Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category


The Greatest Winter Day of My Life

January 29, 2014

blizzardIt is never a good sign when you look out the window and the snow is falling sideways. When you can look for miles in a city and not see a single car on the road, you know you are experiencing some kind of Snowpocalyse.

My daughter is living currently in Chicago and experiencing a week of arctic conditions. She ends every Facebook status with “#Chiberia”. I’ll let you figure that one out.

Her winter problems reminded me of the worst and best days of my wintering life–and they were the same day. We lived in Canada for many years and moved to Montana in 1989. In 1996, Montana suffered through the worst winter conditions on record. That winter, 17 feet of snow came down on Northwest Montana. So much snow pelted the ground that my boys made a toboggan run off the roof of the garage and were able to schloss down their manufactured run without any jump. Yes, it was that much snow.

Between Christmas and New Years’ the snow starting falling heavily and the wind picked up to 40 mph. It was coming down from the north and did not stop for three days. After the first day, the snowplows gave up trying to clear the drifts off the main highways and everyone was advised to stay in and wait out the blizzard. Montanans live for these kind of days; it gives them a sense of achievement similar to Californians tanning without burning. I digress.

The only person not happy with staying indoors during the blizzard was my wife. Normally, she is more than content with snuggling by a fire, reading a good book and napping. But she also is the most dedicated worker I know and she was supposed to show up at the hospital for her shift as a nurse.

My wife worked on a heart Telemetry unit at the Kalispell Regional Medical Center. They worked 12 hour shifts and hers started in a half hour. The phone lines were not working, so Kathy couldn’t call the hospital to find out if they were expecting her. But after looking at the closed highway, she realized they probably needed her desperately. The nurses working these 12 hour shifts could not go home until they were replaced. No one was driving in or out of town at all, so we figured these nurses who had been looking after patients all day would have to continue in that vein for another 24 hours. That’s when I got a bright idea.

We only lived about 6 blocks from the hospital, straight down Highway 93. We had done cross-country skiing for years and now we could put good vocational use to the sport. Since we had both grown up in Canada, we were well stocked with all the accouterment clothing for frigid weather, including long, thermal underwear. We layered on the garments, pulled on our ski boots and headed out the door. It took us almost a half hour to navigate the drifts and bare spots on the road in near zero visibility, but we did arrive at the hospital doors right as her shift was supposed to start.

As we sloshed down the hallway, the nurses on duty just stared at us as if we were living snowmen. Kathy was able to relieve a couple of them, allowing them a few hours sleep. Over the next 24 hours, they were able to keep spelling each other off in 3 hour increments, thereby giving some of the most medically fragile patients the best care.

The next day the road was still closed, so I skied back up to the hospital and retrieved her. I remember stopping at one point on the way home and looked into her frost-covered face. She was smiling with a tenacity I had never seen on her before. She was actually enjoying this!

There is something about conquering adversity and overcoming obstacles that thrills the human soul. It is ironic we spend most of our lives wishing for comfort and ease when what we really enjoy is the challenge of living.

Perhaps we should think a little longer about how much comfort we really need.



Ten Healthy Ideas: Day 6: Pay off Sleep Debt

December 31, 2013

When the golfer Tiger Woods left Stanford and announced he was turning professional, a reporter asked him what he was looking forward to now that he wasn’t going to college any more. He answered: “I will finally get enough sleep.” Apparently Tiger put himself through the same torture test as most college students. He didn’t get enough sleep.

dementIronically, just across campus at Stanford is the world’s leading expert on sleep. Dr. William Dement, a pioneer in the field of sleep research, founded the Stanford Center for Sleep in order to help people the world over understand the importance of sleep. When asked at a major conference years ago what was the number one problem related to sleep, Dr. Dement immediately answered “Sleep debt!”

According to the Sleep Center’s literature, here is what they define as sleep debt:

To make the long story short, each of us has a certain sleep requirement every night that we need to keep us functioning at our optimal level. When we fall short of the minimal sleep requirementwe incur a sleep debt that prevents us from functioning at our best.This debt, if not addressed, can add up over time, very rapidly, and significantly alter our productivity, mood, and even our safety.

Read more:

Almost every person needs a minimum of 8 hours sleep a night. In his book “The Promise of Sleep” Dr. Dement estimates that most people incur at least one hour’s debt per night–many people have more. This growing sleep debt causes many of our worst health problems: auto-immune problems, inability to fight off viruses, hypertension, cell malformation (sometimes resulting in benign tumors), malabsorption of nutrients–which cause many other health problems–migraine headaches, joint problems, sight difficulties etc. Not only that, but researchers have determined that over 100,000 die every year in car accidents because one driver was either sleep deprived or asleep at the wheel.

