Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My arm is Gone but it still Hurts!; Mysteries of Phantom Limbs

When I was a boy a farmer in our area named Vance Skinner got an arm caught in a corn picker, if memory serves me right. It was turning him over and over with a vicious bang every time he hit the ground.

Vance had to make a decision; would he just let the machine kill him or stand firm and lose his arm. He chose to live. It was one of the most courageous things I ever heard.

Vance lost his arm and almost his life by bleeding to death but thank God he survived but without an arm. For a long time afterward he had pain in the arm he lost. It was buried and out of sight but was very painful.

How did that happen? Do any of you know? if this happened to a person you know or in your church, what would you say?

Vance, you are crazy?

It cannot be true!

Just forge it.

I can see how anyone would feel when confronted by Phantom Limb Pain.

Have you ever known a person with this issue?

My book Power Christian Thinking gets at this issue but I am still learning more about its origin and how to treat it. So, hang on.

Be Transformed and Remake Your Brain

TRANSFORMED is a terrific term, the thrust of which implies a complete conversion or changed mind. Car models change every year with slight adjustments, but it is still the same Buick, Ford, or Plymouth. Once in a while Detroit brings out a whole new car that is completely changed. We, too, may change a belief statement here or there and not be transformed. But Paul’s exhortation to be transformed is a challenge to become literally a new creature in Christ. Many theologians and philosophers disagree about the difference between the mind and the brain. In computer terms the brain is the hardware of the soul and the mind/heart is the software. This passage seems to indicate that both must be changed from its old fleshly state to a new state in Christ.

 A renewed mind is still a mind, yet it is more than simply a changed mind. It is a mind made new again and is uncontaminated, unimpeded, and uncluttered by old, sinful thought patterns. Trauma, habitual thinking patterns, and unresolved guilt and shame contaminate our hardware and our software so we need to work to change its structure and its habits.

The Holy Spirit begins the process of transformation at conversion and the process continues for the rest of our lives. When Scripture tells us to transform our minds, the directive is to be completely new and changed consciously and unconsciously in the evaluative, volitional, emotional, and decision-making aspects of our being and that takes a lifetime.

We began our life and ministry focus after a dissertation in 1975 on "Equipping believers to offer care and counsel to each other". Since then we have set up numerous equipping centers around the world that have impacted hundreds of thousands of people. 

You can join the process of amazing grace by going to our web book store and downloading an eBook on PDF to read and allow God to change your mind and heart forever.  These articles came from Power Christian Thinking my updated version of Rational Christian Thinking. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Bible Tells us How to Alter the Brain

So called experts denied the way Bible scholars depicted the brain. The Bible says we can alter our brain with the help of the Holy Spirit and Positive Practices.

"Do not be conformed to the world any longer. Be transformed by renewing your mind." Romans 12:2

St. Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit almost 2,000 years ago  to state something that was considered to be impossible. However, recent research into the brain has revealed that Jesus really knew about the brain all back then.

Now researchers are agreeing with the Bible. (Are you surprised?) Over the last few years, the ability to do research that tracks brain development and changes reveals the truth and about the brain.

RENEW is a brand new word Paul coined because of the coming of the Holy Spirit! It is not found in secular Greek literature because it is contrary to a secularist world view. It depicts the creation of life which was not originally present. It cannot happen without the miraculous, life giving Holy Spirit. 

God is saying, Be changed by allowing the new life of the Spirit to enter your thought process.  This is a tremendous promise. It means that we can radically change our lives by altering the ways we think! New life comes into our minds from God. The only way to continue accessing and growing in His life is by thinking His thoughts.

If you want to activate your brain to be healthier, start praying, memorizing the Bible and listening to great worship music.

Support us by buying our books such as Power Christian Thinking at our bookstore. You can also donate to our world wide ministry.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Can Volunteers help a Mentally Ill Person Get Better?

Have you ever said, "Oh, I can't do anything to help Mary. I'm not a Psychologist or Doctor". It is pretty commonly said!

Over the last year I have been training volunteers how to support needy inner city teenagers. During the feedback discussions I heard a lot of them say, "Oh, my student has some bad problems. I am not a Therapist so I can't really help him".

Where did these wonderful, caring and talented people get such an idea? It probably comes from Professional Therapists like me. But it is dead wrong!!!

One of the greatest barriers to supporting family and friends with a mental/emotional problem is a sense of helplessness. But study after study shows that friends, family and other volunteers can be amazingly therapeutic of healing. All it takes is time, patience and patience.

