Thursday, June 28, 2012

A New Normal

What is normal anyway?

Some folks panic as birthdays approach. Not me. I’ve spent years looking forward to retirement. After more than thirty years as a Puyallup Orthodontist, I thought I’d retire and become a snowbird— you know, the guy who travels south every winter—coming home only after the spring equinox. I’d play golf every day. I’d swim, play tennis, and enjoy long warm days in the desert. After so many Puyallup winters, who could blame me?

Lately though, I think the Lord is leading in a different direction. Maybe spending my retirement in perennial recess isn’t what He has in mind. It’s a slow process, and I’m still discovering my part in the plan. But here’s what’s happening:

Over the past few years, I’ve been surprised to have folks come to me for advice. Not just one or two people, and not just professional advice, or financial advice—not even just spiritual advice—these people seek me out in all kinds of areas. Even more surprising, I’ve found that I’ve been able to help.

Amazing, isn’t it?

When it happens, I've found that I don’t tell people what to do; rather, I ask questions. I’ve discovered that one perfectly framed question can help people discover their own best path. It’s been such a simple, natural development that I hardly noticed it. Lately though, I’ve realized that I like doing it; Honestly, I’m pretty good at it. So, I’ve decided to get additional training. I’ve attended seminars, gotten help with the process of helping others. It turns out, there’s a great deal of technique involved in the process.

Most people call it coaching. But I’ve been doing it for so long, I didn’t even realize that the process had a name.

Coaching is very different from counseling; I don’t help hurting people review past events to find healing. Instead, I guide stable, healthy people toward the future they dream about. I ask questions designed to give them insight. I help them see the potential in front of them, and find a way to tap into that potential. I help them plan their way toward their own goals.

These days, on top of my office hours, I’m coaching roughly thirty people. Yes, it takes time, energy, and focus. Truthfully? I enjoy it. It seems to be my sweet spot.

As for golf, I’m still hoping to play more—but I think my plans for a “recess retirement” have been put on hold. That’s what happens with the Lord. Sometimes, at 60, you find yourself with a whole new kind of normal.

What about you? Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an unexpectedly new “normal?” In what surprising new direction has the Lord led you? Care to tell us about it?
Dr. Greg Sutherland,
With Bette Nordberg


  1. Don't you love it that God gives us a great desire for the things He has called us to?! You never know where He will take you- you just have to be up for the challenge!

  2. A recess retirement? Ha! Have you read John Piper's "Don't Waste Your Life". you can find a free copy on on It's an amazing read and he pokes specfically at the waste of a "recess retirement". All things of this world will fade away, only what is done for Christ will last. Praise God for your commitment to continue to serve these individuals you are coaching-- what a legacy for Christ you are building.