Praying my dad still talks to me after this one…
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..:),
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.
read the news before I go to bed…I discourage this for my clients all the time, but for some reason, this week I’ve read my “news briefing” (which makes me feel important like they are specifically ‘briefing me’ :)) before I go to sleep. The news is …ugh… most of the time, I can’t watch it, but need and want to stay somewhat informed whether it is fake, real or somewhat in the middle, so I typically go to the ‘NEWS’ app and scan the titles. HOWEVER, last night I dug a little dipper into a couple of horrible stories including the evilness of the California family (a blog for another day) and the Nassar doctor (I just can’t put the Dr. before his name right now) story surrounding 100s of young athletes over the years which led to me not sleeping well and getting up at 5:15 feeling the need to blog…
The funny thing is or actually I believe the spiritual thing is, I have thought about/felt God prompting me to write this post for the past couple of weeks. I was going to title it, “SPEAK UP” or “How to teach your children to SPEAK UP”.
In my profession, I have the bittersweet task often of being the first one to hear people disclose terrible things that have happened to them sometimes 40 years prior or 4 months… It has been a true humbling and honorable experience to be someone God uses to help people heal from true evil that has been done to them. People often think if they don’t talk about it or deal with it that it doesn’t affect them. I explain that it is similar to having a house that hasn’t been dusted in many years. It may look like everything is in place but you still sneeze and are affected by the dust and may not realize that just keeping things neat and orderly isn’t enough. Yes, once you start dusting, it may feel worse at first and your sneezing may increase momentarily, but when it is all clean out and up, you feel so much better and free.
My approach to teaching parents and encouraging victims always includes:
SPEAKING UP! Preferably sooner than later! Whether a boss or co-worker is saying inappropriate things to you, a dirty old man at church (unfortunately church is full of imperfect people) makes comments to you, a classmate smacks your bottom, or a family member/neighbor/stranger or ANYONE says or does anything (even if the person touches your shoulder and you feel weird) SPEAK UP, tell someone you trust and if you don’t have someone you trust, keep searching until you find someone who hears you!
The good news about SPEAKING UP!
–Speaking up helps people learn: If you inform an adult that your 8th grade classmate smacked your bottom and he gets in trouble. You are actually helping him to learn that you DO NOT touch a woman inappropriately and without her permission. He hopefully will learn early on NOT to do that again. Boys this applies to you as well. If a girl says something that makes you feel uncomfortable or touches you, when you SPEAK UP and call her out, you are helping her to learn.
-Speaking up helps individuals stay out of trouble: I have boys and they are silly, which is normal. However, they at one period thought they could give me a love tap on the bottom like their dad did while flirting with me. It is my job as a mother to inform them that is it NOT appropriate to touch a woman like that unless you are married and know one another is joking. Basically, my husband had to stop doing that because they needed to see it modeled. Maybe you think this is extreme, but if it helps my kids learn, then it was worth it! Of course, there are times when the kids aren’t in the room ;).
–Speaking up breaks the cycle: I’m that weird mom who stands in the doorway of men’s restrooms talking to her boys the entire time they are in there. Yes, they’ve had karate, Yes, they are getting older, BUT… I WILL CUT YOU if you touch my kids inappropriately. My boys think I’m nuts and hate it, but I’m not their mom to be cool or friendly. Part of my job is protecting and preparing them. Things happen in public restrooms and other places. Teach your kids this…Yes it is an ugly truth but knowing it will hopefully help them. If enough crazy moms stand up, maybe we can begin to break the cycle for some.
–Speaking up shows love: This one is very personal to me…You see I firmly believe that children must be taught to speak up against anyone. My neighbor and I are like family, but we’ve even had the conversations with our children that even if one of us tries something, they should speak up! They should learn that even those that are closest to them can and should be held accountable. One way to teach this to your children is to create an environment where your children feel safe telling you anything. My parents are not perfect, but they got this one right at a very crucial time for my older sister and me…A family member once tried to “show himself” to us “and have us touch him” as little girls and my very brave (sometimes she doesn’t realize how brave she really is, although she can’t even give someone the stink eye she looks and is SO sweet…) SPOKE UP. My sister told that person to stop and we got out of the bathroom and when our parents came, she told them what happened. She felt safe telling them and they responded by protecting us. Part of your children feeling safe is knowing you’ll listen and respond (this is love)! I want go into long details except to say, our dad confronted the person (mom couldn’t go or trust me she’d be in jail to this day, which is basically what she told our dad…You go or I will…) and eventually we were NEVER around that person EVER AGAIN until his funeral. I truly believe I would not be who I am today without my parents allowing us to speak up and then responding appropriately. It wasn’t easy and it tore a family apart, but it was worth it! If you have to tear a family apart, turn a neighborhood upside down, or take on a corporate executive, DO IT!
Proverbs 31:8-9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. (By the ways, this proverb was based on what a mom taught her son).
God love you and He didn’t intend for us to ever even taste evil, but because of Adam and Eve chooses to think they knew better, we live in a very broken world. The good news though is that Jesus came to make all things new…He is doing that now and will wipe away all evil one day. This is what I have hope and faith in that keeps me going. I hope you will consider this hope too.
