Archive for May, 2015

Get smarter every day – 1

And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. Luke 2:40 (NKJV)

Jenna Goudreau, writing for the Business Insider[i] says that is a response to the question, “What would you do to be a little smarter every single day?”, readers shared the following twenty-five habits they follow to fuel their brains:

  1. Come up with 10 ideas every day on anything from how to reduce poverty to solving a daily problem, or the plot for a book. This is one way to exercise the “brain muscle” regularly.
  2. Read the newspaper, which will help you become more aware of the important things happening around the word and by which you will learn to form your own opinions and connect the dots between seemingly unrelated things.
  3. Play devil’s advocate. A more modern expression is to “think outside the box” Take something you recently learned and generate an alternate, maybe even unique opinion, on it that wouldn’t immediately come to mind. Try to support it with evidence, and be open to the idea that new evidence will change your opinion.
  4. Read a chapter in a book. Aim to read a book a week. You can always find blocks of time to read, whether on your daily commute or while you’re waiting in line. You don’t have to carry a book everywhere if you download free books to your cell phone.
  5. Instead of watching TV, watch educational videos. Sometimes, it’s more fun to watch things about a subject you love than to read about it, and you can learn a lot from other people’s experiences. One great resource is the TED talks or the Youtube channel SmarterEveryDay.
  6. Subscribe to feeds of interesting information. You could subscribe to interesting pages on Facebook or Twitter feeds or follow email newsletters, such as Cal Newport’s Study Hacks and Today I Found Out.

Keep exercising your brain to keep it healthy and strong.

Father God, you gave us such wonderful brains!  Please help me to find ways to exercise my mind and keep my brain  occupied in good things so that it will be healthy and strong.

[i] http://www.businessinsider.com/daily-habits-to-be-smarter-2015-5

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Think about death

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)

Julie Beck writes for The Atlantic that “In the heart of every parent lives the tightly coiled nightmare that his child will die. It might spring at logical times—when a toddler runs into the street, say—or it might sneak up in quieter moments.”[i]  The Greek philosopher Epictetus even advised parents to indulge that fear. He wrote in his Discourses: “What harm is it, just when you are kissing your little child, to say: Tomorrow you will die?”  What a strange thought!

Then again, maybe there is value in contemplating our mortality every so often.  As William Irvine writes, “The Stoics had the insight that the prospect of death can actually make our lives much happier than they would otherwise be.” H adds, “You’re supposed to allow yourself to have a flickering thought that someday you’re going to die, and someday the people you love are going to die.”

That does not mean that we are constantly preoccupied with the thought of death to the point where you develop a phobia or at the very least an unhealthy view of life.  What it suggests, though, is that we consider how fragile life is and learn to value the time we have to live and the time we have with our loved ones and people that matter to us.

Living with a consciousness of our mortality can change our daily attitude toward others as well.  In one study, empathetic people were more likely to forgive transgressions after a death reminder.  In another, fundamentalist religious people were more compassionate after thinking of their own mortality, but only when compassionate values were framed in a religious context, such as scriptural words.

As Beck concludes, “Maybe the key, then, is being deliberate. Not letting thoughts of death sneak up on you, but actively engaging with them, even if it’s hard.”   Moses teaches us to ask God for the wisdom to count or appreciate each day of our lives and of the lives of those we care about.  For all of us, life may come to an end when we least expect it.  But we don’t need to live with fear of death; instead, we can live with the assurance of life and salvation in Jesus.

Father God, help us to keep in mind that life is fragile but life in you is endless and more fulfilling.

[i] http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/05/what-good-is-thinking-about-death/394151/

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Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. Proverbs 6:32 (NKJV)

Naomi Schaefer Riley[i] reports that in a recent interview, Noel Biderman, the CEO of Ashley Madison, a website for people seeking extramarital affairs, observed, “I don’t see an appetite for unfaithfulness waning around the world.”  Ashley Madison boasts 36 million members in 46 countries.  Biderman attributes the company’s success to “female equality.”  As he explained to Business Insider recently. “Women are getting greater equality and are generally getting married later than those in two or three generations ago. They are now more willing to put their marriage at risk. That’s only going to increase because economic conditions for women are better and it gives them more choice.”  Decades of social science research to confirm his suspicions.

