Thursday, November 30, 2006

Strengthening Marriages: Alien Advice!



This is the final post in a series by Greg Wells.

Principal Two, continued: Fight fair. No hitting “below the belt.”

Yesterday, we looked at couples who are Screamers. Today's tip is for couples who are Aliens. Psychologist and author John Gray wrote a book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, that speaks to this very principal. That is, it often seems like our spouse is speaking a foreign language when we talk. They use the same words we know, but those words don’t seem to communicate what we think they are communicating.

Often one of my jobs during a counseling session is interpreting for one spouse what the other spouse really means, as opposed to what it sounds like they mean. If you and your spouse ever feel like you could use a translator, the next time you need to communicate something important, try the following technique:

1) Spouse #1 states what they want to say, while Spouse #2 listens without interrupting.

2) Spouse #2 then says to Spouse #1, “So what you’re saying is…” and then proceeds to restate in their own words what they just heard Spouse #1 say.

3) If Spouse #1 needs to clarify what they said to make it understood clearly, they will say so, clarify their point, and then Spouse #2 will once again say, “So what you’re saying is…” and try again to restate Spouse #1’s position. The process should continue until Spouse #1 agrees that Spouse #2 understands what is trying to be communicated, at which time they will reverse the process, with Spouse #2 speaking first.

4) Continue the process alternating back and forth until the conversation is finished.

While I’m not going to tell you that the techniques described in this series will assure you and your spouse will never again be at odds with one another, I can tell you that eleven-plus years into my marriage, my wife and I are communicating better than ever. You too, with some practice and commitment, can improve the communication in your marriage, and have a relationship that is thriving, rather than simply surviving.

Greg Wells is the Director of Counseling Services at 121 Community Church and the counselor at 121 Counseling Services. An ordained minister, Greg is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife have been married for eleven years, and work together raising their two daughters. Greg counsels on variety of issues, including trauma/abuse and intimacy in marriage.

You can contact Greg directly at: counseling@121cc.com.


(Photo on left by trekguy. Photo on right by claudecf. See Flickr.com for restrictions.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Strengthening Marriages: Stop Screaming!


Part III of a four-part series by Greg Wells.

Principal Two:
Fight fair.
No hitting “below the belt.”


Fighting (conflict) is part of any relationship, and learning to do so in a healthy way is imperative. Our natural tendency when angry is to try and hurt the other person before they can hurt us, and we all know what “buttons” to push to really do the most damage to our spouse. Pushing those buttons is the equivalent of hitting “below the belt,” and is something to be avoided at all costs.

The majority of couples I see in my practice that have trouble fighting fair and not hitting “below the belt” fall in to one of two categories: “Screamers” and “Aliens.”

If you and/or your spouse are Screamers—that is, you always seem to end up losing control and yelling at each other, try having a “Paper Fight.”

No, you don’t wad up paper and throw it at each other, as tempting as that might be. Rather, you are to agree ahead of time that the next time you get in an argument, either one of you can call a “time out” (literally use those words) and instead of having a verbal argument that turns into a screaming match, you’re going to Paper Fight.

Paper Fighting means just that: grab a pen/pencil and pad of paper, and both of you sit down at a table. WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING, the person who called “time out” is to start writing whatever they want to say. Once done, pass the paper to the other person, who is to read what was written, and then respond—on paper—with their side of things. This pattern should continue back and forth until both people can agree on paper that they are finished. It is important that NOTHING is said out loud from the moment “time out” is called until both agree on paper they are finished arguing.

The first time you try a Paper Fight, you can expect to spend upwards of an hour arguing it out. However, over time you’ll get more efficient at arguing on paper, as well as get better at not raising your voices in the first place. After all, it’s much easier to state calmly and clearly what you’re feeling than it is to have to write it all down.

Tomorrow: Advice for Aliens

Greg Wells is the Director of Counseling Services at 121 Community Church and the counselor at 121 Counseling Services. An ordained minister, Greg is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife have been married for eleven years, and work together raising their two daughters. Greg counsels on variety of issues, including trauma/abuse and intimacy in marriage.

You can contact Greg directly at: counseling@121cc.com.


(Photo by Mr. Wind-Up Bird. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Strengthening Marriages: Get Real!



Part II of a four-part series by Greg Wells.

Principal One: Say what you mean; mean what you say.

Say what you mean: It’s often much harder to state what you really want or desire from your spouse, but doing so will save much heartache and frustration in the long run. If you will work to be authentic in words and deeds and avoid playing emotional “games” with each other, it will go a long way towards saying what you mean. An example of this would be instead of making an under-the-breath remark about how long it’s been since you’ve had sex, tell your spouse you miss him/her, and would like to spend some time making love tonight.

