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,
The question of course is more rhetorical, but as 2020 has created a situation in which many people in the world are using technology more than ever before to connect with one another, work, be educated, vent frustrations, be entertained, etc, I’m afraid we aren’t getting better at truly listening during these times. Many are simply putting their opinions out there (because it is easy to post opinions) and not listening to others. As I sit in my office and do Telehealth or in-person sessions and listen to people discuss the stress of the times, I’ve learned we simply don’t value the opportunity to listen as much as we should. Honestly, it is probably the most important skill in the field of counseling. It is arguably one of the most important skills in life.
Are you good at it? What do others think about your listening skills? Are you listening to understand or simply to reply? Do you want people to hear your point of view more than you want to listen to and understand theirs?
People have been asking a lot of questions lately such as:
-Does it truly help to wear a mask?
-Why are we still dealing with racism?
-Why are some police officers allowed to get away with crimes?
-What can we do to reform police departments, government, etc?
-What is the point of the protest?
-Are we going have to homeschool or virtual school our kids next year?
-Why can’t gyms open?
-Why are some churches comfortable opening and others aren’t?
-Why do teens love Tik Tok?
As I consider some of these questions, I can hear my own answers to them almost automatically in my head…(which are based on my own experiences, beliefs, values, etc.) As a therapist, I have to listen to and help others who often don’t believe what I believe spiritually, politically, economically, etc. and I have to be objective because it is my job. It is not easy and requires me to do a lot of reflection and at times has required my own counseling with another therapist, but the things I’ve learned from listening to those who are different from me are priceless. As a trained therapist, I do much more than listen, but listening is invaluable in my field.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a trained therapist to be a good listener.
The challenge I present you with today is to try and listen and not quickly go to the response in your own head. Really seek to hear someone today. Seek to understand the other person’s point of view, position, experience, etc. Ask someone, maybe who you don’t like, or who you know has a different political view than yours, someone of another race, etc. something today. However, don’t respond, just listen and try to understand. Practice helps in the area of listen. Trust me, I’m still working on this too!
Want to make a difference in the world today? Try listening to others more than you speak, and see what happens…
Show you care for others by listening this week and be blessed,
Here is some biblical encouragement for listening…
James 1:19 “..Be slow to speak and quick to listen.”
Proverbs 18:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 2:2 “Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.”
Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Matthew 11:14, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
This morning as I was reading in 2 Kings 15 about king Azariah, I noticed the scripture mentioned the word “quarantine” so I read the commentary below with astutness. Of course last year when I read it, I probably just kept on reading, but this year it really stuck out to me amid the global pandemic of COVID-19. The commentary indicated the word quarantine in this context meant “house of freedom”. King Azariah had leprosy, (Hanson’s disease) which is a horrible skin disease that is highly contagious, so he had to quarantine and the meaning of “house of freedom” basically for him meant he was set free from his governmental responsibilities during the time.
As I begin to think and pray this morning, I wondered what God could be trying to set us free from during this COVID-19. Is he trying to free us from the addiction to modern comfort, busyness, guidelines for church, school, or work that we have become enslaved to in some ways. I can’t answer this for you or for the world, but I will be praying and asking God to show me what things in my life I need to be set free from during this time.
The word quarantine is also derived from the word quaranta which means 40. It is where the 40 days for fasting come from in scripture. Fasting is also a way to get freedom from your self and desires and be able to focus on God also. Maybe you can fast and pray about what God wants to set you free from during this time…
At any rate here are few funny things I’m finding myself:
–Free from wearing normal pants to work. I can wear my pj bottoms if I really want to, which I don’t, but I do have some interesting patterns of leggings!
–Free from having to hold IN gas/flatulence if I have it at work. No one can smell anything or hopefully hear it in my earbuds. Note, I am not typically that gassy, just to inform you, but I did make chili on Monday…
-Free from having to rush around town picking up kids from school and having to stop and start work to do so.
–Free to not fix my hair beyond a bun (on certain work days).
–Free to read a ton of books (although I’m working so much that I haven’t been able to yet).
–Free to say no to people and things in order to stay home with my family.
-Free to make my kids watch documentaries with me (since they are homeschooled now, lol).
–Free to be more creative at home with kids and build forts in the middle of the day.
–Free to clean out closets or other areas/things (which I sort of enjoy, feel free to judge me).
–Free to try new things such as volunteering for Meals on Wheels.
–Free to write more often/blog, etc.
Freedom comes with a price. The price is high here as in most cases in history, so be thankful and allow it to force you out of my comfort zone and to seek God in new ways.
I pray you can be encouraged today as you focus on what this quarantine can mean for you as far as new freedoms..:),
As I mentioned in my post last week, many people are freaking out and are feeling very unsure about a lot of things in our world at this time. Here are some ideas/activities to help you shift your focus.
1-Go visit your elderly neighbors. Take some groceries, fresh baked goods, and toilet paper (since this has been a hoarding nightmare).
2-Go for a walk, run, etc. and thank God that you woke up today, be thankful that the sun came up, etc. Be thankful intentionally for at least 10 minutes a day. You’ll be amazed how this will shift your focus.
3-Be creative, think of new things you can do to make an impact in your home, neighborhood or community. Have your kids create a list of things they can do to be more helpful around your home.
4-Take this time to learn something new such as sewing, cooking a new recipe, etc.
5-Turn off the news, and sit for with your family, pet, finish reading a few books, or just enjoy the quiet.
