Category Archives: Attitude

Brave is the New Beautiful

Brave is the New Beautiful:

Brave is the New Beautiful: Finding the Courage to Be the Real You by Lee Wolfe Blum

Life is hard. It seldom goes like we planned. Bad things happen to good people. Life comes crashing in — or oozing in. And we’re expected to be brave?

As Americans, we want easy answers, quick resolutions. As Christians, we want Jesus to wave his magic wand and make it better. The reality is, answers are seldom quick or easy or perfect. The big question is then, what do we do? How do we react or respond? How do we find hope in the midst of the hopeless?

Lee Wolfe Blum is brave. And beautiful. As a therapist in an addiction and eating disorders program, she explores what it means to be brave, facing her own demons and telling the stories of other women who have faced theirs. In the process, she makes it clear that while there are no easy answers, there is Jesus. But not just the “right answer” Jesus. No, the real, gritty Jesus who meets us in the mess.

Blum weaves her own story of burnout and her resultant quest for wholeness with the stories of other women in a gracious and gentle way. But this is not the typical namby-pamby “isn’t Jesus sweet?” book that I so often review. Blum tells raw, authentic stories of vulnerability laced with faith. Her writing is beautifully crafted, but not every story has a happy ending. Some don’t even have an ending. Just like in real life.

Brave Is the New Beautiful: Finding the Courage to Be the Real You reads smoothly, but I wouldn’t call it an easy read. It moves deeper with each chapter and offers hope without guarantees. Just like real life. It will be a resource in my ministry. My only complaint is that she wrote it for women only. I would love to give a book like this to many men who are also facing tough stuff. Who also need to be brave.

 

So Says Sassy

So Says Sassy by Ann Marie Shields

So Says Sassy by Ann Marie Shields

Ann Marie Shields is sassy. Or so she says. And she says it in her delightful book, So Says Sassy.

So Says Sassy is not the typical book I review. But I agreed to read it as a favor to her daughter, who has been a friend for almost 30 years. We used to be neighbors; our kids played together until Judith and her family moved away. We’ve stayed in touch through Christmas letters and Facebook posts. When Ann Marie passed away last year, Judith decided to compile her blog into a book. And what a book it is! I’m so glad I agreed to read it.

I fell in love with Ann Marie. What a sassy, bold, engaged, and authentic woman. We’re familiar with all the mommy blogs out there, but hers was a senior blog—a slice of the life of a woman in her last years. I haven’t seen another like it. Ann Marie began blogging at the spry age of 75. That alone gives me great admiration for her. I started blogging in my late 50s, and let me tell you, every step was a steep learning curve. I was grateful for the constant tech support of my son, and Ann Marie was grateful for the tech support of her family. She was a hip, techie grandma, often blogging about her new digital camera, new phone, new computer. Like me, she tried very hard to keep up with this technological new world, even though it was hard and often confusing.

But hers wasn’t a technology blog. That was just one little aspect of it. Rather, it was the very well written life and thoughts of an aging woman. A woman who wanted to be a writer, but never seemed to gain the traction she wanted. So she found her outlet in her blog. She writes about her Irish “second and last husband, Des” with all his delights, idiosyncrasies, and maladies. She writes about her family—her kids, grandkids and great grandkids and the family events that added sparkle and delight to her life. She writes about her precious and imperfect parents, about being an only child, and about growing up in the close-knit Italian neighborhood in Chicago. And as she aged, she wrote about the increasing impact of her illnesses and health challenges, and about the last days of her precious Des.

As an aging woman, I appreciated this sneak peek into the life of one who was about 15 years ahead of me. I wondered what I would write if this were a slice of life blog rather than a motivational blog. I gained new insights into the struggles of my mother, now 95 and in the midst of all that Sassy wrote about. If you are aging or know someone who is, this book is an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I’m missing her sassy attitude now that I’ve finished the book.

Addiction: A Thought for the Church

In all likelihood you have someone in your life with an addiction. Maybe even yourself. Addiction issues came to the forefront during my high school years in the 1960s, with the Viet Nam war, the war on drugs, and the Summer of Love. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, eating disorders, gambling, internet, porn… the list has grown as we have become more aware.

Need a Hug?

Need a Hug?

But the common denominator, especially within the Church, has always been, “Addiction = weak person.” We look down on those who need a crutch to get by (because of course, we don’t need that crutch and let’s not talk about my crutch, ok?). We judge. We offer recovery programs to help those people. I know. I’ve been there…

So I was intrigued by an article entitled The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think.  Author Johann Hari offers another explanation, backed up with some fascinating research on both rats and humans. It’s a long read, but well worth the time. Bottom line, he says that both rats and humans need love and a stimulating environment. That the chemical addiction (and I would argue, non-chemical addiction) is less compelling than the loneliness, the boredom, the lack of connection. OK, that might be simplistic. But is it?

