Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Ten Causes of Conflict

Starting on December 16 I wrote several posts about church conflicts and asked folks to comment on it by adding their own insights. I received a few comments, which I love because we who blog can get pretty lonely if we don't hear from you. One person remembered a fist fight among the members one Sunday morning and others had similar stories of deep conflict that caused trauma to them and their family members.

I have been pondering the question of why so much conflict in church groups and have some ideas. However, I am still interested in your insights. Let me begin by quoting a man well acquainted with church conflicts, St. James, the Brother of our Lord who lays out the number I. reason for Fights among Believers:

James 4:

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you?

Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

2 You desire (Lust-A strong desire and longing) but do not have, so you kill.

You covet (Envy and Jealousy that others have what you desire) but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.

You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,(Desire bad ends) that you may spend what you get on your (evil)pleasures.

One Bible scholar indicates that lust is like a disease in the heart or a hole in the soul that cannot be healed or filled with human activities."So" James says, "you all are lusting strongly after things you cannot have so you attack others who do have it."

Similarly, James indicates that we covet what others have so strongly that you try to get it through wrong means. I have come to see COVETING as the core problem in life for all Christians. St. Paul mentioned it as the sin that was so powerful that he would not have known it was wrong if the Commandments had not said it was.

In America, Covetousness is seen as a good thing. As a Capitalist nations we need people to covet what they do not have so they will buy more things. Without coveting, marketing would be useless. However, let me add that even in Communist nations like Russia, China and Romania. In fact the top leaders were and are more covetous than most and attempted to control others so they had more power.

The more we covet, the more we fight. Seminaries teach their students to Covet bigger churches and to abandon a little church to go to a bigger one. We covet our neighbor's church members, his budget, his tithers and his supportive family. No wonder there are so many depressed, angry, uptight preachers and unhappy board members who Lust to have more members.

No wonder we have such anger in church meetings that end up in personal attacks, name calling and emotional outbursts. If St. Paul couldn't quit coveting, how can we? What are we to do about it? How did James suggest we overcome this deeply, inbred sinful nature? Seek God. God alone can heal us. Not God's good gifts but God's presence in and with us.

So, I nominate this as the number I. Reason for Church Conflicts. Next, Number II.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Save on IRA Taxes

I just read in Philanthropy Today that the Obama Administration and the Congress did it again. They passed a tax break for us old people by allowing us to give IRA money tax free to a charity. But, it was so late many of us had already drawn the money out but got no tax break. This bunch of greedy souls in D.C. must be kicked out of office.

Year-End Scramble Made More Intense by IRA Break

December 28, 2010, 10:21 am

By Holly Hall

Many gifts are made in the last few weeks of the year, but even so, fund raisers think Congress may have cut it too close even for procrastinating donors when it waited until mid-December to pass a key charity tax break.
President Obama signed a measure on December 17 that allows people age 70 1/2 or older to make tax-free charitable gifts of up to $100,000 from their individual retirement accounts.

Such a provision has been in effect since 2006, but until mid-December Congress had not taken any action to approve it for 2010 and beyond. Because the renewal of the tax measure came so late in the year, Congress decided to give donors until January 31 to make a gift that would count as a 2010 donation.
But that concession may not have made much of a difference because it probably came well after people had decided to take money from their retirement accounts. People age 70 1/2 and older are required by law to take at least some money out of their accounts every year.

Vaughn W. Henry, a Springfield, Ill., lawyer who specializes in planned gifts, says he doubts many donors will want to tap their accounts for a second time this year. He says he has already met with one such donor who has decided against using his IRA to make a gift in 2010 for that very reason.
But that is not the case for all donors.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How Did Jesus Train

When Jesus told His followers to "Go into all the world and make disciples He added ans important proviso: "Teaching them to do everything I taught you to do". WOW! That is a heavy assignment and I do not think most of the leaders I know even try to do that. In fact, few believe it is possible and even if it were would feel completely unable to accomplish it.

I minister to struggling Pastors and Christian leaders every week. Many are depressed, overwhelmed and frustrated. Few, if any, were prepared in seminary or Bible school for the daily, practical, real issues that confront them now as a Minister.

One Pastor told me he had never been taught how to do a baptism, a funeral, a wedding or any service. He had never seen anyone anoint a sick person with oil, comfort a widow, counsel and parent whose child had just been killed or led a church council, dealt with church conflict or advised a parent on discipline. All of which are the daily activities of all persons in ministry.

His entire seminary experience had focused on the teachers being "Talking Heads" who told him and his classmates how to be better "Talking Heads". No wonder seminaries are dying. With that kind of curriculum they need to die and be resurrected as schools that teach the way that Jesus did: through personal interaction, practice, feedback and making mistakes.

One of my ministerial friends told me a story about his first year in ministry that is bot tragic and funny. He joined the staff of a rather large church in the summer and shortly thereafter the Senior Minister left on vacation. The new man was supposed to baptize by immersion two adult converts in the local lake. The only thing that saved all of them from drowning was one of the converts who could swim well. (Perhaps this is a reason so many churches sprinkle now.)

As I think about the terribly inefficient and ineffective ways Christians try to operate I am struck by the fact that the church is indeed supernatural. Any organization not supported by the Holy Spirit would have died long ago with such training programs.

So, if a leaders has never been trained to DO THE STUFF how can he/she teach others to DO THE STUFF? Many Ministers stumble through and over time learn how to do the stuff but it usually takes a long time and a lot of pain. Why not do ti the way Jesus did and see what happens.

Boring Churches

Can you imagine adults sitting in a large classroom listening to the same tired old talks about adding 2 + 2 and how to spell c-a-t? Yet we do that in many church assemblies. No wonder so many Christian people stop attending services. They are bored to distraction by elementary teachers repeating elementary teachings to adults.

As an educator I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that for several years of church work I failed to realize that some adult believers are babes in Christ who need milk but others are grown-up adults who can chew meat. I suppose I came by that point of view because I always attended churches that gathered adults together in one big room to be "fed" by the "Pastor/ Shepherd of the sheep." (We were the sheep.) Everybody ate the same food and we all sat with mouths open in anticipation whether we had just come to the Lord or were veterans of fifty spiritual years.

Hebrews 6 gives us a completely different point of view. When I read it I can clearly see that the Spirit who inspired the Bible understood developmental stages of growth and change. God is an educator who develops some teachings for Babes and others for Disciples and still more for us in Ministry. Would we present the same things to my four-year-old grand daughter as we would to her mother?

1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

3 And God permitting, we will do so. (NIV)

Any Pastor who wants to really feed his/her people will develop ways to discern where they are spiritually and offer them food that is specifically designed for that stage of spiritual growth. Most people covet large numbers with lots of money and bottoms in the pews. They love fat churches not big, strong, healthy churches. No wonder there is so little long term change happening. Only by making strong disciples will we become effective in our ministries.

How Do I know if I am Growing into Maturity?

I have seen various scenarios that say how we ought to grow and signs that we are mature. I must say that I have not found any that really seem to click with me.

I have tried myself to devise a system or way to see if folks are getting more mature but they all seemed to break down under close scrutiny. Then this morning I had an insight. During worship at church it suddenly struck me that scripture tells us how to judge spiritual growth. The place to look is Galatians 5 where Paul contrasts the Fruit of the Flesh with the Fruit of the Spirit.

19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

It also struck me that the fruit of the flesh are all indications of a lack of peace or what we call "Emotional Reactivity" to situations and people that are greater than what is prudent. For example, a waiter spills a glass of water and some of it falls on me. What do I do as a result? An immature person will be Reactive and yell, curse, attack the waiter or threaten to sue the restaurant. A mature person will be Peaceful and reason with patience, long suffering and kindness.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Friday, December 24, 2010

How to get People to say, "Merry Christmas"

Despite the fact that over 80% of our citizens are Christians, many businesses, schools, government agencies and individuals are afraid to say, "Merry Christmas". Why would that be true? Have American lost their nerve?

