Last week I had the amazing privilege to go with my sister and brother-in-law to take my niece (and only girl niece I have…) to college at Liberty University. I LOVE Liberty! Yes, I am biased because I teach there but I also went there for my graduate degrees. It is a very special place. While, I was walking around campus last week, I felt the excitement of the young people and the next generation of leaders and world-changers all around.
Arguably, one could feel this on any college campus this fall, especially as in-person learning resumes! It also made me wonder what happens to adults causing them to lose the love of learning, exploring, making a difference in the world, meeting new people, trying new things, moving away for a bit or embracing any type of change.
There are many factors that can come into play in losing some of the joys experienced on a college campus, but we don’t have to lose our joy in the possibilities of the future. We can work to maintain a spirit of faith and belief in something greater.
My belief in God is what gives me joy in the possibility of greatness, change, goodness, possibility, and faith. Jesus came to make all things new by taking on the sin of the world. We often forget that Jesus is making all things new in the midst of so much pain and evil in the world, but I challenge you today to walk onto a college campus or at least shut your eyes and imagine doing so and take a deep breath and dream. But don’t stop with a dream, think of all the possibilities and opportunities God can give you to do good in this crazy world today.
Never stop believing that you can make a difference, that you are called for a great purpose to love others as Christ did. Pray for those who are hurting such as those in Afghanistan or Haiti or down the street. Pray for the educators beginning classes this time of year and for the students. Pray for a new generation to rise up and seek to obey God and overcome evil with good.
Listen, learn, and share this episode with everyone you know! There is a message in it for everyone regarding human trafficking. It is not scary, but encourages us all to make positive steps to make a difference in our communities.
As I reflect back on 2020, and more people seemingly needed counseling than ever before in my entire career, I thought it may be useful for you to know some of the techniques given most often in 2020.
1-Turn off the news. The main goal of the modern day news is ultimately to obtain viewers. Journalism today often uses sensationalism, defined as the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement. Therefore, it is not helpful. If you want to be informed as I do, try something such as a positive news podcast I found a year or so ago called, The World and Everything in it. Or try getting headlines only sent to your email once a day. Do not endlessly watch Fox News, CNN, etc. Try turning it off for a week, and let me know how you feel…
2-Focus on what you can control. 2020 tried to teach us that we are not in control, however, most people in living this out tried even harder to control which frequently resulted in more stress and anxiety. You can’t always control getting a virus (masks, gloves, hazmats, etc included). However, you can be intentional with your family and friends (i.e. play games together, call one another, send care packages, etc). You can help others (volunteer for a local food bank, organize a food drive). You can try to be healthy by eating healthy and exercising. You can turn off the news. You can seek God by reading his word daily and spending time with him, the one who actually is in control….
3-Practice deep breathing. Take many deep breaths daily. Use breathing apps or exercises if needed. Just try not to breath in the Covid…
4-When you feel in a panic, slow down your racing thoughts by focusing on your five senses. What do you see right now? What do you smell? feel? taste? hear? Don’t call the person who will get you even more hyped up than you are….
5-When changes happen in our world, find a new routine to help you find order in the chaos. If you work from home now, create a schedule for your work day that includes a lunch break, stretch breaks, and a stop time.
6-Don’t judge others who aren’t reacting the way you are to the changes. Be respectful and kind and follow your convictions without judging others. Judging is God’s job and when we try to do it we feel horrible. So stop.
7-Be social however you can be during a pandemic. If you feel comfortable being with family and friends, spend time in person with them. If you can’t, drive by their homes and spend time 6 feet apart, have zoom or FaceTime parties, etc. We need people no matter how much they get on our nerves at times.
8-Realize grow happens out of your comfort zone and practice doing things that are always comfortable. Try a new hobby. Talk to that neighbor you’ve never met. Pray for your enemy. Exercise. Become friends with someone who doesn’t look like you. Stop making excuses for why you can’t or won’t do something.
9-Make the best of all situations by fostering an attitude of gratitude. List five things you are grateful for each day. Consider the benefits of online learning. Remember the times you wished you worked from home. When you go back to the office, be thankful that you don’t also have to do laundry during your lunch break!
10-Pray, in all things at all times. Make prayer a part of your daily routine, not just once a day or at meals. Talk to God about everything. Ask him what you should be learning during this time. Inquire about why you were created to live during this specific time in history.
Praying you use the hindsight 20/20 view of 2020 for good this year. Make it a happy new year!
