Friday, October 25, 2013

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

October started off with a shameful 16 day Government shutdown -- mostly, irresponsible posturing and political showmanship from both major parties.  I know the shutdown had something to do (partially) with the battle over healthcare reform.  Even though I don’t know enough about politics or law to say what the future of the current healthcare debate will be, I do know enough to speak to our responsibility in being healthier as a nation.

The topic of Healthcare is close to home for our family.  Our youngest son has a serious, but treatable condition that completely blindsided us; it came from out of absolutely nowhere.  We will have to cautiously care for his unique situation, until he outgrows certain health-risks as he enters into adulthood.  While we thank God for our pediatric cardiologist’s special care, as a family we do our part, and we do all that’s within our power, to maintain our child’s health!

I know that medical research is necessary and expensive.  I’m glad I don’t lay awake at night worrying about polio, smallpox or the measles striking my family.  I also know not every illness is preventable or due to poor choices -- not to mention life’s unavoidable accidents and tragedies.  Most of the doctors are, on the whole, typically treating avoidable illnesses which we bring on ourselves through our laziness, poor diet habits & smoking.  Therefore, research and random/tragic events are not even remotely the cause of our current nationwide crisis in dealing with healthcare, as some say is the case.

Since you can’t personally reduce the escalating price of medicine, what can you do?  Perhaps we should all focus on what is within our control, and start taking the Bible more seriously.  

The Bible is filled with information on how to be as healthy as possible.  The Bible isn’t a selfhelp textbook, but woven within it are instructions on how to properly: Sleep/rest, eat well, nurture a healthy sexlife, balance work & family and still have a good work ethic, exercise, and the Bible offers many practical principles for reducing stress/conflict in all of our relationships.

Statistically, the majority of Americans have terrible sleep habits, 80% of us feel our jobs are stressful, and 25% of us feel work is the number one stressor in our life.  We overeat & hardly exercise.  And for too many, promiscuity is the norm.  I imagine most of our visits to the doctor’s office would be eliminated if we didn’t overschedule every waking moment, cooked up more of grandmother’s recipes, simply took better care of ourselves, and taught our young people to keep their genes in their jeans.

Americans need to reduce our sugar and fat intake, and we should quit trying to get our money’s worth at the buffet.  If you are still using tobacco products, please read the warning labels once more.  It costs nothing to take the stairs instead of the elevator more often.  Doing laps at Duck Island, riding your bike, or walking on the Greenbelt are all free too.  

Believers, let’s not lose our focus on personal responsibility, in this age of debating the government's role in healthcare.  No one is going to take responsibility for you, you alone have an obligation to do your part to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Look at your healthcare like a new-car warranty.  You wouldn’t run your car out of oil just because you have a warranty, so don’t mistreat yourself either.  Remember, insurance is like a safety-net on a construction site, it can catch you if you fall, but it’s not the foundation you are building your life on.

Regardless if all of your professional medical needs were provided for, you should still want to be proactive in caring for your body.  We have an obligation to be wholistically healthy, as Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The art of a good thank you note:

When our family lived in Searcy AR, we were enrolled in the Harding school of Biblical studies.  As a full-time preaching student, our family was blessed by a few churches and several families who pitched in a good portion of our financial support, supporting us sort of like missionaries.

The vast majority of the students I studied with had monthly supporters too.  I remember a few classmates, who over time, lost the help of some of their supporters.  I was amazed that these classmates neglected to keep their supporters updated, and, that they infrequently if ever sent thank you letters.   Personally, for the 2 & 1/2 years we were at Harding, we sent our supporters monthly thank you letters.  You have to get pretty creative to say thank you to the same set of people, for 30 months, month after month.  All of our supporters stuck with us till the end.

Most people are never going to be dependent on monthly supporters, but everyone of us will have an opportunity to say "thank you" often enough.  After an interview, graduations, weddings, Christmas time, you name it, people enrich our lives constantly.

In our family, we try hard to write thank you notes, even over simple things like being invited over for dinner.  Tammy keeps a drawer in her desk filled with all kinds of cards, blank ones, cards for encouragement, thank you cards, you name it.  So the art of writing a good thank you note starts with being prepared --having some sort of stationery on hand.

The next thing to keep in mind, is being timely.
The sooner you send off a nice thank you note, the better.

And then finally, having something meaningful to write. A short sincere note communicates your consideration.  It also:

  • Updates the giver, "hey don't worry, I received your package in the mail."
  • Shows gratitude, "hey I appreciate your gift, I'm not ungrateful." 
  • Says, you do not have a sense of entitlement.  
  • And finally, it displays your respectful attitude.  

