Friday, July 15, 2011

Created For More – Consider the Emotions that you House

At a specific time in history, God purposefully used his mind, will and creative powers to fashion all of the intricate parts that make up your unique personality, hair color, ring finger size – everything. Psalm 139:14 tells us that His works are wonderful and that WE KNOW it full well.  Each of us has an innate understanding that we house something unique and special with potential to do great things.  We are made in the image of God and the distinctiveness in our makeup reflects His glory.

In the Garden of Eden, before sin entered into the heart of man, Adam and Eve lived harmoniously with God and each other.

But when sin entered into the heart of man, Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, and congruence with God was interrupted. Man inherited a sinful nature within himself that causes him to wrestle between right and wrong, or good and evil.

Transformation of a man’s heart occurs when man is reconciled with God through Jesus Christ and confronts his sinful nature by yielding his will to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. 

Man was designed to live in harmony with God. But man’s sin has thrust him outside that harmony, into living with his own sinful nature, creating confusion about how to meet his own needs. This neediness causes man to act out in harmful ways, resulting in pain and heartache for self and others. If your heart could speak, would it reveal any pain or confusion about self, or the meaning of life?

Emotional wounds and the lies attached to those wounds can prevent a person from:
Knowing the true self because of a false self or false set of beliefs
Taking risks and growing to become all that Christ intends
Living in the moment and experiencing the wonder and joy of life
Making a difference and contributing to society and the kingdom of God
Life as God intends for His Creation
The Lord wants to kill the man of sin inside your heart. He wants to KILL sin just like a cancer patient wants to kill the cancer cells. Kill is a strong word that means to end life. We have to first become aware of the emotional cancer cells in our hearts and then be willing to do WIT, “whatever it takes” to kill them; it requires work to expose the wounds in our hearts (and the false messages attached to them) to enable our replacing the lies with God’s truth.
That work is a battle in your heart to kill sin, but until you can SEE it, you will not treat it. A person does not receive treatment for cancer if there is nothing to indicate its presence. But when the cancer manifests itself through symptoms, that person takes immediate action to establish a treatment plan.
Physical cancer is a menace that no one wants to face. The word “cancer” captures a person’s attention, and creates the willingness to do WIT, “whatever it takes” to get rid of it. Physical cancer is to the body as unhealed emotional wounds are to the heart: untreated emotional wounds lead to spiritual death just like untreated cancer causes physical death. A prudent person has regular checkups to make sure cancerous division and multiplication is not ravaging his/her body. God tells us to DAILY allow His Holy Spirit to inspect our hearts, to see if there is anything that is displeasing to Him, and to see if there is any lie in our heart caused by an emotional wound that is robbing us of His glory and truth.

However, people live for years with depression, unsatisfying relationships, internal pain and suffering, and will go to huge lengths to hide these symptoms either out of fear of being discovered as “less than or not enough”, or simply lack of knowledge about how to be set free from internal pain.
Where is emotional pain?
In your heart.
Where do we invite Christ to live?
In our hearts.
We are all in need of a Savior to love and redeem us.

Keeping emotional pain at bay is like trying to keep a beach ball submerged under water; it takes constant energy and will never succeed. But, when exposed - or brought into the light - that pain or darkness will lose its power.
So what is the solution?
Dr. Phil says you cannot change what you will not acknowledge.
Jesus Christ says to confess your sins so that you may be healed.
Honesty leads to getting well. It is that simple. Once you discover lies that have become your beliefs that keep you from living in freedom, you can identify your heart battle, and can work to replace those lies with God’s truth.
When false beliefs are keeping you from experiencing the joy of your salvation, you are being denied the glory for which you were created.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Traveling on the Road to Restoration

In Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, he says, “we were created by God and for God and until you figure that out, life isn’t going to make sense.”

Our lives here on earth are about being restored to man’s original state of innocence and embracing our distinctiveness to bring glory to God.  We can certainly experience joy and happy times on earth, but God’s ultimate goal is to remake us into His image, allowing us to step into the glory for which we were created, to experience and have the influence He always intended.  Nothing can possibly be more satisfying than returning to who we were created to be, and living from that place in intimate relationship with the Lord.  As we confess Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, our hearts become burdened for those who are lost without an eternal vision or purpose; part of our purpose is to show them God’s love and provision. 

