Why Good Relationships Are Good for You

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Somehow we have been sold a “bill of goods” that relationships should be natural, always fun and make our life easier. We have been conditioned by watching artificial relationships on TV and Movies that depict intense love and an idealistic romantic experiences that set unrealistic expectations we can never meet. Please don’t get me wrong – I believe that relationships are the most rewarding and deeply satisfying experience a human is capable of having. But a rich and rewarding relationship is NEVER easy. That is because it requires each party to be willing to set aside their own preoccupation with comfort and convenience and think what is best for the other person. Good relationships do not thrive in an atmosphere of personal self-interest and individualism.

There was a time in my life when I was single for seven years. Was I lonely? Occasionally. But mostly I was content because I could eat what I wanted, go where I wanted and pretty much lived my life without having to think of anyone else’s feelings, desires, wants or needs. It was not that I was isolated, I still had friends, but I always knew that when I was done visiting my friends I could go home and live exactly the way I wanted to. I owed no one an explanation for my tastes or preferences.

What I didn’t realize is that I also was stunting my growth as a person. “Why?” you ask, “it sounds pretty much like you had an ideal life”

Yes, it was ideal if I wanted to become an emotional and relational pygmy but if I wanted to expand beyond my own boundaries and effect change in my life then I was greatly limited. Let me explain by identifying the fundamental character qualities that make for truly great individuals.

Love

Love: How do you grow in love? I don’t mean the romantic, touchy-feely kind of love that is depicted in our media. (Though there is definitely a place for that) I mean the kind of love that seeks the best for another no matter what the cost is to us personally. This kind of love does not grow in the soft, fertile soil of the lazy valleys but in the lofty mountain peaks that take exertion to reach. Love grows where it is hard to love and sacrifice is needed. True love blossoms in the light of self-sacrifice and a willingness to take the higher, steeper road of self-denial. Love means that I place you before me and seek your best even if at a high cost. This character quality cannot be found in isolation but requires intimate relationships. In my seven years of being alone, my heart was growing cold because I was not challenged to love like this and I knew it.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness: Now we have all experienced times when we have been hurt, lied to, and treated unjustly. But nowhere is this experienced more than in intimate relationships. I often say that relationships are the place where we are most wounded and relationships are the place where we are most healed. Becoming a person who can forgive means that we must go where we can be hurt. The deeper and more intimate the relationship the more vulnerable we are to being wounded. I found that I was becoming a person who was neither hurting others nor was I being hurt and therefore my growth in this area was being restricted. No one needed to forgive me and I was not required to forgive anyone else.

Kindness

Kindness: Where do we most grow in kindness? Well, ask yourself where is it hardest to be kind? That’s easy, when we are faced with someone who is repulsive. I don’t mean that we should go out and find the most abhorrent person available and marry them. What I am saying is that in every intimate relationship there will come a time when something is said or done that is deeply offensive and intensely painful. How are we to respond? If we want to grow in this beautiful character quality then we will choose kindness. Kindness flourishes in the presence of transgressions just as light is more brilliant in the presence of darkness. Want to learn to be kind? Find yourself another human to love and kindness in you will be refined as through fire.

Peace

Peace: Here again someone might say, “James, when you lived alone you had ultimate peace, right?” To this, I say it depends on what kind of peace you are asking about. If you are speaking of peace as an absence of conflict then you would be right. Isolation offers a certain kind of peace that is beautiful but unsustainable unless we choose to live a hermit existence. If you are speaking of the kind of peace that is present in conflict then you would be greatly mistaken. The kind of peace that really matters is the internal peace that can bring calm to your soul even in the most stressful situations. This is the peace that Jesus spoke of:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
— John 14:27 NIV

This kind of peace is more powerful than hate and overcomes conflict. In order to have this kind of peace, you must be exposed to places where personalities clash and dreams are in conflict. This means being in relationships. It was too easy for me to just walk away from people who bugged me or those with whom I disagreed. But when you are in a committed relationship that is not possible so this deeper type of peace is essential.

Patience

Patience: We develop patience in places where we are tempted to be impatient? A muscle will never grow strong unless it is tested and patience will never grow unless we have opportunities where our expectations are not met and our plans are thwarted. Do I really need to explain how being in a relationship leads to times of growth in this area? Relationship thy name is patience!

This is the bottom line. If I wanted to be a better man I must commit to being in a relationship that demanded I be a better man. I know, it is possible to be in a relationship and still not develop these qualities. I witness it all the time in my profession as a Marriage Counselor. But that attitude can’t continue if they want to find a more satisfying marriage. At some point, they need to realize that the person they are married to is not there to thwart their dreams and make their life miserable but rather they are an instrument of personal transformation so that they can become a better version of themselves.

I love the movie “As Good as it Gets” Starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. Jack plays the part of a neurotic, OCD, paranoid, anxiety-filled man (yes, this is therapist candy) who falls in love with a beautiful, kind and normal woman. In this scene, he has just said something hurtful to her (again!) and she has made a demand, “compliment me or I am leaving”. So this is what he said.

And so it is with me and one of the main reasons I reached out and opened my heart to marriage. I knew that I needed Cheri to become a man who truly loved, who was learning to be kind, who could find peace in the presence of conflict and learn what it meant to forgive and let go. I’ve got to say that she needs to do a better job at making me do all these things because it’s way too easy to be with her. But even so, I’m sure God knew that I needed someone as truly good and kind as she because I’m a pretty slow learner.

How about you? Do you see your relationships as opportunities for personal growth? Or are you longing for times when you can go into isolation? Nothing good grows in the darkness (unless you are fond of bacteria) so get out into the light and realize that relationships are the school where your character is developed.

As always, if we can be of service to you or you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Why I Need Easter (and So Do You)

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I live in a world of pain. It is the world I chose to enter when I became a Clinical Counselor. Nobody can escape some amount pain and suffering in their work but in my case, I invite it into my office every day. Nobody sees a therapist because they are happy and content with their life.

But I also live in a world of transformation – a place of wonder and unlimited opportunity. For where there is pain there is an opportunity for comfort where there is despair there is room for hope and where there is death there is resurrection.

This is the message of Easter. It is the story that is written in our hearts if we chose to believe it. We simply need to open our eyes and see it everywhere, for God has revealed our true destiny in a new blossom of Spring, the birth of a child and the rising of the sun.

