Monday, August 31, 2009


Wisdom rises upon the ruins of folly. ~ Thomas Fuller

We gain knowledge from other people, but wisdom comes from within. We have to live our own lives, profit from our blunders, and learn from our experience. Nobody can do these things for us.

Part of living is making mistakes. Some of us have to keep on making the same mistakes until we suddenly make a breakthrough and achieve a new perspective on ourselves and our actions. It often seems we are never going to be ready for the next step...and then suddenly we take it and we come through. We think we're not going to make it; then we make a leap forward.

Nothing needs to be lost or wasted in our lives. Even the folly of our problem can teach us hard lessons if we are attentive and brave. Our craziness may help us to see more clearly and gain insight into ourselves and others.


Friday, August 28, 2009


Shame is the motor behind compulsive behavior ~Anonymous

Shame. Even the word is stark. When we feel shame, we feel utterly worthless, not because of what we've done but because of who we think we are. We think we're unlovable, incapable of giving love. The more our compulsions worsened, the more out of control and powerless we felt. That's when we found shame waiting in the chaos. We wanted to be invisible, to disappear.

But, really, there was something we wanted more: a way out. We found it by hanging onto the knowledge that we have dignity because we have life. It was given to us by our Creator who loves us unconditionally. We no longer need to use things (food, drink) or let ourselves be used. Instead, we live in grace and with dignity and in peace.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Losing Your Marbles

This is a story that's been around for awhile, but I think it helps give some perspective on setting priorities...seeing what's really real in our lives.

An older man was giving some advice to a younger man.

"It's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much," he said. "Let me tell you something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities. You see, one day I sat down and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about 75 years. Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and came up with 3,900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in his lifetime.

"It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail," he continued, "and by that time I had lived thru over 2,800 Saturdays. I got to thinking if I lived to be 75, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. "

He went on to explain that he bought 1000 marbles and put them in a clear plastic container in his favorite work area at home. "Every Saturday since then," he said, " I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There's nothing like watching your time here on earth run out to help you get your priorities straight."

Then the older gentleman finished, "Now before I take my lovely wife out for breakfast, let me tell you one last thing. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday, then I have been given a little extra time."

We don't know how much time we will have, whether we'll get extra time or there will be marbles left in our container. We can't choose that, but we can choose what we do with the time from here until then.

Peace and blessings.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Defusing Anger, Finding Forgiveness

Only that action is just which does not harm either party to a dispute. ~Gandhi

We may find ourselves engaged in a dispute and determined at all costs to impose our solution, even though we know it may harm our opponent. We don't really want a solution at all; we want revenge.

The desire to harm others may derive from feelings that we have been hurt, as children perhaps. We may have been neglected and misunderstood or even abused and assaulted. So the world owes us something and we intend to collect. We may even hold grudges against successful people, not because they have done us wrong, but merely because they are successful.

We need to let our shame and sorrow out into the clear light of day. By opening ourselves up to others, we will surely find that we can defuse our anger and our desire to hurt others. We can stand on an equal footing with others and have no more need for resentment and revenge. We can begin to forgive.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Change is Hard

Change means movement, movement means friction, friction means heat, heat means controversy. ~ Saul Alinsky

We talk about wanting to change, to face up to our issues, and our desire is real and geniune. But we must realize change can continue to involve real pain for ourselves and others.

We have been so comfortable for so long with our issues! They have become a pacifier and a crutch. We wonder why we should bother to move forward and away from our world of ritutal and fantasy and comfort.

But were we really at home there? What about our anger? Our remorse? Our feelings of hopelessness and despair? Our shame that caused us to shun others and isolate ourselves? Were we truly comfortable? Has change been so harsh in comparison to the misery of our issues?

Even knowing there would be struggles and disagreements along the way, one day we decided, "ENOUGH!" We were ready then to face our struggles for a new, honest, way of living.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Failure Is An Inside Job

In our culture, too many people bleive that contentment come from attaining material possessions or positions of power. But they aren't the keys to contentment either. If yo are tempted to believe that they are, remember the words of John D. Rockefeller. When a journalist asked him how much wealth was enough, the millionaire, who was at the time one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, answered, "Just a little more".

