A rare form of generosity…

I love the quote by Simone Weil, “Attention is the rarest form of generosity.” Personally, I believe her quote rings true today more than ever. At a time where people can physically,  be it at times technologically, connected, people often seem more disconnected to true genuine conversation and ultimately relationships than ever before. So you may ask what was going on in the world and personally for Simone Weil to make this statement in the early 1900s.

Simone Weil who lived during a tough time in culture 1909-1943, including both World Wars. According to some, she was a philosopher and political activist who eventually turned to religion. We can learn some about her through her essays and writings, but to me she seems like a person who was seeking truth and looking for ways to overcome the evil in the world. Some say she became a Christian and emphasized martyrdom and sacrifice as you sought to share her beliefs and give attention to the hurt of others, which led to her dying an early death at age 34. Simone wrote “Attention is the rarest form of generosity” in a letter to a poet friend ins 1942. It is likely she make this statement out of personal experience. Maybe she felt as if no one was truly giving attention to people (the part of creation made in God’s image). It was after all a time of world war, mass killings of Jews, development of nuclear reactor (which became a part of the first  nuclear bomb), families being torn apart by war, etc. Whatever the reason, I can’t help but wonder if it was stated out of the feeling that no one was giving attention to hurting people in the world, likely including herself.

Maybe Simon believed that if people would show true care and concern for one another by giving them attention that people would respond with love and not fear which often leads to terrible behaviors. Consider the pharaoh in Egypt who thought the Jews were becoming too numerous so he treated them like slaves. What if he would have paid attention to them, learned more about them, listened to their stories about their God? Could this have caused him to love them and in turn not lose his first born son? (Exodus) What if Hitler would have given attention to the Jews in his country, learned from them, and given them a chance to be a part of the country he ruled? Could Germany have been a great nation still today instead of millions dying,  including Hitler, for a terrible ideal?

What if you paid attention to those around you? Would it improve your marriage? Would it impact your kids’ behavior? Would it allow for you to make a new friend? Would it change the trajectory of someone’s life? It certainly could! Finally, what if people paid attention to you? Consider how it could change your life.

While we can’t necessarily make people pay attention to us, we can be people who give attention to others.  So, if you want to be a generous person give your attention to someone today. Here are some a tips for when you try:

-Be aware of the messages sent from your body language (make eye contact, think about your facial expressions). Put your phone down!

-Ask open ended questions and/or specific about the person and his/her situation? Demonstrate concern.

-Paraphrase to show you want to understand when engaging in conversation.

-Don’t interrupt or insert your own personal stuff while you are listening to someone.

-Verbally affirm others.

-Notice the person in the corner or notice the person who no one else is noticing and be friendly. Get to know your neighbors. Make a new friend at work.

-Spend quality time with others without technology and give undivided attention. (Don’t act like you are in a hurry).

I am a firm believer that most of the hurts in the world come from relationships, but so does our healing. My faith leads me to believe that ultimate relationship is with God alone. I believe He alone fills the void in our lives, but also uses others to spread His love and attention. Simone Weil also said, “At the centre of the human heart is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world,” which makes me think she came to the same conclusion and belief I have in God.

I hope someone give you attention today!

Dr. Natalie Atwell

If mirrors could talk…

When I thought about making a New Year’s/January post, I wanted to mention the statistic I heard recently that only 45% of Americans have made a new friend in the past 5 years (www.studyfinds.com). This is sad, right?

