed, so it is my wife’s problem.” The blame game continues when you say that the reason your marriage fell apart was because she faked being a Christian.
The problem as I see it is this. You went into a marriage with a very selfish attitude and when things weren’t working out you sort to take the high road so you could find someone to blame for your problems.
Five years later you are looking to move on and hope for a better outcome. Dr Phil always comments that the best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour. The time is right for you to do some serious personal development to prepare you for what might be in your future.
Marriage is about relationship, it is about being best friends, it is about making big changes in your life. It is all about seeking how you can edify the other person. When you stop thinking about yourself and thinking about how you can be a blessing to your life partner – you will start building solid a foundation for your life.
At this point in your life do some serious self discovery and evaluation. After that you can think about finding a life partner.
Letter 2 – I’m torn about my partner now I’m a Christian
Dear Lou
Before I became a Christian, I lived with my partner for nine years. Neither of us felt the need to get married, though it was something we talked about doing in the future. We have two kids who are now in grades 2 and 3.
I became a Christian just over a year ago, but my husband has shown no interest in coming to my church, or in learning about Christianity, even though I take the kids to church with me.
Recently I’ve become convicted that we aren’t married and that I’m living in sin with a non-believer. Does this mean we should separate? Our relationship is good and my partner is a good man, and a great father to our kids. I’m worried how this will affect the kids, if we separate.
I’m confused and not sure what to do now.
Dear Jennifer
Nine years ago you made a commitment to live with a man in a permanent relationship. You might not have had a lavish wedding but you made a decision to be one together. Separation is not an issue for you because you are already a family unit.
Congratulations on your decision to become a Christian. Christ always makes a massive change in your life. Now your role is to pray for your partner and your children that they too will come to know Christ.
Just over 12 months ago, I don’t think you would have been interested in church. You became a Christian and now expect him to want what you have.
Your role now is to love him and show him Christ’s love through the way you live your life. You will make more impact through showing true love rather than setting in place a whole new set of rules.
Be gracious. In his world at present, he sees what you have become, and possibly sees the church now as competing for your time and love. This is why you have a massive responsibility to be Jesus in your family and hopefully in due course enjoy the blessing of a Christian partner. Be the best example you can be of a loving, Christian woman, pray for your partner, and see God go to work.
Somewhere down the track you can make plans with your partner about becoming a married couple. God will bless you on your journey.
Letter 3 – Will it be ok to have a male flatmate?
Dear Lou
I’ve been renting for years and always shared with a female flatmate. After my last flatmate moved out, I advertised the room vacancy, and had several calls, and while some women sounded ok on the phone, there were several reasons why none of them were suitable.
I’d advertised for a female flatmate, so I was surprised to receive a phone-call from a younger man in his late twenties. He was desperate for a furnished flat as the house he’d been living in had burned down along with his furniture and other belongings.
Initially I just automatically thought, “No, sharing with a man might cause some tongue-wagging in my church.” I said I’d think about it and get back to him. Knowing he was couch-surfing with friends, I knew he needed a quick decision. I checked with the real estate where he’d rented before and they confirmed he’d been a good tenant, and kept the house clean and tidy.
So I offered him the room, and he came and inspected the flat and we talked for a bit, then he moved in the following day.
Now, I’m concerned about how this will look to my church and family. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m celibate and trusts me, but should I really be concerned about what others think? If I’m not sinning, then anyone talking about me is really just gossiping aren’t they?
Should I be concerned about how this situation appears? The ridiculous thing is nowadays, there are tongues that wag when 2 women live together cause people think we’re lesbians, so it doesn’t matter what I do, people are going to talk. Should I seriously reconsider this arrangement?
Dear Kym
No matter what you do there will be people who find fault, and there will always be people who judge the motives of others without any justification or truth. When you make any major decision in life make sure you have God’s peace in your heart.
I know there are some women who would never have a male as a flat mate and for others this is not even an issue. In this day and age where there is so much violence against women, I think there is wisdom in having a male with you for a little bit extra security.
You know your standards and you maintain your integrity and live according to God’s standards for you. When you do this, you are not allowing your life to be directed by the whims, attitudes and gossip from other people.
Stick to your decision and enjoy your accommodation and the people who share it with you.
When I read your letter, I thought of old Joe who was a new Christian. One day he had parked his old ute not far from the only hotel in his town as he went about his business. Martha the church gossip, saw the ute there and promptly told people in the church that Joe was seen drinking at the hotel. Joe was confronted with this gossip but he did not say a thing. That night he parked his ute outside Martha’s
house early in the evening then came back and picked it up the next day.
I like old Joe!
Kym, I hope enjoy your home and your living arrangements.
Issue 17: June – August 2019 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – How do I know it’s God?
Hey Lou
I’m 17 and people keep on telling me that when I have to make an important decision that I should talk it over with God, and I do that. But how can I know what his answer is? How can you tell when it’s God saying something, or it’s just your own head telling you to do something? How can we know for sure about when God is showing us something?
I see others my own age and nobody talks about this stuff and I feel like I’m probably the only one who gets so confused and don’t know what’s from God. I feel embarrassed to talk to my friends about it, because I don’t want to look stupid.
I feel really shy and I can’t get enough courage to talk to my minister and should I say something to our youth leader? Who should I talk to and what should I say?
Greetings Austin
What a privilege to have a young man wanting to know more of God and wanting to know God’s leading and guidance in life.
A couple of quick answers and then some guidelines: please talk your thoughts over with your minister, and I am confident he will be able to give you ongoing guidance. Part of his training and study is to give spiritual guidance to people under his care.
Don’t worry about what your friends think or do. You don’t know what is happening in their lives anymore than they know what is happening in yours. It would appear your comment comes from a personal perception and not from reality, so change your focus – the teenage years are sometimes the hardest because you are afraid of being different from those in your sphere of influence.
The principles I use for guidance from God are threefold:
1. God will never lead you in way which is contrary to the Scriptures. Get into your Bible and let the Word of God fill your life.
2. Share your dream or thoughts with your minister. Let him know what is happening in your heart and soul and receive affirmation before moving in a new direction.
3. You will know some mature Christians, so go to one you respect and let them know your thoughts and dreams. Get their affirmation and encouragement.
One of the guiding principles after the previous steps have been taken is to make sure that I have a peace in my heart that this is where God wants me to be.
I encourage people to have a mentor in their life. If you don’t have one, pray that God would bring a mentor into your life.
God bless you on your spiritual journey.
Letter 2 – Afraid for the future
Dear Lou
Sometimes I’m really afraid about the future. I have seen other people in my family and church who go through some hard trials and I know that I could not cope with what they did.
I’m so worried that I’m going to fail and I can’t shake my fears about what might happen. People keep saying stuff like, “God won’t put you through anything you can’t handle.” But that’s bull, cause I’ve seen other Christians go through terrible things and I don’t know how they keep going sometimes.
What if God wants me to go through a really bad trial and I just mess it up, and all of the worst things that can happen come up again and again in my mind, and I feel like I’m going to be a failure, like I’m going to let God down because I can’t seem to trust him about this.
I’m even worrying about getting married one day and then maybe we’ll get a divorce like my parents did. I feel like I’m stuck and I can’t go forward because this is always pulling me down. How do I let go of this and just trust God?
Dear Caleb
I have a saying I often use and it says, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a very merry Christmas.” Caleb, it is time to stop looking at others and take a long hard look at yourself. You are focussing on all the wrong things.
God always promises that He will never send us anywhere that He will not go before us. Accept that. You don’t know what lies before you in your life because you are not there yet. When you do God will give you the grace and ability to be able to cope with whatever comes your way.
Think through what you said about getting married. If you apply that concept to every decision you make in life, then you’re going to be reluctant to makeany decision.
When the time comes to make a major decision in your life, that is the time to work through what it means to you. You are trying to cross the bridges in your life, way before you ever come to them.
My advice would be to get more into the Word of God and get to know your Lord in a deeper way and through this you will learn to trust God more.
Regards Lou
Letter 3 – I want to help my friend
Lou, one of my best friends is talking about sleeping with her boyfriend. She’s a Christian too and we’re both 20, but her boyfriend isn’t a Christian. I think he’s been pressuring her to have sex.
She says things like, “I’m old enough to make my own decision, and sex is perfectly natural,” so she can’t understand why God should have a problem with it.
I think she’s making the wrong decision, but I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to betray our friendship and tell any of our church leaders about it, and if I do and she gets into trouble, she’ll know I said something.
What should I do? I’m really worried that she’s going to make a choice that will hurt her later, and I don’t want to say something that will hurt our friendship.
As her friend, I feel like it’s my responsibility to help her to stay clear of danger and stuff that is sinful. Should I use the Bible to help her, and what should I say? What if I lose her friendship?
Dear Hannah
You are talking about an issue that is prevalent in our society. People do not understand the responsibility of building a healthy relationship.
Sadly, we are not very successful at explaining why God says that we should not have sex before marriage. We are often told in church circles – “don’t do it” but very rarely are we ever told why we should not do it.
You have a friend coming to you and telling you what she is planning. My assumption is that she is trying to convince herself, even though she has massive doubts.
As a result, she is coming to you, so you have a great opportunity to tell her why you would not have sex before marriage. She is asking you as a friend, so let her know what you think she should do, and don’t let her down.
I would suggest putting this question to her: “Why would you want to have sex with your boyfriend?” If her answer was that he was putting pressure on her – that is not a good enough reason. If she doesn’t provide a good response, this would be a good time to ask if he’s putting pressure on her.
If she is afraid she might lose her boyfriend if she doesn’t have sex with him, she has already lost him and having sex won’t change anything, but instead will leave her feeling that she’s been used.
This is a prime time for you to step up and be a real friend to her. Help guide her through a confusing time in her life and as a result, you’ll find an enriched friendship. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Maybe this would be a good question that you could raise in a church group you are in: “Why did God say that we’re not to have sex before marriage?”
Your friend is coming to you for help. Here’s the chance to make it count.
Kind regards
Issue 16: March – May 2019 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – My Sister is a Pain!
Dear Lou
My sister was always difficult to get along with when we were growing up, and I find her hard to tolerate, even as an adult. She’s always sure that her opinion is the only right one, and if anyone disagrees with her, she claims we’re saying that she’s stupid.
She can also be very rude and sometimes nasty, and when we point out how rude or nasty she is, she says it was a joke, and that it’s our fault we were offended because we don’t have a good sense of humour! But usually her ‘joke’ is a mocking or nasty comment about someone there or even the person she’s speaking to.
I know there’s nothing that I can do about her manners, but whenever there’s family get-togethers, I have so little patience with her behaviours that I find myself responding negatively to her know-it-all comments or rudeness. She seems to know just how to push my buttons, and even seems to take great delight in seeing me flare up. I’m struggling with knowing how to deal with it. I’ve been praying about it, but I don’t know how to change my responses. Can you help me please Lou?
Miss Struggling
Hi Miss Struggling
The only person who can make a change in your situation is you. It is time for you to step back and evaluate your situation afresh and then make the necessary changes in your life. At this point whether you like it or not your sister has total control of you and this includes your reactions to situations. Whether she is doing it intentionally or not, she is controlling you.
I know two brothers in a similar situation, and even though they’re now in their forties, the older brother knows exactly how to get his younger brother going, and still finds great delight in doing it.
