Thursday, August 28, 2008

Natural Disaster Recovery Guide-

Strategies to rebuild your life, home & business

By: Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor

Storms can be deadly. That's why emergency weather management facilities send out such serious warnings ahead of time to protect the lives of our children, homes and communities. We know to stay inside during severe weather and to unplug our televisions and computers because we know that in bad weather bad things can happen. We know to prepare ahead of time by keeping a watchful eye on tracking the storm and stocking up on the resources needed to get through it safely, like flashlight batteries, bottled water, first aid kits and other essential survival supplies. However, what we usually don’t know is how to deal with the devastating emotions that come after a terrible storm hits. Emotions like stress, anger, worry, depression, anxiety and panic are common in our busy world but can build up to dangerous levels after a critical incident, which often can lead to disastrous results.

Natural disasters can destroy entire communities in just a few moments, while the recovery process to rebuild from a major critical incident may take weeks or months to sort through. The more you know about how to survive after the storm, the faster you can take positive action to get your personal and professional life back on track. Since natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods are among the biggest and most destructive forces that impact people living in the United States; what can you do right now to cope with the psychological impact of a major storm before or after it makes landfall?

The most important thing to focus on is this:

Keep this single thought in mind as you begin to sort through the process of stabilizing yourself and those you care about who have been impacted by the storm. During the storm the goal is to be safe while surviving whatever nature throws your way; blistering heat, the ground quaking under your feet or your house being gale force winds and rain. After the disaster is over and the storm passes, the goal is to quickly rebuild the normal life routines that you had in your personal and professional life before the storm hit. If you get focused on rebuilding, you will be able to spend your energy in positive ways instead of being in a mental fog of confusion, mingled with panic or regret.

Dealing directly with your emotions will reduce the tension and stress on you, which allows you to have more energy to deal with a difficult situation. However, if you stuff your fears and frustrations in a major disaster, your emotions can quickly blow up without warning. Exploding in rage on your children, your marriage partner or a volunteer at a water station will only make a difficult situation worse. It’s not their fault, and it’s not yours. Natural disasters are a terrible situation full of loss and difficulty for everyone. By taking action now you can move beyond feeling overwhelmed by intense stress, anger or confusion. As you follow the insight from this recovery guide, you will be taking positive steps to rebuild with the focused energy of an even stronger life for you and your family after the storm.
To best survive the storm, you need a strong combination of three key elements
- healthy coping skills
- healthy supports and a
- healthy perspective
of how to rebuild after a natural disaster. While things will never be the same as they were before the storm; the following guidelines will give you the key elements needed to get past the overwhelming stress and to find even greater strength on the other side.

- What are the dangerous warning signs of “Storm Stress Syndrome”? Stress from the storm affects everyone however; it becomes dangerous to our health if it goes on for an extended period of time. Storm Stress can affect adults, children, the elderly and even pets, so it is important to be alert to watch for the danger signs of the psychological condition called, ‘Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder’, (commonly referred to as PTSD), in yourself, your family members and coworkers. In natural disasters like hurricanes or tornadoes, I refer to the rapid build up of these symptoms as “Storm Stress Syndrome”. These symptoms include any dramatic change in emotions, behavior, thought patterns or physical symptoms over the next few days, weeks or even months. Since natural disasters are a terribly stressful time for everyone, both during and after the storm and often remain stressful for some time to come, there are a number of factors to be aware of to keep yourself and those who you care about safe.

Storm Stress Warning Signs-
These signs are indicators that the intense stress from the critical incident is beginning to overwhelm the individual. The longer the stress symptoms occur-the greater the severity of the traumatic event on the individual. This does not imply craziness or personal weakness; rather, it simply indicates that the stress levels from the storm were too powerful for the person to manage and their body is reacting to the abnormal situation of having survived a major trauma.

It’s normal to feel completely overwhelmed by a natural disaster like a hurricane; however there are danger signs to watch for in yourself or others that may indicate psychological trauma. Adults or children who display any of the following stress symptoms may need additional help dealing with the events of this crisis. It is strongly recommended that you seek the appropriate medical or psychological assistance if you see a lot of of the physical, emotional, cognitive or behavioral symptoms listed below in you, your coworkers, or someone in your family or home, especially if these symptoms weren’t present before the storm.

Physical Symptoms: Chills, thirst, fatigue, nausea, fainting, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, headaches, elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, shock symptoms, and so on.

Emotional Symptoms: Fear, guilt, grief, panic, denial, anxiety, irritability, depression, apprehension, emotional shock, and feeling overwhelmed, loss of emotional control, and so on.

Cognitive Symptoms:Confusion, nightmares, uncertainty, hyper-vigilance, suspiciousness, intrusive images, poor problem solving, poor abstract thinking, poor attention/memory and concentration, disorientation of time, places or people, difficulty identifying objects or people, heightened or lowered alertness, and so on.

Behavioral Symptoms:Withdrawal, antisocial acts, inability to rest, intensified pacing, erratic movements, changes in social activity, changes in speech patterns, loss of or increase of appetite, increased alcohol consumption, and so on.

If you are in doubt about these symptoms in your life, or someone you care about, it is wise to seek the care of a physician or certified mental health professional. Better to actively deal with the stressful emotions directly to help yourself and your loved ones to immediately cope with this crisis because these emotions tend to worsen and get more intense if left untreated. Remember that there are many experienced professionals who can help you recover during a time of crisis. You do not have to go through this alone.
Take action now to prevent stress after the storm from continuing to overwhelm you or the people you care about. Call a trusted friend to talk through it, reach out to clergy, or call your family doctor or counselor. If you don't know someone to call about these emotional issues, you can reach out for assistance by calling telephone hotlines which are offered at no cost to you. These numbers are often posted by local media, hospitals, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army or FEMA. If you, or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, guilt or grief it's important to make the call for assistance now to learn how to get past the pressure to begin to feel ‘okay’ again.

- How can I help my family get back to “normal” after a major disaster?Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods and earthquakes are often the most destructive events that a person can experience in a lifetime. These types of storms are also among the most expensive disasters to recover from financially because of being out of work or not having enough insurance coverage to replace what the storm destroyed. It may take months to perhaps even a year for everyone to feel that things are back to “normal.” The actual psychological impact of the storm will vary widely between people based on factors like- age, their previous experiences with storm recovery and most significantly how much stress they already had in their life before the storm. The more stress someone had in their life prior to the storms, the longer it takes to recover, and with the additional stress of daily life coupled with the rise in gasoline prices the stress levels have dramatically increased on everyone affected by these storms.

Here are some immediate ways to bring order and calmness back into your life after the chaos and confusion that follows a natural disaster like these hurricanes.
1) Reconnect in relationships -You can't get through a crisis alone. Since we all were impacted differently, it is vitally important to talk about the stress and pressures you have experienced with the people closest to you. Reach out to friends and family as soon as possible, and call people you haven't heard from in a while. Just checking in to see if they are okay will only take a few minutes, but it will empower and help both of you. Simply talk about what each of you experienced through the disaster and how you got through the storm. Tremendous connection can occur through crisis, so this is an especially good time to reach out to friends or family who may have drifted away from your closest circle of relationships. Take action now to reach out to people with words of encouragement and support, but don't wait for someone else to call you-their phone may not work! Go find them and then reconnect the relationship while helping each other rebuild.

2) Rebuild your routines-This is one of the most important factors to quickly get life back on track because we all draw strength and security from a structured daily routine. Bed time, dinner time, getting up to go to school, or work, or church or the gym to work out. To regain strength quickly identify what your normal routines were before the storm-and then get back to them as soon as possible. Even if you are staying in a hotel, shelter or with family members for a while, stick with the rituals that you have typically followed that make up your daily lifestyle. This way you will feel the comfort of your stable and predictable routines, regardless of the stress of the many changes happening around you.

3) Reach out for faith-In times of crisis everyone believes in the power of prayer and the importance of their faith. There is tremendous strength in knowing what you believe and living in harmony with those beliefs and values. Plugging back into your faith after the storm will allow you to release anxiety over the things that you know are too big for you, because you can trust God to handle them. Dedicate a few minutes or perhaps even an hour per day to quiet mediation and reflection on what matters most if you want to continue to grow strong in spite of the storm. This is especially important when you or your children may feel lost, alone or afraid. God cares and taking time to pray and release those burdens will help you make it through the rest of your day. Many churches and houses of faith have disaster and recovery teams, support services and even financial assistance available to help their members cope with the crisis. Helping others in need is one of the greatest ways people of faith model what they believe, so avoid the tendency of being “too nice” to ask for help if you need it. Having a committed personal faith combined with the connection of a local house of worship will give you a tremendous sense of community to get through this storm as well as the ones to come.

