You Belong, You Matter (Thoughts on Anthony Bourdain)

You Belong, You Matter (Thoughts on Anthony Bourdain)

A little over a week ago, I, like many, was saddened and shocked to hear of the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, or “Tony” known by most of those close to him. Bourdain was a renowned chef, music loving performer, and accidental journalist of sorts. He was most well-known for his show “Parts Unknown” on CNN where he would travel all around the world, from rural Mississippi to the far reaches of Myanmar to try food, meet people, and bring an unstructured, personal take on a culture.

Avoiding a Valentine's Day Massacre

Avoiding a Valentine's Day Massacre

You may not be familiar with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre as a historical event involving deception, spying, guessing, and brutal murder, but you may feel very similar in regards to Valentine’s Day in your own significant relationship. Like Al Capone’s henchmen in the infamous Chicago Massacre of 1929 spying on his rival gang members, you hide out, closely watching your partner trying to discern what their expectations for Valentine’s Day may be.  

Caught Up In the Carpool Line

Caught Up In the Carpool Line

It’s another Wednesday morning. You’re up early, hopefully before the kids, yet wishing you were not up at all. In a haze you pour a cup of coffee and begin counting the events that must transpire before the weekend, seeking a little bit of hope upon the realization that it is not too far away. You snap out it and get on to your typical morning routine, heading out the door and into the carpool line with your peers who have all just completed their own similar version of the same hazy morning routine.

The Great Christmas Trial

The Great Christmas Trial

It’s the most wonderful time of the year...except it’s not. While many approach the Christmas season with overwhelming excitement and glee, others watch the month of December approach with dread and long for this season to over. We may even find ourselves like George Bailey standing on a bridge peering down at the chilly water below and an ending to the pain of Christmas, once and for all.

Surviving the Holidays with Family

Surviving the Holidays with Family

The holiday season has quickly descended upon us and for many, it can be a time of tremendous anxiety over people pleasing, getting the perfect gifts, and trying to make everyone’s family happy with your choices of how you spend your few precious days off work. For others, it may mean navigating an extended break from school with your family and introducing that special someone to the family for the first time. No matter how chaotic, stressful, or conflicting your holiday time may be, here are a few simple things to think about and reflect upon before excessive turkey and shopping consume every ounce of free brain capacity.

What makes a good leader?

What makes a good leader?

From the boardroom to the dining room, the fundamentals of leadership in a systemic perspective revolve around one idea: anxiety. According to Friedman, a leader is one who can effectively manage their own anxiety and not be troubled when others express negative emotions to them.

Signs of Marital Trouble: The Four Horsemen

Signs of Marital Trouble: The Four Horsemen

Marital conflict happens in every relationship, but conflict alone is not necessarily a sign of trouble. So how can you know if your marriage really is in trouble and not just experiencing common marital conflict? Well, Dr. John Gottman has studied couples and their communication patterns extensively, to the point of being able to predict with 90% accuracy who would stay together and who would get divorced. His findings produced what he labeled the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, with the Apocalypse being the end of your relationship

What guides me?

What guides me?

As a therapist, my job is multifaceted. My primary goal is to “escouter”, or to listen to you in order to understand your life, your challenges, your enemies (be they personal, marital, or familial) and use my knowledge, training, and skills to assist you in understanding and dealing effectively with those enemies. My hope is through my scouting efforts, I can help you see how you might respond differently and get direction, hence the compass, to the enemies in your life.

A Grizzly Coach, Organizational Health, and Marriage?

A Grizzly Coach, Organizational Health, and Marriage?

The point is this- relationships, whether marital, familial and yes, organizational go awry due to poor communication, unclear roles and unmet or unrealistic, or even just different expectations lead to relationship deterioration and poor organizational health. And furthermore, relationships continue to go awry when the real problems - poor communication, unclear roles and unmet or unrealistic expectations – are not addressed. In organizations, it simply means firing and hiring a new coach without doing anything to improve communication, roles, or expectations. And in marriage, it is getting a divorce and remarrying without ever seeking to understand why the first marriage failed.

