Saturday, December 25, 2010

What is a Disciple of Jesus?

When Jesus told His followers to "Go into all the world and make disciples He added ans important proviso: "Teaching them to do everything I taught you to do". WOW! That is a heavy assignment and I do not think most of the leaders I know even try to do that. In fact, few believe it is possible and even if it were would feel completely unable to accomplish it.

I minister to struggling Pastors and Christian leaders every week. Many are depressed, overwhelmed and frustrated. Few, if any, were prepared in seminary or Bible school for the daily, practical, real issues that confront them now as a Minister.

One Pastor told me he had never been taught how to do a baptism, a funeral, a wedding or any service. He had never seen anyone anoint a sick person with oil, comfort a widow, counsel and parent whose child had just been killed or led a church council, dealt with church conflict or advised a parent on discipline. All of which are the daily activities of all persons in ministry.

His entire seminary experience had focused on the teachers being "Talking Heads" who told him and his classmates how to be better "Talking Heads". No wonder seminaries are dying. With that kind of curriculum they need to die and be resurrected as schools that teach the way that Jesus did: through personal interaction, practice, feedback and making mistakes.

One of my ministerial friends told me a story about his first year in ministry that is bot tragic and funny. He joined the staff of a rather large church in the summer and shortly thereafter the Senior Minister left on vacation. The new man was supposed to baptize by immersion two adult converts in the local lake. The only thing that saved all of them from drowning was one of the converts who could swim well. (Perhaps this is a reason so many churches sprinkle now.)

As I think about the terribly inefficient and ineffective ways Christians try to operate I am struck by the fact that the church is indeed supernatural. Any organization not supported by the Holy Spirit would have died long ago with such pitiful training programs.

So, if a leaders has never been trained to DO THE STUFF how can he/she teach others to DO THE STUFF? Many Ministers stumble through and over time learn how to do the stuff but it usually takes a long time and a lot of pain. Why not do ti the way Jesus did and see what happens.

Go Make Disciples of Jesus

Can you imagine adults sitting in a large classroom listening to the same tired old talks about adding 2 + 2 and how to spell c-a-t? Yet we do that in many church assemblies. No wonder so many Christian people stop attending services. They are bored to distraction by elementary teachers repeating elementary teachings to adults.

As an educator I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that for several years of church work I failed to realize that some adult believers are babes in Christ who need milk but others are grown-up adults who can chew meat. I suppose I came by that point of view because I always attended churches that gathered adults together in one big room to be "fed" by the "Pastor/ Shepherd of the sheep." (We were the sheep.) Everybody ate the same food and we all sat with mouths open in anticipation whether we had just come to the Lord or were veterans of fifty spiritual years.

Hebrews 6 gives us a completely different point of view. When I read it I can clearly see that the Spirit who inspired the Bible understood developmental stages of growth and change. God is an educator who develops some teachings for Babes and others for Disciples and still more for us in Ministry. Would we present the same things to my four-year-old grand daughter as we would to her mother?

1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

3 And God permitting, we will do so. (NIV)

Any Pastor who wants to really feed his/her people will develop ways to discern where they are spiritually and offer them food that is specifically designed for that stage of spiritual growth. Most people covet large numbers with lots of money and bottoms in the pews. They love fat churches not big, strong, healthy churches. No wonder there is so little long term change happening. Only by making strong disciples will we become effective in our ministries.

How Do I know if I am Growing into Maturity?

I have seen various scenarios that say how we ought to grow and signs that we are mature. I must say that I have not found any that really seem to click with me.

I have tried myself to devise a system or way to see if folks are getting more mature but they all seemed to break down under close scrutiny. Then this morning I had an insight. During worship at church it suddenly struck me that scripture tells us how to judge spiritual growth. The place to look is Galatians 5 where Paul contrasts the Fruit of the Flesh with the Fruit of the Spirit.

19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

It also struck me that the fruit of the flesh are all indications of a lack of peace or what we call "Emotional Reactivity" to situations and people that are greater than what is prudent. For example, a waiter spills a glass of water and some of it falls on me. What do I do as a result? An immature person will be Reactive and yell, curse, attack the waiter or threaten to sue the restaurant. A mature person will be Peaceful and reason with patience, long suffering and kindness.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stop Those Divorces! NOW!

Why do we want to stop divorces? isn't it a good thing that our laws make divorce so easy? Don't you think that "No fault Divorce" is a boon to society, especially women? As one of my favorite teachers said so often:
"In America divorce is easy. The trouble is, separation is impossible."

No matter how long a couple has been divorced, separating from those past memories is almost impossible to leave behind. I recently spoke with a person who became upset because her current husband and her ex had a pleasant conversation together. Why was she upset? Separation of feelings, memories and bitterness is almost impossible.

For some reason, God hates divorce. Do you suppose He has a good reason or is it because he is irrational and a kill joy. God loves people but hates divorce. Maybe he hates divorce because it is harmful to the couple, their children and their family members. Our research on parents who have a disabled child indicates that some 85% of the couples who giver birth to a seriously disabled child get a divorce.

Can you imagine how difficult it is to rear a child alone without a partner? It is difficult. Very difficult. I have met many such persons, usually women, and they all say how difficult it is for them to manage the kids, the money, the responsibilities and the work they must also carry out. It is disastrously difficult.

Now add a serious disability to the mix and see what you get. It is an impossible task. Parents with a disabled kid find the stresses and strains so overwhelmingly difficult that they too often get a divorce. How hard would that be on the child and the mother? Unbelievable!

This is why we at Sweeten Life Systems work so hard to PREVENT divorces by teaching people how to live together in harmony. "I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony..." We can reduce the divorce rate. Believe me it is possible if churches would study the research on what causes and what cures toxic conflict. Not all conflict just the toxic kind. It can be done.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sweeten Life Heals Relationships

Over the past forty years or so of my professional ministry of offering Christian care and counsel I have directly helped hundreds of marriages and families stay connected and married to each other. That is very rewarding, but it is not enough for me. That is why I did post doctoral work in marriage and family counseling and also studied other ways to impact entire churches and groups of men and women in positive ways so they could live more abundant lives and enjoy A Lifetime of Great Relationships.

If you are following this series of posts about what works in a marriage to promote Great Relationships, consider attending a class on listening, couple communication and marital enrichment. I wish every church had a dozen people who could do what I have done for so long. Just think, thousands of marriages and five times that number of kids would be positively affected.

Great Relationships?

What makes a great marriage relationship?

Absence of anger?
No arguments?
Lots of sex?
Lots of money?
Both working?
Only one working?
No kids?
Great mother in law?
No mother in law?
Women submit to husbands?
Men an women are equal?
Both are Christians?
Commitment to stay together?
Church attendance?

What think ye? Well, IMO, some of these things do actually tend to facilitate a good to great marriage relationship, but only if they actually bring love to one or both members of the marriage. Yes, it is love applied in the nine aspects listed in Galatians 5:22 ff that really make a difference and keep the couple and the family functional.

