Monday, March 28, 2011

A Call to Understand Both Victims and Victimizers

According to a BBC news report, one of the “World’s Largest Pedophile Rings” was uncovered by the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). This pedophile ring existed through a particular internet network where members would share pictures and videos of children who had been, or were at the time, being abused. The investigators from the CEOP infiltrated the internet network by posing as pedophiles in order to gain specific intelligence so they could identify who the suspects and creators of the website were, and identify who the victimized children were as well. The CEOP has termed this investigation as “Operation Rescue”, and the investigation is said to be ground-breaking due to the size of the operation and the way in which so many international law enforcement agencies worked together to accomplish the objective of “safeguarding children, and bringing offenders to justice”. In total, the CEOP has discovered that the “global forum” had 70,000 followers at the peak of its following, and they currently have 670 suspects and 230 children whom they’ve identified. Out of the 670 suspects, 184 of them have been arrested (121 of them from the UK), and 33 of them have actually been convicted at this point. Suspects have included individuals such as boy scout leaders, teachers, police officers, etc. 60 of the child victims have been protected by the UK as well.
The fact that the individuals who have been a part of this type of offense where they feel the need to indulge in images, videos and acts of child abuse and exploitation, at the very least is disturbing.

However disturbing this may be, it’s highly likely that most of the 70,000 people who did participate in this depraved offense have at one point in their lives been hurt by some type of abuse in their childhoods. After reading the book “Hurt People Hurt People” bu Sandra Wilson, this reality became even clearer to me. Growing up, individuals don’t think to themselves, “I really want to become a pedophile who abuses or enjoys the abuse of children.” Usually this reality and desire in a person’s life is reached through a series of painful experiences throughout a person’s life where they themselves were most likely wounded, victimized and abused, and as a result of unhealed wounds, became the “wounders”, victimizers and abusers. According to Wilson, these “hurt people hurt people”.

After reading this article, I was obviously appalled and disgusted at the idea that people would indulge in viewing images and videos of children being abused and exploited. My heart breaks for these children who were being violated and exploited in this way through this pedophile ring. However, it is important to understand why these individuals have hurt others in this way, because it’s obvious that the cycles of abuse continue through generations. Most people are drawn towards helping the victims of these types of crimes and not towards helping and understanding the offenders of this crime. However, when looking at the big picture, this refusal to understand and help offenders of these crimes is counter-productive in the desire to help the victims of these crimes. As difficult as it may be to find compassion or to have a desire to understand these offenders, I believed that both victims and offenders must be understood and helped if one desires to truly help the victims of these crimes. Although I do believe there needs to be understanding and help for both victims and offenders if one desires to truly help those victimized by such crimes, I also believe that no matter how much abuse or pain an individual experiences in their life, there is no excuse for the type of twisted and violating behaviors these individuals participated in. Just because help and understanding needs to be given to the offenders of these crimes does not mean they should be alleviated of the consequences of their actions.

To Trust or not to Trust...

Everywhere I turn, there are ads or books advertising relationships, trust, and communication. Television talk shows are based on watching people interact with one another. Dear Abby letters are written all the time about relational issues. All this to say, there is something important about relationships. There is something inside each person that craves for another to understand and love unconditionally.

Dr. Sandra Wilson mentions in her book, Hurt People Hurt People, the importance of truth and trust. Many times, when I look around or listen to the conversations around me, or even take the time to examine what I am saying, it is apparent that many people operate out of a mistrust in personal relationships. I believe that trust and truth should go hand in hand in a healthy relationship. In my own life, when I have trusted everyone, I have often lost a sense to differentiate truth from lies - usually resulting in hurt of betrayal. However, when I have only trusted myself, I have again distorted truth and become hurt by my emotional isolation. Although, I am still learning the balance of learning when and who to trust, I must be first grounded on the truth of God's word and then be grounded on the truth of the person in whom I'm placing some of my trust.

What does this have to do with counseling? Counseling is all about relationships. Trust and truth seem to be major issues for the individuals seeking counseling and I'm sure at times for the counselor himself. It is important for the Christian counselor to be grounded in Truth, Scripture, to be able to better discern what is and isn't truth in the session. Grappling with the issue of trust is important for the counselor to do so to better help the client learn how and when to trust.

The make up of an individual seems to be a rather complex matter. It seems that there's a tendency to attempt to reduce such complex issues to a simple concepts. Most often people who attempt to do that are often well intended. That is to say, they desire to find a way to intelligibly explain the aspects of the immaterial man. However, more often than not, their attempts fail.

In class we discussed several aspects of the immaterial man. One of the main assumptions that many of us agreed to in class that if God is a God of diversity, it is likely that diversity and complexity could be traits of the immaterial men as well. Thus, the immaterial men could be considered in terms of soul and spirit; nonetheless, the Bible also talks about issues of heart, mind, conscience too besides the soul and the spirit. Therefore, it would interesting to investigate whether the above 3 mentioned aspects are functions of the soul or spirit or just mere aspects of the immaterial man?

Most Christians seem to accept the fact that humans have an immaterial aspect to their lives. With that, I believe it is important to admit that this immaterial aspect is very complex and it might take a great amount of effort and insight in order to be able to explain or articulate a definition of the make up of the immaterial man. Ultimately, we must humbly accept that we have limited knowledge but we have enough knowledge to operate with.

At Risk For Facebook Depression?

When on Facebook, do you…

- Spend more than five minutes looking through someone else’s tagged photos?
- View profiles without leaving any indication you were there?
- Read conversations on someone’s wall that does not pertain to you?
- Dwell on how happy your friend looks in their new profile picture?
- Feel a twinge in your stomach when someone has more friends than you?

If these symptoms occur on a regular basis in your life, you may be susceptible to Facebook depression. Although research is still inconclusive, an article by Fox News explores the potential that Facebook may be causing depression among its users, and let’s face it, we’re all users of this wonderfully addictive site.

