Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stories About Healing

Several years ago I was sitting in a sound proof radio broadcasting booth with a nurse who specialized in treating adults and young people who had been sexually and physically assaulted by an older person while in childhood. It was my task to interview this lady and I was asking a series of questions we had written before we went on the air live.

The nurse, we can call her Mrs. Nightingale, was a bright, capable and energetic woman who really knew her business. She had worked as a hospital nurse for several years before returning to grad school for a Masters in Psychiatric Nursing. She explained that as a nurse she was well trained to heal the physical wounds of patients but far too often deeper emotional and spiritual wounds lay hidden beneath he bandages and she was not able to touch them.

As a mother and a Christian Mrs. N. soon found that many people in the church had been assaulted as children and no one had ever taken the extra time that is required to bring healing to their souls as well as their bodies. Somehow she knew that the church was in the best place to "Care and Cure the Soul" but her church was strangely silent about it. Mrs. N was not one to sit silently by and let the wounds fester and explode so she went back to college in her fifties to prepare herself to minister "The balm of Gilead" to those carrying the pain, guilt and shame of past trauma.

As we sat in that hot little room surrounded by egg cartons of sound proofing glued to the walls, I heard Mrs. N mention that boys handle sexual assaults differently than girls. Our culture and churches teach that sexual assault against a woman is a sin and a crime. And, it is. However, a sexual assault against a boy is seen almost as a good thing. Some would say that boys need to be "initiated" into sexual knowledge by an older person so it is not traumatic but a positive learning experience. Churches that teach that sex outside of marriage is a "sin" are old fashioned, fuddy duddy kill joys!

Then Mrs. N said that when a boy has been assaulted he may keep it deep within himself and the hurt festers and grows because he has no one to help him deal with it. At that time I began to shake, sweat and cry. It was a live radio broadcast so I had to remain under control but it was all I could do to keep from sobbing. Thankfully, Mrs. N was reading some symptoms from her notes and did not notice my behavior. She continued sharing and teaching while I reacted until our time was up. I thanked her and said I would be in touch to have her on the radio again and then I hurried into my office to calm down.

I knew that the sexual assaults I had suffered as a boy had to be confronted and healed. But, what was I going to do to accomplish that?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

When Prophesy Fails

Is there anyone on the planet that has not heard about the gentleman in California, where else, who figured out for the second time, exactly when Jesus was going to return. It was yesterday. Two strikes and he is...

Not so fast! This has happened before and I can assure you it has always failed. How do I know? We are all still here on planet earth.

When anyone says he knows the time that Jesus will appear we know he is wrong. Why? Because Jesus said, "Nobody knows the time when I cam coming back."

I am not surprised but I am disappointed that the hysterical, nutty and freaky Christians get all the publicity. And, they get a lot of followers. I suppose it shows the grace and mercy of God but still I find it a bit embarrassing and frustrating.

I know so many mature, caring, sound, balanced Christians who are serving others faithfully in the Name of Jesus. they get little PR and few dedicated followers. Oh well, Jesus is watching and that is enough.

I am thrilled that the two latest sexual predators were not known as Christians. At least they are openly liberals who love to take advantage of women while pretending to protect them. Unfortunately, Maria Shriver is one more in a long line of Kennedy women that has suffered from the behavior of a male sexual predator. I will pray for that curse to be lifted from those women so their children can be free from future misconduct.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Grow Through Serving

The Bible says that when we give we also receive. In fact, it seems to imply that the more we give to others the more we shall get back blessings and peace. They will be in a sack and have been "pressed down, shaken together and poured out into our laps".

I grew up in a farming community and have experienced exactly what the Bible teaches in this metaphor. Jesus was speaking to blue collar and small business people who understood the dynamics of buying and selling grain. If I went to your store to buy grain I would want you to fill my tow sack as completely and fully as possible. If you did not fill it to the brim I would pay much more than the going rate because I would be paying for air as well as grain.

In order to get all the oats that the sack would hold I would shake it vigorously so to press the oats down in a compact manner and force all the air out of the sack. I don't want air I want oats. Any air pocket would look like a packed sack but I would be cheated. It is the same as if the business man was putting his finger on the scale as well as the meat.

By serving and giving we get a full load of blessings. Jesus says the good stuff coming back to us will be "pressed down and shaken together" so we get as much as possible for the little we give to others. The implications are enormous for our peace, joy and happiness. As we serve others according to our gifts and talents, we can enter into what some researchers call, "FLOW". That is a mental and emotional state that seems to fly by as fast as can be.

Flow means that we are so caught up in our actions that we forget about being tired, hungry uncomfortable, or down in the dumps. It is a state of joy. This is why Jesus said serving and giving from our gifts and talents will come back as a blessing. I have been watching a TV show about secret millionaires who go underground to find a non profit that is serving others. In every case the millionaires find great joy in humbly serving the poor, downtrodden and marginalized. As a result, they wanted to give more of their time and money.