Friends can support and assist in the growth and healing of everyone in need regardless of the depth of that need. All we need to do is listen, with Genuine compassion, show Respect for their ideas and feelings, be Empathic by picking up their thoughts and feelings while being Warm and caring. (GREW).

Research shows that simply asking volunteers to be friends for only one year to people with the most serious mental illness diagnoses can lower their sickness symptoms significantly. This is why we equip thousands of people to "BEFRIEND" people in pain of any sort.

To BEFRIENDING we, of course add prayers, worship together, encouragement, deep listening, ETC. Lay People can have a very powerful and positive impact on those with emotional distress.

Listen, care, and offer little if any advice. God takes care of the advice.

Gary Sweeten

Support our work with families with a member who has a serious disability. Go here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How to Discern the Mentally Troubled

Not everyone that is troubled is mentally ill. We need to use the term mentally ill rarely and then only when there is good evidence of deeper, ongoing problems.

Friends can support and assist in the growth and healing of everyone in need regardless of the depth of that need. All we need to do is listen, with Genuine Compassion, show Respect for their ideas and feelings, be Emphatic by picking up their thoughts and feelings and be Warm and caring. (GREW).

Let's go over the list of 5 Levels of Need and elaborate what people in that category need.

Type A Persons are some 8 to to 10 % of the population. They have no Life Interrupting Issues at this time. There are two Levels of Type A people. Level 1. Are unusually healthy and functional. :Level 2 are healthy with some weaknesses that can erupt into a life interrupting issue if not corrected. 

That does not mean either group is perfect and will not experience Adversities. It does mean that they tend to have developed enough resiliency to Bounce Back from the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes!"

Level I people are the healthiest of the bunch so we need to recruit them for engagement and training so they get even stronger and better prepared to meet and overcome the troubles and issues that invade our lives.

Contact us at Sweeten Life Systems for books, materials, and videos that promote healthy living. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hugs and Healing

Worship with Christian Fellowship along and hugs will impact the traumatized souls in ways that are difficult to understand. At a Church Renewal conference at Montreat there was great times of worship with dancing, laughter, and hugging. As a result I offered a small on the healing power of hugs.

It went something like this.

We need 4 hugs daily to stay sane.
We need 8 hugs daily to be healthy.
We need 12 hugs daily to heal and grow emotionally.

The people at the conference seemed to love it. However, I received a letter from one of the attendees that was very unhappy. He said it was awful to see Christians hugging since it was unbiblical. All that physical touch was unseemly and too sexual.

I responded nicely by saying, he had a point but I was thinking about what St. Paul taught about touch. In Romans 16:16 Paul strongly supports physical touch among Christians.

Read it and see for yourselves.

Gary Sweeten

Follow us by clicking the link!

Hugs and Kisses

I recently posted a small story about a man that was unhappy and complained when we had hugging at a renewal conference. I responded by suggesting it would be better if we taught Romans 16:16. 

Romans 16:16 

Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the churches of Christ send greetings.

            Have you ever heard a sermon on this text? Maybe not. It might be difficult for serious and pious preachers and I am neither, so I have taught on it.
            Why did the Holy Spirit inspire St. Paul to write such a thing, especially in light of the great sensitivity they had about men and women even shaking hands let alone kissing. 
            I am pretty sure this was for men bussing men and women bussing women. In many cultures this is still the practice and I have been the recipient of it from a Russian Orthodox Priest in Moscow. It was a great honor. 

           Can you think of another scripture where open touch was suggested? What is the context? What would the purposes be?

Early Childhood Education and Poverty

Poverty and its impact on education and the ability of children to succeed is a great concern to many of us. It has a tremendous impact on children and their ability to thrive later in life.

Researchers have been looking at why children of the poor have such a hard time making it later in life. One study found that there is a huge gap in the words spoken to poor kids and those from middle and high incomes.

University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley entered the homes of 42 families from various socio-economic backgrounds to assess the ways in which daily exchanges between a parent and child shape language and vocabulary development. Their findings showed marked disparities between the sheer number of words spoken as well as the types of messages conveyed. 

After four years these differences in parent-child interactions produced significant discrepancies in not only children’s knowledge, but also their skills and experiences with children from high-income families being exposed to 30 million more words than children from families on welfare. 

Follow-up studies showed that these differences in language and interaction experiences have lasting effects on a child’s performance later in life. (The full study is here.)