A few suggestions:
1. Take a significant step back from your sister and avoid letting her control your thoughts and behaviour.
2. Never react to her words, but walk away from any confrontational situation.
3. Remember the choices you have. You can either react or respond. Walking away stops you reacting. Take time to think about what was said. If there is any truth in it take it on board, but if it is incorrect or inappropriate then at a suitable time simply say to her, “I have thought about what you said and want to Say that you were incorrect in what you said.” Then walk away – no discussion. NB No discussion.
4. You are now taking control of your situation.
5. It is sad that within a family you must step back from a sibling for your own sanity, but in doing this you are setting a new wholesome direction.
I remember reading years ago this phrase:
No one can make you angry.
You make yourself angry.
When a person can push your buttons and get you going, they very quickly learn that they can control you.
Now is the time to take back you power. What your sister does with the change in your response is not your problem. You are about getting the best possible outcome to allow you to move on in your life.
I trust you can get your personal power back.
Kind regards
Letter 2 – What Do I Do About My Workplace?
Dear Lou
I started an apprenticeship in the building trade about ten months ago and I still have another three years to go before I’m finished. The thought of spending another three years here with these same guys, makes me feel sick. I’m starting to feel anxious and nauseous in the mornings before work.
It was ok at first. At the end of the first week we went and had a beer at the pub, and I had just one beer to fit in, even though I don’t like beer. They kept on pushing me to have another one but I didn’t, and that was ok. We muck around and have a bit of fun sometimes at work, and I was enjoying learning.
Then one day I let it slip that I was a Christian and ever since then, they go out of their way to ridicule me. I’ve just let their comments go by, but when they deliberately talk dirty stuff about their girlfriends or wives in front of me, just to see my reaction, and they’ll say something about me and not having a girlfriend, or they’ll talk about porn and it makes me feel disgusting when they talk like that.
I don’t want to hear this stuff, and their dirty talk. I’m sick of hearing their rubbish and I’ve lost my enthusiasm for this work.
I don’t think it’s going to get any better and I’m wondering if it would be better for me to do an apprenticeship in another trade, since I’m still fairly early on in this one.
I don’t really have anyone I can talk to about this, and when I wanted to talk to my Pastor, he always seems so busy and so I’ve just let it slide. Can you help me?
Confused and Stressed
Dear Confused and Stressed
Welcome to a fallen world.
Stick to your standards and don’t compromise your values. You talk about your current work situation, but you don’t tell me anything about your family of origin. I don’t want to assume anything about your upbringing, but simply wonder how well you were prepared for a secular world environment.
If you read my letter to Miss Struggling you will see two words I mentioned:
react and respond
In every life situation you will do either one or the other. I would love you to do an exercise for me. Get a piece of paper and make two columns. At the top of one column put the word ‘react’ and on the other column the word ‘respond.’ Now put this piece of paper on your refrigerator and for the next month evaluate every relationship situation in your life and see whether you reacted or responded. Put a tick in the appropriate column.
My suspicion for you is that much of what you do is a reaction. Again, you need to change your behaviour to one of response. This way you begin to take back your power. I would suggest some of the negative behaviour comes toward you because people know what pushes your buttons.
It will mean that you never join in negative or degrading situations, but learn to simply walk away from it.
Sometimes the behaviour that is thrown at you is to check if you are the real deal. Maintain your values and take control of your situation. You will be surprised to know that you will be respected for doing so.
I remember years ago building a close friendship with an alcoholic man. He would call me a wowser along with a host of other things. One day he said to me, “I know we give you a rough time by mocking you and laughing at your standards, but please don’t change because we look up to you and secretly admire your courage. Please don’t change.”
Don’t even think about changing your apprenticeship, but get a stronger backbone and be the kind of person God wants you to be. Make sure your faith is strong and secure.
Letter 3 – A Scary Roller-Coaster Ride
Dear Lou
I been a Christian for 6 years and sometimes its really good and I’m feeling really good. Then theres other times when I do something stupid or someone says something nasty to me and I feel really awful and want to hide under in my bed and never come out again.
It kind a feels like I’m on a roller-coaster ride. When I’m feeling really good it’s like I’m up high, and when I’m
feeling really down, it feels like I’m so far away from feeling good that I’ll never get back their again, and God seems really far away.
I hate it – the highs and the lows and being emotional an all over the place. I cry sometimes when its really hard and I wonder why it has to be so hard. I’m feeling confused and angry and I don’t understand why God is letting it be so hard for me, specially when I sometimes feel like giving up.
Dear Felicity
There is so much more about you that I would like to understand. To respond to your letter is all that I can do. I trust I am not making too great a number of assumptions.
Felicity, I hear a very young Christian speaking, one who has come to faith in Christ, and now desperately needs discipling to grow in their faith.
When I had young children, it was a day by day teaching, modelling, setting standards laying a foundation for them as children, then did the same as they became teenagers, young adults and even now as adults, I am still a model for them.
For you this will mean making sure you are a part of a sound Bible believing church, and being involved in a home group where you learn to grow spiritually.
Even more importantly than that is to have a spiritual mentor who will help you build accountability. Someone who will get to know you, and the areas of your struggle, and help you to grow in your life journey, and your relationship with God.
Anyone who has sat under my teaching will have heard me say ‘get a mentor.’ By the way, a good mentor is not going to be a best friend, because you will need someone to say the tough things to you.
I would love to get someone like you Felicity, and get you set up on your spiritual journey. [Contact the editor if you would like some help in this and she can refer you to me.]
I have often said that I don’t have a problem changing a baby, feeding them and cleaning up after them, but if I am still doing that after twenty years I have a problem.
Felicity, you can make it, and your life does not have to be a roller coaster ride. Please get the help and guidance I have suggested.
Issue 15: December 2018 – February 2019 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Unhappily Married to a Nag
Dear Lou
I married my wife about 12 months after I met her, but she is not the woman I thought I was marrying. We’ve been together almost 40 years in a very ugly marriage. She is a terrible nag and constantly criticises me, but not at church because she fakes being nice. Nobody at our church knows how horrible she is and I think they all believe she’s the sweet, loving person she puts on. I can’t believe she calls herself a Christian. I tried bringing it up with my Pastor, but I don’t think he believes me.
A new single lady began coming to our church and I see how much we have in common. We sometimes chat over a coffee after church (with my wife and other people present.) She seems like a genuinely good woman with a real heart for children and ministry.
Don’t get me wrong – I have no interest in chasing this other woman as I’m married and she’s far too young for me, but our talks and her friendly, smiling face pop up in my mind numerous times during the day and every time I think of her it reminds me about the huge mistake I made in choosing my wife.
Our kids left home years ago and they all know how horrible my wife is to me – she was not a good mother to them either. She’s always refused to go to counselling and says that I’m the problem. To keep the peace, I try to remain calm and just let her words bounce off me, but I’m always feeling stressed and angry.
In just a few years I’ll be retiring and the thought of spending my final years with her, makes me feel sick, especially having to spend more time at home. I regret wasting my life, and I’m seriously considering divorce. Where do I go from here?
Dear Ken
Where do I start?
Most likely you grew up in the age where you never went anywhere for counselling, and this was also applicable to pre-marital counselling.
You are the reason I emphasise strongly the importance of going through weeks of pre-marital counselling. After twelve months of knowing each other you are married. You are only beginning to know the other person, and hopefully time spent with your marriage celebrant would have picked up significant issues you would encounter in your proposed marriage. By the way, this level of counselling is applicable to first, second, or third marriages.
My concern for you is that you are now in such a negative mind-set that it’s almost impossible to look for any good qualities your partner possesses, and I might say she would most likely feel the same thing about you.
You are your choices. My advice to you is to stop looking at all you have lost and begin looking for ways you can enrich your marriage and build a positive life together. This would be best accomplished with a counsellor who can help you set direction and look for ways to bring a positive outcome to your time together. You mentioned that she won’t go to counselling, and you are probably right, because she sees you as wanting to “fix” her life. Change your attitude and I think you might find a very different response.
I won’t even comment on meeting this other lady at church other than to say this is all about fantasy. Remember the phrase “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” It might appear so, but remember that it’s also a level of fantasy when it comes to relationships.
My advice to you Ken, is to do some serious work on changing your life attitude, and you might be surprised how good life can be.
Letter 2 – Sometimes I Want to Strangle My MiL
Dear Lou
My mother-in-law can be a nasty b*#$! and she seems to enjoy hurting my wife. Every time she visits she finds something to criticise and goes on and on at her. Often my wife ends up in tears. Sometimes it’s nasty comments about the way my wife looks because she’s put on weight, or it’s about the kids, or about our marriage, or even about the way the house looks.
I’ve told my wife several times that her mother is not welcome in our home, but she makes excuses for her, saying that since her father died, her mother is lonely and she has no-one to look after her.
Every time my MiL leaves, my wife is upset for days afterwards. Sometimes my MiL just turns up with no warning, or if she does tell us she’s coming over, my wife stresses herself out trying to make the house really clean. It doesn’t matter what my wife does though, it’s never good enough for my MiL and there are times when I want to strangle her. I want to help my wife, but don’t know what to do.
Dear Beau
You are responsible for caring for your wife. You are not married to your Mother in law. While the ideal situation is that you and your in-laws would have a positive relationship, you are the head of this new family unit, and are responsible to lead and protect your family.
Your wife will be very much aware of the problem and feels caught between her new family and her birth family.
Beau, it is time for you to have a conversation with your mother in law. State the facts and spell out a new set of standards for her relationship with you and your wife. Your wife might not want you to do it, but in the end, she will respect you for it.
Your mother in law should be welcome in your family, but she will only be welcome on your terms.
The ball is now in your court.
Letter 3 – Afraid of Being Old and Alone
Dear Lou
I’ve never married and have not had kids of my own. Now that I’m middle aged and I’ve had had some health problems, I’m really worried about the future – will I be old and alone?
I know that Jesus will be with me, but it scares me that I will have to depend on strangers and lose my independence when I get old and sick.
What if I have a heart attack or a stroke? What if I can’t look after myself anymore? What if I’m bed-ridden or lose my sight?
I’m starting to think that maybe euthanasea might be a good thing when I’m really sick and can’t do anything for myself any more. I hear Christians say we shouldn’t commit suicide, but surely God would not want His children to suffer.
Dear Caroline
If ‘if’s’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.
So much of your letter contains ‘what ifs.’ None of it has happened and might never happen. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you cannot cross a bridge until you come to it. What you need is a major change in attitude.
Instead of looking for all the problems in life, get involved in some positive work and friendship experiences where you will develop a very different mind-set.
I have met seemingly healthy people who are always looking for the worst to happen, and surprise, surprise I often find a very negative self- indulgent person. On the other hand, I know another lady who is virtually crippled with health issues, yet is constantly getting out to help other people. Surprise, surprise, she is one of the most positive people I know.
Caroline, it is time for an attitude change. Only you can get up and make a difference by stopping your navel gazing and starting to see what you can offer to people around you.
Church is a good place to start. What about meals on wheels or your local neighbourhood centre?
Caroline you can do it.
Issue 14: September – November 2018 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – How to Find a New Church
Dear Lou
I moved to a new town after God encouraged me to go there. While I miss my friends and family, I have a good friend here and some close relatives. But I can’t seem to find a church to settle in.
I’d like to find somewhere that there are single people like me, and who are mature so we can support each other. It’s important to me to find a church where there’s real Biblical teaching and encourages Christian growth.
My question is, how do I find a church that meets my needs, and one where I believe God wants me to go? I’ve already been to a couple and at one church, where I was starting to feel comfortable, the Pastor said something that really made me feel angry. During his sermon he said that their church was aimed at families, because families have many needs, not like single people who are more selfish!
