I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.                                                                                                                                       John 15:1-3 (The Message)

This is a great time of year as gardeners plan and start to plant their gardens. Early crops like spinach, peas and potatoes can go in as early as next week. So, the cycle begins!

Gardening always includes pruning, and I was never great at that. I am a conserver, and I hate to prune back and cut plants, and thin those that can make room for others, etc. Yet, this is a necessary and important step. Healthy plants demand pruning in order to maintain health and growth.

Jesus knew this as he spoke to his disciples. He gave them the analogy that pruning is a part of growth. It is another of nature’s paradoxes that cutting off parts of a healthy branch can make it produce better than if it were never pruned.

Such is our life. Certain things must be pruned away to make room for healthier growth. Some habits and practices that we have must be cut out in order for better, healthier habits to take root. We have to be willing to let go of some old certainties in order to be open to newer, healthier lifestyles. “We’ve always done it this way” needs to make way for, “this new practice may work better”. Being open to new learning is essential for us to thrive.

Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for the new message his life brought to earth. He had to die in order for others to live.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the plans you have. Plans which are for our good and growth, Amen

Guilt and Anxiety – “I’ll Get by with a Little Help from my Friends…”

By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (The Message)

I was recently talking with some dear friends, and we talked about how guilt can be crippling. I said that guilt and anxiety are both crippling to our spirit, but only when those emotions become out of control.

Guilt, for example, can be useful to the extent that it prompts us to see our failures and sins and then to seek remedy for wrongs we have done. The feeling of guilt can be useful if it gets us to the place of restoration. The problem is that guilt is not always rational. It, like anxiety, can become a self-defeating emotion that robs us of joy and energy. There are times when we feel guilt, but we have not really done anything to warrant it.

Anxiety too can be useful to the extent that it keeps us alert and vigilant to dangers. The problem with anxiety is that the “dangers” it warns us about are often non-existent, or greatly exaggerated.

Analyzing those conditions- the states of guilt and anxiety- is important. In order for us to get calibration, another trusted person can journey with us to explore these things so that we can get good, caring feedback. This is not to just get affirmation of those feelings, but to get honest feedback about ourselves. Left to our own devices at times, we cannot see clearly to determine if that guilt or that anxiety is rational or irrational. Sometimes we need the help of a friend or a counselor to sort those things out.

So, take a look at those emotions that can be crippling, and get the help you need so that they do not cripple you..

Prayer: Lord, thank you for those who journey with us as we explore ourselves, Amen

“Being Married to Me…”

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.                                                                                                                               Matthew 7:5

I was recently speaking with a couple in marriage counseling, and I saw that one partner was essentially taking the position, ‘if my wife could get the help she needs for her problems, our marriage would be fine’.

So, do you see the problem here? I explained that each partner needs to take ownership of personal deficits, limitations, harsh words, etc. Only if we look at our own behavior can we get to a solution in relationships. In fact, I posed this question to each – consider this, “what would it be like to be married to me?”

I suppose that a fairly clueless person, or one who was in denial might say, “Boy, being married to me would be a great experience!” A more considered response might be “Well, I suppose that it might be a bit of a challenge at times being married to me”.

So, that’s the word for today. Jesus called it “taking the log out of your own eye”. Jesus had a way with words…

Prayer: Lord, help me see the log in my own eye, Amen

Lessons from a Comic Strip

On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.                   Psalm 100:1-2 (The Message)

Some of my readers may recall a comic strip titled Calvin & Hobbes. It was a brilliant comic featuring young Calvin and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes. Calvin is named after the famous theologian, John Calvin, and his tiger, Hobbes, is named after philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

Calvin is a precocious, adventurous, six-year-old boy who often poses difficult questions to his parents. Calvin sees the world from a very egocentric world view, as most six-year-olds might. Hobbes, his stuffed tiger (but only to others, to Calvin, Hobbes is a real friend), is an observer of life who helps Calvin understand a confusing world.

I often think of the truth that we find in humor, such as that of comic strips. I have mentioned in the past the great work I enjoy in The Far Side, B.C., Peanuts, and many other comics. Reading the comic page is a daily routine for me because I need to start the day with the refreshment of humor. Maybe it is to wash down the stuff I read on the front page.

