This blog will allow students that participated in the relationship improvement class to review and expand upon the things they learned during classroom instruction. I also extend the invitation to anyone who is interested in improving his or her interpersonal relationships to peruse the materials available here. I hope that you will be edified by what you find. As you can see, however, the blog is (and hopefully will always be) a work in progress. I humbly ask for your patience and extend to you the promise that it will become more and more useful to you as time goes on. I also want site visitors to understand that I am solely responsible for the content of this blog and that statements, artwork, or other material found herein should not be construed to represent the feelings, beliefs, etc. of any other person or organization, including any of my employers or the church I attend. Again, I am solely responsible for this blog's content, except in those instances when I have used quotations, videos, and so forth created by other individuals, in which case I have done my best to provide accurate source documentation. If you have any comments or suggested improvements, feel free to email me at InsideOutChange@gmail.com. As time goes by, please continue to check back; I'll do my best to make this blog the best it can be!

Friday, January 23, 2009

#16: Barreling Over the Falls: LIFE in the Middle of the Relationship Apocalypse

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have put what amounts to nearly an entire lesson's worth of material from one of my Friday night classes in a series of posts on my other blog. I did it as a sort of experiment, just to see how it would work and if it was worth the time it took. The title of the lesson is "Barreling Over the Falls: Life in the Middle of the Relationship Apocalypse." Again, the address is class-lifeinthemiddle.blogspot.com. The lesson material is contained in posts 3-8 and proceeds in numerical order starting with post 3. There are quite a few video clips that are embedded in the posts, as well as practical advice from Dr. John Gottman, one of America's most respected marriage researchers/clinicians. Please check it out and let me know what you think. If anyone would like a copy of the worksheet that is referenced in the posts, simply contact me by email. Have a great day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

#15: My New Class/Blog

I just wanted to publish a quick post to inform visitors to InsideOutChange that I now have another blog as well. It is associated with a new class that I am developing and teaching called "midLIFEdle" (LIFE in the middle). The primary purpose of my other blog will be to post reflections, insights, video clips, etc. that relate to this new class, but I am confident that if you feel that the material available here at InsideOutChange is beneficial you will be able to benefit from the material on the new blog as well. The address is class-lifeinthemiddle.blogspot.com. You can access the blog by clicking on the previous link, by typing the address into your browser, or by clicking on my profile info on this blog and using the link that is provided there. As always, if you have questions, feel free to email me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

#14: The Advent of Jesus the Messiah

First, let me say that I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and holiday season. Second, I will simply state that the contents of this post are a bit overdue; I had planned to have them up before Christmas. In fact, the material you see here is the text of a booklet that I created and gave to some friends and colleagues for Christmas. If anyone would like a PDF copy of the booklet, feel free to email me. Having said that, however, the message of this post is just as applicable today as it was in December and will be tomorrow. Throughout the Christmas season, I saw on mantles, on walls, and in lights this message: "Wise Men Still Seek Him." That is as true today as it was a month ago. Just because Christmas has once again come and gone does not mean that we as individuals should cease striving to remember and emulate the Reason for the season, even Jesus Christ.

The Advent of Jesus the Messiah

I invite you to close your eyes and see with me, in your mind’s eye, a scene that has been depicted so many ways by so many different people throughout the years. The place is Bethlehem of Judea, where Joseph has brought his very pregnant wife, Mary, to take part in the census mandated by Caesar Augustus. Finding no traditional lodging available, the couple has sought refuge in a stable—probably a simple stone cave hewn out of a nearby hillside. In these humblest of circumstances, Mary was to bring forth her firstborn son, wrap him in swaddling clothes and lay him in a manger. As we picture this setting in our minds, let us examine a few of the characters that played a role in this, the advent of our Lord. My hope is that by so doing our view of this singular event may become more panoramic. To begin, let us first consider the word advent. This word is used when describing the events of those extraordinary days in and around David’s city, often as a synonym for birth. However, another definition of the word advent seems more appropriate for our present undertaking; that word is introduction. For as we are introduced to some of the players in the remarkable cast surrounding the birth of the Holy One, it is my hope that we gain a greater measure of appreciation for their role in introducing Him to the world at large and to each of us individually.

In the Stable of Bethlehem

We begin in the stable, the makeshift motel of the mortal Messiah. It was no doubt home to various creatures, and it is likely with some trepidation that we imagine the sights, sounds, and smells of such a place as this. The stark reality of these things—the pungent aroma of manure, the improbability of completing a task as mundane as finding a clean place large enough in which to lie down comfortably—may seem somewhat out of sorts with our personal views of Him whose corporeal existence began there. But so it was. I, for one, do not know exactly how many or what types of livestock were present that holy night; I use as the basis for my mental image of these creatures the assorted Nativity scenes upon which my eyes have fallen throughout the years that have included such beasts as cattle and a donkey. In my mind, however, there is one animal that takes precedence over all others in the traditional Nativity—the lamb, whose significance we will discuss momentarily. For now, let us return to our examination of those privileged to witness the scenes that followed this blessed birth.

In the Fields of Judea

Abiding in an unnamed field, in relative proximity to the stable where a virgin mother had just laid the Son of God in a manger, a group of shepherds kept watch over their flock by night. It was to this collection of everymen that an angel of the Lord appeared, bearing good tidings of great joy concerning the heavenly birth and accompanied by a celestial concourse ascribing glory to the child’s Father and promising peace to mortals below. After having received from the angel details of the means by which they could locate the Christ child and subsequent to the seraphs’ ascension into heaven, these simple stewards wasted no time in seeking out the newborn Immanuel. Luke records that “they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16), presumably the first human eyewitnesses of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob now clothed in a tabernacle of clay.

