Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

What a fellowship
What a joy Divine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near
Leaning on the everlasting arms

I woke up this morning at about 5:45 as is my habit, and this song was running through my mind. I must have wrestled with some fears and anxieties in the night for God's Spirit rose up from within and gave me comfort.

This has happened before. Many years ago I was going through severe stresses and losses. My fear, anxieties and anger kept me rolling and tossing all night. At one point I woke up singing in my heart not aloud,

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life (2 Times)
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever;
And I shall feast at the table set for me

My depression and anxiety lifted and I experienced peace and rest in Christ. The losses and pain did not cease but I was able to face my fear, anger and grief with the assurance that God had me in the palm of His hand.

My retirement portfolio is, like yours, sinking. But, I brought nothing into this world and I will take nothing out. I am powerless to change world markets and I cannot change my IRAs.

I am so thankful that God is with us and in us just as Jesus promised. He will never leave us even when my anxiety pushes the awareness of it out of my mind and heart. It is obvious that the Spirit was praying for me with deep groans even as I slept. The Spirit was "singing over me" during the night hours.

The everlasting arms are still strong and secure despite the weakness and insecurity of the markets. I still find it amazing, however, that God is so close that He knows to sing to me with the hymns of my childhood. I have not sung Leaning on the Everlasting Arms in many years but its message has never left my heart.

Today, while cruising at 55,000 feet over the Atlantic on my way to Moscow you can bet that I will be praising and thanking God for His personal presence. This is why a personal relationship with Jesus is so important. I don't need an institutional or organizational relationship but one that is deep, intimate and uplifting. Thanks to the grace of God I have it.

You can have it too.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Want Time With God?

Good Morning Ladies
The Fall Retreat is this Saturday. We have room for about 6 more women to register. THE WEATHER IS TO BE IDEAL. Why not put some things on hold to spend time with God?

Judy Haag
Spiritual Encouragers of Cincinnati
5091 South Ridge Drive
Cincinnati OH, 45224513

Out the church door

At the last church she attended before dropping out, Julia Duin was not impressed with the service opportunities available to her as a single woman.
She could do child-care work, greet people at the door or join the women in the altar guild. However, since her journalism work required frequent travel, Duin sought more flexible commitments. Perhaps she could play harp before services? Fill an occasional teaching role, using her seminary training or material from her books?

After several frustrating years, she quit going to church.

This article by Terry Mattingly tells the story of a committed Christian woman's frustration with churches that are failing in rising numbers to keep their most loyal and committed members on board. The statistics are troubling and the missed opportunities startling. They indicate a coming crisis that will devastate the Evangelical church growth movement fueled by Baby Boomers for the past forty years.

Church leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to recruit and mobilize Seasoned Believers into meaningful Kingdom ministries but are missing God's opportunity. Read the article and get the book by Julia Duin. we have a crisis on our hands unless Christian leaders wake up and figure out how to involve Seasoned Believers in God's plans.

See the book on Amazon.com

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why Minister Internationally?

I have been traveling a lot over the past 15-20 years and some of my friends and church supporters are not very happy about it. They ask a lot of questions indicating that they are somehow slightly or greatly aggrieved that I spend so much time helping people other than Americans.

"Why are you doing this, Gary? Aren't the problems and concerns in America worthy of your best efforts?" It sometimes feels like sibling rivalry. The same issues that roiled the Smothers Brothers who made millions saying, "Mom always loved you best."

I do love my brothers and sisters in Singapore, China, Scandinavia and Russia. But, warm, caring feelings are not enough to cause me to fly in a seat half the size of my backside to stay in cramped quarters and work all day and all night. (Nor is it the glamour or being an "international minister".)

It was the call of God that originally got me on those airplanes and it is the confirmation of the Spirit that keeps me going. The Lord has confirmed my call by showing me the critical importance of having American Christians involved in the spiritual, social and economic growth of the developing world. Unless you live in a cave it is obvious that many citizens around the world are very reactive to U.S. foreign policies. However, once they get to know us a Christians and humans the people tend to like Americans.

I leave Tuesday for Russia and Denmark for two weeks. I need your prayers and your financial support. There is tremendous warfare raging in Russia that tears at the souls of Russian Christians. It is very expensive to live in Russia and the costs for Believers and churches is even higher emotionally and financially.

Sweeten Life Systems does its best to support the work but rent, travel costs to the various Russian cities and daily living is difficult so those who volunteer must give up jobs to serve Christ. We are trying to raise funds to provide small stipends and grants for the teachers. They appreciate all we do.

The only hope for peace, security and economic stability is God and we are supporting our Russian friends as they trust God in their desperate circumstances. Help us help them.
Sweeten Life Systems
P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati 45249

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Why I Am Pro-Life

Karen and I went to a beautiful wedding today. I cried and she did too.
We had only briefly met the bride before and never met the groom, yet it was very emotional for us.

Karen and I first encountered the bride, age 29, some 30 years ago. It was a time of great distress and emotional stress. That time we were angry, frustrated and scared. A young woman with whom we had been involved in ministry said she was pregnant. I suppose we felt like failures and upset with her to boot.

We experienced a whole range of emotions that night, especially when the woman said the father of the child was insisting on an abortion. We had always been strongly pro life in theology and ministry, but now we had to put up or shut up. If we encouraged the mother to carry her child, it had many financial, practical, emotional and ministerial realities. Money, adoption, a place to live, how to treat the father, etc all came into play.

Today, thirty years later, we saw the results of the decision to support life even at great cost. That baby, now all grown up, got married and the circle of life continues. She was beautifully glowing in the ceremony and so was her birth mother. They had been reunited two years ago and both mothers were involved in the service.