I like Calvin because he reminds us that in all of us there is a bit of that egocentric 6-year-old- who at times thinks that the world did not really start to be modern until he made his appearance. His experience of new things seemed (to him) to be a new revelation for everyone for the first time.  In his little mind, his experience was the one that really counted.

We as adults know that such childish thinking is just that- childish. Yet don’t we at times lapse into the egocentric worldview- that our experience is the one that counts?

Well, think about that one for a while!

Prayer: Lord, you have given us a sense of humor, and we are blessed to have it to get through this world, Amen

God’s Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.                                                                  I John 4:7-8

Understanding the love of God is a mystery, I think, no matter your parental state. I have a little better understanding of it because I am a parent. At least for me, the unconditional love that I feel for my kids is somehow my dim understanding of the love God feels for me. I have some inkling of that love, and it took parenthood for me to get even there. I had to have the experience of loving a child in my own arms to get that better understanding.

Many of my readers may not have children, either by choice, or because they were unable to have biological children. Some may have chosen to adopt children. I simply explain my understanding of God’s love in terms of my own parenthood. That does not mean that those without children do not have a good understanding of God’s love – in fact, far from it.

I know childless people who have poured their lives into others in the most beautiful ways. Their time, energy and resources have gone into people not related to them, and they, in turn have shown God’s amazing love to others.

God as a loving parent is demonstrated in his investment in us through his son, Jesus. That too is a mystery. Rather than being caught up in theological explanations, I find it easier to just accept that God is a loving God who created us in his image. He wants us to share that love with others and his creation.

Keep it simple for me. God is love, and he wants us to be loving too.

Prayer: Lord, what an amazing plan you have, Amen


Point your kids in the right direction—
    when they’re old they won’t be lost.                                                                                                                 Proverbs 22:6 (The Message)

There are many complicated parts to the relationship of parent and child. Almost everyone can identify some way that one (or both, perhaps) of their parents made a mistake(s) in raising them. This is true- because it is! Parents are human and we are imperfect.

 Every one of us who is a parent can identify things we could have done for (or with) our kids when they were young. There are things that we could have said or not said, different decisions that we could have made with them, etc., etc. That being said, the vast majority of parents wanted to do the right thing by their kids. Their motives were good even if follow through was not perfect.

I often end up speaking to my clients (all of whom at this point are adults), about their need to have the approval of their parents. No matter the age of the client, or their parent, there is a part of them that wants approval from their parents. I suspect that there is good reason for this. When we are young, children are completely dependent upon their parents for survival. From just an evolutionary concept, it certainly behooves kids to please those who hold their life in their hands!

Beyond that, there is a bond that develops that encourages a nurturing relationship between parent and child. That need to please our parents changes over time, but the concept remains true. We want mom and dad to approve of us- to be proud of us.

I also talk with clients about the fact that parents almost universally did the best they could with what they had and what they knew at the time they were raising their kids. They did not intentionally set out to mess up their kids!

So much to be said about the complicated world of parenting!

More on this tomorrow my friends…

Prayer: Lord, we can better understand your love for us as we love our children…

Bringing Heaven to Earth…

“‘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

This is, of course, a passage which has given us the most well-known prayer on earth- The Lord’s Prayer. We learn it as children, and we retain it our entire lives. It is, in fact, so ingrained in us, recited in a rote manner, that we may miss the richness of the prayer.

The sentence, “your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” sounds like a nice pleasantry that can become a bit of a catchphrase. Actually, it is the hardest thing we are called to do. We are actually being called to bring a bit of heaven down to earth by the actions we choose to do. Jesus was the embodiment of “heaven to earth”, and we are called to live that legacy out by making earth look a bit more like heaven.

Yes, we have a very long way to go on that, and no, we will never accomplish it in our tenure here. However, we have been called to not simply wait for the day we can go to heaven and all will be peace and joy. We are called to bring a measure of heaven’s peace and joy to earth. We do that by loving other people, encouraging them, helping them, grieving with them, and all other human connections that aid one another on this life’s journey.

So, the next time you recite the Lord’s Prayer, remember that he always intended for us to make earth a bit more like heaven.

Prayer: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…


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

One of the things which I suggest as homework to my clients is a periodic “check-in” during the day on their emotional state- a self-awareness exercise. What do I mean by this? It is taking a brief pause out of daily routine, and perhaps taking a little breathing exercise -that is inhale 4 seconds in through the nose, hold about 5 seconds, then exhale through the mouth for about 7 seconds.