The Everlasting Family: Creating a Healthy Culture in Your Home

Speaking is one of the things I do besides seeing clients on a weekly basis. One upcoming teaching event for me will be a 5 week course entitled The Everlasting Family: Creating a Healthy Culture in Your HomeThe details are below, including the overview and location. If you have any interest in attending or perhaps having me present this material to your church or group, feel free to contact me. I would be glad to discuss coming to teach and present.

Overview:

Family…we can choose friends, but not family.  Sometimes it’s hard for family members to stay on good terms as each season of life brings new challenges.  Everlasting Families is a five week class for young adults, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles…really anyone wanting to know more about identifying and addressing issues families face throughout life.  Participants will learn characteristics of healthy Christian families and stages/cycles families move through.  Learning how to assess your own family culture for health and creating a plan to improve family relationships will be included in the class. 

Location:

Christ United Methodist Church, Memphis, 4488 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38117, Wednesday evenings beginning March 30th-April 27th, 6:15 to 7:30pm, Wilson-Ross Room 201.

Building Sexual Intimacy in Your Marriage

Sex. We hear about sex almost daily. Most weekly magazines appear to offer great tips and ideas about improving your sex life, but upon further review, most of these tips and tricks are shallow and only exist to make you interested in the magazine. Creating and maintaining real intimacy in marriage is often one of- if not the- greatest challenge in marriage and is not solved by “20 Tips to Wow Him” or  “10 New Positions to Change Your Sex Life.” Many Christians struggle in learning a healthy balance of understanding and living out healthy, holy, and God-honoring sex while not relying on our education to come from the magazine section at the grocery store. We may have grown up with contradicting messages about sex or a dearth of conversation about sex. As you may hear below, your message may have sounded like this: "Sex is dirty. Save it for the one you love." (listen/watch below) Either way, the lack of understanding God's gift of sexuality often inhibits us from experiencing deep sexual intimacy in our marriages.

Well, if you are interested in improving your relational intimacy on multiple levels and developing a healthy, Godly view of sex, are married, and live in Memphis, you are in luck! We are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the Passion Intimacy Conference on November 20th-21st. Dr. Mike Sytsma will discuss sex and sexuality from a Christian viewpoint, specifically to help couples develop deeper emotional and sexual intimacy. Developing a healthier view on sex and sexuality is a fantastic way for Christians influence our highly sexualized culture and teach appropriate sexuality rather than avoidance of the subject of sex. I highly encourage you to make time for you and your spouse to attend and enjoy this wonderful experience. More details regarding the topics covered and how to register are below.

Topics:

  • A greater understanding of the beauty of God's gift of sexuality.
  • A sexual vocabulary that helps husbands and wives discuss sexual issues.
  • God's design for resolving sexual desire conflicts in marriage.
  • Creative heart honoring ways to initiate intimacy with their spouse.
  • What's "normal" in sexual response and activity.
  • How to determine what's sexually acceptable for Christian couples.
  • The critical role of emotional and spiritual intimacy for healthy physical intimacy.

Registration Information:

When: Fri-Sat, Nov. 20-21, 2015

Where: Living Hope Church - 345 Keough Dr, Piperton, TN 38017

How much: $90 (check out the website for other information including why Mike recommends getting a hotel for Friday night, etc.)

Other Resources:

Check out this video of Dr. Mike below speaking on Sexual Purity:

And if you are interested in engaging in an ongoing process of healing and growing your marital emotional and sexual intimacy, read more here about my services. I would be glad to continue walking with you before and after the conference.

For more information on the conference, go to: http://intimatemarriage.org/passionate-intimacy-workshop.html/pi_memphis2015.html

Two Simple Questions to Help Your Marriage

Couples often come to see me mired in conflict and destructive patterns of communication. Breaking free from these cyclical and insane interactions requires one, if not both, partners to have the courage to take a risk and do something other than bring up every past failure of their spouse. I often attempt to steer a couple in another difficult direction, only difficult because looking at ourselves and our mistakes is hard enough and only made harder when our spouse, the person we want to be most vulnerable with, is pointing out our failures in what seems like a daily routine while we do the same.

