When You’re Not Okay

 

“I’m okay, just a little tired. Don’t worry about me.”

Maybe people have been gently probing you and worry clouds their eyes when you say these words. You’re not okay and you know it. Still you say you’re okay because:

  • You don’t know how to say you’re not okay.
  • Everyone has problems.
  • You don’t want to be a negative person.
  • God never gives you more than you can handle.
  • You don’t want to bother someone else with your problems.
  • You’ve promised someone you won’t tell your secret.
  • You’re afraid of what your friend may think if they know how you really are.

If this is you, you’re in a very dangerous place, my friend.

We all need positive friends who will point out the good things in life, encourage us,  and share a cheery outlook. Our friends need encouragement, not non-stop complaining. But a brave façade can sometimes mask serious danger.

In recent years I watched friends walk away from their faith, come to a point of no-return in their marriage, isolate themselves from friends who could help them, fall into secret sin that no one would ever suspect them of, and burn out through sheer exhaustion. (I bet you have seen this too, because these heartaches are everywhere.) By the time I find out, it’s usually too late to help. And I wonder, “Would I or someone else have been able to help if we’d known about their struggle much earlier in the game?”

But our culture teaches us to be independent. This is especially true of people in fulltime ministry. Christian culture sometimes expects us to rely solely on God in our problems. We’re afraid to quit saying, “I’m fine,” and be honest enough to say, “I’m not okay. I’m not just struggling, I’m really in trouble.”

You may have five hundred friends on Facebook, a team you share sports with, a church family of people who can sometimes remember your name. But you still don’t have enough friends unless you have one or two you can look in the eye and say scary things like:

  • I think I’m losing my faith.
  • My marriage is in serious trouble.
  • I’m wondering if this is abuse.
  • I’m seriously depressed.
  • I fear I’m on the edge of physical exhaustion.
  • I’m hiding a secret sin.

Most often we get caught in a cycle of fear of asking hard questions and giving hard answers. If our friends are going to be able to help us, we need to be transparent enough that they will know we will welcome their input, not resent their intrusion.

People can’t always see our problems or understand the extent of them. That means we may have to initiate a conversation about our problems with a trusted friend and keep talking until they hear what we’re saying.

So much heartache in relationships could be avoided or healed if we could go to trusted friends for help and they could come to us with concerns. It’s easy to resent honest questions, but we need to welcome them from the heart of a trusted friend. Even if the questions hurt. Even if our friend doesn’t get it quite right. Because honest questions can be the warning lights for needs we don’t even know we have.

So next time a friend asks you, “Are you okay?” don’t answer too quickly. Maybe you need to be honest enough to ask for help. Trusted friends should be able to ask us questions like these without being resented:

  • On what basis do you say you are a true Christian?
  • I see some serious warning signs in your relationship. Can I talk to you about them?
  • Are you just a bit down, or are you in a spiritual, emotional, or physical place of danger?
  • Are you struggling spiritually? How can I help?
  • Are you getting enough rest?
  • How is your relationship with the Lord? What are you reading for devotions?
  • Are you spending enough quality time with your family?
  • Are you okay?

 

New Sources for Puppet Teams

My husband is now preparing to take a load of teens to teen camp at the end of the month. Missionary and local pastors take on many of the volunteer jobs at camp. Art has been volunteered to teach the teens, by groups, how to start a puppet ministry in their churches.

Missionary pastors have to be ready to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice. Art has performed his share of puppet shows as well, during our time as missionaries. In the last twenty years however, most of our puppet shows have been performed by puppet teams. Lori, our own daughter, started our first puppet team in New Zealand. Most of the time I’ve supervised the puppet team, but I’m not planning on going to teen camp this year. Art has had adequate experience and I’m sure he will do a good job. Since I write most of our puppet shows and lead most of our puppet teams, however, I wanted to help him out. While I’m preparing material for camp, I’m also writing up these materials to help others who want to start puppet teams.

If you’re thinking of starting a puppet team in your church, you might find these articles helpful.

Should Our Church Start a Puppet Ministry?

How to Start a Puppet Team

Hand Puppet Sources

How to Write a Puppet Script

Puppet Scripts

Why I Emphasize Ministry in my Christian Fiction

I’ve published seven Christian novels and every one of them has one common thread.

The settings include Taiwan, New Zealand, China, Montana, Idaho, and Minneapolis. I’ve lived many of these places, but not all of them.

Two of them are written for pre-teens, two for teens, and three for adults.

Six of them deal with cross-cultural relationships. The one that doesn’t deals with an unbeliever trying to fit into a world of unbelievers.

Six have some connection to missionaries or missionary kids.

But every one of them has a strong connection to ministry. If you read a Deb Brammer book, you’ll read about ministry. Why do all my books have such a strong link to ministry?

Ministry is who I am.

I grew up in a pastor’s family. As a teen I helped my dad start churches. My husband and I have served as missionaries for forty years, first in Taiwan (1980-1996) and now in New Zealand (1998-today.) I not only feel called to ministry. I can’t image being anything else but a fulltime missionary or pastor’s wife.

I feel a strong passion for ministry.

After all God has done for me, why would I want to do anything else? Serving God and others is the main purpose God put us on earth. While it is possible and necessary for non-vocational Christian workers to serve the Lord, there’s no higher calling than serving the Lord in fulltime ministry. It allows us to take part in drawing people to Christ and helping them grow to maturity. Though the Lord doesn’t call everyone to this kind of life, we need more Christian workers. We need to challenge more people toward vocational ministry.

It’s hard to find ministry in Christian fiction.