Even our modern agnostic culture has embraced Easter in its most popular media. Who can imagine a superhero movie ending tragically?

This is because the fundamental truth of human existence is hope for redemption. Tolkien wrote of the life of Jesus as the archetypical story of humanity. He called the resurrection a eucatastrophe

(eu = good, catastrophe = disaster)

The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the ‘inner consistency of reality.’ There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.
— On Fairy Stories by J.R. Tolkien

Easter is not only a day we celebrate what was done for us – it is a day we celebrate our own resurrection if we are willing to believe it. But there can be no resurrection without death and there can be no great eucatastrophe without first passing through the valley of hopeless desperation. The sooner we accept this great theme the sooner we will be able to participate in the powerful truth of Easter.

So what hopeless situation do you struggle with? Is there an obstacle that seems insurmountable? If so you are perfectly set up for your own personal eucatastrophe. This is not some self-improvement psychological mumbo-jumbo nor is it a quick fix that will make everything around you bright and shiny.

Remember, eucatastrophes come in the last chapter.

This doesn’t mean that you need to wait until you’re physically dead to experience a resurrection but you will need to be willing to die to whatever has held you down and caused you to become hopeless. The sooner you get to that place where you run out of options and are frustrated with all that you’ve tried the sooner you will find your own personal resurrection.

This is the way of the resurrection – when all hope is lost something penetrates the darkness and brings about a metamorphosis that was not expected and could not have been anticipated. The disciples did not expect the resurrection … in fact they were disbelieving even when they heard eyewitness accounts. This was because they “knew” that Jesus was dead and that all hope was lost. Fearful, grieving and stuck in their limited understanding, they huddled in the upper room believing all was lost. It was not until they were shaken from their disbelief by Jesus’ appearance that their minds and hearts were open to a new and powerful reality.  

This is what it means to die. Whatever you “know” must die to make way for the new.

  • You may “know” that a relationship will never improve
  • You may “know” that your career will never be fulfilling
  • You may “know” that you will never be healthy
  • You may “know” that you will never be truly happy
  • You may “know” that you will never be loved

Your personal eucatastrophe will not come from what you know but from you have yet to know. If the resurrection is true then all the other promises of God are also true.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
— Romans 8:11 NIV

When we continue to live in our failure we are denying the resurrection of Jesus and choosing to live in doubt and fear. It’s as if Jesus steps into your room and shows you his nail pierced hands and you refuse to believe.

When faced with the reality of having true resurrection power available to us do we still choose to live in our fears?

But even when we “see” the truth we still need help – so God has made that available to us also. We simply need to honestly admit our own futility, confess our faithlessness and accept the free gift of resurrection power who is the Holy Spirit. This is the doorway to your personal eucatastrophe.

This is not a “one and done” choice, (oh, I wish it were!) but a continual choosing of the Spirit’s power to work in and through us, in ways, we cannot do ourselves.

I confess that I am so weak that I must do this daily. Every morning the clouds of doubt and fear creep over me like a morning mist and I must begin each day with reminding myself that God is in control, that he is good, that he loves me, and he is worthy of being trusted because he is faithful. This is not a small matter to me – it is as important as breathing for if I fail to do this my spirit will wither and die. If there is any good that comes from my life I attribute it to this daily cleansing of my mind and heart and the resurrection work of the Holy Spirit.

Are you ready for your eucatastrophe? Have you reached a point where you are desperate to see resurrection power in your life? Then you are in a blessed place and ripe for miracles.

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Making Sense Out of Your Partners Nonsense

Learn to Decode Your Partner's "Reality"
 

Ever had this happen – Your partner gets upset about something that seems to you like a trifle. So you downplay it or ignore it and then all hell breaks loose. When you pick yourself up off the floor you are left scratching your head wondering, “What just happened here? All I did was …” Your partner wasn’t logical, reasonable or even slightly made a bit of sense so how do you respond? If you’re like most of us you do one of the following.

  • Close your eyes to the illogic and move on
  • Try to engage in a rational, reasonable manner
  • Put your foot down and assert your right to common sense

But none of these options really work, do they? Because –

  • If you close your eyes to it you end up bumping into it over and over again
  • If you try to engage, you end up going down the black hole and lose your way
  • When you put your foot down it just makes the gap between you larger by filling it with resentment.

So what are you to do when there seems like there are no viable options?

When you encounter the irrational remember this – It’s rational in that person’s world, you just need to better understand their world.

Yes, you heard me right. You are dealing with someone who has a different reality than yours so there will be times when their rationale will also be different. If you ever want to communicate – much less have an intimate relationship, you will need to be able to understand their reality.

But you say, “I didn’t sign up to be a part of someone else’s reality!” You did when you entered into the relationship, for every time we enter into a relationship we are choosing to interact with another person’s reality. Think of it like traveling abroad. When you step off the plane you are now entering into a country with a different set of laws and customs. Yes, there will be a lot of similarities to home but there will be a lot of things you don’t understand and may seem illogical.

Okay, now I’m going to throw you a curveball – sometimes your partner won’t even understand their own reality! Yes, that’s right, we all do things, feel things and say things and we are clueless why. That’s because we humans are great at ignoring our emotions and not tending to our hearts. We think we can just push through childhood trauma or ignore our emotional wounds. But they end up coming back to bite us through our feelings and thoughts that often sabotage our lives. We experience “irrational” fears when we attempt to move forward in our career or feelings of shame when we try to engage in close relationships.

“Okay, now I’m really confused. You’re telling me to try to understand the reality behind my partner’s irrational actions and now you’re telling me they may not even know why they are feeling the way they’re feeling? I give up!”

Real relationships are not for wimps! We all need to roll up our sleeves and try to understand our partner’s world as well as help them try to understand their own world. Believe me, there is logic in there somewhere. Here are a couple of examples of illogical logic.

  • A person who continually blows up every relationship that gets too deep even those they desperately desire to intimacy? Irrational right? Wrong! In their world, if you get too close you will find out who they truly are and reject them. They are protecting themselves from that pain.
  • A person who never accepts the promotion at work even though it would mean more money, more opportunity, and much more satisfying work. Irrational right? Wrong! In their world, they are certain that they are incompetent and the promotion would only reveal that fact.

How do you live with illogical logic?