Can you believe he said that?! So, if that’s their attitude towards single people, then I don’t want to go there anymore!
I wanted to write to him and tell him how he made me feel, but I don’t know if that would really help his attitude.
Can you help me figure out how to find a good church?
Dear Rachel
As a person passionate about ministry to single and single again people, I can say that the sentiment of your letter is one I have heard on a regular basis.
First priority is to find a church which is sound biblically and provides solid teaching. It would appear that you are doing this.
Second priority is to find yourself in a home group where you can connect with people at a deeper level.
Priority three is to start a ministry group for single and single again people. Offer your services to build such a group.
If that is not welcome – look for another church.
It is extremely disappointing to hear the comments made by the pastor regarding singles, yet this is a comment I have heard said on a regular basis from leaders of churches. So often churches do not care about or seek to understand the specific needs of our singles family. If we cared to look around church we would see widows, widowers, divorcees, unmarried mums and singles who have never married. Often these people make up a good percentage of the church population.
Contact the pastor and remind him of what he said and listen to his response. This will enable you to determine whether you will get care in that church family. Ask simply what is being done to care for singles and their needs. Personal contact from you is far better than a letter.
My encouragement would be to find other singles in the church and build some new friendships, but don’t neglect getting to know couples and others in the church.
Ask your family and other friends if they know of other singles in the community. If you can’t develop this singles ministry in your church, look at building a healthy singles ministry on an interdenominational basis.
Kind regards
Letter 2 – Sometimes I Struggle with Being Alone
Dear Lou
I’m now in my 30s and although I’m ok with that, I still struggle sometimes with being alone and feeling lonely.
It would be nice sometimes having someone to sit and watch movies with or go for walks, etc. I’ve got some friends I can hang out with, but most of them have partners and kids, and when I crave time with friends or when I’m feeling a bit low, they aren’t always available because they’re busy with their own lives.
Sometimes I pray about it, but it doesn’t make my sadness or loneliness go away. Can you tell me how I can make myself feel better when I’m feeling down? If God isn’t going to give me a husband, why does being alone have to be so hard?
Hi Giselle
You correctly identify one of the most significant struggles faced by singles. In fact you identify one of the struggles of our modern day society. Some years ago I read that sixty percent of the population noted that loneliness was their major personal issue.
Whenever I am with a crowd of people I look around and wonder which ones are desperately lonely. The key for living is to find an opportunity to get to find these people and be a friend to them.
The key issue for you is to not sit down and wonder why you can’t find friends, but to be proactive and go out and look for people you can bring into your care.
I would encourage you to get busy doing things for other people, get involved in your church, or sporting club, or a group which has similar interests or hobbies to yourself and work hard at being a giver and not a receiver only.
Doing this does not necessarily take away the loneliness you will face at times, but it will be a way of meaningfully filling your life.
I meet people on a regular basis who are living fulfilled lives because of the effort they make to reach other people. This is applicable to people of all ages.
Make the effort to get involved with people and care for people who need someone to speak into their lives.
Continue to pray that God would provide for you a very special group of caring friends.
Letter 3 – Anointing with Oil for Healing and Blessing
Dear Lou
In the Old Testament and in the New Testament, there are references to anointing people with oil for healing, blessing or consecration.
Why don’t churches do that today? I mean, if it’s talked about in the New Testament as a way to heal, or bless or consecrate, why aren’t we doing that? Well, at least not in the churches I have been to.
How come we don’t see or hear of demons being cast out of people? The disciples were casting out demons in the New Testament. I’m sure there are still plenty of demons around today, so shouldn’t we be doing it?
I find it confusing that things those early Christians did, we don’t do them today. Does that mean there’s something wrong with our modern churches? Does it mean we aren’t obeying God?
Dear Peter
Thanks for your question and concern.
In all churches that I have been, a part of anointing people with oil is a common practice. James 5 is the key for us in this.
I believe it is a privilege for pastors and leaders to pray over people and to anoint with oil. This can be done within the context of church services, or in a home group, or by going to a family or individual and anointing with oil. My encouragement is to make this a key practice within your spiritual journey.
My first port of call in praying for people who are supposedly possessed by evil spirits is to always check to see if there is unconfessed sin in their life. Sadly, people blame the devil for stuff which in reality is their own sinful action. Unconfessed sin will always bring bondage in a person’s life.
The Bible tells me very clearly that we know this fact, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” I John 4:4. Because of this a person walking closely with the Lord does not have to worry about demon possession.
On the other hand demonic influences are all around us. The devil and his cohorts were defeated by Jesus on the cross.
Our hope is in Christ.
Keep praying for people, and keep anointing with oil as we are commanded to do in the Scriptures.
Issue 13: June – August 2018 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Some Churches are Just Too Much
Dear Lou
Some churches make me feel uncomfortable, especially those with loud music and guitars and clapping. It’s like it’s a show instead of time to worship God. There’s a group singing and playing music on stage set up above everyone in the ‘audience.’ Sometimes it feels like the people on the stage, including the Pastor are almost becoming like idols to us. We worship their music and our leader, instead of or as well as worshipping God. Is this something we should be concerned about?
In some services, when people lift their arms and hands up in the air, especially during singing, it’s like some are doing it to draw attention to themselves.
I’ve been to some churches where it seems that speaking in tongues is kind of ‘expected.’ From what I understand, speaking in tongues is the least of the gifts and I didn’t think that every Christian got all of the gifts. To me it seemed as if people felt pressured to fake speaking in tongues to fit in. That just doesn’t seem right to me.
I believe that many of these Christians are genuine, but sometimes I think some churches are set up to encourage the wrong thing, such as idolising the musicians and the Pastor, or trying to draw attention to themselves or being forced to fake it to fit in. Am I just being too old fashioned or do I have a legitimate right to be concerned sometimes?
Dear Marcus
You ask a very important question, and one which has been raised with me on countless occasions.
You need to understand the type of church service which blends with the person you are.
As I talk with people I find there are three broad categories we confront. The first is the formal, liturgical style of worship, the second is the less formal and has a very strong emphasis upon the preaching of the Word, and the third is the charismatic worship with its focus on music and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The key for each of these styles of worship is that a good balance is kept in the ministry of the church.
In a very broad summary I see the Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church most comfortable in Category one; with the Baptist, Church of Christ, and Wesleyan churches fitting into category two; and the Assembly of God, Christian Outreach and other charismatic churches fitting into category three.
The key thing for you to identify with, is the style of worship you feel comfortable in your worshipping God and find yourself regularly in church. The key is to always be in a church which brings people to a relationship with Christ and develops a good disciple-ship ministry. This is the church which will send disciples out into the field to preach the Gospel.
Get this right and most of your other questions will be answered.
For further reading, I would encourage you to get hold of Natural Church Development material and study the information they present. A good starting point would be the book, “Natural Church Development” by Christian Schwarz.
Letter 2 – Confused about My Faith
Dear Lou
I’ve been a Christian since I was fifteen, and there have been many times in my life when God has answered my prayers, especially when I was struggling with money, or having trouble in other areas.
But, there have also been times when God hasn’t answered my prayers, like when my wife had our first baby. Matthew was born with a hole in his heart and other health problems. We prayed and asked for healing, and our church prayed too. It was a horrible time, and Matthew had to stay in hospital.
We had months of stress, especially the times when he got really sick, and we were juggling work and other things, and my wife and I had little time to spend together.
Then just when it looked like Matthew was getting better, and the doctors said he was strong enough to have another operation to fix his heart, our son died.
My wife and I were both angry and hurt for a long time. We went to counselling and joined a group of other people who had lost their children, and that really helped us. But still it left me confused – I truly believe that God could have healed Matthew if He wanted to, but since He didn’t, how do I know how to trust Him now?
I’m not sure I understand what faith or trust are now that this has happened. What about Mark 11:24 – what does that mean since God doesn’t always answer our prayers?
Now when I pray, I have doubts that God will answer my prayers. Someone said that the experience must have made our faith stronger, but honestly, I feel so much weaker now. My faith in God has been shaken. I’m confused about how I can continue to trust in God for answers to prayer.
Dear Ryan
My heart aches for you as you continue to cope with the loss of your son. There are many things in this life which we don’t understand, but simply come to a point where we must continue to trust God.
Sadly, there is a level of thinking within the church that God is like a benevolent grandfather who is at the beck and call of people, and He must deliver on the prayers we pray in the way in which we tell Him to answer.
When we pray, God always answers our prayers, but not always in accordance with our will. You have heard the statement that God answers prayer in three ways:
Yes, no, and wait.
Our problem is that we don’t want to know about ‘no’ and ‘wait.’
From your letter I would assume that Matthew was very young when he went to be with the Lord. That being the case, you know that you will unite again one day in heaven. I’m sure that Matthew would tell you he is doing fine in heaven, and would implore you to make your life count while you are here on earth.
Ryan, to you and your wife, it is time to realise that God is still on the throne, and He has a plan for you. Trust Him and continue to grow in your faith.
Only God can make sense out of nonsense. Years ago a close friend lost their little child at about 20 months of age. I remember the wife saying, “I don’t understand, but I know God can use this experience.” For years since that time, many a family who have lost a little child has been blessed by them. They can truly say “I know what you are feeling.”
You mentioned that there have been many times where God has answered your prayers in the past. He is the same God in your life today and He has not changed. Start trusting Him afresh with your life and then see what a difference Christ can make in you again.
Let God use you for His glory.
Kind regards
Letter 3 – Courting or Dating?
Dear Lou
I’m single in my early 20s, and somebody asked me whether I’m courting a girl or whether I’m just dating? I don’t understand. I thought they were the same thing?
If I’m looking for a partner, aren’t you supposed to date to find if your compatible or something? Is there a difference and what does it matter anyway?
Dear Kyle
Your letter caused me to start thinking about the difference in these two words. I think we tend to simply to use the word ‘dating’ as the catch-all for any relationship pre-marriage.
A lady named Talia Kennedy said this:
“‘Courtship’ is a rather outdated word used to describe the activities that occur when a couple is past the dating stage and in a more serious stage of their relationship. It happens before the couple becomes engaged and is usually meant to describe when a man is attempting to woo a woman, with marriage as the end goal. Dating has a more informal connotation and implies that the couple is not necessarily exclusive.”
Another person wrote:
“Men and women who choose to date often have no commitment to consider marrying the other person. Maturity and readiness for marriage are not considerations in the decision to date. Instead, couples usually date with the selfish goals of having fun and enjoying romantic attachments. In contrast, courtship is undertaken only when both parties are prepared to make a commitment to marriage.”
I appreciate these thoughts and trust you can see the difference.
This question would be a good topic for a discussion group in your local singles group or other church group.
When it comes to building a significant relationship, every believer must do all in their power to build a God honouring relationship. God’s standards are always the best standards.
Issue 12: March to May 2018 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Why Am I Attracted to Another Woman?
Dear Lou
I’m 33, and I didn’t start dating until I was 26. I think I was just too scared of getting close to a girl. I didn’t understand myself much and didn’t have much confidence. Since then I’ve had a few girlfriends but no-one serious until recently.
I’ve been dating a nice girl for about a year and a half and I like her so much I’m starting to think about marrying her. But then in the last couple of months, I found myself attracted to another woman at my church. She’s single too and nice and I think she gets me, more than my girlfriend does.