Schaefer Riley cites a 2001 paper in the Journal of Family Psychology, which stated that “Two variables … considered indexes of opportunity for [extramarital sex], income and employment status, were both significantly related with infidelity.”  In other words, it could be true that in the past men, who worked outside the house, had these two indexes available for them while women stayed home to take care of the children.  But as more women work outside the home and are less dependent on the spouse for support, they are more inclined to put their marriage at risk.  In other words , work opportunities have evened the playing field as far as opportunities and risk-taking for both men and women.

I would not suggest we return to the dark ages and keep women at home while men go to work.  Whether we work inside or outside the home, we all need to nourish our marriage so adultery never barges in to destroy it.  We also need to consider the risks and the high cost of an affair.  As the writer of the Proverbs stated: “For the lips of an immoral woman [or man] drip honey, And her mouth is smoother than oil; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Proverbs 5:3-4 (NKJV)

Father God, keep us from falling into sexual sin which will harm and destroy marriages, families, and even communities.

[i] http://family-studies.org/is-our-appetite-for-unfaithfulness-growing/?utm_source=IFS+Main+List&utm_campaign=884f2fb033-Newsletter_80&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c06b05f1ff-884f2fb033-104541745

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A narcissist?

“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)

One of the most immediate results of the fall of Adam and Eve was the awakening of a selfish heart.  In Greek Mythology, Narcissus sees his own reflection in a pool of water and falls in love with it.  But there’s a difference between being self-absorbed, a narcissist, and having narcissistic personality disorder, which is a mental illness.

An article on WebMD[i] details some that someone who’s self-absorbed may possess; on the other hand, if they have most of them, they might have the disorder. For that person, a therapist can get to the bottom of it.

  • He tends put himself first and think he knows the only “right” way?
  • Thinks about herself most of the time and talks about herself a lot
  • Craves attention and admiration
  • Exaggerates his talents and achievements
  • Believe she’s special
  • Sets unrealistic goals
  • Has wide and fast mood swings
  • Has a hard time taking others’ feelings seriously
  • Strives to win, whatever it takes
  • Fantasizes about unlimited success, money, and power

The interesting thing is that someone like this may appear to have high self-esteem, but the opposite is probably true.  There is no cure, per se, but therapy can help. The goal is to build up the person’s poor self-esteem and have more realistic expectations of others.

With children, experts suggest that parents who give too much praise cut back, while those who don’t pay enough attention may want to consider showing more attention, in appropriate ways.  We need to help our children, who may be self-absorbed or even narcissistic, be more other-centered, for their own benefit and that of others.

Father God, help us and our children not be controlled by self.

[i] http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/narcissistic-personality-disorder

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Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 1 Chronicles 29:12 (NKJV)

A serial dater, according to Leslie Becker-Phelps, of WebMD,[i]

is “someone who dates many people, but manages to steer clear of long-term commitments.”  They can be quite charming and a lot of fun to be with, but they will probably leave you feeling alone and unhappy.  She explains that serial daters avoid:

Getting to know you:  It’s all about having fun, not really getting to know your personal thoughts, feelings, experiences, or life history.

Sharing personal details: Inasmuch as they’re not interested in knowing about you neither are they interested in opening up to you; They avoid making themselves vulnerable.

Talking about your relationship: They refuse to talk about the relationship at all, where it may be heading, what needs to happen until they get there.  They remain vague with comments about not being sure how they feel or not being ready yet for any commitment.

Instead, Becker-Phelps suggests that serial daters prioritize:

Single happiness: They send the message that they are happy being single, and when they do express a desire for a committed relationship, they are focused on finding nothing short of the perfect partner which, of course, does not exist.

Materialism: Serial daters often focus on earning money, showing off success, or dating someone who can bring them such rewards.

Fun: They want to have fun and keep the relationship “light”, without any emotional commitment.

Sex: Serial daters are more interested in pursuing sexual pleasure than in nurturing emotional intimacy.

Keep these red flags in mind. If you meet someone that displays these warning signs, smile politely and move on, even if you are feeling charmed and interested. You may be passing on some good times, but remind yourself that what you really want is a close, loving, lasting relationship; and remain true to that goal.

Father God, help me to not rely solely on my feelings but instead use your guidance, my head, and the help of those closest to me.

