Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why Does Congress Hate Us?

Congress refuses to give us any relief in the high price of fuel. There is no question that high prices are partly the result of increasing demand from China and India as well as Russia and Eastern Europe. And, a lot of that is the fault of the USA's policies under Reagan.

Yep, President Reagan led the fight against Communism and won it hands down with the collaboration of Maggie Thatcher and Pope John Paul. "But," you ask, "How did that bring about the increase in oil and fuel prices?" Under Communism, the people in Russia, China and the Eastern Bloc were starving. And, they were forbidden to travel or buy cars. Then "Along came Ron!"

Reagan's tough talk and tough walk pulverized Gorbachev and the Chinese and they folded like a cheap deck chair. Now Russia and China along with the nations of the former Commie Bloc started throwing off the chains of repression and the money began to roll in.

Money brings goods and cars and refrigerators, bigger houses and international travel. Those former starved citizens of the Communist countries decided that they like the Middle Class lifestyle much better than poverty so the are consuming like crazy. The President of China recently responded to the G7 leaders who called for less carbon emissions by saying something like the following:

"Do you think we are crazy? You have been enjoying the fruits of capitalism for many years and now you want us to go back to a planned economy?!? We will never do that. We are building roads and cars to fill them so be quite about our emissions."

Al Gore fainted and the Congress punted by refusing to allow us to add more oil to the mix and so they decided to keep gas prices high. The Chinese and Russian leaders are more capitalist than our leaders.
Why do the Representatives want us to spend so much on energy when they could easily offer us relief? Oh, yes, and Obama said he was not unhappy with the high gas prices but thought they had risen too fast. What's that all about?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A seven-year-old boy approached an old man in front of a wishing well, looked up into his eyes, and asked: "I understand you're a very wise man. I'd like to know the secret of life."
The old man looked down at the youngster and replied: "I've thought a lot in my lifetime, and the secret can be summed up in four words:
1) The first is "Think." Think about the values you wish to live your life by.
2) The second is "Believe." Believe in yourself based on the thinking you've done about the values you're going to live your life by.
3) The third is "Dream."Dream about the things that can be, based on your belief in yourself and the values you're going to live by.
4) The last is "Dare." Dare to make your dreams become reality, based on your belief in yourself and your values.

Can you guess the man who said this? I think it is pretty good, with the addition of, "Trust in God" as the fifth key point and "Serve Others" as the sixth. Not long ago I posted some research about the importance of serving in keeping us alive, well and energized. Serving allows us to grow and heal and the more we grow and heal the more we can serve others.

This, of course, comes directly from God who gave us the ability to do all six of these important things. God created us in His image and for His purposes. This includes the ability to think, believe in ourselves, dream and dare to take risks.

I am currently reading a good book on the importance of ideas to nations and people. It is "The God that did not Fail" by Robert Royal. I suggest that you read it soon.

The man who replied to the little boy with four ideas was Walter E. Disney, a fellow who was gifted with great ideas, energy and creativity.

Apples of Gold

The first book I wrote on the topic of interpersonal relationships was called Apples of Gold, the title coming from Proverbs 25:11

Like apples of gold in a silver setting
Is a word nicely said in the right circumstances

Hardly a week passes that I don't speak with someone that mentions the importance of taking the "Apples of Gold" classes. This is despite the fact that we changed the name from Apples of Gold to Listening for Heaven's Sake many years ago. Yet, in the experience and memory of people the class and book were always Apples of Gold.

That title really says it. When we examine its origins the focus is not just on listening but the importance of speaking and relating that are appropriate to the circumstance. Know what to say and when to say it are really critical to building effective relationships.

I was struck this week by how few people know how to carry on a conversation. Few of us ever have a true dialogue because our need to focus on ourselves keeps most conversations at the level of a duo-logue; two people both talking about their own ideas and interests.

A dialogue, on the other hand, takes a subject and bores down into it in order to exegete or examine the topic from a joint perspective. This requires a great deal of loving self control. Love that places the other person's need to be heard and understood is a must in a dialogue. Let's face it; most of the time I am not as interested in what others have to say as I am in what I have to say. There is a constant temptation to listen to myself whether I am adding anything to the conversation or not.

Loving self control means that I can control my own tongue in order to allow you to speak to share your insights, ideas and concerns. The fruit of the Spirit always starts with agape love and is shown in joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, patience and self control. A good dialogue requires these fruit to really blossom and bloom.

