Journaling Questions: The Circle of Hope

In the last couple posts we have been taking re-thinking journaling and looking at how it can be helpful in working through difficult situations. In the previous post we went over the first four questions to journal through when you are faced with a hard circumstance. Writing out your responses to those questions help reveal some of the harmful things that can hijack your heart in the midst of conflict or trial. Today we will move from that hopeless circle of thinking to the next four questions that can help you bring meaning to your struggle and give clearer direction on how your should be thinking. These four questions are excellent to think through as you seek to move beyond the issue. They can help you grow closer to the Lord and be a means of realignment.

Now it is time to move on to the gracious circle. This is where you gain clarity on where change can happen. As you journal through these questions you hopefully will begin to feel more understanding as to what you should do and how you should respond to the situation you are facing. Take some time and write out the answers to these questions:

The Gracious Circle (Where Change Happens)
  1. Who is God (relevant to the struggle)?
  2. Respond to God for the heart. How will you have a candid conversation with God?
  3. Respond constructively into your situation. How will you show intelligent love for others?
  4. What are the consequences? How do your responses God (Q.1), faith (Q.2), and love (Q.3) create ripple effects in the relationships, work life, moods, finances, situation, health, etc.?
As you work through these questions, honestly answering how your situation relates to who God is, you can begin to find hope. Your situation does not have to change for hope to come. Hope comes when there is purpose and direction to what you are facing. Sometimes it is just the simple act of slowing down and applying truth to your thoughts that can move you to a place where you can respond better to whatever it is you are facing.  

Journaling can be an effective tool to use in sorting out your thoughts. It is my hope that this series has given you some clearer direction on how to make it more specifically helpful. 








Journaling Questions :The Hopeless Circle

In my last post (Re-thinking Journaling) I wrote about the value that can be found in journaling your thoughts. I shared how journaling can help you do 4 things: slow down, establish truth, determine direction, and connect with the Lord. It seems that most people journal when they are faced with a trial or struggle of some sort. Going through things that are difficult leaves you searching for guidance and keeping a journal of your thoughts is one way direction is gained. But it is not always enough to simply write about what you are facing. Journaling is most effective when there is purpose to it. I'm going to share with you some questions that you can use in your journaling to help bring clarity to the difficult situation you face.

I have used these questions for years but they are not original to me. Unfortunately I don't remember where I first came across them. If anyone knows the source feel free to let me know so I can give credit to where credit is due. The questions were originally divided into two categories and I find that the division is very helpful in processing through a situation. Today we will focus on the first four questions that fall under the category of "The Vicious Circle." These are questions that, if avoided, cause us to fall into a dangerous cycle of vices or bad responses. These questions locate you and allow you to go deeper into how you are really responding to the situation. 

Again, these questions are only the first 4 in a list of questions to ask yourself. They will likely expose certain reactions and feelings that should not be ignored. The next time you face something hard ask:

The Vicious Circle
  1. What is happening to you that brings pressure or temptation? What is the situation?
  2. How are you reacting? (Not how you want to but how your actually are reacting.)
  3. What rules you and hijacks your heart? 
  4. What are the consequences and ripple effects? How do your reactions affect relationships, work life, mood, finances, situation, health, etc.?
Without answering these questions you can easily get stuck in a circle of discouragement an hopelessness. It can feel like there is no way to break certain patterns in your life or your relationships. If I had come up with these questions myself I would probably call this the hopeless circle. The answers to these questions can feel very hopeless as you begin to see yourself and your actions clearer.

The next time you are faced with something that is upsetting to you or you find yourself overwhelmed by the situation, take some time to journal through these questions. See what they reveal. In the next post we will take a look at four more questions that will help you move from the vicious circle of thinking to thoughts that brings clarity and hope. Stay tuned.


