Monday, September 28, 2015

Prayer In A Snap

Having a hard time praying or knowing what to pray for? Maybe you get so busy that there is no time to pray. Maybe you think prayer is so important and sacred that it requires a lot of time to set aside to do it, but you can’t find the time and don’t want to half do it.

If you are the kind of person who feels like you should pray more, but has a hard time doing it, then this may be of some help to you. Prayer doesn’t have to be this long and drawn out process all the time. Sometimes prayers can be super short and simple, like a quick text or snap to a friend – just checking in or sharing a quick little thing that has momentary importance, but nothing of global consequence (or perhaps maybe it is majorly important).

Here are 9 Snap Prayers you might want to try.

9 Snap Prayers

1.       Morning prayer & Evening prayer. Quick morning and evening prayers can be as simple as checking in with God in the morning asking for a good day (help me on my math test) while in the evening being grateful for at least one good thing that happened that day (thanks that my locked wasn’t jammed today).

2.       Prayer of desperation. This sort of prayer comes when there is an immediate need. “God, help!” is enough.

3.       Interceding prayer. When you see someone else who needs something or is in trouble, this quick snap prayer can help you empathize with others and call upon God for help.

4.       Confessing prayer. Sometimes you just blow it. You said something stupid, hurt someone’s feelings, or realize that you just did that thing you promised you would never do again. Tell God what you did and share the burden rather than carry it all.

5.       Listening prayer. This sort of prayer can really have two parts. Part one is like sending a text to God, “Hey, what’s up?” and then awaiting the rest of the day for the return texts.

6.       Gratitude prayer. A quick “thanks” is always nice when something good happens. Plus, it helps you remember to be grateful.

7.       Seeking virtue prayer. Sometimes you realize that the task before you requires something more than what you feel you have (e.g. patience). A quick text asking for growth is good. "Gonna need help with this one - patience please."

8.       Spontaneous prayer. Randomly thinking of God for any reason and just checking in is good. Again, you randomly text your friends and this is really not that much different. "Rainbow this morning. Nice"

9.       Lord’s Prayer. This 71 word prayer is slightly longer than a quick text, message or snap, but it is simply 71 words of awesome that takes less than 20 seconds to say.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, September 26, 2015


Pride. It’s ugly, it’s toxic and it’s part of the human condition. Whether humans are born with it or just pick it up along the way, there is little doubt that pride walks along with us, climbs inside of us and so often just takes the over controls and makes us a walking impersonator of ourselves.

Pride is clever and crafty as it wears many faces and does impressions of other attitudes and even virtues. Pride is so invisible at times that it can be up and running without anyone detecting it for long stretches of time – infection without detection.

If pride were not so much a stealthy, complex, and perpetually reincarnating individual and social process, it might be easy to quickly diagnose and treat. But the reality is that pride has no interest in being diagnoses and treated, it has no interest in compromise, and it has no interest in sharing. It is a relentless force that seeks to fill every single little patch of real estate in your soul it can find. Any little crack where humility has not filled, pride will occupy, take up residence, and defend as its sovereign domain. Pride is nothing to be trifled with.

One of the great ruses of pride is to define itself in obvious terms. Arrogance is a form of pride that is often obvious and overt, but pride would like us all to believe that arrogance and pride are synonymous – that arrogance is the only form of pride. Pride would like us to look at overtly arrogant people and compare ourselves and find ourselves to be something other, better than they are. Pride invites us to separate ourselves from that overtly arrogant person and declare ourselves humble since we are not like that arrogant person. That is a major win for pride. Any occasion that results in some declaration of immunity to pride allows for the undetected processes of pride to continue unfettered.

Pride, though it has its obvious and overt expressions, spends most of its time behind the scenes and under the surface, carefully constructing houses of cards that look and feel real, but in the end result in seemingly irreversible devastation. Pride likes to hide and lurk

One of pride’s favorite ruses is false humility. With enough practice, there are people who can simultaneously be consumed with and controlled by pride and be regarded by friends, co-workers, and family members as the most humble person I know. When pride engages the power of the social system and event he culture to perpetuate itself, it is almost impossible to detect. It is up to the prideful person to do all the work of detection and remedy. And if detection and remedy is initiated by the prideful individual, the social system around them will actually work against the remedy. Why? Social systems do not like to change, especially when the change feels like an indictment. In short, the prideful individual who is seeking to change is essentially telling the social system that you have supported and helped perpetuate my prideful living. No one really wants to hear that, so they’ll usually persist and dismiss that the person was ever prideful in the first place.

