The Force Awakens, Again

For many this will be blasphemy! I did not like the latest in the Star Wars franchise. The Force Awakens was too much of a rehashing of the original, A New Hope. I was hoping for a fresh story with complex character development. I was disappointed.

As I argued with friends who loved the movie, I became even more convinced of my negative opinion. They argued that this new installment introduced the Star Wars universe to a brand new generation of kids. That explained it; it was a watered down children's movie.

I've been stewing on this for over a year. I indignantly replay all of those obvious parallels from the originals in irritation and scorn. The last scene when Hans Solo is killed by his son on the walkway is a total rip off from when Vader tries to kill Luke on the walkway! As I continued to fume about this, a powerful insight came upon me.

I was 16 when I saw the original movie. I identified with the reluctant hero Luke and have always tried to play that role throughout life. But I am now 56. I am in the second half of my life. My identification is now with Hans Solo (yes, like Hans, I still have my dashing good looks and suave personality!). I have lived a full life and have had some exciting adventures. But I also have regrets about my past and concerns about my future. Hans' death is a reminder that life is a gift that may quickly be taken away. 

The Force that awoke in me was the realization that I have a limited number of days. My strength, my cognition, and my adaptability are diminishing faster than I prefer. This challenges me to re-evaluate how I use my time, resources, and energy. Am I still clinging to that myth of eternal youth and endless possibilities. Or, am I appropriately honoring God, loving and providing for my family, and ministering to the people God has put in my life?  

It's The End Of The World As We Know It

“It’s The End Of The World As We Know It”

REM is playing in my head. Post-apocalyptic visions of dystopia are unfolding before my eyes: Nukes being launched from Cuba, food and gasoline supplies dwindling, Satanic daycare workers abusing children, satellites falling from the sky, black holes created at particle accelerators, killer clowns loose in the woods, and children sold as sex slaves at pizzerias.  

These are just a few of the panics in my lifetime. Some of these panics were grounded in facts; most were completely baseless. Ignorance, coincidence, and passion blended together and repeated are is the perfect recipe for mass hysteria. Children are especially vulnerable to this hype. Lacking perspective and critical thinking skills they cannot discern between reality and hype.

Make no mistake, the world is dangerous and horrible things happen. There are bad people who want to take advantage of us. Accidents happen.  and Bad things happen to good people. organizations that do not care about us and will take advantage of us if they can. We must be wise and diligent to provide safety for ourselves and our families. However, we cannot allow fear to control and paralyze us.

This past Presidential campaign has taken its toil on the American people, especially our children. School counselors are reporting higher levels of anxiety, bullying, and fear. These are real and powerful issues. It is hard enough for us adults to properly process our own fears and anxiety. How can we provide the tools our children need to handle them?

In hindsight, we should have posted parent advisory notices on everything related to the election. Although we want our children to understand the world around them, there are some things young children are not developmentally ready to handle. We can’t go back and erase all they have seen and heard but we can change how we act and discuss things around them. We can limit the amount of news and information we allow them to consume.

In foresight, we can train children to develop resilience. Resilience is the ability to say, “It’s not the end of the world” when problems  come our way. It is saying, “I can adapt to adversity, trauma, tragedy, and threats in a healthy way”. It’s the attitude of “I can.” As parents and adults, we can have a tremendous impact on children. Instead of providing safe spaces and trigger warnings, we can provide skills of resilience

How can we do this? We can model these skills through our own healthy reactions to the news and events. We can acknowledge their fears while emphasizing their unique abilities to overcome them. We can provide kid-sized opportunities for them to accomplish goals which develop competence and confidence. We can allow them room to fail without rescuing them.. When they don’t make the team, they can try out for something else. When the family pet dies, they can mourn the loss and keep going. When they are made fun of and their views are challenged, they can continue to speak up for what they believe in. When they fail, they can get back up again. It is not the end of the world and I feel fine.

Show Me Where It Hurts

Show Me Where It Hurts

Remember when we were little and we fell down and hurt ourselves. A trusted parent, teacher or doctor would say, “Show me where it hurts”. This simple request often began the healing process. We knew we were in the good hands of people who care for us. We would cry a little bit more, take a deep breath, and stammer out our answer. Usually a Band-Aid and a kiss were all we needed to feel better. As children we might not have the words or knowledge to explain our pain. But words were not necessary. We could simply point to where it hurt and the healing would begin

As adults, we have a experienced a number of painful events. From some of these we have found healing but from others we still suffer. Most of these lasting hurts are located deep within us, buried by years of quick & easy attempts to ease the pain. Out of shame and fear, we have kept these hurts to ourselves. We have not dared to show anyone that we are hurting. We fearthe additional pain of humiliation and condemnation. To alleviate this deep pain, we have bandaged ourselves with our drug and/or behavior of choice. This treatment worked for a while but has now become a bigger problem than the original hurt. Many addictions are rooted in unresolved trauma and shame.

Just as when we were little, we need a safe trusted person to say, “Show me where it hurts”. This simple request often begins to healing process because we are able to communicate the nature and the source of our pain. Sounds simple and simplistic. At one level it is. However, it can be the most difficult thing to do because it makes us vulnerable to being hurt again through judgment and rejection. Therefore, it requires a supportive nurturing setting such as a church group, recovery group, counselor’s office, or with a trusted friend. Often even without words, healing begins because we know we are in the good hands of people who care for us. This is the essence of faith. This is the beginning of healing.

Steve Parham

An Antidote to Resentment

Resentment is poison. It is slow acting but it is deadly. It cripples relationships. It clouds vision. It sucks the very life out of your soul.

For years, I’ve struggled with resentment towards a certain person. Recently, I shared this struggle with a friend of mine. He challenged me to pray for this person for two weeks in a specific way. Within ten days, this poisonous resentment began to leave me. More importantly, my relationship with this person began to improve. I’m so impressed with this method I want to share it with you.

Pray for that person as if that person is you. Think of everything that you care about, worry over, & get excited for. This includes health, finances, family, relationships, work, the past, the future, kids, grandkids, retirement, fears, forgiveness, and dreams. Imagine you are that person. Creatively put yourself in their place. Pray for the things that matter most to you on this person’s behalf (sounds a lot like, “Love your neighbor as yourself”). Pray for this person in this fashion throughout the day for two weeks.

I reluctantly accepted this challenge and began praying this way. Slowly I began to develop empathy and understanding. I began to feel less critical and condescending. I realized their situation, actions and attitudes are not much different than mine. Acceptance and forgiveness snuck in. Resentment began to melt away.

Ten days into this experience, I met with this person and something was different. I was much more relaxed. They were respectful and kind to me. I enjoyed being with them. What changed, or better yet, who changed?!? Could this person sense that my spirit had changed and this allowed them to respond differently to me? Had God answered my prayers and blessed this person. Had God changed their spirit?

My guess is that it is all of the above. I don’t know how prayer works but I know that it does. This experience has reminded me of God’s great love and power that changes lives and relationships. Perhaps this approach to prayer can provide an antidote against the poison of resentment in your life. I challenge you to give it try!