Mean what you say: How many times have you had your feelings hurt by something your spouse said in a moment of anger, only to have him/her say later that they “didn’t really mean it, they were just blowing off steam?” While sometimes that’s simply an excuse for ugly behavior, we can say things in a moment of passion or frustration that we don’t fully mean. Phrases like “Maybe we should just get a divorce” or “I hate you” are sometimes easy to say, but hard to take back. It’s much better to take a deep breath and silently count to 10 (or 100!), giving yourself time to really think about what you are saying, than it is to respond immediately and later come to regret the damage that’s been done.

Tomorrow: Principal Two: Fight fair. No hitting “below the belt.”

Greg Wells is the Director of Counseling Services at 121 Community Church and the counselor at 121 Counseling Services. An ordained minister, Greg is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife have been married for eleven years, and work together raising their two daughters. Greg counsels on variety of issues, including trauma/abuse and intimacy in marriage.

You can contact Greg directly at: counseling@121cc.com.



(Photo by elventear. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Monday, November 27, 2006

In a Rut? Out of Sync? Discouraged? Fed Up? Counselor Greg Wells Is Here This Week with Advice for Stronger Marriages!



In yesterday’s post, Sarah quoted a line by Mrs. Billy Graham, in which Mrs. Graham jokingly stated while she’s never considered divorce, she has considered murder.

As a counselor, I’ve seen many couples who were considering divorce. Most of those couples would tell you they never expected to one day be in my office desperately seeking my help. However, it happens to the best of us. Even me.

Five years ago my wife and I were at that same place—desperately seeking wise counsel about how to repair and renew our marriage. And while we, like Mrs. Graham, would never consider divorce, it was rather sobering to have our counselor point out that we already were divorced in our hearts; we just hadn’t made it official with the court.

Jesus says that “…everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28 NASB). Surely the same principal would apply to wanting to no longer be married to one’s spouse! Clearly there was a lot of work for me and my wife to do.

Since odds are at least a few of you reading this entry have been or will one day be in the same miserable place we were, I’d like to share a few general principals of communication we learned in our counseling that helped save our marriage. These principals are tried and true practical tips to help you through the rough spots and into a healthier and happier relationship.

Coming Tomorrow: Principal One: Say what you mean; mean what you say.


Greg Wells is the Director of Counseling Services at 121 Community Church and the counselor at 121 Counseling Services. An ordained minister, Greg is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife have been married for eleven years, and work together raising their two daughters. Greg counsels on variety of issues, including trauma/abuse and intimacy in marriage.

You can contact Greg directly at: counseling@121cc.com.


("Modern Couple" pic by Colin Gregory Campbell. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

When "I Do" Means "We Fight"...


When Ruth [Graham, wife of Billy Graham] was asked by an interviewer whether, as a Christian woman, she had ever considered divorce, Mrs. Graham replied: "Divorce? No. Murder? Yes."

Source: Newsweek Magazine, Pilgrim's Progress, August 14, 2006

This Week: Christian Counselor Greg Wells in a four-part series on communication in marriage.

(Photo by Sir Johnson & The Queen. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Vintage Movie about Searching


(Montgomery Clift):

"Who do you depend on?"

(Marilyn Monroe):

"Maybe all there is is the next thing... the next thing that comes around."

It's interesting to watch movies through the prism of our faith. Todd and I rented The Misfits the other night. The 1961 star-blazing movie directed by John Huston. With headliners Marilyn Monroe, Clark Cable, Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach and others, it's amazing the movie wasn't a critical or commercial success. Audiences found Monroe in the character of melancholy divorcee Rosalyn Taber hard to embrace. Out of her classic pin-up casting and wrapped around gritty gray cinematography, this was evidently not what movie-goers of 1960's wanted from Monroe.

The movie has found a new audience over the years, though, among viewers who've locked onto a theme of loss that courses throughout. As one reviewer said recently, it's a film about "... lost people with nothing left to lose."

Poignantly, it would be the last film for several of the leads, including Gable and Monroe. I didn't love this movie; it saddened me. But I'll remember it... for its haunting immersion into the dark well of discontent. And an achingly tender passing glance at, perhaps, the real heart of Marilyn Monroe.

He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hope You Had a Great Thanksgiving... Now It's Time To Exercise!




In 20 years, failure to exercise six days a week will seem as self-destructive as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

Henry S. Lodge, MD

Source: Hope Health Newsletter, September 2006

p.s. Looking for something to do with all that leftover turkey? Check out the "chicken pot pie" recipe in September's archives! It's simple and delicious.

(Photo by Jeff Kubina. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

11.23.06


Forever on Thanksgiving Day, the heart will
find the pathway home.

