Tuesday, December 30, 2008
16% Increase in the U.S. suicide rate among those ages 40-64
The most distressed and hopeless among us are single, white mothers who do
not attend church. Would church attendance reduce suicide?
Do you know what to do to help a suicidal friend or family member?
Would you like to help?
My Skype name is gary.r.sweeten
What is your Skype name?
Great Things in 2009
The health of Sweeten Life Systems is good. God is blessing us and expanding our influence both in the open and behind the scenes. We received a grant to develop systems to support for families with special needs children.
In 2009 we will emphasize the Families of God.
1. The historic Family of Grand Parents and past
2. The Family of Origin of Parents and Siblings
3. The Nuclear Family of Parents and Children
4. The Extended Family of Relatives
5. The Church Family of Families
6. The Work Family
7. The Neighborhood Family of Friends
You will note the word "SYSTEMS" in our name. That is . We know that any event traumatic or great, that impacts one member of a family impacts every member. We are unique in intervening in families to upbuild the entire system. Thus, we have a biblical approach.
Important Family Event
Come to The Healing Center on Century Circle, near The Vineyard Community Church, on Saturday afternoon, January 24 at 1:00 to 4:00 PM to get an introduction to Family Systems thinking and how to support families in need. "It Takes Village".
More information later.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Take a look at the way this four month baby is laughing. I am amazed at the way she watched her big brother Jack Sweeten and laughed at his shenanigans. The parents and extended family are watching.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Look at his blog and tell me what you think.
The Wall Street Journal has a good article about the many positive things that are accomplished by foundations and the non profits that are funded by them. Since I head a non profit I am biased about how much good we can accomplish for less money. I know that a lot of stuff we do, if not most of it, is done by volunteers and lowly paid workers.
We are motivated by a passion for helping people not money so we tend not to be as interested in remuneration. Despite that, non profits produce amazing benefits to the local and national society. In fact, research indicates that faith based groups are the glue which holds our society together. But we need to watch out lest the radicals on the Left Wing squash us like bugs because we are not always "Politically Correct".
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
"While I regarded God as a tyrant I thought my sin a trifle; But when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good."
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
The fact that Americans give so much to charity is a wonderful testimony to America's Judeo-Christian ideals. Giving is part of the warp and woof of the Bible's teachings. In fact, the term, "Tithe" is widely used in our culture even by unbelievers. American individuals give billions of dollars each year to support churches and other non profit groups.
Europeans are often mystified about why we Yanks are so fervent about volunteering, religion and giving. The core reason is our commitment to the separation of church and state. The focus on every church member and every citizen's duty to care for others. The history of state churches in Europe made the governments responsible for charitable acts and the operating environments in the two regions are radically different as a result.
Sweeten Life Systems is dependent upon the voluntary gifts and offerings of individuals, churches and companies. We also receive some government and private foundation grants to carry out our charitable works. America shines because grants keep many charities going. Foundations are kept strong by the tax laws and heart felt desires of well off persons to serve the needs of others.
We are in the midst of a huge financial downturn. Still, we need your support. Sweeten Life is focused on working to strengthen the lives of individuals and families to prevent emotional, spiritual and family crises. We help people in their ability to assist others.
I am a retired Family Therapist who has served many people in crises. I now serve hundreds of families when we prevent a crisis from occurring. "A stitch in time really does save nine..."
May God empower you to be a blessing to others in faith, hope and charity. You have been a blessing to us.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. Ecc 5: 1-5All around the world you can see them. Even more, you can hear them. Kneeling, sitting or standing it is a movement. Many of them dance, some march in military order while others are less orderly and more ardor-ly. The noise can be awesome and when meeting with upraised hands and outstretched voices, the buildings shake with joy.
Martian visitors would react with puzzlement to the strange behavior. They might even "beam a bunch up" for intense investigation by their Martian scientists. The "little green men" would want to know what the strange rituals were all about.Prayer! It is all about prayer. Last week a friend mentioned that she had spent four days with a thousand like-minded men and women. They gathered to practice prayers of "spiritual warfare". Another group is heading out to Colorado for a week to of fasting and prayer to light the sparks for a national revival.
Prayer. It is everywhere. It is taught, preached, urged and even practiced around the earth with increasing regularity. There is a growing desire of the people of God to pray. This is especially evident when we consider the enormous number of "Prayer Movements" that have arisen over the past few years.
