About thirty years ago I woke up with a headache.  Now we all do that from time to time but after about three weeks of waking up with a headache I started thinking I had a problem (I know, I’m a man, right?).  My doctor’s recommendation was that I needed to check into a hospital for a battery of tests.  So I checked into Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, MS for an overnight stay that lasted five days. 

After visits from every type of doctor from a Neurologist to a Podiatrist I finally found one who felt like he had found my problem… a Psychiatrist!  I failed my psychological test.  You can laugh but I seriously failed this test as badly as any test I had ever taken.  I was prescribed some heavy psychotropic drugs and scheduled for a series of counseling sessions.  Let me cut to the chase: I needed counseling but either did not know it or I knew it deep down inside but would not admit it to myself.  Looking back, I think it was the later.

So my point in writing this blog is to help you decided if you or someone you love needs to seek counseling help without having to spend a week in the hospital being poked and prodded to find out.  There are a lot of good self analysis plans to guide you in this that you can find if you type in Google the phrase “Do I Need Counseling?”  Here is the link to one that I feel can help you decide whether or not you need to talk with someone: Counseling Self-Test

 I know it may seem a little self-serving for me to write about the need for counseling.  However, having been on the counselee side of counseling, I can say with confidence that it can help us to get a new perspective on life.  I’ve read that the secret to healing is revealing and I agree.  Going through life with a painted on smile saying “I’m fine” every time you are asked how you are doing is at best a lie and at worst life threatening.

Find appropriate help based on your need.  Sometimes a trusted friend is enough.  Other times you may need someone with the training to walk you through life issues.  You have so many counseling options available to today.  There is, of course, in-person counseling which would be the ideal, but there is also online therapy to consider. Online counseling is live counseling through a webcam and Skype (free video conferencing).

I would be honored to serve your counseling needs.  I offer both in-person and online sessions.  While I am unable at the present time to take insurance, I offer a sliding fee scale for you to decide what you can afford.  Your first session is always free so that you can decide whether or not Ready4Life Counseling is for you.  For more information you can check out my website www.ready4lifecounseling.com or call me at 601-818-5665. 

By the way, I’m much better now.  You can ask… well just take my word for it!

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Some counselors talk about “how to cope with stress.” I’ll be honest with you: I’m not interested in “coping” with stress. I had a cold a couple of weeks ago.  I didn’t want my doctor to give me a three point plan to cope with it.  I want to eliminate worry and stress. I don’t want to get used to it, I want to get rid of it. In Philippians 4, Paul shows us how we can do just that. He begins by saying…
(v. 6) Do not worry about anything.

Now, this is easier said than done. Everyone knows that worry isn’t good, yet everyone does it from time to time. The only thing more futile than worry is telling someone not to worry. But Paul does much more than just say “Don’t worry.” He tells us exactly how to stop worrying. Do you have worries? Here’s how you can get rid of them.

1. Make everything a matter of prayer

(v. 6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

2. Point your thoughts in the right direction

Our thoughts control us. In the Bible, King Solomon said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)

What do you think about all day? When you wake up in the morning, what thoughts go through your mind? How you think during the first few minutes of the day can set the pace for the entire day.

You could begin each day by saying, “This is the day that Lord has made! I’m above ground and my heart is still beating, so it’s a great day! I’ve got many things to look forward to. Today, I’m going to make progress on my problems. Today, God will be with me every step of the way. Today, God will cause all things to work together for good. Today, God will give me the opportunity to serve him in some capacity. Today, I will encourage my family. Today, I will show God’s love to everyone I meet.”

Do you see how empowering this can be? If you point your thoughts in the right direction at the beginning of each day, your worries will not have room to squeeze in. This is why Paul says…

(v. 8) Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

These 8 things serve as filters that help us reject certain thoughts and prevent us from putting garbage into our minds. You don’t have to throw your TV and radio in the trash, but you do need to be selective in what you put into your mind.  Let verse 8 be your remote control controller.

