When You Get The Worst News

Other families have cancer, not us.”

That’s what my daughter said when my wife, her mother, was recently diagnosed with cancer.  It is a body blow to hear that someone you love has the disease that is the second leading cause of death in America.  You would think that I’d handle the news better.  As a Pastor of many decades,  I have made countless hospital calls and prayed with hundreds of people diagnosed with cancer.  I still struggled to get my mind around it.  Maybe, all my exposure to other people’s battle with the disease made my own acceptance of it more difficult.  Ignorance sometimes really is bliss.  But, cancer is now part of my family’s journey whether we like it or not.

I have to say that our family is as prepared for this challenge as any can be.  We have all the factors for a successful treatment in our favor.  We are blessed with insurance to help with the enormous costs. We are blessed with outstanding physicians and hospitals and are receiving excellent treatment.  We are surrounded by loving family and friends to encourage us.  We are strengthened by an amazing church family that is so supportive.  Most of all, we are people of faith that live in confidence of our God’s active role and plan for our lives, including this cancer.  With all these supporting factors, we are confident of success and moving ahead as bravely as we can manage. Our struggle, compared to those faced by many others, is small.

However, this blog is not about our battle with cancer.  It’s about how to deal with the day when the worst thing you can imagine happens in your life.   All of us will face such a day.  How do you manage it when the prognosis is negative, the balance sheet is shockingly red, and the divorce papers show up in your mailbox?   How do you cope with middle of the night phone call that begins with the words, “I sorry to have to inform you?”

Here are some suggestions I give my coaching clients:

  • Start to prepare now for what you don’t know is coming.
  • Strengthen your bonds now with those who truly care for you.
  • Exercise your problem-solving muscles now with easier issues.
  • Do your best to get your finances ready now for any crisis that may come.
  • Develop your spiritual life now before the crisis appears.
  • MOST OF ALL DON’T PANIC

My family is doing well with our cancer journey.  It’s early on in the struggle.  We’ve had a couple of minor surgeries, and we are reviewing our options as our wonderful doctors lead through this journey.   We are believing for a complete recovery and learning to love each other more every day. But, whatever comes, we know our God will get us through.  May God bless you if you are facing a daunting challenge in your life.   I know you can find the strength to not just, “survive, but thrive,” if you’ll keep your attitude positive and your faith strong.

P.S.  I have been writing a daily devotion, for another cancer sufferer that will hopefully become a book. If you are interested in signing up to receive these devotions contact me on this website.

 

Stupid Human Tricks

Every so often, I attend youth events like summer camp.  One of the staples of these high energy gatherings is a game called “stupid human tricks,” that the camp director will use to warm up the crowd before a service. The idea is to offer a reward to anyone who is willing to demonstrate an unusual trait or behavior before the crowd. There is never a shortage of participants.  The “tricks” run the gamut from joints that can be bent backwards, to the ability to turn your tongue upside down in your mouth, or some such oddity.  My youngest daughter was a regular winner of these games, but I am sworn to secrecy not to tell her “giftedness.”

This silly game reminded me of the even sillier games that some people, who really should know better, play in their interactions with each other.   I call them “stupid human avoidance tricks.”

They include:

  • Jumping relational canyons to escape intimacy; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “Bob sees his wife even less than I do and she never complains.”
  • Pulling unrelated complaints out of a hat to distract from intimacy; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “I might come home more often if you didn’t park your car on my side of garage.”
  • Using verbal sleight of hand to hide uncomfortable truths; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “Oh, you always look so cute when you are so serious.”  This is said with a wink and nod.
  • Hiding painful truths in hidden pockets; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “I know, we’ll talk about that this weekend. Now let’s eat.”
  • Piling unimportant words so high that crucial words are never spoken; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, and saying, and saying, and saying… you get the point.

Which of these is your favorite?  Is one of these “tricks” limiting communication in one of your relationships?   One of the most frustrating relationships to be in is when someone you care about is emotionally distant.  If someone is distant, they are probably using one of the stupid human avoidance tricks.

All of these techniques serve the purpose of avoiding confrontation.  But, the problem with avoidance is that the problem is still there.  Avoidance is just relationship procrastination.

If you want anything to improve, you have to start with honesty.   No suffering relationship ever improved while people were utilizing avoidance tricks.  

Suppose your friend is “hiding painful truths in hidden pockets.”   Every time you bring up a troubling behavior of theirs, they tuck it away temporarily in a fake show of connection.  It doesn’t take long for the behavior to show back up and you know you haven’t really dealt with the issue.  How do you get past this trick?     

  1. Pick a time for the confrontation, where conversations will not be interrupted.
  2. Pick your words to demonstrate that your goal is improvement, not blame.
  3. Pick apart surface attempts to hide the offense by refusing to accept meaningless praise.
  4. Pick a powerful memory to share of a time when the relationship was thriving and growing.
  5. Pick a demand that will demonstrate real improvement from your partner on which you will not compromise.
  6. Pick a time to put the relationship on hold if the promised improvement does not come.

