Meanwhile, where is God?

Life is lived on the grocery aisle and in the check book register. It’s cleaning toilets and fixing holes in ceilings. It’s being told, “no” one too many times. Life is knowing there are more things to fix and problems to solve than there are hours in the day. And you don’t have the energy, even if you had the time.

Meanwhile, where is God?

"Go to Him," CS Lewis wrote, "When your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting an double bolting from the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away."

If one of the greatest apologists of the past century can find himself in such despair, what can we expect?

The great Chi­ca­go Fire of 1871 financially ruined Horatio Spafford. Not long afterward, he suffered another devastating loss. The ship taking his wife and four daughters across the Atlantic collided with another vessel. When his wife finally arrived in England, she sent Horatio a chilling two-word tel­e­gram. It simply read, “saved alone.” Several weeks later, as Spafford's own ship passed near the spot where his daugh­ters had been lost at sea, he wrote down these words that became an enduring hymn:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

We’re bracing for our own storms. We know from past experience how they can interrupt and dramatically change lives. You’ve probably walked across piers built deep into the water that failed to survive. How quickly our plans and dreams can quickly be dashed on the rocks by a hurricane. The powerful winds and raging flood waters serve to remind us of life's brevity. We face the clamor of the enemy, determined to wear us down, discourage us, and defeat us.

We have choice when the winds of the world beat against our windows. We can join Spafford and build on a firm foundation, so we’ll still be standing long after the storm has passed through.

Stephen Goforth

The Marshmallow Test

IN THE 1960s Walter Mischel, then an up-and-coming researcher in psychology, devised a simple but ingenious experiment to study delayed gratification. It is now famously known as the marshmallow test. In a sparsely furnished room Mr Mischel presented a group of children aged four and five from Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School with a difficult challenge. They were left alone with a treat of their choosing, such as a marshmallow or a biscuit. They could help themselves at once, or receive a larger reward (two marshmallows or biscuits) if they managed to wait for up to 20 minutes.

The marshmallow test is often thought of simply as a measure of a child’s self-control. But Mischel shows that there is much more to it. One of Mr Mischel’s early studies in Trinidad suggests that a preference for delayed rewards also can be a matter of trust. Children who grow up with absent parents, Mr Mischel surmised, may be less likely to believe that they will actually get the promised delayed reward from the stranger who is carrying out the experiment. Indeed, he found that children with absent fathers, in particular, were prone to opt for immediate rewards. He believes the test also shows how the ability to postpone rewards is closely related to vigorously pursuing goals and to holding positive expectations. These traits, in turn, help explain why waiting for marshmallows at the age of five has such a strong relationship to outcomes in adult life.

from The Economist

Walls and Masks

We need to be able to express ourselves, to talk ourselves out without fear of rejection by others. Too often the problems that we keep submerged within us remain, in the darkness of our own interior, undefined and therefore destructive.

We do not see the true dimensions of these things that trouble us until we define them and set lines of demarcation in conversation with a friend. Inside of us they remain as nebulous as smoke, but when we confide ourselves to another we acquire some sense of dimension and growth in self-identity and the capacity to accept ourselves as we are.

It may well be that our walls and masks will make this difficult. We may instinctively try to rationalize that there is really no one near to whom we can talk ourselves out. Many of us practice the self-deception of believing that there is no one in our supposed circle of friends that can be trusted. Very commonly these excuses that we have rehearsed so often are merely excuses. Our real fear is that we would be rejected, that the other person would not understand us. And so we wait and wait and wait behind our wall for the sufficient sound of reassurance in another or we gaze out of the windows of our towers looking for prince charming to come and rescue us. We excuse ourselves from all initiative seeking truly human interpersonal relationship with another on the grounds that the time is not ripe or the circumstances right. In the meanwhile, we can only perish.

John Powell, Why am I Afraid to Love

Victimhood

In the victim role, a person chooses to act powerless, often using language that implies they are being acted upon. The victim doesn't take responsibility for their own actions because "I can't help it."

The victim must learn that NOT to choose IS to make a choice. An unsafe one. The pathway to healthy emotions begins with taking control of their life by setting boundaries against unwelcome behavior-and sticking to those borders.

Feelings of powerlessness can be the result of a lack of trust. For a child, it may be dealing with an untrustworthy adult. After a time, the child stops trusting his own judgment because the role of victim becomes comfortable and familiar. Stepping out of it requires re-establishing confidence in a person's own God-given ability to make wise decisions and take control of his or her own life.

