Category Archives: Psychology

Drivers Ed Class

Have you ever felt like you were living through a Saturday Day Night Live sketch? I felt that way today as I attended a court-ordered driving improvement class in the Mechanicsville area. I went to help erase my recent speeding ticket (first in my life).

I dreaded going. I figured it was going to be a waste of eight hours. In some ways, it was. I probably could have learned everything in half the time. But then again, those “wasted” moments is what made the entire ordeal worthy of a blog post.

I have changed names to protect the identity of the innocent, notorious and downright unforgettable. But I promise that all the stories are mostly true. I may have not gotten all the dialogue 100% right.

The class started out with Larry telling everyone before the class that he was there because he had fallen asleep behind the wheel. He then proceeded to doze off about six times through the eight-hour course. There was one time that his eyes rolled back in his head while he was sitting straight up. I looked at the older gentleman next to me, Roy, who motioned to his daughter, Connie. We all looked at Larry and rolled our eyes as if to say, “There is no way this guy should be behind the wheel of any vehicle.”

Students started to fill the small classroom. Then, our instructor, Bart, proceeded to give a quick intro to the course and ask each student a few questions. Bart wanted to know our name, why we were there, and our job. One of the first guys he asked to respond was Larry. He responded by telling the class that he had just got out of prison for a six-year term. He then detailed his crimes of writing bad checks, his legal proceedings, a short comment or two about his former career as a tradesman, and then described his recent wreck. The woman sitting next to Larry moved over a bit as soon as he admitted his recent stent in jail.

The rest of the introductions were fairly normal. There were a few family members who attended. One mother/daughter tandem came together. The 17 year-old girl, Lisa, proceeded to rat out her mom (Mary) as a speeder. Lisa admitted that her father had signed them both up for the class to reduce their insurance costs since they had both recently received speeding tickets. Lisa told how her father was just as reckless as them, but he never seemed to get caught by the cops.

Lisa commented how she had been a fairly safe driver all her life. The entire room erupted in laughter when Bart said, “All two years you have been driving… right. I know that seems like a long time. But Roy back there has been driving a lot longer than you have been alive.” Roy was in his late 60s. He said that his last ticket was 30 years ago.

Lisa’s youth and inexperience became a running joke for the group the entire time. She proceeded to explain that she was safer than most of her friends who thought she was a kill joy. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was saying these things because her mother was sitting right next to her. Bart told a few blond jokes through the lesson. She never got em.

Then, there was the film student from Boston College, Julie. She had recently moved downtown. She asked the best question of the day. With a completely straight face, she asked, “Some of my friends told me that the reason the state troopers always put their hats on when they get out of the car is that they can’t write you ticket unless they have their hat on. Isn’t that a strange rule?”

Bart said, “That is a new one. I never heard that before. I can assure that there is no such rule like that. Are you sure that your friends weren’t trying to pull a joke on you?” Julie responded that she had been told that by ten different people and that they were very serious. I asked, “Did these people also ask you to go snipe hunting?” She had never heard of snipe hunting either.

The entire room had a good laugh.

When Bart made fun of my salad for lunch, Julie mentioned that she was a vegan, which completely astounded Bart. He couldn’t understand why somebody would not eat meat. I agreed and said that I like both meat and salads. I especially like salads with meat. Anyway, throughout the class, Bart tried to convert Julie to the dark side of the meat eaters. She stayed a vegan and even talked about eating rice milk flavored icecream substitute. Yuck!

Bart showed a number of videos and did a good job of covering the basics. He even offered to show us his certificates because he knew that somebody as rough looking as him seemed to be an odd character to be teaching a driving school. Bart was funny and kind of raw. He’s the kind of guy that I would picture one day on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

His stories about the horrors of insurance, stupidest things he had seen in his driving experience and how to talk to cops was worth the price of admission.

Later in the day, Bart allowed us to try on goggles that demonstrated how your vision can be impaired when you are legally drunk. We all marveled at the effect. All expect for Larry. He said, “Wow, that ain’t nothing. You should see what happens with your driving ability when you are lit up on crystal meth!”

To which, Bart said, “What did you just say? No, never mind. I don’t want to hear it.”

Another fond memory occurred when Lisa tried to blame her speeding habit on her parents. She said that she picked it up from them. Bart responded, ” You can’t inherit bad decisions from your parents like you do hair color, facial features or height. Those decision belong to you. Sure, they may not have provided the best example. But you have to take responsibility for your decisions.”

Bart got Lisa to semi admit her guilt. But I still think if she was honest, she would point as much blame back at her folks.

Those were my funny moments from the driving class today. My experience convinced me that there are a lot of characters on the road today.


