Category Archives: positive psychology

Faith & Mental Health Series Part 1

Be Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind

Topics of mental health, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, grief, PTSD, and suicide are everywhere in the news today. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the total age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased 35.2% from 1999 to 2018. According to the CDC, there were reports of increases in mental health struggles due to the circumstantial stress during the pandemic. We expected that it would have a causal effect on suicide as well… but it didn’t. According to the CDC, the suicide rate went down by 3% and has stayed down during the past several years.

What can account for that?

I believe there are several factors that certainly contributed to this.

  • First, people were at home more. While there was stress over the situation, there was a shared burden. Families were talking about their fears and hopes. The Bible talks a lot about family. Exodus 20:12 gives us a blessing of long life when we honor our father and mother.
  • Second, when we are with those that we love, there is strength. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” I think this pandemic qualifies as a time of adversity.
  • Third, this time together created an opportunity for family restoration. When people begin to talk, they begin to see the problems, recognize their part -seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness. This brings healing where before there was only hurting. Colossians 3:13 tells us, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
  • Fourth, I believe that with the opening of telehealth, some people who were unable to get mental health services were able to access them for the first time. In our busy lives, we are always on the run. Mental health often gets placed on the back burner when there are other issues. During the pandemic, there was time, but there wasn’t opportunity. Telehealth came in and filled that need. This reminds me of the words of Christ – Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. Matt. 7:7

People were asking and it was given. Some in the faith community say,

“If you have enough faith, you won’t need counseling… you won’t have mental health problems like depression… you won’t need medication… etc.”

The truth is the Bible speaks a lot about mental health. It never says that a person won’t need help. I love what Christian Comedian Chonda Pierce says,

                “I get through my days with Jesus, counseling, and my prescriptions.”

A lady responded to her,

                “If you had a little more faith and trusted Jesus more, you wouldn’t need those prescriptions.”

Chonda’s response was perfect,

“I will put down my prescriptions, that a Christian doctor prescribed for me when you drive home tonight without your glasses or stop taking your blood pressure medication and insulin.”

I believe that God works in us and through us in a variety of ways. We live in a broken world and people are hurting more than ever. God uses all means necessary to bring healing and restoration to our lives… including doctors.

Mental health challenges are real and God calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I believe we can do this with His Word, the Holy Spirit, faith, and the people that God has equipped to come alongside us to walk through these valleys – family, friends, counselors, pastors, and doctors.

Can a person who has messed up in life really change and matter?

Many of you do not know who this man is – George Mueller. But please read the following excerpt from my book – Your Life Matters. I hope it inspires you, as it did me.

George Mueller

In college, I studied about George Mueller. He became one of my heroes. If you haven’t heard of him, Mueller built great orphanages on simple faith. Eventually, these orphanages covered thirteen acres of land on Ashley Downs, Bristol, England. But, when God put it into the heart of George Muller to build these orphanages, George had only two shillings (fifty cents) in his pocket.

By the time of Mr. Muller’s death, there were five immense buildings of solid granite, capable of accommodating two thousand orphans. Without making his desires known to anyone but God, over one million, four hundred thousand pounds ended up being donated – over seven million U.S. dollars today. It arrived as it was needed, to build and maintain the orphanages.

Although George Mueller became famous as one of the greatest men of prayer known to history, he was not always a saint. He wandered into a deep mess before he came to Christ.

Mueller was born in Prussia, in 1805. His father was a tax collector. Not the best example for a young man, his father spent much of his time in the bars and brothels.

George routinely lied to his father about the money he spent, both how much he spent and where he threw it away. He also stole from his father when his father was drunk or out spending time with the women in the brothels.

Since his father was wrapped up in the bad stuff of the world, he didn’t provide much fatherly instruction. He gave them money, that they quickly burned through. At ten years of age, George was sent to a Christian school. His father wanted to make a Lutheran clergyman of him, not that he might serve God, but that he might have an easy and comfortable living wage from the State Church. (Lawson, 1911).

“My time,” said George, “was now spent in studying, reading novels, and indulging … in sinful practices. Thus, it continued until I was fourteen years old when my mother suddenly died. The night she was dying, I, not knowing of her illness, was playing cards until two in the morning, and on the next day, being the Lord’s Day, I went with some of my companions to a tavern, and then, being filled with strong beer, we went about the streets drunk.”

“I grew worse and worse,” said Mueller. “Three or four days before I was confirmed (and thus admitted to partake of the Lord’s supper), I was guilty of gross immorality; and the very day before my confirmation, when I was in the vestry with the clergyman to confess my sins (according to the usual practice), after a formal manner, I defrauded him; for I handed over to him only a twelfth part of the fee which my father had given me for him.”

