10 Suggestions for Healthy Grieving

troubled young woman

Part of my work is helping people grieve. Or at least learn how to grieve. It’s not one of my favorite parts, because it always stems from the reasons why they need to grieve. It means hurt. Brokenness. Pain. Disappointment. That never feels good.

Yet the fact remains…part of living in a fallen world…is living among the thorns. We must learn to grieve because there will always be reasons to do so.

As much as we need to know how to grieve, however, I continually meet people who either don’t know how or refuse to allow themselves to grieve. I’ve even met well-meaning believer who believe they shouldn’t. The Scripture is clear. We do grieve. We simply don’t grieve like the rest of the world.

So, here are 10 suggestions for healthy grieving:

Don’t deny the pain – It hurts. Admit it. Be honest with yourself with others and especially with God. If it’s anger…tell it. If it’s profound sadness…say it. You’ve got to grieve at some point to move forward, and you’ll grieve sooner and better if you’re honest about the need.

Learn to pray – Grieving can draw you close to the heart of God. See that as one blessing in the midst of pain. The Scripture is clear…draw close to God and He will draw close to you. He is close to the broken hearted. Use this difficult time to build a bond with God that you’ll never regret having.

Remain active – You may not feel like being around people, but if you’re normally a very social person, discipline yourself in this area. Granted, some people were never very social, even before their grief. We shouldn’t expect much more from them in grief, but even for them, community matters. Don’t shelter yourself from others.

Stay healthy – Eat well and exercise. Sleep as regularly as you can. Stick to a schedule. You’ll need the strength to carry you through this time.

Help others - There is a special blessing that comes from serving others that can help you recover from your own pain. Serve at a soup kitchen. Deliver toys to needy children. Find a way to give back and you’ll invest in the health of your own heart.

Journal your thoughts and feelings – One day you’ll be glad you did. You’ll see the process God has taken you through and the healing He has allowed you to experience. You’ll need these reminders again some day.

Give it time – Grieving doesn’t complete itself in a day…or a week…or even a year. The depth of the pain always is relative to the time of a sense of recovery. And, some pain never leaves us. We simply learn to adapt to it. We learn to find contentment and even joy in the midst of sorrow and loss.

Share your story – You help others when you allow others to see you share and understand their pain. When you hide your story, you deny others of the privilege of healing through your experience.

Get help when needed – Don’t suffer alone. There are times all of us can use professional help. Don’t be ashamed to seek it.

Remember hope – If you are a follower of God…the best days are still to come. Even in your darkest days, remember, one day…every tear shall be wiped from your eyes.

You can get up, recover and move forward again even stronger than you were before, but please don’t fail to grieve. It’s necessary. Vital. Healthy. Natural. Even Biblical. (1 Thessalonians 4)

Praying for you who need to grieve.

What suggestions do you have for healthy grieving?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

The little tree that could…

tree

I saw this little tree while I was running in our local arboretum this fall.

It made me stop and take a picture. It also made me think.

You may not be able to tell from the picture, but this tree is not very big. Not a whole lot taller than me.

It reminded me of the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

And, some other principles about little things.

This little tree, one of the smallest in the park, is doing its part, in a marvelous way.

Displaying God’s glory through the amazing colors of fall.

In fact, this was one of the prettiest trees I saw all season.

It made me look. It made me stop. It prompted this post.

And, I was reminded.

Sometimes it is the smallest that brings the greatest impact.

When God chooses, He can use the smallest, or seemingly insignificant, to bring Him the greatest glory.

Because, ultimately, there are no minor players in God’s economy. He works all things for good.

Don’t overlook the small things in life today.

The small gesture. The one kind word. The small start. The beginning stages. The often overlooked. The gentle whisper.

The small things may actually be the big things.

Do not despise these small beginnings” (Zechariah 4:10)

5 Don’ts of Healthy Communication

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In my career, I work with a lot of people in a lot of settings. You might say my job involves a lot of relationships. And, in the process, I have learned the key to healthy relationships is communication. Communication is an art of sorts. Some are better at it than others.

