Never tire of loyalty and kindness. Hold these virtues tightly. Write them deep within your heart Proverbs 3:3

I sometimes wonder if we have been slowly losing the virtue of civility in our society. I look for civility in little actions-like taking an extra few steps to put the shopping cart in the cart corral at the grocery store. Maybe it is just taking the trash in your hand and depositing it in a garbage can rather than littering.

Little actions build upon themselves, and they help us to define who we are. If we act like a kind, caring person to our fellow community members, we begin to see ourselves as that way, and it starts a strong, upward cycle which reinforces itself.

On a little larger scale, it may be showing tip generosity to restaurant servers, volunteering at a church or service organization, or donating blood at the local Red Cross or blood center. These are just some examples of civic and social responsibilities that one might expect of their fellow citizens which make life a little better for all.

We are, perhaps, the most educated society in the world. Higher education is available to almost all in our society, yet education is not the answer to civility.  Education does not ensure that virtue is inculcated into our daily life. That is the province of families who love their children and teach them to love others. Teaching those values and virtues is critical in maintaining a society that can sustain itself, and indeed to touch positively the more vulnerable members of that society.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be aware of ways to show kindness and civility to others, Amen


As I write this blog, my grand-dog (yes, that is a thing) is completing his journey on this earth. He is a beloved pet, a Golden Doodle, who is bright, loyal, sweet and intelligent. He is the loyal friend and companion of my daughter and son-in-law and their family. He has been family for about 12 years. His name is Einstein.

Many of my readers have lost a beloved pet, and you know that it is so hard to see them go. They give love freely, and typically have a fierce loyalty to their owners. So it is with Einstein. The family is bracing for his final days, making him comfortable, loving on him, and making his final transition one he earned and deserves.

God has given us the capacity to bond with animals and to make them part of our life and our family. We are touched by the sheer joy they exhibit from the mere mention of a W-A-L-K. We gather memories with them, we share the joy of play, and we are warmed by their very presence. Indeed, studies show that having a pet with us, stroking them, and just being with them, can actually lower our blood pressure. They are good for both body and soul.

So it is time for Einstein to leave soon. He has enriched our family, and he will be missed. I am convinced however, that we have not seen the last of Einstein. I think that someday, in God’s rich treasure of surprises as we meet Him, we will also see those beautiful pets we have cared for over our own years on this planet.

So, Einstein, you have served your time well, and you have enriched our family with your presence.

We will see you later…


Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God                                                   Philippians 1:3

As I write this blog, I have just returned from a family reunion, full in very way. Full from a lot of great food (of course), but more so with a full heart. My soul was fed by seeing generations of my family together- children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great nephews and great nieces, in-laws, cousins, siblings. Well, you name it. They were all there except moms and dads and grandpas and grandmas. You see, now that is my generation. We are the dads and moms and grandmas and grandpas.    

What a blessing is family! Our charge to the next generations is this- keep this going! Keep the reunions happening, even when my generation is gone. Our family has been blessed beyond measure, and we are aware of that blessing, and we are grateful.

So, my word to my readers is this- take every opportunity to connect and reconnect with family. Let them know how much you love them. Gather with them whenever possible, and thank God for them every day.

I do.

Prayer: Lord, I am grateful for family! Amen

A Word to Graduates and Parents

This is a reprint from a previous blog. It seems that this time of year bears a repeat…

A word to parents of graduates…

Congratulations on achieving a milestone! Loving and involved parents are perhaps the best indicator of future success for students. Your encouragement and support from early on in your child’s life sets the tone for a healthy self-image which lasts a lifetime. There is no substitute for unconditional love and acceptance, and the best news of all is that is the legacy you will set for your grandchildren. You can and do influence generations to come.

Allow your kids to dream big, and encourage them to live out their life mission. Remember, it’s their vision, not yours, that will propel them to achieve great things. You have been the “greenhouse” for their nurture and growth, now they can set out to accomplish what they have been equipped to do.

The values that you have inculcated in them will continue to become more prominent as they take on increasing responsibilities of jobs, families, and community involvement. What you have demonstrated in your day-to-day living will be much more significant than what you have taught them. Gradually, they are internalizing values that you have lived. What used to be external motivation is now becoming internal motivation that they have owned.

Your job is not finished by a long shot, because if your relationship with them has been set on solid ground, they will continue to seek your counsel, your support, and your companionship. Be prepared to enjoy this next exciting phase of life for both them and for you.

