Saturday, August 30, 2008

Want Your Kids to Make Better Grades?

Recent research on the relationship of church attendance and better grades is heartening to those of us who take the trouble to get our children in Sunday school and church. The study is found in the journal LiveScience and says: "If you want to boost your teenager's grade point average, take the kid to church. Or, a new study suggests, find some similar social activity to involve them in.
Researchers found that church attendance has as much effect on a teen's GPA as whether the parents earned a college degree. Students in grades 7 to 12 who went to church weekly also had lower dropout rates and felt more a part of their schools.
On average, students whose parents received a four-year college degree average a GPA .12 higher than those whose parents completed high school only. Students who attend religious services weekly average a GPA .144 higher than those who never attend services, said Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa."

This is just the latest study to affirm the positive aspects of church involvement for children, youth and adults. Just attending church is thought to lengthen life by three to five years and we know that kids who attend church drink and smoke less as well as do less drugs.

So, don't just send them to church; take them there and stay for a dose of healthy living yourself.

Sweeten Life Systems is all about "A lifetime of great relationships" and going to church as a family to worship God and follow the way of love is essential to building great relationships.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Grand Baby

Papa Sweeten

Emma is sleeping peacefully as Papa Sweeten holds her with love. These new grand kids keep us young.

Karen and I are in Pittsburgh visiting Tim and Shelley Sweeten with son Jack and brand new baby girl Emma Taylor Sweeten. I am posting a few photos of Emma and her mom and dad so all of the family can see them. My email is not working so here they are.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Decline of Protestant America

There is a great article in the online magazine First Things about the rapid decline of the "Mainline Churches" in America over the past fifty years. If you are interested in promoting better relationships with God through Jesus Christ in America it is a good read.

If you are interested in a strong America you need to know the history of how and why our nation was so strongly influenced by Protestant Christians. Take a look at these stats.
The high-water mark came around 1965, when members of the various churches broadly within these denominations constituted well over 50 percent of the American population. Their numbers, although not their percentages, maintained a little growth through 1975. But, as Kenneth Woodward pointed out in a much discussed 1993 Newsweek ­feature, they have been “running out of money and members and meaning” ever since.
Every survey produces different results, but all of them report a Mainline Protestantism in rapid decline. According to the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, only three Mainline denominations still have enough members to be included among the ten largest churches: the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

All three have suffered serious losses: the Presby­terians down 1.6 percent over the previous year, the Lutherans down 1.09, and the Methodists down 0.79. The other Mainline churches show the same pattern: The Episcopalians, for instance, lost 1.55 percent of their members in 2005. By 2025, runs a bitter joke among conservative Anglicans, the Episcopal Church will have one priest for every congregant. And these recent numbers are actually a slight improvement. The greatest damage was done from 1990 to 2000—a decade in which the United Church of Christ declined 14.8 percent, for example, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 11.6 percent.

Those of you who lead or influence your church need to read this article, written in a conservative Roman Catholic magazine. It may help you see what is healthy and unhealthy in the church.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Love and Relationships

Let me tell you a story. Karen and I just returned from lunch at "The Chef's Deli" that is located down the road from us in Sharonville. On the way back we spotted a light truck hauling a long trailer with a long sign painted on the side. It was in large bold letters and announced the evangelistic intentions of the driver. Would you like to guess what it said?

I have been all over the world and talked with Believers of every kind and description from almost every tribe and tongue. I love to hear their stories about how God touched them despite all manner of cultural, mental, theological and religious barriers. In almost every case the barrier busting approach that was most effective had a similar theme: Some kind of caring relationship.

In some cases the story was about how God broke through and showed His mercy, grace and love to an unsuspecting unbeliever. At other times it was a friend or family member who showed the love of God through kindness. In many cases God broke in through a dream, vision or miracle and shocked the unbeliever into his senses.

Of all the cases I know, however, none came as a result of reading a slogan on the side of a truck or trailer. In fact, many people see slogans as offensive rather than loving. I remember a time when some organization was promoting the "I Found It Campaign" and placed "I Found It" signs and bumper stickers all over town. In response, a group of Jewish adherents made signs that said, "We Never Lost It".

The Bible is clear that loving relationships are the greatest way to bring people to faith in Christ. Jesus told the Disciples in Luke 9 and 10 to go out and bless the people around them with love and peace. This is the best way to preach good news. Jesus did not not paint impersonal slogans on wagons and ox carts. Instead he touched people with love and care and healing power.

What is your approach?

Want to know the painted slogan?

Heaven or Hell?

It is your choice!