It needs to be known, however, that love and anger; love and conflict; love and differences are not mutually exclusive. Almost every couple has conflict. Almost every couple has angry exchanges. Almost every couple has communication breakdowns, problem solving difficulties and failure to and manage conflict .

It isn't their perfection that keeps a couple together in a great marriage, it is what that couple does when imperfection, conflict and anger occur. In other words, "How do they deal with differences, disagreements and emotional explosions.

You may ask, "What are the options? I can only think of one option. Scream at him while he runs and cusses at me. Are there other options?"

Yes, there are but they may need to be learned as married adults.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Word from an Expert

From whom did you think you were going to hear about the causes of divorce? Did you think I would quote Dr. Phil? he certainly impressed Oprah. Maybe he would impress me as well. Nope, Dr. Phil is not very impressive to me. He certainly is not as impressive as the expert I am quoting.

My expert is the person who is remembered for saying things like, "The truth shall set you free" and "You shall know them by their fruit." Any guesses? OK, OK! You guessed it is Jesus.

When He said, "You shall know them by their fruit it was obvious that His focus was on the quality of our relationships. Later, St. Paul heard the Holy Spirit say the same thing and he listed the things he heard and labeled them as the "Fruit of the Spirit." By looking at and these fruit we can see the positive qualities the Spirit develops in the lives of those who know and follow Jesus. The list is found in Galatians 5:22ff and their are nine in all. However, that is not the entire list but it covers about everything we can imagine in developing Great Relationships.

these fruit are the key to child rearing, marital health, business success, neighborly harmony and a great reputation. Their opposite shows up in divorces, disharmony, domestic violence, disrespect among co-workers and neighbors who dislike us. They are the real cause of divorce. If you don't believe me, just try living daily by the rotten fruit of the contemporary spirits!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Divorce is Not so Easy

If none of the things I posted above cause divorce, what does? Too often we in our Western culture look at the symptoms of a problem as the real problem and thereby try to cure the disease by eliminating the symptom.

In 1998 a golfer from Spain named Olazabal was unable to walk well enough to play pro golf. His foot hurt him so badly he limped around the house and needed assistance to do anything. He faced certain retirement unless his doctors discovered the cause. But the doctors were stumped and he looked certain retirement in the face.

then he received a letter from a doctor in Germany who said he thought he knew why Mr. Olazabal was in so much pain. So, the millionaire sportsman flew to Germany for an examination. The German doctor discovered that the root of the problem lay in the golfer's back not his feet where everyone else was looking. They fixed his back and the pain in his feet and legs disappeared.

I was given two free tickets to the Master's Golf Tournament in Georgia for 1999. My wife and I went down to see it as the guests of the parents of Rev. James Brown, a Presbyterian Minister. It was a wonderful time and we had a ball. The Masters was won that year by Mr. Olazabal.

What can be the root of marital misery that causes so much pain that the couple abandons its love and commitment to each other and get divorced? What do you think it is or they are?

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Causes of Divorce

Why are we Americans so slow to develop premarital preparation that prevents divorces? We know the causes of divorce. It is not pornography. It is not adultery. It is not money. It is not work. It is not poverty. It is not too much golf or too many hobbies or drugs, alcohol or rock and roll.

Nor is it the lack of sex.

Nor is it the lack of commitment to marriage. I have never, ever heard anyone on their wedding day, say, "I take thee to be my FIRST wife or my FIRST husband. It is very rare for folks to get married with the expressed desire to get a divorce.

But the myths are listed above and those churches and community groups dedicated to "saving marriages" too often focus on these matters not the root matters.

What causes most divorces? Would you like to know?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Divorce of Parents with Kids who have Special Needs

I mentioned that when a couple discovers their child has a severe disability, the likelihood of divorce is very high. Many writers, researchers and professional service providers use the divorce rate of 85%. That is high. Very high. Why?

Marital harmony is a challenge for any couple. Disagreements, conflicts and learning to live together requires a lot of hard work, patience and an ability to overlook the idiosyncrasies of a mate. After the sexual drive, the honeymoon and the stage of fascination is over the real work begins. then a child arrives and the fun begins.

It is rare for any two people to agree on the discipline, feeding, sleeping, and educating of a child. Cracks appear in the unity of the couple and the child, whose psychological insights about the rearing of parents far exceeds the wisdom of parents about child rearing,intuitively decides she likes the parents better when they are divided, pushes them farther and farther apart.

When a child comes along who has a severe disability, the false guilt, shame and disappointment of one or both parents is intense. Mom usually has more of this volatile mix of nasty self loathing and begins to over function as a care giver toward the child. Now let it be said immediately that female over functioning toward a child in our culture is the norm. But hell hath no fury like a mother with a sick child.

Where does this leave dad? On the outside looking longingly at his former loving wife whose entire life is now spent in prayer and fasting for her wounded offspring. If this continues, as often is the case, and dad works hard but is, in his opinion, snubbed, under appreciated and left without sex or nurture, he can easily become a WWB. (Wounded Water Buffalo) He is filled with self pity, anger, sexual frustration and jealousy, none of which can he admit even to himself because it seems so childish, selfish and narcissistic.

So, mom is obsessed with the child or children and dad is obsessed with work, performance and things outside the home. This leads mom to further distance herself from dad and anxiously focus on the children. This is a disaster in the heart and mind of the couple. They are ready to pop.

Who is to blame? What would we say about whose fault the divorce is when another woman comes along who listens to his tale of woe and comforts him? What would you suggest to such a man and such a woman?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Do Churches Neglect the Poor?

In my last post I asked why there are so many divorces among couples who have a child with a serious disability. Now I am following up with a story about research on single mothers who are not welcomed at their churches or any church. The research from ARDA shows that, despite a newly intense interest in prayer, God and church attendance, many poor, single mothers feel unwanted by God and church leaders.

You can read part of the article here but I suggest that you go to the link and see the additional resources, statistics and maps.

Latoya and Shantelle, two poor single mothers, stay away from church due to guilt and a sense of “being a sinner.” Adrienne will not attend after a pastor refused to baptize her baby.

Yet what these three women have in common with many new mothers is a strong interest in instilling faith in their children, reports sociologist Susan Crawford Sullivan of College of the Holy Cross.

Her research and other studies on the religious practices of low-income mothers reveal a renewed commitment to faith with parenthood. Acting on that faith can provide a number of benefits from better behavioral outcomes for children to reduced parental stress for struggling moms, the studies suggest.

But the data also raise questions:

Why don’t more poor mothers take advantage of these critical resources?
What can churches do to close the gap?

Congregations appear to be sending real or perceived signals that it’s OK for the poor to be always with them — as long as it is not in the next pew. Some young, single mothers, unable to keep up with church fashion or put much in the collection plate, stay away on Sundays even as they make sure their children attend.

Even for the child who’s got his own, the lack of parental involvement makes it that much harder to keep the faith.

