I hear you knockin’, but you can’t come in…

January 7, 2016

In 1955 Smiley Lewis recorded the Song I hear you knockin’, but you can’t come in. It was an early, slow rock and roll song that was covered by Fats Domino, who had more success with it than Smiley did. Fats Domino went on to fame and fortune, while Smiley’s career languished and he died in poverty.

I thought of this song recently while thinking about how often I hear God access deniedknocking and trying to help me, but I won’t let Him in. The free will (it might also be called ego) that God gave mankind can also act as a door to keep Him out when we most need him. We toil through life trying to solve things ourselves, letting our egos get in the way; rather than letting Him take our burdens and help.

Do you hear God knocking on your door? Do you let Him in? If not, why not? Is it because your ego won’t let you admit that you need help?

Men in particular seem to be less inclined to ask God for help with troubles in their lives. I’m not sure why we are “trained” to “keep a stiff upper lip” or when we are indoctrinated in a culture of stoic resolve to solfootball player1ve all problems without help. I remember the “big boys don’t cry” admonishments as a child and the “shake it off” advice for almost any hurt while growing up and the “suck it up” guidance for dealing with pain or disappointments. I suspect that athletics in general contribute greatly to that self-image of being able to live with pain.

Women seem to be so much better at sharing their problems and needs with other women and I suspect in turning to God for help in troubled times. I wonder if there is a difference in women athletes in that regard, since athletics is one area where the whole “macho” image thing is an important factor. The whole concussion problem that we now take veryfemale soccer player seriously grew out of the macho “shake it off” creed of athletics. So, I wonder if female athletes, especially those engaged in contact sports (which include soccer) develop a more insular approach to life and religion because of the stoicism required for those sports. Do they hear God knockin’ but they won’t let Him in? I suspect that it is not the case, as it is with men.

I’m just not sure when the “Jesus loves me” messages of Sunday School were replaced by the “Don’t share with others and don’t ask God” stoicism of adult life. Fortunately, I found my way back to that trust in God that we all started with as children, before adult cynicism settled in. I am neither reluctant nor ashamed to ask for God’s help when I need it, which is more often than my ego used to let me admit.

So what are we to do when we hear Him knockin’? Just ignore the quiet little voice saying, “Let me help you” and go about life in pain or desperation? I think rather than say,”I hear you knockin’, but you can’t come in”, perhaps we should take the approach of another song, this one a contemporary Christian song by Chris Tomlin and say, “Lord I need you.”

How will you respond when He knocks on your door today?

So, what’s your problem?

August 12, 2015

On the Jack’s Winning Words Blog today –  “The way we see problems is the problem.”  (Stephen Covey) Jack went on to write –  Everybody’s got problems …big, small, and tweener.  Problems are simply choices that we have to make each day.  S.C. says that problem-solving begins with correctly pinpointing the problem.  “What’s your problem?”  Calmly look for all possible solutions.  Prioritize, and then follow through.  If “1” doesn’t work, try “2”, etc.  And, remember the adage, “Not to decide is to decide.”    😉  Jack
painted into cornerI’ve posted here previously about problem solving; however, Covey’s little quote spurred some additional thinking on the topic. If I was to suggest a slight change to Covey’s quote is would be, “the way we see things as problems is the problem.”  There are, of course, real problems in life; but, then there are the things that we see as problems which are either totally imagined or best just left alone or ignored.

Maybe you know someone who is so paranoid that they believe that everyone is out to get them or that everybody’s talking about them behind their backs. Those people are creating problems out of nothing but their imagination. Of course, since they think there is a problem, they expend a great deal of energy trying to solve those problems. They may run aroundgossip confronting people whom they believe are talking about them or they may spend time denying imagined allegations which they believe are being spread about them; and that’s their real problem.

Others may see things that are best left alone as problems that they should try to do something about. An oversight by someone else becomes a slight against them, in their minds. Not being invited to an event becomes a major problem for them to be investigated and perhaps corrected. These same people may encounter things in life that just occur without thnk about itrhyme or reason and decide that they will try to correct things. They may spend hours or days researching the
“problem” without ever really accomplishing anything. Eventually they lose interest in the problem and wander off in search of the next windmill with which to tilt.

So, maybe Covey should have started his advice on the resolution of problems by saying that first it is important to take a moment to decide if this is really a problem and then maybe is it really your problem? Trying to “solve” something that is not really a problem is frustrating and taking on problems that aren’t really yours is seldom successful. There are problems that are so large and general in nature that they spawn movements to resolve them, so maybe joining a cause is the best solution for you. You won’t solve the problem by yourself, but you can help.

If the problem really is yours, you can follow Covey’s advice and perhaps read my post on Problem Solving 101. Almost all advice on problem solving follows the same path. Another good piece of advice is to keep problems in some perspective. Almost no problem that you will encounter in life is a life or death situation and most are way less critical than we make them out to be. The world will not end if you do not resolve the problem at hand. Don’t let your problem solving efforts totally consume your life. Step back or step away from them every now and then to catch your breath and to re-evaluate their importance to your life. You may be surprised how many of them just evaporate before your eyes as you are e-examining them. Some of them you may just decide to let be andhand reaching for heaven
stop your efforts to solve them; and that’s OK, too. Some of them you may need to take to God and ask Him to
take them off your shoulders. There is an immense sense of relief when you take your problems to God, because you have now engaged the best problem solver ever. You gotta problem with that?

