Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kids in Trouble

Howdy neighbor how ya doing?

This was a common greeting to people in my neighborhood when I was a kid. When we asked it, we did not always want an answer, but many times we got one anyway.

I was fortunate to grow up in a tiny village of 200 or so souls in southern Illinois. The major criticism of Ina's size was, "Everybody knows your business". That is a legitimate complaint, it seems, unless you live in an urban area like Cincinnati and nobody knows your name. In fact, it is not unusual for a person to die at home and lie there for days, weeks or months without anyone knowing they are gone. Nobody knowing your business is, in my view, much worse than everybody knowing your business.

One of the most successful TV shows in history was based on the notion that you could be welcomed at a certain bar named "Cheers". In fact, their theme song said that "Everybody knows your name". Many people find it warmer, and more welcoming in a bar than at church. No wonder so many people drink booze. They feel accepted.

I have a quiz for you. I was stunned to discover the statistics about how many of my neighbors in Ohio have children with a serious disability. I not only did not know their names I did not know they existed. Wow! How did I miss it?

Maybe you are like me. Here is a simple quiz to test your knowledge of neighbors.

How many kids in Ohio ages birth to 18 have a serious disability?

Another question: "What percentage of Ohio kids have a disability?"

There are some 12 million people in Ohio and 3 million children/youth ages birth to 18. So that is a hint for you.

Put your Answers on the comment page or Face Book or email me at

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Functional Family Life

For the past few weeks I have written about conflict. Some conflict is healthy and some is deadly. According to Dr. John Gottman the reason there is conflict between man and wife and parents and children is simple: Differences! People have little skill in dealing with even the slightest difference.

For example, I have received crisis calls from couples on a trip to Canada who got half way there and could not agree on what time the started. This was so difficult a difference that they soon got into a terrible argument. The argument got so heated and so out of control that they called me with a cry for my help.

We set up an appointment the following week and they came in as lovey as one could imagine. We chatted and laughed for a few minutes and then I asked, "Well, what was it that caused such a crisis between you that you had to call me from Canada?" They looked at each other with a puzzled expression and said, "We completely forgot what we were fighting about."

This was a regular event in their relationship and had been for over thirty years. But, it was not really destructive conflict that would lead to a divorce. The destructive conflict that is the primary reason couples get a divorce is different than their fights. This couple would fight and yell and scream and cry but they always stopped short of the one thing that would lead to emotional and spiritual destruction.

In fact, there are three ways people can handle differences and have conflict and still stay happily married. This is one that looks on the surface like a very dysfunctional marriage that will never last but most of them last forever. Here is why: They never attack each other. All the anger, hurt and yelling goes up to the sky and falls lazily back down to earth without doing mortal damage.

Some of you are saying, "That cannot be. I could not stand to have that much distension in my marriage and family life." You must fall into one of the other types that deal with conflict. Here is the key to handling conflict. Never, ever attack your partner's intellect, work habits, spiritual life, character, past history or sports teams. (Or anyone else for that matter.) Attacking ends up in the court house not the lake house. In Ohio that will cost you 50% of all you own and a lifetime of misery.

The couple mentioned above love each other deeply. Maybe too deeply because ti takes only a small amount of difference for the other to feel abandoned, dissed or attacked. When a couple is too closely stuck together any small separation can seem like a large attack. But, they love too much to attack the other. They are called a VOLATILE couple. The argument is just t prelude to a very romantic make up session! In fact, some couples have learned to fight so they can have a terrific kiss and make up.

Next time, the AVOIDANCE couple.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Real Saint Patrick

The Real Saint Patrick

MARCH 17, around 461 AD, St. Patrick died. As a teenager, the Roman Legions guarding his community in Britain had to be withdrawn to defend Rome, as invading heathen hordes, such as the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals and Huns, were overruning the borders. Unprotected, Britain was attacked by raiders, who carried away thousands.

