The Marshmallow Test

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

Marshmallow

They call it the marshmallow test. Researchers at Stanford University ran a test in the 1960s. A researcher would say to four-year-olds: ‘I am leaving for a few minutes to run an errand, and you can have this marshmallow while I am gone, but if you wait until I return, you can have two marshmallows.’

A dozen years later, the researchers restudied the same children and found that those who’d grabbed the single marshmallow tended to be more troubled as adolescents, and they scored an average of 210 points less on SAT tests.

We teach our children to say their ABC’s, to say please and thank you, their Bible verses, hymns, and how to tie their shoes and all these are great things. But never underestimate the value of instilling self-control and delayed gratification.

Self control and delayed gratification are often missing in our training. Usually we fail because we lean on our own power. Remember, self-control is a fruit of the spirit so if you truly seek to operate under the power of the Holy Spirit, self control will be evident in your life.

Steve Arterburn

‘What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.’ – Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

The Art of Acceptance

The Art of Acceptance

Come to terms with God and be at peace;  in this way good will come to you. - Job 22:21 HCSB

artofacceptance.newlife

Sometimes, we must accept life on its terms, not our own. Life has a way of unfolding, not as we will, but as it will. And sometimes, there is precious little we can do to change things.

When events transpire that are beyond our control, we have a choice: we can either learn the art of acceptance, or we can make ourselves miserable as we struggle to change the unchangeable.

We must entrust the things we cannot change to God. Once we have done so, we can prayerfully and faithfully tackle the important work that He has placed before us: doing something about the things we can change . . . and doing it sooner rather than later.

Can you summon the courage and the wisdom to accept life on its own terms? If so, you’ll most certainly be rewarded for your good judgment.

Surrender to the Lord is not a tremendous sacrifice, not an agonizing performance. It is the most sensible thing you can do.   ~Corrie Ten Boom

He does not need to transplant us into a different field. He transforms the very things that were before our greatest hindrances, into the chief and most blessed means of our growth. No difficulties in your case can baffle Him. Put yourself absolutely into His hands, and let Him have His own way with you.   ~Elisabeth Elliot

Ultimately things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.   ~Barbara Johnson

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, the events of this world unfold according to a plan that I cannot fully understand. But You understand. Help me to trust You, Lord, even when I am grieving. Help me to trust You even when I am confused. Today, in whatever circumstances I find myself, let me trust Your will and accept Your love . . . completely. Amen

God is in Control

God Is In Control

And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory. – Isaiah 6:3

godincontrol.newlifeDid you know there is now a modern day version of the Golden Rule? It says that “He who has the gold sets the rules”.

Who sets the rules for you? Your supervisor? The company president? The government? Whoever sets the rules has great power. Sometimes we feel like that particular person has too much power and control over our lives. We long to be that person who has the gold and sets the rules.

On the highest level, God is the one who sets the rules and has the greatest power over us. We make choices in life, but He is the ultimate boss. Through the prophet Isaiah, God told us to “maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. Blessed is the man who keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

It’s good to know that God is kind and just. In our daily decisions, we need to follow God’s rules that are found in the Bible. Hopefully, you follow those rules in grateful response to Christ and what He’s done for you, not in an effort to earn your way into heaven.

Sometimes when people around us are flaunting their power, it’s easy to forget who is ultimately in control. I challenge you today to obey God’s rules for your life. Turn your situation over to God. He is in control.

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’ – C. S. Lewis

Anything under God’s control is never out of control. – Chuck Swindoll

10 Ways You Can Overcome Anger

1. One of the key steps to overcoming anger is to identify the object of your anger. Many people who struggle with chronic anger aren’t even sure what they’re angry about. When you identify what you’re angry about you can begin the process of dealing with it.

2. One of the goals of an angry person can be to draw attention to themselves. They often feel that negative attention is better than no attention at all. If you don’t feel loved or needed, this may be a root cause of your anger.

3. Accept the fact that most things in the world are out of your control. If you try to continually control your family, friends or circumstances you will find the result frustrating.

4. The root of your anger may lie in a lack of forgiveness. If you’ve never forgiven someone who’s hurt you, you’re caught in a vicious trap that will ultimately destroy you.

5. Many who struggle with anger hate themselves. Self-hatred can be used as a tool to control your emotions. You may need to learn new skills to control your emotions in a positive way.