Another ruse of pride is internal defiance with external compliance. Sometimes this process isn’t pride because it is a redemptive subversion of oppressive forces, but much of the time it is simply just pride. This process of pride can emerge in work, in family, in school, at church, with God or in just about any situation when there is a power difference or intimate relationship. In short, this manner of pride says you can compel me to change my behavior, but I will not soften my heart.

Another of the many ruses of pride is depressed defiance. There is a particularly clever strain of pride that leverages perceived helplessness to gain, power, control, and even dominion. This manner of pride can emerge when there is legitimate helplessness (this is distinguished from resilience and resourcefulness), but does its best work when conceptual helplessness transcends actual helplessness and it is the conceptual helplessness that is acted on. It preys on the goodness of people to do for the individual what the individual could do for themselves. In its most extreme form, it will lead the individual to perpetrate on oneself and then endure dangerous suffering in order to control others.

If pride is so clever, so stealthy, and so…intelligent, what can a person do?

The first act of humility is to recognize one’s own perpetual vulnerability to and propensity for pride. This is not easy; however, working from the assumption that you are always at least vulnerable to some form of pride is itself a very humble posture.

The second act of humility is to seek an ever increasing sensitivity to pride, to be willing to detect its presence. Depending on comparison to other people as a barometer of one’s own pride is too crude a measure. It is unnecessary, but it may be a fair place to start. However, it is best to go past comparison as quickly as possible as it has a whole set of built in pitfalls. Introspection is important and necessary, but it, too, is likely to be insufficient. Some other ingredients to getting better at detecting one’s own pride includes having a small group of people (1-3 others) who you invite to help you detect it, tell you when they detect it, and have zero judgment in the manner in which they relate to you concerning pride. Another is to have an external code for processing experiences. Some people use the wisdom of the Bible to help them along. Submitting oneself to legitimate sources of wisdom helps to make one sensitive to one’s own pride.

A third act of humility is to submit oneself to an authority of some kind. Many people relate to God in this way. Having someone to whom you consistently seek to show respect and honor allows for you to practice the kind of humility with another that would work well in lots of relationships, even people who are not an authority to you.

Pride is nasty. Pride is ubiquitous. The discipline of humility is the kind of the medicine that remedies and extinguishes the scourge of pride.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to burn out without really trying

Actually, if you've never experienced burnout, you're just not trying hard enough. But don't be discouraged, there is enough burnout to go around. If you follow my very simple recipe for burnout, I 100% promise that you too can get there. Look, with proper mentoring and some specific changes to your approach to life, you can fully and completely burn out.

Before I reveal the secret to burning out, let's define it. Burnout is the final phase of what I will call the "burn out trajectory." It goes like this: working hard leads to growing tired which leads to exhaustion which leads to work fatigue which, if sustained long enough, develops into burn out. Burn out really needs to be thought of as an injury as opposed to being tired or exhausted. With tiredness or exhaustion, the cure is rest. They are not injuries. Burn out is an injury that needs healing.

Ok, a quick review before I reveal my 10 secrets to guaranteed burnout.

Work hard > Tired > Exhaustion > Fatigue > Burn Out

Here's how to do it:

Desire to Please. Let your desire to please people, especially your boss, drive everything you do. Prioritize everyone else's happiness over your own and take responsibility for them being happy. Neglecting some important things for the sake of pleasing others is paramount. If someone else is not happy, make sure you tell yourself that it's probably your fault.

Fear of Disappointing. In order to get to burn out as fast as possible, use fear as your primary motivation. But to really get the greatest impact out of fear, do it this way: make sure that if people are disappointed, it was because you weren't good enough. In fact, gather up your entire self-esteem into a single bundle and hitch it to the emotional reactions of your boss, partner, children, or any other significant relationship - heck, tie it to an insignificant relationship. Doing so will really help you get through these phases in the burnout trajectory.  