There are two primary forces that inspire change in our lives:  pain and vision.  It is against our nature to experience pain (makes sense) and we will do whatever we can to find relief.  We also are motivated to change through vision, seeing something that appeals to us or gives our lives meaning, purpose or pleasure, and will move us to attain it.  These two phenomena are always active in our lives - responding to vision and managing pain.  Rick Warren explains it this way, “I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth.  I don’t believe that anymore.  Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.  No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.  And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.”

Healthy individuals understand that life is a process of responding to challenges that will develop greater character, usually involving pain.  We are all familiar with the adage, “no pain, no gain.”  Another aspect of growth is dealing with negative emotions that have been repressed from the past.  Children are not responsible for, and do not know how to process pain from their childhood; many times this pain is contained in the body until maturity enables processing it.  Much like a cyst encapsulates foreign matter in the body, humans have tendencies to fragment and encapsulate emotions. Those protected emotions are submerged into the subconscious so they can continue with their lives (essentially, this is a survival technique).  It takes energy to keep past memories submerged and over time, this can cause a person to experience depression and other emotional health issues.

Denying that your heart has been wounded (and will continue to be wounded by imperfect people in an imperfect world) is like saying you are invincible. In fact, you have the same needs as anyone else and will suffer when your needs are overlooked, criticized, thwarted, etc.  Part of your responsibility as an adult is to learn what your needs are and take responsibility for getting them met.  A child does not have the sophistication to mentally articulate his or her needs or have the understanding or ability to meet them.  Even the best parents miss the mark in meeting all their child’s needs because we are all limited in this ability.

The Lord makes provision for the process of unraveling negative emotions; He exhorts us to allow the Holy Spirit to regularly search our heart and bring those bruised places into the light so they can be healed.  Our tendency is to deny that we have hurts in our hearts because we somehow surmise that admitting our pain and neediness makes us substandard or less than others who “seem to have it all together.”  Healthy individuals see the process of honestly assessing themselves as a slice of the pie chart that represents the complete self.  They don’t allow themselves to drown in self pity and morbid self absorption, but they do “deal with” the weak parts of themselves and the hurting parts, which pleases God and allows them to reach resolution. 

Is there a step you can take today that will move you towards resolution?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pressure from Parents, When do you cross the line?

A true story. 
My husband and I inadvertently walked in on a telephone conversation at our daughter’s private school; it was between a teacher and a parent. The teacher indicated we should stay, but the part of the discussion we heard, and the expressions on her face led us to believe the subject was so unbelievable that we had to ask about it.

Hesitantly, (without revealing the identity of the caller) she confirmed our suspicions that a parent of a child entering Pre-Kindergarten was asking about the best extracurricular activities – to engage in now – to promote the child’s achieving the highest possible SAT scores.

We grimaced and none of us shared what we were really thinking.  It would have been disrespectful to the teacher and caller.

However, I thought it bizarre that a parent would be seeking opportunities for a pre-schooler that would ultimately result in the highest possible scores for college entrance exams. 

Was this the unspoken fantasy? 
My child will have
the best possible advantages at all times,
to receive the best instruction, coaching, tutoring,
whatever it takes to make the highest possible scores,
to gain entrance into the top universities,
where they will join the best sororities or fraternities,
to make the most important and influential friends,
which will help them land the best possible job positions,
to ensure that they receive the most superb opportunities,
to make the most money and receive the highest notorieties,
so they can live the best life possible with power, prestige and influence.

This perspective connotes that the outcome for the success of a child lies in the parent’s willingness and ability to push them to their highest potential, give them the best opportunities and ensure that they are surrounded by the right people that can make things happen for them.

Did this parent really feel the weight of responsibility to make those things happen for their Pre-K child? 
Did they not believe in a Sovereign God that specially and intricately knit their child together in their mother’s womb with distinct God-given gifts and abilities that were decided before conception? (Psalm 139)
Why were they electing to send their child to a Christian school if they did not trust God to open and close doors on behalf of the welfare of the child and guide and direct their lives? (Proverbs 3:4-5)
Was it to increase the opportunities for their child to receive love and nurture from teachers and staff that were gullible enough to embrace this notion?