Well, if you dare to be different and change things up from the cyclical dysfunction, whether you are mired in conflict or not, then I have a way to focus your energy towards change. Consider asking your spouse these two questions and commit to doing so daily for 10 days at least, if not longer. Here are the questions and a little explanation.  

Question 1: How are you?

Simple enough, right? In fact, I would bet most of you believe you ask your spouse this question everyday. However, you probably ask something closer to “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?” The big difference in the subject- your spouse vs. the day. The day does not have feelings or a being, but your spouse does and knowing how your spouse is feeling (sad, angry, lonely, afraid, hurt, glad, guilty, shameful) versus how what they did (went here, then here, did this) or their state of being (frustrated, tired, depressed, happy) does not tell you anything about the heart. So, my challenge to you is to be on a black ops type of mission for your spouse’s heart. Now, on to the follow up question….  

Question 2: What can I do to help you today?

Another simple question and another one we may think we often do, but instead, we get tripped up because we ask our slightly off question above “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?” followed by complaint, which we meet with solution because we desire to “fix” the problem. Rather, when we are willing to give up control to ask about our spouse’s heart and to let them, by the nature of this question, “point to where it hurts”, then we can actually be helpful and love our spouse well. This prevents us from doing acts of service that go unnoticed because we do not know what our spouse’s deepest need. It also prevents us from shutting down our spouse by trying to fix something we perceive to be their problem that may not be the problem. For example, the boss at work may be a jerk, but your unsolicited opinion about what to do or worse, taking the matter into your hands, will usually not address the real issue.

Bottom line, we try so hard to fix, modify, and adjust our spouse, and often times very little to hear the heart of our spouse to know what we can actually do improve the relationship and to stop the prosecution of our spouse about their marital failures.

Don’t believe it will work? Well, I cannot convince you, but here is at least one person’s testimony as to how asking a simple question can change the marital dynamic. And if your marriage needs help putting this into practice, I would love to help. See more here.

How to Find Your Perfect Job

A few weeks ago I taught a class in my church on“Discovering Your Vocation”. I thought I would share my notes from the class here on the blog in case some of you are looking for a career. If you are still on a pathway to finding God’s calling on your life, or your “hedgehog” area, which is the intersection of your passion, skills, and job, then here are some things to consider.

A Model for Career Development 

What is a career? Fredrick Buechner gives us a simple yet profound definition: “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." Understanding what gives you gladness is part of understanding three big aspects about you. Jonathan McIntosh, the Lead Pastor of Christ City Church, alluded to this as well in his sermon on what Jim Collins calls the “hedgehog concept”, which is the intersection of your passions, your skills, and what you can be paid to do. Furthermore, it is being who God created you to be. So how do we know who God created us to be?

Understanding Who God Created You to Be

Your Story. First, you must understand your story. We discussed three elements in this portion of class, 1) your Gospel story, 2) the story you want to write about your future, and 3) the story of your past shaping your career today. Your Gospel story is simply developing your story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. If you do not understand this in terms of salvation, you will more than likely make your career your redemption, and you will be empty in your career. Second, the story you want to write about your future requires you to dream and think about your future, and then make goals for where you would like to be in 5 years and beyond. And three, we delved into the Career Style Interview to reflect on the people and affinities in our past shaping our story and trajectory for our career today.

Your Uniqueness. Second, you must understand who you are and how you work. A couple of ways to do so are to take the Myers-Briggs personality assessment and have a professional walk you through the results. Knowing your preferences for introversion to extraversion, sensing to intuition, thinking to feeling, and judging to perceiving can help you find the right career, best work environment, and help you function amid your personality differences. Also of help was our discussion of knowing your Holland code breakdown and career interests. Finding your unique Holland code and the interplay between your coding helps know how to find the difference in your career versus your hobby. Taking the formal Strong Interest Inventory and reviewing the results with a professional can help you find our what careers match your personal interests.

Your Passion. Third, to find God’s calling you must listen to your heart to know what you are passionate about. Knowing your uniqueness can most definitely help you find your passion, but we also in class received copies of a simple work values assessment. This assessment helps you find out what is most important to you when it comes to work so that you can find a job and hopefully a career that delivers meaning to you. You can value money, interpersonal relationships, variety, self-expression or service among other things in your job. The awareness of what you value in work will allow you to ask good questions in interviews or shape your current job to fit more with your values.