6-Consider how connected we all are in the world and be amazed for a moment. One virus thousands of miles away has impacted the world. What one thing can you do that will impact the world for good? It could be simply offering to pray for others.
7-Donate to a local food bank/pantry. Call churches, shelters, etc and see what you can do to help aid effects of relief, etc.
8-Contact local schools and see if you can help deliver meals to hungry children.
9-Be wise with your money! If you aren’t, sit down and develop a budget.
10-Sit and talk to others (at least 6 ft apart :)). Don’t just sit and scroll on social media.
11-Make someone laugh today.
12-Ask God what you can learn from your circumstances.
13-Consider a positive perspective and solution to problems around you.
14-Call friends who are healthcare workers or send them cards and let them know you are praying for them.
15-Watch educational documentaries with your kids. Talk to them about history. Tell them about your history. Recount God’s faithfulness in your life with them.
16-Take this time to teach your kids life lessons or common sense lessons. For example, how to pump gas, how to manage money, how to wash clothes, how to take the trash out, how to make friends. how to choose a career, how to study the Bible.
17-Go explore the outdoors. Go hiking, etc.
18-Support local small businesses which can be hit hard during these times.
19-Ask someone you love for forgiveness. Reconnect with an old friend. Offer forgiveness to someone who has hurt you. Life is too short. (My older sister and I prayed this morning for this very thing and as we did, I was reminded of the time she threatened someone with a lipstick…well in my mind it was lipstick…If you knew her, you’d know she couldn’t even hurt someone with lipstick).
20-Make up your own tip!
This challenge in our world is a great OPPORTUNITY! Seize the day!
You’ll be amazing once you start doing some of these things how your anxiety will decrease and how you will not have time to be fearful.
Overcome evil with good today!
Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
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
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.
Have you ever heard someone make this statement? Have you ever heard a story and thought, “Surely, they had to know”? As a counselor, I have the privileges of hearing stories weekly of people in all types of situations and circumstances. It is truly and honor to walk through tough times with people or to help people process painful pasts. I don’t take it lightly that people trust me to share their deep concerns, thoughts, etc. With that said, there are often times, I say to individuals, “You knew, didn’t you?” and most often they respond with something similar to, “I did, but I didn’t want to know, so I suppressed it”.
At the end of WWII, when American soldiers discovered for the first time one of the concentration camps they had heard about in Ohrdruf, an American general ordered for the major of Ohrdruf and his wife to visit the camp. After visiting the concentration camp, the major and his wife killed themselves and a letter was found after that said, “We didn’t know, but we knew.” (www.clevelandandjewishnews.com)
Wow, you may say, “Thanks for depressing us today!” Here is the good news, turning this blog around…As a counselor who is also a Christian, I can offer hope to those who want to know. I believe as the Bible states, that the truth of God is written on the heart of all people (Romans 2:14-15 …They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them”; Ecclesiastes 3:11: eternity is written on the heart of every man). Some people just suppress the truth, while others embrace it. I believe it is why atheists can’t explain where guilt, conscience, and the desire to worship something comes from. Most who dare to be honest with themselves, suppress the truth of a divine creator because they don’t want to ultimately be accountable for their actions and what they’ve done with their lives.
The good news (the gospel) of Jesus Christ is that while we are accountable for our choices in life, He came to pay our debt. We could never do enough to make ourselves right in the eyes of a perfect God, but the good news is that Christianity isn’t about what we can do, but what was done for us. As we celebrate Easter, embrace what you know deep down, that a good God exists, He created you, although choice led us to go against Him, He provided a way back to a relationship with Him through Jesus who bled and died in our place and defeated death as He rose again so we don’t have to experience death (eternal separation from God and all good things).
As the end of your life, don’t let it be said as the mayor and his wife, “We didn’t know, but we knew.” May it be said about you, “I did know about God and I knew Him through his son Jesus!”
My husband and I recently discovered the Amazon Prime series, “The Man in the High Castle”, which explore what life would be like if Japan and Germany had won WWII. It is a sober, thought-provoking, cliff hanger at the end of every show type of series. I love it but I’ll tell you it make you think and makes you thankful. For example, I would have been exterminated if I was in the Eastern Reich of the States because I was born clubfooted so I’m thankful that I live in a nation where birth defects don’t make you a mistake. However, recently I’ve been thinking even more about making my life matter and doing more for those in need. I was convicted that Americans today are somewhat like the Germans at times by thinking we are better than the rest of the world, happy to live in our nice homes, driving luxury cars, and giving pennies to those in need. It is a sobering yet true thought…
As this thought has been on my heart and I’m praying about what this means for me, I wake up and see the news of Las Vegas… I was reminded of the Bible verse in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome with evil, overcome evil with good.” This is the right way to respond to tragedy. Do good.
It was very sad to see that so many died at a concert last night, but it is also sad that thousands die all over the world of starvation. We cannot be so consumed with ourselves that we miss out on using our blessings as Americans for good.
Here are some ways you can specifically overcome the evil in the world.
Donate to Compassion International. http://www.compassion.com They give food, education and hope to children in extreme poverty.
Pray for the victims and victims’ families from the Las Vegas tragedy.
Pray for the mentally ill in our community and world. Pray for those who work with this population.
Be kind to a stranger.
Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
Go to a great church and be a part of a family of believers that are working to overcoming evil with good. If you haven’t find one yet, keep searching.
Teach your children to do good and be great people not just great at a sport or activity.
Be encouraged today and overcome this crazy evil world with the good news of Christ today,