6. You may be angry about things your family or friends have done to you in the past, even decades ago. This is called residual anger. It is possible to resolve this anger and move on with your life, but you must be willing to spend time identifying the root of your problem and choosing to forgive those who have hurt you.

7. There are some legitimate physical causes for anger. If you suspect your problem may be related to a chemical imbalance in your body, be evaluated by a qualified psychiatrist.

8. In truth, no one can “make you angry,” even though they can provoke you. You can control your response to people and circumstances.

9. There is a place for “righteous anger,” when one of God’s principles is violated. Remember, being angry is not a sin, but what we do with our anger may be. Scripture does admonish us to “not let the sun go down on our anger” though. In other words, when you feel angry, it is important to deal with it and move past it as soon as possible.

10. If you or a family member is struggling with anger issues, they’re not likely to go away by themselves. It is necessary to identify the cause of the anger and take proactive steps to resolve it.

What is Your Coping Mechanism: Dread or Hope?

Musee des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
–W.H. Auden, 1940

Limitations. That’s not a word that most of us like to consider. Especially if we are used to being an authority figure, someone in control, independent, pro-active and successful. Yet, sooner or later, we shall all bump into that wall in some form or another: a concrete barrier called health, a stone wall labeled children, a blockade brought on by misfortune, deceit, or crime. Over the years, most of us become conditioned to an electrically charged, invisible fence that marks the borders of our potentiality, and as long as we don’t dare get too close, we believe that we are safe, free, and empowered. Living in America , this is especially significant. It is in our DNA to see open vistas and unlimited horizons, even as we congregate in self-made corrals for safety. After all, if we don’t go to the edge, we are free to believe it does not exist and that there are no limits.

So what happens when, as clinicians or pastors, we meet the clients who are stuck at a roadblock that is just in front of an entrance ramp that could finally lead them down a new road towards a new beginning, and instead of staying on course, following the detours that could lead them in a new direction, they quit? Or worse, they don’t just give up and sit still on the side of the road. No. All too often, they choose to sit in the path of oncoming traffic, under the guise or delusion of hitchhiking? We get slammed. We run right into our limitations as therapists, and get pinned in by our own existential fear of seeing the other’s future unfold because we know all too well their history and life patterns: The battered wife who returns to her abusive husband; the addict who quits rehab, the suicidal person who ends treatment.

What else do we feel in those moments? Dread.

Dread is the inescapable awareness of an outcome that is beyond our own control to prevent yet is inevitable in its onslaught. It differs from horror in that horror stems from those events which are beyond belief—outside the realm of normal expectation. 9/11 was horrific. Watching the Challenger explode was horrific. Everything goes along normally until some cataclysmic or evil event happens. But dread is different. Dread is expected. Dread is when we know that something awful is about to happened, and we are helpless to stop it.

The ancient Greeks understood the power of dread. One can not avoid it in the plays of Sophocles. Oedipus is the anti-hero of the genre spawning children who, also, inherit his doomed fate. For the ancient audiences who gathered at daybreak, they would encounter dread and experience catharsis. If Kings, Queens, and Princesses could not be spared outcomes that they had no control over, then it was comforting, by comparison, for ordinary Spartans and Thebans to deal with their own small burdens. Dread was normalized in a world where faith was a belief in inescapable fate. For Oedipus, Creon, Jocasta, and, even, Antigone…their fate was pre-destined, and no attempt to outwit it, however well intentioned, could thwart it. For the audiences, fully aware of the tales in advance, knowing that the characters’ attempts to seize control of their lives would not work, they learned that dread is an inescapable emotion that must be accepted and acquiesced to. In other words, dread was the emotion that underscored their relationship between the Gods and man. Dread was the precursor emotion that led to accepting humanity’s limitations, and, thus, their own limitations, too.

How different it is for us, today! Especially for those who espouse a more Christian perspective, for the element of free will in relation to a higher being is an essential element in our approach to life. Nowhere can the comparisons be more on display than in the films of Hitchcock. Unlike Sophocles, Hitchcock’s characters are not larger than life Kings and Queens. They are us. The innkeeper, businessman, doctor, or mother. Ordinary people going about ordinary lives who stumble upon some truth that is about to lead to destruction. The genius of Hitchcock was that, although he, too, created characters who realized that they were helpless to change an inevitable, negative outcome, (e.g., The Man who Knew Too Much); nevertheless, he gave them the ability to act, or attempt to act, to thwart it. And, in true Hollywood style, it would work.