In the House of Joseph the Carpenter

Some time later, after a journey that had spanned months and perhaps years, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem and were given audience with the sovereign known historically as Herod the Great. Tradition often identifies these men as kings in their own right, though they vaunted not themselves but rather sought to pay homage to another long awaited King. As such, they laid the question before Herod, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). Troubled by their search for a monarch whose dominion might perchance exceed his own, Herod attempted to beguile his visitors, sending them to Bethlehem under the pretense of desiring to worship the Christ as well and charging them to return when they had obtained knowledge of his whereabouts. As had become their customary course of action, upon their departure from Herod’s presence they again followed the star, which “went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matthew 2:9). At last, the undoubtedly weary travelers reached their desired destination, finding the toddling Jesus at home with his mother. Upon entering the woodworker’s abode in which the child dwelt, these foreign dignitaries “fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way” (Matthew 2:11-12).

A Type and a Shadow

Among those who were privy to the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, the titles of these particular characters with whom have become acquainted hold singular significance in this, the tale of tales: lamb, shepherd, and king. Each has a significant but complimentary role in this story. This is as it should be, for in playing their respective parts, each points calculatingly away from himself and toward Him who occupies center stage. Each has a dual purpose—both to participate and to prefigure.

“By One Offering” (Hebrews 10:14)

Long before His mortal birth, the ancient prophet Isaiah described the Christ in the context of His atoning sacrifice as “a lamb [brought] to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7). Similarly, His trusted apostles and fortunate friends John the Revelator and Peter the Rock took a retrospective glance into eternity in their respective depictions of Jesus as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) and “a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:19-20). At the outset of His mortal ministry, His cousin and predecessor John the Baptist, when called upon to perform the ordinance of baptism that was necessary for the Christ to fulfill all righteousness, exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And so it was. The blessed birth of Bethlehem would have been for naught without the grueling agony of Gethsemane and Golgotha. As a silent observer that wondrous night in the stable, the lamb provided a poignant symbol of Him who, when oppressed and afflicted for our sakes, “opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). I am eternally grateful for the Perfect, Unblemished Lamb who offered Himself as a willing sacrifice for my sins, pains, faults, and imperfections. My hope is that as He oversees what I am doing with the miraculous gift He has given me, He “shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).

“Every One to His Own Way” (Isaiah 53:6)

The inclusion of shepherds in that night’s supernal scene is also telling, for corrupted Israel had become “as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Thus, Jesus the Messiah came clothed in the humble garb of a shepherd as well, to guide His flock safely to the fountain of living water and quench their thirst. [W]hosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst,” Jesus said, “but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). The Lord went so far as to describe Himself this way, saying: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14). At one time or another, and to one degree or another, each of us has met this description of sheep given by Isaiah: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). It does not matter very much what our own way might be; what matters is that it is not His way. Thankfully, however, there is always hope—regardless of how far we may have strayed. In Christ we truly have a shepherd that ever will “leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find[s] it” (Luke 15:4). I testify that His arm of mercy is extended continually to all of us, and that we have only to reach out in return to be the beneficiaries thereof. I pray that Peter’s portrayal of sheep may apply to us as well: “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

“And Let Him That Heareth Say, Come.” (Revelation 22:17)

Finally, we again turn our attention to the bearers of regal gifts, the kings who sought their King. Like the lamb and the shepherds before them, these voyagers also provided an important symbol of Jesus the Messiah. That there was a fairly lengthy interval between the appearance of the first two parties and this last one is instructive. The Christ has already consummated His mission as sacrificial Lamb; the fruition of that sacrifice, to some extent, now depends on us as individuals. In like manner, Jesus already stands as Shepherd, ever seeking and beckoning us to His arms of safety. Nevertheless, though He is most certainly “The God of the whole earth” (Isaiah 54:5), His return to Earth as “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16) is yet future. Let that not dissuade us from allowing Him His rightful place as King over our individual and familial territories and Lord of our lives. We can choose to do so now, or be compelled to do so later, for the day will surely come when “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me” (Romans 14:11). As we choose to place Him in his proper position of preeminence, we will be prepared for the day when He returns, clothed in royal power and glory—and we will welcome it.

The Testimony, Last of All

I close with a simple declaration of my faith in Jesus the Messiah. I know that He was indeed born of a virgin and is the very reason that we celebrate the Christmas holiday. I testify that He has the power to change hearts, minds, and lives. This I can say with certainty, for I have witnessed it firsthand in His dealings in my life. I know that He suffered, died, and rose again on the third day as the conqueror of physical and spiritual death. I will ever marvel at His mercy and grace for me, and I would surely be lost without Him. That, to me, is the real miracle of Christmas—that I am not lost, despite the multitude of mistakes that so easily besets me. I pray that each of us will, during this special season of celebration, allow Him to take center stage in our hearts and homes. He is, after all, the most important player in this production that we call life. Merry Christmas.

Friday, November 21, 2008

#13: Children See, Children Do

In the seventh session of the relationship improvement class, we talk about ways to become an "influential parent." By "influential" we mean, of course, that it is our goal to influence our children in a positive way. But the truth remainsif you are a parent, you influence your children. Whether or not that influence is positive depends on you.

Above all, you cannot expect more of your children than you expect from yourself. If you are an addict, you cannot expect your kids to be sober. If you are cruel, you cannot expect your kids to be kind. If you are rash, you cannot expect your kids to be level-headed. If you are a bigot, you cannot expect your kids to be accepting. If you are vulgar, you cannot expect your kids to be well-mannered. If you are abusive, you cannot expect your kids to be gentle. If you are a victim, you cannot expect your kids to take a stand against their would-be oppressors.

More often than not, our children magnify the things we do, both positive and negative. They are better than us at the things in which we excel, and they struggle more than us with the things that we call our vices. With that in mind, may the influence that we have on our children be positive.

Click on the following link to see a powerful video reminder of the truthfulness of this principle - Children See, Children Do

Thursday, November 20, 2008

#12: Mere Awkward, Senseless Shame

As you would expect, in the relationship improvement class, we talk about things that we can do to improve certain aspects of our relationships. [I knowheavy stuff. Just take a minute to process ... OK, keep reading.] They are often simple things such as giving service, asking sincere questions, and so on. I say that these things are simple, and they truly seem so in our abstract thoughts or even in our concrete plans, and yet so often we fail to do them. The question we must ask ourselves is, why? If these things were as easy as they appear to us to be, we would just do them, wouldn't we?

