Fixing or Healing

When we talk about ourselves or others as being “broken,” we begin to treat them like an object to be fixed, not a Subject to be known.

We are people with stories and souls, not an object to be used. 

Objects are made to do things. A vase holds flowers. A dishwasher cleans dishes. Scissors are made to cut. Chairs don’t care how you use them. When an object breaks, we attempt to fix and get it back into the original working order. If we can’t fix it, we get rid of it.

When we apply this principle of “fixing” onto people’s lives (others or ourselves), we treat them like an object. Like there is something wrong with them until they are fixed and put back together. And if we can’t fix them? Discard.

You can’t fix a broken heart.

You can’t go back in time and undo what’s been done. 

You can’t discard the agony of death without severing part of yourself. 

These wounds we experience are often the birthplace of passion and purpose for our lives. Objects can’t heal, because they are not alive.

When wounds heal, the story is a beacon of hope for others. Just visit any cancer floor at a hospital or a 12-step support group, you’ll see this in living color. That which is painful is most universal. 

The great philosopher Tow Mater from the movie Cars said his dents were too valuable to get rid of because he got them from spending time with his best friend Lightning McQueen. “I don’t fix these. I wanna remember these dents forever.”

What dents in your life need healing?


Day 10: Celebrate

This post is a part of The 15-Day Relationship Challenge. If you’re just now tuning in, click here for the whole series.

Celebrate! What we have accomplished. 

Good morning. Welcome to day 10, cellll-ebrate good times, c’mon! 

We’re at day 10, and in case you’ve missed how we got here, take a look at where we’ve been in this 15-Day challenge:
Day 1 – Hello! The gift of welcome. 
Day 2 – Roles. Where we come from.
Day 3 – Personalities. Who we are.
Day 4 – Top 5, Part 1. Keystone Stories of Loss.
Day 5 – Top 5, Part 2. Keystone Stories of Joy.
Day 6 – Growth. Who am I becoming?
Day 7 – Rest. Let all things be.
Day 8 – Remember Us. Our story. 
Day 9 – Grace. Sweat the small stuff. 

Today, we’re going to talk about celebrations.

Have you ever noticed that your photo albums are all full of pictures from happy moments? There may be a stray picture or two about something sad, but generally we take pictures of happy times. Why? I think it’s because we need more help remembering the good times. Difficult times stick to us like velcro, thus we don’t need help remembering those. It would do our lives good to think and reflect about the happy times as much, or more, as we do for the hard times. 

I often talk with couples about the relational problems that stem from competition. Competition means that there is a winner and a loser. No one likes to be a loser, and no one wants to be with a loser. So it’s really a lose-lose situation when competition is present in relationships. You might win the argument, decision, debate, but you will ultimately lose. Win the battles lose the war is a horrible strategy. So let’s talk about a different kind of strategy, and a different kind of winning. 

There are battles, and there is a war. The best strategy is to choose your battles, and fight together in the war. Unfortunately it’s easy to confuse our spouse as being the enemy. When this happens, competition is nearby. The real enemy are the threats and forces that are out to break the two of you apart. Societies thrive and prosper when families are in tact and committed to a common purpose together. There are threats a plenty that don’t want socieity to thrive, nor do they want your marriage to prosper. 

Teammates win together, and they lose together. When we get married we create and join a team together. We give up our individual rights, and together create new rights that serve the team, not just the individual. Tomorrow when we talk about losses, we need a foundation that allows us to grieve together the difficulties and losses in our relationship. 

Winning as a team means that we’re competing together against a common goal, a common enemy. When we win, it calls for celebrations to rejoice and remember the goodness that can be accomplished if we work together. Couples desperately need these monuments of good to remember and hold on to, especially when the storms of life show up and challenge us to the core. 

Reflection Questions

  • What did I think about my spouse in reading today’s material? Was it kind? Was it thoughtful? Was it loving?
  • Did I have feelings, thoughts, questions, or stories that came to mind?
  • What is something I can do for them today?
  • How can I welcome and receive what they have done for me today?

What are the top 5 most celebratory moments of your marriage? Answer these questions about each story: 

  • What happened?
  • What did I feel? 
  • How did I respond?
  • What was amazing about this event?
  • What did I do with the joy I felt?

