FOCUS

A couple of weeks ago my pastor preached a sermon entitled “Focus”. By now, the specific points he made are fuzzy for me. But I have not been able to let go of the idea that our ability to focus is crucially important to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. So much of what i see in my clinical work comes back to this idea. Difficulty managing priorities, not being able to distinguish irrational thoughts and feelings, becoming clouded by the dangers of social comparison, and the list goes on. So, FOCUS is going to be my word for 2017. I have some continuations of goals I’ve been working on, and some new things I hope to accomplish. I really don’t want to be distracted from these goals, because they’re important to me, and I feel God is calling me to them! Here are some tips for maintaining your FOCUS as we enter a new year.

Filter out the opinions of others. Many of us are completely and utterly consumed with the opinions of others. Are we meeting the approval of our parents? Are our friends/significant others pleased with us? Does my boss like me? Social media doesn’t help, because we often end up comparing the totality of our lives (good and bad) with the best moments of those we follow. While family and friends certainly matter, at the end of the day you are accountable to you and God for the life you live. Even the best intentioned friend or family member can lead you astray because they always come from a biased point of view. Push yourself to make your own decisions and stand by them. Only you are responsible for you.

Open yourself to new ways of doing and being. I had a supervisor say once that rigidity is the definition of mental illness. Another way to say this is the the key to mental and emotional wellness is flexibility. As humans, its easy for us to get into a monotonous routine and become so invested in it that we can’t see when its not working anymore. Sometimes, we need to change things up and try something new so that we can achieve a different outcome. Don’t be afraid to try!

Count your blessings. It’s really easy to focus on all the things that are going wrong in your life. They often take the forefront in our mental and emotional space. Challenge yourself to shift your perspective and focus on what’s going right. This change doesn’t make the bad things go away, but it helps us to have a more level headed and even keeled response. Attending to the good things can help balance out the pain associated to the bad ones.

Understand your purpose. You always have lots of choices in life. Big choices and little choices. Just like on a multiple choice test, some of these options are “distractors”. They’re not really good for you, but you can only figure out that out if you have studied and prepared yourself. Study and explore your purpose, so that when the time comes to make choices, you won’t be strayed by distractors. Everyone has something they are especially equipped to do, that they can give to the world! When you know what you’re called to do, it’s easier to identify and follow the path that will lead you to it. (More in this next month).

Simplify your life. While we are on the topic of distractors, how about getting rid of some! Is your house/office so cluttered that you can never find what you’re looking for? Are you involved in so many activities that you can’t tell whether you’re coming or going? Do you have some “friends” that annoy you so much you are constantly screening their calls? Perhaps it’s time to clean house. Why waste your time, energy, or resources on things that don’t fit with the life you’re trying to live? It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to let things go. It’s ok to move on.

While these may sound like quick tips, they are really big habits that if you aren’t doing already, will take time and commitment to accomplish. Try to pick one that feels most compelling to you, and focus your energy on making a decision every day to work toward that goal. Whether it’s January 1 or any other day of the year, you CAN reach your goals! Thanks for reading, and make Well Choices!

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The Clergy Connection Crisis

I’m not clergy, but I have a lot of friends who identify as ministers. A LOT. I also teach at a seminary, work with ministers as clients, and am married to a minister.  As such, I spend a lot of time talking to people intimately about some of the challenges associated with this particular social role. A few weeks ago, I posted an article about the importance for ministers (particularly those in pastoral roles) to have close, intimate friendships.

When I posted this article, I immediately got a response that these authentic relationships are difficult for clergy to build. But why? Here are my hypotheses: Insecurity. Competition. Suspiciousness.  Sounds bad, right? Well, it is. It’s bad when clergy, who have so much placed upon them on a daily basis, do not feel that they have people who they can call in times of need. It’s bad when clergy take time off, but don’t have anyone to spend time with so they sit in isolation. It’s bad when clergy have no one to whom they can admit their struggles, their failures, and their temptations. It’s bad for individual clergy, it’s bad for their churches, and it’s bad for the Kingdom.