A word to graduates…

Congratulations on your achievement! Graduation is a milestone achieved through hard work and discipline. Indeed, learning hard work and discipline is the REASON you went to school. The information you learned is less important than the process that you learned. The discipline of delayed gratification, pushing through to the goal when you don’t FEEL like it, and the courage to come back from failure, are the most important tools that you can carry into the future.

I mentioned to your parents that they had a role in your self-image, and I trust that they imparted that to you well. You have the full responsibility of gaining your own self-esteem. I define self-esteem as the feeling you get when you have kept promises to yourself. If you can trust yourself by keeping those small promises that you made to yourself, you will have something that no one can take from you. From this comes confidence, willingness to take risks, and the knowledge that no one else will define who you are.

Finally, if you have not already done so, I hope that you have begun the process of determining your life mission statement. This is comprised of things you already have- namely, a recognition of your God-given talents and strengths; a set of life experiences (small now, but growing) which have helped to shape you; and your passion- what is the thing that you would do in this world even if you never got paid for doing it? Put those elements together, and you come up with the reason that you were put on planet earth. May you live out that mission for the benefit of yourself, and, more importantly, those around you.

“Mr. Francis”

“Ask the beats, and they will teach you the beauty of this earth…”                                      St. Francis of Assisi

“Mr. Francis”. That was the name given to our statue of St. Francis of Assisi by my son’s baseball friend many years ago. Saint Francis presided over our pond and garden area for many years until his untimely fall, occasioned by a neighborhood cat this past winter.  The statue shattered in the frozen air, and we have yet to replace him.

I contend though, that his spirit still rules the area. Our pond and backyard remain the home to five frogs, one very large “mutt” goldfish who has dominated the pond since his placement about seven or eight years ago, and various snails and possibly a few snakes.

Near the pond are two birdfeeders, one filled with thistle for the goldfinches, and one filled with sunflower seeds for the house finches, cardinals, wrens, and other assorted winged creatures. In other words, our backyard is somewhat of an animal sanctuary. The squirrels feast on what drops from the sunflower seed feeder, and some unknown critter continues to bring a little gift of abandoned wasp nests to our deck stairs.   

My point here is that we love to be part of the array of life that graces our backyard. I think that we are called, as much as we are able, to live harmoniously with creation. Yes, indeed, in the past my son and I did battle with some invasive raccoons (a story that deserves its own space), but by and large, we love to witness and protect the natural wildlife around our house.

We constantly are amazed at the beauty and grace of nature around us. I think in that small way, we are heeding the command for us to live peaceably with creation, and to see it as God’s handiwork.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the marvelous diversity of creation, Amen

Labeling Our Emotions

A sound mind makes for a robust body, but runaway emotions corrode the bones

Proverbs 14:30 (The Message)

“I’m not angry, I’m just frustrated”. I hear that a lot, and I understand where that thinking comes from. Many of my clients do not want to say that they are feeling angry. There is nothing wrong with owning that we have anger, but somehow, we want to minimize that. Calling our anger “frustration” is a way to call anger another name.

I think the formula looks like this: Frustration = Anger + Sadness + Disappointment. The disappointment somewhat dampens the sense of anger in that our expectations have not been met. We don’t feel that we have the right to be angry just because our expectations have been dashed. We have a mixture of feelings which we label frustration.

I am not saying that this is inaccurate. The label of frustration seems to be a reasonable definition of the feeling. I delve into this discussion so that we can clearly, honestly, and accurately label our emotions. Self-awareness of our emotions, and willingness to own them, is a very healthy practice. Sometimes, I ask my clients to keep a “feeling log” of those emotions so that we can really look into exactly what emotions they are experiencing at the moment.

It is a good practice. On all levels, the truth sets us free. So, as a way to maintain good self-awareness, maybe consider keeping track of your emotions, and the triggers for them. It is helpful to be aware of what is really happening with us so that we can own our emotions, and make sure that we are not blaming others for the things that we are responsible for.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the freedom and the experience of our emotions. Help us to own them and manage them for our good and your glory, Amen.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight                                                 Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust is such a simple, yet powerful word. Anymore, that is my simple theology. I trust God. There are many things in theology that I do not understand, and trying to figure them out- well, I’d rather just trust.