As I listened to many this week discuss goals, resolutions, diets, fasts, etc.  the only ones who mentioned relationships in those lists were mostly the ones looking for a mate. (Humor me with a detour for a moment)…The natural progression of the conversation of wanting to meet a mate goes to where does one find someone to date. These days around 40% of people first meet online. This stat may even be higher if you consider how others meet on social media by having “mutual” friends/contacts. With the increase of people meeting online, there has also been an increase in people sending “selfies”. As you can imagine these selfies come in all shapes and sizes with or without clothing from what I hear. So let me report this study I read recently in Psychology Today (Dec ’19 issue), “senders (of unsolicited photos of their genitals) scored significantly higher on measures of sexism and narcissism…” Basically, if you are sending these types of pics, it is likely you could be a sexist or narcissist. Also, “the flurry of emotions by those who received unsolicited images include anger, objectification and shame”. Therefore, if you are sending these, you should stop unless you want people to think or know you are sexist and a narcissist. In addition, if you are receiving these by a potential suitor, changes are he is not the one for you! Furthermore, what would your mirror say, “Really no one wants to see that. Some things should be sacred. Also, stop looking at yourself. Appreciate things besides your looks. Ok, I understand the need to check for things in your nose or teeth, but otherwise, go outside and enjoy God’s creation.”

Back on the main road…I wish you all a Happy New Year! I didn’t think about 2020 being a new decade until it has been mentioned by many this week, but wow ok a new decade to focus on doing amazing things for others!  Let me challenge EVERYONE to set a goal of making a new friend in 2020. As Christians, it should be a goal every year to make new friends and meet new people as we share the gospel and make disciples. This was a command by the way…Matthew 28: 19-20 ” 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I pray each one of your mirrors at the end of the year 2020 says, “I’m proud of you, I didn’t see you much this year!

Go out and make a positive difference today, make a new friend,

Dr. Atwell

PS: Michael Jackson’s “Man in the mirror” song wouldn’t work for nasty selfies people send to others…but we can all learn from that song in some aspects.

Giving out of obligation or love

I love to wrap Christmas presents even if I get glitter from the ribbon all over my rug. However, sometimes as I wrap there are gifts I feel indignant about giving. Sadly, this is true and I’m confessing this before you. There are people in my life at times whom I’ve felt obligated to give a gift to and not truly felt I was giving from my heart. Maybe you have felt this way too. I know some people in history have given from places other than the heart. Anyone remember the gift of the Trojan Horse? I also read recently a story about Robert Redford sending Paul Newman a totaled Porshe for his 50th birthday. Paul re-gifted it back to Robert as a compacted piece of metal. I’m not sure what was behind this situation, but it seems a little spite may be underlying.

Maybe you have decided not to give a person who has hurt you a gift or you’ve decided to not show up to a family event or gathering with friends due to your hurt. It is tough to give to those you feel have wronged you or wronged your family and friends in some way. I am definitely not advocating that you give something such as the Trojan horse to this person! Let me encourage you by sharing something God showed me as I wrapped presents this year.

This year, God showed me as I was wrapping one of gifts I wasn’t super excited to give that He knew I was struggling to give to a certain person and He understood. He then reminded me that He gave the most precious gift of all, wrapped in the most innocent package to people who have hurt him and wronged him beyond belief. This includes me. I’m a sinner, I have hurt God, wronged him, and I deserved to die eternally because of my sin against God. It doesn’t matter how small or great the sin, it all separates us from God. However, out of His great love, God sent his son, Jesus, as a gift to us. Jesus then died in our place to pay our penalty. I don’t think it was easy for God to send his son to die for a world full of sinners. However, he wrapped the best gift of all time in the most precious   package, a baby! If God can do this for me, then I need to change my attitude about giving to people who hurt or frustrate me also. Give because you’ve been given the chance to spend eternity with God. He will right all wrongs, we don’t have to…so have peace during the season and give from your heart!

Merry Christmas,

Dr. Atwell

John 3:16-18 (Message)

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

 

What NOT to say?

Have you ever had one of those “stick your foot in your mouth” moments. Well, I’ve had plenty….Recently, while on a trip to Chicago with my famous DJ friend, Candice and other friends, we were able to meet some of the actors and actresses from the Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago PD TV shows (which was pretty cool so I had to mention). We also met a real life Chicago fireman (a real hero is really cool though) at one of the events.