As a side note, the couple who adopted her lived less than a half mile from the birth mother and they attended a church whose Pastor has been my friend for over thirty years. But Karen and I never learned who the adoptive parents were nor did we want to know.

Most of the time we never learn if our stands for Christ and a righteous life amount to anything. We plant seeds but might not see the fruit of our labors until e are reunited in heaven. But in this instance we got to see the fruit that came from standing on God's word even though it came thirty years afterward.

It struck me today that if I have labored for forty years in ministry. If nothing comes of it but todays wedding I will be satisfied.
Thank you Jesus for the opportunity to serve you and see the fruit of faith, hope and love.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Watching History Occur in Real Time

I just finished watching President Bush deliver a fifteen minute speech on the banking crisis that was designed to educate us and calm us and move us so we will support the buy out of bad mortgages worth some $700 Billion Dollars. It is amazing to watch history books being written before our eyes.

I received an email from Linda Prince, a long time friend and a strong supporter of McCain-Palin. She is, however, first and foremost a Believer. Here is her message.
1. The Bible will still have all the answers. 2. Prayer will still work. 3. The Holy Spirit will still move. 4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people. 5. There will still be God-anointed preaching. 6. There will still be singing of praise to God. 7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people. 8. There will still be room at the Cross. 9. Jesus will still love you. 10. Jesus will still save the lost. ISN'T IT GREAT TO KNOW WHO IS STILL IN CONTROL?

'I lift up my eyes to the hills -- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.' Ps 121:1-2

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Second Half Life Coach

How Do I Follow Jesus?
One of our goals is to inspire, motivate, educate, equip and mobilize Seasoned Believers to make a difference in the world. The core of our approach is helping Believers develop "A lifetime of great relationships." People need to have a dynamic relationship with God, self and others, including the family.

If one member of a family, church or company is hurting, every shares the pain. If there is dysfunction, disability and disease all of us limp. For forty years I have been involved professionally as a Counselor, Coach and Care Giver to those needing God's love and power. Now I am a Life Coach who uses all the skills of a therapist as well as the wisdom of the Bible and Holy Spirit.

Seasoned Believers need a Second Half Life Coach who has been there and gone thought he struggles of success and failure; peace and prosperity as well as pain and problems.

Contact me if you want a Coach for the Second Half of Life.

Christians and Crises

Christianity Today has an interesting article about the financial crisis on Wall Street. Take a look.

How are you facing the current crisis as a Christian?

It is a challenge for all of us but especially for those whose retirements are losing value. Can we trust God in the valley? We better learn how.

Kidney Donations Expanded

At the Significance Center kick off in July we had two individuals in attendance who are on the cutting edge of a dramatic medical innovation that is saving many lives. Dr. Michael Rees, a surgeon at the Toledo Medical School, and Jon Kopke, a computer researcher at The University of Cincinnati, came to hear and meet our speakers and interact with other creative Believers.

You can read about the remarkable work Dr. Rees and Jon are doing in today's Wall Street Journal.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Who Are The Church Workers?

Who are the workers in your local church?

Who are called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the workers?

What other roles are laid out by the Bible for various people in your church?

Why are so few churches working?

What do you think YOU are supposaed to be doing?

Why Retire? Why Not Retire?

Do you want to get an Encore Job? Anyone not living in a cage knows that the Baby Boomer Wave is coming like a tsunami to disrupt everything we thought we knew about retirement, ageing, the American Dream and the meaning of work. Take a look at the Wall Street Journal's article today that discusses the facts about retirement and you will probably say, "Sweeten has been right all along. We need to think about how to Re fire Not Retire".
This is what we call, "The Encore Generation and the Encore Jobs". Taking a new job after retirement is like singing a song after the show is over. The traditional career path is "Retire at 65 and do nothing!" But ought we do that? Many people say "NO!"
Why Retire and Quit?
1. You hate your job.
2. You are too sick to go on.
3. Your employer is mean, disrespectful and demon possessed.
4. You have something better to do-RE FIRED!
Why Would You Not Retire and Quit?
1. You love your job.
2. You need the money.
3. You want to move on to something better-RE FIRE and ENCORE

As my friend Jim Donovan, who officially retired from P&G nine years ago said, "We were created to be creative and complete retirement from all creative work is self defeating. We humans need to be creatively engaged in productive labor to stay healthy. "

Jim transferred from Procter to set up his own family company with his son and has been extremely innovative in an Encore Job by engaging in research on how new products can be most effectively used by consumers. So much of our products are created to please the engineers and technologists rather than the consumers. Jim's research looks at what will work in real life.

So, Jim is using his considerable skills and insights to better humanity as well as keep his own mental, emotional and spiritual health improving. It is the best of all worlds.

I am looking for Seasoned Believers who want to stay creatively engaged in self improvement as well as improving the lives of others. If you want to stay intellectually, emotionally and spiritually engaged in life, let us know. If you can sing an Encore let me know. As you can see from the chart, there are many options.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Who Pays Taxes?

One of the mantras we hear from some politicians this year is that if elected, they will cut the taxes of 95% of all people and raise the taxes of the rich. Well, here is a breakdown of who pays the most taxes and who pays the least. (See the blog Carpe Diem for an explanation for the percentage of all income taxes.)

Top 1% pay 39.89% (Income $388,000+)
Top 5% pay 60.14% (Income $153,000+)
Top 10% pay 70.79% (Income $108,000+)
Top 25% pay 86.27% (Income $64,000+)
Top 50% pay 97.01% (Income $32,000+)

The bottom 50% Income less than $32,000 pay 2.99% of all income taxes.

The bottom 50% who make under $32,000 already pays almost no taxes so how can a President cut their taxes?

Second, it is the Congress that passes laws so a President cannot raise or lower our taxes.

