Why Some People Age like a Fine Wine and Others Rot

Spend some time in a nursing home and you will come across two very general types of elderly people: ones who are still happy and others who are still miserable.  If you listen to their stories, both sets have had their fair share of life tragedies, health problems, loss of loved ones, wars, disappointments, and successes.  Yet one group walks away with a sense of having lived life well despite all of the tragedies and the other with regret despite any successes.  How can this be?

Erik Erikson defines the last of his eight psychosocial development stage as Integrity vs. Despair which begins around age sixty-five till death.  The outcome of the previous seven stages sets the standard for this last stage in life as a person who has progressed well in previous stages will most likely end well.  When a person ages, their ability to moderate thoughts, feelings and emotions diminishes so good habits that were formed earlier tend to remain such as eating right, exercise and proper rest.  However, if a person’s life was filled with negative habits such as smoking, anxiety, and limited activity these habits tend to become more exaggerated with age.

The Psychology.  The end of a life brings a natural time of reflection especially if you are no longer working or active in an organization.  A sense of “what I do doesn’t matter anymore” sets in as “who I am as a result of what I have done” becomes the stronger reality.  Those who are able to reflect on their life and feel a sense of accomplishment end their life with integrity.  As opposed to those who reflect on their life and feel a sense of failure end their life with despair.

Life with Integrity.  Integrity is the ability to look back on your life and find satisfaction, fulfillment, acceptance of both successes and failures, and pride in a life well lived.  The outcome of integrity is wisdom in having lived life well and with it comes a natural desire to share gained wisdom with younger adults and children.  The elder adult who has gained integrity takes an interest in the lives of their family members, is active in their community or church, has a variety of hobbies they enjoy, is proactive in physically caring for themselves and doesn’t get angry over new limitations due to age, health, and decreased cognitive functions.  Many cultures outside of the U.S.A. value the elderly and esteem them for such gained wisdom and insight in many areas of their life.

Life with Despair.  Despair occurs when you look back on life and find regret, disappointment, wastefulness, and bitterness over missed opportunities.  The outcome of despair can be depression, isolation, disinterest in activities they once enjoyed, avoidance of family, and untreated medical conditions.  The elder adult who despairs tends to focus on the negative outcome of current problems, blames others for their condition and will rework history in their favor.  These individuals often engage in addictive behavior to hide from their despair by abusing prescription medication, alcohol or fantasy living in gambling, excessive TV watching, and overspending money.

The Cure.  Apart from Jesus Christ, there really is no other cure that can take a life ending with despair and transform it to integrity.  Not that all Christians end life with integrity, sadly too many fall into despair as they feel a sense that it is too late for them to do anything or to contribute anything in a meaningful way to others.  It is really not for another person to judge whether or not a life is useful or whether or not it can be used in the future as only God knows the answer to these issues.  Rather as believers we are to continue to be a light to the world until death which can be done either with integrity or with despair.  The choice is yours.

Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development span the entire life of a person highlighting key struggles that each age group meets as they grow older.  At the end of a life, it is clear which path a person has chosen as a lifetime of successfully confronting each stage produces good fruit which age well into a fine wine.  However, if a person produces bad fruit, it is likely to rot.  So which path will you choose towards the end?

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Bible’s Top Sexual No-No’s

Ever wonder what the Bible says about sex?  It is filled with plenty of practical information about our daily lives including advice on love, money, wisdom, relationships, and work but what about sex?  Surprisingly, there are many verses about the matter and even an entire book called Song of Solomon written about it.  Yet not much is discussed in Christian circles about how God views sex.  There is much discussion about how other people view sex (just look at the titles of magazines at your grocery store), but few if any discuss how God views it.

So after looking over many verses, it all comes down to a couple of basic ideas and here are the top sexual no-no’s in alphabetical order.