Re-thinking Journaling

What can possibly be so helpful about writing out your thoughts? I recently took an anonymous poll on the subject of journaling to try and capture whether or not people found value in this practice. Thanks to the help of Survey Monkey and Facebook I was able to collect input from people to help to see if people felt that journaling their thoughts was a helpful practice. It appears that many people think that taking time to collect their thoughts has been a significant help in their life. Some people journal to record significant life events. Others just track events or circumstances of their day.The poll I conducted seem to indicate that people journal most often when things are difficult in their life.
(Image capture from Survey Monkey)
Another significant result was from the question that asked how often you journal. Over 80% of the people taking the poll said that they journal only when there is a need. The majority of the people also said that journalling has helped to bring clarity to their situation. The founder of the Navigators, Dawson Trotman, captured the essence of this very well when he said,
"Thoughts disentangle themselves through the lips and pencil tips."
So why is this? Why does the simple act of writing out your thoughts prove to be a helpful exercise?

Here are 4 reasons why journaling can be helpful.
Journaling helps you to:

  1. Slow Down- When we are faced with a difficult situation, emotions are in high speed and thoughts can be racing. Taking the time to think through the basics of the situation can be essential for the simple reality of slowing you down. Intentionally journaling what you are feeling and and experiencing allows you to take time to really engage with the situation. It gives you the space to process what is going on.
  2. Establish truth- As you begin to slow down and collect your thoughts you have a unique opportunity to observe yourself. As you look through your the words you wrote you will inevitably see moments of ranting emotions. You will likely see moments of right thinking intermingled with emotional highs and lows. As you re-read your thoughts you have an opportunity to determine what is true and what is simply your emotional reaction. Journaling allows you to sift through and establish where the truth is.
  3. Determine direction- One significant thing that journaling can do is to give you a direction. When you journal with intention it can be a wonderful way you work through difficult situations. Once you get your thoughts out clearly you can then determine what would be a wise step in the area of difficulty you are facing. This happens very often in my experience with people in the counseling room. Once they take the time to journal they find clarity in the situation on their own.
  4. Connects to the Lord- We live in an instant response world. Most of our interaction with people is immediate and not thought out. Even our interaction with the Lord can be this way too. We send up "flare-prayers" but we can find it difficult to slow down enough to really give the Lord the details of what we are doing through. He knows it anyway right? So why bother? Through journaling you can take your thoughts and prayers to a deeper level since you have taken the time to really understand what you are going through. Using journaling as a way to connect with the Lord brings it to a higher level of purpose. 
In the next couple blog posts we will take a look at a specific way you can use journaling to help give you direction and how you can more effectively journal through difficult times of your life.  So whether it is though the traditional way of pen and paper or if your means take a more digital approach consider the value of taking the time to journal the next time you are facing a challenge.

Book Review: Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl

You might wonder why a woman who has been married for 21 years would pick up a book with this title. If you know me and my family you may assume it is because I have a teenage daughter. That was not my motivation at all, instead it is because I have two teenage sons.

While my own teen years were pretty typical, things for me changed pretty drastically when I was married at age 19. This thrust me from the teenage life right into adulthood. So while I had a share of teen crushes I cannot say that I had a lot of experience in the field of boy-craziness. But surprisingly it wasn't having a teenage daughter that made me staggeringly aware of the issue of boy-craziness, it was instead having sons. About 4 years ago my husband and I entered into the world of raising teens and were unprepared for one thing in particular. Girls. To say it kindly, things have changed significantly since I was a teen. Girls today are far more aggressive in expressing their interests, and when it comes to boys...they have interest. Not only were we unprepared as parents but it is probably safe to say our boys were unprepared to know how to handle the, all too common, attention.

So my interest for reading this book stemmed from a desire for my boys to understand better where the heart of a girl often goes when it comes to boys. While my husband and I could see the "red-flags" in the interaction that went on with the opposite sex, it appeared our boys needed some guidance in assessing the depth of how simple things could mean so much to a girl.

Confessions of a Boy-crazy Girl is an honest look into the heart of a young woman. Using her journal as a historical memoir, author Paula Hendricks gives a front row seat to the drama of crushes. She explores how, for a girl, even the smallest attention can be translated into love and how a love affair can be imagined from just normal guy-girl friendships.