4) Retell your story-Young and old alike will benefit from hearing about how other people survived what will likely be the worst natural disaster they will ever experience. There is tremendous power in telling your story; healing power for you and helpful power for others who will gain insight and strength by hearing how creative people can become through the crisis. As you speak up about what happened, it will make it easier for other family members or coworkers to talk about their feelings of loss as well. Things will never be the same as before, but life will go on and we can rebuild and get through it better together. Telling your story now will give you additional strength as well as connect you to the neighbors and friends as they share their story with you.

- How does a critical incident like this affect kids? It depends on the age of the child. The younger the child, the more they look to their parents for emotional security and strength. If a Mom or Dad are “shell-shocked" or “numb” and not able to manage their own emotions or responsibilities; the child will feel that pressure and become very confused and further stressed. Remember, it's normal to be overwhelmed by a major disaster. This is why it's so important to take care of yourself in order to take care of your children and those your care about through the long period of recovery and rebuilding after the storm.
Think about the advice given on commercial airliners to parents traveling with small children. “Should there be an unexpected cabin de-pressurization; oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Place the mask over your nose and mouth like this and then place the mask over the mouth and nose of those around you needing assistance.” Take care of your own emotional needs first, and then you will be in a stronger position to help those around you. If you feel overwhelmed in giving your children or others who may depend on you for support, please ask for help. It's okay to be tired, worn out and overly stressed. That's normal after a natural disaster. However, it's not okay to ignore caring for the needs of those counting on you like children, the elderly or pets. Sometimes a parent may need to make adjustments at work or change their own schedules for a while by delegating some tasks in order to have time and energy to help their children avoid feeling more pressure from the difficult experience that surviving a major disaster brings. If you feel that your caregiver ‘tank’ is empty, let someone else help you for a while until you get your strength back. That's best for you and for those that you care about.
When you can focus and dedicate attention to understanding the needs of young children, notice what they are saying, drawing or doing to determine if they are still feeling overly stressed from the storm. School age kids need to talk, draw pictures or take positive action, (like having a lemonade stand to raise money for kids just like them who are now storm victims because their homes were destroyed), so if you give them something to do to help, they can take positive action and sort through their emotions immediately. High school age kids may try to act "cool" about everything, but often are more scared about the changes, losses and confusion than any other group. They are older and may need to experience a bit more "reality" at times to loosen up their ability to talk about what is happening around them. If they are willing to talk to their siblings, other family members, clergy or counselors it often doesn’t take very long before they can grow strong enough to deal with their emotions and get back to feeling like themselves again.
The greatest danger sign to be alert and aware of is by noticing any dramatic changes in behavior. If a child was always happy go lucky before the storm and now sits all day to watch video footage of the world’s disasters on the news or weather channels- then you may want to figure out why they made such a dramatic shift in personality. Watch for other major changes in sleep patterns, school patterns, school performance, peer relations and so on. If you see major changes that concern you, it's time to seek professional attention for the child with their pediatrician or with a child behavioral specialist

- What are some ways to help our kids talk about storm stress?You can reach out to children in many ways to help them deal with this stressful time of rebuilding after the storm. Talking, writing, drawing, even making up a song about the experience with the disaster will make the time pass more quickly, and may even lighten someone else's load of emotional pain and difficulty while helping you back through the process. Some families even play board games like the "worst case scenario," (which is based on actual survival information from a book by the same name). Many of the issues discussed in the game aren't likely to happen to the majority of people on the planet, (such as how to survive a shark attack), however, talking about any crisis event in life can help kids learn the basics of moving from the panic of basic survival to building strengths through problem solving.

- Are there any “hidden dangers” in media that parents should be concerned about that might make the storm stress worse?Too much media exposure is dangerous for kids. It is better to get a media "news update" once or perhaps at the most, twice a day to avoid the danger of media over-exposure. Leaving the news on all the time will depress the mood of the person who hears it; since deep down inside we learn to go "numb" to the normal emotions of the stressful event, to press on and burn reserve energy in the process. If your child didn't watch the morning news programs before the hurricane or tornadoes hit, be cautious about allowing them to watch TV news alone or having long blocks of unaccounted time with too much isolation. Best is to sort through media outlets-like television, Internet, radio or newspapers, which may contain content that is overly stressful or just too depressing for a child. Then set boundaries to protect them from additional stress in media stories, since it is important to protect their home and minds by managing the media around them.

It's wise to move from negatives to positives in highly charged and difficult situations like storm recovery. We have all seen enough negative images to last a lifetime and yet the media will often play scenes from a disaster over again and again. Also, parents and kids can sit down and discuss why they really need to have so many media and entertainment services available in their homes. Many families found that not having the Internet, cable television and loud music playing in their homes all the time while being without electricity after the storm allowed them to reconnect as a family with much greater communication. By sitting down and discussing these issues your home can be a more positive place, by creating more positive energy to mange the stress of recovering from this crisis situation.

Since watching other peoples problems in other parts of the country will cause more stress in an already stressful situation it's better to focus on your responsibilities today, right here in your own community. When things in your life are strong again, you and your family won't be as affected by the images of crisis from other places. But that's another day, so for now as you recover, it’s better to focus on getting you and your kids though the day that you have been handed without making it harder because of the hidden stress of media overexposure.

Also, the same principles apply for the aged as for anyone else. Seniors often can spend a tremendous amount of time in front of negative media images which can be harmful to their wellbeing. Better to get involved in helping others, praying for those affected or donating to help as you can than to become overwhelmed with the stressors of others by becoming desensitized from media over-exposure.

- What can people expect in the weeks ahead?"Hurry up and wait," will be the motto that a lot of people will think about in the days ahead. This is because the daily life activities like filling up a gas tank, taking a warm shower, or driving through a busy intersection with working traffic lights, have been dramatically disrupted. Life is usually out of balance for weeks or sometimes even months after a major disaster, and while no one likes it, we all have to get through it.

There may be long lines for many of the basic products or services necessary to survive or care for our loved ones; so prepare now for the fact that may be difficult at times. Major storms can kill hundreds of people, shattered billboards, rip traffic lights from their poles, splintered trees, shred awnings or screen rooms, rip apart electric-cable-phone-Internet transmission lines, snap off traffic signs, seriously damaged thousands of homes and cause millions to sometimes even billions of dollars in damage where they hit, (like Hurricane Katrina did to the Gulf coast a few years ago). The more people and communities that are seriously affected the longer it takes for some things to even be evaluated for repair and significantly longer than that for them to be replaced. It is wise to mentally prepare for the fact that the damage from a major storm could take weeks to clean up and months to perhaps even a year to rebuild from.

Know that this will be hard on everyone involved but we can get through it with a lot less stress if we work together. Here's a formula to help victims recover from this type of crisis event faster. It spells out the word "P.A.T." which stands for
Patience- Things are going to take a lot longer than normal. Focus on the reality of why things are disorganized or confusing after the storm, instead of getting angry at everything that doesn't go your way. The more you let your anger build, the more likely you will dump it on the people you love. That is irresponsible and wrong, so don't do it! Deal directly with the pressure of this recovery time by building a deeper understanding of the situation and what you can actually do about it, instead of feeling angry and helpless about what you can't do anything about right now during this time of disaster recovery. Being moody and continually irritated will not make things better for anyone, but it can make a bad situation worse for everyone involved. Why add more stress to an already over-stressed situation?

Attitude-In a crisis situation you can't afford to waste even a drop of valuable resources like water or gasoline-and you should be equally cautious about wasting emotional energy by worrying about things you can't change. It's time to go with the flow of difficult situations, instead of trying to fight against it. You can't control the fact that this difficult situation has happened, and if you try it hyper-control something as big as a natural disaster it will only lead to greater levels of anxiety and stress for you. Better to keep focused on positive things like counting your blessings instead of counting your problems. Anxiety, stress, worry and chronic sleep loss can take a bad situation like this one and turn it into an abusive, or out of control one in a matter of days. Protect your attitude and you will significantly protect your ability to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.

Trust-This one is hard because people tend to feel angry and resentful in the days and weeks after a critical incident. However, it is essential to know that the construction and recovery crews responsible to take action to repair the daily life activities we tend to take for granted, (like electricity, water, gas, phone and cable services), are already working 24/7 shifts to accomplish that important goal of rebuilding basic services that were disrupted by the disaster.

This includes staff from the power company, phone company, tree services, cell phone providers, cable television workers, Internet providers, insurance adjusters, FEMA workers, the department of transportation workers replacing signs and traffic lights, fire fighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, school board officials, grocery store workers, gas station attendants, yard debris collectors and on and on. Trust that everyone is doing the best that they can to get things back on track. Emergency repair crews often work double time to get our homes, schools and businesses back on track-count on it. Even better, stop and thank them with your kids if you have a chance. A kind word of “thanks” goes a long way to reduce the stress and frustration that these professionals feel in rebuilding and maintaining essential services in our community.