In other words, dread was the emotion that the audience felt long before the characters did, but as soon as the characters’ experienced their own self awareness of that dread manifesting, they did not give up. They did not accept fate. They did not acquiesce to destiny. In fact, right to the edge, they attempted to change the outcome, and they succeeded—not with superhuman intelligence or godlike effort but with sheer will power using simple, human touches: a high note, a melody, and a song.

This is catharsis with a twist of hope! This is a paradigm shift that says to humanity, yes, there are limitations, but if one perseveres and keeps struggling, one can change the outcome of one’s life—despite the odds of succeeding. In other words, fate is not a predestined fixed outcome by God; rather, it is a fluid, dynamic process that is determined by the choices each of us makes, even if it comes at the last possible moment.

Herein is the significance for us as clinicians with those clients who confound us. In the midst of experiencing our limitations as therapists, we can bring into it the awareness that the inevitable does not necessarily have to happen. That the dread we may be feeling may be averted at any moment—even if we never get to see it. We may like to think of ourselves as the director, but in reality, we are, merely, the audience to the dramas of our clients, and it is they who, as the actors in their own life stories, can change their roles at any moment to write a new and unexpected ending—or a whole new script! Limitations? Meet the new screenwriter, Free Will. The sequel is called Hope.

© copyright 2010 by Lucia Seyranyan. All rights reserved.

Rebuilding Trust in Marriage

by Bob Damrau

‘Our lives will never be the same,’ voiced my wife as we drove home from our respective 12-Step groups. Then, we looked at each other and smiled with the realization that we wouldn’t have it any other way. Repairing our marriage was not easy, yet the hard work was yielding a sense of connection that neither of us ever thought possible.

When trust is violated by sexual sin, our spouse’s emotions are damaged and those feelings will not heal overnight. Rebuilding trust in a marriage cracked by infidelity (in mind and/or body) requires our full surrender, intentionality, and persistence.

SURRENDER

Our personal relationship with God exemplifies the beginning of building trust. When we surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus we effectively give up control. This is a one-time decision with ongoing ramifications. So, too, surrendering our sexual wills over to God takes place at a particular time (usually when the realization of not being in control hits home), yet the battles are won and godly character is built on a daily basis ‘ sometimes moment by moment.

The defects that once defined me (liar, control freak, manipulator’) have been replaced with a spirit of openness and transparency. When once my wife doubted my sincerity, now she sees me as a changed man disciplined by our Abba Father. Recognizing this sacredness validates our efforts to love and respect one another. But rebuilding trust doesn’t end with simple sincerity because a spouse will also doubt her compulsive husband’s ability to change his long standing behaviors.

INTENTIONALITY

It is a paradox that by giving up our lives we get them back. The hidden blessing of purposefully working through our stuff is that we’ll never be the same, but better and healthier. The same is true of relationships. Have you ever agreed to something before you felt like doing it? When we seek to rebuild trust, we may not feel trust or that we are trustworthy, but we can stay committed to try. This will send a signal to our spouses that we may have what it takes to make the necessary changes.

The ability to make significant personal changes was demonstrated to my wife by following a structured plan of recovery. If you have attended the Every Man’s Battle Workshop you received an outline describing the elements needed for recovery. Put that plan into action then share it with her. Trust and honest communication work hand-in-hand, and as she watches you fulfill your plan she’ll know you have what it takes to get it right.

It is worth noting here that the shame identity at the core of an addict’s belief system can still speak to us. It says, ‘I must hide my true self because no one will accept who I really am.’ This can cause us to withhold information and continue to live the lie. Our wives interpret our isolating behavior to mean we really don’t love them, so keep talking and working the whole plan. Over time you’ll be seen as an able husband.

PERSISTENCE

Willing and able must be calendar tested. Many times when a sexually compulsive person repents of his sin, he expects his partner to trust him immediately. Don’t go there! Consistent behavior over the seasons of life rebuilds trust. In sexual addiction this is called maintaining sobriety.

Some marriages have involved lies for years. Restoring trust, when both partners work at it, can take between 18-30 months. My repentant spirit coupled with my consistent behaviors relegated trust to the back burner in just under two years ‘ a drop in the bucket for a lifelong partner.

One of my favorite bible verses is Joel 2:25, which promises, ‘God will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.’ My wife and I are experiencing the import of that promise in terms of intimacy. Prior to my disclosure and work of rebuilding trust we had only a surface intimacy. Since then our level of connectedness is deeper and more fulfilling. So give it your full surrender, intentionality, and persistence. Never being the same can be a good thing.