I have seen relationships destroyed because of poor communication. I know marriages that could improve if we improved the communication in the marriage. I’ve seen people avoid other people, because they know how the communication will go when they encounter them. I’ve known people who are short on quality relationships, and, honestly, many times it is because they never learned or don’t practice healthy communication.

So, sincerely, this post is intended to help. We are all guilty or some of these at times. This blogger/pastor included. So, this is a reminder to me also.

Here are 5 Don’ts of Healthy Communication:

Don’t always have a bigger story. This is the one I’ve been guilty of the most of these five. Someone is telling you their story and their experience reminds you of your experience. So, naturally, you interrupt their story, or don’t appear to be listening closely, because you want to share your story. But, remember, right now they are sharing “their” experience. It is important enough to them to share it with you. Don’t try to trump their story. It is rude and it shuts them down. Discipline yourself to wait for the right opportunity…and be okay if it doesn’t come…sometimes your only role is to listen.

Don’t talk more than you listen. This will address the person you’re thinking of in the first point that is always sharing their story. They never listen. They don’t give you a chance to share yours. If this is you…stop talking and listen. Ask questions. Show genuine concern. Be interested in what others have to say too. You’ll find people more interested in what you have to share when it’s your turn.

Don’t always be negative. All of us are negative at times. Life is hard and it impacts us. That’s partly what friendships are for…to share our burdens with one another. But every conversation and every comment we make shouldn’t be negative. That makes it difficult to build a sustainable, healthy relationship, because sometimes the other person needs you to be positive on the day they are especially negative.

Don’t consistently have the last word. Sure you’ve got one more word to share. We get that. You’ve already proven that point. But, sometime let them say the final word. It’s humbling for you. And, good. For you and them. And, the conversation. And, the relationship.

Don’t speak before you think. This is so important. Maybe the most important. It includes the saying, “If you can’t say something good…don’t say anything…or nothing if you want to be like Thumper…at all.” If we could catch our words before they exit our mouths, filter them through the power of love and grace, then release them, we could keep from injuring those with whom we are trying to communicate. And, relationships could thrive apart from the injury of inappropriate or awkward…often even mean-spirited words.

Okay, be honest, upon which of these do you need to improve? What others would you share? Remeber, I shared mine. Now your turn.

5 Steps to Take if You’re Addicted to Porn

man laptop

This is a guest post by Tom with Ever Accountable. Tom is a 30 year old husband of one beautiful woman and father of two rambunctious boys. He is a passionate crusader against internet pornography after witnessing the destruction it causes in lives. He blogs for Ever Accountable because he believes their accountability software for Android phones will keep users honest and open in their relationships.

5 Steps to Take if You’re Addicted to Porn

Perhaps there is nothing more sacred on this earth than family. Our family fills the primal need to have intimate connections with others of our own species. Our species is a kind that thrives on real connection with real people, and there is no stronger connection than that of a family. So, it is with great sadness that we see the direction of society’s apathy towards perhaps the number one destroyer of families: internet pornography. What follows are five steps to take if you feel you might be addicted to porn.

Admit it

The first step for beating any addiction is to admit that the addiction exists. There is a distinction between accepting and admitting that is obvious to everyone except an addict. An addict thinks that accepting the addiction as part of who they are is the same as admitting their addiction. However, the addiction is not who you are – the addiction just took up residence without asking. Admitting is realizing that you have to evict the addiction, or you will lose everything. Admitting is taking action because you realize that the most important thing in your life is getting rid of pornography addiction.

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge of its destructive nature is essentially what keeps us from trying meth, cocaine, heroin, or any other hardcore drug. Why should pornography be any different? For one thing, the problem is not admitted as such in mainstream culture, but there are still great resources that help us understand the science behind porn addiction and these outlets help us understand why we should quit. The science helps us get past the lies that the porn industry feeds us. Porn is harmful, it is destructive, it will ruin you.