It seems to me that the simple answer to this question is, of course, yes. What is it then that makes these things hard? Beloved author C.S. Lewis offers this poignant insight: "I sometimes think that shame, mere awkward, senseless shame, does as much towards preventing good acts and straightforward happiness as any of our vices can do" (A Grief Observed, p. 9).

Let me first point out the important relationship between good acts and happiness that can be inferred from reading Lewis' statement. When we do good, we feel good. When we fail to do the good things we know we should do, we do not. And don't fool yourself into thinking that we don't know what we should do. We know what we ought to do, or at least we know how to find out what we ought to do, especially if we trust the Lord's promise that the "Holy Ghost ... will teach [us] all things" (John 14:26) that we should do on those occasions when we feel that don't already know exactly how to proceed.

The question is thus renewed: Why do we fail to do these things? If we believe Lewis, it is often because of "awkward, senseless shame." We fail to perform good acts that would lead to our happiness and that of others because we feel awkward, because we are embarrassed, because we fear how we will be received.

What selfish creatures we are! The paradox, however, is that our selfishness robs our "selves" and those that we profess to care about of happiness. The sooner we realize what idiots we are, the better. Can we please just get over ourselves already? Don't worry about how someone else will react; when you feel to do good, do good. I promise that both you as the doer and the recipient of your deed will be the better for it.

Let me offer an example from my recent past to illustrate. About a week ago, I was returning a video that I had rented when I noticed a man putting his fingers into some nearby vending machines, presumably to look for forgotten change. I thought to myself, "I bet he could use some money." I didn't have any cash, so I thought, "Oh well, I guess I can't help." Instead, I offered a quick prayer as I drove away, the substance of which was something like, "Father in Heaven, I don't know what exactly that man needs, but please help him to get it. Please inspire someone to know what to do for him."

I thought that would be the end of that, and I continued on my way home. But then a thought came into my mindhe had inspired someone to help, and that someone was me. I had failed. I tried to reason with myself, rationalizing that even if I had cash I couldn't have helped him. After all, who just goes up to a stranger (particularly a stranger that has not made a direct plea for my helpor did he? Maybe he asked God, and I just happened to be close by) and says, "Hey, can I give you some money?" That would be awkward; I would feel weird doing that. I tried to keep going toward my house, but I couldn't. I felt compelled to turn around. But what was I going to do? I still didn't have any money, and now I didn't even know where the man was. He was surely not where I had last seen him; he had been walking.

"Well," I thought, "at least I can fix the 'no-money-in-my-pocket' thing." I pulled into the nearest bank, went to the ATM, and withdrew a small sum of money. "Now what good does this do?" I thought next. "All I've done is waste money on ATM fees, because that wasn't even my bank. Besides, even if I knew where this guy was, it would still be awkward to just go up and hand him money."

I did my best to replace these thoughts quickly. I prayed instead, saying, in essence, "So now what God?" I got the impression that I should turn my car left out of the bank parking lot and head toward a nearby discount store. Sure enough, walking along the sidewalk, checking the vending machines in front of this store just as he had been doing when I had seen him at the video store, was the man for whom I was searching. "OK, I guess this is it," I thought as I parked my car and got out.

Truthfully, I still felt awkward. I didn't know what to say to this man. I knew nothing about him except that we were both children of the same Father, and our Dad had asked me to give him a little help. I tried to think of something reasonable to say, but nothing came. I ran out of time as I came face to face with him on the sidewalk. So, I did the only thing I could doI told him the simple truth. "Excuse me," I said to him, holding out my hand with the money in it. "I just wanted to give you this." And do you know what? It wasn't awkward at all. He simply looked into my eyes, smiled, and said, "Thank you very much." As he put the money in his pocket, I looked back into his eyes, returned his smile, and said, "Have a nice night." "You too," he replied. And that was it. He continued on his way and I on mine. I can't speak for that man; I don't know exactly how he felt. One thing I can say, though, is that as I got back in my car and drove home, I didn't feel embarrassed or weird. I felt happy, and I hoped that my brother did too. Judging by the way he responded to me, I'd say it was pretty likely.

And so, I say again, get over yourself. Don't worry about feeling awkward; just do good in the world. Good acts and straightforward happiness really do go hand in hand. Our Savior "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38), and so should we. I close with the words of lyricist Will Thompson:
"Then wake up and do something more - Than dream of your mansion above - Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure - A blessing of duty and love."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

#11: And His Name Shall Be Called ...

First of all, let me say that the forthcoming commentary alluded to in #10 is in the works. I also wanted to add an addendum to "#9: Finding a Therapist," so here it is.

In #9, I offered various tools and tips to help you find a counselor that would be best suited to help you continue the process of improving your relationships. Though I believe that these things are important, I neglected to mention that which to me is the most important aspect of choosing a counselor.

Over 700 years before the birth of Christ, the ancient prophet Isaiah foretold His birth. In one such prophecy (familiar to many due to its inclusion in Handel's Messiah), Isaiah listed several names by which the Savior of the world would be known: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given ... and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

When we consider the many titles by which we could reverence Jesus the Christ, it is of note that one of the first included here by Isaiah is "Counselor." More than any mortal, the Lord Jesus is qualified to assume this title. Additionally, the other titles listed here help us to understand why Christ is and forever will be our greatest counselor.

"Wonderful" - Some synonyms of this word include "amazing," "breathtaking," "magnificent," and "brilliant." Jesus is definitely a brilliant and magnificent counselor—but why? Because He is "The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." He is the God of the Universe, omnipotent in His understanding. He knows each of us by name and has suffered our very pains; He understands perfectly the difficulties that we experience. Isaiah further describes the Mortal Messiah as "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). Yes, Christ is acquainted with grief, but not just any grief—our grief. Isaiah continues, "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 53:4, emphasis added). Because He gave himself a ransom, because He is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities ... in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15), He has become "The everlasting Father" of our salvation. This is true not only in the post-mortal sense, but in every day and trial of our mortal lives as well. He has the power to save us from addiction, depression, negative family patterns, and every other destructive force that we might face. He does not promise us a life of ease, but we can be assured that if we look to Him as our Primary Care Provider (see Luke 5:31), we will have peace in the midst of affliction. He, "The Prince of Peace," gives to his loyal followers this promise: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).