I’ve seen people with serious addictions heal rapidly when they finally understand God’s love and see it demonstrated in the people around them. That’s what did it for me. I called it a miraculous healing, but was it or was it that I was finally safe? Finally loved? Finally seen?

Sure, sometimes people need prayer, accountability, and discipleship. I certainly did. But is it those factors that change them or the fact that someone finally sees them for who God created them to be. That someone is bold enough to debunk the lies they have believed, often since childhood or even infancy. That someone is willing to speak Truth to their wounded spirits. Over and over, as needed. Is that why “hire a friend” (aka therapy) often makes a difference?

So what does that mean for the Church? For you and me? Maybe we need to judge less and love more. Criticize less and speak Truth more. Shun less and hang out more. We have the words of life, and we can share them, even with those struggling with addictions.

What do you think?

 

 

 

How to Get What You Don’t Want

Did you know there’s a sure-fire way to get what you don’t want? Yep, and many people practice this method everyday. They speak their reality into existence with their words, and what they speak is what they don’t want rather than what they do want.

Sometimes we Create Our Own Mess

Sometimes we Create Our Own Mess

How often have you heard someone say, “I’m so bummed because I’m not married yet.” Or “I’ll probably never have children. It’s getting too late in life.” Or “I’m sure I won’t be able to get a job as good as the one I had before.” Or “I’m hopeless! I’m such an idiot!” Maybe you’ve said at least one of these yourself.

Do you realize that your words have creative power? Do you realize that, like the God whose image we are created in, we can speak reality into existence. Matthew 9 is filled with such stories: the man whose daughter died, the woman with the issue of blood, the two blind men. In each case, Jesus healed them and commended them on their faith. After healing the two blind men he said, “According to your faith be it done to you” (Matt. 9:29). All of these people spoke in faith, believing that Jesus could and would heal them.

Jesus hasn’t changed. He still acts according to our faith. What do you have faith in? What would happen if you stopped speaking in faith that the negative will happen, and rather, spoke in faith that Jesus will indeed provide what you need or desire? If you’re creating a reality you really don’t want, there is a way to change that.

 

Tips for Emotionally Managing Caregiving

Are you one of the 65 million Americans providing care for loved ones needing help due to illness, disabilities, or aging? If so, you no doubt experience a vast array of emotions. You’re busy, untrained, and just plain exhausted—and perhaps managing a boatload of grief in the process.

Bang Head Here

Bang Head Here for Stress Relief
Photo Credit Lynn Hasselberger

Dr. Steve Landers offers simple but important tips for managing four common stressors in family caregiving in his article Family Caregiving Isn’t Easy: Emotional Management Tips.

I currently manage care for three people: my 94-year old mother who lives four hours away, my sister who has acute needs requiring me to be with her during hospitalizations (also four hours away), and my husband who has Parkinson’s Disease. The demands and thus the emotions regarding each vary with who they are, what their needs are, and my relationship to them. Personally, I’m great with the medical aspects of their care. I understand and can often diagnose what’s going on even before their physicians do. But I get frustrated when they behave like helpless victims. When they don’t do the things they know to do to take care of themselves. When they complain about things that neither they nor I can change, and let those complaints taint their whole day.

My tip for managing the whiny victim? Become a Pollyanna. When I’m handed a negative – a complaint, a criticism, or an accusation, I come back with a positive. A reason why I believe the sky isn’t falling. A suggestion for making lemonade out of some pretty sour lemons. An action they can take to make things better. I resist doing anything I know they can do for themselves, even while constantly reassessing to make sure they can still do it.

What is your biggest challenge in caregiving, and what do you do about it?

 

 

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I’m Done!

This afternoon I pressed send on my final paper for my final class for my Master of Arts in Theology (Biblical Studies) from Fuller Theological Seminary, Bay Area! I was able to walk in the graduation in June, but with one class remaining over the summer, it seemed a bit anti-climactic. And wouldn’t you know, this was one of the most tedious classes I’ve taken. Yes, even accounting for the senioritis I experienced.

Working on my master’s degree has been one of my major efforts at pursuing splendor. I started the program at the age of 59, taking one class per quarter. My idea was that I really wanted to learn this time. In my previous degrees (BA and MPH), I worked full time, even while pursuing a master’s degree in the 1970s. I never felt that I learned much. My goal was to finish. This time I was free to devote more time and energy to my classes, and to move slowly. There was no job goal. No urgency. Just the desire to learn all I could and be enriched from each class.

Now what? What I know so far is “more of same.” More writing, speaking, and personal ministry. However, I also believe God will open new doors for me and perhaps even point me in a new direction. I’m excited and ready for my next adventure. All I know for sure is that it won’t include retirement – much to my husband’s disappointment.