The article targets teenagers as the main victims of Facebook depression, as they are less confident in themselves as the college students who co-habit a large portion of Facebook. Social networking is at an all-time high, targeting the generations who create the majority of their identity through interaction on the internet. In Effective Biblical Counseling, Larry Crabb states that the average person seeks security and significance in life. We seek to win the approval of our peers, to find our self-worth in the validation of others. This is the lure of Facebook.

It is important to note that a healthy self-esteem may protect you from succumbing to social media induced depression. So take heart! You can build your online self-esteem by carefully cultivating a profile page that you can be proud of and showcases the very heart of yourself. Fill in all every band that you’ve remotely liked since the age of five, start some gossip with a witty status about the cute brunette you made eye contact with in class, or post the latest viral video to hit YouTube.

Or, you could just log off Facebook and actually go see your friends. That would work too.

Every Man Is [Not] An Island

Is there power community? Larry Crabb, author of Connecting, and Dan Harmon, creator of NBC’s show Community certainly think so. The show Community centers on a group of apparently stereotypical misfits at a local community college. Each is painfully aware of their flaws and insecurities but cover them up by pretending to be the hot-shot lawyer, the Christian single mother, the jock, or the goody two shoes. To borrow a line from About A Boy (2002), they enter a study group with the belief that “every man is an island” and are content to subtly use each other to achieve their own purpose.

However, something powerful happens when connections are allowed to form within the community. Crabb stated that this power is unseen, that it is a pouring out of one soul into another and is a source of strength. This is certainly evidenced in the lives of the cast of Community. In the latest episode, we see Jeff, the hot-shot lawyer equally loved and hated by all throw a surprise birthday party for Abed, the eccentric Muslim film-enthusiast. Out of the all the characters, it is Jeff’s that is explored and progresses the most. His ambitions turn from wooing women and the upkeep of a suave appearance to showing flippant and embarrassed acts of kindness for the study group. He acknowledges that the group has become more than friends, but that in their own way, they have become a family.

Crabb swears that healing is achieved best through connecting in Community. The cast of Community so firmly believe in this message that low ratings throughout the first season did little to faze them. Through one individual taking the time to empathize and to simply be there as a support and source of strength for another while they are down on the ground unable to walk through their struggle. The power of connecting can bring others from the pit of despair into the saving grace of the savior. True connection allows the individual to be stripped raw from pretense and to show the true essence of the soul and know that someone cares for you despite the eccentricities, flaws, and insecurities displayed.

Strangers understand better!

If asked most people would definitely say they know their spouse well enough to communicate with them and understand what they mean by what they say. These same people would also say that they understand what their spouse id saying better than they do a stranger. However these people would be wrong according to this article I just read. The article explains the reason why couples don’t communicate with understanding better than that of strangers is because they have an illusion of insight that throws them off from what their spouse is really saying.

In Hurt People Hurt People by Wilson she gives another reason for misunderstanding in a marriage. Wilson says that people go in to marriage looking for their spouse to fulfill them and to love them unconditionally. Wilson says that it is impossible for a spouse to love their mate unconditionally. Also if both are looking to be filled up by their mate but the mate is waiting and wanting to be filled themselves no one get anything but heartache. Just another way a couple miss understands each other because really they are in it for themselves.

Say it to my face

There is this article on Science Daily on how Teenagers feel that social networks like facebook are safer than their parents and teachers do. In the article it also talks about the very real risk that people run in to when using facebook and other social networks. However one that I would like to point out is how social networks teach teenagers the wrong way to deal with social problems.

The article does say that there is a problem with cyber-bullying, which is bullying another person using the means of the public forum of the internet. However cyber-bullying is not the only wrong way to handle a social problem that is displayed on social networks. Teenagers are also writing their problems out on their pages instead of going to the source of the problem and confronting it. Instead they write details publicly describing how they are upset on the internet for all to see but this only makes the problem worst.

In Hurt People Hurt People, Wilson tells the reader how the choices that a child makes to cope will be the same kind of choices that child will make when they grow up. This means there will soon be a whole generation of adults who don’t know how to confront their problems. These adults will only know how to write off hand commits on the internet that will get them fired from a job, bring divorce to their families and will destroy the generation after them.

Children who will Divorce

I read an article that was showing how the same children that were happy growing up are also happy as adults. So the thought was that since they were happier they were less likely to get a divorce. However they found that these happy children that have grown in to happy adults are more likely to get a divorce. They say that this may be due to the fact that the happy adults have the self-esteem and self-efficacy to leave an unhappy marriage.

This fits right in with Wilson’s book Hurt People Hurt People. In her book Wilson says that people stay bad and even in sometimes dangerous relationships just so they can feel attached to someone that they feels needs them. This is largely due to the fact they feel like they have no value on their own.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Here Come Da Judge

"Judge". What comes to mind when you hear the word? A man wearing a long black robe, and perhaps a powdered wig? Simon Cowell from American Idol? The general tone is of a rather grouchy, detached, powerful man or woman making a ruling that will change your life. Each of us has an opinion, but how often do we preface it by saying, "I, don't want to judge", or when we are self conscious about our behavior we turn to our friend and say, "don't judge". In the Christian world, we readily quote Jesus' words in Luke 6:37 saying, " Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.". Rarely does one hear a reference to Luke 12:57 "Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?"
So what is judging? Which kind do we avoid and which do we embrace? At the end of someones life we generally say, "He was a good person", while during his life we had a great list of complaints we never mentioned to his face. Often, we hope our friends went to heaven but are left wondering because we didn't want to appear judgmental by having conversations about religion. Rather than quavering in fear, we are called upon to use our discernment. Is it important to do what is right? Than judge rightly and act accordingly. As Christians, we know that right and wrond is not a matter of opinion. God has laid our his standards for holy living in his words and as Christians we are called to hold each other accountable and "sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron." This discernment is not made from the position of an aloof judge, but as a loving friend in a close relationship.