Wilbur D. Nesbit (1871-1927)



(Photo by katmere. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Importance of Humor: Part II



Hunt for humor

It's everywhere. Whether it's irony or absurdity or silliness, there's something to laugh at in virtually all circumstances. Even at funerals, loved ones sometimes drift between laughter and tears as lighthearted stories and joyful memories are shared. At our worst times, humor gives us a release and a respite, if only fleeting, from our sufferings. I know of a cancer victim who underwent breast reconstruction following a mastectomy using tissue grafted from her abdomen. As she lay in the hospital recovering from surgery, she quipped, "The tummy tuck was free."

Discipline yourself to look for the positve in all situations. Feeling down or gloomy? Stop and inventory what you have to be thankful for. Focus on the good in your life... down to the basics that we tend to take for granted. We watched a History Channel special on the Mayflower the other night. Talk about challenge and hardship! Think about people all over the globe in 2006 living in hopeless conditions and squalor. People being perecuted for the liberties we take for granted. Considering the alternatives is a powerful "wake up" call that can restore light into complacent and ungrateful hearts. (Right about now you're thinking this article about humor sure did get kind of dark. Sometimes we do benefit from a greater awareness of the contrasts in life--e.g., I felt bad because I didn't have shoes until I met a man who had no feet--as we strive to remain grateful, optimistic and light-hearted.)

Amid the sometimes grim reality of the nightly news, there's plenty of humor and irony in the arts, entertainment and current events. Find stories that strike you as funny and share them with one or two people. Have a little "stash" of headline news material ready to roll as you encounter people in your daily activities. The internet news services, such as MSNBC.com, are a great resource for quick headlines that can get your creative thought process going. I keep a little spiral notebook handy. It's mostly filled with lyrics to new songs I want to "google." But I also use it to capture observations. Consider keeping your own little journal for documenting interesting or comical encounters with life.

You are your own best material!

I remember asking a hair stylist a couple years ago to "lightly trim the ends." Three-and-a-half-inches later I looked like a sad little monk. I wanted to just cry! I ran into a friend the next day and she said, "Your hair is so short!" I replied, "Yes! I'm auditioning for the lead in the sequel to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory!" We had a good laugh. The rest of the week, as I ran into people, I just pointed to my head and said "Johnny Depp." They knew exactly what I was talking about and it became a great joke. It took forever to grow that haircut out. But it was very good for laughs while it lasted. Looking for a perfect subject to laugh about? It's you!


But, do be discerning...

One of Todd's relatives was telling a funny story once. After he was done, we all laughed. There was a small pause. Then I said, "Well, that was a real knee slapper!" I was genuinely amused by the story!. But the words somehow spilled out of my mouth with a hint of sarcasm, suggesting that I didn't think it was funny at all. The person kind of looked at me disapprovingly and must have thought I was rude. In fact, I was rude. It was entirely unintentional. But rude nonethless. I could have gotten by with that, perhaps, with a close friend. But I sure didn't build any bridges with that relationship. I believe the Holy Spirit helps restrain us from using humor unwisely. Sometimes before I say something, I'll get a little "vibe" that, perhaps, it's best not to joke about something. The times I've ignored this impression are the times I've typically erred.

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Eph 5:4

Humor that belittles others or is vulgar is never appropriate. I remember a dinner party once in which someone told a crass joke about extra-marital affairs. It just so happened, the jokester was sitting across the table from a woman who was freshly divorced from an unfaithful husband. The joke fell flat and the evening was just about ruined.

So be discerning and always keep it clean!

Go for it!

A famous pastor once remarked that he felt mildly sick to his stomach with fear every time he faced an audience. Some very popular actors and actresses suffer stage fright. We all, on some level, are reluctant to expose ourselves verbally for fear of failure. Unfortunately, this restraint keeps a lot of good stories inside our heads that never get shared! Have some courage and show your humorous side to others! With a little bit of practice, it will get easier! And you will rejoice in the smiles of those around you.

Be a good audience.

I love talking to Erica and Vickie at the Colleyville Public Library. They have such great laughs and are always so gracious. Sometimes I say things that are hardly funny, but they both repond positively to even my most feeble attempts at humor. If you can see that someone is trying to be funny and, perhaps, not quite cutting it, bail them out! Smile and laugh! Be a kind audience and people will want to be around you. This applies to group settings, too. When a speaker is addressing a group, don't think he or she doesn't see you just because there's a room full of other people there. Speakers are reading faces and body languages and looking for people who are smiling and tuned in. This helps keep them animated and fired up! Pastors are encouraged by your smiles and laughter, too. Be the first person to laugh at a joke! Chances are, there are people around you who think it's funny, too. They're just waiting for someone to respond first.

Be yourself.

