Musing from 2nd day at #AACC National Conference: A matter of refocusing perspectives

Today at the AACC National Conference was a day that broadened perspectives. The workshops attended today were more focused on facilitating change toward particular problem areas.   Skills and knowledge were built upon. Yet, there a was a theme to the day for me.  It started from the first speaker of the day and moved on to the last.  The theme of the day was reviewing perspective.  The perspectives view are about our perspective with God, others, and self.

The thoughts on my perspective with God was a reminder of standing on the rock of God’s truth.  Abiding in His word. It is His word that contains the truth that sets us free.  His word is the foundation upon which we are to act.  It is knowing and acting on His word that gives us the only true and secure base.  Anything else will falter.  No matter what each of us is going through, God and His word are always secure.  So a question for each of us, is how is our attachment to God.  Or as Dr. Tim Clinton would put it, how is our “God Attachment.”  There is not one of us that is does not need to examine our perspective toward God. How is our vision and how can we grow deeper in the limits to our perspective of God. 

As to perspectives of others, the thought in my mind is about we need to at time refocus how we perceive those in our lives both in terms of our family, our community, and those brought to our lives. There are people like myself whose vocation is to help those hurting and needing help.  The starting point is to continually evaluate my own perceptions of those who come to me for help. It is easy to develop perspectives on clients that create negative mindsets. There are particular diagnoses that bring negative reactions and actual resistance to providing sound counsel.  So there has to be a perspective that no client is hopeless and all are capable of help and change.  Now there are ways to restrict clients to assure working with a particular class the generates a sense of productive help. It does take work and changing perspectives and finding solutions to help facilitate change.  And the goal is to facilitate change, which an also be related to helping people see things in their life differently. Finding different options other than doing things they have always done. This can involve building skills and helping them make changes to their perspectives.  In essence, changing perspectives is all about helping them find their way. What is there view of what life stressors and how to get them to view broader in ways not examined.  It is broadening and focusing perspectives ultimately that help generate change, as a person is ready.

Lastly, the thoughts went to focusing on my perspectives of myself.  What are the lies I hold to?  What are the distortions of God I hold?  How is my perspective limited? What do I oppose? What do I fear? Where is my faith? Is my perspective on this world or on eternal matters?  This challenging of the perspective of self comes during an interesting time. The Jewish calender has already started a several day celebration of Sukkot, “The Feast of the Lord.”  It is a day focusing on the ultimate victory and a move from the temporary to the permanent.  Is my walking in this temporary tabernacle one that is continuing on the path set before me or is the things that draw my attention and attract me to places dark. 

So today was about building up skill in part, but it really was a day of perception checks.  Where is the focus.  Tomorrow is the last day of the conference.  The progression as a flow to it so it will be interesting to see where my thoughts go tomorrow.  Yesterday it was about reviewing foundations and ultimately going deeper. Today it is about refocusing perspectives, tomorrow has yet to play out.  Praise God for the works he is doing, not just in the life of this man, but all who are here.

The best way to end this article is a quote from Dr. Ken Nichols of www.aliveministries.net “God’s word influences my perspective.  My perspective influences how I respond. My response influences the outcome of the situation. 100% of the time.”

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Self affirmations are positively pointless!

Self affirmations are positively pointless!

Self affirmations are positively pointless!

Just ran across an article  at www.psychcentral.com that references a recent American Psychological Association press release which indicates a recent study found that positive self-statements can result in a lower mood for people with low self-esteem.  The study just really confirms what is intuitively known by most of us.  In fact the absurdity of positivevalidations without any basis in truth was  soundly  lampooned in Al Franken’s pre-Senatorial career) Stuart Smalley skits.   The fact is we need to be able to tell our self the truth.  Saying positive things that have no basis in truth or reality is actually dangerous.  Lying to self does not improve mood. 

So then what are depressed people to do to feel better one might ask?  Well moving away from depressed mood and negative attitudes about self and the world involves first identifying the lies we hold about self.  We all need to ground ourselves in what is true.    You cannot counter one form of self-deception for another.  We always need to identify, test, and discover the truth. 

So what if there are truly awful things going on in a person life, what are they to do?  Well, it is not helpful to lock into an attitude of negative thinking related to hurts, pain and stress.  Besides being grounded in truth we also need to foster an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude.  When things are tough, find the positives to be thankful for.  The greater the pain the harder this is to do, yet it is effective in uplifting the mood, as long as the thankfulness is founded in truth. 

Now, as a Christian it is worthwhile to point out that truth telling and thankfulness have their limits.  If you identify truth and look to the positives in life, yet have not turned to Jesus, there is still something missing.  Now, turning to Jesus doesn’t automatically eliminate depression or any other mental health issue, but turning to Jesus is turning to strength beyond self.  In terms of thanksgiving the Bible directs to rejoice in the Lord, which is to say to look outside of self and depend on God as source and focus on thanksgiving and rejoicing.  It is taking this attitude in spite of what is going on.  The Bible also directs that true peace is found in Jesus.  This true peace is not making everything comfortable but rather changing  of focus that is different then relying on own strength.

If you are depressed and reading this, please do not mistake what I am saying.  The healing process and moving into truth and joy and peace is a process that God can work in you. Many Christians suffer depression and other mental health issues.  The essential point is that it is in Jesus that we find the strength to take on whatever barrier.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that includes mental health struggles.

Lessons from a blown car engine: Stop, listen, and surrender

Learning that the engine to your care is beyond repair and needs to be replaced is never news you want to hear. It is even worse when you learn that there was a lack of personal responsibility which in turn invalidated the warranty. This news is new that causes lots of stress and conflict.