Patrick was captured and sold as a slave in Ireland, which was ruled by the Druids, who practiced human sacrifice. For six years Patrick herded animals until he escaped. In his forties he had a dream calling him back to Ireland. In his Confession, Patrick wrote:

"In the depth of the night, I saw a man named Victoricus coming as if from Ireland, with innumerable letters, and he gave me one and while I was reading I thought I heard the voice of those near the western sea call out: 'Please, holy boy, come and walk among us again.' Their cry pierced my very heart, and I could read no more, and so I awoke." Patrick returned to Ireland, confronted the Druids, converted Chieftains, and used the three-leaf clover to teach the Trinity.

The Druids tried to ambush and kill Patrick nearly a dozen times: "Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of Heaven." Baptizing 120,000 and founding 300 churches, Saint Patrick wrote: "Patrick the sinner, an unlearned man to be sure. None should ever say that it was my ignorance that accomplished any small thing, it was the gift of God." In the next century, Irish missionaries evangelized the heathen hordes which had overrun Europe.

Provided by the American Minute

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More About Conflict

Former Governor Mark Sanford confessing that he shamed his wife and family by treating them contemptuously

So far I have been posting every few days about conflict in relationships with a special emphasis on conflict that leads to divorce. Dr. John Gottman has done research on the topic of differences in marriage that lead to conflicts that result in personal attacks and then to divorce. I found his research interesting, enlightening and revealing. It also begged for a simple interpretation for the normal reader.

If we look at how a marital relationship goes from good to bad to awful and then to miserable and terrible, it would appear something like this.

Stage I. Contentment with peace reigning between the partners

Stage II. Conflict-Complaints:Low level with some Complaints that are designed to solve arguments over a difference between them. If it stays at Complaints it can strengthen the marriage. Jesus warned us to be careful and judge ourselves when we get angry, frustrated. Hurt, anger and Complaints can be dangerous or healing.

Stage III. Conflict-Criticism: Here is when anger, frustration and Complaints turn into personal attacks on the partner's behavior. In terms Jesus used, it is calling the one you love stupid.

Stage IV. Conflict-Contempt: This is the most serious and damaging way to deal with differences. Jesus said, "If we call our partner a fool we are in danger of hell fire!" WOW! That is bad.

This is the stage we have reached tonight. If you are in a marriage where one or both partners is showing disrespect with character attacks and contemptuous actions, get assistance from a good couple Counselor immediately.

Jesus was a great therapist. He understood the damage to one's soul that occurs when we treat them with contempt. there is an immediate physical reaction of Fight or Flight. The emotions are flooded and the heart is scarred deeply within. If either has been deeply scarred as a child the old wounds will be opened and the pain deepened.

Showing Contempt is treating another person as an object of shame with no integrity and no identity. It is hard to recover from shaming. It requires hard work along with forgiveness, prayer and God's Holy Spirit.

Jesus was right. It is hell in the heart set on fire by a reckless tongue or reckless behavior like pornography, adultery or abuse.

See to it that you husbands love your wives as Jesus loved the church and died for her.

And you wives, respect your husbands and lift them up to God. Ephesians 5.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Autism Displays

The people who displayed their offerings were varied and generous with their time and support.

On top is the booth of Joni and Friends, perhaps the premier Christian ministry to families with a disabled member.

Next in the purple shirt is Amy Schaffnit with RDI, a great way for parents to help their children.

The young woman represents Got-Autism which offers numerous article of education, play and relational building.

Last is Bob Caperna a very knowledgeable parent of resources in Dayton and a rep for New York Life. Contact Bob at 937-470-0046. He is an expert on estate planning for disabled children.

More on Autism Conference

Kathy Deyer Bolduc is shown here hugging one of the parents who really appreciated The way she taught on "Finding God Through your Child's Disability".

Every parent who is rearing and loving a child with a disability will want to read one of her wonderful books. go to her web page and see her offerings.

Autism Conference

Attended the free H3 (Help, Hope and Healing) Conference on Autism Friday night and Saturday in Franklin, Ohio. (Sweeten Life research Path Map on the wall)

It is put on by parents Jeff and Debby Barnett with the support of the Crosspointe Church of Christ on Route 122 just outside Middletown. This church has many classes, support ministries and groups to minister to their people, including a support group of parents with a child that has a disability. (Photo of Sanctuary)

The speakers were of the highest quality and covered the whole spectrum of care for "The Autism Spectrum". I am posting some of the photos I took with my camera phone of people who spoke and or had displays. Much of it was over my head but this group really seems to be on the cutting edge of helping parents care for their children.

