Friday, August 12, 2011

Emotional Challenges in Trying Times

We are in trying times.  Emotional challenges in trying times can look very different than when in non-trying times.  When stressed, one tends to have more awareness of the world around them and less awareness of their own inability to handle that world.  So the best time to develop a strategy for handling emotional challenges is when the atmosphere is calm and peaceful.  It is not the best strategy to attempt long term solutions when the air is peaked with testy testosterone or feisty estrogen.  Sometimes, trying times and emotional challenges can lead us to challenge the tenets of our faith.

Faith challenges often take us to the core of our beliefs.  These challenges can affect our emotional health and vice versa.  What you believe affects how you behave.  A popular psychologist, Albert Ellis, developed Rational Emotive Belief Therapy (REBT) in the mid-1950's.  His basic premise was that it is your belief about life and things that causes you to have internal discord.  Without going too deeply into a discourse about REBT, which is not the purpose of this discussion, it is important to note that Ellis (1959) determined that individuals have the capacity to change their outcomes by changing their beliefs about a situation.  A theologian, Dr. Paul Carlin (1997) coined his intervention, Belief Therapy and the Therapon Institute to treat disorders related to what people believe.  Dr. Carlin believes that "people do what they do because they believe what they believe."  He admits that his Belief Therapy is based on Ellis' REBT concepts yet integrates the value of scripture.  

So why a discourse on beliefs?  Beliefs impact and directly influence our emotional selves.  What we believe about ourselves directly impacts how we feel about ourselves.  If we believe that we will get through a difficult situation because we are strong, capable individuals, then we will get through it.  Yet, if we believe that we are incapable of handling anything, we will have anxiety about getting through a difficult time.  Inherently, our internal self-talk motivates our outward behaviors.  Who we are on the inside dictates our outward appearance.  Have you heard it said, "you are what you eat?"  In other words, adolescents who eat high fat diets can have a higher incidence of acne.  If you eat too much food in general, you will gain weight beyond your ability to carry that weight.  It is the same way with what you believe.  If you believe that you are ugly, you act in ugly ways either in attitudes, or in the way that you dress.  So how does one change what they believe?  It is important to look at truth.  For Christians, our source of truth, is the Scriptures.  We find out who we are by looking at God's Word.  We know who we are by reading the words written to us by a loving, Heavenly Father.  Words that state that we are "fearly and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139.14) and that nothing can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).  If I believe that I am wonderfully made, then I can believe that I am special.  If I can believe that nothing can separate me from the love of God, then I can be securely attached to God knowing that nothing I do can separate me from His love.  These are truths that can be anchors when in emotional turmoil.  Beliefs are not only about spiritual things.  Beliefs are about everything that we hold to be true.  They are about the world that we know.  Individuals often get shaky when their political beliefs are challenged.  Some individuals cannot handle having their beliefs under a microscope.  Their belief system is so entrenched that for anyone to begin to look at what they believe is interpreted as an attack against their person hood.  Yet, for growth to take place, one MUST look at their belief structure.  It is important to understand whether or not you can allow others to have their beliefs without challenging your own beliefs and vice versa.  Accepting another individuals beliefs does not mean that you have to embrace them, it just means that you've come to understand them.  There is wisdom in understanding.  Much of the conflict in today's world is based in the inability to understand one another.  

So how do we get to a place of peace and calm in the midst of such a tumultuous time?  The first act that we can make is to acknowledge that faith in an unseen God is a choice.  Secondly, personal beliefs are just that, personal beliefs.  The restructuring of belief is something that is done not through brow beating, bullying, forcefully demanding one's own way, or by ramming of ideology down one's throat, it is accomplished through loving discourse, acceptance and acknowledgement that the other person sitting in front of you is of value and worth.  If they want to change their beliefs, they will let you know.  If they don't, they will also let you know.  Respect acknowledges the difference.  Personal peace and calm comes from knowing the truth... for a Christian, that means reading God's Word, memorizing what it says about you, and applying it to your life.  There is truth in many walks of life... we can learn from one another if we are willing.

With that...  I lovingly take my leave....

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The End of a Decade - 2009, The Pruning Process

It amazes me how fast time seems to fly past me. It also seems to be only yesterday that we moved from Nashville to Denver, yet it has been over a year. This year was not as easy as I wish it could have been. Dad fell ill in late May and after four weeks in ICU and multiple infections, went home to be with the Lord Jesus. A short 12 days later, his brother-in-law, my uncle, also passed from this life to the next. Shortly after that death, my dad's other brother-in-law passed away. Only 11 weeks total from the time Dad breathed his last. So my cousins and I have all endured significant life change, learning to live life without our fathers.