Recently, I’ve been reading a book titled, Six ways to keep the ‘good’ in your boy, by Dannah Gresh because I’m raising boys, interact with others doing to same, and have realized it is not a task for the faint at heart to say the least. Just yesterday morning, my son came in after taking our puppy out and explained that he had to grab poop out of her butt…(stay tuned for the rest of this story…)
It is a great book with some practical advice on raising boys. By the way, she has one written for ‘good’ girls too. She starts out addressing the fears of mothers, transitions into the importance of connecting with your children and then explains her six ways. Some of the ways aren’t surprising such as encouraging boys to go outside, hosting fantasy football parties, giving them a book to read, etc. However, one story in particular has really challenged me..
She discussed reading a book herself called, The Man who lives with wolves, about a true story of a man named Shaun Ellis who studied wolf behavior to the point that he was accepted into a pack. Wolves apparently are very family oriented and cubs are raised in two distinct stages.
In stage one (the first 5-6 weeks of the cubs lives), the pups are sheltered and nurtured by their mothers. During this time, the mothers teach them to be intimate by cuddling them and bathing them. She also keeps them safe during this time and teaches them to bathe, eat and rest. The cubs are rarely seen by the rest of the pack also during this time.
In stage two, the cubs start to come out of the den and learn about risk and purpose with their dads. The wolf dads begin by teaching them through games similar to a relay game. As the weeks progress, the dads lead the cubs further away from security and their den. The intent of the relay type game they are taught is to teach them to hunt which is how wolves survive. Dads teach the cubs their purpose in hunting and then they come back to the den where moms continue instilling the value of community. The moms and dad work together to teach their cubs needed values for survival.
Ok, you say, that is nice and we can learn from that but it’s nothing shocking, maybe not but this next aspect of “wolf dad” is. Shaun, the guy studying the wolves, was actually accepted into a pack of wolves. However, one day when Shaun and another male wolf was left behind during a hunting adventure to guard the den full of younger cubs, Shaun got thirsty and left the den to only to be found and pinned against a tree for several hours by the wolf dad. I can’t imagine how intimidated and scared Shaun must have felt. Eventually, the wolf let Shaun go and Shaun realized that evening walking along the stream where he was trying to find water to alleviate his thirst, that a grizzly bear had been where he was and the wolf dad knew this from experience. The wolf dad pinning him against a tree for several hours potentially saved him from being ripped apart by a grizzly bear. Wolf dads teach their cubs to play, take risks and eventually hunt for survival. They know when to push their boys and when to punish or discipline them. The mothers also know to stay back and let the dads do this at the needed time.
As human mothers, somehow we tend to want to stay in stage one way too long. We want to secure and nurture our baby boys and often get in the way of their fathers teaching them to take risks, push them to work hard and accept challenges which includes loving discipline at times. It is hard as a mother to see your husband parent differently at times than you do or feel is right. We may think they are “being too hard on them, etc”. However, I do not know what it is like to be a man in this world. My husband has experiences, gifts, talents and abilities according to his design by God as a man that I simply don’t have and vice versa. I have seen my boys grow as I have stepped back at times and not tried to nag the manhood out of the men in my house.
For example, the story about my oldest from the beginning is that he took the puppy out to pee and poop before school and noticed that our dog couldn’t get the last bit (turd-sorry but that is the best way to describe it) out by herself so our son grabbed a paper towel and helped the dog to get it out and cleaned her up. At times, I may have felt my husband was being tough on our son when it came to taking care of the dog. However, hearing that my son who is in still in elementary school saw a problem, figured out a solution and took care of someone else without coming in to ask me for help or wine about it…made me realize that I need to sit back at times and allow my husband to push my son to be the man God created him to be.
Again, I realize that there are single moms in this world and parents who abuse their children and this is not at all what I mean by loving discipline. I encourage single moms to find a good man to mentor their boys. The beauty of the family of God is that we are supposed to look at one another as family and help one another. Families need to be available and willing to help single moms also. I encourage fathers to lovingly push their boys to reach their greatest potential. Finally, I encourage mothers to nurture and teach intimacy but also allow dads to teach the other needed skills for their boys to survive and flourish in this world!
Proverbs 29:11, “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.”
This time of year and other times such as Mother’s Day, Valentines, etc. are not exactly exciting for everyone. I read a story once about a prison doing a Mother’s Day project and the lines were so long for those inmates wanting to send their mothers cards. The project was such a success that they tried it again on Father’s day, however for Father’s day no one showed up to send a card to a father. My dad used to be a prison chaplain and he had all kinds of cards available to give to inmates. He took us to sing at the prison chapel often and we loved it as kids growing up. Those men were so receptive to God’s love and so humble too. Dad never threatened to leave us thankfully for bad behavior, although he may have been tempted..The sad reality is not everyone has a great father or mother for whom to buy a card. Also, someone could be grieving the loss of a great mother or father and these great displays in stores could be painful to see in stores. There are many reasons why one wouldn’t or couldn’t celebrate all of the holidays we have here in the US.
So, here is my suggestion..If you don’t have a good one (dad, mom, valentine, etc) adopt one. I adopt all types of family members even if I have a good one, fill in the blank. For example, if you don’t like your father or you miss yours find someone you admire, look up to, or are friends with and buy a card for this person. If you can’t find someone you admire, keep trying! Go out and meet some more people. Get off of social media and go meet your actual neighbor. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Let people love you and be friends with you. Open yourself up. I realize no one can replace a lost loved one but there are people still in your life that need the love you can give and who want to love you in return. Focus on the present and who you have and tell someone Happy Father’s Day!
Lastly, if you have a good one, be sure to tell him too!
Romans 12: 8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
John 15:12-13 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”