The Ryder Cup 2008

Everybody Needs to be Encouraged-Even Eyore
It was some of the best golf I ever witnessed. Both the American and the European teams put on a show of skill, pluck and grit that exceeded anything I have ever observed.

I like to play golf and because of that I understand just how difficult it is to place the ball near or in the cup. If the swing is too fast or too slow by a millisecond the ball flight will be off. If the club hits the ball a millimeter off the flight of the ball will be off. If the wind blows out the ball can go too far but if it is coming into the golfer's face it will be too short.

Every lie is different and every bounce is unique. The ball might find itself in a divot, a hole, next to a rock or in deep grass. All these situations make the next swing that much more difficult.

So, despite these issues, 12 men from Europe and 12 men from America put the ball in the right holes in amazing frequency and from distances that seemed way to much to overcome.

At the final post mortem, the announcers and coaches and players told us what they thought made the difference this year. The Europeans had won six of the past seven events so why were the Yanks successful this year? Almost everyone agreed that it was teamwork. Captain Paul Azinger had worked very hard for the past two years to find the key to victory and, despite the absence of history's best player, he did it. The key was getting those individuals to play for the team rather than themselves.

Golf is an individual game. In every other context these players are trying to defeat each other. In this venue they were urging each other on. And, the crowd was rooting strongly for them.

It was duly noted that Paul Azinger's emotional leadership plus his strategy were largely responsible for the camaraderie. However, one of the players he chose was also key to that. It was Boo Weekly who not only played great golf but he was also the main cheer leader for the Yanks. He added just the right chemistry.

Sometimes a leader needs to choose players in the corporate and church worlds for their ability to stir the others up. They may not be as skilled as managers or workers but they are gifted encourager's. They "Glow in the Spirit" as the Bible says. When they are around people feel more positive and optimistic. Depression and negativity are reduced and the team is energized. Who does that for your team? Do what you can to keep them happy in your team.

I am thinking about some of my greatest experiences at various places of employment and I can clearly remember that it was teamwork and chemistry that made the difference. When we had that the team performed well. When it was missing the performance went down. Make sure you find an encourager.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Coming Back From Adversity

One of the most important things we can teach one another, especially our kids, is the ability to "Bounce Back" after facing adversity. Adversity is inevitable so learning how to face it and come back from it stronger is critically important.

In the last few months we have seen several enormously damaging natural disasters. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and droughts have all battered us with their overwhelming damage and trauma. Here in Cincinnati we saw unusual if not unique windstorms last Sunday that left almost a million people without power. The ability to respond to such things is essential to our ability to survive and thrive in life.

Everyone who faces such disasters and disappointments suffers stress as a result of adversity. So, being able to mentally, emotionally and physically respond in a healthy and life affirming way is the difference between a break through and a break down. Adversity is inevitable but Misery is optional.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. Elanor Roosevelt

By facing our fears and thinking of ways to cope or even rise above them we can strengthen our mental muscles very much like we strengthen our physical muscles. The recent monetary crisis caused most of us, including me, to experience some fears. My retirement funds have been shrinking and my ministry's financial health depends solely upon the generosity of supporters, many of whom are also facing financial pressures.

I was and am tempted to deny the realities of a loss of financial support but I overcame some of that resistance by going online and looking at the reality of what is happening to my nest egg. It is not good! However, I decided to call the New York office of the TIAA-CREF retirement fund that I started when I was at the University of Cincinnati. I am thankful because I learned some things that helped me decide what to do to stave off some of the possible problems.

The result was I felt a lot better about taking the action and it strengthened my resolve to respond healthily to the situation. I cannot control the stock market or the wind storms but I can manage my own feelings and behaviors in response to those things. I am still learning how to be resilient and I hope you are.

Optimism and faith are key to long life and prosperity.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seasoned Believer Contact

I have just joined an organization called CASA: Christian Association Serving Adult Ministries. You can learn more about it at:

Building Adult Ministries Newsletter buildingadultministries@lists.christianitytoday.com

There is a desperate need to minister to and through Seasoned Believers but few churches are doing it. I think it is a simple oversight because "We Have Never Done It That Way Before". But, we can do it that way now.

We have never had so many Seasoned Citizens before

We have never had so many Seasoned Believers before

We have never had so many healthy Seasoned Believers before

We have never had so many Seasoned Citizens who needed and desired a spiritual transformation before

We have never had so many Seasoned Believers who are hungering for meaningful, significant ways to serve others before

For example, just imagine how many men and women you know who have never received Christ before and who are more open to eternal realities than ever!

The fields are white until harvest. Pray for workers to go into the harvest. Jesus

Palin's Theology and Practice

I spoke today with some friends from the Assembly of God. They are pretty proud of Sarah Palin but somewhat embarrassed by the Pastor of her former Assembly of God Church in Wasilla, Alaska. He was way too off the wall with some of his comments for them.

They think Sarah, however, handled herself with wisdom when appearing before that church at a Master's Commission graduation where she spoke with spiritual encouragement but restraint. While noting that many young soldiers from Alaska were being sent to Iraq she suggested that the congregation pray that the plan advanced by the USA was in accord with the plan of God.

It is hard to get lay persons and clergy to show much restraint on such issues as a military conflict. Many of us are tempted to indicate that we already know God's plan and will in war and do not hesitate to let everyone else know what we "know". Governor Palin was different. She showed support for the troops while showing restraint about the plan.

I think she has been a model for us Evangelical Christians. We need to regularly admit that we do not have God's mind on political and military matters. Humility is the best medicine and she showed that spiritual fruit when speaking at her old church.

