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Thursday, July 28, 2011

When Tomorrow Comes

Rejoice with me! The cold symptoms I was fighting are gone...beaten! Zippidy doo dah. The combination of 50 mg of Zinc every four hours, Zicam lozenges (when I don't take the Zinc), water, and not being stupid pays off. For me it "lops the head" off the cold softening its symptoms and shortening its duration--often by about a week!

I'm back on my bike. With an end to the cold's symptoms I was able to get back into the swing again. I'd not been able to ride my bikes for almost six weeks no thanks to some serious mechanical issues and moo la la obstacles to my fixing them. Not fun. I tried to be patient and did a pretty good job. I rode my stationary bike and pretended I was on the North Mesa above where we live. That worked OK...until that cold (now history!) jumped on me; but in the meantime my bike-riding 86 year-old dad offered me some timely and gracious help. I love you dad.

I find it interesting how easily and quickly I can project life into the future. Once I get my bikes fixed everything will be OK again; once I get over this cold life will start back up; as soon as I can get this shoulder fixed I'll really be able to start living again; when we get our financial issues resolved life will feel so much better; if I could only get back to the Northwest, then life would turn right-side-up again; when the economy turns around life will feel so much better; if I could only get a full-time job, then life will really start humming again....OK, you get the idea. It's a way of thinking that tends to put "life engagement gears" in neutral.

I'm not discounting the real influence of disappointments or of discouraging and God-forbid painful circumstances. The untimely influence of a summer real for sure! The frustration of joblessness...yup; the death of a loved one...ugh, ugh, ugh; the angry pain of a tweaked hum; the long, frustrating displacement to bright Colorado for a person whose senses are stamped "made in the Pacific Northwest"...yeah! It's so easy to project life "out there somewhere" and then engage a struggle that's all about getting back to it. Do you get what I mean?

"God help me be where I'm at while I'm there." That's Judi's little coaching statement proposing a challenge to this projection tendency. I'm learning that it's an acquired skill and an ongoing discipline. "Being where I'm at while I'm there" requires some conscious, intentional and systematic self-examination to my perspective and my attitude in the moment.

For the Christian there is another WONDERFUL consideration or dimension to all of this. I sincerely believe my temptation to project life into an "out there somewhere" scenario forgets something. If forgets that THIS LIFE ISN'T ALL THERE IS; THIS IS A PREFACE SUPERIMPOSED over what "awaits." When I re-focus my confidence in that truth it makes dealing with today's obstacles, disappointments and painful losses a LOT more doable. It keeps me in what I presently know as today and re-fuels my motivation--power in my tank! It helps me actualize life today, right now, as a developmental exercise building muscles I need both for right now and tomorrow (Rom. 12:1,2; Phil. 2:5-8, 4:4-8, and 3:7-11; IPet. 1:3-8; Rev. 21:1-5).

So enough about me, how are you doing today?

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Renewing of My Mind...and stuff

I think it's always valuable to review the past in a ways that ask, "What has God done here," or, "How was God in this or that?"

Thursday I visited the offices of a friend, "T.J." He's a fellow counseling professional in Lakewood, CO.
Initially there was a lot of stuff associated with our relationship. That early "stuff" was all very professional and academic. He was a supervisor while I was at Adams Community Mental Health (1994-'95) where I was completing my PhD's clinical internship requirements. But then after I left the Adams County team he had become a valuable friend and part of my client-referral network. (It's the network I disbanded when I left private practice through 2006-07.)

T.J. asked me to come, see his great new office suite, and meet some of his prized fellow staff members. So, there I was. In the conversations and sharing that punctuated my visit, he asked me to review some of my professional experiences. Specifically, he wanted me to rehears some of the professional roles and experiences that contribute to my effectiveness with couples and families (since we're considering practical ways we can be more collaborative and creatively effective.) As it turned out that was very interesting....hmmm!

Just for clarification, this was an entirely secular setting, albeit a friendly one. In my rehearsal of those roles and experiences I was purposefully trying to be professional and familiar--since we were all "friends"--and I was also trying to be consciously sensitive to "the little voice" inside (1Kings 19:12-13; 1Peter 3:15; Psalm 42:7). The little voice was saying, "Dick, listen to yourself carefully!

I think it's interesting how we remember things. Our memories of circumstances or events are influenced by both what was going on for us emotionally at the time and the by general content and detail of those events. It's similar to the way the Dewey Decimal System's letters and numbers route and identify the placement of a library book on a library's shelves. Our memories are stored in our mental library according to their emotional impact and their general content. Perhaps it's no surprise that the emotional influence of the events at the time, not so much the content, becomes the decisive factor to "where and how this memory will be placed" on our mind's library shelves.

Scripture challenges God's people to regularly review and to praise God--no matter what--for the events and circumstances of their lives (e.g., Philippians 4:4-9). Interestingly, too, God's people are challenged to do this often as a community (Psalm 147 & 150; Ephesians 5:18-20). Why? I believe, in part, it's because people remember things differently. For example, I may remember something and attribute great discomfort or outright pain to it. However, people who were around me at the time may, in fact, remember the same event quite differently. Their perspective can bring an entirely different and potentially more positive "twist" to what was so painful for me. Their perspective can--IF I LET IT--have a positive and uplifting influence on my initial memory. Their perspective can help me appraise the events initial impact on me and how it can be re-shelved, now, in my memory's library. WOW!!!

