A Life Less Noticed Can Be a Happier Life

Social media has literally changed the world. As I sit and think about all the ways that our modern lives are impacted by social media, I am truly overwhelmed. A tool that was used in my childhood to simply make and keep connections with friends and family has seemingly seeped into every aspect of life. I mean, from jobs to churches and other social organizations, to dating and marriage connections, even health and wellness tools are almost a necessity for individuals today. One thing that is true throughout each one of these venues is the increased popularity of the celebrity phenomena. Continue reading

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Where do you place your worries?

There is a popular sixties song titled “Cast your fate to the wind”. This popular song speaks of  a man who simply lives his life as a sailor on a boat, who allows the wind to take him wherever it may. A verse of this song goes like this:
“You shift your course along the breeze
Won’t sail up wind on memories
The empty sky is your best friend
And you just cast your fate to the wind”

This seems to be the motto of many today. I can especially see this view having much relevance in mental health. Though I disagree with the overall premise of this song, I see how its ideology can help those struggling with anxiety. You may be wondering; how can you disagree while also agreeing? I answer that by saying that I don’t think that the concept is utterly wrong, rather than a cheap counterfeit.

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On Jehovah’s Witnesses 

On a few occasions in the past couple weeks; I have encountered a number of conversations regarding the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ (JW) religion. There are many who still have questions about the ins and outs of this religion. I feel I am in a position where I can speak to this, though I must preface this blog entry with the following statement: I am neither a theologian nor an expert in Jehovah’s Witnesses.
You may be asking yourself, “So, why are you writing this blog than James?” For this, I do not blame you. However, I have had some experience with this religion that I feel has qualified me to speak as an experienced layman. My initial experience with this religion began during my undergrad studies at Liberty University where I was enrolled in classes that taught on world religions. Though I gained a basic understanding at this time, I had no interest in pursuing it further at that time. This class did not make me an expert in world religions; however it did serve as a wake-up call for me. There were so many religions making so many contradictory claims, how could I stand to say I was a “Christian” without truly understanding why I was one. Continue reading

See Something, Say Nothing

This blog post may not be what the title may cause you to anticipate. However, my intention is to continue on my thought of an earlier blog I wrote. I initially promised a “series” of blogs regarding the overuse or abuse of social media. Well, unofficially, here you go. Perhaps what sparked my thoughts regarding this topic were the recent devastations in our country. During these times especially, people rush to their phones, tablets, or laptops and began sharing post after post. If you read my initial social media blog, you will recall me discussing briefly how individuals have begun pouring out their issues on their various outlets, as if to stand on a stage and shout their problems for all to hear. In this post, I am not discussing relational issues as previously discussed, but rather, the voluntary “trashing” of one’s private life.

                There is a common phrase, which I use quite often, especially regarding this topic, that is: just because you have a platform, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Have you heard this before? This is exactly the phrase that I will echo throughout each and every blog I use to address this topic. It is quite appropriate in the context of this blog if one has any type of social media.
                What has prompted me to write this blog, specifically, is the recent mass murder that has occurred in Las Vegas. As with any tragedy in our world today, there are common themes that we see on social networks. Quite frequently, the immediate reaction will be simply a widespread sharing of the news itself. This is followed, usually, by some sort of call for support (prayer or “good thoughts and vibes”). I am quite content with these two usual, immediate actions. In fact, I think this is a great use of social media. That is, the widespread of instant news (real, important news), and the seeking out for support in times of trouble. However, it is what follows that I have an issue with.
                The phenomena I have been hinting at this entire time is when individual’s utilize their social media “stages” to immediately provide critique, blame or their own guaranteed solutions to whatever has occurred. In regards to the aforementioned mass murder, I witnessed literally hundreds of my social media “friends” post status update after status update about how they know “we” (society at large, or America specifically) need or should resolve this. Now, there are a number of avenues I could go down regarding this topic, but in order to stay in one frame of mind, I want to speak directly to this need to offer one’s opinion to others.
                I am very curious why this societal phenomenon has spread so far. I even chatted with my wife about this as it was recently occurring. Individuals will use social media to express their opinion on seemingly every matter, both important and insignificant. Here is my raw unedited thought to this: “Why do they think it matters”. I know, this sounds a bit rough, as it probably is. I have no excuse, and stand by it. Let me expound:
                I can recall a funny skit from comedian Dave Chappelle where he asks his audience why celebrities get interviewed about topics that they have no expertise in. He used the example that a popular news station interviewed Ja Rule about the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. This is exactly my point! Perhaps Dave was on to something, and social media has caused us to feel we are some form of a celebrity that needs to express opinions simply because we can.
If I haven’t lost you yet, and you are still reading, let me say, my point isn’t to tell you to “STOP IT” and cease using social media. In fact, my point isn’t even to say that is wrong to express or even have an opinion on things. My point is this, why do we feel our opinion matters that we must shout it from the loudest possible opportunity we can take?
Can you relate to this? I mean honestly? If you have not become defense yet, scroll down your timeline and analysis your posts for a minute? What takes up the majority of your posts? I cannot help but reflect upon Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (ESV). Our social media may tell us where our hearts are?
Perhaps you don’t write opinions about political and societal matters, pat yourself on the back. Unfortunately, these are the only topics that opinions get inappropriately flung around with. For instance, I have a number of strong, theologically minded friends on each and every one of my social media platforms. I have accredited theologians, and I have google scholars (that is a joke for another time). Now, I am not saying we shouldn’t ever post about a thought, event, or topic, but I am saying we should at least reflect on our motive. For instance, having someone write their thoughts on their church’s sermon is one thing, attempting to provide a complete commentary on a book of the bible is another. Now, to my larger point, one of the theologians I follow may in fact do that. Guess what, they can, because their opinions hold weight.
Ah, I feel the angry thoughts coming at me. I guess some of you are sending me your “negative vibes”. Well, let me tell you, this goes for me to. I have learned to not react instantly to impulsions. To save my opinions and thoughts to the arenas of influence that God has granted me, namely, my wife, my family at large, my church and social circles, etc. As I scroll down my feed as I write this, I do see things like a meme about the national anthem controversy and a meme of President Trump condemning socialism, but they were quite hard to find. The majority of my posts are filled with what I want the public to see, the Gospel and the fact that Jesus is Lord, my family and my church. That is it folks.
Take a few moments to reflect on this concept. Maybe you disagree with me. I mean, I am a doctoral psychology student writing on a sociological topic. You have that right to disagree. However, I know that this happens, and that many people are losing out on treasures that they can hold dear to them. As I have pointed out before, if you get into this habit, what happens when you spread your frustrations about your marriage online, or about your children? Some things we need to protect, and to protect them, it means guard it from the world’s eyes

