Praying my dad still talks to me after this one…
Considering I’m a super nerd (self-described), I looked up the history of masks since the debate is a heated one these days in the great United States of America. According to Christos Lynteris, an expert in medical mask history at the University of St. Andrews (can you imagine growing up to become a mask historian~interesting), we can find clues about the history of masks in paintings as old at 1720 of the bubonic plague. The “masks” here were thought to protect against illness but in reality they likely only helped people deal with the smells of illness. Over time, masks developed as people learned more about sickness, viruses, and disease. Masks were used by surgeons in the late 1800s as a means to prevent droplets when/if a surgeon coughed or sneezed.
Growing up in the 80s, I remember my dad having a handkerchief in church that he carried in his suit pocket. He used it to cover his mouth, how appropriate. I carry tissues in my car/purse for the same purpose. Sure cough and sneeze droplets are gross, but mostly I’ve always believed it was just respectful to use a tissue or hanky.
Today, however, wow masks are a huge sign of many different things. They are signs of the time for sure: COVID-19, politics, fear, respect, stupidity (I do think it is silly to wear one in your car or home all alone), common sense, homemade projects, medical professionals, not something kids can handle, and the list goes on depending on who you ask.
Regardless, today my message is to encourage you to consider what you are putting your hope in today. I’ve read and heard numerous local and national leaders state that if everyone wore masks all the time, the virus could be gone in no time. Therefore, I think many people have a lot of hope in wearing masks. I am not here to tell you my stance, advise you one way or another about mask wearing, etc. However, I am here today to encourage you NOT to put your hope in anything other than God.
Psalm 118:8-9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humanity (or the products of humanity, such as masks).
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in nobles (or leaders/politicians).
If you put your hope in money, you could still find yourself struggling with relationships.
If you put your hope in a sports team, you will be extremely let down if they have a losing year or can’t play (this year!).
If you put your hope in a politician, you will find that he/she can’t keep all of their promises and are the savior of our nation. Many focus on the president but neglect to research the power and impact of their own local leaders none of which are perfect.
If you put your hope in a celebrity (seriously why do people care what celebrities think?..ok I’ll try not to be judgmental and of course yes I’ll read a random article once in a while about one), you will be let down when they go off the deep end or divorce (like Nicky Lacey and Jessica Simpson..I’ll get over it one day, j/k).
If you put your hope in humanity, you will be let down as soon as someone pulls out in front of you or posts something stupid online.
Finally, if you put your hope in a mask, you will be let down when you see someone not wearing one or worse if you wear one and still get sick, you will be let down.
Therefore, set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). Place your hope in God. He is the Great Physician, the Healer, the Savior, one whom we can have an amazing relationship with who will never leave us, is so famous he is timeless, is the giver and taker of wealth and all things, etc.
Set your mind on things above by:
-Waking up and saying every morning: This is the day the Lord has made, I will be glad and rejoice in it. (It’s my mantra, find one for yourself!)
-Spend time in prayer/meditation, and Bible study each morning (coffee is a major part of this for me, let’s call it a part of the devotion trinity: prayer journal, bible, coffee).
-Surround myself with Godly, positive, encouraging people who hold me accountable and challenge me. Church is a great place to start (even though they are filled with imperfect people).
-Laugh every day. Life is too short.
-Ask God to show you when you are putting your hope in something other than God.
-Break your addiction to comfort. Growth happens outside of your comfort zone (which is often the thing you are putting your hope in more than God).
He alone is our Hope. Our hope for the redemption of the past, hope for the present day to be great or to survive it, and hope the future of Earth when he makes it new one day!
Praying you place your hope in Jesus today,
PS: I had to sit at a local tire shop recently because my tires were completely worn to the point that my indicators were continually showing low air after I filled them…(Maybe I was putting too much hope in worn down tires)…and I noticed this older lady (without a mask) sitting in the lobby (socially distant) with a shirt on that said HOPE and was an acronym. The funny thing is she cursed like a sailor, it was the weirdest scene. I couldn’t help but think we may look like that to God when we look like to everyone else that we are putting our hope in Him meanwhile cursing Him like a sailor as we put our hope in things that will pass away…
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
Have you ever had one of those “stick your foot in your mouth” moments. Well, I’ve had plenty….Recently, while on a trip to Chicago with my famous DJ friend, Candice and other friends, we were able to meet some of the actors and actresses from the Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago PD TV shows (which was pretty cool so I had to mention). We also met a real life Chicago fireman (a real hero is really cool though) at one of the events.