As I drove away from T.J.'s office Thursday I realized I had a different and developing new perspective on some events associated with my pre-doctoral life. For me those events have been remembered as four very uncomfortable years. But right now the IMPLICATIONS of that great discomfort is being challenged--and interestingly changed!! I can "feel" them doing a metamorphosis (Romans 12: 1,2) even as I am writing this. Surprisingly, in this instance for me, it was the "little voice" that prompted the change; T.J. and his team had little or nothing to do with. The challenge to "Listen!" to myself and to consciously rehearse the details is re-editing how it feels, right now, and the way it it's being shelved, right now, on my mind's library shelves. Hmmm again.

Someone has said, "The same sun that softens butter hardens clay." Obviously the difference is in the oil. Oil is often associated in scripture with the influence of the Spirit of God and one's response to HIM. Perhaps we could re-write that little quote to say, "The same SON whose influence softens the hearts of some men hardens the hearts of others."

Oh God, may I continually be found among those who are softened by life's circumstances! Amen?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Miracles in Routine

I really despise the common cold. But a summer cold just adds insult to injury! Monday I woke up with the symptoms of a doozie. There's something about a cold that tends to turn me into a "90 pound" something--a real whiner. So Monday was quite challenging as I somewhat miserably gathered the gear I need to help me make a run at this and whittle it down a bit. With a healthy portion of God's grace and a lot of stubborn perseverance, I actually managed to have a productive day.

I think there may be an analogy to Christian life in the way we must gear-up to fight the symptoms of a head cold. Maybe Ephesians 6:12? Thought: Maybe someone out there is interested and creative enough to take on that challenge? If you want to take a stab at it please send me a copy of your thoughts. I'll see that it's published for the enjoyment of the masses.

Today and yesterday were shop days for me. I'm working on furniture, e.g., click here. It's become increasingly clear to me that somehow I need to get more space---to do the "magic" things I do in the shop. All those tired albeit quality furniture pieces, heirlooms and antiques sure appreciate it. (Yup, they tell me so.) I get pretty excited about this stuff. When I can make people happy with the outcomes it's doubly satisfying. But I do need more space. Does anybody have a space-expanding Genie Lamp laying around, one that I can borrow? I'll return it promptly.

Earlier this afternoon I had the shop doors open. Several pieces from a marvelous 1930's vintage cherry dresser (with a secretary!) were variously "spilled" out the doors and arranged for last minute surface preparation and spraying. Then a "Ker-Booooom!" from a not too distant northwesterly direction prompted a scurry of not-so-welcome retrieval activity. Oh well....(anybody got that Genie?). I learned later in the evening there were over 3000 ground to cloud lightning strikes accompanying that storm. Amazing stuff.

What did I see around me today the prompted my awareness of God's presence? Actually, I think I felt HIS presence in the doting attention of our dog Gandalf. I contemplated HIS perspective--he was also a carpenter--as I faced challenges in the shop. I sensed HIS presence in text messages I received from a friend. I felt HIM in camaraderie as I met a good friend for lunch. I sensed HIM in the spontaneous rehearsal of scriptural verses and some related themes momentarily triggered in the day's conscious deliberations. I heard an expression of HIS awesome power in a summer storm. I "saw" Him late in the afternoon in my son, Jon; we shared reflections on the day then almost gone. For me these are some of the miracles in routine.

"There is no speech nor language where HIS voice is not heard" (Ps. 19:3 KJV)



Monday, July 18, 2011

Wedding Fun....Seasoned with Sillyness and Life!

Ha ha. Judi and I attended a fun and wonder-filled wedding yesterday near Civic Center Park in Denver. Weddings are always celebrations of new relationships; celebrations of hope filled with the anticipation of shared life adventures to come. I always enjoy them. Of course this one was no exception, and it added a new twist for us all in that the bride's family commissioned one of those fun photography booths. You know the situation where you walk-in, draw the curtain behind you, plan your poses, and then "face the camera to start posing after you press the button." It was a hoot! We went back in there several times and, yup, you guessed it, we had fun making fools of ourselves.

I find it really fun when I get to attend the wedding of friends
(or in this case our friends' daughter)--I get to meet and greet some of their family members. Usually these are the people my friend grew up with or around--these are the people b-e-h-i-n-d the person I know. Yaah; yes in deedee. So, these events tend to help "fill-in-the-blanks," or discover some new ones. Again, there were no exceptions here. It appeared to me that everyone had a great time.

But weddings are not what they used to be for me.
It's probably because of my familiarity with contemporary marital research, dating behavior, and people in general. I'm often momentarily distracted by the question, "How do these two really know that what they are doing here today is in their best interests?"

In my work with pre-marital couples I routinely include and we discuss the statement, "Nobody ever gets married to be miserable for the rest of his or her life!"
But as we all know that truth doesn't prevent the relationships reflected in our nation's divorce rate from hovering painfully the 40-50% level. (There's just so much about dating and courtship, and about relationship development in general, that's increasingly counter-intuitive.) So, lest I become a pessimistic bore, when that thought predictably marches through my mental space, I catch it! Right then and there I make a heart-felt promise to myself and my friends that I'll support them through the inevitable surprises life will bring. It's the very least I can do--or that we can do for one another!

But this wedding experience offered Judi and I an added bonus! We spotted some old friends we've not seen since our early Denver days at Galilee Baptist Church. Of course some of you may remember that's the church family that brought us to Denver and the University of Denver (1980) in the first place. Wow, it was so refreshing to see them and to spend those few hours catching up. God is good to us...all the time!

So, what's all this got to do with "Wood?" I guess you'll find out if you read me often. Leave a comment or something....and just maybe I can entice you to subscribe, too?