But I believe there are emotional and spiritual tolls we pay when we don’t sleep enough. Dr. Jack Hayford, pastor Emeritus of Church on the Way in Van Nuys, teaches regularly that the best spiritual warfare we can do is to get enough sleep. He says that the Enemy really is prowling around like a lion seeking whom he can devour. Those who have a lot of sleep debt find they have trouble resisting temptation, become irritable easier and give in more often to resentment. These things all cause spiritual deterioration.

How do you know if you have sleep debt? Here are some of the main signs that Dr. Dement says we need to look for:

1. Do you get drowsy during the day? Drowsiness is not a condition of your environment–such as a warm room or a difficult work situation–but rather of your tendency to not sleep enough.

2. Do you need caffeine to function efficiently? Dr. Dement is an advocate for eliminating caffeine completely. If you need that boost in the morning, you are not getting enough sleep.

3. Do you fall asleep in less than ten minutes? If you do, you have a sleep debt. Sleep debt causes the mind to shut down much more rapidly. Normally, a person who gets enough sleep should be able to fall asleep in about 10-20 minutes on average. In addition, if you wake up tired on a consistent basis, you are suffering from sleep debt. After a good night’s rest, you should not have trouble waking up. Any trouble waking up is caused by your body trying to get more sleep to make up for the debt.

4. Are there parts of your day when you have virtually no energy at all? This is common with sleep indebted people.

You should be getting at least 8 hours sleep EVERY night. If you are not, then the sleep debt is going to take its toll on you, your relationships, your health, your work output, your joy, your walk with God and your peace of mind. Every hour less than 8 hours a night is a debt you need to pay back as soon as possible. Here are six ideas that can help you get back on the right track.

1. Have absolutely hard established bedtimes and waking dotttimes. Dr. Lydia Dotto, author of “Losing Sleep” suggests that even migraine headaches can be eliminated by training our internal clocks when they are going to go to bed. I did this for a year once…not changing my bedtime at all. By the end of that year, I could go to bed and wake up without looking at the clock and it was always at exactly the same time. Our body clocks, once they are trained, are that accurate. When you establish waking and sleeping times, you are making sleep a much higher priority.

2. Turn off the television after 9 p.m. Television watching may be called “vegging out” by many people, but it doesn’t have that effect on us. The television raises your Alpha waves above the level of relaxation. You are always on a heightened sense of alert when you watch the tube. Unfortunately, most people assume they can watch television at night to help them relax and fall asleep. Nothing could be further from the truth. You would be much better advised to read a book, crochet a sock or write in a journal than watch t.v.

3. Do not exercise before bed. With the advent of many new “super-routines” more and more people are focusing on getting in one more workout before sleep. This raises your glandular output too much. The body’s circadian rhythms start to slow down naturally in the two hours before bedtime. If you cut into that slowdown with exercise, it will make it that much harder to get to sleep.

4. Track your sleep and make up for sleep debt. Everyone has nights where they don’t sleep well. (Note: If that is every night for you, talk to your doctor about a sleep clinic. You should be getting a good night’s rest every night and there are doctors who specialize in finding out why you’re not). If you have a night of less-than-ideal sleep, find times during the week to nap. Also, allow yourself to sleep extra on those days you don’t have to get up early.

5. Get rid of caffeine. If you are getting enough sleep, you don’t need caffeine. The caffeine in soda, coffee and energy drinks messes up your biological clock. Of course, because some people have not slept enough for years, it may seem they cannot function without caffeine. That is probably true. But that is like the person who maxes out their credit cards, spends every cent and needs another credit card because they have no more cash. At some point, the madness has to stop. Caffeine is the enemy to enough sleep. Kick the habit.

6. Plan ahead. When I personally started to get my sleep habit back in order I realized my biggest problem is I never planned my sleep well. I would stay up later than I needed to. I never realized that sleep is something to guard, so I didn’t. Planning ahead means that you are home at a decent hour to get to bed at a decent hour, to wake up at a decent hour having procured a decent amount of sleep. Therefore, the planning must start a long time before you want to sleep. If friends want to stay out late and you cannot sleep in, you may be the first one to go home. It may feel like you are the party pooper, but remember that every party needs one and that might as well be you. At least you will be physically and emotionally healthy to accept the ridicule.

Last year, I advised two different people on their sleep debt. Both of them embarked on a project to get enough sleep. Both of them reported better mental health as a result. Additionally, even though neither of them were overweight, they both reported their weight went down as they started to crave healthier foods. It is known that we often crave sugar and carbs when our energy levels are too low. This is often a function of sleep debt as well.

So for all the wonderful things sleep can do for you, get rid of your sleep debt and make sleep a huge priority for 2014.


