Speak it into Existence

and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32 (Living Bible)

I was speaking with a colleague recently about the privilege we have as counselors to be able to help people to speak their truth into existence. What I mean by that is, sharing a difficult experience, or letting go of a shameful experience, into the light of day with another human being is freeing. Often, we as counselors have the privilege of being that “trusted person” to whom a client relates a deep, painful part of their life so as to free them from the bondage of secrecy.

Once we can release that deeply held information, perhaps hidden due to shame or guilt or some other reason, we become free of the shackles of the secret. I call that speaking truth into existence so that it is no longer the shameful darkness which needs to be hidden. Rather, the unburdening process becomes the fact of life that makes us human.

Everyone has some kind of darkness in them, large or small. Sharing deeply held beliefs, or even traumatic events, frees the mind and soul. To the extent that we can bring such events into the light of day, there is freedom for all.

It does not need to be a counselor with whom people share such closely held parts of us. A safe, trusted partner, friend, confidant is essential for maintaining a healthy soul.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the plan to give light to chase away darkness, Amen.

Agreeing with God

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool                                                                                                                                                                   Isaiah 1:18

I have several clients who struggle with various things regarding their own self-esteem, being able to accept love, feeling forgiven, feeling worthy, etc. Many of us struggle with those very issues. Sometimes, we begin to believe that God has those same issues with us- that HE doesn’t love us, that HE does not forgive us, etc. It is easy for us to project our own attitudes onto others because it seems to satisfy and condone our own personal world-view.

I talk with clients about the need to be consistent with our views and to check out what the truth is about God’s view toward us. There are plenty of places in the Bible where God is explained as loving us right where we are; that he forgives our sins; that he will never leave us or forsake us, but sometimes, we are just not feeling that.

I ask people to just take the stance of agreeing with God. We can agree that we are sinners, and flawed human beings. We can also agree that we cannot save ourselves by our own best efforts. We can agree that he is sovereign and can, and will, do as he pleases, because we do not make up the rules.

 But if we agree to those things, we must also agree that he loves us like his children, that he will never leave us, even if it feels that he has. We must agree that God’s nature and character is not one of punishment, but of redemption and restoration.

Agreeing with God is a lot more peaceful than trying to maintain that our situation is irredeemable. The above passage explains that God wants us to reason together. Let’s just agree that God has our best interest at stake, and he will do anything to take care of his children.

Prayer: Lord, give us the means to be able to agree with you more, Amen

A Theology as Big as the City

Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken at the right time.                                         Proverbs 25:11

I read a book several years ago titled A Theology as Big as the City by Ray Bakke.  Lots of good stuff in the book, but one of the big takeaways for me was the idea that the church ought to serve as a chaplain to the city, or the area where it is located. Chaplains serve people with spiritual and emotional care at times of stress and crisis. We have hospital chaplains, military chaplains, hospice chaplains, police chaplains, even a chaplain for the U.S. Congress. That tells me that we value the spiritual care for people in critical situations.

The same goes for just us ordinary folks too. Heaven knows that there are daily stresses in our life that could be helped with the aid of a chaplain once in a while. The local church- that is the people who are part of that church (all of us, not the “pastor” necessarily), should be chaplains to the community we live in. We need to be ready to serve as the chaplain to the neighbor, friend, or even stranger who needs help, giving spiritual and emotional support.

If people saw the local church as a place where healthy, caring chaplains came from, they may be more inclined to check out what that church has to offer.

Just a thought…

Prayer: Lord, help us see the needs around us, and give us the will and courage to reach to help, Amen

A House Divided

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.                                                                Matthew 12:25 (New KJV)

In June, 1858, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Illinois State Republican Convention and gave a speech which contained the above scripture reference. He was speaking of the impending crisis that he saw in a nation deeply divided by the slavery issue. He could see that the inevitable outcome of policies which so divided our nation would be, ultimately, civil war.  

We are once again in a nation deeply divided, and that truth still remains. Any nation divided against itself will be brought to desolation. When Jesus made his statement to the hostile crowd around him, he was letting them know that his power was not from Satan, it was from God. Indeed, he was not casting out evil spirits through the power of the Evil One himself. That would be foolish on the face of it.

We would do well to heed the words of Jesus, because his words are the words of healing. We are not going to be saved individually or collectively by the policies of the Democrat or Republican parties.

It is time we unite in the power of the only One with power to save us.

Prayer: Lord, help us remember the truth of that motto that we put on our currency- “In God we trust”, Amen

Graduation Season…

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.

The Effects of Stress

A sound mind makes for a robust body,
    but runaway emotions corrode the bones. Proverbs 14:30

I saw this picture on a site when I did a search about the effects of stress on aging. This stunning photo shows President Abraham Lincoln in the short 5-year span of his Presidency during the Civil War. I am not sure that we can attribute all of this dramatic change to stress alone. Many believe that Lincoln suffered from a hormonal imbalance caused by a pituitary problem. I do not know that for sure of course, however, this picture shows a man under tremendous stress.