My dad considered so many different aspects of life, but in the last six years continued to decline. He was a generous man, yet conservative in almost all of life. After all, my mother and he were married just short of 57 years.

Before coming to Denver, we had to leave our apartment as well as our house in 2008. These changes were not easy for my children to walk through. I am still struggling with some of the ramifications of why we lost our houses, yet I know that each life challenge brings growth rings to our existence.

Have you ever looked at a tree when you cut it down? Each year, a ring grows around the trunk of the tree. Smaller rings represent lean years, and thick rings represent lush years. Now, I am one who doesn't really aspire to be a tree trunk, but the lesson of the tree I do understand, mainly that there are seasons in one's prosperity. There are years where there is a lot of pruning of overgrowth, or pruning of dead wood. Skilled pruners only prune during the late fall or early spring before the growing season begins. I believe these observations can be applied to the dead areas of our life that are not producing fruit. Every time a tree is pruned correctly, it produces a greater harvest not necessarily the very next year, but the year following. It obviously takes time to recover from the seasons of severe pruning.

Many Christians seem to think that every day of every part of their life should be a happy one, especially because we know that Christ lives within us. Yet, I truly believe that Christ wants to perfect in us true character that is free from dead wood. I think that it is important to welcome the pruning years. Without them, we would be living trees that are vulnerable to limb breakage, overcrowding, and non-productivity. This doesn't mean that the Gardener (Christ) abandons us in the midst of our pruning; rather, He watches carefully to make sure that the cuts are clean, appropriately placed and sealed so disease cannot permeate our being. In this way, the Lord Jesus skillfully and gently brings us forward in our unique placement in and amongst a very human society. There are attitudes, belief systems, and actions that all affect our ability to be light in dark places. When we submit to the skillful Gardener's hands, we, in essence, agree to the pruning process. If we agree to this process, we cannot then complain about it as we willfully agreed to be pruned. The hope is that by ridding our lives of negative attitudes, destructive beliefs, and reactions, we become bright, effectual life changers.

Therefore, when death knocks at your door or at the doors of your loved ones, be willing to look at the places that grief has a tendency to expose that are in need of pruning. Take the opportunity to consider where you have traveled, where you are traveling now and where you want to travel in the future. Your success depends on complete submission to the process of getting rid of the undesirable, yet instilling desirable qualities. As we walk forward into 2010, it is important to consider what goals are worthy of pursuing, how to develop the weak areas of our characters, so that they become strengths, and to take the time to renew our minds.

All in all, it is a good place to be... humble, honest, and honorable. Pruning teaches us to persevere, to produce, and to prepare ourselves for the greatest harvests of our lifetimes. I look forward to what the Lord Jesus Christ will produce in me. How about you?

Take care and have a safe New Year!

With Love,

(C) 2009, Ramy Bakke, Bakke Music Group

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Valley of Regret

By Ramy A. Bakke, MMFT

"You don't want to squander your wonderful life, to waste your precious life among the hardhearted. Why should you allow strangers to take advantage of you? Why be exploited by those who care nothing for you? You don't want to end your life full of regrets, nothing but sin and bones, Saying, 'Oh, why didn't I do what they told me? Why did I reject a disciplined life? Why didn't I listen to my mentors, or take my teachers seriously? My life is ruined! I haven't one blessed thing to show for my life!' " (Proverbs 5:7-14, The Message, Used with permission)

Have you ever been through a season in your life when things just didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to? Have you regretted things you’ve said? Or done? Have you wished you could do it all over again with the perspective that you’ve gained from being on the other side of the season? I have. I bet you have too.

When we are challenged in the seasons of life with either job loss, loss of health, loss of friends, loss of finances, loss of family members, for some reason or another, we often become highly introspective. This is normal. It is part of the grieving process involved in getting through the losses. Introspection, also called, reflection, can be very healthy if we allow ourselves to be changed through the process. It is when we stay on the merry-go-round and continue to repeat the same eternal life lessons that we fail to achieve what the season has taught us. Then the question is, is our reflection or introspection muddied by some other factor? Are there things that keep us from seeing clearly what it is that we are supposed to see or change? All of these questions can have answers that are highly explainable. It is what we do with these answers that makes the difference between future success and future demise. Every single one of us, if we are honest, has had a season or seasons of loss where we are not as productive as we could have been. Is this a negative in our overall outlook? It depends on our perspective. The most important perspective is God’s perspective. Too often, we get caught up in what others think of us as to whether or not we are successful. But, in the end, this is counterproductive.