While one of my friends and I were discussing life with the nice fireman, I joked about my son entering the teen years and being fearful of the images girls may try to send him or vice versa on a phone (which he doesn’t have yet). My joke was, “If Chloe the Ho-y” tries to send an in appropriate picture of her body to my son, I may flip out. As I said this, the kind fireman turned to me and said, ….”My daughter’s name is Chloe.” Of course, I was mortified that I had unintentionally used his daughter’s name in my silly comment, and I wanted to put my foot in my mouth at the time. Eventually, I apologized and donated to the charity he was promoting for the Chicago Fire department to show my gratitude.
On a serious note, around this same time back home in the South, one of my best friends was going through a terrible time of grief from losing a baby. We went from preparing showers and picking out pink hair bows for a precious little girl to preparing meals for two grieving parents and picking out thinking of you gifts. As I called, sat with, and walked with my friend trying to listen to her and just be there, I was reminded of the things people say trying to help during difficult times, that actually do the opposite of help. Therefore, I thought I’d encourage you as you read this blog for “What not to say” during difficult times.
1-Time heals all wounds.
Death isn’t something we were ever created to handle. God created us to live forever with him in the garden, but sin screwed this up and the world we live in is now broken and death is a part of the brokenness. Although, it doesn’t have to for those who believe in Jesus paying their penalty for sin and dying in their place :). This is the good news/gospel!
2-When can you move on or you need to move on?
Some people can’t move on, they just have to go on. The good news is that God won’t waste their pain. He can make beautiful things from ashes.
3-Everything happens for a reason (as if it was a good reason).
Again, this isn’t helpful and sometimes the reasoning stinks. The main reason bad things happen is because we live in a broken world…
4-At least you…fill in the blank.
This doesn’t make anyone feel better during a tough time.
Sometimes people can’t be during a tough time and someone telling them to be thankful makes it worse.
6-I know how you feel.
No two people are alike, no two people experience things exactly alike. So no, you really don’t know…
7-What can I do for you?
Be more specific. Ask, “Can I bring you dinner on Monday?
8-Call me if you need me.
They won’t call, call them just to check in.
9-God needed her more than you did or God needed another angel.
This is not biblical. God doesn’t need us, he chooses to partner with us in this world to do His work. God doesn’t need babies in heaven either. Also, people don’t become angels. People who are grieving aren’t helped by a statement like this and it’s also not true. Again, the loss of a loved one is a result of a broken world. (period)
Acknowledge that a loss happened, and say something encouraging… See suggestions below.
Bonus: “Whatcha got in there?” Recently, at a family funeral, an old lady from a past church, came up and patted one of my family members on the stomach and asked, “Whatcha got in there?”, to which my family member replied in a very sweet voice, “fat”. Little did the old lady know, this person has had a very difficult few years resulting in a few extra lbs. I told this family member, an appropriate response would have been to pat the old lady on her chest and say, “Whatcha got in there? Probably not a heart!” Actually, I know vengeance is not ours, but God’s…PS. Just because you are an old lady doesn’t give you the right to be rude.
Here are some things to consider saying:
- I’m so sorry.
- I’m praying for you. However, don’t just say it, do it!
- No one should have to go through this.
- My favorite memory of your loved one is when…
- I’d love to hear about your loved one.
- I think about you and your loved one often.
- Your loved one will be missed.
- I’m sure you miss him/her so much.
- Every life matters no matter how short or how long. This life mattered to me and I know to you as well.
Finally, Job’s friends in the Old Testament often get a bad rap for saying all the wrong things when he lost everything-which they did. However, did you know that at first they sat with him in silence for seven days?! Job 2:13, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Sometimes, we just need to go and sit with those who are grieving.
Be blessed this week and let’s all think and pray before we speak to those who are hurting,
PS. If you’d like to donate to the Chicago Fire Department charity, you can do so at http://www.ignitethespirit.org
Donating to a charity or cause is another way to show someone you care about them as they are grieving and to assure them that every life matters. My personal favorite is to donate Gideon bibles (www.gideons.org). This way, life can be made possible for others by sharing the gospel.
Below is a pic from our trip :).
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.