Contact Jeff or Debby Barnett if you are interested in learning more about the conference. Call or write me and I will give you their contact information. Their web link did not work for me.

I was able to chat with several parents and presenters and tell them about our research and our desire to recruit churches, volunteer groups and organizations that are committed to helping support parents with a child who has a special need.

Go to the Sweeten Life web for audio tapes, video presentations and articles to help you (TM) Build a lifetime of great relationships.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Families and Disabilities

The number of families impacted by disabilities is growing in our country at both ends of the age spectrum. More babies with a disability are living and many, many more people are living into the higher age ranges. Many nursing homes have residents in their nineties and hundreds. All of this has a big impact on the parents of the disabled children and children of the aged parents.

While the medical care and therapy of disabled children as well as aging parents is improving, the knowledge about how it affects the extended family has been stuck in the past. Those who worked with families with a member that is disabled have seen the increase in stress but little has been done to discover exactly what the families would like to have to help them deal with the increased family stressors.

With a generous grant from the Hatton Foundation, Sweeten Life Systems took the challenge of discovering how best to support the parents and extended family members of a child with Special Needs. We did an in depth, survey and home visit research study with 12 families in the Greater Cincinnati area.

The insights offered by those families were powerful and helpful. Now we are sharing them with you. Sweeten Life web site, training sessions for churches and offering seminars to families with a Special Needs Child. Our focus is the health and welfare of the parents and family members. For Counseling, call a Christian agency Life Way and ask for a Therapist with training in this area.

We are currently looking for churches who are already committed to equipping lay persons to support and care for church members. This includes The Stephen Ministers, Lay Pastors, Growth and Healing Ministers, Teleios Ministers, Habitat for Humanity, etc. We want to enroll you in our Village Innovation Project Training Program (VIP) and help you assess what the families in your church and community need from your church.

I have been posting on conflict in families and the stress in a family with a child who has a serious disability can lead to real problems. We discovered what successful families do to keep peace in the family and we want to train Lay Ministers how to support families and prevent Toxic Conflict.

Contact us if you are interested in finding out how to support this ministry or get training or find our about our next family event.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Danish Pastor as a Guest

Karen and I said "So long" to Pastor Ruben Knudsen today as I put him on a Delta/Air France flight to Paris then to Copenhagen. Ruben spent ten days with us and we grew to love and respect him.

I met Ruben a few years ago in Randers, Denmark where my old friend Peder Poulsen lives. Peder had come to many of our seminars in Norway back in the Eighties and we have been friends ever since. Peder left the State Church many years ago and planted a Free Church in Randers. He took Ruben under his wing and he now succeeds Peder as Pastor of the Randers OASE Free Church.

Ruben is a very discerning fellow who discovered early in his ministry that the marriage and family relationships among his parishioners were moribund, lethargic and failing. Many of his friends lived in chronic misery. When I was near Randers speaking at a, "Equipping Lay Persons" conference Ruben asked me to preach on Sunday morning and afterward asked for some time to chat. That is when I learned how many of the marriages there are in trouble.

Ruben mentioned that some 40% of the married women in Denmark admit to having regular extramarital affairs. In fact, many "experts" in Denmark suggest that adultery and pornography are good for a marriage because they can "liven them up". That sounds crazy but evil is bold; very, very bold!

Ruben also noted how many of the Danish men are chronic users of pornography and he wanted to learn how to minister to them and to all marriages. So, I invited him to come to the USA and attend a Pure Hope Men of Valor Conference. He arrived last Tuesday and left today after learning from many of our local Pastors, Counselors and Christian leaders. He left filled with excitement and hope.

We in the USA are also facing an epidemic of family relationship problems along with pornography. Sweeten Life Systems is working hard to help Pastors, Lay Ministers and Counselors improve their skills of ministry to couples. One of the most important things we are doing is focusing on parents of children with a disability. The stresses on these couples is overwhelming and they can certainly use our wisdom and support.