Many groups sponsor prayer events. Concerts of Prayer, Taking Our Cities for Christ, National Day of Prayer, The March for Jesus, Bill Bright's Prayer and Fasting, Renewal Ministries-Terry Teykl, Lausanne Movement, AD2000 & Beyond, etc. These initiatives are all based on the assumption that God desires His people to pray and that prayer "changes things." In conversations, teachings, seminars and conferences we are reminded that revival, renewal and reformations will. Unfortunately, it seems that we sometimes sacrifice the quality of prayer gatherings while emphasizing quantity. I am not convinced that "more is better". When it comes to prayer for evangelism, revival, social action and awakenings it seems that quality is critical while keeping the quantity of prayer and the number of pray-errs high. I was reared in a family that had a long tradition of prayer. Unfortunately, some of the things I saw and mimicked were not very qualitative. For example, I pray like this.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
My earliest prayer habits were formed in fear not faith and reinforced as being desperate calls to a distant God. I begged Him to receive my unworthy soul in the event that I failed to survive the rigors of sleep. No wonder so many children have nightmares! But I have a partial solution. Here is a prayer we can trust.
A New Prayer for Sleeping
Now I lay me down to sleep
I thank the Lord my soul will keep.
No fear of night,
He will provide
His angels near,
My sleeping side
At morning's dawn,
I will awake,
To live again
For Jesus' sake
He gives me strength,The whole night rest,
Enough each day
To give my best
© Gary Sweeten
Early childhood experiences do not predetermine our life's course. I have been able to go beyond my youth and develop a healthy approach to God. I reframed the fearful prayer written during the Black Plague and wrote one filled with faith, hope and love. But early experiences do influence us and our children. It is a good idea to examine how we pray as adults so we can evaluate our approach to check its biblical basis.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
From: Gary and His Grapes
Have you ever tried to make yourself go to sleep? Say it over and over: “I am sleepy; I am sleepy: I need to sleep!” Will that “work”? Will my prayers be answered if I try to make myself sleepy? The act of trying to sleep can interrupt the normal processes of sleepiness. In other words, trying to force myself to sleep keeps me awake. Trying to have faith and rest in Christ is similar.
I have been trying to bear more fruit for Jesus and I know that it requires additional faith to do so. As a result of my study in John 15 and other passages plus books like “In His Steps” I decided to try hard to be Jesus. It wore me out. I felt like such a failure and so condemned all the time that it actually led me into deep depression. I figured that it proved that I had no faith.
In desperation I reread John 15 about bearing fruit. This led me to a great insight. If I wanted to grow more fruit I needed to see how fruit grew best. As a result I spent an entire year researching grapes and how they managed to abide in the vine. I interviewed the big, juicy, fat grapes, since they had mastered the abiding techniques well. It was an intense process.
Below is a sample of some of my interviews. I had 58,966 interviews but most of then ended up sounding just like this one.
Gary: Hello, Mr. Grape. You are so big, juicy and well developed that I want to find out the secret of your success.
Grape: Sure. Thanks for the compliment. I am pretty big and strong.
Gary: You must have worked very hard to get so big and healthy.
Grape: What!! I don’t understand your question. Did you say that I must have worked hard to grow?
Gary: Well, yes. Almost all the preachers, theologians and Sunday school teachers have taught that we are supposed to abide in Jesus the Vine by working hard to please Him.
Grape: Are you nuts? I did nothing. I simply hung on to the vine.
Gary: But, Mr. Grape, how were you able to abide so well? It must be very hard work.
Grape: Where did you study agriculture, the USSR? I am telling you that abiding is resting and I can do nothing on my own. In fact, I have no ability to do anything in the realm of sticking or working to abide more. The vine holds on to me not the other way around.
Gary: That makes no sense to me. It contradicts everything I have ever heard in church and on Christian TV.
Grape: Well, those people don’t seem to know much about fruit, growth and vines. I don’t know where they got that nonsense.
Gary: So, what was it that kept you living in the vine? Was it was your faith in abiding that allowed you to develop so much juice and produce so much? How did you develop into such a giant of faith? Was it hard to do? What about all your failures?