Give yourself some time to complete today’s assignment. You might need 30 or more minutes to appropriately answer the above questions. Be thoughtful, be kind, don’t rush through this assignment. 


Hello! Welcome back. Great to see you again. How was your day?

Stories are awesome, and I hope you have some great stories to tell after today’s assignment. Stories give us hope, and help us and others express this hope in profound ways. I think this is why we love movies so much. 

Take 10-15 minutes tonight with your spouse to talk through your day. 

  • What were the highs and lows?
  • Where were you surprised? 
  • Was there anything different about your day because of the assignment(s)?
  • From this mornings reading, what stood out to you? 
  • If you’re willing, share your answers to the assignment. 

Assignment Connection
We need to remember these stories of goodness and joy. Go on a date together and visit a local home decor store.

You’re going to buy two things: A container and a bag of smooth rocks. The container needs to be small enough to fit on a shelf or table, but big enough to hold 25+ or so rocks about the size of a silver dollar. The rocks need to be smooth so that you can write on them. Look for river stones at the store (A store like TJ Max, At Home, JoAnns, etc) 

Go home, put the container in a visible place in your house. Take 5 rocks, and write a phrase on the rock that represents one story of celebration. Fill the jar with as many stories as you can. Continue filling the jar in the days, weeks, and years ahead. This is your monument jar.

In the future, when your relationship feels like it is “on the rocks,” take out the rocks and look at what is on them. You’ll be reminded of what goodness has happened, and what goodness can still happen.

Day 8: Remember Us, Our Story

This post is a part of The 15-Day Relationship Challenge. If you’re just now tuning in, click here for the whole series.

Remember Us. Our story.

Good morning. Welcome to Day 8!

We’re taking a shift from focusing on you as an individual, to you two together as a couple. The next week will be a similar experience to last week, only the readings and assignments will be more directed to your relationship. These assignments might take you a little bit longer than last week, so just ask if you need more time to finish these well. If you missed any of the days/assignments from last week, now is a great time to pause the challenge here and get caught up. 

Today is about your relationship story. The story of us: How we came to be together. 

All great stories have similar themes, characters, and storyline. There’s the hero/heroine, a partner, villain, purpose/plot, the journey, struggles, hope lost, hope found, a guide, and happily ever after. These components of a great story are only great because we all live a similar story. 

We’re all embroiled in a fight of good vs evil, and in our context here today, we have a partner in this fight. Unfortunately in this fight, we mistake our partner for the evil and ourselves for the good. We’ll get to that later this week, but today we’re going to help you tell your story. There are three main parts you’re going to tell about your relationship: Origin, commitment, and passion. 

Your story involves this guy who met this girl, and they started finding reasons to spend more time together. Perhaps it was love at first sight (or fight!), or maybe you both came along for the ride unsure about the other person. Regardless you both had some first impressions that clearly didn’t dissuade you from getting together. 

Your story also involves some kind of promise to one another. A promise of commitment to, but also a promise of giving up others. Commitments to someone are only good insofar as you let go of the other someones you used to be committed to (parents, exes, self, possessions, etc). You might have used the phrase “forsake all others” and truly a better phrase doesn’t exist to describe the surrender of two people to one another. Fidelity means we live our lives on behalf of benefiting the other, in all manner of things. Most of us didn’t have a clue what we were committing to! 

Lastly, your story involves passion. Passion for each other. Passion for sex. Passion for love. Passion for the euphoric feelings of being together until all hours of the night. Just like fire, passion is a beautiful and powerful force. Left unwatched it can burn out of control, or lose it’s flames. Something has happened to your passion for one another and has turned into something like a raging wildfire to a pile of ashes with a barely felt presence of heat. Or perhaps you’re somewhere in between those two metaphorical places. Regardless of where you are, the story needs to be told. 

On our 15th anniversary I took my wife on a 3 hour car ride. We stopped at each of the significant landmarks (or representational landmarks for those out of state) in our relationship, and I read aloud the part of our story that took place there. It was a great for me to remember, as it was for her to hear. We both needed to remember where we had been, and where we were going. 