- Is it wise to involve kids in the clean up and recovery process?If it is physically safe for everyone, ** I encourage the entire family to visit their damaged home together. It is okay to do clean up and recovery work together as well, since this storm is bigger than any one person could clean up anyway. Stressful events like this can make a marriage or family stronger than ever, because instead of just one person dealing with the loss, the entire family can join in to deal with it together. It's wrong to play the “hero” and try to do everything by yourself as a parent or legal guardian for children because it models being a lone ranger during a crisis.
The ‘lone ranger’ mentality eventually leads to someone becoming the ‘lonely ranger’ because you can't get through a crisis alone, nor should you try. We need each other more than ever to successfully manage crisis events like natural disasters. Another reason why this is so important is that viewing the destruction firsthand, (obviously in age appropriate ways), is one of the best ways to allow children to see how dangerous storms can be. And the most important reason to model this behavior to our younger kids is because they learn from their earliest childhood that families who stick together through the entire process can get through it better and faster than those who go it alone.

Think about the term, “childproofed home” as you determine what environment would be safe for your youngest children or grandchildren to be walking through or around. If they normally aren't around power tools or gas powered construction equipment like generators or chain-saws, then this is not the time to introduce them to it. Be safe and don't make a stressful situation worse by risking physical injury to yourself,
your children or those you care about.

On another note, keep your repair work in perspective with your life priorities. Remember that it is impossible to fix everything in a day, so to risk emotional injury to your children or spouse by yelling, screaming or shouting during the clean up process isn’t worth it. By pacing yourself and working at the rebuilding process together as a family,
you can grow closer on the other side of the storm. Blow up with rage at the people
you are closest to and you may risk damaging a relationship that is
far more valuable than your roof ever could be.

- Is it okay to talk about what happened to our family with others?Silence is not golden in a critical incident, rather, it's dangerous. One of the best things you can do to help yourself and help others is to tell your story. Talk about where you were when the storm came through. Talk about how you and your loved ones made it through the crisis to the other side. Keep talking and make it a point to listen carefully as you hear the stories of others who survived this terrible storm. This is important for everyone involved, kids, grandparents, moms, dads, employees, employers, firefighters, police officers, nurses, teachers, students and on and on. Everyone has a story about how they got through a major disaster and telling it helps them heal and may give you a new chance to connect with your family, neighbors and coworkers in a powerful way. Also, don't miss asking your own pastor, priest, rabbi, or spiritual caregiver to share their story; since many times these professionals are so busy listening to the needs of others, they neglect to take time to reduce the stress that they feel.

- Why do some people seem to become bitter or hateful after a crisis like this one, instead of just being grateful to be alive?A major disaster “dumps out” whatever is inside of a person, so you will see the best and the worst of behavior happening in the days ahead. A critical incident or natural disaster that overwhelms an entire community creates an equal sized emotional reaction in people, so be prepared for some unusual reactions in yourself and the people around you. Sometimes people who were the most hurting before the storm will act wonderful and kind on the other side of recovering from this type of traumatic event. It's like they find a hidden strength in a crisis and reach out to others in a new way. Others just go numb and will seem to act like robots. Some people will get loud and others will become unusually quiet. There are many reasons for the wide range of emotional response; with a common factor being how many difficult and traumatic experiences they may have already witnessed in their lives. Hopefully, some people may have already sorted through these deep hurts and strong emotions before a killer storm hits. If so, they may have a deeper understanding of the need for compassion to others in a crisis. They understand about the storms in life and react with kindness, sometimes it may even seem to come automatically for them to reach out with positive emotions instead of being critical.
Other people can get completely cutting, hateful and mean in everything that they say and do, even if they weren't that way before the storm. They may even try to chase you off with a broom if you try to help them clean up the broken limbs in their yard! Don't panic, they probably aren't having a breakdown, rather it's likely a behavior some people call being ‘hardhearted.’ This comes from year’s worth of unresolved past hurts being piled up and never addressed or resolved. Try not to take it personally if the criticism comes your way. Remember the rule that "hurt people- hurt people" and then take their negative comments with a ‘grain of salt’ while still attempting to maintain integrity in caring for others who may be able to receive the offer of a helping hand to get through this difficult time.

- What is survivor guilt and how does it negatively impact people?Thousands of people who didn't lose power, have their homes damaged or lose basic services often feel uncomfortable with being blessed instead of being grateful for their blessings. Remember to manage your affairs at home and then at work in a responsible way, and to pace yourself through the process. Doing too much/too soon can exhaust you and limit your ability to live out your priorities in your immediate family. Helping others at the expense of protecting and helping your own family seems right after a disaster, but it is wrong because it misplaces the important priority of caring for those closest to you first, (there are emergency exceptions to that rule at times). Best is to pace yourself in the race to recover and rebuild. Hurricane or flood seasons come to an end, but if you over do-things you may end up hurting yourself and make your own future a lot worse. If your home is okay and you can get to work, be the happiest person in your neighborhood and if you only suffered minor storm damage don't allow the inconveniences of daily life, like having to do without hot water or cable television for a while, get you down.

- So many people are worse off than me- how can I decide who to help?
Help others when you can, but not at the expense of making your situation worse. A simple way to decide who to help and when it might be wrong to offer assistance is to consider these three key elements.

Evaluate Relationship-
First determine your level of relationship to the people in need. Begin with ‘self-care’ and practice the steps to keep yourself safe in the recovery and rebuilding process. If you get seriously hurt trying to help someone else, you haven’t really helped anyone and in fact may make a bad situation much worse for everyone. Once you know that you are safe and stable, then reach out to offer help your closest relationships, which are usually the people you live with or around. This includes your family, children, marriage partner, elder adults who may live with or near you and your dearest friends. Not everyone outside of your closest ‘circle’ may need your help or assistance, but it’s wise to ask them just in case.

Once you get past those closest to you, then you can reach out to offer assistance to those in need you may know in your neighborhood, church or workplace. After you are able to help the people you know at that level of relationship, then you can reach out to those you may be less connected to in your community, state or region of the country. Everyone has needs, and it is for certain that everyone affected by the disaster will need some level of help to get through this storm recovery process. ‘Lone rangers’ wear out fast and eventually can’t help anyone, so help others when you can and allow them to help you as the level of relationship allows. No one can rebuild after this kind of disaster alone and as you come alongside to help others, or allow them to help you a greater sense of relationship and connection will develop which makes you both stronger.

Measure Resources-
If you are attempting to reach out to help others, you need to first evaluate what resources you have to work with. These are the very limited supplies of time, energy and money. Most people have to maintain responsibility to the important elements of their jobs no matter what the storm damage may have done to their place of business. So If you are in a situation that requires a 50 or sometimes even 60 hour a week commitment during the storm rebuilding process, you will have very limited supplies of time and energy at the end of the day to help others in need. Wise financial planning may have given you a nest egg to draw from, but no one has enough money to solve all the crisis events in our world. If you don’t have the resources of time, energy and money to responsibly care for you and those who depend on you, it would be wrong to spend those resources on strangers. Don’t let the crisis events of others you may see on a television news story get in the way of caring for those closest to you. As you wisely manage your home resources in connection to your circle of closest friends and family members – everyone can grow stronger after the storm.

Do the Right Thing-
After you have determined the level of relationship in need and then measured the resources available to help, then you are ready to apply these three questions necessary to wisely help others impacted by the storm.

1) Is there a Rule? Consider if this situation falls under the guidelines of an accepted standard in our society, such as a law, statue, spiritual principle or guideline. For instance, if I’m in a hurry and racing to get to a store to buy storm supplies and cause an automobile accident it’s clearly my fault and I have to pay for the damages. However, many issues that arise out of a disaster aren’t very easy to understand and don’t fit into commonly known laws, statutes or principles. When that happens, ask yourself the next question.

2) Is it Responsible? Does the situation that you are considering getting involved in make common sense or seem to be a wise use of time, energy or money as discussed earlier? If it seems impulsive or poorly thought out, wisdom would suggest that waiting until a better plan could be developed would bring better and longer lasting results. This approach also helps prevent a lot of accidents after a disaster because considering the responsible path may prevent bad decisions that were well meaning, but brought more problems than solutions. Like when a well meaning person buys a chainsaw to cut a tree off of a neighbor’s house and hasn’t stopped to realize that they have never used a chain saw! There are often more accidents or deaths in the days after a major disaster because of irresponsible or impulsive decisions. Prevent that by taking time to seriously think through what your involvement will actually accomplish. As a wise carpenter once said, “measure twice-cut once.”