If all I do is talk about myself and share my insights, even as superior as they are, we shall never move deeply into the heart of any matter. This may be why that book from our early ministry was so appropriately named Apples of Gold. It is not enough to Listen, for Heaven's Sake. It is also necessary to speak in ways that the focus can stay on my partner in the dialogue.

Yes, the Listening book is better and actually teaches the same things we wrote about in Apples. However, the title is not as good.

You can order Listening for Heaven's Sake from Equipping Ministries

Friday, July 25, 2008

Vacation Time

Maury and Angela with sons and grand kids at the anniversary party
Maury and Angela

Jacob and David Knispel, my Son in Law and Grandson on vacation

The last few weeks have been way too busy but the things that have been on our plate have been very, very good. First, my birthday party was delayed from 5/5/ to 6/28 because we were too busy to celebrate it on May 5.

Then we had the wonderful visitors from Norway who spoke at the launch of the Newly Designed Significance Center. They stayed in Cincinnati for several days and we had the opportunity to spend a good bit of time with them. We played Putt Putt Golf, went to a Blues and Rock Concert in Blue Ash and really had a great time visiting and discussing what God is up to in the world.
Because of privacy concerns I am not posting their names or faces.

Then we took off for Maryland and Washington DC where my brother and Sister in Law celebrated fifty years of marriage. I had been Best Man fifty years ago. It has been a Christ centered family from the beginning.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thanks for the Memories

The Norwegian Flag
We launched a new ministry focus this week, and it was a great success. Two friends came from Oslo, Norway and assisted us in casting a vision for ways Seasoned Believers can be of great benefit to younger men and women. It was awesome.
Our friends have had distinguished careers in public service and health care for many years in Norway. That, along with servant leadership in church and community groups allows them to challenge Americans to invest our lives in passing the baton to the next generations of servant leaders.
Their talk hit just the right spot for us and I am looking forward to learning more from them. Norwegians have much to teach us.

Note From Paula Clare

Hi Gary,
WONDERFUL article(s)! As always! I heartily concur with your assessment...although I am but a "wee" 50, I do not like being termed "Senior Citizen". It sounds like the last year of citizenship to me (like the last year of high school)I have in fact, (no doubt in utter vanity)

I am NOT signed up for AARP benefits because of the way they refer to me in their letters. I know my refusal will not change things, but maybe, if ENOUGH OF US refuse, they'll start to listen and realize we're still here, we're still "kicking" and we're still valuable to society.

I feel like the elderly Inuit who has been put on the ice flow to go downstream and die...NOT READY FOR THAT!Blessings to you and your work with Seasoned Believers!

Paula Clare commented on the last post but I thought it deserved its own place on my blog. Thanks, Paula.

Innovation and Change: Picking Leaders

Do you want to succeed in life? Do you want to pick people to help your ministry or company grow? How do we select the right folks? Here is a hint: Get men and women who have a mental map that loves challenges and keeps on trying.

WHY do some people reach their creative potential in business while other equally talented peers don’t?
After three decades of painstaking research, the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck believes that the answer to the puzzle lies in how people think about intelligence and talent. Those who believe they were born with all the smarts and gifts they’re ever going to have approach life with what she calls a “fixed mind-set.” Those who believe that their own abilities can expand over time, however, live with a “growth mind-set.”
Guess which ones prove to be most innovative over time.
“Society is obsessed with the idea of talent and genius and people who are ‘naturals’ with innate ability,” says Ms. Dweck, who is known for research that crosses the boundaries of personal, social and developmental psychology.
“People who believe in the power of talent tend not to fulfill their potential because they’re so concerned with looking smart and not making mistakes. But people who believe that talent can be developed are the ones who really push, stretch, confront their own mistakes and learn from them.”
In this case, nurture wins out over nature just about every time.

If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow

Published: July 6, 2008

I am kicking off a new ministry at age 70 and I am looking for Seasoned Believers who are not afraid to keep experimenting, growing and learning. I see far too many closed minds in Christianity, especially among Christian leaders.

For example, Christianity Today has some helpful articles and papers on ministry. One is on developing Adult Ministries but they continually use terms like Seniors, Older Adults, Second Half of Life, Aged, etc. Does anyone want to be so identified?

