Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Formula For A Good Life

I have debated as to whether I should weigh in on all the whooha that has been flying around the news lately, but I decided that a different perspective might be a good thing to plant as a seed for thought.  To clarify, this is not a comment on Phil Robertson.  What it is, is a comment on what I see as the basic issue to be worked on.....the lack of MANNERS, RESPECT and HONOR in our society today.  These words seem to have lost a lot of impact in our world and many struggle with the mere definitions of the words.  That is a tragedy.

As a young person, I was taught to respect my elders, to be polite to those I came in contact with and to honor other human beings.  Although I didn't always do that, what I have learned is that these things seem to be a very good formula for living in community with other people.  It does not take a lot of effort to be kind, it does, however, take effort to be kind when others are being unkind to you.  To do that, one must draw on one's own character.  That means being the person you are or that you are trying to be, in the face of disrespect or dishonor.  If you have not developed these qualities as part of your character, then as you try to draw from your inner strength, there aren't a lot of resources there to draw from.   This does not mean that we lay down and let others run over us.  It means that we respond in ways that are respectful, to ourselves and others while getting our point across.  That, my friend, is an art.  It is much easier to let fly out of our mouths anything that comes to mind, unfiltered and not well thought out.  It requires SELF DISCIPLINE to filter our responses.

It also requires empathy for others.  There are many times when I get frustrated with the actions or responses of other people.  In that, what I try to do is put myself in their place and ask how I would like to be treated in that particular circumstance or situation.  Does it work all the time?  I can't say that it does....but it works much of the time.  I often ask myself things this a hill you want to die on or in the long run, how important is the point I'm trying to make?  Those questions help me to monitor my thoughts, responses and behavior until I have achieved a level of automatic response that I am happy with.  I have to remind myself that I have a multitude of responses to choose from and many of them are better than others.

POLITENESS, RESPECT and HONOR are FILTERS, not just random suggestions.  These values filter our speech and our behavior. This is why we seek to teach them to our children.  They help us develop the ART of speaking our mind without being rude to others.  It is important to develop this art in our lives.  What we see today, almost everywhere we look, are examples of people being RUDE.  It seems the media likes to use highly charged words like racism and hate speech and what have you.  However the bottom line is that people are being rude to each other, or disrespectful or dishonorable to each other...which creates hard feelings.  When you boil emotional responses down to their simplest forms, that is what you find.  Movies, commercials, sit-coms, TV shows, talk radio and a myriad of other media choices demonstrate how people are impolite, rude or disrespectful to each other.  When our children watch these things, or even as adults we immerse ourselves in it, it will tend to erode the filters that are so important to our successful functioning.

What would happen, if in 2014 we all as individuals decided to strengthen these filters in our lives?  What if we practiced the art of honor, respect and being our society, in our our HOMES?  In doing that, we could actually BE the change that we are asking to see in our respective spheres of influence.  Can one person change anything?  The answer is.....YES.  You can change YOU and that is the most important person you know.  BE kindness, BE respect, BE honor and watch what happens in your life.  You will be amazed.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Choose Life!

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against 

you that I have set before you life and death, blessings 

and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your 

children may live

Deuteronomy 30:19

I don't know that what I am about to say is extremely profound, but it certainly is part of the mission statement of my life.  I have often wondered why I don't like to give up until every possible option has been explored and even a few more!  Today I have been able to articulate goes like this:


I fight for my family, for my pets and for my friends because I believe that God told the Israelites to choose life for a reason.....Life is better than death!  

In every way that we, as human beings can choose life we absolutely should.  Choose life in your relationships by honoring the people in them.  Choose life in your physical being by doing everything you can to stay healthy.   That means choose a positive perspective, see the good not the negative.  That doesn't mean that we ignore problems and go into a place of denial, but simply put, if you look for problems you're going to find them.  If you look for people's flaws, you are going to find them.  If you major on the negative, what is going to be huge on the movie screen of your life?  Negativity!  

Each time we choose to put something into our body that doesn't bring it life, we are choosing death.  Toxic foods, alcohol, drugs, many processed foods, tobacco etc are things that our body has to fight in order to stay healthy.  I was told once by someone I highly respect that, "the body is created to be healthy and if we give it what it needs to be healthy, you can't beat health off with a stick."  God gave each of us a body that has as its sole purpose, the mission to keep us alive.  It will do that until we finally overload it to the point where it can't accomplish that mission anymore.  

Philippians 4:8 NKJV says this:  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.  