Paul teaches that a crucial step in eliminating worry or anxiety is to think the way you ought to think—point your thoughts in the right direction. Thirdly…

3. Take action against your worries

Many people resign themselves to their worries and do nothing. They tell themselves there is nothing they can do, and they wait for the worst to happen. As a result, their worries get bigger and bigger, and things get worse and worse. Doing nothing is fertilizer for anxiety—it causes your worry to spread out of control. Taking action is weed-killer. It removes worries once and for all. Paul said,

(v. 9) Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Paul goes out on a limb with this statement. He was speaking to a church that knew him well. He had lived with them and served with them. If he said, “Do not worry” but was himself always stressed out and full of anxiety, they wouldn’t have bought what he was saying. However, Paul’s life did match his message, and he could say with confidence, “Follow my example. Do what I do, and you’ll have God’s peace in your life.”

There is a principle here for us to learn. Do you know someone who has a handle on worry? Follow their example. Do you know someone who can go through stressful situations without coming unglued? Then handle your problems the way they handle their problems.

What I see in the lives of people who do not worry is a commitment to take responsible action. Doers aren’t worriers, and worriers aren’t doers. If you take action in the direction of whatever it is you that worries you, your worries will disappear. Paul said, in effect, “You’ve heard me say it, you’ve seen me do it, now—put it into practice yourself—take action.”

What kind of action should you take? Well, what are you worried about? Is it your marriage? Then do something that will strengthen the bond or open the lines of communication. Are you worried about losing your job? Make an effort to protect yourself and get your resume ready. Are you worried about your health? Take steps to become more healthy. It’s as simple as this: Taking action destroys worry.

It comes down to this. The cure for worry and anxiety is to pray like you ought to pray, think like you ought to think, and act like you ought to act. Your worries will disappear, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind.

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At the church where I am a member, Pastor Jim and I are doing a study on “stress.” Last night he was unable to attend due to having surgery during the morning.  He asked me to do the study and what I am sharing here is what I shared with the Wednesday evening church family.

The Bible is such a practical book.  I want to guide us as we see what it has to say on the topic of how to eliminate stress.  In the book of Philippians chapter four the writer (Apostle Paul) begins by saying… (v. 6) Do not worry about anything.

Do you have worries? Here’s how you can get rid of them. First of all…

1. Make everything a matter of prayer

(v. 6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

When I read the writings of Paul I quickly come to the conclusion that I do not pray enough. Again and again Paul commands us to pray about everything.

We have a tendency to want to handle the little things ourselves and only “bother” God with the big stuff. There are two problems with this line of thinking. First, it’s all small stuff from God’s perspective. Secondly, if we don’t let God help us through the day-to-day problems, how can we trust him to help us tackle the toughies? When you pray about everything, you will begin to see God’s power at work in your life—in little problems and in major crises. The Bible says…

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

In fact, Paul takes it a step further. He said, “Present your requests to God.” That means, in any problem you have, or any situation you encounter, you have permission—in fact, you have a direct order—to make a request to God, telling him exactly what you want to happen.

That’s quite a privilege, isn’t it? What if you request something that isn’t in line with God’s will? Well, don’t worry about that. God will take care of it. He will not give you something that he knows isn’t best for you. Besides, the more you pray about something the more you will learn to discern the difference (when there is one) between God’s will and your desires.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for help. Twenty times in the New Testament we are commanded to “Ask God.” Also, the book of James tells us…

You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2)

Could it be the reason God hasn’t helped is that you have never given him the opportunity? Think about the biggest problem you’re facing today. Have you asked God for help? Now, think about the smallest problem you are facing. Have you asked God for help with that? It’s ok to pray for parking spaces and laundry stains and runny noses and late appointments and broken water heaters and office conflicts and financial problems and marital problems and rebellious children and…cancer. If it concerns you, it concerns God. Bring your requests to him.

The first step to getting rid of worry is pray like you ought to pray—make everything a matter of prayer. Secondly…(Tomorrow)

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Getting Real

How do we end this relationship damaging game?

1. Decide that being “real” with others is more productive than being “nice.”

It sounds simple, but it’s not. I’m talking about making a change in a basic value that many of us have held our entire lives. Many of us believe that “niceness” is what people really want from us.

Now, it is true that almost everyone enjoys being around people who are pleasant. But, as Proverbs 28:23 puts it:

In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery. Proverbs 28:23 [NLT]

In other words, people would prefer the truth. In other words, “it might be hard, I might even get mad, but please for the sake of our relationship, tell me how I’m doing with you. That’s the only way I can ever improve.”

2. Attempt to handle conflict in a biblical manner.

What is the biblical mandate for dealing with conflict? Jesus said “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 [NIV]

In other words, don’t wait for the other person to take the initiative in resolving things. And get this – resolving things is even more important that worshiping God. If you come to church and there is someone here that you are out of whack with … deal with them first, then deal with God. Pretty radical, but that’s what Jesus is saying here.