“I Know What to Do, but I Just Can’t Do It”

I will never forget my first experience at residency during my Master’s program. I remember sitting in the back of this rather large lab room, plugging in my computer, and waiting quietly with my sister-in-law for the professor to begin. In an attempt to soften the tension that many of us first year counseling students were experiencing, the professor pulled up a video from his laptop. Again, I will never forget it. As I anticipated an in depth, life changing, revolutionary counseling video, we all took a deep sigh of relief when we saw Bob Newhart on the screen. “Stop it!”  Continue reading

Parenting: A Job that Happens Indirectly

It has been a while since my last blog post. I have had quite the busy schedule for the past few weeks. I made the conscious decision halfway through my last semester to place a “pause” on my blogging momentarily, to focus on my studies. This has, however, afforded me some time to consider what my next blog topic would be. In this time, apart from making strides toward my dissertation, my children have begun school. This has been a bittersweet transition for a number of reasons.
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Christianity IS a Religion, There’s No Way Around It.

I can’t believe that I have decided to write this blog. I mean, this is such a silly statement that I am saying. A religion is a religion. I mean, imagine if I were to write the following blog: “German Sheppards are Dogs, There’s No Way Around It”. Well, for one, I’m not sure how much I would actually have to write, but more importantly, I’m not sure there would be that many people interested in reading it. However, thanks to popular sayings like “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship”, this blog is much overdue. To keep my analogy consistent, this would be like arguing: “German Sheppards are not dogs, they’re pets!”

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I Do Not Have It All Together

We live in an age where every individual has the ability to have a significantly large public life. The word is small; celebrities are no longer untouchables, and nothing is private. However, as public as our lives may be, we have certain control over what our public lives look like, and they do not always match with reality.

Many people portray their lives to be as great as possible. They will purposely shout their successes while neglecting any reality of failure, hurt, or strife. Just because we are able to edit it out of our public lives, doesn’t eliminate suffering’s existence. As great as my life may seem online…

…I do not have it all together. Continue reading

Communication: Where Marriage Fails or Flourishes

Marriage, such a wonderful institution! Wonderful it is, yet not without its hardships. Unfortunately there is no easy “go-to” manual that gives you exact details to follow for your specific marriage. I truly wish there was, it would make my job as a marriage therapist a bit easier.

Though this is not the case, there are general principles that we can observe from marriages through the years. Even more importantly, are the principles that can be directly or necessarily derived from scripture. In this case, we happen to have both. (As a side not, whenever you are faced with a situation where these two areas do not agree, always follow scripture, not experience). The following verse will be the standard for this blog: Continue reading

Is Not Life More? Thoughts About Combating Anxiety.

Pray.

Move.

Refocus.

Beating anxiety, I know, easier said than done. I agree, I do not think that there is ever going to be a “quick fix” for overcoming anxiety. It is long, it is tough, and it takes determination.  My aim in writing this blog post today is to be a reminder to those of us who struggle with anxiety in one form or another. No one experiences anxiety exactly the same. There are certainly similarities, but from my experience and understanding, no one else exactly can describe what you feel and go through. Because of this, no one’s path out of constant anxiety is the same either. Continue reading