It worries me that I like someone else. Does that mean I’m not ready for marriage? Should I avoid that other woman? How do I stop liking her? Is there something wrong with me? Should I switch churches? What will happen if I marry my girlfriend and still like that other woman? Should I drop my girlfriend and take a chance that the new woman and me are more suited?
Greetings Matt
Relationships can be one of the most complex and confusing part of a person’s life. From your letter that is your experience right now. You have expressed some of your insecurities in life and need some guidelines on the dynamics of building a relationship.
One key criteria I give to people embarking on a relationship – hasten slowly. You must take the time to build a friendship with a lady before you even think about a relationship. With your girlfriend, you talk about your plans. I would suggest you spend time with her to build a strong friendship and together you can move toward a decision about what your plans together might be. Only after you do that will you be able to collectively decide if you are moving toward marriage.
You mention enjoying the friendship of another single and your confusion as a result of this. Only you can determine why your attraction is so strong and what the possible outcome might be. My feeling from you is a stronger attraction to the second lady, and this is the basis of your letter. You need to make an honest assessment of your situation and evaluate all options before making any decision on your future.
Don’t move forward carrying regrets. This means you need to have an absolute peace that your current relationship is the one for you.
People have said to me that they have met the perfect person for them and can embark on a beautiful journey with their soul mate. That is dream time thinking. One writer on personality said that you are attracted to a particular personality mix. This means that there could be a number of people with whom you could build a happy, meaningful marriage in this world. The issue is that you make a life choice to marry a special person, then work and work at building a lifestyle together.
Give yourself some time and make sure you are building a good friendship before you consider a deeper relationship.
God bless you on your journey.
Letter 2 – Why Should I Trust Him?
Dear Lou
I didn’t know my dad and never heard from him until I was grown up and married with my own kids. I know he stayed with my mum only because she got pregnant with me when they’d only been together a few months. But then they used to fight all the time which is why they broke up when I was only a few months old.
Last year, my dad asked to come back into my life again. He says he wants to get to know me, but I’m not interested. What about all of those years he never bothered with me? What about all those years when I needed my dad and he wasn’t there? Why should I trust him? He’s married and has a couple of teenage kids, and NOW he wants to know me?
I have all of these feelings of anger coming up all the time and I don’t know what to do. I’ve cried with my wife and she understands, but I can’t seem to be able to get my feelings under control. I’m afraid I’m going to take out my frustrations on my wife and kids. I know I’ve been distracted and quiet. I think I’d like to know my brother and sister, but I don’t want any strings attached. My father just has to understand that I don’t want to know him.
I feel messed up and don’t know where to go from here.
Dear Jason
Let’s go back to the beginning. You know nothing of your Dad except what you have been told by your Mum. For this reason you don’t have the whole story of why your parents separated. Dr Phil always says, “It doesn’t matter how flat you make a pancake there are always two sides.” This is very relevant for you in your situation. You do not know what your father experienced in moving out of your life.
I hear your pain and confusion as to your life experience. Do you want to maintain the rage for the rest of your life or do you want to bring some resolve into your life? The fact that you are worried that your anger might flow to your family is a valid concern, and important enough for you to do something about it. The saddest aspect of repressed anger is that it often causes pain upon innocent people.
As hard as it might be, I think the time has come for you to meet with your Dad. If you don’t, I could expect to see more letters like this one coming from you. You are an adult and need to make the step toward your Dad. It is not about venting past pain, but about putting in place a new foundation for your life. You might never build a permanent relationship with him, but then you might. Together you can set the agenda for the future.
Jason you owe it to yourself, and just as importantly your wife and children. This is one load you do not need to carry. Your Pastor or Christian Counsellor would be a positive assistance as you make your plans.
God will bless you as you take the initiative.
Letter 3 – I Miss My Friend
Dear Lou
I had a crush on a good friend but he told me that he doesn’t have those same kind of feelings towards me. I was hurt, but we talked and agreed that the best thing to do is not to have any more interaction, other than maybe just to say hello at church.
We agreed not to hang out any more or to phone each other because we want to honour our future spouse (we’re both single) and also don’t want to spoil the friendship that we had.
I miss him so much. I find myself wanting to text him about my day and about good things that happen. Did we do the right thing? Should I have fought for a relationship with him, and if so, how would I go about that?
How do I let go of my feelings for him? We had a lot in common and laughed together over the same kind of silly things.
I’m really hurting and miss my friend.
Dear Alyssa
One of the things we most enjoy in life are good friendships, and they are vital to our own personal development. It appears you had this. What you have found is the reality of what happens when a friendship moves to another level and becomes a relationship. Many a friendship has ended as a result of one becoming romantically involved.
My advice to every couple building relationship is to make sure we communicate well. It would appear that you have stronger feelings in this situation. The healthy way to approach this is to say to him, “my feelings are getting stronger for you, How is that with you?” If they are not ready – you wait.
As you ask similar questions to this, you build friendship and then relationship, it will stop you second guessing what the other person is thinking. Let him know how much you miss the friendship you had, and would like to get back and rebuild your friendship. Making sure you ask the questions I have suggested as you move along in your friendship. Just because he didn’t have the same feelings for you at present doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain a very healthy friendship.
Give it a go, and see what happens as you start sharing together.
God will bless you on your journey.
Issue 11: December 2017 to February 2018 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Unfairly Treated at Church
Dear Lou
I’m a divorcee. My husband and I were Christians when we married, or at least I was. Almost from the start my husband ran around behind my back, sleeping with different women, and I had no idea. We were married for nine years when I found out, and counselling didn’t work because my husband had no intention of changing his ways.
I’ve been on my own for over ten years and attend a small church where I’ve been going for about six years. There are some married people who treat me nicely, but there are several who ignore me and walk away from me.
A woman my age began attending my church about two years ago and we’ve become friends. She lived with a man for several years before she became a Christian, and I’ve noticed that the same people who ignore me, are very warm and welcoming towards her.
I’m beginning to feel resentful about their attitude – just because I was legally married and now divorced, how is that different to my friend who lived with her partner? I don’t take my frustration out on my friend, but their treatment is so unfair! I can feel my anger growing every time I see them and I’m afraid I’m going to say something one day.
Should I just find another church? I’ve made good friends there and I really don’t want to go. Do I have the right to feel angry with the way some of them treat me?
Dear Olive
In the reality of life you are experiencing many of the conflicts which ‘single again’ adults face. External expressions make you very aware of issues that bring criticism and judgment of you, and internal pressures which cause you to be very sensitive, sometimes super-sensitive to the world in which you live.
Every person handles going into the murky waters of ‘single again’ living in different ways.
This is why I consider it a critical decision to find a Christian Counsellor (wherever possible) to walk you through your life issues.
The first issue being: how do you live in a predominantly couples world as a single? This is at a time when you are at your most vulnerable and often going through significant levels of disappointment and rejection. This can lead to depression and confusion.
Added to that are the issues surrounding going through a divorce, and you will find how important it is to have a mentor work with you and walk with you on this life journey.
The second issue is much more sinister, because it deals with the perceived motives of others. This is as relevant in the church as it is outside the church. We set a standard of expectation for the church and it often fails us badly.
My suggestion is to build good fellowship with those you know who love you and that you can trust.
I would encourage you not to try to win the approval of others within the church. Don’t allow those other people to set your objectives. You are the only person who can change you, so go about this by establishing good practices and building healthy relationships within that framework.
Stay in your church and enjoy the fellowship you have. If you moved to another church you will find the same situation and the same kinds of people there as well.
Hold tight to what you are doing and build a good friendship with this relatively new lady. Don’t be controlled by attitudes or actions of other people.
Hang in there, and remember the phrase “You can make it.”
Letter 2 – Am I Bi-Sexual?
Dear Lou
When I was a teenager, I was involved with a group where we used to drink alcohol and some of them did drugs. We slept around and so my first experiences with sex wasn’t good. I haven’t had sex since.
I’ve been a Christian for almost ten years and I regret what I did in my past.
I’m worried that I might be bi. There’s a woman at my church I’ve known for a couple of years that I have a serious crush on. She’s so nice. She’s very intelligent and has a maturity that I really admire, and she has a great sense of humour.
I’m not saying that I want a sexual relationship with her, but I’m worried that I might be bi.
How do you know if you are bi-sexual? Isn’t that a sin? I didn’t ask to be bi so why would God punish me this way?
Dear Angelica
Oh what a tangled web is built in our mind when we listen to the lies and garbage the devil feeds into our thinking.
You cannot allow what has happened in your past to determine who you are today and what you will become in the future. When any person gives power to the past, I usually find that person has paralysis in the present and is unable to develop hope for the future.
My simple advice is to move forward in your life, by forgiving yourself for what happened previously, and believe God for what He can do in your life in the present.
In a message I preached on Paul, I asked this question:
“Did Paul have a past he wished he could change?” The answer is Absolutely. What did he do about it? Let’s check what he said in Philippians 3: 13-14:
“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize.”
You have stuff in you past which has caused you and still is causing you considerable pain. Angelica. Your past though, cannot hurt you anymore unless you let it.
You ask about being bisexual. That is not an issue. You are simply a person who has been badly hurt by a life experience, and it is costing you dearly, right up to the present. I can only begin to imagine the pain that has been with you since your teenage years.
Angelica, please find yourself a Christian counsellor and work through the pain of your past, and become the person God has made you to be. Recognising the need for forgiveness of yourself will be a major stepping stone for you.
Enjoy a special friendship that God has brought into your life.
Counselling is a must for you.
Warm regards
Letter 3 – Can You Help Me Help My Brother?
Dear Lou
My brother is married with two teenagers. He’s got depression and hasn’t worked for five years. His wife works, and he feels guilty that he’s not supporting his family like he should. They’re not Christians.
My brother started a job recently as a labourer and he quit after only two weeks. He says it was hurting his back, but I think it could be mostly fear that keeps him from working or applying for jobs.
Is there some way that I can help him? I’ve encouraged him and his wife to get counselling, but he’s not interested. I think it’s because he’s a man and thinks he should be strong and just get on with it.
I try to be supportive but I’m feeling a bit lost about how I can help him more. Do you have any suggestions?
Dear Amanda
One of the things I’ve found with human beings is that they like to fix things. You are currently trying to fix your brother.
Your role should instead be as an encourager and a supporter.
Is your brother doing it tough? I would say he is. Does he want help? I don’t think so. He has learnt to play the “poor me” card very well, and while everyone feels sorry for him, he feels secure.
My suggestion is:
  • encourage him to get to work;
  • if his back is sore, then encourage him to see a doctor for help;
  • otherwise, he should get back to work and put up with a bit of pain.
While you constantly feel sorry for him and run around after him, you are being an enabler to him. It is time for him to take some personal pride in his life, and stop feeling sorry for himself. He is the only person who can change himself.
Always be an encourager, but realise there is time when some tough love is necessary.
Kind regards
Issue 10: September to November 2017 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Am I Saved?
Dear Lou
I became a Christian about three years ago, and my question is, am I saved?
Why don’t I feel good, and how come I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere? Every time I feel like maybe God is there, and helping me or changing me like I was told he would, someone criticises me about something I did or said, or I feel stupid or something happens and I feel like I’m not getting any better. It’s like I’m stuck back at the start.
If I’m a Christian, why haven’t things got better? Why haven’t I got better? I keep getting told stuff that makes it seem like I should be happy all the time. Where is the joy I’m supposed to have? That bible verse in Galations 5:22 says: “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”
I don’t feel like I have peace, and I wish I was more patient. I don’t feel like I’m a good person or kind enough, and I’m not gentle. If I don’t have these things does that mean that I don’t have the Holy Spirit and I’m not saved at all?