This and other similar studies cause us to ask if early childhood education alone is enough to close that gap. As a educator it seems that we also need to include the extended families of these children in the educational processes to elevate their vocabularies as well. 

What can we do to support poor families?

Gary Sweeten

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Friends and Pastors Can do an Assessment of Emotional Needs

In this post I am not suggesting that Lay people, and most Pastors are Lay People in Psychology and Counseling, can do a Diagnosis about Mental Illness Treatment. It is necessary for the deeply distressed to seek a Professional Counselor of some kind.

The following chart was done when I was training Cell Groups in Singapore with a wonderful and gifted group at the Faith Community Baptist Church.

It was a very large church and growing rapidly through Cell Groups. They asked me to train the Pastors and Lay Leaders in the basics of Peer Care and Counseling. Over the 12-15 years I traveled to Asia with this group I met some of the brightest and most dedicated Believers in my life.

They sincerely wanted to care for any and all persons regardless of the depth of their brokenness and distress. That is laudable but can lead to idealism and energetic motivation that overwhelms wisdom, especially in the younger people.

As a result I developed a simple overview to help them assess and care for their 5,000 or so members, most of whom were in Cell Groups. These smart, caring group leaders carried out their ministries with care and dedication.

Here are the Five Levels of Need.

A. No Current Life Interrupting Issues
1. Very Healthy emotionally, relationally and spiritually
2. Healthy but occasional symptoms of distress that can interrupt life if not healed

B. Life Interrupting Issues
3. Distress that occasionally disrupt life but can be overcome with teaching, care and prayer by family and friends
4. Ongoing distress that requires professional assistance plus peer support.
5. Intense and overwhelming distress that requires medical and professional therapy and peer support.

More on these later with more extensive explanations.

Gary Sweeten
I have updated all my books into eBooks on PDF that can be downloaded.

See my materials on offering Christian care and counsel 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

When is it time to Refer a Distressed Person to a Therapist?

It is easy to be confused about mental illness. A lot that is written and spoken by so called experts, is confusing to me and I have two degrees in psychology and counseling. In my view, experts tend to call every incident of emotional distress a "mental illness".

For example, some manuals are dedicated to the practice of correctly defining when distress is an illness and when it is just a slight, passing issue. One seems confused and confusing.  It says that grief over the death of a loved one can be called an illness if it lasts over a couple of weeks. That seems to be an exaggeration for the death of a parent, partner or child can cause deep and lasting grief for normal persons. It is wrong to call that mental illness.

Even more confusing are the labels placed on depression. A recent survey asked Ministers what they thought caused depression. The people that answered rarely said the cause was a biological brain illness. Because of that, the experts thought the Ministers were uneducated.

Do you agree they are not educated enough? I'm not at all sure. How did the survey define depression? Is all depression the same? Is deep grief and sadness the same as Clinical Depression?

Do you think all sadness, grief and depression are caused by flawed biology?

Do you think taking antidepressants is the best or only treatment for depression?

Should I refer every sad, anxious, depressed person to a Psychiatrist/Medical Doctor to get them medicine or could a minister be helpful?

A little later we will share 5 levels of distress and when to refer to a professional. Then you will be clear about who needs a therapist. I developed my scale to help Ministers and Lay Leaders differentiate among the mystifying voices of pain and distress.

I will also describe the difference between a Psychiatrist, a Psychologist, a Counselor, a Social Worker, etc.

More later.

Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dealing with Mental Illnesses

Every time there is a mass shooting, a threat of suicide many people insist that these tragic events are caused by mental illness. If that is so, they could be prevented by psychological treatment.

The answer, they say, is more money to train and treat distressed people.I am not one to discourage more money for my colleagues and me, but what evidence is there for clinical therapists preventing tragic events like mass murders and suicides?

It is also suggested that family and friends can prevent tragedies. Maybe. I hope so. I want it to be true, but it is hard to prove that evil does NOT happen.

I do believe that good therapy and positive family support can prevent violence and bad behavior in many instances. It is foundational to my teaching and books. I wish we could do more equipping as a preventative approach to life. However, we must be careful and refrain from thinking we can control other people, even in our own families.

Bad things do happen to good people. Sickness and evil are real.

We recently saw it up close and personal when young man in our community took his life. He was surrounded by family members and friends who went far beyond the norm, yet he carried out his intent and died. His mother was a strong supporter of his and gathered friends and professionals to intervene. His teenage friends acted with great maturity but he was dedicated to end his life.

We cannot guarantee that we can stop a person from carrying out a deeply committed plan. We can and must try. I have seen breakthroughs in the lives of the deeply depressed but miracles do not always happen.

