Arise America

This is a poem written from my heart, the heart of a freedom loving patriot:

Arise America
Wake from your sleep
The winds of change
All around you they beat
“This is the new norm”
Now they cry
While you lay quietly
Fearing the lie
This is not a new norm
But one of old
A norm that controls you
One that is so bold
To think it knows
Better than you
What is good for your life
And what you should do
Your freedoms are dying
One by one
Not by a virus
But by restriction
You have been told to fear
You believe it true
But what you should fear
Has been lied to you
Arise America
Wake from your sleep
Find your voice
From falsehood keep
Remember your rights
Remember them well
Before they are gone
And you know not what befell

 

Jumping Off the Cliff

My mom always taught me to ask why.  She taught me to never just accept anything until I had read it or looked into it myself, not from pastors, not from teachers, not from anyone.  Indeed, I have often reflected on I Thessalonians 5:21 (ESV) which says, “Test everything”, and I have done just that in my own life.  I test everything.  I ask questions and think.  I examine what is going on in the present asking questions of the past and reviewing what is known in God’s Word.  The following is a narrative of what I have determined as a result.

The problem with humankind is that the nature of man has not changed since the Fall of Adam.  Sin is still an ever-present force in how a person thinks and how a person behaves.  Man is wicked, and the heart of man not to be trusted (cf. Jeremiah 17:9).  All have sinned (cf. Romans 3:23), and there are none that seek God (cf. Romans 3:11).  Not until one has been regenerated by faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross will this change (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9).

Another problem with humankind is that people are not scholars of human history.  They do not learn from what has happened before.  They do not look into the past for insight into today.  History is rich with wisdom if only we would look into it.  However, most people are “bored” with history and do not think that it is relevant to their own lives.  As a result, they do not realize that history does indeed tend to repeat itself.

So it is no surprise to me that many people do not ask questions.  They tend to blindly trust their fellow man, people who have gotten themselves into some type of leadership or positioned themselves as an expert.  Those leaders and experts tell people to jump.  The people respond, “How high?”, never realizing they’ve been told to jump of a cliff.  They just jump often to their own demise.

You see, people are power hungry.  You know it; I know it.  We have evidence of this all around us.  Being power hungry is part of our sin nature, and it remains unchecked until we are regenerated through Christ.  Even after coming to Christ, people still struggle with power and control.  We want to be the boss of our lives, and we want other people to do what we think they should.  It is a daily battle which some might simply call selfishness.  For any human on the face of this earth to say they do not struggle with wanting some power and control in their lives would be a lie.  We are all selfish.  It is a sin that we must kill daily.

I can tell you that I have often observed that people in authority can be particularly power hungry to the point of almost seeming consumed by it.  They may not have started out that way at first.  They may have started out with the best of intentions, but give them a little taste of power over other people, and bam!  The maintenance of that power becomes a commanding force!  Famous historian, Lord Acton, wrote in a letter in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”  How true that is still today!

Even right now the general populace believes that if a leader or government official tells you to do something, this official is doing it for the good of the people.  I challenge the populace to look back through history.  How often have leaders and governments and people in authority done things for the right reasons?  What if entire people groups could come back from the grave to provide insight?  Ask the Jews under Pharaoh, most of the kings of Israel, and under Hitler.  As the early Christians under the Roman government.  Ask the Cubans under Castro.  Ask the Russians and Chinese under basically every government leader they have had.  Ask the Europeans under centuries of monarchs.  Ask the Africans under all the different types of regimes they have been under.  Ask the children that worked 14 hours days during the Industrial Revolution.  Ask the slaves on the cotton plantations.  I am most certain you can immediately think of other oppressed peoples throughout history.  You do not have to look far back into history at all to discover that there are many bad people who have done bad things to others for nefarious reasons including power and control.

Just looking at the here and now, not thinking about the nature of man since the Fall and the history of this sinful world, you may think that there is no way a person in leadership would take drastic measures to gain and maintain power and control.  However, the nature of man and the patterns of history suggest otherwise.  You may think that so-called experts have your best interests at heart.  However, you have underestimated the power and draw of money and power and prestige and being looked at as an authority.  You have underestimated the pull of the sin nature.  Ultimately, you have underestimated the intent of the principalities and powers of this world (cf. Ephesians 6) in the war for your soul and for supremacy.

What has been will be again because most people are willing to blindly jump off the cliff without questioning why.

The Place Where all the Unhappy People Are

After spending about an hour at the grocery store today, I think I’ve determined that might be where all the unhappy people are.  Not one single person smiled at me…well, some of them I couldn’t tell if they were smiling because they had masks on.  I digress.

Being a psychologist, I naturally enjoy performing little social experiments.  One of this is seeing how many people I can get to smile at me at the grocery store.  Often, I see the most amazing smiles from people.  Often, it is like no one has smiled at them in a long time, so it brings refreshment to their souls, and they reciprocate.