Stop hiding it

Porn thrives in privacy. I get that it can seem impossibly hard to tell your spouse or significant other. I get that you fear losing your relationship when you think about telling those close to you. I understand that, but I also know that telling your spouse about your addiction is necessary and the absolute best thing you can do to stop your addiction. When you remove the secrecy of your addiction, you remove the “security” blanket that has kept you trapped in the addiction cycle.

Be held accountable

Because of porn’s reliance on secrecy, it is essential to find someone that will hold you accountable. Find someone that will be firm with you and bust your chops when they need busted, and lift you up when you need lifted. Talk to people in your church that you admire, talk with friends that you think of as strong, moral individuals, and talk with your spouse. Find somebody that you can trust with your addiction and have weekly meetings with them.

Protect your electronic devices

Perhaps the most helpful advice is to get right to the root and fight this problem at the source. Porn is still circulated via print, I know, but the internet is where porn breeds, hunts, and eats. It is almost nigh impossible to live without computers, smart phones, and tablets in today’s world, and fortunately, accountability software exists for this very reason. Accountability software allows you the opportunity to continue using those devices, but with the knowledge that you’ll be held accountable for your browsing habits. I like to use the analogy that putting accountability software on your phone or computer is like being loaned the keys to a Corvette, but with the understanding that the car will be inspected by an expert mechanic upon return. You might be tempted to test the limits of the car, but is that what you want to do when you know your actions will be brought to light? You know where your addiction lives, so it is absolutely imperative that you put in place a defense on that domain.

Don’t buy into the lies that pornography isn’t destructive. Don’t believe that your life hasn’t changed if you’re already in the addictive cycle. When you pull away from your addiction you will very quickly see the destruction porn was wrecking on your life. Be encouraged that stopping porn will be the best step you take for restoring every part of your life.

Things My Wife Does I Take for Granted

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My wife is amazing. In so many ways. She’s intelligent. Beautiful. Caring. She’s a far better person than me. But, she’s also a doer for others. All the time. She does so much for me and our household. Some of them…honestly…I take for granted.

Recently I saw her watering the pretty flowers we have on our front steps. I must admit, I’m not a great detail person. I would be likely to forget those flowers are there, but when I get home from a long day at work, it’s nice to walk into a home that is so welcoming. Those flowers this fall are a part of that.

That’s when it hit me. How many things does she do that I take for granted? She just does them. I don’t even know when she does them all the time. She just does.

Here are a few examples:

Watering flowers – Okay, I mentioned this one. But, someone has to water them…and she apparently does it every day.

Feeding the dog – I love our dog. I don’t mind helping with this one. I just never do. It’s in Cheryl’s daily routine.

Washing clothes – I’ve joked that I only need a couple pairs of underwear. The girl never stops. It seems she’s always washing clothes. (She’s even said she misses washing the boy’s clothes. Whatever!)

Clothes from cleaners – I take my shirts to the cleaners…I mean…Cheryl takes my clothes to the cleaner. And picks them up. And places them back in my closet. All I do is find them clean. Amazing how that works.

Check book balanced and bills paid – I would pay the bills, but the checkbook wouldn’t be balanced if it weren’t for her. Of course, she is an accountant, and this comes naturally for her. She actually feels better when she knows this is done well, but no doubt I take it for granted. Many times.

Special dates remembered – Birthdays, for example, come the same date every year for everyone we know. Funny how that works. Cheryl remembers. Even when I don’t.

Social calendar arranged – Cheryl keeps my work calendar on her phone. It helps her know where I am throughout the day. (Guys, this is not an inconvenience, but a huge blessing. When our spouse wants to know what we did during the day, because they love living life with us, this gives them a head start. It also helps Cheryl know how to pray for me throughout the day.) But, mostly it allows her to plan our social life working with my busy schedule. And, I love having a social life. I just don’t like planning it. She does this. Continually.