To close, in addition to the questions given in "#9: Choosing a Therapist," I would advise you to ask yourself a couple of others when trying to find a counselor. First, "Am I looking to Christ as the source of my salvation first, or am I trying to substitute something earthly for His healing power?" Second, "Does my therapist try to fix my problems, or does he/she direct me to the Source of real change, even Jesus?" For, as noted in holy writ, "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save" (Zephaniah 3:17)—if you will choose Him as your most important counselor.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

#10: What is Truth?

After sinister scribes and plotting Pharisees had presented the Mortal Messiah as a criminal before Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler asked the Christ the following question before declaring Jesus’ innocence to the Jews: “What is truth?” (See John 18:38)

Though no immediate response to Pilate’s inquiry was recorded by Christ’s beloved disciple, an examination of the Lord’s own words and those of His appointed servants can help us gain an increased understanding of what His answer to that question was and is. In the future, expect to see several posts that address the scriptural definitions of/synonyms for the word "truth," as well as some of its scriptural correlates. This information will supplement the discussions from the relationship improvement class about truth and its transformative power.

Friday, November 7, 2008

#9: Finding a Therapist

Many of the students in the relationship improvement class have asked me about how to find a counselor or therapist that can further assist them in the processes of making their lives and relationships better. My answer to such inquiries is that the process of finding a counselor will vary according to each individual's situation. However, there are some questions that each person can ask himself/herself in order to determine which route would be best for him/her; there are also resources for these individuals to use to find a counselor in their local area that matches what they are looking for after having answered these questions. Here are some of the questions to consider and some resources to help you find the counselor that is right for you.


1) The first question to ask yourself is, "What kind of counseling do I want (individual, group, couple, family, etc.)?"

2) After having answered this question, you will probably want to ask something like, "What kind of background, specialty, and/or credentials do I want my therapist to have?"

In the counseling profession as it currently stands, there are basically 5 major counseling disciplines/professional licenses: Psychiatry, Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, Clinical Social Work, and Professional Counseling. A good description of the general requirements for licensure in each of these areas can be found by clicking here (go to the pulldown menu at the top of the page under "Wasatch Mental Health," scroll down, and click on the "Guide to Selecting a Therapist" option). Note that the requirements listed are the minimum necessary to obtain a license, and that these requirements may vary a bit from state to state. It is possible that a given practitioner could have more than the minimum required credentials. In fact, the disciplines of Clinical Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy have specialized doctoral degrees (DSW and DMFT) that therapists can pursue in addition to the required Master's degree and supervised experience. A Professional Counselor might also have a Ph.D or an Ed.D in addition to the requisite Master's degree and supervised experience.

3) On the same webpage given above (follow the same directions), there is a good list of preliminary questions to consider when choosing a therapist. It includes things like financial concerns, time commitments, etc. I would advise you to take a look at these and answer them; also note the follow-up questions to ask yourself after the first visit.

4) If money is a primary concern for you, you would be wise to inquire about the possibility of a sliding fee scale based on a patient's income, whether or not a particular provider accepts Medicaid, the possibility of financial assistance, etc.

Finding a Therapist

Each of the mental health disciplines has its own professional organization(s). If you visit the websites of these organizations, you can find tools to locate a therapist in your local area that meets the credentialing standards of the particular organization in question. Below is a list of links to these various "Therapist Finder" tools.

Psychology - American Psychological Association Psychologist Locator

Marriage and Family Therapy - AAMFT Therapist Locator

Clinical Social Work - National Association of Social Workers Help Starts Here

Professional Counseling - American Mental Health Counselors Association Find-A-Counselor

Notes/Additional Information

You may want to search your state's resources for each of these disciplines as well. To get started, try using Google to search, for example, "Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy" or "Nevada Psychological Association" - just use your state's name and the name of the particular mental health discipline you want to search.

There are also many different kinds of facilities such as hospitals and large mental health facilities that employ various kinds of counseling professionals and offer a variety of different options. You may want to do a Google search for such facilities in your area.

If you desire counseling from a practitioner or group that has religious ties and/or specializes in serving a particular religious population, you can either contact your ecclesiastical leader (pastor, etc.), go to your congregation's own website, or do a Google search of such services in your area.

I hope that you find these resources and suggestions useful; I wish you the best in finding a counselor that can help you as you progress along the path toward achieving your individual and relationship goals.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

#8: Buzz Lightyear, Worth, The Difference, and Us - Written Not With Ink

As I was watching Toy Story with one of my classes yesterday, I had some interesting thoughts. Even though I’ve seen the parts of the movie I show in class like 150 times, I saw new things in the clips that I hadn’t seen before. Just goes to show you (and those of you who know me well know that this is true) I’m a pretty slow learner. The key word there, though, isn’t slow, it’s learner. Regardless of our individual abilities, we must each seek to continue to learn, that we may know the truth and be truly free. Let me tell you about some of the truths that I saw tonight.

Throughout the movie Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear has bouts of skewed self-esteem. When we first encounter Buzz, he is under the impression that he is not a toy, but an actual Space Ranger—a defender of the galaxy. His self-perception is not only inaccurate, it is absurd. But it is, nevertheless, what he believes. As such, he is egocentric and wastes his time in mostly selfish pursuits that even if completed will not have the positive outcomes that he expects (see: fixing his CARDBOARD!!! spaceship so that he can get to someplace called “Sector 12”). His main problem is that he does not see things as they really are; he equates his inherent value with his perceived personal utility. And he thinks he is pretty freaking useful, since after all he does “protect the galaxy from the threat of invasion by the evil Emperor Zurg, sworn enemy of the galactic alliance!”

