Monday, September 28, 2015

Preparing for Death

Q.  The unrest in our world today with terrorism, riots, massive immigrants flooding into Europe, as well as droughts, forest fires and earth quakes, make me worry about the future. I’m in my forties with a family and a career. My life is busy and full. The instant uprooting of people from their home and country, the many deaths by terrorism and the divisiveness of our own country are disconcerting. I know death is inevitable for everyone but now I realize not everyone makes it to old age.

I worry what would happen to my children if I died tomorrow. I wonder how I would handle the sudden death of my wife or a child. How can I get over these worries? What can I do to regain peace of mind?

A. Most of us avoid thinking about death. We know we’re going to die but we don’t really believe it. In fact, our culture encourages a denial of death, at least until we’re sick or elderly. We’re focused on the daily necessities such as such as earning a living, paying our mortgage, caring for our children. We’re overwhelmed with a multitude of details of life - car and home repair, cooking, laundry, chauffeuring kids, business trips and PTA meetings. The list is endless. We seldom take the time to think about life and death issues.

The many issues in the world news serve to wake us up. These events remind us that the length of our life on earth is not guaranteed. Our life is a gift that we need to cherish and use wisely. The reality of death helps us recognize the value of life. Faith in eternal life helps dispel worries about dying. I’ll say more on that later.  

First there are some tasks that will help you prepare for death. It’s essential for everyone to have a will - even if you have little or no money. If you have young children specify in your will who you would like to be their care takers if both parents should die. For example, you may have two sisters but one is closer to the children and willing to do this. It’s best to have your will done by a lawyer. 
You may want to write letters to your children to be given to them at significant times in their life - graduation from high school or their wedding for example. Though you will probably be present at the time, write these letters now for added peace of mind. 
Make peace with your loved ones. If you have failed to forgive someone - do so now. If you have hurt someone and not asked for their forgiveness - do so now. If you have failed to tell loved ones that you love them - do so now. These may not be easy steps but they will make your life more meaningful and you will be at peace about your death whenever it comes. Forgive yourself, also. No one leads a perfect life.
We need to plan for our own death. If you knew you only had a week, a month or a year to live what would you need or want to do in the time you have left? Talk these issues over with your wife. 
Cherish each day. Make relationships and giving to others a priority. Help others in need. Slow down so you can appreciate the beauty of our world and the joy in loving moments. 
Turn to God. Faith in God is the best antidote to fear of death. Pray, read scripture, find a church that lifts your spirits and loves you and that also answers your questions about life and death. Seek God and He will give you peace. 

The greatest peace will come to you when you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Then you will be certain of eternal life. You will live forever with Him.

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, September 21, 2015


Q. My wife and I saw two different marriage counselors and neither one helped our marriage. One counselor wondered why my wife stayed with me since she was so unhappy. Another counselor saw us separately and told me maybe we should separate. 

We don’t want to separate or divorce. We want to learn how to solve our marital conflicts. Marriage counseling almost tore us apart. Does marriage counseling ever help? What will help us?

A. I was a marriage counselor for over thirty years and I’ve heard many similar stories. Unfortunately not all marriage counselors are trained to help couples change their interactions with each other. Also, not all marriage counselors view marriage as a life long commitment made before God, family and friends.  
Some therapists, as well as our society, think that marriage should “make us happy.” They don't understand that all marriages have some low points and all marriages take work. Most couples can identify some positives in their relationship and don’t want to break up their marriage. They just don’t know how to fix it. 
William J. Doherty, Ph.D., gave a presentation called “How Therapy Can Be Hazardous To Your Marital Health.” He is appalled, as I am, at what some counselors tell couples. He describes one couple who saw a therapist together. The wife was clinically depressed and medication was begun. In a later individual session with the wife the therapist told her she wouldn’t recover from her depression until she “trusted her feelings” and separated from her husband. The wife protested saying she loved her husband and was committed to him. The wife was stunned and didn’t return to the counselor.
Next she talked to her priest. He urged her to wait and see whether the depression was causing the marital problems or the martial problems were causing her depression. If things improved with the medication then all was well. Then he told her if it didn’t work out he would help her get an annulment! Again, she was stunned.

They finally saw a competent marital therapist who helped the couple. Dr. Doherty says that this couple “survived two efforts at....therapist-induced marital suicide.” Other examples are:
  •  “Your marriage isn’t working any more.” This is like saying my car isn’t working anymore and it’s not worth repairing.
  •  “Maybe it’s time to move on.” That’s what we say about a job. 
  • “You deserve better.” Friends, not just therapists will say this about a marriage. This infers that you have nothing to do with the problems. 
  • One therapist refers to “starter marriage.” Starter marriage? We refer to a starter home? It’s a little home you plan to leave!                  
Dr. Doherty suggests that “this kind of language represents the invasion of a consumer ethic into marriage in addition to focus on individual fulfillment and satisfaction.” He encourages couples to take marital education classes and I would agree with him. I have seen more change happening in couples marriages through marriage education than through counseling though some couples need both. 