The stronger you get, the easier it seems…

April 22, 2015

“It never gets easier, but I will get stronger.” – Jabari Parker in a Gatorade commercial. If you Google this little line from Parker’s Gatorade commercial you’ll see that it has been picked up by lots of people as a way to comment on their own lives. It does provide a nice metaphor for life, since it is true that the more one preservers the better they are able to cope with the next adversity in life.

This little saying is a variation on the older saying: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” In medicine the things that we survive help build our immune systems to fight the same thing the next time it attacks. In athletics training helps build the muscles that are needed to perform in whatever sport one is trying. In many other pursuits it is practice and trying gym workoutagain and again in the face of initial failures that eventually leads to success.

I’ve noticed over the 6 or so months that I’ve been going to the Milford Anytime Fitness gym most mornings that things that used to be very hard for me are now easier; I’ve gotten stronger. I started going to the Saturday morning Boot Camp workouts a couple of months ago and the first few times were extremely tough. They are still tough (they are meant to be) but I can get through them now without feeling like I’m going to die in the process. I’ve also worked my way up in the weights that I can deal with on the various machines at the gym and the number of reps that I can do. It seems to get easier the longer that I work at it.

single momLife throws all sorts of things at us, some are physical challenges; but the majority of the “traumas and dramas” in life are
just mental or emotional challenges. Many “crises” in our lives are actually figments of our own imaginations. We get through them and hopefully we learn from them and get stronger. If nothing else, being able to say to yourself: “I’ve been here before – I survived then and I’ll survive now” – helps us get through things.

The longer that one lives the more situations they have usually faced and the more knowledge that they accumulate about dealing with them. Eventually that accumulated knowledge turns into what is called wisdom (that’s the hope anyway), but initially it is filed under the heading “lessons learned”. It’s not that life gets easier, but after a while the surprise factor of what you hit in life becomes less. That’s because you’ve been there before and you know now how to deal with things or at least you may have learned that most of these things aren’t really going to kill you. Hopefully you’ve learned to avoid the one that really could kill you.

So, the older that you get, the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) that life puts n your way give way to Experience, Knowledge and Wisdom. It’s not that life gets any easier; rather it’s just that you get mentally stronger. A big part of the girls hugginggrowth in your mental strength is being conscious of the boundaries of your own capabilities and knowing when to ask for help when you have reached those limits. Help may come in the form of advice from a family member, friend or a professional; or, it may come in the form of prayer and off-loading those burdens to God.

You will be amazed at how uplifting it is to share your problems with someone willing to help or with God. You immediately lose the feeling of being alone ad of being the only person to whom this has ever happened. Just putting your problems into words and saying, “I don’t know what to do”, is a very liberating start to overcoming them. Humbling yourself before God and saying, “Not my will, but thy will be done” frees you from the burden of carrying the load by yourself. Trusting that praying handswhatever happens next, God has your back, allows you to go on with life.

Have a great day. You are not alone. God is with you and He has never, ever failed someone who put their trust in Him. You just got stronger.

Three little words that can change your life… “I need help.” (2 of ? in a series)

March 22, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

If the first three word sentence – I love you – is the biggie, then today’s three word sentence may be the hardest for many to say. First you have to admit it to yourself and then you have to say it out loud to someone else. I suspect that people who work in various self-help groups, like AA or DA or GA, would tell you that admitting it or, maybe better stated, realizing that you need help is the biggest barrier to getting the help that you need.

I suspect that this is more of a guy problem than it is for women. From fairly early childhood boys are taught and conditioned to try to be self-reliant, to be stoic in our pain or disappointments and to keep a stiff upper lip and carry on. You don’t cry when you get hurt, you “shake it off.” In some street-level scenarios this goes even further and we are taught not to be snitches, even though we know that fingering the perpetrator of a crime to the proper authorities is the right thing to do. We are essentially taught to hold it in; to try to work it out ourselves; not to ask for outside help. Running to mommy to get help with the bully who is bugging you is considered to be bad.

And so it goes from a young age. We build layer upon layer of self-reinforcing rationale for not asking for help. It is after all not the manly thing to do. When we finally get to adulthood we are faced with a completely new set of challenges. How do we deal with getting laid off when there is a new baby on the way? How do we deal with having gambled away this week’s paycheck, even though the rent is due? How do we deal with homing home so drunk so many nights that we can’t remember when the last time was that we saw our kids before they went to bed? How do we deal with feeling like we have let down the one that we promised to cherish and protect through thick and through thin?

Like crap, would be the quick and easy answer to those questions; but, that does not really face the problem. The problem in many, if not all of those cases, is that you need help. The good news is that help is out there; all over the place, among your family and friend, in churches, in groups and organizations like AA, DA and GA that are just waiting to help you. The bad news for most is that you have to realize that you need it and ask for it. No one is going to come knocking on your door and say, “Hey, I was just out here and wondering if you need help?”  You need to ask.