PS.. I’m praying you all cultivate God’s earth with love and grace as you realize you are made in his image to reflect his goodness! Genesis 1…
The question of course is more rhetorical, but as 2020 has created a situation in which many people in the world are using technology more than ever before to connect with one another, work, be educated, vent frustrations, be entertained, etc, I’m afraid we aren’t getting better at truly listening during these times. Many are simply putting their opinions out there (because it is easy to post opinions) and not listening to others. As I sit in my office and do Telehealth or in-person sessions and listen to people discuss the stress of the times, I’ve learned we simply don’t value the opportunity to listen as much as we should. Honestly, it is probably the most important skill in the field of counseling. It is arguably one of the most important skills in life.
Are you good at it? What do others think about your listening skills? Are you listening to understand or simply to reply? Do you want people to hear your point of view more than you want to listen to and understand theirs?
People have been asking a lot of questions lately such as:
-Does it truly help to wear a mask?
-Why are we still dealing with racism?
-Why are some police officers allowed to get away with crimes?
-What can we do to reform police departments, government, etc?
-What is the point of the protest?
-Are we going have to homeschool or virtual school our kids next year?
-Why can’t gyms open?
-Why are some churches comfortable opening and others aren’t?
-Why do teens love Tik Tok?
As I consider some of these questions, I can hear my own answers to them almost automatically in my head…(which are based on my own experiences, beliefs, values, etc.) As a therapist, I have to listen to and help others who often don’t believe what I believe spiritually, politically, economically, etc. and I have to be objective because it is my job. It is not easy and requires me to do a lot of reflection and at times has required my own counseling with another therapist, but the things I’ve learned from listening to those who are different from me are priceless. As a trained therapist, I do much more than listen, but listening is invaluable in my field.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a trained therapist to be a good listener.
The challenge I present you with today is to try and listen and not quickly go to the response in your own head. Really seek to hear someone today. Seek to understand the other person’s point of view, position, experience, etc. Ask someone, maybe who you don’t like, or who you know has a different political view than yours, someone of another race, etc. something today. However, don’t respond, just listen and try to understand. Practice helps in the area of listen. Trust me, I’m still working on this too!
Want to make a difference in the world today? Try listening to others more than you speak, and see what happens…
Show you care for others by listening this week and be blessed,
Here is some biblical encouragement for listening…
James 1:19 “..Be slow to speak and quick to listen.”
Proverbs 18:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 2:2 “Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.”
Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Matthew 11:14, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
As I mentioned in my post last week, many people are freaking out and are feeling very unsure about a lot of things in our world at this time. Here are some ideas/activities to help you shift your focus.
1-Go visit your elderly neighbors. Take some groceries, fresh baked goods, and toilet paper (since this has been a hoarding nightmare).
2-Go for a walk, run, etc. and thank God that you woke up today, be thankful that the sun came up, etc. Be thankful intentionally for at least 10 minutes a day. You’ll be amazed how this will shift your focus.
3-Be creative, think of new things you can do to make an impact in your home, neighborhood or community. Have your kids create a list of things they can do to be more helpful around your home.
4-Take this time to learn something new such as sewing, cooking a new recipe, etc.
5-Turn off the news, and sit for with your family, pet, finish reading a few books, or just enjoy the quiet.
6-Consider how connected we all are in the world and be amazed for a moment. One virus thousands of miles away has impacted the world. What one thing can you do that will impact the world for good? It could be simply offering to pray for others.
7-Donate to a local food bank/pantry. Call churches, shelters, etc and see what you can do to help aid effects of relief, etc.
8-Contact local schools and see if you can help deliver meals to hungry children.
9-Be wise with your money! If you aren’t, sit down and develop a budget.
10-Sit and talk to others (at least 6 ft apart :)). Don’t just sit and scroll on social media.
11-Make someone laugh today.
12-Ask God what you can learn from your circumstances.
13-Consider a positive perspective and solution to problems around you.
14-Call friends who are healthcare workers or send them cards and let them know you are praying for them.
15-Watch educational documentaries with your kids. Talk to them about history. Tell them about your history. Recount God’s faithfulness in your life with them.
16-Take this time to teach your kids life lessons or common sense lessons. For example, how to pump gas, how to manage money, how to wash clothes, how to take the trash out, how to make friends. how to choose a career, how to study the Bible.
17-Go explore the outdoors. Go hiking, etc.
18-Support local small businesses which can be hit hard during these times.
19-Ask someone you love for forgiveness. Reconnect with an old friend. Offer forgiveness to someone who has hurt you. Life is too short. (My older sister and I prayed this morning for this very thing and as we did, I was reminded of the time she threatened someone with a lipstick…well in my mind it was lipstick…If you knew her, you’d know she couldn’t even hurt someone with lipstick).
