Choosing Counselors

I have begun to think of all the counselors that I have had over the years.  When you think of counselors, your mind is probably drawn to people you pay to get their advice like myself.  When you think from that perspective, many of you have never paid for counseling so your answer would be zero.  Others have had one or maybe a handful over your lifetime so you would answer differently.

But there is another kind of counselor or advisor that I am thinking about.  These individuals come into our lives and give us advice whether we are asking for it or not.  They are friends who have opinions on our relationship issues and give advice as to what we should do.  “Tell him to go to h_ _ _!!”  “Don’t take that from her!!”  “You should go to that party!”  “He’s dropped you so go out and date and don’t waste your time on him!!”  “Don’t wear that outfit!”  “If I were you this is what I would do!”  “You’d be foolish to take that job!”  Drop her!!”  “Drop him!!”  We have heard these opinions from our friends and family over the years.  Thousands of opinions about what we should say or what we should do.

There are advisors that are speaking out on various kinds of issues in the schools and in churches.  Those speaking to us are advising us as to what we should do and what we should be.  It can be good advice and it can be bad advice.  Everyone has an opinion and many are free to give their opinion even if they don’t have the best advice or have all the answers.  Opinions on what we should do or be comes freely in every direction throughout our life whether we want it or not.

Heres the big question.  How do we evaluate the best advice from the bad advice?  Stop and think about this question.  Who are your counselors and advisors you are listening to?  What experience and expertise do they bring to the table in helping us make the right decisions for our life?  Do they know both sides to make wise and beneficial input to our circumstances?

The reason for my thinking about this subject came when I was reading in the Old Testament of the bible and came across a couple of kings who had advisors advising them in leading the nation of Judah.  The first King was Ahaziah.  “He (Ahaziah) walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother gave him evil advice.  So he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight like the house of Ahab, for they were his advisers after the death of his father, to his destruction. II Chron. 22:3-4  It sounds like he had a father who had been giving him good advice, but when his father died, he listened to his mother who was evil and gave him evil advice.  Yes, bad advice can come from some of the closest people in our lives, even our mother.  (Now I’m not referencing all mothers as my mother is one of the wisest woman I know).

Another king I was reading about was Joash who was 7 when he became king.  He led Judah for 40 years and had a wise counselor by the name of Jehoiada, his priest.  “Throughout the time of the priest Jehoiada, Joash did what was right in the Lord’s sight.” . . .  “However, after Jehoiada died, the rulers of Judah came and paid homage to the king.  Then the king listened to them, and they abandoned the temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and served the Asherah poles and the idols’  II Chron. 24:2, 17-18.  Joash had a wise counselor for many years, but when Jehoiada died, he turned and began to listen to others who were bad advisors to his detriment.

On this journey we are always choosing who we are going to listen to.  There will good advisors as well as bad advisors that come into our lives.  Keeping our focus on the Lord will help us in discerning which is which.

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Relational Wisdom: Part III

It seems like we are in a constant process of learning.  Seventy percent of what we will ever know is learned between the ages of 0-3 (at least thats what the experts say).  We learn to eat and talk and increase our vocabulary.  Crawl.  Walk.  Run.  Jump.  Eat with our hands.  Say no.  Say I want.  Cry when we don’t get our way.  Say no.  Say no.  These things are just in the first 3 years of life.  Then comes school where we spend 6-8 yours per day learning about life and history and reading and writing.  We learn to add and subtract; multiply and divide.  I can go on and on.  Sometimes we become so burned out by learning that we stop the process and stop learning.  Yes, it can happen if we choose to close our ears and senses to the process of learning.

Proverbs discourages us from closing our senses to the learning process.  Solomon said,  “Let a wise person listen and increase learning, and let a discerning person obtain guidance.” Proverbs 1:5  Relational wisdom involves a person who is always listening and increasing his/her learning process.  It is a continual process from the time we are born until we die.  I am reminded about an old saying which says, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  The message indicates somewhere along the way an old person (old dog) can no longer listen nor learn.  They can no longer hear words that can give them guidance.  This is a mindset that we choose rather than a foregone conclusion.