We have all seen “before and after” pictures of recent American Presidents who appear to have aged disproportionately during their tenures in office. Almost all of our Presidents show rather clear aging changes which might well be attributed to the incredible stress they carried.

Indeed, this is not only for American Presidents. Any world leader, or someone with terribly burdensome stress shows it in their face. The body reacts to the pressure in the mind and soul. The interconnection of mind and body seems to be clearly demonstrated in pictures like this.

The term “stress”, as it is currently used was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Stress theory came into the popular parlance in the 1960’s and 1970’s as we came to better understand the relationship between stress and general health.

All of us encounter stress in our life, and the critical question is, “What do we do with it?”

More tomorrow…

Prayer: Lord, you know our frame and our frailty, but also the strength that you can give. Help us to understand that better, Amen

Along the Way

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed Luke 17:14

Twice the other day in counseling sessions I had occasion to recall the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers as told in Luke chapter 17. The context of the counseling was around the idea that healing is not instantaneous. The lepers were healed after Jesus told them to “go show yourselves to the priest”. This was a standard practice- to have verification that healing had taken place, and that the now “clean” sufferers were allowed to return to society.

Jesus did not just immediately heal them, as he had done on some other occasions. He instructed them to turn away and go to show themselves to the priest. They were healed “along the way”, as they obeyed the instructions that Jesus gave to them.

I think we are healed in the same way from whatever malady we might have. As we do the things we are instructed to do, we are open to be healed. Typically, there are things that we must do to take care of ourselves, or medications we must take, disciplines we must undertake, etc., in order to attain healing.

I wanted to assure my clients that healing is out there, but there are things that must be done to help make that happen. Secondly, I wanted to let them know that healing is not always, or even often, instantaneous. Patience in the process is needed, but it will be rewarded.

So, if you are on a healing journey, trust the process, keep your disciplines, and trust that God will meet you at your place of obedience.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the lesson of the lepers, and help us be patient and obedient, Amen

Ask, Seek, and Knock…

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” Matthew 7:7                                      

When thinking about this verse, and how to interpret it, I imagine being lost and asking for directions. Yes, it is true, I am a guy, and I do not readily ask for directions when lost. I would rather somehow intuit how to find my way, but that is a reflection for another day!

So, when lost and asking for directions, we need to be trusting of the direction giver, and then we need to follow the directions. I think that Jesus is inviting us to trust him in giving the directions for living a whole and healthy life. He also expects that we would follow those directions if we really want to get where we ultimately want to go. This act of trust is rewarded with his promise that the “ask will be granted, the journey will be successful, and the final destination will be accommodating”.

So, first we get the courage to ask- an act of humility. Meaning, my best efforts to date have gotten me totally lost! I better get some help!

 Having gotten the directions, we set out, seeking the destination- an act of faith. If we are good at following the directions, it is often a pretty direct route- one we had not realized before that moment.

Finally, when we get to the destination, we have not quite completed the task. We need to go up to the door and knock to gain entry- an act of courage. After all, it could be the wrong house, or perhaps even the right address, but we could be turned away.

So, to complete the journey, we need to have humility, faith and courage. Jesus calls on us to have all of those traits to live the completed life.

Prayer: Thank you for the simple plan of asking for help, and following your directions for success, Amen

Memory Banks

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.                                                                                                                Philippians 4:8-9 (The Message)

Think back to a time in the summer when you were young and carefree. You had no particular responsibilities, and you were free to do pretty much what you wanted to do- within parental limits of course. Okay, we won’t tell about some of those other times…

My point here is that our memory bank can be just that- a bank to store refreshing memories to be drawn out when needed. We have within us the tools and resources to restore our soul when things get difficult in life. Those memories can serve as little oases to refresh a weary mind. We cannot go back and actually relive those times, but they can remain with us as precious parts of our life.  Those memories can actually change our brain chemistry and improve mood, lower blood pressure, and give us a more positive outlook, even if the respite is only a temporary one.

I am aware that for some people, their childhood may not have contained a lot of those great memories of carefree times. They may have lived in an abusive environment, or perhaps had illnesses that limited those carefree times. But we all can look back to some times in our life that literally can bring a smile to our face as we think of them.  We can use that tool to bring some light into a day that may feel heavy.

I hope your memories can bring that smile…

Prayer: Lord, help us to remember those times in life that restore our soul, Amen.

A Note to Readers

I am taking some time away from the blog (about 2 weeks), and I am planning to post some “Top Ten” blogs during that time. So, you can stay tuned and read some of the most popular blogs (by response and “hits”), or you can go to the home page, and check the archives. I have about 600 postings at this point, so feel free to browse. I so appreciate the great encouragement I have gotten over the past 18 months! You have given me great encouragement!