Today you’re going to answer the question of “where have we been.” What story will you tell? Dr. John Gottman says that happiness in couples increases when they choose to tell stories of positive past experiences together. Happiness decreases when these same couples tell negative stories from their past. I invite you to leave the negative experiences alone for another day, they probably won’t go too far away! 

Reflection Questions:

  • What did I think about my spouse in reading today’s material? Was it kind? Was it thoughtful? Was it loving?
  • Did I have feelings, thoughts, questions, or stories that came to mind?
  • What is something I can do for them today?
  • How can I welcome and receive what they have done for me today?

Write your story. Take the 3 components discussed above, and write what comes to mind about these questions: 


  • What do you remember most about the early dating days with him/her?
  • What’s something you’ve never told about that meeting?
  • Where was your first kiss?
  • What hope did you find for your life in your relationship together?
  • From a positive perspective, What do you miss about you, and about him/her, and about your relationship from those early days? (Note: this is not an opportunity to air resentments, or past hurts. Save that for another day)


  • When did you know you wanted to commit your life to him/her?
  • What was it like for you waiting for the right time to ask, or to be asked?
  • What didn’t you know about yourself then about commitment that you wished you would have known?
  • What was hopeful about your commitment together?


  • What are the three most admirable traits about your spouse?
  • If you were stranded alone on an island for six weeks, what would you miss the most about your spouse?
  • What is a story of passion together that you never tire of telling?


Hello! Welcome back. Great to see you again. How was your day?
Stories are awesome. They give us hope, they let us see things about ourselves, and they provide clarity on the battles we find ourselves facing. What isn’t named cannot be celebrated, nor can it be fought. I hope the story you worked on telling today has brought some life and hope into you and your relationship. 

Take 10-15 minutes tonight with your spouse to talk through your day. 

  • What were the highs and lows?
  • Where were you surprised? 
  • Was there anything different about your day because of the assignment(s)?
  • From this mornings reading, what stood out to you? 
  • If you’re willing, share your answers to the assignment. 

Assignment Connection
Write a note of gratitude for the work your spouse has put in to the challenge thus far. 


Knowledge vs Experience

There is a difference in the knowledge of reading about something, and the knowledge of experiencing something.

It’s the difference between the knowing in our heads and knowing from the heart. 

If you’ve been to the Grand Canyon, you know with your whole being the expanse of it all. There are no words to describe it. The grand scale of the depth is beyond what any wikipedia entry could ever help you to know if you’ve never been there. Yes, you can look at a picture, study the stats, and recount the history of how it came to be. But that will never get close to the experience one gets by standing on the South Rim.

This reminds me of the powerful scene in Good Will Hunting when Sean confronts Will that not all things in life is about knowledge from a book. 

Voltaire said it well, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Letting go of the perfect: The ideal; the manicured or curated social medialife. This might allow us to experience the good. 

What we know with our heads sometimes keeps us from knowing with our hearts. We think we know something because we read about it or watched a Ted talk about it. We are inundated with pictures, data, and the expanse of words that tell us about things in life. Yet we’re impoverished in actually experiencing these same things. 

What might we find — about ourselves, or others — if we moved away from the comfort of knowing, to the discomfort of experience? 


A Near Miss

On my walk to the restroom the other day I was preoccupied with an email I’d just received. During my walk I was mulling over my response, or if I needed to respond at all. I was completely unaware of my surroundings, walking towards the restroom on auto-pilot.

I turned the corner in the hallway and I didn’t notice the woman coming towards me. She was now directly in my path. She’d just come out of the women’s restroom and had a book in one hand and a coffee in her other hand. We were going to collide if I didn’t move out of the way. In my head, I saw the coffee exploding onto the walls, our clothing, and the floor. This was not going to be good. 

I had two choices. One, to run into her (as gracefully as possible) and attempt to grab a hold of her so that neither of us fall. My other choice is to use the wall next to her to avoid the coffee collision. And that’s what I do. I quickly reach my arm past her face over her head and push myself off the wall to avoid running into her. It was an awkward move on my part, but the only one that I could do in order to keep the coffee in her cup. She passed under my outstretched arm, and I rebound off the wall.

Disaster avoided.