Stephen Goforth

The Outgoing Basket

The head of a small firm who had a great many difficulties in establishing his business told me that he was immeasurably helped by a technique which he invented. He had trouble, he said, with the tendency to "blow up" a small difficulty into a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. He knew that he was approaching his problems in a defeatist attitude, and had common sense enough to realize that these obstacles were not so difficult as he made them appear to be. As he told the story, I wondered if he did not have that curious psychological difficulty known as the will to fail.

He employed a device which reconditioned his mental attitude and after a time had a noticeable effect on his business. He simply placed a large wire basket on his office desk. The following words were printed on a card and wired to this basket, "With God all things are possible." Whenever a problem came up which the old mechanism of defeat began to develop into a big difficulty, he threw the paper pertaining to it into the basket marked "With God all things are possible" and let it rest there for a day or two. "It is queer how each matter when I took it out of that basket again didn’t seem difficult at all," he reported.

In this act he dramatized the mental attitude of putting the problem in God’s hands. As a result he received power to handle the problem normally and therefore successfully.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking

If I Really Cared

If I really cared...

I’d look you in the eyes when you talk to me;

I’d think about what you’re saying rather than what I’m going to say next;

I’d hear your feelings as well as your words.

 

If I really cared...

I’d listen without defending;

I’d hear without deciding whether you’re right or wrong;

I’d ask you why, not just how and when and where.

 

If I really cared...

I’d allow you inside of me;

I’d tell you my hopes, my dreams, my fears, my hurts;

I’d tell you where I’ve blown it and when I’ve made it.

 

If I really cared...

I’d laugh with you but not at you;

I’d talk with you and not to you;

And I’d know when it’s time to do neither.

 

If I really cared...

I wouldn’t climb over your walls;

I’d hang around until you let me in the gate.

I wouldn’t unlock your secrets;

I’d wait until you handed me the key.

 

If I really cared...

I’d love you anyhow;

But I’d ask for the best that you can give

And gently draw it from you.

 

If I really cared...

I’d put my scripts away,

And leave my solutions at home.

The performances would end.

We’d be ourselves.

 

Ruth Senter

I count you

When you talk with your partner, what you say and how you say it tells a great deal about your attitude toward both your partner and yourself. For example, when you listen attentively, you indicate to him or her: I count you. When you clearly state what you want for yourself or what you are feeling, it is a way of saying: I count myself.

When you value or count someone--either yourself or another person--you express a positive set of assumptions about that person’s significance:

- faith in the intention to treat each person as important,

- confidence in the ability to handle situations, or to recognize when help is needed,

- trust in the willingness to follow through on promises,

- belief in the commitment to each person's well-being.

On the other hand, when you discount someone--including yourself--the set of assumptions is just the opposite: lack of faith, confidence, trust and belief.

You do have a choice: you can act in ways which say, “I count myself,” or in ways which say, “I don't count myself.”

The reason you always have a choice is this: your counting attitude is not the same as your feelings. It is not the same as your momentary view of yourself, or even your more stable and enduring self esteem. None of these is the key. Instead, the key is whether you treat yourself as significant, as someone whose intentions, thoughts, feelings, etc., are worth taking into account. The same thing is true about counting your partner.

Your counting attitude seems to grow out of a deeper belief in the fundamental value of every person.

a step into authenticity

Transition may not be simply a step toward an outlook that is more appropriate to the life-phase that we are actually in. It can also be a step toward our own more authentic presence in the world. That would mean that we come out of a transition knowing ourselves better and being more willing to express who we really are, whenever we choose to do so. It would also mean that we are more often willing to trust that who-we-really-are is all right—is valid and a person capable of dealing with the world.

William Bridges, The Way of Transition

Going in Circles

Remember the TV show where one of the characters got lost in the woods, only to discover he was going around in circles?! Of course you do, because it’s a storyline that’s been overused on TV. You are sure to have seen it play out (probably more than once). As it turns out, that scenario is not far off the mark. When people get lost, they really do tend to walk in circles.

Here’s what German researchers discovered: Volunteers who could not see the sun or moon, often walked for hours in circles, sometimes circles as small as 20 yards across. Some of the participants were so convinced they were walking in a straight line, they didn’t believe the researchers until they were shown proof.

Errors in our internal radar accumulate until we are literally walking in circles and going no where. What made the difference were external signposts. Landmarks like the sun or moon, completely changed the result.

One of the researchers offers this advice: “Don’t trust your senses. You might think you are walking in a straight line when you’re not.”

Isn’t that how life is? We know people who trust their own senses and have no external guideposts to keep their lives on track. They believe they are marching forward but all the while they are going no where in life. Sadly, they repeat the same mistakes, not realizing they’re reacting in the same way to the same kind of situation. On the other, people who really get somewhere in life, not only carefully chose their landmarks, they are willing to listen to their life-anchors.

Stephen Goforth