Doing this a few times gives a little distinct pause to allow one to center briefly on their personal emotional state. In other words, “What am I feeling right now?” This may take some time to really become effective, because people are often not truly aware about their current emotional state. This requires some honest personal searching about current feelings.

“Am I angry right now? Why?” “Am I sad right now? Why?” “Am I scared right now? Why”. Maybe you are feeling just great! Wonderful! You fill in the blank of the feeling. Many people, not being used to asking themselves this question, are used to covering it up with “I’m just tired” or “I don’t know what I feel”, or “How can I tell what I am feeling?”

This check-in is good to keep us calibrated and honest with ourselves. We are very used to denying feelings or covering them up. We find it hard to be honest with ourselves about what we are feeling. Indeed, some might say, “It doesn’t matter how I feel, I just need to press on today!”

The truth is it DOES matter how you feel, and it is important to just recognize it and own it. If you are angry or scared, that is fine- those are honest emotions. We are not looking for blame, just honest evaluation of what is “going on with me right now.”

To the extent that we do regular check-ins on our emotional state, the healthier we are. The truth sets us free in every way to be more honest with ourselves, owning personal feelings, and taking responsibility for how to take care of ones-self in that moment.

So, periodically, do the personal emotional check-in. It is good self-care.

Prayer: Lord, you have given us the remarkable ability to be self-aware. What a gift! Amen

Note To My Readers: This blog posting is #1000! Hard to believe that we began this journey together on April 1, 2020. So, thanks for hanging with me during the journey. Having an inventory of 1000 blogs means that there is a lot in the archives! So, please check out the archives as you wish!



Be Perfect

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.                                                                                Matthew 5:48

Have you ever read this passage and said, “Yeah right, be perfect. What a joke.” I talked with a client about that recently because this client often feels very, very far from perfect. In fact, he often feels terrible about himself.  The call to be perfect is like a cruel joke to him.

I told the client that every single person who ever lived probably harbors those same doubts, and even resentment that there is such a standard that they are so far from achieving. Then I gave my explanation of this to my client.

It is like we are on a road in life and there comes a fork in that road. Jesus invites us to a road toward fulfillment, but a road that others may not recognize. On that road, we will fail and make mistakes. We will not be perfect as we travel down that road, but that road leads to perfection. We are not perfect, but we are on the right road.

You know, if you take the wrong turn when you are on a trip, you can make good, fast progress, but you might be going in a wrong direction. That road will not take you to where you want to go. If you are on the right road, you might have difficulties, detours, potholes, accidents, you name it -but, you are on the right road! Follow that road and you will get to your destination.

The right road is the road to perfection, it is not perfection itself.  So, take heart. None of us is perfect, but we can take the road that leads there as we follow the lead of Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Jesus, the guide on the road, Amen.

Managing or Coping?

to take a fresh breath and to let God renew your attitude and spirit.                                          Ephesians 4:23 (The Voice)

I was talking with a client recently and she talked about “coping” with certain situations. I asked if I could help her see that another word might work better. I suggested that she talk about “managing” those issues rather than coping with them. Why is that important? Well, I think words matter, and even nuances like the difference between “coping” and “managing” can mean a lot.   

The word coping tends to be a passive word, like “enduring”. While coping with problems or chronic situations can be considered a good thing, I think that it implies a certain passivity or maybe even a sense of helplessness.

Managing a situation, however, implies a sense of control. It says “There are things that I can do or that I am now doing that can help me in this situation.” Managing does not mean alleviating necessarily. It does however give a sense of power and control, even if we cannot completely change the outcome.

One does not think about saying “I am coping with my diabetes” (at least I hope not). One does say “I am managing my diabetes to keep it under better control.” The same is true with anxiety and depression. Yes, there is a sense of making peace with the idea that we need help with these conditions, but then we do the things we need to do. We manage them through therapy, medication, exercise, spiritual and social connections, and developing a support team.

The words we use to explain our situation may indicate some hidden feelings about what is happening. Thinking in terms of behaviors that we can do to better take control of the things that are causing us pain is a more helpful way to look at those things.

Prayer: Lord, give us the discernment to see that we can change the way we look at problems, Amen.