If you’re interested, here’s the article. It’s a blog post that speaks about the necessity for

“relationships that are FOR us and WITH us, not just BEHIND us or UNDER us.”

So what does this even mean? What does it mean to have true friendships in the world of ministry? Well, first, it means that you need people who are not in the role of parishioner that you can have relationship with. While parishioner (leader and lay) relationships are important, there is an inherent power dynamic. You are the titled authority and they are the de facto follower. This means that while these folks may have your best interest at heart, there are some things that you simply can’t share openly and fully, because it is important that you maintain a role. Now, I am ALL for authentic pastor-parishioner relationship, but there are some caveats there— that’s a blog post for a later date.

So, let’s talk about it. One of the challenges (and sometimes excitements) of being clergy is that you are placed on a pedestal in many spaces. While I’m sure this can feel good at times (who doesn’t like to be celebrated!), there is an unspoken cost. If you are placed on a pedestal, there’s a longer distance when you fall. So, there can be a lot of unspoken, and perhaps unacknowledged, fear about letting people see  that you are not the perfect person they might perceive you to be. In an effort to protect against this possibility, walls go up. Walls keep danger out. But they also keep goodness out. They are isolating and separating.

Another issue is that sometimes there can be an inherent competition between clergy. Is my church growing as fast as your is? What’s the word in the community about your congregation? How often are you getting offered outside engagements?  The list goes on. Sometimes this competition is overt and spoken. Other times, it’s more subtle. In my opinion, the more covert competition is more dangerous, because it can guide your behavior without even realizing what’s happening.

I do a lot of assessment with ministers, and one of the things that often comes up is a suspicious about others’ motives toward you. This isn’t paranoia. It’s a reality that whenever you are in the spotlight, there’s a danger that there are people in the background rooting for you to slip up, and who would relish this happening.  This sad reality leads to the suspiciousness that can often occur for folks in ministry. Behind some interactions might be this sneaking question:

If I tell you this information, what will you do with it? Will you use it against me later? Will my honesty with you come back to bite me?

So in the midst of all this danger, how on earth can you find and foster authentic relationship? My first suggestion is to BE an authentic friend. It’s a process, but when you show yourself to be trustworthy and honest, it is refreshing to people who have not encountered it before, and this gift will eventually be reciprocated.

Second, use denominational and community resources that are at your disposal, but be open to finding connections in some surprising places. It’s good to have some friends in ministry but maybe they are a member of a different ethnic background or denomination. Perhaps the tendency toward competition will be less if they are people who you wouldn’t find in your immediate collegial circle. Other times, you might find that there is someone who you know about or know of, but you find you have something in common with them and might be able to foster a genuine connection.

Third, know that your best friends and allies might be people who don’t identify as clergy at all. There might be a tendency to remain encapsulated in a circle of people  who are just like you. But people who are just like you might also have the same blind spots that you do. Open yourself up to the possibility that you might find friendship wrapped up in an unexpected package.

Why is this even important? The bottom line is that people need relationship. We need to know that there are people in our corner, supporting and rooting for us as we work toward our goals. We also need people who are willing to hold us accountable when we make mistakes or stray from our course. We need people with whom we can truly rest and play. We need an outlet for the stresses and challenges of daily life, and the specific tests of ministry. We need people to commiserate and complain with (not too much!). We need people who will sit with us when we mourn, and celebrate with us during times of rejoicing. There is a wealth of research that indicates that social support actually mediates the negative effects of stress, both cognitive and physical. Your life is on the line! Do yourself and your congregation a favor and work to build good, healthy relationships.

Thanks for reading, and make Well Choices!