But this is more than the exposure of a heart chasing the dream of true love. It is a look into how deeply thoughts turn to desires and then to obsessions. At the root of all this is misplaced affection. This is a memoir with purpose. Hendericks shares her story of how she was slowly transformed after she prayed that God would free her from her idols and teach her to trust Him with her love life, a process that still continues for her today. This book is the story of  a young woman's journey from bondage to the idol of guys to the freedom of God's redeeming love.

This book is excellent for any girl who seeks to honor God with her thought life and love life. Even the most discreet girl will likely be able to find herself within the pages of this book through the sincere journal entries and experiences. It will challenge young ladies to look deeply at where their thoughts take them and how those thoughts shape their lives.

But back to the boys. If this book is written for girls where do the boys fit in? I doubt most guys will have much interest in reading this book. (Plus if they got caught walking around with it they would certainly get a serious amount of razzing.) However as a parent of teen boys it has been a helpful tool to communicate to them the way girls think. I have read them some parts and other times I have just casually shared what I have gleaned. It has helped to challenge them to be a part of guarding girls hearts and to know their possible tendencies. It has also been helpful to show them first hand how big even little interaction can be to girls. It is a continual conversation but reading this book as been a helpful resource in the process of walking along side our boys.

So if you are a parent of teens I encourage you to read this and share it with your teens, boys or girls. This book would make a great group study for girls and could also be used in a mentor type setting. It is not only real but it has a strong gospel message. Certainly girls will benefit most but don't underestimate the value of using it to help you teach your guys how girls think.

Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl is available on Amazon here.

Snapchat: What Parents Need to Know


According to a 2013 Harvard University Study three in four teens are mobile internet users*.  If you are a parent of one of these teens you have probably heard of Snapchat. But are you aware of the potential dangers of this photo sharing application?

The app is a simplified version of other social media tools, in that all you do is share photos or mini videos. Where twitter took the ideas of social sharing and limited it to 140 characters, Snapchat has taken the concept and limited the visible duration. The draw with Sanpchat is instant share, instant delete. A Snapchat user shares a photo or video and it is view-able for only 10 seconds. Users are able to send quick messages without the concern of dispersion or retrieval.

Share. Send. Delete.

This kind of platform is screaming for misuse. With the rise of sexting, Snapchat has created a venue that can easily promote inappropriate sharing. I do not know if the intention of the application developers was to create an avenue for sexting but it sure makes you wonder.

While it may feel overwhelming to try and keep up with all the latest apps and social media trends it is not something you as a parent can afford to be in the dark about. If you can't keep up then you are not ready for your kids to have a cell phone with internet access. In fact even Snapchat understands that parents need to be aware of the possibilities of misuse. They have put out a Parents Guide for Snapchat. It is more of a FAQ list but within this list of question, some refer to privacy and the sending/receiving of inappropriate or sexual content. If there is an activity that your kids want to participate in that comes with these kinds of questions wouldn't you want to think twice before blindly letting them take part?

Going...Going...Captured!

If the hope of Snapchat users is to avoid a permanent record of a photo think again. Within that 10 second viewing, the recipient may take a screenshot of the photo they received. From there the photo can be captured by the recipient and then used in any way or shared with anyone. This is happening. Not only can the receiver take a screenshot and of the photo but they can do this with out the sender being aware of it.

It is important to diffuse the belief that because it was deleted it is gone. That is where Snapchat users can go wrong. Besides the fact that the person on the other end may be capturing their images via screenshot there is also the reality that the meta data that is sent online is recoverable.

Privacy- the Myth

Parents should teach their kids that the concept of privacy, when it comes to the internet, is a facade. Every search they make, photo they send, video they like, or website they visit is stored metadata that is part of their digital fingerprint. It is recoverable. Recently an article in The Gaurdian explianed how Snapchat images are not deleted but simply hidden (read the article here: http://goo.gl/VxYS4i). Your teen should believe in the delete button as much as they believe in Santa Claus. Snapchat photos shared need to be understood that they are just that. Shared.

Parents should be aware of the apps their kids are using and how they are using them. It is important that they have oversight as to how much they are sharing over the internet. Help them understand the dangers of certain media use.