The World’s Hunger

Once we understand who God made us to be, we can then look outward in the world to see what it is hungry for. The world’s hunger is composed of areas of your life where you have a heart for ministry (which is helped by knowing your passions), places that have been entrusted to you (which is helped by knowing your skills and interests), awareness of the unreached parts of the world, places where you can earn a fair income to give generously, and occupational information and labor trends. A great place to look is the Occupational Outlook Handbook to see information about labor trends and particular career paths.

And finally, we talked about 3 crucial questions and scaffolding. The 3 crucial questions are: What am I able to do (skills)? What do I enjoy doing (passion)? What will someone pay me to do (job)? We must answer these questions to find God’s will for our work life, and then begin to scaffold. Scaffolding is finding two of the three areas above in order to get the “hedgehog”. For example, you want to work at the Advertising Firm, but they are not hiring for account managers. But they do need someone to get coffee and lunch for them. Can you learn that skill and take the pay if it meets your economic needs in order to make connections and open the door to your passion? If not, you may spend a lot of time being miserable getting coffee for the lawyers at the law firm that you don’t want to work at and have no passion for, leaving you with no next step. So, what steps do you need to take to exercise a passion and skill you can earn money for? Or a skill and thing you can receive money for in order to access your passion?

If you desire to have a professional walk with you in developing your career and provide formal assessment to your story, uniqueness, and passions, I would be glad to assist. Contact me here.

Shock and Awe: Responding to the Ashley Madison Breach

The walls have come down. Tears are being shed. Hearts are broken and sadness abounds. Many are in shock over the release of the Ashley Madison data. Those who are the list are feeling shock and awe over being exposed; part of their lives thought to be secret is no longer secret and forcing them to own the guilt and shame so often hidden by delving deeper into a secretive world of online affairs and pornography. The “I can’t believe I am…” has become real.

For the spouses, they are reeling with shock and awe over being exposed, feeling the shame and public pity of “not having known better”. They are feeling betrayed and hurt, living a lie with a spouse they believed was faithful to them.

And then there are those connected to these people- friends, co-workers, or other family members who feel the edge of pain, wanting to know who to believe, how to support, and where to help but feel lost.

My goal here is to simply give some thoughts to each party affected by the Ashley Madison data breach or just those dealing with marital unfaithfulness, hoping to provide healing to all. There are many similar blogs of sorts out there, and I am a little late to the game, but I hope to provide a holistic response to bring systemic change and “get ya on the same page” since unity is clearly missing at this point. My points will be directed to all, yet specified for each group.

So, here we to go.

1. Look into your heart.

To those on the list…

You must to decide for you how you are going to respond. Your spouse may have left and your may be getting pressure from all sides (pastors, lawyers, friends, etc.) about whether to deny and lie or fess up. I realize my posting is a form of the same thing. I also hope my professional acumen buys me some credibility to say the most important thing here is your heart. If your heart does not desire to own your sin or mistake and you are seeking to repair your marriage, then relationship repair attempts probably will not work. You must feel your own sense of conviction and desire to change from your ways, not sorrow over being caught. If you are willing to own your mistake and change your ways, then healing can happen.

To those who’s spouse was on the list…

You feel hurt by your spouse. You feel sad over the loss of the marriage and future you hoped for. You feel angry over the lies. These are all justifiable feelings to have at this point. What your heart must decide is the same as your spouse- do you desire to fix this for you? Not for your children. Not for your extended family. Not to save face. Do you want the relationship to be repaired and restored? If you do not desire repair for you, then repair probably will not work. You too have voices in your ear telling you what you must do, though I would tell you all you must do is decide for you.

