Boomerangs to Arrows: A Godly Guide for Launching Young Adult Children (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2013)

In this resource spotlight, I’m featuring a really nice book for parents of adult children, Boomerangs to Arrows: A Godly Guide for Launching Young Adult Children, by Sharon Norris Elliot.

When I think of a parenting book, the first book I typically about is Dr. James Dobson’s bestseller, Parenting Isn’t For Cowards. I think this is because of the catchy title and the notion that effective parenting is for the brave at heart. While this is a great book, I think it is most effective for parents of young children.

Well, I now have what for me is an excellent recommendation for parents of adult children. In this excellent resource, Sharon, does a masterful job of building on the metaphor of children as arrows as offered in the biblical passage, Psalm 127. The reference scripture, is “Blessed is the parent with a quiver full of children”.

There are few resources out there that help us parents understand how to handle our adult children—particularly those who are needing (or wanting) to come back home.

In these times of uncertainty in the job market and tumultuous economic challenges more generally, the traditional model for launching our children once and for all is, at least for now, not the reality in many homes.

Using a creative analogy of boomerangs and arrows, Sharon helps us set godly parameters for what to expect of our adult children and of ourselves. Sharon also offers plenty of examples to help the issues and potential solutions feel accessible to each of us.

As the parent of one adult child, I found myself keeping my handy highlighter at the ready.

I was most struck by the challenge to think about the many dimensions involved in parenting my adult child in a manner that is supportive yet firm. Sharon works the metaphor quite well as she uses different types of arrows to discuss the different challenges that we face with our adult children—from those who veer a little off track to those who effectively shun our values. She shows us how to love and engage them in a way that challenges them towards all that God has for them.

I also really appreciate how this book also pushes us as parents to look at ourselves. It is easy for us adult parents to look at our wayward children and wonder what is wrong with them. But, Sharon asks us to be introspective as parents and ask ourselves how our own behavior has contributed to our adult child’s attitude and behavior. While being careful not to blame the parent for who the child becomes, Sharon does get us to hold our actions up to the biblical models that are there for our consumption.

This book also includes a lot of pauses where Sharon poses insightful questions for you to consider as the parent of a young adult child.

Personally, I believe strongly in transparency of authors and speakers. And, Sharon does a great job in using her own experiences with her adult children to bring the content to life. I think we all can see aspects of our own parenting in the stories that she shares. And, I have had the pleasure of meeting Sharon personally on several occasions. And, I see a consistency between what she shares in the book, what she speaks from the platform, and who she is as a person. She is the real deal.

If you are a parent of an adult child or one approaching adulthood, I strongly encourage you to read through the book. If you subscribe to the Christian faith tradition, I’m confident that this book will be your “go to” resource for years to come as you grapple with helping your adult child be an arrow even if they go through their boomerang season.

Let me know if you pick up the book. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Your Marriage is What You Think

As I contemplate what makes marriage work, it is no surprise to me that I come back to the way we think. What comes to your mind when you think about your marriage?

Are your thoughts about your marriage mostly focused on successes and accomplishing shared goals or repeated stumbles and failures? I’m not sure how Descartes would look at contemporary marriages. But, in his new book “Think and make it happen” author Dr. Augusto Cury offers a powerful suite of tools sure to impact any marriage.

Although Cury’s focus is not marriage specifically, he tackles its most vital marital issue—overcoming negative thoughts.

Cury offers twelve principles to control your thinking.  While many of his principles offer practical advice to take control of our thoughts, his admonitions to doubt, criticize, and determine (DCD) what goes through our minds is key.

We must be critical of our thoughts about our marriage. Marriage is filled with peaks and valleys.  A cacophony of negative thoughts experienced during the valleys can derail even the most solid marriages. We married couples must realize the power we have to steer the relationship, mostly by honoring our spouse’s needs.

I also strongly appreciate Cury’s suggestions on how to take charge of our emotions, which of course are triggered by our thoughts. Couples that are able to avoid the emotional meltdowns avoid the negative escalation of emotions during conflicts.

In the chapter titled “Learn to listen and dialogue”, Cury advises married couples to ask four important questions of their mates: (1) When have I disappointed you?, (2) Which of my behaviors annoys you?, (3) What could I do to make you happier?, and (4) How can I be a better friend?

Now,there is something for all of us to think about. The future of your marriage is what you think it to be.

What do you think about your marriage?