So, I start this first day of “Reruns” with one that has been a request from several readers. Here it is…

Lessons from a Sailing Trip

I really don’t know how many years ago it was now- probably about 18 years ago- when my friend and mentor Dennis Mikel invited my son and I to go sailing with him on his sailboat on Lake Erie. Denny was an amazing guy. My late friend and mentor passed away several years ago, and I still miss him. I hope this story honors him, and maybe teaches some lessons too.

 My son at the time was about 21 years old. The plan was to go up late on a Friday evening, spend the night on the boat, and then have a little cruise on Lake Erie the next day. The weather was supposed to be nice, with some nice breezes on Saturday so that we could get around on the lake. When we arrived Friday night, Denny asked if we would like a little moonlight cruise. We could camp at an island a couple of miles away and spend the night, ready for a nice early start in the morning. We readily agreed.

We started out with a nice breeze, fair skies, and the sun starting to fade in the western sky. It seemed like such a nice evening that we did not notice the growing cloud formations, and the wind kicking up a little. Pretty soon, we realized that there were some flashes of lightning in the sky behind the clouds. “Heat lightning” we suggested. It really didn’t seem that hot, but I comforted myself with that thought. It was not long however before we realized that the lightning was indeed the first warnings of an approaching storm. We were pretty far out into the lake by that time, and we needed to decide whether to return to home port, or go on to our destination. We decided to push on, figuring that the places of safety were probably equidistant.

Interesting fact- I don’t know how to swim.

My first lesson perhaps was this- I was not panic stricken. I had some fear to be sure, but I had a confidence about the situation. Why the confidence? I do not know how to sail, and in fact, I don’t think I had ever been on a sailboat before this. I don’t know how to swim (although later Denny said that if we went overboard in this kind of storm, it might not have made any difference). My confidence was not at all in my abilities or knowledge. My confidence was in the captain, Denny. I trusted him, and respected his knowledge and leadership. I figured that Denny would get us through. He was successful in everything he did, I felt, and he was certainly bright and resourceful. I also knew that he trusted God. All those things added up to give confidence to me despite that fact that I was pretty helpless on a boat in the middle of a lake in a storm.

Denny indeed took charge. As the winds whipped up and the rain started to fall, he assigned us our jobs. My son, a fearless athlete, was ready for the challenge. Denny assigned J.P. to rigging duty. Denny, very lithe and agile himself, even at about age 65, would help J.P. on the rigging, climbing forward to trim the sails as needed. They could easily be washed overboard, but Denny knew what he was doing, and J.P. was strong and quick-witted enough to be a great help. Also, they both could swim.

Did I mention that I don’t swim?

Denny assigned me to the rudder. I was to hold us on course as best I could. Understand that it was pitch black and raining, so I did not have any idea as to where to steer this boat. Then Denny gave me the second lesson- steer toward the light. There was a lighthouse on the shore, and all I needed to do was to fix on that light and steer toward it. I said that I could do that, although there was a real learning curve. You see, steering a sailboat in a windstorm is not easy. The rudder has a mind of its own, and one needs to fight the rudder for control. Sometimes the rudder wins.

Just another interesting development was the fact that the boat was now on a permanent 45 degree angle. Denny suggested that we really didn’t want to be at an angle over 45 degrees, and I certainly know that I did not want that either, so we had to keep shifting our weight on the boat, and bailing water to try to keep it as level as possible. Through it all, Denny seemed unflappable. I am sure he knew that J.P. and I would pick up on his level of anxiety- and he was right- so he seemed pretty assured of himself. He would give the orders, and J.P. and I would comply as best we could.

Another lesson in leadership- the captain sets the tone for the crew. Leaders are calm and stable or they lose their crew, maybe literally.

Needless to say, we got through the storm. The wind died down, we got the tiny motor started back up (it had gone out for much of the trip) and we started to head for the shore. We just had one more little blip heading into a port when another boat seemed to contest us for the right-of-way in the narrow channel. No real issue there, but I saw another aspect of the captain’s character. Denny admitted that he was not aware of the protocol in that situation, and he was gracious in his deference to the other boat, and to his uncertainty about the procedure. Humility is another important aspect of leadership.

I think the spiritual aspects of this story are self-evident. My confidence comes not from my abilities, but from faith in the captain. I do not need to fear if my faith in the captain is complete. If we have trust in God, what weapon formed against us can prosper?

In the darkest of night, steer toward the light. If there are no other landmarks, the light is still there. In fact, when everything else is the darkest, a little shine shines the brightest by its contrast with the dark.

So, those are my recollections from that weekend. I am still amazed that I had a calm feeling that night that I to this day cannot really explain, but it certainly seems to fit that Biblical injunction that there is a peace that passes understanding.