While one of my friends and I were discussing life with the nice fireman, I joked about my son entering the teen years and being fearful of the images girls may try to send him or vice versa on a phone (which he doesn’t have yet). My joke was, “If Chloe the Ho-y” tries to send an in appropriate picture of her body to my son, I may flip out. As I said this, the kind fireman turned to me and said, ….”My daughter’s name is Chloe.” Of course, I was mortified that I had unintentionally used his daughter’s name in my silly comment, and I wanted to put my foot in my mouth at the time. Eventually, I apologized and donated to the charity he was promoting for the Chicago Fire department to show my gratitude.

On a serious note, around this same time back home in the South, one of my best friends was going through a terrible time of grief from losing a baby. We went from preparing showers and picking out pink hair bows for a precious little girl to preparing meals for two grieving parents and picking out thinking of you gifts. As I called, sat with, and walked with my friend trying to listen to her and just be there, I was reminded of the things people say trying to help during difficult times, that actually do the opposite of help. Therefore, I thought I’d encourage you as you read this blog for “What not to say” during difficult times.

1-Time heals all wounds.

Death isn’t something we were ever created to handle. God created us to live forever with him in the garden, but sin screwed this up and the world we live in is now broken and death is a part of the brokenness.  Although, it doesn’t have to for those who believe in Jesus paying their penalty for sin and dying in their place :). This is the good news/gospel!

2-When can you move on or you need to move on?

Some people can’t move on, they just have to go on. The good news is that God won’t waste their pain. He can make beautiful things from ashes.

3-Everything happens for a reason (as if it was a good reason).

Again, this isn’t helpful and sometimes the reasoning stinks. The main reason bad things happen is because we live in a broken world…

4-At least you…fill in the blank.

This doesn’t make anyone feel better during a tough time.

5-Be thankful…

Sometimes people can’t be during a tough time and someone telling them to be thankful makes it worse. 

6-I know how you feel.

No two people are alike, no two people experience things exactly alike. So no, you really don’t know…

7-What can I do for you?

Be more specific. Ask, “Can I bring you dinner on Monday?

8-Call me if you need me.

They won’t call, call them just to check in.

9-God needed her more than you did or God needed another angel.

This is not biblical. God doesn’t need us, he chooses to partner with us in this world to do His work. God doesn’t need babies in heaven either. Also, people don’t become angels. People who are grieving aren’t helped by a statement like this and it’s also not true. Again, the loss of a loved one is a result of a broken world. (period) 

10-Nothing.

Acknowledge that a loss happened, and say something encouraging… See suggestions below.

Bonus: “Whatcha got in there?” Recently, at a family funeral, an old lady from a past church, came up and patted one of my family members on the stomach and asked, “Whatcha got in there?”, to which my family member replied in a very sweet voice, “fat”. Little did the old lady know, this person has had a very difficult few years resulting in a few extra lbs. I told this family member, an appropriate response would have been to pat the old lady on her chest and say, “Whatcha got in there? Probably not a heart!” Actually, I know vengeance is not ours, but God’s…PS. Just because you are an old lady doesn’t give you the right to be rude.

Here are some things to consider saying:

  • I’m so sorry.
  • I’m praying for you. However, don’t just say it, do it!
  • No one should have to go through this.
  • My favorite memory of your loved one is when…
  • I’d love to hear about your loved one.
  • I think about you and your loved one often.
  • Your loved one will be missed.
  • I’m sure you miss him/her so much.
  • Every life matters no matter how short or how long. This life mattered to me and I know to you as well.

Finally, Job’s friends in the Old Testament often get a bad rap for saying all the wrong things when he lost everything-which they did. However, did you know that at first they sat with him in silence for seven days?! Job 2:13, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Sometimes, we just need to go and sit with those who are grieving.