It matters not what others think of us, but what our Creator thinks of us. In the Proverb above, the writer says to the listener, “why be exploited by those who care nothing for you want to end your life full of regrets… why didn’t I do what they told me?... why didn’t I listen to my mentors?” The writer is squealing both about those around him who care nothing for him, and for the fact that he didn’t listen to his mentors. He went through a season regretting his life for his mistakes and for those around him who he cared about, but who exploited him. This is where the tendency to lose perspective can overtake a man or woman who is lost in the season of low productivity and loss. You can hear the pain in the writer’s voice about those around him who exploited him. He regrets allowing himself to be exploited. You can hear the pain in his voice when he regrets not listening to those who were placed in his life to teach him and lead him. Yet, he has a choice. He can stay in the place called, “regret,” or he can pick himself up and move beyond it towards a new season of growth and productivity. He can practice self-reflection and learn from his mistakes, thereby, getting off the merry-go-round of un-productivity, or he can choose to stay in the place of regret and repeat the cycle of loss.

Either way, His Creator will love Him until He can make the right choices. What kind of love is this that allows us to learn from just such a season? It is the same kind of love that allows us to learn from our choices and to own our part in the consequences of choice. There are many lately who want to legislate choice for others. There are many moral reasons to legislate choices, such as: “Should the drinking age be lowered to 18?” “Should we allow credit card companies to set their own interest rates?” “Should we allow women to be in control of their own bodies?” Many of these questions are hotly debated choices, yet, in the end, we are all responsible for our own choices and the consequences of our choices. We are responsible for how we treat others; for how we love one another; for how we accept one another; for how we live with one another, etc. It is important that we know for certain that our choices are going to be choices we can live with, so life will not be full of regret. For to live in the valley of regret is to live in the valley of loss which is not a happy place to be.

So whether you are in a season of great loss (which many in the nation are) or in a season of rebuilding, or in a season of great success, it is important to practice healthy introspection/ reflection. Evaluate where you are, where you have been and where you are going. Remember that where you have been does not have to dictate where you are going, but it can teach you the important lessons that will help you have a more productive future. Accept the losses as lessons and move forward into life as an active learner. But most of all, know that your Heavenly Father, the Creator of your soul is not angry with you, nor impatient with your learning process. He is with you and nearest to you even in the humblest of times. He believes in you and will cheer you on. Even if you feel no one is with you, He is with you and will never forsake you! And know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are loved… so I invite you to move out of the valley of regret into a place of healthy reflection where you can learn to move into your future with acceptance and grace!

© 2009, RamyB, Bakke Music Group

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unexpected Delays

In Denver, Colorado, on December 20, 2008, around 6:18 p.m., a Continental Airlines jet aborted takeoff for some unknown reason and experienced an accident which caused the airliner to come off the runway and descend down a ravine (click on the title above and you can read the Denver Post article). It consequently came apart and caught on fire. 34 people were injured, but there were no deaths. This was for all involved an unexpected delay in the journey we call life. I am certain the families of those involved were all extremely alarmed, yet thankful that there was no loss of life in this tragic airline accident.

What this accident is exemplary of is the reality that unexpected events happen to us. How we respond to these events is what determines our character. If we respond with a lot of anger, disgust and bitterness towards those who have caused the delay, we may not understand what we were saved from. Perhaps, by being delayed at the beginning of the Continental Airlines flight, those on the flight were saved from being killed all together if the flight were to have taken off and crashed in route. We just don't know what would have happened. We only know that the pilot in his wisdom aborted the takeoff. He obviously saw something that wasn't right.

I was changing a switch fixture the other day and the wiring didn't look right. It had been there for 50 years in my parent's house. I told my parents that I felt safer if a hired electrician came and took a look at the switch housing and investigated the wiring. So they asked a friend of theirs, a retired electrician to come and look at the wiring. They were delayed in getting the switched fixed, but when the electrician came, he had to rewire the entire box as it had completely shorted out and had been on fire at some time, but the fire had gone out. Thankfully, my parents had been saved from any damage to their house. Sometimes, delays cause us to look more intensively into a problem in order to find the source of a deeper problem in order to fix whatever is wrong.

There are lots of things that happen to us that we cannot explain. Red lights or construction on the roadway often cause people to get angry because they are kept from getting to their destination. Instead of getting angry there is other responses that are possible. One could choose to take a moment to rest, to breathe, to realize that not all delays are meant to be impediments. Sometimes delays are moments forced upon us to cause us to rethink our direction. Sometimes delays are placed to keep us from accidents that would take our lives.