  1. Adultery is sex with someone who is not your spouse.  This commandment was given by God through the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:14.  Jesus expanded the definition in Matt. 5:28 to include someone who looks at another with lust in their heart.  This therefore would include any pornography.
  2. Homosexuality is sex with a person of the same-sex.  Lev. 18:22 and Rom. 1:26-27 warns against such practices.
  3. Incest is sex with family members or relatives.  Lev. 18:7-18 provides quite a long list of relatives which include immediate family and extended family as far removed as first cousins.
  4. Lustful pleasure is what the Gentiles live for according to Eph. 4:19 and as Christians we are not to act like them.  This means we do not live to have sex, it is part of our lives but it should not occupy the majority of our thoughts.
  5. Obscenity and coarse jokes are inappropriate sexual comments in a public setting.  Eph. 5:4 calls such behavior unfitting of a believer.  This includes sexual harassment.
  6. Orgy is having sex with multiple partners at a time.  1 Cor. 6:16 states that sex is intended to unity two people, not three or four.
  7. Prostitution is paying for sex or receiving payment for sex.  Neither a male nor a female should be a prostitute according to Deu. 23:17.
  8. Rape is forced sex without the consent or permission of one of the parties.  Deu. 22:26-28 calls for death for the person committing the rape.
  9. Sexual immorality as defined by 1 Cor. 5:1 is having sex with a member of your family not biologically related (which is incest).  The example given is a man having sex with his step-mother and would also include abusive sex.
  10. Sexual sin is outlined in 1 Cor. 6:12-20 and it explains that every time a person has sex with someone, they are joined with them becoming one.  By this standard, any sex which is not meant to be part of unifying two people (such as marriage) is sexual sin.
  11. Sodomy is unnatural intercourse such as having sex with an animal.  Lev. 18:23 calls such behavior perverse.

Having said all of this, the Bible also makes it clear through the book of Songs that He intended sex to give you pleasure and within the bonds of marriage, you are free to express yourself and share your bodies with your partner.  After all, He is the creator of sex and intended it for pleasure and procreation.  With the exception of the items listed above, sex should be a natural outpouring of your love, commitment, dedication and intimacy with your partner.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

New Year’s Resolutions that Really Matter

Virtue

Virtue (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

This time of year is exhausting for me and I strongly dislike watching the morning new shows which are filled with the same New Year’s resolution stories over and over.  They should just save some time and energy by replay the last year’s stories because they are virtually the same regardless of the network.  It’s all about eating more healthy, taking more vitamins, drinking more water, losing more weight, changing your appearance, and of course the mother of all resolutions – exercising.

While these are resolutions are good, they rarely continue after the first month of the year and hold little significant value to our overall quality of life.  Yes, your health and appearance can improve and thereby improve your self-esteem, but what if instead of focusing on improved self-esteem you focus on character development instead.  Better yet, what if your entire family set a New Year’s resolution of working on one character trait?  Just imagine for a moment the different it would make in your personal life, your family life, your spiritual life, your work life, and your social life if your focus was to improve an aspect of your character.  I dare say, that no new diet or exercise program can promise the same difference in every area of your life.  So instead of setting yourself up for another year of disappointing resolutions, try something new or more accurately spoken, something old.

In his autobiography written spanning from 1771 to 1788, Benjamin Franklin outlines thirteen virtues to which he aspires to master and thereby encouraging others to consider the same.  Here they are in his words:

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.” (Moderation in food and drink.)
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.” (Watch what you say.)
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.” (Organize all things.)
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” (Finish what you start.)
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.” (Spend wisely.)
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.” (Good time management.)
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.” (Think and speak the best about each other.)
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.” (Do no harm to others.)
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.” (Consider all points of view.)
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.” (Clean living.)
  11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.” (Strive for peace.)
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.” (Have sexual morality.)
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.” (Think of others before yourself.)

These virtues were not to be attempted all at once; instead he devised a system of concentrating on one at a time, until mastered and then proceeding to the next one.  So for this year, if you picked just one of his virtues and set for yourself a goal of mastering it until the end of the year, imagine the difference in your life and the lives around you.

