Fireside Chat

If you and I were sitting around a roaring fire and chatting about life and our dreams and aspirations for 2016, I would hope we’d find ourselves chuckling and at ease. But, I’d also want us to stay real and transparent that we don’t always have life figured out and wrapped with a sparkly bow. Life just gets messy at times, but thankfully we don’t have to stay in the mess.
In our little fireside chat, here are some things I’d like us to ponder.

  • Am I an approachable person?
  • Who do I allow to speak truth into my life?
  • What keeps me from receiving insight or correction from others?
  • What little things am I letting eat away at me?
  • How might I risk more authenticity in relationships?

IMG_4066After I added another log to the fire, perhaps I’d share a bit from my journal, which I write in here and there. On December 18, I recorded in my journal an
excerpt from the Our Daily Bread devotional that day, “Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down.”

I wonder what problems I’d share with you over the crackling embers. I just said “no” to a new collie puppy that just wasn’t the right fit for me. How long will I need to wait? Do I go back to an online dating service or go with a local professional match service? I recently lost a couple of main clients, how will I regain that income?

We’d probably banter back and forth about our everyday dilemmas and even bemoan political campaigns and ISIS threats, but then maybe we’d dig deeper in conversation.

  • What do you say to a friend who has a loved one who is terminally ill?
  • How do you keep trusting God when others think He’s rather removed from everyday involvement in our lives?
  • How do you stay sexually pure when the world says, “Huh? Why?”
  • Is it really possible to find joy in gut-wrenching trials? How?

Questions like this is where trusting camaraderie is forged. I’m glad we had this fireside chat. We may not have solved everything we’re currently mulling over, but I think we’re on a good start for the year. Here’s one final question for you.

What keeps us from being real and approachable with others? I’ll add another log or two while you send me your thoughts on this.

Brave and Resilient Tip #130: Risk being approachable. Risk being real.

Window on the World

IMG_1942I am writing to you from an airplane slicing through swirls of creamy clouds as light as my Mom’s mashed potatoes. I love to look out airplane windows and contemplate life. There is just something about getting above the planet and looking down on the patchwork of crop fields dotted with meandering streams that gets me out of my myopic view of everyday life. I feel like pressing my nose against this window on the world for the entire flight.

Imagine the colossal view that God has not just of Earth and all the celestial wonders, but also a close-up watch on each of our lives. The ancient Jews called Him El Roi, which means “the God who sees.” He sees all the moments of our existence from our beginnings in the womb to the end of our days and every nanosecond in between.

God sees the wrap up of our 2015 and sees ahead to the adventures and challenges of 2016. He observes what we eat, how we drive, how we work, how we interact with others. El Roi never loses sight of who we are and what we need.

But you know what? At times I pause and wonder if God has diminishing vision. Hearing about unspeakable ISIS atrocities, or violence in America, or people suffering everything from cancer to loss of jobs ruffles my faith in God’s eyesight. Is God seeing this breakdown in our world? Is He simply catching a quick glimpse of our angst or is He truly focused on us when disappointment and despair invade?

When these questions resound, I am learning to recalibrate what I know is absolutely true. And on opportunities like today, I get my head above the clouds to clear my fuzzy vision about God’s character. I am drawn to King David’s confident words about God’s watchful eye. “You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight. . . . Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
you’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting! (Psalm 139: 3-10, The Message).

God not only sees us now, but He’s already ahead waiting for us? That’s a mind stretcher, but it settles my doubts about El Roi’s need for His annual eye exam. Today’s flying “on morning wings” reminds me that no matter where we travel or if we hit some turbulence along the way, we will never escape God’s notice.

Before my plane descends, I want to linger above Cloud 9 just a little longer, pondering El Roi’s perfect vision and my need for His observant care in the year ahead. If you’d like to join me, I’ll switch to the middle seat so you can get your own close-up view of the creamy clouds as light as my Mom’s mashed potatoes.

How would you describe God’s eyesight?

Brave and Resilient Tip #129: No matter where you are, you are never out of God’s sight.

 

Scooching Forward

From the Brave and Resilient Classic Series

“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” Those words sear my memory, almost as indelibly as the time I first rode a bike without training wheels. I’m sure during my wobbly inaugural ride (of only a few feet), I chirped, “I did it! I did it! I did it!”