This is real data on why so many parents refuse to attend church despite wanting to be worshiping, learning and praying with other Christians. Do churches really want to grow when the neglect people such as this? Do we not realize that one of the reasons the Early Church in the Roman Empire grew rapidly because they openly accepted the wives and concubines of wealthy Romans and reared them as Christians?

Do the parents of kids with chronic illnesses and problems also feel rejected and unwelcome in many of our churches? We do know that upon learning of the chronic condition of their child the desire for spiritual support and understanding goes way up but the availability of such support goes way down!

Would any of your like to minister to the low hanging fruit of hurting moms and dads by showing love, understanding and practical helps to the one with ongoing challenges? Come on November 6 to our Gathering at Christ's Church at Mason and learn how. See our web link at

Why so many Divorces?

Why so many Divorces?

The divorce rate of parents who have a child with a serious, chronic special need is thought to be about 85%. The divorce rate of all couples is way too high but still much lower than the 85% mentioned for parents with a sick child. What are we to think when we see these stats?

Write and tell me what you think about this data.

Why do so many parents with sick kids get divorced?

What would you suggest we do to reduce this terrible pattern?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sex Without Marriage, A Real Problem

A Pyramid of Childhood Loss

When Children Lose a Parent, Chronic Illnesses Increase

Is promiscuity the biggest problem facing us in the beginning of the 21st Century? I think it is very close to being the #1. social, ethical and financial problem happening in our lifetime. It has even brought notoriety to the trapped miners in Chili. Here is part of the story in The U.K. Telegraph.

Trouble Above as well as Below Ground

Several men have been revealed to have children by different women, and competing claims for their affections. And amid talk of lucrative compensation claims, film and book deals and media buy-ups, love and money are destined for an awkward clash.

For Yonni Barrios, the conflict is perhaps most striking. Beneath ground, he has played one of the starring roles in the remarkable story as "Dr House", as his fellow miners call him in honour of their favourite US television medical show. Several years ago, he completed a short medical training course to care for his ill grandmother. And so, via video conference and written instructions from medics at the surface, he has taken blood samples and administered drugs and creams for high blood pressure, diabetes, fibrosis, skin infections and mouth sores.

But even as the 50-year-old was centre-stage 2,300 feet underground, his tangled domestic arrangements provided an extra spectacle above ground. For his wife and a woman who claimed to be the lover he has promised to marry only discovered that each other existed when both turned up at the vigil site with pictures of the trapped man. Since dramatically coming to blows in a cat-fight in a canteen at the site, both women have disappeared from public view. But Mr Barrios is clearly going to have to placate at least one of them when he rejoins the world this week.

As a kid I often heard an old Southern Gospel song that had the words, "There's an all seeing eye watching you!" prominently sung over and over. These men in Chili evidently thought no one was watching them but now they know differently. As St. Paul said, "Be sure because your sin will find you out."

Here is what sin is doing to us now in the USA. Some 40% of all births are coming from single mothers. This throws over 90% of the mothers into immediate and long term crisis of poverty, stress, mental and emotional fragility with depression and anxiety as almost certain passengers.

With this many mothers and babies going on Medicaid for life, the very safety and security of that entire threatened. There is not enough money in Fort Knox to take care of that level of dependency. The babies born to single mothers very often fail to thrive educationally, physically, mentally and emotionally. Nothing threatens the economic, spiritual and educational welfare of America like promiscuity, yet many politicians and educators continue to promote this destructive lifestyle.

Until the pendulum swings back to a solid Judeo-Christian morality and marriage is seen as between one man and one woman for a lifetime the crisis will not pass.

Don't Sue but Be Healed!

I have often said that should a member of my family be a victim of abuse I would refuse to recommend that they sue the person or organization that accosted them. All the million dollar suits that are getting headlines would disappear and the lawyers who are living large would have to make an honest living.

Why do I say that? I am concerned that going to court and winning the suit and getting a lot of money from a sympathetic jury requires the victim to act in a certain way. What would you guess would be necessary to get the abusers' insurance company to pay out a bunch of money? If you went to court and looked the jury in the eye, what kind of story would you tell?

Would you says, "Oh, that guy attacked me and raped me. It was awful at the time but I am fine now. I have received a lot of love, prayers from my Pastor and as a matter of fact I have grown as a person and as a Christian as a result. I would never recommend it as a way to grow spiritually and emotionally but it did add to my character in a big way."

What effect would that kind of Victorious Testimony have on a jury? Would they all be in tears and say, "This guy deserves a couple of million dollars from the group that hired the brute who did that to him. Sock it to them!"

I doubt it, yet that would be a true testimony for many if not most victims of abuse. But that is not what the victims often say in court and in the press. They and their Lawyers and hired Psychologists claim that this poor victim will suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTST) for the rest of his/her life. It not is not true for the overwhelming majority of victims. In fact, less than 50% of such victims ever experience any PTSD at all after an abuse.

One study done with adult women survivors of incest and/or sexual abuse had no PTSD symptoms when they were in a safe, stable relationship with an adult. Additionally, they needed a rational belief system that appropriately placed responsibility with the abuser and did not carry false guilt. It was also important that the victim had hope for change and healing.

Now let's revisit NOT suing the abuser or his organization. Such behavior mitigates against getting better because it will inevitably diminish the victim's hope and cause her/him to experience both true guilt and false guilt.

As a Therapist I would be ashamed to testify that a victim of abuse was hopeless and helpless to live a normal, PTSD free life. That would be admitting that good Counseling is impossible to help a hurting victim and that is not so. Good Counselors are very effective at fostering health, freedom and joy so falsely testifying that change is impossible damages the Clients.

Surround Us During Life's Ups and Downs

Sweeten Life Systems is an organization that I describe as "Asset Based" rather than "Sickness Based". It is too bad that our western world is obsessed by focusing on sickness, illness, pain, trauma and worrying about the things that cause problems. I am not sure way that is true but it is true, especially for people such as I who was trained to be a Therapist.

I was trained in The Sickness Model of Counseling Rather than the "Asset Based Model". Here is my description of the Sickness Model.

It separates the Disease from the Person

The Person from his/her Family

The Family from their Support System

The Support System from the Medical System

What does this mean for me as a Patient or the Parent of a Patient? It means that the Medical, Psychological and Insurance System will ignore you and disrespect you. You will be treated as a non entity who knows nothing and has no influence on the Disease.

Let's think of that definition for a while. You take your troubled child to the Doctor, the Psychologist, the Nurse or the Hospital and the Experts probe him, test him, look him over and try to come up with a Diagnosis. Some sort of diagnosis is settled on and it is sent to your a few weeks later. In the diagnosis you are told to go now to your Family Doctor and get a Prescription to treat your child.

This sounds ludicrous and silly as well as a form of malpractice. It is. But that is the Disease Model of Medicine. Even if the Doctors and their allies want to do differently, and many do, the current payment system mitigates against them being personally involved with you as a Parent. A Doctor is allocated exactly six minutes for each Patient and that is not enough time for a Caring Doctor to listen to a parent.