A few weeks ago I told some friends at a meeting that we ought not take sides as ministers in the political arena because we do not know God's will. A couple of them disagreed. They were pretty sure they did know His plan. Man, I wish He had called to invite me to that meeting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Palin Paranoids Among Us

If you are unaware of how paranoid some people are toward people like us, read this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It is shocking to see that the author is a full professor and that the Inquirer would allow her to write such evil attacks on Palin and other Christians as well as almost everyone who lives in Rural Western America.

I suppose the lady who wrote the article thinks she is helping Obama's campaign but these hit pieces surely turn off almost everyone who has a rational bone in his/her body. Take a look at this angry bit of paranoid accusations with no facts to support it.

It has been years since groups such as the Montana Militia, the Posse Comitatus and the Sagebrush Rebels, and individuals such as Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski have made us wonder why so many "angry white men" populated our rural regions. Many of us have forgotten the threat once posed by domestic terrorists and instead have turned our attention to foreign terrorists. But we should never forget that in the late 20th century, ultra-Christian, antistatist and white-supremacist groups flourished in the states of the Pacific Northwest - called by many the "Great White Northwest" - the very region that Sarah Palin and her family call home.

Demographics most basically define this geographic region. In the six states that make up the Pacific Northwest - Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska - only six counties are more than 5 percent African American.

Although home to tens of thousands of native peoples, Alaska is not much different in terms of diversity from the other states of the region... Wasilla, where Sarah Palin was mayor, makes the census' list of the top 10 Alaskan communities with the largest number of African Americans because they make up a full 1 percent of the population. Rough calculations suggest that 65 blacks lived in the town.

But the region also must be defined by its history of intolerance, resentment, antistatism and violence. Appearing in the region in the 1980s and 1990s were some of the most notorious "hate radicals" of our time: militia groups, survivalists, Identity Christians, secessionists, white supremacists and others.

So, everyone in those six western states is a racist, radical with intolerant hatred for anyone different from the? WOW! That is high level, brilliant thinking from a professor who obviously got her job through merit and is not a token female.

I never cease to be shocked by the ignorance, hatred, fear and intolerance of such people who sit in the seats of power.

When I was on the doctoral committee of Margaret Jopheson Rinck I was barely able to stop a movement by radical feminists to kick her out of the doctoral program. The rationale was she could not be objective because she was a Christian. A few years after that she was honored for being a great teacher at U.C. when the facts were the opposite.

We who believe in Christ must stick together and support each other because the fear, hatred and evil intentions of many people are real.

The Power of Giving

Jesus Gave Freely
One of the reasons that Jesus was so powerful as a teacher and man of influence was his understanding of human relationships, motivation and psychology. This, along with his amazing ability to use words and phrases that stuck in the mind of his hearers allowed him to become the greatest leader in history.
One of my favorite authors is Robert Cialdini whose , Inside Influence Report, I get online every month. Dr. Cialdini's research and well written insights are in very close accord to the way Jesus led and taught. For example, the most recent article in the newsletter has to to with what Cialdini calls, "The Law of Reciprocity". It was summarized by Jesus in this spiritual principle: "Give and it shall be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together and running over as it is placed in your lap. For by the standard you use to measure is the standard you will receive." Luke 6:38

If we want to lead and influence others we need to find ways to give to them and others who are not even involved with us. Allow others to excel and grow and it will come back to us. But, if we hog the time and light we will always be disappointed. It is our choice.

We have all seen people who jealously guard their turf from others. Many years ago I was at a Pastors' Conference in St. Louis. My boss at the time was great friends with a famous Preacher from the West Coast. A discussion arose about who was preaching in their absence and most of them said without hesitation that they would never allow an Associate to speak in their place lest they develop the appreciation of the congregation and lessen the honor given to them.

I was shocked to hear this because our Senior Pastor, Jerry Kirk, spoke only about 30% of the time and the Co-Pastor Ron Rand another 30%. The other 40% of the time members of the ministerial team spoke so they could generate a following and support as well as experience in the pulpit.

Our Pastor, Dr. Jerry Kirk, was practicing the Law of Reciprocity or The Law of Sowing and Reaping or of Giving and Receiving. He gave his power and authority to others and it came back to him in abundance. And, as Jerry shared the pulpit his reputation grew as did his influence. The size and influence of our congregation also grew.

If you want to grow in influence and reputation give your life and honor away for it will come back to you in a grand multiplication.

Leading the church is one of the most difficult tasks ever taken on by a man or woman. I was fortunate to be on a team of wonderful men and women and men at College Hill Presbyterian and we learned a lot about teamwork, sharing, speaking truth to one another and empowering the members to do the work of the ministry.

I will always be thankful for those lessons. Contact me if you would like to chat about the lessons God taught us. They are not the things you will hear at the big, famous conferences.
Sweeten Life Systems
A lifetime of great relationships.

What's Going On?

Human Resources for Good

Many of you may wonder why I have photos of books on my blog. Here is the reason. Each of them represents an issue that I find important.

The Fourth Great Awakening was written by Robert Fogel who contends that we are now in the midst of a giant spiritual event. Dr. Fogel won the Nobel Prize for his ideas about the economic and political impact of revivals and awakenings yet most of us have never heard of him.

Fogel indicates that the First Great Awakening resulted in the American Revolution; the second in the Emancipation of Slaves and the third in the United States Government's adopting many social safety nets. In the past an awakening was focused on distributing economic and political resources to those previously left out of the main stream. The Fourth s different.

The current situation in Europe and America finds us with many needs but most are not economic or political since we have achieved equal opportunities for all our citizens in those two areas. However, there is one huge arena where resources are not distributed equally. That is in the spiritual or non-material realm.