I have registered the name Seasoned Believers (TM) because it focuses on people's attributes and experience not their biology. I am often asked what age a person must be to "join" us. It is not in years of life but experience of living in Christ.

My focus in experience, wisdom, insight, calling and spiritual nurture. As Ms. Rae-Dupree mentions in her article, I want people whose life experiences have opened their eyes to possibility thinking. I want people who think outside the boxes of life and who expect God to break into those boxes.

This is what makes the difference in whether we can really make a difference and I want to make a difference.

Gary Sweeten

Random Thoughts

As I prepare to drive to Maryland to celebrate my brother's fifty years of wedded bliss with a fine woman, Angela Carpenter, I want to leave you with some interesting thoughts.

Thought #I. By Ben Stein

Ben Franklin summed it up well. In times of stress, the three best things to have are an old dog, an old wife and ready money. How right he was.

Thought #II. By Ben Stein

I am far from glib about the economy. It has a lot of pitfalls facing it. As workers and investors, we know that many dangers lurk in our paths.

But so far, these things have always worked themselves out and this one will, too. In the meantime, they say that falling in love is wonderful, and that the best is falling in love with what you have.

Ben Stein is a lawyer, writer, actor and economist. E-mail:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

For Such a Time as This

George Whitfield First Great Awakening & Mother Teresa-International Heroine in the Fourth Great Awakening

When Believers are in the midst of a revival, a reformation or an awakening they often miss it. One reason is that humans get so caught up in the affairs of daily life that they miss God’s Spirit moving. It is easy to get confused about when God is on the march when we do not see any evidence of revival in the culture. We are surrounded by so much junk in the media and so much trauma in society that it appears as if God's Spirit has been removed from our country.

But make no mistake about it, God is moving in a big way. In my view, He has a plan to make some great changes. In fact, revivals and awakenings are all about change so conflict rather than peace is the hall mark of the Spirit. Think back about the stories in the Bible. Every time God was about to make a big move we hear about the debauchery and evil in the society.

I am sure you remember the stories about the conflict between David and King Saul. David was chosen and anointed by God to be the future King of Israel. This made the current King Saul very jealous. The result was an all out war by Saul and his troops on God's anointed successor. They were out to murder him.

The times were desperate. It looked pretty grim for David. We know how the story ends but David and his friends did not know the final chapter during those terrible times. David had no army to fight against the overwhelming odds of Saul’s mighty army but he believed God's word and set out to fight Saul.

David was able to recruit some mighty warriors to fight with him. In I Chron 12:32 we can read how one group called, "The men of Issachar" threw their lot in with the future King. They took a huge risk. Had they lost the fight, everyone who supported David would have been killed.

Why would they take such a risk? A verse in I Chronicles tells us why.

"The men of Issachar were people who understood the times and knew what Israel should do." This is what is always needed for God's people to succeed. They must understand the times and the seasons. They need discernment. God inspires those people we call entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs understand the times and know what it is that the church should do. They know what to do and how to do it at the right time in the right way. Now is the right time for Seasoned Believers to rise up and change the world. We live in a unique time with unique opportunities to make a difference in media, politics, business, education, family life, medicine and the arts.

There are millions of Seasoned Believers who are followers of Christ and filled with His Spirit. These men and women are wise in their professions and skilled in the Word of God. All they need is an opportunity to join with other like minded Believers and release their talents and gifts.

See my web page for more information.

Seasoned Believers Must Act Now

In the book, The Boomer Century 1946-2046: How America's Most Influential Generation Changed Everything by Richard Croker there is an article by Dr Thom Rainer, a hugely regarded researcher on Christianity. Rainer says:

“Most cutting-edge ministries in the church for the past 40 years have been aimed at reaching the younger generations. And if something does not change in our churches, this age wave will pass by with millions never connecting with the church, and with millions never responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Most leaders admit that they have not even thought about the issue, much less strategically planned to reach this older generation.”" As a result of the negligence of Christian leaders, "About two-thirds of the 76 million boomers are unchurched, which means they attend church no more than twice a year."

These builders and boomers have the largest accumulated wealth of any group in America’s history. But their wealth is not restricted to money and materials. They also have an enormous reservoir of experience in education, science, industry, business and practical Christianity.

This age wave includes tens of millions of men and women who want to make a difference in their older years. They have pursued many paths to happiness, and the unchurched boomers tell us that none have proved satisfactory. These new "senior" adults do not perceive themselves to be older adults, and any organization that communicates to them that they are old will quickly lose their allegiance.

