The “Bad Ear”

Listening isn’t always something we want to do. I’ve become fascinated by our capacity for hearing in recent years. Now in my 60s, I am losing capacity to hear in one ear. It comes in handy when I’m being told something I really don’t want to hear. It’s convenient when I need a good excuse to miss a deadline or just prefer not to have definite instructions for something I might not want to do. It doesn’t mean I can’t hear at all in the “bad ear,” I just sometimes can’t tell you what the words are. I might hear sounds, muffled words and intonations. To hear the words, I must turn my face and my good ear to the speaking voice. That makes it, for me, a metaphor for spirituality – we turn our face so we can hear again. We turn our face in a new direction so the words have meaning and are not merely sounds.

This is a quote from a book I just started reading entitled A Spirituality of Listening.

I appreciate the metaphor. If I’m going to hear what God is saying to me, it’s vital that my face and my ears are turned in his direction. What might keep my face and ears turned away?

  • Inconvenience
  • Resistance
  • Stubbornness
  • Pride
  • Comfort
  • All sorts of fears and lies that the enemy would rather I choose to listen to

So in order to listen, I have to turn my face and ears by choosing humility, surrendering control, trusting truth, embracing discomfort, and recalling God’s ways are indeed best.

Here’s to better and deeper listening!

God of My 20’s

(Post #1 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Vilma Cooper

To tell you who God was in my 20’s is to share with you a little about my upbringing. I was raised Catholic, and the entire family-dad, mom, my sister and brother-went to church every Sunday. I prayed every night and on Sundays went to the confessional booth to tell a Priest all that I had done wrong. I then stepped out, kneeled and prayed to God exactly what the Priest told me to say. I knew of God but did not desire to have a relationship with Him. I was taught to fear God because He would be angry with me because of my sins. Why would I even want to get to know this angry God?

In my early 20’s I was living in the Bible Belt, the Peach State of Georgia. I don’t know if living in the Bible Belt and surrounded by people that knew God differently than I had influenced me, but I knew there had to be more. I started questioning why I could not go directly to God to “talk” with him and started hearing about a loving God. That was something different that I had to know more about. With my parent’s approval, I started attending Baptist churches and heard of this God that loved me so much, that gave His son to die for me. That is when I desired to get to know the loving God. It wasn’t smooth sailing. In my mid 20’s, I got married and after two years, divorced. That is when things got a little crazy. I wasn’t going to church; I was hanging out with people and doing things that certainly were not pleasing to God. I still knew God as a loving Father and, through my “wildness,” often went to Him for forgiveness. I believed I was loved, and I believed I was forgiven, but there was still that tug of war between the World and Him. I thought if I went “all in,” I would miss out on something. I would miss out on fun.

30+ years later, I am married with adult children and grandchildren. My adult children are now in their 20’s, and I see their “tug of war.” The difference is that they have heard of this loving God. They have experienced His presence and love. I trust God and know that He loves them in their 20’s just as much as He loved me in my 20’s. My relationship with God has been a journey; it still is a journey. I believe that we need to always be growing in Him. I believe that we always learn from Him. To my friends in your 20’s, if you are not “all in,” know that there is nothing you can do that will separate you from God. He will forgive you. He will love you. This is your journey, and it will be worth it.

Before I close, I must share the lyrics of this song I heard today. I’m sure I’ve heard it before, but today God brought it to me to share with you.

The God Who Stays, by Matthew West

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now

I would’ve labeled me a lost cause

Cause I feel just like a lost cause

If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away

I would’ve labeled me beyond repair

Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair

But somehow You don’t see me like I do

Somehow, You’re still here

You’re the God who stays

You’re the God who stays

You’re the one who runs in my direction

When the whole world walks away

You’re the God who stands

With wide open arms

And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart

From the God who stays

I used to hide

Every time I thought I let You down

I always thought I had to earn my way

But I’m learning You don’t work that way

Somehow You don’t see me like I do

Somehow, You’re still here

You’re the God…

2019 Library

For a second year I have followed a self-developed reading strategy with the objective to read broader. The goal: read 25-30 books falling under 9 headings. Having read 27 books across these topics, I testify I still enjoy this strategy.