Fogel says the issues and concerns of this Awakening are the corruption of materialist ideas, the rise of a pro life ethic, interest in values to school curricula, a re-emphasis upon personal morality and values, strengthening family life, etc. All of these we are seeing played out today in our personal, social and political lives. There is a concern about the bureaucratic nature of government systems and the need to return to personal responsibility.

Fogel indicates that the Fourth Great Awakening began with the Sixties Jesus Revolution and will continue as those men and women grow and mature and are mobilized into social and spiritual action. This is one of the reasons I am mobilizing Seasoned Believers to get involved in the issues of today.

Here we are at the intersection of one of the greatest spiritual moments in history. Now what will we do with it? Contact me if you are interested in discussing your role in the Fourth Great Awakening. Maybe you can be a Paul Revere whose primary role was to ride all over the New England area warning the residents that, "The Redcoats are coming!"

Maybe you will preach about spiritual issues or take a role in helping families live bette rlives with God. God has prepared His people for just such a time in history. Let's roll!

Support us at:

Gary Sweeten

Sweeten Life Systems

P.O. Box 498455

Cincinnati, Ohio 45249


Monday, September 15, 2008

Down Time

Well, we had a big wind storm in Ohio Sunday afternoon and it left a lot of problems in its wake. Almost 1,000,000 people lost their electric power. Riots, crime, panic, starvation, pollution, disease and floods came upon us.

That may be somewhat of an exaggeration. The truth is that three people were killed by falling trees, and that is tragic. And, some people with illnesses were stuck. However, other than that along with trees down and shingles blown off most of us suffered mostly from going "cold turkey" off of TV, the Internet and the ability to cook.

I drove up to Panera Bread this morning because they were one of the few places with food, coffee and electricity. I stood in line for twenty minutes. I am calling my congresswoman to complain. Twenty minutes without a seat! Where was Bush?!? He failed to get me in immediately and he failed to feed me. (This is satire.)

I stood in line with a man in his forties whose family nearly collapsed from TV withdrawal. His wife kept nagging him to go to the basement and "Jiggle some wires and see if the power would come back". He refused in an act of courage that few modern men are willing to commit when wife and teens are aggrieved.

I think it would be educational if all the power was shut off monthly to train Americans how to deal realistically with minor aggravations. We have life so soft that people think there is a crisis when there is a temporary glitch. If we get too soft we will not be able to respond to real attacks or real crises.
I am reminded of one of my trips to Russia when I stayed in the Seventh Day Adventist compound. It was in the cool of Fall and during the evening the room got pretty cold because there was no heat. However, during the day when the sun shone through the windows the heat came on full blast and it was impossible to turn it off.
That is strange to Americans because we can control our houses and businesses with a local thermostat. That is not, however, the way it works in Moscow where all those decisions are made at a central location. Since there is not enough energy to heat all the places in Moscow at once someone at central planning decided when a section of the city gets heat and hot water. This means that when the hot water is there you take your bath and wash your clothes even if it is at 3:00 AM.
Thankfully, we in the USA do not have central planning but we are moving in that direction with the climate fanatics. Will it come to the place where the Gore followers in Washington, D.C. decide if and when we get heat and hot water? I really enjoy being spoiled.

A Plus from the Storm
It was nice to be in Panera Bread and meet several others with similar issues and challenges who acted like good citizens and good neighbors. We all helped each other get connected to the power outlets and shared like nice people. It was rather heart warming.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Canadian Doctor upset with Gov. Palin

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. That is the case of this physician as reported in the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web Column today.
A senior Canadian doctor is now expressing concerns that such a prominent public role model as the governor of Alaska and potential vice president of the United States completing a Down syndrome pregnancy may prompt other women to make the same decision against abortion because of that genetic abnormality. And thereby reduce the number of abortions. . . .
Dr. Andre Lalonde, executive vice president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Ottawa, worries that Palin's now renowned decision may cause abortions in Canada to decline as other women there and elsewhere opt to follow suit.

I am often shocked at the fact that people like myself who have fought for human and civil rights all my life would now be considered a "Radical Right Wing Fanatic" by the press and many Liberals. I am even more shocked to see a physician who has sworn to promote health, welfare and life of babies would attack a mother who carries a baby to term lest other mothers make the same decision.

It is widely reported that over 80% of all mothers choose to abort their babies with Down Syndrome. This is a terrible statement about the way imperfect people are perceived in America, especially by doctors who have sworn never to do an abortion. As a nation we need to strongly affirm the Palin family for making the decision to rear that child even after they knew he would have Down Syndrome.

Second, it is widely reported that over 80% of the couples who have a disabled child get a divorce. This is a terrible statistic and it often leaves the mother alone to carry the entire load of parenting and alone in trying to meet the needs of her children. These parents, especially the mothers, are heroic figures who deserve our full support and empathy.
Can you imagine going to a doctor who revels in killing the unborn? I can't.

Stop Big Oil Tankers!

It is really important for us Evangelical Christians to be discerning as citizens and voters. This video from Australia can be an educational leap forward for all of us. Watch us and see what you don't agree that this is one of the most enlightening video interviews you have ever seen on the environment, even after the interview of Sarah Palin.

In fact, my new motto for Global Warming is, "Cardboard is out!"

Read My Book

The more I minister to Pastors and Lay Leaders the more I see the need to train every Christian how to be a positive influence with family, friends, church members and those who need Christ. It is obvious that most Pastors, especially those with degrees in theology and Bible, have had no training in motivation, influence and change.

I had lunch today with a young man who is very interested in going into the professional ministry. As he and I discussed what a minister needs to be most effective, he was quite insightful about the ways people grow and change.

I was surprised because this twenty five year old man seemed to be far ahead of Ministers twice his age. I asked him where he learned those things and discovered that he had taken classes in Secondary Education, Family Life and Sociology where thses issues were the focus.