Much of our joy and most of our misery flows from our relationships.  Refuse to indulge in “stupid human tricks,” and don’t let those you value, get away with it either.

 

 

Raising Healthy Sons-in-Law

Raising Healthy Sons-in-Law, And Other Relationships Challenges

My son-in-law Charley, has been telling me that my wife and I need to write a book about how to create healthy in-law relationships.  He thinks we have done a good job in this area, at least, so far.  I think that’s because he really likes my wife, Barbara’s kindness, but I’ll take the compliment.   He went so far as to send me some starter ideas.  As I looked them over, I realized some of them were good for creating healthy friendships as well.   Let me share them with you.

  • How to be close without smothering
  • The money dilemma, giving gifts versus making loans
  • The different techniques for giving solicited and unsolicited advice
  • Establishing healthy boundaries
  • How to watch someone you care about make a mistake

My son in law is pretty smart, isn’t he?

Let’s take the first one.

How can you maintain a close relationship without smothering?

If you want to raise healthy sons-in-law, you must be concerned about how you can bless them, not how you can control them.  If you want to have healthy friendships, you must be as concerned with how much you contribute to your friend’s life, as you are with how many resources he brings to your life.

If you want to raise healthy sons-in-law and build strong friendships, then don’t work out your inner demons on them.  If you find yourself engaging in irrational responses toward minor annoyances, you’re probably fighting some wound from the past rather that actually dealing with the current problem.

When you are struggling in your relationships, take the time to examine your feelings about the relationship to see if they are healthy.

  • Are you focused on what makes you feel good or blessing the other person?
  • Are you allowing subconscious wounds from your past to color the relationship?
  • Are your emotions growing in maturity as you deepen the relationship?

I’ve been blessed with two fine sons-in-law.  They love my daughters and have provided my wife and I four, above average grandchildren that vastly enrich our lives.   I want to keep our relationships healthy, so I need to give them space to build their own families.  This is true even if they are making a decision that seems foolish to you.

I owe my father-in-law Gene Davis for teaching me this truth through efficient role modeling.  The first car I bought after Barbara and I were married was a banana yellow, Ford Fiesta.  Now, there is nothing wrong with that model of Ford, and for many people it would be a good choice, but not for me.  We lived in hot and humid Texas and this tiny little four-cylinder car didn’t  have air conditioning.  It had a manual transmission that Barbara did not know how to drive, and it was way too small for my 6’3’’ body.  I bought this car on monthly payments because I did not know how to tell a salesman no.   When I took this car to Gene’s house he displayed tremendous discipline and kindness. This knowledgeable mechanic, who knew cars like few other men, simply walked quietly round it several times listening to me explain its features.  Finally, with a slight grin, he said, “Well, that’s a car.”   Then he turned and walked into the house.  It was many years later that I realized how many words of ridicule he must have held back at my foolish purchase.   But, he was raising a healthy son-in-law, so he simply let me find out on my own about the hazardous of buying a car without careful thought.  We lost Gene to heaven nearly twenty years ago and I still miss that good and wise man.

If you want to build healthy friendships, then learn to cherish your friends, but allow them room to grow as human beings.  If you do have good sons-in-law or ever hope to have some, be slow to speak words of criticism and quick to support their decisions.  Even if they buy a banana yellow Ford Fiesta.

 

 

The Snowball Effect

I just finished serving on a jury for a criminal trial where the charge was the solicitation of a minor via the internet.  I won’t write anything about the details, but one of my “take-aways” from my two day immersion in the justice system is the sad snowball effect of parental selfishness.  I didn’t know the families involved, but it was easy to see from the testimonies given, that a young child had been made extremely vulnerable to the predators of this world by the emotional turmoil in her home.  As I listened to a confused teenage girl explain her dangerously unwise actions that had placed her in that courtroom, it was plain to see that she was desperately insecure and felt unloved.  My heart broke for her as she described her broken home, which included illegal drug use and promiscuity on the part of her parents.  Let me just take this moment to cry out for the children of our world whose voices are seldom heard.  Children need stability, they need security, and they need to know their parents cherish them just because they are their offspring.  Come on all you parents out there, let’s invest in our children.  Let’s deny ourselves in favor of the next generation.  Let’s put the hopes and dreams of our children above our passing hungers and dissatisfactions.

How can you make sure your children know they are deeply cherished?

  • One easy way is to write them a letter or card declaring your love.
  • Display discipline in your personal life by coming home every night, sober, and clear-headed.
  • Deepen their security by demonstrating faithful love for your wife or your husband.
  • Work wisely and with integrity to provide financial stability for your home.

You can help your children feel secure in this crazy world. Remember that secure children become well-adjusted adults.  There are too many teenagers who find themselves in the courtrooms of America.  Why not work hard to ensure your child won’t become one of them?  If you are going to have a snowball affecting your family let it be the accumulated success of one generation of dedicated parents after another positively impacting their children.