It’s Been A Long, Long Time

Sorry it has been  several months since my last post. Life has been beyond busy. I need to get back to my blog because I have some intellectual constipation. This blog has always been a cheap form of therapy for me. It’s the place that I can vent. Hopefully, it helps other people too.

Today,  I saw an interesting CNN piece on the differences between boys and girls in education. The concepts are very simple and obvious. I have generally thought that many classrooms are setup to make some students fail. Honestly, can every other middle school boy really be ADD? Or do we just like to label boys as classroom problems because they can’t stay still?

View the CNN video spot and see what you think.

Living a Life of Legacy

Over the last few days, I have thought about what I want people to say about me. I want everyone who comes in contact with me to see Jesus. I want them to be blessed for having known me. I don’t care if people say I am a bit odd or a little too intense. That’s okay.

But I would be mortified to think that someone could hang around me long enough and not know how special they are and how much they are loved by God.  I truly believe that my central message in life revolves around helping people see themselves as God sees them. Why do we tend to look at ourselves and only see the worst? Don’t we know that God looks at us and sees His Son?

Don’t we know that our identity is much more than what we look like on the outside? Don’t we know that God cares about us because of who we are not what we can do for Him? Don’t we get that grace means we can stop pretending? God knows us better than we know ourselves.

A life of legacy is what Jesus lived. It is what we are called to experience if we know God and His life lives through us.

What are you living for? Is your life leaving a legacy that will bless others?

Remember it is never too late to start living a life of legacy.

Gospel of Inclusion

While in Atlanta, I saw a clip on CNN about a pastor in Oklahoma who went from opposing homosexuality to accepting it. He now preaches a “Gospel of inclusion.” Bishop Carlton Pearson of New Dimensions Church in Tulsa changed his theology because of people he knew who came out of the closet.

Pearson asked, “Do you ever see anywhere in Scripture where Jesus rejected anybody? Period.”

Most people would say, “No.” But I immediately thought of the time that Jesus rebuffed a Canaanite woman who sought deliverance for her daughter. Eventually, Jesus gave in to her request although he rejected her pleas at first.

Then I thought about a warning that Jesus gave. He said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Pearson has a point that Jesus showed love to many people who were rejected by the religious establishment. Unfortunately, the same thing happens today. But I believe Pearson strays from Biblical truth when he makes the leap from loving people to condoning their sin. Jesus never did that.

Although Jesus was willing to be seen and associate with prostitutes and sinners, he never told them their sin was okay. I get a sense that people who spent much time around Jesus were so amazed at what they saw that they left their old lives of sin. People came to Jesus so that they could change.

A number of years ago Pearson had built a 5,000 member mega church in Oklahoma. He earned big speakers fees for conferences and was a regular on Christian TV programs. Then he made a drastic change on his beliefs about sin, hell and salvation. He lost it all. Most of the members of his large church left. Nobody wanted him for conferences any more.

Now, Pearson pastors a much smaller church that openly embraces and condones homosexual behavior. Pearson denies the existence of hell as is traditionally taught in most Christian theology. 

Basically, Pearson believes that almost everyone will be saved and very few people will go to hell. He believes that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross covers the sins of the world, including those who have not confessed faith in Christ.  

While part of me respects Pearson that he would take a stand for something even though it would likely cost him a lot, I also reject his conclusions and theology. I would have left his church too just because I believe his new teaching compromises Scripture. The Bible is clear about salvation and sin. Scripture is also clear that homosexual acts are a perversion of God’s standard and design.

Pearson said, “All this hyper conservative, fundamentalist religion is probably not working.” That’s true. I believe that much of the rhetoric gets in the way of reaching wholeness and proclaiming the Gospel. Many people use God and morality as talking points to get elected or obtain power. God is not a registered Republican or a Democrat. At the same time, God decides what is right and wrong not men. And for the Christian, the Scriptures are the basis for judging morality. The Holy Spirit reveals the mind of Christ to us through the Bible.

Pearson said, “We have idolized the Bible and used it to denounce anything we don’t like, don’t understand or we fear.”

While I agree that some people seem to worship the Bible by denouncing any other way for God to speak today, Pearson’s conclusions about homosexuality are unfounded. Throughout times, some people have used the Bible to support all sorts of horrible things, such as the Crusades, racial bigotry or slavery. On the other hand, I strongly disagree with Pearson’s characterization that people are doing the same thing today by using the Bible to condemn homosexuality as a sin. I don’t believe that fear, dislike or misunderstanding has anything to do with the fundamentalist position that homosexuality is a sin.

Fear, dislike and misunderstanding may be behind inappropriate reactions by misguided Christians. But that has nothing to do with the proper interpretation of the text. There are times where Christians say and do things to homosexuals that are horribly wrong. This includes gay jokes, stinging comments, physical harassment, judgmental attitudes, etc. Those actions stem from fear, prejudice, pride and other sinful conditions.  