Be Still

The other day as I was running, it struck me how easy it is to focus on taking care of my body—eating properly, exercising, getting rest, etc.—but completely neglect the care of my immaterial self—my soul, my spirit, my heart. To be quite honest, I don't think I know how to take care of my immaterial self. Our class exercise on silence and meditation left me realizing how rarely I take time to stop and ponder, examine my heart, and just sit in silence. In The Great Omission (2006), Dallas Willard argues this very point:

“Solitude and silence are the most radical of the disciplines for the spiritual life because they most directly attack the sources of human misery and wrongdoing. To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing. All accomplishment is given up…Silence is required to complete solitude, for until we enter quietness, including not listening and speaking, the world still lays hold of us. When we go into solitude and silence, we even stop making demands upon God. It is enough that God is God and we are His” (p. 212).

As Christians and as future counselors, it is critical that we understand the need for silence and solitude in order to attend to our soul wounds, develop our spiritual life, and tune our hearts in to God. Our immaterial self is no less real because we cannot see it.

In our over-stimulated society, we tend to look for the grand and glorious in the spiritual realm. So did Elijah. But, surprisingly, God was not in the great wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. Elijah heard God speak as “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).

As we engage in the gut-wrenching work of people-helping, we must not forget to take time to simply be. Be still. Be quiet. Be alone. Be with God…and with ourselves. We would be foolish to neglect the need for solitude and silence…in our own lives, in our clients’ lives, and even in the counseling process…for it is in the silence that God most often speaks.

And without God speaking, it’s all just a bunch of words.

The Theology of "Tough"

"Trust God…get over it…pull yourself together.” The theology of "tough" is pervasive in many churches today, where people with deep soul wounds are told to say a prayer, trust God, and stop being so selfish.

In Hurt People Hurt People, Sandra Wilson paints a frightening picture of the reality of our brokenness:
Like a little girl who drags herself to the dinner table after being hit by a car, managing to crack a smile on her bloody face, despite her bruised and broken limbs.
If this girl’s parents did nothing, they’d undoubtedly be charged with child neglect…even abuse.

But when the wounds are invisible and the dislocated joints and bloody gashes are in the soul…not the skin…Christians often resort to the theology of “tough.”

“After all," many churches seem to communicate, “Jesus came to serve…we’re called to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him, not sit around and dwell on the past.” In their quest to be used by God, I am afraid many people (myself included!) have failed to realize the long-term impact of the brokenness in our lives on our ability to picture the whole Gospel to a hurting world. After all, if we ourselves haven’t experienced the healing power of the Gospel in the deepest places of our hearts, what do we have to offer non-believers except abstract theology…and religious rituals?

There is a certain pride that comes with being “tough”…with not letting things get to you. Wilson (2001) writes: “Many of us tend to deny the full extent of the damage done to us by excusing, minimizing, or discounting the hurt, as though whatever happened—no matter how horrendous—couldn’t have been all that bad since we survived” (p. 199). Sure, minimizing is a way to cope. But hiding is not the same as healing. And denial is not the same as sanctification. Being tough is not the same as being whole.

When I consider the ministry of Jesus, it seems no coincidence that he drew sick, broken, and hurting people like a magnet. And he often rebuked the “religious” people as living in prideful denial of their true needs. Perhaps denying or minimizing our needs isn’t holiness, like we think…maybe it’s little more than prideful independence re-packaged as self-made religion.

The Gospels present story after story of broken, battered, used-up people. Think Mary Magdalene. The prodigal son. The woman caught in adultery. Cripples. Demon possessed. The blind. The woman with an issue of blood. Not exactly “tough” people. All of the people that Jesus healed seemed to have one thing in common…and it was nout being "tough." It was brokenness. Humility. Desperation.

Maybe it’s time we saw the theology of “tough” for the lie it really is, and honestly appraised the soul wounds we carry. After all, untended pain doesn’t go away. It just goes deeper. It festers.

Jesus did not suffer the anguish of the cross so we could drag ourselves along, wincing with the pain of every step on our dislocated joints and holding up our bloody, festering wounds as evidence of our “great faith.” As future counselors and people-helpers, it important that we remember the true mission of Jesus, which is also our mission:
“to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners…” (Is. 61:1)

What's the Bad Man Got To Do With It?

"Loving the Bad Man," a project of Stone Bridge Films and Eastlake Films, is coming to theaters in April. It tells the story of a 23 year old, Christian woman who is raped, becomes pregnant, and chooses to not only keep the baby, but also visit the baby's father in jail and tell him she forgives him. Early in the story, her parents expect her to have an abortion due to the circumstances under which she became pregnant.
With respect, I must admit that using rape as a reason for an abortion has always been rather puzzling to me. Let me explain. People must begin by deciding whether or not a fetus is a human and if as such, they have a right to life. If they do not then I suppose rape is a decent reason to terminate the pregnancy. By that token, so is a flourishing career, a failing marriage, a fear of parenting, a chance of birth defects, and any other issue that might concern the pregnant woman. It is her body, her choice, and there are no significant guidelines.
Then again, if this unborn baby is a person and he or has the right to life, that right should not be jeopardized by parent's misdeeds. The younger the child, the more dependent he or she is on her parents for protection and none is weaker and more dependent than an unborn child. When a parents commits a terrible crime and is given a death sentence, no state kills their children as well, simply for being related. They committed no crime and such a punishment would be unjust. So why do the rules change regarding the unborn, the smallest and weakest of all persons. A mother in this case or other cases may well consider whether or not she is able to adequately care for her child, but at no point should the crime of the parent justify the death of the child.
Our class is currently reading, "Hurt People Hurt People". Throughout this book, Dr. Wilson writes about Biblical ways to respond to hurt and how to find healing and forgiveness. If the unborn are people, we should not hurt them, no matter how much we ourselves are hurt.

Believe in Yourself!

Believe in yourself...that's what we're told at least. I remember even as a kid being told by my cartoons to believe in myself. That's a nice concept for self-esteem, but it places the focus on myself rather than God. Of course, we know that God is not the center of American thought anymore, so if you remove God from the equation, believing in one's self is the best place to have self-confidence.