Ten Healthy Ideas – Day 5: Find Gentle Friends

December 26, 2013

Finding Healthy Friends

I have known Lisa for ten years now. Last week, Lisa re-invented herself online. So far, this is the fourth time she has developed a completely new Facebook page. I was her counselor for two of those years, so she always adds me back on her page when it is reconstructed under a different profile. Therefore, I have a front-row seat for the continuing soap opera that is Lisa’s life.

(Just so you don’t hang in suspense, I have Lisa’s permission to share her story. Her name isn’t Lisa. But you already figured that one out.)

Lisa changes her Facebook identity to escape people she used to call friends. I don’t know if she sees it or not, but her friendships often go the same way each time. At first, she and the other person are doing everything together. They go clubbing together, take 100 selfies together, and work out together. They hit “like” for every single status update and remark constantly at how beautiful the other looks in every picture: You get the idea.

Then, after about a year, Lisa treats her BFF like a pariah. She publicly criticizes her for drunken texting, stealing her boyfriend, her car and her money.

Next, she enlists other friends to completely destroy this person’s character. Then, when the other person strikes back–quel surprise!–she goes all paranoid and retreats into her “safe” world. This always ends up with a few weeks of whining at how no one in this world ever treats anyone nicely. That’s when she changes her Facebook page and starts the entire cycle over again.

Lisa doesn’t know how to pick friends. Her 8,000 pictures of drunken escapades with her “friends” and the inevitable complaints of how the world has “done her wrong” bears testimony to this. But I can say with a lot of confidence that Lisa isn’t the only one. Most people have a lot in common with Lisa–she’s just the extreme.

I’ve often taught my counselees that healthy people attract healthy friends and unhealthy people attract unhealthy friends. But these days, I’m not sure which comes first. Do we get healthier with healthier friends or do we choose better because we are becoming better at spotting the healthy ones? It’s probably a little of both.

Have you ever wondered why there is so much drama among your closest friends? If you wonder that, you are not choosing your friends as wisely as you could. Just assuming you want to get healthier and desire to have healthier friends, this essay focuses on how to pick them.

The Standard

In the Gospel of Matthew chapter Ten, Jesus sends out his twelve closest friends and tells them to announce he is going to be visiting the towns surrouding the Sea of Galilee. They are his advance party. Then, he gives them a clue into one of the most difficult skills–how to find out if people are safe to be around. Here’s what he advises the disciples about coming into a new town: (Matthew 10:11-13)

11 “Whenever you enter a city or village, search for a worthy person and stay in his home until you leave town. 12 When you enter the home, give it your blessing. 13 If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing.

They were told to “search around” for a worthy person. What this implies is it is not always that easy to find new friends, and we all need to take our time to do so. I speak accurately when I say that the people we make friends with quickly often turn out to be less than desirable. Truly healthy people are mildly skeptical of bringing new people into their life. They like to take their time to choose close friends. Those who do it quickly will probably be gone just as quickly.

Then we see Jesus advising to look for a “worthy” person. The Greek word translated “worthy” truly means “balanced”. These are the people with many interests, not focusing exclusively on one path or idea. Hyperfocused people do not make great friends. If they are totally obsessed with a habit, sport, lifestyle or job you will never be able to compete with it. Worthy friends are those who know they cannot have a lot of friends, but neither can they allow themselves to have too few. They strike a good balance between work and fun, spiritual and physical, family and friends.

Well, all that sounds wonderful, spiritual and godly. But how does  it work in real life? What would a healthy friend look like in my real world situation? Here are four things I would look for in a ‘worthy’ person:

1. Good Reputation: When you introduce this person to your other close friends and family members they are in general agreement this is a good person to have in your life. If all your significant people warn you that there is something wrong with the person–assuming you have people in your life who occasionally tell you the whole truth–you should probably sit up and take notice. Unless you are starting over from scratch with a whole new set of friends, those who know you best can spot the problem people long before you will. That’s why Jesus says to search around for them. The Greek word for “search” means to ask questions and inquire of others.  If people you respect don’t like the person, it’s a good chance they are dangerous for you.

In this article in Psychology Today, the author warns that if friends bring out the worst in you it means you are mirroring the main features of their life. If you find you act better and healthier around someone, most likely they are healthy themselves.

2. They respect boundaries and encourage you to have other friends: If a person is healthy, they do not get jealous easily. They already know they are only a part of your life. Unhealthy people tend to become possessive and controlling when they feel their hold on others is slipping. An unhealthy person calls at all hours of the day or night. They tell stories about you that are inappropriate. By contrast, healthy people are glad that you are spending time with other friends and truly like to see you have your own personal space. When they do call, they often ask permission to speak to you for awhile.