In Greater Cincinnati we have almost 800,000 thousand men and women over age 45. If 2/3 are unchurched, and I think they may be, it is a huge untapped group of almost 600,000 people who are just waiting for some church of para-church organization to care for them.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Party Faces

Son Timothy & daughter Julia on right & daughter in law Shelley Sweeten with Julia Sweeten Knispel below.

My son in law Dave Knispel with Lily-the love of my life.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Too Much Partying

Gary at age 30 and about forty pounds lighter.
The long hair and beard did not weigh much.

I made a bad mistake this morning. I got on the scales. Over the past two weeks I have gained five pounds. That is not a good thing.

The photo is the Sweeten Family of Tim, Karen, Gary and Julia plus Aaron Bates.

I do love to party but even that must be done in moderation. As a wise man once said, "A second on the lips but forever on the hips."

My daughter Julia put up a special blog for my 70Th birthday. It is great. Many of my friends from around the globe wrote nice, affirming comments on it. I do appreciate all those good memories. Thanks for leaving out all the bad memories of my weight gains and bad moods. They had a lot of grace in them.

It had also several old time photos of me, my parents, siblings and nuclear family. One of the photos shows my mother with a very small waist line. When we looked at it we were shocked. Mother fought her weight my entire lifetime to the best of my memory and I have waged an often losing battle with candy and ice cream as well.

Habits are hard to break. Why? because we like the behavior but dislike the results. I love to eat, especially with my family and friends. When we get together we laugh, tell stories and tease everyone. But, the longer it goes the more we eat. And, you know what that leads to.

Over the past few months we have celebrated the birthdays of Julia, Lily, Timothy, Gary, Hazel and the United States of America. We also celebrated Mother's Day and Father's Day along with the anniversary of son Tim and wife Shelley. In a few weeks we travel to Maryland for Th 50Th anniversary of my brother and sister in law and the anniversary of daughter Julia's handy husband Dave.

I am amazed I have gained only five pounds.

Barna's New Research on "Holy Books"

George Barna and his group of researchers ask a lot of questions about the personal and spiritual lives of Americans. Many of the answers given to those questions seems to indicate that we are not very well educated about God or faith. In most, the answers folks offer to even the most simple questions indicates that any of us slept through Sunday school.

The most recent study released by Barna and his group, however, may be a bit more positive. The one American "Thoughts about Views on Holy Books" says:
People’s responses demonstrate America’s singular connection to Christianity, according to George Barna, the researcher of faith trends who directed the study.
"Most Americans consider the Bible to be the word of God - and do not believe any other document fits that description. People associated with other faiths are much more likely to view the Bible as sacred literature than Christians are to view any other document to be holy," Barna noted.

What do you think about this research? Hit Comments and leave your ideas about ways to educate Christians about the Bible or reasons why we Yanks are so illiterate.

Contact Barna at:
The Barna Group, Ltd.1957 Eastman Ave. Ste BVentura, California 93003United StatesVoice: (805) 639-0000Fax: (805) 658-7298

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Party Time

Mike Ludzak and Alan Bowsher from Dwelling Place Church.
Pastor Rich Femia of Dwelling Place Church with Carol and Steve Helterbridle and Carol Femia. Pastor Rich was the man of prayer who blessed Gary and Karen at the party.

Gary with good friends Steve and Sue Griebling. Steve and Gary have developed many of the training materials we presently use to "equip the saints." We have travelled many miles around the globe.

Master of Ceremonies

Here is a great photo of Timothy Andrew Sweeten doing his superb job of being the MC for my 70Th birthday party. However, Tim was able to keep every one's attention except that of his three year old son Jack.

Notice how Jack is taking off like the Road Runner to stage left after hugging
Grandma and Papa while they are the focus of every one's attention.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Birthday Uncle Gary

On June 28 we celebrated my 70th birthday which actually occurred on May 5.
The video is from Sam and Laifong and boys in Singapore.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Everyone Can Learn to Relate Better

I was trained to equip lay people by Dr. Richard Walters, Buzz for those who know him. His father was a famous MD Psychiatrist who was also an expert on Wesley. What a combination.