Grape: What do you mean, develop stronger faith so I could be a “Grape of Great Faith”? I have no idea why you are trying to make this so hard? The vine did it all. Every day I just live in the sun, drink what the vine gives me and enjoy the whole thing.
Gary: How do you convince the vine to give you all of that good juice? How do you make sure it is willing to keep you attached?
Grape: This is crazy. I do not even know how to ask the vine for more let alone make it give me anything. It is the very nature of vines to hold on to the grapes. My parents and grandparents all grew up this same way. They just rested in the vine and told me to enjoy the ride.
Gary: I’m not so sure that will work. It makes me nervous to just rest. I always feel better when I try real hard to please the vine and groan to produce more juice.
Grape: By the way, you are making me so nervous it may interfere with my juice production. Anxiety makes me have acid and that eats away at my juice production. Why don’t you go interview some apples or figs? Go see how hard they work to grow so large and juicy.
FOXNEWS O'REILLY 3,855,000
FOXNEWS HANNITY/COLMES 2,619,000
FOXNEWS SHEP SMITH 2,087,000
FOXNEWS GRETA 2,020,000
CNNHN NANCY GRACE 2,007,000
FOXNEWS HUME 1,917,000
MSNBC OLBERMANN 1,454,000
MSNBC MADDOW 1,321,000
CNN COOPER 1,207,000
CNN KING 1,102,000
MSNBC HARDBALL 1,009,000
Who do you watch?
Monday, December 15, 2008
I preached at Tri County Assembly the last two weeks. The first week was just one day before my surgery the second week was after the physicians found no blockage in my arteries. Founding Pastor and long time friend Hugh Rosenberg anointed me with oil and he prayed with son Brad as the entire congregation reached out to me with intercession.
I am feeling good. I will be speaking at Dwelling Place the next two Sundays on The Holy Spirit so I am excited to continue to share the good news of Christ as Savior and Healer. This is how a healing community operates. It is love, prayer and encouragement that brings wholeness.
Keep telling the great news!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
So, you get the picture. I was having some extremely painful and scary angina pains while flying to Singapore via Tokyo. I was pretty scared, anxious and my blood pressure went up placing me in an even more dangerous situation.
I am very thankful that God orchestrated things for a heart transplant surgeon got on the plane in Minneapolis and flew on to Tokyo with me. This man and his assistant had enough equipment on the airplane to open up my chest and save my life. That kind of drastic action was not necessary but he gave the airline personnel and me the wisest and best advice possible.
He strongly advised me to continue on to Singapore to get the necessary cardiac treatment. I did and when I arrived in Singapore my friends got me to a well known cardiologist who had me tested for heart damage. He suggested that I immediately enter the hospital for an angiogram test and possibly a stint through angioplasty. But, the best doctor in Singapore was not there and the physician would not recommend anyone else.
The result was I called North West Airline and told them I had to get back home immediately for a medical procedure. In the meantime, Karen called Christ Hospital and tried to schedule an appointment with Doctor Kereiakes, who was not taking any new patients. So, she called Diane Francis, a Chaplain who told Head Chaplain Doug Mitchell, who walked over to The Ohio Heart Center and asked Dr. K to see me.
It takes about 25 hours to fly back from Singapore but when I returned Dr. K got me in immediately and the next day I was in the Cath Lab getting a stint. I am extremely thankful for the skilled, caring and quick acting friends and professionals who saved my life and got me the help I needed.
Tomorrow morning I return to The Christ Hospital to Dr. K's Cath Lab for another procedure. I am trusting God and the skilled people at The Ohio Heart Center to get me through the ordeal.
Thanks for all your prayers and love.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Resting in Jesus
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
People need to feel safe if they are to allow themselves to become open to God, self and others. Do strangers feel safe in your church fellowship?
Saturday, November 29, 2008
My favorite newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, has another terrific article today. This one is about the young men and women who have come here from round the world with their families to seek a better, freer and more open life. These kids, when they hear about the Pilgrims and their hardships, relate to them personally and think everyone in the US needs to celebrate Thanksgiving.
I think you will find the article enlightening, encouraging and entertaining.
It seems to me that the same kind of Politically Correct (PC) thinking is currently gaining a foothold in America and is a very dangerous thing. A strong democracy is built upon freedom of speech and an open dialogue among all parties. It demands that we all look honestly at the truth not just cover up uncomfortable facts.