She scoffed at my clumsiness, making some sharp remark about my maneuver, and then disappeared around the corner to continue her day. I’m grateful for the near miss. I’m also reminded about the limitations we humans have, and how little grace I give others in their limitations. People have way more going on in their life than I can ever know.

This woman didn’t know me. She didn’t know that I have a lower leg disability that makes it entirely impossible for me to shift my walking direction as quickly as one who is able bodied. Her snap judgement of my ability was without curiosity or kindness. And that’s ok. Perhaps she herself was having an unusually difficult day. 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a fierce battle.” ~Plato


Parenting as a Vehicle

Parenting. Hordes of books dominate the shelves of bookstores, teaching you the love languages of kids, the brain rules, and even how kids raise parents (which is my most suggested book for current and aspiring parents). There are classes, techniques, and even some really stringent cult-like ideas that all hope to help parents master the art of parenting.

I enjoy referring to parenting in football defensive references. If a family has two kids, it’s “man coverage,” with 3 kids they are in zone coverage, and with four or more, the all important (and most anxiety producing for a football fan) Prevent defense. It’s clever, I know.

The truth is, no metaphor, book, technique, or principal can help to prepare someone to be a parent. And yet, we all need help to shepherd us along the way.

It’s really hard work, and mostly exhausting to deal with free-willed little people who refuse to be your robot.

Go to bed. Unload your dishes. Be nice to your sister. Pick up your clothes. Turn off the lights.

If you’re a parent, you get it. Most of the time parents are directing, pointing, teaching, yelling, and ending the day praying the kids turn out ok. It’s the ultimate journey of faith, trust, and powerlessness.

Parenting is the vehicle that gets our kids onto or nearby the launching pad for their lives. Each kid has their own unique launching pad. Sometimes parents don’t see that different kids have different needs, which produce different lifestyles, goals, and vision for their lives. If we take all our kids to the same destination, the same launching pad, only one is going to pleased.

This vehicle is the container that provides safe travel while the journey is still in the confines of childhood. Slowly, methodically, and gradually the kids will begin to branch out and become curious about their world. More often than not, a kids curiosity will trigger a parents fear of losing control. This fear, left undressed or unexplored, leads straight to the command center of the kids’ launching pad.

As a fearful parent, I want to be in the command center. I want to be in the control room that has the correct flight plan, path, and coordinates for my kids rocket. I want to know what is going to happen, where they are going, and that they will be ok. In reality, I just want to be ok. My kids are an extension of me (they’re still in the early journey of curiosity), and if they hurt, so do I.

It’s easy for parents to be in the mindset of putting the kids in an auto-piloted vehicle, and retire to the control room where they can push the buttons, speak commands, and remain aloof from the reality of the kids who are in the vehicle. This is the safest form of parenting, but it’s not really parenting. It’s more like a warden, a boss, or an autocrat.

James Masterson, a therapist and author, says that the role of the therapist is to be the guardian of the true, real self. Not surprisingly, this is a lot like the role of a parent. Our role is to guard our kids from buying into the lie that posturing, faking it, or performing is what works. It’s our job to show our kids that money doesn’t buy happiness, nor does money solve the real challenges of life.

The ultimate challenge of parenting is to cultivate a relationship, the vehicle, that allows for safe return from misplaced curiosity, foolish choices, or damaging actions.

On Being Needy

I think most people would agree that no one wants to be a needy person. We usually distance ourselves from those who have little to no ability (as adults) to help themselves. The problem is, that we are all people of need, and this is a very uncomfortable position. If I admit to needing something (which is different than wanting), this means I don’t have the ability to self-produce everything for my life.

My inability to self-produce all that I need for my life is evident at every moment of the day. I need oxygen to survive and there is no way for my body to get oxygen without breathing … which is an involuntary action. I can only tell my body to stop breathing for so long, and then it takes over and starts breathing again. I am not in complete control over my body, nor anything else in life.