 

Hope in a Horrible World

The past few weeks I have felt really overwhelmed and frustrated by the horrible things happening in our world. It seems like every couple of days, there is a great tragedy that leaves is reeling, and utterly helpless. It’s not too difficult to find yourself spiraling into despair after watching the news. And, if you’re someone who has a predisposition toward anxiety and/or depression, times like these can be even more trying. Life events might seem to confirm your suspicions that the world is a terrible place, bad things happen all the time, or that things will never be ok. I understand, and I’ve been there too. But I also think it’s important for us to find ways to hold on to our hope in this scary world. So, here are some suggestions:

  1. Manage how much time you spend devouring bad news. One of our natural tendencies when bad things happen is to read/watch everything we can about it. We live in a culture where the mainstream media will remind us of a tragedy constantly for the several days after it happens, and our 24-hour way of being in the world makes it so we have access to horror at all times. Here’s a tip- just because you have access to it, doesn’t mean you should take it in. If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break! Maybe that means skipping the news one day, or giving yourself a two hour break from Facebook; you are the best judge. I’ll add to this that we live in a world where are online conversations can become inhumane and demoralizing very quickly- some of us would do better to not try to have conversations about controversial topics through a faceless medium. The detachment of having an actual person there can lead people to be insensitive and downright cruel in their commentary. You can make a choice about whether conversations like these will be helpful or harmful to you.
  2. Hold on to things you know to be true. A helpful reminder during times like these is that while some things may be going poorly, all things aren’t. Spend some time reflecting on the good in your life- friends, family, job, whatever those things are for you. Remind yourself of things that are going well- for you and in the world. All is not lost. Remembering things that are good can help balance our sadness about the bad.
  3. Do something! Often, tragedies leave us feeling helpless and if there is nothing we can do. In many cases, this isn’t actually true. For instance, after a hate crime, you might engage in activities that help educate people about discrimination or racism. After a natural disaster, you might volunteer your time to help those who have been gravely affected by it. Maybe your action is simply to try to engage in meaningful conversation about what happened. Maybe you will seek to advocate about a related issue to your elected representative. Again, the choices is yours, but actions can help us to feel as though we are doing more than simply letting the world act on us and whip up around.
  4. Remember God’s Promises. This is not the obligatory <insert churchy phrase here.> In fact, I think some of those things can be more harmful than helpful. For more on this, check out this article: http://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2016/june/5-dumb-things-christians-must-stop-saying-when-evil-strikes.html. When I say remember God’s promises, what I mean is that it can be helpful to focus on God’s ability to move in the midst of and in spite of tragedy. It can be helpful to remind ourselves that awful events aren’t necessarily God reigning down wrath and fury. Sometimes, bad things are simply a bad person electing to do a bad thing. What I remind myself is, “I don’t know why this happened, but I trust that God is bigger than this mess”. Sometimes, I simply have to stop trying to understand, and focus on what is right in front of me. Sometimes, I have to acknowledge that what happened was a senseless act, and I may not ever understand WHY it happened, but trust God to help me grow through it. Even when I feel confused and frustrated, my ultimate goal is peace that will allow me to keep going. Remember these words:

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

“And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

It’s not easy. But we can get through it. Thanks for reading, and make Well Choices!

10 Things Your Church Member with Mental Illness Wants You to Know

I’m a church girl- always have been, probably always will be. I love church, I love the people in church, and I love all the possibilities of what the church can be. What I don’t love, is the way the church can tend to brush difficult conversations under the rug or make people to feel as though the problems in their life are the simple result of not enough faith. It’s just not that simple. Bad things happen to people who deserve it, and bad things happen to those who don’t. One of the areas where we seem to throw the most blame is those suffering with mental illness. They somehow become the “black sheep” of our communities, those who suffer silently, who pretend everything is OK because they are worried they will be chastised if they admit they are drowning. I think that most of us have good intentions. Because we believe in God’s omnipotence, we offer faith as the cure-all for every ailment. While that’s helpful, it’s not good enough to stop there. We don’t tell people with heart disease to just pray. We tell them to pray, and then go to the doctor. Mental illness is no different. In fact, we NEED to talk about it because 1 in 5 Americans is living with a  mental illness, including the folks you go to church with every Sunday! If you took the time to talk to one of these folks, here are some things they might say

