Find PEACE during Challenges

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Photo Credit: Unsplash

By Dr. Clementine Msengi

The first six months of 2020 all too clearly demonstrated that challenges are an inevitable part of life. However, while we can’t always be prepared for adversity, we can build attitudes and skills that help us develop resilience.

W. Ian O’Byrne teaches literacy and technology at the College of Charleston and is a former Research Fellow at the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut. He states that “One way to understand the development of resilience is to visualize a balancing scale or seesaw. Protective experiences and coping skills on one side counterbalance significant adversity on the other. Resilience is evident when health and development tip [the scale] toward positive outcomes. This is true even as stress and other adverse factors stack up on the negative side.”    

Facing difficulties with resiliency and a proven strategy can  often mean the difference between growth and stagnation. As I was fleeing for my life during the Rwandan genocide, I was often forced to make life-and-death decisions quickly. Developing a simple matrix that helped me make decisions was imperative. 

The five steps below can help individuals, groups, and organizations face challenges with confidence and find PEACE in the process.

P: Pause and reflect.

Margaret J. Wheatley, Ed. D., a management consultant who studies organizational behavior, states, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

Reflection reveals what we are doing well and where we need to make changes. According to Proactive Behavior: Meaning, Impact, Recommendations, “To be proactive is to change things in an intended direction for the better.” For instance, while I was living in refugee camps, I learned that when I expressed a need to someone in authority, they often tried to help me. Reflecting on this taught me that I was not powerless, and I began to advocate for myself and others. Because I recognized the power of proactivity, I was reunited with two of my sisters.

Reflection gives us the opportunity to evaluates our challenges, their root causes and contributing factors: for instance, poor planning, lack of preparedness, ineffective approaches, lack of experience, limited resources, gaps in knowledge, systemic bias, and other factors. Reflection helps provide tools to diagnoseassess, and address our priorities, processes, and even our values. For instance, what resources are at our disposal? What processes have been most effective in the past? Do we have a clear understanding of the source of the problem and contributing factors?

E: Examine options.

British author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek states the value of examining options this way: “Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see available options.” 

I found this to be true as I fled for my life in Rwanda. I constantly faced what seemed to be impossible chances for survival. Yet, my acceptance of danger made it possible for me to make rational decisions and take courageous steps. I walked undetected through an enemy checkpoint. I laid motionless for days on the rooftop of a building occupied by Hutu militants seeking to kill me. I made these choices after careful deliberation, determining that they were my best hope for survival.

It’s only after we examine our options that we can choose our best course of action. We must evaluate pros and cons based on available data. We must take time to consider multiple solutions.

As we walk through this process, we must embrace change, which is an inevitable part of life. Accepting change alleviates fear, creates anticipation, and allows us to prepare for the future and make contingency plans. 

A: Activate a well thought-out plan.

“For tomorrow belongs to the people who plan for it today.”
–African proverb

Methodically determine a plan of action, based on factors you can evaluate and control. Formulate goals, action steps, and assessment tools. Implement the steps of your plan, and be prepared to adjust as the situation changes and prepare for contingencies

C: Connect with support networks, create new partnerships, and create contacts.

One of the most vital tools we we rely upon when we face conflict is our support network. People and organizations can offer us needed resources, experience, counsel, perspective and insight, and compassion. 

If you have not developed a support network and key partnerships, it’s vital to do so. It’s also important to continually be making new contacts.

Connecting with networks, creating new partnerships, and collaboration help propel us toward the future. No one lives successfully in this world as an island. Connection and collaboration promote creativity and new solutions. Henry Ford said it well: “Coming together is a beginning. staying together is progress, and working together is success.” 

E: Evaluate by monitoring progress. 

Monitoring progress is essential. Benjamin Franklin stated, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

Remember, your goal is continual movement toward your vision as you learn how to identify areas of needed improvement, hone your methods of facing challenge and conflict, and continue to target success, which can be a moving goal. 

The way we deal with challenges reflects our personalities, belief systems, priorities, and life purpose. We learn best when take time to evaluate multiple solutions.

 As you walk through this process, embrace change as an expected and necessary part of life. 

For more information on finding inner peace, check my recent blog.

Success and peace,

Dr. Clem 

Finding Peace

Photo Credit: Pixaby

During the month of December, the word peace saturated our world. We heard it in the lyrics of holiday music, Christmas messages, seasonal services, community celebrations, and read it in the greetings on our cards.

Peace on earth.

But what does it mean to “find” peace?

The Oxford Online Dictionary defines peace as “freedom from disturbance; tranquility.” This definition can refer to an inner state of being or a description of our relationship with the world around us. Practically speaking, inner peace is always tied to issues of our daily life and the way we navigate those issues.

How does someone “find” freedom from inner disturbance and tranquility? Psalm 34:14 tells us to “seek peace and pursue it.” Romans 8:6 tells us “…the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” The interesting thing about these verses in the Bible (and others) is that they describe peace as something that is the result of an active process. One of those processes is described as pursuing peace. Another process is described as controlling our mind.

