Category Archives: Suffering

I Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry

Feeling a little stressed lately?  Time for a science lesson.

According to Dr. William Frey of the Dry Eye and Tear Research Center in Minneapolis, 85% of women and 73% of men reported feeling better after crying while under emotional stress.  The lacrimal gland in the eyes regulates tear secretion.  It also concentrates manganese, a necessary mineral related to moods, and tears remove this concentrated mineral from the body.

Dr. Frey’s research shows that the concentration of manganese is 30 times greater in tears than what is found in the blood.  The reason that is interesting is that autopsies of chronic depressives have revealed heavy concentrations of manganese in the brain that don’t appear in the brains of non-depressives.  As a result, manganese is believed to have a direct link to depression.  Tears clean the mineral out of the body, so tears are thought to be an effective, natural way of preventing depression from occurring.

Other studies have found that healthy people are more likely to cry and have a positive attitude toward tears than those with ulcers or colitis, two conditions thought to be stress-related.  And children who suffer from an inherited disease called familial dysautonomia have two things in common: they can’t produce tears, and they have an extremely low tolerance for emotional stress.

But if you don’t feel much like crying, try a good laugh.

Laughter helps to lower the potent stress hormone cortisol, which can cause bone loss and suppress the immune system.  Laughter also increases the production of endorphins, which combat fatigue and depression. Laughter can in the long-term reduce blood pressure and slow heart rate, as well, leaving you feeling calm and peaceful.

Adults tend to take things (and themselves) too seriously.  How often do you hear of a child with stress-related disorders?  Hopefully not too often.  Laughter may be the reason.  Studies show that children laugh on the average 400 times per day. Adults, by contrast, only laugh an average of fifteen times per day!  We’ve got some catching up to do!

So, if you want to reduce your stress level, run to the video store tonight and check out a movie that will make you laugh until you cry.

(S – Center for Traditional Medicine, 560 First Street, Suite 204, Lake Oswego, Oregon 97034, 503-636-2734,


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Filed under Attitude, brain, discomfort, emotions, fatigue, funny, health, humor, pressure, Sharpening the Saw, Suffering

Possibility Thinking

During World War I, a Colonel was notified that his troops were surrounded by the enemy, who was demanding that they surrender.  The Colonel took this message to his troops, “Gentlemen, we have a situation that armies dream of.  We are surrounded on all sides, so we can attack in any direction we want.  All we have to do is pick one and go.  Our danger is if we sit here.”

Now, that’s possibility thinking!  Leadership sometimes requires that we reframe an impossible goal so that our team’s can see their potential for success.

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Filed under Abundance, Attitude, Challenges, Change, coaching, conflict, Denial, determination, faith, Fear, Goals, Hardship, leadership, learned helplessness, management, motivation, overcoming obstacles, paradigm, paradigm shift, Persistence, Problem Solving, Scarcity, success, Suffering, Trials

Nose Position

When pilots are flying planes in conditions where visibility is low, they have to use their instrument panel to give them information about the plane’s position in relation to the earth.  One of the most important instruments is the attitude indicator.  It shows how the aircraft is tilted during flight, i.e., nose up or nose down.  Depending upon airspeed, an aircraft with its nose down is typically in a descent, while an aircraft with its nose up is typically in a climb.  So, attitude helps determine altitude.

Know where I’m going with this?  What a great analogy for life!  Your attitude determines your altitude (how high you’ll go).  You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it.  Responding with a great attitude helps you rebound faster from disappointments; it helps you start problem-solving faster; it helps you build relationships; it helps you handle things with grace.  Respond with a bad attitude enough, and you’ll find that problems pick up speed as you hurtle downward, that people steer clear of you, that you get fewer opportunities.  Pretty soon, nothing seems to be going your way.

Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, lost his Phonograph Works plant to fire on December 9, 1914.  His daughter, concerned for his safety, rushed to the plant while it was still blazing to make sure he was okay.  When she arrived, Edison turned to her and said, “Where’s your mother? Go get her. Tell her to get her friends. They’ll never see another fire like this as long as they live!”  The next morning at 5:30 a.m., he called his employees together and said, “We’re rebuilding.”  To reporters, he said, “I am 67, but I’m not too old to make a fresh start.”

Edison treated the disaster as nothing more than a setback.  Better, it was an opportunity to fix some problems that existed in the old plant and rebuild the plant the way he wanted it.  His attitude allowed Edison to continue thinking about possibilities.  His attitude determined his altitude.

So, next time you’re in a tail-spin and headed for a crash, check your attitude and get your nose up!

