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.”
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.
This past weekend. I ran my first and likely my last marathon (26.2 miles). My feet still hurt, but it is a great feeling to accomplish such a physical and mental task. Running has been a part of my mental health routine, friendships, physical health routine, fundraising efforts, and life in general for the past 11 years. Through the years of running, I have experienced those scriptures coming to life about “running the race”.
Here are the lessons I learned along with some scripture and my paraphrasing :).
1-Don’t start out like an idiot. If you do, you’ll burn out and not be able to finish strong if at all. Read Proverbs (all of them) to help with this one. *Tip, I read one a day, there are 31 and typically about 31 days in a month.
2-God gives you different people for different parts of your journey. God blessed me with some friends who helped me train, a supportive family who cheered me on and gave me time to train, friends who ran the day of, new friends along the way, and a friend who ran with me the final leg to push me across the finish line! This reminds me of Hebrews 12: 1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
3-Take advantage of the aid stations. Ask for help and stop for aid when needed. Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
3-Be thankful for the cheerleaders. There were people all along the course with signs, some serious “Run with purpose” and some funny such as “Don’t trust your farts.” Sometimes we need people to encourage us in a serious manner and sometimes we need those who will make us laugh. Appreciate them all :). I Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”
4-Enjoy the scenery. Sometimes, we need to look around us to get our minds off the pain of pounding the road. God has given us a beautiful world to enjoy. John 1:3, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
5-Act your way into a feeling. Keep going, don’t listen to ever ache, pain, mental or physical and just keep going. Feelings are often misleading. If you wait until you feel like doing something, you will likely never do it. Just act! Psalm 119: 32 “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.”
6-It’s ok to take a bathroom break. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself past the point of no return. After the break, keep going.
7-Some miles in the middle are really hard. Pray your way through. Pray for others and get your mind off of your own stress. Isaiah 40: 31 “..but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
8-Help those around you. It helps to get your mind off of yourself. There was a sweet girl I met who needed me when I needed her with three miles to go and by encouraging her, she encouraged me to keep going also. Encourage those around you. I Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”
9-Compete with yourself not others, this is your life/race. Don’t try to look at what others are doing, life the life God created for you. Let Him write His story with your life which is not to be like any other. I Corinthians 9: 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly;
10-Don’t quit, Keep going. When you want to stop, don’t, keep fighting, finish! 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
11-Be thankful for those who come alongside you in the end to help you finish strong. Thank you to my friend and brother who came to push me at the end! Hebrews 12: 1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Love you all,