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.
As I reflect back on 2020, and more people seemingly needed counseling than ever before in my entire career, I thought it may be useful for you to know some of the techniques given most often in 2020.
1-Turn off the news. The main goal of the modern day news is ultimately to obtain viewers. Journalism today often uses sensationalism, defined as the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement. Therefore, it is not helpful. If you want to be informed as I do, try something such as a positive news podcast I found a year or so ago called, The World and Everything in it. Or try getting headlines only sent to your email once a day. Do not endlessly watch Fox News, CNN, etc. Try turning it off for a week, and let me know how you feel…
2-Focus on what you can control. 2020 tried to teach us that we are not in control, however, most people in living this out tried even harder to control which frequently resulted in more stress and anxiety. You can’t always control getting a virus (masks, gloves, hazmats, etc included). However, you can be intentional with your family and friends (i.e. play games together, call one another, send care packages, etc). You can help others (volunteer for a local food bank, organize a food drive). You can try to be healthy by eating healthy and exercising. You can turn off the news. You can seek God by reading his word daily and spending time with him, the one who actually is in control….
3-Practice deep breathing. Take many deep breaths daily. Use breathing apps or exercises if needed. Just try not to breath in the Covid…
4-When you feel in a panic, slow down your racing thoughts by focusing on your five senses. What do you see right now? What do you smell? feel? taste? hear? Don’t call the person who will get you even more hyped up than you are….
5-When changes happen in our world, find a new routine to help you find order in the chaos. If you work from home now, create a schedule for your work day that includes a lunch break, stretch breaks, and a stop time.
6-Don’t judge others who aren’t reacting the way you are to the changes. Be respectful and kind and follow your convictions without judging others. Judging is God’s job and when we try to do it we feel horrible. So stop.
7-Be social however you can be during a pandemic. If you feel comfortable being with family and friends, spend time in person with them. If you can’t, drive by their homes and spend time 6 feet apart, have zoom or FaceTime parties, etc. We need people no matter how much they get on our nerves at times.
8-Realize grow happens out of your comfort zone and practice doing things that are always comfortable. Try a new hobby. Talk to that neighbor you’ve never met. Pray for your enemy. Exercise. Become friends with someone who doesn’t look like you. Stop making excuses for why you can’t or won’t do something.
9-Make the best of all situations by fostering an attitude of gratitude. List five things you are grateful for each day. Consider the benefits of online learning. Remember the times you wished you worked from home. When you go back to the office, be thankful that you don’t also have to do laundry during your lunch break!
10-Pray, in all things at all times. Make prayer a part of your daily routine, not just once a day or at meals. Talk to God about everything. Ask him what you should be learning during this time. Inquire about why you were created to live during this specific time in history.
Praying you use the hindsight 20/20 view of 2020 for good this year. Make it a happy new year!
PS.. I’m praying you all cultivate God’s earth with love and grace as you realize you are made in his image to reflect his goodness! Genesis 1…
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.
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,
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.
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.