However, as Christians, we know that man is fallen, and that he truly should not believe in himself. He should know himself, his abilities, even his failures. But in doing so, he must place his confidence (and ultimately his faith), in God. Having this mindset brings humbleness and submissiveness to God.

Sadly, the focus nowadays is on having faith in ourselves. We are, in a postmodern way, our own gods. As I stated before, even children receive this message to believe in themselves. The critic might point out how many children do not have supportive parents, and need to believe in themselves. However, believing in yourself is to believe in a fallen being that is incapable of saving itself. So while it is important to bring healing to the lives of the broken, as that can be a testament to God, we must never forget that the only true hope lies with God.

Pressing on Through the Madness

As America turns its eyes on basketball once again, there is a character trait that NCAA college basketball players display that every counselor and counselee needs to develop, persistence. In the Elite Eight game played on 3/27/11, both the University of Kentucky (UK) and the University of North Carolina (UNC) displayed awesome persistence in reaching the goal of winning the game. Though UK lead the majority of the game, UNC brought the game to a tie with two minutes to go. For UK fans, it was a nail biting two minutes. For UNC fans, it was a time of joy and relief. One of the UNC players was not about to give up and admit defeat, still playing his hardest until the game ended. UK's persistence paid off in the form of a win, however, as they did not get discouraged even when it seemed like UNC might pull through. This trip to the Final Four has been something that UK fans have been waiting 13 years for. They have supported and cheered this team on each year and are finally seeing their beloved team back on top.
This brings to mind the persistence that counselors and counselees have to have. Through all of the lessons and books we have had to read, one thing that has become clear is that healing is a hard fought battle that is not reached over night. As counselors, we cannot give up on our clients even when there seems to be no hope. If we give up, the client gives up and that can only lead to despair. A basketball game is never won if the team gives up and quits trying. A counselee will never be able to stop coming to counseling session because they are no longer needed if he and the counselor gives up. There are many different therapeutic options out there to help clients; it is the counselor and counselee's job to come up with a game plan that will work.
We all need perseverance in life. Especially right now as I am in grad school and studying, it can get overwhelming and tiring. Sometimes it is easy as students to feel that if we read another word or have to write another sentence we are going to scream, however, we have to press on. I am not sure who first said it, but the saying goes "Anything good doesn't come easy." Helping a person get over psychological issues in their life and live a better emotional life is not going to be easy. I have talked with people before trying to help them and have felt like I am on the front lines of a battle, almost standing toe-to-toe with an enemy. That intensity can be draining, but both the counselor and the counselee has to press through if the goal of counseling is going to be met.
The next time you see and add for this years NCAA basketball tournament, think about the persistence that those players put into each game and remind yourself that persistence is the only way something is going to get done.

Put your heart into it!

I was flipping through radio channels the other day and stumbled upon a song that I had not heard in years. Some of you may hate it while others may love it, but I’m going to refresh your memory of it anyways. The song is “Thank You” by Dido. The basic premise of the song is the story of a woman who has a bad job, bad luck, and bad weather. Though everything seems to go wrong for her, whenever she remembers or sees her love, her reality alters and just the thought of him gives her “the best day of [her] life.” Her love for a person changed her life.

The heart is so powerful and Scripture supports this. In class, we discussed how the heart is at the center of intellectual, emotional, volitional, and spiritual life. The heart loves, desires, seeks, and chooses, among other things. Scriptures point out the heart numerous times as the key to the Christian life. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 4:29), “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts" (Deut. 6:6). While a heart turned towards God produces life, a heart turned away from God produces sin and destruction: "You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God" (Acts 8:21).

The heart is far more important that I ever realized. Whenever I think about the most powerful times of my Christian walk, my heart was always fully engaged. It is when we disengage our hearts that we become stagnant and mediocre believers. God shows us time and time again how important it is to have our whole selves engaged in our relationship with Him: heart, mind, soul, strength. This is how we were designed to be in relationship: wholeheartedly. Like this song, when we love God with all of our hearts, our reality alters. We may have hardships and trials of all kinds, but somehow everything is going to be okay when God is a part of our lives. Not halfhearted Christianity, wholehearted Christianity, a relationship with God that consumes the whole heart.

The Mind...An Unfair Process

As I was searching for a topic that I could potentially blog about, ironically I came across another blog that I related to what a friend of mine had been feeling for the last month or so. This blog briefly reflected upon parents and their overprotective ways when concerning their children. Although this blog is not my friend’s exact situation, it relates in way such as the parents not being receptive to boyfriends/girlfriends, as well as their lack of understand. Over the last several weeks, Dr. Corsini presented material on the soul, spirit, heart, conscience, and mind. Each chamber holds a significant role in the human body. However, I would like to key in on the mind section for this particularly blog. According to Dr. Corsini, the mind has four phases. The duty of these four phases is to perceive, understand, judge, and determine. This specific process relates to my friends situation and the situation in the blog. How? It relates because process that a parents goes through when they meet their child’s boyfriend/girlfriend is perception, understanding, judgment, and determining. When a person perceives an object or situation, it is merely the unique way someone views it. Most of the time perceiving can be black and white; meaning either the parents like the friend or they do not like them. Attempting to understand why their child has chosen this particular person to date can often times be confusing to the parent. Shortly after understanding, judgment takes place. This part can become complicated and even unfair at times. Once judgment occurs, a parent will determine whether or not they approve of their child’s choice. After reading the post and listening to my friend’s situation, I immediately referred to my class notes. I shared these four stages of the mind. I would go as far as saying that these steps are place into practice subconsciously. My friend was frazzled at the fact that his girlfriend’s mother and father did not accept him. In addition, he feels as if they have not given him a fair chance. He feels that if her parents get to know him that their perception of him will change into a more positive one. I told him that could potentially happen. Furthermore, I shared with him that one of the primary reasons they have not accepted him was due to a skewed perception they have. If he thinks about it, a person’s whose perception of a situation is distorted, may have an effect on the following three phases. Because of the situation, I encouraged him (as well as others) not to allow a faulty perception dictate a situation. Rather, altering the perception of her parents could potentially change the remaining three components.