It is a shock to read what Mr. Wilders says about Western Democracies. Is it possible to say this in America, even when it is true? "... the West suffers from an excess of toleration for those who do not share its tradition of tolerance. "We believe that -- 'we' means the political elite -- that all cultures are equal," he says. "I believe this is the biggest disease today facing Europe. . . . We should wake up and tell ourselves: You're not a xenophobe, you're not a racist, you're not a crazy guy if you say, 'My culture is better than yours.' A culture based on Christianity, Judaism, humanism is better. Look at how we treat women, look at how we treat apostates, look at how we go with the separation of church and state. I can give you 500 examples why our culture is better."
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The documentary mentioned above tells the stories of Nazi leaders who stole so much art work of the people they conquered during WWII. I was astonished that the American government and army so thoughtfully planned a detailed response to the thefts and had thousands of troops trained to find, protect and restore those priceless art treasures.
It must have cost the Americans millions of dollars and countless hours to find the artwork that had been stolen, transported to Germany and hidden. Yet, we did it.
It is quite popular now to denigrate American history and America's acts in the past. I suggest that all citizens watch the PBS special and see some of the good things we did in WWII.
Monday, November 24, 2008
My international readers may not know it but millions of Americans live far, far away from the town where they grew up. Many of them "go back home" to see relatives and friends during Thanksgiving, the third weekend in November, and Christmas, the last week of December.
The return home can provoke a lot of anxiety because we have moved away from the customs and values of our family of origin and find it difficult to remember how to act properly in that old environment. It is also hard on the "old folks back home" because they tend to think of us as we were as kids and that was a long time and many changes ago.
I was a rebel as a kid and my family tended to see me through that prism even though I left most of my rebellion behind a long time ago. I can remember how hard it was when Karen and I first began to return home from Cincinnati. I had gotten a couple of college degrees, fathered a child and became Associate Dean at U.C. Yet, I was tempted to regress in my behavior away from a mature adult to the teenage rebel of so many years ago.
I found myself being irritated by the same things that had bugged me as a teen and Mother was so unreasonable and parental. It seemed to me that I was all grown up but Mother treated me like a child. It was all her fault! (Thankfully, Karen was able to point out that I was acting like a teenager not like an adult. Boy, did that sting!)
As you prepare to go back home or to see your family that is returning to the homestead, ask yourself some questions:
1. Do I treat my family members as well as I want to be treated?
2. Do I treat my family like I treat other adults?
3. Do I have some of the same feelings I had as a kid when I interact with my parents and siblings?
4. Do I judge my family more harshly than I judge others?
5. Do I have peace when I think about my family?
6. Are there things I would like to straighten out in them?
7. Is God happy with the way I honor my family?
How are you preparing to go home again? Prayer might help.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I'm bolder now. (It's amazing what a decade in Africa will do to you.) And truth in theology while theology approaches politics is worth a bold defense.
Because the economy has been powering along like a Bull for the last eight years, Christian ministries have been growing like weeds and spending a lot of money to achieve their goals. Now, the Bear Market has changed all that. There is a great article about this issue in the Out of Ur Blog of Christianity Today.
No one knows how long this recession will last or how far the economy will slip, but this may serve as a wakeup call to an American church that has built its missional strategy on the assumption of affluence. If the downturn is protracted, it may cause churches to reevaluate their philosophy of ministry. If those delayed plans to build a larger facility or hire new staff members cannot be taken off the self in two, three, or five years because of the economy, will we be forced to think more creatively about advancing God's mission?
Neil Cole, in an interview in the latest issue of Leadership, said his research concluded that, using traditional church planting methods—hiring staff and building facilities—it would cost $80 billion to reach the city of Atlanta with the gospel. Even in a robust economy, that number is prohibitively large. Perhaps it's time for American church leaders to begin learning from pastors in the developing world who have few resources but where the gospel is spreading nonetheless.
Tom Sine, author of The New Conspirators, has also spoken about the danger of predicating our ministry model on the automobile. Megachurches in particular have flourished by drawing attenders from a wide geographic area. But if average fuel prices rise high enough, we may see driving habits shift as people become more reluctant to commute multiple times a week to a church facility. Economic realities may accelerate the already perceptible trend toward decentralized ministry.