Learning that something said or written was hurtful and offensive to a friend is never news you want to hear. It is even worse when you take on a felt responsibility to smooth out a conflict in views and have faulty expectations and hopes. This is something that ends up with lots of hurt and need for relationships to be reconciled.

Both instances certainly did happen and ultimately were a result of being too caught up in my own thoughts and attending to self. God most likely tried to give warnings, even suggesting alternate actions, but when it came down to it, self was listened to over anything else.

When it comes to the car, there were thoughts to get the oil changed. At some point, self-deception came in and convinced self that what had not been done actually had been done. The result was the damaged engine and invalidated warranty.

In writing to my friend, I had a sense that what I had written shouldn’t be sent and wasn’t really what needed to be said nor what I wanted to say. Yet, I wrote what I wrote and sent it anyway and damage was done.

The biggest lesson here is when we don’t take the time to listen, seek God, and listen mistakes can be made that lead to damage. In both these cases, what was best for self, or though best, is what was engaged. Ultimately I reacted out of my own self and not in surrender to Jesus with the result of damage. It is a lesson learned, no matter what felt responsibilities, priorities, or busyness that if you do not stop, pray, listen, and surrender but act out of self-will and selfishness damage will occur.

Granted, not every bad, self-involved choice or decision a person makes results in damage. A lot of bad choices can be made that do not result in bad consequences. This very fact is even what leads us often down the path of acting out of self and taking risks and not listening because we think we know the answer. What God would rather have us do is seek, listen, and surrender. I hope, next time I need to listen I do a better job of setting aside self and walk in steps the God sets before me rather than my own.

Lessons from a game called werewolf/mafia:

Lessons from a game called werewolf/mafia:

 

            Over the past three four years one of the ways I engaged in entertaining and distracting myself is a game called werewolf, also known as mafia.  It is a game about deception.  Basically there is a team of bad guys trying to deceive others and folks who are trying to figure out who the deceivers are.  This post isn’t about the dynamics of the game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mafia_(game) but some important lessons that can be learned.

            One important lesson is that no one is beyond being deceived. The most skilled people at spotting varied ‘tells’ or spotting the deceivers can fail or falter. No one is beyond being deceived by someone else or even themselves.  In applying this lesson, we each need to be aware and acknowledge that no one is beyond deception.. Anyone that thinks they are beyond being deceived is fooling themselves.  We need to continually engage in prayerful self-examination and ask God to show us the ways we have been deceived and to show us truth. 

            Another important lesson is that people prefer to follow.  I have seen this play out on numerous occasions. As soon as someone displays proficiency at finding the deceivers, others tend to follow them.  It is much easier to follow then to examine facts and details and search for the truth on your own. If someone exhibits apparently greater skills it is much easier to follow rather then examine facts for yourself. It works out well when the person is right but when the person is wrong, the results are not satisfactory and often assist those looking to deceive.   

In applying this  lesson to life and exposing deception we need to be willing to examine and test things on our own. We need to not just simply trust the words or actions of others, no matter how often they have display accuracy.  Blindly following others is detrimental, particularly if a person relies on others for the word of God and not spending time spending time and studying the Word.  Also if we spend more time reading Christian authors and others interpretations of the word, we leave our self vulnerable to be deceived or follow error.

Another important lesson is that the greater the distractions, the easier it is to be deceived. Time and time again I witnessed where people couldn’t sort through multiple information even when there were clues to what is true and what is false. The simple application to this lesson is the greater amount of distractions; the harder it is to assess truth.

            A surprising but important lesson is that when looking for deception it is easy to become paranoid. This means we can easily see lies and deception in people that are being truthful.  Now while such paranoia can make for interesting game play, in life it makes  things confusing.  God doesn’t offer confusion but we can sure generate a lot of it on our own doing. Given how easy it is to become paranoid this stress the importance of depending on God and leaning not on our own understanding. We can easily find lies and deception where there is none, just as much as we can fall prey to lies and deception. The enemy loves when we do become paranoid and find lies in the truth.

            In watching multiple games played out another sure lesson is that deceivers have no problem ‘eating their own.’   In order to gain trust, exposing someone else engaging in deception can be a way to gain trust and greater deceive others.  The last game I actually played, it was done to perfection when one member of the team of deceivers was exposed after another with even easily sorted out lies being spoken ultimately resulting in trust for one person who ended up winning the game.  Such tactics breed pride and over-confidence as well as stimulating trust. So while “the house” may be “divided against itself” the goal is to lay ground work for other lies or deceptions to be accepted or a deceiver to be trusted. In our lives, we need constant evaluation and with the light of scripture. We need to test all things continually and be wary. 

            The last lesson I want to discuss is that any time someone discovers a tell or a pattern to sort out the deceptions in the game, once the deceivers are aware the deceptions and game play the strategies and lies adjust to take them into account.  If lies always followed the same pattern, they can be easy to spot, but eventually there comes a time when what you used to rely on is ineffective.  Of course, with God, His discernment is always accurate, and always ahead of the enemy.  For each of us though, of our own strength and power, it is easy to be deceived and trust others based on confidence in a “technique” or “test.”  The enemy is crafty, and will adjust!

            There are probably more lessons I can take from the game but the essential point is we are all easily deceived and of our own effort finding and exposing deceptions is ultimately impossible. Our enemy, Satan, is the master of deception. Each of these things I have observed about deception is but a drop in the bucket of Satan’s tools.  We need to live in surrender and dependence to God, we need to repent of relying on our own strength, we need to Holy Spirit to give us wisdom, we need constant exposure to the Word of God, and we need to the grace of Jesus the Messiah to cleanse us from our self-effort and failures.  May we all grow in truth and be sober and alert lest we become embroiled in deception.