The simple answer is, "YES!" Let's face it, there are many school teachers and school administrators who are acting stupidly about many things, but they are especially losing their minds about religious topics. All of these incidents are carried out in the name of "Separation of church and state".

The general public is ignorant about this topic and our news media make the ignorance worse by reporting things that are blatantly wrong, such as saying that this phrase is in the Constitution. This phrase was used by Thomas Jefferson to some Baptists in support of their right to practice their unique approach to Christianity as opposed to the state church in their colony.

But here is my suggestion for helping people get over their fear about saying "Merry Christmas". I was in the Spring Store yesterday getting a Bluetooth for my HTC EVO Phone. (Which I love!) One of the young men that helped me was Tony R. and he had a button on that said, "Don't hesitate to wish me a Merry Christmas!" I asked him where it came from and he said it was a gift from a lady and pointed out the name of the church she attended.

I squinted carefully and saw their name: "Crestview Presbyterian Church". Wow!. I know the church, the people and Pastor Alan Landis. If you get a chance to visit with them, ask for one of their badges. Next year I am going to order a bunch to give out to my courageous friends. Let me know if you want one.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why Jews Love Christmas

Michael M. Rosen

December 23, 2010 4:00 A.M.
Why This Orthodox Jew Loves Christmas Music
A Jewish American hails the season.

For me, an Orthodox Jew in 21st-century America, December truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Yes, there’s Hanukkah and the family and community celebration it entails. And, sure, there’s winter vacation, the week or so between Christmas and New Year’s when the kids are home from school and my wife and I take time off from work.

But I really love December because it’s around then that my cable provider revives its “Sounds of the Seasons” music channel, which airs round-the-clock Christmas music through early January. Yes, I admit it: My name is Michael Rosen, and I love Christmas music.

Let me be clear: I am deeply proud of my faith, which I practice rigorously. While I genuinely respect the tenets of other creeds, I abhor religious syncretism of all sorts, and I have no desire to observe Christian holidays; the 20-plus yearly holidays on the Jewish calendar are plenty, thank you very much. And I profoundly loathe aggressive proselytizers of all stripes, especially those, like Jews for Jesus, that train their fire on me and my people.

Yet Christmas music exerts a strong emotional and intellectual influence over me every December, for three distinct reasons, in increasing order of importance: its musical beauty; its deep-seated American-ness; and, most importantly, its powerful message of religious tolerance.

The second, more important reason I delight in Christmas music derives from its distinctly American character. Here, it’s important to distinguish the strictly religious Christmas songs, such as “The First Noël,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Come All Ye Faithful,” from the generic “winter season” tunes, such as “Sleigh Ride,” “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” These latter songs are as American as apple pie, expressing a seasonal commonality felt by all Americans, regardless of creed. Wintry themes such as snow, love, gifts, fires, and family offer something for everyone and remind us that Americans of varied faiths, ethnicities, and generations share much more than we think.

There’s no reason American Jews — even observant ones — can’t relate to these tunes. Indeed, as Marc Tracy and David Lehman have documented, many of the most famous of these wintry songs were written by Jewish composers, including Irving Berlin (“White Christmas”), Joan Ellen Javits and Phillip Springer (“Santa Baby”), Mel Tormé (“The Christmas Song”), and Sammy Cahn (“Let It Snow”).

And as Lehman ably explains in A Fine Romance (Nextbook, 222 pp.), his perceptive history of the influence of Jewish songwriters on the American musical catalog, “the Jewish element in American popular song is a property not only of the notes and chords but of the words as well, or, more exactly, the union between words and music.” Jewish songwriters absorbed and displayed a discerning understanding of American culture.

But the third and most significant reason I relish the Christmas canon pertains to the strongly religious nature of the spiritual songs. While I obviously don’t share the theology they express, the religious melodies provide a stark, visceral reminder of the Christian origins of the United States, and especially of the astoundingly warm welcome the early Americans extended to Jews because of, not in spite of, their Christian faith.

The pilgrims, of course, arrived on our continent while fleeing religious persecution and thus were highly sensitive to faith-based oppression. They also evinced a fierce devotion to the customs and history of the Hebrew people; one instance of this was the establishment, at Harvard and Yale, of Hebrew as a mandatory language. This love and tolerance deeply informed the First Amendment, guaranteeing Jews — among others — the right to freely exercise their religion in the absence of an established state faith.

In his famous 1790 letter to the Jews of Newport, R.I., George Washington expressed this fervent hope: “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” Washington’s encomium reflects God’s solemn promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that “those who bless you, I shall bless, and those who curse you, I shall curse.” In other words, Washington’s devotion to his faith sparked his ardent desire to protect “the Stock of Abraham” in the new United States.

This sentiment reaches its full expression in my personal favorite of the religious songs: “O Holy Night.” (I especially enjoy the version performed by Josh Groban, whose father was born Jewish but converted to Episcopalianism.) The music, naturally, is exquisite, but the lyrics nicely illustrate the philosemitic tendencies of the Christmas canon. Composed and written by two 19th-century Frenchmen, the song, while distinctly Christian, is a paean to religious tolerance:

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

The song forthrightly acknowledges the religious obligation borne by all Christians to love the stranger, unchain the enslaved, and liberate the oppressed. It’s difficult to overstate the intellectual and emotional impact of such an approach on American Jews, whom the U.S. has welcomed with open, Christian arms. Thus, whenever I hear Christmas songs sung in English, I cannot help but swell with thankfulness that I’m allowed to freely practice my faith in such an extraordinary country, where, notwithstanding the caterwauling of extreme activists, (almost) all oppression has ceased.

Would that this tolerance were the norm around the world. Nowadays, where Christianity flourishes, Judaism thrives. But where secularism reigns, and where Islamism prevails, Jews find themselves under assault. Europe, home to the world’s largest Jewish population for centuries, has rapidly become the least hospitable place for Jewish communities to take root, as secular values and assertive Muslim populations have advanced. Tragically, oppression is on the march on the very continent that midwifed “O Holy Night.” Even here in the U.S., residents of San Francisco, the most secular of American big cities, now seek to ban circumcision.

So I take nothing for granted when it comes to religious tolerance, and I’m grateful for the musical reinforcement I receive every December. Do I get strange looks from passersby on the streets of (mostly WASPy) La Jolla when, wearing my yarmulke, I’m whistling “O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord”? Absolutely. But such are the wages of being Jewish in America in the modern era. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

— Michael M. Rosen is an attorney and writer in San Diego. Reach him at

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christ is and has always been in America's Christmas

I loved this note from Bill Federer of the Ohio Christian Alliance
December 22

In the Battle of the Bulge- Nazis amassed three armies for an enormous attack against the Allies in the Ardennes Forest and soon surrounded the 101 Airborne Division in southern Belgium, demanding their surrender.

U.S. General Anthony McAuliffe answered in one word: "Nuts."

This response confused the Nazi commander, causing him to hesitate.

Marching to the rescue was the U.S. Third Army, but it was hindered due to bad weather. General Patton directed Chaplain O'Neill to compose a prayer for his 250,000 troops to pray:

"Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains... Hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee...Establish Thy justice among men and nations."

The weather cleared and the Allies counterattacked.

In his order, DECEMBER 22, 1944, General Eisenhower stated:

"By rushing out from his fixed defenses the enemy may give us the chance to turn his great gamble into his worst defeat. So I call upon every man, of all the Allies, to rise now to new heights of courage...With unshakable faith in the cause for which we fight, we will, with God's help, go forward to our greatest victory."

Two days later President Franklin Roosevelt stated:

"It is not easy to say 'Merry Christmas' to you, my fellow Americans, in this time of destructive war... We will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way...because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives...the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace."

Pray for our troops serving on foreign fields in inclement weather this Christmas. May God's hand be upon them and their families.

President and staff of the Ohio Christian Alliance

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why Church Conflict? Readers Respond

Cheri Russell Eresman wrote on my Face Book.