  1. I have already prayed about it, and I will continue to pray about it. But sometimes I pray and nothing has changed yet. I need something else in addition to prayer.
  2. I can’t just turn it off, or “think positively,” I struggle every day to do all the things I’m supposed to do, and sometimes I am overwhelmed by my negative thoughts and emotions.
  3. I don’t always need advice. Sometimes, I just need you to listen and to know that you are there and you support me.
  4. I’m scared to tell people about what I deal with on a daily basis because I’m afraid they will judge me or think I’m “crazy.” I’m not crazy, I just struggle.
  5. What I face is not just mental- it’s emotional and even physical at times.
  6. I have thought about suicide. I don’t want to die, but sometimes it seems like the only way out.
  7. There are times I feel like no one understands what I’m going through, so I keep things to myself. It helps when other people share that they have struggles too.
  8. I put on a brave face so people won’t think I’m weak or faithless. I worry that if they know how much I hurt, they would think I’m not capable of anything.
  9. I am not my mental illness. I’m a person who lives with mental illness.
  10. I can get better if I have the right resources and support.

 

One of the best ways we can end stigma is by breaking the silence about mental health issues. You or someone you know has been affected by mental illness, I guarantee it. Your talking about it could be the thing that gives someone else permission to speak up and get the help they need. So don’t remain silent, let’s talk about it!

If you want to learn more about mental illness and what you can do to help, check out http://www.Nami.org for more information.

Thanks for reading and make Well Choices!

 

Savoring the Sweetness in Suffering

Suffering sucks. It just does. There’s no way around it. Sometimes our natural inclination is just to put our heads down and wait for the hard times to be over. The idea is that if we bury our heads, we can get through it. It’s true that we can get through it that way, but it may not be the best way. What if, instead of just waiting for the bad times to be over, you lifted your head and tried to figure out what you can learn during the hard times?

This would be a different stance for many of us, and it would have to be a conscious choice on a daily basis. It would mean taking a moment to dig in to the suffering, to explore it and see what else can be gleaned. But just imagine what you could get out of it!

You might learn some things about life. You might learn that life keeps going, even if it seems that you will be perpetually stuck in the frustrating place you’re in. You might learn, if you look closely, that it’s never all good or bad. Even in the darkest and most frustrating days, there are rays of hope and light. You might learn that those little things are things to be cherished, and that they can make the suffering more manageable.

You might also learns some things about yourself. You might learn how strong you are. You might learn how resourceful you are. You might even learn about some of your relationships (good things and not so good things). You could learn that you have some virtues you didn’t know you possessed.

The bottom line is that suffering presents us with a unique opportunity: groan or grow. Which do you choose? We’ve already been promised that God will never put more on us than we can bear- that means, we will survive whatever the obstacle is right now. Just keep going! Thanks for reading, and make Well Choices!

Resolved: Get Your Mind Right

Last year about this time, a provided some ideas for creating some resolutions you an actually stick to, if you choose to make them. This year, I’m trying a different strategy. The reality is that external changes only stick if there is internal change either along the way, or even before you notice a difference in your behavior. Lots of us make declarations about what will be different, but we don’t do the internal work to make the change stick. Often, these changes are spurred by some sense of conviction, or a sense that we “SHOULD” do it. There are certainly some things we should do, but if the incentive is all external, it’s a set up. This is especially true in our spiritual life. Yes, God wants you to commit, to grow stronger and deeper, to spend more time in devotion, and to become more in tune. But do YOU have the same desire? Do you want to go as deeply as God wants you to?

So, here’s my simple suggestion to you: Start from the inside, and work your way out. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • What  are the thoughts, feelings, or relationship patterns that keep me in this rut I’m trying to get out of?
  • What excuses do I tell myself that have allowed me to stay in this place I don’t want to be in?
  • What about changing am I afraid of, or worried about?
  • Do I really believe I can do this? What do I need from myself or others to make this change a permanent one?
  • Have I prayed and asked God to help me sustain this change? (Yes, you can even pray about your workout plan!)