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Noticing your spouse

Think back over the course of your marriage (or even before) or other meaningful relationships that you currently have. Who are the people that have made these relationships successful? Are they family members, friends, spiritual leaders, teachers, or others?  What things did they say or do that made a difference?

These are the questions that kept coming to my mind as I read the new fiction book, The Noticer, by Andy Andrews. Andrews uses the fictional journey of a narrator who goes from being a homeless young man bound by negative thoughts to being a successful businessman because of an encounter with an ageless sage who teaches him “perspective”.

As our main character comes to realize over time, there is something unusual about this sage (known by different names to people of different cultures such as “Jones”, “Garcia”, and “Lee”) who seems to always be in the right place with the right people at the right time with just the right message.

The lesson that our protagonist and other characters in the story learn from this sage is how changing our lives requires a change of perspective. How can you look at situations and people differently? It necessitates a more deliberate noticing of the things that others miss.

While I enjoyed the book for its simplistic message (sometimes it honestly felt a little too simplistic) and quick read, what I most enjoyed about it is its applicability to marriage—the topic that I tend to think and write about most often. Andrews’ thesis could not be any more appropriate. Whenever I talk to couples in the education or counseling context I talk about perspective. Individuals are usually excellent at seeing things one way. But, we often struggle to see it another way—especially when we feel somehow threatened by another perspective. Any therapist will tell you that helping couples always requires that each learns to see another perspective.

The other theme of the book that I was very interested in is the idea of taking notice of things that are often taken for granted. Married couples often get into a rut of doing the same things over and over again. We get into a habit where we stop noticing—like we did when we were dating. But, what would happen if couples started noticing each other again—I mean really giving attention to what may really be going on with each other. What things are happening with your spouse, fiancee, or partner that you don’t totally understand because you haven’t noticed?

The Noticer is a wonderful book to add to your collection—especially if you value the importance of perspective in relationships (and who doesn’t). Kudos to Andrews and Thomas Nelson Publishers for presenting something with a timeless message in an accessible format. In the end, the message to all of us is to pay more attention to invest ourselves in those around us.

I started this piece asking who has contributed to your own successful relationships. In the end, our thanks to those people is only truly shown when we in turn contribute to the development of others. Thank you Andy for giving us a tool to do just that.

Do You Have the Brains for Marriage?

What do a brain scan and your marriage have in common? Read my review below of Dr. Earl Henslin’s fantastic book, “This is Your Brain on Joy” to find out…

For me, the measure of excellent non-fiction literature is when one begins to see the world through the lens that the author provides. I recently completed reading Dr. Earl Henslin’s This is Your Brain on Joy. And, I was hooked from the first chapter when he described how he has come to incorporate technology (brain imaging) in his clinical treatment of thirty couples who were headed towards divorce.

My area of specialty is marriage. I have gone through much training on various marriage enhancement methods. But, when Dr. Henslin commented that twenty-nine of the thirty couples turned their marriages around by following the procedures to get brain scans (SPECT) and following the prescribed psychotherapy and medicinal regimen I was clamoring for more information. And, This is Your Brain on Joy delivers “in spades.”

First, let me be clear. This book is primarily about the power of brain imaging to unearth the “abnormalities” that make our brains function at less than God’s ideal when He first created us. While I have had some exposure to brain physiology during my own clinical training, I have never seen such an excellent effort at breaking highly technical terminology into language that can be understood by everyone. By substituting friendly, intuitive language (e.g., Basement of Giant Fears) to represent brain physiology (e.g,  Basal Ganglia) Dr. Henslin is able to communicate the intricacies of the brain in a way that makes common sense. More importantly, the reader is able to identify his/her own areas of strength and weakness. Speaking of this, the book also includes an assessment that helps to identify how one’s own life experiences are indelibly interconnected with one’s brain health.

This book challenges all of us to think twice in our tendencies to be judgmental. He argues for more compassionate engagement because people are often held hostage by their brains. But, Dr. Henslin’s book doesn’t just point out the problem. He proceeds to offer natural, herbal remedies for many of the brain imbalances that are nothing short of miraculous from the testimonials included in the book. In some instances, prescription agents such as antidepressants may be suggested as well. The testimonies of people whose entire lives have changed (when they thought change was impossible) simply by following through with a brain scan and herbal or prescription medications.