You say to yourself, “This makes sense in their universe, I just need to understand it and maybe help them understand it”

You slow down the conversation and begin to ask clarification questions. For example:

  • “So what is your greatest fear about this?”
  • “Have you felt this way before about other situations?”
  • “What was it like in your family when this happened?”
  • “Help me understand what you need?”

Believe me, I am not saying this is easy. But if you are willing to choose to discover rather than judge there are great rewards for those who want to enter into this level of real relationships.

  

As always, if you are needing any help or I can be of any service just reach out via email at connect@totalwellnesscenter.net.

12 Declarations for Becoming More Assertive

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Many of our clients struggle with low self-esteem which leads to troubled relationships, career problems, depression and high levels of stress. They usually come to us complaining of one or more of these symptoms but it is soon discovered that at the root of their problem is an unhealthy belief about their value, significance, and worth. The usual cause is that they have based their value, significance, and worth on someone else's standards. These standards are external to them and are contingent on the approval of others, their looks, performance and/or social status. In short, they have been working so hard to meet these standards they have lost their own true identity.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is healthy to set high standards for oneself. This is a necessary component of a successful and productive life. The problem occurs when these standards become the basis for  our worth. When this happens our worth rises and falls with the tide of our performance. So let me give you three foundational principles that lead to a healthy self-image and helps us achieve our highest performance and satisfaction.


The first and most important principle is that we ground our identity on a foundation of intrinsic worth. Our value cannot be contingent upon anything external to ourselves. This is fundamental to a good self-image because it gives us a platform for taking risks and overcoming life’s obstacles. It also makes us resilient when we do fail - because everyone fails!

So how do we hold on to this belief when seemingly everything and everyone places human value on something external to ourselves? The only logical way is to appeal to an authority that transcends our own limited judgments. We need to appeal to our Creator. The framers of our government knew this and that is why they made the fact that we were created by God a basis for all our human rights.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
— Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

 

If we lose this understanding of the absolute worth of man then we are susceptible to choosing one standard over another and creating a hierarchy of value based upon; race, economic condition, attractiveness, intelligence, religion or a myriad of other factors. That doesn’t work for nations (consider Nazi Germany) and it doesn’t work for individuals.


Secondly, we need to accept the fact that we are not perfect. You may say, “I certainly know I’m not perfect”, but how do you deal with your imperfections? If you recoil from them and put up defenses everytime they are exposed then that is evidence that you are still basing your value, worth and significance on your ability to keep an external set of standards.

Please hear me on this, I am not saying you should somehow feel good about your failures. What I am saying is if your value, worth, and significance is given to you by your Creator then your identity is not diminished by your failures and you are free to make adjustments, grow and learn from them.


Lastly, you now have the ability to revel in your strengths and accomplish great things with your abilities without comparisons, pride or judgments. You can do this because you know that they don’t make you better or worse than anyone else it is just a part of who you are.

Those that struggle with low self-esteem usually also struggle with feeling they can be free to be who they truly are. This self-imposed limitation is often learned at a very early age and reinforced by countless interaction over the years. For many, just to speak up for themselves is a traumatic experience.

That is why I have written the Assertive Persons Declaration of Rights. The best way to use this is to review these rights every day (especially the ones that are most difficult to declare) Gradually your brain will adjust to this new way of thinking about yourself through a process called cognitive dissonance. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Remember you have probably held these false beliefs about yourself for decades so give yourself time to rewire your brain.

12 Declaration of Rights For the Assertive Person

  1. I have the right to be wrong without experiencing shame, criticism or rejection.
  2. I have the right to my ideas, values, and dreams without criticism or judgment.
  3. I have the right to ask questions without being shamed.
  4. I have a right to say no without giving a reason that makes sense to other people.
  5. I have a right to my own feelings and not explain them to someone else’s satisfaction.
  6. I have a right to make decisions on my own time schedule.
  7. I have a right to feel good about my accomplishments.
  8. I have a right to make mistakes and not have these mistakes devalue me.
  9. I have a right not to be in a relationship if I believe it is wrong for me.
  10. I have a right to always be treated with respect.
  11. I have a right to respectfully disagree.
  12. I have a right to like what I like and not give a reason for it.  

If there is anything we can do for you please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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A Meditation On the Lord's Prayer

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray he gave them a short, concise prayer that really went to the heart of an authentic conversation with their Heavenly Father. For no reason I can explain, I woke up the other day with a desire to meditate on this prayer and now I would like to share it with you. Be blessed, not because of my thoughts but because God has given us such a beautiful pattern to follow!

Your brother in Christ;

James

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“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-13 NIV

 

“Our Father”

Is there anything that can be more beautiful than to be able to claim the Creator of the Universe as our Father? What a privilege! It is beyond our limited capacity to comprehend. Meditate on this relationship you have with the perfect, loving, all-powerful God. You are not just his creation but you are born into his family and given the right to call him your Father. Is there any good thing your perfect Heavenly Father would withhold from you?

He is also “our Father” meaning you have a family. You are not alone but have brothers and sisters who join you in this beautiful family of God. Jesus the Son of God – the God-man who existed for all eternity with the Father is now inviting you into His family to join him as a child of his Father. This is a great mystery and we cannot come close to fully understanding it but what a wonderful contemplation. You will forever have a family that is perfect love, perfect harmony, and perfect truth. This is your identity – receive it.

“In heaven”

Heaven is a real place – even more real than the place you are at this moment. All that you see about you will someday be destroyed but heaven will remain. This is because heaven is the dwelling place of God and He is eternal. Places are important to God. Jesus has made it clear that he is preparing a place for us to be with him. So let your heart long for that place. Set your imagination free to explore its beauty. There is no way we can fully comprehend it but when we stop and contemplate our true home it causes our spirits to be lifted up and hope to rise in our souls. So give yourself over to meditating on that beautiful place that God has prepared for you. He knows you perfectly and has created it with you in mind. It will be perfect.

“Hollowed be your name”

Holy is a concept that we don’t use very often. It means “set apart”, “not common or ordinary” This is a great mystery, that we can at once be so intimate with the Creator of all things and yet he is infinitely unlike us. Steach your soul on this thought; the one who holds a billion, billion stars in place, and holds together every atom of your body, is the one to whom you are addressing. You are speaking to him and he is listening. This thought is humbling - it is good to be humbled when we come into the presence of the God of glory. Let yourself feel the power of Almighty God – give yourself over to the awe of this encounter.