Sometimes delays are forced upon us because we are too hard headed to rest otherwise. Unexpected delays are not necessarily bad events. It is how we response to delay that proves who our character. This Christmas season, there may be many opportunities to experience delay, perhaps a crowded checkout line, a busy highway, a long travel line, etc., we have the perfect opportunity to display the true Spirit of Christmas and make a choice to respond rightly to the unexpected delays that are presented to us.

It is my prayer that the unconditional love of Christ Jesus be made known to you during this season and no matter what happens in your day to day lives, that you discover the true peace that comes with knowing a love that is deep and far and wide and fully capable of carrying you through any delay, any unexpected happening that may upset your life. May each delay cause you to see an opportunity to rest and take a second look at your direction and know that you have someone who wants your best helping you get to your destination safely.

With love and compassion,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sometimes Life Happens

Have you ever encountered a day where life seems to just happen to you in a way that completely disrupts your routine and re-routes your life forever? Perhaps you have encountered many of those days. I am certain that many soldiers can understand what it is like to encounter disruption when they lose a limb or are injured by bombs. Many civilians are also caught unaware by disruptions such as drunk drivers, car accidents, deer standing in the road, car bombs, doctors telling them they have cancer, etc.

These life changing moments can be overwhelming at times, but God has built into our bodies a mechanism to enable us to overcome these moments. It is a tiny little part of our brain called the amygdala which kicks into overdrive during these times of crisis. It takes over for the conscious mind and runs the body helping us to cope during crisis until the conscious mind can handle coming to the surface again. It constantly amazes me the more I study the human body how uniquely we are all formed. We are created to withstand incredible amounts of stress, yet there is a limit to the amount the human body can withstand before it starts to break down.

I often wonder if catastrophic life events aren't reminders to us to slow down. I am not saying that they are God ordained, I am saying that things happen sometimes for a reason. I believe that God knows everything that is going to happen in the universe and I believe that He knows how to help us through these events. Some of us get so caught up in our every day affairs that we forget to take the time to get quiet before our Maker, to listen for His still small, yet large voice. Sometimes, I believe that we get sick because we are not taking the Sabbath day off to rest like we are supposed to as God designed the Sabbath day to be. Instead we are using that day to go bike riding, playing golf, hiking mountains, etc. In the scripture, it states that on the 7th day, God rested from creating the world. This is the prototype for all creation. We are encouraged to rest from creating... from working, from doing. Many of us grew up in families where we were made to feel guilty for resting... well, today, I'm going to give you permission to rest. I'm going to give you permission to not feel guilty for taking care of your body. You might say, "who am I that I can give you permission?"... my answer is that "I am a child of God, just as you are a child of God... and I release you from the guilt and shame that anyone has put on you that is not from God, and I release you to be who you are as His child because that is what His word releases me to do as His child."

Now, I know that people from all over the world read this blog... so I hope that you can understand that I care for you, each and every one of you. I am saddened by the events in Pakistan especially, and I pray for my friends and readers in Pakistan. I pray for peace and tranquility to come to your door. Most of all, I pray for peace and rest. May the God of the Heavens and the earth give you peace and rest in Christ Jesus! Amen and amen!


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy 36th Birthday

Happy 36th Birthday


November 25, 2007

I pray the Angels are celebrating your day with you! I miss you… I find it hard to believe that you are gone, never to walk on this earth, in this plane again. At least you are free, whole and out of pain. I wish more people could have understood you.

I wish more could have understood your pain and suffering and welcomed you with more grace. I know it was not easy to live and survive through the pain that you endured. But you did… each day you got up and each day you lived as best you could with the tools and grace you received from Father God.

I had such hopes for you. I had hoped that you could have overcome some of your addictions and enjoyed complete freedom from illness. I had hoped that you could have found a husband to love you and been able to have children. I suppose that the Lord Jesus was more interested in bringing you home to be your husband. You are now a perfect bride: the bride of Christ. We are all destined to be His bride. You just beat us to the punch. I applaud you at finishing your race. I know you are surprised at being in Heaven now.

I wish for us that we could have learned to love you better… to understand how to care for you better. Yet, in the time that you were here, we learned a lot about how to love a severely broken individual. You taught us a lot about how to listen, how to stretch our hearts to embrace that which we did not understand. You taught me how to see beyond my earthly limits. Father put you here to teach me many things… I only wish that you did not have to suffer the rejection of those who did not understand you. Now you get to run with the angels… enjoy the presence of the King of Kings my dear daughter… give Him a huge hug and kiss for me! I love you and miss you much! You will get to spend Jesus’ Birthday with Him… amazing! What a celebration that will be… know that we all miss you and love you!

Love, Miss Ramy