Be blessed this week and let’s all think and pray before we speak to those who are hurting,

Dr. Atwell

PS. If you’d like to donate to the Chicago Fire Department charity, you can do so at http://www.ignitethespirit.org

Donating to a charity or cause is another way to show someone you care about them as they are grieving and to assure them that every life matters. My personal favorite is to donate Gideon bibles (www.gideons.org). This way, life can be made possible for others by sharing the gospel.

Below is a pic from our trip :).

IMG_1905.jpg

 

 

 

A great recommendation from a teenager

Teenagers these days often are described as being self-centered, lazy, unmotivated, and addicted to social media instead of living life without posting about it or considering using a filter for pictures they post.

I was encouraged this summer as I met a very amazing teenage boy at the beach who was so kind to my not quite teenage boys. He took them riding in a boat, helped them learn to kayak, and never acted like they were bothering him. He and his brother were very respectful and truly a joy to be around. One day, the teenage boy told me he was reading the book “Make Your Bed: Little things that can change your life…and maybe the world” by Admiral William McCraven. He also told me he wants to be a navy seal one day.  I have no doubt that he will achieve his goal and will be a great leader one day.

After I met him and talked to his mother about how she is raising two amazing boys, I saw a book at the library that caught my eye, “Sea Stories: My life in special operations” By Admiral William McCraven. Since this man obviously caught the attention of a neat teenager, I thought maybe I’d enjoy a book written by the same man. The book did not disappoint. I found someone who is very successful to also be humble and gracious.

Here are some things I learned from the book:

-Turn hardships into laughter, self-deprecating, unforgettable, and unforgettable stories.. it’s all in how you remember it!

-Don’t lie to your parents, they know. Give your kids a chance to tell the truth.

-Don’t underestimate the power of one act of kindness. Call a kid, encourage someone today it may make all the difference in the world.

-Take it one evolution at a time. Don’t quit, it’s not the smartest, fastest or strongest who are always successful. It’s the ones who stumble, fall, falter, persevere, who get up and keep moving.

-Sacrifice is worth the reward. God is always working. His hand is in everything . When it’s your time to go, it’s your time.

-People are always listening:). 

-There are angels and spirits among us. Be aware.

-War gives your life meaning. Everyone longs for an honorable fight, a battle of convictions.

-Don’t be a bench sitter

-People deserve a second chance

-Be kind to people who are going thru tough times. Continue to fight regardless of your injury! Lose the paperwork…

-Bombs can be carried in shoes… Your decisions effect others sometimes long after you intended them to.

-Overcome evil with good

-Have hope that God can turn brokenness into something beautiful. 

-Leaders must be prepared to trust who are fighting for them and to make tough decisions.

-Sometimes rough men have to protect the innocent. 

-The sacrifices of the men and women in the armed forces help to save those who may be the best great scientists, doctors , pastors, etc.

-Millennials ask why, sacrifice and say they will be just fine, they are more inclusive, more engaged, not always unmotivated.

-It feels great when justice is served

-Practice the tough plans and drills, go over them and over so you are prepared.

-Tomorrow has stories too.

 

Be blessed today. Keep going, don’t quit, If it isn’t over yet, it is not the end…A brighter day is ahead.

Dr. Atwell

Identity Crisis

I remember growing up and hearing this phrase, “identity crisis’. It didn’t quite have the same connotation in the 80s and 90s as it does today. As I look around, interact with, and watch people on television, etc. it is clear to me that many people are truly in an identity crisis. Some define “identity crisis” as a time of uncertainty, confusion, and insecurity related to changes in expected aims or roles in society.

Nerd note: Erik Erikson was the developmental psychologist credited with coming up with identity crisis terms, etc. Another psychologist, James Marcia came up with four stages or statuses of identity:

1-Identity Achieved: People who are committed to who they are and are continuing to explore.

2-Identity diffused: People who are are committed or exploring.

3-Moratorium: People who are on “hold” about making life decisions of who they are.

4-Foreclosed: People who are closed off to contemplated what they want out of life.