After coming to my office I thought I need to help those of you in places of Christian influence learn the crucial points of being a Chang Agent. So, here is my strong recommendation. Buy the book Steve Griebling and I wrote on the topic of influence and change. It is Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty.

If you live in Cincinnati you can come over to the Life Way Counseling Center Office in Blue Ash and get one for a donation to my ministry. The directions are on the web page. You can order Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty from Author House.

Evangelism in the U.S. Congress

I was surprised to read that one of the members of Congress made a very provocative statement when speaking as a government official. However, there has been no outrage by the ACLU or People for the American Way who normally protest any kind of religious remarks by government officials. Where is the ACLU when we need them.

I suppose I ought to be happy when a Democrat Congressman, especially one who is also Jewish, makes a statement promoting the policies and activities of Jesus Christ. But, I am not at all sure he was being serious because it is rare for folks from his background to so strongly evangelize on the floor of Congress.
However, you must judge for yourself so here is the statement he made.

Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen compared Barack Obama to Jesus Christ and suggested Sarah Palin is akin to Pontius Pilate. The Tennessee Democrat, who supports Obama, was on the House floor giving a one-minute speech when he offered the comparisons.

“If you want change, you want the Democratic Party,” Cohen said. “Barack Obama was a community organizer like Jesus, who our minister prayed about. Pontius Pilate was a governor.”

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Need for Volunteer Organizations

The Aspen Institute established a task force some ten years ago to do a study on how to improves Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). They have come back with a paper that lists Ten Key Ideas to Improve volunteer groups.

In their introduction, the task force mentions the economic heft of such groups in the USA. (T)he economic impact is clear: nonprofit and voluntary activity accounts for roughly 7.2% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).1 To put this in perspective, consider that the entire construction industry accounts for 4.4% of GDP, and the combined utilities – electricity, gas, and water – 2.0%.

Between 1995 and 2005, total revenue for the nonprofit sector increased by 54% compared to a GDP increase of 35% over the same decade.2 Their share of the overall U.S. workforce increased from 5.6% in 1972 to 7.2% in 2004, with nonprofits now employing more than 9 million people.3 This workforce growth has consistently outpaced both the business and public sectors.

What think you about these data? How do you think such groups can be made more effective and efficient? Make your comments on the comment page and let me know or write me at gary@sweetenlife.com and go to my web at http://www.sweetenlife.com/

Serving in the Name of the Lord

John McCain, Rick Warren and Barack Obama
Mother Teresa and Child
Famous Christians Lead the way in love, compassion and reconciliation
On my last post I mentioned a research study by AARP on the state of volunteering in America. Is there anything in that research that surprised you? Did you find it unusual to see the high number of Christians involved in serving?
The fact that all Christians serve more than almost any other group has been found in study after study. Despite the facts, agnostics and secularists continue to spread disinformation about the high compassion levels of Evangelicals and other Believers no matter what their theology.

Why does the media so often repeat the illogical rants that Christians are full of hatred, bias and callous disregard for hurting members of our society? For example, when the Leftist politicians discovered that Sarah Palin was a Conservative Evangelical with a child pregnant out of wedlock they immediately smiled with glee. They assumed that Conservatives and Evangelicals would scorn her as an unfit mother.

Some politicians also began to heap scornful attacks on her for the pregnancy and for working outside the home thinking Conservatives would reject her. They want to disembowel the Religious Right but it was out of ignorance that they acted. This led them to show how callous and mean spirited they were and the result was a strong backlash. Many people, including Conservatives, have strongly supported Mrs. Palin and her husband. If they read the polls over the past thirty years they would stop treating us as members of the Ku Klux Klan.

This is also a lesson for us Evangelicals. We must also watch our words and judgments carefully. We need to remember the words of Jesus when He warned us "Do not judge or you will be judged." Those secularists who judge us discovered that it backfired on them. If we get judgemental it will violate the law of love and backfire on us as well.
For example, some Evangelicals have treated Obama harshly and unfairly. This is wrong and will not be tolerated by the Lord. His commands are clear that judgement with harshness will lead us to be judged harshly. Let us always treat our political opponents with gentleness, compassion and mercy.

Democracy is a rough, adversarial business but we must guard our hearts when we interact with politicians with differing views. It is reported that some preachers said that people who vote Democrat can't be Christians. That is wrong and a terrible thing to say. Let it be a lesson to us that such things always come back to haunt us. Mercy drives out judgement!
As it says in Proverbs 9:7

Never argue with a mocking person our you will end up being ashamed

Give and It Shall Be Given Unto You

Recent research sponsored by the AARP on the value and commonality of volunteer service among Seasoned Citizens, especially Boomers, indicates some interesting results.

The research found that:
1. Fifty-five percent of Americans in the 44 to 79 age group believe they will leave the world in worse condition than they inherited it, while only 20 percent believe they are leaving the world in better condition. Those most actively engaged in volunteering feel less pessimistic.

2. Fifty-two percent of older Americans said their desire to “help people in need” was a very important motivational factor in their volunteering. Forty-eight percent said the desire to “stay healthy and active” was a primary motivator.

3. The rate of volunteering is highest among those who attend religious services regularly (86 percent); college graduates (85 percent); professionals (84 percent); those with annual incomes over $75,000 (83 percent); and evangelical Christians (80 percent).

4. Eighty-three percent of Republicans said they volunteered for an organization in the last year, while only 67 percent of Democrats said the same. Sixty-nine of those who identified as independents said they volunteered in the past year.