Gary, when I was young we attended a Baptist church that went through some kind of big split. I was young enough at the time that I have no idea what caused the split. What I do remember is men fist fighting in the middle of a Sunday morning service! My sister was so traumatized that it totally turned her off church for a long time.

I have heard of similarly outrageous stories all my life but I never saw a fist fight in church. In fact, the Baptist church I grew up in was pretty even keeled and peaceful, for the most part.

But this kind of activity indicates just how immature so many of us Christians really are. The main message of Jesus was about love, forgiveness, kindness,peace and patience. I Corinthians 13 says:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

Children are jealous and envious so when they can't get what they want they fight.

James 3 says

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Immaturity. We are still like small, angry children. What is the answer?

Church Conflict

Write me with your anonymous stories of the most awful stories about church conflict you can remember. e mail is on web page.

I was asked to leave a church in 1969. The Pastor and Deacons called me into a "meeting" with them to discuss certain allegations of my bad behavior. When I got there I was confronted with a list of bad behavior that, in my view, was not bad at all. In fact, I was rather happy with what I did and they agreed with me that I did what they said but it was "splitting the church".

Karen and I were Sunday school teachers of the College and Career Class in a church on the far west side of Cincinnati. Can you imagine what I was doing that they disliked and I was very happy about? This behavior was so bad, in their view, that they wanted me to leave the church.

My behavior would be considered to be positive today but back then it was thought to be terrible. Want to guess what it was? Write your comments here or on Face Book.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gotta Read This

The blog, Hope Abigail is a heart breaker and a place of faith, hope and love.

Old Fashioned Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas & out on the ranch
The pond was froze over & so was the branch.
The snow was piled up belly-deep to a mule.
The kids were all home on vacation from school,
And happier young folks you never did see-
Just all sprawled around a-watchin' TV.
Then suddenly, some time around 8 o'clock,
There came a surprise that gave them a shock!
The power went off, the TV went dead!
When Grandpa came in from out in the shed
With an armload of wood, the house was all dark.
"Just what I expected," they heard him remark.
"Them power line wires must be down from the snow.
Seems sorter like times on the ranch long ago."
"I'll hunt up some candles," said Mom. "With their light,
And the fireplace, I reckon we'll make out all right."
The teen-agers all seemed enveloped in gloom.
Then Grandpa came back from a trip to his room,
Uncased his old fiddle & started to play
That old Christmas song about bells on a sleigh.
Mom started to sing, & 1st thing they knew
Both Pop & the kids were all singing it, too.
They sang Christmas carols, they sang "Holy Night,"
Their eyes all a-shine in the ruddy firelight.
They played some charades Mom recalled from her youth,
And Pop read a passage from God's Book of Truth.
They stayed up till midnight-and, would you believe,
The youngsters agreed 'twas a fine Christmas Eve.
Grandpa rose early, some time before dawn;
And when the kids wakened, the power was on..
"The power company sure got the line repaired quick,"
Said Grandpa - & no one suspected his trick.
Last night, for the sake of some old-fashioned fun,
He had pulled the main switch - the old Son-of-a-Gun!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Answer to Church Conflict?

Just as I prepared to write some more about church conflicts I received a letter from Van Cochrane, Pastor of the Vineyard Church Northwest in Cincinnati. I think Van has covered some of the main reasons why we have so much conflict in many congregations; too much about our control and too little about the control of the Holy Spirit.

My Friend Thom makes some of the same points in his comment about the last post. Be sure to read his insights. Now take a look at Van's letter.

Hi everyone,

It's hard to believe it's been this long, but close to 30 years ago Laurie and I sang in a Christmas Cantata. It's hard to believe, but I sang one of the tenor parts. I was a little miffed that I didn't get a solo, but oh well. One part of the cantata has always stuck in my mind - "and when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son. Born of a virgin..." I can still hear the melody in my mind. That line was based on Galatians 4:4, not always seen as a Christmas passage - yet it is. And it's a powerful presentation of the of the Gospel message. Take a moment to read through it slowly. Ask God to speak to you. Listen.

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. Galatians 4:4-7 NIV

He came to free us from the power of the law.
He came to make us full sons and daughters of God.
He came to release the Holy Spirit to indwell us.
He came so we could know our heavenly Father.
He came to share His inheritance with us.

Take another moment to read the passage. Which of these blessings is God speaking to you about right now? Thank God for it right now!

The past few weeks I've been listing some of our foundational values for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our church today. In addition to 1-4, here are numbers 5 and 6 this week.

1. First and foremost we are a church that believes in the present day power of God released to and through all those who embrace the Gospel of Christ, because this is what the Bible teaches.
2. We believe that people need to experience God the Holy Spirit in a felt way in order to move into the fullness of all God calls us to be, because that is what we see in the Bible.
3. We believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit when properly exercised release the power of God to reveal the Kingdom of God, including the gift of tongues as a prayer language for many believers according to the Bible.
4. We believe that God is speaking today to His people, that learning to discern God's voice is a critical part of Christian maturity to be pursued by all believers, and that pursuing God's voice is part of full maturity in Christ, because the Bible teaches this.

5. We believe that all mature Christians should, first among other things, be prepared and equipped to engage in prayer ministry and under the leading of the Holy Spirit to welcome in the KOG (God's presence, power, and rule) because that is what the Bible teaches - Luke 9:1-2; 24:46-49; Acts 1:8; 2:4 & 17.

6. We believe that prophetic gifting is alive in the church today; that it is to be pursued above all other gifts, and that all believers are able to operate in some level of prophetic gifting through the Holy Spirit, because the Bible teaches this.
Acts 2:17-21; I Corinthians 14:1-5; 24-25.


Church Conflict! Why?

Have you heard this small joke?

A man was stranded on the proverbial deserted Pacific Island for years. Finally one day a boat came into view and the man frantically waved to draw the skipper's attention. The boat draws near the island and a sailor got out and greets the stranded man.

After a while the sailor asked the man, "What are those three huts you have here?"

Man: "Well, that's my house there."

Sailor: "What's that next hut?" asks the sailor.

Man: "I built that hut to be my church."

Sailor: "What about the other hut?"

Man: "Oh, that's where I used to go to church, but I got mad at the preacher and all those hypocrites left."

Did you laugh? I did. Why is that story funny? Maybe because it is too true.

For the past several decades I have consulted with a coached many people with positions of leadership in Christian organizations. Some have been Clergy who graduated from seminary and others are Elders, business people and volunteers. All in all, few are experts in experiencing conflict but most are unprepared to deal effectively to manage the conflict.

Over the years I have seen a lot of Pastors and Leaders who are burned out, traumatized and discouraged by the amount of toxic relationships at church. Why is there so much conflict in God's Families? Which of the following do you think is the most frequent or important cause of toxic conflict?

1. Because the Pastors and Leaders offend the people.
2. The Leaders do not know how to relate well with people.
3. The leaders are ignorant of the Bible.
4. The personalities of the Leaders are bad.
5. The sins of the Leaders.
6. The sins of the members and lay board.
7. The devil makes us do it.
8. The people are dysfunctional.
9. The members are spoiled and refuse to follow God's word.
10. Add your own.....

Next: Church fights!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Communication and Influence

Some of the readers of this blog are in the business of communication. I, for one, speak to individuals, small groups and large groups on a regular basis. Last Sunday I spoke to our small church family on, "Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?". It was intended to be a talk with very important implications and a serious purpose. Plus, I wanted to help our people get a clearer picture of the purpose of Jesus and Christmas in the midst of a society dripping with false messages about Jesus and His birth.

What could I do to accomplish these weighty goals? I do not know if I did make my goals or not. However, I go sometimes to The Decker Blog to improve my communication skills. This is one of the best blogs I read and I strongly recommend it to you.