[i] http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2015/04/how-to-spot-a-serial-dater.html?ecd=wnl_sxr_050215&ctr=wnl-sxr-050215_nsl-ld-stry_1&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

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And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. Nehemiah 5:6 (NKJV)

When you’re angry, you might feel anywhere between a mild irritation to rage.  If it progresses and you start to feel angry, try deep breathing, positive self-talk, or stopping your angry thoughts. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax” or “take it easy.” Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply until the anger subsides.

Although expressing anger is better than keeping it in, there’s a right way to do it. Try to express yourself clearly and calmly. The very angry outbursts are stressful to your nervous and cardiovascular systems, can increase the anger, and can make health problems worse.

There is great value in strenuous physical activity like regular exercise as a way to both improve your mood but also to release tension and anger.

Get support from others like a friend, a counselor, or a pastor. Talk through your feelings and try to work on changing your behaviors.

Sometimes we have trouble realizing when we are having angry thoughts.  Others can see it in us but we don’t seem able to see them in our life.  Consider keeping a written log of when you feel angry.

If we get angry at people, try to put yourself in their place in order to gain a different perspective.

A good sense of humor can be your salvation.  Learn how to laugh at yourself and see humor in situations.

A lot of angry outbursts result from miscommunication.  Practice good listening skills. Listening can help improve communication and can build trusting feelings between people. This trust can help you deal with potentially hostile emotions.

Learn to be more assertive by expressing your thoughts and feelings calmly and directly without becoming defensive, hostile, or emotionally charged.

Uncontrolled anger ends up hurting us and those around us.  Learning to control it will help us live better, healthier lives and have more positive relationships.

Father God, help me to control my anger before it destroys anyone.

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This anger is killing me

This made Cain so angry that he could not hide his feelings. Genesis 4:5 (CEV)

Anger can help or hurt you, depending on how you react to it. If you can react without hurting someone else, it can be a positive feeling. But if you hold your anger inside, it can lead to passive-aggressive behavior like ”getting back” at people without telling them why or being critical and hostile.

While anger is a common experience to all humans, if left unchecked it can be very harmful to us, and to others. If you don’t deal with your anger, it can lead to anxiety and depression, it can disrupt or even damage your relationships, and it will raise your risk of illness.  For instance, long-term anger has been linked to health problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems. In addition, unchecked anger can be linked to crime, abuse, and other violent behavior.

If you believe that your anger is out of control and is having a negative effect on your life and relationships, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional or a religious leader. A psychologist or other licensed mental health professional can work with you to learn techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior. A mental health professional or a pastor can help you deal with your anger in an appropriate way.

In some people, a pattern of inappropriate anger can also be a symptom of a mood disorder, a personality disorder, a substance use problem, or another mental health problem.  You may want to told to your doctor and ask him/her if medicines could be helpful. Sometimes, antidepressants, certain anticonvulsants, and low-dose antipsychotics can help manage sudden attacks of rage or anger.

Choose your therapist carefully, and make sure to talk to a professional who is trained to teach anger management and assertiveness skills.  A pastor or a friend can also help you and be your accountability partner for the next time you feel anger rising or when you have come to an explosion.

Father God, help me to control and deal with my anger before I hurt myself or the relationships I have with others.

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Parenting tricks

So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned. Genesis 21:8 (NKJV)

Probably some of the most exciting and exacting years in the life of a child are those from birth to about age seven.  Kids are not born with all the knowledge and experience we have – they have to learn everything from eating to getting dressed to being potty trained.  We rejoice with each experienced learned, but it can also wear you down at times.

Megan Colarossi, who writes for TODAY Parents,[i] offer a few simple “tricks” to help your child learn without too much hassle, to help “keep you and your kiddos more sane during that crazy morning routine.”

  1. If your child makes a big fuss because she doesn’t “WANT to wear that dress!!! You could lay out a few different options the night before to help focus your picky dresser. At least she will feel like she made her choice instead of simply being told what to wear.
  2. If she complains when you brush her hair with words like, “You’re being mean with the brush, Mommy!” Colarossi suggests you apply a little baby oil to the knot and gently comb the hair. The knot will be gone with no pulling or pain.
  3. When you tell your child to go potty but they tell you they don’t have go right now, even though you know they should. Colarossi offers a very creative solution: Cheerios cereal (for boys) and stickers (for girls).  As she explains, “Cheerios are great target practice for boys.”  Come to think of it, that may also be a good solution for your husband so he won’t miss so much.  For girls, a sticker reward may appeal more to them.