So, how do you get to the point where you can ask for help? For some it is only possible when they are staring into the abyss and realize that the next step in that direction leads to the end. They literally have to be scared to death or scared of death, before they will act. For many it can be arriving at the logical end of the line of all of the things that they thought that they could do by themselves. They literally have to exhaust all possible alternatives that they can think of. The problem with both of those approaches is that they often lose those that they love along the way, because they let things go on for too long and resisted getting help to change. Ask any ex-wife of an abusive spouse how long they stayed just hoping that the one they loved at one time would get help that they never sought.

Let me suggest a different way to cope. If you’ve hit a problem or recognized that you have a problem that you don’t know how you can solve yourself, admit that to yourself first and then free yourself to seek help. For some, with a religious foundation to their lives, that may start by admitting in prayer that you need help. I have found in my life that the simple prayer, “Not my will, but thy will be done”, frees me from the baggage of being stubbornly self-reliant and allows me to move from being isolated by my own stubbornness to asking for help. I’ve always found the help I needed, once I found the will to ask for it.

For others it may be that sitting down and talking about the issue with a loved one or good friend will be the start. They’ve probably been telling your for some time to get help, but you weren’t listening . Maybe they can even suggest where to get the help that you need. I almost assure you that they will be supportive, because they’ve probably been concerned about you for some time and this will let them be a par to the help that you need. For an unfortunate few it may be that the ride in the back seat of a police car will be what it takes. That is usually too late to recover without consequences; but it can be the sobering experience that pushes you over the edge and allows you to ask for help.

If nothing else, maybe here’s a way to start when you are dealing with a problem that you feel lost about. Go find a mirror and look into it and say, “I need help…I can’t do this by myself.” Don’t just say it once; say it over and over until you have peeled away those layers of resistance and believe it and are ready to act upon that thought. Don’t be surprised if the guy you see in the mirror has a tear running down his cheek. He needs help…offer yours – get him help.

Why is it so hard to ask for help?

February 15, 2014

painted into cornerIt occurs to me that as a society we have painted ourselves into a corner on one thing in particular and that is asking for help.

From early childhood we are taught to be self-reliant and to keep a “stiff upper lip”. We are told that big boys and girls don’t cry, they shake it off and go on, they get back in the game, they never give up. Whether it be in sports, in school or life in general those stereotypical images are reinforced in our youth until they become dogma.

But they are not true. We are not always able to shake it off and go on. Sometimes the issues that we are facing are so large or so confusing or so scary that we need help.

Needing help doesn’t make you weak, in fact quite the opposite. It makes you strong, smart, resourceful, and realistic. Being prideful is a weakness. Asking for help when you know you’re in over your head is STRENGTH. Don’t ever forget that! – unknown quotes

Sometimes the help we need is not deeply emotional or scary, it’s just something that we can’t figure out how to do; maybe it’s taking on a new challenge that we have never faced at work or trying a completely new sport or job. What we need then is wisdom. Ben Franklin said this –

“Man can either buy wisdom or borrow it. By buying it he pays full price in personal time and treasure, but by borrowing it he capitalizes on the lessons learned from the failures of others.”

The way one borrows wisdom is sometimes to ask for help from someone who has already been through what we are facing. Sometimes it is just enough that we know someone who has done it and obviously it didn’t kill them. Maybe they can help you overcome whatever fears might be holding you back about it and let you get on with trying. Ask for their help. People usually love talking about things that they have succeeded at or obstacles that they have overcome.

Sometimes the corners that we paint ourselves into are caused by the thought that we are the only ones who have ever experienced what we are going through, that we are alone with this issue or problem. This is an age-old feeling and was dealt with in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 1:9

Whatever has happened, will happen again; whatever has been done, will be done again. There is nothing new on earth. (This is the International Standard Version, which is just easier to read and understand)

The fact is that you are not the only one who has ever experienced a loss or experienced a set-back of faced a fearful situation; and you are only alone with your torment or sorrow or hurt if you choose to be. Help is all around you if you will ask for it. But, no; we try to tough it out; to keep a stiff upper lip; not to cry. We sit in a corner that we have painted ourselves into.

Show the STRENGTH to reach out and seek help. You will immediately feel better, just for having done that. That is the first step to healing or fixing the problem. The decision to take that first step is yours alone, but you need not be alone again, once you have stepped off.

The fact is that big girls and big boys do cry and it makes them feel a lot better for having done so. But after a good cry, wipe away the tears and take that first step out of the corner – ask for help.

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”  (Brian Littrell)

One thing I have noted in the blog-o-sphere is the huge number of blogs that are devoted to the journeyedge of the abyssback from the edge by people who faced the abyss and got help to back away. That is an interesting side-effect of getting help and getting out of the corner. Once you have received help to overcome your issues, you want to help others overcome their similar issues by at least sharing the story of your journey. The blog-o-sphere can be like a giant group hug sometimes.

So, Keep Calm and Chive On!