Even the name of God, the word we use to represent Him is holy. It should be set apart for worship and adoration. It should never come flippantly from our mouths or carelessly tossed about in meaningless phrases or derogatory associations. Yes, Jesus taught us that the name, the words we use to describe Almighty God, are to be kept sacred. We live in a culture where nothing, absolutely nothing is sacred, so this concept is very difficult to articulate. But it is a necessary component of a right relationship with God. When faced with the majesty of our God our proper reaction is like Isaiah.

’Woe to me!’” I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’
— Isaiah 6:5 NIV

O Merciful Father, forgive me for making your name commonplace. Forgive me for associating your name with anything that depreciates your great worth. I truly am a person of unclean lips. Touch my lips with the holy fire from the altar and may I honor your holy name always.

“Your kingdom come”

The closer you are to God the more disconnected you become to the world and all its priorities and desires. This is because we are truly citizens of another kingdom and our purpose on earth changes from one set of purposes to a completely different set. As Jesus said …

My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place. 
— John 18:36 NIV

When we pray we are implicitly acknowledging and submitting to another King and the priorities of another kingdom. So why are we so often praying for the priorities of this earthly kingdom? Why are we praying for health, wealth and prosperity when the heavenly kingdom priorities are often exactly the opposite? If we are unsure of the purposes of our true heavenly kingdom we need to look no further than to the example of our King – Jesus.

… have the same mindset as Christ Jesus

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
— Philippians 2:5-8 NIV

We have entered into this kingdom through the new birth and are set to the task of representing our King to a world refuses to acknowledge him and openly rebels from his authority. We must realign our prayer life after the desires of our King. “How do you do that?” you may ask. There is only one way – to deepen your knowledge and love for your King. This is done by a transformation of our hearts through the Spirit of Christ. This is the only way, for apart from this transformation we will never know our true purpose and calling much less be able to pray for kingdom priorities.

O Heavenly Father I confess that I am so often seeking the priorities of this earthly kingdom rather than your priorities. I confess I often pray for comfort rather than endurance, wealth rather than wisdom, happiness rather than humility, popularity rather than bearing the shame of rejection that you bore for me. I often want to be first in this world and am ashamed to admit that it has made me last in your kingdom. I beg you to transform my heart and increase my love and devotion to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and let me love what you love, seek what you seek, crave righteousness, seek your justice and walk humbly in the way of my Master, my Lord, and my King.

“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”

Be assured that the rebellion will not be tolerated forever. Man’s shaking his fist at God’s authority will cease – the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords will be revealed and peace will be restored to the universe. This is a reality beyond realities! When we acknowledge this fact we are putting ourselves on the winning side. It’s like when Théoden the king of Rohan acknowledged Aragorn the true king of Gondor. There was still a desperate battle to be fought and evil to be conquered but the true king would come into his own and claim his rightful place on his throne. Tolkien knew that all great literature was based on the reality that good would eventually win out and evil would be ultimately defeated. So it is with us, we live in the middle of the greatest story where evil seems unassailable and the truth is twisted. Still, there is hope, for God has risen up those who will not bow the knee to the golden statue of King Nebuchadnezzar or shirk their calling to the true King even if it means death. Our confidence does not lie in our own abilities, or strengths. We are supremely confident because God has already written the last chapter of man’s sojourn on earth. The King is coming and this time it will not be as a helpless baby in a manger. He is coming in glory and power to judge the living and the dead. So when we declare our submission to his will to we are simply stating a historical fact.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of lords.
— Revelation 19:11-16 NIV

Lord help me to live in this reality. I confess that the pressures of life and the intoxicating lies of this present world too often lead me from the truth. You are my King, my Lord, and my Life. I desire everything I do, say, think and feel to be in total alignment with your will. All will someday kneel before you and proclaim you as King but I desire to do that here and now, laying all that I am before your feet in praise and worship. You are not only King of Kings and Lord of Lords but I proclaim here and now that you are my King of Kings and my Lord of Lords.

Give us today our daily bread

So much of our lives seem to be spent just trying to live. We spend so much time trying to accumulate stuff and then the rest of the time trying to preserve what we have accumulated.

O Lord I confess I am often anxious and fearful about the future as I become preoccupied with the “necessities” of this life. This is how faithless I am. But you are faithful and true. You are gracious and never withhold a single thing that is good and profitable – because you are good all the time.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 
— Romans 8:31,32 NIV

Father, all I am is yours and all I need comes from your gracious hand. Nothing that I will ever need is neglected and in fact those things that I don’t even know I need you give out of your abundance. I am above all blessed. So I acknowledge you as the giver of all good gifts. You are the sustainer of my life. The air that I breathe and the bread that I eat are all provided by you. My heart is at peace because you are my source for life and I will rest in your loving sufficiency. 

And forgive us our debts

Is it possible for us to completely comprehend the enormous distance between us and a holy and righteous God? No. Any comparison would be wholly inadequate. For example, could we say the distance is similar to an ant and a human? Most would say that’s quite a gap. But understand this, both you and the ant are infinitely more alike than you and God. Both of you are creatures made up of matter and bound by time and space. Both have bodies limited by natural forces and both will die. It is a matter of degree that we are different not a matter of essence. For both are made up of atoms and chemicals. But any comparison with God is completely absurd. He is beyond our knowledge and beyond our comparisons. He has no beginning and no end, no limitations, no needs, no requirements for existence. There is nothing he cannot do nor is there anything he does not know – intimately. So when we depart from his will we are not merely choosing another path we are rebelling against the super-reality of the universe – that being God. This puts us at odds with God and creates a list of offenses that put us in a deeper deficit than can ever be repaid. In short, he can never allow this active state of rebellion to exist in his universe because it is at odds with the essence of who he is. There is only one solution – forgiveness. God must forgive us and make us capable of living in his presence. The miracle of miracles is he grants us the freedom to accept or reject this forgiveness. When we accept his forgiveness, he gives us a new spirit, one that is eternal and alive to God. This is what happens when we call out to God in repentance. He doesn’t just wipe away our sin but he makes us new creatures that are now capable of living in harmony with him.

O Father, thank you for your forgiveness of all my debts. I receive your forgiveness and I accept your Spirit to wash and regenerate me so I can be alive to your will and ways. I could never repay the debt I amassed. But through your Son’s atoning death and resurrection, I now have a new life that makes me dead to the rebellion of this world and alive to eternal life in you.

… as we also have forgiven our debtors.