Thankfully, I have a different philosophy of Counseling and have trained thousands of Peer and Professional Helpers to treat the entire person, the entire family and their entire life choices. At Life Way Counseling Centers and in all our classes and Lay Caring we include every member that is significant to the Seeker.

In our current focus on Parents with kids who have Special Needs we are training Peer and Professional Helpers how to include the whole family in the caring and support process. Attend the November 6 Gathering and learn how to respect people not just their dis-ease.

I Believe in Teachers Praying in School

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:

'Let me see if I've got this right..
'You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning.

'You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride.

'You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job.

'You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure that they all pass the final exams.

'You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language, by letter, telephone, newsletter, and report card.

'You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps.

'You want me to do all this and then you tell me. . . I CAN'T PRAY?

Parents are key to Children's Health

Why, when we are in the middle of an epidemic of illnesses among children, do we at Sweeten Life Systems so strongly promote the health and welfare of the parents? What would you say is the reason? If you were a member of the SLS Board of Trustees would you agree with our priorities or vote to change them so we work exclusively on healing the kids? write and let me know your thoughts!

Gary Sweeten

Friday, October 8, 2010

Children with Special Needs

If you have been watching, listening and paying attention to what is happening in the world of medicine, health care, education, counseling and modern stress you probably already know what I am about to say. The Western World of Europe and the USA are in the midst of an epidemic. It is not an epidemic like the Black Plague that killed off some 1/3 of Europe or the Spanish Flu Epidemic that killed as many as 20 to 30 million mostly young men and women. No, the casualties are still living and the health care, interpersonal and family life costs are astronomical.

The current epidemic has to do with such things as Autism, Asthma, Anxiety, Depression, Learning Disabilities, Sensory Confusion, and so forth. It is estimated that Autism affected one in one thousand people at the turn of the 20 the century and now touches one in 100 children. This is an astronomical increase and so are so many other problems and sensitivities that children face, and none has a good diagnosis or treatment.

What can we who follow "The Great Physician" do to help these people? We could ignore the problems and when the families facing overwhelming problems stop attending our church move on to new potential members. In the research we recently completed as a result of a grant from The Hatton Foundation found, parents who have a child with special needs experience two things when it comes to spiritual support.

1. Their desire for spiritual support, insights and action go way up! These folks desperately want and need Christians to come to their assistance. They want prayer, teaching on how to pray for their child, someone to listen to them, practical help and so much more.

2. The availability of spiritual support falls dramatically. In fact, several of our parents indicated that they had not received a single Pastoral call since the birth of a child with special needs. Many churches may be interested in outreach, missions, justice and the other types of outreach but almost none do anything to help their own members who are in a crisis. Why reach out to people who are not interested and neglect those desperately wanting your fellowship?

If you want to understand what parents and their children want and need, go to the web for Sweeten Life and read about our upcoming Fall Family Gathering. Your life can be enriched by getting involved.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Good Testimony

I love to hear testimonies of real people with real issues and a real God. Here is one I recently read in the online Journal of Philanthropy.

September 19, 2010
A Calif. Tech Entrepreneur and His Family Dig Deep to Live Out Religious Values

By Caroline Preston

Pomona, Calif.

When he got offered a job at the technology company EarthLink, Tom Hsieh hesitated.

Could he start early and leave at 3 p.m.?, he asked his would-be-bosses. They looked at him with bemusement. This was the mid-1990s, when working in high-tech often meant ordering in pizza and sleeping at the office. But Mr. Hsieh, who’d become committed to Christian ideals of serving the poor as a college student, explained that he needed to be home early so he could tutor neighborhood kids in

A Great Testimony

Over the past 40 years of ministry I have heard thousands of testimonies from preachers and writers. However, there is something much more powerful when that testimony comes from a person or family that gives the praise to god but the tanks to one of our ministries.

Such affirmation and thanksgiving is rare in the white conservative Christian community. The African American community is much better at offering thanks and at honoring their Christian leaders than my own tradition. I am not sure why but it may be a fear giving the people a "Big Head". I was once accused by a famous Bishop of "Making my people proud and causing them to sin" because I urged them to "Grow in grace and truth".

Have you ever tried to thank a Minister or Lay Leader and get this response? , "Oh, I did nothing at all. It was all God".This is a double bind for Christians because we are encouraged to give, serve, lead and witness, all of which bring a sense of well being and God's pleasure. Yet, if we enjoy God's pleasure too much we are warned that "Pride goes before a fall so refuse to accept any praise". That is as easy to do as standing on my head and stacking bee bee's. It cannot be done in this life.

So here is my counsel. Thank people for their ministry. Bless them and love them even if they act like they hate it. We really love that sort of thing and need it as well even if we are embarrassed and uncomfortable by hearing it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bless You!

A teacher in New York decided to honor each of her seniors in high school by telling them the difference they each made. She called each student to the front of the class, one at a time. First she told each of them how they had made a difference to her and the class. Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon imprinted with gold letters, which read, "Who I Am Makes a Difference."
Afterwards the teacher decided to do a class project to see what kind of impact recognition would have on a community. She gave each of the students three more ribbons and instructed them to go out and spread this acknowledgment ceremony. Then they were to follow up on the results, see who honored whom and report back to the class in about a week.

One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby company and honored him for helping him with his career planning. He gave him a blue ribbon and put it on his shirt. Then he gave him two extra ribbons and said, "We're doing a class project on recognition, and we'd like you to go out, find somebody to honor, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra blue ribbon so they can acknowledge a third person to keep this acknowledgment ceremony going. Then please report back to me and tell me what happened."

Later that day the junior executive went in to see his boss, who had been noted, by the way, as being kind of a grouchy fellow. He sat his boss down and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius. The boss seemed very surprised. The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the blue ribbon and would he give him permission to put it on him. His surprised boss said, "Well, sure." The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it right on his boss's jacket above his heart. As he gave him the last extra ribbon, he said, "Would you do me a favor? Would you take this extra ribbon and pass it on by honoring somebody else? The young boy who first gave me the ribbons is doing a project in school and we want to keep this recognition ceremony going and find out how it affects people."

That night the boss came home to his 14-year-old son and sat him down. He said, "The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office and one of the junior executives came in and told me he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I'm a creative genius. Then he put this blue ribbon that says 'Who I Am Makes A Difference'" on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor. As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this ribbon and I thought about you. I want to honor you. My days are really hectic and when I come home I don't pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You're a great kid and I love you!"

The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn't stop crying. His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, "Dad, earlier tonight I sat in my room and wrote a letter to you and Mom explaining why I had killed myself and asking you to forgive me. I was going to commit suicide tonight after you were asleep. I just didn’t think that you cared at all. The letter is upstairs. I don't think I need it after all." His father walked upstairs, and found a heartfelt letter full of anguish and pain.
The envelope was addressed, "Mom and Dad".

The boss went back to work a changed man. He was no longer a grouch but made sure to let all his employees know that they made a difference. The junior executive helped several other young people with career planning and never forgot to let them know that they made a difference in his life ... one being the boss's son. And the young boy and his classmates learned a valuable lesson. Who you are DOES make difference.