Two Visitors at my Door

Today at around 4:30pm, my doorbell rang. There were two visitors in long black coats standing at my door with a gospel. These two young men were from the Church of Latter Day Saints: they were Mormons. A conversation ensued and my roommate and I sought to learn more about their beliefs. There was a pleasant exchange of thoughts and then the visitors were on their way, but not before leaving a copy of The Book of Mormon with us. They didn’t try to convince us or persuade us. They simple asked us to read the book and ask God to tell us if it was true or not.

It was an interesting exchange between two Christian women and two Mormon men. Each side thought that the other had minds that were darkened and blinded from the truth. Each side thought that they had the answer and the truth about life and death. And each side stood firm in their beliefs. When they asked us the read the book and ask God to reveal the truth to us, it reminded me of the lesson from class, how the god of this age has darkened the minds of people, as it is described in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Though this verse specifically talks about how unbelievers are blinded to the light of the gospel, I would assume that Satan would also blind unbelievers from other truths, such as the truth about The Book of Mormon. From my perspective, I wonder if my two visitors have been blinded from this truth. When I think about their challenge to me to read the book and ask God to reveal the truth, I love the simplicity of it and the authority of God involved. At the same time, God has given us tools to know if something is from Him or not. In Acts 17:11, the Bereans are commended for examining the Scriptures to see if Paul’s teachings were true or not, and we should do the same. We should examine alternate teachings and see if they are consistent with the Bible. By all means we should seek God’s voice in matters, but when there are so many other voices trying to deceive our minds, it is also crucial to hold fast to the Bible and compare other teachings with it.

Why do you call me good?

I drove up to the Olive Garden the other day and saw a car with some interesting bumper stickers plastered on it. One of them read, “You are a good person.” That was all. A simple statement that leapt deep into the philosophical and theological pit of complexity. As I stood there and creepily took a picture of someone’s bumper, I asked myself what that person was like and what that person was trying to communicate through that bumper sticker. A bumper sticker is designed for all to read. So did that driver believe that every single human being was good, even the psychotic serial killers? Just a question.

In class we talked about the nature of people and what an “ideal” person looks like, if that can even be defined. There seems to be a presumption that there is an “ideal” person, the entire purpose of counseling. Many of the books that we have read for this class, such as Jay Adams’ book, show that people have a sin nature that creates the problems of life, the problems that lead people to counseling. If this is true, if people have a sin problem, then they are certainly not good.

Jesus says, in Luke 18:19, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.” Here Jesus communicates the fact that only God is good and no human has or will ever come close to being good, except for Jesus Himself. Romans 3:10-12 reiterate the same fact in saying, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” We are not good and we do not do good.

Why this driver has this bumper sticker, I do not know. Wishful thinking perhaps? Optimism? Idealism? One quick look at the world will shatter the words of the bumper sticker. People are not good apart from God. We are sinful, helpless people who are desperate for a good God. Our sin produces problems in life. And we are working toward an “ideal” for the simple fact that we are not already there, and we are not already good.

The Essence of Personality

The article talks about personality with human value-system. It tells us everything includes in the human brain. In other words, human brain includes the reasoning and feeling with working of value system. Two hemispheres in the brain provide general and specific concepts. Human behavior is same as a brain functions. Value continues behaviors with external appearance. A human brain allows thinking, behaving, seeing, and hearing. When I looked up this article, I just thought about all of book that we read. When we think, behave, see, hear, love, hurt, and talk, our brain is working first. I also think, the brain and the mind are working together when we do something. We make someone get love sometimes, and get hurt sometimes through our life, but I think brain is the best value system that God made us with having good personality.

A Call For Self-Restraint

After reading numerous articles and searching for a good subject to discuss with you, I landed on a article who's title included a "New Obsession of Self-Restraint" is engulfing Japan." Initially, it was the title it self that captured my attention while also catching me off guard. Specifically in Western culture, the idea of an obsession typically has a negative connotation. The word to many us most likely represents a movement towards self gratification or at least some form of self indulgence.

When I look at many Americans today, I see an almost infinite number of individuals who have been condition to perceive, understand, and determine that the way we live our lives should be all about "Me". I have to admit that while I am a single young man, I have become more and more fearful of the World that my hopeful future wife and kids will be subjected to. We see self pleasing ideals through the medias portrayal of cultural values. We are swallowed up in work environments that tell us to do whatever we can to get ahead of the next guy. However, what may be worst of all is that I also believe that even the churches we attend these day share some of these same characteristics. Embarrassing as it is, I would have to admit that I myself have been guilty in my own life of these undoubtedly negative qualities. The Church should be a place of welcoming acceptance, grace, mercy, and love.

Unfortunately, in many of the churches I have attended, I would have to say that all that can be seen is a well developed facade of how Christ showed us to live. Christ in the Commandments not only shares with us his desires for our lives, but he also commands us into action. The greatest commandments he states, is to "Love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself". While many Christians and non Christians know this Biblical principle, very few I believe enact it on a daily bases.

In Japan, due to a very unfortunate turn of events the people are voluntarily doing what every they can to survive as a nation. In the article, ( you can read how people across the whole country are making sacrifices that are allowing Japan to remain standing after a sucker-punch that the Earth landed straight to its chest! What really caught my attention was that the Japanese are not fulfilling these needs due to strict governmental regulations or laws. However, through their own humility and serventship they are intentionally changing their life styles for the betterment of their countrymen.

While American is not in the exact situation currently. I do believe that like Japan, our country is one disaster away from either making or breaking it. Currently, we see issues in a number areas in America. Social Security is almost non existent, we continually break new records of our National Debts that we owe to foreign countries, and worst of all many are beginning to loose faith in our Government. I hope that we as Americans can learn from the history that is unfolding right before our eyes.