3. How they deal with conflict determines how good a friend they can be. This is the high-water mark for friendships: How you handle conflict reveals how healthy you are. If they are a person who tells you–and only you–how they feel about things you have said or done, then you know they have learned how to do conflict properly. If they listen to your side of the disagreement, take time to understand your point of view and apologize when they are wrong, keep that friend for life. Obviously, the opposite is also true.

Lisa had one “friend” who slashed her tires because she called her a “drunken whore” in a bar one night. Now, I don’t think either of them handled things better than a five-year-old, but when someone resorts to felonies to get their point across, they are toxic.

4. They don’t have a lot of drama in their life. When you talk with them, a worthy friend is more interested in hearing about your life than constantly talking about theirs. Oh, they will eventually reveal lots of stuff from their inner world and will invite you to share in their private life. But they aren’t dealing with four exes who all want to kill them, three friends who have stolen from them, ex drug-dealers who want their money back etc. To some, they may seem boring, but they seem that way because they are careful with their friendships and don’t hitch themselves to losers. If you are their friend, count yourself fortunate.

Lisa and I have talked for hours lately on this issue of healthy friendships. She honestly told me she doesn’t think anyone she knows is healthy. I asked her if she knew what that meant. What she told me was both revealing and insightful.

“I am probably someone who is not healthy enough yet for healthy people to hang with.”

She’s right. But we’re working on it.



Ten Healthy Ideas – Day 3: Honor To Whom Honor is Due

December 22, 2013
eric liddell

Eric Liddell in the 1924 Olympics

In the 1924 Olympics, U. S. sprinter Jackson Schultz sent a note to British runner Eric Liddell. Both of them were Christians, and Liddell had refused to run on a Sunday because it violated his beliefs that Sunday should be a day set apart for God. (In the movie, Liddell is seen as finding out about his heat being run on the Sunday as he gets on the boat. In reality, he found out months before and pulled out of the competition before being chosen. But his stance was known throughout the world.)

In his note, sent weeks before the Olympics, Schultz told Liddell how he admired him for standing up for what he believed. Schultz also believed this stance would be the deciding factor whether Liddell won his race–the 400 meters. At the end of his letter, he wrote: “As the Good Book says, “He who honors Me, him will I honor.” History records that Liddell did win the 400 meters and beat one of Schultz’s close friends to set the Olympic record.

But was Schultz right? In the note he sends Liddell he quotes 1 Samuel 2:30, which says:

“Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”

Schultz apparently believed that if someone takes a stand for God, in the end, God will honor that person. I’m not sure I totally agree. Many who have stood for God have seen their dreams shattered and been made fools of by this world. But I also believe that those who do what God commands will make more out of their lives than those who dishonor God.

I think there is a principle here that would certainly do us well to remember. Our relationship with God is a covenant. It requires both parties to maintain an honorable place in order for all the benefits of the relationship to be experienced.

A covenant relationship is one that is supposed to last for the rest of one’s life. There are very few of these because of that. A parent and child, husband and wife, certain lifelong friendships, God and a believer and fellow members of God’s church are examples of true covenant relationships. One of the great benefits of those relationships is the concept of honor.

The word honor means to  show respect to someone, to show how they are important and special in our lives. I believe there are spiritual things which happen when we honor another person. We strengthen the bindings between us and them and we allow for spiritual blessings to come to both parties. But, of course, the same is also true for dishonor. When we dishonor someone with whom we share a deep covenant relationship, we weaken the ties between us and allow spiritual destruction in our lives. I explore this concept in marriage in an earlier article.

The Bible tells children to “honor their parents”. Husbands and wives are supposed to show honor to their spouses. Friends are to honor deep friendship by telling the truth, giving aid when needed, coming to the rescue, keeping confidence and not betraying one another.

In the case of children, we are told it is the first commandment with a promise:

Eph. 6:2, 3 : “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Honoring our parents releases health and life blessings upon us and them.

Jim suffered from multiple ailments all the time. He had over 40 pills he took each day for one problem or another. As he and I worked together in counseling over a year, our goal was to eliminate most of those medications. During therapy, we identified a number of false beliefs he carried with him and other detrimental elements related to unforgiveness. At one point, he had eliminated a good portion of his drugs. That’s when we came to the hardest part of the counseling journey.

“Mike, I want nothing to do with my kids. They are all whiners and they never do anything but bring me grief. I can’t really stand to be around any of them.” I explained to Jim that it was proper to have boundaries so others cannot hurt us. But I also asked Jim if he had ever blessed his children. He had really never spoken blessings over any of them. Had he praised them? He said they had never done anything worth praising. Had he told others how much he appreciated any of them? Had he bragged about them? On the contrary, he often criticized them to anyone who listened.