To the connected concerned…

You are in shock, perhaps angry. Your friend, child, or parishioner may be the one hurt or could be the one accused and being ousted. You must look into your heart as well and own your own feelings. Feel your sadness, anger, and hurt, but do not allow your feelings to sway your support of the person to whom you are connected. Your job is simply to listen to your heart and own it, not to direct someone to what they must do. Do not allow your anger, sadness, hurt, or other feelings push you to “helpful suggestion” of staying together or not, repairing the relationship or not. You must decide what’s at stake in your heart, what your heart feels, and own it without a weighted suggestion hiding your feelings about the matter. Express your feelings from your heart, not your opinion. Be connected and concerned, but not gossiping and side taking. Do not allow your selfish motives about “being a good pastor”, “being the ‘right’ in-law”, or “being a ‘good Christian’”, influence you to being heavy handed. Selfish motives have already had their place here. Be a safe place.

2. Give yourself time.

To those on the list…

You are not going to build integrity and destroy your duplicitous nature in one quick admission of guilt. Own the loss of trust in you by other and yourself. You cannot trust you because you have lied to you all this time. Prepare for a life requiring you to be above reproach, to lead out in providing trust where it was lost, and to lay down the defense. Time will allow you to decide what to do next in whether to pursue restoration or not, but it is the only way to restore yourself and your marriage, if you so desire. You have been looking for a quick fix for things for a long time. There is no quick fix. Affairs did not fix your emptiness swiftly and now, quick admission will do no more. Give yourself time to own things and move forward. Nothing must be fixed today and your shame cannot be quickly hidden.

To those who’s spouse was on the list…

You do not have to decide anything right now. The situation is messy. And there are lots of decisions to make. Lots. Deciding to trust again. Deciding to forgive. Deciding to repair or not. Those are not one-time decisions. These decisions must be made over and over again. Time will help and so will expecting to make almost daily decisions to restore and to trust again, not making a life altering decision in a moment. Give yourself time to grieve the loss of the dream- the person, the relationship, and the future you once held in your mind. A good marriage and future is not dead, only the version you may have been dreaming of. There is hope and you can get through this, but allow yourself the time to be sad, angry, and hurt. You do not have to decide anything right now. It is permissible to give yourself time despite what others may have you believe.

To the connected concerned…       

Give yourself time before speaking. It is going to take some time to figure out your feelings and what is driving those feelings. It is going to take some time, just like the others involved, for your brain to “catch up” with a new narrative, a new story. The new story of the who the person is that you thought you knew is no longer true, and it takes time for the mind to edit the story, so allow yourself the time. Do not react out of emotionality or stop if you have been up to this point. Allow your affected peer to figure out where they are while you do the same. Again, there is no urgency. Do not confuse your anger or fear about this new reality to come out as pressing for a “decision” about what’s next.

3. Forgive

To those on the list…

Ask for forgiveness. Be specific about the offenses you committed and ask for forgiveness from the offended, if you are truly sorry. Don’t withhold truths or paint a better picture than is reality. As scary as it is to be completely truthful, you are not being benevolent by withholding from the offended. You do not have to give explicit details about encounters, but do be specific about the longevity of the betrayal, about the ways in which you intentionally deceived your spouse, and anything that may compromise your spouse’s health. Ask to be forgiven and allow the healing process to begin. You may not receive it immediately, and that is okay. But forgiveness cannot be granted until it is asked for, so you hold the power to begin the healing process.

To those who’s spouse was on the list…

Grant forgiveness if your spouse asks to be forgiven. Do not grant forgiveness if it is not asked for. Forgive for yourself. Let the hurt out and go. Granting forgiveness does not mean you are ready for restoration, or even committing to it. Forgiveness is simply saying “I’m not holding this against you anymore”. Forgiving is letting go of the dream of a faithful marriage from beginning to end. Your offending spouse cannot make up the loss of that dream. Therefore, to hold in the forgiveness and hurt only harms you. And you will be stuck, holding the phantom pain of the affair. Any attempt to restore will be sabotaged without forgiveness, turning into a sad recounting of facts and demand for justification. Allow the healing balm of forgiveness to work it’s magic. Give yourself the time (see point above) to forgive and breath. Restoration and redemption, if it comes at all, can come later, but continuing and allowing your hurt to turn into deep resentment helps no one.