I highly recommend this book because I have become convinced that many of the unhealthy behavioral patterns in our lives and in our marriages are a result of brain trauma that we may not even remember from years earlier. The results appear clear. Healthy lives and marriages require healthy brains. And, sometimes prayer alone may not improve the situation as much as if it was accompanied by a brain scan, the right herbal combinations, and a little encouragement.

So, do you have the brains for marriage?

How to Live a Worry-Resistant Life

As a young adult 15-20 years ago, I loved to wear “No Fear” apparel. I had all types of No Fear Gear—T-shirts, sweatshirts, and shorts. Ok. I’ll even admit that I still have a few pieces of No Fear Gear left in my wardrobe.

As long as I can remember I have always had a fear of having a fear. I have never wanted to be controlled by fear. As I kid, if someone dared me to ride that skateboard down a steep hill, you better bet I was going to take it on. “I’m not scared”, I would say—even if I was terrified inside.

As a student, I never admitted fear to taking the toughest teacher. “I’m not scared.”

As an employee, I would take on a tough task. “I’m not scared.”

You get the picture. I was afraid to be afraid.

And, I had my interpretation of the bible to back me up. After all, God didn’t give me a spirit of fear, right?

But, in the last year I have discovered something about myself. I do have fears.

No, they aren’t the phobias that are listed in the latest edition of the psychological diagnostic manual. But, they are fears nonetheless. I have a fear of failure—what if I live my life without succeeding in my life goals?

I have been somewhat aware of this one for a long time. Recently, however, I stumbled upon another related fear after reading the interpretation of a personality inventory that I took. It is a fear of losing time. I thought long and hard about that one. “Do I really fear losing time?” I wondered.

Hmmm…Is that why I work nearly every evening until late into the night on trying to fulfill my passion after finishing a long day on my paying job?

Does this explain why my mind is constantly running at 110% in thinking about the short, mid, and long-term tasks that I have to complete? And, is this why my wife has been telling me for years that my hard pushing, perfectionistic, never stopping personality is so draining to her?

I could probably write a thesis on this topic. But, the main point to take away from this is that your fears (even if you think they are just your own albatross) can have a devastating impact on your marriage, children, and others around you. Think honestly about your own fears. Can you see any impacts on those within your sphere of influence?

With a glimpse of my own fears in mind, I recently had the opportunity to read Max Lucado’s new book, Fearless: Imagine your life without fear. This is an excellent resource for those of us who battle fear in some way. The author presents a number of different fears that paralyze us—keeping our minds locked into a type of negative spin cycle.

I personally was most indicted by two of the fears: (1) a Fear of Not Mattering and (2) a Fear of Disappointing God.

Are the core of my fears about failure and losing time really about feeling that my life on this earth mattered? Probably.

In this vein, you just have to read the excellent chapter in the book about the “Villagers of Stiltsville”. Do I feel that I am being less than optimally effective in being a good steward of the gifts that God has given me? Yes, I feel that way. But, it seems that I’m giving all I have to give.

Lucado, however, doesn’t just enumerate a list of fears. He begins with an accurate cultural assessment of how fear has become so engrained in our collective consciousness. It is almost as if we breed fear. We surround ourselves with material and psychological defenses intended to keep our fears in check. Yet, like one with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder we can never seem quite convinced that we have done enough to keep these fears at bay.

So, what’s the answer to reducing one’s fears—whether they are rational or irrational?

Lucado does a masterful job of using the life of Jesus to answer that question. The answer is “God is in control.” Whether it is a lesson in the midst of a storm, such as that experienced by the disciples on the sea of Galilee, panic over how to feed thousands of people with two fish and five loaves of bread, or in my case fear that my life might not matter, scripture tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made with a purpose.

Lucado gives a plethora of anecdotal stories and scriptural truths to crystallize a single thought, “A Life With God is Designed to Be Worry-Resistant.”

I didn’t say “worry-free” because we are human after all. What does it mean to be worry resistant? It means that you can channel your worry to God so that it doesn’t rest in your own spirit. Lucado gives a great mnemonic in Chapter 4 of the book to highlight the steps to a worry-resistant life. The acrostic is “P-E-A-C-E-F-U-L. Read the chapter to see exactly how you can overcome your own worries and enjoy a more peacful life.

For years I wore my No Fear apparel to make a statement to myself (more than others) that I cannot live with a spirit of fear. But, the book Fearless serves as a more poignant reminder that I have to relax and trust that God knows what he is doing. He’s God. I’m not! This is a lesson for us all to FEAR LESS.

What fears are impacting your life?