Jesus also said there is a sequence for dealing with conflict:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along [that’s when you get to ask them to pray – AFTER you go on your own first, not before], so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 [NIV]

3. Get comfortable saying these three phrases:

“I’m angry.”

But don’t stop there, because one of the traps of the Hide and Seek game is assuming that you can read the minds of other people. So, you need to get comfortable saying …

“Can you help me understand?”

I’m angry, but I want to hear your side of the deal, too. Maybe there is something I am missing.

“I forgive you.”

I’m talking about real and true forgiveness, not merely saying “it’s OK” when it’s not.

Real and true forgiveness is always painful. Real forgiveness requires confronting another person with the fact that they did you wrong, that it hurt you and that you didn’t like it … but that you have accepted the pain and are choosing to let it go. It costs you something – pain – but it gains you something – peace of mind and the opportunity for a renewed relationship.

4. Be a God pleaser before being a man pleaser.

No matter how nice you are you will never please everyone all of the time. With God, you don’t even have to try to be nice to win his approval. In fact, he offers forgiveness to us before we attempt to be nice. While we were still sinners, Paul writes, Christ died for us.

I’ve covered a lot of stuff over the past three days. Let me end with a couple of cautions.  If you are a hider, don’t get down about it. Everybody struggles with game playing in relationships. Just own it and pick one or two things off of this list and start to work on them.

Second, if this is not you, don’t beat somebody else over the head with this information. They already know it’s them and they are very vulnerable right now. What you need to do is to remind them that with God’s help they will be able to grow and change, and to encourage whatever progress that you see in them.

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Strategy

There are several strategic moves when playing relational “Hide and Seek” that will help covertly hide your negative feelings. As you read through this list, you might want to check off the ones that are characteristic of the way you do relationships.

1. Deny your feelings of anger and frustration.

With this move, you just don’t let on when you are hurt. You say something like, “It’s ok” when it isn’t … or “it doesn’t matter” when it does … or “it’s not that big of a deal” when it really is. You turn the anger and frustration inward instead of expressing it at the person who deserves it.

2. Tell yourself, “In time things will work out on their own.”

Don’t take any action to resolve the conflict on your own because, who knows, it might only make things worse.

3. Have a lot of imaginary conversations.

Instead of going to the person and having it out for real, just do it in your head. You say what you really want to say, and then you mentally have them respond how you think they should. But whenever you see them for real, just keep smiling like everything is fine.

4. Expect others to read your mind.

Drop little hints and clues that might suggest that you are not happy and hope that others will somehow figure it out. Don’t sit down with them and come right out and say what is on your mind. That could be too risky.

5. Gossip instead of confronting.

All of that pent up anger and emotion has to go somewhere and since we’re too afraid or too lazy to take it to the person directly, other people are the natural outlet. And if we’re “religious” it’s really easy to do this by saying, “I have a prayer request about a problem I’m having with so-and-so. Let me tell you the situation so you’ll be able to pray more intelligently …”

By the way, there is a time when it is appropriate to say something like that but only under certain circumstances.

Those are some of the strategic moves in relational Hide and Seek. But how do you “win”?

– you meet your need for approval through deception.

You act like everything is OK, you don’t rock the boat, and you avoid the hard issues because you want everyone to be happy with you.

Well, that’s the game and it can get ugly.  But there is hope for those of us who struggle with this relational pattern. There is hope for those of us who lie in bed at night and realize that most of our relational stress comes because we pretend in order to meet our need for approval.

There is hope for those of us who want to end the game, but first, we must admit the truth about ourselves, that we are masters of it and then turn from it. We must ask God to give us courage to say what needs to be said and we must lessen the value we place on what people think of us. Only when we do that, are there some things we can start to do differently in our interactions with those around us.

Tomorrow I will wrap this up with a few strategy moves to end this pattern that is in reality, no game at all.  We are talking about real people with real lives.  Many time these are some of the closest relationships in our lives.

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One of the few kid games my brothers and I could play that did not end in bloodshed was the game Hide and Seek.  Should your memory be a bit rusty, let me give you a brief refresher course.  Hide-and-seek or hide-and-go-seek is a game in which a number of players conceal themselves in the environment, to be found by one or more seekers. The game is played by one player (designated as being “it”) counting to a predetermined number while the other players hide. After reaching the number, the player who is “it” tries to find the other players (thank you, Wikipedia).