Contentment comes from having a positive attitiude. It means:
  • Expecting the best in everything - not the worst
  • Remaining upbeat - even when you get beat up
  • Seeing solutions in every problem - not problems in every solution
  • Believing in yourself - even when others believe you have failed
  • Holding on to hope - even when others say it's hopeless.
No matter what happens to you, a positive attitude comes from within. Your circumstances and your contentment are unrelated.

~John C. Maxwell, in Falling Forward


Friday, August 21, 2009

Have You Bent Your Kids Today?

That seems like a strange thing to say. But the idea is actually millennia old. It comes from Proverbs 22:6 (see: NASB; God's Word; King James; American King James; ASV; Basic English Bible; Douay-Rheims; Darby; ERV; World Bible; YLT; Other traslations/interpretations).

“Train your child up in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” (King James Version). Probably most people have heard of this wise saying. I’m not a Hebrew scholar by any means, but I’ve heard that the translation truest to the original text is “Train your child up in the way he is BENT” (capitalization mine). Children are bent? Well, in a way, yes.

The idea from this comes from the vineyard. Of course, vineyards are essential to life, even more so in olden days. If you’ve seen a vineyard you will notice that vines grow every which way. They don’t grow straight up, they’re curvy and gnarled and as much as it looks orderly, the vines are all over. When the vines are young, they do grow curvy. If you try to force the young vine to grow straight, one of two things can happen: 1) the vine breaks, gets destroyed, dies; or 2) the vine does not produce as much as vines allowed to grow naturally. What growers do, then, is guide the vine as straight as it can grow, working with the natural bending and curving to get the desired effect.

What does this have to do with children? The exact same thing applies, thus, this is what the Proverb is telling us. Allow children to grow naturally, using their natural, God-given character, to teach them. Then, they will not rebel when they are old, the teaching will be ingrained in them.

When we try to make our children do what is unnatural to them we can break them or cause them to be damaged in some way. We often do this by forcing them to behave perfectly. Kids are not perfect behavers. They are wild, have tons of energy, and they make LOTS of mistakes. That is the way all kids are bent. Some are bent more than others, though…we’ve all seen mild-mannered kids and we’ve seen extremely wild kids. A wise parent takes Proverbs’ advice and USES those personality traits to guide the child to proper behavior, not PERFECT behavior, but proper behavior.

If you need advice on how to bend your kids without breaking them, seek the advice of a wise counselor who understands this verse.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Facing Challenges

Our lives are an exercise in facing challenges. We dream the grandest of dreams as youngsters only to discover that we must have loads of inner strength and determination in order to meet our goals. Our hard work does not always yield the results we expect. And it is when we find ourselves frustrated by the trials we face or unable to meet our own expectations that we are most apt to take notice of those individuals who appear to accomplish great feats effortlessly. Some people’s lives seem to magically fall into place. We can see the blessings they have received, the ease with which they have attained their desires, their unwavering confidence, and their wealth. But, because we can never see the story of their lives as a whole, it is important that we refrain from passing judgment or becoming envious.

Throughout our lives, we glimpse only the outer hull of others’ life experiences, so it’s tempting to presuppose that the abundance they enjoy is the result of luck rather than diligent effort. In a small number of cases, our assumptions may mirror reality. But very few people “have it easy.” Everyone must overcome difficulties and everyone has been granted a distinctive set of talents with which to do so. An individual who is highly gifted may nonetheless have to practice hours upon hours and correct themselves repeatedly in order to hone their talents. Their accomplishments are more likely than not the result of ongoing hard work and sacrifice. You, no doubt, have natural abilities that you have nurtured and your gifts may be the very reason you strive as tirelessly as you do. Yet others see only the outcome of your efforts and not the efforts themselves.

Our intellects, our hearts, and our souls are constantly being tested. Life will create new challenges for you to face each time you prove yourself capable of overcoming the challenges of the past. What you deem difficult will always differ from that which others deem difficult. The tests you will be given will be as unique as you are. If you focus on doing the best you can and making use of the blessings you have been given, the outcome of your efforts will be a joyous reflection of your dedication.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Difference Do We Make Anyway?