For the curious, here is the library of 27 books, listed by order read and avenue of reading:

A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer (kindle)

The Crib, The Cross, & The Crux by Lisa Fulghum (hard copy)

Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Chambers (kindle)

Every Square Inch by Bruce Ashford (hard copy)

Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab (audio)

An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth by M. K. Ghandi (kindle)

Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger (hard copy)

Saying No to Say Yes by David C. Olsen and Nancy G. Devor (kindle)

Them by Ben Sasse (kindle)

When to Leave by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Before You Go by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Awe by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

Our Presidents and Their Prayers by Rand Paul and James Randall Robison (audio)

Calico Joe by John Grisham (audio)

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott (audio)

The Bait of Satan by John Bevere (kindle)

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris (kindle)

Boundaries For Your Soul by Kimberly Miller and Alison Cook (kindle)

Forgiven by Terri Roberts (hard copy)

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown (kindle)

Something Needs To Change by David Platt (hard copy)

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller (hard copy)

Leading Change Without Losing It by Carey Nieuwhof (hard copy)

It’s Not My Fault by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (kindle)

Replenish by Lance Witt (hard copy)

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer (kindle)

Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud (hard copy)

Known: By Conviction

(Final post in a series collaboration)

This series has been fun to read. I want to thank my four guest bloggers-Rick Howell, Frank Welch, Shelby Welch, and David Goodman.

Now it’s my turn to share how God made himself known to me in 2019. And my answer is quite different from theirs, but it is the core of mine and God’s 2019 connection. And it’s one word: Conviction.

Conviction is one of those lovely English words that has multiple meanings:

  1. Convicting
  2. Being convicted
  3. A firm opinion or belief

Conviction convicts. Shows me I have more room to grow.

Conviction convinces. Assures me I’m not alone.

Godly conviction is much like when a parent disciplines a child. If done right, the child knows they messed up, knows what is expected, and knows they are still in the family regardless.

2019 had plenty conviction for me. Most notably on a February day, but many times throughout the year. For me to say that is how God made himself known to me is actually quite comforting.

Why? Because of the manner and the result.

It was not, “Hey Boy! Don’t you hear me? Don’t make me come down there!”

It was more like, “Son, no matter what you do, you are mine. You are in the family. I believe you desire better. You agree? Let’s fix what when wrong and then figure out how to move forward better.”

Discipline done right includes a balance of grace and truth, love and correction.

I am known because of conviction. I am known by establishing conviction. I welcome being known even more in 2020.

Henry Cloud’s Integrity

In 2006, Dr. Henry Cloud published what I believe to be his best book entitled Integrity

His objective is to connect the dots for how integrity and character work day to day. To do that, he outlines six character traits that enable talents and abilities to get their desired results:

  1. Creating and maintaining trust
  2. Seeing and facing reality
  3. Working in a way that brings results
  4. Embracing negative realities and solving them
  5. Causing growth and increase
  6. Achieving transcendence and meaning in life

It’s rich. I finished re-reading it last night. Yes, it’s one of those books. Here’s proof:

  • Underdevelopment leaves a gap between where we are at any given moment and where we need to be. That gap is our need and opportunity for growth.
  • Dysfunction is when an effort toward making something better makes it worse. That is when we are in trouble. And both a lack of integration and a lack of development can do that.
  • We trust people who we think hear us, understand us, and are able to empathize with our realities as well as their own.
  • Research has for decades proven that you can help desperate people immensely by giving them no answers at all, and only giving them empathy.
  • If you want to leave the best wake possible, leave behind a trail of people who have experienced your being “for them.”
  • Wise people are “cautious in friendship,” as the proverb says. They seek to get to know a person clearly, as a person truly is, before they hire him, marry him, become partners with him, or divorce him, fire him, or not go forward with him.
  • It behooves all of us to be working on whatever unresolved pain we are walking around with, lest some issue in “reality” tap into it and overcome our ability to make good decisions.
  • Secure identity is about who a person is, not what he does or what his results are.
  • People oriented toward growth want others to grow as well as themselves.
  • The immature character asks life to meet his demands. But the mature character meets the demands of life.
  • The one question that hovers above all others in importance for a person’s functioning in life is “Are you God, or not?”

God of My 20’s

On my drive home from visiting family last month for Thanksgiving, I realized something. All my nine nieces and nephews are in their 20’s and 30’s. Had to shake my head at that a little. Four of them are married, and three have children. Double head shake.

Thinking about them and the difference in my world during my 20’s and their current world, a thought for a blog series came to mind. The series, entitled God of My 20’s that will post every Monday beginning next week, is a chance for friends of mine to share their story of who God was to them in their 20’s. I invited a slew of men and ladies. Twelve accepted. So this will be fun.