You are under no obligation to send this on to anyone ... not to one people or to one hundred. As far as I am concerned, you can move on to another page. But if you have anyone who means a lot to you, I encourage you to send him or her this message and let them know that they make a difference in your life. You never know what kind of difference a little encouragement can make to a person.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Spring Conference for Special Education

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I am very excited to have been asked to present our research at the upcoming conference in March of 2011 for Christian Special Education Professionals. The conference speakers look very professional and highly qualified.

Our research is unique in the world of data, mass surveys and drug money from pharmaceutical companies. We did an in-depth survey plus person interview study in the homes of people with chronic problems. You can learn more about our study at the November 6 Fall Family Gathering at Christ's Church in Mason. Go to the Sweeten Life web for more information.

If you are interested in serving needy people, the ones who are often invisible to us, attend the November 6 Family Fall Gathering and talk with us. We will show you how your church can touch the loves of disabled kids and their families.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Learning from Israel

Israel is in a tight spot. That tiny nation of a few million people is surrounded by folks who hate them as a people and as a country. In fact, many refuse to even recognize Israel as a legitimate country.

Israel has been attacked on several occasions by the Arab/Muslim nations. Each time, despite overwhelming odds against them, Israel has won decisively. How did they win, with God's interventions of course, but also with superior armaments and superior guile. Both seem necessary to survive in a hostile world.

I recently read an interesting story about the apparent guile of the Israeli's. It shows how they are combating Iran's infamous and irrational threats to destroy them with atom bombs. Most of us figure that Israel will bomb Iran back into the Stone Age before they can attack Jerusalem, and, they may. However, they seem to have other ways much less deadly that can be applied in this war. Read about it in The Statesman.

Tell me what you think about this. Cane we learn about modern warfare from it?

Lessons From Dying Patients

Here is a great article on what people who have an incurable disease say they wish they had done when they were well. Before you read the article, think about what these people are saying and relate it to you own life.

What do you think you would regret if you were in a hospital bed at home facing your own mortality? Would you say the following things to yourself?

1. I wish I had made more money.
2. I wish I had gotten more fame.
3. I wish I had been more aggressive at work and done more for my company/church.
4. I wish I had pushed my kids harder to accomplish more in life like better grades and more money.
5. I wish I had lived in a better neighborhood, a bigger house and a more expensive car.
6. I wish ____________________________

Now read the article and think about its implications for your life.


Gary Sweeten

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is Medicine the Answer to our Ills?

Sometimes medicine will help and many times it will hurt the patient. Until the recent research and development uncovered some new medicines most of us went through life depending on hard work, prayer and social support to get through tough times. Dr. Robert Schuyler has the motto: "The going gets tough, the tough get going".

That is a good motto but it doesn't always work. I grew up hearing another motto: "He needs to pull himself up by his bootstraps". It is also partially true r half truth, "Jesus is the answer to all problems".

Recently, we have a half truth on the other end of the spectrum. Medicine is the answer to all mental, emotional, behavioral and relational problems.Over 20% of the kids in many elementary schools have an official mental/emotional/behavioral diagnosis. Why so many more now than before?

1. They were previously undiagnosed
2. Things are getting worse
3. Better diagnosis
4. More doctors and psychologists
5. Incorrect diagnoses

I am enclosing an article I think will be helpful to you about this situation. As the founder of an in patient psychiatric hospital and outpatient clinics, I obviously believe that medicine can be helpful. However, I also know that over medicating people, especially kids, can be harmful to them and their futures.

Read this blog by Dr. Leap, a Medical Doctor who sees the results of the Medical Model or Disease Model of treatment. Write and tell me what you think. Do we always need a pill or will prayer and love be more effective?

Gary Sweeten

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rearing Special Kids

For forty years I have preached, taught and written about the dangers of "Over Functioning" in family life, work and church. It seems as though I have completely failed to convince most parents that such activities are bad for the kids and bad for the parents so they are bad for everybody. Trying to force our kids to be more than God created them to be is not only impossible, it is dangerous.

It causes the family to DYS-Function an get distorted. Tonight, Karen and I watched the first chapter of the HBO special John Adams. It needs to be retitled "John and Abigail Adams" because she was every bit as important to the movement of freedom as was John.

Karen and I marveled at the way they interacted with their children. No pampering or political correctness or coddling there. Abigail was teaching her brood Latin and Greek as she directed their education. Nowadays we have parents cheat so their kids can get good grades or complain bitterly to the school when they get less than an A in class.

Here is an interesting article in the CNN Money online magazine. Read it and see what you think. While you are at it, go rent the DVD of John Adams.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Finding Your Call for Life

All of God's great men have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them; they counted on his faithfulness. J. Hudson Taylor

Alexander Mackay was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland in October 13, 1849. He was a bright student who had the mind of an engineer and the heart of a missionary. While reading an Edinburgh newspaper in December 1875, he came across a letter from King M'tesa of Uganda welcoming "the practical Christian who can cure diseases, build dwellings and turn his hand to anything".

Three years later, Mackay found himself preaching before King M'tesa the message of John the Baptist preparing the way for Christ. He wrote in his diary: "The spirit of God seemed to be working. I never had such a blessed service."

Mackay found that his true service to the Lord would be constructing a 230-mile road from the African coast, through the dense jungles to Uganda's capital. With the king's blessing, Mackay worked for the next twelve years preparing a way for future missionaries to travel while translating Matthew into the Luganda language.

Near the end of his life, he wrote: Still I plod on, teaching, translating, printing, doctoring and carpentering. Praise God! St. Matthew's Gospel is now published complete in Luganda and rapidly being distributed.

Henry M. Stanley called Mackay the greatest missionary since Livingstone; he used his talents, passion and gifts for God in a full and satisfying manner. Stanley allowed the mighty River of God to flow in and through him to touch thousands of lives and left a legacy for future generations.

What is your “True service for God?” Is it engineering, sales, evangelism, preaching, writing, healing, translating materials into Russian, counseling, construction, medicine, hauling coal, giving Cokes away, nursing beggars in India or cleaning toilets? What will you write in your journal at the end of your life?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Leadership and Growth

I probably entered the field of counseling because I was a raging sympathizer who could not resist trying to help or heal anyone in pain. When I was a kid I attracted troubled friends like a golf course pond attracts geese. I just could not seem to resist the temptation to jump on my white horse and ride to the rescue; antibody's rescue.

The discerning reader will immediately see that I was what I call a chronic "Over Functioner". If I spotted anyone who was hurt, wounded, dysfunctional or generally "Under Functioning" I felt so badly for them I tried to do something, anything to make them feel better. As our friend Dr. Phil would say, "How was that working for you?" Not well I am afraid.

After being in the helping Professions for some years I hit a wall of burn out. That was marked by frustration that most people did not change even when i spent exorbitant time with them. I was neglecting my family from extreme over work and yet people were unhappy with me and accused me of not caring enough. I did so much for people yet they often remained stuck in misery and pain.