"No parent would ever put his child into the driver's seat of a car without first teaching him how to drive-- without first showing him how to accelerate gently, brake properly, use the turn signals, react in an emergency. It is only when we have taught our children and mentored them that we allow them to set off on there own. yet far too many parenents are sending their children into an increasing digital reality without proper training." (Tim Challies, The Next Story)

So get educated and get involved in your teens digital activity. They need parenting in this are just as much as any other area. This is not the place to be ignorant.


*Teens and Technology study. http://goo.gl/rxJV59

6 Qualities of a Great Dad

1. They are present.
Dads need to be present physically. Your children need you around. The demands of providing for your family should never come at the cost of being a part of your family. But dads need to be present in more than just physically present. It is likely that Dad's time is limited, so when you are there be fully there. Put away your phone. Save the emails and bills for later. Be fully present with your children when you are with them.

2. They love the women in their lives.
Teach your children appropriate respect for women by your example. It has been said that one of the best thing a dad can do for his children is love their mother. Extend that to the other women in your life in appropriate ways. Love your wife, your mother, your sisters, etc. And if you have a daughter she is also one of the women in your life. On the other hand be sure to show your children that you know and respect appropriate boundaries. While you love those your family be sure you are exemplifying what it means to be a one woman man in your marriage.

3. They show compassion and yet can be tough.
Kids need to see the soft and the tough side of their dad. They need a good balance of kindness and boundaries. They need to see you be tender and firm at appropriate times. Kids should know dad can be gentle but his gentleness doesn't mean he is a pushover.

4. They are not afraid of hard work.
A good father will teach his children what it means to have a good work ethic. To know what it means to work hard is an important lesson that kids learn from their dads. Seeing Dad go to work every day is one way they learn this but also seeing you take part in what it means to keep the home operating is a great way to exemplify this quality.

5. They apologize.
A father who owns his mistakes will be the father that has the heart of his children. Kids can spot hypocrisy just as easily as adults. You will do things wrong and your kids will know it. Own it and be real with your children. They will not think less of you, but more.

6. They love God.
This is not women's work. Fathers need to love the Lord in obvious ways with their kids. Let your children see your faith. Lead your family in what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Live by the Joshua model of, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

These are just six qualities. What other qualities do you think make a great dad? Maybe you have some that stick out from your own father. Share them in the comments below.









Applying Truth to Truth: Practical Help For Post-Traumatic Stress

Applying Truth to Truth - Practical Help for Post-Traumatic Stress
(This is an article I wrote for the Biblical Counseling Coalition on March 26, 2013)



Almost everyone has had things happen in their life that they wish never did. Sometimes they are simple regrets while others are life changing situations. Some are things we actively participated in, others were caused by someone else's actions or circumstances outside of our control. Pain or even a feeling of desperation is often the result. The hurt of the situation or the sting of regret remains. Sometimes the reminders of these events can send a person into an upsetting spiral of discouragement, doubt, and fear.





What is Post-Traumatic Stress?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the name often given when a person struggles greatly after a difficult situation.

PTSD has been described as a "normal reaction to an abnormal situation." 
That is a valuable description. It helps give a better perspective to what is going on. The reaction the person is having is really more normal than they think. It is the situation that has been so abnormal. While the definition of what is going on may help the person, it doesn't remove the pain or the struggle.

The situation has changed them. It has stayed with them in a significant way. It has marked them. So now what? What can they do with the memories, regret, or the continual pain that these circumstances can bring with them? Wishing it away doesn't work. Ignoring only lasts until that unsuspecting moment happens when something triggers a memory.

Why Help Can Be So Difficult
Offering hope to a person struggling with PTSD can be like putting a Band-Aid on wet skin. It just doesn't stick. The pain is not only real it is also scary. People can wonder if they will forever feel the way they do about the situation. When talking with someone who is struggling through PTSD I often hear the question. "Will I ever be normal again?" Going back to the description of PTSD may help them see that they are normal and their reaction is actually normal as well. What they are often really saying is, "Will I ever be able to be free from the pain of the experience?"

The situation that brought the pain is now a part of their story. It cannot be expected to go away like skinned knee or an unwanted blemish. The facts remain; the truth is-- it happened.

