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You’ll Be Glad You Did! – Top Posts of 2016

My hope with this blog has always been to help you do something today that you’d be glad you did.  Not to have all your ducks in a row or be the perfect parent or to be a really successful parent or…

The goal has always been to help you show up.  Engage.  Take a step towards something good.

Life is happening today and you have the ability to do something.  So go do it!

“The best way to be where you want to be a year from now or ten years from now is to do something today that you’ll be glad you did.”

— Seth Godin

Here’s a list of the most read posts of last year.  My hope is that you find something you’ll be glad you did as you reread some of these.

Be the Parent You Want to Be – Today!

“The Talk” Isn’t Enough

Is My Child Addicted to Technology?

It’s Good to Be Known

How to Ignore the Noise and Focus On What Really Matters

Speak Life. They need it.

 

They Have Access, But No Perspective: A post about your child and pornography.

apple-desk-office-technology

To continue the conversation started around pornography and sexuality we began with recent post,  “The Talk” Isn’t Enough, I wanted to share with you a few more thoughts.

Here are some reasons we need this conversation:

  • I’ve heard from middle school students who consistently encounter pornography at school through friends and on their own.  We need this conversation because students are truly being educated by the internet and not their parents or trusted sources.
  • I’ve counseled students who consume pornography almost daily, daily, or multiple times daily.  We need this conversation because they have access, but they have no perspective for what they are doing.
  • Recently, in our community we have had issues that I’m willing to wager, trace back to pornography on some level.  We need this conversation because pornography has real life consequences and we aren’t talking enough about those.
  • Recently, my wife and I had to talk about whether or not our elementary age child was exposed to pornography on the bus.  We need this conversation because the average age of first viewing pornography is 11 years old.

This is a real problem with real consequences.  We could spend significant time talking about this issue from a brain development perspective, a healthy sex life (both form and function) perspective, a justice perspective or the societal reasons we should be engaged in this conversation, or from an interpersonal relationship perspective.

This topic was recently the cover of Time magazine.  I still remember the first time I read this Huffington Post article, “What I Wish I Knew Before Watching Porn”  and started exploring the far reaching effects of pornography.  I’m thankful for the work of Fight the New Drug, particularly on the way porn affects society.  Even if you are a parent of young children or an empty nester, there are compelling reasons for us to all be involved in this conversation, though that’s not what today is about.

WHAT THIS IS ABOUT

I can promise you the students engaging with porn on a daily basis have no perspective of how they might be changing their brains or how they might be destroying their ability to sexually perform or how they might be contributing to the enslavement of young girls.  There are other things they don’t know as well.

“They don’t know the language of face to face contact…constant arousal, change, novelty excitement makes them out of sync with the pace of relationships – relationships which build slowly.”

–Psychologist Philip Zimbardo, in article Sex Before Kissing

They have the access to porn, but they have no perspective for what they are dealing with.

However, this isn’t about those things today, (though I encourage you to look into them and educate yourself and educate your son or daughter).

This is about something different.

This is about what we were created for.

It’s about who you are.  It’s about who you are becoming.

This is about hope not fear.

Hope that no matter what darkness we encounter, the light of Jesus exposes and heals and renews and rebuilds.

In scripture, we understand that God created us for connection, intimacy, and relationship.  We see that God created sex and he called it good.  We see that God placed it in a context – “for this reason a man shall leave his family and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh”.

We understand that we are not just the sum of desires as culture sometimes tells us.  But we also see that we are human beings with sexual bodies even though the church and the family would, at times, like to ignore that fact.

PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES

Pornography mimics love, connection, intimacy, and relationship – things we were created for.  Porn has the ability to make us feel cared for and loved.  Porn can you give you a sense of control, when life feels uncertain.

They were created for what they might temporarily experience through consuming porn.  Porn is compelling and it is a huge money making industry because of this.

It’s not hard to imagine a students feeling alone, bored, disconnected in a world of social media showing us how we are missing out or not as loved/connected as our peers.

Essentially, they are longing for what they were created for and running to the false alternative.  It actually destroys and does harm, but for the moment they feel better.  It’s hard to say it this way, but if we are honest, porn is being willing to use someone else because we are feeling sad, disconnected, alone…

GIVE PERSPECTIVE

Again, they have access but very limited perspective.  Your role as a parent is to help give perspective.  Educate yourself and educate them on all the harmful effects of pornography, but I’ll warn you – fear doesn’t work.

You must give them something more compelling.

I recently read the story of a pastor who was secretly struggling with pornography for many years.  Here’s his response to how he overcame this secret life:

“The way to fight lust is to feed faith with the knowledge of an irresistibly glorious God.”

Give your students perspective.  Let them know how harmful it is.  Help them locate their feelings and understanding of their self in how we were created by God in the beginning.  But what might even be more compelling, is to help them see an “irresistibly glorious God”.

Just as much as we need to answer the question, “How do I protect my child?”, we should seek to answer the question, “How do I feed their faith and point them towards an irresistibly glorious God?”

If I might be so bold to guess, God would invite you to spend your energies in hopes and dreams as opposed to shrinking in fear.  My hope for today, is this conversation opens up the possibilities as opposed to creating fear.

Do not be afraid.

It’s scary stuff, but I have full confidence in an irresistibly glorious God.

Since we’ve been discussing this topic with the students in our group, many students have on their own challenged each other to go 40 days being porn free.  They are keeping themselves accountable, challenging each other, and seeking to live in the light.

