Dale Johnson: This is my first opportunity to meet with Martha Peace, and I’m excited to get to know her a little bit. I’m excited for you all to hear a little bit from her. Martha has been with our organization since 1989 as a certified member, and I am so excited that she is here with us today to share a little bit about what she’s learned through the years in counseling. Martha, can you tell me a little bit about your history with biblical counseling?
Martha Peace: Well, I did not want to be a counselor. I only wanted to teach the Bible verse-by-verse, I wanted to be Kay Arthur. Lou Priolo came to our church, and I was very taken with him talking about bitterness. I heard him do a lecture on bitterness. My husband, Sanford, took his courses. Well, after that, Lou came to me and asked me if I would become certified and come to work for him part-time at the Atlanta Biblical Counseling Center. I said, “No, I don’t want to do that,” so he went behind my back to my husband Sanford and said, “If you tell her to do it, she’ll do it.” Sanford agreed with him and came to me and said, “I really think you should try it.” Well, I saw that really as a submission issue, but I didn’t want to do it. But I did it, and I’m now, of course, glad.
I worked part time for him for eight years. I learned so much, and it was during that time that he helped me develop material on being a godly wife, and with a lot of help from a lot of people, I wrote The Excellent Wife book. Our church didn’t have a biblical counseling ministry, Faith Bible Church. I was on the NANC list, women would call me and they would come to my home, we would sit around the kitchen table and I would counsel them, and probably about half of the women that would come were from my church family and about half from outside of that.
Ten years ago, our church started an official ACBC training center, and I’m part of that. I’m one of the volunteer counselors there every Thursday all day long. I remember Lou telling me years ago that you have to counsel for a while before you begin to see patterns within the struggles that people have, and once you do that, it’s easier to ask questions, to give hope, and to teach them what they need to know. You’re better at getting to the heart of the matter and figuring out what to do.
Dale Johnson: That is an interesting piece of the story. I need to find Lou Priolo at the conference and tell him thank you for inviting you to be a part of biblical counseling. We’re so grateful for your ministry. The Lord has been very gracious. I’ve personally benefited in my teaching in utilizing some of the resources that the Lord has given through you to us. As you’ve been doing biblical counseling, you mention that we learn so much in the process of practice, seeing and doing and getting to understand people and know people. Talk about some of the things that were surprising to you in your time as a biblical counselor.
Martha Peace: Four things come to mind that really shocked me and surprised me. One was counselees that are lazy. I don’t have much tolerance for that, and I had to learn how to deal with them. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, they’re not going to make progress if they’re lazy.
A second thing is wives who would come for counseling, and they would be upset because their husbands wouldn’t have sex with them. They could go months, and I would’ve thought it would be the other way around.
I remember how upset I got the first time a person lied to me and I found out about that. I told Lou, “I can’t believe this person lied to me.” I would’ve counseled them differently had I known the truth. He said, “Martha, people lie.”
The fourth thing is how many women in the Southeast, where I live, think they are Christians and they’re not.
Dale Johnson: Those are interesting points that those things would surprise you. You’d think otherwise in many of those cases. Typically you do a workshop or you do a time of teaching on counseling tips, getting to the heart of the matter in a timely way. What are some of the things that you typically like to accomplish in a workshop like that, when you’re teaching other counselors particular tips that they can take home with them?
Martha Peace: I like to help a counselee think in terms of the big picture. I have several items on my big picture list that I help them to think in those terms. I’ve learned a lot of tips mainly from Lou, from Jay Adams, from Wayne Mack, and then over the years of course I’ve come up with other things too.
Dale Johnson: You mentioned there’s some big picture items, and it’s always helpful as a counselor when you’re approaching a counselee and you’re trying to understand what’s going on. Honestly, we cannot respond well with wisdom and counsel until we understand the big picture. What are some of the examples of big picture items that will be helpful in the counseling room for us to think through?
Martha Peace: Of course the gospel. Because of where I live, just because somebody says they’re Christian, they really might not know it. I just tell them we need to start at the basics and I wrote a salvation worksheets years ago and originally took my parents and my aunt and uncle through that. Then I remember reading Ted Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart, and he talks about using the child’s sin as a springboard for the gospel. I thought, “What a good idea.” I would use that as a springboard for my dad to give him the gospel. In fact, one time he said, “How many more times are we going to have this conversation?” and I said, “Well, until the Lord saves you, or you die, or I die.” He said, “Okay,” and he did get saved at 89. It was unbelievable. But the salvation worksheets and a couple of other Bible studies that I’ve written are free downloads on my website if anybody wants to use those.
Dale Johnson: You want to go ahead and give that website Martha? I think that would be helpful.
Martha Peace: Well, somebody stole my domain name. It was marthapeace.com, but if you just do a search on Martha Peace, it’ll come up, it’s a BlogSpot.
Another big picture item is loving God and loving others. I take them to Matthew 22:34-39 and explain how Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God, and that means that you obey Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Then He added a second great commandment, loving others. I would want to teach my counselee to think in terms of, if you’re patient with somebody you’re showing love, if you’re kind to somebody, kind words or kind tone of voice, and I go through 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I’ll have them memorize it. If that’s the second greatest commandment, they need to be good at it and they need to be able to think in those terms. That’s just a couple of examples. I have more, but that’s thinking in terms of the big picture and the gospel. Coming back to the gospel and then loving God and loving others.
Dale Johnson: Thinking about how to understand a person, those things are non-negotiables in the way in which we understand a person and how they live and how they interact in the world. What’s their relationship to the gospel? What’s their relationship as they relate to God and then to others? We were talking before we went live, and you’ve mentioned that you learned so much from Lou Priolo, you learned from Dr. Jay Adams and Wayne Mack, and I’m sure there are others. You also mentioned that you learned something from an interesting source. You said you learn a few things from Fox News. Put that together for me, help me understand that.
Martha Peace: A few years ago, I was watching Fox News and they showed this video of a liquor store being robbed. The owner was at the cash register, and the video camera was up high behind him so you could see his back and his hands and you could see anybody that walked up. There was this little middle-aged man, he certainly didn’t look like a robber. He came right up to the cash register and he drew a gun on the owner. The owner wasn’t expecting it and he, just in a split second, did two things. He took his left hand and pushed the man’s gun over to the side, and he drew his own gun. I cheered and thought that’s not the first time that owner did that little move. He must have practiced it thousands of times. I thought, when people have an anger problem and they really are believers, they know the Lord, or they are anxious, whatever it is, they need emergency trigger thoughts to think that are biblical and God-honoring and true and right. I help them brainstorm and come up with some of those simple, biblical things, with a very high view of God. For those that really know the Lord, it helps them to renew their mind.
Dale Johnson: And then prepare them for whatever may come against them in life. That’s beautiful, as we think about learning to be disciplined and trained in righteousness, learning to hide those truths of God’s word in our heart so that we don’t sin against the Lord.
Attitudes of a Transformed Heart by Martha Peace