You, too, know the exhilaration of accomplishing something you weren’t sure about at the start. Doing well in the class. Getting a promotion. Giving birth. Working out more often.

oldLadyCroppedI know well the pendulum of I-can’t and I-did-it. Years ago while recovering from a hospital stay, my mom visited me while my dad attended a business convention. Our first morning alone together, I made breakfast while Mom dressed. When Mom reached the carpeted steps joining the bedrooms to my main floor, she hesitated. Three simple steps that take three seconds to descend suddenly appeared a cavernous pit to Mom.Even afraid to grip the hefty railing, she rocked a little forward, stammering, “I can’t . . . I can’t . . . I can’t.” The combination of Mom’s still weak legs and her new medication morphed her mid-60s body into a fearful child. Petrified to ease her foot onto the first step, Mom’s “I can’t   . . . I can’t . . . can’t” faded to a whisper when I suggested Plan B. With my holding her hand, Mom sat down and together we scooched our bottoms down each step.

Decades later I sit here writing to you, pondering how often I, and maybe at times you, stammer, “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” Our mortified doubts may not leave our lips, but we all have our share of inferior moments where we are adamantly convinced that we cannot do something. I can’t deal with this marriage anymore. I can’t stand the way my boss treats me. I can’t go another month without enough money. I can’t endure the chemo. I can’t hack being single this long. I can’t get through to my teen. I can’t live like this anymore.

I get your “I can’ts.” It’s why I’ve created this website as a respite for anyone who needs a little encouragement, a welcoming place for those “I can’ts” of life. As much as I identify with your “I can’ts,” God gets them even more. He already knows all about your reluctance, your uncertainty, even your skepticism. He also knows how brave and resilient you are—what you can handle and just where you need a hand.

So before the next cacophony of “I can’ts” rumble and roar, reducing you to an emotional slug, why not share those “I can’ts” with God?

Go on. And sit on your tush, if you need to. He’s already there ready to scooch along right with you. Ready to hear your “I can’t” break into, “I did it. I did it. We did it, God!”

Brave & Resilient Tip #2:  Do not give in to the “I can’ts” of life.   

What helps you scooch forward?

See the Tips & Help page for practical ways to keep scooching forward in your life.

Stumble Prevention

She was simply walking on a downtown sidewalk leaving the movie theater. He was walking around his car. Neither expected to fall and injure themselves. These friends of mine are among the nearly 50 percent of people who tumble outdoors while simply walking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year, one in three adults age 65 and older fall. The CDC also states that falls are “largely preventable.”

Just when we least expect it, an untied shoelace, a dip in a walkway, even our own scurrying pace can trip us up. Life itself can cause us to lose balance too. A job loss, a health downturn, a child’s rebellion, a spouse’s anger, a friend’s judgment, a natural disaster. All of us face something at some point in our lives that can rattle us to the core and leave us unsteady on our next steps forward.

We all are at risk for stumbling in our thoughts and actions. We owe that in part of the bigger Fall back in the Garden of Eden. (“Would you like some cinnamon or peanut butter on your apple, Adam?”) As the CDC advises, falls are “largely preventable.” We can identify our weak spots and situations that look like a rough road ahead. We can avoid walking on certain terrain or with certain people who make us more prone for tripping up.

I’m so familiar with the CDC acronym that I typically forget the last part of the center’s name: and Prevention. In living on this planet, I’m glad stumble prevention is not just left up to us. I’m grateful that God reaches out His hand many a day to keep us from further harm. And if we do encounter staggering life events, He is still there holding out His hand. He also deploys His angels to keep us upright when life is heading south. “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12).

And for those stumble times, I like Proverbs 24:16, “No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet. . . .”

With timely prevention from above (“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling…” Jude 24), there’s no need to stumble through life.

Brave and Resilient Tip #117: Stumble on the truth that God keeps you steady on your feet.

Circle the Wagons!

When life gets a little more hectic than normal, I love to advise, “It’s time to circle the wagons.” I remember watching many a Western flick on TV growing up and inevitably watching the bad guys wildly chasing the pioneers in their covered wagons. Billows of thunderous dust. Horses galloping at full throttle. Women folk scurrying for their children.

Scottsbluff Nebraska - Version 2With bullets and arrows zipping all around, the lead pioneer would yell, “Circle the wagons! Circle the wagons!” The wagon drivers would maneuver the covered wagons into a tight circle, unhitch the horses, and draw every man, woman, child, cow, and horse into the middle of the ring.

The wagons served as a barricade and buffer to the assaulting marauders on the outside and gave the brave pioneers an advantage in firing back at their unprotected assailants. I feel like I’ve had to circle the wagons a bunch lately. Three weeks ago my 10-year-old dog suddenly showed signs of alarming neurological weakness. I circled the wagons to keep him confined to a small area in my house and using a ramp instead of stairs. This wagon circle is disbanding now as he improves, but other areas in life have me on alert to circle the wagons and hunker down.

