Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pain and Suffering: Or how I spent the last four months.

I've been sick for about four months.  I haven't really been shouting it from the rooftops or anything.  I don't like to complain in public, but I've had an ulcer.  Basically, my stomach decided to spring a leak and give my pancreas an acid bath.  I guess I've taken too many ibuprofen in my last few years.  But, I have gained a huge benefit from this experience.

I've heard some of the cliche's that people put out there about sickness causing all sorts of re-arrangements of priorities, and life focus.  For me, not so much.  I've been nauseated for four months, and my body has been leaking acid all over itself.  Not fun.  I've been trying to make it minute by minute.  This is difficult with two jobs, a wife, a three year old and an infant.  Fortunately, I have an awesome wife, who understands that I have been in a lot of pain.  I've also learned to have new understanding and empathy for those who deal with losing their temper.  There's nothing like an internal acid bath to make you fly off the handle a little more quickly than usual.  

Prilosec did seem to get me patched up pretty well, and now I'm going through the appointments to make sure everything still works the way it's supposed to work.  The big thing for me though, is that part of me does not want to really go back to the land of the healthy.  I know that some people pray for healing.  Some people believe that it's God's job to heal you from your illnesses if you have enough faith. This is not really an accurate application of God's word.  I know that God is the great healer.  But, in this instance, I am grateful for the pain instead.  I am grateful for the thoughts that I may not live my life in pristine health.  I've been contaminated, broken, weak, scared and scarred.  As a Christian, maybe I need to spend more time being actually broken, instead of just talking about being broken to actually broken people.  

I've spent most of my life learning how to help people.  Along the way, I've become pretty entitled in my attitude.  It wasn't really intentional.  But my job is to have answers for people...for just about everything.  It had become a little too easy to tell people what they should think about, or how to think about their situations.  But you don't learn about struggling with someone by dispensing knowledge like that.  In my own suffering, I felt hopeless for awhile, because I knew that the situation was due to my overuse of headache medicine.  I knew that I had caused this to happen.  I found myself in a spot where I called out for healing, knowing that it was not going to happen in the way I wanted it to.  I knew that this was part of my own story and relationship with Jesus.  I've never really had to struggle in my health.  In this situation, the Lord is making me more like Him.  Why would I want to pray for Him to make me more of what I already was?  So I began thanking Him for the struggle, and looking forward to the process of growing my way out of this.  I began to confess instead of request.  The more I confessed the things that I was thinking about, the more I knew I was becoming the person He wants me to be.  

So, now I thank Him for the experience that so far, hasn't sealed my fate.  I'm feeling like I'm on the mend.  I feel so much more empathy for those who are actually suffering.  I know many people who struggle with health much more than I do, and I am inspired by their struggle.  I am humbled by people who are dealing with life changing illness, in a way that I did not really have an appreciation for, before being sick.  So maybe I did get a new focus in my priorities and life in general. 
I've also been playing this song on repeat...a lot.

Or here if it doesn't load automatically.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Burden for Damascus

I have spent most of my adult life studying the Middle East.  I have done this almost every day, since the first war in Iraq.   I have intentionally avoided using social media for my beliefs about the Middle East.  I am a college teacher and a mental health counselor.  I usually try to avoid putting out any messages that would detract from my ability to be understood as one in the helping profession.  My friends are very diverse and have broad views of the world, history and the future.  But my friends know that I believe in Jesus Christ.  So I wanted to share my thoughts about the current events in Syria on my blog.  I feel that we should be praying for the residents of Damascus.   God has a burden for Damascus.  His burden is bigger than ours.  America is making choices to pursue actions it has not fully considered.  This is due to blindness among our leaders.  They have successfully fought so many wars that the possible unplanned consequences of war are not a deterrent.  God has given the world a tragic view into the future of Syria, and especially Damascus.  It comes from Isaiah 17.  I don’t know when it will happen.  Damascus is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the Middle East.  It has never been destroyed like Jerusalem, Jericho, Babylon and Istanbul have been.  But according to the Bible, (Isaiah 17) some time in the future, in the span of one evening, Damascus will cease to exist.  This should cause great conviction among our leaders and among Christians.  I don’t know why Damascus is destroyed.  Some have said for years that Syria will attack Israel with unconventional weapons, and Israel will respond with a nuclear counter-attack on Damascus.  This seems to be one of the scenarios that Bashar Al-Assad is threatening in response to US action.  America does not seem to be considering this as a possible outcome of an attack, even though Syria has threatened it for years.   If the Bible is true, (and I believe it is) then we may be running headlong into the specific warnings that God has provided to us about the Middle East.  Events on the ground are pointing to the truth of Biblical prophecy in many ways.  Syria is one of these ways.  This makes me want to pray for Damascus and for all of my neighbors and friends.  The collateral damage in the destruction of Damascus would not be contained to Damascus.  The defensive scenarios of the world powers will not allow it.  It would quickly lead to the events in Ezekiel 38-39.  The bad news is that very old sin has infected the Middle East.  The good news is that we, as individual sinners have had our sins paid for.  This happened once and for all, for any who would confess their sin to Jesus.  Because of my relationship with Him, I choose to pray for my friends, my neighbors and those who are affected by the terrible events in Syria.  Pray that many more innocent civilians are able to escape, before too many more days pass.  Pray that peace will come to Damascus and that it will have many more years ahead.  Pray for the safety of the United States and for Israel.  Find someone here in America, who needs something.  Meet their need.  Give freely.  Tell them about the hope you have in Jesus.  When men’s hearts begin to fail because of the things happening in the Earth, they will remember that you have hope in Christ.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Photography Is Therapy

