A new theme prods reflection on the role of change

Change creates opportunity for progress

I’m starting the New Year with a new blog theme (Twenty Seventeen).  I really liked the old one (My Life), especially its three column format, so I kept it a while.   But I’m following a principle that change is needed to keep things fresh.  If we don’t plan positive change, our product becomes stale and stagnant. I have learned that staying with the comfortable keeps me in a rut and eliminates the opportunity for progress which change usually brings.   I may change again if I am not satisfied with the result of my new theme.   I’m hoping for a fresh look, more readable fonts, different menu locations, and increased ability to handle tables.  Looks like I’m getting some new video capability thrown in.  Perhaps that will challenge me to grow in a new area.    The whole exercise caused me to reflect on the role of change in what I do. 

Change can be confusing

I discovered again that there is a natural resistance to change.   The old is familiar.  Change creates work.  In the case of a theme change, I have to manually reset the menu and widget structure of the blog.   I need to choose pictures and backgrounds.   There is always the hidden fear that the change will be for the worse.   The wisdom of past experience lessens this risk immensely, but it can feel risky anyway.

Change has a logical side and a psychological side

“A good exercise when you face change is to make a list of the logical advantages and disadvantages that should result from the change, and then another list indicating the psychological impact.  Just seeing this on a sheet of paper can be clarifying”  (Bob Biehl in Increasing Your Leadership Confidence p. 46).

There are several up sides to my blog theme change.  When I redo a theme, I learn in the process, sometimes reluctantly, but I learn.  That’s a good thing.  Usually the new theme has capabilities that the old one did not.   A new theme presents the blog reader with a fresh look which hopefully creates new interest.   For example, this one seems much cleaner in appearance.  From the blogger’s standpoint, deficiencies in the old theme can be remedied.  For example, this one handles tables much better.     I’m excited about the opportunity for a video message provided by this theme. 

Concerning creating change in an organization, here is a great resource to read; John Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You, chapter 4 “Creating Positive Change.”    

 

 

Tips for Countering Depression

 

 

Contrary to popular opinion, the end of the year holidays are a very difficult time for many people.   Depression is often worse then.  Winter is coming on; other people seem almost obnoxiously happy and there are many social gatherings.  If one is not in the best mood or has experienced personal reverses or some serious losses and is grieving, the holidays can make the situation worse.  Here are some suggestions to help. 

 

  1. Get more exercise.   Perhaps this is a surprising first tip but actually exercise helps our bodies generate the right chemistry for joy.  It physically helps the body balance moods. Exercise also helps our sleep patterns.   http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495
  2. Practice giving thanks for little things.  When we are depressed we focus on the negative.  In wholesome contrast, the habit of thanksgiving helps us get a wider perspective on life and encourages us to appreciate what is good even amid our difficulties. 
  3. Avoid alcohol.  Alcoholic drinks are often consumed by those who are depressed to help them “forget their troubles.”    However, chemically alcohol depresses bodily functions and makes depression worse.   http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/460-alcohol-and-depression
  4. Get in touch with the losses, hurts and angry feelings in your heart.  Frequently depression has components related to grief and anger from circumstances in our lives, sometimes cumulative circumstances.   When we are depressed, we may not be dealing in a healthy way with these feelings.  It helps so much to be conscious of the roots of our sadness and then to talk it out with trusted and wise friends, counselors or pastors.  Hiding these feelings inside feeds our depression in unconscious ways.   Praying about these feelings also helps; think of prayer as talking out our feelings and circumstances with God.    
  5. Keep interacting with your friends and family. When we are depressed, we have a natural tendency to isolate ourselves, but this is not the healthiest thing for us to do.  Maintaining or even increasing our usual connections with family and friends will help us greatly in getting through our time of depression.  The warmth of friendship and love is healing for us even when it is hard to reciprocate.   True friends understand.
  6. Remember the character of God. He is a God of Hope and Encouragement (Romans 15:5, 13).   So drawing near to God helps immensely.  If it is hard to pray yourself, ask a Christian friend to pray with you.   Keep attending services, if at all possible.  Remember that God knows the hurts of your heart (Psalm 10:14).    When words don’t come, He hears your heart.
  7. Find some key Bible verses that speak to you. Write them on cards and place them where you will see them often or put them on your computer desktop.  They will help reshape your thinking.   Reading in the Psalms will help you find them.  Here are some suggestions to begin.  1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 11:28;  Psalm 23; Psalm 28:7; Psalm 46:1, 2; Psalm 55:22; Psalm 56:3; Hebrews 13:5, 6; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Isaiah 40:29-31; Isaiah 46:4, Isaiah 57:15; Philippians 4:4-8;  and Psalm 103. 

