Doing Life Together

social media 2If you ask, one out of three teens say they feel psychologically distressed. And the number of teens who report signs of depression and anxiety that reach a clinical level has increased in the past few years.

So is anything new or different that seems to be creating additional angst in the teen years?

Yes, we have to consider the impact of social media and nonstop technical connection on the development of a teen’s mental health. Past generations  were not subject to 24/7 scrutiny of their lives and connectedness. Today, every moment of a teen’s life can be recorded, documented and up for public display. This constant connection, with no down time, leads to a type of angst new to this generation.

With teens as high users of technology, there are more opportunities to be cyberbullied and harassed. This alone can lead to depression, anxiety and in some cases, suicide.

The constant connection also brings comparison and competition front and center. And it doesn’t stop. Teens can be reminded every moment of the day that they don’t measure up and can’t compete in terms of likes, friends and popularity-all important during this phase of development.

In addition, exercise has been a protective factor when it comes to mental health. More screen time means less exercise. Sitting and staring at screens lessens movement which helps relieve stress.

Finally, many teens, will tell you that they are socially connected on media but real, authentic, in-person relationships are not as easy to find. When stress hits, they need someone in person to talk to, but don’t know who that person might be. And when they finally do identify someone to talk to and  bring up their issues, they are often told they are simply experiencing normal teenage angst. While this may be true,  the coddling and helicopter parenting they have experienced has left these teens less resilient in dealing with typical stress.

So here is how you help. There is no substitute for real time, real life relationships. Understand the angst of a teen with social media but also help them set limits, monitor their use and find their identity in Christ.

Has it ever struck you that watching politics is like watching The Bachelorette? Get ready for reality TV at its best!

Last Friday, after the Republican convention ended, I was listening to Morning Joe on the radio on my way into work. Mika was on a tirade about Trump and policy. Joe fired back about the hypocrisy of Obama’s hope and change. Mika went ballistic and wouldn’t give up until she had her way. The two were literally yelling at each other and I thought, how crazy is this? It’s radio reality TV- drama, little real analysis, but entertaining! Despite the entertainment,  those conversations shape our opinions.

Our relationship with political candidates is influenced by media portrayals. This week at the Democratic National Convention, pundits will tell the Hillary story. And media people know the power of story and how to write a script.

We will listen to a speech and then 5 people will tell us how to think about it and what the speakers were trying to say. Really?  They try to convince us that people who lie, don’t. Those who broke the law, didn’t. Those who were rude and insulting were misunderstood. Insensitive remarks were taken out of context, etc. They narrate the story, hoping we will stay with them until the epilogue.

And so our political version of The Bachelorette begins. The characters are cast. Hillary is the chosen bachelorette. Sorry no gowns. She wears pantsuits! But word on the street is that, like a gown, one of her pantsuits cost a fortune! Look for glitter.

The bachelors will come out of their limos as the line-up of speakers begin. Hillary will smile, appear intrigued, but she already knows to whom she will give a rose.

Trump is that guy they show in every bad light possible in order to develop a villain character. We have to have a villain in the Bachelorette–it is standard casting–the one guy the audience is supposed to hate and wantst voted off the show. The pundits will do their best to make sure that is Trump. He will be voted off!

Bernie will provide some drama and make the show interesting to watch. He won’t be chosen, but people like him! So he’s the guy who might be the next Bachelor because he is likable- a teaser for next season.

Then the field narrows. We build up to Kaine who apparently made the cut week after week. Like the Bachelorette, Hillary came to find a man. She did and will offer an engagement. We will witness the vows, “Tim, will you join me for life together in the White House?” Will he say, “YES?”

Spoiler alert-the proposal takes place in Philadelphia and he says, YES.

Unfortunately, we know who makes the cut, who gets the final rose and who moves out of the convention hall and into our voting booth. The suspense is gone because Hillary has already chosen her man. We may lose a few viewers, but the story will still be entertaining.

Too bad it won’t be politically enlightening! For that to happen, the narrators of both conventions would have to focus on real analysis and ask tough questions to both candidates. Don’t look for this at the DNC. The story has already been written.

Oh well, Here we go again…. Action, camera, speed….


*We need a little humor-this is not intended to support either candidate. Pray and Vote. You may want to skip the media coverage!!!

couple embraceJealousy, the green-eyed-monster that makes us green with envy! We all have moments when we feel jealous. But if jealousy persists, you need to work on letting it go.

The root of jealousy is usually insecurity. We aren’t confident and fear we may lose something or someone. This insecurity can rear it’s ugly head in the form jealousy and ruin a relationship if left unchecked.

Interestingly, the Bible has quite a bit to say about jealousy:

1) First, be aware of jealousy. It may be normal to have those feelings, but is not an emotion we want to rule our hearts. It will only do us harm in the end. James 3:14-15 says, But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

Identify the source of insecurity that underlies jealous and deal with that. Get at what drives  those feelings.

 2) Thinking about jealous feelings leads to anger and revenge. Proverbs 6:34 tells us, For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. Therefore, we need to take jealous thoughts captive. Ruminating on what you think someone else has or is taking from you fuels anger. Get off the thought and onto what you do have. Be grateful.

 3) Do not to act on jealous feelings. Romans 13:13- Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

Once we recognize jealous thoughts and stop them, then our actions change. We can be happy for other people when they have success. We can acknowledge others without being afraid they will take something from us. Be secure in who you are, not in comparing yourself to others.

Here is an example. Sally is jealous of her husband’s new administrator who is quite attractive. Sally has recently had a baby and feels insecure about her physical attractiveness. Yet her husband shows no signs of lacking interest in her.

Sally identifies her jealous thought towards the administrator. She realizes her jealousy has everything to do with how she feels about her own body. Right now, she doesn’t like it due to the recent birth. So, she takes that thought captive, “I’ve just had a baby. My body is bouncing back and it isn’t what it was, but that is normal and doesn’t mean my husband will look at other women. There is no evidence that my husband is interested in this woman. I’m feeling insecure and need to talk to him and be reassured.”

Jealousy comes when we feel threatened. It causes us to focus on the negative, not what is going right in a relationship.

Assess your relationship. Rather than allowing jealousy to build, ask for reassurance and build positivity in your relationship.



ID-100305411Tom wanted out of his marriage. When I asked him why, his answer was a bit startling. “I know I should try to work out my marital problems, but I just don’t want to anymore. Don’t you think God has enough grace to cover me here? If I leave my wife and then say I am sorry, that should do it. I can move on with a better life.”

This application of grace is distorted. It is what German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, coined “cheap grace. ” Bonhoeffer defined it as, “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

Bonhoeffer was addressing an attitude of those who want the benefits of Christianity without the cost. It is an attitude that we unfortunately see all too often in our culture. People want God’s blessing but they don’t want to pay the price by being obedient to His Word. Instead, we want to go our own way, make our own rules and put God in a box that works for us. Bonhoeffer talked about justifying sin by counting on God’s grace to forgive it. And this is exactly what Tom is doing. He knows God’s grace is freely given, but doesn’t recognize the cost of that grace and how it impacts his life and choices. Tom is using grace to justify his actions.

None of us are beyond needing grace. We are all sinners and have come short of the glory of God. But how we deal with sin matters. We are to receive God’s grace with a repentant heart. Sin requires confession with true repentance, a turning away from what is wrong. It is not a license to willfully sin. And this is what is in Ton’s heart. He is trying to justify his sin and keep God in the picture.

So the next time you are tempted to cheapen God’s grace, consider the cost of that grace–our Savior’s life. And like Tom, it is not a justification for leaving a marriage or doing what we want and then counting on God to get in line with our ideas and plans.

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