Lying, stealing, gambling, skirt-chasing, wasteful spending, was just the tip of the iceberg. No one would have imagined that this wayward young soul would become known for his faith in God and his power in prayer.

When his father sent out young George to collect rent, George would lie about the amount he collected and pocket the difference. His reckless behavior brought him to the point of having no money to buy food, and he even stole bread from a soldier.

In 1821, George went to Magdeburg and spent six days there drinking and chasing women. From there, he went to Brunswick and rented an expensive hotel until his money ran out. Next he rented a room at a fine hotel in a neighboring village, intending to defraud the hotel. Caught before he could leave, he traded his finest clothes for rent money. He then walked six miles to another inn, where he was arrested for trying to defraud the landlord. (Lawson, 1911). This time he was jailed for his crime, at sixteen years old.

But then something that can only be described as a “come to Jesus” moment occurred in his life. While at school, one of his friends brought him to the house of a Christian family on a Saturday afternoon.

They ate dinner together and afterward began a Bible study that was far deeper than any he had been involved in before. His heart was moved in a way he had never experienced. Before George could ask a question of the man leading the study, the man quietly slipped to his knees to pray, and his family joined him in prayer.

George had never experienced this, even in all the Christian Studies and seminary/clergyman schooling he had attended. George, unsure what to do, joined them on his knees, too.

In that moment of solemn prayer, George surrendered his life to Christ. He began to cry for the errors of his ways and wanted to do nothing but make amends and share the love of Christ with everyone he came in contact with. It was a moment of real transformation.

He went on to preach around the countryside, and then moved to London and preached there. In 1834, Mr. Mueller started the Scripture Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad to aid Christian day-schools, assist missionaries, and circulate the Scriptures.

Shortly after this, he began the orphanages that impacted so many children. “These institutions of both learning and housing, without government support, without asking anyone for help, without contracting debts; without committees, subscribers, or memberships; but through faith in the Lord alone and intense prayer, had raised and disbursed no less a sum than £1,500,000 ($7,500,000) at the time of Mr. Muller’s death.” (Lawson, 1911). The bulk of this was spent on the orphanage.

“By the time Mueller died, 122,000 persons had been taught in the schools supported by these funds; and about 282,000 Bibles and 1,500,000 Testaments had been distributed through the same fund. Also, 112,000,000 religious books, pamphlets, and tracts had been circulated; missionaries had been aided in all parts of the world, and no less than ten thousand orphans had been cared for using this same fund.” (Lawson, 1911).

At the age of seventy, Mr. Mueller made great evangelistic tours, traveling 200,000 miles around the world. He preached in many lands and several different languages, frequently speaking to as many as 4,500 or 5,000 persons.

He preached three to four times throughout the United States. He continued his evangelistic tours until he was ninety years of age. During these seventeen years of evangelistic work, he estimated he had addressed three million people. All his expenses had been paid by those who sent in funds, in answer to his prayers of faith.

It would be an understatement to say that George Mueller’s life mattered, but I am struck by the times when there was neither food nor money to buy food. As mealtimes in the orphanages drew near, they gathered around the tables in the dining hall and George prayed. All the staff and children would file in and they would join him silently praying.

They were always interrupted by a knock on the door. Someone would deliver food saying, “I felt moved by the Lord to bring this to your institution. I hope it helps.”

No one had said a word publicly, other than their prayers to God. No one had cried in the streets for help or set up a fundraising drive. They prayed.

This wasn’t an isolated occurrence. If that were the case, many would think it to be a coincidence. But their prayers were answered every time there was a need or a shortage.

Every time.

No one ever went without a meal in these orphanages, ever.

I wonder about the impact that this type of devoted prayer must have had on the people at the orphanages who witnessed it, from the staff to the residents. How did this shape their lives of faith?

I imagine it had a tremendous impact on them. Simply learning about the story has had a profound impact on me.

So, you see, your past does not define your future. You can begin again today and live in such a way that the change inspires others and leads them out of their darkness. “If I did it, so can you,” will be your byline. Then you reach down and lift them up and walk with them a while.

I want you to know that YOUR LIFE MATTERS!

God Bless You!

Dr Cliff

Annie & Helen… Your Life Matters

Simple acts of kindness can change someone’s entire world. Too often today, we think we do not matter. We believe the lie that, we are too broken, poor or “beyond redemption” to matter. Your life matters more that you can even begin to imagine.

I wanted to share the following excerpt from the book – Your Life Matters. It shows power of one person and a simple act of kindness and how it changed the world.