If people driving next to that truck had read and started to confess and repent of their sins we would have seen massive traffic tie ups and accidents. I don't ever remember hearing stories about that happening at bill boards or bumper stickers. Do you?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pray for Christians in Indonesia

It is frightening for Christians in Asia to see the rising attacks against them and their children. Historically places like Indonesia have been rather tolerant about minority groups such as Christians. Recently however, hate filled groups in that largest Muslim nation in the world have become filled with rage and threats.
A recent story on Fox News tells how the students and teachers in one school have been forced to leave the school grounds because of threats of violence.

Several years ago I was in Singapore to teach. At the Hotel Asia where I stayed I met a man of about fifty at breakfast and we chatted for awhile. I assumed he was a Muslim but in a very short while he said, "I saw you praying over your food and decided to come over to talk. I am a Christian and want to have some fellowship while I am in Singapore."

He related how a group of vigilante Muslims had attacked his home kampung or village and he and the others had barely escaped into the jungle. According to this man it was getting more dangerous by the day for children to attend Christian schools and go to church buildings. He asked for our prayers.
The rising intimidation of radical Muslims around the world is also affecting Western nations. Muslims are scaring many leaders into submission in Europe and allowing them to get away with crimes of intimidation against lapsed Muslims and other "infidels".

Pray for these Muslims to meet Christ and follow the Prince of Peace rather than Mohamed the Warrior.

What I Do

In the last post I mentioned that it is difficult for me to say exactly what I do because I try to see the whole person and the whole picture. But, I learned many years ago that this global view does not work if I want to help a person change. Then I must focus on a specific behavior and empower that person to change it.

Many of our most cherisehd theories about influence are wrong. As I mentioned before, I was taught a bunch of different theories about influence in grad school but very little about how those ideas influenced clients to alter their behavior.

People usually go to see a counselor because something in their life is not working. So, we can safely assume that they want a helper to assist them to change. But that means we need to discover exactly what behavior is not working and then change it.

Our book, Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty takes a look at influence and change and sets forth the ways anyone can increase his/her ability to influence others. The most basic insight is to Look for what works and do more of it. Ignore that which is not working and emphasize the things that do work.

Be a detective for good and for God. Do you want your child to change? Look for positive behaviors and reward them. Look for negative behaviors and ignore them. We so often do the opposite by being so focused on negative behaviors that we unwittingly reward them. As a rule verbal injunctions are aimed at negative behaviors and actually reward them even when we think we are being punitive.

Guy Jones was drinking far too much. He came to see me because he was threatened with divorce by his wife. He came to the office angrily and reluctantly and told me in no uncertain terms that he was not going to quit drinking because he loved beer.

Guy: "I drink all the time because I really love," he said. "I am too old to change now and even if I wanted to I don't know if I could. All my friends drink and I have gotten so used to it that I would die on the spot if I stopped."

Gary: "So," I replied after some time of listening. "You are constantly drinking every day and every night and you are sure it is impossible to quit."

Guy: "Yes, that is about right."

Gary: "you must have an unusual job to be able to drink all day at work."

Guy: "I can't drink at work. I would be fired if I did. I have to be sober and clean or my customers would smell it on my breath and stop buying from me."

Gary: (In an Innocent tone) "Oh. I thought you drank all the time. every day."

Guy: "Well yeah, I do but not at work."

Gary: "How can you have so much self control at work and not at other times? Do you get the heebie jeebies?"

Guy: "No, I manage OK because I know I have to."

This is called "Looking for good" and it is designed to show that a person has more self control than may be apparent. It rewards the positive behavior of abstinence rather than the negative behavior of drinking.

Contrast this approach with someone who preaches against "demon rum" and tells Guy how addictive it is. "You can never stop once it has control of you, Guy. It is a serious disease with deadly consequences." Does this approach convey faith, hope and love?

Look for good and for God at work. Anyone stuck in a pattern of self destruction does not need more bad news but may respond to good news. Order Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty if you want to learn how to improve your ability to influence others. Just send me a note and I will send you the book.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What do I do?

I must admit it is hard for me to give simple "elevator speech" about what my ministry is all about. Part of my problem is a genetic defect. I am a big picture person who loves to cover all my bases and I do mean ALL.

I am, therefore, constantly trying to be holistic and make sure I not only know everything about a topic but also teaching others everything I know. Here is an example. I entered Graduate School at Southern Illinois to study Student Personnel Administration and Counseling college age students. I learned all the various theories of counseling and influence and change and told by the professors that I had to choose one of them. But, I saw that each theory had some validity and each would work with a different person or group.