To the connected concerned…       

Forgive. Forgive those who have hurt you in your life. If you have not done so, it’s too easy to allow your resentment about totally unrelated situations influence your ability to be a safe place for your friend today. Encourage your connected friend to either ask for forgiveness or to grant forgiveness in due time, when they are ready. But either way, encourage the process of forgiveness and do not allow your own feelings about other personal situations to become logs on the fire of resentment.

4. Get professional help.

To those on the list…

You have a problem. Your problem is deeper than looking for sex on the internet and having affairs. Those behaviors are symptoms of a bigger problem- intimacy. Your problem is you are afraid to be known. Your spouse only knows a part of you, and someone else that you have no commitment to more than likely knows many things about your heart that your spouse has no idea about. Your issue has little to do with sex and women and a lot to do with being known. Break the duplicity. Get professional help today to help you grow in being comfortable in your own skin and sharing that with someone else, hopefully your spouse.

To those who’s spouse was on the list…

Seems unfair, right? I get it. But you need to see a professional as well. One, if you are planning to engage in marital counseling, it cannot bear the weight of helping you grieve and repair. So, give yourself a personal space (in counseling) to get out your anger and other feelings when needed. Also, your marriage is a two person relationship, and though you are not guilty of the offense, the marriage itself has emotional intimacy problems that must be addressed if there is to be any real chance of making it. Do not trust this to just you. Allow yourself and your marriage, if you desire to keep it, to be helped by professionals and trust the process. It will not always feel good, but it can be tremendously helpful in relieving you from a resentful life.

To the connected concerned….

Encourage counseling when the time is right. Get counseling for yourself if this seems too close to home for you to be a good friend. Remove yourself if it is from being a support. That is my counsel to you. But yes, encourage your friends to seek counseling and to stick with the process, though frustrating. Also, let this be a good point to possible take your marriage in for a checkup. Most of you would not allow your car to begin burning oil before getting an oil change, right? So, don’t wait till the engine starts smoking before changing the oil. You do not have to wait until crisis to get deeper emotional intimacy in your relationship.

If you are affected by this situation and want help, see more about my individualmarital, and family counseling services.

 

The Insanity of Marital Conflict

It’s not uncommon in marriage to have the same conflict…over and over again. We often attempt to solve a problem by saying the same, almost rehearsed lines. We think if we say these lines louder, with a hint more of sarcasm, or a more biting insult than the last time, our spouse will magically snap out of their assault on our character and see the world the way we want them to.

The real problem? Well, the problem is not what you are arguing about. The problem is in how you argue, or theprocess, not what you are saying, which is the content. In marriage, it can be hard to snap out of the insane cycle of arguing the same way over and over again. That is what counseling is for. Marriage counseling opens you up to seeing the process, which is more than likely a concoction of how our family of origin managed conflicts, our wounds, and our beliefs about marriage being poorly expressed to our spouse. Here is a rather humorous take on how we do this from Studio C, cleverly tilted “Every Fight Ever.”

If you are stuck in a rut with your marriage or family and having the same conflict, get help today and take your marriage, or your life for that matter, back.

Premarital Counseling Feature in Mid South Bride

Last week I had the opportunity to answer some questions regarding premarital counseling for Mid South Bride. Premarital counseling is often underestimated in it's worth for those seeking to tie the knot, so I encourage you to hop on over to Mid South Bride and check out my post! And while you are there, check out many of the other good resources Mary and Candace have for those seeking to get married, from information on vendors and venues to bridal shows and good books to read for brides to be.

I Dare You (3 Languages, 5 Questions)

Yesterday I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Gary Chapman present on his New York Times Bestseller The 5 Love Languages.

Dr. Chapman’s work is one of many in his series about love languages. A love language is simply the way in which we best receive love from others. Chapman’s 5 languages are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Gifts,and Acts of Service. While we may receive love in all of these ways, chances are, we each have a primary way of receiving love, and knowing this can allow our relationships to flourish. I recommend Dr. Chapman’s works as simple ways to address issues in your relationships that may stem from not understanding one another’s primary love language. Want to know what your primary love language is? I thought so. Here is a link directly to Dr. Chapman’s site, where you may take the 5 Love Languages Quiz for FREE. Click on “Discover Your Love Language”.

