Raw Reflections from the Journey

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reflections about a Dying? Pastor

Jon Peterson has been a friend and inspiration since 1998.  We met him as an associate pastor of First Christian Church, but our relationship has gone beyond that institution. Two weeks ago he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Just as we have together refused to succumb to headwinds on long rides, we are refusing to accept Jon's 'retirement' from our local peloton.

Shortly after meeting in 1998, I and a few friends were moved to befriend Jon with an opportunity to 'fellowship' with us on bicycles.  He was a young pastor attempting to minister with integrity in a church that was in transition.  Through prayer and conversation our local cycling group planned  a ruse to 'hook' Jon on cycling as an outlet and distraction from the demands of ministry.

On the morning of Jan 1, 1999 six of us gathered in Butch's basement to 'ride' our bikes on stationary trainer stands.  For nearly an hour we worked and strained and sweated, imagining sunny skies and much warmer temperatures!  As we slowly dismounted our two-wheeled mounts, Jon said 'thanks' and moved to leave.   "Not so fast", said Butch.  "You're forgetting something!"  "What?" Jon asked.  "The bike you rode, Jon. It's yours!"  Stunned, the young preacher offered thanks, and carried his gift to his car.

Spring arrived, and Jon appeared on bike to learn to ride.  It pleased us immensely that he rode consistently, and made really good use of the gift he'd been given.

Fifteen years and thousands of mile (and funny stories) later, we are all living with tension and hope that God will heal Jon that he might ride again.

While the medical community has pronounced Jon's condition 'incurable' many of us are hoping and praying for miraculous healing.

A visit with Jon is as one would expect from a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who has lived in wholehearted dependence on "The Word of God"; encouraging and peaceful.  Last Friday I asked Jon what he has learned during this experience that he could not have learned otherwise.  His answer: "My response is probably going to disappoint you, Jeff.  Nothing really.  I've lived every day as if it could be my last, and there isn't anything I want to do differently today than what I've done the rest of my life."

My takeaway?  "Godliness with contentment is great gain." (I Timothy 6:6).

A fellow cyclist sent a message to me this past Sunday evening and asked me to get it to Jon: "Hey Jeff I wanted to share a personal experience today on the bike. On the last lap of a road race today I was struck with the feeling that John would love to be out riding and a million other things. I decided to attack the group with about 3 miles to go and repeated to myself many times,  "this is for John"... just wanted him to know I was thinking of him today and prayed for him and his family during the race. Btw "Jon's Attack" held on!"

I loved that this mutual friend thought about and prayed for Jon, and that he made the effort to share and to encourage him.  Do you have something to say; a prayer to offer?   Carpe Diem!  Say it now!

Blessings!  Jeff

*Jon and Melissa's door is open and he is largely without symptoms, except for fatigue.  He is very lucid, mentally sharp, and appreciative of visits and prayers.  Let me know by personal message if you need contact information or address.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What Do you Want? (why do you want it, and by when?)

What do you want?  How do you hope I/we can be helpful?  What is behind your desire?  By when will you be disappointed if that (your desire) has not been fulfilled?

Why am I asking you these questions, and why now?  Because, if you are like me, then you have been evaluating the past year, and you are looking toward the year ahead in terms of your major life roles and responsibilities.  There are things you are grateful for, and unfulfilled desires from 2013 that you would like to become reality in 2014!

I ask the questions above more than any others as a counselor and coach.  Beginning with the end in mind is essential as part of goal-attainment.  While talking therapy may well have the reputation of aimless conversation about feelings, "How does that make you feel?", that isn't the reality in the appointments we conduct, and it isn't what I train professional clinical counselors and life, leadership and marriage coaches to do.  Talk about feelings?  Yes, it's a part of complete conversations, but knowing what our clients and trainees 'want' and by 'when' is the first thing we attempt to understand.

Before I go further, I want to address persons of faith who might struggle with desires. (e.g., "My life is supposed to be about service to others, not fulfilling my desires.")  Where do you think some of your desires come from?  If you are intent about living a God honoring life then some of your desires come from Him.  "For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose" (Phillippians, 2:13).

Do you have a passion to provide for orphans? Ask yourself, "Does God care about orphans?"