Finding peace amid life changes has characterized my life.  In my journey of pursuing peace, I applied the following key principles:

Treat people as you want to be treated, and as much as possible, live peacefully with others.

Think the best of people. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Treat others with dignity and respect. Offer hospitality. Be generous. Listen and learn—especially from those who come from different cultures and backgrounds.  Sometimes different cultural perceptions can lead to misinterpretation and miscommunication. 

How do these practices help us find peace? When we treat people as we wish to be treated—with dignity and love—we often gain their respect, as well as a listening ear. Treating people well also frees us from bitterness and anger.

Listen for God’s voice.

No matter what circumstances may look like, you are not alone. Circumstances typically tell us that we should give up and people will always let us down. But even when our inner voice tells us otherwise, we can count on God.

When seeking peace from God, I often ask, “What is God asking me to do?”

I’ve learned from experience to begin looking for answers in His Word. God always supplies the wisdom we need for any task He asks us to do. What does His Word say about this topic? What is He saying to me when I pray? Ask Him for wisdom about what to do, then trust Him to help you move forward.

Live with gratitude.

When has God provided for you in special ways? How has He blessed you? Describe times when He’s intervened on your behalf in miraculous or out-of-the-ordinary ways. Never cease to be overwhelmed by all God has done for you.

Possessing gratitude doesn’t mean having a “thank you” on our lips when we receive something. Living with gratitude means that we live with a profound sense of thankfulness for all God has done for us. This gratitude drives what we do for others and the daily choices we make. For instance, a person who lives with gratitude will be generous and others-centered because of the enormous debt of love they feel toward God. Those who live with gratitude feel compelled to love, sacrifice, and serve.

One of my favorite family songs when I was growing up was a hymn titled, Count your Blessings.” This hymn was titled “Bara Iyo Migisha  Nonaha” in Kinyarwanda. Each time I sang this song it reminded me to take a deep breath and offer God gratitude for what He had already done. This gave me peace, knowing His blessings were still available to me. You can listen to the hymn by clicking on the link below.

Freely offer forgiveness and seek reconciliation.

When we understand that many things in life are beyond our control, we begin to release our grip. This often brings comforting peace. We no longer must strive to control our world. The Serenity Prayer written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr states the process this way: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Live in the moment.

Learn to be content and make every effort to invest your life “where your feet are placed.” Investing in life means maximizing present opportunities because we understand that we are stewards of the present. Investing in the present helps create the best possible future as we make wise decisions and live according to a guiding, godly worldview. Living in the moment requires an appreciation for all we’ve been blessed with in the past applied to the decisions we make in the present to provide blessing for ourselves and those around us in the future.

Minimize things, people, activities and exposure to environments that are “peace killers” in your life

This requires reflection and self-assessment in order to identify what steals our peace. Sometimes our actions, words, thoughts and behaviors steal our peace.

  • What words, thoughts, and behaviors (yours) undermine your peace? Why? What do you think is a step toward positive change?
  • Do you need to limit your interactions with certain people, environments, technology, things or with the media because they steal your peace? Which ones and why?
  • Do you need to positively reframe your self-talk? In what areas?
  • Do you need to treat others with greater respect? Who? Why?
  •  Do you need to create healthy relationship boundaries for yourself? With whom? Why?
  • Do you need to create healthy work boundaries for yourself? Why?
  • What things do you do and say that disrupt peace for others? Evaluate why and the steps you need to take to change this.   
  • What you can do to change yourself and remove self-imposed barriers to your peace. We don’t need to engage in every argument, every discussion, every activity if they are robbing our peace.

Create an Inner Peace Plan

  1. Set limits. This may mean office hours, quiet times and bedtimes for your children, or limiting the ways your clients can contact you. You do not and should not be available to everyone in your life whenever they choose. Set limits on the number of things you will be involved in. Just because you can do something does not mean you should do something. Guard your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
  • Learn to breathe. Literally. Deep breathing exercises can reduce stress, relieve anxiety, and help re-focus the mind. You can find techniques HERE.
  • Keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t make mountains out of molehills, and don’t invest emotional energy in nonessentials. Let go of grudges, purge negative attitudes, eliminate draining relationships and behaviors. Focus on healthy attitudes and behaviors that keep you moving ahead.
  • Slow down. Unclutter your world and your mind. Streamline your commitments in order to create margin in your life. Plan ahead so you can arrive early and prepared.
  • Spend time with God in prayer and His Word. Nothing can replace time meditating on God’s Word, praying, and seeking His wisdom regarding your priorities and plans. He alone is in control, and you can trust you’re Him to lead your steps.
  • Engage in peace-promoting activities. Take time to get away alone, spend focused time with loved ones, and purposefully participate in things that help you find needed inner peace.

As I incorporated these and other principles in my life, I found increased inner peace. This deepened my relationship with God and drew me closer to those I love.

What has helped you find inner peace? What has or has not worked for you? I’d love to hear from you.

Peace and Health,

Dr. Clem

Faith and Resilience

In 2014, Julie K. Hersh, a writer for Psychology Today Online posted a question on Facebook asking readers to share their tactics for building resilience. Their top response was “faith.”