Marcia suggested the ideal status is Identity Achieved.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201203/are-you-having-identity-crisis

So what does a Christian believe about identity? What does the Bible say?

In Isaiah 6, God essentially tells Isaiah to go and tell the people that because they have continued to rebel against Him and sought after their own sinful and selfish desires they will, “…Keep on hearing, but won’t understand; keep on seeing, but won’t perceive…”

Paul says, in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

1 Peter 2:9, ” But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

 

The Bible, God’s word suggests that we were created by Him and to truly understand who we are and to do what we were created to do, we must follow Him and die to ourselves. I’ve also heard a wise biblical teacher once say, “If you don’t find your identity in Christ, God will take it away.”

I believe the path to true identity and fulfillment is to follow God’s plans for your life. This involves obeying His commands, following His word, serving others, loving others, sharing the gospel, etc.  Anything outside of this will lead to an unfulfilled life.

The world including popular culture will tell you that identity is based in everything from sexuality, career, marital status, financial status, etc. where God’s view is totally contrary to these which often lead to destruction, pain, and loneliness. God’s call is to follow Him and to be like him. I dare you to try it God’s way.

Be encouraged today,

Dr. Atwell

Roger and the value of every life.

Recently, my son brought home a worm that he was supposed to nurture and care for that would turn into a beetle. I confess that I am not fond of bugs. I appreciate their place in God’s creation, but I don’t want them in my home. My son was excited about this insect he named, Roger. He fed him, made sure he had air and talked to him daily. However, when we went on vacation after three weeks of nurturing, I didn’t think Roger was ready to travel and I didn’t want him left home to possibly turn into the beetle and be in our home roaming freely, so I relocated his plastic cup home to the trash and figured he could survive in a landfill if God wills it at this time.

Being the amazing mother I am who always wants to teach a lesson to my children, I decided that if my son was ready to be a father, he would have come up with a plan to care for Roger on our vacation and since he didn’t, I had to do what I had to do with Roger. Hopefully, you see the sarcasm in “amazing mother” and that at this point you will  continue reading although some of you may think I’m heartless. My son is definitely not ready to be father as he didn’t even ask about Roger’s whereabouts for a week and thankfully he isn’t physically able to become a father also at this time.

When he asked about Roger, I told him the truth and he cried and was very upset for a while. We talked about Roger having a future in the landfill and that he was a part of nature and not a human life with a soul, etc. He has sense moved on, but our discussions about the value of human life have continued. Kids often understand God’s plans more often by simply believing and not adding worldly spins on matters of human life than adults do. Ask most children about killing a baby in the womb at any point and they will most likely think you are crazy for even considering it. My son didn’t question that “Roger” was a living thing as a tiny worm even before he became a beetle… How then do we as adults question a baby from the point of conception as anything other than a living being?

Again, some may want to stop reading at this point, but hear me out. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t value all life. I believe there is a purpose for all human beings no matter how they enter the world. The God I serve is able to make beauty from ashes. I’ve met clients who were born from incest or rape. I’ve had clients who gave birth to a child from  rape and incest situations. In addition, I’ve had clients who’ve had abortions. In my experience, the ones with regrets are the ones who’ve had abortions not children. Let me also state that there is a beautiful way to deal with hurt and unwanted pregnancies such as adoption. In some ways, abortion is really an issue of faith in God. If I have faith in God, shouldn’t I believe he can allow things in my life that don’t come according to my plan into beautiful things.

Finally, as we value all human life, we must also value those who disagree with our beliefs by loving them, showing compassion, forgiving, and praying for them as we  won’t them to do for us. In addition, if you or someone you know has had an abortion and wish you hadn’t, I want you to know that God still loves you and can make beauty from the pain you main feel about this decision. God never wastes our pain. I truly hope my son will forgive me for putting Roger in the trash, and I hope we both learn what we should from this experience.

Praying you value every human life today,

Dr. Atwell

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”