Bryan Caplan says in his new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, “Parents take it upon themselves to constantly entertain and "enrich" their kids with a course-catalog of activities (Capoeira, violin, Mandarin lessons) in a desperate effort to give them ‘the best’ and set them on the path to a triumphant adulthood.”  Caplan sees the world differently and believes that parenting does not play such an important role in determining a child’s destiny in life, rather that genetics or nature trumps the efforts and influence of the parents.

Conversely, Amy Chua, author of the highly controversial book, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom,  purports that tiger mother's cubs who are being parented “the Chinese way” with high demands to perform well are being raised to rule the world, while the offspring of "weak-willed," "indulgent" Westerners are growing up ill-equipped to compete in a fierce global marketplace.

We all want the best for our children and the bible tells us to train up a child in the way that they he should go and when they are old, they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).  We have a responsibility to dig and find the deeper meaning in that scripture and parent our children as the Holy Spirit parents us…..with love, grace and authority.  We want to be responsible in all things, but not miss blessing our children for their distinctiveness (for who they are and not what we can turn them into) that was ordained and created by God.  His works are marvelous and as parents we have the privilege of witnessing the handiwork of God by observing and experiencing the unique qualities that each of our children possess, that God intends to use for His good purposes.
Children are a blessing and gift from God.  Take advantage of and use the resources God has provided to give your child advantages, encourage and discipline them, but do not try to make them into something that was never intended.  Embrace God and who He created your children to be and become, and let them get a good taste of God’s love and acceptance from you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Couple Goals - Making Your Time Together Count

Happy, healthy couples strengthen their marriage bond through the pursuit of shared goals and by encouraging and supporting one another in accomplishing those and their individual goals. 

Goals harness and order the energy required to follow the associated structured activities that will result in achieving those goals. Sharing a goal with your mate can be a wonderful way to connect and invest in personal and couple growth and avoid the boredom and monotony of aimless efforts that can often result in fussing and disagreements.

Why not set aside some time or better yet, plan a weekend away when you and your spouse can dream and discuss goals that you would like to pursue together and individually. 

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”  Will Rogers.

1)    Be specific.  Instead of saying, “We will learn to play tennis, be specific and say: “We’ll spend 30 minutes a day hitting balls three times a week and take a tennis lesson on Sunday afternoons at the Tennis Club.” The goal now expresses not only a desire, but the means to accomplish it.

2)    Be realistic.  Consider your time and resources and set goals that you can accomplish and feel good about.  If you make them too easy, they will be meaningless and if you make them impossible to obtain, you will lose heart and become discouraged.  Strive to create positive versus negative energy!

3)    Include a way to measure your success.  A good goal will answer the questions of what, how, and when; it’s measurable.  Instead of saying, “We will learn new recipes and cook meals together, say:  we will research recipes online and find a mutually agreeable one, grocery shop together at Whole Foods and cook together on the first Saturday evening of each month.”

4)    Think short-term and long-term.  Short-term goals (cleaning one closet a week) allows us to experience success at smaller intervals while working toward long-term goals (de-cluttering an entire house.)

5)    Review periodically and be flexible.   Goals are the defined destination of a journey.  If you don’t know where you are going, guess what?  You are already there!  Remind yourself that life is a journey, and developing a passion for the process is the key to embracing and enjoying each day and learning to live in the moment.  Priorities arise that will take precedence over structure you have established to accomplish a goal, which may require taking a detour, adjusting expectations or putting a goal on hold for a while.  Utilize the power of prayer when setting daily priorities, which will result in PRAYORITIES, which will keep you in line with your dreams and the heart desires of God.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Got Happiness? (4)

Much research has been done to determine the causes of mental health issues such as depression, bi-polar disorder, mania, etc., but fewer studies have focused on what causes a person to be happy.  Henry Cloud authored The Laws of Happiness, which highlights the life principles of people who experience higher levels of well-being and happiness.  This article summarizes one law of happiness.

Happy people pursue goals.  Goals help order our time and energy, promote growth and the hope of things to come.  The way to accomplish a big goal is to break it down into little goals.  What small, specific and measurable thing or things do I need to accomplish today that will work toward my end desire?  Cloud encourages us to consider how we get to the end of a day able to know “today was a good day!” What needs to occur during the day to make that happen?