Now, if you are in a relationship and you take this quiz, forward the link on to your spouse or partner and have them take it too! After you and your partner have your results, here are some questions to ask each other. I would also recommend asking your partner these questions that Dr. Chapman proposed even if they do not want to take the quiz.

1. What can I do to help you?

Seems really simple right? Like middle…maybe even elementary school simple? But we often overlook the easy things in life for the more complicated answers. We want to make our relationship a complicated game of sorts, holding on to resentments and past disappointments, keeping score of who has done what lately. This open question gets our partner’s needs out on the table, which opens the door to intimacy- real intimacy. You may not always be able to help in the way that is asked, but wouldn’t it be better to know what is needed rather than guessing? And while this takes away the “romantic guesswork” of “just knowing” what your partner needs, I would argue that such a thing only happens after years of asking this question and learning how to be the best help to your spouse. Go ahead, I dare you to ask your spouse or partner today this question and find out, through that answer, what might be their love language. Is it doing an act of service, spending some quality time, giving a hug? Again, I dare you to find out.

2. What would make life easier for you?

Again, this seems borderline insulting in its elementary nature, but if it is so easy, why aren’t most of us asking? Sometimes we are afraid that we will be asked to do or to fix something that we are not able to actually fix. But the beauty of this question is that the nature of it may lead to an answer that has nothing to do with you! So again, I dare you to ask, and in doing so, find a way to love your partner by making their life easier! Ask a follow up question- what would be a relief for you? Time together? A back rub? Doing some chores for you? Again, I dare you….

3. What can I do to be a better husband/wife or partner/significant other?

Yes, we are still in elementary school, though we are approaching middle school because this one is directed at us! We might fear the answer, but I can say that the opposite, which is not knowing how to improve as spouse and leaving it up to guesswork is really scary, at least to me anyways. I encourage you to ask and be hopeful! You may find that in as much as you may be falling short, you may also find that you are spending time doing something, such as cleaning the house, giving back rubs, creating endless time together, purchasing expense gifts, or heaping lavish praise upon your spouse, that is actually not necessary. You may get freed from your misguided attempts to love your spouse and get the encouragement of finally loving your spouse the way they want to be loved. Go on…I dare you.

Russel Brand's Thoughts On...Porn?

Yes, in the past couples of weeks Russell Brand made headlines for a posting on his You Tube Channel The Trews. In his channel, Brand offers commentary on the current headlines, and in this episode, he discusses detrimental affects of the “commodification” of sex in his own life and in our culture. Yes, Russell Brand, who to many is a sex symbol in our culture, sees pornography as dangerous and problematic.

Some of the highlights from the video embedded below, which I recommend you watch, include how pornography shows too little, meaning it shows the lack of love, how it exaggerates the prevalence of sex in society, decreases productivity, and how we lack awareness of how these “icebergs of filth” coming into the home via the internet will affect young minds in the future. I think his point that the opposite of dealing with porn is not to create it from a woman’s prospective, as in Fifty Shades of Grey, for that would be like dealing with racism by coming up with equally offensive language for white people as the offensive words that describe black people. Rather, dealing with pornography is getting at the heart of the issue and the lie used to make space for movies like Fifty Shades as “empowerment” to women.

To delve further in, take a look at Brand’s video. I also recommend his follow up segment responding to questions and comments from the first video. One excellent point made in the follow up is how the movie Fifty Shades objectifies men as needing to have good looks, wealth, and power to be worthy of love from a woman. For more on the subject of pornography and it’s influence on culture, check out my previous blogs The Conceit of PornThe Cruelty and Compassion of PornThe Construct of Pornas well as my response to Belle Knox, a Duke student paying for school by making pornography.

I also recommend checking out Covenant Eyes, as a parent or young adult, for information on making your home as safe as possible and a recent blog by XXX Church’s Craig Gross as he reacts to seeing the movie Fifty Shades of Greyand a post from their website about what they have learned from Brand's post.

Warning: Video contents some offensive language and content that may not be suitable for young audiences. Viewer discretion advised.

New New Years Resolutions (And Why the Old Ones Don't Work)

It’s a new year and many are hitting the ground running with “newness”- new jobs, new budgets, new goals, new hopes and dreams, new cities, new relationships….