I learned a lot from Granny’s tales. She told me a story she heard while she was in nurse training. It was about a nurse and a little girl.

The little girl, Annie, had been diagnosed as hopelessly insane. They locked her up in the dungeon of a mental institution on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts. People said that this young girl was so far gone that there were times when she acted like a wild animal. She would attack anyone who dared to come close to her. They labeled her Crazy Annie.

Other times, Annie would be completely catatonic and wouldn’t recognize anything. She sat, staring at the walls for days on end. No one knew of a treatment plan or had any hope that Crazy Annie would ever get better. They had locked her up and thrown away the key.

But an elderly nurse, a woman of faith, believed God could do what modern medicine could not. She believed and had hope for all of God’s children and Little Annie was one of them.

So, she started with taking the long trek down to the dungeon every day to eat her lunch outside of Little Annie’s cage. The nurse had a deep desire to communicate her love for Annie as well as God’s love for the girl, but she didn’t know how to reach her. She only knew she had to go.

Each day, she ate her lunch beside Annie’s cage and talked to Annie with no response. Some days she sang for her, but Annie didn’t respond to that either. One day, the nurse left her dessert, a chocolate brownie, beside Annie’s cage.

Annie didn’t acknowledge the brownie beside her while the nurse remained, but when the nurse came back the next day, the brownie was gone. Every Thursday, the nurse would bring her dessert and leave it for Annie. When she returned the next day, it would be gone.

Something began to change through these simple acts of love and kindness that no one could explain. After several weeks passed, doctors noticed small improvements in Annie. Then, after a few months, the improvements were so profound, they transferred her out of the cage and moved her upstairs into a lower level of security. Eventually, the staff allowed her to be among the general population.

Finally, one day the doctors told the formerly hopelessly insane Little Annie she was well and could go home. However, she didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay and help others who were diagnosed as she had been.

You may recognize her name. Annie Sullivan. The same woman who later helped Helen Keller walk out of her darkness and into the light of a future. Helen and Annie inspired generations of people.

#YourLifeMatters

Dr Cliff

Dream Heroic Dreams

A young boy dreams of becoming a superhero.

I believe that we are not here on this planet, in this moment, by accident. I believe that there is a purpose – a masterpiece level purpose to our existence. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Ephesians 2:10

“For you are God’s Masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus for the good work, He ordained for you from the beginning.”

I am not sure what you believe in but I want you to know, is that you are a masterpiece with a mission. I love the story of the artist that looks at a blank canvas and sees this amazing work of art before the first stroke of a paint brush touches it. Or the sculptor that sees a David in the marble and then sets out to remove everything from the marble that hinders the rest of the world from seeing what he or she sees.

The same is true in our lives. I believe that if we want something more, we need to begin to see it in our lives. As a child we would dream of being an astronaut and going to the moon or to Mars. Maybe your dream was being a policeman or fireman or soldier. All of these dreams have one thing in common – they have no limits to them and they are heroic. They will require all that we have to make them happen and as they are happening, they change the world – make a difference to so many and our world is better place because of it.

So, when was the last time you dreamed? I don’t mean while you slept – I mean dreamed about a future you can get excited about. Many of us, if we are honest, have to say that we have stopped dreaming.

What happened to our dreams? Did someone or something come in the night and steal them? I believe the answer to that question is – YES. The world can be a giant dream stealer/killer. The world teaches us fear and to settle for less. The world wants to put limits on our thoughts and capacities. Or it can set such unattainable standards that it becomes depressing to consider. So we just stop… and endure the misery of a dreamless life.

You may be saying , “Yeah, that may be fine for some but you don’t know me or my circumstances. I can’t do that because…____” I know everyone is going through something. I know that everyone has struggles. Some of those struggles are beyond my capacity to imagine. And yet, everyday we hear about someone who overcomes the impossible to do the incredible.

Look at Joni Erickson Tada. She was involved in a diving accident that left her a quadriplegic. She struggled with life at every level but then something happened – she decided to live and not give up. She wrote her story with a stick in her mouth to touch the keys on a keyboard. She began to paint – the same way. She began reaching out and speaking to those who were going through the valley of deep and dark depression, where she had been. She began speaking at conferences and offered hope and encouragement to more people than can be counted. She has recorded music, made a movie and has written more books. She married to a wonderful man. She overcame the impossible to live a heroic life – experiencing success and a life that most would envy, all while being unable to walk, hold someone’s hand or much of what most of us consider normal and take for granted.

Then we have a guy born with no legs and no arms, Nick Vujicic, and he changes the world. We have blind woman, Helen Keller, who inspired a whole generation. There have been those with severe mental illnesses recover (Ann Sullivan plus many others) and make such an impact, that the world was not the same. The names are too many to mention in this short story.