Some of us are masters at self sabotage. We pick a day, make a declaration, start doing well, and the gradually over time chip away at all our gains. What happened to that 20 pounds you wanted to lose, or the money you were committed to saving, your yearly devotional plan, or the promotion you were planning to go after?

The Word is really clear about the importance of the internal person, especially the mind:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2a

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

So, in short, if you want to make your resolutions stick this year, get your mind right! Take the time to do the internal work, and it will show on the outside. Thanks for reading, and make Well Choices!

What Mental Illness is Not

Last month, I did a post to try to raise some awareness about how prevalent mental illness is. I was talking about legitimate mental illness. One of my biggest frustrations as a mental health professional is that we seem to simultaneously misunderstand and stigmatize folks with actual mental health concerns, while we throw around terms like “mentally ill” and “crazy” in situations that absolutely do not fit! I know that most of this is about our lack of education and lack of awareness, so I try to correct these things whenever I can. So, here are some things that mental illness is not:

Mental Illness is not Violence: Often, when someone commits a crime that we don’t understand, our first inclination is to say that they are mentally ill. That’s a huge cop out. Statistics indicate that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims or violent crimes than to be perpetrators of those crimes. In addition, there is much that can be categorized of mental illness which does not strip people of their ability to distinguish between right and wrong or suddenly make them violent criminals. (I’ll save you a long discussion on insanity pleas in the legal system)

For me, it’s an insult to those who have lived experience with mental illness to simply categorize them in the same group with people who we don’t understand, despise, or want to go away because their actions sicken us. This is not to say that those folks might not be dealing with a mental illness; maybe they are. That doesn’t mean the mental illness CAUSED the crime or problematic behavior (Check out this article if you don’t believe me: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/04/mental-illness-crime.aspx).

Mental Illness is not Bad Behavior: 99% the time, we can be held responsible for our actions, from criminal activity to simply acting out. People with lived experience with mental illness fight every day to manage their symptoms and function well. Sometimes, the folks who are most disruptive in our work and community environments are simply exhibiting bad behavior. Either they don’t care about or don’t feel subject to the consequences of their actions. Maybe they are so inwardly focused that they don’t see the impact of their actions on others. There are lots of possible reasons, many of which have nothing to do with a diagnosable condition.

Mental Illness is not a Death Sentence:  There is a really wide range of what can be diagnosed as a mental health condition, from a Major Depressive Episode, all the way to Schizophrenia. In very few cases does a diagnosis of a mental health condition mean that people’s lives will be negatively impacted forever. In many cases, the person may have a chronic condition that requires monitoring, support, intervention, and maybe medication. In those cases, with the appropriator treatment, people are able to lead normal, full lives. In other cases, the condition is temporary and goes away with treatment (or sometimes on its own) and people don’t feel much effect (if any) after the episode has passed. One of the most important things you should knows is that people’s experience with mental illness varies just like our heights, weights, and personalities. Rather than assuming you know someone’s experience because they have a diagnosis, it makes more sense to simply try to get to know them or ask if appropriate.

Mental Illness is not a sign of Personal Weakness Some of the strongest people I have ever met have been my clients. Sometimes people think that if others will just “change the way they think” or “try to see things positively” they could just wipe out their symptoms. It’s really not that simple. Often, mental illness is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain that people have absolutely no control over— they can’t just change their minds. I’m sure if that was easy, they would have done it already! Other times, people are having reactions to past life circumstances that have led to trouble figuring out  what to do in the present. “Strong” people are not immune from mental illness and “weak” people are not prone to it. It happens to everyone, even those of us who seem to have it together.

What I hope you’ll take away from this, is simply to be careful with how we attempt to categorize and talk about mental illness. I guarantee that you know someone impacted by a mental illness- whether you know it or not. The bottom line is that above all, these folks deserve your respect and support. Thank you for reading, and make Well Choices!