I find it hard to feel good about myself, and I thought that once I become a Christian that would get better, but it hasn’t. I feel like giving up, because it feels like God has given up on me. Sometimes it all just seems too hard and maybe it’s just too hard to be a Christian.
Can you help me to understand?
Dear Brianna
There are a large number of questions you have raised in this letter. Just reading your letter made me aware of how many sermon topics I could put together from the questions you are asking.
To answer all your questions would require more pages than are in this magazine!
As a result I will give some general thoughts and trust you will follow up on them.
I would be looking to get you into a discipleship group, a group where you can ask the questions you have and also build a level of accountability. Hopefully a lot of the questions you ask could be dealt with at that level.
My second guidance would be to get a spiritual and personal mentor – someone who will give you constant assistance in growing as a Christian. Find a mature Christian and ask them to be your mentor. I believe every Believer needs to have a mentor.
My third piece of direction for you would be to realise your Christian life does not depend on feelings but on a personal surrender of your life to your Lord. There will be many circumstances in your life which could bring doubts, but always hold onto the promise that God is always with you in whatever your life experience might be.
My final piece of admonition to you would to be going deeper in your relationship with your Lord. Many Christians take Jesus to be their Saviour and find that this is where they live their life. The Scriptures require each of us to take Jesus as Lord. When we take Jesus as Saviour and Lord we will know something of the joy of being totally surrendered to Him.
The Christian life is always about daily growing in the Lord. To this end I would encourage you to go deeper into the Word of God, and spend time with Him in prayer. Thank God for all He has achieved thus far in your life.
You are the type of person I would love to have in my church, because I know you would thrive on sound Bible teaching and a big dose of encouragement.
God bless you in your Christian journey.
Letter 2 – Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Dear Lou
When I was still living at home, I went to church with my parents. Then in high-school I went through a rebellious stage; I was rude and got into a bit of trouble at school and stopped going to church. I got caught shop-lifting a couple a times, and moved out of home, so by the time I was in my early 20s, I was a bit of a mess, and didn’t like where my life was.
Mum convinced me to go back to church and then I became a Christian for real.
It was nice to be back at the old church and to catch up with a couple a people who I was friends with back then. I never really took much notice of old people in the church when I was young – though there was a couple who were nice to me when I was a kid. But this time when I went back, I noticed some older people were ignoring me. I thought I was imagining it, until one of my friends said that she heard that I was a thief and I shouldn’t be trusted.
I’m so upset. Mum says that I’ll just have to ‘deal with the consequences of my actions’ from when I was messed up. She said that there may always be some people who will never trust me, and that I’m going to have to tough it out and prove to them that I’ve changed.
I’m upset that people have been gossiping and now it seems everyone at church knows about my shoplifting and stuff. Someone else said they heard I was on drugs, which I wasn’t. I don’t think I can stay at this church any more. Will it get any better, or should I just give up and go to a new church?
I’m angry that people are judging me when they don’t know the whole true story and that they won’t give me a second chance.
Dear Courtney
Any church would be thrilled to have you as a part of their church family.
It is a disappointment to me to read your letter, and realise that there are still legalistic, pharisaical people in the church who will condemn any person who is not like them.
The church is made for people like you and I commend you for the recommitment you have made. Thank God for your upbringing, and a very special thank you now for being the person you are meant to be.
I would encourage you to read the previous letter to Brianna (Letter 1) and bring the principles shared there into your own life.
You can’t change people or their attitudes, but you can rise above the pettiness and judgement they bring. Keep your eyes on the Lord and don’t get side-tracked by problem people.
Things in your life will get much better as you grow personally closer to your Lord. Find a good home group, get a personal mentor, and focus on the positive and wholesome things God has brought into your life.
You will be the key to reaching people like yourself who have some life issues, but are now able help rise above them and be the person or people God means them to be.
God will bless you on your journey.
Kind regards
Letter 3 – Church-Hopping
Dear Lou
A friend of mine that I’ve known for about fifteen years has never settled down in one church. He and his wife stay at one church for a couple of years, and then they move to another one.
He said they leave for different reasons. Sometimes it’s because someone said something that upset them, or that the minister wasn’t good at preaching, or the music was too loud and modern, and one time because the church was getting a new minister who was a woman.
I have tried to encourage them to go to Bible study because they can grow a lot there, but they don’t seem interested in anything much except for Sunday services. Sometimes they’ll go to church functions, but to me it looks like they’re expecting to be disappointed again.
Should I do or say something that may encourage them to stick it out, rather than giving up when the first bit of trouble stirs up? I have tried to suggest it a couple of times, but it’s like they expect church people and ministers to be perfect and not make mistakes.
We’re not really close friends, so I’m not sure what I can say to them. I expect they might just give up on me too if I say something that upsets them.
Dear Patrick
All you can do is be an encourager – you fulfil your part and allow God to go to work in their lives.
Remember the old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. I will add to that for you and say in this instance your role is to do everything in your power to make them thirsty. Hopefully, then they will want to know and then to grow in the Lord.
From your letter I would conclude that this couple are church attendees more than disciples. As a result they live the life of consumers and this is ultimately selfish, ie it is all about me.
My suggestion would be to talk with them, and seek to discover the depth of their Christian walk. Once you do this you might encourage them to be in a discipleship group – if there is not one in your church, maybe you could lead one for them as well as other Christians.
When people are unhappy consumers they will always look for someone to blame. When people tell me why they move from a church I know there are two reason: what they tell me, and the truth. Often we will never know the truth.
Your role is to lovingly place a challenge before them and then leave the consequences to God. Cover your ministry to them in prayer. Look at some of the concepts suggested in the letter to Brianna (Letter 1).
God will bless you as you serve Him.
Issue 9: June to August 2017 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Disappointed in My Dad
Dear Lou
When my parents split up six years ago, I stayed with my Dad because I’ve always felt close to him. I’m still at home, even though I’m now 24 because we get along really good. Since I started dating, Dad has been clear about the kind of guys he thinks I should date: only Christian men who treat me with respect.
I’ve been encouraging him to find someone to love and for a long time he wasn’t interested, because he was hurt after what happened between him and mum, and after the divorce and he wasn’t sure if he could marry again.
About 4 months ago, he began to think about dating after talking with our Pastor. Ever since then, I’ve noticed Dad checking out women wherever we go. Sometimes it makes me feel uncomfortable that’s he’s ogling them. I’m not sure if he’s always done that, or if he’s taking more notice of women now. I kind of feel disappointed in him now because he’s just thinking about the way women look.
Now that I know he might find a girlfriend, I’ve started worrying that if he gets married again, that things will change between us. I want him to be happy, but I worry about if she’ll like me and maybe we won’t get along.
Hi Renee
You have put a lot of information into one letter, and I can imagine that these things have been going round and round in your mind for a considerable amount of time.
The bottom line is this: you are using up a lot of energy worrying about things that, when it all boils down to it, are out of your control.
From your letter you mention about ‘our pastor’, so I am assuming that you are a Christian or at least are going to church. Assuming that, I would expect that you already have a solid value system as to the sort of person with whom you would like to share your life. You build your standards and live by those Godly principles.
You can be sure of one thing and that is Dad’s are pretty protective of their daughters, so they will always think the boyfriend they choose is never good enough for their little girl. Renee, build your own set of principles and don’t compromise your values. As you go deeper in your relationship get someone who you love and respect and have them talk to you about your developing relationship. It is a challenging adventure but well worth working on for your own future.
You mention Dad getting a divorce. Reality is that he is possibly now only getting over the hurt of a marriage break down, and the fact that you are a young woman is allowing him the opportunity to look forward to his own future. You have given your Dad permission to move on, and are super-sensitive to the fact that he is now in the single-again group of people. It appears that he is ready to look for a future partner.
Because of this you are sensing fears that you cannot control. You have no power right now to determine whether or not you will be able to build a positive relationship with any woman your Father meets. One of the toughest matters to work through in your situation is the blended family matters. Renee, when and if your father goes into a new relationship, you will work out what it means to build a new relationship with that person.
You are responsible for you. You make the best possible decisions in your power in your personal relationships and allow your Dad to take responsibility for his life.
Please relax a little and enjoy what you have at the moment. I would love to see you with a mentor who will be a sounding board for you in a lot of your decision.
Letter 2 – His Behaviours are Killing My Love
Dear Lou
I’ve been married for almost eleven years and we have two kids. My husband has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) which I knew about before we married. But knowing about it and living with it are two different things.
His obsessions include extreme cleanliness and orderliness. While I understand and accept that we should have a certain order to things at home eg where items are located so we can find them, but my husband goes beyond that. Towels have to be folded in a certain way and placed in the cupboard in a certain way; all towels, sheets etc have to be white and if there are any stains or greyness, he throws them out and we have to buy new ones. It’s such a waste of money when they’re still perfectly fine to use.
I’ve tried reasoning with him, but he won’t listen. I’ve suggested getting counselling but he’s resisting because he doesn’t think he should be the one to change, but that I should change, and that I knew what he was like before I married him.
I worry our kids will grow up and become obsessed the same way my husband is, but mostly I worry that they’ll never be in a healthy relationship because the only example is what they’ve seen with my husband and me and the way we fight. I worry too that one day it’s all going to be too much for me and I’ll walk out. I still love him, but I feel like I’m being slowly smothered by his extreme behaviours which are getting worse.
Dear Grace
You have analysed your situation, and now find yourself trapped.
The issue for you both now is to get into some level of counselling. You need to reaffirm that this is not ‘his’ problem, but it is an ‘our’ problem. You can approach him by saying “I need help to know how to work through our current situation, and in so doing enable each of us to bring positive change into the marriage.” Many, many times, I have heard the phrase you have used, “You knew what I was like before we were married and I don’t see the need to change now.”
The problem with that statement is that it is extremely selfish. The reality is that once you are married you now are a couple and live together. If your partner upsets you can’t go home – you are home. This means that you need to work together to make your marriage work. His comment to you that you should change is an arrogant statement and is a level of bullying. You need to make an appointment with a marriage counsellor and even if he refuses to go with you, go anyway.
Sadly many a marriage has broken down over issues like you talk about. The high priority is to get help for yourself and also for your marriage.
You mention about your children. Remember that children learn what they observe, and you are going to need to assure your children of your love and care for them. The fact that your children are aware of the struggle you have (they problem-struggle with any obsessive behaviour they observe) means they are open for you to talk with them about what is normal.
Your children will love you both, but struggle to love the behaviour. Please get some help because this is one issue which is going to need far more knowledge than you are able to provide.
Remember it is an ‘our’ problem. Most males will resist strongly if they perceive that this is ‘my’ problem. If you have family/friends, get your children to look at what their family relationship is like, and even get your children talking about what they see as a normal, healthy family life.
Get help as soon as you can.
Letter 3 – Am I That Creepy Guy?
Dear Lou
I help out at church in a few things. I’m 23 and I know I’ve got a lot to learn about being a Christian, but I think I’m a nice, considerate guy. I know I’m not good looking, and I’m too skinny. Why can’t the women in my church see past my looks and see the nice guy inside?
Do the women think I’m creepy, and desperate because I’m so friendly and because I’ve asked a few women out? (They always say no.) I’ve noticed that when I’m about to start talking to a woman after church, they sometimes kind of look around me when I get near them, like they’re looking for an escape route. One time when I sat next to a girl who is quiet and hasn’t got many friends, and when I started talking to her, she got up and moved away from me. That really hurt my feelings! I wasn’t interested in her, but thought she looked lonely. After that I started worrying that I’m coming across as a creepy guy.