When You Think You’re Dying

Making change is hard. Sometimes very hard. When I’m doing ministry and encouraging change, I often hear, “I feel like I’m dying!” And that’s true. Change often feels like death, and in fact, requires a death.

Go Ahead and Die!

Go Ahead and Die!                                                                                                                        Photo Credit: Jhong Dizon

Here’s the deal. Many of the behaviors and attitudes we want to change actually require a death. A death to the habit. A death to the factors that drive the habit. A death to the good feelings that the habit generates. It feels like death unto death.

But here’s the reality. When we make a change that is good for us, it can be a change unto resurrection. We may be in the “grave” for a short time, but if it’s a change for good, it’s a change to resurrection. We come out better. We come out transformed. We will never be the same again. The old has indeed passed away, the new lies broad before us. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

So if you feel like you are dying as you try to change, that’s a good thing. Continuing the old habit will bring death. But allowing the habit to die, well that brings resurrection! So go ahead. Die!

Thriving in Babylon

thriving in babylon

Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture

Have you been discouraged as you see our culture deteriorating? Have you faced fear as ISIS spreads and homegrown terrorists spread panic across the world? Have you lamented the loss of freedoms caused by court decisions, increasing regulation, and political correctness?

Meet a man forced to live in a fast changing and godless society. He faced fears about the future, concern for his safety, and the discouragement of world that seemed to be falling apart at warp speed.

Sound familiar? His name was Daniel, and with the power of hope, humility, and wisdom, he not only thrived, he changed an empire while he was at it. Though he lived thousands of years ago, he has a much to teach us today. But his key message is this:

Even in Babylon, God is in control.

In Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture, Larry Osborne explores the “adult” story of Daniel to help us not only survive – but actually thrive in an increasingly godless culture. Here Pastor Osborne looks at:

-Why panic and despair are never from God

-What true optimism looks like

-How humility disarms even our greatest of enemies

-Why respect causes even those who will have nothing to do with God to listen

-How wisdom can snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat

For those of us who know Jesus and his promises, and understand the full implications of the cross, the resurrection, everything changes—not only in us, but also in our world.

This is an easy read, but filled with thought-provoking challenges. Is my faith really all I think it is?

Give Away!

And here’s the good news! David C. Cook has provided me with an extra book to give away to one fortunate reader. Leave a comment below telling us what concerns you most about our world today -or- how you are finding ways to thrive in your Babylon. I’ll randomly select one of you to receive the book on August 7.

Where Do You Want to Be? | Contentment

Are you satisfied with where you are and what you’re doing? So many people aren’t. Single people want to be married. Married people wish they weren’t. If a job isn’t perfect, some people complain, threaten to quit, and sometimes even orchestrate their firing. They believe they will be happy when… And they can’t be happy unless…

One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands (The Show Ponies) has a perfect line:

“You’ll never be where you want to be until you want to be where you are.”

Think about it. Instead of always wanting to be somewhere else, doing something else, being someone else, what if you were simply able to be content. Right where you are? To rejoice in being. Just who you are. Every day. What would it take for you?

Would you need to set aside your visions of what your life was supposed to look like? All too often we have our preconceived ideas about the course of our life, and when it doesn’t work out, we blame God. Or ourselves. Or someone else. We strive to accomplish our goals, even if they aren’t God’s goals. In the process, we drown in discontentment. We want to be anywhere other than where we are.

Try it. Just be where you are, and decide that you want to be there. Practice contentment and see what a difference it makes.

The Second-Half Adventure | Rethinking Retirement

The Second-Half Adventure: Rethink Your Retirement!

The Second-Half Adventure: Rethink Your Retirement!

Do you believe in retirement? I don’t. After all, who said that after age 65, all we’re good for is golf and luncheons? Retirement seems to be an American concept – perhaps a 20th century American concept. And yet, it seems to be a given for many Boomers these days.

My friend, Kay Marshall Strom, offers an alternative in The Second-Half Adventure: Don’t Just Retire-Use Your Time, Skills, and Resources to Change the World. In cooperation with Finishers.org, Strom asks, “What if your work-for-hire years have simply been prep time for the most important part of your adulthood? What if the next ten or fifteen or twenty or thirty years is what you were really made for? What if your second half turns out to be your opportunity to throw all your accumulated skills and training and education and life experiences and financial resources behind a new and exciting kingdom opportunity?”

In a short book filled with stories of people who have made the leap, Strom calls Finishers.org, which matches volunteers with both domestic and international needs, the “e-Harmony of missions work.” The book offers a chapter on evaluating your skills and needs and another on confronting your barriers. If you’re approaching retirement age, you’ll appreciate the insights in this book.