What I want you to gather from this is that we can make a difference in this world but we have to begin with a dream – a heroic dream. Maybe, this dream is even a bit scary. It is likely beyond our current financial or physical abilities. We might have to learn some new skills to get this done or we might have to go back to school. That’s ok… just do it. I was listening to an interview with Kobe Bryant about coming back from injuries, of which he had many over his 20+ year career in the NBA. Each time, he would look at the path before him and break it all down into the smallest component and daily, even hourly steps to get to where he could perform at the highest level – again. He had been to the mountaintop. He knew what it was like and he wanted to get back and was willing to do whatever it took to get there. So each time – he set the dream in front of him – performing at the highest level and leading his team to another NBA title, a heroic dream indeed. Then he would map it out – the physical work he would need to do in order to recover and rise again.

Why can’t we do the very same in our own world? Why can’t we decide to breathe that rare air of a dream, then map it out in a day by day process and plan and then set out to make it happen? Why not?

Is it going to be hard – yes. Is it going to take sacrifice – yes. Is it going to take a personal investment of time – absolutely yes. It may take money you do not have – find it, save it, sacrifice in other areas to make it available. Maybe you get financial assistance because it requires education – those resources are available. If it’s a business, maybe you have to borrow money or get an investor – you do what it takes. Maybe it requires talent beyond your gifts and skill set- partner with others.

You can do this! You might have to give up some things to do this. It will mean setting down your devices or turning off the tv. It will mean reading some books on the topic. But the key is to create a road map – a plan that focuses on the daily tasks that move you toward your dream – your heroic dream – your world changing dream.

So let’s walk through this a little…

Step One – get quiet somewhere. One of my favorite places is my front porch. I put earphones on and play something relaxing from the CALM application on my phone. When it is early and there is no traffic, sometimes I just let the birds be my music. I get out my journal, which is a daily planner/meditation journal that I have created. I begin my writing with either something I am grateful for, a prayer to God or whatever is on my mind – I just write it down. When I just begin, it is amazing how the words and ideas begin to flow.

But what I want you to do, in this planning and dreaming phase is to be very intentional –

Step Two – Dream! Write that word down – Dream. Then add Heroic in front of it. What is your heroic dream for your future? I would just write whatever words or phrases come to mind – keeping it focused but not limiting it to what you think might be possible. Dream big… then dream bigger… Find that one big dream that is so big it scares you. Circle that dream on your page and then begin to write what it would mean to the world if that dream became a reality. What would it mean to you if it were to happen? Use emotion in this writing. Write about how this would impact someone you know personally – maybe it’s you. Then I want you to begin to think about the various steps to get there. There is a term called – reverse engineering. It is where you take a project or a product and you work backwards from the finished product to figure out how to make it, breaking it down to its most basic level. Do the same with this dream.

You maybe saying, “I don’t know where to begin beyond the dream.” My recommendation is to find someone who has done or at least something close to what you are dreaming about doing and read their book or articles about them. Study the process of doing this. Maybe it is creating a product and getting it to market – there are hundreds, if not thousands of books and stories about that. Maybe it is relieving a world problem, like hunger or clean water – read about it and see what others have done. Maybe it is becoming a writer and getting a book published or even becoming a best-selling author. People have written about this. Get their book – whoever it is and see how they did. I am not saying you have to repeat their exact process but success leaves clues and trailblazers leave a trail. Then break it down even further – what do I need to be doing everyday in order to make this happen? Make a daily plan that is manageable – most likely you are going to have to work to make a living so, make sure it is not hurting you. But just keep adding to it – each day. Robin Sharma calls it “micro-wins” and “day stacking”. Making small but incremental progress each day is what will make this dream a reality. After all – how do you eat the elephant? One bite at a time.

I will write more about planning out your dream and your day in future writing but today… just for today, I want you to DREAM HEROIC DREAMS. I had a moment this morning in my own writing where I caught this fire in my soul – a heroic dream. I want to write to 2 million people – in other words, I want the words of this book I have written, and this blog posts will be part of that writing, to be read by 2 million or more people. But I don’t want them to just be read, I want them to be deeply impactful – life changing words that they read – I want the words that they read to make a profound difference in their lives. So I am committing at least 90 minutes a day to writing, I have already begun my next book and this blog will be part of it. But then I am not done. I have close to 100 other titles that I have plans to write about as well. I have a dream that is bigger than me. Will you join me in my heroic dream by creating your own heroic dream and sharing it with the world?