I even tried NOT talking to them, but they certainly didn’t start chasing me! I can’t even seem to get to be friends with any of the single women. What am I doing wrong? How do I change my approach? Should I just give up?
Dear Aiden
In your letter you tell a lot about yourself and also struggles with relationships. You present relationships as your big struggle.
I have a statement I live by when it comes to working with and helping people. The statement is this, “The real problem is always deeper down and further back.”
Without knowing you, if you came to me for help I would start with you. I would be looking at a number of things which go to make you the person you are. This would include your family and upbringing, your personality, events in your life, how you came to faith in Christ. I would suspect that one of the primary issues in life is about who you are, how you see yourself, developing a positive self-worth, and trying to understand the messages you are sending yourself.
I don’t think we need to talk about building relationship or friendship with people, but about getting you to a Christian Counsellor who can spend a considerable amount of time helping you to become the person that you would like to become and that God wants you to be.
Once that happens I would hope we are able to look at a much more positive relationship with other people, both male and female. I know you might think I have not answered your question, but remember the real problems are always deeper down and further back. My prayer for you Aiden is to find a Christian Counsellor who can help you believe in yourself, then later to help you work through the ability to build friendships with people.
Issue 8: March – May 2017 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Losing My Mind after Losing My Heart
Dear Lou
I went onto a dating website and met a nice Christian woman. We chatted on the net for a few months, and then began talking on the phone before deciding to meet. Viv lives about an hour away from me and after meeting for coffee a few times, we began going out once a fortnight. She would always come into meet me because she lives in a small town.
She says nice things to me and when we dance and my arms are around her, she says things like, “You make me feel so safe when I’m with you.” She hasn’t said much about her past except that she’d been hurt. Sometimes she gets busy and I don’t see her for weeks at a time, but she phones me at least once a month. We’d been seeing each other for about nine months and I could feel myself falling for her.
Last time we met up for dinner at my place and afterwards she took me by the hand and tried to lead me to the bedroom. I was shocked at first and while I was tempted to say yes, I explained that I really cared for her, but as a Christian, I didn’t think it was right to have sex before marriage. After that, she made excuses and left.
I tried to call her but she wouldn’t answer the phone. For the first few weeks I left messages telling her I missed her, and then gave up about six weeks later. I was feeling hurt and confused. But every day I found myself thinking about her and don’t know how to switch off my feelings for her. Then about four months later she phoned and apologised, saying that she’d had a family emergency and had to go to her daughter in Sydney. I think she lied about the reason.
I thought I’d never see her again, and I’m feeling confused. What’s going on?
Dear Ron
Aren’t relationships fun! The problem with building friendship and relationship is that we don’t know the other person’s story. When this happens we often make assumptions which are incorrect, and as a result we second-guess the other person’s word and actions?
As in all dating situations the issue is about building strong friendship, and making this your highest priority. Issues like this point to developing much healthier dating standards. I will mention these briefly below, but it is an issue which is far more complex than I suggest in this reply to you.
Always build friendship first because this is foundational in long-term relationships. When you sense your friendship is ready to go the next step ask this question, “I value our friendship and believe I am ready to take it to another level. How does this sit with you?”
Do this at every new development in your relationship and you will find building your relationships goes much more smoothly. This area is a great subject for a workshop for single and single again people.
I have not commented on all aspects of your letter, but by building healthy relationship skills, these will also be answered. Make contact and work at building a solid friendship before moving to any new level of dating.
Letter 2 – Losing My Kids
Dear Lou
My ex-wife left me a few years ago and took the kids with her. She has fought me every step of the way after our break-up, and makes nasty comments about me in front of the kids when I go to pick them up. I don’t say anything because that will just stir her up even more. Besides, the kids shouldn’t see us fighting.
She has a boyfriend and since he got a job in another state, she’s talking about taking the kids with her and moving to live with him. That means that the kids will have to start over at a new school and make new friends, and I won’t get to see them much except for a couple of weeks during school holidays, if I can get time off work.
I love my kids, and I think what she’s doing isn’t right. She’s thinking only about herself and not about them. I know if I say something to her, she’ll just act nasty again. I can’t afford to take her to court, and I’m worried this is going to get out of control/
I’m also worried about how this is going to affect my relationship with my kids. If she keeps on saying nasty stuff about me, won’t they believe her? Is there some way that I can reassure the kids that I love them, other than just in words?
Dear Seth
This is one of the series of questions that I am asked repeatedly, and sadly it is probably a significant player in the amount of domestic violence flooding our society today. When I encounter people like yourself, I often find significant levels of frustration. The problem that you will experience is enhanced when you receive ‘trite’ answers, which do little to help you.
You didn’t mention the age of your children in your letter. Give your children some credit and know that they will read the situation more clearly than you could ever imagine. Your children are looking for security and my recommendation to you is to always look at ways to encourage your children, to make sure you spend valuable time with them whenever you can, and even though they are out of your state, make sure that you have phone contact with them on a weekly basis. In all of your contact make sure that your priority is your children, and as you are doing already, continue to avoid saying anything that is detrimental about your former wife.
As hard as this might seem, continue to be loving and caring toward your children and make sure you grasp every opportunity you have for contact with them. Again give your children credit for seeing the bigger picture.
My personal experience in working with people in your situation is to encourage them to comply with court orders, never miss an opportunity to be with the children, and always be positive in speaking with them. I have seen a person totally frustrated in going through a situation like yours, and have encouraged this person to do the things I have mentioned earlier in this reply. Has it been frustrating for them? Absolutely: “The fear has always been the children will hate me, and I am powerless to do anything about it.”
To this person I always said, keep a positive spirit and be the best parent you can be to the children, because there will come a time when they see your attitude and behaviour and warm to what they see. Some five years later, this person is still doing this. The recent result is that the children want to live with the positive parent.
Get some support around you and continue to build healthy attitudes and relationships.
All the best.
Letter 3 – Shouldn’t I Be Happy For Her?
Dear Lou
A couple of months ago, a woman from my church died. (Let’s call her Kate.) We weren’t particularly close, but were always friendly, but I’m having trouble kind of accepting it.
After the funeral, I offered to help the family, and suggested they let me know how I can help them. I’ve taken them a few meals, but I kind of feel inadequate, like I should be doing something more. It’s not as if Kate and I were close, so why am I struggling?
A friend of mine says I should be happy because Kate’s gone to heaven and won’t be in pain any more. I understand that, but I’m reminded all the time about how she’s not there anymore – going to church, singing in our church choir, and other little things.
I’ve been lucky so far because I’ve not really lost anyone close – my parents and brothers and sisters are still alive, and I still have my best friends. Why am I finding Kate’s death so hard to accept?
Dear Chrissie
It is always a sad time when a significant person in our life dies.
I would suggest that for the first time in your life you are experiencing grief: a grief that leaves us with a real emptiness in our heart.
When you are going through grief, doing things like you have been doing simply do not take away the emptiness in your heart.
My suggestion to you would be to go to your minister and ask about some grief counselling, or go to a Christian counsellor for help. It would also be beneficial to read some material on healthy grief.
If I was talking with you I would be looking at how you cope with grief, but more importantly I would be looking at what is going on in your life at a personal level. Maybe there is more to your history than just the passing of a friend.
It would appear that you keep yourself busy. Sometimes busyness is a cover up for who we are as a person. Getting some personal help could be of importance for you.
All the best.
Issue 7: December 2016 to February 2017 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Being Fat is Not the Worst Thing in the World
Dear Lou
I’ve put on a lot of weight over the years and I’m tired of having to justify why I’m fat. I used to be thin, but no matter how much I watch what I eat, I can’t seem to shift it, and I’m slowly putting on even more. I’m 48 and two of my grown-up daughters are now giving me a hard time.
I overheard a couple of people in my church say something behind my back that was quite hurtful. Sometimes I feel so angry when people make comments. It only ever seems to be thin people who criticise, but they have no idea what it’s like, feeling ugly, struggling to find clothes that suit me, and feeling hungry all the time. It’s like people assume that I just stuff my face or eat lots of bad food.
I know God loves me the way that I am, but I know He wants me to be healthy too.
It almost seems like some Christians think I’m being disobedient to God because I’ve let myself get so fat. Should I say something when people are rude, or am I just being too sensitive?
Dear Louise
Your letter raises a number of issues which I think you need to address.
I think you are extremely sensitive about your weight and you are the only one who can do something about it. Comments you hear are probably a reflection on what you are already saying to yourself.
Your comment that you used to be thin and now you’re over-weight and ugly is self-talk and what you are saying about yourself. Stop focusing on what others, including your daughters, are saying and take a look inside yourself and make some hard decisions.
What would be my suggestions to you?
  • First:make an appointment with your Doctor to see if there is any medical reason why you are overweight. Some medications can have serious side effects such as increased weight gain.
  • Second:make a decision to lose weight, even if this means joining a supportive dieting group.
  • Third:get to a dietician and look at how you can change or improve your diet, and make a plan to include their guidance.
  • Fourth:begin an exercise regime which will be of great assistance in improving your health and may be beneficial in dealing with your weight issue.
Remember that there is no easy fix. It’s up to you to make the changes.
God loves you the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way. May you know God’s blessing as you make healthful changes in your life.
Letter 2 – Cranky Driver
Dear Lou
Public transport in my suburb is bad, so I have to drive at least forty minutes to get to work each day.
My problem is that I get so annoyed at bad drivers and ignorant and rude people on the roads. By the time I get to work most days, I’m angry and wound up, and it takes me ages to calm down.
I hate that it affects me so much and that I start most days in a foul mood. I don’t like being like that. What can I do?
Dear Blaize
You are your own worst enemy.
I remember once hearing a lecturer say:
“There is nothing I can do or say that can make you angry. You make yourself angry.”
I have found this to be a good yardstick for my own life, and if things are getting out of whack, then it’s time to look at me.
What is really going on in your life?
I often say that nine tenths of an iceberg is under water, and you can only see the one tenth. The anger you express is the one tenth, so to be of any assistance I need to understand what is really going on in your life. This is not necessarily an anger problem but a ‘Blaize’ problem. Find a good counsellor and get some personal help.
I loved the story I read years ago: a youngster was driving with her Dad and she asked this question:
“Dad, why do all the idiot drivers come out on the road when you’re driving and are never there when Mum is driving?”
Well worthwhile thinking about.
One excellent concept I learnt in College, in relationship to counselling was this:
“The real problem is always deeper down and further back.”
Your anger is the presenting problem, but I think the real problem is somewhat deeper than that.
All the best in looking at your life and finding help Blaize.
Letter 3 – Will I Be Single and Lonely Forever?
Dear Lou
I’m getting close to retiring, and for the last couple of years I’ve been worrying about how lonely I’ll be on my own. I haven’t dated anyone since I was 36 or 37. I kind of gave up trying to find someone to love.
I’m quiet and I mostly just relax at home in my spare time, but I do help out at church with maintenance and stuff. I never know what to say to any of the single ladies, and I mostly stay quiet. I usually let them do the talking. A few of them talk a lot.
Should I just give up trying to find someone? How do I start the whole dating thing again? What do I do? Am I just too old?
Dear Andy
How often I have received questions like yours.