I’m sure there are many more….such as being thoughtful enough to send thank you and sympathy cards…but these were 7 that easily came to mind when I took the time to think about them. And, you know how much I like 7. :)  And, at first glance, they may seem like little things, but they are really big things…for example…if we don’t feed her the dog dies…but all of them make life better for me. Bottom line, my life would have less color, less excitement, and less enjoyment without Cheryl. Forgive me for taking that for granted so many times.

Men, what do you take for granted that your wife does?

5 Tips to be a Better Dad This Week

boy and father

Five tips to be a better dad today this week:

Review your calendar for the week now – Make sure your family is getting some of your best time. Plenty of it. Children often spell love T I M E. They want yours. Rework your schedule if needed and possible.

Plan a date night with your wife – Protect your marriage…ultimately your family…by regular investments in it. Model for your kids what a good marriage looks like.

Make a prayer list for each of your kids – Write them on index cards and place the cards where you will see them often. What are their greatest struggles? Their fears? The parts of their character that need the most development? Pray for this list daily. Several times throughout the day if possible.

Plan long term – Take an hour this week to plan an intentional retreat with you and each child sometime in the next six months. It could be a day or a weekend, but make it intentional. Make it fun and character building. Plan questions ahead of time to stir meaningful discussions with them.

Turn off the television – I saved the hardest one for the last suggestion. But, seriously, it is hard, isn’t it? You work hard. You come home tired. You just want to veg in front of the tube. I get it. But, I speak from experience, these moments will pass so quickly. And what if you used that time to play a game with your children? What if that spurred a conversation? What if that changed the way a child looks at life? What if that created a moment the child never forgets? Those memories start…as all memories do…in a moment.

I realize this list is impossible for some. You have work commitments that have you out of town this week. Your children may object at first to a change in schedules that interrupts their schedule. You can’t force it. You may be separated from your child for custody reasons. You may have to build slowly to complete some things on this list.  You may have to be more creative.

The key is to be intentional as a dad. This is a great week to start.

(By the way…this works for moms too…I’ve just never been one :) )

What tips do you have to improve your dadship this week?  

Ann Voscamp: 3 Game Changing Principles for Life – Catalyst

annvoskamp

Ann Voskamp spoke at Catalyst Conference recently. Her Twitter bio says, “Wife to the Farmer: Mama to 6: Author of One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan: NYTimes Besteller) Seeking to follow One alone.”

Her message was one of my favorite talks, possibly because it spoke to me in this season of my life. She kept her audience captive throughout her talk. It was a powerful message.

I also learned Ann is an introvert like me, so even though I saw her at a backstage event, I didn’t bug her. I just processed her message.

Here are my notes from Ann’s talk:

  • “You can’t walk anywhere honestly and authentically apart from His promises”
  • “Nothing can overwhelm you like his grace can overtake you.”
  • “The enemy only has two battle plans. To blind you from who God is and blind to who you are in Him”

Three game-changing principles for absolutely everyone…including pastors…

From Jehoshaphat’s story in 2 Chronicles 20:

1. When overwhelmed. Pause.

  • It’s counter cultural and counter to our natural inclination, but it’s Christlike.
  • Only then we will remember who we are in Christ and live out of our identity.

2. Be present to His presence in the present moment.

  • Enter into His presence with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is always the right response to the presence of God.
  • I know who God is…He is good. In one minute you have your identity.

3. Pour – We can only pour out of the filling of His presence.

  • So many of us spend so much time fighting tomorrow’s battle with worry and yesterday’s battle with regret that they can’t live effectively within the battlefield of the present.
  • Why would we rather strive hard for Jesus than be satisfied with what Jesus has already done for us?
  • If you want your love to change the world, slow down enough to enjoy more of His love.

This was a life-giving message for me. Thanks Ann. Thanks Catalyst.

10 Easy Steps to Spoil a Child

Angry child with crossed arm

Have you ever wanted a spoiled child?

It is easy.

