Tag Archives: Family

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety at Christmas

With COVID cases rising yet again, families are again needing to evaluate whether to spend the holidays with family. Even if plans are set, there may be tension in the air as news, politics, and opinions also rise with the rate of infection. This means that children listening in may experience more anxiety in the coming days. Here’s an Op Ed piece I contributed for the American Bible Society and published in the Christian Post: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety During the Holidays.

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Filed under Family, Uncategorized

Does your voice create or destroy culture?

Am reading a very helpful book by Chris McGoff entitled, The Primes: How any Group can Solve any Problem (2011, Victory Publishers). While this is a business book, it really is a book about envisioning and enacting transformation of systems. If you have ever dreamed about inventing a new system instead of just making tweaks to an existing system, this is THE book for you. It is amazingly simple and can work for you whether you are trying to change an existing business or just dreaming about starting some venture. It has applications to therapy (especially couples or family therapy), non-profit work, or dreaming about trauma recovery in Africa (which is why I am reading it).

Good Quote for July 4th

The book is full of pithy quotes but the one I want to examine here on July 4th is by Ayn Rand:

A culture is made–or destroyed–by its articulate voices

Why is this good for today? Well, we often spend time with family and we think about our country and those who serve it in the military. So, it stands to reason that we might think about how our voice influences (makes/destroys) family, community, and country culture.

Family Shaping

Whose voices shape your immediate or larger family system? Where is your voice? Does it speak to build up or destroy? Listen for a bit to see what an outsider would gather from your family conversations. What are the themes? Are they about politics? Family troubles? Complaints? Future events? Memories of past fun? In the conversations, is the focus on the family or the outside world? Who are the “enemies?” A family culture is shaped by the voices that interpret what is going on. Voices that only talk about the good and never the bad are just as shaping/destroying as those that only talk about problems.

Community Shaping

Watch, for 5 minutes, CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC. Listen to individual voices such as Beck, Hannity, Stewart, or the like. How do these voices shape our consciousness? Bring it in a bit closer? Listen to the voices in your church community. How do they shape your sense of identity, the problems, etc. I was part of small group some time ago that all were concerned about racial diversity in the world and the local church. It was easy to point out the failings of leaders who either “didn’t get it” or were obviously racially ignorant. We realized that if we didn’t change our conversation, we would become embittered. We weren’t just naming the problems (though we were doing that), we were shaping our attitudes and willingness to do something constructive about it.

To come in even closer, I think about how we faculty shape Biblical Seminary. We believe (don’t laugh!) we have the brains to make the best decisions for the school. We know how to talk about very complex theological and practical matters. We want to be the shapers. But, faculty can be known also to talk something to death, to point out why every strategy will fail, but to fail to offer up our own strategy.

So, take a moment and consider what you are constructing or destroying with your “voice.” What drums do you beat? What complaints do you make over and over? What ideas do you strike down? Can you balance describing (not judging) what is with what you want it to be? Let us take a moment to remember those who sacrifice for this country and to evaluate how we influence our own circles.

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Filed under Good Books, Great Quotes

Best ice-cream ever!

As a last hurrah of summer, my family went to Lancaster to see the Joseph production at the Sight and Sound Theater. Good show. But even better was the ice-cream at Lapp Valley Farm, New Holland, PA. This is a Amish/Mennonite farm (not sure which) with little fanfare but fabulous ice-cream. If you are ever out that way, use Google maps and you can find them!


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Marriage & Family Conference

Biblical Seminary is co-sponsor of a Marriage and Family conference in Harrisburg, PA run by Shepherd Press Authors. The conference runs October 1-2, 2010. You can find out more information here. I tell you about our sponsorship because those of you associated with Biblical Seminary (friend, alum, student, etc.) are eligible for a discount. Using their website, http://www.SPA2010.com, enter BIBLICAL as a code to receive the discounted registration.

Maybe we’ll see you there.

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Filed under biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, Christianity, counseling, Ed Welch, marriage

Your choices/experiences shape your grandchildren?

Anybody see the Nova episode on PBS last night? I caught only 15 minutes of it. Apparently it aired in 2007. Here’s a transcript of it.

The part I watched was about the impact of diet and chemical exposure on the lifespan and health two generations later.Very interesting!

Check out this little snippet:

NARRATOR: The diagram showed a significant link between generations, between the diet in one and the life expectancy of another.

OLOV BYGREN: When you think that you have found something important for the understanding of the seasons itself, you can imagine that this is something really special.