Your style of humor is unique to you. It may be in your words or writing. It may be in your body language or the tone of voice. It may be in your facial expressions or your ability to draw out the humor in others. Not everyone can be a Billy Crystal. Then again, Billy Crystal can't be you! So feel good about how God made you and make someone laugh today!


(Photo by Tylerknott. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Importance of Humor


And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened." (1 Kings 18:27).

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel (Matthew 23:24).

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3).

The door turns on its hinges, and the lazy man on his bed (Proverbs 26:14).

Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion(Proverbs 11:22).

Better to live on a corner of a roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife (Proverbs 25:24).



Does God have a sense of humor? Not according to British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) who claimed a total void of humor within the Bible. Pray tell, one wonders, how he missed the mirth? How can one pass over verses like those above and not grin? Throughout the Bible, there are puns, satires, riddles and plays on words. There's irony, sarcasm, hyperbole and exaggeration.

Every time I come across the "speck in the eye" verse, I smile. It makes me think. And it creates a mental picture that makes me laugh. Though He's making a searing point about hypocrisy, I find in this verse what I perceive to be a sense of humor on the part of Jesus.

We took a group of first graders on a field trip last week to the Dallas City Park. My friend, Carrie, made me laugh so hard I hurt (Jamey: see "comments" under "Choosing Contentment"). It was good for the soul. My friend, Amy, keeps me in stitches across the miles with silly jokes we've been sharing for many years. I think of other friends who are especially close. Without exception, they all have a good sense of humor. God has given us the capacity to laugh. Sometimes, I believe, so that we might survive.

My oldest brother is a hospital pharmacist in Oregon. When I was undergoing cancer treatments, he told me about the lady who showed some months after her last round of chemotheraphy. The bone-straight hair she'd lost during cancer therapy had grown back short and curly. "How do you like my $118,000 perm?" she deadpanned. This made me smile in the midst of my own circumstances.

People Magazine just declared George Clooney the "sexiest man alive." When asked what qualities he most desires in a woman, what do you suppose he said? Long legs? Perfect smile? Oscars on the mantle? Nope. George says a "sense of humor" is the most important criterion. (For what that's worth, ladies...)

Humor is important. It can turn, as they say, a frown upside down. It elevates those around us. It can also be utilized, judicially, in our efforts to lead people to Christ. Those with a good sense of humor tend to have warmth. People want to be around them. And as we seek to reach the lost, this becomes a potentially powerful tool for gaining entry into someone's world.

Having a sense of humor isn't about trying to be the funniest person in the room. Or memorizing punch lines. Your style of humor is unique to you. And how you receive humor is just as important as how it's delivered. Let's explore in a two-part how a sense of humor can be developed!

Coming Soon: Part II: Ministering Through Humor


(Photo by wizziebob. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Star Wars... Make Room for Soone!




Our family is quite excited by the release of "Chronicles of Soone: Heir to the King" by new author James Somers. It's edge-of-your-seat, jaw-dropping adventure that's squeaky clean. My ten-year-old son, John, has pushed aside his Star Wars media and declared Soone the hands-down winner on the thrills meter. Below is his review.

I am a HUGE fan of Star Wars and this just might have topped it! I'm a fan of the Chronicles of Narnia and Star Wars. Now I get to add the Chronicles of Soone to my list. I just finished reading it. This is the best book I've ever read. So move over Star Wars! It includes clones and good guys and bad guys and God and planets and space travel and even people with exo-skeletons! I can't wait until the second book in the series comes out. It is a great story that includes God!

"Chronicles of Soone: Heir to the King" is available in major bookstores and online at amazon.com. It's moving pretty fast, so you might want to order while it's still in stock! Guaranteed to be a hit with your Star Wars and Chronicles of Narnia fans.

(Photo of John Onderdonk, the reviewer.)

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Servant's Heart


I love the Colleyville Public Library. They have a great collection of books and media, it’s true. But the thing I love most about the library isn’t a thing at all. It’s the people there. Mary Rodne and her staff are a truly incredible team. They supported us in so many ways while I was undergoing cancer treatment. It’s a privilege to call them friends.

A couple of weeks ago, I needed to talk to Melissa in Youth Services about something. Rather than consult my directory for the number (i.e., my pile of post-a-notes dating back to 1994…), I did a quick “google” for the number. I guess I was in rush, so I didn’t bother to bring up the whole document. I just took a quick look at the “google” summary that popped up and dialed the number. So, I was surprised when the familiar automated system didn’t engage and a man answered, instead.

“Hello,” he said.

“Oh…” I replied… “I guess this isn’t the Colleyville Public Library?”

“No,” he answered. “It’s the mayor.”

“The mmmayor?” I sputtered. “I’ve dialed the mayor! You’re not the Colleyville Public Library?”

“No, I’m the mayor,” he re-stated. “Can I help you with something?”

