See Your House Like You Did the First Day You Got It

My then 18 year old son, David, told my wife and me that he wanted to talk out in the outdoor living room. My wife and I sat down in our wicker coach, and he took a seat on the porch swing. “Mom and Dad, I’ve decided that I want to get married.”

Not longer after, he married our daughter-in-law, Nicole from Colombia, at the Sun Outdoors Conference Center where our church met weekly. Then, they moved into . . . my basement. This wasn’t what they wanted. Waiting lists for apartments in Gatlinburg, TN were about six months wherever they applied.

The wait was only five months, and those five months turned out surprisingly well. We learned to really love our new daughter-in-law deeply, and the marriage was working. However, when the Riverwalk Apartments down the street called and said that they had an opening, nobody hesitated.

The day David and Nicole moved into their one bedroom apartment was a special day. I was amazed at how excited they were. They were renting their own apartment! Nicole was crying and then laughing, high levels of emotional expression, even by Colombian standards.

It made me think, what if I could look at my own house that way each day? I really love my house. It sits on a cul-de-sac on .5 acres of unique wooded land that terminates at a creek in a gulley. It has beautiful wood floors, a large bay window, beautiful built-in shelves, a well-crafted fireplace, and many other features. It is 2,500 square feet. Outside, we have a large three-level deck. We turned our carport into an outdoor living room that we love. We have a firepit. We have a pool. It’s in a quiet neighborhood, but it’s in the middle of everything. Beyond that, it sits on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and one of the great vacation destinations in our nation. Continue reading “See Your House Like You Did the First Day You Got It”

The Joy of Taking People with You on Trips

Summary: It is a great joy to travel, and is also a great joy to take other people with you when you travel.

When I went to Egypt, I took a cruise on the Nile from Aswan to Luxor on the M.S.S. Salacia. On that cruise, I met a man from Austria named Elmar. He traveled by himself. He had a German speaking guide who led him around the sites. He seemed to enjoy just traveling by himself. But most people don’t. They want to go with someone. But who do you take? For me, that is a particularly difficult question. I have seven children, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and a wife. Who should I take? My second trip to Egypt with my two daughters and wife cost around $14,000. Only with the special Covid money and their money from work were we able to afford it (see my explanation of this *here). There was no way I could take all 11. Continue reading “The Joy of Taking People with You on Trips”

Keeping Sane and Productive in an Insane World, Principle # 19: Embrace Small Talk

Over the years, I have found myself struggling and not able to move forward. After reflection and prayer, I have come to certain principles that helped me keep going in the midst of leading a congregation, raising seven kids, earning three degrees, trying to be involved in the community, and trying to make my mark on the world. Here is principle #19 (not in order of importance) for keeping me sane and productive in an insane world.

Principle # 3: Embrace Small Talk
One thing I really don’t like at church is the time when people go around and just greet people for a few seconds. It seems awkward and pointless. I also feel bad for people who are visitors and just want to lurk and check things out. This is nothing compared to the awkwardness of what I have experienced visiting Hispanic churches. There, they ask if anyone is a first-time visitor. If they are, they have them stand up and clap for them or wave their bulletins. I find it super awkward, but many of the Hispanics who are first time visitors really seem to enjoy it. They are anxious to let the church know they are first-time visitors. I guess cultures are different.

Many people feel about small talk the way I feel about church greeting time and being welcomed a as a first-time visitor: awkward and pointless. I leaned that way for a long time. I just got irritated with conversations about the weather, and that seems to be the one thing everyone wants to talk about.

Then, I listened to this episode #406 of The Art of Manliness podcast, “Why You Should Embrace Small Talk” with Debra Fine. It changed my perspective completely. It taught me the basic principles for small talk and gave me reasons to embrace it.

Why Embrace Small Talk
Let’s start with the latter. Why should we embrace small talk? Continue reading “Keeping Sane and Productive in an Insane World, Principle # 19: Embrace Small Talk”

The Goal of Counseling: What Is Our Vision for the People We Talk to?

Why do people go to counseling? It is because they see something in their life or the life of others that is not what it is supposed to be. They are depressed. They can’t find a job. Their financial situation is grim. Their marriage is falling apart. They are bitter. They can’t move forward from loss. Their children are misbehaving. Their work is going badly.

All these reasons presuppose a certain vision of life. This vision exists in the mind of the counselor and the counselee. If the counselee had no goal, then they wouldn’t go to counseling. If the counselor believed people were fine the way they were, then she wouldn’t try to help them.

The question is, what is that vision? How clear is it in our minds?

For many, it is simply the vision of what we might call common or normal life. This is life where you feel OK, make a reasonable amount of money, get along reasonably well with your family, do fine in your job or school, and don’t get into big trouble.

When one of these things are disrupted, people can really start to struggle. This is what leads people to seek counseling. They seek help with these problems so that they can get back to normal life. Often, when that goal is met, counseling comes to an end.

But what if the goal of counseling is not simply the common life? Then, this will have an effect on counseling from the beginning. What if counseling has a bigger vision for life than just getting along reasonably well? Continue reading “The Goal of Counseling: What Is Our Vision for the People We Talk to?”

5 Perspectives to Get Us Unstuck

We’re about to start a new year. It’s time to think about new goals, new activities, and new habits. The trouble is, we often end up stuck in the same old ways of doing things. We start something new, and resistance sets in. It’s like we’re walking through deep mud and trying to climb up a steep bank. It seems like everything around us wants to keep us in the same old ruts.

The ancient philosophers of the Western world dealt with big abstract ideas, but they also thought through these common problems. I have found that they offer some ways to help us think differently about common problems that offer new perspectives. They are alternative perspectives on common problems that can help get us unstuck.

1. Change of habits takes time. Aristotle says “. . . men acquire many qualities neither by nature nor by teaching but by habituation, bad qualities if they are habituated to the bad, good if the good” (Eudemian Ethics, 1.1).

My comment: we look at many things we can’t do and think that we cannot do them because we cannot do them now. Aristotle observes that many things involve work over time, habituation. So, it would be better when looking at most things we cannot do to not say, “I cannot do that,” but rather to say, “I cannot do that today.” We can acquire new skills. They just take work over time.

2. How you think will determine how you live. “Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind, for the soul is dyed by the thoughts” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.16).

My comment: the way that we think about things has a strong effect on how we feel about them. However, we can think differently about things and so feel differently about them. For example, we may look at mistakes as a disaster, and so we get angry at ourselves. However, we can think differently. We can accept that mistakes are a normal part of the human learning process. This makes it easier to keep going. That’s what these alternative ways of thinking are all about. If our thoughts shape the character of the soul, we can change our thoughts and consequently the character of our soul. Continue reading “5 Perspectives to Get Us Unstuck”