Buzz’s perception of his own usefulness, and by association his view of his inherent worth, is shattered when he sees a Buzz Lightyear commercial on television and realizes that he is, in fact, a toy. His gigantic, swollen ego bursts and sends him into a downward spiral of hopelessness and depression. He feels useless. In his own words, he “can’t help anyone. [He’s] just a toy—a stupid, little, insignificant toy.” Even after he receives numerous gestures of friendship from others (Sid’s toys’ fixing his arm, Woody’s admission that he needs Buzz, etc.), he remains in a depressive funk. Out of these depths, he makes the following statement in response to Woody’s suggestion that they get out of Sid’s house and back over to Andy’s ASAP: “Andy’s house, Sid’s house—what’s the difference?”

The reality is that there is a huge difference; it is Andy’s love. While Sid seeks to mangle toys and turn them into mutated things they were never intended to be, Andy helps his toys to fill the measure of their creation on a daily basis. (And now I say, is there not a type in this thing?) Woody tells Buzz, “Over in that house, there is a kid who thinks you’re the greatest. And it’s not because you’re a Space Ranger, pal. It’s because you’re a toy; you are his toy.” Still mired in depression, Buzz responds, “Why would Andy want me?” (Ever ask yourself a similar question?) Woody’s aforementioned statement starts Buzz on the path to seeing the truth. In a telling moment of personal revelation, Buzz looks at the bottom of his foot and sees the name “ANDY” written on it in all caps. He begins to realize that his genuine worth has less to do with who his is than with whose he is. With this increased understanding, he and Woody are able to escape the hell of Sid’s house, overcome obstacles and adversity, and arrive safely in the arms of Andy’s love.

Aside from the lessons we learn together in class about learning to share control, improving communication, etc. from watching Woody’s behavior in Toy Story, I hope that each of us recognizes that the house we are in does make a difference. Jesus has said that He has a place ready for us in His Father’s house and that He wants us to live there with Him forever. He promises, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3). Since this is the case, why would we even stop to consider taking up residence in Satan’s house, Sid’s house, or any other house for that matter? Where Jesus is, I desire to be also.

Additionally, I hope we can also recognize how Buzz-like we often are in our self-perceptions (note: see post #5 for more on "self-" words). We either think too highly of ourselves because we focus on what we can do, or we think too little of ourselves because we focus on what we can’t do. Let us all take a step back, as Buzz did, and see where our worth really comes from. It has little to do with who we are; rather, it comes from whose we are. We may not have a name written in permanent marker on our feet, but make no mistake about it - we have been bought with a price. That price was the blood of a God, an infinite and eternal sacrifice. In our everyday lives, we often measure the value of things by the price someone is willing to pay for them. If we apply that principle to ourselves, we must consider the following: the God of the universe was willing to pay an infinite price for each of us. Thus, if we measure our worth by whose we are and the price He paid for us, we are compelled to acknowledge that each person’s individual worth is indeed infinite. It is also certain that there is truly a name placed upon the faithful, for in this way Christ doth seal them His. May His name be “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone [or on our feet], but in fleshy tables of [our] heart” (2 Corinthians 3:3). I know that if it is we, like Buzz and Woody, will land safely in a loving embrace when we finally reach our desired destination.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

#7: Book Reviews

First of all, let me just apologize for not posting anything lately. I've been beyond busy, but I haven't forgotten about InsideOutChange. One thing that I have been doing is reading late at night after my family is asleep. As such, here are my reviews of a few books that contain information and principles that are relevant to the class. As you will probably recognize, some of them are on the various book lists available on the right side of the page.

The Power of Truth by William George Jordan – Jordan states, “If we know the truth and do not live it, our life is – a lie.” This is the crux of Jordan’s message, and this book details principles and practices that help us as individuals to seek, and then integrate into our lives, the truth. He discusses such concepts as truth’s stand-alone and transformative power, dealing with ingratitude, the false notions we often use to deceive ourselves, and internal vs. external value and validation.

Beautiful Boy by David Sheff – Sheff describes his struggle to support and love his son as he battles a methamphetamine addiction. He outlines the details of a father’s co-addiction to his son’s addiction (i.e. his obsession with his son’s condition and all things relating thereunto). One of the best qualities of this book is that it depicts in stark reality the hideous nature of addiction, some factors that contribute to it, and the profound pain it causes in the lives of addicts and their loved ones. It also describes parts of the individual and familial healing processes and can thus be helpful to addicts and those who love them as they traverse fields of parallel experience.

The Uses of Adversity by Carlfred Broderick – Dr. Broderick points out that even among the faithful, pain is inevitable. He states, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is a resource in the event of pain, and when that pain comes (and it will come because we came here on earth to have pain among other things), when it comes, rejoice that you have a resource to deal with your pain.” He shares experiences of individuals with whom he counseled as both an ecclesiastical leader and a therapist that illustrate how the gospel of Jesus Christ offers comfort, perspective, and guidance in dealing with some of life’s most harrowing challenges. This book can help those who struggle with self-doubt, abuse and its effects, death and bereavement, and other trials as they strive to find meaning and usefulness in their pain.

Wanting More: The Challenge of Enjoyment in the Age of Addiction by Mark Chamberlain – This book presents acquisition-centered living and a life of enjoyment as diametric opposites. Though all recognize that they inherently lack something, too often they attempt to fill this void with that which cannot satisfy. Dr. Chamberlain describes (among other things) the value of wanting, the powder keg of appetite, the importance of conscience, and the path to real enjoyment. This book is a helpful resource for those that are mired in any kind of addictive and/or obsessive behavior or for anyone who is simply looking to get more out of life.

The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis – This stunning allegory is described by the author in the first lines of its preface as follows: “[William] Blake wrote of the marriage of heaven and hell; I have written of their divorce.” What follows is a fictional dream in which the author is guided through a visionary experience by an angelic sage. We as readers are able to see in the characters portrayed glimpses of ourselves and of attitudes and behaviors that, if persisted in, would keep us wallowing in the mire of Hell rather than progressing toward Heaven. There are great pearls of wisdom to be found concerning our relationship with Deity, the scope of our actions, the healing power of submission, weaknesses made strong, the dissonance between the natural and the spiritual, and many other topics of eternal significance. We are guided to the conclusion that we must either choose one or the other, that those who inherit a mansion in Heaven cannot supplement their real estate holdings with a timeshare in Hell.