Dream… what is your heroic dream? Going to the moon or beyond? Changing the world? Making the world a better place? You can do it, but you have to begin and then believe that the impossible is no longer impossible for you. I realize that this is a huge leap of faith. But can you believe – just for today, that the impossible is possible, if you work at it each day? I think you will be amazed at what happens each day as you begin to make steps toward your dream – the impossible becomes your new reality. And what an amazing world that could look like, be like… I believe that the world needs your dream. I believe that the world will be a better place because you not only dreamed the impossible but set out to make it happen. But my question is –

Do you believe?

Will you dare to believe that the impossible could happen with enough hard work and determination?

I want you to take a moment and dream… will you at least do that today?

Always remember – Your Life Matters – Today!

God Bless You! Make it a great day!

Dr Cliff

Love Yourself!

Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, as ourselves. Great! But how do we do that, when we do not first love ourselves? And for that matter… how do we love ourselves? Is it about a pampered day at a spa?

No – unless of course you plan to love those around you that way, and you believe that is what Jesus had in mind.

I believe we love ourselves by taking care of our minds, bodies and souls. Beginning with the soul – we give our hearts, our faith, to Jesus. We feed that soul with His word. We feed our soul with good music that moves us to a closer relationship with Him. We are involved in church – His body. We talk with Him – daily. We cherish the gifts from God – our spouse, children… all of it.

Loving our bodies is easy to define, but hard to do. We eat better and exercise – this is love. We go to the doctor for check ups – this is love. There is more here but that’s the basics.

Loving our minds can be a bit tricky. The main ways we love our minds is through positive mental health and controlling the things we allow into our heads. Mental health includes the depression and anxiety we deal with. The grief that we often ignore due to busyness. The need to speak to a professional because it is overwhelming. Unpacking the past – the tragedies and neglect, the hurts and the hang ups. All of it. The truth is that unless we deal with it, one day it will deal with us. And how can we love someone else, who is going through the valley of the shadow of death, when we refuse to deal with our own?

Finally, we love our minds by controlling the inputs. The world has a message for you that may not be healthy for your mind to hear. They could be selling you things that are a lie. Social media can be good and can be bad. Too much of it has been shown to be bad for our mental health. They portray images of perfect families, on perfect vacations and leave out the pain and challenges – they leave out “the rest of the story.” I recommend taking a social media fast. Make it a week, minimum. See how you feel about it at the end of the week.

When we do these things- and for the record, this is not a comprehensive list – we will be loving ourselves. Now- go love your neighbor as you have loved yourself.

#yourlifematters

God bless you!

Dr Cliff

Excerpt of Chapter 2 The Invisible Pain – Depression and Mental Health

Here is the 3rd Installment from the book – Your Life Matters!

The Invisible Pain of Depression/Mental Health

Depression and mental health issues are rampant in our world today. I see it in my work as a counselor and in my capacity as founder of a veteran’s homeless shelter. I live it every day.

As a pastor, I used to run a small group that focused on mental health, and it was the most widely group in the church. Statistics from the psychiatry.org website show that depression is an epidemic. About 17% of people walking around at any given time are suffering from depression

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) statistics showing that up to 25% of the world population suffers from a recognized anxiety disorder and yet, only about one-third of those are seeking any sort of treatment

When we are depressed, we feel like doing nothing. Or worse, we may feel like taking our own lives. We may feel like our lives are over or it will never get any better. We feel like our lives do not matter, but that is a lie.

There have been points in my life when I have struggled with depression. Sometimes it seemed so dark, I didn’t know the way out. One day, in particular, a friend checked on me and I told her I was struggling.

She told me “Get out of the house. It’s too beautiful a day to stay inside.”

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I went outside while we talked.

“Cliff, now drive to Wal Mart. When you get there buy a fall plant, in a planter and give it to someone–anyone you see that might benefit from a little brightness in their day.”

“Are you serious? You want me to go and buy a plant or flowers for someone I don’t know and give it to them? They are going to think I’m crazy. They’ll think I’m a stalker and just weird.”

“Go and do it,” she insisted.

Reluctantly, I got in my car and deliberately drove past the Wal Mart near my home to a grocery store across town, hoping to avoid seeing anyone I knew. They’d certainly think I had lost my mind.

I took a deep breath and plodded inside. A beautiful display of fall plants greeted me near the entrance. At $10 each, I could do this. I looked over the plants and grabbed the first one I saw that looked decent and headed for the checkout.

After I paid for the plant and headed out the exit door, I stood to the right and watched the people coming and going. How strange that no one looked at anyone else. Even stranger that I stood there with an eye for giving something away to a perfect stranger.