As a result I learned all of them and decided to use the one that works best with each person or group. When I am asked to clearly identify the theory I use in counseling I answer with several different ones. That is OK for me but confusing for others.

My mother died without being able to tell people what I do. She said, "I just tell people you are a preacher." I just agree and go on.

I am a person that is heavily invested in helping people develop better relationship skills. I want to see healthy individuals, healthy families and healthy work places. I am a person who tries to foster growth, healing and love, especially with Christians. That is hard to pidgeon hole too narrowly.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


ePistle is an interesting Christian e magazine has the story of Russian novelist, former dissident, man of God, Alexander Solzhenitsyn who died earlier this month. In memory of his rich, embattled, courageous life, we direct you to the text of a speech he delivered at Harvard University on June 8, 1978.
“I am sincerely happy to be here with you on this occasion and to become personally acquainted with this old and most prestigious University. My congratulations and very best wishes to all of today’s graduates.
“Harvard’s motto is ‘Veritas.’ Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion still lingers of knowing it and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter. There is some bitterness in my speech today, too. But I want to stress that it comes not from an adversary but from a friend.

“Three years ago in the United States I said certain things which at that time appeared unacceptable. Today, however, many people agree with what I then said..."

This man tried very heard to bring the truth to the USSR and to the USA. It appears that the current leaders of Russia are resorting to the tactics used by the KGB in the former Soviet Union and returning to their violent ways.

Pray for the Believers in Russia.

Go to ePistle to read the entire story.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Call From Russia

I spent an hour last night on the phone with Galina, a friend in Moscow. Galina is a Christian Psychiatrist and Psychologist. I met her in 1992 and invited her to come to Cincinnati to study our approach to the healing and growth in the church. She is a brilliant and dedicated Believer who has dedicated her life to helping the poor and needy break the cycle of destruction.

She heads a team of dynamic Believers who are training Christians in churches and para-church ministries all over the former USSR. The work they are doing to "Heal the broken hearted and set the captives free" as it says in IS 61, is remarkable and unique.

As you know, Russia has declared war on the former satellite of Georgia and that is causing great pain and anxiety among the people of both nations. I am planning to travel to Moscow in October to continue training the leaders so they can train more people "How to fish".

Please pray for the Liferoute Team and for my trip. Whether the Russians will allow me to reenter that country or not is questionable.

Pray for our finances. This trip will be very expensive because flights are costing more and hotels are some of the highest in the world. You may donate to Sweeten Life Systems by sending it to P.O. Box 498455, Cincinnati, 45249.

Poverty in America

It is important to know the facts about poverty because we are called by the Bible to help people in need. St. James asked rhetorically, "How can we say we love God when we do not love our neighbor? If we say we love someone who has no coat and just tell them to 'be warmed and filled' we are not really caring for them." (My summary)

John Zogby, a famous pollster, recently wrote a book called, The Way We Will Be on trends in America. In it he notes that strongly emphasizes the economic problems we are currently having. However, he also notes the following statistics about the poor.

...among people living below the poverty line in 2002, 93% had microwave ovens, 88% had VCRs and that means many more had TVs, 59% had computers and 58% had dishwashers.

What do you think about poverty in America? Do we who follow Christ still need to reach out to the poor?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Money is Evil to this Church

Another interesting article in MMI concerns a church that refused to accept "tainted" money from a member who won $6,000,000.00 in the lottery.

Got to MMI and let me know what you think.

Rick and the Candidates

In an interesting article on Monday Morning Insights we can read about the conversations Rick Warren had with the two candidates for President of the USA. Take a look and let me know what you think. Here is the first paragraph:

OK... how many of you got to watch the Saddleback Civil Forum on Saturday night? I watched as 'my good friend' Rick Warren gathered the candidates, and I have to tell you... I really was surprised. No offense, Rick... but I really thought you would ask some pretty boring, safe questions. But I was very encouraged to hear him ask questions like, "What was your biggest moral failure; what Supreme Court justice would you NOT have appointed; and a straight-up question about abortion.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Preaching Today

I had the privilege of speaking today at Horizon Community Church. I spoke at the 10:30 service that is focused on those Seeking a better understanding of God in a practical sense.

The series is taken from The God Father trilogy and contrasts the rules, roles and relationships contained in that film series with what God The Father has to say about His family in the Bible. My topic was, "The Hidden Rules of Family Life" and it was a ball. I did a short introduction about genograms and family maps and told stories about the way God treats us versus that which happens in the God Father.

If you want to hear my talk and others click on The Horizon Community Church link next to this post.