Japan just as America used to be within the most prosperous countries on the Earth. However, due to initially a recent poor economy, (just like America) and now a natural disaster Japan is being forced to make changes for the better. I wonder if Americans have it in them anymore to make sacrifices for others even when it is not mutually beneficial. More importantly, I wonder if Christians and Counselors can get off our "High Horse" and get into the junk and messiness of the life we share with individuals. Many times we live in a Bubble, where we think everything is perfect. However there is a huge world just on the outside that is hurting and is lost.

I want to encourage you today to sit down with God and wrestle with possible things that the Lord may lead us to sacrifice. While many individuals may believe it to be extremely righteous or noteworthy to sacrifice something as big as serving a month overseas. I also believe that God can be just as or even more pleased with making sacrifices in the little things in life. It could be something simple like deciding to make a call to someone you know maybe experiencing tough times, or even sacrificing some time out of your day to pray for individuals you have never met on the opposite side of the world. Be Blessed!

A Letter to Charlie Sheen

There has been much media attention regarding Charlie Sheen. In this article, a writer attempt to help Charlie Sheen. She explains to him that he does need help and that there are people that would be more than willing to help him. One of the people that she mentions is the highly controversial pastor, Rob Bell. She thinks that Bell could give good insight to Sheen (this could be debatable). The other person that she mentions is Franklin Graham, who like Sheen has dealt with addictions in his lifetime as well. She also points out that Sheen needs to step it up for the sake of his kids and be a good dad without having two girlfriends that live with him. She ends the letter by stating that she is rooting for him and that she wants him to get help and come back to being the hilarious actor we all know and love.

The letter written to Sheen is a decent letter stating concern for his well-being. The letter got me thinking about the book that I have been reading "Hurt People Hurt People" by Sandra Wilson. It is clear from all the interviews that have been conducted with Sheen that he has a lot of issues. I think it would be safe to say that he has been hurt many times in his lifetime and has been dealing with his hurt with drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes. And in turn he has hurt many people (three divorces, "2 1/2 Men being cancelled", and his family that he has pushed away). This letter also got me thinking about how counselors should help people like Sheen. I think this would be a very difficult client to help in a counseling relationship. I think the only way to reach a person like this would be to show them the love of Christ in every area and show the power of redemption that God offers to everyone. I hope that Sheen does get help and that he does turn his life around before it's too late.

Listen To Your Heart....

In class we talked about a lot of the aspects of the Heart, such as it's intellectual, emotional, volitional, or spiritual life. In reviewing the notes regarding this topic, I think of a lot of the secular world's wisdom regarding the heart. Some, such as Roxette's song Listen to Your Heart, would advise you to follow the desires and leading of your "Heart." Roxette advises you to "listen to your heart" and to follow what it entails, particular in the realm of love. I am sure that she is not referring to the organ, as that would require a stethoscope, a rather pricey piece of medical equipment that simply would not make a flattering song. Instead, she uses the metaphorical sense of heart to refer to emotions.

And in doing this, I think Roxette captures a lot of the error of secular thinking in regards to this issue. As Jeremiah 17:9 suggest, the heart (or feelings in this case) can be deceitful. How often have individuals made decisions based upon how they felt in the moment? Perhaps, Roxette's feelings towards "him" as he says goodbye, are not really bad, but a result of terrible double-fried burrito she had for lunch. As Dr. Corsini once discussed, how often do Christians base their relationship with God on how they feel? Once again, probably a result of that double-fired burrito. Which I do not say to belittle feelings, but to acknowledge the fact that they must be challenged against rationality and truth.

Brain Waives, Cursors, and Microchips...

In the article, BrainGate Neural Interface System Reaches 1,000 Day Performance milestone, observes the effectiveness and longevity of the BrainGate implant that was placed inside of a paralyzed woman. This implant gave the woman the ability to move a cursor through the thoughts of her mind. She was able to guide the cursor, as well as to click small targets. Of particular note, was the fact that it is continuing to work after 1,000 days after being implanted. However, it was also noted that the chip was not performing with the same accuracy as it was once before.

What is interesting about this article to me is the fact that scientist are beginning to accurately capture and record the material aspect of the mind. This leads to me wonder how far can mankind go in progressing in this field. Particularly, what lines can be drawn in our understanding of immaterial and material, if thoughts, feelings, and actions are reduced to a neuron-pattern that can be systematically mapped. However, what I am more curious about is whether or not further studies of the brain will demonstrate a pattern in the waves or thought of the depraved mind (Rom. 1:28). Or will mature Christians demonstrate a change of thinking that is not only demonstrated in their lifestyle but also in a physical way (neuron-patterns)? These are interesting questions to me that I hope are answered in the near future.

Meet Monty--Yale's Therapy Dog

Yale Law School has made a new addition to their library. His name is Monty and he can now be checked out for 30 minutes intervals by those oh-so-stressed out Yale Law students who are looking for a little bit of therapy. According to the article in the NY Times, dog therapy has been well documents to increase happiness, calmness, as well as general emotional well-being.

As expected, some students are hesitant as to how it will help them deal with their anxiety that goes along with going to Yale, but that does not mean they will not check Monty out for half an hour.

This article made me smile. I have read that horses are useful in therapy, but I have not heard that dogs are. It does not surprise me.

When you look at it, what exactly does a dog offer that is essential to the counseling relationship? Perhaps Rogers’ unconditional positive regard? Exactly. They love you no matter what and don’t care what kind of baggage you bring to the table. Perfect.

If the research tells us that something like this is effective, why not implement this relatively inexpensive form of technique to students at Liberty? What would you think if the next time you walked into the library to see Liberty’s own little Monty staring up at you with a wagging tail? I’d put my books down and take the little guy for a walk.

It is Real, But It's Not Truth

This is an interview of a church called Westboro Baptist Church. This is a church that focuses on the hate of God and how God is against sin. This church protests military funerals, Israel, gays and anyone that is against their view point. They think that God's judgment is more important than His love.