The Holy Secret by James Ferrell – Ferrell does a wonderful job of teaching the importance of loving that which is holy and the power this love has to effect change in our individual lives. He does so through the story of fictional Wall Street lawyer Michael Nowak. I include here a part of the summary that is printed on the book jacket of The Holy Secret, as it accurately describes both the content of the book and my experience with it.

“Disturbed by the words of an elderly man who would become his mentor, Michael Nowak finds himself confronted by a secret he has hidden in his heart … In spite of appearances, Michael has to concede: he really doesn’t love holiness. The things the Lord has defined as holy … have in truth become dull to him. This troubles him because he knows that if he does not yearn for holiness in the here and now he will not be prepared to experience it later. Despite his outward compliance with the tenets of his faith, Michael fears – rightly so, it turns out – that he is failing at what matters most … The Holy Secret is the inspiring story of a man who learns to love what truly matters. As he does, he learns another secret: Love for holiness transforms life itself. As we are each Michael to one degree or another, his transformations become our own. With each discovery, we find solutions not only to his challenges, but to ours.”

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky – Dostoevsky’s brilliant writing is difficult for me to describe; I consider my own abilities relatively banal by comparison. His juxtaposition of storytelling and social/religious/political commentary is masterful. Though some might consider his work an acquired taste, I will say that for me that taste was acquired almost as soon as I had picked up The Idiot. Dostoevsky’s masterpiece provides interesting insights into the nature of God, which shines through the attitudes and actions of the protagonist, Prince Myshkin. It also provides parallel glimpses of the nature of the Opposition, embodied in the character of Parfyon Rogozhin. There are interesting commentaries on the human condition, finding joy in the processes of life, perceptions and their distortion, goodness and generosity, forgiveness, the subjectivity of virtue, the anxiety that surrounds death, social problems, and anti-Christianity/apostasy. Above all, it served to remind me of the great moral, ethical, and intellectual divide that exists between the Man whose image graces its cover and the fallen world that He came to save. [*Note – The copy I have is the Barnes and Noble Classics edition. The cover art is a detail of Rembrandt’s work entitled Head of Christ.]

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis – Lewis’ autobiographical account of his conversion from Christianity to Atheism and back to Christianity is very different from his other works. I found this book to be extremely boring for the most part, but in a paradoxical way that's why I liked it. The flow of the story seemed to match Lewis' life experience: a life of monotony with brief flashes of "joy" - a longing for an emotional/spiritual state he had not yet attained. That is how the book was for me as well; it was generally monotonous, but there were flashes of brilliance every thirty pages or so that made me want to become better. I particularly enjoyed the last chapter, appropriately entitled, “The Beginning.” I found as Lewis did “at each turn less opportunity to call one’s life one’s own,” thanks to the beginnings of the beautiful blending of my will with the Divine.

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright – Wright’s captivating novel about the lives and deaths of Jack and Laurel Cooper and the associated stories of people they know and love includes important messages about forgiveness, healing, fidelity, personal responsibility, and continuing courtship in marriage. Most importantly, it inspired me to do a better job of connecting in meaningful ways with my own wife on a regular basis. This is definitely a Session 12 book (for those of you that took the class).

An Inconvenient Book and The Real America, both by Glenn Beck – These books contain Beck’s opinions and commentary on a wide variety of issues, from foreign policy to family relationships. I like his opinions because they are honest and straightforward, not to mention the fact that I agree with almost all of them and they alternately make me laugh and cry. As for information that is pertinent to the things we discuss in class, here is a list of some good correlated material (be sure to keep in mind that much of it is tongue-in-cheek, especially in An Inconvenient Book):

- An Inconvenient Book, Ch. 2: Pornography, infidelity, and other Session 13 stuff - An Inconvenient Book, Ch. 4: Parenting, self-image, honesty - An Inconvenient Book, Ch. 5: Dating, honesty - An Inconvenient Book, Ch. 10: Continuing courtship, compromise - An Inconvenient Book, Ch. 21: Parenting - The Real America, Ch. 2: Accepting responsibility for our actions - The Real America, Ch. 10: The joy of spirituality, proving things for ourselves - The Real America, Ch. 11: Synergizing courage and humility

Candide by Voltaire – This dark satire challenges the idea that everything that happens in the world is for the benefit of those that live in it. It invites readers to reconcile the principles of resilience, agency, adversity, divine intervention, optimism, and love (among others). While the Voltaire’s actual meaning and intent are subject to personal interpretation, one message is clear: “We must cultivate our garden.” Regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we must make diligent efforts to develop as individuals, as families, and as a society. In these pursuits, “our labors keep us from three great evils – boredom, vice and want.” Additionally, chapter XVIII provides some interesting insights into the workings of a God-centered and other-focused society and individual life.

Friday, August 1, 2008

#6: "Just a Mom"

For those that visit the site on a frequent basis, I apologize for the lack of new posts this week. My wife is pregnant and has been quite sick; as such, I have been doing a lot more domestic duties (cooking, cleaning, etc.) and have spent a lot more time wearing the "parent" hat. It has been great to spend more time with my kids, and it has certainly given me a new appreciation for all the things my wife does every day that go unrecognized all too frequently. It has been said that the title "working mother" is redundant. I heartily agree. There is no work on earth that takes more time and expertise to do well than the work of a mother. That's why it bothers me when I hear some women, when they are asked about what they "do," respond by saying, "I'm just a mom," or "I just stay home with my kids." They might just as easily say, "I just do the most difficult and important job in the world, and oh, by the way, I do it simply because I want to, not because I get monetary compensation." Unfortunately though, motherhood is generally a paradox of ingratitude. The service of a mother, which should elicit the most effusive praise, often goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Let mothers, and all others who serve in relative anonymity, therefore take comfort in the words of author William George Jordan (source - The Power of Truth, p. 39):

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

#5: The Selfishness of "Self-"

This will be a piggyback on the last post, the intent of which I hope was clear to everyone. We live in the time foretold by the Apostle Paul, who in an epistle to his friend and fellow laborer Timothy wrote the following: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves …" (2 Timothy 3:1-2). Paul also listed numerous other failings and less-than-desirable qualities of individuals in modern society, but I find it interesting that self-obsession topped his list of characteristics that make these times in which we live "perilous."