5. Baby Boomers, those born from 1946 to 1964, were most likely to increase their volunteer hours, according to the survey.
Those who volunteer live longer, stronger and more joyful lives!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Experience to Lead: New York Times

From a New York Times editorial on July 3, 1984, on Geraldine Ferraro's nomination for vice president:
Where is it written that only senators are qualified to become President? . . . Or where is it written that mere representatives aren't qualified, like Geraldine Ferraro of Queens? . . . Where is it written that governors and mayors, like Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco, are too local, too provincial? . . . Presidential candidates have always chosen their running mates for reasons of practical demography, not idealized democracy. . . . What a splendid system, we say to ourselves, that takes little-known men, tests them in high office and permits them to grow into statesmen. . . . Why shouldn't a little-known woman have the same opportunity to grow?

Listen Up!

In all of the fervor of life there is a lot to blog about and I take on many different topics. I am a citizen as well as a minister and a therapist. However, all of these roles come together for me because at the core are relationships.

One of the most popular books I have ever written or co-written is called Listen for Heaven's Sake. It has sold several hundred thousand copies and translated into many languages. The concept of listening is easy but actually doing it is not so easy. In fact, listening with heart, mind and soul to another person's heart, mind and soul is one of the greatest challenges of life.

I sometimes need to remind myself that I am also a retired Clinical Counselor. Because I have emphasized the importance of caring relationships by ordinary people it may appear that I have forgotten my professional training. But I have not forgotten that training and, in fact, it was my doctoral research that moved me from an emphasis on being an "expert" with all the answers to one who must try to deeply understand my clients.

The latest research on counseling effectiveness shows how important listening is to psychotherapy. An article on Talking Cure says:
Listening to clients...no, really listening! Studies show a 65% improvement in outcome
Evidence-based practice is, as you know, "all the rage." Like bell-bottoms and skinny ties, listening to clients in therapy is out of fashion. Treatment manuals and fidelity measures are "in." Most of the push for field-wide adoption of specific treatments for specific disorders comes from the top. Government funders, policy think tanks and professional organizations are promoting evidence-based practice as the cure-all for what ails the field--namely, a continuing lack of respect and lingering perception of mental health as the "soft" of science.

A number of researchers have, over the last decade, been using the client's rating of the therapeutic alliance and progress in treatment as a way of improving retention and outcome in treatment. Interestingly, such research shows that providing therapists with real-time feedback regarding the client's experience of the therapeutic alliance and outcome cuts attrition rates in half and improves outcome by as much as 65%.

Bottom line: therapists were encouraged to listen--especially when what they were doing wasn't working or did not fit for the individual client--and the hoped for improvements in retention and outcome followed.

So, caring, listening and respect are still the key to effective psychotherapy. In fact, the client, not the therapist, is the hero. We who are counseling the heroes need to remember that and listen to what they have to say.

Friday, September 05, 2008

More From the Heart

Most media commentators just do not get it. They are assessing the speeches by Sarah Palin and John McCain on technical and policy grounds. What I saw in both speeches was a lot of heart.

I have a couple of great computers with large memories and fast connections. However, having the right hard ware is not enough. I also need good software. For a long time pundits and politicians have over emphasized the hard ware of laws and government policies. But without love, caring and human relationships we are not exceptional as a people or as a nation. It is the social capital that makes us unique and strong.

Palin's speech was wise, funny and insightful. But her obvious love and warmth for her parents, husband and kids was the software that made the difference.

McCain's speech also touched a deep chord within us. It was not a powerful or funny but it was from the heart. I wept during his story of being broken by the North Vietnamese torture. His vulnerability was amazing. How many times have you heard a politician admit he had failed so grandly?
But, it was not the failing that touched me as much as the support, encouragement and forgiveness from his cell mates. That, my friends, is not policy or technical but friends. I know he is not a Marine but I could think of only one phrase to describe what he was saying: Semper Fi!

Americans are increasingly lonely, isolated and desperate for friendships that will last and be emotionally supportive. McCain described his conversion from individualism and selfishness to community and relationships. It was powerful and the media, for the most part, missed it.

One pundit who got it was Joe Scarborough. Click this link to see an astounding video. You may still dislike McCain's policies and decide to vote for Obama. That is the system we have in America and I am happy about it. We can affirm men and women with whom we disagree and pray for them despite their bad ideas. However, let us not miss it when they share something deep and transforming or we shall lose our souls.

Heart Ware

I am going to predict something that is pretty risky and far out. In fact, I am going to predict several things that are big tipping points in American life. Tipping points are those rare perception changing moments in the life of a person, an institution, church or nation when new ideas and former minority views begin to predominate.

Here they are:

1. We have tipped from the old style civil rights approach to minority issues to one that looks at meritocracy among different minorities. The old style depended on anger, marching, community organizers that attempted to force inclusion though legal enforcement and harsh penalties to a common agreement based on moral and ethical understandings that all minorities must be respected and given all the rights and duties afforded majority groups.

2. The future belongs not to people promoting "Abortion Rights" but those who show appreciation and support for mothers who chose to love their children and work hard to rear them well. This is why Sarah Palin is so popular. She spoke from the heart about her family and showed love, joy and appreciation for all of them despite their strengths and or weaknesses.

The old "Angry Feminist Coalition" can only think of one issue that is important: abortion. It is not enough that Sarah works, holds political offices and performed heroic deeds of public service. The only thing they can talk about is the fact that she is "Pro-Life". Implicit is their rants is the notion that her "Special needs child" should have been aborted. However, every man and woman on the planet who is not angrily caught up in old style feminist rhetoric was deeply touched by her obvious heart felt love and appreciation for all her kids.

Think of it this way. There are a lot more mothers and fathers than there are angry radicals who constantly obsess about eliminating children. One of the greatest challenges women face today is the inability to conceive. With birth control pills available on every corner of the USA it is not hard to prevent conception but millions of women are trying hard to get pregnant, sometimes with no great results.