Do you want to provide for widows?  Care for the homeless?  Restore broken relationships?  Feed the hungry? Abolish human trafficking?  Restore the foundation of faith and family in your community?  Ease the plight of children whose lives have been shattered by divorce? Help people get healthy and live abundantly energetic lives of purpose?  Help people to discover and live their life purpose in and for the Kingdom of God?

Where do you think your desires orginated?  According to Philippians 2:13 it is God Himself who wills in us to work according to His good purpose.  He looks at the world, sees problems and needs, and moves you into position with character to uphold the competencies needed to meet those needs.   You are God appointed to exercise the passion He has put into your heart and mind . . . unless of course it isn't.  James addresses 'selfish desires'.  But rest assured, you can answer the 'desires' question, "What do you want?" with confidence that it is something God cares about, then your desire to do something about it in your life and for others probably originated with Him.

So, back to the question?   What do you want, and why do you want it?  If you are serious about accomplishing some of the things that are in your heart, it will be important to pray and reflect over these questions.

Let met ask in another way: What would you like to celebrate a year from now?  Weight loss, restored relationship, your business built to a certain level?  Write a series of blogs, articles or books in the area of your gifting/passion?

What do you want, by when, and how will you know?  That's the essence of a SMART Goal.  (If you want a step-wise process, check out chapter 8 of our book, Marriage Coaching.  The process applies to any potential goal, not just relationship goals).

For example:
"I want our home-based business to be averaging $2000/month by March 31st."
"I want to achieve and maintain my BMI weight by Easter."
"I want to resolve conflict in my (name the relationship) by having one 90 minute crucial conversation per week with (insert name) for the next 6 weeks."

The goal statements could be tweaked a bit, but you get the idea.

Have you heard that "Dreams are cost-free aspirations but that Goals have a budget and a plan?"  It's not enough to simply talk about what we want.  For it to become reality, we need to move to potential action-steps that will bring the goal to fruition.  Other blogs I've written, and the goal chapter in Marriage Coaching can provide more detail if you need it.  Simply said, generate lists of things you could do, want to do, and finally what you will do to accomplish the goal, put it on your calendar as a one time action, or something that you will repeat, and then do it!

I've written this to clarify my own thinking, and to challenge folks I'm responsible to lead (health coaches, health coaching clients, counseling and marriage coaching clients as well as trainees in calling coaching) to be clear about what they want and how to make it clear so that I know how to help them.  And even though this is a pretty long blog, I don't want to leave before talking about 'why's' and 'what it will mean to you to accomplish __ goal", because if the why is motivating enough we will do the action steps to make the goal a reality.

Why do you want ___?  (make a list of 10 motivators), and then also answer this question, "What will it mean to you when ___ is a reality?"  These may seem like simplistic questions, but please don't neglect them. Change theory says that we are much more likely to accomplish goals that have a clear positive 'why' and to sustain the effort to get there when we know our why and we aren't just trying to avoid a negative, fear-based outcome.

Don't make this hard.  Simply acquiring the habit of asking, "What do I want, by when, and why?" can make a huge difference in the quality and quantity of what we accomplish, and that can make a huge difference for us and others!

Carpe Diem!  Jeff

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Forgiveness Plus - What's Required to Restore a Relationship

Pastor Grant Edwards spoke a passionate message on forgiveness today, (click here by mid-week to hear the podcast).  He featured a testimony from Rich and Sharon Wildman, miraculously reconciled after 16 months in 2004, re: the role of forgiveness in their process.

Here's what I caught in my notes.  Contact Rich and Sharon directly (click here) to receive personal coaching through their ministry, Stubborn Pursuits (see if you can guess why it is so named).

From Richard: "I held everything in to the point of depression.  In my mind, I would forgive offenses during communion, but later that week something would happen, and I didn't know how to process it. I heard a fresh idea from Neil Anderson; that we need to acknowledge our feelings to God; our hurt, anger, bitterness.  Confess it to Jesus.  Name it all specifically.  And then ask Him to heal my damaged memories and emotions , because they are so far beyond my ability to do that.  Eventually I felt a lot better and Sharon and I began to be able to talk about how we'd offended each other."