Listen to these words from a mother: “At a very early age children can comprehend what is plainly and simply told them, and, by kind and judicious management, can be taught to obey…it is not necessary to resort to harsh measures; a firm, steady hand and a kindness which convinces the child of your love will accomplish the purpose.”[ii]

Father God, help me to be patient and creative with how I train my children so they will not only grow up obedient  but will also learn to make good choices and decisions in life.

[i] http://www.today.com/parents/parental-guidance-how-get-out-door-lickety-split-tantrum-free-t22151

[ii] White, E.G.  Child Guidance, p. 82

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My beloved has gone to his garden, To the beds of spices, To feed his flock in the gardens, And to gather lilies. Song of Songs 6:2 (NKJV)


Robert Preidt, HealthDay reporter, writes about a study of married couples conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh which found there is no emotional boost with more activity in the bedroom.[i]  The couples in the study were randomly assigned to either double the amount of sex they had each week or to have their usual amount of sex over a three month period.

According to the researchers, people who had more sex were not happier than those who had their usual amount of sex. Instead, the study found, the couples who had more sex actually had a small decrease in happiness.  As they dug deeper into the data, however, the researchers found that one reason why simply having more sex did not make couples happier was because it seemed tied to a drop in their desire for, and enjoyment of, sex.  It wasn’t that having more sex led to lower desire and enjoyment of sex; it was because they were asked to do it instead pf initiating sex on their own.

Lead investigator George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology, said that despite the findings he believes couples tend to have too little sex, and that boosting the amount of sex in the right ways can be beneficial.

Study co-author Tamar Krishnamurti also believes that the desire to have sex decreases much more quickly than the enjoyment of sex once it’s been initiated.  As he explains, “instead of focusing on increasing sexual frequency to the levels they experienced at the beginning of a relationship, couples may want to work on creating an environment that sparks their desire and makes the sex that they do have even more fun.

The key conclusion then is not for a couple that would like to see positive changes in their relationship to simply increase the amount of sex they have but rather to make sure they both have an enjoyable sexual experience thus increasing their intimacy.

Father God, you created sex for us to enjoy.  Help us to maintain our experience enjoyable for both so we may be drawn closer together and our intimacy may strengthen our relationship.

[i] http://www.webmd.com/sex/news/20150508/think-more-sex-will-make-you-happier-think-again?ecd=wnl_men_051515&ctr=wnl-men-051515_nsl-promo_2&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

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How are you?

Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. 1 Corinthians 10:24 (NKJV)

When we say, “How are you?”, is that a greeting, or are you really interested in getting a response?  We’ve become accustomed to hearing that question and simply responding, “fine,” not really wanting to share what challenges we may be going through.  And when we ask, “How are you?’ and people open up to tell us of the problems they’re facing it makes us uncomfortable or nervous.  So, how can we ask that question and really mean it?  Emily B. Cummins[i] makes the following suggestions:

  1. Be aware of your body language. How we say things often makes more of an impact than the words we use. Use your body language to show you care. Ask, “how are you?”, look them in the eye, stop, pause, and be ready to listen.
  2. Wait. Don’t just ask and leave. Listen attentively for their answer and see if you can ask a follow-up question to go a little deeper. How we respond when someone answers can let them know we really do or don’t care at all.
  3. Do for some what you wish you could do for all. Meaningful relationships take time, effort, and intentionality. Stop and talk with people you don’t typically do so. Sometimes just one interaction could be a life-changing opportunity to all.
  4. What you do after asking matters. After the conversation ends, what will you do with the information, feelings, or thoughts they shared with you? How will you follow up with them? Make mental note of the important details and check with them as to any changes, good or bad.
  5. Strip your expectations. Don’t ask the question with preconceived ideas of what they will say and what you will do. If they choose to not share a full answer, respect their wishes…don’t insist but give them the respect they deserve. Treat others the way we want to be treated.

Father God, help me to show genuine interest in others, to be a good listener, to be loving and compassionate, and to help alleviate others’ burdens by simply giving them the opportunity to talk.

[i] https://vitalmagazine.com/Home/Article/3-Ways-to-Ask-Someone-How-They-Are-Doing-and-Actually-Mean-It/

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