Getting in touch with our heart’s desires is key to setting goals.  Sometimes, like a child digging around in a toy box for a favorite toy, we have to rummage through our thoughts and life experiences to discover goals that when achieved will satisfy and fill our hearts with joy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Got Happiness? (3)

Got Happiness?

Much research has been done to determine the causes of mental health issues such as depression, bi-polar disorder, mania, etc., but fewer studies have focused on what causes a person to be happy.  Henry Cloud authored The Laws of Happiness, which highlights the life principles of people who experience higher levels of well-being and happiness.  This article summarizes one of those laws.

Happy people don’t compare themselves.  Using another person’s performance to judge personal worth is unhealthy and sinful.  There is nothing wrong with observing a person and emulating their behavior for the purpose of learning and growing.  However, when we beat ourselves up because another person does something or has something that we want, we are wasting our precious time and energy.  Those types of comparisons and negative self-talk zap our energy and cause depression.  We will receive a performance review at the end of our lives and it is our gifts that will be evaluated to determine whether we embraced, developed and used them to make a difference in God’s Kingdom and in the lives of others.  Galations 6:4-5  -Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.  For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Talk Love!

The Five Love Languages (click for website)

The 5 Love Languages® has helped countless couples identify practical and powerful ways to express love, simply by using the appropriate love language. Many husbands and wives who had spent years struggling through marriages they thought were loveless discovered one or both spouses had long been showing love through messages that weren’t getting through. By recognizing their different love languages, they witnessed the rebirth of the love they thought had been gone for good.

THE 12 TESTS OF TRUE LOVE! By Dr. Dave Currie and Christie Rayburn ®

For those considering the lifetime commitment of marriage!

How to Forgive and Forget (click for website)

If you're married, you've been there. Your spouse has said or done something that has
wounded you. It may be something small, or it may be a major betrayal. Either way, your pride
screams at you to take revenge. If you don't strike back immediately, you at least want to keep
this "guilt card" in your pocket, to be pulled out at a later date - "Oh yeah, well what about
the time when you...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Favorite Things, Great Couple Activity!

My Favorite Things

About ten years ago, when our daughters were school-aged children and their activity schedules drove our lives, I began to miss the times when David and I did things that were couple oriented.

One day as I was shopping at Central Market, I noticed an advertisement for a gumbo-cooking contest. I harassed David until he conceded and agreed to enter the contest with me.  We selected several cookbooks from Louisiana and started reading the recipes to identify the ones with ingredients we thought would make the best gumbo.

Over about a three-week period we tried four different recipes.  I was convinced that okra was the secret ingredient to a really great tasting gumbo and David’s opinion differed. So we prepared our original recipe partly with okra and partly without, poured it into Tupperware containers and headed to the tasting kitchen at Central Market to win the Blue Ribbon.

It was fun to have a focus for our date nights and to cook something together with the purpose of perfecting it and making it our own family recipe.   We were dumbfounded when our gumbo was not selected as the winner and decided that Texans do not have the same discernment that those native to Louisiana possess. 

The Hatton Family Gumbo is among the best in the country (at least we think so) and is definitely going into “my favorite things” album.  It always tastes the best when David does the laborious job of making the roux; you can see from the photo that he cooks it until just before the burning point, which gives it a rich, smoky flavor.  

What can you intentionally do with your spouse to create a fun memory?  Any suggestions?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Leave and Cleave

Launching Your Adult Child

After watching this 2-1/2 minute movie preview of Meet the Fockers, determine which parent does the best job of modeling the ‘launching process’ of their adult child.

Is it Robert de Niro, who warns against getting a chink in the chain?
Or is it Dustin Hoffman, who clearly has a separate identity and charming life of his own? (We can talk about his lack of boundaries another time.)
Robert de Niro plays the role of a father who expects his adult children to naturally conform to his values and ideals, despite the reality that God has granted freedom for adults to make their own choices and decisions, and to experience the corresponding consequences.

An adult is one who is willing and able to accept complete responsibility for self.

Dr. James Dobson states two reasons parents are reluctant to step out of the parental authority role:
1.  they fear their children aren’t ready to stand on their own, so they want to protect them from harm and failure,
2.  they hate to see childhood come to an end.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Memorable Valentine

Answering a telephone call before my first sip of coffee in the morning is a stretch for me, but this morning was Valentine’s Day and the caller ID showed it was my mother calling. I clicked on ‘answer’ and mustered up my best, although slightly trite salutation of “good morning, Mother.”