20-Make up your own tip!
This challenge in our world is a great OPPORTUNITY! Seize the day!
You’ll be amazing once you start doing some of these things how your anxiety will decrease and how you will not have time to be fearful.
Overcome evil with good today!
Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Have you ever had one of those “stick your foot in your mouth” moments. Well, I’ve had plenty….Recently, while on a trip to Chicago with my famous DJ friend, Candice and other friends, we were able to meet some of the actors and actresses from the Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago PD TV shows (which was pretty cool so I had to mention). We also met a real life Chicago fireman (a real hero is really cool though) at one of the events.
While one of my friends and I were discussing life with the nice fireman, I joked about my son entering the teen years and being fearful of the images girls may try to send him or vice versa on a phone (which he doesn’t have yet). My joke was, “If Chloe the Ho-y” tries to send an in appropriate picture of her body to my son, I may flip out. As I said this, the kind fireman turned to me and said, ….”My daughter’s name is Chloe.” Of course, I was mortified that I had unintentionally used his daughter’s name in my silly comment, and I wanted to put my foot in my mouth at the time. Eventually, I apologized and donated to the charity he was promoting for the Chicago Fire department to show my gratitude.
On a serious note, around this same time back home in the South, one of my best friends was going through a terrible time of grief from losing a baby. We went from preparing showers and picking out pink hair bows for a precious little girl to preparing meals for two grieving parents and picking out thinking of you gifts. As I called, sat with, and walked with my friend trying to listen to her and just be there, I was reminded of the things people say trying to help during difficult times, that actually do the opposite of help. Therefore, I thought I’d encourage you as you read this blog for “What not to say” during difficult times.
1-Time heals all wounds.
Death isn’t something we were ever created to handle. God created us to live forever with him in the garden, but sin screwed this up and the world we live in is now broken and death is a part of the brokenness. Although, it doesn’t have to for those who believe in Jesus paying their penalty for sin and dying in their place :). This is the good news/gospel!
2-When can you move on or you need to move on?
Some people can’t move on, they just have to go on. The good news is that God won’t waste their pain. He can make beautiful things from ashes.
3-Everything happens for a reason (as if it was a good reason).
Again, this isn’t helpful and sometimes the reasoning stinks. The main reason bad things happen is because we live in a broken world…
4-At least you…fill in the blank.
This doesn’t make anyone feel better during a tough time.
Sometimes people can’t be during a tough time and someone telling them to be thankful makes it worse.
6-I know how you feel.
No two people are alike, no two people experience things exactly alike. So no, you really don’t know…
7-What can I do for you?
Be more specific. Ask, “Can I bring you dinner on Monday?
8-Call me if you need me.
They won’t call, call them just to check in.
9-God needed her more than you did or God needed another angel.
This is not biblical. God doesn’t need us, he chooses to partner with us in this world to do His work. God doesn’t need babies in heaven either. Also, people don’t become angels. People who are grieving aren’t helped by a statement like this and it’s also not true. Again, the loss of a loved one is a result of a broken world. (period)
Acknowledge that a loss happened, and say something encouraging… See suggestions below.
Bonus: “Whatcha got in there?” Recently, at a family funeral, an old lady from a past church, came up and patted one of my family members on the stomach and asked, “Whatcha got in there?”, to which my family member replied in a very sweet voice, “fat”. Little did the old lady know, this person has had a very difficult few years resulting in a few extra lbs. I told this family member, an appropriate response would have been to pat the old lady on her chest and say, “Whatcha got in there? Probably not a heart!” Actually, I know vengeance is not ours, but God’s…PS. Just because you are an old lady doesn’t give you the right to be rude.
Here are some things to consider saying:
I’m so sorry.
I’m praying for you. However, don’t just say it, do it!
No one should have to go through this.
My favorite memory of your loved one is when…
I’d love to hear about your loved one.
I think about you and your loved one often.
Your loved one will be missed.
I’m sure you miss him/her so much.
Every life matters no matter how short or how long. This life mattered to me and I know to you as well.
Finally, Job’s friends in the Old Testament often get a bad rap for saying all the wrong things when he lost everything-which they did. However, did you know that at first they sat with him in silence for seven days?! Job 2:13, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Sometimes, we just need to go and sit with those who are grieving.
