Thy Kingdom Come…

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come, your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven…”                                                                                                                            Matthew 6:9-10

What a great weekend! Last Friday, I presented a community workshop on professional ethics for my counseling and social work peers at New Creation Counseling Center. In attendance were a number of colleagues whom I had not seen for years. Several of them were counselors whom I had supervised over the years, and it was so affirming to see them making a difference in the lives of their clients. What a joy it was to interact with them, and to share my professional journey through the lens of an ethics discussion.

On Saturday, my family was in town to attend the graduation of my oldest grandson, Jack as he graduated from Miami University. Experiencing the traditions of a college which indeed has a storied history was very reassuring. The time-honored customs of a college graduation were well observed. I must also mention how proud I am of Jack who graduated Magna Cum Laude. Yes, Poppa must have room to boast here! 😊

Finally, on Monday, I attended the retirement of a dear man who started a non-profit for people in recovery (Joshua Recovery Ministry). He did this AFTER he retired from his full-time career when he was in his early 60’s. This man, Ron Will, has a heart for ministry, and he has not let age define his work and mission call. What a joy it was to celebrate Ron with, again, some people I had not seen for years. I reconnected with like-minded people who value recovery work- work that calls us to honesty, humility, patience, and dependence upon God to do things that we cannot do for ourselves.

So, it was a full weekend, and it was so wonderful. We are called to bring the Kingdom of heaven to earth. This weekend was a bit of that Kingdom of heaven coming to earth.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the plan that you have for us to work together to bring some heaven to earth, Amen

Tribal Elders

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.                                                          Titus 2:1-2

I have talked in the past about the need to periodically reinvent ourselves. Life stages are one of those natural opportunities to do just that- reinvent ourselves. Adjustment to different life stages can be quite challenging. The stage of becoming a “senior”, and retirement are perfect examples of this.

I remember our pastor years ago talked about turning 60 and he reframed that well saying that this makes us “tribal elders”. I liked that. Being a tribal elder brings on certain freedoms and certain responsibilities. 

I think it is all about how we view our advancing years. The idea of becoming a tribal elder is appealing. We are now at the stage of some wisdom and experience which we can share with our younger members. We worry less at this stage about our career, and more about pouring into the careers of others. We now revel in the success of those whom we have mentored, and are less concerned about increasing personal achievements.

There is real freedom in this, as long as we can truly embrace our new status. We can get real satisfaction out of the achievements of others, and we celebrate the fact that the future is increasingly becoming theirs. 

The plan for this life is the need to give it away in order to have it truly become a blessing for us.

Prayer: Lord, help us to finish our race well, Amen


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.                                                                                                                                                      II Corinthians 12:9

Remorse: a gnawing distress arising from a sense of guilt for past wrongs 

Merriam -Webster Dictionary

I speak with my clients about guilt and remorse. Guilt is a negative emotion that does actually have a purpose. Its job is to get us in touch with things that we have done wrong in order to remedy the situation. Unfortunately, many people live in guilt long after its usefulness has passed. Guilt is useful only to the extent that it can get us to a higher level of awareness and functioning. It can cause us to act upon the deeds we have done that are not praiseworthy, and ask forgiveness for them.

Remorse is the next level- the healing level- that guilt can bring us to. Remorse is the distress caused by the fact that we have hurt someone else. We feel bad because we have hurt others. Our pain is the fact that we have caused others pain.

Unfortunately, there is cheap guilt that is self-serving. This guilt is hurt that we have been caught. We feel bad because our reputation has been hurt, or because we have consequences to pay. We are upset because we got caught or found out.

I discuss this because remorse is a higher level of self-awareness. Those who experience true remorse seek forgiveness not because they want to feel better. Rather, they want those whom they have hurt to feel better in some way.

So, words matter, and the context of levels of awareness are part of that. True self-awareness needs language in order for it to be understood.  Living in guilt is a bad way to live. Defining ourselves in terms of shame is even worse.

Tomorrow we will talk more about guilt and shame.

Prayer: Lord, you have provided the remedy for guilt and shame. Thank you for your grace and forgiveness, Amen

Different Anxieties

God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears                                                                             Psalm 34:4

I spoke with a client recently who suffers from anxiety. The discussion led to the difference between generalized anxiety and performance anxiety. He said that the difference for him is that performance anxiety actually gives him energy. The excitement he feels, while partly uncomfortable, is also somewhat of a spur to him to do his best.