You see I believe that a Christian can say homosexuality is a sin without being judgmental. The real test comes in how we treat a gay person. Do we show them the love of Christ? Would we treat them like a leper?

If you believe homosexuality is a sin, it would be a dreadful thing to tell others that it is not. One of the last things you ever want to do is call good evil and evil good. That is lying, and it doesn’t really help anyone in the end. 

Pearson also said, “Scripture says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not counting men’s sins against them. So if God doesn’t count men’s sins against them, why are we Christians or religious people so comfortable doing that.”

Pearson is right that God has forgiven the sins of those who are Christians. But that doesn’t mean we should keep on sinning. The Apostle Paul dealt with this issue. He wrote that we should not keep on sinning but should live holy lives as empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Christ may not hold our sins against us, but that doesn’t mean it is okay to live in sin. Jesus not only came to forgive our sins. He also came to set us free from being a slave to sin. We don’t have to give in to temptation because we can escape it by God’s power.

The real danger of Pearson’s teaching is that it makes people feel comfortable in their sin. They are likely to think that they will receive a free get-out-of-hell card regardless of what they do or believe. The devil wants people to believe that so many lost souls will go to hell. It sounds like this Gospel is something that you don’t want to be included in.

Neurotheology: Are Humans Hardwired for Faith in God?

CNN has carried a number of religious-oriented articles of late. This one was kind of interesting about scientists studying the human brain and its connection with a person’s faith in God. It seems that there is a new field emerging called neurotheology.

I believe the answer to the question posed in the subject head of this post is “Yes.” We all have faith in something, someone or some ideology. We are all worshippers. This is true even for those who don’t believe in God. It’s just that they are their own god.

The Truth Behind the Picture

We’ve all seen the Olan Mills family portraits where everybody is sitting up straight with big smiles on their faces. Everyone in the family looks picture perfect even though the clothes and hairstyles may be out of date. To the casual observer, this looks like the perfect American family. What people may not know is the real life story behind each person in the picture.

What about the father who is no longer attracted to his wife? His slight smile conceals that he has had an affair. His wife has no idea. All she knows is that she has grown emotionally distant from the man she once trusted with all her secrets.

What about the middle child who feels more awkward and out of place than ever? She not so secretly loathes her younger brother who is the center of attention. It was all the parents could do to get five minutes peace to take the picture.

What about the oldest son who is taking drugs to look buff? He’s a star athelete, but his success has come at a price. He has several teenager girls who clamor for his attention. He’s sexually active and his parents don’t know although they suspect something is up.

How about the oldest daughter who is wearing long sleeves to cover the marks on her arms? She has cut herself because she wants to feel something. She has felt emotionally abandoned by her parents. She was physically and verbally abused by a family friend. She feels guilty and doesn’t know how to tell her parents.

What about Snoopy the dog? He looks healthy. But he has the early stage of heart worms. Ok, I don’t need to be melodramatic. You get the point.

Pictures look perfect. But the reality behind them never is. We all have hurt and pain. No family is without its issues. And some have more than others. The Good News is that although life can hurt us. God can heal us. We have to choose to let Him work in our lives. And the best way to start is with prayer. 

My challenge is for you to pull out a few family photos and to pray for the people in them. Pull out a time that you remember something good that happened. Ask God to renew the joy of those moments by restoring anything that may have tarnished the family album.

Pray for everyone by name. Ask God to help you forgive anything you may harbor in your heart toward them. Pray a blessing on each person.

Also, pull out a photo that shows you looking your worst. Thank God for loving you even though you had no sense of style. Be especially grateful if you still don’t have a sense of style. Take a moment to write down everything good you have experienced in your life. Give thanks to God for those because the Bible says that all good gifts come from God. If you can’t think of anything, you aren’t being honest. Think of the prettiest day, the best food or your favorite song. None of these would be possible without God.

Hopefully, this little exercise will help you heal as well as see that God allows both good and bad to come. Although God never causes sin, he gives man free will. That’s enough to lead to lots of pain and chaos due to people’s bad decisions.

Both good and bad experiences shape who we are. God uses these to help us find Him – the source of eternal life. Sometimes we would never go looking for God’s best without deep challenges.

It may seem mean-spirited for God to allow bad things to happen. But it simply shows how much faith he has in us. We couldn’t be free to be ourselves without this reality. 

May you experience God’s peace and restoration in your life this week!!!

Note: This goes without saying, but I will say it any way. If you have been abused, please tell someone who can help. If you  are struggling with a serious, especially suicide or some other physically dangerous problem, please get help. Even if you are dealing with typical issues such as depression, loneliness, failure, etc., don’t be affraid to get help too because healing starts with a choice.   

