Praying my dad still talks to me after this one…
According to the American press institute, “A good story is about something the audience decides is interesting or important. ” As an avid reader, I love a good story. One I read recently was The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, who tells the love story of two Holocaust survivors. I highly recommend reading it! As the reader, I felt it was a good story because it was based on true events and real people. Hearing amazing stories of survival and hope are arguably why I love my job as a counselor. Not only do I get to hear amazing stories, but I somewhat get to be a small part of the resolve of tension for those who trust me with their stories or at least I am privileged to be one whom individuals seek to help process their stories.
Some suggest a good story contains elements such as conflict, tension, surprise, love, mystery, interesting characters, noble behaviors, evil behaviors, suspense, laughter, frustration, and the list goes on. It is much easier to read a story that has all of these elements, but as we live out our individual stories, the elements of a good story are much harder to experience personally. We don’t love experiencing conflict. Tension cause headaches among many other things. Surprise can be fun, but can also be scary. Love, well….that word is loaded with all types of emotions and meanings. People love seeing good overcome evil in stories, yet the rarely want to be the ones in real life who have the enormous task of overcoming evil.
How interesting is your life? How good is your story? Have you allowed conflict, surprise, tension, love, evil, suspense, laughter, frustration, and noble behavior help God to create a strikingly interesting story of your life? Or have you settled for a boring, complacent, comfortable, and uninteresting story? Further, have you hidden your magnificent story below your hurt and pain in an attempt to mask your pain? (If so, seek a good counselor who can help your process the pain).
Personally, I believe every person’s life at some level is an amazing story or has the potential to be one. Even greater I believe every person has the opportunity to be a part the greatest story ever, HIStory! God’s story! He created us. He gave us free will to make choices that bring about all the elements of a good story as mentioned earlier. Most importantly, God has and is redeeming all of the stories for those who choose Him. Have you allowed God to redeem your story? Are you allowing him to use you to help others in their stories? Finally, don’t avoid the wonderful elements that God is using in your story to bring about good. Embrace conflict, frustrations, setbacks. Fight evil, seek laughter, and choose to have noble behavior. As you do, sit back and enjoy the journey of being a part of an amazing story!
Here is a very simple example of how God used the craziness of the COVID-19 in my story this year. He encouraged me to volunteer with Meals on Wheels and I truly love it. Once a week, I take time out of my busy schedule to deliver food and enjoy the smiles of some precious people no doubt with amazing stories!
Enjoying HIS story-making,
I love the quote by Simone Weil, “Attention is the rarest form of generosity.” Personally, I believe her quote rings true today more than ever. At a time where people can physically, be it at times technologically, connected, people often seem more disconnected to true genuine conversation and ultimately relationships than ever before. So you may ask what was going on in the world and personally for Simone Weil to make this statement in the early 1900s.
Simone Weil who lived during a tough time in culture 1909-1943, including both World Wars. According to some, she was a philosopher and political activist who eventually turned to religion. We can learn some about her through her essays and writings, but to me she seems like a person who was seeking truth and looking for ways to overcome the evil in the world. Some say she became a Christian and emphasized martyrdom and sacrifice as you sought to share her beliefs and give attention to the hurt of others, which led to her dying an early death at age 34. Simone wrote “Attention is the rarest form of generosity” in a letter to a poet friend ins 1942. It is likely she make this statement out of personal experience. Maybe she felt as if no one was truly giving attention to people (the part of creation made in God’s image). It was after all a time of world war, mass killings of Jews, development of nuclear reactor (which became a part of the first nuclear bomb), families being torn apart by war, etc. Whatever the reason, I can’t help but wonder if it was stated out of the feeling that no one was giving attention to hurting people in the world, likely including herself.