Today was the first day no one responded.  The woman with her daughter that I bumped into two times…nothing.  The old lady in the canned vegetable aisle.  No response.  The gentlemen, who actually probably knew who I was from our previous church but just didn’t remember me, not a single gleam of his pearly whites.

Instead, the response I got was one of seeming paranoia…like I was the great imagined evil there to spread droplets of virus into their space.  I was a threat.  I was a foe.  I was someone to be avoided.  No smiles allowed.

I understand their response in a way.  They’ve been told loud enough, and they’ve been told long enough, that there is a big bad wolf out there waiting to devour them.  They are afraid of something that has not yet happened to them but is surely to come to them, or so they believe.

Joy and happiness have been robbed replaced with fear and paranoia.  Their lives are being controlled by mere humans they have voted into office.  Their lives are being controlled by guessing games and misinformation all in the name of science and protection.  Once free people are now held captive by their own fears and by their own government.  It’s sad really.

God created us for relationship.  When you are forced to be socially distanced from others, isolated, told that people are the enemy because they might be a carrier, you are going to be unhappy.  I know where all the unhappy people are.  They are in every nook and cranny of our society right now.

Emerge my friends.  Emerge out of your fears and panic.  Emerge out of the distance that has been placed between us.  Live, laugh, and love.  To not do so will destroy you and thie country worse than any virus can.

Why are People so Afraid?

Why are people so afraid?  It is a very simple answer.  Most people these days are afraid because they choose to be.  (I said most, not all as I know there are certainly extenuating circumstances that can influence these things.)  People are afraid because with every cough, sneeze, and sniffle, they believe they have some life altering illness.  They flock to doctors’ offices with symptoms that this time last year they would have simply treated with at home remedies and over-the-counter medications.  People are afraid because they have bought in to the mass hysteria incited by a media that focuses on the negative.  If it weren’t the coronavirus, it would be something else.  Anytime you focus only on negative things, you will find yourself living in fear, worry, and dread.

People don’t like hearing they are responsible for their emotions.  However, Scripture clearly tells us that what we focus on will become what we are.  What is in our heart will be what comes out of our mouth (cf. Luke 6:45 ESV).  If you are constantly consuming negative, panic-inducing information, you will be panicked.  You will not think clearly.  You will feel the way you think.  You then will act in ways that you might not normally have behaved had you not focused your thinking in such a negative manner.

Believers are instructed not to focus on the negative.  Indeed, we are instructed in Philippians 4:8 (ESV) quite to the contrary:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Why are people so afraid?  They choose to be.  They choose to think about things that are not true.  They choose to think about things that are not honorable.  They choose to think about things that are not just.  They choose to think about things that are not pure.  They choose to think about things that are not lovely.  They choose to think about things that are not commendable.  They choose to think about things that are not excellent.  They choose to think about things that are not worthy of praise.

So what are you thinking about?  What are you feeding your mind with?  What you think about will be how you feel and then how you behave.  It’s your choice!

Faith Not Fear

What has happened in our country, indeed in most of the world, may have surprised many of us.   However, it has not surprised God.  God has a plan and a purpose for everything that happens.

A lot has changed.  Some pills have been harder to swallow than others.  Still, there are silver linings to everything.  There are things that are working out for our good.  For me personally, I have more time to relax with my family.  I’ve been able to write more.  I haven’t felt nearly as stressed out as when I had a lot more on my plate.  I’ve been able to just chill and watch historical dramas with my husband.  I’ve been able to read my Bible for longer periods of time.  I do not feel an urgency to fit everything into my day.

I don’t know how long this will last, but I do know that God works out all things for the good of those He has called (cf. Romans 8:28) and for His glory (cf. Isaiah 48:9-11; Ephesians 1:4-6).

Faith, not fear, is the response we need.  God has this!

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36 English Standard Version).

 

Train Your Brain: Always be Learning

For several years I have been joking with my children that their impulsivity and bad decision-making is because their frontal lobe is not fully developed.   Anytime they did something that perhaps was not so very wise, I would remind them of this.  The fact is, this wasn’t really a joke at all!

Your prefrontal cortex is part of the frontal lobe of your brain.  Your frontal lobe is responsible for all sorts of things like decision-making and planning, reasoning, personality, social skills, recognizing and regulating emotions, and morality.  The prefrontal cortex is specifically responsible for decision-making, impulsivity, attention, and emotional regulation. This part of your brain does not fully develop until you are in your early twenties.

This slow development of the prefrontal cortex can cause children, teens, and even young adults to make all sorts of bad decisions.  If you are a parent, you probably understand this quite well.  Sleep deprivation and substance use make the problem even worse.  Thus, it is very important to do things that nurture and develop the functioning of the frontal lobe.  Essentially, you have to proactively train the brain!

