Monday, August 29, 2011

Ground Zero Memories

Some people really love a good conspiracy theory. I am always amazed at hos much folks will swallow if the tales fit into our already heated minds about a topic.

For example, a lot of my friends dislike Mr. Obama and are able to somehow find "secret" facts about him that prove he is an alien either from Mars or Kenya.

On the other end of the political spectrum are the Left Wingers who accuse Vice President Chaney of all kinds of brilliant but evil plots. One of the schemes he was supposed to have pulled off was blowing up the Twin Towers in a huge 911 cover up. Read the post I wrote in 1999 about that event.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blocks to Prayer and Meditation

While speaking to a good friend about prayer and how difficult it is we tackled the topic of BLOCKS in a forthright way. He made a statement that I found to be insightful and meaningful. Maybe you will find it helpful as well. He said:

The older I get the more I am attracted to meditation rather than a quiet time.

I responded that in the early days of my spiritual awakening I had heard many a sermon, talk and exhortation on the importance of a daily quiet time. In many cases, these same preachers insisted that the "Quiet Times" had to be "Early in the morning". Why? Because Jesus prayed before dawn and we need to be like Jesus.

Those two "SHOULDS hurt my ability to pray more than almost anything else I learned. Up til I heard those teachings I was free to pray, sing, read, think and meditate on God and His goodness as much as I wanted and any time I wanted. Now I discovered that I was doing it all wrong.

I hated early morning prayers because I often fell asleep when I was quiet. Second, I almost never had a "Quiet Time" I usually had a "Noisy Time" singing, talking to myself, praising God and enjoying God. My teachers were a serious lot and thought my approach was off base and way to much fun. I had no long lists of people and things I was praying about. I was not weeping over my sins and the sins of others. I was way too happy.

These things were big problems. What was I do to do? I soldiered on and my times with God became less and less so I had to fake it. I knew I should do better but I found it almost impossible to pray.

What would you suggest to such a hypocrite as I?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Identifying Blocks to Intimacy

As you read over my last post it can be helpful for you to get out your journal and write down your thoughts. First, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the ANTS that chronically BUG you when you try to meditate.

Second, write them down and ask the Holy Spirit to show you where they originate.

Third, write the ANTS and their root cause down in the journal.

Fourth, look over the ANTS and ask God to heal you of any area of wounding or forgive you of any guilt that is hanging on.

Fifth, ask God to revel any areas of bitterness and unforgiveness that are hanging around in your heart. Here is a great prayer: "Search me Oh God and know my heart and see if there is any wickedness or bitterness withing me."

Sixth, identify any areas of False Guilt and rebuke the enemy for trying to pull you away from God.

Seventh, enter into Praise and Worship.

Gary Sweeten
Sweeten Life Web

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blocks to Intimacy

We all know what Ants in the Pants do and why they are so hard to get out and enjoy the picnic. We go out to a nice, shady spot and lay out a blanket with some good things to eat and drink. Then, we wave goodby to the blanket and go off for awhile to play ball or fish.

When we return we are thirsty and hungry so we sit down, lie back on one arm and get a cold drink. Just as we get close to relaxing or even snoozing a bit before lunch we feel an itch in the socks and pants. All of a sudden we realize that the ANTS discovered our plot to relax and came up with a devious plan to thwart it. We have, ANTS in the PANTS and they are determined to stay there no matter how hard we work to get them out so we can relax.

Getting down to real prayer and listening to God is similar. We sit down determined to focus on God and His word only to discover there are ANTS in our head. (I wish I could make that rhyme.) These ANTS are


"Yikes, I forgot to call my Doctor and set up an appointment. That will not take a minute so i will call right now."

"Wow! I hope I can hit the golf ball straighter tomorrow. I am tired of hooking so much and buying all those new balls. I wonder why I am hooking. Ohm stop that and get back to business with God. OK Lord, I am going to really focus now and nothing is going to stop me. NOTHING!"

(A VOICE arises from deep within: "Who do you think you are kidding? You hypocrite. You are just trying to show off for God. You know that golf is more important than prayer. So stop acting like you are some kind of saint.")

Does this resonate with you? Man oh man I have encountered these kinds of voices in my head all my life when I tried to pray and meditate. But maybe I have learned a few things:

1. These voices are common to every Christian no matter how mature, spiritual or sinful.

2. The default condition of the brain is to fill any quiet time with defensiveness, old tapes, self condemnation and ANTS!