Why did they refuse to take my advise? The came and begged me to help them and give them my great wisdom, prayers and insights. Yet, they generally refused to change, take the advice of even remember it.

Here I am some forty years later and older, wise and more balanced man. I still sometimes get over involved in trying to advise people and urge them to change. But, when failure occurs I can more quickly recover my sense of balance and stop trying to rescue them. "How did I change," you ask. God did it over a long period of time.

First, it was through failure. I was pretty sure I knew what other people "should do" when they had a problem. After all, I was an expert with several advance degrees. I had been told I was an expert who could officially and with government approval, "Diagnose and Treat Mental and Emotional Problems". That kind of license is a sure path to arrogance and pride and God let me fail to bring some humility in my heart.

Second, God taught me the Golden Rule. You remember it. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". I was finally inspired to ask a question: "How do I want people to treat me?" That was an interesting question. Do I want them to treat me like a child who is unable to manage his own life? Do I want others to rescue me or think for me? Did I need others to do for me what I could do for myself? NO! Absolutely no!!!

If the answer is no then I am sinning against God and those whom I am trying to heal, change or rescue. I needed to repent and think differently as well as act differently. I must stop over-functioning for others who are under-functioning.
I thought it would be easy. I was wrong.

Third, I had to learn new skills and new information on how to help people grow and be healed. I went to classes, read research, asked questions and started to change my approach to people. I had to get more callous, hard headed and tough thinking. The following story about Corey Pavin, Coach of the 2010 Ryder Cup is a great example of a tough minded leader. Read this story from the Golf Channel about how he intends to treat the greatest golf player in the world.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ground Zero Memories


Two weeks after the airplanes struck the World Towers we received a call from the local Salvation Army asking if we could send four therapists from The Life Way Counseling Centers to New York. Martin Re, President of Life Way, replied that we could probably recruit four Counselors to go if we had some time. They said, "You don't have much time. We want you there tomorrow."

It was not possible to make flight arrangements and switch Counseling appointments for all our clients but four of us volunteered. We were led by Dr. Jerome Kelly, M.D., our Medical Director. He Steve Griebling, Carla Faison and I hopped on a free Delta airplane and flew to Newark, New jersey. From there we drove to a Salvation Army camp a few miles from New York City and went through a rather rigorous FBI background check. We all passed and they gave us official FBI photo badges so we could get into the Ground Zero area.

Getting back and forth to the Ground Zero area was like entering and leaving North Korea or East Germany during the Cold War. Despite the fact that "The horse was out of the barn, police, National Guard and soldiers stopped us every few blocks to check our car and our official FBI badges. Dr. Kelly and Steve were on one team from i:00 PM until 1:00 AM when Carla and I relieved them for the next 12 hours, 1:00 AM unit 1:00 PM.

These photos show the tents which we called home at Ground Zero. The Salvation Army had set up three tents from which we dispensed food, drinks, warm clothing, and medical supplies. We were actively interacting all night long with police, fire fighters, military, FBI agents, workers, rescue personnel, journalists, etc. When we arrived, the fire below ground was so intense that smoke was a constant problem with its toxic waste, terrible smells and heat. Several times each shift the fire fighters would put a probe down in the hole and test the temp. I remember one night the Chief said it was 1800 degrees.

More later.
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Love is Kind

When I was a little boy, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work. On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my mom and ask me how my day was at school. I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that biscuit and eat every bite!

When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits. And I'll never forget what he said: "Baby, I love burned biscuits."

Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, "Your Momma put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired. And besides - a little burnt biscuit never hurt anyone!" You know, life is full of imperfect things.....and imperfect people.

What I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each others faults- and choosing to celebrate each others differences- is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.

We could extend this to any relationship in fact - as understanding is the base of any relationship, be it a husband-wife or parent-child or friendship!

"Don't put the key to your happiness in someone else pocket - keep it in your own."

By Karl

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


How does a Christian respond appropriately to what we know to be false religions, idols, angry pagans and those who hate us? This is an important question because it is often the situation we face as followers of Christ and it will never change. Some folks teach that if we are loving, caring and peaceful we will be treated with love and respect in response. That may be true sometime but it is the opposite of truth in many cases. I am sure you remember that several Christians on a medical team were murdered recently because they were delivering care and love to Muslims.

I am going to look briefly at an incident when Paul was almost overcome with a case of spiritual stomach ache when he was in Athens evidently for the first time. We will also look at how he responded to the pagan leaders in that situation. Perhaps it can be a model for us.

Acts 17:16 While Paul was waiting for his friends in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. ( Paul was upset spiritually because he saw so many false idols in the city. How did he respond? Did he attack or scoff at them?)

17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean."

(Here is a key verse indicating that Paul really understood the Greek culture and entered into that culture appropriately. He did not act like a Christian Jew but an educated Greek philosopher.) 21 All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.

(The Greeks loved to debate so Paul debated them. He did so well that they invited him to go to the Areopagus, where the Council met, to have an official debate with them.)

22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. (Did he attack them and their beliefs? Was he disrespectful or antagonistic? Did he not take them seriously? Did he say they were ignorant or evil or from Satan? It was the opposite. Paul affirmed them for being religious. He patted them on the back.

(From a influence point of view, it was a brilliant move. Had he attacked their religion or attacked them it would probably instigated them to ignore him or fight him because he had disobeyed the rules of the debate to say nothing of violating the rules of common decency. He was wise enough to realize how to best start the process of conversion and transformation.

I live in Cincinnati, home of Procter and Gamble, a huge corporation. They have spent some two billion dollars on marketing per year for decades. Why do they do that? They want to change the behavior of non customers to become customers and to keep customer buying their products. It is all about influence.

Never does P&G attack their potential customers. Despite selling soap to clean body and clothing, P&G refrains from saying things like, "You all are a bunch of dirty, stinking, people that no one wants to be around so buy our products." They never intentionally try to insult their customers or potential customers, even when it would be factually correct.

Paul was as wise and informed as P&G. He did not insult potential customers. Instead he affirmed them as very religious people. He drew up beside these philosophers and said, "I admire your fervor for religion." Now he changes his strategy. He says, "I have done some research to prove my point.")

23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.

(This is another brilliant preaching insight based on a thorough knowledge of the Greek religious culture and beliefs. This statue to the UNKNOWN GOD was actually a statue to the Lord God, the Creator of the Universe who was sought by the Greeks but was still unknowable to them. Now listen to this brilliant and well researched missionary, Paul.

Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

In other words, Paul says, "I know you have been searching for the unknowable, invisible God and He sent me here to reveal Him."

This is an unmatched, Holy Spirit led sermon based on thorough research into the Greek culture and religious belief system. Paul was able to RESPOND to these pagans with peace, love and joy rather than anxiety, anger and pessimism. Despite starting with a troubled spirit/mind/emotional state, he had gotten over that period of distress and was able to preach a great evangelistic sermon to the council of philosophers.