Our needing help from others is like breathing. If you stop breathing as much, you will become a burden to others. This is the same with our relational and emotional needs—if you stop needing relationship with others, you’ll become a burden. No one wants to be in a relationship with an overly needy or needless person. Sure, we often complain about how needy others are around us, but the reality is some of these needs are exactly what draws us to people. (It used to be that we needed others to tell us what our faces looked like because we had no ability to see ourselves — technology has removed that need, among other things)

I feel useful, which is a sense of self-worth, when I am able to give something that I can do to someone who doesn’t have that ability. Certainly we can get caught up in becoming addicted to helping others (codependency), but at the heart we all need to give away that which is a natural resource within us. Our resources are there not to keep to ourselves, but to share with others. When I’m able to share my natural abilities with others, it’s a gift from them.

I don’t feel all that useful when I’m asking for help. It’s hard and vulnerable to ask for help, but it’s also a gift. If I don’t ask for help, I’m preventing someone else from the ability to share their resources with me. Not asking for help is incredibly prideful and selfish. Relationships won’t last long if you withhold needs.

The Way We Heal

The way we heal the wounds in our lives is to tell the story. Tell the story of your harm over and over again until you are no longer limited and harmed by what has happened. This is the essence of therapy … to become familiar with our own truths (and lies) and live honest and peaceable lives.

You cannot do this alone. We are not unbiased about our wounds, nor the words we use to describe our experiences. We need others to hear our stories, and to help us to see parts that we’d rather not see. Parts that we hate.

Untold stories (secrets) poison our hope, dreams, and relationships. Yes, there is much pain in these stories but pain is only there because there has been a fracture of relationship. Just like cold is not it’s own created thing, it is the absence of heat, so too is pain. Pain only exists because a relationship (love) has been broken.

If we cannot forgive those we hate the most (and this doesn’t mean that we have to like the person we’re forgiving), we will never be able to accept the forgiveness of others. Telling our secrets—our stories—is the process of grief, of forgiveness.

Habits to combat anxiety and depression

Last week I spoke to a group of people about developing healthy habits to combat the effects of anxiety and depression in our lives. Everyone experiences both anxiety and depression at some point in our lives, usually on a fairly regular basis. Below are the notes from my talk.


A man who suffers before it is necessary, suffers more than is necessary.  ~ Seneca

When we feel that our fears are too big for our own capacity, we begin shutting down. Our creativity, resourcefulness and ability to make decisions are all sabotaged by the anxiety or depression we feel about our lives. This is the essence of shutting down.
As with anything in life, we can generally take some kind of behavior and do it in such a way that makes it unhealthy. The following are a few ways that I have found to reduce stress and increase our ability to cope with the anxieties of our lives.