Be blessed this week and let’s all think and pray before we speak to those who are hurting,
Donating to a charity or cause is another way to show someone you care about them as they are grieving and to assure them that every life matters. My personal favorite is to donate Gideon bibles (www.gideons.org). This way, life can be made possible for others by sharing the gospel.
I remember growing up and hearing this phrase, “identity crisis’. It didn’t quite have the same connotation in the 80s and 90s as it does today. As I look around, interact with, and watch people on television, etc. it is clear to me that many people are truly in an identity crisis. Some define “identity crisis” as a time of uncertainty, confusion, and insecurity related to changes in expected aims or roles in society.
Nerd note: Erik Erikson was the developmental psychologist credited with coming up with identity crisis terms, etc. Another psychologist, James Marcia came up with four stages or statuses of identity:
1-Identity Achieved: People who are committed to who they are and are continuing to explore.
2-Identity diffused: People who are are committed or exploring.
3-Moratorium: People who are on “hold” about making life decisions of who they are.
4-Foreclosed: People who are closed off to contemplated what they want out of life.
Marcia suggested the ideal status is Identity Achieved.
So what does a Christian believe about identity? What does the Bible say?
In Isaiah 6, God essentially tells Isaiah to go and tell the people that because they have continued to rebel against Him and sought after their own sinful and selfish desires they will, “…Keep on hearing, but won’t understand; keep on seeing, but won’t perceive…”
Paul says, in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
1 Peter 2:9, ” But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
The Bible, God’s word suggests that we were created by Him and to truly understand who we are and to do what we were created to do, we must follow Him and die to ourselves. I’ve also heard a wise biblical teacher once say, “If you don’t find your identity in Christ, God will take it away.”
I believe the path to true identity and fulfillment is to follow God’s plans for your life. This involves obeying His commands, following His word, serving others, loving others, sharing the gospel, etc. Anything outside of this will lead to an unfulfilled life.
The world including popular culture will tell you that identity is based in everything from sexuality, career, marital status, financial status, etc. where God’s view is totally contrary to these which often lead to destruction, pain, and loneliness. God’s call is to follow Him and to be like him. I dare you to try it God’s way.
Most of my friends feel the same way I do at this point in the summer, which is that we are ready for the wonderful children that God has blessed us with to return to school. Routine, structure and order are great things. God is a god of order. The sun comes up and the sun goes day each day. There are seasons and things function mostly along with a natural order. Summer is a nice time to relax and try new things with your family and friends if you are a parent, but it can also be challenging.
One of the challenges I am having is to cut out technology with my children. I limit their time better during the school year, I’ll admit. I try during the summer and I’ve had days where we’ve had zero tech time, but my kids sure fight me on it. Why is this, one may ask?
Well, it has been argued by many researchers that screen time creates notable changes in brain chemistry, mostly in the area of dopamine release. Dopamine is the pleasure chemical and is highly related to addiction. People want to feel pleasure and if screen time increase pleasure then of course, one wants more and more. Dopamine also plays a role in sugar and cocaine addictions to name a couple. In May 2013, “internet use disorder” (IUD) will be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. So what is the harm, well first of all, you do not want to allow your child to become predisposed to any type of addiction.
Harmful effects of too much screen time in children:
Harm to the ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary
Weakening of cognitive muscles (which may not be reversed)
lack of the ability to develop critical thinking skills.
Loss or harm of empathetic abilities—the near-instinctive way you and I can read situations and get a feel for other people—will be dulled, possibly for good.
Difficulty in friendships or other relationships. Screen time can become preferred over real-world interactions due to the pleasure associated.
Agression, losing touch with reality.
Anxiety: being overstimulated constantly can increase anxiety
Increased risks of pornography exposure
Increased risks of other types of exposure that you are ready for your child to have.
These effects and others have been known for years. (Psychologytoday.com) However, sadly the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that the average child spends seven hours of their day looking at a screen, be it a video game, computer, cell phone, or television.
Suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org)
For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
-Teach your kids how to limit and the value of limiting screen time. Make them want to spend time with you doing things outside of using technology.
-Model limiting screen time for them. Don’t be an absent parent b/c you are too busy looking at social media.
-Learn how to turn off all technology and go to bed on time. No one needs to be on all of the time. Those who need should not need you 24/7. At some point, they need to figure out what to do without you. Your kids should know how to get help if you aren’t available.
Have dinner together. Don’t allow technology at dinner time or at restaurants. Why do people go out to eat and stay on technology? Can’t they at least just order take out and go home to ignore one another?
Enjoy God’s beautiful creation, go outside, enjoy his creation of actual humans and interactions with them not just interactions online.