Crying Uncle!

I chuckled the other day when I noticed the tissue liner on a new box of cinnamon Altoids®: Uncle. The “curiously strong mints” people humorously want us to admit surrender to their product? Clever.

IMG_3612Seeing uncle in my mint box reminds me of when I was little and my brothers would playfully tickle me under the arms. They’d stop and let me go if I cried uncle. A couple times in life I’ve tried the uncle thing with God. Pressed to some limit, I’ve yelled out loud to Him, “Uncl-l-l-l-l-le!” I didn’t experience immediate relief from my angst, but it felt good to holler toward the heavens for a few seconds. And I’m sure I made God smile a little.

But you know, being squeezed to the point of crying uncle is no laughing matter. Maybe you’re at the point of exasperation right now with your spouse, your job, your finances, your health, and your dreams. You are not alone. The term “crying uncle” apparently originates as an American playground phrase dating back to around 1900 when a school kid would insist other kid would admit defeat. I think the term goes way back to the earliest days on earth.

The children of Israel cried out in defeat to their bondage in Egypt (Exodus 2:23). A beleaguered Job railed at the Almighty and eventually Job admitted he didn’t fully grasp God’s greatness (Job 42:1-6). King David sure exclaimed a number of his own “cry out” pleas. “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears” (Psalm 18:6). If we need to let an “Uncl-l-l-l-l-le!” rip from our lips, we’re in good company throughout history.

And God appreciates our honesty. What I’m learning about crying uncle is not so much a surrender of my determination but a surrender of my self-effort. Can you relate? Once we let go of wanting things to go our way or striving to ensure things go way, we can relax and breathe easier. There’s just something about surrender that leaves our mind and heart minty fresh.

Brave and Resilient Tip #75: You’re in good company when you cry uncle and surrender your self-effort.

Finding Joy

As I’m writing this first message of the new year to you, I’m looking over at my new wall calendar with the January photo of snow-dusted evergreen trees blanketing mountain foothills. The pristine photograph reminds me of fresh starts and new adventures that awaken us like the current chill of the Polar Vortex on our cheeks.

10078_10200734125102983_393007073_n - Version 2I used to be a voracious new year’s resolution drafter. Or resolution dreamer. Every year I’d list goals in key areas of my life from exercise and nutrition to my relationship with God and others. Often these optimistic aims faded by February and marooned by March. Eventually I stopped the practice of brainstorming resolutions, and now instead, at the start of each year ponder one character quality or a particular Bible verse that I’d like to emulate more during the next 12 months.

I haven’t settled on my word or verse for 2014 quite yet, but I am leaning toward the word joy. As a teen I used to roll my eyes that my parents chose Joy as my middle name. Now I actually enjoy it!  Dictionary definitions for joy include: keen pleasure, great delight, rapture, bliss. Oh how I would love to express blissful joy even through my roughest moments.

Some of you know that I deal with chronic physical pain and joy is not always my upbeat response. BUT, I’m learning that I can find joy when I look for it in everyday situations. Find means I have to look for and even expect that I will discover some degree of joy right in the middle of the muck. The New Testament’s Galatians 5:22 explains that joy is also part of God’s gift to us and we don’t have to gut our way through life to experience it. Joy flows from a heart that is surrendered to the unpredictable in each day. Perhaps surrender and joy are soul mates.

Throughout the Psalms, the psalmists honestly express their heaviness of heart and then surrender their circumstances to their Jehovah. Supernaturally, their perspective turns to shouting or singing for joy. Psalm 90:14 invites us: “That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Surrender. Joy. Both will uplift us even when we never know how each year will unfold.

What word or two would you most like to emulate this year?


Brave and Resilient Tip #52: Surrender and joy help you navigate the unpredictable. 

Let’s Talk

Fear in Turbulent Times

— by Dr. Helen McIntosh

Q. There’s so much fear and anxiety in our world. North Korea wants to bomb us, so many feel overwhelmed financially and more. How do we overcome this fear?

A. Let’s Talk! A contest years and years ago asked for paintings that illustrated peace. Many tranquil scenes were submitted as you would imagine, but the winner was a painting of a mother bird hovering over her nest of babies in the cleft of a rock behind a large and thunderous  waterfall. Yes, IN SPITE OF our circumstances, brave and resilient warriors seek peace!

There is another picture of birds – this time eagles – that will provide a visual of possibilities. A friend, Jeanne Carter, gave this as a devotional a few days ago:

  • Isaiah 40:31 says that, “We who wait upon the Lord will renew our strength; we will mount up with wings like eagles; we will run and not be weary; we will walk and not faint.” Concerning eagles’ nests: Have we considered that the feathers that have made our nest comfortable may have been fear, worry, anxiety . . . something familiar? Has the Lord shaken your nest? Jesus is trying to pluck things out of the nest and the sticks of life are poking us, making our nest less comfortable or familiar than it used to be. He is encouraging us to get out of the nest with Him into a free fall of total surrender, trusting in Him alone.

 It is God’s kind intention to help us navigate our fears, especially in turbulent times. He lovingly wants to deliver us and protect us. We have talked about reframing fear and anxiety in earlier posts (Reframing Fearful Thoughts, Fear, Control, and Letting Go) and asking God to speak to us very specifically about all that is “under” the issues. Another friend used to say, “It isn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back, but the load under the straw!” What is under your straw? Can you give God your load? It is freedom and the flight path upwards.

We’ll talk more about this in the coming weeks. I would so welcome your sharing your personal loads/straws so I can address the more specific needs of your hearts. Will you? Let’s Talk! You can contact me confidentially at

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.