The response isn’t surprising. Faith links our present circumstances to our vision for the future. Hope is similar but wraps our present struggles in an image of better times. Both faith and hope are crucial elements of resilience, “the process of positive adaptation in the face of significant adversity.”

Resilient people have the capability to move ahead in the face of difficult circumstances.

In a blog titled “The Resilience of Faith,” author Jenni White states, “Faith can best be understood as the way in which an individual draws upon and enters into the life of God.”

Faith requires discipline of the emotions and the mind. Those of us who place our trust in the eternal, loving, just, omniscient, and all-powerful God of the Bible, place our faith in Someone who understands and knows our deepest sorrows, who is all-powerful and is for us. This faith gives us hope for a certain future and the strength to move forward in spite of our circumstances.

How Faith Builds Resilience

  • Faith gives us the vision to see beyond victimization.Faith gives us the heart to search for meaning in the messes of life.
  • Faith builds discipline, as we look beyond what is to what will be.
  • Faith is a tool against rumination.
  • Faith is the starting point of our relationship with God, the source of our faith.
  • Christians—those who accept by faith the gift that Jesus offers—gain access to the power of God.
  • The power of faith does not lie in faith itself, but in faith’s object. Christians place their faith in an all-powerful God. We trust His power and His strength to carry us beyond impossible circumstances.

The Source of Our Faith

Faith itself is purposeless if we place that faith in a limited, unloving, non-reasoning, or inconsistent object. Our source of faith must be placed in an intellect bigger than our own who is interested in our welfare and control any circumstance. This is the role of faith for Bible-believing Christians. They boldly move forward because they place their confidence in a personal God who loves them.

Building Organizational Resilience

The psychological health of organizations, just like individuals, hinges on the capacity to bounce back or recover from significant setbacks. Managers need to help their employees navigate layoffs, restructuring, budget cuts, institutional change, economic downturns, and challenging interpersonal dynamics.

So how can faith-based and non faith-based establishments help create resilience in their employees and create cultures of resilience within their establishments?

First, anticipate and acknowledge the reality of adversity. All organizations experience challenges and change. Anticipating and preparing for challenging situations reduces stress and creates a sense of preparedness and confidence. Stress and anxiety are expected responses. Create realistic strategies for addressing those factors.

Be personally involved. Employees need personal responses to stressful conditions. Educate yourself about the stress-producing effects of decisions, policies, the economy, administrative changes, and other elements. Who is the most vulnerable? What do they fear? How can you offer support? Personal communication and support builds resilience.

Share encouraging personal experiences. Draw from your personal experience and share positive stories. Ask others within your organization to share their experiences as well. Build a culture of positivity as you evaluate factors that contributed to past success. Create a culture of appreciation and celebrate staff successes.

Communicate Positively. Employees and staff are reassured when they feel they are kept within the communication loop. Keep the tone and outlook realistic, yet positive. Monitor employees’ attitudes and offer frequent encouragement. Create a culture of connectedness where everyone feels valued and included.

Reward and encourage positive problem-solving and service. Encourage your employees to think outside the box. Provide opportunities for creative problem-solving and organizational and community service. Encourage diverse opinions and perspectives. Develop mentoring programs.

Regularly assess organizational health. Good managers identify what factors can be controlled and what factors cannot be controlled. They focus on factors within their sphere of control. Good managers ask for help and communicate high standards for employee performance, accountability and commitment. Good managers challenge their employees and understand that organizational growth and resilience occurs only if people feel supported when they are required to meet challenges.

What about you? I’d love to hear from you!

What mechanisms are in place in your organization that help promote a culture of resilience and well-being?

How has faith helped you in building resilience?

Peace and Health,

Dr. Clem

Belonging Matters

We’ve all experienced times when we felt we didn’t belong. That feeling can range from uncomfortable to excruciating. The human need to belong and form relationships refers to our need to associate with, be accepted by, supported by, and known by a group. We feel this need in many areas of life: our profession, family, school, on teams, among friends, and in our churches. The need to belong is a natural and universal need. We all want to be heard, loved, and cared for.

God, who has eternally existed as Father, Son, and Spirit, created humans in His image. As God’s image bearers, we long for the sense of belonging that exists in the unity of the Father, Son, and Spirit. This need to belong is wired into our DNA and plays a critical role in our overall wellness. When we feel that we don’t belong, we may experience emotional, psychological distress and isolation.

Belonging influences motivation and behavior.

The desire to belong motivates us. This motivation can be both positive and negative. For instance, a longing to belong to a group may motivate us to conform to norms and relate positively to others. However, when our desire to belong is out of balance, we may conform to the point of compromising our values or identity.

We can also over-emphasize comparing ourselves to others in a group. This can create self-doubt and self-criticism. However, comparing ourselves can also be a positive motivator and initiate self-reflection and personal growth.

We are wired for relationships.

A sense of belonging increases happiness and reduces isolation. Belonging instills a sense of safety, where people feel they can be heard, understood, and known. Belonging encourages creativity and problem-solving because people in healthy relationships thrive. A sense of belonging promotes avenues for fellowship, service, learning, and stimulates personal and professional growth.  