These writers represent every age groups from their 30’s to theirs 70’s. So that means from Millennials to Baby Boomers, born anywhere from the 40’s to the 80’s. That’s a lot of living through a world of change. So the question, and there could be many, that I’m curious about is how does God show up over the decades in people’s lives. On a side note, those living today in their 20’s could be classified as Millennial or Generation Z. If these generation labels are another language or like me you need a refresher, follow this link: Generation Z.

An interesting note from that link is that Generation Z is the largest generation in American history. The God question is therefore a good question to be asking. What if we helped them answer it by telling our own story? I hope you’ll follow along. And maybe even share your own story here or in person. Who was God in your 20’s?

Law Enforcement and Mental Health

I turned on the TV earlier today to jump into a football game my friend urged me to see. The first thing on the screen was a LIVE press conference on Baynews9 with the Polk County Sheriff regarding a deputy-involved shooting in Auburndale. In his talk he used a phrase that was new to me: Suicide by Cop.

What wasn’t new to me was his comments on the uprising mental health crisis and its impact on police work. My professional friends working in law enforcement and counseling know this all too well.

The reason I’m posting this is twofold.

  1.  We should cover this ongoing crisis and all those impacted in prayer.
  2.  We should do our part to raise awareness.

Known: “Show Me You Exist”

(Post #4 in a 4-part series collaboration)

By David Goodman (bio below)

A few months ago, in remarkably certain terms, God showed me that I’m known to Him. Therefore, when Pastor Gregory invited me to write an article for a series he was calling Known, I was excited for the opportunity.

My story starts in early September. Something seemed wrong as I was getting ready for work. My necklace felt lighter. I hadn’t put my shirt on yet and when I looked down, I didn’t see the religious amulet my wife bought me sixteen years ago.  The clasp on my necklace was closed, and it functioned properly.

How then did I lose the amulet? 

I looked everywhere for the amulet. I guess I was hoping for a small miracle, so I checked the trunk of my car, inside the refrigerator, on bookshelves. Finally, I admitted to myself that I was not going to find the amulet.

Several weeks went by.  In early October, my daughter was in town. She goes to school in Tampa. We landed on the topic of God’s existence because lately her faith has been very shaky.  We recently moved to Sarasota from Milwaukee, and she was struggling with the transition. It hurt to see how sad she looked.

I don’t ask God for help too often. I have always assumed that He knows what I need. But when I worked out later that day, I asked God to show me He exists.

I’m a swimmer. I count each stroke because it helps me stay focused on my pace. On this day, I replaced counting with a prayer: “Please God, show me that you exist.” Each syllable for each stroke.

About 45 minutes later, after I had repeated my prayer more than 200 times, I was nearly done swimming when a shiny object caught my eye. Without thinking, I reached for my neck. Nothing there. Quickly I returned to the other side of the pool. I dove down and grabbed my necklace.

I stood in the pool untangling it. Suddenly, part of the clasp broke off. I cupped my hand to catch the tiny piece of metal as it sank in the water. I swear I had it; but when I opened my hand to place it on the side of the pool for a closer look, my hand was empty.

I stared at the side of the pool. It had to be there. Then another object caught my eye. I reached for it without thinking. It took a few seconds to grasp the inconceivable. That I was holding the amulet I had lost weeks ago.

I left the pool. I was walking to the locker room. “Thank you, God,” came to my lips.

About a month later, while driving my daughter and son to a movie, I told them about my experience. They were fascinated and heartened by my story.

I dropped them off and, as I drove away, I saw them in my rear-view mirror for a moment, both smiling before disappearing into a crowd.


Blogger Bio: David J. Goodman earned both a PhD and Master of Education in psychology from Loyola University of Chicago (1994) and Indiana University (1989), respectively.  He started his professional career in 1992 with the Chicago Public School System as a certified school psychologist. His clinical training continued in 1994, when he took a post-doctoral residency on a children’s inpatient floor at Saint Therese Medical Center in Waukegan, IL. During the next 25 years, half of which Dr. Goodman spent as a Wisconsin licensed psychologist, he served individuals and families in medical rehab, skilled nursing, community mental health, and private practice.
​Dr. Goodman recently moved from Milwaukee to Sarasota. As a staff psychologist with Samaritan Counseling Services of the Gulf Coast, among other duties and responsibilities, he will focus on helping at-risk children and teens by participating in SCSGC’s outreach efforts, and by providing psychological testing, behavioral counseling, and psychotherapy to those identified youth and their families. 