3) Is it Reasonable? Consider the real reasons that have led you to believe that you are the best person to jump in to help others in this situation. Do you have the skill set, the experience or training to perform certain tasks that you are considering? An example of this would be well meaning people who show up to help after an accident, but don’t have the medical training to even know what to do, or people who really want to help with patching holes in roofs or removing tree limbs tangled up in power lines. It is unreasonable and irresponsible to place yourself into a dangerous situation that you aren’t prepared to deal with. A better approach is to assess what you reasonably can do right now and then do it. (Some examples would be calling 911 to get someone medical help, or waiting in line for ice and bottled water for a neighbor, or doing five loads of laundry for someone who doesn’t have electricity, or letting someone use your cell phone to call their family members to let them know that they are safe after the storm, or offering to buy lunch at a fast-food restaurant for a tired mother with small children who just need to get out of a hot house for a few hours to take a break). There are countless things that you can do to add value in a crisis situation without being in the wrong place at the wrong time; which creates problems for others. Taking reasonable action brings positive results.

Following these steps will allow you to grow stronger through the storm, while helping others to grow along with you on the journey of rebuilding a community after the storm.

- What should people consider when first returning to their homes after being evacuated before the storm?You need to mentally prepare for the loss by remembering that things in this life can be damaged by wind, water, fire and falling trees. Our lives and the lives of those that we love are much more valuable than anything in our homes. Whatever the destruction looks like now, remember that it can and eventually will be repaired in time. Keep repeating to yourself phrases like, "It's just stuff anyway," or "the more things you have, the more things have you," or even "our family is safe-and that's all that matters since the rest is just a house that can be replaced." Changing your mind about things will allow you to control your most powerful asset, your own internal drives, personal beliefs and choices, which is the emotional "grid": that all other emotions go through. Change that, and you will be able to make even more positive changes in your daily life.

- What final thought can you give to encourage us through this recovery process?Stress can lead you to a greater level of success if you allow it; which is the primary focus you need to grow through a difficult situation like this one. You will make it through the crisis and you will survive if you take action to connect to your supports, use positive coping skills and develop the mindset of looking for strength beyond the storm. The biggest part of this process is to reach out and link arms with others who were impacted by this storm just like you were. Supporting others gives you a significantly greater level of strength than if you ever tried to stand alone through the crisis. Finding strength in storms by linking arms with others is what the massive Redwood trees in California do to withstand incredible pressure.
Redwoods are massive trees…
many are over 300 feet high, and yet only have root systems that go 4-5 feet deep. Why don't they fall over in a gentle breeze? Simple. The mighty Redwoods never grow alone. They link their roots together and withstand ten times the stress and pressure because they are not alone in the storm. They need each other to stand strong and so do we. A major crisis gives us a chance to stand strong together, just like the Redwoods do. This is our time to get focused, build healthy coping skills into our daily life and be surrounded by strong people who have the heart and resources to stand firm by living out what they believe. And it’s time for you to stand alongside them as we all come together to rebuild our community after the storm.

No matter what the size of crisis event, you can find strength after the storm because moving beyond the stress is the beginning of finding greater success. Following the action steps in this resource guide will allow you to begin building strength back into your personal and professional life in spite of the storms. As you grow stronger you can tell others, which will encourage them to press on as they rebuild their lives, right next to yours. Stronger people create stronger communities and that is the journey you have already begun. I encourage you to stay with it as you build an even stronger life after the storm.

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors information intact in the box below.

About the Author:
Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. A critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of and trainer for over 1,500 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally; Dwight is a member of the National Speakers Association who partners with the media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture. Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by visiting his counseling blog with over 100 complimentary articles and special reports at

Grandfather's Story- Storms make you Stronger

By: Dwight Bain

The last few years of major hurricanes seem to have brought out the worst in nature and the best in people since there were countless stories of how neighbors connected to each other as neighbors to recover after the storms. Yet, I believe the greatest stories are the ones that will be told a generation from now. Stories like this one between an aged grandfather and his grandkids during a fierce afternoon thunderstorm some sixty years from now.

Picture the old man distracting the frightened children from the wind and rain outside by sitting them down to tell about the time that he and his daddy made it through the "Monster Storm Season back in '04". How his family reached out to help the people in the neighborhood get back on their feet after being knocked flat with 100MPH winds because they were too overwhelmed to make it back up alone.

The grandkids sit wide-eyed in anticipation of a story from their poppa. He takes a breath while balancing a sleeping grandbaby on one arm while pulling the little ones close with the other. He comforts them with the calming sound of his words and the peaceful connection that only grandparents have with grandkids. As he begins to talk about his experience he gets overwhelmed with emotion and his voice chokes a bit as his eyes mist up with tears. The painful memories come alive again as he describes the terrible destruction he saw after the storms when he was a little boy, barely older than they are now.

He tells them of thousands of houses with roofs ripped right off, cars crushed by trees the size of trucks, airplanes tossed around like little toys, traffic lights ripped from cables and shattered into tiny pieces scattered by the hammering winds and pounding rain. How it was so dark and lonely when the lights went out and the TV silenced, followed by the crashing sounds of things breaking outside and how his momma cried and held them all close, and how his daddy prayed for safety while the dogs howled at the darkness. He told them how his whole family, cats and dogs and all spent the night huddled up in the laundry room waiting for the sun to shine and for things to get back to normal. The sun came, but normal never did. Nothing was the same after those terrible storms hit; nothing would ever be the same.

When he went outside the first time, he saw the big trees in the backyard that once had been the perfect place for a boy to climb and imagine grand adventures now splintered and tossed in every direction. Some limbs from those mighty trees had crashed across the back fence and were in the neighbor’s pool, some limbs were burying most of their house and others had pulled the electric power lines all the way to the ground. Out front it was worse. The whole neighborhood looked like it had been bombed by terrorists.
Roofs ripped off people's houses were tossed everywhere, their street was blocked by dozens of big trees and power poles and there were pieces of tool sheds and back porches scattered around like confetti after a party. Their basketball net had crashed through the windshield of his daddy's pickup and there was no way to raise the garage door because there was no electricity. It was sunny outside, and starting to get hot like any summer day in central Florida- but inside it just wasn't right... something just wasn't right.

The tears flowed freely down the old man’s face as he remembered how his daddy had rolled up his sleeves and clinched his jaw and dug in with the strength of a man who loved deeply. Loved deep enough to lose sleep over helping strangers. Loved strong enough to do without to give to someone facing greater problems than his. Loved great enough to model what his faith was about in such a real way that anyone could see that he loved his God openly by living out what he believed. Integrity shined forth with every cut of his chain-saw and it was easy to see that the monster storm didn't crush his daddy- the monster storm challenged him and drew something courageous out of him. It was like something in the monster storm only made him stronger. The old man's face brightened as he explained how his daddy taught him that faith is about what you do- not what you say. And real faith isn't even discovered until you need it the most.

Just then a sudden flash of lightening followed by a roaring clap of thunder startled all of them and even woke the baby up crying as the lights flickered in the home. Grandfather gave them all a comforting squeeze, while calming the baby down and then went back to telling the story. His face tensed as he described the weeks of hard work to dig out from under the damage brought on by a series of killer storms. How that the hard work of clearing trees and debris was made harder because of the wave after wave of dark skies that threatened yet another storm and how each one terrified him more. He described living in continual fear of the next monster storm coming back to crush the few trees left on their street and of being so scared that the storms might one day take his daddy away too.

The old man paused for a minute, then he took a deep breath that calmed his voice and told them about how those terrible hurricanes actually connected he and his father together in some unusual ways. He described how he watched his daddy deal with each storm and how he had learned from him how to press on and not whine and keep going, especially when it was so hot and so hard to go on. He misted up as he remembered his daddy teaching him that God allows storms to test you. To shape you and show you what you believe. His daddy taught him how to go from being a boy to becoming a man by standing up to the storms of life. Standing tall beside his greatest teacher and greatest friend, because standing next to his father during those storms had taught him how to stand up to life.

And then the old man sighed from somewhere deep inside as his face relaxed and the tears rolled down his cheeks as he told how they got through it together as a father and son. How their family made it together mostly because of that- they were together. It didn't matter the circumstances. Sometimes they were together working through the heat and discomfort to rebuild the things that matter the most in this life- family... friends... churches... schools... hospitals... and how that year, way back in 2004 when their family came together with some others to pitch in and rebuild a whole neighborhood. Not only that, but how his dad and some men from their church went out of their way to help some small businesses hit hard by the storm, not for money, or politics or power or fame, but because it was the right thing to do-to come alongside and help another man provide for his family too.

Then grandfather grew quiet and his big arms that had been shielding those children from the storm completely relaxed as he looked up, way up, way beyond the ceiling of the house toward the heavens. It was like his face was glowing as if he had caught a glimpse of his daddy's face shining with love for his boy.

Quietly refreshed, the old man feels renewed inside. Energized by doing what others had done for him- finishing his journey well so the next generation could learn how to live strong. Teaching them how to face pressures today, so they might one day pass along this secret to the next generation- The best place in life to find strength is in the storms. Strength always comes from the storms.

Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Critical Incident Stress Expert for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office as well as other emergency service agencies. He and his family are life-long residents of Orlando. Access more resources on overcoming crisis by visiting his blog of counseling and coaching resources at or

Friday, August 15, 2008

Depression warning signs and understanding what to do about it

A special report from Dwight Bain and the LifeWorks Group of Counselors

Recently the Associated Press reported that long-time TV journalist Dick Cavett, struggled with clinical depression for decades. This is amazing because at the height of his career, he was more popular than Larry King and Regis put together. He described his life as ‘lifeless, the simplest daily actions were excruciating.’ He had trouble getting out of bed and eventually was hospitalized under an assumed name. Cavett eventually stabilized with the help of therapy and was able to enjoy life and his career again. His willingness to talk about his painful journey through depression as a media personality has led thousands of others to take time out to evaluate their own lives, or the lives of those they care about. The following special report and depression warning symptoms check lists can help you better understand depression, what often causes it and what to do about it. Remember, if you are experiencing overwhelming symptoms of depression that you will need to see a licensed medical or psychological professional for assistance.


Depression is more than a day of feeling low. It is a long-lasting, often recurring illness as real and disabling as heart disease or arthritis, Adults who experience clinical depression may feel an oppressive sense of sadness, fatigue, and guilt. Performing on the job may be difficult ... going out with friends may be unthinkable ... merely getting out of bed may be impossible. The person who has depression feels increasingly isolated from family and colleagues - helpless, worthless, and lost.

Depression is a very common emotional condition. In varying degrees of severity, it affects about 6 percent of all U.S. adults, more than nine million people in any given six month period, according to the American Psychiatric Association. At least one in five Americans will experience a major depressive episode during their lifetime, with women twice as likely to develop depression as men and remember that children and teens can also be at risk for depression. Listen to the words of author Don Baker as he describes his own journey through depression.

It is impossible for those that have never been depressed to fully understand the deep, perplexing pain that depression causes. For four years I appeared healthy, without bandages and without crutches. There were no visible scars, no bleeding, and yet there was the endless, indefinable pain that no doctor’s probing fingers could locate- no drug could totally relieve. There was always the pain and along with it the desire for oblivion- that would only come in restless snatches of restless sleep. I seemed to be out of touch with reality. Life was a blur, often out of focus. My life seemed to be nothing but pretense and fantasy. No one really cared, I felt-not even God. The only solution-at times-seemed to be suicide. To be told that Christians never get depressed only pushed me deeper into my black hole of depression. The way out of that black hole was a long and painful process- one that required the sensitive and insightful counsel of a friend... friends can help you through it, and God can use it to enhance and enrich your life. -Don Baker, from the book, “Depression”


If you or a person you know has exhibited four or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, professional help should be considered:

· Sleeping too much or too little
· Frequent wakening in the middle of the night
· Eating too much or too little
· Inability to function at work or school
· Headaches, digestive disorders, nausea, pain with no medical basis
· Excessive crying
· Thoughts of death or suicide
· Lack of energy, constant fatigue
· Slowed thinking
· Difficulty in concentrating, remembering, making decisions
· Loss of interest in daily activities
· Loss of sex drive
· Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness
· Restlessness, agitation, irritability
· Feelings of inappropriate guilt or worthlessness


We know that depression results from an interaction of several factors - environmental, biological, and genetic.

Environmental Factors. Stress resulting from the loss of a job, death of a family member, divorce, or ongoing health or family problems can trigger depression.

Biological Factors. Depression may also be tied to disturbances in the biochemicals that regulate mood and activity. These biochemicals, called neurotransmitters, are substances that carry impulses or messages between nerve cells in the brain. An imbalance in the amount or activity of neurotransmitters can cause major disruptions in thought, emotion and behavior. Some people develop depression as a reaction to other biological factors such as chronic pain, medications, hypothyroidism or other medical illnesses.

Genetic Factors. Because depression appears to be linked to certain biological factors, people can inherit a predisposition to develop depression. In fact, 25 percent of those people with depression have a relative with some form of this illness.


Doctors know more about depression than perhaps any other emotional illness. Because of research and medical advancements, 80 to 90 percent of those with a depressive disorder can be treated successfully.

Evaluation. A complete evaluation with a qualified professional is the first step in seeking treatment. Only a licensed physician or psychologist can diagnose a person with a psychiatric disorder. During the diagnostic evaluation, the physician or psychologist will determine if any other factors are contributing to or even causing the depressive symptoms.

Professional counseling. Various psychotherapies, cognitive behavioral therapy or “talk therapies” commonly used in the treatment of depression focus on the causes and effects of the illness. Interpersonal therapy helps people deal with problems in personal relationships. Cognitive therapy helps patients change negative thoughts or perceptions, such as high achievers who are convinced they are failures.


The purpose of this checklist is to help you assess patterns of depression. There are no good or bad answers -- only honest ones. Please answer Yes or No to each question as it applies to you.

_____ 1. Do you feel sad or “empty” much of the time?
_____ 2. Do you find yourself becoming irritable and quick tempered?
_____ 3. Have you lost interest in ordinary activities?
_____ 4. Do you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning?
_____ 5. Do you tire easily?
_____ 6. Is it becoming increasingly difficult to focus or concentrate?
_____ 7. Have you gained or lost weight recently?
_____ 8. Do you find yourself crying frequently or more easily?
_____ 9. Do you feel anxious or tearful much of the time?
_____10. Are you having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up early in the morning?
_____11. Do you feel guilty or overly responsible for others?
_____12. Is your attitude more negative than it used to be?
_____13. Are you overly critical of yourself or do you find yourself lacking?
_____14. Do you feel taken for granted by family, friends, or other relationships?
_____15. Are you increasingly impatient with your children?
_____16. Does your work day stretch on endlessly?
_____17. Do you have thoughts about dying or death?
_____18. Have you started drinking or using drugs to dull your pain or have previous habits worsened?
_____19. Do you sometimes feel that other people are criticizing or talking about you?
_____20. Do you find yourself experiencing headaches? Stomach aches?
Muscle pain? Chronic aches and pains?
_____21. Have you tried to hurt yourself or put yourself in dangerous situations?
_____22. Is there a past history of depression for you or another family member?
_____23. Do you find it hard to make decisions about everyday matters?
_____24. Are you pulling away from family and friends and spending much of
your time alone?
_____25. Have you lost interest in your sexual relationship?

If you found yourself answering “yes” to more than a few of these questions, it may be time to reach out for help. If you would like to talk to a counselor about depression please call the Lifeworks Group, Inc. at (407) 647-7005


· People who have a family member with depression
· People who have experienced a stressful or traumatic life event
· People who lack the social support of a spouse, friends, and extended family
· People who abuse drugs and alcohol
· People who have chronic medical illnesses or persistent pain


· Remember, your depression is not your fault and it can be effectively treated.

· Seek treatment. Don’t let misconceptions about emotional illness or the discouragement of your depression stop you. Either on your own, or by asking a friend or family member, contact your family doctor, community mental health center, or local medical or psychiatric hospital for help.

· In the weeks until treatment becomes effective, you can take some simple steps to help you deal with life on a day-to-day basis: Break large tasks into small steps; set easily managed priorities; participate in light exercise and relatively undemanding social activities, such as attending a movie or visiting a friend. Simply being with others can be helpful.


· Encourage treatment. Remember that the symptoms of depression may prevent a person from trying to get help. Your personal physician, mental health center, or local psychiatric hospital will be able to help you find a treatment specialist.

· Adjust your expectations and offer support, understanding, and

· Demonstrate that you know the person is in pain.

· When the person says or does something upsetting because of the depression, try to put your reaction into calm, reasonable words. This will help the person understand how his or her conduct affects others, and help you better cope with a trying situation.

If the warning signs and symptoms of depression sound like you or someone you care about, it may be time to reach out for some professional help. If you would like to talk to a counselor about your feelings of depression please call the Lifeworks Group in Florida at (407) 647-7005


Reach out for help ... because the more you learn about depression, the better you will understand that it has specific causes and effective treatments. And like any illness, depression can affect anyone at any time.

By reaching out for information you can recognize the signs and symptoms of depression. That knowledge may someday allow you to help someone get the treatment he or she needs to live a healthy and fulfilling life.


How do you know it someone is depressed?