Where do I begin? How do I choose? Some people were dressed up and others dressed down. Then I spotted an elderly lady coming out of the store. She took short deliberate steps with her cart of groceries, focused on the asphalt in front of her. She pushed as if she were using all her strength to push a sled uphill.

I walked to her, smiled. “Hi, my name is Cliff, and I would like to give you this plant for your home and maybe if you would let me, help you to your car with these groceries.”

She looked at me with a hint of a smile along with questions on her face. When she saw the plant in my hand, she lit up like a Christmas tree. “That’s the nicest thing anyone ever offered to do for me.”

I unloaded the groceries into her car and placed the plant in the seat next to her.

She gave me the biggest hug I had received in a long time and told me, “You absolutely made my day. Thank you so much.”

For the first time in a while, a smile crept over my face. I told her, “You made a difference in my life too.”

She tilted her head a little sideways with a question in her eyes, and then waved it off and thanked me again.

I’m not sure why I didn’t tell her why I came and bought a gift for a stranger. Somehow it seemed like it might dim the beauty of the moment. It was enough for me to know that I had made a difference in someone’s life. At that moment, that mattered more to me than I have words to express.

The depression that weighed me down, evaporated. That was a miracle to me. In fact, it felt so good, that I went back into the store and did it again and it was just as awesome the second time. I still do that from time to time.

By the way, I ended up marrying that friend who recommended it, but we’ll get back to that later.

I have learned that when you do something for someone else who cannot repay you, it’s as much a gift to you as it is to them.

This is all tied to a psychological theory called “Positive Psychology.” We discuss this at length in the tool kit section of this book. Feel free to skip ahead and read it. It’s important stuff.

Do you like what you read so far?

Let me know what you think.

Dr. Cliff

What Can One Person Do? Book Excerpt #2

Here is part of the first chapter of Your Life Matters. Let me know what you think.

What Can One Person Really Do?

My granny raised my sister and me after our parents divorced. Looking back, I am truly amazed at what she did for us.

Granny took us everywhere, never complaining or griping about it. She simply told us to get in the car with all of our stuff and “let’s go.” I played little league Red Devil football. We practiced three times a week and then played a game once a week in Houston, an hour away.

One time, my game started early in the evening. Granny dropped me off and she and my sister went to get something to eat. On their way back, she turned into the parking lot but missed the entrance and drove into a ditch. A deep ditch. Too deep to drive out of. They had to call a wrecker to pull it out.

They didn’t discuss the mishap in front of me. If my sister hadn’t told me about it, I would have never heard about it.

Granny told me, “Well, Bubba, these things happen. We weren’t hurt. The car wasn’t damaged. No big deal.” She let these things roll off her back like water off the back of a duck.

~

I learned a lot from Granny’s tales. She told me a story she heard while she was in nurse training. It was about a nurse and a little girl.

The little girl, Annie, had been diagnosed as hopelessly insane. They locked her up in the dungeon of a mental institution on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts. People said that this young girl was so far gone that there were times when she acted like a wild animal. She would attack anyone who dared to come close to her. They labeled her Crazy Annie.

Other times, Annie would be completely catatonic and wouldn’t recognize anything. She sat, staring at the walls for days on end. No one knew of a treatment plan or had any hope that Crazy Annie would ever get better. They had locked her up and thrown away the key.

But an elderly nurse, a woman of faith, believed God could do what modern medicine could not. She believed and had hope for all of God’s children and Little Annie was one of them.

So, she started with taking the long trek down to the dungeon every day to eat her lunch outside of Little Annie’s cage. The nurse had a deep desire to communicate her love for Annie as well as God’s love for the girl, but she didn’t know how to reach her. She only knew she had to go.

Each day, she ate her lunch beside Annie’s cage and talked to Annie with no response. Some days she sang for her, but Annie didn’t respond to that either. One day, the nurse left her dessert, a chocolate brownie, beside Annie’s cage.

Annie didn’t acknowledge the brownie beside her while the nurse remained, but when the nurse came back the next day, the brownie was gone. Every Thursday, the nurse would bring her dessert and leave it for Annie. When she returned the next day, it would be gone.

Something began to change through these simple acts of love and kindness that no one could explain. After several weeks passed, doctors noticed small improvements in Annie. Then, after a few months, the improvements were so profound, they transferred her out of the cage and moved her upstairs into a lower level of security. Eventually, the staff allowed her to be among the general population.

Finally, one day the doctors told the formerly hopelessly insane Little Annie she was well and could go home. However, she didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay and help others who were diagnosed as she had been.