God calls us to live out in our horizontal relationships what we experience in our vertical one. We are not only to receive his love, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, and goodness but to be a conduit of those same graces to others. In fact, it is evidence of an authentic relationship with God that we treat others as God has treated us.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
— 1 John 4:7

The fruit of an authentic relationship with God is to be like God in all that we do.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
— Acts 4:13 NIV

Peter and John were ordinary men with no special abilities or intellect. However, when filled with the Spirit they took on the characteristics of Jesus which was unnerving to the powerful people in Jerusalem. Clearly, they had been with Jesus and now in this moment when we are with Jesus, we can fully expect that there will be a change in us. Those that are with Jesus will always be different.

O Lord I come into your presence no only to seek your comfort and encouragement but also to be transformed into your image. I want all my interactions in this world to be empowered and motivated by your purpose and priorities. Give me your heart for all I encounter, grant me your wisdom to speak eternal truth, fill me with hope that is anchored in the certainty of your promises. May others see me and be drawn to you. And yes, I am also willing to bear the rejection that comes with my identification with you for if they hated you then they will also hate those who are like you. O Lord make me more like you.

And lead us not into temptation

It is good to be humble, but it’s not easy. To admit to our weakness’ and how easily we fall into temptation is the first step toward maturity. We need to recognize how weak we are in order for us to receive God’s strength, for God’s strength in us is perfected in our weakness.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’
— 2 Corinthians 12:9

God’s grace flows into a life that looks to him for strength rather than relying on our own abilities, talents, intellect or skills. Why is this? Because when we rely on our own strength we cause two things to happen.

  1. We fail to utilize the incredible power of God which is far beyond our own meager abilities. This is like having a billion dollars in the bank and choosing to live homeless on the streets. It makes no sense!
  2. We fail to experience our true purpose which is to bring glory to God. Who gets the glory when we perform in our own strength? We do! But when we are tapping into the infinite power of God and all our activities are infused with his strength then we give him the praise. And he deserves it!

My Lord, I confess that I too often live life in my own strength, relying on my limited understanding, my limited capacity for doing good and my minuscule ability to love. Because of this, I have sought glory for myself and failed miserably to bring you the glory that you deserve. I am weak and I admit it. O Lord be my strength. Fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I can resist the temptation of relying on myself. May your power rest upon me so that you receive all the praise and glory.

but deliver us from the evil one.

We have an adversary. He goes by many names.

  • Father of lies
  • The Devil
  • Murderer
  • Lucifer
  • Deceiver

Jesus called him “the evil one” for truly he is. He is more powerful than you or I can imagine and capable of performing wonders that impersonate God. He is not a trifle and ignoring him will not make him go away. In fact, one of his greatest strategies is to hide his works so that none see “behind the curtain” and instead are distracted by the façade.

Jesus ends his prayer with a warning that we need deliverance from the evil one. He should know for he had a face to face encounter with him and would deal with him many times before he finished his work on earth.

The Apostle Paul also recognized that his true enemies were not the those who were threatening his life and standing in opposition to his ministry. Those were only the puppets of the true adversary.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
— Ephesians 6:12 NIV

If we fail to recognize where our true battle lies we do so at great risk. We need to be delivered from the evil one – and our deliverance is awesome!

… because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
— 1 John 4:4 NIV

We have the very power of God living in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our ability to overcome the evil one is solely in the utilization of this power. Our foe is a defeated adversary, but his power is in deception and lies. As we proclaim the truth that is revealed through the Holy Spirit, (“… he will guide you into all truth” John 16:23) we will be able to not only stand against the devil but thwart his purposes and bring freedom to those who are held captive by his lies. God has defeated our adversary in the empty tomb. In this confidence, and through this power we shall stand.

O Lord I confess that I have often been deceived by the evil one, believing that the enemy was a person, circumstance or even something internal in me. I have tried to fix myself and those around me with no success. So now I come before you and recognize that my true enemy is, “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Help me to recognize his strategies and to be aware of his deceptive schemes. O Lord I now go forth boldly with the confidence that your Holy Spirit abides in me and your power rests upon me to accomplish whatever you call me to do. 

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Don't Step On My Dream!

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Ever wonder why we argue? Or as Rodney King said, “Why can't we all just all get along?” John Gottman, the world-renown relationship research psychologist, has given us significant insight into human conflict. He believes that most of our conflict comes from our vision for the life we desire to live. In other words, it is about the dreams we have for the future. We all have the way we think our lives should be and when that “reality” is challenged it creates turmoil in our lives. Here’s an example:

Kathy and Pete argue about money all the time. (does this sound familiar?) Every time Kathy goes to buy something she knows that she’s going to get the third degree from Pete.

“What do you need that for?”

“Can’t you find it on sale?”

“Do we really need more stuff around the house?”

And on and on and on …

So Kathy goes shopping with a chip on her shoulder (or rather Pete on her shoulder) and Pete anxiously scans the online bank account looking for the next “frivolous” purchase. When the inevitable happens and Kathy buys something a fight breaks out all over again. They think they are stuck in the same argument about money but they would be wrong. They are not arguing about money – in fact, money has very little to do with their argument. It is actually about their vision for their lives.

They are arguing about conflicting dreams!

Pete came from a family where there was little security. They were always on the verge of collapse. To him, money means security, safety, and stability. Something he desperately needed as a child.

Kathy came from a family where money was of little consequence since it was in abundance. To her, money is a source of fun, happiness and a means of making wonderful memories.

So when Kathy spends money Pete’s stomach gets tight and he feels his dream of security is being threatened. When Kathy hears Pete complain about her spending all she sees is the crushing of her dream for a beautiful life. No wonder they fight, their dreams are attacking each other!

Here are three things we need to know about our dreams. 

  1. We always fight to preserve our dreams and when we do we often fall into one of these three traps.
  2. Like Pete and Kathy, we often don’t realize this is what we are doing so we have no chance of resolving the conflict.
  3. When we fight for our dreams we are often not in a good position to deal with reality. Our dreams may be fantasies and actually hurt us if we pursue them.

When we fight to preserve our dreams we are in no place to understand and honor the dreams of others and therefore we lose out on true intimacy; not to mention we end up sustaining a perpetual argument.