3. We cannot argue with these thoughts. The answer is Jesus not my arguments.

4. Every time one comes up simply thank God and turn toward Him. Use each interruption as an opportunity for positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts.

5. Do not allow the ANTS to stop your attempts to pray and meditate.

6. Resist the devil and he will flee!

7. Have fun!

Go to Sweeten Life for more assistance.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Meditation Afterword and Afterglow

Learning to Take Thoughts captive to Christ
I was definitely blessed this summer. I was able to speak four times at three different churches and I am excited about the topics and the responses of the listeners. At the Dwelling Place, where Karen and I regularly worship and have fellowship, Pastor Rich asked me to speak on "Blocks to Intimacy with God" with a special emphasis on the importance of forgiveness.

My Bible passage was taken from Psalm 27 where David focuses on his desire to have a deep encounter with the living God.

Verse 1. The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear!
The Lord is the salvation of my life, of whom shall I be afraid!

Verse 4. One thing I ask of the Lord;
This is what I seek;
That I might dwell in the house of the Lord forever
To gaze on the beauty of the Lord
And seek Him in His temple

David knows that it is fear and worry that keep him from being with God. As a Christian Counselor and Minister I have listened literally to hundreds of Believers who wanted to
draw closer to God, know His will and embrace His peace but discover as soon as they get quiet and try to enter prayer only to discover they are blocked by fears, worries and condemnation.

They may read Verse 4. and long to have a prayer life like this but fail and are overwhelmed by guilt, shame and anxiety. These feelings, of course block all attempts to understand God's will or even get to the place to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Ever sermon on prayer sends people into tremblings and anxiety. Failure is always close at hand in fact and in feeling. Withe those so deeply embedded in my mind I find God very far away.

I was plagued by similar thoughts, feelings and self condemnatory nonsense until I was blessed by the Lord to study how the brain works and how to stop its old, sinful habits from interfering with my new Christian life.

I am amazed that it took me so long to learn the simple ways to stop old, intrusive thoughts from blocking my prayer life and start enjoying time with God. I had finished a Doctorate in Counseling with an emphasis on Christian practices before I ever heard of the ways we can actually do what the Bible commands and "Take every thought captive to Christ".

I had heard that verse many times of course but all it meant was read more Bible verses. The problem was in my ability to actually STOP old thoughts and THINK new, Christian thoughts. However, in 1979 or 1980 my friends Alice Petersen and Margaret Rick attended a seminar put on by Dr. Maxie Maultsby, M.D.

He was a Plastic Surgeon who treated people with facial and body anomalies whose self esteem was low as a result. His surgical practice had been very successful. However, but his patients did not think any differently after surgery than they did before surgery. He gave up his practice to study Psychology. he discovered that their bad feelings about themselves had not changed, he gave up his surgical practice to study Psychology.

Dr. Maultsby concluded that it is not the physical attributes of beauty that cause one to feel good or bad about themselves. Instead, it was the way the perceived themselves and thought about themselves. For example, some kids who suffer abuse and abandonment grow up and turn to crime, drugs or sex to relieve their pain. Most, however, do not go that way.

A decade ago I was in a group of leading Christians that met in one of the high class rooms of the new P&G office tower in downtown Cincinnati. The man who had invited us was a top executive of the company and he told us a story of trauma and poverty straight out of Dickens. A part of his story included what his siblings were doing. Several were involved in addictive behaviors and crime. The group suggested that they were victims of their environment and could not help themselves.

I asked a question: "Mr. Johnson, how did you become so successful when you were such a victim of poverty and pain? Why are you different?"

Here is the answer. People who survive and thrive have learned to think differently. Mr. Johnson had become a Christian, attended a Christian college and excelled in sports. All along he had a mentor and several coaches to helped him think rightly. His siblings had no faith experiences and no mentors from the church and schools.

Go to our great Sweeten Life web for more articles on healing and growth.

If you are depressed or caught in a cycle of sin, call Life Way at 513-769-4600

Monday, August 8, 2011

Supernatural Encounters of the Third Kind

Tonight we will gather at The Life Way Counseling Center in Blue Ash to seek God and learn better how to Know Him Supernaturally. Come on over and join in the intense fun and see what is happening to bless ordinary people who are not necessarily "Spiritual Giants".