From Sharon: "It was amazing how God taught us some of the same things during our separation.  I learned how to process my anger hurt and offenses Richard did against me. . . . I wrote out everything that I was angry, hurt about, asknowledged it, instead of stuffing it. . . I also needed to admit to God and myself that I'd offended him, and ask forgiveness from God and from him. "

Pastor Grant drew our attention to grace and mercy of forgiveness; to give grace as something not deserved by the one who offended us and to withhold judgment as a merciful act of not giving them what they do deserve.  Matthew 6:14, 15 was his text "14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

In theory, it's simple, right?  While Grant didn't time have to expound on many of the complexities involved in a forgiveness AND reconciliation process, he seemed to intimate (and I observed as one of the Wildman's coaches) that their restoration required compassionate empathy from each of them to the other for the ways that their respective offenses effected each other.  

Let me say it another way.  It's one thing to make a decision to forgive another regardless of whether they ask for it or how they receive it, and quite another to repair and restore the relationship.  We can forgive in the manner of Jesus, "Father forgive him/her, they know not what they do" as an act of obedience that God knows is good for us (our soul's aren't built to carry resentment or guilt), but it requires additional compassionate and empathic conversation to appreciate the devastating effect that our sinful behavior, attitudes, words, etc. have had on our partner.  Short of that, in our experience, it is unlikely that an offended spouse who has forgiven, will again entrust their heart to their partner.

Are you stuck at any point of this process?  Consider these action steps: 

1. Meditate and pray over Matthew 6:14, 15.  Ask God to show you whom to forgive for what.

2. Be willing to hear how the one you was impacted by your behavior.

3. Secure expert counsel, coaching, mentoring, facilitation through proven skills and exercises to share your truth without further damaging the relationship.  

Richard said this about one of the important exercises they used, "It (the exercise) was like a fire place in a home.  It gave us a way to have a fire in our relationship (truth-telling toward reconciliation and restoration)."

Finally, Pastor Grant encouraged a commitment to being a forgiving person, and in so many words said that our happiness in relationships depends on it! 

Will you make a commitment to being a forgiving person?  And will you take a step today to either apologize and ask forgiveness from your spouse, or to forgive them? 

Blessings, Jeff (and Jill)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Responsiveness: The Courtesy of Acknowledgement

I've thought about writing this for a long time, but it was usually with a bad attitude, so I refrained.

Have you noticed that the myriad of ways we have to electronically communicate sometimes leave us with more puzzles than answers about where people stand in relationship to us?  Send a text, email, facebook message, comment or post, voicemail, etc. and I hope for a reply.  But sometimes these go completely unanswered, or there are long delays that open up room for suspicion and negative conclusions; not good ingredients for relationships whether personal or professional. So, what to do?

I've found these practices helpful (thank you to Jill and friends that have suggested them):

1. Believe the Best! - Choose to think, "They are probably busy, stressed, occupied with something important and they will get to me as soon as possible given the other responsibilities in their life.

2. Check back to see if your communique was received - Technology is great when it works, but I'll bet that you have had quite a few emails, texts, voicemails get launched into the black hole of cyberspace.  "No. I never saw/heard your message" is believable because I've not seen things that others said they sent to me.

3. Give the Grace that you want to receive - I know I'm not perfect.  I've double-booked, no showed, meant to do well with a timely, thorough and honoring response, and dropped the ball.  I sure appreciate kind graciousness and an opportunity to try again instead of angry rejection.

4. RESPOND! There.  I said it.  Please respond.  Somehow.  Even a brief acknowledgement is appreciated. "Hey, I received your message.  Can't respond adequately now, but will w/in (24, 48, 72 hours, etc.).

Take Responsibility for your time and keep track of promised commitments on a task list.  

Tim Schofield is an international trainer for Franklin-Covey, well known for their principles and tools to assist in value based time management.  "Jeff, this planner isn't a tool to be served but a tool to help you to be a man of your word who does the things that he says he is going to do."

Why did I write?  I want great relationships! And, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

I want bridges of communication to be kept intact, negative experiences minimized, and to be responsive to others as a people helper who reliably and efficiently gives and meets needs.  More than once I've heard from a potential counseling client, "You win my business because I called five counselors and you are the only one who called me back!"