I explained to him why honor is important. God sets the example for this. Even though we have all treated God poorly, God never gives up on us. He never stops loving us. And God will never curse us. God will warn us and discipline us as children, but he always wants blessings for our lives. But when we refuse to honor those who are in covenant relationships with us, we allow the enemy of our souls to attack us and defeat us. Our bodies, minds, emotions and life goals are often destroyed. Those who are critical and dishonoring of their loved ones will often pay the price in personal destruction.

Jim decided to begin blessing those around him. He stopped putting down his children and wife to other people. He asked God regularly to bless them. He sent them notes encouraging them and telling them why he was proud of each one. He began to keep a journal and wrote down why he appreciated his wife and each of his kids.

Six months later, he didn’t need any more medications. He has seen a remarkable change in his life since then. As he has honored the people in his life, the effects of dishonor are being eliminated.

This works with people at church, our relatives and friends and our spouses. We may not like all they do, and we cannot endorse wicked and misguided schemes. But we can honor them and their relationship to us even if we have to maintain a few boundaries.

If  you do that, you will see health come to you and them.


Ten Healthy Ideas – Day 1: Get Rid of Body Lies

December 20, 2013

rs_634x797-131216100228-5ht7pRecently, “E” Magazine reported on an animated Gif file circulating among Jennifer Lawrence fans. It is an older picture of Lawrence from the cover of Flare Magazine. The animated Gif file reveals that they took Ms. Lawrence’s picture–an actress considered by many to be very beautiful–and then proceeded to photoshop it. Here is the website showing the original photo and then how they doctored it.

They made her skinny in places, more pronounced in others and changed her shape completely. Fans around the world are outraged, mainly because she has been on a crusade against this kind of body image tinkering. Here is an interview she did with BBC Television where she expresses her view that every women needs to have a strong image of who they are. This includes viewing their own bodies realistically.

In counseling, I see hundreds of women obsessed with poor body image. They want to blame others for their personal beliefs–and certainly other people are contributing factors in what they believe–but blaming others does not solve the problem. Each person needs to recognize they chose to believe every thing they hold onto. Until a person owns those false beliefs and discards them, they will not be free.

The media, parents, friends, and enemies–including the enemy of our souls–may all feed us false beliefs about our bodies. Let me identify the three main false beliefs:

1. Shame: This is a belief which says ‘There is something essentially wrong with me’. The idea of “wrongness” is completely subjective and has no real basis in fact. What is “wrong” in one setting is “perfect” in another. This includes body size, body shape, and body parts. One culture prizes Aquiline noses (long and curved) where another culture champions small noses. Which one is right? Neither of course. But the belief that says “there is something wrong with me” goes deeper. This belief destroys the idea that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Since there is no objective standard of the right or wrong body type, then anything we believe about ourselves which ends in us concluding “there is something wrong with me” is completely false. 

2. Fear: This belief focuses on how we are perceived. “I will not be accepted for how I look” gives other people the right to speak into how we should look. No longer do we decide if we our bodies are acceptable–we give that right to others. This fear also centers on the idea that we can accurately predict how others see us. This belief is false because even if we are mostly accurate in our assessments, we cannot be completely accurate. Humans are completely different in their preferences. What 100 people dislike, another 100 people may like. But the fear that “all” people will react the same way to us causes us to change who we are–or wish we could change who we are.

3. Helplessness: This is the idea that our bodies are in charge and we cannot do anything about it. For the most part, helpless beliefs are formed when we tried to change something while not doing so with our entire will. For instance, take a young child who comfort eats. This child eats when they are emotionally stressed. They do this because the food makes them feel better. They may do this enough so they become heavier than their friends. At some point–probably during adolescence–they decide it is time to lose weight. The problem is, even though they want to take charge of their body and lose weight, they don’t want to let go of comfort-eating. Therefore, they hinder their own weight-loss efforts. When they fail at this, they believe they are helpless to change the way their body functions. This can result in them choosing to depress themselves and keep their body behaving differently than their ideal vision of themselves. This helplessness gets seeded into their beliefs and they soon react as if they can never change anything their body is doing.

These three false body beliefs–shame, fear and helplessness–torture so many people. But they don’t need to. The solution is to admit these beliefs are choices you made at some point in your life. They don’t feel like lies because you have fed and cared for them for so long.

The secret to overcoming them is to ask God about them. God made you and knows who you are. He knows how you are perceived. He is the one who says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”.

I counseled a woman years ago who struggled with being “overweight”. (I put that word in parentheses because I do not accept the concept of “overweight”. I think it is a false concept designed by the enemy to have a false measuring stick of our value). She believed she would never be acceptable to others unless she reached a particular weight value. In our counseling, I asked her to listen to what God had to say about it.