What lessons do we have to learn from Paul's conversion from anxiety to peace and anger to wisdom?

Where does this kind of wisdom need to be applied today?

Do you see any Christian leaders who need God's peace in order to preach with wisdom, cultural understanding and peace? Where?

When and where do you need God's peace and love to preach the right word at the right time in the right way?

Russian Law Denies Human Rights

My good friend and member of our team in Russia, Anatoly, sent me a blog report showing that a newly proposed law is trying to take all rights away from babies. Pray for our ministry team as they fight against these kinds of inhuman movements.

I had the Russian blog translated into English.

The Russian Parliament is planning legislation to deprive the rights of unborn children
08.09.10 | 21:31 NMA>> Society


Unborn children denied the right to be regarded as living beings and will be assigned a status of "products of conception". The moment of birth is the moment of separation of the product of conception from its mother through childbirth. "This provision is incorporated in the draft Federal Law" On the basis of the health of citizens of Russia ", article 49. The document is not the old position of "illegal conduct of abortion," which primarily entailed criminal liability under the law.

Also noteworthy, that the child before birth is now disparagingly called a "product of conception". Finally, from the bill removed a provision on criminal liability for illegal sterilization, and a number of articles document establishes the procedure for forced sterilization and forced abortion to resolve legal guardians or the court.

Priest Maxim Obukhov commented on the initiative of legislators in an interview portal as follows: "Regarding the definition of" product of conception, "it - generally unheard of. In general, the laws of many civilized countries there is the concept of "child before birth," because at the time of birth in a child, nothing changes except the change of mode of breathing and feeding. From a legal point of view, the phrase "product of conception" closes many opportunities to protect children before birth. And how can man be called "product of conception"? It lowers the status of the unborn child in Russia, even compared with those European countries where abortion is permitted. "

A founder of the initiative group "Donors - Children Catherine Chistyakova in his blog said:" product of conception "- that the zygote and blastula and gastrula, and mulberry body, and the embryo and the newborn in one person. All of us, in essence, only the products of conception. And abortions and miscarriages - is also labor. And yet, I from this "product" begin to fall into the legal nihilism. "

According to the American lawyer Irina Feofanova proposed wording of the article raises many questions and not entirely consistent with international legal standards. Despite the fact that in international law there is no general concept of birth, the very event of birth, as well as nurturing the child, endowed with important legal value. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 proclaims: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 provides in its preamble that "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth". According to Article 7, Clause 1 of the said Convention, "The child shall be registered immediately after birth and date of birth, the right to a name and a nationality, as well as possible, the right to know their parents and the right to be cared for." It should also be noted that "... a child means every human being below the age of 18 years of age ...», wrote Milites Christi Imperatoris citing And as you know, "human being" begins its existence and activity before birth.

Psychologist Irina judge considers that the wording proposed in the law inhuman. "The consequences can be only if it raised the question of respect in general, to a man and a child in the first place. But unfortunately in our society, not valued as a person's life, and little respect for the individual as vnutreutrobnogo and newborn child. In terms of competencies, even if the appeal to judicial organizations, the word "product" would interpret in a certain way: while the child is born, it is the product (which is absurd initially, especially if many people say a child who develops in utero, as a developed being heard , feeling, reacting to each vibration) "- says Irina.

An important change in the law is that reproductive technologies will be available to all. Establish a legally guaranteed right of access to reproductive technologies, including for persons who are not married, such as homosexual couples.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Digital Communication

As a relationship counselor who builds myself as "Building a lifetime of great relationships" I am concerned about what current technology is doing to our human and spiritual relationship habits. Wit so much tweeting, texting and face booking going on people are expressing their little hearts out but who is listening and responding? To whom can we go for a "heart-to-heart talk" now days? There are many people reading this and more or not reading and just ignoring so what does all this digital interaction portend for the future? Maybe the Japanese, who have been doing the digital dances longer than we Americans, have a clue to the future. Take a look at this Wall Street Journal article.

I find it fascinating that these young Japanese men have no personal relationships with a real woman. Is it because their social skills are so weak that they cannot hold a conversation" Maybe their are so scared of the opposite sex that they simply hide in the caves of their computer screens and live off the fantasy of speaking to and listening to a cartoon character.

I have noted over the years how rare it is for people to hold a conversation that stays on an important topic for more than one or two interchanges. If a friend tries to share something that is bothering or concerning him/her and tells someone, that listener will change the subject after no more than two interactions. I suppose these cartoon women in Japan will stay on topic for longer than that.

One trend that may help young texters, however, is gaming. When I broached this topic with a fifteen year old recently he said, "We don't text all the time. We actually talk on the phone a lot because we have to cooperate with each other to beat the other team. That was news to me and it was good news. My grand kids may not be as digitized as I feared. I would never have guessed it was because of computer games.

Still, these young men in Japan are cause for concern, I think. Computer and video sex can be powerful inducements for withdrawal from life and an introduction to addiction. I am convinced that teaching adults and student good social skills is essential to the future health of our families, churches and society. Churches with small groups can be a great antidote for impersonal relationships.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Voting for Dollars

Dad and Son

No, this post is not promoting another candidate for office from Illinois. It has to do with asking you to pray for Sweeten Life Systems as we continue the contest to win some prizes from Cincinnati Innovates. Click this link to check on the contest.

The possible prizes are varied and helpful to any organization trying to launch a new product or service. If we were to win one of the prizes I am sure it would help us get grants, support and good counsel.

Greater Cincinnati Regional Innovation Competition

Cincinnati Innovates is an innovation competition that is open to anyone who has an innovation, idea, or invention and has a Greater Cincinnati connection. This competition is designed to showcase the technological, artistic, and ingenious innovations of all Cincinnatians - whether you are from Cincinnati originally or live or work in the Greater Cincinnati area (OH, IN, KY) now. All levels of technical expertise are welcome.

There are ten prizes totaling over $80,000 in awards. CincyTech will award two commercialization awards of $25,000 and $10,000 to Ohio-based companies. The Northern Kentucky eZone, Tri-Ed, Vision 2015, and Biologic will award a $10,000 commercialization award to a Kentucky-based company. Two intellectual property and startup awards of $10,000 and $5,000 will be awarded by Taft Stettinius & Hollister. CoStrategix will award a $5,000 web development award.

Cooney, Faulkner and Stevens will award $2,500 in accounting and professional services. LPK will award $10,000 in branding and design services.

Your vote matters! The $2,000 HYPE Community Choice Award will be determined by a combination of views and votes. Tell your friends and vote daily for the most innovative entries.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Glenn Beck's Gospel

Glenn Beck is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints. He is a Mormon. Is it possible for him to speak truth about God and salvation or does his membership in a cult place him outside the veil of telling the truth?