What are your thoughts about responsiveness?  What additional ideas and suggestions do you have on this topic?

blessings, Jeff

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Forsaking an Overweight Mindset

I have a complaint about the program I followed to lose 50lbs of unwanted weight.  I lost the weight faster than my mind could adjust.  Let me explain.
The first occurrence was while riding bikes (cycling, we call it) with two young bucks who were pushing the pace.  As I led up a climb I kept pressing my legs and lungs for more, sure that they were nipping at my heels, that I was going too slowly, and that they were frustrated with the old (fat) man.  Head down, determined to not be the weak link in the chain, I didn’t look back for several minutes.  Finally, upon arrival at the top I glanced over my shoulder, and was stunned to see them ¼ mile behind!  So I slowed and waited while they worked to catch up.  Upon arrival their eyes were wide with surprise.  “What happened to you?”  “Guess I’ve got less to carry up the hill”, I replied with surprise.
Next is a near daily occurrence of taking hold of pants to put on.  “These are way too small.  They’ll never fit”, I think to myself.  This has been a frequent and frustrating experience and conversation with myself the past few years as I rummaged for something other than my tried and true “fat clothes”.  Often I self-administered some rationalization that they must have been shrunk in the dryer.  But now, the small pants/shorts not only fit, and they’re getting looser by the day! 
Then there’s walking stairs, doing yard work, hugging my wife; all much more comfortable experiences than the past.  I don’t perspire or huff and puff as much, and my body/joints don’t hurt after everyday exertions.  Truly Amazing!  I’m definitely riding the wave of a honeymoon with a recovered physique!
So, I have a question for the veterans of slimmer living.  How long does it take for your mind to adjust to your body?  I feel a bit disoriented.  Not enough to reverse course to a higher body weight again, mind you!  Yet, there are some aspects of familiarity with being overweight that I don’t want to lose.
The other day, while sharing the program with a person burdened by too much weight, she cried about how painful it is on a daily basis to look at herself in the mirror, and to feel how she feels.  As she tearfully described a long history of failure, frustration and hopelessness I too felt tears run down my cheeks.  The painful emotions she is feeling are all too familiar and all too recent.  However, my tears of compassion soon turned into tears of joy as I encouraged her about the effectiveness of this program, and that The Great Physician might use it to heal her from her overwhelming physical and emotional burdens. 
Well, thanks for listening to a bit more of my reflections and excitement about this whole physical transformation thing.  How is it hitting you?  Do you too need a weight loss miracle and physical relief/healing that might come with it? 
I’m just so grateful for what I’ve received that I can’t help but share it!
Please drop me a note or give me a ring if you’d like to know more.

Gratefully, Jeff

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lighter Living (1/5 of me . . . gone!)

I'm thrilled that two months after beginning an endeavor to lose weight that its been so successful.  45lbs!  And this isn't uncommon on this program.  The even more amazing result is that graduates of Take Shape for Life are maintaining a healthy body weight for years by wholly integrating and practicing habits of health.  I have hope for the future that is priceless!  Just as my faith in Jesus puts my soul at rest "To live is Christ and to die is gain", I have peace and hope about my evolving health supported by how I feel!  I really feel good!

Gone are the days of fearing my Dr's disappointed gaze of reproach "It would be good to lose some weight."  And, I don't mind climbing into our smaller car (1993 Corolla); something I avoided previously because the tight fit reminded me that I'd somehow super-sized my body.

But lighter living isn't just physical.  Cycling is easier, for sure, but walking, sitting, arising to stand, crossing my legs, getting dressed, tying my shoes . . . really?  And all of this adds up to greater ease in life and less weight on my soul.  You know how sometimes you don't know what you've got till its gone?  Well, I didn't know what an oppressive emotional burden I was living under until my weight was gone.  And I suspect that's the case for many if not most who are struggling with weight.

So what's the meta-perspective, and what is this kind of transformation all about?