In the fellowship of belonging, we cultivate and restore our sense of humanity. A healthy sense of belonging impels us to seek out healthy relationships. It motivates us to participate in clubs, teams, community service, and faith-based activities. Community is cultivated upon the foundation of belonging. This is because we are spiritual beings, and our need for love and acceptance lie at the core of our being.

Build a sense of belonging.

  1. Building a sense of belonging requires personal investment. Look for people with similar interests or aspects of life (children, marital status, vocation, etc.). Take a class or join a Bible study. Join a yoga or swimming class. Enroll in a college course or seek out specialized training.
  2. Work on accepting others. Get to know people who are different from you. Serve in an inner city ministry. Visit nursing homes and shut-ins. Participate in a prison/jail ministry. ‘Adopt’ a widow or single mother. Volunteer at a hospital, school, or community outreach.
  3. Focus on serving. It’s always possible to find someone to serve. Offer respite breaks to a caregiving parent or spouse. Offer free child care to a single parent. Become a mentor. Teach your special gifts/talents to someone who would appreciate learning.
  4. Take time for self-assessment. What do you enjoy? What kind of people do you enjoy being around? What special abilities do you have? What groups interest you? Pray and ask God to direct you to an area of need.
  5. Seek out churches, community activities, and ministries that create a sense of belonging.
  6. Be open to change. Ask friends and family who know and love you where you might fit and how you can best reach out to others.
  7. Evaluate your effectiveness at helping others feel that they belong. What qualities do you possess that create a sense of belonging in others? Where could you improve?

Tips for Churches and Organizations

  • Foster an environment of service. Organize groups that offer practical help to widows, single mothers, the sick or injured, caregivers, people who are moving or need transitional housing or home maintenance. Wherever there are people, we find needs.
  • Teach your team to communicate compassion and grace. Train greeters, teachers, staff, and personnel in your church/organization how to nurture an environment of belonging. Training should be ongoing and be modeled by leaders who lovingly and graciously instill a sense of acceptance and care for others.
  • Teach your people to put themselves aside and reach out. Offer opportunities for service as part of membership training. Incorporate media clips that teach about and show your people reaching out to others and thriving in groups. Model compassion and soul care in leadership.
  • Know and pray over the needs of your members. Involve your church or organization in prayer chains and ongoing posting of prayer needs.
  • Walk alongside people. Create a sense of safety by living out a culture of transparency, welcome, and grace.  
  • Inventory the groups in your organization and evaluate how their need for belonging is being met: married, divorced, single, widowed, chronically ill, caregivers, parents, those without children, students, etc.
  • Become knowledgeable about barriers to belonging: health challenges, power imbalance, discrimination, shame, loneliness, emotional wounds, and lack of social attunement, socioeconomic and cultural factors, to name a few. Seek out training from experts about how to meet these people where they are.
  • Create environments for people to fulfill the “one another” commands of fellowship, confession, repentance, encouragement, forgiveness, friendship, and walking together in love: small groups, accountability, breaking bread together, prayer groups, hosting others, service groups, etc.

What about you? I’d love to hear how the need to belong has influenced your personal or professional growth.

What does your organization do to foster a culture of belonging? I’d also welcome your story of helping someone else gain a sense of belonging.

Peace and hope,

Dr. Clem

Caring for Caregivers

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Family caregiving today takes many forms. Most of us are familiar with families who care for aging and elderly loved ones. But today’s family caregivers (often unpaid for their services) also care for relatives, friends, foster children, or loved ones who often have physical or mental disabilities. This includes parents with disabled children, grandparents raising grandchildren, friends assisting friends with chronic illness or disabilities, or friends co-caring for loved ones with a terminal diagnosis.

According to public policy, one in six Americans is considered a “family caregiver,” or someone who provides unpaid care for a family member. In a recent survey given by the Family Caregiver Alliance, 80% of adults over 50 reported being involved in a parent’s care currently or in the past. Today, over 435-million-unpaid-adult-caregivers-2018-07-20Americans are family caregivers.

The Slippery Slope: Ignoring Self Care

“Caregivers tend to be a special personality type: big-hearted, sensitive, responsible, well-intentioned — people who are motivated by and take a deep satisfaction in doing right by their loved one,” says geriatric psychiatrist Ken Robbins of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But that’s often to the exclusion of taking care of themselves.” 

Many caregivers slide down a slippery slope of neglect for their own needs as time goes on. They become inoculated to lack of sleep, routine stress, inconvenience, worry, and physical demands. 

Caregiver Burnout

According to the 2012 Stress in America Report by the American Psychological Association, caregivers rank among the three most-stressed groups in the country. A term often associated with this stress is caregiver burnout, mental, emotional and physical exhaustion that sometimes develops because of the responsibilities that are taken when supporting and caring for another individual. Caregivers often become so absorbed in the responsibilities of their loved one that they lose focus on caring for themselves.