Here are some hints about finding these blessings. 1.Better understand your strengths, gifts, talents and call by trying out various volunteer opportunities. When we liberate our strengths in service to others we have the greatest joy. 2. Make sure the serving costs you something. Time, energy, money, status, and convenience. 3. Do your service in the Name of the Lord. Give glory to God for all you have and all you do. 4. Reflect on your experience afterward with some friends and family members who know how to listen. journal about your experience. What was the best parts? The worst parts? 5. Ask God what He thinks about your experience.

On May 27 we are hosting the parents of kids with a disability. You are welcome to come and serve them and learn about our ministry. If you are interested write me at gary@sweetenlife.com. You can also go to our web page for more information.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Meditation and Prayer

The Bible tells us to "Meditate in your heart day and night
As you lie upon your bed
and be still Psalm 4:4

Has anyone ever taught you to meditate?

Has that been a part of your discipleship?

Where and How?

Mentoring and Coaching

Everyone Needs a Life Coach-Even Tiger

As a basketball coach I learned a lot about the importance of helping the "team" members learn how to implement what the coach was saying. Unfortunately, many people who are trying to be Life Coaches or Mentors do not know how to get their Clients to practice the actual skills of "The Game of Life".

I am especially struck by so many of the articles I read on "Leadership" because they consist mainly of a list of "Rules for Leader Success" and fail to get to the the specifics of practice. Several years ago a famous author put out a book on "The 24 Immutable Laws of Leadership". Unfortunately, all of them were only theories and stories about great leaders. This approach can be inspirational but rarely provide the skills needed to implement the theory.

I am a golfer so I read stories written by Tiger and Phil about how I can become as good as they in two weeks! But, without a coach watching me and giving me feedback on my swing these stories do not help much. And, no matter what I do there is no "Tiger in my tank!"

Here is my question for you: "What was a skill did you actually learn from a life coach?"

And, "How did the coach manage to teach you that skill?"

And, "Did you have to practice for some time or learn it instantly?"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mentor, Coach, Encourager, Discipler

Who has been an important mentor/coach/discipler to you? My most important Christian coach and I met at age 30 or so and he taught me how to study the Bible and interpret it according to the time and context it was written and how an ordinary person would understand it.

Then he coached me during times of stressful ministry and stressful parenting, partnering and life in general. He helped me learn how to live as a Christian as a minority. Most people are not Christians.

Who mentored/coached/discipled you?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How Do We Grow in Christ?

I received a call recently from an old friend who has an international ministry of healing, growth and training leaders to do the same. He and I grew up in southern Illinois but did not meet until we were both in ministry.

Randy's gifts are often released in dramatic, instantaneous and miraculous ways in big crowds.My gifts are usually released over time through one on one or small groups and they emerge slowly. I rarely draw large crowds or do very dramatic things. I do not covet his gifts nor does he covet mine. I appreciate how God has gifted him and he appreciates my gifting. It is a I Corinthian model and one that needs to be emulated in other places.

He called me to ask if I would write a book about Equipping Christians to to do ministry. The book would be used as a part of the curriculum for a Masters in Divinity at a seminary in Ohio. I agreed to make a first cut at writing such a manuscript because I think it is badly needed in American and international churches. Most seminaries do little if anything to train Pastors why and how to "Go into the world and make disciples and teach them HOW to do the works of Jesus.

I read a book on the topic of Christian growth. The jargon for growth and healing in theological circles is "Sanctification". One of the authors warned strongly against even talking about sanctification. By discussing it we can steal people's minds from resting totally on grace and faith. I was shocked, stunned and aghast. How can Christian leaders possibly do what Jesus said if we refuse to discuss it at all?

How can we "Go make disciples teaching them to do..." if we have never been taught how to discuss, go, do or teach?

How can we "Equip the saints to DO works of ministry..." if we refuse to discuss how it is done?

This was only one of five writers but the other four did not much better. All they suggested was study and know the theology better?

I was as school teacher and coach for several years. Can you imagine reading a book on growing in math that said it was dangerous to even discuss how math is best learned? Can you imagine how successful a team would be if the coach refused to think or talk about basketball? Yet this is the advice of a famous "scholar" from a large, mainline denomination.

No wonder mainline churches are dying and mega churches that treat their people as learning adults who can learn are taking their members away from them. I spoke with a Seasoned Believer today that is visiting many different churches to find one he likes. His current Minister misses the mark in his sermons and lacks any ability to meet the people where they are.

Oh Lord, help us do what you commanded. Open our eyes to ways we can follow you and do your work on earth.