“Oh, no, sir! I have the wrong number! I’m terribly sorry! You are the mayor! And I have dialed the wrong number!” I exclaimed, no doubt blowing him away with my impressive regurgitation of the obvious.

“Maybe I can help you,” he said.

I’m thinking… what? The mayor wants to help me?

“Can I track down that number for you?” he continued.

Silence.

The mayor has put his ribbon cutting shears aside and is now serving as directory assistance and I am stunned silent.

I don’t know what I was expecting. But it wasn’t this level of humility and helpfulness from someone who probably has a big mahogany desk and city budgets to wrestle.

The mayor, it seems, has a servant’s heart. It was evident in this small thoughtful gesture. I was just some stuttering anonymous constituent who had crash landed into his day. He could have said “You’ve dialed the wrong number” and gotten back to city management. But he offered to help me.

There’s a beautiful bronze statue on the campus of Dallas Seminary that depicts Jesus washing the feet of Peter. God Incarnate stooping humbly to serve one who served Him. A model for all of us. The day I think I am too important to “stoop” to something is the day I am dancing with the devil.

“…For whoever is least among you all, this one will be great."
Luke 9:48

Question (for me and you): Who are we serving and why?


(Photo of Library Books for Babies kick-off featuring Colleyville Mayor David Kelly and some awesome Colleyville Public Library staffers, including Library Director Mary Rodne far right. My friend Melissa is wearing the red jacket.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Choosing Contentment: Final Chapter

In the book of Ruth, we are given a rich and sentimental portrait of divine and human love. Bible interpreters point to themes of redemption and loyalty. There’s also a sustaining note of contentment.

Ruth, as you may recall, is the daughter-in-law of Naomi, who has lost both her husband and two sons. Ruth is encouraged by her mother-in-law to return to her original home to start life anew. Ruth, instead, has “clung” (Ruth 1:14) to Naomi and vowed:

“… Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)

The two women then journey together from Moab to Naomi’s homeland of Bethlehem. When the townspeople come to greet them, Naomi speaks of divine disfavor and emptiness. It’s the picture of a woman utterly spent and heartbroken.

If Ruth had any illusions that there would be immediate respite in Naomi’s hometown, she would have been sadly mistaken. Naomi carried the pain with her. And now the two widows faced the bleak prospect of fending for themselves.

At this point, Ruth had two choices. She could sink into despair. Or she could put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

The next time we hear from Ruth she has proposed a way to secure food—the dropped or discarded remnants of grain from the fields—so that the two women can survive. Ruth has a plan. She has subordinated her own grief and is actively trying to regroup.

There are virtues exhibited here. And certainly contentment is by-product of those virtues—if not a virtue in and of itself. The biblical account of Ruth depicts a woman who's made a choice and is honoring that commitment with faith and action. She is a woman without a husband in a foreign community facing hunger and poverty. But she is not defeated. She has faith. She has hope. She is abiding in the theater of uncertainty and transition without self-pity or complaint. And she will be redeemed and richly rewarded for her loyalty and perseverance.

Contented people are stable people. Unfazed by fads and fancies and “grass is always greener” fantasies. Not to be confused with complacency which makes us dormant and dull. Rather, it’s about living our lives with a spirit of gratitude and ever-ignited hope. Changing what needs to be changed. And aspiring to a state of peace and grace around what can’t.

Question: Do you have discontent in your life? What are you doing to change it? If it’s unchangeable, what is the good that can come of it? As Stormie Omartian has said, let's ask ourselves “What’s right with this picture?"


(Photo by Icey Cake. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Choosing Contentment: Part II


So it’s just me and my little chatty man on Thursday. I whipped out my calendar to assess what’s happening in the short term and nearly swooned. There are essentially no significant daytime “windows” for more than a week for stuff that really needs to get done. And now I have a day-and-a-half to play Cherry-O with Mr. Activity.

Red Light! Stop! Pause! Why so negative? What am I thinking?

My thoughts shifted immediately to Celine Dion and her apparent sadness over too little time spent with her child. And I thought about Sarah Bragg and what she said about contentment being a choice. I connected those two dots and found myself in the middle of decision-making process. I could spend the rest of the day fretting about what I “should” be doing, or I could seize the moment with my youngest son. I might never have another opportunity quite like it. Cherry-O. Batman. Forty-three continuous rounds of pick-up sticks. Whatever. Perhaps this is what I should be doing.

Just Daniel and me.

All of a sudden, I realized I was smack in the eye of a blessed opportunity. It was a beautiful day in Texas (85 degrees in November!), so we went to the playground. When we got home, we read books, did crafts, had a little Bible study, and just kind of hung out. When I was putting Daniel to bed that night, he said “Mommy, I’m sad this day is over.” And I was too. I didn’t get a single thing “accomplished” and it certainly wasn’t how I planned to spend the day. But Daniel and I built memories together and we created a day that neither of us will long forget.