After several weeks of doing this, she stopped dieting and started to find out more about how God saw her. God showed her the problem had nothing to do with her weight. Her life was being ruled by one resentment she had after another. She decided to let go of all her resentments over a 6-month period. Because she no longer held onto her griefs and pain, she started eating differently. She got out of the house more. She dressed differently. Inexplicably, her body began to take on a different shape.

She had no idea if she lost or gained weight because she threw out her bathroom scale. God showed her that the weight was a measurement of gravity, not worth.

When we get to what God has to say about our bodies, we will inevitably change how we see them. And if we change how we see them, we won’t give in to the terror of false beliefs.


The Person You Really Need

November 19, 2013

I don’t like this particular guy. His voice grates on my nerves and the things he talks about are annoying. I have called him “fake” and “plastic” to people who know me well enough to not take everything I say too seriously. This guy rarely listens to anything I say, and he perpetually lets me know all his life accomplishments. He pretends to always be successful, even when other people know it’s not true.

In recent months, he has said some nasty things about me to other people. These people are friends of mine and told him he was wrong to his face. Because they are my friends, they haven’t told me what he said, only that he’s been saying things to them and other people.

I wish he would go away. Why do I have to have him in my life?

Last night, I was thinking about a gathering I was invited to, a party I know he has also been invited to. I don’t doubt he will be there, which is why I was considering not going. I am still considering that. But last night, I read something which has made it harder to keep feeling the same way about this guy.

I was reading some quotes from The Lord of the Rings and one of them slew me with its truth and intensity. (Note: If you don’t know the story, let’s just say it’s an epic book about people on a journey to get rid of the cause of so much grief). In a scene in the underground mines of Moria, the wizard Gandalf is speaking to one of the young hobbits.Gandalf-Gollum-Wide-560x282 This young man is complaining about the wispy phantom who is dogging their steps through the mine: Gollum. To everyone’s minds, Gollum is the epitome of all things rotten in the world. Yet he will not leave them alone. Pippin complains to Gandalf that Bilbo should have killed Gollum when he had the chance. Gandalf’s answer is remarkable:

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.

Gandalf knows one thing about all men, even Gollum: He has some part to play in the events of the future. Even though some of those events may be evil, his part is important. If you know the end of the story, if it were not for Gollum, Frodo could never have cast the ring into the fire. His heart could no longer bear to part with his “treasure” and he pulled it back to himself with fierceness and stubborn will. As Gollum bit off his finger and ultimately fell into the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo and the rest of the world was released from the ring’s wretched power.

Without Gollum, Frodo’s life would have been easier; and he would have become a slave to that ease. The ring would have become his jailer and his death.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says “Therefore, I was given a thorn in the Flesh, a messenger of Satan…three times I plead with the Lord to take him away. Then the Lord said “My grace is sufficient for you.” Many people believe that Paul is referring to a physical ailment. But the word “messenger” – the same word used for Angel in the Bible – always refers to a personal being, not an illness or injury. Paul is asking God to take away a person who is causing great pain in his life. But God has no intention of doing that. We know now that Paul had several people who followed him around talking him down and stirring up trouble for him. Maybe this is who he asked God about.

But God said “No way, Paul. This guy is yours to deal with, and I will allow it.”

Why? Often in life, we cannot become the person we were always meant to be unless there is a foil, a person we consider a villain and a rotten person. I am not saying we should welcome every horrible person into our lives, or live without boundaries. But, perhaps it is best to see that some of these people we can’t stand are actually there for a reason. And maybe we won’t find the “best” that God has for us unless we accept these people have to be there.

After hearing Gandalf and the deep truth of Paul, I thought about this guy I am having trouble accepting. My meditation did not instantly make him more palatable to my taste. I still don’t like him. But I can now embrace his place in my life. He may turn out to be one of those people who shape me in ways my friends cannot.


Therefore, I will stop asking for God to take him away. I am still wary of him and I don’t have to like him. Now I am asking God to use him in my life.

Let’s see what happens.


20 Signs You Have OLD Geek Cred

May 16, 2013

Because you need to know there is a world of difference between the geek cred of the baby boomers and that of today’s generations, here is a list that shows you were there before the Internet exploded.