MARCUS PEMBREY: This is going to become a famous diagram, I’m convinced about that. I get so excited every time I see it. It’s just amazing. Every time I look at it, I find it really exciting. It’s fantastic.

NARRATOR: Much about these findings puzzles researchers. Why, for instance, does this effect only appear in the paternal line of inheritance? And why should famine be both harmful and beneficial, depending on the sex and age of the grandparent who experiences it?

Nonetheless, it raises a tantalizing prospect: that the impact of famine can be captured by the genes, in the egg and sperm, and that the memory of this event could be carried forward to affect grandchildren two generations later.

MARCUS PEMBREY: We are changing the view of what inheritance is. You can’t, in life, in ordinary development and living, separate out the gene from the environmental effect. They’re so intertwined.

NARRATOR: Pembrey and Bygren’s work suggests that our grandparents’ experiences effect our health. But is the effect epigenetic? With no DNA yet analyzed, Pembrey can only speculate. But in Washington state, Michael Skinner seems to have found compelling additional evidence by triggering a similar effect with commonly used pesticides. Skinner wanted to see how these chemicals would affect pregnant rats and their offspring.

Application to counseling and psychology? Do you think about the impact of your behaviors and experiences on the next generation? Do you think about your grandparents choices and experiences on your daily life? Your mood? We could easily become either fatalists (I’m controlled by others) or deniers (I’m in charge of me). But consider how trauma or suffering is passed on in family lines.

Which do you tend to be? A denier or a fatalist?


Filed under counseling, Cultural Anthropology, Psychology

Thoughts on DIY Projects

Why is it that do-it-yourself projects are always depicted in beautiful pictures? Why isn’t Home Depot’s motto: You can do it yourself. It will be wrong. Then you can come back and spend more money to do it again and again?

I did a DIY this holiday weekend. I built a “dry laid wall” out of Pennsylvania Bluestone on my front lawn. The book I bought showed a very clean man easily removing sod (on a very level piece of property). Then it showed him stacking his rocks in similar sized pieces. The next picture had the wall half built–and perfectly level. Also, his various rock sizes fit as perfectly as puzzle pieces. In just three pictures, he was done.

I, on the other hand, needed half of Friday, most of Saturday, and all of Monday to get close to finished. I was dirtier than I had been in a long time. I was immensely sore from lifting rocks. But, I did learn glean some positive elements.

1. I have a new appreciation for Nehemiah 4 and the challenges of turning rubble into something that will stand up to gravity. And I didn’t have a Sanballat trying to kill me while I was building my 12 food wall that couldn’t protect me from spitballs.
2. My wife and I worked together, despite neither ever having a masonry class, without fighting.
3. I have a greater appreciation for those in the trades. AND I’m very glad to have a job where exercising my mind is my “heavy lifting.” I am reminded of the days when I worked a summer job building lobster traps. Never more was I glad to go the extra mile in my courses than in the fall when I was just done my manual labor job.
4. One should never say, “how hard can it be?” before starting a DIY. There is a negative correlation between the ease of that statement and that actual difficulty with the job.
5. That cracking and breaking ceramic tile floor in our downstairs bathroom has a few more years in it before I forget my learnings here and think, “how hard can it be?”
6. Those DIY jobs on TV should be permenantly banned.

The funny thing? I actually enjoyed it despite the hard work and not knowing how it would turn out.


Filed under Random musings

When you sit with endless human depravity…

you can become quite cynical about Christians, christian organizations, etc. is there any church or pastor who isn’t completely hypocritical? Are there churches or boards that handle abused individuals with care? Do any of our leaders actually admit their wrongs and seek forgiveness? Does anyone in a difficult marriage stay and avoid bitterness?

The answer, of course, is yes (to the last three questions). But we counselors rarely get the opportunity to hear those stories. Why would anyone pay us or bend our ear to tell us how great something worked out. But we humans have a propensity to collect “look how screwed up the world is” stories. Isn’t that what the news is all about. When I go home to my parents in Maine they actually do have some feel good stories and it feels rather strange and unnewsworthy. Where’s the killings, the rapings, the pillagings? This is news?

And yet it is good to recount stories where humans treat each other better than they deserve, where they admit to failings and refuse to excuse wrongs. Frankly, we must admit these stories aren’t exceptions. They happen all the time but we are blind to them. We fail to record these behaviors because we know how easy it is to not show mercy, to not show humility–because this is how we act sometimes!