Ambition. It is important to have high goals and do whatever you can do to meet them. Furthermore, make sure the right people know how ambitious you are. Let them know how available you are to do whatever it takes to make it happen - at any time of day. You always have time to succeed, right? Here's a winner's tip: keep your cell phone with you at all times. You never know when an opportunity might need attention right now.  

Huge Ego (get addicted to affirmation). Burn out is not for the humble. If you are humble, your chances of burn out are low and you might just want to give up on the notion. However, if you have a huge ego and you know it, then turn up the ego volume to 11. Here is a special trick, if you can pass for humble while having a huge ego, you've really got the best of both worlds. No one hates for you being Trumpian in your inflated sense of self, but you get to have it anyway. One way to really increase the capacity of your ego is to get lots and lots of affirmation. Want it. Crave it. Get addicted to it. Stealthfully manipulate it as much as you can. Make sure as much of that affirmation is public as you possibly can without looking like that is what you are doing.
Low Self-Awareness: Capacity. If you are self-aware, accomplishing burn out is going to be a problem. However, if you are not, then there is still hope for  you. Having no idea how much you can do is key to burn out. If you do not know how much you can actually do, then you'll never know when enough is enough, because, let's be honest, it is never enough. Low self-awareness will allow you to say yes when you should be saying no. Ignorance is bliss!

Low Awareness: Task Size. Just say yes without even looking into the size of the yes. This is critical. Actually knowing what you are saying yes to might lead to cold feet and second thoughts. That is the death knell for burnout. If you know the size of the yes, then you might begin to get self-aware about your own capacity and then the whole thing falls apart. Just agree to everything and burn out will come looking for you.

Avoid Communities of Discernment. Other people are a real problem. Your friends have no desire for you to burn out. Be gracious - they just don't get it. They will fight you on this. Just leave them out of the process. It is better to simply make decisions in isolation and then, only when it is too late to back out, share those decisions with your friends. You get their pity without their critique (bonus: that's backhanded affirmation).

Procrastinate the Mundane. When you take on too much, just ignore anything that is boring. You'll get to it later, promise. Focus only on exciting things that get you lots and lots of affirmation. Just tell yourself that since you can't do it all right now (ever), focusing on the important things (read: exciting) is all that matters.

Dismiss Feedback. You may have friends or colleagues who give you feedback even when you don't ask for it. Be polite, of course, but dismiss it as quickly as is socially acceptable. If you have to tell a little white lie for the cause, then do it. Whatever you are doing is more important than your integrity.

Push Through. On your way to burn out, you'll have signs and symptoms that it is coming. Sometimes these are health related or are manifest as disruptions in sleep. This is good. When this happens, push harder. Drink more caffeine if you must. Whatever it takes is worth it.

Like Winston Churchill said when giving a speech on how to burn out, "Never, never, never! Never give up!"

If you really want burn out, you can do it. Don't get discouraged. You can't burn out in a day. It requires persistence. Be patient and trust the process. You'll be in the club before you know it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sisters - By The Scars of My Tongue

You're so very loyal,
By the scars of my tongue,
With all my voices carefully managed,
In the silence of my mind,
Never making it past my teeth,
Those simple and reckless thoughts,
Benign and explosive feelings -
My heart and soul -
Obscured from you -
For you.

I lassoed these tornadoes in my mind,
For you,
And you've never felt the breeze.
I think about my thoughts,
And you just speak yours;
I'm so fluent in our difference,
You think we're the same,

Because you need us to be the same,
You can't be you,
If I am not also you,
And letting you think so,
Was the best love I ever had,
For so long,
For too long,
I've done you wrong.

And you'll sip, just right, your just right coffee,
And I'll have what you're having, again
And we're both smiling,
For different reasons,
In our paper sisterhood,
Oblivious to the silence
You enjoy. Demand. REQUIRE.