A while back, Dr. James Dobson, in Focus on the Family magazine, answered a question from a lady who asked why God answered a prayer to heal her son, but didn’t heal her husband. He responded that this is a sign of God’s sovereignty, but that He is always with us in these situations. He went on to tell about some friends of his, one who has lived with hemophilia from age 1 and this man’s wife who was cured of Hodgkin’s disease after intense prayer. The point of Dr. Dobson’s reply is that we do not always know why God says “yes” to certain prayers and “no” to other. It is God’s will that is in charge and not our own. Some are left to suffer and other healed, but that it all works out to fulfill God’s Plan.

What struck me as I was reading this article was that suffering and healing of Dr. Dobson's friends very much had a purpose. In this case, one purpose was to help him answer the lady’s question. It helped him explain to this lady that she is not alone in her questioning and that we have to trust that God is always with us regardless of the outcome. Our prayers matter but we may never see the results of those prayers.

Several years ago I had a conversation with a colleague of mine who was questioning what difference we really make in the world. During this particular time in her life, she was really struggling in her faith. Personally and professionally, she felt insignificant. We worked together and did similar tasks, but she did not see results in her work and was very frustrated. Spiritually, she had all but given up hope that God answered prayers. She then asked how I handled the frustration of trying so hard to make a difference in the lives of the people where we worked yet not seeming to have an impact. I told her it was due to faith.

Our job was to help manage the behavior of people who have mental retardation. In and of itself, it is a difficult job, but the bureaucracy of state government was even more difficult to manage. After a few years, I realized that my job really did not make a difference in the lives of these people. There had been dozens of therapist before me who did the same things I was doing; yet the same behaviors continued. Thus, the actual duties I performed did not have an impact. What did make a difference was me. I began to place less emphasis on my job duties and more emphasis on ministering to the needs of the individuals. I ministered by showing that I cared and by allowing God’s love to show through me. Still, results were scarce, but I had planted seeds and I had faith those seeds would grow.

I told my colleague that she could make a difference every day of her life if she approaches all she does with the faith that God is in control. Even seemingly minor, everyday activities can make a huge impact in the life of someone. Consider driving to work. The little courtesies you display, such as letting someone cut in front of you or allowing someone to turn before you can impact those other drivers lives. Perhaps they were having a hectic start to the day and your act of kindness was the one bright spot that started the day running smoothly. The catch is you will probably never know what impact you have had.

The same applies to work. If we approach work with the mindset that we are there to do God’s will in all we do, then picking up a dropped piece of paper or holding a door open can be the spark that starts a chain reaction of goodwill. Not to long ago, there was a movement to do “Random acts of kindness”. This was touted on the Oprah Winfrey Show, promoted by books such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, and other such venues. This was exactly what I was trying to describe to my colleague. By doing random acts of kindness, you give others a glimpse of God’s love for them. They may not realize that is what you are doing, but that tiny glimpse may be all they need to seek further the kingdom of God. Yet we may never see the results, but that is not really what matters, is it?


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dealing with Boredom

The human mind thrives on novelty. What was once a source of pleasure can become tedious after a time. Though our lives are full, boredom lurks around every corner because we innately long for new experiences. Yet boredom by its very nature is passive. In this idle state of mind, we may feel frustrated at our inability to be productive or engage in tasks. We may even attempt to lose ourselves in purposeless or self-destructive pursuits like addictions or overeating.

While this can be a sign of depression, it can also be an invitation to challenge yourself. Boredom can become the motivation that drives you to learn, explore the exotic, experiment, and develop your true potential.

In some religious traditions, boredom is perceived as a pathway to self-awareness. Boredom itself is not detrimental to the soul—it is the manner in which we respond to it that determines whether it becomes a positive or a negative influence in our lives. When you respond by actively filling the emptiness you feel lurking in yourself, you cultivate creativity and innovation. If, when in the grip of boredom, you have difficulty acknowledging the merits of any activities you might otherwise enjoy, generate your own inspiration.

Before you find yourself beset by boredom, sit down now and create a list of tasks you can consult when it feels like there is simply nothing to do. Referring to a list of topics you want to learn more about, projects you’ve yet to begin, or even pending chores can spark your creativity and reawaken your zest for life.