Dreams are real, they are the golden door to discovering the real you, so let’s take a deep breath and find a better way forward. The reason why you are the way you are and love the things you love is due to the dreams you hold in your heart. Knowing them will give you exquisite insight into where conflict arises in your world. And knowing your loved one's dreams will help you create intimate connections with them.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and others. Call them dream catchers …

  1. What do I expect from life?
  2. What would an ideal day look like?
  3.  When I die what would I like my legacy to be?
  4. Who am I most afraid of disappointing? Why?
  5. When are the times I am most frustrated?
  6. Who are my heroes? What do I most admire most about them?
  7. When I think about my childhood, what were those things that were most magical for me?
  8. When I think about my childhood, what were the things that hurt me most?

Our dreams can be elusive but they are well worth capturing for they hold the key to nurturing beautiful relationships with ourselves and others. Take some alone time this week and answer these questions. Plus, if you want to really make some progress in your relationships take some time to sit down with those you love and see if you can catch their dreams too.

As always, if we can be of any help to you please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please join our mailing list to make sure you get all of our posts and blogs. 

Happiness Truly is a Matter of the Heart

What do you really desire in life? What keeps you up at night and gets you up early in the morning? What do you clutch onto so hard that you will protect it with your last ounce of strength?

That is your treasure and that is also where your heart is.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
— Matthew 6:21 NIV

In my work, I see a lot of people who are desperately trying to hold on to something that is not giving them the life they desire. It could be money, relationships, a career or score of other things that seem to melt away the tighter they clutch on to them. The problem is those “things” never satisfy the deepest longings of our heart. I am not advocating quitting your job or leaving your relationships, what I believe we need to do is to no longer see those things as the fulfillment of our desires. In fact, the more we try to make them do that the more miserable we make ourselves.

An example of this is money.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs
— 1 Timothy 6:10 NIV

The point Paul is making in this verse is that when we pursue (love) that which cannot satisfy our souls we end up doing ourselves harm – akin to stabbing ourselves.

God knows we need money, and careers and homes – but we were made for something much more satisfying than this stuff. We were made for God himself.

When we “wonder” it often starts innocently. We become delighted by some new toy or someone strokes our ego. Pretty soon we’re saying this feels good … I want more. So we start chasing this new shiny object and then it happens. That object becomes our treasure rather than the one who ultimately gives all good gifts.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
— Matthew 7:11 NIV

Is there anything that we need that he is not willing to give us?

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
— Romans 8:32 NIV

This is a call for deep reflection. I confess I am guilty of seeking the gift rather than the giver – of longing for the resource rather than making the source of all blessings my heart’s desire.

Could this be why there is so much depression, anxiety and relational brokenness in our lives? Could we be deceived into believing the lie that something other than our Creator can satisfy our deepest longing?

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Blaise Pascal

"There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ.” 

So are you saying, James, that we’re not supposed to desire anything but God? No, I am saying that we are not to desire anything MORE THAN God. And when we receive what we desire we are to immediately thank him for what we have received.

God has no problems with us asking him for … whatever. But like the excellent father he is, he withholds the right to give us only what is best for us. If we become enamored with the shiny things of this world and he knows that they will cause us to wander off into places that will cause us harm, then like any good father he will withhold these things. Wouldn’t you?

Ask for whatever you wish and if your dearest desire is to honor the Lord and bless him with your life, it will be irrelevant whether you receive it or not because he will give you the ultimate desire of your heart. Your soul will be abundantly satisfied. And isn’t that what we truly crave?

Prayer of reflection

O Lord, I come to you seeking to open my heart to your gaze. Look deeply into my longings Lord and see if there is anything that I desire more than you. Search my heart Lord and reveal any attachments to whatever is not you. You are my source for all that I need. You have promised to graciously give me whatever is necessary. Help me to take my eyes off of all the “shiny things” in this world and fix them upon you. I confess I am so easily distracted. You know all things and you also know that my deepest, passionate desire it to bring you honor and glory in my life. Create in me a steadfast spirit that will live this desire in every area of my life.

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The Most Important Thing to Forget

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Are you looking for the key to happiness? If you aren’t you really should be. I am not saying that we should invest ourselves in some kind of spiritual treasure hunt because there’s no single truth or life skill that will produce perfect happiness, joy, peace or love. But if we are not continually striving to learn new truths and grow in our character then … well, we might as well be dead.

So I’m going to propose a life-skill that, if it is not at the top of your list, it really should be.  I have found neglecting this is responsible for massive heartaches and destroyed countless relationships. It is summed up in this one statement by the Apostle Paul:

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus
— Philippians 3:13-14

What I have discovered over and over again in my life is I can not press on toward the goal if I am not willing to forget what is behind me. That goal is not merely a quest for money, fame or a comfortable life, it is a heavenly goal ordained by God.  For Paul, that goal was to, “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”. What he needed to forget was that in his former life he was a murderer and persecutor of the Church. I am sure it was very difficult for him to forget the pain he had caused so many people.

But what about you and me? What do we need to forget that is impeding the goal? For me, it is pretty much everything. I must let go of hurt feelings, broken promises, angry and cutting words, and anything else that will cloud my spirit and keep me from being free to pursue the heavenward call.

This forgetfulness is a decision to be free from bitterness and resentment. But let me be clear – forgetfulness does not mean our emotions are suddenly healed or our relationships are magically restored. Emotions have their own timetable for healing. The decision to forget a past injury (whether it is self-inflicted or caused by another) will mean that you will always act in a way that is counter-emotional. This skill is rarely taught in our “do what you feel” culture but is an absolute necessity if you are going to achieve the ultimate goal that calls you heavenward.

Take a moment and assess your current state of forgetfulness.

  • Is there any past situation that caused you an injury that you are holding on to?
  • Are you beating yourself up for a past action or decision you made?
  • Is there someone whom you harbor resentment and anger toward?

If you have confessed the wrongs in your life then the next step is to forget – because God has.

If someone else has hurt you and you are holding on to anger and resentment then the next step is to forgive – because you have been forgiven for much more grievous sins by God.

But if we are unwilling to forget what is behind us then we will find those past things will plant themselves firmly in our future and keep us from experiencing the beautiful life we were meant to live.

If we can be of any help along your journey please don’t hesitate to call. We would also love to have you get all our blogs and announcements so just fill in the box below.

Is Gratitude the Cure for Anxiety?

