Doing Life Together

handshake-1830760_1920The election is over and a new President has been installed. Is love governing your actions and speech?

The ongoing discontent of those who dislike (even hate) this President is not going away soon. Prepare yourself for more slander, lack of civility, intolerance and divisive language aimed at dividing Americans and stirring up turmoil.

The question is, will you choose love over hate? We have a choice when it comes to our reactions to things we don’t like or go our way. While I can’t control the press, celebrities and others who will choose to be hateful and critical, I can control my mouth. I can look to the Bible for guidance.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

Pause and mediate on this verse. Now, think about what you have said in your day-to-day conversations with friends and family. Have your words met the standard of Psalm 19:14?

Frankly, I have been appalled at what I  hear and have observed in media and on social media. It doesn’t reflect Psalm 19:14. The way we talk about this election and new President is important because it expresses what is in our hearts.

1 Peter 2:12 tells us, “Keep your conduct honorable.”

Honorable conduct includes the words we say. Those words should not include name-calling, gloating, elitism, fear-mongering, hate, lying and disgust. Instead, we are to guard our hearts and mouths because words are powerful–as we saw during the election cycle. Let’s not be guilty of behaving in the ways we found disturbing. Let’s resist the urge to retaliate against those who are mean-spirited. Matthew 5:44 tells us to bless those who curse us and pray for those who despitefullya use us. Ultimately, we are to love our enemies. This is only possible with a transformed heart.

James 3 tells us that we can praise our Lord and Father, but also curse our brothers and sisters who have been made in God’s likeness. The tongue is a fire, capable of consuming others. It must be tamed by the Holy Spirit in us. So before we speak, let’s check our words and ask the Lord to help us bless others rather than curse them.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”Now is the time to model love, humility, and civility towards one another–whether you liked or hated the outcome of this election. Haven’t we had enough verbal attacks and negative messaging? Have we forgotten that mercy triumphs over judgment?

We, the people, can behave differently. If we want to be great again, let’s start by controlling our tongue and actually treat each other with respect. Choose love.

woman-1814968_1920It’s cold. You don’t want to get out of bed. Lately you’ve been craving carbs. It’s hard to get motivated. You just want to hibernate!

Since this feeling come on seasonally, you think, “I must have the winter blues!”

Maybe, since about 20% of people struggle to shake off those winter blues. But it could be more serious. It might be a certain type of depression that begins to peak in the fall and winter called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). With this type of depression pattern, you feel better when Spring arrives.

And you may be surprised to learn that SAD can also take a Spring/Summer pattern as well. Both the winter and summer seasonal types of depression have to do with peoples’ sensitivity to light–those who get too little light (the fall/winter pattern), and those who get too much light (the spring/summer pattern). Light impacts our sleep-wake cycle and when that cycle is impaired, depression can result.

So while more people get the winter blues, about 7% of people experience SAD. And SAD is tied to latitude–the farther north you live, the less light you get in the winter.

So what can you do if you suffer from Fall/Winter SAD?

  1. Lift your shades and let the sunlight into your rooms.
  2. If it is bright outside, don’t wear sunglasses for part of the time.
  3. Do outdoor activities that expose you to natural light.
  4. Consider trying a light box or dawn simulator (talk to your mental health provider about how these work and the protocol to follow). This helps many people.
  5. If you feel depressed after trying these things, you will need to see a health care professional and be treated for depression in more conventional ways.
  6. Symptoms of SAD can be confused with other medical conditions so make sure you have a physical exam and are properly diagnosed.
  7. Stay in the spiritual light as well–Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid, He is our anchor and hope.

business-15721_1920I was sitting in the car waiting for someone and listening to the radio. I heard several commercials in a row. What struck me was the number of times I heard the phrase, “You deserve…” According to advertisers, I deserve a lot—certain foods, cars, the purchase of services, a break, a vacation, personal wealth, etc.