I recommend you and your wife join The Third Option, Marriage Encounter or Weekend to Remember. For information on other marriage building programs see 

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you.” Proverbs 3:3 NIV

Blessings, Dottie


Monday, September 14, 2015

Getting Along with People

Q. I lead a normal life and I’m generally happy, but other people bother me. I have a hard time with friends and family members who are critical and controlling. I get upset by this and often give in. They never seem to understand my point of view. How can I handle this so I don’t get upset? Should I just give in to everyone? What do you suggest?

A. People are complex. We need to learn to get along with all kinds of people without compromising our own individuality. Some people are angry, some are pushy or controlling, some are critical. Some are bossy. Some are negative or pessimistic. Some are laid back or passive. Any of these traits can rub us the wrong way. Some of these traits will anger, hurt or disappoint us.
People meddle with our plans and try to control our behavior. Giving is different than giving in. We some times bend to the other person, selling ourselves short. We some times avoid or ignore the other person, but some people can be persistent. We try a variety of ways to explain ourselves to others but nothing works. Here are some suggestions for getting along with others.
1. Don’t let others control you or make your decisions for you. You will never have everyone’s approval for the things you do. Stop taking their words or actions personally. If they pressure you and try to run your life they probably do this with everyone. It’s their life style. Some times we get angry at the person we view as controlling us, but we allow it. Learn to set your own boundaries.
2. Don’t look at others as all bad or wrong. They are human beings with many good as well as not so good qualities. When we view others as bad or wrong we become judgmental and angry. Give grace to all.
3. Don’t expect to understand others. We are each different. We are each unique. We each have personality quirks. Some of these differences are inborn. For example, you may be laid back while another person is very goal directed. Assume the best about everyone and enjoy the differences.
4. Don’t try to be like everyone else. Accept your own strengths and weaknesses and accept who you are. Work on your weaknesses in your own way and as God leads you, not as others expect or demand. Don’t change yourself to suit someone else.
5. Don’t expect others to understand you. Most of us have trouble just understanding ourselves, much less understanding someone else. While it’s comforting to have someone else sympathize with a struggle or difficulty we’re in, don’t expect this. All of us experience the pain of being misunderstood. Learn to let go of this.
6. Meet your own needs and let others meet theirs. Don’t try to change others. Stay out of other’s business unless they ask for help. Then, be careful not to rescue someone from a difficulty they can handle on their own.
7. Believe the best about everyone. We don’t know or understand what has made them the way they are. Focus on their positive qualities. There are always reasons for the way they are. One of the major mistakes we make with people is adjusting to them rather than learning to be true to ourselves and to God’s unique purpose and plan for us.

“If you let people treat you like a doormat you’ll be quite forgotten in the end.” Proverbs 29:21 The Message

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, September 7, 2015


A. My home is cluttered with many things. For years I’ve clipped articles with interesting ideas. I’ve also clipped recipes and saved magazines. And my closets are bulging with clothes. I have trouble letting go of things because I think I may find a use for them later. I want to simplify my life. I make stabs at this but never seem to get very far. Can you give me a plan for simplifying my life?

A. Many of us realize that we need to simplify our lives yet we never seem to get around to it. One reason for this is that it takes time to simplify. It takes time to get rid of clutter. We’re busy people with many interests and little spare time. To accomplish our goal we must make decluttering a priority.

We also get bogged down by the enormity of the task. We tackle one closet but never even finish this as other priorities interrupt our decluttering attempt. We need to develop a plan and a system and make it work. 
H. Norman Wright, in his book Simplify Your Life, describes the 80/20 principle which says that 80 percent of the value of things is usually concentrated in only 20 percent of the items. “If 80 percent of the space is taken up by stuff that’s used only 20 percent of the time, is it necessary?” This principle can help you declutter.
Begin by doing a survey of each room in your home. What objects or possessions in this room complicate your life or are never used? Everything we own takes some of our time to clean, sort, or store. When many objects, (books, clippings, files, clothing, or furniture) are jammed into a small space we waste time trying to find the items we need. 
After you have done the survey begin decluttering by working on one room at a time. Start with the room that is most used and most cluttered or disorganized. Decluttering just this room will make life much easier for you. The other rooms can wait.
Plan to work for at least a half hour a day decluttering this room. If you have time to watch TV or to play computer games you have time for this. Think about what will help you find the items you need in this room. Simply rearranging things for more convenience can make a difference. 

Start small getting rid of things. Try to eliminate 10% of the things accumulated. If you find this difficult - and most of us do - realize you are clinging to your past. You will enjoy the present more without all these “things.” If you still can’t let go of 10% of the items put them away for a while and see if you miss them. 

Think of the people who could use the items you're hanging on to. Our material goods drown us when they could be helping someone else. Let go of your stuff and enjoy giving it away to those in need.

You should hang onto items of personal interest such as scrapbooks or photo albums and things you want to pass on to your children. What items need to go? 
          • Catalogs and magazines more than a month old
          • Legal documents and receipts that are over fifteen years old
          • books you’ll never read again, cookbooks, record albums, cassette tapes and videos that you don’t use, furniture and kitchen items you don’t use
          •Old textbooks and encyclopedias
          •Clothes that don’t fit; clothes you haven’t worn in a year
          •Papers sitting on top of furniture in plain sight should be filed or thrown out.
Wright’s book will give you many more ideas to help you simplify your life. 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matt. 6:19-21 NASB

Blessings, Dottie