Faith should protect us from the fear seizing many in these uncertain times, but faith should also lead us to greater creativity and an ever increasing trust in God to continue his mission even as resources disappear.
What do you think about this? Are these guys right or can we and should we continue spending so much to achieve so little?
Friday, November 21, 2008
In an exclusive interview with The Post, members of the vaunted Triple O, Obama's online operation, broke down the numbers: 3 million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations online adding up to more than $500 million. Of those 6.5 million donations, 6 million were in increments of $100 or less. The average online donation was $80, and the average Obama donor gave more than once.
The current financial struggles will demand that we cut our overhead costs dramatically. Senator Obama has mastered the internet so we can certainly look forward to seeing how he uses electronic media to Administer the USA.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Look at this New York Times editorial on one of the paper's "neediest cases".
Debra, a single mother who works in health care administration, is one of millions of Americans who do their jobs, believe in paying their bills and are still facing the threat of losing their home.
Debra, who did not want her last name to be published, bought a home in the East New York section of Brooklyn for more than $600,000 in 2006. The house has plenty of room for herself, for her son and for tenants. She thought that with the help of rental income and refinancing her mortgages that she could carry the load.
"People tell you that you can refinance and get a better deal," Debra explained--an all too common assumption during the housing boom. After a few months, her tenants started to pay their rent late--and sometimes not at all. Without that income, she was stretched too thin. "Your mortgage is your priority," Debra explained, "so you pay your mortgage and wait on the other bills." She fell behind on those bills, then on the mortgage itself.
This does sound unfortunate, but when someone who owns a $600,000 home is one of the neediest cases, you have to wonder who doesn't make the cut.
Actually, you don't, for MSNBC.com has an example. In April, Jan Gentile lost her job in human resources:
In mid-September, Gentile was finally able to land a job that includes health care benefits, but the salary is much less than she was making before. As they work to get their finances back on track, the family has had to cut back on little luxuries like dinners out, trips to the movies and buying new clothes.
One of the hardest decisions was to tell her granddaughter that she could no longer take horseback riding lessons because they couldn't afford it.
"She loved those horseback riding lessons," Gentile said.
Then there is the sad story of Tony D'Addeo, reported by the Austin American-Statesman:
For years, Mike and Kelly D'Addeo planned to use their trove of Intel Corp. stock options to send their son Tony to a top college. Tony would be a good candidate for any school: He's a straight-A senior at Bowie High School and captain of the football team, with near-perfect SAT scores. He's not interested in playing college football; instead, Tony talks about majoring in computer science or engineering.
"I'd like to have my own business someday," he said.
But the plunging stock market has made their stock options worthless and crushed the D'Addeos' Ivy League dreams.
Is this child abuse? I think so.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
My doctorate in Christian Counseling showed the strong compatibility of helping and the Bible. Yet, there are still many sceptics among secularists and some Christian leaders. Look at this recent research.
James Kennedy, Robert Davis, and Bruce Taylor reported in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion a 60 percent increase in spiritual participation following an ordeal. "A traumatic event," the authors say, "causes reduced well being, which causes increased spirituality, which then helps restore well being to pre-event levels."
This is just a couple of the numerous studies showing the importance of including spiritual resources in counseling. When will the secular researchers ever learn? Why can't smart people see the truth, even when they are looking for it?
Yvonne Farley reported in 2007 in the Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work that "spirituality is increasingly identified as a significant component of resiliency during family-based trauma."
I know this is true because I have seen thousands of people get breakthroughs as a result of turning to God. Many times we are looking not a need for healing but guidance and wisdom about the direction to take. We call that Coaching or Consulting rather than Counseling. James 1 tells us to "Ask God when we are confused and need wisdom." Then he says, "God will answer us without putting us down because we need His help."
Many a time I have been stumped by decisions and the direction take in a situation. As I pray and meditate, the Spirit reveals the best course of action, and many times it is a surprising insight not originally on my screen as a possibility.
Secularists and humanists may never, ever admit these truths. As II Corinthians 4:4 says, "The god of this world has blinded the perceptions of unbelievers so they cannot understand the light of the gospel."
But many times people will believe when a crisis occurs and the Holy Spirit breaks through. Pray with me that the Spirit will open the eyes of the blind so unbelievers perceive the light of Christ.
Christian Coaching, Consulting and Counseling