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It is a fact that gratitude is a powerful way of reprograming our brains to enhance our emotions and improve our overall physical health. It is one of the keys to longevity and is creates powerful, life affirming relationships. When we are in a state of active gratitude we are less likely to be anxious, fearful, depressed or hopeless. We are also open to new perspectives and possibilities that are otherwise closed doors to us.

All this is a fact – proven over and over again through empirical studies. But still many of us find that gratitude eludes us. We struggle to remain positive in the face of so much that is negative in our world.

That is why I am here to say if you are waiting to be grateful until you “see” things to be grateful for then you will never experience the life altering effects of gratitude.

Gratitude is a discipline we must learn – it does not happen naturally. If you want the positive properties of gratitude you are going to need to work at it. And make no mistake, it is work because your brain is trained to focus upon whatever it perceives as danger – even when the danger is not even a remote possibility. That riot in the south, that shooting in New York, that famine in North Africa are all terrible events but they pose no danger to you – but a part of your brain doesn’t know that. So it directs you to those news stories because it is trying to protect you, and in the process, you are being filled with worry, fear, and anxiety.  In fact, anxiety becomes our cultural norm. And we wonder why our lives are so unsettled and we carry this a vague sense of apprehension wherever we go.

The first step to developing a life of gratitude is to turn off the flood of negativity that you expose yourself to everyday. This does not mean that you become uninformed or ignorant of the world around you, but that you recognize the effect this information is having on you. Put the news in perspective and don’t let it become your reality. Did you know that according to all governmental measurements incidences of violence is down over the past years? In fact, there has been less killing and mayhem in the world than in previous generations. But you would never know that  by watching the news. That is because mayhem sells advertising. Media producers know your brain is constantly scanning for anything that could be remotely dangerous and given the choice of watching a video of riots in the streets or puppies playing in the water, guess what the vast majority of viewers will watch?

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Be careful what you focus on for it is what you will become.

So limit your exposure to horrid, evil, vile and cruel information. You cannot change the situation but exposure to it will change you. If you must watch it then be aware of how it will affect you and determine to do something to engage in the situation in a positive way. In that way, you become active in bringing hope and healing to a situation rather than it bringing anxiety and fear into your life.   

Second Step: Learn to focus on what is good in your life and express thankfulness for it. This may be in the form of a gratitude list or just deciding periodically to find 10 things to be thankful for. Remember it is a discipline – it may be hard to turn your brain from the negative but you can do it if you want to. The benefits are amazing!

For the past couple of years, I have made it a habit of keeping a positive life-affirming journal. It has transformed my life and been part of the healing process from a lifelong tendency toward depression. I encourage you to try it. But even if journaling is not your thing find a way to make gratitude a daily discipline.

As always if there is anything we can do for you please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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What I Learned About Relationships From Walter - My Rescue Dog.

LOVE DOESN'T HAVE TO STINK ......

Wonderful Walter 2017

Wonderful Walter 2017

This is Walter – he is a 105 pound Rotty/Shepherd that we adopted from a local rescue, Whiskers and Tails in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.  We quickly learned he loves to chase squirrels and eat all insects that fly -  including wasps. In fact,  he has a little Ninja that makes up his unique quirky personality.  When it gets dark he loves to patrol the back yard protecting us from … well only he knows and he’s sworn to the Ninja code of silence.

The other night he was patrolling the perimeter and we heard an unusual commotion so I ran out to see what was happening. It didn't take long to figure out what was going on because within less than a second I smelled it …... A SKUNK.   Yes, an unsuspecting Walter had come face to face....well, not exactly face to face but you get the picture, of the smelly works delivered by Mr. Skunk.

Quickly into the bathtub (ever bathed a stinky 100-pound dog 10:30 at night?).  We quickly surfed the internet for the "magic" formula to remove skunk odor and found a website that "guaranteed" the homemade solution would work.  My wife started mixing the potion and I got to work on Walter.  One hour later we had a 100 pound dog that reeked of wet fur and skunk wildly running through the house.   It has now been over a week and guess what – Walter still stinks. And not only Walter but whatever Walter touched smells too!

So now I can hear you thinking … “so sorry for Walter but what the heck does that have to do with relationships?”

Thank you for asking. 

Sometimes the stink from a fight, a careless word, or thoughtless action can stink up a relationship for days, weeks or even years. It often only takes a small thing for that odor to arise and stink up our relationship all over again. I admit it’s hard to remove the odor of a hurt. The pain lingers long like Walter’s smell. But unlike poor Walter, we actually have a choice how long we will allow our relationships to be polluted by these things.

After all who wants to smell bad to their partner?

Here are four steps you can take.

  1. Admit that you were hurt: Sometimes our pride gets in the way of our healing. We think we shouldn’t feel what we’re feeling so we go into denial mode but in reality, we’re just allowing the wound to infect other areas of our lives.
  2.  Forgive: Forgiveness is a unilateral is a gift we give to ourselves so that we don’t carry the heavy burden of resentment and anger throughout our life. Forgiveness does not mean that you minimize the wound – only that you choose to heal.
  3. Reconcile: If possible share with your partner how you were hurt and attempt to find a new way of relating to each other. Keep in mind that this requires that you both be willing to see each other’s perspective to get beneath the surface. In every harmful human interaction, there is always something deeper that is causing it. When this is understood it will change the whole dynamic of the relationship and create an opportunity for healing and avoiding entering back into the conflict.
  4. Let it go: Yes, we can also choose to let go of whatever it was that is stinking up our relationships. This means refusing to bring it up … ever!

Walter is smelling much better now, okay, he still smells like a dog but not like a skunk. The real question is what do you and I smell like? 

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One Thing Which Can Make Your Life Successful

I know that my title seems a bit over the top, but I am tired of talking about creating successful strategies to people who have absolutely no capacity to put them to action. So, I’m going to get really basic and real simple.

What you believe about yourself and the universe are the most crucial pieces of knowledge you will ever possess. They are the common denominators in all events, relationships, and goals in your life.

  • Overcoming failures is completely dependent on your view of yourself
  • Pushing through trials and enduring through prolonged times of frustration is a factor of how you see yourself.
  • Your level of satisfaction with living is dependant upon understanding yourself in context to the universe

Yet, I find so few of us really comprehend this fact. Instead, we are continually looking to other people or circumstances as the arbitrator for our lives.

When something bad happens. (and it happens to everyone)

  • Some resign themselves to their fate and give up
  • Some see it as an insurmountable obstacle and choose a lesser path
  • Some see it as a temporary setback and press on

The only difference in these responses in how one sees themselves and what they believe about the universe.