Finally, it you don’t find yourself making progress, seek help.  It is a strong thing to do to recognize when we could use a little help and seek it.  Counselors, pastors and doctors are trained to help in sensitive ways.  Most everyone has times in their lives when they could benefit greatly from counsel.  

 

Both historical knowledge and spiritual experience are needed for faith

We need both personal spiritual experience and knowledge of the Bible

About a week ago I was very impressed by a quote that I found in my devotional book.   The focus for the week was on the supremacy of Christ and how we get to know him. In today’s world it is popular to emphasize the spiritual in an almost mystic sense. But it is much less popular to do the hard work of reading Scripture and studying it to learn more about the historical figure of Jesus who inspires our Christian faith.    The  quote points out that both the spiritual response often associated with prayer  and meditation and the historical underpinning from study are needed in order for us to truly know what Jesus is about and how  his Spirit lives in and through us.  I pass it on to you.

Historical Christianity is dry and formal when it lacks the immediate and inward response to our Great Companion; but our spirits are trained to know him, to appreciate him, by the mediation of historical revelation.  A person’s spiritual life is always dwarfed when cut apart from history. Mysticism is empty unless it is enriched by outward and historical revelation. The supreme education of the soul comes through an intimate acquaintance with Jesus Christ of history.    (The Double Search by Rufus M. Jones)

Scripture speaks of both essentials

I think both ends of this balance are easily seen in the words of Scripture as well.  The Apostle Paul spoke of the spiritual side of our relationship to God:   

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  Eph. 3:16-17  NIV 2011

David wrote eloquently of the need to keep in touch with God’s written record and allow it to form us. 

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.    Ps 119:105

 

An excellent article for understanding the election

I am glad I did not vote for either candidate in the presidential election as it gives me more latitude to comment on it.  My brother Allen (a Bernie Sanders fan) posted the link to this article on his Facebook page. It is one of the best articles I have read for understanding the election.   It does not hit everything, but it covers some of the main topics that are not usually addressed.  

Add to this article two additional dimensions and then I believe you will have a pretty complete picture of what fueled Trump’s victory.   One dimension relates to Obama’s and Clinton’s identification with and exacerbation of the culture wars.   This is what pushed the religious right into an uncomfortable corner. As a whole, I believe they did not like Trump but could not stomach a promised worsening of Obama’s cultural affronts under a second Clinton administration.   Secondly,  I believe one probably needs to factor in Democratic opposition to NRA positions.   I believe that stances in both of these issues would likely follow similar urban/rural geography to the election returns, strengthening the end result. 

https://hbr.org/2016/11/what-so-many-people-dont-get-about-the-u-s-working-class

 

 

 

Help with coping after this election – especially for millennials

White House

 

 

As I was meditating this morning, thoughts came to me concerning further helpful ways to cope with this election.

 

Grieve the losses

 

Grief is a process given to us to help us navigate loss. Today we are more insulated from grief and the associated natural process of recovery because death is much less with us, thankfully, than in previous generations.  But there are times, like now, that we need to understand grief better.  We also need to know that we grieve for all types of losses, including the kinds associated with this election.   For example; there is no doubt as evidenced by the news every day that there’s been a loss in respect for minorities among some because of the election.   Also, the principle of respect for women has suffered a loss by the elevation of one who has disrespected women.   How do we react?    Feelings of denial, sadness, anger (both focused and projected), and second-guessing ourselves and others are normal parts of grieving.  Learning to handle our grief in healthy ways is part of the human experience.