But that is not the only truth. Stopping there would certainly be hopeless.  At times it can be difficult to know what to say to a person struggling in this way. Something I have found helpful is to begin to help them to learn to apply truth to truth.
Apply truth to truth.

Helping Sarah
Sarah (not her real name) was sexually molested by several family members, male and female, when she was between the ages of 5-13. The things done to her have stayed with her over the years, invading her mind and creating stumbling blocks in her relationships. She became a Christian in college and while that has helped her to have new hope she is still suspicious of relationships. Now in her 40's, fear keeps her a lonely introvert. She struggles with the reminders of pain. While time and counseling have helped her significantly, the memories can still bring fear in a way that paralyzes her relationships. She can begin to feel identified once again as dirty, unworthy, or guilty. In new relationships she wonders if this person in her life has intentions to hurt her. She questions people's motives for wanting to know her and can easily conclude that they are out to trap her. 

How can she apply truth to truth in a way that is helpful?

It can look something like this. Yes, people who should have loved her hurt and abused her terribly. That is true. This new person in her life, who appears to want to be her friend, is not that person. That is also true. She may need to move cautiously but she can move toward friendship because this is not the same person. Apply truth to truth.

Going Deeper: Applying Gospel Truth
A deeper way she can do this is in regards to the way she sees herself. Memories can haunt her and invade her thinking with condemning accusations. They tell her, "What happened to you was dirty and ugly." While that may be true it does not mean that she is dirty or ugly. She can apply truth to truth. Yes that was awful but she is not dirty or ugly. Because of her faith in Christ she can apply the truth that she is clothed in the righteousness of Christ and she is precious and loved. She can apply the truth of who she is in Christ to the truth of her past experiences.

People suffering from PTSD are not really that different from anyone else. We all need this kind of reminder as we face each day, do we not? Applying truth to truth is something that is needed no matter what your circumstance. We need to apply the truth over and over and over again. Often the remedy we offer to others is the very thing you and I need most.

Having a painful past that still hurts is an opportunity to build a deeper confidence in the truth of God's word and what it says about you. This is not an exercise in positive thinking it is telling the truth to yourself.

Allow scripture to move in and speak truth to the horrible realities that you have faced. As you have gone through a desperate situation allow it to make you desperate for Him and the truth that he holds out to you.



Your Kids and Porn

I am a parent and I am a counselor. Both of these roles give me significant motivation to write on this topic. It is time to get educated about kids and porn. The world our kids live in is so drastically different than the generations before. We cannot afford to believe that our children beat all the statistics.

When I was a teen the culture I lived in was not all that different from the culture my mother grew up in. While differences in music and dress were obvious the main things were very similar. My media influences were basically the same as hers; television and radio still held the corner market on entertainment. The telephone was the way friends made plans. The modes of communication also hadn't changed much. While phones had just begun to be mobile in my teen years they were antiquated, bulky, and not superior to the home phone. From my mother's youth to my own teen years, we saw updates but nothing drastically new.

Not so for my kids. In one generation entertainment and technology have changed significantly. We still have television but most of the viewing that my kids do is via the internet. In fact if we watch a TV show or movie it is only with the aid of some internet tool. Communication has changed almost entirely. When I was a teen if the phone rang people rushed to get it. Now if our home phone rings it is usually ignored and the answering machine collects the calls from unwanted solicitors or the gratuitous appointment reminders. Even cell phones are not used primarily as a "phone".  Communication is primarily through texting, email, chats, and video calls.

So what do these changes have to do with kids and porn. When I was a kid, pornography was not something kids had easy access to. Partially rapped in paper, on the rack behind store convenient store clerk, the untouchable and forbidden magazines were kept from getting into young hands. Of course there were always those kids who found hidden stashes at home or had their own secret contraband. But even in those situations, supplies were limited to the pilfered amount. Those days are completely gone.

Modern technology has eliminated the barrier that once kept porn out of reach. The changes in entertainment and communication have brought some terrifying realities, namely the rapid propulsion of the porn industry and the innovative idea of personally made pornography. Kids growing up today are living in a society saturated in porn.