So, my confession is due,
We're one, but we're not the same,
And I think I love you more,
But so scared you'll love me less,
Sister, it's just me - this time all of me,
And I hope you still think I'm pretty
Now that you see
The scars of my tongue.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

What Your Anxiousness Is Telling You


What Your Anxiousness is Telling You

Everyone feels anxious sometimes; some more than others, but the reality is that everyone knows what anxiety feels like. Anxiousness is often thought of as a bad thing, something to get rid of. Of course people think anxiety is a bad thing - it feels terrible. However, most people misread their own anxiety and it leads to some misconceptions:

1) Anxiety is bad and needs to be eliminated
2) I am anxious and therefore something is wrong with me
3) I feel anxiety therefore I need therapy or medication.
Rather than uncritically seeking to eliminate the feeling of anxiety, how about looking at it differently in order to learn what it might be saying?
Here are a few things to know about your own anxiousness:
It’s normal. Feeling anxious is normal. In general, feeling anxious is the result of your brain telling your body to prepare for something. Some people feel anxious in the morning as they get ready for work or school. It makes sense. Something is going to be required of you shortly and you need the energy to engage whatever that situation is. In preparation, your brain releases various chemicals to give your body the energy to engage the tasks of the day. It is normal.
It’s helpful. Anxiousness is often energy that has yet to be directed into something meaningful, productive, or constructive. Oftentimes simply engaging in that which the brain has prepared the body  for accesses that anxious energy and the anxious feelings resolve. Do not wait for the anxious feelings to leave before getting productive; instead, get productive to make the anxious feelings go away. And if you have not connected the dots yet, procrastination actually leads to increased levels of anxiety even though it is hoped to decrease them.
It speaks. Sometimes people feel anxious when they do not have some regular thing in front of them like a job or school. When the anxiety is not resolved in work or school or routine of life, then it might be telling you something. Perhaps you have forgotten to do something that is not part of your usual routine – mom’s birthday is coming up, need to return that email, didn’t get all the planning done for vacation, or need to fit that oil change in somehow. Anxiousness speaks and it is good to listen.
It’s manageable. If you take a few minutes each morning, evening, or midday, whenever the anxiousness pays a visit, to take 10 slow deep breaths, you will be surprised at how much of the anxiousness is resolved. If you combine that with allowing all muscles to relax, it is almost restful. It doesn’t always completely eliminate the anxiety, but it does bring calm. Really? How? Deep breathing floods the bloodstream with oxygen, which gives a physiological calming effect to the body.  

When you think different about your anxious feelings, you can actually leverage the anxious energy toward a useful end. Developing a friendship with those anxious feelings and working them to your advantage is a much better use of thought energy and the anxiousness itself. Don’t let yourself get caught in the worrying about worrying trap. It’s a psychological black hole. Instead, engage it, listen to it, and manage it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Wise Use of Failure

One of the greatest fears anyone has in life is the fear of failure. It’s true. Failure for some people is the very worst thing that could ever happen. Some people are simply paralyzed by the fear of failing, imaging what terrible consequences will result in a failure – public humiliation, eternal shame, smokelightningfire – real end of the world stuff.

 It makes sense to be afraid of failure. It feels terrible. It sometimes has undesirable consequences. Sometimes failure means life is no longer going in that direction. Failure might even mean the end of that important relationship or living here anymore. It can get pretty bad.

But if your relationship with failure is all bad, then you’re missing out on the benefits of failure. Benefits? Of failure? Yes, the benefits of failure. We don’t like to fail and we fear failure because we think it is all bad, but we determine it is all bad because it feels so bad.

While failure feels bad, it is not all bad. There is a baby somewhere in that bathwater, so don’t throw it out. When wisdom is applied to failure, some interesting things happen. In the movie Elizabethtown, (one of my all-time favorite movies) Drew tries to explain to Claire why his failure is so huge that it is impossible to get out from under. He is committed to failure being all bad. Claire has a different relationship with failure. Her relationship with failure is that it is linked to true greatness.

Claire: So, you failed.
Drew: No, you don't get it.

Claire: All right, you really failed. You failed, you failed, you failed. You failed, you failed, you... You think I care about that? I do understand. You're an artist, man. Your job is to break through barriers. Not accept blame and bow and say: "Thank you, I'm a loser, I'll go away now."  You want to be really great? Then have the courage to fail big and stick around. Make them wonder why you're still smiling. That’s true greatness to me.

What Claire knows that she tries to help Drew understand is that when wisdom is applied to failure, there is no greater source of learning, growth, and ultimate greatness. There is a greatness known only to those who have failed that cannot be known by those who have never failed.

 But how do I get at that greatness? What is the wise use of failure?