  1. You Grokked before you could flirt. In fact, you still grok and can’t flirt
  2. You punched cards to compile a computer program
  3. You could make pictures using just x’s and o’s on a Telex printout
  4. You can identify the difference between the sound a 2400 baud and a 14400 baud modem made.
  5. You still own a 2400 baud modem somewhere in a closet
  6. You completed a Rubik’s Cube without taking it apart or reading a book on how to do it
  7. Some of your fingerprints are missing due to excessive amounts of airplane glue on the fingers during airplane construction all-nighters.
  8. You’ve read LOTR more than 10 times before anyone had seen any of the movies.
  9. You were in love with one of the following sci-fi heroines: Galadriel, Mennolly, Eowyn, Kahlan Amnell or Meg Murry.

10. You have used both an abacus and a slide rule

11. You can play and win at Go, Pente, Chess, and Axis and Allies.

12. You know what a Heathkit is and have put one together and found out they were missing some of the parts. Extra bonus credit if you had the missing parts lying around from other kits. Ultimate bonus if you made the extra parts.

13. You played Pong and thought it was the beginning of the Revolution. You were right.

14. You knew Radio Shack when it was Tandy and had more leather goods than electronic. You bought both.

15. Your first computer had less than 16K of motherboard memory.

16. You know that a 1K segment of memory does not have 1,000 bytes but rather 1024. And you know why.

17. You can count in hexadecimal.

18. You wanted to be a Tarnsman and enter Gor through some secret door. Alternatively, you wanted all the girls from Gor to enter your world through some secret door. Heck, you wanted any secret door.

19. Your parents would get nervous when you entered the room with a screwdriver in your hands. Bonus points if they instantly protected the television set.

20. You can recite the mnemonic for remembering the order of colors in any resistor. (e.g Bright Boys Rave Over Young Girls But Veto Getting Wed)


Appreciating (Again) Extraverts and Introverts

March 12, 2013

This week, we are featuring the top ten most viewed blog entries on this site. This is #6 on the list with over 10,000 hits.

introvert-vs-extrovertIn the years I have spent studying personality traits and how they fit into human interaction, I am most fascinated by Introversion and Extraversion. A proper understanding of these traits is essential to appreciating those who live with us and around us…and perhaps gain a foothold on our own personality and preferences.

The two terms were coined by the Psychoanalyst Carl Jung. The words mean “To take the world outside and absorb it within ourselves”(Introvert) and “To take our inner world and extend it outside ourselves” (Extravert).  There are people who are given to searching and seeking for ‘something’ within themselves and others who seek for ‘something’ outside of themselves. I say ‘something’ because it is never clear what we are seeking or extending. In fact, what we are extending or seeking for may be different for each person. It may be satisfaction, joy, excitement, answers, questions, or energy.

There is an interesting story in the Bible which I have pondered for a long time. A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years came to a public meeting where Jesus was healing people. In Jewish law, a woman was not allowed to touch someone when she was bleeding (menstruating or otherwise). We can only assume this woman had gynocological problems that would not stop. Therefore, she could not touch or be touched by anyone during those twelve years. That is an eternity to be cut off from others, especially if you have any extraversion in you. So she comes up behind Jesus and touches the corner of his clothing. Power goes out of him and heals her. He senses that power is leaving his being and asks who touched him. She cringes at that question and tries to hide. Finally she admits it was her and he declares her healed and clean, thus paving the way for her to enter regular societal interactions again.

Her act of touching him secretly is not uncommon for introverts. They desire to attain their needs without touching other people too deeply. Touching other people requires an introvert to exert a lot of energy. We are told in the same story that Jesus knew that power had gone out of him. It is possible for people to draw things from us, especially if they are introverts. In real life, introverts are always watching out for those who would try to do this to them, and they are sometimes guilty of taking energy from others.

What is also interesting is that she immediately feared that she was in trouble when Jesus asked who had touched him. This had much to do with her years of being an outcast, but it also shows us something about introverts and their motivation levels. Hans Eysenck, one of the world’s most famous experts on Personality proposed that Introverts are more motivated by the possibility of punishment and extraverts by the possibility of rewards. The woman who touched his garment came forward because she was convinced that to do otherwise would bring a punishment.

I was speaking with a friend the other day who asked me if there is any such thing as an absolute Introvert or Extravert. That would be impossible to answer of course, because when you think you have identified the absolute standard for either, someone will always come along who is even more extreme. All of us are somewhere between the two extremes. Even though extraverts commonly recharge their emotional energy by being around people, most extraverts will also come to a point where they are “peopled” out. The emotional crash for an overstimulated Extravert can be dramatic. In the same way, introverts can come to a season in life where they are understimulated by being too isolated. They often will develop deep sense of boredom and restlessness and this can lead them into expecting too much of the few people they have allowed into their lives.