So what can a parent do?

1. TALK 
The first and most important thing to do is talk. Talk to your kids. Do not let certain words be taboo in your family. I had one Christian mom tell me that her kids (middle school and high school age) didn't even know what the word "porn" was. While I think that was supposed to be a positive claim I see significant danger in this (and I have my doubts of it's actual truth). If the world is speaking so loudly why are we silent? Use judgement but talk to them early. I find that most parents wait too long and begin talking after their kids have already been exposed to more than enough information on the subject. Talk to your kids about what they will certainly encounter and how they can respond to it. They need to hear the consequences of "just looking". They need to understand the critical connection between pornography and their relationships. One survey found that of the teen boys surveyed 1 in 3 were actively "using" porn. If you are a parent of a teenage boy the next time you see him in a small group with a couple of his friends remember this statistic. Which one of the three is he? That is not to scare anyone but simply to educate you on the reality of how prevalent it is. If that is true than parents need to be talking to their kids about this. As a counselor I see so many relationships struggling because of mistrust stemming from an early exposure to porn. Porn objectifies people, eliminates the reality of responsibility, and breeds discontentment in a relationship. 

2. PROTECT 
The next thing is to protect. Get a filter. Today. When I hear another parent tell me that their child has been viewing porn I will ask the parents if there are filters on their kids computers and phones. Time and time again the answer is no. Filters are a first line of defense in protecting your kids. They are easy to install and maintain and most start around $5 a month. If you don't have one, stop reading this and go get one now. I recommend Covenant Eyes. You can download it HERE. While nothing is fool proof, if a kid wants to view something they will find a way, you can put up barriers to at least make it more difficult. Another thing you can do is set stricter sensitivity on your browser and on certain key sites. Most browsers allow you to set a sensitivity within the settings. This blocks certain things from showing up in a search. This is especially helpful with younger kids who can easily stumble on to things while doing random searches. YouTube also has a setting for safe searching. Most of these settings will be found at the very bottom of the main page or in the settings. They are easy to turn on and off so they should never be the only means of keeping your kids safe from unwanted pornographic images.

3. CHECK  
Finally check in. Parents should have access to their children's accounts. Your child cannot open a bank account, go to the doctor, or drive a car without parental permission and engagement so why do parents think that having access to their children's phone, computer, email, or social media is out of bounds? Parents should have the passwords to their children's devices and accounts and they should check in at times. This is normal parenting. When I was a child my mom always knew where I was, what I was doing, and who I was doing it with. Parents, your child's online location, activity, and relationships are your business. In our home it is our practice to let our kids know that we will be checking in on them. This helps us to know how their time is being spent as well as any concerning activity. It has been a means of continued education for our children and growing awareness for us. Parents, just because your kids may be more technologically savvy than you does not mean they have the wisdom to go along with it. Check in on your kids internet use and talk to them about what they are doing and what ramifications that may have in their future. Teach your children they are leaving a digital fingerprint and it may not be mom or dad who will be checking on it in the future. Begin teaching them to live as if their online activity is being recorded and can be retraced at any time...because it is and it can be.

There is so much to say on this subject and it is difficult to cover in just one post but I do want to say this as an encouragement to parents: Don't freak out. As you begin to talk with your kids or investigate into their digital world the best thing you can do is to calmly engage them even when disappointments happen. While porn has reached an epidemic state you do not have to be fearful. You are a significant voice of direction in your child's life. And while there may be some discouraging set backs they are being shaped by you as you walk with them and help them navigate better through life. Trust God to work in your child as you show them the way. Pray for them to have a biblical perspective on sex. Teach them what it means to love and honor people. And above all, lead by example. This is more powerful than any website, search engine, or video clip. Be in their life right now when they need you most. How are you engaging your kids on this crucial subject? If you are not talking to them about it then who is?

Statistics About Teens And Porn
This chart is 5 years old. I have yet to find a more comprehensive one that is more up to date. I am not sure how much the stats would have changed in 5 years. I do believe that an updated list would include stats about teens engaging in sexting, Skype sex, and private production of pornographic materials by teens.