Old Rules in New Places

I spent most of last week with some folks talking about how personality and family relationships impact the way we operate in the world, how we handle conflict, and how we manage relationships. Here are some examples:

  • Maybe you have expectations that people will behave a certain way (and even act on that!) before you give them a chance to show you who they really are.
  • Maybe you’re in a new relationship and you realize that you manage conflict in a way that seems to make conflict worse rather than better.
  • Maybe you notice you have a hard time giving people feedback directly, and instead tend to communicate in passive aggressive ways.
  • Maybe you work hard to take care of others, but have trouble asking people for what you need.

These are just a few examples that I see commonly. Often, people develop these patterns because that’s what they were taught, either in families or previous experiences. One of our great qualities as human beings is that, especially in our early years, we adapt and figure out the best way to be OK in the situation that we’ve been placed in. If it’s a healthy/functioning environment, we learn mostly healthy ways of being. If there are challenges or the environment is dysfunctional in some way, we might learn ways of being that only work in the specific environment– they don’t translate well to the outside world. There are lots of psychological terms that we can use to describe this process, but I typically describe it to people as using old rules in new environments. We’re creatures of habit. We spent lots of years developing the rules that helped us to fulfill our roles in our families. So, when we get into an environment that operates differently, it can be a little hard to adapt. The challenge is that sometimes, the old rules don’t get us what we need. In fact, they may case more hurt than help. Here’s a thought experiment: think about a pattern or habit that seems to cause some conflict for you. Then ask yourself, “Why do I do this? Where did it come from?”  For many of us, that answer is either that our family did it that way, or the strategy was successful in some other past situation. But, that doesn’t it’s right for what you’re facing right now!

As adults, we tend to move into habit over adaptation. It mostly serves to keep us comfortable and save energy for what we see as more important things, but sometimes, we need to adapt again. In most situations where you’re feeling stuck, there’s simply a more effective way to get what you need or want. This may take some experimentation, or it may require a conversation with the people close to you- many times, they can tell you what isn’t working and what will.

Don’t ever become so complacent that you are not ready to handle the newness in your life! Things change, and in order to be best prepared for the changes, we have to be ready to adapt as needed. Many of us have been hoping and praying for newness- don’t mess it up by following the same old rules! Ask yourself: Are there some areas I need to adapt to be happy and fulfilled? Thanks for reading, and make Well Choices.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19a

When it’s Hard to See the Why

Recently I’ve been dealing with a situation that is stressful and very frustrating for me. My expectations for what I thought was supposed to happen aren’t being met, and I feel as though my hands are tied– I can’t really do much to change what’s happening. Admittedly, I’m a control freak. Sometimes, I get into these types of situations because I have inappropriate expectations in an environment, or I’m being too rigid. But, I’m about 95% sure I’m being reasonable in this situation (my husband thinks so too, and he’s usually the first one to check me! 🙂 Anyway, I have all this frustration that I really can’t fix, so I decided to seek out the Serenity Prayer. I’ve been focusing on my prayer life anyway and I thought it would be a good practice for me to meditate on it for the week. Now, I can recite the beginning of the Serenity Prayer by heart. However, I recently realized there’s more to it! Here’s the whole thing:

Serenity Prayer
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

I read it a couple of times, and instantly felt myself calm. The scripture from Romans 8:28 came to my mind: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Even when things don’t seem ok, they will be ok. Woo- Sah.

Then, the next day, I ran into this article: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/no-everything-does-not-happen-reason. The author states that “No, everything doesn’t happen for a reason” and makes this argument about our insistence on using this language:

It serves as an emotional distraction, one that cheats us out of the full measure of our real-time grief and outrage. We stutter and stop to try and find the whys of all of the suffering, instead of just letting ourselves admit that perhaps this all simply sucks on a grand scale.

In our profound distress, this idea forces us to run down dark, twisted rabbit trails, looking for the specific part of the greater plan that this suffering all fits into.

Even if somewhere beneath all of it; far below all the dizzying trauma that we experience here there is a fixed, redemptive reason for it all, it’s one that will likely remain well beyond our understanding so long as we inhabit flesh and blood.

