There is a common belief that the proof of God’s non-existence is the presence of evil in the world. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people say, “I can’t possibly believe in a God that would allow such and such an evil (insert their particular struggle).” For me it’s just the opposite. I can’t possibly not believe in God, because He’s been so gracious in delivering me from evil and helping others rise above the evil in their lives. How you embrace or fight evil defines you. When I don’t let Him deliver me from evil, that’s all on me. The evil grows like a cancer and the darkness looms. When I let Him deliver me from evil, the sun starts to rise. God gives us the choice: embrace the evil and let it consume you or fight it with God’s help and see the sun peek through the clouds.
The last time I saw my oldest son, Marty (he lives in San Francisco and owns a sign company – Martin Sign Company), he signed me up for Instagram, because he and my youngest son, Jeffrey, a chef and restaurateur in Santa Cruz, California (Alderwood) have Instagram accounts and use it to promote their businesses. It’s been fun to follow their posts and to see their talents on display. I marvel at their creativity.
Then I started thinking about how I could use Instagram in my own company, but that’s more difficult because therapy is not very visual. Over the years I would have had some pretty amazing before and after pictures if I could have taken a picture of my clients when they first walked in the door versus when they were done with therapy. That would have been pretty convincing advertising, but you’ll have to take my word on that!
So I’m wondering, how do I reduce our business to a little visual you can see on an smartphone screen?
And then we ended up re-inventing our counseling company, Heart to Heart Communication. It was a great name for over twenty years, but was conceived prior to the monolithic presence of the Internet and Internet advertising. At the first of the year (2019) Andy Bradley joined our staff in Ames and he has experience working with teenagers. We are excited to have Andy as part of our staff with his rich background and engaging spirit. Andy expands the services we offer, so a name change was in order. As a result we changed our company name in Ames and Des Moines, to Ames Counseling Center and Des Moines Counseling Center to help our online presence and to match our Cedar Rapids Counseling Center office (our other son, Brandon, runs that office). Hopefully, this helps our Google searches, unifies our brand and conveys we do more than only see adult individuals and couples.
That part’s great, but in the process of switching our online presence from thrivingcouples.com to amescounselingcenter.com and desmoinescounselingcenter.com we had a few month lull there as we were waiting (and are still waiting!) for our Internet websites to rise among the ranks. Ultimately, we hope this will make our company grow, but meanwhile my client load was down and I’m sort of (kind of, definitely was) freaking about out how we are going to keep paying the bills!
Another element came into play: The backstory on this also starts with my oldest, Marty. He gave me a Kindle about ten years ago and showed me how to download books from Amazon and I’ve barely bought a paper book since. My wife is probably thrilled about that! We used to have books all over the place. One of the features of a Kindle is being able to highlight great quotes and I’ve highlighted countless wonderful quotes. Here I am, sitting on a gold mine.
Then I purchased an iPad for a portable calendar backup for my office in case my MacBook Air died at just the wrong time, and low and behold, the iPad has a Kindle app and there’s all my books just waiting to be read. I dive into my Kindle G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936. He’s another story and my favorite author) library and come across a quote of his I just love. And then another and another. And I start to think how can I convey his wisdom beyond my little world, because he’s too good to just lie still. He’s stood the test of time and a generation is rising that knows not Chesterton.
All these elements were coming together. What is visual about counseling is an idea, a phrase, a little gem a person hears and it changes his or her life. The essence of therapy is ideas. Time and again many of my clients will tell me it was one thought I shared with them that took their life into a new trajectory. The curious thing for me is I never know what that one thought will be. I plant seeds for a living. I can’t make them grow. That some seeds find fertile soil keeps me going.
This certainly happened in my life when I went to counseling! At the time I was a pastor and going through a rough patch of depression, mostly because the pastorate hadn’t worked out for me as I’d hoped. I was struggling with what to do with my life, because, while I was a good pastor in some ways, it wasn’t a fit in others and it was becoming apparent I needed to shift gears. How do you do that at forty years old with a wife and four kids and live in a parsonage and don’t own a home and and and … But then I really liked my counselor and one of my recurrent thoughts while I went to counseling was pondering the career of a counselor and thinking “I could do this.” And indeed, I could.
The therapist was more helpful than I can really say. It’s been long enough I can’t even remember his name. Isn’t that horrible? He happened to be a former minister! Well, duh! He asks me, “So if you didn’t have to worry about bills or your kids or supporting your wife, what would you do?” “That’s easy,” I replied. “I’d go get my Ph.D. But I could never do that.” He said, “So you think it would be better for you to show your kids that when they reach a difficulty in their lives, that they need to just lay around and be depressed like dad or do you want to teach them to rise to the challenge?” I’m not sure I’m getting the quote right, but the word picture of my children following my lead and my lead at the time wasn’t a pretty picture, was enough to help me stand up again.
Which brings me back to the quote from G. K. Chesterton above. Out of the darkness in my life at that time, the sun peeked through. I could never be a good counselor or a good pastor for that matter, without having gone through a difficult period and found a path through the wilderness. At the time it would have been hard for me to see any good out of what I was going through. Now I see it as a gift.
There’s a popular belief that we all go through five major heart-aches in life, like it’s a universal law. I don’t know how the number was settled on five. I was recently reading about the Scottish pastor and writer, George MacDonald’s life (1824-1905) and he had eleven children, 6 of whom died in their first year, 5 of their first 6! I can’t even imagine that kind of heartache, on top of which he struggled with breathing problems, likely asthma and tuberculosis, his entire life. We will have some quotes from MacDonald. He was the writer that greatly influenced both C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton. Thankfully, MacDonald didn’t crawl in a hole and give up because he had to face problems. And here he is, blessing us over a century later. Amazing, really.
Even now, I think of the Proverb I often remember when I get discouraged that helps me rise to a challenge, including this one I’m going through now where we have a great new office and new staff and new furniture and not enough clients to pay for it:
“If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!”
Twelve words that can get you off your duff. Twelve words that can change a career. Change a life trajectory. Change a tendency. Change a weakness. LIttle words to remake the batter. Back to my Kindle: I’m reading my Kindle on my iPad and savouring little nuggets of delight from G. K. Chesterton and a quote of his tantalizes my soul and I think this little piece of gold needs to see the light of day, needs a larger audience. And I check my other quotes I’ve highlighted from Chesterton and other authors and I have quote after quotable quote that could certainly be a blessing to others as they have been to me. So I’m sharing a few of them with you.
So what Chesterton quote did I see that inspired this little journey?
“He who has never seen darkness has never seen the sun.”
This little quote summarizes my career, my faith journey, my life. Out of the darkness, the sun can shine. Out the mire, jewels are found. Out of the dust of the earth, man is formed. Out of the darkness heaven and earth are created. And now I share darkness and light with people who wonder if the sun will ever come up again. Eleven words from Chesterton that put everything in perspective.
I doubt every quote we will share here will be so full of meaning. Some will be funny. Some will be arresting. Some thoughtful. Some provoking. Some that may get your thoughts to meander. That would be good. Meandering thoughts. Just so the thoughts come home again.