Intriguingly, of all the characteristics of personality, this dualism of extravert/introvert tends to change the most as we get older. Younger introverts will often develop a need for people as they get older. In the same way, extraverts will often find themselves developing habits of retreating from the world occasionally as their age increases. If you visit a nursing home, you will find it very difficult to identify some of the introverts and extraverts. I believe that many people over sixty are “X-types” when it comes to this measurement of personality. (Note: An “x” type is defined by Myers-Briggs proponents as a person whose personality is more toward the middle on a personality trait dualism such as Introvert/Extravert).

I remember visiting an elderly client one time who shared a room with an older gentleman. He told me his roommate conplained constantly about how much he missed his family. But once they would come for a one-hour visit, he would immediately nap afterwards and tell his roommate how tired he was. The extravert part of him wanted their company, and the introverted expression of himself was wiped out by the reality of their presence.

Aren’t people funny?


A Valentine’s Victory

February 14, 2013

valentine-boy-colorYears ago, I listened to Dr. Dale Galloway tell this story at a conference on facilitating small groups. I have no idea what his point was at that time, but I fell in love with the story.

Since it is a Valentine’s tale, I decided to publish it here. A version of it can also be found in the original “Chicken Soup for the Soul”.

Little Chad was a shy, quiet young man. One day he came home and told his mother that he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She thought, “I wish he wouldn’t do that!” Over the months, she had watched the children when they walked home from school. It was a sight that broke her heart.

Her Chad was always behind them. The other kids laughed, hung on to each other and talked to each other. But Chad was never included. She tried to talk him out of going through this futile effort, but he would not change his mind.

Finally, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 valentines. For each of his fellow students he made a unique card, trying to figure out how to make it so they would feel personally glad to receive it. Chad’s mother had never seen him with this kind of intensity and excitement.

Valentine’s Day dawned, and Chad was dressed and ready to go a full hour before the time he had to leave. When his mother finally gave him permission to go to school, he carefully stacked all the valentines, put them in a bag, and bolted out the door.

His mother decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them nice and warm with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he would be disappointed and maybe that would ease the pain a little. It hurt her to think that he wouldn’t get many valentines – maybe none at all.

That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. When she heard the children outside, she looked out the window. Sure enough, there they came, laughing and having the best time. The kids were showing valentines to each other, waving around like trophies. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed. When the door opened she choked back the tears.

“Honey, I have some cookies and milk for you,” she said. But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face glowing, and all he could say was: “Not a one. Not a one.”

His mother’s heart sank at first, but then she noticed the huge smile on his face as he added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”


Selfish or Self-absorbed?

November 8, 2012

Many people say, “I think there is some good in all of us”.

I’m never sure what they mean by that. I think it is a wish that even though we see tragic living and unhealthy decisions, there is still a chance that even a sociopath can get it right occasionally. I would love to believe this sentiment also.

Unfortunately, history and experience tell me that many people are just plain rotten to the core. Read about Darfur, Iraq, the slaughter of Native American women and children at Grand Junction Colorado, the Rape of Nanking by the Japanese soldiers in World War 2 – or just about any evening paper – will confirm what I’m saying.

What may be more accurate is to say that all of us have some evil in us.

There are many who suggest that all our ways are perverted and even when we do something right it is for the wrong reasons. I don’t think history and experience can back that up either. I have seen inexplicable moments when truly evil people have done things that cannot be explained by selfishness or malignant motives.

Here’s what I think is going on: We all have a problem with occasionally seeing ourselves as the central focus of the universe. And from what I can tell, it will usually get expressed in our lives (in those awful moments we wouldn’t want recorded in Heaven) in one of two ways:

Selfishness, or


I define selfishness as an innate desire to achieve what you want instead of what others want.

I see self-absorption as an inability to understand what others want or what they need.

To see this more clearly, let’s draw up a chart of some of the characteristics of each:

Selfish: Self-Absorbed
Tends to be an extravert Tends to be an introvert
Does not want others to win Doesn’t see that others are losing
Sees needs but doesn’t care Cares, but doesn’t see
Not kind but usually straight-forward Kind, but hides what they think
Listens to others to gain advantage Does not listen
Anger problems Depression problems
Hurts others Is hurt by others
Dominates Manipulates
Like people but hard to tolerate Doesn’t like people, but easy to tolerate
Like the effects of drugs and alcohol Hate feeling out of control
Spends freely on themselves Wants others to spend on them
Annoyed when others want their time Doesn’t realize others want their time
Has job that will fulfill their goals Has job that makes them feel better
Many acquaintances and few close friends Few acquaintances and no close friends

All of us have a default position when we give in to evil. It is usually selfishness or self-absorption. When we do not give in to evil, we are much more complex. Evil motivations make us simpler and more predictable. No one is easier to anticipate than someone who is selfish or self-absorbed.

Which one of these are you when you are living poorly? 

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