Burnout Symptoms

How does a caregiver know when they’re experiencing burnout? Consider these questions:

  • You no longer enjoy doing things that used to give you pleasure.
  • Friends and family have expressed concerns about your mental or physical health.
  • You aren’t doing as well at work as you were previously.
  • You’re having problems with family members.
  • You’re experiencing recurring intense feelings of anger, fear, worry, or sadness.
  • You have a hard time concentrating.
  • You’re having trouble sleeping; you’ve gained or lost significant weight; or you’re experiencing other unexplained health problems.
  • You’re using a substance or other negative coping mechanism to cope with or suppress negative feelings.

Caregiver Self Assessment

Taking the Caregiver Self Assessment Questionnaire can be a first step for caregivers who feel overwhelmed. This simple 18 question assessment was originally developed and tested by the American Medical Association. It helps caretakers evaluate their behaviors and health risks and make decisions that are good for both themselves and their loved ones.

Tips for Self-Care

  • Practice self-compassion. Give yourself credit for taking responsibility for the challenging work of caregiving. Reject harsh self-criticism and step away a few minutes a day to take care of yourself. Practicing self-care makes you a more balance, compassionate, and effective caregiver.
  • Include relaxation techniques in your schedule. Learn simple breathing exercises. Practice yoga, tai chi, mindfulness, deep relaxation, or meditation.
  • Eat well and get quality sleep. Eat a balanced diet of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Limit your intake of sugar and caffeine. Creating a regular 15-30 minute routine before going to bed can help you relax and sleep more restfully.
  • Stay socially connected. Join a caregiving support group. Find groups that support your interests, such as book clubs, card clubs, travel organizations, or attend a church or synagogue. Attend dances, concerts, plays, movies, art exhibits, and markets. Or find an exercise or fitness group.

Assistance Options

Many caregivers feel compelled to provide care themselves. But help is available in various forms and can be used at various stages of need. Caregivers need to resist the idea of “going it alone” and work to create a caregiving support network. The following assistance options are available.

Companion Care. An elder companion helps with cooking, light housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping, and running errands. Most importantly, they offer companionship and eyes-on contact with your loved one.  There are many sources for companion care, from volunteers and neighbors to professionals hired through agencies. One good resource is’s In Home Care Directory. Medicaid or a similar state program may help pay some of the costs of respite care from a licensed provider for those who have low incomes and few assets. Private pay will range from $10/hour up.

Personal Care Assistants. In addition to the tasks that elder companions provide, personal care assistants assist with bathing, toileting, dressing, and grooming. They can give medications and help people with disability limitations (if they have the proper training) but do not assist with diabetic care or other medical needs. Cost will range from $15-$40 per hour and daily rates for live-in care.

Adult Day Care. Assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, churches, and nursing homes are among the organizations that provide day care services. Adult day care can provide exercise, health monitoring, meals, social activities, and often transportation and other services. The safe, supervised adult day care environment provides respite for caregivers. Some communities provide tax dollars to offset costs. Many accept Medicaid or sliding-scale payment. Always look for a licensed provider, whose costs can range from $24/day to $150/day.

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to ask for a referral.

Assisted Living Respite Care. Many assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement homes, and nursing homes provide respite care for older adults who need assistance. Time frames are flexible: from a few days to a few months. Many facilities offer hourly, half-day, full-day, overnight, or extended respite stays. Costs average $100 to $250 per day, depending on the amount of care needed; some places impose minimums and maximums on the number of days for a respite stay.

Check with your local Area Agency on Aging for referrals.

Caregiver Co-op. Co-ops give caregivers an affordable option to take turns caring for one another’s loved ones in exchange for time off. The arrangement gives caregivers time for themselves while fostering a sense of community among the people who give and receive the care. There’s usually no charge. Members volunteer time caring for other co-op members’ loved ones in order to qualify for commensurate respite services. Check with local day care facilities or neighborhood association to look for a co-op in your area.

Veteran’s Facilities. Some Veteran’s Homes offer day care and respite programs. A program called Skilled Home Care offers meal planning and preparation, medication management, nursing, and social services to veterans who find it challenging to leave home. The VA also provides 30 days of respite care at home or in a VA facility to qualifying veterans. Services are usually free or minimal. Call 855-260-3274.

ARCH National Respite and Resource Center. The ARCH National Respite and Resource Center helps caregivers and professionals find respite services in their local area to match their specific needs for emergency or planned respite care. It does not provide an exhaustive search but is a starting point. The service is free and operated through State Lifespan Respite Programs.

It is my hope that these resources will help caregivers begin building a network of support. Caregiving teaches us that we cannot control disease, death, or destiny. But we can control how we respond to those who suffer. And we can take steps to steward our bodies, souls, and spirits as we give to others.

As U.S. Senator Cory Booker states in his poem “Sometimes,” asking for help sometimes can be the most meaning example of self-reliance.

My hope and prayer is that you move toward better competence and self-reliance as a caregiver as you ask for help and find rest and grace.

I’d love to hear from you. I invite you to share your  experiences, tips, or resources with our readers.