On the latest blog you will find a run down of what the Decker Company thinks are the Top and Bottom Communicators in the world. Read it and let me know what you think.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Rise in Kids with a Disability

There is no question that there is a dramatic rise in the number of children given a diagnosis by a health care professional. But, we all question why because the numbers seem so radically high. Here are some questions we need to ask.

1. Are more kids really being born with a disability?

2. Is diagnosis better today than in the past?

3. Are we calling behaviors illnesses today that we did not in the recent past?

4. Is it a hoax?

What do you think?

Grace Not Works Works in Life

“The main thing we learn from a serious attempt to practice the Christian virtues is that we fail. If there was any idea that God had set us a sort of exam and that we might get good marks by deserving them, that has to be wiped out. If there was any idea of a sort of bargain—any idea that we could perform our side of the contract and thus put God in our debts so that it was up to Him to perform His side—that has to be wiped out….everyone has the idea of an exam or of a bargain; the first result of real Christianity is to blow that to bits.”

CS Lewis

Gracedagain is compiled by Tom Wood, Church Multiplication Ministries, a non-profit, whose mission is starting, strengthening, multiplying grace-centered churches through consults and coaching church planting pastors, leaders and emerging leaders.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

With SSI program, a legacy of unintended side effects - The Boston Globe

With SSI program, a legacy of unintended side effects - The Boston Globe

Many studies indicate a severe over use of medications with children. It appears that medications are especially over used with poor kids.

Religious Practice Makes us Healthier

Religion can be good for your health, and especially your mental health, according to the latest studies, which show that church-goers are happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who don't attend services. But what exactly is it about religion that is so beneficial to health?

Some might argue that it is the power of faith in a being or power beyond ourselves. But according to a study led by Chaeyoon Lim, a sociology professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison, the reason religion makes us happy may have more to do with friends than with faith.

Using data from the Faith Matters Study, a survey of U.S. adults conducted in 2006 and 2007, Lim and his colleagues found that 33% of those who attended religious services every week and reported having close friends at church said they were extremely satisfied with their lives, while only 19% of those who went to church but had no close connections to the congregation reported the same satisfaction.

As Lim noted in a statement describing his findings:

“To me, the evidence substantiates that it is not really going to church and listening to sermons or praying that makes people happier, but making church-based friends and building intimate social networks there.”

The results support the idea that friends and acquaintances can have a powerful, even contagious effect on our health. In other work conducted by Dr. Nicholas Christakis at Harvard Medical School and John Fowler of University of California, San Diego, it's clear that our social network, regardless of how close or distant we are to the people in them, can influence our health. Christakis and Fowler showed that even people separated from you by up to three degrees can influence your weight, your happiness, or even whether you quit smoking or are prone to loneliness.

A version of that idea of social connectedness may explain Lim's findings, which were consistent across Protestant, evangelical and Catholic religions; they applied to Mormons and Jewish believers as well, despite their smaller sample size in the study. Lim stresses that the sense of community that religion promotes is an important part of helping people to feel involved and worthwhile, and therefore may contribute to an overall sense of happiness.

My response to the article and research.

For the last forty years of my Counseling practice I have read such research and continue to be involved in both research and religious practice. These authors are making a fatal mistake in splitting the social aspect from the faith/belief dimension of religious/spiritual practices. Although faith is often portrayed as "the Placebo Effect" it rises when one is involved in spiritual practice and or religious practices.

For many years those of us in Psychology and Counseling have seen that there are four "Common Factors" that are always involved in producing positive outcomes from Counseling. They are: 1. The Intervention of the Counselor; 2. The faith/Hope of the Client that the Treatment will be effective; 3. The caring relationship of the Helper; 4. Outside factors of personal motivation and social/family support.

When those "Common Factors" are applied to religious/spiritual activities, and they can be easily applied, we can see the same influences. We see that the 1. Interventions of a specific religious/spiritual teaching has some effect; 2. The faith/Hope of the Parishioner that God/Faith/Church attendance will be positive; 3. That the caring relationship between the member and the church is positive; and 4. That the at home social network affirms and supports the chosen spiritual/religious practices.

These researchers do not seem to adequately assess all the factors or at least to not differentiate them in this article. By choosing an either or dyadic answer they confuse the several important factors that must exist.

WE, of course, do not deny the critical importance of social support. In fact, it is crucial to mental, emotional and spiritual health. However, some research with AIDS patients indicate an increase in the quality of life of patients even when they do NOT attend meetings.

Read more:

One of my Favorite Presidents Reads the Bible

Truman, December 24th, 1949

Since returning home, I have been reading again in our family Bible some of the passages which foretold this night. . . . We miss the spirit of Christmas if we consider the Incarnation as an indistinct and doubtful, far-off event unrelated to our present problems. We miss the purport of Christ’s birth if we do not accept it as a living link which joins us together in spirit as children of the ever-living and true God. In love alone – the love of God and the love of man – will be found the solution of all the ills which afflict the world today.

Harry Truman Celebrates Christian Love on Christmas

Truman, December 24th, 1945

This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years. . . . We meet in the spirit of the first Christmas, when the midnight choir sang the hymn of joy: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Let us not forget that the coming of the Savior brought a time of long peace to the Roman World. . . . From the manger of Bethlehem came a new appeal to the minds and hearts of men: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.” . . . Would that the world would accept that message in this time of its greatest need! . . . We must strive without ceasing to make real the prophecy of Isaiah: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” In this day, whether it be far or near, the Kingdoms of this world shall become indeed the Kingdom of God and He will reign forever and ever, Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

Keep Christ in Christmas

FDR, December 24th, 1944 (Following D-Day)

Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way – because of its deep spiritual meaning to us; because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives; and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and Good Will. [He then led in a prayer for the troops] We pray that with victory will come a new day of peace on earth in which all the Nations of the earth will join together for all time. That is the spirit of Christmas, the holy day. May that spirit live and grow throughout the world in all the years to come.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bible Reading President of USA

Would you like to hear our President read the Bible during a radio and TV broadcast from the Oval Office? I would but in these days of extreme Political Correctness I am not holding my breath. Yet, not too long ago it was a regular event. Read this statement.

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

In this year of liberation, which has seen so many millions freed from tyrannical rule, it is fitting that we give thanks with special fervor to our Heavenly Father for the mercies we have received individually and as a nation and for the blessings He has restored, through the victories of our arms and those of our allies, to His children in other lands.

For the preservation of our way of life from the threat of destruction; for the unity of spirit which has kept our Nation strong; for our abiding faith in freedom; and for the promise of an enduring peace, we should lift up our hearts in thanksgiving.

For the harvest that has sustained us and, in its fullness, brought succor to other peoples; for the bounty of our soil, which has produced the sinews of war for the protection of our liberties; and for a multitude of private blessings, known only in our hearts, we should give united thanks to God.

To the end that we may bear more earnest witness to our gratitude to Almighty God, I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas. Let every man of every creed go to his own version of the Scriptures for a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this nation has achieved.

Now, Therefore, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, in consonance with the joint resolution of the Congress approved December 26, 1941, do hereby proclaim Thursday the twenty-third day of November 1944 a day of national thanksgiving; and I call upon the people of the United States to observe it by bending every effort to hasten the day of final victory and by offering to God our devout gratitude for His goodness to us and to our fellow men.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this first day of November in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-four and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and sixty-ninth.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Innovation and Helping People in Need

For decades we at Sweeten Life Systems has been on the cutting edge of developing creative and cost effective ways to care, counsel and support needy people. I did a Doctoral Research study in 1975 on ways to train Pastors and their Lay People to provide care for the elderly, shut ins, people with serious diseases and those suffering from depression, anxiety and other emotional distress.

The results have been extremely innovative and have spread virally around the world, especially areas that are too poor to pay for Professional Medical and Psychological assistance. We did this by analyzing carefully the felt needs of average families and developing assessments to differentiate those that need Professional help from those who Can benefit most from Peer and Para-Professional Support. In other words, who could benefit most from free First Aid types of assistance and who needed expensive Professional Care?

