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The joy on a college campus

Last week I had the amazing privilege to go with my sister and brother-in-law to take my niece (and only girl niece I have…) to college at Liberty University. I LOVE Liberty! Yes, I am biased because I teach there but I also went there for my graduate degrees. It is a very special place. While, I was walking around campus last week, I felt the excitement of the young people and the next generation of leaders and world-changers all around.

Arguably, one could feel this on any college campus this fall, especially as in-person learning resumes! It also made me wonder what happens to adults causing them to lose the love of learning, exploring, making a difference in the world, meeting new people, trying new things, moving away for a bit or embracing any type of change.

There are many factors that can come into play in losing some of the joys experienced on a college campus, but we don’t have to lose our joy in the possibilities of the future. We can work to maintain a spirit of faith and belief in something greater.

My belief in God is what gives me joy in the possibility of greatness, change, goodness, possibility, and faith. Jesus came to make all things new by taking on the sin of the world. We often forget that Jesus is making all things new in the midst of so much pain and evil in the world, but I challenge you today to walk onto a college campus or at least shut your eyes and imagine doing so and take a deep breath and dream. But don’t stop with a dream, think of all the possibilities and opportunities God can give you to do good in this crazy world today.

Never stop believing that you can make a difference, that you are called for a great purpose to love others as Christ did. Pray for those who are hurting such as those in Afghanistan or Haiti or down the street. Pray for the educators beginning classes this time of year and for the students. Pray for a new generation to rise up and seek to obey God and overcome evil with good.

Choosing Joy today,

Dr. Atwell

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Don’t go chasing Waterfalls

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Did you know that the word ‘listen’ and the word ‘silent’ have the same letters?

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,

Dr. Atwell

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.”

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A Live chat about anxiety during a pandemic with my pastor :).

 

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A rare form of generosity…

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

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A great recommendation from a teenager

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.

Dr. Atwell

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“Make Christmas Great Again, skip church”, says the atheist billboard…

It has been a tough year to listen to the news for many reasons, but at least once a week I try to listen, read, or watch some sort of news outlet to get an idea of what is happening in the world. I am so thankful that I heard about this billboard campaign sponsored by the American Atheists group because if you are one of my two faithful readers…you’ll know I have blogged in a while and this news made me eager to blog!

It is very interesting on so many levels and I am simply going to ask a few rhetorical questions in response to this to get you thinking today.

1-They say, “Make Christmas Great Again…”  which implies that once it was great. How was it great for the atheist I ask in the past?

2-Do we truly know the meaning of Christmas? Yes, this is a question for even the Christians…

3-Will Christmas be great if we simply “skip church”?

4-Are you fulfilled by the materialistic, hurried, people-pleasing through gift-giving, expectant hope of the perfect gift and perfect mate to come thoughts of Christmas for those who celebrate Christmas without believing in the true meaning?

5-Wouldn’t it be more politically correct or accurate rather to say, “Make December Great, skip Christmas?” if you are an atheist?

6-Is it interesting that those who don’t believe in Christianity expect Christians to be tolerate of everything, yet those individuals are extremely intolerant of Christians and their beliefs?

Please think about these questions this season..

Here are my final thoughts… I read this on the pathos.com site, “It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe—and don’t believe—is the best gift you can give this holiday season,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. At first glance of this quote, I sarcastically think, “Oh yeah, let’s go around telling everyone what we believe about them and that is the best gift we can give. For example maybe you think about a drug addict, ‘I think you are a horrible person with no future.’ ” Wow what a gift to give them..your beliefs..

However, then I thought you know this atheist is one to something. First of all, he is exactly right, Christianity has nothing to do with being a good person. It is about Jesus being that good person in our place. Our desire to be a good person after we accept Jesus in our place is because of the realization of how much we are loved and that love overflows to those around us. Maybe all the other religions are about being a good person, but not Christianity! The God of Christianity is truly the only God of grace (unmerited favor-meaning nothing we do would ever be good enough for God, but he loves us anyways and sent his son to pay our debt of being good.) Also, The best gift I can truly give someone as a believer in CHRISTmas is to share my beliefs and be open and honest about those beliefs. The loving thing for me to do is to share Christ and the hope he provides for me! Great thoughts Mr.Atheist!

The sad thing is that many of us will be silent and not share the love we have with others this season. Let’s change that and let others see the greatness of Christmas by sharing with everyone we know the true meaning of Christmas…which is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. What does the simple birth of a baby 2000+ years ago in a cattle trough really mean? Well for Christians, Jesus is the son of God who came to live a perfect life we can’t and to die a death we owe to pay for all of the bad within us. The Jews at the time were expecting a reigning king to come but if God had come in any other form but a lowly human, we couldn’t have handled his wrath and judgment. Instead he came to suffer for us and pay our price for sin (all wrong choices, thoughts, etc.) Christ represents the hope of our future, the peace in our present, and the redemption of our past. This is a truly beautiful thing to share. By the way, you don’t have to go to church or invite someone to church to share the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas,

Natalie

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A positive word on politics

Tis the season for Americans political candidates to show the worst in themselves via ads. I truly despise negative ads. There is enough negativity around us to bring us down in this country in spite of all we have to be thankful for…

When I studied abroad as a college senior in Ecuador, I had the opportunity to tour a hospital with a group of medical students. Most of the hospital had no power because the bills hadn’t been paid and there weren’t many nurses around because they were on strike for not being paid for six months. Recently, a friend who returned from a trip to Brazil told me that the teachers in the area he was working in hadn’t been paid in four months and there was a major water issue that likely wouldn’t be resolved until after a new person was elected and in office, which likely would be in about six months.

I don’t know about you but in my town, teachers are being paid (maybe not as much as they should be), but they are being paid. I also had clean water to drink this morning. Americans take for granted the freedoms we have great and small. This election year may be different from the past, but we still have so much to be thankful for. We should exercise  our right to vote, but first find out who and what you are voting for. Go to the party websites, read the small print of what the candidates truly believe and are promoting, and finally vote your convictions. You won’t find a human that is perfect and whom will be a perfect leader. God is the only perfect being period. Pray for whoever is elected so that they may let God lead them to help our country to be successful.

Finally, make positive changes in your home, workplace, church, and neighborhood by refusing to let negative talk define you. Ephesians 4:29 says, “When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. ” Let your kids hear you praying for our country and leaders, their teachers, and community leaders. Be thankful aloud to those around you for the small blessing you have such as clean water. You’ll be amazed how these changes will positively influence your own mind, thoughts and behaviors and in turn influence those around you in a great way.

Proud to be an American,

Natalie Atwell