Trust is not really about just believing a certain set of rules or doctrines. There once was an old analogy that evangelists used that involved a chair. They would say to the person that they were witnessing to, “Do you see that chair in the corner? Do you believe that the chair will hold your weight?” The person would likely say, “sure, I guess so.” “Well,” said the evangelist, “believing that it will hold your weight is one thing, but going over to sit on it, trusting that it will hold you, that is the test of trust”.    

Trust is putting our beliefs to work. My ability to grasp some concepts in my brain is an exercise in belief. Trust says that whether or not I can get my brain around the majesty of an awesome God, I can trust God with my life, no matter how puny my belief or understanding is.

So, I choose to trust God, sent to earth in the form of Jesus, to rescue the broken creation, and to follow the marvelous path of love that Jesus laid out. So, when God invites us to trust him, I do.

Prayer: Lord, I trust that you have got the only plan to live by, Amen

Ready for Service…

 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep”.                                                          John 21:15-17

This is the last story recorded in the Gospel of John. John relates a story about his friend, and sometime rival, Peter. Peter had recently denied Jesus on the night Jesus had been arrested. This played out just like Jesus had predicted despite Peter’s vehement belief otherwise. Peter’s denial was three parts, that is, he was asked three times about his affiliation with the arrested Jesus, and three times, Peter denied his friend and Rabbi.

Now, as part of the restoration, Jesus asks Peter three times if he can be trusted with caring for Jesus’ flock of believers. Peter was hurt and frustrated that Jesus had to ask him three times about his worthiness. More importantly, Peter heard in Jesus’s question a possible doubt of his love for Jesus.

I am guessing that Peter began to question himself in that regard. After all, he had promised before to be loyal to Jesus and he had failed miserably. Finally, Peter responded, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”.

I think that was a great response, one of insight. Peter came to understand that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. Jesus knew that Peter needed redundant affirmation to be restored to service, so he brought up the three-time denials, and turned that around with three- time exhortations to serve.

The Bible frequently brings up the broken parts of its heroic characters to remind us that all of us have the required characteristics to serve God’s kingdom. We are flawed, yet forgiven.

Ready for service…

Prayer: Father, thank you for the plan to restore us as we serve you, Amen.

The Platinum Rule

 …then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others       Philippians 2: 2-4

While recently listening to pastor Adam Hamilton preach on the Sermon on the Mount, I heard him mention the Platinum Rule. This is a bit of an upgrade, I think, to the famous Golden Rule. The Golden Rule, of course is “treat others as you would have them treat you.”

The Golden Rule is certainly a time honored and respected way to deal with other people. Yet, the idea of a more thoughtful approach is this- “do unto others, wherever possible, as they would want to be done to them.”

Do you see how respectful that is? It takes me out of the position of assuming that others would like to be treated like I am treated. I am no longer judging what I think is best for them, rather I am asking, “what is it that you need?”

As a counselor, one of my jobs is to formulate a treatment plan with my clients. As we proceed, I ask them what they want from the counseling process. How can I help get you where you would like to go?

By paying attention to the client needs, I can check myself to ensure that I am not imposing my goals on their treatment.

So, I like the idea of a Platinum Rule. Sounds pretty respectful to me.

Prayer: Lord, help us to keep in mind how others may want to be treated, Amen.

Honest, But Is It True?

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the wits of another.                                                                     Proverbs 27:17 (Names of God Bible)

I spoke with a client recently and she shared with me that sometimes when she looks in the mirror, she sees a woman who is not competent, not confident, and one wracked with doubt and guilt. She said, “I am just being honest with how I feel”.

I told her that I appreciated her candor and honesty. I reminded her, since I have known her  through counseling periodically over several years, that much of her guilt is actually her anxiety about her children. She wonders if she has done enough to prepare them to be launched into the world. I could honestly assure this client that she has been a great single mother, and if anything, tries to overprotect her kids.

I also told her that her honesty was a wonderful character trait, but that just being honest does not make those thoughts true. Yes, she is being honest about how she feels, and she has a right to her feelings. Yet that does not mean that what she feels is the truth. Sometimes we need the feedback of others to validate- or dispute- thinking that may be faulty.

We all have feelings, and they are valid for us, but we also need the courage and humility to bounce those feelings off trusted people who can speak truth into our lives.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be honest with ourselves, and also seek truth, Amen