You may recognize her name. Annie Sullivan. The same woman who later helped Helen Keller walk out of her darkness and into the light of a future. Helen and Annie inspired generations of people.

One elderly nurse, headed toward the end of her career, made a difference by sharing a few words, a little music, and some dessert. The hopelessly insane little girl who experienced love from that nurse, went on to impact a blind and deaf girl who changed the world.

When my Granny told me about the nurse and girl, I didn’t fully understand it. I thought it was a great story, but when she told me the rest of the story, I never forgot it.

Granny said, “This one nurse’s care and compassion had effectively changed the world. Think about it, Bubba. How many people did Ann Sullivan and Helen Keller impact during their lifetimes, and even today?”

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So how would you answer Granny? Can you see yourself in this one? Where have you reached out and helped – just because you could?

Let me know what you think and if you would like to see more.

Dr. Cliff

The 800lb Gorilla – aka Depression

Ever experience the 800lb Gorilla? You know… when it feels like it is sitting on your chest and it won’t move. So you stay in bed until there is just know way you can stay another moment.

Or he could be on your shoulders, making you feel like the weight of the world is coming down on you and you can truly relate to Ayn Rands book title – Atlas Shrugged. But you feel like you are about to collapse… and maybe you finally do.

Sometimes depression is circumstance driven – in other words, there is something going on that makes you feel depressed. This could be from:

Loss – losing a loved one, loss of job, a relationship ending, losing a beloved animal, missed opportunity… and many more.

Feeling of Inadequacy- someone said something unkind, a decision you made turned out bad and you feel like a failure, someone said no to your dream, you didn’t get the job, you are being treated poorly, bullied, …. and many more!

That 800lb Gorilla can also be a chemical imbalance that leads to neurotransmitters not firing the way they should. If you cannot point to something that is causing you to feel depressed, then this is probably it and you need to see your medical professional right away.

Truth be told, regardless of the situation, if you are feeling depressed, seeing a qualified counselor should be the minimum that you do. If you need a recommendation, go to counseling.org and the ACA will refer you to some options in your area. I would also seek out a pastor you trust.

Now that we have established a baseline minimum, there are a few things you should know-

1. You have a 100% perfect record of coming through tough times to date. You can make it.

2. God is not punishing you. Bad things happen to good people all the time. Look to Him and He will see you through. In fact His Word tells us to expect tough times and for life to be so challenging at times, it brings us to our knees – but God is there for you, even in the darkest of days.

So… what can you do, right now, to get past this place you find yourself in? First thing I want you to know is that #yourlifematters. Some of my other posts will help you with that topic.

Next thing I want you to do is called – breaking up the narrative. What I mean by that is when you find yourself in a place of depression, oftentimes we can start to spiral down because of how we talk to ourselves and think about it. What I want you to do is physically leave wherever you are and engage in something different, positive and challenging. Maybe it is a work project. Maybe it is walking down the street/going to the gym, reading a funny and inspiring book or talking to a good friend/family member who always has a positive outlook and knows how to make lemonade out of lemons. Break up the narrative.

Then, I want you to go do something positive and meaningful (albeit small/not expensive) for someone who cannot pay you back or maybe doesn’t even know that you did it… but make sure you get to see the joy on their face. And then I would repeat this 2-3 times a week for the next month. Then I would go to once a week but never less. This has been shown to have an immediate impact on your sense of well-being, aka – happiness – equivalent to getting a 50k bump in salary. If you don’t believe me, google “positive psychology “.

Next I want you to either get a journal, notepad or heck, even a scrap of paper will work. Then I want you to write down one thing that you are grateful for – today. Maybe it’s the air you breathe. Maybe it’s something more – keep it simple. Then tomorrow, write down two things that you are grateful for. And the next day, 3. Then follow up the 4th day with 4, until you get to the fifth day and max out at 5. Now don’t make this complicated – you can use some of the same things day after day.

There are more things you can do but these are a good start. I want you to know that you too can defeat the 800lb Gorilla! I have defeated him on a number of occasions doing exactly the things that I am recommending to you.

Stay tuned for more information on this topic. And never forget- #yourlifematters !

God Bless,

Dr Cliff

Why Today Matters So Much!

There are lots of cliches like – live like there is no tomorrow. I recently wrote about it and I believe that we have to live well in the day we have. But it struck me this morning that we need to create a disciplined approach to the day, where we live with great intention and focused determination.

I want you to really think about the things that are important – your mind, body, spirit and emotions – should be at the top of the list. You might think, shouldn’t I be thinking of others, instead of myself? While that is noble, it is not helpful in the long run. If we are to be at our best, and doing all that we are called to do – including thinking of others, we need to take care of ourselves. If we do not, then soon there will be no more of us to help those we care about.