This portion of scripture is not a suggestion.  It has a purpose.  Our bodies respond to positive thought as much as they respond to negative thought.  When we think about what isn't going right, what we are afraid of, who isn't doing what the way we want them to, we not only affect our physical beings and our mental health, but we affect them as well.  Hebrews 11:1 says that FAITH is the SUBSTANCE of things HOPED for, the EVIDENCE of things NOT SEEN.  As we concentrate on negative thoughts, we are putting emotional energy, thought and physical response into what we are thinking about.  Faith works both ways....the substance of things hoped for can either be negative or positive.  You may think that faith doesn't work, but look at what you are thinking about, what you are expecting and what you say about yourself.  If you see the negative, do you have negative?  That is faith as well.

As we speak to each other, husbands and wives, parents and children....what kind of words are we choosing?  Do we choose words that build each other up, or tear each other down?  Do we speak with attitudes that give life?  Do we speak the truth?  Do we sincerely work to identify and solve the problems in our relationships or do we just fight with each other?  We are all human and we will all make mistakes.  We get angry and say things we don't want to.  However if we choose life the majority of the time for ourselves and with others, life will go pretty well.  It has to!

Now here is the disclaimer.  I am not advocating staying in abusive relationships.  Toxic people are out there.  I know.  I have been in a relationship or two like that in my life.  Perhaps you are in one of those times now or you may be that toxic person.  If so, just remember that the important thing is to take steps to come out of that toxicity. It is never too late!  If we don't, the consequences of leading a toxic life can include being lonely, depressed, unhealthy and even unsuccessful.  If you have someone who is toxic in your life, do what you can to help them. However, if they choose not to listen, choose not to change their lives...they are inevitably making the choice to be lonely.  There is only so much emotional toxicity people can handle and once they have reached that thresh-hold, relationships are usually irreparably damaged. Broken relationships are the inevitable consequence of toxic behavior.

Here is just an example of how scripture says certain positive and negative thoughts and/or emotions affect our body physically.  Just a note - our bones don't just give us structure, they also create blood cells:

  • Proverbs 14:30 NKJV

    A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones.
  • Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.

    Proverbs 13:12 NKJV

    Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

I would ask you to consider the reasons why there are so many places in the Bible that tell us how to think or how to conduct our lives.  It isn't just because God wants to take our freedom away by telling us what to do and what not to do.  It's because many of these things bring life! He tells us what works and what doesn't work and then gives us the choice.  Positive psychology can provide us with many peer reviewed studies that show how happiness, joy and positive thinking literally change our brain function.  Nutritionists are starting to find that foods which fall into the lower inflammation producing categories also follow along the biblical dietary laws that we find in the Old Testament.  

As you live out the rest of your life, I would ask you to consider the attitudes and decisions that have guided you to this point.  At any point in our lives, we are the product of our best thinking.  If the fruit in your life is life giving, seek to make it better.  If you don't like the quality of the fruit in your life, change your thinking and make better quality decisions.  If you don't know how to do that, ask out someone who is producing good fruit and observe them, talk to their advice. Choose life!  It's always better than the alternative and you are too valuable not to fight for.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Fear, Stress & Anger
Fear, Stress & Anger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Change is a part of life, we all know that.  It can be good, bringing us pleasant surprises, new members of our family, different employment or a new place to live.  Changes can improve our lives, but there are also changes which bring us stress and even some that produce fear.  The part of change that is unknown or that we can’t control often creates the most fear.

Some of the most fear provoking changes in life are centered around the four basic human fears:  1) rejection, 2) abandonment, 3) death and 4) dying.   When significant losses or the anticipation of those losses tap into any one or more of these four fears, there is significant emotional response.  Divorce is a change that taps into rejection and abandonment.  It can be seen, especially by an abuse victim, as a devastating change.  They don't know how they are going to face the financial, relational and parenting aspects of living on their own and usually have been convinced by the abuser that they are not able to take care of the aspects of life necessary to accomplish living apart from the abuser.  

Taking individual situations into account, most of the time the fears are unjustified.  Will the changes from married life to single life be difficult...yes.  Are they impossible?  No.  Many individuals find that leaving an abusive relationship allows them the ability to grow and to have a life that they can control and be happy with.  It is a difficult transition, as many changes are, but it is not an impossibility.  One thing that is sure about life, there is always a way to do what you need to do.  You may not like some of the decisions that you have to make to get there, but you can get there.  