I'm seeing Romans 12: 1,2 in a different light . . . "Therefore I urge you in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, wholly pleasing to God . . . "  Prior reading of the word sacrifice has made me wince.  'Sounds painful' I reasoned.  But what if sacrifice is joy because of the wonderful results that far surpass the temporary discomfort of doing some things differently (for instance, becoming accustomed to water as my primary if not sole beverage?)  Have you realized experientially how effective proper hydration (64 oz's of water/day) is to reduce headaches and fatigue?  It is!

Lighter living:  Lighter body, lighter spirit, lighter mood.  Thank you God for gracing me with desire, motivation and method, and a community of new friends to give and receive support for the journey!  Click here to contact my coach and mentor if you want to check this out for yourself.

blessings, Jeff

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hope If You're Feeling Unhealthy

My favorite story in the Bible is about Peter and John being warned by religious leaders to be silent about Jesus because they were causing upset to the status quo, "We can't help but tell about the things we've seen and heard" they replied.  Their experiences were way too remarkable to keep to themselves, and their relationship with Jesus was something they wanted to share with others.

Well . . . I can't help but testify to the miraculous changes that I've experienced by following a plan to establish optimal health; significant weight loss, disappearance of emerging health concerns, improved energy, sleep, a sense of well-being and consistently stable mood.

Maybe you'll tune this out, just as I tuned out many such testimonies over the past decade, but I hope I have your attention, especially if you're feeling desperate, hopeless, embarrassed and/or a myriad of other unpleasant feelings.

My long story told briefly is that a decade of professional and personal stress contributed to weight gain and a host of other emerging maladies associated with it; borderline high blood pressure, acid reflux, IBS, snoring, lethargy and fatigue; difficult symptoms for a once vibrant athlete to tolerate.  The summary is that 2003-2013 was a slippery slope toward unhealthiness.  Psychologically, I denied it because in many ways I felt hopeless to reverse the process.  How exactly does one stop self-medicating with comforting food and drink?

Since I'm probably going to be writing about this a lot, I'm not going to try to tell the whole story in one blog.  Suffice to say that I've moved from hopelessness to hope as all of my symptoms listed above have disappeared over 6 weeks, and I'm down 35 of the 50lbs that I added over a decade.  I feel better than I've felt in ten years, and feel hopeful for a healthy future!

How did it happen?  The first and foremost factor is spiritual.  Once again I surrendered (for those not familiar with our marriage story, surrender was key to saving our marriage and family in 2008).  "God, I can't do this and don't know how to do this.  I've tried self-discipline, starvation and other 'white-knuckled' approaches to weight-loss and health recovery and they haven't worked. If it's going to happen, it's going to have to come from you!"  Related to this were many prayerful pleas for grace vs. self-willed discipline.  Thank you Rob Rue for testifying about this and maintaining a hopeful posture of prayer that I might enjoy the grace that God gave to you!

The second ingredient was a proven program.  Hang tight, this really isn't an infomercial.  Understand it as my best effort to responsibly represent something I'm excited about (think back to Peter and John).  "Take Shape for Life" is a program of medifast that has a track record for safe healthy and sustainable weight loss as the first phase in a life-long pursuit of optimal health.  And my experience has been the average (yet exceptional) experience.  I've lost weight quickly and felt great while doing it!  I've rarely been hungry, and mood/energy have been mostly very positive throughout!

How does the program work?  Basically, you eat one lean and green meal per day (very filling and satisfying), and five meal replacements that put the body into a fat burning state very quickly.  It's simple, cost effective (what you pay for the meal replacements is probably equal to or less than your current daily food budget), and sustainable (I'm going on my seventh week, and don't have far to go to establish a healthy weight!)

Full disclosure:  It took me three years of watching a trustworthy friend getting and sustaining results from this program before I pulled the trigger.  So, if you're feeling anything close to what I was feeling before I began (hopeless, skeptical, embarrassed, etc.) you might scoff.  But again, I can't help but share what I've experienced  because the results have been almost too good to be true.  I feel reborn, and hopeful with anticipation for the rest of my life instead of hopeless and defeated.  And odds are, it will work for you (it's been studied and recommended by Johns Hopkins University).

If you're intrigued, google Take Shape for Life. Or better yet, call or write to my coaches, Tom and Susan Patras, and tell them Jeff sent you.  Click here for their webpage and contact information.

Blessings and Godspeed!