· Appearance - sad face, slow movements, unkempt look
· Unhappy Feelings - feeling sad, hopeless, discouraged or listless
· Negative Thoughts - “I’m a failure!” “I’m no good!” “No one cares about me”
· Reduced Activity - “I just sit around and mope” “Doing anything is just too much of an effort”
· People Problems - “I don’t want anybody to see me” “I feel so lonely”
· Guilt and Low Self-esteem - “It’s all my fault” “I should be punished”
· Physical Problems - sleeping problems, weight loss or gain, decreased sexual interest or headaches
Suicidal Thoughts or Wishes - “I’d be better off dead!” “I wonder if it hurts to die”


· Make a short “To Do” list of activities you can succeed at today
· Think of ways you can improve your health
· Ask for what you want - you might get it!
· If your health allows, run, jog, walk or swim with a friend
· Help someone else
· Make play a high priority
· Reach out and touch someone else. Join a ball club or a homemaker club. Reach out to someone who is lonely. Give away a dozen friendly smiles.
· List the ways you belittle yourself
· List the ways you can let go of your depression
· Answer these questions: Do I really want to change? What benefits do I get for being depressed? What does it do for me? What payoffs would I get if I let go of my depression? If I was not depressed what would I be doing?
· Ask yourself, “What do I need that I am not getting?” Often the basis for our feeling depressed is the fact that we do not like ourselves. And what we need to do is start liking ourselves. Find one thing you like about yourself and think about it. If you have trouble with that think about the fact that you are still alive. you have come this far in life. You are still here. So somehow you have a valid ticket to be here, to be a live! And that’s great!
· Get busy doing things you enjoy, like being with a friend
· Make a “stroke” file. It is almost certain that at some time in your life people said they liked something about you. Jot down that positive stroke on a scrap of paper and put it in a box or file. Add any letters or cards from people who let you know they appreciate you. You can add to your collection at any time. Then, when you feel down, look in your stroke file and let yourself enjoy the compliments you have received from others.
· Make a list of things you like about yourself. Think about and enjoy your positive assets and accomplishments.
· Pamper yourself. Give yourself some pamper time. Take a soothing hot bath for 30 minutes while listening to your favorite record. Take a leisurely walk. Lie down under a tree and experience your oneness with nature. Have a cup of hot chocolate and some cookies or go for a walk with a pet or friend.

Understanding "The Shack"

a parable by William Paul Young

Commentary and review from Dwight Bain

Here's an analysis of "The Shack" as well as some brief reviews from USA Today and The New York Times, where the book has rocketed onto their best seller list with almost one million in print in just over a year. (Unheard of for a self-published title). Also below is the testimony of Paul Young, the author, which explains much of his orientation in writing a book like this one; which was almost an autobiography of his own healing journey from sexual abuse and adultery. The author spoke in the Orlando areas a few months back and I was able to hear and understand his heart and motivation to write this book. Knowing the author will always give you a better understanding of the intended message, and often will help you to understand why so many people are connecting to this little paperback book about getting past their secrets, shame and pain to really feeling free in a relationship with God as their "Papa".

The Shack:
by William Paul Young, 2007

Paul wrote this parable book at the urging of his wife for a Christmas gift for their 6 children, 12/05. Then copies from Kinko's were passed around between friends and family in 2006, and when not a single publisher, (Christian publishers thought it was too mystical, mainstream publishers though it too religious), would print the book, he shared it with two local pastors in Oregon, who created a publishing company specifically for this book. "Windblown Media", began in 2007 and pulled together $300 to market the book. It began selling by the tens of thousands via their website, with almost a million copies in print in just over 18 months, shattering all records for a self-published title. The "Shack” had its debut at No. 1 on the New York Times trade paperback fiction best-seller list It is No. 1 on Borders Group’s trade paperback fiction list, and at Barnes & Noble it has been No. 1 on the trade paperback list since May 2008. It is currently at #8 overall on in ranking of book sales out of the more than 2 million titles they carry on-line.