One reason that Medical costs are soaring is because so many people who could benefit greatly from a free or low cost visit with a well trained First Aid Worker go instead to a very costly, highly trained and much in demand Professional Doctor, Nurse, Psychologist or Psychiatrist and are given very costly medications.

My plan does not neglect or fight against seeing a highly trained Professional. I am one myself, and I founded an in-patient hospital unit and still oversee a large outpatient clinic staffed with Psychiatrists, Counselors and Nurses. We have seen wonderful healings and changes over the years but not everyone that is hurting can afford to see a Professional not needs to see one.

What I have done in a large Cincinnati church and expanded to the USA and the world through my not for profits is to teach others how to do the assessments to discover which persons need and can afford Professional Helper and who could benefit from seeing a Peer Helper. Then we teach them how to serve those people with effectiveness. In this way we greatly expand the number of Helpers who are skilled in "Psychological First Aid" expanding rare Care and Counsel to thousands of needy people who rarely if ever get any emotional and spiritual support from anyone.

Few persons in Third World countries can find or afford or need a Professional Helper. If we waited to care until a Psychologist/Social Worker/Counselor was well trained and available free, help would never arrive. I received emails and letters weekly from the far flung regions of the world telling me how much they have learned, grown and benefited from our ministry.

Since we teach "Each equipping center to reach one more equipping center we have great, great grand children we have never met training Peer Care Givers to expand and train others. We are using the cutting edge research processes used so effectively by P&G to find out what people's needs are and what to do to help them.

We put that together with the command Jesus gave just before He rose into heaven to "Go make disciples of every nation". His methods are our methods and they work because He came to "Heal the broken hearted and set the captives free" and to do that we need millions of disciples/students.

How to Love with Words

If you want to learn how to influence others read the book Steve Griebling and I wrote a few years ago called, Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty. It is shown on this page but you need to go to our web to download it. It is free but we ask for a donation if you are able to donate something.

Why are Relationships Important?

Does this post title sound ridiculous? Do you think everyone believes that caring relationships are better than bad relationships? I suppose most people would SAY they embrace and affirm warm, caring relationships but in the real world we don't act that way.

I admit that I often wince when I watch TV political talk shows or listen to radio talk shows. I especially wince when the person that is going on and on is mean spirited and callous. They may think their cruel statements are motivational but they are not.

I am even more upset when I hear or read about people claiming to be Christian Ministers or Christian Leaders whose language and actions are contrary to that which the Bible commands. The Bible clearly says, "Let nothing come out of your mouth that does not build people up." Yet, words from the pulpit are often not up-building or gracious.

I have sometimes tried to encourage my friends with a dragon tongue to change their language about people with whom they disagree. It is a very difficult task but if there is an opening I attempt to share what the Bible says about love, kindness and patience.

I know of one instance when I was successful. A group of us were discussing the Florida man who claimed to be a minister but was threatening to burn a Koran. One commentator quoted the Bible incorrectly to say that Jesus would have killed a Muslim if one had come to Him. I wrote back and mentioned that there were no Muslims until 700 A.D. so suggesting that Jesus had such an attitude toward Muslims was bogus. Second, I mentioned the times that Jesus told us to love our enemies let alone an outsider. The man wrote back and said he was wrong and would never attack Muslims again.

In Matthew 5, Jesus said:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment.

Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court.

And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

As I read these passages I am struck forcefully by Jesus' warning not to attack another person in anger, bitterness and character assassination. The wages of this kind of sin are still the same today as they were in the time of Jesus.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Drug Company Greed Puts Kids at Risk


I am on an international discussion group with other Therapists and we are very concerned about the use of medications with children. Take a close look at this talk by Dr. Barry Duncan to the Vatican Conference.

By Rita Fitch
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY – The Catholic Church may be the only organization that can counter the corporate greed fueling the over-prescribing of harmful psychiatric drugs to children and young people, said Dr. Barry Duncan, a clinical psychologist and director of the Heart and Soul of Change Project.

Flawed methodologies in research and a drastic minimization of actual risks make the cited efficiency and safety of these drugs untrustworthy, he told a meeting of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

And clinical trial evidence on psychiatric drugs is often skewed by conflicts of interests, particularly when trials are funded by the drug industry or when the studies are conducted by people who are paid consultants of the company under review, Duncan told the Nov. 18-19 meeting.

He said because of the church’s broad networking capabilities and international influence, it “may be the only power on earth that can counter the forces of corporate greed that have no moral or ethical conscience.”

He called on religious orders, Catholic schools, hospitals, medical associations, media and parishes to become informed and help children and families discover alternatives to psychiatric medications as well as help them have real input when discussing the risks and benefits of such medication.

Duncan spoke Nov.19 on “The Question of the Use of Psychiatric Pharmaceuticals in Pediatrics” during the conference, and he spoke about his findings in a separate meeting Nov. 18 with Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Duncan told the conference that the United States leads the world in the number of psychiatric prescriptions to young people and that the trend to resort to anti-psychotics before or in lieu of social and behavioral therapy is on the rise in Europe.

Most disturbing, he said, is that poor children in the United States, particularly those in foster care or on Medicaid, are four times more likely to be prescribed anti-psychotic drugs and six times more likely to be treated with a number of different psychotropic medications.

Poor children are also “vulnerable to dangerous drugs used as interventions of control rather than therapy,” he said.

Clinical evidence does not support the practice of prescribing pharmaceutical drugs as a first response to behavioral or psychiatric issues, he said, not only because of the drugs’ questionable long-term effectiveness, but also for the risk of serious health consequences, dependence and disability.

“The belief in the power of chemistry over church, community, social and psychological process – fueled by unprecedented promotion from the drug industry that targets all players in health care – forms the basis of pharmacology’s growing centrality in treatment, research, training and practice,” he said.

Children have no voice, and they rely on adult judgments and decisions for their well-being, he added.

Families, pastoral workers, pediatricians and health professionals “need access to accurate data - to the truth untainted by corporate influence,” Duncan said.

Nov 19, 2010

Don't jump to the conclusion that medication is a miracle cure. It is not. Gary Sweeten

The Care and Cure of Souls

When I first went onto a staff of a very large church as a "Full Time Minister" the Rev. Bob Strain was the Minister of Pastoral Care. Historically that position has been responsible for "The Care and Cure of Souls".

Think about that description. When does a person need someone to "Care and Cure" their eternal soul? Well, in some ways, we always need those functions but there are times when my souls is especially needy and desirous of care and other times it is in desperate need of cure. Many large churches of today have eliminated that position and I am sorry to see it go.

I once heard a wag note that the souls is never more in need of care than when we are lying flat on our backs and looking up at the ceiling. Over the past few years I have been sent to the hospital with a life threatening issue, usually my heart. I remember one night my wife took me to Bethesda North Hospital with chest pains and I was extremely anxious. Chest pains can be indicative of heart attack and my anxiety rose to dangerous heights. But because I know that anxiety actually causes our blood pressure to rise, it makes an attack more likely.

A trip to the emergency room alone is anxiety provoking but the cold, callous, uncaring welcoming of patients by the staff further provokes worry, fear and panic. The Bethesda staff was no help to me emotionally or spiritually. They appeared only to concern themselves with my insurance card and whether I could pay for my treatment. This angered me and caused me to wonder if they were able to treat me effectively. I needed hope at that point and what I received was hopelessness.

Then it happened. A man with whom I had been working came in the room and said, "Hi, Gary. What are you doing here?" At the same moment he came over and hugged me where upon I broken into tears of release and relief. MY anxiety dropped and my hope rose dramatically. "He said, I am in the Chaplain Training Program here and we just had a class. Let me pray for you."

The clerk looked at him and me in a disapproving manner because she wanted my full attention as she did an X Ray of my wallet. We ignored her and he prayed. What a wonderful, beautiful moment of caring and curing of my soul.