Ways to limit anxiety/depression effects:
1. Limit your intake of information. 
     – facebook, social media
     – tv, other ‘screens’ (computer, phone, etc)
Our phones, screens, are devilish little creatures. They promise productivity but really only add an additional layer of distraction from what we all say is most important in our lives: relationships.
We are not made to be alone, yet so much anxiety comes about because we feel so alone.
2. Start a journal
Storytelling has been the language of healing since the beginning of time. We all have a story to tell, despite most of our beliefs that our stories aren’t really that interesting. Movies and music are so popular because they are short stories that take us to the places we can’t go on our own.
Journaling is one of the most therapeutic exercises that I know of.
Write about life, thoughts, feelings, emotions, loves, hates, indifferences. When you begin to write, you invite healing and restoration.
3. Exercise regularly
We’re a health conscious society. A lot of this is for reasons of vanity, but deep down we all long to be cared for and loved. Unfortunately we usually go about getting that care and love through unhealthy ways, including working out.
But, working out because it is kind to your soul, body, and mind is a great way to reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and depression.
When you work out, you are telling your body that you care, and a funny thing happens when you begin caring about something: you treat it better. It’s not rocket science, yet most of us behave as though going to the gym and eating well is akin to building our own space rocket.
4. Make and set goals
If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time.
Goals are like the tracks on a railroad … they guide you to your destination. They themselves are not the destination, rather they are the boundaries and help you need to get where you are going.
If you are a neurotic goal setter, try limiting yourself to the number of goals that you set so that the goals themselves don’t become the way that you judge yourself. If you don’t normally set goals, try to be as specific as possible.
Set attainable goals. If you want to run a 10k, give yourself time to train so that you’re not forcing yourself to get too fast to the starting line.
5. Read enriching material
I have a insatiable appetite for reading, but not everything I read is worthwhile. I spend a lot of time reading articles and other random hubs of information that can sometimes border on an addiction. I love historical fiction and will generally read 5-6 of these books a year, usually in succession to each other.
I get bored easily with non-fiction and I rarely find a book that is so good that I read every word. Most books I put down after reading the first few chapters and skim the remainder. I learn a lot this way, but I used to feel shame about this being the way I read.
Someone said that the only thing different about you in 20 years will be the people you meet and the books you read. This is a great mantra to live by. Set a goal to read x number of books a year, go out and learn about something. This will do a couple things for you.
 — ONE, it will expand your world. We live in a bubble here in the USA, even more so here in middle TN. The majority of the worlds problems happen here, but we are very insulated from them. This is one of the biggest factors that I see in people struggling with their identity, anxiety, is that we know at a core level that the world is not a safe place, yet so much of our ways of life here in the US are about safety.
David Brooks, the editor for the NYT, says that America is a secularized version of Heaven. We have tried to create a place that is free: Free from violence, pain, suffering, poverty, and difficulty. In a lot of ways, we can’t handle the freedom that we are afforded here in the States.
— SECONDLY, reading books will help you to get outside of yourself. One of the big struggles people have is that our culture is too me-centric. We are not meant to live in such a narcissistic way, and our anxiety is telling us that this is a problem.
Reading forces you to confront your own biases, meet new ideas, and wrestle with your dogmatic ways of living life.
6. Reflection time in morning or at night
What we fear, we hate. And what we hate, we avoid.
We can’t manufacture feelings. What we can do is to set aside time and space for processing so that when we do feel what we feel, we can have a place to feel these things. If we are constantly trying to escape our feelings, through people of things, then we will not be comfortable feeling what we feel.
Tell the story of the boy going to the desert. He’s afraid. Rightfully so. Only by going to the desert with a trusted guide will he learn to face the fears on his own. We can’t expect to handle situations that we’ve never faced before.

The U.S. is a culture that values doing more than being. We don’t rest well, which means that most spaces and places of our lives are filled up. We are a culture of performers, of doers. Unfortunately, when cultures are driven by performance, doing, addictions and life controlling habits flourish. Said another way: We fill our lives up with stuff. Shopping, Toys, Food, alcohol, internet, reality (not really) TV shows, porn, and drugs are all ways that we medicate the reality that we don’t have enough capacity to get what we want.

It’s impossible to live life for long as a human doer. We are human beings. We’re finite creatures with needs that sometimes defy age, logic, and reason. We’re not the great conquerors and rulers of life that we want to believe we are. As the poet and songwriter Lenoard Cohen once said, “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Living life with spaces, pauses, takes great discipline. It also takes acceptance about our limitations and finitude. We cannot perform as though we are whole creatures and value brokenness and faults. Not all spaces — in all aspects of life, physical, emotional, relational, mental — are meant, or need, to be filled. Rhythms create space. What rhythms are you practicing?


This season is so full.

Holiday parties, shopping, Christmas cards, kids activities all dot the calendar landscape. It’s only 30 days or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it might as well be one week. It sure feels that way.

Too much the antithesis of what I want this season to be about, though I realize I’ve dug my own hole and booked myself and family too much. Each year I anticipate the peace that the Christmas season promises, and each year am saddened with how busy it becomes.

It’s loud. Too loud. People shouting, shoving, and posturing on Black Friday. Others leaving notes on cars because they weren’t parked “correctly” in the mall parking lot. So much of the busyness is self-inflicted … and yet I wonder if this is an age-old dilemma.

I wonder if the fullness of the “holidays” are akin to what God-fearing people felt as they waited and anticipated the coming of Christ. Perhaps they too felt full and maxed out. They needed the Savior to come and relieve the tension, anxiety, and worry. To save them from themselves. To save them from trying to buy happiness, contentment, or fairness. They needed Christ in the same way we do.

Maybe that’s why Christmas day is about the only day of the year when many of us stop our normal comings and goings and accept peace. Accept the truth that we don’t have what it takes, but someone does and he came. For us.

I’m glad He came.