As a Counselor I spent my life battling depression and hopelessness, but I was not always successful. I have had to face the fact that I am infallible and the world is a messy place. That is why I place my trust in God not myself or other people.

Gary Sweeten
See our web for materials on helping hurting people.

Why is ISIS Successful?

Violent Muslims have been very successful despite the fact that their message is so terrible. How would you like to join a company with a product that leads to  destruction, death, and world hatred?

"Not so much," you say?

ISIS uses the small group model of Jesus to spread bad news while Jesus said to spread the Good News!

 Since we have good news we might assume that our groups would grow much faster than people with the bad news!

Here is a suggestion for understanding the model of Jesus. It shows why it is so successful. I wonder why so many leaders reject it.

You can learn the model by reading the book, The Starfish and the Spider. I do not agree with the purposes of some of the groups mentioned in the book but the author describes the model in an interesting way.

Gary Sweeten

Get my books on ways to disciple and equip. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Why Do We Turn Visitors to Church Away?

My new friend at coffee admitted there is a need to follow up with visitors and new believers, but complained that few churches  or members will do it.

When I asked why, he said, "I think they don't want new people in the church. They do not want anyone to break us their little clique."

Do you agree? I am not sure why, but it seems like churches go out of their way to make their services closed to new people. For example, visitors do not have a guide or program in many churches so they have no idea what to expect.

Even Wall Mart has greeters but like every big box store the church expects visitors to find out what is there on their own.  

A famous writer decided to visit various churches as a "secret shopper" and write about it with a five star system of analysis. One star meant lousy service and five stars meant superior service. Only one church received five stars. Most got a one or two star rating.

Do you wonder how people would rate your church?

Ask a friend to visit and evaluate your church.

Gary Sweeten

Monday, May 2, 2016

Doing Good is Good for Us

From: Stephen G. Post, Ph.D.
Re:     Updated Scientific Review on the Benefits of Giving
Date: January 1, 2008
Over the last eight years, I have been focusing on the new scientific literature that shows the health benefits of generous emotions coupled with giving activities.  The caveat, of course, is not to be overwhelmed, for just as there can be too little there can also be too much.   With the success of the book "Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The Exciting New Research That Proves the Link Between Doing Good and Living a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life" ( Jill Neimark, and with a Foreword by Pastor Otis Moss, Jr.)  www.whygoodthingshappen.com to link with Amazon or Barnes & Noble.   
                 Good to be Good:  Health and the Generous Heart

                                              Stephen G. Post, Ph. D.

 The convergence of evidence is striking in support of the hypothesis that benevolent emotions, attitudes and actions centered on the good of others are contributory to happiness, health, and even longevity in the agent of such giving. Benevolence is chiefly about the well-being of recipients, but that said, it can be added that it nourishes the giver. 
Because no research methodology is perfect, researchers in the social sciences and health outcomes look for a convergence of results across a variety of methods before reaching a conclusion as to the truth of any hypothesis. The evidence that “doing unto others” is good for the giver has reached a high threshold with regard to everyday kindness and good deeds that bestow upon the giver a feeling of meaning, buoyancy, and warmth. 

"Do unto others as you want them to do unto you" Jesus
Gary Sweeten Go to our web page bookstore to discover ways to help without hurting.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Who Won the Raffle?

There was a carnival at Independence School in Butler County. It seems that thousands of families were there, eating, drinking, bouncing and having a ball.

They had a $1.00 per try raffle with about 15 different items the people could put their ticket on and get a chance to win. Emma put all 4 of her tickets on a doll. Yep, an American Girl Doll!

Driving her and Jack to the event she said she was betting everything on winning that doll. Te pessimist in me said, "You are more likely to be struck by lightning or a meteor!

Karen and I sat across from the table with all the prizes and we saw everyone stuff dozens of tickets into the Doll box. My heart sank!

At the drawing, the doll was the top prize with every girl in the place violated Ohio PC Law about prayers at school. In fact, so did I!

The principal slowly drew out the name and shouted!

Emma Sweeten,

Emma Sweeten!

PTL! Emma Won.

Reaching Hostile People

My new friend who told me he was following Jesus as an evangelist quoted a passage of scripture. However, he quoted it the way most of us think it says but it is wrong. Jesus did not say, "Go preach the gospel and save people..."

Jesus said, "Go make disciples and teach them to do everything I did".

What is the difference between the two?

Gary Sweeten