Porn mimics love, but it doesn’t stand a chance against the real thing.

Friends, do not be afraid.  We have reason to hope.

 

 

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You Are Changing Your Brain and You May Not Know It

Just a head’s up – this post talks about the ways porn changes your brain.  It also talks about the way scripture and prayer changes your brain.  Basically how you live, your choices, your experiences, your habits…etc. are all changing your brain and affecting who you are becoming.  I hope you’re paying attention.

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

God changes your brain.
I remember first reading about this idea several years ago in a book by Mark Batterson.  There has been tons of great research on neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to change – and I was fascinated when Mark suggested that by reading scripture we are physically rewiring our brain with the thoughts of God.  He even suggested that this could  be a very real way that Romans 12:2 is played out in our lives – reading Scripture and sending those messages through our brains is physically rewiring them and therefore “renewing our minds”.  Since then, I’ve seen this play out in my life as I noticed my negative or debilitating thought patterns and habits and sought to fight them with truth from Scripture.  God changes your brain.

Pornography changes your brain.
In my work with students, I’ve also noticed the prevalence of consistent pornography usage among teens.  They don’t know it, but this consistent viewing is changing their brains.  Follow this natural progression:  When a student is bored or lonely (both experiences are heightened for today’s teenagers in our social media/comparison world) they are longing for connection.  Pornography is easy to access and offers a false, but temporarily satisfying, sense of connection.  They view it and dopamine rushes through the brain.  They repeat the pattern and eventually the brain has been hardwired to seek pornography when the student feels bored or lonely.  Their first thought/instinct when they are bored or lonely will be to look at porn.  Pornography changes your brain.

 

There is a lot to say on both of these topics, but I would invite you to read these two articles.  They are simple, but give some great food for thought.

Both of these articles talk about activities that change your brain.  Both of these things have the power to change us fundamentally.  Both of these things are easy for you to access at this moment.  Both are easy for you son or daughter to access at this moment.

Parents, these could be great conversation starters for your child.  It could be interesting to read them both to them and ask them what they think.  Ask them if they knew porn had such negative effects.  Ask them if they are surprised that our brains respond to God in this way.

(you can see more about the effects of porn on your brain, heart, and society over at fightthenewdrug.org )

So, here’s the articles…

Article 1 – Porn Changes the Brain

Article 2 – How Your Brain is Wired for God

Seriously, read them…they’re short.  But in case you really don’t have the time…here are a few highlights:

ARTICLE 1

Quick Synopsis:  Neurons that fire together, wire together.  Just like other addictive substances, porn floods the brain with dopamine. That rush of brain chemicals happening over and over again rewires the brain’s reward pathway ultimately changing the make up of the viewer’s brain. This can result in an increased appetite for porn.

Yep, you read that right. Porn physically changes your brain.

A neuron is a brain cell, and when brain cells get activated at the same time by something you see or hear or smell or whatever, they release chemicals that help strengthen the connection between those neurons. [3] For example, when you eat something delicious, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel good. [4] Or if you hold hands with someone you care about, your brain releases a chemical called oxytocin, which helps you bond with people. [5]

Just like other addictive substances, porn floods the brain with dopamine. [7] But since the brain gets overwhelmed by the constant overload of chemicals that comes with consistent porn use, it fights back by taking away some of its dopamine receptors [8]—which are like tiny ears on the end of a neuron that hear dopamine’s message.

With fewer receptors, even if the brain is putting off the same levels of dopamine in response to porn, the user can’t feel dopamine’s effect as much. [9] As a result, the porn they were looking at doesn’t seem as arousing or exciting, and many porn users go hunting for more porn or more hardcore porn to get the effect the old porn used to offer. [10]

And here’s the really scary part: the more porn a person looks at, the more severe the damage to their brain becomes and the more difficult it is to break free. [17] But there’s good news too: neuroplasticity works both ways. That means that the damage to the brain can be undone when someone gets away from unhealthy behaviors.

ARTICLE 2

Scientists have been looking for a spot in the brain that corresponds with God. After all, there’s a place in your brain responsible for vision, language, memory and anger. Couldn’t there be a neurological God spot?

Our insights into how the brain works have gotten much more sophisticated in the last decade thanks to the emergence of new tools to image living brains. We have machines now that let us watch living brains in three dimensions without surgery or autopsy. This technology allows brain scientists to study believers as they pray, meditate, worship and experience God.

This research shows that there is no God spot. God doesn’t simply move into a spot in our brains—God redecorates. Believers have a complex, rich network in their brains for God. For the devout, God is not just an idea, but a tapestry of feelings and experiences. This network affects how our brains work at fundamental levels.

People who regularly focus on God’s love through prayer and meditation change. They experience less stress, and they even experience a reduction in blood pressure. Their prefrontal cortex, the part of their brain associated with focus and attention, becomes more active over time, helping them avoid distraction and be more intentional.

They also have more activity in their anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the part of our brain associated with love, compassion and empathy. Focusing on God’s love makes us more loving and less angry. It’s easier for us to forgive ourselves and others.

Science tells us that there is tremendous power in prayer. God will be most active and transforming in your brain if you pray for 30 minutes per day, at least four days per week. If you’ve ever wondered how to be closer to God, or why your walk with God is difficult, science says the answer is prayer.

Are our brains wired for God? Not only does science support the idea, but it also shows us that belief in God and an active prayer life can make us healthier, happier people who do good in the world.

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