Better yet and if you are really courageous, ask your spouse, a close friend, or a parent which of the virtues they believe you need to work on and tackle that one first.  Most likely, that will be the one virtue that will make the greatest difference in your life.  Now, that’s a New Year’s resolution that really matters.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

A Different Look at the Book of James

Writers, who write best, write from their perspective on life.  If you have experienced something traumatic such as the death of a child, been involved in a war or survived a natural disaster and you write about it, then chances are your writing will reflect the deeper and often mixed feelings of the event.  You readers are then more drawn into your writing because you wrote from what you knew.  Equally significant is taking some time to understand the background of an author before you read their work so the intended meaning becomes clearer.

One such author is the James, the writer of the Book of James in the New Testament.  So before you sit down to read this very practical and short Book on Christian living, consider the following information.

  1. James (James 1:1) identifies himself as a slave of both God and Jesus Christ acknowledging both belief and devotion to Jesus.
  2. James along with his other brothers Joseph, Judas and Simon are identified as Jesus half brothers (Mark 6:3 and Gal. 1:19).  Jude (Judas) verifies that his is both the brother of James and the half-brother of Jesus in his Book of Jude (Jude 1:1).
  3. The townspeople of Nazareth further verify the relationship between Jesus and his half brothers when they minimize and question His wisdom and power (Matt. 13:53-57).  Jesus replies that a prophet has no respect in his hometown or family (Matt. 13:57) indicating that his brothers were not yet believers.
  4. James the half-brother of Jesus is not the same person as James the brother of John, sons of Zebedee (Matt. 26:37) who was one of the twelve disciples (Matt. 10:2) , nicknamed by Jesus as “Sons of Thunder”  (Mark 3:17),  and later martyred for his faith (Acts 12:2).  Nor is he the other disciple named James, son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:3) for whom nothing more is recorded.
  5. Jesus knew the Jewish leaders were plotting to kill him so he avoided Judea where His brothers urged him to go (John 7:1-4).  Then John comments that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him and their motive may not have been in Jesus’ best interest anyway (John 7:5-9).
  6. At the cross, Jesus tells John, one of his disciples, to care for his mother Mary and tells Mary that John is now responsible for her (John 19:25-27).  Normally, the responsibility for a widowed mother would rest on the eldest son first and then if he is deceased the second eldest.  Jesus instead departed from this tradition asking John to care for her possibly because his half brothers did not believe yet and would not have empathy for what their mother was experiencing.
  7. Paul recalls that Jesus appeared to James (1 Cor. 15:7) after He was resurrected.  Paul mentions prior that Jesus appeared to the disciples first which would have included the disciple also named James but then lists James’ name later and by itself before mentioning the apostles and finally Paul, himself.  While the details of this encounter are not recorded, given James’ past lack of belief and his later belief and leadership in the Jerusalem church, this moment could have been when he finally believed that Jesus was his Messiah.
  8. After the ascension of Jesus, the apostles when to Jerusalem to an upstairs room and were in prayer along with Mary (mother of Jesus) and Jesus’ brothers (Acts 1:12-14).  At this point, James is not mentioned by name indicating that he had not yet developed any leadership amongst the group.  In fact, his name was not even discussed as a possible disciple replacement for Judas (Acts 1:23) most likely because he had just become a believer.
  9. Paul after becoming a believer, met with Peter first and then James (Gal. 1:18-19) before meeting with the elders of the Jerusalem church (Acts 21:15-18).  This implies that James now had an important role and likely was already the leader of the Jerusalem church.
  10. James was the leader of the Jerusalem church and as such demonstrated authority in directing the church (Acts 15:13-21).  Peter and the others listen to his words and then follow his instruction again signifying the important role James is now playing in the church.
  11. Paul recounts a dispute between him and Peter (Gal. 1:11-12) in which he confronts Peter’s fear of James’ friend’s opinion further indicating James’ prominence in the early church.  Paul goes on to say that James, Peter and John were known as pillars of the early church (Gal. 2:9).
  12. Peter after being rescued by an angel from prison requests at Mary’s (mother of John Mark) house for others to go and tell James of his escape from Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:6-18).
  13. Paul visits with James and the elders of the church when he arrives in Jerusalem giving them a report on his ministry with the Gentiles (Acts 21:17-19).
  14. This is the last mention of James in the New Testament.  The Book of James was one of the first New Testament books written sometime around 49 A.D. just a year before the Jerusalem council occurred (Acts 15:13-21) (see number 10).