The Stairmaster & Integrated Character

I’m halfway through Henry Cloud’s Integrity. It’s been too long since I read it, and I want to get it read before yearend.

Today I read this quote from chapter nine, “Finishing Well”:

The ability to make a move, make the call, face rejection or loss, is a character issue, and if it is missing, results do not happen. Fear of failure, rejection, disapproval, anxiety, unknown outcomes, loss of security, and other fears keep people from achieving the results that they could, if they were not afraid.

People of integrated character do not think of failure that way. They think that if things do not go well, that is another reality that they will deal with and overcome. In a sense, the integrated character never sees failure as an option. These people just see problems to be solved, and they will meet the challenge when it occurs, so “go for it.”

Here’s a simple illustration of this. I’m not running much right now while a left-foot injury heals. So my Planet Fitness craze is the Stairmaster. In response to a couple of challenges and opportunities next year, I’ve decided to push for some new personal records on the Stairmaster. The main record I’m after is time. Until last week, the longest workout I’d done was 35 minutes. Respectable. My new goal is an hour.

I could do it today if I had to. But I’d have to do it at a slower level/pace than I’d like. So my strategy is to add minutes slowly but maintaining high levels. So last Friday night I found a blog post for a 40-minute workout; it was beyond my skill set, so I modified it and went to the gym the next morning with my 36-minute routine ready to “go for it.”

I about died. This is the plan I didn’t succeed:

  • Two minutes starting at level 8 increasing one level every two minutes up to level 13 (12 minutes total). Complete three times.

After the first twelve minutes, I had a pretty clear idea I had overestimated myself. Two more rounds wasn’t going to happen unless I wanted to be the subject of a viral video of what it looks like to be eaten by a Stairmaster. In the end, I ran out of gas at 30 minutes.

I was pretty sure the way to solve my problem was to address my heart rate. I’ve never really concerned myself with it, so I needed to learn about it. According to active.com, it is recommended that you exercise within 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for at least 20 to 30 minutes to get the best results from aerobic exercise. The MHR (roughly calculated as 220 minus your age) is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity.

Good to know. Why? All along, I’ve been pushing my heart rate way over the recommendation. Using this formula, my heart rate should be between 90-145. On Saturday, I mostly stayed between 155-170. No wonder I ran out of gas.

With a better grip on reality, I went back and boarded the machine yesterday with one goal in mind: monitor my heart rate well in order to get to 36 minutes. Here’s what I ended up achieving:

  • Level 7-2 minutes. Level 8-4 minutes. Level 9-6 minutes. Level 10-8 minutes. Level 11-6 minutes. Level 10-4 minutes. Level 9-6 minutes.

I even had a little left in the tank. As my friend told me, I had some experiential learning. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Knowledge about heart rate on this machine is power for meeting my goal.
  2. Getting there alive is certainly better than not at all.
  3. There is a way to accomplish my goal. Adjust and “go for it.”
  4. The Stairmaster can also integrate character.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry (book review)

Love, joy, and peace are at the heart of all Jesus is trying to grow in the soil of your life. And all three are incompatible with hurry.

If that statement intrigues you, welcome to Pastor John Mark Comer’s new book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.img_1006-1

In a world of increasing speed, we all know it’s out of control. What we may not know is how to slow ourselves down in the midst of it. That is what Comer addresses convincingly, humorously, and practically.

Wisdom is born in the quiet, the slow. Wisdom has its own pace…When we uncritically hurry our way through the digital terrain, we make the devil’s job relatively easy.

After defining the problem and offering solutions in parts one and two, Comer offers four practices in part three that will eliminate hurry: silence&solitude, sabbath, simplicity, and slowing.

Mindfulness is simply silence and solitude for a secular society. It’s the same thing, just missing the best part-Jesus.

It is not as though we do not love God – we love God deeply. We just do not know how to sit with God anymore.

Contentment isn’t some Buddhist-like negation of all desire; it’s living in such a way that your unfulfilled desires no longer curb your happiness.

We achieve inner peace when our schedules are aligned with our values.

I’ve recommended several books with a similar theme as Comer’s (The Rest of God, Rhythms of Rest, Awe). Add this to the list. He offers a broader look at the theme with relatable application. I don’t think he’d mind if I suggested you hurry to get this book in your hands.