When we are troubled by boredom, it is not that there is nothing to do but rather that we are not stimulated by the options before us. A bored mind can be the canvas upon which innovation is painted and the womb in which novelty is nourished. When you identify boredom as a signal that you need to test your boundaries, it can be the force that presses you to strive for opportunities you thought were beyond your reach and to indulge your desire for adventure.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Simple Encouraging thought for a Friday

When I looked at the top of the mountain, I realized that all the people at the top of the mountain, didn't just fall there.

Meditate on that for today. Journal what it means for you in your life, your struggles, your journey.

Let me know your thoughts.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Encouraging Hope

What is hope? It is not just positive thinking, a good mindset, or optimism.

Webster's Online dictionary defines hope as "to desire with expectation of obtainment" and "to expect with confidence". It is the feeling that what is desired can be obtained. We can get what we want and that events will turn out for the best.

Other examples or descriptions of hope:

  • An adventure, a going forward, a confident search

  • A multidimensional dynamic force, characterized by a confident yet uncertain expectation of achieving a future goal. Which, to the hoping person, is realistically possible and personally significant.

  • The elevating feeling we experience when we see, in our thoughts and dreams, a path to a better life, a brighter future...with the understanding that significant barriers may exist along the way.

  • A non-linear path with many twists and turn of doubt and fear that can negatively affect the view of it

  • The feeling of knowing how to get what you want out of life and the desire to make it happen.

  • A faith in the unseen

  • A spiritual certainty

Without hope there is despair. Studies show that when there is no hope then there often people contemplating death and suicide. When people choose to stop living in their current realm of pain, fear and negative circumstances and seek help (counseling, a friend, a pastor) they are seeking a more hopeful life. We have two paths when dealing with people in despair. We can focus on their mistakes (those twists and turns along the non-linear path), what is wrong with them or we can focus on strengths, their potential for right, so that they may regain hope. Research shows that depressive symptoms decrease as hope is increased.

It is important that we all maintain an attitude of hope. Our attitude and behavior is what helps elicit hope and positive behavior in others. It is important that we express our faith in others and their ability to succeed. We must encourage and empower those we come in contact with to see beyond the discouraging circumstances. We must give them another picture to view, one of possibilities and potential. Hope is contagious, forward-thinking and goal oriented.

Still more essential is that we help others restore their faith in themselves. Once they believe in their own ability to change, then they can see that the circumstances are only temporary and they can get back on the road to hope.

When we encourage exploration of alternatives to the discouraging situation, we are instilling hope. We can do this by validating their feelings of despair, but not giving credence to the lie of despair. We can give them power over the situation by exploring options and alternatives and providing a sounding board for problem-solving. When they learn to develop hope from the inside out, even in one small aspect of their life, they can take that seed of hope and water it into a whole garden of hope. They can take that sliver and generalize it to a whole host of other life situations. They will begin to see possibilities that were once invisible to them.

When people restore hope they can explore where they were and derive meaning from it. They can learn from the past and move forward. They have the ability to set and achieve realistic goals. When the feeling of hope is restored people often feel more capable; they can do what is needed, see beyond today, and visualize their future.

Additional resources:[1].pdf


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another Thought on Conquering Our Fears

Everyone has fears—it is a natural part of being human. Fear can protect us from harm by sending a rush of adrenaline to help us physically deal with potential danger. If we did not have fear, we would boldly walk off the edge of cliffs or play in rush-hour traffice. But there are times when fear may keep us from participating fully in life. It can paralize us by what we percieve to be "danger" in social situations, people, objects, or life in general. These are the phobias we explored earlier. A children's book my kids enjoy talks about "Fear can be your friend, or fear can be your foe....that's something everyone needs to know". So true.

Once we realize that fear is a state of mind, we can choose to face our fears, change our minds, and live the life we want to live.

Our minds are powerful tools. Like computers, storing and using data, our minds make certain connections between thought and response. We have the ability to observe these and choose differently. No matter where the fear came from, we can create new connections by choosing new thoughts. We can create a new experience of reality. This journey requires many small steps, as well as patience and courage through the process.