     Everyone has a story to tell.  As a counselor I spend a lot of time trying to help people examine their past.  My job is to help people.  One of the tools that I use is the past.  People do the things they do, because of the things they have done.  How we remember the past greatly influences our present thoughts and beliefs.  I believe that photographs are one of the most overlooked tools for counseling and life in general.  People are storytellers by nature.  We want people to know where we have been.  We want them to know how we feel.  Our greatest stories can be written through photographic prints.  You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words right?  Well the digital age has given us the ability to capture photos in ways we never could have hoped to do just a few years ago.  But something changed.  We stopped printing our pictures when we started taking photos with digital cameras.  We no longer have boxes or albums full of prints.  We have old hard drives full of images on old computers.  Our computers have been replaced with our tablets.  Our cameras have been replaced by our phones.  It's really easy to take pictures, but it's a hassle to print them.  So we don't.  We have become a culture that has forgotten how to write our stories.  We capture the story and unknowingly discard it.  We are so busy taking pictures with our phones, that we don't really experience that special or important moment.  Then we move on, and never really archive that photo.  We might go back and look at it again once or twice in the phone or camera, but something will come along that will keep that memory from being transferred to a print.  We are witnessing the story, and then forgetting to write it down.  Maybe your software update will go wrong and the images will get erased.  Maybe your memory card will go bad, or you'll accidentally erase the photos.  Maybe your phone will accidentally go swimming.

     Did you know that film is almost no longer being made?  Photo printing has become so inexpensive, but we only print a small fraction of what we shoot with our cameras.  I believe that printing your pictures is something that can help you write your story.

     I admit, I am guilty of not printing enough of my own photos.  I did professional photography for several years, and I loved to print my own photos.  Eventually it became too much like work to print my own photos.  It was also pretty pricey to print my own with the extremely nice ink jet printer I had.  Today I can get professional prints made for less than twenty cents apiece.  I have made a commitment to my family to print more photos, and I have been doing it.  I have to say, that it's really cool to see more and more prints on our walls.  It makes me remember the great times that we have been having as a family.  Now that we have two children, I am very excited.  I want them to see visual reminders of their stories hanging on our walls.  I want them to see that we choose as a family to visually write our story through photography.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Progressivism is Bad

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately and I want to share some of the things I have learned about the concept of “Self-Help.”   So many people are focused on self-help.   Self-help has become the new buzz topic, and it seems like everyone who speaks or writes for a living wants to help you tap into your motivation to help you accomplish your goals, or dreams, or your best personal whatever you want to call it.  Self-help has become a parallel of psychology and counseling.  The interesting thing about self-help is that anybody can write about it, because they do not have to go through any educational requirements or state requirements for regulated professions.  Generally these folks have some sort of real life experience that they draw upon to deliver their content.  There’s always some sort of truth involved, and they leverage that element of truth to deliver the rest of their philosophy for their “Intellectually Licensed” material.  As long as they don’t call it counseling or psychology, they are free to say whatever they want without any worries of liability.  This is the benefit of free speech, and I am all for it.  However, the helpers usually indicate that their information is not designed to diagnose or cure anything and they cannot be held liable for your lack of success at using their intellectual material.  The problem with self-help is that none of their ideas are new.  They are repackaged versions of very old philosophies.  All of them are based on humanism.