Do You Need…I AM?

In John’s gospel, Jesus gives himself seven names.

  1. I am the bread of life (6:25-58).
  2. I am the light of the world (8:12).
  3. I am the door for the sheep (10:1-10).
  4. I am the good shepherd (10:11-18).
  5. I am the resurrection and the life (11:17-44).
  6. I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:5-14).
  7. I am the true vine.  (15:1-17).

The many names of Jesus indicate a variety of human needs he can meet.

Do you need guidance? Go to the Good Shepherd. Do you need spiritual resources to bear much fruit? Talk to the True Vine. Do you need comfort for your grieving heart?  Ask the Resurrection and the Life for a shoulder to lean on.

6 Tips for Building Resilience in Kids

1. Be present in your kid’s life. How?

  • Show your love. When your kid gets home from school or you get home from work, put down your phone or whatever you’re doing and let them see the joy their presence brings. We need to know we matter to each other.
  • Take an interest in them. Take an interest in their interests, ideas, experiences, and concerns. I’ve learned more about hockey from my sons because they are bigger fans than me of the game. I’ve learned more about marine biology from my son than any book can teach me. My daughter’s passion for justice is contagious. I’m just glad I took the time to listen to them.
  • Show them you care. Hardships are a great time to demonstrate your unconditional love. Sit with them. Say that you can see that it hurts. Help them think through ways they can achieve a different outcome next time. Tell them a story about when you had a setback. Don’t try to take matters into your own hands but reassure them that you love them.

2. Also, back off. If we’re right there with them as they do everything, we’re undermining their confidence by indirectly sending the message, “I don’t think you can do this without me.”

  • Let them make choices and decide how to do things such as what to wear (as long as it’s appropriate!). Don’t micromanage them. It’s only through actual experience that kids develop skills and learn to trust their judgments.
  • Let them take risks and make mistakes. Unless your kid’s health or safety is truly at stake, risks taken and mistakes made when they’ve done something that was initially scary or hard will provide a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

3. Help them grow from experience. You’re not meant to do nothing for them; you’re just not meant to do everything.

  • After the experience, decision, or choice has been made, engage in a questioning dialogue to unpack what your kid learned from the experience. You can offer advice but you must not do it for them.
  • Continue to set the bar higher. As your child demonstrates trustworthiness and good judgment, you can give her more responsibility, opportunity, challenge, and freedom. This builds competence, which builds confidence, both of which build resilience.
  • Combat perfectionism. I’m not always good at this with my children who display perfectionist tendencies. Saying, “Just do your best,” isn’t helpful because to them that means doing excellent because that’s their best. What I’m now saying is something more like “do the best you can in that moment” or “try to give your best effort.” These phrases acknowledge that in any moment a number of factors could weight against our ability to do our actual best and it’s the effort that matters.

4. Build their character. Too often parents focus on academic and athletic outcomes instead of on who they are as human beings. We subconsciously teach that a human’s worth is based on on their GPA or ACT scores when it’s really more about our character, our degree of kindness, generosity, and willingness to work hard, among other things.

  • Notice them being good. I’m not talking about “Wow! You’re amazing!” but more like “It was very kind of you to help that woman.” All you need to convey is: I saw you. I noticed. When you do things like that it makes me proud.
  • Help them develop perspective. Getting them to serve others gives them awareness that there are others who are worse off than they are. That allows your kids to recognize what they’re grateful for.

5. Give specific, authentic feedback. Don’t overpraise or fail to critique or discipline.

  • How to praise. Offer praise that is specific to the task. “I like how you used all kinds of colors in that picture.” “Your essay made such detailed references. You clearly understood the topic.” Specific praise builds confidence because it shows we’ve paused for a moment to pay attention to the details.
  • How to criticize. We want our kids to learn and grow, to better themselves, and to develop. The only way they can do that is by having a realistic assessment of their current performance. As with praise, make sure to target the actions or efforts, not the person. “You left your toys outside and now they may be ruined because their wet. Please bring them in and dry them off now before it gets worse,” is much more effective at correcting behavior than saying, “Why don’t you listen to me? I told you not to do that. Now your toys are ruined.” And if we sweep in to bring the toys in and dry them off, we’ve taught them nothing. We want to criticize the action (which can be corrected) as opposed to saying or implying that our kid is a bad person (which can’t be changed).

6. Model it. One of the best ways to normalize struggle and build resilience is to let our kids know when we have, or have had, a setback and that it got us down for a bit. Let them hear you say that you did some things wrong, or could have done differently, and you’ve learned for the next time. Let them hear you reflect, and see you smile and move on.

Do You Trust God? Then Act Like It

Check out James 2:17-24.  Here’s what I learned:

1) Faith without action is dead.  PERIOD.  You trust God?  …then act like it.  Help those in need.  Obey His commands.   But don’t simply rely on your church attendance or your Christian heritage.

2) Demons even know who God is.  I hate it when I hear people say, “Well, I believe in God.”  Yeah?  So does the devil!  But do you trust in God?  Do you obey God?

3) A person is justified by FAITH…working outwards (i.e. obedience, compassion, love).  We don’t work, serve, obey to please God.  We do that out of God’s approval and love.

Four “Perks” to Loving and Knowing God

We should worship the Lord simply because He demands, desires, and deserves it.  However, there are some fantastic “perks” to loving and knowing our heavenly Father.