 

Look for the balanced perspective

 

For those on the Democratic side, remember that anytime a candidate wins the popular vote while losing the Electoral College, it is a sign that the election was very close. Any time a candidate wins as strongly among younger people as Clinton did, it is a strong sign for future elections.  Democrats have some things to feel good about too.  For Republicans, to gloat is arrogant and counter-productive.  A strong majority of urban Americans voted against you and they live in the most influential centers of the country.  The Bible urges humility.  Humility is a lost virtue today and suffered further loss in this election.  But humility helps immensely in human relations.   Unfortunately, on-screen it is usually wrongly mistaken for weakness.  I would caution us to look for the balanced perspective in our circumstances.

 

Do not return evil for evil

 

One of the Bible’s most famous sayings is, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Rom 12:17).   Just because the election featured rude, crude, and obnoxious conversation, is no excuse for us to join that party.   “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).   While Hillary Clinton’s embrace of the “nasty woman” epithet may have been a shrewd debate move, “nasty” is not exactly a winsome characteristic.  But kindness is.  Donald Trump’s past behavior and attitudes are a problem, not something to be emulated.    But if we copy the worst elements of leaders, we magnify the difficulties.  If we repay evil for evil we become part of the problem, not part of the healing solution.  Instead, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11).  

 

Be thankful for what is good

 

I, for one, am very glad that Thanksgiving follows this election. It will be very healthy for us all if we can get our minds off the divisions and contentious issues of the election and step back and be genuinely thankful for the blessings that we have.   It will lessen our stress, it will lower our collective blood pressure, and will help us to have a better emotional and mental foundation for the cooperation in daily life and in government that the people of this land desire and deserve.    

All Scriptures from Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2001 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How to react to a disturbing election

White House

 

 

In the wake of a disturbing election how do we cope?  Here are a few suggestions from a long-time pastor. 

Do not live in fear. 

 

One of the most prominent messages from God to his people in the Bible is simply yet powerfully this; “Do not be afraid!”  These exact words occur 74 times in the current NIV translation.  The words were spoken in times more uncertain than ours.  While this election has elicited fear on all sides for multiple reasons, it is the heritage of believers in all times to “trust and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2).  As Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).  Our hope is always in God, not a person or a political process.  And when we feel threatened, we look to God for our hope and strength to overcome.

 

Do something fun 

Jesus himself recognized that we needed times to get away from the stress of thinking about things like elections (Mark 6:31).   Sabbath rests and time of exercise or recreation help us to keep our perspectives wholesome and they lift our emotions too.   Personally, I like to take a long walk in the nearby forest preserve. 

 

Stand firm in your own life for what is good. 

 

One of the most disturbing things to me about this election cycle has been that it has seemed to further legitimize the rude, the crude and the divisive in America.  Both parties set new lows in negative advertising.  So all of us face a challenge afterwards as to what our vison is for our country and what our behavior will be.  Will we be part of the decline or part of the recovery?   For Christians, our course is clear.  “Show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17).  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29).   This is a high calling that affects how we use language to emphasize a point or express anger, what movies we approve, what jokes we tell, how we speak about those with whom we disagree, who we choose as heroes and stars, and how we treat those different from us.   Let us be “eager to do what is good” (Tit. 2:14). 

 

Pray! 

 

A pastor friend of mine referred to this verse this morning in a post. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Ps 127:1).  No matter who is in charge on this earth, peace and blessing are ultimately God’s gifts.  This November is also a good time to remember one of our basic prayer verses, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).   Pray especially for our president elect whether we like him or not.  If you like him, pray that God will use his strengths to benefit all.  If you don’t like him, pray that God will protect the country from his weaknesses.  (The same prayers could be prayed for every public servant.)  Pray for the government transition in the US as well.