A near-perfect day, actually. That almost wasn’t…

Question: What choices are you making when things don’t go as planned? Is there such a thing as emotional flexibility? Can you stop and "pause" and be deliberative about your emotional responses... continually seeking out what's good... versus riding the wave of feelings?

Coming Tomorrow: A Biblical Perspective on Contentment

(Photo of Daniel and his "Hugging Machine")

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Choosing Contentment: Part I

Daniel is our little treasure hunter. On a recent outing at Grapevine Lake, he stumbled upon this "treasure" and announced, "Hey! Somebody lost their jaw!" Ewwww! Mom, if you're reading this, the answer is, "Yes, he washed his hands!"



I caught part of an interview with Celine Dion on Fox News a couple weeks ago. At one point, she and the interviewer waded into territory that seemed to scratch at emotions. Dion was explaining how she would be spending a two-day break from her Las Vegas show. I thought I saw a hint of passion—maybe even defiance—as she described how she would be spending two days doing “normal” things with her son. She was going to bake three colors of cakes, she said with great emphasis, and enjoy every second of the time spent with her child. She went on to say that mothers who stay home with their children often want to find a way to escape, while mothers who do not stay home want nothing more than to spend more time with their children. Why is it that we always seem to want what we don’t have?

I would soon be thinking of this interview and something that Sarah Bragg said about the “choice” of contentment when the phone rang at noon last Wednesday. It was the school nurse calling with the news that Daniel was running a fever and would need to come home. So I shut down my online seminary lecture, swiped on some frosty lipstick (ah, vanity) and bolted out the door. I was relieved to find Daniel sitting in the nurse’s office with only a low-grade fever. After a nap and good night’s rest, he was fever-free and all but back to his wildly inexhaustible self.

The school has a policy of “fever free for 24 hours before you send them back.” So even though Daniel was good to go, he needed to skip school the next day for the sake of others. Little did I know that Celine Dion and Sarah Bragg would lead me to something of a “breakthrough” regarding my perspective. You see, I was faced with a choice last week as I stared into the twinkly eyes of my six year old. My plans hadn't involved playing I Spy and Batman on Thursday. I had counted on the day to catch up on commitments in advance of a chock-full week ahead. But I could see now with crystal clarity that my attitude could be influenced by choice. I could let a radical shift in "priorities" freeze my thoughts for the day on what was undone and looming. Or I could seize the moment.

Coming Soon: It Sure Didn’t Fit with My Plans, But This Is How We Spent Our Day…

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Storm Brewing in Colleyville!



Congratulations Colleyville Storm on the Fall Championship!

(Photo of Colleyville Storm 11.11.06)

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Friend in Deed


By Rev. Doug Freeman

Imagine you make $1800 per month and live in an apartment costing $550 per month with all utilities included. You go to work one day and that is the last thing you remember. You wake up six months later in a hospital bed. The doctors say that you have had an insult to your spinal column that will severly limit your movements. Talking is even difficult. Getting out of a chair take several minutes. If you need to go to the bathroom you better leave lots of time to get there. Your disability check was $98 per month and social security was $519 per month (total income $617).

The rent fee that looked like a good deal is now killing you. Meanwhile, an administrative "glitch" is resulting in a temporary loss of some Social Security benefits. Now your income is $256. What do you do?

The Seniors' Net is working to restore her benefits but that will take up to 90 days. Hence, we have paid her rent for two months until her benefits are restored. We deliver food from our food pantry. Due to her disability, we put the food in the refrigerator and cabinets so that her six-hour-per-day caregiver can focus on other needs. We have been working with Dallas County Housing Authority to find less expensive housing.

Meanwhile, the safest place for her to live is on the floor. Her caregiver places all the things she might need for the day on the floor around a blanket so she can reach them. That is how you spend your day.

Doug Freeman walked away from the $60 million dollar technology firm he helped found to launch The Seniors' Net, which serves nearly 3,000 elderly people in the Dallas metroplex. Since January 2003, more than 500 volunteers have worked 21,727 hours. They've provided 49,834 pounds of food and driven 28,086 miles to and from projects ranging from home repair to emergency assistance. Doug holds a Master's in Divinity from the Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

If you're looking for a service outlet in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, contact Doug at The Seniors' Net: 972-808-9893. Check it out on the web at: www.thenetwork.org/seniorsnet.htm.

(Doug was featured in my book, Little Sins, Big Problems. He has some great stories. Like the time he took a bus full of sweet but legally blind ladies lingerie shopping. That was quite an outing. What a guy! Doug would be the first to tell you there's never a dull moment serving the elderly.)