·        Learn: Ask failure what it is so generously trying to teach you. And don’t be simply satisfied with “well, I’ll never do that again.” Go deeper. Find out how to do better knowing that each failure is something to stand on top of in order to get a better look at things. Some people call this “failing forward.”

·         Look within. Search your character. What kind of person did this failure expose you as being? What are your areas of weakness, blind spots, and gaps that need attention? Then strategize how to fill these in.

·         Look within again. Search your character for what you did right, how you maintained yourself in the context of failure, how you succeeded within the failure. Nothing was completely a failure. Then strategize how to highlight these strengths.

 The only thing worse than failure is to fail to find its hidden wisdom. Mine your failures for wisdom, understanding, and insight. You will never regret it.

Discernment in the real world: How am I supposed to decide?

Everyone makes millions of decisions in a life time, probably billions. Each day is lined up with hundreds and hundreds of decisions. Most of those decisions are simple and easy, like brushing your teeth in the morning. Other decisions are huge and life altering like whether to go to college, getting married, or what you might do for a living. Although every decision you make deserves your attention and wisdom, the more substantial the decision the more wisdom is needed. Huge decisions come with huge consequences (for better or for worse), so making the best decision you can make is pretty important. Although some decisions must be made in an instant like I’m getting robbed what do I do? Most decisions, however, provide some lead time before having to be made.

But how does someone go about making a good decision? Do good decisions just come out of thin air?

Well, sometimes people just get lucky and accidentally make great decisions, but most of the time that is not the case. Luck is a poor decision-making strategy. Most of the time people make good decisions not because of luck, but because of discernment. They have learned how to make good decisions because they have cultivated discernment.

 So, what is discernment?

In its simplest form, discernment is using wisdom to make choices. 

Ok, so how do I get me some of that wisdom?

·         Self knowledge. Knowing yourself, your experiences and having a clear understanding of what happens when I do that. Learning from experience is a great pathway to wisdom.

·         Other people’s experience. Look, you can’t just experience everything. You’ll never live that long. So, learning from other people’s experience is good. If Jimmy throws his Axe spray can into the fire and it blows up, maybe I don’t need to throw my Axe spray can into the fire to know what is going to happen.

·         Scripture – relationship with the Bible. The Bible has the richest deposits of wisdom in the world. No other book even comes close. Read the Bible with the question, “What wisdom is trying to find me here?”

·         Relationship with Jesus. Most people know Jesus is loving, good and kind, but what a lot of people don’t really get is that Jesus is the smartest and wisest person to ever walk the Earth. The Bible does not report his IQ, but it was most certainly higher than Einstein, Plato, and Edison combined. Learning the ways of Jesus and what he was thinking and how that motivated his actions will result in wisdom.

·         Prayer to God. Prayer is, for some people, an unexpected location of wisdom. Seeking God is always a good idea. Sometimes just sitting and asking God for wisdom results in getting more of it.

·         Relationship with older people. People older than you have had more time in their lives to learn from their own mistakes and the mistakes of others as well as their good choices and the good choices of others. They can really give you some great advice on some things and help you avoid the mistakes (and the consequences) they made and model the good choices (and positive consequences as well) they made.

 What are the individual conditions under which wisdom could thrive? There are some conditions under which wisdom can thrive. Each person must create within herself or himself conditions in which wisdom can take root and really grow.

·         Humility. Wisdom and pride (arrogance) cannot co-exist. They are oil and water. In the ears of a person filled with pride, anything wise sounds stupid. Seriously, the wisest counsel will sound like foolishness, judgment or oppressiveness. Pride sours wisdom, but humility makes it grow rapidly. Humbling oneself results in space for wisdom to dwell.

·         Desire. You have to want wisdom to get wisdom. It is not hard to find if you actually go looking for it. Hunger for wisdom. Thirst for wisdom. Go looking for it and you will most certainly find it.

·         Space. It takes some intentionality to carve out space in one’s life for wisdom. There is so much in our lives that will take our time and space from us. If we do not devote time and space to the search for wisdom, something else will take that time and space from us. Right now a lot of people are experiencing “The techno-timesuck” in the form a smartphones. When we are bored, lonely, or whatever, our “go-to” is our phone. What boredom and loneliness are telling is that there is something lacking in our lives. One of those things is wisdom. Rarely is wisdom found in getting sucked into “10 things your doctor doesn’t want you to know” or “These mind-blowing pictures will change your life forever - #3 just about did me in.”