Writing a good thank you note isn't about manipulation or about groveling.  It's about being polite, and exhibiting good manners.  I actually enjoy writing thank you notes, it isn't a burden or a chore.  I like the feeling of knowing that someone cared enough to bless us in whatever way they chose, and I enjoy the good feeling of expressing our appreciation.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A "10-point checklist" for Working through any conflict with your spouse:

Having worked with countless married couples, I've noticed that many people lack certain skills to navigate their way to resolution.  When you have a conflict, that's merely a difference of opinions.  No biggie.  How you handle those differences of opinion is the key.  Your relationship is strengthened every time you have a successful argument.  Conflicts are like a whetstone, they can either sharpen a blade or blunt them.

Here are 10 questions to ask YOURSELF as you try to manage your next marital conflict:

#1. Is this conflict bringing out my best side?
If the argument is making you crazy, maybe the issue you are fighting over isn't the issue.  Maybe you have tied up too much of your identity in this issue.  Are you really emotionally/spiritually healthy when it comes to this point of contention?  Do a quick check of yourself and make sure.

#2. Is this a "make or break" issue?
It's hard to be open and objective if this issue is the hill you are willing to die on.  Don't win the battle only to lose the war.  Make sure you aren't going full blast over a minor issue.

#3. Have I bathed this issue in prayer?
Why isn't this #1?  Because we are human.  Also, it's hard to pray about something you are not into yet.  Still, make sure you are praying earnestly about the issue, your spouse, and your heart, before you get too far.

#4. Do I feel my spouse hears & understands my perspective?
You might be wasting a lot of time & energy trying to sell your side.  Then again, you might just need to know you are being heard.

#5.  Do I really know why this issue is so important to my spouse?
It's hard to have an open dialogue with your spouse if you don't know where they are coming from.
Be honest with yourself, are you bulldozing your spouse, or have you taken the time to see their point of view?

#6. How urgent is reaching a resolution to my spouse/to me?  
Relax, it's hard to fight fair if you are controlled by anxiety.

#7. What am I afraid of losing if I relinquish my say?

#8. Is there a "3rd" point of view neither my spouse nor I have raised?
Rarely is life black & white.  There might be a better way neither of you have considered, a way that could could be so much better...

#9.  How could we build from each other's wants/needs and find a better solution than either of us had imagined?

#10. What are the effects going to be for our loved ones if:
Nothing changes?
If we go my way?
If I conceded and we go my spouse's way?

Bonus round:
Love your spouse more than you love being right!

Let me wrap up with this:
Collaboration is better than compromise.  Compromising says we both give up something,  Collaboration says we both win.  I hope this checklist will help you find creative ways to handle life's many conflicts.  There's no better gift you can give you children than to model for them how to successfully argue.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Syrupy-sweet maggots still grow up to be... flies

To teach us to be tactful, they say, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"
But I'm thinking, who wants to attract flies...?  Flies like poop & roadkill.

I know, the principle is geared at getting us to be nice by not unnecessarily offending others.
But that can seem so fake at times.  I know you shouldn't say everything you think, but being disingenuous rubs me the wrong way.

I know that in my life, I've never been good at "playing the game" or at being political.  It's cost me, to be sure.

Maybe I have some rough edges, though some have been blunted too though a few hard life-lessons.
I have learned a most important life lesson though.  I don't have to see eye-to-eye with you to have a healthy relationship.  In fact, you & I can hold strong opinions and exchange our perspectives with each other , and we can both grow in the process.  That's called tolerance & dialogue -- essential keys to communication and all healthy relationships.

I don't have to feel defensive, and I don't have to "fix" you.
It feels good to not have to try to manipulate or coerce others into sharing my opinions.
Scripture says, "speak the truth in love."  Therefore, we can be honest, but we don't have to be hurtful.
I think people are hurtful when they feel defensive, and usually defensiveness is a sign of insecurity.

I don't want to be surrounded by flies.   I want to surround myself with healthy people who are going to seek my best interest and bring out the best in me too -- not because of manipulation, but because of our mutual concern for each other.  That seems healthy enough to me. I want to be selective in who I am vulnerable with, and who I allow to influence me.  As Paul wrote, "Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”" (1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV)

At the end of the day, I think that flattery for personal preservation/gain is reprehensible.
Either at work, in church or in your family, you should be honest & loving.
Ask yourself, who are you trying to impress and why is their attention so important to you?