So after reading the summary, the bottom line is that James grew up with Jesus but did not believe Jesus was his Savior until after He was resurrected from the dead.  James’ ministry began at the same time as the early church and he eventually became the respected leader of the Jerusalem church.  James wrote the Book of James as a believer but was doing it with the perspective that he had at one time rejected his half-brother Jesus.  Can you imagine the things he said in his youth that he later regretted as a Christian leader?

The Book of James tells a much richer story of how a person can be so physically near to Christ in his youth and yet so far from the reality of who Jesus was.  Greater yet, it tells a story of how a person can go from spiritual death to life though faith strengthened by works in Jesus Christ.  Now, read the Book of James remembering the story of the author and allowing it to speak to you at a deeper and practical level.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Two Becoming One in Marriage

There are many definitions of marriage today with different states and churches adding their own definitions to the mix.  You, like I, are each free to follow our own definition of marriage within the laws of our state.  But as for me, I choose to follow the Biblical model of marriage which is a man and a woman united together in a covenant from God (Genesis 2:24).  This unity is the beginning of a family unit to which children may be added in the future but it is also a departure from your family of origin.  It is in its’ very nature a formation of a new relationship, a new bond, and a new unit.  To better understand a Biblical marriage, some ground work needs to be laid.

In His Image.  Ever wonder why God created man and woman in His image (Genesis 1:27)?  Could it be that He created man and woman in His image because we are to model Him here on earth?  Several times Jesus tells us that we are “a light” to the world (Matthew 5:14).  Our light does not come from us, rather it comes from reflecting God’s light which is never extinguished.  We were created in His image to reflect His light.  Why you ask?  So that even in our relationships, in our most important relationship such as marriage, His image and His light can be seen.

Intentionally Created.  Looking back over Genesis 2, we see that man was created out of dust and woman was created out of the rib of man.  Men and woman are literally created differently.  God could have created them the same way but He did not.  This is not just a physical difference, but a difference in purpose and design as well.  Why you ask?  Each of us has a different role in life.  When we look at the trinity of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, each part of the trinity has a different role to play.  One of the many roles is the Father as the Creator, the Son Jesus as the sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit as a guide.  You do not see the Holy Spirit called the sacrifice because the Holy Spirit knows the role it plays in the trinity.  A husband and a wife are intentionally created with different roles yet they are part of one unit.

Separation from family.  In order for two to truly be united as one, they need to leave behind their family of origin.  Just as there are no additional roles in the trinity, there are no additional roles in the new family unit.  The new family unit consists of a husband and a wife (Genesis 2:24).  Leaving parents can be a difficult task but it is an essential element for the formation of a new bond.  Why you ask?  As long as a parent is there to cling to in times of need, a spouse will never learn to cling to one another and the bond will not be properly formed.

Two into one.  This is a great mystery which is difficult to understand until you experience it.  Once we accept that our purpose in life is to reflect God’s image, that we are intentionally created for a reason, that we are to leave our family of origin, then we can begin the process of becoming one with one another.  Why you ask?  The new bond properly reflects the relationship between God the Father, the Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to one another.  When the marriage unit adds children, it is a perfect reflection of the trinity.

The bond of two becoming one is tightly woven and is not easily broken if formed correctly.  Many of the marriage problems are centered on an improper unity of a marriage and often going back to the basics of what a marriage is can elevate some of the most difficult challenges.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Help for When You Feel Discouraged or Unsatisfied

Have you ever begun a project knowing that it was the right thing to do but everything seems to be working against you?  Without even realizing it, discouragement overtakes you and what appears to be a good idea has now been put on the back burner.  Maybe the discouragement came in the form of criticism by a loved one or in the form of diminished enthusiasm from co-workers or in the form of last-minute emergencies that consume excessive amounts of time.  Regardless of the source of discouragement, it is there and the once great project is no longer getting any of your attention.