We can certainly admit that in today’s world, this infatuation with self has become pervasive. It is evidenced even by the ways in which we are offered opportunities for improvement and advancement. We are taught to improve our self-esteem and self-concept by going to the self-help section of the bookstore and buying books that will help us fix our own problems by overcoming things like self-loathing, self-abuse, etc. The abundance of these "self"-ish words in our everyday lexicon is troubling to me. It is an indication to me of just how perilous a state our world is really in. The self-help movement (in my humble opinion) epitomizes another item on Paul’s aforementioned list: "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3:5). Paul continues, "From such turn away" (2 Timothy 3:5).

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for fixing our life problems the best we can; I just don’t believe that we can do that by ourselves. Let us not forget Christ’s words to the scribes in the synagogue after stating that he had come to heal the brokenhearted: "And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself" (Luke 4:23). Contrast this theoretical rabbinic injunction with Christ’s own statement, alluded to both above and in a previous post [see Desires – The Hole in Our Hearts]: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted … This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:18, 21). Self-help is, in reality, the antithesis of the way to true and lasting change; it has the form, but not the power. Only God can provide the power to help us make all the necessary changes in our lives and our relationships. We must "turn away" from the concept of self-help and turn toward Him, fully embracing the concept of God-help (or receiving divine assistance).

In fact, I believe that nearly all of the "self"-ish words we use can change for the better when we adopt an approach that is God-centered rather than self-centered; let me give you a few examples.

SELF-ESTEEM becomes GOD-ESTEEM. Rather than putting ourselves first, we put Him first. This is necessary if we are to obey the great ancient commandment given to Moses: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). This mandate of exclusion includes ourselves; when self-worship exceeds our worship of God, it is the very essence of vanity and the opposite of humility.

SELF-CONCEPT becomes GOD-CONCEPT. It is impossible to truly understand ourselves unless we understand Him. We must accept that He is truly our Father; we are literally His divine sons and daughters, created in His image: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:27). With this understanding of our divine heritage, we can begin to grasp the concept of who we really are. Without it, our view becomes distorted and we not only forget God, but despise Him. "The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood" (Moses 7:32-33 – emphasis added). Thus …

SELF-HATRED becomes GOD-HATRED. If we truly are His creations, His children, we cannot hate ourselves without displaying contempt for Him, the Creator.

I could continue this list, but I won’t. I’d rather have you examine some more "self-" words on your own and think of how the concepts those words describe are enriched by focusing on God instead of on oneself. I know that as we shift from self-centeredness to Christocentricity, our lives and our relationships will be fuller, richer, and more beautiful.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

#4: The Blindness of Our I's

I have a three year old son whose name begins with the letter B. He does not yet know how to read, but he sure can pick a B out of an alphabetical lineup. Whether we are reading a book together, shopping, or trying to keep him from moving the pieces while my wife and I play Boggle, he understands that the letter B is nearly ubiquitous; he knows he can find it if he will just look around. This he does, pointing out the B’s and shouting excitedly, "There’s my special letter!" As he grows and develops, he will begin to recognize other letters, but for now, he lives in a world that is nothing but B’s and gibberish.

Unfortunately, this is often the essence of our own worldview as well. The difference between my son’s view and our own is not one of style, but simply which letter we recognize. Instead of the letter B, we become obsessed with the letter I. We each let our world become nothing but I’s and gibberish. This excessive focus on "I" blurs our vision and inhibits our recognition of other letters. In a related paradox, the English word "eye," pronounced the same way as the aforementioned letter I, doesn’t contain the letter at all. If our eye is to be at all useful, it must expand its scope and see the whole alphabet, of which the "I" is but a small part.

I submit to you that there are more important letters in the world than the letter I. The letter U, for example, is certainly more important. I am convinced that if we as individuals focused a lot more on "U" and a lot less on "I," our lives and our relationships would be better for it. Try it, and see how it works. Step out of your comfort zone. You will come to see that from each individual first-person perspective, there is really only one "I" in the world, while the supply of "U’s" is nearly endless. As we adopt this point of view, the amount of time we spend focusing on "I," when compared to the amount of time we spend on "U’s," will begin to mirror this proportion.

While "U’s" are exceedingly more abundant and important than "I", there are two letters that surpass even the "U’s" in importance. They are the Greek letters Α and Ω. When our eye is fixed upon these two letters, our vision, rather than being limited, is actually enhanced. It is only when we focus on Α and Ω that we can see things as they really are, for a singular focus on Α and Ω allows us to see all other letters (as well as numbers, objects, and everything else) in their proper light.

[Note: Α and Ω - See Revelation 1:8 & 11, Revelation 21:6, and Revelation 22:13.]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

#3: Desires - The Hole in Our Hearts

In the third session of our relationship improvement class, we discuss the synergy of desire and skill as we strive to change our relationships for the better. It is noted that in order for any skills we may have or acquire to work to our greatest benefit, we must first have pure intentions – we must first desire those things that are of most benefit to us.

Noted French scientist/philosopher Blaise Pascal stated: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be satisfied by any created thing, but only by God, the creator” (as cited in Chamberlain, Wanting More, p. 90 – see book list). If Pascal’s assertion is true (and I believe it is), it puts us in a potentially precarious position when we face the prospect of assuring that our desires and intentions are pure and “best.” Why? Because the heart is the metaphorical center of desire, and it has a big fat hole in it.

The truth is that we as human beings know about the hole. We recognize that we are lacking something - we just don’t always know what that something is. As such, we often try to fill the void we sense, the hole in our hearts, with other things: material goods, the praise of our peers, sexual pleasure, sumptuous food, and mood-altering substances are a few things that readily spring to mind. The problem we face is that those things don’t fit into the hole, but we try to cram them in there anyway. Figuratively speaking, we, like the pretentious step-sister attempting to stuff her awkward foot into the delicate glass slipper near the end of Disney’s Cinderella, find ourselves exclaiming, “I’ll make it fit!” All too often our hearts meet the same cruel fate as the glass slipper; they are not just broken, but shattered. In such a position, it is difficult (if not impossible) for the desires of our hearts to be upon those things that are most beneficial to us.