Believe it or not, training the brain involves regular workouts.  I’m not talking physical workout here but mental workouts.  While regular physical activity is great for the brain, purposeful mental workouts are of utmost importance.  If kids would start training their brains when they are young, this would help improve the functioning of their prefrontal cortex as they age.  Kids aren’t the only ones who can see results from mental workouts though.  Adults can keep their brains in shape too.

What workouts improve the fitness of the prefrontal cortex?  Any activity where you have to evaluate alternatives, make decisions, or solve problems are helpful.  Rather than sitting on the couch engaging in mind-numbing passive behaviors, you need to get out there and do some things that require you to think and to learn.  In other words, always be learning.  Be proactive.  Be purposeful.

What are some ways to train the brain?  Take interesting and challenging classes.  Engage in social interactions.  Play games that involve thinking and strategizing.  Identify interesting problems and work to solve them.  Build and create things.  Play a sport. Read a book.  It does not matter how young or old you are.  You can improve the efficiency of your frontal lobe at any age!  So what are you waiting for?  Train your brain!

 

Common Cognitive Errors

There are seven common cognitive errors in which individuals engage particularly when they are under stress or faced with difficult situations.  I have included these cognitive errors in a chart below.   While these errors can be present in a large number of situations, I thought sharing these here at this moment in time might be beneficial to those who are in a current state of lock-down in this country as you do not want to approach any situation based on erroneous thinking.  The following chart is copied in a modified form from Trafton, Gordon, and Misra (2019, p. 82).

 

Thinking Error Description
Overgeneralization Assuming that the outcome from a specific event or situation will occur in a large range of situations.
Catastrophizing Focusing only on the worst, most extreme possibility regardless of how likely it is to occur.
All-or-None Thinking Focusing on only the extreme “best” or “worst” of a situation without regard to the full range of alternatives.
Jumping to Conclusion Interpreting a situation with limited information and without a rational evaluation of its likelihood.
Selective Attention Selectively attending to negative aspects of a situation while ignoring any positive aspects.
Negative Predictions Assuming the worst will happen in a situation.
Mind Reading Assuming what people are thinking instead of finding out what they are really thinking.

In times of stress, it can be easy to revert to maladaptive forms of thinking.  How many of these cognitive errors have you been guilty of lately?  Maybe it is time to renew your mind.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 English Standard Version).

 

Reference

Trafton, J. A., Gordon, W. P., & Misra, S. (2019).  Training your brain to adopt healthful habits: Mastering the five brain challenges (3rd ed.).  Los Altos, CA: Institute for Brain Potential.

 

Dirty Little Secrets of Home Schooling

Within the past few weeks, we have very nearly become a nation of those who now school at home.  As a mom that has schooled my children at home and now fully home schools on my own, the very thing I have at times been ridiculed or criticized for as abnormal or weird has now become the norm.  What I have done by choice, people now are doing by force.  I am certain what these individuals are about to discover is not something they would have ever thought possible.  You see, schooling at home has some dirty little secrets!

First, what people are likely noticing is that it’s not as hard as they thought.  They have a curriculum that is laid out already for them, there ready to go.  Their kids are still learning from a teacher or teachers while still getting to be at home with their families.

In addition, school doesn’t take nearly as long as they thought it did.  While their kids are away for several hours at a brick and mortar school, kids that are schooled at home do not have to spend nearly as much wasted time.  There are no long bus trips, no wasted periods, and no squandered time waiting for others to catch up.  Students can focus on their tasks and be done, moving on to other things that perhaps they find more interesting, developing new skills, or spending time with their families.  This leads me to my third point.

Schooling at home provides more quality family time.  If it is true that the average family spends about 37 minutes of quality time a day together, then it’s likely these newly schooling at home families aren’t quite sure what to do with all this extra time they have with their children.  They need to see this as an opportunity unlike no other!  I mean, God gave them children for a reason, and now they get to spend time with them.  They get to know their children better.  They get to deepen their relationship with their children as individuals.  They get to learn and explore new things together.  They get to see how their children learn.  Parents get to share their wisdom and knowledge with the next generation.  Do people realize how strong a family unit can grow by simply spending this quality time together?

Another consideration has to do with the number one argument against schooling at home that I have heard from people:  I don’t know enough to school my child at home.  These parents are about to face a miraculous discovery:  they don’t have to “know enough”.  Especially in a schooling at home scenario, the work has been done for you!  Not only that, parents actually know more than they think.  As parents review what their children are learning, parents will discover it’s not some great mystery which only college graduates can dispense.  Parents themselves are very capable of guiding their children’s learning in a meaningful direction, especially when there are so many resources available these days.