The Pastor is Chad Hovind and he is doing a series of sermon/teachings on some very provocative topics at the 9:15 service. He just finished a very interesting series on The Song of Solomon and was able to do a lot on God's approach to marital intimacy. This is one series that I never heard in my Baptist Sunday school.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Lifetime of great relationships-With myself!

An article on the blog Out of Ur has the following article that I hope you find challenging to you and the church. Take a look at it and see what you think. Are these of concern to you?

August 12, 2008
Great is Thy Effectiveness?
There’s danger in rooting our identity in ministry rather than in Christ.
Something’s wrong. We pastors are the stewards, the spokespeople, the advocates of a message of hope, life, and peace. And yet so few of us seem to be experiencing these qualities in our own lives. Something’s wrong. In a world saturated with fear, insecurity, and stress, we are to show a different way. And yet those at the center of the church are burning out and leaving ministry at a rate of 1,500 per month. If that’s what’s occurring at the heart of the church, why would anyone on the fringe want to move in closer?

Why is the church so ineffective in ministering hope, peace and joy when these are the fruits of the Spirit and the central issues of the Christian life?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Lifetime of great relationships

Continuing the series on developing a great relationship with yourself and others, including God, I will conclude the acrostic APART that defines why we make ourselves anxious and depressed.

Adversity is everywhere and impacts everyone. Still, I feel some sort of uniqueness when Adversity comes my way. Many of you know I like to play golf. When I turned 57 my wonderful and loving wife Karen Judy gave me a gift that is still giving to me; a set of golf lessons at a local practice range.

I have always been competitive so when I began my lessons I continued trying very hard to be good at hitting that little ball; immediately. But, I found several things about golf.

1) Adversity occurs frequently in every golfer's games.
2) The harder I tried to play and hit the ball well, the worse I played.
3) The more negatively I talk to my myself after hitting a ball the worse I perform after that.
4) Conclusion: I need to learn how to be good to myself and release all my negative self talk from my mind if I want to play well.

Golf is a metaphor for life. Adversity often and the harder I try to be perfect the worse I feel and do. This brings us to the last part of the acrostic: T for Total Thinking that keeps us on a roller coaster ride of emotional ups and downs and fragile interpersonal relationships.

This seems to be the main cause of so much despair and anxiety among relatively well off people. When I entered the counseling field I learned all the important terms. One that we kept hidden from the paying public was "The Worried Well" which is the term for folks are doing nicely but are worried about it.

The numbers of "The Worried Well" who are suffering greatly with anxiety is growing rapidly. This comes from a media and educational structure that over emphasizes helplessness and hopelessness. I am saddened by the way TV personnel, teachers and even members of the helping professions typically promote the notion that other people can make us feel badly about ourselves. No wonder we are Well but Worried.

We control our feelings by the ways we choose to think about life. The nasty people we meet and the nasty golf swings do not cause my bad feelings; I cause them by the ways I choose to think about them.

But I can do something good to help myself. I can renew my mind with the truth.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A lifetime of great relationships

The Old "Expert" Paradigm on the left

The tag line for our ministry, Sweeten Life Systems, is "A lifetime of great relationships". Thirty three years ago I wrote a doctoral dissertation on training Christian Counselors. I was blessed by the fact that Carl Rogers and Robert Carkhuff were busily researching the topic of "What works in counseling". Before this psychologists and psychiatrists rarely asked "What works" but simply told everyone what they thought "should" work.

I know, it is hard to believe that highly educated people would actually spend their lives studying and laboring with hurting people and rarely if ever ask if what they were doing actually helped them get better. But it was true when I was in graduate school and it is also true today for may of the most respected professionals in the field.

Instead of asking the clients/patients what was most helpful, we were taught to argue about which theory we liked best. Conversations went something like this:

Malachi: I am a Behaviorist. I love to watch the rats run through the mazes. And, it tells me exactly what to do to make people change.

Mohamed: Biology is best. I do not understand English but I can give pills.

Molly: Well, I am a Freudian because I do love all of his interesting theories about sex, dreams and so forth.

Mike: I like the humanistic model because all I need to do is listen and cry with my clients and tell them to do what feels best to them.

Mobely: I am a recovering alcoholic so I am convinced that the Johnson Model is best. It helped me and I know it will help others.

Graduate school in counseling is like being in seminary and having to choose which theologian we liked best. And, like seminary students, we had no idea which was correct. In our immaturity we were forced to choose something so we did and then acted like we knew what we were doing. Unfortunately, this is still the case today in many situations.