In addition to the Every Man’s Battle Workshop we have two programs designed to help you and your spouse. See Every Heart Restored–for wives of men struggling with sexual purity and Rescue Your Love Life–for couples.

Powerlessness And How It Can Help You

Most of us hate feeling powerless and indeed, it is not very good for us especially for extended periods of time. It can lead to depression, anxiety, outbursts of anger, alienation from others, physical symptoms and, in it’s trauma form, it can lead to the symptoms of Post traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD (e.g. nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and loss of concentration or memory to name a few)

Sometimes powerlessness comes from circumstances we have little or no control over. Other times it comes from the consequences of our actions. The latter can be even more frustrating because we may say, “I could have done something different”. We ruminate and replay the situation over and over. This can be helpful if we can process it into lessons learned, insight, awareness about others, or ourselves and character growth.

It is interesting to note that sometimes powerlessness can be very powerful. When Jesus surrenders to the cross, His powerlessness redeems the whole world. This is illustrated, again, in the fictional Star Wars movie were Obe Wan allows himself to be slain by Darth Vader only to come back as a ghost to aid Luke in fighting the Empire. The Apostle Paul talks about his powerlessness with an affliction he has and how it helps him grow and be empowered. Joseph’s powerlessness in the Old Testament is the seed for his rise to power in the house of Pharaoh. Despite his brother’s plot against him, he is faithful and God sends him before his family to redeem them in their day of need. After they realize that the brother they sold into slavery is now in power over them, the brothers hear him say “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good”

Dealing with powerlessness is a tricky matter sometimes.

First we must realize that powerlessness in not necessarily, hopelessness.
Powerlessness may just mean you are not in control right now.

Second, it is important to admit our powerlessness to God and others.
This gets us out of the way sometimes and allows God to work in areas where we do not have the ability or opportunity to change things. Telling others about our powerlessness can be a request to help with need and, as a part of that, a place to get emotional support through listening, different perspective, advice, shared troubles/grief and accountability to change course as well as giving us structure.

Third, deal with powerlessness by processing it.
Write down what you are feeling and thinking, what you believe about yourself, the situation, what you may have done that contributed to the situation, what others may have contributed to the situation and what is purely circumstantial. Try to avoid “All or Nothing” thinking. The “All Is Lost” mentality is not very helpful. Slowing things down and evaluating the situation is usually better in the short and long run. Nehemiah puts this into action when he feels powerless at first to deal with greedy nobles who are loan sharking their fellow Hebrews right back into slavery. He slows down his anger and brings the nobles to task.

Fourth, after the initial shock wears off, try seeing where the processing leads you.
What does it tell you about the situation, yourself, others involved, your motives, your priorities, lessons learned, and how you can grow from it.

Over all powerlessness is not something to be desired but it is, essentially, unavoidable in life. How we deal with it and use it to grow and move closer to God and others is the key.

Naaman

Steve Arterburn

Situations that are out of your control will show whether you’re operating with pride and self-sufficiency or with humility and dependence on God.  If you’re willing to humbly depend on God and recognize you inability to handle everything on your own, you’ll see the power of God bring great changes in your life.  

The experience of a man named Naaman illustrates how this is true.  Naaman was a powerful military and political figure, a man of wealth, position, and power.  He also had leprosy, an incurable disease that would slowly destroy his body.  Lepers were made outcasts from their families and society.  Ultimately, they faced a slow, painful, and disgraceful death.

But Naaman heard that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him.  He found the prophet and was told that in order to be healed he needed to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River.  He went away outraged, having expected his power and money to buy him an instant and easy cure.  In the end, however, he acknowledged that this situation was beyond his control.  Humility was the key that caused Naaman to surrender to God, follow his instructions, and receive the healing that only God could give him.  

Humility should not be confused with humiliation.  God doesn’t allow you to face situations beyond your control in order to humiliate you.  He does so to draw you to himself and lead you to healing and spiritual renewal.

Are You a Worn Down Parent?

Excerpted from the book Boundaries With Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

It’s scary how our kids can sense when we are weak and ready
to give in to them. Many a parent can identify with the smart adolescent who
begs, pleads, argues, and rationalizes for hours in order to get out of some
responsibility. Friends of mine said their son regularly argued for forty-five
minutes about taking out the trash’a ten-minute job! He didn’t mind losing the
time so long as he didn’t have to do the task.