In the kids’ version of Hide and Seek, the goal is to hide your physical body so that no one can find you. But in the relational version of the game, the goal is to hide not your body, but your emotions – in particular, the negative ones – that arise in the course of routine interactions with the people around you

There’s a high price to pay for that choice. It’s no fun to stay hidden forever. But in the relational version, not only is it not fun, it’s not safe. And not only is it not fun and not safe, it’s downright destructive.

All of that buried anger and unspoken pain is like a time bomb just waiting to go off, and in the end, more often than not, it does. It can wind up destroying relationships and has been known to cost lives.

God has been dealing with me about this so I’ve been taking a closer look at the details of this game called “Hide and Seek.”

Equipment required:

To play the game you only need one major piece of equipment: basic belief that conflict is bad or just too dangerous.

You have to be convinced that the world is going to end if someone gets mad at you because you expressed your displeasure over something they did. You need to believe that people would rather you run away from them than confront them. You need to believe that pushing through the junk that comes from revealing how you feel just isn’t worth the effort, that it’s easier to just hide those feelings and pretend that everything is OK.

Now, let me be very clear, I’m not saying that every bad feeling we have about another person needs to be brought out into the open. After all, Proverbs 19:11 says that … A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11 [NIV]

But the issue is – can the offense truly be overlooked and are we truly being patient? To overlook something means that you don’t bring it up to the person because you have chosen to let it go; because you have decided that it will not be an issue in your relationship. There is a world of difference between doing that out of patience and clamming up because you simply want to avoid conflict out of fear or laziness.

Tomorrow I want to look at strategies for playing the game.

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PARENTING AND CHARLIE’S COLD

Posted: February 2, 2012 in Parenting
Tags: , ,

I went by my daughter’s house on my way home yesterday.  She is such an amazing cook and since they are not much on eating leftovers, my wife and I get to help them not feel guilty about wasting food.  We do eat leftovers – and like them.  I believe some foods are even better when they are leftovers… but I digress.  My point is, I got to see my grandson Charlie.  I currently have two grandsons, Charlie and Callen, and I say “currently” because we are expecting another one around the end of April (Praise God from whom all blessings flow!).  One of the side effects of this Man Cold I’ve had for almost a week is that I have been quarantined from them.  My original plan was to just go to the door and pick up my rations and leave but that is not what happened.  I need to confess to you that those little hands reaching out to me and that little pitiful I-just-woke-up-and-I-need-my-Pop voice was more than I could handle.  I was weak and I gave in.

Now before you cast too stern of a judgment on me I have two points of rationalization for you to consider that were the basis of my decision to expose this sweet little sixteen month old to my infection.  First, my daughter had obviously had a very bad day.  She is the one that is carrying the new edition to our family and was in, what appeared to me, need of a few minutes of “mom” time.  Since my wife was with me I took Charlie and went to the other room.

My second point of rationalization was that it was probably little Charlie who infected me with this horrid flu bug in the first place.  He has been dealing with the kid version of the Man Cold for close to two weeks.  Last week he was eating a cracker and decided it would be the spiritual thing to do to share with Pop.  I declined the offer but the little guy can be very persistent with those blue eyes and all.

Still not convinced I was right to hold him in my condition?  Well you are probably right.  It was all about me.  I wanted to be the hero.  I wanted to rescue my daughter and be the “man” with Charlie but it was all about me.  Here is the real sad truth, many times as a parent I used the same type of irrational logic with my own kids.  Instead of doing what was best for them, I did what was best for me. I did not want to be the Big Bad Dad; I wanted to be Disneyland Dad!  I wanted us to all just get along and on many occasions I said yes when I shouldn’t have.  My own fear of rejection caused me to go along to get along, putting my kids in danger.

I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases Proverbs 13:24, “A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them.”  My interpretation of this verse is that if I really love my children (and grandchildren), I will do what is best for them and not what is most convenient for me.  For years now there has been a cry rising up from the younger generations.  The cry is, “I don’t need you to be my best friend, mom and dad, I need you to be my parents!”

Parenting and Grandparenting is not easy.  Pray for me.  I’ll pray for you.  Also pray for Charlie’s cold!

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