I will follow up with Ruben in August by doing two training sessions in Denmark. Please support us with your prayers. Europe is in crisis and we have a lot to offer the Christians there. This includes Russia.

If you want to be on our mailing list send me your email to

It's All About Good Relationships

If you are looking carefully at our work you know that we have been called to "Build a lifetime of great relationships with God, self and others." That means that this blog will almost always focus on things that disturb our relationships or build them.

For the past few posts I have been looking at the teaching Jesus gave in Matthew 5 about murder. He first reminded the listeners of something they already knew quite well but Jesus thought they needed a reminder. "You have heard it said in the Old Testament that "You shall not murder"...They He gives us a brilliant exposition of what leads to hot blooded killings-ANGER.

Anger feelings are normal, daily experiences for many of us. When I was young they were welcomed because I liked being mad so I could verbally or silently tear someone apart. I always felt justified by using my anger as a guided missile against some enemy. Jesus knows humanity well and uses that insight to teach to the heart as well as to the head.

The Jews of Jesus' day were known to be hot blooded. They were prone to throw dirt into the air and rip their clothes as they screamed and hurled epithets at an enemy. That is anger on steroids! It is dangerous but it arises almost anytime we interact with a person with whom we disagree strongly.

This is what Jesus was thinking when He said, "You are not only in danger of being judged by yourself or friends but also the court system. Why? Because we call people bad names. Jesus specifically mentions calling someone raca or stupid, senseless, worthless because that is an assault on their character.

Name calling is dangerous and harmful. Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death or life are in the power of the tongue". Words can go deep into one's soul and lie there like a poison, burrowing into the souls with devastating results.


Step I. Anger-Judged by self and friends
Step II. Attack others with raca-Judged by the Council
Step III.

TV is so full of angry attacks against others that we can easily think they are OK for us. Then we fall into attacking as a first line of defense. This is a very slippery slope down which one can glide right into hell fire!

See my web Sweeten Life Systems for free downloads on improving your relationships. Get my book, Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty. It can change your life for the better.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Is Anger Murder?

My last post on anger mentioned that Jesus warned us to be careful when we get angry. Does that men that the emotion of anger is always wrong that it always leads to murder either metaphorically or actually? No! Not at all.

Anger as a feeling can actually be healthy because it sometimes leads to doing things better. As Jesus said, we need to "Judge" how anger is applied to see if it is good or bad. St. Paul adds his insights to the mix in Ephesians by saying that we must not go to bed with wrath or bitterness in our heart. This is the critical difference.

Anger is a feeling that arises automatically when we get frustrated, hurt or scared. We cannot stop being angry. It is a part of the human nature God created in us. Because God has the ability to be angry so do we humans. However, God's anger is always righteous but human anger is not. When we humans hold on to anger until it becomes a "Root of bitterness" it is dangerous and harmful.

Bitterness is often translated as "wrath" in scripture. It means to have "An attitude of disrespect toward another person or group". When my anger with a wife turns to bitterness it is moving toward murder. And that is what Jesus gets into next.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Men of Valor Conference

Good conference today with several hundred men at the Tryed Stone Church. I was able to cover some of the basics of male/female conflict. My friend Ruben Knudsen from Denmark was there and learned so much about the ways Americans deal with pornography, addictions and sexual relationships. In this photo Ruben is with Kent Ernsting.

It was great to see so many old friends and get to discuss ways to deal with our conflicts. Go to our web page at Sweeten Life for more teachings.

What Jesus Said about Murder

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that…anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Matthew 5:21

Anger is a dangerous emotion that can kill or heal. It is natural, normal and universal so the fact that the Bible talks about it so much indicates how important God thinks it is for us to understand and manage.

St. Paul gave us the following instructions in Ephesians 4. You may all be angry, but be very careful because it is easy to miss that mark and hurt someone when you are angry. Like Jesus, Paul says we are all ind anger of being judge when we play with fire and anger is fiery.