If you want to read more on the subject check out this article published in the Telegraph earlier this year exposing more closely the reality of children and porn (warning- some graphic language).
Children and the Culture of Pornography


Only 10: Self-absorption

"We are always, always the last to see our self-absorption."
(Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller page 61)

A Marital Translation of the Love Chapter

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 
1 Corinthians 13 is a famous passage. Sometimes this passage can be seen on plaques or Valentine's Day cards. It is very common to go to a wedding and hear this section of scripture read. As young love stares each other in the eyes the words sound like lyrics from a love song or perhaps lines from a romantic poem. Many young couples hearing this passage already feel like they are marrying the personification of the words. But is this passage really meant for mushy romantic moments or clueless bliss? I am not knocking using this passage in wedding ceremonies or on your love notes. I am wondering if the practicality of this verse is something that is missed when the feelings are not so..."loving".

What does this passage look like in the trenches of a relationship? Here is my practical translation of it can look like in marraige.

Love is patient
Love patiently waits for your spouse to come to the table or to the car or to come out of the bathroom. Love kindly listens to the story on the subject that doesn't personally interests you because you care about the person not the subject being explained.

Love is kind
Love lets your spouse finish their thoughts. Love doesn't make comments regarding your spouses choices indicating disapproval over things that just don't matter.

It does not envy
Love is content with shared responsibilities. It doesn't have a resenting attitude when your spouse has some time alone or out with friends.

It does not boast
Love doesn't point out all that you have done all day. Love avoids the phrases "I could have told you that." or "I knew that was going to happen."

It is not proud 
Love considers that the reason there is conflict in the relationship has more to do with you than your spouse.

It is not rude
Love doesn't use short and cutting remarks or uses hurtful names.

It is not self-seeking
Love doesn't manipulate using kindness or intimacy as a way to get things.

It is not easily angered 
Love sees that mistakes happen and knows most things are not worth getting upset about. Love in marriage never has the "time bomb" feeling, leaving the other to feel like even simple mistakes could set things off.

It keeps no record of wrongs
Love says, I forgive you. And does.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
Love doesn't keep things from one another. It is transparent and open with sin and struggle. Love is generous with expressions of gratitude and grace when truth is shared, knowing that even hard-to-hear truth is better than deceit.

It always protects
Love doesn't join the conversation to complain about your spouse but instead speaks in a way as if the other were present. Love takes the effort to guard the relationship by not allowing any other person to come between them.

Always trusts
Love trusts in the power of God to work in your spouse even when personal trust is difficult.

Always hopes
Love doesn't assume to know motives or intentions.

Always perseveres. Love never fails.
Has the long view in relationship and conflict. In marriage it means the word divorce is never used as a threat. And even in the darkest days of your relationship, when love may need to be tough and consequences are difficult--hating the other is never an option.



Too Good Not To Share

There are so many great resources at our fingertips today that I sometimes wonder why I even have a blog. Certainly nothing I say is really that new or profound and I can usually find someone I feel can say it a bit better. But that is exactly the meaning behind the title of this blog. I am simply sharing what I have found with others. "One beggar showing another beggar where to find bread," so in the nature of that sentiment here are a few things to share with you:

The Gospel at Work was a conference put on last month. All of the keynotes and breakouts are available to you at your fingertips. I may be a bit partial, but if you only listen to one speaker here make it Os Guinness. 
For the entire conference go here:
(Breakfast with Os was also excellent!)



These next two came through my reader just this morning. 

Who hasn't said the phrase, "I just don't want to be a burden." Ed Welch gives a clear assessment of what you are really saying. Kinda makes you think...


And finally. Parents are always looking for some nuggets of advice and help. "How to's of Parenting" is never an ignored topic. Here is an excellent list of what NOT to do as parents.

So there is a little bit of second hand bread :) Make a meal of it!



Some Stuff Our Kids Do

Congratulations to my son who won the Maryland Bible Society Scholarship to attend the Institute for Cultural Communicators "Ignite" Conference. Some friends and family have asked to see the video entry so here it is.