And then....

Many of us fall face down in the mud on the new things we set out to do. Losing those extra pounds, going to bed earlier, working out more often, or whatever it was suddenly got lost somewhere between the new season of Downton Abbey and the end of Parenthood. We are left feeling about as hopeless as the half-dead, cold, wet Christmas tree sitting on the curb. But why does the pattern of high hopes crashing down to utter defeat end up happening year after year, almost with as much certainty as our dear friend Puxatawny Phil will see his shadow, and often by the time his fateful day arrives in early February?

Well, here are my best reasons at why our resolutions often lack resolve.

1. Our timing is off.

Yes, when we set out on our path to redemption in the New Year, one obstacle is that our timing does not set us up to win. What I mean is that time becomes the motivating factor of “the New Year”. For some reason, January 1st on a calendar is supposed to ignite us with a sudden unquenchable desire to endure extreme physical pain, more hours of sleep, or drastic dietary changes. The reality is that time is not that last motivational nugget we need to push us over the edge. Though we may all say “well, timing is not what I put stock in for my success”, if that was true, and time didn’t affect us so much, then we’d probably have just as many Tuesday resolutions as New Year resolutions. So figure out the time when you’d be ready to begin on the path of change you would like to implement.

2. Too high of expectations

That mention of the word extreme in the previous example is no joke. Many times we want to start exercising 3 times a week, but 1 time before January 1st was all too impossible. How can we go from 0 to 3? Or if we hated eating tasteless, dull food before and foregoing all small “treats”, how can we suddenly change that and expect to like all new food, much less maintain liking it? Bottom line, we expect a whole lot of ourselves, either through the degree of the one resolution or the number of resolutions made. Give yourself the grace to have realistic expectations to getting realistic resolutions. If you want to lose weight, be specific (how many lbs.?- as challenging as looking at the scale can be- you can do it!) and realistic. Losing a pound a week is about what’s healthy, for the most part. So do you expect more? And your weight may change throughout the day, so that pound in one or two weeks may be hard to measure, but after 8 weeks, you would notice 8 pounds.

3. Emphasis on behavior over lifestyle

Many times our resolutions revolve around a behavior- lose 10 pounds, eat less sweets, exercise daily, etc., but there is a fundamental piece missing. We are shooting for behavior changes, not lifestyle changes. For example, if we want to lose weight, that’s a great resolution! But just trying to eat a little bit less of this, denying yourself that extra helping there, and doing a little bit of running every now and then won’t probably do the magic you want. You have to be ready (see point 1) to change your lifestyle. That means resolving to allocate your time differently, shop for different food, change your entire diet (not get on a diet- everyone is technically on a diet of some kind), and become an “exerciser”, not one who exercises. Now, that may sound overwhelming, but it’s often far less overwhelming than trying to live in both camps- the old you and the new you. Usually we just grab that pint of ice cream and self-shame by the spoonful once we fail to execute behavior X within Y timeframe. A lifestyle change allows for flexibility and grace to be patient with yourself as you make a lifestyle change- one that you want to stick around, rather than a behavior change. A lifestyle change will take time (at least 90 days or more) because there’s no desire to return to the former way of being. A behavior change almost guarantees that you will keep resolving to lose that 10 pounds year by year.

4. No consideration of self.

Fourth and finally, our resolutions often fail because we don’t consider ourselves. What do you mean, Tyler? I mean that we often make our resolutions based on our perceived expectations from others. We need to lose this weight or do more of this because someone else would be happy if we did, or less disappointed in us if we were to change. Someone else would like us more or regret that we ended the relationship with them. But we forget to consider the most important one in it- ourselves. Do we want to change for our sake? Do we think are worthy of weighing less, eating healthy, exercising more, or whatever it is? Do we value ourselves enough to make those changes? If we don’t, we’ll often be ruthlessly impatient with our lifestyle change and find ourselves jumping off the high dive of despair into a pool of self-hatred, or chocolate chip cookie dough.

So in this New Year, I encourage you to think holistically. What realistic lifestyle change would you like for yourself? How are you going there? And when would you like to start?