My heart goes out to the many single and single again people who are experiencing similar emotions to yourself. Loneliness is one of the more sinister problems of our day. Every person I know would love to have a partner to walk with in their life, yet the reality for many is, this will not be the case. This means we need to find other ways to build meaningfulness into our life.
In fact it has been said that at any given time 60% of the population would say that loneliness is the number one issue in their life. Think of it this way, If you are in a church of 100 people, 60 of them are experiencing some level of loneliness.
All that is of little help to you though. The thing you look forward to most in your life, especially at your time of life, is companionship.
I am pleased that you are in church because you have the potential to make something happen. Most churches have a major emphasis upon youth, young adults and families. As a result, people like yourself can easily slip through the cracks.
It’s time for you to do something about it. Go to your pastor and look for an opportunity to develop a group for seniors which meets fortnightly or monthly for friendship among singles. Every church has people in this category, so go out and get them together. I believe it is time for you to step out of your comfort zone and be a significant answer to your life’s concern. If you feel the need, you can be sure others feel the need as well.
You can find a lot of your personal needs will be met within the fellowship of such a group. I know people who have been dreadfully lonely, but who now live for their senior get-togethers and other outings.
It is time to step up and be a very real answer to your perceived problem. I wish you well in your new venture. Let me know how you get on in building this ministry.
If your church is not big enough to make this happen, then build a group in conjunction with another church family.
All the best,
Issue 6: September to November 2016 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Bad or Better Boyfriend?
Dear Lou
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost eleven months and I love him a lot, but the more I know him, the more I realise how little we have in common, eg I like romance movies and quiet nights at home, but he likes science-fiction and action movies and going to the local pub for live music. I hate science-fiction and when we’re in big, noisy crowds, I just can’t wait to get out of there.
We fight about a lot of things and he has an opinion about everything and it’s like he’s trying to convert me to his way of thinking, as if his opinion is the only right one – which I hate!
I’m 22 and my friends say I’m crazy to stick with him and that I should find another boyfriend. They say we’re too different, and I’m starting to wonder about that now. Am I being too picky to want to have more things in common? If we’re going to get married one day, isn’t this just going to cause us a lot of problems? I hate the fighting, but I love him, and there’s a part of me that can’t bear to let him go.
Dear Jessica
I could give you a very quick answer to your question, but I will try to flesh it out a little though I’ll still give you the same response.
Your question towards the end of your letter really gives you the best clue as to why your relationship won’t work.
I have always been amazed at how opposites attract when a permanent relationship is built. The question is how the couple can build a sound basis on which to build mutual respect. You’re twenty-two, and should be giving yourself time to build many healthy relationships.
In talking with couples, I usually mention that in the days when you are courting, this is often as good as it gets, because you can simply enjoy the building of your relationship without a host of other added responsibilities thrown into the mix.
I believe your friends are correct in the advice they are giving you on this relationship, Jessica. Your second paragraph gives you another clue, in that you comment that he wants to control you, and your life. That is never conducive to a healthy relationship.
From your letter, I would conclude that you need to move out of this relationship. Don’t settle for second best for your life.
Letter 2 – Is She Not Interested?
Dear Lou
There’s a woman at church that I like a lot. I can’t help but see how much we have in common and we’re always having a bit of a joke with each other, but we only chat after church or Bible Study. I’d like to take this further.
She’s divorced, and though I have asked her out for a coffee a couple of times, she’s made up some excuse not to go. Should I just accept that she’s not interested in me?
Dear Turner
Your letter is raising a number of questions for me.
Your first comment about having much in common through your church family tells me that this is a safe place for interactions between you both. At best this is the first level of relationship building, and is one you might need to pursue for some time. For some it is a big step to go from a safe group environment to a one-on-one situation. It might be safer to have at least four people go out for coffee. This would provide a new atmosphere for a friendship to develop.
The fact that you mentioned this lady is divorced leaves me with two questions for you to consider.
  1. Is building a friendship with a person who is divorced an issue for you? and
  2. Have you considered that this person might be still in recovery from a broken marriage?
The second question is very important to consider, as my experience is that time needs to be given for a person to regroup and heal in their life before they would ever contemplate a new relationship.
The more you talk with this person the more you will understand where she is in her life journey. Listen very carefully to what she says, and listen to clues she will give you as to why she is not ready. Be very sensitive, and if she is the person you would like to have in your life, then give her the space she needs to heal and grow.
In the meantime look for ways to be a genuine friend, spend time chatting with her, and don’t push too hard to establish a deeper relationship.
Friendships take time to build and relationships require even more time to become established. I think you have more work to do at growing the friendship.
Letter 3 – Grandchildren Eating Too Much Junk-food
Dear Lou
My daughter always seems to be feeding her kids junk-food. The oldest is 12 and I’ve noticed in the past few years that the kids have started getting fat.
I know my daughter and her husband both work and are probably tired, but shouldn’t they be concerned about their kid’s health? Whenever the kids stay at my place they won’t eat the vegies that I serve them and they always ask for takeaway or junk-food.
I’m worried for my grandchildren. Should I say something to my daughter and son-in-law?
Dear Maureen
You ask a question that has been asked many times before, and there is no simple answer.
Being a grandparent myself, I can assure you that there are things I would like to see done differently for my grandchildren: issues ranging from food, behaviour and discipline.
The reality is, I raised my children, and now it is the responsibility of my children to raise their family. When asked, I am free to give advice or make suggestions, but I need to make sure that I don’t meddle in what they are doing.
Hopefully the training you instilled in your children will be part of their parenting pattern. Your son-in-law could have been raised with a very different set of values to your daughter. It is their responsibility to develop their parenting skills.
Love your grandchildren and make sure you have a good relationship with them. This way you remove any pressure on yourself, to raising your grand-children the way you would like them to be raised.
Simply make sure that you love your family and continue to be a good model for them to follow.
Issue 5: June to August 2016 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Should I Still Trust Her?
Dear Lou
I have made friends with someone in the last couple of years. She isn’t a Christian, but we have fun and get along really good. There have been at least two times that she has lied about something. They weren’t big lies, but it’s now made me wonder if she has told me other lies.
I want us to still be friends, but I’m worried if I can trust her. What if she’s told me other lies? Should I be concerned that maybe she would lie about me to other people? Should I say something to her? If I do, what could I say?
Dear Cyndi
One statement I have appreciated Dr Phil saying is:
Past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour.”
This means that what you have discovered in this relationship will continue. Can you still be a friend with this person? Yes, you can. However you must learn to be careful in what you share.
Trust is a major factor in any relationship and once it is undermined or damaged is very hard to rebuild. You are in the situation where you are determining how much trust you can give to this person. A simple test you can use to see if a person is trustworthy and not a gossip is this: give that person a piece of information which no one else knows and see what is done with it. If it does not come back to you, then give another piece of information, and see what happens with that information. If it does not come back, you know you have someone you can trust as a confidant, and who is not a gossip.
This is a positive way to build trust. From your letter, you are concerned that she might have told lies about you. If she has told you lies about other people, then you could assume she has told lies about you.
Still be a friend, but be careful in your friendship. You can always step back and look after yourself. More than likely she is aware of what she does, so confronting her would not be of much value.
Letter 2 – Rotten Relatives
Dear Lou
I have some horrible relatives that I avoid when I can. They swear and share stories that I find offensive and tell crude jokes. I’ve said to them before that I don’t want to hear rude jokes and things, but they just ignore me. They even talk like that in front of the kids and I tell them it’s not right.
I know some of them think I’m too good for them, but it’s not that. I don’t think anybody has the right to push their offensive language and nasty, gross thoughts, jokes and images onto other people, especially when there’s kids around.
As much as I’d like, I can’t always avoid family get-togethers. Should I just not go? Is it my responsibility to always stand up and say something?
Dear Charlene
This is a problem many people face in family situations. You can be sure that the family knows where you stand on their behaviour, and possibly maintain this language to aggravate you.
Sadly, people can have many and varied values for living. Your relatives have chosen a lifestyle which is repugnant and offensive to you. As disappointing as it is, you cannot change them, or their values, but you can live by your values and standards. Your very presence will be a reminder to them of what you stand for as a wholesome set of values.
Some events you must attend as part of the family, and by doing so maintain contact with your family. Your life-style means you will develop a different circle of friends. These become more important for you.
Family is family, so keep contact with them.
Letter 3 – Weird Woman Wants Me
Dear Lou
There’s a woman at my church that I can’t stand. She’s a bit strange and she’s always hanging around me after church. I think she likes me, but I’m not interested.
My mate says I should just be rude to her and tell her to leave me alone, but I don’t think I need to be mean. What should I do? Should I talk to my Pastor? How are you supposed to handle weird people?
Dear Nick
There’s an old saying I appreciate, “You’re stuck with your relatives, but you can pick your friends.” You are in the situations where you have the opportunity to choose who you will have in your circle of friends.
Being in a church, we want to be friends to the whole church family. In this situation I think you need to be selective, and be involved with other people and involved in other church activities. Simply make yourself not available, and hopefully this will help her get your message.
Don’t intentionally set out to be rude to any person, but be selective in the people who are in your social group. I think you can resolve the problem without involving other people.
I love your final question. I’m not sure how to interpret “weird,” but I do appreciate that this world is made up of a host of different people – some I relate to easily and others with whom I don’t have much in common. That doesn’t make them weird.
Happy relationship building!
Issue 4: March to May 2016 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Should I Help at Church?
Dear Lou
I’m 29 and have been going to the same church for a while now. One of my friends says I should maybe think about doing Sunday School or helping out with things at church. I don’t think I’m very good at anything. I don’t want to mess it up. That would be so embarrassing.
If I decide to try something, how do I know what would be good for me to do?
I have trouble talking to people and never know what to say, and I always say something stupid.
Dear Alex
Thank you for your letter, which shows you want to grow in your faith and be serving where you can. In my first reading of your letter, I sensed a young man who is low in self-confidence and even questioning your self- worth. As a part of moving on from where you are, I would encourage some personal evaluation.
Your greatest asset in this would be a mature Christian who can be a mentor and be a person who can encourage you and stretch you in your personal development. Along with this I would want you to get an understanding of what makes you tick as a person. This would include getting to know your personality, and also getting to understand your spiritual gifts. This is basic before going into any area of service. Understanding your personal make up will provide your best fit in serving your Lord in your church.
Find a mentor and then get this person’s guidance in your next steps in service. Ministry is a blessing and I trust you will find great blessing through serving.
Letter 2 – How Do I Get Past the Hurt?
Dear Lou
I like my church and have some really good friends there. After church one evening I overheard one of the older women who is quite well respected, make fun of what I was wearing to another woman. I was very hurt and very disappointed in that first person.
I like my style and generally don’t care what other people think, but it was the fact that this was a person who is like an elder in the church. I don’t feel angry – mostly just disappointed, and I’ve lost respect for her.
Should I say anything to her? I don’t think I could. How do I get past this hurt? How can I trust her again?
Dear Nancy
Yours is a regular cry which I have coming to me. Statistics show that 66% of people who leave church, leave because they have been offended by a person in that church. Look around your church and see a lot of hurting people.
What do you do about it?
From your letter you would appear to be very happy with who you are. This is a healthy place to be, and I commend you for this. My advice to you is to not let gossip spoil you in being the person God wants you to be, nor let another person control your life and feelings.
This is where the whole issue of forgiveness comes in. This is a topic which is far too big to address here, but suffice to say, forgiveness is a choice and you don’t allow any person to spoil your life. In your heart make a conscious decision to forgive her for what she said, and focus on becoming the woman you know you can be.