A Day Without Devices


Photo
We actully took our board games
to a coffee shop to play. 
Digitally Distracted
Having 3 teens in the house there is often someone (or several someones) in front of a screen. Our kids are growing up in a very different world than I did. When I was a kid the only screen in the house was a television. While the TV provided distraction and entertainment it was not private. The TV itself was located in the most common room in the house and when it was on there was usually more than one person watching. We didn't have personal televisions so we watched whatever show was on together. Now viewing is done on a more individual basis. Everyone has their own personal screen to play, watch, chat, or read on. My husband and I are really feeling the change that the digital world has had on our family. We used to have game nights, movie nights, weekend hikes, and even family talent nights. We also used to spend more significant time with friends. Don't get me wrong, we really enjoy what the digital explosion has afforded, there are numerous improvements and advantages. We stay in touch with friends and relatives that distance would have made nearly impossible in the past. But sometimes I miss where we have come from and wonder what the future will look like as when I look around at everyone with their head down and eyes locked on a screen.
Photo
Going Screen-free
It is not just the teens that are distracted by devices. Mom and Dad have their own share of screens that occupy their attention just as much as the children (and sometimes more). Lamenting the loss of some of the times our family used to connect, my husband and I decided to avoid devices for one day each week last month. That may not sound like much but trust me one day is a noticeable amount of time. For one day each week we--Mom and Dad that is--would not use any device unless it benefited the whole. So unless it helped everyone in the group and we all benefited from it we avoided it completely. Laptops stayed off, phones stayed out of sight, Kindles were shelved (that hurt) and so on. Going deviceless was something we decided for ourselves only. We didn't include the children. We wanted to see if it would make a difference if just Mom and Dad went screen-free. The results were truly encouraging. We played games (regular games--the ones that come in a cardboard box and have cards and boards). We completed 2 big puzzles, interlocking nearly 2000 pieces. We had more friends over to join us for meals and games. Even family talent emerged again when our kids put together a random impromptu skit game for our entertainment one night with friends. There was some use of electronics but it was within our set boundaries; it had to benefit the whole. We took a few pictures. We used the smart phone to find out a few answers to some questions that came up in a conversation or two. We even played video games- but together not individually. It helped us to see how much the daily, regular use of our devices takes us away from opportunities to connect.

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One of the two puzzles we put together.

Were to go from here? 
What did the month teach me? It is obvious that the digital world is here to stay. I imagine the use of electronic devices will only continue to increase and the age of users will only get younger. As much as I like being up to date on the latest technology it is not without cost. I want to do what I can to savor the benefit that comes from personal connection. Taking a break reminded me of that. I hope to continue to create digital-free space in our lives in the short years we have left with all three kids at home. I hope to help lead by example, that sometimes unplugging is the best way to connect.

What the New Year Should Do

Wordle: NewWhy do people get excited about the new year? Why do they get so encouraged to see the closing of one year and the opening of a new one? In some respect the new year is a bigger picture of what we experience everyday. With the opening of each new day we have a fresh start. A chance to leave behind the failings, mistakes, disappointments,  mess ups, or whatever the day held. We can- in a new day- find hope for a fresh start. It's just a little fraction of what we experience in the new year. A day is just a small sliver of our lives but a year represents a more significant epoch. When we turn a new year we see we have that same hope and encouragement of starting fresh and having things in the past behind us. We look forward to the future. As one year outstrips the other we have hope. No matter how difficult things are we look forward to the new start.

This should make us wonder. Why is it that we look forward with such anticipation to the new start of a year. It is because it is just a little glimpse of what we are made for. It show us in a small way that we were made for something else, something bigger. It point us to a time of ultimate new beginnings. There is a time when all things will be made new, and not only made new but made right. So as you look at the new year let it point you to hope. Not just hope for this year but for the time when all things will be made new. Remember this new year is just the shadow of something. It is not the substance. Look to the substance.

We have reason to hope because with each passing of the new year, as one year outstrips the next we have hope for something better. It is meant to point us to something- a greater new beginning. There will come a time when we will see the substance and we will enter the greatest celebration of new beginnings when all things are made new and right.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21