I am reminded of a couple who had been married 30 years where the husband was 67 and his wife was 63.  Let’s call them Archie and Edith.  Archie and Edythe came in and Edith said, “Unless you change Archie, I am not going to be married to him another day.”  I asked Archie if he wanted that and he said no, so he began to work on his relationship with Edythe.

One day in session he said something very demeaning to Edith and realized he had cut her down.  It took me 45 minutes to get Archie to apologize to her for what he had said and finally asked for her forgiveness.  He in the 30 years of marriage had never apologized to her in his entire life.  Thirty years.  That was the turning point in their marriage.

About a month later Archie came in to the office with a light bulb hanging around his neck.  I asked him where he got the yellow light bulb and he said that Edith had given it to him.  He wanted to know if I wanted to see it and I said yes so he took it off and gave it to me.  I read it and this is what it said.  “You light up my life.”  Archie had learned to listen and increase his learning and began to take guidance from others.

On this journey, healthy relationships begin when we open our ears and senses to the listen and learning process.  When we are willing to seek guidance from others, unlimited opportunities will open up for us in our relationship with others.

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Relational Wisdom: Part II

Have you experienced a person who has hurt you deeply with their sarcasm or a put down? Has their look or their behavior given you the message you were not accepted by what you had said or done? It may not have been sarcasm but an off-handed comment that went straight to your soul. When you confront them with it, they respond with the words, “I was only joking!” “I was only kidding!” “Can’t you take a joke?” “You’re too sensitive.” Their words don’t lessen the stinging comment they just said that caused you to feel put down. However, they think they are off the hook because they said, “I was only joking.” “I was only kidding.”

To be honest, whenever a person says those words, there is always some truth to what they are thinking and feeling when the sarcastic message or off-handed comment comes out. The message is hurtful. They put down some aspect of a person’s character or quality that truly needs to be affirmed. The problem surfaces when the person who initiated the comment doesn’t take responsibility for the negative impact of the comment.  It is further exasperated when there is a minimization of the negative message.

Solomon in Proverbs spoke to this issue or relational disconnect when he said,  “Like a madman who throws flaming darts and deadly arrows, so is the person who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!'” Proverbs 26:18-19. Solomon used the word deceitful to describe the process of throwing out negative barbs and then not taking responsibility for them. He describes a madman throwing out flaming darts and deadly arrows in every direction, not knowing where they will land with no thought of those darts landing on someone and causing personal damage.

Words, especially negative words directed at an individual, have a profound impact on that person’s view of themselves that can last forever. I am reminded of Aaron Rogers, the Green Bay quarterback, who years ago had a similar message given to him when he was going to the University of California. One of the teachers at that college told him early on in his college years that he would never make it in the NFL and that he should begin to think about another profession. Even after Aaron was drafted, he was still bugged by the negative comment. To this day, when he is introduced at the start of any game, it is announced that he graduated from Butte College, not the University of California, the college he was actually drafted from.

On this journey, don’t hide behind the “I was only joking” comments after saying a negative word to a person. Take responsibility and begin to change the negative words to words of affirmation. You may never know how those positive words could be the catalyst that can spark stardom in the life of another.

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Relational Wisdom: Part I

I have read Proverbs over 48 times in my life.  You’re probably asking why the figure 48? I do have an answer to that.  I was challenged in 1970 as a college student when I was going to a rural church in Eaton, Colorado to read through the bible that year.  I love challenges and took up the challenge.  I had tried several times before but got stuck on Leviticus.  Genesis was great with all the stories of people of biblical renown.  Exodus was the story of the Israelites escaping from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt and all the plagues that ensued before they left.  Then you come to the third book of the bible.  Leviticus.  It is a ritual book of do’s and don’ts.  Celebrations.  How to wash.  How do deal with infections.  Boring.  BORING.