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Filed under Abundance, acceptance, Attitude, Challenges, determination, failure, Hardship, Inconvenience, mistakes, overcoming obstacles, Persistence, Suffering


Roller Coaster Rule #7: Choose your head position before you enter a turn or loop.

My son’s a bit of a novice and didn’t know Rule #7 as we rode The Titan at Six Flags Over Texas for the first time.  He leaned over right before we entered a series of downward spirals and found himself stuck.

“I….can’t….lift….my….head…” he managed to say with tortured surprise.

I caught a glimpse of him from the corner of my eye.  It looked almost painful.  He was bent like elbow macaroni, and his long loops of hair resembled a topping of cheese curls.

Only one of us was laughing as we made three consecutive loops before he could pull his head out of the foot well, but I think he knew he would have been laughing had the tables been turned.  And it was a good lesson learned in a way that it wouldn’t be forgotten.  We rode The Titan once more to get some practice in.

The next day, I was thinking about some people I know who can’t seem to stop repeating their self-defeating behaviors, and Rule #7 came to mind.  It’s as if these people chose the wrong position going into a turn and can’t seem to right themselves.  They are stuck.

The ride of life keeps going faster and faster, and the more revolutions they make, the more stuck they get.  They can tell from their uncomfortable positions that their approach isn’t working, but they don’t know how to break free.  As a result, the ride isn’t very enjoyable for them.  (Who wants to go through life staring at your shoes?)

And here is why roller coasters are more forgiving than the ride of life….they end after a few white-knuckle moments of terror.  You can get off and get back on and choose an entirely new position going into those turns.  But for some people, life goes from turn to turn to turn to turn with no breaks – no way to choose a new position.

If you know someone who is stuck, maybe you can help them get free.

  • Help them see how they got in their position. Lovingly, with a pure motive, give them some candid feedback about the steps that lead up to the uncomfortable place they are in.
  • Help them understand the impact of their “stuck-ness.” Again, with love…say, “When you……….it causes………….”
  • Don’t let your low expectations of them lock them in. Set new expectations that they can choose a new position before the next turn.  Give them the benefit of the doubt that they can change.
  • Don’t enable. Examine your role in the process.  Maybe you’re part of the problem if you are helping them get into “position” before each turn.
  • Let them skip a turn or two. Maybe you can take the turn for them by paying an unexpected repair bill or watching the kids for the weekend or paying for a marriage retreat.
  • Lift them up. If they can’t do it for themselves, encourage them.  Speak life and hope and love into their situation.

In the end, Satan is the one who benefits the most when someone gets stuck.  Immobilized, they can’t be all that God intended them to be.  No matter how frustrating their “stuck” behaviors are for you, find it in your heart to help them get free, and you will deal a major blow to Satan’s plans.


Filed under agape love, Challenges, Change, Daily walk, failure, habits, Interpersonal, learned helplessness, overcoming obstacles, Relationships, Suffering

Behind the Clouds, the Son!

My family is visiting the U.S. right now.  We have a six-week furlough before returning to Thailand, and we are most of the way through it.

Today, we had to say goodbye to some old friends.  It was painful.  As one of the families packed in their car to go, my youngest called out, “See you again in three years thanks to my dad’s stupid job!”  I was about to scold him but then noticed the tears in his eyes.  No one got his permission before moving everyone to Thailand and changing his entire life.  It seemed very unfair to him.

Hoping to cheer everyone up, we went out to lunch at Red Robin, a family favorite.  But as soon as we got out of the car, my daughter started to cry, and it took almost ten minutes to console her.  When the tears stopped, we made our way into the restaurant and had a seat.

A waitress came by and asked us how we were doing.  Looking around at tear-stained faces, I decided on honesty, “We’re a little sad today.  We live overseas, and we’ve come for a visit but had to say goodbye to some good friends.”

She didn’t seem to know what the appropriate response might be, so she took our orders and tended to us every so often.  During the middle of lunch, my youngest began crying again, and we couldn’t seem to raise his spirits with any talk about his friends in Thailand or the greater purpose that is being served by us being there.  He was low, and there was no picking him up.

But as soon as we finished eating, our waitress appeared again with a giant mountain of an ice-cream and brownie dessert.  She said that she and the wait staff had all chipped in to buy it for us to help us feel better, because she had spent years living in Aruba when she was a kid and knew how tough it could be.  My wife, not normally given to crying, had to fight back tears at the simple gesture.

You wouldn’t believe the change that dessert worked on my youngest son!  Instantly, he was excited and cheerful again.  Food is his love language.  Dessert is probably his most fluent dialect.  He was thrilled!  In fact, we all were.  We finished out lunch with smiles and laughter and left the restaurant in great spirits.