Everyday anxieties are draining and sap him of energy. That anxiety is not productive, while performance anxiety can actually be a motivator to do our best. Both types of anxiety can be very annoying and frustrating, but it is beneficial to try to distinguish between the two.

Performance anxiety is situational, whereas generalized anxiety is pervasive. Performance anxiety can energize and motivate us. Generalized anxiety saps our energy and decreases productivity.

So, not all anxiety is the same. For my client, the discussion about the types of anxiety proved to be helpful and normalizing. His self-awareness was a way for him to feel some control over the anxiety. As I have said in this blog often, control is the antidote for anxiety- we just need to determine what we CAN control and what we CANNOT control.

 I hope this little piece can be helpful for you as well!

Prayer: Lord, help us gain awareness of what we can control, and what we cannot, Amen.

David and Goliath

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;                                                         I Corinthians 1:27 (KJV)

A favorite metaphor in many cultures is that of David and Goliath. This Biblical story seems to be known throughout the world as an example of the underdog who overcomes great odds to win. We love it when the unexpected happens, and especially when the little guy is facing long odds to win- better yet when the opponent is so vastly superior, or so it would seem.

The David and Goliath story used in the Bible explains that God seems to favor the weak over the strong. The dependent over the arrogant. The faithful over the haughty. David won the contest with Goliath through his skillful use of a sling as opposed to the brute force of Goliath.

But more than that, David was willing to face this giant because of his faith that God would protect him, and that he would somehow prevail, despite the obvious power of Goliath.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book David and Goliath gives numerous examples of the paradoxes that we find in life, and the reasons that we are confounded by them.

 I find that the essence of the Bible is about the unexpected. The apostle Paul said that “when I am weak, then I am strong”.  Jesus said “The meek shall inherit the earth”; James states “God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith”; and on it goes. Our usual thinking turned upside down.

There was nothing more unexpected than a savior coming from a little backwater village in Palestine to save a broken world from its own sin and failure.

Then again, maybe it makes all the sense in the world.

Prayer: Lord, you have challenged us to believe things that are upside down to our thinking. What an amazing plan, Amen.


Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”                                                  II Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV)

I recently spoke with a client who has a chronic physical problem, and she has been frustrated for years regarding its effects on her life. It is not a life- threatening problem, but it is certainly a “life-limiting” one.

We discussed her frustrations about living with this condition, and then she asked me, “Will I ever get over these feelings of anger and resentment? Will I ever get to the place of acceptance?”

It made me think about what acceptance really is. Paul in the Bible struggled with a “thorn in the flesh”, a phrase that has worked itself into our culture as an example of chronic suffering for which there may never be a complete remedy.   

Paul took the occasions of such reminders of suffering not to curse the condition, but to have it be a reminder to him of God’s ability to be sufficient even in our suffering- that God’s power is displayed when we are at our weakest.

I told my client that acceptance is “honest ownership of what we are feeling”. The question is not  “Will I ever stop feeling this way”, but rather, “what will I do when I recognize that I am feeling this way?”

My client has the tendency to condemn herself when she gets angry or frustrated about her situation. I suggested to her that frustration is a pretty normal response to her suffering, but honest appraisal of the unwanted feeling is the freedom she needs. Acceptance is not becoming complacent with how we feel, or ignoring how we feel, or even liking what we feel. Acceptance is honest ownership of that feeling. It is only then that we can be aware of the power that God can give us to transform the suffering into something that can enhance our human experience.

No one likes pain, and we try very hard to avoid it, naturally. But when we respond honestly to our feelings about it, we can start to redeem the pain into something of benefit to ourselves or to others.  

Prayer: Lord, give us the strength to honestly look at our responses to suffering, and to look to you for redemption of it, Amen

Character vs. Reputation

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one               Matthew 5:37

Have I not written thirty sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge,
 teaching you to be honest and to speak the truth, so that you bring back truthful reports
    to those you serve?                                                                                                                                            Proverbs 22: 20-21

Sometimes people get confused about the difference between character and reputation. I am thinking that politicians are particularly susceptible to this, in that they spend a great deal of time crafting their reputation and electability. Reputation is the external part that they want/need to convey and protect.

Character is the internal part of us- our values and virtues that we must cultivate as human beings in order to live successfully and peaceably in this world and with ourselves. Many people spend a great deal of time cultivating and protecting a reputation that may or may not reflect their internal character.

