Raw Reflections from the Journey

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Attitude of Gratitude or "Physician Heal Thyself"

Recently I confided to a new friend that over the past few years I'd struggled with depression. "Give anyone enough disappointments, discouragements and disillusions and you can create depression" I said. "So, you're a counselor", he said, "What did you do?" "I struggled" I said. "But, I'm glad I did. I've learned a lot, and I'm much more compassionate with others when they struggle."

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (Jesus in John 16:33)

We are going to have trouble in this world. Life outside the Garden of Eden is difficult. Scott Peck said it well, "Life is difficult, but once you accept that life is no longer as difficult because you stop expecting what it is not likely to give you."(1)

"Ok, so you can quote hopeful and helpful things" my friend said. "What did you do?" "Well" I replied, "It's what I'm still doing. Taking control of my thoughts and making a conscious decision to change what I think about and how I think about things." The classic glass half-full vs. glass half-empty illustration comes to mind.

Disappointments and uncertainty continue, but they are on balance with blessings. Sole focus on the negative easily gives rise to anxiety and can plummet me into depression. So, what's the alternative? The choice to count blessings and live with an attitude of gratitude. Pollyanna(2) got this one right, and so has been immortalized as the founder of the infamous Glad Game.

Pollyanna was an orphaned child of missionary parents who lived with unreasonable and illogical optimism. When faced with adversity she played "The Glad Game". "There's always something to be glad about", she would say.

Indeed, the infectious little optimist was a forerunner of well-researched cognitive-behavioral therapy, the world's best and most effective non-medical treatment for anxiety and depression. In summation, it's primary postulate is "What you think about and how you think about it has everything to do with how you feel."

In fact, the Apostle Paul came before Pollyanna, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).

One of the teachings of Jesus that I currently appreciate the most is to live one day at a time. The future doesn't have to be lived today, and the reality is that today is all that I can do something about. When reduced even further, I can't control today, but I can control my response to the event's of the day. I can choose what to think about and how to think about things.

I'm glad:
- that I have a relationship with Jesus
- that God has provided instruction about how to live
- that my family loves me
- that I have control of my attitude
- that....

What are you glad about? (Pollyanna)

On the journey,


1. The Road Less Traveled
2. 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Challenge and Blessing of Flux

We've made plans for 2010 to support our family and ministry. We're enjoying the excitement of fresh strategy, and we're even receiving some support for it (verbal and financial). It seems that God is giving favor to a two-pronged strategy of tent-making for support and ministry development.

Here are the objectives we have in mind (see below for what God is doing):

1. Support our family, and live on support as marriage missionaries
2. To commute (Jeff) between home in Maryland and Ohio
3. To provide direct service in counseling, marriage/life/leadership coaching
4. To strategically multiply the ministry of marriage coaching

BUT, much is in flux...or at least we think it is. God knows.

Yesterday a friend accompanied me to look at a potential office setting in Ohio. A decorative rock in the garden had this inscription, "Be patient, you are gaining wisdom". We saw it at the same time, "Is that a sign (message from God)?" he asked. It does resonate with my spirit and what I think I'm hearing from The Holy Spirit.

Waiting has never been one of my virtues. The narrative on my temperament assessment says, "Even state of the art electronic communication probably doesn't move fast enough for you." True. arrrgggghhhh....and so I've prayed to learn patience. Guess what that means? :)

But the blessing of flux and waiting is similar to the recently popular fitness program, P-90X, which is all about muscle confusion. It reportedly expedites fitness by disallowing adaptation, the body's response to being repeatedly stressed in the same way. In other words, we grow stronger faster when the demands placed on us are frequently altered.

And so, I'm sensing that this is still God's plan for me/us (Jill) as servants intent on following Him wherever He leads to do whatever He says. Jill confirmed this in a bedtime call last night (I am in Ohio and she is in Maryland). "I'm still up for the 'Whatever' Dance", she said. Cool. (The whatever dance is our way of thinking about the moment by moment choreography of our lives according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit).

About 10 days ago this thought struck me, (thank you Holy Spirit), "I know what we want a private counseling and coaching practice to be (a cash cow to support our family), but what do you want it to be, Lord?" Now there's a thought...ask God what He wants instead of making our own plans and asking Him to bless it.

So, we're watching, we're waiting, and we're asking, one moment at a time, and dancing the dance steps in which He leads us...and it's good.

As I read this morning in "The Good and Beautiful God", by James Bryan Smith, I realized afresh that God's greatest desire is not the success of our plans, but conforming us to the image of His Son, giving us the opportunity to wholeheartedly follow as His disciples.

Over the past two weeks, God has used the "muscle confusion" of travel, different beds, different routines, exploration of ways to execute our "plan" for 2010 and now temporary separation from my family to challenge my faith muscles.

While with some fellow believers to worship and fellowship yesterday I heard these whispers in regard to my questions about what to do w/ respect to "the plan",

- show up (meaning, show up in the midwest as you've planned), and
- be available for divine appointments

And so, while in flux, I'm at peace. Learning contentment in all circumstances is good, eh? I guess God has his own version of P-90X, and it's good. And sometimes, even if it doesn't feel good, it does us good.

On the journey,