I struggle with this concept of entitlement so heavily promoted in our culture. It has impacted the way we think about our relationships, deal with our finances and manage our emotional and spiritual lives.

When I am entitled, I begin to think people do not treat me fair or give me enough. Financially, I can end up in debt because I deserve to have the things I want. Emotionally and spiritually, I can live in anger, resentment and frustration because others are not responding to me in the ways I deserve. Just watch any reality TV show. The shows are filled with entitled people who complain about not getting every whim met.

This excessive self-focus and self-indulgence promoted daily leads to selfish and narcissistic people. We have kids who don’t respect others, marriages that end because one spouse feels entitled to a better life, and debt up to our eyeballs because we buy what we can’t afford.

I am entitled to nothing, but incredibly blessed. As a Christian, God chooses to love me and give me good things because it is His will to do so. His goodness towards me has nothing to do with me earning anything. He offers the gift of salvation through the gift of His Son. He justifies and redeems me and positions me as one of His. My efforts, money, status, etc. have nothing to do with any of His goodness towards me.

I don’t deserve a break today! But occasional I experience one. I don’t owe it to myself to purchase a particular item, but occasionally I can. My children don’t deserve to get everything they want, but occasionally they get some things. School children do not deserve to feel good regardless of their behavior.

Without the Holy Spirit operating in our lives, our tendency towards self-centeredness grows. We are to humble ourselves before the Lord and realize that without God, we are nothing.


i-741508_1920“I’m having trouble with my boss. He always thinks he is right.”

 He’s impossible to deal with because he doesn’t see how often he puts me down and thinks he is better than I am.”

She’s always telling me how great and important she is. It’s gets old!”

These words represent the frustration of people who deal with a narcissist. Narcissists are people who exaggerate their achievements, feel they are superior in their talents, are preoccupied with success, power, brilliance, and often believe that they can only be understood by other high status people. They crave admiration and have a strong sense of entitlement.

Most frustrating is the lack of empathy and compassion. Brain research is now giving us more understanding of why these people project themselves as overly confident and arrogant. The lack of empathy is correlated to structural deficits in parts of the brain. What this means is that the empathetic parts of the brain are less developed. These findings are based on imaging of the brain and may help us understand more about people with this diagnosis.

Regardless of the factors that cause narcissism, many of us have these people in our lives and need strategies to effectively deal with them.

Here are a few pointers to help:

  • Find a way to make a request while appealing to their ego, they will listen better. While you may not like doing this, there is incredible insecurity underlying the narcissism. Stroking the ego, which seems counterintuitive, actually helps you get along with the person better.
  • Recognize that narcissists usually do not trust people. Even though they appear overly confident, they live in anxiety with the fear that their weakness will be overcome by someone else. Thus, the overcompensating. So proceed cautiously as your motives and actions may be questioned.
  • You don’t have to respond to everything that is said, as they can be master manipulators. Sometimes less is better.
  • Avoid arguments because you usually can’t win. Acknowledge their feelings and don’t continue to push your point. If you must deal with a conflict, start soft and include yourself in the problem.
  • Don’t look for empathy as this is a skill that has to be taught. And the person has to want to increase this skill.
  • Give positive feedback when you can. It helps to focus on the positives in order to not build a wall of negativity.
  • Avoid challenges as you will probably lose. Often the narcissist has low frustration tolerance and things can escalate quickly.
  • Forgive often.  You don’t want to build a root of bitterness towards the person.
  • Pray. God can work on anyone. Transformation is His great work in us. When the narcissist becomes frustrated because his close relationships are failing, he or she is often open to the work of the Holy Spirit. Continue to point the person to the Lord and how Christ in them gives them the power to make changes. Usually it is the feedback from others that causes a person to question his or her behavior. Once the person is open to cultivating humility and compassion, God can work in them.
  • Prepare to go slow. The work of change requires patience, but if the person is committed to improving relationships, change is possible.