Honest Mom, My Hormones Made Me Do It!

Researchers in the US have studied causes for teenage mood swings and come up with some possible biological explanations. A study published in the journal Natural Neurosciencepoints to biological changes in the adolescent brain as a source for sudden teenage mood swings.

While moody teenagers has often been associated with puberty, it now appears that teens respond differently than pre-pubescent individuals and adults to the release of  tetrahydropreg-nanalone (THP). THP is a steroid that gets released in the brain.

It would appear that THP has two roles, one in the limbic system where it helps to calm things down, and another in the hippocampus where in adolescents it hots things up. The hippocampus is important for emotion regulation.

This paradoxical role of THP, said Smith and her team, is the reason for the adolescent brain behaving differently.

Sheryl Smith, a physiologist at the State University of New York conducted the research experimenting on female adolescent mice. This is thought to be the first direct evidence to suggest an underlying physiological reason for teenage mood swings.  

The net effect is that whatever the teenage person’s reaction to stress is likely to be, whether to cry or be angry, it will be “amplified”. Many times this appears like an overreaction to an adult, whereas a teenager thinks of it as the only think they can naturally do. These tests have yet to be run in people. Hopefully, it will help  parents, adults and teens understand that there may be some physiological reasons for why teens can be so moody and how to take control of these seemingly uncontrollable attitudes.

Losing It

Sometimes we just have to come to a point where we lost it. Things build up, and we snap. In a recent issue of ESPN The Magazine, Tenessee Titans lineman, Albert Haynesworth, talked about his episode this season. Haynesworth stepped on the head of another player in anger and was severely fined by the NFL.

Looking back on my last week, I can relate with much of what Haynesworth said in his interview. It is never just the thing that caused the outburst. It is always everything that led up to it.

The ESPN article explains how the incident impacted the Haynesworth and even led to him addressing personal problems and developing improved football form.  But it certainly caused soul searching too.

Seth Wickersham wrote, “Haynesworth knows the hypocrisy of what we want from him. We want him to rid himself of the dark currents that pushed him to bloody a man’s face, and once purified, to be a better father, husband and man. And when he’s done with that, we want him to beat on his opponents and puch his way to the quarterback.”

Ultimately, the final chapter is not written in this football story. It appearsthat Haynesworth has become stronger on the field while his family life still needs a lot of work.

The story shows how a moment of rage can actually lead to a better future. Sometimes we need to lose control to realize our real problems and come to the end of ourselves. If we handle the situation right, a disaster can become a blessing. 

Haynesworth’s story also highlights the downside of success – something usually has to give to achieve it. And in the case of many pro athletes unfortunately it is their personal life.

What are you giving up to achieve the successes in your life? Is it worth the cost?


Who are you?

Your answer to that question means everything. If you think of yourself as a sinner, you will likely see yourself through your faults. If you think of yourself as a saint, you will have the faith to fight the temptations of this life. You will realize that the victory has already been won. All you have to do is believe it.

All too often Christians let themselves be defined by their past not the power of the Gospel or their identity in Jesus Christ. Once someone accepts the life of Jesus and becomes a Christian, we are no longer defined by our old identity. We take on a new nature, a new identity, a new reason to live. From the inside out, we are changed.

We are who God says we are. Jesus called us his brothers and sisters. Father God called us His children. We are a new creation, the workmanship of God. We have value because God says so. We are victorious because Jesus has crushed the enemy and has given God’s people authority.

We are not getting closer to God. We are simply realizing how close we are to Jesus. Instead of focus on our sin, God desires that His children put their attention on Him. In those moments, we experience deep love and are changed.


Pastor Carter preached a powerful sermon today about dealing with conflict. He compared conflict with a blister. Strangely enough, I got a blister on Saturday while helping my brother.

Blisters are a natural defense mechanism to protect the skin when an area gets rubbed to much. Friction causes blisters just like problems can cause irritation in our relationships and life.

Blisters are fine as long as the area gets proper treatment. But if a blister goes too long, it can become infected. The same thing can happen with a relationship if a problem is allowed to fester and amends is not made in time.  The New Testament encourages us to be angry and sin not by quickly dealing with situations.

Proverbs 18:19 – An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.

People we offend can become very angry and unmerciful. That is why Jesus said it is better to settle a quarrel before you get to the courts because the other party will show no mercy if they feel offended.

Even worse, the offended can grow callous and hard as a way to protect against any future pain. This make it impossible for them to find complete healing and restoration. They may carry around burdens for years and be bound up in the process. Just like a blister, a rough spot can become tough. These areas can become numb with no ability to feel anything.

God wants to heal the broken hearted. He longs to restore unity of faith in the bond of peace. Most importantly, God desires to see His people come to wholeness as they let Him heal their wounded souls.