There is a story in the Old Testament about a group of people who tried to rebuild the Temple after it was destroyed but got discouraged (book of Haggai).  Several governmental officials went out of their way to prevent the rebuilding from happening and slow the efforts of the workers.  The workers in turn got distracted with building their own houses, planting crops and tending to the day-to-day responsibilities.  The irony is that the more distracted they became, the less productive they were and consequently the less satisfied they felt.  God’s solution to the problem is outlined in the following steps.

Be Strong.  Even if others get in the way of what God has put into your heart, stay strong in your conviction.  Make sure that your conviction is from God first, but once you have the assurance, rest in it and don’t allow others to steal your joy.

Get to Work.  Re-prioritize your life and put the most important things at the top of your list.  For instance, if God is first then how much of your daily time is dedicated to Him?  If your family is second, how much of your time is dedicated to them?  Work on your priorities in the order you have them, then if there is time left over you can do the extras.

God is with you.  Even when things do not go as planned or when things seem to be bleak, God is there.  He does not put ideas on our hearts without giving us the means to carry them out.  How do you know if an idea is from God?  Test it.  It will be consistent with His word and consistent with the advice of Godly people.

He keeps His promises.  Take a moment to remember how God has kept His promises to you in the past or to others around you.  Be thankful for what He has already done and patient in waiting for His timing for the future.

Don’t be afraid.  Fear is one of our greatest enemies and can paralyze even the strongest of Christians.  We are not called to be a people of fear but rather a people of strength.  There are many Christians who have accomplished much for God, look at their lives for motivation and keep moving forward.

Discouragement can creep up in our lives without notice and can prevent us from doing what we know is the right course of action.  Once you recognize the discouragement, the steps above can help you to overcome it and return back to the work you have neglected.  The satisfaction of completing the project despite the discouragement will become a memorable event for you to recall one day.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Did You Keep Your Last Year’s New Year’s Resolution?

I did.  Not to brag, but I can truly say that not only did I keep it but it has benefited me beyond my expectations.  My last year’s resolution was daily so it involved me being active in remembering it which in turn produced daily benefits to not only my life but the lives around me.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I will be doing it again this year however with slight differences to keep it fresh and new.  What was it you ask?  It was to read the Bible, both the New and Old Testament, cover to cover in chronological order.

This is not the first time I have had this resolution, however, it was the first time that I read the Bible in chronological order which is enormously helpful to those of us who think in terms of storylines.  Many years ago, I was impressed not by a Pastor, sadly enough, but by Oprah to read the Bible cover to cover.  Her valid point was that as a Christian I should know for myself what the Bible says and be able to speak with confidence about my understanding not because someone else told me about it but because I had studied it for myself.  After all, is this not what higher education is all about?  We major in a field of study and read volumes of books coupled with lectures from those more knowledgeable than ourselves.  Yet the very book that defines Christianity and embodies the whole nature of Jesus Christ, many have never read to completion.

How sad.  I equate it to marrying only part of a person and not the whole person.  Wedding vows often include the lines, “for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health” but what if the vow only said “for richer and in health” and left out the other parts?  How is that commitment?  Anyone can be committed to the good in a marriage but it takes a person of character and conviction to be married during the “poorer and sickness”.  The same is true for studying the Bible, if we only read the parts that are easy, fun, satisfying for the moment, or applicable to our lives right now, then we miss part of who Christ is.

So, many years ago, I read the Bible cover to cover for the first time and it has rewarded me beyond my initial expectation and now I continue to read and reread it while gaining deeper understanding and wisdom well beyond my natural abilities and talents.  There are many websites to assist you with this endeavor, you can even download an APP for free “YouVersion” Bible which has many reading plans to select from.  Or here is a favorite website:  http://www.ewordtoday.com/year/.

However you choose to read the Bible, just read it.  Come with an open heart and mind to what God is saying in His word about Himself and about your life and you will be blessed.  Embrace the whole nature of Christ through the reading of His word and your relationship with Him will deepen to levels beyond your understanding.  Just as the difficult moments in your marriage fostered a deeper commitment and understanding of your spouse, so reading the difficult parts of the Bible will strengthen your faith and love of Jesus.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.