Here’s an example: You decide to overcome your fear of driving on the freeway. Your plan of action starts with examining your thoughts and finding a new way of seeing the situation. When you’re ready, you enlist a calm companion to support you as you take the first step of merging into the slow lane and using the first exit. Your heart may be racing, but your confidence will be boosted by the accomplishment. Repeat this until you are comfortable, with or without help, and then drive one exit further! When you are ready, you can try driving in the middle lane, for longer periods each time, until you find yourself going where you want to go. This gradual process is similar for conquering any fear, but if you find it overwhelming, you can always seek the help of a professional.

You may think that you are the only one with a particular fear, that nobody else could possibly be scared of ordinary things such as water, heights, public speaking, or flying. These types of fears are very common, and you can have great success overcoming them. Remember, it is not the absence of the fear but the courage to take action anyway that determines success. When we learn to face our fears, we learn to observe our thoughts and feelings but not be ruled by them. Instead we choose how to shape the lives we want.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Anxiety, Part 4

An anxiety disorder can greatly reduce your quality of life, but it is treatable and can be easily managed. Fully understanding this disorder is essential to your success. Research symptoms, medications, natural remedies etc.

Behavioral Therapies

Counseling, particularly a type of counseling called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), has been shown in research to be quite effective at reducing the symptoms of anxiety and helping people live normal lives. Many people get to the point where they have no symptoms at all! Traditional talk-therapy is also a helpful treatment for many. Try one and if it does not work, try another.

For individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a newer treatment called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of trauma related issues. It does not work for everyone, but for some, just one session of EMDR has brought significant relief from symptoms. Check the EMDR website to find a trained and qualified therapist near you

Anxiety Medications

There are quite a number of medications used to treat anxiety disorder. The most popular of these being a class of medicines called Benzodiazepines. These include {{{Xanax, Valium, and AtivalValium, Atival and Xanax. While these medicines do bring some sort of relief, they are accompanied by side effects, some very serious. Side effects can occur because of the medicines ability to greatly affect activity of the brain.

Side effects usually include:

  • Headaches

  • Diarrhea

  • Insomnia

  • Irritability

  • Loss of appetite

  • Change in sex drive/performance

  • Mood changes

  • Allergic reactions

  • Muscle cramps

  • Tiredness

  • Depression

  • Confusion

  • Difficulty speaking

Medicine Usage

Make note that not all medications work the same for every individual. Each individual is different and has different levels of tolerance. We all carry around batches of chemicals in our bodies (hormones, neurotransmitters, water, minerals, vitamins, etc). Each of us has different levels of the chemicals, mine are different than yours. Medications are also chemicals. So putting the same amount of chemical in me versus you may cause your chemicals to react to the medications differently than mine.

Anti-anxiety drugs should only be used short term. Long term use can lead to physical or psychological addiction. Whenever you want to quit taking these drugs discuss with your physician and work out a plan to gradually reduce the quantity you take. This should greatly decrease any withdrawal reaction.

Natural Anxiety Remedies

Many people do not care for prescription drugs or the side effects and opt for more natural solutions.

These sometimes include hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, yoga, meditation, exercise and herbal remedies. Always check with your medical doctor before trying any herbal remedies as these may interact with any other medications you are taking.

Next we'll take a look at depression......

Monday, August 3, 2009

Anxiety, Part 3

Some Anxiety Symptoms

Individuals that suffer from anxiety disorder usually exhibit several different symptoms. Some of them are listed below.

  • Extreme Fear

  • Shortness of breath

  • Insomnia

  • Irritability

  • Feeling of lump in throat

  • Muscle spasm/twitching

  • Irregular heart beat

  • Heart palpitations

  • Fever/chills

Keep in mind, that there are more symptoms and different degrees of the symptoms. If you feel like you have some of these and are concerened, please see your medical physician or other health care provider or a licensed mental health professional in your area. Because some of these symptoms usually occur with other illnesses it is important to seek professional advice. A physician should be the one to diagnose if you have anxiety.

For an idea of where you are with your anxiety, you can take this online assessment (for educational purposes only). Share your results with your PCP or MH professional.

It is always best to rule out other medical conditions. Ruling these out sometimes bring some peace of mind and can go a long way in easing some of your anxiety related symptoms.

Finally, tomorrow we'll look at some treatment options

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