I don’t believe there is value in confronting her. Forgiveness is the key to moving on. In your heart make a choice to forgive her and move on in your life. When it comes to trusting her in the future, remember trust has to be earned. As a consequence of some regretful words, this woman now has some work to do in regaining your trust. Move on and be all you can be in your relationship with your Lord.
Letter 3 – Not Much Money
Dear Lou
I don’t make much money and my friends are always wanting to go to the movies or out to lunch and stuff. They make more money than I do and can afford to go.
I don’t want them to pay for me or anything, but how do I tell them that I can’t afford to go out and do all the stuff they want to do? After I pay for my car and the rent and bills, I don’t have much money left. Adam always teases me when I want to go somewhere cheaper.
Dear Ryan
My simple advice to you is this. Be honest with them and say you simply do not have the money to do some of the things they want you to do.
I believe you can be creative in making other opportunities where you can spend time with your friends. If your friends are sensitive to you they will find other ways to spend time with you.
Many people are in the same situation you find yourself. In working with single parent families this is a common factor and it is amazing how you can find creative ways for fellowship which do not require spending large amounts of money.
Be honest and your friends will respect you for it. If they don’t, they are not real friends.
Issue 3: Dec 2015 to February 2016 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – I Panic When I Get Too Close
Dear Lou
Every time I even begin to get close to a woman, I start panicking. After that, I can’t even bear to be friends with them anymore. I’ve developed a bit of a bad reputation in my church and very few of the single women will speak to me at all now.
My father used to beat my mother and us when I was young, and I’m so afraid that I’ll turn into him. I’ve never even had a serious girlfriend. There’s a part of me that wants to find someone to love, but there’s another part of me that’s afraid that I’ll just muck it all up.
I feel lost. Even though I go to a Counsellor, I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. Should I just give up trying?
Dear Craig
You raise a couple of different issues in your letter. These are a matter of how you see yourself and then being the victim of growing up in a dysfunctional home.
Looking at yourself. You have a strong desire for a meaningful connections with a woman, but are afraid of messing it up.
My suggestion to you is to stop looking for a life partner and to make a meaningful friendship. I speak at Singles camps and always encourage people to work at building friendship, friendship, friendship. Don’t go into a friendship looking for a relationship but for a worthwhile friend. If you do this you could build a number of great friendships without the fear of moving towards relationship.
I think most people long for meaningful friendships, and these will succeed when you don’t push them toward a personal relationship.
Should you find a friendship moving toward a relationship, I have a set of guidelines to use in this process.
I encourage you to look to build solid friendships in your life.
In regard to your background as a child in an abusive family, this has a massive impact on who you are. I would suggest it is having an impact on your life today, and is the elephant in the room in relation to your building friendships.
When you talk with your counsellor, I would suggest you talk about you as an individual and not about building relationships.
Letter 2 – How Do I Tell People to Back Off?
Dear Lou
I was married when I was really young and stupid, and we divorced after a couple of years. I’m now in my late thirties and have no interest in getting married again.
I have friends from Church and relatives who still try to set me up with some ‘good Christian man’ they know. They don’t seem to understand that I’m happy on my own.
I get so tired of having to explain myself to people. How do I tell them once and for all, to back off from setting me up, without offending them? How do I explain so they believe me when I tell them that I have no interest in getting married?
Dear Jillian
Your letter is an interesting one as it opens up a couple of questions for me.
The first is in regard to what other people think or suggest. It is your life and you need to live it how you choose. You will always have people with good intentions who think they know what is best for you. You are responsible to make decisions regarding your life.
The second thought is about yourself. You mentioned twice in your letter that you have no interest in getting married again. Is this because of a bad experience with your first marriage, or because you feel safer being on your own?
It could be helpful to spend time with a Christian Counsellor, to go through your process of moving from a broken marriage to only wanting to be on your own. I think this is more important than worrying about what other people are wanting to do.
Letter 3 – Are Online Dating Sites OK?
Dear Lou
I haven’t had much luck with girlfriends, and since I can’t find anyone in my church, I decided to join an online dating site for Christians.
Some of my friends make fun of me and tell me I’m desperate if I go onto the internet to find love. They think it’s a big joke.
I’ve found a couple of really nice girls on the website and they sound interesting. I’ve hesitated about contacting them in case my friends embarrass the girls if they come to visit. What should I do? Do I trust the internet? Should I tell my friends?
Dear Thomas
Like a lot of things in life there are those which are able to be used for good and those which are used for evil.
The key to every choice we make in life is discernment. I constantly tell people to make sure they have peace with every decision they make.
When it comes to dating on the internet. Keep your brains in gear, and hasten cautiously. Don’t give out too much personal detail but talk often and build trust. Get to know the person. This applies to people you meet in daily life as well as on the internet.
I have taken the wedding of couples who have met on the internet, and they have established great marriages.
It is your choice. There will always be a level of risk, but that is the reality of every decision we make in life. If you are at peace with making contact through a dating site, then give it a try.
Issue 2: September to November 2015 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – Old Church or New Church?
Dear Lou
I’ve been going to the same church for quite a few years now, and although I like the Pastor and the people, I don’t feel like I’m being spiritually fed there.
While people are friendly, I haven’t really made any close friends. I’m a bit shy and tend to keep to myself. Should I continue going there or find myself another church? I find the idea of going to a new church quite scary.
Dear Therese
There are three significant facets to your question:
  • The first being that you feel comfortable with the pastor and people within the church;
  • The second is a lack of growing spiritually;
  • The third is you are shy and this precludes you getting close to people and letting people get close to you.
I don’t believe that you are in the right frame of mind to leave your church and start again, and if you do I would anticipate a rerun of what you are currently experiencing in the area of building friendships. My encouragement to you would be to identify a couple of people in your church and make a serious effort to get to know them and them to know you. It will be a risk for you, but it will be worth it. Don’t sit and wait for people to come to you but step out of your comfort zone and be surprised at how willing people are in getting involved in your life.
Regarding your sense of not being fed spiritually, this could develop as a part of wondering where you fit personally. You might go to church and allow the feeling of loneliness to affect your ability to really hear from God.
I always encourage people to look for a mentor, to be involved in a small group and be a part of a larger church family. Your personal growth and spiritual development will depend on having the first two functioning well. My suggestion to you is to:
1. find a mentor; and
2. get involved in a small group where you will get to know people better.
Letter 2 – Am I Ready to Get Married?
Dear Lou
I’ve been dating my girlfriend for about two years and I’m starting to feel like everyone is pressuring me to get married. We both go to the same church.
I’m only 23 and I don’t think I’m ready yet. I love her, but how do I know she’s the right one for me? What if we get married and then I find out we’ve made a terrible mistake? How do you know when you’re ready to get married?
Dear LJ
This is a question I am asked regularly. It’s good that you have been together for a couple of years, but at 23 years of age, you don’t have to rush in to marriage. Your questions clearly indicate to me that you are not ready for marriage, so don’t allow pressure from people force you to make a decision to marry.
There are a number of women with whom you could have a perfectly happy marriage. I don’t believe that there is only one person with whom you could build a happy marriage.
You look at your spiritual bonding, your personality mix, your background and a host of other issues which go in to making a happy marriage. With God’s help you have a great starting place to lay the foundation for a happy marriage. You will never get a water-tight guarantee that your marriage will work, but you do need to get someone who will give you healthy pre-marriage counselling, and you will have confidence that this is the person for you.
My encouragement is to work hard at understanding your partner, to discuss issues relating to many areas of your lives together, and most of all you will have absolute peace that this is the person you would like to spend your life with in marriage.
Successful marriages are built on trust and strong commitment to making a marriage work.
I trust you enjoy the journey together, pray much together, and when the time is ready for you to make the next step you will have peace that this is what God has for you both.
Letter 3 – Do I Forgive My Mother?
Dear Lou
My mother wasn’t nice to me or my brothers when we were growing up. She’s married again and her new husband is horrible. They’re always criticising me and how I bring up my kids and it only got worse after my husband left me.
My friend said I should go to a counsellor, but I’ve done that before and it never really helped me. Should I just forget about my mother and concentrate on my kids? My friend said I should forgive my mum, but I don’t think I can do that because I feel so angry with her.
Dear Carmel
Your question is one often asked today by people coming from broken families. In your situation you have experienced this brokenness from your family of origin, and later with your own marriage break up.
This is too deep a question to answer in a few short sentences as there are many facets which need to be considered for you and your children.
My encouragement to you would be to find a counsellor who you can trust, and work with this person for a considerable length of time. Issues you would need to deal with would include your family of origin, your own marriage break up, as well as understanding how blended families work together.
Your children are your highest priority, and you need to do all in your power to provide a healthy environment for them. This will mean that you as Mum, need to do some serious work on yourself to be the best you can be for them.
Does this mean you need to forgive your Mum for what happened in your past? Yes it does, because unforgiveness creates bitterness, and bitterness spoils life. Forgiveness is an act of the will and has nothing to do with feelings. You can forgive a person and know that this does not mean that you will be best friends with that person.
I would encourage you to find a counsellor and work through many of your life issues.
I could go into a lot more detail, but hope this little is helpful.
Issue 1: June to August 2015 Edition of SPAG Magazine
Letter 1 – My Pastor and Church Don’t Understand
Dear Lou
I’m 72 years old. My husband died six years ago and I feel such terrible loneliness.
My church and my Pastor don’t seem to understand. Will I ever feel any better? What should I do?
Yours sincerely
Dear Del
This is a question I am often asked. It is very real for single and single again people in our society, and will require some practical and proactive thinking and actions if an individual is going to experience change.
I find, almost without exception, that there is a significant number of people within any group, whether it be secular or the church who experience loneliness. So at any given time many people are experiencing loneliness, and I know that you are part of the solution to meeting this need.
I am confident that by being proactive you will find changes occurring that will benefit both yourself and others. What a great opportunity this is! Organise for a few of the singles in your sphere of influence together to meet over coffee, to go to the movies, to get involved in a hobby together, go on outdoor excursions, or simply find a place to go for friendship. Ask your club, church or other organisation to announce that a group will meet for friendship. I am sure they will be happy to do this for you.
You are your best resource, so the time has come to step out of the old patterns of your life to create a new direction. Are you ready to take up the challenge?
Warm regards
Letter 2 – Why is There Suffering?
Dear Lou
Why does God allow us to suffer hardship, even when we’ve been obedient?
Dear Sue
Sadly, every one of us lives in a fallen and broken world. As a result of this, much of the suffering we experience is the result of actions taken by other people who leave us to pick up the broken pieces. Sometimes we’re the ones who experience this extreme hardship and we’re left with a choice as to how we handle our struggle. I always say that every event in life can either make us bitter or better. We do have a choice.
I love to read Acts 27. This is Paul’s journey to Rome and it was an extremely tough journey. May I encourage you to read this passage and look for phrases Paul used in describing the journey. Ultimately we see the boat was shipwrecked, which was about as bad as it could get. Then when we come to the end of the chapter, we see these words:
“Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard first and make for land. The others held on to planks or debris from the broken ship. So everyone escaped safely to shore.” [NLT]
Sometimes we place so much emphasis on having a smooth journey in life that we forget that it is the destination which really counts. In tough times, we are encouraged to keep our eyes on God, and to keep on working to be overcomers.
I love this memo from God (shared on the right) which I hope will be a great encouragement to you.
Warm regards
Memo From GodSM1
Memo From God