I’m sure you can relate to times of drawing inward and stepping out of the fracas around you. I can think of numerous times in the Bible where the people circled their wagons: Moses and the children of Israel just before the Red Sea parted (Exodus 14); David and his men retreating to a cave to escape their enemies (1 Samuel 22); the disciples after Jesus died (Luke 24).

Psalm 5:11 from The Message describes what happens when we include God at the center of our wagon circle: “…You’ll welcome us with open arms when we run for cover to you.”

What is pressing you to circle your wagons these days? How does circling the wagons help you recharge for the journey ahead?

Brave and Resilient Tip #113: Circling the wagons is not a sign of giving up but of getting a better vantage point.

Life’s Challenges Just Seem Too Hard

Q. Could you please share some encouragement? Life is so hard . . . .

A. Let’s Talk! In my last post I talked about the grid system when things get overwhelming. Staying in His Presence is the spiritual help we’ll talk about today. Ask for Him, His grace, His strength. Remember too that the furnace for gold is hotter than a refining pot for silver, and that He is in the furnace with us.

I never dreamed life would be this difficult for my children and grandchildren. Just years ago life didn’t seem this challenging. Our world is certainly spinning at high speed, for starters. Our electronic devices keep this pace going, plus distract us from our help coming from above. I am sure I ask Google for help in times when I should look up instead!

The serious and sobering times we are in implore us to ask for His Presence. The Lord never meant for us to walk through these fiery battles alone, without His Presence. He delights in our pursuing Him just as He delights in pursuing our hearts. Would you ask Him to bring His Presence into your space and steps today? With His Presence, the fire has no power and we don’t smell of smoke.

For Deeper Reflection
Psalm 121: 2
“My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

Proverbs 17:3 “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold …”

Daniel 3:24-28 “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”  “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace…. And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!”

Song: “Shoulders” by For KING & COUNTRY

Enjoy the encouragement of this song by For KING & COUNTRY, whose chorus reminds us:

My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

When God Goes Silent

Hello? Hello? Are you there? So goes the wondering when it comes to the Almighty and His sealed lips. When God feels so eerily distant, has He sealed His heart off from us too?

If you’ve ever felt that quiet disconnect from on High, you are normal. Nomads, knights, emperors, and common folk of the ages have stared at the stars and wondered if God was staring back or just turning his back.

Starry night above the clouds. Added some digital noise.

I think every person at some point experiences the audio black hole. The nothingness of communication. Maybe you there right now.

Some of us may feel the need to reenact the scene in Sister Act when one nun blurts out to an off-key vocalist, “Alma, turn up your hearing aid!” It’s tempting, in all due respect, to yell, “God, crank up Your hearing aid!” When God does go silent, some the things we prayed for are not what we expected.

My pastor is doing a series on Noah and observed, “We pray and pray for God to break the silence, but what do we do when He does?” After three hundred days on that animal-aromatic boat, the first thing Noah did was build an altar to thank and worship God (Genesis 8:20-9:17). He didn’t step off the gangplank and immediately look for freshwater, a restaurant, or a cell tower. Noah went straight to communicating with his mum God.

How are we at waiting in those quiet gaps when we feel God is so far removed? Pastor Josh encourages us, “God’s keeping the whole cosmos at work. He’s not gone. He’s not far. He’s doing His thing. He just appears not to be.” The ole appears not. That one gets me on many a day. It even got King David who bemoaned, “O God, do not remain quiet; do not be silent and, O God, do not be still” (Psalm 83:1).

Why does God appear buttoned up toward us at times? Sometimes our sin blocks us from Him and sometimes He just doesn’t tell us everything. “Noah waited on God. He wasn’t inactive, but he didn’t take matters into his own hand,” Pastor Josh reminds us. “And that’s where I falter, I don’t know about you. Sometimes when God doesn’t do the thing I want, at the time I think he should, I tap out and I go do my own thing.”

Feeling God has a deaf ear to you right now? Hunker down. Hold on. Noah wondered. Noah waited. Noah worshipped. So can we.

Brave and Resilient Tip #107: When you feel like God is silent. Hunker down. Hold on.

What has helped you through feeling God is silent?

Paws for Prayer

During the summer before my sophomore year in college, a friend advised me, “Just be honest with God when you pray. He knows what you’re thinking and feeling anyway.” Hmmm. . . I had never thought that intently before about just conversing with God and letting Him in on my frustrations or fears or I-like-that-cute-guy confessions. Tell the Almighty anything and everything? Authentic, conversational prayers would be a brave adjustment from my familiarity of “professional prayers” mixed with a few Thees and Thous.

photoIt’s been a few years, okay, well, decades from that summertime chat with my friend, but her words still ring true. “Just be honest with God when you pray.” I’d add, be relaxed yet respectful. Talking with God is really about your relationship not a religious regimen. There are a plethora of resources out there on how to improve your prayer life, but I’d like to offer a few simple three-word prayers, which at times is all I can muster:

            • Help, God, help.     • Lord, help me.