Peace and health,

Dr. Clem

Harnessing Prayer Power

Felicia was devastated when she learned her daughter was self-abusing. Thomas didn’t know who to turn to when he discovered his wife’s affair. Single mom Alexa lost her job and struggled with anxiety about how she would support her three young children.

You may have experienced different circumstances, but we’ve all experienced times of crisis when we felt we had nowhere to turn and few, if any, resources. During the most challenging moments in my life, I have come to value the power of prayer. It has played a powerful role in my story and become my greatest asset in times of my most heartbreaking loss.

Author and Pastor Rick Warren states that “there’s no way you can fulfill your purpose in life without being plugged into God’s power.” I fully believed this truth because I’ve experienced it in many ways.

Prayer Is Power

  • Prayer prevented me from spiraling into depression, anger, and bitterness during turbulent times.
  • Prayer is a link to God, the greatest power in the universe.
  • Prayer provided intimate connection to God, the only friend I could rely on and trust.
  • Prayer gave me hope when all hope was gone.
  • Prayer gave me peace to sleep in the midst of the storms of life.
  • Prayer gave me courage to act when fear held me captive.
  • Prayer taught me gratitude for the things God had done and faith for the things God would do.
  • Prayer offered me the opportunity to praise.

Prayer teaches us three things that give us power.

Our knowledge is limited. We’re dependent upon God.

We can’t see into the future. And much of the time we have difficulty making wise decisions because our knowledge is always limited. But God knows our past, present, and future. The Bible tells us he’s numbered the hairs on our head. He knows which is the most gray and which ones fell out or got stuck to my pillowcase on Tuesday.

So why would this be important? God cares about the tiniest details of our lives. He orchestrates the function of every cell that operates in our body. Prayer reminds me that I am totally dependent upon God. It also reminds me that He yearns to speak to me and have me pour out my heart to Him.

God builds our faith through the power of prayer.

Perhaps you’ve forgiven a friend who deeply wounded you. Forgiveness requires us to risk being hurt again. Maybe you’ve been challenged to tithe to your church when you struggle to make ends meet. Again, you’re faced with risk. Or maybe God is calling you to serve and you don’t feel qualified. Are you willing to take the risk to move forward in the power of God, in spite of your emotions?

Prayer empowers us–not because it’s a formula for success. Prayer is conversation with God, communication with the greatest power in the universe. God uses prayer to build our faith. He uses it to build our vision. He uses it to direct us. He uses it to comfort us. He uses it to guide us. He gives us peace through prayer. The more we talk to God, the easier it becomes to step out in obedience and faith because we know Him better and learn to trust Him more.

God speaks to us through prayer, expecting us to move in obedience. Prayer is conversation. I speak to God. He speaks back to me. But He also expectantly waits for my obedient participation in His plan. We must remember that our emotions are not the truth, and we must act upon the truth—who God is and who we are in Him.

I would love to hear from you. How has God worked in your life through prayer? How has He strengthened your faith through prayer?

How has prayer helped you through a difficult time?

Have you struggled with your prayer life? In what way? Can you offer suggestions for others who are working at creating a more intimate and powerful prayer life?

I’d also appreciate the opportunity to pray for your needs and requests and to encourage other readers to pray for you. What needs are close to your heart?

What answers to prayer have you seen in your life recently? We would love to rejoice with you.

I appreciate the opportunity to get to know you better and to join with you by Harnessing Prayer Power.

Dr. Clem

Learn by Serving Others

Serving others blog
Nurse serving dinner to a senior man in an armchair at home

When we think about serving, we typically think about what we offer others.

But we should also see service as learning. Serving others allows us to develop and refine leadership and relationship skills that maximize our personal growth. Working alongside others allows us to gain new perspectives and learn from the experiences and wisdom of people whose diverse lives can inform our thinking.


Serving others requires humility. Jesus, who was God in human form, repeatedly chose the role of a servant. He came to earth and took the form of a human, washed the feet of His disciples, switched places with people in lowly positions, and intervened on behalf of powerless people.

When we serve, it’s easy to see ourselves as saviors. But when we humble ourselves, we understand that everyone else is just as important as we are. We lay aside our agendas so we can elevate the people we serve. When we treat people as though they are as important or more important than ourselves, we dignify those we serve and demonstrate true humility.


Serve gladly.
Avoid complacency, inaction, and self-centered actions.
Don’t use your status to demean others or gossip.
Use your position wisely: your words, your influence, your resources. Every God-given gift is bestowed to enable us to do good in the world.


Intentionality fosters relationships. Take time to serve by sharing a meal, playing cards, or taking a walk. Get to know the people you serve. Look into their eyes. Learn their names. Ask about their lives. Listen for the subtext beneath their words. Is the person you’re talking to lonely? In pain? Needing comfort? Fearful? The gift of listening can greatly impact someone’s life.

Taking time to listen also enlarges our capacity for compassion and our knowledge of how to care for those who are hurting. Listening increases our empathy and sensitivity to others and can powerfully change both them and us.

Care, Even When It Costs

When we open our hearts to help, we may be asked to change our agendas or step out of our comfort zones. But service is marked by willingness to put others’ needs before our own. 