When does a person need someone to "Care and Cure" their eternal soul? Well, in some ways, we always need those functions but there are times when my souls is especially needy and desirous of care and other times it is in desperate need of cure.

Bob was a solid Christian, a wonderful man and a caring person who visited the sick, cared for the troubled soul and preached many funerals. Historically that position has been responsible for "The Care and Cure of Souls". I see that position as one of the most important in the church because it allows someone to focus all his attention on the members when they were most in need of care, compassion and wisdom.

As we interviewed the parents of children with serious disabilities we discovered that most had few if any visits of a member of the Pastoral staff to Care for their troubled souls. There is no doubt in my mind that the birth a child with a severe disability is a severe stress on the parents and family members souls. The church seems to be unaware of the need for Pastoral Care or ignore the opportunity to minister to the parents' souls.

Several of our parents had children of six to ten years old and had never received a visit from a Pastor or Lay Pastor and had never received prayer for the child or their spiritual needs. This speaks of a tragic flaw in the Pastoral Care of a congregation.

The parents we asked did not want much. They do not want the Pastors to do miracles or jump through hoops. They simply want someone to listen and to pray. Oh, sure, it would be nice if the church also helped with simple household tasks. But prayer and compassion are the #1. request but the church is absent and silent.

No Care and No Cure of the Members' Souls.

Friday, December 03, 2010

UN Worships Moon goddess

Read it here in the Washington Post. We give the United Nations billions of dollars to promote all kinds of crazy ideas and this is one of the worst.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, invoked the ancient jaguar goddess Ixchel in her opening statement to delegates gathered in Cancun, Mexico, noting that Ixchel was not only goddess of the moon, but also "the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving. May she inspire you -- because today, you are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools."

I urge you all to read a great book by Rodney Stark on the rise of reason, science and civility because of Christianity. When we worship gods that are as capricious, prone to sin and weaknesses as we humans then we lapse into mysticism and irrational, unreasonable ideas that are anti science.

But we Christians worship the Creator God who used reason and logic to create the world and humans. This means we can use reason to better understand the created universe. The UN is pushing the world into less reason and less rational thought and into mystical ideas that end up with rain dances and moon worship. Oh, and evidently the goddess of weaving will save our planet.

God Still Heals Today

I get a daily note from my former congregation, College Hill Presbyterian in Cincinnati. It usually has prayer needs and church announcements that my friend Phyllis Naegele sends to keep me up to date on the church and people I love.

In yesterday's update Phyllis included this wonderful testimony of God's love, power and presence. Let these words encourage you to seek His grace and mercy.

Praise The Lord: Jeanne Schneider, Pastoral Care Leader, reports that in October, a gentleman named Greg came to the Healing Service and asked for prayer for his asthma that was also sent out to the prayer chain.

Greg returned to the November Healing Service to report at his last doctor's visit the doctor saw no signs of asthma.

Greg is spreading the Good News of God's healing touch.

Any one in need of a healing touch can contact CHPC and they will pray for you and alert you to the times they have Healing Services you can attend personally.

1. There are no dangerous side effects to prayer.
2. God always answers our prayers but rarely in the ways we think.
3. Nobody ever overdoses from too much prayer.
4. Prayer is listening as well as talking. The Holy Spirit usually has something to say to us.
5. Treatment is free at God's hospitals.
6. Come as you are and you will be loved.
7. Nobody is perfect; that is why healing is necessary.
8. We do not need to be holy to ask God for healing. We are not holy but we have a Holy God, a Holy Jesus and a Holy Spirit.
9. There are three kinds of prayers. Seeking Prayers; Speaking Prayers; Soaking Prayers. Which do you need today?

Praise God!

Thanks to each of you for your prayers for Greg.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Asset Based Care and Counsel

Don't Take NO as the Answer

If we want to truly assist our family and friends we need to look carefully at their assets. This does not mean we ignore their needs, problems and concerns. As a therapist I can do a Differential Diagnosis and place a Client into a rigid category or two with little trouble. In fact, I can even give you a number and always refer to you as the Depressed Patient.

Take a quick look at that diagnosis. Is that all the person is? Have I successfully summarized that man by reducing him to a psychological category? If that Client were you would you be satisfied by that category or would you want me to know that you are much more than a Depressive?

You might say, "I am also a mother, an aunt, a Doctor and skilled bridge player and a talented golfer. Oh, by the way, I am also a devoted daughter of a wonderful mother."

If I were to ask you some simple questions I could discover that you have many skills and talents and gifts in addition to the NEEDS that brought you to my office. It is the problems that brought you to see my but it will take the strengths and abilities to get you healed. No one is healed by focusing on his/her weaknesses. In fact, that will very likely keep you depressed.

I immediately know some of your strengths and assets:

You have a very good ability to think. You are a Doctor and a bridge player, two things that demand an ability to reason well. Since Reasoned Christian Thinking is one of the best ways to rebound from depression there is a strong hope for a quick recovery.

Second, you have athletic abilities because you play golf. That tells me that since exercise is a great way to reduce depression you can take up walking or running.

Third, I can see that you have a warm, caring social and family support system, both of which are essential for recovery from depression.

Fourth, since I can quickly some of your assets it means that you are probably not using them to as well as you could so I can see ways to coach you that allows you to utilize those assets more effectively.

In depression, it is hard to see or affirm one's assets so a good coach, caring friend and counselor will work to encourage the client to more accurately assess them. This needs to be done with sensitivity but by listening carefully the client can begin to hope again and hope is essential to recovery.

As an exercise in regaining hope, write down some of your assets, strengths, gifts, talents and hobbies. Look them over daily and thank God for His wonderful blessings.

Count your blessings name them one by one
Count your blessings see what God has done

Growing Through Autism

The Bolduc Family

For the past two years I have been focusing a lot of time and energy on learning more about people who live with severe disabilities and how the family and friends who love and care for them get along in life. Some of the very special people I have met along the way are Kathy Bolduc and her husband Wally.

Kathy is better use her gifts of writing and praying to survive and thrive despite rearing a son born with rather severed Autism. Wally is a business man and a prayer warrior that takes teams of people around Cincinnati and the USA to support and love people in need with Gods truth and power.

Her web page is a wonderfully designed and written place to go for inspiration and understanding.

Kathy's recent interview on the Interfaith Magazine can be found here. It starts at minute 22 and 30 seconds. After reading her web I suggest that you listen to the interview and thank God for her talents and abilities as well as ask Him to pour out His grace and love on her, Wally and son Joel.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Origins of American Thanksgiving

Most of us have heard the stories about the origins of the first Thanksgiving held by the Pilgrims and their friends during a bitterly cold winter. Here is a link I think you will appreciate from The Wall Street Journal that expands that story and adds some wonderfully inspiring details.

This story reminds me of the long term implications of Christin charity. What might seem to be rather small instances of caring can blossom into lasting celebrations of love, family gatherings and positive attitudes of compassion.

A few years ago Steve Griebling and I were in Moscow, Russia on Thanksgiving. The Russians were fascinated by our nation including a National Holiday of Thanks to God for His blessings.

The recently fallen Communist state had banned all kinds of references to God and forbade either implicitly or explicitly most people from attending church or wearing symbols of Christianity. So my friends were hungry for ways to show appreciation to God and to thank God for their new found liberty.

Galina's sister, Irena, was the Head Mistress of a Christian based school that served the children of wealthy parents. Irena had founded the school in order to make sure these newly wealthy families had some good, solid Christian values in the midst of the harsh, bitter, selfish Communist and atheist values.

So, Irena invited Steve and me to share the story of Thanksgiving with her students. She gathered them in a warm room and introduced us by saying something like this. "We all know that America is the richest and most powerful nation on earth and in history. When we look at how Americans live we can see why. There are two signs of where their strength comes from inn their money and their national holidays. First, their money has inscribed on it, "In God we trust." No other nation has their faith in God so plainly established.