The title of the book is a metaphor for “the house you build out of your own pain”. The goal is to go to the shack to be healed from the secret shame or hurts from your past by seeing God in a new way. Young views his journey of emotional and spiritual healing vicariously through the main character of 'Mack'. In hearing the author’s testimony about his motivation to write the book, he describes that it actually took him over 11 years to find the emotional and spiritual healing that the character Mack experienced in the shack with God in just a few days.
Early in the story Mack's youngest daughter is kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer. Four years later he is called to visit the shack where his daughter was murdered by a note from God. He spends a weekend there with God in the flesh, envisioned by the author as a large African-American woman, who calls herself “Papa”; Jesus, appears as a plain Jewish workman; and the Holy Spirit is portrayed as Sarayu, a translucent Asian woman who floats like the wind. (Sarayu is from a Hindu word meaning the gentle wind that catches you by surprise to refresh you).
The book is a parable story written for his children, not theology, so it can’t be taken literally, but rather is designed to be understood on a more personal level. This way you can go to your own ‘shack’ to find the answers that only God could give you. Although Paul describes that he wrote it only to help his kids not carry the terrible emotional and spiritual baggage that he has shouldered all his life as a Preachers Kid and Missionary Kid, (Who grew up among a stone age tribal group of near cannibals, known as "The Dani", in New Guinea, near West Papua). He was first sexually molested at age 4 and then throughout childhood by the tribe and then by older boys, although he never told his parents at that time. He still has a broken relationship with his biological father, who is alive and a pastor in Canada still. Paul speaks openly of how painful it still is to carry that broken father relationship of abandonment which he believes may never be healed.
Part of the popularity of this book is likely from the controversy of how many people hate it, most likely because they are focused on the lack of systematic theology, which is intentional by the author; instead of focusing on his experience of healing from the past secrets and shame. Paul is a Bible college and Seminary graduate who worked on church as well as ministry staffs along with dozens of other jobs he has held through the decades to provide for his family of six kids. Despite the popularity of the book, he, his wife Kim and their young adult kids still live in a rented house in Oregon.
On a personal note, I enjoyed the book and thought it would help people with a wounded past most of all, while likely just offending people who haven't ever experienced horrible trauma or those who were deeply wounded, yet spend all their time desperately trying to cover it up with massive amounts of religious activity or just trying to act perfect. Oh yes, Papa is a large black woman, because in his childhood it was the large black women would rescue him, love him and be his safest place; while his own parents were so busy building a ministry that they left Paul to the mercy of a brutal culture. I've listened to his testimony via television interviews, on CD and read it in print and find this man to be sound in his faith and not driven by anything or trying to upset anyone’s belief system, rather trying to help them see God’s grace, healing and forgiveness in a new way. Basically he was a simple man who wrote a story as a Christmas gift to help his own children be at peace in their understanding of how much God loves them.
This book’s popularity has been supernatural because it is going into some amazing places around our world and challenging people about actively working through their own ‘shack’ of issues to experience a new level of peace with God. I hope this analysis is useful to equip you in understanding how to find a deeper walk with Christ than you’ve ever known and then to share that freedom with even more wounded people. That way you can help others to experience greater emotional and spiritual healing; and the remarkable freedom of spending time with God alone in the “Shack” and then coming out as a new person by God’s grace. -db
► Willie's Personal Testimony and Journey
We live in a world where ‘normal’ does not truly exist except as an idea or concept. For each of us, where and how we grew up plays a foundational role in our sense of ‘normal’, and only when we begin to experience the ‘bigness and diversity’ of the world are we tempted to evaluate our roots. I thought the way I grew up was ‘normal’ but I think most would probably agree that my history and journey have been a bit unusual.
I was the eldest of four, born May 11th, 1955, in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, but the majority of my first decade was lived with my missionary parents in the highlands of Netherlands New Guinea (West Papua), among the Dani, a technologically stone age tribal people. These became my family and as the first white child and outsider who ever spoke their language, I was granted unusual access into their culture and community. Although at times a fierce warring people, steeped in the worship of spirits and even occasionally practicing ritualistic cannibalism, they also provided a deep sense of identity that remains an indelible element of my character and person. By the time I was flown away to boarding school at age 6, I was in most respects a white Dani.
In the middle of a school year, my family unexpectedly returned to the West. My father worked as a Pastor for a number of small churches in Western Canada and by the time I graduated, I had already attended thirteen different schools. I paid my way through Bible College working as a radio disc jockey, lifeguard and even a stint in the oil fields of northern Alberta. I spent one summer in the Philippines and another touring with a drama troupe before working in Washington D.C. at Fellowship House, an international guest house. Completing my undergraduate degree in Religion, I graduated summa cum laude from Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon. The following year, I met and married Kim Warren and for a time worked on staff at a large suburban church while attending seminary.
I have owned businesses and worked for others in diverse industries, from insurance to construction, venture capital companies to telecom, contract work to food processing; whatever was needed to help feed and house my growing family. I have always been a writer, whether songs, poetry, short stories or newsletters; never for public consumption but for friends and family. While I have extensively written for business, creating web content, business plans, white papers etc., The Shack was a story written for my six children, with no thought or intention to publish. It is as much a surprise to me as to anyone else that I am now an ‘author’.
Overall, I am a very simple guy; I have one wife, six kids, two daughter-in-laws and two grandkids on the way. I work as a general manager, janitor and inside sales guy for a friend who owns a small manufacturers rep company in Milwaukie, Oregon, and I live in a small rented house in Gresham, Oregon, that Kim has made into a marvelous home. My time is spent loving the people that are a part of my life. I am not connected, or a part, or a member of, or involved inside any sort of organization or movement anywhere. The truth is that I doubt anyone would want me. From my perspective that is a very positive thing… for both of us. I have lots of incredible friends, and now you are one of those. Oh yeah… and I wrote this book.
These are some of the facts of my life, but they don’t begin to tell the real story. That would take much more room than is available here. The journey has been both incredible and unbearable, a desperate grasping after grace and wholeness. These facts don’t tell you about the pain of trying to adjust to different cultures, of life losses that were almost too staggering to bear, of walking down railroad tracks at night in the middle of winter screaming into the windstorm, of living with an underlying volume of shame so deep and loud that it constantly threatened any sense of sanity, of dreams not only destroyed but obliterated by personal failure, of hope so tenuous that only the trigger seemed to offer a solution. These few facts also do not speak to the potency of love and forgiveness, the arduous road of reconciliation, the surprises of grace and community, of transformational healing and the unexpected emergence of joy. Facts alone might help you understand where a person has been, but often hide who they actually are.
The Shack will tell you much more about me than a few facts ever could. In some ways my life is partly revealed in both characters—Willie and Mack. But an author is always more. I hope that someday we can share a cup of coffee, or for me, an extra hot chai tea with soy. If that happens, and if you want, I will tell you a little more about the bigger story and you can tell me some of yours.
That about sums up my life. For me, everything is about Jesus and Father and the Holy Spirit, and relationships, and life is an adventure of faith lived one day at a time. Any aspirations, visions and dreams died a long time ago and I have absolutely no interest in resurrecting them (they would stink by now anyway). I have finally figured out that I have nothing to lose by living a life of faith. I know more joy every minute of every day than seems appropriate, but I love the wastefulness of my Papa’s grace and presence. For me, everything in my life that matters, is perfect! (source: author information,
► From The New York Times:
Christian Novel Is Surprise Best Seller
By MOTOKO RICH, New York Times
June 24, 2008
Eckhart Tolle may have Oprah Winfrey, but “The Shack” has people like Caleb Nowak. Skip to next paragraphMr. Nowak, a maintenance worker near Yakima, Wash., first bought a copy of “The Shack,” a slim paperback novel by an unknown author about a grieving father who meets God in the form of a jolly African-American woman, at a Borders bookstore in March. He was so taken by the story of redemption and God’s love that he promptly bought 10 more copies to give to family and friends.
“Everybody that I know has bought at least 10 copies,” Mr. Nowak said. “There’s definitely something about the book that makes people want to share it.”
Just over a year after it was originally published as a paperback, “The Shack” had its debut at No. 1 on the New York Times trade paperback fiction best-seller list on June 8 and has stayed there ever since. It is No. 1 on Borders Group’s trade paperback fiction list, and at Barnes & Noble it has been No. 1 on the trade paperback list since the end of May, outselling even Mr. Tolle’s spiritual guide “A New Earth,” selected by Ms. Winfrey’s book club in January.
Sales have been fueled partly by a whiff of controversy. Some conservative Christian leaders and bloggers have attacked “The Shack” as heresy. The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, devoted most of a radio show to the book, calling it “deeply troubling” and asserting that it undermined orthodox Christianity. Others have said the book’s approach to theology is too breezy to be taken seriously.
Even people initially put off by the book’s characterization of God as a black woman were won over. “I was so stunned by the presentation of Papa that I couldn’t deal with it,” said Bill Ritchie, senior pastor of an 8,000-member nondenominational church in Vancouver, Wash., who recalled putting the book down at first. He eventually finished it and told his congregation that it was “one of the most remarkable books I’ve read in years.” Since early this year, his church has been buying copies to sell to members by the caseload.
Mr. Young, who is known as Paul, said he had written “The Shack” as a gift for his six children. The shack was a metaphor for “the house you build out of your own pain,” Mr. Young said in a telephone interview from the Phoenix airport on his way to a book reading. (source:
► Web Reviewer from Great Britain
The Shack
I am sorry to say that I am rarely surprised by new Christian titles – it’s not that they aren’t good, but just that I get what I expect. Not so with ‘The Shack’. This is the best Christian novel I have ever read; an absolute heart wrenching page-turner. The Shack is a breath of fresh air for the Church.
The plot centres round Mack, a father distraught and depressed over the abduction and murder of his youngest daughter. Four years after the tragedy, he receives a note inviting him back to the shack where the crime was perpetrated. The author of the note is God.
Through beautifully-crafted encounters between the novel’s characters, Young deals with the hardest questions of the Christian faith: Where is God in suffering? Who is the Holy Trinity? And, how can we understand God’s justice and mercy? As a vicar and apologist I have longed to read something that not only makes rational sense but also resonates with the heart. Surely this is it.
I cried, I laughed, at points the theologian in me shouted, but ultimately my heart was enlarged by the awesome love of God. This book has increased my excitement about heaven, indeed it has revolutionized it. I can’t wait to eat pies with Papa! Read it and you will know what I mean.
High: Pretty much all of it. It’s one of those books that you want buy five copies of to hand out to friends. Low: Should have been longer.
Reviewed by Rev Will Van Der Hart, co-director of Mind and Soul ( and associate vicar of St Mary’s, Bryanston Sq, London.
► From USA Today
Aim at 'spiritually interested' sparks 'The Shack' sales
By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY 5-1-08

A little novel written by an Oregon salesman and self-published by two former pastors with a $300 marketing budget is lighting up USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list with a wrenching parable about God's grace.
First-time author William P. Young's book The Shack, in which the father of a murdered child encounters God the Father as a sarcastic black woman, Jesus as a Middle Eastern laborer and the Holy Spirit as an Asian girl, is No. 8 on the list.
Aimed at the "spiritually interested," the novel had an inauspicious start, says co-publisher Brad Cummings, who is still shipping books from the garage of his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and nearby mini-warehouses. Young says that when he wrote the book in 2005, "my only goal was to get copied and bound at Kinko's in time for Christmas as a gift to my kids."
Until The Shack sales soared, he was a manufacturer's representative for a technology company by day and did website design work on the side. But he had always been a writer, he says, who gave poems and stories as gifts.
He wrote the book to explain his own harrowing journey through pain and misery to "light, love and transformation" in God to his six children, ages 14 to 27.
Eleven years ago, Young says, he was hanging on by a thread, haunted by his history as a victim of sexual abuse, by his own adulterous affair, by a life of shame and pain, all stuffed deep in his psyche. "The shack" was what he called the ugly place inside where everything awful was hidden away. The book is about confronting evil and stripping the darkness away to reveal a loving God within, he says.
Why are so many heading for The Shack? "People are not necessarily concerned with how orthodox the theology is. People are into the story and how the book strikes them emotionally," Garrett says.

► Endorsements for “The Shack”

When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of The Shack. This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!
Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus Of Spiritual Theology,Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.

The Shack is a one of a kind invitation to journey to the very heart of God. Through my tears and cheers, I have been indeed transformed by the tender mercy with which William Paul Young opened the veil that too often separated me from God and from myself. With every page, the complicated do’s and don’t that distort a relationship into a religion were washed away as I understood Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for the first time in my life. -Patrick M. Roddy, Emmy Award Winning Producer of ABC News

Riveting, with twists that defy your expectations while teaching powerful theological lessons without patronizing. I was crying by page 100. You cannot read it without your heart becoming involved. - Gayle E. Erwin, Author The Jesus Style

Finally! A guy-meets-god novel that has literary integrity and spiritual daring. The Shack cuts through the clich├ęs of both religion and bad writing to reveal something compelling and beautiful about life’s integral dance with the divine. This story reads like a prayer—like the best kinds of prayer, filled with sweat and wonder and transparency and surprise. When I read it, I felt like I was fellowshipping with God. If you read one work of fiction this year, let this be it. -Mike Morrell,

Don’t miss this! If there’s a better book out there capturing god’s engaging nature and his ability to crawl into our darkest nightmare with his love, light and healing, I’ve not seen it. For the most ardent believer or newest spiritual seeker, the shack is a must-read.- Wayne Jacobsen, author of So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore

An exceptional piece of writing that ushers you directly into the heart and nature of god in the midst of agonizing human suffering. This amazing story will challenge you to consider the person and the plan of god in more expansive terms than you may have ever dreamed. -David Gregory, author of Dinner with a Perfect Stranger

The path to God is paved with questions—sometimes frightening and deeply painful ones. While reading The Shack I realized the questions unfolding in this captivating novel were questions I was carrying deep within me. True freedom is born from facing those things we feel we don’t have the courage or strength to face. The beauty of this book is not that it supplies the reader with easy answers to grueling questions, but that it invites you to come in close to a God of mercy and love, in whom we find hope and healing.- Jim Palmer, author of Divine Nobodies
For more about “The Shack” visit

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Right Way to Leave a Job

By Mary Ellen Tribby

In my 20-plus years in business, I have seen many employees leave their jobs for many different reasons. Some were asked to leave, and some left on their own. Some left for good reasons, some left for inane ones.
But no matter why you leave a job, keep this in mind: There is a right way and a wrong way to exit an organization.
If you leave a job the wrong way, you could wind up ruining your reputation - or even making an enemy for the rest of your life. And that could affect any career you pursue. But if you leave a job the right way, you can preserve - even enhance - your reputation, strengthen your relationship with your new boss, and help ensure that you'll get rave reviews any time a potential employer looks into your work history.