My research back then showed conclusively that the Bible correctly promotes the most important important way to build people up. It is through building great relationships as a Counselor. However, that is not all. The most important thing is teaching the client how to build great relationships with family, friends and colleagues. (The greatest is love, says I Corinthians 13)

Thus, since 1975 I have taught thousands of people how to develop and Lifetime of great relationships(TM)

We teach families how to develop great relationships
We teach ministers how to develop great relationships
We teach parents, managers, presidents, Peer Counselors, accountants, small groups leaders and everyone who wants to be a healthy person.

When you see Sweeten Life Systems, remember, it means A lifetime of great relationships with God, self and others.

My current series focuses on developing a great relationship to myself by defeating depression and punishing Pessimism. If I can't be nice to me I can't live a healthy life with God or others.

Monday, August 11, 2008

How to Get Depressed (Or Anxious)

Research by Dr. Martin Seligman and many others indicates that Depression and Anxiety are on the rise around the western world. That seems strange because we in the west are better off materially than any other nation at any time in history. As one wag said, "We don't know what will make us happy. We tried poverty and we are trying wealth and both have failed."

But we have some ideas about what makes us unhappy, and it starts with an inability to respond with resiliency to Adversity. That is why I have developed a way to battle depression and anxiety by renewing the mind. But first I need to show you the process of becoming or staying moody. After all, it is your choice.)

Here is my acrostic to assess our stinking thinking. APART

Adversity = Pessimism (I Perceive that I am a Problem that is Pervasive and Permanent and I should be Perfect!) = Angry = Ruminate = Total Thinking

Today, children, we look at Ruminate. Susan had a fight with her husband Bert this morning. She arose early in the morning and fixed a warm breakfast for Bert but he hurried off to a meeting without eating. Susan was hurt, angry and disappointed. She began to say to herself, "I have a problem. I am a lousy wife and my husband does not love me even enough to eat the food I cooked. I must be a terrible cook and hard to live with or he would not treat me so badly.

During the day Susan repeated those Pessimistic thoughts to herself and to her best friend Joan numerous times. She Ruminated about Bert, the food, her poor cooking skills and his lack of love for her until she had to leave work early with a terrible headache.

When Bert came home he was feeling good. He got to the meeting early and caught his boss before anyone else so he could tell him about the great insight he had for making a big sale. The boss loved the idea and promised Bert a bonus.

As he burst though the door, he was met by a sobbing wife who angrily attacked him for being so cruel to her. She alternated between anger, despair and tears while Bert looked on in amazement. He completely forgot the good news and his intention to take Susan out for dinner as she poured out her grief and pain. (She added several times that Joan also thought he was a mean man as did her mother and sister.)

Bert disappeared into the basement workshop and called Pete who agreed that "We will never understand women so don't even try."

Susan reacted with Pessimistic Anger and Rumination to her husband's poor communication and lack of social skills. She "Jumped to the Conclusion" that it was her Problems as a wife and his Problem as an uncaring husband. In reality it was Bert's anxiety about catching his boss in time to share a key idea for a sale that caused the miscommunication.

While Bert was at work Ruminating about his success as a salesman Susan was Ruminating about her failure as a person, a wife, cook and lover as well as Bert's intentional disrespect for her. None of these things were true. Nada! Zip! Zero facts in her Ruminating but they made her crazy and sorely disturbed Bert and her family and friends.

Our Perceptions are real to us but may not be factual, true or reasonable. When we Ruminate about Pessimistic mis-perceptions it always leads to sadness, misery, anxiety and conflict.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

New Web Site

Thanks for coming to the blog.

Go to our new web

Faith in Tough Times

Few people have suffered as much for their belief in truth, righteousness and freedom and lived to write about it as Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He was arrested and sent to a brutal labor camp by Socialists who wanted to destroy the best and smartest people in the land so the common man could rise.

By his faith in God, the Orthodox Church and truth Mr. Solzhenitsyn almost single handed brought down the USSR. He planted the seeds of truth with his books written in prison. He passed into his eternal reward last week after living in exile in America for many years.
An article in the Wall Street Journal said this about him.
Solzhenitsyn has described himself as "an unshakable optimist." On a dark day when one of his helpers had been arrested and interrogated and ended up dead (who knows how?), he could "raise a defiant battle cry: Victory is ours! With God's aid we shall yet prevail!" Virtually every one of Solzhenitsyn's works, of whatever type or length, ends on the note of hope. This is not an accident or affectation; it is a revelation of character and statement of faith.
Solzhenitsyn, Optimist
In his struggle with the Soviets, he had the last laugh
Wall Street Journal
August 9, 2008; Page W12

This is what I mean by optimism. It is not a "name it and claim it" type of shallow emotionalism but a belief in the future based on the promises of God and the trust that we who are made in His image can create a better world if we adhere to truth and justice.