As we age, we face many changes that fall into the categories of unknown or beyond our control.  We go through the process of children leaving the home; making the adjustment to the “empty nest”.  Other people look at winding down their careers or have involuntarily been down sized by their employer.  Facing these changes well often depends on where we have placed our personal identity.  If we have solid internal identity, these types of changes are often seen as challenges or positive transitions.  It can be a very exciting time of adjustment.  However, if a person has developed an external identity, finding it in a specific role or in the opinions of others, this change can be very difficult.  This time of change is usually centered on a large loss of purpose, or when the purpose for which we have lived over many years is reduced significantly.  Deep down, this stage of life can trigger in to the fears of rejection or abandonment, producing a sense of being lost until a person can adjust.  Motivation comes from purpose and significantly enhances our emotional health.  Because of this, when facing transitions, it is most important to maintain a focus toward true purpose that doesn’t fluctuate with the roles we fill as we go through life.


Becoming an empty nester can be difficult if we have created our personal identity around being a parent.  Parenting is a role that we move in and out of in life and it is not meant to be an identity for us.  Loss of identity creates a kind of mid life crisis where we are not sure what to do with ourselves because the focus of our attention has moved on to start their own lives.  This is the danger in creating our identity around a role...once the role ends, our purpose does as well.  Purpose is a most important aspect of a human beings life.  Purpose comes out of who we are, it creates a focus for our lives that is meaningful, fulfilling and satisfying.  It can provide well being and good emotional health.  When the hope of our purpose diminishes, we lose focus and structure in our lives.  This is one of the most destructive aspects of abusive relationships, whether they be between a husband and wife or between a parent and a child.  Abuse diminishes purpose, which in turn destroys motivation.

As a parent, it is our purpose to socialize and enable our children to live independent lives.  As they grow older, we become less directive and take on more of a coaching position in their lives.  We help them to figure out how to solve their problems rather than doing it for them.  That is part of the role we fulfill rather than making it the full purpose of our lives.

When individuals change careers or retire, not only does their role in life change, but often their relationships don’t go with them.  This can add to the stress of the transition if it is not understood that some relationships truly only exist because of the structure that surrounds them.   When we leave organizations, most of the relationships that have been built within those environments are not strong enough to exist outside of them if we have not done something to strengthen them outside the forming structure.  Anticipating these changes, we can seek to move those relationships that are important to us into a different level so they follow us after the change goes into effect.  This alone can help make a transition more comforting.  Additionally, planning for a meaningful purpose after retirement can add quality and significantly lengthen a person’s life.

For individuals who have aging parents requiring care and assistance, these changes can be very difficult and stress producing on both sides of the issue.  It is never easy to lose a parent and being a part of their dying process can be extremely difficult.  They struggle with loss of independence, not being able to fulfill their roles and again, loss of purpose which can bring on negativity and depression. 

No matter who we are, death changes us when we come close to it.  It causes us to recognize our own mortality, assess our lives and question even fundamental spiritual beliefs.  Knowing or not feeling confident in what happens next can be a source of fear.  Losing a parent who we have not been close to ends the possibility of ever repairing that relationship. 

Although death and dying are a part of life, they are parts that we are never well prepared for; bringing with them the loss of friends, health and independence.   The grief process is unfamiliar and can take us by surprise as a result.  It is not only a feeling, but it can carry with it physical pain and an adjustment process.  People don’t like to talk about death and our close experiences with it are commonly limited to the loss of parents and grandparents.  The loss of a child is something that we are never prepared for and it can be extremely traumatizing.  We often think we know what it will be like because after all, we’ve seen it over and over on TV.  However, once it becomes a reality, it is clear that Hollywood is not a good source of information.  

Although difficult, questioning our mortality, evaluating the quality of the relationships left in our lives and clarifying our spiritual beliefs are all normal and good responses when death and dying enter center stage in our lives.  Helpful things we can do for ourselves around the process include creating a strong support group, as well as attending group and or individual counseling.  Families can be a place of strength if the internal relationships are of good quality.  Personally, a strong spiritual faith is often a viable source of comfort in difficult times.  Outside the family, Hospice can provide invaluable support for both the person going through the process and those accompanying them.  In preparation for the loss, it is good advice to have a clear understanding of what a person’s wishes are with regard to their dying process.  For the person entrusted with carrying out those wishes, it is a strong place of comfort to have that knowledge as guidance. 

In closing, as we face losing those closest to us in life, the goal is really not to get back to normal because that isn’t possible.  Instead we accept a new normal, which can be a comforting goal.  If we can come out on the other side of this process with no regrets about decisions that were made, it aids in going through the personal grief process.   Keeping in the forefront of our minds that this process is not about us, but about helping our loved ones to finish well, it helps us focus on what is truly important and we can grow into better people as a result.