Well 1970 was the year I finally read the whole bible from cover to cover in one year.  It so changed my life that I have been doing it ever since.  That’s why I know it is 48 times.  Well, I have decided to pluck some words of relational wisdom from the writings of Solomon and others whom have spoken about how to have effective relationships with others.

I remember as a little lad my folks decided it was time for me to have a dog for my birthday.  I was five at the time and they brought home a puppy we called Rusty.  He was a cocker spaniel that was rusty-red, therefore the name.  As a little 4-5 year old I loved his ears and one time decided to pull his ears.  I only did that once as he reached around and bit my hand.  I learned my lesson that putting my hand in the wrong place has severe and negative consequences.

I read in Proverbs that placing yourself in the wrong place also has negative and wrong consequences as well.  Take for instance Proverbs 26:17.  “A person who is passing by and meddles in a quarrel that’s not his is like one who grabs a dog by the ears.”  When two family members are having a conflict that has nothing to do with you, it says to stay out of the argument.  It is a no win situation.  If you side with one person, the other person will become adversarial with you and vice versa.  Wisdom says to let them work it out.  Period.

What if you are a peace maker and have a difficult time with conflict?  Let them work it out especially if they haven’t let you into the conversation.  You can pray for them.  You can be available to offer wisdom if they ask for it.  But stay out of the conversation if you aren’t invited.  Doing so lowers your own stress level and might I add your blood pressure.  You won’t get bit by the dog as it were.

On this journey there are all kinds of pieces of relational wisdom that if taken to heart can save you from a lot of teeth marks.

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A Heart of Reflection

At 2:30 this morning the alarm went off and a groggy body slowly meandered toward the shower to try to wake up.  Today was the day that I had an appointment to see my oldest daughter in Chicago where she lived.  It seemed like ages since I had visited her in her rooted place of residence.  My youngest daughter agreed to stay overnight and take us to the airport at 3:30 on her day off.  What a trooper.

We got to the airport with no hassle–no traffic at 4:00 in the morning.  The plane took off at 5:20am and I don’t remember much of the flight as I was trying to catch up on the sleep I was deprived of from the irritating alarm 3 hours previously.  I landed at Midway Airport and waited a few minutes before she arrived on the train that we rode back to her apartment.  It was a wonderful time of talking about what she had planned for me to see and do.

We got off the train and walked about 10 minutes to her apartment where we placed my bags, said hello to her wonderful roommate Patty and were off again to her office at Moody.

She introduced me to some of her colleagues and had me sit down at her desk while she had a couple of appointments she needed to attend with.  She gave me some things I could read if I wanted to and one of them was a 360 evaluation that her boss, her colleagues, and her students wrote about her in evaluating her leadership styles as well as her character and many other things.

As I read over the 22 page document, I began to experience a heart of appreciation and gratitude for the woman she had become.  It’s one thing to verbalize the wonderful things I see in her, but these were comments from people I had never met who were affirming her.  “You are my hero.”  “I want to be just like you.”  “You are the most authentic person I know.”  “Your character is above reproach.”  “You are the best example of a Christian I have ever met.”  “You have the skills to be the next provost of this school.”  There were 22 pages of comments that sang of her gifts and abilities as well as her character.  Very few comments were negative and of the negative ones, there were contradictions in the negative comments.

I am reminded of the verse in III John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than this; to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  I had the privilege of hearing this from others as I read from the 360 evaluation.  On this journey you will have the opportunity to build on your own testimony of what God has in store for you.  This is not only about our future generation, but for this generation to impact the lives we come in contact with.  Carpe Diem.

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Travel Mercies

When you take a month-long journey in your car or truck, there are bound to be experiences that happen when driving where you see the hand of God guiding and protecting you.  I wrote about the first experience we had with the spring snow in Colorado when we were driving from Denver to Grand Junction.