Here’s a 10-step quick formula guaranteed to produce results:

  • Give children everything they want.
  • Never tell them no.
  • Fight with your spouse over discipline.
  • Put children first, even over your spouse.
  • Strive to make every moment “the greatest moment of their life”.
  • Teach them they are the center of the universe.
  • Take their side every time…even over the teacher.
  • Make excuses for them.
  • Ignore their “minor” discipline problems.
  • Let them talk to you however they want.

Try that for 30 days and I guarantee you a spoiled child or your money back.

Good parenting is hard. It means saying no when the easy thing to say is yes. It means molding character that will yield maturity for a lifetime. Don’t take the easy route. Go for best!

I’m praying for you!

Any more suggestions to spoil a child? 

7 Ways to Protect Your PK…Pastor’s Kid in Ministry

happy family

I’ve written extensively about protecting the family in ministry. Recently my wife has guest posted about the unique role of the pastor’s wife. One comment I received was well taken. She basically said…”What about the PK’s? Who is looking out for them? Many disappear from the church as adults.”

PK = Pastor’s Kids.

I heard that. I have addressed the issue generally, as a family, but I haven’t posted specifically about protecting the children in ministry.

I have noticed the issue of the commenter’s concern. I’m blessed that my PK’s survived ministry well. Both of my boys are very active in the church. One is self-employed, but works mostly in the Christian sector, and one is in full-time ministry. I understand, however, that it is a problem for many pastors and their families.

By the time some pastor’s children reach adulthood they are often done with church…actually they are more done with the busyness and politics of church…and they want little or nothing to do with it. So, they sit on the sidelines of ministry…if they attend church at all.

Honestly, as much as I have heard it talked about, at least within my circles of ministry, it is more rare than it is a norm. I probably know more pastors who have children active in church than I know those who have children that have disappeared. I don’t know the statistics…please share them in the comments if you do…but, if we could avoid damaging a child growing up in the ministry world altogether I think we should.

Here are 7 suggestions for protecting your PK:

Level the expectations – Hold your children to Biblical standards. Train them well. Discipline appropriately. You hopefully teach it and you should parent what you teach. But, don’t be surprised when your children aren’t perfect. They aren’t anymore than you are…or anyone else’s children.

Let them be kids – Don’t expect them to care as much about ministry as you do when they are…SEVEN or even seventeen. They might. Mine did to a certain extent…on certain days. And, then other days they just wanted to shoot basketballs in the church gym while I went on church visitation.

Live what you preach – If you want them to appreciate the ministry, let them see you as authentic. Authenticity means you are in private who you claim to be in public. And chances are good they are observing both. They’ll respect you when you are equally transparent and honest with how you live your life on Sundays and through the week.And, the more they respect you…the more they can respect the ministry. Remember, their primary concept of ministry is you.

Protect your time at home – When you are home…be home. Let voicemail do its thing. Put down the computer. Say no to outside interruptions. There will always be exceptions in the role of a pastor, but they should be rare, not common place. The children need to know you value your time with your spouse and them even more than your time with others.

Be their parent more than their pastor – You may be their pastor, but first they need a parent. I actually found others on staff, or even pastor friends in other churches, were sometimes better at being their pastor anyway. No one could replace my role as parent.

Give them roles as they desire – My boys helped launch a youth group. They led at camps. They worked with children and preschoolers. But, I never forced it. I let them serve where they wanted to serve. Interestingly, when the idea was their’s, they seemed more likely to want to be involved.

Let them do ministry with you – My boys went to committee meetings. Staff meetings. Visitations. I took my boys on mission trips. Unless it was a highly confidential meeting for the parties involved, I gave them access to my calendar. They got to appreciate what I do as a pastor…not resent it because I wasn’t home. Again, this was voluntary not mandatory.

Someone is wondering why I didn’t put anything about my personal walk with Christ as one of the points. Well, hopefully that’s understood in the role of a pastor and a believer. But yes, of course that. Consider it understood that this is number one for every question of how to do ministry effectively.

Pastors…or even better…PK’s…anything else you’d recommend?