This can be as simple as tea with a lonely friend or picking up groceries for a busy caregiver. It might mean giving up a round of golf to help paint a widow’s house or taking your granddaughter with you for a visit to a nursing home. It could even be as humble as cleaning for a friend whose body is wracked by pain.

Solution or Support?

Listening to people talk about their heartaches can be draining. Our natural response is to try to fix problems or to distance ourselves from things we can’t fix.

Our job isn’t always to bring a solution to a problem. Sometimes our job is to listen and provide support. This means trusting God and letting go of control. Our greatest service may be stepping  back and allowing Him to work through others.

God is responsible for changing people’s lives, not us. We’re called to love people where they are and listen for God’s call to serve. This is not an excuse to sit and wait for someone else to help. When the Spirit moves, we should confidently move forward.

The Good Samaritan

It would have been easy for the Good Samaritan to look at his enemy’s problems as too big or complicated for him to get involved. After all, he was on a business trip and had places to go and things to do. But instead, he stepped in, did what he could, found a place for the Samaritan to stay, and people who could care for him. The Samaritan didn’t try to create peace between the two communities or address local crime rates. He saw a need he was able to address, and he did something about it. The Samaritan took responsibility for his enemy’s problems because he saw them as God saw them; the Samaritan believed it was his responsibility to go the extra mile—even when it was costly and inconvenient.

Be Willing to Be Served

We create opportunities for the flow of mutual respect and growth when we allow ourselves to be served. Allowing others to serve us (accepting coffee, a meal, prayer, hospitality, hugs, or gifts of gratitude) tells people serving us that they have value, dignity, and that we engage equally. Accepting places us on level ground.

Jesus allowed others to serve Him. He also quieted Martha’s worries when she was more caught up in the act of serving than the heart of serving. On the other hand, Jesus defended a woman who spent a year’s wages on perfume to wash his feet in an outrageously sacrificial act of devotion.

  • Be content to be interrupted and disrupted.
  • Make space for someone else’s unique personhood, value, and worth, and learn to see them through God’s eyes.

Most of all, if we desire to serve, we must first live by Jesus’ words:

“Whoever finds their life will lose it,
 and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” 
— Matthew 10:39

Benefits of Conversation

Photo by Jason Schuklt

Conversation is on the decline these days. We have become a culture of Tweeters, texters, and emailers, but, unfortunately, technological communication does not give us the feeling of connection that conversation provides.

Happiness is directly related to our social ties and relationships—friends, family, and community—and a feeling of safety and security because we know we’re loved, cared for, valued, and won’t be abandoned.

We build community through conversation. Conversing with others also increases health, happiness, and longevity.

Engaging in authentic conversation takes time, focus, and dedication to building listening and responding skills. We must learn to ask questions that are appropriately timed, respectful, insightful, and probe below the level of superficiality. For instance, “How have you been?” will probably elicit a response of “Not too bad.” But if you ask someone what the best part of their week has been, they will probably answer quite differently.

Learn to listen as much as you speak. Monitor your conversations to be sure that you give the person you’re talking to equal time and attention while you’re talking. And remember, being right isn’t as important as a respectful exchange of viewpoints. The purpose of conversation is connection, not scoring a win. Express your opinion or point of view, but don’t press your position.

  • Don’t argue. It’s not worth what you lose in the relationship.
  • Don’t complain.
  • Give supportive feedback.

Use responsive facial expressions and body language.

  • Smile and laugh.
  • Nod your head in agreement.
  • Lean forward.
  • Laugh quietly.

Authentic conversations

  • Allow us to maneuver through difficult issues and arrive at new places in our understanding: innovative ideas, a creative way of working.  The ability to have robust conversations that cut through big issues to arrive at something new: an innovative idea, a novel way of working or a creative experiment.  Setting an inclusive, authentic and welcoming tone is important, right from the start.
  • Energize people. When individuals feel ‘seen’ and listened to, they are much more willing to give their best.
  • Align action. When team members talk about what matters most, people pull in the same direction.
  • Promote peace and better decision-making. When all voices are valued and respected, the best decision for everyone comes clearly into view.
  • Increase opportunity for self-awareness  and reflection.  By listening and having authentic mutually respectful conversation with others allow us to see our selves in a new ways.
  • Open our minds and illuminate new opportunities. When we take the time to listen to others, we open our thoughts to perspectives and insights we may never have considered before. Authentic conversation spurs reflection and forces us to think about life in new ways that illuminate our ability to relate to others.
  • Share collective wisdom. Conversation allows me to express the unique wisdom I have derived from life and draw that wisdom from others. These experiences allow us to grow and flourish beyond our individual abilities.


Bill Isaacs summarizes it this way: “Dialogue is a way of taking the energy of our differences and channeling it toward something that has never been created before. It lifts us out of polarization in into a greater common sense, and is thereby a means for accessing the intelligence and correlated power of groups of people.” (p. 19, AQZ Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together).