The last experience we had was when we were on the I-880 from San Francisco to Monterey, CA.  We were going about 65 mph and talking about our soon to be experience in Monterey Bay.  I was in the HOV lane with the median wall on my left side.  For whatever reason, I happened to look to my right and noticed a blue VW bug beginning to encroach in my lane.  I became aware of this disturbance and began to move to my left closer to the wall.  My thought was to honk at the woman in the VW, but before I could do that, she became aware of her encroachment and readjusted her position.  Unfortunately she over-corrected by turning her steering wheel to the right and went into the lane to her right and hit a SUV.  At 65 mph, she hit it several times with a clunk, clunk, clunk sound.

My immediate thought was that she would over-correct again and come back into my lane.  My foot went to the floor on the accelerator and took off.  As I was accelerating, I could hear the effects of other cars hitting one another as I drove out of sight.  I don’t know what happened after that, but I do know that God got me out of a potentially bad situation on the I-880 freeway.

I have often prayed for travel mercies for myself or for others, but don’t know what God does in answering that prayer request on so many occasions.  This is one where Nadine and I began to thank the Lord for His sparing us a lot of grief and potential physical pain from a lapse of concentration on the part of the lady driving the bug.

I wonder how many of these potential mishaps are avoided when we take off a little later or earlier than we anticipated.  We have no idea what lies before us, but God does.  He knows what we will encounter before we encounter the experience.  He is always aware of our circumstances and in the case of my experience, made the woman aware of what she was about to do in going into my lane.  I feel for her as well as for all who were affected in the accident, and am thankful for His mercy in saving me from the accident that very easily could have impacted Nadine and myself.

In Psalms 139, the writer talks about God’s awareness of who I am and what I am doing.  “You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away.  You observe my travels and my rest; you are ware of all my ways.” Psalms 139:1-3 CSB.  If we truly believed this statement, we might think differently about our actions and rest more fully upon Him to guide and direct our lives.

On this journey, it is important to rest upon God’s power to guide and direct our steps and be in a thankful posture for each step God gives us.

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Baby Elephant Seal

I have come to appreciate God’s creation especially when it comes to the animals that He created and the ways in which babies grow up to become adults and then reproduce themselves.  One such case happened to be when we were visiting our friends in Freeland, Washington.  Freeland is on an island just off the coast next to Seattle and is about 50 miles long from one tip to the other.  On the north side of the island you can get over by bridge, but on the south you have to travel by ferry.

We rode on a 3+ hour ferry from Victoria, BC to the US mainland and had to go through customs which seemed to take forever.  Once on the mainland, we then drove 2 hours to Freeland where we stayed for a couple of days.  Don and Aggie are our age and are past the age of having more children, so we thought is strange that they were saying they had a new addition to their family.  Their children weren’t with them at the time so we didn’t think they were talking about a new grandchild.  Higgins is their dog and is 17 years old, so we knew they weren’t talking about a new puppy.

They took us to the back yard and up on a board walk next to the ocean and behold we found out what they were talking about.


It was a baby elephant seal.  He was born on the island with his mother and was about 75 pounds at birth.  She was there for 27-28 days to wean this pup and then took off.  She took off.  He was by himself (or herself I couldn’t tell nor would I have any knowledge of knowing).  She left him/her.  All alone.  To fend for himself.  Eating and sleeping alone.

I learned later as I read about elephant seals is that the mother leaves after weaning them because if they don’t leave, the babies become dependent upon the mother’s milk and will not hunt for themselves.  When the mother leaves, it forces the baby to begin hunting on her own and fending for herself.  After about 2-3 months the mother comes back and takes up connection with her baby after the baby has grown to 600-1000 pounds.

God has instilled within His creation innate skills for growing into adulthood.  Babies are designed to grow into adulthood and become independent of their parents.  It takes longer for humans to grow into adulthood than for baby elephant seals, but the process of becoming independent is essential no matter what the species.  Sometimes it would be helpful if human parents cut off the ties of dependency sooner so that children would be forced to grow up like the elephant seal.

As parents on this journey, we are called upon to cut the dependent ties and let our children become adults.  It’s never too late, but the later we try to cut, the more difficult it will be to create mature, independent, decision-making adults.  If we have strong willed children and we don’t cut the ties, they will through rebellion which becomes much more painful.  Good luck parents. Continue reading

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