Surely this man and many other brave men and women who suffered under the heel of Soviet oppression were optimists. Had they given in to Pessimism every time something bad happened to them we would still be fearing Communist bombs. Instead, America stands alone as a real world power. Do we have the guts and faith to stay strong?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Pessimism Can Lead to Depression

In my series of posts on dealing with Adversity I wrote the last time about Pessimism and its foundational thought patterns. Now we shall see what happens emotionally when we allow our self talk to be so Pessimistic. The APART acrostic cummarizes my process.



Anger is the result of negative thinking because that is why we call it Stinking Thinking. Such negativity stinks because it leads to emotional destruction, and it can be changed. We have a choice whether to fill our minds and hearts with Pessimistic Ideas or not. The Bible tells us to "Stop being conformed to the world's ways of thinking and acting by renewal of the mind."

Since Pessimism invariably leads to Anger and Bitterness it is never a good idea to chronically think about disaster, problems and helplessness. Sometimes the anger we feel will be turned inward and the result is depression and anxiety. At other times it is turned toward others and we start the Blame/Shame projection of our own misery onto others.

So, either way, Pessimism and Anger are destructive.

Video Published

Steve Helterbridle, a friend with gifts in video production, has placed our

"What If" video on God TV. Why not go and take a gander at it?

The video is short, well done with neat music and a terrific message about Seasoned Believers.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Adversity-Healthy Responses

The Ark of the Covenant
Adversity is all around us. The current rise in commodity prices is just one of many problems we face in getting through daily life. I wrote recently that my European friends were chiding us Americans because we were, in their words, "Whining when we are paying about 1/3 as much for petrol as they."

I am receiving comments and calls because of my statements.

I have written and taught on the topic of "Power Thinking versus Stinking Thinking" many times. It is that issue to which I am returning now. When we fill our minds with Stinking Thinking we place ourselves at risk of losing our emotional and spiritual energy. It causes us to be anxious and anxiety brings bad decisions and bad relationships. In times of crises or stress we need all the energy we can muster and we must be able to think clearly about ways to cope and overcome the Adversities that face us.

Several years ago my mother gave me a book about the history of Whittington, a community just south of our village of Ina, Illinois. The book contains several real life stories about the challenges faced by the pioneers who settled our region and forced a living out of the hard, rocky soil. They overcame the Civil War, insects, wild animals and a lack of transportation.

One couple was able to get a small plot of land where they planted crops, built a house and struggled to get by. One day when the missus was washing clothes in an iron kettle full of lye soap and hot water she was confronted by a snarling big cat. She screamed for help from her husband who hoeing in a nearby field and he came running to rescue her.

He had no firearm but used the weapons at hand, the soapy water. He quickly sized up the situation and hurled two hand fulls of boiling lye soap water into the cat's eyes. The big feline screamed and began to claw at his eyes for relief. Before he could see again the farmer took his corn hoe and clubbed the lion to death.

Our nation was settled by men and women who expected great challenges. They set out for the frontier know they had to do their best to overcome hostile forces by wit and wisdom as well as mutual assistance. The forces arrayed against us today pale in comparison to those in previous centuries and I am sure we can face them and overcome them by grit, courage and wisdom as well as mutual assistance to one another.

Self Defeating Beliefs
I. Adversity
II. Pessimism that arises out of a belief that we cannot prevail against the pain.
A. The Problem is huge:
B. The Problem is Pervasive and all encompassing: I am flawed, we are flawed, our nation is flawed
C. The Problem is Permanent and cannot be solved, healed or overcome
D. Perfection should be possible and we should be Perfect

I think whining adds to Pessimism and only Optimism can supply the energy and wisdom we need to meet these problems.

It will take courage, resiliency, energy, optimism and cooperation to take the nation to the next stage of development. Do we have what it takes or will we simply give up because of a lack of nerve?

Art Linkletter-Optimist at 96

Art Linkletter, the entertainer, entrepreneur and self-professed lifelong learner says that he not only works every day, but he's got business deals in the pipeline that won't come to fruition for another five years.

Shouldn't he be in a rocking chair somewhere, or fishing - or at least slowing down a bit? After all, at 96, most would say he's earned his retirement.
Linkletter doesn't see it that way. For him, working fuels his excitement and enjoyment of life, and only adds to the driving need he has to contribute every day, he says.