How can applying these principles transform relationships? Corporate cultures? Diverse communities? Experience has taught me that authentic conversation is the foundation for understanding, personal transformation, and inter-relational growth.

What about you? How has applying these principles positively influenced your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Peace & Health,

Dr. Clem

How to Become an Everyday Hero

When we think about heroes, characters with super-powers or people who perform death-defying acts of courage typically spring to our minds. But USA Today recently reported that 20% of Americans have done heroic deeds. Professor Philip Zimbardo from Stanford University conducted a study that was supported by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Using a national sample of 4,000 adults, Zimbardo’s team discovered that 20% of participants qualified as heroes.

How could this be true?

 These participants had

  • helped during a dangerous emergency,
  • taken a stand against injustice, or
  • sacrificed for a stranger.

Heroes are ordinary people,” Zimbardo states. “You become a hero by doing an extraordinary deed.”

Who Are the Heroes in Your Life?

We all face opportunities to step up, do the extraordinary, and become a hero to someone.

Sometimes those we hold dear fall short during times of need, and the people we expect to spark our hope shroud it in their own despair. Interestingly, Zimbardo’s study also revealed that someone is more likely to act in a heroic capacity if they have walked through personal trauma or have been involved in compassionate outreach.

The world longs for heroes, and we can see the evidence in top-running movies and televisions shows. Social psychologist Scott Allison of Richmond, Virginia puts it this way: “We love heroes because of what they offer us—hope for a better world.”

So how do we become an everyday hero? I suggest the following:

  1. Respect people and live peacefully with others. My mother always said, “Don’t underestimate anyone because you never know what tomorrow brings.”  Sometimes when we are happy, strong, and powerful, we are tempted to ignore the least among us. However, we never know where heroes will come from.
  2. Trust God to bring the right people and circumstances into your life at the right time. Proverbs 16:9 tells us “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” God may send a hero to speak wisdom, to intervene on your behalf, or to stand beside you as an advocate.
  3. Manage your expectations of people. The people you believe will be your heroes may not be equipped to help you and may need help themselves.
  4. Acknowledge people who step up. Gratitude opens doors and fosters a hero’s heart. Heroes often place others first as a lifestyle.  
  5. Be a hero to someone else. This may be as simple as making a phone call, taking time to listen, checking on someone, answering a call, showing unexpected kindness, standing beside someone against injustice, helping to open closed doors, or promoting someone’s well being. Use your power and influence to make a difference.
  6. Stand beside ‘heroes in the making.’ Support the heroic efforts of others and encourage family, friends, and those in your circle of influence to join you. Model what it means to act as a hero and a person of integrity, honor, and positive influence, and consider mentoring others.

I thank God for everyday heroes—people who positively influenced not only my life but the lives of my friends and loved ones and in so doing made the world a better place. I salute you and dedicate this blog to you and to all everyday heroes.

Can you name someone who’s been an unlikely hero in your life? How did their action influence you? I’d love to hear your story.

Peace & Health!

Dr. Clem

10 Strategies for Balanced Living

Photo Credit: Unsplash

One Saturday afternoon, I took a break and reached out to friends I had not been in touch with for a long time. During one conversation, I questioned a friend who seemed to have it all together.

“How do you accomplish everything you do as a mother, wife, community volunteer, and employee with a full-time, demanding job and still find time to exercise, eat healthy, and take time for personal growth?”

Her answer was simple.

“I work to balance my priorities, but it’s not easy.”

My friend’s response confirmed what I had learned over the years: successful personal growth flows from intentional living. Effective individuals schedule time for development because they live with vision and purpose.

Living with vision and purpose requires us to balance our busy daily lives with our personal development goals.

I’ve found the following strategies helpful in learning to live a balanced life while making time for personal growth:

  1. Identify areas of your life to target for growth that will help you become the person you want to be.
  2. Schedule 15 minutes every day to learn. Read, watch challenging videos, listen to podcasts or audio books, or seek mentoring.
  3. Schedule time slots each week to do things that inspire you, fulfill you, or help you meet a goal, even if it is small steps.
  4. Become comfortable with the realities of balance. Various seasons of life will require you to focus on one area more than another, depending upon needs and circumstances.
  5. Be realistic. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Your work will always be there. It’s okay to occasionally leave items unchecked on your to-do list.
  6. Set firm boundaries around your availability. Notify colleagues, clients, and family of your schedule. Explain that setting boundaries makes it possible for you to be 100% there for them when you are “on the clock” with them.
  7. Take technology breaks. This allows you to be focused and productive and releases you from the tyranny of notifications and calls.
  8. Schedule brain-intensive tasks during your most productive hours, and complete low-energy jobs during your ‘slower’ times of the day.
  9. Delegate tasks and consider paying someone to do house cleaning, yard work, or errands.
  10. Last, but definitely not least in priority, schedule important family and personal activities such as regular vacations. Then, treat them as top priorities because they are. Enjoy your family, relax in the sun, hike, and tour your favorite locale—whatever energizes you, renews your soul, and draws you closer to those you love.

Now, what about you? How do you balance personal development, professional life, and family priorities? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Peace and Health,

Dr. Clem

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