 

There is a time for everything  

For younger voters especially, I would encourage a little of the perspective of Solomon.  “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9).  I recall a conversation eight years ago after Obama’s first victory.  It was a chat between a fervent Republican and a strong Democrat.  The Democrat said pointedly to the Republican, “Well, if we can survive eight years of George H. W. Bush, you can survive eight years of Obama.”  I thought of that comment again last night as one of the commentators mentioned that it is extremely rare in American history for a party to hold the presidency more than eight years running.  There seems to be a cycle that occurs regularly in our sturdy democracy.   The pendulum swings repeatedly.  I have seen enough elections now to have observed that swing multiple times and I agree.  This is why parties in America go back to work and start thinking about next time, like sports teams planning for the next season.    

 

 

All verses from Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2001 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Why I’m not voting for either Trump or Clinton

I protest the 2016 presidential election
I protest the 2016 presidential election

My dilemma

Most people I talk to are agreed — this is the worst presidential election that they ever remember. People aren’t for a candidate, they just hate one less than the other or think one less dangerous than the other. How is a person to decide what to do in this sorry election? Personally, I have decided to protest by not voting for either one. Here is why.

My reasons

1. I recall John Maxwell saying, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Conservative Christians like me are being urged to vote for Trump because the Republican platform is more to our liking, etc. But if the leader cannot be relied upon to carry out the agenda, the platform is useless. Trump reminds me of a salesman with empty words. He says himself that he tells people what they want to hear. I can’t vote for a man like that.
2. It is time America returned to an emphasis on character in leadership. Neither Clinton nor Trump are people of high character. They are the most distrusted candidates I ever remember. From the moment Trump opened his mouth in debate 1 with a modus operandi of slander, I knew his character was suspect. Normally I am a pragmatist, able to go for the better of two choices. But in this case, neither leader meets the minimum standard of good character.
3. I am not inclined to vote for Clinton to begin with because the strong pro-abortion values she espouses [among others] are not my values. I have great sympathy for immigrant rights, traditionally seen as a Democratic value, and also with the value of helping the poor, but I’m not convinced Clinton would actually work on either one.
4. It is time the parties received a protest vote. It is a protest against the lack of a viable political middle ground in 2016 American politics. It is a protest against the idea that a party can put up some reality show star who has name recognition and expect thinking people to vote for him. It is a protest that says, there is not a candidate offered that I respect enough to vote for them. As a voter, my vote has to have some integrity—some correspondence, some kinship between the values I espouse, the vision I have for my country, and the candidate I vote for.

My protest vote

So what will I do? To not vote, to not participate in the election at all, I consider irresponsible. As a citizen it is my duty to vote. So I will be at the polls, God willing and cast a vote of some kind. I will vote in all the races too. But for the presidential race, I will be writing in the name of a candidate that I consider qualified and of high character. It will be an act of protest against the quality of the two candidates we are offered by the major parties this year.

How did we end up with such unpopular candidates?

This is one of the big questions of the 2016 election. It is also one of the hidden problems that needs to be solved if American democracy is going to thrive again. I found this video article that helps explain how it happened. It makes good sense.

http://www.bbc.com/news/video_and_audio/headlines/37802358

The next question is, “What can we do about it.”
1. More Americans need to vote in primaries. Primaries are very influential. It is intellectually tempting to be an “independent.” But the number of people who are uninvolved in primaries is part of the problem. I was an independent myself for several years until I realized the power of the primaries. Then I registered for a major party so I could express myself in the primaries. I can still vote for whomever I choose in the general election.

2. Primary voters need to keep “elect-ability” in mind when casting their ballots. Primary voters who vote for extreme, irascible or unqualified candidates who will be greatly handicapped in the general election are asking for their candidate to lose in the general election. Primary voters must strike a balance between where they stand and how electable the candidate is. And the farther to the left or right a voter is the more they need to think this way. To fail to do so is to endanger the chances of the party of your primary in the general election as is happening to both parties this year. This year it is obvious that either party would have had a cakewalk with a moderate candidate. If two moderate candidates had been put forward, we could have had a real democratic election.

3. This year’s Republican process is making a case for some kind of “vetting” by major parties in order to run in their primaries. A major party should not be put in a position as the Republicans were this year where a person they cannot truly support squeaks through with popular vote. But there is danger with this idea too as it opens the way for power player control and cronyism in the vetting process.