Reputations may fluctuate over time. Sometimes reputations may take a hit when a decision of character needs to be made. None of us is perfect in this realm. Most people care about their reputation- and they should- because it is important to our standing in society.

However, we all need to spend more time in character development than in reputation management. When these forces conflict, when we need to decide whether to do the right thing or the popular thing, character is often vividly revealed.

The current political landscape has left many people deeply skeptical of our elected officials. We have seen positions taken on issues that are simply pandering to a certain political base. We do not truly know what many of those elected really believe and what they are willing to defend. We (they) just know what gets them elected. We are all flawed, but elected office, sadly, seems to bring out the worst in people. Again, this is not all politicians, but the landscape and the position make it an especially dangerous occupational hazard.

Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. What truth there is in that simple statement.

Prayer: Lord, your Spirit is the shaper and protector of character. Help us to yield to that prompting, Amen

Owning Responsibility

for each one should carry their own load…                                                                                   Galatians 6:5

In talking with a client recently, we discussed the values he learned from his mother about responsibility. I had commended this client for his willingness and ability to recognize and own his part in some disputes with his wife. He told me that his mother had taught him that when he was in some trouble at school or in the neighborhood, she did not automatically rush to his defense whether he was right or wrong. Rather, she had him explain the situation and examine his part in whatever problem had been encountered. He explained that he felt that his deep sense of personal responsibility stemmed from her valuable teaching.

That mom taught her son some important life lessons. We always need to examine our part in any relational problem and take responsibility for that. It is not a matter of trying to shift blame, nor accept blame inappropriately. It is simply a good exercise in the personal ownership of relational issues. We all own a part. It is important to accept what that is, and work toward our own self awareness and responsibility for maintaining healthy relationships.

As we approach Mother’s Day, I thought that this reminder about the influence of our moms is so important. I never met this client’s mom, and I never will, but I like her thinking.

Prayer: Help us Lord to see that we honor you and others when we recognize our own failures or mistakes, Amen.

Another Mass Shooting…

Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through.  Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible. Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Don’t take the law into your own hands. Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be “heaping coals of fire on his head.” In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you.  Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.                                                                                                                                                            Roman 12:17-21 (Living Bible)

The United States had another mass shooting this weekend. It has, incredibly, become commonplace. My readers in other countries probably shake their head in amazement that such carnage goes on, and that there is no political or moral will to stop it.

I agree.

My daughter is a trauma surgeon, and she has seen more than her share of this carnage up close. She tries to piece together bodies ravaged by assault rifles. My son is a police officer who is constantly on the alert about a public that is armed better than he is.

Is mental illness to blame? Perhaps, in some cases, but we have had mental illness in our population forever, and we have never had such murderous outcomes before. Is it evil that is to blame? Certainly, in some cases, yes. Evil goes about seeking destruction when its own desires are thwarted or its own lusts cannot be sated.

This is a complex problem- one not easily solved. However, serious discussion must start to take place about the role of weapons in our society and how they are regulated. No one I know of is suggesting that guns be confiscated- that would not be appropriate, and it is not feasible.

What is the role of Christians in working toward a just and safe society?

I think Christians need to ponder that one.

Prayer: Lord, give us wisdom about how we can influence “thy Kingdom come”, Amen

The Hippocratic Oath

      I have been preparing for an Ethics workshop, and one of the things I decided to discuss in that workshop is the historic underpinnings of ethical medical behavior. Hippocrates developed his ethical framework somewhere around 400 BC. A variant of this oath, derived from his original tenets, is taken by new physicians upon graduation from Medical School. It is a beautiful and moving thing to watch.

      The actual oath taken varies some from this basic template, and some schools and graduates craft their own versions to reflect current ethical concerns. So, while it is unlikely that graduates will recite this specific oath, they pledge themselves to the welfare of their patients and their community.

      I reprint the Hippocratic Oath here to remind my readers that physicians are pledged to a very high standard of patient care. They take their craft incredibly seriously- because it is. It is life and death for their patients.

      So, the next time you visit your doctor, remember that she/he is dedicated to your well-being. You may not always agree with them. You may even have had disagreements or conflicts with them- that happens. Remember they are human too, but they have pledged to put your well-being as a high value- one that costs them in many ways.

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and 

therapeutic nihilism

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not”, nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life and save life wherever possible within reason; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling, and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Prayer: Lord we lift up those men and women who provide care for us, Amen