When you think about it, isn’t that a bit strange? Scan current Christian novels and you’ll find lots of detectives, law enforcement and search and rescue workers, medical and legal professionals, but few pastors and missionaries. For some reason, Christian stories about Amish abound. Lots of characters are involved with house renovation. Christian celebrity protagonists are fairly common. But books about vocational Christian workers are rare.

Don’t Christian workers read fiction too? Wouldn’t they like to find fiction that resonates with their experience? One of my readers, a pastor’s wife, wrote this review of Broken Windows:

Now THIS is Christian fiction. “Broken Windows” is recognizable to me. These are the situations and conversations that I am familiar with. These are the people that I know and love in churches and Christian homes and colleges all over the nation. Deb weaves through her stories an uncanny way to my own issues I’ve dealt with either in the past or right now.

I believe many Christians would enjoy and profit from Christian fiction about characters involved in ministry. So I include ministry in most of my writing.

When you find vocational ministry in Christian fiction, it can be disappointing.

Stories about pastors seem to feature mega-church pastors involved in moral failure or who are in ministry for the power trip. Stories of current day missionaries usually feature some strong social evil like terrorism, slave trade, kidnapping or hostage taking. As if missionary life isn’t worth reading about unless lives are in danger.

I do understand that writing about church life can be tricky when your readers may come from a broad range of backgrounds. No wonder so many authors write historical novels with only one church in town.
I also understand that authors often aim for the most suspenseful stories they can tell, with life-and-death stakes. True-to-life stories about pastors and missionaries don’t usually fit into the suspense genre.

Personally, I yawn at scenes with car chases and blazing guns. I love books with great characters who I can identify with. And though pastors and missionaries all have their flaws, I like to see them presented as good role models.

In my Art Spotlight Mysteries I featured Jordan, whose parents were missionaries. In Broken Windows, the characters were involved in a kid’s Bible club. In Deja Who? Jordan is involved in a Bible study group for Internationals at Minnesota State University. In I Scream the ministry aspect is not as obvious, but the main characters are active in church and reaching out in a personal ministry to Destiny Champion.

I’m currently working on a ministry series that involves ordinary people on a mission field. I can’t really find anything out there that is like it, but I feel some will want to read about characters who are true-to-life missionaries. If you continue to subscribe to this Book Blast, you’ll hear more about that in the future.

Everyone should be involved in ministry as they serve others as a way of serving God.

Ministry is for everyone. I like these books by other authors because of the sense of personal ministry that is strong in them.

Doesn’t She Look Natural by Angela Hunt (Fairlawn Series)

I love this book because in it Jennifer Graham inherits a funeral home, which is a great situation. Though she initially wants to sell it immediately, she finds that running a funeral home can minister to people in a time of great need.

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray (Chicago World’s Fair Mystery Series)

In this lightly Christian book, rich girl Eloisa hates being in a position where social class defines her and expectations dictate who she can marry. Class expectations sentence her to a life of triviality until she breaks with tradition to work at Hope House, a place where she can make a positive contribution in spite of her social class. She chooses to serve others over serving herself in the privileged lifestyle to which she was born.

Cape Refuge by Terri Blackstock (Cape Refuge Series)

I loved this series because, although it is a mystery series, it deals with people in ministry who make it their business to help people in need.

And now, for my giveaway for this Book Blast:

Truth- Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock (Moonlighters Series)

This well-written mystery features brothers and sisters who come together to find out who killed their sister-in-law. They need to clear their brother’s name and reunite him with a 5-year-old son he has lost in a custody battle. The stakes are high and the resolution is satisfying. It’s a great mystery in its own right, but I especially like it because it deals with forgiveness and serving others. It has a strong Christian message without being preachy.

And the winner is:

Ruth Grosse! Her husband is a pastor in Dillon, Montana. Ruth is an excellent pianist and busy, caring pastor’s wife.

4 Ways to Reach Out to Your Unsaved Husband

  1. Make a list of things about your husband you wish were different.

If there are issues you can’t accept, work to resolve them.

Burn the rest of the list.

  1. Make a list of things about him you’re thankful for.

Thank God for these things.

Then thank your husband.

When things about him bother you, replace those thoughts with things you’re thankful for.

  1. Study your husband.

What foods are his favorites?

What makes him feel loved? (Think love languages.)

What does he like to talk about?

What activities have you enjoyed doing together in the past?

What activities would he enjoy doing by himself or with his friends?

What has he wanted to do for a long time but hasn’t been able to do?

  1. Build Bridges

Use the things you’ve learned about him to find ways to show love for him.

Do something that he would enjoy even if it doesn’t interest you.

Make good memories together. Laugh and have fun.

Make home a pleasant place for him.

Find areas of commonality that you can agree on and talk about.

Bring him into decisions about the kids.

Agree on family rules.

Look for ways to support him.

Show him who God is by reflecting God’s image.

Share the gospel in a positive way as he gives you opportunity.

Be an attractive Christian.

 

 

15 questions a Christian girl should ask before she says, “Yes, I will marry you.”

  1. Is this the man God wants me to marry?
  2. Is he a Christian?
  3. Is he growing as a Christian and becoming a spiritual leader?
  4. Are the things that are most important to me also important to him?
  5. Do we share common goals, dreams, and values?
  6. Do we share similar backgrounds? If not, are we prepared to face the differences?
  7. Are we going the same direction?
  8. Do our personalities work well together?
  9. Have we built a strong friendship together?
  10. Can I trust and respect him?
  11. Are we stronger together than we are apart?
  12. Do our parents and trusted Christian friends approve of our relationship? Why or why not?
  13. Does our relationship make good sense as well as bring us happiness?
  14. Have we given enough time for our relationship to be sure God is leading us into marriage?
  15. Are we both convinced God is leading us into a lifetime relationship?