Taking care of ourselves has to be a daily discipline. From our diet to some form of exercise, to meditation and reading – not to mention some daily planning, including how we are going to help someone else today – all need to be a part of our day. And it all starts with a great morning routine.

Robin Sharma, who I have the greatest respect for, wrote a book called, The 5AM club. The book talks about getting an early start on your day – 5am and owning your morning. He talked about having the top 3 – 20/20/20. 20 minutes of exercise where you sweat, 20 minutes of meditation (preferably guided) and 20 minutes of reading for self-improvement/mastery. I can tell you, firsthand, that this works, when you work it. I started this program and it was awesome but then …. I allowed myself to get off track and I stopped. I started again and while it was good, it wasn’t as early and I wasn’t as productive as I was.

So beginning today – I am going to get back into the 5am club but I am going to alter it a bit. I am going to workout an hour – between walking/running and weights, we are going to do this. Then I will shower and do my meditation/journaling/devotional time of 30 minutes. I will then follow up with at least 20 minutes of reading or listening to something for self-improvement. This will be the investment I make in myself for 6 days a week – with one day of full rest.

I believe that this will be a great personal investment in me, so that I can be my best for the work that I am called to do.

I am going beyond the 20/20/20 because I know that I need more of certain things to be my best. I began with 20/20/20 and grew from there. I would recommend you do the same. Maybe 20×3 is exactly what you need and if so, go for it. If you get started and need more – then adapt it to meet your needs.

One advantage to getting up and moving early, is that I am in a perfect state to get some really good and creative work done, before the phone begins to ring or the email starts to explode. Between 7am and 9am, I can get a good two hours of writing and recording in, the rest of the day will be a huge success – own your morning – win the day.

Now don’t get me wrong, my day and workload is different from yours. You may have more time or less time – everyone is unique in the demands that life and family puts on them. But, I want to make it clear, today matters and by getting up earlier and creating a routine for yourself that builds you up physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, your life will be better. You will feel more confident. You will be able to get more accomplished and each day will feel like a win. Maybe all you can do is walk around the block, read a devotional and listen to a book on Audible while you get ready for your day – I call that a win.

Here is the main idea -Today matters because it is what we have been given. So invest in yourself in meaningful ways by getting up and taking care of yourself before you launch into taking care of everyone else. If we are going to be at our best, to make this day matter – most, then investing in ourselves is our first priority of the day.

#YOURLIFEMATTERS

Dr. Cliff

Why Today Matters

We have all heard the saying – live like today is your last day on earth. While that is easy to say, it is not a realistic thing to ascribe to. The reason is simple – we have obligations, commitments, relationships and jobs. What happens if we decide to live the abandon that the mantra suggests? We may not be able to eat tomorrow – We may not have a job, a house, or many of the other necessary things.

Living like there is no tomorrow is reckless and not something people can reasonably do. But… what if we tapped into some of that “recklessness and abandon” without falling off the deep end and losing or giving away everything?

Let me explain – Yesterday is over and cannot be undone. Tomorrow is a hope but not promised. Today is our reality and we have to claim it for all it’s worth. But how do we reconcile the potential for tomorrow, with the absolute certainty of today and the need to live in the moment?

One of the great quotes on this say, “Only put off till tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” Pablo Picasso. I love that quote and it really crystalizes the necessity and importance of today – why today matters.

So let me ask you a question – what are you not willing to leave undone, today, in light of the potential that tomorrow may not come? For me that is simple and here is my list –

  1. Love my wife! I want her to know that without doubt – she is the most loved woman on the planet and that her future is as secure as I can make it. Done
  2. The bills are paid. The last thing that I want her to worry about is whether the bills are paid – and they are. Done
  3. Writing – I feel like I needed to write today – specifically about this topic. I will not leave this undone today. Doing it now!
  4. Take care of my health – exercise. Done
  5. I want each family member to know that they are loved by me. Done!

There are other things that I need to get done today but if they do not happen today, I would not worry about it being left undone but the above things, really matter today – because today matters.

With the rest of the day before me – what else can I do to make the most of the day? It’s going to be a great day.

Now it is your turn – have you made the “cannot remain undone” list yet? If so, great. If not, then stop and do it now.

As I look back over what I have written today, I will tell you that this has challenged me. While I was writing the “cannot remain undone” list, I had to stop and do some of those very things. When I am done writing this post, I will go to work on what’s next.

What’s next for you?

May God richly bless you in all that you do. And always remember – #YOURLIFEMATTERS

Dr. Cliff