Well, now I’m confused. Both of these things really do make sense to me. I want to believe that there is a purpose for my frustration and suffering, but I also want to feel justified in being angry, or upset, or saddened by what happens in my life. The therapist in me craves the validation of my human reactions to things, and I’ll admit that sometimes it seems our religious mindset does attempt to minimize or do away with our humanness. The author cited above goes on to say that while he doesn’t believe hard times are caused by God. He does believe there is something to be learned in the sacredness of suffering. I have to agree.

What I’m not ok with, is our using Romans 8:28 as a tool for shutting people up when they’re expressing frustration, or placating those who suffer rather than showing them our love and support. I also hope we can honestly admit at times, “I don’t know why this is happening. It doesn’t make sense. It feels unfair” and still believe in the omnipotence of God and our ability to withstand struggle. I haven’t found any scripture that says we aren’t allowed to feel sadness, anger, or frustration, even if those emotions are directed at God. If you don’t believe me, check out Psalms. Talk about honesty!

So, when I face these times, I’ll try to focus on how I can learn or grow, and something new I can learn about God. It won’t be easy, and I can’t even honestly say I look forward to the challenge. But, I do think it will be rewarding. Thanks for reading, and make Well Choices!

Why Wait for Tommorrow?

Ever wondered why people procrastinate? Certainly some of us are more “experienced” at procrastinating than others. Maybe some of us are just not great at time management.Often, for chronic procrastinators, this process is about avoidance. The thing we need to do is so intimidating, frustrating, or maybe even boring, that these folks just can’t bring themselves to complete the task. They might find things to distract themselves, tell themselves the task isn’t important, or save it for the last minute with the rationalization that “I work better under pressure.” Sound familiar?

I recently came across a blog post which suggests that procrastination is actually likely to occur with two other phenomena: self doubt, and anxiety. So, people who exhibit a lack of confidence or are unsure of their ability, are likely to feel anxious about upcoming tasks or demands, particularly difficult ones. In turn, those folks might engage in procrastination as a way to avoid the negative feelings they have about possibly failing at an important task. This is a dangerous cycle. Procrastination is ultimately about difficulty with self-control. It’s about an inability to delay immediate gratification (or withstand immediate difficulty) in order to do something that in the end will work in our favor.

Now, let’s add the spiritual to the equation. How many of us experience self-doubt that is totally contrary to what God says about us? How many of us worry, in situations where we already have a promise of protection and provision? How many of us avoid doing something we might feel called or directed to do because we are unsure of our ability to be successful. You don’t have to admit it, I will. For many of us, procrastination isn’t just about paying bills late, or just barely making a deadline at work. Some of us procrastinate on big things, important things– God things. Maybe you’ve gotten explicit direction from God about something, but your human brain can’t make the situation work, so you save it for later. You might bargain with God for more time, clearer direction, or even make excuses. You might think to yourself:

– “I need some more confirmation.”

– “I’m not ready. That’s for someone else to do.”

– “I won’t go there because I don’t want to mess it up.”

These kinds of things happen when our human understanding is left to its own devices. I think of Jonah as the ultimate procrastinator. I mean, you have to be serious about avoiding to go get on a boat! However, even getting on a boat and getting swallowed by a great fish didn’t keep him from doing what he was supposed to. So, basically, all your procrastinating is delaying the inevitable. What if you faced your fears and went for it? What wait for tomorrow when you could be living in your calling today?

Here are some tips:

  • Acknowledge your fear (it’s real. it’s ok), but don’t let it control you. Your fear is human, but it is not God’s will for us to live in and make decisions based on fear. Remember: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (1 Timothy 1:7).
  • Pass on the self-criticism. There is no requirement that you be a Saint in order to do work for the kingdom. Maybe that thing that you feel makes you unusable is the exact reason you’ve been given such a mission! (Remember Esther?)
  • Remember that you’re not in it alone. If God told you to do it, then the promise that God will be with you while you do it is understood!  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

It’s not easy to do it sometimes, but when you do, God gets the glory. Stop putting off what only you can do!

Thanks for reading, and make Well Choices.