Maybe Simon believed that if people would show true care and concern for one another by giving them attention that people would respond with love and not fear which often leads to terrible behaviors. Consider the pharaoh in Egypt who thought the Jews were becoming too numerous so he treated them like slaves. What if he would have paid attention to them, learned more about them, listened to their stories about their God? Could this have caused him to love them and in turn not lose his first born son? (Exodus) What if Hitler would have given attention to the Jews in his country, learned from them, and given them a chance to be a part of the country he ruled? Could Germany have been a great nation still today instead of millions dying, including Hitler, for a terrible ideal?
What if you paid attention to those around you? Would it improve your marriage? Would it impact your kids’ behavior? Would it allow for you to make a new friend? Would it change the trajectory of someone’s life? It certainly could! Finally, what if people paid attention to you? Consider how it could change your life.
While we can’t necessarily make people pay attention to us, we can be people who give attention to others. So, if you want to be a generous person give your attention to someone today. Here are some a tips for when you try:
-Be aware of the messages sent from your body language (make eye contact, think about your facial expressions). Put your phone down!
-Ask open ended questions and/or specific about the person and his/her situation? Demonstrate concern.
-Paraphrase to show you want to understand when engaging in conversation.
-Don’t interrupt or insert your own personal stuff while you are listening to someone.
-Verbally affirm others.
-Notice the person in the corner or notice the person who no one else is noticing and be friendly. Get to know your neighbors. Make a new friend at work.
-Spend quality time with others without technology and give undivided attention. (Don’t act like you are in a hurry).
I am a firm believer that most of the hurts in the world come from relationships, but so does our healing. My faith leads me to believe that ultimate relationship is with God alone. I believe He alone fills the void in our lives, but also uses others to spread His love and attention. Simone Weil also said, “At the centre of the human heart is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world,” which makes me think she came to the same conclusion and belief I have in God.
I hope someone give you attention today!
Dr. Natalie Atwell
When I thought about making a New Year’s/January post, I wanted to mention the statistic I heard recently that only 45% of Americans have made a new friend in the past 5 years (www.studyfinds.com). This is sad, right?
As I listened to many this week discuss goals, resolutions, diets, fasts, etc. the only ones who mentioned relationships in those lists were mostly the ones looking for a mate. (Humor me with a detour for a moment)…The natural progression of the conversation of wanting to meet a mate goes to where does one find someone to date. These days around 40% of people first meet online. This stat may even be higher if you consider how others meet on social media by having “mutual” friends/contacts. With the increase of people meeting online, there has also been an increase in people sending “selfies”. As you can imagine these selfies come in all shapes and sizes with or without clothing from what I hear. So let me report this study I read recently in Psychology Today (Dec ’19 issue), “senders (of unsolicited photos of their genitals) scored significantly higher on measures of sexism and narcissism…” Basically, if you are sending these types of pics, it is likely you could be a sexist or narcissist. Also, “the flurry of emotions by those who received unsolicited images include anger, objectification and shame”. Therefore, if you are sending these, you should stop unless you want people to think or know you are sexist and a narcissist. In addition, if you are receiving these by a potential suitor, changes are he is not the one for you! Furthermore, what would your mirror say, “Really no one wants to see that. Some things should be sacred. Also, stop looking at yourself. Appreciate things besides your looks. Ok, I understand the need to check for things in your nose or teeth, but otherwise, go outside and enjoy God’s creation.”
Back on the main road…I wish you all a Happy New Year! I didn’t think about 2020 being a new decade until it has been mentioned by many this week, but wow ok a new decade to focus on doing amazing things for others! Let me challenge EVERYONE to set a goal of making a new friend in 2020. As Christians, it should be a goal every year to make new friends and meet new people as we share the gospel and make disciples. This was a command by the way…Matthew 28: 19-20 ” 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I pray each one of your mirrors at the end of the year 2020 says, “I’m proud of you, I didn’t see you much this year!
Go out and make a positive difference today, make a new friend,
PS: Michael Jackson’s “Man in the mirror” song wouldn’t work for nasty selfies people send to others…but we can all learn from that song in some aspects.
Teenagers these days often are described as being self-centered, lazy, unmotivated, and addicted to social media instead of living life without posting about it or considering using a filter for pictures they post.