Interviewed on his 96th birthday from his home in California, Linkletter says that "Honestly, I don't feel any different than I did 10 years ago."

"I feel better than ever," he says. "I feel optimistic."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Adversity Is Rare?

Real difficulties can be overcome. It is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable. Theodore N. Vail

I received a comment from an acquaintance in Europe asking why Americans are trying to get our government to help us pay for gasoline. That is a great question. She goes on to say that they are paying much more for gasoline than we are but do not expect the government to help them out.

My friends Jens-Petter Jorgensen and Astrid have been visiting us recently and they too commented about the ways Americans are complaining and whining over gasoline. They pointed out that, although Norway is one of the highest producers of oil in the world, they must pay $12.00 per gallon for petrol. (Most of this cost is from taxes)

Why are we whining so much about gasoline when it is only $4.00 per gallon? That is still very low by international standards. Why do we ask the government to give us money to pay for the gas? Why does Obama think it is necessary to say he will pass extra taxes on oil companies and give them to Americans as $1,000.00 checks?

Help our European friends understand us better. Write your answer to their questions.

Life is tough enough without manufacturing things to worry about.

Facing it — always facing it — that's the way to get through. Face it! Joseph Conrad
I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Groucho Marx

Security is a superstition--it does not exist in nature. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Helen Keller

Monday, August 04, 2008

Optimism is Warranted

I realize it is the "Silly Season" of a National Presidential Election when Leftist politicians spout gloom and doom by the bucket full, but I am still an Optimist. The story reported below is from Philanthropy Today and it tells a remarkable story of success in helping the homeless.
A federal effort known as “housing first,” which seeks to find permanent shelter for the chronically homeless, is being cited as a reason the number of chronically homeless people living in the streets and in shelters dropped by about 30 percent, reports The New York Times. The data, which cover 2005 to 2007, are part of a new Bush administration study.
The decline may also be a result of better data collection and reporting by cities and towns, the paper reports. But at least one researcher, Martha R. Burt, calls the drop in homelessness “nothing short of phenomenal,” adding that with the right support and housing, the homeless population will not end up back on the street.

Read coverage in The Chronicle of Philanthropy of the housing-first movement and efforts to end homelessness by 2014.


Everybody is a problem, has a problem, lives with a problem or makes problems!
As the Bible says, "Don't think it is strange when troubles come your way..."

In fact, we cannot read the Bible without seeing that every tribe, every kind of person of every age had troubles. So, the issue is not whether we will have pain, problems, sicknesses and persecutions but how we choose to deal with them.

Pain is inevitable but misery is optional.

So, the A in APART stands for the reality of ADVERSITY. How we face problems and think about them will make the difference between effectively handling pain or making ourselves miserable.

The Bible does not sugar coat troubles as do some groups of Christians. But it does tell us how to live with joy in the midst of pain.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

How to Be Anxious, Depressed or Worse

I have been in the counseling field a very long time. Long enough to learn that Anxiety and Depression are the two great causes of mental dis-ease and pain in life. And, unfortunately, they are not decreasing. Despite the growth in America's wealth and comfort over the past fifty years people are increasingly suffering from minds that are unquiet.

Since WWII America has experienced unbelievable growth in the basic necessities of life. Abraham Maslow developed what he called a "Hierarchy of Needs" way back in the Fifties. At the bottom were things like food, clothing, shelter, safety and security. In every one of those areas we in America have become incredibly secure. Even the poor in America have free health care, plenty of food and more clothes than we can wear.

Why, then, are we such a nation of anxious, depressed people? Why are people not satisfied, happy and peaceful? Why are counseling centers and Pastors' offices filled with people who are what we call, "The Worried Well"?

Both anxiety and depression are symptoms of Pessimistic Thinking. Read the works of Martin Seligman if you want to learn more about these issues but hang on a bit longer to read more of my ideas.

I have come up with a short acrostic to explain how we can think ourselves into a frenzy of Anxiety/Depression. It is APART.


P=Pessimistic Thinking



T=Total Thinking

Adversity: When adversity comes along, as it always does, some of us slip into anxiety, panic, pain and depression while others slough it off and deal with the problems effectively. Pain is inevitable but Misery is optional. Some people seem to assume that all pain is automatically a disaster.

Pessimism: this is the key ingredient to joy or misery; elongated suffering or shortened discomfort and time in the slough of despair or moving through life with equanimity. So, how do we make ourselves miserable?

Repeatedly think: This is a Personal Flaw. The reason this Adversity is happening to me is that I am deeply broken as a person. I am the problem. Karma from the past has come upon me and I am suffering because of my flaws. God is punishing me. I am unlucky, unchosen and unloved by the universe.