Second, America even has a national holiday to thank God. Steve Griebling and Gary Sweeten are here today to tell us how that holiday was established and why. If we in Russia are ever to become a strong and prosperous as America it will be because we also show that we live by God's laws and God's love."

Steve and I spent an hour discussing Thanksgiving with these wonderfully bright and curious children. They asked many questions and had many interesting and insightful comments, all in perfect English.

May God continually remind us of His blessings and His watch care as we spend money He has brought to us and the lives we live under His oversight.

Pass it on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Analyzing Effective Leaders: Why Extraverts Are Not Always the Most Successful Bosses - Knowledge@Wharton

Knowledge at Wharton is a business and management online newsletter that has interesting stories every time it comes online. This month they have a story about the difference between Introvert and Extravert people in leadership. Here is the beginning of their story and I hope some of you will go to their link for the rest and read my comments as well.

Conventional wisdom tells us that leaders are the men and women who stand up, speak out, give orders, make plans and are generally the most dominant, outgoing people in a group. But that is not always the case, according to new research on leadership and group dynamics from Wharton management professor Adam Grant and two colleagues, who challenge the assumption that the most effective leaders are extraverts.

Analyzing Effective Leaders: Why Extraverts Are Not Always the Most Successful Bosses - Knowledge@Wharton

The Crisis in Ministry

For the past 15 or so years I have spent most of my time coaching people in ministry. Some of these ministers are paid to be Christians and some are not. In most cases, both groups have emotional and spiritual issues, problems, concerns, sadness, anxieties and many regrets. However, as a whole, those who are paid to be Christian ministers have more problems and less spiritual fulfillment than those who serve as volunteers. Seminary graduates are the most affected by these symptoms.

I listen to a lot of people tell their stories about what brought them into ministry. In almost every case it was the excitement they felt when they were in church, studying the Bible, worshiping God or doing some kind of good works in the Name of God. They can usually tell me what they were doing and where they were when they began to feel "The Call" to ministry.

They enter into some sort of formal ministry position with passion, a message to convey and an emotional high. After a few years many of them seek my counsel because they are tired, disappointed, frustrated and spiritually dry. In some cases, they have gotten into trouble with the church, their wife or tempted by sexual lust. Such situations are almost always preceded by spiritual and emotional frustration or anger.

Write and tell me what you think about this observation. Am I seeing things correctly? Do you also observe this kind of behavior in ministers. What are the causes? What are the cures?

Gary Sweeten

Steve Jobs: How to live before you die | Video on

This short video by Steve Jobs is from his 2005 graduation speech at Stanford. In it he offers three stories about his life that reveal how adversity cannot stop someone from achieving great things. I hope you will be as inspired as I have been by watching it.

Steve Jobs: How to live before you die | Video on

The Puritan Gift

I discovered a book last year that I really liked and that inspired me to learn more about the people from whom we inherited so much as Americans. We inherited Thanksgiving along with many other ideas, principles and operating processes. The name of the book is The Puritan Gift by the Hopper brothers from Scotland. It is their conviction that one of the main reasons America has been so successful as a nation of innovators, manufacturers and leaders is due to the radical ways the Puritans conducted themselves in the New World.

For example, the Hopper Brothers came from Europe as educated, higher class men and were thrust into the world of Capitalism as practiced by Americans. They discovered that it was vastly different from Capitalism in England and the Continent. The main difference was the practice of top management and middle management to be on the floor and in the fields with the laborers. The knew what was going on and why things worked or did not work.

The opposite was true in England and Europe where “gentlemen” were too good to get their hands dirty or to stoop so low as to work on a machine or in the fields. The gents prospered but the workers did not. Thus America as a whole prospered and they lagged behind us.

This also led Americans to be resilient and see the world from a practical way. They could, therefore, rejoice even in the midst of difficulty and pain because they had no pie in the sky expectations of work, sickness or death. This was one reason the Puritans celebrated with a feast to thank God for His Providence even though half of them had died in the New World and they had so very little in worldly goods. They were able to maintain a positive, hopeful perspective because they bounced back from challenge and sought to overcome it.

So, despite our losses and difficult times I hope we who came from a background where our parents and grandparents labored in the fields, worked in the shops and saved enough to feed their kids and offer them a chicken leg for Thanksgiving I am sure we will come together with family and friends with a positive spirit of gratitude and drink a toast to our past while looking expectantly to the future for our children.

At this Thanksgiving I am filled with an attitude of gratitude because those hard working and faithful Puritans put their hope and faith in God to provide for their future despite the incredible hardships they faced on a daily basis. So, may you be blessed with the blessing of Aaron.

Numbers 6:23-27

23 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying,
On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another Area of Crisis

Doesn't it seem that we are in a state of serial crises in the world? Not only in America but around the world. Depression and anxiety are on the rise, wars and their rumors are getting worse and worse. Oppressive, brutal dictators take over a country that is prospering such as Zimbabwe and turn it into a place of starvation, murder and hopelessness. North Korea, Iran and the Islamic terrorists seem bent on world wide chaos and we do not seem to be able to stop them.

Now, just as you were about to suffer from a case of "Compassion Fatigue" I come along and tell you about another crisis. It is a crisis in the number of children born with severe birth defects. I will not bore you with dry statistics but simply remind you how many kids in our elementary schools can't read, learn or even sit still to listen to the teachers. One of five kids has an "official diagnosis".

But there is some hope if we Christians will reach out in love and prayer to their parents. Take a look at my Sweeten Life web page and my blog on Seasoned Believers to see what you can do to support these families.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Great Mystery

Do you like to see movies, TV shows and read books that keep you wondering what is going to happen next? I do. Some of the best are the old English murder mysteries. I recently saw "Dial M for Murder" again and I so enjoyed it even though I had seen it before. The cool, narcissistic demeanor of Ray Milland, the husband who wants to kill his beautiful wife Grace Kelly, kept me hoping he would get his comeuppance and, well you need to see it to find out what happened.

In my field, Christian Care and Counseling, there are some great mysteries. Perhaps not as scintillating as Grace Kelly but interesting to researchers and Counselors just the same. We know that some problems in society are growing dramatically but we don't know why but we need to find out the answer.

As I have recently posted, the number of persons suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental/emotional issues continues to increase in America and Western Europe. If you were born in the early part of the 20Th Century you would have seen far less of these issues than we do now. And that is a mystery.

Why are these diagnoses increasing? Why are depression and anxiety increasing so much? Poverty is often blamed for increasing crime rates and other social problems as if poor people are less moral than the wealthy. But poverty rates are decidedly better today than in 1918, 1928 or 1938. However, depression is worse today!

How about stress? That is often blamed for a multitude of problems. Are the stresses of life worse now than in 1918 when WWI was raging and the Spanish Flu was killing millions of young people? How about the stresses of The Great Depression and WWII? Were they less then than now?

I am curious what you think is the cause of so much increase. Write and let me know and I will respond to you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Healing Mental Illness

Some parts of my profession are dead set on convincing the public at large that they should adopt language that always describes emotional problems as a disease. I have written two short posts about the myths of mental illness and I need to add a bit on that subject.

In my first post I linked to a report that revealed that more Americans are fearful of "Mentally Ill" people now than they were a few years ago. These facts led some Mental Health Spokesmen to lament that fact and wonder why since they had been promoting the notion that depressed, anxious and fearful people are diseased and cannot control themselves.

No wonder the public is scared of this group. The marketing of Mental Illness has convinced many Americans that every person who is upset is mentally ill so no wonder they are most suspicious now than before the marketing campaign began.

In my last post I mentioned that the article which reported the study about the growth in Mental Illness also said that the unemployed were more likely to be Mentally Ill than the employed. Say whaaaaaat!? How does being laid off make a person mentally ill? That is ridiculous!

Depressed people can be described very differently than being mentally ill. For example, depression and anxiety can be:

1. A wise response to overwhelming and catastrophic stress.
2. A Fight/Flight response to stress.
3. A physical reaction to a threat.
4. The result of ruminating on past hurts.
5. The result of ruminating on possible future disasters.