The reason I choose this is because in class we talked about how just because something is real does not mean it's truth. This is a great example of how a thread of truth can be so dangerous. This group understands God's judgment which is a real thing, but they take away His love which makes God sometime that is not God at all. They are giving non-Christians reasons to stay away from Christianity which is a dangerous thing.

As Christian Counselors we are called to know the truth and lead our clients to Christ and not away from Him. Our responsibility is to know about the person of Christ and the truths that are found in God's word. If we do not know about Christ, how can we lead others to Him? We must show God's love to our clients and not just His judgment because we are not just called to show them their sin, but inspire them to change into God's image.

Let's Talk

I recently saw an informational video discussing different ways Americans talk depending on where they are from. The video discusses some characteristics of speech from Kentucky, Ohio, and Texas. It talks about how those in Kentucky tend to wait before getting down to the point of what they need to talk to someone about. It also showed the southern accent characterized by those from Kentucky. When looking at Ohio, some people discussed the fact that they have no accent. The communication is more direct and at a faster pace than that of Kentucky. In Texas, they talked about how people were constantly wanting to talk to each other. The language they demonstrated was very direct and matter of fact. It was also characterized by the typical Texan drawl. The video is very in interesting in how it demonstrates the differences in communication patterns in people from different places within the United States of America. It is a very interesting phenomenon that those within the States have different forms of communication.
This may seem like an odd subject for this course, but just as those in America have different forms of communication depending on where they are from, each counselor has a different approach to the counseling setting that is influenced by their background. We have read many different books in this class and each of these authors have a different perspective on what causes psychological dysfunction and how to help heal those dysfunctions. These perspectives come from the experiences the authors have had in their life and based off what they have seen in the counseling setting. None of the authors we have been reading are necessarily wrong, and this is what we are learning. Each of these theories we have been reading about this semester can be used to approach counseling with unique individuals whose own experiences affect how they view and respond to circumstances surrounding them. What may help one person who is experiencing depression, may not help another person dealing with depression. It is through learning different theories of development, the source of problems, and how to help those overcome the problem.
I at first was very confused as to why we had to read so many different theories on Christian counseling. I agreed for the most part with what the authors were saying, however, not to the extent the author was trying to suggest their theory could be used. Then it began to dawn on me that we are learning different ways to handle problems because we are unique individuals who, because of our past experiences, have different perspectives. By learning how to approach counseling from different perspectives, we learn how to approach counseling from the unique perspectives of each client. My past experiences help me to understand this to a greater extent. My family moved from Kentucky into Ohio many, many years ago. To this day, my family still holds some forms of communication through the words we choose to use that shows the difference between my upbringing in Kentucky and Ohio. I understand that we all have different ways we communicate and look at the world around us. In counseling, I must see the world through the clients eyes, something I may consider insignificant, may be very significant to my client. This is one of the main things I am learning this semester.

Moving Beyond the Pain
Hurt people, hurt people is a profound statement; but in actuality, it is a statement that should be reflected upon for most of us. The author of this article says that if a person has been hurt by another, they are more likely to display hurtful actions unto others. Sandra Wilson, the author of Hurt People Hurt People mentions the same principle. Feelings can be irrational, but they should be acknowledged in order to move on from the bondage of that particular feeling.
God wants His children to depend fully on Him. People who have been hurt by others can experience peace against their pain and hurt by taking it to God. Forgiveness is a huge component of moving past the pain that is felt. And time needs to be considered for the client because everyone's period of grieving is different.
In class we mentioned that counselors should show empathy and compassion on the client by not shoving scripture down the client's throat. Counselors should be aware of how their client is feeling and allow that feeling and emotion to be expressed inside the counseling session. By working through the issue, the client will be more susceptible to take it to God in order to move on. Everyone has the power to respond to hurt in a healthy way and it needs to be the counselor's responsibility to have an understanding on each client and the situation.

Homosexuality and the Church

In his blog post What should be the Attitude of the Church toward Homosexuals and Homosexuality, the author makes two points clear. First, Christians are called to flee homosexuality and its practices (see Romans 1:26,27; Deut. 23:17,18; Rev. 22:14,15). Such conduct should not be permitted in the body of Christ and must be dealt with swiftly if repentance does not happen. However, if a Christian does fall and repent, then full restoration should take place (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Second, the blogger makes a great point; though the church is to abstain from homosexuality, this does not mean non-Christian homosexuals should be shunned. Instead the fine line between loving the sinner and hating the sin must be walked.

I agree with this blogger: if one is going to name and name of Christ, then he or she must also be willing to be held accountable by the church body. The same must happen with other sins as well - like heterosexual sins, divorce, etc. Concerning non-Christians, however, we have done a pretty poor job of conveying Christ's love. We have fumbled to ball when it comes to disagreeing with yet loving those also made in the image of God. (My goal is not to beat up the church because she's horribly broken, but rather, to point out one of her weaknesses that needs to be worked on.) My point is simple; as the visible hands and feet of Christ we must learn how to reach out to those with whom we disagree and practice our Savior's compassion and love.

Japan: What An Opportunity
No one is ever prepared for what happened in Japan a few weeks ago. However, when hard times come it is a great time for those who can to show the love of Christ to hurting people. The story is about the Red Cross and their work over in Japan during this tragedy. In this article it talked about how this people have been prepared how to deal with earthquakes their whole lives, but they were not prepared to handle something of this proportion.

As counselors we are the people that are able to go and show God's love during these circumstances. We must be willing to go to the people that are hurting and point them to Christ while helping them through the hard times. As Larry Crabb shows in his book Connecting, people need others and share deep community to be able to tackle the things in life that come their way. During times like these, people do not need a diagnosis they need a cure, and that cure is only found through the love of Christ. As Christian counselors we have the responsibility to give them that love. All the knowledge in all the world without love is useless. We must act out that love through the way we live, if the knowledge we gain is to change anyone's life. This article showed me the importance of living out my faith, and I pray it reminds you as well.