The Personal Problem is Pervasive. It covers all of life and all of my concerns.

The Personal Problem is Permanent and will never change.

I could be/should be Perfect yet I am imperfect.

Pessimism=Personal Problems that are Pervasive and Permanent.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Unemployment and Optimism

It is hard when we hear the news report almost daily that unemployment rates are soaring. In fact, they are at "RECORD HIGH RATES!!!!!!!!!!!"

I just watched BBC News via my computer and they discussed a government study saying two seemingly contradictory things. One, unemployment rates in Britain are at RECORD HIGHS!!!!!!
Second, employment rates are at record highs. (Guess which was trumpeted by the media?) How can that be?

It is easy to understand. The total number of in the workforce is higher, much higher than ever before. Thus, GB has far more people working and not working at the same time.

Now let's return to the USA and see what is happening. One would assume that all the news is bad and getting worse. All we hear is disaster, bankruptcies and despair. Here are the headlines:
The US unemployment rate climbed to 5.7% in July official figures show, its highest in more than four years. Firms cut workers for a seventh month in a row.
Yet, I am an optimistic realist. Take a look at this chart.
Unemployment rates worldwide, 2005:
East Asia:
Rich countries:
United States:
European Union:

Latin America:
Middle East:

This week I read that the unemployment rate in the USA is about the same as it was in 2005. I just watched the BBC say that the rate in Great Britain is 11.40% and in Germany it is higher. In other words, the USA has less than half the unemployed people of two other wealthy European nations.

Despite this, we have some politicians shouting about how Europe's ways are superior to our own. They say that America is in an awful, terrible economic condition and we must immediately adopt more of the EU's high taxes and welfare ideas.

I suppose these Left Wing Pols want us to catch up with the EU by doubling our unemployment rate. Maybe they will be happy when we have 10 to 20% of our people out of work. But not me. I am pretty optimistic about America. This nation develops more new jobs every year than the entire EU combined.

Let's not change our great system for one that is worse. All change is not good.

Learned Optimism

Photo of a Pessimist
I realize that I am an optimist. I tend to see the upside of things while many folks, if not most, tend to see the downside.
I have not always been as optimistic as I am now.
I grew up in a family that was dominated by pessimistic thoughts. My Maternal Grand Father was a "Worry Wart" of the first order. He was, in fact, so filled with worry and pessimism that it led him to deep hopelessness and depression.

I nursed my Grand Father for several years and that developed a strong resistance to pessimism. However, I found my own thoughts wandering in that direction with great frequency. And, since I had no training in how to renew my mind, I would often end up angry, distressed and behaving like a "Wounded Water Buffalo". (Now all you "Friends of the Wounded Water Buffaloes" do not need to email me cause I apologise in advance.)

Then I learned how to renew my mind and take pessimistic thought prisoner to rational, positive thinking. Wow! What a relief. Thank God for His wonderful words of comfort and growth.

I began this post with some reflections on the unemployment figures for Ohio and the USA. However, my introduction became so long I am going to close this post and do another one on the malaise in America.

Still Learning

My daughter has been teaching me for a long time and she is still way ahead of me now. However, an old dawg CAN learn new tricks.

When you're typing a post type the words you want to be the link, say "Nesting Place" and then highlight (right click and drag over the words), then look up at the top bar where you can change the font, do bold, italics, etc. You'll see a little globe looking thing with what looks like 2 chain links. Click it and a box will pop up. Paste the web address there, then click done. The words you highlighted should become bold and will now be a linky. You can't click it in the edit window, but if you preview the post, it should work.

Thanks, Julia
It worked!


Friday, August 01, 2008

Check out Another Blog

My daughter Julia has a blog called, Hooked on Houses that you can click on the left side I have named it Fun With Houses. She is a great writer and works so very heard to write about her favorite topics, houses and decorations.

Julia has gotten 375,000 hits since January 2008 and I have less than 15,000 in three years. That tells us something I suppose. She is good; very good.

So, check her out and see why the critics are raving and giving her so many awards.

Annual Report

We are having our Board of Trustees meeting this weekend and it is good to review what has happened over the past twelve months. In just one area, awakening folks to the gift of aging and the promise of "Unleashing Seasoned Believers," we have had several great gatherings and stimulated hundreds if not thousands of stimulating conversations.

I heard tonight that people are inspired and developing networks of like minded Believers who want to come together to support mutual interests.

That is great. Keep up the good work. If you have a desire to network with others for support, prayers and inspiration but wonder what to do send me an email or make a comment on this blog.