Sarah has tipped the discussion toward motherhood and she did not do it with scientific or legalistic or theological arguments but with love. Just as St. Paul said, "These three remain but the greatest is love". This tipping point accompanies the one mentioned above and strengthens it.
3. Sarah Palin will be the first female President of the USA. But first she will be a great Vice President. She speaks truth to power from the heart with a smile and a big touch of irony. She will sweep the younger voters off their feet. All of us know who we want as an adviser and friend when we are stressed. It is our Mom!

What think you? Am I nuts or prescient?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

More on the Sweeten Clan

Here is Jack Donovan Sweeten holding Emma Taylor Sweeten. You will no doubt note that each has a middle name that is normally used as a family moniker.

Donovan is Shelley's Mother's maiden name. Yep, they are Irish and very proud of it.

Emma's middle name, Taylor, was my mother's maiden name. And, yes, that can be either Scot or Scots Irish.

I am very blessed that Tim and Shelley are memorializing their ancestors by giving such rich names to their children.

Sarah Palin and Working Moms

I listened to Sarah Palin's speech last night and wow, was she ever powerful, funny, ironic and tough. She took charge of the Republican convention and the TV audience even though she had to follow three pretty good speeches by much better known politicians in Rudy, Fred and Mike.

Governor Palin has come if for a lot of flack about her readiness to be the Vice President and "one heartbeat from the President". The Democrats and their associates in the TV industry have attacked her on many fronts and that is to be expected in national politics. However, one line of attack has been very surprising to me because I thought we had moved beyond the sexist crudities of past generations and because so much of the criticism is coming from the Left Wing of American life.

The Left has spent millions of dollars and billions of hours promoting the notion that women should be encouraged to do anything they want. Yet, now they are attacking Sarah because she is a woman and a mother who has a political career.

It occurred to me after hearing Sarah and reading about her that she is very much like the women I grew up around. My mother and most of the women in my area all worked at home and on the farms and in the factories. And, that was when women had few if any "labor saving devices" like micro waves and washer/dryer combinations. My grand mother Taylor ran a small grocery store while caring for her invalid husband. Mother worked at home and at a factory until she was able to get a job in the Post Office through Democrat politics. Farm wives milked the cows, drove tractors and cooked the food while every one of the kids pitched in as well.

Second, we were what is now called "Evangelicals" but no body thought working women were strange of un-biblical. Working was a necessity not a luxury; an economic fact of life not a theological option to be debated.

Governor Palin's approach to to family life is pretty much in line with the people in southern Illinois. She loves her husband and kids and is proud of them. The fact that one has a disability did not throw her into a crisis emotionally or spiritually not did she decide to destroy him because he was not "perfect". I grew up with a lot of imperfect people. We went to the same small school and had the same teacher for two or three grades and we all learned to help each other out. Our village was deeply engaged in helping each other grow up and learn how to love each other warts and all.

So, Mrs. Palin is a lot like the folks I knew and loved back home in Illinois. And, I think, she is a lot like me with similar concerns and similar approaches to life. She is a lot smarter, better organized and a better speaker than almost anyone I knew or know. She seems to have a natural grasp of how government systems ought to work and she seems to be able to move quickly to the bottom line in getting them to work.

I am shocked that so much of the political establishment finds Sarah, my background and me so far out and unusual. It never occurred to me that I would be considered a "Right Wing Radical" because I think it wrong to destroy disabled babies and right to love folks weaknesses, warts and all. But this is the world we now live in. It is a world view dominated by the far Left that pours its ideas out by the ton into the culture and is overwhelmingly difficult to change.

This is enough for now. Maybe more later on Moms and Dads and Family Relationships.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Family Relationships

Our continual focus at Sweeten Life Systems is "A lifetime of great relationships". There is no place that emphasis is more important than in the family. Since our son Timothy and his wife Shelley have just blessed us with a new daughter, Emma Taylor Sweeten, it is appropriate to claim the "Commandment with a promise" that St. Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:
The context to which he speaks is about child rearing and discipline but he throws a bit of a curve here by saying, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord for that is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise." Paul continues and makes sure his readers that are no from a Jewish background will get it by saying, "That it may go well with you and that you may live a long time on the earth."

In this manner he reminds us that discipline and child rearing are not just in one direction from the parents to the child but also extend backward to and through the parents to grand parents, great grand parents and so forth. As a student of family life and child rearing I can not agree more and my agreement comes not just from faith in God and the Bible but also from research and thirty years of teaching, ministry and family counseling.

A few weeks ago I was able to speak at The Horizon Community Church on the topic of "Hidden Family Rules". You can go online and download that talk by clicking the Horizon name. You will find the presentation quite interesting because of the skills of the Horizon planning team. We are using the GodFather Trilogy to show how dysfunctional and even toxic family patterns as well as healthy and godly patterns can be passed from generation to generation.

It is a joy to see Tim and Shelley as they bless their parents by inviting Karen and me to enter in to their generational blessing. Next week Shelley's Mom will be here to further strengthen the multi-generational bond.

Ps I am still honoring my own ancestors and asking God to use that to bless the future generations of Sweetens born and unborn.

Any comments?

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Patriarch

Papa Gary with Shelley and Emma.

What a joy to bless the future of our family
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We Love the Little Children

Mamma Shelley with Emma just after they arrived home from the hospital.
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Bless the Little Children

Proud Grandma holding Emma while Timothy and Jack stand by in case of trouble. Tim has become an expert in changing diapers and is training Jack. Every time it is necessary to change Emma Tim asks Jack to observe how it is done. Tim long ago learned how to disciple the next generation of men.
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