  1. Character development: We always become what we worship.  If we focus on the world or other individuals, we’ll become like them.  If we focus on God, we’ll become more like Him.
  2. Freedom from intimidation: See Colossians 2:6-10.
  3. Compassion: We naturally develop compassion for the world as we learn to look through God’s eyes.
  4. True satisfaction (in God): Once we’ve feasted on the bread of God, nothing else is nearly as tempting.  Indeed, we can do anything!  See Philippians 4:10-13.

3 Ways we might be Overparenting

Psychologist and author Dr. Madeline Levine, in her book “Teaching Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success,” thinks our overparenting might be causing psychological harm to our children.

Here are 3 ways we might be doing that:

  1. When we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves;
  2. When we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves; and
  3. When our parenting behavior is motivated by our own ego.

Levine says that when we parent this way we deprive our kids of the opportunity to be creative, to problem solve, to develop coping skills, to build resilience, to figure out what makes them happy, to figure out who they are.

Our behavior actually delivers the rather soul-crushing news: “Kid, you can’t actually do any of this without me.” It increases our kids’ chances of suffering from depression, anxiety, to become cutters, and to have suicidal thoughts.

3 Ways to Know if You are Falsely Worshipping

  1. Worship that leaves you unchanged in the way you relate to God and/or to others is false worship.
  2. You go to worship, sing to God, maybe even shout “Amen” thinking that will persuade God to favor you with blessings.
  3. You can’t possibly be worshiping the transcendent, holy, mysterious God if you never leave broken by your own sin…and then put back together by the personal, loving, merciful Lord that He is.

Litany of Humility

This prayer by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) has been haunting me since I heard Matt Maher talk about it in a concert a couple of years ago.  This is a dangerous prayer.  Pray at your own risk…

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.


Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome

Leonard Sweet asks a great question in his new book Viral.  This is how he sets it up:

Stockholm Syndrome takes effect when a kidnap victim becomes emotionally attached to his kidnapper.  The name is taken from a 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, when the robbers held bank employees hostage for six days.  When the employees finally were freed, they defended their captors.  When people have Stockholm Syndrome, the abuse warps them so that being held captive seems preferable to being free.  They forget the benefits and the promise of freedom and cling to captivity.

Is it possible to contract “Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome”?  For instance, is it possible to forget who we are and fall in love with the things that capture us?  What are some of the things we fall in love with?  How do we fall out of love with the things that hold us hostage?

8 Things Your 18 year old Needs to Know How to Do

I’ve been reading How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Successby Julie Lythcott-Haims. I highly recommend it. Here’s my edited version of pages 81-83. It’s her list and my comments

  1. An 18 year old must be able to talk to strangers. I’m surprised at how many teenagers I run into that don’t know how to look someone in the eye and have a conversation.
  2. An 18 year old must be able to find his way around a campus or city where they are studying or working. A lot of parents are with their kids ALL THE TIME. They need to learn how to get places on their own and do it.
  3. An 18 year old must be able to manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines. Through access online to classes and grades, parents now remind their kids to do EVERYTHING. I’ve stopped doing that. They have to learn to do that for themselves. I do occasionally check grades online to make sure assignments are being turned in but I am not my child’s rolodex and calendar keeper.
  4. An 18 year old must be able to contribute to the running of a household. Some parents don’t ask their children to do anything around the house because their child is too busy with academics, sports, clubs, homework. Kids need to learn to do their share for the good of the whole.
  5. An 18 year old must be able to handle interpersonal problems. It kills me when I see my kids having relationship problems with peers. But I can’t solve those nor should I if I could (unless there’s physical danger present). Kids need to learn how to cope with and resolve conflicts without intervention.
  6. An 18 year old must be able to cope with ups and downs of courses, workloads, tough teachers, and bosses. Too often today parents step in to finish the task, extend the deadline, talk to the adults.
  7. An 18 year old must be able to earn and manage money. This is difficult if the only money they receive is from us for whatever they want or need. Kids need to develop a sense of responsibility and pride and for accomplishing job tasks and then how to manage the money they make.
  8. An 18 year old must be able to take risks. Some parents don’t let their children fail. We need to let them fail and encourage them to take risks. They will only learn resilience and “grit” after trying, failing, and trying again.

Hell is a Personal Choice

GK Chesterton wrote, “Hell is God’s great compliment to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human choice.”

God is the most generous, loving, wonderful, attractive being in the cosmos. He has made us for a purpose: to relate lovingly to him and to others. We are not accidents, we’re not modified monkeys, we’re not random mistakes. And if we fail over and over again to live for the purpose for which we were made—a purpose, by the way, which would allow us to flourish more than living any other way—then God will have absolutely no choice but to give us what we’ve asked for all along in our lives, which is separation from Him.

If God has given people free will, then there’s no guarantee that everybody’s going to choose to cooperate with him. The option of forcing everyone to go to heaven is immoral, because it’s dehumanizing; it stripes us of the dignity of making our own decision; it denies us our freedom of choice; and it treats us as a means to an end.

God respects human freedom. In fact, it would be unloving to force people to accept heaven and God if they didn’t really want them. When God allows people to say “no” to Him, He actually respects & dignifies them.