As my oldest son and I talked in the parking lot about what had just happened, he remarked that God sure knew how to cheer up my youngest son.  It was the perfect antidote to his gloomy mood.  While we talked, the two of us were staring at the storm clouds above us.  They were dark and foreboding, but behind them, you could see evidence of the sun.  It was producing a silver lining around some of the darkest ones.  And it got me to thinking…

Sometimes all we see are the dark and gloomy clouds.  We look at our problems and the circumstances of our lives and see only the storms.  But what we often fail to remember is that just behind the clouds of our current situation is the Son of God, who loves us and wants the best for us.  He’s always there; He never moves.  We are the ones who are spinning round and round, so even though we may not be able to see Him, we can trust that He won’t leave us on our own.

The clouds will come and go, but the Son will never change.  And just when we are in our darkest moments, the clouds will part, and the warmth of His light will shine through in the form of a chocolate icecream and brownie mountain.


Filed under agape love, Challenges, emotions, family, Fear, Suffering, Valley

Rolling the Boulder

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus, the king of Corinth, saw Zeus steal away with a woman named Aegina and confessed what he saw to her father.  When Zeus realized what Sisyphus had done, he condemned him to Tartarus, where Sisyphus would spend eternity rolling a boulder to the top of a steep hill, only to have it roll back down again.  Zeus knew that the worst punishment he could render was a time without end of meaningless work.

When those you lead are given assignments without any explanation of why the task needs to be done, they sometimes feel like the miserable Sisyphus.    Each repetitive task that seems to accomplish nothing appears to be an eternal punishment.  Each goal that comes without a reason for its completion seems like one of Sisyphus’ boulders.  They may struggle to get it up the hill, but they do it without enthusiasm.  Their efforts lack commitment and creativity.  Meaningless work breaks the spirit.  (Remember how the guards finally got to Cool Hand Luke in the movie by the same name?)  It destroys your team member’s confidence in their leaders’ competence.

People are motivated by making a difference.  They need to know how what they do impacts the final result.  They want to know not only what buy why.  As you assign tasks, be sure to tell them why they roll the boulder.

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Filed under Challenges, Change, commitment, leadership, management, motivation, purpose, Service, Serving Others, Suffering


The letter that Paul wrote to Philemon is a strange inclusion in the New Testament.  It’s short.  Just one chapter and 25 verses.  It seems to simply be Paul intervening on behalf of a new friend who has had a conflict with his master (Onesimus was Philemon’s slave).

But try reading it as if it were Jesus’ letter to you personally, and it takes on new meaning:

Therefore, although in I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.  I appeal to you for my son/daughter who became my child as a result of their trust in my death and resurrection. Formerly (s)he was not much use to you, but now (s)he has become useful both to you and to me.

So if you consider me as a partner, welcome him/her as you would welcome me.  If (s)he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me…I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.  I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart as you show your faith in me.  Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

I think Philemon was included in the Bible to remind us of our need to forgive our Christian brothers and sisters.  Jesus is reminding us that we have been forgiven of so much more than we will ever need to forgive someone else.  He admonishes us that we owe Him our very lives and suggests that until we forgive, we are not much benefit to Him.  The parable of the unmerciful servant comes to mind.

Unforgiveness breaks our fellowship with God.  At the end of the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35), the man who wouldn’t forgive is released to the jailers (tormentors) to be tortured until he has paid back everything he owed.  That sounds like hell, but it can’t be, because the unmerciful servant is a picture of a believer, who has been forgiven for all his sins.

The torture that Jesus is talking about in this parable is the torture we go through when we have unforgiveness in our hearts.  We are separated from God and lack His protection and His favor.  We suffer from stewing anger and resentment, jealousy and sometimes hatred.  The good news is that it’s so easy to pay back everything we owe and get out of this prison.  All we have to do is forgive.  That’s what we were given.  That’s what we owe.

Jesus ends his letter to us in Philemon asking us to prepare a room for Him (in our hearts).  He wants to restore the relationship we’ve lost in our unforgiveness.  He’s ready to return His protection and His favor to our lives.  All we have to do is pay what we owe, and it’s no more than we’ve been given.  

Remember when Peter was asked about paying the temple tax?  He didn’t have the money to pay, but when he went to Jesus about it, Jesus sent him fishing.  The first fish Peter caught had a four-drachma coin inside – enough to pay the tax for both of them.  God won’t ask us to give more than we have.  He will supply everything we need.  We just have to be willing to be obedient.  If you are struggling to forgive someone, don’t try to find it in yourself.  Ask God to supply what you need.  You are just moments away from restoration.

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Filed under agape love, blame, christianity, forgiveness, grace, mercy, obedience, Relationships, Suffering, Unforgiveness