Your view of yourself is a consequence of how you view the universe.

I have had the privilege of traveling the world and in some places, I have seen unimaginable suffering. When asked why this is so the answer I receive is something like this, “it is their fate”.

  • Karma
  • God
  • The random nature of the universe

It all comes down to whether the universe is cooperating with or in opposition to our success. This will determine whether we have the internal resources to achieve the life we desire to live. If that answer is our lives are under the control of some external force then the next logical step is to forfeit our dreams and abandon our hopes because we are powerless to achieve them.

Some would challenge me on this and say, “You’re a Christian – aren’t you a fatalist?

I say no. In fact, it is entirely the contrary. Since I believe in a supreme being who has demonstrated his great love and compassion through the life of Jesus Christ I am convinced that the universe is not an obstacle to my happiness - that I have the ultimate victory no matter what circumstance or peril I may find myself in. In fact the present obstacles serve a tutors to mold my character and deepen my faith. Therefore no person, no event and nothing else in this world can thwart my inevitable triumph as promised by God.

So you see – my self-confidence is derived from my view of a good and loving God and anything and everything must yield to this truth. Therefore ...

  • When I become discouraged I return to the belief that God is my helper and he has and will provide all that I need.
  • When I am doubting my own wisdom he has said that I can come to him with any question and he will give me understanding.
  • When I am feeling alone and rejected he has said that I am unconditionally loved
  • When I am disbelieving my own value he reminds me that he died for me and I have infinite worth.

What other religion, philosophy, or world view can offer this confidence?

So the bottom line is this.

As goes your view of the universe so goes your view of yourself.

As goes your view of yourself so goes your life.

Next time you feel stymied by a situation in your life or paralyzed by debilitating emotions look to where your confidence lies. Look at your view of God and integrate that view into your identity. 

If I can be of any help you to you don't hesitate to reach out

James

Untying The "Nots"

Having Trouble Moving Forward, Or

  • Overcoming persistent procrastination?
  • Getting  out of the daily funk of feeling like a failure?
  • Breaking out of unfulfilling relationships?

Maybe you have tied yourself up with too many "Nots"

Well, let me ask you a question - Have you ever found yourself talking to yourself using self-limiting words like …

  • I’m not smart
  • I’m not attractive
  • I’m not one of the lucky ones

That’s what I call tying ourselves up in “nots”. These nots are incredibly strong. They keep us bound to a small unfulfilling life that leaves us feeling frustrated, unsuccessful and often hopelessly depressed.

These nots may have been originally tied by someone early in our lives like a parent, teacher or another powerful figure but each time we tell ourselves another “not” we cinch it tighter and tighter until we can’t move.

The most important thing we need to know is that we can also untie the nots in our life. Yes, you and I have the ability to replace the nots with a “what if” or a “why not”. Nots are not unraveled overnight or through reciting some positive affirmation. They must be pulled apart strand by strand until the not becomes a can and the limitless possibilities of your life open up to you like a beautiful story.

I know … it sounds like a fantasy but fairy tales do come true and people are finding freedom from their nots every day, and so can you!

You can start this journey by beginning to hack away at those nots in your life when you catch yourself pulling the rope tighter. Try this:

Stop – Yeah that’s right just stop telling yourself the same crap you’ve told yourself all your life.

Think – What do you want to be true of your life? What do you want to be your new reality?

Replace – Make that the content of the new things you say to yourself.

Okay, I know it’s not that easy but this is a start and everyone has to start somewhere. My life is dedicated to helping you (and me) untie the nots in our lives and to live the life we were meant to live. So If I can help let me know.

Meanwhile, hang out on our new Facebook Page “Get Real - Relationships” for more stuff about living without nots.

Love you!

The Simplicity of being a Sheep

I do not come from an agrarian culture; I grew up in a stucco clad track home in a city where it was a novelty to find a building that was older than me.  That is why it is easy for me to idealize the idea of sheep. They are fluffy white creatures who live on grassy green hills with their flute playing shepherd gently lullabying them to sleep, Right?

No, they are pretty clueless creatures that if not for the protection and guidance of the shepherd would be dead. So when Jesus continually referred to his followers (a group of hearty fishermen and the like) as sheep I can imagine that they were just a little uncomfortable with that depiction. I imagine them squirming a bit and politely asking Jesus if he could maybe create another metaphor like eagles or lions.

But God referring to us as sheep has a rich tradition in Scripture and there is a good reason for that. We are sheep! We act foolishly, are vulnerable to predators and have but one quality; we know the shepherd, listen to him and we follow.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—
— John 10:14 NIV
The gatekeeper [shepherd] opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
— John 10:3 NIV

When a sheep stops following that is when they are in greatest danger. The shepherd leads them to food, away from danger and protects them with his very life. If a sheep decides to starts believing it is a lion it would be laughable - and tragic. We need to accept our "sheepness". Humbling yes, but very, very real.

So in keeping with our sheep intellect let me brake this down into two parts; our job as a sheep is to:

  1. Listen to the Shepherd’s voice

  2. Follow it

Here is a poem I wrote from the perspective of a sheep …

I am a sheep
I am to listen for my Shepherd’s voice and follow him
I am a Sheep
I have no protection apart from the Shepherd
I am a Sheep
I will go hungry and die in the wilderness unless I follow the Shepherd
My Shepherd goes before me and calls me to himself with his voice
My job is to hear his voice and follow
There are other voices, those that do not belong to the Shepherd
I must not follow those voices for they are out to kill and destroy me
I have only one job, listen for my Master’s voice and follow Him
Often I will not see Him; He is hidden from my view
For I am but a sheep and my eyes are close to the ground
But I can listen and follow and go where He leads
There are times when the way is rough and far from green pastures
My heart grows faint in these places
But I am not to look about me and try to understand the way
For I have but a sheep’s understanding
I am to listen for my Shepherd’s voice and follow
That is what I do
I can do nothing else
Nothing else matters
It is the Shepherd who is my whole world and He is Good!
His voice is true
In Him is my whole existence
I am His sheep
He is my Shepherd and I will listen for His voice and
Follow Him.

 

We at Total Wellness Resource Center are committed to helping with the Spiritual, Mental, Physical and Occupational wellbeing of our clients. Please reach out to us if there is any way we can assist you on your journey.