Last Saturday, Mr. Beck spoke to some 500,000 people on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Some Christian leaders are angrily denouncing his calling us to "Return to God". They suggest that we ought not join Beck in talking about salvation and repentance because he is a Mormon.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Christ Church


This is the entrance of Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia. It was the home congregation of George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Talk about an illustrious history.
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Sitting With George and Martha


Here are the Cincinnati six sitting in the Washington Family Pew they rented annually from the church. From left to right we are Bob Robinson, Sr., Buck Rumpke, Bob Toews, Tom Morrison, Paul Butler and Gary Sweeten. I think I would like to have my own pew. Then I could limp in late and still have a place to sit.

Actually, I had a sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit in Christ Church and was certain that God was being worshipped and honored there now as in the past.
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Preaching to George Washington


On Sunday morning, August 29, 2010 a group of us from Cincinnati stopped in at the Christ Church Episcopal in Alexandria, Virginia. At one time it had been a Church of England where George Washington worshiped and prayed to God. During those pre-Revolutionary War days the Church of England was the state religion of Virginia just as it was for the entire British Empire. But following the War, it changed to an American Episcopal Church. We can only imagine the mixed emotions General Washington had when he was asked to lead a war against the army he had previously served as an officer and a Church that had ministered to his soul.

This is a beautiful building but it has changed dramatically since the days when George Washington and his family had a rented pew there. Back then it was a flat building with no raised dais or platform in front for the Preacher to stand on. Now it has a very high pulpit almost in equal height to the balcony, which was also missing in the 1790's. Our guide told us that the flat floor during Washington's era symbolized an equality between the clergy in the pulpit and the laity in the pews. When the church building was rebuild in the 1900's the philosophic distinction between clergy and laity had reared its ugly and un biblical head so the raised pulpit was almost up to the ceiling.

The guide suggested that I climb the stairs to the pulpit and say something. Because I could think of nothing profound I sang one verse of "Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing". It was a thrill for me to be able to speak to the memory of President Washington, who was, according to our friendly guide, "A dedicated Christian of the Church of England who worshiped and prayed regularly. He was not," she said firmly,"a Deist but a Trinitarian." This was found to be very agreeable to our little band.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Keep Voting

I told you we are in the running for a $25,000.00 prize if we win the Cincinnati Innovates prize for being the best innovation with a new product or service. Some 190 entries have been in the contest, many for some time. My friend just informed me of the contest last week so I developed the summary, posted it and went live on Sunday. We were 190 Sunday morning.

I wrote a letter asking friends to vote for the project called Special Life Skills(TM)Series. You can also vote by clicking Because we are getting so many votes it is moving up in rank all the time. Go to the open it and go to view and vote.

Set the sort to Votes and 50 per page and count down 26 or so entries. We started last on Sunday, went to 65th or so Sunday night and yesterday at 33 and now 24. When people vote it change the ranks so you can scroll to find it on the first page of 50. The key is how you sort the entries and that was no evident to us at first.

Energetic and Influential?


Just look at this fice year old boy. What do you see in him that reveals something about his character, his ability to relate with others and whether he looks as though he will succeed in life or will he fail. Think of the potential in these kids if they could simply continue to unleash God's talents, joy and gifts to others.

What does it take to make a difference in the world? Wealth, an education? Power?

Does this boy have what it takes?
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Respect and Disagreements

Silence can be golden!

For the past forty years or so I have been working with individuals and families who are in conflict. Some conflict is good, necessary and growth producing. Conflict comes from an inability of two or more people to deal effectively with differences. In marriage, parenting and work, there are many differences. In politics, religion and work there are major differences. So, learning how to work through differences is absolutely essential to developing healthy, up-building relationships and working cooperatively to accomplish worthy goals.

What are the skills and attitudes that enable us to deal with differences and thus with conflict. One time I was coaching a Minister on the best ways to resolve his conflicts with a long term colleague and he said: "I just wish I could have been on the staff with you and Jerry Kirk, Ron Rand and Harry Causey because it was obvious you never had any conflict."

My friend was dead wrong. Our staff of ten Ministers had lots of differences and so a lot of conflict. We had the usually differences of personality, gender, musical preferences, background, temper and theology which were fertile grounds for arguments, frustration, anger, disapproval, feelings of being treated unfairly, etc.

We had disagreements based on all those issues and more and we usually, but not always, resolved those conflicts rather well. By that I means we had heated, emotional and deep discussions that ended with better decisions, deeper relationships based on respect and loyalty to each other as a team.

What leads to successfully resolving differences and their resulting conflicts?

1. Humility and mutual respect. See others as equals.
2. Personal peace. Not allowing myself to sandbag and build up resentments, misunderstandings and feelings of being treated unfairly.
3. Respect and Empathy or deep understanding of others' ideas, feelings and personalities. This is not sympathy where we actually "feel" their feelings but understanding why the think and feel as they do without necessarily agreeing with them.
4. Letting people know you understand them whether you agree or not.
5. A warm smile, soft voice and self deprecating manner.
6. Prayer together. Those who pray together stay together.

This approach suggests that we can listen to, understand and even affirm a person with whom we disagree and yet make it clear that we do not affirm their position. I grew up hearing my dad say: "I strongly disagree with you but I will die trying to defend you right to believe it and say it."

Energy and Influence to Facilitate Change

On my other blog, Brave Heart, I posted some thoughts about whether Mr. Obama is a Muslim or a Christian. I take his profession of faith at face value and think it is important for other Christians to do the same thing. Why do I think that?

First, it is the biblical, Christian thing to do. Look at Ephesians 4.

1 As a prisoner of the Lord, I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other.

Humble: One of my life's songs is: "Oh Lord it's hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way." I so strongly disagree with some people that I find it extremely difficult to be humble because they seem so ripe to be attacked and made to change.

When I am not humble it seems as though I am the Spirit's prophet to change them. That is called, "Hubris or Pride" and is the opposite of humility. And, when I am not humble I am not patient. Patience in this verse comes from the Greek term makrothumia and means "Holding back my feelings of anger and revenge." This depends on humility because impatience reacts too quickly and refuses to listen, learn, examine the logs in my eyes and give God sometime to work in the heart of the person with whom I disagree.

3 Try your best to let God's Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. 4 All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God's people. 5 We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.

Unity comes from peace. This passage says that it is necessary for me to have peace in our hearts if we are to sow unity rather than division. Here is a suggestion: Rewrite this passage and place your name before try. "Gary, try your best to let God's Spirit keep your hearts united. We all are part of the same body".

6 There is one God who is the Father of all people. Not only is God above all others, but he works by using all of us, and he lives in all of us.

So, if we want to live according to the Bible and take the healing love and power of God to the people around us, we need to be "Aglow in the Spirit". We need the energy and peace of the Holy Spirit to be a positive influence in the world. Negative energy promotes negative influence and that cannot be of God. So, brother and sister, what do you need to do to become a more positive influence?

Can you say this about our President? It may stick in your throat but ask God to give you the peace and humility to do so. "Lord, I accept the fact that you are in Mr. Obama and you are using him to do your will. You are in charge of the USA and the Presidency and I am not. Thank you for your love, and grace for the President."