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Short History of My Journey to Faithful Leadership

Sweeten Life has been doing ministry for some years. Most of our work is focused on "Building a lifetime of great healthy relationships with God, self and neighbors". We do that by following Ephesians 4:11ff and helping Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers do their job of "Equipping God's people" more effectively.

I started out to be a Clinical Counselor. I had a Master's in Counseling college students and came with my wife a new baby in 1967 to the University of Cincinnati to serve as a Resident Counselor for 600 upper class men in Sawyer Hall. The city and campus were both in turmoil. Riots, drugs, rock and roll and rebellion marked the era but that was not all. God also showed up.

I was getting a Doctorate in Counseling when I attended a three week series of workshops at the University of Illinois in 1969. They were led by Carl Rogers, the most famous Psychologist in America at the time, and his minions. Those workshops rocked my world in many ways.

First, I was the only Evangelical Christian among the 75 Therapists in attendance. I was attacked by some of the several Psychologists who had "lost their faith" and became cynical, angry and defensive about anyone who still had faith. It was a real test for me and I learned how to withstand the "Slings and arrows of unrighteous attacks".

Second, I was thrust into the midst of a very intense approach to group therapy. The participants were taught to confront one another and deep deeply into their minds and souls. I had never been in such an environment before. I was scared but I made it through and grew emotionally and mentally.

Third, I discovered that my simple, untrained faith was good enough to withstand the pseudo sophisticated attacks to older and more experienced men and women. Some of them were ordained Clergy who had left Ministry to be Therapists. They knew how to twist the Bible and use it to demean Conservative Christians from the country.

Fourth, I heard from two of the most respected Psychologists in the world that I was doing the right thing by equipping Christians to minister to each other. More about this later.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Counseling, Fancy Treatments and Medication

Below are two articles about trying to treat PTSD and other issues related to trauma. In them you will find what some of us have known and said for decades. Here is my bottom line:

Fancy Drugs and Fancy Psychological Interventions do not work in many if not most situations. These conclusions have been in my mind and heart since I finished a Doctorate at University of Cincinnati in 1975.

The research I did indicated that, although some medications and some types of interventions might help Clients some, the very best kind of treatment is talking with another human who shows us Faith, Hope and Love.

Four of us from Life Way Counseling Centers went to Ground Zero two weeks after the Twin Towers fell. We interacted with the First Responders, Listened to the workers and prayed and cried with the friends and family members. It was powerful and emotionally draining.

Some of our colleagues adopted a program with an official and nice sounding name. It called people together in small groups and urged them to share their deepest feelings. The Psychologists loved it. They got to hear all kinds of feelings of terror and shame. The Clients got no better. In fact, many became more traumatized. The "Surgery was a Success but the Patient Died!" (An old cliche.)

What worked was love, faith and listening. Period. But that does not require a fancy theory or any medication. It requires us to be quiet and listen to the Client/Seeker and encourage them to get better.

Unfortunately, this research will be treated just like all the past research. It will be ignored because the drug companies and the Doctors will not make enough money if the tell the truth and listen to people. Some medications will help a Patient if they really have a Medical problem but most Psychological issues are not Medical. They are problems of thinking, living and choosing wisely. No drug will change that.

Got to article one Here.

Get article two here.

If you are having mental, emotional, relational and feeling problems, go to Life Way Counseling Centers. We help people think, feel and act with health.

Spiritual Disciplines

On Monday, August 8 I am teaching on Spiritual Disciplines at the Life Way Counseling Center in Blue Ash. In preparation I am re-reading a book by that title which Richard Foster wrote over 20 years ago. It is still a wonderful book and I strongly recommend it especially for Seasoned Believers.

I remember when we brought Richard to Cincinnati . He spoke at College Hill Presbyterian and we had a wonderful time. He was rare among those who helped us actually encounter God and His word and not just sit passively and take in a preacher's ideas about God.

At CHPC we sponsored annual retreats and times away to hear God and develop a deeper relationship with Him. Some of my friends are still leading those kinds of retreats. Go to the web of this local group Times of Refreshment to find when they are having another one.

But come and be with me at Life Way Monday night. Go to the Life Way Centers web for directions. Or, see the Sweeten Life web page and the announcement on our last newsletter.

We will actually practice seeking God together so sign up today. Seating is limited.