Thankfully, however, there is still hope. There is One whose expressly stated mission is “to heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18). He, the Creator, can both repair our hearts and fit perfectly into the holes therein. It is only then, as we allow Him to inspire our desire, that we can be absolutely sure that our hearts are set upon that which is not only good, but that which is best. This is true both in the ultimate, eternal sense as well as in the minutiae of everyday life. When our hearts are purified by Him, our existing skills and talents (as well as those we will yet develop) will truly work to our ultimate benefit. Only then will our relationships be heavenly.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

#2: Persistence Pays

OK, after you read this first paragraph, click on the link to watch a 30 sec. Jordan commercial on YouTube. Once you've seen the clip, come back and read the rest of this. Go ahead, I'll wait - but don't get distracted and start watching all of the other amazing Jordan commercials. You can do that when we're finished here :)

Pretty cool commercial, huh? It used to give me the chills when I was a kid (actually, it still does). As a kid, I was obsessed with Michael Jordan. He could do things with a basketball that I could never dream of duplicating; he never ceased to amaze. [Note: I am still enthralled by my old videos of Michael Jordan, basketball player. I am considerably less enthralled by Michael Jordan, husband - but the point of all of this is not Michael Jordan. It is, as always, finding the truth wherever we can and yielding to it whatever the cost. Can we find truth in a Nike commercial? Sure ... if we want to.] After watching the commercial, we are prompted to ask ourselves the ever-important question, "So what?" Each of you will answer that question for himself, but here's my version.

The last line Jordan speaks in the commercial seems to contradict fundamental logic. He states: "I've failed over, and over, and over again in my life - and that is why I succeed." Huh? Failing repeatedly doesn't make you a success; it makes you a FAILURE, right? Well, not so fast. Michael Jordan the basketball player was anything but a failure. I could list his exceedingly numerous accolades, but I don't think that's necessary. Suffice it to say that he is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time. So wait, failing repeatedly did make him a success? Again, not so fast. We don't remember him because of his failures, but in spite of them. The lesson for us: Persistence Pays. If Jordan had begun to think of himself as a failure the first time he missed a game-winner, or when he was cut from his high school team, etc., that's exactly what he would have been. But he didn't see himself that way. He knew he was a winner; as such, he kept working, kept practicing, kept striving for excellence, even when he had become the best at what he did.

As we strive to improve our relationships, there will inevitably be times when we fail. We might even metaphorically trip on our own feet as we go up for a breakaway layup. It's easy to do, especially when we are trying to do things we have never done before. However, we must remember the axiom: Persistence Pays. We may have a desire to improve our relationships, we may even have great plans for doing so - and those great plans just might blow up in our faces. I promise you, though, that it is true: Persistence Pays. Even if things don't go the way we plan on the first try, or the second, or the fifth, we must not give up. If we sincerely strive to improve our relationships, I know without a doubt that our best efforts will be magnified. A loving Father will help us to make our "best" better, and in time, change will come. Our plans will get better, our implementation of those plans will get better, our relationships and our lives will get better, if we will but apply this truth: Persistence Pays.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

#1: Adversity - A Curse or an Opportunity?

When we hear the word “adversity,” what do we think of? The general inclination seems to be to think of some sort of calamity or other disastrous event. This, of course, is natural. The root of “adversity” is the word “adverse”; some synonyms of this word are “catastrophic,” “disastrous,” “unfortunate,” and “miserable.”

But what if we were to view adversity in a different light? Another definition of the word “adverse” is “confronting.” Thus, if we adapt our perspective a bit, adversity can be viewed as an opportunity for confrontation to occur. The confrontation of which I speak is not that of a person confronting an external force or event – it is an internal, intra-personal confrontation, a chance for a person to confront himself. Let me give you an example that will help illustrate this point.

Some time ago, I was going through life convinced that I was doing my best, though I had a perpetual sense of discontent. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I started to experience seizure-like convulsions, body spasms, facial tics, and other similar symptoms. I was rendered relatively helpless; I took a leave of absence from my job and basically just lay on the couch most of the time. My wife was convinced I was going to die, and I was forced to strongly consider the possibility as well. As it turns out, I’m not (at least I don’t think so - I still don’t really know what’s wrong, but I take medication and it helps a lot). I will be forever grateful, however, that for a time it seemed as though I would.

Why would I be grateful for thinking I was at death’s door? Why would I continue to be grateful for the “bad days” - the days when I don’t have a lot of control over what my body does? For the very reason I stated above: it gave and continues to give me the opportunity to confront myself. At the time I began having seizures, there were some things in my life and my relationships that were amiss. Thinking I was going to die forced me to face reality - truths that I had known, but refused to know, for some time. I realized just how fragile and fleeting life could be, and I started the process of trying to get the affairs of my life in order.

Is my life perfect? Far from it. But I am happy to say that it is a lot better than it was a few months ago. I have begun to make a more serious effort to see things as they really are and to yield to the truth, whatever the cost. My life and my relationships are better for it. I am constrained, like Paul of old, to “glory in my infirmities … for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). This is true only because of the vicarious power that is available to me when I choose to accept it. The crux of the matter then, for all of us, is this: How do we view adversity, and how do we react to it? Do we view it as a miserable catastrophe and become miserable ourselves as a result? Or do we view it as an opportunity for self-analysis and for receiving healing and cleansing power from above? These are questions that each individual must answer for himself.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Coming Soon

FYI - This page will not contain worksheets or class materials. Instead, it will have information that revisits and expands upon class materials, including other websites to visit, quotations, further explanations of class principles, community resources, etc. Each post will be appropriately titled so that visitors to the site/former class members will be able to navigate through the archives and find what they are looking for fairly easily. In this way, individuals will hopefully be able to find information that is relevant to their individual situations. New resources and posts will be added as often as time permits, so keep coming back. Have a great day!