None of these is an illness. All can be "healed" by personal changes. Medicine and surgery are not needed. Hope for change is high. Learning to think and act differently is a great cure.

More Myths about Mental Illness

An article this morning caught my eye with this glaring headline:

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans had mental Illness in 2009!!!

As soon as I saw it I knew the authors had been fed a lot of myths about mental illness just as I mentioned two posts ago. Here is some of what they had to say.

CHICAGO - More than 45 million Americans, or 20 percent of U.S. adults, had some form of mental illness last year, and 11 million had a serious illness, U.S. government researchers reported on Thursday.

Young adults aged 18 to 25 had the highest level of mental illness at 30 percent, while those aged 50 and older had the lowest, with 13.7 percent, said the report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA.

Adults who were unemployed last year were twice as likely to have serious thoughts of suicide as people who were fully employed, with 6.6 percent of the unemployed considering suicide, compared with 3.1 percent of those who were working.

What is wrong with this?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Seasoned Citizens are Not Dead

In a new book, Dr. Mark Lachs talks about the need for Physicians to interact with and treat the whole person not just his/her age. The book is Treat Me Not My Age, and it looks pretty interesting.

In our research with parents of kids with special needs we found that parents often experience a lack of interest in their ideas, insights and experiences when the Doctors, Nurses or Special Education Teachers are working with their child. In fact, we heard that there is often a sense that the Professionals and the Parents are Adversaries not Friends with the same goal to maximize the child's quality of life.
See our web page for more information.

If a Professional person or system wants to promote the very best in a patent's health, they will certainly treat the patient and his/her entire family with Genuine Respect, Empathy and Warmth. To see them as adversaries or ignorant interlopers will certainly impede the treatment.

The fact is, may Professionals also see elderly Patients in an adversarial or disrespectful manner. Have you ever heard a Nurse, Doctor or Counselor speak in an exaggeratedly loud or slow manner as if he/she was daft not old? I have, many times. I think Dr. Lachs is taking on those disrespectful traits and trying to correct them. I am glad he is doing it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fear of Depressed Folks?

Why are so many people afraid of people with depression and anxiety? Why do folks get so upset when you suggest that they might benefit from counseling? I think I know some of their reasoning. The Mental Health marketing geniuses have scared people with their insistence that every mental, emotional, relational and behavioral problem is a true MENTAL ILLNESS!

I have been leading a team of researchers looking into the ways church and community groups can better provide support and practical assistance to the parents of kids with a disability. While chatting with one hard working, deeply involved, stressed out mom I asked, "Have you ever considered going to a Counselor?"

My question so shocked this exhausted mother that she looked at me in horror and said, "A Counselor? No! I am not mentally ill!"

I quickly said, "Oh, I am so sorry. I am not suggesting that you are mentally ill. By counseling I meant that you might benefit from someone on the outside of your life who has a more objective look at what is going on with you and helping coach you about better ways to help your daughter."

She was instantly relieved and said, "Now that sounds good. I could use some insight and wisdom from an outside expert."

The Mental Health Mental Illness Industry has mandated that all people like me who have been licensed to counsel must use the "Mental Illness Paradigm". I refuse. This mom is NOT mentally ill! She is worn out, stressed and and worried about her child. She needs rest, some practical assistance and the ability to put her worries on the shelf. However, if the Mental Illness lobby has it's way we will all have to fall in line behind their use of the sickness terms and label her as a hopeless victim.

The term Mental Illness leaves us with the notion that the Patient needs long term radical treatment by a Physician that can prescribe drugs. I recently received a newsletter that shows how many kids are being abused by over prescription of medicines. In it, Barry Duncan reports that way too many kids are being drugged in the name of "Treating their Mental Illness". I am astounded by the following statistics.

A study of 11,700 children under age 18 covered by Medicaid found that the number of children newly treated with anti-psychotics increased from 1,482 in 2001 to 3,110 in 2005 (Mathak, West, Martin, Helm, & Henderson, 2010). In other words, a staggering 26% of kids in this sample were taking anti-psychotics.

Another study found that children covered by Medicaid were prescribed anti -psychotics at a rate four times higher than children with private insurance, and were more likely to receive anti-psychotics for unapproved uses (Crystal, Olfson, Huang, & Gerard, 2010), or in other words, for reasons of control, not treatment.

A study of foster care children found that 57% received three or more drugs (Zito et al., 2008), six times the national average in spite of the fact that no research supports more than one drug for kids.

Finally, the use of anti-psychotics with privately insured children, aged 2 through 5, has doubled between 1999 and 2007 (Ofson, Crystal, Huang, & Gerhard, 2010). About 1.5% of all privately insured children between the ages of 2 and 5, or one in 70, received some type of psychiatric drug in 2007 despite the fact that there is little to no evidence in this age group. (I received this via a Personal Communication from Dr. Duncan)

It is sometimes necessary and good to use medications for emotional issues. However, far too often they are over prescribed and over abused. Good, caring, interpersonal counseling is the best cure for most problems. If you know someone who is depressed, anxious and upset, be a good friend and listen to them, pray for them and encourage them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Was It Mental Illness?

This is a fascinating story. I can hardly believe my eyes when I see it. The story is so self contradictory and foolish that I cannot believe that anyone in the field of psychology or psychiatry would promote it, yet they are. See if you can see why it mocks itself and leaves an awful residue of confusion behind.

Gary Sweeten

By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
November 2, 2010|9:15 a.m.

Public perception of mental illness and addiction has changed significantly -- and for the good -- in the last 15 years. That doesn't mean, however, that people feel comfortable working or living near or being friends with someone with mental illness, according to a major new survey.

The study compared people's responses to vignettes involving mental illness and addiction to gauge public understanding of the illness and feelings toward those who are ill or addicted. The surveys took place in 1996 and 2006. The idea was to assess whether major efforts to improve the treatment of mental conditions and eliminate stigma in the United States is working. Several sweeping efforts have been made in the past two decades to educate Americans on mental illness.

A major theme of these campaigns is that mental illnesses and addiction are biological, brain-based, sometimes-genetic illnesses that are each "a disease like any other."

The survey finds the public has embraced that concept, but only to a point. The percentage of people who attributed depression to neurobiological causes increased from 54% of those surveyed in 1996 to 67% in 2006. Those who endorsed psychiatrists to help treat alcoholism increased from 61% to 79% in the 10-year period.

However, the willingness to associate with people with these disorders did not change much. For example, the percentage of people who said they are unwilling to work closely with someone with major depression was 46% in 1996 and 47% in 2006. The percentage of people who considered people with schizophrenia to be a danger to others was 54% in 1996 and 60% in 2006.

Though research and treatment options for people with mental illness or addiction have clearly improved, many could be held back by social stigma, said the authors of the study, led by Indiana University researchers. "Public attitudes matter," they wrote. "Attitudes can translate directly into fear or understanding, rejection or acceptance, delayed service use or early medical attention."

It may take a new approach -- something other than science-based anti-stigma campaigns -- to change public attitudes, the authors said. One such approach is to focus on the "abilities, competencies, and community integration of persons with mental illness and substance use disorders."

(Which brings to mind Los Angeles Laker's star Ron Artest and his efforts to raise money for mental health services by raffling his NBA Championship ring. Artest, who has been treated for depression, has been outspoken about the importance and value of seeking treatment. His "Win My Bling" raffle raised $120,000 in just one day last week.)

In a commentary accompanying the study, Dr. Howard H. Goldman of the University of Maryland points to encouraging signs that people with these diseases can live on equitable terms with those who have not suffered addiction or mental illness.

"We may not have eliminated social stigmatization of symptomatic individuals with mental illness," he wrote. "But improved treatment has helped many of them to make their symptoms and dysfunction less visible and less problematic."

Did you spot the inconsistencies? The stupid ways they incriminate themselves? Send in your guesses as to what it was.