Question: Does your cup runneth over this Thanksgiving? Please consider sharing some of your time and money with those who are less fortunate!

(Photo shows Doug Freeman with Sharlee Lurks, who is pictured here recuperating after falling and spending three days on the floor. Doug's group was instrumental in providing practical assistance to Sharlee and plenty of TLC.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

New Jeremy Camp


A little sweet... a little edgy... a little pop... a little rock.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Della Vaughan on Real Beauty

(Della posted this as a "comment" earlier and I liked it so much I'm running it again!)

I agree that most women want to be beautiful and most men want to have what it takes. So, why is this wrong? Why has beauty become associated with negativity? God created beauty.

We see and enjoy beauty in every sunset, in the wildflowers along the roadside, in the majesty of the mountains, in the peaceful calm of a quiet stream. Beauty is a part of God's essence.

Our problem, as a culture and as believers within that culture, is that we have allowed the creature, rather than the Creator, to define beauty. The enemy has perverted beauty and we have been deceived by his lies. And is it any wonder, since we are so frequently tuned in to his messages? "This is beauty. Here's what it looks like," he says. And we listen. We watch, we subscribe, we buy. And suddenly we realize we have allowed no time for the Author of beauty to refresh our souls by writing truth on the pages of our minds and hearts. As a result, we have become idolators; lovers and worshippers of self - always pursuing that American dream and coming up empty.

God has provided a solution. The question becomes, "Do we believe Him?" If we do, we will teach our children. We will teach our daughters that authentic beauty is found in the radiance of the Spirit of God living in us. Let's begin to show our girls that beauty is manifested in the compassionate heart of a servant. Let's remind them that beauty shows up and listens, comforts, and welcomes. Beauty radiates from every person who is a reflection of Jesus Christ.

This is beauty that never fades; real beauty upon which desperate people long to gaze. To place our focus on physical appearance is to have a temporal perspective.

How do we develop an eternal perspective? By faith; we must believe God. We must be willing to take that road less traveled? It is narrow and often difficult, but it is the real path of beauty ... the one that draws others to us and inevitably, to our God who is the creator of all that is beautiful. Only then will we grasp the words of the skin horse who said, "Once you are real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." (The Velveteen Rabbit)


Della is a loving wife, mom, educator, and student at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Morality in Question: Final Chapter!


(This is the final post in a series of four... see where we began below!)

Now I am face to face with a man whose beautiful car I just scratched.

“I was just writing you a note,” I began. “I was getting out of my car and my door swung wide and scratched your side-view mirror.”

There was a moment of silence as I searched out any hint of change in facial expression that would clue me in to how loud he was going to yell at me. I noticed a purposeful kind of “blink” and a tiny narrowing of his lips as he probably contemplated the word “scratch” as it related to his $50,000 automobile. The silence went on a little longer than I could bear, so I filled the air with words.

“I’m so sorry! It’s all here,” I said displaying my note. “Oh, I am so, so, so sorry! But it’s all here! My name. I’m Sarah! My phone number. Here it is! Can you read it? Here we go… let me read it to you… it’s…”

“Don’t worry about it,” he interrupted.

“Excuse me?” I replied, handing him my note.

“Don’t worry about it,” he repeated, handing me back my note.

“Oh, of course I’m worried! This is obviously a brand-new car and you have your first scratch and I did it!” I rattled on, handing the note back in what is now a game of “hot potato” in the parking lot.

He took the note from my hands… read it quickly… attempted one more return of it, probably got sick of playing hot potato, then casually stuffed it in his car pocket.

“Thank you,” he said with a smile. “Thank you for telling me.”

Then he and his blemished side-view mirror just drove off! He didn’t even get out of the car to look at the damage! He said “thank you” and took off!

What unmerited grace! He didn’t yell at me. My soul was right with God. And I was free. As I explained to my boys, it was a surprise and a blessing that it all turned out so sweetly. But regardless of the man’s response… whether he responded with kindness or lost his temper… the truth set me free. I will never be faced with thinking about that incident negatively every time I see a scratch on a car. I will never have to feel like a hypocrite when I see a dent on my own car and wonder why the person who did it didn’t have the guts to fess up. I will never have to account to God for bad thoughts that turned into bad actions regarding that incident. How I wish, in retrospect, I'd gone to God and asked Him to manage every sinful moment in my life just like that.

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
(John 8:32)


Are you free? It doesn’t always come to us automatically. When we cave to our earthly “defaults,” we can be led astray. But Scripture affirms that God will make our paths straight if we earnestly surrender to His direction when controversy, temptation or trouble presents.

Question: Are you faced with a moral dilemma today? What is the path to freedom? What does God want you to do about it?