·         Preparation. Gaining wisdom before you need it is essential. When a decision comes upon you, that is not the time to consider getting some wisdom any more than when you need to run away from a wild animal is the time to start the discipline of running.

 How do I make wise choices? Getting the wisdom-generating processes into place will result in making much better decisions. Some decisions you know are coming up and some you do not. Either way, setting into motion the time, the self-reflection, the relationships, and the relationship with Jesus through scripture and prayer are going to set you up to be a wisdom accumulating person.

 How do I make unwise choices? People make unwise choices for lots of reasons. They are unique to each person. I will share some of the ways in which I make unwise choices. Feel free to learn from my shortcomings.

·         Anxiety. When I make decisions motivated by anxiety or by fear, it puts me at risk for making poor decisions. When I make decisions in this way, I am usually doing it for the sole purpose of relieving the anxiety or resolving the fear. In short, these decisions are usually self-centered or simply self-absorbed. When I am fully and completely focused on myself, I am helpless to make a wise decision.

·         Insecurity.  Sometimes I get insecure, especially when someone is going to evaluate the work I do. When I start making decisions to appease my insecurity, I make poorer decisions. Again, this is selfish.

·         Affirmation lust.  I admit it, I want everyone in the universe to like, me, a lot. Too much. This is not good. When I make decisions with goal of getting more and more affirmation, even if the thing I am doing is the right thing, it is for the wrong reason. I can get sucked into a weird “Christian” looking narcissism that is real trouble in the end.

·         Anger. Decisions made in anger almost always s result in revenge. In short, I become a worse person and other people get hurt.

·         Regret. When I make decisions out of regret, it never goes well. I cannot change the past, and that is all regret really wishes could happen. When I make decisions based on regret, I am the one who ends up getting hurt. 

 Discernment is the use of wisdom to make decisions. Get wisdom, whatever you do. Begin a wisdom-generating way of living and a wisdom-accumulation way of being and you will make much better decisions than you do now.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Objectification of Adolescents: Monster-making, Trophy-making, and Colonization

I have spent a lot of time in my life with adolescents. In fact, most of my life has been spent in this is stage with these people. I have spent time with so many individuals in their second decade of life as well as with the social systems in which they are embedded – families, churches and schools.

First, I spent quite a bit of time being an adolescent, taking some bonus time in my 20’s really getting to know this stage very well. I spent several years as a public school teacher and youth minister investing lots of time into being near adolescents and their families and working with them. Then I became a marriage and family therapist and worked with families with adolescents in a therapeutic setting. Then my own children entered into adolescence and I am now getting a first-hand education on parenting teens. I am now 45 years old and have been in some level of engaging with adolescents since I become one over three decades ago.

In these three decades, I have explored, experienced, and examined how these humans in the second decade of life live and move individually and how they are treated in their social systems. I have learned a lot in these three decades, but I also know that I have much to learn.

One thing I have learned in these three decades is how much loved these adolescents are by the adults that exist in their families, churches, and schools. I have also learned that sometimes that love is expressed in some ways that are not so healthy. And frankly, sometimes it is not love that motivates the adults in their lives, but something less generous.

One of the processes I have seen frequently between adults and adolescents is adult objectification of adolescents. Adolescents are sometimes objectified by the adults in their world. In short, adults may intend to be protective, engaged, and supportive of the adolescents in their lives, which is a good thing, but what ends up happening sometimes is that the adults treat the adolescents more like a possession than a person.

I have identified three objectification processes that take place between adults and adolescents. For the most part, these emerge from good intentions, but devolve into dehumanizing processes. Here goes:

Monster-making. Sometimes adults and parents of adolescents make all adolescents into monsters. It is generally done as a response to fear as these adults hear horror stories of terrible things done by adolescents and fear that the teen they love is at risk for being the next one to do such a thing. Here are four ways adults engage in this process:

Obsessing negative. Sometimes adults and parents hold mistakes or imperfections against an adolescent. This process happens when an adult highlights only the negatives, the mistakes, and problems of an adolescent while obscuring, ignoring or dismissing anything good about the adolescent.