I had not talked to her in a while, so despite my early morning funk, I was happy to hear her voice.  We chatted about my daughter’s recent activities and I heard updates about a house renovation she is working on and the activities of my niece and nephew.  I was happy to hear that she was staying busy with her real estate job and had recently sold several properties.

This is such good news in light of the loss she experienced just over a year ago.  My dad, her husband of 55 years went to be with the Lord after having battled cancer for several years.  The final year he was pretty much bed ridden and her life slowed to a near standstill as she cared for him around the clock.  I never heard her complain and knew she considered it a privilege to be the one to assist him in his final days on earth - this faithful and hard working man who devoted his life to loving and caring for her and his family.  Toward the end of his life, when she had to get help to maneuver him physically, I begged her to get hospice to take over but she resisted until the very last two days of his life. (If you are doing the math and wondering how my Mother achieved these stressful feats physically, she is ten years younger than my dad.)

Holidays are always challenging for those who have recently lost a loved one, so I was expecting to reminisce with Mother about the jewelry Dad would have picked out for her on past Valentine’s Days, or the lovely bouquet of flowers he was always faithful to deliver.  But our conversation stayed focused on the busyness of our lives.

Then almost as an afterthought, she told me that she had gone out to get the paper at 6:30 a.m. as always and saw Mark, her neighbor.  Mark was a regular visitor during Dad’s bedridden days.  Mother and Dad both looked forward to his visits because he was loud, rather gruff and always had a story to tell that made you feel like you had just paid money to see a Paramount Picture Show.  I think my dad represented a father figure to Mark and that their admiration of one another was mutual.

Anyway, Mother didn’t see her newspaper, and Mark yelled to her from across the street that her paper was by the front door.  She walked around the corner and there on top of the newspaper were a dozen red roses.  Her voice began to break as she tried to read me the note he left, and I couldn’t make out her words.  All I heard was that he signed off as “your pecan-pie loving friend.”

The love my father and mother experienced together through service and devotion to one another left an indelible mark on all who knew them.  How sweet and enduring is the power of love, having tender affection and compassion for another.  The richness that comes from years of devoted commitment to another is indeed the best thing this life has to offer.

That love was the inspiration for Mark to buy a beautiful bouquet of roses to place on my mother’s doorstep on Valentine’s morning.  He knew there was no greater way to honor my father than to bless his Valentine during his absence, and in so doing it was almost as if the sentiment was not from Mark, but from my father himself.  It sent a powerful message to my mother's heart.

Later I called and she told me that these were the words written on the card:

For my special friend,

Some gifts you hold in your hand and some you hold in your heart

Your friendship makes my life sweeter and my heart very glad,

Your pecan-pie loving friend, Mark  (my mother makes pecan pies for Mark)

Who can you bless today with an act of kindness?  Ask God to show you someone who needs encouragement or a helping hand and realize the power you have to use your time and resources to make a real difference in someone’s day.  Make your day special.  Make your life count.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Cultivating Gratitude

In 1959, Rodgers and Hammerstein composed “My Favorite Things” as one of the songs for their Broadway production “The Sound of Music”. The 1965 movie put that song into the realm of ‘songs everyone knows’. Recently, Oprah Winfrey used the theme of “My Favorite Things” to gift her studio audience with the items she cited as her favorite picks of the year.

This prompted me to consider what things, events, circumstances, etc. stir my heart; what ‘favorite things’ do I look forward to seeing or experiencing each year?

So to create greater sense of personal awareness about myself, and to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and appreciation, I decided to create a keepsake book of my favorite things.  My book includes photographs and commentary about those things that bring me joy.  My hope is that this book will inspire my children to notice blessings in their own lives, and give them and my future grandchildren an opportunity to know their mother and grandmother better.

Grateful for the Art of Life

There are many beautiful trees that deserve recognition, but there is one that especially stands out to me.  Fall always brings special refreshment to Texas after a long and hot summer.  This tree is the most captivating to me when the sun is shining brightly, the air is dry and crisp and the temperature is hovering around the mid 60s. The leaves look like they are shimmering as they dance in the wind.