Kids work us and work us and work us. They don’t give up
easily. And the later you start serious boundary training, the more
energetically your children will resist. It’s hard to give up playing God when
you’ve been doing it a long time. We empathize with parents who figure, ‘Oh
well, I’ll give in this time and give them the toy (money, night out, treat).
It’s not worth the fight.’ And that may be true on some occasions. But each
time you let them neglect responsibilities, the child’s ability to be a
self-controlled person is eroded.

If you notice your child wearing you down, it might mean a
couple of things.

First, you may be in a state of deprivation, either because
you are isolated from supportive relationships or your lack time to yourself.
We can’t keep boundaries in a vacuum. Get into regular, helpful relationships,
or arrange for some time for yourself to fill up your tank. Remember that
parenting is a temporary job, not an identity. Kids with parents who have a
life learn both that they aren’t the center of the universe and that they can
be free to pursue their own dreams.

Second, you may have trained your child to go just so far
and you’ll give in. As a good friend told me, ‘The trick to parenting is to
hold onto your limit one more time than your children hold onto the demand.
That’s all you need’one more.’ You need cheerleader friends who will help you
hold that line a couple thousand times. The good news is, as you do, children
understand that Mom and/or Dad really means it this time, and they begin to
deescalate their efforts.

Remember, you can’t use what you don’t have. Don’t just say
boundaries to your child. Implement boundaries. Without boundaries,
your child will grow up out of control and will try to control others. In fact,
an accurate description of children is that they are little people who lack
control of themselves while attempting to control everyone around them. They do
not want to take control of themselves to adapt to the requirements of Mom and
Dad; they want Mom and Dad to change the requirements!

If you’re feeling like a worn down parent,
you’re not alone. For more on this subject see Boundaries With Kids by
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Chris Cole

‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,’ Proverbs12:25.

Being anxious or fearful are common emotions that all of us face and deal with, especially when we go into recovery from addictions. Perhaps you have been medicating the anxiety experienced in relationships for many years and now you are for the first time beginning to deal with it in a healthy way. The scripture affirms that anxiety can really weigh a man’s heart down. It can be such a burden that we will do anything to find relief. In this article I will focus on some strategies to help you overcome the struggles with anxiety and fear.

I think that one central fear we face is the unknown. Not knowing what will happen can really drive a person to control their environment and everyone in it. As a result, we try to control so much that is out of our control. We anxiously try to control outcomes, as well as the circumstances. We try to control bad things from happening and people from getting upset with us. I believe that is why we falsely think that our addictions can make life work. We find relief from the anxiety with something that we can control. Take away that and the anxiety comes back. Then we get desperate for something else to take away the anxiety that we can control. Perhaps you struggle with cross addictions, where you take away one addiction (sex) and increase another (smoking).

Learning to deal with anxiety in a healthy way is an essential component to your recovery. The bible teaches that we must renew our mind with the truth, for the truth sets us free.

One strategy is to learn how to recognize anxious thoughts. Beware of: all or nothing thinking; over-generalization, dwelling on the negative, magnification and minimization, and ‘should’ statements. Learn to speak the truth to yourself and to calm yourself down by utilizing positive and truthful self talk.

In Philippians 4, Paul wrote:
‘(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (9) The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ‘

I want to highlight the importance of dwelling on the things of verse 8. Verse nine says we need to practice them. You can train yourself to respond (think) in a new way. I also recognize that much anxiety comes as you project yourself in the future. Some people use the acronym FEAR as Future Events Appear Real. I cannot control the future, or how someone may respond or react, but I can control me and what I think in the here and now. So stay in the present. Also remember, take one step at a time. Essential here is learning to give up control over what I can’t control anyway, like what people think of me or how they may react.

If your anxiety is overwhelming, seek the help of a professional Christian counselor. Sometimes medication may be necessary to help you manage while you change the way you think. A counselor can help you process your fear and anxiety and help you develop new ways of handling life. He or she can help you learn to take risks and grow, and depend on God in new way. Peter (1 Peter 5:7) said we are to ‘cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.’

So in summary, learn to accept anxiety, understand it in context, and learn to identify the anxiety producing thoughts and replace them with the truth. I like the serenity prayer that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote because it reminds me that I need to ‘accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.’

Do you need some help with you fear or anxiety? Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.