Additionally, parents that are schooling at home are likely discovering their children are a bit more well-rested.  They are not having to live according to someone else’s schedule.  They have a bit of freedom and can get some good, quality sleep because they don’t have to get up early to catch a bus or get to school on time.  That extra hour or two of sleep can work wonders on a young mind!

Finally, and I think this is perhaps the dirtiest little secret of home schooling, schooling at home is fun!   I can’t tell you all the times I have sat at the dining room table with my children just laughing…laughing at some irony we discovered in the curriculum or some humorous observation one of my kids made about the topic we were addressing.  Kids are fun.  They remind you not to take life so seriously.  Kids can help adults take it down a peg and relax a bit.  Kids remind you what life is all about.  Who doesn’t need a little more of that in their lives?

I think it’s quite possible that these dirty little secrets of home schooling are being revealed amidst this national crisis!  The word is getting out, and people are getting to experience it for themselves just how awesome schooling at home can be!

 

 

Treatise on Crowd and Mass Behavior

Some of you may know who I am but not really know much about me.  I do not often share about my background.  I do not like to brag because what I have been given in terms of my education and knowledge has been given to me by the grace of God.  However, I do want to share important information that I think people should know and not just from a layperson’s perspective.  For this reason, I am giving you my credentials so that you know I am coming from a professional background.  To that end, I have a PhD in Psychology, a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling, and a Bachelor of Science in Clinical/Experimental Psychology.  I have been in the mental health field as a clinician, researcher, and academician for over 23 years.  With that laid out before you and out of the way, I want to extend a brief primer related to the topic of crowd and mass behavior which I simply request you think about in light of what is going on in society today.  I am not going to tell you what to believe.  I simply what you to think for yourself.

  1. Masses are thought to be incapable of thinking on their own, thus require the intervention of those more powerful and wiser than they.
  2. People who have been incited by fear and panic can lose their individual thinking capabilities, following ideologies they might not have once considered. For a prime example, study the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party.
  3. Collective behavior is structured and predictable, and even when appearing to be irrational, can be incited by agents of social control who often have a very different end goal in mind than what the collective believe to be true.
  4. Crowds by their very nature can take on a contagious, frenzied mindset which can stir up otherwise sane people into irrational behavior. This stems from the comfort that comes from belonging to the group or thinking you are part of something. In other words, there is a sort of “strength in numbers” even if the numbers are behaving like lunatics.
  5. Mass hysteria results when people are frightened by an assumed or contrived event. People can even begin to imagine the symptoms they have been told to fear.
  6. In a panic, people become afraid of something that will impact the general well-being of society. This type of panic generally purposefully occurs because a certain group of people have decided they want to redirect society’s moral values.
  7. The media is a powerful influencer in society and can impact social order, transforming the thinking of average citizens to conform to what they want it to be. To understand this better, examine the use of media by Hitler in how he got people to do what he wanted them to do and how media is used to control people in communist governments.

I close with some wisdom from Scripture:

“The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15 ESV).

“…so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16b ESV).

“Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7 ESV).

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV).

Why are We so Afraid to Live?

So many people these days seem to be afraid to live.  They are told there is a corona-virus pandemic, so they panic, store up a bunch of food and supplied, and stay hold up in their homes.  There is a lion in the streets, so they turn in their bed, ignoring the world around them.  The big bad wolf is coming, so they hide in all sorts of structures hoping to keep him from eating them up.  The sky is falling, so everyone comes up with their own ideas about what everyone should do to protect themselves.  School gets canceled.  Sports get canceled.  Stores shut down.  Socialization and interaction decrease if not stop altogether.  People watch the world through little screens in the comfort of their own homes believing they are being protected from a scary virus not realizing what the real enemy is: fear.  People have become afraid to live.

The true irony is that people are afraid to live because they are afraid to die.  The fear is so strong that it cannot be overcome by rationality.  It is as if normally sane people have become mad.  People this afraid are very easy to control.

The real answers will not be found in the government dictating what we can and cannot do.  Government control will only intensify the fear.  Put the people in a panic, and they will do whatever you want them to.  There is a wealth of history that shows us what is the end result of this ideology!  (Do the words “Heil Hitler!” ring a bell?)

The real answer is found in understanding that there is a sovereign God who is in control of this world!  All things that happen fall under His direction and His will and are for His glory.

There are many false things in this world.  There are many versions of what is “true”.  What is real though is that Jesus Christ is God, and He is greater than anything that can happen in this world.  If you know God, you know the truth.  If you know God, you will not be pulled around by the nose rings by fearmongering, panic, and the general craziness of this world system.  If you know God, you will know truth and love and the balm of healing these provide in a time where unrest and panic abound.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (I John 4:18 English Standard Version).  Everyone is afraid because they do not know the source of true love.  They do not know the source of eternal life:  God.  Without knowing God, they will die in their trespasses and sins.

Why is everyone so afraid to live?  It is because they ultimately are afraid of the final punishment: death.