I was Providentially referred to Rich's seminar in Athens, Georgia by a fellow Christian student at U.C. when we were discussing dissertation topics. When I told him I was looking for a way to integrate psychology and theology he replied, "Come to my office. I just received a brochure about a seminar on Georgia that may fit your dissertation.

I read the brochure and quickly called to register. I spoke with Rich and discovered he was a Believer as well and we encouraged each other to live out our faith as counselors. In the seminar, Dr. Walters told of his research on the effectiveness of training lay persons to facilitate growth in others.

Amazingly, Rich and his professor, the respected researcher Dr. George Gazda, trained school teachers how to care more for their students more effectively. One group was taught how to interact with the core skills of Genuineness, Respect, Empathy and Warmth. A second group was lectured on using those skills but was not trained in their actual practice. The third group came together and played games.

The results were amazing. When the team looked at the grades of the school children in those three groups, the differences were graphic and stunning.
1. The students whose teachers were trained to actually use the skills of GREW improved their grade averages dramatically. 2. The grades of children whose teachers attended lectures on caring and 3. Those who gathered to play games improved not all all.

This was incredible. The teachers learned to listen and understand the kids and treat them with Warmth and Respect. They did not take more classes on English or Math or Science yet the students did better on those tests. Why? Because they understood better what the children needed and they responded better to them.

Want to learn how to help your family, friends or students grow and learn? Contact me at gary@sweetenlifelcom

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Encore for Seasoned Believers

Sweeten Life Systems is all about relationships. of love come from the heart of God. The Bible makes that plain when it quotes Jesus as saying, "The first Commandment is 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind' and the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself'".

Love God, self and neighbors. That is the summary of all the Law and Prophets. Our tag line is, A lifetime of great relationships. At age seventy I am focusing on people over fifty. When I was young I thought like a youngster and so I ministered to others youngsters. Now I am Seasoned so it is on to a new ministry to Seasoned Believers. I think like them. I am them!
There is a great organization called, Civic Ventures that has also recognized the need to help Seasoned Citizens find places to serve and work after age fifty. They have started a specialized outreach called Encore that can be found at Take a look at their great web site.

The Seasoned Believer Ministry, like Encore, is not TO mature people but THROUGH them. It is well known and well researched that Seasoned Citizens who serve others live better and healthier lives than those who serve only themselves. Want to get involved?
Stay tuned for more on what is happening with us.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Why Do Pastors Refuse to Equip Members?

I have been a Christian for sixty years. I grew up in a very conservative church that preached and taught the Bible. We said we "Believed the Bible word for word from Genesis to maps". But, we did not really follow what it said on some very important matters.

One of the last things that our Lord said is recorded in Matthew 28:16ff. Just before Jesus rose from the earth and ascended into the heavens He gave a direct order to the small group of men who had been with Him Let me paraphrase it to get your attention.

"Remember that I told you earlier that I was going to go away and send you the Holy Spirit to be your encourager and counselor. It is best that I go to the Father because then you will be able to do far more than I could do if I stayed.

"Now here are my marching orders and I have the authority to do it. Go out from here and make students and practitioners of every nationality and ethnic group in the whole world. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them and train them to do everything I did and that you will do. In other words, reproduce yourselves among the Jews and Gentiles of every tongue, race and ethnicity until my followers fill the earth with Believers."
This is the most basic call of Jesus to His followers and it worked fine in the early days. Every follower of Jesus was trained how to minister in power, truth and love. They met in homes and under trees and their lives were changed along with the Roman Empire.

But, after some 300 years, things changed and a few elitist leaders took over the organization and did all the work of the ministry. This was and is a direct violation of Jesus' Great Commission. If a church even equips ten to twenty percent of its members a community will be transformed. But few really equips any members.
It is time for a change. We are ready for a New Reformation. God is on the move. Get ready. Our book, Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty will inspire you and educate you on how to start.

Sweeten Life Systems
P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, Ohiop 45249

My Book

Sweeten Life Systems, the ministry that sponsors this blog and many other efforts to educate, train and disciple Believers is supported by churches, companies and individuals. If you wish to help us out with a tax deductible gift we will send you a copy of our latest book, "Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty".

Sweeten Life Systems
P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, Ohio 451249

Sweeten Life

Here are some saying that will allow you to SWEETEN LIFE

Truth separated from experience always remains in the realm of doubt.

There are few things that destroy the soul more readily than unnecessary dependence on others.