(Photo by wader. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006


A friend is in prosperity a pleasure, a solace in adversity, in grief a comfort, in joy a merry companion, at all times an other I.

John Lyly in Euphues

(Diana and I at the FCS musical 11.2.06)

About Ted Haggard...

This is a story about a man named Ted.
Not a Savior named Christ.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Morality in Question... Part III



(This is the third post in a series of four... see earlier entries below.)

The “score” now is even and any “peace” I felt over my initial decision to do the right thing is supplanted with this tumultuous inner wrestling match between my carnal self and the part of me that wants to be righteous. I began to feel anxious and conflicted. I know I'm not following after God at this point. Instead, I am teetering on a moral precipice alongside someone else.

Consider the words of Scripture:

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7) In the New Testament, Peter describes a lion on the prowl, looking to devour us. (1 Peter 5:8)

The Bible alternately paints the picture of a beast lying in wait and a lion on the hunt as it warns us about the stealth and unrelenting ferocity of evil. Both images suggest great harm will befall those who are not vigilantly aware. And in the mortal realm, awareness is not a one-time achievement. It’s a daily battle to stay anchored to Christ amidst the harmful lures and magnets of this world.

As I sat in my car contemplating my “options,” I was overcome with a gnawing sense of internal confusion and now shame.

So I had a third thought: “What would God want me to do?”

In this appeal for divine help, the Spirit of God, Whom the Bible calls our “Counselor,” “Advocate,” and “Comforter,” ripped the reigns from my hands and took control. I was hurled like a flying shot-put right back to my first thought: write a note! Instantly, all the confusion and anxiety I was feeling amid unrighteous thoughts simply vanished. It was as if God slapped duct tape on Satan’s mouth and the inner tugs and turmoil simply ceased. It's tempting to rationalize. The scratch was just a little thing. It's not as if I committed arson or grand theft, right? But just as small droplets of rain over time can erode strong banks of land, everyday sins corrupt and corrode our relationship with God.

I prayed to God that He would forgive my “faulty heart” for entertaining any option other than the right one, and I wrote a note of apology identifying myself as the one who scratched the car.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6)

I was just signing my name when I noticed a man cutting across the parking lot and heading toward that Lexus. It was the owner of the car! As he was getting in, I approached his window and gestured to him that I had a note. He rolled down the window and what happened next, well, was rather surprising, to say the least…

Final Score:

Team "Right": 2
Team "Wrong": 1

Next Up: Then Guess What Happened?

(Photo by mikekiazyk. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Morality in Question... Part II


(You may want to catch up by first reading the post below this one.)

So I’ve accidentally scratched someone’s new car. My first thought was this: “I better leave a note and give my number so I can pay for the repair.”

With my moral compass pointed directly north, I spirited the boys to their respective fields then made a fast dash back to the car to pen my note of apology. I climbed back into the driver’s seat and began to fumble for a scrap of paper.

Round One:

Team "Right": 1
Team "Wrong": 0


Then all of a sudden something inside started to veer off course. You see, sitting there in my car, I had a second thought:

“Well, there was a little bit of wind… I’m really only partly to blame here… and who has ever put a note on my car? And why are these parking spaces so close together? And it really is just a tiny scratch. And what if the owner is some guy who’s in love with this car. He might yell at me. Then I will cry. The scene will be worse than the scratch! Oh, this has become complicated! Why not just forget about it?”

Round Two:

Team "Right": 0
Team "Wrong": 1

Next Up: Who Wins and How?

(Crossroads pic by alpoma. See flickr.com for restrictions on use.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Morality in Question at the Ballpark...

We had two little league games scheduled at 6:00 on Tuesday night. We’d blasted through the homework, torn through the house looking for missing uniform elements, and choked down a half-a-dozen soy dogs with mere minutes to go before we were officially “late” for warm-ups. In the parking lot at the ballpark, I was huffing and puffing myself out the driver’s seat while simultaneously trying to manage kids pouring out the back, bat bags leaking water bottles on my foot, a purse, my backpack, the family stadium blanket, and two months worth of Wal-Mart receipts swirling about the inside of my car like tickets in a grand-prize drum.

It’s amazing with all the multi-tasking going on that I could even hear the little “sckrssssh” sound as my door popped one joint too many and smacked the passenger’s mirror of the car next to us: a gorgeous, brand-new, champagne-colored Lexus. “Uh-oh,” I thought. Close inspection revealed what looked to be a fresh scratch on this otherwise immaculate wonder of modern engineering. I let everything, including my jaw, kind of fall to the ground as I did an immediate “re-enactment” of the crime scene.

“Yep. Scratch matches my door. I’m guilty.”

Coming Soon: What Happened Next?



(Photo by mindgraph. See flickr.com for restrictions on use.)