Overgeneralization. Sometimes adults and parents hold the worst in any adolescent against all adolescents. This process happens when the negatives, the mistakes, and the problems of any adolescent are generalized to apply to all adolescents.

Sympathy magnet. Sometimes adults or parents magnify adolescent’s imperfections as a way to gain attention or sympathy. Sometimes the insecurity or selfishness of the adult or parent becomes central when communicating about adolescents. There can be a sense in which parents or adults compete for who is suffering the most from their adolescent. Parents, teachers, youth ministers, and therapists are all vulnerable to this process.

Scapegoating. Sometimes adults scapegoat adolescents based on the problems of the adolescent in order to obscure their own problems. This process occurs when the adult or parent has significant issues of their own that they want to protect or are ashamed of and use the problem of the adolescent to absorb the attention of others.

Trophy-making. Sometimes adults and parents overemphasize the successes of the adolescent and obscure or dismiss the negatives, problems, or mistakes. In short, they set up the adolescents in their lives to be trophies of their own success rather than celebrating the legitimate success of the adolescent. Here are three ways this process plays out:

  • Self-esteem. Sometimes adults and parent use the success of their adolescent for their own self-esteem. Being associated with the adolescent reflects well on the adult and therefore the adult exploits this process.
  • Self-promotion. This process is the next step building off of exploiting the adolescent’s success for their own ego, it drags that process out into the public to demonstrate their own greatness.
  • Superiority. Stage three in this process is when this trophy-making process is leveraged against other parents or adults to demonstrate who is the better parent, teacher, youth minister, or therapist.
Colonization. In an effort to be or to appear to be (or to relieve guilt), parents and adults may over-engage so much in the projects, activities, or events of adolescents that they edge out the adolescent partially or completely. Here are three ways this process plays out:

  • Take-over. Sometimes adults or parents completely take over the success of the adolescent. They see an opportunity to be supportive, but end up commandeering the whole thing such that the adolescent becomes secondary to the success, project, or event.
  • Projection. Sometimes the adult or parent engages with the adolescent in the event, project, or effort so much that the original effort of the adolescent disappears and is remade in the image of the adult or parent.
  • Overwhelm. Sometimes the adult or parent offers so many ideas and contributions to the adolescent’s initiative that there is no room left for the adolescent to develop their idea, project, or effort. In the worst cases the adolescent just quits the project and the adult or parent continues it to completion.

Becoming aware of these processes is an important developmental component of the adult or parent. Awareness is the first step to stopping these objectifying processes before they become entrenched. If you find yourself engaging in any of these processes, here are a few tips:

·        If you can see a way to stop and it makes sense, then stop. Replace the objectifying process with a more humanizing process.

·        For some it might be more difficult to just stop. Talk it over with other parents or adults. Tell them that you might be inadvertently objectifying the adolescent’s in your life. Just talking with someone else might help highlight ways to make a shift in how to engage with adolescents. Make sure you talk to someone who can listen well and not dismiss your struggle.

·        For some it might take talking to a professional marriage and family therapist. The process might be so entrenched that it requires a family level shift.

It is never too late to make changes in how you engage with the adolescents in your life.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Read the Bible Badly: A Primer

How to read the Bible badly: A primer

If you want to make a mess of the Bible and hurt a lot of people while doing so, I have a few tips that are going to really make your work a whole lot easier. Put these into practice and I promise you will completely ruin any chance of getting the point of scripture.

Therapy manual. Use the Bible as a therapy manual. Select scriptures out of context and then apply them to people’s legitimate mental disorders and relationship suffering. This way you can almost certainly make matters worse.

Hammer. There are some really harsh passages in scripture that have some specific contextual meanings. However, if you take them out of context you can make someone feel really bad and maybe even coerce them into doing things your way.

Science book. Make sure that you make specific scientific claims from the Bible, especially about how the world was created. The more specific the better. If someone pushes back, just say that the Bible was the first book science and it is the last book of science. That should open up their eyes.

Literalize everything. If the Bible has any truth in it at all, then everything in it must have happened. No room for story, poetry, narrative, parable, history, law, perspective, and human participation.

