Doing Life Together

hr-2308519_1280Students  are graduating from college and need a job. They have completed their education and have most likely accumulated debt. Now, it’s time to pay off those loans and enter the world of work.  So getting a good job is high on the graduate’s list.

But what is the employer looking for when it comes to hiring. What makes an interviewer say, “Yes, this is the one?” Is it advanced degrees, ivy league education or who you know? Not really, employers want something else. And parents, you can begin to develop this at a young age.

The desired characteristic is  problem-solving and resourcefulness. According to Alfie Kohn, author of the book, Punished by Rewards: The Problem With A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes, today’s job applicant needs to be a person who can solve problems and use limited resources. And it appears that many of today’s graduates lack these abilities. Maybe this is because we rewarded them for getting the  right answers to their tests and didn’t promote resourcefulness or learning from mistakes.

So how can we change this and raise kids who become more marketable as young adults? Start young.  Praise them for solving problems instead of getting the right answer. When a child is asked to figure out a difficult problem, has to persevere to find a solution, confidence builds. This confidence then becomes an internal sense of motivation. This creates curious students instead of ones who simply want to be right. This skill of problem-solving bodes well for future employment.

It isn’t enough for young people to find information they lack. They can do this with ease and speed given technology. It’s the application of that information to a real situation that counts and seems to be missing in so many millennials. And we see this in higher education–young people who look for the right answer and become upset if they are challenged. But when it comes to applying what they learn to life situations, they don’t do well.

So give your child and teen tasks, problems, and situations in which they have to problem-solve. Don’t do for them. When you helicopter parent or “lawn mower” parent (mowing down the obstacles for the child) you are not preparing them for the future world of work. Let them experience a little stress and struggle and figure out solutions on their own. When you do, you are preparing them to be resourceful and helpful to an organization when they enter the work force. Employers will notice and that young adult will be hired.

aids-1886383_1280“It was my friend’s choice to have an addiction problem. No one forced him to put those pills in his mouth. He is an addict because he chose to use drugs. Don’t tell me this is a disease. He started. He can stop.”

Does this resonate with you? Is there someone in your life who is addicted and you feel brought it on themselves? Addiction is much more complex than boiling it down to choice and willpower. The complex brain changes caused by addiction are pervasive and long-lasting and help explain why someone doesn’t will his way out of the disease. Addiction involves complex maladaptive learning patterns related to genetics, environment, psychosocial, behavioral and other factors that significantly change the brain. And once addicted, the brain changes and has to be rewired.

People do begin by taking drugs, most often by there own choice. But then taking drugs turns into dependence, a stage of physical and psychological withdrawal that makes it difficult to stop using. This dependence then become addiction–a compulsive drug seeking behavior, despite aversive consequences, loss of control over intake, and is associated with negative emotional states, especially when access to the drug is blocked.

Drugs stimulate the dopamine pathway in the brain involved in reward perception and learning. It is one of the main pathways (not the only) involved in repeated drug use. Drug use creates a surge of euphoria and keeps people coming back for more of the drug. When drugs like an opioid are used, the amount of dopamine released in a part of the brain is the basis for the reward or euphoria.  A rush is experienced (positive reinforcement). With repeated use, brain receptors become less sensitized to drug stimulation, thus more dopamine is needed to achieve pleasure. This means you need to keep taking drugs and more of them to get the sense of pleasure. Now, the drug becomes a compulsive behavior.

Based on this knowledge of the brain, one of the most significant shifts in addiction work is recognizing that addiction is a disease, not a moral failure. Yes, people use drugs for a variety of reasons—to feel good, to get high, to fit in, to feel relaxed, to increase energy, to feel powerful, to numb or escape internal pain, and to increase self-confidence. Others use drugs because they are curious or to deal with emotional distress like a divorce.

However, the pleasurable escape ends because the initial sense of control leads to a lack of control. Problems develop, negative consequences occur, denial sets in, abuse becomes compulsive.  It is more and more difficult to get high as people develop tolerance and need more. Drug use may begin  voluntarily for the purpose of physical or emotional pain relief, but eventually the drug is doing the choosing for survival. So what begins as a choice, ends in bondage. Thankfully, there is freedom when a person chooses to get help. But because of the brain changes, the road to recovery is not easy.


raven-988218_1280If you have ever read the poem by Edgar Allan Poe,The Raven, then you familiar with the story of a distraught lover’s descent into despair. The raven, a bird that comes tapping on the chamber door of a grieving man, is famously quoted as responding to the man’s grief by saying, “Nevermore.” The poem is about death and the pain of loss. Nevermore, will he see or be with his love again. Time has stolen his wife and life. He must live in the “nevermore.”

Many of us have experienced devastating loss in which the “nevermore” cannot be recaptured. How do we respond to the dark voice of the raven reminding us of what looks like permanent loss? Do we make a dark descent into madness or can we find hope?

The last book in the Bible, Revelation, reminds us to hope. In the first chapter, Jesus tells us not to fear because of the “evermore” we will experience through his death and resurrection. When Christ was crucified on Good Friday, he appeared to be in the “nevermore.” His disciples and friends were devastated. Nevermore, would they see their beloved Lord.

But on Easter morning, the story changes. Jesus triumphs over death. What looked like a “nevermore” to those women who came to the tomb on Easter morning, turned in to an evermore. They soon realized, He was not in the grave, but alive. He had risen as He said and is alive. And because of His resurrection, we are promised the evermore to come.

Every day of the year, we need to remember to not fear pain and loss because God is in control. Nothing happens away from His watchful eye no matter how much suffering there is. While there are times it feels like the nevermore will overwhelms us, don’t give in to despair because Jesus defeated the nevermore. We live with the promise of the evermore or the forever more. More is to come– reunions with those we love and a time when suffering and pain will be no more. In the end, the despair of the nevermore must give way to the evermore.

So grieve and mourn your losses, but also remember the hope we have because our God is alive. The nevermore will one day give way to the evermore and we will live again, forever.



It’s not often that we find Easter falling on April Fool’s Day, but there is something to be said about the biggest Fool’s Day of all. Yes, the day Jesus rose from the dead. Satan thought he had defeated Jesus through His death on the cross. But April Fool’s!!!! He is alive! He is risen and defeated both sin and death.

So today, we celebrate that Christ arose! And have a little fun with your kids–tell them that the greatest April Fool’s joke of all was played on Satan! He didn’t believe and for that he is a fool!

He is risen! He is risen indeed!