I was encouraged this summer as I met a very amazing teenage boy at the beach who was so kind to my not quite teenage boys. He took them riding in a boat, helped them learn to kayak, and never acted like they were bothering him. He and his brother were very respectful and truly a joy to be around. One day, the teenage boy told me he was reading the book “Make Your Bed: Little things that can change your life…and maybe the world” by Admiral William McCraven. He also told me he wants to be a navy seal one day. I have no doubt that he will achieve his goal and will be a great leader one day.
After I met him and talked to his mother about how she is raising two amazing boys, I saw a book at the library that caught my eye, “Sea Stories: My life in special operations” By Admiral William McCraven. Since this man obviously caught the attention of a neat teenager, I thought maybe I’d enjoy a book written by the same man. The book did not disappoint. I found someone who is very successful to also be humble and gracious.
Here are some things I learned from the book:
-Turn hardships into laughter, self-deprecating, unforgettable, and unforgettable stories.. it’s all in how you remember it!
-Don’t lie to your parents, they know. Give your kids a chance to tell the truth.
-Don’t underestimate the power of one act of kindness. Call a kid, encourage someone today it may make all the difference in the world.
-Take it one evolution at a time. Don’t quit, it’s not the smartest, fastest or strongest who are always successful. It’s the ones who stumble, fall, falter, persevere, who get up and keep moving.
-Sacrifice is worth the reward. God is always working. His hand is in everything . When it’s your time to go, it’s your time.
-People are always listening:).
-There are angels and spirits among us. Be aware.
-War gives your life meaning. Everyone longs for an honorable fight, a battle of convictions.
-Don’t be a bench sitter
-People deserve a second chance
-Be kind to people who are going thru tough times. Continue to fight regardless of your injury! Lose the paperwork…
-Bombs can be carried in shoes… Your decisions effect others sometimes long after you intended them to.
-Overcome evil with good
-Have hope that God can turn brokenness into something beautiful.
-Leaders must be prepared to trust who are fighting for them and to make tough decisions.
-Sometimes rough men have to protect the innocent.
-The sacrifices of the men and women in the armed forces help to save those who may be the best great scientists, doctors , pastors, etc.
-Millennials ask why, sacrifice and say they will be just fine, they are more inclusive, more engaged, not always unmotivated.
-It feels great when justice is served
-Practice the tough plans and drills, go over them and over so you are prepared.
-Tomorrow has stories too.
Be blessed today. Keep going, don’t quit, If it isn’t over yet, it is not the end…A brighter day is ahead.
No I haven’t switched to Catholicism, although in other denominations of the Christian faith, I think we can learn from this practice…
This week I was reminded of something from my oldest son. He woke me up one evening to tell me he had been lying to me. He was crying and said that he needed to tell me and couldn’t hold it in anymore that he had been lying. His little 8 year old heart was being pricked by God to confess his sin. He told me that he had been skipping pages and not reading entire chapters in a book I was encouraging him to read. At first thought I was relieved that all he was lying about was reading… He even said he had come up with his own punishment which was being grounded for two days.
In that moment, I was reminded that when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us. When we confess, God’s grace can abound. If we hold it in, we allow God’s judgment to come. As a parent, my heart softened because of my son’s brokenness. I didn’t want to ground him for two days because he confessed. Our sins still have consequences but when we confess again God is faithful and just to forgive us. My son’s punishment was to read with me the next day instead of being grounded.
My son didn’t see that I wanted him to try a harder book and see if he could enjoy once he got into the book. He also doesn’t understand that I’m trying to help him prepare for reading more difficult material in school next year.
Consider this example…Maybe God is allowing a difficult season in your marriage because you or your spouse is hiding something. If you confess your sin to your spouse and ask for grace, your marriage can be better than it ever was or you can wait until the truth comes out (which it will) and invite God’s judgment on your family…
Who can you confess to? God of course, wise friends, therapists, and/or clergy. Look for someone you trust who will speak the truth in love to you not what you want to hear.
James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”