Act like you aren’t interpreting it. It is really important to be honest while reading the Bible. And the best way to be honest is to pretend that you are not the least bit influenced by culture, family of origin, 2000 years, translation, other people’s interpretations or any other thing. You are 100% completely objective.

Me-ify it. Make sure that every bit of scripture was written with you and only you in mind and that everything in scripture, someway somehow, applies to this moment in your life, right here, right now.

Hammer II. Use scripture to back up every belief you already have, especially beliefs that make you more powerful than anyone else. Start in Joshua to justify violence and then dig up a few scriptures to justify how God hates the people you hate. It’s much more convincing when God hates the same people you hate.

Metaphor it. Make sure that the stories in the Bible are merely stories and that none if it really happened. Jesus raising from the dead is a great metaphor for making a big come back, but it flies in the face of all common sense.

New Israel. Always apply everything about Israel in scripture to the United States today. Be offended when other people compare the United States to Rome.

Leverage Hell. Make sure that the Bible is used to identify who is going to Hell and who is going to Heaven and then keep maintaining the boundaries, but tell them God said it.

Don't Know What To Say In A Prayer?

Don’t Know What To Say In a Prayer?
An Introduction To Prayer

Prayer is a conversation with God. It is that simple. And yet talking to the God of the universe may leave you wondering what to say. What could I say that would matter to God? Doesn’t God know what I am going to say anyway, so why bother? And a bunch of other questions may inhibit.

Here is the truth: God is deeply interested in what you have on your heart and mind. God is ready to listen all the time and is eager to connect with you, hear from you, and talk with you. Every good mother or father not only wants to know what is on the minds of their children, but eagerly awaits the conversation that will reveal it, even if the parent already knows. 

But what do I say to God?

Here are several ideas:

 Thanks. Just voice your gratitude for the good things in your life. This has the added benefit of actually spending some time to focus on the positive in a world that either focuses on the negative or numbs itself because of the negative. Giving thanks to God is good medicine – for you.

Ask. Explore the desires of your heart and ask for them. Wait a minute, isn’t this selfish or self-absorbed? Well, it can be, but there is a huge difference between “God, let me win the powerball” and “God, fill me with great wisdom and humility.” Seeking virtue in order to help you become your best self is never selfish.

 Intercede for people you love. Knowing the struggles and hopes of the people you love (family, friends, neighbors, co-worker / other students etc) and sharing these with God is a generous act. It also has the added benefit of increasing your empathy for those people.

 Intercede for people you do not like. Genuinely seeking the good of others and asking God to be good and generous to those who bother you, hurt you, mock you, take credit for what you did, accuse you, embarrass you, wrong you, etc is beautiful and humble. It also has the added benefit of developing empathy better than just about any other thing.

Intercede for the world. There is a lot going on this world that could use some intervention. Hunger, disease, terrorism, war, scandal, oppressive systems, various kinds of human trafficking, all manner of discrimination, etc. Pleading to God for intervention on these matters is powerful. It has the added benefit of helping you find your place in being part of the solution.

 Pour out your heart. Expressing your hurt, worries, fears, pain to God in an honest and vulnerable way can build intimacy between you and God. Yes God knows it, but sharing it makes the relationship closer and more intimate. it may also feel good to cry with God. 

Confess. Sharing secrets, especially sinful or even shameful secrets, with God is one of the most power kinds of prayer. Confession is not about giving God new information that would have otherwise remained unknown, but rather about having the humility to “look God in the eye” and say it while having the trust that God’s response will be loving and kind and forgiving. Confession has the added benefit of great emotional relief.

Repentance. Seeking ways to change unhealthy or sinful ways of living and asking God for the courage to change and the strength to maintain the change is about as humble as it gets.

Listen. Sometimes prayer is about just listening. Being quiet in a room alone, in nature, in the car etc  can provide a rest for the mind and heart. Sometimes the rest itself is enough. Sometimes God provides thoughts that would not otherwise have come or feelings that had no space to emerge otherwise.

Scripture. Open up Psalms or Proverbs or one of the gospels and read through part of it, but read it as a prayer. Sometimes there is no better way to connect with God than through the Word of God filtered through you and back to God.  

There are more ways to pray than these, but when those moments come when prayer is difficult or you are overwhelmed and just can’t think of how to talk with God, maybe these can help.