            • I need strength.      • I’m sorry, God.

            • I need You.              • Thank You, Lord.


• You’re in control.   • You’re my strength.  • I love You.

• You’re with me.        • I trust You.              • You’re the best!

• Go, Huskers, go! (I do pray this one and I’m pretty sure God is involved in those successful Hail Mary passes.)

I find myself praying these succinct prayers while driving or waiting at traffic lights. Sometimes I mutter them when I’m sick or in a tense situation. No matter where we are, God just invites us to talk to Him honestly, simply—three words or thousand words at a time. And like the Psalmist David, we can exclaim: God did listen! Blessed be God! “But he most surely did listen, he came on the double when he heard my prayer. Blessed be God: he didn’t turn a deaf ear, stayed with me, loyal in his love” (Psalm 66:19-20, The Message).

What are some of your favorite three-word prayers?

Brave and Resilient Tip #101: Just talk with God in simple, honest words. Anytime. Anywhere.

I See Your Courage

Young Martin Pistorius came home from school one day with a sore throat. The twelve-year-old never returned to his school. Within a year, an unknown illness deteriorated Martin into a mute quadriplegic who spent his days at a care center, blankly watching television, barely able to lift his head. Over ten unimaginable years, the South African boy grew into a man trapped in his own body. He could hear every conversation around him, but he just couldn’t communicate back.

rear view handicapped man arms raised  in wheelchair silhouetteI just finished reading Ghost Boy, the page-turning account of Martin’s misdiagnosis and eventual learning to use a computer to communicate, make friends, work, and find true love. Martin’s bravery and his comeback are inspiring to say the least. Here is an excerpt that describe Martin’s resiliency when the world around him was, in many ways, simply waiting for him to die.

“My mind was trapped inside a useless body, my arms and legs weren’t mine to control, and my voice was mute. I couldn’t make a sign or sound to let anyone know I’d become aware again. I was invisible—the ghost boy.”

When a caregiver started to notice Martin’s slight responses to her questions and observations, Martin’s doomed life of passivity bit by bit progressed into exuberant action. He moved from the overlooked to the overcoming.

I am grateful Martin’s family and other caregivers recognized his courage despite his myriad obstacles and unresponsiveness for more than a decade. Who can you encourage this week with “I see your courage. Your setbacks have given you such strength.”

And for the glue that held Martin together while he sat nearly comatose until his mid-twenties? He writes: “The one person I talked to was God . . . He was real to me, a presence inside and around that calmed and reassured me . . . I spoke to God as I tried to make sense of what had happened to me and asked Him to protect me from harm. God and I didn’t talk about the big things in life—we didn’t engage in philosophical debates or argue about religion—but I talked to Him endlessly because I knew we shared something important. I didn’t have proof that He existed, but I believed in Him anyway because I knew He was real. God did the same for me. Unlike people, He didn’t need proof that I existed—He knew I did.”
Brave and Resilient Tip #98: Applaud courage and strength.

Let’s Talk

True Joy for the Season

Q. Where do I find joy during this “joyful” season?

A. Let’s Talk! Underneath the tinsel and glitter of the season is a longing for deep and lasting joy that doesn’t end after Christmas or the next happy event. Where do we find true joy? In God’s presence is where we find joy! We can seek joy and find it any moment of the day by choosing His Presence (not presents).

My son, Dr. Bryan McIntosh, presented a sermon message this past Sunday on the distinction between happiness and JOY. We all know the song Joy To The World, and that’s what Christmas is truly about: it’s when JOY entered this world to give us His Joy, a loving, protecting relationship with our Creator, the security of eternal life, answered prayers, and endless more benefits.

(Visit http://www.fellowshipbiblechurch.info for more of Bryan’s encouraging words). Many of the verses below are from Bryan’s message. There is so much to chew on in the following scriptural passages — so am signing off this year with a feast for you. Blessings and deepest joy for each one of you! Let’s Talk more in January!

For Deeper Reflection

Psalm 16: 11 “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

Zephaniah 3:17 “The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

1 John 1:2-4  “. . . and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us — what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”

John 16:23-24 “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”

Nehemiah 8:10,12 “Then he said to them, ‘Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. . .’ All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.