So, listen for those vignettes where leaders, parents, spouses, etc. either suffer well or are willing to own up to failings (and then do the right thing about them). These stories are all around. And while they don’t dismiss those where leaders fail us they do round out the picture.


Filed under Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, stories, suffering

Wildlife in suburbia

On Halloween I took the family to the suburban cemetery woods to look for deer. Spotted 7 or so, including a 4 pt. buck. The youngest was afraid of being head-butted by a deer. I told him none would get that close to us.

Well, I was wrong about how close. After going down one trail, we decided to turn around. 30 seconds after turning around I spot a deer trailing us. We froze and the deer kept coming, eating yellow leaves as she picked her way closer. She clearly saw us but was intrigued. My 10 year old held up a yellow leaf to see if she’d come all the way. She got within 8 feet and then sauntered off in another direction. Later when we were returning to the car, we ran into her again (her face had a pretty unique marking near the mouth). Again, she wasn’t particularly concerned about our presence. Maybe others nearby feed her?

On Sunday, I returned to the trails to take my eldest and his friend. They got to see several deer but also as we were driving away, we saw a statuesque red fox observing us and the deer nearby.

For the suburbs, the kids see way more wildlife here than I did growing up in Vermont. There are some benefits to suburban sprawl (at least to us humans interested in seeing the wildlife). In the last week they have seen wild rabbits, ground hogs, fox, deer, and an opossum.


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Hating the desire for intimacy

In prep for a presentation next week I have been reviewing Dan Allender’s”The Wounded Heart.” While I’m not a fan of his approach in this book (it’s too much at once for those with PTSD), I do think he has many, many nuggets of truth. Here’s one on p. 41:

Let me state an important observation: I have never worked with an abused man or woman who did not hate or mistrust the hunger for intimacy. In most victims, the essence of the battle is a hatred of their hunger for love and a strong distaste for any passion that might lead to a vulnerable expression of desire….The enemy, or so it feels, is the passion to be lovingly pursued and nourishingly touched by a person whose heart is utterly disposed to do us good. Such people (if they exist at all) are rare; it is therefore easier to hate the hunger than to wait expectantly for the day of satisfaction.

I see this love/hate/fear theme in many troubled marriages–even those where abuse is absent. When we desire this nourishment from someone “utterly disposed to do us good” and then continually wake to the realization that the person we married is not–no, cannot–disposed to do us good in the way we dream, we often feel rejected and invalidated because it seems to us the person is holding out on us. In response to these fears, we have one of several choices:

  1. Demand/pursue via criticism, complaint, accusation, suggestion, etc. that the person give what they are withholding: perfect validation and intimacy
  2. Withdraw into coldness, self-hatred, workaholism, fantasy, etc. to avoid the intimacy that is present in the marriage because it is not what we think it should be
  3. Actively pursue the dream of intimacy with others, or
  4. Daily die to the dream that the other will make us fully secure and happy WHILE continuing to offer unconditional intimacy, support, validation of the other in order to better provide sacrificial love AND yet still communicating (without demand) clearly our requests for how the other can love us well or what behaviors they should stop that are hurtful.

As you can see the 4th is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit. The first 3 are much easier choices. They require less of us and maintain our all/nothing view of self and the world. The truth is we can only approach the 4th position if we place our trust in God to sustain us in a broken world. And therein lies the problem. It is hard for us humans to trust an unseen God, especially when our experience with the seen world tells us that love is conditional, that we are not valued, etc.

What’s the answer then? There is no one answer. But am I willing today to do one thing where I trust the Lord and show love/civility to the other as a creature made in the image of God. If I can answer yes, then I need to find another human being (since we are made for community) to help me discern what that love might look like today (hint: it may not look anything like what my spouse thinks it should look like).


Filed under Abuse, Anxiety, christian counseling, christian psychology, Communication, conflicts, Desires, Great Quotes, love, marriage, Relationships

Short sleeves

My 8 year old has a thing about short sleeves. He wants to wear them all the time, whether the high temp. will be 20°F or 80°F. For awhile we had a rule, if the high temp is going to be less than 50 then he has to wear long sleeves. But we’ve given up that rule because we’d prefer his chilly arms over his moaning and groaning. Seems other kids wear tank tops to 2nd grade all winter.

Not sure why he has this fixation. Anyway, this morning I come to the breakfast table with a shortsleeve shirt for the first time this Spring. His first words, “Finally, you’re wearing short sleeves.” No joke.

Not sure which is more interesting to me: the fact that he knows this is the first short sleeved shirt I’ve worn since last Fall or that his fixation isn’t merely limited to what he wears.


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