Mind Control

"Use your head!" You've probably heard this explained by an exasperated mother rin the checkout line or an annoyed friend at the mall. The assumption is that the angry person wants the recipient of their annoyance to think instead of mindlessly going through the motions. But what exactly does that mean? How does this work? Is one supposed to snap into action and use their brain or their mind? And does this discussion really even matter? (I think you'll find that it can have tremendous implications for the counseling field."

In the article The Difference Between Brain and Mind, the blogger seeks to bring some clarity to the disparity between one's brain and one's mind. The analogy used is that of hardware and software on a computer. The brain is similar to the hardware, which contains the software that allows the computer to function. Though there may often be an overlap of which does what, there is still a clear distinction between the two. Though simplistic, the point is clear; the brain is a tool that houses the mind, and the mind is the seat of one's consciousness and volition.

But how does this apply to counseling and why is it important? I believe this distinction is invaluable when practicing various cognitive techniques. For example suppose a client struggles with negative self-talk every day from sun up to sun down. One reasonable technique is to help the client learn how to counter these negative thoughts with more realistic, positive truths. However, there may come a point when the client simply gets lost in the battle of ideas and needs more help. This is where I think it can be helpful for a client to recognize the important distinction between brain and mind. Just because their brain is busy bringing up practiced condemnations and learned negative thoughts it does not mean their mind must join in. Their mind can simply observe the thoughts and emotions that the brain is producing. Live a river flowing by, so is the stuff the brain produces. The mind, on the other hand, is able to pick and choose what exactly it will or will not pluck out of the stream to examine and believer.

Helping the Unsaved

This song, Tears of the saints is from a Christian band called Leeland. It is a song that talks about how the earth is full of unsaved people,who need the help of Christians. How the saved need to help the unsaved. Describes the desperate need that the people are undergoing and we Chrisitans should reach out, take action at this instance.

This week in class, we talked about 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 as a part of our class discussion. The main topic of the discussion was talking about unsaved man's mind. Although the scripture began to give more questions while we discussed the scripture. Is it only the unsaved man's mind blinded? Can the saved mind become blinded? I am not sure if there are definite answer to these questions, but one things that I have realized is that just like the song, Christians have to help the unsaved, blinded, troubled people to reach out their hands to God. The unsaved are desperately looking for people who can help to hold their hands, who can lead them to the comfort, the satisfaction of their hearts.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Internal War...Literally

Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has abused his powers and oppressed his people for years. Libya has been under Gaddafi leadership since March of 1969. Labeled as a dictator during his early years, Gaddafi made it known that death would follow each person whom attempts to constructs a political party. Furthermore, a banned was placed on conversing with foreigners. If caught, the offender could possibly serve jail time, a minimum of three years! To ensure communication was limited, Gaddafi selfish antics went as far as removing foreign languages from the school systems.
Recently, Gaddafi has been placed on the radar for his threatening and ignorant comments. Comments such as, “thousands of Libyan’s will die, if western forces intervene”. Since the beginning of March, Gaddafi has ordered bombs to be dropped on certain towns in his own country! He has demanded that protesters stop what they are doing or he will continue to have people killed. In Dr. Sandra Wilson book, Hurt People, Hurt People, she devotes an entire chapter to healing for those that have been hurt by leaders. She believes that leaders have a significant effect on those people who are placed under their supervision. Therefore, in order to be an effective leader, the trust of his country must be attained. It is clear that he has abused innocent people. Dr. Wilson stated in her book that when a person is hurt he or she will be less likely to follow anyone else due to the skewed perception of the formal leader (Gaddafi).

It is difficult to comprehend a “leader” ordering attacks on his very country. This so called leader has oppressed his people for years and now that they are prepared to stand up to him, his only option is to kill them until they stop? It goes without saying that Gaddafi is hurting. However, my concern is with those hurting people of Libya. In America, President Obama is our leader. The thought of him bombing any area of the United States is beyond what most Americans can comprehend. It is inevitable that leaders are needed. In fact, in order for future generations to become effective leaders, they must have someone who has lead before them. As a result of this prime example of ineffective leading, Gaddafi has loss control over the eastern half of Libya. I predict that his control will continue to decrease once the hurting people of Libya come together collectively to stand against him and become aware of their self-worth.

When little Hurt People attempt to Hurt bigger People Goes Wrong

What you have just viewed is scary for anyone to view numerous times. This video shows what appears to be an innocent pre-teen being bullied by a peer. Throughout grade school, most of us have either experienced or witnessed bullying of some sort. Bullying has become an everyday hobby for some kids. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 160,000 are absent from school each day for fear of encountering a bully. Here in America, 2.1 million bullies are enrolled in school and 2.7 million are labeled victims. If we break these numbers down further, it yields, 1 out of 7 students are either a bully or a victim.

Dr. Sandra Wilson wrote a book entitled, Hurt People, Hurt People. Although it is a rather catchy phase, those four words hold more truth than one could imagine. In this video clip, it is clear to see that the phrase is applicable to both students. For the sake of the blog, I will refer to the smaller boy as “Mini Me” and the bigger boy as “Mikey”. According to the book (Chapter 6), Wilson provides three questions that every human asks and answers repeatedly: Can I Be Safe, Can I Be Me, and Can I Be Accepted? The response to the first question typically involves trust. As we mature learning to trust others can be detrimental to our social development. In regards to the second question, the “show” and “tell” factor is presented. The basic premise I child being able to be themselves without judgment being passed. The final question simply searches for acceptance which is an innate characteristic of all humans.

Without a doubt, Mini Me has issues that could stem from several places (i.e home, school, church). Because he is hurting, he feels the need to hurt others. In turn, this behavior could potentially make his pain temporarily go away. On the other hand, Mikey is a victim in this situation. His motivation to hurt someone else was out of fear and self-defense, however, this does not excuse his behavior. Instead, Dr. Wilson presents a simple two-step process. This equation is New Choices plus Consistent Practice, yields Change! It is the responsibly of those around both young men to ensure that better choices are made and that a change in there thinking pattern is achieved. I fear that if changes do not happen, next time a “Mini Me” will be dead, while a “Micky” is incarcerated.