The right way to leave a job simply involves taking 3 key steps:

1) Announce your resignation
It does not matter if you have been employed by the company for a month or 10 years... never e-mail your resignation or announce it with a phone message. Sit down with your supervisor and have a grown-up conversation. Explain that you need to move on, and thank her for everything she has done to help you in your career.
Bring your official resignation letter to the meeting. In it, include your end date. Make sure you allow for enough time to make an easy transition between you and your replacement.

The following is a good rule of thumb:
Position level
Number of weeks notice
Entry level
One week for every year (minimum two weeks)
Middle management
Two weeks for every year
Two weeks for every year plus two extra weeks
CEO/company officers
Three months to one year

Yes, some companies may escort you out the door the moment you inform them of your resignation. However, most will thank you for your service, and even offer to help you with your next endeavor.
Whatever you do, do not tell any of your colleagues or subordinates that you are leaving before you have the conversation with your direct supervisor. Telling your supervisor first says that you respect her and appreciate what you have learned from her. (Keep in mind that this is the person you will most likely use as a reference in the future.)

2) Have a transition plan
When you have that talk with your supervisor, be prepared with a suggested transition plan. Have recommendations for people who can take over some of your responsibilities until your replacement is hired.

Your transition plan should also include:
A timeline of projects you have been working on. This should be as detailed as possible.
Your job description, updated with any changes that have been made during your tenure. All jobs evolve, and your supervisor may not realize to what extent yours has.
A contact list that includes the names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers of everyone you interact with in order to get your job done. Do not omit anyone because you brought them to the table. You did it while you were being paid by your current employer.
While discussing your transition plan, offer to help hire your replacement. After all, you know the kind of skills that are required to do the job, as well as the kind of person it takes.

3) Maintain your strong work ethic
So many people make the mistake of slacking off once they give notice. This can negate your entire legacy.

Your last few weeks or months in a company is a time for you to shine. A time to present yourself the way you want to be remembered. You should come in early and stay late. Offer assistance to anyone who needs it. And do whatever else you can to leave a lasting impression of what a talented person and hard worker you are.
Most industries are more interconnected than you might imagine. If you do a great job after you have given notice, it's practically guaranteed that your new boss will hear about it. And the same is true if you acquire an "I just don't care anymore" attitude.
When I first started at ETR, I was looking to hire a graphic artist. One of the prime candidates for the job was a lovely young woman with a fantastic portfolio and what seemed like a fine resume to match.

The evening before my final round of interviews, I met a former colleague for a drink. During the course of our conversation, I told her about my potential candidates for the position. As it turned out, the young woman I was seriously considering had worked at my colleague's company for a month. Not only that, but my colleague had been her supervisor.
Seems that while she was there, she did an okay job. But once she gave notice, she started coming in late. Not only that, but she found reasons why she could not complete her assignments before she left... and she spent a lot of her time bragging about her new job.
Instead of canceling my interview with her the next day, I kept it... without letting on that anything had happened.

When I asked her about an unaccounted-for month on her resume (the time she had worked for my former colleague), she told me she had been traveling. Imagine her shock when I told her that I'd had drinks the previous night with the supervisor she had omitted from her resume.
I thanked her for her time... and hoped she had learned a valuable lesson.
Remember: The final impression you make is just as important as the first one. No matter what reason you have for leaving a job, you want to leave on good terms. You don't want to burn any bridges. And by taking the three very simple steps above, you can leave on great terms. That will help you maintain your reputation for excellence with your previous employer... and start out on the right foot with your new employer.

This article appears courtesy of Early To Rise, the Internet’s most popular health, wealth, and success e-zine. For a complimentary subscription, visit

Creating Positive Change in spite of Crisis

By Dwight Bain, Certified Life Coach & Nationally Certified Counselor

Change... it is a part of life that we don’t like to face. Oh we may speculate on what it would be like to live some where else, move to another house, take another job in another industry, move away from mom and dad, or marry our 'dream date'. We like to talk about the big changes that we may go through one day; but let's face it. Most people hate to go through a major change. I think we tend to avoid change like the plague; even though we know in our heads that God will ultimately use change to grow us into a stronger person through the process.

Some of the changes in life are predictable.

Losing our first tooth, the independence that comes from a driver’s license, graduation, moving out on our own, and other expected stages of life. Some changes are not pleasant, but equally common. A new-born baby not sleeping well and the parents struggling to find the energy to cope with an infants continual cries for comfort, siblings fighting with each other, feeling nervous about a job interview, wondering if you will be able to pay for a child’s future education. We think about those changes for years, often with worry, sometimes with a plan on how to cope when the kids leave home, but always with the anticipation that the event will happen one day.

These changes we accept as a part of growing up... of moving forward... even if we don’t like it. You may be old enough to remember a popular song from the 1960's based on a Bible verse from Ecclesiastes 3 :1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” I believe that God has a plan and purpose for your life, and ultimately we know that these predictable stages are a good thing.

What about changes we don’t like- the ones that are unpredictable and painful?

Think about the sudden and unpredictable changes in life.

Single words tell it all. Death, law-suit, divorce, flood, abuse, hurricane, bankruptcy, flunked, foreclosure, fired. Do we quickly seek to be grateful or to thank God for these events? I don’t and suspect that you don’t either. It is hard to see the blessing when the change was so unexpected, so sudden, so painful and so hard to figure out.

Many years ago I read that television personality Oprah Winfrey began to keep a “Gratitude Journal” every day, where she would write down 5 blessings at the end of every day to thank God about and to stay focused on the positive, instead of dwelling on the negatives. I’ve tried her technique and found it to be really helpful; but to be honest, during some really tough times I felt so overwhelmed by what was happening around me that I didn’t have the energy to even think any positive thoughts- much less write them down. I was just trying to hang on and survive another day.

Perhaps that is why the following words have so much meaning to me. They were spoken by a media personality who shared these inspirational words at a banquet where he was the keynote speaker for the event. It's important to know to really appreciate the impact of these words that he was speaking that night AFTER he had been fired from his day job, yet BEFORE he was allowed by his contract to share his being fired with the public. Listen:

“After awhile, you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul. You begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises. Learn to accept your defeats with head up and eyes open- with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child. You build your roads on today, because tomorrow’s roads are too uncertain for plans. So plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And learn you really can endure, that you really are strong and you really do have worth.”

These words reminded me that God is in control even if my life feels like it is in a total crisis. I believe that God has a plan for each of us, and often that plan goes through a major test by ‘fire’ and pain that leads through whatever challenge we are facing, (never around it), to the strength that comes on the other side of a crisis.

The wisest man who ever lived wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, and at the end of the third chapter he includes the following theme which really gives us the big picture on sudden and unexpected change. ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot comprehend what God has done from beginning to end.”

So, if you are facing the toughest time of your life, or perhaps are at the crossroads between two major decisions I hope that you will take time to sit down to figure out your options, because you always have options! My personal belief is that God has the major changes of our lives mapped out. Only He knows why bad things happen to good people, which is why I don’t spend much time trying to figure out philosophical issues, since it makes more sense to focus on getting through the day.

So the next time a major change is coming your way, or hurts you, or feels scary, or causes you to want to run like crazy- I hope you will try running. Except this time run toward counting your blessings instead of your problems. Run toward strategies, supports and mapping out solutions instead of just sitting and feeling stress or panic. And most of all, run toward God, because in Him you will find the spiritual peace you need to face tough times. If you are in a really difficult place know that millions of people just like you and me find that experiencing His presence and comfort makes all the difference to guide you from panic to a place of inner strength and lasting peace. Pretty good trade to swap panic for peace when facing a major change. Start today and you will see that your life will grow more positive tomorrow in spite of any crisis.

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of and trainer for over 1,500 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association who partners with major corporations and national organizations to make a positive difference in our culture. Access more counseling and coaching resources about creating positive change from The LifeWorks Group by visiting their extensive posting of blogs and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at